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Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

The danger of breaking assumed promises

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Business relationships create strange situations. An assumed promise is one of them. Here's an example of how one situation, if handled differently, could have resulted in a lost customer. I was growing frustrated waiting for a prescription. When the pharmacist finally took care of me, he apologized for the long delay and explained that his assistant had just quit, so he was short-staffed. He realized that I had assumed the service would be faster and treated it as if he'd broken a promise. That pharmacist was working smarter and the result was that he kept my business. Fair or not,…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

Spreading the word

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Organizations that do the most good often struggle for funds because it's expensive to design and print the eye-catching brochures, publications and mailings needed to attract potential donors. The James J. Roop Co., a Cleveland-based public relations firm, has done something to change that. Roop and his small team of account executives and graphic designers annually donate $40,000 in pro bono services to educational groups including Boy's Hope/Girl's Hope, Urban Community School and Care Alliance so their voices can be heard. Boy's Hope/Girl's Hope puts about eight underprivileged children in foster home settings and assists with their tuition to private…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

Newsclips

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Local lenders recognized Former Congressman Louis B. Stokes and Gilbert Goldberg, director of the U.S. Small Business Administration's Cleveland District office, recognized four leading SBA lenders for loans made to minority-owned and small businesses. The SBA office guaranteed more than 800 loans for more than $150 million in 2000. Last year, a record 127 loans, or 16 percent of all loans guaranteed by the Cleveland district office, were made to minority-owned businesses. National City Bank was the Leading Loan Volume Lender, with 126 loans totalling $21.6 million, and Key Bank was the Leading Minority Loan Volume Lender, with 19 minority…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

Less taxing

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Next year, when the tax man cometh, companies that do work in many cities in Ohio will have a much shorter stack of paperwork. Provisions of Substitute House Bill 477 take effect Jan. 1 and create uniformity for municipal tax filings across the state. "[Under current law] it's not unusual for a small contractor to have to fill out 40, 50, 60 returns - in addition to your federal income tax return and your state income tax return," says Donn Ellerbrock, vice president for governmental affairs for Associated General Contractors of Ohio. Luther Liggett Jr., a law partner with Columbus-based…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

Inside and out

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If you are trying to raise capital, you don't have to be a financier, but you and your executive team do have to know your business. Know what the money you are seeking is going to be used for, and most important, know how you are going to make money. While it certainly helps if you know the difference between equity and debt, you don't have to know what a PIK Convert is or what the five-year IRR on cash basis is forecasted to be. However, you'd better know your gross and net margins, what your inventory turns are if…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

If it ain't broke

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You may have seen it while strolling the aisles of your local auto parts store or Wal-Mart. You certainly can't miss it; it doesn't look like any of the other cans on the shelves. In fact, the can looks more like an advertisement than something you'd actually buy and use. It's called PB B'Laster, a mechanical lubricant that can loosen even the most rusted, corroded nut or bolt, and it comes in a colorful, word-laden can that makes it stand out among its more traditionally packaged competitors. B'Laster Chemical Cos. Inc. of Valley View manufactures the product, along with 20…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

Global checklist

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SS&G Financial Services' search for accountants in South Africa may be unusual for its industry, but high-tech and IT companies have been recruiting in countries including India, Taiwan and China since the computer revolution began. On his recent recruiting trip to South Africa, SS&G equity partner and South African native Gary Isakov saw many tech companies vying for workers. "There's a lot of recruiters out there, some for accounting firms, but mostly for IT companies," says Isakov. "When I was there, there were many advertisements for technology companies looking for people to come over to the United States and England.…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

For the sake of the city

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A victim of cerebral palsy, Brian Skinner is confined to a wheelchair. Despite a desire to work, Skinner repeatedly faced rejection. "He was told five times that he had no work skills and that they should just put him in a home," says Jay Lucarelli, vice president of MinuteMen Group. MinuteMen's executives looked past the wheelchair. The company recognized Skinner's journalistic skills and offered him a job. With a modified keyboard and a computer, Skinner produces a monthly newsletter that goes out to the company's 250 employees and its clients. And Skinner isn't simply a token employee. Courtney Oatey is…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

Ergonomically correct

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Employees with carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and lower back problems costs businesses billions of dollars a year in lost productivity and workers' compensation claims. The sad fact is that most of these musculoskeletal disorders are preventable with a few simple changes in the workplace. In August, OSHA wrapped up a series of hearings on its $4.2 billion ergonomics proposal that would regulate safety measures to help prevent common workplace injuries. While the final proposal is still under revision, it will be certainly be a hot issue that the president and Congress will deliberate over in the coming year, says Mark…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

