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Employers took a giant leap of faith when they began investing in employee wellness programs to curtail the rising cost of health care. Little data existed to forecast the effectiveness of the new programs and employers could only speculate whether employees would be motivated to make lifestyle changes or follow proactive health regimens to manage chronic conditions.Now new research by two Harvard professors affirms the hope-laden wellness hypothesis, revealing that companies saved an average of $3.27 in medical costs for every dollar invested in wellness programs while health-related absenteeism costs fell by about $2.73. The news couldn’t come at a…
Friday, 26 March 2010 20:00

Juiced for growth

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When James D. White took over as president and CEO of Jamba Inc. on Dec. 1, 2008, he was looking at a company with a net loss that had gone from $113 million in 2007 to $149 million in 2008. The previous CEO and much of the senior management had left, leaving the chairman to fill in as interim CEO and the controller to fill in as chief financial officer. White, a former vice president of consumer brands for food and drug retailer Safeway Inc., had his hands full. Three weeks after he took over, Nestlé announced that because of…
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 19:00

The Lipps File

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Born: New OrleansEducation: B.S. in economics and B.B.A. from Southern Methodist UniversityWhat was your first job, and what did you learn from it that still applies today?Mowing lawns for a local swimming club. I was a yard boy, and in Louisiana, that’s a tough job. I was 12, believe it or not. [I learned that] you have to figure out what makes your customer happy — not do what you think is happy. You have to understand what they want to be happy. I was the yard boy — the lowest paid guy — and I was the highest-rated employee…
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:00

Effective communicators

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As we start a new year and begin to move into better economic times, it’s an important time for companies to re-engage employees in the employee value proposition (EVP). For some organizations, the EVP may have changed. Towers Watson’s recent Communication ROI Study™ clearly shows a distinct difference in financial performance when employees understand a company’s business goals, the steps that must be taken to reach those goals and rewards, and benefits they receive. The Communication ROI Study also shows that companies who actively communicate the EVP, leadership changes or changes to benefits are more likely to see their employees…
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:00

One-track mind

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When Patrick Lo was a child growing up in southern China during the height of the cultural revolution, his parents were in the labor camps, and he didn’t see them for years.He dreamed of getting out of the country and seeing what else awaited him in the world, and through hard work and opportunities, he went on to eventually co-found NETGEAR Inc. in San Jose in 1996.[See Smart Business Executive Editor Dustin Kleintalk with Lo on video about inventory and communication] The computer networking company has evolved over the years, but despite its success, Lo remembers that feeling of helplessness…
Saturday, 26 December 2009 19:00

The new normal

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Relationships between employees and employers often morph with the changing economy. But the current conditions, including record productivity levels, a jobless recovery and the possibility of health insurance reform, are driving one of the most dramatic shifts since World War II. Savvy employers are seizing the opportunity to permanently lower labor costs by restructuring benefit and compensation plans and even shifting the burden of sourcing health care coverage onto employees. “I believe we have seen the end of one-size-fits-all benefit plans,” says Rick Beal, managing consultant with Watson Wyatt Worldwide. “Executives may encounter some internal resistance to these nontraditional ideas,…
Saturday, 26 December 2009 19:00

Cooking with passion

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Fedele Bauccio was absolutely disgusted. The food served on college campuses and in corporate cafeterias in the mid-1980s made him cringe. “The industry was this industry that when you went to college, you had mystery meat,” Bauccio says. “There was cafeteria fare in lots of corporations. You had menu cycles and recipe boxes. I thought, ‘This is horrible what we’re feeding America.’” So he decided to create his own customized restaurant company, Bon Appétit Management Co. “There was a lot of competition in the marketplace in 1986, so I wanted to create a culture that would challenge this status quo…
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 19:00

Window of opportunity

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As pension plan administrators wrestled with the new funding mandates and the mark-to-market requirements imposed by the Pension Protection Act (PPA), the bottom dropped out of the financial markets, pummeling asset returns. As a result, many employers froze existing plans and adjusted asset allocations on the fly. Now that officials have granted employers a brief reprieve from PPA funding mandates and the financial markets have rebounded from their 2008 lows, embattled plan administrators have a brief window of opportunity to revisit the fundamentals and craft a comprehensive pension strategy that reduces volatility and risk and increases asset levels to meet…
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 19:00

Turning the investment corner?

