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Rick Arquilla, president and chief operating officer of the plumbing and drain service Roto-Rooter Services Co., stood in front of a call center in Chicago and told America he was going to test the dispatch system he helped design.He traded in his suit, tie and title for jeans, a blue flannel shirt and a camouflage hat and entered the center using the persona Hank Denman. After all, this was the TV show “Undercover Boss.”His first assignment was learning the system. The camera zoomed in on Arquilla. Pen and paper in hand, he scrambled to take notes as the operator taught…
The training was a failure. All of that time, all of that effort, all of that money, just gone, just out the window and gone. What other explanation was there, after all, for drop after drop in the hard numbers from a talented sales team in the wake of a training and development session? It could have happened at any business, but for the purposes of this story, it happened at a large technology company with headquarters in the Midwest. The top executives, frantic for answers, called a corporate training firm. “Our sales are down,” the executives said. “We need…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Blazing his own trail

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Winner Emerging It was a challenge that seemed particularly daunting. Andrew Beck was prepared to walk away from his steady job and prepare to launch his own asset management firm. He did this despite a lack of experience in the world of institutional asset management and a lack of institutional clients. Plus, there was the fact that he was bringing other people into this venture — people he had worked with and gotten know at his previous job. But Beck had the courage to try it and the commitment to know that he would succeed. And succeed he has with…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Influencing success

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Finalist Business Services The difference between a four-man basement operation and a global force is an entrepreneur — someone like Andrew Jacobs. It starts with intelligence and thoughtfulness instead of a flashy sales pitch. Jacobs attended Johns Hopkins University and the University of Michigan Law School before landing at the New York law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell. While practicing, he became acquainted with the real estate business and decided to start his own investment opportunity in retirement housing. But his entrepreneurial spirit wasn’t satiated just by launching a successful retirement real estate business. With the itch to explore other…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Unexpected innovator

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Finalist Retail Dr. Peter Clarkson sold his first pair of contact lenses on New Year’s Eve in 1995. That first order, processed and shipped from out of his wife’s optometry office, launched AC Lens, an online contact lens supply store. Clarkson, whose background is in mathematics and medicine, was teaching at The Ohio State University and was intrigued by the e-commerce boom. This, combined with his wife’s optometry practice, pushed him into the business world. Clarkson knew he would need to surround himself with experts in marketing and information technology to make up for a lack of formal business education,…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Sunny Delight Beverages Co.

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WinnerConsumer ProductsWhen Billy Cyr was working as a product manager at Proctor & Gamble, he saw a great opportunity on the Sunny Delight product.He knew it was a great business, but it just had too many years of being bounced around under the wrong ownership, so he teamed up with a group of private equity guys from JW Childs and took a tin-cup approach to Wall Street asking for money. P&G was bought out in August 2004, and now with one-third less overhead, selling off the German side of the business for a large gain and working through a series…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Ohio Mutual Insurance Group

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WinnerMasterJim Kennedy is not one to waver when an important decision needs to be made. Within his first week on the job at Ohio Mutual Insurance Group, he convinced his board to spend $5 million to implement a new operating system. This was only two years after the company had spent $3 million upgrading a system that Kennedy now wanted to scrap.His ability to get the new system implemented and working effectively paved the way for a great deal of faith in his leadership as the firm’s new president and CEO.Kennedy implemented a new list of guiding principles that encompass…
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 20:00

Creating a wellness program

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Imagine an office where employees walk laps during lunch, their pedometers clipped to their waistbands, clicking off each step up and down the stairs and through the halls and around the cubicles. Imagine an office where employees snack on fruits and nuts rather than candy bars, where employees drink water instead of another can of soda, and where employees have managed to kick that pack-a-day habit. Imagine an office where health and wellness are a priority. Is this anything like your office? It should be. Perhaps it will be during the months and years to come. There is little doubt…
Sunday, 25 April 2010 20:00

3 Questions

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As senior vice president for the business banking division in Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and Western Ohio, William Thatcher manages business banking officers who provide financial products and services to the small business segment. Thatcher has more than 20 years of financial services experience, including commercial banking and credit, treasury management services, and retail banking. Q. How can a business work with its bank to save money, reduce costs, perhaps even generate revenue and, in general, become more efficient in this economy? Clients are uncertain as to the appetite of the bank to perform such functions. A bank has a…
Sunday, 25 April 2010 20:00

