According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, Toledo and Cleveland top the list of U.S. cities with the highest percentage of adult smokers. Another study, published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that Ohio has the fifth highest percentage of smokers among the 50 states; more than one-fourth of the population smokes.
Jennifer Franklin M.Ed., wellness and prevention specialist at the Arthur C. James and Richard J. Solove Cancer Institute at The Ohio State University, says employers need to offer more than just smoking cessation programs.
"Employers should offer support along with programs," says Franklin. "Programs should be accredited, and if the employer can pick up part of the tab, it really helps."
But he says employees should also pay part of the tab, as a way to buy into the program.
A program needs to address both the physical and mental sides of addiction.
"Smoking becomes part of a person's routine," says Franklin. "The smoker needs to have a plan for what he or she will do in place of smoking when smoke break time comes around."
Franklin says the combined success rate for all types of smoking cessation programs or aids is 30 percent. How to reach: The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, 293-3737
Have you ever stopped to think about what this means? The customer is the lifeline of a business. Besides employees, customers are the greatest asset a company can have and must be treated accordingly.
For many companies, this has been a difficult time. People are waiting it out and treading cautiously through this first quarter, keeping purchases to a minimum. However, some have prepared for a time like this and are in a position to stay on the offensive and press forward.
Those companies took careful measure of their return on each investment, assembled the best management team and are quick to adapt to new circumstances. They instill confidence in their customers.
For customers to continue to make investments, they have to be reassured yours is one of those companies.
Here are four principles customers look for before making an investment with you.
1. Innovation. Are you leading or following? Find new ways to set yourself apart from the competition.
2. Value. Give customers more for their money. When people receive more than they expect -- in goods or services -- they place more perceived value on that transaction, which leads to higher customer satisfaction.
3. Sound leadership. Good leaders make good decisions. Evaluate whether you have the right leadership to keep your company on top.
4. Customer service. Service doesn't end after the transaction is done. If you want to keep customers happy, stay in contact after the purchase. Stay up to date on their needs and find out what they like and dislike about your product or service, which will help you fine-tune it for the next customer.
Even when you think customers are wrong, if you listen carefully, they're probably telling you something about your business that needs correcting.
In the current economic climate, you can't afford to ignore them. If you and your staff remember the customer is always right, you'll never go wrong. Fred Koury (email@example.com) is president and CEO of SBN Magazine.
"It can be difficult for top executives to diversify," Heil says. "If key people begin selling stock, what does that say to other stockholders?"
On the other hand, it is both appropriate and smart to protect your wealth, especially for an executive approaching retirement.
"There are SEC regulations and pressure within the company to hold its stock," says Heil. "But if the ability is there to diversify, there are also tax considerations to keep in mind," as long term capital gains taxes may make selling large blocks of stocks costly.
Exactly when and how to diversify depends on your situation and your age. Heil says a professionally managed stock portfolio can help reduce the risks involved with diversifying and help meet long-term goals.
"The goal is to preserve your wealth. Putting all your eggs in one basket is where the risk is," says Heil.
Selling small amounts of company stock over a period of time can be a smart alternative -- both for the executive and the company -- to selling big blocks all at once.
"As you get closer to retirement, your investment risk should narrow," Heil says. "A younger executive with several years before retirement can sell 10 percent of the company stock over the next 10 years."
Heil advises executives to define what they want out of retirement to determine how much they need to attain that lifestyle. Then an older executive can sell the amount needed to meet that requirement, and keep the rest.
The goal is to preserve a portion of your wealth in conservative investments. Then, should something happen to stock prices, your family's lifestyle is not affected. A professional asset manager can use this portion to create a mutual fund that minimizes risk.
"Some mutual funds can be expensive to get into," Heil says. "Asset managers put together their own mutual funds selected to the risk tolerance and preferences of the investor."
I usually answer with an analogy -- it doesn't matter how beautiful a building's architecture is or how efficient its heating and cooling system is or how wired it is if the foundation is weak. Without a strong foundation, a building will crumble.
The same is true in building a business. A business's foundation is built upon its people. You can purchase the best equipment and the most advanced computers, but if you don't have the right people to operate them, you don't have a business. You have a failure.
