Columbus (2544)

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:44

Money to grow on

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One-stop shopping has truly arrived. So much so that the ability to offer a full spectrum of products and services for business and personal use is often what sets one small business apart from the rest.

In order for small businesses to be competitive and fulfill this now-common consumer demand, they often need to expand quickly. Shige Moroi, owner of M-Corporations, knows all about that. His three affiliate companies — M-Telecommunications, M-Engineering and M-Retail — offered complementary services to clients, but were located in different areas of Columbus.

To make his company more of a one-stop shop, Moroi set out to buy facilities that could house all three affiliates in one area. To maintain cash flow, Moroi wanted to secure financing with a low down payment. He did it with help from his bank and the nonprofit Columbus Countywide Development Corp.

Using a U.S. Small Business Administration 504 Loan and a 10 percent down payment, Moroi purchased two adjacent buildings to consolidate M-Corporations’ operations in a central location. Huntington National Bank financed 50 percent of the loan, as is typical with the SBA 504 program and Columbus Countywide financed the remaining 40 percent. The SBA 504 loan program offers loans to healthy, growing small businesses for land, buildings, machinery or equipment.

Other lending programs offered by Columbus Countywide include:

  • Ohio 166 loans through the Ohio Department of Development. Like SBA 504 loans, the Ohio 166 Loan Program requires a 10 percent down payment. Columbus Countywide uses state dollars to finance 40 percent of the loan, while a local bank chips in the rest. Ohio 166 loans focus primarily on helping manufacturing businesses grow by financing land, buildings, machinery and equipment.

  • SBA Pre-Qualified Loans. Under this program, Columbus Countywide helps businesses acquire a loan guarantee from the SBA as an initial step in the financing process. The 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 a down payment of between 10 percent and 30 percent, depending on their bank’s requirements.

  • Central Ohio MicroLoans. This program offers financing for “pre-bankable businesses,” those that are too small or too new to secure a traditional bank loan. These loans can be used for equipment purchases and working capital such as inventory, receivables and operating funds. All borrowers must write and submit a business plan to be considered for a MicroLoan.

  • The Columbus Growth Fund. This loan program is specifically designed for existing businesses in the city needing financing to expand.

Columbus Countywide also offers seminars on business plan development. It holds ongoing business management classes for MicroLoan borrowers and other interested small business owners to ensure sound fiscal management.

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

Brad Shimp is interim director of Columbus Countywide Development Corp.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:44

Forget high salaries

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Much like free agency in professional sports, offering signing bonuses to highly skilled professionals in the ordinary work force is becoming a larger and larger bargaining chip to attract the brightest and best minds.

The positions most likely to be offered the increased bait are those in information technology, engineering, cost accounting and management, according to Tim Burkhart, a certified professional consultant — or headhunter, as some would call him — for the Adecco Employment Agency in Columbus. A business matchmaker for 17 years, Burkhart insists this latest recruiting hook is nothing more than the simple economics of supply and demand.

Ohio’s unemployment rates are at unprecedented lows, with some counties, including Franklin and Delaware, averaging between 2 and 2.5 percent, according to estimates by the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services. The key is finding the right lure, especially when someone isn’t really looking to change jobs.

A sign-on bonus is an incentive to take action,” Burkhart says. “It’s validation of your worth in the marketplace.”

Approximately one-third of the positions Burkhart fills offer sign-on bonuses, he says, adding that the standard perk runs between $2,000 and $4,000. Adecco had one client in the last year, however, that offered an automotive professional a $15,000 to $20,000 bonus to switch employers.

Most sign-on bonuses are paid immediately upon hire, although some companies delay payment until after 30 to 90 days of employment, or, in the case of nurses in some assisted-care living facilities, after two weeks of perfect attendance.

“As the labor pool gets leaner and leaner, you have to get creative,” Burkhart says. “You need to bring in a sign-on bonus to sweeten [the deal].”

Such bonuses are usually more prevalent with a lateral move or a small increase in base pay, he adds.

“It’s not as common when it’s icing on icing,” he explains.

But when you’re trying to entice higher-caliber programmers, plant managers or accountants from one of the Big Five accounting firms, that’s when a stronger enticement is required. Jennifer Bisciotti, director of human resources at Deloitte & Touche LLP says she's seen signing bonuses in the industry for 15 years, but not to the degree she’s seen lately.

