Barbara Payne's Capitalist Cleveland Blog

News and Views: Entrepreneurs a-thrive in Northeast Ohio

Friday, July 29, 2005

Long-term thinking becoming more popular

American companies have always focused on short-term profits, unlike the Japanese who began long ago to think in terms of decades.

I'll never forget the time when I briefly worked at a Honda used car lot (yes, I was a used-car salesman for six months--and that's another interesting post for some other time). One day, two representative from Honda in Japan came politely inquiring at our lot whether they could see the two older (at the time that meant 1982) Hondas we had. We rushed to help them out, of course. And when we got the chance to ask the boss what it was all about, we learned that the Honda reps wanted to see what had gone wrong with the cars--they even wanted to see where the bodies had rusted!--so they could manufacture their new cars so as to better avoid those things. Can you imagine GM doing that?

As an entrepreneur you might be thinking, hey, that's only for big companies. But the truth is, it applies to all of us, so you might as well begin as you mean to go on. Here's a article on this subject that compares the corporation to the human body--in terms of its ability to run fast now versus its stamina and strength over the long haul. In other words, sacrificing quality or customer service for short-term profits can threaten the long-term health--even the existence--of your organization.

Out and about

Well, it's nice to have my new Treo phone fully functional at last. Am sitting in the Stone Oven, one of the few eastside places that has wireless--though last time I tried it here, it wasn't working.

But now with my Treo I don't need wireless anymore to get and send emails, to post a blog entry, and even to work on my documents--though I find it helpful to print out a hard copy of whatever I'm working on so I can see the big picture to edit. Then I use the Treo to edit the electronic version. It's the gadget that lets
you leave the house and be ready to work if you want--even without having thought about it ahead of time.

Fellow blogger Paul who operates the Tinbasher blog has a special place in his heart for the northeast Ohio blogging community. He's moving here one day, he says, but right now he's in town for the summer. So if you see him out at some networking event, give him a warm NEO welcome. Paul, enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Elegance inside

Eton Chagrin Boulevard has been transformed since the Stark Enterprises people took it over. Once the saddest, loneliest piece of prime real estate on the east side, they've made it an absolute beehive of activity with retail like Trader Joe's (unique, affordable food items) and Stone Oven (scrumptious baked goods and real food like oatmeal and sandwiches in a really friendly coffee house atmosphere).

One of the most charming additions is the small island of elegance now ensconced inside the mall and set right in the walking space between the shops--separated only by a really unique wrought iron fence--and between the likes of Barnes & Noble, Chico's, Cold Stone Creamery and others.

It's called Isola Bella (beautiful island) and that's just how you feel when you sit at the marble bar and order your baguette, sausage and 3-year-old Beemster cheese (aged Gouda) with cornichons and crystallized ginger, and--at last, for the license took a long time to come)--a glass of one of their small selection of carefully chosen wines.

The owner, Pieter Bouterse, is a local entrepreneur who operates a special event planning and florist service for very high end occasions. His flare is apparent in every detail of Isola Bella. Come try outrageous imported chocolates, and view elegant accessories and some of his amazing floral accents. Richard and Lynne will take good care of you. It ain't cheap, but it's an experience you'll remember.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Smoggy sunset over Philly

Sitting on a stifling airplane on the ground in Philadelphia waiting for air lanes to the west (to Cleveland and Boston) to open up. Apparently some stormy areas--something to do with coolness, can we hope?

Air conditioning. I don't think I could have survived without the last several weeks of 90-plus heat and humidity. And though It's probably a big contributor to the horrible smog and pollution hanging over our cities these days, I wonder if--like our cars--anyone's willing to give it up? Frankly, I'd rather have a society without cars than one without air conditioning.

Please don't throw that! Okay, maybe you disagree with my position. But think about it. If we had no cars, we'd have more trains, buses and electric vehicles. We'd see more of each other (for good or for bad, of course) and we'd have to get along. We'd probably start to do more socializing. We'd have to accept our neighbors--even lots of people who weren't exactly like us. It would be like the old days--for good or bad.

