Columbus (2544)

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:38

Outside interests

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SBN Columbus asked local business experts to analyze the plans for Chocolate Works. Using the company's two-page executive summary given to investors, David Bittner, president of Growth Management Solutions Inc. and chairman of the Columbus Investment Interest Group, and Beatrice Wolper, partner with Chester, Willcox & Saxbe LLP and board member for the Family Business Center of Central Ohio, took the time to provide some feedback.

By David Bittner

Something that immediately caught my attention about Chocolate Works is the owners' willingness, and even desire, to place equity with directors and partners.

Partnering with Gerald Stevens seems like a smart move. Chocolate Works will gain wide distribution while aligning with a complementary product having a parallel brand image.

Borrowing from the real estate adage, most folks in the venture community agree the three most important factors affecting the success of a new venture are: 1) management, 2) management, 3) management. A strength of Chocolate Works is that Barry and his team have been there, done that. As their venture unfolds, they'll know which opportunities to pursue and where the pitfalls lie.

Chocolate Works appears to have researched its market thoroughly and has a well-thought-out marketing strategy. The varied arsenal of distribution weapons is powerful so long as the company can steer clear of channel conflict.

One clear weakness is that the company has no proprietary products or technologies, resulting in low barriers to competitive entry and downward pressure on margins.

In addition, new ventures in vogue with investors today are business-to-business plays. Chocolate Works, on the other hand, is a business-to-consumer play. Consumers are less attractive customers because of the expense of locating and keeping them and the limited purchasing power they have.

Another fashionable business concept is dot-com. However, Chocolate Works is not com. Though the company does intend to use the Web as a promotional tool, sales of impulse, sensory-driven food products aren't likely to benefit as much from the e-commerce wave as planned, nonfood products like books or collectibles.

Be that as it may, Chocolate Works may be able to take advantage of its low-tech nature by appealing to investors who have experience in traditional businesses and are wary of the volatility and the reality of all things "e."

All companies ought to espouse a certain method of producing a return for their founders and investors. If not, they risk never achieving their financial objectives. They should pursue an exit strategy for which there is industry precedent for attractive returns. I suspect the return to the owners of Chocolate Works might most readily and productively occur as a result of a sale to a strategic buyer like Godiva or a channel partner like Gerald Stevens.

The company might do well to consider adopting a more specific intent for its use of capital. More thorough financial planning up front leads to more effective deployment of resources later.

I suspect there are a number of companies in this market that offer similar products. If not now, there will be more competition when and if Chocolate Works is successful. The owners should differentiate their product from competitors' as much as possible while they're in the formative stages so the distinction is clear when the stakes are higher.

Many investors shy away from family-run businesses due to the domestic pressures that compound the professional challenges. Barry and his team may have to convince investors that he can turn this into an advantage.

Rapid growth of more than 300 percent between 2000 and 2001 is quite steep. There's the obvious issue of generating enough volume to accomplish that goal, but there's also danger that the management and fulfillment infrastructure may not be able to keep pace.

By Beatrice E. Wolper

Chocolate Works' plan incorporates both a solid history and the chance for exciting growth.

When going to the market, it may be beneficial for Chocolate Works to emphasize that several members of the family work at the company; therefore, it is a "family-owned business" -- which translates into strong values, ethics and loyalty. Family-owned businesses have done well in the marketplace.

In order to reach the desired growth outlined in the summary, the company may wish to focus on how to strengthen the family business relationships by having a family business plan. This should assist the company in expanding on the national level, since the plan should incorporate the concepts derived from scenario planning, which is often necessary for such growth.

What will the company be like in three years, five years, 10 years and 25 years? Will people still be eating chocolate? (I will!) Will the family be involved? Cousins? Grandchildren? Will people only be buying through the Internet? The scenarios would analyze the company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for each alternative.

It appears that to grow to the national level expressed in the summary, a clearer definition of who the customer is needs to be established. The list of corporate customers is extremely impressive. After stating all the great name customers of the company, it is surprising to read that the target customer is a female purchasing from a retail store.

It appears that the main customers for the corporate sales department should be similar to those listed, and the target customer for the retail sales department would be such a female. There needs to be two distinct marketing strategies -- selling different concepts to different entities.

Development of why the chocolates are unique may facilitate the desired national growth. What makes the company's products unique? Why are these chocolates and private label gourmet boxes different than those of competitors?

Teaming with a national partner is a positive move toward aggressive growth. The company's financials should be detailed enough to account for many outcomes: worst and best case. Since Gerald Stevens is new to the market, the financials need to reflect what happens if it takes longer than planned for the Gerald Stevens expansion. All in all, a tremendous opportunity, but one that needs to consider various timetables.

In conclusion, the company sounds very solid, with excellent growth opportunities. And, who wouldn't like chocolate?

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:38

Make ‘em earn it

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The next time a youth group comes to your company with its hand out, put a scrub brush in it. That’s exactly what Dave Bianconi, president of Progressive Medical Inc. in Westerville, did earlier this summer when a young man raising money for the Boy Scouts called and asked Dave for a $500 donation.

Rather than “give” the Boy Scouts the money, Dave gave them an opportunity to earn it -- by washing his employees’ cars at a rate of $15 each. Since Progressive employs 80 people, the earning potential more than doubled what the Boy Scouts had been looking for in terms of a corporate handout. What a clever way to teach the next generation of business leaders the value and reward of hard work.

It’s sad, however, that this task falls on the shoulders of a quick-witted businessman. What are Scout masters teaching these boys when they OK cash solicitation calls? Is this the ‘in’ way for youngsters to raise money now? What ever happened to newspaper drives, bake sales and youth work days when groups would volunteer to do odd jobs to raise money?

