SBN Staff

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:54

Moneyclips

Where’s my $5?

Organizations lose 6 percent of their annual revenue to fraud and abuse, and the average organization loses more than $9 a day per employee. Make sure one person isn’t in charge of your books and have your accounts periodically audited. Most victims say the person stealing from the company was the last person they would have suspected.

Do you have any secrets?

Is information critical to your business success about to walk out the door and start work for a competitor? Maybe, but here’s how to tell whether that information is considered a trade secret:

  • It must have independent economic value to people outside the company. Knowing your processes and pricing could give another firm an advantage, but knowing your management structure probably wouldn’t.

  • The information must be generally unknown and unlikely to be discovered by lawful means.

  • The owner of the secret must make efforts to maintain the secret. If the information is not labeled as confidential and everyone has access to it, the court probably won’t recognize it as a trade secret.

Cutting your own throat

Cutting prices to sell unused capacity may look like a good idea — but it’s the first step on the road to bankruptcy.

  • First, there’s the cost of capital. Whenever you make a sale, you are, in effect, lending money to a customer, at least until the bill gets paid. You need to make sure you’re getting a good return on your investment — that you’re using your capital to generate enough profit to keep you going. It’s a mistake for any business to waste capital on low-margin sales. It can be suicide for a new business, which has limited capital by definition and will never get beyond the start-up phase if its capital runs out.

  • Second, there’s the opportunity cost. When you fill capacity with low-margin sales, you leave no room for high-margin sales, and bring a new competitor into the market: yourself.

  • Third, prices always seek their lowest level. When you charge two prices for exactly the same service, you are competing against yourself. Sooner or later, your customers will figure out that you’re willing to sell for less. When they do, you’ll have a very hard time getting any of them to pay more.

  • Fourth, the practice alienates precisely those customers you must have to be successful, maybe even to survive.

    A customer buying in volume may justify a lower price, but don’t discount just to have work. You can’t do business with everybody. There are people in this world who want more for their money than you can provide. There’s only one word you can use to deal with them, and you have to learn it, hard as it may be to say it when the customer is standing in front of you. That word is no.

Source: Norm Brodsky

Back to work

Five tips to get the most from your low-wage employees:

  • Understand what motivates each employee.

  • Determine your expectations and communicate them clearly.

  • Create a positive environment.

  • Hire the right people.

  • Invest in training.

Source: Robert McIntosh, “Minimum Wage, Maximum Results”

Show me the money

Potential sources of venture capital include:

21st Century Internet Venture Partners — Investment focus: start-up ventures pursuing opportunities born of the Internet, www.21st-century.com.

Accel Partners — Investment focus: exclusively on three sectors — communication; Internet and intranet software; services in technology and health care, www.accel.com.

Advanced Technology Ventures — Investment focus: start-up, first-round and later-stage investments in electronics, communications, software and health care, www.atv-ventures.com.

Advantage Capital Partners - Investment focus: venture capital and mezzanine investments in communications, information technology, health care/life sciences, special situations/regional opportunities, recapitilizations and management buyouts, www.advantagecap.com.

Advent International — Investment focus: companies at all stages of development, including early-stage, and virtually any industry, www.adventinternational.com.

Alpha Capital Partners Ltd. — Investment focus: Midwestern enterprises, technical or nontechnical, including early, expansion or mature-stage businesses, as well as management buyouts or recapitilizations, www.cilnet.com/alpha.

Alta Partners — A venture capital partnership investing in information technologies and life sciences companies, www.altapartners.com.

Altos Ventures — Venture capital partnership focused on early-stage technology investments, www.altosvc.com.

Ampersand Ventures — Investment focus: early and expansion-stage companies seeking capital for product development and growth in electronics, telecommunications, health care, life sciences, industrial and building products, process control and instrumentation, www.ampersandventures.com.

Apax Partners — Investment focus: European and U.S. companies spanning all stages of development, from early-stage to buy-outs and turnaround operations, www.apax.co.uk.

Whose side are you on?

What other mechanisms, apart from ownership, can be employed to sustain psychological commitment — as opposed to purchased compliance — among your employees? Consider the following:

  • Treat employees as adults who share your goals. What better way to reward a member of your start-up than to say, “Your commitment to X Corp. has been proved beyond a doubt, so, henceforth, unless there is a crucial meeting, keep your own hours.” When you show trust in a person, he or she will show devotion to you.

  • Encourage employees to pursue their dreams while finding a way for the company to benefit as well. Let anyone who has a desire to move to research and development (or your company’s equivalent) do so on a part-time basis. Companies such as 3M call that intrapreneurship. I call it fostering the motives that underlie sweat equity. Telling people that they can develop their ideas and that the company will reward them for doing so says, in essence, “We value you for what you have in yourself: your intellect.” That attitude brought 3M Post-it Notes and millions in profits. It also begets commitment.

  • Fully vest them. When cash compensation is involved, don’t tell your people you mistrust them by forcing them to be “vested” for seven years before they can reap the benefits of labors they invested in your start-up. Vesting can never engender devotion to a company among those who are counting the days until they can cash out. From my vantage point, vesting is effective only in retaining disaffected employees who have no stimulating alternatives in sight. Truly talented executives will leave cash behind if they don’t have any psychological gratification and take a tantalizing offer to join something they believe in comes their way.

It may be hyperbole to say that money is the root of all evil, but money sure can undermine psychological commitment. Dangling it at the end of a stick may budge the lazy, but it will also wreak havoc on those who have joined the crusade because they buy the mission. There’s no need to try to buy the commitment or the loyalty of those employees. All entrepreneurs need to do is share the vision and share the rewards.

Source: Steven Berglas, a clinical psychologist and a management consultant, is the director of Executive Development Resources in Boston and San Francisco.

Save your euros

To save money on your next trip overseas, consider the following:

  • Buy bundles. The easiest way to keep your costs down is to buy a land/air bundle from a travel packager. They purchase huge blocks of everything — airplane seats, rooms, theater tickets, sightseeing tours — so they can offer big discounts. Worried that a package means guided tours? Don’t be. Packages are now so flexible that you can build your own vacation by mixing and matching hotels, itineraries and options such as meals, museum excursions, car rentals and train passes.

  • Pay now, play later. Even when it benefits us, the relationship between currency rates and travel costs is convoluted. You can save money though if you pay for as much of your European travel as possible before departing. That not only includes your trans-Atlantic flights and lodging, but also the incidentals — local transportation, meals, sightseeing, theater tickets.

  • Reclaim the value-added tax. The price tags on goods purchased in Europe include “value-added tax” levies as high as 24 percent. In many cases, however, the VAT is refundable. VAT reclamation is paper-intensive and confusing, but you can call Europe Tax-free Shopping (800-KNOW-VAT) for help. The company is allied with more than 100,000 European retailers in 23 countries and offers a relatively painless VAT-refund program.

  • Use your plastic: cash or credit. Pay with credit cards in Europe whenever you can, and if you need cash, use ATMs. Banks get a special wholesale rate on currency conversion, so you will be billed between 2 and 10 percent less than it would cost you to change your dollars into the local currency and then pay cash. Of course you will need cash during your trip, but don’t change dollars for local currency at cambio shops. You’ll do better by heading for the nearest ATM. Your checking or savings card will work in most ATMs throughout Western Europe if it carries either the Cirrus (800-424-7787) or PLUS (800-THE-PLUS) logos. You’ll not only get that advantageous wholesale exchange rate, ATM fees are much less than cambio commissions.

  • Stay on track, ride the rails. Firms such Auto Europe (800-223-5555) and Kemwel (800-678-0678) offer terrific European fly/drive packages, but driving in Europe isn’t for everyone. Gasoline prices are very high ($4 to $5 a gallon), many European rental cars are tiny and driving in towns like Rome or Amsterdam is harrowing. Your best bet: Stick to public transit in Europe’s big cities. And unless you plan to meander the scenic back roads, travel by train between cities. Every national rail system sells inexpensive domestic passes and RailEurope (800-4EURAIL) sells cost-effective multinational deals.