“The major thing that’s increased is the frequency of when they’re offered,” she says. “It’s pretty much across the board. The top talent is in great demand.

“Signing bonuses are not a given for every offer we extend, but it’s a strategy and a recruiting tool to attract and retain the top talent,” she adds. “It helps to lead the field.”

Bisciotti declined to pinpoint a monetary range for bonuses, saying it was decided on a “case-by-case basis, depending on the competition.”

Megan Wolfe, assistant manager at CVS Pharmacy on Sawmill Road, says she’s seen signing bonuses for registered pharmacists as high as $5,000. And she expects the payroll pendulum to continue swinging in employees’ favor, particularly with national accreditation and postgraduate standards for pharmacists gradually being increased to include additional years of schooling, according to Dr. Ken Hale, assistant dean at The Ohio State University’s College of Pharmacy.

“Nobody works for free, and a sign-on bonus can really get their attention," Burkhart says. “It’s a nice tool to motivate someone to take the leap of faith.”

To avoid losing your own employees to the allure of big sign-on bonuses elsewhere, another incentive is quickly emerging in the marketplace: lucrative “stay-on bonuses.” These have become especially popular for retaining computer programmers, Burkhart says.

“They’re real and designed to keep people in their seats when it’s critical,” he says.

Forrest Clarke (fclarke17@hotmail.com) is a free-lance writer for SBN Columbus.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:44

Build your own think tank

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By Joan Slattery Wall

Tim Thompson, president of Thompson Building Associates Inc., joined a networking group to share ideas with his peers, but he’s come out with a bonus.

He and nine other restoration-work industry executives around the United States developed software to help manage their businesses. They were so successful they’ve formed a company to sell the software to even more peers in their industry.

The need arose because, in the course of repairing buildings damaged by the likes of fire or natural disasters, Thompson Building Associates must provide insurance companies with detailed records, such as timelines.

“For years, our company had looked for a database that would do all this and hadn’t found one,” Thompson says.

Through his national peer group, Business Networks, Thompson discovered he wasn’t the only one struggling with the issue. So the 10 companies formed a partnership — SWATware Information Solutions — and hired a software developer to create their own industry-specific software program, SWATtrac.

The software allows Thompson’s employees to keep track of case-by-case details and deadlines — a task Thompson called a nightmare when it was done by hand.

“Now we know when an estimator went out and inspected the job, when the estimate was submitted to all parties, when the estimate was accepted or denied, the scheduled date for work, when the work actually began, when the work was complete,” Thompson says, just beginning to describe the litany of details included in the software.

While the program helps Thompson Building Associates quickly provide such information to insurance agencies, it also challenges the company to meet daily deadlines.

“Every employee that logs into SWATtrac knows what their goals are supposed to be for today: You have three estimates where the submittal date is due today. Not only does that pressure them to meet the goals, but it allows me to look at the reports at a glance and see if this estimator is doing reports quickly and this estimator isn’t,” Thompson says. “So I can monitor their standards and help the customer.”

He also believes SWATtrac helps him get on preferred contractor lists compiled by insurance agencies. When an insurance representative recently asked Thompson if he could meet certain parameters, the SWATtrac program let him prove it by showing previous projects’ records.

Developing SWATtrac cost between $150,000 and $200,000, Thompson says — a value when divided among the 10 original companies.

“I had spent $40,000 or $50,000 in other directions without good results,” he explains.

Costs grew, however, as the member companies realized the product could be marketable and thus required more investment. All told, the 10 companies invested between $50,000 and $200,000 each, depending on their ability to contribute to the project. The partners’ share in profits from software sales will have the same ratio as their contribution; Thompson’s is about 10 percent.

In the first year of selling the program, approximately 40 companies are using it. Because of recent changes in the software, the partners are in the process of recalculating how many programs they need to sell to turn a profit.

In addition to SWATtrac, Thompson has benefited from his Business Networks group by sharing concerns about topics such as financial statements and keeping a closer eye on what’s happening in his industry.

“Anyone in a network together,” he says, “ought to explore any ways to share costs and invent the wheel together instead of separately.”

How to reach: Business Networks, www.businessnetworks.com; Thompson Building Associates Inc., www.thompsonbuilding.com. Coming soon: SWATware Information Solutions, www.swatware.com.

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

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:43

Dwight Smith

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If you see Dwight Smith, president and CEO of Sophisticated Systems Inc., driving down the road, he might be singing.

