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If your company has a benefit plan such as a 401(k) with 100 or more eligible participants, each year you are required to have an audit performed on that plan that is filed with the IRS and the Department of Labor (DOL). Failing to do so could mean major penalties for your business, says Danielle B. Gisondo, CPA, a principal with Skoda Minotti.“What often happens is that a company gets to that 100 employee mark and it is not aware of the requirement,” says Gisondo. “A few weeks before the deadline, the company that is preparing the required Form 5500…
When purchasing property, there are a lot of details to track. Failing to hire an experienced real estate broker could cost you both time and money if just one of those details is overlooked, says Eliot Kijewski, a sales associate at CRESCO Real Estate. “By following a purchase agreement abstract, the buyer can help ensure that proper due diligence is done and that there aren’t any surprises after the deal has closed,” says Kijewski. Smart Business spoke with Kijewski about how an experienced real estate broker can help you avoid costly mistakes. What is the first step when considering purchasing…
Strategic and financial buyers have different characteristics when purchasing a business, and as a seller, dealing with each has its advantages and disadvantages. The current deal environment is very robust, and financial buyers have raised a lot of private equity dollars that couldn’t be fully deployed when the economic downturn hit. That money is still out there and now financial buyers are under pressure to put it to work. In addition, strategic buyers are sitting on record amounts of investable cash, much of which is earmarked for acquisitions, says Kevin W. Bader, an associate at MelCap Partners, LLC. “It’s a…
You’ve been hearing for months that the recession is over, but like many other business owners you might be adopting a wait and see attitude. The only fact that seems undisputable is that the economy’s next move is not easy to predict.In an uncertain environment, one solution for employers is to hire temporary employees for any downturns — or upturns — they face.“Businesses used to have a steady flow of business throughout the year and they were able to budget for what their staffing needs would be and hire full-time,” says Scott Adamonis, director of sales for Everstaff. “Nowadays, business…
Volatility in the marketplace can have a significant impact on investors’ accounts and psychology.But while many people think of volatility as a negative, there is an upside, says John Micklitsch, CFA, director of wealth management at Ancora Advisors LLC.“For those who are still accumulating and investing in the market on a regular basis, volatility to the downside can create buying opportunities and the ability to buy shares on weakness,” says Micklitsch. “However, if you’re at a point in your life where you’re done adding to your account, volatility can be very frustrating and emotionally challenging.”Smart Business spoke with Micklitsch about…
Event planning is no longer just “party planning.” Event planning has become a powerful tool for business success by helping to increase sales through live events and saving time and money when planning or organizing company events. Planning an event takes a great deal of time, energy, skill and creativity to effectively execute.“Mid-sized businesses often do not realize the value of having someone actually trained in event planning; they often allocate the job to an administrative professional who has a full-time job and little time to pay attention to the vast details it takes to successfully implement an event,” says…
U.S. patent law is going through some changes with the implementation of the America Invents Act (AIA), and these changes could affect businesses.“The biggest change is that in the past, a patent would be awarded to the first to invent and under the AIA, it is now the first to file,” says Tim Nauman, a partner with Fay Sharpe LLP.The transition represents a big change in U.S. patent culture because the first to invent system in the U.S. was viewed by many as beneficial to entrepreneurs. If you were the first to invent, you could fight for the patent regardless…
“We live in Greater Cleveland, we work in Greater Cleveland, now we are working on making Cleveland even greater!” was the beginning of a recent marketing campaign for Metro Lexus. Well, after having the privilege of participating on the panel of judges for this year’s WCCS Awards, you can rest assured that the business community around Northeast Ohio is striving daily to raise the bar and establish new standards of what it means to be “world-class.”Before I share with you what emerged for me as the common thread that runs through the fabric of the DNA of each of these…
It’s not an easy task to become a new associate in Moen’s consumer service department. Every new hire spends 500 hours in intense classroom training to learn about Moen products, processes, warranties, and much more. This dedication to customer service detail is exactly what President David Lingafelter and Moen Inc., strive for.Moen Inc. is the No. 1 faucet brand in North America, manufacturing kitchen and bath faucets, showerheads, accessories, bath safety products and kitchen sinks for residential and commercial applications. The company puts an increased focus on consumer service training so new hires understand the importance of a satisfied customer…