  • Save with city passes. Most of Europe’s big towns have great deals called “city passes.” Although they vary by city, all the programs slash the cost of mass transit, entertainment, dining and cultural attractions. One example: The Vienna Card. It costs less than $20 and is valid for three days of unlimited public transportation; reduced-price admission to museums and tourist attractions; and shopping, dining and sightseeing discounts. For details, check with the tourist board of the countries you plan to visit.

Source: www.biztravel.com.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:51

Newsclips

What was that name again?

Have you ever wondered if your company’s logo, brand name or trademark has really ingrained itself into the minds of consumers? If you’ve poured millions of dollars into marketing, the answer is probably a resounding, “Yes!”

DayGlo Color Corp., the Cleveland manufacturer of fluorescent-colored pigments, and a subsidiary of RPM Inc., recently undertook a national brand equity study to determine consumer awareness of its DayGlo brand.

The results were eye opening — 42 percent of consumers recognized the DayGlo name.

“We knew that DayGlo is part of American culture, but even we were surprised by the level of awareness,” says Peter Olley, DayGlo’s vice president of marketing. Based on that, Olley maintains, “We see DayGlo becoming a mega-consumer brand within the next five years.”

Speaking of name recognition

The Manco duck is one of the most recognized logos in Northeast Ohio; its image is plastered all over, including on a sign on the road which leads to the Avon-based manufacturer best known for it’s “duck tape” brand products.

But few realize how difficult it was to convince Avon City Council a few years back to allow the last mile of Chester Road, on Manco property, where the sign sits, to have its name changed to Just Imagine Drive.

Jack Kahl, Manco CEO, wanted the road’s name to reflect the company’s innovative philosophy. Recalls Kahl, “I went to city council and they told me that the road was named after a member of the Chester family — who happened to be the first white man to live among the Native Americans in what is now Avon. So I was told I couldn’t change it.”

Never one to take no for an answer, Kahl tracked down Chester’s progeny in Avon and pleaded his case.

“I told them, ‘It’s a four-mile road. You keep three miles and give me the last mile.’”

As usual, Kahl’s persuasiveness triumphed. The family agreed, city council gave in, and the road was renamed Just Imagine Drive.

Happier involvement this time around

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Art Modell fled to Baltimore with the Cleveland Browns, breaking our hearts along the way. In 1995, when that happened, Great Lakes Brewing Co. contributed $1,500 to the Save Our Browns campaign by selling T-shirts with the fabled Brownie holding a pint of Great Lakes beer extorting, “We Want You to keep our Browns in Cleveland.”

Now the Browns are back, Modell is losing money yet again with the Ravens in Baltimore, and GLBC is heralding the Browns again. This time, though, it’s in a much more positive way — with Cleveland Brown Ale. GLBC debuted the beer last month during the Browns’ first appearance in four years at the Hall of Fame Game.

When charity isn’t what it seems

If you donated your car to one of those charities you heard about on the radio and declared a meaty tax deduction on your tax return, an IRS agent could soon be asking you questions. The IRS recently issued a memorandum to its field agents alerting them to closely scrutinize auto donation programs and claimed tax return deductions.

Of particular concern are the contracts between used car dealers and charities, whereby a straight royalty for name use is paid to the charity. The IRS contends that there is no charitable donation in such situations and calls such arrangements “illegal tax shelters” that may jeopardize those charitable organizations’ tax exempt status.

As for the effect on your tax returns, it all depends on whether the car donated met the definition of actual “blue book” value — which refers to cars in good condition — as opposed to one ready to join the junkyard scrap heap.

Rating the intangibles

Northeast Ohio employers frustrated by high turnover in their sales staffs may soon have information to help them set the bar for sales compensation and keep their competitors at bay.

The Employers Resource Council and Deloitte & Touche have teamed up to produce a comprehensive sales compensation survey, which will define how sales and marketing staffs are paid.

The survey will rate commission pay, bonuses, business expenses and special incentives for field sales people, in addition to traditional base pay, says Melissa Cassidy, ERC research center manager.

“Competition is fierce,” she says. “Employers are looking for a variety of different components to assist them in designing attractive sales compensation packages. Base pay is only one factor.”

More than 1,400 Northeast Ohio business owners will participate in the study, Cassidy says. Results will be announced later this month.

Ripe for a takeover

Regional technology firms aren’t the only ones experiencing acquisition fever over the past 18 months. The bug is sweeping through the entire industry, and it isn’t going to stop anytime soon. Nearly 58 percent of tech firm owners say they’re planning at least one new acquisition within the next three years, according to a recent study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

As for the other 42 percent, odds are they’re the ones being targeted as potential buys.

Higher pay = bigger smiles

If your employees haven’t been able to wipe the grin off their faces since you announced raises earlier this year, they’re not alone in their joyfulness. U.S. salary increases averaged 4.1 percent in 1999, outpacing inflation by a nearly 3-1 margin. That trend is expected to continue into 2000.

And you thought your company

was wrestling with change

Never in modern history has the word change meant so much to American business owners. More than 8,500 changes occur every day, according to Penton Research Services. Among those daily changes are 3,196 new business incorporations, 2,621 corporations being acquired or going out of business, 704 companies changing their phone number and eight businesses changing names.

Breakdown time could be key sales time

If you’ve ever been to a trade show, you’re probably ready to close down the booth and get out the door as the crowd thins out and the last 30 minutes or so tick off the clock. But don’t hurry to leave, warns a trade show guru.

During the last half hour of a show, 40 to 65 percent of the visitors are power buyers looking to close deals, according to Dr. Allen Konopacki, president of the Incomm Center for Trade Show Research.

For more information on trade show trends, visit www.tradeshowresearch.com.

Dot-com fever

In the rush to add Internet sparkle to their names, a lot of companies are overlooking the bridge between the real and the virtual. Take Dance.com, for instance. The Parma dance club has taken on that catchy name for its bricks-and-mortar location, but someone already beat it to the Web address. And it’s pretty doubtful that that company, $2-billion Boston-based computer-information giant IDG, is going to hand it over anytime soon to a little dance club in Cleveland.

Come hear about rumors

Did you ever wonder how the business media separates fact from fiction, chasing down the truth, if any, in corporate rumors? In a jointly sponsored program Oct. 15th, the Press Club of Cleveland and the local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America will explore that very topic. Panelists will include Invacare Corp. Chairman Mal Mixon and a handful of business reporters and editors. The luncheon program begins at noon at the University Club.

Doffing a cap to a legendary lane

Investment banker Rob McCreary has had something of a green thumb throughout his career. In 1993, the former Kemper Securities executive, along with two partners, established Carleton, McCreary & Holmes, a bouti que investment banking concern. Three years later, they sold it to KeyCorp.

Now, McCreary has reinvested some of his proceeds into a new venture, which he’s calling Capital Works. And sources in the investment-banking community say one of its projects will be launching a $50 million buyout fund to invest in so-called “orphan” companies, troubled public companies which perhaps never should have gone public.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the fund is its name: Short Vincent Partners. That’s in homage to the legendary Short Vincent, a compact avenue that runs between East 9th and East 6th streets downtown. Home to the Theatrical, a gathering spot for the famous and the infamous, in its heyday the street teemed with saloons, strip joints and bookies. It’s now little more than a cut-through behind the National City Bank building.

Hoping a little magic will rub off

Shannon Burns may be young — just 23 — but he thinks that he and his In Mind Media have an edge over other Web/interactive developers in town. He claims to have picked up a few priceless pointers from his aunt, the 26th employee of Web-browsing wonder Netscape. And just what did his aunt, now retired, tell him? “I’m not giving any secrets away,” he says.

The truth is “out there”

Worries about being “out of the loop” in the event of global destruction were eased when CNN field reporter Martin Savage spoke at a breakfast celebrating the addition of Ohio News Network to Cox Communication’s basic cable package.

