Offers information on undergraduate business degrees as well as the universitys MBA program, which includes classes in Columbus. A link to the Gill Center for Business and Economic Education explains its role in the business community and what courses for businesspeople it can provide.
Lists academic programs including adult degrees with credit for real-world experience, the executive MBA program with part-time evening courses, professional development courses, and the Supervisors Roundtable, an ongoing training program for managers and first-line supervisors.
Central Michigan University
This page explains the universitys Columbus area graduate-level offerings, including a master of science in administration degree and graduate certificates.
Columbus State Community College
Includes general information about the academic calendar, admissions and programs of study. Also features a link to the Business and Industry Training Division, which can help companies with employee training and development.
The Preparation for Business Professions page of Denisons main site includes information about the universitys MBA and other management degrees as well as its application process.
DeVry Institute of Technology
In addition to learning about DeVrys offerings, business executives visiting the site can click on the Career Services link to find out how to post job openings in business, accounting, computer information science and electronics.
Click on the Business Relations and Development link to learn about programs offered to the business community, including the Family Business Center and professional certificate programs.
This page explains Hondros primary purpose of providing education and counseling leading to certificates or associate degrees in real estate. Non-credit programs are also available.
Mount Vernon Nazarene College
The colleges Division of Business, listed under the academics link, offers bachelors-degree classes, including accounting, international business, management and marketing. Its Division of Non-traditional Education also offers a business degree designed for working adults with previous college coursework.
Ohio Dominican College
Although some parts of the site are under construction, it provides links to Web pages of select courses with syllabi, schedules and course resources.
The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business
Includes links to the colleges course offerings, full-time and evening MBA programs, as well as Executive Education Programs and working research papers.
The academic departments link includes undergraduate majors, such as accounting, business administration, computer science and economics.
Ohio University College of Business
Gives details about graduate programs, including an executive MBA that can be completed within two years while working full time. The site also features a new online MBA program and explains The Sales Centre, which promotes sales education, research, and strategic alliances.
Jim Darfus was driving back from the Pickerington branch of his Century 21 Darfus Realty business when he arrived in Lancaster to see fire trucks in front of the Main Street building hed owned since 1964.
He and his wife, Pat, watched in tears and disbelief as firefighters from all three Lancaster departments fought the Nov. 29, 1994, blaze. Flames tore through the roof, gutting two apartments in the building and damaging a third apartment and five businesses, including their 20-year-old real estate agency. The only injury reported in the fire, the cause of which was never determined, was a firefighter who was treated for minor burns to his face.
The flames were shooting 20, 30 feet in the air. It just looked like theyd never be able to save it, Jim Darfus remembers.
While the structural loss was nearly $300,000, the fires ramifications were more serious, if considered that the Darfuses had hoped rental income from the buildings tenants would take them into retirement.
I thought wed probably lose everything, he says of his businesses.
Greg Hopkins popular Nacho Mamas restaurant met the same fate July 12, 1997, whennot even three years after it opened on U.S. Route 23 about 7 miles north of Worthingtona fire destroyed the roof of the rented building. Fortunately, no one was injured.
It was looking like I was going to start actually making money, Hopkins says of his business before the fire.
Nearly nine months later, he reopened the restaurant and is now grossing more than he did before the fire, which started in an exhaust fan motor outside the building. Still, Hopkins has not fully recovered from the nearly $40,000 it cost him above his insurance coverage to reopen the business.
Im not to this day paid off, but Im catching up. Its not because I dont have enough money, but there have been things I didnt know about, he says, such as back taxes and outstanding vendor bills.
If he resolves those issues soon, he might consider himself fortunate.
After three-and-a-half years, things still arent back to normal for the Darfuses, who could not return to their building until nearly two years later because of delays in insurance claim payments and renovations. That limited the couples earning potential because no renters could move back in, either, during that time. Meanwhile, at least their real estate business continued. Pat, augmenting her role as office manager and agent at the realty business, took over its operations while Jim took care of the rebuilding process.
You just didnt worry for yourself, Pat Darfus recalls of the months immediately following the fire. You had a business to take care of.
And take care of business they did.
The Darfuses insurance adjuster arrived while the fire was still burning. He recorded the losses while the Darfuses huddled with friends and neighbors whod come to console them. When the embers had cooled, the couple along with friends and real estate agents who work for themeven firefighterswaded through 4 to 6 inches of water to remove agency records and equipment to store in their garage and at other businesses where colleagues offered them space.
That evening, the Darfuses set out to find a temporary office for their agency.
We were concerned not only about relocating our own business, but that other people found places to live, [that] businesses found places to go, Pat Darfus says. Even though the Darfuses were not legally or financially responsible to do so because of a hold harmless clause in their landlord/tenant leases, they wanted to help those they could.
The apartment occupants ended up staying with friends or relatives until they found new space, and other business owners relocated or temporarily took up space with colleagues until they could find a location for their businesses.
The Darfuses also relied on colleagues for temporary space, but within a few days, they rented an office up the street from their old agency. That move cost them again. Insurance didnt cover the $1,100-per-month lease.
They let customers know of their move by advertising in the local newspaper and putting signs on the remnants of their burned building. Meanwhile, they set about sorting through what was left after the fire. Firefighters had placed tarps over filing cabinets, saving many records from total destruction, but the Darfuses still spent hours photocopying water-damaged documents. Other records were safely on computer disk at their accountants office.
Pat Darfus remembers hesitating when, shortly after the fire, a longtime client asked her to sell two investment properties. Overwhelmed by the task of getting settled in a temporary office and sorting through ruined property, she almost turned him away.
