Columbus (2544)

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

The holiday cash crunch

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For many small businesses, the holidays are the busiest time of the year.

Up to 25 percent of annual revenue for small businesses can come during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Some have contracts, but need cash to increase inventory for the holiday season. Others need cash to buy raw materials to fill holiday orders.

Marvin Swain Jr., president of My Mama's Sweet Potato Pie Co., has felt the year-end financial pinch before. In fall 1999, with a contract with a national grocery chain, My Mama's Sweet Potato Pie had an order for 20,000 pies with delivery during the holiday season.

While Swain -- who founded the company in 1986 with $50 and his mother's all-natural recipe for sweet potato pie -- had his first big-league order, he did not have the working capital to fill it. He needed a source of financing to help with cash flow.

His solution? Columbus Countywide Development Corp.'s MicroLoan program, which financed a small business working capital loan.

The MicroLoan program offers financing for "pre-bankable" businesses -- those too small or too new to secure a traditional bank loan. These loans can be used for equipment and working capital like inventory, receivables and operating capital.

All borrowers must write and submit a business plan to be considered for a MicroLoan. The staff at Columbus Countywide helped Swain update his business plan, which was originally written in 1998 with Columbus Countywide's assistance when he secured his first MicroLoan.

D Searcy, owner of Terra Cotta, a pottery and garden-themed accessories store in Clintonville, ran into her financial crunch after the holiday season a few years ago. She found help not once, but twice, through Columbus Countywide.

In early 1997, Searcy moved her store to a bigger space. With the new location came advantages, such as larger windows for displays and on-site storage of inventory. However, it also brought challenges, since improvements were needed for the space, which had previously been a carpet store.

That's when Searcy, a previous MicroLoan borrower, went back to Columbus Countywide and worked with its staff to acquire a loan guaranty from the SBA. She used this guaranty to shop around at banks until she found one willing to finance her loan at the rate and terms she needed.

The SBA Pre-Qualified Loan Guaranty program Searcy used specifically targets rural, women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses and exporters. Owners put up 10 percent to 30 percent as a down payment, depending on their bank's requirements.

For Searcy, the money went toward working capital, inventory, store improvements and debt consolidation.

Retailers Anthony Thomas Candy Co. in Columbus and Gooseberry Patch in Delaware found another program through Columbus Countywide to buy new buildings to house offices and inventory for the holiday selling seasons. They took advantage of the SBA 504 loan program, which helps business owners finance real estate and new buildings.

The program requires a 10 percent down payment by the business owner, with the bank financing 50 percent and Columbus Countywide the other 40 percent. In addition to the low down payment, the SBA 504 loan program comes with a fixed interest rate and a 20-year term.

Since 1981, Columbus Countywide has helped more than 1,100 small businesses obtain financing. It has approved more than $190 million in loans, which have created more than 11,000 jobs and stimulated more than $500 million in new investments in the 13 counties it serves.

For details on Columbus Countywide's loan programs, visit www.ccdcorp.org or call 645-6171 in Franklin County, or toll free at (888) 756-2232 from elsewhere. Brad Shimp is executive director of Columbus Countywide Development Corp.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

Spreading its wings

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A jet plane may be the only escape from Central Ohio's orange barrels, but be prepared for a final send-off by construction at Port Columbus International Airport.

In the past 10 years, seven passenger records have been set; more than 6.5 million travelers passed through the airport in 1999, an increase of 1.9 percent from 1998 and 79 percent since 1990.

The airport's current terminal building, once it's expanded completely, will have the capacity to handle 10 million passengers annually. However, passenger forecasts for Port Columbus reflect a projection of 18 million passengers annually over the next 20 to 25 years.

To accommodate this growth, the airport has updated its master plan to ensure long-term viability, with $1.1 billion in facility and related improvements.

