Kocon Masonry & Design specializes in the design and installation of professional, creative masonry solutions for residential and commercial properties in the Cleveland metropolitan area.
For more than 12 years, the artisans at Kocon Masonry & Design have been providing the following customized solutions:
- Brick and stone veneers for custom homes
- Outdoor kitchens
- Outdoor fireplaces
- Retaining walls and foundations
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- Custom mailboxes
Kocon Masonry & Design also can provide professional masonry repair services.
"The work done by Kocon Design exceeded my expectations. It has increased the use and enjoyment of our yard, along with the value of our home," says satisfied customer Kelly Lupica.
Adding a professionally designed and installed outdoor fireplace, kitchen or patio not only adds to the aesthetics of your property, but more importantly, it adds to the value of your property! And, brick and stone is virtually maintenance free.
Also, masonry products are considered “green” and are recognized by government programs as a contributor to green building status, potentially qualifying the homeowner/property owner for certain incentive programs.
Please contact Kocon Masonry & Design today for a complimentary visit to review your masonry project and/or repair work at (216) 978-9641.
Jessica Lagatare, Operations Coordinator, and Christopher Bloomer, Territory Account Manager, of Aventis Systems discuss refurbished IT equipment and how it can save your business time and money, all while maintaining the same level of productivity that new equipment allows.
This video was filmed at the Aventis Systems warehouse in Marietta, Georgia.
For more information on Aventis Systems, visit www.aventissystems.com or call 1-866-528-9313.
Jessica Lagatare is the Operations Coordinator for Aventis Systems, Inc. Reach her at email@example.com.
Christopher Bloomer is a Territory Account Manager for Aventis Systems, Inc. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was a warm August day last year when the chilled water system at Cuyahoga Community College’s Metro Campus burst. The plant operations director called it catastrophic. A call was made at 7 a.m. to The Brewer-Garrett Co., who maintained the facilities with Tri-C. By 7:30 a.m., pipefitters and supervisors were on the job. A second crew was called to simultaneously drain a different part of the system. Both stayed on location until the repairs were finished.
Such response and commitment is an indication of how customer service is foremost at the company, which specializes in engineering, design, installation and service for educational, governmental, commercial and industrial clients.
CEO Louis Joseph and associates show pride in the number of multiple projects completed for many long-term customers. The clients value proven performance. Three public-sector clients have won the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Energy Efficiency, another example of Brewer-Garrett’s customer service competitive advantage.
Most new employees are hired through professional recruiters, who have been educated about the company culture. After the first interview, candidates are tested for intellectual aptitude and customer service orientation. The final interview is with the CEO. Once hired, the employee receives core orientation and training and “The Art of Service” training.
Since Brewer-Garrett often touches many different people in an organization, the company’s objective is to ensure that everyone is satisfied with the work done. The goal is to have customers want to work with the company, rather than having to work with the company just because they have a contract or their boss directed them to do so.
Feedback from Customer Assurance Review and Evaluation, or CARE, surveys is key to the organization as not only a measure of satisfaction and to address immediate needs but as a way to prepare for the needs and challenges clients will experience in the future.
How to reach: The Brewer-Garrett Co., (440) 243-3535 or www.brewer-garrett.com
Business succession planning is all about getting your “ducks in a row.” There are numerous things to consider in continuity planning, and my objective is to explore several non-financial issues. So, my context is: before you go and expand either through organic or non-organic (merger or acquisition) growth, is your company’s foundation/model finalized and clearly communicable to others?
Does your business and personal financial plan address what is needed as the foundation within your current company structure to create a successful business growth and continuation plan? After all, the marketing plan and business plan must stand on its own after you leave the business.
