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Thursday, 30 June 2011 20:37

Fighting words

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As president and CEO of General Carbide, Mona Pappafava-Ray isn’t afraid to go against the grain of conventional wisdom to keep her company delivering on its promises to employees and clients. By setting high standards for herself and her team, Pappafava-Ray has grown the company through two recessions, the loss of the company’s largest commodity product to China and exit of three major customers. Though her management style is one that consistently challenges the status quo, her philosophy that “You do not deserve a win, you earn a win,” has guided General Carbide to overcome obstacles and achieve growth.As CEO,…
Thursday, 30 June 2011 20:34

Break through

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Patrick Daly has a successful track record of taking a business venture and running with it. So when he joined Cohera Medical Inc. as the company’s president and CEO, he felt prepared for the challenges it presented. For one, Daly recognized the potential Cohera Medical had in the market for surgical adhesives with the breakthrough technology of its initial product, TissuGlu. Yet to take the potential of its vision and make it a reality, Cohera Medical needed a leader who could translate the value of this technology for investors.Since he joined Cohera Medical, Daly’s leadership had been critical in growing…
Thursday, 30 June 2011 20:31

High standards

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As president and CEO of AIReS, Bryan Scott Putt often reflects back on the words of his father, who founded the company 28 years ago: “Take care of your customers and profitability will follow.”Putt’s leadership was vital in building a reputation for AIReS as a quality provider of relocation services. In 2000, he made the decision to transform AIReS from a moving company into a relocation management company. By motivating his team to embrace the new strategy and transition to managing the entire lifecycle of the relocation process, Putt added new corporate clients and increased AIReS productivity, staff and market…
How many of your employees can answer these seemingly simple questions: What is my job? What components of my job are most relevant? How well am I doing? What part do I play in my company’s overall success?Not sure? Then consider conducting an informal investigation of your employees. Talk with a few and ask those four simple questions. The responses may surprise you. Studies show that less than 20 percent of managers and employees can answer these questions with any measure of confidence.“An ‘engaged’ employee is one who is fully involved in and enthusiastic about his or her work and…
There are more than 17,000 environmental laws and regulations worldwide. How sure are you that your business operations are in compliance?Environmental insurance has become a hot topic the last several years, mainly because even though most companies have environmental exposures, those risks are excluded from most liability and property policies, creating a major gap in coverage.“An experienced, specialized broker can help you recognize exposures, understand the regulatory climate and provide solutions, whether it is insurance or other risk mitigation options to satisfy coverage needs or financial assurance requirements,” says Michael R. Szot, Executive Vice President, Global Practice Leader, Environmental Service…
The Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was signed into law on May 21, 2008.“The primary aim of GINA is preventing discrimination on the basis of ‘genetic information,”’ says Lauren N. Diulus, an associate with Jackson Lewis LLP.Employers need to ensure they adhere to GINA’s regulations, or they could find themselves the target of costly litigation.Smart Business spoke with Diulus about GINA and how employers can use best practices to avoid liability.What exactly is GINA?GINA makes it unlawful for employers and other covered entities to request or require an individual’s genetic information, which includes their family medical history, unless it…
Normally, people are advised to stay away from cliffs. The steep vertical drop, the hard rocks, the water below — there’s too much danger if you get too close.However, a different kind of “cliff” is looming on the horizon and for employers it doesn’t represent danger, but rather opportunity.“They call it the ‘patent cliff,’” says Chronis Manolis, RPh, the vice president of pharmacy for UPMC Health Plan. “It refers to the years 2012 to 2014, when many pharmaceutical companies will lose patent protection on some of their most popular products.”Smart Business talked with Manolis about the “patent cliff” and the…
Louis D. Astorino and Louis P. Astorino solve problems within their business differently, but that makes them a good father and son team. Astorino, an architecture and engineering firm, has survived the down economy and found ways to expand its business by finding solutions to the problems.“The last two years have been a challenge because of the economic crisis,” says Louis D. Astorino, chairman and CEO. “Overcoming that and trying to keep the organization together has been extremely challenging.”Despite the economic roadblock, Astorino has continued to be recognized as one of the best firms in the area.“We learned to work…
Companies often launch special project teams, task forces and committees to get important work done. Often it makes great sense: charter a small group with a distinct purpose, let them work quickly, and get their findings/recommendations.These special teams offer tremendous advantages. They give executives the chance to observe different people’s performance. Special groups can bypass the bureaucracy and avoid organizational churn that mainstream efforts can stir up. There are all kinds of benefits for using special teams.However, lurking behind the launch of special project teams may be an unacknowledged dissatisfaction with those accountable for that work. Rarely are there honest…
Stan Hasselbusch always looks for the next way to keep his company growing and expanding its presence. L.B. Foster Co., a manufacturer, fabricator and distributor of products and services for the rail, construction, energy and utility markets, acquired Portec Rail Products last year as a way to improve its product line. Part of the company’s strategic growth plan is to grow through acquisition and Hasselbusch made good on that strategic goal.“We looked at a half-dozen different companies,” says Hasselbusch, president and CEO. “We looked at companies that were primarily related to the rail industry, and we weren’t going to be…
Saturday, 30 April 2011 20:01

