Morgan Lewis Jr.

Thursday, 28 March 2002 08:59

The pen is mightier

Ron Shaw realized what a gift life is just moments after a Philadelphia trolley car sped by inches away from his head on an icy winter evening in l947. Shaw, who changed his name from Schurowitz when he entered show business several years later, was often a victim of anti-Semitic bullying by neighborhood kids.

That fateful afternoon, Shaw was on his way home from school when a group of boys surrounded, taunted and beat him until one of them tossed him into a icy street just as a trolley car approached. Shaw, who slipped and fell past the trolley car's tracks, has been inspired by the incident ever since.

"I don't know if God meant for me to live because there was work he wanted me to do or if it was just a fluke," Shaw writes in his book, "Pilot Your Life." "But somehow, for whatever reason, I survived."

This childhood tale is just one of the harrowing and entertaining anecdotes in Shaw's book, which chronicles his rise from an 11-year-old stand-up comedian to Bic Pen salesman to the leader of the Pilot Pen Corp. of America, the nation's third largest pen company with more than $200 million in annual sales.

The book's business lessons about selling yourself, creating opportunities, taking risks and marketing your product could've been pulled from any of hundreds of positive-thinking or motivational tomes, but Shaw's charm, sense of humor and great stories outweigh the occasional lack of original insight. And for so many of the business books out there, you can't ask for much more.

Shaw spoke with SBN Magazine during his book tour and was as candid and entertaining as he is in his book.

You've made a lot of transitions in your life, from comedian to pen salesmen to CEO, and then jumping to your competition. How did you know when to move?
When I was making that transition, I didn't have much choice. I needed a steady paycheck because I was just kind of floundering around and not sure what I wanted to do. I got married, and within one year, nine months and three days from our wedding day, our first son, Steve, was born. So I picked up the book "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill. It made me concentrate on what it was I was doing at that point and what I wanted to do. If I had to be out of show business, then damn it, I was going to become a success in whatever it was I was going to do. I lived in five different cities when I worked for Bic Pen. I started with them in Miami, then Atlanta, followed by Chicago, Detroit and Connecticut. It was not an easy transition. But it (sales) was coming so easily to me that when Bic would have weekly sales contests, every week I was at the top. Once that light went on and I recognized what it was, it made it even easier to concentrate and realize that I was born to be a salesman.

How do you sell yourself?
I think it's the way you dress, the way you come on, the way you walk into a room or make an exit. You walk onto the stage with an air of confidence, not cockiness. You've got to have a pleasant look about you and can't take an attitude of 'I'm better than you.' It's that instant reaction. People do judge books by their covers. As soon as you see somebody, you make an opinion based upon the impression.

What is your secret for growing Pilot?
In 1975, (when I joined the firm), there was hardly anyone that heard of Pilot. My job was to make it into a brand. When I told the president of Bic that I was going to work for Pilot, he said, 'Six months from now, you'll be looking for another job. You'll get it up to $10 million a year but it's not going beyond that.' As we're approaching $200 million this year, he's no longer with Bic. It was a matter of razzle-dazzle marketing. It was bringing things to the industry that had never been done before. I took advantage of my former life as a performer. I met with this young ad agency and said,'Let's do humor to get people's attention.' We would go out to our customers and say, 'Buy a gross of our pens and you'll get a Samsonite briefcase absolutely free.' We did travel contests. Those are some of the things that you can't really do today because the smaller wholesalers have been wiped out by big box retailers. All of a sudden we built a brand. I'm happy to brag that we are now the third biggest pen company in America. How to reach: "Pilot Your Life," by Ron Shaw, Prentice Hall Press, $22. Available at bookstores everywhere.

Full interview available at SBN Online

Tuesday, 26 February 2002 12:23

Toy story

Sandy Rickard remembers the old days -- way back in 1991.

As claims processing supervisor for Little Tikes Co., a toy manufacturer in Hudson, she had to sort through stacks of files looking for invoice documents to settle a claim from a customer. Even though the Little Tikes headquarters was organized, it took a while to look through all those papers.

