Columbus (2544)

Thursday, 28 March 2002 09:05

Forging ahead

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Like many of you, I experienced a wild ride through the Internet boom and bust. While my wallet may be a little thinner, our business couldn't be in better shape -- thanks, surprisingly, to the Internet bubble.

When the Internet boom was going full force, we began investigating ways to use Internet technology to better serve our audience -- top decision-makers of local companies. As we were putting the finishing touches on our plan, the bubble burst.

Undaunted, we moved forward with our vision of building a Web site that not only met the needs of busy executives but did so profitably. The revised SBN Online (www.sbnonline.com), launched as a pilot site in our Cleveland market, has met both our goals.

Each subscriber to SBN Cleveland has been pre-registered for SBN Online. By using the user ID and password we supplied by mail, readers can activate their registration and get a personalized home page containing local business news and information relevant to them. Our database of thousands of articles, ideas and resources is filtered using a reader's profile, resulting in the display of news, events, presentations and other information that best matches the profile.

The response has been great. We are ahead of our projections for users and site activity, though SBN Online is only a few months old. We are so pleased with the success that we plan to expand the concept to other cities this summer.

As I look back on what it has taken to relaunch SBN Online, a number of important lessons stand out.

1. Stick to what (and who) you know. We spent a great deal of time and money researching our concept for SBN Online. What became clear is that while we may not be concentrating on the biggest market, we are concentrating on the best market. Middle-market companies account for only 10 percent of all businesses, but they boast nearly half of all corporate revenue and purchasing power.

2. Work within a budget. In the headiest days of the Internet boom, we were quoted incredible prices for products and services. While many of these offers would have met our needs, we continued to look for the right deals with the right partners.

3. Stay the course. Even as events conspired against us, we pressed forward. The bursting of the Internet bubble had everyone rethinking the role of the Internet for businesses. As the economy weakened, more doubts crept into people's minds. Then came the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Each one of these developments could have caused us to put the project on hold. Instead, we made adjustments and kept moving forward.

Having done these things, SBN Online was reborn even as the bursting of the Internet bubble caused other business Web sites to fold or take significant steps backward.

If you haven't registered for SBN Online, I encourage you to do so soon. If you receive SBN Magazine under your name, you were sent a user ID and password. If you've misplaced it, e-mail your name, business and address to webmaster@sbnonline.com and we will reply, or call us at (216) 228-6397 and ask for SBN Online customer service.

And please let us know what you think. We already are at work on improvements and welcome your feedback.

Tuesday, 26 February 2002 12:59

Habla español?

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When planning a conference, trade show, or convention, don't ignore the needs of attendees from other countries. Make the effort to accommodate them, and not only will the event run more smoothly, you'll earn the participants' attendance at future events as well.

Pre-registration

Offer interpreters. Attendees often hire their own, but you can also make arrangements for them. On pre-registration materials, include a checkbox to request an interpreter for a set amount of time for a fee, and contract with a professional interpretation firm.

Assessment

From pre-registration materials, determine where attendees are from and what languages they speak.

Get professional translations of simple instructions like how to check into hotels, obtain registration packets and get to the event site. Send the translated material to attendees early.

On-site

Provide greeters with printed translations of basic questions such as, "What's your name?" and "Have you found your hotel yet?"

If possible, prepare for a United Nations-style headset arrangement and use professionals skilled at simultaneous interpretation. As a second option, have copies of the opening speeches translated into the appropriate languages and include them in registration packets.

Arrange for several interpreters to be available during event hours at a central location. They can assist with basics like negotiating transportation to and from the event and improving face-to-face business meetings.

Set up a place where international attendees can relax and read magazines from their countries, enjoy familiar foods and beverages, and even watch the international cable channel.

Off-site

Arrange for hotels to provide interpreters. See if a bank will set up a temporary money exchange counter at the hotel with the most international participants, and ask your translation service to create culture-specific welcome packages for guests. Kristine Wilson is president of Languages Unlimited Inc. She can be reached at 228-3336 or www.languagesunlimitedinc.com.

Tuesday, 26 February 2002 12:56

When employees are ill

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An employee complains that her eyes itch and she has a headache. Should a busy supervisor take her seriously?

This broad complaint seems harmless and the tendency may be to put looking into it on the endless to-do list or to dismiss her as a whiner. But how the supervisor responds may affect management/labor relations, and not investigating may mean an employee suffers ill health as a result of being exposed to a chemical.

Employees are increasingly knowledgeable and concerned about what they are exposed to in the workplace. Employee health problems may be triggered by other workplace events -- concerns about downsizing, poor relationships with co-workers or supervisors, overtime, relocation, dissatisfaction with the job -- but they may be an early indication that ventilation is inadequate.

When employees express concern about exposures or indicate they're suffering from ill health, the supervisor should follow up promptly. An investigation should determine the frequency and duration of symptoms, recent changes in the work area, including new processes or chemicals, whether the onset of symptoms correlates with a change from heating to air conditioning, and when and how frequently the symptoms subside. The employee who complained and others in the area should be interviewed, with care taken not to lead them to conclusions.

Responding promptly and keeping employees informed of the progress of the investigation reassures them that management is interested in their well-being and provides an opportunity to resolve potential problems quickly. Employees often have a solution if the supervisor listens; those who become dissatisfied and don't feel management is taking their health concerns seriously may complain to the union or to OSHA.