“I ought to have some musical talent, as much as I listen to it,” says Smith, 42, who particularly likes the tunes on his Jackson Five CD. “I love music. I have always wanted to play an instrument.”

Two years ago, Smith purchased a used saxophone with the intention of learning to play. The lessons have been put on hold, however, with Smith busy running one of the fastest-growing information technology companies in the country.

“Sometimes there’s not enough time in the day,” he says. “But I have people around me that are very understanding and supportive, and that means a lot.”

These are people like Lynn Berta, Smith’s executive assistant.

“She takes care of me and the company’s interest,” Smith says. “She lets me do a lot more than I am capable of doing and have time to do.”

The other unsung hero is Damaro Lewis, second in command at Sophisticated.

“He is one of the people that keeps my feet on the ground,” Smith says. “Frankly, I think he is the smartest person in the company — so much smarter than me.”

Back in 1990, long before Smith met up with these folks, he found the confidence to venture out on his own after getting a taste of entrepreneurship at a Michigan software consulting firm.

As branch manager, Smith was responsible for about 50 individuals, including all hiring and firing decisions, as well as choosing what projects to pursue. It was like running a small business, Smith recalls.

“I said, ‘This is fun.’”

After growing up in Springfield and attending Ohio State University for both his undergraduate and graduate work, Smith was sure Columbus was where he wanted to be.

“I love Columbus. It’s just a warm, friendly city,” he says.

So he sold his house in Michigan, left his job, returned to Columbus apartment living and lived off his savings while forming Sophisticated Systems.

He remembers transferring what he calls his “IBM mentality” to the business: “I always wanted to do business with big companies.”

Today, Smith’s company boasts such clients as Nationwide, Honda, the State of Ohio, Abbott Labs and Bank One. Sophisticated even made Inc. magazine’s list of the country’s 500 fastest growing private businesses in 1996 and 1997.

Sophisticated Systems was profitable its first year in business, Smith says, generating $80,000 in revenues. It has remained profitable every year since, with 1999 revenues estimated to be in excess of $24 million. The company employs between 120 and 130 individuals, with about 20 more full-time subcontractors.

That’s a far cry from the beginning, when Smith was the only employee.

“With that kind of growth comes some challenges and a lot of excitement,” Smith says.

Already firmly planted in Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis and Detroit, Sophisticated may enter the Cleveland marketplace this year.

“Our employees make the company go,” the characteristically modest Smith says of Sophisticated’s success. “They are appreciated every day.”

In addition, lots of big companies have given Sophisticated a chance, Smith says, and that translates into tremendous credibility.

Although Smith ascribes Sophisticated’s success to others, folks close to Smith know there’s another reason — Smith’s diligent work ethic and high moral and ethical character. Jim Hackbarth, president of Cornerstone Partners, an executive recruiting firm in Columbus, has known Smith since the two were salesmen at IBM right out of college.

“He is, without a doubt, one of the most forthright, honest, what-you-see-is-what-you-get businessmen in Central Ohio,” Hackbarth says. “He walks the talk.”

Other colleagues, such as Don Anthony, president and CEO of a Columbus consulting firm known as The Warrior Group, emphasizes Smith’s ability to focus and put the things he is trying to achieve into a concrete plan.

“He cares about people and issues,” Anthony says. “He does things that most typical business executives will not do, just from the standpoint that it’s the right and humane thing to do.”

Smith’s character extends far beyond the day-to-day operations at Sophisticated. As the father of three stepsons, he is openly committed to kids — his own and others.

Last year, he established the JSS Foundation, named for his stepsons, to provide financial and other support to kids and to foster the notion of entrepreneurship.

“Every day, the reason I work an extra hour is because I want to try and get in a position where I can really help kids,” he says.

In spite of his hectic schedule — in addition to running his own business, Smith chairs the entrepreneurial committee at the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, is a board member at Columbus State Community College and the Columbus Regional Minority Supplier Development Council, and serves on the Governor’s Small Business Advisory Committee — quality of life is important to him. Not only does he exercise to help alleviate stress, he derives much of his strength from his religion.

“If I had a penny for every time I prayed during the day, I would be retired already,” Smith says. “It gives me strength and it always guides and directs me to do the right thing. I have many people to answer to, but especially to God.”

