Are you tired of all the hype, all the questions and speculation, all the media coverage about the Year 2000 problem? So are we. But every once in a while, there comes a take so different, so fresh, that it breaks free of the background noise and grabs the attention of even the most jaded listener.
That applies to a recent comment by John Perry Barlow, a former member of the rock band The Grateful Dead and the man credited with coining the term cyberspace. Barlow appeared recently at a cyberspace symposium in Cleveland. Following his post-dinner comments, a gaggle of devoted fans followed him out of the lecture hall at the Great Lakes Science Center, shooting questions at him like groupies from his former life. "Let's continue this little society out on the sidewalk," the raspy voiced cyberbard said, "because I've gotta grab a smoke."
But when it came to a question about the Y2K problem, his response was like none we had heard before. "We'll figure it out. I mean, human beings are extraordinarily adaptable. We have to give up this myth that we have control. We have this belief in this country that all we need is a bigger hammer [to solve every problem] ... It will be one of the most spiritually transforming things ever for us. We will all be like the homeless. And it will be one of the best things for us, because it will build community."
Generation X takes another hit
Though they get high marks in technical skills and educational background, the members of Generation X get thumbs down in the work ethic department, according to a KeyCorp small business survey conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide.
"As businesses become more sophisticated, small business owners tend to rely more on the technical expertise of younger employees," said Sandy Maltby, vice chairman and head of KeyBank's Small Business Division. "However, concerns about young workers's motivation and attitudes were a recurring theme."
According to the survey, small business owners across the country agreed that employees under the age of 35 fall below employer expectations. The study also found:
- More than 69 percent of respondents said Generation Xers have poorer work ethics than previous generations. Less than 7 percent said they have a better work ethic.
- 50 percent said those under 35 produce a lower quality of work. Less than 10 percent said it is higher.
- More than one-third said Gen Xers are less competent. Less than 14 percent said they are more competent.
The survey results correspond with another national survey conducted in 1998.
Lawyers doing something for free?
Your doctor took out your kidney instead of your appendix and you're getting sued by the slacker you fired last week. Now what are you going to do?
How about surfing the Web?
Prairielaw.com is a 10-month-old Web site providing free information, from the plaintiff's perspective, from lawyers in four fields: personal injury, medical malpractice, workers' compensation and employment law.
The site offers the Lawyer Connection Directory, an interactive list of plaintiff lawyers around the country. The Prairie Law Journal provides articles and tips on law. It also moderates four civil trial law listservs and discussion groups covering the four areas of law. A general store sells audio, video and written materials to provide the wronged with even more information.
Live weekly chats have recently been added to Prairie.com, where professionals and the wronged and injured can interface on specific topics.
The site was founded and is moderated by Kevin O'Keefe, a trial lawyer, member of the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers and a sustaining member of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.
The site is receiving more than 500,000 hits a month and growing. For help getting that kidney back try, www.prairielaw.com.
Don't worry, it's a piece of cake
You've seen them used in marketing copy and advertisements. Heard them spoken in speeches and lectures. Maybe even used a few yourself in pep talks to staff. They're "motivational" mottos that some still think of as tried and true slogans.
Fact is, they're truly trite. And we're tired of hearing them. Worn-out phrases such as "Make money hand over fist" and "Keep the wolf away from the door." Mundane maxims including "Employees are our greatest asset" and "Many hands make light work."
But, wait. Tompkins Press wants to hear more of them. In connection with its latest book, Revolution: Take Charge Strategies for Business Success - which debunks management by fad-Tompkins is searching for "The Most Trite, Generic, Hokey, Overused, Cliched or Unmotivating Motivational Slogans" that haunt the halls of corporate life.
It's a contest that offers you the opportunity to wow 'em with your worst and win $1,000 cash and a vacation package including two round-trip tickets to any US Air destination in North America.
Log on to the company's Web site at www.tompkinsinc.com/contest.html to check out the rules, then, e-mail entries to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax them to (919) 872-9666.
Then, cross your fingers, hit the sack and hope for the best. Even if you don't win, the next day will still be the first day of the rest of your life.
Ups and downs
By Dustin S. Klein
Ups...to the Coliseum. Or should we say former Coliseum. It's being reclaimed by the National Park Service, proof that you can bury a white elephant.
Downs...to telecommunications consolidation. Bell Atlantic Corp. buys NYNEX, then gobbles up GTE Corp. and AirTouch Communications. Didn't the government break up Ma Bell?
Ups...to Ohio's business climate. Site Selection magazine ranks it #2 for business. Gotta wonder if #1 North Carolina used the same methods that helped Utah land the Olympics.
Downs...for Gen Xers, who lack a solid work ethic, according to 72 percent of regional business leaders surveyed by KeyCorp. Or are the "suits" just jealous of people who bring their dogs to work?
Ups...to the euro, the first virtual currency. After a successful Jan. 1 launch, it's holding its own against the dollar. Not bad, considering the bills and coins won't be available until 2002.
Downs...to the NBA. Yawn. (But spring training starts this month.)
Ups...to the U.S. airlines, which didn't have a single fatality last year. But those lines at the security gates are killing us.
Adonix S.A., a France-based maker of software systems that unite all the functions of business operations into one comprehensive system, has acquired GSI Transcomm, a Pittsburgh-based software developer of TOLAS distribution software.
Pittsburgh Airport Hotel LLC has opened a Microtel Inn & Suites its fourth in Pennsylvania at 900 Chauvet Dr. at Pittsburgh International Airport. The new hotel is a three-story, 99-room property with single, double and suite accommodations. Microtel is a franchise whose franchiser is Atlanta-based U.S. Franchise Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: USFS).
The Bernstein Law Firm has merged with the firm of Joseph M. Wymard, P.C. to form the expanded practice of Bernstein Bernstein Krawec & Wynard, P.C. The resulting firm, concentrating in commercial and retail collections, will maintain its main offices in Pittsburgh. The new firm will also have locations in South Carolina and North Carolina.
Pittsburgh law firm Pietragallo, Bosick & Gordon is publishing Tri-State Product Liability Update, a quarterly publication that analyzes and critiques topics pertaining to recent legislative matters applying to insured and self-insured manufacturers in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
Taylor Perles Communications has been named agency of record for Resources for Management, a Blawnox-based executive search and financial services consulting firm.