"I used to spend hours and hours and hours looking for this stuff," says Rickard. "Imaging finds it in a heartbeat."

Little Tikes' document imaging system has streamlined its customer claims processing. All order, shipment and invoice-related documents are scanned and sorted on magnetic and optical disks for quick display and retrieval. Shipping and billing disputes between the company and its hundreds of retailers are resolved in seconds instead of hours or even days.

Manufacturing still relies on a lot of paper documentation for transactions. Often the bill of lading number doesn't match the invoice number or purchase order number. With imaging, Rickard can search for the order in question using 20 fields archived to 1992.

The archive is useful because a customer can make a claim on a shipping or pricing error up to four years after it received the toys. In the past, customers wouldn't realize they had already filed a claim on the order years ago and ended up getting double compensation for the error.

That doesn't happen anymore.

"It's important in claims that whoever has the best documentation is going to win a claim," Rickard says. "If you don't have the proper documentation, you lose. That just means you're losing money."

Little Tikes' move to document imaging started in 1991, when it computerized invoices and bills of lading. The next year, the claims process was automated.

"I discovered that of my four people, all four of us spent one half of our day looking for documents," Rickard says. "That alone more than paid just for that part of the project because of the lost time and energy looking for paper."

The system rapidly improved productivity among Rickard's staff. The number of claims was reduced from 8,000 in 1995 to 400 in 2001.

That reduction is primarily due to improved reporting. Based on the claims information, Little Tikes department chiefs can use reports to find process holes in order fulfillment and shipment.

"There are a lot of claims we pay where we don't lose money, it's just a return," Rickard says. "But there were claims that show us we lost money through error on somebody's part internally here. And it has meant hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue that we have recaptured."

Little Tikes' ability to improve order fulfillment and reduce errors through its document management system has earned it an eVolution in Manufacturing Award.

In the future, Little Tikes will convert to electronic bills of lading to further eliminate paper, says Linda Bowman, Little Tikes' manager of information systems.

When a truck driver picks up a shipment in the warehouse, he or she will use a digital signature pad to sign for the paperwork. That signature will be printed onto the paperwork for the driver and e-mailed into the imaging system so Rickard will have immediate access to that shipment.

Time-consuming document scanning will be cut anywhere from 50 to 75 percent. How to reach: Little Tikes Co. (330) 650-3000 or www.littletikes.com

Wednesday, 30 January 2002 09:57

Dogged determination

It's ironic, but true. Children's book publishing --which often produces stories that teach young readers about caring, fairness and compassion -- is a cutthroat business.

Sandra Philipson knew this even before she started writing children's books based on her springer spaniels Max and Annie. In the 1970s, she was the first female marketing manager at Macmillan Publishing Co. in New York City. She worked the phones and pounded the pavement of universities selling science, history and English textbooks to professors and instructors.

But even with a marketing machine like Macmillan behind her, books were still a tough sell.

"These nice people who want to write children's books look at you so sadly when you tell them this," Philipson says. "It is a huge, competitive business, and the big companies have all the advantages."

Her first book was based on her dog, Annie, who lost her front left leg to cancer. The incident inspired Philipson to write "Annie Loses Her Leg But Finds Her Way," which she felt would help children learn about loss and recovery. A second book, "Max's Wild Goose Chase," followed.

She didn't know what to do with her first story until her neighbor put her in touch with artist Robert Takatch, whom she asked to do sketches for the story. She was so impressed with his work that she decided her story could be much more than something to share with her family, but she was reluctant to submit it to a large publishing company.

"When you're working with a large publishing company, you don't have any control," she says. "They choose the illustrator. You would have no control over your cover, what the book looked like, and they would choose how the book will be marketed."

So Philipson decided to publish the books herself. But before she took them to the printer, she wrote a business plan with the help of two Cleveland State University business professors.

Based on their feedback, Philipson formed a Limited Liability Company made up of herself, Takatch and her husband, Elliot. After a first run of 6,000 copies, 3,000 of each book, Philipson planned her marketing campaign.

