Archive Search

Advanced Search

Search results
Charles “Chuck” Sanders, CEO and founder of Urban Lending Solutions, isn’t afraid to take chances when he sees an opportunity. After a brief career in the National Football League, Sanders needed a job and started doing marketing for Pittsburgh real estate entrepreneur Robert Murphy Jr.’s golf course and semi-pro basketball team. One day Sanders asked Murphy, “How do you get the money to buy basketball teams and golf courses?” “I’m in the mortgage business,” Murphy replied. “And I said, ‘That’s the business I want to get into,’” Sanders says. So, he learned the real estate business working in operations and…
Boris Weinstein, 82, is passionate about litter prevention. It’s been like a second career for him since his retirement, and he easily spends 2,000 hours a year on his anti-litter work. And like many leaders, business or otherwise, he’s been able to use his passion to inspire and motivate others. Weinstein first dabbled in litter cleanup as a junior commando in World War II, gathering material for the war effort. Later, in his professional advertising career, he came up with the slogan for Mayor Pete Flaherty, “For Pete’s Sake,” which was used on waste containers. When he retired and was…
The difference between good companies and great companies is an ability to get things done and to execute religiously on promises. Having outstanding business models, being innovative and selling the best technologies isn’t enough. I see this time and time again when buying from businesses or consulting for them. Being creative and getting things done is a powerful combination of skills and capabilities that you rarely see in leaders or organizations. When they possess that combination, they are usually unstoppable — like Netflix, Chipotle, Amazon, 3M, Grainger and ARDEX.Most companies struggle with one of the two dimensions. That typically leads…
When you are in the heat of the battle as a corporate executive, it’s hard to imagine what’s on the other side. Your life is consumed with phone calls, meetings, travel, dinners out, presentations, explanations, expense reports and budgets. There are endless requests for your time and point of view. It is a relentlessly busy, all-consuming lifestyle. The higher you are in your company, the more command it has over your non-work time and commitments. Add to that family obligations and you have a schedule that is long on appointments and short on time. It is hard, if not impossible,…
My entry into the oil and gas industry was not a traditional one — I started in the energy industry with food. My company, Amelia’s Elegant Catering, serves meals on-site to crews working on oil rigs and frac sites. Growing in this business, I realized that the male-dominated energy industry was starting to include more and more women who needed a way to connect and promote each other in the industry. Mentoring womenI founded Young Professional Women in Energy and began working to create an organization that would empower, promote and encourage women at all levels and positions in the…
With the ongoing implementation of health care reform, many employer groups have missed the obligations set forth in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). “The federal government has started systematic audits of group health plans, primarily for compliance with health care reform. They will also include compliance for ERISA. A key provision requires plan participants to be provided with a Summary Plan Description (SPD),” says Chuck Whitford, a client advisor at JRG Advisors. A SPD is a document that is provided to plan participants to explain the plan’s benefits, claims review procedures and participants’ rights. ERISA contains…
Abuse of alcohol and drugs in the workplace is a reality that employers cannot afford to overlook. According to a 2008 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 70 percent of the admitted drug and alcohol abusers in the country are employed, and a majority of those are full-time employees. The costs to an employer can come in different forms. A study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that drug-using employees are 2.5 times more likely to have absences of eight days or more, three times more likely to be late for work…
After more than 10 years as president and CEO of Zippo Manufacturing Co., Greg Booth is still amazed by the product’s brand recognition. In many places, there’s 90 percent brand awareness. When Japanese consumers were asked to name top American brands, their first responses were Coke, McDonald’s, Nike and Zippo. “Prior to coming to work at Zippo, I worked for two large companies — a $2 billion and a $10 billion corporation — and on a regular and ongoing basis we worked hard to build our brand and increase brand awareness, and so forth,” Booth says. “And we were very…
In 2004, two friends — Henry Thorne, a world-leading roboticist, and Rob Daley, a successful businessman — discovered over lunch they shared a vision for the type of company they each wanted to build that would foster creativity, collaboration and loyalty. Rather than working alone, the two teamed up to take advantage of their complimentary skills and backgrounds, with Thorne as CTO and Daley as CEO. “We also knew there were only two ways to make it as an entrepreneur: create a new market or change an existing one,” Daley says. “With its steadily decreasing price, electronics were both cheap…
Improve performance, optimize efficiency and deliver value. That’s what employers are always under pressure to do. What many employers do not realize is that an integrated approach to safety and health can play a major role in creating healthier, high-performing workforces. “Employers can have a major influence on the health and care behaviors of employees,” says Dr. Michael Parkinson, senior medical director for health and productivity at UPMC Health Plan. “Employers have a major role to play in both improving health and reducing health-related costs.” Smart Business spoke with Parkinson about how to best improve employee health and productivity and…
A commercial interior design firm works to help companies find a space that’s an effective setting for their operational and aesthetic needs, and tailors its services to best suit specific client goals. For example, one client may be relocating because of growth, another wants to reflect its rebranding throughout a new office, and another is downsizing operations and needs a cost-effective relocation solution. Design firms help clients such as these achieve their goals while saving them money, time and hassle along the way. Smart Business spoke with Sam McWilliams, managing partner at SMC Consulting, LLC, to learn more about effective…
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:43

