Columbus (2544)

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:48

No more phone tag

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We wait on hold, talk to voice mail, play “telephone tag” ... it’s no wonder some business people have gotten so frustrated with the phone that they’re increasingly relying on e-mail, faxes and other technologies to communicate.

While these new media have their places, they’re usually no substitute for actually talking with a client or business associate. Given that, here are a few ways to make the telephone less frustrating — and a much more effective communication tool.

  • Record a voice mail greeting that works.

    One of the biggest complaints about the phone is the seemingly endless games of tag we play with callers. All too often, the greeting on our voice mail is a big part of the problem. Don’t just say, “Leave a message and I’ll call you back.” The only message most people will leave is, “Hey, it’s Joe. Call me.” Instead, try, “Please leave a detailed message outlining exactly what you need. That way, I’ll have that information when I call you. Thanks.”

  • Better yet, answer your own phone.

    A lot of people think having someone screen their calls saves time, but I disagree. Messages get garbled. Sometimes people won’t discuss a confidential matter with a secretary or administrative assistant. Why duplicate efforts? Your associate’s time is valuable, too.

  • Don’t be too quick to say, ‘I’ll call you back.’

    If someone calls and requests information you don’t have at hand, but can get quickly, don’t say “I’ll call you right back.” Odds are, you’ll just start another round of phone tag. Instead, ask callers if you can put them on hold. If they hesitate, explain, “It’ll take me less than a minute to get that information and we can settle this right now.”

  • Let more callers hold.

    If you choose not to answer your own phone, instruct the person who handles incoming calls to ask everyone to wait on hold for just a few seconds, to see if you’re available. If you’re on a call, you’ll usually be able to conclude that conversation and take the incoming call. It’s frustrating to miss important calls because you were on an unimportant one.

  • Put yourself on hold, too.

    Most of us have more than enough to keep us busy at our desks, so why are we in such a hurry to leave a message when the person we’re calling is on the other line? Instead, announce you don’t mind waiting on hold, put your phone on speaker and get back to work. So what if you wait five minutes? You’re getting work done. And you know the person you need to speak with is in, so the wait is worth it.

  • Alert your assistant about important incoming calls.

    Your assistant can’t read your mind. If you’re expecting an important caller, let someone know and leave instructions to interrupt you.

  • Make calls before or after hours.

    Often, you don’t need to talk to someone — you just want to leave a piece of information. The trouble is, what should be a 30-second phone call can become a 10-minute rehash of the weekend’s football game. To avoid these conversations, leave messages before or after hours.

  • Keep your voice mail message current.

    You call a business associate Monday. Her voice mail says to leave a message and she’ll call you back. You leave a message. No return call. You leave another message Wednesday. On Thursday, you finally learn she’s on vacation. You’ve wasted almost a week because she didn’t update her voice mail message — and she probably lost an order.

Charles Nekvasil is executive counselor at Lord, Sullivan & Yoder Public Relations in Columbus. On a typical day, he makes and receives more than 100 telephone calls. Reach him at 846-7777.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:48

Less is more profitable

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Out of state, out of mind. Without Kathy Eshelman on site to train and motivate her young staff, this high-energy entrepreneur couldn’t give them what they needed — her vision and style to manage, mingle and make that sale.

So in 1998, the Columbus-based owner of Grade A Notes Inc. closed her branch at the University of Arizona and sold sister businesses at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Michigan State University.

She did this to bring profits back to her company after a three-year expansion program put it in the red. Eshelman simply realized she’d stretched herself too thin.

Itching to grow

Grade A Notes Inc. started in 1987 as a class note taking service for students at The Ohio State University. Within a year, Eshelman started a custom publishing service for faculty who needed course reading materials from various sources packaged for students to buy.

In between, she added a copying service, not just for students and faculty, but for the general public and area businesses, too.

Her model was successful at Ohio State. The first year she did $66,000 in gross revenues and the business turned a profit after about two years, she says. Her original expectations: “I thought that I’d be a millionaire in a couple of years and that I’d never work summers again. I haven’t taken a summer off yet.”

For the basic thrill of growing a company, she says, she opened at Ohio University in Athens in 1993. OU was chosen because it was the closest campus with a sizable enrollment: about 20,000 students. Two years later, she opened a satellite location at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where there was no note-taking service and not much competition in custom publishing, she says. There, she partnered with The Nebraska Bookstore Co. chain, whose location offered great visibility for her copying service.

The partnership also offered growth potential since the bookstore had about 85 locations nationwide. That same year, Eshelman opened Grade A Notes within the bookstore’s flagship operation at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Finally, in 1996, she purchased note-taking businesses at Michigan State University and the University of Arizona, from one seller. At both sites, she says, there was an opportunity to develop the custom publishing aspect of the business.

“It’s not worth it to operate just a notes-only business out there,” she says.

Trouble in paradise

With six locations in four states, Eshelman soon ran into problems. She struggled to find the right managers for her Nebraska, Michigan State and Arizona locations. Then a lack of capital to sustain expansion caused a problem.

“When we were undercapitalized,” she says, “we never thought we were undercapitalized. We thought things were going to take off. We had enough capital if things took off like the first location, but they didn’t.

“The note sales were all pretty decent in Nebraska, but that’s only 15 percent of our business,” she explains, adding that custom publishing makes up another 70 percent and copying, the remaining 15. “To run a copy center, you have to sell local businesses on going to you instead of Kinko’s. We needed a real outgoing, sales-oriented manager.”

That type of manager never materialized.

“We had good people working hard; they just weren’t that kind to go out and get the sale in the door,” Eshelman says. This stifled growth on the custom publishing side, too, since managers need to meet faculty and encourage them to try Grade A’s service, she says.

“They are skeptical of us,” Eshelman says of professors who are not familiar with Grade A’s ability to pursue agreements with individual publishers to reprint and resell their reading list items. “Once we get them,” she adds, “they never leave. We have a 95 percent retention rate with our professors.”

Without someone on site to aggressively pursue business for those three satellite locations, however, sales lagged.

“It’s not my point to say I can do it better than anybody else,” Eshelman says, but her presence was an important motivating factor. “If you have a small company, you don’t have all the training tools that you need. I was the head trainer, and the best way to train is hands-on, discussing what went right and what went wrong.”

The long-distance hurt, too. “In that regard, location was a challenge,” Eshelman says. “It cost more to get there. You couldn’t just drop what you were doing to go there.”

She did try to invest in making additional trips, to oversee and guide the people, she says. Realizing she didn’t have the capital to hire the sales talent she needed in Nebraska, Arizona and East Lansing, Mich., and knowing she couldn’t spend more time there herself, Eshelman decided to divest. She chose to focus on increasing business at her remaining three sites: OSU, OU and the University of Michigan.

“In Ann Arbor or here, you get to know people on a personal level. The others didn’t feel like they were part of a team and building a company.”

With her scaled-back operations, Eshelman hopes to earn $2 million in gross revenue this year.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a year we didn’t have double digit growth in revenue,” she says, but the company didn’t make a profit during the last three expansions. Grade A Notes has been profitable since divesting, she adds.

A new strategy

So what has Eshelman learned from this expansion-retraction experience?

“Small business owners don’t take advice very well,” she says with a laugh. In hindsight, however, she realizes financing problems exacerbated many of the other difficulties her company experienced in trying to expand quickly and in far-off places.

“That was our biggest problem — not having the capital to properly grow,” she says.

“The growth we’re having now is really sales growth; we just financed it out of our own profits.”

For others looking to expand, she’d advise them to keep an eye on such issues.

“Try not to grow without the right amount of capital, it’s almost a death sentence,” she says. “As far as growing out of state, one of the things people don’t anticipate are all the tax laws and how cumbersome that is. If you don’t have the appropriate staff to deal with that ... we found ourselves in a myriad of hassles.”

