Our October story "It's not a typo" turned out to have a typo of its own. The article gave an incorrect phone number to call for more information. The correct number for AASF Publications is 899-8999. We apologize for the error.
Women business owners have been slow to seek out equity investors -- those who fund businesses for a share of the company's ownership.
However, 44 percent of equity investors interviewed in a study conducted by The National Foundation for Women Business Owners earlier this year say they have seen an increase in proposals from women business owners in just the past year.
Although these equity investors are beginning to back businesses owned by women, this funding source remains largely untapped. So where are women business owners turning for equity capital? According to the study:
- 73 percent of women business owners receive initial investments from family members or friends.
- 73 percent have received equity capital from individual angel investors.
- 25 percent have received equity capital from corporate investors.
- 15 percent have received equity capital from venture capital firms.
The study shows it pays to be persistent. Women entrepreneurs who have equity financing contacted an average of more than 15 funding entities, while women still seeking equity financing have contacted fewer than 11. Source: The National Foundation for Women Business Owners, www.nfwbo.org
Research conducted by Yankelovich Partners in 2000 indicates American consumers have strong opinions about smoke and other air quality issues. Consider that:
- 80 percent believe businesses should find a way to accommodate both nonsmokers and smokers in their establishments.
- 86 percent believe ventilation can have a lot or some impact on addressing smoking issues.
- 91 percent agree they would be more likely to go to an establishment that had a state-of-the-art ventilation system vs. one that did not.
What you can do
Restaurant and bar owners
- Control airflow to minimize smoke drift from smoking sections to nonsmoking sections.
- Properly maintain -- and consider redesigning -- ventilation systems to help contain kitchen odors, grease and tobacco smoke, as well as regulate room temperature and humidity.
- Adjust ventilation systems to peak business times to make them more cost effective.
Hotel owners and managers
*Watch the air quality in guest rooms and common areas closely, as these reflect upon the management's commitment to cleanliness and attention to detail.
* Make flexible accommodation policies for the lobby, restaurant, bar/lounge and meeting rooms to allow for differing preferences of these audiences.
*Ensure proper housekeeping procedures are followed, as this can contribute to cleaner, fresher air. For more ideas, go to www.pmOptions.com/home/home.asp.
Inviting press attention is one of the best ways to grow a small business, but many businesses don't know how or where to begin. Lee Esposito, principal of Lee Esposito Associates, offers the following dos and don'ts for generating publicity.
- Become a student of the media. Read local newspapers and business journals and watch news broadcasts to discover patterns or trends and learn which reporters cover your specific industry.
- Read national stories and watch network news broadcasts for opportunities to publicize your business. Local editors and reporters often are eager to put a local slant on national stories.
- Contact reporters or editors to introduce yourself and your business. Be prepared to let them know what's new or unique about your business and how it will benefit their readers, viewers or listeners.
- Tie your product or service to a quirky national holiday or celebration. For example, a pizza chain that offers a peanut butter and jelly pizza received extensive media coverage by tying its pizza to the April 2 celebration of National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day.
- Disappear after the interview. Be available throughout the process to assist with additional facts, figures or questions.
- Use jargon. Instead, use colorful, everyday language when describing your product or service.
- Ask for or expect special concessions because you are an advertiser.
One big mystery of this technology-driven world is how some telephone companies cannot produce an invoice the average person can interpret. Your business could be losing money and you may not even know it.
When one Columbus-based company with an annual phone bill of more than $10 million had an audit performed, executives discovered they'd been overbilled $1.5 million on an annual basis. If your business adds or deletes services on a regular basis, it's a safe bet that your telephone bill is wrong.
Even smaller companies with 10 to 20 lines regularly find major errors on their invoices. But don't despair.
Here are some ways to safeguard against being billed incorrectly.
The consultative approach
Some consultants specialize in interpreting telephone bills. Payment for these services is either a fixed fee or a percentage of the savings determined from the annual telephone bill.