In less than two years, she has sold more than 11,000 books, mostly in Northeast Ohio. The rest of country is next.

"We knew that even if you have the best book in the world, people have to want to buy it," she says. "That's where the marketing comes in. I knew there needed to be a huge marketing push because there is a tremendous amount of competition.

"The big companies have the dollars and the marketing machine."

But limited funding doesn't mean you can't market; you just have to work harder. Philipson packed up her books and dogs and traveled to schools, dog shows, libraries and hospitals to push her product. A former economics, history and sociology teacher, Philipson called her education contacts to create a buzz. Even former First Lady Barbara Bush received copies of the books, and promptly sent Philipson a lengthy thank you note.

The word spread about Max & Annie. Philipson appeared on the cable network Animal Planet with her dogs. A mutual friend mentioned the books to Steve Austin, chief executive of Tag Entertainment, a Los Angeles motion picture company that produces family movies.

Austin negotiated with Philipson for several months before they agreed on a film adaptation of her first book. Filming is set to begin in March in Chagrin Falls.

The movie will star Robert Hays of the legendary "Airplane" movies and Robert Wagner, who is best known for his TV role in "Hart to Hart" but has recently appeared in several comedies, including the blockbuster "Austin Powers" movies.

"Today, people are staying at home and concentrating on families and looking for family entertainment," says Patricia Gillum of Tag Entertainment. "Animals relate very well to children. With many of our movies, the interaction of animals with human drama is intrinsic and our main goal." How to reach: Max & Annie LLC, (440) 893-9250

Morgan Lewis Jr. (mlewis@sbnnet.com) is senior reporter at SBN Magazine.

Hit the streets

Sandra Philipson's strategic marketing tips for success

Test the product

Sandra Philipson called every friend she had in education and asked to read her book, "Annie Loses Her Leg But Finds Her Way," to students. She read to a variety of age groups, using two versions of the book, one with illustrations and one without.

She also tested it with elementary school teachers and librarians and made changes based on their suggestions.

"That's a very important market because they are on the front lines with the kids," she says. "They know what kids like, what inspires them, what interests them. I'm an educator, but elementary education was not my forte."

Analyze your market

Young families were an obvious market for Philipson, but she hadn't thought of two other specialized markets -- schools and medical centers.

So she created a step-by-step educational presentation about how she wrote and designed the books, then packed up her dogs and started making school visits. In last 18 months, she's been to 52 schools in the Midwest. Medical centers, while a natural fit for books like Philipson's, required a more delicate approach in the marketing effort.

"One thing I'm very careful about is I do not ever want anyone to perceive or think that I wrote this book to make money off children with cancer," Philipson says. "That is not the goal, and it's actually a very small part of our market."

Spread the word

Philipson held a book release party in Chagrin Falls, where she is based, and invited everyone she could think of, including friends of her husband, her illustrator and her book designer. She continues to market the books at every public event she attends, including conferences, speaking engagements and dog shows.

"I try to be out there," she says. "I try to be seen, to meet people, to tell them about my products, to tell them about my books and tell them about the educational program. You can't just sit in your ivory tower and hope to sell anything."

Build the brand

To help create a buzz behind her Max & Annie characters, Philipson found an area designer to create a plush stuffed Annie toy to sell with the books. She then found a stuffed animal toy company that already produced a springer spaniel stuffed toy and licensed it for the Max character.

"This could be the next 'Harry Potter,'" Philipson says. "The market for children is waiting for new characters. Max and Annie are those characters."

Morgan Lewis Jr.

Wednesday, 02 January 2002 05:30

Open (Source) market

Linux started out as a software operating system for hackers and other techies. But when Microsoft became embroiled in a legal battle with the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Linux's commercial distributors like Red Hat Inc. and Corel turned up the marketing pitch and started landing big contracts with organizations such as Google, Toyota and Sony.

