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As homeowners across the United States continue to struggle to stay in their homes, lenders and investors have taken different approaches in response to the crisis. As of January 31, more than 1.3 million homeowners have received a permanent modification on their mortgage through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). The U.S. Treasury Department reports these homeowners have saved an estimated $25.5 billion in their monthly mortgage payments since the program went into effect. Jorge Newbery’s view of the program’s accomplishments isn’t as rosy. “HAMP is (President) Obama’s plan to assist families,” says Newbery, founder and CEO of American Homeowner…
The Institute of Medicine estimated 30 percent of health care spending in 2009 was wasted. Patients get duplicate services, unneeded services or services that haven’t proven to have medical value, which is where medical management can help. Utilization management enables health plan members and network providers to contact a benefits manager to determine whether services are medically necessary before they are rendered, says Dr. Robert Sorrenti, medical director at HealthLink. Years ago, physicians, hospitals and providers strongly opposed utilization management, feeling it intruded upon their ability to make decisions. Today, there is acceptance, along with strong interest from those paying…
David L. Calhoun gives a lot of credit to the people who led Nielsen Co. as cable TV was becoming prevalent. “There was a day when the broadcast guys owned everything,” Calhoun says, referring to the big three networks of ABC, CBS and NBC. “And these guys in the cable world start cropping up. The broadcast guys said, ‘Don’t you dare mention them. I don’t want to compete with them.’” Despite the threat, Nielsen did its job because measuring what consumers watch and buy is what the company does in more than 100 countries around the world. “You can never…
Friday, 03 January 2014 10:44

Weighing in on health care reform: Chicago

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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called the Affordable Care Act represents some of the most far-reaching government overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since 1965 when Medicare and Medicaid came into being. It will be phased in over time, but a number of changes have been delayed and won’t be in effect until 2015. The act focuses on increasing the rate of health insurance coverage for American and reducing health care costs. Here’s what some area businesses have on their minds about health care reform as the time nears for the full impact of the ACA: Craig…
The greatest impediment to the successful resolution of a commercial dispute is the failure of both clients and attorneys to understand and think adequately about the extent, nature and amount of damages at issue in the dispute, says Eric N. Macey, partner at Novack and Macey LLP. “While clients will invest huge amounts of time and money to focus on the merits of a case to prove they are ‘right,’ they either ignore or fail to give the same consideration to damages issues,” he says. Yet, in order to resolve the dispute, management needs to properly evaluate damages so they…
Michael Romano thought about his company, his employees and his customers and couldn’t escape the idea that something needed to change. Unfortunately for Romano, it wasn’t clear what that change would look like. “In my mind, I knew what the issue was, but I struggled with what to do about it,” Romano says. “I was focused more on short-term solutions because that’s generally what people try to do.” Associated Material Handling Industries Inc. was launched in 1960 to provide customers with material handling equipment and services that would improve their warehouse operations. It became a successful business and steadily grew…
Monday, 23 September 2013 03:19

Travel tips: How to spend smarter on overseas trips

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Today’s technology is making it easier for consumers to plan a trip overseas. With just a few mouse clicks, you can book the best flight deals, find accommodations, scope out the local attractions and even map out a detailed travel itinerary. But even with so many resources to consult for travel advice, consumers may overlook important financial considerations in the trip planning process, says Art Rice, the VP and Manager of International Operations and Product Development for FirstMerit Bank. For anyone planning a trip overseas, Rice offers the following financial tips: Do your homework Rice counsels first-time travelers to first…
Starting next year, the Affordable Care Act requires individual and small group insurance plans to cover 10 “essential” health benefits. But, these minimum essential benefits go beyond the coverage that many individuals and small businesses purchase today, so plan costs may increase to meet the coverage requirements. “Regardless of your funding type, whether you’re self-funded or not, your plan is required to provide the minimum essential benefits,” says Mark Haegele, director, sales and account management at HealthLink. “But something that wasn’t really contemplated is the difference by states based on price points from different providers.” Smart Business spoke with Haegele…
Is the confidential information on your network safe? That’s a question every organization should ask itself because network security breaches are common and becoming even more prevalent. Kristen Werries Collier, a partner with Novack and Macey LLP, says organizations must acknowledge this risk and vigilantly monitor and evaluate their cybersecurity safeguards and protocols to minimize it. Smart Business spoke with Collier about network security breaches and the steps companies can take to mitigate or eliminate them. How common are enterprise security breaches? Most large and midsize companies have confronted a cyberattack at some point. Network security attacks are a reality…
Fran Broude looked at the business of buying and selling homes in 2008 and saw nothing but change ahead. The economy and the real estate market were both in steep decline. Consumers were left in a state of great uncertainty trying to figure out how to move forward with their plans or determine if those plans were still even feasible. “We had to take a step back,” says Broude, president and COO for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Chicago/Milwaukee. “We had to go through some of the same hard decisions and thought processes that our consumers were going through.” As a…
Sunday, 30 June 2013 20:00