It's a good idea to shop around and compare companies and pricing. When your bill is evaluated, the final report should separate out the fixed costs reflected on your bill, the variable costs and the one-time costs. The fixed costs become a monthly benchmark by which to compare your bills. Variable costs can also be reviewed each month to ensure they are reasonable.
If overbilling is confirmed, contact the telephone company and request a credit.
Help from the competition
A free way to verify the accuracy of your phone bill is to get a quote for services from a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC). A CLEC offers many of the same products and services as a larger telephone company, but often at a more competitive price.
My company, Adelphia Business Solutions, is a CLEC. With a letter of authorization signed by you, a CLEC can access customer service records from your phone company, review the bill, identify which services you have and provide you with a quote. During this process, the CLEC should identify any errors in billing or service.
If you switch service providers, make sure the representative thoroughly explains each item on the first bill. Some providers even deliver the first bill in person and answer your questions face to face.
Do the math
On invoices that include long distance charges, verify that the actual cost per minute billed matches what was quoted. To do this, take the total number of minutes for the billing period and divide them into the total costs, before taxes and other fixed costs are added.
Some companies have a service charge or monthly cost per line for long distance, which should be factored in to determine the true cost per minute. You may be surprised to discover your fixed per-minute charge for long distance is twice what you think it is.
One Central Ohio company thought it was being charged seven cents per minute, when in reality it was being charged more than 25 cents per minute because of the limited number of calls placed.
Telephone bills may never be easy to interpret, but it's important to understand which services you have and the charges billed to you. With this understanding, your business can potentially save a lot of money.
And always keep documentation, in case of future discrepancies. Duane C. Bennett (email@example.com) is general manager of Adelphia Business Solutions' Central Ohio office. Bennett previously held senior management positions with LCI, now known as QWEST, and CoreComm Ltd.
Mike Crane already had his hands full this year.
He was adjusting to his new role as president of Crane Plastics Siding, one of six independent businesses formed in the reorganization of Crane Plastics Co. in September 1999.
Heading the new business unit was almost like starting from scratch. He had to select a new management team; create the infrastructure of the independent company, such as its human resources and accounting functions; and patch morale among employees, who had withstood an anxious summer waiting for the changes.
On top of that, the siding company was working to open a new $20 million, high technology manufacturing facility.
Then there were the additional duties Crane faced as executive vice president of Crane Plastics Holding Co., the umbrella for the six independent businesses.
It was enough to overflow any top executive's plate, but Crane would face yet another challenge: Prices of the siding company's raw material, resin, doubled last fall -- during the same period when the business put its reorganization plan into action.
Still, the maelstrom may actually have set the new, independent company off on the right foot.
"It provided additional focus to our group," Crane says. "It would be hard to find a silver lining in that thing, but maybe that's it."
Coincidentally, his cousin, Tanny Crane, president of the holding company, describes the situation in the same way.
"I'm a silver lining person. It always makes you better," she says of the challenges that faced the siding company. "Mike's team is unparalleled in what they've been able to accomplish."
The Crane family is watching carefully now that a full year has passed since the reorganization, which decentralized the company's management structure of more than half a century. The goal: to focus more on the marketplaces and customers of each individual business unit.
"We have a vision that we could become a global enterprise," Tanny says.
But the company had become, she says, too complex to handle such an ambition. Crane Plastics' business had doubled almost every five years since its inception, growing to more than 800 employees and $150 million in revenue.
"It's almost like our siding promotion, 'Think Big,'" Mike says. "We want to grow with big ideas and big new initiatives, but in order to do that we had to get small."
Branching out and stepping back
Tanny Crane remembers well the first time the family-owned company made moves to fly outside its own nest.
It was in the late 1980s, when the company developed its first five-year plan with goals to grow the siding business, continue the core business and develop more of its own proprietary products.
"We started to view outside these four walls," Tanny says. "Dad, he'd say, 'If I can't stand on top of this building and see it, we shouldn't be involved in it.'"
