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Monday, 22 July 2002 09:58

Alexander Graham Hell

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Forget Y2K. This should be the year that we figure out a new code of telephone etiquette. Technology continues to outstrip our ability to come up with common courtesies that are consistent with our past practices, yet meet the demands and opportunities which new gadgets offer. That fact is nowhere illustrated more clearly than by modern telephone systems. I used to work in a hospital public relations department where my boss made answering the telephone the most important task. The hospital, like many other businesses, must have spent a couple hundred thousand dollars on a sophisticated phone system that took…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:58

News clips

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Paragon Solutions Inc., a privately held Oracle consulting firm founded five years ago by Pittsburgh entrepreneurs Debbie Ferlic and Susan Parker, has joined the Summit Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of CIBER Inc. “We are excited about the possibilities this brings to Pittsburgh,” says Ferlic, who is now vice president/general manager of Summit Group. Plans this year for the Pittsburgh office include hiring 14 additional consultants and a move from its current location in Carnegie to new, larger offices. The $4.5 million company expects to double in size by 2000. CIBER Inc. is a public company listed on the New…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:58

Keeping it all in the family

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If you own a successful family business, chances are it’s your dream to pass it on to your children and grandchildren. Whether you realize that dream may depend on what type of estate planning you do. Taking the time now to implement a well thought out estate plan could make the difference between whether your business is passed to future generations or lost to the IRS. Let’s look at three recent examples: Malcolm Forbes, owner and publisher of Forbes Magazine, took the time to do estate planning prior to his death. As a result, his estate was passed intact to…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:58

Breaking the bottleneck barrier

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When Mel Pirchesky and his group of investors from Eagle Ventures acquired Dawar Technologies last summer, the small manufacturer of electronic membrane switches and printed switch membranes was making money and had the potential to make lots more. As Pirchesky is fond of saying about his acquisition strategy, “When we come into a company, there’s nothing magic in what we do. The company is usually 90 percent there in what needs to happen to succeed. The other 10 percent is the trick.” In this case, though, Pirchesky just didn’t expect that “trick” to rear its ugly head so quickly, and…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:57

Wrangled Wisdom

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I stopped in a well-known quick-service restaurant one afternoon. It was the height of the lunch hour, and needless to say, the restaurant was quite busy. I was unfortunate enough to stand in line behind two women who waited until the young man behind the counter asked “Can I take your order?” before trying to figure out which greasy entree they wanted. They proceeded to engage in a friendly joust with the good-natured fellow, who overindulged the ladies at the expense of other customers. The woman who appeared to be the shift supervisor noticed that the guy at the register…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:57

The great donut rebellion

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Paul Sattler knows almost everyone who comes into his Donut Connection shop in Carnegie. He greets people and addresses many of them by name. He pauses briefly to kibitz with the letter carriers and the senior citizens who sit at the counter or in one of the orange booths sipping a cup of fresh-brewed coffee and munch on a doughnut. He likes his business, accepts the long days that a retailer has to endure and likes calling the shots. He and his wife, Joanne, who helps him run the store, have done pretty well in the last eight years, and…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:57

Cold-calling cowardice

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With the multitude of telemarketers out there, it seems like cold-calling is no longer a viable way to prospect. What advice could you give me to cold-call more effectively? First of all, cold-calling still works. Working referrals is more effective than cold-calling, but if you are starting a new business, developing a new territory or starting a new position, you will have to make cold-calls. Still, the last thing in the world you want to sound like is one of the telemarketers who call at dinnertime. They don’t send these telemarketers to sales training; they send them to breathing control…
Sunday, 21 July 2002 20:00

Your chosen form

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Part 1 of a 2-part series It’s not a revelation that a business’s chosen form must fit your needs, and that these needs and the business itself will change over time. Among other things, the business structure will impact the amount of tax you have to pay. You’ll find distinct advantages and disadvantages with each form of doing business — which is why it’s important to annually review your business’ structure. In recent years, most businesses started in Pennsylvania, other than those in which a single individual is the entire company, have been Subchapter S corporations or Limited Liability Companies…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:57

Marketing Matters

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The money companies are paying to associate with big-time sports is enough to drop your jaw. It costs a cool six figures to have your company logo sewn onto the jumpsuit of a top NASCAR racer. Naming rights for big-league ballparks are in the neighborhood of $20 million. And the price of admission into the inner Olympics circle is $50 million — which gets you the right to use the famed entwined rings symbol, and that’s about it. So why do the Quaker States, PNC Banks and Coca-Colas of the world — companies driven by profit and shareholder return —…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:57

How about some coffee with that beer?

