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One of my life lessons learned early in my business career was to surround myself with smart people. At the expense of being a bit boastful, I have been “top of my class” in the achievement of this approach, and the results speak for themselves.A byproduct of an innovative and creative management team is the exploration of how to improve an already well-oiled machine. Our machine is firing on all cylinders.What has been my formula? Enter the concept of joint ventures as a fast-tracked strategy for growth.Many businesses today have experienced organic growth, while others have done so through acquisition…
Saturday, 31 March 2012 20:01

How to cultivate a continuous improvement mindset

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Many businesses aspire to maintain a culture of continuous improvement. Whatever happened yesterday isn’t good enough for tomorrow, because tomorrow is an opportunity to do it even better. But as a leader, do you really understand how to foster a mindset of continual improvement within your business? Can you push the right buttons and challenge your managers and employees to strive for better efficiency, more creative solutions and new ideas that can impact not just your company but your entire industry?Over the past year, Smart Business Philadelphia has spoken with numerous leaders about how they push their people to achieve…
Saturday, 31 March 2012 20:01

How Alfred P. West Jr. spurs innovation at SEI

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Alfred P. West Jr. sums up his company’s ongoing challenge in one sentence:“You can’t stay still, you have to continually innovate or you’ll die.”West is the chairman and CEO of SEI Investments Co., a wealth management solutions business he founded more than 40 years ago. He has grown the company entirely through organic methods, meaning he has relied solely on the intellectual fuel of his employees to power his company’s engine. Organic growth has lifted SEI to $900 million in 2010 revenue, after posting revenue totals in the billions prior to the recession. But the recession’s effects, coupled with an…
Saturday, 31 March 2012 20:01

How to understand business Ethernet services

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“The network is your business” has been a mantra for many years, indicating how businesses rely more heavily on being networked among their facilities, data centers, suppliers, business partners and customers.“Your network enables your business to improve productivity, provide business continuity, increase customer satisfaction and reduce costs,” says Michael Louden, Director of Enterprise Sales for Comcast. “Selecting the Wide Area Network to meet your diverse needs can be challenging, but over the past several years, business Ethernet services have emerged as the optimal choice to best address many applications.”Smart Business spoke with Louden about how Ethernet services can help improve…
Due to the historic amount of catastrophe losses that have occurred over the past few years, the property insurance market has changed significantly. This is particularly true for businesses that have exposure to catastrophe perils such as wind, flood and earthquake.“If you have property that has these exposures, you are going to see significant changes on your property renewal,” says Gloria D. Forbes, an executive vice president with ECBM Insurance Brokers and Consultants.Smart Business spoke with Forbes about how to manage your property insurance through the storm.How has the market changed?Both insurance companies and reinsurance companies are using new catastrophe…
Every business needs electricity to function. But most business owners rarely give it a second thought, going to work each day and flipping a switch, taking it for granted that the lights will come on.But businesses have more at stake than just the lights coming on. Without electricity, computers won’t work, equipment and machinery won’t run and your IT infrastructure will be unable to operate. And why would you want to leave all of that to chance, when there are reliable, affordable options to choose from?All electricity suppliers are not equal. By taking the time to do your research and…
Don’t take this the wrong way, but Lars Bjork has found his share of headaches as he’s dealt with his company’s rapid growth over the past few years.It’s a great problem to have, right? As an untold number of American businesses have struggled just to tread water, and numerous large, well-known companies have undergone very public bankruptcy proceedings, Qlik Technologies Inc. has been heading in the other direction. The business software solutions company, which brands itself as QlikTech, has sprouted from $44 million in 2006 revenue to $226 million in revenue and 1,000 employees in 2010.But fast growth still puts…
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 19:01

Julian K. Hutton: Beware your back

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Business partnerships, like marriages, usually start out well. A shared vision, the excitement of being able to do it the way you know it should be done, a mutual respect for each party’s skills and contribution to the success of the venture. But many partnerships, like many marriages, end in bitterness and recrimination. Particularly if your business partner surprisingly turns out to be a crook.Operating in countries of the undeveloped world, it was usually legally required, as part of the terms for the grant of a business license to a foreign entity, to take on a “local partner.” This local…
The borough of West Chester, Pa. has about 4,200 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That’s out of about 6,000 total structures in the borough.That’s why, when looking to grow as a business destination, West Chester can’t help but brand itself around its history.“The borough is only 1.8 square miles, but we have a great number of local landmarks that have connections to people like Abraham Lincoln and other notable folks,” says Malcolm Johnstone, executive director of the West Chester Business Improvement District. “We have a lot of historic interpretive signs that you see in a lot…
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 19:01

