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Wednesday, 25 April 2007 20:00

Controlling litigation costs

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When does it pay to go through the cost and stress of filing a lawsuit? John J. Butrus Jr., the chairman of Munck Butrus PC’s Litigation Section, is fond of saying, “winning resets your costs to zero. The case you win costs you the least. If you get into a fight, fight to win.” That is prime advice. “In many instances, however, litigation costs prevent you from implementing a litigation strategy that gives you the best chance to win.” Although litigation expenses can be significant, more than 90 percent of all civil cases settle prior to trial. Smart Business talked…
Wednesday, 25 April 2007 20:00

Sooner is better

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Your company’s success depends on quality employees. Attracting and retaining them often takes more than a competitive salary or satisfying environment. One tool that many successful businesses use to attract and retain quality employees is an attractive retirement plan. Choosing a retirement plan for your business can be a daunting task, requiring the consideration of a range of business and personal needs and goals. “The sooner you set up a retirement plan for your business, the longer you and your employees will be able to contribute,” says Jamie Richardson, vice president of View-Point Investment Group, a division of ViewPoint Bank…
Wednesday, 25 April 2007 20:00

The Davis file

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Born: Frisco, Texas, 1961 Education: Bachelor’s degree, finance, Texas Christian University What was your first job, and what did it teach you? I worked as early as I can ever remember, maybe 5 years old (with) my dad, who worked half-days on Saturdays in a large agricultural equipment shop. He was a mechanic. I swept the floors for four hours on Saturday. That was my earliest memory of working. I learned that work resulted in pay, and I liked to have money. I really did. It took a good work ethic in order to have the spending money I wanted…
Monday, 26 March 2007 20:00

Perry A. Sook

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Perry A. Sook took a big risk in 2005 when he told cable companies that unless they were willing to pay to retransmit his TV stations’ signals, they would no longer be able to include those stations in their cable packages. They declined, so he pulled the stations comprising Nexstar Broadcasting Group Inc. off of cable. Sook was only trying to get the payment that cable-only stations were already receiving, and his peers in the industry praised his courage — but none stood up to back him. Even his board had doubts — its members said they would support him,…
Monday, 26 March 2007 20:00

Safeguarding your assets

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Fire and burglar alarms protect the physical assets of a business. But what protects its intellectual property (IP)? “Intellectual property is intangible property resulting from creativity,” says William Munck, chairman of the Dallas-based law firm of Munck Butrus PC. “IP describes a wide variety of property created by musicians, authors, artists and inventors.” Smart Business talked with Munck to find out how a company can protect itself against challenges to its IP. How do you protect intellectual property? IP is protected generally by copyright, patent, trade dress, trademark and trade secret laws. These areas of law are designed to encourage…
Monday, 26 March 2007 20:00

Treasury management

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The term treasury management may not ring a bell for most depositors but to the huge commercial market, the function provides a host of products and services vital to a firm’s day-to-day accounting and finance operations. Often the purview of only the largest business-to-business banks, treasury management services today are increasingly offered by smaller banks that focus on small business and middle-market clients. “The megabanks are competing for the Fortune 500 companies, so small to mid-size businesses may have trouble getting noticed,” says Robert Surko, director of treasury management at Plano-based ViewPoint Bank. ViewPoint represents one of a growing cadre…
Monday, 26 March 2007 20:00

The Elliott File

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Born: 1961, Oakmont, Pa. Education: Pittsburgh Beauty Academy, 1980; also has attended various business management courses What’s been your biggest business challenge? Operating with insufficient infrastructure, which lacked people and resources during a mass expansion of our salons. Looking back on my years with the company, we went through a long period where we opened a lot of salons, but we had a very small, lean infrastructure. But it was lean to the point of needing more people and resources. What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learned? Surround yourself with great people. That is No. 1. ... It’s very…
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 19:00

Leading change

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When David Kirk took over RF Monolithics Inc. in 1999, he had to downsize his work force from 600 to 200 to make the company leaner and stronger. And while he knew it would be hard, he also knew communication would help ease the pain. He held a meeting to tell employees about the cutbacks so that there would be no surprises later, but he also gave them reasons why the cutbacks were necessary if the company were to remain competitive. During the next two years, Kirk — president and CEO of RF Monolithics — helped workers find jobs elsewhere.…
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

Kristi P. Wetherington

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When Kristi P. Wetherington enters a meeting with a potential client, she’s initially fighting an uphill battle of preconceived notions. Being the young, female CEO of Capital Institutional Services Inc. (CAPIS), she has points against her when trying to leverage potential clients accustomed to meeting with older men from Wall Street firms. To ensure her 115-employee brokerage firm gets the clients, she’s constantly learning and growing as a leader. Smart Business spoke with Wetherington about how she establishes credibility with potential clients to compete with big Wall Street names. Balance team and individual decisions. A team approach works best; however,…
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

