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Tuesday, 08 April 2014 05:02

How to avoid common customer service mistakes

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One of the worst things to say to customers is “no.” Instead of responding that you don’t have a product in stock or provide a service, always provide some other option, says Rick Voigt, president of Today’s Business Products. “If it’s something you don’t sell, suggest an equivalent product. Mention that you have this alternate item, and ask if that would work for the customer,” Voigt says. “The answer is never no, even when it’s really no. There’s always an option you can present.” Smart Business spoke with Voigt about customer service mistakes, and how to ensure they don’t occur…
In February, the IRS issued some final regulations relating to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), basically delaying full implementation. One major change was allowing employers with 50 to 99 employees until Jan. 1, 2016, to comply with the mandate to either provide health insurance or pay excise taxes in certain circumstances. “In effect, smaller employers have another year to determine how they are going to approach this,” says Ted Ginsburg, CPA, J.D., a principal at Skoda Minotti. Smart Business spoke with Ginsburg about the recent changes to the ACA regulations and how they affect small and midsize companies. What significant…
If longevity is a sign of success, Beech Brook stands alone in Greater Cleveland. The Beech Ball, Beech Brook’s annual fundraiser to benefit its program, will be from 6 to 11 p.m. April 11 at the InterContinental Cleveland. For more information, call (216) 831-2255. Founded in 1852 as the Cleveland Orphan Asylum, its mission is still much the same today: To heal and find safe and caring homes for emotionally disturbed and at-risk children, as well as providing education and support to at-risk families to break the cycle of abuse and neglect. President and CEO Debra Rex admits she can’t…
Engineering innovation took the spotlight in several ways at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC in Elyria in February — and that included getting engineers of tomorrow on board. In celebration of Engineers Week 2014, Bendix hosted its first Discover Engineering event at its Elyria headquarters on Presidents Day, introducing middle school and high school students to engineering. The company is committed to inspiring the next generation of engineers and helping students unleash their creativity and innovative spirit through engineering. Discover Engineering was open to children and grandchildren of Bendix employees, allowing students to meet Bendix engineers and learn firsthand what…
Our Lady of the Wayside is privileged to take care of children and adults with developmental disabilities. The only way our nonprofit can successfully support these 500 individuals is by taking care of business. Now, buckle up because this is where I step over the yellow safety line and put into print what could be considered a shocking philosophy for a nonprofit CEO: We do not want financial stability. What we must have is responsible fiscal growth. Baptism by fire The dicey economy has been a baptism by fire and gone are the days of operating through a traditionally passive…
Entrepreneurs who have built growing, profitable businesses know how to overcome enormous obstacles. Along the way, they have accumulated deep knowledge of their end-markets and make decisions based on decades of experience. Nonetheless, I hear a common line when speaking with entrepreneurs about ownership changes for their long-term transition: “I’ve never done this before.” Even confident entrepreneurs procrastinate when it comes to planning that involves changes in ownership. Make this critical event go well by considering some dos and don’ts. Don’t: Wait for retirement to be the prompt for succession planning. Do: Consider selling a portion of equity in your…
Laura Bennett told herself shortly after co-founding Embrace Pet Insurance that if she could share her knowledge with other women and people who were looking to start a business, she would. “I couldn’t find any women who had raised venture capital funding,” she says. “There were a few men, but not many. And I knew that it was sort of different for women. You’re just looked at differently. So I couldn’t find any.” Fortunately, she hooked up with JumpStart Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to Northeast Ohio entrepreneurs to start and grow their companies. That allowed Embrace Pet…
No matter how well you make your products or provide your services, one of your customers will eventually experience a problem. The way that you deal with these inevitable problems determines how your customers view your company, and ultimately, if they’ll buy from you again. Do you know how well your customer service processes are working? To prepare for the recent holidays, I decided to replace our dwindling and mismatched collection of wine glasses. I browsed the Web, and placed an order for 16 — eight whites and eight reds. A few days later, my shipment arrived with two cartons…
Whether you are starting a business, already in business or within a corporation, an advisory board should be an active part of your professional interactions. This board, or circle of influencers, is a group of people with a level of expertise and insight you would not independently achieve, helping to guide your professional journey. When I interviewed many successful leaders to build my own board, I quickly learned that most notable leaders proactively surround themselves with mentors and sponsors who can help fill their recognized and unrecognized gaps. Some leaders have different advisory boards that are segmented. For example, one…
Can you name a single aspect of business that doesn’t require communication? Of course not. Whether that communication is internal, external or both, nothing happens that doesn’t demand effective communication. If you want to win, it needs to be done well. That just makes common sense. What isn’t logical, is the environment in which businesses communicate today. Here are five major communication challenges facing every company: Anger We live in an angry country right now. People are angry with their leaders, their media, their judicial system, their schools and, yes, with corporate America. As they lash out, that makes doing…
Laura Bennett took on an uphill battle and co-founded Embrace Pet Insurance Thursday, April 10, 2014 Laura Bennett was trying to get her fledgling pet insurance business off the ground in 2005 when she had to confront the reality that the insurance industry was a male-dominated one. Bennett and co-founder Alex Krooglik were searching for an insurance partner who would back Embrace Pet Insurance, her company, and left for London to seal a deal with Lloyd’s of London, the global specialist insurance king. “Well, that was the problem — trying to find a partner that would work with two people…
As the availability and use of 3-D laser based printers proliferate, IP related issues need to be considered. The use of lasers for rapid prototyping has existed for a number of years as a process of making molds and models in the early stages of production. However, with improved technology 3-D printers are becoming used as a means to make finished products. For patent owners, the ability of large numbers of individuals (with 3-D printers) to produce products will increase the difficulty of enforcing patent rights. Particularly, 3-D printer technology will act to fragment the target of potential patent enforcement,…