Amid spinning tales of his experiences covering breaking news in Kosovo and Littleton, Colo., the former Cleveland newsman said CNN does in fact have a contingency plan for reporting on “the end of the world,” should a great calamity ever befall mankind on the news giant’s watch. Without a hint of irony, Savage said the doomsday plan is secured at CNN’s Atlanta headquarters and was personally drafted by Ted Turner.

“I’d love to see it,” said Savage. “Not the event, but the plan.”

We’d like to know if there is a contingency plan readied yet for that inevitable UFO landing.

Icing the deal

When Manco’s marketing department declined purchasing a $2,500 patron package for the upcoming U.S. Figure Skating Championship, Kathy Wilson — a volunteer selling the packages for the Junior League of Cleveland — decided to appeal to a higher authority.

During a routine visit to the dentist she noticed the world famous “duck tape” manufacturer’s CEO, Jack Kahl, had an 8:30 a.m. appointment there the next day. Putting together a cake decorated with yellow candied ducks, an ice skating Barbie and message reading “Let’s Ice this Deal,” Wilson camped out at the dentist office for Kahl.

The Manco chief, well known for his own off-the-wall antics, was won over by the effort and took the cake back to the company’s Avon headquarters before promptly ordering his tickets. The U.S. Figure Skating Championship will arrive in Cleveland this February.

Who says politicians can’t get anything done?

As President Clinton made his pitch early this summer for a Medicare overhaul that would include a prescription coverage plan for the nation’s elderly, Medical Mutual of Ohio’s communications department was busy burning up the phone lines the same afternoon spreading the word about its own program.

On June 29, Ohio’s oldest health insurance provider unveiled its SaveWell plan. The program costs $1 per week and enables participants and their family members to receive up to 50 percent off the retail price of most brand name and generic drugs. In comparison, Clinton’s proposal would cost $44 each month for a straight 50 percent discount with an annual cap of $2,500.

However, all indications are the president’s proposal is likely to crash and burn in Congress in its current form. Medical Mutual of Ohio’s prescription insurance program became effective Aug. 1. For more information call (800) 474-2583.

Help wanted: Computer science graduates

A Virginia consulting firm reports 2,000 information technology jobs in the Cleveland area will not be filled over the next 12 months because of a shortage of computer science graduates. The study, commissioned by Microsoft Corp., projects there will be 1,000 unfilled positions across Ohio.

The problem is universities and trade schools in the United States are producing only one-quarter of the computer science graduates needed to fill jobs in programming and software-related positions, according to the report.

Although some companies have turned outside the United States to look for qualified candidates in the past, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has squashed that alternative, for now. Earlier this summer, the government agency instituted a hiring freeze for U.S. companies that wish to hire foreign professionals under a nonimmigrant work visa. The freeze, which has outraged immigrant advocacy groups, is expected to last until October.

Press the # sign if you’re annoyed

In a study of what irks customers the most, junk mail finished at the top of the list with 59 percent of people saying it is the biggest bother. Meanwhile, automated phone services came in a close second, with 54 percent saying they are fed up with dialing a company, then hearing “Press one for . . .”

The National Consumers League conducted the “Consumers in the 21st Century” by contacting more than 1,000 people over the age of 18. The group, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, discovered other interesting facts about American consumers:

n Nearly six million online consumer have experienced credit card related fraud, while three out of four Americans believe new technology such as the Internet has made life easier and more convenient.

n Two-thirds of Americans believe it is likely by 2020 all banking will be done online, while almost half believe paper money will be all but extinct within the next 20 years.

n Only 6 percent believe they are overloaded with information with the advent of the Internet, while 50 percent reported they do not feel they have enough information.

n Fifty-four percent of Americans feel the value they get for their money on most goods and services has gotten worse over the last five years.

I feel fine, really

A disturbing discovery was made by Aon Consulting during its annual study to measure work force loyalty.

People in the medical profession were the most reluctant to recommend their company’s product or services to friends or family. Given that information, it may also be unsettling that the element that drives employee commitment in the medical industry is having the necessary resources to do a good job.

Another interesting finding was that employees on your company’s front lines are the ones most likely to throw in the towel. The study reported customer service employees have the lowest commitment levels than any other job classification. The report was drafted following interviews with 1,800 workers across the nation.

RV prophecies

The demand for recreational vehicles, including motor homes, travel trailers, campers and conversion vans, in the United States is predicted to increase five percent each year until 2003, when the industry is expected to top $13.1 billion in sales.

Freedonia Group Inc. of Cleveland, a market research firm, says the growth will be fueled by product upgrades and industry innovations such as lighter weight vehicles and technologically advanced features. Motor homes are expected to be the biggest sellers because of the growth of the prime buyer, which ranges from 45 to 54 years old.

Meanwhile, the southern United States is expe cted to retain its title as a recreational vehicle stronghold because of a favorable climate and extensive amount of public park land and vacation destinations. For further information on the Freedonia Group’s report, visit www.freedoniagroup.com.

Women on the Web

After three years of work, Margaret M. McGillin of Los Angeles has launched a Web site to direct e-commerce specifically to businesses owned by women.

WOWFactor is the first site of its kind and provides one-stop shopping for Internet surfers, who can search for products on the site or browse a comprehensive directory of 1.2 million businesses. Interested? Take a look for yourself at — you guessed it — www.wowfactor.com.

Vital support

Charlene Connell, president, CEO and owner of Vital Resources Inc., was appointed to The Fairview and Lutheran Hospital Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

The Foundation is an independent fund-raising organization that seeks contributions for the support of projects and services at Fairview and Lutheran Hospitals, as well as various community programs. Connell is already active in several community organizations and was one of the founding members of the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s WishNet.

Her company, Vital Resources, provides computer consultants to companies throughout the Greater Cleveland area. Connell, who has won a variety of awards for her business success, was also a 1999 finalist for the Ernst &Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award.

Take a byte out of crime

AG Communications Systems, a subsidiary of Lucent Technologies, has completed its installation of new case management software for the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s crime lab in Columbus.

The new software automatically assigns a unique bar code to each piece of evidence submitted for accurate processing and storage. The Ohio State Patrol Crime Lab had been using a custom-built in house case tracking system for the past several years. However, the crime lab’s caseload jumped 20 percent in three years, sending the state looking for an outside vendor that could better organize the operation.

With the installation of the new software, the highway patrol expects to increase productivity, reduce evidence turn-around time and virtually eliminate paperwork. Visit www.agcs.com for more information.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:51

News clips

Graduates of Robert Morris College and Duquesne University have a new benefit available. Alumni of the two Pittsburgh institutions who reside in the Pittsburgh area may be able to access the Internet from their home computers for a discounted monthly cost by choosing Stargate Industries Inc. as their Internet service provider.

The discounted service comes as part of an agreement between the schools and Stargate to provide fully managed remote access dial-up services to students.

United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania has announced a goal of $38.1 million for its 1999 campaign. The 1998 general campaign raised a record $38 million, topping the goal of $36.4 million.

Janus Technologies Inc., a leading developer and provider of enterprise asset management repository software, has released an executive report titled “IT Asset Management: The Big Picture.” The report details issues facing organizations as they implement a computer software asset management initiative. The publication includes:

An overview and definition of asset management;

A look at the issues surrounding asset management;

Common causes of unsuccessful asset management initiatives;

An in-depth look at the three components necessary for asset management and how they can work together to allow organizations to achieve optimum savings from their asset management programs.

For a free copy of the report, contact Janus Technologies at (412) 787-3030.

Ward Trucking has earned a 1999 Quest for Quality Award from Logistics Magazine. The publication rated the company as one of the top four less-than-truckload carriers in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region. Winners were chosen based on their ratings by 3,500 LTL buyers in performance, value, customer service, equipment and operation, and information technology.

Jackson, Rolfes, Spurgeon & Co. of Cincinnati has become the first member of the Schneider Downs Network of Firms, a strategic alliance that combines 230 people to serve clients from offices in Pittsburgh, Columbus and Cincinnati.

