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Monday, 22 July 2002 10:03

What an open mind can get you

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Ken Doerbecker booked himself into a trade show a few months back hoping to sell his computer consulting services to the exhibitors. He walked out with a new business. The show, which gives inventors an opportunity to showcase their ideas to contract manufacturers, marketers and, most importantly, to potential financial backers, had turned up zilch in new clients for Doerbecker. Many of the exhibitors, apparently, were having the same luck as Doerbecker. Some of them, seeking to cast a wider net, asked him what it would take to set up a Web page to help them contact resources for financing,…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:03

Marketing Matters

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On more than one occasion, I have submitted a proposal to a prospect, only to have him take my proposal to the competition to see if it can beat it? How should I handle this? Quit doing proposals without an up-front agreement to get the pros-pect's decision when it is delivered. The minute you deliver a proposal to a pros-pect, all your leverage is gone and you find yourself in "chase" mode. At this point, the prospect has all the leverage, and it's very difficult for you to stick to your price. Only prospects who qualify should get your proposal.…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:03

Law Briefs

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When it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace, what employers don't know can still hurt them. Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions earlier this year give notice to employers that they can be held liable for sexual harassment by supervisors, even if their companies had no knowledge of the supervisors' behavior. Craig Brooks, a director with Pittsburgh law firm Houston Harbaugh who specializes in employment law, says a supervisor's negative job action, such as a dismissal or denial of a promotion because of an employee's refusal to give in to a demand for sex, can put a company at risk.…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:03

Briefly Noted

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If you haven't already prepared a "worst-case scenario" environmental crisis-management plan for your company, you may want to get started. So says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which reports that an estimated 66,000 organizations throughout the country that handle any of 140 toxic, flammable and volatile substances will be required to have such a plan in place by June 21, 1999. Companies affected include chemical manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of propane, and municipal facilities such as public drinking water systems, wastewater treatment plants and public utilities, among others. "Companies and facilities affected by the Accidental Release Prevention Requirement: Risk Management…
Carl Hohnbaum, senior vice president and head of Legg Mason's Pittsburgh office The United Way is all about raising money for charity, but it's also about getting everyday people involved in charitable work-sharing the ideals and struggles of agency workers and understanding the value of good works from the viewpoint of the beneficiaries themselves. From either perspective, the Pittsburgh office of Carl Hohnbaum, senior vice president and head of investment firm Legg Mason's Pittsburgh office, is a winner, and he's being saluted as the first Exceptional Leader in SBN's yearlong campaign to acknowledge those who put the community high on…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:02

Marketing Matters

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Focus is important for everyone, since we all have so much to accomplish and so many details to address at any given time. Focus helps us spend our time most efficiently and concentrate on areas where we can make the most impact, and not worry about those in which we can't. Lack of focus can be frustrating and counterproductive. Take job hunting. Imagine if you conducted a job search the same way some companies market their products or services. You would prepare a resume with a long list of accomplishments and credentials, mail it to numerous companies, to the attention…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:02

Law Briefs

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According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 90 percent of all businesses in the nation are family owned. As such, this vital part of the economy should be more carefully nurtured. Unfortunately, statistics show that most family-owned businesses do not have secure futures. The chances of successful passage from the first generation to the next are slim; just three out of 10 family businesses survive the transition. Of those that do survive, only half will continue as viable business entities into the third generation of the family. While the type and size of the businesses and the relationships among family…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:02

From the editor

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That's probably just what the owner of one local mortgage brokerage firm told himself recently when he decided to leave me hanging there for almost three months like a dried up Christmas wreath in March. No big deal. A minor casualty. He was an idiot with marginal credit, anyway. Or something like that. In my unrelenting pursuit of a refinanced mortgage, I didn't get the refinancing in the end, so I guess he got the last laugh. Or did he? It all started in August, when my wife and I got a call from one of dozens of hungry mortgage…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:02

Business Notes

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Medical technology start-up Precision Therapeutics once again has dazzled the investment community with its cancer tissue-testing assays, this time to the tune of $1.5 million. The capital infusion came from Pittsburgh-based high-tech venture-capital firm CEO Venture Fund, which has been working with the start-up since its inception in 1995. So far, company founder Dr. Paul Kornblith, a neurosurgeon for 33 years before starting the company, has raised more than $5.4 million in capital. Kornblith's company has developed a series of patented assays which, using a patient's tumor cells, can efficiently measure the response of those diseased cells to proposed chemotherapy…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:01

