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Monday, 22 July 2002 09:38

All about integration

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In the last few years, many organizations have made an effort to move their communications function in the direction of integrated marketing communications. The term has become old, and the concept is even older. Agencies with both advertising and public relations capabilities have been selling integrated marketing communications programs to their clients for decades. Regardless of what you call it, the strategy is a good one. An integrated marketing communications plan provides the opportunity to pull together many communications resources, including a deliberate mix of advertising, publicity, collateral, direct mail, giveaway programs, use of the Web and so forth, to…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:38

A curbing merge urge

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The world's a big place that's getting smaller -- but now at a slower pace. That might be a conclusion drawn from mergers and acquisitions activity for the second quarter of 2000, as reported by Mergerstat. Second quarter numbers for U.S. dealmakers were $248 billion, compared to $471 billion for the first quarter. The culprit? Mergerstat's analysts blame it on "some nasty inflation jitters and a volatile stock market that made U.S. dealmakers a much more cautious lot." While total deals dropped off, Mergerstat, a Los Angeles research firm that tracks M&A activity, finds that many of the biggest deals…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:37

Those exploding ASPs

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Sometimes, even in the world of high-speed computing, the new becomes old and, well, the old becomes new again. Not too terribly long ago, companies that needed to crunch lots of numbers and create lots of reports but couldn't afford their own mammoth mainframe computers could rent space on a computer at a local data center. Back then, they called it computer time-sharing. The days of mainframe time-sharing may be all but gone, replaced by high-speed personal computer networks and the Internet. But the concept behind it has re-emerged, live and well with an Internet twist, re-establishing itself in what…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:37

Tapping federal contracts

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Did you know that the federal government spends nearly $200 billion annually for goods and services provided by the private sector? Now, the U.S. Small Business Administration has greatly enhanced an Internet-based initiative that gives small businesses better access to those dollars. Businesses can tap the federal marketplace via the SBA's PRO-Net database. The latest improvement on the program allows users to receive direct e-mail notification from contracting officials who are interested in their products and services. All you have to do to get on board is dial into the database's Web site at www.pro-net.sba.gov and fill out an electronic…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:37

Newsclips

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The Sustainable Jobs Fund, a community venture capital fund based in Durham, N.C., has closed on an investment of $750,000 in Allegheny Child Care Academy, a Pittsburgh-based child care provider. The Future Fund of Pittsburgh invested $250,000 in the current round of financing, which is designed to implement the expansion of Allegheny Child Care Academy into the Philadelphia, Detroit and Cleveland markets. BroadStreet Communications, a communications provider to small- and medium-sized businesses, has reached a $120 million agreement with Lucent Technologies that will help build BroadStreet Communications' next-generation network. Sloan Valve Co., of Franklin Park, Ill., has appointed Equiparts Co.…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:37

Law briefs

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Brownfield buddies The towns of Clairton, Duquesne and McKeesport are liking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency these days after the federal agency gave each of those communities $500,000 grants for brownfield clean-up programs. The clean-up is part of a pilot program called Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Funds. The money will allow those communities to provide loans to public and private parties involved in the clean-up and redevelopment of the many acres of old steel mill sites that line the Monongahela River in those towns. The grants are among seven being awarded across the country. The pilot is part of the…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:37

Good hair ways

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The first year that Judy and Chuck Ruggeri were in business as Fantastic Sams franchisees, their operations manager suggested they might want to do something to boost the morale of their hair stylists and promote group cohesiveness. That recommendation led to a "fun day" for their employees, who raised money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation by subjecting themselves to indignities such as getting doused in a dunk tank and taking a pie in the face. The Ruggeris have participated in a variety of charitable activities in their 12 years in business, enough to have earned Entrepreneur magazine's award for social responsibility…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:37

The thinking tree

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Rushing around our house, we were too busy to notice initially that Nicholas had quietly wandered away. But once we did, we launched a frantic search, inside and out. Outside, I hollered his name several times before I finally caught a glimpse of our blond 4-year-old meandering happily out of our woods and down the hill toward the house. "Where were you?" I scolded. "In the woods," he said, as if that were a stupid question after I'd seen him walk out from the trees. "I'll show you." I followed him back up the hill and onto the path I…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:37

Big issues for small business

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Listen to the 2000 presidential campaign rhetoric and you might start to think that business issues aren't causing much of a stir in Washington. The debate is dominated by talk about social issues, mostly education, preserving Social Security and trying to figure out what to do with all the cash that's pouring into the federal coffers. There's lots of talk about money, it seems, but not a whole lot of discussion about business and what it needs, wants or ought to be getting. That's because business isn't the battleground where the presidential election is going to be decided. "They're fighting…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:37

Ahoy, pirates, come clean

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If your company's computers contain software which you didn't legally pay for -- which makes you a software pirate -- now's the time to come clean. So says the Business Software Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based organization made up of major computer software developers whose mission is to help monitor and enforce the software copyrights of its members against those who copy the software illegally. The alliance has declared a temporary truce against violators in Pittsburgh, which means pirates in the region have been granted a month-long grace period to bring their software into compliance. By doing so, the alliance notes,…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Why don't they stay?