In today’s fast-paced world of business, it is critical to make choices and execute on decisions quickly to remain competitive. However, at some point, innovation has to be a part of the plan or the result is a very well built, highly engineered . . . typewriter. Whether it is new products or other difficult business problems, a structured approach to problem solving is superior to a reliance on the incremental decisions approach often used to identify day-to-day operational improvements. If you are in a situation where simple solutions are not going to suffice, it is time to consider more…
PANELISTS: Laura Bennett, Sheila Dunn, Kristen Morris and Lindsay Sims Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is proud to sponsor the Perspectives 2014 Women Who Excel Conference, and over the past several years, the pace of change has certainly increased, especially in health care. In my 30 years in the industry, I’ve never experienced so much change in such a short period of time. Women business leaders are facing important and increasingly complex decisions about the health care coverage they offer to their associates. Not only is health care coverage one of the biggest expenses in many companies’ budgets, it…
Being promoted to a management position does not make you a leader or guarantee success in your position. Managers and CEOs frequently fail and are replaced. To be successful, one must learn how to harness the power of teamwork — to create a people force that will not be denied. Imagine the following story: A young Confederate officer was squarely facing Union positions about 1,000 yards across a field. Both sides were well-entrenched. The young officer was told to take his unit out of its fortified position and make a charge at dawn. At dawn, he leaped out of his…
When the winds of change come, you can’t hide your head in the sand. The business landscape is scattered with former companies that didn’t keep up with the times, favoring to keep running their operations as they always have — because it was working and there was no need to change. Technology and e-commerce trends recently have been changing patterns and channels of distribution, which is affecting the size, make-up and location of distribution and manufacturing real estate. These same advances in technology, combined with the generational shifts in the workforce are also having an impact on office and commercial…
Managed services are increasing in popularity, as more companies outsource their computer network management. “A structured managed services program provides the benefit of reducing your IT costs and risks of hardware failure while standardizing IT management through streamlined efficiency, often all at lower costs than the company could manage by doing it in-house,” says Eric Risheill, subject matter expert for the Managed Services Division at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions. Managed services programs are imperative for those who don’t have in-house IT talent or the capacity to manage their networks. Risheill adds many small and midsize businesses have not replaced downsized…
Fear. We all know what it feels like: The rising sensation that you might not be strong enough for what you’re about to face. Unlike in nature, where animals can quickly size up their likelihood of survival, our ability to recognize a threat and weigh our chances isn’t always so refined. In the business world, leaders often flee when what they really need to do is move forward. Ego is also at play. Leaders often choose to stick with the plan, even when it isn’t working, rather than make changes and risk the consequences. This isn’t a new phenomenon and…
We all know what traditional chief operating officers do and what characteristics typically make them tick. There is another type of COO that every company needs — whether they admit it or not — who shares the same initials as the former, but who has diametric responsibilities. This person is a chief opportunity officer, although the title sometimes varies because the word opportunity conveys the wrong message to the less pragmatic. The characteristics of this rare bird were probably honed when he or she was a small child. Most parents didn’t talk much about this offspring’s special traits outside the…
What’s become one of the most discussed trends in technology and manufacturing may sound more like something from a futuristic movie rather than something that is taking off in the here and now — 3-D printing. It may even sound expensive. In reality, 3-D printing is becoming increasingly accessible and can help companies improve manufacturing efficiency and cost structure. Although 3-D printing was conceived and invented more than 30 years ago, investment in the technology has begun to soar in recent years as more businesses see its potential to drive a new industrial revolution, one that enables businesses to get…
While it wasn’t literally a light bulb going off above his head, the idea that came to Jason Farro formed when President Barack Obama announced his prescription for health care reform in 2009. Farro could see that with the federal reform, health care plans that were offered by small businesses to their employees would be reduced and individuals would become more and more responsible for finding their own insurance. That year, Farro launched Lighthouse Insurance Group LLC in Cleveland — the first of its kind in the insurance industry. What first drove Farro, the company’s CEO, was his research into…
"Building Stronger Communities" The story of New Avenues to Independence Inc. is not only about how the organization addresses the needs of the developmentally disabled and the disadvantaged. It’s also about how New Avenues blends a business model with a not-for-profit mission. When it was founded 62 years ago, the group consisted of parent volunteers who wanted to offer children with disabilities educational, vocational and recreational experiences. One feature that makes New Avenues unique is its vocational services program, which partners with local businesses and accomplishes a dual mission. “The not-for-profit side of it is to employ people with disabilities…
Global branding has become increasingly popular in the past few decades. Companies are more often seeking to expand overseas into tempting and lucrative developing markets. Furthermore, the Internet has given global branding a heightened importance as websites can be accessed from anywhere. This is why international trademarks have become a necessity for companies operating in the global marketplace to ensure as much protection for their brands as possible. Smart Business spoke with Namit Bhatt, an associate at Fay Sharpe LLP, about protecting brands when advertising abroad. What should a company consider before expanding internationally? One of the first steps is…
If your organization is using social networking sites to search for potential job candidates, it is not alone. Social networking sites have become an increasingly popular recruitment and screening tool because of the ease and efficiency they allow for finding new talent. However, in the absence of an existing evidence-based model for using social networking sites, organizations must find a way to balance the risks and rewards as research catches up to practice.Recent surveys tell us that LinkedIn is the most frequently used social networking site for recruiting and screening potential candidates. Perhaps this is because LinkedIn was developed for…
Thursday, 27 February 2014 19:17

