The monthly jobs report is the most significant economic indicator for the U.S. government. It is among the first data released about any given month, it looks at the most important sector of the economy, it is conceptually sound and is based on surveys of thousands of businesses and households.
The Labor Department gives a more detailed look at total compensation costs in the quarterly employment cost index, which includes wages and benefits.
Other indicators also give snapshots of the labor market. Every week, the Labor Department reports on unemployment claims. Private sources, such as the monthly survey of the manufacturing sector by the National Association of Purchasing Management, the Conference Boards Help Wanted Index and the Challenger report on mass layoffs, help paint a complete picture of the labor market.
Psst, stock tip here
Volume percentage changes increases and decreases are gaining popularity as indicators of coming events that might change a stocks performance. Typically, a share that is trading at 2,000 percent of its average trading volume is likely to make a move in price at some point, if it hasnt already.
That can indicate accumulation, if the stock is poised to rise, or distribution, if the stock is poised to fall.
Do you IPO?
One of the the best ways to invest in an IPO is to buy shares from one of the banks managing the deal at the offering price, before the stock starts trading. New issues are usually reasonably priced by the lead underwriter, which typically hopes for a 15 percent premium above the offering price when the stock starts trading.
For your average retail investor, buying shares at the offering price before the stock starts trading is a difficult task. But its a bit easier now that banks have made an effort to reach out to the retail investor community through alliances and mergers.
To buy an IPO at the offering price, youll need an account with a broker that has access to that deal, meaning one of the banks that is part of the selling syndicate. These will be brokers that also have corporate finance divisions, such as Merrill Lynch, Wit Capital or Salomon Smith Barney, or discount brokers that have signed a distribution alliance with a traditional investment bank, such as E-Trade, Schwab or DLJDirect. The names of the banks on the syndicate for any deal can be found by looking at the Underwriting section in a companys SEC registration. Source: CBS Marketwatch
Online trading explodes
According to Forrester Research, online investors had 3 million accounts at Internet brokerages by the end of 1997. That number is expected to grow to 14.4 million by 2002.
Who cares why the robot talks
If youre pitching your business to potential investors, dont drone on about technology. Entrepreneurs who are scientists or engineers are prone to making this error. Once you lose an investors attention, it can be hard to get it back. The technical aspects of your companys product or service are important inasmuch as they deliver competitive advantages, open new markets or change the balance of power in an existing market but to investors, technology is not important in and of itself.
Spend no more than three to five minutes discussing technology.
Also, have audio/visual support. Making a presentation with no visual support is difficult for all but the most gifted of speakers. Without a visual outline, if investors get distracted for even a moment, they may lose the context of the speakers remarks.
The most effective presentations are accompanied by 10 to 15 slides, overhead projections or handouts that punctuate your remarks and give the listener a constant source of context. Dont get too obsessed with visual aids, though. While slides or handouts provide the basic outline for an investor presentation, entrepreneurs must be prepared to deviate from the script when necessary. Investors want a chief executive who is fast on his or her feet and not tied to a piece of paper. Youve got to show you can dance. Source: CBS Marketwatch
Step one: Create a business
Here are the steps to take before you even think of calling on investors:
1. Write a business plan. Most investors report they never read them, but they still want to see that youve done the work. Its through writing a business plan that you gain the ability to present your deal and answer questions with the kind of conviction that gets investors to reach for their checkbooks. Once youve put the plan together, write a two-page executive summary. Youll need it when investors ask you to send them a quick write-up.
2. Have an accountant prepare historical financial statements. You cant talk about the future without accounting for the past. Internally generated statements are OK, but investors want the comfort of knowing an independent expert has verified the information. In addition, if youre taking less salary than you think you deserve, historical financial statements are the best way to document the companys accrued liability to you.
3. Line up references. An investor may want to talk to your suppliers, customers, potential partners or your team of professionals, among others. When an investor asks for permission to contact references, promptly answer with names and numbers; dont leave him or her waiting for a week.
4. Figure out your sizzle. Investors will ask what you do. Give them a memorable answer that they can repeat to other investors. The founders of Xyplex Networks, a Littleton, Mass., company with a difficult name and an even more difficult-to-understand technology, said to investors, We are the company that turbocharges your DEC computer.
5. Get warm-body introductions. You must decide what kind of investors are right for you. But once youve made this decision and isolated your prospects, get personal introductions to as many as possible. Cold calling is the most difficult way to go.
You pay them
Outsourcing your payroll? Consider these tips from Entrepreneur.com:
1. Check out the payroll service companys reputation. Ask for references, including current clients, accountants and bankers.
2. Ask about regulatory compliance. Good services will have brochures and other information indicating their knowledge of government regulations and requirements, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) and various state requirements important if you have employees in more than one state.
3. Confirm the services financial stability. Be sure the company can maintain up-to-date processing abilities and regulatory compliance.
4. Consider the features and services available. In addition to calculating taxes and preparing checks, payroll services offer a wide range of services, including payroll deductions, direct deposit and automated time clocks, which collect data that is fed electronically into the payroll system to calculate wages and provide additional labor reports.
Do you work here?
To keep your independent contractors from being considered employees:
- Dont provide employee benefits or withhold taxes for independent contractors.
- Pay independent contractors on a per-project basis, rather than hourly, and have your contractor bill you with an invoice.
- Its helpful if independent contractors have an entrepreneurial stake in their business for example, they (rather than you) pay their expenses. Keep copies of paperwork with their company logo to show the contractor is an independent business.
- Have a contract documenting their independent contractor status; be careful about termination and exclusivity provisions that may be more suitable to an employee contract.
- Watch your language: Say retained and discontinued instead of hired and fired. You are the principal instead of employer. Contractors are paid fees, not salaries or wages.
- If you run a newspaper ad for a contractor, place it in the Business Opportunities section and keep a copy for your records.
Give me credit
A typical credit policy will address the following points:
Credit limits. Establish dollar figures for the amount of credit you are willing to extend, and define the parameters or circumstances.
Credit terms. If you agree to bill a customer, when will payment be due? Your terms may also include early payment discounts and late payment penalties.
Deposits. You may require customers to pay a portion of the amount due in advance.
Credit cards and personal checks. Your bank is a good resource for credit card merchant status and for setting policies regarding the acceptance of personal checks.
Customer information. What do you want to know about a customer before making a credit decision? Typical points include years in business, length of time at present location, financial data, credit rating with other vendors and credit reporting agencies, information about the individual principals of the company and how much they expect to purchase from you.
Documentation. This includes credit applications, sales agreements, contracts, purchase orders, bills of lading, delivery receipts, invoices, correspondence, etc.
When Web designer Mozes Cleveland & Co. merged with Quest4Mation, an electronic commerce company, last March to form DigitalDay, it employed a mere 44 employees. Today, DigitalDay employs 77 at its new Fairlawn headquarters.
And that number is growing almost daily, says Chairman Howard Cleveland, who admits he's challenged to learn the names of the three or four new faces he sees come into his office weekly. Surprisingly, though, Cleveland, who expects to employ 100 by the end of next month, says he hasn't had a difficult time finding qualified IT workers.
He says now that the Y2K scare is over, there's an influx of IT people looking for secure positions.
Plus, Cleveland says, "we have all the good projects here -- if you want to stay in the 'Silicon Tundra' of Northeast Ohio."
One of Akron's most successful tips groups, LeTip of the Summit (see SBN April 2000) has broken from its national affiliation to go out on its own. Members of the Akron chapter of LeTip International decided to do away with their national affiliation (and membership dues) to form TEEM (Together Everyone Earns More).
The acting president of the new group is Jim McKee, who owns Special Touch Carpet Cleaners in Akron. McKee says that by breaking away, members will be able to keep their dues in the local community, rather than supporting the activities of LeTip's international headquarters in San Diego and its 400 local chapters.