He couldve thought maybe we would flounder, having all this taking place, she says. He stuck with her, though, and after his properties sold, she thanked him for his confidence.
Hopkins couldnt operate his restaurant business from a temporary location like the Darfuses did.
A clause in his lease specified that he did not have to pay his $1,600 monthly rent if he was unable to operate in the space, but he was still left without a job. The $20,000 loss-of-income insurance he carried was far from adequate, so he went to work for a catering business, Concert Kitchens in Delaware, from whose owner he had purchased his restaurant.
As for the property damage at Nacho Mamas, Hopkins insurance covered $7,500 in lost inventory and about $40,000 in damaged equipment, which included his stove, griddle and grill. Although the amount was sufficient, the payment was slow. He got his first check nearly three months after the fire. The final check did not arrive until after he reopened the restaurant in April 1998.
Some expenses, such as payroll taxes and workers compensation payments that came due right after the fire, were not covered by insurance. Hopkins had to take about $15,000 from his savings to pay those bills.
Still, he didnt hesitate in deciding to rebuild. In a way, he was stuck. He had no income to start another business, and he had $65,000 of a nearly $90,000 loan out from buying the business in 1994. He looked at other existing restaurants to buy, but they were out of his price range.
Besides that, I live within 6 miles of here, and theres nowhere to eat around here, he says. I thought I might as well reopen, he says.
Pat and Jim Darfus, who were 59 and 60, respectively, at the time of the fire, also felt a need to rebuild. Their retirement income depended on it. Sometimes, though, they wonder about all the decisions they made.
I think we just kind of naturally felt that was the thing to do, Jim Darfus says. Weve just run into so many stumbling blocks.
In anothers hands
Hopkins had signs from the beginning that he would not lose his customers because of the fire.
The whole roof is off, theres piles of garbage out front, and people were still walking in and saying, Are you open? he says.
What he didnt anticipate was the frustration of waiting for renovations to a building that was not his own. Communication was lacking, and missed signals with the out-of-state landlord and insurance agency, for example, forced him to repaint what the contractors had done so he could maintain the old look of his restaurant.
Then overly optimistic deadlines tried his nerves. First he was told the building would be ready Dec. 1, 1997. Then he was told he would be able to move in before Christmas. Then, before the first of the year. That soon became Jan. 15, then Feb. 1. With each delay, Hopkins grew more and more frustrated as hed quit his catering job, then start back at it as it became apparent the deadline would not be met.
When phone lines were installed in January 1998, he recorded messages to keep customers up-to-date on the expected reopening.
At the beginning of March, Hopkins was able to get back into the building to prepare it for reopening, but he hit more glitches. The insurance company would only pay to put the building back the way it was structurally, not for upgrades to meet fire and building codes that had evolved over time. For example, drains in the bar area and near the dishwasher had to be changed before he could reopen. Hopkins decided not to argue the issue of responsibility in order to save the relationship with his landlord, Huntington National Bank for those projectsa line he eventually expanded to more than $20,000. Getting the loan was a bit tricky, however, since he had no income. Hopkins had to wait three months to get approval on the loan, but apparently his bankers trusted his track record.
I had a banker that was a fan of the restaurant, he says. That helped to have people that actually wanted you to be open.
Just when Hopkins thought he was back in business, another potentially crippling chain of events arose. Before he could get his liquor license backhis bar was 35 percent of his businesshe had to get his food license out of escrow. Before that could happen, the fire chief and two building inspectors had to grant him his occupancy permit. Because all were obtained at the last minute, he didnt even have time to announce his opening April 8. And time was of the essence.
I had to open the week I opened or I dont know what I was going to do, he says, noting that hed stopped working the catering job in early March to prepare the restaurant for its reopening. Id had almost a month of no income. Id already been through my savings pretty good.
The lack of opening-night fanfare didnt hurt him.
We ended up having about 200 people that night without even announcing it, Hopkins says. I dont know how that happened. I guess I was just a lot more popular than I knew.
Apparently hes popular with employees, too, as 17 of the nearly 25 he had before the fire returned when Nacho Mamas reopened, a fact he attributes to the family atmosphere at his business.
Now, Hopkins is waiting to see whether business will keep up. His first full month back in business grossed $77,00035 percent more than the $57,000 in sales hed recorded in the same month a year earlier. On average, hes now drawing $17,000 in weekly sales. Before the fire, that would have been one of his best weeks. Hopkins has expanded his staff to 30 to meet the increased demand.
I dont know if its going to continue or not, but were happy now, he says.
The long road back
The Darfuses struggle also came from delays in rebuilding.
Ralph Guarasci, president of Insurance Agencies of Ohio, through which the Darfuses have insurance, says the nearly eight months their claim took to settle was unusually long.
In a way, that claim is one of the ones that emphasized to me the need of getting the parties together right away rather than the agent relying on the adjusters to do that, he says. Policyholders now meet with their agent and the adjuster in Guarascis office as soon as possible after a loss.
Some of the delay came when the Darfuses insurance company required detailed lists of replacement costs rather than a more general estimate from a contractor.
Guarasci says that is a challenge in many large losses.
If were talking about a damage claim in your bathroom of $1,500 for water, thats one thing. But if were talking about a $200,000 reconstruction project, the insurance companys going to want to see where that money comes from, he explains. They may want to negotiate on some particular items, and you cant do that if you just have a bottom line.
Once the claim was settledthe Darfuses received more than $250,000 in insurance money for replacement coststhe two had to wait an additional 14 months, through zoning approvals and weather delays, while workers finished reconstructing the building. The couples insurance policy covered their $2,200-a-month rental-income loss for a year. When their rent-replacement policy ran out, they had to borrow money to keep up with expenses.
