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Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

Critical care

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It was a simple mistake. Instead of choosing among four East Coast housing projects to go after, executives at The Wallick Cos. decided to build them all — at the same time. It seemed like a great growth opportunity for the then-$135 million company. Instead, it financially crippled the Reynoldsburg-based builder and manager of affordable housing. Thirty-seven straight years of profits went down the tubes, and revenue plunged by $50 million in less than 48 months. In addition, more than a third of the 1,000-strong work force had to be laid off. “I came in the middle of it, so…
Sunday, 31 December 2006 19:00

Power 100

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When historians write the book on the first decade of the 21st century, 2006 will be known as the year of the shake up. Storms of change raged across the nation, and Ohio was at the maelstrom’s center. In Columbus, the GOP leadership that had run Ohio was swept from power. In its place, an unknown quantity that hadn’t been seen in statewide office leadership for more than a decade: the Democrats. CEOs and civic leadership at some of the region’s major organizations also replaced their leaders during 2006, most notably Wendy’s International, which ran its CEO out after disagreements…
Friday, 24 November 2006 19:00

High achiever

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Pamela Springer has always aimed high. Her history of success goes back to the early ’80s, when her college basketball team at Franklin University made it to the NCAA Final Four. Since then, she’s succeeded in leadership positions at a number of tech companies. Today, she is CEO of ECNext, which builds and manages commerce stores. “When I joined ECNext in 2003 as VP of sales, we only had four customers; we now have 55,” says Springer of the 40-employee company. Smart Business spoke to Springer about why every company needs irritants and why CEOs need mature egos. Q: What…
Sunday, 29 October 2006 10:59

Becoming a Fortune 100 company

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With the technology revolution, the playing field’s been leveled. “No longer do the world’s largest companies hold insurmountable advantages,” says Bill Nemeth, president and CEO of Mirifex, a technology consulting firm with offices in Columbus and Strongsville. “Any company has the ability to perform like a Fortune 100 in its own right. “For decades, industries of all kinds have enjoyed the ability to set themselves apart based on product, service or price. But not anymore. Things like lean operating practices and process optimization have commoditized traditional means of distinction. To compete and win tomorrow requires that you innovate with emerging…
Saturday, 28 October 2006 20:00

On the road

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 Sometimes high-level executives get so bogged down in the day-to-day details of their business, they tend to forget their company’s higher purpose, their goals for the future and their path to achieving those goals. Ted Cowie, president and chief operating officer of Safety Today, finds that his best reality check is spending some quality time with his company’s customers and suppliers. His Groveport-based distribution company provides safety equipment for the utilities, steel, automotive, food processing, government and construction industries. With nine locations in the United States and one in Canada, Safety Today’s team includes 80 employees and a reported $43…
Thursday, 21 September 2006 12:35

Retaining top tech talent

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Businesses today can successfully use creative strategies to persuade valued technology staff to stay on board. These strategies, surprisingly, don’t necessarily require hefty bonus checks, according to a recent study by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of information technology professionals. While bonus and equity incentives are certainly on the tech employee’s radar screen, what is deemed most important among IT staff is for the company to provide professional development opportunities. The study found that next-most important were flexible schedules, followed by compensation. “In today’s highly competitive IT market — where the demand for talent exceeds the supply of technology…
Tuesday, 19 September 2006 20:00

Building relationships

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 Business leaders often enter a customer meeting with an agenda about their role as a vendor, but Guy Dille says that is the wrong approach. Dille, president and global business unit leader of SofTechnics Inc., says it’s more important to ask customers about their objectives and listen to the answers to help achieve those goals. “It all comes down to knowing your customers,” Dille says. “If you work closely with your customers, and you’re a business partner, not a vendor, the customers will tell you what you have to do to grow.” SofTechnics, a division of Switzerland’s Mettler-Toledo, provides retail…
Tuesday, 29 August 2006 12:39

A work/life balance

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A common question to ask a successful business person is how he or she balances work and life. Although this question is difficult for many people to answer, companies are working to help employees maintain a better balance between work and life, which in turn helps increase productivity and satisfaction at work. Creating ways for employees to find time to handle other priorities is crucial for increasing retention says Jason Skidmore, vice president of OfficeTeam’s Columbus Region. Smart Business spoke with Skidmore about ways employers can help create a better balance for employees between work and life and how this…
Monday, 28 August 2006 20:00

Ralph Sanese

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 Ralph Sanese may refer to himself as chief cook and bottle washer, but around Columbus’ Sanese Services Inc., he is also known as president. Sanese Services provides food services to corporations, health care facilities, schools and government entities, and with 900 associates and 2005 revenue of $55 million, it expects to grow revenue another 6 to 8 percent this year. Smart Business spoke with Sanese about how he exceeds his customers’ expectations and offers opportunities to help employees become more successful. Live like a leader.You live real leadership every day in your life. Leadership becomes the fabric of your very…
Sunday, 30 July 2006 20:00

Keeping the best

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 The employee was ill. Gravely ill. He had exhausted all of his paid time off. He couldn’t work. Bob Peterson, president of Columbus Serum Co., didn’t have to make it his concern. After all, he was in the midst of growing his South Columbus veterinary supply distribution business into a $170 million company. Yet, Peterson couldn’t turn a blind eye to his long-term employee’s plight. So he kept that employee on payroll — the entire time he was battling cancer. “We continued to pay him while he was off for two years,” Peterson says. “He tried to come in if…
Sunday, 30 July 2006 07:03

Don’t they have computers for that?