Since the group's formation three months ago, TEEM members have traded business leads amounting to about $1.7 million in sales, McKee says. As members of Le Tip, the year-to-date total in January 2000 was about $1.5 million, he adds. It pays to be entrepreneurial.
When Akron public relations agency Hitchcock Fleming & Associates wanted to publicize its 60th year in business last month, it threw a birthday bash for clients and media in true marketing fashion.
The agency invited 350 Akron business executives to tour its Wolf Ledges Parkway offices, which had been transformed to display the company's successes throughout each of its six decades in business. Attendees toured each area, which had been creatively decorated with company nostalgia from the '40s through the '90s. But the history lesson was an easy pill to swallow, as the room was also furnished with martini bars and tables of food catered by Moe's Restaurant of Cuyahoga Falls.
The lesson we learned was not a history lesson, though. How do you force-feed your clients marketing material? You'll certainly get their attention if your throw in a couple cosmopolitans and a steel drum band.
Looking for ways to perform community service? Now you can find outlets on the Web. A joint venture between Business Volunteers Unlimited (www.businessvolunteers.org) and Cleveland Live (www.cleveland.com) offers volunteer matching services for those in the Northeast Ohio area.
People seeking volunteer opportunities can log onto one of two sites -- www.businessvolunteers.org/involved.htm or www.cleveland.com/volunteer -- and find specific information that matches personal interests with volunteer needs. Nonprofit organizations can also use the service to list opportunities.
Would-be entrepreneurs in search of start-up funds can set their sights on the Working for Empowerment through Community Organizing Microloan Fund. WECO is accepting applications for the loans from those looking to launch start-up businesses or expand current ones. Eligible applicants are:
- Residents of Cuyahoga County;
- In business with 10 or fewer employees;
- At a low to moderate income level;
- Requesting up to $7,500.
For more information, contact WECO at (216) 881-9650.
Walking for charity
Put on your walking shoes. On Oct. 22, the Northeast Ohio chapter of the ALS Association will hold the Walk To D'Feet ALS to raise funds for local patient services. The 5K walk will begin at 9 a.m. on the Cuyahoga Valley Tow Path near Boston Mills.
Commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, ALS occurs when motor nerve cells in the nervous system cease functioning and die. Although the mind remains unaffected, muscle control is completely lost and total paralysis sets in. The life expectancy of an ALS patient averages two to five years. For more information on the walk, contact the ALSA office at (216) 592-2572.
State of the printed word
It doesn't seem that long ago that doomsayers predicted the Internet would spell the end of the printed word. Downloadable news, books and magazines would make paperbacks, magazines and newspapers obsolete. Well, if you're reading this, the doomsayers were undoubtedly wrong.
But, for those who still retain concerns, there's an online forum, www.espeakonline.com, for people who still move headfirst toward the digital future with reservations. The site is focused on being a resource for people concerned about the Internet, its impact on writing, publishing, information marketing and communication -- in print and on the Web. Just one quick reminder: you have to write your questions in virtual ink.
60 seconds to savings
How can taking a one-minute quiz help your business obtain a federal tax deduction that might have otherwise go unclaimed? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does my company have excess, nonmoving inventory?
- Do we have return, cancelled orders, seconds, slow sellers or discontinued models, styles or colors?
If the answer is yes to either of the above, your company can earn a federal income tax deduction by donating those items to charity. In some cases, the deduction can be as much as twice cost. For more information on how this can apply to your business, contact the National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources at (880) 289-4551.
There's a direct correlation between the economy and benefits offered by employers, according to a survey by RewardsPlus. It's no coincidence that health coverage has improved among most companies as the economy has remained robust in recent years. The survey found:
- 82 percent of small business employers offer medical coverage to their employees;
- 40 percent offer a dental plan;
- 10 percent offer a vision plan.
What's that mean for your firm? If you're among the thousands of smaller business owners, you should know what your competitors are up to ... and realize in a tight labor market that it's no longer just about salaries. Benefits often dictate whether you'll land that prospect or not.
Singing the blues
Forget Napster and other digital music dilemmas of this new century. Nashville-based Broadcast Music Inc. -- a professional association for musicians -- is trying to spread the word that piping background music into your place of business may be a violation of copyright law.
"Many people know that buying a copy of a movie doesn't give them the legal right to open up a movie theater or play a movie in their business," explains Tom Annastas, BMI vice president of general licensing. "Similarly, music is an intellectual property, and various uses of that property entitle the creator to additional compensation."
Enforcement of the law was not addressed in a recent BMI press release, although the organization mentioned a single licensing deal with BMI would allow businesses access to "millions" of songs. Nevertheless, we don't expect business owners to start mailing checks to Nashville any time soon.
Thought you had your company's Web image protected by snatching up the .com, .net and .org domain names? Think again. CentralNic Ltd. recently launched .us.com and .eu.com, two new domain name registry options available through the British company.
CentralNic hopes these options will help level the domain name playing field by allowing companies and Web geeks alike to register favorite domain names, which may already be taken when it comes to popular top-level domain names with .com and .net. Since the new names come with a price tag of $99 for a two-year registration, get ready to hand over another $200 to keep others from running away with your company's Web identity.
What's luck got to do with it?
As Congress and the president negotiate how best to spend the seemingly ever-expanding federal budget surplus, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Vice President and Economist David Altig warns that economic policy successes since the mid-1990s are more a matter of luck than anything else. He also believes they could evaporate as quickly as they arrived.
In an article titled "Fiscal Policy and Fickle Fortune: What's Luck Got to Do with It?" Altig argues that the Bush budget legislation of 1991, largely thought to be a failure, and the much-lauded Clinton proposal were nearly identical. Instead, he argues it was unforeseen forces that have led to today's rosy federal budget picture or, in other words, simple luck.
It may be time for Congress to cross its fingers before figuring out how to spend future fiscal surpluses before they hatch.
Where the Web meets the road
Cuyahoga Falls-based RCS Management Group Inc., in conjunction with Data Direct Inc., is offering a new service to make your clicks and mortar dreams come true. A new subscription-based "Locator Service" allows Web surfers a chance to enter their address and receive a map to a company's nearest physical location, along with its hours, phone numbers, special offers and even turn-by-turn driving directions.
The biggest advantage of the service, however, is that subscribers can capture their Web visitors' physical addresses for demographic profiling and future marketing campaigns.
If online investing leaves you feeling a bit stressed with all the surfing, clicking and bookmarking needed to make smart investment decisions, a Columbus-based company hopes to melt all those worries away. Adriane Berg's InvsetmentSpy -- designed by software development firm Quantam Axcess -- helps beginner, intermediate and even seasoned investing pros track, manage and research stocks online.
The utility, which was awarded the coveted five-star rating by ZDNet last March, has been dubbed the "Swiss army knife of online investor software" and claims to merge all the information you'll need for smart investing into one easy-to-read interface. The program runs just under $40 and can be downloaded from www.investmentspy.com.
Solon-based Keithley Instruments Inc. was recently added to the Russell 2000 Index of small capitalization stocks following the Frank Russell Co.'s annual adjustment of its U.S. stock indices.
"Recognition on the Russell 2000 Index is further testament to Keithley's growth and acceptance of its long-term strategy," said Chairman, President and CEO Joseph P. Keithley in a prepared statement on the day of the announcement.
It has been a high-flying year for Keithley Instruments, which has generated a lot of Wall Street ink and been a top performer on the New York Stock Exchange, having increased from just more than $4 a share to more than $107 at its highest point during the past year.
Like any business, America's fastest growing companies are not immune to operational breakdowns or failures that can bring commerce to a halt. However, a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests not many are doing enough to prepare for trouble before it happens.
