Indianapolis (1038)

Monday, 25 April 2005 09:52

Mayor Peterson's compass

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As a business executive, Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson picked up several important lessons. He learned to surround himself with the best people and, just as crucial, keep those people challenged. He also learned the importance of keeping people focused on a common goal.

As president of The Precedent Cos., Peterson's first task was to combine disparate companies into one. The Precedent group of companies focuses on commercial and residential development, construction and financial services. When Peterson assumed the reins of this group, each operated very differently, with its own management structure.

"A person working for one company wouldn't know the person leading another," Peterson says.

His challenge was to reorganize the companies under one leadership umbrella, then get them to work together toward common goals.

As mayor, Peterson's taken this same approach to unify the departments in his office. He says it is important that members of each department know and understand Peterson's overall goals. Communication is the key to accomplishing this objective, he says, so he holds a bimonthly cabinet meeting to keep senior leaders on target.

The structure of Peterson's organization also lends itself to a stronger communication flow. He says his "pyramid communication" structure optimizes the flow of information among him, his staff and key policy makers.

Tying everyone together is the Peterson plan. Much like the business plan of a large company, the Peterson plan defines the mayor's goals and objectives and outlines how he plans to achieve them. It has also helped Peterson weather what he calls some pretty big waves in the political ocean, such as the city's $600 million purchase of the Indianapolis Water Co.

"The plan always keeps us anchored," he says.

Smart Business talked with Peterson about the business of running a city and how he stays focused on his plan.

What are the similarities between running a business and running the city?

Executive leadership is executive leadership, whether you are running a private company, a not-for-profit organization or are a government leader. It is different from being a legislator, but there are a lot of parallels between leading a business and the city.

The reality is that leadership is leadership, and the most important thing is to surround yourself with the best people you can. The team will make or break you and the progress of the organization.

There is a more overt political element to being mayor, but there are also some political elements to leading a business. The best organizations are not ones led by an unquestioned dictator. You need to persuade people, to get them to take ownership of their part of the business and effectively delegate. You keep a close eye on what you delegate.

You build coalitions in government that are not dissimilar to the coalitions made in business. There is no question that my experience in business was a huge advantage to me in taking on the job of mayor five-and-a-half-years ago and continues to be a great benefit to me.

What was the most important lesson you learned during your four years as president of The Precedent Cos.?

Hiring the best people you can find and then ensuring that they are constantly focused and being challenged and fulfilled by their jobs. You need to make sure you have the right people in the right place and that they are enthusiastic and passionate about their jobs.

Sometimes that means moving people around and giving them additional responsibilities. You need to allow people to reach their potential and follow their passions within the goals of the organization. That's how you make progress -- you have strong people.

If you have weak people, you have to make a change or you will suffer. That is probably the most important thing that I brought into the public sector from the private sector.

What was your biggest challenge at The Precedent Cos. and how does it compare to the challenges you face as mayor?

Clearly, the biggest challenge I had in the private sector was to create one company; to bring disparate companies together as one. There were a number of businesses with different ownership and management structures. My challenge was in bringing all that together and creating one holding company, one board and ownership structure, and I was successful in achieving that.

In government, the basic structure is a given. It is set by law, but within that, people need to work together toward the same goals or they could end up almost working against each other.

I need to make sure that people are working toward shared goals. They need to start off on the same page. They could fall off quickly if you don't focus on the importance of keeping people together. Everyone knows their goals, and they are constantly updated. We function as one office rather than a confederation of departments.

One thing we do have is a cabinet meeting every two weeks where we are all in one room. We talk about what we are doing and what we have coming up, and I provide support and remind them of any overriding messages. This helps keep everyone on the same page.

One technique to keep everyone working together is the structure we have -- a loose reporting structure. I have a senior person in each department reporting to me and more deputy mayors responsible for certain issue areas. It is not a rigid hierarchal structure but a pyramid for communication.

There are about 25 to 30 key policymakers. By setting up the pyramid communication structure, I know what's going on in all the divisions and they know what I'm up to.

How is the Peterson Plan similar to a business plan for a company?

It is similar in many ways, although a business plan typically includes pro forma financial performance information. You typically include profitability information in addition to strategy, goals and objectives.

In this case, the goal is not growth or profit. The Peterson Plan focuses far less on those types of issues but everything else, plans, tactics for implementing and achieving our goals, is included. The difference is we don't have financial data. If there is additional revenue needed for a particular plan, then that is spelled out, but there isn't a huge financial component.