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Think you're doing all you can to reduce employee turnover? You might want to check again. A study by Development Dimensions International indicates that too many employers are laboring under myths that disguise the continuing problem of employee retention. "The root of the problem is that too many businesses still believe in myths about employee turnover," says Richard Wellins, DDI's senior vice president of marketing. Wellins says that many employers believe the retention problem is going away when, in fact, it's going into overdrive. Nearly all of the human resources professionals queried for the study said their organizations needed to…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

The SBA brings you teleconferencing

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U.S. Small Business Administration Business Information Centers (BICs) across the nation now offer teleconferencing equipment to small business owners. The communications equipment, provided by Polycom Inc., allows the BIC in Pittsburgh to teleconference with other BICs, as well as with banks and other institutions with similar technology. Polycom Inc., which claims to be the global leader in multimedia communication solutions, has installed Viewstation videoconferencing and Soundstation audioconferencing equipment in the Chula Vista, Calif., Wilmington, Del., Lewiston, Maine, and Spokane, Wash. BICs, as well as in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh BIC is in the Riverside Commons building on the North Side. Officials…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Market makeover

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A client needing to aggressively promote an improved product line and service commitment, in an effort to increase sales and market share, presented me with an interesting situation. The client had long been the pre-eminent provider of specialty chemicals within its industry. After problems with product quality and service several years ago, it decided to focus its attention on quality and service enhancements. During that time, several new competitors emerged in the marketplace. We recommended a two-step approach. First, we suggested it conduct a study of its marketplace -- both customers and noncustomers -- to identify the perception of the…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Internet enlightenment

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OK, admit it. You know all about the Internet and its future. You understand that all companies need to make the Internet part of their future. But are you really making it part of your own? Not exactly, according to Jon Steffey, director of business development and head of the Pittsburgh branch of WestLake Internet Training. He says more business owners and other top executives, while using the Internet at some personal levels, aren't using it to its fullest potential simply because they haven't taken the time to learn. "You have to get people to learn more things," says Steffey…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Getting pumped

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Cycloid Co., a Cranberry Township company that produces on-board vehicle tire inflation systems, has attracted an investment by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. of Akron, Ohio. The deal, in which Goodyear has taken a minority interest in Cycloid, is intended to commercialize continuous tire pressure monitoring and maintenance systems developed by Cycloid for passenger cars, light trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles. Goodyear gets licensing, distribution and marketing arrangements, while Cycloid can benefit from Goodyear's OEM relationships, global distribution capabilities and its related research and technology in similar products. Cycloid, founded by inventor Grant Renier, initially developed and continues to…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Dropping deadheads

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An Atlanta trucking company has a trip due to arrive at noon on Tuesday in Pittsburgh to drop off an industrial generator. After the delivery is completed, the driver will "deadhead," or make the return trip empty to Atlanta. Meanwhile, a Pittsburgh steel company has a delivery due to leave that afternoon, bound for a construction site near Atlanta. It's easy to see how the trucker and the steel company could benefit by doing business with each other. That kind of transaction, with destination points connected by "power lanes," essentially stretches of interstate highways that link major metropolitan areas, has…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

A mini MBA?

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Looking for a way to give yourself or your employees MBA power without investing an inordinate amount of time in graduate education? The University of Pittsburgh might have an answer. The Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business is offering two versions of a course of study it calls MBA Essentials -- one an 11-week course, the second packed into a one-week concentrated format -- that offers participants a "mini MBA." The goals, the school says, are "to make basic business concepts and skills readily understandable and immediately useful." The program promises to expose students to management basics as well…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

The ultimate authority

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After years of research and development, a laborious approval process through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and several rounds of fund-raising -- not to mention the near-collapse of the company -- Cardiac Telecom seemed to be staged for success. But the company, which markets a home-monitoring system for heart patients, faced one final hurdle: Getting its customers to accept its product. Cardiac Telecom positioned its product, which transmits heart function data over telephone lines, as a monitoring system for patients with atrial fibrillation, a malady which often leads to strokes in those who have had bypass surgery. But CEO…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

