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Monday, 27 September 2004 10:19

All in a day's work

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If your last sales meeting was utterly forgettable, you could learn from MTD Products Inc., a Cleveland-based manufacturer of lawn and garden power equipment with brands including Cub Cadet, Troy-Bilt, Yard-Man, Yard Machines, Bolens, McCulloch and White Outdoor. Roy Keating, MTD's vice president of sales, says the company hosts a semiannual two-and-a-half day national sales meeting for 150 to 200 of its employees and North American and European independent sales representatives. The first day is an introduction of new products and discussion of industry trends and sales strategies. The second day includes an event for participants to try MTD's products.…
Monday, 27 September 2004 10:15

Good financial planners understand your goals

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Everybody is working toward something -- a successful business, more time with their family or travel to exotic places. Surprisingly, very few people have a financial road map to help them fulfill these goals. It's not difficult to make a financial map; what's difficult is getting started. To begin, take an inventory of your financial status, including assets, debts and budgets. This helps you anticipate opportunities and prepare for adverse events. Repeat this process whenever you experience life event and lifestyle changes, such as marriage, divorce, starting a business, saving for your child's educational expenses, preparing for retirement or receiving…
Monday, 27 September 2004 10:10

What employees want

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Every business' success depends on communication. And to be a good communicator, a manager's actions should speak louder than words, says a survey by staffing service firm OfficeTeam. The survey found that the top action -- cited by 28 percent of respondents -- that employees seek from managers is that they stand up for their employees. Twenty-four percent of respondents said putting a lid on office politics was another way to improve communication; 22 percent said they'd like to see their managers talk less and listen more. "Managers who promote employees' viewpoints, support their staff and limit the impact of…
Tuesday, 07 September 2004 06:40

Retail therapy

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A trip to the mall isn't the same as it used to be. The face of retail shopping has undergone a makeover during the last 10 or 15 years, changing the way we shop til we drop. The concept of the traditional shopping center or mall has been updated, says Mike Crislip, president of Cleveland-based Herschman Architects. In the past, mall tenants depended upon each other for the traffic generated through the mall atmosphere, and traditional strip centers were considered convenience retailers, where customers parked in front of the strip and had direct access to the retail location of their…
Tuesday, 31 August 2004 06:43


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It had been a great couple days for Art Rhein, CEO of Agilysys, and he proudly ticks off the latest company news. "This is the third quarter we were able to announce results that exceeded expectations that the Street had set," he says. "We upgraded our guidance for the year by 20 percent." Agilysys had projected fiscal 2005 sales to grow from 13 percent to 18 percent within an industry expected to grow by 6 percent to 8 percent in terms of IT spending. "We are now projecting 20 to 25 percent growth for the year," he says. "And, we…
Tuesday, 31 August 2004 06:35

Strategic alliance

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Securing your company's intellectual property is paramount these days. And Gabriel Torok, president of PreEmptive Solutions Inc., is doing his part to develop the next big thing in code security software. Over the past seven years, Torok has positioned PreEmptive Solutions as a leader in commercial obfuscation, optimization and size-reduction software. Several Fortune 1000 companies use its products and software developments. With hackers attempting to find holes in security codes and tap into computer systems, innovative software is on the top of almost every CEO's wish list. "Providing access to source code and creating compact and efficient applications are two…
Tuesday, 31 August 2004 06:30

Innovating things

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Innovation costs money, but choosing to not innovate only has one result: death. "In retail, you either innovate or die," says Suzanne Sutter, president of Things Remembered. "The biggest challenge in encouraging innovation is balancing it with the costs. I, as CEO, have to evaluate the risks before we implement anything different and new. Our executive team sits down and evaluates the pros and cons. If we think it's a great idea but if it didn't work or would have negative consequences, then we test it on a small scale. That way, if it doesn't work, the impact will not…
Tuesday, 31 August 2004 06:24

Limitless opportunities

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We live in a world of naysayers. At every turn, people are quick to claim it can't be done. They temper your enthusiasm, offer warnings to keep your feet on the ground and, lacking concrete reasons, fight change as hard as they can no matter how meritorious the ideas. But innovation, in its purest form, is bred from an environment in which no idea is a bad one, creative thinking is fostered and people are encouraged to consider what has never been tried or accomplished. Albert Einstein once said, "Innovation is not the product of logical thought, even though the…
Tuesday, 31 August 2004 06:11

Investing in information

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Nearly every business today uses computer-based systems for accounting, production control, sales tracking and other aspects of day-to-day operations. These systems generate and store huge amounts of data -- information with the potential to help management make good decisions. Unfortunately, too often, that decision-making help remains only a potential because it is not converted into usable information. Why do so few companies take advantage of this opportunity? In some cases, the difference between data and information is not fully understood. Many business owners express pride in the volume of data their systems produce, yet, when considering a major business decision,…
Tuesday, 31 August 2004 06:05

