Time was that smart sales people and journalists didnt mind cooling their heels in a companys lobby while waiting for appointments. In just a few minutes, a sharp pair of eyes could pick up any number of clues about the organization.
But Joel Rube, formerly a Web evangelist for Keane & Co.s Cleveland office, and now in a similar role for Chicago-based Navigent, says the new window into a companys soul is its home page. These days, when people want to make quick judgments about your company, they visit your Web site, he said at a recent public forum. So that first page has to look gorgeous. Im not saying anything about content it has to look gorgeous.
Monitoring the tube
Employment attorney John Cernelich of Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP isnt your ordinary couch potato. With the recent spate of well-publicized outbreaks of deranged people going on rampages in the workplace, he admits to being on edge whenever he switches on the local news.
I go home and see Channel 8 or Channel 3, and you see some shooting at a workplace or some other horrific case of workplace violence, and I run to the set, hoping that its not one of our clients. Thus far, he happily reports, none of his clients have been targets.
Steel exodus continues
Not long after World War II, a German visitor, looking out at the mighty blast furnaces of the Flats from high up in the Terminal Tower, was moved to remark that if Hitler had ever seen that awesome industrial display, he never would have started a war against the U.S. Alas, the local steel industry is but a shell of what it once was. And in the latest indicator of the sectors decline in these parts, the Steel Services Institute, an industry group headquartered in Cleveland for 80 years, is due to move to Chicago this month.
Rare victory for labor
Union organizing campaigns havent been racking up much success in recent years. But the United Auto Workers is celebrating one recent victory: A successful organization of a Kmart distribution center in Warren, not far from Youngstown. But the unions biggest potential prize in this region, the venerable Lincoln Electric Company, thus far continues to elude it. The UAWs organizing campaign there remains tied up in legal proceedings.
Our readers in Dallas
Not long after her work was featured in SBN earlier this year, management consultant Susan Aldrich got a call from a stiffly formal gentleman whom she at first assumed to be a telemarketer. To the contrary, it turned out to be an editor at Temp Digest in Dallas, who had seen the article in SBN and was impressed.
Would she be interested in writing a column? he inquired. She was floored, but quickly agreed. Meanwhile, closer to home, the article apparently resulted in her landing a first-ever consulting assignment at the blue chip P.R. firm of Dix & Eaton, for which shes due to mount seminars on customer service.
Putting a name with a bra
A few months ago, SBN profiled Beachwood-based Leading Lady. At the time, president Mark Corrado and CEO Al Corrado said the company was looking to strengthen its brand identity. Corrado wasnt kidding.
In September, the nursing and maternity bra manufacturer announced the restructuring of three newer product lines, shifting the focus from private labeling to branded products featuring the Leading Lady name. Explains Al, Our newer niche products, developed over the past five years, will benefit tremendously by adapting the Leading Lady name.
A return to yesteryear
Youve finally arrived: A nice four-bedroom home in Hunting Valley on five acres with a stellar view of the woods. So whatever happened to the allure of that original American home the log cabin? The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) recently undertook the task of remodeling a 200-year-old log cabin from Overton. The historic cabin was dismantled and shipped to a Texas company, which will restore it and ship it back in pieces later this year. Upon its return to Cleveland, the cabin will be reassembled at the I-X Center for display at the January NARI Home Improvement Show.
Its all in the ads ... but dont tell the editorial department
Nearly 96 percent of decision makers read advertising to learn about new technologies, products or equipment, according to a survey by Penton Research Services. The survey asked 1,200 executives, managers, purchasing agents and engineers whether advertising played a part in their decision making. Among other findings:
85 percent learn about new suppliers in their markets through ads;
81 percent read ads to stay current with their existing suppliers;
83 percent read ads to request product literature.
While the results back up the power of advertising, dont rush off to eliminate your editorial department. Few things top the power of editorial copy, which has the ability to delve deeper into subject matter than conventional ads. Well, at least we think so.
A breeding ground for innovation
Authors Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore, owners of Strategic Horizons LLP, are on the national speaking circuit. The two creativity integrators will be featured speakers at the Innovative Thinking Conference Feb. 8-9 at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Pine and Gilmore are part of a group that includes author Kurt Vonnegut and Harley-Davidson Motor Co. vice president of business development Clyde Fessler. The conference is designed as an educational resource for executives who want to develop their creativity and encourage innovation throughout their organizations. For more information, visit the conference Web site at www.itconference.com.
Another way to give back
Cohen & Company, a 1998 Pillar Award winner, continues to give back to the community that supports it. The Cleveland-based CPA firm in October founded the Cohen Community Foundation in the name of newly retired founding partner Ronald B. Cohen.
The foundation starts with $50,000. Contributions will be made to cultural, civic and other areas benefiting Northeast Ohio. Cohen & Co. has been an active donor of money, services and time to charitable organizations, and managing partner Randy Myeroff says the foundation will help ensure Cohen & Cos continued involvement.
Bank One and the U.S. Small Business Administration have launched Community Express in the Cleveland market, designed to provide lines of credit, term loans and commercial mortgages to small businesses which have difficulty obtaining traditional loans.
Community Express loans range from $15,000 to $250,000, significantly more than the maximum $150,000 provided by the SBNExpress program. One benefit is post-loan technical assistance. Five area nonprofit organizations, COSE, EDI, the Hispanic Business Association, MCAP and WECO, will participate. Turnaround time on applications is about 36 hours. For information, call (216) 781-4210.
And you think youve got competition
Staying on top in the information age is an increasingly difficult challenge, even for the monoliths of the business world. During his recent Northeast Ohio appearance, Cisco Systems Inc. President and CEO John Chambers provided his own take on the Internet revolution and how it will level the playing field for small companies.
Anyone doubting Cisco Systems has reason to worry about competitors might want to consider a few figures Chambers threw out to the lunchtime crowd. More than 40 percent of the venture capital in the U.S. is dumped into Silicon Valley. More than a third of that results in ne w companies that provide direct competition for Cisco Systems.
Tim LaGanke, the man who brought the Lube Stop 10-minute oil change to Cleveland, left it behind and returned to the industry only after finding a way to make the business more profitable, is at it again. His new company, Quick Change, opened its 13th Cleveland area location last month along Detroit Road in Sheffield Village.
The tiny modular oil-change facility, for which LaGanke holds a patent, will be squeezed in between a car wash and a BP gas station. It is the 31st modular oil change facility the construction side of Quick Change has installed either for itself or other companies in the past three years.
Before you dump money into that cant lose franchising opportunity, Cleveland-based Barnes Welding CPAs Inc. urges you to first invest some time in a reality check. Here are questions the firm says you should ask before signing:
- What distinguishes this franchise from the competition?
- Is the name or product unique enough to make it worth the franchise fee?
- Does the owner of the franchise create new programs and products that make the franchise royalty a worthwhile expense?
- Is the industry in a growth cycle?
- Is the business just a passing fad?
Reaping the benefit of the Browns
If theres any question about the benefit of shelling out the money necessary for a major sports sponsorship deal, consider the exposure National City received Sept. 9-12 as the Browns returned to Cleveland for the first regular season home game in three years.
NatCity Investments had its name tied to the NFL Experience a football-themed festival usually reserved for The Super Bowl which set up camp at Voinovich Park during opening weekend. Then, National Citys Armada Funds sponsored the 5K run as part of the kick-off festivities. National City also signed rookie quarterback Tim Couch to a three-year endorsement deal to promote the companys line of tie-in banking products.
100 years of labor
In honor of the last Labor Day of the century, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees asked a handful of experts in economic policy to rank the 10 most important labor moments of the century.
No. 7: The Fair Labor Standards Act (1938): The first federal minimum wage law for nonagricultural labor. Set a minimum wage of 25 cents, banned child labor in all businesses engaged in interstate commerce and provided for overtime compensation.