Is your succession team assembled, and are the “heirs” apparent to your employees prior to your exit? Be clear as to what has to be communicated and clarified before you leave the company. Ideally, get input from all of your employees if it’s physically possible to do so. Change often triggers fear in most people, so how can you assist your employees in embracing and adapting to change? Consider having your Human Resources professional interview each employee and/or stakeholder to ascertain what things need to be done to improve your company efficiencies. How do they rate the customer/client relationship from their perspective? Are they being heard as employees, and are their questions being answered consistently by all parties? Expand on the process of communication with partners, key employees, and rank and file. The uncertainty of the marketplace makes employees more suspicious when change is not explicitly explained. They may be excited about your retirement, but they are very interested in their job security.
Create a definitive communication plan that identifies everyone’s role in the continuation of the business. Then develop your personal plan for getting back to manifesting your life’s purpose in non-business ways. As you exit the company, how does your business and personal financial plan perpetuate your life’s purpose? What efforts have you made to create the synergy with the next management team to blend both cultures into one compatible emerging culture? Your departing role is to “pass the baton” both professionally and culturally.
As you remind yourself of that third question…What dreams will be left unfulfilled? What do I wish I had finished or done? What did I miss?
What steps should be taken to make the transfer of your life’s work-purpose happen? How do you put more purpose into your retirement, rather than only filling retirement with things to do? Can we blend your continuation plan with the points we discussed in previous articles about philanthropy and making the world a better place?
You may consider continuing as a mentor to your company as part of the purchase agreement. Many people consider teaching their successors as a way to achieve significance, whether their purchase agreement requires their presence or not. If your mentoring to the business is not needed, how do you take that wealth of knowledge and experience and transfer it to others to help future generations?
Many business owners have made their businesses the focal point of their lives. Now as they exit, they begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. Rather than lament the fact that your business career is over, you have the opportunity now to explore substitutes for your business to fulfill your life’s purpose. You may be best served volunteering to an entrepreneur organization, to serve as either a committee person or serve on its board. Mentoring other aspiring entrepreneurs will keep you sharp/vibrant and involved during the “golden years” of retirement.
If you adhere to the Sanskrit principle of “seva,” selfless service to others, what activity will give you similar joy that your business did, while making a greater contribution to humanity and community?
When retirees are asked what they will do for the rest of their lives, they give several responses: play golf every day, travel, move close to their children and grandchildren, and the list goes on.
How can we harness your enormous talent without depriving you of experiencing those initial responses? As you look around your city and community, would volunteering on a project to revitalize the city, the community, or the educational system fit into your life’s purpose definition of the transition from success to significance? Without neglecting all of the great causes in the world, could you make an impact on children, who may be influenced by you to seek a career in entrepreneurship, to eventually be an employer to create more jobs and so on? Isn’t that one definition of “paying it forward?” Could that be one path on your journey toward significance?
Robert A. Valente, CFP®, AEP®, CEO and Managing Member of RAV Financial Services LLC, can be reached at email@example.com.
The employer-sponsored wellness programs of today are designed to offer companies the ability to impact the overall health of their employees and, in turn, improve moral, decrease absenteeism and presenteeism, lower medical costs, and lower disability and workers’ compensation claims.
“Unfortunately, most of these programs are not set up to measure effectiveness, or return on investment,” says JP Pressley, vice president at USI. “Innovative companies are beginning to incorporate their wellness programs into a robust population health management program to better manage health care cost increases.”
Smart Business spoke to Pressley about what population health management (PHM) means to employers and what they can do to get a better return on investment for their wellness efforts.
What is population health management?
A typical PHM program may identify several areas of focus, and work to implement two or three strategies annually. The goal of these programs is to:
? Keep healthy employees healthy
? Effectively manage the expenses of employees with chronic conditions, while providing exceptional care
? Motivate at-risk employees into the health population, as compared to letting them slip into the chronic category
Typically, these programs are broken into different strategies — retrospective, prospective and motivational.
Retrospective strategies are focused on treating conditions that currently exist. These include large claims interventions, disease management and prescription assessment. When health care providers, prescription vendors and insurance payers are connected effectively with these strategies, it can generate claims savings in excess of 10 percent.
