And Junior Achievement, a nonprofit organization that inspires and sparks the entrepreneurial spirit in the country's youths, is working to promote ethical business practices as well. The organization polled 624 teens between the ages of 13 and 18, and the results were alarming: 33 percent said they would act unethically to get ahead or to make more money if there were no chance of getting caught.
That's why JA is partnering with accounting and consulting firm Deloitte & Touche to promote business ethics among young people, starting with elementary school students. It also promotes business ethics by providing role models -- its annual Hall of Fame honorees.
This year's laureates are business leaders who not only demonstrate business savvy, but also how running a business ethically can lead to success. They have overcome obstacles and challenges to succeed in tough, competitive industries, and are true role models for the region's young people.
Founder and executive chairman
Jim Grote discovered that the pizza business was in his blood while working part-time at one pizza shop, then another, in high school and in college.
His hard work, diligence and enjoyment of the job inspired the owners of both shops to offer him first dibs on the stores when they decided to sell. In the first instance, Grote's father persuaded him to pursue his education instead.
But he couldn't pass up the second opportunity, and with borrowed money, he purchased the first Donatos Pizza when he was a sophomore in college. He says he learned many things from his mentors -- his father, an owner of the first pizza shop and his father-in-law -- and one of them was the value of treating everyone in the business, from customers to vendors, fairly.
"The bottom line is to treat others how you'd like to be treated," Grote says. "That's a phrase that is overused. You have to pick apart its meaning to get its real value."
Grote says it means putting yourself in the other person's shoes.
"That means you don't pat a 10-year-old on the head," he says. "Kids like to be listened to and have input."
Grote says this rule applies even to competitors.
"Don't trash them," he says. "You wouldn't want to be treated like that."
Grote says having a good mentor is important in business for several reasons.
"For one, it keeps you from having to reinvent the wheel," he says. "It's great to have someone to prevent you from making mistakes that have already been made."
And modeling your business character after that of a mentor with integrity sets the stage for how you'll do business in the future.
"No matter what the mechanics of the business you're in, the context of the business comes from the character you develop," he says. "If you stick to your principles and treat people right, you'll have a business you can be proud of."
Chairman and CEO
Freight Service Inc. and United Carriers Corp.
In 1929, an architectural engineering graduate named Howard LeFevre joined the work force.
That was also the year of the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.
He got a job with a construction firm but within a few years, LeFevre found himself, like many others, seeking work wherever he could get it.
"I became involved in the trucking industry and enjoyed it," says LeFevre. "And I was willing to start over at the bottom."
By 1947, LeFevre was operating his own successful freight company in Newark, and the city has been his home ever since.
He says he owes a lot to his mentor, Everett Reese, who was president of Park National Bank when LeFevre first moved his business to Newark.
"I didn't know anybody in Newark but I had a contract with Owens Corning," he says. "Everett was quite a community-minded citizen. He guided me into activities that allowed me to help my community and business."
These gave him confidence in his leadership abilities, and as his confidence grew, so did his business.
"My business wasn't dependent on my community activities," he says. "But your own leadership role gives you a feeling of accomplishment."
LeFevre says it's important for mentors to show future business owners how to conduct business with honesty.
"They need to know how to become role models or guides for their employees," he says. "And they need to understand the importance of following their principles and being honest in their relationships with customers and employees."
LeFevre says he never abandoned his early love for architecture, and his success in the freight industry has enabled him to be involved in projects that reflect his architectural interests.
"I've helped in the restoration of some buildings in Newark," he says. "And I was part of The Ohio State University alumni group that established the Newark campus here."
He says the OSU Newark campus is one of the finest things to happen to the community.
"We had 5,000 students attending the campus this fall," he says. "And we started with 80 attending evening classes in 1978."
David Milenthal, who started his business as a one-man operation in 1974 and today leads a 300-employee firm, is lucky to have had three outstanding mentors.
"Gene Hameroff, who founded the agency in 1954, taught me the basic principles of business," Milenthal says.