How to insure entities in the public sector

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The public sector provides a broad range of services, and insuring their risks can be challenging. Within a single entity, such as a state, city or county, there are prisons, airports, police, etc., and entities that provide zoning ordinances, maintain bridges, run golf courses, and oversee water and sewer utilities.“Public entities have a very broad range of risks that need to be analyzed,” says William F. Becker, Executive Vice President and National Practice Leader — Public Sector, Aon Risk Solutions. “Many of these risks are unique, and trying to find a set of carriers who understand that and will still…
When most people think of bullying, their minds drift to schoolyard battles long past. However, bullying in the workplace is a real problem that can make your employees feel as awful as those teenagers getting slammed into lockers. If you allow bullying to occur in your company, it can destroy your company’s culture as well as employee morale.“A bullied employee is not a happy employee,” says Craig W. Snethen, attorney at law with Jackson Lewis LLP.Legislation has been introduced in some states that would make it unlawful to subject an employee to an abusive work environment. For instance, if an…
Saturday, 30 April 2011 20:01

How to find quality in health insurance

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Quality is something that consumers look for in almost every purchase they make. That includes both health care and health insurance.But trying to define what quality means in terms of health insurance and what quality should mean to an employer trying to make choices for his or her company’s health coverage is not an easy thing to do.“There are many aspects of health care quality and health insurance, but the simplest way to define quality in health insurance terms would be access to quality care,” says Sandra McAnallen, the vice president of network and provider relations for UPMC Health Plan.…
Chris Ryan, president of Geo-Solutions Inc. has been experiencing a problem all businesses would like to have. His soil and groundwater construction solutions company has been experiencing rapid growth. Growth is what every business wants to achieve, but with growth comes a lot of added responsibilities.“We have experienced some very rapid growth,” says Ryan whose company saw revenue of $18 million in 2010. “The biggest [challenge] has been trying to manage growth and get personnel into the company.”The company’s rapid expansion over the past few years has kept Ryan looking for ways to continue the success.Smart Business spoke to Ryan…
Jack Ouellette knows that he is fortunate to be in charge of a company with rich history and he takes pride in celebrating that fact. In 2010, American Textile Co. celebrated 85 years of business. The company made a day out of it. Employees at the Pittsburgh facility brought their families and they enjoyed food, costumes and false store fronts that would have been in vogue in 1925. While celebrating where you came from is certainly important, looking forward is critical, as well. Ouellette, CEO of the 325-employee company, knows that he has to keep his eye on the future…
Saturday, 30 April 2011 20:01

Executive role play

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Many leaders will change their roles and/or companies in the years to come — and statistics indicate that over half of those leaders will fail in their new assignments. But leadership transition failures can be avoided if success is engineered from the outset. Below are 10 top strategies to ensure a leader’s success in his or her new role.1. Develop (fit-for-purpose) 120-day transition plan.Failure to plan is to plan for failure. In the first several months, your time is stretched. Take the time to think through what you need to learn, whom you must get to know and what needs…
Since Sushil Jain, founder, president and CEO of Empyrean Services LLC, started his engineering management and technical consulting business in 2000, he has had a very collaborative and consultative leadership style. Using that style to build trust and respect with his employees and clients, Jain has developed a culture that puts people first.“The more participative culture with focus on teamwork makes people feel more involved, more empowered and they feel more a part of the company versus just being an employee,” Jain says. “That quality is very important particularly in a small business.”That culture has helped Jain grow Empyrean Services…
Bryan Ward, founder and CEO of Giant Ideas, knows there are many important aspects of developing a business. An often overlooked, yet vitally important aspect is the branding of your business. The full-service advertising agency helps develop and drive brand awareness for its clients.“It’s about creating a connection between a product or service and a brand and creating that connection in people’s minds so it’s something they can remember easily,” Ward says.With a corporate identity focused around Easter Island iconography, Giant Ideas has a name and logo people don’t forget. Ward’s branding tactics have made his agency one of the…
Saturday, 30 April 2011 21:01