As for her three remaining locations, she’s still in a growth mode, but she’s taking a conservative approach.

“We’re moving or opening brand new facilities for all three locations in the next 18 months,” she says, quickly noting, “We will stagger that so we have the capital.”

In addition, she is finding ways to broaden her business without adding more locations.

“We are doing a lot of custom publishing and reprints for out-of-print books for bookstores all over the country,” she says. “We service 30 universities with custom publishing,” but all the work is coordinated through Grade A’s existing locations. “We’ve actually done work with over 100 bookstores around the country ... That’s been a great strategy for us, servicing more bookstores.”

And it’s a strategy that’s keeping Eshelman closer to home.

Andria Segedy (aesegedy@sprintmail.com) is a freelance writer for SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:48

Corporate owned and never happier

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Steve Orr, like many entrepreneurs, always wanted to have his own business.

He was 21 when he quit college and jumped at the opportunity to start his own company servicing aquariums.

“Dad, I’m quitting electrical engineering to go scrub algae for a living,” he jokes.

But soon his little aquarium service, Premier Aquatics, grew into a bona fide business with a dozen employees and a half-million dollars in annual sales.

This from what started as “just a job” in custom sales at Byerly’s aquarium stores; he’d purchased the Byerly’s service division to create his own company.

“I never even had a goldfish when I was a kid,” he says, “but it quickly became a love and a hobby.”

That was in 1988. A decade later, his picture changed.

In walked Aquarium Adventure superstores. With the backing of multimillion-dollar parent Petland Inc. of Chillicothe, the newcomer nearly sank Orr’s retail business. Then Orr uncovered a golden opportunity that led him to put an end to his own company and join the retail behemoth.

Rather than regret moving from the top of his own creation to a player in a much larger organization, Orr found just the opposite.

“For me it was liberating,” he says. “Before, I was doing all the administration, paperwork, payroll, taxes, meeting with the accountant, paying the bills and ordering the product. Now all of that is done by specialists. So it frees me up to go back to my focus, to do what I do best — custom aquariums.”

Treading water

Premier Aquatics had grown at a steady pace. Orr bought out his partner in the first year and added service trucks, as well as a high-end, salt-water specialty store on Bethel Road. He was seeing annual revenues of $500,000 — and a fork in the road.

“We had hit a size where we couldn’t operate as a small business anymore,” he says. He struggled to grow to the next level, say 50 employees.

“We had reached no man’s land,” he says, explaining the period small business owners experience after the start-up stage but before their company really grows.

Then came the turning point.

Aquarium Adventure, the superstore concept by Petland, moved into Central Ohio — three miles from Orr’s store.

“They opened a 12,000-square-foot superstore right up the road in a great location, and it pretty much nuked our retail business,” he says.

He decided to close his retail sales operations and focus solely on servicing customers.

Then he paid a visit to his competitor.

At the asking, Columbus-based Aquarium Adventure executives shared with him their business plans.

“They were struggling to get a service division going,” Orr says. “Their focus was retail.”

Orr was left standing with his foot unexpectedly in the door.

A new school of fish

Very early on, Orr says, both parties realized it would make sense to partner.

“The bottom line is we’re businessmen,” Orr says. “We both wanted to grow our business. It was obviously good business sense.”

Within six months, the companies had merged. Orr is now the manager of Aquarium Adventure’s installation/service division.

Orr at first found it tough to make the transition to corporate life from owning his own business.

“It was sad to let that go,” he says of the certain “club”-like group of fellow entrepreneurs who had built their companies from scratch. “But I quickly realized that the crux of that is just pride in good work and a job well done, and that doesn’t go away. It’s still challenging and a level of expertise that is my responsibility. The bulk of it doesn’t change — or didn’t for me, at least.”

He’s never looked back, and he’s reaping the benefits.

  • For the first time, he’s working with peers. “There are big pluses to that,” Orr says. “I have people I can go to and discuss issues with. It isn’t all on me.”

  • He’s got the pull of big business behind him. “It allows me to grow easier; there’s less problem with capital and cash flow; there are much greater resources in inventory and staff and advertising and marketing because there’s an economy of scale,” he says.

  • Personnel issues are easier. His employees made out in the deal with greater pay and benefits. Plus, it’s easier for him to hire, because employees prove their worth in the retail division before they’re eligible to join Orr’s service staff.

  • Stability has become the norm. “I can cash my paycheck each time I get it. I used to be the last one to be paid,” he says, referring to his days as a business owner settling bills and payroll before drawing any profit.

Adjusting to the new habitat

Orr and his new boss, Bill Wymard, Aquarium Adventure’s director of operations, both say attitude has been key in making the merger work.

“That was a big plus for Steve coming on board with us. There could have been a situation where, when you sell your own business and you’re your own entrepreneur, to sell it could be very difficult. There could be ego problems,” says Wymard, who himself sold his own Petland franchise before launching Aquarium Adventure.

Orr says he had to adjust to the culture of a large company, even though he saw the advantage to having peers in management.

“At the same time, I had to be respectful of the other people running the company,” Orr says. “I couldn’t make snap decisions like I used to.”

The arrangement requires both sides to give and take.

“There are things that I’m sure Steve felt strongly about and wanted to continue to do or to operate in a certain way,” Wymard says, “so we say, ‘You’ve got the background and experience. Although that’s not the way we would do things, that’s fine, we’ll step back.’”

For example, Orr insisted he be able to provide the same level of service to customers as he did while operating Premier Aquatics. In fact, he met with his existing customers at the time of the merger to alleviate fears that he would not be the person taking care of them under the ownership change. In addition, because Aquarium Adventure was a new division of Petland, he was able to use systems he already had in place and inventory he preferred.

“They really gave me free reign to run services as we needed to do,” Orr says of Petland executives.

“It also takes close monitoring from the beginning to make sure both sides were comfortable,” Wymard says, noting boundaries are set and tested so each side needs to be flexible.

Overall, Wymard stresses, each party needed to acknowledge the expertise of the other.

“I think it’s the checking of the egos and being a good team player, with everyone understanding what the goal is and working together,” Wymard says. “Ultimately, the company needs to be successful and everybody wins.”

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:47

Tim Galvin

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Tim Galvin faced one of his biggest undertakings shortly after he co-founded a commercial real estate company with business associate Tim Wathen.

It wasn’t a multimillion-dollar construction contract similar to ones he’d worked on, like the AEP headquarters or St. Ann’s Hospital, while he was employed years earlier at Turner Construction. This time, it was his own company, Equity, in need of his building expertise.

“We actually started in 1989 — the worst real estate year in this century,” Galvin says, attributing much of the company’s rocky start-up phase to the savings and loan crisis and subsequent stall in development.

“The first year we were profitable. The second and third were really tough; the fourth was hard; and the fifth we were really negative,” Galvin says, adding that the Columbus-based company became a hard-bid construction contractor from 1990 to 1992 in order to survive.

Once the real estate market started to heal, Equity began to grow, and in 1996, brought on its first full-time commercial Realtor. Now, the company has $20 million in revenues and 42 employees, plus 10 independent agents in Columbus and an affiliate company, Equity Residential Corp., near Cincinnati. In fact, Equity’s capabilities have even landed it such high-profile projects as converting the old DeSantis mansion into offices for Horizons Video.

Just as Equity began to recover, however, Galvin faced another repair job — this one originating after the purchase of the company’s East Long Street building in 1995. Galvin and Wathen waited more than eight months for a building permit from the city to renovate the 1921 building for office space.

“During that time, the building code changed twice and we lost financing, because time commitments ran out,” he says.

Tolerance also ran thin for the normally kind-natured Galvin.

“The day we got our occupancy permit, I filed a formal complaint against the Columbus Building Department,” Galvin says. “It was difficult to do for fear of retaliation. I gave it a lot of thought.”

