Columbus (2544)

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:10

Another man's gold

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Another man's gold

By Joan Slattery Wall

While networking traditionally has been a means for employees to find jobs, some Columbus employers find it's also a way to fill vacancies.

Each month, nearly 50 human-resources professionals, members of the Columbus Employment Assistance Network, meet to exchange résumés they have on file and information about positions they need to fill.

"We're a good source when companies are downsizing or have outplaced people," says Susan Diday, director of national account sales for Andrews Moving and Storage Co. in West Columbus.

Diday, who volunteers her time to coordinate the network, has been involved since it was formed in 1985 to help find work for the spouses of out-of-town job candidates local companies wished to hire.

Now, the network boasts more than 150 members, including businesses such as Nationwide Insurance Enterprises, Banc One Corp., King Thompson Realtors and Metatec Corp.; eight educational institutions; nine state agencies; and 16 nonprofit organizations. The group is not open to employment agencies.

"Right now the ratio is probably 50/50, openings to résumés," says Diday, adding that jobs range from administrative assistants to six-figure-salaried executives.

Julie Holbein, staffing specialist for Wendy's International Inc.'s Columbus division, says her company this year used the network to hire an operations division secretary who provides administrative support to district managers.

"It's a great way to find out who's out there and what jobs are in demand," Holbein says. "It's an exchange of recruiting ideas. When you find someone seeking to fill a similar position as you are, you say, 'How are you going about it?' I think it gives you some refreshing ideas that you can take back and use in your workplace."

The Columbus Employment Assistance Network meets at 8:15 a.m. the second Thursday of each month. For more information, contact Diday at 777-1515.

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:08

Professional women's organizations

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American Business Women's Association

Six local chapters meet monthly to help women and men grow personally and professionally through leadership, education, networking and national recognition.

Contact: Linda Buck, 272-0457

American Women's Society of Certified Public Accountants of Central Ohio

Provides resources, networking and mentoring opportunities for women CPAs. Monthly meeting dates vary.

Contact: Christa Dewire, 225-8700

The Association for Women in Communications, Columbus Chapter

Provides networking and professional development for women and men in all communications industries. Meets monthly, September through May.

Contact: Susan Aman, 263-0299

Business and Professional Women U.S.A.

Eleven local chapters promote equity for women in the workplace through advocacy, education and political and community involvement. Meeting times vary.

Contact: Kate Woodward, 823-0140

Columbus Area Women's Business Council

An informal networking organization sponsored by the law firm of Chester, Willcox & Saxbe. Meets for a noon lunch the third Wednesday of every odd-numbered month at Wm. Graystone Winery.

Contact: Diane Lease, 221-4000

Columbus Association of Legal Secretaries

Provides legal education, professional certification, networking and a commitment to a professional code of ethics. Meets for a 6 p.m. dinner the first Wednesday of each month, September through June, at Berwick Manor.

Contact: Denise Arie, 221-2121

Columbus Chapter of the Women Presidents' Organization

Monthly roundtable offering education and networking for women entrepreneurs. Open to new members in July and August.

Contact: Linda Reese, 855-2945

Columbus Commercial Real Estate Women

Promotes professional, educational and business opportunities for women in the commercial real estate industry. Meets for luncheons, usually the first Tuesday of each month.

Contact: Lori Black, 764-3100

The Columbus Women's Network

Networking group for professional women. Meets at 5:15 p.m. the last Monday of even-numbered months and the last Tuesday of odd-numbered months, September through June, at the Radisson North.

Contact: Marcia Chambers, 798-1107

Dublin Women in Business and Professions

Networking organization that also provides career role models for local female students. Meets the fourth Wednesday of every month.

Contact: Sherrie Ridenour, 791-9191

Greater Columbus Women's Business Development Center

A member of the Ohio Women's Business Resource Network, the center provides assistance to female business owners. Meets for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. the first Friday of each month at the center, 3360 E. Livingston Ave.

Contact: Linda Steward, 238-6081

The Huntington Roundtables

Bimonthly networking sessions, sponsored by The Huntington National Bank, on issues that affect women business owners.

