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Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

The Turnaround Game

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There's nothing more difficult for a business owner than watching years of time, money and energy result in failure. In terms of pain, stress and suffering, losing a business is perhaps second only to losing a family member. To some, the business is a member of the family. But taking a business teetering on the edge of failure and leading it back to prosperity can be among the satisfying -- though grueling -- journeys in one's business career. SBN spoke with experts and probed the minds of two business leaders who drew their ventures back from the brink. Here are…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Setting the right tone

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Tom Pons strongly adheres to a quid pro quo approach to doing business. So when friend Dick Granger, the majority owner of cellular company Roach Reid, needed some help, the owner of The Cuyahoga Cos. Inc. opened his checkbook. "We believed in the buddy system, so that anything he could do to help me in business he would do, and I did the same thing," Pons says. "Dick got into some financial problem and that started a scenario of my lending money and it would be returned and I would lend. "Then it got to a point where I would…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Morale builder

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Everyone wants to be a great manager. But too often, the stodgy, traditional definition of a leader that exists inside many companies isn't compatible with the challenges and speed of the Internet age. People don't want to work for an iron-fisted dictator; they want someone who is on their side. They want a coach. Before making any big changes, management expert Marty Brounstein, author of "Coaching & Mentoring for Dummies," says managers need to evaluate employee performance. If your staff members aren't delivering the results you need and seem reluctant to take on new responsibilities, Brounstein says it may be…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Making a statement

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Statements for today's 401(k) plans need to be personalized, forward-looking documents that facilitate decision-making so that participants can reach their goals. By using employees' personal information -- such as age, contribution rate and asset allocation -- statements can be tailored to each participant. By including financial planning and other dynamic information, you can provide added value to 401(k) statements, making them more than just static documents that chronicle the past. Statements should contain: Personalized rates of return. The returns of each participant's portfolio can differ, even if they contain the same investments. A rate of return is affected by the…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Keeping it cool

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Nancy Lesic knows a thing or two about dealing with the media in a crisis situation. In late 1995 and early 1996, after Art Modell announced he was moving the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, Lesic was a key player in the fight to save the Browns. At the time, she was Mayor Michael White's press secretary. She directed media relations for all city departments and managed communications programs for economic development projects such as the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But the Browns campaign was by far the most extensive of her career. "We launched an…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Influence with ease

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What would you say if a customer asked for an item and one of your staff members didn't know if it was available? Unfortunately, it's an all-too-common occurrence if your business has regular turnover and constantly in-progress employee training. The common response of an untrained employee is, "I don't know. I'll have to check." That may send the potential customer to your competitors. Instead, teach your staff to respond with, "I don't know, but I'll be happy to check." If you were the customer, which employee would you say provides better service? The lesson: Simply changing your team's language from…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Heartfelt change

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When Bill Voss was killed in an automobile accident three years ago, it shook the foundation of the Ohio City manufacturing firm he had worked most of his life to build. Then, when his wife, Marianne, died a year later, there was sorrow among the employees and fear that the events marked the end of Voss Industries Inc.'s era as a closely held, solid family business. "It was the unknown," says Daniel W. Sedor Sr., who today serves as president of the company that manufactures clamps and couplings for various industries. "People that had certainly been with the company for…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Focus. Accomplish. Grow.

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It's been three years since the Internet has really been "in the face" of most business owners. Even for the traditional, nondot-com company, this has been a time of great highs and lows. Hopes and budgets have been raised and lost as firms have learned whether or not the Internet can help grow their businesses. Looking back, what have we learned? Sell what sells Buyers buy products and services they already know. If your domain name, your company and your product are all the same, existing buyers will buy from your Web site. Consumer and business sites like Dell, Staples…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

E-contracts

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Perhaps your business has enjoyed significant cost savings from participating in an online business-to-business marketplace. Perhaps your company Web site has become a significant distribution channel, boosting corporate revenue. Perhaps you went online and bought a book for summer vacation. Chances are, you or your business have done one or more of the above. If not, you will. The Internet and e-commerce are here to stay. Yet, have you ever considered the legal status of the e-contracts you've entered into? Are they enforceable? Do statutes and laws apply beyond traditional contract law? Does an e-contract comply with the writing requirement…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Defragmentation

