Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

Blind faith

Whose who passed through downtown Cleveland one afternoon last August may still be wondering what 100 management and sales executives from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield were doing in the middle of Public Square with a box of ropes, props and blindfolds.

But for those attending Anthem’s annual sales conference, the afternoon of problem-solving exercises was much more than simple fun and games. It was a way to illustrate the power and innovation which can be developed through teamwork.

Since 1974, the Cleveland Heights-based Institute for Creative Living has staged these programs for more than 400 organizations and corporations, including NASA, KeyCorp, Leadership Cleveland and Ohio Aerospace Institute.

Adding the teambuilding exercises to Anthem’s annual sales conference earned high marks from participants, says Jeanne Hauer, Anthem director of regional marketing. And it left those who did not take part with the sense that they had missed out on a valuable experience.

Some may wonder about the real-world benefits of these types of exercises, but Hauer is an advocate of their ability to unlock a strong team mentality that carries on long after employees return to the office.

“I have participated in the team-building exercises where you sit around and have a boat with five guys and only three can survive,” says Hauer. “I don’t think they have the lasting value that actual physical, experiential teambuilding has. I think it breaks down some of the barriers more effectively than just talking about team.”

The August program in Public Square was the nonprofit organization’s first major off-site teambuilding session. The sessions usually take place at the Institute’s training and conference facility in the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley Recreational Area.

Director Marcia Mauter, who has headed the organization since 1981, says the content of the programs depends on what a company hopes to gain from the experience.

“Sometimes a group will say, ‘We’re really having difficulty building consensus, do you have anything that will help us with that?’ or, ‘We’re having a difficult time with communication blocks,’” explains Mauter. “Our groups may say, ‘We really need help in how we give feedback to each other,’ or, ‘We don’t understand it enough to know how to do it effectively.’”

The Institute’s staff helps remove these obstacles through unique curricula and outdoor challenges in which co-workers must pull together to figure out how to accomplish various physical tasks. Level one exercises begin with solving problems at the ground level. The second step often involves obstacles of seven to 10 feet in height. The third level offers aerial challenges more than 30 feet off the ground.

“The initiatives, all of them, tap your intellectual capabilities, your social abilities to pull things together and your physical abilities to a smaller degree,” says Mauter. “It reveals the diversity of thoughts, the diversity of experience and what everybody has to offer and draw upon. That’s what people are here to discover.”

Participants can choose to focus on a range of topics, including teambuilding and leadership development, facilitator training and diversity training. Mauter says some executives conduct programs for their workers each year as a way to continuously strengthen relationships with and between employees.

“Building on your leadership and team development skills is like a race without a finish,” says Mauter. “(These programs) are an opportunity to help individuals and groups collectively understand what is it they do or don’t do that helps or hinders what kind of outcomes they want. Within that simple statement are lifetimes of struggle.”

How to reach: Institute for Creative Living, (216) 932-3785

Jim Vickers (jvickers@sbnnet.com) is an associate editor at SBN.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

An $80 billion dollar revolution

When Jerry M. Hultin was named Under Secretary of the Navy in 1997, he brought a no-nonsense business background that helped him quickly realize the military is not a perfect model of business efficiency.

In fact, the Navy’s business practices seemed to be drifting ever further from how executives in the private sector keep their organizations healthy.

Buoyed by an $80 billion annual budget, however, the cracks in the system were not immediately apparent. Hultin initially had a difficult time convincing military brass that it was time for change.

“When I walked in with the plan, all the admirals said, ‘It isn’t broke, why do you want to fix it?’” Hultin recently told a lunchtime crowd at The City Club of Cleveland.

Nevertheless, he kept plugging away and ultimately drafted a plan titled “Revolution in Business Affairs: Department of the Navy Business Vision and Goals,” which won the endorsement of Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig, as well as Adm. Jay L. Johnson, Chief of Naval Operations. Inside of 24 months, Hultin has instituted sweeping changes on the business side of running a fighting force that he believes will lead to a more efficient Navy for the United States to take into the 21st century.

Here are a few tips on how Hultin set his revolution in motion:

Streamline your operation

One of the first problems Hultin noticed was inefficiency in the staffing of Navy destroyers. The ships routinely held a crew of 300 — about three times the necessary size — while most of the men and women on board spent their days completing menial tasks.

