Kelly Tomkies

Monday, 29 April 2002 19:07

The Lotus connection

Your marketing staff uses Siebel customer management software. The rest of the company uses Lotus Notes to schedule appointments. Coordinating data between the programs can be a nightmare.

That's why Columbus-based Connaissance developed Connector, a server-based program that automatically updates data files from Lotus Notes and Siebel.

"Siebel works with a company's phone system so that an entire customer history will be available when the customer calls," says Neil Wheeler, Connaissance's vice president of product development. "Many companies in financial and insurance industries use it."

These companies may also be using Lotus Notes as a calendar and a means of keeping and tracking customer appointments, duplicating entry between the systems.

"These two systems don't talk," says Wheeler. "So there are potential conflicts, and you may not have information when you need it."

Connector bridges the gap in a convenient and effective way.

"Connector serves as an interface between the two systems, and everything is updated automatically," says Wheeler. "It saves a lot of time and prevents a lot of frustration."

Because Connector is server-based, there are no individual computers to be updated and configured, so users don't need additional training.

"We were doing a lot of double work with Siebel and Lotus Notes," says Gunter Michalk, COO and partner of Team4, a German software developer and a beta user of Connector. "Connector is very user-friendly and reduced a lot of routine work."

Michalk says another big advantage is that its centralized location (the server) allows companies to implement central strategies. However, he says, there are a few areas for improvement.

"It would be nice to have it work with Microsoft Exchange," he says. "And it would be nice if custom-made Lotus Notes databases could be shared in Siebel."

Michalk says both of these improvements are being considered by Connaissance.

Connector costs $75,000 for the server component and $150 for every Siebel client. Included is installation assistance, support and training for server administrators. How to reach: Connaissance, (800) 777-8649.

Monday, 29 April 2002 18:58

On the move

The time, expense and hassle of setting up a new corporate headquarters, or even satellite locations, can be an overwhelming burden on administrative staff.

To help ease that burden, consider using one of the firms that offers temporary office solutions and provides unique services to businesses on the move.

Marsha Barber, president of Plus 1 Executive Suites Inc., says many companies moving to the area or adding satellite sales offices have used her company's services. Plus 1 offers suites of work space, furnished or unfurnished, equipped or unequipped, along with phone, Internet and administrative services.

"We provide all the telephone equipment and lines, copy and fax machine and receptionist," says Barber. "The client can simply move in with nothing but a briefcase."

Barber says the space is considered Class A because "image is really important."

Not only are companies spared the time and expense of phone calls to arrange these services, they can be in business in the new location almost immediately, interviewing personnel and meeting with potential clients.

Most companies like Plus 1 offer flexible contracts terms.

"Although the average client stay is about two years, we do have shorter terms, like six months," says Barber.

The cost per contract depends on how much space a company needs and how deluxe it needs to be.

"We have space starting at $500 per month up to $1000," says Barber.

Also included in the contract are access to conference and training rooms and a fully furnished kitchen, shared with other tenants.

Barber's firm is part of a worldwide alliance of such companies called Alliance Business Centers Network, offering advantages to companies opening multiple locations.

"We have 300 locations worldwide," says Richard Meyers, executive director of the Alliance, headquartered in Santa Ana Heights, Calif. "Our services allow a company to focus on its core competency. We coordinate all the referrals to other locations. It saves the company legal fees, administrative costs and overall time and money." How to reach: Plus 1 Executive Suites, (614) 761-3200; Alliance Business Centers Network, (800) 869-9595

Thursday, 28 March 2002 09:36

Kathryn Sullivan

Cutting-edge technology is no threat to former NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., president and CEO of Columbus' Center of Science and Industry (COSI). But it does pose several questions, such as how to keep COSI ahead of the technology curve and which technologies should be showcased.

Sullivan is a bit skeptical when it comes to some new developments, but weeding through the hype, she finds value in others.

"I think technologies that give scientists the ability to work at the single molecule level are very important," says Sullivan, "and robotics and the entry of them into our personal lives (are also very important)."

But the question of how to keep COSI ahead or even abreast of the technology curve has no easy answer.

"That's a question the entire museum industry is working to answer," says Sullivan. "When technologies turn on a dime, that is a challenge."

Sullivan cites the rapid rate of change in leading edge technology and its expense as the primary obstacles to overcome. COSI's Input/Output program works to solve these issues and bring worthwhile technologies to the museum.

"We approach high-tech companies with a corporate lab element, asking them to place some of their latest products here," says Sullivan. "They can showcase their products or we can act as a beta test site."

However, with fierce competition, companies are not always eager to put their products on public display.

"There are some proprietary issues to be worked through," Sullivan says.

Does she find any of the new technologies problematic?

"It's not the technologies that concern me, it's humankind and how we apply and use them," Sullivan says.

While it's impossible to eliminate risks ("There is always risk, just living as a human being"), there are ethical and moral standards to examine.

"How can we really have a dialogue between the scientists and us citizens to explore and gain a better understanding without it turning into a shouting match?" Sullivan says. "If we can find the way to have the right kind of conversations, there are ways that technology can benefit society." How to reach: Columbus COSI, (614) 228-2674 or

Thursday, 28 March 2002 09:21

Emotional health

When you're considering your employees' health care needs, remember to include the emotional along with the physical.

