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When you consider the setting in which decisions are made in an organization, it’s easy to picture a conference room table. The CEO sits at the head of the table and a council of vice presidents and executives line either side. Bob Frisch, author of “Who’s in the Room? How Great Leaders Structure and Manage the Teams Around Them,” argues that some of the most critical decisions in an organization are made before the door to the conference room swings open. In this interview, he discusses the power of the “kitchen cabinet,” the problem with team-building exercises and the question…
In business, too many executives believe that the best path to success is to “manage mad” thinking this will project an image of determination and tenacity, combined with the ability to strike fear in the hearts of any naysayers with opposing views.Is there a better way, a more balanced method to manage other than by mimicking a fire-breathing dragon? Unfortunately, we have too many bad role models who employ a fearsome persona. There are the pugnacious politicians who make every issue a black-and-white cause célèbre, screaming, “If we don’t do it my way, we’ll wind up in a shambles on…
A few years ago, I first explained how I use Twitter. A lot has changed since then, so this is an update on how I tweet. As a business owner, you can adopt my techniques to use Twitter as a marketing tool.How can you follow more than 299,000 people?I don’t read the timelines of all the people that I follow. Instead, I only deal with @s, direct messages and tweets that contain ‘guykawasaki,’ ‘alltop’ or ‘guysreplies.’ I answer almost every @ and direct message.Then why do you follow so many people?For two reasons: first, common courtesy; second, so that people…
In this time of transformative change, it’s easy to get derailed by internal issues. The key to being successful is to focus on the end goal, not the friction that is generated by change.Take Yahoo for instance. Ten years ago, it was the dominant player in search. Today, Google’s revenue is in the neighborhood of more than 20 times that of Yahoo’s. The company had the opportunity to be bought by Microsoft but declined, which was puzzling, because there didn’t really appear to be a Plan B. You can read stories about in fighting between divisions and how search was…
In last month’s article, we looked at effective leadership. This month, I have chosen the topic of courage. Very often, leadership and courage are linked together: A leader must have courage; a leader must act in a courageous manner and so on.While this is true, it is only part of the story about courage and the workplace. As we shall see, the virtue of courage must run throughout an organization or company – from bottom to top – in order for it to function at the highest level.Courage defined Courage comes from the Old French corage, meaning “heart and spirit.”…
More often than not, CEOs and business owners place workers’ compensation near the top of the list of cost drivers for their company.Last year, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) looked to ease this burden with several initiatives designed to reduce red tape and a base-rate reduction that resulted in more than $86 million in premium savings for public and private employers. The agency also saved an additional $80 million by cutting its own biennial budget by 12 percent.Now, BWC is focusing on making workplaces safer and improving return-to-work rates. The agency’s leadersbelieve improvements in these areas will bring…
Businesses looking for office space should consider expanding their real estate search to Akron and Canton.“There was a perception, although totally unfair, that the market was dying,” says Terry Coyne, SIOR, CCIM, an executive vice president with Grubb & Ellis. “However, the numbers clearly show that the vacancy rate has actually gone the other way. Both the Akron and Canton markets are actually on the upswing, and coming back strong.”Coyne says the Akron and Canton office markets are experiencing a remarkable rebound and businesses that are ready to buy or lease office space would be best served to do it…
Your top sales producer left the company and took a job at the competitor down the street. He’s got your client list memorized and knows your product line and pricing by heart.A staff engineer jumped ship and left the state for another opportunity. It’s not in the same industry, but there is a potential overlap in customers.Because of a tough financial year, you made the difficult decision to let go of several key staff members holding positions where company information was put into their trust. Now they’re gone, but what did they take with them that could affect your future…
Doing business with a large bank may seem like an attractive option for a growing business. But at a large bank, a smaller business can get lost, as some banks are increasingly turning their focus to larger customers, says Kevin Ball, head of commercial lending at Lorain National Bank.“A local bank can offer a number of unique value propositions, including experienced staff who are familiar with your industry, a flat organizational structure allowing access to decision makers and quick decision making and execution,” says Ball.Smart Business spoke with Ball about how a local bank can tailor its services to your…
If nothing changes by end of the year, more of your income in 2013 will go toward taxes, says Steve Magovac, CPA, MT, an associate director in tax at SS&G.“With the tax cuts that are expiring at the end of 2012, everyone is going to be facing a tax hike in 2013, from those with moderate incomes up to the highest-income individuals,” says Magovac.Smart Business spoke with Magovac about how the expiring tax cuts and new tax increases will impact your income in 2013.What can taxpayers expect in 2013?President Bush implemented tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 tax bills and…
Every day, your employees print out documents as part of their jobs. But how many of those are printed in color when they really only need black and white? How many are left on the printer until they are thrown away? And how many don’t really need to be printed at all?By completing a security and cost recovery analysis of use of your printing devices, you may find ways to save significant amounts of money and increase your company’s security, says John Szabo, applications specialist at Blue Technologies.“Most companies don’t have any idea how much they are truly spending on…
If your company is sued for a breach of fiduciary duties, mismanagement of operations or wrongful interference with a contract, do you have the proper coverage to protect you?What if you are sued for failure to deliver on a contract, for disclosure of materially false or misleading information, an unfair trade practice, self-dealing and conflicts of interest or a consumer protection violation, and a violation of state and federal laws? Are you protected from a lawsuit? If you are not carrying Directors & Officers, you are leaving those individuals and your company at risk, says Todd Winter, executive vice president…
Although the stock market has rebounded, most defined benefit pension plans are still facing difficult decisions related to their retirement philosophy and related workforce strategy. General Motors, Sears and Bank of America are a few of the companies that have recently announced major plan changes, but even small and mid-size companies are reviewing their retirement strategy.The underfunding and asset-liability mismatch continues to challenge plan sponsors. According to the 2012 MetLife U.S. Pension Risk Behavior Index Study, plan sponsors no longer believe they can rely on traditional portfolio diversification alone to meet future obligations; many are considering changes.“Despite on-going cash funding…
When Ken Kemerer looks at the 80 percent revenue growth SilMix Ohio has achieved since 2001 when it was purchased by Wacker Chemical Corp., he gives a lot of credit to getting involved in industry associations.Not that it was the only factor ? a rebranding effort three years ago was also part of the mix ? but being an active member of industry groups was a must.“That’s where the networking is huge,” says Kemerer, director of SilMix Ohio, a manufacturer of custom silicone compounds. “We have added 50 customers since 2009, and we truly believe this branding and networking has…
Lisa Huntsman knows that the key to success in today’s economic climate isn’t just finding ways to do more with less but, in many cases, just doing more with the same.“Those that can respond quicker with good information are the ones more than likely that will get awarded the business,” says Huntsman, the president of the New Philadelphia, Ohio-based manufacturer Lauren Manufacturing.Huntsman has been focused on this task since the recession first impacted the manufacturing industry and Lauren’s 250 employees back in 2008.“There is a whole crunch of everything has to be the same quality but just continue to push…
Integrity. Peace of mind. Working hard. No surprises. These aren’t just the types of adjectives Dave Michelson hopes his employees, customers and investors associate with National Interstate Corp. They are the very words that these groups used to describe the company when asked to participate in its recent rebranding campaign.“We developed focus groups and we hired a consultant, just getting descriptive words about what it means to be working here, doing business with us,” says Michelson, president and CEO of the transportation insurance company headquartered in Richfield, Ohio.Rolled out in 2011, the people-focused branding campaign features the new corporate tagline…
Saturday, 31 March 2012 20:11