What strategies have you used to implement the plan and how has it been received?

The plan has been well-received . The first time it was a huge component of the campaign. My staff is asked to keep the plan out as a reference tool. At any moment someone might ask what next, he or she can look at the plan and see. Based on my own experience, I can say it has helped us accomplish a lot. Being a newly elected person can be like going out in the Atlantic in a small sailboat. You get knocked about by some big waves and bad weather; there are a number of unpredictable things that happen. If you don't have a plan, when the bad storm is over, you won't know what way to turn.

It is the same with government. If you don't have navigational equipment, what you end up after four years accomplishing may be everyone else's agendas. We have reacted to some pretty big waves but we didn't lose sight of our goals.

There was a lot we did not see in the plan -- both opportunities and challenges. We responded to those but also kept the plan in mind. At the end of the four-year term, we published a report explaining what we accomplished and what we didn't.

One of the big waves we dealt with was our purchase of the Indianapolis Water Co. It was one of the largest public transactions in state history, using $600 million in bonds. The water company had been privately owned and we were fine with that. But the company was making a huge acquisition which fell under the jurisdiction of the SEC.

The SEC required the company to divest itself of the water company. We were not happy that it would most likely be sold to a company outside the state or even outside the country. We were able to invoke an obscure state low that allowed us to buy back the water company. It was a major undertaking and took a huge commitment of time and resources to accomplish. We now contract the operations of the water company to a private party. But that was not in the Peterson Plan.

Has the Peterson plan been an effective tool toward achieving the city's goals?

Yes. It provides a road map and navigational tools, and I am able to see and make sure that what I promised, I deliver. Now there are some items in the plan that, at the time ,we thought were important to do, but something in the equation changed and then it didn't make sense.

There were a few items in the plan that we decided would actually be bad to do, so we chose not to do those and explained why. The vast majority of our goals were accomplished, and some we tried and failed. But yes, it is an effective tool and should be used more often.

What do you consider the city's biggest strength?

Our biggest strength is clearly our culture. Not in the traditional sense, but the culture we have of commitment to the city above self-interest.

There are private-public partnerships now that didn't exist when I was born. People are working together to make the city a better place. This culture has developed over the last 30 to 35 years and it is a powerful asset. I'd argue that we have made more progress than any other established city in the last 35 years because of that asset.

What about areas for improvement?

We could do a better job painting a picture of the city. We need to do a better job getting the word out about the remarkable city this has become.

We are working with both private and not-for-profit marketing groups to do this, to better depict the arts and cultural assets that we have. Our goal is to become an arts and cultural destination.

How to reach: Mayor Bart Peterson, (317) 327-3601 or www.indygov.org/eGov/Mayor/home.htm

Monday, 25 April 2005 09:43

The Corley file

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Born: Sept. 2, 1942, Pittsburgh

Education: Bachelor's degree, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va.; master's degree, hospital administration, Duke University, Durham, N.C.

First job: 1965, administrative assistant, Duke University Medical Center

Career moves: Associate hospital director at the Albert B. Chandler Medical Center, University of Kentucky, 1971-1975; named hospital director, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pa., 1975; hired as president and CEO of Akron (Ohio) General Medical Center, 1978; became president and CEO of Community Health Network, 1984

Boards: Member, VHA National, Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Pro Health Network, The Health Care Group; co-chairs Groups for Renewal, Accountability and Development of Excellence in Schools (GRADES); 1998 president of the Indy 500 and 400 festivals.

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

It was when I found myself on the other side of a major issue with my board chairman. I handled it by developing even stronger relationships with each individual board member.

Past or present, whom do you admire most in business and why?

My mentor was Ray Brown [who played a major role in shaping health care administration training], and my admiration for him is that he changed my management philosophy from one of basically leadership through personal relationships or personal friendships to one of intellectual-personal management philosophy.

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

There are many lessons, but I would say that the greatest lesson learned in business is how important passion is in achieving your goals.

Tuesday, 22 March 2005 19:00

Do you read the fine print?

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Necessary evil.

Commodity.

These descriptions convey the disdain many feel when paying insurance premiums. However, the most common financial transfer mechanism is an insurance transfer. Insurance allows an organization to transfer the financial consequences of a loss, especially a catastrophic loss, to an insurance carrier. The carrier pays policyholders for losses and, in turn, distributes the cost of all losses among policyholders.