Here's the rundown of recent and upcoming changes:

  • Federal funding has been secured for a new air traffic control tower at the intersection of Sawyer Road and International Gateway. Design is to be complete this year, with groundbreaking in the spring of 2001. The $18.7 million project will take three years to build and equip. Land is reserved for a third parallel runway, south of the existing south runway and identical in length -- 10,250 feet.

  • The final, significant development of the terminal building, including a five-gate expansion of Concourse C, realignment of gates in Concourses A and B, an additional baggage claim device and expansion and renovation of the international gate and related facilities, will enable the airport to handle 10 million passengers a year.

    A new terminal will be built west of the current one in phases as demand dictates, eventually giving the airport 65 gates and the capacity to serve more than 20 million passengers annually.

  • A major roadway improvement in the planning phase would lead to the elimination of the traffic signal at Stelzer Road and International Gateway and creation of a grade-separated interchange, resulting in airport traffic exiting I-270/670 to pass under Stelzer Road.

  • Virtually all shopping and dining venues in the terminal building are new or remodeled.

    Nearly $25 million was spent on basic building improvements to facilitate the concession development, with an additional $10 million for individual tenant finish work.

    Focus was placed on Columbus-based companies, with the concession program providing airport users a glimpse of the city's rich business base, including Wendy's, Bath & Body Works, Damon's, Charley's Steakery, Cup O' Joe and Max & Erma's.

  • The new parking garage and terminal atrium was essentially completed this year.

    The airport now offers 3,400 close-in parking spaces, more than twice as many as before. For the first time, long-term parking, in addition to short-term parking, is available immediately adjacent to the terminal building.

    A special section of the garage is reserved for the Executive Parking Program for companies or individuals who wish to have a dedicated parking space just steps from the ticket counters and gates. The spaces cost $350 per month.

  • Customers who rent cars can now pick up and return vehicles directly to the garage, eliminating the need for remote shuttle transportation. New rental car transaction counters and office space are located on the first level; rental car fleets for eight companies are housed on the first two levels.
How to reach: Executive Parking Program, Port Columbus International Airport, 239-4037

Information courtesy of the Columbus Airport Authority

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

No facade

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Donald A. Borror couldn't resist the request a few years ago from his granddaughter: Would he play his ukulele at her school music festival in the spring?

That evening, he took one of four seats at The Wellington School reserved for him and other musically talented relatives of the students.

A bit later, another gentleman joined him, setting down his Gibson banjo.

"The case itself must've cost $500," Borror says. "Here I've got this cardboard thing with a $40 ukulele."

Then came the other two parents: A flutist and her husband -- dressed in a tux, no less -- who played violin; both were part of the local symphony. Borror felt quite out of place, yet still he reaped the respect of the others.

"All three of them treated me as a musician. In the afternoon, with the kids, I was fine playing 'Itsy-Bitsy Spider.' [But] that was a night and a half, I tell you," says the Dominion Homes founder and chairman emeritus, shaking his head.

The story is typical of Borror, who, despite having developed a $278 million home building company, simply doesn't see any awe in his accomplishments.

"There isn't anything about my background that's sensational," he says, sitting back in a large, comfortable-looking chair behind the nearly clear desk positioned at the far end of his sparse office. "It's pretty ordinary, I think."

Borror was in law school when he built his first house. He remembers the exact address: 326 Pasadena Ave. in New Rome.

"I was caulking underneath the back door and a guy walked around and said, 'You sure are doing a lot of detail; most people don't do that,'" Borror remembers. As it turned out, the man bought the house.

Although he earned his juris doctorate in 1954, Borror didn't pursue a career in law.

"I was a lousy student," he says. "I could care less about it."

Instead, he discovered he could find more money, more profit and more success in the construction business.

"I got a lot of satisfaction out of watching people's houses go up. You know we didn't always build 1,700 houses," he says, remembering times when he knew the facets of every house, the desires of all the families, which room would be the children's.

