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Sunday, 30 July 2006 10:50

Customer service -- not lip service

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Customer service is universally regarded as key. Yet it’s in decline in many industries as a frequent casualty of initiatives to cut costs and become leaner. A new generation of MBA students under Dr. Len Berry, distinguished professor, M.B. Zale Chair in retailing and marketing leadership at Texas A&M University, is learning why good service is good business. Smart Business spoke with Berry, a published author of books on business success, who explained how service can create a competitive advantage, how to avoid common service management mistakes and how to beat Wal-Mart. What fundamentals of good service tend to get…
Friday, 28 July 2006 20:00

In focus

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 Leonard Cherry has mastered the art of delegating. By developing junior- and senior-level management programs, he’s maximized opportunities for Cherry Cos. and kept the company focused on its core. “It’s a progression of growth that all ties back,” Cherry says. “Visually, I like to think of it like a circle. Our client is in the middle, and we do everything we can to encircle our client with the services that we provide. “We’re a house-moving and demolition company, and we’re a recycler. There may be wonderful opportunities in other areas, but we like to stay focused on what we’re good…
Saturday, 29 July 2006 07:30

The Martineau file

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Born: Cleveland, Ohio College:Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, Fla.; graduate work, Rollins College, Winter Park, Fla. Biggest business challenge:Getting people to understand the value of the product U.S. Concrete sells —concrete. It has long been undervalued, because customers think of it as a commodity, which it is not. This is a product that can be value-differentiated, value-added, in many, many ways. It has durability, it doesn’t burn, it doesn’t rot, termites don’t eat it, and hurricanes don’t blow it down. As an industry, we could probably double the price of the product and not lose any market share. This is a pretty…
Friday, 30 June 2006 06:58

IT as a strategic tool

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As computers become integrated into our everyday business lives, large islands of data emerge that require a well planned and implemented information technology (IT) strategy in order to efficiently retrieve information when, where and how it is needed to make an impact on your business. “It’s an evolution,” says Robert C. Rhodes, CEO of Systems Evolution. “In the 1980s, business users were able to start entering and storing data in spreadsheets and lists — islands of data with specific uses, stored in diverse locations. The early 1990s saw deployment of these islands of data into departments and smaller business units…
Friday, 30 June 2006 06:46

Peter Shaper

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Peter Shaper enjoys swimming upstream. When everyone was diving out of the telecom market a few years ago, Shaper was fighting his way in. He used Genesis Park, a private equity group of which he is a founding partner, to purchase CapRock Communications out of its parent company’s bankruptcy. Four years later, as the telecom market comes back into favor, Shaper is CEO of CapRock, a private satellite communications company with revenue exceeding $100 million. Shaper spoke with Smart Business about how he recognizes solid business opportunities and finds the best employees to grow his business. Understand your business’s personality.Every company…
As businesses evolve, the capabilities of reliable and secure communications network systems evolve along with it. Since businesses are turning to the Internet to extend their networks, significant advantages emerge as a result of the real-time connectivity created by virtual private networks (VPN).A VPN is a method of hiding such connections from the outside world while giving employees 24-7 worldwide access to internal business network resources. Users are set up on a server and connected to a router. An established host assigns a recyclable security identifier. Each PC then becomes a remote extension connected through the Internet. Data, once encrypted…
Thursday, 25 November 2010 19:00

John Allen leads G&A Partners toward its purpose

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In the early days of G&A Partners, John W. Allen worked really, really hard. But he wasn’t always necessarily working smart.“I would advise people to look at how they spend their time,” says Allen, the president and chief operating officer who co-founded the firm with Chairman and CEO Tony Grijalva. “Don’t just spend a lot of time, but instead spend time very, very wisely on the things that mean and matter the most.”With the professional employer organization in its 15th year, Allen has learned how to align passion and purpose so the firm can focus on its sweet spots to…
When it’s time to expand, upgrade or just keep business running smoothly, having the right equipment financing strategy can affect your overall financial position. Financing is available for all sizes of equipment acquisitions, from smaller technology upgrades to large-ticket items, such as heavy earth-moving equipment or aircraft. If the equipment has a model number and serial number, chances are it can be financed or leased. When approaching an equipment financing source, it’s important for businesses to be prepared. “A business plan is an important tool when looking to finance equipment,” says Danny Scullion, senior business relationship manager with Wells Fargo.…
Saturday, 25 September 2010 20:00

