Protecting your company's intellectual property is one way to do that.
"There are various intellectual property rights that are used to protect market share," says Eley. "Patent rights protect business methods, processes, devices or designs."
If a process or method is critical to your bottom line and is not patented, consider patenting it now.
There are three primary reasons for seeking patent protection: to prevent others from copying your products, to license the product to other companies or users and to sell the patent to another company.
"There are many factors that go into that decision," Eley says. "Simple patents can cost $5,000, while more complicated ones can run more than $20,000."
When a company is seeking to prevent copying or theft, it needs to justify the patent's cost.
"In some cases, patenting the product means market exclusivity. If not, there needs to be a revenue stream," Eley says.
If the company is new or presenting a new product that may be attractive to larger corporations, patents are vital, says Eley.
Copyrights and trademarks also offer protection. Trademarks can be valuable when competitors introduce similar products, while copyrights protect software, music and published products.
But having property rights doesn't mean a thing if you aren't enforcing them.
"A company's biggest vulnerability to theft is not enforcing its rights," Eley says.
He advises companies to police the market and take action when potential infringements are discovered.
"Without enforcement, the value of the protection is diminished," says Eley. "It should be considered a cost of doing business. People will take advantage of your company if you don't."
Taking action means talking to your attorney.
"I look at the situation and give an opinion yes or no if the other company is infringing and advise the client accordingly," Eley says.
In some cases, the next step is a letter to the infringing company asking it to cease and desist.
"A letter puts the opposing company on notice and lets it know damages are starting to accrue," Eley adds. Kelly Kagamas Tomkies (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior editor of SBN Magazine.
A recent court decision gives you the ability to stop unwanted e-mail.
Spam can be more than annoying -- it can also affect your employees' productivity and morale.
And spam doesn't always mean unwanted sales solicitations, as Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel discovered. A lawsuit, Intel v. Hamidi, led to the recent California Court of Appeals' decision that businesses do not have to put up with spam.
Ken Hamidi, a former Intel worker, was sending mass e-mails to Intel employees regarding his belief that it discriminates against employees. Intel sued him in 1998, saying he was trespassing, since he was using Intel's private e-mail system.
In 1999, California Superior Court Judge Lewis ruled in favor of Intel and ordered Hamidi to stop the e-mails. Hamidi filed an appeal, but the California Court of Appeals upheld the decision late in 2001.
Jeff Smith, partner at Thompson Hine LLP's Columbus office and a member of its e-Business Steering Committee, says the decision is welcomed.
"All too often, a business's own communication systems are abused by those seeking to do it harm," Smith says. "It's like paying for the bullets used to shoot you. In today's world, your cyberproperty is every bit as important as your real estate, and trespass on either deserves no tolerance."
For more information on intellectual property issues, check out these sites.
The government's Copyright Office site provides general information, answers frequently asked questions and provides the latest news and developments in changing copyright laws.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's site offers a searchable database of granted and pending patents as well as patent news and information.
The American Bar Association provides its members information and news on intellectual property law.
The World Intellectual Property Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations whose goal is to administer 21 international treaties dealing with intellectual property protection. The site's Information Center provides worldwide news and trends.
Discussion groups, news and government briefs are part of the International Trademark Association's site. This group also educates business, the media and the public on the proper use of trademarks.
Downs had worked at other restaurants in a negative environment, and he wanted his place to be fun.
“The better way is to be friends, have fun and make money,” says Downs. “It all goes together.”
A few years and several restaurants later, Downs knew the time had come to formalize his business strategies and he created his ‘Friends taking care of friends’ motto. The policy is ingrained in every aspect of the company, and employees are trained on what it means from their first day on the job.
This approach keeps both customers and vendors coming back, Downs says. When the company experienced a financial setback after its bank closed, vendors and contractors continued to work with it because they knew bd’s would honor its financial commitments, he says.
Because it can be challenging to find employees who will live by his approach, Downs contracted to develop a questionnaire to use during the hiring process. Downs is looking for people who are outgoing, caring and adventurous, traits common to his earliest star employees.
The chain has 27 locations in 10 states, and in May, opened its first franchise in Mongolia. That non-for-profit location donates some of its proceeds to support The Mongolian Youth Development Foundation.
Smart Business spoke with Downs about how his service-oriented approach gives the company a competitive edge.
How did you develop the ‘Friends taking care of friends’ motto?
We started the company in 1992, and we didn’t really have time to form a written policy. After a few years, we started writing more down, and we realized that ‘Friends taking care of friends’ was really the way we were doing business.
It’s the way we operate every day; our management team takes care of the frontline team, who takes care of the guests. They are all taking care of each other. And the guests are taking care of the servers by tipping them.
It’s a team approach that works together hospitality and service. That is also the way we work with our vendors. The policy gives us our marching orders it’s simply how we do business.
How has the policy benefited the company?
I am a believer that what goes around comes around, and we’ve seen that. Our vendors are much more aggressive in trying to get our business because of how we treat them. For example, if you open a project for bids and you decide to go with Company A’s bid, then Company B decides to get more aggressive and comes back with a lower bid, we still stick with Company A. We hold true to our bidding process and timeframes.
There have been times when we discontinued a process and didn’t require certain inventory anymore. We still bought the remaining inventory that the vendor had left so that vendor wouldn’t get stuck with it.
