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Tuesday, 24 May 2005 06:15

Voice box

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Voice over Internet Protocol is all the rage in telecom circles. A survey by In-Stat shows that 30 percent of businesses are interested in adopting some form of Internet protocol-based telephony this year. But VoIP isn't for everybody. This technology, which uses an IP network to route internal, and in some cases, external calls, offers advantages for some companies. The danger is in rushing to embrace a new technology simply because it lies on the cutting edge of communications development. As with any technology, a business needs to first assess what it has and what it needs before upgrading its…
Sunday, 22 May 2005 20:00

No department is an island

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It may be the new management trend to form teams of employees from different department to work on big projects, but employees naturally work together across departments on their own, says Jim Cardwell, chairman and CEO of Cardwell Group, a Westlake-based software development and management consulting firm. "Almost any project you can think of is cross-functional," he says. "Every department needs help from some other department to get almost any project of significance done." But if CEOs are going to enhance that process and implement cross-functional teams, they must have five essential pieces in place before starting. * Prioritization. When…
Monday, 23 May 2005 12:32

Refocusing the lens

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I'm convinced America has lost its collective mind. Gas prices continue to skyrocket with wild abandon. Inflation is creeping up despite the Fed's best efforts to keep it in check. We're playing nation-building in the Middle East while the North Koreans mock us, boast of having nukes and lob missiles into the Sea of Japan. Further, one party in Congress screams about "activist judges" who, coincidentally, were mostly appointed by presidents within their own party. And the other party threatens to slow down all congressional business rather than develop its own ideas and then sitting down at the negotiating table.…
Friday, 22 April 2005 11:43

Movers & Shakers

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Ohio State Sen. Eric D. Fingerhut joined the Business Administration faculty at Baldwin-Wallace College as director of economic development education and entrepreneurship. Fingerhut has served three terms as an Ohio state senator, in 1991-92 and from 1999 to the present. He was the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee and worked on committees related to health, aging, environment, insurance, tax policy, economic development and education. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1993 and served on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee. A graduate…
Friday, 22 April 2005 11:38

On the rise

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Over the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the price of natural gas. Wellhead prices nationally more than tripled, going from $1.70 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) in October 1994 to $5.45 per mcf in October 2004. Industrial and commercial prices in Ohio nearly doubled, increasing from $5.63 to more than $9 per mcf during the same period. What's driving this upsurge in natural gas prices? That depends on who you ask. The primary suspect is an increased tightness in the gas market. U.S. production over the last decade has remained relatively flat, while decline rates for…
Friday, 22 April 2005 11:31

Strategic planning -- facilitating the process

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Most likely, your company has a strategic plan with a road map for reaching goals through tactical plans and clearly marked objectives. But how often do you consider where training and development initiatives fit into the big picture? For example, if one of your company's overall goals is to improve customer service, how can you assure that training resources - budgets and people -- are on track to measurably and effectively improve how customers interface with your business? No matter what the training budget, the investment should be targeted to the overall goals of the organization. Here are some tips…
Friday, 22 April 2005 11:24

Policy police

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To protect your business from sexual harassment suits, make sure you not only have a policy but that employees know what it is and that your managers are enforcing it. "If you have a policy and you don't enforce it or disseminate it, and employees are either not aware or ignorant of it, then it demonstrates you have a culture where you do the minimum," says Joel Makee, partner with Taft, Stettinius & Hollister. "You have to show employees have access to it. If you have maintenance guys working in the plant who don't have computers, but your policy is…
Friday, 22 April 2005 11:17

Down on the farm

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There's a tale that circulates around Eureka! Ranch about Doug Hall cutting the tie off of an executive from one of the nation's largest beer producers. Hall is the founder and CEO of Eureka! Ranch, an 80-acre "farm" that grows ideas and harvests innovation for some of the America's top companies. Whether the story is fact or fiction, it represents Hall well -- he's a nonconformist who is unimpressed with the price of a tie or the size of an organization. Hall's inventiveness and rebellious nature have driven Eureka! Ranch's success over the past 18 years. And while you may…
Tuesday, 22 March 2005 06:23

Training day

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When Bill Ryan took over as president and CEO of the Cleveland-based Center for Health Affairs about three years ago, one of his goals was to make the organization one of the best places in Northeast Ohio to work. Implementing a training program was identified as one way to achieve this goal, but the organization didn't start out with a big budget or even big plans. "It was honestly more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of thing," says Tammy Reckman, vice president of internal affairs at the center. "We wanted to be able to offer some type of training, but it…
Tuesday, 22 March 2005 06:16

Is build-to-suit right for you?

