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Monday, 26 January 2009 19:00

More than words

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Alain Couder has no interest in taking responsibility for all the innovation that comes out of Bookham Inc. Couder, president and CEO of the developer, manufacturer and provider of optical solutions, constantly makes it a point to tell his people that they’re in charge of innovation. And that communication with his 2,200 employees is a priority. In fact, Couder says that it’s those communications that drive the company. By consistently building messages focused on where the $235.5 million company stands and on the need for accountability and innovation instead of standard office politics, people begin to understand the call for…
Monday, 26 January 2009 19:00

The Varel file

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Born: St. Rose, Ill., a farming community of 240 people Education: I don’t have the Harvard MBA. They tried to kick me out of high school, but I stayed just so I could get my diploma. I didn’t make it to college. I took a couple of classes at night, but I was going through the wrong course at the time. I was a product of the ’60s — you can read into that what you want. What’s the best lesson that you’ve learned? Never quit. You never know what’s right around the corner. When we were doing Meris Laboratories…
Friday, 26 December 2008 19:00

Youth movement

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Mike Rippey admits that he would love to be lazy. “My selfish objective is to do as little work as possible,” he jokes. Of course, Rippey hasn’t given anyone the opportunity to call him lazy. The CEO and majority owner of auto-parts distributor Radiator Express Warehouse — which does business as 1-800-Radiator — has twice grown companies to land spots on the Inc. 5000, including when his current company jumped from $60 million in revenue in 2004 to revenue of $116 million in 2007. And Rippey is getting closer to his goal. 1-800-Radiator can credit its boom to expanding via…
Friday, 26 December 2008 19:00

Growth phase

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When Kevin Kennedy was asked to take the reins as president and CEO of JDS Uniphase Corp. in September 2003, the technology company was quickly drowning after finishing fiscal 2003 with $676 million in net revenue and a net loss of $934 million. “This was a company that was an iconic boom in the telecom upswing and was equally iconic on the downswing,” Kennedy says. “I say that, in a sense, that by 2003, it had lost 88 percent of its revenues and about 98 percent of its market cap.” On top of financial issues, the company was completely disjointed…
Tuesday, 25 November 2008 19:00

Quality control

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Tom Moore may not be the mother of invention at his company, but he is the father of quality. Moore, CEO of Cord Blood Registry, founded the company with his daughter in 1995 with the idea of creating a company that collects and stores the stem-cell-rich blood from a newborn’s umbilical cord. That concept put them on the map, and there was one business lesson Moore immediately applied at CBR: Quality comes first in everything. “If you don’t have quality, you end up being a commodity; you can’t differentiate,” Moore says. “I learned a long time ago that a very…
Sunday, 26 October 2008 20:00

Organic growth

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Dave Lanstein occasionally needs to be remindedthat while the organic food industry is growing fast,it’s not quite mainstream yet.And foods like quinoa, a grainsold by the company, canseem foreign to some, says thefounder, president and CEO ofMultiple Organics, a supplierof organic ingredients.“You can start to feel like thewhole world ought to eatquinoa,” says Lanstein, whosecompany posted fiscal 2006-2007 revenue of $13.7 million.“Some people just don’t likethe way it tastes; some peoplecan’t afford it. So the wholeworld shouldn’t eat quinoa.”Smart Business spoke withLanstein about how to getyour employees to betterunderstand your product andwhy it might help your company to take everyone…
Thursday, 25 September 2008 20:00

At your service

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The U.S. Commercial Service is designed to help small and medium-size businesses expand into international sales. With trade specialists in more than 100 American cities, the primary thrust of the U.S. Commercial Service is to equip businesses with the knowledge and tools necessary to navigate the foreign market. Over the past several years, a confluence of factors — including free trade agreements, technological advancements, and U.S. government programs and partnerships — have converged to simplify the export process. According to B. Peter Knudson, senior vice president and regional manager, international trade finance at Comerica Bank, now is the ideal time…
Tuesday, 26 August 2008 20:00

Complete overhaul

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During Greg Ballard’s second month as president and CEO of Glu Mobile Inc., a third of the company’s employees boycotted the company Christmas party. At his first board meeting, Ballard told the company’s board of directors that Glu’s corporate culture was the worst he had ever experienced. “It was filled with deception; it was filled with fear and intimidation,” Ballard says. “People would not talk to anybody without the door of their office closed. You would see them furtively checking to make sure nobody saw who they were talking with when they closed their door.” Five years after Ballard’s cultural…
Saturday, 26 July 2008 20:00