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Kevin Lacamera went to graduate school in English, but before completing his dissertation he had a shocking revelation -- he didn't like books. Instead, Lacamera discovered he was fascinated with technology and devoted his spare time to building Web pages and reading up on the latest software. So when Lacamera left Case Western Reserve University's grad program in 1998 -- just short of completing his Ph.D. -- it was with no regrets. He met Rick Ferris, a Cleveland real estate broker, and in March of this year, they founded Rentjungle.com, one of the first dot-coms to try to bring a…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Choice could mean change for manufacturers

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By Sheldon A. Taft Beginning Jan. 1, 2001, Ohio will change nearly a century of electric service regulation by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). Electric utility service will be divided into two pieces -- electricity supplies will be deregulated, while the wire delivery of those supplies to consumers will continue to be regulated. The replacement of regulation by customer choice will create opportunities and risks for all Ohio consumers. The question on the minds of many manufacturers is what impact deregulation will have on the price of electricity supplies. It is impossible to predict market prices, but many…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

After the gold rush

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The cyberpirate who registered www.worldwrestlingfederation.com likely had dreams of a handsome payday. Instead, he got a virtual body slam from Vince McMahon's ultrapopular, big-time wrestling empire by way of a little-known domain name dispute policy that went into effect last January. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the governing body responsible for administering the domain name system across the globe, adopted a Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy at the beginning of this year that allows domain names registered in "bad faith" to be reclaimed by their rightful owners. What's more, the dispute resolution process spans only 57 days from…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

A PEEP at the seedy side of HR

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Rumors of layoffs fly about the company more radically than moths around a lamppost. Management wants it stopped; the employees want the lowdown. They both turn to the HR professional for answers. To illustrate just how difficult a task squelching misinformation can be without lying, the Employers Resource Council held a P.E.E.P. (Professionalism, Etiquette, Ethics and Politics) show with four veteran HR professionals. The program was sponsored by ProResource Inc. Randstad, Ulmer & Berne LLP and UnitedHealthcare. The experts were Rose Ann Kay, a human resources project specialist with the ERC who has held HR positions with Steris Corp. and…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

Ups and downs

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(Ups) to Realty One. Its new cybercafé-like Visions of Home store is a unique idea that removes unneeded pressure from prospects while providing maximum information about the home buying process. Unlike many of its competitors, the Cleveland-based real estate firm actually gets the impact the Internet has -- and will have -- upon the real estate industry. (Downs) to Brookpark Mayor Tom Coyne. His eminent domain battle with Cleveland Mayor Michael White over the IX Center land is doing more harm than good. Coyne's outmoded contention that his city will lose tax revenue if it loses the land doesn't outweigh…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

The trade brigade

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The members of your top management breathe a sigh of relief as they report the company has finally saturated the market -- you've reached every potential client. They're wrong. You may be reaching less than 5 percent of your potential customers, says Marjory E. Searing, acting assistant secretary and director general of the U.S. Commercial Service, part of the International Trade Administration. "If you're going to survive in this global market, you've got to be competing internationally," she says. "It's a hard sale right now because the U.S. economy is doing so well. A lot of companies have more than…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

Tech clips

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Hope we don't get stuck in the bandwidth The number of people using wireless data technology is expected to surge from about 170 million subscribers worldwide in 2000 to more than 1.3 billion by 2004. More than 1.5 billion handsets, PDAs and Internet appliances will be equipped with wireless capabilities by the end of 2004, according to technology market research firm Cahners In-Stat. Messaging will be the core application driving the growth of the wireless data market. The report estimates the number of wireless messages sent per month will jump from 3 billion last December to 244 billion by December…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

Point and cook

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The Internet has taken over your business. It's in your home office, it might even be on your phone or handheld computer. But the Internet has its "sites" set on another place in your life: the kitchen. Wait just a minute, you say, there's no need for the Internet in the kitchen, right? Am I going to surf the Net on my toaster? "At one point, everyone was saying, 'We have one TV, why would we want one anywhere else?'" says Robert Milgroom, director of investor relations with Turbochef Technologies. "We have a connection to the Internet with a computer…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

Newsclips

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Syndrome X Insulin resistance syndrome, or Syndrome X, has been marked as a warning sign for Adult-Onset diabetes or Type II Diabetes, a disease that has increased 77 percent in recent years. In response, Club Olympia on Center Ridge Road in Westlake has created a lifestyle program specifically to help ward off Syndrome X, usually marked by obesity and above normal cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The program focuses on nutrition, aerobic exercise and resistance training. "One-third of all Americans are clinically obese," says club owner Mike Furci. "Our customized nutrition and work-out programs promote weight loss, which ultimately improves…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

