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It's a scenario attorneys know well and plaintiffs learn the hard way: After years of effort, a case finally goes to trial, the plaintiff is awarded a sizeable judgment-and the defendant promptly files an appeal to avoid or at least postpone payment.
Unfortunately, most small and midsized business plaintiffs do not have the necessary cash flow to fund the appellate process, which leaves the frustrating alternative of negotiating a cents-on-the-dollar settlement with the defendant.
To California attorneys and entrepreneurs Michael Blum and Alan Zimmerman, that didn't seem fair. "Why should businesses have to take pennies on the dollar when a jury has determined all the issues and concluded they were wronged and should be compensated?" asks Blum.
The solution, Blum and Zimmerman decided, was to provide plaintiffs with the cash to fight appeals. Their San Francisco company, Judgment Purchase Corp. (JPC), offers what they call a civil appeals finance program. It works like this: If a state or federal trial court money judgment is appealed by the defendant, JPC will purchase an interest in the judgment for immediate cash. When the appeal is decided or a settlement reached, JPC receives its portion of the judgment amount. If the case is ultimately lost, JPC is not paid and the plaintiff keeps the funds already advanced.
"It's not a loan; we don't charge interest. We actually buy [a portion of the judgment], and the plaintiff gets to keep the money if the case is ultimately lost," Blum says.
In one of JPC's first cases, the plaintiff was a business that had won a $3 million judgment against an insurance company. The defendant immediately filed an appeal and refused to even discuss a possible settlement. JPC bought an interest of $140,000 in the judgment, for which they paid $70,000. The cash was used to fund a major portion of the appellate attorney's work. The defendant lost the appeal, and the original judgment of $3 million was paid, out of which JPC recovered their investment plus a $70,000 profit.
Until recently, high-quality business training videos were beyond the financial reach of most small companies. That changed in April, when Video Publishing House Inc. of Schaumburg, Illinois, and Broadcast International of Salt Lake City joined forces to launch BusinessVision, a training and business news direct-broadcast satellite network.
Subscribers to BusinessVision are equipped with a satellite dish and receiver, through which they receive training programs from most of the nation's prominent video producers, along with taped seminars and training sessions, live call-in panel discussions and CNN Headline News.
Training videos aired on the network cover a wide range of business topics, including ethics, diversity, customer service and sales training, sexual harassment, motivation, negotiation and more. Employees can watch on-site, eliminating the need for (and expense of) traveling to an outside location.
"An in-house training staff is not usually a part of a small business, so they tend to send their people out for programs," says Von Polk, president of Video Publishing House. "Our service brings them the best training programs, the best business experts, right to their location."
Polk says the average industry sale price of a business training video is about $500 per tape. In comparison, companies with fewer than 100 employees pay $290 per month to subscribe to BusinessVision, and companies with 100 or more employees pay $380. Programs are broadcast at six different times over a two-week period, giving managers an opportunity to preview the content and then schedule employees to watch.
"This is the first step in making high-quality training products affordable for everyone," says Polk. For more information, contact BusinessVision at (800) 424-0840.
Need to send a small package overnight? You have plenty of choices-and the competition is strong. Next-day delivery isn't new, but you might be surprised at what else your carrier can provide. Here's a sampling:
Airborne Express: Airborne's new Flight-Ready service allows you to purchase prepaid overnight shipping envelopes and packs, eliminating the need for airbills, account numbers and invoices. Airborne also offers a variety of software tools to help track shipments; you can also check on your shipments by accessing the company's Web site (www. airborne-express.com).
DHL Worldwide Express: DHL is test-marketing convenient packaging and simplified pricing for international shipments from the Midwest. The new reinforced Jumbo Boxes hold up to 88 pounds; they should be available nationwide early next year.
Federal Express: FedEx is taking the worry out of using drop boxes for last-minute express shippers. An electronic display on the company's latest generation of drop boxes in Atlanta and Memphis, Tennessee, indicates whether the courier has serviced the box, so you know whether to leave your package or to go elsewhere.
FedEx customers can visit the Internet to input shipping information, generate and print bar-coded labels for packages, schedule pickups and track shipments (www.fedex.com/logistics).