MSA Process Automation Solutions and Services Inc. is providing scrap yard loading and management software for a Bethlehem Steel facility at Pennsylvania Steel Technologies in Steeltown.

Regional Industrial Development Corp. of Southwestern Pennsylvania has received $800,000 from the state for the City of Duquesne redevelopment project. The funds are for the construction of the second phase of the Extension of North Linden Street. The project will allow access to the new Thermal Transfer Corp. facilities, slated to open by the end of the year.

Consulting firm Life-Work International, which helps business professionals find greater purpose in their work, has changed its name to PurposeInc.

Allied Mortgage Capital Corp. has opened a branch operation in Aspinwall. The company offers homebuyers mortgages from more than 700 lenders.

Pinnatech Inc./NAUTICOM has launched Nauticom Sports Network, an Internet-based broadcasting service that carries scholastic sports in Western Pennsylvania.

XiTech Corp. of Pittsburgh has opened a Lotus Authorized Education Center at its Columbus, Ohio, location.

TRACO has been awarded the contract to replace more than 750 windows in the Gimbel’s Building, now designated the Gimbel’s Landmark.

Harmony Castings Inc., an aluminum foundry located in Harmony, has been acquired by Ligon Industries of Birmingham, Ala.

Corporate Jets Inc., a provider of aviation services, has completed its new international headquarters at the Allegheny County Airport. The 20,000-square-foot building houses air medical services, charter and aircraft management, administration, flight operations, safety and maintenance.

It features a state-of-the-art audio/visual communications system, classrooms for staff and pilot training, conference rooms and customer waiting rooms. The headquarters accommodates 120 people, with room for expansion.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:49

Newsclips

Logging in to a store near you

Concern about security remains one of the major barriers to e-commerce and is cited repeatedly as a major reason for not shopping online by consumers around the world. It will not be an easy fear to eliminate.

A study by Net Effect Systems found that while 94 percent of U.S. consumers are happy to shop online, 74 percent prefer to make the actual purchase in an offline store because of security concerns.

Here comes Europe

A new report from Andersen Consulting found that European companies have dramatically increased the use of e-commerce in the past 12 months, catching up to their U.S. counterparts. The report estimates that the Western European Internet market will be worth $430 billion by 2003, with 170 million users.

One-third of European companies use e-commerce in business procurement, logistics, finance and product development, according to the report. At least 90 percent expect to use e-commerce for sales and marketing, with 83 percent predicting they will use it for business procurement.

European executives’s attitudes toward the Internet and e-commerce have evolved significantly. The study found that 64 percent believe the Net offers a real competitive advantage in the marketplace, up from 51 percent in 1998. Of these, 33 percent expressed a strong belief in the future of e-commerce, up from 23 percent last year.

How about a ballpark figure?

BallPark Business Valuation is a software application designed to give small business owners the ability to estimate their company’s value. The program gives those with little financial or accounting background a fast and easy way to create a value estimate, while providing financial professionals the power to perform detailed analyses.

Using a capitalization of earnings approach, a rough estimate can be generated in five minutes. A more thorough analysis using the discounted cash flow approach can be performed in as little as an hour.

The fully integrated tool allows users to create a value estimate report, projected balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements for five years and a significant assumptions report. Other features include a dilution analysis tool, detailed projections of capital purchases and detailed debt financing.

The program takes users step-by-step through the valuation process and retails for $29.95. Go to www.bpvalue.com for more information.

Who’s in charge here, soldier?

A full 65 percent of U.S. companies do not have a coherent e-commerce strategy, according to a survey by the Cutter Consortium. Further, almost a quarter of companies do not have a basic Internet business plan in place.

The findings highlight the fact that most companies have yet to integrate their IT strategy into the organization’s overall business strategy, according to Sheila Green, analyst with the Cutter group. The study found that only half of the firms surveyed involve their CIO in corporate strategic planning.

A quarter described themselves as participating in e-commerce; almost 50 percent advertise online; 38 percent say they deliver goods over the Internet.

Updating all those computers

Mainsaver, a computerized maintenance management software developer, announced Web deployment ability for Mainsaver software, which eliminates the need to install and upgrade application software on individual client PCs by enabling them to communicate with an application server over a company intranet. Application updates are made just once — at the server, not at each PC — simplifying maintenance and giving IS departments more control. For more information, go to www.mainsaver.com.

Worldwide busy signal

There will be more than 500 million Internet users worldwide by 2003, according to estimates from IDC Research. The group predicts the online population of Europe will overtake that of the U.S. for the first time that year.

The European Internet population is set to reach 170 million 2003, up from the current estimate of 44 million. According to IDC, Europe accounts for six of the world’s top 10 Internet economies, shortly to increase to seven. Nonetheless, it accounts for just 10 percent of the global Internet economy.

IDC predicts that in 14 countries, 40 percent of the population will be online by 2003, and together they will account for 50 percent of the world economy. In the U.S., the Net will account for 7 percent of the gross domestic product by 2003 and 62 percent of U.S. adults will have Net access by that time.

Advanced screening

Liberty Electronics recently introduced the PanelPC, a fully integrated, one-piece computer system equipped with advanced PC power that conserves office space, reduces clutter and uses less energy.

Mounted atop a stable pedestal, the PanelPC uses the latest innovations in small form factors to create a cost-effective PC the size of a single flat screen monitor. Besides conserving space, the computer uses 60 percent less electricity than monitor-based systems.

The PanelPC is equipped with a 180-degree tilting 14.1 inch or 12.1 inch LCD monitor, a Pentium motherboard with up to a 300 MHz processor, between 1.3 to 6.4 gigabytes of memory, and a floppy drive and dual speakers. For more information, go to www.libertyus.com.

And I thought it was all porn

There are an estimated 3.6 million sites on the Web, of which 2.2 million are publicly accessible, according to a report by OCLC Research. Further, the largest 25,000 sites account for 50 percent of the content available on the Web.

The 2.2 million publicly accessible sites together contain nearly 300 million individual pages, according to the OCLC. In 1997, the number of publicly available sites was set at 800,000. Adult content sites containing sexually explicit material account for 42,000 of the publicly accessible sites. The average Web site is made up of 129 pages, up from 114 pages in 1998.

The report described 400,000 sites as private — their content is available either for a fee or through prior authorization. One million sites were classed as provisional — under development, unfinished or under construction.

The findings are taken from the group’s Web Characterization Project, conducted in June.

It even makes julienne fries

Symantec Corporation announced Norton SystemWorks 2000, a software suite which protects against viruses, solves most PC problems, guards against crashes, optimizes system performance, keeps programs up to date and enables emergency system recovery. It includes new versions of Norton Utilities 2000, Norton AnitVirus 2000, Norton CleanSweep 2000, Norton CrashGuard 2000 and a six-month subscription to Norton Web Services. The professional edition also includes Norton Ghost 2000.

For more information, go to www.symantec.com.

Taxing my bandwidth

A survey by BizRate.com finds that the number of goods shoppers are willing to purchase online will diminish if taxes are introduced. The survey was conducted over a two-day period to ascertain the effect of taxation on e-commerce.

Of 7,000 online buyers, 75 percent said they would buy less if taxes were imposed online. Almost half said they would not have bought their most recent purchase had it been subject to tax.

Another 46 percent said they had never paid tax on an online purchase, while 88 percent said they had not paid tax on the last item they bought online and 38 percent said they had paid tax on at least one item.

Book ‘em, Danno

Amazon.com, buy.com and barnesandnoble.com were the top three e-retailers in August 1999, according to a report from PC Data.

Also on the top 10 list were ticketmaster.com, fourth, followed by planetrx.com, mothernature.com, drugstore.com, gateway.com, cdnow.com and smarterkids. The bottom half of the top 20 list included chipshot.c om in 11th, followed by hallmark.com, egghead.com, yahoo.com, officemax.com, etoys.com, jcrew.com, spree.com, compaq.com and towerrecords.com.