Greg LaLonde grows Triplefin LLC

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Greg LaLonde is not shy about pointing out his shortcomings.In fact, he recognizes them so well that he has no problem stepping aside to let others lead in areas where he doesn’t measure up to his own expectations. That realization — and, perhaps more important, the realization of where he can add the most value — has turned Triplefin LLC from a turnaround story into a growth fairy tale.When Triplefin was acquired in 2003, the company had about $3 million in revenue and was hemorrhaging cash. After finding stability, LaLonde and his team knew if they wanted to build the…
Although one-sixth of all violent crime in the U.S. occurs in the workplace, many companies remain poorly prepared to deal with these violent acts. “There is a mentality that people just don’t believe it’s going to happen to them,” says Jonathan Theders, CPIA, president and risk architect at Clark-Theders Insurance Agency Inc. Theders says there are several triggers within a business that can cause violent reactions, such as layoffs, firings, a poor performance review, or a disagreement with a coworker. External factors, such as a divorce, a domestic dispute, alcohol abuse, or financial problems can also be triggers. Smart Business…
When you ask Mervin Dunn about his success as president and CEO of Commercial Vehicle Group Inc., you’ll instantly be struck by his humility. Rather than espouse the company and what he’s accomplished, he simply says he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.Dunn grew up in a low-income household in Kentucky, where he was the most educated person in the household by the time he finished third grade. He won the regional 2008 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award in the turnaround category for his efforts in diversifying CVG’s customer base to…
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 19:00

Preventing employee theft

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Although it’s said that honesty is the best policy, many companies should consider a different kind of policy — one that covers dishonesty. Employee theft/dishonesty coverage protects companies against the loss or damage of property by the unlawful taking of that property by an employee. “Employers need to set in place proper procedures and documentations to protect against employee theft within their organizations,” says Rick Theders, CEO of Clark-Theders Insurance Agency. “Then, insurance is always an option — coverage that would respond if employee theft or dishonesty came into play.” Smart Business spoke with Theders about how employers can protect…
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:00

Preventing the exodus

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Week after uncomfortable week, Donald Trump leaned across the edge of his famous boardroom table, his hands locked together, his lips curled in a sneer, and stared some poor sucker right out the door. During eight seasons of his reality television show, “The Apprentice,” Trump has mastered the ability to pound out the two words that no employee, not even a contestant eager for fame and fortune, wants to hear. You’re fired. As has been the case so many times during the last couple of decades, Trump proved to be far ahead of the curve. He mastered the fine art…
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:00

The Rumpke File

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Rumpke Sr.What is the best business advice you’ve received? You’ve got to lead with your chin. You’ve got to get out there; you cannot be bashful. If you want to do something, you’ve got to go out and go for it.If you didn’t have your current job, what job would you want?I most probably would have been a major league ballplayer because I started Rumpke Ballpark (a softball and baseball park he founded in 1971 to provide a family-friendly area for the community) here years ago. I didn’t have a chance to play at it much because we were always…
Saturday, 26 December 2009 19:00

Episcopal Retirement Homes Inc. stays on track

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R. Douglas Spitler knows what people say about his type of organization. And to some extent, he may even agree.“There are some who believe that nonprofit organizations are not particularly the best at managing business,” says the president and CEO of Episcopal Retirement Homes Inc., a nonprofit organization that operates several retirement communities and provides senior outreach services. “But we’ve tried to seek out and adopt best practices from the business community … and to balance that with the mission of a not-for-profit organization.”Borrowing business expertise from executives on his volunteer board of directors, Spitler is aligning his staff along…
Saturday, 26 December 2009 19:00

Frederick Kohnke creates identity at Staffmark

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Even without the economic downturn, Frederick L. Kohnke knew 2009 would not be a record year.His company, Staffmark, formerly CBS Personnel, had been piling up acquisitions since 2004 and the commercial staffing firm was operating under three names. Clients and employees had questions about the brands, leading to distractions, longer processes and an inefficient use of time.“Progressive companies have great strategies, they’ve got great people, and they’re able to tactically get things done very decisively and quickly,” says Kohnke, president and CEO. “Speed wins in our business. Multiple brands definitely at this stage in the game would have slowed us…
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 19:00

