Kelly Tomkies

Friday, 20 December 2002 09:33

Sharpening the focus

The Columbus Venture Network is refocusing its scope of services, following in-depth research and discussions with its targeted audience of investors, potential investors and its 100 member angel investors,

Affiliated with the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, CVN began in the mid '70s as a group of angel investors who met regularly at the Athletic Club. Today, it views itself as a matchmaker.

"We wanted to find ways to bring angel investors and entrepreneurs with a plausible business plan together," says CVN Chairman Mark Butterworth.

Butterworth says CVN's board of directors recognized a lack of available early stage seed and investment money in Central Ohio, so it sharpened its focus to serve only angel investors.

"When you try to please everyone, you can end up pleasing no one," says Butterworth. "We saw that we could offer a service to early stage investors."

To achieve its matchmaking goals, CVN offers four programs: CVN Circle, CVN Forum, CVN Deal Debut and CVN Top Club.

CVN Circle is a bimonthly meeting of angel investors, entrepreneurs and service providers. It encourages attendees to network and share information. At another bimonthly meeting, CVN Forum, entrepreneurs present their business plans to angel investors, who critique them.

"At the end of the 10-minute presentation, the entrepreneur gets a lot of valuable feedback, like whether they are going after the right market," Butterworth says.

And angel investors get a feel for which entrepreneurs may be a fit for their portfolio.

"One quality that is very important to angel investors is the 'coachability' of the entrepreneur," says Butterworth. "CVN Forum allows the investors to get a feel for this quality."

Following the forum presentations, CVN Deal Debut presents the business plans deemed the best in an e-mail sent to member angel investors, if they opt to receive them. This allows them to get an anonymous look at the plans.

Finally, CVN Top Club is an invitation-only, quarterly meeting for investors, designed to foster networking among them.

Butterworth says about 40 percent of entrepreneurs presenting have received funding as a direct or indirect result of their presentation. How to reach: Columbus Venture Network, (614) 225-6938 or Michael_Bowers@Columbus.org

Thursday, 31 October 2002 10:21

Graceful business moves

A slow economy and reduced box office and playbill advertising sales may have other art organizations in trouble or even closing their doors, but Columbus' BalletMet is still operating in the black, thanks to the focused efforts of executive director Cheri Mitchell and the board of trustees.

Mitchell, 47, took the reins of the $5.4 million operation just over year ago, after serving as director of marketing and communications and interim director of finance and administration. The dance company's artistic director is also new, with less than a year under his belt. Yet despite the changes in top leadership, the organization continues to thrive.

Mitchell says this is largely due to a concentration on fiscal responsibility and diversifying revenue streams. A healthy 60 percent of BalletMet's revenue is earned through ticket sales, playbill advertising sales and its nationally recognized dance academy; the remaining 40 percent is generated by contributions and grants.

According to Mitchell, BalletMet's success is due to a combination of artistic excellence and sound business decisions. SBN sat down with Mitchell to discuss what makes BalletMet work.

Why do you think BalletMet has succeeded while similar organizations are failing?

One of our hallmarks as an institution is that we -- the trustees and staff -- understand the balance between providing high artistic quality and fiscal responsibility. Fiscal stability is a part of our mission statement, along with maintaining the dance company.

The artistic vision of the organization has been key. We are here because we believe in dance and what it can do for our community, but that is balanced with fiscal responsibility. I think we have been very good at tapping into and gaining community involvement and support.

We have three program areas: the dancers, the dance academy and educational programs and outreach, which help us to reach different audiences, and there is overlap and cross-fertilization between them. The ability to have the dance school allows us to be a wider part of the community.

Sixty percent of our revenue is earned through ticket sales and the dance academy, and 40 percent is generated by contributions -- individual and corporate contributions and foundations like the Ohio Arts Council -- and government grants. We probably earn a higher percentage of our revenue than others because of the dance school. We have more than 1,000 students at the school. With the current economy. however, this 60/40 split may need to change.

What are BalletMet's biggest strengths?