“They were chipping paint and peeling potatoes when we’ve spent $100,000 training them to be fire control technicians,” says Hultin. “They are professional young men and women and we ought to treat them that way.”

Now, new Navy destroyers are built for streamlined crews of 100, Hultin says, which provides enlisted personnel with actual quarters in which to live, rather than the traditional bunk and locker way of life.

Give your employees a voice

What would you do with a blank piece of paper, 30 days to think and $80 billion? Thanks to Hultin’s influence, the Navy now asks its newest recruits how they would spend its massive budget to build a better fighting force.

The idea behind the exercise is to breed innovation, and ultimately, improve the Navy’s business process as new ideas are suggested.

“I tell them to build the Navy they think we should take into the 21st century, not the one they have been given,” explains Hultin. “I may not adopt every idea, but I’ll learn a lot from them.”

Don’t overextend your resources.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Navy missions have increased 500 percent, a figure that Hultin finds very disturbing in an age in which the Cold War exists only in history books.

“We’re trying to cram too many missions into what looks like an enormous amount of money,” he says. “But here we are trying to keep up with all we used to do and all the new. It doesn’t work.”

Hultin says it comes down to deciding to strategically invest time, resources and money where it will have the biggest impact. For him, that means a future in which the Navy will try to settle disputes before they mushroom into full-blown conflicts, which always costs more money, time and resources.

“We must learn to shape the world before the conflict occurs,” he says. “When conflict results, we have many times failed.”

Sell your vision to others

As the Clinton administration enters its final stretch, Hultin realizes he may be out of work once a new administration takes up residence at the White House. He realized this long ago, however, and devised a plan to get others on board so his overhaul of the Navy’s business practices would be carried on long after he left.

“I invested the time to go to the admirals who are there and say, ‘We need this.’ It’s now being run by a committee of admirals and generals, not me. That means it will persist when I’m gone.”

How to reach: Department of the Navy, www.hq.navy.mil

Jim Vickers (jvickers@sbnnet.com) is an associate editor at SBN.

Published in Cleveland
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

The lasting impression

The special event is a marketing technique that can make a favorable and long-lasting impression.

Annual meetings, open houses, dinner meetings with customer groups, sales meetings, even having a hospitality suite at a trade show, all qualify as a special event.

Pulling off a special event in memorable fashion comes down to a single point: Taking care of the details.

The invitation list

Staging the event is only half the effort. Convincing the right people to attend is the other half. Many companies leave this detail until the last minute.

If you do, some people will receive their invitations too late to place your event on their schedules. Start working on the list as soon as you begin planning the event.

Location

If the location isn’t predetermined, select one that is convenient to most of the people attending. Making it easy for your audience to get there will increase attendance.

Don’t forget to consider road construction schedules. Deal with construction by letting everyone know it’s there, giving them details on how to get around it and urging them to get an early start to the event site. Provide something to do for those who arrive early.

Speakers

Consider bringing in a speaker to liven up the event and help get your message across. An organization moving from one downtown location to another not long ago wanted to prepare its employees and customers for the move.

We brought in the producer/narrator of a local television series about Pittsburgh people and places. He had delightful, behind-the-scenes stories which he interspersed with film clips from the series. We arranged for him to focus on the people and places that make the Strip District unique. So, much of what he said focused on his film about the Strip.

It was a little detail, and it paid off. The audiences loved the presentations. And they began to get a subtle message that the move was going to be good for everyone.

You don’t always have to budget large sums of money to get them onto the stage. The TV producer didn’t charge anything for his appearances. He liked the opportunity to promote his films, and he absolutely delighted in telling stories about how he made them.

With any speaker, consider budgeting for audio/visual support. Your location can be ideal and the speaker may be great, but if you need A/V support, and the A/V system isn’t up to par, you’ll lose the opportunity to tell the audience what you want them to know.

Consider hiring a local A/V firm to bring in a system. Your site already may have its own A/V system, but if the sound or projector fails during your event and you can’t switch over to the second system, the party’s over. Use the hotel system as a back-up. The professional A/V firm is going to have better equipment — and it will work.

The size of the room dictates when you need a microphone and screen. If you’re talking to a group of 50 or more people, you may need the mike, and you’ll likely need a screen as well.

The evaluation

At the end of the event, don’t forget to ask the members of your audience to fill out an evaluation form and ask them to provide you with suggestions for the next gathering. It may provide you with surprising information.