Smith is earnest about his obligation to give back to the community, and he is thankful for the position he is in. He often recalls his earliest jobs, baling hay for $1.55 hour and waiting tables for $1 an hour plus tips.

“I feel like one of the most blessed people in the world,” he says. “I have been put in a position to give back and I hope that I have been wise in those decisions. I hope I have not missed opportunities.

“When it’s all said and done, you can’t take it with you.”

Lori Murray (Lori3204@aol.com) is a free-lance writer for SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:43

That’s news to me

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Cup o’ Joe coffee and dessert houses and Stauf’s Coffee Roasters have merged. Todd Appelbaum, Cup o’ Joe president, says the businesses make a good match because his is strong on the retail level and Stauf’s has a strong roasting and wholesale presence. Six goals of the new company, he says, are to have an Internet presence, start a mail order business, offer gift baskets, increase wholesale accounts, supply offices with coffee and open more retail stores.

Mills/James Productions has been awarded a Silver WorldMedal in the business/industrial theater-internal recognition category for its production of the 1999 National Sales Conference for the Finance One Group of Bank One. The company also received a finalist certificate in the technical/craft-writing category for its work on “Inventing Flight,” a live mini-musical presentation of how the Wright Brothers might have invented flight, staged for the Inventing Flight Committee in Dayton.

Columbus-based ExhibitPro Inc. has been named the exhibitor meeting sponsor of this year’s Builders Exchange Central Ohio Construction Expo, held in March.

Columbus-based Teamwork Solutions has been honored as a finalist in the Beacon Awards by IBM’s Lotus Development Corp. Judged by a team of leading industry journalists and analysts from around the world, the Beacon Awards recognize Lotus Business Partners that have excelled at providing quality products, innovative solutions and superior services to customers. Teamwork Solutions was recognized as a finalist in the category of Greatest Business Impact, considered by many to be the “best of show” category. More than 500 nominations from 40 countries were submitted for awards in 11 categories.

James M.L. Ferber, managing shareholder; David A. Kadela, shareholder; and associates Michael A. Womack, Daniel W. Srsic and Alison M. Day have opened the Columbus office of Littler Mendelson, a national firm practicing exclusively in employment and labor law.

CAPA and Chicago Theatre Restoration Associates, owner of the Chicago Theatre, have reached a multiyear lease agreement for CAPA to manage the Chicago Theatre.

Steak Escape has signed area development agreements in two new territories — Puerto Rico and Little Rock, Ark. The company will open 10 stores over the next 42 months in Puerto Rico and nine stores over the next three years in Little Rock.

Columbus-based Quantum Marketing Group has been acquired by Blue Chip Broadcasting in Cincinnati. Quantum will continue to operate from its Dublin offices, and co-founder and senior partner Patrick Foy has been appointed general manager of Quantum.

Conrad, Phillips & Vutech has signed Firelands Regional Health System in Sandusky as a new client. Working jointly with Marilyn Marr, a public relations consultant, Conrad, Phillips & Vutech will handle the health care system’s advertising and branding.

Creative Medical Marketing has signed the following clients: Affiliated Dermatology Cosmetic Surgery Center, Central Ohio Compounding Pharmacy and Women’s Contemporary Health Care.

Atrium Assembly Corp. in Johnstown has received a $60,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Development, which will be used to construct a parking lot and assist with relocation of a storm water detention basin. Atrium’s 14,500-square-foot leased facility in Blacklick is not adequate to accommodate the company’s 50 percent annual growth rate. Atrium will relocate its operation and acquire a 79,000-square-foot facility in the Johnstown Industrial Park, which will allow it to be more competitive. The estimated $2.1 million project is expected to create 37 jobs and retain 18.

SubmitOrder.com Inc. in Delaware County has received a 75 percent tax credit for a five-year term from the Ohio Tax Credit Authority. SubmitOrder will lease a 71,500-square-foot facility to provide customer support services for clients through e-mail, phone, fax and traditional mail. The $3.95 million project is expected to create 400 jobs and retain 95 within the first three years of operation.

Computer Associates International Inc. in Columbus has received a 60 percent tax credit for a five-year term from the Ohio Tax Credit Authority. The company will consolidate and expand its Dublin facility into the Columbus facility. Ohio competed with Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky for this estimated $250,000 project. It is expected to create 63 jobs and retain 131 within the first three years of operation.

