If you think you're having problems filling your job openings now, brace yourself.
While unemployment rates have hit the basement, Ohio this month begins working under the Workforce Investment Act to ensure we're not buried by the job glut in years to come.
Mike Summers, chair of the Governor's Workforce Policy Board, says business owners are facing a new era of scarcity.
"The old era was a scarcity of jobs," he says. "This era is 180 degrees from that, so we are clearly on new turf here. All of the existing public infrastructure is geared toward the old model."
Consider the following: Between 1996 and 2006, annual employment openings will increase by more than 46 percent in the business services sector, according to a ranking earlier this year by the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services.
If you're in the transportation services sector, you'll face a similar scenario at nearly 44 percent, and openings will jump more than 30 percent in social services, engineering and management services, auto repair services and parking, and security and commodity brokers, according to the bureau.
The bureau, in fact, was affected by one of Gov. Bob Taft's first moves to consolidate state work force development programs. It merged with the Department of Human Services, forming the Department of Job and Family Services.
Other efforts start now. As of July 1, the federal Workforce Investment Act of 1998 officially replaced the Job Training Partnership Act, which means Ohio has five years to develop a new streamlined work force investment system that is locally administered and driven by the private sector.
Work on the issue began last year when Taft appointed his Workforce Policy Board to oversee the act's implementation in Ohio.
"As business owners, we have an interest as taxpayers to make sure our tax money is spent toward legitimate issues," says Summers, who is the third generation of his family to own and run Summers Rubber Co. of Cleveland, a 60-employee, $10 million operation. "But the bigger issue is we need help. We cannot meet these challenges without a public entity to provide support and infrastructure."
The Workforce Policy Board, a panel of 57 leaders representing business, labor, education, government, social services and other entities, basically has three goals, Summers explains.
"We will actually increase the number of Ohio workers -- that's a quantity issue. Second, we will increase the quality of the worker -- the skills and performance," Summers says. "Third, we will create an efficient matching system to allow employees and employers to find each other."
The board's plan to meet these goals was approved in June by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Meanwhile, Summers says, the board is working on three short-term objectives:
- Supporting OhioWorks.com, a free, state-sponsored Web site that helps local employers and job seekers find each other. The site allows job seekers to create and post online resumes and employers to create online job orders. Local job market information also is available.
- Getting all of the existing training programs in the state in alignment to eliminate duplications and identify gaps in training. "All state departments are producing an inventory with an analysis as to the scope of their programs, source of funding and comment about effectiveness today," Summers says. Those reports are due this summer so the board can begin to determine what changes must be made. One of the main focuses, Summers predicts, will be to work on technology training for those already in the work force.
- Supporting the governor's new Commission on Student Success, which -- by the end of the year -- plans to recommend academic expectations and assessments; propose actions to guarantee that students, teachers, parents and the public understand what schoolchildren are expected to know and be able to do; examine what already is working in Ohio and elsewhere; and make sure these parts fit together for an effective education system.
"Roughly 30 percent of the Ohio population is students; therefore, they represent our future work force," Summers says.
The board will push to advance education while making sure efforts represent the needs of employers.
"Specifically, we want to maintain the accountability and measurability piece," Summers says. "That gets to the heart of proficiency test issues. We agree there needs to be proficiency outcomes; we can modify the measurement ... but let's not walk away from where we've gone so far."
Local boards throughout the state are forming to help meet the goals on their level.
"Our goal is to have every employee reach their career potential, whatever that may be," Summers says, "and have all Ohio employers find employees to help them meet their objectives as well." How to reach: Ohio Workforce Connection, www.ohioworkforce.org; www.ohioworks.com; Governor's Workforce Policy Board, (614) 728-8107
Joan Slattery Wall (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate editor and statehouse correspondent for SBN.
Bernadette Bourke had heard it too many times: "So, your computer's down? We'll be out in a couple of days."
That answer just didn't cut it for Quadrant Insurance Managers Inc., where Bourke is MIS manager. The five-employee company, which does $10 million in policy premium services annually, depends on its half-dozen computers for their databases, writing and issuing policies and keeping records.
About a year ago, a radio advertisement for PC On Call said exactly what Bourke wanted to hear: The company wouldn't take days to respond.
She called to find out more and, before she signed up, reiterated her concern: "When we need you, we need you." She can't wait around, and she must reserve time to wear her other hat as the company's underwriting manager.
PC On Call didn't disappoint her.
"The very first time we called them, it was in 35 minutes that they were out here," Bourke says.
Now Bourke uses PC On Call not just on an emergency basis, but to do regular monthly maintenance on Quadrant's computers and to help her make decisions regarding hardware and software purchases. She gets all this for $8,000 a year under PC On Call's Mobile IT plan.
"I couldn't hire somebody for that by any means," she says. "And frankly, I couldn't put a full-time MIS person to work."
Bourke, who has a background in computer programming, says PC On Call provides the peace of mind of quick service -- and access to expertise in areas she's lacking, such as networks.
Once, Bourke contacted PC On Call when she realized someone was trying to dial in to the company's computer system. The company told her what had happened and gave her the good news that security had not been broken, then helped her decide whether she needed to tighten security further.
The Mobile IT plan also gives businesses a single point of contact at PC On Call and discounts on standard hourly service charges.
The average annual Mobile IT plan at PC On Call costs between $4,000 and $16,000 for small businesses, says Michael Dorne, the company's Columbus branch manager, but fees are based on the number of computers and are higher for large businesses. Plans also are available by the month or by the quarter.
In addition to service contracts like the Mobile IT plan Bourke uses, PC On Call provides businesses with technical support; assessment and evaluation of information technology to handle growth; annual check-ups; disaster recovery; and help in customizing computer solutions to support the company's business plan. Service also is available for residential customers, and PC On Call sells its own line of systems, from desktop PCs to high-end servers.
Bourke prefers the Mobile IT plan over other computer services she's used because it puts her at the top of the service response list when she requests assistance.
"One morning I called in before their company opened, and I got whoever answers through the night. I told her, 'It's OK, when the office opens have somebody call me.' I was in here at 7 something and 15 minutes later I was on the phone with our technician," Bourke says.
"It was very comforting to know that when our system totally ties up and we have a major problem, they're there."
How to reach: PC On Call, www.pconcall.com, 885-5552.
Joan Slattery Wall (email@example.com) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.
Next month, you can begin to interact with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation online.
Gov. Bob Taft earlier this summer signed into law House Bill 611, which gives the bureau the legal authority to interact with customers electronically.
State Rep. Gary Cates (R-West Chester) sponsored the bill, which will eventually allow customers to complete almost any workers' compensation transaction electronically through an initiative called the Dolphin Project.
An injured worker will be able to file a claim or an employer will be able to pay a premium through the Internet, and BWC will accept these transactions as official documents. The Dolphin Project will be implemented in four waves beginning with the first next month and wave four coming in April 2001.
The bureau's e-business move will allow its customers to:
- File a claim online and get a claim number.