Many smaller companies followed suit, primarily because Linux-based systems were much less expensive and easier to use. The popularity of Linux-based operating system for file servers is particularly strong, outpacing installations of Microsoft's Windows NT file server product in 1999 and 2000. Last year looks to be no exception.

But what about its popularity Cleveland and Northeast Ohio and its future?

"Cleveland is a (Microsoft) NT town," says Jim Fisher, president of Web developer IdeaStar Inc. in Garfield Heights. "One big trend we're expecting is the growth of Linux in the market (in 2002.)"

Finnish IT student, Linus Torvalds, created Linux in 1991 basically as a clone of the Unix operating system for his home PC so he could communicate with his university's computer. He put the system on the Internet and drew widespread interest from developers around the world. Due to the open code, the system had been modified a countless number of times. The only intellectually property Torvalds owns is the trademark name Linux.

Your office might already have a Linux-based system running its file server, or even as the operating system on your desktop PCs. Here's why the system is so popular and starting to ruffle Microsoft's feathers.

Flexibility
Linux is free, open source software. Users can change the system for their needs, but they have to share their changes with the rest of computing world, unlike Microsoft. Distributors like Red Hat, the market leader, and Corel design pre-configured Linux systems complete with applications and sell them. Even then, the user can tweak the system for his or her needs. Fisher says more companies are finding the switch is worth the trouble.

"With NT, whenever you want to update it, you plug it in hope and pray that the stuff still runs," Fisher says. "With Linux you don't run into those problems. It's a much more powerful and secure development platform."

Linux-based systems, including e-mail, are safer from viruses than Microsoft applications because there are only a handful of them out there and they are easier root out due to the open source nature of the systems.

Compact
It takes 10 servers equipped with Windows NT to run what one server equipped with a Linux-based system could handle.

"The capacity for handling volumes of traffic is much greater than an NT user," Fisher says. "Companies are starting to discover that just because it's free doesn't mean it's bad."

Cost
The lack of licensing fees means companies can save 95 percent on installation of a server operating system if it's Linux-based system, according to German commercial distributor SuSe Linux AG. That means 20 workstations plus a file server would cost about $7,000 for Windows-based system and $60 for Linux-based.

How to reach: IdeaStar, (216) 587-9300 or www.ideastar.com.

Wednesday, 02 January 2002 04:57

In the dark

All of the marvelous technological devices we have in our offices can also add a considerable cost to the balance sheet in the form of higher utility costs.

Follow these office energy saving tips from the Energy Idea Clearinghouse in Olympia, Wash. and watch your utility bills decrease.

Lighting

* Avoid using incandescent task lights (desk lamps). Ask your building manager for a compact fluorescent lamp to replace the incandescent lamp in your task light. Also replace halogen torchiere floor lamps with compact fluorescent models.

* Turn off lights when out of your office or cubicle. Also turn off lights in unused common areas such as copy rooms, break rooms, conference rooms and restrooms. The effect on lamp life and energy use when turning the lamp back on is negligible.

* Consider delamping – many ballasts may operate fewer lamps without damage.

Heating and cooling

* Sitting close to a window during the cloudy winter can make you feel cold. If so, close blinds or shades or move further from the window.

* In the winter, close blinds at the end of the day to cut down on heat loss. In the summer, close blinds during the day to avoid the heat gain of direct sunlight.

* Some large spaces may be operated cooler if you provide a spot radiant electric heater focused on the occupant. Turn the heater off when away from your work station.

Equipment

* Turn off your computer monitor when you are away from your desk for more than 15 minutes. Most monitors come with power management features; talk to your staff's computer expert about activating these features. Note that screen savers don't save energy; complex screen savers actually increase energy use.

* Eliminate unnecessary hot plates, coffeepots, and other small appliances in your area and turn off all tools, office machines and portable appliances when not in use. If you're the last one leaving at the end of the day, turn off the photocopiers and other office equipment.

* Less frequently used equipment with remote controls such as televisions and VCRs should be unplugged when not in use because they still use some power even when turned off.