Growing up, I participated in those and a handful of other fund-raisers for our church youth group, Girl Scouts, the marching band, the gymnastics team and so forth. Even selling raffle tickets, cookies or magazine subscriptions door-to-door beats asking, flat out, for a cash donation. It promotes the concept of working for what’s important to you; that nothing in life is free.

Perhaps that’s why I have such a hard time turning away neighborhood kids who ring our doorbell selling everything from candy bars to Christmas ornaments. I don’t need any of this stuff, but I appreciate and want to support their efforts. Last winter, a couple of what-looked-to-be 6-year-old boys even offered to “shovel” the walkway and front stoop of my home for $4.

My husband couldn’t turn down these youthful entrepreneurs. When we saw they were using dustpans to do it apparently their parents thought they were too small to work with real snow shovels, we tipped them an extra few bucks. You’ve got to admire that kind of ambition.

You’ve also got to foster it, which is exactly what Dave Bianconi’s counteroffer to the Boy Scouts’ fund-raising plea did. Although only seven boys turned out for the car washing expedition at Progressive Medical, together they washed 44 cars, raising $660 for their troop. Not a bad afternoon’s work and certainly a more rewarding experience than begging for donations via phone.

One of the troop’s Scout masters even wants to see if Progressive Medical might consider making the car wash an annual fund-raiser for the troop. Way to go, Dave! Your quick thinking taught these boys a valuable business lesson.

It’s an example we all should follow.

Nancy Byron (nbyron@sbnnet.com) is editor of SBN Columbus.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:38

Guiding the green

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Growing professionally is a continuous process at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP.

With corporate offices in Cleveland and more than 550 attorneys and 20 offices in cities around the world, including Columbus, SS&D offers several training programs to help guide the careers of its associates.

"Business development is not a skill that you learn in college or law school," says Alex Shumate, SS&D's managing partner in Columbus. "It's a mindset that you develop over the course of your experience. As Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP is committed to lifelong learning for all associates and partners, we take an active role to ensure that they receive the resources necessary to ensure personal and professional growth."

An example of that commitment is SS&D's monthly New Associate Training sessions. Topics such as "Accepting Assignments & Managing Your Workload" and "Public Service Work and Community Activities" help new attorneys learn over a span of nine months about the mechanics and culture of the legal profession.

Karen Winters, a partner in the Columbus office who teaches a session in associate evaluation, says SS&D's orientation program gives new hires a sense of the whole.

"It's largely informational," she explains. "We want new associates to know about all of the services the office has to offer to make their jobs easier. They also need to be familiar with substantive areas of the law which they may need to interact with to provide quality legal services to a client."

To help meet these goals, Winters says, new associates are trained in using the firm's technology to conduct advanced legal research and attend presentations given by SS&D attorneys who specialize in such areas as tax, public or environmental law.

Another example of the firm's commitment to training is "SS&D University," typically a two-day workshop at which a panel of SS&D partners provides new associates with an overview of the firm's markets and plans for the future, guides them in developing personal business development plans and gives them pointers on bolstering client relationships.

Three years ago, SS&D began a bimonthly training program aimed at helping its mid- to senior-level associates better market their services. Working with groups of 10 associates at a time, the Business Development Group includes senior partners in the firm who share their experiences in maintaining and enhancing client relationships and generating new business opportunities.

As part of the same initiative, SS&D brings in outside speakers, including public relations strategists who discuss ways to build relationships and enhance image and reputation, and past clients to share the factors they use in selecting outside counsel.

SS&D sees training as an investment in its future, Shumate says. "We realize that it is imperative to invest time further developing our young associates and their continued growth, for they are the future of our business," he says. "They appreciate the level to which we focus upon their continued success. Ultimately, as they grow, generate new business and establish sound client relationships, they bring success to the firm as a whole." How to reach: Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP, www.ssd.com, 365-2700

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

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:38

Calling in reinforcements

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Bernadette Bourke had heard it too many times: "So, your computer's down? We'll be out in a couple of days."

That answer just didn't cut it for Quadrant Insurance Managers Inc., where Bourke is MIS manager. The five-employee company, which does $10 million in policy premium services annually, depends on its half-dozen computers for their databases, writing and issuing policies and keeping records.

About a year ago, a radio advertisement for PC On Call said exactly what Bourke wanted to hear: The company wouldn't take days to respond.

She called to find out more and, before she signed up, reiterated her concern: "When we need you, we need you." She can't wait around, and she must reserve time to wear her other hat as the company's underwriting manager.

PC On Call didn't disappoint her.

"The very first time we called them, it was in 35 minutes that they were out here," Bourke says.

Now Bourke uses PC On Call not just on an emergency basis, but to do regular monthly maintenance on Quadrant's computers and to help her make decisions regarding hardware and software purchases. She gets all this for $8,000 a year under PC On Call's Mobile IT plan.

"I couldn't hire somebody for that by any means," she says. "And frankly, I couldn't put a full-time MIS person to work."

Bourke, who has a background in computer programming, says PC On Call provides the peace of mind of quick service -- and access to expertise in areas she's lacking, such as networks.

Once, Bourke contacted PC On Call when she realized someone was trying to dial in to the company's computer system. The company told her what had happened and gave her the good news that security had not been broken, then helped her decide whether she needed to tighten security further.

The Mobile IT plan also gives businesses a single point of contact at PC On Call and discounts on standard hourly service charges.

The average annual Mobile IT plan at PC On Call costs between $4,000 and $16,000 for small businesses, says Michael Dorne, the company's Columbus branch manager, but fees are based on the number of computers and are higher for large businesses. Plans also are available by the month or by the quarter.

In addition to service contracts like the Mobile IT plan Bourke uses, PC On Call provides businesses with technical support; assessment and evaluation of information technology to handle growth; annual check-ups; disaster recovery; and help in customizing computer solutions to support the company's business plan. Service also is available for residential customers, and PC On Call sells its own line of systems, from desktop PCs to high-end servers.

