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Sunday, 24 February 2008 19:00

Stay out of court

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Before any business or company hires another entity to build something for it, great pains are taken to spell out what is expected from each side and what the rights are of all the parties involved. Yet, despite contracts that are drawn up and signed before any work begins, oftentimes those parties will find themselves in court, battling over negligence or a perceived breach of contract. “Although there certainly are statutes and regulations that apply to various aspects of design and construction, the rights of the parties are also defined in the contracts that they sign,” says Richard R. Hardcastle…
Sunday, 24 February 2008 19:00

Secure information

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Fraud will never happen at your company, right? You have passwords, anti-virus software, even a dedicated IT staff that manages this portion of your business — so you’re not worried. But you should be. This not-at-my-company approach to securing your information systems is downright dangerous, says Ron Schmittling, CPA, CITP, CISA, CIA, leader of Brown Smith Wallace LLC’s IT Security & Privacy Practice. “Every organization has critical or sensitive information, whether financial information, trade secrets, intellectual property or confidential employee data,” he says. This accessible digital information is stored electronically, leaving it vulnerable to hackers, viruses and even your own…
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 19:00

Under your wing

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Entry-level accounting and finance professionals are rarely taken under a mentor’s wing, a new survey suggests. According to a poll developed by Accountemps, a specialized staffing service for temporary financial professionals, the majority (58 percent) of the 1,400 CFOs polled said that it is uncommon for newly hired employees to be matched with mentors, either formally or informally, within their organizations. “Mentoring is one of the best ways for a business to get a new employee up to speed, but it is a practice that is rarely implemented in business,” says Melinda Alison, St. Louis regional vice president of Robert…
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 19:00

Pointing the way

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The death of Maritz Inc. Chairman Bill Maritz in 2001 meant the loss of 40 years of experience at the very top of the company’s hierarchy. The tumult that followed as the 113-year-old family business struggled to deal with the loss of its patriarch, combined with the economic fallout from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, presented plenty of challenges for Steve Maritz, the new chairman and CEO. “During his tenure here, the company had grown substantially into what it is,” Maritz says of his father’s legacy. “It is not unusual in families, much less businesses, that the death of the…
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:00

Culture of creativity

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By Matt McClellan Kimberly Boyer’s employees own their own destiny. The knowledge that their input can actually change the direction of Adamson Advertising has helped create a culture of ownership at the 60-employee firm, which had 2006 billings of $60 million. Boyer, president of Adamson, says she gives her employees the leeway to maneuver independently, and she attributes the firm’s success to that freedom. Smart Business spoke with Boyer about how giving employees freedom allows them to be creative and to excel. Q. How involved in the day-today operations should a leader be? Most people who are promoted to a…
Friday, 28 December 2007 07:30

The Weddle file

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Born: Elgin, Ill. Education: Bachelor of arts, DePauw University; master’s of business administration, Washington University, St. Louis What is the greatest business challenge you have faced? It’s an ongoing challenge. Finding the right people to share the work with and to share the profits. Finding the right people is the only limitation to the growth of any organization. Admit your mistakes. When you find someone who isn’t a good fit or can’t do what’s being asked, address that. That’s tough to be sure. But address it as quickly as you can and as professionally as you can. What is the…
You’ve heard it all before — social media is the wave of the future, and if you don’t get on board, your business will be left in the dust. It is true that in this day and age, a well-designed website is not enough. To be truly effective in marketing and promoting your business, you need social media. Whether you use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube, a strong social media presence is vital to doing business in the new millennium. But you can’t just jump into social media. Many considerations must be made, the first of which is the crafting…
Sunday, 26 December 2010 19:00

Know when it’s real

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“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say, ‘Thank you.’” In between, the leader is a servant.” — Max De Pree As most of us know, reality is overrated. We wish for things the way they ought to be. And our biases, of course, often push us toward a reluctance to embrace reality. Yet, in order to be great leaders, we must develop the discipline not to let our desires and ambitions cloud our perceptions of reality. Whether defining reality is, as De Pree suggests, the first responsibility of a leader or not,…
Thursday, 25 November 2010 14:00

Michael Kramer led his team through a crisis at Kellwood Co.

