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Thursday, 25 September 2008 20:00

World-class training

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Acommon misconception is that the only way to get better people is to pay more than everyone else. There are many great examples of world-class companies who do not necessarily pay better than their competitors. In fact, employees at Disney, Starbucks and Nordstrom are hired from the same labor pool every other organization uses and are paid the going rates. The real reason why the customer service is so good at a company like Disney is how well they are transformed into Walt Disney cast members during training. Remember: In most cases, the most recently hired, least-trained, lowest-paid employee deals…
Tuesday, 02 September 2008 13:20

Going green

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A majority of survey respondents think that green construction will have a “significant” impact in the near future. What does this mean to the industry? Construction lawyer Ian Frank says, “These results indicate a clear need for continued education and professional development in the technical aspects of sustainable and green construction as well as the legal/financial consequences of this burgeoning market sector.” To download a free Green Construction Resource Guide, visit the Web site of Associated Builders and Contractors at www.abc.org. Additionally, you can visit www.usgbc.org/leed for more information on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building…
Tuesday, 26 August 2008 20:00

Control issues

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In an effort to control ever-escalating costs, corporations regularly mandate and consolidate insurance, health care, benefits, office supplies and fleet vehicles. Yet, according to John L. Sturm, executive director of sales and marketing at Professional Travel, they commonly overlook their second- or third-largest controllable expense — travel. “In the wake of rising fuel prices, Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and the lingering effects of Sept. 11, corporations need to look at travel as they would any other controllable expense,” Sturm says. “The vast majority of Fortune 1,000 companies have a managed travel program but many mid- to large-market companies do not.” Sturm adds…
Tuesday, 26 August 2008 20:00

Authenticity

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In James H. Gilmore’s opinion, much of the world is fake. In today’s marketplace, he says consumers traverse “an increasingly unreal world, where parents are buying birthday parties at arcade outlets, you’ve got the Geek Squad costume guys repairing computers and people are taking vacations at Atlantis or a theme park in Orlando.” The idea of authenticity — or lack thereof — in business shouldn’t be dismissed as an abstract, existential exercise. In fact, Gilmore, co-founder of consulting firm Strategic Horizons LLP, says that the concept is the new business imperative. In a world increasingly filled with staged experiences, consumers…
Tuesday, 26 August 2008 20:00

An important decision

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During every major election year, the presidential candidates pick their top platforms, and they hammer them home as they campaign across the country. This year, the economy, international relationships and health care seem to be the three issues garnering the most attention. Presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama have had their policy points outlined and speeches written for some time now. And while you hear their messages over and over again, how can you decipher what they really mean to you and your business? For an employer, the future president’s approach to health care is an extremely important issue.…
Tuesday, 26 August 2008 20:00

Getting FIT

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No matter how big her company gets, Micki Tubbs will always make the time to stop and say hello to her employees. She says that will be the case even when staying in touch becomes a challenge at FIT Technologies, as the IT company Tubbs co-founded with Michelle Tomallo in 1999 has grown to 189 employees and almost $14 million in revenue. “There are people who had more involvement with us on a daily basis, and the organization has kind of grown up around them,” Tubbs says. As president and CEO, Tubbs has kept her employees involved in FIT’s vision…
Saturday, 26 July 2008 20:00

Playing the part

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  First things first: It isn’t about Art Falco. If you think that you can get Falco to talk about anything that he’s done without him emphasizing how important his 275 full- and part-time employees are at PlayhouseSquare, then you don’t understand his style. That’s because Falco, president and CEO of PlayhouseSquare, believes that the not-for-profit performing arts center has a big mission in the community, and involving his employees is the only path to success. Instead of thinking that only he has ideas and that his people need to put them to form, he makes an effort to get…
Saturday, 26 July 2008 20:00

Don’t distress

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If you are doing business with a company that you suspect — or know — is in financial distress, or heading in that direction, there are numerous steps you should take to protect yourself. And if the company files bankruptcy, you have rights. “If the signs are there that a company is in distress, start preparing right away by reviewing your current contractual relationship and learning what you can and cannot do under the Uniform Commercial Code to reduce your risk of loss,” says Sean D. Malloy, member of the business restructuring department of McDonald Hopkins LLC. If a company…
Saturday, 26 July 2008 20:00

Local flavor

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More than two decades ago, Richard Hauck and Joseph Saccone were working at a chic rooftop restaurant in an upscale hotel. The restaurant typically drew a steady following of local gourmands, so the two were no strangers to a hectic dinner rush. On one particular night, a sudden maelstrom of guests and orders sent the kitchen into an uncharted state of pandemonium. “I remember the place got packed,” Hauck says. “The kitchen got swamped, and the dishwasher was swamped. Dishes were stacked up everywhere.” Abandoning his post as maitre d’, Hauck rushed into the fray to help. He had witnessed…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Strutting the corporate runway

