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Sunday, 24 February 2008 19:00

Your rights in Chapter 11s

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Just because one of your company’s customers files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, you do not have to wave the white flag and totally surrender the debt. “Creditors have rights,” says Richard A. Marshack, of counsel for Shulman Hodges & Bastian LLP and a bankruptcy trustee for the United States Bankruptcy Court, Central District of California, Santa Ana Division. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” For the record, under the Bankruptcy Code, a Chapter 7 is complete liquidation of a business. A Chapter 11 is usually a reorganization. “If you get a Chapter 11 notice, do not assume that you’re not…
Sunday, 24 February 2008 19:00

Deal with it

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When a situation arises at a Consolidated Contracting Services Inc. job site, Joe Troya doesn’t want his employees looking around for someone else to find a solution. “If my laborer’s answer is, ‘I need to talk to my project manager or my superintendent,’ the reaction my client is going to have is, ‘This guy hasn’t been empowered. He doesn’t know what to do,’” says Troya, who co-owns the company with Tony Elias-Calles. While a company’s leaders have the highest visibility, it is more often their employees with whom customers and clients interact. And if employees don’t know what to do…
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 19:00

Legible medicine

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How electronic records are taking the guesswork out of health care communication Pardon the handwriting. Through better technology, this method of medical documentation may become obsolete. When was the last time you wrote a check for cash and handed it to a bank teller? With online banking, debit cards and global ATM networks, those days are virtually gone. Thanks to advances in information technology, this change is coming to health care, as well — providing convenience and greatly improving safety and patient satisfaction. Smart Business spoke to MemorialCare President and CEO Barry Arbuckle, Ph.D., to learn how new technologies revolutionize…
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 19:00

Talking it out

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As founder, principal and president at Avatar Partners Unlimited LLC, Marlo Brooke doesn’t have a lot of time to sit around and talk. But the moments when she does have heart-to-heart discussions with her employees are vital to the company’s success. “I always ask, ‘Are you happy? How are you feeling about things?’” Brooke says. “Just directly asking the question, usually you’re going to get a direct answer. There are always tasks and projects at hand. But in addition to that, there is the question of how they are doing. That seems to cut off at the pass a lot…
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:00

Escalation of rent

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David L. Willis, a Principal with Cresa-Partners Orange County, likes to cite this example of overlooking a very important lease consideration: “Your broker has found the perfect office suite in a beautiful building close to your home. The asking rate and the parking charges seem reasonable, and the listing broker tells you that he can improve the space exactly the way you want. Things are looking good. “You tell your broker to prepare a Proposal to Lease, and serious negotiations begin. Invariably, one component that gets very little attention will have a serious impact on several economic issues later on.…
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:00

The people equation in M&A

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While appropriate funding and growth potential are critical factors for a successful acquisition or merger, the people who come along as part of the acquisition could be one of the most important assets. Companies don’t generate profits, people do, and they often hold the key to strategic customer relationships and possess institutional knowledge that just can’t be captured in a computer program. For CEOs, an important part of the due diligence process lies in assessing the cultural fit between the two organizations and the similarity in corporate goals between the two groups of employees. Without employee retention, the merger or…
Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:00

Mikel Williams

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He may have avoided rush-hour traffic, but Mikel Williams still had one hell of a commute. For his first six months as president and CEO of DDi Corp., the reluctant jet-setter made the round-trip flight from Washington, D.C., to Orange County every week so his children could finish the remainder of the school year back east. The arrangement was admittedly hard on his family, but it proved beneficial to DDi, the once-struggling circuit board manufacturer. Isolated in an unfamiliar locale, Williams completely immersed himself in the business, uniting 1,300 employees spread across six locations and ushering in a successful corporate…
Sunday, 25 November 2007 19:00

Jim Riesenbach

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Jim Riesenbach doesn’t mind a little conflict. In fact, he even encourages it now and again. When managed in a controlled manner, conflict gives rise to the competing points of view and dialogue that can fuel performance, Riesenbach says. Before he came on as president and CEO of Autobytel Inc. in March 2006, the company was running on empty in this regard. The vehicle purchasing and ownership Web service was spread too thin, offering too many services without doing any one thing particularly well. The company posted 2006 revenue of $111.1 million, and although that was down from the previous…
Sunday, 25 November 2007 19:00

Seriously fun growth

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When you work at PACE Inc., you get a lot of perks. But Mark Krebs says it’s not the office massages, the putting course or the summer family barbecues that drive his 100 employees to keep the company growing. “Work, although it’s serious, can be fun, and it should be fun,” says Krebs, president of PACE. “But without the ability to grow and learn and prosper in an individual’s career, no amount of those fringes makes a difference.” The water-resource engineering firm has grown revenue from $5.6 million in 2003 to $14.8 million in 2006, and Krebs says the key…
Friday, 26 October 2007 20:00