He got support from three organizations in which he’s a member: Central Ohio Associated General Contractors of America, Central Ohio Builders Exchange and Associated Builders and Contractors.

“I decided the only way I could help the City of Columbus was to force state inspectors on them and force them to get better or at least make them look at their systems,” he says.

“He was probably the single individual responsible for the City of Columbus to revitalize and revamp their antiquated building department,” says Rich Hobbs, executive vice president, Central Ohio Associated General Contractors of America.

In fact, it was Hobbs who suggested Galvin might be able to help Delaware County solve similar problems when officials there recruited volunteers last autumn to serve on a Building Department Review Committee.

It wouldn’t be the first time Galvin volunteered his assistance. He serves on the Catholic Diocese of Columbus building commission, reviewing projects at parishes.

Galvin’s personality, which includes a “calm honesty,” makes him successful as a business person, says Bob Deibel, superintendent of buildings for the diocese.

“It’s ideal, because there’s not what you would call a flame point,” Deibel says. “He deals with things on a really good business level. I take Tim as a very hard-working person and a good family man.”

As a fellow shareholder and Equity’s CEO, Wathen echoes Deibel’s impressions of Galvin’s honesty.

“Tim never has any hidden agendas. He’s just real open; he throws it all on the table,” Wathen says, remembering that the very first time the two met, they came away with at least the idea of forming a company together.

“We share a common value system, which is integrated in our corporate culture,” Wathen says. “So Tim is waving the same flag I’m waving as a leader in the organization.”

The value system, he says, originates from a shared faith.

A Roman Catholic, Galvin calls the most humbling experience of his life an interdenominational retreat weekend, called Cum Christo, held at his church during Equity’s first year in business. Wathen attended the retreat a year later.

Galvin says he came away with a realization that ran contrary to the concept of “earning God’s love,” which he grew up with.

“What Cum Christo showed me is that’s not at all what faith is about. What God wants is a personal relationship with you,” Galvin says. “It’s not about going to church on Sunday and being a jerk all week. It’s not about what’s in it for you. It’s not something you can earn. It’s a process, and it’s a lifelong process. Salvation is a gift.”

“Steve and I struggled through these first few years in our business,” Galvin says, “and it really became evident to me that the only reason we were in this business is because God wanted us to be in this business.”

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

The SBN 100

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There’s no shortage of speculation regarding the new millennium. Regardless of the turn of the century, however, numerous events will affect the business environment here in the coming year.

Energy deregulation will make its appearance. Companies will continue struggling with the waning work force. And the economy will bear the weight of high expectations fueled by last year’s heavy market action.

While these and other business issues will come and go in the next 12 months, one thing will remain constant: Our business community will continue to be shaped, in large part, through the actions and opinions of certain Central Ohio leaders — and not just the usual suspects, either.

In addition to the Wolfes, Wexners and McFersons you’d expect to wield such influence, a group of lesser-known, yet surprisingly powerful executives is emerging in our corporate community. Some are already strong, behind-the-scenes voices; others are on the verge of making their mark.

Whether they’re familiar faces or new names, these are people you should get acquainted with. Together, the following 100 people will have the most influence on our business community in the year 2000.

Jan Allen & Curt Steiner

president & CEO, respectively

HMS Success

Talk about a power-packed couple. This husband-and-wife team has, between them, more political ties than most business owners could ever hope to amass.

Steiner, a former chief of staff to both Gov. George Voinovich and Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, previously worked as a principal media strategist for U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, Sen. Voinovich and numerous members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Ohio Legislature and Ohio Supreme Court.

Allen, a former deputy chief of staff in Gov. Dick Celeste’s administration, once served on staffs of the lieutenant governor, secretary of state and Ohio House of Representatives. She still maintains an of counsel role with The Success Group Inc., a consulting firm that represents clients before the executive branch of government.

These two clearly know the dynamics of public opinion — and the players who shape it — better than just about anyone else in town.

Sandy Dickinson

executive director

Ohio Foundation for Entrepreneurial Education

Dickinson provides support for local entrepreneurs through her educational programs, but her influence in the business community reaches beyond the start-up level.

Her pull is strong enough to convince established business leaders to donate not only their money but their time and expertise in the classroom. Consider some of her trustees and officers: Robert H. Maynard, partner with Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease; Paul J. Otte, president of Franklin University; and Michael A. Petrecca, partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Dwight Smith

president and CEO

Sophisticated Systems Inc.

Everywhere you look, Smith has a hand in the business community. A member of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce board of directors, as well as its economic development and entrepreneurship committees, he’s already well-known on the local level.

Even in his own business, he’s rubbing elbows with power clients: Nationwide, Honda, The Limited, Bank One and The Huntington National Bank, for instance.

But watch: Smith late last year was named to the Governor’s Small Business Council. He’s also a board member for the Ohio Foundation for Entrepreneurial Education. It won’t be long before his name is recognized statewide.

Patrick J. Fehring Jr.

president and CEO

Fifth Third Bank, Central Ohio

With Bank One moving its headquarters, and rumors swirling around the future of The Huntington National Bank, expect Fifth Third to step up its local presence and Fehring to follow the path of community leadership set by Don Shackelford, chair of Fifth Third Bank, Central Ohio.

Already, Fehring has taken a stand through involvement in the United Way campaign and its connections with Columbus businesses. In addition, the bank has heightened its local influence by purchasing two home-grown financial organizations: State Savings and The Ohio Co.

To become a true local influence, however, Fehring will need to develop more business contacts through his civic work as a trustee for the Children’s Hospital Foundation and COSI, for example. Expect him to start doing that this year.

Pete Klisares

former president/COO

Karrington Health, now Sunrise Assisted Living

Klisares hasn’t been in the forefront as much since he left executive roles at Karrington and Worthington Industries, but the experience he has in management will surely keep him active — and influential — in the business community.

Locally, he serves on the boards at Dominion Homes Inc. and The Huntington National Bank, as well as MPW Industrial Services Group. He also consults for a handful of other companies, primarily in the manufacturing industry. Look for him to continue finding roles in which he can solve problems for area businesses.

Ora E. Smith

president

Science and Technology Campus Corp.

Smith will play a significant role this year in increasing Columbus’ reputation for technological developments. That’s particularly important, given the current trouble high-tech companies are having attracting good recruits to Central Ohio.

The Science and Technology Campus at The Ohio State University is designed to enhance technology business activity in Central Ohio and provide industrial connections for students and faculty. Already the 2-year-old campus has garnered more interest than it has space available.

As Smith continues to develop the research park to house more companies and link them to research and technical expertise, he’ll become highly sought-after and respected for his contacts in the technology and financial industries.

Cleve Ricksecker

project director

Capital South Community Urban Redevelopment Corp.

Ricksecker was the driving force behind the Short North’s revitalization. His next project was supposed to be directing development along the Scioto River downtown, but the disbanding of Riverfront Commons Corp. put the brakes on that mission.

Now Ricksecker has found a welcome home for his urban revitalization skills at Capital South, a project that’s charged with cleaning up not just the physical structures, but the image of High Street in the central business district. With so much attention turning this year to COSI, Nationwide Arena and Miranova, the High Street corridor appears to be the next logical step in downtown redevelopment.

And Ricksecker appears to have the enthusiasm, connections and track record to get it done.

Carol Sheehan

managing partner

Carlile, Patchen & Murphy LLP

Sheehan may be the only female managing partner of a major Columbus law firm, but she doesn’t go around thumping her chest over it. She doesn’t have to; her actions speak for themselves.

She’s a highly sought-after speaker in the business and professional community for her expertise in real estate and tax law. She’s also quite civic-minded and volunteers her time to serve on charitable boards of organizations including the Big Brothers Big Sisters Association of Columbus and Franklin County and the Columbus YWCA.

Although she doesn’t seem concerned with grabbing big headlines, she definitely can hold her own among the city’s corporate elite.

