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Thursday, 21 September 2006 20:00

Delivery driver

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FedEx Ground’s fiscal 2006 started out looking like it was going to be one of its worst performances. It turned out to be one of its best.The disparity wasn’t the result of poor forecasting. On the contrary, it came out of an early realization that the company was in some danger of missing its goals for the year, and it was able to reverse its fortunes with quick action.A cruel convergence of conditions had conspired to create the problem. A brutal hurricane season in the Southeast that crippled the Gulf Coast for months had put a dent into its business.…
Wednesday, 30 August 2006 18:19

Competing internationally

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The number of American businesses sending their goods and services overseas has tripled since 1990. Businesses that don’t export are 9 percent more likely to fail in any given year than comparable firms that do, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Association. “If your market has matured in the U.S., you owe it to your business and your employees to think in terms of global markets,” says David Dietrich, vice president at the Family Business Center at NexTier Bank. “The first step is to create a strategic plan for entering a foreign market, while at the same…
Tuesday, 29 August 2006 20:00

D. Raja

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 D. Raja believes that there are no obstacles in life, only opportunities. There’s no real secret to success, contends Raja, who has built 400-employee Computer Enterprises Inc. into an IT company that expects do $40 million in revenue this year. It’s all about hard work and good character. At the top of Raja’s list of business tenets is that integrity is a must because no business will be a complete success without it. Right behind a commitment to integrity is the importance of hiring the very best people he can find in the industry. Raja spoke with Smart Business about…
Monday, 31 July 2006 11:47

Legislative impact on health care

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As our government struggles with the issue of how to handle escalating health care costs, several alternatives have surfaced as possible solutions. Where market reform stands as one of the most talked-about options, more extreme solutions like universal health care are also being discussed. While individual businesses scramble to deal with their own rising costs, there is a bigger picture that should also be considered. “Over the last five to seven years, there have been a lot of discussions about health care costs and who is going to pay for them,” says Joe Wise, senior director of government relations at…
Friday, 28 July 2006 20:00

Environment for growth

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Dawn Fuchs has grown Weavertown Environmental Group from $25 million in sales in 2004 to an estimated $30 million in 2006, and it hasn’t been easy. The daughter of founder Don Fuchs, she took over as president in 2002, just as many of the environmental services company had lost many of its biggest customers in the steel industry and found itself holding millions of dollars in uncollectible receivables. Fuchs put together a plan to add business lines that would maximize the company’s capital resources and whipped a poorly performing branch office in Kentucky into shape. This year, she says, that…
Saturday, 29 July 2006 08:20

The Jordan file

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Place of birth: Wheeling, W.Va. Education:Bachelor of arts degree, Bethany College, 1981; juris doctorate, University of Pittsburgh Law School, 1984 First job: General labor, steel mill Whom do you admire most in business and why?Jack Welch, because he inspired change and outstanding performance at the same time, over an extended period What is the most important business lesson you’ve learned?That great teamwork beats individual effort every time What has been your toughest business challenge?Expanding and changing Reed Smith while retaining our outstanding culture Describe your leadership style.I try to set a vision, inspire our people to excel, encourage great teamwork…
Wednesday, 24 May 2006 12:03

Larry Pietropaulo

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When Larry Pietropaulo arrived at CJ Systems Aviation Group in 1989, there were just a half-dozen helicopters to manage. Since then, the company has narrowed its focus and, in the process, expanded the business by nearly every metric as it shifted from general aviation services to air medical transportation almost exclusively. As a result of that transition, it’s doubled its headcount to nearly 700 and its fleet to nearly 120 helicopters, in the past five years. Revenue, expected to reach $140 million this year, and profitability, too, have grown commensurately. Pietropaulo, president and COO since 2003, attributes that growth at…
Monday, 24 April 2006 20:00

Optimizing opportunities

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For A.C. Coy Co., the purchase of a piece of Stargate Industries out of bankruptcy provided the company with new and valuable human resources, a fat increase to its top line and new client opportunities. It also brought growing pains. The new structures necessary to serve a larger organization left some employees uncomfortable. It chafed enough at some that they decided to leave. And while the acquisition brought new opportunities, says CEO John Yocca, it also carried with it more demanding customers with higher expectations. For a business whose core activity is finding and placing IT talent, inadequate organization and…
Wednesday, 29 March 2006 11:36

Charles Davidson

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Managed Care of America Inc. defies the conventional wisdom that sticking to one thing and doing it well is the key to success. The secret of success and growth isn’t simply maintaining a narrow focus, says Charles Davidson, president of the 120-employee company, but rather developing business units that complement the other things your business does. Managed Care of America is an amalgam of businesses that logged $85 million in revenue in 2005, all related to the health care industry. Several of them were started out of a confidence that the company could develop a better service than it could…
Wednesday, 01 March 2006 05:02