Prospective strategies focus on keeping current healthy employees healthy and preventing any at-risk conditions from becoming chronic. Tools such as predictive modeling, health risk assessments, biometric data collection and metabolic syndrome identification allow a company to set a baseline. Since it is impossible to save money on conditions that did not occur, the year-over-year comparison validates the resources dedicated.
Motivational strategies allow a company to choose a carrot-or-stick methodology to encourage employees into a healthier lifestyle. Mandatory participation in wellness programs and evidence-based plan designs set an incentive for good behavior. Non-participating employees can actually be charged a higher premium rate on their employee benefits, and can fund a significant portion of a company’s wellness programs.
With an integrated PHM component, companies can pick from a menu of programs that are run similar to any other business endeavor that include implementation timelines, desired outcomes and an expected ROI.
What kind of cost increases do companies face if nothing is done?
Let’s assume there is a mythical 200-employee company named High Flyer, Inc. High Flyer has a production revenue of $50 million with a 10 percent profit margin in 2011. High Flyer also has an annual benefit spend of $1.6 million and an annual payroll of $15 million in 2011. Wall Street wants High Flyer to obtain a growth rate of 8 percent. Benefits will continue to increase at a rate of 15 percent annually, and the company will provide an annual pay increase of 4.5 percent. Left unchecked, this company will pay $1.6 million in 2016 and $3.2 million in 2021 for its employee benefits program. As a percentage of payroll, benefits will have grown from just over 10 percent in 2011 to just under 28 percent in 2021, and profits will have been eroded an additional 20 percent. This is an aggregate loss in revenue in excess of $21 million over 10 years from this company’s 2011 cost of providing benefits.
The unfortunate fact is that most companies will not be nearly as consistent as High Flyer over the next 10 years. At some point in time, High Flyer will decide it is not in business just to pay for employee benefits and will either cease providing benefits, or the cost of providing benefits may become too burdensome for the company to exist.
How can a PHM program help?
Benefit increases for a 200-employee company are driven primarily by that company’s experience or loss ratio. Unfortunately, many companies of this size do not participate in their experience, or are pooled with other companies by the insurance companies, and do not receive any material information about the loss ratio of their plan. As companies begin to break out of these pools and engage in participating funding insurance policies, managing their health care spend will become an ever-increasing priority.
It is estimated that at least one-third of the $1 trillion annual spend on chronic conditions is spent just to treat seven of the most common diseases (cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, pulmonary conditions and mental illness). A well-designed PHM program will allow a company to control the amount that is spent to treat employees with chronic diseases.
How much control do businesses really have over rising health care costs?
As insurance premiums continue to rise, the pool of insured companies falls into two unique entities heading in opposite directions: 1) Companies that take an active roll in their employees’ well-being and positioning themselves with insurance companies who reward their better-than-average claims utilizations, and 2) companies who assume that there is nothing to be done about the increasing cost of medical care and take their pooled increases on blind faith. The proactive companies will drive average annual increases in the low single digits, while the others will be taking on higher than ever increases.
Bottom line: Talk with your benefit consultant about how implementing a PHM program could ensure that your company is heading toward fiscal responsibility in your employee benefits offering.
JP Pressley is vice president at USI in Walnut Creek. Reach him at (925) 472-6770 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although he has 67 employees today, it was just six years ago that Duane Jones was running D2 Abatement Inc. with just one employee. Taking two-hour sleep shifts, he spent his first years as the company’s president and CEO balancing his time among building capital, developing a unique market strategy and sharing his vision for services to sustain and promote environmental wellness.
In spite of beginning with a personal bankruptcy filing, Jones never let that get in his way. His hard worked soon paid off when his market niche strategy of cost savings and process improvements, combined with his dedication and sacrifice to his vision, helped generate D2’s first revenue streams. Since then, Jones’ company has achieved average yearly growth of 28 percent, in spite of economic and financial pressures. Jones has also not had to take out any bank loans, allowing D2 to operate as a debt-free corporation.
