Nancy Byron

Ronald Brown, CEO of Maximation LLC in Dublin, which is a prime competitor of Quick Solutions

“I’ve known Quick ever since he’s been in business. We’ve been in a lot of competitive situations. ... Our business is probably more competitive than the majority of businesses in the world ... so we’re constantly stealing people from each other. At one time, Gary and I came up with an agreement that I’d leave his people alone and he’d leave my people alone. We both lived up to that agreement, so I have to assume he’s a man of his word. One way to evaluate a human being is if they say they’re going to do something and they stick to that. That tells me they’re an honorable person.

“I can’t say anything negative about Gary. I respect him as a human being.”

Jack Butler, a partner with Swedlow, Butler, Levine, Lewis & Dye Co. LPA, who serves as Quick’s attorney

“One of the things that’s quite apparent to me in working with Gary is he has a good intellect. He’s unassuming in his demeanor, he’s very relaxed and nonthreatening [but] I think sometimes he has to mask the fact that he has a real strong intellect.

“His style and personality also serve him well in the business he’s in. ... I think he’s quickly embraced by people he does business with. He has a lot of energy, but he can really stick to his knitting, so to speak. ... He has a vision. He wants to grow his business and add to its breadth and depth. And, like the typical entrepreneur, his attitude is, ‘This is what we will do to accomplish it.’ The glass is half full, not half empty. There’s a positive, can-do attitude that’s pervasive in his thinking. ... I think those are very important characteristics.

“Another thing I can tell you about Gary is his employees like him. ... And they respect him. I’ve always seen him treat his employees with considerateness and respect as well. He likes the people that work for him and that shows. That fosters the same kind of attitude back toward him.”

Ed Ahearn, IS manager with Bank One Services Corp., a long-time client of Quick Solutions

“[He’s] results oriented, a go-getter and he tries to understand the client’s needs. ... He also has good people. I think he spends a lot of time developing his organization to support the clients.

“He’s a straight-forward person. ... He must be regarded very highly because of all the awards he’s gotten. Obviously he’s very successful, so he’s doing a lot of things right.”

Kelly Borth, owner and president of Greencrest, and Quick’s nominator for the SBA award

“[He’s] energetic, bright, fun. He’s a very employee-focused individual and a very fair player. ... He has an innate ability to motivate people. ... I’m in awe of his creativity when it comes to coming up with incentive programs or recognition programs. ... I learn a lot from him by watching and observing and being around him. He’s always free to give advice. He has genuine concern and care — as much for his business as for mine. ... You don’t run across that many people who are that down-to-earth and that successful and unpretentious.”

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:56

A model businessman

The lights were dim, but the room was loud — really, really loud. Plane engine loud. And not just because the music was blaring. There were people everywhere: standing, seated, clapping, dancing, talking, laughing, singing. There must have been close to 3,000 excessively exuberant, mostly middle-aged, revelers assembled — and it was barely 8 a.m. It was the strangest sight I’d ever witnessed as a member of the media.

This was the Longaberger Reunion Bee and I was in awe.

What kind of company evokes such unbridled, almost cult-like enthusiasm from its sales force? I mean, thousands upon thousands of independent sales associates, as The Longaberger Co. likes to call them, flew and drove to Columbus from all over the country for this annual powwow. What could possibly make these people so loyal and so very proud of what they do for a living? I soon found out.

When company founder Dave Longaberger took the stage, the fervent cheers hit a whole new level as the entire crowd sprang to its feet. When he spoke, the group hushed. Clad in hand-woven Longaberger sweaters and clutching basket-shaped purses, the masses leaned forward and hung on his every word. Then they cheered, and cheered, and cheered some more. Clearly this man was more than their leader; he was loved and admired by them. He was their hero. In many ways, they couldn’t have picked a better role model.

Dave Longaberger was a picture of dignity and class. He was humble in his success and gracious when honored. He was intensely dedicated to his hometown of Dresden, a quiet community about 50 miles east of Columbus where he chose to start his basket weaving business 26 years ago. Longaberger was noble in his fight against cancer, too. He never hid his worsening condition or tried to evoke pity in the 22 months he fought this disease.

His genuine nature made him a father figure — looked up to, trusted and revered, not just by his two grown daughters, but by his staff of more than 54,000 nationwide. It’s said that Longaberger was the type of manager who often walked the manufacturing facility’s floor talking to employees, listening to their concerns and recruiting their ideas. Apparently he knew the importance of respect and he earned it honestly.

Longaberger was also a master planner. Years before his cancer diagnosis, he laid the groundwork to ensure his legacy would continue to flourish under the able leadership of his daughters, Tami and Rachel. That’s why, although Longaberger’s March 17 death seemed to come far too soon, his company won’t miss a beat.

Tami, his eldest, has been serving as president of the now-$700 million Longaberger Co. for nearly five years, with the same modesty, energy and genuine class her father displayed. Rachel appears to share her dad’s passion for supporting the local community, too, through her work as president of The Longaberger Foundation.

Although Dave Longaberger won dozens of awards for his business and civic achievements during the 64 years he spent on this Earth, I have to think his most cherished reward is knowing his daughters have done, and will continue to do, him proud.

Rest easy, Dave, and thank you for showing us all how to succeed with grace. Nancy Byron ( is the editor of SBN Columbus.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:53

Total exposure

Profit margins are not guarded secrets at Excel Business Systems. In fact, President Mike Warren is so confident he runs a lean operation that he freely shows not just his company’s gross profit, but its net profit after operating and occupancy costs, to prospective clients.

He says it’s simply a better, more honest way to do business.

“It’s such a shell game how we price in this industry,” says Warren, whose Grandview Heights-based company has been selling office furniture for five years. “I didn’t like all the deceitfulness and all the hidden agendas. People are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and they don’t know why. It’s intentional that they don’t know why ... I think the customer has a right to know those things. We have nothing to hide.”

Maybe so, but will customers embrace — or even understand — this tell-all pricing strategy?

“It would not influence me,” says Bob Valentine, president of Design Collective Inc. in Columbus, who negotiates furniture deals for heavy-hitting corporate clients including Sterling Commerce and Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. “But it probably would appeal to a first-time buyer. They might get the impression that they’re being more open on the cost of furniture.

“It could get sticky if [customers] want to question different markups,” Valentine cautions. “Any time you’re exposing the cost, I think it’s an advantage to the end user. I think you’re making yourself kind of vulnerable.”

Bucking the system

A desire to sleep better at night and enjoy his work during the day led Warren to explore open-book pricing for his business.

“Furniture sales is just so adversarial,” he says. “At some point in the day, you’re going to be fighting and arguing with somebody.”

By breaking down his company’s costs and desired profit margin, Warren found the pricing “game” became much less abstract and less confrontational. He could plainly show clients how much of an order’s price went toward reimbursing Excel for purchasing products from the manufacturer, how much went toward Excel’s office and administrative expenses, how much went toward rent, utilities and insurance, and exactly how much fell to the bottom line.

“We can figure up our cost, not to the penny, but to the dollar,” Warren says. “Our customers know we need to make a profit and we’re not embarrassed to show it to [them].”

Excel’s pricing even takes into account the cost of collecting on an account that’s more than 30 days old and specifically outlines the customer’s timetable for delivery and installation. Penalties can also be built into Excel’s part of the contract in case the project doesn’t get finished on time, but Warren is quick to point out, “I’ve never had to pay one.”

“By having conversations about expectations, and how long it takes to pay, it makes the end of the project go smoother,” Warren says. Besides, he adds, it’s fairer to get everything out in the open from the beginning.

Dan Crowley, division senior buyer for Time Warner Communications in Columbus, seems to agree.

“I’ve been in purchasing and buying for 12 years and working in inventory and I’ve never, ever seen anything like that,” Crowley says. “I think it’s a great idea. When you’re dealing with people, trust is a great part of doing business. When you know they’re disclosing that sort of information and laying it right on the table for you, it takes out part of the mystery of doing business with people.”

Time Warner has been a customer of Excel’s for about a year, and in that time, has purchased a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of products from the company.

“It’s like buying a car,” Crowley says. “Do you really know if you got the best deal? This takes some of the guesswork out of it.”

