Running Into Profits

Those jogging sessions you manage to squeeze in between work and home can do more than decrease your stress—they just might increase your bottom line. 

We all search for motivation to keep us in shape. But what if a trip to the gym could help you make more money? According to research by Dr. Mike Goldsby, an entrepreneurship professor at Ball State University, jogging pays off for small-business owners.

Goldsby studied 366 entrepreneurs to find the influence running and weight training have on sales volume as well as on external and internal goals. “We wanted to find out if time spent exercising was a trade off. Would it help the company or is it just another ball they are juggling?” says Goldsby?

The results? Entrepreneurs who run or lift weights reported higher levels of personal and professional satisfaction, autonomy and independence than those who don’t exercise. And runners reported significantly higher sales volume than their weight lifting friends. It makes perfect sense to Goldsby. “Running helps people redefine themselves. The ritual of going out there—no matter how you feel—carries over into the rest of your life. You develop this inner strength—that’s a lot of the formula for success.”

When optometrist and triathlon runner, Dr. Jim Sowders, purchased his private practice in 1983, the business was grossing $85,000 a year. Last year Sowders’ practice boomed, grossing more than $650,000. Sowders, who runs five to seven miles, five to six times a week, says running helps him accomplish more by blowing off stress from hectic days in the office. He’s such a jogging advocate that he gives his employees a weekly bonus equal to their hourly wage for each hour they work out, for a total of up to three hours per week.

In 1993, Jason Lenz started his business, Creek Run Environmental Engineering, by working out of his kitchen so he could stay home and care for his three young children. Now he and his 10 employees work in a 7,400 square-foot office, racking in more than $1.75 million in sales in 2003. How do they do it? Lenz says in part because of his daily jogs. “Running gives me a chance to reflect, prepare and focus on the task at hand,” says Lenz who, in between business and family life, plans to run his ninth marathon this year.

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Why SARS Could Hurt Your Business

When it comes to the threat of SARS, balancing employee rights and safety is essential to everyone's health—including your business's.

Nothing upsets the apple basket like threats of bioterrorism and contagious diseases. Last year, business owners added anthrax, West Nile, mad cow and, most recently, SARS, to their long list of things to worry about. Even though transmission rates for SARS are low compared to the common cold or influenza, the scary part is, if you get it, there's a chance you could die.

Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised its estimate of the SARS fatality rate from 4 percent to 14 to 15 percent, incorporating data from the latest cases in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam. But so far, defining a general rate of fatality has proved elusive, because victims' odds of survival depend on the area of the world where treatment was provided and on other factors such as their age and health.

"More people die every year of the flu than SARS," says Stephen Weatherhead, associate attorney for Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC in Boston. The fear factor can cause people to make poor choices, says Weatherhead, who advises business clients on everything from managing an actual SARS outbreak to fending off litigation from fearful employees.

Fear of catching the potentially fatal disease, along with fear of litigation from affected employees, has become a big issue for businesses that require travel to destinations such as Hong Kong and Singapore that have documented SARS cases. According to Weatherhead, if a traveling employee turns up with SARS and then gives it to a buddy in the next cubicle, then yes, that affected employee will get paid through worker's compensation. "That's a given," says Weatherhead.

Here's where it gets dicey: What if a business owner needs an employee to go on an urgent trip to Toronto and the fearful employee hedges? According to Weatherhead, an employee has a legitimate right, as outlined by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), to reject any assignment that poses an imminent threat. "If the employer takes [disciplinary] action," says Weatherhead, "the employee can file [suit] under OSHA."

But the quandary doesn't stop there. What if your best account executives just got back from a sales trip to Hong Kong and they turn up with a few common SARS symptoms--fever, headache and shortness of breath? If you send them home for the recommended 10-day isolation period, making them miss out on big commissions from a conference later that week, Weatherhead warns, they may be able to sue using the Americans with Disabilities Act because they're being penalized for a perceived disability. On the other hand, if you don't send a contagious employee home, then coworkers, or even customers, may be able to sue for reckless endangerment.