Shortly after the Sept.11 attacks, our bank went bankrupt. We were doing a big rollout of a number of restaurants. We were short we couldn’t pay our contractors. But our decision was to pay everybody every penny. It took us a year to do that, but our vendors and contractors worked with us because they knew we would keep our word.
How does your ‘Friends’ policy affect your decision-making and planning?
It reminds us that with every decision, we seek to do the right thing for our team, our managers and our guests. You never want to hurt a friend, and our employees are here because they care about people.
Let’s say that we learn that someone didn’t do the right thing on a basic service level. We work with the employee to help him or her learn from the mistake and help him or her to do better. The same is true with vendors. Misshipments do occur. When that happens, we work with the vendor to get the right product in the door.
We don’t spend time pointing fingers. Instead, we work with the vendor to figure out how to make it right. It’s very positive and it blends into our environment. We don’t dwell on negativity.
How is this policy different from that of your competitors,’ and how is it executed?
I think the one thing about us that is different is that we genuinely do care. We are trying to always hire people who care. You spend a lot of hours working, so you might as well have fun while you’re there.
We look for people who care, who are outgoing and hospitality-oriented. We recruit most of our new employees through existing employees, through word of mouth. We have a reputation of being a cool, fun place to work.
We also live our policy every day. It’s not up on a wall where it is ignored. It’s not just words. We practice the policy every day in everything we do. Our employees and guests can feel that we’re not just about the numbers. We’re about people.
It is really in the fold of the company it’s part of our everyday makeup. From Day One, employees are oriented to the policy, and it is interwoven into how we do business. I have heard one employee say to another, ‘Now that’s not taking care of your friend.’
Our people not only believe it but address it with those who may not be taking care of those around them. I’ve worked in environments that were negative, where no one was taken care of. I know how important it is to have a positive environment.
What characteristics do you look for in employees?
We have a proprietary model that we use during the recruitment and hiring process that is designed to find out who is introverted and who is extroverted and likes to enjoy live, experienced-based activities like rock climbing and more adventurous hobbies.
We’ve found that that type of person best fits our profile and is also hospitality-oriented, although we can teach that but we are looking for caring people. There is a difference between service and hospitality.
We went through a process of identifying common characteristics of our best teammates and developed a process to find those same characteristics in our new hires. Now those characteristics do change slightly we do tweak the model over time.
As we look for managers, we try to recruit internally. Five years ago, we made an effort to move a lot of employees upward, and it helped our retention rates. We have so many college kids, we thought if we could get to a 100 percent turnover rate we would be happy. For our industry, that would be a great goal. Our turnover rate was 150 percent, now it is 120 percent.
We’ve found our best employees are college students, but that means built-in turnover. We also seek sophomores rather than freshmen, because they have had a year of college under their belts and are realistic about the time commitment of work and going to school. But for those who decide they want to stay with the company, we offer Career Quest, a program that, from Day One, plots out the person’s career path.
For some, the goal is to make as much money as they can while in college, but others want to grow as a supervisor or manager, and the key to those positions is communication. What we’ve found is that if we don’t offer people opportunities for growth, they’ll leave. If we give them more responsibilities, they’ll stay.
How do you train employees to keep the service policy in mind?
Every part of our training is written and conducted with the policy in mind. It’s interwoven into everything we do. It’s written in the training manual and then supported the rest of the time the person is employed with us.
It’s more of an internal reminder than external, although some of the managers and franchisors had the policy painted on their front doors. But if you take care of your people, they stay and they take care of the guests.
What are your biggest challenges in keeping a high-quality service environment?
There are a number of challenges, but I think the biggest is in hiring new teammates. Finding the right people and training them correctly are big challenges, especially with Generation Y. They are used to swiftly moving through Web sites for information and getting instant feedback and responses. These people haven’t always experienced service. And today’s service standards are a lot lower than they were 10 to 15 years ago. People are accustomed to average service.
To make sure our people are trained correctly, we monitor our results on a daily basis. We conduct surveys. In Detroit, there are computerized surveys at the tables, and we find out right then and there if something wasn’t satisfactory.
One of the questions is, ‘Would you come back?’ If the person answers no, the manager is automatically paged to the table. This immediate feedback is important with Generation Y people. They love it.
HOW TO REACH: bd’s mongolian barbecue, (248) 398-2560 or http://www.bdsmongolianbarbecue.com
“It’s important to have all your guns blasting away,” says Barbash, Columbus department of development director.
This team approach is a radical departure from pre-2000, before Mayor Michael Coleman took office. Then, suburbs, neighboring counties and other community groups took a competitive rather than cooperative approach to growth.
But just sitting down together to chat isn’t enough, Barbash says. The other critical component to regionalism is tapping expertise from groups such as the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce and the Mayor’s Economic Development Council to research and develop strategies to promote the region.
“All of us have one or two areas of strength,” he says. “By working together, we can put our best combinations of assets together.”
Smart Business spoke with Barbash about developing new strategies, leveraging the city’s strengths and the impact regionalism is having on Greater Columbus.
What’s working so far?
We’ve been trying to do a couple of things, including target programs and incentives in areas of the city. We are working to change tax incentives [for] major commercial areas. Our strategies and targets changed at the table. Now, we are talking about regional competitiveness.
It was a one-size-fits-all approach. There were parts of the region that were not at the table and not willing to talk incentives.
In Columbus, we were more competitive. Through tax incentives, we achieved 91 percent of our job creation goals and 115 percent of job retention goals. There are $1.6 billion in incentives on the books generating additional revenue and job opportunities.