Milenthal considers his partner Paula Spence his second mentor.
"She taught me the importance of communication," Milenthal says. "It is an integral part of career growth."
Former Ohio Gov. Dick Celeste is his third mentor.
"He taught me a lot about strategy, creativity and public service," he says.
Milenthal says the key to a successful mentoring relationship is trust.
"If you truly trust your mentor and listen carefully, the relationship will help you," he says. "A mentor can help you build a successful network."
But it's not just the person being mentored who benefits, says Milenthal.
"Mentoring brings you personal fulfillment," he says. "You can pass on a legacy. Mentor someone who will, in turn, become a mentor to someone else."
He cites Spence as an example of a good mentor.
"Paula Spence has mentored many people," he says. "To her, teaching others was what she considered the most fulfilling thing she did. She has passed down to other mentors her knowledge and principles."
Family support and advice are also important.
"I attribute my success to both of my parents, my wife and the mentoring of three people," he says. "Many of the things I've been able to achieve have been a result of the mentoring of those three people and my wife."
He says the advice you receive from your spouse should stand the test of time.
"As you become more successful, your wife will give you the must truthful advice," he says. "She won't sugarcoat it." How to reach: Junior Achievement, (614) 771-9903
Since 1984, the Ohio University and Capital University Law School graduate has represented coaches, media personalities and artists in employment contract negotiations. His clients include Milwaukee Bucks coach George Karl, University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins and ONN's Doug Lessells.
Adams says he lucked into his practice.
"There's two ways to get into this business," he says. "You can toil away at a large sports agency and work your way up, or get lucky like I did and find a client and go from there."
He recently joined forces with the Columbus office of Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs LLP, forming the firm's Entertainment and Sports Law Services Division with other attorneys, but he still maintains his own practice.
"BDB had enough counsel that I thought the partnership would work," says Adams.
He can now refer his clients to BDB when they are in need of legal work -- such as for estate planning -- that is outside his realm of expertise.
Adams enjoys his work primarily because it takes him around the globe.
"My work has taken me to Europe, Asia and South America -- all directly as a result of the people I represented in sports history," he says.
His biggest challenge? Keeping clients' expectations realistic. "Agents can build expectations so high they can't be met," Adams says.
Smart Business talked with Adams about the challenges and rewards of his practice and issues in the industry.
What is the most challenging aspect of negotiating contracts for your clients?
The most challenging aspect is dealing with the expectations of my clients. Sometimes negotiating with the client is more difficult than the other side.
Most athletes and coaches that I represent have been treated differently than traditional legal clients, and their expectations are higher. Mentally, because of the way they're treated -- like they are the greatest player or coach on the planet -- the monetary awards may not be what they expected.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your work?
Unlike traditional lawyers, my practice has taken me around the world. I also enjoy working with my clients.
My coaching clients are more emotional, insecure and paranoid than most clients by nature of the business. Coaches are hired to be fired -- they're always looking over their shoulder to see what the next opportunity will be.
Today I represent more coaches than entertainers. I started representing athletes about 20 years ago and developed a nice practice that expanded to coaches. In the coaching field, there is much more stability, and now they make a tremendous amount of money. And frankly, coaches are much more mature than a 22-year-old.
In this business who you represent is important. A lot of it has to do with media attention. I've been fortunate enough to represent high-profile, newsworthy people -- people whose names are recognized -- so I've received more than my fair share of media attention by representing them.
What was the toughest contract to negotiate and why?
Sometimes the lesser profile coaches or up-and-coming coaches are more difficult to negotiate because they don't have any leverage.
For example, Terry Stotts is the new head coach of the Atlanta Hawks [NBA basketball team]. The previous head coach was fired in December, and Stotts was elevated to the head coach position and wanted an increase in salary. It is his first head coaching opportunity, and he is thankful for it, but he knows he can't demand the world as far as salary goes.
It will get easier after he has a proven track record.
How long does it take to negotiate a contract?