Contact: JoLynn Fraley, 480-4153

National Association of Women Business Owners, Columbus Chapter

Helps advance women business owners and everyday decision makers economically, politically and socially. Meets at 11:30 a.m. the second Thursday of odd-numbered months and at 5:30 p.m. the second Wednesday of even-numbered months at the Business Technology Center, 1275 Kinnear Road.

Contact: Marcia Swigart Hoyt, 464-2572

National Association of Women in Construction, Columbus Chapter

Promotes and supports the advancement and employment of women in the construction industry. Meets for dinner at 5 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month.

Contact: Lynda Bryant, 870-0555

Professional Secretaries International

Provides networking, education and resources for administrative assistants. Meets monthly.

Contact: Sharon Talbott, 249-4093, or Tamie Curry, 847-6352

Women in Cable and Telecommunications

Statewide organization that helps women in the cable industry attain economic, professional and economic goals. Meets three to six times a year.

Contact: Patricia Hoar, 236-1292, ext. 203

Women Lawyers of Franklin County

A bar association that addresses issues of concern to women in the law profession. Membership is open to women and men. Meets monthly for either lunch or dinner, September through May.

Contact: Brigid Heid, 221-7663

Women's Business Beginnings

An affiliate of the Women's Business Board. Offers education and mentoring for women who are thinking of going into business or have been in business less than three years. Meets at 5:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month at 17 S. High St., Ninth Floor.

Contact: Bea Wolper, 221-4000

Women's Business Board

Offers education and networking to women who have been in business three years or longer. Meets at 5:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at 17 S. High St., Ninth Floor.

Contact: Bea Wolper, 221-4000

Women's Network for Entrepreneurial Training

Mentoring program that matches successful entrepreneurial women with women business owners whose companies are ready to grow. Pairs meet monthly; group meets quarterly at the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

Contact: Liz Thomas, 225-6916

Women's Transportation Seminar

Columbus chapter holds quarterly luncheon meetings to help women and men grow and advance in the transportation field.

Contact: Karen Cassidy, 466-3353

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:08

In brief

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On getting there

Daniel Staton knows about being an entrepreneur. He understands night sweats. He appreciates a lucky break. He's been there, done that.

"The difference between success and failure, if it could be measured, would be measured in millimeters," says the president and managing partner of Walnut Capital Partners, an Ohio-based investment firm. "And it's usually attitude and passion-a passion for what you do and what you believe in-that make a difference."

Staton was the keynote speaker during Innovest '98, a statewide venture capital conference held this year in Cincinnati. Eight Central Ohio companies were among the 30 selected to present business plans to an audience of potential investors at the two-day event.

Staton, also a director of several companies including Duke Realty Investments Inc., shared what he's learned since 1975, when, at age 21, he started his own moving and storage company. Here are some of his tips:

  • Pick your partner carefully.

  • Don't put all your eggs in somebody else's basket. In other words, don't rely on another business for your own success.

  • Keep it simple.

  • Don't forget who got you there.

Among his other insights:

"If you don't go to bed at night a little nervous, you're probably not taking enough risk. If you don't wake up with your palms sweaty, you're probably not taking enough risk.

"Do your homework. Be passionate. Sleep a little faster. And get real damn lucky like me."

Central Ohio companies selected to present at the event, hosted in part by Small Business News, were: Antique Networking Inc., Blue Star Material Technologies Inc., Corporate Strategic Services Inc., Docosa Foods Ltd., Enact Inc., Hy-Gene Inc., MD Systems Inc. and Visual Genomics Inc.

Fair play

Better make a game plan before you choose up sides.

New research shows that the methods managers use to assign employees to workplace teams can affect worker attitudes and performance.

A study involving 137 undergraduate students found that those who were selected randomly to an experimental team thought the process was fair. They performed better on a simple mathematics test than others who were told that they were selected based on whether they were in one of the researcher's classes.

However, those chosen to teams based on ability performed worst, even though they perceived that the team-forming method was second fairest.