The Berthelsen file

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Born: MinneapolisEducation: Bachelor of arts in biology from Rice University, medical degree from Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, residency in internal medicine at the University of California at San Diego Why did you get into the medical field? I had an interest in science, and it’s a profession where science and personal values intersect. You have the opportunity to take interaction with personal value and patients and, to some extent, the physician — and do that in the scientific field. That was an attractive combination to me.What was your very first job, and what did you learn from it? My…
Thursday, 26 August 2010 20:00

The Boone file

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Born: LouisvilleEducation: Graduated magna cum laude from the University of Louisville and completed post-graduate studies at Harvard Business School’s Executive Management Program Whom do you admire most and why? Rather than admiring a specific person, I’ve honed in on human interest stories of people who suffered tragedy or setbacks and how they overcame those. For instance, I saw a report on the news about a Marine who lost his arms and legs in Iraq. He’s recovering and he just got engaged. He’s excited about getting new arms and legs. That’s inspirational. That puts in context my tribulations compared to people…
Monday, 26 July 2010 20:00

The Miller file

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Born: Prairie Village, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City Education: I went to Kansas State University on a football scholarship. I started out in architecture and then switched to construction science in my sophomore year and ended up with a degree in construction science.What was your first job, and what did you learn from it? My first real job was working in the summers with a highway contractor as a laborer. I did that for three summers while I was going to college. I worked hard, worked long hours, learned a lot about construction — at least on the highway…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Drilling deep

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Finalist Energy When William Transier and John Seitz co-founded their company in 2004, they wrote personal checks to get it up and running. North Sea New Ventures — the predecessor of Endeavour International Corp. — was founded as an oil and gas exploration company, and Transier was determined to build the company from the ground up. Today, the co-founder, chairman, president and CEO uses the operating and commercial expertise he gained as a member of multifunction executive teams to run the successful company. During the last six years, Transier’s relentless commitment and tenacious spirit has been the difference between completing…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Growth plan

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Finalist Business Services Veronica Edwards didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of the rest of her family. There were opportunities to do just that, to enter the family business in the world of real estate and construction, to be provided a position and a paycheck, to be comfortable. But what fun is that? Instead, Edwards wanted more than just that comfort, so she entered the work force independent of her family history and worked for more than a decade in telecommunications. After rising up the proverbial corporate ladder, she opted in 1998 to start her own company, InGenesis Inc.,…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Doing a good thing

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Finalist Technology Stewart Pisecco is quite proud of the business he has built with Psychological Software Solutions Inc. But he’s just as prideful, and perhaps even a little more pleased, with the benefits that have resulted from his company’s impact on the K-12 special education industry. Pisecco was a tenured professor at the University of Houston and had received numerous accolades in the study of child development. But he felt there was more he could do to help schools reach disruptive students. They just needed a proven intervention strategy. Pisecco developed Review360 as a system that he likens to TurboTax.…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Multitasking brothers

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Winner Business Services Growing up, brothers Ned E. Schwing and Robert L. Schwing had a paper route together. That partnership in newspaper distribution was the start of a lifelong collaboration. After graduating from college, the brothers researched potential opportunities for a new business and finally settled on the delivery of health care. As a result, they founded SouthWest Renal Care and finally found a group in El Paso willing to invest in dialysis centers with them. Despite their lack of experience, the men were committed to succeed and friends and family believed in the brothers enough to provide the majority…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Community involvement

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Finalist Retail & Wholesale When hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the New Orleans community, David Blossman decided to help the best way he knew how — by making beer. As president of Abita Brewing Co. LLC, he created Abita Fleur-de-lis Restoration Ale after seeing so many people lose their homes and places of business to the hurricanes. The restoration project meant that his employees could return to work and actively help their community heal. One dollar from each six-pack sold went to the restoration effort, and proceeds from the new brew raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. Inspired by the…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Cleaning up

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Finalist Power & Utilities Stephen D. Johnston had everything going for him. After graduating from the University of Mississippi, he landed a job with Wachovia Securities Inc. and the young investment banker went to work making a name for himself. Then, one day, a local entrepreneur offered Johnston a job at his start-up company. At the time, the new venture consisted of a three-page business plan, a three-bedroom house and five employees. If he accepted the offer, Johnston would have to withdraw from his EMBA program and take a 60 percent pay cut, but he followed his intuition and joined…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Herculean effort

