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Saturday, 26 December 2009 19:00

Are you ready?

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It may seem like wishful thinking, but business owners and executives need to start planning how they’ll handle increasing revenue to avoid problems when the economy rebounds. “Economic times have been very difficult over the past 18 months, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” says David Janus, the president and CEO of FirstMerit Bank’s Cleveland region. The economy will eventually rebound, and when it does, will your company have the necessary working capital and internal cash flow to grow again? Smart Business spoke to Janus about how to ensure your company is ready to take…
Saturday, 26 December 2009 19:00

Building a future

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As you drive up to the building, a cascading waterfall surrounded by greenery greets you. Approaching the main entrance, you pass by beautiful sculptures, and entering the building’s lobby, you’re struck by the beauty of the natural materials that surround you. Bright streams of natural light flood the room, illuminating everything with warmth. A glance out a window reveals a tranquil stream quietly running along the property.As you continue walking past the nature-inspired artwork, you stop for a moment at a fireside seating area for a quiet moment and then continue on, eventually opening a door onto a rooftop garden,…
Thursday, 10 December 2009 19:00

Events

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In business, there is no substitute for face-to-face contact. That's why Smart Business Network has created numerous conferences to allow executives to gain insight into key business ideas and strategies. The Innovation in Business Conference has grown into the leading business-to-business conference in Northeast Ohio, featuring business and economic leaders from the public and private sector. Our Smart Business Live luncheon series, which features a CEO from the pages of our magaaine, attracts a sold-out audience in every city it visits. From large-scale evening galas to more intimate luncheon events, Smart Business conferences draw together the most prominent and influential…
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 19:00

Watch your tone

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It wasn’t an easy decision to make. YWCA Greater Cleveland had maintained a program to help victims of domestic violence for 25 years. But it just didn’t fit into the organization’s plan anymore in light of a recession that left it strapped for cash. “It’s always difficult to give up something that has been part of your work for such a long time,” says Barbara J. Danforth, the 60-employee agency’s president and CEO. “But at the end of the day, it was the right business decision to make.” The problem was that the program could not be given the full…
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 19:00

Dollars and sense

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You might not think of your accountant as some sort of bean counter, better suited for the Dark Ages than for this Age of Information. Most folks, after all, recognized the error of that thought years ago. You also might not think of that same accountant as a trusted business adviser. But you should. Gone are the days when your accountant would just sit down with the company ledger and crunch numbers. An accountant is able to offer so much more now, especially in this economic state. Need to evaluate your inventory turnover, to analyze what is selling, what is…
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 19:00

Wellness ROI

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Nearly all companies want to know what their return on investment (ROI) is on their different business investments. Since their inception, worksite wellness programs have always been under a watchful eye for their true level of ROI. However, at some level, we all know that worksite wellness programs can improve employee health and productivity, reduce absenteeism and, most notably, lower employees’ use of health care benefits. Often this is done through health awareness education, behavior and lifestyle change, and peer support programs. As more companies realize the benefits of preventive health, more are investing in wellness. “Employers must keep in…
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 19:00

Front and center

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Every moment he is on the job, Andrew Roth carries two of his best communication tools with him. They’re called shoes. Roth, the president of 180-employee Notre Dame College, says there is no substitute for getting out of your office and interacting with your employees as often as possible. In-person engagement of his employees is central to his communication strategy. “You need to be accessible to the people you serve, however briefly,” Roth says. “You need to get back to them with an answer to their problems. You need to respond.” Smart Business spoke with Roth about how you can…
Monday, 26 October 2009 20:00

3 Questions

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Carl J. Grassi is the president of McDonald Hopkins LLC. Grassi serves as corporate counsel and business adviser to many middle-market and growth companies. He has extensive experience assisting clients in a variety of complex matters and frequently speaks on business planning topics for business owners, lawyers and accountants. Q. When should a business seek legal counsel? When you’re just formulating some ideas and thoughts, because at that stage, while it’s still fluid, there may be legal considerations and business planning considerations that a lawyer may be aware of that can assist in the development of the plan. Many times,…
Monday, 26 October 2009 20:00

Service contracts

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Businesses evolve through organic growth, mergers and acquisitions. Each business that is acquired obviously has an existing data center with unique applications and hardware. Additionally, companies over the past two decades have acquired new technology either to gain a competitive advantage or to reap the benefits of improved applications and products. One result of this evolution of businesses is data centers comprised of hardware from multiple vendors. Adding to the complexity of data centers is that each vendor usually has different warranty periods, expiration dates and service level agreements (SLAs). Smart Business spoke with Ted Rieple, executive vice president of…
Monday, 26 October 2009 20:00