CISCORP has introduced Mail Attender, a software package designed to administer e-mail systems. The product is intended to ensure the proper use of e-mail, increase employee productivity and eliminate wasteful use of storage space on servers, the company says. The software uses mail restrictions that allow administrators to control which attachments and documents are retained on a users system and how long they can be retained.
Franchise Specialists Inc., a Pittsburgh-based franchise development and franchise marketing firm, has opened an office in Charlotte, N.C. The company also maintains offices in Hartford, Conn., and Tulsa, Okla.
Akerman Center For Discovery has opened a learning facility in Wexford. The center offers a variety of programs designed for professional and personal growth.
WTW Architects has been selected to complete two design projects for the Veterans Administration Hospital in Butler. The first phase incorporates two exterior projects, including a series of parking improvements and a reworking of the hospitals primary entrance. The second phase involves retrofitting 800 windows throughout the hospital. The combined cost of the projects is expected to be $2.5 million.
Nauticom has implemented a new technology that can transform a regular telephone line into a high speed, high capacity Internet connection. The service, known as xDSL or digital subscriber line service, is available to North Pittsburgh Telephone Co. customers and is slated to be offered to Bell Atlantic subscribers as well.
Commitment to excellence
Goodwill Industries of Akron received its seventh consecutive Three-Year Accreditation award from CARF, The Rehabilitation Accreditation Commission. Goodwill was recognized with the highest level of accreditation possible for Employment Services, Comprehensive Vocational Evaluation Services, Employee Development Services and Community Employment Services. Donald E. Galvin, Ph.D., president and CEO of CARF says, Goodwill Industries of Akron demonstrates quality rehabilitation programs, measured by rigorous standards.
Do it for the needy, if not for the government
The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is looking for people to help those with special needssuch as low-income taxpayers, disabled persons, non-English speaking and older taxpayersto prepare and file tax returns, perform clerical work, publicize VITAs free service, and other jobs. Hours are flexible, (2 to 4 hours weekly through April 15), and the environments (libraries, community centers and churches) are nicer than your usual federal office. The time commitment is brief and the personal satisfaction is great, says Taxpayer Education Coordinator Rachel Ragan. For more information, call (513) 684-2828.
While news hounds feed frenetically on the tidbits of Clintons peccadilloes, Connie Bloom, owner of Remember Me Biographies, is busy documenting the not so infamous people who hire her to write and typeset their life stories in a hardbound biography that comes complete with photographs. Grandpas tall tales and grandmas gentle recollections are their greatest legacies, Bloom says, and these are things that fame and money cannot buy. There is, of course, a price for thisbetween $1,500 and $2,500, which is considerably less than the bill Clinton will ultimately receive. How to reach: Remember Me Biographies, (330) 836-0918
Even number crunchers need to get out
In a recent Accountemps survey, CFOs at companies with more than 20 employees were asked: How important is networking with other professionals in your field or industry in furthering your career? Eighty percent of the 1,400 respondents said networking with others in their field has been instrumental in their professional success. Heres how it broke down:
- Very important: 41 percent
- Somewhat important: 39 percent
- Somewhat unimportant: 13 percent
- Not at all important: 6 percent
- Dont know/no answer: 1 percent
Trades labor shortage
The Akron-Canton chapter of The American Subcontractors Association will address the labor shortage in the construction industry at its meeting on from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 7, at Tangier Restaurant. Association leaders and trade instructors from vocational training departments of participating school districts will be guest presenters at the event. Call (330) 753-9958 for more information.
The Western Reserve Small Business Development Center for Women is offering no-cost business counseling for women, and a variety of classes ranging from financial statements, accounting software and information systems to business communications, marketing, financing and government procurement. For course and counseling information, call (330) 972-5592.
The Employers Resource Council, which is based in Cleveland and serves all of Northern Ohio, has launched a new dream team of 20 firms that offer discounts on a wide range of human resource management services, including technology, financial and environmental. Each provider has a market presence in Akron and Canton, and services the ERCs entire 22-county region. To get the discounts, all you need is a membership in the ERC. For information, call the ERC at (216) 696-3636.
Paragon Solutions Inc., a privately held Oracle consulting firm founded five years ago by Pittsburgh entrepreneurs Debbie Ferlic and Susan Parker, has joined the Summit Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of CIBER Inc. We are excited about the possibilities this brings to Pittsburgh, says Ferlic, who is now vice president/general manager of Summit Group. Plans this year for the Pittsburgh office include hiring 14 additional consultants and a move from its current location in Carnegie to new, larger offices. The $4.5 million company expects to double in size by 2000. CIBER Inc. is a public company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. SBN featured Paragon Solutions in its Who to Watch in 1998 feature in the January 1998 issue.
Precision-Marshall Steel Co. of Washington, Pa., a supplier of ground flat stock, drill rod and tool steel and alloy plate throughout North America, has opened a new warehouse in Columbia, S.C., and signed an agreement with Hardy Sales Co. of Denver to inventory and market its tool steel products. The new locations, the company says, will enable it to serve the Southeast and Rocky Mountain states more efficiently and promptly.
Capital Appraisal Group Ltd. has purchased United Appraisal Services Ltd., the largest real estate appraisal company in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore region. Capital Appraisal Group says the acquisition is by no means intended to be its last. Says David Landman, president of Capital Appraisal Group: The real estate industry is consolidating, and it is our intention to purchase other appraisal companies and related businesses and rapidly expand our businesses.
Tuscarora Inc. has agreed to acquire the principal business and operating assets of Berry Packaging Inc. of Sallisaw, Okla. The company says the purchase of the company, a manufacturer of interior protective packaging made from custom expanded polystyrene, will allow Tuscarora to better serve existing and new customers in the region, especially within the appliance industry, one of its core markets.
Lindwood Farm Inc. and Kacin Companies Inc. are planning to develop a carriage home community of 80 one-level homes in Hempfield Township. The development, South Meadow at Lindwood, will be located north of Greensburg.
