Friday, 31 May 2013 20:00

The secret to business success

In my management consulting practice, I am frequently asked, “What is the key to business success?” I invariably tell clients that the answer is simple: employee buy-in.

If most of a business’s employees believe in the company, its leadership and its prospects, success is significantly easier to attain. Examine companies that have outperformed the competition in their industries, such as Southwest, Starbucks, Facebook and Google, and you will discover that they invest significant resources to generate employee buy-in and have subsequently benefitted handsomely from it.

Competitors frequently are able to replicate the business practices of these market leaders but are seldom able to achieve the same level of employee buy-in — the key to generating a powerful, intangible competitive advantage for businesses.

Employees who buy in are invariably passionate, energized, committed, dedicated and creative. With this frame of mind, they are far more valuable than those working to earn a paycheck by going through the motions of the job, let alone going the extra mile. They may even go out of their way to frustrate or sabotage the company’s success.

Getting the necessary conditions

While the concept of buy-in is relatively simple, achieving it takes a serious commitment. Buy-in is neither difficult nor costly to achieve, but several conditions must exist to generate that highly valuable disposition.

•           Employees need to understand the vision and direction of the business and recognize that they are realistic, attainable and motivating. To accomplish this, a business must have a comprehensive, up-to-date vision and strategic plan that is shared with employees in a manner they can understand and embrace.

SS&G Parkland’s research indicates that fewer than 10 percent of businesses have a comprehensive and up-to-date vision and strategic plan. And for those that do, only a tiny fraction of them share the plans with a significant number of employees. Employees who are not presented with a vision and plan that clearly communicate the path to success cannot be expected to buy-in.

•           Employee involvement and empowerment are key catalysts to buy-in. Those who are invited in and trusted to participate in determining the company’s direction invariably feel good about their role and their employer. Involvement and empowerment unleash pride, ownership, energy, and creativity — the key ingredients for buy-in.

•           While fair, respectful, consistent and honest interactions with employees will not by themselves generate buy-in, the absence of these qualities can critically undermine buy-in. Employees who are not treated well are not likely to feel good about the organization or its future.

Change in management style is needed

None of the conditions described above are particularly difficult to implement or likely to require any significant financial investment. They will, however, require a change in the management style and approach, including the following:

•           Management accepts the responsibility for developing a comprehensive vision and strategic plan, which is likely to lead the company to success. This is management’s most important role in a business. Instead, unfortunately, many managers are more comfortable focusing on day-to-day issues, challenges and opportunities.

•           Sharing plans and information with employees. Many managers prefer to keep employees somewhat in the dark, expecting them to keep their heads down and just do their jobs.

•           Changing from command and control management to coaches and cheerleaders.

These changes might be uncomfortable for some leaders at first. For them, successfully embracing and accomplishing these changes may take training and coaching. Conversely, employees invariably love the changes and adapt easily. Employees may be skeptical about managements’ commitment to the changes — requiring management to demonstrate its commitment to this new approach.

Without buy-in, most employees function as a pair of hands. With buy-in, employees throw in their heads, hearts and souls into creating a very compelling and powerful force. Buy-in is the simple trade secret that offers any company a huge competitive advantage.

Larry Goddard is managing director of SS&G Parkland Consulting LLC, the management consulting affiliate of SS&G Inc., the 41st largest accounting firm in the U.S. Goddard has been providing management services for more than 25 years. Contact him at www.ssandg.com.

Published in Columnist
Friday, 31 May 2013 20:00

Are your messages getting lost?

Remember playing telephone as a kid? You would sit in a circle with friends and whisper a message into the ear of the child next to you. By the end, when the last kid would announce the message out loud, everyone would break into laughter: It never bore any resemblance to the original message.

Is that still happening to you? Are your messages getting lost in a modern-day game of telephone?

I see it in companies all the time. The CEO knows the message — in this case the business’ vision and strategies — but it gets terribly distorted as it gets passed along and it becomes no laughing matter.

There are reasons why messages get lost.

No. 1, managers often don’t understand or even hear the message or its importance. Its relevance to their work hasn’t been explained to them.

