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Tuesday, 15 April 2014 21:28

John Myers: A letter to startups

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Dear entrepreneur, Entrepreneurial support in Northeast Ohio has come a long way since I first got involved with the Akron Regional CHange Angel in 2005. Back then, the term entrepreneur, and all its variations, was just beginning to be used to describe startup companies and their drivers, long before reaching the nauseating overuse of the word we experience today. Since then, we have seen the support and funding networks for startups grow exponentially, which is mostly for the good. The $2.1 billion Ohio Third Frontier program, with all its subsets, has actually provided the platform for much of what you…
By Dennis Seeds | dseeds@sbnonline.comInterview by Gregory Jones | ceointerview@sbnonline.com Mark Bamforth remembers arriving in the United States in 2000 from his native Scotland — and receiving some powerful advice from his new CEO. “I was working for the biotech company Genzyme — and the day I arrived he told me that Genzyme was going to buy another company and the investment was one-fifth of Genzyme’s value at that time, so it was a pretty big deal. “When I asked him why it was right to do this he said, ‘Well, we think we know enough to know that we…
Engineering innovation took the spotlight in several ways at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC in Elyria in February — and that included getting engineers of tomorrow on board. In celebration of Engineers Week 2014, Bendix hosted its first Discover Engineering event at its Elyria headquarters on Presidents Day, introducing middle school and high school students to engineering. The company is committed to inspiring the next generation of engineers and helping students unleash their creativity and innovative spirit through engineering. Discover Engineering was open to children and grandchildren of Bendix employees, allowing students to meet Bendix engineers and learn firsthand what…
In a world where fast-paced technology dominates everything we do, the amount of personal contact is decreasing, leaving many first impressions at the mercy of an email sent from a smartphone. But despite our reliance on technology, it’s important that we not lose the basics of our relationship skills. We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard when it comes to dealing with people, because ultimately it’s good business to make a solid first impression. Here are some things we can do today to make sure each impression is a good one: 1. Send a handwritten letter instead of…
Laura Bennett took on an uphill battle and co-founded Embrace Pet Insurance Thursday, April 10, 2014 Laura Bennett was trying to get her fledgling pet insurance business off the ground in 2005 when she had to confront the reality that the insurance industry was a male-dominated one. Bennett and co-founder Alex Krooglik were searching for an insurance partner who would back Embrace Pet Insurance, her company, and left for London to seal a deal with Lloyd’s of London, the global specialist insurance king. “Well, that was the problem — trying to find a partner that would work with two people…
If your company is interested in establishing or enhancing its collaboration with philanthropic organizations, Dan D’Armond, community and government relations director for BMC Software, offers some excellent observations and questions to ask as you review your involvement.Here is my interview with him:Deena: What are corporations typically asked about corporate giving and forming strategic partnerships?Dan: One of the most commonly asked questions corporations receive from nonprofits is, ‘What is your giving strategy?’ Maybe the better question is, ‘Can a corporation afford not to collaborate with nonprofits as part of its strategy?’Many nonprofits approach potential corporate partners with the promise of a…
Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States, which often surprises visitors. Much like comedian Rodney Dangerfield, it seems like Houston “gets no respect.” But the growing recognition of Houston’s global business opportunities could change that perception.The Houston Airport System has historically experienced strong passenger air service to Europe and Latin America. And now the Asian market has received a number of boosts, such as Air China Beijing’s direct flights to Houston four to seven times a week, United’s additional daily flight from Houston to Tokyo, daily direct flights from Istanbul to Houston on Turkish Airlines and direct…
“In Cleveland’s heyday … proximity to water or rail mattered a lot. Today, proximity to a university campus matters a lot.”Tim Ferguson of Forbes said that, not at a recent high-tech conference, but 15 years ago and in the context of manufacturing. What was true at the close of the last century is even more important in the opening decades of the present one.There’s no question that today’s economy is a global knowledge- and technology-intensive one, as the National Science Board’s 2014 Science and Engineering Indicators suggest. Research discoveries that beget new technologies and further innovations through human capital are…
Monday, 31 March 2014 12:08

