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It’s no secret that the success or failure of any modern company is driven by the quality of its people. This was the basis for the “War for Talent” concept developed by McKinsey and Co. in the 1990s. But the “war” has since evolved into a new endeavor, as a mission to not only obtain but also retain that coveted talent. A stellar recruiting philosophy is no longer enough. To ensure success — especially in a highly competitive industry — a company must have measures in place to continually cultivate, challenge and satisfy its most promising talent. Determine skills beyond …
Interviewed by Dustin S. Klein If you take a tour of Life Fitness with Chris Clawson, you may find yourself answering questions that you wouldn’t expect to be asked on a tour of a company that makes exercise equipment. For instance, he’ll probably want to know if you have a favorite wine or if you’ve ever visited a winery. “I say, ‘How many of you think the wine tasted the same after you visited the winery?’” says Clawson, president at Life Fitness. “And they all shake their heads no because it tastes different. You get to meet the vintner, go…
Mark Silverman has fond memories of Sept. 1, 2007, the day Big Ten Network went live to TV viewers for the first time. “We had been working nonstop to get the network ready,” Silverman says. “I started in December (2006), and most people didn’t come on board until April and May 2007. Flipping the switch, going live on air and watching Dave Revsine, our host, do his open for BTN, it was definitely the most memorable moment I have in our history.” It was an instance of great accomplishment. But the work of turning BTN into the successful business venture…
Three tips to help you get better at securing warm leads to grow business “Before I got married, I had six theories on raising children. Now I have six children and no theories.” — John Wilmot We all long for that road map to guide us to a higher level of success in all that we do in life, whether it is in parenting, fitness, buying a car or a house, or saving for your children’s college education. Yet, I’ve discovered a surprising level of irony in the way many organizations and their sales divisions go about securing business. Sure,…
Why does a man who has been managing partner of the Midwest Region for EY for less than a year jump into Lake Michigan on a cold, winter’s day in January? Why does he climb the 2,109-steps of Willis Tower and bring his wife along for the trek to the top? If you’re Rick Fezell, you do it because you love challenging yourself with physical feats that test your limits. But you also see the opportunity these challenges present to show people that you’re not a stuffy, aloof leader who just sits behind his desk all day thinking about work.…
Wellness in the workplace isn’t just implementing a program, it’s about establishing a culture of wellness that promotes healthier lifestyles, says Liz Howe, director of business development at Benefitdecisions, Inc. “It’s not something you try and then decide whether you maintain it. A good program requires a well thought out strategy and budget,” Howe says. Smart Business spoke with Howe about simple steps businesses can take to create a culture of wellness, and how to structure a program that delivers results. What’s involved in creating a culture of wellness? There needs to be champions within the organization, including total buy-in…
Expert witnesses are frequently used in the courtroom by attorneys. While many qualified experts exist, the “right” expert can greatly assist counsel and the litigation with his or her testimony. An expert witness can offer testimony about a scientific, technical or professional issue in a court case. Finding the right expert is often a difficult task, but attorneys generally look for several attributes when selecting expert witnesses. Smart Business spoke with John T. Alfonsi, managing director, Cendrowski Corporate Advisors LLC, about the qualities attorneys look for in an expert witness.What are the key attributes an expert witness should possess? Attorneys…
Emergency room overutilization is a prevailing problem for most employers. For example, looking at HealthLink’s book of business, almost invariably more than 65 percent of ER visits are for non-emergency reasons. They fall into the categories of disease and virus or symptom, such as headaches, gastroenteritis, sinusitis and influenza. “The cost of an average ER visit ranges from $1,300 to $1,500, but the average urgent care or client visit ranges anywhere from $120 to $500,” says Mark Haegele, director of sales and account management at HealthLink.“If you move any of those visits from the ER to other care settings, you’re…
Jay Dettling needs newly hired employees at Acquity Group to hit the ground running and quickly become productive members of his team. The digital marketing company focuses on helping customers engage their clients and has grown between 30 and 40 percent annually for more than a decade. The bar has been set high and Dettling will continue to push it higher as the company grows beyond 700 employees. But that doesn’t mean he is naive to the fact that hiring is an inexact science or that other companies out there are pursuing the same top talent that he wants to…
Alco Packaging was a troubled company when Melvin Berlin purchased it in 1988. At the time, he offered his son, Andrew, the chance to be part of the negotiating process and then serve as general counsel and director of marketing at the newly acquired company. Within a year, Andrew became the company’s president. A second-year associate at a Chicago law firm, Andrew had grown up soaking in every bit of knowledge he could from his father about how to succeed in the working world. “I didn’t know he was my mentor at the time, I just knew he was my…
Strategic succession is essential in every work group within an organization, not just CEOs. It touches all aspects of the business: family ownership responsibilities, boards, executive teams, management teams, work groups and even new employee on-boarding. Here are six key areas that make up a complete and successful succession at any level. The transfer of knowledge, skills and abilities The first step in succession is to systematically move competency to the next generation of owners, leaders, managers and workers. This is done through targeted education, new work experiences, exposure to positive and negative results, individual coaching and thoughtful mentoring. Keep…
