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Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

Real estate strategic planning

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The typical transaction-based approach to real estate planning focuses on a specific property lease; the strategic business approach to real estate planning focuses on how that or any lease impacts the client’s bottom line. Greg Fischer, vice president of strategy for CresaPartners in Philadelphia, advises senior business executives on aligning their real estate costs with their business strategy to improve their bottom line. “A tactical approach may result in an effective property lease, but you need to develop a strategic approach to reduce the client’s operating cost as a percent of revenue, and improve their efficiency ratio,” Fischer says. Smart…
Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

Workplace banking programs

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It’s a challenge all business owners face: Making your company a more attractive place to work. The good news is you do not necessarily need to pay more to attract and retain good employees. Smart entrepreneurs are sweetening their employee benefits package with low-cost or no-cost perks to help their companies stay competitive in the market for good employees. Benefits such as flexible work schedules, health club memberships and relaxed dress codes often make a difference when candidates are weighing job offers. Another free perk that can make a difference is a workplace banking benefits program. Smart Business talked with…
Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

The Whitmore file

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Born: King of Prussia, Pa. Education: Bachelor’s degree, business, Philadelphia University History: President and CEO of AlliedBarton Security Services since 2003; named chairman in 2006 What is the best business lesson you’ve learned? If you feel something is right or wrong in your gut, and your gut is your experience and knowhow, I believe you have to act with your gut. I think procrastination is the ruination of companies. Someone once had a saying, ‘Don’t waste your time looking for the right thing. Do something.’ Do not sit and let something fester. Act on it. What traits or skills are…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Indemnification

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Indemnification can be a company’s best protector, depending on how well it is thought out and drafted. Here’s where an insurance specialist comes in as an advocate to both identify risk and keep liability at bay through the tricky language of your project’s contract. “One of an account manager’s or agent’s objectives should be to act as the client’s outsourced risk manager when entering into contract negotiations,” says Franz Wagner, vice president of The Graham Company in Philadelphia. Smart Business asked Wagner about gaining greater protection from your next contractual venture. What is indemnification? Indemnification is a way to transfer…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

The equalizer

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Jack Lynch was walking down a hospital hall one day when a security guard stopped him. “Where is your ID badge?” the guard asked. “I’m the president,” replied Lynch, who is also the CEO of Main Line Health, a $780 million health care system based in Bryn Mawr. Lynch sounded like he was asserting that he didn’t need an ID badge, but he actually had an ulterior motive. After the guard gave him a perplexed look, Lynch let him in on the joke. “I’m just kidding,” he told the guard. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that you…
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

Taking sides

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In this age of corporate governance, it’s vital to know who’s representing you in every major transaction of your business. Even when there are no legal implications, it never hurts to take stock of who’s working for you and your best interests. Matthew Feeney, Managing Principal with CresaPartners in Philadelphia, encourages business owners in the market for commercial space to weigh their options when seeking representation. “Most firms in any market are full-service real estate companies. In larger markets there are firms that just represent tenants. The differences may not be apparent to a tenant, but they can be very…
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

Escrow services

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 When companies engage in mergers, acquisitions or real estate transactions, all eyes are on closing the deal. With so much at stake, most businesses can’t afford to jeopardize or delay the long-awaited closing. However, choosing an escrow agent — often a mandatory step in the process — is frequently low on the priority list, even though a successful closing may, in fact, rest on the escrow services you choose. Smart Business talked with vice presidents Damon Gray and Howard Schwartz of PNC Institutional Investments for advice on choosing appropriate escrow services to help facilitate your next commercial transaction. What is…
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

The Kolem file

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Age: 50 Born: Recklinghausen, Germany Education: Undergraduate and graduate physics degrees, University of Dortmund, Germany; Postdoctoral studies, University of Utah What is the best business lesson you’ve learned? Listen to what customers and people are saying. I think you can never underestimate that if you just openly listen to what people are saying, and not being too provocative in your questions, you can learn a lot, and I think that is the best thing you can do. Wherever you are, learn from your subordinates and learn from your bosses. What traits or skills are essential for a business leader? It’s…
Wednesday, 25 April 2007 20:00

Righting the ship

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When Michael L. Browne was named president and CEO of Harleysville Group Inc. in 2003, he was taking over a ship headed in the wrong direction. Browne, who had served on the company’s board for more than 18 years, was becoming the captain of a corporate vessel that was experiencing its worst year in a history that spanned almost a century. Reserve charges had wiped out the property and casualty insurance company’s profits, it was behind the curve with technology, and the lines of communication were withering among the company’s employees and independent agents, resulting in a teamwork breakdown. Harleysville,…
Monday, 26 March 2007 20:00