Kurt Tunnell

administrative partner

Bricker & Eckler LLP

With his deep-seated political connections, Tunnell is the attorney of choice for local business leaders looking to push through pro-business legislation at the statehouse.

This former chief legal counsel to Gov. George Voinovich successfully advocated revisions to Ohio’s insurance tax laws, which gave insurers a uniform tax rate nearly 50 percent lower than the previous maximum. Tunnell also was the legal eagle who secured passage of a highly controversial tort-reform package, aimed at curbing frivolous lawsuits and enormously high jury awards. Although that legislation has since been struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court, Tunnell remains committed to the cause — even establishing a statewide CourtWatch program to monitor the issue on behalf of Ohio businesses.

Clearly, this affable Eagle Scout is at home holding audience with the state’s top leaders, and they, in turn, seem to respect — and often act upon — his opinions.

Benjamin Zox, president and CEO, Schottenstein, Zox & Dunn LPA: Zox helped form the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Ambassadors, which, on a CEO-to-CEO level, attracts companies to settle or expand here. In addition, expect Zox to continue his leadership, not only through the clout of his highly regarded law firm, but also by encouraging other attorneys there and throughout the city to follow in his footsteps of community involvement.

Bea Wolper, partner, Chester, Willcox & Saxbe LLP: Wolper continues to distinguish herself as the obvious local leader of women in business, especially considering her roles as founder and president of Women’s Business Board and Women’s Business Beginnings.

John F. Wolfe, publisher and chairman, The Dispatch Printing Co.: When you own no fewer than seven media outlets in a single market, including the city’s only daily newspaper, it’s hard not to wield considerable influence — be it in the business community or elsewhere.

Frank Wobst, chairman and CEO, Huntington Bancshares Inc.: Money is power — and with Wobst heading the largest locally based bank in Columbus now, whatever he does affects the entire business community. Just ask John B. McCoy, who used to share this local influence.

Jeff Wilkins, chairman and CEO, Metatec Corp.: Wilkins started CompuServe when desktop computers were still the exclusive domain of technogeeks. He saw the future of CD-ROM technology years before floppy discs and vinyl records fell out of favor. With visionary capabilities like that, Wilkins will always be someone corporate Columbus watches for new trends and upcoming business opportunities.

Bill Wilkins, president and CEO, OhioHealth: As the health care industry continues to evolve, not just locally but nationally, what Wilkins does at OhioHealth is likely to influence the behavior of other, competing institutions and, thus, the entire Central Ohio community.

Randy Wilcox, president and CEO, SARCOM Inc.: As Wilcox leads his company into the $1 billion range, he continues to increase his presence in the business community. Watch for him to step up his civic involvement and continue making a name for himself in elite business circles, such as Entrepreneur Of The Year.

Les Wexner, chairman and CEO, The Limited Inc. and Intimate Brands Inc.: When the 11th richest man in the world talks, people don’t just listen, they act on what he says.

Bob Weiler Sr., chairman, The Robert Weiler Co.: Anyone who owns as much land as Weiler does in the fast-developing Polaris Centers of Commerce, as well as along Morse and Sunbury roads near Easton and Gender Road in the suddenly booming Canal Winchester area is apt to have the upper hand in shaping business growth throughout Central Ohio.

Audrey Weil, general manager, CompuServe: She’s been at CompuServe’s helm for less than a year, but already everybody knows her name. Don’t expect her roll to stop; she serves on the Columbus chamber’s board and surely will interact with the business community on any technology topics in 2000.

Bob Walter, chairman and CEO, Cardinal Health Inc.: Walter’s experience in leading Cardinal through more than 20 acquisitions will keep him in high demand in the business community. He currently serves on the boards of directors of Bank One Corp., CBS Corp. and Infinity Broadcasting Corp. In addition, he runs the highest revenue-producing company based in Columbus. If that doesn’t carry some clout, what does?

Bob Taft, governor, State of Ohio: His position alone carries a lot of influence, and Taft has chosen to extend that influence into the business community. Already he’s taken big steps toward seeking input through his Small Business Advisory Council and Workforce Policy Board. Now he needs to finish the journey by acting on the recommendations of these business leaders.

Paula Spence, retired vice chair, HMS Partners: She may be retired from HMS, but the long-time PR guru has not taken a back seat. Business and community leaders continue to recognize and respect her for her many contributions.

Robert Snyder, president, Ohio Electric Utility Institute: Considering the onset of deregulation and constant changes in the utility industry, Snyder will have his hands full this year representing the five investor-owned electric companies in Ohio.

Lewis Smoot Sr., president, Smoot Corp.: It’s hard to think of a major construction project in Central Ohio that hasn’t involved Smoot’s business. Clearly, Smoot has developed a name for himself and his company with the powers-that-be in Columbus.

Rosa Smith, superintendent, Columbus Public Schools: Smith’s got her work cut out for her as business owners continue to demand quality graduates to fill the job glut. We expect she’ll continue the dedication she’s already proven by serving, for example, on the chamber’s Workforce Leadership Council — and up her influence in the business community in the process.

Harrison Smith & Ben Hale, law partners, Smith & Hale: Sure, Smith may be past traditional retirement age, but his corporate contacts are as strong as ever. He can still get an easy audience with the likes of Les Wexner and Jack Nicklaus, both of whom he represented in major development deals years ago, and Hale is just as comfortable rubbing elbows with the corporate elite.

Rhonda Slotta, president, TDCI Consulting LLC: Slotta’s name surfaced three times last year in rather impressive company. She was among the finalists for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year awards. She also was honored by the Columbus chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners and received an Excellence in Enterprise award from the Ohio Department of Development’s Women’s Business Resource Program. Expect this up-and-coming influencer to continue raising her visibility by serving as a model for other women business owners.

Alex Shumate, managing partner, Columbus office, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP: Shumate begins his term as board president of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce this year. Consider that, plus his service on boards including Intimate Brands Inc. and Bank One Corp., and his position in the inner circle of corporate Columbus becomes clear.

Thekla Shackelford, owner, School Selection Consulting: Although hers is not a household name, perhaps it ought to be. She’s one of those quietly influential types who serves aside Dave Thomas on the board at Wendy’s International, as well as Alex Shumate and John B. McCoy on the board at Bank One. In addition, she co-chaired The Ohio State University’s “Affirm Thy Friendship” campaign, which raised more than $1 billion. That’s some pretty good pull.

Don Shackelford, chair, Fifth Third Bank, Central Ohio: Shackelford remains in high demand in the business community, evidenced by his service on powerful corporate boards including The Limited Inc., Intimate Brands Inc., Midland Life Insurance Co. and Worthington Foods Inc.

Tadd Seitz, former chairman, The Scotts Co.: He may have left Scotts after orchestrating its turnaround, but that hasn’t lessened Seitz’s presence in the Central Ohio business community. In fact, he may affect even more businesses now that he’s moved out of the corner office and into the investment community full time.

Irv Schottenstein, chairman and CEO, M/I Schottenstein Homes Inc.: Not only does Schottenstein run the largest home building company in Columbus — giving him an upper hand in the power-packed construction industry — but he continues to circulate among some of the city’s corporate elite.

Bill Schottenstein, owner, Arshot Investment Corp.: This may just be the year that the long-awaited rebirth of the Brewery District hits high gear and Schottenstein’s Brewers Yard project will set the new standard for development in this area.

J. Daniel Schmidt, president, Downtown South Association: Look for Schmidt to take a more prominent role this year as development and renovation of this long-overlooked area of the center city continues and the association’s membership drive, started last fall, gets rolling.

Paula Ryan, marketing director, Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter: Don’t let the non-CEO title fool you. Ryan has been quite active in the business community as a member of the Downtown Council. Last year, she took the reins and will surely become an even more familiar face among downtown movers and shakers as the Arena District comes to life this year.