The Service Corps of Retired Executives has established a Web site at www.scorepittsburgh.com. The site offers success tips for small businesses and information about SCORE services and counseling resources. SCORE says the site will soon allow online registration for its pre-business workshops and will provide a form to request counseling by a SCORE volunteer.
Kacin General Contractors is building a 35,550-square-foot building in Westmoreland County Business & Research Park in New Kensington. The building will include 32,000 square feet of warehouse/manufacturing space and 3,550 square feet of office space.
The facility is designed to allow for a 50 percent expansion in the future, and will include three loading docks with drive-in access and turnaround space, parking area, handicapped accessibility and complete landscaping.
Sima Products Corp. of Oakmont earned four Innovations Awards for its new products at the International Electronics Show. The company received awards for its audio video switcher, volume stabilizer, pro series color corrector and special effects editor and audio mixer. Sima, which has nearly 100 products in its line of consumer electronics accessories, sells them in more than 20 countries and through a network of dealers and distributors nationwide.
Turner Construction Co. has been selected as construction manager/general contractor for an $8.7 million redevelopment of the former Pennley Park Apartments complex. The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year and will include new construction and renovation of 102 residential units ranging from efficiency apartments to three-bedroom townhouses. The new development, which will be named Pennley Place, is being developed by Community Builders Inc., a not-for-profit corporation that owns and operates more than 10,000 housing units nationwide, in cooperation with East Liberty Development Inc.
Triangle Circuits of Pittsburgh has been awarded a contract by Westinghouse Process Control Inc. to supply printed circuit boards for use in Westinghouses distributed process control and information systems. A just-in-time inventory replenishment system at Westinghouse Process Control will be used to reorder parts from Triangle Circuits electronically. With the new technology in place, Westinghouse will communicate with Triangle Circuits computers when a new inventory of parts is needed. Production of printed circuit boards will be driven by a bar code floor stock system. Daily updates will then be loaded into the Westinghouse mainframe computer, and a signal will be sent to Triangle Circuits to replenish an order of predetermined size.
WestLake Internet Training has chosen Pittsburgh as the location for its new training operations. Pittsburgh native Jonathan Steffey, an Internet trainer with WestLake in Washington, D.C., since 1996, has been named director of the Pittsburgh operations. WestLake opened offices in Green Tree in January and downtown last month. According to Steffey, a growing number of high-tech firms in the Pittsburgh region and easy access to other key cities and regions weighed heavily in its decision to choose Pittsburgh for its new facility. We expect companies in Cleveland, Columbus, Buffalo and throughout the Northeast which have used WestLake for years will now choose to send employees to Pittsburgh for training because the city is so accessible, says Steffey.
DXI Inc., a rate and shipment information management company based in Robinson Township, has expanded its sales coverage with the opening of a European office in London. We serve a global industry, and its imperative that our firm be readily accessible to customers throughout the world, says Ed Ryan, vice president of sales and marketing. Having an office in London helps us to offer better responsiveness to major European manufacturers and ocean carriers. DXI also maintains offices in Cranford, N.J., Miami, San Francisco and Shanghai.
MSA Process Automation Solutions and Services Inc. has acquired the project files and software of the former DAXUS Corp. in an agreement approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. We have a number of customers who were also customers of DAXUS, says Patrick Gallagher, MSA PASS vice president. The acquisition of this information will help us to support our current customers and all former DAXUS customers with Year 2000 and other enhancement challenges they may face now and in the future. Daxus, a supplier of automation systems and software to the metals, food processing and pharmaceutical industries, filed for bankruptcy in January 1998. MSA Pass provides turnkey computer systems, process control services, system design and facility-wide management systems to a variety of process and manufacturing industries.
Y2K as a competitive edge
Health care is one of the least prepared industries for Y2K. But Medical Mutual of Ohio not only claims to be Y2K compliant, it has figured out how to use it to get new business.
The program, called Assurance 2000, offers employers an alternative for health benefits programs that arent Y2K compliant.
Employers can switch their health benefits from noncompliant carriers to Medical Mutual at prices similar to their existing programs according to Ed Hartzell, president and CEO of Antares Management Solutions, which markets Medical Mutuals Y2K compliant systems.
A health program flatlines
Speaking of health care, nobody was particularly surprised last month when the Cleveland Health Quality Choice program quietly slipped out of its coma and into oblivion.
When founded 10 years ago by a coalition of business and health care interests, the program was the first effort anywhere to measure and track hospital outcomes. The idea was to provide data so businesses could make informed decisions about where to send employees for the best care.
While the Cleveland Clinics withdrawal from the program sealed its fate, the clinic was not the first hospital group to pull out.
According to a high-level clinic insider, none of the hospitals withdrew because they were afraid of the scrutiny. Rather, they resented having to pay to support the program while businesses interests continued to ignore their suggestions on how to make the data more meaningful.
All they were interested in was cost, the source said. There was no sense that anybody was even using the data.
If only costs would do the same
While the death of the CHQC seems to indicate business has given up trying to sort out health care quality issues, theres no end in sight for the need to manage costs.
Last year, total health benefit costs for active employees increased 5.7 percent in Cleveland, reaching an average of $4,464 per employee.
Cleveland business owners shell out more per employee than owners anywhere else in Ohio, which has a statewide average of $4,054 per worker. Ohios average, by the way, exceeds the national average of $4,037.
According to a William M. Mercer Inc. survey, costs are going up because of consolidation within the health care market and due to widespread cost increases for prescription drugs. Similar increases are expected again this year.
Doctor vs. doctor
Business and hospitals arent the only institutions at odds in the increasingly brutish health care industry.
An old dispute between the Academy of Medicine of Cleveland and the Ohio State Medical Association over membership dues and attracting local members will be settled in court again.
The academy which serves as the countys medical association, providing lobbying services, group benefits and other services filed suit against the State Medical Association in January after the association pulled the academys charter and began a competing local organization.
Its the second time the state association has withdrawn the county groups charter; the first time, courts overruled on a technicality.
Checking in on old friends, part 1
When SBN profiled ProFormas Greg Muzzillo in March 1998, the founder of this Independence-based business firm and promotional printing company laid out some lofty goals 400 franchisees, each doing $400,000 a year, by February 1999 and eventually companywide sales of $1 billion.