Ron Seide: The takeway

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I started in the computer industry when screens were green and the web is what captured insects behind your $5,000 desktop PC. In 1989, I became the 17th employee at a start-up called Kingston Technology in California. When I left Kingston nine years later, the company had more than 700 employees and revenue in excess of $1 billion. Today — more than 20 years later — the company remains an industry leader.Early on, I realized that I was in the middle of an extraordinary company and set out to learn as much as I could from the founders, John Tu…
Smart Business spoke to JoAnn Breedlove, Business Service Manager at The Employment Source, about an on-the-job training program that helps employers ensure that new hires are integrated in their new positions and productive as quickly as possible.What is the On-the-Job Training (OJT) Program?The On-the-Job Training Program is a federally funded program that helps employers hire and train laid-off workers for full time, long term employment. OJT helps workers become more proficient in needed skills more quickly, which will serve to encourage employers to hire workers sooner than perhaps initially planned, facilitating the hiring of well-qualified individuals who may need additional…
Women-owned businesses are three-and-a-half times less likely to reach $1 million in annual revenue as businesses owned by men, according to an independent impact study released by Ernst & Young LLP, a professional services company.The reason? Most women just don’t think big enough.Here are five key points Ernst & Young recommends for scaling small companies into large ones: Think big and be bold Build a public profile Work on the business, rather than in it Establish key advisory networks Evaluate financing for expansionTo learn more, join us for “The POWER of Perseverance,” the 10th annual Perspectives: Women Who Excel Conference,…
Tuesday, 13 March 2012 09:29