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For years, the rallying cry of every technology-based vendor from computer watches to international servers has been “more efficient employees and streamlined systems” -- the holy grail of business planning. The truth is technology does not make people more efficient. Technology makes things work more efficiently. People are people, and someone who has trouble prioritizing and organizing will face these same challenges. Productivity paradoxOur personal productivity is not automatically improved because the underlying technology to which we have access is better. In fact, the opposite may actually be true. A now-famous theory that was debated by the likes of Nobel Laureate…
Friday, 28 July 2006 20:00

Do what you do best

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Chris Bouzounis likes to greet employees with an upbeat welcome each morning when he arrives at work. Projecting an enthusiastic attitude is a positive way for business owners to start their workday, says the founder and general manager of Artina Promotional Products, a distributor of promotional products. And offering a profit-sharing program also encourages his 25 employees to have a vested interest in the company’s success. Both tactics are working — Artina has grown from $4.6 million revenue in 2004 to a projected $7 million this year. Smart Business spoke with Bouzounis about how he grows his company by forming…
Thursday, 29 June 2006 13:13

Protecting your assets

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Your key employee just walked out the door with a list of clients and a new employer waiting with open arms. You are raging and want to know what you can do to stop him. Hopefully, you have protected yourself with a noncompete, nonsolicitation and nondisclosure agreement. Noncompetition agreements are crucial in businesses where it is inevitable that an employee will have access to sensitive, confidential and proprietary information and have the ability to create long-standing relationships with valued clients whom they only met because of their relationship with the company. Noncompetition agreements are designed to protect a company from…
Wednesday, 28 June 2006 20:00

Relentless consistency

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When Tom Green joined Lancaster Pollard nine years ago, he was charged with expanding on the founders’ vision. Since then, as chairman and CEO, Green has grown the Columbus company to a staff of 42 with projected 2006 revenue of $19 million. Lancaster Pollard provides investment banking, mortgage banking and financial advisory services to community hospitals, senior living organizations and affordable housing providers. With a business plan that focuses on steady geographic expansion, in the last several years, the company has doubled the size of its downtown office space and opened offices in Denver, Atlanta, Kansas City and Austin, Texas.…
Monday, 22 May 2006 20:00

Smart growth

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It’s not unusual to walk into Brighter Minds Media Inc. and see employees playing video games. In fact, CEO and publisher Vivian Antonangeli encourages this type of pre-market product testing. Creative collaboration has helped Worthington-based Brighter Minds meet its goal of doubling business each year. And as another step toward meeting that goal, the publisher of children’s educational software, games and books, took control of marketing, sales and production two years ago and brought it all in-house. The moves seem to be working — the company recently increased its office space, and Antonangeli expects $10 million in 2006 revenue. Smart…
Monday, 24 April 2006 06:53

Industrial strength

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Working his way up the ranks at Ohio Transmission Corp. gave Philip Derrow an appreciation for his employees’ work at all levels of the company. The president and CEO remembers a time early in his career at the industrial distributor and service center when some office staff looked down on the service technicians — highly skilled employees who wore uniforms and got dirty for a living. This attitude bothered Derrow, who recognized that line-level employees work hard, deserve respect and play an important role in the company. That situation provides daily inspiration for Derrow as he leads the 290 employees…
Thursday, 30 March 2006 10:04

Douglas Freeman

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Newark-based MedBen was innovative, profitable and growing quickly. To many CEOs, that might seem like an optimal situation, but not to Douglas Freeman. Freeman, president and CEO of the $47 million benefits management company, was concerned that MedBen’s fast growth was hurting its quality — something he was determined not to lose. But Freeman was having a tough time defining quality — what might pass for quality according to one of his employees might not seem like quality to him. To create a uniform definition of quality, Freeman decided to work toward the company becoming ISO 9001:2000 certified, uncommon in…
Tuesday, 28 February 2006 10:42

Making trades

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Having a profitable portfolio and a good relationship with your broker does not occur by accident. Making the right selection for a broker or adviser, and knowing what to do when a problem arises, can protect your portfolio more than making the right stock pick. Currently there are more than 5,200 registered brokerage firms and 668,000 registered stock brokers in America. There are more than 126,000 people licensed as stock brokers and an additional 1,800 Registered Investment Advisors licensed to do business in Ohio alone. The overwhelming majority of those people are honest and competent professionals. However, much like any…
Monday, 30 January 2006 19:00