The insurance policy is an agreement in which the insurance carrier promises to pay claims in exchange for premiums paid by the policyholder. Ultimately, it's a legal contract between two parties.

Components of a policy

The policy is constructed to outline the terms and conditions of the contract, including the obligations and rights of each party. This is true whether the policy is a package (usually covering property, general liability, auto, etc.) or monoline (workers' compensation/employers' liability, professional liability, etc.).

Whether package, monoline or a combination, an insurance program has three components -- common policy declarations, common policy conditions and coverage parts or lines of business.

Common policy declarations

The common policy declarations, or "dec" page, is often overlooked. However, it can make or break an insurance claim. In addition to the premium, the dec page provides critical information.

* Named insured and insurance company. The parties entering into the contract.

* Agent or broker. The "producer" who brought the two parties together and facilitated the execution of the contract.

* Effective date and expiration of the policy. Defined dates on which coverage begins and expires. Subject to terms and conditions of the policy, coverage will be determined based on the timing of the occurrence relative to the policy term.

Common policy conditions -- read them

The standard insurance policy extends specific rights and duties to the named insured. These conditions establish fundamental ground rules for both parties of the contract -- policyholder or named insured, and carrier.

Many of these conditions are contained in a common document that applies to all coverage parts. In addition to the underlying right to coverage (including indemnity and defense), the named insured's traditional rights include the right to cancel the policy, the right to receive cancellation or nonrenewal notification from the carrier, the right to change the policy and the right to receive return premium.

Basic duties of the named insured include paying premium and submitting to examination of books and records and/or inspections and surveys (at the request of the carrier).

Who's on first?

Often, an insurance policy will contain more than one named insured. The common policy conditions make it very clear that the rights and duties pertain to the first named insured -- literally, the first name listed in the declarations.

It is important to consider whether the first name is appropriate for a given right or duty. Also, note that the insured cannot transfer the rights or duties under the policy to any other person or organization without the written consent of the carrier.

Additional insurance policy components

Each coverage segment includes its own set of forms that allow you and your insurance agent to construct the desired policy terms and conditions. These forms define key terms and conditions, including the insuring agreement, causes of loss, exclusions, definitions and specific line of business conditions.

Besides clearly establishing terms and conditions, policies are constructed to allow for clear delineation of coverage between the various lines of business. For example, coverage may be excluded in one form because it is provided elsewhere.

Insurance should never be viewed as a substitute for loss control or the sole means of risk management, but as a critical element. Your insurance agent is there to help you interpret the legal contract that is your insurance policy.

Protect yourself by making sure you understand that contract and how it applies to your business.

Steve Blankenship, manager, underwriting practices group at Westfield Insurance, can be reached at (330) 887-8417 or steveblankenship@westfieldgrp.com. In business for more than 156 years, Westfield Insurance provides commercial and personal insurance services to customers in 17 states. Represented by leading independent insurance agencies, the product it offers is peace of mind. For more information, visit www.westfieldinsurance.com.

Wednesday, 23 March 2005 09:21

A company reborn

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After almost a decade in the making, OneAmerica's rebirth as a mutual insurance holding company is proving as successful as company executives had planned.

"It's turned out exactly as we hoped," says Dayton Molendorp, the company's president and CEO. "We are positive about the future."

Molendorp, who joined the company in 1987 when it was American United Life Insurance Co., worked through its transformation under its previous CEO, Jerry Semler, who was the driving force behind the change. In the late 1990s, Semler led the legislative charge to change state law to allow the company's restructuring.

Today, the company is financially stronger than ever, with assets of more than $14 billion and annual revenue of $1 billion.

But Molendorp, who worked closely with Semler during the transformation before ascending to the top spot on Sept. 1, 2004, says this is only the beginning.

"We are very pleased with the result of the restructuring," he says. "We have ambitious plans to double in size. We hope to have $25 billion in assets in five years."

Molendorp's swift rise to the CEO position began in 1999, when he was named senior vice president of then-AUL's Individual Operations. Three years later, he became president of the company's Pioneer Mutual Life Insurance Co. subsidiary. The next year, he was named executive vice president of AUL and president of The State Life Insurance Co., making him Semler's right-hand man during the final pieces of the restructuring and preparing him for the role of CEO.