Bourke prefers the Mobile IT plan over other computer services she's used because it puts her at the top of the service response list when she requests assistance.

"One morning I called in before their company opened, and I got whoever answers through the night. I told her, 'It's OK, when the office opens have somebody call me.' I was in here at 7 something and 15 minutes later I was on the phone with our technician," Bourke says.

"It was very comforting to know that when our system totally ties up and we have a major problem, they're there."

How to reach: PC On Call, www.pconcall.com, 885-5552.

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

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:37

Working the surf

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Next month, you can begin to interact with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation online.

Gov. Bob Taft earlier this summer signed into law House Bill 611, which gives the bureau the legal authority to interact with customers electronically.

State Rep. Gary Cates (R-West Chester) sponsored the bill, which will eventually allow customers to complete almost any workers' compensation transaction electronically through an initiative called the Dolphin Project.

An injured worker will be able to file a claim or an employer will be able to pay a premium through the Internet, and BWC will accept these transactions as official documents. The Dolphin Project will be implemented in four waves beginning with the first next month and wave four coming in April 2001.

The bureau's e-business move will allow its customers to:

  • File a claim online and get a claim number.

  • View and update claim and policy information.

  • Request additional benefits and services.

  • Obtain or cancel coverage.

  • Select a managed care organization.

  • Customize rating plans and simulate cost-saving scenarios.

  • Pay premiums electronically.

  • Access new financial programs, including deductibles and payment plans.

For more information, visit www.ohiobwc.com/home/dolphin/default.htm.

On a related note, NFIB/Ohio has bestowed its Guardian of Small Business award to Cates for his outstanding leadership on issues critical to Ohio's small business community.

"Representative Cates, in a short period of time, has emerged as an articulate voice for small business in the Ohio legislature," says Roger Geiger, state director of NFIB/Ohio, in a press release. "As chairman of the House Commerce and Labor Committee, Representative Cates has championed many issues important to the vitality of small business. He has fostered a small-business friendly environment through his leadership that enables Ohio's entrepreneurs to thrive."

Excellence Award names winners

The Ohio Award for Excellence board of trustees has named its first winners for the statewide award patterned after the national Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

"The Ohio Award for Excellence was designed to recognize those businesses, government entities, educational institutions and health care and not-for-profit organizations that understand the positive impact that the quality process can have on an organization," says Thomas F. Casperson, executive director of the Ohio Award for Excellence, which was established in 1998. "These winners have demonstrated that a commitment to quality can make a difference to a company's employees, customers and bottom line."

The program's first tier of awards, Pledge Toward Excellence, is given to organizations beginning their quality journey. Winners are Cleveland Children's Hospital; Council on Rural Service Programs Inc., Greenville; Cuyahoga Work and Training, Cleveland; Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland; Good Samaritan Hospital, Dayton; Great Oaks Adult Workforce Development Division, Cincinnati; Lester Precision Die Casting Inc., Twinsburg; Lorain County Children Services, Elyria; Muskingum County Children Services Board, Zanesville; Northcoast Community Homes Inc., Cleveland; Ohio Department of Commerce's Division of Administration; Ohio Department of Education; Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Water; Ohio Department of Transportation District 10, Marietta; Ohio Education Association; Ohio School for the Deaf; Ohio State School for the Blind; Perstop Polyols Inc., Toledo; Reading Fire Department; Skilled Care Inc., Mason; Southeast Diversified Industries Inc., Cambridge; and United Way of Greater Toledo.

The Commitment to Excellence tier recognizes organizations that have demonstrated a serious commitment to excellence and a process for continuous improvement. Winners are Aurora City Schools; Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland; Cuyahoga Falls Hospital; Hamilton County Educational Services Center, Cincinnati; Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare, Northfield; and Pabco Fluid Power, Cincinnati.

In the third tier, the Achievement of Excellence Award is presented to organizations that have demonstrated, through commitment and practice, significant progress toward excellence. Winners are Aeroquip, Van Wert; Applewood Centers, Cleveland; Kuss Corp., Findlay; and Van Dorn Demag, Strongsville.

No winners were named in the highest tier, the Governor's Award for Excellence, designed for organizations that are outstanding examples of excellence in the state, exhibiting "world class" processes that serve as role models for others.

Award winners will be formally recognized for their achievements Sept. 15 at the Ohio Award for Excellence Quest for Success 2000 Conference at the Hilton at Easton in Columbus.

The award, to be presented annually, is based on criteria covering the areas of leadership, strategic planning, customer focus, information and analysis, workforce development, process management and the business results achieved.

For more information, call Casperson at (937) 445-6556 or visit www.oae.org.

Governor appoints business adviser

Gov. Bob Taft has appointed David L. Celona as executive assistant for business and industry.

As executive assistant, he'll advise Taft on business and industry issues and serve as liaison to six state agencies -- the departments of Development, Taxation and Transportation; the Industrial and Public Utilities commissions; and the Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

Celona previously served as chief of staff for the Ohio Department of Transportation, where his responsibilities included overseeing economic affairs, the state infrastructure bank, communications and legislation in a department of 6,300 employees. "It is critical that Ohio's infrastructure and business climate continue to improve and grow," Taft says in a press release announcing the appointment. "Dave's experience at ODOT and his ability to identify and communicate important business and industry issues will be a great asset to the people of Ohio." Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is an associate editor and statehouse correspondent for SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Steering in the right direction

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When it comes to workplace safety, worries about employees falling or cutting themselves while using a piece of machinery should not be at the top of your list.

A greater risk to employees -- and others -- is simply driving company vehicles.

After all, the National Safety Council lists motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of accidental deaths, a term its even changed to "fatal unintentional injuries" in an effort to stress that all accidents could be prevented.