The findings are based on a survey sample of 67,000 home Internet users, conducted in August.

Forget that Yahoo

A report from Goldman, Sachs & Co. notes that while commercial properties such as Yahoo! and eBay receive a lot of attention from investors, business to business e-commerce is on the verge of exponential growth. The report predicts that e-commerce will be worth $1.5 trillion by 2004.

The global investing banking firm, the most active in the current spate of Internet IPOs, estimates that e-commerce applications earned $39 billion last year. This year’s figure will be nearly three times that at $114 billion. Small business are expected to be a key driver in this sector.

SAP, Oracle, VerticalNet Inc., Ariba Inc. and Healtheon Corp. were noted as the most likely to benefit in the B2B sector in the high-tech industry. The report also identified companies in the electronic, chemical, computer hardware/software, aerospace/defense, motor vehicle, medical and transport industries.

He said, she said

“So far, the only [complaint we’ve had about us] is one guy e-mailing us about poor grammar on our Web site.” — Complain.com founder Steven Ericsson-Zenith (San Francisco Chronicle)

“I don’t think there is any example [of self-regulation] that has ever worked, unless government is standing behind it with a club.” — MIT economist Lester Thurow at an IDC conference (Reuters)

Shill.com

A full 28 percent of marketing executives in the U.S. were responsible for their company’s e-commerce strategy at the close of the second quarter, according to a report by Zona Research. This compares to 15 percent of marketing executives in the first quarter.

On the other side, the number of IT executives with responsibility for e-commerce has dropped from 59 percent in the first quarter to 46 percent at the close of the second, reflecting businesses’s maturing attitude to the Internet, according to the report.

Je ne parle pas l’anglais

A few global Internet trends:

-- 78 percent of Web sites are in English;

-- 96percent of e-commerce Web sites are in English;

-- 70 percent of all Web sites are in the U.S., and most are in English

-- The function of all Web sites posted in English has fallen from 98 percent in 1995 to 82 percent in 1998.

Source: eMarketer

Procure me a forklift, would ya?

Research from IDC shows that Web-based procurement is growing exponentially, with a compound annual growth rate of 105 percent. The industry doubles in size every year.

IDC expect that the market, worth $147 million last year, will be worth $5 billion by 2003. Individuals are learning that Web-based procurement is significantly more cost effective than traditional means. As a result, more companies are turning to the Internet to buy goods and services from their suppliers and trading partners, placing orders on everything from office supplies to safety equipment to temporary personnel.

According to the report, projected savings from Internet commerce procurement will surpass $103 billion on transactions totaling $1.375 trillion by 2003. The number of people using online commerce procurement applications will explode from 600,000 in 1999 to 250 million by 2003.

Look at all those eyeballs

Figures from Nielsen/NetRatings show that in June, 35 percent of all surfing time was spent on just 50 sites, endorsing the contention that a handful of sites are garnering an increasing number of eyeballs. The figure is up from 27 percent last year.

While the Nielsen/NetRatings study found that the top 10 megasites got 20 percent of all surfing time, PC Data found that the top 10 sites, apart from AOL, got 32 percent of all surfing time. Yahoo! gets five minutes of every hour of online surfing.

Analysts predict this trend will continue. The exponential growth of the Web means that users need the services offered by portals to navigate and find what they want. Recommendations from friends and colleagues who use portal facilities compound the popularity of these sites.

Despite the popularity of the megasites, none of them index anything near one-fifth of the Net’s 800 million-plus pages and most index the same sites. As a result, there are a select number of beaten paths emerging in each vertical industry.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:48

Newsclips

Free ink

How did a modest Akron family firm snag the attention of Money magazine?Joyce Johnson says that, as owners of a communications and marketing firm, she and her spouse, Don Olson, regularly approach myriad media to publicize their own clients. But when a staffer from the financial publication called Johnson & Olson in late fall, the couple was surprised when the editor queried about their own business.

“They asked us about our spending habits for our business and how we also manage to save for our kids’ college education,” says Johnson. “Before we knew it, they said they wanted to use us as a sample for a feature about American families who have small businesses.”

The business owners reveal their best and worst money moves in the December issue of Money magazine.

The business of benevolence

In today’s competitive world of free enterprise, insightful CEOs embrace the tacit expectations of discerning consumers.

Altruism is an ethic that ranks high on the priority list. And marketing minded companies — large and small — are strategically aligning themselves with worthwhile causes that mirror their market niche.

Carey & Littler Staffing Inc., for example, pioneered a project that helps prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s work force — a “School Bells Program” that provides school supplies for needy children in Akron Public Schools.

Since it was launched in 1996, about 20 other like-minded companies — among them Performance Staffing Systems, Callos Personnel Services and Dineen Enterprises Inc. — have joined the cause, donating and delivering the supplies to students in the schools.

At the beginning of this school year, 450 students at Crosby Elementary and Jackson Elementary schools benefited from the project.

For more information, call Carey & Littler Staffing at (330) 668-9800.

Lick the loopholes

Frustrated by undue legal loopholes, unnecessary government regulation and bureaucratic roadblocks that hamper your endeavors to succeed as an emerging growth company?

If you’re a source for job creation and tax revenues, you’ve got something to say about public policy issues that affect America’s growth companies. So, speak up. If you want a powerful and effective way to voice your opinions directly to policy makers, log onto www.aeeg.org/ and ally with American Entrepreneurs for Economic Growth (AEEG) — a nationwide network of more than 10,000 entrepreneurs who serve as united voice for emerging growth

AEEG’s members are some of the hottest, most successful companies in the country. The association works with business people, policy makers, the media and organizations throughout the United States to focus on legislation relating to capital formation, investment incentives and other issues affecting America’s growth companies.

In addition to advocacy, AEEG can keep you abreast of investment trends and entrepreneurial experiences. The network provides members with policy updates and legislative alerts, the latest statistics and trends of high-growth companies, a quarterly newsletter and access to the National Venture Capital Association’s educational programs.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

News Clips

Dick Corp. has been awarded a $37 million design/build contract to build a water distribution system in metropolitan San Juan, Puerto Rico. The company has also received a $14 million contract to build 223 single-family homes to replace dwellings destroyed in 1998 by Hurricane Georges and is building, in a joint venture with National Energy Production of Redmond, Wash., a $250 million power plant for LS Power Co.

Krome Communications has been appointed marketing communications agency for Bell Federal Savings.

The Regional Employers Health Alliance, a business coalition serving Washington, Westmoreland, Greene and Fayette counties, has reached an agreement with Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. to offer dental, life and disability insurance products to REHA members at preferred pricing levels. REHA has also reached an agreement with Clarity Vision, a subsidiary of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, to serve as the endorsed vision carrier for the coalition. REHA established a partnership with UMPC Health Plan to offer health insurance products at preferred pricing and expanded its membership into Westmoreland and Butler counties.

Great American Federal is planning to open a community office in the Waterfront development, a $300 million mixed-use development being built on the former site of the U.S. Steel Homestead Works. Construction is expected to begin this spring.

Pitt Ohio Express has selected Flaherty Sabol Carroll Marketing Communications to launch its nationwide distribution services.

Pittsburgh Home Savings will open a branch office at 4900 Liberty Ave. this month. The office will include free parking, drive-through lanes, a drive-up automated teller machine and night deposit capability.

H.A. Eckersley Contractor Inc., a Westmoreland County building contractor, has become a builder partner of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Home Program. Builders must construct homes that are at least 30 percent more energy efficient than the Model Energy Code requires.

PWCampbell has been awarded the design/build contract by the North Valley Bank of Corning, Ohio. PWCampbell and North Valley Bank will be partners in the construction of a 6,400-square-foot office and retail center. Members Choice WV Credit Union has awarded a contract to PWCampbell to construct a main office in Charleston, W.Va.

KlinkFarley & Co., a business investigations and intelligence firm, has opened offices in Pittsburgh.