- View and update claim and policy information.
- Request additional benefits and services.
- Obtain or cancel coverage.
- Select a managed care organization.
- Customize rating plans and simulate cost-saving scenarios.
- Pay premiums electronically.
- Access new financial programs, including deductibles and payment plans.
For more information, visit www.ohiobwc.com/home/dolphin/default.htm.
On a related note, NFIB/Ohio has bestowed its Guardian of Small Business award to Cates for his outstanding leadership on issues critical to Ohio's small business community.
"Representative Cates, in a short period of time, has emerged as an articulate voice for small business in the Ohio legislature," says Roger Geiger, state director of NFIB/Ohio, in a press release. "As chairman of the House Commerce and Labor Committee, Representative Cates has championed many issues important to the vitality of small business. He has fostered a small-business friendly environment through his leadership that enables Ohio's entrepreneurs to thrive."
Excellence Award names winners
The Ohio Award for Excellence board of trustees has named its first winners for the statewide award patterned after the national Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
"The Ohio Award for Excellence was designed to recognize those businesses, government entities, educational institutions and health care and not-for-profit organizations that understand the positive impact that the quality process can have on an organization," says Thomas F. Casperson, executive director of the Ohio Award for Excellence, which was established in 1998. "These winners have demonstrated that a commitment to quality can make a difference to a company's employees, customers and bottom line."
The program's first tier of awards, Pledge Toward Excellence, is given to organizations beginning their quality journey. Winners are Cleveland Children's Hospital; Council on Rural Service Programs Inc., Greenville; Cuyahoga Work and Training, Cleveland; Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland; Good Samaritan Hospital, Dayton; Great Oaks Adult Workforce Development Division, Cincinnati; Lester Precision Die Casting Inc., Twinsburg; Lorain County Children Services, Elyria; Muskingum County Children Services Board, Zanesville; Northcoast Community Homes Inc., Cleveland; Ohio Department of Commerce's Division of Administration; Ohio Department of Education; Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Water; Ohio Department of Transportation District 10, Marietta; Ohio Education Association; Ohio School for the Deaf; Ohio State School for the Blind; Perstop Polyols Inc., Toledo; Reading Fire Department; Skilled Care Inc., Mason; Southeast Diversified Industries Inc., Cambridge; and United Way of Greater Toledo.
The Commitment to Excellence tier recognizes organizations that have demonstrated a serious commitment to excellence and a process for continuous improvement. Winners are Aurora City Schools; Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland; Cuyahoga Falls Hospital; Hamilton County Educational Services Center, Cincinnati; Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare, Northfield; and Pabco Fluid Power, Cincinnati.
In the third tier, the Achievement of Excellence Award is presented to organizations that have demonstrated, through commitment and practice, significant progress toward excellence. Winners are Aeroquip, Van Wert; Applewood Centers, Cleveland; Kuss Corp., Findlay; and Van Dorn Demag, Strongsville.
No winners were named in the highest tier, the Governor's Award for Excellence, designed for organizations that are outstanding examples of excellence in the state, exhibiting "world class" processes that serve as role models for others.
Award winners will be formally recognized for their achievements Sept. 15 at the Ohio Award for Excellence Quest for Success 2000 Conference at the Hilton at Easton in Columbus.
The award, to be presented annually, is based on criteria covering the areas of leadership, strategic planning, customer focus, information and analysis, workforce development, process management and the business results achieved.
For more information, call Casperson at (937) 445-6556 or visit www.oae.org.
Governor appoints business adviser
Gov. Bob Taft has appointed David L. Celona as executive assistant for business and industry.
As executive assistant, he'll advise Taft on business and industry issues and serve as liaison to six state agencies -- the departments of Development, Taxation and Transportation; the Industrial and Public Utilities commissions; and the Bureau of Workers' Compensation.
Celona previously served as chief of staff for the Ohio Department of Transportation, where his responsibilities included overseeing economic affairs, the state infrastructure bank, communications and legislation in a department of 6,300 employees. "It is critical that Ohio's infrastructure and business climate continue to improve and grow," Taft says in a press release announcing the appointment. "Dave's experience at ODOT and his ability to identify and communicate important business and industry issues will be a great asset to the people of Ohio." Joan Slattery Wall (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate editor and statehouse correspondent for SBN.
When it comes to workplace safety, worries about employees falling or cutting themselves while using a piece of machinery should not be at the top of your list.
A greater risk to employees -- and others -- is simply driving company vehicles.
After all, the National Safety Council lists motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of accidental deaths, a term its even changed to "fatal unintentional injuries" in an effort to stress that all accidents could be prevented.
"For the employer, you have employees out there so their safety is of concern [and] the general public's safety is of concern," says Joe Tulga, program manager for the Safety Council of Central Ohio.
Injury or death isn't your only risk when employees are on the road, either.
If you include lost wages and productivity, administrative, medical and employer costs, as well as motor vehicle damage, every fatality resulting from an auto accident costs $980,000 on average and each nonfatal, disabling injury costs $35,600, according to the National Safety Council, which cites 1998 figures. Even in less serious crashes, in which property damage and nondisabling injuries occur, costs average $6,400.
In addition, the image of your company is at risk when you have company vehicles on the road.
"In a way, [the vehicle] is a moving billboard out there, and if you have drivers racing around, it's not good PR for you," Tulga says.
Think your employees have a slim chance of being involved in a crash? Consider this: In Columbus during 1998, one in every 24.4 of 667,252 registered vehicles was involved in a crash, according to the Ohio Insurance Institute, which cites its sources as the Ohio Department of Public Safety and Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
ICI Dulux Paint Centers takes the risks seriously. It requires employees to take a defensive driving course through the National Safety Council -- and renew their certification through the course every two years.
"Our company philosophy is safety is our top priority for our customers and for our staff," says Mark Frost, regional operations manager. "Defensive driving is a tool that's used to help promote awareness. That's what safety is -- it's thinking about it and providing awareness."
The defensive driving course many businesses take through the Safety Council of Central Ohio is called DDC-4, the 4 standing for the four-hour duration of the course.
Frost says his region has opted to send employees to classes to become trainers. The result is more flexibility in times the company can offer the class as well as more cost effectiveness.
For example, he formerly spent $45 each time he sent one of his nearly 70 employees to the course. Now, Sean McCarthy and another employee in his region provide the training instead. Although it cost ICI $300 for each trainer's certification and another $650 for each teaching kit with materials, the course booklets for each student cost only $2.50.
This means ICI can now train all of its employees in house for less than two-thirds of the $3,150 it would have cost to send each of them to the driving course. The company also saves on the work time it would lose if employees drove to the course instead of taking it on site -- another service the Safety Council offers.
"From people who work in stores to [sales] reps to vice presidents, we cover everybody," McCarthy says. "Whether they drive every day or not in our company vehicles, they are required to take the training."
