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Thursday, 26 August 2010 20:00

The Martin file

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Born: Springfield, Mo.Education: B.S. in business administration, MBA, finance, University of MissouriWhat was your first job? Hauling and baling hay, stacking the bails. I was 15. I lived in Springfield, which is a community of a couple hundred thousand people, but there was plenty of surrounding farmland opportunity to help farmers get their hay up. It was a good summertime job. I wasn’t old enough to formally work and I was involved in athletics and it was a good way to get a collateral bit of fitness training in.Whom do you admire most in business? I’ve always thought of Sam…
Monday, 26 July 2010 20:00

The Cahn file

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Born: Mainz, GermanyEducation: Unfortunately, I only went through ninth grade in high school. It’s a different world we’re living in today. If I were to do it over again and I knew then what I know today, I probably would have left school a year earlier. If I was going to do it again, but I wanted to have the same career, I’m not so sure because in order to be successful in my career, I had to make a lot of sacrifices.With what I know today, I’m not sure I would want to do it over again. While my…
The training was a failure. All of that time, all of thateffort, all of that money, just gone, just out the window and gone. What otherexplanation was there, after all, for drop after drop in the hard numbers froma talented sales team in the wake of a training and development session?It could have happened at any business, but for the purposesof this story, it happened at a large technology company with headquarters inthe Midwest. The top executives, frantic for answers, called a corporate trainingfirm. “Our sales are down,” the executives said. “We need training.”That technology company was part of a…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Offering insight

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Tim Thornton finds his employees’ motivation for their work makes his job pretty easy. But every once in awhile, the Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale PC president is confronted with a challenge.The economy has caused most companies to make tough decisions, and the Greensfelder law firm is no different. For Thornton, part of the process has been calming employees’ anxieties and maintaining motivation.“There is a natural tendency in troubled economic times to want to cut back, but it may not be the time to cut back; it may be the time to actually invest and seek out opportunities,” Thornton says. “With…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

A healthy return

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Winner Agricultural John Bloomhall has worked through his share of trials, tribulations and tests. How, after all, can you not be tested in some manner every day when you operate a business for more than a decade? But there has been no greater test than the flood waters that continued to rise. In June 2008, flood waters poured across Iowa, and especially across Cedar Rapids, where Bloomhall works as president and CEO of Diamond V Mills Inc. The company develops proprietary technologies for animal and human nutrition and has multiple buildings in the city. Its manufacturing facility was hit with…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Balancing growth

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Winner Technology In 2004, Balance Innovations had five employees and 600 installations in a few states. Today, it has more than 6,000 contracted installations across the United States and Canada and the employee count has grown to 57. It’s been a very successful period for the company, which provides reconciliation and cash office management solutions for retailers. The success is directly attributable to the perseverance of Keith Molzer, the company’s president and CEO. His instincts have helped him see the company through recent issues in the economy. While many companies were slashing budgets and sitting on the sidelines waiting out…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Technology advantage

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Finalist The Golden Rule says “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” For Brad Pittenger, CEO of Xiolink, this is the foundation for how he runs his business. When he co-founded the business more than a decade ago, one of the underlying principles was to never say no to a customer and not to draw boundaries. If someone is a client, he’ll take care of them — period. That’s true even if the issue is not something that falls under Xiolink’s parameters of responsibility. For example, although the company provides management for servers and hardware operating systems,…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Shared leadership

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Finalist David LeCompte, CEO of Short’s Travel Management Inc., will tell you that the key to executive and organizational success in any service business is to surround yourself with people who are eager to align themselves with your vision, your determination and your standards. LeCompte sets the standards for talent at Short’s through company goals of profitable growth, efficiency and innovation in everything he and his employees engage in. In the midst of the economic storm of 2009, LeCompte led his company to a 10 percent revenue increase over 2008. An efficient work force can be the difference between a…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Entrepreneurs: What makes them different?

