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Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

The will to succeed

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A quick tour of innovation practices across some of this year's winners easily reveals inspiring themes in how innovation plays out as a critical factor in business growth and development. At construction industry service firm Fortney & Weigandt, promoting and providing incentives for innovation is a team effort. Profit sharing is leveraged to inspire boundless initiatives that are often more informally than formally organized. According to F&W's maverick innovator, Bob Fortney, "Our goal in life is to take each of the 200 parts of our business into continuous improvement on everything." Innovation is a welcome strategy in this firm, especially…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

The holistic approach

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Glenn Smith was relaxing in the back yard of friend's home one fall afternoon when he noticed a flock of Canada geese heading south for the winter. The birds were flying in the familiar wedge formation. After a little research, Smith learned the reason behind their actions. The bird in the lead serves as a wind foil for the others. When it tires, another bird takes its place and they are able to travel much further together than any single bird could alone. Borrowing on this cue from nature, the president and CEO named his new Chagrin Falls-based e-commerce/Web consulting…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Supporting innovation

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Every year, the Innovation in Business Conference is possible because of the dedication and support of its generous sponsors. They choose to be a part of the event because of their commitment to innovation, not only within the general business community, but within their respective industries and, of course, their companies. Here, then, in their own words, are their reasons for their involvement and their views on the importance of innovation. Anthem Joseph LaGuardia, vice president of Ohio sales for Anthem, encourages his employees to work innovatively, whether it be in service, sales, network marketing, management or distribution. In his…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

R&D 101

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What does a $420 million company do when it dominates the roofing supply market and can point to the Sydney Opera House and Washington Monument as examples of its products at work? If you're Beachwood-based Tremco Inc., you try to keep your competitors from knocking you down. "When you're at the top and everybody's shooting at you and poking at you and prodding you, trying to take a piece of this and a piece of that, you see life from a different window," says Jeffrey Korach, president of Tremco Inc. Part of his strategy to keep Tremco -- the leading…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

On the move

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In the more than a decade since she left Sohio (now BP Oil) in 1989 to found Thermagon Inc., Carol Latham has proven that innovation can, indeed, drive success. Working with just an idea -- a way to dissipate the debilitating heat generated by semiconductor devices in computers -- Latham has built a loyal customer base and developed a company that's in constant growth mode. Her company's client list includes such heavy hitters as Unisys, IBM, Motorola, Silicon Graphics, Dell, Intel, AMD and Cisco, and continues to grow. Latham recently moved her company from its West 25th Street digs to…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Moving on the Net

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It seems that working a dead-end job can pay off. When Michael Miller was in college, he worked as a mover at a Cleveland moving company. Twenty-five years later, he handles his own business, The Box Office, selling boxes and supplies at prices that are making competitors' jaws drop. Two years ago, Miller put his business online. Today, he serves customers in all 50 states and six foreign countries. When he opened The Box Office (www.the-box-office.com), he sold moving boxes and supplies such as tape, cord and packing materials. What he didn't do was offer moving services. "I wanted to…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Lighting up the Web

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Deciding on a name was the easy part. After Paul Vincent, the owner of Vincent Lighting Systems, nailed down the domain name, he faced the challenge of making his e-commerce plans a reality. He assembled a small team of employees to help work on the project and, less than two months later, www.virtualightstore.com was open for business and customer orders were being filled. "We simply felt this was another way in which customers could do business with us," explains Vincent. "In order to be successful, it had to be backed up by a strong bricks-and-mortar business." Vincent was able to…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Laying the foundation

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Eighty percent of a leader's time is spent communicating (approximately 2,000 hours per year). According to a study by the University of Minnesota, 60 percent of all mistakes are due to poor listening skills. These mistakes lead to countless hours spent repairing the damage of poor communications. To lead a company, department or team, strong communication skills are required. So how do we build ourselves to effective communicators? It's a three-step process. 1. Build a foundation of trust. 2. Design and build a bold and open floor plan. 3. Make sure there are no roofs. In this month's column, we'll…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

High-tech solutions

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For the past nine months Solon-based Keithley Instruments has been riding a tidal wave of investor confidence, strong revenue and industry buzz. But the rise to public prominence that some might classify as an overnight sensation was, in reality, more a result of some sure-footed planning. Soon after he took over the top office in 1993, President and CEO Joseph Keithley began steering the company his father founded in 1949 toward the high-growth telecommunications and semiconductor markets. That change meant a move away from the analog measuring devices synonymous with the company's past. In their place, Keithley instituted a focus…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Fiber optics