It's all who you know

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It wasn't long ago that the idea of doing business overseas, especially in a place as distant as Asia, wasn't an option for most mid-sized businesses. The logistics of such an enterprise were overwhelming, and the opportunities didn't outweigh the costs and risks. But much of that has changed. Today, a foreign market presence is a realistic option for many mid-sized businesses looking to grow and increase market share. The most important thing after deciding to extend operations overseas is to decide who to enlist as a local partner to assist in this effort; many businesses have a difficult time…
Wednesday, 21 July 2004 11:14

Simple vision

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For Tony Dellamano and Mark Kuperman, marketing a brand new food product involves a simple plan -- let people taste it, and they'll spread the word. Applestix, the product of the Johnny Applestix company, are battered and flash-fried apple slices, seasoned and served with a choice of tasty dipping sauces. The founders take a straightforward approach to advertising and getting the word out about their creation. "For us, it's all about creating a buzz," says Dellamano. "And this product is very buzzable. It's about free samples, getting the product introduced and tasted." Johnny Applestix made its Cleveland debut at Jacobs…
Wednesday, 21 July 2004 11:03

Communication strategy

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Poll just about any organization and you'll find that one of the most common problem areas is communication. There are many ways to communicate, but a multifaceted approach is probably your best bet for letting employees know about everything from the company picnic to the organization's strategic plan. The Cleveland Museum of Art uses several methods to get important messages across to its 414 full- and part-time employees. "To start off, we communicate with the staff using all-staff e-mails," says Heather Weisenseel, human resources administrator for the museum. "We also have four bulletin boards throughout the building for those that…
Wednesday, 21 July 2004 10:55

Corporate flypaper

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Corporate leaders today understand the value of a strong market brand to attract loyal customers. Likewise, supplying branding principles to attract and retain top talent -- commonly referred to as employment branding -- has gained considerable attention, and will continue to do so as the economy improves and employees become more selective in choosing employment opportunities. Creating a strong employment brand Many similarities exist between great market brands and great employment brands. Great market brands understand their ideal customer; great employment brands understand what motivates their ideal employee. Great market brands create customer advocacy, loyalty and profitability; a great employment…
Wednesday, 21 July 2004 10:46

Go with the flow

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For more than seven years, my morning commute to Smart Business has essentially been the same. Even when we moved into our new headquarters, the only change was the addition of a few more exits down I-90 West. I am a creature of habit. When I find a desirable routine, I stick with it. So I was frustrated recently when I encountered a detour at the street that connects to where I enter the highway. After grumbling that my usual route had been blocked, I snaked through several side streets to reach a different entrance ramp. There, I found a…
Thursday, 01 July 2004 06:05

Tool school

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Gone are the days of choosing between using your hands or your brain. Thanks to Tooling University, you are encouraged and expected to use both. Founders of the breakthrough concept, Jack Schron Jr., president, and his son, Chad Schron, vice president, saw the idea for Tooling U grow out of necessity. The men noticed a serious lack of apprenticeship programs and vocational education, a problem that needed addressing. Enter Tooling University. Through the Web-based school, students can take classes 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Subjects include metalworking and stamping, drilling, basic shop skills from math and measurements…
Tuesday, 22 June 2004 13:24

Ahead of the pack

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Rick and Lisa Thomas have kept CardPak focused on customer needs to keep their company ahead of the competition. Since purchasing controlling ownership of the company in 1997, CardPak has grown from $12 million in sales to $25 million and has increased its work force from 50 to 150. Their mission for the company is "to be recognized as the most customer-focused company in the industry." To accomplish this, they've implemented these strategies. * Invest in state-of-the-art equipment. * Determine and implement leading-edge processes. * Provide a working environment that respects employees and encourages safety. * Change the industry standard…
Tuesday, 22 June 2004 13:21

Shearer perfection

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Bob Shearer is the second generation to run Shearer's, a snack food manufacturer that's been in business for 30 years. In that time, the company has grown from a $4 million business with a handful of employees to a $65 million business with almost 400 employees. In 2003, it manufactured almost 42 million pounds of snacks, and the numbers for 2004 are still growing. Innovative ideas have been the recipe for Shearer's success. The company continually upgrades all phases of the manufacturing process to enhance efficiency and reduce operating costs, and constantly explores new snack product opportunities. "The company has…
Tuesday, 22 June 2004 13:17


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When Fady Chamoun emigrated to the United States from Lebanon in 1972, he had only $10 in his pocket. So after enrolling in the University of Michigan's engineering school, he took a full-time job at Little Caesars to help pay for his education. Chamoun stayed with the pizza company after graduation, and for the next two decades, learned everything he could about the restaurant industry from owner Mike Illitch. Chamoun also purchased and ran 40 Little Caesar franchises, which helped him develop his own business philosophies. Those philosophies led Chamoun to sell off his franchises in 1993, walking away with…
Tuesday, 22 June 2004 13:15