Attention to detail. Every detail. That’s what makes a special event special.

Jeff Krakoff is the president of Krakoff Communications, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based marketing communications and public relations agency. KCI is the agency of record for First Night Pittsburgh, the region’s largest annual special event For a free copy of KCI’s meeting/special event check list, call Jeff Krakoff at (412) 434-7718.

Published in Pittsburgh
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

Creating a new environment

Georgiana Riley relishes being in the thick of things in her business.

“I love to get out with the reps; I love to get in front of the customers,” says Riley, owner and president of TIGG Corp., a Bridgeville-based environmental engineering firm.

Few could doubt the value of a hands-on executive who possesses the sales and marketing know-how that Riley does, and the bottom-line pressure that small businesses feel means that, yes, at times, she has had to step in to smooth over a problem or close a deal with a client.

But making the transition from company executive to business owner has meant that her view had to become more strategic than tactical. Riley says she realizes that to survive in the industry and put TIGG firmly in the black, she’s going to have to resist the temptation at times to throw herself into the fray of the day-to-day.

Riley clearly likes to stay on the fast track. In addition to her responsibilities at TIGG, she serves as a township supervisor in Independence Township and helps her husband run their Foxfire Farm, where they raise purebred Angus cattle.

She spent most of her career selling for big companies in the chemical industry and, more recently, spent four years in sales at TIGG before becoming its president and, ultimately, its owner, last year.

She joined TIGG in 1993 as director of sales, and by 1996 was president, leading the company to a 25 percent increase in revenue. TIGG came off a record year in 1997, only to turn in a disappointing performance in 1998. Last year was better, says Riley, and she expects the company to return to profitability in 2000.

TIGG was founded in 1978 by Don Tigglebeck and his wife, Carole, as a manufacturer’s representative and chemical trader in plastics and intermediates. In 1980, TIGG recognized a growing market for pre-engineered, ready-to-use modular “adsorbers,” particularly in the emerging pollution control market.

Adsorption technology is used in a variety of applications. It can, for example, remove toxic chemicals from ground water, surface water or waste water, or toxic or odorous gasses from storage tank vents or paint spray booths. It also can be used to recover valuable solvents in manufacturing processes.

It involves the use of an adsorption medium, such as activated carbon. TIGG also provides other methods, such as ion exchange and oil/water separation systems.

More recently, the business has evolved into a more comprehensive solutions provider, offering engineering, consulting and turnkey solutions for its customers, in addition to off-the-shelf solutions.

Surviving in a big pond

In the early 1990s, Riley says, the market for TIGG’s products grew increasingly competitive as industry consolidation took place, squeezing margins and hurting small suppliers like TIGG. Meanwhile, the federal Superfund Program, established in 1980, and more stringent environmental regulations are creating a need for remediation efforts, retrofits of older facilities and new installations of pollution control equipment, all expanding opportunities for firms in the environmental industry.

Although TIGG is a relatively small player, Riley says, she realized even before she acquired the company that there were opportunities to improve its performance. She is guiding the company by playing to its strengths and working in collaborative ways with other companies in the industry, as well as improving its information systems, restructuring its marketing effort and ramping up its manufacturing capabilities.

Retooling the plant

Riley saw that one of the strengths of TIGG is its 60,000-square-foot in-house manufacturing facility on a 10-acre site in Heber Springs, Ark., where the company fabricates tanks, ranging in capacity from 20 gallons to 1,600 gallons, and other equipment for treatment systems.

Last year, Riley hired a superintendent for the plant, to not only supervise operations, but to make recommendations for improvements to make the facility more productive. Following his suggestions, TIGG is investing in new welding and handling equipment, which Riley says will increase output without requiring additional labor and bring in house some of the work that was being subcontracted to outside vendors.

Finding the opportunities

TIGG used to rely solely on its in-house sales team to generate leads and identify projects. But Riley found that referrals from manufacturers’ representatives in other, complementary businesses were feeding business to TIGG.

She put together a network of manufacturers’ representatives to identify opportunities for TIGG through their day-to-day selling activities. The company now has 10 such representatives in a variety of related fields, ranging from chemical processing to remediation, concentrated in the eastern United States.

Now, TIGG’s in-house sales team acts in a support role for the manufacturers’ reps. The arrangement has worked well, says Riley, and usually involves TIGG providing some component of the project or taking on management of the entire project.