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Quality office space is becoming scarce in some market areas, and many businesses are looking into the possibility of a build-to-suit facility. Build-to-suit is defined as a building specifically designed to meet the design, location and physical specifications of one major user or business. The main thing to keep in mind with build-to-suit is that it should not be looked at as a short-term solution for space. The business must make a long-term financial commitment to the property. Build-to-suits are usually time-consuming projects, sometimes taking several years to complete a facility or office space. Build-to-suit is still considered more expensive…
Tuesday, 22 March 2005 06:02

Part-time benefits

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Most business leaders have read about the growing problem of the uninsured in America but probably didn't think they could help resolve it -- let alone realized they have a stake in resolving it. But every business is bearing the burden of uninsured Americans and can help ease the problem by taking some simple, practical steps. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were about 45 million uninsured Americans in 2003, a number that continues to grow. Uninsured individuals commonly forego necessary medical care; nearly 40 percent postpone care due to the cost, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In…
Tuesday, 22 March 2005 05:50

Modern needs

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C.TRAC information solutions had been leasing space for 33 years, including a dozen or so at its previous facility. But the company, which specializes in direct mail and document management, had evolved beyond the capabilities of the space it was in. "Our business mix had changed," says Mike Adams, the company's president. "The layout of the building was not very efficient. Additionally, we did not have a dock door. Customers had to pay to do business with us because they had to have everything scheduled for inside delivery with trucks that had lift gates." With double-digit growth over the last…
Tuesday, 22 March 2005 05:42

When companies collide

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Mergers are not easy, but Jeffrey Neuman, president and director of Barnes Wendling CPAs in Cleveland, has become a pro at them over the last few years. Barnes Wendling merged with Mitchell Zunich and Co. in 2001 to create a Sheffield Village office; merged with Jenkins Hakes & Associates in 2004, creating a Norwalk office; and most recently, merged with Sandusky-based Koby & Co. Inc. CPAs in January. "Bringing quality people and quality clients across really helped jumpstart the growth of this firm," he says. "Accounting firms advise clients how to do these things but they often don't tend to…
Friday, 25 February 2005 09:06

Appreciative leadership

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In their passion for sustainability, business leaders are discovering one of the defining success factors is the ability to create an appreciative culture. In an appreciative business culture, leaders make it easy for people to perform at their best by helping them focus on their strengths and passions. Appreciative leaders know that people do their best work when their work is inspired by constant attention to their successes and strengths, what's working and why. Not everyone gets it. According to the Gallup Organization, only about 20 percent of 1.7 million employees surveyed globally say their organizations make good use of…
Thursday, 24 February 2005 10:50

Final tips for tax preparation

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As April 15th approaches, consider these strategies and tips to simplify your tax filing and help you avoid surprises. IRA contributions Individuals have until April 15 to make contributions to their traditional Individual Retirement Accounts and still receive a deduction for the previous tax year. The maximum combined contribution to either a traditional or Roth IRA is $3,000 for 2004. If you are over the age of 50, you can take advantage of the catch-up contribution and increase your maximum amount to $3,500. Income limitations and employer-sponsored retirement plans may limit or nullify your deduction. Extensions Many people misunderstand the…
Thursday, 24 February 2005 10:35

What is Bluetooth?

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Bluetooth is a technology designed to allow collaboration between differing industries such as the computing, mobile phone and automotive markets. It was created and promoted by Agere, Ericcson, Intel, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Toshiba and hundreds of associate and adopter companies. Current capabilities of Bluetooth products include: * Exchanging files, business cards and calendar appointments with groups of other Bluetooth users * Transferring and synchronizing files between devices * Connecting to localized content services in public areas * Functioning as remote controls, keys, tickets and e-cash wallets * Eliminating the need for wired connections between electronic products and accessories…
Thursday, 24 February 2005 10:30

Tips from a F.I.S.H.erman

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More than a year after the Focused Initiatives for making Success Happen (F.I.S.H.) initiative roll-out, Faber-Castell CEO Jamie Gallagher shares his advice on companywide strategic planning. * Expect initial resistance. When the program was introduced at Faber-Castell, many employees said they couldn't afford the time to do the additional work involved. Gallagher said management's response was, "You can't afford not to do this." Once employees got involved in the process, many found it to be the most enjoyable part of their jobs. * Be diligent and committed. "To launch this and then abandon it, it would be better if you…
Thursday, 24 February 2005 10:23

Fostering growth

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When Ray Leach took the reins at JumpStart Inc. just more than a year ago, he knew the challenges the job posed. As a serial entrepreneur, he understood the barriers to entry any new start-up faces and the hurdles a CEO must clear. "I've been an entrepreneur who started a company at a very young age with very little capital and I grew a small business and ultimately, it got much larger," says Leach. "We're looking for people who have ideas or talent in technology or intellectual property that can end up creating $30 (million) to $50 million companies." Leach…
Wednesday, 23 February 2005 11:38