Emotional health concerns can affect not only the employee, but your business as well. According to Matrix Integrated Psychological Services, up to 68 percent of all workers at some time experience workplace problems severe enough to prevent them from coping with day-to-day activities, making an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) just as important as other health care benefits.

"For every dollar spent on an EAP, employers see a savings of somewhere between $5 and $15," says Kurt Malkoff, Ph.D., founder and president of Columbus-based Matrix.

Malkoff says early EAP programs provided assessments and referrals only. Employees suffering from a range of personal difficulties, from substance addiction to depression, met with the EAP program coordinator, who referred them to a psychologist. This double-referral meant additional costs to the employer, and was not always effective treatment.

Models such as Matrix's offer employers alternatives that can save money and prove more beneficial. Employers pay a premium per employee, as they do with health insurance, and the employee receives an agreed upon number of sessions, before the company‚s HMO takes over coverage.

"We customize the program to fit the needs of the employer," says Malkoff.

These sessions are available not only to the employee, but also to members of employees' family. The employer has access to the number of sessions the employee has used, but not to what was discussed or recommended.

"What we're finding is that problems are resolved 75 percent of the time within five or six sessions, and 80 percent within eight sessions," says Malkoff.

When choosing an EAP, also consider management support. With a model like Matrix's, managers have unlimited phone access to clinical psychologists for assistance in dealing with employee problems. How to reach: Matrix Integrated Psychological Services, (614) 475-9500 or

Tuesday, 26 February 2002 12:54

Managing workers' comp

It's that time again.

Beginning May 6, employers will have the opportunity to choose a managed care organization (MCO) to handle its workers' compensation claims. Any company not satisfied with its current provider should thoroughly investigate alternative MCOs, advises Robert Glenn, Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (OBWC) spokesperson.

"It is really in the company's best interest to analyze its needs and the performance measures of its MCO," says Glenn. "If there are any issues with the current provider, the company should take the time to make the most informed choice."

The OBWC provides a report card to employers for that purpose. Included are the number of employers contracting with the MCO, the number of claims managed, and company and injured employee satisfaction information.

Report card factors help employers assess how tightly or loosely claims are managed by each provider.

"This relates to the degree of disability management," says Glenn. "If an office worker with a broken leg is off work longer than a construction worker with the same injury, then there is a claim management problem."

Employers should talk with employees involved in the process as well as those who have been injured to get an accurate measure of how well the current MCO is performing.

"We provide a number overall, but companies might want to gauge that satisfaction number on their own," says Glenn.

Choosing an efficient MCO can have a positive impact your company's bottom line.

"Early claims management goes a long way to reducing workers' compensation costs," says Glenn. "The longer the claim is out there, the more likely it is to be expensive. The goal is to get the worker back to work as healthy and as quickly as possible."

The enrollment deadline is 5 p.m. May 31. How to reach: Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, (800) 644-6292, or

Wednesday, 30 January 2002 10:35

Benefits of videoconferencing

Hear the word "videoconferencing," and many imagine a complicated process involving computer experts and tricky connections that is more trouble than it's worth.

But Tanya Prather, marketing communications manager with First Virtual Communications of Santa Clara, Calif., says if used appropriately, videoconferencing can save companies time and money.

"We have an integrated approach that is not typical," says Prather. "We integrate voice, video, data share and, when appropriate, streaming technology."

Videoconferencing works best with applications that require interaction or when there is a need to present more than one form of data. For instance, if your company has multiple locations, videoconferencing allows interaction among all participants.

Streaming media, which requires less bandwidth, makes the most sense when the company needs a few participants to interact and the rest to view.

"Let's say a company is announcing a merger or quarterly earnings," says Prather. "Then maybe you need the executive board to be interactive, while the hundreds of employees watching don't need to interact."

Meetings can be scheduled through Microsoft Outlook or other programs, and take place right at the employee's desk.

"If I have to get up and go to another location or a conference room, I may not use videoconferencing as much," says Prather.

Distance learning and annual and project meetings all lend themselves to videoconferencing. If employees miss a training session, they can view it at their convenience right from the desktop.

The latest Web-based technology makes conferences easy to schedule and conduct, and it's versatile. If the company desires a room-based meeting, that's just as easy to set up as a desktop-based one.

But Prather advises companies to consider the human side of videoconferencing as well as the technical -- remember that most people are not comfortable in front of a camera.

"The company needs to incorporate a culture that allows employees time to adjust," she says.

Prather says that most companies can benefit from videoconferencing.

"It cuts down on travel time and can increase productivity," she says. "It is a good experience, but it takes getting used to. The more a tool is accessible, the more people will use it." How to reach: First Virtual Communications, 800-241-7463 or

Wednesday, 30 January 2002 10:27

SBN's Power 100

They're influential and dedicated. When they speak, people listen.

This year's Power 100 lists individuals who affect the whats, whens, hows -- and especially whos -- of business in Central Ohio.

1. Les Wexner, chairman and CEO, The Limited Inc. and Intimate Brands Inc.: Besides overseeing the city's most prominent business empire, Wexner is the region's leading philanthropist, giving millions annually to charity -- including a $45 million Picasso donated to the Wexner Center for the Arts. Then there are those little projects called New Albany and Easton.