In fact, Muzzillos company did hit the magic 400 right on schedule, topping $100 million in revenue in the process.
Its a great example of hitting an ambitious target, but it also illustrates the problem endemic to the fast track: The more you grow, the harder it is to keep growing.
When we first checked in with ProForma, its 270 franchisees were averaging about $265,000 a year. Today, that average has dipped to about $250,000. To be fair, with more than 100 new owners in the last 12 months, some of that decline must be due to the expected spinning of wheels. But the bottom line is this: The closer ProForma gets to $1 billion, the farther away it must seem.
Old friends, part 2
Hi TecMetal, profiled by SBN last October, received QS-9000 registration for its HTG Copper Brazing Industries in Warren, Mich. The brazing unit pursued the registration so it could continue as a tier-one supplier to the Big Three auto makers, according to HTGs CEO Terrence Profughi.
Old friends, part 3
Creativity for Kids, which SBN looked at in February 1998 for its unique approach to product development, has announced 15 new toy kits for 1999. The kits, primarily craft-style products, can be seen at the companys Web site, www.creativityforkids.com.
New help for small business
Northeast Ohios first Business Information Center has already opened for walk-in business and will be officially dedicated at a ceremony April 6 at 2 p.m.
Located in Playhouse Square at 1718 Euclid Ave., the BIC offers free business research tools, including a library, software library and Internet searches.
Operated in partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Service Corps of Retired Executives and, in this instance, KeyCorp., the BIC will be staffed by volunteers to help visitors with a range of business needs, from writing a business plan to researching tax issues, to making photocopies and defining market demographics.
The center occupies 850 square feet of a former KeyBank branch, which was donated by the bank.
Its downtown, but at the edge of downtown and looking out on the (federally designated) empowerment zone, says Gilbert Goldberg, district director of the SBAs Cleveland region office. I would hope it could become a beacon for people who want to do business inside the empowerment zone.
The center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Friday. The phone number is (216) 522-4194.
If you doubt theres money to be made from the Internet, consider National Market Measures Inc., a Westlake market research firm. Its started construction on a new 4,500-square-foot focus group and interviewing facility in Solon to replace a smaller building in Mayfield Village. Founding partner Martha Kain says the new development will meet growing demands for the companys research practice, which is being done increasingly via the Internet.
When, and where, to hold back
Business owners concerned with Internet privacy issues are rethinking how much company information to reveal on their Web sites. Conversely, theyre wondering what to do with the sensitive information they gather from site visitors.
The Better Business Bureau is accepting applications from its members for an online privacy seal which tells visitors that any information they offer will be held in strict confidentiality. Companies that qualify agree to follow stringent privacy guidelines when conducting e-commerce on the Net. Eligibility requirements can be found at the BBB Web site at www.BBBOnLine.org.
See you, see me
In their wish to learn as much about prospective hires as possible, employers are turning to personality assessments. In their wish to prepare as well as possible for job interviews, prospective employees are turning to the Web site of Advantage Companies, which offers several personality assessments to help job seekers prepare. The site is at www.advantagecareer.com.
Theres always Amtrak
In a touch of irony, considering Clevelands recent accolades as a business center, the North Coast fared poorly in Sprints most recent ranking of the most productive cities in America. Out of 313 metropolitan regions, Cleveland came in 87th. Dallas was No. 1.
One big strike against Cleveland was accessibility to the city. Meanwhile, the IX Center battle continues and expansion of Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport does not.
More HR discounts
The Employers Resource Council, a membership-based human resources organization, has added the following companies to its Dream Team: Tallmadges SACS Consulting and Investigative Services and Creative Stages Ltd., an innovation consultancy. The Dream Team is a group of providers offering services at a discount rate to ERC members. Others participants include ADP, Cohen & Co. and Deloitte & Touche.
For more information, call the ERC at (216) 696-3636.
Its not the economy after all, stupid
Fueled by optimistic signs at the end of 1998 and beginning of 1999, nearly two-thirds of Cleveland technology business owners say they expect international revenues to increase this year by more than 2 percent, despite the economic malaise in Asia and South America. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, nearly 90 percent of the business owners attribute their optimism to higher quality products and rising demand for new technology. Oddly enough, economic conditions and the ability of customers to pay didnt seem to play a role in the thinking.
Bring on doomsday ...
Dont believe the worst-case predictions about small business owners getting caught in a Y2K disaster when the year ends; more than 80 percent of Cleveland technology business owners say they are ready, willing and Y2K compliant, according to another part of the PricewaterhouseCoopers survey. But theres a downside: While the owners admit theyve received assurances from their IT departments about their own preparedness, fewer than half are convinced that businesses they deal with are just as ready.
Or avoid doomsday altogether
Here are four quick tips for avoiding a computer meltdown at year end, from computer expert Eileen Buckholtz, author of Y2K: Run to Save Your PC from the Year 2000 Bug:
- Buy new computers early. Prices are low now, but a summer rush to upgrade could bring the first computer price increases in history as people discover old systems arent compliant.
- Y2K-proof new contracts. Before you sign on the dotted line, get assurances from computer suppliers that their products are compliant.
- Hold that sigh of relief. Just because the bank and utility companies say theyre compliant, that doesnt mean your computer can work with their upgraded systems. Test them.
- Practice for 2000. Keep a log of significant annual business events, such as first payroll, electronic bank transactions and inventory checks. Set the time and date to Y2K and test run your computer to see if those tasks are processed correctly.
Bringing out the best in people
Do you have trouble motivating borderline employees who you know can excel? According to a new book, Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others, by James Kouzes and Barry Posner ($22, Jossey-Bass Inc.), here are seven tips to get the most out of your employees:
1. Set clear standards. Goals that can be achieved make people feel like winners.
2. Expect the best. Show employees you believe in them and theyll work harder not to let you down.
3. Pay attention. Mingle with workers instead of isolating yourself.
4. Personalize recognition. When you tailor to the recipients tastes and interests, even the smallest award is special.
5. Tell the story. When you reward employees, do it in a forum where you can tell other workers how that employee earned the award.
