Archive for September, 2005

Engineering energy for economic development

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Business is always a critical piece of economic development. Most often the people in businesses contribute mainly by spending their salaries in the area. But sometimes, a business owner comes along who sees greater needs and jumps in with both feet to help–on top of supplying jobs and salaries for community residents.

Met such a guy this week at well-attended conference sponsored by Benesch Friedlander aimed at bioscience businesses in Northeast Ohio. Jim Kish owns a highly successful engineering company–Engineering Elements, Inc.–located in Willoughby, Ohio. But he’s also making waves in nearby Lake County where he’s actively engaged in promoting at least FIVE major projects:

  • rebuilding Fairport Harbor ($27 million project) and the surrounding area (total $65 million)
  • promoting a traveling educational theater for kids
  • working with I-Open and Entrepreneurs for Sustainability on a wind-powered electrical generation project
  • with I-Open helping to create a robotics school in this area
  • promoting the use of worm factories to create rich soil from vegetable waste (first effort turned down by the Cleveland zoning & planning folks–but it’s under appeal)

Reading about this guy’s activities makes me feel like a bit of an under-achiever. Know what I mean?

Oh, yeah, and in his spare time over the last 20 years or so, he’s developed a highly reliable technique for doubling his money in the investments game. Congratulations, Jim. You’re more living proof of how one person does make a big difference.

How do you market regional resources?

Monday, September 26th, 2005

Cleveland, like many other regions, struggles to find an identity that allows everyone–all the counties, cities and areas–to work together. They’ve got some very useful organizations, but the marketing of those organizations is sometimes lacking–so people don’t know about them. Maybe the bio-related businesses will show the way.

At a meeting held last week at the JumpStart headquarters in downtown Cleveland, a small group of bioscience enterpreneurs and other interested parties listened to pitches for several local organizations that offer advice and assistance to the bio community in Northeast Ohio. The folks at NEOBio instigated the meeting, and those in attendance learned a lot about what’s available to them.

Significant response from Michael Gonzolez, marketing manager for entrepreneurial company MedXS in Mentor–”It took me two years or random efforts to gather all the knowledge that you’ve just given us today in an hour.

Here are a few random notes and a couple of links. You may find some useful information. The presentations were supposed to be up on the Team NEO website today. Check it out here.

NAWBO is affiliated with NEO411.biz. GLIDE is in lorain county. They do concept validation–new product, market, distribution. They have market information. Cleveland/Pittsburgh YBI Youngstown Business Incubator, has tenants with 30-40 tech companies called Turning Technology. Nortech is political, gets state money. Akron Chamber. CAAO similar to NEO411. Akron industrial incubator–focused on mfg industrial companies. Jumpstart – investment fund, $15 million, focused business assistance. lOOKING For companies that will generate $15 to 30 million in revenue over next 5 years.

Advanced Ceramics got funded by Jumpstart, now incubating at CAMP. More money from Jumpstart, eventually will get venture capital. NEO411.biz is caller-driven. We research and provide names of svc providers. 800.505.4811, 216.696.1292. See events, biz info, resource guide. Area 1 management assistance, funding, special svcs., etc. They have process to help you identify your real needs. Strictly NEO. they keep records on the svc providers. They give websites, names, etc. Mostly startups, biz plan, funds.

Bettie Sogor is here for NEOBio. She says its purpose is to serve bioscience with education and networking.

Lowering prices?

Monday, September 19th, 2005

Yep, the Charles Schwab company is dropping its remaining account service fees for about 650,000 account holders with balances below $25,000. The CFO Christopher Dodds told USA Today last week that they’d “lost their way” by imposing fees for overhead that had gotten out of hand.

Have you ever considered lowering your prices? Why?

Schwab’s HQ is in San Francisco so I can’t call them yet–but I intend to see if I can find out what process(es) they followed that led them to this decision. Did they survey their customers? Did they notice they were losing more of their smaller account holders? Who’s watching? What indicators did they look for?

Will report when I hear. Stay tuned.

Good service

Thursday, September 15th, 2005

Was just preparing a press release for a client whose business is helping companies improve customer service. I love giving examples when I run into the good side.

Staying at a hotel in Chicago for a few days. Arrived much earlier than you could expect to get your room, of course–like 8:00 a.m. So the friendly young lady at the desk offered to store my luggage and directed me to their restaurant where they invited me to work (it’s wireless) as long as I liked. To top it off, gave me a complimentary pass to their breakfast buffet…and the food was even good.

It’s practically noon and I’m still taking up space here. Think I’ll stay for lunch, too.

Oh, it’s the Holiday Inn Chicago O’Hare Kennedy on Higgins Road–not to be confused with the Holiday Inn Select and the Holiday Inn Rosemont and so on. Ask for Curtis the van driver to pick you up at the airport shuttle lounge.

Gas prices affect everything

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

Hey, you think you’ve got something to complain about with gas prices? Look at this report from The American Trucking Association–trucking companies will spend an “unprecedented $85 billion on fuel this year, marking a $23 billion increase over 2004.” Ouch.

I worked several years for a highly successful trucking software company here in Cleveland (TMW Systems), and I learned more than you could ever imagine about how the trucking industry operates. And how their profits (certainly since deregulation back in the 70s) are measured in tiny fractions of a penny per mile–which is why good software is so critical to their survival. You have to track every last blasted item–including tire tread wear so you can see how much you can get back in warranties on tires that didn’t last the promised XXX miles.