Don't let 'em get away

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What would you do if you were losing half of your potential client base? What if your local competitors were, too? Car dealerships in Licking County have faced this exact situation, and they've banded together to catch the attention of customers who are taking their business across county lines. Newark-based Park National Bank, which helps finance some of the new car purchases in Licking County, initiated a five-month "Buy Local" campaign four years ago. In October 1999, the bank headed up another three-month campaign, which the dealers found so successful they've continued it on their own. "Our concern, I think,…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

Creative defusion

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Somewhere beyond the dramatic statistics, creative business leaders are learning how to manage the impact of workplace violence. There is no simple answer, but you can use new ideas to sustain a successful organization. The key? Commit to awareness, listening and creative problem solving. It's been reported that there are about 13 workplace murders every week and an estimated 1 million workplace assaults every year. A 1999 survey of human resources professionals reveals that 57 percent of business owners have dealt with at least one violent workplace incident in the recent past. According to a 1998 U.S. Department of Justice…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

Brewing good deeds

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Everybody loves a party, especially one that features good beer. And, there's no better party than one that not only entertains, but also helps raise money for a community, a charity or a worthy cause. The employees of Western Reserve Brewing know this scenario quite well. "Everyone here is involved with some charitable organization that they feel strongly about," explains Steve Louzos, marketing and public relations manager for the Cleveland-based brewery. "From our owners, Gavin Smith and Andrew Craze, to myself, and all the way through the organization, our involvement from a company perspective is sort of the logical sequitur…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

A place in space

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How do you say Vomit Comet in Russian? Pero Novak, president and founder of Air Technical Industries (SBN August 1998), and his son, Vida, recently returned from the Russian Space Agency training center, where they learned firsthand how astronauts learn to move in zero gravity. The term Vomit Comet was coined at NASA because many first-time fliers lose their lunch after riding in the stripped down commercial liner, which leapfrogs through the air. The plane makes periodic dives to simulate the weightlessness experienced by astronauts on the space shuttle or the International Space Station. "Zero gravity is one of the…
Friday, 19 July 2002 11:28

Planning for your company's future

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The convergence of two frequently discussed national trends make right now an excellent time for owners of smaller companies to give careful consideration to adopting retirement programs. The first of these trends is the continuing tightening of the labor force. Even in light of recent layoffs, hiring is a highly competitive undertaking, particularly when it comes to finding the most skilled and technologically advanced employees. The second trend, supported by poll after poll, is the widely held perception that the Social Security system is less than secure. Even those who believe it will remain solvent over the long haul are…
Friday, 19 July 2002 07:53

Movers & Shakers

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The ALPHA GROUP Agency announced that Geoffrey F. Novack has been named President of ALPHA FINANCIAL SERVICES Inc. Cuyahoga County commissioners named Paul J. Volpe, AIA, to the RTA board of trustees. The Prince & Izant Co., Cleveland, appointed R.J. Mulford managing director and Grayson L. Alexy marketing manager. Jeffrey M. Whitesell joined the law firm of Arter & Hadden LLP in its Cleveland office as an associate. Hawk Corp. appointed Gerd Hinzmann as technical director of the Hawk Powder Metal Group. Dean Skinner was named president of Zerotime Interactive, a wholly owned subsidiary of Wyse Advertising. Wastequip and its…
Friday, 19 July 2002 07:44

Newsclips

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Fed seeks essays College students can earn more than a grade for their papers by entering the second-annual Essays in Economics competition, sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The Fed will award a $1,000 prize to the student whose paper most clearly and persuasively analyzes a topic using economic theories or concepts. Last year's $1,000 prize was awarded to Jaime Ventura, a student at Bowling Green State University, for "Money Demand and Inflation in Peru, 1979-91." Entrants must be juniors or seniors enrolled at a Fourth Federal Reserve District college or university during the 2000-2001 academic year. Submissions…
Friday, 19 July 2002 07:13

Hired guns

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I was wrong about a month ago when I thought I had read the worst business plan ever. Two days later, I read a worse one. The odd thing is, both plans were prepared by supposedly bright people and brought to me by potential investors who wanted me to unearth what they hoped might be good investment opportunities. In both cases, the business model and business plan were prepared by a principal of the company. One knew his technology, the second, his marketing. Neither constructed a robust business model that made a powerful case for funding. Structuring and funding their…
Friday, 19 July 2002 07:06

Circle of giving

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As the holiday season becomes a distant memory, the frenzy of charity drives and donations fades. But for some companies, incorporating philanthropy into their business plan does more than just help the needy. Putting owners and employees in touch with local movers and shakers can integrate an organization into its community with a reputation that helps translate into success at its most important level -- the bottom line. Our daily bread In 1996, when Randy and Gerri Verdi opened a bakery in Lake County, they sought to join the community where they grew up. Since then, their continued fund-raising activities…
Friday, 19 July 2002 07:02