In addition, the Darfuses, like Hopkins, needed upgrades to meet modern building code. That meant putting $100,000 of their own funds into the building to pay for code upgrades such as fireproof doors and upgraded wiring. Jim Darfus did much of the renovation work himself in an effort to save expenses, but even so, the Darfuses decided not to put the third floor back on the building because of the additional costs involved.
At least the upgrades lowered the price of their insurance. Our premiums now are about half the value of what they were then, and the value of the building is twice as much, Jim Darfus says. He also added coverage for code upgrades should he ever be in a similar situation in the future.
On Sept. 12, 1996, the Darfuses moved their realty company back into the building. They wanted to be on-site to deal with getting other renters, the first of which came in December 1996. By late June of this year, all but 2,400 square feet of the 9,400-square-foot building had been rented, but thats a far cry from the 100 percent occupancy the Darfuses had in their larger, 10,700-square-foot building before the fire. Jim Darfus expects that once the entire space is rented hell have about 10 percent more rental income than before the fire because of increased rates and commercial space. Until then, the Darfuses building will continue to provide roughly two-thirds the income it did before. That means theyll have to put off their retirement.
At times, the Darfuses look back and wonder whether they should have done anything differently. Parking in the area is inadequate, for example, and adding a parking lot might have been an option. In addition, before the fire, they had no debt. Now, theyll spend a total of 15 years repaying their $100,000 loan.
Even if wed made a different decision, it might have been the wrong one, Jim Darfus says.
You cant turn back, Pat Darfus says. You have to keep going forward.
All in all, she adds, five years from now, I dont think were going to be sorry we did this.
With such low unemployment levels, human-resource departments at most companies have their hands full trying to find and hire staff members.
Statistics compiled by the Metropolitan Human Services Commission seem to suggest its not going to get easier anytime soonespecially in certain industries.
The commission spent a month compiling information about the areas workforce, including its changing composition and projected growth, its fastest-growing occupations and their wages, its new job openings and a cross-county comparison.
Among the statistics:
- Between 1994 and 2005, the study area, which includes Franklin, Delaware, Fairfield, Licking, Madison, Pickaway and Union counties, will add more than 162,000 jobs.
- 55 percent of the areas openings replace workers who leave existing jobs; 45 percent are newly created jobs.
- 32 percent of the new jobs to be created between 1994 and 2005 do not provide a wage adequate to sustain a family of four above the poverty level.
The commission is now focusing on a study of the areas changing workplace, including its implications to policymakers and its relation to other issues, including telecommuting, business development and technology. The results of that study are expected this fall.
How did the idea to lease space to your supplier surface?
The sales rep from INX International Ink brought [the planned closing] to the attention of our plant manager. We didnt want to have to go through this huge learning curve and experimentation with another ink manufacturer, and plus the local supply is key. There are other manufacturers, some in Cleveland and different areas, but having it right here is key to us. [Our other choices] are all out of town, or they were at the time, and that was just a serious timing and service issue for us.
What adjustments did you have to make to provide space for INX?
Wed recently reconfigured the whole plant ... and that had given us some space. They said they only needed 800 square feet, which isnt a lot, and we happened to have almost exactly that in a little corner.
We built a wall and insulated it. They put in the phone lines. We added some lighting ... and we sealed the floor and painted the walls. Because of having our own people do all of that work, the cost to us was minimaljust the materials.
What are the terms of the agreement?
They pay us $800 a month for the space, and basically there is no set time-frame in the contract. I think we both wanted the flexibility. If they happened to increase their business, they may be able to go back to their own space. And if we needed the space, then we could do the same.
Did you have any concerns in setting up the lease arrangement?
Probably the biggest concern was the one over their employees. What if somebody got hit by a forklift, or even tripped and fell over a skid? Anything can happen. Those issues were big concerns. Are we covered? Are they going to carry coverage? They supplied me with information on their insurance. I checked with our insurance company. We were covered as a backup, but they do carry the insurance, and that was part of the lease agreement. That made the attorney happy, and that made me happy.
What benefits do you gain from having your ink-supplier on-site?
Probably the most important one is when we have clients in for press checks.
That happens on a daily basis, and maybe there are some key special-mix inks and the customer doesnt quite like the ink when they actually see it on the printed piece. Previously you may have had to ... try and mix another element into the ink to change the color, so it takes our pressmans time. The press is shut down, the customer is waiting, and we may hit or miss. Now the ink technician comes right around the corner, up on the press, maybe mixes it right in the fountain, or worst case, takes it out of the fountain and back to their room and remills it and then brings it back. So the time factor and getting it right the first time in a lot of cases helps. When those presses are maybe $250 to $300 an hour, and its just sitting there, that can add up fast. It saves us time and money, and it saves the customer money.
What have you and the supplier learned from seeing each others work first hand?
Its interesting to see the process they go through.
They have commented on several occasions on things theyve learned. An ink company mixes the ink, and they never see it again. They dont see the end project and they dont see the process it goes through. Being on site, they see everything that the pressman can go through at times.
No one wants to anticipate that its going to happen to you, says Pat Darfus of a 1994 fire that destroyed the Lancaster office-and-residential building she and her husband owned.
In fact, it does happenand more often than you may think. Between 1992 and 1996, fire struck an average of 1,400 businesses per year in Ohio, according to the State Fire Marshals Office. Those fires caused an average annual dollar loss of $16.5 million.
Almost equally shocking is the lack of adequate insurance coverage many business owners carry.
John W. Koetz, principal of W.E. Davis Insurance Agency on Columbus South Side, says communication is the key to getting the right coverage.