That allows it to get in on projects it might otherwise not have been able to take on and share the risk with one or more partners. The company manages six to 10 such ventures a year, a number that Riley would like to see grow in the future.

Finding an adviser

Riley realized it was naïve to believe she could lead the company without any outside counseling, and found PowerLink, an organization that assembles groups of business experts to act as boards of directors for growing businesses.

This year, TIGG will have the benefit of a board of directors from PowerLink that will help Riley guide the company. A group of seasoned business executives, she hopes, will help her stay focused on the big picture.

Says Riley: “The hardest thing for me to do is to step back.”

How to reach: TIGG Corp., (412) 257-9580 or www.tigg.com

Ray Marano (rmarano@sbnnet.com) is an associate editor at SBN.

Published in Pittsburgh
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

Rebirth of a salesman

Willy Loman might have set lofty goals for himself to succeed as a salesman, but today’s account executive is expected to leap tall buildings to service clients.

Formerly thought of as an order-taker, today’s salesperson must perform far beyond the traditional role of a salesman. Salespeople are obligated to handle everything, from educating the client on how processes work to coordinating sales and service, to resolving billing discrepancies, hand-delivering product and more.

“Every one of those requirements applies to my position,” says Julie LeMay, a sales engineer at The Timken Co. in Canton. “We’re expected to solve any problem — ordering, production, application, shipping, billing — we help in any fashion related to customer needs.”

Paul Benevich may have the title of account executive at Printing Concepts Inc. in Stow, but he manages every aspect of printing, from ensuring the customer understands the best quality paper and ink to use for the lowest price to making sure client files download properly for printing, to delivering the finished product and then some.

“In my business, a salesperson has to be more of a consultant than just an order-taker, because there are so many variables than can change the price dramatically,” Benevich says. “And since I consider it my job to save the client as much money as possible, that requires having the knowledge to anticipate potential problems before they happen.”

Benevich and LeMay concur that the goal of salespeople is to win business and keep clients happy. To do that, they must also act as decision-making CEOs. But they can only do that with the support of their organizations.

“Timken gives us the authority to represent our customer,” LeMay says. “We’re the customer’s voice, so if there’s something they need that’s out of the norm for Timken, we work to bend and change the rules to make things happen for the customer.”

As Benevich puts it, “My boss says that an executive is somebody who has the authority to change the rules in certain circumstances. So I have the responsibility and authority to change whatever the standard procedure is and do it a different way — the way you know the customer wants it done.”

In today’s competitive sales arena, more effort and knowledge are also required of salespeople so they can differentiate their products and add legitimate value to their services.

LeMay says that with the influx of steel bar producers and the decrease in product demand, the steel industry has become extremely competitive. That, in turn, places more demands on her as a salesperson.

“You must now set your company apart from the others by offering services like application support, cost cutting ideas and other value-added services,” LeMay says.

LeMay says today’s customer wants a single contact who can answer all questions and solve any and all problems related to the product. To be effective problem-solvers, salespeople must amass limitless knowledge about their products and services, their industries and business in general.

“I think almost all of us in sales are being forced to continually gain knowledge so we can answer every customer’s question,” says LeMay. “And we’re expected to know all sides of the business. A lot of sales engineers are now going back to school to get a business degree to be able to understand that portion of the business, so they can relate to customers.”

LeMay confides that she, too, is pursuing a degree, even though she formerly worked in Timken’s research group.

“That has helped me tremendously in the technical area, because we’re constantly being asked not just the typical sales questions, but we’re asked all the theories behind what we’re selling,” she says. “We’re expected to be technical experts, not just the people who make their steel get there on time.”

Benevich must also keep apprised of changes in production technology and techniques.

“As new pre-press equipment is developed and different computer software comes in, it can change the way you manufacture a piece,” he says. “I must also know how to best advise my customers about design changes they can make that will save them X number of dollars.”

Using the example of a piece designed for a mailing, Benevich explains that even a small change such as paper size and weight can dramatically alter the cost of production. And if it’s not designed in compliance with postal requirements, or if it’s folded incorrectly, it may be disqualified from postage automation discounts.

Benevich says he also acts as a consultant when a client is having a creativity crisis.

“A client might have an idea that’s vague and not very concrete, so you might have to spend a lot of time to figure out how to make it work, or to determine if it’s even possible,” he says.

Above all, says Benevich, a salesperson must serve as the client’s advocate inside the shop.