Looking forward

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For all intents and purposes, 2009 was the most challenging year for business owners since the Great Depression. The changes that occurred in the financial service industry were of historic proportions — with more to follow on the regulatory front. The severe economic downturn almost took “growth” out of the business vocabulary, attempting to replace it with “shrink.” Most companies suffered from declining sales, and in some cases and industries, the declines were as much as 40 to 50 percent. Consequently, businesses did have to learn how to adapt as they faced these extreme challenges. “Last year, I said: ‘the…
Monday, 26 October 2009 20:00

Changing the game

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There are few game-changing moments in life. When they happen, if you’re not prepared to adapt, you may find yourself heading down the wrong path from that unique fork in the road, unable to retrace your steps. Let’s say your target market undergoes a radical shakeup, caused by the economy or new legislation. What do you do? Taking a wait-and-see attitude isn’t an option. The longer you wait to make your move, the greater the odds that your business will suffer or you’ll fail to be among the early movers that gain competitive advantage. Reacting too quickly is just as…
Friday, 25 September 2009 20:00

Don’t hide

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Andrew Logan hears people talk about the importance of transparency during these tough economic times and he can only chuckle. It’s something that’s been regular practice at Logan Clutch Corp. for as long as he can remember.The Flash Report is posted weekly in the company cafeteria, giving employees a regular look at sales data, open quotes, the status of deliveries and productivity levels.“This level of communication makes it easy for people within the organization to understand when and why the company has to scale back to get through rough economic situations,” Logan says. “The best way to keep your team…
Friday, 25 September 2009 20:00

Space exploration

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Friday, 25 September 2009 20:00

Government contracting

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When you think of government contracting, you may think of agencies supplying items such as construction projects, airplanes, missiles and uniforms to the government. But new opportunities in this economy have created a need for a wide variety of products and services. “This is a unique opportunity to sell your goods and services to government agencies,” says Michael Caputo, chair of the government affairs practice group at McDonald Hopkins LLC. “This has resulted from a combination of a reduction in business-to-business opportunities and an increase in government funding available for businesses through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.” “There needs…
Friday, 25 September 2009 20:00

Get through the lean times

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Members of the construction industry have lived through the peaks and valleys of the economic rollercoaster, and the experience has made them wiser. “When times are good, companies can get fat and happy,” says Roger T. Gingerich, CPA/ABV, CVA, partner-in-charge of the real estate and construction group at Skoda Minotti. “You’re growing, so you add people and costs, and all of a sudden, the company has become less efficient from a cost standpoint.” Many industries, like construction, have become leaner by necessity. Smart Business spoke with Gingerich about how to survive when business is scarce. What challenges does the construction…
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:00

The perfect spot

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The key to a successful meeting is having the right location. If you’re just meeting for training, you want a place where your employees will be strictly focused. If you’re having a multi-day conference, you may want to break up the meetings with activities and give employees some recreational options. Bottom line, picking the wrong meeting destination can lead to many problems. “You’ll have extra costs and unnecessary expenses,” says Margaret Bartlett, groups and meetings manager at Professional Travel Inc. “There can be wasted travel time if the location is too far or inconvenient for employees to reach. This may…
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:00

Building for tomorrow

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Adelbert “Chip” Marous remembers the feeling of having to succeed or fall flat on his face. It was 1980 and Marous and his brother, Scott, had just founded their own company, and the two young carpenters were the only employees. That experience taught Marous how to be aggressive and adjust on the fly. And adjust he did. Today, Marous Brothers Construction employs up to nearly 600 people during peak seasons and has grown into a contracting powerhouse. But Marous, the company’s president, hasn’t forgotten the lessons he learned while figuring things out for himself, so he grows the company through…
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:00

Encouraging health

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As a result of the growing costs of health care, many employers have considered establishing wellness programs and initiatives aimed at promoting the health and well-being of their employees. Employers realize healthier employees are often happier, more focused and motivated, and less stressed. All of this benefits the company by reducing health care costs, increasing productivity, lowering absenteeism and improving company morale. In general, most Americans believe it is important to live healthier lifestyles, eat well, exercise often and not use tobacco products. “If this is true, employers should find it easy to promote wellness programs within their company and…
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:00