In commercial insurance, it is not uncommon to have annual reviews, says Koetz, a former president of the Ohio Professional Insurance Agents Association.
Especially for a business thats growing or changing, they need to look at it at least every 12 months.
Koetz, who has been in the insurance business for 22 years, and Ralph Guarasci, president of Insurance Agencies of Ohio, offer this advice:
- Check your replacement coverage. Most replacement policies bring a building back to its condition before the fire. If building codes change, however, those upgrades wont be covered unless you have additional coverage called ordinance or law coverage or building law safeguards. We really consider it when buildings are built in the 60s, or even 70s and prior. But you could have a building thats 5 years old right now that would not meet code, Koetz says.
- Review your property coverage. Fire loss, for example, requires removal of debris. Some policies arent written in sufficient amounts to cover this cost. In addition, many insurance companies include a coinsurance clause on property policies, which pays a percentage of the total policy for a partial loss. If you are underinsuring your business to get lower rates, you may not be adequately covered for even a small loss.
- Verify if you have business income coverage. For small businesses, an owners policy automatically covers this, but larger or more specialized businesses need special commercial packages. Although formulas can be complicated for determining such coverage, Koetz suggests owners estimate what their monthly lost profits and continuing expenses would be in the event of a fire. (Be sure to include payroll if you dont want to lay off employees.) Then multiply that figure by 12 to determine what coverage you should have.
- Consider extra expense insurance. This pays for items that will keep the business going while a building is reconstructed. This can be used, for example, to pay for an advertisement telling customers your business will remain open in spite of a fire. Rent replacement coverage also is necessary if you lease space to other tenants in a building.
- Know the time limit on your coverage. Typically, an insurance policy stops paying 30 days after a business reopens, Guarasci says. However, some people find that their loss continues for two, three, or even six or 12 months after they reopen because it just takes them that long to get their business back to where it was, he cautions. An extended period of indemnity policy can be purchased for a specified number of days.
- Dont forget to discuss liability issues in case someone is injured during a fire or other disaster.
The joy we derive from success can be nearly bottomless. To transform an idea into a profit-making venture is the goal of every business, and the process is not unlike watching your child change from helpless infant to crawling baby and finally to a toddler taking his first wobbly steps. Anyone who has been involved in starting a business and watching it grow into a vibrant enterprise can instantly relate to the deep sense of pleasure it brings.
But success can just as quickly become a sword with two edges. Money and power can transform the humble friend you grew up with into a ruthless cuthroat who will stop at nothing on the road to becoming an arrogant Master of the Universe. Like drugs, success when its attained is sweet; but we can never get enough, despite a spiraling search for ways to sustain the pleasure. The addict always needs a slightly larger dose to top that last high.
And yet we inevitably set goals to achieve ever greater success in a vain attempt to surpass ourselves; rarely do we take the time to enjoy the fruits of our labors. The paradox is that success demands a certain amount of discontenthealthy in proper doses, though never when that discontent turns destructive.
Hollywood is overflowing with examples of the excess that often comes wedded to success. The real-life soap operas of many of its leading figures are the stuff of Greek tragedy: After attaining fame and wealth, their lives begin to spiral out of control as they wander from one drug-rehab center to anotherforever trying to one-up that initial high. Is there a purpose to all this seeking after success? Is the goal of success merely to build a bigger and brighter monument to ourselves before we die?
There are two other life questions we should ask ourselves as we go about growing our businesses. Why do I want to be successful and what will I do when I am? Only by first answering these two questions can we hope to begin charting our course.
One especially compelling figure from American business history provides us an intriguing role model.
This Scottish boy emigrated to America with his family in the middle of the 19th century, after the power loom erased his fathers job as a manual laborer. At the age of 12, he was working as a bobbin boy in a cotton factory, educating himself by reading, writing and attending night school. By age 14, he had become a messenger in a telegraph office, quickly advancing up the ranks. By just 24, he was superintendent of the mighty Pennsylvania Railroads Pittsburgh division. He invested heavily in railroads and traveled to Europe to sell railroad securities. By the time he was 30, his annual income was $50,000. Still, that didnt prevent him from leaving to manage one of his investments, the Keystone Bridge Co. By 38, he had founded a steel works. Using the best technology and accounting methods available at the time, he achieved the highest efficiencies in the industry, almost single-handedly helping the U.S. to surpass England in steel production in the opening years of this century. By 65, Andrew Carnegie was earning the then-almost-unfathomable sum of $25 million per year.
What utterly separated Carnegie from other robber barons of that era, though, was his philanthropy. He eventually sold his empire for $250 million and spent the rest of his life systematically giving away that and many additional millions. He saw being wealthy as a duty for the improvement of mankind, as he put it. His famous saying that a man who dies rich dies disgraced stands as a glowing testament to his life, along with the nationwide teacher pension system he founded and the hundreds of libraries still standing today which were built through his astonishing generosity. His wealth, you might say, achieved a larger purpose.
Those of us who search for happiness in our possessions are destined for disappointment. The rush is fleeting, the satisfaction short-lived.
Why not try an alternate path? And you need not practice philanthropy on so grand a scale as Carnegies in order to derive a full measure of psychic pleasure. The next time you feel down, try visiting a nursing home and talking to someone who has no one else in life. Or perhaps volunteer to cook dinner at a homeless shelter. See if life soon begins to take on a deeper meaning.
Youll depart from this session of service with a great feeling, and it wont have cost you anything but a modest investment in time. And youll receive in emotional satisfaction several times what you gave in time and effort.
