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Sunday, 24 February 2008 19:00

Protecting your property

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Under a process called eminent domain, the government can take possession and ownership of private property for public use. Typically, the acquired property is used to build or widen roads or to install public utilities like water, sewer, gas or electric lines. “An experienced condemnation lawyer will be able to identify things that you might not think of as you evaluate the offer, such as what your future plans for the property are and what effects the ‘taking’ might have on your continued ability to comply with things like zoning ordinances,” says Thomas Schultz, partner at Secrest Wardle. Smart Business…
Sunday, 24 February 2008 19:00

Maximize tax savings

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Cost segregation studies can help you maximize tax savings and increase cash flows on your current, future or past property purchases by maximizing tax deferrals. “Almost anyone with an interest in real property — whether an owner or a tenant — should consider having a cost segregation study conducted,” says Walter M. McGrail, JD, CPA, senior manager at Cendrowski Selecky PC. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars may stand to be achieved.” Under IRS guidelines, the depreciable tax life of most commercial buildings is 39 years. Accelerated methods can be used to reduce the recovery periods for personal property and land…
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 19:00

Keep your records safe

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The recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure highlight the importance of having document-retention policies in place that take into consideration electronically stored records and data. In order to ensure that necessary information is preserved and can be produced in the event of litigation, it is critical to institute a corporate policy relating to e-discovery. “Defining record-retention protocols in advance and not waiting until after a lawsuit has been filed is the classic avoidance of locking the barn door after the horse gets out,” says John Mitchell, an executive partner at Secrest Wardle. “It protects the credibility of…
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 19:00

Managing family wealth

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Who wouldn’t want an office of experts managing their financial affairs and planning for their family while also providing relief from the mundane aspects of wealth? “With the creation of multifamily offices, the benefits of a traditional separate family office can be achieved at a substantially reduced cost while at the same time keeping the financial affairs of each family completely separate and confidential,” says Steven Y. Patler, JD, CPA, managing director with The Prosperitas Group LLC in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “It provides a solution for families who don’t want the administrative burdens or can’t justify the costs of establishing…
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:00

Workplace wellness

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The buzz around worksite wellness programs continues to grow — and with good reason. More and more employers are looking to incorporate health promotion and disease prevention into their business strategy and culture. These companies are seeing the link between a healthy work force and a healthy bottom line. The shift that’s occurring, according to Wendy Wigger, director of wellness for Priority Health, a Michigan-based health insurance plan, is a move from focusing solely on the cost of health care to looking at the bigger picture of the total investment and value of health. Many employers are seeking to better…
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:00

The McClure file

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Title: Chairman of the board, president and CEO of ArvinMeritor Inc. Education: Bachelor’s degree, mechanical engineering, Cornell University; MBA, University of Michigan Military service: Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from 1975 to 1979, serving aboard the destroyer USS Luce What is the best business lesson you’ve learned? You have to like what you are doing. An expression I learned years and years ago was that if you have a job where you like going to work three out of five days a week, you have a pretty good job. In my view, I’d have to say it’s four and a…
Sunday, 25 November 2007 19:00

Identifying high-potential employees

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In today’s ultracompetitive job market, it’s hard to find a good fit. It’s difficult for applicants to find a good job, and it can be equally difficult for companies to find good employees. If both sides are looking for similar qualities, shouldn’t it be easier to find common ground? “Finding the right candidates can be easy, if a company knows what it’s looking for and how to attract it,” says Deborah Phillips, chief administrative officer of Priority Health. “It’s worth the effort because having quality people in your company will help you secure better financial results. Smart companies know they…
Sunday, 25 November 2007 19:00

Coupon king

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Mike Gauthier wants his employees to set high goals for themselves, even if their aim is so high it means they will leave his company. Gauthier, founder and president of SAVE On Everything, explores the goals of his estimated 150 employees by asking direct questions. “I believe in the walk-around theory, but not just walking around and saying, ‘How are you doing today?’ But to ask specific questions directed toward their division and what is working and not working, and get some opinions from them,” says the leader of the direct-mail coupon magazine company, which posted 2006 revenue of about…
Friday, 26 October 2007 20:00

MaryAnn Rivers

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In her first six months on the job, MaryAnn Rivers not only had to familiarize herself with the operations of Entertainment Publications Inc. and transition through tenuous business decisions, she also had to develop a management team essentially from scratch. In September 2006, when Rivers was named president and CEO of the $196.8 million company that produces the Entertainment coupon book and handles other merchant promotions, only one person remained from the previous management team. While many would try to fill the open positions in a hurry, creating opportunities to make mistakes, Rivers instead took her time to find a…
Friday, 26 October 2007 20:00

Affordable health care

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As employers continue to struggle with escalating health care costs, the practice of offering mini medical health plans is gaining momentum. Also known as limited benefit plans, mini medical plans charge individuals as little as $50 per month for routine medical care. “Mini medical plans are generally significantly cheaper than individual plans because employers are in a better position to negotiate group rates with insurance companies, whereas individuals cannot,” says Stephen J. Peck, president of Kapnick Insurance Group’s Benefits Division. Smart Business spoke with Peck about mini medical plans, how they can benefit employees and employers alike, and what considerations…
Friday, 26 October 2007 20:00

Which business entity?