One of Excel’s competitors, Mike Gorman, president of Thomas W. Ruff & Co. in Grandview Heights, also compares Warren’s lay-it-on-the-line pricing strategy to the car-buying experience — but in a whole different way.

“Do you believe $1 over invoice?” Gorman asks. “ Do you believe $100 over invoice? You don’t believe any of that stuff. I think it’s just a smoke-and-mirrors marketing and sales ploy. The marketplace dictates the price.

“Customers don’t need to make a decision based on what our markup is, what our efficiencies are. It’s the product. It’s the right stuff at the right price with the right processes around it. Free enterprise and competition bring the best value to the customer. I can’t say it any better than that.”

A harder sell

Warren’s extremely detailed pricing approach has created at least one significant challenge for Excel. It’s harder to work with office managers and junior purchasing executives wanting to gather price quotes for their bosses, who ultimately are going to make the buying decisions. Excel’s system simply is too different — and sometimes confusing — for lower-level executives to grasp.

“We need to be in front of decision makers, people who are used to looking at profit/loss statements,” Warren says.

He points to a recent bid request from Ricart Ford.

“They’ve been talking to Thomas Ruff and Continental [Office Furniture] about this project for a while,” Warren says. “Now they have two bids from large dealerships and we’re going to upset the process because we’re going about it in a different way.”

Even as an existing customer, Crowley sees the potential for initial apprehension by his higher-ups at Time Warner when trying to compare costs under Excel’s radically different system.

“When I present it to my supervisors for approval along with other quotes, I think their eyes will open up a little wider and they’ll say, ‘What is this?’” Crowley says. “I’m sure it will take a little getting used to. I think it’s going to be a selling [job] on my part, too.

“But in the long run, I think people will become more accustomed to having that relationship; people will be more accepting to it over time.”

Warren began “practicing” his new pricing method on select Excel projects in August 1998, and only started using it on a more widespread basis in January.

“I wasn’t sure what the reaction was going to be,” he says.

Warren’s decision to try open-book pricing came easier once he spoke with other companies who have tried bucking traditional systems within their own industries. These trendsetters included Saturn Corp., the Spring Hill, Tenn.-based subsidiary of General Motors, and Gateway2000 Inc., the South Dakota-based computer retailer.

“There were some parallels,” Warren says. “They’re in huge industries that, after all these years, are changing how they distribute products. It gave us some confidence.”

When Warren rolled out Excel’s line-by-line pricing structure, however, he quickly learned he couldn’t convert everyone to the new system.

“Not everybody wants to do it this way,” he admits. “Some people still want a bid. We have to do what the customer wants us to do ... but they’re crazy not to do it this way.”

Gorman begs to differ.

“Would I feel any better buying a copy machine from IKON if they told me, ‘This is what I paid Toshiba for it and this is how much money I want to get from you for it?’” Gorman asks. “I’m still going to compare it to a Canon. A customer ought to question, ‘Why do you need that much money?’ and ‘Is this the right price from the manufacturer?’”

“He could inflate any of those numbers as well,” Valentine agrees.

All the same, Crowley remains fascinated by the whole concept.

“I think it’s good for people to actually see all the components of what’s involved in a business arriving at a price for an item: payroll, delivery, actual cost of the item,” he says. “Every step involved in getting the item to the customer, there’s a cost involved in all of that. It’s good when you can see the nuts and bolts of all of it. It’s amazing to me he’s going to take this step and disclose this.”

“It’s obviously not the standard,” adds Valentine.

Still waiting

So has exposing Excel’s financials been a good move for Warren’s youthful furniture company? He says it’s still too early to tell.

Company revenues haven’t increased — or decreased, for that matter — due to the new system, he says, but he’s getting more project work rather than single-item orders. That, he says, is a step in the right direction. In addition, Excel is on track to repeat last year’s $10 million performance, despite an office move that disrupted business. “It’s not about growing sales each year,” he says. “We wanted to make an impact.”

That’s exactly what Valentine figures Excel is trying to do. “They’re fascinating to watch because they’re really trying to position themselves apart from other dealers,” he says.

This move may accomplish that, since Gorman says Excel’s willingness to disclose profit margins and operating costs won’t change the way Thomas W. Ruff & Co. does business.

“We’re not at all embarrassed by our efficiencies or by the prices we charge customers,” Gorman says. “I wish him a lot of luck ... but I just don’t get it. I don’t think it’s relevant to the customer.”

Warren insists disclosure is, in fact, important to customers. And he’s determined to make his new pricing system a success — despite the initial obstacles.

“It’s hard to sell this way because it’s different,” he says. “You have a lot more explaining to do. People are resistant to change. But I know we’re trendsetters.”

Nancy Byron ( is editor of SBN Columbus.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:53

Lois J. Fisher

Lois Fisher is a picture of perseverance.

When a July 1987 flood swept through Marion, severely damaging the entire town, including the 164-room motel, banquet hall and restaurant Fisher had purchased just two years earlier, she could’ve thrown in the towel on business ownership. Instead, Fisher called in family members from across the state to help her and her employees clean and repair enough of the Harding Motor Lodge to keep it operating while she sought funds to restore the rest.

By September of that year, she’d secured a $452,600 disaster loan through the Small Business Administration. Good thing. Since the building had actually floated off its foundation during the flood, the entire structure needed to be replaced. In fact, roughly half of the structure was torn down during the restoration, leaving just 99 motel rooms in the facility. Suddenly, Fisher’s income potential had been significantly reduced.

Once again, Fisher showed her determination to succeed in business. She collectively acquired and built about 100,000 square feet of office space, which she could lease to supplement her motel business income. In addition, she added a 30,000-square-foot medical office to her growing real estate portfolio.

In recognition of her ongoing business success, despite this potentially crippling natural disaster, Fisher was honored earlier this year with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 1999 Columbus District Phoenix Award.

“Mrs. Fisher is truly one of Marion’s outstanding entrepreneurs,” says Pamela Hall, president of the Marion Area Chamber of Commerce, in her letter nominating Fisher for the SBA award. “She is extremely active in the Marion business community and is highly respected for her business skills and investment success.”

Fisher is a founding member of at least four business groups in Marion County, including the Marion Women’s Business Council, Entrepreneurial Alliance Inc. and South Marion Business Association — and she continues to serve on the boards of these three. She is also on the boards of Leadership Ohio, HealthFirst/HealthOhio Inc., Marion Bank and the Marion Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Last year, Fisher was also honored with the first ever ATHENA Foundation Award by the Women’s Business Council, an affiliate of the Marion chamber.

Nancy Byron ( is editor of SBN Columbus.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:52

Too little, too late

Where was Dick Jacobs five years ago? I can’t be the only one wondering.

Where was he when plans for the malls at Tuttle Crossing and Easton were announced and retail experts began predicting the demise of Northland Mall? Where was he 10 to 15 years ago when safety issues — including a late-afternoon assault on a 75-year old woman in the parking lot of Northland and the shooting of a teen-ager boarding a bus at the mall — began scaring away shoppers? Where was Dick Jacobs, the absentee owner of Northland Mall, when our community really needed him?

After all, the deterioration of Northland Mall has been long in coming. Sure, a new sign here, a new food court there made for nice, if short-lived, Band-Aids, but the deep, underlying gashes in the mall’s once-stellar image have never fully healed.

A new mall at Polaris won’t kill Northland — no matter how loudly or publicly Jacobs insists it will. Northland is all but dead now. Jacobs is just looking for someone else to blame for his own neglect. Herb Glimcher and his Polaris mall project have become the hapless scapegoats.

Funny how we didn’t see Jacobs storm into town and stomp his feet over the roughly $30 million in tax increment financing sought and received by Les Wexner three years ago to build public parking garages and improve roads in and around his massive Easton development. Perhaps Jacobs hesitated at the thought of taking on a man whose net worth ranks 11th in the world — despite the fact that industry insiders forecasted Easton’s success would devastate Northland.

With or without competition from Polaris, Northland’s fate as a traditional mall was all but sealed when Easton opened this summer. The aging, lackluster collection of stores located a few miles down Morse Road from Wexner’s new crown jewel just can’t compare with the glitzy shopping and entertainment combo at Easton.