The purpose of your success, once shrouded in impenetrable fog, may well come into sharp focus as you pursue goals more meaningful than the hunt for ever-greater love of self. And you wont have to share your little secret with anyone. You alone will know about your good deed, and thats more than enough.
Just for a test, try it and let us know about the results.
Fred Koury is CEO of Small Business News Inc. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard DiPaolo Sr., 80
Founded family business: 1948
Paul DiPaolo, son, 56
Joined family business: 1962
Richard "Dick" DiPaolo Jr., son, 52
Joined family business: 1969
Mark Mizer, grandson, 36
VP/sales & marketing
Joined family business: 1986
Christopher DiPaolo, grandson, 28
Joined family business: 1993
Rich DiPaolo III, grandson, 24
Regional sales representative
Joined family business: 1996
Business in the DiPaolo family began in 1915 when Richard DiPaolo Sr.'s mother, Luisa, opened DiPaolo Grocery in Columbus. When she died, DiPaolo Sr. joined with his father to run the business. In 1948 he decided to branch out on his own, entering the wholesale business by starting DiPaolo Food Distributors. His sons, Richard Jr. and Paul, joined him. The business grew until 1985, when it merged with Houston-based Sysco Corp. In February 1996, the younger DiPaolos, who had since left DiPaolo/Sysco, and their father reopened in Columbus as RDP Foodservice and essentially started anew. Since then, the company has grown to more than 40 employees, approximately 350 customers and projected 1998 sales of $20 million.
Pauline Chambers Yost, 81
Owner, president and CEO
Purchased business: 1956
Cheryl Poulton, daughter, 51
Vice president of development and secretary of the board; president of Chambers Family of Cos., a development company for properties and holdings of Technical Rubber Co. Investment Corp., a subsidiary of Tech International
Joined family business: 1972
Michael Chambers, grandson, 36
COO and executive vice president
Joined family business: 1982
(Wife, Kim, joined company in 1993.)
Gary Chambers, grandson, 41
President of Cham-Cor Industries, a printing company subsidiary
Joined family business: 1993
Nicole Layne, granddaughter, 22
President of Chambers Internet Access, owned by Chambers Family of Cos.
Joined family business: 1996
(Husband, Dan, joined company in 1995.)
Tech International first operated in 1939 out of a barn behind the Johnstown home of founder Charles Cornell, father of the company's current CEO, Pauline Chambers Yost. After Cornell died, Pauline and her husband Frank purchased the business. Frank ran the company until his passing in 1972, when Pauline took over. The company has expanded to include three factories in India and one in Ireland with total revenues between $50 million and $75 million. While 225 employees work in Johnstown, a total of 700 work worldwide, and the company has a marketing presence in 90 countries.
On the surface it looked like Bob Juniper, the tenacious, audacious president of Three-C Body Shop, had struck pure gold.
A highly controversial advertising campaign hurled his stagnating collision-repair business into the limelight in 1993, giving both him and his Columbus-based company instant notoriety. Within the next two years, Three-C's sales grew 110 percent to $6.1 million-a jaw-dropping 5,765 percent higher than the $104,000 the company had been grossing when Juniper bought the business from his father in 1984. As if that wasn't enough, by 1996, Three-C had earned its second consecutive appearance on the Inc. 500 list of the nation's fastest-growing private companies.
Juniper should've been on top of the world. Instead, he was hanging by a thread. Three-C's aggressive growth, and the unforeseen costs that went with it, had gotten out of control.
"I got 120 days behind on all our bills at one point," Juniper says. "I remember a time when my balance was $200,000 negative in my bank account and I was cutting checks for a $30,000 payroll that day.
"I can't tell you how we made it ⊃ I never sat down and planned this out. It just sort of happened. Somehow I kept all the balls in the air."
Be careful what you wish for
Juniper admits he asked for a lot of the growth that came his way at Three-C.
"I was always on my dad to expand the business," Juniper says. "So I saw potential at an early age. But he really wasn't interested in growing the business."
In fact, on days when the Southwest Columbus body shop got too busy, his father would routinely post a "No estimates today" sign by the road.
"He would run the customers off," Juniper says, marveling briefly at the thought. "Dad kept a steady, even flow to the business."
The younger Juniper had a different philosophy. When he took over Three-C, the "No estimates" sign went out with the trash. Let the customers come; there's no such thing as too busy, he figured.
"If it took 18, 20, 24 hours to get it done, that's what we did," Juniper says.
The move pushed revenues up almost 600 percent in the next six years, sending Three-C's annual gross past the $700,000 mark in 1990. When the business plateaued the following year, he started dabbling in radio advertising.
A "generic," name-awareness campaign boosted business approximately 10 to 15 percent, he says. Then Juniper copped an attitude.
Sore that Three-C had been shut out of a couple direct-repair insurance programs-ones where agents refer customers to body shops that charge only preset, discounted rates-Juniper started writing radio ads blasting the insurance industry. His reasoning? Direct repair was siphoning business away from Three-C. Now it was payback time.
The ads were a hit with consumers. By the end of 1993, the first full year the campaign ran, Three-C's revenues had hit $2.9 million-a staggering 141 percent higher than the 1992 gross.
"That was our biggest percent growth year ever-and it almost crushed the company," Juniper says.
When revenues grew another 55 percent the following year, he knew Three-C was in serious trouble. He just didn't know how serious. His award-winning sales figures hid all the red ink. And he was running too fast to notice.
"I had money in my pocket; bills were being paid; I figured it was OK," he explains. "I had a hunch [we were losing money], but no proof."
Juniper clearly wasn't prepared for Three-C's eye-popping growth spurt. In fact, he was hardly prepared to be a full-time businessman. His forte was knowing the collision-repair industry-not understanding the bottom line.