We’ve been moderately successful with partnerships. The decision-makers take longer to make a decision, and we’ve been working harder to keep existing businesses in the community. One example is our partnership of Franklin and Pickaway counties and Rickenbacker Airport. Advanced logistics is a target industry, and we are making sure that that area is focused on becoming the premier location for moving freight.
Another example is our focus on life sciences. We are finding an alternative use for the downtown Lazarus site for future classrooms and scientific efforts. The challenge is the economy. The cost of health care is a big factor. Big businesses are having difficulty.
We’ve worked with the chamber to develop retention and expansion programs. We visit 200 small businesses annually, seeing what we can do to help them stay in Columbus.
We are also working with public and private sectors, looking at programs and policies of how to grow and create jobs. The wage level here is not where it needs to be. Life sciences and technology development companies can raise that.
How are you leveraging Columbus’ strengths in this regional concept?
The diversity of the economy is great. We have research institutions and a stable business climate. We are not in the situation that other Ohio cities have found themselves in, where there are holes in the community.
Among all our strengths are educational institutions. Life science efforts are also a high priority. We want OSU graduates to stay in Central Ohio, so we need to create jobs that will make them want to stay. Technology development graduates are great engineers, but the talent is going to other places.
There is also a major focus on neighborhood development a coordinated strategy with business developers and housing programs which require resources and the budget is tight. We have healthy main streets but others need activity, like East Main Street and Livingston Avenue. There are plans to put life into those streets through infrastructure improvements. With bond proceeds, we are putting in more lighting and making it easier for businesses to do business. The most important thing, though, is that we are all sitting at the same table, making that connection. Businesses want to locate where there are qualified employees. The mayor’s economic development council meets monthly and sits and talks about deals and large projects.
There are new initiatives and leadership at the chamber. Ty Marsh [chamber president] and David Powell [head of the mayor’s council] are working along the same wavelength.
How well does Columbus compete with other cities in this state and surrounding states?
The region competes extremely favorably. Columbus as a city is doing better than three or four years ago, prior to the Coleman administration. Before that, Columbus would not even consider incentives.
Now, all around the city, we are seeing our share of success and we are competing more aggressively. Keep in mind, though, that we are not competing against other area communities. All the area communities are talking about a code of ethics.
After the economy gets better, there will be more activity and businesses looking to come to Central Ohio.
How do you develop new strategies to meet the community’s needs?
The most important thing is to see where you are right now. You put all the players around the same table the banks, the chamber of commerce, economic development people. They all need to understand what resources we have and benchmark the community against others.
We’ve had groups that went to Toronto, the Twin Cities and Austin. Those cities have been successful in diversifying their economic base. We looked at how we could apply their strategies to Columbus.
But the effects of these efforts are more lasting when you have everyone at the same table.
How have the city’s economic and business development needs changed over the past five years?
We have had the same city budget for the last four years. That makes it hard to create opportunities. We are working with the chamber to be creative with existing resources.
We are redirecting some real estate taxes to pay for our infrastructure needs. When funding is limited, it is even more important to have everyone around the same table.
How to Reach: City of Columbus Department of Development, (614) 645-8591 or http://http://td.ci.columbus.oh.us
“We start by calling our customers guests,” says Chris Doody, president. “We don’t ever use the ‘c’ word. In fact, we are fanatical about that.”
Standing out in the hypercompetitive restaurant industry is no easy task. It requires a unique concept with great food and service, all while avoiding the appearance of being another me-too restaurant chain.
Twelve years ago, Doody and his brother Rick created a concept for a new market segment called upscale casual. The vision was to create an environment where customers can eat high-quality food in a nicer-than-casual atmosphere, with top service. The brothers knew full well what it takes to be one of the best in the restaurant industry. Their mother, Sue Doody, owns Lindey’s Restaurant, which has been consistently voted one of the top eating establishments in Columbus. Sue Doody was an inspiration for the brothers’ vision.
“Clearly my mother had a big impact on me,” says Chris Doody. “She worked hard. She was a great cook and was passionate about great food. We saw all of her hard work and how important it was to her to treat everyone as a guest, not a customer.”
“We felt there was a market for a restaurant that was somewhere between casual and fine dining,” Doody says. “Lindey’s had a lot of Italian influences, and we knew the only successful Italian chain was Olive Garden. We wanted to take Lindey’s and ‘down market’ it. It was a good strategy. There was a market for better food and ambiance.”
With the concept fleshed out, Doody had made their ideas for excellent food a reality. He hired the best chef he could find to create innovative menu items. “We lucked out with our chef,” Doody says. “We hired Phil Andolino out of New York. He is a super guy and has been with us from Day One. Now he is our head corporate chef. He is very talented, and with help from Rick and me, he took our concept and ideas and developed signature recipes. Phil has been instrumental in our success.
“I knew we had to have better food than the chains. And we had to stay focused on the guests. A lot of chains get so big they can’t execute at a high quality level and that hurts them. It’s the food that has to be cutting-edge and more unique. That is very important.”
There’s a long list of restaurants with innovative concepts and great food, but every patron will tell you that service is what ultimately makes or breaks a restaurant. One of the biggest challenges the Doodys faced was how to execute the concept of great service within the usual pool of hourly workers in an industry plagued by astronomical turnover rates.