Someone once said–and it’s true–everything you eat, wear, or touch in anyway has been on a truck at some time in its life. So while we’re moaning about our hit at the gas pump, get ready for the prices on airline travel and just about everything else to go up soon, too.

Smart Google's invented search-blogs-only

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

The giant search engine folks have introduced a new search function–besides the “your computer” search and the “sidebar” search, that is–that searches only blogs.

Right at the moment, after testing a few searches, I’m trying to envision where people will go with this new functionality. A search through the millions of personal blogs for a certain topic could be more of a burden to get through even than a regular Google search. I wrote a while back in my newsletter about vertical search. This blog-only search is certainly one example–and when I want to refer back to an earlier item but can’t remember which blog I wrote it for, it’s pretty cool–but unless you can come up with a string of search text that effectively separates business blogs from personal ones, you may find it limited for most business purposes.

However, as a way to find out who is blogging and what they blog about (and how they write), this works pretty well–though certain blogs (for example, my personal blog) don’t seem to come up with a specific name search. So perhaps Google hasn’t perfected it yet (it’s still in Beta). But now if you can get creative with your search strings, you’ll find some interesting results.

And the next big thing?–search engine optimization for blogs! A whole new source of business revenue and a new angle in the SEO biz–oh, those brilliant folks at Google.

Ever get a "dialog" box that wouldn't go away?

Tuesday, September 6th, 2005

A while back what purported to be a dialog box for a program I didn’t recognize called Viewpoint appeared on my desktop–and gave me absolutely no way to get rid of it except to agree to the touted upgrade. Newsflash, Viewpoint, it ain’t a dialog if it’s not a two-way communication. After having had to reboot several times to get rid of it–only to have it eventually return again–I was furious.

Visited the website, found the name of the president and sent an email with the strongest language I could muster demanding to know what was the rationale behind this forceful intrusion on my privacy masquerading as a poor excuse for a marketing tactic. I eventually got a polite reply giving me instructions on how to get rid of it (had to go and uninstall the entire program) and an explanation that I was not the first one to have complained and they were redesigning their “dialog” box.

But I was curious and asked a local Northeast Ohio Internet marketing guru about this tactic. Andrew Holland of EYEMG has exactly the kind of reaction when confronted with this crummy approach and was kind enough to give a little history on the origins of the technique. Says it started long ago with Microsoft and was in fact the basis of the antitrust suit filed against them. Read more here.

Web wars for the desktop – book travel from your email

Tuesday, September 6th, 2005

A semi-revolution is underway. Travel agents now have a software product they can give you that integrates all the information from their Sabre reservations system into your Outlook email program. So, without a web browser, you can click and reserve and have your travel dates automatically entered into your Outlook calendar.

And this is just the beginning, according to this InformationWeek item. Direct connections to reservation systems will speed up–rental cars, hotels, etc. And distributors of many services will soon have to start thinking creatively about new distribution strategies.

This approach of integrating web services into desktop applications is becoming a trend. Google’s beta version of its sidebar aggregates all kinds of information from the web and ties it in with a powerful Google search of your desktop–and its own Gmail product–but you can also set the bar to search the web. So the war is on–whose tools will appeal to the business customer more? Whose will save the most people the most time? I’d speculate that the battle that’s just begun for possession of the desktop will determine what our working days will look like for the next five to ten years.

How long do you knock?

Monday, September 5th, 2005

Incredible. I wrote some time ago about an all-natural compound that’s used to neutralize odor and deactivate bad microorganisms on garbage. It was used to great effect in the cleanup of the tsunami–and the implication is that it could be extremely helpful in the aftermath of Katrina.

Late last night a sales representative from a company that sells this product commented on that blog entry that he and his company have been trying to talk to the U.S. government and state and local governments about it:

“…trying to reach the US government agencies since the Sunday before Hurricane Katrina hit. After contacting each state Governor, FEMA, The America Red Cross, the state Emergency Management Agencies, the US Senators from each state, etc., we still have not received even a reply. It has been 7 days!”

I don’t know about you, but as someone who’s done my fair share of selling, this non-responsiveness sounds like status quo to me.

As an entrepreneur or business owner, how many doors have you knocked on–and for how long–to tell them about a product that could dramatically improve their sales, make their customers happier, and/or pump up their bottom line–and they would not even give you a hearing?

Governments are no different. Read the blog and the comment (scroll to the bottom).

Comedy and tragedy

Thursday, September 1st, 2005

Local comedy kings John Lanigan and Jimmy Malone had on the show this morning a comedian from New Orleans (calling in from somewhere else). He managed to slip in a few funnies even as he described how he got out of NO because he had the means. He said that 40+% of the city’s people are (or were) in poverty. He said there’s one main highway through the city–to those who asked why didn’t people just leave he pointed out that over a million people, many without private transportation or money to hire transport would have had to find a way to get out on the one main road. He said, “I can’t get ten people to get out of my house in one hour…”

As a contributing writer to Blogcritics, I give you the link to their site where you can give through PayPal and 100% of your donation will go to the Red Cross Hurrican Relief Fund. Give if you can. If you can’t or you just don’t do that sort of thing, send love and prayers. They, too, are valuable and can sometimes be even more powerful than gold.