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After a long and tumultuous 2009, many investors are breathing a collective sigh of relief. The recession is (seemingly) behind us and things are slowly starting to make a turn for the better. The upturn is naturally leading to more investment opportunities, but nevertheless, people are still somewhat wary of making a major investment. This type of thinking needs to change, says Syd Saperstein, a senior vice president and the division manager of Special Corporate Financial Services with Comerica Bank. “Investment opportunities exist, even in down economies,” Saperstein says. “Even if you’re not ready to invest right now, it’s a…
Monday, 26 October 2009 20:00

Win over employees

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Many employers have undertaken dramatic cost reductions since the start of the recession. But in the process, they may have inadvertently created consequences that will linger well into the recovery period. In the minds of many employees, reductions in staff and total rewards packages have breached the promises of their employers. The result has been a nearly 10 percent drop in employee engagement levels since last year and, among top performers, a precipitous decline of 23 percent, according to a recent survey by Watson Wyatt Worldwide. To prevent diminished productivity and high turnover, employers must take immediate steps to re-engage…
Monday, 26 October 2009 20:00

The Dukker File

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Born: New York City — I was born in New York but consider myself a Midwesterner. I lived my first 17 years in New York before I went to college. I went to the University of Chicago and stayed in Chicago for 24 years, so I really consider myself a Chicagoan. I started and ran my first three businesses there and then became a Texan for a while when I joined CompUSA back in 1990. When I was done with CompUSA, having been in technology my whole life and having been on quite a few boards and doing business with…
Friday, 25 September 2009 20:00

Go beyond the rhetoric

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Employers surveyed by Watson Wyatt Worldwide acknowledge that maintaining the status quo in the health care system isn’t a viable option. On the other hand, they express concerns that reform might create more problems than it solves. They fear new legislation may threaten existing group plans, increase an employer’s costs and counteract emerging gains in cost management. To understand the proposed legislation and calculate its true impact, employers should get the facts and convey their concerns to legislators before a bill is finalized. “Any plan to reform health care must address the issue of supply and demand and individual accountability…
Friday, 25 September 2009 20:00

Understanding IATs

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As the number of Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments continues to climb — more than 3.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008, 5 percent more than the fourth quarter of 2007 — the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA) has had to ramp up the rules and regulations that govern these types of transactions in order to align the NACHA operating rules with the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) compliance obligations. A NACHA ruling, which took effect on Sept. 18, is quite noteworthy and will affect businesses across myriad industries. The ruling introduces the International ACH Transaction (IAT)…
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:00

Under the microscope

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It’s hard to hit a moving target. So when faced with the convergence of a volatile economy, new government legislation on executive pay and the growing momentum behind say-on-pay initiatives, many companies adopted a wait-and-see approach when constructing 2009 executive short-term incentive plans, opting for scaled-down or discretionary incentives until the dust settles. Despite the complexities of developing realistic performance objectives and payout opportunities, as well as navigating a multitude of legislative changes under the watchful eye of investors, companies need to maintain the motivational and retentive qualities of their incentive plans. Compensation committees and executive management are being challenged…
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:00

Great time for growth

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While many businesses are hunkering down in the recession, now is actually a great time to think about growing your business, says Ken Dansie, a partner at Burr Pilger Mayer. “If you have a strong business plan and manage everything very tightly, only spending on what you absolutely need to expand your business model, it’s absolutely a great time to expand,” he says. Smart Business spoke with Dansie about how to grow your business in tough times to get a leg up on the competition. How do you create a business plan that makes financial sense? You have to figure…
Sunday, 26 July 2009 20:00

Building on success

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Christopher Cabrera could almost hear the questions before they were even asked. Xactly Corp. had just acquired Centive, a move which was going to result in a significant overlap in job responsibilities in the merged organization.“So in this already challenging time where people are concerned and a little bit scared, we had this other event happen, which caused people to be even more concerned,” Cabrera says. “So we were very direct and very clear telling people what was going to happen. There was some overlap, and there would be some reduction in force as a result. But we didn’t let…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

Playing the game

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Finalist Emerging It was 12-year-old Arjun Mehta who inspired his father, Karl Mehta, to found PlaySpan Inc. Arjun, an avid gamer in online multiplayer games, was a strong player in several games, and those in his online community bought virtual goods and currencies from him in the games. Mehta saw the need for a cross-game global commerce and payment platform. Instead of trying to sell $60 games in the online gaming world, his idea was to convince publishers to create free online games, in which he would sell products such as virtual coins, clothing, weapons and other items to use…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

Finding your niche

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Finalist Consumer Products Like many teens, Dan Costa started working as a dishwasher when he was 14 years old, but it wasn’t to earn money for a car or for baseball cards. Instead, he was working out of necessity, for food and for his survival. He learned the industry, and by the age of 21, he owned his own restaurant, eventually expanding to more than 30 restaurants and then into the food distribution and processing industry. Then, at age 47, he sold his business to Tyson Foods. After taking a shot at retirement, two years later, in 1999, he bought…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