It depends on the situation. Some local entertainment or media figures can take longer than a $500,000 job in the NBA; it depends on the adversary and the client. It also depends on the bargaining position of the client.
It can take as little as a few hours up to many months. It depends on what each side wants from the other.
Lawyers that do what I do are typically lone wolves -- you can't develop a practice within the confines of a large law firm because of the firm's billing expectations. I've had various firms solicit me over the years, wanting me to develop a sports and entertainment practice as part of their firms.
I thought BDB had enough counsel and saw it would work on an "of counsel" basis. I can utilize their resources and do my own practice. Before, if a Chris Spielman had estate planning or other issues that weren't in my area, I referred him elsewhere. Now I can provide those services through BDB.
Do you feel there should be caps set on how much sports figures earn?
Yes, I am a big believer in salary caps and fiscal restraint. I am a business lawyer as much as any attorney.
High salaries are not the result of agents, but the system. Teams and owners buy success, which makes it unfair. High salaries are also a result of team owners not being able to control their spending.
Sports team owners do not run teams like the businesses that made them successful. If we had a true salary cap, it would protect owners from themselves and we would have fiscal restraint. Maybe then we wouldn't be paying $150 to see an NFL or NBA game for a great seat.
What are the differences between the services you offer and those of an agent representing the same talent pool?
What I do is vastly different than what an agent does. Lawyers can directly negotiate the contract and provide legal advice and services. An agent still needs to have the contract reviewed by a lawyer.
Non-lawyers can solicit clients, lawyers cannot. I can't call a player when he is eligible and say, 'I did $10 million in contracts last year, I can represent you.' An agent can.
Do you think contracts offered sports and entertainment professionals will change in the future?
I think there's a deflation happening right now in professional sports. There are too many options for teen-agers now -- they have the Internet, video games, youth soccer.
We're not seeing the same type of interest in basketball and football. Kids are growing up in an Internet world, not a sports world. Plus the proliferation of teams and leagues -- there's just not enough money to go around.
We're not going to see a $7 million salary like George Karl earns. The average head coaching salary in the NBA two years ago was $3 million to $4 million. The most recent hires of younger coaches are at $1 million, which is still a lot of money.
And it's not only coaches that are affected. I see it in the NBA free agents signed. There are very good players out there that are not making the money they would've made three years ago. How to reach: Bret A. Adams Esquire, (614) 227-4278 or www.bretadams.com; Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs LLP, (614) 221-8448 or www.bdblaw.com
The Tower will be located on 12th Avenue adjacent to the Medical Center.
Peter Geier, chief operating officer of the Medical Center, says the tower is part of OSU President Dr. Karen Holbrook's plan to become one of the country's top research institutions.
"We took a look at the space available and realized we did not have good quality space," Geier says.
The facility, expected to be complete by December 2006, will house 100 research scientists and other personnel in its 230,000 square feet.
"The research there will be designed to translate into better patient care," Geier says.
"The primary areas of medical research which have traditionally been strong at OSU are cancer, neuroscience and transplantation," says Dr. Carol Whitacre, associate vice president for health sciences research. "These are the areas in which OSU has invested significant resources over the past decade and hired strong leaders. At the present time and looking forward, these areas are continuing to be emphasized."
OSU is also expanding its research into other areas, says Whitacre. Experimental therapeutics for cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurobiology of disease, bioinformatics, microbial pathogenesis (infectious diseases including protection from the agents of bioterrorism) and diabetes are some of the new research areas receiving investment.
Jeffrey Wilkins, senior consultant to the Medical Center for commercialization, says these areas were targeted because of changing demographics.
"There are a higher percentage of older people in the country," Wilkins says. "And that's what's really driving the biotech or biomedical research field. There's been a tremendous increase in funding for that research over the last few years."
Wilkins has also seen increased activity in software technologies, tools to help researchers advance developments more quickly. Software would come under the title of enabling technologies or platforms to help advance products and services.
