Dustin S. Klein

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

From the bottom up

Nancy Brown believes that community giving begins at the grassroots level.

"I always struggle between two things: My belief that you give because you want to give and to a cause you support, and a belief that corporations shouldn't tell their people who to support and how," she says.

That's not to say that Brown eschews corporate giving. In fact, it's just the opposite. Her business, Ladies and Gentlemen Hair Salon and Spa, embraces corporate and community giving as one of its primary business tenets. It's just that Brown and her husband, Ed, who co-owns the salon, believe philanthropy should originate from the employees.

"It (our philosophy) really comes from our employees' hearts rather than from me mandating that they support causes," Brown explains. "People do things for the right reasons. It's so much more powerful when it comes from the heart rather than simply being the right thing to do for a corporation trying to create a good name for itself."

In the past two decades, Mentor-based Ladies and Gentlemen has built a reputation for supporting the community, putting its name behind such causes as Project Hope, the United Way Day of Caring, Project Act, Hannah's House and a host of environmental issues. And, it's done it with the support of its staff members.

Says Brown, "I'm very concerned about the environment and victims of homelessness. It's our responsibility to help people who are put in situations that they can't control."

Ladies and Gentlemen's 110 employees come together at salon meetings to determine which causes to support, says Brown.

"We go around and ask who has a cause they'd like to support," she says. "Then we, as a company, determine to what degree we can support it."

This method of grassroots employee giving has led to annual gifts averaging $12,000, as well as widespread employee volunteerism that's difficult to put a price tag on. Over the past several years, staff members have participated in painting houses around Lake County; volunteered to help rebuild homeless shelters; created, printed and sold cookbooks to raise money for Project Hope; worked to raise money to build a children's wing for the Lake County Mental Health facility; and held five years worth of fund-raisers for Lake Catholic High School in Mentor to raise enough money to build and equip a science lab.

Brown's commitment to the environment has resulted in Ladies and Gentlemen receiving seven environmental and humanitarian awards from the Aveda Corp., and an Environmental Business of the Year Award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nancy and Ed have even included the company's four-pronged philosophy regarding community service in the employee manual, laying out the manner in which it is committed to serving "each other, our customers, our community and our world."

The statement says the company aims to do so the following way:

  • By providing and encouraging educational development for our staff in all areas of community service.

  • By adhering to the principles of environmentalism in our workplace, and following through with this commitment into community awareness and service.

  • By serving those in need, starting in our own area and reaching as far as we can to eliminate homelessness and promote rehabilitation for those less fortunate, primarily to children and victims of homelessness.

  • By encouraging staff to register to vote and become involved in government issues, first on a local level, and further, on state and national levels, through facilitation of issues and voter registration.

And, says Brown, community giving is a year-round endeavor that does more than provide money to a cause.

"We want to raise public awareness that there are people in need." How to reach: Ladies and Gentlemen Salon and Day Spa, (440) 255-5572

Dustin Klein (dsklein@sbnnet.com) is editor of SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:32

Making a difference

In October, computer maker Hewlett-Packard announced it would set aside $1 billion in products and services next year to help bring technology to the poorest of the poor.

Odds are, you didn't hear about this story. Most major media sources glossed over the news to discuss other, more grim, business issues.

It seems as though bad news is the bulk of what's reported these days. I can't turn on the television without being bombarded with news about some company's major failings or, in the case of many dot-coms, an organization's demise.

As a former daily business-news reporter, I won't argue that those stories have their place -- where else would that information come from? But, as adept as they are at the negative, there's a noticeable void of coverage detailing the good deeds business owners and their employees do. And that's a serious problem.

For those who missed it, HP's program is designed to bring Internet access to rural areas in developing countries, including China, Africa and South America. It has located partners in village communities and will connect people with basic online services to help bring these groups into the World Wide Web and expand their economic opportunities.

Not all companies have HP's resources, but every business owner, manager or employee can make a difference by getting involved with local community causes. A desire to underscore their contributions is one reason SBN, along with Medical Mutual of Ohio, developed the Pillar Award for Community Service.

This month, 11 Northeast Ohio companies are being honored for their commitment to giving back to the communities that support them. This is no small feat. The leaders and employees have leveraged manpower, funds, expertise and intellectual capital to help make their communities a better place to live.

Take, for example, Cuyahoga Falls-based Main Street Gourmet. In 1992, Co-CEO Steven Marks partnered with Akron General Hospital's Women's Health and Cancer Center to found "Muffins for Mammograms." Every October, during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, baked goods are sold to raise money for mammograms for hundreds of women who otherwise would not be able to afford them.

