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Thursday, 21 September 2006 12:03

Labor laws

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Has this ever happened at your company? A worker is consistently late to work or altogether absent, yet nothing is ever said. However, the day another worker’s car doesn’t start and he or she walks through the doors 10 minutes late, the supervisor reads that person the Riot Act. Fair? Hardly. Illegal? Perhaps. “One of the major areas that restrict the employer is discrimination,” says Mary Li Creasy, a partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick LLP. “However, just because an employee is treated differently than a co-worker doesn’t mean he or she has a claim or cause for action.” Smart…
Wednesday, 20 September 2006 20:00

Bob Johnston

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 It may have been a misstep, but it was one that worked out for Bob Johnston, president and COO of The Melting Pot Restaurants Inc. The original Melting Pot opened in 1975 and two years later his brother — Mark Johnston, who is now CEO of the company — tried to open a franchise of the fondue restaurant but failed. In 1979, the brothers tried again — successfully this time — with the help of a third brother, Michael, who is now a partner. In 1985, the three bought all rights to the chain and renamed it The Melting Pot…
Wednesday, 30 August 2006 19:40

Money matters

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Hiring new employees is always a challenge. One of the most important elements of the hiring process is competitively answering the question, “What does your benefits package include?” For many employees, a solid benefits package is a major part of the decision-making process on whether to accept or decline a job offer or to seek other employment opportunities. “Offering membership to credit unions is a great, cost-effective way to keep your current employees satisfied and entice future employees,” says Brian Robinson, director of marketing at floridacentral Credit Union. Smart Business talked to Robinson about how employers use membership to a…
From a marketing perspective, there are specific C-level inquiries that can prove very insightful about the state of an organization. One side of the issue is a costly mistake or pitfall that companies can easily fall into. On the other side is an opportunity for improvement or competency development that will directly advance the organization’s edge-up in the marketplace. One of these pivotal issues is differentiating your brand. The pivotal question is: Does my name stand out — or is it just another noodle in the soup? There are a few key elements to differentiating your brand persona. These are…
Tuesday, 29 August 2006 20:00

Defining figure

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When Sherrill W. Hudson joined TECO Energy Inc.’s board of directors in 2003, he was selected for his financial expertise and utility experience. But less than two years later, he showed that he had much more to offer. TECO’s CEO retired early, in mid 2004, and Hudson was the board’s first choice for a replacement. He accepted and wasted no time developing a plan to revive the Tampa-based energy-related holding company, which had lost its focus — a scary thing for a $3 billion company with more than 900,000 customers. “In 2005, the company was recovering from some significant changes…
Monday, 31 July 2006 12:13

Customer U.

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What your employees don’t know about your business could hurt you. As business owners, we dedicate time to training our staffs, but education doesn’t stop there. A consumer population of smart shoppers expects answers - they do their homework before making purchases or signing on for services, but they don’t always read the fine print. It’s your job to steer them in the right direction. “Education is the key to success in any business,” says Julie Flatt, chief operating officer of floridacentral in Tampa. “Educating the consumer is nothing more than relationship building, and that should be a No. 1…
Sunday, 30 July 2006 20:00

Discovering your business genetics

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In business today, it’s simply not enough to have a good product or service. To achieve success, one has to ensure there is a supportive business model in place. What’s the big picture and how can you get there? How can you form a solid foundation to keep your business ahead of the pack? Beyond the classic 4 P’s (product, price, place and promotion) of marketing are four distinctive essentials of organizational excellence: principles, purpose, passion and performance. These concepts need to be defined, focused, monitored and carried through each day to give your company strength in direction and a…
Friday, 28 July 2006 20:00

Managing with heart

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 Shortly after his father, Bob, turned the family steel business over to Gene McNichols, he sat down with a calculator and banged out his first strategic plan. “It wasn’t very sophisticated,” said McNichols, CEO of McNichols Co.’s 17 steel service centers across the country that will generate just under $150 million in revenue this year. But the plan never included his father dying of cancer at age 59 — the same age McNichols is today. It forced him to sit down 25 years ago and reorganize the family business, and he has never forgotten what he learned. “When you have…
Friday, 28 July 2006 20:00

Great expectations

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 When J. Hyatt Brown examined his company’s balance sheet in 1982, he was deeply discouraged. For the previous two years, he and his employees at insurance agency Brown & Brown Inc. had been focused intensely on the company’s goal of doubling revenue from $2 million to $4 million. But while revenue had, in fact, doubled, the company’s operating profit margin had dropped from 16 percent to 8 percent in that same two-year period. “So we made the exact same amount of money two years later, and we’d been working like crazy,” says Brown, chairman and CEO. “At that juncture, we…
Friday, 30 June 2006 11:47