“In the early days, you don’t have a recruiting strategy,” Doody says. “At the beginning, it’s more about horsepower than technique. You just do all you can to hire the friendly, competent people. What I did early on was I was able to get ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”
He says those first employees were attracted to the company and enthusiastic about the work because it was a new concept. “We were able to hire high-quality servers, bartenders and managers because they were excited about being part of something new and from scratch,” he says.
As the company grew from its initial location to three different concepts Bravo, Brio Tuscan Grille and Bon Vie Bistro and Bar in 41 locations that employ 5,000, processes were institutionalized to attract and retain the best people possible.
“We didn’t even have a human resources department until we had our 10th store,” Doody says. “Now we have the department, a recruiting system and we use head hunters to hire corporate positions. We do background checks and it’s just a more sophisticated process today.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is the company’s focus on promoting from within through a program called Rising Star. “We opened our first store on Bethel Road and everyone had an entrepreneurial spirit,” he says. “When we opened our second store in Indianapolis, everyone at the first store wanted to move there to be a part of it. We kept promoting our own employees because it was cheaper and made sense.
“Rising Star is a 12- to 15-week program. We train hourly employees on all the aspects of the front and back of the house [kitchen]. We give them the tools they need to become effective managers in the field. We expect 25 to 40 percent of our future managers will come from the Rising Star program.”
He and Rick Doody also developed an intense training system for newly hired managers.
“All of our store managers participate in a very extensive 14-week training system we call BDI University,” says Chris Doody. “The training is a very integral part of our success.” Doody says the training influences how the manager views both internal and external customers, and teaches them to be pros at what they do.
“We want to be the best Italian restaurants in America,” he says. “And we do that by trying to develop loyal guests each meal, every day.”
Servers are trained on the flavors of each dish so they can help the guests make choices that better suit their tastes.
Doody says the training emphasizes that each guest has many choices about where to eat. “We practice what we preach,” he says. “The competition is too fierce. Not one guest should leave dissatisfied.”
And he says hiring for all positions is easier now. “We obviously try to create an environment where people can function professionally, which enables them to make great money,” Doody says.
By promoting from within, the Doodys have created a core group of loyal employees who are familiar with every intricate detail of the restaurant and its food, allowing them to deliver consistent service and quality.
The vision has proven a success. Bravo has achieved some of the highest unit sales rates in the industry. The Brio concept, which focuses on steaks, chops and pasta dishes, was voted the “Hot Concepts” winner in 2002 by Nation’s Restaurant News. The company branched out into French-American cuisine with its Bon Vie concept.
Despite the company’s growth, Doody isn’t one to claim success. “The minute you feel like you ‘made it,’ someone else will come along and get your market share,” he says. “We look specifically at sales and whether our business is growing. That tells us whether we are performing the way we should. We are cognizant of what our competitors are doing when it comes to value and price and we react accordingly by being more innovative in the food we prepare.”
Doody is also happy with the company’s growth rate.
“Our goals are to open really great restaurants,” he says. “We want to do eight to 12 restaurants a year, but we’re flexible. We don’t want to do too many, too fast and water down the brand.”
All of the new restaurants will be company owned, although franchising is not out of the question in the future.
“Our goals are for straightforward, disciplined, controlled growth,” Doody says. “We are really good at what we do and we have lots of options. But our primary strategy is to deliver on our mission, and that will give us our opportunities for growth.”
The concept is not a simple one to duplicate, and Doody doesn’t want the restaurants to be cookie-cutter. But he says if they want to pick up the growth rate franchising is an option.
The Doody brothers haven’t left their mother out of their operations, either. The family members continue to help each other.
“My mother’s a class act, a great lady and an inspiration to Rick and me,” Doody says. “She’s a partner in our business, and we help her run Lindey’s. She’s tickled pink.”
And since Lindey’s appeals to a different market, the concepts don’t compete. That’s probably a good thing, given the success of BDI’s strategies, which boil down to one important element: “We just want everyone to leave happy,” says Doody. “When the food’s really good, it’s easy to be successful.”
HOW TO REACH: Bravo Development Inc., (800) 452-7286 or www.bravoitalian.com
The company is not family owned, but it has been run by a family member since McKinney's grandfather, E. Kirk McKinney Sr., got involved in the bank -- then known as First Federal Loan and Savings Association of Indianapolis -- in 1934, nearly 20 years after it was founded.
"My family is a minority stockholder," McKinney says. "Eighty percent of the company is owned by the stockholders. I work for the shareholders."
McKinney's father, Robert H. McKinney, had led the company since 1986, and Marni McKinney grew up hearing stories about how the early days of the bank.
"My father says my grandfather wanted to help people retain their homes during the Depression," she says. "People would come over at dinner time in anguish over losing their homes. My grandfather felt this would be a way to help the community."
Continuing that tradition, McKinney's father found other ways to help the community. Robert H. McKinney was a founding partner of law firm Bose McKinney and Evans LLP, but the bank and its ability to foster the building of homes and commercial properties was " ... always near and dear to his heart," says McKinney.
It is this same community-mindedness that today motivates the third-generation McKinney.
"As a child, it was very clear to me that what drove my father was to serve the community," she says. "And that's what drives me."
McKinney is hardly new to her leadership role. She was named vice chairman of the board in 1994, CEO in 2000 and served as CEO of Somerset Financial Services, a subsidiary of First Indiana Bank Corp. from 1992 to 2000.