Wednesday, 02 January 2002 04:50

Thriller team-builder

Arras Group President Jim Hickey fondly recalls his first "trust fall." For the uninitiated, a "trust fall," is simply where you stand on a chair or a table with a group of people standing behind you, their arms outstretched in front of them. You close your eyes, fall back, and "trust" that the people behind will catch you.

Only in this case, Hickey wasn't the one falling. It was Gino, a towering, 400-pound ex-gang member who worked for the Simmons Mattress Co. Simmons is one of Arras' clients and Hickey visited the company in Springfield, Mass. during a staff building exercise called "The Great Game Of Life," designed by Wilson Consulting in Vail, Colo.

Gino, who went to the event claiming that he "doesn't trust anybody and never would," departed the day of group bonding activities closer to his coworkers and with a genuine feeling of trust.

"Everybody was hugging everybody, charged up and ready to go back and make a difference," says Hickey, who participated in the activities. "After the evening, Gino said it was one of the best things they ever did. For a guy who wouldn't trust anybody his whole life to climb a ladder, close his eyes, cross his arms and fall backwards into a group of his coworkers – to do a real trust fall—was extraordinary to witness."

Hickey was so impressed with the "Great Game Of Life," activities and the effect it had on the Simmons staff that he decided to bring it back to Cleveland for his 62-member marketing communications firm.

The three-day event, which started on Thursday this week, involves a ropes course where workers will climb and traverse various challenges on an obstacle course about 35-feet in the air. They wear safety harnesses attached to ropes, which are run through a guide wire and then down to the ground where another coworker holds onto it. As the employees travel across the ropes the course, they shout commands to their coworker below so they are prepared when they attempt more difficult maneuvers.

"On belay!" shouts the climber.

"Belay on!" the belayer responds.

Hickey he says he chose this type of activity to help his staff work more cohesively as a team, and to encourage them to take intelligent risks in their jobs and not let fear hold them back.

"I think they'll see that there's really little to fear outside their comfort zones," Hickey says. "And that's what it's meant to do: Push them outside their comfort zones."

The next day, the Arras staff will meet and discuss their experiences, what they felt, and how they can apply what they learned about themselves and their team to their daily work lives.

"Ultimately, we want our people to be thrilled to be here, to feel that it's a positive in their lives, and that it demonstrates how important they are to us," Hickey says. "In a slowing economy, we think this is absolutely the best time to do this. It's about leaning into the headwind."

Arras Group

Monday, 03 December 2001 08:59

Just breathe

Many business owners breathed a sigh of relief when newly elected president George W. Bush suspended the Workplace Ergonomics standard for businesses.

The standard included new workplace regulations and practices to curb the incidence of musculoskeletal disorders, primarily in the back, shoulders, neck and wrists of workers. Unions and workers groups applauded the standard, but many lawmakers and business groups claimed it would place another unfunded economic burden on businesses.

"It would've had a very high compliance cost, and there really wasn't good cost-benefit analysis of the benefits of the rules," says J. Donald Mottley, a former four-term Ohio state representative and now an attorney at Taft, Stettinius & Hollister. "In many cases, there would have been a relatively small reduction in injuries, and of those reductions, they would have been among the minor injuries."

But just because the government suspended the rules doesn't mean business owners should forget about the problem. Musculoskeletal disorders still cause about 1 million workers to miss work every year, costing the economy $50 billion in work-related costs, according to a recent study by the National Academy of Science, Institute of Medicine.

There are steps you can take to prevent injuries, including buying more body-friendly office furniture and equipment, but the root cause of many musculoskeletal problems is poor posture caused by weak abdominal muscles, according to exercise instructor Rochelle Licata of Smart Bodies in Solon.

Licata is a trained instructor in a new low-impact exercise trend called Pilates, named after its founder, Joseph Pilates. Pilates exercises, most of which are done with no equipment, focus on proper breathing and building the muscles in the abdominal and lower torso area so people will naturally sit and walk with their backs straight and shoulders back. Think yoga with some kick.