Engaging employees to be wise health care consumers

Written by
Whether you love it, hate it or are still “on the fence,” the implementation of health care reform is in full swing. “While escalating health care costs have long been a concern of employers who desire to offer a quality, competitive employee benefits package to their workforce, health care reform has presented even more challenges in terms of changing legislation, compliance issues and requirements,” says Ron Smuch, insurance and benefits analyst at JRG Advisors. “The business decisions that employers face today are more complex and require educated consideration and guidance.” Consumerism, however, is a strategy often overlooked by employers in…
After careful planning to refresh company strategy, a major financial services company set aggressive objectives for the coming year. The executive team aimed to create a consistently outstanding customer experience across every access point. Leaders resolved to hire a new chief service officer, broaden the roles of field personnel to “quarterback” the service experience across product lines, shift to a customer-centric culture and provide technology that integrated customer support across all portals. In addition to setting clear annual targets for revenue lift, share-by-region and so on, leaders developed a tactical action plan with aggressive, but reasonable, quarterly milestones to monitor…
Thursday, 30 January 2014 20:38

7 tips to drive innovation at your company

Written by
The lifeblood of business growth is innovation — but knowing this is the easy part. It’s a whole other ballgame to actually drive innovation within your organization on a consistent basis. Your company could suffer if you’re the only one who comes up with the next big idea. Smart leaders build organizations that think for themselves with the right people and channels to spark ideas. In order to move your organization to the next level, here’s some tips from Pittsburgh business leaders who drew on their teams’ full potential to find new ways to enhance processes, procedures and products. 1.…
It’s a moment of panic for drivers: You suddenly notice the warning light on your fuel gauge, but you don’t know when it came on or how close you are to the nearest gas station. Now, imagine you drive a compressed or liquefied natural gas-powered vehicle. The Pittsburgh region, for example, has only five natural gas fueling stations. That scarcity is a barrier to more people adopting cleaner, more fuel-efficient natural gas vehicles that could also reduce dependence on foreign oil. Three professors at Robert Morris University have developed a mathematical model that determines the optimal locations for natural gas…
As a CEO, I met with many strategic suppliers during performance review meetings, contract negotiation meetings and social events. During negotiation meetings, I had one simple question: What makes you unique and why should we buy from you — and not your competitors? That was a destabilizing question for many salespeople. They were caught unprepared and could not articulate their true differentiation in a clear fashion. I got some of the usual answers: “We have been around for 50 years.” “We have had a good relationship with your buyers for more than 10 years.” “Because we provide good value to…
Effective communication is a vital aspect of the employer-employee relationship regardless of industry and geography, says Renay Gontis, communications coordinator at JRG Advisors. “The opportunity for quality dialogue demonstrates to employees that they are valued by the company. Conversely, a lack of value placed on communication can make them feel underappreciated, fostering discontentment and low morale,” Gontis says. Smart Business spoke with Gontis about how to utilize the many channels for communication to supply employees with timely and accurate company news and information.What tools can be used to communicate? In today’s technological environment, employers have a variety of communication tools.…
Thursday, 30 January 2014 17:10

How telemedicine and telehealth are increasing access

Written by
When it comes to telemedicine and telehealth, the future is most definitely now. Advances in technology have spurred advances in telemedicine and carry with it the potential to increase access to care, improve quality and reduce costs.“Telehealth solutions have the capacity to improve the quality of care, improve access to care and reduce the cost of delivering care,” says Dr. Stephen Perkins, vice president of Medical Affairs for UPMC Health Plan. “It has the potential to reduce costs for both physicians and patients.” Smart Business spoke with Perkins about telemedicine and telehealth and their potential to improve care and reduce…
Thursday, 02 January 2014 23:52