Striking a balance

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Martin BabinecFounder and Chairman, TriNet Group Inc. Martin Babinec has been in your shoes. As the founder of privately owned human resources outsourcing provider TriNet Group Inc., he loved being in charge of his business his way. But when times got tough, he realized that he needed the help of outside investors. And with that help came the natural concern for any entrepreneur when outside people come in. “As you’ve probably seen, oftentimes, when there is a change in shareholder, the CEO is the first to go,” he says. But Babinec remained president and CEO of the company through the…
Saturday, 26 July 2008 20:00

Shared vision

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It’s rare that CEOs are promoted from within organizations these days. Given the increasing pressures of the position and the need for quick results, many boards turn to outside hires when the CEO position is vacated. It’s rarer still that company employees would nominate one of their peers for the top job in the company and that the board would heed their suggestion. But that’s exactly what happened in January 2005 when Mike Klayko became CEO of Brocade Communications Systems Inc. Considering that the company’s previous CEO and the vice president of human resources had just resigned because of a…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Seeing an opportunity

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With the rise of the Internet in the 1990s, most major corporations conducted a fair amount of business using this tool, but they did so without any security. While many would meticulously shred confidential documents, they didn’t think twice about sending confidential information over the Web unsecured. Seeing this, Syed Ali founded Cavium Networks Inc. in November 2000 to develop programmable network security processors that didn’t compromise performance or communications security. In 2001, despite the rough business environment following the dot-com bust, he secured his first round of funding and successfully raised capital throughout the following years. Ali also didn’t…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

True passion

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Barry Cinnamon was always interested in solar energy. He did his undergraduate thesis at MIT on the topic and eventually worked on solar systems in his career, but when oil prices dropped and energy tax credits disappeared in the early 1980s, so did interest in renewable energy. He went back to school and eventually started a software company, and after several acquisitions, eventually focused on the Internet shopping business. But by the dot-com bubble burst, his heart wasn’t in it anymore, so he took a few months off to install his own solar power system. In the process, he set…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Judging entrepreneurial excellence

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The 2008 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year judging panel Juli Betwee Pivot.Point Partners Jon Fisher Teahupoo LLC Brian Hinman Oak Investment Partners David Jochim Union Bank of California Patrick Lo NETGEAR Inc. Hira Thapliyal VytronUS Inc. Issac Vaughn SC Investments Consulting LLC Tom Vertin Silicon Valley Bank
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Refusing to quit

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Rodrigo R. Sales is driven by a passion to succeed. As an MBA student at Stanford University, he co-founded AuctionWatch as a comparison shopping site that pulled information from eBay, Amazon, Yahoo and hundreds of other auction sites. While still a student, he was able to secure two rounds of venture capital. The company prospered, but it later faced problems when eBay tried to block providers like AuctionWatch from displaying its items in their searches. Enraged, Sales took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal chastising eBay for its anti-consumer tactics. This propelled the company into the spotlight…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Seeing the future

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Jerry M. Kennelly had a vision to make data move at the speed of light, so he and Steve McCanne left prominent positions at Inktomi Corp. and founded Riverbed Technology Inc. Kennelly recognized that the challenges the chief information officers would face in the future centered around having a distributed work force and the work becoming more digital. They realized everything was expected to be virtual, instant and global, so they set off to solve the instant and global pieces. Most companies said that to meet these future demands, more expensive networking equipment was required, but Kennelly and his partner…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

No fear

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Jagdeep Singh co-founded Infinera Corp. in 2001 with Drew Perkins and David Welch, and the optical networking company wasn’t without its problems during this difficult time. While many companies were closing up shop, Singh held true to his vision so that his business would stay open. He envisioned changing the networking world by creating a photonic integrated circuit (PIC) and developed complete systems based on it, but this would require him raising private capital during a time when the industry was struggling. Despite the challenging market, he moved forward on his vision by hiring top talent for Infinera. He brought…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Healing and caring

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In the mid-1990s, Gary Lauer and Vipool Patel met while working at Silicon Graphics. The two realized that with the boom of the Internet, the health insurance industry could really use the benefits of Internet technology because of the amounts of information involved, the old distribution system in place and the need for product for consumers. On that premise, eHealth Inc. was founded in 1997, and Lauer joined it in 1999 as president and CEO. His first challenge was to market a new distribution channel in a conservative industry that was resistant to change. Lauer and his team had to…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Entrepreneur Of The Year

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The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year program is a celebration of the entrepreneurial mind and spirit — a commemoration of what leaders can do when they firmly put their minds toward achievement and perseverance in the face of possible and sometimes almost certain defeat. It is here that we have the opportunity to recognize the most courageous business leaders in our communities, those who have made every sacrifice necessary in pursuit of their dreams. These individuals put their necks on the line everyday in pursuit of a passion — a unique vision of what the future can be.…
Monday, 26 May 2008 20:00