"The transition to chairman has been occurring as my tenure grew," McKinney says. "I've been working with the board since 2000 developing a good relationship. This is a logical extension of my past duties."
But that doesn't mean she isn't realistic about the challenges she faces.
"We are fortunate to have Bob Warrington as president and CEO of First Indiana Bank," a subsidiary of First Indiana Bank Corp., says McKinney. "He is very talented, and we both see significant opportunity here. Our greatest challenge is also the key to our growth: the ability to attract and retain talented associates."
McKinney says First Indiana's reputation for delivering high-quality service is attracting that talent.
"Our clients want to sit at the table with the decision-makers," she says. "We are more responsive and better able to do that with a talented team of associates."
McKinney says First Indiana works to retain those associates by giving them opportunities and rewards. It's all part of her strategy to strengthen First Indiana, the largest locally owned bank headquartered in Indianapolis with nearly 600 employees.
"Really strong achievers are attracted to the bank, and those who are able to perform get recognition for that performance," she says.
That McKinney drive to contribute to the community is still strong, not just in the person of Marni McKinney but also in the company's core values. In fact, McKinney says, although she and her father have personality differences, their management styles are similar and based on those shared core values.
"Our core values are based on those set by my grandfather and father," McKinney says. "Our associates know our core values are honesty, fairness and doing what's right for the client. That won't change."
For McKinney, living by those core values means spending a lot of time with First Indiana clients and being personally involved. And it is this personal touch that she feels is a differentiator for the company.
"We are out most of our week because our focus is getting out and meeting with clients," says McKinney. "We are very responsive for a bank our size. We have the same products and services as other banks but we are more responsive. I spend more time calling on clients than my father did."
And getting to know clients is her favorite part of the job.
"Business owners deserve a very high level of service," she says. "They want us to be responsive, creative and flexible. I call up prospective and current clients and learn about the businesses of both. What I love the most is the opportunity to go see what they do and listen to what their opportunities and challenges are. That's what makes a business special. I can see the entrepreneurial spirit and that is fun for me."
Besides learning about clients' businesses, these visits also give McKinney the opportunity to see how First Indiana Bank can help them succeed.
"It is important for the client to have a large degree of trust with us," McKinney says. "That trust is a great investment for the future. Like attorneys, banks can work with a business to provide them with financial advice. It's important for the client to trust you if you want them to look at you for further service."
McKinney's passion for the client inspires employees, which is all part of her strategy for the bank's success.
"Setting an example, being consistent with our message and having a real passion for our vision is how we get employee buy-in," she says. "We have endeavored to be clear about our vision and our commitment to our associates, our shareholders and our clients."
And McKinney says she lives by the old adage that actions speak louder than words.
"The leadership here demonstrates their commitment through their actions," she says, "by discovering the needs of our clients and delivering the product to meet them. Top management will meet with a client at a moment's notice, whenever a client calls."
McKinney says the company has made some difficult choices in the past year, all designed to give the bank a clearer focus on its goals and core values.
"Central Indiana is a market filled with opportunity, and we are excited to be here," McKinney says. "We made some tough decisions in 2004 so we could position ourselves in 2005 to be focused on that market."
Those decisions included selling the company's out-of-state construction lending offices, as well as Somerset Financial Services; part of the reason for relinquishing Somerset was complying with Sarbanes-Oxley.
"Sarbanes-Oxley made it difficult for us to have any synergies with Somerset, so we sold the company back to the employees," McKinney says.
The decisions were tough because they meant losing 75 valued employees -- 35 of them to the closing of the construction lending offices -- but the end result was positive.
"We are focused on being more efficient," McKinney says. "Now our operating costs are more appropriate for our size and we have a more prudent risk profile. We are focused on growing our balance sheet."
McKinney is not the only one excited about First Indiana's new focus.
"The associates are excited about delivering our message to clients," she says.
There are several goals for this new focus -- sustaining executional excellence, emphasizing revenue growth and creating the best opportunities for shareholders, says McKinney.
"We want to make it easier for our customers to do business with us through improving our operations and managing technology," she says. "And we want to experience revenue growth through growing our deposits and managing our assets."
Part of that plan includes capitalizing on First Indiana as a local player.
"Customers want to walk into the branches, and the associates there know them by name," she says. "We are training our associates to work up and provide a profile of clients and the best financial advice we can give."
Years from now, when McKinney passes on the leadership role to a new chairman, she hopes she will have achieved a legacy similar to that of her father and grandfather.
"My hope is that First Indiana is an exceedingly high-performing bank, a great value for shareholders and renown fo r its commitment to the customer and the community," she says. "I will work hard to make our shareholders and clients strong and pleased, and our associates fulfilled."
How to reach: First Indiana Bank Corp., (317) 269-1200 or www.firstindiana.com
Today, when she's not busy managing WW Group Inc., Mark hosts her own radio show, "Remarkable Woman," and stars in her own television show, "Ask Florine." Mark also authored the self-help book "Talk to the Mirror."
These varied projects all share a common goal -- to inspire women and help them lead healthier lives. And Mark knows all about making healthy changes. Nearly 40 years ago, she transformed her own life by permanently losing 50 pounds, banishing yo-yo dieting from her life.
"When I lost the weight and kept it off, I was full of self-respect and confidence," says Mark, president, chairman and CEO of WW Group Inc.
And she wants all women to feel the same way.
