According to trend watchers here, the climate update for Ohios Polymer Valley is calling for a good chance of double-digit growth over the next 4 to 5 years.
With almost 45 percent of Ohios polymer-related producers located in Northeast Ohio, what determines the growth rate of any single player in this field will have as much to do with generic trends as with how their leaders create the conditions for their own luck and success. Look for several interdependent and synergistic variables to play key roles in this effort.
New technology. With more than 20,000 polymer-related materials in his database, John Hickman, president of Plastech Consulting of Tallmadge, says that as much as 30 percent of those materials will turn over in the next three years. The next generation of materials will drive new applications, start-up and investment opportunities.
According to Frank Kelley, dean of The College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering at the University of Akron, we will see new opportunities driven by emerging technologies in the areas of information electronics, biomedical technologies and control systems in which polymers will play a new active role.
With the conversions from nonplastics to plastics, there is no foreseeable end to the proliferation of new alloys and blends available to original equipment manufacturers.
E-commerce. John Colangelo, Director of Business Development at the Edison Polymer Innovation Corp., says hes optimistic about the growth of the industry in the region. Polymer companies especially processors coming from industrial paradigms need to become part of the knowledge economy. Colangelo suggests that OEMs will be looking to reward those suppliers which have reinvented their capabilities to provide more diversified deliverables at the speed of a click.
They may continue the practice of sending larger, more unchanging orders off-shore for labor cost considerations, but domestic suppliers which have the speed, efficiency, and flexibility will attract the orders that will represent the emerging market opportunities.
Manufacturing process capabilities. New technologies and applications, combined with the need for lower costs, will propel more processors to innovate with process methods, management and technologies.
Innovating with changeovers, robotics, value-added assembly, customization and finite capacity scheduling will become imperative for the kind of speed, efficiency and flexibility OEMs will require.
Technical literacy. With new process challenges and material innovations, polymer work forces and management methods will require an equivalent level of improvement and innovation. Even with employee turnover and low unemployment, the winners will be passionate about creating knowledge workers in an intellectual capital-intensive industry. It will also become critical to recruit, retain and retrain people equipped to meet these new challenges.
Learning organization. With the dizzying speed of change and innovation in the polymer industry, it will become more important than ever for companies to be learning organizations. Those falling to lower performance percentiles in the industry will be those failing to keep up to date with new technologies, materials, applications and process improvement methodologies and technologies.
More than ever, companies will need to partner with resources such as industry trade associations, economic consortiums, research and training institutes like those at Akron University, patent literature resources, as well as expert and consulting resources such as EPIC and Plastech.
Although forecasts in this dynamic industry may be challenging, one thing that seems apparent is that the crystal in our portent ball will likely be a polymer.
Jack Ricchiuto is a certified management consultant and author of Collaborative Creativity and Accidental Conversations. He can be contacted through his Web site at www.newpossibilities.net.
Founded as a manufacturer of clay pipes (used for smoking tobacco), the Akron Smoking Pipe Co. monopolized its market, producing 83 percent of the clay pipes used in the United States at the time. By 1920, with the advent of electricity, the clay pipe product line was discontinued, and the company started manufacturing standard knobs, tubes and cleats used in the conversion of kerosene and gas to electric lighting. The company’s name was changed at the same time to The Mogadore Insulator Co.
In 1958, the company’s leaders saw an opportunity in plastics, noting that more and more ceramic products were being made out of plastic. George “Mike” Lewis, current president and CEO, started working at his family’s business just as that product line conversion was taking place.
“What really pushed us along was to see this thermosetting industry taking parts away from our ceramics business,” Lewis recalls. “It’s the old adage, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them.’”
In 1963, plastics sales made up only 3 percent of the company’s total sales. By 1965, that had increased to 15 percent, and the company slowly purchased more plastics manufacturing equipment and expanded the plant to keep up with demand. By 1976, the plastics division accounted for a third of the company’s total sales.
The plastics division grew as the demand for ceramics shrunk. In 1984, the company once again changed its name, this time to Akron Porcelain & Plastics Co. By 1986, plastics sales had exceeded ceramics for the first time in the company’s history.
Now with 200 employees at plants in Akron and Barberton, the company still manufactures ceramics and custom-molded plastic parts. Its plastics are manufactured in two families: thermoset (once the material is pressurized, a chemical reaction takes place and it can’t be remolded); and thermoplastics (plastics that melt every time they are heated).
Akron Porcelain & Plastics’ products include parts for electrical components and appliances, and parts for the automotive industry. Its primary product line is automotive ashtray assemblies, but Akron Porcelain & Plastics Co. may be about to enter another stage as fewer and fewer car companies include ashtrays as “standard” items in new cars.
Lewis says that as the company moves into its third century, additional product lines are being considered for the $18 million company to possibly replace the ashtray assemblies if demand for them goes the way of clay pipes.
“We’re looking for other niches where we can do the same type of molding, with value-added pieces,” he says.
Recently, the company has focused on assemblies that have many different parts, what Lewis calls “value-added.” Some of these components have up to 20 different parts, he says. Lewis is also seeking out new growth potential on the ceramics side.
Connie Swenson (email@example.com) is editor of SBN.
There’s no shortage of speculation regarding the new millennium. Regardless of the turn of the century, however, numerous events will affect the business environment here in the coming year.
Energy deregulation will make its appearance. Companies will continue struggling with the waning work force. And the economy will bear the weight of high expectations fueled by last year’s heavy market action.
While these and other business issues will come and go in the next 12 months, one thing will remain constant: Our business community will continue to be shaped, in large part, through the actions and opinions of certain Central Ohio leaders and not just the usual suspects, either.
In addition to the Wolfes, Wexners and McFersons you’d expect to wield such influence, a group of lesser-known, yet surprisingly powerful executives is emerging in our corporate community. Some are already strong, behind-the-scenes voices; others are on the verge of making their mark.
Whether they’re familiar faces or new names, these are people you should get acquainted with. Together, the following 100 people will have the most influence on our business community in the year 2000.
Jan Allen & Curt Steiner
president & CEO, respectively
Talk about a power-packed couple. This husband-and-wife team has, between them, more political ties than most business owners could ever hope to amass.
Steiner, a former chief of staff to both Gov. George Voinovich and Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, previously worked as a principal media strategist for U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, Sen. Voinovich and numerous members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Ohio Legislature and Ohio Supreme Court.
Allen, a former deputy chief of staff in Gov. Dick Celeste’s administration, once served on staffs of the lieutenant governor, secretary of state and Ohio House of Representatives. She still maintains an of counsel role with The Success Group Inc., a consulting firm that represents clients before the executive branch of government.
These two clearly know the dynamics of public opinion and the players who shape it better than just about anyone else in town.
Ohio Foundation for Entrepreneurial Education
Dickinson provides support for local entrepreneurs through her educational programs, but her influence in the business community reaches beyond the start-up level.
Her pull is strong enough to convince established business leaders to donate not only their money but their time and expertise in the classroom. Consider some of her trustees and officers: Robert H. Maynard, partner with Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease; Paul J. Otte, president of Franklin University; and Michael A. Petrecca, partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
president and CEO
Sophisticated Systems Inc.
Everywhere you look, Smith has a hand in the business community. A member of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce board of directors, as well as its economic development and entrepreneurship committees, he’s already well-known on the local level.
Even in his own business, he’s rubbing elbows with power clients: Nationwide, Honda, The Limited, Bank One and The Huntington National Bank, for instance.
But watch: Smith late last year was named to the Governor’s Small Business Council. He’s also a board member for the Ohio Foundation for Entrepreneurial Education. It won’t be long before his name is recognized statewide.
Patrick J. Fehring Jr.
president and CEO
Fifth Third Bank, Central Ohio
With Bank One moving its headquarters, and rumors swirling around the future of The Huntington National Bank, expect Fifth Third to step up its local presence and Fehring to follow the path of community leadership set by Don Shackelford, chair of Fifth Third Bank, Central Ohio.
Already, Fehring has taken a stand through involvement in the United Way campaign and its connections with Columbus businesses. In addition, the bank has heightened its local influence by purchasing two home-grown financial organizations: State Savings and The Ohio Co.
To become a true local influence, however, Fehring will need to develop more business contacts through his civic work as a trustee for the Children’s Hospital Foundation and COSI, for example. Expect him to start doing that this year.
Karrington Health, now Sunrise Assisted Living
Klisares hasn’t been in the forefront as much since he left executive roles at Karrington and Worthington Industries, but the experience he has in management will surely keep him active and influential in the business community.
Locally, he serves on the boards at Dominion Homes Inc. and The Huntington National Bank, as well as MPW Industrial Services Group. He also consults for a handful of other companies, primarily in the manufacturing industry. Look for him to continue finding roles in which he can solve problems for area businesses.
Ora E. Smith
Science and Technology Campus Corp.
Smith will play a significant role this year in increasing Columbus’ reputation for technological developments. That’s particularly important, given the current trouble high-tech companies are having attracting good recruits to Central Ohio.
The Science and Technology Campus at The Ohio State University is designed to enhance technology business activity in Central Ohio and provide industrial connections for students and faculty. Already the 2-year-old campus has garnered more interest than it has space available.
As Smith continues to develop the research park to house more companies and link them to research and technical expertise, he’ll become highly sought-after and respected for his contacts in the technology and financial industries.
Capital South Community Urban Redevelopment Corp.
Ricksecker was the driving force behind the Short North’s revitalization. His next project was supposed to be directing development along the Scioto River downtown, but the disbanding of Riverfront Commons Corp. put the brakes on that mission.