Congrats, grad

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With Spring heading quickly toward summer, graduation season will be fast upon us. For many a modern family that means four-wheeled gifts for the happy grad. Fortunately, there is a surprisingly large pool of cars that would make affordable – and fun – gifts for a deserving child. Picking a favorite from this crowd was no easy task. But for some reason, we keep coming back to the Mini Cooper, brilliantly resurrected by BMW Group in March 2002. It’s hard to look at a Mini and not smile. Sit behind the wheel and put it through its paces and that…
Tuesday, 25 January 2005 11:19

Culture spot

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Your next company gathering doesn't have to be in your offices or the boring hotel conference room down the street. Northeast Ohio has plenty of interesting cultural spots that can also host your next event, whether it's the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Pro Football Hall of Fame or the National Inventors Hall of Fame, to name a few. "You do want to match the theme of the evening with the off-site location," says Lise Fitzpatrick, senior meeting and event manager for Conferon. "Sometimes you get ideas for a theme from the site itself,…
Tuesday, 25 January 2005 11:12

Theoretical realities

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It is always reassuring when the results of a study verify theories you've been espousing for years. Recently, the international consulting firm Hewitt Associates studied "people practices" in what it refers to as DDGs -- companies that achieve double-digit growth. Here are some of the results of that study. * Culture. There has always been discussion about company culture and the role it plays in success. This study confirms the importance of culture and the components of that culture that make DDG companies stand out. Employee engagement at DDG companies was nearly 30 percent greater than at non-DDG companies. When…
Monday, 24 January 2005 11:27

Simple defense

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The number of viruses and hackers is on the rise. With so much sensitive data available through an Internet connection, your company may be vulnerable to attack. But with some simple vigilance, you can protect yourself from the vast majority of all attacks without ever putting your data at risk. First, never assume that a hacker wouldn't be interested in your system. "There is not generally a difference between big firms and small," says Tom Patterson, author of "Mapping Security." "First, you have to be noticed. If you are doing something more high-profile than your peers, then you are more…
Monday, 24 January 2005 11:19

Research papers

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Most companies are aware of the existence of research and development tax credits, but many make the mistake of thinking they can't take advantage of them. "There are a lot of small and medium-sized businesses that have the perception that the credit doesn't apply to them," says Joe Werstuik, manager of the tax department for Saltz, Shamis & Goldfarb. "Even if they are just a pass-through entity, they can still take advantage of the research credit. "They often think that it's only for companies with big labs like GM or the big pharmaceutical companies that are developing sophisticated drugs or…
Monday, 24 January 2005 11:06

Tackling a turnaround

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When Van Simpson, a longtime Manchester Tool Co. employee, was named executive vice president and general manager in July 2003, the company changed its focus and began to reduce costs, expedite new product development and identify new sales opportunities. Throughout this transformation of the Akron-based cutting tool manufacturer, management wanted to establish and maintain regular communication with employees. To do that, in addition to planning a companywide offsite meeting, management began posting information on a daily basis. "What (the employees) want to know is not some abstract number that may mean something to an accountant, but, 'What does that mean…
Monday, 24 January 2005 09:59

A grand addition

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Innovations come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they're tiny, adding noise-absorbing sound panels to improve working conditions; switching to fluorescent light bulbs to cut energy costs; even instituting a corporate philanthropy day to improve morale. But for The Garland Co. Inc., innovating was no small task. In fact, everything about The Healy, Garland's innovative production line, has been huge, from the new building it demanded to the results Garland has seen. In December 2000, The Garland Co. opened a brand-new production facility to house The Healy, a retrofitted, state-of-the-art production line named after plant manager Dan Healy. This line…
Monday, 24 January 2005 09:50

From our sponsors

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Key Bank Key has worked as the primary financial provider for manufacturing businesses for nearly a century, establishing strong client relationships with advisers who understand your industry, where you've been and where you 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 upon a team of product specialists, your adviser will leverage deep expertise and resources, resulting 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, interest…
Wednesday, 22 December 2004 06:33

Second life

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A 79-year-old Cleveland businessman had a universal life insurance policy with a face value of $2.5 million. In early 2004, he decided he no longer needed the policy for estate-planning purposes, but the surrender value was only $19,000. Instead, he sold the policy on the secondary life insurance market for $705,000. Similarly, a 67-year-old physician was diagnosed with cancer. He had a life insurance policy with a death benefit of $801,000, but he needed the money now so he could retire earlier than planned. The surrender value was only $78,000, but by selling the policy on the market, he received…