"For the employer, you have employees out there so their safety is of concern [and] the general public's safety is of concern," says Joe Tulga, program manager for the Safety Council of Central Ohio.

Injury or death isn't your only risk when employees are on the road, either.

If you include lost wages and productivity, administrative, medical and employer costs, as well as motor vehicle damage, every fatality resulting from an auto accident costs $980,000 on average and each nonfatal, disabling injury costs $35,600, according to the National Safety Council, which cites 1998 figures. Even in less serious crashes, in which property damage and nondisabling injuries occur, costs average $6,400.

In addition, the image of your company is at risk when you have company vehicles on the road.

"In a way, [the vehicle] is a moving billboard out there, and if you have drivers racing around, it's not good PR for you," Tulga says.

Think your employees have a slim chance of being involved in a crash? Consider this: In Columbus during 1998, one in every 24.4 of 667,252 registered vehicles was involved in a crash, according to the Ohio Insurance Institute, which cites its sources as the Ohio Department of Public Safety and Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

ICI Dulux Paint Centers takes the risks seriously. It requires employees to take a defensive driving course through the National Safety Council -- and renew their certification through the course every two years.

"Our company philosophy is safety is our top priority for our customers and for our staff," says Mark Frost, regional operations manager. "Defensive driving is a tool that's used to help promote awareness. That's what safety is -- it's thinking about it and providing awareness."

Defensive moves

The defensive driving course many businesses take through the Safety Council of Central Ohio is called DDC-4, the 4 standing for the four-hour duration of the course.

Frost says his region has opted to send employees to classes to become trainers. The result is more flexibility in times the company can offer the class as well as more cost effectiveness.

For example, he formerly spent $45 each time he sent one of his nearly 70 employees to the course. Now, Sean McCarthy and another employee in his region provide the training instead. Although it cost ICI $300 for each trainer's certification and another $650 for each teaching kit with materials, the course booklets for each student cost only $2.50.

This means ICI can now train all of its employees in house for less than two-thirds of the $3,150 it would have cost to send each of them to the driving course. The company also saves on the work time it would lose if employees drove to the course instead of taking it on site -- another service the Safety Council offers.

"From people who work in stores to [sales] reps to vice presidents, we cover everybody," McCarthy says. "Whether they drive every day or not in our company vehicles, they are required to take the training."

The course covers rules, regulations, responsibility, vehicle maintenance and driving conditions, Tulga says. For example, it explains the benefit of the three-second rule -- allowing three seconds to elapse before you drive by the same point the car in front of you passed, a method to establish safe following distance.

Attendees learn about antilock braking systems and how to avoid crashes. They also complete a worksheet to show the costs of being involved in a crash.

"You go through driving habits and how to improve on your driving habits and how to recognize hazards," McCarthy says. "It teaches you to be more aware of your surroundings."

Instructors touch on alcohol- and drug-related crashes and share statistics.

"We're not allowed to call them accidents -- they're crashes," McCarthy says. "A traffic crash is not an accident; it is a result of a driver or drivers not doing everything reasonable to avoid the collision."

A continuing journey

Frost could not specifically say what results he's seen from the defensive driving course because overall safety incidents are down in his territory after the implementation of many safety programs -- not just the driving course.

Among other ICI safety procedures:

  • Employees receive forklift training and are certified in the vehicle's use.

  • Gloves and steel-toed boots are required for certain duties.

  • The company holds monthly safety meetings at each paint center; employees often watch safety-related videos and even take tests related to safety issues.

  • Each paint center has an appointed safety contact person who coordinates those meetings and is in charge of doing a monthly store inspection to check everything from the condition of the floor to electrical outlets to fire extinguishers.

  • Each center has a designated safety area, where items such as first aid kits and flashlights are stored.

Another facet: employees are not permitted to use a cellular phone while driving. In fact, they can't even use it if they're riding in a vehicle.

"We're zero tolerance when it comes to safety," Frost says. "When something is abused, like cell phones, termination is the penalty. There isn't room for tolerance when it comes to safety." How to reach: Joe Tulga, program manager, Safety Council of Central Ohio, 225-6092 or joe_tulga@columbus.org; National Safety Council, Defensive Driving Program, www.nsc.org/psg/ddc.htm. Another source of traffic safety information for businesses is the Ohio Partnership for Traffic Safety, 466-3250, www.trafficsafety.org/states/oh/opts.cfm.

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

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Letters to the editor

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Ripping off the Scouts

I wanted to comment on your Boy Scout editorial ["Make 'em earn it," SBN, August 2000] from the perspective of a Cub Scout den leader, a father and a company president.

I agree with your "make the Scouts earn it" fund-raising mentality, but I would suggest you worry more about what parents are teaching and less about the Scout masters.

Our Cub Scout pack recently held our annual awards dinner. All of the Scouts and their family members were invited. The cost was $1 per person for all the Joseppi's pizza they could eat. Uniformed scouts were stationed at the door to collect the money. We had approximately 230 people attend and collected $175. Yes, around 55 people stiffed the Cub Scouts out of a buck!

Of course, these same people won't participate in any fund-raisers. By the way, the dinner was held in a church.

Guess what? Our Scout master was right back at it the next week planning future events.

Doug Shull

president

Transmet Corp.

Columbus

Cigarette, gun debates have same flaw

Good article ["Displaced aggression," SBN, June 2000]. I totally agree with you. The same logic also applies to the lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

If we held the criminal behind the gun liable for his or her actions, and not the inanimate object itself, we could restore some sanity to that debate.

Rick A. Smith

president and CEO

Applied Thermal Engineering Inc.

Ostrander

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Don't touch that dial!

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Try finishing the lyric: "Call Able for the proof ...."