Now Ricksecker has found a welcome home for his urban revitalization skills at Capital South, a project that’s charged with cleaning up not just the physical structures, but the image of High Street in the central business district. With so much attention turning this year to COSI, Nationwide Arena and Miranova, the High Street corridor appears to be the next logical step in downtown redevelopment.
And Ricksecker appears to have the enthusiasm, connections and track record to get it done.
Carlile, Patchen & Murphy LLP
Sheehan may be the only female managing partner of a major Columbus law firm, but she doesn’t go around thumping her chest over it. She doesn’t have to; her actions speak for themselves.
She’s a highly sought-after speaker in the business and professional community for her expertise in real estate and tax law. She’s also quite civic-minded and volunteers her time to serve on charitable boards of organizations including the Big Brothers Big Sisters Association of Columbus and Franklin County and the Columbus YWCA.
Although she doesn’t seem concerned with grabbing big headlines, she definitely can hold her own among the city’s corporate elite.
Bricker & Eckler LLP
With his deep-seated political connections, Tunnell is the attorney of choice for local business leaders looking to push through pro-business legislation at the statehouse.
This former chief legal counsel to Gov. George Voinovich successfully advocated revisions to Ohio’s insurance tax laws, which gave insurers a uniform tax rate nearly 50 percent lower than the previous maximum. Tunnell also was the legal eagle who secured passage of a highly controversial tort-reform package, aimed at curbing frivolous lawsuits and enormously high jury awards. Although that legislation has since been struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court, Tunnell remains committed to the cause even establishing a statewide CourtWatch program to monitor the issue on behalf of Ohio businesses.
Clearly, this affable Eagle Scout is at home holding audience with the state’s top leaders, and they, in turn, seem to respect and often act upon his opinions.
Benjamin Zox, president and CEO, Schottenstein, Zox & Dunn LPA: Zox helped form the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Ambassadors, which, on a CEO-to-CEO level, attracts companies to settle or expand here. In addition, expect Zox to continue his leadership, not only through the clout of his highly regarded law firm, but also by encouraging other attorneys there and throughout the city to follow in his footsteps of community involvement.
Bea Wolper, partner, Chester, Willcox & Saxbe LLP: Wolper continues to distinguish herself as the obvious local leader of women in business, especially considering her roles as founder and president of Women’s Business Board and Women’s Business Beginnings.
John F. Wolfe, publisher and chairman, The Dispatch Printing Co.: When you own no fewer than seven media outlets in a single market, including the city’s only daily newspaper, it’s hard not to wield considerable influence be it in the business community or elsewhere.
Frank Wobst, chairman and CEO, Huntington Bancshares Inc.: Money is power and with Wobst heading the largest locally based bank in Columbus now, whatever he does affects the entire business community. Just ask John B. McCoy, who used to share this local influence.
Jeff Wilkins, chairman and CEO, Metatec Corp.: Wilkins started CompuServe when desktop computers were still the exclusive domain of technogeeks. He saw the future of CD-ROM technology years before floppy discs and vinyl records fell out of favor. With visionary capabilities like that, Wilkins will always be someone corporate Columbus watches for new trends and upcoming business opportunities.
Bill Wilkins, president and CEO, OhioHealth: As the health care industry continues to evolve, not just locally but nationally, what Wilkins does at OhioHealth is likely to influence the behavior of other, competing institutions and, thus, the entire Central Ohio community.
Randy Wilcox, president and CEO, SARCOM Inc.: As Wilcox leads his company into the $1 billion range, he continues to increase his presence in the business community. Watch for him to step up his civic involvement and continue making a name for himself in elite business circles, such as Entrepreneur Of The Year.
Les Wexner, chairman and CEO, The Limited Inc. and Intimate Brands Inc.: When the 11th richest man in the world talks, people don’t just listen, they act on what he says.
Bob Weiler Sr., chairman, The Robert Weiler Co.: Anyone who owns as much land as Weiler does in the fast-developing Polaris Centers of Commerce, as well as along Morse and Sunbury roads near Easton and Gender Road in the suddenly booming Canal Winchester area is apt to have the upper hand in shaping business growth throughout Central Ohio.
Audrey Weil, general manager, CompuServe: She’s been at CompuServe’s helm for less than a year, but already everybody knows her name. Don’t expect her roll to stop; she serves on the Columbus chamber’s board and surely will interact with the business community on any technology topics in 2000.
Bob Walter, chairman and CEO, Cardinal Health Inc.: Walter’s experience in leading Cardinal through more than 20 acquisitions will keep him in high demand in the business community. He currently serves on the boards of directors of Bank One Corp., CBS Corp. and Infinity Broadcasting Corp. In addition, he runs the highest revenue-producing company based in Columbus. If that doesn’t carry some clout, what does?
Bob Taft, governor, State of Ohio: His position alone carries a lot of influence, and Taft has chosen to extend that influence into the business community. Already he’s taken big steps toward seeking input through his Small Business Advisory Council and Workforce Policy Board. Now he needs to finish the journey by acting on the recommendations of these business leaders.
Paula Spence, retired vice chair, HMS Partners: She may be retired from HMS, but the long-time PR guru has not taken a back seat. Business and community leaders continue to recognize and respect her for her many contributions.
Robert Snyder, president, Ohio Electric Utility Institute: Considering the onset of deregulation and constant changes in the utility industry, Snyder will have his hands full this year representing the five investor-owned electric companies in Ohio.
Lewis Smoot Sr., president, Smoot Corp.: It’s hard to think of a major construction project in Central Ohio that hasn’t involved Smoot’s business. Clearly, Smoot has developed a name for himself and his company with the powers-that-be in Columbus.
Rosa Smith, superintendent, Columbus Public Schools: Smith’s got her work cut out for her as business owners continue to demand quality graduates to fill the job glut. We expect she’ll continue the dedication she’s already proven by serving, for example, on the chamber’s Workforce Leadership Council and up her influence in the business community in the process.
Harrison Smith & Ben Hale, law partners, Smith & Hale: Sure, Smith may be past traditional retirement age, but his corporate contacts are as strong as ever. He can still get an easy audience with the likes of Les Wexner and Jack Nicklaus, both of whom he represented in major development deals years ago, and Hale is just as comfortable rubbing elbows with the corporate elite.
Rhonda Slotta, president, TDCI Consulting LLC: Slotta’s name surfaced three times last year in rather impressive company. She was among the finalists for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year awards. She also was honored by the Columbus chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners and received an Excellence in Enterprise award from the Ohio Department of Development’s Women’s Business Resource Program. Expect this up-and-coming influencer to continue raising her visibility by serving as a model for other women business owners.
Alex Shumate, managing partner, Columbus office, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP: Shumate begins his term as board president of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce this year. Consider that, plus his service on boards including Intimate Brands Inc. and Bank One Corp., and his position in the inner circle of corporate Columbus becomes clear.
Thekla Shackelford, owner, School Selection Consulting: Although hers is not a household name, perhaps it ought to be. She’s one of those quietly influential types who serves aside Dave Thomas on the board at Wendy’s International, as well as Alex Shumate and John B. McCoy on the board at Bank One. In addition, she co-chaired The Ohio State University’s “Affirm Thy Friendship” campaign, which raised more than $1 billion. That’s some pretty good pull.
Don Shackelford, chair, Fifth Third Bank, Central Ohio: Shackelford remains in high demand in the business community, evidenced by his service on powerful corporate boards including The Limited Inc., Intimate Brands Inc., Midland Life Insurance Co. and Worthington Foods Inc.
Tadd Seitz, former chairman, The Scotts Co.: He may have left Scotts after orchestrating its turnaround, but that hasn’t lessened Seitz’s presence in the Central Ohio business community. In fact, he may affect even more businesses now that he’s moved out of the corner office and into the investment community full time.
Irv Schottenstein, chairman and CEO, M/I Schottenstein Homes Inc.: Not only does Schottenstein run the largest home building company in Columbus giving him an upper hand in the power-packed construction industry but he continues to circulate among some of the city’s corporate elite.
Bill Schottenstein, owner, Arshot Investment Corp.: This may just be the year that the long-awaited rebirth of the Brewery District hits high gear and Schottenstein’s Brewers Yard project will set the new standard for development in this area.
J. Daniel Schmidt, president, Downtown South Association: Look for Schmidt to take a more prominent role this year as development and renovation of this long-overlooked area of the center city continues and the association’s membership drive, started last fall, gets rolling.
Paula Ryan, marketing director, Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter: Don’t let the non-CEO title fool you. Ryan has been quite active in the business community as a member of the Downtown Council. Last year, she took the reins and will surely become an even more familiar face among downtown movers and shakers as the Arena District comes to life this year.
Jack Ruscilli, CEO, Ruscilli Construction Co. Inc.: This guy has more connections than AT&T. His business advisory board is filled with heavy hitters like John Christie and Jeff Keeler, and his company has worked on some of the most impressive projects in town, including the new COSI, the Columbus Zoo’s manatee exhibit and OhioHealth’s Riverside Methodist Hospitals expansion.
Harley E. Rouda Sr., founder, HER Inc., Realtors: Rouda’s long-held prominence in the local real estate industry will keep him at the forefront of building- and financial-related businesses this year.
Jim Robbins, managing partner, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Columbus office: Although he’s not the most boisterous or flashy executive in town, Robbins quietly carries his weight as the leader of Columbus’ largest accounting firm.