So how does a conscientious employer get out of this "damned if you do, damned if you don't" dilemma? "There's no real right answer," says Weatherhead. "The key is for the employer to act quickly, effectively and appropriately—to not overreact, because every case might be a little different." The trick is to balance the employer's rights with those of the employee. Some general SARS guidelines for employers:

Restrict business travel to Asia and other places held suspect by health organizations like the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Require employees to regulate their temperature and place themselves under active 10-day surveillance and voluntary quarantine after any contact with a probable SARS case. Telecommuting or teleconferencing are often better options than making a suspect employee come to work. If a 10-day isolation period is deemed necessary, it's better to pay an employee for their time off than to risk litigation.

Next Step

Information on everything from SARS symptoms and managing an actual outbreak to daily travel advisories can be found on the Web sites for the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or on the CDC hotline at (888) 246-2675.

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No Jerks Allowed

Demand positive engagement from all employees to reduce turnover and drive profits

If you've spent any time in the workplace, you've experienced it—the mean-spirited moron at work who consistently left others feeling demeaned, angry, and stressed out, says Robert Sutton, PhD, professor of science and engineering at Stanford University, and author of The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. 

According to Sutton, bully behavior will cause the bottom line of any business to suffer through decreased productivity and morale, increased turnover, and a general breakdown of the organization's internal health. In his research, Sutton heard from many disgruntled employees who complained of jerk supervisors who yelled, demeaned, lied, and even one boss who stole his employee's food. "It's very clear that people, especially supervisors, who are nasty at work are eventually going to motivate others to leave the company. It's just not economically smart. Even the most productive jerks are not worth it," says Sutton.

How can a small business avoid the high cost of bad behavior? Start by creating a corporate culture that supports positive engagement in the workforce, suggests Sutton. Lars Dalgaard, CEO of SuccessFactors and manager of 400+ employees, creates a high-performing culture by asking all new employees to sign "rules of engagement" that demand respect, mutual accountability, and positive interaction from all employees. If an employee breaks the rules, any other employee, regardless of rank, can call them out on being a "jerk." An apology is quickly made, the behavior stops, and everyone returns to work feeling empowered. This approach has allowed Lars to triple the growth of his San Mateo, California-based performance and talent management technology company every year since inception in 2001.

“To transform your business culture, first look at yourself and make sure you are creating a positive environment in your words and your actions,” says Sutton. Let employees know that their performance will be judged by how they demonstrate the company's core values. Aim to treat all people in a civilized way. Admit that you, and others, will make mistakes, but when you blow it, you'll quickly take responsibility. If an apology is needed, make it public. 

Rules of Engagement

  1. I will be passionate and approach my work with fun and enthusiasm.
  2. I will demonstrate respect for others (play nice, listen and act with integrity)
  3. I will do what it takes to get the job done while respecting legal and ethical boundaries.
  4. I will recognize colleagues when we win. I will never leave them behind when we lose. 
  5. I will approach every day as an opportunity to improve, admitting to and learning from my mistakes.
  6. I will be a good person to work with—I will not be a jerk.

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File-Swapping Debate Rages On

Innovators, recording industry at odds over how, and whether, to restrict transmission of digital downloads 

In one of the latest battles over the rights to restrict the transmission of music, movies and other copyright-protected files over the Internet, a Los Angeles federal judge ruled on April 25 in favor of two online services that create software that allows users to share files for free. Simply creating the software does not mean the services are contributing to copyright infringement, the judge found, so Grokster and StreamCast Networks are off the hook for now.

The ruling is just one in the sea of legal quandaries associated with digital downloads of copyright-protected material. On the one side is the recording industry, which asserts that services like Grokster and StreamCast are encouraging piracy. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which deferred to a statement on its Web site in response to calls seeking comment for this story, has this to say about file-swapping: "Businesses that intentionally facilitate massive piracy should not be able to evade responsibility for their actions. We disagree with the District Court's decision that these services are not liable for the massive illegal piracy that their systems encourage, and we will immediately appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals."

On the other are people like Grokster founder Daniel Rung, who claims Grokster and other similar Web sites should not be penalized for providing a service that allows users to share files meant for free distribution (like songs from up-and-coming bands and other noncopyrighted works) just because some users have used the software to pirate copyright-protected music. (Services like Grokster and StreamCast differ from Napster, which was shut down in July 2000: Grokster operates a peer-to-peer network--not a central server where individual files are accessed; this eliminates some of the accountability issues, because Grokster has no direct knowledge of when and what types of files are shared.)