2. John F. Wolfe, chairman, publisher and CEO, The Dispatch Printing Co.: As CEO of the Dispatch, WBNS-TV, ONN and WBNS-AM and -FM, plus several community newspapers, Wolfe has the power to make or break politicians, executives and civic issues. His role in developing Nationwide Arena and the founding of the Blue Jackets solidified him as a consummate dealmaker.

3. Alex Shumate, managing partner, Columbus and Cincinnati offices, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey: Shumate's input is highly respected by the business community, as evidenced by his involvement in high-brow boards such as those of Intimate Brands and The Ohio State University Foundation. In addition, he was asked by Mayor Mike Coleman last year to head up a task force of business and civic leaders to guide Columbus in developing a downtown business plan.

4. Bob Walter, chairman and CEO, Cardinal Health Inc.: For more than 30 years, Walter has quietly led what's become a $40 billion, multinational company. His growing influence is reflected in his service on the boards of Bank One, Battelle, Ohio University, Infinity Broadcasting Corp. and Viacom Inc.

5. Sally Jackson, president and CEO, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce: Jackson's connections have made her the most powerful woman in the Columbus business community.

6. Ron Pizzuti, chairman and CEO, The Pizzuti Cos.: Applauded by Mayor Coleman for his role in helping develop the Downtown South community, Pizzuti continues to work with fellow heavy-hitters like Wexner and Wolfe.

7. Jerry Jurgensen, CEO, Nationwide: Jurgensen has really jumped into the job at Nationwide, laying the groundwork for much-needed changes. Despite being a relative newcomer to Columbus (and a Nebraska fan to boot), he has been accepted -- even embraced -- by the power players in Columbus with remarkable speed.

8. Bea Wolper, partner, Chester, Wilcox & Saxbe LLP: Wolper continues to distinguish herself as a leader among women business owners.

9. Roger Geiger, state director, National Federation of Independent Business, Ohio: Geiger champions businesses and works to change legislation in their favor.

10. Bob Taft, governor, state of Ohio: Taft may not stick his nose into the business community much, but he's still "the guv." He can make executives' lives easy or difficult with a single pen stroke.

11. Mark Barbash, director, Columbus Department of Trade & Development: Barbash's department has its fingers in all the important pies, from economic development to building and development.

12. Mike Coleman, mayor, city of Columbus: His focus remains -- as it should -- on citizens, but he still carries considerable clout in the business community.

13. George Jenkins, partner, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP: Jenkins continues to be a powerful force in the private investment community.

14. Thomas Hoaglin, president and CEO, Huntington National Bank: He may be new to his position leading the second largest bank in the area, but he's no stranger to Columbus. He spent years at Bank One, helping to transform it from a tangle of individual banks to a consolidated entity. He's wasting little time putting his stamp on Huntington.

15. Rich Langdale, founder, NCT Ventures; executive director, OSU Center for Entrepreneurship: In addition to leading or holding an interest in an impressive list of national and international businesses, Langdale knows how to attract venture capital better than anyone in this city. And we all know the connection between money and power.

16. Jack Kessler, chairman, The New Albany Co.: Kessler led the New Albany development charge, and although his name isn't grabbing headlines much these days, he's still a regular in the Old Boys' Network.

17. John Beavers, chairman, corporate department, Bricker & Eckler LLP: Although he stepped down as managing partner of Bricker and Eckler in 2000, he has developed a specialty practice focused exclusively on corporate boards and executives, keeping him firmly entrenched in the inner circle.

18. Curt Loveland, partner, Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur LLP: Loveland is a venture capital guru whose knowledge is sought by impressive clients including Too Inc., Max & Erma's, Applied Innovation and Rocky Shoes and Boots.

19. Friedl Bohm, chairman, NBBJ: Not only does he run the third largest architectural firm in the world, he's the designer behind such Columbus landmarks as Nationwide Arena, the Vern Riffe Center, One Columbus and the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

20. & 21. Paul Tipps & Neil Clark, principals, State Street Consultants: With Curt Steiner and Jan Allen launching separate businesses late last year, Tipps and Clark are now the top pair of hotshot lobbyists in this city working under one roof.

22. Walter Cates, founder and president, Main Street Business Association: Cates is an incredibly powerful -- and enduring -- advocate for minority businesses. And he watches local development projects like a hawk.

23. Kurt Tunnell, administrative partner, Bricker & Eckler LLP: Tunnell is sought after for his deep-seated political connections as well as for his legal expertise.

24. Roger Blackwell, president, Blackwell Associates Inc.: Is there a business marketing expert better known in this country? We can't think of one.

25. Don M. Casto III, president, Don M. Casto Organization: This developer of shopping centers, multifamily housing and mixed-use entertainment projects also serves on the Huntington Bancshares board of directors, the Ohio Bicentennial Commission and the Columbus Airport Authority Board.

26. Curt Steiner, co-founder, Steiner/Lesic Communications: Will separate mean equal for Steiner and his wife and former business partner, Jan Allen? We think not. Both are still well-known and well-connected, but part of their power came from their collective experience -- as well as the corporate backing of HMS. Without that, Steiner's stock will drop, although not drastically.

27. Curt Moody, president and CEO, Moody/Nolan Ltd.: Moody's impressive client list speaks for itself. With projects like COSI, the Schottenstein Center and the Smith Bros. Hardware building, Moody's presence is felt in many corners of the city.

