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Tuesday, 29 January 2008 19:00

Starting from scratch

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In the early part of the decade, the senior leaders at Novelis Corp. weren’t occupied with brainstorming creative approaches to manufacturing in their aluminum rolled products and aluminum can recycling business. Instead, they were focused on environmental, health and safety initiatives, and continuous improvement based on lean Six Sigma. Despite this focus on other initiatives, one of their other focal points — value-based management — gave them a reason to spend more time brainstorming creativity in their manufacturing processes. Without any best practices in place, Novelis had the opportunity to address and correct the problems that prevented innovation. Among the…
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 19:00

About our sponsors

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Key Bank has worked as the primary financial provider for manufacturing businesses for nearly a century, establishing strong client relationships with advisers who understand the industry, where manufacturers have been and where they are going. At Key, you’ll work with an adviser who is acutely aware of your market, your competition, your industry’s history and the latest trends. Drawing on a team of product specialists, your adviser will leverage deep expertise and resources, resulting in value-added ideas, insights and solutions in a wide range of fields, including commercial financing, treasury management services, equipment lease financing, foreign exchange, international trade services,…
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 19:00

Accountability factor

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James P. Carulas learned the hard way that sometimes the toughest decision you have to make is not to hire someone. When Meaden & Moore, a 180-employee accounting firm, had major growth opportunities staring it in the face, Carulas, the president and CEO, was tempted go on a hiring spree. However, he says it’s better not to hire anyone than to hire someone who isn’t a good fit for the company. Smart Business spoke with Carulas about how to grow smartly and how to make sure you and your employees are on the same page. Q. What are the keys…
Thursday, 03 January 2008 19:00

In My Own Words: Bill Onion

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Five years ago, I was describing to an employee a cool, new project we’d just completed. But as I got more animated, I noticed that she was just staring at me, and I was bothered that she wasn’t as excited as I was. “It’s not that it’s not cool, Bill,” she said. “But I didn’t even know we did that here.” That was one of my more frightening moments as an entrepreneur. How could it be that our own employees didn’t know what we did as a company? How did that happen? That conversation became the impetus for us at…
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:00

Buying in to branding

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It takes a village to build a brand. So believe the leaders of Skoda Minotti, so much so that when they set about formulating a new branding strategy last year, they wanted to get everyone at the 140-employee business and financial consulting firm involved. Greg Skoda, the firm’s co-founder and chairman, says that your employees are the face of your company, and if they can’t project a clear picture of what your company stands for and wants to accomplish, then your customers will be left in the dark — and that can spell trouble. “If a chain is only as…
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:00

Multistate taxes: Trouble ahead?

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As companies grow and find increased opportunities to conduct business in other states, they should be well informed as to their tax liability in each state. States are becoming more aggressive and sophisticated in collecting taxes. These growing enforcement efforts are part of a strategy that maximizes tax revenue and addresses declining revenue bases and increased government spending. “You could be doing business in a state and not even realize that you owe tax. You can accumulate years and years of liability,” says Thomas M. Zaino, JD, CPA, chair of the Multistate Tax Practice Group and member in charge of…
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:00

Location, location, location

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What do Beaverton, Ore., Omaha, Neb., Redmond, Wash., and Wichita, Kan., have in common with Cleveland and Akron? None are considered major markets and all are home to some of the largest household names in the world — respectively, Nike, Berkshire Hathaway, Microsoft, Koch Industries and LeBron James. Location, apparently, hasn’t hurt any of their success, and it shouldn’t hinder James’ ability to cash in on his abilities or business acumen either. No matter how you try to argue against it, success in the corporate world is not dictated by your company’s address but rather by such factors as the…
Sunday, 25 November 2007 19:00

Get on it

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It takes just a little effort to make a big difference in preparing your company to close its financial books for the year, says Scott Gregory. The certified CPA suggests simply keeping a folder that is labeled for end-of-year financial paperwork on the desk of a financial staff member. “As different issues and things come up during the year, drop a copy of that in that folder,” Gregory says. “That way, they don’t have to go back and stop and try to think of things that might have impacted the year-end. They’ll have them right there.” Gregory, president of Bottom…
Sunday, 25 November 2007 19:00

Surprise, surprise

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Taxes are a necessary evil for business owners. One problem with business taxes, though, is that tax laws keep changing at the federal, state and local levels. Worse, there are constantly new tax proposals that legislative bodies debate, but that won’t ever become law or are enacted with significant modifications. With tax laws in a state of flux, it makes doing business more difficult. Often, business owners do not have the time or the resources to keep track of tax law changes, real or rumored, and they do not implement tax-planning strategies on an ongoing basis. These oversights can hurt…
Sunday, 25 November 2007 19:00

