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Wednesday, 26 March 2008 20:00

Weathering the storm

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The economic forecast has looked gloomy for almost a year. The clouds over the real estate market have included higher-priced debt and lower property value, which have made buying and selling a less favorable proposition. For commercial real estate investors, the path to success may not seem as clear as in the past. But glimmers of possibility still exist for those who stay calm and focus on their long-term objectives. “In many respects, there could be opportunities that come about because of these circumstances,” says Will Yowell, vice chairman within the Investment Properties Institutional Group at CB Richard Ellis, Atlanta.…
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 20:00

Healthy returns

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As a child growing up through the foster care system, Rick Jackson yearned for stability and control of his environment and destiny, so from a young age, he knew he wanted to run his own business. He started by scalping tickets to Georgia Tech athletic events as a 10-year-old and went on to found more than 25 health-care-related companies. He says his success is a result of being in the blue ocean, a reference to the business strategy laid out by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne in their book, “Blue Ocean Strategy.” While the idea of a blue ocean…
Sunday, 24 February 2008 19:00

Customer retention

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An old adage states that it is much more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. The question then becomes: How much more expensive? Studies indicate that it is somewhere between six and 10 times more expensive to acquire a new customer, says Chris Wagner, vice president of marketing at InfoCision Management Corp. Smart Business asked Wagner why companies spend so much on the arduous task of acquiring new customers while taking such a rudimentary, reactive approach to retention. What is your approach to retention? Our focus is on ‘total life cycle management,’ thus we…
Sunday, 24 February 2008 19:00

Boardroom basics

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Aboard chairman of a multibillion-dollar company stood up in front of his peers at a dinner meeting and announced, “I don’t know what my job is.” A CEO of a Fortune 500 company made a similar confession to dozens of other CEOs, stating, “I sit on the board of five other companies, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do as a director.” With 150,000 individuals serving on boards in the United States, it begs the question: How many directors fully understand their duties and responsibilities? “The confessions by the chairman and CEO surprised me, but I continue to…
Sunday, 24 February 2008 19:00

The Choate file

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Born: Nashville, Tenn. Education: Bachelor’s degree, economics and business, Vanderbilt University What has been your greatest challenge? One of the biggest challenges that I’ve had is basically a company midlife crisis or midlife success. When firms start out, you start out with a survival mode. You go after everything you can get in order to survive. But then as the company grows, and you become moderately successful and things are going along, the challenge is for your personnel, particularly your managers, not to get the automatic mode. In other words, we’re sailing along, things are going well, we don’t have…
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 19:00

Moving forward

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When Frank Murphy merged his company, Smart Document Solutions, with Companion Technologies last year, the president and CEO of the newly formed HealthPort had to act quickly to get 2,700 employees on the same page. He knew he had a limited amount of time before the blame for ongoing problems would shift from past management to him, and he wanted to make sure everyone understood what he expected and where the health information services and products company was headed. Smart Business spoke with Murphy about how his penchant for action made the transition successful. Take action. When I was first…
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 19:00

Preparing for your audit

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In March 2006, the Accounting Standards Board of the AICPA issued eight Statements on Auditing Standards (SAS 104-111) to make sure auditors would have a more detailed understanding of organizations and their internal controls. The new standards — known as the Risk Assessment Standards — are effective for financial statement audits beginning on or after Dec. 15, 2006, and will require auditors to use a more rigorous approach to evaluating the effectiveness of their clients’ internal controls. Smart Business asked Kamal Parag, CPA, senior manager in the accounting and auditing department of Tauber & Balser, P.C., about the impact the…
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:00

Ron Clarke

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Ron Clarke has a simple formula for getting quality work and time efficiency out of his 800 employees at FleetCor — he makes sure they’re doing the right work, and he gives them short deadline cycles. The combination of making sure they work on the most valuable tasks and reviewing the employees frequently keeps productivity and progress high at this fuel card processing company. Smart Business spoke with Clarke, chairman and CEO of FleetCor, about how he keeps employees focused on the job at hand and why reviews are critical to producing useful work. Know your job. My job is…
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:00

A painless audit

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It’s that time of the year again — most companies are gearing up for their year-end audit. Unexpected road bumps can derail the audit process and cause delays in its completion, which can result in audit fee overruns and important missed deadlines. Smart Business asked Jyoti Pai, CPA, CA, manager at Tauber & Balser, P.C. in the Forensic Accounting & Litigation Services Group, about ways to prepare for the inevitable audit process and some of the setbacks that may come along with it. What can management do to ensure that the audit progresses smoothly? Proactivity is key. Plan and put…
Sunday, 25 November 2007 19:00