If Dick Jacobs really cares about the Northland community, he ought to quit fighting this ridiculous media battle with Glimcher and turn his attention to finding a new use for Northland Mall. Glimcher has already proposed some plausible ideas — and even offered to finance them — but Jacobs prefers to play the stick-in-the-mud role.

His inflexibility should be alarming to the residents and businesses of the Northland area. They’re the ones who will truly suffer if Northland Mall is reduced to empty, boarded up storefronts and a vacant, weed-strewn parking lot — simply because Jacobs insisted on going down with the ship instead of steering it onto a better course.

There are plenty of alternative uses for a sizable chunk of real estate like Northland Mall, which also happens to be located near a major highway. Glimcher has mentioned a hotel and conference center or a Lenox Town Center-type development.

Both are fine ideas. Both have the potential to be lucrative investments. Both are better than a last-ditch effort to “save” Northland Mall with an overpriced facelift. Northland Mall is much farther gone than that. The writing has been on the wall for years. Dick Jacobs just chose to ignore it and now it’s too late. Shame on him. The Northland area deserves better than that.

Nancy Byron ( is editor of SBN Columbus.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

The SBN 100

There’s no shortage of speculation regarding the new millennium. Regardless of the turn of the century, however, numerous events will affect the business environment here in the coming year.

Energy deregulation will make its appearance. Companies will continue struggling with the waning work force. And the economy will bear the weight of high expectations fueled by last year’s heavy market action.

While these and other business issues will come and go in the next 12 months, one thing will remain constant: Our business community will continue to be shaped, in large part, through the actions and opinions of certain Central Ohio leaders — and not just the usual suspects, either.

In addition to the Wolfes, Wexners and McFersons you’d expect to wield such influence, a group of lesser-known, yet surprisingly powerful executives is emerging in our corporate community. Some are already strong, behind-the-scenes voices; others are on the verge of making their mark.

Whether they’re familiar faces or new names, these are people you should get acquainted with. Together, the following 100 people will have the most influence on our business community in the year 2000.

Jan Allen & Curt Steiner

president & CEO, respectively

HMS Success

Talk about a power-packed couple. This husband-and-wife team has, between them, more political ties than most business owners could ever hope to amass.

Steiner, a former chief of staff to both Gov. George Voinovich and Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, previously worked as a principal media strategist for U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, Sen. Voinovich and numerous members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Ohio Legislature and Ohio Supreme Court.

Allen, a former deputy chief of staff in Gov. Dick Celeste’s administration, once served on staffs of the lieutenant governor, secretary of state and Ohio House of Representatives. She still maintains an of counsel role with The Success Group Inc., a consulting firm that represents clients before the executive branch of government.

These two clearly know the dynamics of public opinion — and the players who shape it — better than just about anyone else in town.

Sandy Dickinson

executive director

Ohio Foundation for Entrepreneurial Education

Dickinson provides support for local entrepreneurs through her educational programs, but her influence in the business community reaches beyond the start-up level.

Her pull is strong enough to convince established business leaders to donate not only their money but their time and expertise in the classroom. Consider some of her trustees and officers: Robert H. Maynard, partner with Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease; Paul J. Otte, president of Franklin University; and Michael A. Petrecca, partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Dwight Smith

president and CEO

Sophisticated Systems Inc.

Everywhere you look, Smith has a hand in the business community. A member of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce board of directors, as well as its economic development and entrepreneurship committees, he’s already well-known on the local level.

Even in his own business, he’s rubbing elbows with power clients: Nationwide, Honda, The Limited, Bank One and The Huntington National Bank, for instance.

But watch: Smith late last year was named to the Governor’s Small Business Council. He’s also a board member for the Ohio Foundation for Entrepreneurial Education. It won’t be long before his name is recognized statewide.

Patrick J. Fehring Jr.

president and CEO

Fifth Third Bank, Central Ohio

With Bank One moving its headquarters, and rumors swirling around the future of The Huntington National Bank, expect Fifth Third to step up its local presence and Fehring to follow the path of community leadership set by Don Shackelford, chair of Fifth Third Bank, Central Ohio.

Already, Fehring has taken a stand through involvement in the United Way campaign and its connections with Columbus businesses. In addition, the bank has heightened its local influence by purchasing two home-grown financial organizations: State Savings and The Ohio Co.

To become a true local influence, however, Fehring will need to develop more business contacts through his civic work as a trustee for the Children’s Hospital Foundation and COSI, for example. Expect him to start doing that this year.

Pete Klisares

former president/COO

Karrington Health, now Sunrise Assisted Living

Klisares hasn’t been in the forefront as much since he left executive roles at Karrington and Worthington Industries, but the experience he has in management will surely keep him active — and influential — in the business community.

Locally, he serves on the boards at Dominion Homes Inc. and The Huntington National Bank, as well as MPW Industrial Services Group. He also consults for a handful of other companies, primarily in the manufacturing industry. Look for him to continue finding roles in which he can solve problems for area businesses.

Ora E. Smith


Science and Technology Campus Corp.

Smith will play a significant role this year in increasing Columbus’ reputation for technological developments. That’s particularly important, given the current trouble high-tech companies are having attracting good recruits to Central Ohio.

The Science and Technology Campus at The Ohio State University is designed to enhance technology business activity in Central Ohio and provide industrial connections for students and faculty. Already the 2-year-old campus has garnered more interest than it has space available.

As Smith continues to develop the research park to house more companies and link them to research and technical expertise, he’ll become highly sought-after and respected for his contacts in the technology and financial industries.

Cleve Ricksecker

project director

Capital South Community Urban Redevelopment Corp.

Ricksecker was the driving force behind the Short North’s revitalization. His next project was supposed to be directing development along the Scioto River downtown, but the disbanding of Riverfront Commons Corp. put the brakes on that mission.

Now Ricksecker has found a welcome home for his urban revitalization skills at Capital South, a project that’s charged with cleaning up not just the physical structures, but the image of High Street in the central business district. With so much attention turning this year to COSI, Nationwide Arena and Miranova, the High Street corridor appears to be the next logical step in downtown redevelopment.

And Ricksecker appears to have the enthusiasm, connections and track record to get it done.

Carol Sheehan

managing partner

Carlile, Patchen & Murphy LLP

Sheehan may be the only female managing partner of a major Columbus law firm, but she doesn’t go around thumping her chest over it. She doesn’t have to; her actions speak for themselves.

She’s a highly sought-after speaker in the business and professional community for her expertise in real estate and tax law. She’s also quite civic-minded and volunteers her time to serve on charitable boards of organizations including the Big Brothers Big Sisters Association of Columbus and Franklin County and the Columbus YWCA.

Although she doesn’t seem concerned with grabbing big headlines, she definitely can hold her own among the city’s corporate elite.

Kurt Tunnell

administrative partner

Bricker & Eckler LLP

With his deep-seated political connections, Tunnell is the attorney of choice for local business leaders looking to push through pro-business legislation at the statehouse.

This former chief legal counsel to Gov. George Voinovich successfully advocated revisions to Ohio’s insurance tax laws, which gave insurers a uniform tax rate nearly 50 percent lower than the previous maximum. Tunnell also was the legal eagle who secured passage of a highly controversial tort-reform package, aimed at curbing frivolous lawsuits and enormously high jury awards. Although that legislation has since been struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court, Tunnell remains committed to the cause — even establishing a statewide CourtWatch program to monitor the issue on behalf of Ohio businesses.

Clearly, this affable Eagle Scout is at home holding audience with the state’s top leaders, and they, in turn, seem to respect — and often act upon — his opinions.

Benjamin Zox, president and CEO, Schottenstein, Zox & Dunn LPA: Zox helped form the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Ambassadors, which, on a CEO-to-CEO level, attracts companies to settle or expand here. In addition, expect Zox to continue his leadership, not only through the clout of his highly regarded law firm, but also by encouraging other attorneys there and throughout the city to follow in his footsteps of community involvement.

Bea Wolper, partner, Chester, Willcox & Saxbe LLP: Wolper continues to distinguish herself as the obvious local leader of women in business, especially considering her roles as founder and president of Women’s Business Board and Women’s Business Beginnings.

John F. Wolfe, publisher and chairman, The Dispatch Printing Co.: When you own no fewer than seven media outlets in a single market, including the city’s only daily newspaper, it’s hard not to wield considerable influence — be it in the business community or elsewhere.