The mobile post capability only allows so much text so I'm adding this on Wednesday. Was thinking how no cars would affect business. Very interesting--but not nearly so restrictive as the days before the Internet. So, we can be local but we can be international, even with no cars. Hmmmm. I'm definitely likin' this picture.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Mansion at Main Street

A developer in Cleveland has some hot ideas about transforming the city of Cleveland using the latest visions of city planning--new urbanism. It means building things--retail, residence, office--UP instead of out like the suburbs.

I'm in New Jersey right now (south Jersey, that is--a whole different ballgame than north Jersey, which is highly industrialized and intensely crowded) and above is a photo of one piece of such a New Urbanism developoment called Main Street.

Main Street was built up back in the early 80s, with the anchoring street-level retail being extremely high end clothiers and others. With the big crash of '87, most of the retailers turned tail and ran. The street level storefronts are still pretty deserted today, though the rest of the development seems alive and kicking.

Economic development can be such a crapshoot. But the idea of putting people closer to each other and mixing the uses (retail, office, entertainment, residence) is the sound idea on which all great cities were founded.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Connected cities

Big difference between Trenton, NJ and Philadelphia, PA--but people drive between them all the time. Unlike Akron and Cleveland, where the distance seems practically insurmountable to many of us, folks in NJ don't think of other areas as no-man's-lands. Many go back and forth quite readily.

It's 20 minutes to Philly from where I am (Cherry Hill, NJ), an hour and a half to New York City, and a couple of hours' train ride to Washington, D.C. A lot of miles, yes, but itt's all in your perception as to "how far away" a place is.

Why do we perceive the Akron-Canton-Cleveland-Columbus corridor/region so differently than these east-coasters do theirs? Could it have to do with boundaries? Each entity develops itself as an individual; the main city grows as the close-by "others" do the same.

And then one day, each entity wakes up and begins to see the others as desirable entities with which to have a relationship--and then the people within each entity begin to think of the distances as less significant.

I might be talking out of my hat, but I'm guessing that this is just beginning to happen in NEO. Akron has been boosting itself higher and higher (even in its own estimation—look at the upcoming 3rd annual Akron Business Conference, which proudly asserts itself as worthy to name "winners" in any area of northeast Ohio. And look at Columbus, which is building itself ever more attractive to dynamic young people. And of course all of us positive-thinking Capitalist Cleveland fans know that our fair city is blossoming like mad.

Well, I think the day is coming when we'll start to think and behave more like this east-coast enclave. Maybe Cleveland will take the role of New York (I am nothing if not a positive thinker) and Akron will be like Philly and Columbus will be like New Jersey.

Hey, today's dreams are what shape tomorrow's realities.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Business as unusual

Oh, brother. Had a whole long post written on my Treo and lost it.... Grrr. You'll know how frustrated I've been with getting all my programs to work together if you read Blogforbusiness.

Anyway, was talking about the beauty of having fireplaces and wine available at a place you come to do business. I wrote about the Vinea Wine and Coffee Bar/cum/business center in an earlier post.

Today I decided (after finding that Phoenix Coffee House's A/C was broken) that I would go find this place. I'm glad I did. Will write more after I finish my lunch and get onto a regular computer--so I won't have to deal with losing my post several times (for various reasons).

So here we go--hitting send. Hope it all works out as intended (as the software programmers say).

Okay, now that I'm back at the office and see this went through okay, I can tell you that Mindy, the lady at the Information Desk, showed me around--the owners of Vinea have taken the old building and done nice things with it. Warm, rich paint colors enhance the high-ceilinged atmosphere. Wireless connections throughout the facility, cubicles for rent ($3.50 an hour) if you need a quiet place to work (you bring your own computer), or a couple of offices for rent with computers (nice ones, too, with cool flat screen monitors) already set up. Or you can just sit in the lounge area to work (no charge).

Several video conferencing rooms available. They had two meetings going on when I was there. Lunch, breakfast, wine, coffee, stools at the bar, high tables, or leather couches by the fireplace (they brought me over a folding snack table to work on while I ate and worked from one of the deep cushioned brown leather easy chairs).