Now it's personal

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When it comes time for companies to choose the recipient of their philanthropic efforts, they often pick a nonprofit organization at random. For Breehl, Traynor & Zehe, the Cleveland-based business decided to give back to a cause that had special meaning. For the past seven years, the brand development and marketing communications firm has been actively involved in the Ohio Chapter of the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMDF.) This organization promotes research and education for the diagnosis, treatment and cure of mitochondrial disorders, and it also provides support to affected individuals and their families. Mitochondrial diseases are hereditary disorders that…
Sunday, 25 November 2007 19:00

Luxury and charity

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Fred Baker, president of Fred Baker Porsche Audi, made a name for himself as a race car driver, an automotive technician and a car dealer — but also as a humanitarian. Baker loves being associated with what he considers the greatest cars in the world, but he also enjoys giving back to the community. The Western Reserve Historical Society has benefited greatly from Baker’s philanthropy. Over the past two years, Fred Baker Porsche Audi has helped raise more than $430,000 for the WRHS. One of the major fund-raising events is the Barrington Napa Classic, hosted by the Barrington Golf Club…
Friday, 26 October 2007 20:00

Money in the bank

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Many business owners turn to their banker only when they need a loan, but that can be a mistake, says Jamie Brotherton, senior vice president of Ohio Commerce Bank. Instead of viewing bankers simply as a source of money, business owners should develop relationships with them, viewing them as valuable partners who can help grow their business. “They need to work together and communicate as to what that business’s financial objectives are and how they can meet those needs going forward,” she says. “(Bankers) need to be part of it so they can understand what the business is trying to…
Friday, 26 October 2007 20:00

Cultivating leadership

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Old-school philosophy suggests that leaders are simply born that way. While there are natural-born leaders, leadership skills are not necessarily innate and must be honed, says Anne Hach, executive director of training and development at Corporate College of Cleveland. “Even ‘born leaders’ need to learn specific skills to become successful,” says Hach, adding that there’s a leader in all of us. “However, what can never be taught is the desire to uncover that leader. That really is the fundamental first step to becoming a leader.” Smart Business spoke with Hach about the elements of good leadership and the specific skills…
Friday, 26 October 2007 20:00

Mending SOX

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On July 30, 2002, President Bush signed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), which he labeled the most far-reaching reform of American business since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration. The purpose of SOX is clear: It is designed to improve companies’ standards of corporate transparency and accountability and raise the quality of corporate governance and financial reporting. It charges a company’s officers and directors with the responsibility for doing so. SOX imposes tougher regulatory and enforcement powers upon the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and, ultimately, on the 12,000 publicly traded companies affected by its requirements. Not surprisingly, it has generated some controversy.…
Tuesday, 25 September 2007 20:00

Know your customers

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As Marian DeVoe looked at her financials at Chardon Rubber Co., she knew there was a problem. “In the rubber industry, we’ve been in a very challenging environment, both cost-wise and with pressure from our customers over the last several years,” says DeVoe, president and chief operating officer of the company that designs and manufactures engineered rubber and plastic component systems. “We got so focused on just growing the top line that we lost track of where we were really getting value from that growth.” DeVoe discovered that about 15 percent of the company’s customers were contributing 90 percent of…
Tuesday, 25 September 2007 20:00

Brand identity

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Your brand is one of the most valuable assets of your company. When correctly built and promoted, it can add immense value to your business and allow you to command a higher price for your products or services while at the same time keeping your customers loyal. Companies of any size can benefit from a strong brand, and more and more small businesses are starting to focus on building, maintaining and growing their brands. Smart Business spoke with Jonathan Ebenstein, vice president of marketing at Skoda Minotti, to learn more about the value of a strong brand, how to develop…
Sunday, 26 August 2007 20:00

More than sales

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Your organization needs a sales team that does more than make presentations to prospective clients. It may have to build the kind of long-term relationships that engender trust in your company, which, in turn, ensures steady business. Believe it or not, the ability to develop long-lasting business relationships with clients can be taught. “This is more than just how you sell,” says Vera Jasper-Lewis, executive director of sales and marketing at Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College. “It’s how you develop a relationship with your clients. It’s the touchy-feely part of selling.” For instance, your company may have…
Sunday, 26 August 2007 20:00

The value of a valuation

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Owners of privately held companies do not always know how much their company is worth. At times, they are too engrossed in overseeing their every day business operations to pursue a professional analysis to determine the value of their assets, which can be used to establish a fair market value for investors or buyers. An occasional business valuation can be a helpful tool for owners’ strategic planning purposes. Ideally, business owners should not wait too long to decide what to do with their company or determine how significant the company’s value is in their financial portfolio. Smart Business spoke with…
Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