Changes in bankruptcy law

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Bankruptcy laws get modified every year or two. But in October 2005, a major overhaul by Congress resulted in a significant paradigm shift. “Two years later, a lot of people do not realize the extent of the bankruptcy law changes, their impact and how they play out in real cases,” says Mark Bradshaw, a partner in the Insolvency and Reorganization Practice Group at Shulman Hodges & Bastian LLP. “If you’re dealing with a company that appears to be in financial distress, you definitely want to contact your attorney right away.” Smart Business asked Bradshaw about how to minimize the impact…
Friday, 26 October 2007 20:00

The Boss file

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Born: San Mateo, Calif. Education: Bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, University of Texas at Austin; J.D., University of Southern California What is the greatest business challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it? I was asked to start up a company with some private investors, and I was asked to adopt their business plan. I had my doubts about the plan, but I went ahead. The business plan didn’t work, and I finally asked to do it my way. I learned from that experience that you have to trust your own instincts and your own judgment. Whom have you…
Tuesday, 25 September 2007 20:00

Help me help you

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Real estate advisers can develop strategies, research alternatives, negotiate deals and manage relocations, but there’s one thing they can’t do — be the client. Clients play a key role in the effectiveness of the real estate process. “The way a client participates in a real estate project can significantly affect its outcome,” says Jeff Shepard, principal with CresaPartners in Orange County. “Certain clients understand how to work with a professional real estate adviser in a way that notably improves the results.” Smart Business spoke with Shepard about tips for partnering with real estate advisers to achieve the most successful results.…
Tuesday, 25 September 2007 20:00

Progress through patience

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One of the most challenging aspects of being a CEO is often getting everyone else to understand where it is you want to take the business, says James J. Saccacio. “As a leader and as a visionary, you’re usually five steps ahead of everybody,” says Saccacio, chairman and CEO of RealtyTrac Inc. “You see the painting already crystallized on the canvas while everybody still is ust seeing components to it. You want to get it done right away. You just have to be patient and allow people to make mistakes so that they grow and they learn.” By bringing employees…
Sunday, 26 August 2007 20:00

Smart leverage

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If you don’t have any other options, are you negotiating or settling? Tenants looking for new space need to create leverage to land the deals that best achieve their objectives. “If tenants focus on one particular alternative, they’re putting all of their eggs in one basket,” says Jonti Bacharach, vice president with CresaPartners in Orange County. “If you haven’t created leverage, you don’t know if the landlord is taking advantage of you.” Smart Business spoke with Bacharach about how tenants can benefit from real estate leverage. How do landlords try to minimize tenant leverage? The most common way landlords attempt…
Sunday, 26 August 2007 20:00

Selling your business

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Should owners of closely held businesses plan for the ultimate sale of their business from the outset or as the sale date appears on the horizon? The answer: They should do both, says Peter G. Dolbee, corporate tax partner with Haskell & White LLP. Dolbee says that both short-term and long-range planning are vital when it comes to achieving the optimal return from ownership and the subsequent sale of a closely held business. Planning should be an ongoing owner activity that starts before the business is launched and ends only after the business is sold and the final check is…
Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

Efficient real estate projects

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Today, more than ever, it’s important to avoid costly delays and unexpected overruns associated with providing solutions to corporate real estate needs. As vacancy rates drop, landlord-driven markets strike out at tenants with a harsh onetwo punch. Not only are rents on the rise, but the Tenant Improvement Allowance is shrinking while the cost of construction and related services grows. Rick Martin, who leads project management activities for CresaPartners of Orange County, says he believes this should be anticipated, negotiated and actively managed as part of the real estate transaction process. Smart Business talked to Martin about keeping project costs…
Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

D&O coverage

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Directors and officers today face significantly more liability than in past years as corporate scandals become more visible. The fundamental principles governing their conduct come under increasing judicial and regulatory scrutiny due, in large part, to recent corruption. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was signed into law in 2002, expanded the responsibilities as well as the potential liabilities of corporate officers and directors. Although this legislation protects shareholders and is expected to improve corporate governance, it also bears the risk of increasing the number of litigations, says Victor Farfan, commercial insurance broker, with Westland Insurance. Increased corporate governance has heightened the…
Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

401(k) fiduciary responsibilities

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As the sponsor of a retirement plan, CEOs are helping their employees achieve a secure financial future. Sponsoring a plan, however, also means that you, or someone you appoint, will be responsible for making important decisions about the plan’s management. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires that those responsible for managing retirement plans, referred to as fiduciaries, carry out their responsibilities prudently and solely in the interest of the plan’s participants and beneficiaries. Among other duties, fiduciaries have a responsibility to ensure that the services provided to their plan are necessary and that the cost of those services…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Kevin Hartman