Borror isn't inclined to take a lot of credit for what Dominion Homes has become. He'd rather laud his sons, Doug, the chairman and CEO, and David, executive vice president, along with employees such as Jon Donnell, president and COO, and Steve George, executive vice president of construction and operations.

Others, however, don't hesitate to praise the elder Borror's accomplishments.

Donnell, who nominated Borror for Junior Achievement's Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame, says Borror, along with his son, Doug, were visionaries in the '80s when they decided to focus the company on the home building element, ridding it of other interests such as coal mines and engine rebuilding.

"You hear the gentleman came from a very modest background and, because of his tremendous will and integrity and the way he conducts business, was able to become a tremendous business success," Donnell says.

Still, even he recognizes the humbleness of his boss, who, at age 71, still goes into the office every day.

"He's very unassuming," Donnell says. "If you were to meet him, you'd feel completely at ease with him."

Donnell gets personal inspiration from Borror's dedication to his wife, Joanne, two sons and daughter, Donna Myers.

"As a parent, one of the things we try to do is make sure we instill some of the same values and principles that we have, and Don obviously has done that because his children have been successful in their own right," Donnell says. "I have talked to him and tried to learn from that."

Franklin County Commissioner Dewey Stokes pointed out that Borror was instrumental in bringing the Columbus Clippers here and remains the team's board chairman. Stokes calls Borror a good family man, as well as a supporter of the Franklinton area, where Borror's father owned a business.

"I think he's down to earth and he's a businessman with a lot of common sense," says Stokes. "He never puts on a facade, another face. If you know Don Borror, you know him, and what you hear from him -- and see -- is very straightforward."

Doug Borror says his father taught him about life, honesty, business and the art of the deal; he and other employees always know where his father stands.

The younger Borror remembers one of his first days of work with his father: "He said, 'We're going to work together real good, but I want you to know if I have to tell you to do something twice, it doubles my workload.' He followed up by saying, 'I don't ever want you to come back and tell me why you couldn't accomplish something.' It was a level of expectation, but it was realistic."

John Rosenberger, executive director of the Capitol South Community Urban Redevelopment Corp., where the elder Borror is a trustee, also values Borror's no-nonsense, straightforward approach.

"I think he's brought me along in significant measure," Rosenberger says. "He's just a good, sound adviser. If he thinks it's silly, he'll tell you it's silly. If he thinks it makes sense, he'll tell you it makes sense."

"He's smart, very practical, very effective, and he just sort of cuts through the crap," Rosenberger continues. "He's right with people, and I think that probably pays big dividends."

Expectedly, Borror downplays his service to Capitol South, although he had a hand in bringing City Center here.

"It was a blighted area downtown. It's not a blighted area anymore," Borror says. "A lot of people in the city deserve credit for that."

Borror's even humble about his hobbies: "My golf game's a joke, but I play," he says.

That point is argued by golf chum Bishop James A. Griffin, who's become a friend of Borror during his 17 years as head of the Catholic Diocese of Columbus.

Griffin says Borror, who occasionally serves as a real estate consultant for the diocese, is successful as a businessperson because he's sincere and sensitive to people.

"He picks things up -- people's attitudes and fears and concerns," Griffin says.

He, too, sees the humble side of Borror.

"I know from personal experience with Mr. Borror that many, many times he's reached out to people in need of one sort or another, often financial need," Griffin says, "and he's assisted them in a very quiet, inconspicuous way that no one knows about except himself."

On the personal side, Griffin says, Borror leads a very modest and simple lifestyle.

"He enjoys the simple things of life like being with his wife, his children and especially his grandchildren. He delights in his grandchildren and their achievements," he says.

The bishop also calls Borror a "very, very loyal friend.

"Anyone who is a friend of Don who calls him up and asks him to help him can be assured if he can help them, he will." How to reach: Donald A. Borror, Dominion Homes, 761-6000

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

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

Letters to the editor

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Humbled by a child

What a great piece ["The Thinking Tree," SBN September 2000] on a topic one would not expect to find in a business magazine.

