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Friday, 19 July 2002 05:24

Total makeover

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Paula Boykin is infuriated if she finds a burned-out light bulb in a restaurant. To understand her thinking, you need to look at it from her perspective -- the bulb is her nemesis. Boykin, president of Spectrum Design Services, makes her living turning restaurants from simply passable into models of perfection. Her most recent project was Giovanni's Ristorante, one of a select group of four-diamond restaurants in Ohio and one of a very few that offers true Tuscan cuisine. Since she completed the Giovanni makeover, business is up 60 percent, says owner Carl Quagliata. So what does it take to…
Friday, 19 July 2002 05:15

Role reversal

Written by
Every business owner wants to provide top-notch service, but have you unwittingly created a perception in your customers' minds that they're the ones working hard to do business with you? Here are five situations that could hurt your company and send your customers running to the competition. Reliability If you promise to return phone calls, does that happen or does the customer have to call your company back, often numerous times? When you market products and ensure availability, are they in stock? If not, do you promise to get the product in, then communicate with the customer? More times than…
Friday, 19 July 2002 05:05

Stepping aside

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It's the classic situation every founder eventually faces, oftentimes with trepidation: Giving up control of a company built on blood, sweat, tears, a couple of mortgages, maxed out credit lines and quite often, strained personal relationships. For Percy Bhathena, the difficult decision was made even more so because his transition came sooner than most -- a scant two-and-a-half years after he founded the company. In 1998, Bhathena founded WISP as a wireless solutions provider of software that decreases the amount the time it takes to load Web pages. Over the following two years, he scraped together enough seed capital to…
Thursday, 18 July 2002 13:14

Tying the right knot

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No marriage is made in heaven, and that includes the union of consultants and corporations. The typical annualized investment for contracted project work can be $200,000 to $400,000, says Marilou "Louie" Myrick, CEO of ProResource Inc. Founded in 1989 and headquartered in Cleveland, ProResource offers flexible management and project professionals on a short-term or long-term basis. Myrick's market space is expanding as the number of former corporate employees hitting the consulting trail increases, as does the number of corporations looking for help in project management. For consultants, the work offers a greater life and work balance, the challenge of problem-solving…
Thursday, 18 July 2002 13:09

Recipe for growth

Written by
Dixie Ann Jerdon had faith in herself in 1988 when she risked her job and reputation on a hunch. Jerdon saw an opportunity for improvement at Yours Truly Restaurants and offered her services as operations manager to help expand the then-four-restaurant chain. She was 26 years old but had the moxie to promise the four sibling owners cost savings equivalent to her salary for a chance to prove her theory was correct. "Because of my youth and inexperience, I really had no idea what I could do," admits Jerdon. Today, she is executive director of Shibley Management, which oversees six…
Thursday, 18 July 2002 13:05

An ounce of prevention

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He went by the nickname "Mucko." And last year, the day after Christmas, he roamed the offices of the Boston Internet strategy consulting firm where he worked, armed with a semiautomatic rifle, a shotgun and a semiautomatic handgun. Allegedly, he hunted down and shot to death seven of his co-workers, four women and three men. Employed by the firm at the time of the shootings, Mucko, whose real name is Michael McDermott, reportedly had a conflict with the firm's accounting department over garnished wages. Then, in January, just outside of Chicago, in Melrose Park, Ill., William D. Baker, a 66-year-old…
Thursday, 18 July 2002 12:52

Bang for your buck

Written by
When Greg Fife was an account representative for Ameritech, the company sent him and his fellow sales reps to Chicago or Detroit on week-long training seminars. The seminars were helpful, but they stole time Fife needed to be on the street making his sales quota and earning commissions. "Believe me, they didn't adjust our quotas for the month because we were only there three out of four weeks," Fife says. Two years later, he was a regional sales manager for a Canadian same-day freight company, which was not nearly the size of Ameritech and couldn't afford the $15,000 sales seminars.…
Thursday, 18 July 2002 12:46

Multiple viewpoints

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My wife and I attended the open dress rehearsal of "Gypsy" last month at the invitation of SCK Design. It was my first time at an open dress rehearsal, and it was a unique opportunity to get a glimpse of how the process of staging a musical works. During the performance, the technical director stopped and started scenes several times, fine-tuning the lighting, staging, sound and cues. It was just days before the musical was set to open, and obviously, they hadn't yet worked out all of the kinks. The performance made me realize just how important understanding the process…
Thursday, 18 July 2002 12:38

Qualifying events

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I was eating lunch with the panelists of this month's eBusiness Today series when the Fed suddenly decided to cut interest rates by a half-percentage point. At the time, we were discussing the difficult task of financing an e-business initiative and how the fluctuating economy wasn't helping business owners find the money they need. That's when Steve Lefkowitz, CFO of e-debt.com, caught a glimpse of the TV screen out of the corner of his eye and saw the breaking news about the Fed's decision. Our conversation came screeching to a halt. With our eyes glued to the video screen, we…
Friday, 28 June 2002 07:01