"Pilates is very empowering," Licata says. "It's all about body awareness and catching yourself in a lot of bad habits."

Here are three Pilates exercises you and your employees can do to improve your posture while at work or at home.

Breathe

Breathing is the core of Pilates. Simply concentrating on how you breathe and using the proper techniques will improve your overall posture, says Licata.

In Pilates, you inhale through your nose and exhale softly through your mouth. While you're breathing, it's important to keep the spine stacked. To do this, make an imaginary line from the top of your head to the ceiling and try to make your back follow that line.

"When you sit up straight and your internal organs aren't crushed, they have the room they're supposed to have," she says. "They start firing better, they start working the way they're supposed to. Combining that along with the breathing is really a boost to your immune system."

Stretch those neck muscles

Licata says the muscles in our neck are overdeveloped due to those muscles being forced to carry around our 12 to 15 pound heads all day. You can't remove your head, but you could take the pressure off your neck by strengthening the mid-back muscles.

Try this: As you inhale, roll your shoulder blades back and imagine trying to put them in opposite back pockets, hold, then exhale.

Work the abdominals

Forget about crunches. You're only working your abdominal muscles about 10 percent of the time.

Here's a better exercise: Lie on the floor, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, with your head on a towel. Have the corners of the towel just about an inch above your head. Pick up the ends of the towel, inhale and lift your upper body while cradling your head and neck in the towel, hold, then exhale as you return to the starting position. It will be a small movement, but it targets the abs much better than a crunch or sit-up.

Don't lift your head off the towel or jerk your head forward during the movement. How to reach: Smart Bodies, (440) 914-0014

Morgan Lewis Jr. (mlewis@sbnnet.com) is senior reporter at SBN Magazine.

Wednesday, 28 November 2001 11:55

Restricted romance

Supervisor and subordinate office romances usually don't end with wedding bells.

If those relationships end badly, feelings get hurt and the subordinate starts looking for retribution by way of a sexual harassment lawsuit. Or the supervisor begins to find a way to get that employee out of the company, setting your firm up for an unlawful termination lawsuit.

"In these cases, people tend to revise history," says Mark Valponi, a partner at Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP in Cleveland. "They start to say, 'I was only involved with him or her because I thought I would get fired if I didn't.' But if somebody with authority to confer or withhold a job benefit would do something like that, the company is liable."

In legal terms, that type of sexual harassment is called quid pro quo. The other kind, hostile environment, involves inappropriate sexually oriented comments and/or actions against a co-worker.

Attorneys usually advise against fighting a suit in which a subordinate sues a supervisor in a quid pro quo case. Juries rarely find for the supervisor, and the damage to a company's reputation can't be measured in dollar terms.

"More companies are flat out prohibiting these type of relationships in their sexual harassment policies," Valponi says. "The risks are just too high."

Aside from forbidding supervisor/subordinate relationships, Valponi outlined other guidelines to safeguard your company against sexual harassment lawsuits.

Put it in writing

If you haven't done so already, adopt a zero tolerance policy that forbids sexual harassment in the workplace and clearly defines what kind of behavior is sexual harassment.

Avoid the legalese. Make sure the policy contains a complaint procedure for employees if they think they or one of their coworkers are the victim of sexual harassment. Often the victim doesn't feel comfortable filing a complaint; when one is filed, there should be more than one person that can field it.

"If your policy says, 'Take all complaints to your supervisor,' but your supervisor is the one that's harassing you, then what's the point in taking it there?" Valponi says.

If you run a larger company, pick two or three people who can field complaints. For example, the person in charge of HR or another supervisor outside the department could field complaints, in addition to the employee's main supervisor.

Match it

Make sure your other policies match the sexual harassment policy. In this computer age, e-mail and the Internet are often used for sexual harassment.

Make it clear that company computers belong to the company and that they're to be used for company business only. Because it's company property, it's subject to monitoring or searching without employee notice. The same goes for telephones and voice mail.