Or witness the case of The MinuteMen Group, which is part of the governing body of the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland. MinuteMen helps provide more than 500 turkeys to area hunger centers to feed residents not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year. Employees and management at the Cleveland-based staffing and payroll company also donate time, money and effort to aid inner city residents make the transition from welfare to work.

This year's winners exemplify the art of community giving, and I invite you to read each of their stories. Perhaps you'll find an idea or two that you may be able to integrate into your own business. Or, their stories of corporate responsibility just may be the spark of inspiration you need to get your own program started.

Either way, we hope to honor your company next year as a pillar of the community. Dustin Klein (dsklein@sbnnet.com) is editor of SBN.

Friday, 28 June 2002 06:17

Truly successful

In 1981, the four Shibley siblings -- Jeffrey, Larry, Arthur Shibley and Darlene Shibley Ziegenhagen --opened their first Yours Truly Restaurant in Beachwood, converting a small restaurant Jeffrey managed, Our Gang, into a family-owned business.

Twenty-one years later, the Shibleys own and operate a chain of six restaurants across Northeast Ohio, in Beachwood, Chagrin Falls, Hudson, Mayfield Village, Shaker Heights and Mentor. A seventh will open in Medina in September.

Growth is never an easy part of business, but it's especially challenging when it includes expansion to numerous locations.

At one time, each sibling ran his or her own restaurant, but when the number of restaurants exceeded the number of Shibleys, the company's overall management structure required a change.

"Developing the infrastructure of the company -- the different systems and supervisory people -- has been difficult," says Larry Shibley. "Going from a couple of guys operating a couple of restaurants to a functioning chain where things happen automatically and you have sophisticated, high level training which shows everything documented ... that's been the challenge."

The group redefined the partners' roles. Today, Darlene deals with all of the store managers and interviews and hires them. Larry oversees much of the administrative and financial duties from the Chagrin Falls headquarters, manages the facilities and is the lead in the selection of new sites.

Arthur spends the bulk of his time at the Hudson store and handles tasks such as in-store training and public relations. Jeffrey splits his time between the Mayfield Village location and Mentor. He develops targeted training for employees and oversees the Web site and newsletter.

To fill out the management team, the Shibleys promoted one of their restaurant managers, Dixie Jerdon, to streamline the corporate structure. Jerdon computerized the restaurants, then took every aspect of the business and documented it in detail, Larry says.

"She created a form that would walk a manager through the tasks of each day," he says, adding she did what was necessary for the group to expand beyond four restaurants. "(She) played an extremely significant role in providing the management tools for Yours Truly to grow into a seven-restaurant chain." How to reach: Yours Truly Restaurants, (440) 247-8338

Friday, 28 June 2002 06:12

The power of networking

Among the groups to which I belong is The Entrepreneurship Institute.

TEI is comprised of leaders from nearly two dozen business service provider organizations in the Greater Cleveland area. Every other month, we meet to discuss the current state of affairs within our respective industries.

It's a unique opportunity to gain insight about what's happening across the business spectrum and share ideas of how each of our organizations deal with common issues that arise during the normal -- and not-so-normal -- course of business. It's also a great place to pick up prospective client referrals or, in my case, trend story ideas for SBN.

Business experience is valuable. It provides the ability to quickly analyze and deal with different situations because you've seen them in various forms before. But the continuous acquisition of knowledge and experience from external sources and the subsequent understanding of how to apply it is even more critical to long-term success.

A key initiative of TEI is an annual conference designed for presidents and CEOs. Last month, more than 120 senior executives attended the President's Forum to hear a slate of speakers that included former TRW chairman Joseph Gorman, Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell and TravelCenters of America CEO Ed Kuhn.

The speakers shared strategies, case studies and pearls of wisdom about how they run their organizations, tackling such topics as transforming management styles as your company grows, how to maximize alliances, the value of mergers and acquisitions, and what it takes to steer a business through a difficult turnaround.

I was lucky enough to moderate three breakout discussion groups during the course of the day-long conference. It's amazing what can happen when you put diverse business owners and leaders into a room and let them swap stories, problems and solutions in a friendly, noncompetitive atmosphere.

Simply put, networking with your peers in any form is a surefire way to develop and implement ways to improve your business and develop that all-important competitive edge.

Tuesday, 30 April 2002 06:17

Ups and downs

Ups to the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland. Its new "2002 Fun is Free" campaign offers visitors free tickets to Cleveland-area attractions such as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Great Lakes Science Center for every room night they book in Cleveland. It's a smart marketing move to generate increased tourist traffic.

