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Thursday, 31 October 2002 09:34

Benefitting education

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This month, Cleveland voters go to the polls to decide whether to retain the current form of mayoral control over the Cleveland Municipal School District. Despite the outcome on Nov. 5, mayoral control has been -- and should continue to be -- an effective system that benefits our children's education and the district's long-term ability to succeed. It's a system that's been gaining ground nationwide. Residents are beginning to recognize that, rather than relying on a board of professional politicians, many of whom are elected based on popularity, not ability, mayoral appointments offer the opportunity to ensure a more businesslike…
Thursday, 31 October 2002 09:29

Sticking it out

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The day before his vice president would lose to George W. Bush in the most controversial election in U.S. history, President Bill Clinton signed the Needlestick Prevention Act, one of the many bills he signed on the way out of office. The bipartisan measure outlined several steps to help nurses, doctors and health care workers avoid the 600,000 to 800,000 annual needlestick injuries which pass bloodborne pathogens like the HIV virus and hepatitis B and C to its victims. One way to avoid these injuries, the bill says, is to enforce the use of safety syringes, which have retractable or…
Monday, 30 September 2002 07:13

Here comes HIPAA

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Starting later this month, the first in a string of new standards and regulations affecting the health care industry and those doing business with it takes effect. Businesses have until Oct. 16 to either begin submitting enrollments, eligibility and claims processing electronically or file for a one-year extension. The National Standards for Electronic Transaction rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) applies to everything from the largest insurance company and hospital system to the one-person doctor's office. The goal is to simplify and standardize forms sent electronically, says Laura Koballa, senior manager at Deloitte and Touche and…
Friday, 27 September 2002 12:25

Undeterred defiance

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Nearly five years ago, a successful fabric and craft retailer embarked upon an aggressive and ambitious West Coast acquisition touted by its CEO as necessary to expand the company's reach and solidify its position as a national industry force. But integrating acquisitions into existing operations often requires more time than initial forecasts outline. Such is the case of Hudson-based Jo-Ann Stores and its CEO Alan Rosskamm. In February 1998, with his company's stock price trading in the $20-plus per share range, Rosskamm engineered the acquisition of California-based House of Fabrics. That provided the West Coast locations his then-Fabri-Centers of America…
Friday, 27 September 2002 12:13

Smart money

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Launching a new enterprise is not a game or an intellectual exercise. Its sole purpose is financial success, for your investors and for yourself. The value proposition for early stage investment firms is simple. Their mandate is to raise money, invest those funds, then harvest that investment for the benefit of their investors. They ignore any cool or sexy aspects of a deal. Successful individual investors follow the same course. When you deal with potential early stage investors, expect them to do a cursory due diligence to ensure you are what and who you represent yourself to be, and that…
Friday, 30 August 2002 07:01

Narrowing the choices

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  The word "impact" elicits images of hard-hitting, immediate effects. Positively impacting a nonprofit organization was the impetus behind my pursuit of board placement through Business Volunteers Unlimited. On the surface, the goal seemed easy. But when I sat down with BVU's Shawn Nemeth to pore over a two-foot stack of folders filled with information about potential organizations, the task proved daunting. Among the dozen or so nonprofits of varied size, purpose and need that Nemeth presented me with were small neighborhood groups I'd never heard of and high-profile organizations with household names. I was surprised to see the higher…
Friday, 30 August 2002 06:46

Defying seduction

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  A prime prospect calls to say he's interested in doing business and wants to meet ASAP. What do you do? Most people would offer this prospect anything and everything to land the deal. That's a mistake. When a marquee prospect calls, it's likely because of your growing reputation for quality work. It's imperative to sell your services and products just as you would to any other client. Consider these steps: * Never arbitrarily compromise your price to close a deal. If anybody can pay full fare, it's a large client. Besides, large clients often require extra service and more…
Friday, 30 August 2002 06:09

Crystal clear

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  You can't avoid them; they're everywhere. Liquid crystal displays, commonly known as LCDs, are those flat digital screens in computers, cell phones, PDAs, watches and microwave ovens. LCDs are lighter and thinner than traditional displays with cathode ray tubes, but they've always been manufactured out of glass, which increases the expense and the weight. And glass shatters; plastic doesn't. Gary Freeman noticed this problem when working for Zoll Medical, a manufacturer of pacemakers and defibrillators. Freeman thought if the LCD displays on ambulance defibrillators could be converted to plastic, it would greatly increase the durability of the devices. Meanwhile,…
Friday, 30 August 2002 05:55

Rubber soul

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  There's really nothing good about a huge landfill of used tires. Besides being unattractive, pollutant-leeching brownfield sites, landfills have been accused of being the breeding grounds for West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes. The majority of discarded tires in the United States become a fuel expedient, which means burning rubber with coal as an accelerant that pollutes the air. But recently, some innovative companies have found new and less toxic ways to use old tires. GroundScape Technologies is one of those. The business uses discarded tires to create landscaping and safety substances. It was the innovative idea of the four original…
Friday, 30 August 2002 05:43