No. 2, the noise of stress can deafen the message. Today, employees are running at breakneck speed in order to stay competitive. The priority is on responding to immediate needs and putting out fires. Under stress, many managers can’t hear the message or can’t prioritize communicating it.

No. 3, competitive work environments mean personal job security comes first and the company’s long-term success second. We make decisions that are in our best interests, not always thinking whether they’re aligned with the company’s goals. When that happens, the message gets sidelined in favor of short-term gain.

In order for the message to stay intact, it needs to be communicated loudly and clearly over and over again, and everyone in the circle needs to be responsible for passing it on accurately. Don’t wait until the end to realize the message has been mangled.

Articulate the vision and strategy.

The importance of this can’t be overstated. The vision and strategies — your message — should be presented to people over and over again, not just in words but visually.

Visuals resonate with people and make the message stick. Develop a visual representation of the company’s vision and display it prominently throughout the organization.

Generate confidence and commitment.

In order for people to pass the message on accurately, they need to know, “What does this mean for me?” and “Why should I care?”

Today’s competitive work environments are making people incredibly anxious and concerned about the future. People want reassurance about their own futures and their company’s future. Perhaps more than ever before, they need inspiring visions for the future that they can take confidence in.

Give them a vision they can support and make it clear that the company needs them on board in order to succeed. Let them know how they will benefit if the company reaches its goals. Once they believe in the company’s future and their role in it, they’ll be committed to the message.

Accept accountability.

Leaders must accept personal accountability for communicating clearly. Each leader must commit to communicating in ways that align with the original message. No matter how tense things get, the message can’t get dropped or distorted at will by one leader. If a leader or leaders stray, the situation must be addressed immediately. Otherwise, the strategy has no teeth and will not be trusted.

Invest in management.

Commend leaders who communicate well and work closely with those who need more help. Remember that this is a process. In order for it to work, people will need mentoring and coaching.

Break it down.

Our high-pressure work environments mean that people will want to throw out long-term strategies when the going gets tough. In order to prevent that, work with managers to create daily, weekly and monthly priorities that meet short and long-term goals.

 

Donna Rae Smith is a guest blogger and columnist for Smart Business. She is the founder and CEO of Bright Side Inc., a transformational change catalyst company that has partnered with more than 250 of the world’s most influential companies. For more information, visit www.bright-side.com or contact Donna Rae Smith at donnarae@bright-side.com.

Published in Columnist

Staffed with beautiful servers in sexy plaid kilts and matching plaid tops, Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery has its roots deep in the tradition of Scottish, Irish and English pubs. Originally coming to life in Las Vegas, the contemporary, Celtic-themed sports pub is headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., and has been doubling in size for the past couple of years. Today, it has 3,500 employees, revenue of $240 million and locations across the country.

While many patrons may come to Tilted Kilt to view the attractive servers, President Ron Lynch wants to make sure the brand is seen for much more than that. To help him get a better view inside the restaurant chain’s stores and get a firsthand account of how its employees were performing, Lynch went undercover on CBS-TV’s “Undercover Boss” in 2012.

“Going undercover made me realize that we really employ a lot of young people,” Lynch says. “Human resources are always a challenge and more so in our brand because we do hire so many young people. For some of them, it’s their first job. Some haven’t even been employed as servers or kitchen help or bartenders for that long of a period of time.”

One of the biggest lessons Lynch learned from his time under wraps was that Tilted Kilt and some of its younger staff could greatly benefit from a mentoring program. In addition, he discovered that there were a number of superstar employees going unnoticed.

Here is how Lynch took his undercover findings and translated them to make Tilted Kilt a better place for patrons and employees alike.

Educate through mentoring

Many young people looking for some early work experience will often find jobs at an area restaurant. Tilted Kilt is no exception, and that led Lynch to launch a mentoring program to improve the Tilted Kilt experience.

“We assumed at the store level that the management/young-employee relationship was enough, but they talk more along the lines of taking care of the guests, providing good product, being upbeat and entertaining people,” Lynch says. “A mentor relationship can be more of a personal thing for them.”

