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Thursday, 31 March 2011 20:01

John Rotche on building a better branding strategy

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Just as every action sparks a reaction, I can clearly remember the moment that spurred our decision to add a new brand and expand our company. Or, perhaps I should say that we recognized the undeniable need for change, and adding a new brand was the ultimate solution.In another instance, adding an additional service line was the right answer.How might your need for change bring you to one of these conclusions? In my experience, there are some key points to consider.• What are the synergies? Consider whether the new service or brand will complement your core business or detract from…
No one who lives in southeast Michigan needs a reminder that the region has been one of the epicenters of a massive economic recession. But it might help to remember that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, and you can reach that tunnel in better shape if you are prudent in how you lead your business. You can take steps to become more opportunistic, managing your spending and focusing your employees on the vision and mission of your company.Over the past couple of years, Smart Business Detroit has spoken with a number of Detroit-area business…
When an employer moves from a fully insured health care plan to a self-funded plan, it becomes responsible for 100 percent of the claims risk. That transition can be frightening, especially as medical costs continually increase. But purchasing stop-loss coverage from reinsurance carriers can help mitigate some of that risk.“Stop loss allows an employer to transfer a portion of the claims risk to the reinsurance carrier in exchange for a monthly premium,” says Donna Cowden, senior vice president with Aon Hewitt Health & Benefits.Smart Business spoke with Cowden and Gary Cumpata, senior vice president, Aon Hewitt Health & Benefits, about…
Stephen Polk senses a slow return to normal for the automotive industry as the coming months and years progress.It’s just that “normal” is going to come with a new definition.Polk is the chairman, president and CEO of 1,400-employee R.L. Polk and Co., a provider of information and marketing solutions to the automotive industry. He has had a front row seat as General Motors and Chrysler declared bankruptcy and were forced to undergo massive internal restructuring. He’s watched as countless auto suppliers have gone bankrupt or been sold to interests outside Michigan.But it won’t always be this way. And when things…
Beginning March 11, 2011, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will post safety complaints about consumer products at www.saferproducts.gov. CPSC is implementing this new publicly available and searchable database as part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.The database will allow consumers and others to submit reports of any claimed injury, sickness or harm related to the use (or possibly misuse) of any consumer product. Generally, a "consumer product" is defined as any product used in or around the home, school or recreation. In addition to product users, nearly anyone may submit a report for online posting, including:…
Wednesday, 02 March 2011 14:03

Despite court ruling, reforms move ahead

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Even though a federal judge in Florida ruled in late January that Health Care Reform is unconstitutional, don't expect any changes in the immediate future. Until and unless the U.S. Supreme Court invalidates the law, you can expect that federal and state governments will continue to implement it.U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 is unconstitutional because it requires nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or face higher taxes. He said the failure to purchase health insurance is "inactivity," which Congress does not have the authority to regulate.…
Bill Ford Jr. never thought he’d see the day when Chrysler and General Motors would be forced into bankruptcy proceedings, when American automakers were in such peril that they had to look to the government for a bailout or when the entire auto industry was teetering on the brink of disaster. Yet that’s exactly the depths to which the automotive industry sank over the past two years. As the worldwide economy slumped into a massive recession, the auto industry took one of the worst beatings of any area on the business landscape. Car sales slumped, auto component suppliers went bankrupt,…
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 14:43

Swimming upstream

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You can’t be afraid to fail. But there are still steps you can take to guard against unnecessary failure, even in the rough economic environment of the past two years.If you can take the lessons you’ve learned from your missteps, and the often-harsh lessons the recession has taught you, and use them to become a better risk taker, you can emerge from adversity in better shape than many other companies.With the Detroit area serving as one of the epicenters of the nation’s economic strife, the business leaders throughout the community have learned many such lessons and have shared a lot…
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 14:26