Entrepreneurs change the world

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Recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious business award programs, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards celebrate gravity-defying innovators who build and run great companies. This June, we gather here and in 24 other cities across the U.S. to honor all of our regional finalists and welcome the award recipients from the class of 2013 into our Hall of Fame. Entrepreneurs change the world and make it a better place to work and live. We honor them for their fortitude and resilience, and we celebrate their ability to forge new markets, navigate uncharted territory and fuel…
Health CareFINALISTEarly in his life, Jason Beans suffered a broken nose which received inappropriate medical treatment. In addition, the medical billings persisted over an extended period of time, and the situation nearly bankrupted his family. This experience drove Beans to research and develop a system for patients and companies to benefit from improved quality of care and decreased medical costs.At age 29, Beans founded Rising Medical Solutions to provide medical cost containment and care management solutions. He is dedicated to developing a system which provides patients with quality health care, medical providers with faster payment, and insurance carriers/payers with proper…
Private Equity/Venture Capital BackedWINNERRevolution Dancewear knows the meaning of repeat customer. Since 2008, the company has retained an astounding 86.5 percent of its top 500 customers.That’s a good showing for a business that was started in a basement in 1996. Scott Harris founded the company, now a leading designer and marketer of dancewear, costumes and footwear that sells directly to dance studios in the U.S. and Canada and directly to studios and consumers in Europe.Those impressive facts had their origins with Harris’s experiences as a lifelong entrepreneur. He co-founded a radio station during high school and then a home security…
Emerging EntrepreneurWINNERAl Goldstein, president of Pangea Properties, candidly admits that he believes real estate is an entrenched industry, with a “good ol’ boy” network.Nevertheless, Goldstein and longtime high school friend Steve Joung fought and clawed their way past that hurdle when launching their new venture, Pangea Properties.While they did not know much about the real estate market, they did know the Internet/marketing data side of the business, and wanted to provide a better product to a market they felt was underserved. They wanted to incorporate technology and best in class customer service to the rental market in multifamily apartment complexes…
Consumer Products and ServicesFINALISTAny company would be proud of the record that Tom Mazzetta has earned with The Mazzetta Co., LLC, a frozen seafood supplier. Even considering the volatile economic times experienced since opening 23 years ago, Mazzetta Co. has made money every quarter.Mazzetta is most proud that the company has such a strong reputation for living up to its commitments.He became an entrepreneur by recognizing an opportunity to meet a customer’s needs. As the top salesman at his first job, when a customer suggested a species of fish that the company didn’t currently sell, he offered to coordinate the…
Consumer Products and ServicesWINNERChris Clawson has had a passion for the sports and fitness industry from a young age, and that has carried him through life and ultimately helped him get where he is today.When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he never hesitated in his answer, “A professional baseball player.” He got to play professional baseball in the single A league for the Braves and Astros.Then in the off-season, he got into the fitness industry. But it was after he started working at Life Fitness that he was identified as a “high-potential” employee. Company President…
Consumer Products and ServicesFINALISTHoward Stillman has had one of the most roundabout journeys to successful entrepreneurship you can imagine.The president and CEO of Level 6 Corp., dba Car Outlet, Stillman barely graduated from high school. Through a national exchange program, he was able to attend the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and earned a dual degree in finance and real estate. Stillman went on to receive a master’s degree in international business from the University of San Diego.He decided to pursue employment in Singapore, going from job to job. Next was a stay in Moscow to find a better…
 Private Equity/Venture Capital BackedWINNERWhen they first got into the health insurance business, neither Brandon Cruz nor Clint Jones had much knowledge about the industry, except that there had to be a better way to utilize the Internet to help both the health insurance companies and the individual consumer.This lack of familiarity allowed them to “think outside the box” and be innovators in the industry. Cruz, the president and chief technology officer, and Jones, CEO, founded GoHealth in 2001.With their energy and skills to understand, challenge and help reshape a complex market for health insurance, these entrepreneurs stood apart from others.While…