No. 4: General Motors sitdown strikes (1964): The strikes started with a sitdown job action by 50 workers at a Fischer Body Plant in Flint, Mich. an action that inspired similar strikes by 485,000 workers across North American in eight months. The Flint strike last 45 days, with strikers winning a five cent an hour raise and an agreement by GM management to rehire all strikers and recognize the union.
Number 1: Committee for Industrial Organizations founded (1935): Congress of Industrial Organizations was formed after the American Federation of Labor voted against organizing workers across trades in factories, continuing instead the traditional approach of organizing by craft or trade. It opened to door to what would become labors core constituency mass production workers.
Hill Flaherty Sabol and Carroll Advertising have merged their operations to form Flaherty Sabol Carroll. The new firm reports capitalized billings of approximately $12 million and 17 employees.
MSA PASS Inc. has received a contract to provide a Level 2 control system for a vacuum tank degasser at TAMSA, a Mexican steel plant located near Veracruz.
FastSigns on Banksville Road has opened a trade show display division, which it is calling Display World. The new division adds the Intex line of trade show booths along with the Fastsigns products.
U.S. Tool & Die Inc. is expanding its operations at Keystone Commons by leasing an additional 52,000 square feet, bringing its total floor space to 150,000 square feet by next February. The company employs 150 people at its facility, which manufactures spent nuclear fuel racks.
Pittsburgh Home Savings Bank is building a new banking facility in the Village of Pine, a planned town center project in Pine Township. The branch, Pittsburgh Home Savings 10th, will include a full-service office and three drive-up automated teller machines.
Stargate Industries has acquired InetONE, a Beckley, W.Va., Internet service provider. The purchase adds 9,000 subscribers to Stargate Industries roster in a five-county area.
VayooMall.com Corp. has launched an e-commerce Web site, www.vayoomall.com. The sites package of services will initially target the Indian community working in North America and eventually will expand to encompass international professionals working abroad.
Pellegrini Engineers, a consulting civil engineering firm with headquarters in Altoona, has opened a Pittsburgh office.
Small companies and health care
Maybe it’s because small business owners have to look at their employees every day. No one can be really sure, but recent numbers about employee health care costs are a bit startling.
Only 75 percent of employers with fewer than 250 employees require their workers to pay part of their health care coverage. Meanwhile, 94 percent of large companies with 2,500 or more employees require employees to pay part of their health care coverage. These figures were uncovered by Watson Wyatt’s 1998/99 ECS Survey Report on Employee Benefits.
Health care compensation blues
CEO pay packages at the nation’s largest publicly owned, for-profit health care companies remained flat in 1998, reflecting Wall Street’s continued skepticism of an industry troubled by a stunning drop in market value, according to a new study by William M. Mercer Inc.
From fiscal year 1997 to 1998, the median increase in total cash compensation, which includes base pay and bonuses, among health care CEOs was 5 percent, due largely to a median salary increase of 9 percent. However, total CEO pay packages at the largest health care companies actually declined due mainly to poor stock performance, but nevertheless a rare phenomenon in the world of executive compensation.
What drug abuse costs your company
If one of your employees is using on the job, it could be costing you as much as $10,000 each year. That comes from Cyndy Cook, director of marketing and sales for Clinical Health Laboratories Inc.
“In addition,” she says, “the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation discounts premiums from 6 to 20 percent for organizations that develop a drug screening program in support of a drug-free workplace.”
The best care everywhere
A research corporation announced that the Cleveland Clinic Foundation is one of the nation’s top 126 hospitals, according to the 1999 Consumer Choice Award winners. Hospital consumers selected the clinic as one of those having the highest quality and image in 101 markets throughout the United States.
This is the fourth year National Research Corporation (NRC) has bestowed awards on hospitals. NRC President and CEO Michael Hays said the company expanded winning criteria this year to reflect composite scores on multiple quality and image ratings provided by consumers in NRC’s annual Healthcare Market Guide Study. Of the 2,500 hospitals rated by consumers, the winning 126 rank highest in their Metropolitan Statistical Areas, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. The 1999 study surveyed more than 170,000 households representing more than 400,000 consumers in the contiguous 48 states and the District of Columbia.
Here’s to your health
According to Yahoo! News, Ohio’s Senate Finance Committee will recommend to the full Senate that the state’s share of the tobacco settlement be used for schools, research and health programs.
Some Republicans wanted to use the money for tax cuts. They claimed they had the votes to insert the tax cuts as an amendment to a bill being considered on how to divide the money. The amendment never surfaced, and Gov. Bob Taft’s aides say they do not expect it to be revived when the legislation reaches the Senate floor for a vote.
Mike Hargrove may have been dismissed from his high-profile position as manager of the Cleveland Indians, but Akron-based Fussy Cleaners isnt necessarily going to follow suit by dumping its commercial spokesperson, his wife, Sharon. At least not right away.
For the better part of the last year, Mrs. Hargrove has put her sassy West Texas twang to good use in radio and print ads for the chain, which has 18 locations in four Northeastern Ohio counties. In the radio spots, she can be heard singing the praises of her personal Fussy Cleaners delivery person, who dutifully and cheerily picks up and delivers the familys laundry to their house (in Strongsville), thus making her life easier in preparing for her husbands long road trips.
Fussys president and founder, John Baraona, met the former First Lady of Cleveland baseball at a meeting, where she spontaneously remarked how much she enjoyed Fussys service. That led to the relationship.
He says hes made no decision yet on whether shell remain a factor in the chains marketing mix for this next year, now that her husband has been hired by the Baltimore Orioles.
Our radio spots are going to continue to run until the current schedule is through, and then well go from there. This is long-term, institutional advertising, says Baraona, who has previously distinguished his company from the competition by running a series of restrained image ads on Clevelands public-television station WVIZ. She doesnt say, Come on in.
And, he hastens to points out, lest one mistakenly conclude that his choice of spokespeople is influenced by his interests as a fan: Sharon and I never talk about baseball. Ive never even met Mike.
So, now you know
According to Baker, Thomsen Associates Inc. which provides survey reports on median salaries if you live in Akron and you hold one of the following positions, you should be taking home an annual salary of ...
Director of Operations $73,789
Information Systems Manager $49,387
Purchasing Director $42,537
Public Relations Manager $40,095
Personnel Manager $40,019
Executive Assistant $31,497
Since these median salaries are those of entry-level positions, if youve been on the job for a while and your paycheck is below par, maybe you should talk to your boss. And if youre the CEO? Take it up with the board of directors. Source: www.salariesreview.com/freedata
Successful CEOs dont just remember their mistakes, they try not to repeat them.
But, as president and CEO of Davey Tree Expert Co. in Hudson a landscaping firm employing about 250 people in Akron and 6,000 nationwide Douglas Cowan says its hard for a CEO to let employees make their own mistakes.
Cowan says he made one of the biggest mistakes of his career by not firing a senior-level executive sooner.
Hed been here a long time, he wasnt doing the job that needed to be done, and we hung onto him too long to the point where somebody could have come in and made things run a lot better, a lot faster, Cowan explains. It also resulted in a loss of morale in the department.
The point is, Cowan says, How do you allow the next generation to make mistakes that arent going to kill you, and yet will allow them to learn and grow?
Crystal Mortgage Co.s nearly two year battle with the city of Amherst came to a close rather unremarkably as company CEO David Moore agreed to drop his civil suit against officials there. After spending $100,000 to fight a relatively inconsequential tax dispute with the city and running a campaign that successfully ousted city Law Director Allan Anderson from office, Moore agreed to call off the dogs in exchange for a simple public apology. With it, he proved that the pen is mightier than the sword.
Acquiring mind strikes again
Terrence Profughi doesnt know the meaning of the word standstill. The acquiring mind CEO of Hi TechMetal Group (profiled in SBNs August 1998 issue) purchased two more companies last month: IMT, of South Carolina, and Fusion Engineering Co., of Columbus. HTG is comprised of 22 strategic business units that have been started or acquired over the past 15 years. Under Profughis leadership, HTG has grown from $1.2 million in sales and 38 employees in 1984 to $55 million and 700 employees in 1999.