Ohio is now viewed as one of the leading states in the asset protection arena, thanks to the passage of the Ohio Legacy Trust Act, says Marcia Kendle, Senior Vice President and Chief Fiduciary Officer at FirstMerit Bank. The law, which went into effect March 27, 2013, as part of Ohio House Bill 479, allows for the creation of self-settled irrevocable trusts – also known as domestic asset protection trusts (DAPTs). These trusts permit the transferor of assets to also be the beneficiary of the trust. An Ohio DAPT provides a high level of protection from creditors dependent upon certain…
When all the dollars and cents were added up for 2012, cleverbridge’s revenue topped $363.5 million — and co-founder Craig Vodnik realized the company had come a long way from when he answered phone calls in his Chicago basement. “I was also out prospecting for new leads and new business, so I would do that when I wasn’t answering the phone,” Vodnik says. “We didn’t have venture capital or angel investors, so we bootstrapped it ourselves.” Cleverbridge is a full-service e-commerce provider for companies that sell software and software as a service. “Cleverbridge was launched because my partners and I…
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…
When employees are hired or leave a company, the process typically involves HR staff inputting or changing information in a variety of places. “HR is adding them or removing them from payroll, typing in information and sending it to the insurance provider, and using seven to 10 different systems to handle the various tasks,” says Liz Howe, director of Business Development at Benefitdecisions, Inc. Companies are alleviating that burden by automating processes through benefit administration systems. “They recognize the burden that HR people face. And employees are becoming more technologically savvy and want information at their fingertips,” says Howe. Smart…
Many employees are surprised when they learn how much employers are spending on them in addition to their salaries. Studies show that benefits can add 30 to 35 percent on top of the salary being paid. “A total compensation statement is a good way to illustrate this and make employees aware. Most employees will end up appreciating employers more if the information is communicated properly and in an effective manner,” says Dan Wilke, director of underwriting at Benefitdecisions, Inc. Smart Business spoke with Wilke about the value of providing employees with total compensation statements. What’s in a total compensation statement?…
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…
Executives often wonder why they need to have machinery and equipment appraised, but these appraisals are important components of business today. “Typically, appraisals are performed because of buy/sell agreements, mergers and acquisitions, business valuations, partnership dissolutions, insurance, bankruptcy, property taxes, financing and Small Business Administration lending. Other reasons would be divorce, estate planning or other estate issues, retirement planning, cost-segregation analysis and litigation support,” says Theresa Shimansky, a manager at Cendrowski Corporate Advisors LLC. Smart Business spoke with Shimansky about how machinery and equipment appraisals are typically handled. What is the useful life of an appraisal? Generally, an appraisal is…
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…
ServicesFINALISTHaving taken over as CEO of Associated, Michael Romano began to evaluate ways to set the company apart from the competition. He decided there should be some changes. As a result, the past three years for the company have been the most transformative by far in its history.But in making a change in direction, Romano encountered some static from the managers who were not sure the change in the company’s business model would be a success.It was a challenge to shift the way of thinking for many tenured employees from seeing themselves as a “Raymond Forklift Distributor” to being professionals…
The changes for tax year 2013 are already in place, but many individuals are still struggling to figure out what the new laws and regulations mean for their investments, estate plans, and businesses, says Steve Foster, a vice president and client adviser at FirstMerit. “With the 2012 tax season behind us, we’re spending a lot of time helping clients understand the significant changes that are taking place for 2013, how they may be affected, and the planning opportunities available to them,” he says. Will anything change for taxpayers in 2013? The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2013, signed into law…
Trina Gordon looked at her company’s clients and could see that they wanted more. It wasn’t that Boyden World Corp. had done a bad job of meeting their needs. They just had more needs to be met.“What we began to notice out of this downturn was challenges in the macroeconomic environment continued to persist globally,” says Gordon, president and CEO at the professional services firm.“Clients, particularly global clients and emerging global clients all over the worldwide landscape were becoming more demanding about greater consistency and quality of service from their advisers,” she says. “What that meant was we needed to…
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…
With employers facing ever-rising health insurance premiums, most are looking to control costs.They may increase co-pays and deductibles, or decrease benefits. But there are other steps to accomplish that goal without impacting benefits or increasing employees’ costs, says Mark Haegele, director, sales and account management at HealthLink.“Lowering the cost of health care is driven by managing utilization,” Haegele says. “There are a number of things in your data covering members’ use that you can address to help control costs. Too often, people are not educated about alternatives to the emergency room.”Smart Business spoke with Haegele about how to lower the…
It wasn’t your typical corporate relocation when Cartridge World Inc. moved its North American headquarters from California to Illinois in 2011.For starters, most of the employees who had worked at the Emeryville, Calif., headquarters were not making the trip to the new offices in Spring Grove, Ill.“Institutional knowledge disappeared if it wasn’t retained in the system,” says William D. Swanson, CFO of the global ink and toner printer cartridge retailer and CEO of North American operations.“Even then, it might be in the system, but it’s not in the minds, hearts and thoughts of the people coming on board. So that…
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…
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