“I’m the one who walks the customer’s project through the entire process, making sure the artwork is done on time, proofs are delivered to the customer, the customer signs off, and that we print and deliver the job on time.”

With 25 years experience in the business, Benevich says a salesperson’s job today is completely different than it was 10 or 20 years ago.

“Back then, the customer’s expectations weren’t as demanding,” he says. “Now, because of technology and just-in-time delivery, companies want it right, and they want it right now.”

Diana McGonigal of Bruner-Cox LLP — a client of Printing Concepts — describes Benevich as “a salesperson who does whatever it takes to make things right.”

“I’m glad they think that, because that’s really what I do,” says Benevich. “The customer is the most important thing — and like the old saying, ‘The customer is always right’ — in any business, that’s how they should be treated.”

How to reach: The Timken Co., (330) 438-3000; Printing Concepts Inc., (330) 572-8200

Published in Akron/Canton
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

Moving toward centralization

The good news was that Meter Devices Co. Inc. had quadrupled its business in the last decade, due in part to the utility industry deregulation.

The down side was that, because the company’s manufacturing operations, offices and employees were scattered between two Canton locations, chaos was inevitable unless the company centralized.

“Our Prospect Street location manufactured one series of product, and the Third Street operation manufactured another,” says John Shincovich, group vice president. “And our engineering, operations, purchasing, accounting, marketing and other departments were separated.”

That arrangement necessitated a lot of schlepping between locations, and too much reliance on electronic communications, says Shincovich. Not an efficient arrangement when you’re the world’s premier supplier and market share leader of products for meter, relay and test switches, selling to utility companies around the world.

Along with parent company E.J. Brooks Co. in Livingston, N.J., Meter Devices serves customers in more than 60 countries.

“Because our business had expanded so much and continues to grow, we needed to take the big step to move our operations and 70 employees,” says Shincovich.

Out with the old, in with the new. The first month of 2000 saw the 82-year-old company move to its new home on Bruening Avenue S.W. in Canton. The facility — at a cost of $3.2 million — is set on 10 acres and boasts 57,980 square feet of manufacturing space, a 7,400-square-foot office area and 9,620 square feet for leased offices.

The total square footage represents a 50 percent jump in size from the former headquarters.

Such a consolidation required coordination of countless details, says Shincovich. That took months of preparation — not just in terms of the company’s needs, but in consideration of its more than 3,000 customers.

“To minimize inconvenience to the customer, the game plan was to start operations at the new facility in parallel with existing operations,” Shincovich explains. “As those simultaneous operations continued and we completed all orders required to be shipped, we eventually pulled the plug at the old facility, department by department, in an organized way to prevent product shipment delays and minimize chaos.”

Shincovich says the parallel operations plan also prevented downtime.

“It was the easiest way to keep the customers happy,” he says.

The new facility will take the company from a small business to a medium-sized manufacturing firm, says Shincovich. This year, Meter Devices will begin the ISO 9001 process to become certified as a world class quality producer, and will add about $1.5 million in new automated equipment to produce higher quality product and reduce manufacturing costs.

The company is also adding new product lines, which will lead to an expansion of its work force.

“And the new facility will enable our employees to better communicate and develop relationships with each other,” he says, noting that this month, the company is bringing in communication and relationship-building experts to facilitate that goal.

“As a result, we’ll be a stronger, team-oriented operation.”

How to reach: Meter Devices Co., (330) 455-0301

Published in Akron/Canton
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:45

Money matters

Technology has changed the way business is conducted. What is cutting edge one day is obsolete the next.

This is evidenced by $48 billion in computer hardware sales in the United States in 1998 alone, according to PC Data. The boom in computers and technology has led to increased financing needs for local tech firms.

That’s where Columbus Countywide Development Corp., a nonprofit small business lender, can help.

Randy Wilcox, owner of SARCOM Inc., bought a new building for his growing computer products and services company with only a 10 percent down payment by using the U.S. Small Business Administration 504 Loan Program through Columbus Countywide. The SBA 504 loan program offers financing to healthy, growing, small businesses for land, buildings, machinery or equipment.

SARCOM worked with Delaware County Bank to secure its loan. The local bank finances 50 percent of the total loan amount, the business owner contributes 10 percent and Columbus Countywide finances the remaining 40 percent.