Although 61 percent of executives polled in a recent survey favored having a predisaster program that evaluates threats to their businesses beyond those covered by insurance, only about 30 percent actually had such a program in place. More than half of those polled said they had a plan to deal with disaster only after it occurs.
What slowing economy?
The need for mid-to-upper-level managers, high-level executives and professionals is as intense as ever, according to executives faced with the challenge of finding and hiring of them. However, the Midwest does not have it as bad as some other parts of the country when it comes to the labor crunch. A hiring survey conducted by Management Recruiters International Inc. found 53 percent of executives reported they had plans to increase their mid-to-upper-level management and professional staffs during the second half of the year.
"If recent rumblings that the economy is slowing are true, it is certainly not reflected in the job market," says MRI President and CEO Allen Salikof. Forty-seven percent of Midwest executives expect to hire during the second half of the year, but that figure is expected to fall 5 percent a year from now. Meanwhile, New England seems to be the hardest hit. Nearly 70 percent of executives plan to hire more people this year, while that figure is expected to climb to 86 percent one year from now.
What's good for the heart may be just as good for the brain, new research suggests. Cutting blood pressure and drinking moderately, already shown to promote heart health, may also ward off the mental decline that comes with age.
In a study that followed nearly 400 older adults for up to 12 years, researchers found that those whose blood pressure dropped over time were less likely than others to see their mental abilities decline. The same was true of men and women who, before the age of 60, enjoyed a drink per day. Investigators at the Institute of Psychiatry in London reported their findings in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
Some studies have linked uncontrolled high blood pressure to mental decline and some have suggested moderate drinking protects the brain; however, it has been unclear whether these associations hold over the long term. Subjects in this study had their mental functioning retested nine to 12 years after their original tests.
While slowing or preventing mental decline has obvious benefits in and of itself, it also cuts the risk of developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
Cheer up or else
Those who suffer symptoms of depression are at an increased risk of stroke, according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In particular, depressed African Americans showed the largest increase in stroke risk, the investigators report in the July/August issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.
Those with the highest levels of depression had a 73 percent increase in their risk of stroke, and people with an intermediate level of symptoms for depression had a 25 percent increase in risk. However, it is not clear if depression caused the stroke or if some unknown factor related to stroke risk prompted depression prior to the event.
Let's try for three reps today
Experts say the No. 1 excuse women give for not exercising is that they have no time. But University of Arkansas researchers suggest women can squeeze three days' worth of muscle conditioning into two if they up the intensity.
Women can gain just as much strength and flexibility and lose just as much fat from weight training two days per week as they can from a three-day regimen, results of a study show. It takes only some extra curls, presses and pulls, according to Drs. Ro DiBrezzo and Inza Fort.
A bitter pill
The Federal Trade Commission contends that a Florida company misleads consumers by telling them one of its dietary supplements can rid them of fatty deposits known as cellulite.
In a lawsuit filed recently, the FTC said Rexall Sundown Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., makes false and unsubstantiated claims to market its Cellasene supplement. The company denies the allegations.
Unlike most cellulite remedies, which are applied to the skin, Rexall's product is a pill containing ginkgo biloba, grape seed extract and other herbal ingredients. The recommended eight-week regimen costs $180 to $240, the FTC said. The government said sales totaled about $54 million last year.
Contrary to the beliefs of some Americans, state-sponsored health care programs in the United States are not a big reason for illegal immigration, according to a recent report from the Project HOPE Center for Health Affairs.
Researchers conclude that restricting immigrants' access to health care services is unlikely to deter immigration or reduce health care costs -- but could have a negative impact on U.S. citizens, namely the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. Immigrants overwhelmingly come to the U.S. to find work or to be with relatives or friends who are already here, rather than to take advantage of the U.S. health care system.
Put that in your pipe
While most Americans are aware that smoking causes heart disease and lung cancer, few may know of the many other diseases linked to smoking. Current smokers have almost twice the risk of developing colorectal cancer than nonsmokers, according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
Here comes heroin
Deaths from heroin overdoses have increased enough in the past few years to create a major public health problem, officials report.
"Overdose deaths extract a serious social cost," says Dr. Gary Oxman, public health officer in Multnomah County, Oregon, which includes the city of Portland. "They occur primarily among young and middle-aged men, ages 25 to 54. In that group in our county, heroin overdoses cause more deaths than AIDS and about the same number as heart disease and cancer."
Oxman is the author of one of two reports in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report describing the increase. Heroin overdose deaths in Multnomah County more than doubled between 1993 and 1999, to more than 100 a year, Oxman says.
A similar report comes from King County, Washington, which includes Seattle.
"Last year there were 110 deaths, more than double the 47 deaths in 1990," the county's public health department says.
The same appears to be happening in communities across the country, says Beverly Jackson, spokeswoman for the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Drug Abuse Warning Network, which gathers data from 40 metropolitan areas, reported an increase of more than 25 percent in drug-induced deaths between 1994 and 1998.
The higher toll is due not only to increased use of heroin but also to the fact that more heroin users are injecting the drug rather than snorting it. Injection delivers a quick dose to the body -- sometimes more than the body can handle.
Menopause can be a real problem for working women. Hot flashes, mood changes and other symptoms make it harder to work, and work may make symptoms worse.
Try these healthy hints:
- Exercise regularly and eat a nutritious diet, which may prevent hormonal fluctuations and the symptoms they cause.
- Stay away from caffeine and alcohol; they trigger hot flashes.
- Wear fabrics that breathe and keep you cool.
- Talk about it with your co-workers. You'll feel better knowing you're not the only one with symptoms.
- Ask your doctor about estrogen patches and other hormone therapies. For some women, they make all the difference.
Smoking is bad for your health. Period. Cigarettes are the nation's No. 1 cause of preventable deaths. They kill more than 400,000 people a year and cause serious health problems for millions more.
Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs around, which explains why so many smokers have great difficulty quitting. Many people find they have to try several times before they give up smoking for good.
Even if you've tried and failed, don't give up. There are many strategies for kicking the perilous habit, from nicotine patches to support groups. And the body quickly mends itself once you do quit:
- Within two days of quitting, carbon monoxide levels in the blood return to normal.
- Within three months, lung function improves by as much as 30 percent. Source: Koop.com
A coalition of managed care firms said it has a plan to get rid of some of the administrative hassles that their businesses often create for patients and doctors.
The group, the Coalition for Affordable Quality Healthcare, said that within six to 12 months, it will develop a system to allow customers to more easily compare benefits -- particularly drug benefits -- by health plans and create a common method of reviewing doctors' credentials.
The group also said it will make provider directories easier to read and develop a standard claims form.
"Our industry has heard the concerns expressed by consumers and health care professionals," says Leonard Schaeffer, CEO of WellPoint Health Networks Inc. and coalition chairman. "We are trying to improve the patient experience."
The group of health insurers, formed in 1998, says it is trying to restore the trust of customers and doctors.
Never too young to die
If you think people in their 20s and 30s don't have to worry about their cholesterol, think again.
A study found that even men under 40 with high cholesterol run an increased risk of heart disease and premature death, underscoring the importance of early screening and preventive treatment.
High cholesterol in middle age is known to be a major risk factor for heart disease and heart attacks.
The new findings suggest that younger men with high cholesterol face a greater long-term risk than men diagnosed with the condition in middle age, in part because the longer high levels exist, the more damage they can cause.
The findings are contained in an analysis of studies on nearly 82,000 men ages 18 to 39 who were followed for up to 34 years. The results appeared in a recent Journal of the American Medical Association.
Sleeping in class pays off
Getting a good night's sleep after trying to master a tough new task might just reinforce what you have learned.