Frank Wobst, chairman and CEO, Huntington Bancshares Inc.: Money is power — and with Wobst heading the largest locally based bank in Columbus now, whatever he does affects the entire business community. Just ask John B. McCoy, who used to share this local influence.

Jeff Wilkins, chairman and CEO, Metatec Corp.: Wilkins started CompuServe when desktop computers were still the exclusive domain of technogeeks. He saw the future of CD-ROM technology years before floppy discs and vinyl records fell out of favor. With visionary capabilities like that, Wilkins will always be someone corporate Columbus watches for new trends and upcoming business opportunities.

Bill Wilkins, president and CEO, OhioHealth: As the health care industry continues to evolve, not just locally but nationally, what Wilkins does at OhioHealth is likely to influence the behavior of other, competing institutions and, thus, the entire Central Ohio community.

Randy Wilcox, president and CEO, SARCOM Inc.: As Wilcox leads his company into the $1 billion range, he continues to increase his presence in the business community. Watch for him to step up his civic involvement and continue making a name for himself in elite business circles, such as Entrepreneur Of The Year.

Les Wexner, chairman and CEO, The Limited Inc. and Intimate Brands Inc.: When the 11th richest man in the world talks, people don’t just listen, they act on what he says.

Bob Weiler Sr., chairman, The Robert Weiler Co.: Anyone who owns as much land as Weiler does in the fast-developing Polaris Centers of Commerce, as well as along Morse and Sunbury roads near Easton and Gender Road in the suddenly booming Canal Winchester area is apt to have the upper hand in shaping business growth throughout Central Ohio.

Audrey Weil, general manager, CompuServe: She’s been at CompuServe’s helm for less than a year, but already everybody knows her name. Don’t expect her roll to stop; she serves on the Columbus chamber’s board and surely will interact with the business community on any technology topics in 2000.

Bob Walter, chairman and CEO, Cardinal Health Inc.: Walter’s experience in leading Cardinal through more than 20 acquisitions will keep him in high demand in the business community. He currently serves on the boards of directors of Bank One Corp., CBS Corp. and Infinity Broadcasting Corp. In addition, he runs the highest revenue-producing company based in Columbus. If that doesn’t carry some clout, what does?

Bob Taft, governor, State of Ohio: His position alone carries a lot of influence, and Taft has chosen to extend that influence into the business community. Already he’s taken big steps toward seeking input through his Small Business Advisory Council and Workforce Policy Board. Now he needs to finish the journey by acting on the recommendations of these business leaders.

Paula Spence, retired vice chair, HMS Partners: She may be retired from HMS, but the long-time PR guru has not taken a back seat. Business and community leaders continue to recognize and respect her for her many contributions.

Robert Snyder, president, Ohio Electric Utility Institute: Considering the onset of deregulation and constant changes in the utility industry, Snyder will have his hands full this year representing the five investor-owned electric companies in Ohio.

Lewis Smoot Sr., president, Smoot Corp.: It’s hard to think of a major construction project in Central Ohio that hasn’t involved Smoot’s business. Clearly, Smoot has developed a name for himself and his company with the powers-that-be in Columbus.

Rosa Smith, superintendent, Columbus Public Schools: Smith’s got her work cut out for her as business owners continue to demand quality graduates to fill the job glut. We expect she’ll continue the dedication she’s already proven by serving, for example, on the chamber’s Workforce Leadership Council — and up her influence in the business community in the process.

Harrison Smith & Ben Hale, law partners, Smith & Hale: Sure, Smith may be past traditional retirement age, but his corporate contacts are as strong as ever. He can still get an easy audience with the likes of Les Wexner and Jack Nicklaus, both of whom he represented in major development deals years ago, and Hale is just as comfortable rubbing elbows with the corporate elite.

Rhonda Slotta, president, TDCI Consulting LLC: Slotta’s name surfaced three times last year in rather impressive company. She was among the finalists for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year awards. She also was honored by the Columbus chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners and received an Excellence in Enterprise award from the Ohio Department of Development’s Women’s Business Resource Program. Expect this up-and-coming influencer to continue raising her visibility by serving as a model for other women business owners.

Alex Shumate, managing partner, Columbus office, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP: Shumate begins his term as board president of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce this year. Consider that, plus his service on boards including Intimate Brands Inc. and Bank One Corp., and his position in the inner circle of corporate Columbus becomes clear.

Thekla Shackelford, owner, School Selection Consulting: Although hers is not a household name, perhaps it ought to be. She’s one of those quietly influential types who serves aside Dave Thomas on the board at Wendy’s International, as well as Alex Shumate and John B. McCoy on the board at Bank One. In addition, she co-chaired The Ohio State University’s “Affirm Thy Friendship” campaign, which raised more than $1 billion. That’s some pretty good pull.

Don Shackelford, chair, Fifth Third Bank, Central Ohio: Shackelford remains in high demand in the business community, evidenced by his service on powerful corporate boards including The Limited Inc., Intimate Brands Inc., Midland Life Insurance Co. and Worthington Foods Inc.

Tadd Seitz, former chairman, The Scotts Co.: He may have left Scotts after orchestrating its turnaround, but that hasn’t lessened Seitz’s presence in the Central Ohio business community. In fact, he may affect even more businesses now that he’s moved out of the corner office and into the investment community full time.

Irv Schottenstein, chairman and CEO, M/I Schottenstein Homes Inc.: Not only does Schottenstein run the largest home building company in Columbus — giving him an upper hand in the power-packed construction industry — but he continues to circulate among some of the city’s corporate elite.

Bill Schottenstein, owner, Arshot Investment Corp.: This may just be the year that the long-awaited rebirth of the Brewery District hits high gear and Schottenstein’s Brewers Yard project will set the new standard for development in this area.

J. Daniel Schmidt, president, Downtown South Association: Look for Schmidt to take a more prominent role this year as development and renovation of this long-overlooked area of the center city continues and the association’s membership drive, started last fall, gets rolling.

Paula Ryan, marketing director, Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter: Don’t let the non-CEO title fool you. Ryan has been quite active in the business community as a member of the Downtown Council. Last year, she took the reins and will surely become an even more familiar face among downtown movers and shakers as the Arena District comes to life this year.

Jack Ruscilli, CEO, Ruscilli Construction Co. Inc.: This guy has more connections than AT&T. His business advisory board is filled with heavy hitters like John Christie and Jeff Keeler, and his company has worked on some of the most impressive projects in town, including the new COSI, the Columbus Zoo’s manatee exhibit and OhioHealth’s Riverside Methodist Hospitals expansion.

Harley E. Rouda Sr., founder, HER Inc., Realtors: Rouda’s long-held prominence in the local real estate industry will keep him at the forefront of building- and financial-related businesses this year.

Jim Robbins, managing partner, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Columbus office: Although he’s not the most boisterous or flashy executive in town, Robbins quietly carries his weight as the leader of Columbus’ largest accounting firm.

Ron Pizzuti, chairman and CEO, The Pizzuti Cos.: Pizzuti has played ball with all the big boys in town — Les Wexner, John Wolfe, Dimon McFerson, John H. McConnell. And although the lengthy delays surrounding Pizzuti’s Miranova project may have pushed this power broker out of the limelight a bit in the past couple years, he still wields quite a bit of influence among decision makers. Look for the completion of Miranova and the Nationwide Arena this year to put Pizzuti’s name back in the headlines.

Paul Otte, president, Franklin University: Otte serves on the Columbus chamber board and, through his company, Otte & Associates, provides managerial assistance to companies and institutions. He makes it his job to stay in front of the business community and determine how its needs can be met through the university’s academic offerings. It’s a role that has earned him the appreciation — and ear — of top executives around town.

Doug Olesen, president and CEO, Battelle: His name may not pop up as often as many others, but as a chamber board member, Olesen still plays a powerful role in the business community, especially considering Battelle’s impact on business research and technology developments.

Roger Morris, president, Columbus/Franklin County News Bureau: After all the fanfare surrounding the launch of the area’s first news bureau, many civic and business leaders were expecting the area to get a big splash in the national press. That hasn’t happened — but Morris should be able to call upon his past corporate and media connections to make it a reality this year.