How to protect your company against fidelity losses

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If your company experiences a loss of money, securities or assets as the result of a crime, you may think your insurance will cover the loss.But claims for this type of loss, called a fidelity loss, are usually excluded under other policies you purchase.“Usually, the loss results from an employee or someone in a position of trust that is responsible for the property or money being lost,” says Scott Nuelle, vice president of ECBM Insurance Brokers and Consultants. “And if you don’t have the right insurance, such a claim could threaten your business.”Smart Business spoke with Nuelle about how fidelity…
No business owner wants to think about what would happen to the business if circumstances prevented him or her from running the company. Confident, hard-driving owners have a vision for the future, and accidental death, terminal illness or disability are generally not in the picture, says Howard N. Greenberg, a managing member at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC.“To succeed in business, principals often have a belief of their own invincibility. But if there is no emergency plan in place and the principal dies or is disabled, the results can be catastrophic. If suddenly the ship is rudderless, like any…
Businesses that thrive in today’s competitive marketplace recognize that the data they collect on a daily basis can be a valuable asset.But just collecting data isn’t enough. It’s critical to organize this business intelligence so that it is accessible and can be analyzed to improve an organization’s performance by driving innovation, spurring fresh ideas and giving managers the tools to make smarter business decisions, says Sassan Hejazi, director of the Technology Solutions Group at Kreischer Miller.“Having the ability to analyze data and use it as a benchmarking tool internally and against competitors can change the culture and character of an…
Wednesday, 01 February 2012 11:51

How to build a strong safety culture

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Every company wants to believe it is a safe place to work, but are you doing what is necessary to create a culture of safety in your business?If you’re not, an unsafe workplace can be costly, and not only in terms of disability and medical costs.“In addition to the more obvious costs, there are many other reasons for employers to focus on improving safety in the workplace,” says Eric W. Sandoe, claims account executive with ECBM Insurance Brokers and Consultants. “Lost productivity as a result of replacing injured workers with other employees who may not be trained for the job…
While many of the costs of doing business continue to rise, the price of wholesale electricity has dropped significantly.And that offers businesses the opportunity to partner with an energy supplier to identify ways to reduce their electricity and fuel costs, says L. Gene Alessandrini, senior vice president of marketing at PPL EnergyPlus.“Decreasing prices make now an ideal time to review their options and develop an energy procurement strategy with their supplier,” says Alessandrini.Smart Business spoke with Alessandrini about how to develop energy procurement strategies to take advantage of long-term pricing trends and evaluate what a competitive energy supplier can offer…
Businesses today face more competition than ever, driving them to go beyond their own backyards and look globally for ways to capture market share and meet the needs of customers. Whether doing business at home or abroad, many of the challenges businesses face remain the same — turning a profit, delivering value to shareholders and satisfying customers, says Robert Olszewski, a director in the Audit & Accounting Group at Kreischer Miller, located in Horsham, Pa.“Beyond those basic goals of running a business, customer demands have become more persistent, with heightened expectations from markets that companies can potentially serve,” says Olszewski.…
With the growth of the sustainable business model and conscientious companies’ focus on the triple bottom line — people, planet, profit — a new corporate structure is emerging that speaks to these values.The benefit corporation model allows sustainably minded companies to adopt a structure that frees them of the traditional corporation’s requirement to maximize profit and shareholder returns. Benefit corporations can stay true to their socially responsible missions and still earn a profit, two things that used to be at odds, says Gabrielle Sellei, an attorney at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC.“Unlike a nonprofit entity, a benefit corporation may…
How do you spell relief?The short answer is: C-U-S-T-O-M-E-R L-O-Y-A-L-T-Y and E-M-P-L-O-Y-E-E P-E-R-F-O-R-M-A-N-C-E.As leaders in business, we all struggle with how to find solutions to reduce the pain within our own competitive working environment. Building off of personal experiences, I have found that success comes from embracing a formula of unparalleled customer loyalty and exceptional employee performance.The key to gaining customer loyalty and employee performance is to earn it. Talk is cheap. It is then up to us create a blueprint to excel in these critical areas. Ask your customers and yourself these 10 probing questions. If you then execute…
Many businesses — especially in this economy — would love to be in the position of Petplan. The pet health insurer has experienced explosive growth over the past few years, climbing to $18.7 million in revenue during 2010 and a debut on the Inc. 500 list (No. 123) in 2011.But with explosive growth comes daunting challenges, and it has fallen on the husband and wife team of Chris and Natasha Ashton to lead the way. The co-founders and co-CEOs of Petplan — which is the DBA name of Fetch Insurance Services LLC — have needed to chart a course for…
In October 2010, Vince Donnelly was in the position of being acquired. PMA Cos. Inc., which he leads as president and CEO, was acquired by Old Republic International Corp.The acquisition came with a number of positives for PMA. It provided an infusion of capital and additional resources, allowing the company to increase its operational flexibility. Old Republic also allowed PMA to retain a high degree of autonomy in terms of its day-to-day operations and culture.But change is still change, and Donnelly needed to pilot an organization of more than 1,000 people through a foundational transition. He needed to quiet concerns…
Although many businesses are concerned about their insurance costs, they often look in the wrong places for relief. In fact, there are a few areas that many businesses fail to consider despite their potentially huge impact on an insurance program and profitability.Two of these areas are contracts and additional insured, says Brian Chance, vice president of claims and services at ECBM Insurance Brokers and Consultants.“Companies assume liability in the contracts and purchase agreements they enter into,” Chance says. “It’s always best to make sure you understand what those liabilities are before you find yourself paying for them.”Smart Business spoke with…
Energy is one the biggest costs for businesses, and failing to find the right plan to meet the needs of your business can prove to be a costly mistake.But partnering with a comprehensive energy supplier can help your company find ways to reduce its costs and manage fluctuations in usage, says Annette Durnack, director of retail energy at PPL EnergyPlus.“Too often, businesses just use the supplier that they always have, and pay the bill each month as it comes,” says Durnack. “But energy is too big an expense for businesses for management not to take the time to find the…
Saturday, 31 December 2011 20:01