The artistic excellence of the dancers and the support of the staff members are our biggest strengths. We offer a diverse repertoire, offering both contemporary and classic ballets.

We also have a strong commitment to new work. We have held 38 world premieres in our history in which we commissioned choreographers to create new work for the company, which is exciting for the dancers. Our community outreach is also a strength. Through the dance academy and educational outreach programs, we work with 45,000 people a year.

And the people who work here are very committed and have helped BalletMet grow and prosper.

What changes have you made operationally to stay within budget?

We do a great deal of long-range strategic planning. Our five-year plan is adjusted by an audit committee on a quarterly basis. As a nonprofit organization, there are times when you don't bring in the revenue you want to.

For example, last year we opened on Sept. 12, and our first two shows of the year didn't go well. We met and discussed what adjustments we could make operationally to save money. We have a new artistic director -- the fourth director we've had in our history -- who started in December 2001.

We work from the fact that artistic vision is critical for our mission and direction, and we knew we needed to look at the transition as a dynamic process. Each artistic director brings his or her own vision and strengths to the company and looks at how we shift or change focus if we need to. But the two of us are working together to achieve the same goal.

Where do you think the operation needs the most improvement, and how do you plan to meet those needs?

The board, staff and dancers all agree that we need to gain more national recognition. We have asked ourselves what we need to do to make that possible. We've talked about strengthening and enhancing our brand image, and are very much involved in defining our specific image and how that will translate into new logos, etc.

We would like to be able to tour nationally -- which we have done some -- as well as some limited international touring. But we are strategically choosing which major cities, festivals, etc., we want to tour in and how we can compete in the national market area. We are looking to improve how we work with presenters across the United States.

Another area we want to focus on is we want to work on deepening the involvement of participants, for audience members and students. And our board of trustees is working to diversify our fund-raising advocacy and strengthening the board.

What is BalletMet's biggest challenge in the next five years?

Our biggest challenge is to focus all of our strengths and to secure a long-term home, whether that is here in our current space or elsewhere downtown. If I had to look down the road, I would say that increasing participation and deepening involvement is also a challenge.

People that become more involved are more likely to support the organization with contributions.

What is your biggest challenge?

I've just been executive director for a year and four months. The first five or six months have been essentially a learning curve. Coordinating and pulling everyone together to be a member of a team is part of the challenge. I feel that the artistic director and I, along with the staff and trustees, will develop this team.

Another challenge is motivating the board to reach the goal of national recognition. To focus, collaborate, pull the team together, including volunteers and people from the community into a collaborative effort is one of my biggest challenges. How to reach: BalletMet Columbus, (614) 229-4860 or www.balletmet.org

Thursday, 31 October 2002 10:15

Achieving excellence

Everyone has someone who inspires them to do more and develop their talents, someone who pushes them to succeed. Whether you call them mentors or role models, these people are an essential ingredient for success.

Each year, Junior Achievement recognizes these community business leaders with the Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame awards, given to those who exemplify excellence in their personal and professional lives. While the laureates and finalists work in industries from banking to baked goods, each has a vision and entrepreneurial spirit that has made them successful.

As a sponsor of the Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame Awards, SBN is proud to present the 2002 honorees.

The Laureates

Roger Blackwell
Roger Blackwell is a professor of marketing at The Ohio State University and president of Roger Blackwell Assoc. Inc., where he serves as marketing and business consultant to companies across the country. He has received numerous teaching awards and serves on the boards of companies including Airnet Systems and Max & Erma's.

Blackwell says that to succeed in business, a strong customer orientation is essential.

"Successful businesses start with an understanding of how to solve customers' problems better than the competition," he says.

Blackwell got his first taste of the business world when he was 8, selling greeting cards door to door.

"Mom stayed at the curb while I sold the cards," says Blackwell. "My business sold more cards than any other store in town except the Hallmark store."

Blackwell cites his parents as role models.

"My father was a business teacher and taught me the importance of treating people with respect and dignity," Blackwell says. "From these values have come the trails that have led to my success in life."