TRACO has been selected to replace 474 windows in the old Allegheny County Jail. The window replacement project is part of a $46 million conversion from a jail into family court facilities.

The Virginia Beach school district has implemented the Cognitive Tutor Algebra I Program of Carnegie Learning Inc. for the 1999-2000 school year.

Mars Mineral, a division of Woodward Inc., has named Levy Industrial as its e-commerce marketing agency.

Konrad Alexander, a custom clothier based in London, has established its U.S. headquarters and a sales office in Pittsburgh.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:44

Newsclips

NewsclipsManufacturers vs. dot-coms: Round One

Investors court Internet start-ups like drunken sailors on leave from six months at sea chase fast women in the cheap part of town. They ignore the manufacturing segment – the sturdy, reliable, if not outwardly stylish, women with solid character. Those manufacturers have begun a quiet rebellion, launching a verbal war against the young up-starts.

Steven Hardis, chairman and CEO of Eaton Corp., fired a round at Internet investors while speaking at the Association for Corporate Growth’s 4th Annual Deal Maker Awards program in January. The company’s average 17.5 percent growth simply can’t compete with dot-com companies. Without mentioning any specific company, although Amazon.com, which delivers lofty stock prices and negative cash flow comes to mind, Hardis said: “We apologize for generating earnings and making cash.”

Round Two

Bill Sanford, president and CEO of Steris Corp., lobbed a second mortar round while addressing a gathering at the World Trade Center Cleveland annual members meeting. Sanford is often asked about the company’s less than stellar stock performance of late.

“There has been a lot of money diverted from good companies,” he says. With all the sarcasm he could muster, he related his company’s five “problems:”

1. The company is mid-sized.

2. Steris actually manufactures something.

3. The company makes a profit.

4. It generates cash.

5. Steris does not have dot-com in its name.

The bottom line: “We’re much more than a Web site,” Sanford says.

Energy efficient

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will recognize small businesses and organization that cut costs through energy efficiency. You can nominate yourself, your vendors or any small business, but there are requirements. Your facility must be 100,000 square feet or less and may not be in the energy equipment industry.

The business “should be practicing exemplary energy efficiency that translates into real dollar savings.” Those who have shown creative and innovative solutions are encouraged to enter. To enter, call (888) STAR YES or visit the Energy Star Small Business Web site at www.epa.gov/smalbiz.

How do you say “sold” in German

So you’ve been to eBay to buy the one comic book missing from your Spiderman collection. Or maybe you were looking to purchase a gross of ping pong balls. Or maybe finding the right small business to buy is on your mind. eBay, the wildly successful Internet auction house, has begun selling small businesses on its German Web site, www.eBayPro.de, alongside the rest of the world’s attic treasures. So what’s the opening bid on Microsoft?

Youthful giving

Don’t tell Gen Xers they don’t care. The Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers polled members of the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization and found that more than half of the respondents indicated they were “significantly involved” in the work of nonprofits. In addition, 44 percent felt those nonprofits adequately addressed the issues and causes they cared about.

The right touch

Jack Hayes, president of Connecting Touch Therapy and Wellness Center Inc. and a winner of the Pillar Award for Community Service, was selected to receive the 1999 Sam Walton Business Leader Award. The award, sponsored by the Wal-Mart Foundation and locally by Sam’s Club of Fairlawn, is presented to business leaders who show exceptional commitment to the community, respect for individuals, service to customers and commitment to excellence.

Training your work force

It’s quite a dilemma: Your work force is lacking the latest skills and it costs so much to send them for training that you’re not sure you can afford it. But they’re good workers, and you don’t want to let them go. The State of Ohio may have a solution.

Gov. Bob Taft has announced employers can receive a tax credit of up to $100,000 per year (until 2003) to pay for the increased expenses of training employees who are at risk of losing their jobs due to skill deficiencies or the inability to use new technologies. Diminished skills, huh? Now that sounds familiar.

Getting a life

Gone are the days of chaining your employees to the desk. During the past five years, more and more companies are instituting progressive work/life benefits. Whether its telecommuting, flextime or subsidized day care, 63 percent of companies have somewhat or significantly increased these types of benefits, according to a study from RHI Management Resources, a division of Robert Half International Inc. The rest of the companies polled are simply falling behind the times.

Economic sprawl

In another sign that Northeast Ohio’s regional economy is strong, business owners in Lake County say they’ve got growth on their wish list this year. Nearly 60 percent of Lake County businesses reported that they intend to hire more employees during calendar year 2000, according to a survey by Sequoia Realty. A hearty 54 percent say they plan to expand their workspace. So much for those Y2K worries.

Sign here, please

If you’ve ever pined for a signing bonus and haven’t received one, you may be in the wrong profession. Even with Y2K mediation assignments drying up, IT professionals continue to lead the way in signing bonuses, joining senior executives as the top two positions to receive that little something extra when they sign on the dotted line.

A recent survey, conducted by RHI Consulting, found that 36 percent of CIOs in Northeast Ohio offer signing bonuses at both staff and management levels to recruit top IT candidates. Most of the bonuses, however, come with a caveat — employees must remain with the company for a specified period of time. How long that time period is, though, depends on the employer.

Close the ranks

Do you know where you stand with your employees? Do they listen to you, or is there a serious communications gap in your firm? The problem may have absolutely nothing to do with your verbal communication skills, and simply may be a problem of a lack of proximity.

“Get closer to your workers,” suggests Robert Pater, a nationally known management author who’s studied the relationship between distance and effectiveness. “It’s all about physical and emotional leverage. The closer you are to what you’re trying to move, the easier. Physical proximity breaks down barriers. Making contact is the first step toward a positive influence on employees.”

Pater suggests moving your office closer to your staff. It’s fine, he says, to have an official office, but at the very least, place a workstation near your employees. It’s a simple matter of physics: Studies show that the closer two objects are to one another, the greater force they exert on each other. Similar studies show that the closer two offices are, the more communication occurs.

Priority shift

With more businesses culling prospective employees through the Internet, HR managers find themselves inundated with electronic job applications. Enter Web-Screen, created by Pittsburgh-based Development Dimensions International (www.ddiworld.com). Web-Screen enables HR managers to add a customized tool to their companies’ Web sites that automatically orients, qualifies, screens and responds to candidates based on parameters determined by the company. And, it does it 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The program takes Internet recruitment to the next level by accurately qualifying the ever-enlarging candidate pool and pushing the most qualified to the top. More important, HR managers won’t have to spend countless hours wading through thousands of resumes and can devote that energy toward more pressing matters ... like health care issues.

Size doesn’t matter The owners of upstart Western Reserve Brewing will unveil their new Bockzilla brand on March 11 at Cleveland’s Natural History Museum. The clever marketing plan to unleash the company’s new giant lizard inspired brew at midnight in the museum’s Dinosaur Hall is also a way of giving back to the community, assures Western Reserve co-founder Andrew Craze.

“The presence of the Natural History Museum had a profound effect on forming how I think about and respect the environment,” he says.

Tickets for the event are $20 per person and available through the museum’s ticket office.

Back in the fray

When we last checked with Amherst businessman Dave Moore, he was all smiles after his successful campaign to get city Law Director Allan Anderson booted out of office. That was spurred by a lengthy tax dispute involving the company he founded, Crystal Mortgage, over a generally inconsequential amount of money (featured in October 1999’s SBN.)

Since then, Moore has stepped down from his job as CEO and started a new mortgage company, Lenders Diversified. His taste of city politics must have had a lasting effect — he’s also running for Lorain County commissioner on the Republican ticket.

Play on words

Need some help deciding on a name for that product you’ve been working on for the past year? A free Web site may be just what you need to guide you down the path to prosperity. Two writers founded www.wordlab.com to be essentially a giant brainstorming session among you and, well, a bunch of strangers.