European researchers say dreaming might be the brain's way of replaying experiences and lessons so that they are fixed in the memory for use later on.
The scientists, using advanced imaging technology, found that the same regions of the brain that are buzzing while we learn a new task are also active while we dream. This heightened activity was observed during the brief but active stage known as rapid-eye movement, or REM, sleep.
The study was published in the August issue of Nature Neuroscience. Animal studies had shown similar results. Rats that ran new routes through mazes showed increased activity in the same portions of their brains when they slept afterward. But the human brain is more complex.
There goes the cobra act
The manufacturer of a widely used snakebite serum is warning of shortages of the drug.
The drug, made by Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, based in the Philadelphia suburb of St. Davids, is the only product available to neutralize toxins from three types of poisonous North American snakes: rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and copperheads. The shortage is due to the closing of a plant in Marietta, Pa., for renovations.
Easier said than done
Losing just 10 pounds, combined with a healthy diet and regular, moderate exercise, may prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes in people who are at risk because their bodies cannot use insulin properly or are not secreting enough of it.
Several studies, including one reported to the 60th annual Scientific Session of the American Diabetes Association by Dr. Jaakko Tuomilehto, indicate this is the case.
Finally, a use for all those tomatoes
A study by the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, found that tomatoes could be the key to preventing blood clots that cause heart disease and strokes, two of the biggest killers in the developed world.
The yellow jelly around tomato seeds keeps platelets in the blood from clumping together and eliminates dangerous clots that block blood vessels and kill millions each year, the institute says. Researchers think the jelly could point the way to an alternative antiplatelet therapy to aspirin, which is widely used to prevent blood clots but can cause stomach upset and bleeding.
Tests on a small group of volunteers showed that the jelly from as few as four tomatoes could reduce platelet activity by up to 72 percent and did not cause bleeding.
Blame the smokers again
According to a new study, genes play a relatively small role in the development of most types of cancer.
In a study of nearly 45,000 pairs of twins, genes accounted for less than half of the risk of several types of cancer, with the rest of the risk explained by environmental factors such as smoking, diet, infections and exposure to chemicals and radiation, reports a team of researchers led by Dr. Paul Lichtenstein of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
"We conclude that the overwhelming contributor to the causation of cancer in the populations of twins that we studied was the environment," the authors wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Thomas Sullivan, CEO of Medina-based RPM Inc., shared some special advice he received from his father, RPM founder Frank Sullivan, with attendees at the Innovation in Business Conference last month. He told the crowd his father once told him that for him to succeed in business, "You have to have imagination, perseverance, and you have to have industry." That advice helped Thomas Sullivan drive the $11 million company he took over from his dad 20 years ago to become the $100 million company he owns today.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have had an image problem in Summit County since the day the basketball team traveled up north to its new home at Gund Arena.
When the Cavs' home office, which is trying to restore its Summit County fan base, called the Akron Regional Development Board recently seeking advice on how to rebuild ties with Summit County businesses, it was given the name of one person to call: Tim Dimoff.
Dimoff, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services Inc., is probably best known throughout the county for his networking skills. So when the Cavs' regional sales manager asked him how the Cavs could regain the support of the Akron business community, he knew exactly what to tell him to do.
Dimoff said if the Cavs wanted their Summit County business base back, they would have to roll out the red carpet. Dimoff advised him to put together an event for area executives that included a tour of the Gund, gifts of NBA merchandise, a meeting with players, discounts on ticket packages, and, of course, lots of food and drink.
The Cavs came back with a planned event that included everything on Dimoff's "wish list." He is so sure he can pack the event -- which will be held some time this month -- with area executives, that he told the Cavs to plan a back-up date in case it overfills.
Plain or peanut?
Of all places to be caught with chocolate stuck between your teeth, the floor of the Democratic convention would be one of the worst. That's what happened to Jan Schwartz.
"There I was, sitting with all the ladies in their hats, when Dave Leland, the Ohio Democratic party chairman, comes by and says, 'Jan, would you come with me, please?'" says Schwartz, who attended the convention as the alternate delegate from the 16th Congressional District.
"I was thinking, 'Why did I have to be caught munching on my M&Ms at that moment, because he ushered me to the green room in the Democratic news service area, and introduced me to some people from the Democratic National Committee. They asked me to do some radio and television interviews," she says.
As a nationally certified psychologist specializing in forensic fraud research and contributing to crime investigations with state and federal agencies to expose white-collar crime, Schwartz (who is from Akron) was asked to discuss issues ranging from corporate misconduct to Clinton's peccadilloes.
"It was wonderful to have a chance to say, 'Isn't it time for us to put aside old business and focus on strengths if we want to move forward as a country?' The interviewer looked at me like, 'Oh, this is good, focus on strengths!' and he started focusing on other issues," Schwartz laughs.
Each afternoon thereafter, talk radio show host Don Kroah invited Schwartz back as a guest on WAVA 105.1 FM, for shows broadcast throughout Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
Before you consider purchasing a CD from your bank or brokerage firm, make sure you fully understand all of its terms. Carefully read the disclosure statements, including any fine print.
And don't be dazzled by high yields. Ask questions -- and demand answers -- before you invest. These tips from the FDIC can help you assess what features make sense for you:
Find out when the CD matures. As simple as this sounds, many investors fail to confirm the maturity dates for their CDs and are later shocked to learn that they've tied up their money for five, 10, even 20 years. Before you purchase a CD, ask to see the maturity date in writing.
For brokered CDs, identify the issuer. Because federal deposit insurance is limited to a total aggregate amount of $100,000 for each depositor in each bank or thrift institution, it is very important that you know which bank or thrift issued your CD. In other words, find out where the deposit broker plans to deposit your money. Also be sure to ask what recordkeeping procedures the deposit broker has in place to assure your CD will have federal deposit insurance.
Investigate any call features. Callable CDs give the issuing bank the right to terminate the CD after a set period of time, but do not give you that same right. If the bank calls or redeems your CD, you should receive the full amount of your original deposit plus any unpaid accrued interest.
Understand the difference between call features and maturity. Don't assume that a federally insured one-year noncallable CD matures in one year. If you have any doubt, ask the sales representative at your bank or brokerage firm to explain the CD's call features and confirm when it matures.
Confirm the interest rate you'll receive and how you'll be paid. You should receive a disclosure document that tells you the interest rate on your CD and whether the rate is fixed or variable. Ask how often the bank pays interest -- for example, monthly or semiannually. And confirm how you'll be paid -- by check or an electronic transfer of funds.
Ask whether the interest rate ever changes. If you're considering investing in a variable-rate CD, make sure you understand when and how the rate can change. Some variable-rate CDs feature a multistep or bonus rate structure in which interest rates increase or decrease over time according to a preset schedule. Other variable-rate CDs pay interest rates that track the performance of a specified market index, such as the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Research penalties for early withdrawal. Find out how much you'll have to pay if you cash in your CD before maturity.
Ask whether your broker can sell your CD. Some brokered CDs are issued in the name of the custodian or deposit brokers. In some cases, the deposit broker may advertise that the CD does not have a prepayment penalty for early withdrawal. In those cases, the deposit broker will instead try to resell the CD for you if you want to redeem it before maturity. If interest rates have fallen since you purchased your CD and demand is high, you may be able to sell the CD for a profit. But if interest rates have risen, there may be less demand for your lower-yielding CD and you may have to sell the CD at a discount and lose some of your original deposit.
Find out about any additional features. For example, some CDs offer a death benefit that allows a CD owner's heirs to redeem the CD without penalty when the owner dies.
I wish I were someone else
The U.S. government recommends the following guidelines to prevent identity theft:
1. Protect your Social Security number, credit card numbers, account passwords and other personal information. Never divulge this information unless you initiate the contact with a person or company you know and trust. A con artist can use these details, and a few more, such as your mother's maiden name, to withdraw money from your bank account or order new credit cards or checks in your name.