The course covers rules, regulations, responsibility, vehicle maintenance and driving conditions, Tulga says. For example, it explains the benefit of the three-second rule -- allowing three seconds to elapse before you drive by the same point the car in front of you passed, a method to establish safe following distance.
Attendees learn about antilock braking systems and how to avoid crashes. They also complete a worksheet to show the costs of being involved in a crash.
"You go through driving habits and how to improve on your driving habits and how to recognize hazards," McCarthy says. "It teaches you to be more aware of your surroundings."
Instructors touch on alcohol- and drug-related crashes and share statistics.
"We're not allowed to call them accidents -- they're crashes," McCarthy says. "A traffic crash is not an accident; it is a result of a driver or drivers not doing everything reasonable to avoid the collision."
A continuing journey
Frost could not specifically say what results he's seen from the defensive driving course because overall safety incidents are down in his territory after the implementation of many safety programs -- not just the driving course.
Among other ICI safety procedures:
- Employees receive forklift training and are certified in the vehicle's use.
- Gloves and steel-toed boots are required for certain duties.
- The company holds monthly safety meetings at each paint center; employees often watch safety-related videos and even take tests related to safety issues.
- Each paint center has an appointed safety contact person who coordinates those meetings and is in charge of doing a monthly store inspection to check everything from the condition of the floor to electrical outlets to fire extinguishers.
- Each center has a designated safety area, where items such as first aid kits and flashlights are stored.
Another facet: employees are not permitted to use a cellular phone while driving. In fact, they can't even use it if they're riding in a vehicle.
"We're zero tolerance when it comes to safety," Frost says. "When something is abused, like cell phones, termination is the penalty. There isn't room for tolerance when it comes to safety." How to reach: Joe Tulga, program manager, Safety Council of Central Ohio, 225-6092 or email@example.com; National Safety Council, Defensive Driving Program, www.nsc.org/psg/ddc.htm. Another source of traffic safety information for businesses is the Ohio Partnership for Traffic Safety, 466-3250, www.trafficsafety.org/states/oh/opts.cfm.
Joan Slattery Wall (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.
Try finishing the lyric: "Call Able for the proof ...."
Steve Weyl relishes the times when someone knows the rest -- "444-ROOF," the phone number for his business, Able Roofing Co.
Weyl, in fact, wrote the words and hashed out an idea for the music used in his radio ad jingle, which was produced by songwriters in Nashville. He also writes and announces the 60-second ad spots.
"That's the best part of my job, is the marketing," says Weyl, president and CEO of Able, a $16 million Northeast Columbus company. "I think it came naturally. My mother's an artist, and I think as a little kid, I started out appreciating art and negative and positive spaces and that type of thing."
About five years ago, he started making his own radio advertisements, which now air at least 2,500 times a year on 16 Central Ohio stations, particularly in the spring and fall.
Weyl keeps track of his marketing results by asking customers who call for appointments where they last saw or heard about Able Roofing.
"We probably do not have more than 20 percent of the people calling us who say 'radio,' but radio is a very subliminal thing. All advertising builds on each other," he says, noting he has as many as 56 codes describing the ways customers might have exposure to his marketing efforts. "You've got to look at marketing as a crusade, not a battle."
"We just have to be top of mind all the time," Weyl says. "We know that probably, of our audience, at least 40 to 50 percent are hearing us on the radio."
"The 444-ROOF number has probably been our strongest marketing move," Weyl says, noting the simplicity of the number makes it memorable.
In addition, Weyl says, having his own voice in the ads gives customers more confidence in the company.
"I think people like to know who they're dealing with," he says. "When the owner's on there talking, it can be very good."
Although many local companies -- Three-C Body Shops, Ricart Automotive, IDG Jewelers and Mack Mattress Outlet, to name a few -- apparently share this philosophy, Weyl admits radio announcing isn't for every business owner.
"If the owner has personality and some charisma and simply sounds appealing over the radio, it can be good. But I think it can hurt the owner, too," he says. "You've heard people who don't have the personality -- they're monotone. You just wouldn't have a lot of confidence, maybe, buying from them."
Weyl makes radio advertising sound easy. Here's how he does it:
Know your audience.
"It's simple," Weyl says. "Who buys my stuff? And how do I reach them?"
Matt Mnich, president and CEO of North American Broadcasting Co., where Weyl buys commercials on three stations, says business owners who advertise in radio must be able to answer those questions.
"The most important component is a good understanding of their target customer," says Mnich, whose radio stations are WMNI-AM 920, WEGE Eagle 103.9 and WBZX The Blitz 99.7. "As simple as that sounds, sometimes our sales representatives spend quite a bit of time developing an understanding of exactly who the target customer is for the client."
Technically, anyone who owns a home is Weyl's customer. But he dissects that: Middle income and up is his primary target, because they tend to be more comfortable with a bigger name company, he says.
He wants to get his message to the 34-65 age group -- that which statistics show is most likely to own a home. He needs to reach both males and females, since females many times tend to make the call for his product, but the male has a large voice in the decision.
From that knowledge, he can decide which radio stations to contact for air time.
"We need to figure out who's listening to what," he says, noting that radio stations will describe for you their typical listener and provide you with information from Arbitron, a company that conducts a survey of radio listening in the market, then tabulates that by age and gender and other demographics.
"WTVN is a little bit older crowd, strong on the home ownership," he says. "If we want to hit females, we hit Sunny 95 because Sunny's strong on females." For males, WTVN is good, he says, "but what's better than TVN is The Fan sports radio [1460 AM]."
Constant monitoring of Arbitron ratings is important, too, because they can change over time.
"Even five years ago, we were less interested in Q-FM [96 WLVQ]," Weyl says. "Now we advertise on Q-FM because the age group is that age group we are appealing to." In addition, "Q-FM turned out to be strong home ownership."
Think about your message.
Weyl puts himself in his customers' shoes.
"What would appeal to the customer? What would get their attention?" he asks. "I think marketing is just common sense."
He's tried being too creative at times -- most notably when he started his marketing efforts more than 10 years ago by producing a television commercial.
"What a flop this was," he says. "We made it look like an old movie. It was actually fairly sophisticated and it was very funny. It was like the Able man was able to save the day type of a thing."
However, the commercial was likely too sophisticated. It didn't yield much response.
"Too creative doesn't work. In-your-face does," he says. "When I say in your face, I think you have to be not loud like vocally loud, you have to be noticed. You have to stand out."
Mnich says the message also must be easy for the customer to understand -- which means leaving out industry lingo.
A catchy jingle helps, too, Weyl says.
"Jingles are very important because it's consistency and builds brand identity," he says. "If it's a good jingle, people tend to hum it. But you'd better have your name in that jingle, and if you get your telephone number in there, it's even better."
He buys one-minute radio spots and knows his jingle takes about 10 seconds at the beginning and at the end. That leaves him with 40 seconds to talk.
"I say, 'What's my idea? What do I want to get across?' Then I write a bunch of notes and thoughts, then I start writing a script, kind of assembling it," he says.