Human resource management allows you to find and keep the right people, and provides the strongest foundation for success. Sure, I'd like my workers to be happy for altruistic reasons, but it's also in my best business interest to keep them happy through good management techniques.
If your workers are happy with their jobs, they are more productive. With happy employees comes lower turnover and lower costs for health insurance and workers' compensation because, generally, happy employees are healthy employees with good safety records.
Conversely, unhappy employees tend to get sick more often due to stress, their productivity declines, and when on the job, they can wreak havoc. Stressed employees become distracted and may injure themselves, and angry employees may resort to destructive strategies, damaging equipment and customer relations.
Clearly, it pays to keep your workers happy, and good human resources management does that.
One element in the foundation of good human resource management is a detailed, understandable employee handbook. But the policies in the handbook must be applied equally. Employees will recognize the arbitrary application of policies as unfair treatment, leading to lowered workplace morale. To ensure consistent application, we aggressively train our managers and supervisors on our employee handbook.
Another element is a good health plan. I've consulted with small business owners who felt they should just buy the cheapest plan. They weren't looking at the bigger picture, though. Employees with few or no health benefits don't receive adequate preventive health care, leading to increased absenteeism and decreased productivity. People who go to work sick are more likely to have accidents, increasing workers' compensation claims.
Finally, good communication is important in a strong foundation. We once consulted with a small business owner who believed two of his best employees must be having personal problems that had caused a decline in their performance.
It turned out the two had been covering for a third employee's poor performance for months. With resources stretched thin, and with a manager who harangued rather than communicated, they began to experience stress and deteriorating morale, which led to their poor job performance. If the manager had made the effort to determine the causes behind this case, the situation would not have reached crisis proportions.
Most unpleasant workplace situations can be resolved through good communication. It's dangerous to build a house on a weak foundation, and it's advantageous in so many ways to build a business with good human resource management techniques. Rich Shearrow is president of Employer Advantage, a central Ohio-based Professional Employer Organization that specializes in managing human resources and employer risk for companies in a wide range of industries. He can be reached at (614) 923-9331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next time he came to the company's offices, he was stopped at the front desk and escorted from the premises by security.
Less than two weeks after the first incident, he returned a third time. Security guards stopped his car at the front gate and called police. Officers searched the car -- and found a gun.
The situation might have ended tragically had The Limited not internally stepped up awareness of family violence in 1998.
"There's a real-life case where she felt safe to come forward," The Limited vice president of public affairs Al Dietzel says of the victim's reaction after the company implemented programs suggested by the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence, founded and chaired by Abigail Wexner.
"One of every four women at some time in her life experiences either physical or emotional abuse," Wexner says, rattling off just one of countless statistics illustrating the prevalence of the problem.
Think your company's safe? Reluctant to touch such a sensitive issue? Worried you won't have the resources The Limited did to even address it? Take another look.
Outlining the problem
Before the formation of the Coalition in 1998, Dietzel was visiting the East Coast to see what community organizations the company could support there.
Moved by a video he saw at the House of Ruth, an organization providing assistance to homeless and abused people in Washington, D.C., Dietzel returned to Columbus to share the tape with Abigail Wexner.
"Both of us were in tears," he says of their reaction to the violence shown on the video. "She said, 'We need to do something about that. Let me think about it.'"
Wexner didn't think very long.
Just two weeks later, she had convened a group of community leaders from hospitals, law enforcement, social services and other agencies and asked them what they needed to help them overcome family violence in Columbus.
"They said, 'If the business community got behind this issue, it would take on a completely different stature,'" Wexner remembers.
Still, she knew the problem was much more complex.
"I was probably a little nave going into it in terms of how comprehensive the work was going to be in order to make some strides," she admits, looking back on the first three years of work. "However, I was not daunted by the time. I knew this was not something that would be an easy solution."
In what Dietzel calls strategic moves characteristic of Wexner, she formed a coalition of business and community volunteers divided into different task forces to deal with family violence in all areas of the system: Legal, health care, faith community, business community/public education and victim services.