Curt Moody, president and CEO, Moody/Nolan Ltd.: Moody may have gotten his start here, but his reputation is now known throughout the eastern half of the country. He’s done work on Olympic venues, major league sports stadiums and — closer to home — the new COSI, the Schottenstein Center and the Smith Bros. Hardware building. Clearly it takes skill, respect and clout to land high-profile, complex projects like these over and over again.

Cameron Mitchell, president, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants LLC: He’s done what most thought impossible: getting private investors not just excited, but actually clamoring for a stake in the notoriously high-risk, low-return restaurant business. And he’s done it more than once. With the incredible financial returns his growing restaurant chain has seen, Mitchell’s continually evolving concepts are influencing many others around town to follow his lead.

Ken Mills & Cameron James, president and CEO, respectively, Mills/James Productions Inc.: The connections Mills and James have amassed over the years by working with clients the likes of OhioHealth, Wendy’s, Borden and Worthington Industries have made them familiar faces at the most elite fund-raisers and corporate events.

Karen McVey, CEO, Women in New Growth Stages: McVey has quietly become a force in the business community by helping women advance in their careers. She serves as both a resource and a mentor.

Dimon McFerson, chairman, Nationwide: He may be the newest of the city’s titans, but he’s already vying for the status of most powerful.

John H. McConnell, chairman emeritus and founder, Worthington Industries: McConnell’s influence is obvious in business and the community. His name is often one of the first mentioned among those other local business leaders admire.

Peg Mativi, owner and CEO, Solutions Staffing: More and more, Mativi’s staking a claim to popularity in the business community. She’s been on the chamber’s board, and more recently extended her reach statewide with her appointment to the governor’s Workforce Policy Board.

Farah Majidzadeh, chair and CEO, Resource International Inc.: She’s been a contender in recent years for such prestigious awards as Entrepreneur Of The Year, the Columbus chamber’s Small Business Person of the Year and Excellence in Enterprise, yet Majidzadeh has really come into her own on the local business scene lately. Expect to hear more from her.

Curt Loveland, partner, Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur LLP: Loveland is one of the city’s most sought-after money men — not only for his ability to help companies get financing from venture capitalists and private investors, but for his business and legal expertise. He’s helped take many local companies public, too, among them Applied Innovation Inc., Rocky Shoes & Boots and CheckFree Corp. [now based in Atlanta].

Tami Longaberger, president and CEO, The Longaberger Co.: As the company begins to broaden the appeal of its products and Longaberger moves into her first full year at the helm, she’ll garner more attention — and more leverage. She’s already begun to do so as Ohio State University trustee.

Katherine LeVeque, CEO, LeVeque Enterprises: Some might think LeVeque’s time in the inner circle has come and gone, but with the renewed focus on downtown development this year, she could still have something big up her sleeve.

David Lauer, president, Bank One, NA - Columbus: With long-time business giant John B. McCoy moving to Chicago, Lauer appears to be slowly stepping up his local influence. Already he’s taken board positions with the United Way, OSU Hospitals, the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, the Columbus Municipal Airport Authority, the Greater Columbus Arts Council and, of course, the Columbus chamber.

Cheryl Krueger-Horn, president and CEO, Cheryl&Co.: Krueger-Horn’s influence in the business community comes as a role model, not only for running a successful and growing company but also for supporting her local community. She’s well known and well liked.

Nancy Kramer, founder, president and CEO, Resource Marketing Inc.: Kramer is a dominant force in her industry and she turned many heads last year when her firm landed the lead role in marketing the live Victoria’s Secret online fashion show. Although her company’s early success came primarily from big-name, out-of-town clients like Apple Computers, Kramer is now focusing more on locally based companies like Huntington Banks, The Limited and Drug Emporium. The shift has landed her appointments to high-profile posts including the Mayor’s Technology Leadership Council and the boards of Limited Too and the Columbus chamber.

Brit Kirwan, president, The Ohio State University: Granted, he’s still a relative newcomer to the corporate scene. Yet Kirwan has already earned a board position with Les Wexner’s Intimate Brands Inc., marking an impressively rapid entree into the inner circle. More appointments are sure to follow.

Jack Kessler, chairman, The New Albany Co.: With most of the development in New Albany no longer making big news, Kessler’s name isn’t heard much these days. That doesn’t mean he’s no longer a top dealmaker. He still regularly rubs elbows with the likes of Alex Shumate, Bob Walter and John B. McCoy.

Jeff Keeler, chairman and CEO, The Fishel Co.: Respect for Keeler, who was named to the Junior Achievement Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame last year, will keep him in demand by business owners great and small: Consider his board positions with Bank One, AirNet Systems Inc., Metatec Corp. and Ruscilli Construction Co. Inc., just to name a few.

Kyle Katz, president, The Katz Interests Inc. and New World Restaurants Inc.: So he sold his interest in Mekka and his Sweet Pea restaurant concept flopped. That doesn’t mean Katz is no longer a player. He still has an eye for upcoming trends and he’s king at creating good buzz.

Brad Kastan, senior vice president, PaineWebber: Kastan has made quite a name for himself in the local investment community and he even has a seasonal menu item — roasted red pepper soup — named after him at the tony Strada World Cuisine.

Frank Kass, CEO, Continental Real Estate Cos.: Kass has long been a force in Central Ohio’s development community and he’s likely to stay there as long as his company continues taking on high-profile projects like the wildly successful Lennox Town Center and Easton Market.

Bob Juniper, president, Three-C Body Shops Inc.: Even if you don’t like his advertising campaign, you can’t deny the impact it’s had on the insurance industry — or on Three-C’s competitors, for that matter. Juniper is quite the pro at making big waves.

C. Lee Johnson, director, Ohio Department of Development: Johnson’s private sector business experience with Limited Distribution Services, Beatrice Cos. and Warner Lambert Co. will serve him well in his second year as the department’s director. He can’t help but have an effect on the local as well as statewide business community, especially considering changes here, such as development at Port Columbus International Airport and Rickenbacker, which could impact all of Ohio.

Ed Jennings, interim CEO, Mount Carmel-OSU Health Care Alliance: When Jennings stepped down as president of The Ohio State University in 1991, he didn’t step out of the business community. He’s been quietly effective as chairman of Mount Carmel’s board of trustees, and as a member of the Lancaster Colony Corp. and Borden Chemicals & Plastics LP boards. Now he’s temporarily at the helm of a power-packed nonprofit. Don’t think for a minute this will be his last stop.

George Jenkins, partner, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP: Jenkins is firmly entrenched in the city’s private investment community, serving as an adviser as well as financier for numerous promising companies. When he sees potential in a firm, other business leaders often follow his lead.

Sally Jackson, president and CEO, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce: When Jackson sets an agenda for the business community, she’s got all the tools she needs to pursue it. She can get an audience with the mayor just about any time she wants and has direct access to well-connected, high-profile executives like Dimon McFerson and Alex Shumate, who serve on her board of directors.

Artie Isaac, president, Young Isaac Inc.: Isaac frequently shares his advertising expertise with business leaders through speaking engagements, but he’s not all talk. His words take action through his service on boards including Angie’s List, Columbus College of Art & Design, Jewish Family Services and Ohio Foundation for Entrepreneurial Education.

Paula Inniss, president, Ohio Full Court Press: In business just four years, Inniss’ impact has become clear. She’s even offered her services to help fellow business owners through Women in New Growth Stages, the Columbus Regional Minority Supplier Development Council and Consortium 2000. She’ll also gain a stronger hold as her own business grows and continues to be recognized through various awards programs.

Ed Hines, vice president-manufacturing, Lucent Technologies: Hines stepped up to the plate to chair the chamber’s Workforce Leadership Council; expect him to continue leading local workforce development efforts.

Larry Hilsheimer, managing partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP, Columbus office: Hilsheimer’s expertise in tax issues will keep him in demand; he lends his service on the chamber board, Young President’s Organization and various community groups.

Sandy Harbrecht, president, Paul Werth Associates Inc.: As head of one of the longest-established, best-known public relations firms in town, Harbrecht is arguably one of the more powerful women in Central Ohio. She is on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the Fisher College of Business at OSU, serves as vice chair for the Council for Ethics in Economics and is a trustee for the Columbus chamber, Columbus Museum of Art and the Ingram/White Castle Fund of The Columbus Foundation.