But it isn't just Mark's ability to meet goals and make dreams happen that is inspirational. Her business acumen is impressive, too. At the height of her business, she operated Weight Watchers franchises across more than a dozen Midwest and East Coast states, in addition to franchises in Mexico and Canada, with the help of almost 6,000 employees.
In 2003, Mark struck a deal with Weight Watchers International, selling a majority of her franchises to it for just over $180 million. Even after the sale, she remains the Weight Watchers franchisor with the most franchises, maintaining operations in Michigan and Canada.
Juggling the duties of being a business owner, a public personality and an author might seem daunting, but Mark takes it all in stride.
"I have never encountered anything that I felt was too challenging, with the exception of the decision to sell," she says. "Even when I went to the bank to borrow millions of dollars to buy out Boston, it wasn't a challenge -- it was exciting."
Smart Business spoke with Florine Mark about managing a franchise, moving her business in new directions and finding everyday inspiration.
What led you to start WW Group Inc.?
I was 50 pounds overweight. I had lost that 50 pounds nine times before and gained it back. Each time, I used methods that were detrimental to my health, like taking weight loss pills. The last time, I ended up hospitalized.
The doctor said if I took any more of the pills, he would not be responsible for my life.
I heard about Weight Watchers. At that time, the closest program was in New York. I went to New York and stayed one week, then I went back every month. It was so different. I lost 40 pounds in four months.
The founder of the program asked me if I wanted to buy a franchise and take the system back to Detroit. I did. Well, I had my first Weight Watchers class, and 30 people showed up. The second class, 80 people showed up, and the third class, 150 people showed up. I was happy. I knew I'd found what I wanted to do the rest of my life.
What is your management philosophy?
My goal has been two things -- to focus on the (Weight Watchers) member and to focus on the people who work with me. I never forget the people who work with me. Even when I had 6,000 employees, I sent everyone birthday cards.
At my company, everyone had a weight problem, lost weight, went on our maintenance program and came to work for me. All of them availed themselves of our services. Now, of course, there are times when we get stressed out -- we all do at different times -- and get a little out of control, but we help each other.
No one is perfect.
What is your member service philosophy?
Service to the member is the most important thing to me. I've never had a customer that's been wrong. We treat them as if they are always right. I'd rather lose a few dollars than that good will.
What made WW Group's franchises so successful?
We are very aggressive when it comes to marketing and advertising. I believe in public relations; many other franchisees do not. I have always had between two to five people working with me in that capacity.
I have my own radio show called "Remarkable Woman." Women from all over talk about their own stories, and it inspires the listeners -- they feel if she can do it, so can I. I also have a television show called "Ask Florine," so I am very visible.
And we do a newsletter, which is really a combination of a newspaper and a magazine, and that spreads the word.
How does Weight Watchers fit into your goal of inspiring women?
An independent study was done at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Weight Watchers program was the only one identified as a balanced, healthy system. We are proud of that.
You can lose weight and keep it off if you stick to the directions, eat your greens, fruits and vegetables. In 30 years with Weight Watchers, no one takes a pill. People are expected to take responsibility and change their eating habits.
We do it slowly, so that eventually you'll want that red pepper or apple as a snack instead of a candy bar. We've upgraded the program five or six times. We have a board of doctors and psychiatrists constantly researching weight loss, and we incorporate changes if they are sound. It is the easiest system I've ever used, and it is nutritionally sound.
What sparked the decision to sell so many of your franchises to Weight Watchers International?
My first husband died of cancer. I remarried a man who had lots of outside activities, and he began making noises that he wanted to work less and start to retire. We wanted to go to India, Australia, places like that. Once I sold [my franchises], I would have more time to travel.
And I thought it was a good chance for me to see the kids getting their inheritance in advance and see what they'd do with it. My children already owned 60 percent of the company. I owned 40 percent and had control. So I decided to keep 25 percent -- the franchises in Michigan and parts of Canada -- and sell off the rest. We set up a charitable foundation, and the only change is, we do more philanthropic work and donations.
Two months after I sold the franchises, my husband was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. Within a year to two years, this active man wasn't able to leave the house. We loved each other dearly. After he passed, I was glad I still had the franchises I'd kept to keep me busy.
Have you ever regretted the decision?
Yes. If I'd known then what I know now, I don't think I would've sold them. I miss the excitement of some of the other markets, like Massachusetts and Mexico.
I signed a 10-year noncompete clause. Two years have passed; in another eight years, watch out.
What is the biggest lesson you've learned in business?
I think I learned the biggest lesson before I started the business, and that is to listen -- really concentrate on what people are saying. That is true whether you are talking to a clerk, the people that clean the building or the president of the bank. All people get equal treatment. I try to be nonjudgmental.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles women leaders face today?
Many of us become entrepreneurs because it is hard for women to climb up the ladder in corporations. You don't see many (women as) CEOs of large corporations, and not many sit on boards. Women haven't formed their Old Girls Club yet. We don't help each other out the way men have in the past, but we're learning, and opportunities are growing.
For me, the most important part of my life were my five children. I think that is true for many women. (That's) why so many companies are creating daycare centers -- so that women don't have to spend hours away from their children. Raising kids is a big, important job. The primary solution is to create better child care. Businesses that have daycare systems on the premises attract quality employees.
What advice would you give other women who are driven to achieve?
Go for it. Take one day at a time. Keep a pencil and notebook with you all the time.