A professor at the University of Missouri also had an impact. "Because he was so tough on my faults, hopefully some were corrected," he says. "It takes time to correct faults, and many professors don't take the time to do that -- especially in a way that is positive rather than negative."

Paula Inniss
Paula Inniss is president of Ohio Full Court Press. The company, founded in 1995, is a digital print provider specializing in typesetting, Web development, production and facilities management.

Inniss is on the boards of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce and Columbus State Community College and has received awards including the 1999 Entrepreneur Of The Year for Columbus and for Ohio.

Inniss says a passion for the business is essential for its success.

"There should be a high need for achievement, but don't let the desire for recognition and craving for power or love of money rule your life," she says.

Inniss attributes her success to striving to reach a higher standard than everyone else.

"Every job and person is important and to be respected," says Inniss. "I understand that work itself is always subordinate to some higher purpose."

Inniss' mother was her role model.

"She was truly the bridge that steadied herself for me so I could get across to the other side," she says.

Craig Taylor, Stampp Corbin and Glenna Watson are her business role models.

Curtis Moody
Curtis Moody is president and CEO of Moody-Nolan Inc., which offers services in architecture, civil engineering, interior design, planning and digital multimedia. Moody-Nolan, an award-winning firm that employs 134 professionals, has offices in Columbus, Cincinnati and Nashville.

Moody has served on the board of Bank One, YMCA of Central Ohio, Ohio Dominican College and the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.

Moody believes that to success, you need perseverance and commitment.

"Establish your goal and be committed to achieving it, even through adverse conditions," he says.

Moody attributes his success to the opportunities he's had to use his talents and those of his firm.

"I've found over the years that it doesn't matter how good you are, you need outside sources that believe in you and that are willing to take a risk by choosing you to do the work," says Moody.

Moody's role models were the people at the church he attended during childhood.

"These people were not educated, but had to raise a family in troubled times," he says. "I watched them succeed under circumstances that raised monumental challenges."

Lewis Smoot Sr. was also a role model.

"He is a humble person, but successful," Moody says. "I respect him and how he's handled his life."

Finalists

William Blaine
As a consultant and retired attorney and entrepreneur, Blaine continues to play an important role in the Columbus business community. He has earned several degrees, including a doctorate in marketing, and has put his education to good use.

From 1960 to 1972, he started several successful retail, wholesale and manufacturing businesses in the lumber and construction industries and continues to cultivate his entrepreneurial talents as a real estate developer and business consultant.

Blaine has served on the boards of Ohio Wesleyan University and Riverside Hospital and serves in leadership capacities at the American Red Cross and Catholic Social Services.

Blaine says one word sums up what you need to succeed -- perseverance.

"You can succeed irrespective of your intelligence if you have perseverance, integrity and that stick-to-itiveness," says Blaine. "Education makes it easier. The more education you have, the less you'll struggle. But you have to have determination and perseverance."

Jim Crane Sr.
Jim Crane Sr., chairman and CEO of Crane Group Inc., has led the company since 1967. He serves as a board member of Crane Group, is on the board of Fairwood Investment Company and was a director of Bank One of Columbus for more than 25 years.

Crane has served as chairman of the board of the Columbus School for Girls and The Columbus Club, and is a trustee of the Columbus Museum of Art and Children's Hospital. He is a member of The Ohio State University Foundation Board and co-chair of the 2002 United Way campaign at the $100,000 level of sponsorship.

This former Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year says integrity, credibility and loyalty can lead to business and personal success.

"Top managers need strong leadership and human relationship skills," says Crane. "And you have to have the desire and ability to hire good people."

Gary Glaser
Gary Glaser has been with National City Bank since 1967 and joined National City Columbus as executive vice president of the corporate banking group in 1984. He has served as president and CEO and currently serves as chairman of the board.

He holds seats on the boards of the American Cancer Society, Boy Scouts of America and the Columbus Museum of Art. He's also served on the boards of the United Way of Central Ohio, Franklin University and COSI.

Glaser says communication is vital in business dealings.

"To be successful in business, you need excellent communication skills," says Glaser.