Consumer Products and ServicesFINALISTWhen Escalade, Inc. was stuck in a rut, it needed a radical business philosophy to become innovative and assume leadership in branding and innovation within the sporting goods market. The development of new product lines had become a secondary priority to the needs of the growing dominance of big box retailers, and that had to change.Bob Keller took the wheel as CEO of Escalade in 2007 with a simple mission: breathe new life into the company. His plan was to use his philosophy to construct a company driven by product development and branding — rather than the…
Can you imagine a world without Oreo cookies? Anyone who has taken one and dipped it into a glass of milk before popping it into his or her mouth to savor the flavor would shudder at the thought of such a scenario. But when Irene Rosenfeld returned to Kraft Foods in 2006, she found that the company was on verge of delisting the Oreo brand in China. “We took a U.S. product and jammed it down the throats of the Chinese consumer,” Rosenfeld says. “We were losing money, and it was a very unattractive proposition. We had a $60 million…
Since infiltrating the business world, the use of social media has increased at an incredible rate. Last year, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings caused considerable commotion in the financial community when he announced via Facebook that Netflix had exceeded 1 billion viewing hours in a month for the first time. There was heavy debate as to whether it was appropriate for a high-level executive to divulge material information regarding a public entity’s success through social media.Fast forward one year and the SEC just released a statement in April allowing companies to make announcements through social media outlets provided investors have the…
More information leads to better decisions, and big data is providing companies with enough background to take much of the guesswork out of decision making.“The larger the data set, the greater the context. Big data promises the tools to make observations much sharper and guide decisions based on facts or highly likely predictions, as opposed to intuition or sheer courage,” says Satyendra Rana, vice president at HTC Global.Smart Business spoke with Rana about how companies can take advantage of big data and its potential for improvement and innovation.What is big data?Big data is a paradigm shift in the way businesses…
Shelly Sun was quite confident that BrightStar Care would emerge from the 2008 recession intact and ready to grow. The challenge was convincing employees and franchisees that the health care staffing solutions provider could achieve such a daunting goal.“Access to financing to start franchisees had dried up and was completely unavailable,” says Sun, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “That meant our ability to grow and add new franchisees to fund improvements in our system had declined.”As a CPA, Sun decided to put her experience in the financial realm to use and tackle the financing issues. She asked her franchisees and…
Stacy R. Janiak was not thinking about becoming managing partner of the Chicago office at Deloitte & Touche LLP when she joined the accounting firm in 1992. The graduate of DePaul University just wanted to do her job and make a good impression on the people who had hired her. But it was an impression left on her by a mentor who she had just come to know who shaped both her future and that of the firm in the years ahead. “Within a month of my joining the firm, a woman who I held in high regard who was…
Is the confidential information on your network safe? That’s a question every organization should ask itself because network security breaches are common and becoming even more prevalent.Kristen Werries Collier, a partner with Novack and Macey LLP, says organizations must acknowledge this risk and vigilantly monitor and evaluate their cyber-security safeguards and protocols to minimize it.Smart Business spoke with Collier about network security breaches and the steps companies can take to mitigate or eliminate them.How common are enterprise security breaches?Most large and mid-sized companies have confronted a cyber attack at some point. Network security attacks are a reality you must confront…
It was a bitter pill for Robert Pasin to swallow.Radio Flyer Inc. had spent decades producing millions of its iconic red steel wagons for children across the United States. The children who grew up with them had bought them for their children and those kids bought them for their kids. It was a tradition that could go on forever, or at least that’s what the company had let itself believe.But as the 1990s began, a new wagon, one made out of plastic, had begun appearing in stores and was an instant hit with consumers.The part that was most painful to…
Our economic forecast for 2013 comes down to one simple phrase: "It all hinges on Washington." The President and Congress must decide whether tax rates rise or fall, whether fiscal stimulus or austerity rules the day, and whether the long term budget deficit issues (entitlements) will be addressed. The Federal Reserve has now promised to hold short term rates low until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5 percent, unless they determine inflation is likely to exceed 2.5 percent. Will the Fed's newest $85 billion monthly quantitative easing (bond buying) program continue to suppress longer maturity bond yields in 2013? To…
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