6. Celebrate together. Remind the staff that success is a group effort.
7. Set the example. Leaders must set an example by demonstrating how to contribute, celebrate and succeed. Others will follow.
Dont touch that dial
Public-TV honcho Jerry Wareham, GM of Clevelands WVIZ, got a pointed reminder recently of the level of local enthusiasm for one venerable business show. After addressing the Cleveland Rotary Club, Wareham asked for questions. One elderly gentleman proceeded to bitterly denounce him for fiddling with the Friday-evening time slot for Louis Ruckeysers Wall Street Week.
Now we know why nobody buys online
While the majority of small and medium-sized businesses now have some form of Internet connectivity 61 percent for those with two to 99 employees and 82 percent for those with between 100 and 499 far fewer are connected to customers via the Net. A study by the Boston-based Yankee Groups Small & Medium Business Communications group found that fewer than one-third of such businesses are connected to customers in that manner.
Just hope its not you
If you and your employees dont like turning up for work on Monday, says HR consultant Robert Searson, I guarantee you its not because of the work. Its the people, the stress from a few bad people.
And they dont steal office supplies, either
Do you need to watch your back with your employees? The Ethics Resource Center reports that 56 percent of employees admit to lying to supervisors and 41 percent to falsifying records and reports. Of course, they just might be fibbing to the survey-takers, too.
But are the ice cubes Perrier?
In the never-ending hunt to retain highly-sought-after computer programmers, Cole National Corp. may have hit a new high water mark among local companies in providing pampering touches. Outside HR professionals report that the company has established a 24-hour concierge service at its new Twinsburg location to handle such mundane tasks as dry-cleaning runs for valued employees. An in-house manicurist is also available to smooth out the rough edges for the keyboard-banging set.
Anyone have a picture of Cindy Crawford?
Forget about fixing up your companys lobby, and devote the resources to improving your Web site. At least, thats the suggestion of Joel Rube, Web evangelist for the Northeast Ohio regional office of Boston-based IT giant Keane. These days, he says, when people judge you, they dont walk into your lobby, they go to your Web site. So that first page has to look gorgeous.
A boss is a boss is a boss
More than anything else, humans are good at surviving, management consultant Pete McVoy recently told a John Carroll University Private Sector workshop. I can work for Attila the Hun just give them what they want. Which got us to thinking: Might he perhaps have been thinking of his one-time boss, Blue Cross & Blue Shields hard-charging Jack Burry?
They still should have asked
Was that a link to SBN we recently spotted on the navigation bar of the popular Bloomberg News Web site (www.bloomberg.com)? It refers the curious to Small Business News. On closer inspection, it proved merely to launch a browser to a thusly-named subcategory of Bloomberg news and information about that sector of the economy. Besides, were now calling ourselves SBN.
Who are these guys?
We were surprised when recently we stumbled over an entry in the Cleveland phone directory for a Cleveland Publishers Association. Why had we never heard of such an august group? We are, after all, wizened veterans in the local publishing industry. Could it be that theyre having a private party without us? A quick phone call, however, yielded the answer. Its not really a trade group of publishers, but a buying co-operative organized by an obscure ad agency. Phew ...
Ups and Downs
Downs to TRW. The companys about-face, the decision not use LucasVaritys CEO Victor Rice in some meaningful role, has soured auto industry experts and securities analysts. It was a gutsy move, and it certainly wont make the next acquisition any easier.
Ups to AT&T, which will charge consumers a monthly minimum whether they make long distance calls or not. Its a meaningful move to rates that are actually based on cost. If they send us a check for $75 to switch, we might even consider it.
Ups to BioMEMS. The new statewide consortium, which includes the Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University, the Ohio State University, the University of Akron and the University of Cincinnati, will develop the next generation of microscopic devices. With such big names working on such a promising project, we just hope their egos dont get in the way.
Downs to Ameritech. Its planned merger with CBC hasnt made the former Baby Bell as strong or diversified as was hoped. The telecom giant was forced to cut its wireless services as part of the deal, leaving fewer ways to gain ground on other regional phone companies. The call goes out again.
Ups to Charge Development Co. Plans to convert a vacant Ohio City factory into upscale apartments will eliminate a longstanding eyesore and hopes to expand the downtown renaissance west of the river. Unfortunately, drawing residents to Ohio City instead of downtown will be easier said than done.
Apex Investment partners. Investment focus: emerging growth companies of all stages in telecommunications, software and information technology industries, with additional emphasis in specialty retail and consumer products; www.apexvc.com.
ARCH Venture Partners. Investment focus: seed and early-stage ventures involving information technology, life sciences or physical sciences; www.archventure.com.
Asia Pacific Ventures. Investment focus: seed and early-stage information technology companies with proprietary and leading-edge technologies. www.apvco.com.
Aspen Ventures. Investment focus: Seed and early-stage information technology companies; www.aspenventures.com.
Asset Management Associates. Investment focus: seed and early-stage companies in the information and biological sciences markets; www.assetman.com.
Associated Venture Investors. Investment focus: venture capital partnerships specializing in seed and early-stage investments in high-technology companies positioned for high growth in their markets; www.avicapital.com.
AT&T Ventures. Investment focus: Start-up and later stage companies involving wireless communications, Internet, value-added networking, content or local service; www.attventures.com.
Atlantic Coastal Ventures. Investment focus: telecommunications companies and related service companies operating within markets that reflect convergence; www.atlanticcv.com.
Atlas Venture. Investment focus: early and late-stage information technology life sciences in Europe and the United States; www.atlasventure.com.
August Capital. Investment focus: companies with strong potential to become leaders in important information technology markets; www.augustcap.com.
Avix Ventures. Investment focus: early-stage technology companies; www.avix.com.
Nice attitude, pal
Thousands of businesses fail every year. Many of those couldnt control the most essential element in business attitude. People-Centered Profit Strategies, the new Oasis Press title by Paul Peyton, will teach you how to achieve cooperation among leaders, employees, customers and suppliers to generate a power that is unlimited in its ability to push profits upward.
Hey Sam, can you spare a dime?
Small business lending increased in 1998, but at a much slower pace than lending to large businesses, according to the Office of Advocacys recent report on bank lending.
