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Maybe you’ve noticed that there are some members of your team who aren’t quite living up to their potential. Have you taken the time to figure out why, or whether these people should even be in these roles within your organization? To compound the problem, perhaps your top performers are starting to look restless.If you’ve been delaying the task of getting your team in top-performance shape because you don’t know where to begin, the time to take action is now.“Talent optimization is so important today because businesses and the economy are starting to recover, and now business leaders are challenged…
The continuing advances in technology have made visiting the bank on the corner obsolete.Online banking with your financial institution has been available to business customers for the past few years and enhancements are continuous. Financial institutions have invested heavily in technology to provide safe and reliable access to your account information. Not only are banks required to annually engage outside consultants to audit their online policies and procedures, online banking activities are also part of a bank’s regulatory safety and soundness exam.Business online banking offers the flexibility of customizing security for staff members, allowing different employees access to your accounts,…
Friday, 03 June 2011 14:21

Kocon Masonry & Design - Corporate Profile

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Kocon Masonry & Design specializes in the design and installation of professional, creative masonry solutions for residential and commercial properties in the Cleveland metropolitan area.For more than 12 years, the artisans at Kocon Masonry & Design have been providing the following customized solutions: Brick and stone veneers for custom homes Outdoor kitchens Outdoor fireplaces Patios Porches Retaining walls and foundations Stone, brick and paver pathways Custom mailboxes Archways ChimneysKocon Masonry & Design also can provide professional masonry repair services."The work done by Kocon Design exceeded my expectations. It has increased the use and enjoyment of our yard, along with the…
Wednesday, 01 June 2011 14:55

Middle market M&A adviser

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If you’re looking into an M&A transaction and/or looking to hire an investment banker, you’ve probably got questions. Luckily, we have answers.Smart Business spoke with Albert D. Melchiorre, the president of MelCap Partners, LLC, about investment bankers, M&A advisers and the unique characteristics associated with the middle market.Why should a business owner hire an investment banker?There are many reasons why a business owner should consider hiring an intermediary to assist them with the sale of their business. As a business owner, you are only going to sell your business once; therefore, it is important that you select an experienced adviser…
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 20:01

SummaCare

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How does your organization make customer service a competitive advantage and price less relevant?Our customers care about far more than price as they are focused on the value we bring them through our provision of exceptional, personalized customer service while focusing on their health at times when they need us to care the most. We provide them access to the best care possible through our broad network of providers and educate them on what their options are so they can be in control of their health care decisions.How have you created a culture of customer service in your organization?A culture…
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 20:01

Grant Thornton

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What is your organization’s philosophy of customer service?For more than 85 years, Grant Thornton’s service philosophy has been providing personalized attention and delivering the highest quality service through hands-on involvement by our partners and managers to our public and private clients in more than 100 countries. Grant Thornton has a reputation for integrity, objectivity, and professional excellence which is built on solid relationships with our clients.How does your organization make customer service a competitive advantage and price less relevant?To deliver a distinctive level of client service, we provide a relentless focus on personalized attention, responsiveness and accessibility. We feel our…
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 20:01

How MobilityWorks invests in customer service

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There are an estimated 1.5 million people in the U.S. who use a wheelchair, not including those who are in nursing homes and other medical facilities. Approximately 12 million people can’t independently walk more than a city block without some type of mobility aid or assistance.That’s why customer service at MobilityWorks is about more than just a smile and a handshake. It’s about taking care of a vulnerable segment of society.MobilityWorks, led by President and CEO William Koeblitz, has invested more than $250,000 in a new customer relationship management system specifically designed and modified to track customer service appointments, vehicle…
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 20:01

How Progressive creates a greener fleet

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In 2008, The Progressive Corp. began looking at ways it could make the 3,500 vehicles in its company fleet more environmentally friendly.You’ve probably seen the white vehicles with blue lettering around, or maybe you’ve even had to deal with one for an accident you were involved in. Either way, about 3,000 of those 3,500 vehicles are used by the company’s claims department and are constantly out and about. And in the past, many of those vehicles were six-cylinder Ford Explorers — large vehicles that use a lot of gas.“When it comes to our fleet, this was an opportunity for us…
At Marous Brothers Construction Inc., there are no customers. There are just clients. As a family owned and operated company, Marous Brothers still runs its business with the values it was founded on more than 30 years ago, specifically a commitment to building lasting client relationships and maintaining long-term business partnerships.Marous Brothers President Adelbert “Chip” Marous Jr. uses this relationship-based sales model to drive the company’s goal of 100 percent client retention. In fact, 90 percent of the firm’s work is generated either through referrals or repeat business. With such strong client relationships, it’s no wonder Marous’ employees prefer using…
When someone asks Main Street Cupcakes co-owner Sarah Forrer what business she and fellow co-owner and founder Kimberly Martin are in, she always responds that she’s in the customer service business, and their product just happens to be cupcakes.But behind that tasty product is a team of people who will do anything to make sure that their customers are satisfied — even a single customer. For instance, one customer loved one particular flavor of cupcake that the store served, but with 230 flavors of cupcakes and only 12 to 20 that are made each day, that customer’s favorite flavor wasn’t…
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 20:01