"The goal is really to change the way we as a community think about domestic violence. Until everyone sees it as their problem, you won't see a change," Wexner says, pointing out that, for example, a neighbor needs to feel empowered to see a victim and get help. "The challenge is really to get that victim to come forward and get the help she really needs. The cycle is frightening. Once it begins in a house, it goes on for generations."
Into the workplace
Wexner also knew family violence doesn't just stay behind the private doors of a home. Statistics, she says, show that 75 percent of victims abused at home are also harassed at the workplace by the offender.
She outlined the problem to her husband, Les Wexner, chair and founder of The Limited, where 85 percent of the associates are women. Ninety-five percent of all domestic violence is male to female, studies show.
He agreed something should be done about the family violence issue, and the Coalition began working with executives at The Limited to set up policies regarding domestic violence in the workplace.
Dietzel stresses the simplicity of implementing measures at the company:
- The effort began with a meeting of Les Wexner and the CEOs of The Limited lines of business. He explained the company's policies and gave them manuals they could include in the Franklin Planners they all use.
- Arnold Kanarick, The Limited's executive vice president and chief human resources officer, then sent a letter to all employees. It outlined domestic violence statistics, included a brochure with more information and stressed the company's stance: "As a company, we are saying within our own buildings and stores, and to our communities: There's no excuse for abuse."
- In women's and men's restrooms at the company, The Limited placed cards with national and local domestic violence victim hotline numbers as well as a number at the company where victims could confidentially seek help. "We also put the cards in the bathrooms used by visitors," Dietzel says. "It sends a message to vendors and customers."
- Employees in security, management and human resources were trained to recognize signs of domestic violence and how to direct victims to social services in the community. "We've trained HR and security so if a supervisor comes in and says, 'I don't know what to do with Sally, she must have 30 (personal) calls a day,' in the old days we would warn her: If it doesn't stop, you'll need to leave the company,'" Dietzel says. "Now we know to ask: 'Sally, is there something going on where we can help you?'"
Results were swift.
In his first 30 years as director of security at The Limited Inc., Jerry Merritt remembered only one, maybe two, cases of domestic violence being reported from the 6,000-plus employees of the company.
In 1999, more than 80 employees confided in supervisors or security that they felt threatened or wanted to seek help; in 2000, the number topped 100.
Those numbers tell Dietzel the company has successfully communicated to employees that they'll get a sympathetic ear and help if they need it.
"It's more what we don't do than what we do," he says, acknowledging that some business owners may have a hands-off reaction to addressing such a sensitive issue within their own walls. "We don't give advice, we simply tell the victim where to go for help."
"We're not in the business of becoming a social worker, a counselor," Dietzel says. "It's simply providing places where they can go to get help.
"We found out the worst thing you can do is give direct help -- 'I think you should leave him.' We are not equipped, we are not trained, to give direct counseling, and it can work against you."
In more serious cases, the company is more aggressive in providing assistance.
"We do such things as give a woman a cell phone and tell her to use it: 'Call police; here's our security number,'" Dietzel says.
"Mainly what we did is change our attitude and let people know we're here to help," he says. "It's a culture, a climate where women feel comfortable to step forward."
The Limited's actions have brought benefits besides the obvious one of keeping the employees safe.
"The other thing I think you'll find is we've saved some good people from leaving," Dietzel says. "We've helped them go through a crisis. It also boosts morale for their co-workers."
The Limited's leadership on the issue has proven successful in attracting participation of other businesses. A forum held for the top employers in Columbus brought in representatives from 99 of the 100 companies invited to learn how to handle domestic violence in the workplace; subsequent forums have been directed at small business.
Shortly after representatives of Resource International Inc., a 150-employee engineering consultant company in Westerville, attended one of the forums, executives there gave employees a flier explaining the company's support of the Coalition and offering phone numbers employees could call for assistance.
Within a few short months, an employee told her supervisor about family violence in her home, and they went to Vice President Marcia Majidzadeh for help.
The family business loaned the employee money for legal fees, gave her an advance on paychecks so she could provide for the needs of her children and gave her additional time off to deal with her problems.
Unfortunately, Majidzadeh says, the woman went back to her partner, a decision frequently made by victims.