He hadn't a clue how to measure the financial success of his business. He knew little about building a management team. He didn't understand how to control growth-he just hung on as it happened.
As Three-C's business accelerated in the early '90s, Juniper hastily added staff to keep up. That pushed his company's infrastructure beyond its limits. He needed more phone lines, a second fax, more bathrooms, a new computer system.
"We outgrew everything twice," Juniper says. "It wasn't just once. We spent so much money on those things."
Three-C's overhead was mushrooming out of control.
"When you're growing rapidly, you don't pay as much attention to the expense line as you should," Juniper admits. "You kind of throw money at problems."
That habit threw Three-C into a dangerous cycle in which Juniper was borrowing from next month's cash flow to pay this month's bills.
"As long as you're growing, it never catches up with you," he says. "You're always paying your bills with the bigger cash flow."
When Three-C's sales started flattening out again, however, reality caught up with Juniper and delivered a stinging slap in the face. Three-C's highly acclaimed revenue figures weren't telling the whole story. The company was losing money.
"We ran losses in '92, '93 and '94," he says. "'94 was the big loser," pushing the company more than $200,000 into the red.
It was a rude awakening for Juniper whose business success was still being lauded by the local and national press. Problem was, no one had really been tracking the company's financial health until Juniper hired an accountant in 1995. By then, a lot of the damage had already been done.
"I robbed Peter to pay Paul and hoped it all worked out," Juniper says. "The increased cash flow helps you survive it, but I clearly rolled the dice."
"There was no sense of accounting cutoffs, accounting procedures, nothing," says CFO Norm Hicks, who spent nearly 10 years as controller of the Credit Bureau of Columbus before wading into Three-C's financial quagmire three years ago. "Through '94, Bob was growing and operating Three-C without the information he needed. All the accounting work was being done out of a CPA firm in Youngstown and the communication was not there. The financial information was not timely and the quality was poor. I told him he'd been operating from the gut and from the heart."
Looking back, Juniper knows it's true.
"When you have rapid growth, you're never quite sure if you're making money or losing money," he says. "You're just so focused on surviving it."
Not a moment too soon
Borrowing money to pull through his financial crunch was not an option for Juniper.
"I ran red ink for several years, so it was hard to go to the bank and show them those massive losses," he explains.
Looking internally for ways to cut costs and better control his cash flow seemed his best bet.
"I had to become a better businessman," he says.
Juniper began by negotiating 60- and 90-day extensions with some of his suppliers to help him through the months ahead. Then he worked with Hicks to convert Three-C's commercial checking account into a sweep account so the company could earn interest on it.
Staffing was another issue. After seeing his workforce swell from 11 employees in 1992 to more than 65 just three years later, Juniper knew there were "some bad eggs in there. A lot of times you can't do a lot about it because you're growing so fast you can't afford to let anyone go," he says. When Three-C's growth diminished, however, so did Juniper's tolerance. He cut roughly a dozen slackers from his payroll and instituted a regimented, three-tiered training program for his remaining staff to step up productivity and lessen mistakes.
All the while, Hicks was setting up a financial information reporting system for Three-C and teaching Juniper what the numbers meant.
"With as fast as Bob was growing, he really needed to have a handle on cash management," Hicks says. In addition, Hicks emphasized the need to get Juniper's entire management team into budgeting.
"Bob was the only one in the company that knew what it was costing-somewhat-to operate the business," Hicks says.
The discipline paid off. In 1995, Three-C turned its first profit in three years. It was less than 1 percent of gross-a "pittance" by Juniper's measure-but it was a start.
Next, Juniper did some thing he once thought unthinkable. He began turning away work. Specifically, he dropped those jobs he determined to be less profitable. A computer program helped him analyze job profitability based on any number of factors including the type of repair needed, the size of the repair and the source of the referral. He actually turned the tables on two insurance companies as a result, deciding not to repair cars from their policyholders unless the customer was willing to pay some additional out-of-pocket costs. Three-C's profit margin jumped from 41 percent to 47 percent as a direct result of that decision, Juniper says.
Just because Three-C was doing more profitable work didn't mean the company was getting paid for it any faster. So Juniper instituted a collect on delivery policy with all insurance companies.
"They screamed and yelled," Juniper recalls, "but we won't release cars until they pay."
That little accounting trick paid off big, too.
"We had $400,000 in accounts receivable at that time and I was writing off $2,000 to $3,000 per month in bad receivables," Juniper says. Within 90 days, he had less than $30,000 in outstanding customer bills remaining on the books.
By the end of 1996, the company was making roughly $500,000 in profits-a record year, according to Hicks. Now, Juniper says, banks are beating down his door.
"We're pretty strong now financially," Juniper says, adding that Fifth Third Bank has expanded his line of credit to $200,000, though he draws upon it "very sparingly."
"It's a 150 percent reversal," agrees Hicks. "We knew the potential was there. We certainly had the volume ⊃ It was just a question of how quickly we could turn it around."
Back in the driver's seat
Three-C's brush with financial ruin may have scarred Juniper a bit, but it hasn't suppressed his passion for growth. Not by a long shot.
He has reassessed his financial goals, but they remain far from modest: $10 million in sales by the end of this year and $20 million three to five years from now.
"I want a nice 25 to 30 percent gradual, smooth increase," Juniper says in all seriousness. Perhaps his idea of comfortable growth remains helplessly warped from the fast-lane mentality to which he became accustomed. Then again, perhaps it's the adrenaline rush that drives him.
"Maybe you kind of get addicted to it," he concedes. "Maybe you think you can do it a little bit better the next time around."