28. Jeff Keeler, chairman and CEO, The Fishel Co.: Keeler's past and present board positions, which include Bank One, Ruscilli Construction and AirNet Systems, prove his business acumen is respected and in demand.

29. Tim O'Dell, president and CEO, Fifth Third Bank, Central Ohio: Leading the third largest bank in Columbus is enough to qualify O'Dell, yet he also sits on the board of The Columbus Council of World Affairs and Columbus State Community College and is part of the chamber's work force development committee.

30. Jan Allen, owner, Jan Allen Consulting: Allen's ties to the Democratic Party might grow stronger now that she's on her own, but with the opposing party in control of the statehouse, she slides down a few notches on this year's list.

31. Al Dietzel, vice president of public affairs, The Limited Inc.: He's Les Wexner's right-hand man. Enough said.

32. 33. & 34. Nancy Kramer, Martin Beck and Rick Milenthal, co-founders, Ten Worldwide: These three built immensely successful businesses in their own rights prior to the 2001 merger of their talents. Since then, they've attracted top-notch firms to their ranks, most notably Zero Base Advertising, which handled ad campaigns for the Blue Jackets, OhioHealth and Time Warner. Clearly there's not just safety in numbers, there's power. And lots of it.

35. Karen McVey, CEO, Women in New Growth Stages: She may not be widely known outside the business community, but within it, she's a mentor to many and influential enough to get things done not just locally or statewide, but nationally.

36. Brit Kirwan, president, The Ohio State University: Kirwan has quickly carved a name for himself in the business community, serving as the founding chair of the Columbus Technology Leadership Council, on the advisory committee for the Columbus Downtown Business Plan and as a director for Intimate Brands Inc. He's also on the boards of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce and its Workforce Leadership Council, Children's Hospital, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and United Way of Franklin County. When, exactly, does he have time to lead the university?

37. Brad Beasecker, president, Helston Capital Group: If you're looking for venture capital, Beasecker may be your man. He specializes in matching companies and investors, and has been Helston's principal adviser for Battelle Venture Partners. He is also past chairman of the Columbus Investment Interest Group, which encourages the development of innovative technology companies in Ohio.

38. Terry Foegler, president, Campus Partners for Community Urban Redevelopment Inc.: Foegler has been slowly and methodically reclaiming nearly all the salvageable property along High Street in the campus area for redevelopment. What goes up on that land is going to be largely his call.

39. James Conrad, administrator and CEO, Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation: Conrad is another bureaucrat who can either help or hinder the business community. Fortunately he's chosen to use his power for good, rebating and discounting workers' comp premiums numerous times in the past few years.

40. Linda Hondros, president, Hondros College: Hondros has high enough connections to get an audience with President Bush last spring when he was seeking input from business leaders on his proposed tax cut plan.

41. Lewis Smoot Sr., president, Smoot Corp.: Not only does Smoot serve on the board of Huntington National Bank and the Columbus Foundation's Governing Committee, but we bet you can't name too many buildings in downtown Columbus his firm didn't help build.

42. Tanny Crane, president and CEO, Crane Group Inc.: Crane appears to be everywhere: the Dean's Advisory Council at OSU's Fisher College of Business, the board of United Way of Franklin County and its nominating committee, the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland's Business Advisory Council. Where else will she show up?

43. Jack Ruscilli, CEO, Ruscilli Construction Co. Inc.: In addition to his community involvement, Ruscilli continues to land projects for Columbus area schools, hospitals and businesses, including Mt. Carmel and White Castle.

44. John Christie, president and COO, Worthington Industries: Christie is a long-time friend of the McConnell family and ran Mr. Mac's private investment fund, JMAC, prior to joining J.P. in the executive suite at Worthington Industries.

45. Jay Schottenstein, owner, American Eagle Outfitters; chairman, Value City Department Stores: In case heading a $1 billion dollar department store chain isn't enough to make Schottenstein powerful, he was also the major underwriter of the Schottenstein Center at The Ohio State University.

46. Dwight Smith, president and CEO, Sophisticated Systems Inc.: Smith serves on the Governor's Small Business Advisory Council, the Greater Columbus Chamber board of directors and the board for Junior Achievement of Central Ohio, has his own foundation fostering entrepreneurship and was appointed by Gov. Taft last year to the High-Technology Start-Up Business Commission. Not a bad resume.

47. Kyle Katz, president, The Katz Interests Inc. and New World Restaurants Inc.: Katz is president of the Pen West District and he's a business owner, a developer and a restaurateur. And he knows just about everyone who is anyone in Columbus.

48. Frank Kass, CEO, Continental Real Estate Cos.: Kass continues to be a major player on the real estate and development scene.

49. Maury Cox, president, The Ohio Partners LLC: This former CompuServe CEO shapes Central Ohio's technology corridor through investments in high-tech companies around the world.

50. Cheryl Krueger, president and CEO, Cheryl&Co.: Krueger remains a strong role model in the business community.

51. Tami Longaberger, president and CEO, The Longaberger Co.: In addition to her business connections, Longaberger runs the 18th largest woman-owned company in the country.