Another option for qualifying business owners is to finance technology through the SBA’s Pre-Qualified Loan Program. Columbus Countywide helps businesses acquire a loan guarantee from the SBA as an initial step in the financing process. Owners can then use this guarantee to obtain a traditional bank loan.

This program targets rural, women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses and exporters, and helps businesses that lack collateral or a lengthy credit history finance a loan. Owners put up between 10 percent and 30 percent of the total loan amount as a down payment, depending on their bank’s requirements.

Columbus Countywide borrowers Kalyan Viswanathan and Forz Eledath, owners of Technology Advantage of Northwest Columbus, took advantage of this program to purchase equipment and to provide working capital for their IT computer consulting service business. They secured their pre-qualified loan through Huntington National Bank.

Other business owners face the challenge of keeping up with technological advances without going broke. As owners of Coyne Printing in Mount Vernon, Bob and Alice Coyne and their son, Kevin, used the Ohio 166 Loan Program to purchase a large die cutting press with a 10 percent down payment.

They were able to use this press, 50 percent of which was financed through Park National Bank, to expand their commercial printing and finishing business by adding a new product line. Columbus Countywide used state dollars to finance the other 40 percent of the loan.

The Ohio 166 program focuses primarily on helping manufacturing businesses grow by financing land, buildings, machinery and equipment.

Since 1981, Columbus Countywide has helped more than 600 small businesses obtain financing. It has approved more than $160 million in loans, which created more than 9,000 jobs and stimulated more than $350 million in new investments in the 13 counties Columbus Countywide serves.

For details on Columbus Countywide’s loan programs, visit www.ccdcorp.org or call 645-6171 in Franklin County or (888) 756-2232 toll-free from elsewhere.

Mark Barbash is executive director of Columbus Countywide Development Corp.

Published in Columbus
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:45

It’s an art

It’s often said that a picture is worth 1,000 words. So what are you saying to clients when they enter your lobby?

According to Stephen J. Knerly, CEO of Hahn Loeser Parks, the question is not whether you hang something on the walls of your business. Rather, it’s a matter of what you have and what you do with it.

At Knerly’s law firm, the answer has been found in acquiring and displaying original pieces of art.

“We have tried to reflect the community with something that stimulates people who work here and people who come to visit us,” says Knerly, speaking about the 15-year-old collection’s focus on Ohio artists.

The firm has a combined collection of approximately 80 pieces in its Cleveland and Columbus offices. Retired partner and art lover Richard A. Zellner redirected the firm’s art budget 10 years ago, making it focused with a theme and concept.

Barb Unverferth of Art Access, a Columbus company that helps select original art for corporations and residential spaces, reports an increased trend in corporate art collections. But it does not come without some considerations, she and corporate art collectors warn. These include:

  • Maintenance issues, such as where to place the artwork, whether to place it behind protective glass or roped-off areas, and how fragile a piece may be.

  • Additional insurance costs.

  • Who will be in the environment, although Unverferth says security is not a major issue for many firms since they are not buying at the level at which one piece would have a particularly high value.

Hahn Loeser Parks’ collection of contemporary pieces is purchased with a separate art budget of about $2,000 a year, which usually allows for one acquisition annually, says Kelly Blazek, director of marketing. Owned by the law firm, pieces in the collection have been purchased from artists, galleries and museums.

Artwork has been loaned to the Riffe Gallery, Cleveland Museum of Art and Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art. And each year, the company features one piece of work on its holiday greeting card.

People do take note of corporate art collections. Just ask Eydie Garlikov, principal of Garlikov Insurance Co. Shortly after she loaned a piece that had been on display in her company’s lobby to an exhibit, people from elsewhere in the building stuck their heads into the receptionist’s area and asked its whereabouts.

“I did it for us, and yet, other people noticed,” says Garlikov, whose company began collecting original artwork in 1979 after moving into new office space. “Rather than put money into decorations, as a reflection of our own personal interest in the arts, it was a nice way to provide a comfortable environment and expand the horizons of the people that work here.”

The downtown law firm of Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter has similar reasons for amassing its collection of approximately 75 pieces, which includes a number of artistic mediums. No one person is responsible for selecting the artwork. Instead, all employees make suggestions for acquiring artist originals.

“We wanted to try and build something that reflected the commitment of the firm to support the arts,” says Kathy Cheugh, director of administration, “and at the same time give people something nice to look at.”