Deals surge in April

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Private equity groups appear to be on a mission through the first four months of 2011. This surge has been inspired by an improving economy, increasing volume of quality acquisition opportunities and, lastly, the growing availability of debt as banks have conservatively returned to lending.This has led private equity groups to deploy capital in order to raise new funds while continuing to mend portfolio companies in order to attract limited partners to invest in those new funds.In an effort to provide much anticipated returns to investors and further support fundraising efforts, private equity groups will look to divest portfolio companies…
The economy is slowly improving, and you’ve decided the time is ripe to realize your dream to begin a second career. Or perhaps you’re already retired and are eager to turn your hobby into a business. So, what now?First, do your research. While banks are eager to lend, you’ll need more than just your passion and great ideas to get started. It’s more important than ever to have a strong understanding of the opportunities and industry, a thorough business plan, a solid financial background and a realistic evaluation of your chances for success.Once you have your bearings, talk to an…
Whether you realize it or not, you rely on the customer relationships forged by The Lincoln Electric Co. As a company that provides arc welding products and systems, Lincoln Electric serves customers that build the cars and bridges we use each day and maintain the power plants that provide electricity to our homes and businesses.In other words, our ability to lead our daily lives is impacted by the customer service Lincoln Electric provides.Everyone in the company, up to and including Chairman, President and CEO John Stropki, realizes it and is constantly striving to find new ways to better serve their…
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 20:01