Business ownership

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Like selling a house, selling a privately held business can be a complex, lengthy process. “When to sell?” and “For how much money?” are just two questions a potential seller asks when trying to decide if and when to sell a business. “If you’re thinking you may want to sell your business, the time to start planning is now,” says Greg Yadley, a partner with Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick LLP in Tampa. Smart Business asked Yadley what potential sellers can do to help make this hard decision. When is the right time to sell my business?There is no perfect time.…
Friday, 30 June 2006 11:07

The graying worker

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The median age of the domestic work force is rising steadily while at the same time, the rate of new entrants to the work force continues to decline. As fewer and fewer new workers enter the labor pool, employers will become increasingly dependent on the mature work forceaged 50 or older. This has significant implications for employers and how they recruit, manage and optimize the graying work force, according to Steve Wajda, district director at Spherion Corp. “As the Spherion Emerging Work Force Studies illustrate, employers who are not focusing on this issue will face serious challenges in attracting skilled…
Friday, 30 June 2006 10:53

Irv Tobocman

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Irv Tobocman has built his business by providing products that people want at prices they’re willing to pay. It sounds simple enough, but it’s the reading, the research, the passion and the curiosity that make him so successful. Tobocman is president of Foreign Trade Marketing, a private international consumer product distribution company that generates more than $100 million in annual revenue. And as its leader, he never stops searching for new, affordable products people can use in everyday life. Tobocman spoke with Smart Business about how he communicates with business partners and employees, and what it takes to survive in an…
Tuesday, 16 May 2006 20:00

To lease or to own: That is the question

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One of the more vexing questions that businesses deal with is whether they should lease or own their business space. “The idea of paying rent to yourself and building equity in commercial real estate rather than paying rent to a third-party landlord and helping him or her build equity can be appealing on the surface,” says Patrick Duffy, president of Colliers Arnold. “The question is: Which alternative is right for your business?” There is no absolute answer to this question. The majority of commercial space is occupied by tenants and owned by investors. Fortune 500 companies have, for the most…
Wednesday, 17 May 2006 05:43

Grilling up success

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John Cooper has found the perfect way to ensure his employees care about his company: He offers them a piece of ownership. Cooper is president of Bonefish Grill, a fresh fish restaurant chain owned by Outback Steakhouse Inc. In 15 years, he opened 13 Outback Steakhouses in Florida as a joint venture partner, and now he offers that same partnership opportunity to others at Bonefish Grill. The first Bonefish Grill opened in 2000 in St. Petersburg, and six years later, the company has grown to more than 100 restaurants , using joint venture partners to open between 28 and 35…
Sunday, 26 December 2010 19:00

Flight plan

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Mathias Friess compares growing a business in a new market to running a marathon. If you move too fast, you stumble over your own feet. If you get distracted on the journey, you veer off track. If you think short-term, you may sprint ahead and lose momentum down the road. As CEO of — a joint venture launched in April 2010 between Friess and Australia-based Webjet Marketing Pty Ltd.— Friess’ vision for accounts for the inevitable changes that come with building an entirely new customer base, while staying true to what Friess calls the “core DNA” of the…
Roger Bloss was tired of being afraid all the time. But fear had become such a big part of his life that he didn’t know where to begin in trying to make it go away. “I was scared every day,” says Bloss, founder, president and CEO of Vantage Hospitality Group Inc. Bloss started his hotel company with very little capital and then found himself making very little revenue. It wasn’t a healthy situation. “I wouldn’t spend any money,” Bloss says. “I wouldn’t do anything marketingwise and I wouldn’t do any promotions. I finally just saw myself like a leaking boat…
Sunday, 26 December 2010 19:00

Benzion Aboud built a team to help LLC grow

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Benzion Aboud saw the opportunity. It was staring him right in the face. The shopping habits of the American consumer were changing, and LLC had a chance to capitalize on it in a big way. “We’re very much like Expedia for home services,” says Aboud, the company’s founder and CEO. “So our goal was very clear. We wanted to be the biggest distributor of home services in America. We don’t really care what you buy, but we want to educate you. And after we educate you, we want to transact a sale just like Expedia would with hotels and…
When conducting year-end tax planning, organizations will need to be cognizant of upcoming changes enacted by the new federal tax laws in order to take advantage of credits and prepare for new requirements. In the wake of recently passed legislation, many employers are struggling to understand what the new provisions will mean to them. With tax cuts set to expire and uncertainty remaining regarding further 2011 tax law changes, businesses are left with several what-if scenarios to consider during the planning process. Smart Business spoke to Cindy Kushner of Crowe Horwath LLP about the federal tax law changes businesses need…
Friday, 05 November 2010 06:53