I think I'm even more impressed with your reaction and reflections. When we are humbled by a child, we are truly blessed.

Please take a picture of your son and his thinking tree. It will serve as a reminder for both of you that life is more than meeting deadlines, chasing dollars and letting others decide what is important.

I enjoyed reading your magazine and am looking forward to the next issue.

Laurel Szymkowiak

Roadway Pharmacy Inc.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

Good tidings

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MC2 knows how to net new projects during the slow holiday season: Give clients a good laugh. The downtown firm's 1999 holiday "card" was an exercise plan to ward off unwanted calories.

"Last year we tried to come up with something fun and lighthearted and poking a little fun at ourselves and how much people eat around the holidays," says Brock Poling, the interactive marketing agency's president.

The company's CD-ROM holiday greeting, "Season's Eatings," allowed 500-plus clients, community VIPs and prospects to burn "FOUR whole calories" by clicking on treats such as cheese, cake and cookies as they flew across the computer screen.

"Now simply repeat this process 875 times for every pound you've gained," reads the greeting, "and the weight will be gone."

"Our intention is certainly to say, 'Thank you,' to people who've helped us through the year, and obviously to reinforce that we do a good job of multimedia and interactive work," Poling says, noting the greetings, produced in house for less than $500, generated eight or 10 new projects for the company.

This was the second interactive holiday message by MC2; its 1998 CD-ROM allowing recipients to "download" peace, love and joy won the company an ADDY.

Look for a repeat performance for 2000; MC2's creative types begin work on the greeting this month.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

Correction

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Our October story "It's not a typo" turned out to have a typo of its own. The article gave an incorrect phone number to call for more information. The correct number for AASF Publications is 899-8999. We apologize for the error.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

An equitable deal

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Women business owners have been slow to seek out equity investors -- those who fund businesses for a share of the company's ownership.

However, 44 percent of equity investors interviewed in a study conducted by The National Foundation for Women Business Owners earlier this year say they have seen an increase in proposals from women business owners in just the past year.

Although these equity investors are beginning to back businesses owned by women, this funding source remains largely untapped. So where are women business owners turning for equity capital? According to the study:

  • 73 percent of women business owners receive initial investments from family members or friends.

  • 73 percent have received equity capital from individual angel investors.

  • 25 percent have received equity capital from corporate investors.

  • 15 percent have received equity capital from venture capital firms.

Additionally, 67 percent of the women investors interviewed say they have invested in women-owned firms in the past three years, compared with only 40 percent of men investors.

The study shows it pays to be persistent. Women entrepreneurs who have equity financing contacted an average of more than 15 funding entities, while women still seeking equity financing have contacted fewer than 11. Source: The National Foundation for Women Business Owners, www.nfwbo.org

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

What you should know

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Research conducted by Yankelovich Partners in 2000 indicates American consumers have strong opinions about smoke and other air quality issues. Consider that:

  • 80 percent believe businesses should find a way to accommodate both nonsmokers and smokers in their establishments.

  • 86 percent believe ventilation can have a lot or some impact on addressing smoking issues.

  • 91 percent agree they would be more likely to go to an establishment that had a state-of-the-art ventilation system vs. one that did not.
Source: "Accommodation: A reasonable approach to public-place smoking," Options, Philip Morris USA

What you can do

Restaurant and bar owners

  • Control airflow to minimize smoke drift from smoking sections to nonsmoking sections.

  • Properly maintain -- and consider redesigning -- ventilation systems to help contain kitchen odors, grease and tobacco smoke, as well as regulate room temperature and humidity.

  • Adjust ventilation systems to peak business times to make them more cost effective.

Hotel owners and managers

*Watch the air quality in guest rooms and common areas closely, as these reflect upon the management's commitment to cleanliness and attention to detail.