His first draft usually ends up around 70 seconds, so he begins whittling out words or rephrasing things to get the same message across in less time.
Then he tests it out.
"I always bug my wife to death over it," he jokes.
Make the investment -- and be patient
"There's too many people who say, 'I've got $10,000 to spend, and I'm going to spend it on a couple of radio stations, and if I don't get results in three weeks I know that radio's not for me,'" Weyl says.
Successful radio advertising, he says, depends on frequency -- the number of times you run the ad -- and reach -- the number of people you expect to hear it.
"If you can't get both, go to frequency," he says. "If you can't hit a lot of people a lot of times, then hit a little amount of people a lot of times. Don't try to hit a lot of people a little bit of the time. It doesn't work."
Mnich agrees, but notes the longevity of an ad campaign matters, too.
"It's far more effective to buy two weeks a month for four months than every week for half that period of time, generally speaking," Mnich says.
There are exceptions, however, such as political ads for an election, which might run with a lot of frequency in a short amount of time.
Weyl declined to say how much he pays for his radio ads, but generally the station from which he buys air time gives him the use of a studio with an engineer for free.
At North American Broadcasting, Mnich says, clients are not charged for ad production, unless his company's talent or creative work is used on other stations.
Cost for air time varies greatly, he says, depending on, among other things, the frequency of commercials and the time of day they air. For example, the largest audience -- and most expensive advertising -- occurs during the morning drive time, Mnich says. The time with the fewest listeners and lowest advertising cost would be overnight.
"You can buy a commercial in Columbus, depending on the time of day and the station, for $50 for one commercial, and you can buy a commercial on another station in the highest-valued part of the day and you could spend $700," Mnich says.
Since nervousness often is fear of the unknown, Weyl suggests asking the radio station manager or your sales representative if you can sit in on a couple of commercials being made. You'll see, for example, where to put your mouth in relation to the microphone or what the engineer does.
When he first started making radio ads, Weyl says, he was nervous -- and it came out in his voice.
He corrected that by determining his own comfort level -- "I can do much better standing than sitting," he says -- and by mentally taking on the role.
"My role today is radio announcer," he says. "Separate it from yourself."
Weyl cautions against simply reading a script, however. Overemphasize everything, he says.
"If you think you're overdoing it, you're probably not." Joan Slattery Wall (email@example.com) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.
Last year, Les Ridout of Huntington Bancshares hardly saw AIDS on his radar of employee concerns.
"Ten, 12, 15 years ago, when you had a group of employees in a banking office or in any office ... if they were aware that somebody had AIDS, it was fear of the unknown. So we'd have our employee assistance program people go in and say, 'Look, this is no more communicable -- unless you go in and have an intimate relationship with this person -- than, say, cancer,'" says Ridout, executive vice president and human resources director for Huntington.
"Over the years, people became more aware of that. Now, when office mates become aware of a co-worker with AIDS, certainly there's sympathy and empathy as opposed to fear and misunderstanding. We've really come along."
That's why he was taken aback when the Columbus AIDS Task Force approached him last summer to talk about AIDS awareness training in the workplace. He just didn't think it was necessary.
Ridout's reaction, the task force members told him, was just the point. The awareness level has dropped below the horizon, they said; people still are not taking precautions, and baby boomers who are getting divorced and back in the dating scene are encountering the AIDS situation for the first time.
In response, Ridout arranged for the task force to discuss the issue at a meeting of more than a dozen Huntington regional HR managers from across the country. Later, Huntington hosted an educational luncheon for other HR executives from employers such as Wendy's International, Nationwide Insurance, Ameritech Ohio, Sanese Services Inc. and The Ohio State University.
It's a program the task force wants to put into full swing to reach smaller businesses late this fall or early winter.
"I think the reason it has dropped off as a health crisis in people's minds is they're seeing in the media there are new medications; people aren't dying as they were five years ago," says Lori Yosick, interim executive director of the task force.
In the five years she's been working with the task force, she's seen the demographics of its clients changing: Gay, Caucasian men made up 80 percent five years ago; now less than 55 percent come from that demographic. Men of other races and women also are entering the picture. The age group is spreading out as well.
"We have more intakes coming through our doors right now than we did two years ago -- about one new client a day," Yosick says. "The scary thing is we know how HIV spreads, we know how people can be protected, yet people are still getting infected."
The task force can provide employers with an AIDS in the workplace training packet, including details about an HIV/AIDS policy and speakers for employee meetings.
"You never would have thought 10 years ago you would have somebody coming into a workplace talking about HIV," Yosick says, "but it's a real issue." How to reach: Columbus AIDS Task Force, www.netwalk.com/~catf or 299-2437. For more information about AIDS in the workplace, contact the American Red Cross Greater Columbus Chapter, www.redcross.org/cmh-oh/schedule.htm or 253-2740, ext. 2349; the national American Red Cross, www.redcross.org/hss/HIVAIDS/workplace/index.html; the National AIDS Fund Workplace Resource Center, www.aidsfund.org/workplac.htm or (888) 234-AIDS; or the Society for Human Resource Management, www.shrm.org/diversity/aidsguide or (703) 548-3440.
Joan Slattery Wall (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.
Donald A. Borror couldn't resist the request a few years ago from his granddaughter: Would he play his ukulele at her school music festival in the spring?
That evening, he took one of four seats at The Wellington School reserved for him and other musically talented relatives of the students.
A bit later, another gentleman joined him, setting down his Gibson banjo.
"The case itself must've cost $500," Borror says. "Here I've got this cardboard thing with a $40 ukulele."
Then came the other two parents: A flutist and her husband -- dressed in a tux, no less -- who played violin; both were part of the local symphony. Borror felt quite out of place, yet still he reaped the respect of the others.
"All three of them treated me as a musician. In the afternoon, with the kids, I was fine playing 'Itsy-Bitsy Spider.' [But] that was a night and a half, I tell you," says the Dominion Homes founder and chairman emeritus, shaking his head.
The story is typical of Borror, who, despite having developed a $278 million home building company, simply doesn't see any awe in his accomplishments.
"There isn't anything about my background that's sensational," he says, sitting back in a large, comfortable-looking chair behind the nearly clear desk positioned at the far end of his sparse office. "It's pretty ordinary, I think."
Borror was in law school when he built his first house. He remembers the exact address: 326 Pasadena Ave. in New Rome.
"I was caulking underneath the back door and a guy walked around and said, 'You sure are doing a lot of detail; most people don't do that,'" Borror remembers. As it turned out, the man bought the house.
Although he earned his juris doctorate in 1954, Borror didn't pursue a career in law.
"I was a lousy student," he says. "I could care less about it."
Instead, he discovered he could find more money, more profit and more success in the construction business.
"I got a lot of satisfaction out of watching people's houses go up. You know we didn't always build 1,700 houses," he says, remembering times when he knew the facets of every house, the desires of all the families, which room would be the children's.