One of Jones’ proudest achievements is growing D2 not with the help of a large majority company partner but rather with the hard work and talent of his team. Combating the industry stigma that a minority company isn’t sophisticated enough to handle and manage government-based projects for asbestos and lead abatement, Jones has been determined to show that is not the case. In fact, he’s successfully diversified D2’s services to include industrial cleaning, environmental recycling and industrial staffing.
Jones’ the key to succeeding has been developing a skilled and knowledgeable team. He ensures that all D2 employees are cross trained, licensed and certified in most of the company’s service areas, and also makes an effort to keep his employees up to date on the most innovative and effective industry techniques and training as a hands-on leader, allowing employees to learn new skills and creating low turnover.
How to reach: D2 Abatement Inc., (586) 977-6471 or www.d2abatement.com
Paul Glantz started his business with a simple philosophy – success is borne out of serving the customer. So when he launched the theater company Emagine Entertainment Inc., his goal was to provide an exemplary movie-going experience for consumers. He set out to learn as much as he could about the film industry and found that one of his major obstacles was securing the films themselves because of the practices of large film distributors that favored older theaters in the markets that Emagine was entering. It took some convincing to change the restraint of trade practice in the industry in the industry, but he eventually secured Emagine’s access to all new feature film releases.
It was just the beginning for Glantz’s plan to shake things up by reimagining the way people watch movies. Once he raised the capital and created his futurist theater with Cinema Hollywood, he then worked tirelessly in the community and on advertising campaigns to make consumers aware of the theaters’ innovative product offerings. Glantz quickly won over customers with features such as stadium seating, availability of alcoholic beverages and high standards of cleanliness and food quality. And he didn’t stop there.
As chairman of Emagine, Glantz continues to look for ways to improve the customer’s movie-going experience, whether it’s in presentation, construction or seating. Luxury seating and motion-controlled chairs are now offered at all Emagine locations and in 2005, the theater chain became the first in the world to offer 100 percent digital projection for enhanced viewing. Then in May, he opened Emagine Royal Oak movie complex, which includes private bowling lanes complemented with 10 luxury movie auditoriums.
How to reach: Emagine Entertainment Inc., (248) 842-5817 or www.emagine-entertainment.com
We are a nation on the verge of professional burnout. The financial crisis has taken its toll on everyone, from technology entrepreneurs, to retail managers, to employees up and down the ranks of corporate America. With stress levels skyrocketing and fierce competition from abroad, how can we as a nation, as well as individuals, reclaim our role as creative leaders and innovators?
If you don’t believe we’re really in a crisis here, check out these statistics. According to the recent MetLife 9th Annual Study of Employee Benefit Trends, employee loyalty across industries is at a three-year low. One in three workers hopes to find a new job in the next twelve months. More alarming, a recent Gallup survey found that 17% of employees interviewed were actively disengaged and trying to subvert their organization. Over 54% were passively disengaged – their bodies were still in the office, but they had essentially left.
No organization can flourish when half (or more) of its workers have a foot out the door. And no industry can thrive when its companies are bogged down with unhappy, unmotivated employees. Companies need interested, motivated people to excel; disengaged workers cost companies money and seriously impede productivity. Stressed out front-line employees can cause serious reputation problems. In the worst cases, employees are sabotaging their employers through fraud and other insider crimes.
Many of these problems can be attributed to layoffs and increased stress for those who have to pick up the slack in the office. But there’s something else at work here: a severe and chronic lack of time off. According to an Expedia.com survey, 63% of Americans work more than 40 hours a week and hand back more than $21 billion in unused vacation dollars each year. Worse, we feel guilty about the little time we do take off, even though Americans put in two to three times more in total hours on the job each year than Europeans and two and a half more weeks than the Japanese. Here in the U.S., younger workers are leaving the fast track in droves to take less stressful jobs. Why? Because work demands keep rising while satisfaction and payoffs decline.