Her father, Bob, who has since passed away, and Mike's father, Jim, had taken over leadership of the company from the previous generation.
By 1992, Crane Plastics acquired its first company, Compression Polymers Co. of Moosic, Pa. Within five years, four more companies were acquired, forming The Crane Group and showing the company a glimpse of its own past. The companies in that group thrive on sharing best practices while enjoying the entrepreneurial spirit of their individual management teams.
"Our managers would go to these companies, and they'd see the benefit of being small, wearing different hats, being flexible, being nimble," Tanny says. "What we saw is what our company used to be."
Crane Plastics had grown so huge that it was getting in the way of itself.
Top executives were trying to manage different products, different materials with different life cycles and different markets and customers. Employees were working in many different areas at the same time.
"One day they'd be concentrating on a key issue in siding, and the next day they'd be pulled off to TimberTech, and the next they'd be working on issues at the manufacturing company," Mike says.
Tanny, herself, felt torn.
"I'd go from one priority meeting to the next," she says.
Perhaps more significantly, frustration was growing among employees who, as Crane Plastics grew larger with more departments, found it increasingly difficult to get things done because they ran into more walls.
The alarms rang loudly when, in early 1999, Mike and Tanny hosted focus groups of employees, who told the Cranes they didn't feel they had an impact on the company's profits anymore. It was a significant message, considering the company had fostered a cash profit-sharing plan in 1969 that had since been supported by employees -- and successful as a work incentive.
"My father used to say it was the glue that held the company together," Tanny remembers.
"We felt the effect of profit sharing had been diluted," Mike says. "If you're working on a floor as part of a $150 million company, you're wondering whether your impact is going to have a direct effect on profit sharing."
The summer of anxiety
Convinced that the 50-year-old management structure was no longer serving Crane Plastics well, the five family members in the company, along with the human resources vice president and the CFO, formed a steering team to determine how dividing the company into separate units might follow the model used by the individual companies acquired as part of The Crane Group.
"They were benchmarking off each other but focusing on the marketplace," Tanny says of the companies in The Crane Group.
In June 1999, Crane management announced to employees the decision to reorganize into separate companies.
"It was a summer of anxiety," Tanny says. "They all knew we were going to be six companies. They didn't know where they were going to go."
"We thought it would be better to bring people into the process than announce the reorganization and the new positions all at once," Mike says.
Meanwhile, an early retirement plan was announced to allow the company to reduce redundancy and to give employees an opportunity to leave if they were uncomfortable with the changes. Of the approximately 60 employees who accepted, many took advantage of the "phased" option to gradually reduce their workload or work part time. These alternatives, Tanny says, gave Crane Plastics advantages because the values and skills of those employees stayed with the company.
To firm up the reorganization plan, the steering team worked with Arthur Andersen's Change Enablement practice out of Chicago from April through December 1999.
Crane Plastics Holding Co. became not just an organizational umbrella for the independent operating units -- Crane Plastics Siding, Crane Plastics Manufacturing, TimberTech Ltd., Crane Products, CPC Tooling Technologies and Crane Blending Center -- but also a resource. It has a small, lean, technical group of experts in areas such as engineering, IT and legal, and its 21 employees also focus on strategic planning and future developments in materials, technology, process engineering and leadership development.
"These people will always be looking forward," Tanny says, "looking at best practices, going to trade shows for things to bring back and share. They basically rent themselves out [to the six business units]."
Each individual company needed its own leader -- preferably, but not necessarily, promoted from within. The requirements: Each must have a demonstrated record of success, be a proven leader, focus on the bottom line and show an entrepreneurial spirit.
"We gave them the title of president, which we'd never done," Tanny says. "There had only been three presidents [in the company], and all had the last name Crane."
Because the siding company was the largest of the six, the steering team felt strongly it should be led by a Crane, so Mike was chosen. The other five presidents were promoted from within the company and ranged in longevity of service from three to 25 years. The steering team also gave each new president two or three core management team members.