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When starting a business, the form of entity should be part of a well-thought-out business plan that considers the needs and desires of both the business and the owner(s). As much as possible, the decision should take into account where the business is headed in the future. “The LLC has become a very popular option, but it may or may not be the right form for a particular business,” says John T. Alfonsi, CPA/ABV, CVA, CFE, partner, Cendrowski Selecky PC, Bloomfield Hills. Smart Business spoke with Alfonsi about the various forms of business entities. What options are available for a…
Tuesday, 25 September 2007 20:00

Dr. John C. Ruckdeschel

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Sometimes on your way to the top, you can become disconnected from those below you. Dr. John C. Ruckdeschel had seen former colleagues who became leaders step away from the work that got them to the top and lose touch with the pulse of the institution, and he didn’t want that to happen to him. So when he took over the $200 million Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute as its president and CEO, he says it was vital that he continued to see patients in order to stay in touch with the organization and his 1,000 employees. Smart Business spoke…
Tuesday, 25 September 2007 20:00

Succession planning

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Fewer than one in three family-owned and managed businesses survives into the second generation. “A major reason for this is the lack of succession planning,” says Steven Y. Patler, JD, CPA, managing director with The Prosperitas Group in Bloomfield Hills. What will happen to your business when you are no longer around to manage it? Whether your business is family-owned and managed or owned by several partners, having a succession plan will ensure your company will continue without you. A succession plan protects your family’s and employees’ interests in the future, helps preserve the reputation you’ve worked so hard to…
Sunday, 26 August 2007 20:00

Selling enthusiasm

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Marcie Brogan still wants to be a copywriter. Years removed from her first copywriting job in the advertising business, the CEO of Brogan & Partners Convergence Marketing still loves the daily grind of deadlines and fresh ideas. So Brogan takes that excitement to work with her every day at the $72 million public relations and marketing agency and tries to get that same spark out of her 60 employees. And as the agency has expanded to include nine partners, Brogan thinks she might be able to make some time to get back to the copy desk — even if that…
Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

Health Savings Accounts

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A healthy and happy workplace is a productive and profitable one. That’s why many companies have started offering Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) to their employees. “There are no retirement plan vehicles that offer a triple tax preference — tax-free in, tax-free growth and tax-free out — like an HSA does,” says Amy Chambers, director of consumer engaged health care for Priority Health, a Michigan-based health insurance plan. “Employers are able to lower their premiums immediately, and employees get the peace of mind knowing they can cover any unexpected future medical costs.” Smart Business spoke with Chambers on what advantages both…
Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

Count your assets

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Wealth management is important to every business owner because, the fact is, most of us plan on funding our retirement from the sale of our greatest asset. Because this is so often the case, we must plan how much wealth we need to maintain a comfortable lifestyle and determine whether our businesses are capable of “earning” this wealth so we can retire at a targeted date. “Wealth management isn’t a process that takes a few weeks or even just a couple of years — it should be an ongoing strategic plan that involves your key advisers early on,” says Craig…
Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

Solid foundation

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After separating from his business partner in 1999, Bernd “Bernie” Ronnisch found he had underestimated the effort and knowledge it took to manage people. Ronnisch Construction Group, with 2006 revenue of more than $50 million, was experiencing a lot of turnover, so Ronnisch began to hire people based strictly on the skills on their resumes, “thinking, if they can build a building, I’ll work along with the quirks of their personality,” says the company’s president. “That never worked.” Then about four years ago, the company established core values and began making decisions that reflected those values. “We hire and fire…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Unfettered growth

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Dilip Dubey is working to revolutionize the workplace as we know it. He partnered with Anurag Shrivastava to start Netlink Software Group with just a great idea and $1,000 in capital. The information technology and business process outsourcing services company got its first large contract a year later with Daimler Chrysler. Since then, it has executed projects using its Delta Platform model in the United States, Germany and Australia for mid-market and Fortune 500 companies. When Netlink entered the market, the industry was focused on large players and convinced that no innovation could significantly change IT delivery service. Dubey led…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