With the restructuring complete, Molendorp and his team now have the ability to seek further capital, affiliate and merge with other companies, aggregate financials and adopt best practices of other companies that have joined the OneAmerica portfolio.

"The new structure allows us to enter into relationships with other companies, which we've done," he says.

As an example, he cites the acquisition of Pioneer Mutual Life Insurance Co., a stock subsidiary of the company. Pioneer Mutual offers life insurance and annuity products, and is licensed to conduct life insurance business in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

"The management teams and boards voted to join us," Molendorp says. "Thanks to the new structure, we have a cash-free growth engine."

OneAmerica was able to increase its value and the value for Pioneer Mutual Life customers without spending capital. The combined companies fall under the One America Financial Partners brand, which Molendorp says has a lot of strength.

"Both companies have thrived with the affiliation," he says.

Profitable combinations

Pioneer Mutual isn't the only company that has joined forces with the new OneAmerica. R.E. Moulton Inc., one of the oldest and largest managing general underwriters in the United States, and The State Life Insurance Co. have also become a part of the financial conglomerate. And all have profited.

"[It] allows us to leverage infrastructure across more customers and assets," says Molendorp. "If we can add 50,000 to 60,000 policies to the same administrators and deliver the same service at a lower price, it is one example of how the combination of companies can create value."

But Molendorp isn't underestimating the value of human contributions to the equation.

"The other companies brought good, talented people that have taken senior and mid-level leadership positions in the company," he says. "They have added strength to our company through their talent and dedication. They would not have been available to us without the affiliations."

OneAmerica isn't the only company pursuing this strategy; the insurance industry on the whole is consolidating. But OneAmerica plans to use this method to continue to grow and improve.

"Bigger isn't better," Molendorp says. "Better is better. We are trying to get bigger and better."

Molendorp says the company plans to achieve its goals by growing organically and joining forces with other companies, a challenge given the slow growth in the industry as a whole.

"There is pressure on the industry to contain costs and there is strength in size," he says. "And we are winning at both -- we have had a very strong year."

With all the growth and change at the company, one aspect that hasn't changed is its core values.

"Our core values are still there," he says. "And our focus in the marketplace hasn't changed. We focus on individual life and annuities, 401(k) retirement plans, group life and long-term disability. These haven't changed. As we develop more critical mass and size, it will strengthen our position in the marketplace."

With plans to double its assets, OneAmerica is looking for more companies to affiliate with, and one of the top factors it considers is the company's culture.

"We are looking for like-minded companies," says Molendorp. "We are building synergies between our cultures. That is the No. 1 thing that has to be in place. We look at how the people in the company see their role in the marketplace and how they approach business and life."

Molendorp says growth will be the biggest challenge in the near term.

"It takes no talent to grow unprofitably," he says. "We could offer a product which will pay a half a point higher than the competition and flood the doors, but that is unprofitable. We can't pay that rate, our people, and make a fair return. That is the biggest challenge."

Molendorp is juggling three recipients when it comes to that fair return: the customer, the company and the agent. If any of them are out of balance, it is unhealthy for all three.

"The challenge is to find the balance that is fair to our customers, our people and our agents, and deliver a good product to our customers," " Molendorp says. "That takes all our energy."

Change is good

Molendorp is the first to admit that there have been bumps in the road on the path to restructuring, but says it was worth the effort.

"There were some detractors," he says. "But they were in a great minority."

And, despite all the due diligence, OneAmerica executives still encountered several surprises during the acquisition process.

"Every time we did our due diligence and felt we had a good handle on the picture, once you actually got a good look under the hood, you find things you didn't expect," says Molendorp. "But there was nothing we couldn't work through with the two teams."

He says it is evidence of the quality of people on both sides.

"There were great people in the companies," he says. "When a problem was on the table, we got it solved, we worked it through."

Molendorp makes it clear that he is pleased with the caliber of people working for the company.

"We re-emphasized the need to have the right people in the right positions," he says. "We've gone through some changes in leadership and management personnel that resulted in a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm in the company."

The biggest risk of the restructuring over the last several years, says Molendorp, was not to do it at all.

"I don't see any risk, just the opposite," he says. "If we had stayed the same, we couldn't raise capital, and that limits the amount we can put in our growth. Now there are no limitations."

In fact, it could be said that "Change" is now Molendorp's credo.

"If a company doesn't continually change, it won't do well," he says. "We want to change together. We were looking for management people that would see change as part of their everyday work.