"We did lay out to them what we thought their company could do, and they had to agree to it," Tanny says.
From that point on, however, each team was on its own to determine a company mission, figure out a game plan and choose employees.
"We had rounds and rounds of meetings so we didn't lose sight of the caring part of the equation," Tanny says.
To reduce employee anxiety, the steering team let workers know the status of the plan each week. When it was finalized, the company announced all the changes in a celebratory way, complete with matching T-shirts for each team to develop camaraderie.
"It was a great way to let go of the stress of the summer," Tanny says.
On their own, but not alone
Not all the stress disappeared immediately, however. Tanny and Mike both knew the reorganization would require some cautious steps with customers and employees.
After all, while the company's executives were concentrating on the logistics involved in the reorganization, they still had to keep the business running.
"We all had to make sure to keep an eye on the ball and that we were still shipping product out to our customers," Mike says.
Mike Flanagan, whose California company, Advantage Building Products Inc., sells Crane's VIPCO siding, says he was notified of the reorganization at the beginning of the year and had no concerns.
"I liked the fact that I was dealing with a small group of people," he says, noting that throughout the transition, that situation did not change.
In fact, he thinks his relationship with Crane Plastics Siding has improved since the reorganization.
"Overall, they are a much more responsive unit, at least the one unit of their six divisions that I deal with, than any other large manufacturer that I do business with," says Flanagan. "Their management staff does listen, and they will get back to you in a timely fashion."
In addition to customers, employees remain a high priority for Tanny and Mike.
"We had concerns about the basic culture," Mike says. "We wanted people to still feel they were part of this family-owned company."
Tanny made the issue part of her focus.
Even though she's no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the six new businesses, she wants to make sure the Crane family values continue to transcend through all of them. To that end, each business carries on the tradition of sharing financials with employees, and the holding company puts out a newsletter to give them a view of the company as a whole. They've coined the phrase "The Crane Family of Companies" to reiterate the continued values.
Crane family members make sure they're visible at each of the six companies, too. Jim Crane, to whom Tanny reports, keeps what she calls a "helicopter view," looking at the entire picture.
"I'm a coach," Tanny says of her new role as president of the holding company. "My role has changed dramatically. I used to have functional departments report to me -- now I have six presidents."
Tanny has shared with all leaders in the company the book "Leading Change" by John P. Kotter and emphasizes two of its points: Continually celebrate success; and never think you're there -- meaning always work to improve.
The presidents of the companies hold monthly meetings to keep in touch.
"They've started having them on their own," Tanny points out. "They don't even invite me, which is good. They're starting to communicate on their own."
As part of the reorganization plan, the steering team decided the six companies would not share services, such as one accounting department or one human resources department.
"We had been so centralized we needed to go to the other end of the pendulum. I believe we may pivot back," she says, pointing out that already three of the businesses are sharing IT services.
Even now, evidence of improvement due to the reorganization can be found in the individual companies.
- At the siding company, Mike has seen teamwork and communication improve.
"I think we are more in touch with our customers and their needs from a customer service standpoint, and their interests and desires with regard to the type of products we're making," he says.
- TimberTech has introduced three new products and grown from fewer than 40 to more than 130 employees. It also opened a new plant in Wilmington.
- Crane Manufacturing has made many changes within its own business, creating three separate subcompanies to continue the notion of staying small. It also built a new plant in Circleville, where Tanny visited with employees, some of whom have been working with Crane for 25 or 30 years.
"I said to Jim, 'This is our vision. They feel the impact every day when they walk out of this building that they are contributing to the success of this business,'" she says.
Tanny says she sees positive results simply from talking to employees. A line employee now has a better opportunity to be a team leader, and each individual business is smaller and better organized so employees can do their work more efficiently.
She says she was particularly pleased to speak with one employee who will celebrate her 25th anniversary with the company next March.