Knowledge is power
In a sign that Cleveland area businesses take software, hardware and the Internet seriously, six local organizations were the recipients of the first annual Cleveland-Area Knowledge Industry awards in November. TMW Systems Inc., PlanSoft Corp., Cleveland Live, Flashline.com Inc., Perritech, Lorain County Community College and Cuyahoga Community College were honored by the Northeast Ohio Software Association for their commitments to the emerging knowledge industry. For more information, visit NEOSAs Web site at www.neosa.org.
Ever wondered just how your companys salaries stack up in comparison to the average? Do you get the employees you want in this tight labor market or do prospects choose your competitors firm over yours? Two Web sites let you benchmark your employees paycheck against the going rate. Baker, Thomsen Associates (www.SalariesReview.com/freedata) and the ERI Economic Research Institute (www.erieri.com/doltrends) offer insight into competitive pay rates for more than 3,000 jobs defined by city, state, region, experience and job responsibilities. Be prepared for a surprise.
Working the niche
QuickChange, the 10-minute oil change chain Tim LaGanke has built over the past four years, grew by 50 percent last year, with similar growth anticipated this year. LaGanke, who formerly co-owned Lube Stop chain, plans to open another six oil-change shops by the end of 2000.
LaGanke targets secondary markets and installs his patented modular 10-minute oil change buildings on affordable, often unusable lots about the size of four parking spaces. In addition to 12 QuickChange stores in the Cleveland market, there are 18 others around the country, which are owned and operated by private investors.
Ameritech New Media strikes again
Northeast Ohio cable companies should be afraid, very afraid. After popping up to do battle in 11 local communities, Ameritech New Media the nations largest competitive cable company is introducing a new fiber optic service in Garfield Heights. Boasting a razor sharp picture, 99.9 percent reliability, an interactive television listings guide and 24-hour customer-care line, Ameritech New Media may quickly catch the attention of other city leaders hoping to breath a little life into their communities dusty cable packages.
Not fading away
For anyone still thinking the Linux operating system is going to be a passing fad, there are solid new numbers showing its popularity is on the rise. In a national survey by California-based RHIConsulting, 57 percent of chief information officers polled believe use of the Linux system will increase over the next three years. Three percent projected a decline. The survey polled 1,400 CIOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with more than 100 employees.
Ohio companies expect a dramatic increase in exports over the next five years, according to a joint study conducted by Xavier University and Cleveland State University, and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Of the business owners who responded, about two-thirds saw a substantial increase in exports over the past five years. Almost three-quarters expect an export volume increase of more than 50 percent.
The forecast is good news because it seems to be just the opposite of the national trend, according to Dr. William J. Lundstrom, Professor of Marketing at CSUs College of Business and a co-author of the report.
The U.S. has a growing trade deficit caused by the purchase of more goods and services imported to the U.S. than U.S.-made goods and services exported to other countries, Lundstrom told Global Vision, a publication of the World Trade Center Cleveland. The situation worsened rather than improved over the past several years.
For more information on the report, visit www.wtccleveland.org.
Join the revolution
Small Business Survival Committee a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization geared toward protecting the small business owner released a disturbing report on the local telephone industry and its unfair treatment of small companies even after the Telcom Act of 1996.
A thorough study of the current state of local telephone service leads to a simple conclusion: Even after the promises of the Telecom Act of 1996, the local telephone industry remains one of the most anti-competitive industries in America, says SBSC Chair Karen Kerrigan. With repeated attempts to gain access to local telephone customers being fought by Bell monopolies in practically every state, markets remain closed or difficult to penetrate.
The SBSC is trying to convince lawmakers that small businesses need more local telecommunication choices to compete against large corporations, since upgrades promised by providers, the report points out, have gone largely unfulfilled. To obtain a copy of the SBSC report on local phone competition, click on Whats New at www.sbsc.org.
Lamson & Sessions on the defense
A U.S. District Court judge in Illinois in November denied Cleveland-based Lamson & Sessions request to set aside a jurys decision to award Illinois-based Intermatic $12.5 million in damages in resolution of a patent infringement case. The court also ordered Lamson & Sessions to pay $1.5 million in prejudgment interest to Intermatic. The ruling came two months after a jurys ruling that Lamson & Sessions infringed on Intermatics patent for an outdoor electrical outlet cover.
Passing the bell to generation three
Jess A. Bell Jr., grandson of founder Jesse G. Bell, has been named chairman and CEO of Bonne Bell Inc., a Lakewood-based cosmetics and beauty aids manufacturer. Bell takes over from his father, Jess A. Bell, 74, who assumes the post of vice chairman of the 72-year old company.
We are now officially in the third generation, says Bell, whose innovative use of senior workers was profiled in SBNs April 1999 issue. Very few private family businesses make it to the third generation.
Hospitals get creative
Nine out of 10 of the 185 hospitals and other health care organizations surveyed by HR consultants William M. Mercer Inc. reported turnover among RNs was a problem. Organizations exceeding revenue of $500 million rated the problem as significant. Not terribly surprising, given todays tight labor market. The shortage has forced health care organizations to sweeten the pot to keep RNs on the payroll.
Increasing base pay was the most common approach and rated as very or somewhat effective by 96 percent of respondents. Pay raises are often excellent as a short-term solutions, but may be insufficient as a long-term approach unless employers also make other changes to the work, says Mercer pay expert Jose Paogoaga.
Continuing education was rated as very effective by 30 percent of health care organizations, while flexible scheduling and shifts was at 28 percent. Although it looks like showing employees the money may be the most dependable option, Pagoda says it is an issue that cant be avoided when an RN shortage means longer response times, a reduced capacity to treat patient or even errors.
At some point, these negative outcomes will have an effect on a hospitals bottom line, he says. It costs an organization one-and-half to two times annual salary to find and train a replacement for an employee who leaves.
Do-it-yourself business valuations
You want to know the value of your business, but dont want to hire a high-priced business consultant to do the work for you. Companies are cropping up with products allowing entrepreneurs to determine a value for their business in the comfort of their own homes. Colorado-based Innovative Professional Software Inc. offers a program to value your business for a mere $200. VALUware, a different business valuation program, is for sale at www.bizbookssoftware.com for $330. The only question seems to be whether any of these means of business valuation would hold water with the IRS.
Health care compensation blues
CEO pay packages at the nations largest publicly owned, for-profit health care companies remained flat in 1998, reflecting Wall Streets continued skepticism of an industry troubled by a stunning drop in market value, according to a new study by William M. Mercer Inc.
From fiscal year 1997 to 1998, the median increase in total cash compensation, which includes base pay and bonuses, among health care CEOs was 5 percent, due largely to a median salary increase of 9 percent. However, total CEO pay packages at the largest health care companies declined due mainly to poor stock performance but nevertheless a rare phenomenon in the world of executive compensation.
A lesson in self-promotion
A survey at Chicagos OHare and Dallas/Ft. Worth International airports found 72 percent of business travelers were carrying at least one promotional product imprinted with a companys name, logo or message. Even more incredible was the fact that 77 percent of those polled said they used the promotional product once a day. Pens and pencils topped the list of favorites, followed by clothing. But, before you go rushing out to buy those fleece pullovers bearing your companys logo, consider that the Promotional Products Association International conducted the survey.
Ever wanted to find a batch of new clients just like the ones you already have? InfoUSA.com, a widely popular business-to-business Web site, is offering a Customer Analyzer that helps find new prospects free of charge.
(It) takes the mystery and guesswork out of prospecting for new customers, says Bill Chase, CEO and president of InfoUSA.com. It answers the age-old question: How do I find really good sales leads for my business?
Web site visitors are asked to supply the phone numbers of existing customers and click a specific geographic area to build the profile of new customers. The user can then search, sort and print the results. The list of prospects includes contact names, fax numbers and credit ratings. Impressive results for a few minutes of work.
