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Wednesday, 25 April 2007 20:00

Michael Thiel

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His official title is president of IC INTRACOM US, but Michael Thiel’s business cards have something else written on them. The cards read “COR,” which stands for Chief Obstacle Remover. While he doesn’t remember where he got the idea for the title, Thiel tries to follow through on it, though not as much by intimidation as he previously did at IC INTRACOM US, which posted 2006 revenue of $120 million. Thiel says that as he got older, he realized managing through intimidation wasn’t always the most effective way to reach his goals. Today, he feels it’s also important to point…
Wednesday, 25 April 2007 20:00

Students = future employees

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The wave of baby boomers that hit the American work force pool with an intensity in the 1960s is starting to recede as the forerunners of this generation pull back from full-time employment. “Demographers are forecasting a change in work force composition as the first of the baby boomers begin retiring this year,” says Dr. Linda Devine, vice president for operations and planning at the University of Tampa. “Since this generation of workers is very large, this information suggests that there are going to be many opportunities for younger workers and challenges for all employment sectors as they compete for…
Wednesday, 25 April 2007 20:00

Fringe benefit?

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The mantra “a penny saved is a penny earned” certainly does not apply to disability insurance. This underutilized employee benefit provides far more than just a paycheck for employees who can’t work due to illness or injury. Surprisingly, only a small percentage of employers offer paid or voluntary disability programs for their employees, despite statistics that show nearly half of all personal bankruptcies are the direct result of a major illness or injury. “Disability insurance is not as visible or as important to employers and employees as health insurance or dental insurance,” says Tina Antram, vice president, Hilb Rogal &…
Wednesday, 25 April 2007 20:00

On the move

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“Location, location, location” is more cliché than constructive when it comes to office leasing decisions. Finding the right location, negotiating terms, designing and building the space and moving in typically takes nine to 18 months in the best of circumstances. The process can easily take much longer, especially in a tight, active market like Tampa Bay where appropriate space can be difficult to locate, contractors are overworked and landlords are in a strong negotiating position. That’s why an estimated 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies use tenant representative brokers to manage the space selection and negotiation processes, according to Jeffrey…
Saturday, 31 March 2007 20:00

Alpha mail

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Bill Disbrow was facing a difficult situation. He was building a new, larger facility in Florida to handle his company’s double-digit growth. However, that success meant a facility in North Carolina would be closed as operations were consolidated, and those employees would be out of a job.That didn’t sit well with Disbrow, president and CEO of Cox Target Media Inc., whose familiar blue Valpak coupon envelopes aremailed out to more than 45 million homes each month.After announcing the closing of the North Carolina facility, he vowed to do his best to find someone to take over the plant andemploy the workers.…
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 19:00

Oscar J. Horton

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Although customers may not always be right, they are always important. To show a customer you realize that fact, you must be able to promise something and deliver the promise ahead of time, says Oscar J. Horton, president and CEO of Sun State International Trucks LLC. You have to make sure that when your customers experience a problem, if you commit to them that you are going to have a product back in their hands in 24 hours then you should have it ready in 23 hours, he says. Ensuring customer satisfaction has led the company of more than 200…
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 19:00

Title talk

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When closing on property, hiding somewhere in a small forest of paper is an important contract that allows for owner’s title insurance coverage that is typically paid for by the seller. Surrounded by a team of professionals ranging from realtors, attorneys, title company representatives and loan specialists, most investors feel comfortable that due diligence by all of these parties will guarantee a positive outcome. This is usually the case. But what happens when the investor later improves or develops the property, or transfers the title to a different entity? “It’s a problem that we’re seeing more and more,” says Kent…
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 19:00

Winds of change

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The trio of hurricanes that punished Florida in 2005 left physical, emotional and economic scars that will be felt for years to come. In the wake of that season, which spurred 25 additional named storms, the Florida property insurance industry was left in dis-array, and the state’s hurricane catastrophe fund was stretched beyond expectations. Meanwhile, Florida property-owners, struggling to pay ever-increasing insurance premiums, demanded relief. As the calendar inches closer to the 2007 hurricane season, what core property insurance issues remain, and what actions are under way to mitigate the crisis? “The core issue at hand is the lack of…
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 19:00

Broker, investment considerations

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Carefully selecting an experienced, licensed and ethical real estate broker will go a long way in helping you achieve your investment goals. When educating investors, Ron Sparks, MAI, MBA, and Jeff Tolrud, CCIM, managing directors/partners in investment sales for Colliers Arnold, cannot overemphasize these points. “There really is no substitute for experience,” says Sparks. “Issues will arise during a transaction and a professional broker will have the background and skills necessary to handle them.” The ability to communicate effectively and uncover your investment objectives and goals are also important factors, adds Tolrud. “The broker’s goal should be to become the…
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