"She said, 'Crane has given me everything in my life, and I still want to give back. What you're doing is creating a future for us,'" Tanny says.
Tanny estimates it will be at least another year before the financial results from the reorganization are measurable, and she's cautious giving her evaluation of the changes so far.
"I still wouldn't deem it a success," she says.
She plans to survey the attitudes of employees, whom she calls the "pulse of an organization," to get a read on how things are going. In addition, the presidents and the holding company will meet to evaluate progress. Among the considerations, Mike says, are how the Blending Center and CPC Tooling provide services to the other four companies, and whether speculations made during the planning stages came to fruition.
"I'm confident that it will be successful," Tanny says. "But I'm not calling it yet." How to reach: Tanny Crane, Crane Plastics Holding Co., 443-4891 or www.crane-plastics.com
Joan Slattery Wall (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.
One key to business success is knowing your strengths and weaknesses.
Too often, companies find themselves in trouble because they venture outside of what they are good at. Quite often today, you hear that you should really know your core competencies -- what it is your company does or specializes in that will give it a competitive edge in the marketplace.
In any leadership position within a company, it is very important to know what sets the company apart from others. It is important for this message to be articulated throughout the organization so each person is on the same page.
For example, we at SBN Magazine are in the publishing business. When someone asked me what our core competencies are, I said we write stories, sell ads, mail out our publications to top decision-makers within each company and gather information about our readers to develop our database.
After giving it more thought, I realized the importance of the answer -- so much so that we decided to focus on each point to see how we could further develop these areas. Below is a detailed version of our core competencies and how we are mastering them.
1. Content generation -- Our unique approach to local business coverage has the garnered the recognition of the journalism community, as well as of our readers. In the last year alone, SBN Magazine has received eight awards for excellence, including SBN Magazine Cleveland being recognized as the best business publication in Northeast Ohio.
2. Sales and marketing -- SBN Magazine has developed an extensive client list that includes an array of industry-leading organizations such as UPS, PNC Bank, AT&T and Arthur Andersen.
3. Market reach -- SBN Magazine saturates almost 100 percent of its desired targeted audience in its markets. Out of our targeted audience, 92 percent of the people who receive our publication are decision-makers by title.
4. Market knowledge -- SBN Magazine has developed an extensive database of buying trends of middle market companies.
I challenge each of you to put yourselves through a similar exercise if you haven't done so already. If someone were to ask you to name your core competencies, could you? Once you have outlined each of them, come up with a plan on how you can focus on each area and take it to the next level this year.
Are you performing as highly in each area as you should be? Outlining your competencies and examining how well you're performing in each area can give you insight into which parts of your company need the most attention.
Performing this type of analysis is another way to keep your edge in an increasingly competitive environment. Fred Koury (email@example.com) is president and CEO of SBN Magazine.
Mary Navarro was named executive vice president and head of the retail banking line of business for Huntington Bancshares Inc. Previously, she was with Bank One, where she held senior leadership positions, including small business national sales manager.
The Buyer's Agent of Central Ohio has changed its name to Revealty. Revealty is headquartered in Columbus and is owned and operated by Larry Schottenstein and Adam Knolls.
A group of three Ohio State University medical students received first place and $80,000 in cash and services for their business plan at the Fisher College/Deloitte & Touche Business Plan Competition. The group formed the company J3 MedTech to develop and market their product, a hand-held ultrasound scanner that provides a low-cost, noninvasive screening method to aid in diagnosing melanoma.
Steven Sellers has been named vice president and manager of Heartland Bank's Grove City office. Sellers has 30 years of banking experience and is a lifetime resident of Grove City.
Robert D. Weismann, a principal in the Labor and Employment Practice area of Schottenstein Zox & Dunn, has been appointed chairman-elect of Prevent Blindness Ohio, an organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight for people of all ages.