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The new general manager of John Harvard’s Brew House in Monroeville discovered quickly that the restaurant had a bit of an image problem. But it didn’t take him long to turn that problem into an effective grass-roots marketing opportunity. The problem, says John Longo, who began running the restaurant in February, is that some people think Brew House means coffee house — not microbrew pub, as the restaurant’s Boston-based owners intended. He realized the problem when a woman walked in on a recent Saturday morning before the restaurant opened for the day and asked for a cup of cappuccino. “I…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:57

Entrepreneurial Success

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For Mary Cepicka, there’s no magic formula for entrepreneurial success. “My secret to success is that we did 12 years ago, and still do today, emphasize customer service,” says Cepicka. Without a doubt, Cepicka lives and does business by that standard. Her company, Temporary Office Personnel Services, or TOPS Inc., has enjoyed a 10-fold growth in revenue since she founded it in 1987. In the current business environment, says Cepicka, outstanding customer service is all too rare. The entrepreneur willing and able to provide good customer service, she says, is going to be a standout. Cepicka founded Temporary Office Personnel…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:57

Are your bagels hot?

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The other morning, I was sitting in my local bagel shop enjoying my coffee, bagel and newspaper. I’m not sure what prompted me to look up, but the first thing that struck me was that this establishment did a booming morning business. People stood in line 15 deep and didn’t seem to mind the wait. As I pondered people stand in line for what I have to offer, another curiosity struck me. It had nothing to do with the customers or even the counter personnel. It was the bagel maker who got my attention. I watched as he carefully manipulated…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:56

Are you a travel agent?

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Escalating health care costs in the last decade gave rise to managed care. Could managed travel be the answer to controlling business travel costs? Runzhiemer International Inc. estimates that the median annual cost of business travel for American companies is $1.4 million. Obviously cutting even a fraction of that could mean a tidy savings. John Ackerman, president of E-Travel Inc., a Concord, Mass., company that produces software for just such purposes, says that to realize travel savings, corporations must establish a travel policy consisting of negotiated rates with preferred airlines, hotels and rental car companies. That’s an arrangement not unlike…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:56

A message from SBA Regional Administrator

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“Pound for pound, the SBA does more to help Americans get into the winner’s circle of this new economy. I believe we must use today’s prosperity to expand that winner’s circle and open doors of opportunity wider than they’ve ever been opened before. That’s the SBA’s mission, and it is a mission it performs admirably.” — Vice President Al Gore, New Hampshire, July 1998 Welcome to the United States Small Business Administration’s Annual Awards Celebration honoring America’s small businesses and those who advocate for them. This year’s theme, “A History of Success, A Millennium of Opportunity,” is a fitting slogan…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:56

Time again for golf marketing

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Think it takes a lot to buy a hockey team? Imagine what it takes to put on a celebrity golf tournament for charity. Mario Lemieux gets a lot of help in making the Toyota Mario Lemieux Celebrity Tournament a success. Besides the list of notables who participate in the event June 10-13 at The Club at Nevillewood, local businesses line up to lend a hand to fill the myriad needs that event requires. Obviously the celebrities are the big attraction, and The Club at Nevillewood offers the venue. But there are many other locals who contribute to the success of…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:56

The art of the cooperative

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That’s why they usually leave the business end to gallery owners. The one drawback: gallery owners often take a steep percentage of sales as commission. Hence, the term starving artist. But in downtown Pittsburgh, a group of watercolor artists have adopted a rather painless solution that gives audience to their art without putting them in the poorhouse. They formed a cooperative. The cooperative idea came to artist Meda Kiming Rago early last year. She had been showing her work in local cafes that agreed to hang the art on their walls. But when she lost her job after the company…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:56

On inspiring entrepreneurial growth

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On June 3, 1999, at least 500 potential and existing entrepreneurs will gather on the campus of Duquesne University for the first-ever Entrepreneur’s Growth Conference. With the void left by the absence of the Entrepreneur’s Day Conference, held each year in Pittsburgh from 1983 to 1997, the Duquesne University Chrysler Corp. Small Business Development Center felt there was a need to offer a new event that would inspire and educate our entrepreneurs, as well as invigorate the small business community. Designed to address the needs of entrepreneurs across all industries and stages of development, this exciting new event not only…
If there’s one person in this region who truly knows adversity, it’s Ilana Diamond. But she’s also among the few who know how to turn that adversity — and the challenges it creates — into prosperity. That unique ability is what made her the ideal winner of Mass Mutual’s 1999 Blue Chip Enterprise Award. Diamond’s entrepreneurial adversity began in 1990, when her father, Irwin Diamond, founder and president of Chicago-based Sima Products Corp., died, leaving his majority stake in the company to a family estate trust. Ilana Diamond, a senior manager with accounting firm Price Waterhouse in Pittsburgh at the…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:55