Larry Dussault, a publisher in Pataskala, has sold Electric Vehicle News, a monthly magazine for the electric vehicle industry, and started a new publication, The Journal of Personal Letter Writing, which debuted in March.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:43

Letters to the editor

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Another option

After reading your article in the February issue entitled “One less headache,” I wanted to let you know that it may be helpful to readers to offer an alternative viewpoint to the thesis of the article.

As an architect who has extensive experience in corporate office design, I have recent experience with all different types of delivery strategies for architectural projects (with CompuServe, McGraw-Hill and others) and would like to point out that the architect has a responsibility to be the “agent” of the owner to represent the interests of the owner to the construction industry.

So, some companies may find that the owner’s representative is redundant and may find that the owner’s representative is only needed if the owner has the budget to support this second opinion. In fact, I have found that most projects run more smoothly based upon the approach and professionalism of the participants, not the expert knowledge of each team member with the construction industry.

Oftentimes, an owner’s contact who has a more intimate understanding of the owner’s business strategy will be most effective since they hold a passion for the success of the business and how the architecture informs or expresses the business to the outside world.

Timothy Hawk

principal architect

Wandel & Schnell, Architects

Columbus

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:43

In search of opportunity

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Companies seeking capital will unite with venture capital and private investment representatives at Innovest ’00, an annual statewide venture capital conference.

This year’s conference, which rotates each year among Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, is set for May 3 and 4 at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in Columbus.

The event features Alfred R. Berkeley III, president of The Nasdaq Stock Market Inc., as the luncheon speaker May 4. Prior to joining Nasdaq, Berkeley was a managing director and senior banker in the corporate finance department of Alex, Brown & Sons Inc., where his primary expertise involved large computer software and electronic commerce companies.

The keynote speaker May 3 is Nancy Kramer, founder and CEO of Resource Marketing Inc., a $75 million technology marketing and communications firm with clients including Hewlett Packard, Adobe, Sun Microsystems, Cisco Systems, Burton Snowboards, The Limited, Huntington Banks and others.

Thirty companies from throughout the Great Lakes region will give presentations on their business plans in the hopes of drawing interest from investors at the conference.

In 1999, Innovest presenting companies included Accelent Systems, Akron; Docosa Foods Ltd., Columbus; MedHost Inc., Toledo; Medsonics US Inc., New York; and PlanSoft Corp., Twinsburg. Successes from previous conferences include Columbus-based Continental Auto Receivables Inc., which secured $6 million in funding as a direct result of its Innovest presentation in 1996, and Cincinnati-based Synchrony Communications, formerly Intelecare, which raised $275,000 from three private investors it met through Innovest ’98 and has since done an $11 million private placement.

This year, Innovest is produced by Enterprise Development Inc., Ohio Department of Development and Columbus Investment Interest Group. Host organizations are Battelle; Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP; Deloitte & Touche LLP; Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce; Huntington Capital Corp.; KPMG LLP; The Nasdaq Stock Market Inc.; Ohio’s Edison Technology Centers; PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP; SBN magazine; Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP; Venture Assets; and Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease LLP.

How to reach: Innovest ’00, www.innovest.org, or call Enterprise Development Inc., (216) 229-9445. Attendees should contact Rich Simpkins at ext. 152; presenter information is available from Charles Burkett at ext. 157.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:42

Young Entrepreneurs of the Year

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Dan Friedman and Mark Alley began their pavement maintenance company in 1997 with a simple philosophy — go after the business you know you can get, limit expenses and make customers happy through quality workmanship and excellent service.

Directing their efforts at residential customers, the AmeriCoat founders devised a direct-mail campaign aimed at homes valued at $125,000-plus and focused on Upper Arlington, Bexley and Clintonville and nearby Delaware and Marysville. Five percent of all distributed fliers, which feature AmeriCoat’s uniformed employees and gleaming equipment, result in contracts.

“It’s not a blind campaign,” said Friedman. “We’ve built a database which holds almost every single driveway in Columbus. We know whether it’s asphalt or concrete and how big it is. We literally can market at will and get as much business as we want.”

Alley says the company compiles data by using staff and temporary employees to conduct neighborhood surveys during the off-season.

AmeriCoat has been profitable from the start, reporting a $16,000 net profit on revenues of $151,000 in 1998, the first full year of operation. The 1999 revenues for the 10-employee company, six full-time and four part-time staff, jumped to $250,000. AmeriCoat hires additional, temporary employees during the busy season, using seven crews to do the work.