Downs to Rep. James Traficant. The convicted felon says he plans to run for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives as an independent. Traficant should resign, sparing his constituents the embarrassment of his actions, and leave a modicum of respect in Congress for all the good he actually did for his region.

Ups to Flight Options CEO Ken Ricci. First, Ricci pioneered the concept of fractional jet ownership for pre-owned jets. Then he engineered a merger with Raytheon Travel Air. Now Ricci has developed a unique pricing structure that reflects the real cost of operating airplanes. Ricci's Flight Options is a true Cleveland success story that's rarely reported on.

Ups to OfficeMax. After more than two years of corporate and strategic restructuring, CEO Michael Feuer says he expects the office supply retailer to show a profit with its first quarter results. Coupled with the sale of more than 2 million (of about 15 million) shares of stock by Orient Star Holdings, which had been accumulating stock for what many believed a potential hostile takeover, it appears the company has finally turned the corner.

Tuesday, 30 April 2002 06:08

Choosing your cause

Later this year, SBN Magazine and Medical Mutual of Ohio will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Pillar Award for Community Service. We developed the program to, among other things, underscore the importance of giving back to the community.

As business leaders, it's imperative to recognize the impact your company can have upon the neighborhood, the environment, the residents and even your industry.

This commitment stretches beyond writing checks, organizing volunteer days and other corporate philanthropic missions. It includes personal involvement, either self-generated or through activities such as COSE's Serve-A-Day on May 11, when business leaders and their families are invited to pitch in and help improve Cleveland's neighborhoods.

As the annual reports of regional nonprofit organizations reflect, many of you sit as trustees on nonprofit boards, lending your business expertise and acumen to the efforts of those groups. But the number of young executives taking leadership roles is small compared with the efforts of the traditional, more established guard.

It's time that changed.

A few months ago, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and find a way to increase my involvement in the community -- beyond my monthly columns, SBN's coverage of corporate philanthropy and our annual Pillar Awards.

I met with Alice Korngold and Shawn Nemeth at Business Volunteers Unlimited, an organization that matches executives from its member companies with nonprofit boards. After learning more about BVU, I began the process of placement on a nonprofit board of trustees.

My goal is twofold: To use my background and expertise to make an impact upon an organization whose mission I believe in, and to share my experience with SBN readers, whom I hope will decide to step up their personal involvement.

Beginning in June, I will chronicle my experiences in the pages of SBN. My diary will appear every few months in the features section of this magazine to provide you with a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it's like to get involved with a nonprofit organization. More important, I hope to offer concrete examples of how you, as business executives, can do more to help the Cleveland area community.

Thursday, 28 March 2002 08:48

Straight to the consumer

If you're wondering where the future of TV-based advertising is headed, Solon-based Everstream might just have a bead on the direction. The technology firm, which specializes in broadband and advertising systems, software and infrastructure, is proclaiming its targeted multimedia advertising software via interactive television (iTV) is the next phase of advertising -- reaching specific consumers with tailor-made messages. Recently, Everstream, along with The Arras Group, the Association of Interactive Marketing and Catalina Marketing Corp., surveyed marketing professionals nationwide to gauge their interest in iTV services and determine what the potential marketplace thought of the product. An overwhelming number of marketing professionals and marketing executives -- more than 75 percent -- expressed serious interest in applying iTV services to their current offerings. Technology and advertising professional expect iTV services to grow as the expansion of digital cable and satellite TV offerings continues. Everstream is hoping they will become a magic bullet for business owners because they allow for one-to-one message delivery, pinpoint targeting, interaction and exact campaign measurement via television -- all factors that go into how a company's marketing dollars are spent and measured. As for the consumers who will be targeted, odds are they're not going to be consulted before they start seeing advertisement that not-so-coincidentally seem a bit more relevant than the ones they're seeing today. Then again, no one asked if consumers wanted to see pop-up messages via the Web, either.

Tuesday, 26 February 2002 12:12

Ups and downs

(Ups) to the nine 2002 eVolution in Manufacturing honorees. Their development, integration and utilization of e-business solutions goes to show just how much technology is growing up. Next up: Start Trek-style transporters.

(Downs) to AccuSpray. The Bedford Heights paint spray equipment manufacturer's recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing was due, in large part, to expensive warranty-related issues surrounding a defective product. While investors believe the company should emerge from bankruptcy, they also admit the mistake could have been avoided by extensive pre-market release testing.