Ron Pizzuti, chairman and CEO, The Pizzuti Cos.: Pizzuti has played ball with all the big boys in town Les Wexner, John Wolfe, Dimon McFerson, John H. McConnell. And although the lengthy delays surrounding Pizzuti’s Miranova project may have pushed this power broker out of the limelight a bit in the past couple years, he still wields quite a bit of influence among decision makers. Look for the completion of Miranova and the Nationwide Arena this year to put Pizzuti’s name back in the headlines.
Paul Otte, president, Franklin University: Otte serves on the Columbus chamber board and, through his company, Otte & Associates, provides managerial assistance to companies and institutions. He makes it his job to stay in front of the business community and determine how its needs can be met through the university’s academic offerings. It’s a role that has earned him the appreciation and ear of top executives around town.
Doug Olesen, president and CEO, Battelle: His name may not pop up as often as many others, but as a chamber board member, Olesen still plays a powerful role in the business community, especially considering Battelle’s impact on business research and technology developments.
Roger Morris, president, Columbus/Franklin County News Bureau: After all the fanfare surrounding the launch of the area’s first news bureau, many civic and business leaders were expecting the area to get a big splash in the national press. That hasn’t happened but Morris should be able to call upon his past corporate and media connections to make it a reality this year.
Curt Moody, president and CEO, Moody/Nolan Ltd.: Moody may have gotten his start here, but his reputation is now known throughout the eastern half of the country. He’s done work on Olympic venues, major league sports stadiums and closer to home the new COSI, the Schottenstein Center and the Smith Bros. Hardware building. Clearly it takes skill, respect and clout to land high-profile, complex projects like these over and over again.
Cameron Mitchell, president, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants LLC: He’s done what most thought impossible: getting private investors not just excited, but actually clamoring for a stake in the notoriously high-risk, low-return restaurant business. And he’s done it more than once. With the incredible financial returns his growing restaurant chain has seen, Mitchell’s continually evolving concepts are influencing many others around town to follow his lead.
Ken Mills & Cameron James, president and CEO, respectively, Mills/James Productions Inc.: The connections Mills and James have amassed over the years by working with clients the likes of OhioHealth, Wendy’s, Borden and Worthington Industries have made them familiar faces at the most elite fund-raisers and corporate events.
Karen McVey, CEO, Women in New Growth Stages: McVey has quietly become a force in the business community by helping women advance in their careers. She serves as both a resource and a mentor.
Dimon McFerson, chairman, Nationwide: He may be the newest of the city’s titans, but he’s already vying for the status of most powerful.
John H. McConnell, chairman emeritus and founder, Worthington Industries: McConnell’s influence is obvious in business and the community. His name is often one of the first mentioned among those other local business leaders admire.
Peg Mativi, owner and CEO, Solutions Staffing: More and more, Mativi’s staking a claim to popularity in the business community. She’s been on the chamber’s board, and more recently extended her reach statewide with her appointment to the governor’s Workforce Policy Board.
Farah Majidzadeh, chair and CEO, Resource International Inc.: She’s been a contender in recent years for such prestigious awards as Entrepreneur Of The Year, the Columbus chamber’s Small Business Person of the Year and Excellence in Enterprise, yet Majidzadeh has really come into her own on the local business scene lately. Expect to hear more from her.
Curt Loveland, partner, Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur LLP: Loveland is one of the city’s most sought-after money men not only for his ability to help companies get financing from venture capitalists and private investors, but for his business and legal expertise. He’s helped take many local companies public, too, among them Applied Innovation Inc., Rocky Shoes & Boots and CheckFree Corp. [now based in Atlanta].
Tami Longaberger, president and CEO, The Longaberger Co.: As the company begins to broaden the appeal of its products and Longaberger moves into her first full year at the helm, she’ll garner more attention and more leverage. She’s already begun to do so as Ohio State University trustee.
Katherine LeVeque, CEO, LeVeque Enterprises: Some might think LeVeque’s time in the inner circle has come and gone, but with the renewed focus on downtown development this year, she could still have something big up her sleeve.
David Lauer, president, Bank One, NA - Columbus: With long-time business giant John B. McCoy moving to Chicago, Lauer appears to be slowly stepping up his local influence. Already he’s taken board positions with the United Way, OSU Hospitals, the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, the Columbus Municipal Airport Authority, the Greater Columbus Arts Council and, of course, the Columbus chamber.
Cheryl Krueger-Horn, president and CEO, Cheryl&Co.: Krueger-Horn’s influence in the business community comes as a role model, not only for running a successful and growing company but also for supporting her local community. She’s well known and well liked.
Nancy Kramer, founder, president and CEO, Resource Marketing Inc.: Kramer is a dominant force in her industry and she turned many heads last year when her firm landed the lead role in marketing the live Victoria’s Secret online fashion show. Although her company’s early success came primarily from big-name, out-of-town clients like Apple Computers, Kramer is now focusing more on locally based companies like Huntington Banks, The Limited and Drug Emporium. The shift has landed her appointments to high-profile posts including the Mayor’s Technology Leadership Council and the boards of Limited Too and the Columbus chamber.
Brit Kirwan, president, The Ohio State University: Granted, he’s still a relative newcomer to the corporate scene. Yet Kirwan has already earned a board position with Les Wexner’s Intimate Brands Inc., marking an impressively rapid entree into the inner circle. More appointments are sure to follow.
Jack Kessler, chairman, The New Albany Co.: With most of the development in New Albany no longer making big news, Kessler’s name isn’t heard much these days. That doesn’t mean he’s no longer a top dealmaker. He still regularly rubs elbows with the likes of Alex Shumate, Bob Walter and John B. McCoy.
Jeff Keeler, chairman and CEO, The Fishel Co.: Respect for Keeler, who was named to the Junior Achievement Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame last year, will keep him in demand by business owners great and small: Consider his board positions with Bank One, AirNet Systems Inc., Metatec Corp. and Ruscilli Construction Co. Inc., just to name a few.
Kyle Katz, president, The Katz Interests Inc. and New World Restaurants Inc.: So he sold his interest in Mekka and his Sweet Pea restaurant concept flopped. That doesn’t mean Katz is no longer a player. He still has an eye for upcoming trends and he’s king at creating good buzz.
Brad Kastan, senior vice president, PaineWebber: Kastan has made quite a name for himself in the local investment community and he even has a seasonal menu item roasted red pepper soup named after him at the tony Strada World Cuisine.
Frank Kass, CEO, Continental Real Estate Cos.: Kass has long been a force in Central Ohio’s development community and he’s likely to stay there as long as his company continues taking on high-profile projects like the wildly successful Lennox Town Center and Easton Market.
Bob Juniper, president, Three-C Body Shops Inc.: Even if you don’t like his advertising campaign, you can’t deny the impact it’s had on the insurance industry or on Three-C’s competitors, for that matter. Juniper is quite the pro at making big waves.
C. Lee Johnson, director, Ohio Department of Development: Johnson’s private sector business experience with Limited Distribution Services, Beatrice Cos. and Warner Lambert Co. will serve him well in his second year as the department’s director. He can’t help but have an effect on the local as well as statewide business community, especially considering changes here, such as development at Port Columbus International Airport and Rickenbacker, which could impact all of Ohio.
Ed Jennings, interim CEO, Mount Carmel-OSU Health Care Alliance: When Jennings stepped down as president of The Ohio State University in 1991, he didn’t step out of the business community. He’s been quietly effective as chairman of Mount Carmel’s board of trustees, and as a member of the Lancaster Colony Corp. and Borden Chemicals & Plastics LP boards. Now he’s temporarily at the helm of a power-packed nonprofit. Don’t think for a minute this will be his last stop.
George Jenkins, partner, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP: Jenkins is firmly entrenched in the city’s private investment community, serving as an adviser as well as financier for numerous promising companies. When he sees potential in a firm, other business leaders often follow his lead.
Sally Jackson, president and CEO, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce: When Jackson sets an agenda for the business community, she’s got all the tools she needs to pursue it. She can get an audience with the mayor just about any time she wants and has direct access to well-connected, high-profile executives like Dimon McFerson and Alex Shumate, who serve on her board of directors.
Artie Isaac, president, Young Isaac Inc.: Isaac frequently shares his advertising expertise with business leaders through speaking engagements, but he’s not all talk. His words take action through his service on boards including Angie’s List, Columbus College of Art & Design, Jewish Family Services and Ohio Foundation for Entrepreneurial Education.
Paula Inniss, president, Ohio Full Court Press: In business just four years, Inniss’ impact has become clear. She’s even offered her services to help fellow business owners through Women in New Growth Stages, the Columbus Regional Minority Supplier Development Council and Consortium 2000. She’ll also gain a stronger hold as her own business grows and continues to be recognized through various awards programs.
Ed Hines, vice president-manufacturing, Lucent Technologies: Hines stepped up to the plate to chair the chamber’s Workforce Leadership Council; expect him to continue leading local workforce development efforts.
Larry Hilsheimer, managing partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP, Columbus office: Hilsheimer’s expertise in tax issues will keep him in demand; he lends his service on the chamber board, Young President’s Organization and various community groups.
Sandy Harbrecht, president, Paul Werth Associates Inc.: As head of one of the longest-established, best-known public relations firms in town, Harbrecht is arguably one of the more powerful women in Central Ohio. She is on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the Fisher College of Business at OSU, serves as vice chair for the Council for Ethics in Economics and is a trustee for the Columbus chamber, Columbus Museum of Art and the Ingram/White Castle Fund of The Columbus Foundation.