James Grote
As a sophomore at The Ohio State University, James Grote put down $1,300 to buy a small neighborhood pizzeria on the south side of Columbus. That was the beginning of Donatos Pizzeria. Today Grote is founder and executive chairman of the successful pizza chain, now owned by McDonald's Corp.

Grote is founder and chairman of the board of directors of the J.E. Grote Co., which manufactures specialized food processing equipment. He has served as general board chairman of the YMCA of Central Ohio and on the President's Roundtable Forum, sponsored by the Greater Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.

"You have to build integrity and honesty into everything you do," he says. "That means having a healthy self-discipline and doing what you say you're going to do."

Jim Hopkins
Hopkins Printing started as a one-man operation in Jim Hopkins' garage. He worked at Timken Roller Bearing Co. during the day and completed print orders at night. Today, Hopkins, which employs 100 people, is one of the top commercial printing companies in Central Ohio.

Hopkins is involved with the Printing Industry Association of Northern Kentucky and Ohio and serves on the Printing Industries Business Services Board. He also serves on the Ohio Skills USA-VICA board and on the advisory councils for the Graphic Arts program at Columbus State Community College and Northeast Career Center.

"You need a high level of energy and drive, especially in the beginning stages of the business," says Hopkins. "And you have to be willing to practice delayed gratification."

Robert Juniper
At 15, Robert Juniper began working for his father's collision repair business, Three-C Body Shop. He started at the bottom, learned every facet of the business and developed business and entrepreneurial skills.

Juniper purchased the company from his father in 1984. Today, the company has 14 shops, and Juniper has founded a second company, Jupiter Marketing, which helps other collision repair shops utilize his anti-insurance plan advertising campaign.

Juniper also supports the Heinzerling Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the welfare of individuals with multiple disabilities.

"Besides working very long hours and pushing yourself, you need to know that you deserve to be successful," he says. "People can shoot themselves in the foot and have a hell of a time because they don't think they deserve it."

Cheryl Krueger-Horn
Success is sweet for the president and CEO of Cheryl&Co. Using her grandmother's cookie recipes, Cheryl Kruger-Horn started the business in 1981 while working as vice president of sales at Chaus Sportswear in New York.

The company has grown into a multimillion dollar business with national distribution and retail, corporate, food service and catalogue divisions. It employs nearly 300 workers.

Krueger-Horn led the development of a school-to-work program called Cheryl&Co. Hometown Integrated Project, designed to provide hands-on business experience to high school students.

David Milenthal
David Milenthal, senior partner for Ten Worldwide, founded his marketing communications firm in 1954 as Hameroff/Milenthal/Spence. His clients include AEP, Huntington Banks and Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and his firm created the state tourism program "Ohio: The Heart of It All."

In 1996, Milenthal led the national effort to convince agencies to advocate the development of voluntary guidelines to stop the advertising of tobacco to children.

He says successful leaders must have a clear, tangible vision and entrepreneurial spirit, and must not be afraid to take risks. "You must have the ability to take thoughtful, rational risks in a growing business to keep it moving forward."

Ed Overmeyer
Ed Overmeyer, chairman and co-founder of insurance agency Berwanger Overmeyer Associates, founded the company in 1973 and has served as a board member for organizations including the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers and Prospect Bank.

He's also served as treasurer on the board at the Columbus Zoo. In 1991 he received the Golden Achievement Award for Business from Doctors Hospital, and was named 1990 Business Person of the Year by the Upper Arlington Area Chamber of Commerce.

Overmeyer says it takes endurance to succeed.

"You'll face many adversaries, but you can have a great life if you don't weaken and get through it."

Donald Shackelford
Donald Shackelford has been chairman of Fifth Third Bank, Central Ohio, since 1998, when State Savings Bank merged with Fifth Third. Before the merger, Shackelford was chairman of State Savings Bank for 25 years.