But before you jump ship or your employees do, there is a way you may be able to address the morale, stress and burnout problems through a simple and age-old practice: a sabbatical (we call it a Reboot Break!).
What is a sabbatical, exactly? It’s a set period of time away from work. A sabbatical can last from one month to a year, and it allows workers to take a break to renew and refresh their lives and better balance their priorities. Corporate sabbatical programs vary from paid for time off (usually for a period of one to three months) to unpaid time off with benefits intact and a guaranteed job at the end.
Intel is a leader in offering sabbaticals, and provides a good example for other corporations. Established 15 years ago, Intel’s program has enabled more than 69,000 of the company’s workers to take a significant period of time off. All levels of employees, from the CEO to assistants, are eligible after seven years to take two months off at full pay. Most employees save up vacation time, tacking on another month to their break. Management likes the program because it helps Intel attract and retain good people and broadens the knowledge and skill sets of those who cover for the sabbatical taker. The real payback comes when they employee returns with renewed energy, creativity and a fresh perspective.
Companies are catching on. Fortune magazine recently added sabbaticals to their criteria for naming the 100 Best Companies to Work For. Twenty-one companies that made the 2011 list offer sabbaticals, including Microsoft, The Container Store, REI, Adobe Systems and several law firms.
If you think you can’t do it, or you think your company would never agree to giving you some time to reboot, think again. There’s a lot you can do to get yourself some time away from work. In a new book, Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life By Taking a Break, I and my co-authors offer a step-by-step guide to getting the time you need – and making the best of that time once you get it.
Here are just a few of the steps you can take now to get yourself the time you need:
Research. Find out through human resources (or your company’s equivalent) if your company has a sabbatical program. If not, see if they would be willing to read a proposal. Ask about requirements, and look to other companies in your industry for models. (A successful competitor that offers a program could help you make a compelling argument!)
Fund Your Freedom. For most people, finances are the number one barrier to taking time off. Instead of deciding you can’t do it, get creative. Are there assets you can sell? A house or apartment you could rent out while you travel? Could you borrow some of the money, or tap (gently) into your savings, and then live on less during your time off? Or, take the long view and start saving now for time off. Stash the money in a separate sabbatical savings account.
Make Your Case. Create a plan for what you want to do, when you want to do it, and how much time you need. Outline exactly how your responsibilities will be covered while you are gone. Identify ways the organization could benefit, such as increased innovation, retention and attraction and better morale. Assure them
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Talk to your spouse, partner, family and colleagues about what you want to do and how it might affect them. Get their support. Talk to your boss about how you’ll make a smooth transition.
Unplug. As part of your break, unplug from the office and clients. Tell them ahead of time when you are going and returning, but don't stay tied into the office. (AARP actually requires their employees to unplug during their one-month paid sabbaticals.)
Sabbaticals are life-changers. They can renew and reinvigorate your life and your career, helping you reprioritize and better balance your life. Don’t be surprised if, as the burnout fades, your perspective about your work changes. You may decide that staying right where you are is the best thing for you, and all it took was a break.
CATHERINE A. ALLEN is the chairman and chief executive officer of The Santa Fe Group, a strategic consulting firm based in Santa Fe Group, New Mexico and sits on several corporate and nonprofit boards. She is the co-author of Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break (Beaufort Books, 2011) with Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley and Jaye Smith. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Aflac, Inc. averted what could have been a major public relations nightmare when they fired comedian Gilbert Gottfried, the longtime voice of the Aflac Duck, for the incredibly insensitive remarks he tweeted immediately after Japan’s earthquake and tsunami.
Aflac CMO Michael Zuna was decisive in the decision to release Gottfried for good business reasons. After all, the company generates the bulk of its revenues in Japan and any hesitation or equivocation would have appeared to support and fuel Gottfried’s dismissive attitude toward the terrible suffering of the Japanese people.