52. Dick Emens, partner, Chester, Wilcox & Saxbe LLP: Emens' leadership is evident in the family-owned business community, where he chairs the advisory board of the Family Business Center of Central Ohio.

53. E. Linn Draper, chairman, AEP: Draper holds the reins at AEP and sits on the board at Borden Chemicals and Plastics. He also serves on the Columbus Technology Leadership Council and the Ohio Business Roundtable.

54. Bob Weiler Sr., chairman, The Robert Weiler Co.: From downtown to Polaris -- and beyond --Weiler's ownership of hot property has led to the development and revitalization of many areas of Central Ohio.

55. Herb Glimcher, chairman, president and CEO, Glimcher Realty Trust: Glimcher has developed more than 100 properties in 26 states. His latest achievement, Polaris Fashion Place, has been a hit with shoppers from across the state.

56. Robert Werth, managing partner, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease: In addition to overseeing the city's largest law firm, Werth serves on the Ohio Business Roundtable and The Columbus Technology Leadership Council and was among those selected to go on the inaugural Community Leadership Trip with Mayor Coleman and Alex Shumate a few years ago.

57. Sam Gresham Jr., president and CEO, Columbus Urban League: Gresham not only knows, but is liked and respected by, just about everyone who matters in corporate Columbus. His is a voice that is often sought out -- and listened to closely.

58. Mike Petrecca, managing partner, Columbus office, PricewaterhouseCoopers: He made a name for himself -- and many of the right connections -- when he oversaw the entrepreneurial advisory services division of this Big Five accounting firm. Now, with his promotion to the top spot, he's bound to find himself among the corporate elite.

59. Phil Urban, president and CEO, Grange Insurance: Urban was among the business leaders hand-picked last year by Mayor Coleman to help guide development of a downtown business plan.

60. Andy Geiger, athletic director, The Ohio State University: He's gotten big business -- and deep-pocketed CEOs -- involved in the university like no other before him.

61. Zuheir Sofia, chairman, Sofia & Co.: Sofia was a heavy favorite to succeed Frank Wobst at Huntington Banks until his seemingly sudden departure in 1998 to start a private investment company. Although he's dropped out of the headlines, he continues to run in powerful circles. He's a trustee of The Ohio State University, chairman of the board of the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, chairman of the OSU Investments Committee and serves on the boards of University Hospitals and The Ohio State University Foundation.

62. Dimon McFerson, retired chairman, Nationwide: He may be retired, but McFerson hasn't lost his sphere of influence. He still serves as a trustee of The Ohio State University, as board chairman for COSI, on the governing board of United Way of America and as honorary chairman of select local charity events. The man who made Nationwide Arena is clearly among the top movers and shakers in town.

63. Pat Dugan, partner, Squires, Sanders & Dempsey LLP: Dugan knows the ins and outs of corporate finance almost as well as he knows law. Heck, he's even been known to invest in some private businesses. Now there's a powerful combo.

64. John Rosenberger, executive director, Capital South Community Urban Redevelopment Corp.: With the downtown at stake and Mayor Coleman taking a renewed interest in revitalizing parts of it, Rosenberger's organization will become even more important this year.

65. Patrick Grabill, president, King Thompson, Realtors: Not only does Grabill run a well-respected real estate firm, but as a chamber board member he rubs elbows with Alex Shumate, Jerry Jurgensen, Al Dietzel and Tanny Crane.

66. Blane Walter, chairman and CEO, inChord Communications Inc.: This 30-something is running an organization with more than 500 employees and capitalized billings of roughly $500 million.

67. Jack Schuessler, chairman and CEO, Wendy's International: He may not be a household name like the late Dave Thomas, but Schuessler is the leader of this nearly $8 billion fast food chain. Under his leadership, Wendy's has increased earnings in the toughest economy the food industry has seen in quite awhile.

68. Sandy Harbrecht, president, Paul Werth Associates Inc.: Harbrecht is often sought out by other business leaders as a facilitator for organizational change initiatives and as a consultant on public policy issues. She serves on the Dean's Advisory Council for OSU's Fisher College of Business, on the board of directors for the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, on the Council for Ethics in Economics and as a trustee for the Ingram-White Castle Foundation.

69. Robert Schottenstein, president, M/I Schottenstein Homes Inc.: The Schottenstein name still carries clout in this town. Schottenstein has earned his stripes as a director for Huntington Banks and the Greater Columbus Chamber, as well as a member of the Dean's Board of Visitors at Capital University Law School.

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

71. William Hartman, chairman and CEO, Bank One NA, Ohio and Kentucky: With the retirement of David Lauer -- and Jamie Dimon's determination to keep all of Bank One's top executives in Chicago --Columbus has been searching for a strong leader from this homegrown financial institution to step up and show some real interest in the Central Ohio community. Hartman, elected to the Greater Columbus Chamber's board last year, may be that person.

72. Joe Calvaruso, president and CEO, Mount Carmel Health System: Strong leadership in the health care community is becoming harder to come by in Central Ohio. With Bill Wilkins' retirement from OhioHealth at the close of 2001, Calvaruso seems to be the sole survivor. He's the only Columbus-based voting trustee of the Ohio Hospital Association. He also serves as trustee for COSI and as an advisory board member for OSU's College of Medicine and Public Health.