The Hensler File

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Place of birth: Pittsburgh Education: Bachelor of science degree, chemical engineering, University of Notre Dame, 1977; M.S.E. chemical engineering, Princeton University, 1978; MBA Katz Graduate School, University of Pittsburgh, 1987 First Job: Process engineer, Corning Whom do you admire most in business and why?I have three choices, of which, I have had the opportunity to work for two: Dick Simmons, retired CEO, Allegheny Technologies; Ken Iverson, former CEO, Nucor; and Tom Graham, retired president and CEO of U.S. Steel and AK Steel. Each found a way to redefine their sectors of the tough metals business when most in their industry…
Sunday, 26 February 2006 19:00

Making IT work

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When Sarita Khatri and her partner launched WOW Corp. in 2002, there was no shortage of admonitions from friends and professional associates about the wisdom of starting a business in a down market for the IT industry. “Everyone was saying that this is not the time to start a business, and we were saying, ‘Why not take a chance?’” says Khatri, WOW’s CEO. WOW, an acronym for Women of the World, provides consultants for IT projects and employs about 275 people; approximately 100 of them are in-house employees. Khatri, her initial partner, Denice Stokes, and two other partners who have…
Tuesday, 31 January 2006 11:21

Using integrated care management

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In the era of managed care, health insurance companies historically used utilization management, care management and disease management programs to improve clinical outcomes and manage the cost of health care. Over the last few years, those strategies have evolved into a bigger-picture approach to health care, known as integrated care management, or ICM. “ICM takes a more holistic approach to clinical care in collaboration with the health care provider to meet all of the patient’s clinical, psychosocial and environmental needs,” says Dr. Michael J. Culyba, vice president, medical affairs, at UPMC Health Plan in Pittsburgh. Smart Business spoke with Culyba…
Friday, 27 January 2006 10:47

Counsel of their peers

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CEOs at both large and small companies often express to me how critical mentors have been to their success in business. But as singular figures in their respective organizations, they say they find it difficult to find anyone who experiences their job in quite the same way they do. Some suffer in silence, while others find solace in peer organizations such as the Young Presidents Organization. A few, such as a group that meets monthly at a local restaurant, form their own less-formal networks of company heads and entrepreneurs. Having a sympathetic ear and access to peers who can offer…
Tuesday, 29 November 2005 07:02

All the presence under the tree

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Getting presents is fun, but having presence is essential in today’s business climate. But what does having presence mean in business today? Your presence is much more than having your customer, or potential customer, recognize your name and remember your catchy 800-number. It means that the most important people to your business know how to reach you, know when you are available and know when you will be free if you’re not available, in real time. You can have presence in the office, at home, away on a business trip or sitting under a tree (with wireless connectivity). And with…
Tuesday, 29 November 2005 06:51

Selfless or self-serving?

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I received a press release from a local company awhile back announcing its employees’ contribution and its own matching gift totaling $20,000 to the Red Cross for the Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita relief efforts. The release revived the debate in my mind about companies publicizing such activities. Why do they send out press releases for these kinds of things? Who has to know about them? On one hand, it can appear self-serving when companies tout their charitable efforts, calling as much attention to themselves and, in some cases, their senior managers or owners as they do to the cause…
Wednesday, 02 November 2005 09:08

Fire and waste

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Job hatred, if I’m to believe some information that has come my way recently, is frighteningly common. A press release promoting a book that purports to help people get along better with their jobs claims only 6 percent of Americans say they love their jobs. A study by a staffing firm finds that job satisfaction since 1990 has fallen about 9 percent, to 50 percent of workers. So it follows that it pays to hire the right people in the first place. The basic nature of the work that your business does won’t change much, no matter what else you…
Wednesday, 02 November 2005 08:51

Don’t even go there (without a driver)

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If you try to implement anything with such complex impact to your IT environment as IP telephony, you may find that, as Gertrude Stein said, “When you get there, there is no There there.” First, find business drivers, then implement the strategy to attain your business goals. The drivers will get you to your goals. Where’s the driver?Every business depends on telephones. Incoming calls let customer support staff take orders and answer questions. Outgoing calls are typically for follow-up or new contact with customers. Since the telephone was invented more than 125 years ago, the interface to customer or supplier…
Thursday, 29 September 2005 07:45

Duplicating success

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Ask Steve Shriber what the best thing about running Ditto Document Solutions is, and he’d probably say having his brother as a partner. He and brother, Ken, say their partnership functions about as smoothly as any partnership could, sibling or otherwise. The two principals act, in essence, as co-CEOs of an 82-employee company that has grown and changed rapidly as the demand for new service offerings has mushroomed, going from almost exclusively document copying to more complex imaging, storage and printing processes. Not surprisingly, the increased sophistication of the technology required to perform ever-more involved projects — the company’s latest…
Thursday, 29 September 2005 07:24