How to attract superstar leaders

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Many businesses that put hiring on hold during the recession are now prepared to retool their top talent. Organizations that are prospering in what is the new economy recognize that a sharp, experienced team is critical to success.“Companies are looking for opportunities to take their businesses to the next level, and that includes upgrading executive talent,” says Tyler Ridgeway, director for the Human Capital Resources Group at Kreischer Miller. “They are evaluating their key players. Who are the executives they can’t afford to lose, and who are the ‘B’ and C’ players that they can upgrade?”Leading executives have also been…
Personalized medicine has the potential to change the way that medicine is prescribed, and it could provide more targeted, efficient care with better outcomes for patients, ultimately leading to lower costs for everyone involved, says Jacqueline Penrod, an attorney with Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC.“There is a lot of excitement about the potential that personalized medicine has to really change the way we deliver health care to the benefit of patients, hospitals and insurers,” says Penrod. “The technology being developed can help patients in a way that will be less costly.”But much of the technology that potentially will drive…
In late 2008 and early 2009, as the recession wrapped its fingers around the collective neck of American business, Richard Phillips Jr. was in the same position as many business heads.The CEO of Pilot Freight Services was facing a dwindling customer base, and reduced business from the customers that were still doing business with the international freight forwarder, which generated $423 million in 2010 revenue.But Phillips still had a few cards to play. The biggest ace up his sleeve was his company’s unique position in the market.“We are the largest privately held U.S. freight forwarder,” Phillips says. “What that means…
Just about every industry is evolving due to advancements in technology. For Jonathan Brassington, his business is IT services, which means that not only must he evolve LiquidHub Inc. — which he oversees as co-founder and CEO — he must also provide the services that will help his company’s clients evolve, as well.It’s a challenge that has required Brassington to keep a constant eye on the market, and continually find new ways to serve the market. That, in turn, has required LiquidHub — which generated $54 million in 2010 revenue — to remain nimble, agile and adaptable, which has become…
Saturday, 31 December 2011 19:01

Frank Napolitano on designing success

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While many famous quotations turn out to be apocryphal, there is one attributed to Albert Einstein that I like even if he didn’t actually say it. It went something like this: “If I had an hour to save the world, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding the solution.” Whether you are saving the world or just responsible for designing a new product or service, that allocation of time spent thinking versus doing still pertains. So I like to reshape Einstein’s attributed quip this way: If you have an hour to create a product or…
In the souks of Egypt there is a saying, doubtless put about by the owners of carpet and antiquities stalls, that “a deal is only a good one when both sides come away happy.”When negotiating an agreement with a Wall Street bank a couple of years ago, I floated this concept by them and they disagreed. Their attitude was that the proof of a good deal was when both sides came away unhappy. As the last few years have clearly demonstrated, Wall Street has been generous in distributing their misery as widely as possible.But at least an Egyptian carpet salesman…