Crafty entrepreneurship

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Gerald Henn knew from an early age what his calling was. He was born to be an entrepreneur. Henn, a fifth-generation entrepreneur, was just a boy when he founded his first business venture after his father built him an amusement game for the carnival circuit. In the years since, Henn has founded numerous ventures, including his latest, Warren-based HENN, a direct sales crafts company. Henn wanted to get in to the craft industry to take advantage of his passion and love for handcrafting techniques, including basketry, pottery making, ironworking and candlemaking. He launched HENN in 1982, providing people with a…
Tuesday, 22 June 2004 13:12

The communications solution

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While other marketing and communications firms were downsizing their staffs in the late 1990s, Dick Maggiore, president and CEO of Innis Maggiore Group in Canton and Youngstown, was recruiting seasoned pros. The firm now employs 51 associates; at the end of 1997, it employed just 12. The recruitment, deployment and retention of the right people is his first priority. "The right people make the right decisions, and to skimp on talent is to skimp on results," Maggiore says. Innis Maggiore was named Ohio's fastest-growing major agency by Advertising Age magazine two years in a row and has capitalized annual billings…
Tuesday, 22 June 2004 13:09

Smooth(ie) operator

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Vita-Mix Corp. President and CEO John Barnard's blenders -- some of which cost $400 -- compete with other products that "look like blenders to the normal person, so we have to sell the difference," he says. He says his product is difficult to duplicate "because most companies don't want to have to sell the product; they just want to put it out there and let people buy it. There are very subtle differences in our strategy, but they turn out to be very big differences in our success." John Barnard, grandson of company founder W.G. Barnard Sr., has used his…
Tuesday, 22 June 2004 12:34

Movers & Shakers

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Cosgrove named chairman, CEO of Cleveland Clinic Internationally renowned heart surgeon Delos M. "Toby" Cosgrove was appointed CEO and chairman of the Board of Governors of The Cleveland Clinic. Cosgrove, 63, will assume his new duties following a transition period spent working with current CEO Floyd D. Loop. Cosgrove joined the clinic in 1975. He currently serves as chairman of the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. "Toby Cosgrove is a proven leader," says Loop, who, after nearly 15 years as the Clinic's CEO, launched an internal search for his successor in January. "For an organization to succeed, it is…
Tuesday, 22 June 2004 12:30

Consultative sales

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You don't stick around in the business world for 111 years by doing what everyone else is doing. The James B. Oswald Co.'s approach toward its customers is to find out what keeps them up at night and then offer solutions to offset those risks. The Oswald Co. may essentially be selling insurance, but Marc Byrnes, president and CEO, sees the company as a risk management firm. To effectively sell insurance and other risk management products, you first have to understand what risks customers face. "What we have done over the last five to seven years is brought on board…
Tuesday, 22 June 2004 12:26

Ups and downs

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(Ups) to National City. Its recent acquisition of Wayne Bancorp provides the banking giant with a solid footprint in Wayne, Holmes, Medina and Stark counties. National City has been in acquisition mode all year, buying Cincinnati-based Provident Financial in February and St. Louis-based Allegiant Bancorp in April. As consolidation continues in the banking industry, National City seems to be making moves to ensure it will be a hunter rather than the hunted. (Downs) to Hoover and Timken. Just when you thought the Northeast Ohio economy had seen the worst of the economic recession, two Stark County institutions recently piled on…
Tuesday, 22 June 2004 12:21

The Federal CAN-SPAM Act

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If you market by e-mail, make sure you're complying with the new federal CAN-SPAM Act or you could face stiff penalties. The CAN-SPAM Act, which took effect Jan. 1, 2004, is the acronym for the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003. Congress passed the act in an effort to curb the growing problem with unsolicited, bulk commercial e-mail, euphemistically known as spam. The act gives Internet users the right to demand that a party stop sending them commercial e-mails. It also empowers federal and state agencies and Internet service providers to enforce its provisions. The…
Wednesday, 26 May 2004 12:33

Foreign exposure

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In business, a certain level of risk is a given. But for businesses operating overseas, normal cash management issues are exacerbated by foreign currency fluctuations. Exchange rates today fluctuate faster than ever, increasing the risk and the potential for loss for companies the large multinational firm to the small importer/exporter. It is not unusual for major currencies to move 20 percent in either direction in a year. And everything from unemployment rates to rumors that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates affects volatility, which in turn affects currency rates. Due to the complexity of currency fluctuations and volatility, many…
Wednesday, 26 May 2004 12:30

Moving off-site

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When Julie Stein, Key Bank's training director, needs more space for training during peak demand, she calls Corporate College Westlake. "When we have overflow training that needs to occur, we'll use their facilities for that," says Stein. "We will also use them for highly technical training. They will set up and configure their machines the way we need them. "The tech training we do requires more heavy-duty equipment than what we have in our training rooms. We have also contracted with them on occasion to provide training that is less expensive than going to our vendors." Stein says she mainly…