While the total dollar volume of larger loans of $1 million or more increased by 13 percent in 1998, small business loans of less than $1 million increased at a slower rate of 6.3 percent. The volume of small business loan dollars of less than $100,000 increased only 3 percent. Loans between $100,000 and $250,000 increased 8.1 percent, and loans worth $250,000 to $1 million increased 7.7 percent.
Compared with the dollar value, the number of small business loans (loans of less than $1 million) grew more rapidly by 16.7 percent overall in 1998. Most of the growth was in the smallest loans of less than $100,000, where the dollar volume increased the least. Thus, the average very small business loan was even smaller in 1998, probably because of a boom in the use of business credit cards and lines of credit offered by banks using credit scoring models.
The fact that more loans and loan dollars are going into small business lending is some good news, but small business lending is not keeping pace, says the SBAs Chief Counsel for Advocacy Jere Glover. We encourage small businesses to look at this report as one indicator of the banks most likely to lend to them. And we are still watching the trend toward bank consolidation carefully to see whether small businesses overall share of bank lending will continue to fall.
The effects of bank consolidations continue to be a factor in small business lending. Over the last three years, the number of commercial banks filing call reports declined at a rate of almost 400 banks per year from 10,149 in 1995 to 8,966 in 1998.
Almost all of the decline was in the smallest banks with less than $100 million in assets. In 1998, more than 400 of these small banks disappeared, grew into the next size category, merged with other banks or were acquired. The number of banks in the middle ranges with $100 million to $10 billion in assets increased. Banks with $10 billion or more in assets declined from 64 to 61.
The small business lending emphasis of banks of different sizes also changed in 1998. The largest banks increased their small business lending much more than small banks, in part by promoting more small business credit cards and small lines of credit. However, their small business lending volume increased less than their assets and total business lending. As a result, the ratio of small business loans to total assets declined in these very large banks.
Meet me at the meeting
Time spent in meetings can be as much as 50 percent of the total work week, so effective meetings can have a major impact on the success and the bottom line of an organization. Productive meetings can save time and money. Not Another Meeting: A practical guide for facilitating effective meetings teaches participants and leaders how to get the most out of their meetings. Managers learn how to create objectives and agendas, establish and reinforce ground rules that keep participants on track and resolve conflict and disagreement.
The books author is Frances Micale; it is published by the Oasis Press.
Just promote it, baby
Design your own calendar for name recognition 365 days a year, says Raleigh Pinskey, author of 101 Ways to Promote Yourself. Calendar Association statistics show that only 2 percent of U.S. households are now calendar free, and that the average home has about five calendars.
You can go through the photo shoot and print it as a big four-color job, or you can buy existing calendar shells and attach your name to it. Ask any large printer or promotional items company for more information about calendar shells. Associations and organizations will often supply members with the opportunity to buy in bulk.
Depending on your need for professionalism, you could take your own pictures, then take them to a photo house to duplicate and mount. Then you buy calendars from a stationary store and attach them to the mounted photos. Take pictures during the year of the people with whom you do business, and use their photos, with permission, for your calendar.
But I wanted to retire yesterday
An Individual Retirement Account can be a great tool to maximize your retirement assets, but it does have some drawbacks:
- IRAs are not liquid. Although you can withdraw money before retirement, the penalties for doing so are stiff.
- Withdrawals made before age 59 1/2 are subject to a 10 percent penalty unless they are used for qualified medical expenses.
- Withdrawals of more than $150,000 in any year are considered excess distributions and subject to a 15 percent excise tax.
- IRAs may not be used as collateral.
For the thousands of entrepreneurs who are strapped for time and would love to have their own online operations center, MegaDepot.com is launching a new site aimed squarely at their needs. MegaDepot.com has unveiled a new name and a new site: Onvia.com. Entrepreneurs will find a one-stop source of business services, products, expert advice, and free tools, all designed to fulfill their critical need to get it done. Onvia.com is a business-to-business destination, designed around the needs of a specific niche: the emerging business marketplace.
Onvia.com was founded in 1996 (as MegaDepot.com) and has grown rapidly as an Internet-only reta iler of business products and, more recently, services. Since the second quarter of 1997, revenues have grown more than 100 percent each quarter. Currently, the company serves more than 100,000 members, and is expected to grow to more than 1,000,000 customers by the end of this year.
Unlike other sites that pass customers to several different buying environments to complete their transactions, entrepreneurs can conduct all their transactions in one place with Onvia.com, including inputting credit and registration information once, rather than many times. In addition to the availability of 25,000 products in the computer hardware, software, phone systems, office supplies, office machines and office furniture categories, key features seamlessly provided at the site include:
- Paging services
- Business credit cards
- Merchant accounts
- Debt collection
- Temporary employment/recruiting
- Long distance services
- Cellular services
- E-mail services
- Free domain name registration
- 5-Click-Store, a cost-effective way to set up an e-commerce store
- Internet access with dial-up, dedicated ISDN, DSL and T1 options
- Web hosting
Providers of these services include @Work, Verio, Sprint, Earthlink, MCI, Cable Wireless, Qwest, Skytel Paging, Advanta Business Services, Heartland Payment Services, National Credit Services and Net-Temps.
Sit down, Goliath, Im in charge here
As the information age changes the ways that companies do business, one critical theme has emerged: Small companies and sometimes even individuals have to deal with big companies more often and more directly than ever. How can a company with one or two principals come to the negotiating table on an even footing with a staff of corporate lawyers, accountants and executives?
Silver Lake Publishings new book, Negotiate Like the Big guys: How Small and Mid-size companies can balance the power in dealing with corporate giants, can answer this question. Combining her own insights with memorable case studies, worksheets and sample forms, author Susan Onaitis gives readers the tools for equalizing any advantages that larger companies may have. Topics include:
- Sizing up the people on the other side.
- Steering negotiating toward collaborative solutions.
- Handling adversarial talks gracefully.
- Determining where to start so that you dont have to give up too much.
- When to walk away and what to do when the other side walks.
- What to do when someone is lying to you.
- Smoothing out corporate culture clashes.
Time was that smart sales people and journalists didnt mind cooling their heels in a companys lobby while waiting for appointments. In just a few minutes, a sharp pair of eyes could pick up any number of clues about the organization.