If the interviews are inconclusive and complaints continue, the supervisor may consider outside assistance. The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation --Division of Safety and Hygiene, Ohio Bureau of Employment Services -- Onsite Consultation Program or industrial hygiene consulting firms can evaluate air quality in the work area to determine if there are unacceptable concentrations of chemicals or if indoor air quality parameters indicate a potential ventilation problem.

This information is valuable in addressing employee concerns and may be useful in future workers' compensation claims.

A prompt response, keeping employees informed and reporting results maintain a positive working relationship and usually prevent outside agencies from becoming involved. Even if the investigation doesn't yield a measurable problem, the reassurance that the work place has been tested and it is not unsafe is often all the employee is looking for. Dianne Grote Adams is president of Emilcott/DGA Inc. She can be reached at 890-0800 or www.emilcott-dga.com.

Tuesday, 26 February 2002 12:51

Size doesn't matter

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When's the last time you shopped around for a deal on copier paper or water cooler refill bottles? Or business banking services? Or office cleaning?

You don't, do you? You've been ordering from the same suppliers, using the same bank and having your wastebaskets emptied by the same company for years, haven't you? You haven't really thought about shopping around -- unless, of course, these companies have given you a reason to do so.

You're not alone.

Most of us get comfortable with the vendors we use. We may not even remember what prompted us to select a particular company in the first place. But unless that company starts delivering supplies late or raising its prices without fair warning or good reason, you probably look at contract renewals as a given.

The reason is simple: familiar is comfortable. Change involves hassles, however small. And most of us just can't be bothered unless a considerable sum of money is at stake.

Besides, trying to scrutinize the benefits of one service provider vs. the next can be a serious headache with all the variables. Cellular service is among the worst offenders. The plans are so different it's like comparing kiwi to grapefruit. But once you settle on a plan, you're not likely to change for fear that you'll have to wade through the mire of comparisons again.

That, my friends, is exactly why every sale your company makes -- regardless how small -- matters. Those you are selling to are likely to carefully evaluate your service or product initially, but once you're in the door and performing well, you're golden. And you have opportunities to grow.

Nationwide built its business that way. Its agents only sold auto insurance at first -- a seemingly small piece of the insurance pie. But after earning the trust of those it insured, it began offering fire and life insurance, then mutual funds. Then it branched into health and commercial insurance and annuities and pensions.

Now it's the 30th-largest insurance and financial services company in the world.

Amazing what you can do with a small contract. Sometimes you just have to give it time to grow.

Tuesday, 26 February 2002 12:48

Purchasing power

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A corporate purchasing card program can save your company processing time and money.

Traditionally, a company establishes credit with suppliers. Then, when it needs something, it sends employees out with a purchase order, asks the company for an invoice, and, when it comes, matches the invoice with receipts and cuts a check.

A corporate purchasing card, used like a debit card, simplifies the process. Instead of getting receipts and cutting a check, the accounting person simply gets a statement of charges, which have already been paid.

However, there are defined factors tied to the success of p-card programs, according to a study by Richard Palmer, Eastern Illinois University; Mahendra Gupta, Washington University; and Antonio Davila, Stanford University.

The study says p-cards can be a better, faster and more cost-efficient way of acquiring goods. And when programs have top management support, they are more likely to be successful.

Jean Hilliard, senior vice president and regional sales manager of Bank One's Treasury Management, agrees.

"Senior management sponsorship is No. 1 in the list," Hilliard says. "There needs to be a champion fully behind the program when it takes effect."

Hilliard says programs are also more successful when someone is in charge.

"Assigning ownership is important," she says. "That person doesn't have to manage the program full time, but there needs to be an assigned administrator."

Keeping all departments affected by the program in the loop also makes a difference.

"More than just the accounting or general ledger department should be involved," Hilliard says. "All those using the program or impacted by it should have an understanding of how it works and its benefits."

Howard Fickel, CFO of Columbus-based Corna Kokosing Construction, says his company's p-card program has been a success.

"The cost of administration takes less time," says Fickel. "And if you use the reports effectively, you do gain efficiency as well."

Fickel says Corna's program, through Bank One, provides better management and control of purchasing.

"In the past, I had requests to open accounts at retail stores all over the place," Fickel says. "It was totally unmanageable. People were purchasing items and I didn't know which project to charge them to."

Now he can control where employees charge and can see where the company is spending its money.

"Reports list purchases by employee, vendors and vendor type," he says. "I can see if we need to set up a separate credit arrangement with a particular company."

Hilliard says p-card programs are successful when expectations are clearly communicated.

"Changing the way you do things is always a challenge, but if expectations are laid out and the program is watched and improved, it can work." How to reach: Bank One Treasury Management, 248-5947

Tuesday, 26 February 2002 12:42

Smoking out employees

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Are employers doing everything they can to help employees stop smoking?

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

Wednesday, 30 January 2002 10:39

The customer is king

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"The customer is always right."

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 (fkoury@sbnnet.com) is president and CEO of SBN Magazine.

Wednesday, 30 January 2002 10:28

Easier than you think

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Chances are, as a top executive, a considerable percentage of your assets is invested in your business. That's not unusual, says Frank Heil, director of wealth management for Fifth Third Bank in Columbus.

"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."

Wednesday, 30 January 2002 10:22

Foundation for success

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What's the key to a business' success?

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 rich@eapeo.com.

Wednesday, 02 January 2002 04:17

Joining forces

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In early 2000, a man drove past the front gate of The Limited's Morse Road campus, walked by the front desk and went straight to the work area of his domestic partner. He threatened her life, then left the building.

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 marciam@resourceinternational.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.

CHOICES website