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Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Built to last

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Interest rates were tantalizingly low, and homeowners were seizing the day, building starter homes left and right in a hot market. Sounds like a field day for homebuilders. But for Bill Darling, president of Frisco-based Darling Homes, his company was not positioned for that market. It was focused on more seasoned homebuyers, particularly those looking for a custom-built home with high-end options and lots of details. As it turns out, those customers were mostly employed in the technology industry in Dallas, and many were unemployed as the tech sector went bust around 2001. “As the industry was flourishing and all…
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

James Flynn

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Earlier in his career, James Flynn joined Popeyes Chicken to lead the company in a turnaround. After successfully doing so, the entrepreneur who hired him decided to acquire Church’s Chicken as well, but instead of letting Flynn run the combined companies, he wanted to be hands on. The two disagreed on a lot of points, and Flynn quickly grew frustrated and resigned. Today, he’s doing things his way as CEO of Wingstop Restaurants Inc., a chain of restaurants specializing in buffalo-style chicken wings that he has grown to $200 million in revenue. Smart Business spoke with Flynn about why it’s…
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

Legal action on the go

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First there was fast food. Now there is fast legal action. One such ‘rocket docket’ for patent lawsuits is in the Eastern District of Texas. In less than five years, the town of Marshall has increased the number of patent cases heard eightfold. To find out what is going on, Smart Business asked E. Leon Carter, a member of the litigation section of Munck Butrus PC, a Dallas-based law firm. What is a ‘rocket docket’? That phrase refers to jurisdictions in which cases go to trial relatively quickly. Cases in the U.S. District Court in Marshall typically go to trial…
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

SBA loans

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Whether a start-up or established, businesses often need to borrow funds to operate. One lending option that has been around since 1953 is sometimes overlooked due to lack of knowledge or misunderstandings. The Small Business Administration (SBA) loan program is not for everyone, but has some definite benefits for companies and owners that are in a position to take advantage of them. “There are only about 50,000 to 60,000 SBA loans approved nationally each year and most lenders only do 10 or 12 per year,” says Edward H. Holmes, president of Centinel Financial Corporation in Plano. Centinel is the SBA…
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

The Tindell file

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Born: Baton Rouge, La., 1953 Education: Attended The University of Texas at Austin What was your first job, and what did it teach you? My first job ever was working, at age 15, for Sherwin-Williams paint store down the street from where I lived. I just kept pestering the guy. I think persistence has a great role in business. I really liked working at Sherwin-Williams. The store manager and assistant manager were really impressed because I would clean the paint cans and organize them really well. I revamped the entire stockroom and got it completely orderly and straight. I didn’t…
Wednesday, 25 April 2007 20:00

Raising the bar

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The first year Scott Doores’ software company won a prestigious service award, he said he didn’t really know what the award was for, but he was happy someone was paying attention to him and AudioTel Corp. The second year, he wanted to win again, just to prove that the first year wasn’t a fluke. But after he won for the third straight year, he decided he and his 75 employees were going to have to bust their butts to keep their streak going. “You get that third award, you’re driven,” the president and CEO says. “There’s no way you want…
Monday, 26 March 2007 20:00

Letting go to grow

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Just as parents struggle to let go of their children as they enter adulthood, Nina G. Vaca struggled with letting other hands work on her business as it grew. “I brought in almost every customer myself, and then I needed to leverage and hand off those relationships to other people in the firm for scalability because one person can’t do everything,” says Vaca, chairwoman, founder and CEO of Pinnacle Technical Resources Inc., a custom information technology solutions company. “If they tell you that they can, they’re probably lying.” By learning how to successfully bring others into her company and then…
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 19:00

Survival tips

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Business owners and executives have all heard or experienced horror stories of IT projects over-budget and behind schedule. There is an old adage: A poorly-planned project takes three times as long to complete as planned, but a well-planned project only takes twice as long. While this is in jest, it illustrates the challenges of successfully leading a business project, says Kevin Christ, a principal with Avvantica Consulting LLC. There are bountiful sources of advice written for project managers, but little for sponsors who are ultimately accountable for results, says Christ. Smart Business spoke with him about how sponsors can lead…
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 19:00

Key points in executive recruiting

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Over the past year, we have run a series of articles that focus on the role of the executive search firm in the executive hiring process. It is helpful at this time to reiterate the key points of those articles. This recap concentrates on the risks clients incur and the benefits they derive from the use of executive search firms, how the benefits impact their operations, what criteria clients should apply when choosing the firm that best matches their unique needs, the ethics involved in search and the importance of confidentiality in the process. Smart Business asked John Semyan, a…
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 19:00

