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Each year, American businesses, nonprofits and government agencies invest over $1 trillion in capital goods and software (excluding real estate) of which 55 percent ($550 billion) is financed through loans and leases. In fact, 80 percent of U.S. businesses use leasing as a form of equipment financing. Should you buy the equipment you need with cash, or should you take out a loan or lease the equipment you need? These are the questions business owners are asking now that the economy is showing some signs of improvement. “Small businesses often have difficulty raising capital — that’s no secret,” says Jeffrey…
Editor's Note: The Cascade Capital Business Growth Awards will be presented Oct. 7, at which time special category winners will be announced. Return to www.sbnonline.com after the event for coverage of these special awards. For information on the event, click here. It is with great pleasure that I would like to congratulate the 41 Cascade Capital Corp. Business Growth Award winners for 2010. These companies are located within Summit, Medina, Portage, Wayne, Stark and Ashland counties in Northeastern Ohio. Based on Business Growth Awards criteria and the poor general economic conditions, this is quite an accomplishment. A company may earn a…
Thursday, 26 August 2010 20:00

3 Questions

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Jerry Kysela has approximately 25 years of experience as a risk management department director and relationship manager. He currently serves as resident managing director of Aon’s North-Central Ohio region, which includes offices in Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown and Columbus. Kysela oversees the region’s client services, business development and overall operations. Q. How can a company analyze the risk it faces?  It is even more critical given today’s economy that senior officers and directors fully understand and perform due diligence around a company’s risk, including operational, financial and other business risks — not simply insurable risks. This would include a process that chronicles the major risks and exposures, risk mapping and…
Thursday, 26 August 2010 20:00

Green manufacturing

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Bob Shearer recognizes that, in today’s world, it is not enough to simply make a great snack food — sustainability counts for a lot, as well. Shearer, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Shearer’s Foods Inc., led his snack-food manufacturing organization through a series of innovations so that the company could reduce its carbon footprint. Shearer invested $20 million in the world’s first platinum-certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) snack-food manufacturing site. The certification is the highest certification awarded by the United States Green Building Council, and the project created 61 full-time positions at the company. In addition, the…
Every morning, Jim McCann awakens with one goal in mind: to move his company, 1-800-Flowers.com, forward.“We are in a constant state of reinvention,” says McCann, the company’s CEO. “It’s like Andy Grove’s book, ‘Only the Paranoid Survive’; we’re very uncomfortable when we’re not moving forward. The most uncomfortable state for us is if we’re status quo. If we’re status quo, the world is continuing to change and we’re just not changing.”That’s because innovation seems to come naturally for McCann, who parlayed a single flower shop in Manhattan into the world’s premier florist and gift shop. He accomplished this by thinking…
Thursday, 26 August 2010 20:00

Maximizing opportunity

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Gone are the days of going to one store for vitamins, another for new hiking shoes and yet another for a memory foam pillow. With the health care debate raging on and the average life expectancy climbing steadily, having the right products to stay healthy is on the minds of millions. Finding those products was difficult and time-consuming. Michael Feuer recognized the shortcomings of the wellness industry and knew he could do something about it. Feuer decided to fill a void felt by consumers and created Max-Wellness LLC. The retail chain offers more than 7,000 health and wellness products for…
Unless you’re in the risk business, you probably don’t hear the term ‘subrogation’ often. Subrogation is defined as satisfying someone else’s obligation and then attempting to collect from the party that owes the debt. For example, an insurance company satisfies the claim of one of its clients and then seeks reimbursement from the person or other entity that caused the damage.However, in Ohio the right to seek subrogation in a workers’ compensation claim does not belong to the employer; it belongs to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and the injured party. “Employers should know that if their employees are injured…
As the cost of health care continues to rise, health insurance companies are continually trying to develop new products and services that aim to control these costs. Premiums as well as member out-of-pocket costs are directly affected by the decisions that consumers make. By encouraging consumers to become more aware of how and where they access services, health insurance companies anticipate savings for both the employer and the employee. This education, along with innovative plan designs that shift more cost-sharing to the consumer, can aid in lowering costs and making consumers more aware of the impact of their decisions, says…
I n recent years, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has implemented a systematic and precise way to review and set provider fee schedules, going from a simple fee schedule to a payment methodology. In order to make the shift, it looked to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the payment methodologies it designed for the Medicare population. “Using the CMS Medicare methodologies, they have moved away from retrospective fee schedules to a prospective approach for provider payments,” says Karen Conger, CEO of Ohio Employee Health Partnership. Smart Business spoke to Conger about fee schedules and how…
Like most other relationships, the relationship between a business and a banker is an ongoing affair — a process. “A small business should use a banker like any other part of the team,” says Wendy Bolas, a business banking manager for FirstMerit Bank in Akron. “They should work with their banker the same way they would work with their CPA or attorney.” Smart Business spoke with Bolas about the process of working with a banker. What’s the most efficient way to work with a banker? If customers engage their banker in four areas, they will have a successful relationship. Have…
Most people worry about adding space as they grow, but MarkTrushel isn’t one of those people.Mantaline Corp. Inc., the manufacturer of which Trushel ispresident and CEO, made company processes so efficient it no longer needed twoNortheast Ohio locations. The company closed its Aurora facility, moving alloperations to its Mantua location. The feasibility study and planning processtook 11 months.“The key is that you spend the time to make sure you’reconfident that you have a good plan,” Trushel says.Smart Business spoke withTrushel about how to develop a plan for a large company undertaking. How do you put together a plan? The plan…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Hungry for growth