Ad-vantage

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It's Thursday at 3 p.m., and a major wireless company decides to drop its monthly rate to $19. The company wants to splash this price break in Saturday newspapers across the country, but the deadline for ads is 5 p.m. -- in two hours. What used to be a logistical nightmare for advertisers is now no problem, says Philip Alexander, president of Web-based marketing firm BrandMuscle Inc. "We can build and send 400 ads in about an hour and a half," Alexander says. "That used to take four days." Alexander's brainchild, BrandMuscle's Web application, allows clients to design print, billboard,…
Wednesday, 31 July 2002 11:13

Moniker modification

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Business is always evolving. Markets change, people change and businesses change. What starts as a small operation in a garage can grow to Fortune 500 status. But what happens when a business outgrows its name? You can change the name, although it's not an easy process, as Jonathon Husni can attest. Husni is president of Acendex, an IT network and consulting firm in Cleveland which was formerly known as PC Guru. "When I first started the company in my basement, PC Guru was the right name for it," says Husni. "It was catchy at the time. PCs were kind of…
Wednesday, 31 July 2002 11:08

Ups and downs

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(Ups) to Philip Odeen. The TRW chairman fended off Northrop Grumman's hostile takeover attempts long enough to force the California-based aerospace company to significantly up the ante for TRW shareholders. While still controversial, it turned out to be a good deal. The down side is that the move costs Cleveland its largest Fortune 500 firm. (Downs) to Larry Dolan. He should have been upfront with the fans when he bought the team. If he couldn't afford to run a competitive baseball team under MLB's existing economic conditions, he shouldn't have anted up the purchase price. Now the question is whether…
Wednesday, 31 July 2002 10:59

Owners, manage thyselves

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Last month I discussed the three roles you must play as a business owner and how to tie what you accomplish to what you earn. As noble as this sounds, it's hard enough just to tie daily activities to your goals. This month I'll discuss how to best spend your time to make the greatest impact. As owner, leader and product No. 1, what can you do to make progress toward your goals every day? Regardless of whether you are running a service, manufacturing, retail or distribution business, you can distill all of your day-to-day efforts into three areas: selling,…
Wednesday, 31 July 2002 10:52

Evaluating health plans

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Many employers make health plan decisions based on a combination of factors -- the cost of premiums, benefits and the size of the network. They also make decisions based on quality, although quality is intangible and sometimes difficult to evaluate. For help, employers can turn to standards for evaluation such as those provided by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of health care throughout the country. NCQA evaluates health care quality through such things as accreditation, which involves a rigorous on-site review of a health plan's clinical and administrative processes,…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:09

Training

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Training Say "goodbye" to traditional tech. By Diana McGonigal Computer-based training and the days of in-house corporate training centers will soon go the way of eight-tracks and leisure suits. This while the need increases for specialized technology-based training not only to remain competitive in a global marketplace but to retain skilled employees. Lyle Barton, associate dean of Kent State University's learning-technology services division, heads a group called Kent Infoworks. The group was commissioned by the university to do custom business training on a contractual basis. Kent Infoworks is based, along with the cutting-edge technology of the distance-learning program, in Moulton…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:09

Stop terrorizing my grandmother

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Stop terrorizing my grandmother For all its flaws, Social Security can be fixed without jacking up taxes, slashing benefits or turning the whole thing into one big game of Retirement Roulette. Commentary by William Hoffman Her voice, never very strong and lately not too steady either, now took on an edge of panic. I had never seen her cry, but was certain I'd know it over the phone, though it's nothing a grandson ever wants to hear. "I just don't know what I'm going to do," she said, "if they really start fooling with Social Security." I didn't know how…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:09

Searching for Stakhanovites

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Searching for Stakhanovites All the best employees are already working, either for you or your competitors. Reconsider not just what new recruits can do for you, but what you can do for them. By WILLIAM HOFFMAN To hear the recruitment specialists tell it, good help has never been so hard to find. "This has been the most interesting labor market that I have seen in all my years," says Cathleen Faerber, principal at The Wellesley Group Inc., a Chicago-area executive search firm. She tries to lure executives away from their current jobs into positions her clients seek to fill. "People…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:09

Recruiting

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Recruiting Move over, specialists. By Fred Steiner If it seems that recruiting people with high-profile executive talent or technical skills is hard now, wait a few years. A wide range of factors are squeezing the supply of top talent and there is no end to it in sight. Yet there are still opportunities. The near-wholesale jettisoning of older workers in many industries presents a boon for small businesses willing to think creatively. Older workers and executives offer an affordable alternative to trying to outbid larger competitors for younger workers. "Small businesses in particular need to revisit the older worker, the…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:09