How to offer personal insurance in the workplace

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In today’s economy and with the continuous changes associated with employer-sponsored health care benefits, companies are seeking creative ways to enhance the benefits offered to employees without adding new cost.The most popular benefits package enhancement is offered at the worksite on a voluntary basis. The products can supplement medical, life and disability coverages through policies such as critical illness, accident, disability and long-term care. While these traditional voluntary benefits have become increasingly useful in supplementing employer-sponsored benefit plans, growing employer demands leave employees wanting and expecting even more.“In a world where employees are constantly connected to their jobs through technology,…
Health care costs, and consequently, employee health benefit costs, have been increasing at an alarming rate during the past decade. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, the cost of providing family coverage under a group health plan has increased by 114 percent since 2000 to a staggering average of $13,770 per year.This varies by region as the average cost to provide family coverage under the most popular type of plan, a PPO (Preferred Provider Organization), in the Northeast is $14,917. Employees are also under financial pressure as their contributions have increased by 147 percent during the same period. Employees spend, on…
When an employer moves from a fully insured health care plan to a self-funded plan, it becomes responsible for 100 percent of the claims risk. That transition can be frightening, especially as medical costs continually increase. But purchasing stop-loss coverage from reinsurance carriers can help mitigate some of that risk.“Stop loss allows an employer to transfer a portion of the claims risk to the reinsurance carrier in exchange for a monthly premium,” says Donna Cowden, Senior Vice President with Aon Hewitt Health & Benefits.Smart Business spoke with Cowden, Candice Mill, Senior Vice President, Aon Risk Solutions Health & Benefits, and…
Partner violence — also known as domestic violence — is most commonly viewed as a personal issue and is associated with someone’s home life. While it’s true that partner violence often occurs in and around a home, it doesn’t stay at home when the victim and the abuser go to work.“Partner violence is a workplace issue because the behavior impacts the workplace and is costly to employers,” says Sandra Caffo, the senior director of LifeSolutions, a UPMC WorkPartners affiliate.Smart Business spoke with Caffo about partner violence and the impact it has on the workplace, employers and employees.How would you define…
Thursday, 31 March 2011 20:01

Pittsburgh leaders use momentum to drive change

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When it comes to being successful, it’s all about momentum. One small win needs to be parlayed into two wins, which in turn need to fuel the big win needed to make budget. You not only have to get people moving in the same direction, you have to keep them moving at a faster and faster pace. Otherwise, everything just stops. There are many aspects to momentum, and it starts with vital business ideals like the mission and vision statement, runs through relationship building and ends somewhere on the far side of culture. Only when everything is working together are…
Thursday, 31 March 2011 20:01

Rich Ryan leads Voyager Jet Center by example

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As a pilot for 43 years and president of Voyager Jet Center, Rich Ryan knows what it takes to create excellent customer service.Ryan leads by example and demonstrates the level of effort and commitment it takes to deliver the customer service that Voyager Jet Center, a private aircraft company, is known for.“I think when the employees see the president pitching in, whether it’s picking up a piece of trash, flying an airplane or cleaning something, I think they know that I’m committed and therefore they should be committed,” Ryan says.Attention to detail by all 60 of Voyager Jet’s employees allowed…
Vincent Delie Jr., CEO of First National Bank of Pennsylvania, managed to lead his bank through a time when business-as-usual was anything but usual. Not only did Delie and FNB survive the worst of the recession, but he found ways to grow the bank, especially in its biggest region, Pittsburgh.“There were quite a few obstacles,” Delie says. “It seemed like every line item on our balance sheet was being challenged one way or another. There was quite a bit of concern not just with our institution but across the country in regard to how we would fund ourselves moving forward.”Growth…
Thursday, 31 March 2011 20:01

Leslie Braksick on rewarding leaders

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I once gave a scintillating talk to 500 company leaders on the power of feedback. Scientifically, feedback is the most powerful motivator of performance, I explained — even more powerful than money. I shared case examples of productivity increases in diverse settings — from chemical plants to railroads to insurance claim processing centers — achieved and sustained simply via supervisors giving their direct reports feedback on their performance. Supervisors gave praise for performance that met or exceeded goals and constructive dialogue when performance was off-target.I underscored the key features of effective feedback — immediacy, specificity and sincerity — so every…
Wednesday, 02 March 2011 13:12

Michael Fetsko encourages innovation

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When Michael Fetsko lands a contract to build a train system, it’s not because he is the best salesman in the industry. He gets contracts because he has dedicated himself to driving industry-leading innovation that has helped build Bombardier Transportation’s reputation as one of the best rail transit manufacturers in the world. When Bombardier was awarded the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport job, it was the innovation of Bombardier Transportation and its Systems Division’s automated people mover train system that won them the job at one of the world’s busiest airports.Bombardier’s Systems Division faces a tough competitive market for their products.…