* Make flexible accommodation policies for the lobby, restaurant, bar/lounge and meeting rooms to allow for differing preferences of these audiences.

*Ensure proper housekeeping procedures are followed, as this can contribute to cleaner, fresher air. For more ideas, go to www.pmOptions.com/home/home.asp.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

Publicizing your small business

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Inviting press attention is one of the best ways to grow a small business, but many businesses don't know how or where to begin. Lee Esposito, principal of Lee Esposito Associates, offers the following dos and don'ts for generating publicity.

DO:

  • Become a student of the media. Read local newspapers and business journals and watch news broadcasts to discover patterns or trends and learn which reporters cover your specific industry.

  • Read national stories and watch network news broadcasts for opportunities to publicize your business. Local editors and reporters often are eager to put a local slant on national stories.

  • Contact reporters or editors to introduce yourself and your business. Be prepared to let them know what's new or unique about your business and how it will benefit their readers, viewers or listeners.

  • Tie your product or service to a quirky national holiday or celebration. For example, a pizza chain that offers a peanut butter and jelly pizza received extensive media coverage by tying its pizza to the April 2 celebration of National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day.

DON'T:

  • Disappear after the interview. Be available throughout the process to assist with additional facts, figures or questions.

  • Use jargon. Instead, use colorful, everyday language when describing your product or service.

  • Ask for or expect special concessions because you are an advertiser.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

How to wring money from your phone bill

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One big mystery of this technology-driven world is how some telephone companies cannot produce an invoice the average person can interpret. Your business could be losing money and you may not even know it.

When one Columbus-based company with an annual phone bill of more than $10 million had an audit performed, executives discovered they'd been overbilled $1.5 million on an annual basis. If your business adds or deletes services on a regular basis, it's a safe bet that your telephone bill is wrong.

Even smaller companies with 10 to 20 lines regularly find major errors on their invoices. But don't despair.

Here are some ways to safeguard against being billed incorrectly.

The consultative approach

Some consultants specialize in interpreting telephone bills. Payment for these services is either a fixed fee or a percentage of the savings determined from the annual telephone bill.

It's a good idea to shop around and compare companies and pricing. When your bill is evaluated, the final report should separate out the fixed costs reflected on your bill, the variable costs and the one-time costs. The fixed costs become a monthly benchmark by which to compare your bills. Variable costs can also be reviewed each month to ensure they are reasonable.

If overbilling is confirmed, contact the telephone company and request a credit.

Help from the competition

A free way to verify the accuracy of your phone bill is to get a quote for services from a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC). A CLEC offers many of the same products and services as a larger telephone company, but often at a more competitive price.

My company, Adelphia Business Solutions, is a CLEC. With a letter of authorization signed by you, a CLEC can access customer service records from your phone company, review the bill, identify which services you have and provide you with a quote. During this process, the CLEC should identify any errors in billing or service.

If you switch service providers, make sure the representative thoroughly explains each item on the first bill. Some providers even deliver the first bill in person and answer your questions face to face.

Do the math

On invoices that include long distance charges, verify that the actual cost per minute billed matches what was quoted. To do this, take the total number of minutes for the billing period and divide them into the total costs, before taxes and other fixed costs are added.

Some companies have a service charge or monthly cost per line for long distance, which should be factored in to determine the true cost per minute. You may be surprised to discover your fixed per-minute charge for long distance is twice what you think it is.

One Central Ohio company thought it was being charged seven cents per minute, when in reality it was being charged more than 25 cents per minute because of the limited number of calls placed.

Telephone bills may never be easy to interpret, but it's important to understand which services you have and the charges billed to you. With this understanding, your business can potentially save a lot of money.

And always keep documentation, in case of future discrepancies. Duane C. Bennett (duane.bennett@adelphiacom.com) is general manager of Adelphia Business Solutions' Central Ohio office. Bennett previously held senior management positions with LCI, now known as QWEST, and CoreComm Ltd.