Payroll

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Payroll There's always more paperwork. By Fred Steiner The Internet and other communications technologies will have the same effect on the rock-steady practice of payroll as they're having on such areas as banking and retail sales. Your employees-think of them as customers-will do more of the detail work regarding their own paychecks. And if you play your cards right, they'll thank you for it. A disproportionate amount of time in the human-resources department is spent on routine and repetitive paperwork such as changing addresses and revising W-4 forms. Onsite automation-intranets and telephone touchpad menus-are being used by the largest companies…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:09

Management Letter

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Creating the balance needed for change By Tony Lang The only constant in running a business is change. While we can't control change itself, we can control our responses to it. One way to be ready for whatever might come your way is to make sure your business has the necessary balance to ride out the waves of uncertainty. But what is this balance, and how do you achieve it? In my experience, there are two critical components for achieving a balanced business: the art and the science. The art of business is the ability to perceive the big picture,…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:09

Is the price right?

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Is the price right? Not for a lot of companies squeezed by suppliers and workers on one side, and by customers on the other. But there are some things you can do. By William Hoffman Two decades ago, businesses cringed at the idea of passing double-digit annual price increases along to their customers. Today, with inflation flat and intense pressure to keep prices nearly so, it may be hard for some companies to decide which is worse: bumping up prices-or failing to do so. "Businesses have been having problems passing along price increases for the last two or three years,"…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:09

Fit for life

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Fit for life Working a fitness plan into your schedule is easier than you think. By Todd Shryock You're working 60-hour weeks, your cash flow is a constant problem and one of your biggest customers is on the verge of bankruptcy. Who has time to exercise? "For the small-business owner, the climate they are in puts them under so much stress it is very important that they exercise," advises Larry Roofner, director of wellness for the Orlando Regional Healthcare System. "Many executives use the martini to relieve stress, but exercise is a better way. Some experts say 80 percent of…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:09

Benefits

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Benefits Managed care is here to stay, but costs are going up By Teresa Dixon Murray "I don't think the trend of managed care is going to stop. It's going to be even more restrictive," says Barry Hofer, president of Business Benefits in Akron, whose client load includes 2,000 group plans covering 7,000 employees. "PPOs are almost outdated. Now it's Point of Service alone or combined with an HMO." Medical networks will consolidate, with smaller folding into larger. But they won't disappear. "The only way to control what's going on is through the networks," Hofer says. "Whoever has the largest…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:08

Winner: Young Entrepreneurs

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Launched in 1994 as only the second Internet service provider in the Cleveland area, ExchangeNet grew on the strength of then-14-year-old Michael's technical knowledge and his older brother's business acumen. Dan, now 29, staked his younger brother $5,000 to begin the business. In addition to overseeing the company while Michael attends college at John Carroll University, Dan works full time as a securities broker. Dan's wife, Kate, meanwhile, runs the day-to-day operation. "We're still growing," Dan says, by as much as about 50 percent a year, "but we're not growing exponentially like we did the first two years." On the…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:08

Winner: Services

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Louis Perry Sr. doubled his company's revenues last year, but he'll tell you he had no choice. Perry, founder and president of Louis Perry & Associates, created his firm in 1985 after 30 years of designing and overseeing construction of rubber and plastics facilities worldwide for Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. With his core business of designing and managing the construction of new tire, rubber and plastics manufacturing plants, Perry enjoyed 12 years of steady growth and an international client base. By last year, however, Perry says he had to broaden his services. "Clients keep saying, 'Jeez, you're doing the…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:08

Winner: Distribution

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Joseph Dreher has come a long way from the days in 1964 when he and his partner peddled typewriter ribbons and carbon paper door-to-door to local businessmen. Considering demand these days for carbon paper and typewriter ribbon, he had little choice. Dreher's company, Cleveland-based DREHER Business Products, is one of the Midwest's largest corporate vendors and service providers for computer equipment and accessories. His organization staffs 180 employees at five regional locations. Dreher credits his company's success in the business-supply industry to adapting to the ever-changing marketplace. "You have to constantly be in touch with the industry," he says. "You…
Monday, 22 July 2002 10:08

The XYZs of trade-show success

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While other company execs were busy grumbling over the small turnout at a business-to-business trade show last year, Jimmy Gartner was happily chatting away with prospects at his company's crowded booth. "We stuck out like a sore thumb at that show," he recalls. Gartner, president of Mentor-based XYZ Corp., isn't the least bit coy about the strategies he employs to achieve success at trade shows. In fact, he considers himself something of a carnival barker when it comes to bringing prospects through the door and into XYZ's booth. "What makes an event an event is that people believe it's a…