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Monday, 27 February 2006 09:51

Managing the complaint factory

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One of the toughest business lessons to learn is that you can’t please everybody all the time. And while that may be simple advice, it’s easier said than done. Whether you’re a hard-line executive who makes tough calls without advice and expects people to line up behind you or a CEO who gathers suggestions from every member of the team before setting direction or policy, without fail, someone is going to gripe about the decisions you make. Managing the complaint factory is never easy. Its production line is usually manned by the same people each time, and it’s the one…
Monday, 30 January 2006 11:20

Honorable Mentions

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FOMO PRODUCTS INC.Fomo Products Inc. was facing a challenge — either eliminate one facet of its business or improve that facet to make it marketable across several types of industries. The company chose the first option, and the result is MAGNUM, a unique polyurethane foam spray gun. When applying polyurethane foam, chemicals from two tanks are pressurized and pushed through hoses. The chemicals meet in a dispensing gun and form the foam, which is then sprayed. Before MAGNUM, this system could only be used by companies able to work in a temperature-controlled environment, as the chemicals have to remain at…
Monday, 30 January 2006 10:08

Roller coaster ride

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The management at PartsSource knew the company was on the fast track to growth and that needed to make changes to accommodate that growth, but the process was filled with ups and downs. The company quickly outgrew its first office, which was located adjacent to its warehouse, so it moved office operations to a larger site while maintaining its current warehouse. However, the arrangement presented logistical challenges, and it began looking for a new site almost immediately. PartsSource, a multi-manufacturer alternative parts supplier, found another location. But as it was gearing up for the move, the property purchase fell through…
Monday, 30 January 2006 10:02

Leaning up

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Bettcher Amherst wanted to “lean” up, so it implemented a strategic plan to improve efficiency and eliminate costs and wastes. The company implemented a 5-S workplace organization, value stream mapping, SMED and other tools, all of which have contributed to successes in its plants in Brook Park and in Reynosa, Mexico. At its Reynosa plant, it reduced the set-up time on one press by 75 percent a week, freeing up nearly 500 hours of production capacity a year. The company’s production improvements don’t stop there, though — it also installed a plasma welder, which has increased production from 150 pieces…
Monday, 30 January 2006 09:49

Lighting the way

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Mood lighting helps to set the tone and create an atmosphere for all kinds of restaurants and businesses. But a new survey by The Creative Group, a California-based staffing service, shows that the office environment can play a big part in your employees’ creativity, not just in customer perception. Things such as office layout, dcor and lighting may greatly affect innovation. “Physical surroundings can heavily influence an employee’s ability to concentrate and perform well,” says Tracey Fuller, executive director of The Creative Group. “Companies can encourage productivity and innovation by providing staff members with comfortable, attractive areas for team meetings,…
Monday, 30 January 2006 09:28

Protecting your assets

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During his 13 years in the financial services business, Steve Landy, senior financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial in Hartville, has seen investors make plenty of mistakes when it comes to investing their money. His office manages more than $120 million in client assets, and he frequently meets investors who need more than a little guidance in the wealth management department. Landy says he frequently encounters the same mistakes, and offers these tips to avoid these behaviors and minimize your investment risks. Having no investment strategy. Investors should have a financial plan or asset allocation from the beginning that takes into…
Monday, 30 January 2006 09:13

Tax changes

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Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 199, known as the domestic manufacturing deduction, was added to the American Job Creation Act of 2004 by Congress to promote manufacturing and employment in the United States. Beginning in 2005, qualified business taxpayers will be able to claim a permanent deduction based on their domestic production activities. Reducing the overall effective tax rate may improve the competitive position of U.S. business taxpayers in the global market place. The deduction may be of particular benefit to Northeast Ohio labor-intensive businesses that have experienced severe competition from overseas manufacturers that have a lower overall cost structure.…
Tuesday, 27 December 2005 10:25

At a glance

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Lofts of Avalon StationWhat: A 200-unit luxury loft residential community Where: Shaker Heights Cost: $60 million Developer: Heartland Developers LLC Details: Large windows, heated parking garage, one-third acre private park, fitness room, energy-efficient construction Steelyard CommonsWhat: A 125-acre, suburban-style, multitenant shopping center Where: West Tremont near Interstates 71 and 90 and the Jennings Freeway Cost: $90 million Developer: First Interstate Properties Ltd. Details: 1 million square feet of retailers, including four big-box stores. Will eventually feature 50 retailers and eight to 10 restaurants. Also includes a multicounty hiking and biking trail, a steel heritage exhibit building, a playground and a…
Tuesday, 27 December 2005 10:08

Leading by example

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Pioneering businesses agree: It is now possible to consider employee health as a performance driver, not a cost burden. All it takes is a primary shift in focus that starts at the top. “It’s important that top management demonstrate full commitment and be shining examples — in words and deeds — when starting to implement a company-wide health management initiative,” says Debra Dailey, director of the Health and Productivity Institute at Tri-C’s Corporate College. Dailey says the organizational process needed to facilitate the change is not unlike Lean Six Sigma or other organizational excellence initiatives. “We help clients build a…
Tuesday, 27 December 2005 09:53