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Winner Nonprofit By 2004, the amount of the Cleveland Foodbank’s distribution had increased by nearly 60 percent from when it began distributing food in 1979. However, as distribution increased, the Foodbank was turning food away because of a lack of storage space and it was forced to spread operations across four locations. President and CEO Anne Goodman became increasingly aware of the need for a new facility if she wanted the organization to run more effectively and efficiently. With no significant fundraising experience, The Cleveland Foodbank began educating the community about what it does to fight hunger. And it approached…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Committed to integrity

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Finalist Health Services and Education Jim Rogerson’s unyielding commitment to integrity was critical in his efforts to establish Therapy Partners as a trusted ally in high-quality care for older adults. In 2001, when he was chief operating officer at Eliza Jennings Senior Care Network, Rogerson heard about an idea to contract therapy services to long-term care facilities from then-Director of Rehabilitation Lisa Stumpf. But he had several hurdles to work around before launching Therapy Partners as an independent company. The new company would need major cash flow and Eliza Jennings, a nonprofit, did not have resources to spare. So Rogerson,…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Leading the way

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Finalist Technology When Findaway World LLC’s flagship product, Playaway, was introduced in 2005, it got a lot of national buzz. However, the retail channel proved to be a challenging one to navigate for the self-playing digital audiobook. But Findaway’s founders, Mitch Kroll and Blake Squires, never lost faith. Instead, they just kept trying to find a way. Within two years, and after pursuing new channels, their business strategy shifted from consumer outlets to institutions. Libraries and schools became evangelists for a product that they loved. Today, Playaways are circulating in more than 25,000 libraries and schools across the U.S. and…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Entrepreneurs: What makes them different?

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We’ve all been in business long enough to know the facts. We’ve heard the stories. We’ve read the biographies about the distinctiveness of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs lead in uncertain economic times, boldly innovating where established companies fear to tread, hiring when others lay off, increasing product development where others cut back. We know this to be true, and we celebrate it again this year by recognizing the incredible talent on display at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Northeast Ohio 2010 awards. What makes entrepreneurs act the way they do? High-growth companies have as much to lose as established…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Pretty as a picture

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Winner Retail Rich Kaman fell in love from behind the counter at the taffy shop. He was the manager of the shop back then and a summer employee at Cedar Point. So was the beautiful girl who ran a small art stand nearby and sketched people’s portraits in five minutes flat. And although more than 40 years have passed since that first summer, Kaman is no less in love now than he was then with Tricia, whom he married in 1970. Today, the pair owns and operates Kaman’s Art Shoppes Inc., the largest amusement and theme park concessionaire in the…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Making it happen

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Finalist Professional services and banking Bill Ayars and Larry Fischer considered waiting to open a new office for Perspectus Architecture in Columbus, as the economy continues to be tough in Ohio and no one would have questioned a cautious approach. But that’s not the way this duo does business. And it’s not the way that the company’s founding principals built their architectural firm, which focuses on the health care industry. Instead, Ayars and Fischer have succeeded by tackling challenges head on and showing their tenacity in a way that makes it contagious for their employees. The pair had worked together…
Effective July 1, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has phased out the Drug-Free Workplace Program (DFWP). Its successor, the Drug-Free Safety Program (DFSP), will be available for employers the same day, with many of the same features as DFWP. “The new program will be easier to understand and implement, more actuarially sound and more effective,” says Karen Conger, the CEO of Ohio Employee Health Partnership. DFSP relies upon better integration of an employer’s drug-free efforts with its comprehensive workplace safety program. It also provides a long-term discount for an unlimited number of years of participation, as well as in-and-out-of-the-program privileges…
In a challenging economic environment, improving cash flow becomes more critical than ever, with customers paying more slowly and suppliers tightening credit terms. Also, staffing may have been cut, leaving fewer people to accomplish the vital work of the organization and keep close watch on the financial picture. “Treasury management services provide critical information and enhance efficiency, helping business owners and their employees manage cash in less time, without sacrificing quality,” says Jackie Hilder, a treasury management team leader with FirstMerit Bank. Smart Business spoke with Hilder about treasury management services and how they can be used to improve cash…
Monday, 07 June 2010 09:13