United Parcel Service: UPS offers overnight delivery guaranteed by 8 a.m. and a same-day or "next flight out" service. UPS also offers package tracking and will even take pickup requests at its Web site.
U.S. Postal Service: Priority Mail from the U.S. Postal Service sends a 91�2-by-12-inch envelope to any destination in about two or three days for $3.
The Postal Service is working hard to develop programs for businesses. Request a visit from a local postal representative, who will help analyze your company's needs.
Give It Up
Many entrepreneurs share a common shortcoming: They have a problem delegating. "They don't view the work as a task," says Joy Reed Belt, president and CEO of Joy Reed Belt & Associates Inc., an outplacement and organizational development firm in Oklahoma City. "Instead, they feel like they're delegating part of their creation, and it's very emotional."
Such feelings make entrusting any amount of control of your company to someone else a psychological struggle. At the same time, Belt adds, "Everybody subconsciously knows they can't do everything themselves. I have to delegate a lot to accomplish what I need to accomplish. But if you micromanage, you're not going to accomplish much at all."
To become an effective delegator, Belt advises first articulating your dream for your company. "Unless you are able to communicate your vision, delegation will always be hard," she says.
Then let your employees know what portion of the vision they are responsible for. Belt suggests telling them what you expect of them, what it will mean to the company, and how they will be rewarded, in terms of compensation and professional growth.
But don't confuse your vision for your company with the tasks necessary for its operation. "Everything is not a 'make or break' deal," Belt says. Give your people the freedom to develop their own problem-solving skills and to make mistakes along the way. Belt says her employees frequently come up with solutions she hasn't thought of because she encourages their creativity, and they know that if they make a mistake, she will back them up.
Once you've delegated a task, don't take it back. Let the employee work it through, even if there's a problem. Of course, you can offer to assist with a trouble spot, but make it clear you are not attempting to recapture any responsibility.
Finally, Belt says, enjoy the freedom delegating gives you to focus on the real issue-building your company.
Electronic documentation is on the rise-so why is your office still far from paperless? Don't feel bad. Paper is and will continue to be a primary element in even the most modern of offices, says Keith T. Davidson, executive director of Xplor International, an electronic document systems industry association. According to Davidson, there are four solid reasons why the paperless office won't be here any time soon:
First, paper is permanent. No other method of information storage and retrieval matches paper's durability.
Second, paper plays a significant role in our legal system. "Paper has been built into our common law," Davidson says. "It's why you need an original instead of a copy."
Third, paper is part of our society's traditions and institutions. Though newspapers, magazines and books may be expanding electronically, their paper versions will remain.
Finally, Davidson says, "Paper is the ideal human interface. It's the way we learn and communicate."
The truly efficient office will be able to blend electronic and paper documents. Davidson says an information technology plan should include a document strategy to accomplish this.
"Identify how your documents manage and contribute to your business processes," Davidson says. "Consider your document flow as part of your information system, not something that happens at the end of it." Understanding where and why you need paper is an essential element of successfully using electronic technologies.
It's also important, Davidson says, to keep technology in perspective. "What is the single most important information- processing invention of the past 30 years?" he asks, rejecting answers such as the computer or fax machine. "My candidate is the Post-it Note because it's the epitome of user-friendliness."
Airborne Express Inc., 3101 Western Ave., Seattle, WA 98121, (800) 426-2323, ext. 3185;
BusinessVision, 4 Woodfield Lake, #505, 930 N. National Pkwy., Schaumburg, IL 60173-9921, (800) 424-0840;
DHL Worldwide Express, (800) CALL-DHL, (http://www.dhl.com);
Federal Express Corp., (800) GO-FEDEX;
Joy Reed Belt & Associates Inc., P.O. Box 18446, Oklahoma City, OK 73154, (405) 842-6336;
Judgment Purchase Corp., 188 The Embarcadero, #500, San Francisco, CA 94105, (800) 572-1986;
Printech, 8402 N.W. 64 St., Miami, FL 33166, (305) 592-2838;
Sonoco Products Co., 1 N. Second St., Hartsville, SC 29550, (803) 383-7738;
United Parcel Service of America, (800) PICK-UPS;
Xplor International, (800) 669-7567, email@example.com.