Lessons of loyalty

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For Darryl Robinson, the darkest day at TriLogic Corp. was when the company went to federal bankruptcy court to file a petition for reorganization. “That was a real low point for me,” Robinson, TriLogic’s vice president, who had been with the company only a short period at the time, describes the company’s Chapter 11 filing in 1997. “At that point, there was a realization that took place that we had a hell of a lot of work to do.” But for Eric Bruce, the company’s president and founder, rock bottom came not at the point of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:55

For the Y2K-impaired

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Certainly, the business community and the government have been beating the Y2K drum loudly and constantly over the past year hoping to stir businesses into action over the potential problem. But for those many stragglers out there, the government still wants to help. And it’s backing that desire with loan funds. The SBA’s new Y2K Action Loans are available through Dec. 31, 2000, to enable small businesses to become Y2K compliant. In addition, after Jan. 1, 2000, SBA will be able to guarantee loans to small businesses that suffer economic injury as a result of Y2K-related problems. “Y2K is an…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:55

Big plans

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It’s sad but true — success in business takes more than just a great idea. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is full of them, and so are many basements. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you start with a detailed business plan. Whether you’re looking to start a company from nothing or are hoping to raise capital to take your growing company to the next level, a business plan helps you think not just about the idea, but also how and where you’re going to manufacture it, market it, promote it, fund it and protect it,…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:55

Taxing equity incentives

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Limited liability companies (LLCs) are rapidly becoming the favored vehicle through which many entrepreneurial companies choose to carry on their businesses. While an LLC has many corporate characteristics, most are taxed as partnerships. This creates significant benefits, but also significant challenges — particularly in the area of equity compensation. The use of equity compensation often plays a significant role in compensating and retaining key personnel. However, traditional forms of corporate equity compensation, such as incentive, or nonqualified, stock options, are not available to an LLC. Nevertheless, an LLC does have several tools in its arsenal through which it may provide…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:54

Raising your successor

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Family succession guru Dr. Cindy Iannarelli grew up in a family business. Now she’s building a multifaceted company that teaches others about the importance of the experience. In this special interview, she tells family business owners how to begin. By Daniel Bates Dr. Cindy Iannarelli, remembers vividly the times her Italian-born father would take the family out to dinner in one of his dry-cleaning trucks. “No matter where we were, whenever he saw another dry cleaner, he would stop, look in the window, and he would always have us count the clothes on the racks,” says Iannarelli, who is known…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:54

Making talk cheaper

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Anyone who says talk is cheap might have a hard time convincing Chuck Giger, service manager for Fazio Mechanical Services. Fazio racked up enormous bills on telephone calling cards and an 800 number used by service technicians to communicate with the office. And despite the high bills, Fazio’s technicians still had no way to communicate amongst themselves for advice about a problem requiring a creative trouble-shooting team effort. Enter NEXTEL Direct Communication Systems. Through a Nextel-based phone system, the company’s 30 service representatives now walk around with cell phones with Nextel’s two-way radio feature. For an initial investment of $1,500,…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:54

From the editor

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I stood in line for at least a half-hour to talk to my son’s fourth grade teacher during the annual open house last fall. Parent after parent paraded before her to hear another doting rendition of “Your son’s a wonderful student” or “Your daughter is so pleasant to have in class.” Then it was my turn. As I identified myself, the teacher took a deep breath and smiled at me. “I’m so glad you came tonight,” she began, “because, let me tell you ... ” Then she began to tell me. I felt like I was in school again. She…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:54

Dollars for development

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Risk certainly does have its rewards. Just ask two Western Pennsylvania companies. ChemIcon Inc. and II-VI Corp. have received a $3 million award to develop a world-class technology that could increase the United States’ global competitiveness. The award comes through the Advanced Technology Program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The ATP is a program in which the federal government works in partnership with industry to foster the development and dissemination of challenging, high-risk technologies that offer the potential for significant, broad-based economic benefits to the nation. The intent is to accelerate technologies that, because they are risky,…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:53

Workplace spirituality

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On a daily basis, we seem to witness far too many problems with anger, violence, suicide, addiction, abuse, divorce, even the abandonment of children. These shocking events scream at us from every headline and fill every newscast. Perhaps the workplace is not the best arena for dealing with these problems, but it may be a good place to start. Most people spend more time in the workplace than they do anywhere else, including their homes. Maybe a dash of spirituality in the workplace could provide the impetus to strengthen the individual, and even carry over to the home environment. But…