The idea for a mentoring program surfaced because of the actions of one Tilted Kilt server in particular who appeared on “Undercover Boss”with Lynch. She was seen telling off-color jokes and using language that wasn’t acceptable.

“That doesn’t represent our brand,” Lynch says. “A mentoring program for those young people allows a more experienced server to talk to them and give advice. Coaching in these areas is for their own good.

“This isn’t just our brand. It could apply for any brand that hires young people. Sometimes they need a little bit of coaching when those young people are in the adult world.”

The mentoring program allows Tilted Kilt’s young employees, like the one seen on the show, to speak with more experienced members of the staff.

“The mentor program is set up so that they have monthly meetings and talk for a period of time,” he says. “We want to enroll all the 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds before they are legally adults at 21. That’s where we have started.”

What Lynch has found so far in the company’s mentoring efforts is that you have to be persistent at getting involvement in the program.

“No. 1 is you have to persevere at it because your young people are going to be resistant to it,” he says. “They don’t think they need it. That’s the hardest part. We may need to rename the program something like Big Sister, Big Brother program — anything other than the mentoring program.

“At that younger age, they think they know everything, and so they think they don’t need it, and that’s the difficulty we are having with it. We need to put a different face on it and call it something different but have it accomplish the same thing.”

Lynch and his team are putting their heads together because so far the mentors and mentees are getting together, but they feel obligated to meet instead of wanting to meet with a mentor. That’s a problem Lynch is looking to fix.

“It takes time, but it’s also the approach that our servers take,” he says. “Rather than them coming up to that person and saying, ‘Hi, I’m your mentor, and we need to meet,’ and they go, ‘Why?’ Maybe there is a better approach.”

Seek out superstars

Much like with the mentoring program, Lynch found out that Tilted Kilt had some real hidden gems inside its restaurants during his experience undercover, which made him realize the company needed a better way to find these employees and recognize them.

“Another thing I noticed was that we have some fabulous people in the field that are going unnoticed,” Lynch says. “I would have never actually seen some of these people without going undercover. So our operations people and I are going to spend more time, particularly in the kitchen.”

Tilted Kilt needed a way to find those superstars within its system and make sure they prosper.

“I’ve challenged our operations people to go beyond that and get into the kitchens,” Lynch says. “Observe and talk to the kitchen people, maybe work on the line a little and assist them where you can. Then a great way to meet the servers is to offer to help run the food with them. That will help get feedback as to who those superstars are.”

To find those employees who are high achievers but might be going unnoticed, you have to challenge your staff to dig in deep.

“I know it’s uncomfortable and you’re in a restaurant that you don’t work in every day, but you have to pick out those roles that you can function in and dig in. You have to help them run and help them prep food and meet those people who are actually doing the job for us rather than just the owners and managers,” he says.

Finding great talent already in your business is one thing. Having the ability to hire those high achievers from the beginning is another. Lynch is also devoting time and resources to improving the hiring process.

Tilted Kilt uses a hiring process called HOST, which stands for hiring only spectacular talent. It’s a process that takes a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes to do.

“We have that potential bartender or potential server role-play with us,” Lynch says. “One of the common scenarios is I play the customer and the new person is the server. We want to know if they will communicate with us and connect. Are they a people person? Will they smile at the customer? That’s very, very key to us in the hiring process, and we spend a lot of time on it.”

You have to make sure that if you have one person in charge of a hiring process that he or she doesn’t get complacent and tired of it.

“It’s an interruption in their busy day, which is wrong, because that is the most important thing — getting the right people,” he says. “The hiring process is the No. 1 priority and the No. 1 priority that they do it right. If you have one person in charge of that hiring process, that one person will do it over and over and get really good at it and have the experience of knowing what makes the best employees.”

How to reach: Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, (480) 456-5458 or www.tiltedkilt.com

Published in National
Friday, 31 May 2013 20:00

The mothers of invention

I’ve always enjoyed working for myself. In fourth grade, I mowed lawns. In high school, I expanded into window washing. Later on, I started a janitorial company and an outdoor advertising company. Eventually, I raised money from venture capitalists and started a business to sell marketing supplies online. Supposedly, all of that was a single kind of activity called “being an entrepreneur.”