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Fiber optic technology had its first commercial application in the telecommunication industry in 1977; since then, it has grown to become the industry standard for terrestrial transmission of all telecommunication information, including telephones, computers, cable television and industrial instrumentation. Because of the technology's significant advantages, most experts agree that today, any communication system that does not use fiber optics is essentially obsolete. By far, fiber optic's greatest application to date has been within the telephone industry. Telephone companies began replacing their old copper wire systems with optical fiber lines early in the technology's history. Now, fiber optics comprise the backbone…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Dial up the basics

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For most of the 20th century, the telephone industry was dominated by one company, the Bell System, also known as AT&T. Designated as a natural monopoly by the federal government, Ma Bell enjoyed control over local and long distance telephone operations, as well as the manufacture and sale of all telephone-related equipment and technology. Naturally, the company thrived without even the threat of competition from outside sources. But the Golden Era ended for the Bell System in 1982, when the Department of Justice decided to break up the monopoly by filing an antitrust lawsuit against the telecommunications giant. The resulting…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Charitable themes

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When more than 700 Playhouse Square supporters jammed the lobby of the State Theater last year for the annual Jump Back Ball, more than $40,000 was raised to benefit the Playhouse Square Foundation. Don Pushinsky, owner of All The Rage Unlimited, developed and designed a Hollywood theme for the evening, complete with movie star look-a-likes and a glitzy celluloid feel. Many companies donate money to charity and the communities that support them, but far fewer make an effort to provide hands-on aid to benefit those who need it most. All The Rage, however, strives to help the nonprofit sector in…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Biznotes

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Gonzalez Funeral Home has opened, offering Hispanic families in Cuyahoga and Lorain counties care designed specifically for their culture. The home is located at 4334 Pearl Road. Gateway Title Agency received the EDI 2000 Innovation Award at a dinner given by Enterprise Development Inc. In a Bind Bookstore has opened at 13347 Madison Ave. in Lakewood. The Cleveland Neighborhood Development Corp. has awarded Thermagon Inc. the George S. Dively Award for Leadership in Neighborhood Development. Hilty Moore & Associates will direct a marketing strategy campaign for Graphic Laminating Inc. Lyons Insurance Group has announced the acquisition of the property and…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

When all else fails

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If you're like most business owners, the notion of financing extends only in three or four different directions -- cash flow, bank loans, investors/partners and public or private stock offerings. But what happens when your company taps out its credit line at the bank, the investors say make do with what you have and it's simply not feasible for your privately held, $20 million manufacturing operation to go public? Waiting on the sidelines of the funding game are numerous alternative-financing solutions. Which one to consider depends on your company's maturity level, its asset position and your existing client base. Here…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Time is running out

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Laura Lane always elicits a few strange looks when she drives around town. People are often confused by her car's license plate, ESCHEAT, through which they mistakenly believe she is announcing her infidelity. But the reference is to a much more mundane law, and relatively speaking, more recent than the biblical rules of adultery. Escheat finds its roots in English Common Law, dating back to medieval times. When the head of a family died without heirs, the land reverted back to the king. Today, when property goes unclaimed, businesses are required to report it and transfer the funds to the…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Setting the sale

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You may have no intention of selling your business in the next 20 years, but start planning for the inevitable now. "Every seller wants the same things: the highest price, the least amount of effort in the quickest timeframe," says Chad Simmons, author of the "Business Valuation Bluebook." "There are steps you need to take to make this occur, and you can't start thinking about it this week if you want to sell next week. The time to start thinking about it is the day after you start the business or the day after you buy the business. "You need…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Putting a voice to your data

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To stay ahead of the competition, your business must maintain a competitive edge. You've analyzed the marketplace, your customers' needs and capital resources, but have you considered any up-and-coming technologies? Taking advantage of a new technology can place your business ahead of the competition by allowing you to cut costs and improve efficiency or provide your customers with cutting-edge products. One such technology is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). The basics VoIP is the method for sending real-time, digitized voice signals as packets using Internet Protocol (IP) over a public or private data network. The technology is implemented through networks…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Newsclips

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Measuring success Gov. Bob Taft honored Solon-based Keithley Instruments Inc. last month as the 2000 recipient of the Thomas Edison Award Recognizing Global Leadership in Technology. A Sept. 13 ceremony and reception was held at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus. It's been a pretty solid year for company Chairman and CEO Joseph Keithley. His company's stock has performed better than ever over the past 12 months. Meanwhile, the high-tech measuring device firm was also recognized Sept. 7 at the SBN Innovation in Business awards and took top honors in the technology category of Ernst & Young's…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Making the pitch