"This [Grokster/StreamCast] case is not about stopping piracy; it's about controlling new technologies," says Fred von Lohmann, senior intellectual property attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco organization created to protect free expression, privacy and other rights in the digital arena. "The court ruled that merely making and distributing software, even if it is used by some people for bad purposes, does not put the technology company on the hook for everyone's misdeeds."

But the entertainment industry sees things a little differently, and the recent Grokster/StreamCast ruling has only added fuel to the fire. Now, however, instead of targeting the software companies that facilitate the file-sharing, the industry has shifted its focus to individuals.

In April, the RIAA charged four university students from three colleges with directly infringing copyrights by using the campus computer network to make popular songs available for other students to copy. And late last month, the RIAA used the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to convince a U.S. district judge to order Verizon, whose offerings include Internet service, to hand over the names of at least two individuals suspected of offering copyright-protected music as free downloads. Verizon is currently seeking to delay the subpoena to serve up the names until the company can appeal the decision.

The DMCA, enacted in 1998 to prevent Internet piracy, makes it illegal to break the digital locks that protect intellectual property, such as a CD or a DVD. But some companies--even those not in the entertainment industry—have clued in to the potential broad reach of the law. In another potentially precedent-setting legal battle, for instance, printer manufacturer Lexmark is invoking the DMCA to try to control the sale of aftermarket products, like toner cartridges, by smaller competitors.

Other companies, like Apple—which jumped onto the digital bandwagon with its 2001 slogan "Rip, Mix, Burn"—have responded to the download debacle with the April 28 launch of its iTunes Music Store. With the backing of all five major record labels, iTunes—which offers downloads at 99 cents a pop—is Apple's attempt to sway users away from free services.

So what do current copyright rulings say to innovators in the technology sector? "You're finally free to be creative and to try to fulfill the promise that technology can deliver," says Grokster president Rosso (founder Rung was unavailable for comment). But intellectual property experts are quick to point out that the Grokster ruling is only one battle in a much larger war. With the possibilities evolving almost daily in the digital landscape, it's tough to say when and how the conflict between innovation and intellectual property will be resolved.

Copyright ©, Inc. All rights reserved.

Creating Ellison's Garden

East Meets West in the Modern Interpretation of a Global Garden

Oracle billionaire Lawrence Ellison may best be known for the rebellious vision that allowed him to evolve the landscape of technology. But when Ellison decided to transform another landscape—the desert terrain surrounding his three California residences, he put the multi-million dollar project into the hands of another visionary, award-winning landscape architect Ron Herman. “Ellison envisioned a modern Japanese garden, an escape from the everyday world—and he wanted something very beautiful,” says Herman.

Just as the complex intellectual, philosophical and creative elements of a spectacular garden must coalesce into unique form, so has Herman’s history prepared him as master of Ellison’s gardens. Growing up in North Hollywood in the 1950s, the son of a brilliant horticulturalist and nurseryman, Herman’s high-school resume already boasted of assisting his father create gardens for A-list clients like Jayne Mansfield, Steve Allen, and Peggy Lee. After high-school, Herman continued his study of landscape architecture, graduating in 1964 from U.C. Berkeley and opening his own design office a year later. At 24 years old he was set to begin a profitable, successful practice, but a persistent longing to expand his knowledge of Japanese culture propelled Herman onto graduate studies in Japan.

It was Herman’s father that first introduced Japanese culture into their otherwise very American world. “My father had Japanese American friends, and a lot of the nurserymen and gardeners were Japanese Americans,” said Herman. “I attended their festivals and went to their houses on New Year’s—I was fascinated by Japanese culture.” It seems only natural that while many recent landscape graduates headed to Europe for inspiration, studying 15th century gardens in Florence, Herman forged East, stepping even further back in time, surrounding himself in 7th and 8th century Japanese gardens. Three years later, after soaking up the culture that would refine his talents, Herman completed graduate studies in landscape design at the University of Kyoto, returning to his practice in the states and to U.C. Berkeley, where he taught the history of Japanese garden design for over 20 years. During his 35-plus year career, Herman has created more than 400 full-scale garden designs, including many of the America’s largest and most intricate residential gardens where he integrates elements of Japanese design into projects like Ellison’s gardens.