“Entrepreneur” however, is a stretched out word. It may have been a perfectly good word at one time, but it isn’t very useful any more. A fellow who owns a McDonald’s restaurant is called an entrepreneur, and so is Mark Zuckerberg who started Facebook. The word has come to mean something like a “businessperson” who takes “risks” to make money.

I am not sure how much risk is involved in opening a McDonald’s or dropping out of Harvard — maybe because I’ve never done either. But launching Facebook seems fundamentally different than opening the 14,000th McDonald’s. We need more nuanced definitions to describe these varied activities so that we can see the differences.

Originality, not risk

There is certainly risk in starting any new business, just as there is risk in investing in any business, no matter how large or well-established. But the essence of entrepreneurship in its most exhilarating and important sense has to do with originality, not risk. There is greater value in the discovery of new things than in the refinement of the known. That is why cooks and bakers proudly guard their newest recipes, while the best of the tried and true are free online.

Oftentimes, when we’re speaking admiringly of successful entrepreneurs, what we’re really talking about are what I’d call imagineurs (thanks, Walt Disney, for the inspiration).Imagineurs bring to the table not just a desire to build, but a desire to create — whether their creation is a new gadget, a new idea or a new business model.

This act of invention is what differentiates starting up Facebook from starting up a new McDonald’s. Both require the riskiness of basic entrepreneurship, but only one requires doing something no one else has done before.

New life into an old field

To see the potentially tremendous value in thinking up something completely new, consider a field that’s incredibly old: music. People have always wanted to be able to listen to the music of their choice at the time and in the place of their choosing.

Over the past 150 years, our ability to do so has changed and improved dramatically. Each great leap forward depended on imagineurs, be it Thomas Edison and his phonograph, or Nobutoshi Kihara and his Walkman, or Steve Jobs and his iPod and iTunes store. Each imagineur’s efforts enhanced our ability to listen to the music we love.

Imagineurs don’t have to be technological wizards or tinkerers in the lab. Walter L. Jacobs started America’s first rental car business with 12 Model T Fords; today that company is called Hertz.

Reed Hastings upended the video rental business by sending discs through the mail on a monthly subscription basis and started Netflix.

Imagineurs are architects, designers, creators and seers of the unseen. Through curiosity, ingenuity and discovery they contribute a founding insight without which, neither they nor any other business builder can proceed successfully for very long. They find a way to give customers what they’ve always wanted, but better, faster or cheaper than before.

Just as every great inventor had a mother, every great invention began with an imagineur.

 

Jerry McLaughlin is CEO of Branders.com, the world’s largest and lowest-priced online promotional products company. Reach him at JerryMcLaughlin@branders.com.

Published in Columnist
Friday, 31 May 2013 20:00

Movers & Shakers June 2013

Perspectus Architecture, a planning and architectural design firm based at Shaker Square has expanded the firm’s leadership team.

The firm announced that Vladimir Novakovic, Sal Rini and James Wallis have been promoted to principals of the architectural design firm. Novakovic, Rini and Wallis are experienced in providing master planning, design and project management for health care, higher education, government, senior living and hospitality clients. With this promotion, they will become more active in business decisions guiding the direction of the company.

 

 

Magnus International Group has announced several promotions and additions to its team.

Tom Burlinski is now purchasing manager for Hardy Industrial Technologies, a division of Magnus. He has more than 25 years of notable experience in purchasing, quality assurance, customer service, safety, transportation and

production management.

 

Tom Szucs has been promoted to plant engineer for Hardy Animal Nutrition, a division of Magnus. As plant engineer, Szucs will employ his skills in cost-savings analysis, system optimization, project management and R&D to improve HAN’s chemical engineering processes.

 

Mark Pavlus has joined Magnus as senior plant engineer with more than 16 years of engineering experience in the manufacturing sector. He is focused on behavioral safety and operational improvements for Hardy Industrial Technologies.