Protect yourself

If you're implementing a policy midstream, have employees sign an acknowledgement that they read it and indicate the date they read it. Follow up by training supervisors and employees on the issues: How to file a complaint, what to do when a complaint is filed and how to respond.

"If you do a cost-benefit analysis, what is the benefit of letting employees post nude calendars or other materials in the workplace?" Valponi says. "The cost of doing that is finding yourself embroiled in a sexual harassment lawsuit. It's not worth it."

How to reach: Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, (216) 241-2838

Monday, 29 October 2001 10:25

Going national

The 2001 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award International Conference takes place this month in Palm Springs, Calif. and Northeast Ohio will be well represented, with nine regional winners SBN Magazine profiled in our July issue doing battle against almost 500 others from 44 cities across the country.

Scott Keglovic, co-founder and creative director of Arras Group and a Northeast Ohio Entrepreneur Of The Year Award winner last year, attended last year's national ceremony and says it was such a valuable motivational and networking experience that he plans to attend again this year, and maybe every year. Keglovic and co-founder Jim Hickey took top honors at the 2000 Northeast Ohio Entrepreneur Of The Year Award in the Marketing and Communications category.

The firm, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, has grown 428 percent in the last five years and expects $85 million in billings this year.

''One of things we took away from the conference was that you've got to keep pedaling, you've got to keep pushing the bar,'' Keglovic says. ''You have to keep motivating your employees, you've got to empower people to move to the next level.''

Keglovic sat down with SBN recently and talked about his experiences at the conference and some of the lessons he brought back to Cleveland with him.

SBN: What was the main impression you came away with from last year's Entrepreneur Of The Year International Conference?

Keglovic: The main thing that my partner, Jim, and I came away with was that there was a consistent message through everyone that participated that each one of the finalists had a passion for what they did, and that this was something they truly loved. They had a drive that was related more toward a sports athlete, but from a business perspective.

There was a feeling that if you could dream it, you could do it. When you boil it down to one thing, it was really passion, and passion in the fact that you could actually create your own set of circumstances and take them to market.

As an entrepreneur, I can speak for my partner also, it takes a commitment from us, but it also takes a commitment of others to make a business succeed. That's one thing as an agency or a business in today's market, you've got to have people that are team players, that are really focused on the greater good of the whole company.

We just got off of our 10th anniversary and had a party for 900 people, and what that was all about was really to say 'thank you' to everyone who helped us get here. It came off the shirttails of the Entrepreneur (Of The Year Award) a year ago.

What did you think of your competition at the conference?

There weren't a lot of marketing firms, which was interesting because (the judges) are looking for companies that are pretty unique. (These companies) have to have a specific differentiation of selling ideas, how they're going to market themselves and how they market their product.

But to even be considered in the light of some of those corporations that were much larger than ours was a fantastic thing.

We're going back this year again to the conference because Jim and I got a lot out of it last year. It's going to be an annual thing where we can rub elbows with some of the up-and-coming companies and also there's a lot of good knowledge we can gather from attending.

You're really on the cutting edge of some of the new philosophies of how business is going to be run over the next year and some of the hot things that are happening. For example, the dot-com market was very hot last year, and you can see that some of the people that spoke at the conference and some of the people that participated have had some rough times over the course of the past year.

What lessons did you start using when you got back to Cleveland?

More than anything, it was a motivating four or five days. You get back and compare yourself to what the speakers spoke about and the criteria that they set for themselves before they succeeded at a national level and became players on the stock market.

Even though we're a smaller company, we found we were doing some of those same things here, which was encouraging. But as an entrepreneur, you get this business started, and you've got all this stuff wrapped into it, but at some point you've got to rely on others to carry the load and deliver for your clients. Otherwise, you won't go anywhere.

A couple of things that we're implementing in terms of the agency are more motivation tools for our employees. One of things we're going to be doing is ''The Great Game of Life,'' which is a four-day sabbatical where the whole agency will go out on a ropes course and we'll do a lot of interacting and activities.