Movers & Shakers

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Terresolve Technologies Ltd. announced that Larry Rigdon, founder and former CEO of the Rigdon Marine Corp., has joined the company’s board of directors.Rigdon founded the Houston-based Rigdon Marine Corp. in 2002 and served as its CEO and chairman until retiring from the company in 2008. While at the helm of the corporation, Rigdon raised the capital to fund more than 20 vessels and employed more than 300 people. Prior to being sold in 2008, Rigdon Marine saw annual revenue of nearly $100 million.Denver L. Brooker joined Vocon’s Cleveland office as a studio director.Brooker comes to Vocon with 23 years in…
Customer service has always been a priority at Invacare Corp. But the lack of a defined career path for the company’s customer service representatives was resulting in the loss of good employees.Some decided to pursue other positions in the company while others left Invacare altogether. It was a problem that Gerry Blouch, the company’s president, knew needed to be addressed.So in 2009, he began to look at how new and existing associates were being trained, tested and promoted in the customer service department. They looked at job descriptions and reviewed the training curriculum and set clear definitions for advancement at…
More than 6.5 million people nationwide get their benefits programs through Hyatt Legal Plans, and that’s not by accident. From the company’s inception, Hyatt Legal Plans has built the business by focusing on quality service. In fact, “Quality Service Always” is the mission statement of the company’s client service center.It’s not the mission statement that CEO William Brooks is proud of. It’s the way his employees constantly follow through and even go above and beyond that mission statement. The service provided by Hyatt Legal Plans starts from the first phone call to their call center. Employees at Hyatt strive to…
In April, Ari Maron, partner with the family-owned real estate development, construction and management company MRN Ltd., spoke at the Smart Business Power Players luncheon about how his company is playing a role in the revitalization of Cleveland and the challenges in doing so. One of the biggest hurdles is the large exodus from the city as a whole, but despite that, the downtown region has actually seen a 49 percent population increase.Maron says that without people, you don’t create a neighborhood, just a destination and that Cleveland needs certain types of people to move into the city for it…
While “going the extra mile” is a phrase often used to describe top customer service, to Great Lakes Integrated, it means all that ? and adding an extra full-time employee to make sure the job gets done right.A major customer in Texas was looking to consolidate its print, fulfillment and distribution facilities. Great Lakes Integrated showed how it could bring potential savings. The company was concerned about the distance between the two firms, however.To overcome the challenge, Great Lakes Integrated hired an employee to work on site to coordinate the work flow between the home and remote offices. The result…
People can golf and dine anywhere, but as Mark Gore puts it, they join a private club for the experience of incredibly personalized service, which makes cost insignificant.As general manager of Firestone Country Club, Gore has seen firsthand the impact of excellent customer service. While many clubs around the country struggled in the difficult economic climate during the past few years, the fact that Firestone has prospered is a testament to the service it provides its members.All of the club’s employees have a servant’s heart, and their goal is to make every person — member or guest — feel welcome…
At Findaway World, customer service starts with the notion that employees aren’t called employees or associates or team members. They are findawayers. Not surprisingly, “Find a way” is one of the seven core values of the company that manufactures and distributes the Playaway, a self-playing prerecorded audiobook.Findaway’s CEO Mitch Kroll and his team have a multilayer recruiting process to ensure that when they bring in new employees, they fit the company’s DNA. Each new findawayer learns how to prepare the product for customers and is taught the importance of making things as close to perfect as can be obtained. Then,…
When David Lingafelter became president of Moen Inc. in late 2006, the flow of prosperous times had been replaced by a plug of economic uncertainty.Moen’s business is faucets, sinks and accessories, and it’s significantly dependent on the U.S. new construction market, which started declining in October 2006 and rapidly continued downward throughout 2007. That was hard, but then the global financial crisis hit, too.“Just when we thought, ‘OK, is this thing going to bottom out,’ the rest of the world takes a dump,” Lingafelter says. “Everything else just goes in the swirling uncertainty. Consumers back even further away, so a…
Buying an insurance policy can be daunting, partly because if the insured scenario never actually happens, it can result in a losing financial scenario for the investor. However, Family Heritage Life Insurance Co. of America shows its clients that buying insurance can actually be a win-win.Family Heritage has grown more than 30 percent annually since Howard Lewis, its chairman, president and CEO, founded the firm 22 years ago. Under Lewis’s leadership, the firm has continued to deliver on its mission to provide financial security and peace of mind for customers through its customer-driven programs and systems, many of which are…
Business succession planning is all about getting your “ducks in a row.” There are numerous things to consider in continuity planning, and my objective is to explore several non-financial issues. So, my context is: before you go and expand either through organic or non-organic (merger or acquisition) growth, is your company’s foundation/model finalized and clearly communicable to others?Does your business and personal financial plan address what is needed as the foundation within your current company structure to create a successful business growth and continuation plan? After all, the marketing plan and business plan must stand on its own after you…
There are more than 17,000 environmental laws and regulations worldwide. How sure are you that your business operations are in compliance?Environmental insurance has become a hot topic the last several years, mainly because even though most companies have environmental exposures, those risks are excluded from most liability and property policies, creating a major gap in coverage.“An experienced, specialized broker can help you recognize exposures, understand the regulatory climate and provide solutions, whether it is insurance or other risk mitigation options to satisfy coverage needs or financial assurance requirements,” says Michael R. Szot, executive vice president, global practice leader, Environmental Service…
Growing your company through mergers or acquisitions can provide a tremendous boost to business, but isn’t something to take lightly.“You have to consider how you want the organization to grow,” says Kenneth M. Haffey, CPA, CVA, a partner with Skoda Minotti. “When you start identifying targets, consider what sort of operational challenges you will face. We call that smart growth — what should an organization look like for the short-term and the long-term.”Smart Business spoke with Haffey about what owners should know before making the deal.Before considering growing the business through a merger or acquisition, what should a business owner…
Many developers struggle to deal with the cost of debt for ambitious real estate projects. But partnering with public and private entities can help reduce the loan required from the bank, allowing the developer to leverage its equity more effectively.“The projects that require public and private partnerships, a combination of private conventional bank debt supported by quasi-public sources, are typically deals that wouldn’t happen without those subsidies,” says Michael K. Dostal, Senior Vice President and Commercial Real Estate Manager with FirstMerit Bank. “It harkens back to the 1980s, when many urban projects were required to meet the ‘but for’ test…
Serving as a director or officer on a board can be complicated, especially if the business is floundering.Directors have certain duties to the company they are serving, but when the business is financially distressed, the beneficiaries of those duties switches to the creditors, according to Shawn Riley, the Managing Member of the Cleveland office of McDonald Hopkins LLC and co-chair of its Business Restructuring Services Department.“In normal situations, those duties exist for the benefit of the owners,” says Riley. “However, when a business starts to experience financial distress, the obligations shift. Two questions arise: ‘When do they shift? And, how…