The next time has already begun. In the last year and a half, Three-C has expanded into Westerville and Reynoldsburg, added a production site in Lancaster, started construction on another site in Chillicothe and has plans to roll out a new claims-center prototype in Polaris, Easton or Tuttle Crossing. A fourth production site is also in the works for Delaware.
As if managing Three-C's growth isn't enough, Juniper partnered this year with Dan Schmidt, president of Infiniti of Columbus Inc., to open a separate business called Schmidt Collision Center Inc. It's a venture that could see explosive growth, too, as more car dealerships look to outsource body shop repairs. So far, three local dealers have signed up to channel work to the center, but Juniper is proceeding with caution. He's learned from his mistakes at Three-C.
"We want to grow Schmidt in a more controlled way," he states.
As for his main business, Juniper says he's better equipped to control growth there, too, now that he finally understands the type of work he really wants to attract.
"The first time around we didn't have the infrastructure and the information," he points out. "This time, we do. If it gets a little uncomfortable I can go into pick-and-choose mode and slow it down a little.
"I'm going to make sure I can turn it off this time," he vows. "Last time, I literally couldn't stop it. But I'm a smarter business person for it. I got an education you can't buy ⊃ Maybe it just has to happen this way."
Columbus-based Lord, Sullivan & Yoder Inc. has won the nation's highest award in public relations, the Silver Anvil. The Public Relations Society of America presented the award to LSY for an investor-relations program designed for The Scotts Co. in Marysville. Following financial setbacks at Scotts in 1996, LSY's program helped explain the problems and Scotts' recovery plan. Scotts' stock jumped from a low of 16 to a high in the mid-30s. "It's nice to reap the recognition from our peers in the public relations field," says Neil Mortine, executive vice president at LSY. The Columbus chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators has also honored LSY with two Bronze Quill Awards for its work on behalf of the Ohio Soybean Council and the Columbus Blue Jackets NHL hockey team.
Columbus-based MessagePlex National Answering Service has received the 1998-1999 Award of Excellence from the Association of TeleServices International.
Gerbig, Snell/Weisheimer & Associates Inc. has received three IN-AWE awards from the San Francisco-based Medical Marketing Association.
Flexible Pavements Inc. has won a 1998 Ohio New Product Award, sponsored by the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers-Professional Engineers in Industry.
Blacklick-based invata international inc. and Timberline Software Corp. of Beaverton, Ore., have formed a marketing and product-development alliance.
CID Equity Partners has invested $7 million in Columbus-based Continental Auto Receivables Inc.
The Longaberger Co.'s video services department has received two 1998 Bronze Telly awards.
Bengston, DeBell & Elki Ltd. of Chantilly, Va., has merged with Columbus-based Burgess & Niple Ltd.
Mills/James Productions and COSI Columbus have been awarded a national Bronze Anvil by the Public Relations Society of America for developing the science center's World Wide Web site, www.cosi.org.
FIRSTLINK has received the first Community Partnership Award given by Columbus State Community College.
Discovery Resource Group Inc. has opened a subsidiary, the Business Doctors.
Baird Communications Inc. has received an Award of Merit in the 1998 Bronze Quill Awards from the International Association of Business Communicators Columbus Chapter.
Pro Forma Communications has received two Marketing and Merchandising Excellence awards.
Corna/Kokosing Construction Co. has been awarded the contract for the Land Rover automotive sales and service center in Dublin and the Kroger grocery store and adjoining retail space at Polaris Towne Center.
Abrasive Technology Inc. of Westerville has acquired Habit Diamond Ltd., based in London, and Habit Diamond Trading Ltd., based in Singapore.
Allied Employer Resources Inc. has launched a new joint venture called Allied Professional Employer Group, to market its services through members of the Professional Insurance Agents Association of Ohio Inc.
Signstrut Group has been approved for a 60 percent, seven-year tax credit from the state to expand and relocate its operations in Delaware County.
Essilor of America Inc. and Cole National Corp. have both been approved for 60 percent, 10-year tax credits from the state to begin operations in Rickenbacker Air Industrial Park.
Younger Manufacturing, also planning to start operations at Rickenbacker, has been approved for a 60 percent, five-year tax credit.
Interactive Teleservices Corp. has been approved for a 50 percent, five-year tax credit from the state to relocate its headquarters from Nebraska to Central Ohio.
OPTICON Medical Inc. has been approved for an identical tax credit to relocate its Minnesota and Iowa operations to Dublin.
The Schenk Co. has represented Shahriar Kazemi, owner of Cazzies and Arlington Cafe, in locating space across from the convention center for a new entertainment complex.
Westerville-based Lawhon & Associates Inc. has opened a new office in Cincinnati. In addition, the company has earned the Safety Innovation Award from the Builder's Exchange of Central Ohio.
Edward Howard & Co. of Cleveland has expanded its Columbus office with the acquisition of Seifkas Communications Inc.
Columbus City Center has announced the opening of two new stores, Hold Everything and Aldo Shoes.
Plan.it Communications has signed The Walker Center for Laser Aesthetic Skincare as a new client.
WinnScapes Inc. has been awarded the Colts Neck development contract through Kohr-Royer-Griffith Inc. Realtors.
Securing private capital to start or grow a business is seldom easy. The key isn't just who you know-though that certainly helps-it's who they know and whether you're a good fit for that venture capitalist's portfolio.
Steve DiMauro, executive director of the Columbus Investment Interest Group, an affiliate of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, says venture-capital firms typically look to invest in companies with a substantial market opportunity and high-growth expectations. These companies should also have an experienced management team, a competitive advantage, great ideas and a clear strategy to implement them, he adds.