Whitacre says the university is pushing forward in disease prevention, one of the areas of greatest medical need for the next decade.
"Medical science has traditionally focused on disease treatment only after disease has been detected and is sometimes far advanced," she says. "New approaches include using some forms of genetic testing to detect risk for disease even before its appearance, as well as research into reduction of risk factors. Much of the research on disease tracking and risk factor reduction is carried out as part of the expanded emphasis of the School of Public Health."
Wilkins' mission is to assist the university in turning its discoveries into products and services companies can license and use. He sees a growing awareness of the importance of technology transfer.
"In the last few years, we have seen an increase in emphasis on the tech transfer process throughout the country," Wilkins says. "This emphasis has shown up in the focus that various institutions put on the process, illustrated by how often it is mentioned in their external reporting."
He is working to develop an efficient tech transfer business model at the University and communicate its importance to all members of the research team.
"At the Medical Center, I'm working to discover how to build a sustainable business process which is very efficient," Wilkins says. "That process starts with education and training -- making people aware of the importance of tech transfer so the process becomes part of their work."
The result will be a win-win situation for the university, patients and local economic development.
"New research dollars result in the attraction and recruitment of high-income professionals and support staff," says Wilkins. "Secondly, research can drive spin-out companies, start-ups that attract investment dollars, new employment, facilities and demand for local services.
"And finally, reputation for growing research attracts top faculty and students, which drives more research funding and the cycle continues."
How to reach: The Ohio State University Medical Center, (800) 293-5123 or medicalcenter.osu.edu.
"We've never had an incident of credit card fraud, but things like that do happen," says Kathy Bower, manager of employee compensation for Highlights for Children.
The company publishes the popular children's magazine, as well as other products for kids, and the Columbus campus houses the business units, including telesales.
"The department has a high turnover," Bower says, "and deals with customers' credit cards."
So the company began using an online background check program developed by OPENonline LLC in Columbus. The OPENonline employment screening service allows Bower to search county and federal criminal and civil records and verify potential employees' Social Security numbers.
"It helps us to confirm that the person is who he says he is," she says.
OPENonline has other programs that help employers obtain driving records and verify educational degrees, work history and professional licenses, but Bowers says Highlights confines its use of the system to criminal record checks and Social Security number verifications.
Highlights has been using the technology for five years, primarily on its new hires in telesales and the distribution center. Before that, it did not perform background checks.
"We did reference checks, and we had a growing awareness of the need to do background checks, too," says Bower. "It really deals with the issue of negligent hiring. We don't want to hire someone convicted of credit card fraud in our telesales department."
While the majority of background checks come up clean, occasionally the company comes across someone with a record.
"We don't automatically eliminate the person from consideration," Bower says. "We handle each incident on a case-by-case basis."
The online program has improved since Bower started using it. "It's faster, but it can still take a few days to get a record," Bower says, "because not all of the states are online."
And it's a cost-effective tool, as well.
"We feel that it does help protect customers and our employees," she says. "It reduces our risk. It's like buying an insurance policy." How to reach: Highlights for Children, (614) 486-0631 or www.highlightsforchildren.com
Are you doing all you can to keep your employees and the money they are delivering safe?
"You really should minimize the amount of cash you take in," says Erich Murray, first vice president, business banking, Bank One, Columbus.
Murray says if you aren't already accepting credit/debit cards, it is worthwhile to start.
"More business-to-business transactions are done through electronic payments like debit cards," he says.
There is a cost associated with this form of payment, says Todd Fulton, Key Bank's senior vice president, business banking, Columbus.
"It runs between 1 and 3 percent of the sales price, but that's a low price to pay to minimize risk," Fulton says.
Although convenient, these forms of payment will never entirely eliminate cash handling. There are steps you can take to keep cash deposits and the employees who carry them safe.
"Basically, you don't want anyone that might be casing your business to see a pattern," Fulton says.
Vary the deposit routine in every way possible; have different employees make the deposits at different times of the day, taking different routes to the bank or going to different branch locations. And find an inconspicuous way to carry the deposit bag, Fulton says. Keep it hidden.