When Friedman, 30, president, and Alley, 26, vice president, founded the company, they needed to control salary expenses. Friedman stayed on with employer Black & Decker for three years during AmeriCoat’s planning and launch stages, and Alley continued working at S.T.A.R. Seal of Ohio until 1998. Both had developed their careers with promotions through sales and marketing positions.

“They’re extremely creative and innovative in their approach to marketing,” says their National City banker, Anne Jennings. “When they applied for a loan, they gave one of the most professional presentations I’ve seen.”

Soon after getting the loan, Jennings said, the pair didn’t hesitate to ask her to help get National City as a client.

“They’re not timid,” she says. “They go after business aggressively.”

Jennings, vice president of National City’s business services group, says even when the AmeriCoat team loses a contract bid, they follow up with customers to find out why and make improvements.

Although AmeriCoat services other commercial accounts, including Lone Star Steakhouse, 75 percent of its business is residential. This year, Friedman and Alley expect the company to be the market share leader in the residential segment of the market.

But while business was excellent June through September, the owners had been looking for ways to keep staff employed and trucks running during the cold season. They considered snow removal but deemed it too difficult and unpredictable.

A flier dropped off to Alley’s family in Indianapolis, offering to string Christmas lights for a fee, provided the answer. Why not try it in Columbus, Alley and Friedman thought. The same equipment used for AmeriCoat could be put to another use. Dubbed “The Light Before Christmas,” the new venture debuted in 1999.

“The response has been tremendous,” says Friedman. “We did hundreds of jobs and booked up almost instantly. We had to turn away a great deal of business because we didn’t have the capacity to fill the orders.”

Most customers opt for the mid-sized order: 2,000 lights for $150, Friedman says. The company did few commercial orders, but Friedman says companies will be a major focus in 2000. The pair has a smaller operation of The Light Before Christmas in Tampa and hopes to franchise the company in the next few years.

This year, they’ll try a new form of direct mail for both operations that is expected to quadruple their business. While AmeriCoat already has a small operation in Grand Rapids, Mich., the partners want to expand the company in the next five years to cities close to home — Cincinnati, Cleveland and Indianapolis. They know business will grow steadily, one customer at a time.

“We may not turn a profit on an individual customer,” says Friedman. “But they’ll keep us for life because they’re tickled that we’re relentless in keeping them happy.”

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

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:42

Veteran Advocate of the Year

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Bruce V. Holderead’s dedication to veterans started early.

A veteran himself, Holderead served six years as a communications electronics technician with the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard. In addition, his first job was working as a veteran’s representative on a college campus, helping veterans go to school with GI funds. Soon after, he went back to school on the GI Bill himself and studied counseling.

Now, for more than 24 years, he has been employed with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Serving as vocational rehabilitation and counseling division officer at the department’s regional office in Cleveland, Holderead is responsible for all aspects of vocational rehabilitation and counseling services for approximately 1,800 military veterans with disabilities.

However, his dedication extends beyond those services, says Lynn E. Johnson, counselor in charge in the Department of Veterans Affairs Columbus Office and Holderead’s nominator for the SBA’s Veteran Advocate of the Year award. Holderead won the award in both the district and state competitions.

“On a personal level,” Johnson writes, “Mr. Holderead is a very congenial fellow, who masterfully blends the human side of life with the achievements of the day. His intelligence, good nature and belief in the importance of his work is uniquely balanced by his attention to detail and ever-present awareness of big-picture progress.”

Johnson adds that Holderead is dedicated to his staff, acting as a supervisor and mentor and encouraging flexibility to accomplish the veterans affairs mission.

Since 1984, Holderead has been an advocate of self-employment programs for veterans with disabilities.

Holderead’s work has allowed veterans throughout Ohio start or expand their own businesses.

In 1998, he developed the Veterans Mean Business Conference to help veteran business owners learn how to do business with local, state and federal government.

The conference was expanded in 1999 to include Cincinnati and Cleveland and to aid veterans just starting their own businesses.

“We had about 250 veterans go through the training last year, and we’re hoping to increase that this year,” Holderead says. “The economy is changing a great deal, and more and more people are working on their own, either self-employed or semi self-employed.”

This year, Holderead plans to continue the conference in eight cities: Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akron, Canton, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown. Plans are just beginning for the conferences, he says, most of which will be held in November.