 

Gordon Taylor returns to Magnus as production manager for Hardy Industrial Technologies to oversee daily manufacturing activities for the plant. He has more than 10 years of experience as a plant and manufacturing manager, operations supervisor and production team leader.

 

 

Skylight Financial Group, a leading comprehensive financial planning firm in Cleveland, Ohio, announced the creation of a new division, the Business Private Client Group (BPCG).

The new focus allows Skylight to address the increasing need to provide specialized planning for business owners looking to exit or transition control of their businesses. The Business Private Client Group works with privately held and family-owned businesses to develop a comprehensive approach to designing an exit strategy.

 

 

MesoCoat, an Abakan Inc. subsidiary located in Euclid, took the final step to the market introduction of its award-winning CermaClad corrosion and wear-resistant cladding process when it opened its first commercial facility on April 26.

The new plant is capable of producing $70 million in clad pipe annually, and is estimated to be one of the largest clad pipe manufacturing plants in the world in production capacity. The plant will help stimulate the local economy by providing highly-skilled manufacturing jobs.

 

 

Turner Construction Co., the builder of The Global Center for Health Innovation and Cleveland Convention Center, which was formerly known as Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center is pleased to announce that it expects to complete the project three months ahead of schedule.

The $465 million Cuyahoga County project began on Jan. 3, 2011 and is expected to be completed on June 1, 2013. The project is being developed, managed, and marketed by Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. GCHI and CCC will consist of a 235,000 square foot medical mart in downtown Cleveland and an adjoining convention center with 230,000 square feet of Class A exhibit space. The facility also includes more than 90,000 square feet dedicated to meeting rooms and a grand ballroom overlooking Lake Erie.

Published in Cleveland

Ronald McDonald, the red and yellow M&Ms, the Budweiser frogs and the Energizer bunny have all helped their respective brands to gain the attention of the consumer. These characters make content interesting, engaging, fun, and most importantly, memorable.

That kind of content is what Sway, a new Cleveland-area content and production studio, is helping companies achieve. David Walker, vice president of interactive, and Tom Megalis, chief creative officer, started Sway with the intent of helping companies make the connection between their brands and the content they produce.

“What we’re finding is a lot of companies that we go into have invested time to do social media and content and a year later they don’t have any Facebook followers, no one is going to their YouTube channel and nothing is happening,” Walker says.

“We go in and look at their content and it’s boring, uninteresting, and it’s not engaging. You have to think about how you create something interesting, engaging and fun that people want to look at.”

Examples of the characters leading advertising today are Flo of Progressive Insurance, Mayhem of Allstate and the Geico gecko.

“They market their stuff with humor,” Walker says. “Why? Because insurance is boring and no one wants to listen to a guy saying, ‘We need to update your policy.’ They create characters and brands, and we’re telling people that same idea whether you’re selling an industrial product or insurance. Sway is all about creating engaging, fun, dynamic content.”

Dos and don’ts

Today, in the world of social media it is all about generating your audience.

“In order for me to do that effectively, I’ve got to give them something they really will latch on to,” Walker says. “That’s where a lot of people have missed. You don’t have to go spend a lot of money, but you have to form an idea, form a brand, form a concept and then start putting that out there.”

When you create a brand — the colors, the typeface, the voice — everything about it has to match.

“I think where people are missing it is they’re not getting good writing, good concepts and good ideas,” Walker says. “There’s very little really good creative thinking and strong marketing execution behind it and part of it is some people just don’t get how to do it.”

When you produce content it has to have the effect that makes people want to share it.

“We put high premium where it really counts and why we believe we’re getting traction is because of ideas,” Megalis says. “The idea has to work for your business, its strategy and it has to hit your demographic with something that’s unique and stands out.

“Sure, anybody can take great pictures or shoot a video, but if there’s no substance it’s not effective.”

A lot of companies want to share education about their business or a particular product. The idea of sharing education through someone talking into a camera is no longer good enough.

“Instead of doing it that way you have to think creatively,” Walker says. “You want people to watch it. A lot of companies just push out content and it’s very instructional, institutional and industrial and we forget about it all. In today’s world, consumers are way too savvy. The old world stuff doesn’t resonate.”