Another chunk of medal for the collection
Clevelands youngest microbrewery, Western Reserve Brewing, added another national medal to its quickly growing collection a silver at the Great American Beer Festival in the category of Belgian & French Style Specialty Ales for its Cloud Nine beer. More than 400 breweries from around the nation competed in the festival. The beer joins other Western Reserve winners American Wheat Beer, Amber Ale, Nut Brown Ale and the seasonal Lake Effect Winter Ale.
Small companies and health care
Maybe its because small business owners have to look at
their employees every day, but recent numbers about employee health care costs are a bit startling.
Only 75 percent of employers with fewer than 250 employees require their workers to pay part of their health care coverage. Meanwhile, 94 percent of large companies with 2,500 or more employees require employees to pay part of their health care coverage, according to Watson Wyatts 1998/99 ECS Survey Report on Employee Benefits.
What drug abuse costs your company
If one of your employees is using on the job, it could be costing you as much as $10,000 each year. That comes from Cyndy Cook, director of marketing and sales for Clinical Health Laboratories Inc.
In addition, she says, the Bureau of Workers Compensation discounts premiums from 6 to 20 percent for organizations that develop a drug screening program in support of a drug-free workplace.
The best care everywhere
A research corporation announced that the Cleveland Clinic Foundation is one of the nations top 126 hospitals, according to the 1999 Consumer Choice Award winners. Hospital consumers selected the clinic as one of those having the highest quality and image in 101 markets throughout the United States.
This is the fourth year National Research Corporation (NRC) has bestowed awards on hospitals. NRC President and CEO Michael Hays says the company expanded winning criteria this year to reflect composite scores on multiple quality and image ratings provided by consumers in NRCs annual Healthcare Market Guide Study. Of the 2,500 hospitals rated by consumers, the winning 126 rank highest in their Metropolitan Statistical Areas, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The 1999 study surveyed more than 170,000 households representing more than 400,000 consumers in the contiguous 48 states and the District of Columbia.
TV delivered over the Internet will create a new tier of niche content. Short videos on PCs will be commonplace by 2002; digital set-top box users will spend 10 percent of their TV time on Net video by 2004, according to Nua Internet Surveys.
Plenty of coal left for Christmas
A new report from the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions finds that despite a 9 percent growth in the economy during 1997 and 1998, energy consumption dropped more than it has in 50 years.
A major contributing factor is the information economy and the efficiency afforded by the Internet. Whereas traditionally global economic growth was synonymous with massive increases in energy consumption, the dawning of the technological era could mean this is no longer valid.
Because the Internet uses existing communications infrastructure, it is consuming a minute amount of energy compared to other industry sectors. The report finds that this is set to continue, and by the year 2007, the Internet will have contributed to previously inconceivable reductions in the worlds consumption of energy. Source: Nua Internet Surveys.
Here come the French
French users spent an average of three hours on the Internet in October, while British surfers spent four and Germans, about five. The average American home user is on the Internet for about five and a half hours each month. When work-related use is taken into account, this rises to about eight hours per month, according to a report from MMXI Europe BV.
According to a study by Forrester Research, 64 percent of Asian-American homes are linked to the Internet, twice the U.S. national average. Asian-American families also have a higher than average household income and spend more online than any other racial group in the United States.
Bank hold-ups rising
One in five users are likely to abandon setting up a new online banking account because of time-consuming red tape and complicated deposit procedures, according to a survey published by Frederick Schneiders Research.
Some companies in the financial services sector reported that up to 80 percent of those who began to open an account online did not complete the process. Despite this, 80 percent of U.S. consumers who use online banking services prefer them to traditional banks.
Free to a good home
The number of U.S. Internet users with free ISP accounts is expected to escalate to 13 million by the year 2003, according to research from Jupiter Communications.
Almost 13 percent of the ISP consumer market will use a free service as their primary service. While this will not threaten the subscription-based model, it will introduce flexible options. As most Internet users worry less about cost than they do about fast downloading and reliability, free ISPs are viewed as more of a niche market than serious competition for existing ISPs in the U.S. According to Jupiter, free ISPs will have to offer advertisers a sharply-defined user base as they are only expected to garner $901 million, or 8 percent, of total online advertising spending by 2003.
How to speak Australian: rip-off
According to Telstra, Australias largest telecommunications company, Internet access rates in the Asia-Pacific region are higher than average because users are forced to subsidize American Internet users. While Australian ISPs have to pay to access U.S. Internet backbone providers, there are no reciprocal charges imposed on U.S. ISPs for access to Australian services. Essentially, Australian users pay to access U.S. Web sites while U.S. users get free access to Australian sites.
Competitive Media Reporting announced that new media companies accounted for $775 million in advertising in the first half of last year, a threefold increase over 1998 figures for the same period. Meanwhile, a report from Zenith Media finds that the number of e-commerce companies wishing to use traditional advertising to push their wares has fueled global ad spending beyond expectations.
In Silicon Valley, online retailers were responsible for 17 percent of spending on radio ads and 11 percent of outdoor advertising in the first half of last year. Source: Nua Internet Surveys.
Someone has to eat crumpets
A survey conducted by Cranfield Management in conjunction with Microsoft finds that 73 percent of British executives do not believe technology is strategic to the growth of their business. The survey found that, on average, British directors allocate 8 percent of their time to the needs of their customers. This despite the fact that consumer power is growing exponentially as a result of the Web.
Who needs it?
New research from Cyber Dialogue finds that the rate of Internet uptake in the United States has slowed considerably, reflecting the gradual maturing of the market in the U.S. As a result, online marketers must invest heavily in customer relationship management and customer retention schemes.
The drop in pace is not a result of seasonal aberration; rather it is because of three major constraints, according to Cyber Dialogue. The most consistent is the so-called digital divide, those adults who cannot afford to own a PC or pay for Internet access.
Second, one-third of U.S. adults believe they have no need for the Internet and have no intention of getting online. Third, a significant number of U.S. adults have tried the Internet and found they have no use for it they number 27.7 million, up from 9.4 million in 1997.
The servers are on, but nobody is home
A new report from Jupiter Communications finds that despite the critical need for more substantial customer support, the number of e-mail queries being answered is decreasing.
The survey sent customer inquiries to the top 125 Web sites in the retail, travel, content, financial services and consumer brand sectors and found that customer service failure rates are higher than last year. Only 37 percent of companies surveyed have integrated three or more customer service channels on their Web sites.
While half of shopping sites responded within a day and 40 percent of travel sites responded in one day, shopping sites demonstrated a 40 percent failure rate, up from 28 percent last year, while travel sites had a 48 percent failure rate, up from 38 percent.
Just under half of all Web sites tested, 46 percent, did not respond for five days or more, did not respond at all or did not have contact details on their site for customer queries. In the same survey last year, this figure was 38 percent.
According to Jupiter, the most frequently trafficked sites have to process upwards of 50,000 transactions per day and many are finding that fulfillment of these orders is stretching customer service resources.
The latest figures from Nielsen/NetRatings show that computer hardware sites and automobile sites are the most popular shopping destination sites for adult males over the age of 18.
The top shopping sites for adult males were Egghead.com, Onsale.com, Dell.com, Buy.com, Compaq.com, Mcafree.com, Gateway.com, hp.com, Autotrader.com and Autoweb.com.
Yahoo! sales are through the roof!
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year in the United States, shopping transactions on Yahoo! were up 400 percent over the same day last year.
AOL announced that spending at the site during Thanksgiving week nearly tripled over the same week last year. Four million AOL members bought online last week and almost 600,000 of those were purchasing on the Internet for the first time. Toys, clothing, flowers and sporting goods were the products most favored by customers.
Companies hosting large Internet retail operations are experiencing a doubling of traffic every four to five months, with more than 6 gigabits of information sent per second during peak times, compared to 2-3 gigabits this time last year.