Acquired success

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You’ve spent years investing in your business — financially, physically and emotionally — and you’ve turned it into a successful, highly profitable enterprise. But now, someone wants to buy it. How do you decide if being acquired by another corporation is best for you, your business and your employees? Fred Bidwell, president and CEO of Akron-based Malone Advertising, faced a tough decision last year when J. Walter Thompson (JWT), the largest advertising firm in the country, approached him about acquiring Malone. “It’s important for any business, any entrepreneur who’s thinking about selling his or her company, to understand that the…
Tuesday, 27 December 2005 06:08

Cap-tivating a market

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Abe Miller’s company, Grafitti Inc., is one of the last baseball cap manufacturers in the United States, but that doesn’t stop him from competing. “There are a lot of orders where people are looking for 144 to 1,000 caps and they need them in two to three weeks, and they’re not going to get that offshore,” says Miller. Since starting the company in 1984, Miller and his wife, Barbara, have grown Graffiti Inc. to 65 employees and $5 million in annual revenue. Smart Business spoke with Abe Miller about how he adopted a more efficient manufacturing process to grow the…
Tuesday, 29 November 2005 06:33

Balancing act

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Many executives have great plans for acquiring wealth but no strategy for managing it once they have it. And that can be dangerous, because wealth management is a complicated and risky area where fortunes can be lost with one impetuous, wrong decision. Dennis Barba, managing partner of the Oxford Group of Raymond James & Associates in Cleveland, knows that the financial planning process is neither precise nor does it provide any guarantees. But there are ways to reduce the risks you take with your hard-earned money. Use strategy, not emotion. “We typically buy or sell because of an emotional reaction,”…
Tuesday, 29 November 2005 04:28

Ready or not...

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Although the popular image of litigation focuses on courtrooms and dramatic cross-examination, the truth is that most civil litigation is resolved before any trial. Therefore, deposition testimony is generally the only testimony in the proceeding. Cases can be won or lost based on how a witness answers a single question at deposition. Here are some tips for the small business owner facing a deposition. Be preparedBusiness owners often inform their lawyers that they will not waste time preparing for an impending deposition. They usually base their reluctance on two grounds: they feel they can prepare without their lawyer’s help, and…
Monday, 28 November 2005 12:29

Combining efforts

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Collaborative efforts and unique management techniques converge to form the multifunctional Idea Center at Playhouse Square. Art J. Falco and Jerrold F. Wareham worked together to form the Idea Center, which meets the needs of both Playhouse Square Foundation, of which Falco has been president and CEO for 14 years, and WVIZ/PBS and 90.3 ideastream, of which Wareham has been president and CEO for 12 years. Playhouse Square Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that restored and now operates Playhouse Square Center, the nation’s second-largest performing arts center. The foundation strives to provide high-quality performing arts and entertainment programs and quality…
Monday, 28 November 2005 12:21

Philanthropy awards

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Home Instead Senior CareIn 2004, Home Instead Senior Care implemented a community service program called “Be A Santa To A Senior,” designed to provide holiday gifts and companionship to the region’s lonely and indigent senior citizens. The Chesterland-based organization partners with companies including Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Life Quest Medical Supply to place holiday trees in their stores. Home Instead then identifies seniors and hangs ornaments on the trees with their first names and items they need, such as clothes, laundry soap, blankets and food gift certificates. People then purchase the items and place them under the trees, and Home…
Monday, 28 November 2005 12:10

Pharmacists of tomorrow

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CVS /Pharmacy is working with the youth of today to help create the pharmacists of tomorrow through its Pharmacies of Promise program. CVS’ local division of Government Programs partners with the Workforce Investment Board, Cleveland Initiative for Education and Cuyahoga Community College to introduce students to career opportunities in pharmacy by illustrating that achieving in math and science can lead to job opportunities. The program works with students in underserved communities to ensure a diverse work force of qualified pharmacists and pharmacy technologists for the future. Beginning in elementary school, CVS pharmacists visit classrooms to talk about the importance of…
Monday, 28 November 2005 12:04

Partnering with others

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Main Street Gourmet is cooking up breast cancer awareness and strengthening the community through its philanthropic efforts. In 1992, Main Street Gourmet started “Muffins for Mammograms,” a program to raise money to provide mammograms for women unable to afford them. The company hosts the week-long effort every year during October. It works with Akron General Medical Center to bake, package and distribute muffins, cookies, brownies and breast cancer awareness literature to members of the business community. In recent years, Main Street Gourmet has also worked with Massillon Community Hospital and Lodi Hospital. The efforts have raised more than $100,000 since…
Monday, 28 November 2005 11:55