The cure is accessible

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Employees miss three to four hours of work every time they visit the doctor, which impacts productivity. But forgoing a doctor’s visit to avoid missing work is not the best choice dedicated employees can make for themselves or their employers. One solution that’s gaining traction with employers is the on-site health center, which increases the prevalence of ongoing preventive care and reduces time away from work. “Employers are finding that the on-site center is a used and highly valued employee benefit,” says Teresa Wolownik, consulting actuary for the Group & Health Care Practice at Watson Wyatt Worldwide. “Which is great…
Monday, 26 May 2008 20:00

Role-player

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Roland Strick Jr. wants to make every moment count. The second-generation owner of Service by Medallion is growing his company at a steady pace, from $18.5 million in 2006 to $20 million in 2007, and he projects his building maintenance company will hit $25 million in revenue by 2009. However, the company’s consistent growth, environmental initiatives and constantly changing industry are too much for one guy to keep up with on his own. “You sit for four hours in a conference, and so many things can transpire in those four hours,” he says. To keep it all straight, Strick relies…
Friday, 25 April 2008 20:00

In employees we trust

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As president and CEO of FirstRain Inc., Penny Herscher has access to plenty of information. But she can’t use that information as well as her 140 employees on the front lines do, providing research applications for FirstRain’s clients — investment professionals and corporate executives. “The further you get up the management ladder, the less real information you have,” she says. “You’re dealing with meta-data, not real data. So I’m a big believer in getting information into the employees’ hands and then trusting them to make good decisions.” Smart Business spoke with Herscher about how to build trust with your employees…
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 20:00

Succession planning

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While successful business owners spend a great deal of time building wealth through their ventures, many do not properly protect their assets by having a business succession plan in place. Allocating the necessary time and resources to create a succession plan, in which you address how you would handle the premature departure of a partner, can pay huge dividends in the future. “You have to ask yourself a number of questions, including: If my partners die or become disabled what do I want to happen? How do I want to buy them out?” says Christopher Lapple, vice president, regional insurance…
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 20:00

Walking tall

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When Steve Newberry came to Lam Research Corp. in 1997 as executive vice president and chief operating officer, he and the new CEO, James Bagley, faced a tough uphill climb. The company, which supplies semiconductor manufacturing equipment and services, had quickly grown to $1.1 billion in fiscal 1997, but it was also splitting at the seams because it couldn’t handle the growth. “Technologies and products had begun to wane, and it was losing market share, and it was beginning to lose money as a function of getting out of control at that rapid level of growth,” Newberry says. Because of…
Sunday, 24 February 2008 19:00

Performance driver

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In the latest communications effectiveness survey conducted by Watson Wyatt Worldwide, information from 750 companies representing 12 million global employees provides hard data substantiating the correlation between effective communication practices and improved business results. “The relationship between effective communication practices and shareholder value is no longer anecdotal,” says Kathy Kibbe, west division communication practice leader for Watson Wyatt Worldwide, San Francisco. “This is our third communications ROI study and, when we look at the results, companies with the most effective employee communications programs provided a 91 percent total return to shareholders from 2002 to 2006, compared to 62 percent for…
Sunday, 24 February 2008 19:00

Achieving understanding

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Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” And that’s why Scott Raskin, CEO of Mindjet Corp., spends a lot of time getting his employees to understand the ‘why’ of their jobs to help grow his company. Mindjet, a software developer that helps users take a visual approach to project management, posted 2006 revenue of $33 million, up from $13 million in 2003. And Raskin says that helping his employees understand the big picture is essential to maintaining that kind of growth. Smart Business spoke with Raskin about how to make communication equal…
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 19:00

Health and productivity

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Employers are reinventing their wellness programs into comprehensive health and productivity (H&P) programs for a very good reason — improved profits. A recent study conducted by Watson Wyatt Worldwide of 355 human resources and health benefits managers at U.S. organizations with at least 1,000 employees reveals that the companies with the most effective H&P programs acheived 20 percent more revenue per employee, 16.1 percent higher market value and 57 percent higher shareholder returns. “Companies are embracing the progress that has been made in the health and productivity space,” says Caty Furco, office practice leader, Group and Health Care, for Watson…
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 19:00

Proactive planning

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Investing in real estate requires careful planning well before the transaction, cautions Douglas G. Schultz of Burr Pilger Mayer. “It is important to step back and look at the big picture. What do you want out of the investment?” If certain aspects of accounting and tax planning aren’t addressed, they could become huge negatives: higher tax bills, less liability protection than you might have had, and higher estate taxes. “A little creativity can go a long way to minimize taxes and maximize value,” he says. Smart Business asked Schultz about preparing for your biggest purchase. What should be addressed before…