Many retail sites are experiencing site outages as a result of the unexpectedly heavy traffic. Customers are having difficulties logging into toy retailer sites and some companies are offering discount vouchers to appease disappointed visitors. Source: Reuters
Do you take Diners Club?
Twice as many U.S. adults used credit cards to buy products and services online in 1999 than did in 1998, according to research from Cyber Dialogue. While 9.3 million people used their credit cards to buy on the Internet in 1998, that has soared to 19.2 million. In 1997, 4.9 million people purchased online.
Almost 70 percent of respondents used Visa to complete their online transactions. One-third used MasterCard; 12 percent, American Express; and 8 percent, Discover.
Visa leads the field in terms of the total value of online transactions, but the survey showed that MasterCard and American Express have a higher share of dollars spent, partly because these cards are often used for higher value transactions, such as the purchase of travel tickets, online.
Targeted at small businesses and accessible from anywhere through a standard Web browser, Formsplanet.com hosts a catalogue of virtual business forms that can be customized, filled, issued and archived directly from the Web site. Far beyond paper replacement, this application service provider hosts efficient e-document technology to enable small offices/home offices to establish a more professional corporate identity without the expense of paper stationery, specialty software and server infrastructure.
Partners such as Entrust Technologies Inc. and Corel Corp. are working with Formsplanet.com to ensure that all types of documents, from invoices to time sheets to proposals, can be custom branded and stored securely in virtual file cabinets as they have never been before.
To visually enhance and customize business stationery, Formsplanet.com visitors can select from 1,000 professional-quality clip art images from Graphic Corp, a division of Corel Corporation and the worlds largest supplier of digital content.
Clueless in telecom
In a survey of 12 North American wireless carriers, Forrester Research found that 83 percent have not addressed the need for new business models and pricing structures for mobile e-commerce.
Carriers have it all wrong, said Mark Zohar, senior analyst with Forrester. The study, The Dawn of Mobile eCommerce, advised businesses aiming to compete in the wireless market to focus on developing new business models for mobile e-commerce and to review existing partnerships and pricing models.
According to Forrester, carriers investing in third generation wireless systems must look at what structures they need to put in place to deliver relevant, personalized locationbased services on thin mobile applications.
To provide the services that consumers expect, carriers need to improve their data transfer capabilities. Existing cellular networks and infrastructures need to be upgraded, and this could cost billions of dollars, according to Forrester.
The group expects business users to be among the first mobile e-commerce consumers and advises mobile service providers to partner with small device manufacturers and develop travel-oriented content to retain early users.
Talking shop with my PC
Online retailers who have not invested in customer service could end up losing $3.2 billion in sales this year, according to a report from Datamonitor. Last year retailers with no customer service support lost up to $1.6 billion in sales.
A report from Datamonitor advises businesses to invest more in customer support and less in trying to garner new clients. Rather than spend exorbitant amounts of money on
marketing and advertising, these companies should start investing in live customer service.
As the list of excuses for substandard performance on e-commerce sites this year decreases the technology is there and mistakes made last year should not be made this year retailers are hoping to turn new shoppers into loyal shoppers this season.
Datamonitor advises retailers to invest in providing live customer support in the form of instant messaging, call centers or IRC technology. Less than 1 percent of sites have live support and Datamonitor says that 10 percent of sales lost could have been saved by contact with a person.
The research company projects that by 2003, 40 percent of companies will provide multimedia customer support.
Experiencing an illness, such as the flu, causes psychological stress that can make people feel mildly depressed. It can also trigger depression in those who are prone to it.
If someone is already depressed, that person is less likely to take care of themselves, such as getting a flu vaccine, said Dr. Toby Goldsmith, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Florida. Like any stress, the stress associated with being ill, such as missing work, may trigger depression in someone who is prone to depression.
Goldsmith said a study shows those who are chronically stressed do not respond to the flu vaccine as well as others, and may be more vulnerable to the flu.
Warning signs can indicate if you are heading down a slippery slope toward being overstressed and include not sleeping well, fatigue and avoiding your usual day-to-day activities, such as watching television and eating.
If you are not back to your normal routine one month after having the flu, Goldsmith recommends talking with your physician to make sure something else might not be causing your symptoms. Source: Dr.Koop.com
A recent study by Canadian scientists showed that highly stressed heart patients did not respond as well as others to medication for angina and chest pain. The American Heart Association says patients with heart failure should take steps to reduce and manage stress to reduce strain on their hearts.
Of stress management in general, though, the American Heart Association (AHA) says that the available data do not yet support specific recommendations for its use as a proven [prevention or treatment] for heart disease.
How you cope with stressful situations may make a difference, especially if you habitually react to stress in ways that feed physically harmful emotions such as chronic hostility. Stress management is not about avoiding stress but, rather, learning to manage its recurring effects.
Everyone who drives gets cut off in traffic now and then and gets a burst of adrenaline produced by fear or anger. Some people can quickly relax and return to a normal physical state. Others stew about the incident, and make things worse by discussing it with others who share their hostility and feed it with stories of their own.
In heart failure, the heart muscle is weakened and the patient needs to take care not to make it work harder than necessary. Its important to reduce physical symptoms of stress a pounding heart and heavy breathing as much as possible. Though avoiding all stress may be impossible, you may be able to adjust your activities to avoid stress triggers such as rush-hour traffic or long hours at work. Source: Lifescape.com
While cigarette smoking has been well established as a major cause of heart disease and stroke, some studies have suggested that its harmful effects are muted in smokers with low cholesterol levels.
Now, a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that cigarette smoking significantly increases the risk of these diseases even in low-cholesterol populations.
Look in the bottom drawer
Dont skip meals. Eat a variety of foods every four or five hours. Keep snacks such as power bars, trail mix or dried fruits handy to fill in when time doesnt permit a real meal.
For some people, asthma is a minor annoyance just a cough or two after they run. For others, its a life-threatening condition they live with every day. The number of cases is on the rise more than 17 million people in the U.S. have the disease, an increase of more than 75 percent since 1980. As the number of patients has risen, so have the larger consequences of the disease.
Today, asthma is one of the top reasons for hospitalization of children, causing kids to miss more than 10 million school days a year and adults to miss 3 million days at work. It is responsible for more than 10 million doctor visits a year and will be responsible for more than 5,600 deaths this year, more than twice as many as 20 years ago.
Smoke is not a nutrient
Secondhand smoke, also called passive smoking, can have terrible effects on kids. Children who are exposed to smoke have more ear infections, asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and a respiratory virus called RSV than children of nonsmokers. Children exposed to smoke have lower lung capacity and slower lung development than unexposed children, says Dr. Nancy Snyderman.
Over the long term, these kids are at increased risk of developing lung cancer and other conditions associated with smoking and stand a much greater chance of becoming smokers themselves.
Many parents may be unwilling or unable to quit smoking. But if they understand the dangers to their child, they may at least be willing to stop smoking around their children and inside the home.
The piercing truth
The American Dental Association doesnt sugarcoat its opposition to oral piercing, which it deems a public health hazard. In fact, oral piercing would be obsolete if the decision rested solely in the hands of the ADA, according to Dr. Gary C. Armitage, a dentist and chairman of the ADAs Council on Scientific Affairs.
That the topic had a place on the agenda of the groups 139th annual session, held recently in pierce-happy San Francisco, says a mouthful about the widespread popularity of the practice, even among folks who floss every day. Oral piercing can result in a number of adverse oral and systemic conditions, according to the ADA.
Common symptoms after piercing include pain, swelling, infection, increased salivary flow and gum injury. In addition to the risk of infection, which is especially high due to the vast amounts of bacteria in the mouth, problems include airway obstruction after swallowing jewelry, prolonged bleeding, chipped or cracked teeth after biting jewelry, scar tissue, speech impediment and interference with X-rays.
The ADA joins other venerable medical institutions and organizations that have seen fit to address a wide range of concerns about puncturing body parts, including but by no means limited to ears, eyes, mouths and noses, as well as necks, nipples, navels and sundry genitalia.