Evict the squatter

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Some companies late to the party on the Web have found their dot-com names claimed by a savvy Web surfer who is demanding hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to give it back. The good news is, in most cases, you can get it back without paying the cybersquatter for it. In 1999, the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) adopted a policy for resolving disputes over domain names. The policy is similar to that of trademark law, even if the name of the company or the person is not a registered trademark. In recent years, there have…
Friday, 19 July 2002 06:54

Promoting productivity

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Do your employees check their personal problems at the door when they arrive at work each morning? Of course not. Even the most talented and dedicated workers bring stress, personal problems, childcare concerns and other worries to the office. Roughly one-quarter of the work force suffers from stress-related problems; 17 percent experience anxiety; and 13 percent suffer from depression, according to a recent study by The New York Business Group on Health. When work/life issues start to overwhelm employees, their job performance may deteriorate. Whether the worry is an aging parent or a smoking habit, employees often spend company time…
Friday, 19 July 2002 06:47

What are your rights?

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The recent economic slowdown has forced scores of businesses to shut down or file for protection under Title 11 of the United States Code (the Bankruptcy Code). With more bankruptcies on the horizon, especially in the dot-com sector, what rights do you have if one of your licensors files for bankruptcy? Under certain conditions, the Bankruptcy Code permits a licensee to continue to use the intellectual property (IP) that is the subject of a license agreement even if such agreement is later rejected by the bankrupt estate. These special rights and protections do not apply to trademarks or trade dress,…
Friday, 19 July 2002 06:38

Old world, new tech

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London, Paris, Berlin, Milan. There are a dizzying array of cities a company to open a foreign office in, so where to focus? Steve Potash, president and CEO of OverDrive Inc., fixed his compass to Amsterdam. "We were looking for a central base of operations to serve not only our partners on the Continent, but also our expanding partners in the U.K.," Potash says. "Amsterdam was geographically well-situated, it was also a good hub of transportation for international air flight, and rail service within Europe." OverDrive is a digital publisher based in Valley View with customers in major European markets…
Friday, 19 July 2002 06:31

Legal tune-up

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The Napster case is not just about free music on the Internet. The implications of the federal appeals court ruling affect anyone doing business on the Internet. Napster is an Internet program that enables users to easily download digital copies of music, usually in the MP3 format. In July 2000, a federal district court granted the music industry's request for a preliminary injunction against Napster, forcing it to pull the plug on its music sharing community on the basis of contributory copyright infringement. Two days later, a panel of judges from the Ninth Circuit issued an emergency stay, pending an…
Friday, 19 July 2002 06:26

Changing roles

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Marilou Myrick has seen the business world from the vantage point of employee, business executive and, most recently, as owner of ProResource Inc., an executive staffing firm headquartered in Cleveland. She talks openly about her experience as a woman in business and her perceptions on how things have change for women in the business world. Although she doesn't want to stereotype, Myrick believes that women's presence in the workplace has forced employers to become more flexible. Women's childcare responsibilities, as well as the death of the tradition of staying with the same company for an entire career, has resulted in…
Friday, 19 July 2002 06:21

Spread the risk

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You would be hard pressed to find a financial adviser who says it's OK to have 85 to 90 percent of your assets in one investment. But often, this is exactly what business owners do when they have 100 percent of their assets on the line with the company. Risking personal assets this way may be a necessary evil in the beginning growth stages of a company, but once the dust has cleared, it is a good idea to re-evaluate your net worth and its relation to the net worth of your company. "In most cases, their (the business owner's)…
Friday, 19 July 2002 06:10

Tax terror

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To attract and retain young, high-tech talent, many savvy employers offered Incentive Stock Options. Employees watched as stock prices reached feverish heights, only to plummet unmercifully later. As if that weren't bad enough, employees who exercised those options while the market was hot now must pay taxes on profits they may never see, thanks to the Alternative Minimum Tax. "It's been in the law for a number of years, and the theory behind was, at a minimum, all taxpayers should pay a certain level of tax," says Robert Burak, partner in charge of tax services at Grant Thornton LLP in…
Friday, 19 July 2002 06:06

Ups and downs

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(Ups) to Brown, Gibbons, Lang & Co. The Cleveland-based investment banking firm recently brokered the sale of Cincinnati-based Slush Puppie Corp. to Dr. Pepper/Seven Up Inc., providing the frozen beverage manufacturer access to expanded marketing muscle and worldwide distribution channels. The deal also frees up Slush Puppie founder Will Radcliff's frozen assets. (Downs) to energy suppliers, which are reporting record earnings in the midst of a nationwide energy crisis and skyrocketing natural gas and oil prices. We're for free trade and deregulation as much as the next business owners, but something smells rotten about the current state of affairs. (Ups)…