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Tuesday, 23 February 2010 19:00

Staying competitive

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Rising health care costs are putting more and more pressure on employers every year. Providing a desirable plan has become an enormous expense, but companies still need to offer health insurance benefits to stay competitive and recruit.“Health insurance is no longer an employee benefit; it’s a cost of doing business,” says Albert Ertel, COO of Alliant Health Plans. “You have employers trying to find a balance between what they can afford and what the employees desire.”Smart Business learned more from Ertel about how employers can find that balance.What options do they have to keep the costs manageable while also offering…
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:00

Driving change

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When Scott Willett took over leading Willett Honda South from his father, he had his fair share of problems to deal with. “He had gone through several general managers, and it had some horrible customer service scores — in fact, some of the worst in the country,” says Willett, who owns the dealership. “That took a long time to turn around.” The dealership, which had $74.4 million in 2008 sales revenue, eventually changed. By focusing on customer service and having solid people in place, the organization won the President’s Award in 2008, which is Honda’s highest award given to dealers.…
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:00

Achieve tax savings

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One of the greatest challenges facing all businesses today is cash flow, or the lack thereof. You can boost cash flow by increasing revenue or reducing expenses, but there may be other ways to improve your bottom line without cutting costs or adding new customers. The answer may lie right in the facility in which your business operates. One way to improve your cash flow is to accelerate the depreciation deductions for your facility using a cost segregation study. Cost segregation is a tax savings strategy that is used by many businesses to reduce taxes and increase cash flow. Smart…
Saturday, 26 December 2009 19:00

Staying positive

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In most years, Stan Kryder would set an annual budget and business plan and stick to it for the whole year, but now things are a little different for the president and CEO of Midtown Bank & Trust Co. “We’ve gone to a much more dynamic and shorter-term review of our budget, where we literally, once a quarter, sit down with our board of directors and review it and make changes to our business plan once a quarter because the market is much more dynamic right now,” Kryder says. Given the changes in the economy, this different approach to running…
Saturday, 26 December 2009 19:00

Transfer pricing and FIN 48

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In June 2006, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued Interpretation No. 48 — Accounting for Uncertainty in Income Taxes (FIN 48), which clarifies the accounting for uncertainty in income taxes recognized in an enterprise’s financial statements in accordance with FASB Statement 109, Accounting for Income Taxes. FIN 48 was effective for fiscal years beginning after Dec. 15, 2006, for public companies. After two deferrals, FIN 48 is now required to be adopted by private companies for fiscal years beginning after Dec. 15, 2008, which includes all calendar year-end 2009 private company financial statements. Smart Business spoke with Robert Verzi,…
Monday, 07 December 2009 19:00

In sync

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With the right technology, even a small business owner can begin to operate like a senior executive at a large corporation. “Business owners don’t need more e-mail,” says Rich Cannon, industry development marketing manager for Microsoft. “What they do need is a better way to process it. The problem is, a business owner gets 200 e-mails a day, and there are three in there that will kill the business if they’re not processed. Then there are another 197 that if they get to, great, and if they don’t, it’s still OK.” Smart Business spoke with Cannon about how the right…
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 19:00

New leader, effective change

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A change in leadership can bring fear and uncertainty to an organization, and a new leader must defuse that to begin bringing about sustainable change. And although new leaders must act quickly, they shouldn’t do so until they gain an understanding of the organization and the trust of its employees, says Nick Williams, general manager of the Columbus office of Definity Partners. “It’s a mistake for a new leader to go in with preconceived solutions,” Williams says. “Change needs to happen fairly quickly but not before the initial level of trust is built and the new leader gains an understanding…
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 19:00

One size doesn’t fit all

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You can’t turn on a radio or TV these days without hearing someone telling you what to do and what not to do with your money. “Sometimes the amount of information available on investments and financial planning can be overwhelming to someone trying to decide which steps to take with their own financial plans,” says Brad Stonecipher, executive vice president and managing partner of Peachtree Planning Corporation’s investment department. “Too much information can be harmful to even the best investors and the wrong advice can be devastating to an individual’s hopes of reaching a dream or goal.” Smart Business learned…
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 19:00

A meaningful contribution

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In recent years, people around the world have been affected by disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, Cyclone Nargis and the 7.9 magnitude earthquake felt throughout much of China. Thousands of people were suddenly without the basic necessities: clothing, food and shelter. After those unfortunate events, the survival of those affected was largely dependent upon the generosity of others. Charitable contributions are a great way to simultaneously help those in need and give yourself a tax break. Smart Business spoke with Brent Saunier, tax manager at Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, LLP, about the tax implications of charitable contributions. Can a taxpayer…
Monday, 26 October 2009 20:00