Steve Weyl relishes the times when someone knows the rest -- "444-ROOF," the phone number for his business, Able Roofing Co.

Weyl, in fact, wrote the words and hashed out an idea for the music used in his radio ad jingle, which was produced by songwriters in Nashville. He also writes and announces the 60-second ad spots.

"That's the best part of my job, is the marketing," says Weyl, president and CEO of Able, a $16 million Northeast Columbus company. "I think it came naturally. My mother's an artist, and I think as a little kid, I started out appreciating art and negative and positive spaces and that type of thing."

About five years ago, he started making his own radio advertisements, which now air at least 2,500 times a year on 16 Central Ohio stations, particularly in the spring and fall.

Weyl keeps track of his marketing results by asking customers who call for appointments where they last saw or heard about Able Roofing.

"We probably do not have more than 20 percent of the people calling us who say 'radio,' but radio is a very subliminal thing. All advertising builds on each other," he says, noting he has as many as 56 codes describing the ways customers might have exposure to his marketing efforts. "You've got to look at marketing as a crusade, not a battle."

"We just have to be top of mind all the time," Weyl says. "We know that probably, of our audience, at least 40 to 50 percent are hearing us on the radio."

"The 444-ROOF number has probably been our strongest marketing move," Weyl says, noting the simplicity of the number makes it memorable.

In addition, Weyl says, having his own voice in the ads gives customers more confidence in the company.

"I think people like to know who they're dealing with," he says. "When the owner's on there talking, it can be very good."

Although many local companies -- Three-C Body Shops, Ricart Automotive, IDG Jewelers and Mack Mattress Outlet, to name a few -- apparently share this philosophy, Weyl admits radio announcing isn't for every business owner.

"If the owner has personality and some charisma and simply sounds appealing over the radio, it can be good. But I think it can hurt the owner, too," he says. "You've heard people who don't have the personality -- they're monotone. You just wouldn't have a lot of confidence, maybe, buying from them."

Weyl makes radio advertising sound easy. Here's how he does it:

Know your audience.

"It's simple," Weyl says. "Who buys my stuff? And how do I reach them?"

Matt Mnich, president and CEO of North American Broadcasting Co., where Weyl buys commercials on three stations, says business owners who advertise in radio must be able to answer those questions.

"The most important component is a good understanding of their target customer," says Mnich, whose radio stations are WMNI-AM 920, WEGE Eagle 103.9 and WBZX The Blitz 99.7. "As simple as that sounds, sometimes our sales representatives spend quite a bit of time developing an understanding of exactly who the target customer is for the client."

Technically, anyone who owns a home is Weyl's customer. But he dissects that: Middle income and up is his primary target, because they tend to be more comfortable with a bigger name company, he says.

He wants to get his message to the 34-65 age group -- that which statistics show is most likely to own a home. He needs to reach both males and females, since females many times tend to make the call for his product, but the male has a large voice in the decision.

From that knowledge, he can decide which radio stations to contact for air time.

"We need to figure out who's listening to what," he says, noting that radio stations will describe for you their typical listener and provide you with information from Arbitron, a company that conducts a survey of radio listening in the market, then tabulates that by age and gender and other demographics.

"WTVN is a little bit older crowd, strong on the home ownership," he says. "If we want to hit females, we hit Sunny 95 because Sunny's strong on females." For males, WTVN is good, he says, "but what's better than TVN is The Fan sports radio [1460 AM]."

Constant monitoring of Arbitron ratings is important, too, because they can change over time.

"Even five years ago, we were less interested in Q-FM [96 WLVQ]," Weyl says. "Now we advertise on Q-FM because the age group is that age group we are appealing to." In addition, "Q-FM turned out to be strong home ownership."

Think about your message.

Weyl puts himself in his customers' shoes.

"What would appeal to the customer? What would get their attention?" he asks. "I think marketing is just common sense."

He's tried being too creative at times -- most notably when he started his marketing efforts more than 10 years ago by producing a television commercial.

"What a flop this was," he says. "We made it look like an old movie. It was actually fairly sophisticated and it was very funny. It was like the Able man was able to save the day type of a thing."

However, the commercial was likely too sophisticated. It didn't yield much response.

"Too creative doesn't work. In-your-face does," he says. "When I say in your face, I think you have to be not loud like vocally loud, you have to be noticed. You have to stand out."

Mnich says the message also must be easy for the customer to understand -- which means leaving out industry lingo.

A catchy jingle helps, too, Weyl says.

"Jingles are very important because it's consistency and builds brand identity," he says. "If it's a good jingle, people tend to hum it. But you'd better have your name in that jingle, and if you get your telephone number in there, it's even better."

He buys one-minute radio spots and knows his jingle takes about 10 seconds at the beginning and at the end. That leaves him with 40 seconds to talk.

"I say, 'What's my idea? What do I want to get across?' Then I write a bunch of notes and thoughts, then I start writing a script, kind of assembling it," he says.

His first draft usually ends up around 70 seconds, so he begins whittling out words or rephrasing things to get the same message across in less time.

Then he tests it out.

"I always bug my wife to death over it," he jokes.

Make the investment -- and be patient

"There's too many people who say, 'I've got $10,000 to spend, and I'm going to spend it on a couple of radio stations, and if I don't get results in three weeks I know that radio's not for me,'" Weyl says.

Successful radio advertising, he says, depends on frequency -- the number of times you run the ad -- and reach -- the number of people you expect to hear it.

"If you can't get both, go to frequency," he says. "If you can't hit a lot of people a lot of times, then hit a little amount of people a lot of times. Don't try to hit a lot of people a little bit of the time. It doesn't work."

Mnich agrees, but notes the longevity of an ad campaign matters, too.

"It's far more effective to buy two weeks a month for four months than every week for half that period of time, generally speaking," Mnich says.