Get it right the first time

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The “temporary help” industry has grown up. From its origins in clerical and light industrial, the business has expanded to almost every professional position. Unfortunately, the process of identifying and hiring the right temporary professionals into these positions has not grown up quite as fast. “People can get a whole lot better at hiring temporary staff,” says Joel Adams, CEO and founder of Devon Consulting. “Neither the clerical temp model nor the permanent professional model is optimal for professional contract assignments.” Smart Business spoke to Adams about the mistakes buyers make and how the right process can mean the difference…
Monday, 26 March 2007 20:00

Unlock hidden assets

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For companies seeking additional working capital to support current business needs or to finance growth or an acquisition, funding through securitization might be the answer. In the last 20 years, securitization has been the fastest-growing segment of the global capital markets. Securitization has enabled companies to unlock embedded asset value to increase liquidity, lower financing costs and diversify their overall capital structure, thereby enhancing enterprise value. Smart Business spoke with Reggie Imamura, senior managing director of PNC Capital Markets LLC, to learn how companies turn corporate receivables into asset-backed securities. What is an asset-backed security? Securitization converts a diverse pool…
Monday, 26 March 2007 20:00

The Bolte file

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Age: 49 Born: Philadelphia Education: Business/finance and Spanish degrees, Mount St. Mary’s University What is the best business lesson you’ve learned? Only do business with people you trust. That is the one thing that is universal. You absolutely have to be able to trust people. I think any time that trust is present, there is an opportunity. If there is no trust, it’s like a bad relationship. It’s not a healthy way to build a company. What traits or skills really benefit a business leader? I think it’s important that you are a really good storyteller. People will pick up…
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 19:00

Positive environment

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In 1999, TWC Group LLC was growing by leaps and bounds thanks to other companies that were also growing. Companies were calling the recruitment and HR outsourcing company to help them beef up their staffs, leading TWC to open offices all over the country to accommodate them. “We were hired left and right,” says president and CEO Terry Williams. “It was out of control. We were being overpaid to open offices. In retrospect, it was a big mistake because with the Internet bubble, what happened was you have these offices and nobody is hiring and the economy was in a…
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

Managing your salespeople, Part 2

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You’ve developed your product or service and secured your business plan. You know it’s important to select the right salespeople to sell your product, but how do you go about finding them? “It’s possible for good professional salespeople to change industries because they can be taught the specifics about a product, a sales strategy or the industry,” says Jim Sherry, vice president of Devon Consulting in Philadelphia. “What you can’t teach is attitude.” In this second part of a two-part series, Smart Business talked to Sherry about metrics, the sales funnel, accountability among the sales staff and the importance of…
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

Lowering health care costs

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As health care costs remain high, so do the costs of insurance premiums. Everyone has to pay them, but most people don’t know where that money actually goes. “Across the U.S., companies large and small are seeing the effect of increasing health care costs in their insurance premiums,” says Bob Dawson, president and CEO of HealthAmerica, a growing statewide health insurer in the Philadelphia area. “Few people know what that money pays for.” Smart Business talked to Dawson about the cost of premiums and how they effect health care services today. Where do health insurance premiums go? According to a…
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

Retirement savings plans

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Tired, traditional defined-benefit plans will get even more of an overhaul with reform legislation that reflects a push toward more creative 401(k) plans and other flexible retirement savings vehicles. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 may put more pressure on managers and business owners. Higher contributions to defined-benefit plans will impact companies’ cash flow and net income. “The positive is that opportunities exist for employers to provide for their employees’ retirement,” says Mark G. Metzler, CPA and director in the Accounting and Auditing Department of Kreischer Miller. Smart Business asked Metzler to review what you should know about the act.…
Sunday, 31 December 2006 19:00

No surprises

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It can be hard enough for a homeowner to figure out if he or she has enough insurance to make sure the home and family are adequately covered. It can be even harder to make sure a business has adequate coverage. “Insurance on the commercial side is not all equal,” says Bob Scullin, vice president-sales at The Graham Company in Philadelphia. “For a consumer or homeowner, there’s a lot of standardization of forms. While there’s standardization on the commercial side, there’s also a tremendous amount of modification.” Smart Business talked to Scullin about the importance of business owners knowing ahead…
Sunday, 31 December 2006 19:00

Lending solutions

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A few months ago, Group9 Inc.’s human resource director told company president Chris Ulsh something he didn’t know — more than 60 percent of the company’s 165 employees have been with the company for more than five years. And the key to retaining them, aside from a competitive compensation package, is fairness and communication, Ulsh says. “We try to treat all our people with respect,” he says. The company, which provides insurance and information services to the lending industry, posted 2005 revenue of nearly $33 million. Smart Business spoke with Ulsh about how to find employees, handle failure and stay…
Thursday, 30 November 2006 19:00