He serves on corporate boards including LimitedBrands Inc., The Progressive Corp. and The Jeffrey Co. He is vice chair of The Columbus Foundation and a board member of The United Way of Central Ohio. He has also served as chair of The Ohio State University Hospitals' Board of Trustees and is on the board of Capital South Community Urban Redevelopment Corp.

"Life is more of a marathon than a dash," says Shackelford. "You need to stick it out and not give up."

How to reach: Junior Achievement, (614) 771-9903.

Monday, 30 September 2002 09:11

High-tech merger

The Columbus Technology Leadership Council (CTLC) supports entrepreneurship and the infusion of technology advances across the community.

The mission of the Industry & Technology Council of Central Ohio (ITC) is to encourage and foster formation of technology-based companies to strengthen the area's economy.

Sound redundant or, at the very least, confusing? CTLC and ITC thought so, too, so they decided to merge.

"We wanted to eliminate the alphabet soup confusion in the city," says Walter Doyle, president of Forest Capital and chairman of ITC.

Prior to the merger, the primary difference between the groups was the size of the companies represented by their members.

"ITC's 300 members come from the biggest group of companies in the area," says Doyle.

Now, he says, both organizations' members will benefit from an increase in their networking abilities.

"Just the pure interaction helps people learn how to deal with the day-to-day problems they encounter," says Doyle.

No services currently offered by the organizations will be lost after the merger. And the governing boards of both will continue to govern the new organization during the transition.

"Initially there will be 47 people on the governing board, but we will collapse that number to 30," says Doyle.

He says 20 board members were already functioning on both boards. Bob Massie, director and CEO of Chemical Abstracts Service, will serve as chairman of the new board, with Doyle as co-chair.

The new organization's membership is open to any company that uses technology of any kind in its business operations.

"Our members come from many industries," he says, "scientific, information technology, manufacturing and even utilities and some banks."

The group will also continue to award its annual Top Cat awards (Top Contributors to the Advancement of Technology), as well as sponsor monthly luncheons and seminars.

The new organization's name has not yet been announced. How to reach: ITC, Frank Henson, (614) 225-6907; CTLC, Todd Ritterbusch, (614) 675-3709

Monday, 30 September 2002 09:01

The name game

Would you buy a sandwich listed on the menu as "Stinky Pile of Poo?"

I was recently watching a children's cartoon in which the protagonists are enlisted to go back in time to correct errors that could alter the world's history. In this particular episode, the crew was helping the Earl of Sandwich, who couldn't understand why people weren't buying his invention, which he called "Stinky Pile of Poo."

Silly as this sounds, it struck me that the name of any product and the company that makes it conjure up strong images in consumers' minds. Companies spend a fortune creating a "brand," a term that has come to mean the customer's perceptions of the company and its products.

For example, after decades of McDonald's commercials, no one expects to walk into the nearest location for a filet mignon. However, you do expect a decent hamburger, fast service and a safe toy for your child.

While the name "McDonald's" could just as easily have become known for any product -- liquor or underwear or furniture -- when we hear the name, we now think of fast, inexpensive food. McDonald's may tell a good branding story, but before you follow its example, read our cover story.

You need to be careful how you build your brand, and keep it fresh and current. Consumer behavior patterns change over time, and if your company doesn't change with them, you'll find yourself left out in the cold.

Today, the hottest restaurant concept is the "casual quick service" restaurant, like Chipotle's, Damon's and Max & Erma's. Consumers are demanding more than fast, inexpensive food. We are willing to pay a little more for fast food that also tastes good.

So now McDonald's has a bit of catching up to do to compete for families' restaurant dollars. Hence the restaurant is introducing new menu items, like the grilled chicken flatbread sandwich.

But will a few new items counter the years of branding efforts aimed at keeping McDonald's the low cost choice? Probably not.

So be careful what you wish for and how you name and brand your company and its products. Do your homework or hire a professional to keep your company at the forefront of the market.

After all, you don't want to be left with a "Stinky Pile of Poo."

Tuesday, 03 September 2002 11:17

A vested interest

My father worked for the same company for 60 years.