73. Bill Habig, executive director, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission: Transportation -- or the lack thereof -- in Central Ohio affects every major business. Habig is the guy who influences most of what happens in that arena.

74. John P. McConnell, chairman and CEO, Worthington Industries Inc.: He's grown up with strong, influential leaders all around him. Now it's his turn to call the shots.

75. Artie Isaac, president, Young Isaac Inc.: Isaac is a doer as well as a thinker. He continually proves actions speak louder than words.

76. Chan Cochran, founder and president, Cochran Public Relations: Even beyond PR circles, he's a good one to know. He's a trustee of the Ohio Public Expenditure Council and the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, a member of the Columbus Downtown Business Plan Advisory Committee and chairman of the Franklin County Children Services Board.

77. Brian Ellis, president, Nationwide Realty Investors: He's the point person on all Arena District development and a trustee of the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District.

78. Tom Button, vice president, Park National Bank, Columbus: Button heads up the Columbus commercial lending department, financing privately held companies in the area.

79. Bill Schottenstein, owner, Arshot Investment Corp.: Another key player in the development area.

80. Cameron Mitchell, president, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants LLC: Is there any restaurant concept he can't make successful?

81. George Skestos, founder, Homewood Corp.: Skestos is a well-respected player in the business community.

82. Bob Maynard, partner, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease: Maynard's involvement in the business community extends to the Ohio Foundation for Entrepreneurial Education, the Business Technology Center and the Industry and Technology Council of Central Ohio, where he serves as trustee.

83. Farah Majidzadeh, CEO, Resource International: Although she's been successful on her own, Majidzadeh's recent work with the Columbus Coalition Against Domestic Violence has given her an "in" with the Wexner family. Connections like that certainly can't hurt.

84. John Kobacker, president and CEO, The Marlenko Group; co-owner, Scioto Valley Inc.: Kobacker is a board member of the Wexner Center Foundation and the Columbus College of Art & Design. He also serves on the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland's Business Advisory Council.

85. Paula Inniss, president, Ohio Full Court Press: Is there any business award in Central Ohio she hasn't won? Inniss is definitely going places.

86. Matthew Grossman, founder, The Axis Group: He appears to be holding his own against bigger and better-known agencies in town such as Ten Worldwide -- and acquiring firms almost as quickly.

87. Sue Doody, president, Lindey's Grant Avenue Investments: If there's a Grande Dame of restaurateurs in Columbus, Doody is it.

88. J. Daniel Schmidt, president, Downtown South Association: Schmidt is working to make the Downtown South area the high-tech district in the city. He owns and renovates many downtown buildings.

89. & 90. Ken Mills, president, and Cameron James, CEO, Mills/James Productions Inc.: Mills and James have grown their video production company into one of the largest in the country, employing more than 140 people.

91. Bob Bender, chairman, president and CEO, Lord, Sullivan & Yoder: He runs one of the top five ad agencies in Central Ohio.

92. Mark Butterworth, vice president, Ohio Partners; chair, Columbus Venture Network: A CompuServe veteran, Butterworth works with Cox -- and Wolfe -- to fund promising tech companies.

93. Chip McConville, director, Ohio Chamber of Commerce's Political and Candidate Education program: McConville has plenty of sway with deep-pocketed business groups and CEOs who want to know which incumbent politicians deserve their financial support.

94. Paul Astleford, president, Greater Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau: Despite being relatively new to the job, Astleford is earning a reputation for making Columbus a leading destination for businesses and associations.

95. Peg Mativi, CEO, Solutions Staffing: Mativi is broadening her sphere of influence through her work with the Governor's Workforce Policy Board, the Greater Columbus Arts Council, CCAD and the Greater Columbus Chamber -- among other groups.

96. Sandy Dickinson, executive director, Ohio Foundation for Entrepreneurial Education: Dickinson is connected enough to regularly recruit heavy hitters like Mike Petrecca, Bob Maynard and Paul Otte to her board -- and she's a master at convincing busy, successful business leaders to donate their money as well as their time and expertise to the educational programs she oversees.

97. Denny Griffith, president, Columbus College of Art and Design: The past and present board rosters of CCAD read like a Who's Who in Columbus.

98. Bobbie Ruch, CEO, Acloche: Not only has she succeeded in growing her business without the Olesen Staffing moniker, she keeps elite company through her involvement with the Wexner Center, Capital Club, Columbus Country Club and New Albany Country Club. She's also a founding member of Women in Family Owned Business.

99. Paul Otte, president, Franklin State University: Although Otte has been a controversial leader lately, he's still keeping the business community interested in the university. The business community, which includes Jim Kunk, regional president of Huntington Bank, and Robert Shenton of Plante & Moran, has even been praising his work.

100. Todd Ritterbusch, president, Columbus Technology Leadership Council: He's harnessed the power of the city's top minds -- and used it wisely.

Your choice not listed?

If you think we've overlooked an obvious choice, tell us who you would've added to our list and why that person is apt to carry considerable influence in the local business community this year.

We invite your comments via fax at 428-2649, by e-mail at or by U.S. mail at 2193 CityGate Drive, Columbus, Ohio 43219. Please include your name, title, company name, business address and a phone number (for verification purposes).