Use common sense, and be suspicious when things don't seem right. If you get an unsolicited offer that sounds too good to be true and asks for bank account numbers and other personal information before you receive anything in return, this is likely a scam. Likewise, if a caller claims to represent your financial institution, the police department or some other organization and asks you to "verify" (reveal) confidential information, hang up fast and consider reporting the incident
Real bankers and government investigators don't make these kinds of calls. The Social Security Administration says that consumer complaints about the alleged misuse of SSNs are rising dramatically, from about 8,000 in 1997 to more than 30,000 in 1999.
2. Minimize the damage in case your wallet is lost or stolen. Don't carry around more checks, credit cards or other bank items than you expect to need. Limit the number of credit cards you carry by canceling the ones you don't use. Don't carry your Social Security number in your wallet or have it printed on your checks. Pick passwords and PINs (Personal Identification Numbers) that will be tough for someone else to figure out -- don't use your birth date or home address. Don't keep this information on or near your checkbook, ATM card or debit card.
3. Protect your incoming and outgoing mail. Those envelopes may contain checks, credit card applications and other items that can be very valuable to a fraud artist. How can you keep mail out of the wrong hands? Among the simplest solutions: Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after it has been delivered. If you're going to be away on vacation, have your mail held at your post office or ask someone you trust to collect it. Deposit outgoing mail, especially something containing personal financial information or checks, in the Postal Service's blue collection boxes, hand it to a mail carrier or take it to a post office instead of leaving it in your home mailbox.
4. Keep thieves from turning your trash into their cash. Thieves known as dumpster divers pick through garbage looking for credit card applications and receipts, canceled checks, bank statements, expired charge cards and other documents or information they can use to counterfeit or order new checks or credit cards. Before putting these items in the garbage, tear them up as best you can or use a shredder.
5. Practice home security. Safely store extra checks and credit cards, documents that list your Social Security number and similar valuable items. Be extra careful if you have housemates or let workers into your home. Don't advertise to burglars that you're away. Put lights on timers, temporarily stop delivery of your newspaper and ask a neighbor to pick up items that may arrive unexpectedly at your home.
6. Pay attention to your bank account statements and credit card bills. Contact your financial institution immediately if there's a discrepancy in your records or if you notice something suspicious, such as a missing payment or an unauthorized withdrawal. While federal and state laws may limit your losses if you're victimized by a bank fraud or theft, sometimes your protections are stronger if you report the problem quickly and in writing.
Also, contact your institution if a bank statement or credit card bill doesn't arrive on time because that could be a sign someone has stolen account information and changed your mailing address in order to run up big bills in your name from another location.
7. Review your credit report approximately once a year. Your credit report (prepared by a credit bureau) will include identifying information (such as your name, address, Social Security Number and date of birth) as well as details about credit cards and loans in your name and how bills are being paid. Make sure the report is accurate, and that includes monitoring it for unauthorized bank accounts, credit cards and purchases. Also look for anything suspicious in the section of your credit report that lists who has received a copy of your credit history.
A credit card's grace period refers to the number of days before the card company starts charging you interest on new purchases. Many consumers think that with practically every card, all their purchases are interest-free for at least 25 days regardless of the previous balance.
"But, the fact of the matter is, it's getting harder to find a credit card that offers that kind of free ride on finance charges," says Janet Kincaid, a credit card specialist with the FDIC in Kansas City.
Some cards still offer a "full" grace period, 25 days or more of interest-free purchases, even if you're paying interest on an outstanding balance from the previous month. However, with the typical credit card nowadays, if you carry over as little as a penny from the previous month's balance you can expect to be charged interest immediately on new purchases. And, if you have a card with no grace period, you always pay interest on new purchases from the day you make the purchase, even if you pay your bill in full.
Oh well, there goes retirement
If you are an administrator of an employee benefit plan -- perhaps a 401(k), pension or profit-sharing plan for a corporation, small business or professional office -- you may have a special reason to be concerned about a bank or savings institution's financial condition.
By law, if the institution meets the capital levels specified in the FDIC's deposit insurance rules -- and most do -- each employee's share in these accounts at any one institution is covered for up to $100,000, even if the total account itself equals much more than that amount. But, if the institution doesn't have enough capital (as defined by the institution's primary federal regulator) and it later is closed by the government, those retirement funds will qualify for much less insurance coverage --up to $100,000 in total, not $100,000 for each person in the plan.
Ice cubes for Eskimos
Here are some marketing tips offered by the Online Womens Business Center in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration:
- Stay alert to trends that might impact your target market, product or promotion strategy. Read market research studies about your profession, industry, product, target market groups, etc.
- Collect competitors' ads and literature; study them for information about strategy, product features and benefits.
- Ask clients why they hired you and solicit suggestions for improvement.
- Ask former clients why they left you.
- Join a list-serve (e-mail list) related to your profession. Subscribe to an Internet Usenet newsgroup or a list-serve that serves your target market.
- Take clients to a ball game, a show or another special event -- or just send them two tickets with a note.
- Hold a seminar at your office for clients and prospects.
- Send handwritten thank-you notes. Send birthday cards and appropriate seasonal greetings.
- Photocopy interesting articles and send them to clients and prospects with a hand-written "FYI" note and your business card.
- Send a book of interest or other appropriate business gift to a client with a handwritten note.
- Create an area on your Web site specifically for your customers.
A recent telephone survey, conducted by Roper Starch, found that employees want to balance competing work and family responsibilities.
Fifty-one percent said they would stay at their current job rather than switch if their employer offered flexible working hours. Also, 62 percent said they prefer a boss who understands when they need to leave work for personal reasons to one who could help them grow professionally.
Perhaps most surprisingly, 51 percent of employees prefer a job that offers flexible hours over one that offers an opportunity for advancement.
The desire for flexibility does not translate into a lack of dedication. The survey found that the majority of employees, 64 percent, describe themselves as ambitious when it comes to work and career, and 61 percent agree that to get ahead at work you must put in 110 percent. And 58 percent feel that it is within their control to make sure their personal lives do not interfere with work.
What -- other than money -- makes people happy at work? The survey found the following:
- Liking the team they work with, 71 percent;
- Pleasant work environment, 68 percent;
- Work place is an easy commute, 68 percent;
- Challenging work, 65 percent;
- Job security, 65 percent;
- Ability to work independently, 59 percent;
- Opportunity for advancement, 55 percent.
Let's form a relationship
A recent study by Activemedia has found that business-to-business sites are primarily used to enhance market share and business relationships rather than generate profit from consumers. B2B models try to sell products and services, and provide information, yet 77 percent see offline contact as the best way for arranging sales.
Half of European Web sites are B2B, compared with a third in the US, and a quarter of Asia-Pacific sites. European sites are showing a strong tendency to target other online businesses rather than directly generate profit from consumers.
I prefer standing in line, thanks
TowerGroup conducted a recent study that revealed banks are lagging in the Internet arena.
- Today, there are some 10,000 FDIC-insured depository institutions within the U.S. The majority (approximately 7,800) have yet to establish online financial services. Among the top 100 U.S. bank holding companies, 40 percent of their Internet sites are still at the "brochureware" stage.
- TowerGroup believes that the number of U.S. banks offering Internet-based services will double over the next two years.
- Spending by U.S. banks on Internet technology is projected to grow to more than $2 billion within the next five years (compound annual growth rate of 31 percent).
- TowerGroup projects that by 2003, 12 million U.S. households will be utilizing Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment.