Proper planning

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There has been a rise in the number of people interested in estate planning in the past year because of legal battles, such as the Terri Schiavo case, where such plans would have played a crucial role. People often mistakenly equate estate planning with a death scenario and may deem the process too costly and time-consuming. It can be a pay now or pay later scenario, says Douglas Walouke, a vice president and financial consultant with Hilliard Lyons. Walouke is also a Chartered Financial Analyst(r) and a Chartered Wealth Advisor.(r) “What is the cost of not having a plan is…
Friday, 27 January 2006 09:11

Earth-smart technology

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When it’s time to ditch your company’s obsolete computers, it’s no longer as simple as putting them in a trashcan. “When the EPA got hold of (a company that did that) and fined them $5 million, everyone else got onto the program rather quickly,” says Sepp Rajaie, CEO of Tech Disposal, a technology retirement solution provider. TechDisposal, which posted nearly $4 million in revenue in 2005, processes more than 50 million pounds of IT equipment annually, with none of it going into landfills. Smart Business spoke with Rajaie about how he grows his company by staying true to his environmental…
Tuesday, 27 December 2005 19:00

Calculated risk

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The stage was set for economic disaster. Oil prices were skyrocketing and the stock market was plunging. The nation’s terrorism alert had been elevated because of threats against specific financial targets, including the World Bank and the New York Stock Exchange. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 closed at new lows for the year. Yet in the midst of all this economic turmoil, on Aug. 5, 2004, Mervin Dunn, president and CEO of Commercial Vehicle Group Inc., was set to take his company public. “You’re sitting there toward the end of it and you’re thinking, ‘Damn! I…
Tuesday, 27 December 2005 06:38

Measuring success

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It might be the survival skills Rhonda DeMuth grasped at an early age as one of 11 children. Or perhaps it is her strong educational background, which includes a bachelor of science degree in mathematics from Minnesota State University and an MBA from the University of Dayton. Or it could be her practical experience — 25 years with three national and regional consulting firms and experience as a manager and software engineer. Whatever the magic formula might be, it spells success for DeMuth, who serves as chairman and CEO of TDCI, a consulting and software organization that helps manufacturing companies…
Monday, 28 November 2005 19:00

Animal instincts

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Everyone does due diligence before buying a company. It’s a no-brainer. It’s step No. 1. Yet it was completely ignored in one multimillion-dollar deal that turnaround artist Kevin Vasquez got stuck sorting out for an employer years ago. The results could — perhaps should — have been disastrous. “It was a deal cut 30 miles off North Carolina in a fishing boat,” says Vasquez of the merger agreement between Fermenta Animal Health and Tech America. “The president and CEO of the business called me into his office one morning and said, ‘We just bought a company and now you need…
Monday, 28 November 2005 19:00

How risky is your business?

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When Emily receives a call from local police at 8:00 a.m., it triggers a seemingly endless stream of questions about her wholesale food distribution operation. One of her delivery vehicles was involved in an accident. Even though the accident itself played out in less than a minute, she rapidly realizes it has far-reaching implications and might impact her business well into the future. She doesn’t know how badly injured her driver is. Was he at fault? How much is her $120,000 straight truck worth now? She remembers one of the drivers mentioning it might be time to have the brakes…
Tuesday, 29 November 2005 04:45

New year, new you

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The new year is fast approaching, which means it’s time for us to start our annual resolution ritual. From losing weight to quitting smoking, it is estimated that more than half of all Americans will ring in 2006 by pledging to give up a bad behavior. Studies have shown that nearly one-third of people who make resolutions are back to their old habits by February, and only 20 percent stay on track for six months. Perhaps this year, instead of giving something up, it might be more effective to take on something new. For many industries, a bachelor’s degree, while…
Wednesday, 23 November 2005 06:08

Building a nest egg

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Companies often have to adapt to survive, and Dave Fox, the founding father, chairman and recently retired CEO of Columbus-based Dave Fox Remodeling, did a 180 with his company 20 years ago that turned out to be a wise decision. Fox founded his new-home building company in 1968 but by the mid-’80s, customers were demanding design-build remodeling. “When (customers) have time off, they don’t want to be doing their own remodeling. They want to hire a professional who’ll do the work for them,” he says. Dave Fox Remodeling took shape in 1985 and has since grown to 47 employees with…
Wednesday, 02 November 2005 07:11

Against the odds

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Most men wouldn’t think of quitting their job to start their own business when their wife is five months pregnant. But Fernando Crosa did just that when he learned that the national petroleum services corporation he worked for was about to be acquired. “My experiences with these types of acquisitions are that they (larger companies) come in and say, ‘Don’t worry, you and all your people will be taken care of,’” says Crosa. “But in reality, what happens is they come in and once they understand the business, they cut it down. I decided to prepare for that.” By prepare,…