The American Academy of Dermatology has taken a position against all forms of body piercing with one exception: the ear lobe. Skin specialists cited nickel allergies, cyst formations, chronic local infections and granulation tissue (fleshy bumps that form during the healing process of some wounds) as reasons not to pierce.
The ear lobe has been singled out because it's made of fibro-fatty tissue and has a good blood supply, which is crucial in case infection sets in, says Dr. Ronald Wheeland, a Santa Fe dermatologist. The piercing sites deemed especially problematic by the academy involve cartilage which, once infected, can whither and shrink because of a paltry blood supply, and complex tissue structures such as the nipples, which are more than simple skin and fatty layers.
The uncomplicated navel, although it has no ducts like the nipple or cartilage like the nose, has not received the same tacit approval from the academy as the ear lobe. However, individual doctors seem not to be as concerned about piercing the umbilicus as they are about other body parts.
As a precaution against the transmission of blood-borne diseases, the U.S. and Canadian Red Cross wont accept blood donations from anyone who has had a body piercing or tattoo within a year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have deemed nonsterile piercing a serious health risk.
Although HIV transmission is a theoretical possibility the virus that causes AIDS dies at room temperature hepatitis is the real worry. Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted in as little as 0.00004 milliliter of blood and can survive on blood-contaminated surfaces, such as instruments and doorknobs.
Cancer or clueless?
An estimated 4 to 6 percent of a doctors patients are considered hypochondriacs, says Dr. Brian Fallon, an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York and co-author of Phantom Illness: Shattering the Myths of Hypochondria.
For them, a headache is not caused by stress, but a brain tumor. Fatigue is not attributable to a poor nights sleep, but AIDS. In a desperate quest to reassure themselves, they may visit doctor after doctor. Even after tests rule out a particular disease, they feel little relief.
The new wonder drug.
A recent study suggests that vitamin C may actually help people with hypertension, or high blood pressure.
A report in a recent issue of the Lancet, an international medical journal published in Britain, presents the results of a small trial of vitamin C as a treatment for high blood pressure. Researchers from the Boston University Medical School and Oregon State University studied the effect of daily 500-milligram doses of vitamin C on the blood pressure of 39 people with high blood pressure.
The study subjects included 20 women and 19 men who were approximately 48 years old. At the beginning of treatment, their systolic blood pressure, measured when the heart contracts to pump blood, averaged 155 millimeters of mercury. Their diastolic pressure, measured between heart contractions, was about 87 millimeters of mercury. A person is considered hypertensive if his or her systolic pressure is greater than 140 millimeters and diastolic pressure is greater than 90 millimeters.
Patients were randomly assigned to receive either the daily dose of vitamin C or a placebo. Neither the researchers nor the subjects knew which pills were given to which patient.
Subjects took the pills for one month, after which their blood pressure and vitamin C blood levels were measured. As expected, vitamin C supplementation significantly increased the vitamins blood levels. In addition, there was a significant decrease of 13 millimeters of mercury in the systolic pressure of subjects taking vitamin C. Those who received vitamin C also had a small decrease in their diastolic blood pressure, but this decrease was not statistically significant. The greater the change in the blood level of vitamin C, the greater the decrease in blood pressure.
How about a friendly wager?
The following signs and symptoms indicate compulsive gambling:
- increasing the frequency and the amount of money gambled;
- spending the majority of free time thinking about gambling;
- spending an excessive amount of time gambling at the expense of personal or family time;
- being preoccupied with gambling or with obtaining money with which to gamble;
- feeling a sense of euphoria, an aroused sense of action or a high from gambling;
- continuing to gamble despite negative consequences such as large losses, or work or family problems;
- gambling as a means to cope with uncomfortable feelings;
- chasing, or the urgent need to keep gambling, often with larger bets or greater risks to make up for losses;
- borrowing money to gamble, taking out secret loans or maximizing credit cards;
- bragging about wins but not talking about losses;
- frequent mood swings higher when winning, lower when losing;
- gambling for longer periods of time with more money than originally planned;
- lying or secretive behavior to cover up extent of gambling. Source: Drkoop.com.
When Jamie Cain founded her Akron computer firm in 1995, she wanted to convey her companys mission in her business name. So she went to great lengths to secure the identity that Internet companies are now clamoring to call their own.
If youve driven near the intersection of Arlington Road and I-77, youve likely seen her buildings 50-foot-high, 10 feet by 16 feet sign touting the company name: Dot.Com Technologies Inc.
Were a computer consulting company that does all the really complicated stuff in back-end Internet development, so I picked out Dot.Com Technologies and acquired first-use rights on April 4, 1995. But today, its an ongoing battle with other companies trying to say theyre Dot.Com, she says, explaining that although the trademark remains unassigned, her attorney assures her that its her baby, due to her first-rights claim.
Unfortunately, Cain was too late to seize the same moniker for her Web site. So she settled for DTIServices.com. On the up side, she says the business name has boosted the value of her company.
When a patient recently attempted to schedule minor surgery recommended by her doctor, the appointment clerk expressed surprise that the procedure was being scheduled before the insurance company approved payment. The patient was, in turn, amazed that anyone would wait to see what insurance would pay or even care if it did.
Hugh McLaughlin, D.O., of Cuyahoga Falls Family Practice, explains that managed care insurance has changed everything.
Its a whole different scene than five years ago. Today, many patients get so frustrated because their insurance wont pay for certain procedures, and if its not covered, theyll go without the procedure even though they know their medical condition will worsen.
But theres a twist, says McLaughlin.
Often, these are the same patients who will argue about a $10 co-pay and show up in my office three months later with a $6,000 breast implant paid for out of pocket!
Personal calls on company time?
Why would a business owner enlist the help of a private investigator?
Besides rounding up the usual suspects in cases such as embezzlement and missing inventory, Design Safety Investigations Inc. in Fairlawn gets some strange calls from CEOs. Company president Joe Forgach and his partner Andy Kasarda recently closed a case that involved some very personal calls on company time.
Alarmed at outrageous charges on his firms monthly telephone bills, a CEO asked Forgach to solve the mystery.
It sounded like someone was going to porno sites on the Internet and billing it through the Internet Service Provider. Turned out, an employee was disconnecting the computer from its dedicated service line and putting a phone in its place to make calls to a porno establishment, Forgach reveals.
Rather than providing a credit card number to pay the 900 number fees, the employee had the charges reversed.
Who says making a buck is a bad thing? Certainly not Jack Shoykhet, president and CEO of Gov24.com. That didnt always ring true, however. During a Jones Day Reavis & Pogue e-commerce program recently, Shoykhet told the crowd, In the city where I came from, the word profit was illegal. I love capitalism.
Program sponsors Conley Canitano & Associates certainly agreed. Dont we all?
The Employers Resource Council of Northeast Ohio has announced that businesses utilizing its online Travel Center to make airline reservations will not be charged the reservation transaction fee which is typical in the travel industry. The fee generally ranges between $10 and $25 per ticket. ERC members employees are also eligible to access the ERC site (www.wercnet.org) and make their leisure reservations online. The site features a full spectrum of HR and workplace information, services and benefits.
Who needs the Super Bowl?
Its become standard, if a little risky, for Internet start-ups to blow their entire marketing budget on a 30-second Super Bowl commercial. But a Cleveland company proves you dont need a lot of flash to get recognized. 1-Jobs.com, an Independence-based high-tech recruiting Web site, was ranked by PCWeek Online as the seventh-best site for those looking for high-tech workers. That places 1-Jobs smack dab between HotJobs.com and Monster.com, two operations that blew a bundle on Super Bowl advertising. Sometimes its not who knows you, but how good you really are.
Modern day wisdom
Business owners seeking their fortunes on the Net may be wise to listen to the voice of someone whos been there. Todd McCormack, CEO of TWI Interactive, an independent subsidiary of Trans World International, reminds entrepreneurs: E is just one letter of nine letters in e-commerce. McCormack spoke at the Jones/Day e-commerce program. McCormack also took a poke at the tech industrys biggest fish: I cant believe how rich Bill Gates will be when his products actually work.