"People who show a competence in performing certain tasks often end up being assigned more work of that kind. If that isn't work they find rewarding, then they are being penalized for performing well. This unintentional punishment often keeps people from trying as hard as they could," explains Howard Klein, study co-author and associate professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business.

Because this was an exploratory study done in a laboratory, Klein says it is too early to make broad recommendations about the best ways to form workplace teams. However, the study results suggest that managers should be certain that their selection process is seen as equitable by employees.

"Managers can help ensure that they get the maximum effort and efficiency from workers by carefully choosing how they form teams," Klein says.

There's no place like home

There's less safety in these numbers.

Compared to last year, fewer participants in a recent survey said they felt "very" safe where they shop and where they work. In fact, home was the only place where this year more respondents said they felt "very" safe.

The survey, conducted this spring by Columbus-based Opinion Strategies Inc., consisted of telephone interviews with 600 registered voters. Questions also explored topics including the value of higher education, the character of President Clinton and the performance of institutions, organizations and professions.

Last year, 83 percent of respondents said they felt "very" safe at home; 74 percent said they felt "very" safe in their workplace; and 71 percent said they felt "very" safe where they shopped. Perceptions of safety in businesses appeared to decline this year. Gang-related crime and gang-inflicted personal harm were cited specifically by a significant number of citizens, according to Opinion Strategies.

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:08

Business Notes

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Superconductive Components Inc. has entered into a new manufacturing and marketing venture with Nanophase Technologies Corp. of Burr Ridge, Ill.

Red Roof Inns Inc. has announced the sale of four of its California properties to a new franchisee, Tog Enterprises of Garden Grove, Calif.

The company also has been named a national finalist for its travel agent video in the 1998 Vision Awards competition, one of three major nationwide competitions for non-broadcast video and film productions.

Red Roof Inns has also been honored by the Special Wish Foundation for being its first national corporate sponsor, providing lodging for children and families since 1989.

Sarcom Inc. has been highlighted as one of 40 "best practice companies" in the United States by Arthur Andersen in the book, "Best Practices: Building Your Business with Customer-Focused Solutions."

Campbell Builders has received the remodeling industry's top award, The Big 50, from Remodeling Magazine.

The North Market has added two new merchants, Jose Madrid Salsa and From The Hip cigar store, as well as expansions of the North Market Poultry and Game and Rhoades Side Organic Market.

RWS Building Co. has been awarded a contract with Jeff Reality for the Discovery Building, a two-story office building on East Spring Street.

Fekete + Co. has received three top awards at this year's Marketing and Merchandising Excellence Awards, presented by the Sales and Marketing Council of the Building Industry Association.

CheckFree Corp. has received approval from the Ohio Tax Credit Authority for a 65 percent tax credit for 10 years to consolidate and expand operations.

The accounting firm of Murphy, Grannis, Brickey & Co. has purchased D. L. Culver & Associates.

Columbus-based AirNet Systems Inc. has signed a letter of intent to acquire Mercury Business Services Inc. of Boston.

Berry & Miller Construction is the new builder and developer of The Town Square Villas [formerly known as Olde Town Villas] after acquiring the community as a franchise of The Epcon Group Inc.

King Thompson Realtors has received the Brokerage Company of the Year Award for 1997 from the Building Industry Association.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Heart Association of Ohio and West Virginia.

The International Association of Business Communicators has presented Kelley Communications Group Inc. with the Silver Quill Award for publication design for an Ameritech campaign.

Dublin-based VOCA Holdings Inc., the parent company of VOCA of America and EduCare-America, has been renamed PeopleServe Inc.

Cardinal Health Inc. and R. P. Scherer Corp. of Troy, Mich., have agreed to a merger in which Scherer will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Cardinal.

The Greater Columbus Arts Council has presented Business Partnership Awards to SOS Productions Inc., Corna/Kokosing Construction Co. and The Huntington National Bank.

NovaCare Inc. has contracted with Worthington Industries Inc. to provide industrial, physical and occupational therapy to Worthington's employees.