Make it memorable

Today, we are bombarded with messages from all kinds of media. Everyone wants to send a tweet or post on Facebook, so how do you come up with something that is memorable? One of the best ways is with a mascot.

“Once you create that character it transcends to social media, print, broadcast and everywhere,” Walker says. “That becomes your voice because advertising is all about making impressions that stick whether it’s online or offline. Having that mascot or that character helps people make a connection with your brand.”

This isn’t really too different than how advertising has always been. It’s doing the research to understand who that target customer is and who that core audience is.

“What will best appeal to them?” Walker says. “What do you want people to know about your product or service? Who are you trying to get it to? You have to make sure the thing you create and the message that you’re putting out there will catch your audience.”

“If it’s just words being spewed without something attached to the message, people don’t remember it,” Megalis says.

How to reach: Sway, (330) 416-9768 or www.swayideafactory.com

Published in Cleveland

Cleveland may not seem like a city that comes to mind as a banking center in the United States, but nearly 100 years ago, Cleveland was awarded one of the 12 regional reserve banks that make up the Federal Reserve System.

So how was Cleveland chosen as a Federal Reserve Bank city? In 1914, a well-organized campaign led by a group of Cleveland businessmen, financiers and politicians was instrumental in the decision to locate the Fourth District headquarters in Cleveland.

A Federal Reserve Organizing Committee was established under the Federal Reserve Act legislation, says Mark Sniderman, chief policy officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

“Members were appointed and they were charged with determining which cities around the country should be the headquarters for these reserve banks,” he says.

“Cities were invited to apply, so the business and banking communities in the cities that were interested got together and outlined what their resources and strengths were.”

The Fourth Federal Reserve District comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

“The reason for the boundaries of Cleveland’s district was due to the fact that it was steel and coal country,” Sniderman says. “It was an economic cycle in this part of the country that was driven by heavy industry.

“When cities were bidding to become headquarter cities, they were thinking about themselves as the center of an economic region of the country that had its own need for credit depending on what was driving those economic cycles.”

The other 11 banks that make up the Fed are Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Mo., Dallas and San Francisco.

“From a reputation point of view, getting a Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland elevated the stature of the city … and would be a validation that Cleveland was a major league city in the financial world,” Sniderman says.

At the time the Cleveland Federal Reserve was built, it held total assets of $613.7 million, making it the third largest of the 12 district banks. Today, the bank has assets of some $79 billion, making it the ninth largest by assets.

The Cleveland Federal Reserve location quickly outgrew its original building and in 1921 construction started on a new headquarters for the bank. Two years and $8.25 million later, the bank was completed in August 1923 at the corner of Superior Avenue and East Sixth Street. The 13-story building is a modern adaptation of an Italian Renaissance palazzo, or fortress palace.

When the new Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland opened to the public, an estimated 40,000 visitors passed through. In 2012, about 10,000 people visited the Cleveland Reserve Bank. That includes individuals who were part of a bank tour and individuals who visited its Learning Center and Money Museum.

While free tours are given in the building today and security measures are aided by technology, back when the building was first established they didn’t have those luxuries and were worried about robberies.

“In the days when the building was built, they were worried about mobsters like the Dillinger Gang breaking in with machine guns and things like that,” Sniderman says.

As a result, steps were taken to provide as much security as possible. The original vault is housed in its own building and was constructed before and completely separate from the main bank because of its size.

The concrete walls are 6½ feet thick, reinforced throughout with an intricate, interlaced type of fabricated steel. The vault door is 5 feet thick and has a 47-ton, 19-foot-high hinge. Yet, despite its 100-ton weight, the door is so precisely balanced that one person can swing it closed.

Today, much of the purpose for the Federal Reserve System remains the same with obvious changes in technology and banking advancements forcing some adaptations.

“What’s happened over time is technology has changed some of the ways we do business,” Sniderman says. “Banks and financial entities have become more complicated. They deal in a much wider range of products. They interact in so many kinds of financial markets that supervising banks has become a more sophisticated endeavor.”