And if your deposits are $10,000 or more, consider making more than one trip to the bank during the day.
"Don't keep the same routine," Murray says.
You might think depositing the money after banking hours is a safer alternative, but there are pros and cons to consider.
"Depositing after hours lends itself to you being alone with no one else around," Murray says. "Some night depositories are guarded or equipped with cameras, but you're really better off to make your deposit during normal bank hours."
On the other hand, says Fulton, some night depositories are accessible from your car, making them safer.
"If you never have to leave your car, your risk is minimized and there is less opportunity for someone getting the money at that point," he says.
If you handle large amounts of cash daily, consider using an armored car service, which you can usually sign up for through your bank.
"There is an economic break point where it will make sense for the owner to use that kind of service," Fulton says.
If your daily deposits approach $50,000, an armored car is recommended. However if deposits are $50,000 in a year, it probably doesn't make sense for your business, and varying your routine and making multiple deposits will work for you.
Sue Connor, vice president with Berwanger Overmyer Associates, says it's surprising how many employers don't take full advantage of laws and insurance plans that can save money or offer additional benefits to employees.
One of these is a Section 125 plan. Under Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code, employers can deduct insurance premiums from an employee's paycheck before income taxes are calculated.
"Using a Section 125 plan can save both the employee and employer up to 30 percent of the premium if the employer is matching the employee's contribution," Connor says.
Employers can create a Section 125 plan for the health insurance premium only, flexible spending accounts (pre-tax dollars deposited into an account typically used to cover out-of-pocket medical costs) or for the full employer benefit plan.
Another often-overlooked option is the use of voluntary benefits to round out an insurance program. Voluntary benefits are typically long-term care policies or disability insurance. Employees pay the full premium, which is less than it would be if they bought it individually, thanks to the employer's group discount.
"Employers are often surprised how many employees take advantage of voluntary plans," Connor says.
These plans are attractive to employees because they can be continued -- at the group rate -- after leaving the employer.
"It's a win-win situation, and it doesn't cost the employer anything except the time it takes to set it up," says Connor.
Other employers make the mistake of not taking full advantage of the employer-insurance broker relationship.
"The insurance broker can be an advocate for the employer in many ways," Connor says. "The broker can help keep the program in balance."
The broker can do a thorough analysis of the company's plan to make sure it meets the needs and budget of the employer and employees.
"Employers are not always considering every aspect when choosing a plan," Connor says. "Price, plan design and service should all be taken into account when developing a program."
And, she says, the broker can also help keep the company in compliance with plan regulations and assist with claims. How to reach: Berwanger Overmyer Associates, (614) 457-7000 or www.e-boa.com
The local plant -- with headquarters in Atlanta -- makes resin that goes on glass fibers used in home insulation and laminating resins for countertops. These processes require the use of two water towers that provide cooling water for heat exchangers. But treating the water can be a challenge.
Len Hayes, assistant plant manager, says conventional water treatment is based on cycles.
"There's a certain amount of dissolved solids -- minerals, biological growth and scale -- in water. Any water tower will build up scale on the inside of the pipes," says Hayes.
To reduce this scale, the company used traditional chemical methods in both towers -- methods that carry safety risks.
"Any time you're handling chemicals, you worry about spillage and the chemicals getting on a person," Hayes says. "Then you have to make sure you're applying the chemicals continuously and store them. We wanted to get away from using them."
Last year, the plant installed new technology produced by Columbus-based Chardon Laboratories Inc., which treats the water electronically instead of with chemicals. After testing the system in one tower for a year, Hayes reports several benefits.
"There are no chemical additives needed in the tower," Hayes says. "And we've reduced our costs. We reduced the amount of water we need to use in the process and have less sewer costs."
Hayes estimates that Georgia Pacific will save between $20,000 and $25,000 annually. He says Chardon's PowerPure system saves the company money because less water is discharged in the cooling process. And that means lower sewer costs.