When I wake up in the morning, I make notes about what I want to accomplish for the day and with any person that I am meeting with. Also, it helps to stay organized. When I come into the house, there are hooks for my keys. Everything is in its place at the office and at home.
It is an extremely important skill that we can learn.
How to reach: WW Group Inc., (888) 3-FLORINE or www.888-3-florine.com
Education: Bachelor's degree, Amherst College; doctorate degree in physics, Harvard University
First job: Paperboy
Career moves: After receiving his doctorate, worked six years for a biotechnology company in research and development, then moved into product development, then manufacturing and operations, dealing with operational management issues. Joined Highlights for Children in June 2004.
Boards: Highlights for Children
What was your greatest challenge in business and how did you overcome it?
I think my greatest challenge is yet to come. I don't know what it will be, but it's out there.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
I admire my great-uncle Garry Myers II. I never met him because he died in a plane crash in 1960. But I admire him because he left a successful career as an aeronautical engineer to close down the Highlights plant for his parents.
He still saw life in the company, a glimmer of hope, and never returned to his former career. Instead, he stuck around and made the business fly, and it wasn't easy. I admire him for his big career change and ability to succeed with some really difficult tasks.
What is the greatest lesson you've learned in business?
The greatest lesson I've learned in business is also the greatest lesson I've learned in life, and that is the importance of having good, attentive listening skills. Those skills cannot be underestimated.
There can be a lot of trouble if you're not working hard to hear the message. Bad decisions can be made if you're not listening.
As president of The Precedent Cos., Peterson's first task was to combine disparate companies into one. The Precedent group of companies focuses on commercial and residential development, construction and financial services. When Peterson assumed the reins of this group, each operated very differently, with its own management structure.
"A person working for one company wouldn't know the person leading another," Peterson says.
His challenge was to reorganize the companies under one leadership umbrella, then get them to work together toward common goals.
As mayor, Peterson's taken this same approach to unify the departments in his office. He says it is important that members of each department know and understand Peterson's overall goals. Communication is the key to accomplishing this objective, he says, so he holds a bimonthly cabinet meeting to keep senior leaders on target.
The structure of Peterson's organization also lends itself to a stronger communication flow. He says his "pyramid communication" structure optimizes the flow of information among him, his staff and key policy makers.
Tying everyone together is the Peterson plan. Much like the business plan of a large company, the Peterson plan defines the mayor's goals and objectives and outlines how he plans to achieve them. It has also helped Peterson weather what he calls some pretty big waves in the political ocean, such as the city's $600 million purchase of the Indianapolis Water Co.
"The plan always keeps us anchored," he says.
Smart Business talked with Peterson about the business of running a city and how he stays focused on his plan.
What are the similarities between running a business and running the city?
Executive leadership is executive leadership, whether you are running a private company, a not-for-profit organization or are a government leader. It is different from being a legislator, but there are a lot of parallels between leading a business and the city.
The reality is that leadership is leadership, and the most important thing is to surround yourself with the best people you can. The team will make or break you and the progress of the organization.
There is a more overt political element to being mayor, but there are also some political elements to leading a business. The best organizations are not ones led by an unquestioned dictator. You need to persuade people, to get them to take ownership of their part of the business and effectively delegate. You keep a close eye on what you delegate.
You build coalitions in government that are not dissimilar to the coalitions made in business. There is no question that my experience in business was a huge advantage to me in taking on the job of mayor five-and-a-half-years ago and continues to be a great benefit to me.
What was the most important lesson you learned during your four years as president of The Precedent Cos.?
Hiring the best people you can find and then ensuring that they are constantly focused and being challenged and fulfilled by their jobs. You need to make sure you have the right people in the right place and that they are enthusiastic and passionate about their jobs.
Sometimes that means moving people around and giving them additional responsibilities. You need to allow people to reach their potential and follow their passions within the goals of the organization. That's how you make progress -- you have strong people.
If you have weak people, you have to make a change or you will suffer. That is probably the most important thing that I brought into the public sector from the private sector.
What was your biggest challenge at The Precedent Cos. and how does it compare to the challenges you face as mayor?
Clearly, the biggest challenge I had in the private sector was to create one company; to bring disparate companies together as one. There were a number of businesses with different ownership and management structures. My challenge was in bringing all that together and creating one holding company, one board and ownership structure, and I was successful in achieving that.
In government, the basic structure is a given. It is set by law, but within that, people need to work together toward the same goals or they could end up almost working against each other.
I need to make sure that people are working toward shared goals. They need to start off on the same page. They could fall off quickly if you don't focus on the importance of keeping people together. Everyone knows their goals, and they are constantly updated. We function as one office rather than a confederation of departments.
One thing we do have is a cabinet meeting every two weeks where we are all in one room. We talk about what we are doing and what we have coming up, and I provide support and remind them of any overriding messages. This helps keep everyone on the same page.
One technique to keep everyone working together is the structure we have -- a loose reporting structure. I have a senior person in each department reporting to me and more deputy mayors responsible for certain issue areas. It is not a rigid hierarchal structure but a pyramid for communication.
There are about 25 to 30 key policymakers. By setting up the pyramid communication structure, I know what's going on in all the divisions and they know what I'm up to.
How is the Peterson Plan similar to a business plan for a company?
It is similar in many ways, although a business plan typically includes pro forma financial performance information. You typically include profitability information in addition to strategy, goals and objectives.