Bill Habig, executive director, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission: Here we’re stating the obvious. Habig continues his influential role in transportation issues — one of Central Ohio’s most aggravating, yet important, ongoing concerns. A catalyst: The October 1999 launch of the Central Ohio Regional Transportation Management Center, a cooperative effort by the city of Columbus, COTA, Franklin County Engineer’s Office and Emergency Management Agency, as well as state and federal officials to solve transportation and traffic safety problems.

Lisa Griffin, president, Griffin Communications: Griffin may have stepped back from politics, but don’t expect her to leave the limelight. She still has some serious pull among highbrow civic and corporate leaders — even if she’s playing a more supporting role these days.

Sam Gresham Jr., president and CEO, Columbus Urban League: With a background in urban planning, Gresham will continue to be a powerful force in making sure the playing field is as level as possible for the local business community, particularly in the area of work force development.

Herb Glimcher, chairman, president and CEO, Glimcher Realty Trust: Last fall’s brouhaha surrounding Glimcher’s proposed Polaris Fashion Place showed not only the power, but the class, of this civic-minded developer. He refused to sling mud at rival mall owner Dick Jacobs and even offered to buy the ailing Northland Mall in an effort to bury the hatchet. Many business leaders — and voters — respected his above-board approach.

Gary Glaser, chairman, National City Bank: The banking community in Columbus will likely continue changing industrywide this year. As a result, look for Glaser to establish more of a foothold as both a business and community leader.

Bob Gerbig, chairman and CEO, Gerbig, Snell/Weisheimer & Associates Inc.: Under Gerbig’s leadership, his health care marketing firm has grown markedly, expanding even overseas late last year. As his company continues to grow, so will his sphere of influence, already evidenced by his service on boards for the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, Cardinal Health Inc. and the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts.

Roger Geiger, state director, National Federation of Independent Business - Ohio: He may not be a businessman, per se, but he sure knows what matters to those who are. And when he sees legislation emerging at the statehouse that could make life difficult for the employers his organization represents, he’s quite effective in rallying the troops.

Terry Foegler, president, Campus Partners for Community Urban Redevelopment Inc.: Expect Foegler to rally the Columbus business community behind him as he proceeds on the campus gateway project. He’ll need the support, considering that although he’s garnered some praise for his efforts, he’s also ruffled a few feathers.

Dick Emens, partner, Chester, Willcox & Saxbe LLP: Emens’ leadership continues to be evident in the family-owned business community. He chairs the advisory board of the Family Business Center of Central Ohio, entering its second year in efforts to foster education, networking and recognition of family businesses. Watch for him to push the recognition of the center and to promote his own expertise on the subject.

Pat Dugan, partner, Squires, Sanders & Dempsey LLP: Dugan is much more than a top-notch attorney. He’s a private investor and business consultant, too. His expertise has benefited numerous local firms, including Bank One, The Pizzuti Cos., Glimcher Realty Trust and Lancaster Colony Corp.

Tanny Crane, president, Crane Plastics Holding Co.: Even amidst the reorganization of her own company into six divisions, Crane has been gathering the business community to support this year’s United Way campaign as its chair. Look for her influence to broaden in 2000.

Maury Cox, president, The Ohio Partners LLC: When John F. Wolfe decided to formalize his investment role in the high-tech arena five years ago, Cox was hand-selected to lead Wolfe’s new Ohio Partners venture. That, alone, tells you what kind of clout this former CompuServe CEO carries among the powers that be.

James Conrad, administrator and CEO, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation: Our area has enough problems finding a quality work force; Conrad aims to make it safe, too. The business community is responding as he strives to make this once-loathed governmental bureau more customer friendly.

Frankie Coleman, executive director, Private Industry Council of Columbus and Franklin County Inc.: Her husband, Mike, may be mayor-elect, but she’s got the upper hand in the business community right now. Her role in linking available workers and labor-starved employers will continue to make her one of the more powerful forces in dealing with the local job glut.

John Christie, president, JMAC Inc.: Christie is one of those people who seems to know — and be liked by — just about everyone who is anyone in this town. He’s buddies with John H. McConnell. He’s been an adviser to Jack Ruscilli. And he appears comfortable rubbing elbows with the most powerful of Central Ohio titans.

Walter Cates Sr., president, Main Street Business Association: Cates continues to stand as a respected advocate for minority business owners and those in the Main Street community.

Don M. Casto III, president, Don M. Casto Organization: It was Casto who got the mayor excited last year about routing the proposed Morse-Bethel extension through the parking lot of Graceland Shopping Center. Whether that plan ever materializes is less important than the fact that Casto had the wherewithal to negotiate such a proposal in the first place. In addition, he successfully cut a blockbuster deal last year to gain the commercial holdings of long-time development giants Jack Chester and Dick Solove, making Casto’s property empire among the most impressive in Central Ohio.

Kelly Borth, president, Greencrest: A finalist for the Ernst & Young Supporter of Entrepreneurship Award, Borth has distinguished herself as a mentor through her work in organizations including the chamber, National Association of Women Business Owners, Women’s Network for Entrepreneurial Training and WINGS. She’s also taken the initiative to found programs to help business owners, such as an Advertising Techniques School at Franklin University.

Chris Boring, president, Boulevard Strategies: Boring will continue to be looked upon as the resident authority in measuring the health of the retail community here. And with the continuing rate of business expansion and rehabilitation, not to mention last year’s mall brouhaha, his name recognition will only increase further in 2000.

Friedl Bohm, chairman, NBBJ: This guy runs the fifth largest architectural firm in the world, yet he’s chosen to keep it headquartered right here in Columbus. His corporate, as well as civic, influence runs deep.

Roger Blackwell, president, Blackwell Associates Inc.: Aside from the obvious consulting role Blackwell plays, he also serves on numerous local boards, including AirNet Systems Inc., Max & Erma’s Restaurants Inc. and Intimate Brands Inc. He’s the go-to guy for business leaders with marketing and management concerns.

Bob Bender, chairman, president and CEO, Lord, Sullivan & Yoder: Bender’s been around the advertising business long enough, and earned enough awards, that he — as well as his firm — carries some serious clout in this city.

Nick Bandy & Doug McIntyre, partners, Zero Base Advertising Inc.: After their barely 10-year-old firm beat out heavy favorite HMS Partners for the lucrative and high-profile Columbus Blue Jackets’ advertising contract last year, these two erased any doubt that they had arrived.

Joseph A. Alutto, dean, The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business : With development of the college’s new $120 million campus and expanded executive education offerings, Alutto has the perfect opportunity to tap the local business community both for its expertise and potential students. His sphere of influence will broaden accordingly.

Joan Slattery Wall ( is associate editor of SBN Columbus. Nancy Byron ( is editor.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:38

Make ‘em earn it

The next time a youth group comes to your company with its hand out, put a scrub brush in it. That’s exactly what Dave Bianconi, president of Progressive Medical Inc. in Westerville, did earlier this summer when a young man raising money for the Boy Scouts called and asked Dave for a $500 donation.

Rather than “give” the Boy Scouts the money, Dave gave them an opportunity to earn it -- by washing his employees’ cars at a rate of $15 each. Since Progressive employs 80 people, the earning potential more than doubled what the Boy Scouts had been looking for in terms of a corporate handout. What a clever way to teach the next generation of business leaders the value and reward of hard work.

It’s sad, however, that this task falls on the shoulders of a quick-witted businessman. What are Scout masters teaching these boys when they OK cash solicitation calls? Is this the ‘in’ way for youngsters to raise money now? What ever happened to newspaper drives, bake sales and youth work days when groups would volunteer to do odd jobs to raise money?

Growing up, I participated in those and a handful of other fund-raisers for our church youth group, Girl Scouts, the marching band, the gymnastics team and so forth. Even selling raffle tickets, cookies or magazine subscriptions door-to-door beats asking, flat out, for a cash donation. It promotes the concept of working for what’s important to you; that nothing in life is free.

Perhaps that’s why I have such a hard time turning away neighborhood kids who ring our doorbell selling everything from candy bars to Christmas ornaments. I don’t need any of this stuff, but I appreciate and want to support their efforts. Last winter, a couple of what-looked-to-be 6-year-old boys even offered to “shovel” the walkway and front stoop of my home for $4.