Post an idea on the site’s Wordboard and visitors, or even the site’s founders themselves, will chime in with suggestions. Consider a recent inquiry about what to name a new gourmet dog treat. Among the 13 responses posted were woof wafers and dog perignon. The site’s creators ask only that you make sure no one else has a legal right to the name you choose and that people who find business inspiration at the site drop a simple e-mail of thanks.

The force was with him

When Cedar Point executives turned to Lucasfilm in 1990 for help with a television spot for the Sandusky amusement park’s then-new Disaster Transport ride, they got an unexpected hands-on tour through movie history. It turns out a special effects technician for the commercial was one of George Lucas’ old hands on the original “Star Wars” movie.

One afternoon, Cedar Point Marketing Director John Hildebrandt and a few other theme parks execs were rounded up for a field trip to an old warehouse where scores of pop culture icons created by the sci-fi film were housed in all their dusty glory.

“I held Luke Skywalker’s light saber,” Hildebrandt recently recalled with glee at a downtown luncheon, still thrilled 10 years later about his brush with movie greatness.

A glue-free future

In the four months following the U.S. Postal Service’s August 1999 go-ahead for PC postage, U.S. small businesses and home offices spent $8.2 million on the product, and industry insiders say this is just the opening act. Market research by Massachusetts-based IDC, a IT consulting firm, shows spending on electronic postage will approach $300 million and is expected to hit $600 million by the end of 2001. With numbers like these, how long can it be until the lick and stick postage stamp goes the way of the eight-track tape player?

A word from the sponsor ...

Westlake’s SEAGREY Recruiting & Retention Inc. is doing an end run around the scores of career boards on the Web and bringing job prospects straight to the living rooms of Northeast Ohio through more traditional means — the television. SEAGREY’s “Career Minute” spots feature three area companies which have positions available.

The targeted spots, which run on Newschannel 5, are not only geared toward the couch potato. There is also a weekly lineup of radio spots and a special section on the television station’s Web site where job seekers can check view a schedule of upcoming broadcasts.

New business-help center opens

The U.S. Small Business Administration and KeyBank recently teamed up to open a multimedia center geared toward the needs of small business owners and prospective entrepreneurs. The Business Information Center — the first of its kind in Northeast Ohio — offers a wealth of free information available through videotapes, computer software, the Internet and an extensive library.

The center, at 1720 Playhouse Square, also offers free individual business counseling from members of The Service Corps of Retired Executives. It’s open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Value-added home buying

In a step to gain a competitive edge when it comes to the service side of home sales, Cleveland’s Realty One has created a value package for home buyers that includes $1,000 in discounts from national retailers and concierge services that make moving easier. As part of the program, Realty One employees inform electric, gas, water, cable television and phone companies of a customer’s move-in date and new address to provide a one-step moving experience.

“We feel this program gives Realty One the perfect opportunity to differentiate itself from a service standpoint,” says Realty One President Anthony Ciepiel. “No one else in the industry is going this direction to save customers time and money.”

Overseas expansion

Bedford Heights-based Sparkle International Inc., a leading franchiser of mobile, on-site, power cleaning, restoration and preservation companies, recently announced the formation of a third Sparkle Wash franchise in South Korea. Sparkle Wash has rapidly grown in national and international markets over the past several decades and provides power cleaning to everything from truck fleets to amusement parks. Fifteen people are employed at the company’s Bedford Heights headquarters, which operates two company-owned franchises serving Cuyahoga, Southern Geauga and Lorain counties.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:43

Newsclips

Susan Gove, owner of the collaborative Gove Business Center on Mt. Washington, has launched a new Web Site, www.expertsunlimited.com, that markets independent consultants to companies and organizations that outsource projects. This Web-based consultant referral network provides a listing of consultants, free-lancers and other service providers for a $100 annual fee, although it does not represent firms. Hiring companies can use the site free of charge. Says Gove: “As a consultant, it’s difficult to get your name in front of the right people within an organization. Experts Unlimited makes it easier for companies to find us.”

Architectural firm Norman Y. Harai Associates Inc. has changed its name to Klauscher & Harai Architects.

General American Corp., a Pittsburgh-based real estate settlement service firm, has introduced GATORS software, a proprietary, Web-enabled order tracking, production and reporting system.

Atlantic Luggage Co. of Ellwood City has chosen Jampole Communications as its agency of record for public relations.

Seattle’s Best Coffee has opened two locations in the Pittsburgh Airmall.

Repal Construction Co. Inc. has been awarded the contract for the alterations to the Homewood ECI Child Care Facility on Kelly Street in Homewood.

Chemicon Inc. has been granted a key patent for its chemical imaging technology, a technique that combines molecular spectroscopy and digital imaging for the chemical analysis of materials.

Walshak Communications of Pittsburgh has been chosen to handle a public relations project for a consortium involving the Disney Institute, Wesley College, Marylouise Fennell & Associates and Performa Inc.

Kings Family Restaurants has raised $60,000 and provided more than $28,000 in in-kind support to benefit the Make-A-Wish-Foundation’s “Light Up A Child’s Life” holiday fund-raising campaign.

Alpern, Rosenthal & Co. has been accepted as the exclusive Greater Pittsburgh Area member of the National Litigation Support Services Association, a nationwide association of CPA firms that provide specialized accounting and consulting services to the litigation industry.

PWCampbell has been awarded a design/build contract by the Dime Bank of Honesdale, Pa. The project will involve the remodeling of the bank’s main office and retail center.

The Millennia Group, a Cheswick electronics manufacturer, has formed Millennia Design Inc. Millennia Design provides critical design services, including creative layout techniques, circuit performance predictions, circuit cost-reduction solutions, test-engineering support and electronic product testing.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:43

Newsclips

Thinking small

According to Vickie Davanzo, many smaller companies lose out on potentially lucrative bids for larger projects because they simply don’t have the resources.

As FirstEnergy’s Supplier Diversity Coordinator, Davanzo is on a mission to enable small, minority and women-owned companies to compete for those bids — at least on FirstEnergy’s projects.

Davanzo says FirstEnergy is aggressively trying to increase the amount of business it does with disadvantaged companies.

“We’re trying to step up to what the SBA has put out there, but we have not attained that yet,” she says. “Getting there takes the imagination of the person who’s running the program — trying to find the avenues or opportunities.”

One of the avenues Davanzo has taken is in helping to group together small companies so that together they have the resources to compete for FirstEnergy contracts. To locate businesses with experience in power generation, she works with electric utility members of the Edison Electric Institute Minority Business Development Committee for recommendations.

Davanzo hopes FirstEnergy’s increased efforts to promote its Supplier Diversity Program will result in awarding more than $117 million in contracts this year to qualifying businesses.

More than a hunch

Instead of paying a professional to tell you where to invest, you might get a higher rate of return by consulting with a University of Akron business student. The University of Akron College of Business Administration students captured first place in the national Oak Associates 1999 Investment Club Contest.

Managing a portfolio of publicly traded stocks, University of Akron students achieved a 202.83 percent return in calendar year 1999. The second highest rate of return, achieved by University of Wisconsin students, was 71 percent. Among the stocks in the winning portfolio were Citrix Systems, Cisco Systems, EMC Corp., Macro Media and Qualcomm.

Oak Associates invests $50,000 per school, per year, to fund the contest. The University of Akron students’ investment had grown to $235,000 by January 2000.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:40

Newsclips

Exhaust expansion

Corsa Performance (profiled in SBN, January 1999) has settled into a new 40,000-square-foot facility on Blaze Industrial Parkway in Berea. Corsa, which manufactures high performance stainless steel exhaust systems for the marine and automotive aftermarket, outgrew its 21,000-square-foot facility, says Marketing Manager Tom Miller.

Brewhopping

Consider it a coup d’état in the local brewery competition – Snyder International Brewing Co. lured away Great Lakes Brewing Co. brewmaster Andrew Tveekrem to oversee brewing operations for Snyder’s Frederick Brewing Co. in Frederick, Md. Tveekrem had been with Great Lakes since 1991.