Still, Majidzadeh says, the incident shows company's involvement in the Coalition made employees feel comfortable in approaching management to seek help with family violence problems.
"There is definitely a feel in our organization, an open door policy, that if you need help, you can go to someone," she says.
She understands that business owners watch the bottom line, and says taking a stance against family violence could end up helping the company.
"If you help someone, really listen to them," she says. "you're going to help yourself because this person's going to come in more productive. But you're also going to help this person. No one in the workplace wants to lose a good employee."
Even the smallest of companies, which perhaps have no human resources or security departments, can address the issue of family violence, Dietzel suggests.
For example, he says, a company's receptionist and the CEO's secretary are often those most in contact with employees at a small business. Those two individuals could be trained to direct victims to sources of assistance. Employees could be notified that the company will not tolerate violence and informed that they can get assistance by contacting those two employees.
"That little thing would be a morale booster for that little company," he says, noting the action would have three effects.
It would elevate those two employees to a position of being empowered to help employees, enhance the CEO's image to one where the employees see he or she really cares about them, and put offenders in the company on notice that their actions against victims will not be tolerated.
"Caring for the safety of your people is simply the right thing to do, and having a zero-tolerance for violence in a business is not only the right thing to do, it's also good business," Dietzel says regarding advice he'd give to other business owners regarding the issue. "In terms of sending a message to employees that you care, I cannot think of a less extensive, more direct way to do that than to provide a note to them: If there's violence in your life and you'd like to talk to somebody, please call one of these three numbers. I think that will come back to you as people will feel differently about you as a CEO, and people will feel differently about your business."
Staying on task
Wexner brushes aside facts and figures that are evidence of lost productivity and work time due to family violence issues faced by employees.
"It's of interest, but the compelling thing to me is you're never going to get someone to do something on that fact alone," she says of attaching monetary values to the effects of domestic violence. "You've got to get people to see they have an obligation to employees to act as responsibly as they can."
To enhance the program in the Columbus area, the Coalition continues to raise awareness by training business employees and helping companies establish policies to deal with violence in the workplace, says Joel Dixon, an account executive hired by the Coalition to work directly with businesses to maintain their policies.
"Victims put themselves in a lot of danger when the perpetrator is aware that they are seeking help," says Karen Days, executive director of the Coalition. "We want to make sure we can help them in a way that doesn't revictimize them or put them in more danger."
Wexner is heartened to find that sponsors of the Coalition are offering more than dollar bills to the effort.
"People like Kroger and Bank One say, 'We'll help with the funding, but we'd really like to take you up on your offer to address the issue,'" she says.
Dixon has been working to implement family violence policies and awareness programs at Kroger, Children's Hospital, The Huntington National Bank, Nationwide, The Columbus Dispatch, the City of Columbus and Worthington Industries as well as The Limited Inc. All are among in-kind or monetary sponsors of the Coalition, but he's also been contacted by and begun working with other Columbus area companies to implement the program.
In three to five years, Wexner guesses, the Coalition may have a proven program to expand to other communities -- which already have requested information on its activities.
Gail Heller, executive director of CHOICES, a local agency that provides comprehensive services to victims and survivors of domestic violence, says that while statewide organizations such as the Ohio Coalition on Sexual Assault and the Ohio Domestic Violence Network have tried to address the entire issue, the Coalition Against Family Violence focuses on the Central Ohio and Franklin County area.
"Most of the larger cities across the country have some coordinating council or some body that focuses on the issue within the community. There have been different attempts over the years to try and pull something together," Heller says. "I think Abigail has had the best success of all the attempts. The Coalition is focusing on the full range of issues of violence that occur in the family environment, where organizations like ours deal more specifically with abuse that occurs between adults."
Wexner, she notes, is also tackling issues of child abuse and elder abuse.
"She probably does have the broadest view in this area," Heller says.
Having so many community representatives included in the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence, Heller says, will make it easier to meet goals.
"I think (the Coalition) has helped our community increase awareness of the issue and really make people understand and see that it really isn't a problem that is only existing behind somebody's closed door and shuttered windows," Heller says. "If it's happening behind closed doors, it really does extend into our schools and our workplaces and our churches and all those places.