(Ups) to Athersys founder Gil Van Bokkelen. As biotechnology begins to take center stage as a key component to Ohio's business future, Van Bokkelen's firm is getting endorsements from high places including Ohio Gov. Bob Taft. Let's hope the thumbs ups sparks greater investment and leads to new industry jobs.

(Downs) to U.S. Rep. James Traficant Jr. No matter what the outcome of his bribery trial, voters in his newly redrawn district should send a message on Election Day. Despite the maverick politician's outlaw charm, something doesn't smell right in Denmark, I mean the Mahoning Valley.

(Ups) to Southwest General Health Center. The UHHS-member hospital received the top five-star rating for treatment of heart attacks by a consumer health rating service. HealthGrades compared Southwest's services against more than 5,000 hospitals nationwide.

Wednesday, 02 January 2002 04:41

3 tips for finding capital in a tough market

Nobody ever said raising capital was easy. And, during a period ravaged by bad investments, overvalued companies and faltering confidence in the national economy, it's even tougher.

So what can you do to ensure the best chance possible of finding cash for a new venture or business expansion? Make sure your funding proposal includes the following:

High growth rate With today's economic conditions, venture capital groups look for projected annual sales growth of 25 percent or more if your company is either launching a new product line or expanding into a new marketplace.

Clear strategy for commercialization Just because your business currently is successful with its sales and marketing approach doesn't mean you can simply duplicate the formula. However, if your market research backs up the contention that you can, show it. If not, develop a strong strategic plan.

Barriers to entry Be sure to show potential capital sources that your company can discourage competition in the new market you're entering. It can be as simple as being several years ahead of any competitors or as complicated as a trade secret, patented product or proprietary process.

Monday, 29 October 2001 09:42

Managing transitions

Buffy Filippell didn't know what to expect when she hopped a plane to Houston to meet with Bob McNair, owner of the newly established NFL franchise, the Houston Texans, and Steve Patterson of NFL Holdings, the organization that helps new franchises through the transition from idea to the playing field.

The pair originally hired Filippell to help find a general manager, but it wasn't long before she discovered they were also desperate for help in filling other front office jobs.

''They had no staff and lots of people who wanted jobs,'' she says. ''The team was small. There were two secretaries and then Patterson and McNair. There were hundreds of resumes and no way to go through them all. It was overwhelming.''

So Filippell, who'd spent more than 10 years in the executive recruitment field, found herself in a unique bind -- she knew technology would solve the problem, but that approach would drastically alter the personal process she says is at the core of executive recruiting.

''This is a company based on more than simply finding someone a job,'' she says about TeamWork. ''It's about helping someone find a place where they can have their own success.''

Undeterred, Filippell enlisted two Houston-based software engineers to help develop proprietary software that facilitates and streamlines the recruiting process. More important, it maintains the personal touch.

Once launched for the Texans, the software-driven Web site caught on quickly -- more than 75 people each day began submitting resumes for consideration. That's when Filippell knew she was on to something big. In February 2000, she spun off the software product into a separate business, TeamWork Online, which licenses the software to sports organizations.

In the world of recruiting, hanging on to that personal touch is imperative to success. Filippell says the process is comprised of transitions. She considers each successful placement a part of her extended and ever-growing family.

So how did she take a traditional, people-oriented business and integrate technology successfully without losing that personal touch?

It wasn't easy, she admits. But its success is at the very core of what sets TeamWork Consulting apart from its competitors. Here's how Filippell and her staff have put together a system that's attracting such big name clients as the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball.

Filippell founded TeamWork Consulting Inc., an executive search firm for the sports and event management industry, in September 1987, shortly after her father passed away.

''It's ironic that often, after a tragedy, someone starts a business,'' she says, referring to incidents that spurred creation of organizations such as M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).

Filippell predicts the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania will spur another wave of new business ventures once the dust clears and people begin to rebuild, heal and move forward.

An experienced recruiter who worked at Mark McCormack's International Management Group (IMG) and worldwide executive recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International, the bulk of Filippell's background focused on searches for senior executives in banking, manufacturing and insurance. But she had a special interest in sports executive recruiting, and while at Korn/Ferry, conducted searches for such high-profile clients as the Women's Tennis Association, LPGA and the U.S. Cycling Federation.

After her father's death, Filippell wanted to focus on sports executive recruiting, but Korn/Ferry wasn't interested in devoting an entire practice to it. So she opted to go it alone, founding TeamWork Consulting out of her Shaker Heights home. One of the company's first placements was Tim Leiweke, president of the Los Angeles Kings and the Staples Center.