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It was Friday afternoon and Michael Kramer was ready to hit the beach. The president and CEO of Kellwood Co. was taking his family and heading to Southern California for a weekend of sun and sand. It was then that a phone call turned the life of Kramer and his 1,200-employee apparel marketing company completely upside down. “It was the fact that $140 million in bonds were becoming due,” Kramer says. “We had been negotiating with our bondholders to extend those bonds for another five years at a very attractive rate, a rate higher than they had been getting.” The…
Tuesday, 26 October 2010 20:00

Center of attention

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There are so many stereotypes about attorneys. Some of them are true, of course, but most of them are not. Some attorneys are, for instance, sharp dressers, every bit the models for the top designers that you might expect, with perfect hair and a packed brain to match, but not all attorneys look like they belong on the cast of some courtroom drama that moves through its story arc each week in 44 minutes flat. Some attorneys are fast and slick and out to make a quick dollar — or a quick couple of thousand dollars — but not many.…
Perhaps someone forgot to tell Thad Simons that this wasn’t a permanent gig. As interim CEO of Novus International Inc., he was just supposed to keep the seat warm until a full-time leader could be found.“No one expected me to take the job seriously,” says Simons, who would eventually become president and permanent CEO. “As interim, you’re not supposed to do anything. You’re supposed to just keep the company going.”But Simons wanted to do more than that. He had been with Novus for more than a decade as general counsel and helped the company establish its own identity after separating…
Consumer spending, the lifeblood of the retail industry, is depressed in today’s business climate. Job growth is anemic, and revenue projections are difficult, at best.As a result, many retailers are seeking to control cost and increase revenue, and one way to achieve those goals is by creating a captive insurance company, says Len Churnetski, regional practice leader of Aon Risk Services’ retail division.“Historically, companies purchased insurance and paid a premium,” Churnetski says. “Many insurance buyers have asked, ‘Was that a cost-efficient use of our capital? Should we have kept that risk for our own account?’ Instead of putting it on…
It is often said that the purpose of business interruption coverage is to do for the insured’s company what the business would have continued to do had no loss occurred. But Mike Hoffman, assistant vice president at Aon Risk Services Central Inc., says it is equally important to understand what the coverage is not intended to do.“A business interruption contract is not a cure-all for an ailing business or industry,” says Hoffman.Smart Business spoke with Hoffman about how business interruption coverage can help your business navigate a crisis.How can a company navigate a business interruption loss?There are four areas in…
Risk management was once regarded as an insurance purchasing function for the risk manager, or even for local plant managers, with no connection to the company’s broader operational or financial priorities.But with the economic downturn, more CEOs and CFOs are re-evaluating their purchasing habits for all facets of the operations, including insurance premiums. Further, with the number of natural disasters in the past few years, protecting the company’s assets and revenue stream has been front of mind for CEOs and CFOs, and risk management has become a key part of the overall financial and operational strategy, says Rebecca Newman, Director…
Tuesday, 06 July 2010 10:40

3 Questions

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As director of the Center for Professional Development atWebster University, Larry Mabrey has helped develop and implement theuniversity’s Leadership Continuum Certification, which takes a new approach toleadership training and development. Mabrey previously worked as the externalcommunications administrator for Webster’s School of Business and Technology.Q. What should companies train employees in as the economyimproves?In an improving economy, customer service is an area that canimpact a business probably the most dramatically. As your business picks up,you have the opportunity to capture new customers by providing top-notchservice. Hand in hand with that is communication, both internal and external.Establishing strong internal and external guidelines…
Continuous controls monitoring (CCM) has been on the radar for many companies for the last 20 years, but only recently have organizations really pushed toward meeting this goal. In a broad sense, CCM is a systemic way of verifying transactions and reducing operational, compliance and financial risks. And a key goal is to catch control failures quickly, before they cause too much damage. “If you detect errors as quickly as possible, you’ll have less revenue loss and exposure to risk,” says Janet Beckmann, CPA, data analysis practice leader at Brown Smith Wallace LLC. The impetus for initiating CCM depends on…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

A step ahead

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Winner Retail When Matthew E. Rubel joined Payless ShoeSource a little more than half a decade ago, the discount retail shoe store suffered from an image problem. Store associates considered it to be little more than a cheap place to buy shoes, at least according to company literature. More important, customers thought the same thing. But today, Payless has a new logo, a new store design, a studio in New York and partnerships with respected names in the fashion and shoe industries. It is now also part of a larger company, Collective Brands Inc., which has gathered Payless with five…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Playing with success

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Winner Consumer Products Russ Hornsby has wanted to make toys since as far back as he can remember, and when you see him leading a business that does just that, you assume that he is living out his lifelong dream. In many ways, Cepia LLC is the fulfillment of a childhood dream, but the journey he took to achieve it was as challenging as it was rewarding. He faced laughter and skepticism as people questioned the power of imagination and Hornsby’s determination to make his dreams comes true. But he overcame the doubters and launched Trendmasters Inc., building it into…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Learning his way