Columbus-based Sevell + Sevell Inc. has been hired by Strategic Health Resources Inc., a Los Angeles-based firm to produce marketing materials.

Profitworks Ltd. has signed The Wasserstrom Co. as a new client.

Kirkland Communications Inc. has received the Award of Distinction from the 1998 Communicator Awards print media competition.

Columbus-area Columbia Road Ltd. has broken ground on its Cumberland Trail Golf Course in Etna, which is set to open in 1999. Hurdzan/Fry Golf Course Design Inc., Bird/Houk & Associates Inc. and EMH&T Inc., all Columbus companies, are also working on the project.

Sophisticated Systems Inc. has completed site selection and acquisition of land for a new headquarters site at the City Gate Business Park with representation from The Schenk Co. commercial real estate brokerage and advisory services.

1. Anticipate you are likely to live a long life and plan accordingly. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a woman who reaches age 50 today without serious health problems, statistically can anticipate celebrating her 92nd birthday.

2. There's also a statistically good chance that you'll outlive your spouse. Women, on average, outlive their spouses by about seven years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. If investing hasn't always been a priority, you should start learning to make it one now.

3. Pay yourself first. By investing systematically over a period of time, instead of paying monthly bills first and then saving whatever is left, you will be surprised how fast your nest egg can grow.

4. Fund your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored program to the maximum. You can build up a good portion of your retirement savings if you contribute as much as you are allowed to into deferred-income plans such as a 401(k). Not only will you reduce your current taxable income, but the tax-deferred compounding feature of these plans allows you to accumulate more than you would in a comparable account that taxes earnings each year.

5. Choose an individual retirement account that's right for you. Compare the projected results of contributing to different types of IRAs and of transferring assets from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.

6. Before you switch jobs, check your complete benefits package and the portability and vesting rules of your retirement plan. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, on average, working women older than age 25 switch jobs every 4.8 years. This job-change frequency often prohibits the growth of retirement plans because vesting requirements are often set at five years.

7. Check on your Social Security benefits. The Social Security Administration reports that 66 percent of retirees rely on Social Security for half or more of their income, with the average monthly payment for women totaling $601. Clearly, Social Security should be thought of as a supplementary income during retirement and not a main source of funds.

8. Beware of being overly conservative in your investments. While there is a correlation between your age and the amount of risk you should assume when investing, being too conservative could seriously erode the value of a retirement account that you may need to rely on for 30 years or more. That's why you should think of retirement as a long-term investment and consider keeping a significant portion of your portfolio invested in stocks as long as possible.

9. Consider long-term-care health insurance. You can't afford to ignore this important insurance need when you consider that the cost of spending a year in a nursing home could run $60,000 or more, according to the Health Insurance Association of America, and could easily deplete your entire retirement reserve.

10. Don't leave everything to Uncle Sam. You owe it to your heirs to establish an appropriate estate plan. Without proper planning, estate taxes (which may range from 37 percent to 60 percent), plus state taxes and income taxes on retirement plan distributions, could reduce your estate by more than 75 percent (if the majority of your assets are in qualified plans and individual retirement accounts). Essentially, your heirs may receive only a fraction of all you've worked so hard to accumulate. SBN

Robert K. Cargin is a financial consultant with Smith Barney's Dublin office.

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:07

Special Report: Education

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Ashland University
Offers information on undergraduate business degrees as well as the university’s 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.

Capital University
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 Supervisor’s Roundtable, an ongoing training program for managers and first-line supervisors.

Central Michigan University
This page explains the university’s 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.

Denison University
The “Preparation for Business Professions” page of Denison’s main site includes information about the university’s MBA and other management degrees as well as its application process.

DeVry Institute of Technology
In addition to learning about DeVry’s 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.

Franklin University
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.

Hondros College
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 college’s Division of Business, listed under the academics link, offers bachelor’s-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 college’s course offerings, full-time and evening MBA programs, as well as Executive Education Programs and working research papers.

Otterbein College
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.