Mission: Akron: Making your worldwide debut

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You have invented the next big thing, a breakthrough in the medical device, polymer, energy or tech industries. Now what? How will you reach customers? How will you manufacture it? How will you recruit talent? To whom will you go to get the funding you need to develop the business in its pre-revenue stages?The Akron Global Business Accelerator has been answering those questions for 30 years. The Accelerator provides entrepreneurial support to technology-based startups in diverse fields, including biomedical, energy, advanced materials, IT, instruments, controls and electronics. The Accelerator is not just a place; it is a program with a…
Recent media attention, including ubiquitous coverage of the Target Corp. security breach over the holidays, has highlighted the increase in security intrusions affecting organizations across industries. As technology moves forward exponentially, security threats and leaks continue to emerge.“In the digital age, nearly every company holds personally identifiable information of its employees or customers in digital form,” says Christina D. Frangiosa, an attorney at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC. “It’s imperative that this information is protected from unauthorized disclosure and that companies have a plan to address any breaches.”Smart Business spoke with Frangiosa about data protection, the role of state…
As the availability and use of 3-D laser based printers proliferate, IP related issues need to be considered. The use of lasers for rapid prototyping has existed for a number of years as a process of making molds and models in the early stages of production. However, with improved technology 3-D printers are becoming used as a means to make finished products. For patent owners, the ability of large numbers of individuals (with 3-D printers) to produce products will increase the difficulty of enforcing patent rights. Particularly, 3-D printer technology will act to fragment the target of potential patent enforcement,…
When switching to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems, a business will need to incorporate new equipment and technology. Though it may seem daunting, the transition and subsequent result leads to more manageable communications, a shallow learning curve and support during the process. “One of the biggest differences between using a traditional phone system and going to a VoIP platform is the huge reduction in equipment that is needed, and you’d be getting better features and advantages out of it,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. “When you’re moving from a traditional world to a VoIP…
With 25 regional EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ programs, making the cut to become a finalist in one of the 11 national award categories is tough — you’re competing against more than 200 of the nation’s top entrepreneurs. So landing three national finalists and one national category winner is something worth talking about. Last year, the Gulf Coast Area region landed four of its 11 regional EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ winners on the national stage: Steve Pate, chairman and CEO of Strike LLC; Kenneth L. Robison, CEO of Crest Industries LLC; Peter M. Duncan, founder, president and CEO of…
“HR bytes” refers to human resources technologies being developed, deployed and adopted at a breakneck pace. New and innovative software applications are making the delivery of HR services better, faster and simpler. For years now, large Fortune 500 companies have invested in HR technology that streamlines back office processes, enhances learning opportunities and simplifies employee procedures. Now, though, progressive HR service providers are expanding their service offering beyond mere administrative and tactical HR to include more strategic services and the systems to support them, giving smaller companies access to these tools as well. Time and labor management Automated Web-based time…
PANELISTS: Laura Bennett, Sheila Dunn, Kristen Morris and Lindsay Sims Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is proud to sponsor the Perspectives 2014 Women Who Excel Conference, and over the past several years, the pace of change has certainly increased, especially in health care. In my 30 years in the industry, I’ve never experienced so much change in such a short period of time. Women business leaders are facing important and increasingly complex decisions about the health care coverage they offer to their associates. Not only is health care coverage one of the biggest expenses in many companies’ budgets, it…
Over the course of my career, I’ve been both the young entrepreneur and the seasoned leader. In both roles, I have discovered that the foundational tenets of a successful corporate culture remain constant. No matter the industry, the annual revenue or the number of employees, a truly great CEO will define and cultivate a strong corporate culture. In it, the company’s leadership participates from the floor rather than the fortress and the team is empowered and feels appreciated. Step down from the ivory tower Whether you’ve built your company from the ground up or you’re stepping into a leadership role…
Technology provides today’s business owner more ways to connect with customers than ever before. But with all those channels available, it’s more critical than ever that you know what you stand for as you seek to build connections with the people you want to buy your product. You are your own brand. What kind of brand do you want your business to be? Our company, kathy ireland Worldwide®, is greatly influenced by core values shared by every team member. We handle rejection with confidence. If people aren’t saying, “no” to you, you may not be taking on the real battles…
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 …
When the winds of change come, you can’t hide your head in the sand. The business landscape is scattered with former companies that didn’t keep up with the times, favoring to keep running their operations as they always have — because it was working and there was no need to change. Technology and e-commerce trends recently have been changing patterns and channels of distribution, which is affecting the size, make-up and location of distribution and manufacturing real estate. These same advances in technology, combined with the generational shifts in the workforce are also having an impact on office and commercial…
We ♥ (heart) logistics. The award-winning UPS ad campaign certainly strikes home for Columbus. The city is naturally attractive as a distribution and logistics hub for its geographic access to 46 percent of the U.S. population within a 10-hour drive, as well as strong supply chain talent and value. In fact, the logistics industry employs 9 percent of Central Ohio’s workforce. But just like with manufacturing, distribution and logistics jobs may not be the first thought of those entering the workforce, says Kenny McDonald, CEO of Columbus 2020. “It’s still probably a misunderstood term and a misunderstood industry,” he says.…
Monday, 31 March 2014 01:11