Acock Associates Architects of Columbus was awarded the Business Arts Partnership Award by the Greater Columbus Arts Council. Acock Associates was recognized for its creative support and dedication to the Columbus College of Art & Design. The firm serves as a designer and donor of materials, supplies and support to CCAD and its students.
Sam Staley, director of the Buckeye Institute's Quality Growth Initiative and director of the Urban Futures Program at the Reason Public Policy Institute in Los Angeles, has been appointed president of the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions in Columbus.
Karina Sampei Brown was named relationship manager, work force development, at the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce. Brown's goals are to strengthen and maintain strong working relationships with work force development staff and to raise the profile of work force development initiative, including the promotion of the chamber-sponsored Career Academies.
McDonald Investments in Muirfield Village promoted William P. Cseplo to managing director in the private client group. McDonald will manage investments for corporate executives, business owners and retirees, overseeing more than $200 million in assets.
Terrie Radcliff was named assistant vice president in the Business Banking area for KeyBank in Columbus. Radcliff is responsible for developing and building small business banking relationships in the Central Ohio area. Prior to joining KeyBank, Radcliff was an officer at Huntington National Bank.
Tim Jochim, founding partner of Jochim Co., was named Professional Member of the Year at the 25th Annual Conference of the ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership and Related Plans) Association in Washington, D.C. The award is given annually based upon membership recruitment and professional development.
Cynthia Hayes was named director of Medical Planning Services at Feinknopf Macioce Schappa Architects. She will assist Vice President David Youse in leading FMS's medical planning services division, which focuses on the medical, dental and other similar professions in the planning and design of new and soon-to-be remodeled medical office facilities across the Midwest.
Paul Astleford, the subject of this month's Who to Know, says visitors to Columbus often recognize its strengths more than the natives do, and I tend to agree.
With the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Columbus Crew and the Blue Jackets, amateur sports R-Us. And when it comes to restaurants, concerts, shopping and cultural events, there is something for everyone -- think Polaris Amphitheatre, Ohio Theatre, Palace Theatre, Polaris Fashion Place, Easton, COSI and the Columbus Art Museum, not to mention the Columbus Zoo, Franklin Conservatory and the Metro Parks.
German Village, Short North and the Arena District are all doing their part to revitalize downtown and draw visitors and businesses. And Mayor Michael Coleman's downtown revitalization plan is an important piece of the "Destination Columbus" puzzle.
While we may never compete with the likes of New York or Los Angeles, if we play our cards right, we can become a major contender.
It takes a great deal of support from the local powers that be to make that happen, including the Greater Columbus Chamber, local big businesses and most important, the citizens. How many of us have visited the zoo lately? Attended a Concert in the Park? Have you seen the new COSI?
It's time for us to put our money where our collective mouths are and support these local landmarks, not just for the benefit of visitors but for those who live here, and value what they bring to our community.
Michael Petracca, managing partner of the Columbus PricewaterhouseCoopers office, says the buyer and seller in a given transaction may be at odds as to how to transact the deal because of differing tax consequences.
"Sellers want to sell shares of stock, while the buyers want to buy the assets of a company," says Petracca.
He says there may be unfavorable results for someone buying shares of stock.
"When you buy stock, you step into the shoes of the shareholder," says Petracca. "That can cause problems because you are assuming all known and unknown liabilities."
Once the seller has the cash, there may not be a way to get restitution for unforeseen liabilities. One way to deal with this possibility is to extract indemnification through a cash escrow to cover potential losses.
On the other hand, as a buyer, when you purchase a company's assets, the transaction is taxable to the seller, while selling company shares is not.
Keep in mind that when purchasing a company's assets, each client under contract must resign that contract. If an important client says no, it could be a major blow. You don't have to worry about that with a stock transaction. So which is the best way to go? That depends on the situation.
"The buyer needs to determine what is best," says Petracca. "Is the stock as valuable as cash? Is it better than cash? It becomes a business decision." How to reach: PricewaterhouseCoopers, (614) 225-8700 or www.pwcglobal.com