Jack Ruscilli, CEO, Ruscilli Construction Co. Inc.: This guy has more connections than AT&T. His business advisory board is filled with heavy hitters like John Christie and Jeff Keeler, and his company has worked on some of the most impressive projects in town, including the new COSI, the Columbus Zoo’s manatee exhibit and OhioHealth’s Riverside Methodist Hospitals expansion.

Harley E. Rouda Sr., founder, HER Inc., Realtors: Rouda’s long-held prominence in the local real estate industry will keep him at the forefront of building- and financial-related businesses this year.

Jim Robbins, managing partner, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Columbus office: Although he’s not the most boisterous or flashy executive in town, Robbins quietly carries his weight as the leader of Columbus’ largest accounting firm.

Ron Pizzuti, chairman and CEO, The Pizzuti Cos.: Pizzuti has played ball with all the big boys in town — Les Wexner, John Wolfe, Dimon McFerson, John H. McConnell. And although the lengthy delays surrounding Pizzuti’s Miranova project may have pushed this power broker out of the limelight a bit in the past couple years, he still wields quite a bit of influence among decision makers. Look for the completion of Miranova and the Nationwide Arena this year to put Pizzuti’s name back in the headlines.

Paul Otte, president, Franklin University: Otte serves on the Columbus chamber board and, through his company, Otte & Associates, provides managerial assistance to companies and institutions. He makes it his job to stay in front of the business community and determine how its needs can be met through the university’s academic offerings. It’s a role that has earned him the appreciation — and ear — of top executives around town.

Doug Olesen, president and CEO, Battelle: His name may not pop up as often as many others, but as a chamber board member, Olesen still plays a powerful role in the business community, especially considering Battelle’s impact on business research and technology developments.

Roger Morris, president, Columbus/Franklin County News Bureau: After all the fanfare surrounding the launch of the area’s first news bureau, many civic and business leaders were expecting the area to get a big splash in the national press. That hasn’t happened — but Morris should be able to call upon his past corporate and media connections to make it a reality this year.

Curt Moody, president and CEO, Moody/Nolan Ltd.: Moody may have gotten his start here, but his reputation is now known throughout the eastern half of the country. He’s done work on Olympic venues, major league sports stadiums and — closer to home — the new COSI, the Schottenstein Center and the Smith Bros. Hardware building. Clearly it takes skill, respect and clout to land high-profile, complex projects like these over and over again.

Cameron Mitchell, president, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants LLC: He’s done what most thought impossible: getting private investors not just excited, but actually clamoring for a stake in the notoriously high-risk, low-return restaurant business. And he’s done it more than once. With the incredible financial returns his growing restaurant chain has seen, Mitchell’s continually evolving concepts are influencing many others around town to follow his lead.

Ken Mills & Cameron James, president and CEO, respectively, Mills/James Productions Inc.: The connections Mills and James have amassed over the years by working with clients the likes of OhioHealth, Wendy’s, Borden and Worthington Industries have made them familiar faces at the most elite fund-raisers and corporate events.

Karen McVey, CEO, Women in New Growth Stages: McVey has quietly become a force in the business community by helping women advance in their careers. She serves as both a resource and a mentor.

Dimon McFerson, chairman, Nationwide: He may be the newest of the city’s titans, but he’s already vying for the status of most powerful.

John H. McConnell, chairman emeritus and founder, Worthington Industries: McConnell’s influence is obvious in business and the community. His name is often one of the first mentioned among those other local business leaders admire.

Peg Mativi, owner and CEO, Solutions Staffing: More and more, Mativi’s staking a claim to popularity in the business community. She’s been on the chamber’s board, and more recently extended her reach statewide with her appointment to the governor’s Workforce Policy Board.

Farah Majidzadeh, chair and CEO, Resource International Inc.: She’s been a contender in recent years for such prestigious awards as Entrepreneur Of The Year, the Columbus chamber’s Small Business Person of the Year and Excellence in Enterprise, yet Majidzadeh has really come into her own on the local business scene lately. Expect to hear more from her.

Curt Loveland, partner, Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur LLP: Loveland is one of the city’s most sought-after money men — not only for his ability to help companies get financing from venture capitalists and private investors, but for his business and legal expertise. He’s helped take many local companies public, too, among them Applied Innovation Inc., Rocky Shoes & Boots and CheckFree Corp. [now based in Atlanta].

Tami Longaberger, president and CEO, The Longaberger Co.: As the company begins to broaden the appeal of its products and Longaberger moves into her first full year at the helm, she’ll garner more attention — and more leverage. She’s already begun to do so as Ohio State University trustee.

Katherine LeVeque, CEO, LeVeque Enterprises: Some might think LeVeque’s time in the inner circle has come and gone, but with the renewed focus on downtown development this year, she could still have something big up her sleeve.

David Lauer, president, Bank One, NA - Columbus: With long-time business giant John B. McCoy moving to Chicago, Lauer appears to be slowly stepping up his local influence. Already he’s taken board positions with the United Way, OSU Hospitals, the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, the Columbus Municipal Airport Authority, the Greater Columbus Arts Council and, of course, the Columbus chamber.

Cheryl Krueger-Horn, president and CEO, Cheryl&Co.: Krueger-Horn’s influence in the business community comes as a role model, not only for running a successful and growing company but also for supporting her local community. She’s well known and well liked.

Nancy Kramer, founder, president and CEO, Resource Marketing Inc.: Kramer is a dominant force in her industry and she turned many heads last year when her firm landed the lead role in marketing the live Victoria’s Secret online fashion show. Although her company’s early success came primarily from big-name, out-of-town clients like Apple Computers, Kramer is now focusing more on locally based companies like Huntington Banks, The Limited and Drug Emporium. The shift has landed her appointments to high-profile posts including the Mayor’s Technology Leadership Council and the boards of Limited Too and the Columbus chamber.

Brit Kirwan, president, The Ohio State University: Granted, he’s still a relative newcomer to the corporate scene. Yet Kirwan has already earned a board position with Les Wexner’s Intimate Brands Inc., marking an impressively rapid entree into the inner circle. More appointments are sure to follow.

Jack Kessler, chairman, The New Albany Co.: With most of the development in New Albany no longer making big news, Kessler’s name isn’t heard much these days. That doesn’t mean he’s no longer a top dealmaker. He still regularly rubs elbows with the likes of Alex Shumate, Bob Walter and John B. McCoy.

Jeff Keeler, chairman and CEO, The Fishel Co.: Respect for Keeler, who was named to the Junior Achievement Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame last year, will keep him in demand by business owners great and small: Consider his board positions with Bank One, AirNet Systems Inc., Metatec Corp. and Ruscilli Construction Co. Inc., just to name a few.

Kyle Katz, president, The Katz Interests Inc. and New World Restaurants Inc.: So he sold his interest in Mekka and his Sweet Pea restaurant concept flopped. That doesn’t mean Katz is no longer a player. He still has an eye for upcoming trends and he’s king at creating good buzz.

Brad Kastan, senior vice president, PaineWebber: Kastan has made quite a name for himself in the local investment community and he even has a seasonal menu item — roasted red pepper soup — named after him at the tony Strada World Cuisine.

Frank Kass, CEO, Continental Real Estate Cos.: Kass has long been a force in Central Ohio’s development community and he’s likely to stay there as long as his company continues taking on high-profile projects like the wildly successful Lennox Town Center and Easton Market.

Bob Juniper, president, Three-C Body Shops Inc.: Even if you don’t like his advertising campaign, you can’t deny the impact it’s had on the insurance industry — or on Three-C’s competitors, for that matter. Juniper is quite the pro at making big waves.