The Atherton Garden

Herman has designed four spectacular and uniquely individual gardens for Ellison. Beginning in 1987, Herman started work on a two-acre garden at Ellison’s Atherton residence. By 1992 Herman had completed landscaping at the Oracle Corporations World Headquarters in Redwood City, Calif. The next year Herman began designing the cutting-edge garden at Ellison’s San

Francisco “city home,” and in 1995 he began the first phase of an epic 25-acre Japanese country-style village created at Ellison’s Silicon Valley residence. The Atherton garden was the first Herman created for Ellison as an escape from the stresses of the busy world of technology. As you enter the garden, brushing past a 100-year-old Japanese black pine at the right hand of a framed redwood entry, stepping onto the winding path that begins your journey into the first of several courtyards, you sense the element Herman is perhaps most known for—his ability to create a cinematic experience. “I go to great lengths to bring people in obliquely so they turn through the door,” says Herman. “I want them to notice perspectives, and places that uncover themselves gradually.” As you continue walking through the courtyard at

Atherton, the enchanting place revealed is the swimming pool. This is no ordinary pool surrounded by concrete and decorative ceramic tile; instead, this pool has all the appearances of a natural pond sloping gently down into the landscape. One of Herman’s secrets—using integrally stained plaster to darken the bottom and sides of the pond—intensifies the magical, mirror-like reflection of the surrounding red Japanese maples and Akebono flowering cherry trees. Boulders selected from the Yuba River in Northern California, placed with artful meditation by Japanese stone setters, finish the effect as they break the surface of the mirrored pool, adding another dimension to the view.

The sense of journey and ambiguity continue as you cross the granite bridge that ushers visitors from the swimming pool toward the expanse of a larger garden near Ellison’s home. “As you travel through the garden, the cobble beach and pond move in and out of view,” Herman explains. “It makes the area seem much larger than it really is, providing a sense of mystery to the garden—prompting one to explore what lies beyond.” If you get lucky enough to spend the night at Atherton, you’ll stay in the gardens tea house built as a replica of the very famous 17th century garden at the Katsura Imperial Villa in Western Kyoto, Japan. Built in part by Japanese carpenters brought over to ensure that the integrity and consistency of honor its famous predecessor, the tea house, which doubles as guest house, is a paradigm of anti-technology. “We used Japanese carpenters who had worked on the restoration at Katsura so they knew it very well,” said Herman who doesn’t think twice about importing materials and craftsmen to ensure the integrity of a structure. According to Herman, inhabiting a garden is much more of a philosophical and emotional exercise than simply walking into a garden that is a panorama of open space. “It’s a big tradition in the West to not block the view, but I tend to close things in—to send people through a series of courtyards and spaces. I look at gardens as a series of themes in a play—you don’t understand or see the final garden until you get to the final act.” The final act in the Atherton garden plays out in the reflecting pools where red and ivory calico koi swim circles in the shallow ponds that mirror Ellison’s home. Originally a paved service entry, Herman tore out the concrete, surrounded the home with connecting ponds complete with biological water filters, and used Alaskan yellow cedar to build an adjacent deck and released the homes view by adding glass windows and doors. The water element provides reflection and the koi, movement—and on a bright day they create a dynamic, moving mirror of sky.

The completion of the Silicon Valley garden this spring, concludes over 16 years of landscape design work Herman has performed for Ellison. “It’s very interesting and fulfilling to finish this final garden,” says Herman. “We had craftsmen from all over the world, from Japan and China and

Americans—trying to get them all to speak to each other and do this in a logical manner—it was a major project.” What summarizes the creation of one of California’s most unique gardens? “In the end, every garden should be beautiful refined space to look at, but beyond that, you can build in layers of meaning,” asserts Herman. “In merging cultures we create a very modern garden. Inside there is no context, no knowing where you are. It tries to mirror the globalization of our culture—to bring in memories, his [Ellison’s] memories—he is a global person.”

If landscape architecture can encourage a living dialogue with the past and the future, with our memories and our fantasies, offering not only a place to escape but also a place to remember and to reflect, then Herman has done it in Ellison’s gardens. “People are surrounded by technology and chaos,” muses a contemplative Ellison. “I view the garden as anti-technology—the garden is a place to escape.” For Ellison, and the rest of us humming at hyperspeed in the digital world—what could be more essential than that.

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