There are exceptions, however, such as political ads for an election, which might run with a lot of frequency in a short amount of time.

Weyl declined to say how much he pays for his radio ads, but generally the station from which he buys air time gives him the use of a studio with an engineer for free.

At North American Broadcasting, Mnich says, clients are not charged for ad production, unless his company's talent or creative work is used on other stations.

Cost for air time varies greatly, he says, depending on, among other things, the frequency of commercials and the time of day they air. For example, the largest audience -- and most expensive advertising -- occurs during the morning drive time, Mnich says. The time with the fewest listeners and lowest advertising cost would be overnight.

"You can buy a commercial in Columbus, depending on the time of day and the station, for $50 for one commercial, and you can buy a commercial on another station in the highest-valued part of the day and you could spend $700," Mnich says.

Relax

Since nervousness often is fear of the unknown, Weyl suggests asking the radio station manager or your sales representative if you can sit in on a couple of commercials being made. You'll see, for example, where to put your mouth in relation to the microphone or what the engineer does.

When he first started making radio ads, Weyl says, he was nervous -- and it came out in his voice.

He corrected that by determining his own comfort level -- "I can do much better standing than sitting," he says -- and by mentally taking on the role.

"My role today is radio announcer," he says. "Separate it from yourself."

Weyl cautions against simply reading a script, however. Overemphasize everything, he says.

"If you think you're overdoing it, you're probably not." Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Movers & Shakers

Written by

Emmet Apolinario, president and COO of Caspian Software, has been named to the development board of the Heinzerling Foundation.

John J. Krimm Jr. has been promoted to partner at the law firm of Schottenstein, Zox & Dunn. Krimm spent almost 10 years with a Cleveland-based labor and employment firm before joining Schottenstein, Zox & Dunn in October last year. He will continue practicing in the labor and employment department in the firm's Columbus office.

Chip Chapman, president of ADC Information Technologies, has been elected chairman of the Heart of Ohio Tech Prep Consortium, an organization of high schools, colleges and businesses dedicated to preparing the technology work force of the 21st century. Tech Prep is a college prep program with hands-on technology applications that begins in high school and continues through a two- or four-year college program in the technology-related area of a student's choice.

Longanbach Giusti Kuck & Hornberger LLC has appointed two new partners. Alvin "Jamie" McKenna Jr. has provided expertise in real estate and construction to the firm and its clients since 1989. Jay R. Meglich joined the firm in 1988, providing his services to rental real estate projects, the oil and gas industry, the manufacturing industry, the insurance industry and nonprofit clients.

Edward M. Rainaldi, vice president and secretary of Hanlin-Rainaldi Construction Corp., will be honored next month with the 1999 Cornerstone Award from the Builders Exchange of Central Ohio. The award is given annually to an individual who has made significant contributions to the Central Ohio community and construction industry. Rainaldi served on the Builders Exchange board for eight years and was association president in 1990. He also is a past board member of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

Frank "Rocky" Morris Jr., a partner in the Columbus office of the law firm Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, has received the American Bar Association Business Law Section Chair's Award. The award was created to recognize an individual who has made significant contributions to the Business Law Section.

Bruce A. Lucia, president of the Kroger Co.'s Columbus marketing area, has been elected to a one-year term as a national vice president of the Muscular Dystrophy Association's voluntary health organization. Also, Samuel S. Stallworth, vice president and general manager of WSYX-TV Channel 6, was re-elected as an MDA vice president. MDA vice presidents provide counsel in their areas of expertise and assist the association through advocacy and staunch support of its lifesaving programs and activities.

Ultryx Corp. has named Dheeraj Kulshrestha as its new vice president of product development. Previously, Kulshrestha was vice president and business technology officer of first Union National Bank/TMS in West Sacramento, Calif.

The board of trustees of Edison Welding Institute has selected S. Theodore (Ted) Ford as president and CEO to succeed Karl Graff, who has retired. Ford was previously senior vice president for University Advancement at Northern Arizona University and executive director of the Northern Arizona University Foundation. Prior to moving to Arizona, Ford was director of development at EWI from 1993 to 1997. In addition to positions at EWI and Northern Arizona University, he has served as a principal in an environmental development consulting firm, director of institutional relations for the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing Sciences, executive assistant to the Governor of Ohio and in several senior policy and administrative positions in the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Avalon Consulting Group, a marketing management firm in Columbus, has promoted Annice Graves to vice president and creative director.

NGDA Interactive Communications has named Ron Poliseno vice president, client services. Poliseno is responsible for overseeing management of all NGDA's current accounts. Previously, he was senior director of new business development for Pathlore Software Inc.

Gerbig, Snell/Weisheimer & Associates Inc. has named Jack Dupps vice president of human resources. Dupps is responsible for management of the agency's human resources department. Prior joining GSW, he was vice president of human resources for Evenflo Co.

Randy McKitrick has joined Sports Management Inc. as vice president of marketing. McKitrick's experience includes nine years in branding, promoting and developing products and services for two large U.S. manufacturers and brands, Macklanburg-Duncan and Schlage Lock Co.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

To hell and back

Written by

Five years ago, Sam McBride was a different man.

He was a self-professed "falling-down drunk" whose company was in serious debt trouble. The IRS was after him for failing to pay employee withholding taxes. He was so depressed his doctor put him on Prozac, which he took in triple doses -- sometimes with booze.

"I had all these problems I didn't think I could ever fix or get rid of," explains the 57-year-old president of Corporate Cutting Dies Inc., clearly still haunted by the recollection of what almost came to pass. "I started drinking to ease the tension."

It was the worst decision he ever made.

Too much to handle

McBride says his troubles largely began in 1995 when he ran into cash flow problems after building a spacious, new facility for his then-thriving, nearly $900,000 business. He couldn't find a buyer for his old building so he was saddled with double mortgage payments.