Keep sickness at bay

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Today, more than ever before, employers are seeking an effective means of controlling growing health care expenses. Wellness programs allow employers to provide hands-on programs that benefit the overall health of their employees. These programs improve the lives of participants because they eliminate high-health-risk lifestyles.According to many studies, more than 70 percent of all health care spending in the U.S. goes toward the treatment of chronic and preventable diseases. By offering employees the opportunity to assess and improve their health, employers can reduce their employees’ health problems and the skyrocketing costs of treating preventable conditions.Corporate wellness programs are not new,…
Business operations are subject to a number of risks from both internal and external factors. In addition, ownership interests in businesses are subject to risks, including market factors. How organizations and their owners address these risks can have a significant impact on the value of businesses and interests therein.An enterprise risk management (ERM) process involves identifying risks relative to an organization’s objectives, assessing them for likelihood and impact, developing a response strategy and monitoring progress. A well-defined ERM framework can protect and create value for the organization and its owners.“How a business addresses risk can have a significant impact on…
Traveling and working abroad often comes with risks, and savvy employers recognize that having employees overseas heightens their corporate liability. By protecting employees against the risks of global travel, employers can manage risks to their business, finances and reputation.“In today’s litigious society, corporate governance and duty of care are paramount to a company’s crisis management strategy,” says Justin Priestley, executive director for Aon Crisis Management. “Businesses need to react to incidents in a timely and consistent manner, protecting their people, assets, balance sheet and brand reputation.”Smart Business spoke with Priestley and Kevin J. Pastoor, CPCU, managing director of Aon Risk…
Social media has grown significantly in recent years and covers a broad range of online sites used by people of all ages, says James J. Boutrous II, a member with McDonald Hopkins PLC.“From LinkedIn to Facebook to Twitter to other online sites that let people connect with others in their business fields, networks or friend circles, social media has exploded as a new world of communication,” says Boutrous. “With that ability comes benefits and risks.”Smart Business spoke with Boutrous about social media and how to protect yourself — and your brand — while online.What legal issues do companies face in…
Monday, 28 February 2011 15:20

Servant leader

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The president’s message from Laurie Cunnington on her company’s website couldn’t be more direct: “At Ward Williston, we strive to conduct business while always adhering to our core business values. We believe our people are our best assets. We believe in treating our employees and customers with dignity and respect. We believe our customers deserve honest treatment and the best service possible. And finally, we believe that every day we must work to keep Ward Williston a company we can all be proud of.”For Cunnington and her husband, Thomas, who serves as Ward Williston Oil Co.’s CEO, this means focusing…
Directors and officers have two sources of protection in the event that claims are made against them for alleged wrongdoing: (1) indemnification from their company and (2) insurance. “Because there can be gaps in indemnification, companies should purchase insurance to make sure their people are protected,” says Christine Williams, a senior vice president and U.S. D&O practice leader with Aon Risk Solutions.“A D&O policy affords coverage for any claims that are brought against a director or officer as a result of a wrongful act or omission committed by the director or officer in their capacity as such,” says Williams. “In…
Although the economy is slowly recovering, businesses across many industries are continuing to struggle and, in many cases, fail. While some sectors are improving more rapidly than others, times are still tough for mid-market companies.The rapid changes and continuing uncertainty in health care are putting significant pressure on health care providers, as they are not prepared to adapt as conditions change and access to capital remains difficult, says Stephen M. Gross, Detroit managing member of McDonald Hopkins PLC.Similarly, although the automotive industry is posting record profits, this is primarily limited to OEMs and very large suppliers that reduced debt in…
Similar to for-profit corporations, nonprofits and charitable organizations (hereafter “nonprofits”) are highly susceptible to myriad risks. Faced with pressures created by today’s economic environment, nonprofits participate in a fiercely competitive environment. Barriers to entry for new organizations are low, and donors can easily shift their giving to alternate organizations. Additionally, nonprofits are generally staffed with employees and volunteers who are first committed to helping the organization achieve its mission. The achievement of this mission requires considerable resources, often leaving less than adequate time for these individuals to establish and/or maintain enterprise risk management (ERM) processes.When properly implemented, “ERM processes can…
It was early 2009 when Gregory Jackson realized he might have a ticking time bomb on his hands.Jackson is the founder, president and CEO of Jackson Automotive Management. Two years ago, the company owned Ford, Toyota, Mercedes Benz, Scion and Saturn dealerships in Michigan and Florida. The dealerships generated $1 billion in sales in 2008 and employed about 550 people.But over the span of about six months from late 2008 to early 2009, the dominoes started to fall. A series of violent shockwaves hit the American automotive industry as the economy sank into its worst recession since the 1930s. ?…
Friday, 18 February 2011 11:51