Constructing a plan

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If a company wants to expand, it needs to first make sure it has the staff to handle the accompanying increased workload, says Bob Strickland. “We never, ever pursue work and then look to expand our staff to take advantage of that increased business opportunity,” says Strickland, president of Project and Construction Services Inc., which recently doubled the size of its Cleveland headquarters from 6,200 square feet to more than 12,000 square feet. The company currently has about 40 employees. A smart company always has an adequate number of trained and experienced employees in place to service any opportunities that…
Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

Test potential employees

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You can learn plenty about a job candidate’s potential from an interview, but you can’t learn everything. With studies showing that a bad hire can cost a company 150 percent of the terminated employee’s annual salary, psychological testing to ensure that a potential employee truly is a good fit is becoming a common human resources tactic. One company, PsyMax Solutions LLC, administers the Work Style Assessment test, an online assessment tool that can be used to help fuel the employee selection and development processes. PsyMax CEO Wayne Nemeroff, who has a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology, says that these…
Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

Home cookin’

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Back in 1998, Greg Flynn was doing business in Washington state when he had the opportunity to buy a group of eight Applebee’s locations. While he didn’t know anything about running the restaurants, he thought Applebee’s had good long-term viability, so he made the purchase on blind faith that he could trust the guys who were already running the restaurants. Nearly a decade later, that culture of trusting employees and not trying to control every decision himself fuels growth in his Applebee’s franchise group, Apple American Group LLC. “You can’t be an effective leader in a large and diverse organization…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Going to the ’Net

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Advertising real estate via a book just wasn’t cutting it for Real Living Realty One anymore, so the company expanded its reach by launching RealtyOne.com The Magazine. The magazine is available on newsstands and provides links to Realty One’s Web site for more information. “You use the Net for its advantage, which is way more information and pictures,” says Barbara Ann Reynolds, president of Real Living Realty One. “You use print also as an adjunct and support to the Internet.” Reynolds says the company started investigating the benefits of using the Internet in the late 1990s. Although the use of…
Thursday, 31 May 2007 20:00

Growing pains

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Problems associated with growth are good problems for a business to have, but for Greg Dubecky and Corporate Screening Services Inc., that doesn’t mean those problems are any less critical. After CSS grew its team by nearly 50 percent from 2004 to 2005 and then again by a third the following year, Dubecky, the company’s general manager, realized that even the more trivial difficulties required attention. “There were a myriad of problems as simple as, ‘What are we going to do about parking?’ Dubecky says. “These were things you would never think about. ‘Where are we going to put everybody?…
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

Deal maker

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It was closing day, and it seemed promising. Charles W. Walton was supposed to wrap up a big acquisition, but this next leg of Wastequip Inc.’s growth journey would be delayed. “I can’t sell,” the seller told Walton that day, despite having already signed the definitive agreement. “I know you own my company, but I can’t work there. My grandfather started it, and I just can’t sell it.” “Well, I don’t want the company then, so put the agreement in your desk drawer,” Walton told the man. “When you’re ready, call me.” Two years later, the man finally called, and…
Wednesday, 25 April 2007 20:00

Passing the torch

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After buying out his partners in 1982 and leading RBB Systems Inc. through two decades of ups and downs, Dick Beery decided it was time to pass the company torch. Though he has maintained his ownership and his title of founder, in 2001, he handed off the operational leadership responsibilities of RBB to Bruce Hendrick, a member of RBB’s management team who was brought on board a year earlier. As Beery saw both himself and his company getting older, the thought of what would happen to RBB and its employees after him began to weigh on his mind. “As I…
Wednesday, 25 April 2007 20:00

Recycled vision

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As Steve Demetriou sat and listened during a board meeting at Commonwealth Industries Inc., he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Hey, we know how to recycle aluminum, and there’s this emerging market in recycling chicken manure into fertilizer,” someone in the room explained. “Maybe we should give it a go?”   At this time a few years ago, the industrial economy, like many others, had declined after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, so the company was distressed and contemplating how to make ends meet during the downturn. As Demetriou listened to the debate about the merits of entering the…
Monday, 26 March 2007 20:00

Denise Reading

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Denise Reading has reinvented her leadership style as she evolved into her position as president of Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College that offers employers continual training for their employees. She’s constantly looking at her skill set and challenging herself to find strong people in her weak areas, and that re-examination process has allowed her to give her 65 employees the support and tools they need to succeed. Smart Business spoke with Reading about how she has to eat the lima beans even though she doesn’t like them. Strive to learn. You have to be willing to reinvent…