"When people become more aware of a problem in a community, it's harder to ignore it. It's harder to hope somebody else will deal with it," Heller says. "It's more of the community's responsibility to deal with this issue now."
The long road ahead
Wexner is ready to commit her time and effort to what she knows the Coalition will need to make progress against family violence.
"I kind of think the work we've accomplished so far is not even the tip of the iceberg. In terms of really delving into the problem, it's going to take years," she says.
Already, however, the Coalition has, among other accomplishments, given information to more than 100,000 employees by educating more than 200 businesses about family violence and implemented a training and education program for businesses and other local employers. More than 2,000 human resources and security personnel representing 23 companies have received training.
Wexner says she took on the challenge of curtailing family violence knowing it would be tough.
"This is not the most glamorous issue," she says, noting the privacy matters and the sensitivity required. "If I didn't necessarily want to do it, I'm not sure anyone else would want to take this on."
More important, however, she felt a responsibility to respond.
"If you say women and children are being abused next door to you and there's something you can do about it," she says, "don't you have to?"
How to reach: Joel Dixon, Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence, Joel Dixon, (614) 722-5905 and Karen Days, (614) 722-5960; Marcia Majidzadeh, Resource International Inc., (614) 885-1959 or email@example.com; Gail Heller, CHOICES, (614) 258-6080 or www.choicesdvcols.org. Contact Al Dietzel, The Limited Inc., and Abigail Wexner through the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence at 722-5985.
So was Emmet Apolinario, chairman and CEO of Caspian Software Inc., until he learned about Section 162 of the Internal Revenue Code which allows a business to create a bonus program for specific employees.
"We're a C corporation, and one of the things we lack as opposed to an S corporation is the flexibility to be able to control or mitigate tax liabilities," Apolinario says.
He wanted a way to shelter bonuses for executives and owners of the company.
Fredericia J. Poorman, CEO of Wealth Builders Inc., an affiliate of The Columbus Financial Group and an attorney whose background is in the tax arena, helped Apolinario set up the executive bonus plan for himself and his president and COO, Al Fahimi.
"Basically it's a deferred compensation program, the way the program works," says Apolinario, who's trying out the plan before offering it to other select executives of his 40-employee consulting and training firm.
Poorman explains the executive bonus plan with this example: A company could pay a $10,000 annual bonus for the premiums on approximately $1 million worth of life insurance to cover and be owned by the executive, who chooses his or her beneficiary. The business tax-deducts the bonus as an ordinary and necessary business expense. The executive pays only the income tax due on the bonus itself. The business owner can give this bonus to himself or herself as well.
Other advantages for the executive:
* The executive, Poorman explains, is entitled to the cash value of the policy, which grows tax-deferred. When the executive passes away, the benefit goes to his or her beneficiary tax free.
* The cash value of the benefit can provide executives with supplemental cash flow at retirement. They can take the money out in a tax-favored way, receive it in a lump sum, take a loan against the money or take payment options like annuities. As the plan builds equity, Apolinario says, he or she could borrow from it at very low interest yet still have the coverage of the insurance.
"It's really leveraging money to grow its own value," he says. "That's one thing I like about the plan is several years from now we can borrow it to be more aggressive with that fund and invest it."
* "Employees get concerned -- 'What will happen when you and Al get old and want to sell the company?'" Apolinario says. "We're not going to be here forever. The company will eventually evolve with the way it's going right now. The way I look at it is it's portable. It will be available for whoever buys Caspian or merges with Caspian."
The employer, Poorman says, is free to choose who will receive the bonuses.
"And the nice thing about the plan is the employer can vary the amount," she adds. "If one person does a fabulous job, you're going to give this person more than you do the other four. It's very subjective."
The employer also gains:
* Simplicity and minimal administration. "All that needs to be done is, a corporate resolution about the plan should be included in the corporate minutes," she says.
The only administration is paying out the premium. The arrangement does not have to be prequalified by the IRS, nor is it subject to annual reporting and disclosure rules, Poorman says.
* A recruiting tool. "You can recruit, reward, retain and retire key employees," Poorman says. "Basically what happens is the employer can show these selected people how much they're valued by the company." How to reach: Fredericia J. Poorman, CEO, Wealth Builders Inc., an affiliate of The Columbus Financial Group, 785-5100.