Below are some venture-capital firms that operate in Ohio's three largest cities: Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. If you think your firm might qualify for an investment from one of them, your best bet is to get an influential accountant or attorney who believes in your business to introduce you. Many venture-capital firms do not accept unsponsored business plans.
CID Equity Partners
Contact: Bill Oesterle
41 S. High St., Suite 3650, Columbus 43215
Industry: All, with a focus on software, industrial and consumer goods; medical and health-related businesses; telecommunications; and specialty financial products
Preferred investment: Mezzanine fund, $3 million to $5 million; equity fund, $1 million to $10 million
Desired ownership stake: Primarily 5 percent to 45 percent
Desco Capital Partners
Contact: James Shade
150 E. Campus View Blvd., Columbus 43235
Industry: Industrial products, software, medical equipment
Preferred investment: $500,000 to $5 million
Desired ownership stake: 5 percent to 45 percent, though sometimes a majority interest is sought
Contact: Paul Purcell
505 King Ave., Columbus 43201
Industry: Natural gas
Preferred investment: $500,000
Desired ownership stake: Greater than 10 percent
The Ohio Partners
Contact: Maurice Cox
62 E. Broad St., Columbus 43215
Industry: Information technology
Preferred investment: $1 million to $5 million
Desired ownership stake: Minority interest and active participation with management team
Brantley Venture Partners
Contact: Kevin J. Cook
20600 Chagrin Blvd., Suite 1150, Cleveland 44122
Industry: All except real estate, oil and gas, and motion pictures
Preferred investment: $3 million to $8 million
Desired ownership stake: Between 25 percent and 80 percent
Clarion Capital Corp.
Contact: Tom Niehaus
1801 E. Ninth St., Suite 510, Cleveland 44114
Industry: Life sciences, information technology, telecommunications
Preferred investment: $250,000 to $500,000
Desired ownership stake: Less than 10 percent
Crystal Internet Venture Fund
Contact: Daniel Kellogg
1120 Chester Ave., Suite 310, Cleveland 44114
Preferred investment: $1 million to $2 million
Desired ownership stake: About 10 percent
Key Equity Capital Corp.
Contact: Lisa Root
127 Public Square, 28th floor, Cleveland 44114
Industry: Industrial machinery and equipment, industrial chemicals and materials, health care
Preferred investment: $1 million to $40 million
Desired ownership stake: 30 percent to 80 percent
MCM Capital Partners
Contact: James Poffenberger
55 Public Square, Suite 2150, Cleveland 44133
Preferred investment: $5 million
Desired ownership stake: Majority ownership but will also consider minimum of 33 percent
Contact: Lyn Cameron
629 Euclid Ave., Suite 700, Cleveland 44114
Industry: Health care, information technology
Preferred investment: $3 million to $7 million
Desired ownership stake: From 10 percent to 70 percent
National City Capital
Contact: Christopher Dowd
1965 E. Sixth St., Suite 1010, Cleveland 44114
Industry: All, with emphasis on manufacturing, consumer products, and communication equipment and services
Preferred investment: $1 million to $10 million
Desired ownership stake: Variable minority interest
Ohio Innovation Fund
Contact: Tim Biro
1400 McDonald Investment Center, 800 Superior Ave., Cleveland 44114
Industry: Health care/life sciences, advanced manufacturing, aerospace and information technologies, polymers and specialty materials, software
Preferred investment: $250,000 to $1 million
Desired ownership stake: 25 percent
Contact: Joseph Shafran
2720 Van Aken Blvd., Suite 200, Cleveland 44120
Industry: Real estate, especially neighborhood and community shopping centers
Preferred investment: $1 million to $5 million
Desired ownership stake: Equal partnerships; require property management role
Primus Venture Partners
Contact: Loyal Wilson
5900 Landerbrook Drive, Suite 200, Cleveland 44124
Industry: Information technology, health care, financial services, retail, education, training
Preferred investment: $5 million to $10 million
Desired ownership stake: Lead investor role preferred; majority interest not required.
The Northcoast Fund LP
Contact: Jonathan G. Turk
1111 Chester Ave., Suite 830, Cleveland 44114
Industry: Health care, technology, consumer products, communications
Preferred investment: $800,000
Desired ownership stake: Lead investor role preferred; majority interest not required.
Thomas Roulston III Investment Partners Inc.
Contact: Thomas Roulston
1350 Euclid Ave., Suite 1060, Cleveland 44115
Industry: Manufacturing, distribution, consumer products
Preferred investment: $500,000 to $2 million
Desired ownership stake: 25 percent to 100 percent
Blue Chip Venture Co.
Contact: Todd Gardner
2000 PNC Center, 201 E. Fifth St., Cincinnati 45202
Industry: Information technology, health care, retail/consumer products, communications
Preferred investment: $3 million to $5 million
Desired ownership stake: Up to 49 percent
River Cities Capital Fund
Contact: Murray Wilson
221 E. Fourth St., Suite 2250, Cincinnati 45202
Industry: Information technology, telecommunications, manufacturing
Preferred investment: $2 million to $5 million
Desired ownership stake: Up to 49 percent
Senmed Medical Ventures
Contact: Clint Dederick
4445 Lake Forest Drive, Suite 600, Cincinnati 45242
Industry: Medical-related technology
Preferred investment: $750,000 to $1 million
Desired ownership stake: Typically 5 percent to 10 percent
Walnut Capital Partners
Contact: Daniel Fleming
312 Walnut St., Suite 1151, Cincinnati 45202
Preferred investment: $2 million to $10 million
Desired ownership stake: Varies