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When Kevin Hartman was a student at Niagara University, he took a clerical position with an organization called CNF Inc. Today, more than three decades later, he serves as president of Con-way Freight-Western Inc., a subsidiary of Con-way Inc. — previously known as CNF — a $4.2 billion transportation and logistics company. In the years since he graduated and entered a management trainee program, Hartman has held a number of positions within the organization, with increasing levels of responsibility, and in 2005, he was named to his current position. Now supervising approximately 3,500 employees serving 13 states, Hartman’s leadership philosophy…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Size doesn’t matter

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When reviewing your corporate insurance policies, one of the worst possible mistakes is budgeting for employment practice insurance and general liability insurance — and then overlooking directors and officers (D&O) insurance. “Corporate managers need to understand that no matter the size of their company, they are not immune to litigation against directors and officers,” says Ron Hodges, partner and director of the Litigation Department at Shulman Hodges & Bastian LLP. “They have read a great deal about the Enrons and Tycos of the world, but smaller public [and private] companies in their own communities are just as vulnerable.” Directors and…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

No surprises

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A financial plan serves as a road map for where a company hopes to go. When creating such a plan, it is important to spend time reflecting on potential future activities — such as capital expenditures and liquidity events — rather than just assuming a specific growth rate. By taking into account both past performance and future expectations, a company and its bank can work hand in hand to properly structure products and services that will meet current as well as future needs. “Having a financial plan in place that outlines the financial expectations of your company enables a bank…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

The Arbuckle file

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Place of birth: Kansas City, Mo. Education: Bachelor’s degree, Missouri State University; master’s degree, Arizona State University; Ph.D., University of North Carolina First job: Faculty position at the University of North Carolina What’s been your toughest business challenge? Always trying to maintain work/family/life balance and never losing sight of that. Do you have any favorite business periodicals? I like The Wall Street Journal for the bigger perspective. I read probably 15 different health care or health care finance periodicals a week, between print and online versions. Whom do you admire most in business and why? John Maxwell [an author and…
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

Look before you leap

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Selecting a business location requires more than looking at the base lease rate. A plethora of elements must seamlessly dovetail to lessen the impact on the bottom line. “Moving day is not the time to discover that crucial features of a new location are unsuitable for your operation,” says Barbara Cooper, an adviser for CRESA Partners Orange County. “Choosing the right location for your business is a major decision that requires time and expertise to achieve an optimal outcome. A company can waste time and money spinning its wheels in trying to make the right decision about relocation. Hiring a…
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

On the home front

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When was the last time you reviewed your homeowner’s insurance policy with your agent? How do you know that you are adequately covered by your current policy? Most homeowners are underinsured, says Tamara Norton, personal lines broker at Westland Insurance Brokers Inc. Why? Because in Orange County, property values have increased dramatically over the past few years, so most homes may not really be covered for their full market value. Not only have homes increased in value but the price of building materials and labor is up as well. As the monetary value of your home and material goods increase,…
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

Audit rules hit private companies

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If you are the CEO or a CFO of a private company, beware the wrath of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX). In the post-Enron era, the heavily criticized American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has issued audit reform standards that will affect private companies. The eight new standards will be effective for audits of financial statements for periods beginning on or after Dec. 15, 2006. The new standards require auditors to look more carefully at every organization’s financial reporting process and business environment, and they require auditors to obtain more evidence before rendering an opinion on the financial statement. “We are moving…
Wednesday, 25 April 2007 20:00

Balancing act

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Being the head of a business means that you are always chasing success but never quite reaching it, says Kirsten Mangers, CEO and co-founder of WebVisible. “You should never put your head on a pillow at the end of the day believing you have done everything you possibly could,” Mangers says. “You should put your head on a pillow at the end of the day saying, ‘I really nailed that one. But boy, what could we have done differently?’” That philosophy has helped the advertising firm grow from eight employees in 2001 to 32 today, with revenue growing from $4.4…
Monday, 26 March 2007 20:00

Finding the right partner(s)

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Forming a strategic alliance with a few well-chosen vendors means having someone in your corner when you need it the most. “When you plan to have multiple transactions with a company, signing a contract is a good place to start, but to really benefit from an association with that company, you should consider forming a strategic alliance,” says Ronald Stein, vice president of business development for Principal Technical Services. “When you sign a contract, you make an agreement; but when you form a strategic alliance, you build a relationship.” Smart Business spoke with Stein about the benefits of forming strategic…