When he died in June, he was chairman of the board of Citizen's National Bank in Urbana. He began his career as a cashier and did odd jobs, and was content to work his way steadily up through the ranks.

As his title, responsibilities and solid reputation grew, other financial institutions tried to lure him away, promising him the position of president, but he refused.

"I couldn't do that to the bank," he told me later. "I couldn't do that to Marvin."

Marvin Humphries was president of the bank for many years, and my father served as executive vice president. Dad retired in 1991, the same year he was elected chairman of the board.

His love and loyalty for the bank were never questioned. It was understood in our family and in town that the bank was his life.

His role at the bank was almost that of host, as he greeted customers with a smile and by name. Easy to do in a small town, you'd think, but he made it a point to know his customers and their needs. It was that attention that distinguished the bank from others.

The bank was more than a place for people to make transactions. Customers relied on my dad and other officers to listen to their troubles and their joys. Our lives were intertwined with the events of the bank.

Dad traveled every Friday night to North Lewisburg, where a branch needed documents for the next business day, and I went with him after high school basketball games, shivering while the car warmed up.

Each year for several years, my daughter enjoyed riding on the bank's float with grandpa and other bank employees in Urbana's annual Market Days Parade. Most bank employees felt like family, and they took care of each other, one of the biggest reasons they stayed with the bank for so many years.

Employers today neither expect nor demand the kind of loyalty customary in days gone by, but maybe they should. Employees are so transitory that just as a customer recognizes a new teller, he or she is gone.

And when employees are here today and gone tomorrow, there is no ownership of the company and its customers -- and no real pride in serving them. Maybe if business owners worked to retain employees for life, customers would stick around that long, too.

Tuesday, 03 September 2002 11:12

Disaster recovery

Don't let your company's data disaster recovery plan gather dust.

Practice it to make sure your business can be up and running within hours of a disaster. The point of disaster recovery is to be able to recreate key data files off site should the company's headquarters be destroyed or become incapacitated.

"In an emergency, the IT guy's butt is on the line if the recovery plan doesn't work," says Steve Gruetter, business development director at Platform Lab.

Platform Lab is a nonprofit testing and development facility that offers organizations a place to perform disaster recovery drills and test and develop software and other applications.

"Statistics show that 72 percent of firms in the country have no disaster recovery plan," says Gruetter.

So what could go wrong? Plenty. A typical problem is the medium used -- usually a tape filled with data -- that doesn't work in the tape drive.

"That happens more often than you think," Gruetter says.

Ron Citterberg, IT manager at Edison Welding Institute, held his company's disaster recovery practice session at Platform Lab and in the process discovered he needed Internet access.

"I didn't think I needed Internet access," he says. "But we did need to download service patches. I used a modem. A faster Internet connection would've helped."

Platform Lab's disaster recovery lab is available for $2,000 per week.

"We meet with the technicians," says Gruetter. "They submit the configuration they want and we put it together."

Platform Lab's lab includes T3 Internet connectivity and strict security features.

"Nothing goes in or out if they don't want it to," says Gruetter.

Citterberg says Edison's disaster recovery drill showed the company where it needed to make improvements in the process.

"We found simple things we could do differently," he says. "And it's amazing how much the changes speed up the process." How to reach: Platform Lab, (614) 675-3711 or www.platformlab.org; Edison Welding Institute, (614) 688-5000 or www.ewi.org

Tuesday, 03 September 2002 11:08

Who can you trust?

Would you place your firm's business in the hands of a company you didn't trust?

Trust is a necessary ingredient in any important relationship, be it personal or professional. And thanks to large-scale and very public accounting scandals like those at Enron and WorldCom, the issue of trust has become a prominent one in the world of business.

With images of top executives in handcuffs in the news, consumers' suspicions of big business have increased and there is a new wariness of public accountants.

"There is a lot of distrust, and it is up to the public accounting profession, along with company executives and boards of directors, to address these concerns," says Michael Petrecca, managing partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PWC) Columbus office.