Borror isn't inclined to take a lot of credit for what Dominion Homes has become. He'd rather laud his sons, Doug, the chairman and CEO, and David, executive vice president, along with employees such as Jon Donnell, president and COO, and Steve George, executive vice president of construction and operations.
Others, however, don't hesitate to praise the elder Borror's accomplishments.
Donnell, who nominated Borror for Junior Achievement's Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame, says Borror, along with his son, Doug, were visionaries in the '80s when they decided to focus the company on the home building element, ridding it of other interests such as coal mines and engine rebuilding.
"You hear the gentleman came from a very modest background and, because of his tremendous will and integrity and the way he conducts business, was able to become a tremendous business success," Donnell says.
Still, even he recognizes the humbleness of his boss, who, at age 71, still goes into the office every day.
"He's very unassuming," Donnell says. "If you were to meet him, you'd feel completely at ease with him."
Donnell gets personal inspiration from Borror's dedication to his wife, Joanne, two sons and daughter, Donna Myers.
"As a parent, one of the things we try to do is make sure we instill some of the same values and principles that we have, and Don obviously has done that because his children have been successful in their own right," Donnell says. "I have talked to him and tried to learn from that."
Franklin County Commissioner Dewey Stokes pointed out that Borror was instrumental in bringing the Columbus Clippers here and remains the team's board chairman. Stokes calls Borror a good family man, as well as a supporter of the Franklinton area, where Borror's father owned a business.
"I think he's down to earth and he's a businessman with a lot of common sense," says Stokes. "He never puts on a facade, another face. If you know Don Borror, you know him, and what you hear from him -- and see -- is very straightforward."
Doug Borror says his father taught him about life, honesty, business and the art of the deal; he and other employees always know where his father stands.
The younger Borror remembers one of his first days of work with his father: "He said, 'We're going to work together real good, but I want you to know if I have to tell you to do something twice, it doubles my workload.' He followed up by saying, 'I don't ever want you to come back and tell me why you couldn't accomplish something.' It was a level of expectation, but it was realistic."
John Rosenberger, executive director of the Capitol South Community Urban Redevelopment Corp., where the elder Borror is a trustee, also values Borror's no-nonsense, straightforward approach.
"I think he's brought me along in significant measure," Rosenberger says. "He's just a good, sound adviser. If he thinks it's silly, he'll tell you it's silly. If he thinks it makes sense, he'll tell you it makes sense."
"He's smart, very practical, very effective, and he just sort of cuts through the crap," Rosenberger continues. "He's right with people, and I think that probably pays big dividends."
Expectedly, Borror downplays his service to Capitol South, although he had a hand in bringing City Center here.
"It was a blighted area downtown. It's not a blighted area anymore," Borror says. "A lot of people in the city deserve credit for that."
Borror's even humble about his hobbies: "My golf game's a joke, but I play," he says.
That point is argued by golf chum Bishop James A. Griffin, who's become a friend of Borror during his 17 years as head of the Catholic Diocese of Columbus.
Griffin says Borror, who occasionally serves as a real estate consultant for the diocese, is successful as a businessperson because he's sincere and sensitive to people.
"He picks things up -- people's attitudes and fears and concerns," Griffin says.
He, too, sees the humble side of Borror.
"I know from personal experience with Mr. Borror that many, many times he's reached out to people in need of one sort or another, often financial need," Griffin says, "and he's assisted them in a very quiet, inconspicuous way that no one knows about except himself."
On the personal side, Griffin says, Borror leads a very modest and simple lifestyle.
"He enjoys the simple things of life like being with his wife, his children and especially his grandchildren. He delights in his grandchildren and their achievements," he says.
The bishop also calls Borror a "very, very loyal friend.
"Anyone who is a friend of Don who calls him up and asks him to help him can be assured if he can help them, he will." How to reach: Donald A. Borror, Dominion Homes, 761-6000
Joan Slattery Wall (email@example.com) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.
Mike Crane already had his hands full this year.
He was adjusting to his new role as president of Crane Plastics Siding, one of six independent businesses formed in the reorganization of Crane Plastics Co. in September 1999.
Heading the new business unit was almost like starting from scratch. He had to select a new management team; create the infrastructure of the independent company, such as its human resources and accounting functions; and patch morale among employees, who had withstood an anxious summer waiting for the changes.
On top of that, the siding company was working to open a new $20 million, high technology manufacturing facility.
Then there were the additional duties Crane faced as executive vice president of Crane Plastics Holding Co., the umbrella for the six independent businesses.
It was enough to overflow any top executive's plate, but Crane would face yet another challenge: Prices of the siding company's raw material, resin, doubled last fall -- during the same period when the business put its reorganization plan into action.
Still, the maelstrom may actually have set the new, independent company off on the right foot.
"It provided additional focus to our group," Crane says. "It would be hard to find a silver lining in that thing, but maybe that's it."
Coincidentally, his cousin, Tanny Crane, president of the holding company, describes the situation in the same way.
"I'm a silver lining person. It always makes you better," she says of the challenges that faced the siding company. "Mike's team is unparalleled in what they've been able to accomplish."
The Crane family is watching carefully now that a full year has passed since the reorganization, which decentralized the company's management structure of more than half a century. The goal: to focus more on the marketplaces and customers of each individual business unit.
"We have a vision that we could become a global enterprise," Tanny says.
But the company had become, she says, too complex to handle such an ambition. Crane Plastics' business had doubled almost every five years since its inception, growing to more than 800 employees and $150 million in revenue.
"It's almost like our siding promotion, 'Think Big,'" Mike says. "We want to grow with big ideas and big new initiatives, but in order to do that we had to get small."
Branching out and stepping back
Tanny Crane remembers well the first time the family-owned company made moves to fly outside its own nest.
It was in the late 1980s, when the company developed its first five-year plan with goals to grow the siding business, continue the core business and develop more of its own proprietary products.
"We started to view outside these four walls," Tanny says. "Dad, he'd say, 'If I can't stand on top of this building and see it, we shouldn't be involved in it.'"
Her father, Bob, who has since passed away, and Mike's father, Jim, had taken over leadership of the company from the previous generation.
By 1992, Crane Plastics acquired its first company, Compression Polymers Co. of Moosic, Pa. Within five years, four more companies were acquired, forming The Crane Group and showing the company a glimpse of its own past. The companies in that group thrive on sharing best practices while enjoying the entrepreneurial spirit of their individual management teams.
"Our managers would go to these companies, and they'd see the benefit of being small, wearing different hats, being flexible, being nimble," Tanny says. "What we saw is what our company used to be."
Crane Plastics had grown so huge that it was getting in the way of itself.
Top executives were trying to manage different products, different materials with different life cycles and different markets and customers. Employees were working in many different areas at the same time.
"One day they'd be concentrating on a key issue in siding, and the next day they'd be pulled off to TimberTech, and the next they'd be working on issues at the manufacturing company," Mike says.
Tanny, herself, felt torn.