C. Lee Johnson, director, Ohio Department of Development: Johnson’s private sector business experience with Limited Distribution Services, Beatrice Cos. and Warner Lambert Co. will serve him well in his second year as the department’s director. He can’t help but have an effect on the local as well as statewide business community, especially considering changes here, such as development at Port Columbus International Airport and Rickenbacker, which could impact all of Ohio.

Ed Jennings, interim CEO, Mount Carmel-OSU Health Care Alliance: When Jennings stepped down as president of The Ohio State University in 1991, he didn’t step out of the business community. He’s been quietly effective as chairman of Mount Carmel’s board of trustees, and as a member of the Lancaster Colony Corp. and Borden Chemicals & Plastics LP boards. Now he’s temporarily at the helm of a power-packed nonprofit. Don’t think for a minute this will be his last stop.

George Jenkins, partner, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP: Jenkins is firmly entrenched in the city’s private investment community, serving as an adviser as well as financier for numerous promising companies. When he sees potential in a firm, other business leaders often follow his lead.

Sally Jackson, president and CEO, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce: When Jackson sets an agenda for the business community, she’s got all the tools she needs to pursue it. She can get an audience with the mayor just about any time she wants and has direct access to well-connected, high-profile executives like Dimon McFerson and Alex Shumate, who serve on her board of directors.

Artie Isaac, president, Young Isaac Inc.: Isaac frequently shares his advertising expertise with business leaders through speaking engagements, but he’s not all talk. His words take action through his service on boards including Angie’s List, Columbus College of Art & Design, Jewish Family Services and Ohio Foundation for Entrepreneurial Education.

Paula Inniss, president, Ohio Full Court Press: In business just four years, Inniss’ impact has become clear. She’s even offered her services to help fellow business owners through Women in New Growth Stages, the Columbus Regional Minority Supplier Development Council and Consortium 2000. She’ll also gain a stronger hold as her own business grows and continues to be recognized through various awards programs.

Ed Hines, vice president-manufacturing, Lucent Technologies: Hines stepped up to the plate to chair the chamber’s Workforce Leadership Council; expect him to continue leading local workforce development efforts.

Larry Hilsheimer, managing partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP, Columbus office: Hilsheimer’s expertise in tax issues will keep him in demand; he lends his service on the chamber board, Young President’s Organization and various community groups.

Sandy Harbrecht, president, Paul Werth Associates Inc.: As head of one of the longest-established, best-known public relations firms in town, Harbrecht is arguably one of the more powerful women in Central Ohio. She is on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the Fisher College of Business at OSU, serves as vice chair for the Council for Ethics in Economics and is a trustee for the Columbus chamber, Columbus Museum of Art and the Ingram/White Castle Fund of The Columbus Foundation.

Bill Habig, executive director, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission: Here we’re stating the obvious. Habig continues his influential role in transportation issues — one of Central Ohio’s most aggravating, yet important, ongoing concerns. A catalyst: The October 1999 launch of the Central Ohio Regional Transportation Management Center, a cooperative effort by the city of Columbus, COTA, Franklin County Engineer’s Office and Emergency Management Agency, as well as state and federal officials to solve transportation and traffic safety problems.

Lisa Griffin, president, Griffin Communications: Griffin may have stepped back from politics, but don’t expect her to leave the limelight. She still has some serious pull among highbrow civic and corporate leaders — even if she’s playing a more supporting role these days.

Sam Gresham Jr., president and CEO, Columbus Urban League: With a background in urban planning, Gresham will continue to be a powerful force in making sure the playing field is as level as possible for the local business community, particularly in the area of work force development.

Herb Glimcher, chairman, president and CEO, Glimcher Realty Trust: Last fall’s brouhaha surrounding Glimcher’s proposed Polaris Fashion Place showed not only the power, but the class, of this civic-minded developer. He refused to sling mud at rival mall owner Dick Jacobs and even offered to buy the ailing Northland Mall in an effort to bury the hatchet. Many business leaders — and voters — respected his above-board approach.

Gary Glaser, chairman, National City Bank: The banking community in Columbus will likely continue changing industrywide this year. As a result, look for Glaser to establish more of a foothold as both a business and community leader.

Bob Gerbig, chairman and CEO, Gerbig, Snell/Weisheimer & Associates Inc.: Under Gerbig’s leadership, his health care marketing firm has grown markedly, expanding even overseas late last year. As his company continues to grow, so will his sphere of influence, already evidenced by his service on boards for the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, Cardinal Health Inc. and the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts.

Roger Geiger, state director, National Federation of Independent Business - Ohio: He may not be a businessman, per se, but he sure knows what matters to those who are. And when he sees legislation emerging at the statehouse that could make life difficult for the employers his organization represents, he’s quite effective in rallying the troops.

Terry Foegler, president, Campus Partners for Community Urban Redevelopment Inc.: Expect Foegler to rally the Columbus business community behind him as he proceeds on the campus gateway project. He’ll need the support, considering that although he’s garnered some praise for his efforts, he’s also ruffled a few feathers.

Dick Emens, partner, Chester, Willcox & Saxbe LLP: Emens’ leadership continues to be evident in the family-owned business community. He chairs the advisory board of the Family Business Center of Central Ohio, entering its second year in efforts to foster education, networking and recognition of family businesses. Watch for him to push the recognition of the center and to promote his own expertise on the subject.

Pat Dugan, partner, Squires, Sanders & Dempsey LLP: Dugan is much more than a top-notch attorney. He’s a private investor and business consultant, too. His expertise has benefited numerous local firms, including Bank One, The Pizzuti Cos., Glimcher Realty Trust and Lancaster Colony Corp.

Tanny Crane, president, Crane Plastics Holding Co.: Even amidst the reorganization of her own company into six divisions, Crane has been gathering the business community to support this year’s United Way campaign as its chair. Look for her influence to broaden in 2000.

Maury Cox, president, The Ohio Partners LLC: When John F. Wolfe decided to formalize his investment role in the high-tech arena five years ago, Cox was hand-selected to lead Wolfe’s new Ohio Partners venture. That, alone, tells you what kind of clout this former CompuServe CEO carries among the powers that be.

James Conrad, administrator and CEO, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation: Our area has enough problems finding a quality work force; Conrad aims to make it safe, too. The business community is responding as he strives to make this once-loathed governmental bureau more customer friendly.

Frankie Coleman, executive director, Private Industry Council of Columbus and Franklin County Inc.: Her husband, Mike, may be mayor-elect, but she’s got the upper hand in the business community right now. Her role in linking available workers and labor-starved employers will continue to make her one of the more powerful forces in dealing with the local job glut.

John Christie, president, JMAC Inc.: Christie is one of those people who seems to know — and be liked by — just about everyone who is anyone in this town. He’s buddies with John H. McConnell. He’s been an adviser to Jack Ruscilli. And he appears comfortable rubbing elbows with the most powerful of Central Ohio titans.

Walter Cates Sr., president, Main Street Business Association: Cates continues to stand as a respected advocate for minority business owners and those in the Main Street community.

Don M. Casto III, president, Don M. Casto Organization: It was Casto who got the mayor excited last year about routing the proposed Morse-Bethel extension through the parking lot of Graceland Shopping Center. Whether that plan ever materializes is less important than the fact that Casto had the wherewithal to negotiate such a proposal in the first place. In addition, he successfully cut a blockbuster deal last year to gain the commercial holdings of long-time development giants Jack Chester and Dick Solove, making Casto’s property empire among the most impressive in Central Ohio.

Kelly Borth, president, Greencrest: A finalist for the Ernst & Young Supporter of Entrepreneurship Award, Borth has distinguished herself as a mentor through her work in organizations including the chamber, National Association of Women Business Owners, Women’s Network for Entrepreneurial Training and WINGS. She’s also taken the initiative to found programs to help business owners, such as an Advertising Techniques School at Franklin University.