PWC has taken the bull by the horns -- its CEO Samuel A. DiPiazza and PWC fellow and former Harvard Business School Professor Robert G. Eccles have written a book aimed at restoring public confidence in the accounting and consulting industry. Titled "Building Public Trust," the book recommends a new model of financial reporting for public companies, as well as a new version of accounting principles.

Petrecca calls PWC's approach a three-legged one.

"There needs to be a spirit of transparency encompassing public companies," he says, "as well as a culture of accountability and integrity."

Petrecca says one thing recent events have taught the business community is that those directing a company's accounting and financial reporting need to communicate regularly.

PWC advocates the development of a new set of generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP.

"We feel a company needs to present its true underlying value and not hide behind the accounting," says Petrecca.

He says this is accomplished by reporting financial information that is most relevant to the corporation and making the data comparable to other markets. To stay above reproach, Petrecca says companies need to maintain transparency, accountability and integrity throughout the corporate reporting supply chain.

"That's where I think most companies have lost face," he says.

This means separating business divisions that might raise questions of a conflict of interest, says Petrecca.

"The reality is, when we audit a public company, we should not do its IT consulting as well, for example," he says.

Lawrence Hilsheimer, managing partner of Deloitte & Touche in Columbus, says it's important to remember the majority of the nation's companies conduct business with integrity.

"A minority of companies are accused of any misleading accounting issues," says Hilsheimer. "We will advise our clients to continue what they have always done -- be honest and follow the rules."

On a corporate level, James E. Copeland, Deloitte & Touche's CEO, recommends the creation of a National Financial Review Board (NFRB) to investigate business failures. Copeland says the board would be similar in structure to that of the National Transportation and Safety Board and would determine the cause of failures and recommend steps to prevent a recurrence.

In keeping with the movement to keep business lines drawn, Deloitte & Touche severed ties with its consulting firm, Deloitte Consulting, in February. Deloitte Consulting has further differentiated itself by renaming the company Braxton.

Hilsheimer maintains, however, that the advice it gives clients like American Electric Power and Borden will remain unchanged.

"Our approach has not changed. We deal with the issues at hand," he says.

And, he adds, the vast majority of American businesses have and will continue to report appropriately.

A national perspective

As election season nears, the Senate and House have signed a bill that addresses the issues raised by Enron and WorldCom. Aimed at corporate reform, the Sarbanes Bill was crafted by Sen. Paul Sarbanes, (D-Maryland) in the Senate, while Rep. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) negotiated House changes.

The final bill calls for the creation of an accounting oversight board, which will work with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This five-member board will have the authority to mandate auditing standards for public companies, as well as conduct investigations. The bill also includes stiffer penalties for those found guilty of securities fraud.

And while the focus remains on public companies, there is growing debate over imposing the same standards on private firms.

"The legislature will impact what an accounting firm can and cannot do with its publicly traded clients," says Plante & Moran LLP's Managing Partner Robert Shenton. "But should the rules be the same for privately held companies?"

Plante & Moran's clients are almost exclusively privately held businesses in the health care, manufacturing, construction, real estate and retail industries. Shenton says once the Sarbanes Bill is law, it is up to each state to decide whether privately held companies should be held accountable to the same standards.

He says it makes sense to do so.

"If you have consulting services that assist the client's operations, then you can't also audit it," he says. "You can't audit work you've done yourself."

On the other hand, he says, using the same accounting firm for audit purposes has been done for several years and does offer advantages.

"There is no clear black and white answer," says Shenton. "A firm familiar with the client can do a more effective audit, but there are some big struggles going on to find the right balance between consulting and remaining independent for auditing."

The CPA point of view

The membership of the Ohio Society of CPAs has debated the public vs. private company question, says President, J. Clarke Price, and at least 80 percent of the 23,000 members feel private companies should not fall under the same guidelines as public ones.

"We feel the laws should not extend beyond publicly traded companies," says Price.

CPAs of private companies feel they should be able to offer clients a complete range of accounting and consulting services. Private firms are typically smaller and may not have the budget to use two different agencies -- and, says Price, a change in practices could result in an increase in the cost to obtain auditing services.