Building Stronger Communities: LifeCare Alliance

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Working together: LifeCare Alliance marries the needs of for-profits with its own LifeCare Alliance would not be able to serve its 15,000 active clients without support from the corporate community — companies big and small deliver Meals-on-Wheels, work in its dining centers, deliver pet care, assist with numerous volunteer opportunities, and purchase catering and wellness services. President and CEO Charles Gehring says he always hears how much corporate associates enjoy working with LifeCare’s clients, which in turn makes them appreciate their employer. However, building relationships between for-profit and nonprofits needs to go both ways. Smart Business spoke with Gehring about…
The world of technology startups is dominated by one overriding characteristic: uncertainty. Uncertainty in marketing, feature sets, customer needs and even in revenue models nip at founders as they strike out and try to create something new. Uncertainty is not exclusive to young companies, as executives from small businesses to multinational corporations confront the unknown daily. We can wade into the froth of data and events and hope not to be pulled under, or we can employ a technique that compiles the input and processes it in a manageable way — the strategic framework. In startups, one framework gaining popularity…
Charles “Chuck” Sanders, CEO and founder of Urban Lending Solutions, isn’t afraid to take chances when he sees an opportunity. After a brief career in the National Football League, Sanders needed a job and started doing marketing for Pittsburgh real estate entrepreneur Robert Murphy Jr.’s golf course and semi-pro basketball team. One day Sanders asked Murphy, “How do you get the money to buy basketball teams and golf courses?” “I’m in the mortgage business,” Murphy replied. “And I said, ‘That’s the business I want to get into,’” Sanders says. So, he learned the real estate business working in operations and…
Managed services are increasing in popularity, as more companies outsource their computer network management. “A structured managed services program provides the benefit of reducing your IT costs and risks of hardware failure while standardizing IT management through streamlined efficiency, often all at lower costs than the company could manage by doing it in-house,” says Eric Risheill, subject matter expert for the Managed Services Division at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions. Managed services programs are imperative for those who don’t have in-house IT talent or the capacity to manage their networks. Risheill adds many small and midsize businesses have not replaced downsized…
Building out an effective telecommunication and technology infrastructure that meets current needs in the most cost-effective manner possible while providing a base for expansion isn’t an exact science. You need to account for future changes in the nature of work within your organization and with your partners, customers and suppliers, keeping in mind that working models are becoming more flexible and customer contact is increasing. You also must consider specific needs, such as security, disaster recovery, technology performance requirements, public/private boundary controls within systems and networks, and critical tools and datasets. If you underestimate your needs, you could end up…
Information and data are critical to the operation of every business. Whether running a local law firm or a multinational manufacturing operation, information technology systems are essential to your ongoing success. As data and technology become more and more entrenched in business operations, they can also represent a serious vulnerability. Data connects, facilitates and supports every part of most organizations. What happens if disaster strikes and critical information is suddenly unavailable? For many businesses, a loss of data or system functionality would be a catastrophic event. Every second without working technology systems may lead to a significant loss in revenue.…
The movie “Moneyball” depicted how baseball executives were using statistics to predict outcomes, and allocating resources accordingly. Rodolpho Cardenuto, appointed president of SAP Americas in January 2013, foresees a similar approach in the business world as companies gain insights from big data. “The only difference is that they used past statistics. The real insight is how to predict outcomes,” Cardenuto says. “I think it’s going to be a bigger revolution in business than in any sport.” The challenge is transforming big data into actionable items. Making use of data involves taking it from infrastructure to information and then to insight.…
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