Bill Habig, executive director, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission: Here we’re stating the obvious. Habig continues his influential role in transportation issues one of Central Ohio’s most aggravating, yet important, ongoing concerns. A catalyst: The October 1999 launch of the Central Ohio Regional Transportation Management Center, a cooperative effort by the city of Columbus, COTA, Franklin County Engineer’s Office and Emergency Management Agency, as well as state and federal officials to solve transportation and traffic safety problems.
Lisa Griffin, president, Griffin Communications: Griffin may have stepped back from politics, but don’t expect her to leave the limelight. She still has some serious pull among highbrow civic and corporate leaders even if she’s playing a more supporting role these days.
Sam Gresham Jr., president and CEO, Columbus Urban League: With a background in urban planning, Gresham will continue to be a powerful force in making sure the playing field is as level as possible for the local business community, particularly in the area of work force development.
Herb Glimcher, chairman, president and CEO, Glimcher Realty Trust: Last fall’s brouhaha surrounding Glimcher’s proposed Polaris Fashion Place showed not only the power, but the class, of this civic-minded developer. He refused to sling mud at rival mall owner Dick Jacobs and even offered to buy the ailing Northland Mall in an effort to bury the hatchet. Many business leaders and voters respected his above-board approach.
Gary Glaser, chairman, National City Bank: The banking community in Columbus will likely continue changing industrywide this year. As a result, look for Glaser to establish more of a foothold as both a business and community leader.
Bob Gerbig, chairman and CEO, Gerbig, Snell/Weisheimer & Associates Inc.: Under Gerbig’s leadership, his health care marketing firm has grown markedly, expanding even overseas late last year. As his company continues to grow, so will his sphere of influence, already evidenced by his service on boards for the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, Cardinal Health Inc. and the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts.
Roger Geiger, state director, National Federation of Independent Business - Ohio: He may not be a businessman, per se, but he sure knows what matters to those who are. And when he sees legislation emerging at the statehouse that could make life difficult for the employers his organization represents, he’s quite effective in rallying the troops.
Terry Foegler, president, Campus Partners for Community Urban Redevelopment Inc.: Expect Foegler to rally the Columbus business community behind him as he proceeds on the campus gateway project. He’ll need the support, considering that although he’s garnered some praise for his efforts, he’s also ruffled a few feathers.
Dick Emens, partner, Chester, Willcox & Saxbe LLP: Emens’ leadership continues to be evident in the family-owned business community. He chairs the advisory board of the Family Business Center of Central Ohio, entering its second year in efforts to foster education, networking and recognition of family businesses. Watch for him to push the recognition of the center and to promote his own expertise on the subject.
Pat Dugan, partner, Squires, Sanders & Dempsey LLP: Dugan is much more than a top-notch attorney. He’s a private investor and business consultant, too. His expertise has benefited numerous local firms, including Bank One, The Pizzuti Cos., Glimcher Realty Trust and Lancaster Colony Corp.
Tanny Crane, president, Crane Plastics Holding Co.: Even amidst the reorganization of her own company into six divisions, Crane has been gathering the business community to support this year’s United Way campaign as its chair. Look for her influence to broaden in 2000.
Maury Cox, president, The Ohio Partners LLC: When John F. Wolfe decided to formalize his investment role in the high-tech arena five years ago, Cox was hand-selected to lead Wolfe’s new Ohio Partners venture. That, alone, tells you what kind of clout this former CompuServe CEO carries among the powers that be.
James Conrad, administrator and CEO, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation: Our area has enough problems finding a quality work force; Conrad aims to make it safe, too. The business community is responding as he strives to make this once-loathed governmental bureau more customer friendly.
Frankie Coleman, executive director, Private Industry Council of Columbus and Franklin County Inc.: Her husband, Mike, may be mayor-elect, but she’s got the upper hand in the business community right now. Her role in linking available workers and labor-starved employers will continue to make her one of the more powerful forces in dealing with the local job glut.
John Christie, president, JMAC Inc.: Christie is one of those people who seems to know and be liked by just about everyone who is anyone in this town. He’s buddies with John H. McConnell. He’s been an adviser to Jack Ruscilli. And he appears comfortable rubbing elbows with the most powerful of Central Ohio titans.
Walter Cates Sr., president, Main Street Business Association: Cates continues to stand as a respected advocate for minority business owners and those in the Main Street community.
Don M. Casto III, president, Don M. Casto Organization: It was Casto who got the mayor excited last year about routing the proposed Morse-Bethel extension through the parking lot of Graceland Shopping Center. Whether that plan ever materializes is less important than the fact that Casto had the wherewithal to negotiate such a proposal in the first place. In addition, he successfully cut a blockbuster deal last year to gain the commercial holdings of long-time development giants Jack Chester and Dick Solove, making Casto’s property empire among the most impressive in Central Ohio.
Kelly Borth, president, Greencrest: A finalist for the Ernst & Young Supporter of Entrepreneurship Award, Borth has distinguished herself as a mentor through her work in organizations including the chamber, National Association of Women Business Owners, Women’s Network for Entrepreneurial Training and WINGS. She’s also taken the initiative to found programs to help business owners, such as an Advertising Techniques School at Franklin University.
Chris Boring, president, Boulevard Strategies: Boring will continue to be looked upon as the resident authority in measuring the health of the retail community here. And with the continuing rate of business expansion and rehabilitation, not to mention last year’s mall brouhaha, his name recognition will only increase further in 2000.
Friedl Bohm, chairman, NBBJ: This guy runs the fifth largest architectural firm in the world, yet he’s chosen to keep it headquartered right here in Columbus. His corporate, as well as civic, influence runs deep.
Roger Blackwell, president, Blackwell Associates Inc.: Aside from the obvious consulting role Blackwell plays, he also serves on numerous local boards, including AirNet Systems Inc., Max & Erma’s Restaurants Inc. and Intimate Brands Inc. He’s the go-to guy for business leaders with marketing and management concerns.
Bob Bender, chairman, president and CEO, Lord, Sullivan & Yoder: Bender’s been around the advertising business long enough, and earned enough awards, that he as well as his firm carries some serious clout in this city.
Nick Bandy & Doug McIntyre, partners, Zero Base Advertising Inc.: After their barely 10-year-old firm beat out heavy favorite HMS Partners for the lucrative and high-profile Columbus Blue Jackets’ advertising contract last year, these two erased any doubt that they had arrived.
Joseph A. Alutto, dean, The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business : With development of the college’s new $120 million campus and expanded executive education offerings, Alutto has the perfect opportunity to tap the local business community both for its expertise and potential students. His sphere of influence will broaden accordingly.
Cleveland first met John D. Rockefeller when he was a 16-year-old youth who spent his days scouring the lumber mills and iron foundries along the banks of the Cuyahoga River looking for work.
After more than a month of searching, he finally landed a job at Hewitt and Tuttle in September 1855, earning roughly $500 a year.
Forty-five years later, at the turn of the century, Rockefeller was one of the wealthiest men in the world. He was also one of Americas most despised business leaders, due largely to the efforts of muckraking journalists like Ida Tarbell. In newspaper columns, Rockfellers Standard Oil Co. was often painted as a monopolistic octopus that controlled 90 percent of the U.S. market and put honest people out of work.
When Rockefeller was accused of hurting other people and driving them out of business, he would argue he was simply offering them a fair deal for their property, explains John J. Grabowski, director of research at the Western Reserve Historical Society. What he did by buying them out was avoid mass confusion and stabilize the market.
No matter how one views Rockefellers business practices, there is no question the success of Standard Oil, headquartered at the time near Public Square, had a profound impact on Cleveland. By the time Rockefeller moved to New York in 1885, Cleveland had been transformed from a merchant village to a roaring industrial hub filled with steel, shipping and chemical companies.
Meanwhile, Rockefeller donated millions to local charities and invested in other businesses that cropped up across the city. He became a one-man engine of change and the history of Rockefeller and the history of Cleveland are tightly intertwined.
Were talking about the person who became the richest man in the world, says Darwin H. Stapleton, director of the Rockefeller Archive in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. Almost everything he did, over time anyway, affected Cleveland one way or another.
After spending a few years at Hewitt and Tuttle in the 1850s, a young Rockefeller opened his own commissions house and generated a small fortune during the Civil War.
Then he turned his full attention toward oil, a risky and unpredictable industry.
There was heavy pollution of the river, and oil refineries went up in flames one after another, says Grabowski. The oil fields in Pennsylvania were either boom or bust in terms of price. The bottom would fall out because of overproduction, then theyd cut back and the price would go up.
Rockefeller bought into a small oil company, Andrews, Clark & Co., in 1863. Seven years later, and firmly under his control, it was reorganized as the Standard Oil Co. Rockefeller quickly captured the bulk of the industry through aggressive acquisitions of smaller companies, a move that finally started to balance the unpredictable market. At the same time, he implemented business practices that were previously unheard of in the wildcat oil industry.
Grabowski tells a well-known tale of Rockefellers visit to the factory where his workers made barrels to ship kerosene. When Rockefeller noticed the employees used 22 drops of solder to seal each barrel, he asked if they could use 20 instead. When the new barrels leaked, he instructed them to use 21 drops of solder. Those barrels didnt leak, and Rockefeller saved one drop of solder on every barrel made.
That was the type of mentality that drove him, says Grabowski. I think what epitomizes the late 19th century is rationalization, order and scientific management of business. The thing Rockefeller brought to Cleveland, and to the industry in general, was a rationality and focus.
Once Rockefeller established his company as an industry giant, other businesses that supplied and relied on oil flocked to Cleveland in the hopes of cashing in on Standard Oils market dominance.