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  We’ve all been in business long enough to know the facts. We’ve heard the stories. We’ve read the biographies about the distinctiveness of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs lead in uncertain economic times, boldly innovating where established companies fear to tread, hiring when others lay off, increasing product development where others cut back. We know this to be true, and we celebrate it again this year by recognizing the incredible talent on display at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Central Midwest 2010 Awards. High-growth companies have as much to lose as established companies, if not more, with far less…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Growing up again

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Finalist Growth, plateau. Growth, plateau. Growth, plateau. Yes, Robert G. Riley Jr. has remained true to a relatively simple entrepreneurial pattern during the almost quarter of a century he has owned and operated Feed Energy Company. Every time the company reaches the end of another growth cycle, he invests in strategic initiatives during the ensuing plateau period to spark new life and invigorate the business. When the plateau reaches its end, the company is prepared for more growth. And on and on. The pattern has worked, without a doubt, as Riley has managed to build Feed Energy exponentially since he…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Helping hand

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Winner Lifetime Achievement William C. Knapp is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who started with nothing. His humble childhood created a driven nature and a near inability to say no when asked to help those who are in need. In 1952, he purchased a real estate company and renamed it Iowa Realty. His company grew continuously from 1955 on and dominated the local real estate market as the No. 1 selling agency for nearly 40 years. Under Knapp’s leadership, Iowa Realty became the largest real estate company in the state. As the redevelopment of downtown Des Moines evolved in 1976, Knapp…
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 20:00

The Short file

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Born: PhiladelphiaEducation: Bachelor’s degree in economics from San Jose State University; doctorate in economics, University of UtahWhom do you admire most in business and why? The people I admire don’t show up in business magazines or textbooks. Mark Lombardi, president at Maryville University in St. Louis. He is a great manager. He’s tuned into his vision, he gets people on board with it, and they follow him. He not only has a vision; he believes in it. He eats, sleeps and breathes it.What is the best advice you’ve been given? My eighth-grade teacher had a phrase over the blackboard: ‘Results…
If your business has been underpaying its taxes, look out: States are seeking ways to increase their budgets by increasing their sales tax audit activity on companies that may not even realize they are underpaying.In the ever-changing landscape of state tax law, many businesses have a difficult time understanding how much sales tax to pay and which transactions are taxable. As a result, businesses can end up paying hefty assessments.“The keys are to set up your accounting system to accurately capture the data used to calculate the amount of sales tax due, know the laws in the state in which…
Friday, 26 March 2010 20:00

The Steinback file

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Born: St. LouisEducation: Bachelor of science in business administration, Washington University, St. LouisWhom do you admire most in business and why? My elders who taught me to work hard, hire the best and be very ethical.What is the best business advice you’ve ever received? Listen, be decisive and give it my best every day.Steinback on making decisions: One of the things I’ve learned in business, and I abide by it all the time, is that nobody knows all the facts of a given situation on any given day. If it’s a credit decision, I wish I knew everything there was…
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 19:00

The Volovar File

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Born: Toledo, OhioEducation: Bachelor of arts degree, emphasis on business management, Spring Arbor University, Spring Arbor, Mich.What was your first job? I was a waitress at Frisch’s for two or three years. You have to pay attention to the needs of others, and you have to listen, and you have to be able to swallow your pride and believe that the customer comes first.Whom do you admire most in business and why? Tom Beatty, one of my previous bosses at Family Heath Plan in Toledo. He’s now retired. He allowed me the opportunity to work in numerous departments on multiple…
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:00

Seeking coverage

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In today’s challenging economy, businesses need every competitive advantage possible not only to thrive but also to survive.“Choosing the right insurance brokerage firm can result in major cost savings and important balance sheet protection,” says Dave Schaake, resident sales director of Aon Risk Services Central Inc. “The wrong choice can lead to paying too much for your insurance costs or, even worse, result in major gaps in coverage which can lead to significant financial loss.”Smart Business spoke with Schaake about insurance and how to find the broker that’s right for you and your business.How can you decide what type of…
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:00

Leading with heart

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Robert H. Chapman was having a really good day. He had just eaten a fabulous breakfast with his wife, complete with impeccable service and great food at the Ritz-Carlton hotel where the couple was staying.After the meal, on the way back to his room, Chapman noticed a man painting the hallway.As he approached, the man stopped his painting and began to speak to Chapman.“He paused and apologized for interrupting my stay because he was touching up the paint,” says Chapman, chairman and CEO at Barry-Wehmiller Cos. Inc. “I said, ‘I can’t believe anybody has engaged people so much.’ If Ritz…
Saturday, 26 December 2009 19:00

Constructing safety

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Construction defect litigation can be costly.To mitigate that, contractors and other building professionals carry insurance as evidenced on a certificate required in contractual requirements. But despite the fact that construction companies invest and commit significant resources to risk control, safety practices and responsive customer service to eliminate or lower the frequency and severity of losses, problems with construction can arise months or years after the project ends, says Susan R. Schwartz, a director of the Construction Services Group at Aon Risk Services Central Inc.“The problems generally are related to defective design, poor workmanship, geological issues or deficient building materials,” Schwartz…
Saturday, 26 December 2009 19:00