Joan Slattery Wall is senior editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.
Even before Sept. 11, a client, whose site we hosted but did not create contacted us when it realized its Web site had been hacked into and was no longer functional. Unbeknownst to the company, its site had no protection from outside attacks.
Apparently, the student who developed the site had not yet taken the class on installing secure systems. Although we were able to resecure the site and had it back up quickly, a significant amount of business productivity was lost.
Several aspects of security must be considered when determining how to preserve system integrity effectively.
* Transaction security is vital for Internet business data -- passwords, personal data and financial information.
* Network security on internal networks halts improper access from within and without. This ensures there are no holes to the intranet from the Internet and is paramount for attacking viruses, e-mail spamming, denial of service attacks and network abuse.
* Hacker security provides protection from malicious access by intruders from the outside or from within.
Every computer in the world, connected to phone or cable circuits for retrieving or exchanging information, is part of the global computer network -- the Internet. Security on the Internet must guard against sabotage and provide freedom from fear of intrusion.
Is this an impossible task? The answer is not simple. It is made even more difficult by the fact that most breaches in security come from inside an organization.
One of our clients became aware that 60 percent to 70 percent of his business's computer time was spent on the Internet. By installing monitoring software, he learned all abuse was attributable to just two employees, who were downloading so much information it slowed the entire company's connection.
Tools like monitoring software are available to businesses to help make their Internet usage secure. Firewalls and virus scanners are also critical tools.
Firewalls prohibit entry by checking all requests to enter networks or computers. Filtering criteria are established by the user and are critical to the firewall's effectiveness.
A flexible firewall with established criteria will monitor incoming and outgoing information, the source and destination of that information and sometimes the actual content moving through the network. An effective firewall requires attention to management and updating. A few good sites for exploring firewalls are Sonic Wall, www.sonicwall.com; Norton Personal Firewall 2000, www.symantec.com and Checkpoint, www.checkpoint.com
Every network/computer must also have a virus scanner. Virus software must be configured to scan data before it gets into the system to be the most effective. Some of the best virus scanners can be found at Norton Anti-Virus, www.sarc.com and McAfee Anti-Virus, http://vil.mcafee.com/default.asp.
In 2000, $898 million was spent on Internet security. By 2005, $22 billion will be invested. Consult with an Internet professional to evaluate specific requirements and research the tools available to meet those requirements.
The system in place may well determine the seamless flow of business traffic, whether it is a large intranet or just one computer. Cliff Gallatin is president of ASCInet, an end-to-end technology solutions provider. He can be reached at 798-5321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The architectural design firm had been located in the suburbs in typical office space -- space that just didn't work for the creative side of the employees or for the firm's renewed focus on teamwork.
Moving the 80-employee, $9 million company first required a look inside.
The firm's strong suits, says CEO Robert Vennemeyer, include "sustainability," or using less nonrenewable energy, such as fossil fuels. Instead, DesignGroup teaches its clients how to make use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind or hydroelectric power. In addition, Vennemeyer is a strong supporter of re-use of urban land -- existing sites that already have utilities and infrastructure built in.
"We can help the context and fabric of our downtown as an example for what others can do," Vennemeyer says of his decision to build a 62,000-square-foot, five-story building at 515 E. Main St., tearing down a former rental car operation to build in its place.
The building is a joint project of DesignGroup and JDS Cos., which occupies 3,000 square feet of the space. They've rented out most of the rest of the building to Children's Hospital Information Services, A-Plus Personnel Services Inc. and Kitrick and Lewis Co. LPA.
DesignGroup's design principal, Jack Hedge, designed the $7.2 million building, which was completed in October 2000 and immediately gained local and national attention for its energy efficiency.
"We redeveloped an area already developed instead of going out to an area where they'd have to develop new streets, utilities and things like that. And because we're in an area where things are closer together, we use less energy," Hedge says, pointing out that employees can walk to lunch Downtown and shopping at City Center instead of using their cars.