It's going to be one those things where, as an agency and as a group of people, it will be learning that as my teammate, I can trust you and we can talk freely. It will be team building and we'll build stronger company values. As a company, we have to empower our people to have the same type of vision that Jim and I have.

And as you empower those people, you have to give them the ability to take chances, take risks, fail and succeed.

What would you recommend to somebody going to this year's conference?

Make sure you network a lot, meet a lot of people. Remember that you're really a sponge. Jim and I really didn't know what to expect.

We knew we were sort of getting honored, but we also didn't realize the potential and level of which a lot of these companies had succeeded. When Jim and I came back to the agency to really talk about our experience, we sat down with the staff and we said, 'It's not about us, it's about the organization. We might have been the guys that have been pedaling the bike, but we're not going to be the guys that are going to finish the race.'

Another thing we learned and gathered is that process is so important to any business. Financial processes, business processes, that sort of thing, that as a entrepreneur, you're doing everything, but as you grow and as you need to evolve, you need to have those strict processes in place to really move forward and get to the next level. How to reach: Arras Group, (216) 621-1601

Morgan Lewis Jr. (mlewis@sbnnet.com) is senior reporter at SBN Magazine.



Monday, 29 October 2001 10:13

Foot in the door

Chances are, the shoes on your feet are the wrong size for you, according to the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society.

The organization reports 88 percent of Americans wear the wrong size shoes, and 73 percent of those will have to go to a foot specialist during their lifetime. In non-shoe wearing societies, only about 2 percent of people need to see doctors for foot pain.

''Shoes have the potential to do a lot of damage,'' says John Luck, vice president, medical relations for Lucky Shoes, a 13-store chain in Northeast Ohio. ''They did a study on rickshaw runners, people who run for 20 miles on concrete a day, and they had no incidence of foot pain, no incidence of calluses, no corns, no heel pain. You take the average 40-year-old in the United States and they're going to have one of those conditions.''

With all those people walking around with sore feet and ankles, John and his father, Tom, the company's president, thought of a unique marketing initiative to bring more customers into their shoe stores. The Lucks attended a training seminar and met two men who were certified pedorthists, medical professionals who help create or modify footwear and custom devices based on a doctor's advice. They are often called ''pharmacists of the foot.''

''Since doctors of most types only get a total of one credit hour of footwear (during their training), they really don't know what's available,'' Tom Luck says. ''What we're trying to do is make them aware of the products available.''

Luck realized if pedorthists were stationed in his stores, it would not only increase customer traffic, it would increase sales of the more expensive orthopedic shoes he carries. Here's how Lucky Shoes marketed its pedorthist program.

Partnering

After going back to school to earn pedorthist certification, John Luck and the company's advertising director designed pamphlets and other promotional materials to display in doctors' and physical therapy offices. With few stores in the area offering the same service, Lucky has a market advantage with four foot specialists serving the chain.

Strategic new hires

Tom Luck hired Joe D'Avello, former president of Rivlin's Shoes in Akron, who became a certified pedorthist shortly after the certification program was created in 1972. At Lucky, he builds on the network of orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists he's met over almost 40 years in the industry to bring in new customers as referrals.

Word-of-mouth

With 88 percent of Americans walking around in the wrong size shoes, people are bound to talk about their sore feet with their neighbors and co-workers. But nobody likes going to the doctor.

That's why consulting one of Lucky's pedorthists doesn't require a doctor's prescription. Luck can recommend specialty footwear or shoe inserts based on his expertise, but if a problem is serious enough, he'll recommend the customer see a doctor.

''You can go anywhere and buy a pair of shoes, but you can't go anywhere and get fit in a pair of shoes by a professional,'' Tom Luck says. ''Now we've gone the next level. We have the certified pedorthists where we are working with the doctors.

''Our marketing today is really directed more toward doctor and doctor referrals.'' How to reach: Lucky Shoes, www.luckyshoes.com

Morgan Lewis Jr. (mlewis@sbnnet.com) is senior reporter at SBN Magazine.