Risk to reward

Written by
In 1998, when Peter Nauert led an investor group to purchase Central Reserve Life, the company was in trouble and needed a lot of help. At the end of the year, its name was changed to the Ceres Group, and positive changes were on the way. By 2001, a public offering had netted $46.5 million, revenue had increased 24 percent to $713.1 million, stockholder equity had increased 52 percent to $156.6 million and 14,200 new sales agents had been recruited. "We had a lot of obstacles to overcome, starting with when we bought the company in 1998," Nauert says. "This…
Friday, 28 June 2002 06:56

Highway to success

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Chris Haas has been in the driver's seat of All Pro Freight Systems since its inception in 1990. He started the company in his basement, then had to decide whether to run the business operations or start selling. "Whichever way I chose, I was going to have to hire some people, so I decided to take on the sales role," says Haas, president and founder. "I hired someone to handle the operations. I thought of the old saying that you'll never get anyone to work as hard as yourself. With the operations end of the business, I knew I couldn't…
Friday, 28 June 2002 06:49

Safety first

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The demand was understandably immediate. After business owners called family and friends on Sept. 11, they called Peter Miragliotta to see what, if anything, he could do to make their buildings and their employees safe from terrorism. But the phones at Tenable Protective Services quieted just as quickly as they had started ringing. Victim benefit concerts, the overthrow of the Taliban, Enron and Chandra Levy distracted those who months ago frantically called Miragliotta for help. "The effects of 9-11 made us rethink for our clients all kinds of security situations," says CEO Miragliotta. "But Americans, as you know from elections,…
Friday, 28 June 2002 06:44

Ahead of the pack

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Once relegated to pockets of the Deep South and Indianapolis, auto racing, especially stock car racing, has swept the country. This year's NASCAR Daytona 500 race attracted a record 35 million television viewers, surpassing last year by more than 3 million. No one is happier about this than Bruce Hanusosky, president and CEO of High Tech Performance Trailers. Hanusosky's company designs and builds the semi tractor trailers that carry race cars from track to track. High Tech's competition, Featherlite Inc., a publicly traded corporation, controls 65 percent of the market, but posted an $8.8 million loss last year. High Tech…
Friday, 28 June 2002 06:28

Military intelligence

Written by
It's usually not considered unfortunate when demand spikes for a company's product. But for Jim Cole, CEO of NOSHOK, a manufacturer of pressure gauges including those on fire trucks and emergency vehicles, the demand after September was bittersweet. "Three-hundred trucks were lost in New York," says Cole, and there was a rush to replace these vehicles. "One of our customers, S &S, donated nine trucks, and we are very proud to be one of their suppliers," he says. The gravity of the situation was not lost on this CEO, who is a Vietnam vet and former member of an elite…
Friday, 28 June 2002 06:18

In retrospect

Written by
Joseph Gorman, chairman emeritus of TRW Inc., isn't happy with what's happening to the firm he led for years. In fact, he's downright uncomfortable with the situation in which Northrop Grumman is trying to force a hostile takeover of the aerospace and automotive giant. And, he says, it could have been avoided. "It wouldn't have happened if I'd still been chairman," Gorman told a group of more than 100 Northeast Ohio business leaders last month at The Entrepreneurship Institute's annual President's Forum. "The departure of the person who succeeded me (David Cote) is what caused the unfavorable proposal." Gorman, a…
Friday, 28 June 2002 06:13

Master of illusion

Written by
Bob Leon was bitten by the theatre bug when he was 15. He landed a job as an apprentice at a summer stock theatre, building and painting scenery during the day and running lighting boards and fly rails at night. Today, he owns Colortone Staging and Rentals, an audiovisual company with locations in Cleveland and Salt Lake City, more than 50 employees and more than $3 million in high-tech equipment. He staged the 2002 Winter Olympics and 2002 Para-Olympics in Salt Lake City and is booked for events well into 2005. But Leon is more comfortable rolling up his sleeves…
Friday, 28 June 2002 06:01

The big picture

Written by
Jeffrey Gale left a secure job in corporate America for the uncertainty of entrepreneurship because he believed he knew a better way to create financial plans, sell insurance and retain good employees. Gale was a vice president at MassMutual Insurance Co., a worldwide insurance provider with more than $200 billion in total assets, and managed 30 sales offices. But in 1996, he resigned and founded Gale Financial Group, an independent general agent of MassMutual. Today, Gale Financial is the fifth largest insurance and financial planning agency in the area, serving 43,000 clients. Gale Financial's growth came from ferreting out the…
Friday, 28 June 2002 05:54

Digital deliverables

Written by
While most employers offer some form of online access to health care benefits, initial efforts aren't connecting with employees, according to a workplace survey by CIGNA. In fact, 80 percent of employees say they're still not able to manage their benefits online. Most employers aren't keeping up when it comes to giving employees what they need to effectively manage health care benefits online. Employees want personalized information tailored to meet their individual health needs, not a one-size-fits-all Web page. Employers are missing an opportunity to increase employee satisfaction and save on administrative costs. According to the CIGNA survey and research…
Friday, 31 May 2002 12:13