Firm commitment

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Paying a lawyer may be the last thing you want to think about. But when it comes to keeping your company afloat, seeking counsel can be your life vest. During troubled times, you need an adviser who understands your business and your leadership personality. While many CEOs see trips to the lawyer’s office in terms of dollar signs, keeping ahead of the legal curve will pay off in the long run. “When a business owner sees a potential legal problem, reaching out sooner rather than later is much more cost effective for the business owner,” says Stephen W. Riddell, managing…
Monday, 26 October 2009 20:00

The face of your company

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You want to make sure your sales force will be able to sell your service or product well and also present a positive image of your business. Particularly in today’s economy, when you’re looking to boost sales and revenue and gain new clients, it’s important that your sales force is in tiptop shape and armed with the right tools. “Great product concepts are one thing, but great product successes are another,” says Jessica Ford, director of sales and operations at Ashton Staffing. “The difference usually centers on sales. The magic may be the brand, but the carpet is the sales…
Monday, 26 October 2009 20:00

The capital for success

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Neal Aronson admires Howard Roark more than anyone. Maybe you’ve heard of him, and maybe you haven’t, because Roark is the protagonist in Ayn Rand’s book, “The Fountainhead.”“He always stuck with his convictions, even when it was against conventional wisdom, and he always did what he genuinely believed was right and stuck to those convictions and had the discipline and fortitude to stick with it even when it put him at odds with the popular people or the latest trends,” Aronson says.The result of doing these things? In the end, Roark got all of the accolades and successes that one…
Friday, 25 September 2009 20:00

Taking the fear out of IT

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The reaction of many business owners faced with information technology (IT) choices is fear. While they are very knowledgeable about what they do, they may not know as much about the technology that could help them better run their businesses, says Tim Holman, president of lyteITup, the technology division of Definity Partners. “Simplifying, standardizing and automating their processes can help businesses overcome that fear,” says Holman. “It is taking that large, complicated process, breaking it down into smaller steps and identifying what the value-add and nonvalue-add steps of that process are,” he says. “When you do that, you can make…
Friday, 25 September 2009 20:00

Space exploration

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Amid the rain clouds of today’s market, there may be a silver lining. With commercial real estate tanking, savvy CEOs can take advantage of the perfect storm and finally cash in on the soaked economy. Second quarter national commercial real estate prices dropped 18.1 percent compared to the previous quarter, according to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Real Estate. The plunge sunk the price index 39.2 percent below its peak in 2007. These falls add up to tremendous opportunity for space users. “For the most part, the tenant or buyer is in the driver’s seat…
Friday, 25 September 2009 20:00

Finding the facts

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Several amendments have been made this year to employment law that have a significant impact on your business. Employers need to be aware of changes to minimum wage and COBRA insurance, along with other proposed changes regarding sick leave pay. Employees can lose out on additional benefits if you do not inform them of these new rules in a timely manner. “Many individuals on COBRA were not aware that they could reduce their premium once the new law went into effect,” says Melissa Hulsey, president and CEO of Ashton. “Lawsuits can also be filed and fines assessed if you do…
Friday, 25 September 2009 20:00

The Massey File

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Born: I was born in Albany, Ky., but I was not raised in Kentucky. I was actually from this town called Byrdstown, Tenn. Education: B.S. in geology and MBA from Tennessee Technological UniversityAs a child, what did you want to be?Not a geologist or a CEO of an engineering company. I wanted to be a singer, but I couldn’t sing. Then I wanted to be a dancer, but I’m only 5-foot tall. Once I got past that, frankly, I just wanted to be able to take care of myself. Probably another piece of advice from my mother was to select…
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:00

Protect your estate

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Estate planning is a complex process to navigate. John E. Hill, J.D., LL.M., president and director of the estate and business planning practice at Peachtree Planning Corporation, says an estate plan needs maintenance in order to work properly. Changes in your life and in estate tax laws affect whether you can preserve the maximum amount of wealth and pass it on to the intended beneficiaries. “You might draft and execute a will and not look at it for 10 years,” he says. “In that time, you’ve bought, sold and exchanged property, had or adopted children, divorced or remarried. Unless you’re…
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:00

Weathering the storm

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The challenge for business leaders during these times has turned to trying to keep the business afloat rather than taking risks that can either advance the company or sink it. “Leaders tend to have less of a focus on how to act, because they feel they can’t control as much in challenging times,” says Dr. Paul Lopez, member of the graduate faculty and lecturer in the department of management and entrepreneurship at Kennesaw State University’s Coles College of Business. “You also are not as clear on whether a decision is right or wrong, so you don’t make a decision at…
Sunday, 26 July 2009 20:00