"You have to grow or you will begin to decline. We are working to make sure we are on the growth side of that curve."

How to reach: OneAmerica, (317) 285-1111 or www.oneamerica.com

Thursday, 24 February 2005 19:00

Risk management

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Business owners are often considered natural risk-takers.

But beyond the obvious entrepreneurial risks, businesses are vulnerable to less obvious threats. Are these threats on your risk radar? And do you rely solely on an insurance policy for your entire risk management solution?

Internal and external risks are part of any business. Exposures can be physical (property and people), legal (liability and compliance), social (corporate image and public relations), economic (marketplace and operations) or juridical (jury or judicial decisions). Your success is driven by your ability to identify and manage all of these exposures through an effective risk management program.

What is risk management?

The basic premise of risk management is protecting assets by identifying, analyzing and controlling exposures or risk. An exposure could be anything -- situation, practice, condition, activity or resource -- that might lead to loss and impact success.

How do you control exposure? You can start with the five elements of risk management.

1. Identification. You have to know a risk exists to manage it. Determine and categorize exposures through policy and procedure reviews, compliance reviews, physical inspections of property and operations, loss activity reviews, contract reviews and insurance policy analysis.

2. Analysis. Assess each identified exposure to determine the impact a loss could have. This will help you prioritize and make good decisions.

3. Control. Risk management is aimed at minimizing loss potential at the most efficient cost. There are more options than you may realize.

* Avoidance -- totally eliminating an activity and/or exposure. Examples include razing a dilapidated building or removing an element of a production process that could cause injury.

* Prevention -- reducing claim frequency. This could be removing an ignition source to prevent fire loss or implementing additional safety training.

* Reduction -- reducing severity of financial impact from losses that do occur. For example, you could install a fire wall or a sprinkler system to prevent the spread of fire.

* Segregation/separation/duplication of exposures -- reducing loss severity. This includes not relying on a single supplier for products, materials and services (segregation), utilizing warehouses in different locations (separation) and implementing data back-up procedures (duplication).

* Transfer -- contractual and/or physical transfer of risk. Consider hold-harmless agreements or using a common carrier for goods transportation.

4. Finance. A business must acquire funds to pay for potential losses. The most common source is an insurance transfer, which represents the acquisition of external funds.

An insurance transfer typically requires internal funding sources. However, insurance should never be viewed as a substitute for loss control or a sole means of risk management.

An alternative finance approach is the acquisition of external funds via a contractual agreement, such as using a hold-harmless and indemnification agreement to shift funding for losses to a third party.

5. Administration. Because exposures are constantly changing, risk management should be a continuous process. An effective risk management program includes developing and implementing policies and procedures, along with regular review and updates of the program.

Whether an organization employs a risk manager or simply adopts the basic risk management tenets, its success depends on the ability to identify and manage exposures. A good program addresses all risks associated with organizational activities -- past, present and future.

Ultimately, risk management is aimed at protecting an organization from financial harm. That includes the protection and enhancement of assets, people and corporate image.

Reach Steve Blankenship, manager, Underwriting Practices Group, at (330) 887-8417 or steveblankenship@westfieldgrp.com. In business for more than 156 years, Westfield Insurance provides commercial and personal insurance services to customers in 17 states. Represented by leading independent insurance agencies, the product it offers is peace of mind, and its promise of protection is supported by a commitment to service excellence. For more information, visit www.westfieldinsurance.com.

Friday, 25 February 2005 06:27

The Carpenter file

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Born: Barstow, Calif.

Education: Bachelor's degree, biology, 1975, master's degree, horticulture, 1978, Purdue University

First job: Manager of a small garden center, Indianapolis, 1979-1980

Career moves: Quit garden center job in 1980 and started making plans for a mail order bird feeding supply company. Found first store location in Broad Ripple and decided to open retail store instead of mail order. Opened store in January 1981. In 1982, others wanted to own bird feeding stores, so he decided to start a franchise. Formed franchise company with a partner and started selling franchises.

Boards: None currently, but has been involved in many nonprofit and university boards through the years

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

Learning how to lead a growing company. To overcome this, I attended several in-depth seminars, joined the Indiana University Alliance Group and hired a board of advisers.

Whom do you admire most in business and why?

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, for the success of his business and for his personal flair and on-the-edge accomplishments.

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

Ask, seek and beg for help from more experienced business persons. No one innately knows how to lead a growing company -- it is a learned skill.