Future of the ‘death tax’

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There has been a great deal of discussion recently about the impact of federal elections on estate planning. After all, the Democrat and Republican parties do have differing philosophies about levels of exemptions, tax rates on the amounts above the exempted levels, the impact on different groups of wage earners, etc. But, regardless of which party is in power at any given time, people concerned about protecting their wealth should plan for their futures without trying to look into a crystal ball to guess what Congress will do — or try to do — to tax their estates. Smart Business…
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

Supply chain management

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The goal of supply chain management is to balance supply and demand, profitably, for products and services. Supply chain management involves many “rights,” according to Suresh Sethi, Ph.D., director of the Center for Intelligent Supply Networks (C4iSN) at The University of Texas at Dallas School of Management: “The delivery of the right product at the right price to the right store in the right quantity to the right customer at the right time. Similar rights apply to services.” Delivery of goods and services to customers in modern economies requires a network of enterprises. “It is not uncommon for a single…
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

Packaging applications

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Making money is hard work, and raising the capital to get a business going can be equally challenging, unless you know how to package a loan application. The path to lending is strewn with stories of people with right intentions and none of the know-how of how to sell themselves on paper. Organizing data, paying attention to details and demonstrating that you, the borrower, understand your business always appeals to a banker, says Patrick Ramsier, managing director of commercial lending at ViewPoint Bank. It’s all in the packaging, he says. “It’s not a case of form over substance,” says Ramsier.…
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

The Caster file

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Born: Dallas, 1950 Education: Attended North Texas State University [now the University of North Texas], Denton, Texas What was your first job, and what did it teach you? Delivering The Dallas Morning News at age 12. Honestly, that’s a good question because one of the things the paperboy job did for me is that’s your own business. It launched my whole career as an entrepreneur, understanding the value of service, managing my time and my money. It’s an incredible learning job for a brand-new person in business. My entire life has been spent as an entrepreneur. You are in business…
Sunday, 31 December 2006 19:00

Ralph Hawkins

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Ralph Hawkins knew it was important that his company, HKS Inc., have a clearly defined set of values. But instead of just imposing them, he enlisted the company’s employees to help document what the values should be. Doing so not only established the 10 values that employees felt had always been present but never formalized, it also gained grassroots support for the values. Once the core values were defined and communicated, Hawkins and management slowly weeded out those employees that didn’t reflect those values. As a result, the firm went from $1 billion in construction five years ago to more…
Sunday, 31 December 2006 19:00

Defending against liability

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Being sued for liability is one of the risks professionals such as accountants, insurance agents, attorneys, and directors or officers of a business take. The best defense against liability lawsuits is to prevent them from being filed in the first place. Therefore, it is in the best interests of professionals, directors and officers to retain the best defense attorneys possible when liability lawsuits are filed against them. Ideally, the attorneys should specialize in liability issues. “Attorneys can help minimize defendants’ exposure and sometimes get them exonerated,” says Bruce Bowman, a partner with Godwin Pappas Langley Ronquillo LLP. “Defense attorneys can…
Sunday, 31 December 2006 19:00

Executive coaching

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Executive coaching helps successful people become even more successful, according to Robert Hicks, Ph.D., director of executive and professional coaching at The University of Texas at Dallas School of Management. “Executive coaching helps people change their perspective and behavior patterns to increase effectiveness,” says Hicks. “It’s a formal relationship that begins with the setting of goals and a timetable for reaching them. An executive coach is someone who the person seeking coaching can bounce ideas off to uncover creative solutions — a thinking partner. A good coach asks the tough questions.” Hicks has been coaching and educating others to become…
Sunday, 31 December 2006 19:00

Interest rates vs. profitability

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Every time the Federal Reserve gets together to discuss rates, business people take notice to see what the Fed is going to do. Its role is to control monetary policy to “promote maximum employment, stable prices and moderate long-term interest rates.” It primarily meets its objective by setting a target federal funds rate (the rate that the Fed charges depository institutions to borrow money to meet their overnight reserve requirements). To control inflation, the rates are tightened (or raised) to slow down the economy and loosened (or lowered) to speed it up. “As the Fed lowers or raises the federal…
Sunday, 31 December 2006 19:00

The Barrett file

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Born: 1944, Bellows Falls, Vt. Education: Bachelor’s degree, Becker Junior College (now Becker College), Worcester, Mass., 1964 First job: Working for a paper company, typing bills for the company’s truck drivers. I learned a lot in that job. One thing was to not pay too much attention to what other people told you about who you should talk to and who you should stay away from. It’s a long story, but I learned as long as you are respectful to other people, they will return that favor. My house burned down while I was working there. ... The truck drivers,…
Friday, 24 November 2006 19:00