The real genius of the Aflac marketing machine was to immediately announce and launch a national search for the new voice of the Aflac Duck. In little over a month, they announced that Dan McKeague had beaten out more than 12,500 contenders for what has to be one of the best voice-over gigs in the ad business.
This kind of bold and decisive action is just one of the reasons why the Aflac brand, headquartered in Columbus, GA, has more than doubled in brand equity, from 6.4% in 2002 to 12.8% in 2010, as a percentage of its market cap. The value translates from just under $1 billion in 2002 to $3.4 billion in 2010, according to CoreBrand’s Brand Equity data.
This growth of brand equity comes at a time when their competitive peers have lost brand equity – from an average of 4.8% in 2002 to 3.8% in 2010. Brand equity value currently stands at $800 million for the average insurance company. That is what we call creating separation from your competitors.
As much fun as the Aflac Duck is to watch, it is doing some pretty significant business.
James R. Gregory is the CEO of CoreBrand. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone who is familiar with Jellyvision Lab’s work knows that the company has been an innovator in human-machine interface since 1995, plugging out such interactive hits as “You Don’t Know Jack” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”
But there is another way that Jellyvision has been an innovator, largely thanks to company president Amanda Lannert’s efforts: its culture.
Lannert was named one of 2010 Smart Leader honorees by Smart Business and U.S. Bank. We asked her how she overcomes challenges, innovates and gives back to the community.
Give us an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.
In 2000, a few months after I joined the company as director of marketing, the company was headed toward a steep cliff. The company’s core business was in CD-ROM games and despite a very successful run with interactive hits like You Don’t Know Jack” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” the CD-ROM market itself was dying.
Even though I was the most junior executive in the company, I prevailed on the rest of the team to be clear-eyed about the gravity of the situation and begin the process of laying off employees in order to keep the company alive — employees including myself.
As painful as this was, it allowed Harry Gottlieb, the CEO, to raise a little money and reconstitute the company, taking it in a new direction. In less than a year, I was rehired to the post of president. Nine years later, the company is thriving.
In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?
Jellyvision has always been fortunate to be staffed with extraordinarily creative, talented and decent people who’ve had the opportunity to work on interesting projects. But I’ve tried to take those ingredients and, like adding pectin to pie, bound them with daily delight. Institutionalized delight. It is fun to work at Jellyvision.
Of course, the work can be hard and frustrating at times, but even then, employees bask in the humor and fellowship of each other’s company. This inclination flows from the top, because I practice it and live it every single day. I make a point of praising in public.
When we lose our electricity every summer (thank you ComEd), I gather the entire company in a giant game of ‘Murder.’ No birthday passes without an e-mail to the company letting everyone know who to celebrate that day. On my birthday every year, I insist that all the men in the company ‘honor’ me by growing out their facial hair the month before and come to work that day in a mustache.
And I try to make sure Jellyvision’s clients ‘feel the love.’ My goal is for everyone at Jellyvision to understand that being fun and easy to work with, being empathic and grateful, is a fundamental reason why our clients keep coming back for more.
How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?
For the legions of Chicago improv artists and comedians who are waiting tables and filling temp jobs to make ends meet, Jellyvision provides hope: There is a place on the shore of Lake Michigan where they can ply their talents, actually get a real salary, medical insurance and a 401(k) plan and, as a bonus, be treated with endless respect. Do you have any idea how much creative ability is given birth in this city? Go to Los Angeles, more than half the people there with real talent come from Chicago. Jellyvision contributes to the second city, by hiring some of our best and brightest and keeping them away from ‘the great sucking sounds’ of the East and West Coasts. Moreover, I have served on the board of directors of the Chicago Improv Festival and was a mentor to startups in Chicago’s accelerator program, Excelerate.
How to reach: The Jellyvision Lab, www.jellyvision.com