Wednesday, 26 January 2005 09:27

The innovation of education

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Merriam-Webster defines technology as "the science of the application of knowledge to practical purposes." As an educator at the University of Phoenix Indianapolis campus, part of this description is quite relevant to my professional mission.

Because the university focuses on educating working professionals, we strive daily to ensure the knowledge our students gain in the classroom applies directly to practical situations in the workplace. Our curriculum is relevant to the modern business environment thanks in part to our utilization of cutting-edge educational technologies.

Evolution of business and education

Seasoned business managers will attest that embracing technology is one of the keys to future success and prolonged growth in the professional world. And just as today's business environment dictates a need for tech-savvy employees, so, too, does the higher education system call for tech-savvy students.

Here are a few examples of how technology is making an impact on the higher education system.

* Page turning is out, scrolling is in. By using digital programs and database tools, schools can now provide students with advanced learning systems far superior to a standard textbook. University of Phoenix has created its own program, rEsource, which enables students to explore and use a wide array of scholarly and professional sources from a single operating system.

Such programs not only provide vast amounts of applicable data but also enable users to develop a competency in information dissemination. Students become more "intentional learners" as they are required to access, organize and draw upon digital learning resources in the same ways that professional practice now requires.

* Rich media can lead to student prosperity. Although business simulations have been a proven learning tool for years, the multimedia and interactive capabilities of today's integrated systems have brought digital simulations to a new plateau. Slick new programs allow users to put their personal business theory to work in highly advanced adaptations of professional situations.

* "Write" click. Regardless of a student's chosen course of study, developing a proficient writing style is an important part of the learning process. More to the point, it's an essential skill in the business world. The advent of word processing programs and the proliferation of grammar and spell checker have changed the dynamics of proofreading.

Computers can now understand data as it is imputed, analyze how it is used and give feedback based on the resulting content. Some schools even offer services allowing students to upload course-assigned papers for review and have them returned with feedback on format, grammar and style.

* Online education with class. The evolution of online learning is possibly the largest impact of technology on the educational system. Most all higher educational institutions offer some form of distance learning programs.

Some, however, take that concept one step further by offering a combination of in-class and online learning. In these programs, students attend the first and last class at a local learning center, where they meet their instructor and classmates. They then conduct the remainder of their course online. These programs bring structure to online learning while adding a level of flexibility for working adults who are typically "scheduley challenged."

We have heard the lingo of typical student-to-teacher interaction change dramatically over the past 15 years, from course packets to multimedia CDs, overhead projectors to Digital Smart Boards, typewritten memos to e-mail, and notebooks to Personal Digital Assistants. While there tends to be initial resistance among more traditional academics, such advancements bring numerous new opportunities for learning and an increase in educational accessibility.

Undoubtedly, technology helps students become more effective learners and, ultimately, more marketable to their employers.

Simon Lumley is vice president of Indiana operations and Indianapolis campus director for the University of Phoenix. University of Phoenix offers accessible higher education options uniquely tailored for Indianapolis' working business professionals. Reach him at (317) 585-8610 or simon.lumley@phoenix.edu. For more information, log onto www.phoenix.edu.

Tuesday, 21 December 2004 11:55

The Kreidel file

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Born: Nov. 1, 1958

Education: Bachelor of science degree in business administration, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

First job: Driving a ski bus

Career moves: Worked for American Stores prior to entering the office products industry. Part owner of Wyckmans Office Supply -- later bought out by Corporate Express -- from 1985 to 1995. When Corporate Express bought out the dealership in 1995, became vice president of the Rocky Mountain Division for Corporate Express until 1997; has been president/CEO of is.group since 1997

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

One of the greatest challenges I have faced was making the decision to move ahead with the regional distribution centers. I listened to a dear friend named Hugh Sear from the United Kingdom who had set up regional distribution centers for co-ops in England. His advice to me was to quit studying and go do it.

Whom do you admire most in business and why?

It's got to be Bill Gates in the No.1 slot. Then I suppose Jack Welch is second. I admire them both because they are great builders of solid businesses.

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

The greatest lesson I've learned in business is a very simple one: People are the best asset a company has.

is.group fast facts

Founded: 1977

Number of members: 600

Number of of stores represented by members: 950

Locations: 50 states and Central America

Salespeople: 2,800

Dealer sales: $3.6 billion

Delivery vehicles: 3,150

Monday, 22 November 2004 06:19

A new course

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You'd think that as an accomplished health care director, a regular member of a number of diversity-oriented action groups and a single mother of a teen-aged daughter, Sheryl Joyner would be frantically searching for ways to reduce her extensive list of responsibilities. But you'd be wrong.

