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Tuesday, 25 November 2008 19:00

Expanded coverage

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The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is an independent agency of the U.S. government that provides protection against the loss of insured deposits. On Oct. 3, President Bush signed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. This legislation temporarily increases FDIC deposit insurance from $100,000 to $250,000 per depositor through Dec. 31, 2009. “Businesses will enjoy the same coverage that individuals enjoy: $250,000 coverage and possibly unlimited non-interest bearing DDA (demand deposit account) coverage,” says Susan Lepore, first vice president of Compliance of MB Financial Bank in Chicago. Smart Business spoke with Lepore about the recent financial crisis, what changes…
Sunday, 26 October 2008 20:00

Top account treatment

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By definition, accounts that qualify for national account status within the supply chain environment are characterized by several common traits: a centralized, coordinated purchasing organization with multilocation purchasing influences, a complex buying process and a need for customized solutions. Given the various special requirements, unique demands and extensive demographics encompassing these large, complex accounts, logistics professionals are increasingly introducing national account programs within their organizations to better devote their corporate resources toward serving these valuable customers. “These programs aim to help customers simplify purchasing, streamline and improve productivity, receive predicable competitive pricing, and deliver supplier reliability,” says John Hagi, director…
Sunday, 26 October 2008 20:00

Green ideas

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Green is moving from the fringe to the foundation of the real estate business. As the concept becomes more mainstream so have the tools. “Until recently, there were not as many resources available to help business owners choose green products and services for their real estate and operational needs,” says Amy Mahone, associate in the Real Estate Practice Group at Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC. “But now there are many new products and services on the market to help business owners go green and there are great improvements in sustainable materials.” Smart Business learned from Mahone about ideas and resources for going…
Sunday, 26 October 2008 20:00

Taking care of business

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When it comes time for Shelly Sun to hire a new employee at BrightStar Healthcare LLC, she’s done plenty of research to help her reach a decision with her team. That’s because the founder and CEO spends months — sometimes even a year — networking to find the perfect match for her $12 million health care franchising company. And almost everyone she knows hears about her hunt for the smartest people in the field. “It’s about talking to as many people as possible,” she says. Smart Business spoke with Sun about hiring employees and creating a culture that keeps the…
Thursday, 25 September 2008 20:00

Diagnosing IT problems

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Almost every company has experience with IT projects that exceeded costs, were delivered late, didn’t align with the business’s objectives or failed to improve productivity. The question then becomes: Why are these problems so common? “IT projects demand time-intensive investigation and planning to be properly implemented,” says CIMCO Communications’ Chief Information Officer Dave Braner. “Too often, the time needed to properly assess the project and its risks is unavailable and is therefore not built into the plan.” Smart Business asked Braner about identifying and mitigating the risks associated with IT projects. How do you begin in identifying risks? Many times,…
Thursday, 25 September 2008 20:00

One eye on your portfolio

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If you invest in the stock market, you should pay close attention to Federal Reserve actions. “Investors need to consider Fed monetary policy to help guide investment decisions,” says Gerald Jensen, professor of finance at Northern Illinois University and an author of a number of studies that track security returns and Fed policy decisions. In a recent CFA Institute study, Jensen and his co-authors showed substantial benefits associated with following a rotation strategy predicated on Fed policy. According to the study, when Federal policy is expansive, i.e. when the Fed is decreasing rates, stock values generally increase, while stocks tend…
Thursday, 25 September 2008 20:00

The Graham file

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Born: Bronx, N.Y. Education: St. John’s University in New York City What was you very first job? When I was very young I used to stuff inserts into newspapers at the local store, then I would work as a newspaper kid delivering newspapers. What is the best business advice you’ve ever received? Identify the best people, hire them, and do your best to keep them. It makes your life infinitely better when you have good people hired. That might sound very simplistic, but everybody comes up with these whiz-bang type [of] strategies to get ahead, but that’s it, you hire…
Tuesday, 26 August 2008 20:00

The air is green

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Like many other industries in today’s global economy, environmental responsibility is an issue that the entire supply chain has both progressively and collectively embraced. In light of the financial fuel crisis currently crippling the industry, airlines have desperately been searching for ways to reduce their fuel consumption, and it’s no surprise that their efforts have led them to a greener doorstep. “Going green has resulted in a double win for the forwarding community,” says Joseph Hoban, director of international air services for AIT Worldwide Logistics. “The airlines have significantly reduced fuel consumption, thereby drastically lowering operating costs while simultaneously supporting…
Tuesday, 26 August 2008 20:00

Too much legal control?