Accounting for the downturn

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Dan Simms has a lot on his plate as managing partner and CEO of Habif, Arogeti & Wynne LLP, but right now the problems in the economy are his top priority. “The biggest challenge currently is managing the organization in a slightly down economy,” Simms says. The best way to successfully do that is for the CPA firm’s 300 people to focus on the clients that they serve. “It’s, first and foremost, making sure that everyone within the organization focuses on great client service because the clients need us, really, now more than ever because most businesses, I wouldn’t say…
Sunday, 26 July 2009 20:00

Ensuring you are insured

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Most officers and directors of companies will face litigation at least once during their careers, and 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies maintain directors and officers liability insurance to protect themselves from numerous forms of lawsuits. You need to be prepared for this possible litigation, and understand what type of D&O insurance your company has. “You don’t want to be caught off guard,” says Scott Sherman, of counsel with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC. “Generally, you cannot prevent lawsuits from occurring. For example, when the stock of a public company drops a significant degree after information is disclosed…
Sunday, 26 July 2009 20:00

Red hot

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Jeff Sprecher grew IntercontinentalExchange Inc. (ICE) by more than $700 million over the last five years. Yes, you read correctly — $700 million.While it may surprise you, it doesn’t surprise him. When he founded the company in 2000, while there were many unknowns, the one thing for certain was that ICE would be a high-growth company.By 2004, it hit $108 million, and last year, it became an $813 million company, operating regulated global futures exchanges and over-the-counter markets for agricultural, energy, equity index and currency contracts as well as credit derivatives. While it’s great that ICE has been so successful…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

A new market

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Finalist Retail/Manufacturing After more than a decade of working at traditional, established toy companies, Tim Hall saw a new trend in the marketplace. He noticed that kids were less and less interested in traditional toys at younger and younger ages. Instead, they were more intrigued by digital electronics. He took an educated risk and purchased the Intel Smart Toy Lab in 2001, because he knew the value and expertise of the Intel technology would help to propel his new company, Digital Blue Corp., in this space. Hall worked aggressively to establish Digital Blue as the leader in innovation for teens…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

Solving a problem

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Winner Emerging When Jennifer Fallon was searching online for beautiful, yet affordable, wedding favors leading up to her 2003 wedding, she came up disappointed. But with that disappointment, she saw a market for potential business. With a marketing background, growing Internet expertise and $2,000, she set up an office in her basement and began MyWeddingFavors.com, selling existing wedding favors. She quickly saw a lack of creativity in the market and decided to take her business to the next level by designing and manufacturing fashionable and affordable wedding favors, which resulted in the creation of Kate Aspen. She risked her own…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

A new frontier

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Finalist Business Services When Bill Roark co-founded Torch Technologies Inc., the goal of its first year was just to break even in revenue. But that first full year exceeded expectations and ended profitably. Over the next five years, the company saw 30 percent annual growth in both revenue and profits, and it became one of the fastest-growing, privately held defense contractor in the Southeast. With this kind of success, most CEOs would just keep plugging away with what had already worked for them. However, Roark decided to take a different route. With no prime contracts being held, he could never…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

Only success

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Winner Business Services After Mylle Mangum took over the position of CEO at IBT Holdings LLC, she immediately began to turn the company around. The company was faced with considerable debt, but she wasn’t deterred. Instead, she saw great potential in what was a stagnant company. Upon taking the reins in 2003, the company’s revenue was less than several million dollars, but by 2006, she had paid down the company’s debt and increased revenue 100 percent. This organic growth fueled the 2007 acquisition of Design Build Concepts, nearly double revenue by the end of 2007. Last year, while the banking…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

Surviving the storms

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Winner Services Frank A. Argenbright Jr. has a long history of facing adversity and overcoming it in amazing ways. He began his career in the polygraph business, and his company grew to be the largest polygraphing company in the world. Just as this happened though, there were changes in governmental policy and laws that put a portion of the company out of business. Despite this, he had already been building a security company, so with just a few hundred dollars in his wallet, he took over Argenbright Security, part of AHL Services, a nearly billion-dollar, publicly traded company. The division…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

New thinking

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Winners Health Care In 1997, Christopher Durham had a vision for building a physician company that was based off of a platform of efficiency and sound business practices. He worked hard for years and bet every penny he had on this quest to build a successful business partnership. His office was the dining room at his father-in-law’s house, and his friends and family served as his support team. Most thought he was a dreamer because his fee-for-service model actually compensated doctors for real productivity and performance quality rather than seniority or other variables. It was considered impossible to implement given…