On top of her aforementioned professional and personal responsibilities, she also instructs adult learners at the University of Phoenix. She eagerly spends evenings on campus interacting with students and teaching Organizational Behavior and Management to the working professionals of Indianapolis.

For many like Sheryl, the urge to teach does not stem from a need for added income or another resume bullet point; rather, they take pride in enabling others to succeed. And she sees her teaching as a way to stay abreast of current issues in health care management while building her knowledge of business theory.

Responding to shifts in student demographics

Fortunately for adults looking to earn a bachelor's degree, instructors such as Sheryl are finding that many colleges now cater to faculty with full-time jobs. In fact, working faculty practitioners are in high demand due to a fundamental change in the dynamics of post-secondary education.

The definition of a traditional college student is under revision thanks to the growing number of adult learners embracing the promise of new career opportunities through higher education. According to a 2002 report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, only 27 percent of college students fall within the 18- to 22-year-old age range.

Based on this, learning institutions are focusing on students who have schedules filled with business meetings and carpool obligations instead of fraternity parties and road trips.

Working professionals are more demanding of service, curriculum and instruction than traditional college students, and they generally take a different approach to education. Most adult learners are not receptive to lecture-focused, "direct your questions to my teaching assistants because I have research to finish" style instruction.

Instead, they thrive in intimate open-discussion classroom sessions in which students volley ideas and opinions among one another and learn from the professional experiences of their peers.

Because working adults are filling college classrooms at near-record rates, colleges are seeking accomplished working professionals to serve as instructors. Practitioners with the appropriate academic credentials can offer expertise according to their experience, while allowing for more peer-to-peer learning.

Educators with a blend of advanced academic preparation in their field and significant practical experience are able to credibly facilitate the marriage of theory and practice in the classroom. As professionals and instructors, they deal with emerging industry trends daily and develop lessons plans that are significant to the current marketplace.

Most important, this information is based on local practices, which ensures that classroom discussions are relevant and strategies can be applied the following day.

Change lives, starting with your own

For most educated business professionals who balance full work schedules and a personal life, the prospect of being a part-time instructor may seem daunting. However, changes in educational systems have made teaching schedules much more manageable.

Since adult students are just as busy with their professional lives as their learning practitioners, forward-thinking institutions are offering flexible evening courses, weekend sessions and even the possibility of partially instructing classes through online correspondence.

Business instructors find that teaching significantly improves their work IQ because they are regularly exposed to the latest industry strategies and theories as a part of their lesson plans. Few would disagree that one of the best ways to learn is by teaching. More to the point, faculty members typically find themselves practicing what they preach in order to provide applicable real-life insight to their students.

Take a moment and explore how teaching can benefit you personally and professionally. As Sheryl Joyner will attest, although the immediate reward of teaching is helping others grow and succeed, you might be surprised at how much you learn from the experience.

Simon Lumley is vice president of Indiana operations and Indianapolis campus director for the University of Phoenix. University of Phoenix offers accessible higher education options uniquely tailored for Indianapolis' working business professionals. Reach him at (317) 585-8610 or simon.lumley@phoenix.edu. For more information log onto www.phoenix.edu.

Monday, 01 November 2004 08:21

Delta fast facts

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Products: The company's flagship Delta brand includes well-made, stylish faucets and related kitchen and bath accessories. Its Brinzo brand provides high-end, distinctive styles and finishes that complement upscale kitchens and baths. And the Peerless brand offers value-driven designs that don't sacrifice style.

Technology breakthroughs:

  • Brilliance: In 1998, Delta revolutionized the faucet industry with the introduction of its patented Brilliance anti-tarnish finish.

  • Jetted Shower: Revolutionized bath technology in 2001 when Delta introduced a new category of shower products with its Monitor 1800 Series Jetted Shower System.

  • E-Flow faucet: In 2001, Delta introduced the industry's first hands-free electronic faucet designed specifically for residential applications.

Manufacturing plants: Delta's manufacturing plants are located in Greensburg, Ind.; Jackson, Tenn.; Chickasha, Okla.; Ontario, Canada; and Panyu, China.