"I'd go from one priority meeting to the next," she says.
Perhaps more significantly, frustration was growing among employees who, as Crane Plastics grew larger with more departments, found it increasingly difficult to get things done because they ran into more walls.
The alarms rang loudly when, in early 1999, Mike and Tanny hosted focus groups of employees, who told the Cranes they didn't feel they had an impact on the company's profits anymore. It was a significant message, considering the company had fostered a cash profit-sharing plan in 1969 that had since been supported by employees -- and successful as a work incentive.
"My father used to say it was the glue that held the company together," Tanny remembers.
"We felt the effect of profit sharing had been diluted," Mike says. "If you're working on a floor as part of a $150 million company, you're wondering whether your impact is going to have a direct effect on profit sharing."
The summer of anxiety
Convinced that the 50-year-old management structure was no longer serving Crane Plastics well, the five family members in the company, along with the human resources vice president and the CFO, formed a steering team to determine how dividing the company into separate units might follow the model used by the individual companies acquired as part of The Crane Group.
"They were benchmarking off each other but focusing on the marketplace," Tanny says of the companies in The Crane Group.
In June 1999, Crane management announced to employees the decision to reorganize into separate companies.
"It was a summer of anxiety," Tanny says. "They all knew we were going to be six companies. They didn't know where they were going to go."
"We thought it would be better to bring people into the process than announce the reorganization and the new positions all at once," Mike says.
Meanwhile, an early retirement plan was announced to allow the company to reduce redundancy and to give employees an opportunity to leave if they were uncomfortable with the changes. Of the approximately 60 employees who accepted, many took advantage of the "phased" option to gradually reduce their workload or work part time. These alternatives, Tanny says, gave Crane Plastics advantages because the values and skills of those employees stayed with the company.
To firm up the reorganization plan, the steering team worked with Arthur Andersen's Change Enablement practice out of Chicago from April through December 1999.
Crane Plastics Holding Co. became not just an organizational umbrella for the independent operating units -- Crane Plastics Siding, Crane Plastics Manufacturing, TimberTech Ltd., Crane Products, CPC Tooling Technologies and Crane Blending Center -- but also a resource. It has a small, lean, technical group of experts in areas such as engineering, IT and legal, and its 21 employees also focus on strategic planning and future developments in materials, technology, process engineering and leadership development.
"These people will always be looking forward," Tanny says, "looking at best practices, going to trade shows for things to bring back and share. They basically rent themselves out [to the six business units]."
Each individual company needed its own leader -- preferably, but not necessarily, promoted from within. The requirements: Each must have a demonstrated record of success, be a proven leader, focus on the bottom line and show an entrepreneurial spirit.
"We gave them the title of president, which we'd never done," Tanny says. "There had only been three presidents [in the company], and all had the last name Crane."
Because the siding company was the largest of the six, the steering team felt strongly it should be led by a Crane, so Mike was chosen. The other five presidents were promoted from within the company and ranged in longevity of service from three to 25 years. The steering team also gave each new president two or three core management team members.
"We did lay out to them what we thought their company could do, and they had to agree to it," Tanny says.
From that point on, however, each team was on its own to determine a company mission, figure out a game plan and choose employees.
"We had rounds and rounds of meetings so we didn't lose sight of the caring part of the equation," Tanny says.
To reduce employee anxiety, the steering team let workers know the status of the plan each week. When it was finalized, the company announced all the changes in a celebratory way, complete with matching T-shirts for each team to develop camaraderie.
"It was a great way to let go of the stress of the summer," Tanny says.
On their own, but not alone
Not all the stress disappeared immediately, however. Tanny and Mike both knew the reorganization would require some cautious steps with customers and employees.
After all, while the company's executives were concentrating on the logistics involved in the reorganization, they still had to keep the business running.
"We all had to make sure to keep an eye on the ball and that we were still shipping product out to our customers," Mike says.
Mike Flanagan, whose California company, Advantage Building Products Inc., sells Crane's VIPCO siding, says he was notified of the reorganization at the beginning of the year and had no concerns.
"I liked the fact that I was dealing with a small group of people," he says, noting that throughout the transition, that situation did not change.
In fact, he thinks his relationship with Crane Plastics Siding has improved since the reorganization.
"Overall, they are a much more responsive unit, at least the one unit of their six divisions that I deal with, than any other large manufacturer that I do business with," says Flanagan. "Their management staff does listen, and they will get back to you in a timely fashion."
In addition to customers, employees remain a high priority for Tanny and Mike.
"We had concerns about the basic culture," Mike says. "We wanted people to still feel they were part of this family-owned company."
Tanny made the issue part of her focus.
Even though she's no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the six new businesses, she wants to make sure the Crane family values continue to transcend through all of them. To that end, each business carries on the tradition of sharing financials with employees, and the holding company puts out a newsletter to give them a view of the company as a whole. They've coined the phrase "The Crane Family of Companies" to reiterate the continued values.
Crane family members make sure they're visible at each of the six companies, too. Jim Crane, to whom Tanny reports, keeps what she calls a "helicopter view," looking at the entire picture.
"I'm a coach," Tanny says of her new role as president of the holding company. "My role has changed dramatically. I used to have functional departments report to me -- now I have six presidents."
Tanny has shared with all leaders in the company the book "Leading Change" by John P. Kotter and emphasizes two of its points: Continually celebrate success; and never think you're there -- meaning always work to improve.
The presidents of the companies hold monthly meetings to keep in touch.
"They've started having them on their own," Tanny points out. "They don't even invite me, which is good. They're starting to communicate on their own."
As part of the reorganization plan, the steering team decided the six companies would not share services, such as one accounting department or one human resources department.
"We had been so centralized we needed to go to the other end of the pendulum. I believe we may pivot back," she says, pointing out that already three of the businesses are sharing IT services.
Even now, evidence of improvement due to the reorganization can be found in the individual companies.
- At the siding company, Mike has seen teamwork and communication improve.
"I think we are more in touch with our customers and their needs from a customer service standpoint, and their interests and desires with regard to the type of products we're making," he says.
- TimberTech has introduced three new products and grown from fewer than 40 to more than 130 employees. It also opened a new plant in Wilmington.
- Crane Manufacturing has made many changes within its own business, creating three separate subcompanies to continue the notion of staying small. It also built a new plant in Circleville, where Tanny visited with employees, some of whom have been working with Crane for 25 or 30 years.
"I said to Jim, 'This is our vision. They feel the impact every day when they walk out of this building that they are contributing to the success of this business,'" she says.
Tanny says she sees positive results simply from talking to employees. A line employee now has a better opportunity to be a team leader, and each individual business is smaller and better organized so employees can do their work more efficiently.
She says she was particularly pleased to speak with one employee who will celebrate her 25th anniversary with the company next March.
"She said, 'Crane has given me everything in my life, and I still want to give back. What you're doing is creating a future for us,'" Tanny says.