Akron invests in biomedical

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Over the past 35 years, Akron has successfully transformed itself from the rubber capital of the world into a diversified business climate that supports more than 600 metalworking, electronics, machining, advanced materials (polymers) and biomedical technology companies. In the past six years specifically, the city has devoted a major economic development effort and significant private capital investment towards attracting companies from this last area.The most recent investment came in 2011, when a new vehicle was created to further attract and create new biomedical company investment in Akron. Akron Bioinvestments Funds LLC was created by the city’s Akron Development Corp. and…
If your company is selling through distribution, it's well aware of the common challenges and issues that distributors will pose, such as continual price pressures, not comprehending nor selling the value of your company's products (or services) and demand for lucrative volume discount programs to name a few.As a result, it can be a daunting effort to keep your price discounting in check, while trying to persuade distributors to sell the value of your product. In order to more effectively handle these types of challenges, there are several factors that should be taken in to consideration, such as distributors' performance,…
Wednesday, 07 March 2012 17:15

Special Report Legal: Karen Lefton

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Two points that CEO bloggers should keep foremost in mind are, first, never underestimate how many different groups of people may read what you write, and second, despite the blog form’s outwardly ephemeral nature, everything you post is almost certain to be permanently accessible online, whether you want it to be or not.Below are three tips for executive bloggers compiled by Karen Lefton, a partner with Brouse McDowell LPA.Write for your customers, but know that competitors are reading. Be particularly careful not to disclose confidential information, trade secrets, business plans — sensitive information not known to the public. There is…
Researchers at Eastman Kodak Co. invented the first digital camera in 1976. In January 2012, it filed for bankruptcy protection.How could a company that had one of the most well-known brands in the world, dominated the film industry and had the means to keep itself from becoming obsolete have fallen so far? Simple: No one transformed the company.Kodak’s old model was fairly basic: You sold cheap cameras and made a fortune on the disposable supplies that were used in them. It was the old razor blade model — give away the razors and make your money on the blades. This…
There are hands-on executives who get down and dirty in just about every aspect of a business and then there are leaders who manage from 50,000 feet, rarely calling anything but the big shots. Seldom does a single style or technique always fit every situation. Much depends on the size and maturity of a business and simply how many hands are available on deck to fight a specific fight.In a start-up or younger organization, initially the entrepreneur probably has to do just about everything merely to survive. In a midsize or Fortune 500 operation, a good boss, depending on the…
If your company is considering a merger or acquisition, you may want to consider striking while the iron is hot.“The current state of the economy has resulted in what is commonly viewed as a ‘buyer’s market’ in M&A,” says Patricia A. Gajda, partner and chair of the Business and Corporate practice group at Brouse McDowell in Cleveland. “This is driving some to enter the acquisition market, before the buyer’s market ends.”Smart Business spoke with Gajda about the current state of M&A activity and how to take advantage of the situation.How is the current market impacting the M&A environment?We have seen…
Under the InvestOhio program, a new resource for Ohio small businesses, those who invest in a small business enterprise located in the state can receive a 10 percent income tax credit if the investment is held for two years. The small business enterprise must meet certain qualifications to be a qualified business for the credit.And that credit applies even if the investor is the owner of the business, says Mary Jo Dolson, CPA, director in tax at SS&G.“It doesn’t have to be a new investor,” says Dolson. “You can invest in a company that you own, then get the credit…
Most business owners understand the importance of insuring their physical property.But too many are unaware of the need for insurance to cover losses resulting from that physical damage, such as lost revenue when mechanical equipment fails, says Craig Hassinger, president of SeibertKeck.“In a business, people will buy property insurance to cover the building, its contents and those types of things and assume they are covered, but that coverage does not includes equipment breakdowns, electrical arcing and other things that can happen to the machines that run the business,” says Hassinger. “And if a critical piece of equipment goes down and…