Today, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland supervises 35 state member banks and 285 bank holding companies, financial holding companies and savings and loan holding companies.

How to reach: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, (216) 579-2000 or www.clevelandfed.org

Published in Cleveland

With demand robust and capital chasing deals, the market is primed for increased M&A activity. Through the April year-to-date period, deal value is ahead of last year’s pace by more than 20 percent, despite a seasonal lull in deal flow. While pending tax changes had the effect to pull more sellers into 2012, contributing to a softer first quarter, the drivers are present to support a healthy transaction environment.

For sellers, it’s a better sales environment today than all of last year. Quality companies are commanding the time and attention of buyers. With fewer differentiated businesses in a less than robust M&A market, valuations for those assets are high. Competition is pushing up purchase multiples, driving a seller’s market for the best companies.

It is a borrower’s market for companies on the hunt for acquisitions. Interest rates are at record lows, and lenders are aggressively supporting acquisition financing. Buyers are able to secure more favorable pricing and flexible terms as lenders compete for new M&A opportunities.

To create value and boost the topline in the slow growth environment, companies will need to make acquisitions. Company financial performance has improved and rising purchase multiples should propel more exit activity.

April Highlights:

International Business Machines Corp. acquired Cleveland-based Starbelly Productions Inc. (dba UrbanCode). UrbanCode automates the delivery of software, helping businesses quickly release and update mobile, social, big data, and cloud applications.

Timken Co. completed its fourth acquisition this year with the purchase of Smith Services Inc. Based in Princeton, W. Va., Smith provides electric motor repair and field technical services in a wide variety of markets including power generation, petrochemical, paper, steel, nuclear, and mining. The acquisition will expand Timken’s industrial services capabilities.

TransDigm Group Inc. acquired Aerosonic Corp. (AIM). The Clearwater, Fla.-based company is a manufacturer and marketer of aircraft instrumentation and sensor systems worldwide.

Cleveland- based Evolution Capital acquired new platform AXIOM Sales Force Development. The Richardson, Texas-based company provides sales coaching and integrated software solutions and implementation services. The Riverside Co. added on with the purchase of TerraSim of Pittsburgh, a terrain-generation software provider. The transaction represents the first tuck-in acquisition for Bohemia Interactive Simulations, which received development capital from the Cleveland-based sponsor in January 2013. Bohemia is based in Australia and provides simulation technologies for military and civilian organizations.

 

Deal of the Month

Measurement Specialties Inc. (MEAS) acquired Akron-based Spectrum Sensors and Controls from API Technologies Corp. (ATNY) in a $51.4 million transaction. Spectrum manufactures custom temperature probes, high reliability encoders and inertial sensors. The company was formed through the acquisitions of Advanced Thermal Products, a producer of HVAC and refrigeration temperature probes and assemblies, JDK Controls, a manufacturer of high-reliability encoders for aerospace and military applications, and Summit Instruments, a supplier of inertial test systems for aerospace and military markets. Spectrum is the third acquisition for MEAS in the last 12 months.

Andrew Petryk is managing director and principal of Brown Gibbons Lang & Co. LLC, an investment bank serving the middle market. Contact him at (216) 920-6613 or apetryk@bglco.com

Published in Cleveland
Friday, 31 May 2013 20:00

Finding character and cultural fit

It is always difficult to find the right employees, not only people with technical skills but with other traits that will ensure long-term success for your organization.

Finding the right culture “fit” in terms of character and personality traits begins with the creation of the job requirements, preliminary candidate screening and the interview process. Preparation is critical before the interview to develop a series of questions designed to reveal the key traits desired of an employee.

At Clark-Reliance, our first hiring objective is to find candidates with superior technical qualifications and skills necessary to perform the tasks of a particular position. However, a candidate must also have the personal qualifications and skills to thrive in our corporate culture.

Identifying the major character traits that allow employees to fit comfortably into your organization and excel in their work allows you to create the appropriate interview questions. At Clark-Reliance, we have identified four major character traits necessary for an employee to have so that he or she will fit into our culture.