Lori Murray (Lori3204@aol.com)is a freelance writer for SBN.

Published in Columbus
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:45

Walk the talk

In the mind of the customer, there may be no difference between your products or services and those of your competitors.

What separates you from the crowd, and in the mind of the client, is how you treat — and react to — the customer. The loyalty of those customers is only as good as the quality of their last experience. In simple terms, customer service is king.

To help your organization practice better customer service, Eric Harvey, president of the Walk the Talk Co., has put together a booklet, “180 Ways to Walk the Customer Service Talk: The How-To Handbook for Everyone in your Organization.”

How important is good customer service? According to a study conducted by The Forum Corp., and quoted in Harvey’s book, 65 percent of people who take their business elsewhere do so because of poor customer service. By comparison, only 15 percent leave because they find the product cheaper or because it is better.

On average, satisfied customers tell five people about the good service they received, while dissatisfied customers tell 10 about their difficult time.

Tip No. 81

“Don’t lose sight of the fact that you need your company as much as it needs you, and your company needs its customers more than they need it.”

The average company loses about 20 percent of its customers every year, says Patricia Sellers, author of “What Customers Really Want.” Maintaining customers is tough enough. Why have poor service drive them away?

According to the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, for every unsatisfied customer who complains, there are 26 other unhappy customers who say nothing. And 24 of those won’t come back.

Other tips

Tip No. 20 — “Never tell a customer that you can’t do something unless you immediately follow with a description of what you can do for them. Customer service is about doing — not explaining or rationalizing what you’re not doing.”

No. 137 — “Use the Internet. Participate in special interest groups and chat rooms that focus on customer service issues.”

No. 98 — “Give customers what they want, not what you think they ought to have.”

No. 76 — “Take pride in being able to solve customer problems. Remind yourself that anyone can handle the easy stuff — it takes a real pro to successfully tackle the tough issues. Keep a scorecard. Every time you fix a problem for someone, put a mark on your card. The more marks you have, the more fantastic you are.”

And it’s important to know when there is a problem. As Harvey says, “Complainers are great. They give you the opportunity to fix their problems and keep them as customers — instead of saying nothing and taking their business elsewhere.”

For more information or to order “The 180 Ways to Walk the Customer Service Talk” handbook, call (888) 822-WALK (9255) or visit the company’s Web site at www.walkthetalk.com.

Published in Cleveland
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:45

Stop, thief

Your company started small, and there were never any problems keeping track of computers and software.

But then the business grew, and so did the number of employees and computers. Software was transferred between machines, busy sales managers took programs home to install on their laptops, and who knows what’s on a few of the old terminals that no one uses anymore.

Therein lies the problem: You should know. All it takes is one disgruntled employee to call a hotline, and presto: a $10,000 fine for each copyright infringement. You never meant to have illegal copies of Microsoft Word, you just had sloppy bookkeeping, but the end result is the same. You get fined.

The Business Software Alliance has developed the following steps to help you determine what you have installed compared to what you have licenses for:

  • Take a physical inventory of the computers in your company. Count all computers (Macs and PCs), including servers, laptops and any that are not in use. If employees have loaded company-purchased software on their home computers, this should also be included. Gather information such as serial number, model, location and regular users.

  • Take inventory of all the software on all of the computers you identified in the physical inventory, including those not in use. (The BSA has a free program available on its Web site to assist in this process). Collect the following information for each copy of software installed on each computer: product name, version number and serial number. Make sure employees understand they should not add, delete or move any software from their machines during the audit.

  • Take inventory of all software documentation, including all disks and CDs used to install the software on the computers; all original manuals and reference documentation; all license documentation; and invoices or other proofs of purchase for software, including invoices for computers delivered with software already loaded.

  • Compare. At this point, you should have a complete picture of the software installed at your company and of the documentation demonstrating what software is legitimate. Carefully compare these two and determine how much of your software is actually licensed. Take into account whether there are multiple users of a single product and whether any associated license permits such use. Delete all copies of software for which you were unable to locate a license or other documentation supporting its legitimacy.

Once this is completed, set up a policy or procedure to make sure your company remains in compliance. One person should be in charge of this function, and after the initial inventory, should keep all data up to date for new purchases or licenses.

How to reach: Business Software Alliance, www.bsa.org

Todd Shryock (tshryock@sbnnet.com) is SBN’s special reports editor.

Published in Cleveland