Tanny estimates it will be at least another year before the financial results from the reorganization are measurable, and she's cautious giving her evaluation of the changes so far.
"I still wouldn't deem it a success," she says.
She plans to survey the attitudes of employees, whom she calls the "pulse of an organization," to get a read on how things are going. In addition, the presidents and the holding company will meet to evaluate progress. Among the considerations, Mike says, are how the Blending Center and CPC Tooling provide services to the other four companies, and whether speculations made during the planning stages came to fruition.
"I'm confident that it will be successful," Tanny says. "But I'm not calling it yet." How to reach: Tanny Crane, Crane Plastics Holding Co., 443-4891 or www.crane-plastics.com
Joan Slattery Wall (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.
Ross Products' employees don't have to look far to see the nutritional company's customers. Their pictures line the walls in the plants -- senior citizens, babies, even members of the employees' families.
"It's not too hard to understand who our customers are and the role we play in making it right for them," says James Hughes, divisional vice president for the company's Quality Center of Excellence for Nutritionals. "It's not like a light bulb doesn't work and you take it back. Our products are expected to work every time somebody uses them."
Quality, then, becomes the focus of Ross, a division of Abbott Laboratories that makes adult and infant nutritional formulas such as Ensure, Similac and Isomil.
"You have to have an organizational commitment to quality," Hughes says. "In general, that's just where everyone in the organization from top to bottom believes that quality is a key business strategy and thinks it's necessary for the success of the business."
In 1999, Abbott executives decided to centralize the company's quality functions. All seven of its divisions had quality structures and processes, but by creating a new corporate Quality Center of Excellence, it could create initiatives to specialize in regulating quality in its three global lines of business: pharmaceuticals, medical devices and nutritional products.
Continuous training and employee involvement ensure quality through all facets of the organization.
"When someone asks, 'How many people do you have in your quality group?' I'm tempted to say 5,000 -- that's everybody in the company," Hughes says, adding that it takes well-trained, well-informed and well-motivated people to maintain quality.
The company offers recognition, awards and gift certificates -- anywhere from $50 to a couple hundred dollars -- to employees for quality initiatives.
"It's a continuous improvement process itself," Hughes says of quality assurance. "You're never there." How to reach: James Hughes, Ross Products, (614) 624-5441 or email@example.com
The next time he came to the company's offices, he was stopped at the front desk and escorted from the premises by security.
Less than two weeks after the first incident, he returned a third time. Security guards stopped his car at the front gate and called police. Officers searched the car -- and found a gun.
The situation might have ended tragically had The Limited not internally stepped up awareness of family violence in 1998.
"There's a real-life case where she felt safe to come forward," The Limited vice president of public affairs Al Dietzel says of the victim's reaction after the company implemented programs suggested by the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence, founded and chaired by Abigail Wexner.
"One of every four women at some time in her life experiences either physical or emotional abuse," Wexner says, rattling off just one of countless statistics illustrating the prevalence of the problem.
Think your company's safe? Reluctant to touch such a sensitive issue? Worried you won't have the resources The Limited did to even address it? Take another look.
Outlining the problem
Before the formation of the Coalition in 1998, Dietzel was visiting the East Coast to see what community organizations the company could support there.
Moved by a video he saw at the House of Ruth, an organization providing assistance to homeless and abused people in Washington, D.C., Dietzel returned to Columbus to share the tape with Abigail Wexner.
"Both of us were in tears," he says of their reaction to the violence shown on the video. "She said, 'We need to do something about that. Let me think about it.'"
Wexner didn't think very long.
Just two weeks later, she had convened a group of community leaders from hospitals, law enforcement, social services and other agencies and asked them what they needed to help them overcome family violence in Columbus.
"They said, 'If the business community got behind this issue, it would take on a completely different stature,'" Wexner remembers.
Still, she knew the problem was much more complex.
"I was probably a little nave going into it in terms of how comprehensive the work was going to be in order to make some strides," she admits, looking back on the first three years of work. "However, I was not daunted by the time. I knew this was not something that would be an easy solution."
In what Dietzel calls strategic moves characteristic of Wexner, she formed a coalition of business and community volunteers divided into different task forces to deal with family violence in all areas of the system: Legal, health care, faith community, business community/public education and victim services.
"The goal is really to change the way we as a community think about domestic violence. Until everyone sees it as their problem, you won't see a change," Wexner says, pointing out that, for example, a neighbor needs to feel empowered to see a victim and get help. "The challenge is really to get that victim to come forward and get the help she really needs. The cycle is frightening. Once it begins in a house, it goes on for generations."
Into the workplace
Wexner also knew family violence doesn't just stay behind the private doors of a home. Statistics, she says, show that 75 percent of victims abused at home are also harassed at the workplace by the offender.
She outlined the problem to her husband, Les Wexner, chair and founder of The Limited, where 85 percent of the associates are women. Ninety-five percent of all domestic violence is male to female, studies show.
He agreed something should be done about the family violence issue, and the Coalition began working with executives at The Limited to set up policies regarding domestic violence in the workplace.
Dietzel stresses the simplicity of implementing measures at the company:
- The effort began with a meeting of Les Wexner and the CEOs of The Limited lines of business. He explained the company's policies and gave them manuals they could include in the Franklin Planners they all use.
- Arnold Kanarick, The Limited's executive vice president and chief human resources officer, then sent a letter to all employees. It outlined domestic violence statistics, included a brochure with more information and stressed the company's stance: "As a company, we are saying within our own buildings and stores, and to our communities: There's no excuse for abuse."
- In women's and men's restrooms at the company, The Limited placed cards with national and local domestic violence victim hotline numbers as well as a number at the company where victims could confidentially seek help. "We also put the cards in the bathrooms used by visitors," Dietzel says. "It sends a message to vendors and customers."
- Employees in security, management and human resources were trained to recognize signs of domestic violence and how to direct victims to social services in the community. "We've trained HR and security so if a supervisor comes in and says, 'I don't know what to do with Sally, she must have 30 (personal) calls a day,' in the old days we would warn her: If it doesn't stop, you'll need to leave the company,'" Dietzel says. "Now we know to ask: 'Sally, is there something going on where we can help you?'"
Results were swift.
In his first 30 years as director of security at The Limited Inc., Jerry Merritt remembered only one, maybe two, cases of domestic violence being reported from the 6,000-plus employees of the company.
In 1999, more than 80 employees confided in supervisors or security that they felt threatened or wanted to seek help; in 2000, the number topped 100.
Those numbers tell Dietzel the company has successfully communicated to employees that they'll get a sympathetic ear and help if they need it.
"It's more what we don't do than what we do," he says, acknowledging that some business owners may have a hands-off reaction to addressing such a sensitive issue within their own walls. "We don't give advice, we simply tell the victim where to go for help."
"We're not in the business of becoming a social worker, a counselor," Dietzel says. "It's simply providing places where they can go to get help.
"We found out the worst thing you can do is give direct help -- 'I think you should leave him.' We are not equipped, we are not trained, to give direct counseling, and it can work against you."