Protecting the world

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The people at STERIS Corp. have a simple vision — to see the world free from infection and contamination. And since its founding in 1987 with a single product, it has pursued that goal by becoming a world-leading biotechnology powerhouse that touches the lives of millions of people around the globe every day as its products and services ensure the safety of prescription drugs, the cleanliness of health care and consumer products, and the protection of hospitals and other environments from harmful contaminants. But it’s not just products the company is using to grow — corporate social responsibility is a…
Tuesday, 22 November 2005 06:29

Local leader

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Law firm Squires, Sanders & Dempsey LLP may have offices in San Francisco, Brussels and Shanghai, but managing partner Fred Nance ensures that it doesn’t forget its hometown of Cleveland. With 31 offices around the world, Squires, Sanders & Dempsey is the fifth most global U.S.-based law firm, employing about 800 lawyers. But it keeps ties to its Cleveland roots by maintaining headquarters here and taking on local cases and issues, from managing the affairs of LeBron James to saving U.S. Department of Defense jobs in the Greater Cleveland area. “Cleveland is a wonderfully diverse community,” Fred Nance, managing partner…
Monday, 03 October 2005 06:13

Sticker shock

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Jim Peters recently became partner in Smithville-based Ameriseal of Ohio Inc. after studying the company for two years. “I didn’t buy it until I knew it would work,” he says of his company, which provides long-term pavement surfaces. “I’m not a risk-taker.” Peters says people buy a company based on what they think they can get out of it on an annual return or what they can bring to the table “to make one and one equal four.” “If you can take money, put it into a business, draw out 10 (percent) or 20 percent annually, and you can clean…
Sunday, 02 October 2005 20:00

One size doesn't fit all

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Every manufacturing customer has unique needs when learning how to use specialized pieces of equipment. That’s why Rockwell Automation, headquartered in Milwaukee with a division in Brecksville, created the concept of Tailored Training in 1994 and moved the concept online in 2002. “Sometimes people don’t need to go to a two-day or a four-day class to learn everything about all of our products,” says Kevin Ives, business manager for Training Services at Rockwell Automation. “But what they need to learn are some key aspects of the products that are specific to what they do inside their facilities.” His department took…
Friday, 30 September 2005 13:12

Perpetual motion

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When Don Washkewicz took over as CEO of Parker Hannifin Corp. in 2001, there was no pending crisis, no immediate emergency and no reason to really change much of anything.Despite a stalling economy, the massive multibillion dollar manufacturer of motion control technologies and systems was doing fine. There wasn't an urgent need for change."I probably could have sat up here as CEO and not changed a whole lot because Parker Hannifin had a pretty good track record going back a number of years," says Washkewicz. "A lot of what we had been doing was working very well. There was really…
Friday, 30 September 2005 10:56


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A new restaurant opens near an office building and — hoping to get business from those offices — drops off coupons to be added to employees’ payroll envelopes. Sales Building Systems facilitates that kind of relationship on a grand scale. With a $1-million-plus proprietary software program, the company geocodes databases so national restaurant and retail chains can determine employers closest to their stores. The company then builds relationships with those employers and asks permission to distribute incentives to employees. Sales Building Systems works with more than 900,000 employers that provide access to more than 64 million employees. While other print…
Thursday, 29 September 2005 13:10

Focus on making money

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Whether you are running your own company or looking to invest in a promising start-up, be certain you keep your focus on when, how and how much money the company can make and what the expected returns will be to you. My colleagues and I were engaged by the CEO of a middle-market business with more than 50 employees. The company had great product and personnel but was unprofitable. We were asked to help straighten out the situation and help the client gain access to the capital it needed to succeed. We immediately saw that the client had a remarkable…
Thursday, 29 September 2005 09:34

Getting the best

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Is your team as good as you would like it to be? Are you confident that your employees can help your team achieve its objectives? Can they take your company to the next level? The ultimate long-term success of every company depends on having the right people. And, to reach the heights that the truly great companies reach, you can’t just settle for good people — you need great people. It’s about attitudeAre you thinking that you could never get the truly great employees to come to your company? If you are, then you need to change your thinking. It…
Tuesday, 06 September 2005 07:26

Wheeling and dealing

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In the past, when customers bought a vehicle, the wheels were an afterthought. But with the popularity of the Discovery Channel’s “American Chopper” and the wide variety of car, truck and motorcycle accessories available, today’s vehicle manufacturers are appealing to customers’ desire for customization. Tim Myers, general manager of forged specialty wheels at Alcoa Wheel Products in Cleveland, compares this trend to getting dressed up. “If somebody goes out and buys a nice suit, then they want to have nice shoes or a nice tie. That’s what a wheel is on a vehicle,” he says. “That’s what we pay a…
Thursday, 01 September 2005 06:38

Can they trust you?

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Do your employees trust you? According to a survey conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, 60 percent of employees don’t trust their bosses. The biggest problem? Lack of communication. It’s hard to understand how a middle-market organization can function effectively without trust in its leadership. Trust is a basic component of any company’s performance, and how effective can a leader be if he or she is not trusted? Just as important, how can a leader who isn’t trusted create a culture that promotes ethical behavior? In the middle-market world, there are both extremes — organizations where trust and ethics form…