Friday, 28 October 2005 12:29

The constant hunter

Steve McNear is on the hunt — not for lions or tigers or bears, but for people. Good people, the kind who pair strong technical skills with strong communication and client-service skills.

According to McNear, these people are hard to find. And as president and CEO of Quest Information Systems, an Indianapolis-based software integration, development and consulting company, he doesn’t just struggle with finding the right people — once he finds them, he must convince them to choose his company over all the other tech organizations competing for the same employees.

Smart Business talked to McNear about how he finds the best employees, keeps them motivated and ensures the lines of communication stay open.

What are the difficulties of hiring and recruiting talented employees?
It is quite a challenge. And that challenge is compounded by a timing problem — not a lot of people in the market fit us, so we look continuously.

We also work hard to create a culture that attracts people, and we market the company as a preferred place to work while the recruiting process continues. We’re always looking, recruiting.

Some of the best recruiting comes from employees. People tend to associate with like people. We offer a referral bonus program, and we’ve gotten great employees through that. Prospective employees go through several rounds of interviews, and we look for a consistent story and other things that are important to us.

We look for a degree in technology, knowledge and communication skills. We look for high integrity, treating everyone with respect, and someone who believes in individual responsibility and will take ownership of a problem.

How do you keep employees motivated and challenged?
We start when we hire people. Interestingly, the culture feeds off itself. But we try to hire people who are self-motivated, passionate about doing the right thing for the client.

Developing mission-critical software comes with highly visible and unique problems, and we need people who can make unique software. We’re always seeking new ways, looking at our mission, our vision. We recently brought in a consultant to inspire people, and people themselves are inspiring. It’s wonderful.

We also have a monthly quest for excellence. People are nominated by their peers and get recognition for their inspiration and contributions.

How do you encourage employees to keep a healthy work/life balance?
A lot of us come from big families with small children. We work hard to maintain a balance between work and life. Travel is sometimes involved, but we try to be sensitive.

It’s not as if we don’t get out of balance, but we work hard to maintain that [equilibrium].

As a company, we have social activities to maintain bonds. In smaller groups, [we] attend Indians baseball or Pacers games and go play pool. When we’re working hard on very large projects, we’ll bring in massage therapists or have a mixer from 4 to 5 on Friday afternoon.

We’ve also developed a culture team. Six or seven employees are nominated to serve, and that team works to identify social activities. They get a lot of feedback and use it to find activities that speak to a broad range of people.

How does your benefits package help you retain employees?
We have very competitive compensation, benefits perks and packages. Most of our employees are college grads who did very well and are in high demand.

That requires a competitive approach to attracting employees. The average compensation package here is twice the average in Central Indiana. Our packages are above industry standards and take a holistic view of our relationship with employees.

Money has to be there, as do benefits. We have to be competitive with Eli Lilly and bigger companies. If there’s anything missing, we try to supplement that with a high quality of life.

In such a fast-moving industry, how do you ensure employees are up-to-date on new technology?
The objective is for everyone to receive training and certification. For our part, we offer advice, provide support, purchase materials, send employees to training classes.

There’s also a lot of self-study. In our industry, individuals need to keep current — the industry changes so rapidly, we can’t insist enough that they keep current.

We also do a lot internally to keep current. For example, we offer brown-bag learning lunches where an expert conducts a brown-bag seminar. The company buys the lunches, and people get to eat and learn. We also offer a bonus program, which creates incentive to pursue self-study in a particular focus area to achieve certification.

Education is a never-ending process, in my mind. We strive for continuous improvement. We can never be good enough.

And not just technical proficiency — that’s easier to come by than other vital skills, like communication, writing, interviewing, interacting with respect and diplomacy. I’m not satisfied that we’ve done enough. We continually emphasize that we need communication to succeed — success takes different roles, depends on softer skills that you can’t earn certifications on.

Who gets involved in each client’s project?
Our job is to identify the client’s problem and design software [for it]. It takes a variety of roles for that to succeed.

Project managers create the project schedule and need to understand the capabilities needed for the project. We have software design architects, [people who can do] quality assurance testing and training. It takes a village, a broad range to talents. And for each of those roles, communication is the most important skill.

A lot of places, jobs that require technical skills also require communication with the client. And without team communication, you have potential for the old ‘telephone’ problem. Good communication skills are paramount and not given nearly enough emphasis.

In the industry, there is a natural aptitude for analysis, but those technical skills are teachable, so it’s important to focus on people that are good communicators.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your role at Quest?
I’ve learned many small lessons. I look at every situation as an opportunity to learn. I try to maintain a beginner’s mind about things — it encourages learning from everything.

But if I had to identify one lesson, I’d say this one is continuously being learned — communication. Every problem we’ve ever had always relates back to a communication issue. The problem is learning to communicate early enough and often enough to take what’s in people’s heads and draw it out.

HOW TO REACH: Quest Information Systems, (317) 806-8800 or

Friday, 30 September 2005 12:39

Pair of aces

When Richard Hall and Robert Gregory launched Ace Mortgage Funding Inc. in 1998, their goal was take advantage of advances in technology that competitors had failed to use.

But the two quickly realized that while technology was important, attracting and retaining employees and developing effective channels for communication were just as critical to success.