Chris Boring, president, Boulevard Strategies: Boring will continue to be looked upon as the resident authority in measuring the health of the retail community here. And with the continuing rate of business expansion and rehabilitation, not to mention last year’s mall brouhaha, his name recognition will only increase further in 2000.

Friedl Bohm, chairman, NBBJ: This guy runs the fifth largest architectural firm in the world, yet he’s chosen to keep it headquartered right here in Columbus. His corporate, as well as civic, influence runs deep.

Roger Blackwell, president, Blackwell Associates Inc.: Aside from the obvious consulting role Blackwell plays, he also serves on numerous local boards, including AirNet Systems Inc., Max & Erma’s Restaurants Inc. and Intimate Brands Inc. He’s the go-to guy for business leaders with marketing and management concerns.

Bob Bender, chairman, president and CEO, Lord, Sullivan & Yoder: Bender’s been around the advertising business long enough, and earned enough awards, that he — as well as his firm — carries some serious clout in this city.

Nick Bandy & Doug McIntyre, partners, Zero Base Advertising Inc.: After their barely 10-year-old firm beat out heavy favorite HMS Partners for the lucrative and high-profile Columbus Blue Jackets’ advertising contract last year, these two erased any doubt that they had arrived.

Joseph A. Alutto, dean, The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business : With development of the college’s new $120 million campus and expanded executive education offerings, Alutto has the perfect opportunity to tap the local business community both for its expertise and potential students. His sphere of influence will broaden accordingly.

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Columbus. Nancy Byron (nbyron@sbnnet.com) is editor.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

Same cost, more loyal workers

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Good help may be hard to find, but one Columbus businessman found it thousands of miles away.

Ratmir Timashev, president and CEO of Aelita Software Group, was looking to expand his business in 1997 after registering $260,000 in sales with a highly successful network management product. But to grow the Powell-based company quickly, he wanted to hire 30 developers within three to six months. Finding few in Columbus, Timashev started looking to his homeland of Russia.

“Nationwide there is a short supply of software developers, but Central Ohio is more affected because high-tech people tend to go to New York, the Silicon Valley or Seattle looking for a better job in a bigger company,” he says. “In Russia, you have unemployment and a huge pool of people who are talented, educated and qualified, and that was the major motivating factor to move development to Russia.”

For a year, Timashev considered the undertaking. As an experiment, he assigned a few “nonstrategic” projects to Russian developers. Encouraged by their progress, he moved all development work to Russia in September 1998.

At that time, there were 10 employees in Columbus and five in Russia. By late 1998, Timashev’s Russian staff had grown to 35 — and of Aelita’s five new software products released in December 1998, four were developed in Russia.

Today, the company employs 55 developers and five administrators in Russia, including two project managers who supervise software development plants in Moscow and St. Petersburg and communicate directly with Aelita’s clients in the United States. The company’s customers include U.S. and international banks, government agencies, educational institutions and major technology and telecommunications companies, including AT&T, Lucent Technologies and GTE.

In 1998, Aelita had $1.3 million in sales; Timashev projected $3.5 million in sales in 1999.

Timashev vigorously maintains that worker availability — not the cost savings — was key to moving his development operation overseas. While Russian developers at Aelita earn $15,000 annually compared to between $45,000 and $50,000 for the same job in Columbus, he says employees live comfortably on the salary there.

Furthermore, he says, other costs involved in using Russian developers — telephone calls, Internet access and foreign taxes — tend to offset any savings in salary.

“To pay a $15,000 salary will end up costing me $35,000 to $40,000 because of the taxes in Russia,” he explains.

Timashev says his company provides at least two bonuses a year to developers at product release times, worth between 50 percent and 100 percent of a worker’s monthly salary. Although he doesn’t provide his Russian staff with health and retirement benefits, he says these benefits are provided by the Russian government with a portion of the taxes he pays.

Because of the poor economic climate in Russia, employee turnover is minimal, he adds. Only a couple of workers have left his Russian work sites. Still, he says, management and communication are — and will remain — problems because they are done remotely.

To minimize problems, he communicates with his project managers through teleconferencing and e-mail. Hiring good managers, he adds, reduces supervisory and communication difficulties overall.

That will be increasingly important in the coming year as Timashev looks to expand his company. He wants to further Aelita’s sales and marketing presence in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Houston and is looking for venture capital to finance the growth.

Although the Russian connection has proven lucrative for Timashev thus far, he doesn’t recommend using the strategy without knowing Russian culture, especially its business culture.

“If you don’t know it yourself, hire someone who does,” he says.

Muntaqima Abdur-Rashid is a Columbus-based free-lance writer.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

Dwelling on the ’Net

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Hunting for a new home in Ohio? You may want to put a tour of the Internet at the top of your research list.

Simply pull up a search engine, type in “real estate agencies and Ohio,” then click, scroll and point your way to the offices and offerings of a majority of the state’s real estate firms.

“Most of the state’s real estate companies have some sort of presence on the Web,” says Waleed A. Muhanna, associate professor of management information systems at the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University. “Another 13 percent are planning to do so within the next two years.”

Muhanna, who also serves as interim director of the center for Information Technologies in Management at Fisher College, late last year released results of a telephone survey of real estate firms, conducted in collaboration with the college’s Center for Real Estate Education and Research.

He noted that the number of Ohio real estate firms with a presence on the Internet exploded in the middle of 1999. A study conducted earlier in the year showed only 50 percent had a presence on the Web, and the average age of the Ohio sites is 14 months.

“The Internet is quickly becoming the place where customers first look to shop for products and services,” Muhanna says. “The activity of buying a home is no exception.”

He cites statistics from the National Association of Realtors showing that the number of U.S. customers using the Internet to shop for homes rose from only 2 percent in 1995 to 23 percent in 1999. A recent study of home buyers in Ohio showed 73.5 percent had access to the Internet and 38.7 percent used it in some aspect of their home search.

Those Internet searches are turning into profits for real estate firms, he says.

“Eighty-eight percent of those we surveyed characterized their presence on the Web as a success,” Muhanna says. “They found that, on average, they could attribute up to 5.2 percent of gross sales to the Web marketing channel. But when we asked what they expected that percentage to be in the year 2002, their average was 20 percent.”

Ohio’s real estate industry, he says, “clearly sees an Internet presence as a competitive necessity.”

Muhanna’s study sought to examine how residential real estate firms in Ohio are attempting to adapt to the new medium and satisfy the growing number of Internet-savvy home buyers. The study is based on telephone interviews of 150 firms randomly selected from a database of 3,200 principal brokers in Ohio, supplied by the Ohio Association of Realtors.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:45

Movers & Shakers

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Cardinal Health Inc. has named Anthony J. Rucci as its executive vice president of human resources. Rucci joins Cardinal from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Business Administration, where he was dean. Prior to his work at the university, Rucci held senior staff and line management positions as a corporate officer of two Fortune 100 companies, Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Baxter International.

BalletMet Columbus has elected four local business executives to its board of trustees: Janet K. Feldkamp, a partner with Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP; Beth Mooney, president of Bank One, NA (Ohio); Charles D. Smith, partner with Bricker & Eckler LLP; and Gregory Weaver, lead client service partner and advisory partner for Deloitte & Touche LLP.

Gov. Bob Taft has named Ohio Department of Human Services Director Jacqui Romer-Sensky to head the newly created Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The agency, which becomes operational July 1, was created by merging the Ohio Department of Human Services with the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services to create a seamless system for providing services to people looking for jobs and employers looking for workers.

Jay B. Barney, professor of management and human resources at the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, has been appointed to the position of academic director for the college’s MBA programs. He will manage and oversee the curriculum and academic program development for the college’s MBA programs and will serve as chair of the MBA policy committee.

Barney, who holds the Bank One Chair of Excellence in Corporate Strategy, joined the Fisher College faculty in 1994. Prior to that, he taught organizational strategy and policy at Texas A&M University and UCLA. He earned his doctorate degree from Yale University.