My husband couldn’t turn down these youthful entrepreneurs. When we saw they were using dustpans to do it apparently their parents thought they were too small to work with real snow shovels, we tipped them an extra few bucks. You’ve got to admire that kind of ambition.

You’ve also got to foster it, which is exactly what Dave Bianconi’s counteroffer to the Boy Scouts’ fund-raising plea did. Although only seven boys turned out for the car washing expedition at Progressive Medical, together they washed 44 cars, raising $660 for their troop. Not a bad afternoon’s work and certainly a more rewarding experience than begging for donations via phone.

One of the troop’s Scout masters even wants to see if Progressive Medical might consider making the car wash an annual fund-raiser for the troop. Way to go, Dave! Your quick thinking taught these boys a valuable business lesson.

It’s an example we all should follow.

Nancy Byron ( is editor of SBN Columbus.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:35

To hell and back

Five years ago, Sam McBride was a different man.

He was a self-professed "falling-down drunk" whose company was in serious debt trouble. The IRS was after him for failing to pay employee withholding taxes. He was so depressed his doctor put him on Prozac, which he took in triple doses -- sometimes with booze.

"I had all these problems I didn't think I could ever fix or get rid of," explains the 57-year-old president of Corporate Cutting Dies Inc., clearly still haunted by the recollection of what almost came to pass. "I started drinking to ease the tension."

It was the worst decision he ever made.

Too much to handle

McBride says his troubles largely began in 1995 when he ran into cash flow problems after building a spacious, new facility for his then-thriving, nearly $900,000 business. He couldn't find a buyer for his old building so he was saddled with double mortgage payments.

"We were paying $6,400 a month on the new building and $1,800 a month on the old one," McBride says.

Then his company lost its largest customer -- a situation that cut between $250,000 and $400,000 a year off the top of Corporate Cutting Dies' balance sheet. Talk about a financial crunch. And the sense of helplessness that came with it was paralyzing for McBride.

"I used to sit in my office, stare at the walls, stare at the clock and when it was 5 o'clock, I'd open the office door, go out and go home," he says.

Although it was around that time that McBride hit rock bottom, others say the first signs of trouble surfaced long before then.

Tina Bevan, who was the company's corporate secretary for 10 years beginning in 1990, says she saw a marked change in McBride following the 1993 buyout of his business partner.

"He was withdrawn; he just wasn't into it anymore," she says. "He just was somewhere else and that's when he started doing his drinking."

It wasn't an intentional decision to seek solace in a bottle, McBride stresses.

"I went to a bar to have a couple drinks one day, then I went back the next," he says. "Before I knew it, I was a falling-down drunk."

Everybody in the company knew about McBride's drinking, Bevan says, "but they just left him alone. They probably felt intervening would be worthless."

Customers, however, were largely unaware of McBride's personal crisis since, during his drinking phase, he had very little contact with clients.

"And if he did," Bevan says, "it was by phone and prior to lunch."

As McBride's drinking progressed, his lunch hours grew longer.

"I would be gone all day, every day, from 11 or 11:30 [a.m.] until 4 or 5 o'clock," McBride says. "If I did get back to work, I was in no condition to do anything."

"It was his business, but it wasn't cool what he was doing," Bevan says. "He was very hard to deal with; he would ramble on and on and do things he normally wouldn't do."

Things like telling Bevan to stop paying the payroll taxes.

"We'd lost all this money and we had all this additional cost," McBride explains. "So I told Tina not to pay our withholding tax."

As the months passed, Corporate Cutting Dies began receiving letters from the Internal Revenue Service, but McBride chose to ignore them.

"I got all these notices and I didn't open them," he says. "My briefcase used to be filled with nothing but bills I hadn't paid for two or three months."

Bevan knew the unpaid bills spelled trouble, but like the rest of Corporate Cutting Dies' employees, she wanted to keep her nose out of McBride's troubles.

"I just figured it wasn't my problem," she says.

It quickly became her problem in early 1996 when McBride finally looked inside one of those IRS envelopes.

"I don't think I realized how much I owed them," he says. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing. We owed 20-some-thousand dollars at that point. I went out to Tina and started yelling at her. We got in a big fight and I ended up firing her."

After a few days, McBride saw the injustice in what he'd done.

"I realized all she was doing was what I'd told her to do," he says.

He called to apologize and asked her to come back to work. Surprisingly, she agreed.

"I knew it wasn't him," Bevan explains. "I knew it was the alcohol, and he was going to go get help."

A deepening hole

Indeed, McBride's drinking days were drawing to a close -- but not before they caused more damage to himself and others.

McBride went to his doctor to discuss his deepening depression.

"I didn't tell the doctor I was drinking, so he thought I had a chemical imbalance," McBride says. "He put me on Prozac and I started abusing that ... I used to take a three-month supply of Prozac in one month, with booze and everything."

"It's a deadly combination," Bevan adds. "He did some really stupid things and he's lucky to be alive."

On the business front, McBride's lack of leadership -- or even interest in the company, for that matter -- was taking a toll on Corporate Cutting Dies and its employees. Financial losses hit $22,000 by the end of 1995 and were mounting almost daily. Some key people, like Bevan and former company vice president Doug Ackerman, were quick to step in to keep the company running as well as possible during McBride's self-termed "drunken phase," yet resentment and frustration began to grow within the ranks.

"Some top, key people left here," Bevan says, noting she and Doug toughed it out because they didn't want to see the company fail.

"Doug basically kept everything together," says Reg Martin, a consultant who was also instrumental in saving McBride's floundering company. "Doug did a fabulous job maintaining [customer] relationships.

"I have to pay tribute to the people in this business," McBride says. "They kept it going when I was trashin' it. They didn't give up."

Neither did McBride's wife, Sylvia.

Apparently she realized something was amiss with her husband at work and went to Bevan for some answers.

"His wife started calling me at home," Bevan says. "She was playing 20 Questions. So I told her the truth. She said, 'Thank you,' and hung up. After his wife knew what was going on, the crap hit the fan."

Sylvia McBride took her husband to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in January 1996 "because I was drunk in church," he says flatly. "I don't remember much about the meeting except I got this big book. For the next 13 days I didn't drink. Then I went to a bar for a beer and I ended up being in there from 11 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. -- and I was with one of my customers. That's when I realized I could not quit. I was an alcoholic."

On Jan. 26, 1996, McBride took himself to another AA meeting. He hasn't touched alcohol since. Still, his troubles were far from over.A second chance

McBride just couldn't get his mind back into the business at Corporate Cutting Dies. It was obvious to his staff and it created some animosity

"Doug couldn't stand me when I started to sober up," McBride says. "He'd had to run the business. I think he resented me [trying to step back in.]"

In the spring of 1996, McBride started a second business: SOL Enterprises -- initials that stand for "Servants of the Lord," he says -- which got him excited about being an entrepreneur again. The company used a specialized software application to produce personalized children's books. McBride sunk $14,000 into the start-up and leased equipment for $4,000 a month.

In addition, he and one of his employees decided to produce a TV commercial to help jump-start the business and wound up investing $11,000 in that project. It was a fateful mistake.

"We only sold about 10 books," McBride says. "By September of 1996, we were so far in debt we had to shut that business down. Then I had lawsuits."

As if dealing with the failure of one business wasn't enough, McBride soon learned the financial situation at Corporate Cutting Dies had reached a critical state, as well.

"The banker was ready to foreclose on us," McBride says.

The company's 1996 losses were pushing $86,000. In addition, the IRS was growing impatient with McBride's unpaid tax bills.

"I thought I drank because I couldn't handle the pressure I had," McBride says, "but when all this happened, I'd stopped drinking."

Instead, he found solace in talking to his priest, Father Rod DiPietro at St. Elizabeth Church, and attending AA meetings during his lunch hour.

"All I really have to do is go today without drinking," McBride says. "I don't complicate it like I used to."

After all, his life was complicated enough.

Finding a way out

Although McBride was getting help with his personal struggles, he didn't know where to turn for help with his business problems. Fortunately, his accountant did. He asked fellow Rotarian and highly regarded turnaround artist Reg Martin to pay McBride a visit.