Martin Hiller

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The wall in Martin Hiller’s office has three pictures on it that serve as reminders. The first picture is of a man Hiller’s company sponsored to climb Mount Everest. The climber got within 1,000 feet of the summit, then had medical problems and had to stop. The picture reminds Hiller that life is not fair or easy, but one must celebrate the challenge and the climb, which makes success that much sweeter when you achieve it. The second picture, ‘Bird of Prey,’ shows an F-16 shooting down a MiG, which illustrates to Hiller that you are either the hunter or…
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

New in the HR toolbox

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Changing demographics, a shortage of qualified workers and the growing importance of retaining top talent have many organizations modifying their approach to long-term work force planning. But adjustments are being made to short-term programs as well, including processes for screening, interviewing and hiring employees. “Forward-thinking organizations are taking advantage of innovative technologies and applications to streamline the hiring process, reduce costs and enhance their ability to identify best-fit talent,” says T. J. DesMarais, account executive for Spherion Professional Services. Smart Business talked to DesMarais about which automated tools are gaining traction and why. Why are more companies adopting high-tech tools…
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

Medical fraud

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Many business owners rarely think that health insurance fraud will happen in their company — but the fact remains that insurance fraud, waste and abuse happens across the board in companies large and small and is costing America’s health care system billions of dollars. Insurance fraud, waste and abuse is estimated to take up at least 10 percent of total health care dollars spent with an estimated total of $260 billion annually by 2010, says Cissy Walker, director of audit services for AvMed Health Plans of Gainesville. “Health care fraud, waste and abuse is a menace to each person, their…
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

Teamwork

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Have you ever wondered why some teams outperform others? They attain better business results by cooperating and coordinating in ways that normal teams do not. They consciously try to do more and do it better. There is nothing magical about it. “The importance of building high-performance teams continues to grow,” says Bob Preziosi, a professor of management in the Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University. “One study stated that four out of five employees report working as a team member at some time during the day. Competitive pressures and the drive for greater efficiency mean teams…
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

Contingency planning

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How prepared is your business? Are you confident that operations will continue if you are unexpectedly absent? Can your business resume its operations quickly after severe weather or other emergencies strike? Being prepared means having a plan that addresses any business scenario outside “business as usual.” “There are too many situations,” says Liana Martino, senior vice president at SunTrust Bank, “where business owners don’t prepare a comprehensive post-disaster contingency plan or give no thought to what would happen to the business if something happens to him or her. A good contingency plan can help mitigate losses and keep a business…
Sunday, 31 December 2006 19:00

Building efficiency

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Although Mike Patierno has grown ASI Building Products 100 percent in two years, he isn’t really comfortable with expanding at such a rapid pace. “It’s too much of a challenge to bring that many people on board and get them singing the same song,” says the president of ASI. “Some can’t carry a tune at all. The challenge is to be able to grow your business without losing your service level.” Patierno says his company, which posted more than $90 million in revenue in 2005, is not perfect at maintaining a steady level of service while growing so rapidly. When…
Thursday, 30 November 2006 19:00

Playing darts in the dark will hurt you

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  Enter an enclosed room in your house, turn off the lights, and invite a few of your best prospects to join you in a game of darts. Just start throwing darts and see if you can hit the dart board. Pretty silly, right? When it comes to marketing programs, many of the business executives are doing just that, running marketing programs like throwing darts in the dark. Whether it’s placing a media buy because you like the rep, you were told it was a good buy, or because it’s the latest idea that an executive in your company had,…
Friday, 24 November 2006 19:00

Human capital

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An integrated hiring strategy enables a company to be more nimble, to strike a balance between fixed and variable labor costs, and to drive the greatest value or return on the investment in human capital. Key to developing such a strategy is understanding exactly who your employees are, which are focused on core functions, and which are dedicated to noncore functions. Matching permanent employers with core functions and temporary employees with noncore functions is the best way to establish work force efficiency. “Begin with an internal audit to determine whether their activities are core or non-core” says Kristen Denning, an…
Friday, 24 November 2006 19:00

Long-term savings

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Businesses have been dealing with the burden of rising health care premiums for many years. However, the good news is that in the past couple of years, health benefit premiums are no longer seeing the double-digit increases of the past decade, and have slowed to a more manageable single-digit increase, says Shawn F. Barger, Pharm.D., director of clinical pharmacy management at AvMed Health Plans in Gainsville, Fla. Part of the reason that health benefits costs have slowed, interestingly enough, is because of the advances in the pharmaceutical industry. “Yes, prescription drug costs have skyrocketed, but that is because there are…
Friday, 24 November 2006 19:00