Power play

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Finalist Technology Nine months after its founding in 1988, Balu Balakrishnan joined Power Integrations Inc. as a key engineer, and his near departure soon after could have been the end of the story. Instead, 14 years later, he was named the company’s president and CEO and continues to lead Power Integrations forward. In 1988, the company was targeting the high-end market of power supplies and planned to charge a premium. But after designing products that no one wanted to buy, Balakrishnan insisted on speaking with customers to ferret out the problem and found that the key point of resistance was…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

Cyber success

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Finalist Software Winners find ways to win. It’s a motto that has helped Bill McKiernan push CyberSource Corp. through the dot-com meltdown and a tough restructuring to come out on the other side as a success. And in 2008, CyberSource, an e-commerce payment management company, posted revenue that was 96 percent higher than its 2007 revenue. In 1994, McKiernan founded his company to sell software and deliver it electronically. CyberSource was one of the first Web sites to use the “buy button,” and McKiernan began licensing its payment processing and fraud capabilities to other companies to put “buy buttons” on…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

Powering ahead 

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Winner Clean Technology Ross Perot changed Scott Lang’s life.  Lang, a fourth-generation farmer, was the first in his family to earn a college degree. Then after graduation, he considered going back to the family farm, but after long conversations with his father and Perot, he opted instead to follow Perot to Electronic Data Systems. There, he invented a new approach for the company’s largest client, General Motors, to improve quality. And when Perot founded Perot Systems in 1988, he recruited Scott to help him establish it as the world’s leading systems integrator. After spending nearly 10 years in Europe to…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

Glamorous pursuit

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Winner Media, Entertainment and Communications When Samir Arora arrived in Silicon Valley from India at the age of 19, he already knew he wanted to make a difference in the world of technology. And it didn’t take him long to get started. After bagging groceries, he found a marketing job at Apple, then left to become CEO of an Apple spinoff called Rae Technologies. After several job changes, he struck on a new idea, and along with Fernando Ruarte, he co-founded Glam Media Inc. The firm offers a lifestyle hub with a better way for advertisers to connect with audiences…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

Clearly outstanding

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Finalist Financial Services At a time when many companies involved in the mortgage market have scaled back or gone out of business, ClearCapital.com Inc. has taken the opposite approach. Instead of downsizing, CEO Duane Andrews viewed the down market as an opportunity to help customers make wise decisions in tough times. He invested in technology, training and promotion, resulting in improved quality, customer service, product line offerings and market share. At a time when the market was already turning downward, the company launched the Appraisal Division in 2007 and the Data Products Division in 2008. As a result, it posted…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

Training/Education Directory

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California State University East Bay 25800 Carlos Bee Blvd. Hayward, CA 94542 (510) 885-3000 www.csueastbay.edu Mohammad H. Qayoumi President About California State University East Bay offers more than 100 career-focused fields of study, with 49 baccalaureate degrees, 64 minors and 33 master’s degree programs. The college has two campuses — one in Hayward Hills and one in the Concord — plus a professional center in downtown Oakland. Founded: 1957 Key areas of study Master’s programs, freshman learning communities, business, teaching, nursing Dominican University of California 50 Acacia Ave. San Rafael, CA 94901 (415) 457-4440 www.dominican.edu Joseph R. Fink President About…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

The right entity

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When you’re setting your company up as an entity, there’s no one right way to go. There are many things you need to consider before deciding which type of entity is best for your company. “It depends on what your circumstances are, and it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish,” says Craig Schmitt, senior manager in the Tax Practice of Burr Pilger Mayer. “You could take two identical businesses with identical assets and choose different, alternative forms based on the expectations of the person forming the business.” Smart Business spoke with Schmitt about the different kinds of entities and…
Tuesday, 26 May 2009 20:00

Hospital Directory

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Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Alta Bates Campus2450 Ashby Ave.Berkeley, CA 94705(510) 204-4444www.altabatessummit.orgWarren KirkCEOAboutAlta Bates Summit Medical Center offers comprehensive services designed to meet the health care needs of the diverse communities of the greater East Bay Area. A tertiary referral center, the medical center is the East Bay’s largest private, not-for-profit medical center and an affiliate of Sutter Health. It operates three campuses, two acute care hospitals, birthing services and a full array of the most advanced specialty services.Founded: 1905Key servicesCardiovascular, women and infants, behavioral health, oncology, orthopedicCalifornia Pacific Medical Center633 Folsom St., 5th floorSan Francisco, CA 94107(415) 600-6000www.cpmc.orgWarren…
Tuesday, 26 May 2009 20:00

Word count

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Robert J. Birgeneau has a lot to think about when he opens his mouth. He’s got 15,000 employees at the University of California, Berkeley — not to mention 35,000 students — who have a lot riding on what he has to say. “It’s a complicated business model with income coming from many directions and no simple product,” says the university’s chancellor. The key to making it work to support the university’s $1.8 billion budget has been the application of basic corporate leadership principles. Birgeneau talks to his senior leaders, he talks to people who are further down in the organization…