Getting help

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Tired of answering business phone calls, checking e-mails or responding to text messages all hours of the day and night, on weekends and even when you’re on vacation? You might be surprised to learn that the person you see in the mirror could be to blame for those constant interruptions. And you don’t have to shut off your phone and unplug your computer to regain control of your life.I’ve often been asked how I was able to balance my personal life and my work life while carrying the responsibilities that come with being a CEO in an industry as dynamic…
Finalist, Industrial ProductsWhen Chip McClure joined Meritor Inc., in 2004, he quickly put the company on a new path to ensure its long-term growth and success.Considering the company’s historical position in the commercial vehicle market, McClure, chairman of the board, president and CEO, led the development of a plan called the “3R” strategy. That stands for rationalize, refocus and regenerate, which included divestitures, acquisitions, product innovations, international expansion and technical advancements. He refocused the company, which designs, develops and manufactures integrated systems, modules and components for original equipment manufacturers and the aftermarket for the commercial vehicle, transportation and industrial sectors,…
Sunday, 26 December 2010 19:00

The Pasky file

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Born: DetroitCollege: Honorary doctorate from Central Michigan UniversityFirst job: I was a ballet teacher when I was 14 years old.What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?Don’t take it personally. Business is business, and personal is personal. That pertains to everything. It’s great if you’re passionate about something related to business. But don’t be emotional. There is a difference between passion and emotion.What traits or skills are essential for a business leader?You need integrity, honesty, ethics, backbone and effort. And you need to be fearless.What universal truth have you learned about leadership?If people don’t respect you, you can’t lead.What is…
Many companies that want to pool their risk together form captive insurance companies to underwrite risk within their groups, enabling them to control their costs.The captive insurance company takes a portion of every loss, and when the losses are less than expected, members of the group get money back, giving them an opportunity to recover unused loss reserves, says Steven B. Bankes, managing director of Aon Insurance Managers Inc., Group Captive Solutions.“A group captive is a blend between guaranteed cost insurance and a deductible program,” says Bankes. “It allows a middle-market business the opportunity to participate in its own insurance…
Thursday, 25 November 2010 19:00

The Alvin file

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Born: PittsburghEducation: Biology and business degrees, Thiel College, Greenville, Pa.; master’s degree in public administration, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.First job: I had a newspaper route when I was maybe 9. That was great. There were lots of hills in Pennsylvania, and I had to pull my little red wagon up and down the hills. It turned over once in awhile.What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?Create a clear direction, and make sure the direction is as simple as possible. Then, recruit and develop the absolute best people to bring the direction to life. What traits or skills are…
The upcoming election on Nov. 2 may have a significant impact on the philosophical make-up of the Michigan Supreme Court over the next eight years. Until the highly contentious race in 2008, judicial races were largely held with little fanfare. With the perceived influence, however, of partisan ads in the 2008 Supreme Court race, this year’s election is worth examining to determine its likely impact on the state of Michigan. “The results of this election will directly impact the substantive law of Michigan,” says Thomas Azoni, a senior partner with Secrest Wardle. “Ultimately, this may require Michigan businesses to adjust…
Economic slumps can be found, quite often, in the details. Don Cape has seen it firsthand in the behavior of his customers at Quick Lane Tire & Auto Centers. Cape is national manager of Quick Lane, the $450 million car service brand of Ford Motor Co. with both dealer-based and off-site locations. During the economic slide of the past two years, Cape has seen how little decisions by customers can have a big impact on a business. “One of the challenges over the past two years has really been getting customer traffic into the stores,” he says. “Customers that normally…
Not all health plans are the same, and many employers offer their employees several choices. Employees are asked to make those decisions during an open enrollment period, and employers have a responsibility to make sure that their workers have all the information they need to make the choice that is right for them. “Education is the key,” says Don Whitford, vice president of Sales and Client Services for Priority Health. “You need to make sure your people understand the choices available to them.” Smart Business spoke with Whitford about how employers can prepare their employees for open enrollment and the…
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series about pharmacy plans. Specialty pharmaceuticals are complex drugs that often require special storage, handling, administration and consistent patient monitoring. They are also a very expensive part of an employer’s pharmacy plan, with many drugs costing $600 per month and more. Specialty drugs are typically used by 1 to 2 percent of a given population, yet account for 15 to 20 percent of total drug spending, and those numbers are growing, according to Steven Marciniak, director of pharmacy for Priority Health. “As new drugs come to the market and existing drugs…
Winner, ManufacturingChristopher J. O’Connor is no stranger to challenges. He still serves as a senior of?cer in the U.S. Army Reserves and has experience leading some of the nation’s biggest businesses. So when he was asked to turn around First Technology Safety Systems, he was not intimidated a bit.The company manufactures the crash test dummies used to make vehicles safer. When O’Connor came on board, he found a business that needed to become more ef?cient. O’Connor quickly set out to consolidate worldwide operations, reduce costs and develop a strategy to help the company achieve stronger growth. As he did that,…