In this case, the goal is not growth or profit. The Peterson Plan focuses far less on those types of issues but everything else, plans, tactics for implementing and achieving our goals, is included. The difference is we don't have financial data. If there is additional revenue needed for a particular plan, then that is spelled out, but there isn't a huge financial component.
What strategies have you used to implement the plan and how has it been received?
The plan has been well-received . The first time it was a huge component of the campaign. My staff is asked to keep the plan out as a reference tool. At any moment someone might ask what next, he or she can look at the plan and see. Based on my own experience, I can say it has helped us accomplish a lot. Being a newly elected person can be like going out in the Atlantic in a small sailboat. You get knocked about by some big waves and bad weather; there are a number of unpredictable things that happen. If you don't have a plan, when the bad storm is over, you won't know what way to turn.
It is the same with government. If you don't have navigational equipment, what you end up after four years accomplishing may be everyone else's agendas. We have reacted to some pretty big waves but we didn't lose sight of our goals.
There was a lot we did not see in the plan -- both opportunities and challenges. We responded to those but also kept the plan in mind. At the end of the four-year term, we published a report explaining what we accomplished and what we didn't.
One of the big waves we dealt with was our purchase of the Indianapolis Water Co. It was one of the largest public transactions in state history, using $600 million in bonds. The water company had been privately owned and we were fine with that. But the company was making a huge acquisition which fell under the jurisdiction of the SEC.
The SEC required the company to divest itself of the water company. We were not happy that it would most likely be sold to a company outside the state or even outside the country. We were able to invoke an obscure state low that allowed us to buy back the water company. It was a major undertaking and took a huge commitment of time and resources to accomplish. We now contract the operations of the water company to a private party. But that was not in the Peterson Plan.
Has the Peterson plan been an effective tool toward achieving the city's goals?
Yes. It provides a road map and navigational tools, and I am able to see and make sure that what I promised, I deliver. Now there are some items in the plan that, at the time ,we thought were important to do, but something in the equation changed and then it didn't make sense.
There were a few items in the plan that we decided would actually be bad to do, so we chose not to do those and explained why. The vast majority of our goals were accomplished, and some we tried and failed. But yes, it is an effective tool and should be used more often.
What do you consider the city's biggest strength?
Our biggest strength is clearly our culture. Not in the traditional sense, but the culture we have of commitment to the city above self-interest.
There are private-public partnerships now that didn't exist when I was born. People are working together to make the city a better place. This culture has developed over the last 30 to 35 years and it is a powerful asset. I'd argue that we have made more progress than any other established city in the last 35 years because of that asset.
What about areas for improvement?
We could do a better job painting a picture of the city. We need to do a better job getting the word out about the remarkable city this has become.
We are working with both private and not-for-profit marketing groups to do this, to better depict the arts and cultural assets that we have. Our goal is to become an arts and cultural destination.
How to reach: Mayor Bart Peterson, (317) 327-3601 or www.indygov.org/eGov/Mayor/home.htm
Education: Bachelor's degree, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va.; master's degree, hospital administration, Duke University, Durham, N.C.
First job: 1965, administrative assistant, Duke University Medical Center
Career moves: Associate hospital director at the Albert B. Chandler Medical Center, University of Kentucky, 1971-1975; named hospital director, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pa., 1975; hired as president and CEO of Akron (Ohio) General Medical Center, 1978; became president and CEO of Community Health Network, 1984
Boards: Member, VHA National, Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Pro Health Network, The Health Care Group; co-chairs Groups for Renewal, Accountability and Development of Excellence in Schools (GRADES); 1998 president of the Indy 500 and 400 festivals.
What is your greatest challenge in business and how did you overcome it?
It was when I found myself on the other side of a major issue with my board chairman. I handled it by developing even stronger relationships with each individual board member.
Past or present, whom do you admire most in business and why?
My mentor was Ray Brown [who played a major role in shaping health care administration training], and my admiration for him is that he changed my management philosophy from one of basically leadership through personal relationships or personal friendships to one of intellectual-personal management philosophy.
What is the greatest lesson you've learned in business?
There are many lessons, but I would say that the greatest lesson learned in business is how important passion is in achieving your goals.
But be careful- these are also the employees most likely to suffer from burnout. It is necessary these days to ensure you are getting the highest productivity from each employee, and adding to the workload of employees who aren't performing at optimum levels is definitely a sound idea. But use caution when adding to the workloads of those who are already on overload.
The super-performing employee will continue to do more work, and you may not realize that you have overburdened him or her until you find the employee passed out under the desk. And remember, top CEOs and executives agree -- your human resources are the most valuable ones you have. You cannot afford to lose these individuals.
Smaller companies in growth mode are the ones most likely to fall prey to this strategy. Recruiting and hiring new employees costs a lot of money, and adding a new person to the payroll may seem like too big a risk. It's tempting to spread the additional work among existing employees, and for awhile, that strategy may work. But if you add more business without hiring a proportionate number of employees, you may be shooting yourself in the foot.
Those valuable employees will eventually get tired of being overwhelmed and burned out. These same employees may also feel less appreciated and respected, leading them to pull up stakes and move to new jobs.
How will you know when you have stretched your employees too thin? The first sign will be that they will make more mistakes than usual -- maybe not a significant number, but it will be noticeable. Secondly, morale will suffer- you'll notice a lot less laughter and smiles.
And lastly, people will be working a much greater number of hours, either at the office or at home. If you are noticing these signs, heed them. Adding more people to the payroll may mean you keep those employees you value.