Covering his bases

Written by
For Cleveland Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel, being in business means making product choices and contributing his name to those products, not being involved in the daily grind of running a company. "I don't run a business, I don't know anything about business. I have people for that," said Vizquel at the unveiling of "Omar! My life on and off the field," by Vizquel with Bob Dyer. Vizquel's ventures off the field include salsa, ice cream and a clothing line, as well as his paintings, done in a variety of textures. "Because the Indians have played so well, and because I'm…
Friday, 31 May 2002 12:03

Ups and downs

Written by
Ups to Royal Appliance. Its TeleZapper has been so successful that company president Michael Merriman has begun discussions with phone manufacturers to embed the TeleZapper into the next generation of telephones. Telemarketers, you've met your match! Downs to AOL/Time Warner. Stockholders grousing over the company's recent stock price woes have more reason to complain. AOL recently sent out another round of "Try it Today" CD-ROMs for AOL 7.0. Instead of packaging these in low-cost, high-volume paper bundling, these arrived in sturdier -- and more expensive -- tin containers. Can this really be the company's marketing and growth strategy? Ups to…
Friday, 31 May 2002 11:55

Back to the future

Written by
Technology. How quickly it went from savior of the economy to a four-letter word. But set aside the dot-com crash for a moment and instead look at the positive impact technology has had on business. By affecting the way we communicate, technological advancements have fundamentally changed the way business is done. E-mail has altered the speed with which we're able to disseminate information and stay in contact with colleagues, suppliers, customers and investors. And although technology hasn't shrunk the workday, it has significantly increased productivity. In SBN's first eBusiness guide in May 1998, we wrote that implementing technology for technology's…
Friday, 31 May 2002 11:41

Leadership success

Written by
Effective leaders understand their role. Recently, I met with the leader of a very successful family-owned business. His company employs more than 200 people in multiple locations, yet maintains a flat organizational structure. The owner has daily involvement in the business but is not hands-on or involved in the details. He is confident that under his leadership, people will act appropriately, serve customers' needs and protect the interest of the company. According to him, there is only one way to run a company successfully: "You need to pick the right people and then hold them to the right standards," he…
Friday, 31 May 2002 11:32

Supporting family values

Written by
Did you know your company can provide financial assistance on a tax-free basis to employees who are adopting a child? IRC Sec. 137 allows an employer to provide up to $5,000 per adopted child on an aggregate, not annual, basis (or $6,000 for an adopted child with special needs). You're also eligible to provide up to $10,000 for all adoptions effective with taxable years beginning after 2001 for qualified adoption expenses. Qualified adoption expenses are defined as reasonable and necessary adoption fees, court costs and legal fees which are directly related to the legal adoption of an eligible child. IRC…
Tuesday, 30 April 2002 06:55

Transformers

Written by
It's never easy admitting you're wrong; try admitting your business is wrong. But in business, it's not enough just to say that your business plan is outdated or the service you provide is becoming obsolete. You have to act, and quickly. Large corporations can't do this. They are simply too expansive and too bureaucratic to rapidly change. But, they have access to the funds to stay afloat while the business model is analyzed, a strategic plan is developed, and finally, the model is revamped. Smaller companies, however, have the luxury of starting again -- to reinvent -- if the entrepreneurs…
Tuesday, 30 April 2002 06:44

Stress mess

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Much has changed in the way we look at mental health. The tacit rule used to be that family problems and emotional problems were things employees were expected to deal with on their own. But a new awareness of the effects these problems have on productivity and health care costs has forced the issue to the forefront of employer-employee relations. "According to studies, businesses lose approximately 550 million working days a year, and 54 percent of those absences are stress-related," says Laura Darcy, executive business director at the Center for Families and Children (CFC). "The estimated costs attributed to workplace…
Tuesday, 30 April 2002 06:10

Network power

Written by
Ask business leaders the secret of their success and one consistent answer is networking. Sharing ideas among your peers is a powerful tool in your business arsenal, and one that should be practiced often. Each year, the Entrepreneurship Institute, a Columbus-based nonprofit dedicated to helping executive decision-makers become better leaders, hosts The President's Forum, a one-day seminar designed to provide direction, answers, contacts and information for presidents and CEOs. SBN has been a member of TEI's Cleveland Advisory Board for two years. This year's forum will be held June 4 at Executive Caterers at Landerhaven and features a kick-off address…
Tuesday, 30 April 2002 06:02

Boosting health literacy

Written by
Consumer participation is increasing and becoming part of our permanent health care landscape. The result is an unprecedented array of options that give employers and their employees greater flexibility and choice. Along with options, however, comes the need for consumers to be more informed about the choices they make. That's where health insurers and employers assume an important role. By crafting care programs that inform and fortify consumers as they navigate an increasingly complex health care system, consumers will utilize services appropriately and efficiently, keeping costs down for everyone. Demand management programs To accomplish this, many companies turn to demand…