- TowerGroup projects that by 2010, 40 percent of all bills will be presented to consumers and businesses via the Internet. This equals more than 11 billion bills -- a dramatic increase from the 10 million sent online in 1999.
- Close to 90 percent of institutions polled by TowerGroup regarded Internet banking as either "essential" or "important" to their businesses, with nearly 70 percent giving these same ratings to the issue of "Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment" (EBPP).
- The single most common objective for U.S. banks offering online banking was "customer retention" (a 92 percent response rate). Next (at 84 percent) was "customer acquisition."
Former Congressman Louis B. Stokes and Gilbert Goldberg, director of the U.S. Small Business Administration's Cleveland District office, recognized four leading SBA lenders for loans made to minority-owned and small businesses. The SBA office guaranteed more than 800 loans for more than $150 million in 2000.
Last year, a record 127 loans, or 16 percent of all loans guaranteed by the Cleveland district office, were made to minority-owned businesses. National City Bank was the Leading Loan Volume Lender, with 126 loans totalling $21.6 million, and Key Bank was the Leading Minority Loan Volume Lender, with 19 minority loans totalling more than $6 million.
Community lender Second Nation Bank of Warren was the Community Leading Loan Volume Lender, with 86 loans at $9 million, and Mid-Am Bank of Toledo was Community Leading Minority Loan Volume Lender with 12 minority loans totalling more than $2 million. The organizations were recognized at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nov. 16.
CSU president to lead education council
Claire A. Van Ummerson, president of Cleveland State University, has accepted the position of vice president and director of the American Council on Education's Office of Women in Higher Education. The American Council on Education is an association of 1,800 member colleges and universities dedicated to analysis of higher education issues and advocacy on behalf of quality higher education programs.
Van Ummerson will coordinate OWHE's efforts in conjunction with higher education associations to address gender equality and women's leadership issues, consult with educational institutions on equality and promotion matters, and help develop strategies to respond to female students' concerns. Shen joined CSU in 1993 and will take her new position some time before June of next year.
In her tenure, Van Ummerson led an extensive building construction program, implemented innovative degree programs and quadrupled CSU's endowment.
A new chair
William F. Patient, retired chairman and CEO of the Geon Co., has been elected chairman of the Cleveland State University Foundation. For the past seven years, Patient has served as a member of the university's board of trustees, the past two years as chairman. The foundation, a nonprofit organization, solicits, receives and manages gifts and distributes funds according to the donor's wishes.
Patient succeeds Steve Percy, who chaired the foundation for four years. Patient joined the BFGoodrich Co. in 1989 as senior vice president and president of Geon Vinyl Division. Four years later, Geon spun off as a separate public company, with Patient as chairman, president and CEO. He retired in 1999.
"Corporate leaders need to be community leaders," he says "I am proud that as a CSU trustee, I was able to help the university grow into the outstanding institution that it is today. As we face tight budgets, and public funds for higher education continue to decline, it is critically important that the foundation expand its fund-raising base. I look forward to leading the foundation and finding creative new sources of public and private financial support for this university."
Would you like fries with that contract?
In a survey by Robert Half International Inc., a staffing service specializing in accounting, finance and information technology fields, 49 percent of executives polled said their most successful business meetings outside the office were conducted over a meal. The survey included responses from 1,400 CFOs from a random sample of companies with more than 20 employees.
The second most successful location was the golf course, 9 percent; a trade show or conference, 7 percent; the car, 5 percent; a sporting event, 3 percent; and on an airplane, 2 percent.
FirstMerit builds branch
FirstMerit Bank has opened its newest Cleveland branch at 10717 Lorain Ave.
FirstMerit has built two branches in Cleveland in the past five years, and is the only bank to build stand-alone branches in the city in the last 10 years. The new Westown branch is across from the Westown Plaza and will provide West Side residents with a full range of retail and commercial banking services. It will be equipped with two drive-up teller windows, a drive-up ATM, safety deposit boxes and customer dedicated parking.
High residential demand for a full-service bank and the expansion of local businesses contributed to the decision to build. FirstMerit Corp. is a financial services company with 170 banking offices in 22 Ohio and Western Pennsylvania counties.
So much technology, so little time
A recent survey finds that human resource departments have budgets for technology but are confused about how to spend them. RewardsPlus, a Baltimore-based benefit solutions firm, polled 291 top human resource/benefits executives about technology.
The survey found that 55.6 percent of HR professionals say the biggest issue is choosing the right technology to meet the ever-increasing scope of their responsibilities. More than 9 percent of those surveyed were concerned about using new technology; 4.2 percent were concerned the human resources department will be ignored for future purchases. Only 21.4 percent say the cost of technology is their biggest concern.
HR executives were also asked about the top challenge they faced. Retention and recruitment were cited by 56.7 percent, up from 52 percent last year; management of corporate growth and change, 16.3 percent; and employee motivation, 11.5 percent.
Arras acquires Brandhouse Consulting
Arras Group, a Cleveland-based integrated marketing communications agency, has acquired Brandhouse Consulting Group. Arras, founded in 1991, specializes in market research, sales promotion, direct marketing, advertising, merchandising, sales support and public relations.
Brandhouse brings to the coupling a focus on the home marketplace with client such as DuPont Sleep Products, General Electric, MTD Yard-Man and Karastan. The incorporation of Brandhouse will add to Arras a focus on the development of marketing communications programming, research and development and branding and positioning of products. Brandhouse founder Greg Iszler will remain as president of the Home Division.
"This is a natural fit for us," said Jim Hickey, president of Arras Group. "Our agency is based on integration. ... As a result, we will enhance our ability to provide actionable insight to our clients on an ongoing and timely basis."
With business in its DC Power unit doubling in the last year thanks to growth in the Internet and telecommunications sectors, Marconi announced plans to expand its manufacturing facilities to meet increased demand.
The $6 million, 109,000-square-foot facility in Avon will enable Marconi to improve productivity and output. In addition, in the communications field, in which two months can be a telecom eternity, Marconi anticipates it will be able to reduce power systems lead times by two-thirds.
This production facility will allow Marconi to increase sales and continue contributing to the high-tech transformation occurring in Northeast Ohio and beyond.
"We're racing to meet our growing base of customers' requests for dependable power solutions, and physically growing is one way that we can continue to meet these demands," says David J. Smith, vice president and general manager for Marconi's Power business. "This rising demand is expected to continue for the next five years, so Marconi's plan is to be prepared for market demand."
CBIZ drops franchise
Century Business Services Inc. announced the sale of its franchise operation, Century Small Business Solutions Inc., to Fiducial Triple Check Inc., a privately held California corporation. Century Small Business Solutions, based in Mission Viejo, Calif., is the franchiser to a network of about 550 franchisee offices that offer accounting services for small businesses. The operation accounted for less than 1 percent of CBIZ's revenue year-to-date.
CBIZ will retain eight franchisee offices. Proceeds from the sale will be used for debt reduction.
Walworth's new tenant
Lakeside Blueprint Co. acquired four acres in Walworth Run Industrial Park, a former urban brownfield off of West 65th Street which was cleaned up and redeveloped by the Westside Industrial Retention & Expansion Network. Lakeside Blueprint is the second firm to build in the industrial park, with plans for a $1.5 million, 150,000-square-foot facility for the growing blueprint reproduction company.
"This project is an indicator that the Stockyard neighborhood is a great place for growing Cleveland businesses," says John Colm, WIRE-Net director. "Along with B&R Machine, the Lakeside Blueprint deal means Walworth is 50 percent developed."
With the launch of its new Web site, COSE.org, the Greater Cleveland Growth Association's Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) now offers e-business solutions to its members.
"We've made enhancements that allow us to significantly increase the value and utility of our Web site and the services we are offering member businesses," explains Steve Millard, vice president and executive director of Member Services/COSE. "Our goal is to create Web tools that are practical, functional and attractive."