How companies can improve security of sensitive data

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It’s difficult to protect your data when you don’t know where it is and who has access. “Most companies don’t go through a data classification process. The No. 1 thing businesses can do to protect their data is to know where it is and the value it has,” says Joe Compton, CISSP, CISA, a principal with the Skoda Minotti Risk Advisory Services Group. Smart Business spoke with Compton about actions companies can take to improve information security. How do you go about finding and classifying data? There are many different models you can use, including a simple checklist of three…
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 21:42

How do you know when it’s the right time to sell?

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As a rule, you make money in real estate when you buy, not when you sell.With that said, it’s common for an owner not to know when to sell, says Joseph V. Barna, SIOR, a principal at Cushman & Wakefield/CRESCO Real Estate. The property owner needs to weigh market conditions, along with internal factors like occupancy, cash flow and the condition of the building.“You don’t want to wait until you’re in trouble, because there are sophisticated buyers out there,” Barna says. “The buyers know you’re in trouble and that sooner or later the building is going to go back to…
When a breakdown happens in your production line, you’re ready to do whatever it takes to get things running again. What business leader hasn’t been there? And, if it hasn’t happened to your production line, maybe your computer system has crashed or some other essential aspect of your business. When these breakdowns happen, you’re ready to call anyone who can fix it. Consider this story, told by former Browns coach Sam Rutigliano at a recent Men’s Fellowship Group in Westlake that wanted to hear his messages of inspiration — and connection. A parable for the office One day, a business…
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