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How would you react if you walked into your attorney’s office and found him adorned in mesh shorts, flip-flops and a sleeveless neon tee? What if your doctor stepped into your exam room wearing an Armani suit instead of a lab coat? Though both scenarios are absurd, they represent the stringent ties between fashion and expectation on the runway of corporate America. “When people contact any kind of (professional), they have a preconceived notion of what that relationship ought to be, one of which is what the person looks like,” says Steve Ellis, partner at Tucker Ellis & West LLP.…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

The benefits of benefits

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Workers appreciate a good wage for a good day’s work. A good benefits package is icing on the cake. These days, however, benefits are much more than that. Many companies are offering packages that include solid, affordable benefits, health-related amenities and wellness programs. These “full-service” benefits packages benefit both the employees and their employers. “Providing benefits to employees should be a top priority for any company,” says Mike Langenfeld, executive vice president of InfoCision Management Corp. “Some companies even have specific departments dedicated to employee benefits. At any rate, a good benefits package is key to finding and maintaining top…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

A 401(k) for everyone

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One of the biggest concerns Americans have today deals with future finances and retirement. People are concerned with whether they will have enough money to live on when they retire. This concern is especially troublesome for employees of companies that do not offer any type of 401(k) option. Most employees of small businesses are not offered a 401(k) option because larger financial firms are not marketing to small firms. Until recently, if small business owners wanted to offer employees a 401(k) option, they had to invest in plans that were very costly to themselves and their employees, says Ron Hongosh,…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Future leaders

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If one of your company’s top leaders leaves, will you be ready? According to a recent study released by Employers Resource Council, just 31 percent of organizations surveyed reported that they would be prepared if their top leaders left, while only 25 percent said they have a formal succession plan in place. And just 69 percent of those surveyed said that they have the leadership talent they need to meet current business demands, but among those, the average age of senior managers is 51. Fifty-six percent of organizations say that the rapidly aging work force is impacting their talent pool.…
Sunday, 08 June 2008 20:00

Firsthand knowledge

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Back in 1990, John Kaniuk viewed Zircoa Inc. as an exercise in excess. “What I saw was a company that had many different products, many different markets and a lot of problems, both internally and externally,” he says. Company management at the time thought the myriad problems were all technical. Years of disappointing revenue led them to believe that processes — not the people — were to blame. In an attempt to turn the ceramic and refractory products manufacturer around, Zircoa’s management sought out Kaniuk, then a rising star in the research department of a nearby refractory manufacturer, to take…
Monday, 26 May 2008 20:00

Prep work

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Applying for a business loan can be like kayaking through river rapids; you would be foolish to do either without adequate preparation and the watchful eye of an experienced guide. Although Dan Waldeck has never pulled someone out of churning waters, he has led executives through the loan application process as senior vice president and relationship manager at National City Commercial Banking. And he says that the most successful applicants are those who practice due diligence before submitting their loan for approval. That preparation can take many forms, but Waldeck says that the best way to prepare is to devise…
Monday, 26 May 2008 20:00

An event to remember

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Corporate events range from afternoon parties to daylong meetings to three-day conferences. Ideally, employees or clients look forward to the event, participate in interesting activities, eat great food, get to network, learn something new and, in the end, walk away with a positive impression about the company. But, unfortunately, not all events turn out that way, according to Michele Clark, an event-planning expert and the program manager for training and development at Corporate College. A poorly planned event can be a public relations disaster, she says, resulting in a long, drawn-out day — or days — that attendees find disappointing,…
Monday, 26 May 2008 20:00

Where entrepreneurs and investors meet

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Despite the downturn in the economy, entrepreneurs are continuing to pursue their ventures and start new businesses. But one large challenge for small businesses and entrepreneurs remains the same — raising money. The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that inadequate financing is the second-most-common reason that businesses fail, exceeded only by poor management. To combat that, serial entrepreneur Richard Singer, CEO of RaiseCapital.com Inc., is working toward a solution. RaiseCapital.com is a free online community that offers entrepreneurs with start-up or existing businesses a place to display their ideas and capital needs to a vast array of investors, creating a…
Friday, 25 April 2008 20:00

Sending a message

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Nancy Huber has the perfect presence for public speaking: She has a personable smile, a genuine laugh and a quick wit. But she doesn’t do all of her communicating at Fifth Third Bancorp from the podium. That’s because Huber, market president Fifth Third Bank, Northeastern Ohio, has learned that no one method of communication is the right way to get through to the nearly 1,000 employees in her market at the financial services company. Instead, she takes her leadership message to every forum she can — from writing for the monthly publication in her market to visiting sales meetings —…
Friday, 25 April 2008 20:00

Insurance representation?