"It follows that the more water you use, the higher the water bill and sewer charges," he says.
Hayes says that because Chardon's technology removes dissolved solids from the water, the plant has been able to increase the number of cycles the water can be used again.
Hayes says plant managers are considering installing the technology in the second water tower.
"We wanted to use the system a year before making the decision," he says. "We're coming close to making that decision, and we're looking at several other functions of the system that are comparable to traditional water treatment systems." How to reach: Platform Lab, (614) 675-3711 or www.platformlab.org; Edison Welding Institute, (614) 688-5000 or www.ewi.org
"Capital spending is hardest hit during a slow economy," says Chris Barret, tax partner at Crowe Chizek and Co. LLC's Columbus office.
Barret says in order to spark the economy and prevent a slowdown in capital spending, lawmakers offered temporary tax breaks on depreciation.
"These changes will only last a few years," Barret says.
The Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 allows companies to take up to 50 percent in bonus depreciation on a capital expense such as equipment or vehicles. But before you sign that large check, make sure you consider other aspects of the tax changes as well, says C. Ricci Obert, tax principal with Ernst & Young LLP's Columbus office.
"The changes in depreciation offer some definite opportunities, but there are also some issues to watch," Obert says.
According to Obert, if businesses did not utilize federal bonus depreciation and did not properly elect out, they may have adopted an erroneous accounting method. Obert says states have decoupled from the federal bonus depreciation, resulting in unique rules in each state jurisdiction. Businesses with operations in multiple states may have trouble keeping track of the various state depreciation rules.
Accounting software offers the least expensive option for tracking these laws, but Obert cautions that they aren't always the best solution.
"I recommend having an expert help the company rather than software, and the company needs to have a protocol in place for immediately entering the correct depreciation information in the company's books and for tax returns," Obert says.
Barret agrees that while the new laws can work in favor of many companies, they're not necessarily right for everyone.
"My best advice is to consider the impact of these changes in the timing of capital expenditures," he says. "In some cases, it might not make sense to accelerate the purchases, and in others, it would."
For example, he says, if your company is experiencing net operating losses, more capital expenditures will only add to the loss, not provide a cash benefit -- all the more reason, he says, to confer with an expert.
"As with all tax issues, having the right professional as a business adviser is critical to staying abreast of recent tax developments," Obert says. How to reach: Crowe Chizek and Co. LLC, (614) 469-0001 or www.crowechizek.com; Ernst & Young LLP, (614) 233-5625 or www.ey.com
With more than 200,000 women-owned businesses in Ohio -- the state ranks sixth among the 50 states in the number of women-owned firms -- women business owners are having an increasing impact on business policies and cultures, partly due to the efforts of organizations like NAWBO.
NAWBO's mission is to develop and grow strong, profitable women-owned businesses; build strategic alliances, coalitions and affiliations; transform public policy; and effect changes in the business culture.
Each year, NAWBO recognizes with its Visionary Awards members who have made significant contributions toward these goals. Here are this year's winners.
Managing partner, RMD Advertising
Reninger has been leading this Central Ohio advertising and public relations firm since 1992, when it began operation. Considered an innovator in her marketing and public relations approach, her company has captured clients including Time Warner Road Runner, OhioHealth, Panera Bread and Marzetti Foods.
Reninger credits her company's success to the people who have supported her.
"To be painfully honest, our success has nothing to do with Sue Reninger. It's due to people that I have been blessed to be around all my life," she says, naming her parents and grandparents as her principal supporters during her early years, and her employees since operating the business.
"I've recruited employees that are as passionate about the business and hold the same values as I do."
Her advice to other women business owners is to never compromise your integrity and ethics.
"We're never flawless, and running a business is tough enough," says Reninger. "Why add the additional stress by being dishonest or compromising your ethical standards for business? It's just wrong."
President, Griffin Communications Inc.
This former Columbus City Council member has 20 years of professional and community involvement experience.