Holderead gets the most satisfaction out of his job in seeing the results of his assistance to veterans.

“I think the best part is when you see a disabled veteran who’s kind of down and out who gets the support they need, gets the services they need, the training and the assistance,” Holderead says.

They often call him to tell him about the good job they’ve nailed.

“A lot of folks come back year after year and say, ‘I’m still doing great; thanks for all the help you gave me,’” Holderead says. “That’s really rewarding.”

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

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:42

Stand out

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Quick: What’s the first thing you think of when you see white fencing or Georgian architecture?

Bill Ebbing hopes New Albany crosses your mind.

After all, The New Albany Co. has featured these signature items in all its developments since the idea’s birth from the minds of Les Wexner, owner, and Jack Kessler, chairman, in the mid- to late-’80s.

It’s all about establishing a brand for your product or service.

“The brand for New Albany was to raise the bar for not just residential [development] but creating a master-plan community that’s world class,” says Ebbing, the company’s president. “The planning, quality of architecture, image with the white horse fence, large setbacks — that’s been in place from the very, very beginning.”

The beginning came when Wexner built his own home in the area, says Jim Vutech, principal at Conrad, Phillips & Vutech Inc., the marketing, advertising and brand-building firm that helped establish the New Albany “brand.”

“He felt, ‘If I can build a wonderful environment for myself, maybe I can do that for others,’” Vutech says of Wexner. “From the beginning, it was destined to be different. He wasn’t doing it as a developer; it was a personal decision of his.”

The power of the brand, Ebbing says, comes from the goals of the planned community: aesthetic beauty, lifelong learning, health and wellness, and the reputation of doing good.

By creating a partnership with the Village of New Albany and making sure every detail followed the brand, the company has seen success in sales: More than 160 new homes, lots or existing homes were sold last year in the country club community alone. The results are unprecedented, says Lu Klaiber, vice president of sales and marketing for New Albany Realty, considering the price points of $600,000 for the average home and $120,000 for the lot.

Look in the mirror

The first step to having a successful brand is to find out what’s special about your company, says Vutech.

“A brand is basically what defines a product or service,” he says. “It really comes down to the attributes of a company that separate it from its competitors. It becomes kind of an asset that needs to be protected and nurtured and reinforced.”

For The New Albany Co., the brand of “raising the bar” and “world class” was established before the first home was ever sold. The first steps: Researching the concept and choosing a top-notch team to ensure the quality of the planned community.

“New Albany is not about where you live, it’s about how you live,” Klaiber says, quoting one of the company’s slogans.

Wexner and Kessler — both of whom live in the community — visited country communities such as Williamsburg and the James River plantation houses for ideas.

Then they solicited their “dream team.” Among them: Gerald McCue, former chairman of the University of California at Berkeley’s Department of Architecture and retired dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, as well as founder of MBT Associates in San Francisco; Laurie Olin, former chairman of Harvard’s Department of Landscape Architecture; New Albany Country Club Architect Jaquelin T. Robertson, principal of Cooper, Robertson & Partners in New York; interior designers Keith B. Irvine and Thomas J. Fleming of New York’s Irvine & Fleming Inc.; and golf course designer Jack Nicklaus.

Next, The New Albany Co. had to prove its worth, keeping the brand intact in every aspect of the community, Ebbing says. The details had to be consistent, from the residences to the business park: the white horse fences, the wide open setbacks along the road, preservation of natural features such as creeks, and dedication of land to the park system.

Ebbing says another key was to establish partnerships with the community, working with local government leaders to create a historic village center study, for example, or meeting with the historical society early on to choose road names taken from the founders or prominent families of the village.

Partnering with the village, the township and the schools helped bring the entire community to reality, he says.

“One of our biggest selling points for the business park is that it’s part of the community, not out in the middle of nowhere acting on its own. It’s embraced by the community,” he says, noting it’s attracted such tenants as Abercrombie & Fitch, Aetna U.S. Healthcare and Express-Med Inc.

Tell the world

With the concept developed, the company needed to spread the word, even before it began building.

“Our challenge from a marketing standpoint was to communicate to potential home buyers not what New Albany was then but what it would eventually become,” Vutech says. “Basically, we were asked to sell a product that didn’t exist.”

Initial materials focused on the expertise and qualifications of the original team.