Beyond the efficiency aspect, however, Hedge wanted to use the two floors occupied by DesignGroup to create a space not just functional and cost-saving but also fitting for the company's culture of creativity and teamwork.
Here's how he did it.
Hedge's expertise in energy-efficient design allowed DesignGroup to have a space that not only works for its culture but also for its budget.
Called "passive solar," the building's orientation makes the maximum use of the sun. It has a longer north/south faade than east/west, enabling its southern exposure to the sun to save energy in lighting and heating.
Sun screens on the south elevation block out undesirable summer heat gain and soak in winter sun for heat and light. The screens are placed so that in the summer, when the sun is higher, the hot rays are blocked, but in the winter, when the sun is lower, light comes straight in.
In addition, large windows on the north side maximize day lighting with minimal heat gain, and a third- and fourth-floor central atrium allows natural light to illuminate the central area of the building -- a space that's usually more like a dark dungeon in other office buildings.
Combined, the features add up to 10 to 15 percent savings in energy use.
Hedge needed to make sure the company's new space would facilitate its teamwork culture, because each client's work is handled by a group including project managers, designers, architects, specifications writers and other employees.
Instead of putting offices around the perimeter of the building and "worker bees," as he says, in the center, Hedge wanted everyone in the firm to feel equally important to the teams. The result: An open interior with "pods" where each team gathers to work.
Hedge created plenty of flexible spaces, such as conference rooms with tables that can be configured to lay out large drawings or used in part as podiums for meetings.
"Nobody has an office with a door on it, but if you want to have a private conversation, there are spaces for it," Hedge says.
Employees picked out their own office furniture, all of which is on wheels so it can be reconfigured.
"The whole point is you don't feel so bad moving to another team," he says.
Things used by everyone on the team, such as files or supplies, are grouped in the center of the team pods.
Designers often keep their work in progress on portable display boards.
"(An) advantage to that is you can see what the designers are working on right then," Hedge says. "It gives everybody else some awareness of what's going on."
In addition, the boards can easily be wheeled into conference rooms for meetings.
The lunchroom is in the center of one of the two floors used by DesignGroup rather than stuck out of the way in a corner. Every Monday at lunch, designers take the pieces they're working on to get input from others.
"A designer in a vacuum," Hedge points out, "is usually not a good designer."
Designers, of course, need a space that inspires them to do their work, so Hedge had yet another goal to accomplish.
First, designers have options to personalize their office space. For example, interior design schemes enable them to change the paint on certain walls, rather than an entire room, whenever the desire arises.
In addition, an abundance of windows keeps employees aware of the world outside.
"Some people would think that's a distraction. Well, I don't think it is. I think it's a connection, a variety," Hedge says.
Another plus to the 10-foot high windows is they let in plenty of natural light.
"Even on a dismal day in here, at least you know it's a dismal day. On a sunny day, it's just glorious," he says. "What we're hoping the building will do is get people energized about being creative." How to reach: DesignGroup, 225-0515 or www.dgcolumbus.com; Jack Hedge;email@example.com; Robert Vennemeyer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Joan Slattery Wall (email@example.com) is senior editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.
If you want to survive, it's important to have a list of key measures to navigate your business through these tough times.
Each day, I talk to business owners who have high debt levels and are easily discouraged. The Federal Reserve Bank keeps dropping interest rates, but consumer confidence continues to decline, unemployment is rising, and there doesn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. It's hard to give people advice when they ask what they should do because there are so many unknowns.
This changing business climate will invariably result in changes in many companies. Change brings uncertainty to your work force, which leads to a drop in productivity as people wonder about job security and the viability of their employer.
Internal and external communication are key. Internally, it's important so everyone is on the same page. If people are not aware of what's going on within the company, they will be forced to reach their own conclusions.
This is bad for morale, because conclusions may be based on incorrect information. Everything needs to be put in perspective. If you are in management, it is your responsibility to keep employees informed.
Externally, it's important to communicate so customers and vendors can work with you. Make sure your relationships are strong and that they are aware of what's going on with your company.
When you're not sure what to do, honesty is the best policy. You'll be surprised how willing people are to help if they're asked -- look at how much money was donated to charity after the Sept. 11 disaster.