3 Questions

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Brian D. Malthouse has almost three decades of experience in the accounting industry, including almost 20 years with VonLehman & Co. Inc., where he specializes in working with closely held, middle-market companies with revenue between $3 million and $90 million. He was promoted to president of the firm in October. Q. In a struggling economy, how can a business get the most from its relationship with an accountant? Your accountant can only help you if you share the good and the bad and they know what’s going on in your business. They have a very broad perspective because they see…
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 19:00

The Cox File

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Born: CincinnatiEducation: Graduated Xavier University, holds Doctorate of Letters degree from the College of Mount St. Joseph and Cincinnati Technical College What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?General Foods. I learned that I didn’t understand marketing at all. Whom do you admire most and why? I happen to be African-American, so all those people who it was against the law to teach, to read and write, who, notwithstanding, got degrees and got in positions of great education. I’m very humbled by them. So it would be that group of people who in the toughest times…
Monday, 26 October 2009 20:00

3 Questions

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Charles Roesch is the chair of the labor and employment department at Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, is a member of the firm’s board of directors and is also on the firm’s finance committee. Roesch’s practice includes the defense of public and private employers. Q. How can seeking and following legal advice save money for a company? A. We can be much more effective for our clients as either an adviser or counsel than we can be helpful to them as a litigator. The cost of a lawsuit — the cost of litigation or to settle or the opportunity cost lost…
Monday, 26 October 2009 20:00

Fifth Third Bank on improving your cash flow

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Managing your cash flow is critical to helping avoid the extended cash shortages that can be caused by large gaps in your cash inflows and outflows. But it’s a task that many business leaders have difficulty doing, especially in an uncertain economy.To gain a better handle on your cash flow, consider establishing a proactive funds management process, which may help you avoid the cash shortages that can damage your business or even cause its demise.“The greatest risk you face is not having the funds to pay your employees and vendors,” says Jane Zalla, treasury management sales officer with Fifth Third…
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

The Boat File

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Born: Pella, Iowa, a town settled in 1847 by Dutch immigrants, including my great grandparentsEducation: Central College, Pella, Iowa, B.S., chemistry; University of Iowa, Iowa City, MD, M.S. (anatomy); University of Minnesota, Pediatric Residency; Case Western Reserve University, Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine FellowshipWhat was your first job, and what did it teach you? Assistant professor, department of pediatrics, Case Western Reserve University — I learned over 10 years that I could contribute more to the clinical care, teaching and research missions of a college of medicine by helping others succeed than by making direct contributions. For this reason, I accepted my…
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:00

3 Questions

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Jonathan Theders is the president and chief operating officer of Clark-Theders Insurance Agency Inc. and has extensive insurance experience. Theders joined the company in 1998 and was named president in 2004. Q. What risks are companies facing in the present economy? One of the biggest risks affecting businesses now is the commodity prices risk. This is a huge part of what corporate America and businesses are going through now. Everything comes down to the dollar and not the back-end resources a company provides. The way you focus on client relationships has to be part of the company culture. We have…
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:00

Fifth Third Bank on recession

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You’ve suffered through the ups and downs of the recession for the past year and a half. You’ve watched your competitors and other businesses shut down and the number of your customers dwindle. You may even have made significant cutbacks yourself in order to survive.While the recession is not yet over, many economists predict that it will end this year. And now is the time to begin preparing your business to emerge from the recession and position itself to take advantage of new opportunities.“There will be many changes in your market and industry once the economy starts to improve,” says…
Sunday, 26 July 2009 20:00

Fifth Third Bank makes banking easy

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Depositing checks can sometimes be a hassle — if you accept a lot of them, you’re running to the bank each day. But it can also be a hassle if you don’t accept a lot, as you may wait several days or even weeks to deposit them all at once, slowing down your cash flow.The solution is remote deposit, which allows you to deposit checks into your bank account directly from your office.“It has all the convenience of being able to make a deposit whenever you want, right from your desk,” says Susan A. Goins, assistant vice president, Treasury Management…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

Judging entrepreneurial excellence

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Ken Berryman director, Capital South Partners Funds Steve Cuntz president, BlueStar Inc. Bill Ferko chief risk management officer, Republic Bank Marty Grunder Jr. president and CEO, Grunder Landscaping Vlad Kapustin managing member, Interkap Group LLC Dan Neyer president, Neyer Properties Mike Scott managing partner, Talisman Capital Partners