A key component of its e-strategy plan involves bringing new ideas, resources and solutions into the hands of small business partners. A signature feature of the site is online education and training. In a recent survey, COSE members identified the need for affordable, convenient training and assistance for employees as one of their top priorities.
The site also allows members enrolled in COSE-sponsored health insurance programs to manage their health plans online, giving them additional control of their health insurance costs by making real-time modifications to their plan.
United Bank & Trust has rosy outlook
UNB Corp., the Canton-based holding company for United National Bank & Trust Co., expects final results from the year to show stellar growth. The 2000 Pillar Award for Community Service winner predicts a 12 to 13 percent earnings per share increase over 1999, says Roger L. Mann, chairman, president and CEO.
"We attribute this growth in earnings to increases in our fee income and improved net interest income," he says. "Many of the strategic initiatives we embarked upon in 1999 and earlier this year are beginning to provide the desired returns."
Connecting the dot-coms
Enhancing a company's ability to give back to the communities that support it is something any business owner should strive to do. That's one of the missions behind Cleveland-based Ameriserv.net, which recently launched www.thecitymission.org in conjunction with The City Mission.
The goal of the new Web site is to enable the organization to secure online donors by allowing visitors to contribute through the site.
The Web site utilizes Ameriserv.net's MAILeZ program, a user-friendly interactive program that enables a company to build a database of e-subscribers, then targets specific interest groups with customized e-mails, explains Greg Olsen of Ameriserv.net. MAILeZ allows companies to gather and organize information about their customers, then use it in an efficient manner. And, during this holiday season, it helps nonprofits target donors without expending tremendous overhead.
Mark Freeman Advertising has been busy, picking up high technology-oriented clients at a record clip. Its most recent signing was Need2Buy, a California-based online marketplace that serves the electronics industry.
What makes this deal more interesting than simply representing a Web-based client is that Mark Freeman is using its Virtual Office to work with the client. Virtual Office is a password-protected Web site that gives each client access to every job the agency is handling on its behalf, explains agency president and owner Mark Freeman.
"Virtual Office is a godsend to our clients who are frequent travelers or have hectic schedules," he says. "As long as they have an Internet connection, they can access both the current information as well as the history of any particular project we are working on."
Blacking out the insiders
Still confused about what constitutes illegal insider trading? It's not getting any easier to understand, but it is getting easier to cope with.
The SEC earlier this summer adopted a rule that provides specific affirmative defenses against liability for insider trading - Rule 10b5-1. The rule, which went into effect Oct. 23, is designed to define situations in which information possessed by corporate executives and directors doesn't count as valuable information in "an investment decision."
What's that mean, exactly? The short story is that under previous rules, during blackout periods that surround quarterly earnings and other important corporate announcements, insiders typically were banned from trading shares. The new rule relaxes those restrictions.
The long story? Talk to your attorney to clarify exactly where you fall within that "insider" definition.
Firing up a stagnant Web site
Most of the time, when a dot-com shuts down its Web site under the auspices of remodeling, it's akin to a death knell. But in the case of big box retailer Wal-Mart, Web site remodeling was a real business decision aimed at making Wal-Mart's e-business venture profitable.
After a 30-day shutdown in October, Walmart.com roared back to life in November with a host of new features, including the ability to purchase tickets from Southwest Airlines. More important, the company recognized the value of true e-commerce and its costs, and disbanded efforts to sell low-priced items over the Net. Previously, Wal-Mart peddled merchandise such as plastic pocket combs and pencil sharpeners. Those days of low-margin items are over.
College students can earn more than a grade for their papers by entering the second-annual Essays in Economics competition, sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The Fed will award a $1,000 prize to the student whose paper most clearly and persuasively analyzes a topic using economic theories or concepts. Last year's $1,000 prize was awarded to Jaime Ventura, a student at Bowling Green State University, for "Money Demand and Inflation in Peru, 1979-91." Entrants must be juniors or seniors enrolled at a Fourth Federal Reserve District college or university during the 2000-2001 academic year. Submissions must be 2,000 to 3,000 words and can include papers written previously for class projects as well as those prepared specifically for the competition. The competition opens May 1 and closes July 6. The winner will be announced July 27.
Behavior tests during job interviews are on the rise due to the lack of managerial and sales candidates in the job market, according to Management Recruiters of Cleveland-Central in Shaker Heights. Called Behavioral Interviewing, the technique seeks to evaluate everything about a candidate through assessment of specific actions or behaviors in given circumstances or jobs.
"It's actually very effective," says Mary Hardy, general manager of Management Recruiters. "Candidates who are prepared to answer questions in the appropriate way have an advantage over candidates who are blindsided."
Behavioral Interviewing usually includes the following:
- The interviews start with a statement that the interviewer will be looking for specific instances from real situations in an answer to his or her question.
- The questions begin with words to the effect of "tell me about a specific situation in which you ..."
- When the candidate wanders toward generalities, the interviewer will often coax the candidate back to specific examples, asking for the names of people, their titles and concrete details.
Before the interview, candidates should try to think of the skills they will need for the job and recall specific instances where they used those skills at previous jobs, Hardy says.
Weed Man grows
Phil Fogarty and Bob Ottley, American subfranchisers of Weed Man lawn-care company, awarded seven franchise territories to local businesses. Weed Man is Canada's largest lawn-care based company, North America's second largest and the fastest growing in the United States. Fogarty, who owns Euclid-based Crowley's, acquired Weed Man franchise rights in Lake County. The other territories went to Eastside Landscaping Inc. of Cleveland Heights and Hemlock Landscapes Inc. of Cleveland.
Find the trouble
A troubled employee is every employer's worst nightmare. While not every problem is foreseeable or avoidable, employers can take specific lawful steps to manage problems at their earliest stages, beginning with identifying red flags during the hiring process, says Sarah A. Kelly, a labor and employment attorney with Cozen and O'Connor in Philadelphia. Kelly offers a few tips to help employers weed out potentially disruptive employees in the hiring process:
- Design your application to gain a full picture of the applicant's educational and work history, including asking lawful questions about criminal convictions.
- Be sure that more than one management representative interviews the candidate, and reviews the application during the process.
- Consider background checks. Detailed background checks performed by an outside agency can be valuable for some jobs, but be aware that a candidate must give written permission in advance of such a background check, in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
No recount needed
Paul C. Feingold was appointed president of Myers College, succeeding Arnold G. Tew, who retired April 1. Tew had been president since 1996. Feingold joined Myers College in 1997 and was promoted to executive vice president last year. Upon his arrival in Cleveland, Feingold was chosen to participate in Leadership Cleveland, the respected executive development forum of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association.
While at Myers, Feingold led the development of the school's first MBA program in 1999. Also that year, he started the country's first executive bachelor of science in business administration degree, tailored to seasoned entrepreneurs and corporate managers who desired a business degree, but could never fit it into their schedules.
While 67 percent of employees say they are very committed to their employer, only 38 percent feel the employer returns the commitment, according to a survey by Wirthlin Worldwide, an opinion research and consulting firm in McLean, Va. This gap has increased by 11 percentage points since 1998. The gap is even greater among employees who have experienced a merger or downsizing (35 percent and 33 percent).
Also, employees who are very satisfied with their company's communications are much more committed to their company, about 87 percent. The key to letting employees know they're valued is through communication.
"Successful internal communications need to translate to the employee 'what this means to me.'" says Carol Gstalder, senior vice president at Wirthlin Worldwide. "Combined with consistent, effective, and responsive leadership behavior, employees should be empowered to improve their performance, increase customer satisfaction, and enhance company success, allowing them to share in those benefits."