Snyder also owns Cleveland’s Crooked River Brewing Co. and Cincinnati’s Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Co.

Speaking of Crooked River, the company landed a bronze medal for its Yuletide Ale at the Brewing Industry’s International Awards competition in Burton Upon Trent, England. The beer was selected from a field of 732 beers from 40 nations. Yuletide Ale is only available between Thanksgiving and early spring.

Folio feature

GIE Media Inc. has been named to the 2000 Folio: 40, a list of the fastest growing companies in the magazine industry. Cleveland-based GIE produces business magazines, directories, conferences and trade shows, custom print publications, vertical market Internet portals and related e-communications products.

GIE Media’s growth is due, in large part, to the development of the company’s Internet and Web division, explains Richard Foster, GIE president and CEO.

Drive-in Web service

Just when you thought you’d seen the newest innovations in online car shopping ... think again. MyCarPage.com, a California-based Web site, recently added online service appointment scheduling for busy car owners who loathe calling their mechanics to find a way to squeeze their cars in for repairs. Next on the horizon: online haggling.

Better benefits = loyal employees

If you don’t think there’s a correlation between benefits and employee loyalty, that “goodbye” sound was probably your key team members walking out the door to your competitors. In the next few years, don’t be surprised if employees judge you on more than how many vacation days you give them or their salaries.

Expect requests for access to discounted airline tickets, massage therapy, laser eye surgery, pet insurance and perhaps even auto insurance, says Ken Barksdale, president of Baltimore, Md.-based RewardsPlus (www.rewardsplus.com). And expect that the Internet will become a means to fulfilling those requests.

“(The Internet) is changing the benefits,” he says. “As employees become more familiar with customized services available, they’ll expect and appreciate customized benefits. Employees may want to select what makes sense to them, not just take what the employer is giving to everyone.”

If Barksdale’s prognostications come true, don’t blame SBN. You have been warned.

More changes on the horizon

Speaking of compensation changes, executives are joining in with diversified pay structures in this swiftly changing corporate world. If you’ve assessed what you’re taking out of the company’s coffers lately, you may have helped national CEO compensation rates rise 36 percent in 1998 in comparison to a 3.5 percent rise in overall U.S. wages and benefits the same year.

What’s driving the increases? According to a new book, “Pay People Right,” by Patricia Zingheim and Jay Schuster, executive compensation has increased as the economy has expanded. There is a direct correlation between a company’s success and the compensation its management team earns.

Then again, you probably didn’t need a book to tell you what your bank account already knew, right?

And another thing

Have you ever wondered just what that $80,000 package actually looks like? In their book, “Pay People Right,” authors Patricia Zingheim and Jay Schuster break down a typical $80,000 compensation package: $52,000 base pay; $5,250 variable pay (cash incentive or stock option grants); $21,750 benefits (health, life and disability insurance, vacation, holidays, sick leave and retirement); $500 recognition value (cash or noncash).

Total = $80,000.

Don’t look now but ...

It’s probably been a few months since your HR department evaluated your company’s health care insurance package, but by now your employees have certainly felt the brunt of increased costs — that is, if your company is among the 80 percent of Northeast Ohio businesses that reported increased fees for health care, according to a survey of company owners and CEOs by The Alternative Board.

Health care costs for those companies increased 5 percent or more for 86 percent of the companies who reported hiked fees, and half of those saw double-digit rises in their health care insurance costs, the survey says.

Not exactly setting the world on fire

If anyone needs proof of the role big business hasn’t played in the e-commerce revolution, a new study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and The Conference Board seems to make a solid case. The survey set out to discover how global companies are measuring up in this new age of e-business.

Ninety percent of the 80 businesses in the survey boasted annual revenues of $1 billion or more a year, with a full 50 percent reporting annual sales north of $5 billion. However, it turns out these aren’t exactly the e-commerce beacons one might expect. For the nonbelievers, let’s look at the tale of the tape:

  • Seventy-nine percent of the companies said e-business accounts for less than 5 percent of revenues.

  • Only 28 percent are able to process transactions online, while only 40 percent handle orders electronically.

  • Sixty percent do not yet have extranets linking operations with key suppliers and financial partners.

  • Less than half have any quantitative or qualitative methods to assess their e-business performance.

  • A quarter of the group has yet to move beyond basic Web “brochureware” in implementing online business.

One for the private sector

While federal lawmakers still struggle to find a way to make prescription drugs affordable for senior citizens, Medical Mutual of Ohio’s SaveWell program has reportedly already saved its customers $1.1 million on prescriptions since the program was introduced eight months ago. For a $1 a week cost, the average SaveWell member reportedly saved an average of $13.67 on each prescription.

The underlying irony is the fact that the day the SaveWell plan was announced, President Clinton spoke on a similar program he wanted to implement on the federal level. So far, that program has yet to see the light of day.

“As politicians talk about making prescription drugs affordable to seniors, SaveWell is actually doing it,” boasted Ben Zelman, president and CEO of SaveWell.com, the company that markets the SaveWell program. “With group purchasing power, there is absolutely no reason why seniors, or anyone, should pay full retail price for prescription drugs.”

Equity is king

CEO compensation in 1999 was increasingly driven by stock options and other long-term incentives, which now represent nearly two-thirds of the median pay package, according to a new survey by William M. Mercer. Total direct compensation (salary and bonus, plus long-term incentive grant values) last year jumped 23.5 percent to $4,923,670 among a major sample of 355 CEOs at 350 large U.S. corporations. Five years ago, salary and bonus represented more than half of median total direct compensation, while in 1999 they represented just over one-third. Today, 63 percent of the CEO pay package consists of long-term incentives, particularly stock option grants, which reached a median of nearly $3 million last year compared to just over $1 million five years ago.

And the winners are ...

Moen Inc., Keithley Instruments Inc. and GE Lighting were three of five local companies honored last month at Cleveland State University’s Fourth Annual Business Leadership awards. North Olmsted-based Moen was recognized for its “Moen University” leadership training and development program, while Keithley Instruments claimed the award for Global Business Leadership. GE Lighting was honored for its leadership in the realm of community service. Meanwhile, W.P. Hickman Systems Inc. of Solon was recognized for quality service leadership and Michael A. Cristal, president and CEO of Consolidated Risk Management Agency Inc. of Cleveland, claimed the award for entrepreneurial leadership.

Job board report card

Although the popularity of online job boards would appear to be going through the roof, a recent survey by Pittsburgh-based Development Dimensions International seems to indicate that there are still a few glitches in the mix. First, only 29 percent of people who had a job interview in the past three years used Internet job boards to find the opening and even those who used the boards weren’t entirely won over. Forty-five percent of those who said they used Web classifieds to search for a job were only slightly satisfied or not at all satisfied with the results of their experience.

However, totally abandoning job boards doesn’t seem to be the answer either, according Richard S. Wellins, DDI’s senior vice president of marketing and global accounts.

“Companies that use technology effectively can increase hiring speed and quality while reducing costs,” he says. “Yet our study reveals that candidates are unconvinced about the Internet’s ability to support job prospecting. A mix of technology and other tactics will produce the best results.”

And on the seventh day they rested

Cleveland’s Media Design Imaging was called to quick action earlier this year when Madison, Ohio-based Stunt Predators USA was contacted by the casting director for George Lucas’ “Star Wars: Episode 2.” The stunt company, which has previously worked on smaller films, was asked to provide some photographs and a promotion video for review. The only catch was stunt coordinator Richard Fike had to come up with something inside of eight days.

I was skeptical,” said MDI co-owner Johnny Wu. “I realized this might be a challenge for us to put something quickly together with a minimum of planning.”

Nevertheless, three days later, an MDI five-person team shot the necessary footage inside of five hours. After a little tweaking on MDI computers, overdubs of actors’ voices and music were added, and the tape was sent off by the deadline less than a week after the initial call. Whether Stunt Predators USA is successful in its bid to land a job on the mother of all science fiction movie franchises is now left to chance ... and, you guessed it, the force.