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After 28 years with Dix & Eaton, Ed Stevens knew it was time to buy his own advertising agency. Around the same time, Selma Baron was looking to sell. So, in April 1999, Stevens bought Baron Advertising, changed the name to Steven Baron Advertising, and changed his role from employee to business owner. Most would expect the wily advertising veteran to bust his butt in search of new clients to grow his business. Instead, Stevens expanded the scope of services offered to his existing clients. The move resulted in a 40 percent jump in gross income in his first fiscal…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Kick start

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When North Coast Professional Sports Ltd. sealed the deal last December to buy the Cleveland Crunch from George Hoffman, it was the culmination of a nearly year-long endeavor to purchase what Michael Gibbons, the group's chairman, calls "an undervalued property." Gibbons -- also senior managing director of investment banking firm Brown, Gibbons, Lang & Co. -- and his majority partners, Paul Garofolo and Richard Dietrich, knew they were inheriting a winning indoor soccer franchise. But the group, which also includes minority owner Gary Zdolshek, also acquired a business with a poorly developed infrastructure that barely broke even each year and…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Influence with ease

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Quick, name two words which, when frequently used by servers, increase tips by a minimum of 12 percent. The answer? "For you." Rather than saying, "Would you like some more coffee?" the savvy waiter says, "I brought more coffee for you." The patron perceives the service to be more personal and tips accordingly -- on average, 12 percent more. It's easy money and a great way for your staff to increase perceived value with customers and co-workers without working harder. If you're looking for a way to help your staff improve its customer service skills, consider implementing those two words…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Help wanted

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Nearly half of the executives surveyed in a recent study by Development Dimensions International Inc. reported they are unhappy with their company's hiring process. But, the Pittsburgh-based consulting firm also discovered that nearly 62 percent of the 162 companies surveyed believe a thin labor pool is the main cause of their recruiting and retention woes. Not surprisingly, the report also showed that companies which are better able to identify possible job candidates reported increased productivity and higher-quality work. For those still struggling with how best to combat the shortage of qualified workers, DDI offers 10 rules for building a better…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

From the ashes

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By the time Peter Miragliotta discovered the true depths of his company's financial troubles, Tenable Protective Services was nearly a quarter of a million dollars in debt to the IRS. To make matters worse, Miragliotta's business partner of six years was the one who had slowly and silently drained the company's coffers since he merged his firm with Tenable in 1988. But Miragliotta's attempts to oust his less than scrupulous business associate only intensified the battle and fed rumors that the security company was on the verge of collapse. "I started trying to get rid of him in many different…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

E-elections

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At a campaign rally last month, George W. Bush leaned over to running mate Dick Cheney and offered his by now well-known thoughts on the character of a New York Times reporter. But while some strategists might view calling a journalist an asshole a strategic error (and others might cheer the characterization), the faux pas was the result of a technological mistake -- he thought the microphone was not yet turned on. Bush, or any other candidate for that matter, can't afford to make the same mistake with his Internet strategy. The Internet has provided candidates with the ability to…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Designing the floor plan for success

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Last month I began explaining a three-step process for developing effective communication skills. Part one detailed how to build a foundation of trust. This month, I'll explain how to design and build a bold and open floor plan, then ensure there are no roofs on top of the communications house. The floor plan must contain clear, direct, respectful, reflective and frequent communication. Here's how to get started. Get to the point Consider cutting 30 to 40 percent of the words from any written letter. Bold or bullet the key one or two points. The average business communication is reviewed for…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

Choose wisely

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In today's tight labor market, it's very tempting to hire the first person that walks through the door, even if he or she is barely qualified for the job. But don't do it, no matter how long you've been trying to fill the position. "The smaller you are, and the fewer employees you have, the more important it is to hire the right person," says DeAnne Rosenberg, author of "Hiring the Best Person for Every Job." To find the right person, start by ignoring most of what is on the resumes you receive. "The resume is virtually a nonplayer," says…
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

At the border

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Companies today are verbalizing their visions and missions. Some, like Continental Airlines -- "Work Hard, Fly Right" -- have even made them part of their advertising strategy. In a few simple words, it's obvious how the company thinks about its business and its customers. There is, however, a potential downside. Once you announce it to the public, you have set high expectations. But problems occur only when a company can't convert the theory of the vision into reality. When this happens, it's usually because the theory has originated at the top of the organization and no one remembered that the…