"We were paying $6,400 a month on the new building and $1,800 a month on the old one," McBride says.

Then his company lost its largest customer -- a situation that cut between $250,000 and $400,000 a year off the top of Corporate Cutting Dies' balance sheet. Talk about a financial crunch. And the sense of helplessness that came with it was paralyzing for McBride.

"I used to sit in my office, stare at the walls, stare at the clock and when it was 5 o'clock, I'd open the office door, go out and go home," he says.

Although it was around that time that McBride hit rock bottom, others say the first signs of trouble surfaced long before then.

Tina Bevan, who was the company's corporate secretary for 10 years beginning in 1990, says she saw a marked change in McBride following the 1993 buyout of his business partner.

"He was withdrawn; he just wasn't into it anymore," she says. "He just was somewhere else and that's when he started doing his drinking."

It wasn't an intentional decision to seek solace in a bottle, McBride stresses.

"I went to a bar to have a couple drinks one day, then I went back the next," he says. "Before I knew it, I was a falling-down drunk."

Everybody in the company knew about McBride's drinking, Bevan says, "but they just left him alone. They probably felt intervening would be worthless."

Customers, however, were largely unaware of McBride's personal crisis since, during his drinking phase, he had very little contact with clients.

"And if he did," Bevan says, "it was by phone and prior to lunch."

As McBride's drinking progressed, his lunch hours grew longer.

"I would be gone all day, every day, from 11 or 11:30 [a.m.] until 4 or 5 o'clock," McBride says. "If I did get back to work, I was in no condition to do anything."

"It was his business, but it wasn't cool what he was doing," Bevan says. "He was very hard to deal with; he would ramble on and on and do things he normally wouldn't do."

Things like telling Bevan to stop paying the payroll taxes.

"We'd lost all this money and we had all this additional cost," McBride explains. "So I told Tina not to pay our withholding tax."

As the months passed, Corporate Cutting Dies began receiving letters from the Internal Revenue Service, but McBride chose to ignore them.

"I got all these notices and I didn't open them," he says. "My briefcase used to be filled with nothing but bills I hadn't paid for two or three months."

Bevan knew the unpaid bills spelled trouble, but like the rest of Corporate Cutting Dies' employees, she wanted to keep her nose out of McBride's troubles.

"I just figured it wasn't my problem," she says.

It quickly became her problem in early 1996 when McBride finally looked inside one of those IRS envelopes.

"I don't think I realized how much I owed them," he says. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing. We owed 20-some-thousand dollars at that point. I went out to Tina and started yelling at her. We got in a big fight and I ended up firing her."

After a few days, McBride saw the injustice in what he'd done.

"I realized all she was doing was what I'd told her to do," he says.

He called to apologize and asked her to come back to work. Surprisingly, she agreed.

"I knew it wasn't him," Bevan explains. "I knew it was the alcohol, and he was going to go get help."

A deepening hole

Indeed, McBride's drinking days were drawing to a close -- but not before they caused more damage to himself and others.

McBride went to his doctor to discuss his deepening depression.

"I didn't tell the doctor I was drinking, so he thought I had a chemical imbalance," McBride says. "He put me on Prozac and I started abusing that ... I used to take a three-month supply of Prozac in one month, with booze and everything."

"It's a deadly combination," Bevan adds. "He did some really stupid things and he's lucky to be alive."

On the business front, McBride's lack of leadership -- or even interest in the company, for that matter -- was taking a toll on Corporate Cutting Dies and its employees. Financial losses hit $22,000 by the end of 1995 and were mounting almost daily. Some key people, like Bevan and former company vice president Doug Ackerman, were quick to step in to keep the company running as well as possible during McBride's self-termed "drunken phase," yet resentment and frustration began to grow within the ranks.

"Some top, key people left here," Bevan says, noting she and Doug toughed it out because they didn't want to see the company fail.

"Doug basically kept everything together," says Reg Martin, a consultant who was also instrumental in saving McBride's floundering company. "Doug did a fabulous job maintaining [customer] relationships.

"I have to pay tribute to the people in this business," McBride says. "They kept it going when I was trashin' it. They didn't give up."

Neither did McBride's wife, Sylvia.

Apparently she realized something was amiss with her husband at work and went to Bevan for some answers.

"His wife started calling me at home," Bevan says. "She was playing 20 Questions. So I told her the truth. She said, 'Thank you,' and hung up. After his wife knew what was going on, the crap hit the fan."

Sylvia McBride took her husband to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in January 1996 "because I was drunk in church," he says flatly. "I don't remember much about the meeting except I got this big book. For the next 13 days I didn't drink. Then I went to a bar for a beer and I ended up being in there from 11 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. -- and I was with one of my customers. That's when I realized I could not quit. I was an alcoholic."

On Jan. 26, 1996, McBride took himself to another AA meeting. He hasn't touched alcohol since. Still, his troubles were far from over.A second chance

McBride just couldn't get his mind back into the business at Corporate Cutting Dies. It was obvious to his staff and it created some animosity

"Doug couldn't stand me when I started to sober up," McBride says. "He'd had to run the business. I think he resented me [trying to step back in.]"

In the spring of 1996, McBride started a second business: SOL Enterprises -- initials that stand for "Servants of the Lord," he says -- which got him excited about being an entrepreneur again. The company used a specialized software application to produce personalized children's books. McBride sunk $14,000 into the start-up and leased equipment for $4,000 a month.

In addition, he and one of his employees decided to produce a TV commercial to help jump-start the business and wound up investing $11,000 in that project. It was a fateful mistake.

"We only sold about 10 books," McBride says. "By September of 1996, we were so far in debt we had to shut that business down. Then I had lawsuits."