No slowing down

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To Lloyd Ganton, managing multiple retirement centers isn’t just a job; it’s a chance for him to share his compassion for the elderly and exercise his entrepreneurial drive. Ganton had been working as an assistant superintendent when, in 1967, inspired by his parents who provided care to seniors in the Spring Arbor community, he decided to quit his job, cash in his retirement savings and build a private nursing home, although he was not in the ideal financial position to do so. Today, his Ganton Retirement Centers Inc. has expanded beyond that initial nursing home to include independent living centers,…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Banking on growth

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David Tull attributes his success in starting Crestmark Bank to perseverance, risk-taking and a little bit of luck. When Tull decided to launch his bank, he faced several obstacles, including the difficulty of obtaining a state charter. Regulators were skeptical of the potential of a bank exclusively focused on factoring and asset-based lending, specializing in lending to small businesses, start-ups and undercapitalized companies, but he ultimately prevailed, obtaining a state charter and FDIC protection. As such, Crestmark is held to the high standards of commercial banks while specializing in a niche that traditional banks tend to ignore. As an entrepreneur,…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Overcoming barriers

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Robert Schnieders dreamed of being a school department chairman — until he got fired as an assistant superintendent by a board rebelling against the superintendent. As part of his new job, he began asking employers to describe their desired skills and discovered that educators and employers use different terms, creating a language barrier to employers getting the workers they sought. To close that gap, he founded Educational Data Systems Inc., which provides unique analysis of a job, connecting people’s skill sets with specific jobs. With 24 offices in 14 cities staffed by 340 employees, Schnieders, who serves as EDSI’s president,…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Star player

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Brad Wardell was halfway through college when he began running out of money and realized he had to do something fast if he wanted to stay. So Wardell, who’d been interested in computers since he was a boy, began building customized computers. And he also decided to design a computer game, “Galactic Civilizations,” which he hoped to sell for a few dollars here and there. The idea was such a success that not only was he able to afford tuition, he also attracted the attention of IBM, which called to say it was interested in his game and in contracting…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Fueling growth

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When Ravinder Sandhu and his family assumed management control of Advanced Assembly Products Inc. in 1991, the company was nearly bankrupt. With just one client at the time — Chrysler — Sandhu began focusing on people, quality and growth, and the family obtained ownership control in 1993. To grow the business — an auto supplier specializing in hinges, brackets and hangers for consoles, fuel tanks and doors — Sandhu first improved the product and delivery for his lone client, then began making acquisitions and gaining new customers. However, with those acquisitions came the difficulty of integrating cultures. Sandhu believed it…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Gail Torreano

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When Gail Torreano became president of AT&T Michigan, the company was dealing with service issues and new owners, and Torreano had a big challenge in front of her. By meeting the challenge, Torreano — who leads about 12,000 employees — learned to reach out to people she had not worked with before to leverage the company’s strengths. Smart Business spoke with Torreano about how to express appreciation to employees and how to build a team approach to business. Communicate. It’s important to communicate often and well. That, in turn, will bring more communication in whatever organization you are working in.…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Smooth ‘sale’-ing

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Selling a business is similar to listing real estate in many ways. You can sell it yourself by passing word to competitors or peers in trade associations, or you can work with a broker or investment banker, who will serve as an “agent” that represents your business and finds the best buyers. There are “showings” — in a business’s case, these are portfolios that demonstrate a company’s success — and there are sometimes economic issues that can hinder your ability to sell. Pricing is important, and timing is of the essence. “Preparing to sell your business begins months or years…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Polished performance

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Larry Gaynor says going to work at his company is like going to a college football game, complete with cheerleaders, a fight song, team colors and a mascot. The president andCEO of The Nailco Group Inc. says the college football atmosphere fosters a team environment. “Without a team, departments by themselves are viewed as an island,” he says. “But by fostering this type of culture, these departments are really part of one team, and they must work together to get the results we are trying to achieve.” Every year, the company chooses a new fight song to sing at quarterly…
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

Roderick K. Rickman

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Being a leader can be a very lonely proposition, says Roderick K. Rickman. The founder, chairman, president and CEO of Minority Pollution Solutions Group Inc. says that as a result, it’s important for leaders to talk to their peers and share best practices and lessons learned. And one place Rickman gets that is from his business partner of almost 10 years, Adam Soave, whom Rickman has known since he was a teenager. Being open to advice from others has helped Rickman lead MPS Group — which serves the automotive and truck manufacturing industry — to $80 million in revenue last…
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