Summary plan description

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If an employee came into your office and demanded to see the SPDs for your long term disability and medicals plans, would you know what he was talking about? Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires administrators of covered employee benefits plans to disclose certain material to participants and beneficiaries. ERISA disclosure takes on three forms regarding material such as reports, statements and documents. First, direct operation of law requires disclosure at a certain time or occurrence of an event, such as when a new plan takes effect. Next, disclosure can be requested from a participant…
Monday, 26 September 2005 07:00

Movers & Shakers

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Giant Ideas promoted Stan Muschweck to president, replacing former president and founder Bryan K. Ward, who now serves as CEO and executive creative director. Muschweck previously served as executive vice president. “Stan and I have known each other for almost a decade now, and when I started Giant Ideas back in 2001, I hoped the time would come that we could work together again,” Ward says. “Stan has helped us accomplish a tremendous amount since he came on board two years ago, and we look forward to even more exciting opportunities in the near future.” Muschweck has more than 30…
Wednesday, 31 August 2005 12:10

Happy anniversaries

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I’m celebrating a few anniversaries in September. First, I begin my 10th year with Smart Business this month. It’s hard to believe that I’m approaching the decade mark with this publication and its predecessor magazines. Nonetheless, I find that I enjoy the work today every bit as much as I did when I came on board nine years ago. I’m also marking my 16th anniversary as a journalist, and while the profession has taken its lumps in recent years, many of them deserved, I continue to consider it a privilege to work in a field I chose as a second…
Wednesday, 31 August 2005 11:17

Making the Point

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Katherine Henderson once interviewed a candidate for the CFO position at Point Park University who wasn’t shy about expressing his disdain for the lack of green space on the school’s Downtown campus. “Actually, in the middle of the interview, he put his feet up on the desk and crossed them,” says Henderson, Point Park’s president. “He said, ‘I find it hard to imagine functioning in this atmosphere.’” And he wouldn’t have to — he didn’t get the job. Henderson acknowledges the lack of greenery on campus but doesn’t apologize for it. Instead, she talks about the advantages of a Downtown…
Tuesday, 30 August 2005 20:00

When opportunity knocks

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Pete McAneny talks enthusiastically about the Screaming Swing, a new attraction that Kennywood Entertainment Co. will bring to both its flagship Kennywood Park in West Mifflin and to Lake Compounce in Connecticut in 2006, the only two parks in the United States to get the rides next year. A creative scheme he negotiated to time the delivery and construction of the rides is saving the company money, and their arrival will produce a marketing opportunity and an exclusive run in the United States for the amusement park company for at least three years. “We were buying two of them, one…
Friday, 29 July 2005 11:15

Concrete results

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Some labor market experts predict that we are headed for an employees’ labor market, in which employers, at least in some industries, will be in a bidding war for workers. If you find yourself struggling to find workers to fill your ranks, you might be spending a lot of money on job fairs, recruitment consultants and help want ads. Another approach might be to apply the principles of lean manufacturing, a process that Laura Kerckhoff, CastCon Stone Inc.’s president and the subject of this month’s One On One feature, is pursuing. For a company such as CastCon Stone, which manufactures…
Friday, 29 July 2005 10:56

Solid as a rock

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Heart surgeon Russell M. Nelson once observed, “A firm foundation is necessary for any building, institution or individual to endure.” Laura Deklewa, president of Allegheny Construction Group Inc. in Bridgeville, is a walking example of these wise words. Deklewa’s foundation includes 28 years in the construction industry, a strong business and life partner (Richard Deklewa, her husband since 1979, who serves as Allegheny’s vice president and construction executive) and an exemplary staff. And don’t forget Deklewa’s personal investment. “When it comes to secrets of success, there is one ingredient that is not a secret — hard work,” says Deklewa. “I…
Wednesday, 29 June 2005 20:00

Covering your assets

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The most valuable assets for many companies are proprietary information and business relationships. Employees may also have significant personal knowledge. Employers may use noncompete agreements as a way to prevent their competitors from acquiring access to their proprietary information or customer goodwill by hiring former employees. A covenant not to compete confers protections that cannot be achieved without a contract. Confidentiality agreements and even statutory claims under the Trade Secrets Act can be less effective in preventing trade-secret loss. Both employers and employees should understand the essential elements of enforceable noncompete restrictions, as well as some alternatives to general noncompete…
Wednesday, 29 June 2005 20:00

Change of menu

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Joe Greubel's ice cream cone motif necktie isn't just a novelty. It's a symbol of his attitude toward life and business: They both ought to be fun. As the president of Valley Dairy Inc. guides his Nissan Maxima over twisting two-lane roads through small towns in upper Westmoreland County, he spins a few stories about his father, friends and business. During a busy lunch hour at the company's newest restaurant in Blairsville, Greubel talks about his fondness for rubbing elbows with his vendors, customers and the locals, including Latrobe native and golf legend Arnold Palmer. The stories sometimes find him…