Who To Watch in 1999

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As the stadium controversy continues, as civic leaders continue to bemoan the potential loss of major sports franchises as a death blow to our economy, someone forgot to tell the smaller business community. Without question, entrepreneurs will never face an easy, hurdle-free path to success—with or without the Pittsburgh Pirates or Steelers. But for many, their perseverance, tenacity and technological know-how are transforming the region into a quiet hotbed of aggressive growth and prosperity. In this, our fifth annual Who To Watch issue, SBN showcases eight companies and their leaders, including two entrepreneurially driven, economic development-oriented organizations. As usual, our…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:01

Technology

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As predicted, Y2K liability claims have already begun to rear their ugly heads in Pittsburgh, but you may be surprised at the outcome of the nation’s first case to reach the courts. Pittsburgh-based ASE Ltd. signed a contract in 1995 to develop and install an enterprisewide computer system for INCO Alloys International of Huntington, W.Va., over five years. At one point, INCO halted the contract and, ultimately, tried to make a legal claim for $3.9 million in what it called Year 2000 remediation damages. The company claimed ASE was liable for the cost of making changes that would make the…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:01

Preparing to meet your lender

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Preparation can save time when you’re going after financing. Here are the items you should have when you meet with your prospective lender: Year-to-date profit and loss and balance sheet statements on business, current within 60 days List of current business debt; Complete personal tax returns for the last three years; Personal financial statement; Appropriate signatures on authorization to release information form; Proposed sale price of real estate or total loan amount and use of proceeds; Specific source of down payment; Corporations and partnerships should have business and personal tax returns for the last three years from each owner holding…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:01

Management Letter

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Employee involvement and empowerment are important keys to improving organizational performance. Many examples exist of how these programs have helped organizations become more competitive. But without a strong sense of stewardship among all employees, progress toward even the most critical changes can be slow, or, at times, almost nonexistent. Stewardship isn't inborn. It's learned. It must be in the head before it's in the heart. And while it must be learned, there are barriers that interfere with its being put into practice-even after it's understood and accepted. Remember the parable in the Bible of the master who gave his servants…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:01

From the editor

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”It is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity when the excellent lies before us.” —Isaac D’Israeli, Curiosities of Literature (1834) My piano teacher loved to talk. I discovered this each week when I had to sit down with her to demonstrate the skills I had learned the previous week. I would arrive just in time with my stack of music books and a carefully planned list of potential discussion topics. When it came time to play my first song, I would straighten my back, confidently position my fingers and turn to my teacher. That’s when I would ask…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:01

Breaking a banking tradition

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If your bank turns you down for a small business loan, you’re out of luck, right? Not necessarily. In fact, nontraditional lenders or, as the Small Business Administration describes them, nondepository lenders, may have money for you when the banks don’t, and might offer longer repayment terms and interest rates that are quite competitive. Nondepository lender doesn’t mean fly-by-night. Some of the largest makers of SBA-backed loans are nontraditional lenders such as The Money Store, one of the biggest in the United States. The need for financing that falls outside what banks normally offer to small businesses has fueled the…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:00

When your image must change

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searchable "Computer software engineer Tom Joseph thought he had it made when he launched Bookminders, his automated accounting and bookkeeping service. Not only had he developed unique bookkeeping software applications and solutions, he had created a work force of highly educated accounting professionals who had chosen to work at home. That home-based angle became a public relations hit which he rode from home-based business publication to home-based business organization and beyond, all the way to a coveted feature in the Wall Street Journal. The attention proved invaluable in getting his business beyond the start-up mode. It gave him free publicity…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:00

Management Letter

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searchable "Quite often, you hear comments that certain people are ""born"" leaders-the implication being that a true leader must be born with an innate talent that separates him or her from the masses of people who aren't destined to direct the efforts of others. Having seen any number of people rise to the status of leader through sheer grit, determination and hard work, I must take issue with this notion. Someone once said it was attitude more than aptitude that ultimately determines a person's altitude. Good leadership begets good leadership. Here are a few techniques for developing ""born"" leaders: Clearly…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:00

An equipment loan not tied to jobs

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Low interest rates apparently have trickled down to where they now may be of potential benefit to small and medium manufacturers. Manufacturers looking to purchase technology-based capital equipment may qualify for a loan at a fixed interest rate of 5 percent through the Southwestern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center. Technology-based equipment, for the purposes of these loans, is defined as computer hardware, software, computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing equipment, computer-numerically controlled process equipment and other technology upgrades. The rate is available for loans up to a maximum of $100,000 or 50 percent of the total cost of the equipment. To qualify,…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:59