Ethics and morality in business

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You probably have read much about the basics of ethics, leadership, stew-ardship, morality and social responsibility. Many people, however, do not really take the time to understand the true meaning of those terms (most of which are deeply rooted in philosophical issues). “You have most likely formed a good understanding of those terms based on your experiences and thoughts,” says Bahaudin Mujtaba, D.B.A., an assistant professor and the director of institutional relations, planning and accreditation for Nova Southeastern University’s School of Business. “The willingness to add ethical principles to the decision-making structure indicates a desire to promote fairness, as well…
Friday, 24 November 2006 19:00

Good works, good business

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Charitable donations by corporations grew by a record 22.5 percent in 2005 (the last year for which figures are available), according to the Giving USA Foundation, which also found that 59.5 percent of corporations increased their contributions. Even after the large increases, corporations still make only 5.3 percent of all charitable contributions in the U.S., compared to 76.5 percent for individuals, with foundations (11.5 percent) and bequests (6.7 percent) accounting for the rest. Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters motivated much of the increase in corporate donations. But it doesn’t take tough times to create good opportunities for corporate philanthropy.…
Thursday, 26 October 2006 07:22

Managing for tomorrow

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In today’s fast-changing world, there’s a growing demand for capable and effective leaders. In the corporate world, executives must be able to successfully lead the company into the future. “Yet, when we stop and reflect on individuals who’ve truly inspired us to grow, improve and achieve more in our lives, we realize that leadership is not limited to just the highest levels,” says Barry Barnes, Ph.D., a professor of management at the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University, where he teaches leadership and strategic decision-making. “Informal leaders often have a significant impact on both…
Thursday, 26 October 2006 07:11

Reducing high costs

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The recruiting and hiring process is an expensive one, and the stakes are high — especially as the labor pool continues to shrink in this job-seekers’ market. Making a poor hiring decision can be even more costly in the wake of employee training and ramp-up expenses. As a result, many companies are increasing their use of prescreening tools in an effort to improve the hiring process, according to Robin Perrett, business development manager at Spherion Corp. Smart Business spoke with Perrett about the challenges of hiring qualified candidates and some popular prescreening tools in use today. First, what are the…
Thursday, 21 September 2006 12:12

Employee benefits

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In just a couple of short decades, health insurance, when provided, has gone from an employer-paid benefit to one paid for almost exclusively by the employee. And sometimes employers, assuming that employees can’t afford or don’t need certain products, don’t include them in the portfolios they present. “We tell our employers that they cannot assume that an employee does not need or want a particular coverage,” says Dawn Bowers-Card, the employee benefits practice leader in the Sarasota office of Hilb Rogal & Hobbs. Smart Business talked to Bowers-Card about how to set up health insurance packages so that they benefit…
Thursday, 21 September 2006 12:00

Finding the right professionals

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Finding and hiring the correct candidate for a job — whether labor or professional — can be an expensive and time-consuming process for a corporation. One way to shortcut both hurdles is to hire a professional recruiter. However, hiring a recruiter is just like hiring a new employee; you need to choose the right one. Smart Business asked Brent Short, managing director for Spherion Professional Services Group, what a company should expect from a recruiting firm. Isn’t networking the best way to find a job or an employee?It’s true that networking works best. When you work with a recruiting firm,…
Wednesday, 30 August 2006 19:47

Predictive risk modeling

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Foretelling who is going to get sick and how to stop or delay that particular sickness is perhaps the most important factor in keeping health care costs to a minimum. In today’s health care parlance, that process is more science than art, and it’s called “predictive risk modeling” (PRM). Though proven, PRM is not yet an exact science. Some sources say that even the best predictive risk models account for only 40 percent of variations in actual health and medical resource use. “We are in a knowledge-based employee world right now,” says Larry Mullany, M.D., regional medical director for AvMed…
Tuesday, 29 August 2006 20:00

Commercial properties

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Purchasing a piece of commercial real estate today is far different than trying to purchase a home. The number of properties in the commercial world is much more limited, the priorities tend to change, and the amount of renovations that need done are usually much more extensive than changing the carpet or painting the walls. That is just part of the reason why it is so important for buyers and sellers to seek professional help before entering the commercial real estate market. “Too many people buy things thinking they don’t need somebody to help them,” says Ron Sparks, president of…
Tuesday, 29 August 2006 20:00

Team player

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 Donald A. Buck Jr. believes a good boss should be visible, so he spends a lot of time strolling through the offices of WDG Construction. He wants his employees to know he is there and accessible. Buck, president and CEO of the company, and his sister, Vice President Nicole B. Saunders, purchased WDG six years ago. Since then, their strategies fueled the growth of the 300-employee company, which clears and readies land for utility and road placement. Revenue for 2004 was about $35 million, growing to $50 million in 2005, and Buck projects 2006 revenue of $70 million. Smart Business…