In 1866, Eugene Grasselli, the owner of Cincinnatis Grasselli Chemical Co. (known then as E. Grasselli & Son), built a plant on Independence Road near Broadway to manufacture the sulfuric acid needed by the citys growing number of oil refineries.
The presence of chemical manufacturing in Cleveland then makes it a lot easier for Glidden and Sherwin-Williams to produce paints, says Grabowski. Theres all these little connections that come out of Standard Oil.
In 1873, Sherwin-Williams bought Standard Oils cooperage building on Canal Street for its first factory, where it manufactured paints, paste, oil colors and putty. Although Sherwin-Williams executives closed the 100-year-old Canal plant in 1982, the company still has 3,200 of its approximately 18,000 employees in the state of Ohio, primarily in Cleveland. Since 1930, its corporate offices have been located at the Midland Building on Prospect, which was once the Cleveland headquarters for Standard Oil.
Forest City Paint & Varnish came to Cleveland in 1875 before later becoming Glidden Varnish Co. and then Glidden Co. The company operated in Cleveland as an independent company until the 1960s, when it merged with Smith Corona Machines. Gliddens aging Cleveland paint plant was phased out in 1976.
Many of the links between Standard Oil and other companies, however, were not the result of dependence upon oil. Instead, they were created by Rockefellers deep pockets. He invested in the Cleveland Arcade Co., Otis and Iron Steel (later absorbed into U.S. Steel), Euclid Avenue Bank and the Merchants National Bank.
Rockefeller also loaned money to Marcus Hanna, an iron and coal merchant who bought the Euclid Avenue Opera House in 1870 before forming Cleveland City Railway Co. in the 1880s.
It was a time when, often for the really big money, you turned to another person instead of the banks, says Stapleton. In many ways, JDR was acting as a private banker by the 1880s. He was loaning out big chunks of money.
Rockefellers impact on Cleveland stretches beyond the business world. As his wealth grew from his success in Cleveland, the amount he invested back into the community increased as well.
As a young businessman in 1856, he donated $19 to local charities. That figure grew to $250,000 by 1887, and $1.3 million by 1892. The lengthy list of organizations that benefited from his generosity often included ones in which Rockefeller himself was a member, such as the Euclid Avenue Baptist Church, Western Reserve Historical Society, Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve and the YMCA.
The demands on him for charity were extraordinary, says Grabowski. As he got wealthier and wealthier, thousands of letters came in saying, I need help. He hired someone to handle that, almost like a giving department . . . Whats interesting is this was in a tax-free world, where there was no benefit to giving your money away.
Its often said that Rockefeller and (Andrew) Carnegie competed with each other to see who could be the most benevolent.
Other benefactors of Rockefellers charitable donations included the Childrens Aid Society, Bethel Union, Womens Christian Temperance Union and the Dorcas Home for invalids and Childrens Fresh Air Camp. Later, Rockefeller donated $850,000 worth of land for use as public parks. He established the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in 1901, the General Education Board in 1902 and the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913.
Even after such a lengthy relationship with Cleveland, Rockefellers last days in Cleveland set off a bitter tax dispute with county officials.
During the winter of 1913-1914, Rockefeller lived at his Forest Hills estate on the East Side of Cleveland, tending to his ailing wife Cettie. Although he had paid taxes as an official resident of New York since the 1880s, he could not leave Cleveland by the Feb. 3 tax deadline because of his wifes frail condition, a move that triggered rabid pursuit by county tax collectors.
To Cuyahoga County, this obviously looked like manna from heaven, says Grabowski. Heres the worlds richest man and hes suddenly liable for personal property taxes. They went after him with a vengeance. When Cettie died, he left and he never returned after that, except to be buried.
The dogged persistence with which county officials trailed Rockefeller during the tax dispute, which was ruled illegal by the courts, seemed to taint Rockefellers relationship with Cleveland. In Ron Chernows voluminous biography Titan, he cites an archived interview in which Rockefeller compared his new home of New York to his hometown: New York has always treated me more fairly than Cleveland, much more.
But he also admitted that despite this tainted mark, Cleveland offered one business benefit few other commerce centers at the time could access to different transportation networks. For a business that moved its product in large volume, Rockefeller found Cleveland strategically located. He often played the railways against the waterways, with a low transportation price his valuable prize.
Stapleton does not buy into the fact that Rockefeller ever really deserted Cleveland.
The whole idea that he somehow abandons Cleveland is nutty from my perspective because he had a love for it, says Stapleton. Its not true that he ever abandoned Cleveland, just that his wealth became too large for the city.
As Stapleton points out, the tax dispute did not entirely sever Rockefellers ties to the city. In 1918, he started the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Foundation in honor of his wife, while art owned by his son, John D. Rockefeller Jr., resides at the Cleveland Museum of Art to this day.
But the truest statement of the millionaires love for Cleveland can be found along Euclid Avenue. Inside the gates of Lake View cemetery, among rows of grave markers, is an enormous Egyptian obelisk that towers above them all. Engraved on its base is one word: Rockefeller.
How to reach: The Western Reserve Historical Society, (216) 721-5722; Rockefeller Archive, (914) 366-6308
Jim Vickers (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate editor at SBN.
Proposed ticker: OLCB
Exchange: OTC (Nasdaq)
Proposed offer price: $10/share
Shares offered: 1.2 million
Offering amount: $12 million
Fiscal Year-End: December
Underwriters: Charles Webb & Company
Issuers Law Firm: Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, LLP
Banks Law Firm: Silver, Freedman & Taff, LLP
Auditor: Crowe, Chizek and Company, LLP
Sources: Equity Analytics, Ltd.; ipodata.com.
Although they are all 30-somethings, combined, they have more than a lifetime of coveted professional experience. Their expertise runs the gamut, from software to hardware to switching systems and routing technology, as well as the organizational and strategic savvy to get and keep a company on the move.
All worked for Pittsburgh’s most successful high-tech company to date, Fore Systems (now Marconi plc), most holding key positions in the development of major products and systems. Two are Carnegie Mellon alumni, and all have attended prestigious institutions of higher learning. Four of the six hold advanced degrees. Two worked for Transarc Corp., another successful Pittsburgh technology company.
Here are the founders of Laurel Networks at a glance:
Atul Bansal, president and CEO, has more than 14 years of experience in the data communications industry. His most recent position was product group director of Fore Systems’ multilayer ethernet switching product division, a unit with $100 million-plus in annual revenue. He’s also held numerous positions with Digital Equipment Corp.
Jeffrey Prem, director of system services hardware, has more than 12 years of experience as a software architect and developer. At Fore, he was principal software development engineer, leading the company’s software development for its entire line of asynchronous transfer mode switches.
Robert Rennison, director of signaling and routing software, has more than 14 years of experience in the data communications and networking industries. A six-year veteran at Fore Systems, Rennison led a team of engineers in the development of several key projects there.
Dimitris Varotsis, chief technology officer, is a Carnegie Mellon graduate and a former principle engineer with Fore Systems. With more than a decade of experience in data communications, including a stint with Transarc Corp., Varotsis is responsible for the overall software architecture of all Laurel Networks products.
Steve Vogelsang, vice president of marketing, was senior director of strategic and technical marketing at Fore Systems. As its senior director of strategic and technical marketing, he was responsible for defining and communicating Fore’s technology and solution strategy.
Robert Warden, director of hardware engineering, has eight years of experience in the design of high-speed switching systems. He was Fore Systems’ manager of ATM switching systems before breaking out as a co-founder of Laurel Networks.
Dot-coms are predicted to be the well of wealth for the new millennium. A booming economy, a potent supply of venture capital and increasing customer reliance on the Internet are some of the reasons companies are clamoring to launch electronic-commerce sites.
Whether used as an instrument of specialization, a tool for brand-building or as the ladder to an IPO, businesses are lining up to compete at the breakneck pace of the dot-com world.
While many firms are starting up to operate as dot-coms, many well-established companies have integrated e-commerce strategy to enhance their overall corporate agenda. Despite their rationale for taking advantage of all things Web-related, these firms have something in common: Suited in technology, they’re revving their engines at the dot-com start-up gate, eager to speed their Internet identities.
And whether the purpose is to secure a long-term future or go for short-term glory and cash in quickly, they all share the hope that their presence on the information highway may lead them to a pot of gold.
E-Debt Exchange Inc. in Fairlawn is an example of a company established as an e-commerce operator. After almost six months of due diligence, Morton Stone, chairman, and Michael Zoldan, president and CEO, co-founded the firm in August 1999. This March, they debuted E-Debt.com as a long-overdue development in the debt-trading industry.
Steven Lefkowitz, chief operating officer, explains that E-Debt Exchange Inc. is not a buyer or seller of debt; rather, it’s an intermediary.
“E-Debt.com is a business-to-business site that enables financial institutions, investors and collection agencies to buy and sell distressed debt through one centralized location, in real time,” he says.
The site uses advanced search engines, proprietary data-mining tools and transactional software so buyers can instantly find debt portfolios that match their criteria and E-Debt’s collection process scrutinizes and culls from current data to eliminate debt that buyers avoid.
Lefkowitz says E-Debt systematizes the process with impartial, fair price comparisons, due-diligence mechanisms and security-ensured transmissions. Sellers of debt can sell portfolios at price, at auction or through private online negotiations. And since transactions which typically take a month or more using traditional methods are completed within four to six days, users get reduced search costs, competitive pricing and accurate information.
E-debt.com is the first site of its kind, says Lefkowitz, and destined to be a winner because of its capabilities.