To team or not to team

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In transactions involving combinations of hardware and software licenses and related services, two parties often enter teaming agreements or other joint marketing arrangements to attempt to make a sale. Just as often, the parties envision that one of them will make the proposal to and secure the contract from the prospective customer and the other will become a subcontractor on the project. Because these arrangements generate revenue only if a sale is secured, and contemplate a future contractual relationship, the big question becomes, what, if any, enforceable obligations are created by such relationships? In an effort to remove that question…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:59

Oh, the stress of it

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Changing to an open-office arrangement from a traditional setting can save on space and lease rental costs, make facilities management more flexible and improve interaction among teams. But it also can create stress for employees. Here are seven steps to help you ease that stress and foster involvement. 1. Make sure to plan every step of the way. Your plan should consist of a formal proposal that incorporates a buy-in by managers and employees affected by the change, an approval process and a timetable with details on packing and moving. 2. Involve managers as early in the process as possible.…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:59

Marketing Matters

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You hear about these all the time—death in the organization, a natural disaster, layoffs, lawsuits, regulatory violations, crime in the workplace or a service or product liability. Odds are, sooner or later, you’ll face one of these crises. How you handle it—and communicate it to others—will shape your company’s image and could determine whether you are successful, gain or lose market share or even stay in business. For a business, dealing with a crisis is similar to fighting a forest fire. To contain the spread of fire, you must establish secure individual fire walls. If you’re successful, the fire can…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:59

Hands off my IRA

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If you’re in the unfortunate position of bankruptcy or have just closed your business, you probably thought the pension plan money you rolled over into an IRA was safe from creditors. And you would have been wrong. At least until last year, that is, when the state legislature passed House Bill 1048. Federal law under ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) has long protected assets in a qualified employer-sponsored retirement plan, whether pension, profit sharing or 401(k) plan, from the reach of creditors of employees who are plan participants. IRAs, however, are not protected by federal law, which…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:59

Delta dawns

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Growth is the double-edged sword on which too many entrepreneurs end up falling. It’s fundamental to making an enterprise prosper, yet it can become a Hydra that is a colossal pain to manage. Angela Llamas-Butler saw all too well the difficulties encountered by large organizations that attempted to execute large projects. Perhaps more important, she saw the limitations she had to growing her company, Delta System Designs Inc., effectively. Llamas-Butler faced a decision that one-person shops often anguish over: Do I continue to operate independently, unencumbered by the multiple issues involved in running a larger organization, and accept the limitations…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:58

One nation’s misfortune...

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Dennis Unkovic, a partner with law firm Meyer, Unkovic & Scott and an experienced foreign trade lawyer, advises growing businesses that there are opportunities as well as pitfalls in doing business in East Asian countries where economies are experiencing a slump. Here are a few of his observations: Businesses that are in the market for real estate, plants or equipment can grab up bargains at depressed prices. One of his clients, Unkovic says, bought nearly new equipment in Korea at about half of its original price. Property purchased during the savings and loan liquidations of the 1980s by Japanese companies…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:58

To motivate or inspire

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Following a recent workshop, a young woman asked me an interesting question. She wanted to know if I considered myself a motivational speaker or an inspirational speaker. I have given that question some thought and, after discussing it with friends in the speaking and training profession, concluded that, while it is generally perceived that a motivational program can get people fired up, the overall effect tends to be short-term. An inspirational speech can have a deeper impact, possibly causing a life-long change. This is a point often overlooked by leaders. It’s relatively simple to motivate an employee in the short…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:58

Cheating copycats

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Graphic Arts Technical Foundation has received a patent on a technology trademarked as KOPOUT, which offers varying degrees of protection from reproductions using specular and diffuse photocopiers, fax machines and scanners. KOPOUT was developed as an offshoot of GATF’s research on security papers for the U.S. government. “We expect that this new technology will have broad applications in the security printing field,” says Richard Warner, vice president and director of research at GATF. “The relative ease and low cost of application will allow any printer or quick-print shop to offer this capability to customers with jobs that shouldn’t be copied.”…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:58

57 Lessons

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We’ve probably seen it all when it comes to Pittsburgh business. Since our launch in April 1994, we’ve seen small high-tech start-ups transform almost overnight into 1,000-employee companies with half a billion dollars in revenue. We’ve seen exciting growth companies collapse from financial disarray, market shortcomings, death, fraud and even arrogance. And we’ve seen just as many companies that should have died a slow and painful death come back to life in the hands of energetic, resourceful entrepreneurs who reach for the stars even when their arms are too short. Over the years, we’ve positioned those stories in a way…