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Research shows that 43 percent of employers use technology to block the popular social networking Web site called Facebook. Other organizations go further, limiting or banning additional sites, including the online career boards. While removing these distractions may be a not-so-subtle strategy to increase productivity and retain key employees, it begs a serious question: If your employees were more engaged, passionate and proud of the work they did, would you need to enact such restrictions? “An organization that controls too tightly the manner in which its professionals think will come up short on innovation and will stagnate,” says Michael Tuchman,…
Tuesday, 26 August 2008 20:00

Face time

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Despite what his business card says, Dale Moser views himself as just another customer service representative. That’s also how the president and chief operating officer of megabus.com views each of the company’s 150 employees. “We can build the field, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to come,” he says. “We need to make sure we’re meeting the needs of the customer.” To fulfill that promise, Moser regularly visits megabus.com departure sites to hear, face to face, the opinions and needs of his customers. The practice has helped push the 2006 start-up and subsidiary of Coach USA to 2007 revenue of…
Saturday, 26 July 2008 20:00

Managing in a downturn

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When economic times are slow, it’s hard not to focus strictly on your bottom line. Whether it’s buying product at a reduced price or taking advantage of a larger talent pool, there are a number of best practices that can help ensure that, once businesses do come out of the downturn, they are in a position to tackle the market head-on. “Businesses must have a sober look at where they are now in the downturn, a realistic look at how long they think they can survive and, if they’re clear about what they think is going to happen, a coherent…
Saturday, 26 July 2008 20:00

Set the tone at the top

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Board effectiveness is important to public, private and nonprofit companies. To be effective, a board, its committees and senior management must understand today’s requirements and expectations for increased oversight and governance. Board members must be able to evaluate the actions of management, the organization and its advisers to meet those requirements. Monitoring should take place to ensure all required actions are performed on an ongoing basis, and board members need a high level of assurance that the information they are given to make decisions is both accurate and comprehensive. This confidence is cultivated when strong internal controls are present and…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Diversified safety

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In 1995, Bob Peterson was one of the founders of Norcross Safety Products LLC. The company began with a single plant in Rock Island, Ill., which produced and marketed protective footwear. NSP has successfully grown through organic growth combined with strategic acquisitions. Under Peterson’s vision, NSP has diversified into three segments — general safety and preparedness, fire service, and electrical safety — within the personal protective equipment market through acquisition of trusted, long-standing and well-recognized brands. Key acquisitions, such as Morning Pride, North Safety Products and KCL, helped establish NSP as one of the most comprehensive product platforms in the…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Furnishing results

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Dennis “Denny” Sponsel, president of RJE Business Interiors, bought his company in March 2000. Then the contract furniture industry suffered its largest downturn ever, a 42 percent drop. While many would see doom, Sponsel saw opportunity. He has a strong vision of a special kind of business — one that truly cares for customers, earns their trust, operates ethically and gives back to the community. Now, eight years later, revenue has more than tripled. Sponsel took on his new venture with RJE as a sole owner, but he wasn’t alone. He brought in an experienced management team, but he hefted…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Goal-oriented

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Sportvision has endured many trials, both financial and on the business front. Through it all, Hank Adams, CEO, has persevered to turn the business around while attracting and retaining key company personnel and protecting investor’s interests. Sportvisions’ products are well-known. It was founded in 1998 with a vision to develop technological enhancements that could be used in game broadcasts. Through the development of landmark products, such as the glowing puck in hockey, the Yellow 1st and Ten line and Kzone, Sportvision has established itself as the most innovative player in the industry. While both clients and fans love the company’s…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Automatic solutions

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John Udelhofen, CEO of Laurus Technologies Inc., has been instrumental in the company’s growth and has plans to take it even further. The company has done very well in the area of systems integration, identity management and ERP consulting. It’s critical for the company to build on its successes in these spaces and grow the existing lines of business in the markets currently served. As well as the firm has performed in these markets, Udelhofen believes the potential is far greater than what has been realized. In 2007, the company invested in recruiting key management, sales and consulting talent to…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

People power

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Five years ago, Dave Lindsey told his company’s national convention that “Businesses don’t grow, people do.” Lindsey, president and founder of DEFENDER Direct, personifies this statement and has worked tirelessly to provide a culture that embodies personal growth as one of four key passions (the others are systems as solutions, developing leaders and expanding influence) that drive the company’s success since its inception 10 years ago. That commitment to personal growth has served Lindsey and his team well as he has led them through challenges ranging from varied economic conditions, managing fast-paced growth, changing market strategies and attracting talented people…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Celebrating entrepreneurship

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Congratulations to all of the nominees, finalists and winners in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Midwest area 2008 awards! Ernst & Young created this award to honor the accomplishments of the great men and women who make our economy vibrant. Growing companies are vitally important to us. They create jobs, support their communities, and provide products and services that help drive the economy. It is hard to imagine where we would be today without the entrepreneurs who create growth companies. They are the visionaries and the risk-takers who believe in their dreams and refuse to be denied.…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Promoting success