“I feel strongly about communication,” says executive vice president Gregory. “We have 21 locations ... but I feel I know most of the loan officers.” Hall, Ace’s president, echoes that feeling and says the company is really all about Ace’s employees and its clients. By focusing on those two groups, Hall says, he and Gregory have expanded the company into one of the top 25 mortgage brokers in the country. Today, Ace employs nearly 700 employees in 10 states and Hall says his goal is to have offices in every state.

Smart Business spoke with Hall about how he and Gregory turned Ace into one of the fastest-growing business in Indianapolis.

How have you grown so quickly?

We have been able to keep the really good people and help them get to their goals personally and financially. By keeping those great people, using the right marketing and technology, we have been able to offer the best products to our clients and have grown very quickly.

Have you changed your management strategy as the company has grown?

Most of the core values are very much the same. We now do things a little bit more on the big-picture side when making decisions.

Sometimes, making an exception on a rule is a bit tougher, knowing it can be scrutinized by 700 employees as being viewed as favoritism of one employee over another. We had to come up with a few more rules than we did in the early years.

What lessons have you learned from this process?

There are five key ones. Get three or more quotes on everything you are doing. You will cut your costs down by over 30 percent, on average, by doing that.

Kill them with kindness. No matter how mad you may be at someone that you work with on a regular basis, realize they didn’t try to mess up whatever you are likely upset about. Be calm and try to resolve the problem versus just freak out.

The harder you work, the luckier you really do get. Become an expert on your products and programs or your competition really will be better.

Set both short- and long-term goals and continuously monitor the progress. Be super-positive every day, as people will judge you based on their deals with you.

What have been your biggest challenges to growth?

Creating a network and communication structure that allows everyone to easily communicate over more of a national versus across-the- office realm.

Staying focused on business that relates to your core competencies versus all the other projects or new ideas that come your way. Many people would view them as opportunities, but most of the time, if not related to what you do well, they are really only distractions from what matters.

Creating a general set of rules that have to be followed with less off-the-cuff decisions being able to be made.

How do you differentiate your products and service from competitors?

The mortgage lending industry is one of the most diversified industries in the country. We are different on knowledge, our marketing approach and our technology. Our average loan officer and employee, in general, is frankly just much more experienced and knowledgeable about the product options and how to get loans closed quickly.

The marketing that we do is very target-specific to our core client — that is, a customer that is there whether the rates are higher or lower. Our technology is one of the best with an IT team that is on the very edge of what is available and are often the people creating what should be the standard for other companies.

What hurdles does the next phase of growth pose?

To continuously maintain close communications with all the offices as they become more and more spread out. Making sure the production options, education, energy and overall company philosophies are spread evenly throughout the company is a challenge, but it will get done.

New legislation is the biggest concern, at both the state and national level. We have already begun minimizing the concerns there by setting up the option to bank rather than broker the loans.

This creates an opportunity to create a higher yield on the loans, even if the core legislation creates rules that attempt to minimize the yields on each transaction.

How do you handle fluctuations in interest rates?

Due to our core focus on marketing to clients that have the highest benefits on the loans, rates are only a small part of the equation.

Our clients have very good credit, but may have outstanding credit that is normally tied into short-term rates, which are on the rise.

As those rates keep increasing on things like credit cards, the spread between mortgage lending rates and those higher-rate credit cards will remain approximately the same.

That means the savings, whether we do a loan at 5.5 percent and the credit cards are at 18.5 percent or if we do it at 8.5 percent and credit cards are at 21.5 percent, aren’t that different. We are still saving our clients a huge amount of money on their monthly payments.

This also puts the loan on a fully amortizing loan versus a revolving credit balance, which means the balance will actually pay down.

Most people don’t realize that just a $3,900 credit balance at a 17.65 percent rate and a 2 percent balance payment will take more than 39 years to pay off if you pay minimum amounts only. As rates go up, the facts are still there, and lower mortgage loans will always be better than high-rate revolving credit debt.

What are the biggest challenges of managing satellite employees and offices and how do you overcome them?

That gets back to communication — making sure the same vision, product knowledge and overall philosophies are the keys. General e- mail is very helpful when combined with monthly management meetings.

We are also planning on pushing out videoconferencing with our offices so all the employees can be on the calls at the same time. That will lower the layers of people that it takes to get things out.

Keeping the organization as flat as possible is very important.

How to reach: Ace Mortgage Funding, (317) 246-5740 or

Friday, 29 July 2005 10:29

The Shiel file

Born: Sep. 22, 1956, Indianapolis

Education: Bachelor of science degree, business administration, Indiana University, 1978

First job: Washing cars in a parking garage

Career moves: After graduating college, became a project manager for Shiel Sexton; named principal in 1983; president in 1989 and chairman in 1999

Boards: Executive committee, Cathedral High School; board of directors Indianapolis Art Center; executive committee and past chapter chair, Young President’s Organization; board member, Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, Indianapolis Partnership Development Council and board of directors, Boy Scouts of America.

What was your greatest challenge in business and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge — and it still is — is learning how to get the right people in the right place at the right time. Nothing you do in business will succeed without having the right people and systems in place. When it works, it’s awesome.

Whom do you admire most in business and why?

The person I admire most is my father, Dick Shiel, the co-founder of the company, for obvious reasons. He taught me everything I know.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned in business?

To strive to do the right things the first time. You’ll always end up succeeding if you do.