Energy envisioned

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Energy is a finite commodity affected by a multitude of trends. As a result of economic growth, increasing third-world needs, changes in weather patterns and expanding government policies, it’s clear that both energy providers and consumers must learn how to squeeze more power out of less product. While the growth of biofuels, nonhydroelectric renewable energy sources and construction of additional nuclear power plants will impact future energy demand, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that — instead of shrinking — oil, coal and natural gas will provide roughly the same share of the total U.S. primary energy supply in…
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 19:00

The forensic files

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Theft and fraud in the workplace are like drunk drivers on the road. There are more of them than you can imagine and their impact is devastating. Estimates are that 5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product is lost to fraud in all its forms — from the bartender skimming cash to the executives at Enron. This pall over the economic landscape begs the question: What can an honest business do to detect fraud? Smart Business spoke with Payne Harrison who is a principal with Whitley Penn LLP and leader of its Forensic Investigation & Litigation Support Practice in Dallas.…
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

Merrill Dubrow

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Merrill Dubrow thinks his basic cell phone is smarter than his multifunctional BlackBerry because when he changes time zones, it automatically updates the time, while the BlackBerry doesn’t. It’s just a small detail, but it’s in the minutia that Dubrow finds opportunities and generates ideas as president and CEO of M/A/R/C Research, his 91-person market research company. Smart Business spoke with Dubrow about how he skates to where the puck will be in order to improve the business. Q: How do you lead change? Same old, same old means you’re going out of business. There has to be change, additional…
Sunday, 31 December 2006 19:00

Growing from pain

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When John P. Hayes took over HomeVestors of America Inc. in early 2005, it was to fulfill the company founder’s dying wish. Hayes switched careers from consultant to president and CEO, and began nurturing the real estate company’s culture while creating a focus on growing profits. He convinced his 80 employees and 250 franchisees that the company would grow and, true to his word, 2006 revenue grew 17 percent over the previous year to a projected $38 million, and the number of employees doubled. Smart Business spoke with Hayes about how giving away gas cards and going to Texas Rangers…
Friday, 24 November 2006 19:00

Benefits of merchant capture

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With the advent of Check 21, you might want to consider a new way of handling the checks you receive from your customers. Check 21 is short for the “Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act” which went into effect on Oct. 28, 2004. Instead of checks physically being taken from your facility to your bank, through a Federal Reserve bank, to your customer’s bank and then to the customer, they only leave after being electronically processed and eventually shredded. “With the rollout of Check 21, there are significant savings and efficiency benefits to financial institutions and commercial customers, with…
Friday, 24 November 2006 19:00

Focal point

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By Robyn Davis Sekula Tony Affuso says the best way to guarantee success in business is to focus on your employees. Affuso, chairman, president and CEO of UGS Corp., has his 7,200 employees focusing on making customers successful, while he focuses on making his employees happy. “We want a company where employees enjoy coming to work every day, where they feel challenged, where they feel like there is opportunity,” Affuso says. “We want them to enjoy what they do, and they have a passion to win. That together makes it fun.” Affuso wants his employees to want to enjoy their…
Wednesday, 25 October 2006 07:57

Multi-dimensional data analysis

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Corporate managers will never be able to make good, informed decisions based solely on data. But — if formatted properly to provide knowledge and insight — data can facilitate complex business decision-making. What you might need, says Blake Sellers, president and CEO of Avvantica Consulting, LLC, is business-intelligence-for-decision-support (BI-for-DS) capability, which will allow easier access and analysis of existing business data. “When managed properly, a business intelligence implementation can deliver continuous benefits through a series of relatively short projects,” Sellers says. “With this approach, the company is better able to manage the risk of an individual project while working to…
Wednesday, 25 October 2006 07:43

Gambling in the Gulf

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A group led by Chevron recently reported a discovery of up to 15 billion barrels of oil under the Gulf of Mexico. Company geoscientists say it’s there, buried below 7,000 feet of seawater and four miles of earth. What impact will the discovery, located less than 200 miles from the world’s largest petroleum-consuming country, have on America’s growing dependency on imported oil? “If it proves to be a 15-billion-barrel field, and in the near future we find another 15-billion-barrel field, it would be the first time in over a decade that we found as much oil as we used in…
Tuesday, 24 October 2006 13:34

The McGrath file

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Born: 1949, North Attleborough, Mass. Education:Bachelor’s degree, computer science and management science, 1971, Boston College; master’s degree, business administration, Harvard Business School, 1973 What’s been your biggest business challenge?i2 has been a major turnaround challenge. It was a once-great company that was in a difficult position when I took over as CEO. i2 has great employees, passionate customers and amazing technology. These employees, customers and our shareholders had a lot at stake in this turnaround. After 18 months, we have accomplished everything that we set out to do. i2 is profitable, more financially stable and growing. We launched a new…
Wednesday, 20 September 2006 10:28