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Nicole Loftus was working as an executive in the promotional products industry when she realized the inefficiencies in the way the industry conducted business. The standard business model was to view the customer through a territorial lens, discouraging any contact between the corporate and end customer and the manufacturers and importers closest to the products. She knew that she could create a better business model and formed Zorch in 2002 to realize her vision. By emphasizing the branding and merchandising capabilities that Zorch could bring to its corporate customers and de-emphasizing the middle-man role that distributors have traditionally played, the…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

The fine print

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In 1983, Edwin S. “Stan” Hooker III and a partner purchased Midland Paper, Packaging + Supplies from the jaws of bankruptcy. His vision was to create the premier independent wholesale distribution company for fine printing papers in the Midwest. Hooker has never wavered from his original vision. Those early years presented a number of challenges, including apprehensive suppliers, minimal working capital, bankers looking for personal guarantees and a crowded market of competitors, many of whom had substantial resources. Year after year, all of the profits were invested back into the business so Hooker could continue to build the business while…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Pushing the envelope

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True entrepreneurs are never satisfied. They are always pushing the envelope and preparing for future possibilities. Jim Fabris has continuously harnessed that entrepreneurial drive to convert his vision into business realities. Fabris joined Hurco Cos. Inc. 20 years after its founding, but he quickly understood the value of the company’s mission of providing unique software and equipment to the machining industry. Combined with his conviction, tenacity and vision, he risked his career more than once to convince the board to make tough choices that were counter to company norms and even industry norms at the time. For example, while competitors…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Dream to reality

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In 1988, Bejan Douraghy made his way to Chicago with $1,000 in his pocket and an idea for a business. A prior job experience had taught him that you had to treat creative talent with the same level of respect as you treat your customers, because as a creative staffing agency, people are his products and his service. Five years later, his company, Artisan, had tripled in size. A year after that, he appeared on the cover of Inc. magazine about how bootstrappers change their business practices to foster growth and move beyond the start-up phase. Almost 14 years later,…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

People first

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“You have no idea how much I appreciate being heard.” Robert Habeeb read this line from a note he received from an employee in Ohio, and it touched him. As president and chief operating officer of the $165 million hotel management company First Hospitality Group Inc., he could easily spend all of his time in fancy boardrooms in important meetings, but instead, he relishes being out among his 3,000 employees, all of whom he says have stories worth listening to. He recognizes that when leaders take the time to learn where people are from, ask about their families and find…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

More than just a bank

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People don’t have the time they used to, so everyone is seeking a one-stop-shop answer for their needs. That goes for companies, too. Why simply hold accounts at a bank when you could also get advice on succession planning or taxes or treasury management services? While many banks may present themselves as total “financial advisers,” it ultimately comes down to experience and connections, says Mitchell Belon, regional president of MB Financial Bank in Chicago. Smart Business spoke with Belon about what makes a bank a good financial adviser. What attributes should a company look for when selecting a bank as…
Monday, 26 May 2008 20:00

Welcome aboard

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You’ve added some top talent to the organization and they’ve jumped right into the job. Are you integrating them into your company so that they feel like important team members? Orientation programs, ongoing training and feedback can be valuable tools for both the employee and the company. “Integration is a key part of making new employees more effective,” says Rob Wilson, president of the Employco Group. “They join the company and don’t know anyone. A good orientation program will help them feel more at ease.” Smart Business spoke to Wilson about what a company can do to make every new…
Monday, 26 May 2008 20:00

Key performance indicators

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If you don’t know how your business is doing at all times, you’re headed for trouble. An early warning system? Clearly defined key performance indicators (KPIs). “A key performance indicator is a metric that allows you to evaluate whether you are meeting a certain goal,” says James P. Martin, CMA, CIA, CFE, CFD, CFFA, a senior manager with Cendrowski Corporate Advisors LLC. “Identifying what the KPIs should be for a particular organization is part of the overall risk assessment process, which identifies any number of factors that can stand in the way of success.” Smart Business spoke with Martin about…
Friday, 25 April 2008 20:00

Not just for enterprises

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Is your traditional phone system keeping up with your growing business? If your company could benefit from such advances as automatic call forwarding, digital voice mail and built-in disaster recovery, it may be time to consider Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). “With VoIP, you have a lot of functionality that will support your business, even in the event that something happens at your location,” says Frank Ruffolo, Senior Vice President at CIMCO Communications. Smart Business asked Ruffolo about what VoIP can do for businesses of all sizes. Is VoIP technology right for every small business? Voice over Internet Protocol is…