Fire protection

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Not all fires are created equal. Every blaze requires three parts — oxygen, heat and fuel — in an unbroken chain of events. But the specific elements that create and maintain a fire determine the proper way to fight it. “Fire extinguishment is based on the removal of key elements of the triangle or interruption of the chain of events of the fire triangle,” says Andy Dolhyj, risk control property specialist at Westfield Insurance. “All forms of fire extinguishers, automatic sprinkler systems, special protection and manual firefighting are based on the principle of removing parts of the fire triangle or…
Sunday, 25 November 2007 19:00

Green reality

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Tenants have cast their votes, deciding that the time for “green” is now. “As tenants and their advisers become more green-savvy, developers and landlords will follow the their leads,” says Brian Hooker, associate with CB Richard Ellis in Atlanta. “This will lead to green real estate dominating the commercial landscape.” Smart Business learned from Hooker how tenants can benefit from environmentally conscious real estate. What is green real estate? Green real estate consists of property where the design, construction and operations are crafted to reduce the negative impact on occupants and the environment. With respect to tenants, buildings can create…
Sunday, 25 November 2007 19:00

Preflight checks

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Tom Marano says that if you’ve grown your company to $150 million, the hardest part might be behind you. Marano is a man who knows a little something about growth as he and his business partner, Frank Argenbright Jr., took AHL Services from $100 million to $1 billion in four years, and now, he has taken Air Serv Corp. from nothing in 2002 to $141 million and 7,000 employees in 2006. But as Marano says, it’s the early growth that’s the toughest. “I would say that we’re very good at taking a company from $150 [million] to $1 billion, but…
Friday, 26 October 2007 20:00

Patent coverage

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Business is more international than ever, and more competitive. With so many companies, both in the U.S. and overseas, vying for a piece of the pie, the potential for copying a product and infringing on a patent is even greater. Today, companies need to know exactly what a patent constitutes and whether something is patentable in regard to bringing a new product to market. That’s where Carl Davis, a member of the Intellectual Property Group of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, comes in. As a patent attorney, he sets companies on the right path to the complex process…
Friday, 26 October 2007 20:00

Rent or buy

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Although the decision to rent or buy has some connection to real estate market trends, a company’s stage in its business life cycle should have the largest impact on the answer to this question. Executives need to evaluate their organization’s current position and short-and long-term goals before making this choice. “If company leaders are having difficulty making a decision on leasing versus buying, they can consult with a real estate professional who can lend a hand in providing the financial implications of each alternative,” says Douglas LeClair, director of the Financial Consulting Group at CB Richard Ellis in Atlanta. While…
Friday, 26 October 2007 20:00

The Crawford file

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Born: Roanoke, Va. Education: I went to an extension of Virginia Tech called Roanoke Technical Institute for two and a half years, but I didn’t graduate. I’m a product of great training. I’ve worked hard, and that’s one of the reasons I have such respect for people at the bottom of a company when they’re trying to work their way up. Are they acknowledged for their results? I was fortunate to work for companies that did acknowledge people getting results. It was a major shape to my leadership style. What has been your biggest business challenge? Probably building the bridge…
Tuesday, 25 September 2007 20:00

Truth in advertising

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It pays to advertise, and it seems that businesses are inundating consumers with more advertising today than ever before. Print, TV, radio and now the Internet are all serving as strong mediums to get companies’ messages out. But what if the advertising is untrue? What if your competitor is seeking an edge over you by making false claims about its products? Rest assured that there are actions to take, says Ed Novotny, shareholder in the Atlanta office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC. The key is to know the laws and the “truth-in-advertising” rules. Smart Business spoke with…
Tuesday, 25 September 2007 20:00

Steering it clear

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When Jerry Phillips returned from a recent trip to Europe, he was anxious to get back to work. It was the first time he had taken more than a week off since he graduated from college, and the president of Phillips Partnership PC was expecting quite the briefing upon his return. However, when he returned to his $15 million, 100-employee architecture and engineering firm, he was pleasantly shocked to discover he had nothing to do. All the empowering that Phillips, a self-described “delegator,” had done with his staff had paid off. Smart Business spoke with Phillips about how to tell…
Thursday, 27 September 2007 20:00

Back talk

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Even before Infor Global Solutions was formed, Jim Schaper was listening to customers so he could ensure that the software company he wanted to create would be the best. “We looked at the buying characteristics of [potential] customers ... that acquire the products we now sell,” Schaper says. When he looked at software companies, he saw larger players that had a wide range of products but lacked the depth many customers wanted. He also saw smaller, niche players that offered the depth but lacked the range that others needed. Schaper realized that customers needed a company that offered both the…
Sunday, 26 August 2007 20:00