The taxman cometh
Ready or not, tax time is almost here. The good news is that you can still lower this year's tax bill before Dec. 31 by following a few simple tips from Fred Grant, senior tax analyst at TurboTax:
* Get organized. Figure out where your finances stand so there will be no surprises come April 15. Review your income and deductions and compile any business expenses in advance.
* Defer income. Due to the new tax laws, individual tax rates will be lower in 2002. Pay year-end bonuses in January instead of December, so the bonus will be considered income for 2002.
* Take last minute deductions. Study up on the ways you can still save money. If you itemize, now is the perfect time to help your favorite charity while reducing your tax bill. With the new tax laws, deductions this year will be worth more than the same deductions next year, so consider prepaying some of your major deductions, such as childcare, education, medical bills or mortgage interest.
* Sell! Sell! Sell! If you have a big capital gain, consider selling some of your underperforming stocks. You can erase your tax liability on the gain with a corresponding loss.
* Remember your 401(k). Invest money in your retirement account. Since the money is tax-deferred, your piggy bank can keep growing, but you do not have to pay an extra cent in taxes until you take the money out of the account.
* Keep tabs on your mutual funds. Selling your mutual fund before the distribution date will help you save on capital gains and large dividends.
More than ever, consumers are bringing their wireless phones with them wherever they go, according to a survey by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Half of wireless phone owners (48 percent) report carrying their phones with them at all times, compared to only one-third (33 percent) just one year ago.
The results of the "Wireless Device Usage" survey also found that a majority of consumers (57 percent) report using their phone primarily for social purposes rather than business. In addition, despite the offerings of large amounts of free minutes, most consumers (71 percent) limit themselves to less than 400 minutes of airtime per month.
IDS lands big contract
Innovative Data Solutions (IDS), a Cleveland-based credentials verification organization, landed an agreement to offer services throughout Minnesota to streamline the medical practitioner credentialing process. The plan makes Minnesota the only state in the country to offer a one-stop shop for credentialing.
IDS, with its credentialing service, Credential OneSM, was unanimously selected by the Minnesota Joint Purchasing Coalition (MJPC) after a nationwide search that included the evaluation of 16 credentials verification organizations. The coalition, consisting of the Minnesota Hospital and Healthcare Partnership, the Minnesota Council of Health Plans and the Minnesota Medical Association, marks the first time hospitals, health plans and physicians have joined to develop a single-source credentialing system.
The agreement between IDS and the MJPC was completed in June. As of mid-September, some 40 hospitals and health plans had signed up. The agreement includes services to hospitals, health plans and other health care organizations in Minnesota as well as in adjoining regions of Iowa, Wisconsin and North and South Dakota.
Dave & Buster's targets business events
Skip the bland hotel conference rooms and stale donuts for your next employee recognition event. Try Dave & Buster's, which just opened a 58,000-square-foot restaurant/entertainment complex in Westlake, the 31st store in the nationwide franchise.
"Take a lot of energetic exercise, toss in some skill and leadership games, then add way too much fun, and you've created a recipe for corporate success," says Dave Corriveau, one of the founders of the Dave & Buster's restaurant chain. "At Dave & Buster's, we've created a new way -- a modern way -- to build team spirit within corporate America."
According to co-founder Buster Corley, "The D&B Company Challenge relies on fun and game-playing to bring employees closer together, removing the barriers that build up in today's lean, mean corporate environments."
The Dave & Buster's Company Challenge is designed to benefit companies of all sizes, from the mom-and-pop enterprise to the Fortune 500 industry leader. The three basic steps are:
Step 1: Picking teams
Each "team" receives a printed score sheet, a detailed explanation of each game, and if desired, team T-shirts.
Step 2: Accepting the challenge
Once team captains are appointed, teams play games such as pocket billiards, shuffleboard, skeeball, basketball freethrow, "Daytona" and others.
Step 3: Rewarding the winners
With the Company Challenge, the goal is to make everyone winners. Awards, trophies and gift certificates can be offered to all participants to help extend their new team spirit beyond the doors of Dave & Buster's and into the boardrooms and back offices for years to come.
For more information, contact Dave & Buster's, (440) 892-1415.
Burns & Scalo Roofing Co. has received roofing contracts for the Steubenville Ambulatory Surgery Center, the Hancock Co. Bank in Chester, W.Va., and Plotkin Bros. in Glassport. It also has been awarded the rooftop garden project of the Gimbels Landmark Building.
Oral and Facial Surgery Center LLC has opened in Hermitage. The facility offers dental and facial surgical services.
Guardian Self Storage has opened a 725-unit storage facility in Monroeville. The 90,000-square-foot facility includes 25,000 square feet of climate-controlled storage space to protect high-value or temperature-sensitive items.
CommuniTech has been selected by Promote It Inc. to develop a strategic and tactical marketing plan for its digital file management and promotional material management services. CommuniTech also has signed a contract to provide marketing services to Solution Creation LLC, a business and technology consulting firm focused on the financial services industry.
Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc. has established Heroes of Flight 93 Memorial Fund at the Pittsburgh Foundation with an initial contribution of $100,000. The proceeds will finance the design, construction and maintenance of a memorial at the site of the Sept. 11 crash of Flight 93.
Cianflone Scientific Instruments Corp. has been appointed by BELEC Spektrometrie Opto-Electronik GmbH of Germany as the exclusive distributor of its complete line of optical emission spectrometers in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Aquent Partners, an agency for Web and creative talent, has moved its office to space in the newly renovated Bathhouse building in Lawrenceville.The MBA program for women at Chatham College has received a $125,000 grant from PNC Financial Services Group.
All Aboard Travel has joined online travel booking service pittsburghflights.com. The service allows travelers to price shop, book flights and choose hotel room locations and other amenities.
Repal Construction Co. Inc. has been awarded the general contracting and construction contract for the second phase of the Jeannette Industrial Park.
Barnes & Noble Inc. has opened a store in the Town Center at the Waterfront in Homestead. The 24,000-square-foot store employs 60.
GNC Inc. has opened a new headquarters store at 300 Sixth Ave., Downtown.
Integral Technologies LLC has introduced software that optimizes resource allocation and route sequencing for the service delivery and utilities industries.
Windows Unlimited has moved its south Pittsburgh location to Route 51 in Pleasant Hills.
Repal Construction Co. Inc. has received the contract for the Cranberry Township Library expansion and renovation and the contract for a 6,000-square-foot Panera Bread store in the South Park Shops in Bethel Park.
Kacin General Contractors has begun construction of a 36,000-square-foot office and manufacturing facility for AP Services Co. in the Northpointe Industrial Park in Slate Lick. AP Services supplies mechanical packing, gaskets and seals worldwide to the power generation, pulp and paper, petrochemical, chemical and wastewater treatment industries.
George Conte Design Consultants Inc. has been awarded the design contract for three Courtyards By Marriott Hotels in Toronto.
The Oncology Nurses Society has purchased a seven-acre site in RIDC Park West for construction of a three-story, 104,000-square-foot headquarters facility.
Cuddy Roofing Co. has received the roofing contract for a new Giant Eagle supermarket in Lower Burrell.
Verizon Wireless has opened a contact center in Cranberry Township.
LaunchCyte LLC has secured an exclusive option to commercialize an Indiana University quantum bead technology with the potential to accelerate drug discovery and clinical diagnostics.
Pittsburgh-based FastForward has entered into a strategic partnership with UbiQ, through which FastForward will process transactions, facilitate payments and commissions, manage and deliver inventory, and provide multilingual customer service for all UbiQ's orders worldwide. UbiQ is a provider of bundled software solutions for Fortune 1,000 original equipment manufacturers.
CTR Systems has been selected to install a new ''pay-on-foot'' parking system at Carnegie Mellon University's East Campus Garage.