Project portfolio management

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“Project portfolio management” is the latest trend in project management, with books, software, Web sites and conferences proliferating on the topic. But what exactly does it mean? For managers working on projects on a daily basis, it may be viewed as a euphemism for “more work.” But, in fact, this new way at looking at projects is designed to actually make projects work more efficiently to meet company goals and objectives, says Jim Joiner, director of the Project Management Program at the University of Texas at Dallas School of Management. “As more projects and programs take up more time and…
Tuesday, 19 September 2006 20:00

Change agent

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 Glenn W. Anderson saw his company dwindle to nearly nothing after it exited the insurance line that accounted for 80 percent of its business. In 2002, Gainsco Inc. was primarily in the commercial lines insurance business and was hemorrhaging money. After the company tried unsuccessfully to fix the problems, that part of the business was scrapped. There was a seed of hope, however, in a small Florida subsidiary of the company that specialized in the nonstandard personal automobile insurance line. Anderson, CEO of the company, took that seed, spread it across the Southern states and created a stronger foundation, allowing…
Wednesday, 30 August 2006 02:36

Success by specification

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Every company does it. An executive departs, there doesn’t appear to be a ready back-up on the bench, so they immediately turn to the “free agent” market. Unlike in sports, however, your competition’s roster isn’t published each day in the morning paper. It isn’t that easy to know what you need to go get, and who is available. So how do you know who is out there, and how do you determine exactly what you are looking for? More importantly, how do you know when you find it? Smart Business spoke with Brian Trueblood, vice president of TNS Partners Inc.,…
Wednesday, 30 August 2006 02:18

Estate taxes

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There’s plenty of talk about estate taxes these days. While your estate is directly liable for paying any estate taxes when you die, all recipients of assets have a responsibility to ensure that taxes are paid on the assets that they receive, so the heirs are usually burdened by the estate tax. However, with proper planning, the estate tax liability can be greatly reduced or possibly eliminated, says David Neal, the tax director at Whitley Penn LLP, CPAs & Professional Consultants. “In order to reduce your estate tax liability, it’s critical to work with an adviser with experience in gift…
Tuesday, 29 August 2006 12:53

The Staubach file

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Born: 1942, Cincinnati, Ohio Education:Bachelor’s degree, engineering, United States Naval Academy, 1965 What’s been your biggest business challenge?In the ’80s, we had some outside investments. I’ve learned a lot about people through that difficult time in the ’80s. We have a wonderful group of people in our company who helped us through those disappointments. Life is a series of challenges. That’s the wonderful thing about life. I’m a big believer in perseverance. Whether it’s on the athletic field or in the business field, you don’t cook the books, you don’t give up on your faith, you don’t blame someone else,…
Sunday, 30 July 2006 08:32

Get on board

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Most people recognize that volunteering to mentor a young person through the Boys and Girls Clubs or hammering nails for Habitat for Humanity yields both personal satisfaction and a tangible contribution to the community. Interestingly, serving on the board of directors of a nonprofit organization is a particularly meaningful volunteer service that research indicates benefits the individual and his employer as well as the nonprofit. According to a Deloitte & Touche USA LLP survey released last summer, employed Americans overwhelmingly agree that volunteering advances them professionally and gives a positive career boost. Nearly three-quarters of those who serve on a…
Sunday, 30 July 2006 08:00

Texas’s new margin tax law

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A company’s tax burden is part of doing business, but a major overhaul in the Texas franchise tax rules means new requirements for many. What was previously a franchise tax is now a tax on taxable margin. Many businesses that were not required to pay the franchise tax will find themselves needing to understand and pay the new margin tax. Enacted to offset a 33 percent decrease in property taxes, the new margin tax brings many businesses into the system that were previously not taxed. While the old system only affected corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), the new system…
Saturday, 29 July 2006 07:17

The Portmann file

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Birthplace: West Yellowstone, Mont. Education: Bachelor’s of business degree, Boise State University, 1977 What is the most important business lesson you’ve learned? I would say three things, and I say them all the time. People support what they help to create. What gets measured gets managed. What gets rewarded gets repeated. What’s the best work advice anyone has ever given you? The best advice was, 90 percent of your problems are process, not people. Fix the process, and people will be hugely successful. What are some of your favorite business books?The most important book I’ve ever read in my business…
Thursday, 29 June 2006 17:52

Valuing MBAs

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The masters of business administration degree (MBA) has long been the sought-after “golden ticket” for ambitious businesspeople on their way up the corporate ladder. In recent years, the degree hasn’t lost its luster. More than 100,000 MBA degrees are conferred annually in the United States, and more are on the way. According to numbers compiled by the Graduate Management Admission Test Council, 228,000 people took the GMA test in 2005. And even though MBA salaries have grown more than 13 percent over the past two years, companies continue to covet advance-degreed businesspeople as critical assets to their organizations. The degree’s…