Risky business

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   In the high-risk business world, potential problems lurk around every corner. How does a business know if it has enough insurance and that the exposures to loss are properly covered? Property and casualty business insurance covers a lot of ground. It includes insuring the building, plant and equipment at a manufacturing plant. It would be worker’s compensation coverage where an employee might get injured and it would include a company’s fleet of trucks. “It can include a host of other things, as well,” says Mike Mitchell, vice president and principal of The Graham Co. “Things such as product liability,…
Friday, 24 November 2006 19:00

Risky business

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In the high-risk business world, potential problems lurk around every corner. How does a business know if it has enough insurance and that the exposures to loss are properly covered? Property and casualty business insurance covers a lot of ground. It includes insuring the building, plant and equipment at a manufacturing plant. It would be worker’s compensation coverage where an employee might get injured and it would include a company’s fleet of trucks. “It can include a host of other things, as well,” says Mike Mitchell, vice president and principal of The Graham Co. “Things such as product liability, sexual…
Friday, 24 November 2006 19:00

Gut check

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Matt Gillin knows in his gut when he is making the correct decision. “You know when you are right,” says Gillin, co-founder, president and CEO of Ecount Inc. “You may not have any evidence to support it, but you know you are right. You have to follow that with no fear of the consequence because your gut is telling you you are right. Trust your instincts.” Gillin has followed his gut to take Ecount, a 95-employee company that provides programs for corporations to deliver electronic payments, to annual revenue of more than $25 million. Smart Business spoke with Gillin about…
Sunday, 29 October 2006 12:44

Navigating international waters

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With two-thirds of companies indicating that improving global trade management is among their three most important initiatives, (Aberdeen Group report: “The CFO’s Agenda for Global Trade”), middle market companies can no longer afford to have their business remain exclusively within U.S. borders. Smart Business talked with Victor Notaro of PNC’s International Services Group to discuss the importance of doing business overseas, particularly some strategies for success in the global economy. What should a company that is thinking about expanding internationally take into consideration?Doing your homework and understanding the market is critical. Carefully think through your market entry strategy and plan…
Sunday, 29 October 2006 12:29

Under control

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Far too often, companies incur unnecessary costs associated with implementing, operating and assessing internal controls, due to too great an emphasis on using canned internal control checklists and external consultants. These are the mistakes that trap executives in all arenas: public, private and nonprofit business. “Driven by a lack of time and a fear of the unknown, many companies rely more on outside consultants than on internal management personnel who have a much better understanding of the true risks impacting the business,” says Chris Meshginpoosh, director of business advisory services for Kreischer Miller. “In many cases, this results in both…
Saturday, 28 October 2006 20:00

Liquid assets

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 If acquisitions are a key part of your company’s strategy, Nick DeBenedictis has some advice for you: Be visible. The chairman, president and CEO of Aqua America Inc. says it’s important to get the name and faces of your company out into prospective markets prior to making a purchase or acquisition. It’s a tried-and-true method that DeBenedictis has used to lead the Bryn Mawr-based water utility holding company since rising to the top post in 1993. Aqua America purchases small, privately owned and municipally owned water systems, and it has a lot of people to win over before making an…
Thursday, 21 September 2006 20:00

Recruitment branding

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Nike, Starbucks, Disney. Mention a brand and one can instantly conjure up a product, a reputation and an experience. If your firm is like many others, you may spend all your marketing focus and budget on promoting your qualities to potential clients. But are your potential employees impressed with your brand? “Winning the talent battle is directly related to a company’s recruitment brand,” says Sunita Iyengar, vice president of the Clinical Division of Devon Consulting, a professional staffing firm serving the IT and clinical trial industries. “A company’s capability to successfully attract, engage and retain its targeted employees hinges greatly…
Friday, 22 September 2006 06:00

Flying high

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When one mentions the terms “corporate jet” or “private plane,” most people think of the CEO of a Fortune 100 corporation in the latest, top-of-the-line Gulfstream. But in fact, more individuals and middle-market companies are turning to general aviation as an alternative to commercial travel. Industry data suggests that only 3 percent of the general aviation market would be classified as Fortune 500. A quick look at our own customer base reveals 50 percent of borrowers are high net-worth individuals or entrepreneurs, and 40 percent are privately-held companies. Smart Business talked to C. Wayne Starling, vice president and national sales…
Wednesday, 30 August 2006 17:32

Segmenting business data

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When business owners look to increase profits, they often opt to lower product prices or cut overhead costs. The problem is that these methods do not address internal profit challenges that may be lurking within the company. One way to ferret out these problems is to segment the business data, says David E. Shaffer, CPA and director at the accounting firm of Kreischer Miller. “It’s much easier to analyze a company’s profits if you break the data into smaller segments,” says Shaffer. “Once the data is segmented, it often turns into information that an owner can use to make good…