In 1988, Leiweke was placed by Filippell to run the expansion NBA franchise Minnesota Timberwolves. He has been a client ever since.

Over the past 14 years, TeamWorks' client list has included NASCAR, the PGA Tour, three NFL teams, six NHL teams, six NBA teams, six MLB teams, CART, Major League Soccer, the Olympic Governing Bodies and the now-defunct XFL.

As her client list expanded, Filippell realized she couldn't go it alone. In 1999, she brought in Jennifer Proud Mearns as a partner. Mearns began her career as a public relations assistant at Madison Square Garden, and over the next several years worked as a media liaison for the Men's International Tennis Tour (now the ATP Tour), as an agent for Ohlmeyer Communications (now International Sports and Entertainment Strategies) and at Cyrk Inc., where she developed and managed merchandising programs including MasterCard International's World Cup soccer and NASCAR's 50th anniversary.

One thing that made Mearns a good fit was that her philosophy was in line with Filippell's.

''You learn by listening to people,'' Mearns says. ''It's simply a philosophy that says we help our clients through the transition of a job change by being with them every step of the way.''

So when the Houston Texans came calling later that year, Mearns and Filippell knew they would have their hands full integrating technology without straying from their core beliefs.

''When we first looked at the option of putting together an online business, we recognized it wasn't as human as the traditional business had been,'' Filippell says. ''But we also knew it served needs to have information quickly available.''

With that in mind, Filippell and Mearns set out to combine the efficiencies of the Internet with the personal touch they didn't want to lose. They designed a product that streamlined the recruiting process and empowered sports organizations to manage it themselves.

''Our challenge was how to make this process as personal as possible while still teaching the sports business executives how to recruit,'' Mearns says. ''It's more than just a technological tool for the sports industry.''

TeamWork's software allows professional sport teams and leagues to recruit entry-level to mid-level executives through their Web sites. By clicking an icon on the site, for example at the NBA's www.nba.com, a prospect can review available positions and apply online. TeamWork Online's software then screens the resumes, organizes them and allows the team's management to communicate with prospects they want to interview.

''When you go to either our URL address or the individual teams' addresses, you can get a job board,'' Filippell says. ''But, you're not at a job board and it doesn't feel like a traditional job board. It's truly a part of the organization's Web site information.''

Among the clients using the software are the NBA, WNBA, WWF, NHL and MLS, as well as the Staples Center and the Houston Texans.

''We're teaching the sports industry how to recruit,'' Filippell says. ''We license out our technology tools and process to the teams. With the boom in sports business, it's making the job of working through a pile of resumes that much easier for our clients.''

Mearns says one of the key elements of the software is its ability to create better lines of communication between the teams and applicants.

''We've built in automatic e-mail notification alerts so that when you post a new job, anyone who checked off skills in the areas you've outlined gets an e-mail,'' she says. ''That eliminates the need to look over every application each time a team posts a new job opening.''

While at first glance, such software could potentially remove the need for TeamWork from the marketplace it serves, Filippell says it's just the opposite. A closer inspection of the model reveals that the software actually increases TeamWork's business opportunities.

By helpi ng clients do some of the heavy lifting themselves, it maximizes the potential for TeamWork to concentrate on upper level sports executive recruiting while the software handles middle management and lower echelon positions. Filippell says it strengthens existing business relationships and has opened opportunities to forge new ones.

TeamWork hosts the job board sections of its clients' Web sites on its server. The company generates revenue by licensing the software out to its clients and collecting royalty fees. This is in addition to any straightforward recruiting fees TeamWork picks up if it does the actual recruitment work.

''We're simply using technology to be more efficient for our clients,'' Filippell says. ''And now, by licensing the software out to teams to use themselves, the recruiting becomes a team service function.''

For Filippell, the innovation of TeamWork online is the second significant impact she's had on the recruiting industry. It's an impact she understands, though with a touch of humbleness.

''It's interesting,'' she says, reflecting on her still evolving career. ''I'm pleased to think I helped change how people were recruited into the sports industry. Then, 15 years later, I was part of a group that developed another tool to make the process even better.

''You have to understand our business, the business of transitions, to truly understand how to make it work,'' Filippell says. ''And then, when you look at the acceptance by the teams and other sports organizations, you recognize they do understand it.

''It's become another transition, but this time combining people with a technological process. And it still requires that personal touch.'' How to reach: TeamWork Consulting, (216) 767-1790, www.teamworkconsulting.com

Dustin Klein (dsklein@sbnnet.com) is editor of SBN Magazine.

TeamWork Online