Self-employed on the Net
The number of self-employed Americans with Internet access has doubled in just two years, according to a survey of members of the National Association for the Self-Employed. More than 68 percent of those responding report they connect to the Internet at home or at work. A closer look reveals 39.7 percent access the Net at home and work, 20 percent at home only and 8.6 percent at work only. And for those wondering how much time those eyeballs spend in front of a computer, they average eight hours per week online.
Whats in a name?
Northeast Ohio is losing one of its best company names. Mozes Cleveland & Co., a Web development company specializing in intranet, extranet and Internet solutions, has merged with Quest4mation, an information services company specializing in consulting and electronic commerce. The new venture will do business as Digital Day. Its certainly a modern sounding moniker, appropriate given the service it provides. But we cant help but shed a tear as we reflect on our citys past and the man whose name we bear so proudly.
A high-tech venture
National City Corp. and Cuyahoga Community College have formed an alliance designed to bring high-tech jobs to Northeast Ohio residents. The venture calls for National City to fund the establishment of Techno Venture, a series of super camps on Tri-Cs three campuses. The camps will train 350 students, grades 9-12, in the computer technology necessary to become professionally certified for high-tech jobs. The alliance also provides National City with access to the colleges students for part- and full-time employees.
Its good to be a woman
The U.S. Small Business Administration has nearly tripled both the number and dollar value of approved loans to women entrepreneurs since fiscal year 1992. According to the SBA, there are 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States, which account for 40 percent of all business. These ventures employ 27.5 million people and account for $3.6 trillion in sales. And women are starting new firms at twice the rate of all other businesses.
Not so elementary
Canton-based Diebold Inc. used the recent CeBit 2000 technology trade fair in Hanover, Germany, to unveil its new Watson technology. The revolutionary ATM-like kiosks adjust to a users physical traits and consumer tastes using a mix of biometric technology and the Internet.
The result is a personalized experience that could one day make your corner ATM about as cutting edge as a rotary telephone. The Watson system identifies consumers as they approach the terminal, eliminating the need for a personal identification number. By accessing pre-registered information, the machine automatically adjusts to a consumers physical needs.
The interface also allows access to items of personal interest, such as customized stock reports and movie listings via an Internet connection. Meanwhile, the units color laser printer allows for the creation of hard copies to take with you. With technology like this at our doorstep, can those Jetsons-style TV phones be far behind?
Innovation for sale
When it comes to developing new products, a recent study shows Americas fastest growing companies acquire intellectual properties from others to gain a competitive edge. PricewaterhouseCoopers interviewed 449 CEOs of companies identified by the media as Americas fastest growing. It found 49 percent of those CEOs license technologies or intellectual assets from others, while 27 percent are involved in joint ventures and 15 percent invest in smaller, independent businesses as an extension of their research and development.
Ironically, only half the businesses surveyed have a formal process for identifying and managing their own intellectual property assets. Consequently, only about one in four that hold IP assets end up licensing them to others.
Trade shows make the cut
Dont worry about the Internet replacing the traditional industry trade show any time soon. In a survey of 250 business executives conducted by Chicago-based Incomm Center for Research and Sales Training, 91 percent believed the traditional industry trade show would survive the information age.
When asked why they believed the Internet would not send the traditional exposition the way of the dinosaurs, 55 percent pointed to the networking opportunities provided by such events; 35 percent said the hands-on ability to see and discuss a service or product is hard to replicate online; and 10 percent said questions are answered better when visiting an exhibit in person.
Counting their blessings
On April 8, a dozen Cleveland area clergy representing a wide variety of faiths and spiritual beliefs blessed Western Reserve Brewery Co. Gavin Smith, CEO of the award-winning brewery in Midtown Cleveland at 4130 Commerce Ave., says there is a considerable body of historical precedent for the intertwining of beer brewing and religion, and the idea of blessing the Western Reserve Brewing Co. had been bouncing around in his head for awhile.
This is something weve always planned to do, and for some unknown reason, weve just never gotten around to it, he says.
EDR Media strikes Olympic gold
When marketing specialists at Clevelands world renowned International Management Group needed a cutting-edge presentation to sell sponsorships for the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City and the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, they turned to Beachwood-based EDR Media. The company responded with a top quality sight and sound DVD showcasing great Olympic moments for IMG marketing specialists to take with them on the road.
Cliff Hughes, director-interactive media for EDR Media, says the big-name sponsors IMG is seeking required an impressive, yet portable presentation. Given the stature and significance of the Olympics and the high profile of IMGs target audience of upper level corporate management, they wanted the quality of the presentation to make a strong statement about the quality of the sponsorship, he explains. The fidelity of the audio and the resolution of the video on DVD really sets this presentation apart, and it can easily be played on a laptop computer.
Olympic gold part II
Beachwoods Allen Telecom Inc. will make sure every cellular phone at Sydneys Olympic Park works properly during this years summer games. The company is deploying technology that allows the use of a large number of cellular phones in the same area without excessive interference. Olympics officials worried that the massive popularity of cellular phones in Australia may create problems for the main Olympic venue, expected to draw up to 500,000 visitors a day, especially as people call family and friends to share the excitement of the occasion.
Walking the tightrope
Owners of small and medium-sized businesses say their top goals are achieving significant personal wealth and making time for family, according to a survey by Chicago-based George S. May International Co. That may not be terribly earth-shattering, but the 75-year-old business management consulting firm reports that now, more than ever, business executives think they can achieve both of these goals. Seventy percent of those surveyed reported they have established or are working on a business plan that includes the integration of time-saving procedures that will help them with this delicate balance of work and family.
American business decision-makers are consciously saying they want and know how to have their cake and eat it, too, says Donald Fletcher, president of George S. May International. Before this current age of telecommuting and mommy tracks, you had to choose between fortune and family. Now, it is possible to achieve a work/life balance but it requires planning.
Rudy Socha, the president of Lorain-based WildlifeCollectibles.com, recently sent out 15,000 customer surveys to members of her Dolphin Whale & Shark gift store in an attempt to assemble a profile of her average customer. Thirty-six hours after sending out the surveys via e-mail, she received 223 responses and discovered some interesting information about her customers online habits:
- Eighty-one percent of the shoppers who responded to the WildlifeCollectibles.com survey were women.
- Sixty-five percent visited between one and three new e-commerce Web sites a week.
- Customers made an average of 11.1 online purchases a year and reported an average of 7.4 purchases a year from traditional catalogs.
- Forty-four percent of shoppers spend between $21 and $30 when buying a gift on the site for a non-immediate family member. Thirty-three percent spend less than $20, while 13 percent spend between $31 and $50.
Gov. Bob Taft honored Solon-based Keithley Instruments Inc. last month as the 2000 recipient of the Thomas Edison Award Recognizing Global Leadership in Technology. A Sept. 13 ceremony and reception was held at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus.
It's been a pretty solid year for company Chairman and CEO Joseph Keithley. His company's stock has performed better than ever over the past 12 months. Meanwhile, the high-tech measuring device firm was also recognized Sept. 7 at the SBN Innovation in Business awards and took top honors in the technology category of Ernst & Young's "Entrepreneur Of The Year" contest last summer.
OfficeMax Inc. and Arthur Andersen Virtual Learning Network have teamed to offer online learning and educational resources to small- and mid-sized businesses through Officemax.com. The companies said the online service will launch later this month and will initially offer more than 100 Web-based courses and two custom CD-ROM courses.
"Our core customer is the small business with less than 100 employees," said Ryan Vero, OfficeMax's head of e-commerce. "VLN will provide our customers convenient and cost effective access to online training." Officemax.com recently conducted an online customer survey to find out what services are most desired. The top-rated request was access to online training programs.
Saving for a rainy day?