But Joel Rube, formerly a Web evangelist for Keane & Co.s Cleveland office, and now in a similar role for Chicago-based Navigent, says the new window into a companys soul is its home page. These days, when people want to make quick judgments about your company, they visit your Web site, he said at a recent public forum. So that first page has to look gorgeous. Im not saying anything about content it has to look gorgeous.
Monitoring the tube
Employment attorney John Cernelich of Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP isnt your ordinary couch potato. With the recent spate of well-publicized outbreaks of deranged people going on rampages in the workplace, he admits to being on edge whenever he switches on the local news.
I go home and see Channel 8 or Channel 3, and you see some shooting at a workplace or some other horrific case of workplace violence, and I run to the set, hoping that its not one of our clients. Thus far, he happily reports, none of his clients have been targets.
Steel exodus continues
Not long after World War II, a German visitor, looking out at the mighty blast furnaces of the Flats from high up in the Terminal Tower, was moved to remark that if Hitler had ever seen that awesome industrial display, he never would have started a war against the U.S. Alas, the local steel industry is but a shell of what it once was. And in the latest indicator of the sectors decline in these parts, the Steel Services Institute, an industry group headquartered in Cleveland for 80 years, is due to move to Chicago this month.
Rare victory for labor
Union organizing campaigns havent been racking up much success in recent years. But the United Auto Workers is celebrating one recent victory: A successful organization of a Kmart distribution center in Warren, not far from Youngstown. But the unions biggest potential prize in this region, the venerable Lincoln Electric Company, thus far continues to elude it. The UAWs organizing campaign there remains tied up in legal proceedings.
Our readers in Dallas
Not long after her work was featured in SBN earlier this year, management consultant Susan Aldrich got a call from a stiffly formal gentleman whom she at first assumed to be a telemarketer. To the contrary, it turned out to be an editor at Temp Digest in Dallas, who had seen the article in SBN and was impressed.
Would she be interested in writing a column? he inquired. She was floored, but quickly agreed. Meanwhile, closer to home, the article apparently resulted in her landing a first-ever consulting assignment at the blue chip P.R. firm of Dix & Eaton, for which shes due to mount seminars on customer service.
Putting a name with a bra
A few months ago, SBN profiled Beachwood-based Leading Lady. At the time, president Mark Corrado and CEO Al Corrado said the company was looking to strengthen its brand identity. Corrado wasnt kidding.
In September, the nursing and maternity bra manufacturer announced the restructuring of three newer product lines, shifting the focus from private labeling to branded products featuring the Leading Lady name. Explains Al, Our newer niche products, developed over the past five years, will benefit tremendously by adapting the Leading Lady name.
A return to yesteryear
Youve finally arrived: A nice four-bedroom home in Hunting Valley on five acres with a stellar view of the woods. So whatever happened to the allure of that original American home the log cabin? The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) recently undertook the task of remodeling a 200-year-old log cabin from Overton. The historic cabin was dismantled and shipped to a Texas company, which will restore it and ship it back in pieces later this year. Upon its return to Cleveland, the cabin will be reassembled at the I-X Center for display at the January NARI Home Improvement Show.
Its all in the ads ... but dont tell the editorial department
Nearly 96 percent of decision makers read advertising to learn about new technologies, products or equipment, according to a survey by Penton Research Services. The survey asked 1,200 executives, managers, purchasing agents and engineers whether advertising played a part in their decision making. Among other findings:
85 percent learn about new suppliers in their markets through ads;
81 percent read ads to stay current with their existing suppliers;
83 percent read ads to request product literature.
While the results back up the power of advertising, dont rush off to eliminate your editorial department. Few things top the power of editorial copy, which has the ability to delve deeper into subject matter than conventional ads. Well, at least we think so.
A breeding ground for innovation
Authors Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore, owners of Strategic Horizons LLP, are on the national speaking circuit. The two creativity integrators will be featured speakers at the Innovative Thinking Conference Feb. 8-9 at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Pine and Gilmore are part of a group that includes author Kurt Vonnegut and Harley-Davidson Motor Co. vice president of business development Clyde Fessler. The conference is designed as an educational resource for executives who want to develop their creativity and encourage innovation throughout their organizations. For more information, visit the conference Web site at www.itconference.com.
Another way to give back
Cohen & Company, a 1998 Pillar Award winner, continues to give back to the community that supports it. The Cleveland-based CPA firm in October founded the Cohen Community Foundation in the name of newly retired founding partner Ronald B. Cohen.
The foundation starts with $50,000. Contributions will be made to cultural, civic and other areas benefiting Northeast Ohio. Cohen & Co. has been an active donor of money, services and time to charitable organizations, and managing partner Randy Myeroff says the foundation will help ensure Cohen & Cos continued involvement.
Bank One and the U.S. Small Business Administration have launched Community Express in the Cleveland market, designed to provide lines of credit, term loans and commercial mortgages to small businesses which have difficulty obtaining traditional loans.
Community Express loans range from $15,000 to $250,000, significantly more than the maximum $150,000 provided by the SBNExpress program. One benefit is post-loan technical assistance. Five area nonprofit organizations, COSE, EDI, the Hispanic Business Association, MCAP and WECO, will participate. Turnaround time on applications is about 36 hours. For information, call (216) 781-4210.
And you think youve got competition
Staying on top in the information age is an increasingly difficult challenge, even for the monoliths of the business world. During his recent Northeast Ohio appearance, Cisco Systems Inc. President and CEO John Chambers provided his own take on the Internet revolution and how it will level the playing field for small companies.
Anyone doubting Cisco Systems has reason to worry about competitors might want to consider a few figures Chambers threw out to the lunchtime crowd. More than 40 percent of the venture capital in the U.S. is dumped into Silicon Valley. More than a third of that results in ne w companies that provide direct competition for Cisco Systems.
Tim LaGanke, the man who brought the Lube Stop 10-minute oil change to Cleveland, left it behind and returned to the industry only after finding a way to make the business more profitable, is at it again. His new company, Quick Change, opened its 13th Cleveland area location last month along Detroit Road in Sheffield Village.