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FinalistWhen L. Thomas Duvall was working as a CPA after college, he represented a small truck transportation company during an IRS audit, and in 1996, he purchased that company and left public accounting to run the business. To make matters worse, the day before Duvall took possession of the company, he learned that the remaining employees were starting their own company. He was soon left with nothing but a cabinet, computer files and a few drivers. In over his head, he contacted a childhood friend who was a manager at a truck stop. His friend agreed to move back to…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Focus on quality

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Finalist In the world of business, Chad L. Williams has never been afraid to try something new. He started out in the automotive sector, working in his father’s business. He eventually developed an interest in real estate, and he soon branched into commercial acquisitions. But it was after he started purchasing technology centers that his career as an entrepreneur really began to take off. As chairman and CEO of Quality Technology Services, Williams has taken his business talents and experience and committed them to the technology sector. The goal of Williams and his leadership partners is to turn QTS into…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Always adjusting

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Finalist Since running a hay crew at age 15, Kent Schien knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. But he knew it was more than a goal of business ownership; it also required selflessness. Schien kept that in mind when he penned a business plan and committed his own funds in 1996, starting Innoventor Inc. in his basement. As CEO, he didn’t want an industry-specific engineering firm; he wanted a “Thomas Alva Edison sort of company” built on forward thinking, innovation and invention. His plan laid out three types of work: engineering services and fully integrated projects and products. That…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Answering the call

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Finalist When Jerry Howe put together a team in 2000 to acquire the nearing-bankrupt LDD, his decision was based on a vision he knew that, with just a little time, he could make people see. As CEO of Big River Telephone Company, Howe, in just a decade, has taken the rural long distance reseller and turned it into a technology provider in 15 states. The path to success has been achieved by sticking to the principles and vision that Howe laid out in the beginning. He wanted to build a company centered on customers’ needs, and he has done just…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Proper nutrition

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Winner BioScience The concept of “health through nutrition” drives Thad Simons Jr. as president and CEO of Novus International Inc. — both for the company’s customers and the business itself. Novus is focused on improving the nutrition value and accessibility of the world’s food supply through science. But Simons wouldn’t be able to realize his vision if his company wasn’t healthy as a business entity. Under Simons’ leadership, Novus has created a unique business model that marries excellence with innovation, sustainability and sharing best practices. The company maintains a culture of collaboration both internally and through interaction with a global…
In response to current economic conditions, many organizations are paying increased attention to carefully managing balance sheets in an effort to remain competitive, or, in some cases, viable. Companies are taking steps to free up capital and cut costs while also trying to keep their work forces engaged and productive.In this climate, many employers are finding that health care programs present a cost reduction opportunity, as it’s one of their fastest-growing business expenses.One way to reduce those costs is to make sure that you are only paying for dependents who meet the company’s eligibility guidelines for group medical benefits. Conducting…
Sunday, 25 April 2010 20:00

Movers and shakers

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When mortgage companies started to close due to the collapse of the real estate market, Deanna Daughhetee didn’t fear for her own company. Instead, she capitalized on the fact that there was less competition.“You need to make sure you do think about what kind of opportunity does this present to us,” Daughhetee says about the economy. “It really starts you thinking about things in a different way, and that’s when you come up with new ideas and new opportunities that maybe you hadn’t thought about before.”The company, which Daughhetee founded and owns and at which she serves as president and…
Sunday, 25 April 2010 20:00

Point of sale

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Gene Toombs does not question the high level of intelligence that his employees at MiTek Industries Inc. bring to their work. They need it to develop new software and improve machinery used by the company’s customers in the building components industry.But if those employees who develop the products can’t work with the customers to get the most use out of it, this expertise doesn’t do anyone very much good.“As much as they are brilliantly smart on the computer, they may not know the intricacies of what the guy in the office who uses the software has to do,” says Toombs,…
As the economy soured, so did engagement, as employees watched their workloads increase and their peers pack up their offices.A recent study by the Corporate Leadership Council showed that employee engagement has declined steadily, in line with economic conditions, quarter by quarter from 2007 through 2009. Having an engaged work force is not simply a “nice to have” for an organization; it is critical, says Darrell Hartke, Ph.D., industrial/organizational psychologist in the St. Louis office of Aon Consulting.“With employee engagement being positively linked to outcomes such as organizational profit, retention and job satisfaction, it is something that all organizations must…