Self-awareness and personal accountability

Our goal is to find employees who have the ability to analyze and critique themselves. We want people to take accountability for their actions and success.

Continuous improvement

We want to find employees who are constantly seeking to sharpen their skills, which means either developing skills further or seeking skills they do not currently possess.

Passion

Simply stated, we want employees who have passion for their job and for our company.

Communication

We want employees who are willing to speak their mind as well as listen to other’s thoughts and ideas. A collaborative environment makes all employees invested in the development of the company.

In order to identify these traits in potential employees you should use behavioral type questions like the ones below:

Self-awareness

  

  • What are three accomplishments or significant successes that you identify with and take great pride?

  

  • What would your present or former boss say about you? What would he or she have liked to see you do differently?

  

  • Can you tell me about a mistake you made, either work or personal, that taught you a significant lesson?

  

Continuous Improvement

 

 

  • Where have you sought to improve yourself over the last three months?

 

 

  • How would a co-worker describe you?

 

 

  • What personal needs do you think this position will satisfy?

 

 

Passion

 

 

  • What has been your toughest job? How did you handle this job?

 

 

  • Has a job ever conflicted with your thoughts of what is right or wrong? If so, how did you handle it?

 

 

  • What work situations irritate you or make you angry?

 

 

Communication

 

 

  • If you were involved in a heated discussion with a fellow co-worker, would you be more comfortable in the role of the peacemaker or decision-maker? Why?

 

 

  • Have you taken the initiative to handle something that is technically out of your area of responsibility? Why did you choose to handle the situation that way?

 

 

  • How do you deal with your boss when he or she overrides a major decision that you have made?

 

 

 

Matthew P. Figgie is chairman of Clark-Reliance, a global, multi-divisional manufacturing company with sales in more than 80 countries, serving the power generation petroleum, refining and chemical processing industries. He is also chairman of Figgie Capital and the Figgie Foundation, a member of the University Hospitals Board of Directors, corporate cochairman for the 2013 Five Star Sensation and chairman of the National Kidney Walk.

Rick Solon is president and CEO of Clark-Reliance and has more than 35 years of experience in manufacturing and operating companies. He is also the chairman of the National Kidney Foundation Golf Outing.

Published in Columnist

Accounting systems capture information that can lead to more profit. Ted Flom and Tony Caleca from Brown Smith Wallace LLC discuss some issues about how your accountant can help your company’s bottom line.

Q. What accounting missteps might lead to decreased profitability? A. The biggest mistakes are made when organizations don’t embrace the importance of timely and meaningful reporting to make informed decisions. Maintain accounting information in a way that gives management a clear picture of how different aspects of the company are doing.

Q. What accounting tools could prove most valuable to business owners? A. The key is having an accounting system that adequately supports the critical areas of your company. Capture information at a level of detail that supports management decision-making. Define what five key metrics are critical to your success and track them daily.

Q. How can accounting help identify growth areas? A. Accounting information can show trends that provide insight into efforts the company should focus on or de-emphasize, particularly if systems are aligned with your strategy or key growth areas. Today, companies are more focused on information that helps them better predict the future rather than understand the past, as has traditionally been the case.

Q. How does risk affect company value? A. Entities failing to recognize the risks they face from external or internal sources and not managing them effectively can destroy value for shareholders and stakeholders. Enterprise risk management (ERM) supports value creation by enabling management to deal effectively with potential events that create uncertainty. You can use ERM to respond to those risks in a way that reduces the likelihood of downside outcomes and increases the upside.

Q. What do businesses commonly overlook that can pose problems? A. Businesses go through the exercise of keeping accounting information, but they don’t give it sufficient review. It’s always healthy to ask, ‘Where did this number come from?’

Ted Flom, CPA, CISA, CIA, is a member in charge of Risk Advisory Services for Brown Smith Wallace LLC. Reach him at (314) 983-1294 or tflom@bswllc.com.

Tony Caleca, CPA, is a member in charge of Audit Services. Reach him at (314) 983-1267 or tcaleca@bswllc.com.

Published in St. Louis