Almost from the moment Martin passed through the doorway at Corporate Cutting Dies three years ago, he knew he could save McBride's company.

"It was no question," says Martin, who has orchestrated financial comebacks for many once-troubled companies, including Blocks Bagels Inc. and Cardinal Industries -- the predecessor to Cardinal Realty Services, which became Lexford Residential Trust before being acquired by Equity Residential Properties in Chicago. "It was not a situation where we had to turn the entire business around. They had a niche in the market; they had a couple nice-size customers. [The company] just needed a little fine tuning."

His top priority: taking care of McBride's lingering problems with the IRS.

When the IRS sent an agent to Corporate Cutting Dies, "she sat in my office with my accountant for three hours and didn't talk a whole lot," McBride recalls. "Then she really told the truth: That I didn't know what I was doing."

Although the agent explained the IRS could shut down McBride's company and force a sale to pay back the overdue taxes, she agreed to give McBride a little more time to come up with the$31,000 he now owed.

"They did get into our corporate bank account and chose to relieve us of $10,000 without telling us -- and it was the day before payday," McBride says. "Reg called the IRS and got them to put the $10,000 back if I signed a paper saying that if I didn't pay them back in 30 days, they were coming after me personally. I signed it."

That was the day the 'For Sale' sign went up on McBride's beautiful, new building. Corporate Cutting Dies had to find more affordable digs.

"The IRS got all their money at the closing of the sale on the SouthPark building," McBride says.

The bank was another matter. McBride traded in his car, put his house on the line and pulled out all his retirement money to help pay down the lingering $700,000 bank debt and stabilize his company's cash flow.

"My wife and I had saved up enough to live very comfortably. But here I was, 54 years old and with no retirement," McBride says.

"I even had $100 a week coming out of my own paycheck to pay off the debt," McBride says.

That little move was the brainchild of Norm Rothermel, a former debt recovery manager for Borden whom Martin brought in to help cut costs internally at Corporate Cutting Dies.

"Norm had my wages garnisheed. He was the burr in my saddle sometimes, but I needed a business consultant that wouldn't take any crap from me."

Rothermel also negotiated a couple deals to get McBride out of sticky situations with a leased van and some leased computer equipment, saving the company "at least $15,000," McBride says. He also assisted the company in getting a new loan package.

By the end of 1997, the company's debt had been cut considerably and Corporate Cutting Dies was showing a profit again.

"They were not that far away from break-even," Martin says. "Sam is no different than a dozen other people. He's gone through what a lot of small businesses do. He's had some personal difficulties but he's brought it back. He's been resilient."

Not in the clear yet

McBride's company recorded another profitable year in 1998, but backslid in 1999 when a particularly poor December -- coupled with hastily paid holiday bonuses, he says -- more than wiped out all the gains of the preceding 11 months. Corporate Cutting Dies ended the year about $22,000 in the hole.

This year, McBride has focused on cutting costs again and expects the company to show an 8 to 10 percent profit on sales of $756,000.

One cost-cutting measure came as a somewhat unpleasant surprise to McBride. Ackerman, whom McBride had intended to promote to president of the company this year, tendered his resignation in July. Still, McBride has found a way to put a positive spin even on that bit of bad news.

"Doug's working for one of my customers now ... so he's buying dies from me," McBride says. "We also have a lower overhead now because that cut payroll, too."

On the personal side, McBride still goes to AA meetings during his lunch hour and has joined another group called Business Owners Debtors Anonymous.

"They use the same 12-step program as AA, but the goal is not to take on any more unsecured debt," he says.

Corporate Cutting Dies still owes its bank close to $140,000 on six notes, which he'd like to consolidate into one to reduce the monthly payments. His goal is to be debt-free in two years.

"I don't put the blame of what happened to me on anybody," McBride says, as an overstuffed bookcase revealing titles such as "Live to Win," "Self Esteem" and "Searching for God in America" looms behind him. "It was just a build-up of things. Everything was just circumstances."

Bevan, who left the company in August for personal reasons, says McBride seems to have emerged from his crisis with only a few lingering scars.

"He still isn't as involved as he was when I first started here," she says. "He's still isolated. He needs to get back in the groove -- especially now that Doug's [gone]. But other than that, he's the same ol' Sam."

"Sam is very knowledgeable, but his focus sometimes tends to wander," agrees Martin. Nevertheless, Corporate Cutting Dies should continue to fare well.

"They need to go out and expand their sales," Martin says. "They should be running two shifts. But the firm will continue to stabilize. It'll continue to grow. I can't say anything negative about it."

"I think I've actually gone through more stuff in the last five years than I did in the first 13 in business," McBride says. "I was so close to losing my business and losing my family. I couldn't pay the debt ...

"I try not to let my ego, my pride get the best of me today. I think I learned a lesson in humility."

"I know he's learned," Bevan says. "He almost lost it all." Nancy Byron ( is editor of SBN Columbus.

Tuesday, 26 February 2002 12:51

Size doesn't matter

When's the last time you shopped around for a deal on copier paper or water cooler refill bottles? Or business banking services? Or office cleaning?

You don't, do you? You've been ordering from the same suppliers, using the same bank and having your wastebaskets emptied by the same company for years, haven't you? You haven't really thought about shopping around -- unless, of course, these companies have given you a reason to do so.

You're not alone.

Most of us get comfortable with the vendors we use. We may not even remember what prompted us to select a particular company in the first place. But unless that company starts delivering supplies late or raising its prices without fair warning or good reason, you probably look at contract renewals as a given.

The reason is simple: familiar is comfortable. Change involves hassles, however small. And most of us just can't be bothered unless a considerable sum of money is at stake.

Besides, trying to scrutinize the benefits of one service provider vs. the next can be a serious headache with all the variables. Cellular service is among the worst offenders. The plans are so different it's like comparing kiwi to grapefruit. But once you settle on a plan, you're not likely to change for fear that you'll have to wade through the mire of comparisons again.

That, my friends, is exactly why every sale your company makes -- regardless how small -- matters. Those you are selling to are likely to carefully evaluate your service or product initially, but once you're in the door and performing well, you're golden. And you have opportunities to grow.

Nationwide built its business that way. Its agents only sold auto insurance at first -- a seemingly small piece of the insurance pie. But after earning the trust of those it insured, it began offering fire and life insurance, then mutual funds. Then it branched into health and commercial insurance and annuities and pensions.

Now it's the 30th-largest insurance and financial services company in the world.

Amazing what you can do with a small contract. Sometimes you just have to give it time to grow.

Tuesday, 23 October 2001 10:50

Big Brother is here

Ever hear of cookies? Not the chewy, chocolate-chip laden ones your mother used to make; I'm talking about the self-generating files of information stored in your computer that quietly track your online activity.

These cookies can tell companies what you view online, whether you've made purchases through their Web site, how long you spend at their site, and so on. It's frighteningly Orwellian in many ways -- especially since none of us ask for these cookies to be generated or stored on our computers. They just appear. And in huge numbers. Last time I checked, my PC had roughly 225 cookies on its hard drive.

When I first learned about cookies, I was appalled by the apparent intrusion into what I felt was my own business. What right did a company have to track any information about me without my permission? But then, when I thought about it awhile longer, I realized this Big Brother phenomenon could actually save me some time.

If companies know, based on the information stored in my cookies file, that I'm shopping for life insurance or a mobile phone, for instance, they could bring relevant offers to me. They could vie for my business. And when I make my purchasing decision, the information I enter to complete the transaction online could also be stored in my cookies so I won't have to fill out the same form again if I decide to add to my purchase at a later date.

Essentially, the Web site will recognize me, just as a store clerk would at your favorite shop.

Similarly, if a company knows what sort of information I check on the Web daily, perhaps it could bring that information to me, saving me the trouble of searching dozens of Web sites on my own.

The possibilities are countless. And, although some say the potential for abusing such privileged information exists, I'm not convinced that it's enough of a threat to warrant sleepless nights. If the thought of cookies silently accumulating on your hard drive bothers you greatly, you can delete or disable them.

But, in doing so, you're resigning yourself to surfing a rather bland version of the Web; one in which you're anonymous and, therefore, unable to take advantage of customized services companies are ready and willing to provide to you. That's a waste.

Don't toss your cookies; savor them. Nancy Byron ( is editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.