The next generation

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No matter the industry you’re in, no matter your management style, advancing technology is one of the unavoidable truths of 21st century business. It’s a fact that Lonnie Coleman has met directly. The president of mechanical contractor Coleman Spohn Corp. has recognized the need for an educated work force that is able to adapt to new technology and changing times. “As a leader, it is up to me to make sure our membership stays abreast and educated on the new technology to make sure that their company stays viable,” says Coleman, also the owner and founder of Coleman Spohn, which…
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:00

Master plan

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As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2001 to 2005, Gen. Richard Myers was the highest-ranking military officer in the nation and principal military adviser to the president of the United States. From that vantage point, Myers saw that leadership was more than just taking charge, making decisions and issuing commands. “Successful leaders genuinely care about their people — the people they work with and the people who work for them,” says Myers, now retired. “After all, that’s how we get things done, with people. And people figure out pretty quickly when their leader doesn’t care.” During a…
Sunday, 26 July 2009 20:00

3 Questions

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Mark Grescovich has more than 21 years of experience in commercial banking, risk management, leasing and consumer banking. Grescovich serves as executive vice president and chief corporate banking officer for FirstMerit Corp. and FirstMerit Bank N.A. He assumed the role and responsibility for the bank’s commercial and regional line of business in 2007. Q. What role does a bank play in assisting businesses in a down economy? In a challenging economy, a bank’s role as trusted adviser is more important than ever. Specific areas of assistance in uncertain times that a bank can help their clients and their advisers with…
Sunday, 26 July 2009 20:00

The service advantage

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Deciding on a maintenance provider for your company’s post-warranty data center requirements involves a host of factors, including cost containment considerations, service level requirements, engineering capacity and capability, and the extent to which the provider complements the organization’s current maintenance strategy. The ideal solution is one that supports an organization’s vendor rationalization and cost containment strategy while giving the organization greater control over the lifecycle of its technology investments. More and more, independent service organizations (ISOs) are working with clients to deliver a single-source solution for the IT equipment maintenance, making cost reduction and management of the maintenance of the…
Sunday, 26 July 2009 20:00

Safe and secure

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The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of requirements designed to ensure that all companies that process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. “PCI compliance symbolizes the unity of all card brands setting a standard to protect cardholder data,” says Brian Maruna, a merchant banker with FirstMerit Bank. “Before the PCI council was established, each card brand had its own standards for security. With PCI, all brands now utilize a single standard with the expectation of having secure card data.” Merchants who do not adhere to these standards run the risk…
Sunday, 26 July 2009 20:00

Center of attention

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Jeffrey I. Friedman has his hands full trying to manage about 13,000 apartment homes in 52 communities across nine states. But as chairman, president and CEO of Associated Estates Realty Corp., he doesn’t worry nearly as much about the properties as he does about his people.“The things that we believe are important at Associated Estates really revolve around what we call an employee-centered culture,” Friedman says. “In many of our publications, you’ll see us talk about people, processes and portfolio — the three P’s of our business — and we intentionally lead with the people side of it.”Leading with the…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

The business of travel

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There’s much more to business travel than simply buying an airline ticket, renting a car and staying in a hotel. Especially now, with travel costs expected to increase 10 to 12 percent over the next 12 months, says Rob Turk, the executive vice president of Professional Travel. “Travel typically represents the third largest controllable expense that a company has behind payroll and IT,” Turk says. “However, many companies don’t properly manage it. They need to create strategies to overcome and adapt to its escalating costs.” Smart Business spoke to Turk about what companies should pay attention to in order to…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

Lift off

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Phil Graffy has a hard time giving his people a hard time. Graffy, the owner, president and CEO of Interstate Lift Trucks Inc., is constantly looking for ways to improve customer service, but the fact of the matter is that his roughly 100 employees get it. The new and used dealer of Toyota forklifts has been honored again and again with Toyota’s prestigious President’s Award, given to its top dealers. With his people polishing that brass, it can be hard to criticize. “They’ll say, ‘We just won the award as the best and you’re not happy now?’” Graffy says. “I…
Thursday, 25 June 2009 20:00

Health legalities

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As a result of the skyrocketing costs of health care benefits, many employers have adopted wellness or health promotion programs aimed at improving and maintaining the physical and mental health of employees and their families. “Wellness programs can help employers reduce health care costs and sick leave use and improve employee morale and productivity,” says Patty Starr, the senior director of health insurance and benefits for the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE). “Workers who maintain healthful habits usually have fewer illnesses, experience less stress and have more energy.” However, wellness programs must be crafted carefully. When developing a program, employers…