In more serious cases, the company is more aggressive in providing assistance.
"We do such things as give a woman a cell phone and tell her to use it: 'Call police; here's our security number,'" Dietzel says.
"Mainly what we did is change our attitude and let people know we're here to help," he says. "It's a culture, a climate where women feel comfortable to step forward."
The Limited's actions have brought benefits besides the obvious one of keeping the employees safe.
"The other thing I think you'll find is we've saved some good people from leaving," Dietzel says. "We've helped them go through a crisis. It also boosts morale for their co-workers."
The Limited's leadership on the issue has proven successful in attracting participation of other businesses. A forum held for the top employers in Columbus brought in representatives from 99 of the 100 companies invited to learn how to handle domestic violence in the workplace; subsequent forums have been directed at small business.
Shortly after representatives of Resource International Inc., a 150-employee engineering consultant company in Westerville, attended one of the forums, executives there gave employees a flier explaining the company's support of the Coalition and offering phone numbers employees could call for assistance.
Within a few short months, an employee told her supervisor about family violence in her home, and they went to Vice President Marcia Majidzadeh for help.
The family business loaned the employee money for legal fees, gave her an advance on paychecks so she could provide for the needs of her children and gave her additional time off to deal with her problems.
Unfortunately, Majidzadeh says, the woman went back to her partner, a decision frequently made by victims.
Still, Majidzadeh says, the incident shows company's involvement in the Coalition made employees feel comfortable in approaching management to seek help with family violence problems.
"There is definitely a feel in our organization, an open door policy, that if you need help, you can go to someone," she says.
She understands that business owners watch the bottom line, and says taking a stance against family violence could end up helping the company.
"If you help someone, really listen to them," she says. "you're going to help yourself because this person's going to come in more productive. But you're also going to help this person. No one in the workplace wants to lose a good employee."
Even the smallest of companies, which perhaps have no human resources or security departments, can address the issue of family violence, Dietzel suggests.
For example, he says, a company's receptionist and the CEO's secretary are often those most in contact with employees at a small business. Those two individuals could be trained to direct victims to sources of assistance. Employees could be notified that the company will not tolerate violence and informed that they can get assistance by contacting those two employees.
"That little thing would be a morale booster for that little company," he says, noting the action would have three effects.
It would elevate those two employees to a position of being empowered to help employees, enhance the CEO's image to one where the employees see he or she really cares about them, and put offenders in the company on notice that their actions against victims will not be tolerated.
"Caring for the safety of your people is simply the right thing to do, and having a zero-tolerance for violence in a business is not only the right thing to do, it's also good business," Dietzel says regarding advice he'd give to other business owners regarding the issue. "In terms of sending a message to employees that you care, I cannot think of a less extensive, more direct way to do that than to provide a note to them: If there's violence in your life and you'd like to talk to somebody, please call one of these three numbers. I think that will come back to you as people will feel differently about you as a CEO, and people will feel differently about your business."
Staying on task
Wexner brushes aside facts and figures that are evidence of lost productivity and work time due to family violence issues faced by employees.
"It's of interest, but the compelling thing to me is you're never going to get someone to do something on that fact alone," she says of attaching monetary values to the effects of domestic violence. "You've got to get people to see they have an obligation to employees to act as responsibly as they can."
To enhance the program in the Columbus area, the Coalition continues to raise awareness by training business employees and helping companies establish policies to deal with violence in the workplace, says Joel Dixon, an account executive hired by the Coalition to work directly with businesses to maintain their policies.
"Victims put themselves in a lot of danger when the perpetrator is aware that they are seeking help," says Karen Days, executive director of the Coalition. "We want to make sure we can help them in a way that doesn't revictimize them or put them in more danger."
Wexner is heartened to find that sponsors of the Coalition are offering more than dollar bills to the effort.
"People like Kroger and Bank One say, 'We'll help with the funding, but we'd really like to take you up on your offer to address the issue,'" she says.
Dixon has been working to implement family violence policies and awareness programs at Kroger, Children's Hospital, The Huntington National Bank, Nationwide, The Columbus Dispatch, the City of Columbus and Worthington Industries as well as The Limited Inc. All are among in-kind or monetary sponsors of the Coalition, but he's also been contacted by and begun working with other Columbus area companies to implement the program.
In three to five years, Wexner guesses, the Coalition may have a proven program to expand to other communities -- which already have requested information on its activities.
Gail Heller, executive director of CHOICES, a local agency that provides comprehensive services to victims and survivors of domestic violence, says that while statewide organizations such as the Ohio Coalition on Sexual Assault and the Ohio Domestic Violence Network have tried to address the entire issue, the Coalition Against Family Violence focuses on the Central Ohio and Franklin County area.
"Most of the larger cities across the country have some coordinating council or some body that focuses on the issue within the community. There have been different attempts over the years to try and pull something together," Heller says. "I think Abigail has had the best success of all the attempts. The Coalition is focusing on the full range of issues of violence that occur in the family environment, where organizations like ours deal more specifically with abuse that occurs between adults."
Wexner, she notes, is also tackling issues of child abuse and elder abuse.
"She probably does have the broadest view in this area," Heller says.
Having so many community representatives included in the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence, Heller says, will make it easier to meet goals.
"I think (the Coalition) has helped our community increase awareness of the issue and really make people understand and see that it really isn't a problem that is only existing behind somebody's closed door and shuttered windows," Heller says. "If it's happening behind closed doors, it really does extend into our schools and our workplaces and our churches and all those places.
"When people become more aware of a problem in a community, it's harder to ignore it. It's harder to hope somebody else will deal with it," Heller says. "It's more of the community's responsibility to deal with this issue now."
The long road ahead
Wexner is ready to commit her time and effort to what she knows the Coalition will need to make progress against family violence.
"I kind of think the work we've accomplished so far is not even the tip of the iceberg. In terms of really delving into the problem, it's going to take years," she says.
Already, however, the Coalition has, among other accomplishments, given information to more than 100,000 employees by educating more than 200 businesses about family violence and implemented a training and education program for businesses and other local employers. More than 2,000 human resources and security personnel representing 23 companies have received training.
Wexner says she took on the challenge of curtailing family violence knowing it would be tough.
"This is not the most glamorous issue," she says, noting the privacy matters and the sensitivity required. "If I didn't necessarily want to do it, I'm not sure anyone else would want to take this on."
More important, however, she felt a responsibility to respond.
"If you say women and children are being abused next door to you and there's something you can do about it," she says, "don't you have to?"
How to reach: Joel Dixon, Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence, Joel Dixon, (614) 722-5905 and Karen Days, (614) 722-5960; Marcia Majidzadeh, Resource International Inc., (614) 885-1959 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Gail Heller, CHOICES, (614) 258-6080 or www.choicesdvcols.org. Contact Al Dietzel, The Limited Inc., and Abigail Wexner through the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence at 722-5985.