The tiny modular oil-change facility, for which LaGanke holds a patent, will be squeezed in between a car wash and a BP gas station. It is the 31st modular oil change facility the construction side of Quick Change has installed either for itself or other companies in the past three years.
Before you dump money into that cant lose franchising opportunity, Cleveland-based Barnes Welding CPAs Inc. urges you to first invest some time in a reality check. Here are questions the firm says you should ask before signing:
- What distinguishes this franchise from the competition?
- Is the name or product unique enough to make it worth the franchise fee?
- Does the owner of the franchise create new programs and products that make the franchise royalty a worthwhile expense?
- Is the industry in a growth cycle?
- Is the business just a passing fad?
Reaping the benefit of the Browns
If theres any question about the benefit of shelling out the money necessary for a major sports sponsorship deal, consider the exposure National City received Sept. 9-12 as the Browns returned to Cleveland for the first regular season home game in three years.
NatCity Investments had its name tied to the NFL Experience a football-themed festival usually reserved for The Super Bowl which set up camp at Voinovich Park during opening weekend. Then, National Citys Armada Funds sponsored the 5K run as part of the kick-off festivities. National City also signed rookie quarterback Tim Couch to a three-year endorsement deal to promote the companys line of tie-in banking products.
100 years of labor
In honor of the last Labor Day of the century, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees asked a handful of experts in economic policy to rank the 10 most important labor moments of the century.
No. 7: The Fair Labor Standards Act (1938): The first federal minimum wage law for nonagricultural labor. Set a minimum wage of 25 cents, banned child labor in all businesses engaged in interstate commerce and provided for overtime compensation.
No. 4: General Motors sitdown strikes (1964): The strikes started with a sitdown job action by 50 workers at a Fischer Body Plant in Flint, Mich. an action that inspired similar strikes by 485,000 workers across North American in eight months. The Flint strike last 45 days, with strikers winning a five cent an hour raise and an agreement by GM management to rehire all strikers and recognize the union.
Number 1: Committee for Industrial Organizations founded (1935): Congress of Industrial Organizations was formed after the American Federation of Labor voted against organizing workers across trades in factories, continuing instead the traditional approach of organizing by craft or trade. It opened to door to what would become labors core constituency mass production workers.
Hill Flaherty Sabol and Carroll Advertising have merged their operations to form Flaherty Sabol Carroll. The new firm reports capitalized billings of approximately $12 million and 17 employees.
MSA PASS Inc. has received a contract to provide a Level 2 control system for a vacuum tank degasser at TAMSA, a Mexican steel plant located near Veracruz.
FastSigns on Banksville Road has opened a trade show display division, which it is calling Display World. The new division adds the Intex line of trade show booths along with the Fastsigns products.
U.S. Tool & Die Inc. is expanding its operations at Keystone Commons by leasing an additional 52,000 square feet, bringing its total floor space to 150,000 square feet by next February. The company employs 150 people at its facility, which manufactures spent nuclear fuel racks.
Pittsburgh Home Savings Bank is building a new banking facility in the Village of Pine, a planned town center project in Pine Township. The branch, Pittsburgh Home Savings 10th, will include a full-service office and three drive-up automated teller machines.
Stargate Industries has acquired InetONE, a Beckley, W.Va., Internet service provider. The purchase adds 9,000 subscribers to Stargate Industries roster in a five-county area.
VayooMall.com Corp. has launched an e-commerce Web site, www.vayoomall.com. The sites package of services will initially target the Indian community working in North America and eventually will expand to encompass international professionals working abroad.
Pellegrini Engineers, a consulting civil engineering firm with headquarters in Altoona, has opened a Pittsburgh office.
Small companies and health care
Maybe it’s because small business owners have to look at their employees every day. No one can be really sure, but recent numbers about employee health care costs are a bit startling.
Only 75 percent of employers with fewer than 250 employees require their workers to pay part of their health care coverage. Meanwhile, 94 percent of large companies with 2,500 or more employees require employees to pay part of their health care coverage. These figures were uncovered by Watson Wyatt’s 1998/99 ECS Survey Report on Employee Benefits.
Health care compensation blues
CEO pay packages at the nation’s largest publicly owned, for-profit health care companies remained flat in 1998, reflecting Wall Street’s continued skepticism of an industry troubled by a stunning drop in market value, according to a new study by William M. Mercer Inc.
From fiscal year 1997 to 1998, the median increase in total cash compensation, which includes base pay and bonuses, among health care CEOs was 5 percent, due largely to a median salary increase of 9 percent. However, total CEO pay packages at the largest health care companies actually declined due mainly to poor stock performance, but nevertheless a rare phenomenon in the world of executive compensation.
What drug abuse costs your company
If one of your employees is using on the job, it could be costing you as much as $10,000 each year. That comes from Cyndy Cook, director of marketing and sales for Clinical Health Laboratories Inc.
“In addition,” she says, “the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation discounts premiums from 6 to 20 percent for organizations that develop a drug screening program in support of a drug-free workplace.”
The best care everywhere
A research corporation announced that the Cleveland Clinic Foundation is one of the nation’s top 126 hospitals, according to the 1999 Consumer Choice Award winners. Hospital consumers selected the clinic as one of those having the highest quality and image in 101 markets throughout the United States.
This is the fourth year National Research Corporation (NRC) has bestowed awards on hospitals. NRC President and CEO Michael Hays said the company expanded winning criteria this year to reflect composite scores on multiple quality and image ratings provided by consumers in NRC’s annual Healthcare Market Guide Study. Of the 2,500 hospitals rated by consumers, the winning 126 rank highest in their Metropolitan Statistical Areas, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. The 1999 study surveyed more than 170,000 households representing more than 400,000 consumers in the contiguous 48 states and the District of Columbia.
Here’s to your health
According to Yahoo! News, Ohio’s Senate Finance Committee will recommend to the full Senate that the state’s share of the tobacco settlement be used for schools, research and health programs.
Some Republicans wanted to use the money for tax cuts. They claimed they had the votes to insert the tax cuts as an amendment to a bill being considered on how to divide the money. The amendment never surfaced, and Gov. Bob Taft’s aides say they do not expect it to be revived when the legislation reaches the Senate floor for a vote.