“That became the foundation of the brand,” Vutech says. “Based on their reputations alone, there was no doubt that New Albany would be a world-class development.”

The key to a successful brand, Vutech says, is communicating it “clearly, consistently and often.”

Vutech says a worthwhile exercise for any company establishing a brand is to audit every point of contact with its potential customers, from the way the phone is answered to the style of the invoices, the Web site, sales literature, trade shows, news releases and vehicles on the street.

In addition, branding must be continued once it is established.

“Before we do any development,” Ebbing says, “we try to go back and focus on those four aspects: aesthetic beauty, lifelong learning, health and wellness, and doing good.”

Listen

Continued success of any brand, says Vutech, whose firm also has done branding for the likes of Children’s Hospital, Duffy Homes and Energy.com Corp., means keeping a handle on customer reaction.

A company could choose to measure goals of profitability, productivity, specific sales or volume, or employee morale to determine whether the brand is working.

“We routinely do what we call account planning, but it’s basically making sure you establish benchmarks and that you can quantify the effect that the marketing is having,” Vutech says.

Often, the results are measured through the use of focus groups, surveys or mail questionnaires.

In the beginning, The New Albany Co. focused on telling its story through the architecture and homes in the community, says Klaiber of New Albany Realty.

“But we reached a maturity point where we needed to market the community as a whole,” she says.

Now, for example, The New Albany Co. funds the Classic Signature Series events, inspired by Wexner’s wife, Abigail, and sponsored by the New Albany Civic Association. The series includes cultural, educational and entertaining events for the community — such as fireworks and a festival for the Fourth of July, concerts in the parks and a lecture series.

“Everything we do, every subdivision, office parcel, marketing component we put in place helps to reinforce that brand,” Ebbing says.

And having a brand, Vutech says, will separate successful companies from those less successful.

“There’s an awful lot of clutter in the marketplace,” he says, “and I think the only way to break through that is to have a clear understanding of who you are and translate that well to all of your audiences.”

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


At the speed of byte How SubmitOrder.com got its brand up and running — in just two months By Joan Slattery Wall

In a hurry? Haven’t got 10 years to build and cultivate a brand like The New Albany Co. did?

JT Kreager, president of SubmitOrder.com, and his public relations agency, Lord, Sullivan & Yoder, know it can be done more quickly if necessary.

Timing was ripe in the online world when the idea for SubmitOrder.com was hatched. At the end of last April, Kreager met with LSY, telling the firm he wanted a July launch date for the e-commerce order fulfillment company.

“After backing out the anticipated production time leading to the launch, we were left with one week for planning,” says Rob Cathcart, director of marketing services for LSY.

For two days in the first week of May, the PR firm met with 12 members of what would become SubmitOrder.com’s management team. During that brief time, the group determined the prospective customers and competition, outlined the values of the company, chose the company name and decided how to launch the company and utilize the role of marketing and public relations.

“The fact that we had those two days together, with everybody in the room, helped us move a lot faster because we had it all condensed,” says Carroll Conklin, the LSY executive vice president and director of strategic services who headed up the meeting.

Within a week to 10 days, the firm gave SubmitOrder.com a marketing plan proposal, and then LSY began putting the plan into action.

  • First, LSY conducted a media audit, determining who was saying what about e-commerce so they could decide how to contact media, and held media training for SubmitOrder.com’s key executives.

  • Then came the pre-launch activities, which included employee meetings, trade show preparations, media and competitive monitoring and production of a videotape of customer testimonials, the Web site and print ads.

  • Finally came the launch phase, with news releases; e-mail blitzes; media tours, road shows and trade shows; print advertising in such publications as Fast Company, Fortune, Interactive Week and Ad Age; and Web merchandising.

How do they know they were successful?

SubmitOrder.com was launched July 22, 1999. By the end of August, the initial sales goals had been achieved, preparing new customers for the holiday buying season, Cathcart says.

In addition, SubmitOrder.com’s name had appeared in articles, ads and other press coverage yielding more than 117 million “impressions,” or estimated sets of eyes that had exposure to the company.

The success didn’t get past outsiders, either. In December, Silver Lake Partners and The Barksdale Group, Silicon Valley firms that invest in technology and Internet companies, invested $75 million in SubmitOrder.com to acquire a majority stake. This allowed the start-up to secure its venture capital objectives: obtain money to grow and access to networking and partnership opportunities in their industry. Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.