Save $500 a day

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Are coughs and colds sickening your company's performance? Maybe a free poster from Employers of America can help. Titled "For Your Health: Prevent Colds, Flu and Other Contagious Diseases," the poster lists five simple steps employees can take to reduce the risk of those illnesses from spreading in the workplace. Recommendations include detailed instructions for proper hand-washing to reduce the spread of disease-causing germs,and other behavioral practices that can reduce transmission of the cold and flu bugs. "Employers can lose up to $500 per day in productivity and related expenses when an employee calls in sick," says Jim Collison, president…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

Oh, the color of profits

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The color of money may be green, but picking the right colors to get you to the money has become a science unto itself -- a science which can mean the difference between staying in the black or sagging into the red. So says Color Marketing Group (www.colormarketing.org), a Virginia-based organization whose primary purpose is to prognosticate about the colors that will sell best in the future. This coming year, the organization predicts, expect a focus on a new wave of softer colors, with blue, aqua and true lavender, along with a spectrum of neutral colors and warm gray, clay,…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

How well do you know your customers?

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Customer relationship management, or CRM, has become one of the hottest topics and fastest growing segments of the Internet industry. CRM is about gathering data on your customers' buying habits and building unique customer profiles to provide increased value and exceptional customer experience. Building strong customer relations is a requirement for any successful business, but it's even more critical in the digital marketplace. The Internet has drastically transformed the way business is conducted, and online customers expect shortened sales cycles, less costly transactions and immediate purchasing information. To maintain positive customer experiences, your business must meet and exceed those growing…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

Business Notes

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Mizrahi Design Associates and ICCWebDev Business Solutions are teaming up to design a Web site for the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. The design reflects the artistic direction and scope of programming provided by the center. Repal Construction Co., in conjunction with Action-Housing Inc. of Pittsburgh and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, has begun the construction of Center Township Elderly Housing in Center Township, Beaver County. Thirty-two Pittsburgh neighborhood shopping districts have received a total of $904,500 in funding from The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh's Mainstreet program. B. Kenneth Simon has established a trust fund of…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

Where the REAL opportunities are

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Gas utility industry veteran Tony Banks thought he knew opportunity when he saw it, and, frankly, he wasn't so sure about the newly deregulated residential market for gas. In fact, as the company he worked for, now part of Atlas America, decided to test market gas to a community in 1997, employees quietly kicked off an office pool, making bets on the number of residential customers the company could land. Banks says he "embarrassingly" bet on a marginal 1,300. The effort yielded about 13,000 customers. And it opened Banks' eyes to what he considered perhaps a great opportunity for becoming…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

The color of work

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During the renovation of Elliance's office in the Brewery Innovation Center on the North Side, a contractor called to ask if the colors that were indicated for some of the company's new furniture were correct. Customers in the Midwest, it turns out, aren't likely to order the orange fiesta, scholastic blue and aqua fantasy that Elliance had chosen. Yes, it got the order right and yes, the color choices were a bit unusual in Pittsburgh, considered a Midwestern town by the trend-setting urbane in New York or on the West Coast. Things like the jigsaw puzzle shapes of the workstations…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

Letters to the editor

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Reliving the passion What a great editorial ["Fire in the belly," SBN November 2000]. Reading the article brought memories -- which are lived daily -- of the passion for what our company does. It definitely takes a fire in the belly to overcome the fear factor of getting started and continuing year after year -- while keeping that feeling of being on top of the world. I recently was a passenger in a car driven by a friend. From the moment she started relaying her plans for starting a business, her entire countenance changed. She sat up straighter, she became…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

Disadvantaged businesses get priority status

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President Clinton, rounding the final bend in his eight-year stretch as president of the United States, says he wants to make sure more small disadvantaged businesses have an opportunity to tap into the $200 billion-a-year government contracting marketplace. Accordingly, the president recently issued an order to all federal agencies that they should make an effort to increase such opportunities, particularly the 8(a) program's 6,000 registered small businesses, along with Minority Business Enterprises and Small Disadvantaged Businesses. Agencies were given 90 days to submit their plans to the Office of Management and Budget. "These businesses are of vital importance to job…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

Choice places to work

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Companies have always welcomed recognition for their business successes or their public service initiatives. But with an ever-tightening labor market and an expanding need for qualified workers, local businesses are vying to establish reputations as good places to work as well. Now, a consortium of Pittsburgh businesses and professional organizations has chosen 10 area companies as its "employers of choice." The partners in the effort are the Pittsburgh Human Resources Association, the Pittsburgh Technology Council, SMC Business Councils, the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development, the Community College of Allegheny County and Workforce Connections. Businesses throughout…