“What we truly want it to be is the online marketplace for distressed debt, and we’re going to provide value add-ons to streamline the process,” says Lefkowitz.
Initially backed by private placement funds and their own money, the partners have ambitious plans for global growth. In early March they secured $1.25 million in first-round financing from investment bankers at Cleveland-based Brown Gibbons Lang & Co.
“This initial funding allows us to establish the E-Debt brand as the marketplace buyers and sellers of debt should use to flow their transactions through. We’re trying to mass market our message to educate potential users about the benefits of E-Debt.com,” says Lefkowitz. “But we’re also looking for strategic investors willing to put money behind this, to enhance the site and to support our sales team.”
Lefkowitz laughs at the prospect of selling out.
“Everybody thinks the reason people do this is to get rich,” he says. “But we’ve put together a management team that truly believes in this business and we have no plans to go public. Our agenda is about growing our company and we don’t have an exit strategy.”
But if a public offering eventually becomes an option, Lefkowitz says, “Obviously, we’re not stupid that’s a road we’ll take if it makes sense to us for a lot of reasons. But for now, we’re in it for the long term.”
Integrating e-business strategy wasn’t part of the initial plan for Akron-based 4TechWork.com. Behind the e-com identity is an established business that completely rebranded itself as a dot-com after five years of operating under another name.
Eric Schlueter, Steve Kokitka and Mike Seed established the firm in January 1995 as Enterprise Alliance Consulting, to pair corporate clients with information technology consultants for short- and long-term projects.
“Our initial plans were to develop a full-service IT consulting company to service Fortune 500 companies in Northeast Ohio. We planned to grow in that way, addressing hot spots in the market, such as staff augmentation consulting, enterprise resource planning and data warehousing,” says Seed, general manager.
Then, last October, the company regrouped as a dot-com, after a year of developing its 4TechWork.com site.
“We wanted to use the Internet to present the experience of our consultants in a convenient fashion for hiring managers, and to raise the credibility of our business as a whole,” Seed says.
In turn, the firm simplified the staffing process with a comprehensive, searchable Web-based database. The dot-com has also become the primary growth engine for the company, says Seed.
“We’re in an aggressive brand-marketing campaign to drive potential clients to our site where they can just point, click and hire.”
Eric Schlueter, e-commerce practice manager, explains that clients keystroke the skills needed for the job, the project’s timeframe and pay rates. A list is generated that specifies certified professionals capable of doing the job within the client’s preferred parameters.
Steve Kokitka, recruiting vice president, says that since 4TechWork has already evaluated the applicant’s skills, verified credentials, performed background checks and conducted standardized testing, clients can view the data and read appraisals of other clients who’ve employed them. Photographs are included and plans are underway to add 30-second audio/video clips. These value-added offerings differentiate the 4TechWork.com from other staffing sites, he says.
“It’s an easy, no-pressure process, and once a client makes a selection, 4TechWork.com will arrange in-person interviews,” says Seed. “We’re also using the site to recruit consultants. They can apply for work over the Internet by describing themselves, their skills and taking the tests.”
In February, 4TechWork merged with Callos Technical Partners, part of The Callos Companies a 35-year old personnel recruitment and consultant firm. As equity partners, Callos principals John Callos and Tom Walsh serve on 4TechWork’s board of directors, but as minority investors, are not active in day-do-day operations.
Seed affirms that the dot-com is not a prelude to an IPO; rather, it was conceived to better assist IT and human resource managers and to enhance the firm’s core specialty. Primarily, funding has been generated by company cash flow. But the partners may consider seeking venture capital to expand the endeavor.
“We restrict our business to Northeast Ohio, but if we can prove the success of our dot-com’s concept, and as we start to get more brand equity, we’d like to roll it out to other geographies. At that point, we would look for some type of financing, whether with partners, venture capital, or even an IPO.”
If an IPO becomes a reality, the dot-com identity couldn’t hurt, he says.
“The dot-com certainly creates a lot of excitement in a company name, but even beyond the hype, if we can use the leverage of the Web to drive business, we can grow our company without the associated overhead.”
Even some established high-tech firms are finding that, despite systems integration expertise, there are inherent hurdles in launching a dot-com and an e-com identity doesn’t always lead to an instant payoff.
Joseph Chou established his first endeavor, Pony Computer Inc., back in 1988 at age 30 but it was only last year that he attempted to blast off a dot-com as a separate entity from his Streetsboro systems integration firm.
Incorporated in March 1999 as AtHowTo.com, the name was changed to PlanetKnowHow.com early this year. The site, still in a developmental stage, is on the Net in beta format.
The site’s mission is to provide answers to information-hungry consumers on myriad subjects. Each answer, which will be presented in a step-by-step “how-to” format, will link users to vendors who sell products or services related to the topic. PlanetKnowHow plans to sell Web site design and maintenance services to those vendors, as well.
“The core business is to provide simple Web strategy solutions for small- to medium-size businesses that have the potential for rapid growth, using the Internet to create a competitive advantage in the marketplace,” Chou says.
But like many dot-coms, he admits, the scope is evolving as the market rapidly changes.
Matthew Reineke, chief operating officer, says that while Chou intended to use in-house capabilities to create the technology, programming and integration to implement his dot-com, “that tactic has proven to be too slow and too costly.”
While funding has come primarily from the dot-com’s founders and private individuals, Chou discloses plans to take PlanetKnowHow public before year-end, to speed international growth. To that end, Reineke confides that the firm is trying to align with partners to acquire enough funding.
“We have found that the easiest way to overcome the biggest challenges is to make partnerships and alliances with other companies and benefit from their experiences, while sharing our unique capabilities for their benefit in return,” he says.
Reineke says that the buzz behind the dot-com trend is part of the reason there’s a wealth of investment capital just waiting to back an Internet company, particularly those that provide a service. With that in mind, PlanetKnowHow.com is positioning itself for an IPO payoff.
“The Internet itself facilitates the publicity by making information so easily available on any company that an investor may be interested in,” says Reineke. “When investors hear of a good idea, they can immediately check it out by navigating the company’s Web site and seeing the potential for future growth. And that gets people excited.”
Similar to Silicon Valley, many of Ohio’s high-tech execs have huddled in the Twinsburg area. That’s where Edward Tromczynski, 37, and Bruce Harris, 52, are capitalizing on their dot-com concept that naysayers predicted would never make it.
What sprang as an idea to take their industry to the high-tech level has positioned PlanSoft Corp. as the leading Internet-based business-to-business solution provider in the $100 billion meeting and convention industry.
Their point-and-click solutions is made up of two elements: the Ajenis product suite, a software program the partners developed in 1992 that enables event planners to arrange meetings electronically;
and their Web-based PlanSoft Network, found at www.plansoft.com. Users can link to venues to view photos, images and capability specifications of selected national and international meeting facilities.
They can arrange every detail, from meeting site and supplier selection to housing, registration and other services, to bidding, contracting, and purchasing. Instant event reports enable planners to track up-to-the-minute registration and other details.
Tromczynski, PlanSoft’s president, says that while the site is free to planners, PlanSoft profits from property and supplier listings, banner ads and commissions earned from hotels and facilities booked.
Harris, as chairman, confides that at first, industry critics said the concept was too futuristic to make it to the finish line.
“Everyone involved realized that this connectivity and communication would take place electronically on the Internet via what is now referred to as a “dot-com” solution,” he says.
The partners brought key buyers and sellers to the table and made believers and supporters of them.
“Understanding the magnitude of unifying a $100 million vertical market, we recognized early on that it would require more than our individual efforts. So we secured equity ownership by the two largest groups of industry buyers Meeting Professionals International and the American Society of Association Executives and sellers specifically, Hyatt Hotels, Marriott International, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, as equity owners,” Tromczynski says.
Starting with an initial investment of $1 million, then a few million more in private commitments, the partners have secured more than $42 million in funding through strategic and venture capital investors, bringing the total investment to $46 million. An IPO is inevitable, says Tromczynski .
“Our plans and all subsequent investment activity are aimed toward considerable growth of the company, and we consider an IPO as a potential branding and growth financing event. But we haven’t yet established a definitive timeline,” he says.
When that time comes, PlanSoft’s dot-com moniker will be invaluable to the IPO, he says.
“We view an initial public offering as a branding event, and as we all know, dot-com companies and solutions providers are receiving high evaluations.”
While companies used to wait to publicize IPOs until the eve of going public, times have changed, says Tromczynski.
“Beyond idea, opportunity and management team, companies leveraging the Internet and considering the public market will need to secure and announce strong, relative partnerships, show multiple secure recurring revenue streams, identify existing revenue traction.”
While it may look as if PlanSoft is already on Easy Street, Tromczynski says there are inherent challenges in launching a dot-com.
“All Internet companies face awareness, adoption and retention issues. While we have a very targeted vertical market, we face many of the same challenges of moving the marketing, selling and buying process to the Web.”
To those who believe the dot-com trend will eventually die, Tromczynski declares, “The Internet is not a choice, nor a fad. Accept it, embrace it, and invest in it as it is a significant part of your future.
“Without it, it will be a significant part of your demise.”
How to reach: E-Debt Exchange Inc., (330) 670-8446; 4TechWork.com, 877-4TECHWORK, (877) 483-2496; PlanSoft Inc., (330) 405-5555; PlanetHowTo.com, (330) 528-3898
If you want to discuss rapid start-up, accelerated growth and IPO exit strategies, Jeff Clair wouldn’t be your likely source. But if you want to learn why some consider it crucial to take your own sweet time to build a successful business, pull up a chair.