Surgical precision

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Crystal Haynes is proud of Saint Louis University Hospital. It’s a level-one trauma center, meaning it’s capable of handling the worst of the worst when it comes to illness and injury. It’s a 356-bed academic teaching hospital that has provided health care to the St. Louis region for more than 70 years. But as Haynes looked at the hospital’s range of service offerings a few years ago, she felt like maybe her staff was trying to do too much. “This was a facility that wanted to do every aspect of the health care business and be involved and engaged in…
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 19:00

Training opportunities

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Charlotte A. Martin hates the word mistake. “We want people to take risks, so you can’t very well hang them up to dry for a mistake if you want a culture of risk-taking and constant improvement,” she says. The president and chief operating officer of Gateway EDI LLC refers to herself as the chief cultural officer, and in that role, she fosters an environment of risk-taking and idea-suggesting in order to develop employees and, ultimately, the company. Essentially, instead of bringing negative attention to mistakes, the company uses “training opportunities” to identify steps that could have been taken and ways…
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 19:00

The Stroup File

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Born: Columbus, OhioEducation: Bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering, Northwestern University; MBA, University of California, BerkeleyWhom do you admire most in business and why? The person I probably admire more than anybody is Bill Gates. The reason for that is a little bit different maybe than what you would expect. I admire the fact that he’s found a way to take arguably one of the most significant economic achievements that any of us have seen through business and he is taking all that energy and intellect and those financial resources into ways that I think will really make a…
Monday, 26 October 2009 20:00

A living example

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The 10-year trek from manager to investor to owner hasn’t bloated Stacy Hastie’s ego. He knows he can get further by leading his team laterally than he can by charging ahead.Since Hastie took control of Environmental Operations Inc. in 2002, he personalized the company’s mission. To him, “We do what we say we’ll do,” means he does what he asks employees to do.He works side by side with employees to set an example at the company, which provides environmental consulting and contracting services as well as demolition and waste management.“I walk in every day with a can-do attitude,” says the…
Monday, 26 October 2009 20:00

The McKee File

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Born: St. LouisEducation: Bachelor of science degree in civil and environmental engineering from Vanderbilt University; MBA, Washington University in St. LouisWhat was your very first job? Cutting grass and cleaning the toilets at Paric. I would have been 10 or 11. I knew I wanted to build at a young age. We had a three-story clubhouse and a treehouse, and I was the guy that was always figuring that stuff out and designing it. They were built for real, not like most kids would do it. It wasn’t just cobbled together; we had stud walls. So I knew I wanted…
Friday, 25 September 2009 20:00

Space exploration

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Savvy CEOs are taking advantage of the slumping commercial real estate market by evaluating whether their space meets their needs while the cost to buy or lease is low. Commercial real estate prices fell again in the second quarter, showing an 18 percent national decrease compared to the previous quarter, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Real Estate’s index. The drop placed the price index 39.2 percent below its 2007 second-quarter peak. Clearly, the market is experiencing volatility, but opportunities are present. “It’s a very good time to get out and move to a different building,” says Burt…
Friday, 25 September 2009 20:00

Understanding nexus

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Due to current tough economic times and budget shortfalls, state taxing authorities are becoming more aggressive in identifying and collecting tax revenue. “The states are looking for ways to maximize their tax revenue during these tough times,” says Marty Doerr, CPA, member in charge of tax services at Brown Smith Wallace LLC. One such avenue is for the state to determine that nexus exists for a nonfiling taxpayer. It is a good idea to be prepared and proactive in this area. “It’s important for a company to do a self-review, identify exposures and make sure everything is filed properly before…
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:00

Do you need D&O?

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While the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies carry directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance for risks including securities class-action lawsuits, should you and/or your business carry this coverage?In an environment where litigation is commonplace, you should consider it, particularly if you face increased exposure due to certain business activities. As a director or officer of a public or private company or of a nonprofit, you can be held personally liable in the event of a lawsuit. To protect both your personal assets and those of the company, it is critical that anyone on a board or in senior management…
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:00

Getting personal

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Steve Walli can feel the eyes of his employees when they look to him for guidance as to which path they should follow at UnitedHealthcare of the Midwest Inc. But Walli says it’s his willingness to ask for the same type of support in return that enables his company to succeed. “They need to feel like their voice is heard,” says Walli, president and CEO of the provider of health care network services. “They want to be involved in the strategy and they want to feel like it matters when they bring in feedback from the marketplace.” The idea behind…