Within a mile radius of the Marriott Cleveland East, there are at least 10 other lodging establishments where a guest can stay. But those 10 aren’t Marriott hotels.“We know that if we don’t provide world-class customer service, our guests can choose another lower-priced alternative,” says General Manager Kenny Didier. “By following our mission statement and providing genuine care to our guests, they will keep coming back.”Marriott’s mission statement is about serving the associates, the customer, and the community. Marriott's fundamental beliefs are enduring and are key to its continued success.“We make it our mission and goal to give both business…
Barbara Linville was very frustrated when after three months, nothing had been done to repair her mother’s portable oxygen concentrator, which she had taken in July 2010 to a medical repair company in Apex, N.C. Her mother had been using a loaner unit in the meantime, but she was still upset that none of her phone calls were being returned.She finally decided to call the manufacturer, Invacare Corp., and talked to Kandee Koleski, a customer service supervisor. Koleski called the repair shop and after much persistence, had the shop send the unit to Invacare where it received priority attention for…
Industrial Heat Sources faced a situation where it appeared as through one of its customers was in the wrong. While welding together samples of one of its products using a tool bought from Industrial Heat, there was an explosive short.Since the tool was two months out of warranty, IHS had a seemingly legitimate reason to not solve the problem. But it would have left this customer in a bad spot and forever tainted their relationship going forward.So IHS did what companies do when they truly value their customers and want to do whatever they can to help them do their…
It can happen in an instant. An employee is sitting at their desk and a call comes in from a frustrated customer. This customer begins talking about a very complicated and difficult situation that needs to be resolved right away.Suddenly, this employee is faced with trying to process the words of an emotional customer on the fly in hopes of developing a solution that will meet their needs. If the employee isn’t trained the right way, the company’s got a big problem.Fortunately for CEO William Brooks and his team at Hyatt Legal Plans, the training of customer service representatives is…
At Firestone Country Club, members pay the premium of a private club membership in lieu of golfing and dining in public facilities because they value personalized customer service. The club, led by General Manager Mark Gore, strives to maintain the utmost in customer service, because if it doesn’t, people won’t perceive the value of their membership.For this reason, Firestone Country Club regularly evaluates how it can improve its members’ experience of the club. The organization’s leaders believe that continuous improvement will keep the club at the forefront of customer service.Firestone Country Club regards every person that walks through its doors,…
When Findaway World was founded, the leaders wanted employees to feel empowered to act on their own to solve customer problems. So they created a list of core values that they hoped would serve as the foundation for the business.This philosophy has served the company well and is a big reason behind the success of the world’s first self-playing audiobook.Co-founder and CEO Mitch Kroll wanted a company that creates products that are simple for customers to use and one that has systems in place that make it simple to resolve problems.Employees are asked to take responsibility and give respect, to…
When a policyholder calls Family Heritage Life Insurance Co. about a claim, the company’s employees know that the person on the phone is probably going through a tough time. As a provider of insurance policies for catastrophic illness, accidents and fatalities, the company deals with customers every day who are overcoming personal obstacles, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a serious accident or relative that’s been diagnosed with cancer. Sifting through policy questions and concerns is one more added stress. Now more than ever is the chance to make that customer’s life easier.Family Heritage’s founder, chairman and CEO,…
Establishing job expectations and aligning training to those expectations is crucial to retaining newly hired personnel and enabling them to transition into being a valued member of the business.Twenty-two percent of staff turnover occurs in the first 45 days of employment and the cost of losing an employee in the first year is estimated to be at least three times that of the person’s salary. However, new employees who go through a structured training program were 58 percent more likely to still be with the organization after three years, according to a study by The Wynhurst Group.“When new employees receive…
When a company celebrates its 250-year anniversary that means you have done something right by way of customer service. In 2011, Faber-Castell USA Inc. celebrated 250 years.Faber-Castell USA, a maker of creative and writing products, manufactures many quality items, but it has been its customer service philosophy that has allowed for the company’s longevity and success. CEO Jamie Gallagher knows that people are important to the company, and he often will personally reach out to customers to let them know their voice is being heard.Gallagher and his team at Faber-Castell know how important the customer service experience is to a…