Parking's a bit of a hassle. I got a meter half a block away. Two bucks for two hours, but you could go to the Halle parking next door (which by the way, has a 24-hour, by-appointment auto detailing service--cool). But next time you're downtown without an office and want to meet with someone, or just get some work done in a nice atmosphere, check it out at 1220 Huron Road. Congratulations again, Jayne and friends, on this pleasant, eminently useful oasis for NEO entrepreneurs.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Triumphant rebirth--and an expert speaks about ADA compliance for web developers

The Akron contingent of Northeast Ohio has always been active, but it seems to be heating up even more lately. Listen to this story of entrepreneurial triumph...

Since 1994, Andrew Holland and his team have been contributing to the lively business climate in Akron as they grew their web development venture called Interactive Media Group (EYEMG). Originally the offspring of corporate giant A.B.Dick, the company immediately established itself as one of the top web development sources in Northeast Ohio.

Now, with the recent demise of its parent company, the EYEMG team decided to make the leap--as of June 24, 2005 they completed negotiations and purchased the company as their own!
BP: Congratulations, Drew--where do you plan to take EYEMG now?

AH: We plan to keep our focus on our two main products: our content management system "eyemg.Compose" and our online customer service system "eyemg.Respond" . We'll keep developing them and integrating them with other apps for our Ohio-Valley-based clients. Our latest project for Audiotechnica, a "prosumer" electronics company based in Stow, supports their online marketing communications efforts in five languages and four world areas.

Read more about EYEMG and Audiotechnica here.
BP: Well, while we've got you here, what about this ADA-compliance issue--a developer colleague forwarded an email about this the other day. Apparently there's pressure from some quarters to make web developers responsible for shouldering the costs of building websites that are ADA-compliant for visually impaired surfers. What are your thoughts on this proposed Section 508 law?

AH: Web developers for government websites have been required to comply for some time now. We've been doing this for our government clients for the past 3 years. We view this as similar to the early days of the Internet when web developers were advised to create a graphical site and a text-only site to accomodate different viewers and different environments.

BP: You mentioned that many of today's top-tier website navigation schemes are graphical. Will that have to change?

AH: The top-tier developers have been using alt-tags all along. The alt-tag (which is used to create a text description of any graphics that appear on the site) was invented by the WC3 panel (the independent governing body that suggests standards for the Internet) so that public websites could accommodate those who were visually impaired and those who didn't have high-speed connections and so turned off their graphics as a way of speeding up their ability to view sites. The alt-tag is meant to describe the missing graphic in such a way that viewers understands what the graphic represents--and in the case of non-impaired visitors, help them decide if they want to turn it on to view it.

BP: Do you feel this creates undue burdens for web developers?

AH: Not really. It just means that where compliance is required or preferred, market pressures will be on the developers--and the clients--to decide if they want to spend extra money to make the text option fully available everywhere on the site.

BP: Ah! Well, good. The smaller developers now know to start using alt-tags on every graphic (if they're not already) so that those who need it will get sites built appropriately--and everyone will be ready to successfully ride another potential regulatory tidal wave. Thanks, Drew. We look forward to hearing more from EYEMG.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Newest tech company emphasizes the human side

When you're a technology company, it takes guts to talk about things like art and the human spirit. But that's just what ATTEVO is doing. This company took up space downtown in the Baker Building--the founders plan to stay here because they love Cleveland--and is creating high-paying high-tech jobs--more than 50 in the last few months--as it opens branches in other cities like San Francisco in order to meet its optimistic revenue projections.

ATTEVO is the brainchild of several entrepreneurs, each of whom headed another successful company (Realogic, DigitalDay and Infinis). Tried emailing a screen shot from their website and so far it hasn't come through. But hey, you can check out their website yourself.

Having had the pleasure of working with Howard Cleveland, ATTEVO's Chief Creative Officer, when he was at Digital Day, I was delighted to be the first to introduce him and his fellow entrepreneurs to Michael DeAloia, Cleveland's technology officer. Last I heard they were meeting with Mayor Campbell.

Congratulations to ATTEVO and to Howard, Dave Snyder, Joe Burmester and Kelby Kostival.

Hope you got out and enjoyed the Independence Day holiday.