Clair is president of a Canton firm that some refer to as “the dot-com behind the dot-coms,” partly because Data Direct Inc. (www.datadirect.com) develops and hosts Web sites, with an emphasis on e-commerce and database development. The designation also applies because Clair was a pioneer who launched the area’s first independent Internet firm, and he’s outlasted many new-sprung competitors despite his slow, strategic approach to growth.
Clair, 44, started his company in 1984 as a sole proprietorship. His initial focus was database development and Unix consulting, and his key customer was B.F. Goodrich. Ten years later, Clair decided the Internet had progressed to the point where it was time to quit his day job and incorporate his company. (He was an electronics and programming specialist at Aultman Hospital.)
“At that time, the Internet was predominately Unix-based, and that’s where our core competency was. So it was a natural evolution for us to get into the Web,” he says.
Back then, many sacrifices were necessary to build a successful Internet firm, says Clair, because the Web’s potency had not yet been proven in terms of a return on investment. Client education was a major part of every sales presentation, and to build a reputation and a portfolio, Clair designed many sites without charge, or for next to nothing.
Since then, the Internet has become a must-have marketing tool for every business, and Clair’s company has proven itself as a preferred provider. Still, he has taken small steps in moving his company up the ladder of success. Today, doing business at 4565 Dressler Road in Canton, Data Direct employs 10 people a staff Clair says is small, but strategic.
“I’ve watched other companies quickly spring from two to 50 employees, then lose their major clients and have to lay off their employees. I didn’t want that to happen to us, because the strength of this company lies in the expertise of our employees,” he says.
As for Data Direct’s clients, the CEOs and business managers of those companies credit Clair’s strategic specialization and appreciate his approach to growth.
Bill Jasso, vice president for public affairs at Time Warner in Northeast Ohio, says that in 1995, when Time was searching for site developers to help create Web content for the launch of Roadrunner, the nation’s first high-speed online computer service, Clair was selected for more than one reason.
“Here was a guy who grasped what we were looking for, which was someone who saw the advantages of creating Web content in a broadband environment,” Jasso says. “We also appreciated Jeff’s business sense. He wasn’t one of these get in, get rich and get out guys. He looked at this as a business for the long term, so we saw him as someone we could develop a long-term relationship with which is essential for any business activity.”
Mark Adams, president of The Rogers Company a Mentor-based tradeshow booth designer was one of Clair’s first clients. He, too, says Clair’s business approach was a deciding factor in doing business with Data Direct.
“When we hired Jeff to do our first Web site in 1995, I liked the fact that here was a guy trying to get a company going, and he was going at it with consistent, measured growth as opposed to stratospheric numbers,” says Adams, still a loyal Data Direct client.
The company’s numbers have reached $1.2 million in annual sales, a figure Clair says is notable considering he’s come this far on his own.
“I’ve looked at investors and venture capital, but I didn’t want to have to go that route because I wanted to keep control of the company and keep it headed in a specific direction,” says Clair.
Holding tight to the reins has necessitated insightful planning and creative thinking, he says, explaining that one of the ways he’s grown the numbers is by establishing strategic partnerships.
“Our strategy involved developing partnerships with local advertising agencies because, since the Web is an advertising vehicle, we knew they could offer their own clients Internet marketing options along with their other advertising efforts,” Clair says.
Among the alliances are those with Canton companies Crowl Montgomery & Clark Inc., Innis Maggiore Group and Covey & Koons Inc.
“Our partnership has worked well because we both have a firm understanding of what the Web can accomplish for a company,” says Rod McGregor, senior vice president of Crowl Montgomery & Clark. “Jeff also knows what he’s good at and he knows what we’re good at. We handle the strategic issues of marketing and operational directives of our clients’ Web sites, and he’s involved in the back-end decisions, like the database and e-commerce applications. So we’ve meshed well.”
Innis Maggiore president Dick Maggiore says that once his firm determines the creative direction for a client Web site, Data Direct tackles all the complicated, back-end applications.
“It’s a partnership in which we complement each other, and we’re able to provide our clients a complete package because Data Direct also houses some of our client sites on their server,” says Maggiore.
Covey & Koons president Rod A. Covey says, “It’s been a great partnership, great for our business and great for our clients, because Data Direct provides all the technical support we need.”
To provide that technical support and solve problems for clients, Clair has made strategic investments in technology.
“We’ve constantly added and upgraded new equipment in the past few years, and Oracle was probably our biggest investment in one fell swoop,” Clair says, confiding that the Oracle software a $100,000 investment enhanced Data Direct’s e-commerce site development capabilities.
For example, when Myers Tire Supply wanted to expand its market and move into e-commerce, Data Direct used the Oracle software to build a database that enables multiple searches, including keyword, manufacturer, product code and pull down menus. Oracle was also used to develop the database for Stark County Family Council’s site which provides resource referrals to the community and transmits user requests to more than 130 cooperating agencies.
“We’ve also made significant investments in the servers in our T-1 connectivity to the Internet,” says Clair, noting Data Direct began offering hosting solutions five years ago.
But Clair’s colleagues say he’s been careful not to overinvest in technology.
“A lot of Web companies have gone under because the tendency too often is to become enamored with the latest and greatest of technologies,” says McGregor. “Jeff knows that in this business, you can’t overcommit to capital expenditures of technology. You have to have the business in hand before you start committing all sorts of funds for growth. He’s taken a more structured and conservative approach than what you might find in a similar operation of his size.”
Clair has also been careful to stick with his specialty, rather than trying to offer every Web-related service. As the Internet became more widely used and companies increasingly wanted to have more than just a static Web presence, Clair strengthened his forte to meet their needs.
“Rather than putting up brochure-type Web sites, we moved into the interactive and database arenas, because that’s where our expertise was, and those are the areas that offer more benefits to the client and the consumer,” he says.
Clair recalls that his first e-commerce client was Conferon, a Twinsburg seminar-management firm for which Data Direct designed online registration sites, collected registration and ordered information entered by users, encrypted the data and electronically forwarded it to the client.
From there, Clair started providing myriad e-commerce solutions for other companies from order processing and fulfillment services to intensive database design and interactive site development.
He was also careful not to offer off-the-shelf packages that didn’t specifically meet a client’s need.
“We decided to specialize in finding solutions for clients by sitting down with them, listening to what they really needed, and designing solutions especially for them,” says Clair.
More than anything, Clair says he’s learned from experience.
“As far as the planning goes, a lot of my growth has been planned, but so much of it is experience as I go, from cash management to sales and marketing. You have to wear so many different hats and it’s an enormous education process. But I’ve learned so much about running a business and what it takes to survive,” he says.
Clair says he plans to guide Data Direct into the new millennium by expanding e-business development with regard to extranets and intranets.
“Extranets and intranets can be applied to a variety of scenarios to take e-commerce to a different level of business. Our Oracle partnership strengthens our product offering and we can confidently focus on developing this area,” he says.
He also plans to strengthen strategic partnerships crucial to his success.
“We’ve worked hard in the past year by analyzing the market and identifying our own strengths and weaknesses. This year we will pursue strategic alliances to assist with areas outside of our core competencies,” he says.
“We’ve already the felt the effect of our focus on these areas, and I’m confident that we will meet our goals.” How to reach: Data Direct Inc. (330) 499-0692; (888) 438-6768 www.datadirect.com
Daniel Colantone lives by his watch, his desk clock and his daily planner.
The president and CEO of the region’s largest business association says that after having his personality assessed through a Briggs-Meyers test several years ago, he realized that he needed a rigid schedule. And that was OK.
These days, that rigidity is well-suited to Colantone’s position. As head of the Akron Regional Development Board, he is charged with managing a $2.5 million budget and 26 employees, and fulfilling the lofty mission of the 25-year-old organization: to facilitate economic growth in the region. A membership of 2,000 businesses, and a board of directors that includes company presidents, congressmen and other local chamber presidents, holds him accountable.
With that kind of pressure, he can’t afford to get off schedule.
In January, Colantone was chosen to succeed Dick Erickson, who left the ARDB last fall to head a new regional business coalition.
Prior to his appointment, Colantone served as president and CEO of the Manhattan, Kan., chamber of commerce. His accomplishments there, including boosting membership, developing a public policy agenda and creating a 5-year strategic plan, resulted in the chamber being awarded Number One Chamber in the Nation by the National Association of Membership Development, an affiliate of the American Chamber of Commerce Executive Association.
Colantone has also held marketing positions with the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Raleigh, N.C., Chamber of Commerce.
He comes to the ARDB at a crucial time. Next month, the board will announce its decision to move its headquarters to a new downtown location. As of now, a recommendation has been approved by the board, but the lease has not been signed. The objectives for the move are to provide better image and visibility for the organization and to provide improved space and better functionality for all of its divisions and partnerships. The larger space will also be set up to accommodate features including a business resource and technology center, more meeting rooms and a training center.
After just 90 days on the job, Colantone spoke to SBN about how he hopes to accomplish the goals laid out before him. We thought our readers should better understand the objectives of the man charged with “facilitating economic and business growth” in the area.
What exactly is the mission of the ARDB and how does it differ from other local chambers of commerce?
The ARDB’s mission is to promote and facilitate economic and business growth and prosperity to benefit the people and businesses of the region by providing a continuing source of business services information and advocacy.
The ARDB is a combined chamber of commerce and economic development organization within one organization. As a chamber of commerce, we’re a business of 26 professionals who support the needs of business; but we’re also an economic development organization whose goal is to foster economic prosperity in the region.