Roger Kent

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When he founded Rug Doctor, Roger Kent struggled to make headway against larger and more established companies, but he continued to fight by focusing on doing a better job and having a superior product. The formula worked, and today the 800 employees of Rug Doctor, which manufactures and sells carpet cleaning machines and supplies, generate $150 million in annual revenue. Smart Business spoke with Kent about how he maintains focus and why a lack of growth isn’t necessarily bad. Build trust and care for employees. To build trust, it’s a day-to-day thing over a period of years — just your…
Friday, 24 November 2006 19:00

Watch that patent

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The value of intellectual property has never been as high as it is today. Patents in particular have become valuable assets for businesses of all sizes. Over the past decade, the number of patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has more than doubled. During that same time, patent infringement damage awards and settlements in the United States continue to increase, reaching beyond $1 billion in some cases. The value of intellectual property is directly related to the ability to defend that property, whether through litigation or through a structured licensing program. Smart Business spoke with Monte M.…
Friday, 24 November 2006 19:00

Ethics and values in leadership

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Leadership and management go hand-in-hand. An effectively led company must also have an effective management team. “A company that has strong leadership but weak management can survive — as can a company that has strong management and weak leadership — but the best companies excel in both areas,” says Jerry Hoag, executive director of The Leadership Center at UTD, which is part of The University of Texas at Dallas School of Management. The classic example of strong leadership and weak management is perhaps the entrepreneur who successfully starts and builds a company, but then risks failure as the company grows…
Friday, 24 November 2006 19:00

Value-added exits

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When the day arrives for a business owner to transition his or her life’s work on to the next custodian, many complex issues must be addressed to realize maximum value at closing. Entrepreneurs with a significant emotional stake in their business often are tempted to tackle the sale process. They know the business inside and out and believe they are best suited to bring it to market. But owners who want to maximize value should turn to an intermediary to develop and implement their exit strategy. “An intermediary is skilled at negotiating and — more importantly — understanding all the…
Wednesday, 25 October 2006 07:51

Navigating high-tech trials

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Courtrooms are going “Hollywood” — and paperless. Society has changed, and the courtroom is catching up with jurors who use technology in their jobs on a daily basis. Since the jurors themselves are “technology savvy,” they expect attorneys and their vendors to be as well. The high-tech changes taking place are spawning a new courtroom protocol and a new industry that revolves around technology vendors who can understand attorneys and predict where they might be going and be ready to call up an image or highlight a passage at a moment’s notice. Smart Business spoke with Keith Langley, a partner…
Tuesday, 24 October 2006 20:00

Peace of mind

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In today’s business climate, it is important to have as much information as possible when making decisions. Most of us would not enter into any type of legal engagement without the services of an attorney. Is the need for a trusted financial adviser any less important for every financial aspect you might have? “The primary reason for having a trusted financial adviser is to provide you with peace of mind,” says Todd Carter, private client manager at ViewPoint Bank. There are a number of things to consider as you choose your financial adviser. Smart Business talked with Carter about choosing…
Monday, 23 October 2006 20:00

Rebooting i2

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 When Michael E. McGrath decided to become president and CEO of i2 in February 2005, it is fair to say the company was in shambles. Delisted by the NASDAQ and having suffered numerous rounds of layoffs, it wasn’t even clear that i2, a supply chain management technology company with annual revenue of $337 million, would survive. Customers weren’t sure about buying its products because they didn’t know if the company would be around to support them. Employees were shaken by the layoffs, the company was losing money and debt was piling up. But McGrath, who was on the board of…
Wednesday, 20 September 2006 10:39

IT shared services

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"Shared services" in a business context means converging or streamlining functions to ensure the efficient and effective delivery of services -- including information technology. IT shared services typically fall into two categories: operations, such as the data center management, network services, help desk and maintenance; and project-based, such as applications development and systems implementation. Smart Business talked to Matt Keelan, consulting manager and IT director for Avvantica Consulting, LLC, about factors to consider relative to IT shared services. What are IT shared services?IT shared services are the centralization, standardization and consolidation of a company's IT functions. These IT functions often…
Wednesday, 20 September 2006 10:26

The sleeping giant

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U.S. oil prices fluctuate, it’s true, but the trend is unequivocally upward. U.S. consumers may be surprised to know that a leading push on that rising trend is the sprawling, densely populated nation of China — where latent capitalism is energizing a very old country’s commercial rebirth. In 2006, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), China’s oil consumption will increase to 38 percent of the total growth in worldwide oil demand. Its consumption for 2006 will exceed its 2005 levels by nearly 500,000 barrels of oil per day. “In the 1990s, China was exporting excess oil,” says John Barnes,…
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