How to provide World Class Customer Service

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There’s no formula for providing great customer service. But when Northeast Ohio’s leaders came together for the World Class Customer Service Awards VIP Reception at Metro-Lexus, they shared what works for them. We spoke with them about their methods for providing an award-worthy customer experience.  Customers at Ambiance, the Store for Lovers, for example, see that service as soon as they walk in.  “First of all, we greet them with a non-businesslike greeting and we ask them questions to get a rapport with them,” says Jennifer Downey, president. “And then once we do, that’s when we start getting into what are…
Below is a list of the  2010 World Class Customer Service Award honorees. Click on a company name to learn how each of these businesses sets the standard for great customer service. Achievement Centers for Children Akron/Canton Airport Ambiance, the Store for Lovers Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Corporate College Corporate Transport Cox Communications Cleveland EmployeeScreenIQ Family Heritage Life Insurance Company of America Firestone Country Club Hattie Larlham Herbruck Alder Huntington National Bank Insight Services Invacare Corp. Le Chaperon Rouge Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage PartsSource Prentke Romich Co. Research Organics Rock the House Entertainment Group Inc. S&A Consulting SageQuest Shamrock Companies…
Business owners tend to think no one can steal from them, however fraud occurs every day. “Businesses are folding for one or two bad decisions,” says Michelle Thompson, a merchant fraud/risk officer at FirstMerit Bank. “You thought that sale going to Africa was going to be good. Well, guess what -— now you’re bankrupt.” You can’t afford to just take it for granted that a transaction is legit, that your controller is not stealing from you or that your employees are telling you the truth about not having felony charges. Now more than ever, executives must take ownership of their…
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 20:00

Finding a solution

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Treacherous weather is part of the deal when you live in Northeast Ohio, but this time, it wasn’t a lake-effect snowstorm that Corporate College had to deal with. Instead it was ice in Texas that had grounded a keynote speaker for a conference at the Corporate College East location in Warrensville Heights. A big problem, right? Not for Corporate College. Arrangements were quickly made for the speaker to deliver her address live over the phone, with her voice amplified for the audience. Her presentation was displayed on the front screen and a photo of the speaker was projected on a…
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 20:00

Never give up

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It’s a day every mother yearns for and Mozelle Jackson was no different. She just had to wait a little bit longer for that day to arrive with her son, Jared. But she had high hopes that it would come thanks to Achievement Centers for Children. Jared is a twin, born with his sister, Kaela. But while Kaela grew up with little difficulty, Jared was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was about a year old. As the twins grew older, Jackson and her husband, Mike, wanted to send their kids to camp. But with each child having different needs,…
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 20:00

Solutions provider

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When companies across the region are shutting the doors, it makes business even more difficult for staffing firms like Carmella Calta’s Staffing Solutions Enterprises. As founder and CEO of the firm, she knows that high levels of customer service allowed her company to endure the struggles that 2009 brought and will pave the path for prosperity in the remainder of 2010.Calta and her team recognize the importance of thanking clients for their support, so she constantly looks for creative and unique ways to send that message and support a “wow” culture. VIP clients receive a flower arrangement on the first…
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 20:00

Recognizing with a referral

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You may only expect to hear from your accountant around tax time each year, but if you were a customer of Greg Skoda and his team at financial services firm Skoda Minotti, then you wouldn’t have your expectations high enough. Instead, employees at the firm reach out to their customers year-round, in an effort to avoid missing valuable opportunities where tax savings can be gained through various other activities through the year. They also have a year-end tax planning meeting with clients, regardless of whether they simply prepare a return or provide them with a multitude of services. This proactive…
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 20:00

Personal touch

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Aristotle may have said it first, but Nipendra “Nip” P. Singh and Rita N. Singh have adapted it as their customer service philosophy: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is then not an act but a habit.” When they founded S&A Consulting Group LLP, they built every aspect around customer care. Even the mission statement of the global resource management consulting firm defines their commitment to invest time and resources up front for customers’ future growth and prosperity. To Nip, chairman and CEO, and Rita, managing partner, building those client relationships is just like building friendships. They set the…