When an out-of-state chef wanted a specific bowl for his culinary presentation, he was dismayed to find that no event rental company in the area could provide it on short notice. Other companies weren’t willing to be put out just to supply a single bowl and no promise of subsequent business. But after Event Source received a call requesting the item from its inventory, the company wasn’t so quick to dismiss the opportunity.Even though the single item order wasn’t exactly a fit for the business and the request was six hours outside its service area. But by keeping the door…
Customer services is at the very heart of EmployeeScreenIQ’s business. The company is an industry leading global pre-employment screening firm providing clients with the information they need to make proper hiring decisions through the use of background checks.With client assistance and protection at the core of their business, EmployeeScreeIQ’s team of managers and associates — led by President and COO Jason Morris — have had a great deal of practice in providing great customer service.The company makes every effort to create an enjoyable user experience for customers, and their efforts have been well-received by clients, who have provided positive feedback…
Abby Stancik, a financial adviser, was happy with the results she was getting from her workouts at Overload Fitness. But there was another aspect with which she was even more impressed.“I really do like that the trainers take your workout as seriously as you take it,” she says. “There is not a lot of chit chat. And beyond that, though, all the staff is very knowledgeable in nutrition.”She was very interesting in the connection between nutrition and fitness.“That is as important to me because you can work out like crazy, but if you are putting junk in your body, you’re…
Many companies offer their employees bundled 401(k) products from mutual fund or insurance companies, but if the organization is unhappy with any component of the plan, it is forced to physically move the plan’s assets and start over by selling them and then repurchasing them elsewhere because the individual plan components cannot be “unbundled.”However, an open architecture plan allows employers to change any of the silos of the plan — the registered investment adviser, the third-party administrator, the record keeper — without having to move the plan itself, says Peter Mooney, CEO of Source Companies LLC, a subsidiary of The…
Historically, the Council of Smaller Enterprises — COSE — has made its name as a health insurance provider for small businesses, relying on discounted rates to provide value to its members.But over the last decade, as the health insurance market has become more commoditized, COSE has differentiated itself by providing excellent health insurance-related customer service.COSE, which is led by its president and executive director, Steve Millard, has a member service department consisting of 10 professionals based in the organization’s call center. When members have a question or problem, they call on COSE rather than calling the insurance company directly. COSE…
Collection Auto Group has made a name for itself throughout the region by sweating the details when it comes to customer service. Starting with President Bernie Moreno and continuing to every employee in Collection’s organization, there is a universal emphasis on doing the little things right.Collection’s staff goes the extra mile by picking up and dropping off vehicles that are scheduled for service, saving customers the drive to the dealer. Vehicles are washed before they are returned to the customer, and no interaction ends until every question the customer has is sufficiently answered.At Collection Auto Group, services are not mere…
When PartsSource Inc. launched its ePartsFinder online locator for hospital equipment parts in 2006, the company’s leaders were confident it would resolve any issues regarding customer response time. After all, it enabled customers to receive replies to requests for parts pricing and availability in 30 to 60 minutes, dramatically faster than any other company hospital equipment parts provider.But over the last couple of years the company realized that sites like Amazon.com and Orbitz were beating it by providing instantaneous pricing and availability for parts. Therefore, being the fastest company in its market niche was no longer good enough. PartsSource’s president…
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” The quote from Hippocrates summarizes the position of Joshua Trentine, president of Overload Fitness, on supplements, which includes the use of vitamins, minerals, herbs/botanicals, powders, shakes, bars, and sports performance supplementation.Before looking any closer at the legitimate health benefits to supplementation, it’s important to remember that a supplement is something added to complete a thing, make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen a whole.“In all likelihood, a supplement is not going to provide any additional benefit, enhancement or protective effect if there is not a deficiency present,” Trentine…
At Post-Up Stand Inc. every department is focused on customer service and the ways to make it better. Alon Weiner, vice president and co-founder of Post-Up Stand Inc., a manufacturer of tradeshow displays, banners and stands, is helping provide customers with service they come away satisfied with and a product that keeps them coming back time and time again.The employees of Post-Up Stand take pride in their work and realize the importance of delivering a quality product to customers. No matter what an employee’s position is within the company, they are considered part of the customer service team. From the…