"The auditing firm is already familiar with the client and its operations, and so won't have the learning curve that an outside firm would, saving time and the client's money," says Price.

But that doesn't mean that CPAs should have no governance, Price qualifies.

"Our position as a profession is that we believe CPAs that violate the law and standards are culpable and should be punished," he says.

Price also notes that as the Society's members speak with business owners and individuals, they've been asking them how they feel about their CPA.

"The response we get is, 'We trust them implicitly,'" says Price. "The CPA profession has been questioned, but it has not affected any individual relationships."

So is there hope for restoring public confidence? And when that objective can be accomplished?

"That's the $64,000 question," says Petrecca. "Eventually, we'll settle on some new standards."

Petrecca says there is some tension between generally accepted accounting principles internationally and in the United States.

"The International GAAP are more clearly defined rules and simpler," he says.

Petrecca hopes Americans adopt the international rules. Then, he says, "We'll need a year or two without business failures to get the public to re-embrace the market. And continued strong earnings and growth will help, too." How to reach: PricewaterhouseCoopers, (614) 225-8700 or www.pwcglobal.com; Deloitte & Touche, (614) 221-1000 or www.deloitte.com; Plante & Moran LLP, (614) 791-9200 or www.plantemoran.com; Ohio Society of CPAs, (614) 764-2727 or www.mysocietyonline.com

Wednesday, 31 July 2002 11:30

Capital improvement

Armed with 26 years of private university administration experience, Dr. Ted Fredrickson, 56, is ready to meet the challenges he faces as the new president of Capital University.

"Capital is a very good university that has experienced some rough changes in leadership over the last four or five years," says Fredrickson. "I hope to stay and provide some stability and leadership."

Fredrickson says that while the physical facilities are good, the 4,000-student university is in need of new buildings and some refurbishing. This means fund-raising, which is high on the list of the new president's priorities.

"We have a fairly low endowment fund for a school our size," Fredrickson says.

He plans to increase the school's visibility in the business community and re-establish ties with the leaders in Columbus and other communities.

"We have excellent board members from the business community but we need more presence in the community," he says.

Fredrickson says technology definitely has a role in academics.

"The Internet and distance learning are a great way to reach niche markets we may not have been able to tap into otherwise, but it will never eliminate the need for the traditional educational setting," he says.

Fredrickson hopes to expand the use of the Internet and distance learning for the university's graduate programs.

"We have an MBA program in medical management that is 90 percent distance learning," he says. "These students are busy physicians that are assuming administrative positions. We see them logging on at 2 a.m. Sunday morning."

And while that works fine for graduate programs, Fredrickson says undergraduates need more than pure content.

"The traditional undergraduate student is still developing socially and spiritually and can't get what he or she needs in those areas over the Internet," he says. How to reach: Capital University, (614) 236-6011 or www.capital.edu

Wednesday, 31 July 2002 11:22

Women in business

There are in the United States 113,000 women-owned firms with $1 million or more in revenue, according to the Center for Women's Business Research, founded as the National Foundation for Women Business Owners, in Washington D.C.

That's up from 112,712 the previous year.

These companies employ an average of 1.3 workers per firm. Not only do the businesses benefit, so do the communities in which they operate, through additional jobs and tax income.

In Columbus, a number of organizations support women in business, including the local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. On July 11, NAWBO honored three women for their contributions to the area's business environment.

Would these women have succeeded without the benefit of this organization and others? Undoubtedly, after hearing each woman's story, I feel they would have -- but on their road to success, they may have faced much greater obstacles.

NAWBO and similar organizations serve many roles. Not only can women network with other business owners to help them through the business and family issues associated with proprietorship, but they can form new partnerships, gain valuable insights into what can work for them and serve as role models for our children as they enter the business world.

SBN has been a proud sponsor of the NAWBO Visionary Award event for the past five years. This year our coverage, beginning on page 25, includes photos and biographies of each winner.

While it might seem that the number of associations and professional organizations is growing to epidemic proportions, NAWBO and others that help support women in business provide a valuable service to us all.