You will find some communities that just have a chamber of commerce and some that have separate chambers of commerce and economic development organizations. You’ll also find communities that are similar to the ARDB that will have both of those organizations within one organization.
What is No. 1 on your priority list today?
My No. 1 priority is to develop a regional economic development marketing strategy for the tri-county region; a marketing strategy that will sell the region to businesses that are already here; and sell to businesses outside the region to relocate here.
Give an example of something you do every day to work toward that goal.
Each and every day there are different tactics that we have in place to meet that objective. Different strategies that we’re working include a retention and expansion program, where we go out and visit companies; an effort to work with our industrial clusters initiative, which works with the core competencies of a community to help determine what their challenges are, what their needs are to not only exist in today’s marketplace, but to position themselves for the new economy.
Looking at the business community in Akron, what is its biggest weakness right now?
I want to consider weaknesses as challenges. Our biggest challenge is to foster the agendas of business, education and government in a cohesive vision to build the community. That’s our biggest challenge.
Has that been done before?
It’s been done, historically. It’s been something that all communities wrestle with. When I look at the Akron region, I look at it as a product. A product that we sell collectively together with our community partners.
That product is the region, and we’re competing in a global marketplace. As a result of that, the biggest challenge we face is that education leaders, government leaders and business leaders who obviously all have their own missions work together to create quality of life for all the citizens of the community. I think that’s our biggest challenge bringing us all together working on one goal.
Where would you rank this collective effort among your top goals for the ARDB?
No. 1, we have to build upon our strengths; we have strong industrial clusters in the community, and we have to create an economic development marketing strategy to build upon our past successes and build jobs in those industry clusters.
No. 2, we need to better build the infrastructure and capacity for small- and medium-sized businesses to be more profitable. We need to provide better business services, information and education to the existing business community to better position themselves to compete in the marketplace.
No. 3 is to foster regional cooperation with business, government and education. We need to build a coalition of those three entities in a cohesive way that will help identify our real priorities building the community of the future.
I could almost give a fourth one, and as the premier advocate for business, we need to be more proactive in advocating the business agenda. We need to not only develop a public policy document, a legislative initiatives document, but we need to develop a tactical plan to articulate our position to government, education and business and encourage them to embrace that agenda.
Looking at those four priorities, how much have you altered them from what existed before you arrived at the ARDB?
Under Dick Erickson’s leadership, I think the organization went through the changes necessary to set the foundation for these four initiatives. Historically, the ARDB has had 25 years of success. Under Dick’s leadership, he set the foundation for us and really helped to position us where we are today. My perspective on it now is to take what’s been done and help foster additional leadership in the community to really focus in on these core strategies.
How do you plan to foster leadership in the community?
I think the network’s already there. I think we have leadership within the organization on our executive committee, on the board of trustees and on committees and task forces. Now as we initiate projects and activities, we need to continue to communicate our message to the other members of the business community: what our priorities are, where the needs are and where they might play a role in being active in helping us to meet those goals.
How are you taking a personal role in accomplishing that?
I believe my job is to do two things. One is to market the organization in the community and to be the spokesperson for the organization in the community on all the reasons why the Akron region is a great place to do business. No. 2 is to be out there developing and cultivating leadership for our organization in the community.
What is your biggest personal strength that helps you fulfill your role?
My No. 1 strength is in sales and marketing.
What is your biggest weakness?
Probably patience. I think taking one day at a time is very important. Success doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes I need to be a little more patient.
What advice or experience that you picked up along the way do you rely on on a regular basis?
My spiritual journey, my faith and my family. I think what’s important each and every day is that you’re making a difference in other people’s lives, you’re contributing to others. I’ve learned over the years that if you can make others successful and make a difference in their lives, you’re really making a contribution. I think that ties to why I have such passion for this business, because I feel that if I am part of building a community, I’m making a contribution that makes a difference in other people’s lives for years.
If you could ask one thing of the business community to help you with your job, what would that be?
I would ask the business community to re-engage themselves in the Akron Regional Development Board. I would ask the business community to invest in the Akron Regional Development Board either through financial support or by volunteering their time and energy, because we do represent all 20,000 businesses in the region.
I would ask them to re-evaluate the mission and the goals of the organization, because we’re the only organization that represents all businesses in the region and the only organization that’s really marketing the region as the place to do business.
And what can you promise in return?
In general, a much stronger, vibrant, stimulated economy in which to do business. If businesses invest in an organization like the ARDB, they’re going to get dividends back. The big picture is creating a prosperous, vibrant economy, and that’s one in which all businesses can thrive and prosper. By businesses prospering and being more profitable, they’re offering better employment opportunities, and better employment opportunities means that the resources are increased to provide a better quality of life for all citizens.
Whose support do you need in terms of Akron’s leadership?
Obviously, the most important support is from the private sector. The business leadership of all size com
panies in the region needs to be re-engaged. No. 2, the leadership of education at the university level, both at the University of Akron and Kent State University. We also need the leaders of city and county governments and we need our state and federal political leadership to be at the table helping us to build the community.
How important is it for you to have a good relationship with other chambers in Northeast Ohio?
It’s absolutely imperative that we have a strong, passionate relationship with all of the chambers and economic development organizations in Northeast Ohio. Northeast Ohio is a product, so we all have to work together on improving that product. It’s also important on a global perspective for us to have good partnerships with all of the communities in Ohio as we sell against other states, and as we sell against European markets.
Where would you like the ARDB to be in five years?
No. 1, that we have delivered on our promises, and that is to be a stronger advocate for business, to have better quality products and services to offer to more businesses to help them be profitable, and that we’ve been at the table with our community partners and truly have instituted new initiates to better position the region in the new economy.
If I were in five years to look back and say, ‘Boy, we really marketed the organization, we grew the organization, we provided better quality services, we did a better job of being the premier advocate for business and we worked with our community partners to truly foster initiatives that are going to create a much better place to do business and to live,’ I will feel that I have contributed to making a difference.
Connie Swenson (email@example.com) is editor of SBN.
It used to be insignificant, says Humphrey, a fourth generation owner of Sills Motor Sales. Back in the 1960s and 70s in this business, you could run the business and still have lots of fun. It didnt take business acumen to be successful and keep your doors open. It was enthusiasts running an enthusiasts crowd and, oh yeah, by the way, you happened to make a lot of money.
All that changed in the late 1970s and early 80s, she says.
The business got to be extremely difficult. There was a wash-out of dealers because those that were enthusiastic but had no business skills were just along for the ride.
It was time, Humphrey recalls, when Sills did not offer benefits and had no standard policies in place.
But in the 80s, everything got more sophisticated, she says. I think its just a reflection of society in general. All of a sudden, people got to be keenly aware that theres more to life than (so many) dollars-per-hour.
Such was the shift within companies, when employees began to stand up and demand more than money. Since then, business owners have examined and in some cases, implemented total benefits package. Today, they also need to make sure their employees know about everything that is available to them.
You can lose people, not just because of pay but because of the other conditions of employment, which include benefits, explains Laura Sullivan, director of HR support services at the Employers Resource Council and a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist. There are certain things in benefits packages that may be more alluring to people.
One common mistake employers make is not explaining the benefits package thoroughly enough. Workers are usually familiar with conventional health, dental, life and disability insurance, but other benefits are less clear. On average, benefits account for 27 to 30 percent of an employees total compensation.
Thats why its so important to give them a statement so they see that, Sullivan says. I totally believe in benefit statements or total compensation statements. If somebody is being lured away, they will need that information to make a better choice. If they dont realize the value of the whole package that you provide to them, they could jump ship without making a very good decision.
This also is important when youre looking to hire. Whether a potential employee goes to work for you or for your competitor might be decided by how well you explain your flexible spending account and retirement programs. Employees need to understand the impact these can have on their salary and their taxes.
Its very, very important that they understand all their choices so that they can make the right choice for themselves, Sullivan says. Its like an employee handbook. If you have it and you dont let anybody know what the rules are you want them to follow, youve probably wasted a lot of time and money.
Some benefits are more obvious than others. Casual days, flex time and cash bonuses might be pretty cut and dried, but how many of your employees remember you have a tuition reimbursement program or that you assist with childcare expenses?
Educating your employees on the benefits you offer is a way of making them happier and more productive. It gets them closer to being self-actualized, says Sullivan, borrowing from psychologist Abraham Maslows well-known hierarchy.
As a general rule, the smaller the company, the less likely management will focus attention on the issue of benefits.
I think that larger corporations or the more technologically adept corporations are the most advanced in their HR practices, including benefits, Sullivan says. The reason for that is because they usually have more ability financially to provide for some of these benefits. For years, theyve provided standard benefits. Now people are looking for some other new kinds of resources like concierge sources and things like that. The smaller companies are more concerned about wages.
Humphrey is one of those owners who runs a smaller company but remains distinctly aware of how important benefits are.
If you want to survive, you have to come up with something and you have to start from square one, she says. Today, I look at it every three or four months and try to make a judgment as to whats going to happen next year. I look at what I can afford and what I can add for my employees that is going to be meaningful.
There are many services that companies of any size can provide at little or no cost, such as payroll deductions. Heres how they work: An insurance company offers a companys employees a discount on insurance home, rental or auto. A payroll deduction is used to cover each employees payment, then one check is cut and sent to the insurance company. Employees get a group discount, and in some cases, it helps those who would otherwise be unable to attain that level of coverage.
Employees love that, Sullivan says. Its a really easy thing to do.
How to reach: Sills Motor Sales, (216) 749-1363; Employers Resource Council, (216) 696-3636
Daniel G. Jacobs (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior editor of SBN.