Protecting the crown jewels: Securing your data

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Information security-related risks to your business are on the rise and getting worse. The number and complexity of computer viruses, cyber attacks, theft, identity theft, vendor negligence and fraud continue to increase and no organization is immune. For organizations, information is the crown jewels. From mailing lists to credit card payment records information is critical to the survival of the organization. Join Smart Business at 11 a.m. on November 16th, for a special one-hour Webinar where you’ll learn why your company’s information and your identity are at risk, and more important, what you can do to prevent tragedy from striking. We'll also…
Scott Campbell says it was like catching a falling knife.As the economy faltered over the past several years, Campbell was in a difficult position as the central Florida division president for Pulte Homes. He had to get a grasp on what the future of the homebuilding industry in the region would look like and figure out how to best maneuver his company to respond to the changes in the market.“It actually all started back in late 2005,” Campbell says. “Nobody wanted to believe it was going to be as ugly as it has been. You’re constantly chasing your business decisions…
We all know that opportunity favors those who are prepared. However, preparation is only part of the equation. Another is being flexible enough to act on unforeseen challenges or opportunities quickly and effectively. You have probably heard that cloud computing is a way to save money, but have you thought about how it can provide your business greater agility? “Flexibility is the primary reason for the ‘cloud imperative’ — the necessity to strategically adopt cloud-based software applications for your business,” says Mark Swanson, the CEO of Telovations Inc., who has been working with the cloud since before it was even…
Thursday, 26 August 2010 20:00

3 Questions

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Phillip L. Luecht Jr. focuses on large and complex institutional clients, with an emphasis on the construction, real estate, retail and technology industries. He has more than 25 years of industry experience in client-facing senior leadership positions in Newport Beach, Los Angeles, Boston, New York and London. Q. How can a company analyze the risks it faces? The first move a company should make is to inventory its risks. Assemble an internal team, including the CFO, treasurer, risk manager and general counsel. Then, in combination with your risk adviser or insurance agent, begin an in-depth identification, assessment and prioritization of the risks inherent…
John Sykes is a self-made businessman. And he has a career’s worth of knowledge to prove it.Sykes grew up on the self-termed “other side of the tracks” in North Carolina, where he was raised in a family that was short on money but long on business sense.“My grandmother raised chrysanthemums and I had aunts and uncles that worked in the cotton mill,” Sykes says. “They’d bring fabric scraps home, and my grandmother and I would make patterns out of them for aprons and quilts. I’d take a wagon, put flowers, quilts and blankets in it and go door to door…
Jeff Ransdell understood where it was coming from, but he was still struck by the fear and uncertainty he saw in those around him. After nearly 100 years of operation, Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. was no longer independent. The formal announcement came down Jan. 1, 2009, as the world learned that the well-known wealth management firm had been acquired by Bank of America Corp. With the global economy seemingly coming apart at the seams, Ransdell recognized that his people, employees and clients alike, might be feeling a little bit woozy about their future. “We were part of Bank of…
The training was a failure. All of that time, all of thateffort, all of that money, just gone, just out the window and gone. What otherexplanation was there, after all, for drop after drop in the hard numbers froma talented sales team in the wake of a training and development session?It could have happened at any business, but for the purposesof this story, it happened at a large technology company with headquarters inthe Midwest. The top executives, frantic for answers, called a corporatetraining firm. “Our sales are down,” the executives said. “We need training.”That technology company was part of a…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Setting values

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Finalist Financial services Pete Kirtland reminisces about the early days of his business, ASPire Financial Services. When he founded it out of his son’s bedroom in 2002, he remembers being on conference calls while his son played whiffle ball just outside the door. He remembers the financially trying times when he took out second and third mortgages on his house and maxed out multiple credit cards because he believed in his dream. But he also remembers when he landed the company’s first large client in 2005, and that’s when the company gained some fast momentum through word-of-mouth referrals. Two of…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Paving a new way

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Award Recipient Emerging You’d think Bob Moore would have been content to remain CEO of a wood pallet company that held nearly 90 percent of the market share in an unchanging industry. He could have kept leading a steady, successful company until retirement. But he’s an entrepreneur. And he saw a need for change. Wood pallets would break, upsetting automated production lines. Maintenance was expensive. And then there were the environmental issues and hints of food safety concerns. His company was unreceptive to his suggestions, so he set out on his own. After researching the best way to develop an…