A decline in national saving in the United States may negatively impact both the growth of the U.S. economy and the living standards of future retirees, according to Jagadeesh Gokhale, an economic adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. He notes in a recent article that the strong performance of the U.S. economy during the past five years is often attributed to robust growth in private consumption.
But, he points out that greater consumption also means lower savings and fewer resources available for investment. This savings decline doesn't bode well for the living standards of future retirees, since the consumption usually reserved for the retirement years is being eaten up by many people during their earning years. Gokhale's solution: think about saving more money and be aware of the gap between actual savings and what you will need to maintain your lifestyle in your golden years.
If you're looking for practical, authoritative human resources information and tools, CCH Inc. believes it has just what you're looking for in its new Web site, http://hr.cch.com. A source of employment and human resources law and compliance information for more than 60 years, CCH has created what it believes to be a one-stop, complete Web resource.
"Whatever the HR professional needs, CCH is delivering it with authority to the desktop at http://hr.cch.com," said CCH Health and Human Resources publisher Jim Gallas. Well, then, how about delivering a bunch of qualified workers looking for jobs?
New York state of mind
Even if the New York City hotel where you want to stay is telling you it's booked solid, a Connecticut-based Internet company wants to hook you up with a room at a discounted price. Www.hotres.com, has access to guaranteed blocks of rooms at 30 of the most popular motels in the heart of Midtown Manhattan and can confirm your reservation over the Internet even when the clerk at the front desk tells you there are no available rooms. Meanwhile, you'll probably even get a bit of a price break by using the service to make your reservations.
The site also caters to the newbie N.Y.C. tourist with a repository of maps and information that can help even the most clueless visitors find their way around town.
If your employees no longer work a traditional 9-to-5 workday, your company's not alone. According to a recent survey by Management Recruiters International Inc., 61 percent of more than 3,500 executives polled predict the 9-to-5 workday will disappear within the next 10 years.
The survey revealed that changing workplace trends -- telecommuting, working from home and even working while on vacation -- have relaxed business owners' demands for traditional work hours. It's a reflection, they say, of changing lifestyles and a greater emphasis on a healthy work/life balance.
Have you heard ...
Still on the fence about whether those in-store demonstrations help push your product? Consider this: A nationwide survey of pet owners conducted by the Pat Henry Group found that nine out of 10 respondents first heard about the product being demonstrated at a store demonstration, either the day they were surveyed (80.4 percent) or at a prior store demonstration (8.8 percent).
It seems like there are more company name changes today than ever before. The most common are from longer names to shorter, more descriptive and catchier monikers. Temporarily Yours Placement Services has joined the ranks of the transformed. The full-service employment agency recently adopted a new name -- Employworks -- to better describe its services, says company president and CEO Michael J. Lehmann.
"I feel very positive about this," he says. "We are taking a step in the right direction to better serve our clients and employees."
Where the roots are
Just in case you've been wondering what's sparked the new economy, consider this explanation. The information technology revolution isn't new, asserts Jerry Jordan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
While advances in information technology allow ideas to spread faster and new techniques and processes to spill over into other sectors of the economy, it's no different than the impact caused by the printing press, telegraph and telephone.
"The fundamental determinants of healthy economies are the same as they ever were," Jordan writes in a recent Fed article. "So long as the right environment exists, markets will flourish, and in that environment individuals and markets will adapt to shocks. And as they adapt, the face of the economy changes."
Jordan says that so much attention has been devoted to debating whether the economy is new that business owners have overlooked the importance of the infrastructure that has led to the burgeoning economy. By focusing on the developments in the infrastructure, Jordan says, you'll be able to see the roots of a strong economy.
Let the good times roll
Northeast Ohio business owners say they believe the good times will continue, but they're not willing to bet the ranch on it. A whopping 83 percent of decision-makers across the region say they're "very optimistic" or "optimistic" that current business conditions will continue, according to the results of a Small Business Monitor survey by the Greater Cleveland Growth Association.
That leaves 17 percent who aren't so sure that the economy isn't headed for a downturn some time this year, the study says. Continuing troubles in the labor market -- specifically recruiting and retaining quality employees -- is the top reason for the not-so-sure attitudes.
Extending a training hand
Vocational Guidance Services, a Cleveland-based nonprofit organization that provides vocational training and job placement for disabled and disadvantaged individuals, has stepped into the Digital Age. VGS recently opened a state-of-the-art computer lab.
The lab, which houses 71 computer workstations, features several computers outfitted with voice recognition programs and other high-tech functions that cater to people with disabilities and those making the transition from welfare to work.
Ohio Auditor Jim Petro has been named the recipient of the 2000 In Tribute to the Public Service Award of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.
Creating a work force
The Cleveland chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association, a trade organization representing the precision custom manufacturing industry, has developed strategic partnerships with NTMA members, universities and partner organizations. New initiatives and programs have been developed and implemented to identify and train young men and women throughout Northeast Ohio in metalworking skills.
Locating The Source
The Cleveland Jewish News has debuted a new reference guide, The Source: Guide to Jewish Living in Northeast Ohio. The full-color, glossy magazine covers the metropolitan areas of Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Elyria, Lorain, Warren, Youngstown and Sharon, Pa. The publication will include stories of both local and national interest, a calendar and explanations of Jewish holidays and terms.
Economic impact 101
Working for Empowerment through Community Organization, an economic and community development organization that supports businesses and credit unions, is $15,000 richer thanks to a grant from Fifth Third Bank, Northeastern Ohio. The money will be used to impact more than 540 individuals.
Nobody ever said customer service was easy. So what's the best way to serve your customers?
According to Carson Cole Associates, the answer is simple -- ask them. Here are CCA's three strategies for maintaining customer service:
1. Make it easy for your customers to talk to you. Solicit feedback through a telephone call, e-mail, a short letter or face-to-face meetings. Contact your customers the way the prefer to be contacted, and do it often.
2. Ask customers about their experiences. Be prepared to be genuine and sincere. Train your staff to help customers share -- particularly the bad experiences.
3. Most important, be willing to change. Thank your customer for their honesty and promise them you will fix problems. Then do it. If similar customer service complaints are voiced by more than one customer, fix the problem
New name, same beer
Cleveland's Crooked River Brewing Co. has repackaged and renamed its fall seasonal beer formerly known as Erie Nights Pumpkin Brew. When it appears on store shelves this year, it will be known as Crooked River Pumpkin Harvest Ale. The change is designed to make the beer less associated with Halloween and more with the season.
State Development Director C. Lee Johnson has announced the Ohio Department of Development's Small Business Innovation Research Program and its partners will host the 2000 Ohio SBIR Conference at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Columbus. The two-day event will take place Oct. 11-12. For more information about the program or to register, call (614) 466-3887 or (800) 848-1300, ext. 6-3887, or visit www.odod.state.oh.us/tech/sbir.
One of the most valuable HR tools at a company's disposal is the exit interview. "Assuming the departing employee has no ax to grind, information gleaned during exit interviews can give companies valuable insight on topics such as office morale," says Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam.
The question is, how do you use that information? According to an OfficeTeam survey, 13 percent of employers always act on the information they get. Another 62 percent said they act somewhat frequently. Sixteen percent rarely act, while only 1 percent indicated they never use the information. The remaining companies either did not conduct exit interviews or did not know how often they used the info.
Domeyer offers the following tips for conducting an effective exit interview:
1. Set the stage. Meet in a neutral location and make it clear the information won't be used against the departing person.
2. Consider a third party. Even an employee who is leaving may feel uncomfortable discussing certain topics, such as office politics, with a current supervisor. It may be wise to bring an HR representative to conduct the interview.
3. Act on serious situations. Never ignore a departing employee's claim of mistreatment or discrimination. Refer the matter to your internal legal or HR department for investigation.
4. Ask the right questions. Use open-ended, general questions at first, but be prepared to get specific.
5. Take emotions into account. Depending on whether the employee left on good terms, exit interviews should be viewed as one of many information sources. A hidden agenda could influence what a former staff member says during an interview.