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:07

Refusing to go down in flames

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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 he’d 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 they’d never be able to save it,” Jim Darfus remembers.

While the structural loss was nearly $300,000, the fire’s ramifications were more serious, if considered that the Darfuses had hoped rental income from the building’s tenants would take them into retirement.

“I thought we’d probably lose everything,” he says of his businesses.

Greg Hopkins’ popular Nacho Mama’s restaurant met the same fate July 12, 1997, when—not even three years after it opened on U.S. Route 23 about 7 miles north of Worthington—a 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.

“I’m not to this day paid off, but I’m catching up. It’s not because I don’t have enough money, but there have been things I didn’t 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 aren’t 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 couple’s 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 didn’t 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 decision

The Darfuses’ insurance adjuster arrived while the fire was still burning. He recorded the losses while the Darfuses huddled with friends and neighbors who’d come to console them. When the embers had cooled, the couple along with friends and real estate agents who work for them—even firefighters—waded 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 didn’t 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 accountant’s 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 could’ve 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 couldn’t 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 Mama’s, 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 didn’t 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 there’s 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. “We’ve just run into so many stumbling blocks.”

In another’s hands

Hopkins had signs from the beginning that he would not lose his customers because of the fire.

“The whole roof is off, there’s piles of garbage out front, and people were still walking in and saying, ‘Are you open?’” he says.

What he didn’t 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 he’d 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 projects—a 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 back—his bar was 35 percent of his business—he 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 didn’t 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 don’t know what I was going to do,” he says, noting that he’d stopped working the catering job in early March to prepare the restaurant for its reopening. “I’d had almost a month of no income. I’d already been through my savings pretty good.”

The lack of opening-night fanfare didn’t hurt him.

“We ended up having about 200 people that night without even announcing it,” Hopkins says. “I don’t know how that happened. I guess I was just a lot more popular than I knew.”

Apparently he’s popular with employees, too, as 17 of the nearly 25 he had before the fire returned when Nacho Mama’s 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 $77,000—35 percent more than the $57,000 in sales he’d recorded in the same month a year earlier. On average, he’s 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 don’t know if it’s going to continue or not, but we’re 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 Guarasci’s 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 we’re talking about a damage claim in your bathroom of $1,500 for water, that’s one thing. But if we’re talking about a $200,000 reconstruction project, the insurance company’s going to want to see where that money comes from,” he explains. “They may want to negotiate on some particular items, and you can’t do that if you just have a bottom line.”

Once the claim was settled—the Darfuses received more than $250,000 in insurance money for replacement costs—the two had to wait an additional 14 months, through zoning approvals and weather delays, while workers finished reconstructing the building. The couple’s 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 that’s 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 he’ll 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 they’ll 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, they’ll spend a total of 15 years repaying their $100,000 loan.

“Even if we’d made a different decision, it might have been the wrong one,” Jim Darfus says.

“You can’t turn back,” Pat Darfus says. “You have to keep going forward.”

“All in all,” she adds, “five years from now, I don’t think we’re going to be sorry we did this.”

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:07

No end in sight

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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 it’s not going to get easier anytime soon—especially in certain industries.

The commission spent a month compiling information about the area’s 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 area’s 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 area’s 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.

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:07

Inking a critical deal

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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 didn’t 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?

We’d recently reconfigured the whole plant ... and that had given us some space. They said they only needed 800 square feet, which isn’t 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 minimal—just 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 doesn’t 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 pressman’s 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 it’s 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 other’s work first hand?

It’s interesting to see the process they go through.

They have commented on several occasions on things they’ve learned. An ink company mixes the ink, and they never see it again. They don’t see the end project and they don’t see the process it goes through. Being on site, they see everything that the pressman can go through at times.

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:07

Better safe than sorry

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“No one wants to anticipate that it’s 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 happen—and 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 Marshal’s 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 that’s 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 won’t 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 that’s 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 aren’t 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 owner’s 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 don’t 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.

  • Don’t forget to discuss liability issues in case someone is injured during a fire or other disaster.