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Does your insurance broker have a conflict of interest? If your insurance agency is a small- to medium-sized regional or local agent/broker, you may want to inquire about “contingent commissions.” These commissions — paid to the agent or broker by some insurance carriers in addition to an upfront commission — are often not, or only vaguely, disclosed by local and regional insurance agencies. “Contingent commissions may cause conflicts of interest,” says Jerry G. Kysela, resident managing director for Aon Risk Services Inc. “Insurance agents that take contingent commissions have an incentive to steer their business to the carrier who pays…
Friday, 25 April 2008 20:00

Good relations

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The banking industry is a very competitive market, with banks constantly trying to introduce new products and services. As a bank introduces something new to the market, competitors are often quick to follow with their own version of the product or service. This competitiveness and lack of differentiation complicates the banking decisions for business owners. Often, the driving factor in determining where business owners bank is the relationship and service intensity they develop with their banker, says Jim Geuther, manager of commercial banking for FirstMerit Bank. Regardless of the size of their businesses, owners are likely to deal with a…
Friday, 25 April 2008 20:00

Listen for the solutions

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Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘a faster horse.’” That thought applies to many businesses. Sometimes, those you serve have a difficult time articulating what they really want — or don’t want — from you. But if you really listen to their problems, you can discover exactly what they’re looking for. My company, OsteoMed II, is an alternative medicine company. As a conventionally trained physician, I used to pay attention when patients grumbled about not having enough time to talk with their doctor. I also heard complaints about…
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 20:00

The next generation

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While few family-owned companies survive past the first or second generation, Schantz Organ Co. Inc. is laying out plans for the fifth generation to take control. President Victor Schantz is the fourth generation family member running the 134-year-old, Orrville-based business that builds pipe organs for churches. And after his father, Bruce Victor Schantz, died in January 2007, Schantz reorganized and expanded the company’s board of directors to better represent various family groups and began the succession planning process for the company’s fifth generation. In succession planning, Schantz says that first you must consider all possible options for the future, ranging…
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 20:00

Cyber marketing

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Your company’s e-mail marketing campaign might look successful — well branded, pleasing to the eye and filled with useful content. But is it successful in converting subscribers to customers? While there are countless bells and whistles you can add to your e-mail marketing campaign to make it look polished and high tech, what matters most at the end of the day is if the e-mail gets opened, read and converted, according to Brad Kleinman, an e-marketing consultant and instructor at Corporate College. “There are three basic steps an e-mail campaign needs to follow if it is going to be successful,”…
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 20:00

Setting an example

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When things get busy at Vestige Ltd., Damon Hacker picks up some of the extra work. The company’s president and CEO says doing so is more effective than scrambling at the first sign of an upturn and hiring the first warm bodies you find, only to lay off those same employees three months later, Hacker says. So at Vestige, everyone pitches in a little extra until the signs of an upturn are verified as an actual boom, which gives management more time to find a new team member who fits the culture. The strategy has worked for the $12 million…
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 20:00

The motivator

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Judi Sheppard Missett grew up as a dancer, earned a theater degree from Northwestern University and went on to work in theater. By contrast, her mother was an accountant and used to tell her that she’d never be a businessperson because she didn’t have a head for figures, but her mom was wrong. Sheppard Missett eventually founded Jazzercise Inc. and still serves as CEO of the dance fitness company. “I ended up having a head for the body kind and the numbers kind,” she says. Part of what has made her successful is her energy, passion and enthusiasm for all…
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 20:00

Inspiring minds

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National City is honored to join Smart Business in presenting Cleveland’s sixth annual panel discussion of the issues affecting women in business today. Participating in forums, like Perspectives: Women Who Excel, that bring businesswomen together to learn from and inspire each other is a hallmark of our corporatewide commitment to support the growth of companies that are owned and managed by women. We are proud of our track record. More than 300 National City Women’s Business Advocates in Cleveland and across our nine-state footprint are actively engaged in helping women entrepreneurs and executives build businesses. Their advocacy is one reason…
Thursday, 27 March 2008 20:00

Direct assault

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When Patrick Lencioni was a child, he watched his father unhappily trudge off to work each day and, over time, became fascinated with job misery. “I came to the frightening realization that people spend so much of their time at work, yet so many of them were unfilled and frustrated in their jobs,” he says. “As I got older, I came to another realization — that job misery was having a devastating impact on individuals and on society at large.” Because of this, Lencioni, the author of six best-selling books, penned his latest work, “The Three Signs of a Miserable…