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Finalist Offshore Marine John T. Rynd became the CEO at Hercules Offshore Inc. in 2008, just months prior to the collapse of the global economy. Becoming a new CEO at a time when commodity prices plummeted and Gulf of Mexico drilling tumbled to unforeseen lows made the transition to CEO a difficult task but one that Rynd, who also serves as president, was ready to tackle. Rynd helped the company remain the market leader in the Gulf of Mexico by maintaining a presence throughout the downturn and developing unique ways to generate business. For example, throughout the past year, Rynd…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Stand by me

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Finalist Manufacturing & Distribution Dozens of summers ago, when Mike Donovan was 11 years old, he asked his father for a relatively significant amount of money in order to make a purchase. The details about what Donovan longed for are lost, but the words and wisdom that his father shared with him are not. If you want that money, his father said, you’ll have to earn it. Donovan thought about how he might be able to earn enough money to get what he wanted. What in the world could he do? After all, he was only 11. And then, in…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Competitive edge

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Winner Financial Services Javier Loya’s competitive nature drove him to merge his first company, Choice Energy, with five other commodity brokerage firms in 2007. Today, there are 17 portfolio companies under the umbrella of OTC Global Holdings, a fast-growing commodities brokerage house that has capitalized on the fragmented over-the-counter energy markets through pooling of risk and leveraging technology. Pooling the companies allows them to continue in their markets, leverage liquidity and share risk, providing a competitive advantage to the portfolio companies that can execute trading strategies they might not be able to as standalone entities. Loya’s office speaks volumes about…
Jennifer Heard likes to keep her goals clearly in view. But that’s not an easy thing to do when you’re leading a multistate territory for Microsoft Corp., one of the most well-known companies in the world. “Trying to scale leadership across 18 states and multiple geographies and multiple levels across the Microsoft business and connecting with that size of an organization can create its own challenges,” says Heard, vice president of the $58.4 billion computer technology company’s Central Region Partner Team. “A great leader is someone that can connect people with a clear or crisp vision and strategy so people…
Sunday, 25 April 2010 20:00

3 Questions

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Glenn Godkin, Wells Fargo & Co.’s regional president for Greater Houston, is responsible for more than 3,000 team members and more than 200 community banking stores. Godkin, a 30-plus-year veteran of the company, also spearheads a number of volunteer activities. Last year, Wells Fargo provided more than $2 million in grants to more than 181 nonprofit organizations in the Houston area.   Q. Business owners need to have adequate capital to keep their business engine running on all cylinders. Do you have any tips about raising capital in today’s tight credit market? When approving loans, lenders increasingly rely on credit history…
Sunday, 25 April 2010 20:00

The Danner file

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Born: DeWitt, Ark.Education: Masters of accounting degree from Rice UniversityWhat was your first job, and what did you learn from it? My very first job was stacking bottles in a grocery store, back in the old days when you had to return your bottles. I was in charge of that room, keeping it clean and doing inventory of our returned bottles. What I learned from it was that I had a responsibility and they relied on me to do it and so I needed to show up and get my job done. Whom do you admire most and why? Probably…
Tuesday, 06 April 2010 20:00

Bob Johnson values Merrill Lynch employees

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As a financial adviser, Bob Johnson learned that caring for clients could make the difference between keeping or losing them. Now, as managing director of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, he sees how the same thing works for employees. “You have to treat your employees just like your clients. You can’t take them for granted,” says Johnson, who manages 179 employees and $14 billion in assets at Houston’s downtown complex. “There’s a lot of movement within our industry. It’s my goal to minimize that, and the way to do that is to be responsive to employees.” Even the way you organize…
Friday, 26 March 2010 20:00

Counting sheep

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Gary T. Fazio and his team at Mattress Firm Inc. have many things they want to accomplish, but there are only so many hours in a day and only so much people can do.“Many times we try to bite off more than we can chew,” says the CEO of the mattress retailer, which posted more than $500 million in 2008 revenue.For instance, when the company has meetings to review its strategy performance, percentages are displayed to show the team how much of a goal it has met. A goal that is close to 100 percent completion would get a green…
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 19:00

Talk to me

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At a previous company, Dennis E. Murphree would sit in the company’s conference room every Wednesday morning. He told everyone below the officer level, such as receptionists and bookkeepers, that he would be there to answer any questions or hear any feedback they may have. “They would have to voice what they were going to say in front of all the other secretaries and bookkeepers and so forth,” says Murphree, founder and managing general partner of Murphree Venture Partners, a venture capital and growth equity firm that posted $150 million in 2008 revenue. “It took a little while,” says Murphree,…
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