Weighing in on health care reform: Pittsburgh

Written by
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called the Affordable Care Act represents some of the most far-reaching government overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since 1965 when Medicare and Medicaid came into being. It will be phased in over time, but a number of changes have been delayed and won’t be in effect until 2015. The act focuses on increasing the rate of health insurance coverage for American and reducing health care costs. Here’s what some area businesses have on their minds about health care reform as the time nears for the full impact of the ACA: James…
The advantages of an electronic health record (EHR) for individuals are readily apparent to many physicians. According to the most recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control, 75 percent of physicians who have adopted EHR say the technology has led to better care. But, for any number of reasons, that message has not quite gotten through to the general population. Privacy and security concerns are the major reasons cited by the public for its unease, and the main factors keeping many people from embracing the concept, even as the nation becomes more “digitized” in other areas. “The general public…
Relocation can be a challenge, but careful planning can be the difference between a move that’s difficult and one that’s smooth. “When managing an office move, a move consultant’s objective is to minimize disruption in the workplace and quickly return the office to a normal workflow,” says Patricia Meyers, marketing manager at SMC Consulting, LLC. “No two moves are exactly the same. However, there are basic activities that need to take place to ensure an effortless transition,” she says. Smart Business spoke with Meyers about how to effectively manage a move from one office to another.What does a move management…
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) made sweeping changes to the insurance industry landscape. “Business owners and HR professionals will need to be in compliance with the rules and regulations set forth by PPACA. And, individuals will have increased questions about the health insurance marketplaces, individual mandate and underwriting,” says Michael Galardini, sales executive at JRG Advisors, the management arm of ChamberChoice. “As a result, employee benefits professionals will be asked to help guide both businesses and individuals through the changing marketplace.” Smart Business spoke with Galardini about employee benefits trends small and large employers can expect to…
Not long ago my heart sank when I read that the Pittsburgh metropolitan area ranked 48th among the 50 top cities in Entrepreneur magazine’s list of the best cities for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a Pittsburgh tradition and the life-blood of our future growth. So how can we move up the entrepreneurial ladder? Water the acorns Because venture capital firms can only invest in companies with addressable markets exceeding $500 million, they usually don’t make bets on small startups. Seed money for these companies must come from high net-worth individuals in the private sector, sometimes called “angels.” Places like Palo Alto,…
When unwanted attrition happens, the usual reaction is, “Why? Where are they going?” Most organizations use the exit interview to answer these questions. An HR professional meets with the departing person and attempts to learn the good, bad and ugly about why they are leaving. Unfulfilled promises and hopes are revealed as the interviewer shrinks in chagrin, wishing this critical information had been discovered sooner. If the departing talent is senior in the firm, or in a key role, the departure interview will be shared with the company’s top executives and board of directors. Here the “why” questions intensify. The…
Ken Kobus is proud to be a third-generation steelworker, saying, “The mill was always in my life, even as a baby.” He began working at the Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. in 1965, spending most of his time at the Hazelwood Coke Works. He worked there from December 1966 until the plant closed in 1998. His father had worked at the Jones & Laughlin Pittsburgh Works for 37 years and his grandfather started work at J&L in 1906. Through this life-long connection with J&L, Kobus has amassed a vast knowledge of its history and steel-making techniques, along with personal stories…
Over the course of the 120-plus years that Irwin Car and Equipment has been in operation, the company has undergone several ownership and identity changes — but it wasn’t until William Baker took over the company in 1993 that Irwin Car and Equipment started to reach its full potential. Founded in 1891, Irwin Car started as a manufacturer of cast iron wheels and mine cars. The company evolved into making steel mine cars, but by 1981 and 1982 the industry was changing. Miners were moving away from mine cars and using belts and conveyors. Irwin at that point got left…
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have a profound effect on most employers that offer health plans in 2014. “Passing the law was the easy part. The process of issuing regulations and guidance between three separate federal agencies — Health and Human Services, Department of Labor and the IRS — is the difficult part. Add to the mix an occasional court ruling and you have the perfect recipe for confusion and the risk of misinformation,” says Chuck Whitford, client advisor at JRG Advisors, the management arm of ChamberChoice. Smart Business spoke with Whitford about points to consider…
Page 1 of 18