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Do more with less

Although the axe is falling at many companies — maybe at yours — you still need to complete projects quickly and on budget. How can you do that with fewer people?

Keep the communication flowing, says Stanley Portny, author of ”Project Management for Dummies.” Here are his tips for effective project management with a leaner staff.

  • Prioritize. Encourage employees to talk openly about the demands on their time at work and help them find the activities they need to put on hold while they focus on the project.
  • Don’t dump and run. Although it’s tempting to throw an assignment at your employees and leave them to figure it out, don’t, Portny says. Instead, think the project through with the team. This sends the message that you’re in this together and committed to the project.
  • Clarify. When people have too much on their plates, they begin to operate in panic mode and create more work for themselves. Spell out exactly what employees need to accomplish on a project and what its deadlines are, and be certain that they understand.
  • Visualize. Help team members buy in to a project up front, Portny says. If they’re thinking there’s no way they’ll get this done, they won’t. When you can help them visualize the success of the project, from beginning to end, they will be far more likely to make it happen.
  • Reward. Reinforce the efforts of your team members by making them feel appreciated. When someone completes a step of a project, send a thank you memo and a copy of it to his or her superiors. Or simply say, ”thank you.” It’s a small gesture, but it works.

Rate break

The 75 percent Ohio workers’ compensation premium reduction takes effect this month for the 2001 policy year. As an employer, you’ll pay only 25 percent of your premium when you receive payroll reports in December 2001 and June 2002, according to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

In addition, you’ll see a one-time 75 percent premium reduction on your June 2001 invoice. This means you’ll get a 75 percent credit on your next three payroll reports. For more information, call the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, (800) 644-6292.

Talk is cheap

With all the cell phone users in Cleveland, you’d think service is much cheaper here than in other cities. But Cleveland cell phone users pay only about 50 cents less than the national average of $38.80 a month, according to a survey by Econ One, an economic research and consulting firm which studies costs in the wireless industry.

The cost of cell phone service continues to gradually decrease, in part because more cell companies are including more ”free” calling time at nights and on weekends, according to the survey. Average costs were down in 13 cities, up in 11 cities and unchanged in one. The largest increases in average costs from April to May were in San Diego, Pittsburgh, Boston and Atlanta; the greatest decreases were in Houston, Dallas, New York and Philadelphia.

The average San Francisco cell phone user pays the most, $42.89 a month; those in Houston pay $36.26 a month on average.

Look closer

Deciding between two job offers can be difficult and stressful. But taking stock of your personal and professional priorities can help point you toward the right job, says Allen Salikof, president and CEO of Management Recruiters International. Prospective employees should consider the following when weighing their options:

  • What is most important to you? Is it the most money and the best benefits? A stimulating work environment that offers a clear career path? Responsibility or power? A reasonable work/life balance? Think about what you liked least about your last job for some insight.
  • Take a critical view of the company. Is it well established or do you prefer a more entrepreneurial, start-up mindset? Think about where you’re going to be spending most of your day and the type of people that is likely to attract.
  • Are there opportunities for advancement and to make more money? Does the company have a formal review process, and are raises given annually? Will the company offer professional development training or continuing education? Consider your career path and what lies beyond your starting salary and title.
  • What is the work environment and style? Will you be working alone or as part of a team? Do you prefer a very structured environment or one that is more horizontal?
  • Dress code has become an increasingly important factor in people’s decisions about where they work. If you are coming from a business casual environment, having to buy a new wardrobe for a more formal workplace could be a strong financial consideration and play into your decision.
  • Talk to others within the industry to get their take on the companies you’re considering. Look for media coverage about them for insight into financial health, turnover rate and management outlook.Biotech expansion

2000 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Gil Van Bokkelen has seen a lot of growth in the past year. His company, Athersys, recently was named National Business Incubation Association’s Graduate of the Year. The award recognizes the most notable graduate from incubation programs around the world. Athersys also expanded its facility to include an additional 10,000 square feet of space, bringing its total quarters to 43,000 square feet.

Of note …

Noteworthy Medical Systems reached a partnership agreement with Hewlett-Packard Co. to participate in H-P’s Computing Solutions Provider Program. The program will link Noteworthy’s marketing team with H-P’s sales reps, technology officers and other officials at major hospitals and health care institutions.

Instant information

There’s no question that the Internet is one of the most extensive information resources available — assuming you know where to look. That’s one reason the 29-member library systems of the CLEVNET Library Consortium last month unveiled KnowItNow at www.KnowItNow24x7.net. KnowItNow is a live online reference service that unites the information expertise of librarians, the comprehensive resources of the CLEVNET libraries and technology to deliver information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is the first resource of its kind offered by public libraries in the United States.

Blueprint for the future

After 25 years with Lakeside Blueprint, president Chuck Dean is calling it quits. Dean, 45, began his career with Lakeside as a bluepoint machine operator and served as a production manager for years before assuming the role of president in 1992. During his tenure, Dean grew the company from $3 million to $10 million, landing some of the city’s largest construction printing contracts, such as those for Tower City, the Cleveland Browns Stadium, Gund Arena, Key Tower and the Galleria. Dean is succeeded as president by Andy Ziegler, executive vice president of operations.

5 interview warning signs

Finding qualified employees remains the top issue employers must deal with, despite a slowing economy. But remembering the adage that haste makes waste has never been more important. Management Recruiters International (www.BrilliantPeople.com) offers five red flags interviewers should watch for during the hiring process:

  • Candidate denigrates a former employer. Habitual malcontents can be poisonous in an organization.
  • Candidate can’t isolate specific work achievements and has no verifiable references. The candidate’s credentials are suspect.
  • Candidate didn’t learn much or understand the previous employer’s business. That’s a sure sign he or she will behave the same in the new job.
  • Candidate must travel a surprisingly long distance to the job or seems overqualified. This raises issues of underlying problems, social or psychological impediments to more appropriate work situations.
  • Candidate takes too long to consider an offer. A sign the employer isn’t the candidate’s first choice.

You can’t blame this one on the Cavaliers

If your staff is calling in sick more often during the summer than winter, there could be an unlikely reason. A survey of 1,400 businesspeople nationwide, conducted by Maritz Marketing Research Inc., found that one in eight baseball fans admitted to taking a sick day from work to attend a professional baseball game.

”It was somewhat surprising to discover how many people said they sneak off from work to attend a game,” says Phil Wiseman, vice president of marketing for Maritz. ”Americans, in general, seem enamored with sports. Employers are pretty lucky pro football games are only held on weekends and evenings.”