As if dealing with the failure of one business wasn't enough, McBride soon learned the financial situation at Corporate Cutting Dies had reached a critical state, as well.

"The banker was ready to foreclose on us," McBride says.

The company's 1996 losses were pushing $86,000. In addition, the IRS was growing impatient with McBride's unpaid tax bills.

"I thought I drank because I couldn't handle the pressure I had," McBride says, "but when all this happened, I'd stopped drinking."

Instead, he found solace in talking to his priest, Father Rod DiPietro at St. Elizabeth Church, and attending AA meetings during his lunch hour.

"All I really have to do is go today without drinking," McBride says. "I don't complicate it like I used to."

After all, his life was complicated enough.

Finding a way out

Although McBride was getting help with his personal struggles, he didn't know where to turn for help with his business problems. Fortunately, his accountant did. He asked fellow Rotarian and highly regarded turnaround artist Reg Martin to pay McBride a visit.

Almost from the moment Martin passed through the doorway at Corporate Cutting Dies three years ago, he knew he could save McBride's company.

"It was no question," says Martin, who has orchestrated financial comebacks for many once-troubled companies, including Blocks Bagels Inc. and Cardinal Industries -- the predecessor to Cardinal Realty Services, which became Lexford Residential Trust before being acquired by Equity Residential Properties in Chicago. "It was not a situation where we had to turn the entire business around. They had a niche in the market; they had a couple nice-size customers. [The company] just needed a little fine tuning."

His top priority: taking care of McBride's lingering problems with the IRS.

When the IRS sent an agent to Corporate Cutting Dies, "she sat in my office with my accountant for three hours and didn't talk a whole lot," McBride recalls. "Then she really told the truth: That I didn't know what I was doing."

Although the agent explained the IRS could shut down McBride's company and force a sale to pay back the overdue taxes, she agreed to give McBride a little more time to come up with the$31,000 he now owed.

"They did get into our corporate bank account and chose to relieve us of $10,000 without telling us -- and it was the day before payday," McBride says. "Reg called the IRS and got them to put the $10,000 back if I signed a paper saying that if I didn't pay them back in 30 days, they were coming after me personally. I signed it."

That was the day the 'For Sale' sign went up on McBride's beautiful, new building. Corporate Cutting Dies had to find more affordable digs.

"The IRS got all their money at the closing of the sale on the SouthPark building," McBride says.

The bank was another matter. McBride traded in his car, put his house on the line and pulled out all his retirement money to help pay down the lingering $700,000 bank debt and stabilize his company's cash flow.

"My wife and I had saved up enough to live very comfortably. But here I was, 54 years old and with no retirement," McBride says.

"I even had $100 a week coming out of my own paycheck to pay off the debt," McBride says.

That little move was the brainchild of Norm Rothermel, a former debt recovery manager for Borden whom Martin brought in to help cut costs internally at Corporate Cutting Dies.

"Norm had my wages garnisheed. He was the burr in my saddle sometimes, but I needed a business consultant that wouldn't take any crap from me."

Rothermel also negotiated a couple deals to get McBride out of sticky situations with a leased van and some leased computer equipment, saving the company "at least $15,000," McBride says. He also assisted the company in getting a new loan package.

By the end of 1997, the company's debt had been cut considerably and Corporate Cutting Dies was showing a profit again.

"They were not that far away from break-even," Martin says. "Sam is no different than a dozen other people. He's gone through what a lot of small businesses do. He's had some personal difficulties but he's brought it back. He's been resilient."

Not in the clear yet

McBride's company recorded another profitable year in 1998, but backslid in 1999 when a particularly poor December -- coupled with hastily paid holiday bonuses, he says -- more than wiped out all the gains of the preceding 11 months. Corporate Cutting Dies ended the year about $22,000 in the hole.

This year, McBride has focused on cutting costs again and expects the company to show an 8 to 10 percent profit on sales of $756,000.

One cost-cutting measure came as a somewhat unpleasant surprise to McBride. Ackerman, whom McBride had intended to promote to president of the company this year, tendered his resignation in July. Still, McBride has found a way to put a positive spin even on that bit of bad news.

"Doug's working for one of my customers now ... so he's buying dies from me," McBride says. "We also have a lower overhead now because that cut payroll, too."

On the personal side, McBride still goes to AA meetings during his lunch hour and has joined another group called Business Owners Debtors Anonymous.

"They use the same 12-step program as AA, but the goal is not to take on any more unsecured debt," he says.

Corporate Cutting Dies still owes its bank close to $140,000 on six notes, which he'd like to consolidate into one to reduce the monthly payments. His goal is to be debt-free in two years.

"I don't put the blame of what happened to me on anybody," McBride says, as an overstuffed bookcase revealing titles such as "Live to Win," "Self Esteem" and "Searching for God in America" looms behind him. "It was just a build-up of things. Everything was just circumstances."

Bevan, who left the company in August for personal reasons, says McBride seems to have emerged from his crisis with only a few lingering scars.

"He still isn't as involved as he was when I first started here," she says. "He's still isolated. He needs to get back in the groove -- especially now that Doug's [gone]. But other than that, he's the same ol' Sam."

"Sam is very knowledgeable, but his focus sometimes tends to wander," agrees Martin. Nevertheless, Corporate Cutting Dies should continue to fare well.

"They need to go out and expand their sales," Martin says. "They should be running two shifts. But the firm will continue to stabilize. It'll continue to grow. I can't say anything negative about it."

"I think I've actually gone through more stuff in the last five years than I did in the first 13 in business," McBride says. "I was so close to losing my business and losing my family. I couldn't pay the debt ...

"I try not to let my ego, my pride get the best of me today. I think I learned a lesson in humility."

"I know he's learned," Bevan says. "He almost lost it all." Nancy Byron (nbyron@sbnnet.com) is editor of SBN Columbus.