She began her full-service, strategic marketing communications firm in 1992 and has earned a reputation as one of Central Ohio's top communications strategists. She is known for listening, then creatively responding with an integrated plan of action that meets her clients' bottom-line needs.
Griffin says women have two big challenges as business owners: balancing business with personal and family responsibilities, and responding to today's slow economy.
"Women tend to try to do it all, and do it all very well," Griffin says.
Griffin's family supported her during the early years of the business.
"We knew it was going to be hard, but that it could be done," she says.
Hiring a committed, caring staff has also contributed to the firm's success.
Griffin says the biggest lesson she has learned is that it is OK to fail.
"I tell a lot of women not to be afraid to fail," she says. "It will happen anyway, just learn and move on. You have to have that capability to be a business owner."
And when you hire the best employees, listen to them.
"When your employees have the same level of commitment, you need to trust them, listen to them and let them do their job."
NAWBO member of the year
President, Borchers & Assoc. Inc. DBA My Turf
Borchers is no stranger to awards and recognition. She was the 1994 recipient of the Columbus, Ohio Woman Advocate in International Trade of the Year, and the SBA's Ohio Women in Business Advocate Award in 1986.
Borchers is a former scientific researcher from Battelle Institute and the Mayo Clinic and former associate director for the Ohio Small Business Development Center. Currently, her unique business offers golf seminars and clinics, speaker's bureau, tournament coordination and skill development for golf enthusiasts.
Borchers says becoming a founding member of NAWBO was a smart business move for her.
"NAWBO is by far the most effective advocate on a local and national level for women business owners," she says. "And it helps to talk with people who are in the same situation as you, that have been there and understand what you're going through."
Borchers advises new and small businesses to take advantage of the wealth of resources available to them in Central Ohio.
"There is a prolific base of free resources and training here," she says. "You can get a lot of education quickly."
She advises business owners to join associations such as NAWBO and their trade associations.
"They provide tons of stuff to members," she says. "Business owners should definitely take advantage of these wonderful resources." How to reach: NAWBO, (614) 882-1876 or www.nawbocolumbusohio.com; RMD Advertising, (614) 939-5005 or www.rmdadvertising.com; Griffin Communications, (614) 341-6439 or www.griffincommunications.com; My Turf, (740) 569-3200 or www.myturfgolf.com
"We had a person in-house performing the work but it was getting to be too much," says Smith, president and CEO of Sophisticated Systems Inc.
Once you have more than 50 employees, there are more regulations and government reporting, says Smith. His firm, which specializes in helping clients develop information systems, grew quickly, and he felt it needed to outsource the HR function with a firm that had expertise in many areas.
"We were struggling to keep up with the day-to-day stuff, much less keep up with constantly changing rules and regulations," Smith says.
Smith interviewed three companies that provide the services he was looking for, and selected Sequent Inc.
"It's important to choose a company that listens to your needs and develops solutions customized to your needs," says Smith. "The other companies we talked to did not offer to do that."
Smith says outsourcing has been a cost-effective way to handle the HR work.
"We have always gotten a return on our investment," Smith says. "Not only did they handle the work, but they have been proactive in helping us in other areas, like leadership development."
Smith says Sequent also helped the company improve the communication of its mission to employees.
Today the company has 90 full-time and up to 60 contract employees. And Smith worked so well with the Sequent employee assigned to handle day-to-day human resource duties for the company that he hired her as a full-time employee of his company.
But Sophisticated Systems still outsources many functions to Sequent -- what Smith calls second-level support -- including hiring executives and developing their compensation plans.
"Executive compensation can be hard to figure out on your own," Smith says. "We recently went through an extensive search and interview process to hire a chief operating officer. Sequent was involved in the interview process."
Outsourcing the HR function with the right company can have long-term positive effects, says Smith.
"We have grown to lean on their expertise," Smith says. "They have become an outside, objective partner." How to reach: Sophisticated Systems Inc., (614) 418-4600 or www.ssicom.com