Nana M. Jones, director of local government and community affairs for Columbia Gas of Ohio, and Mary Sue Findley, senior vice president of staff and administration at Fifth Third Bank, have been appointed as new members of the board of trustees of the Center for New Directions.

Former Mayor Gregory S. Lashutka and retired chief executive officer and chairman of Banc One Corp. John G. McCoy have received honorary doctorate degrees from The Ohio State University for their contributions to society and the business community.

The Longaberger Co. has announced several appointments in the areas of manufacturing, treasury management, accounting and strategic growth. The appointments include Jim Gimeson to vice president of manufacturing; Mary Farmer to executive director of basket operations; Rusty Deaton to vice president of treasury management; Jim Mannion to executive director of strategic growth; Julie Schmitt to controller; Sherry Pattison to director of taxation and risk management; and Angela Gilmore to director of product cost management.

Also appointed were Anne Dunlap, vice president of information services; Donna Krueger-Simmons, executive vice president of business growth; and Carol Brault, director of accounting operations, who will assume additional responsibilities. Along with Dunlap’s responsibility for the company’s technology leadership and operational support, she will lead the newly created area of Project Office, which will facilitate the timely progress of strategic projects. Krueger-Simmons, who oversees and leads the areas of sales, marketing and communications, will expand her management role with the addition of the Longaberger Homestead, The Place Off The Square and Dresden retail. Brault, who oversees the areas of accounts payable, accounts receivable, general ledger and payroll, has also assumed responsibility for the development and construction accounting areas.

Beth A. Savage has been appointed managing director of the Columbus office of Milwaukee-based AuditForce.

Annie Luken Hall, director of the Government Relations Group of Bank One Corp., has been re-elected to a position on the Ohio Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

Custom Coach Corp. has hired Barbara Wayman as manager of communications. In the newly created position, Wayman will oversee the company’s public relations, advertising and promotion efforts.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:45

That’s news to me

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The Ohio Tax Credit Authority has approved tax credits for three local companies. Alliance Carpet Cushion in Johnstown will receive a 55 percent tax credit for a seven-year term to expand its manufacturing operations. The $4.7 million project is expected to create 50 jobs within the first three years of operation.

Horizons Video & Film Inc. in Upper Arlington will receive a 55 percent tax credit for a six-year term to consolidate and expand operations by rehabilitating the former DeSantis mansion. The estimated $4.65 million project is expected to create 41 jobs and retain 57 jobs within the first three years of operation.

Micro Industries Corp. in Columbus will receive a 60 percent tax credit for a five-year term to expand its integrated systems products operation. The estimated $2.5 million project is expected to create 42 jobs and retain nine jobs within the first three years of operation.

Columbus-based Equity Construction has completed construction on two new medical office buildings and completed an addition to the existing Newark Surgery Center. The three single-story medical buildings consist of 44,565 square feet of office space and will house the medical facilities of several area physicians, including orthopedics and a pharmacy.

RWS Building Co. has been awarded a contract for the Grace Memorial Church of Christ Christian Union’s new facility at 464 Rathmill Road. The project, which includes a multipurpose building, education wing and related site work, is scheduled for completion in May.

Two local businesses have been awarded 504 loans from the Small Business Administration. Graphics Awards of Columbus received a $675,000 loan. M•Engineering Inc. of Westerville received more than $2 million in financing.

Columbus-based Custom Coach has leased motor coaches for the 2000 election to presidential contenders John McCain, Steve Forbes and George W. Bush.

Hoggy’s, a Columbus group of restaurants known for barbecue and homemade specialties, has broken ground on its newest site at Sancus Boulevard and Polaris Parkway. The new location is scheduled to open in March.

Mills/James Productions has produced an animated game opener video for a German pro soccer team. The team, owned by Bayer, selected Mills/James for the project after seeing a similar video the local company produced for the Columbus Crew last year.

Columbus architecture and construction firm NitschkeSampsonDietz has been selected as a 1999 Pacesetter Award winner from the National Association of Home Builders Custom Builders Committee and Custom Home Magazine.

Ohio Equities LLC has won the property management contract for Executive Jet Inc.’s new 200,000-square-foot operational headquarters at Port Columbus International Airport. Ohio Equities will provide full-time management services for Executive Jet’s hangar and administrative offices.

Baird Communications Inc. will provide various services for several new clients, including media relations for “Disney on Ice — Toy Story” during its Columbus engagement this month; promotion of a new fiberoptic system delivering cable TV, cable modem and telephone service to Northeastern Ohio by Conneaut Telephone Co. of Conneaut; and completion of a radio and print advertising program for the grand opening of the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center’s new building at 510 E. North Broadway.

Greencrest, a full-service advertising, marketing and public relations firm, has signed Charles Penzone Inc. to its client list.

Columbus-based Moody/Nolan Ltd. has received the Award of Merit rom the National Organization of Minority Architects for its work on the Smith Brothers Hardware Building renovation. The firm worked closely in the planning and design phase with the building owner, Retail Planning Associates.

Upper Arlington-based National Church Residences has been awarded five grants totaling more than $19 million for the construction of affordable senior housing facilities in Indiana, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The new Ohio facilities include a 49-unit building on Tussing Road for Franklin County citizens.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:45

Money matters

Written by

Technology has changed the way business is conducted. What is cutting edge one day is obsolete the next.

This is evidenced by $48 billion in computer hardware sales in the United States in 1998 alone, according to PC Data. The boom in computers and technology has led to increased financing needs for local tech firms.

That’s where Columbus Countywide Development Corp., a nonprofit small business lender, can help.

Randy Wilcox, owner of SARCOM Inc., bought a new building for his growing computer products and services company with only a 10 percent down payment by using the U.S. Small Business Administration 504 Loan Program through Columbus Countywide. The SBA 504 loan program offers financing to healthy, growing, small businesses for land, buildings, machinery or equipment.

SARCOM worked with Delaware County Bank to secure its loan. The local bank finances 50 percent of the total loan amount, the business owner contributes 10 percent and Columbus Countywide finances the remaining 40 percent.

Another option for qualifying business owners is to finance technology through the SBA’s Pre-Qualified Loan Program. Columbus Countywide helps businesses acquire a loan guarantee from the SBA as an initial step in the financing process. Owners can then use this guarantee to obtain a traditional bank loan.

This program targets rural, women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses and exporters, and helps businesses that lack collateral or a lengthy credit history finance a loan. Owners put up between 10 percent and 30 percent of the total loan amount as a down payment, depending on their bank’s requirements.

Columbus Countywide borrowers Kalyan Viswanathan and Forz Eledath, owners of Technology Advantage of Northwest Columbus, took advantage of this program to purchase equipment and to provide working capital for their IT computer consulting service business. They secured their pre-qualified loan through Huntington National Bank.

Other business owners face the challenge of keeping up with technological advances without going broke. As owners of Coyne Printing in Mount Vernon, Bob and Alice Coyne and their son, Kevin, used the Ohio 166 Loan Program to purchase a large die cutting press with a 10 percent down payment.

They were able to use this press, 50 percent of which was financed through Park National Bank, to expand their commercial printing and finishing business by adding a new product line. Columbus Countywide used state dollars to finance the other 40 percent of the loan.

The Ohio 166 program focuses primarily on helping manufacturing businesses grow by financing land, buildings, machinery and equipment.

Since 1981, Columbus Countywide has helped more than 600 small businesses obtain financing. It has approved more than $160 million in loans, which created more than 9,000 jobs and stimulated more than $350 million in new investments in the 13 counties Columbus Countywide serves.

For details on Columbus Countywide’s loan programs, visit www.ccdcorp.org or call 645-6171 in Franklin County or (888) 756-2232 toll-free from elsewhere.

Mark Barbash is executive director of Columbus Countywide Development Corp.