Here are five more measures to help navigate your business through a rocky economy:
1. Manage your fixed costs. Continue to find ways to bring these down. It's important to closely manage your budgets in a time like this. When you can replace fixed costs with variable costs, you should do so.
2. Provide more value. When it comes to someone deciding between you and your competitor, this is how you differentiate yourself. Find ways to give the customer a little more than your competition does.
3. Measure investments, and measure every cost. It's important for your investment to yield a return. Set a realistic timeline of when you expect a return, and if it doesn't happen, cut your cost. Look at each piece of your business and see which are paying for themselves and which are not.
4. Refine your niche. Position yourself in the marketplace as a dominant player and distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack to make it clear why people should do business with you. Concentrate on your core products or services and do what you do best.
5. Adapt quickly. Make decisions in a timely manner. During times like these, leadership is needed. Adapt quickly to the circumstances around you or your competitors will. But don't make blind decisions; it's important to consult with your management team, then act based on the feedback you've gathered.
Now is not the time to get discouraged. It's time to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. The boom times are over for now, and it's much more difficult to run a business than it was just a few months ago.
Not every business will survive, but those that carefully navigate the perils ahead will come out stronger and ultimately more profitable.
Fred Koury (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president and CEO of SBN Magazine.
OSHA has rewritten its Record Keeping Rule for Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting to clarify the recording of workplace injuries and illnesses. Business owners should determine how they may be impacted by the reporting requirements of the new rule, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2002.
While the final rule contains most of the provisions originally proposed by OSHA, two significant ones have been delayed until Jan. 1, 2003: the definition of musculoskeletal disorders and specific reporting requirements for occupational hearing loss.
Most of the changes are either administrative or meant to help clarify the determination of whether an incident is "recordable." However, a change in the manner in which lost workdays are counted (the counting rule) may significantly impact your company's safety goals.
Under the new rule, lost workdays are counted in terms of the number of calendar days an employee is away from work, not just the number of workdays. With this system, 2002 lost workday rates may be higher than 2001 rates.
Any company that measures its safety performance by tracking lost workdays should familiarize itself with the standard changes and consider modifying its 2002 performance goals.
Major changes that may result in additional new cases and could account for an increase in the number of lost workdays or restricted days include:
- The addition of "significant injury or illness" diagnosed by a physician or licensed health care provider to the recordable requirement. Significant injuries or illnesses, such as chronic diseases that result from a work exposure, would become recordable at the time of diagnosis, even though no lost time or restricted duty may have occurred.
- Provisions for needle stick injuries, privacy concern cases (for example, blood-borne pathogen cases), medical removal cases such as elevated blood lead levels, tuberculosis, and temporary and contract employees have been added to the rule.
- "Days away from work" and "days of restricted duty" for injuries and illnesses are calendar days now rather than scheduled workdays. The total days are counted regardless of holidays, vacations, weekends or work schedules. This will minimize the confusion of counting days but may increase the overall days logged.
Some other changes:
- The current 200 and 101 forms will be replaced with forms 300, 300A and 301, which are more straightforward and easier to complete.
- The new rule includes a list of specific situations that are not considered work-related, such as commuting, personal consumption of food and drinks, voluntary participation in recreation and personal tasks.
- A list of 14 medical treatments considered not recordable first-aid treatment is included. The use of nonprescription medications, steri-strips, massage and hot or cold therapy are four of the first-aid treatments identified. All other medical treatment is still considered recordable.
- The length of time the annual summary must be posted has been extended by two months. Currently, employers only need to post the summary for the month of February. Now, it must be posted from February through April.
- A requirement has been added to help ensure the participation of employees in the program review process.
- Low hazard industries that are exempt from record keeping requirements are identified in an appendix.
The new forms and instructions for completing them can be found on OSHA's Web page at www.osha-slc.gov/FedReg_osha_data/FED20010119.html.
Dianne Grote Adams, a board certified industrial hygienist, board certified safety professional and certified professional environmental auditor, is president of Emilcott/DGA (www.emilcott-dga.com), an environmental, industrial hygiene and safety consulting company in Westerville. She can be reached at (866) 364-5342 or by e-mail at email@example.com.