Sean Feeney

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If you want to make an employee who earns $45,000 a year feel valued, hand him a check for $5,000 right before Christmas. President and CEO Sean Feeney does this annually through Inovis Inc.’s profit-sharing program, and he says that’s the definition of making employees feel good at the company, a supply chain communication solutions provider. With perks including profit-sharing, handwritten notes from executives and iPods engraved with the company logo or an employee’s name, Feeney strives to reward people for their achievements because he expects a lot from them. Smart Business spoke with Feeney about how he makes all…
Sunday, 26 August 2007 20:00

Online assessment

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What does it mean to hold an online degree? This hot topic has been debated since the initial Internet-based educational programs debuted in the mid-1990s and began sending graduates into the work force. Could these degrees someday be viewed as equal to traditional in-class educations or possibly become the preferred method for training high-potential employees? “There’s nothing magical about a classroom education — it’s just the way we’ve always done things,” says Tim Blumentritt, Ph.D., online programs director, Kennesaw State University, Coles College of Business. “Considering the latest technologies, the ability to communicate with and educate students through an online…
Sunday, 26 August 2007 20:00

Employee or contractor?

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If your company were to hire a worker, would that person be classified as an employee or an independent contractor? In today’s business environment, the use of consultants or independent contractors is a common practice. Influential factors driving this trend include the need for specialized expertise for particular projects and the transient nature of most contracts. Smart Business spoke with Brent Saunier, tax manager at Tauber & Balser, P.C., about misclassifying workers and the consequences with the IRS. Why are workers misclassified between employee and independent contractor? Workers are often misclassified as independent contractors because of economics and ease. An…
Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

Know the score

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If you think business insurance premiums only cover paying claims — think again. Many business insurance carriers include a wide variety of value-added services in their premiums. In order to maximize the benefit of your business insurance, you should know what services you receive and what options are available. Then your insurance agent should work with you to determine which ones best meet your business’s needs. “We have formed a business customer council, which has provided tremendous feedback on needs and perceptions,” says Steve Fisher, CPCU, senior executive with Westfield Insurance. “One of the perceptions is that insurance carriers pay…
Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

Total recharge

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The batteries made by Exide Technologies eventually run out of power, and when Gordon A. Ulsh joined the company as president and CEO in April 2005, the company had also lost its juice. It emerged from bankruptcy in May 2004 and went through a nine-month, lame-duck period following the previous CEO’s retirement announcement. Management had no strategy and wasn’t making day-to-day decisions. The company, which produces and recycles lead-acid batteries, struggled to meet financial goals and had fallen short on capital, so it lacked the ability to buy new technologies. Many managers saw the writing on the wall and moved…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Phil Greifeld

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When Phil Greifeld took over as president and CEO of Huddle House Inc. in late 1999, he was both blessed with 35 successful years of company data to guide him and challenged by people set in their ways. He wanted to focus more on people, which employees and franchisees met with cynicism and, sometimes, lawsuits. But now, they have become more accommodating and when he speaks with franchisees, they voluntarily explain how their plans affect employees and customers. While it took seven years to get there, Greifeld’s repetitive message propelled the 431-location restaurant chain to $230 million in revenue last…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Recovering legal fees

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Lawsuits abound in our “sue happy” society, and businesses must necessarily be prepared should one be filed against them. One major concern is the recovery of fees spent on litigation, which for some companies can reach into the millions of dollars. Most clients assume the losing party will have to pay for all of their fees, but this is a faulty assumption, says Kevin Stine, a partner with the law firm Gambrell & Stolz, LLP, in Atlanta. Smart Business spoke with Stine about the misconceptions concerning the recovery of legal fees and what a business can do to make sure…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Science and space

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The competition among cities is fierce for bringing in vital industry. It’s even more complicated when you throw intellectual property and extremely specific tenant needs into the equation. How can you attract, and accommodate, the growing industries of biomedical and biotechnology that make up life sciences? Smart Business spoke to Stephanie Marino, first vice president of CB Richard Ellis, about the challenges presented to both the life science industry and its advocates in real estate. How is finding building space different for the life science industry? The biggest obstacle for mid-tier biomedical companies is that they are typically in the…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

The Gerster file

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Born: Germany School: I am an engineer for tooling machines, and I have a degree for business administration, all from German universities. What’s your greatest business challenge? To get everybody in the company aligned to work toward the same goal, but then the goal is changing every day. How can I keep everybody in the loop and make sure there are no shortcuts in communication and make sure other people are as excited as I am about it, and drive that thinking and mindset all the way down to the janitor? What’s the greatest business lesson you’ve learned? That people…