Maintaining the culture

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In August, I discussed company culture, addressing the issue of handling and changing a culture that was inherited though acquisition or succession. There is a strong relationship between the success of the business and the strength of the culture. But how can you maintain that culture as the company grows? As a company grows, the organization needs to change. The question is, does the organization's culture also need to change or should it be maintained? In most cases, culture should be the exception to the rule and maintained as the company grows. In many successful, growing companies, the culture has…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

Influence with ease

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How do your employees respond when you, a customer or a co-worker ask them to do something? Untrained employees use phrases like, "OK," "I'll try" or "I'll do my best." All of these responses are adequate, but do you want your company to be thought of as having merely adequate customer service? Trained professionals, on the other hand, use language that conveys confidence, capability, and willingness to pitch in. They respond to requests with two simple words: "No problem." "No problem" conveys to your customers -- and you -- that the task at hand will be handled effortlessly and diligently.…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

From tragedy to success

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In 1969, Iris Rubinfield was 42 years old. Her father, Melvin Rose, had recently retired as president of Western Reserve Manufacturing. Rubinfield's brother, Arnold, assumed the reins. Within a year, however, Arnold died suddenly of a heart attack and Rubinfield's husband, Don, who had been working with Arnold since Melvin retired, stepped up to the challenge of heading the caster building company on his own. Iris Rubinfield helped out on a daily basis, working in sales and in the factory -- without a paycheck. She toiled on weekends and holidays for the first five years to help Don develop a…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

Digital dotted line

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Electronic signatures now have the same weight as documents signed with a pen. The only problem is, who do you trust? Digital signatures are extremely secure, and, by the way, aren't necessarily actual signatures. Some programs or services only require you to acknowledge the terms of any contract, not actually scan in a signature and attach it to the document. For the system of digital signatures to work, there has to be an agency or company that verifies people on the Net are who they claim by using a digital certificate -- a sort of virtual ID. The encryption process…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

Building relationships

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When it comes to conservative, traditional business, there isn't much beyond a men's clothing store, especially an upscale one. But being a traditional business doesn't limit you to traditional means when it comes to building relationships with your customers. Just ask Mike Culwell, president of Culwell & Son, a Dallas-based clothier. Two years ago, he decided that e-mail might be a good way to reduce his direct mail costs while keeping in touch with his customers. He already had a Web site that had posted moderate success, but didn't want to put any more resources into a Web strategy that…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

Beyond a paycheck

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Attracting and retaining qualified employees is the top challenge for business owners today. As it's become more evident that simply matching competitors' offers dollar for dollar won't be enough to land the talent you desire, the importance of developing -- and maintaining -- quality compensation packages and a challenging workplace atmosphere have never been greater. So, have you ever wondered what an $80,000 a year position within your company looks like on the balance books? And what beyond that cash value you can offer to enhance the attractiveness of the position and your company? According to Patricia K. Zingheim and…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

10 reasons to stick with the Internet

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I was speaking recently at an e-commerce seminar with Tom Zych of Thompson, Hine and Flory on why businesses should continue to throw resources at the Internet despite the dubious returns most are experiencing. One of the topics was, with the Great Internet Shakeout, why would an intelligent business owner continue to throw good money after bad into an e-strategy? Here are 10 good reasons to stay focused on your company's e-strategy. 10. The medium is established. Web traffic continues to increase, as do the number of Web site visits and the amount of e-commerce. 9. There is no variable…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

Total burnout

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People casually say, "I'm burned out" all the time. But what is burnout and how does it differ from the stress we face every day? "The difference between stress and burnout is that burnout tends to come over a longer period of time," says Agnes Huff, a psychologist and president of the Agnes Huff Communications Group. "It has some of the same symptoms, except they will be much more chronic and debilitating." A person experiencing burnout will be almost nonfunctional. He or she could be tremendously disillusioned. "They don't care about anything," says Huff. "There are no ups or downs.…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

Think buyer share, not market share

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Market share is one of the oldest measurements of success. But for small- to middle-sized business, particularly those with sales forces, it is virtually meaningless for several reasons. Among them: Only the largest businesses have the capacity to serve meaningful shares of most markets. Small- to medium-sized businesses are, by nature, niche players. They can only serve smaller pieces, usually defined in their own unique way. There is no objective data to determine a company's share of a niche it has defined. Sales forces instead focus on identifiable buyers. So how can a business keep track of its market position?…