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Josh Linkner to address regional leaders at popular breakfast event

Best-selling author, CEO of Detroit Venture Partners, and regional champion, Josh Linkner will kick off the Leadership Oakland Breakfast of Champions Series on August 26, 2014 at the MSU Management Education Center in Troy.  He has just released his new book “The Road to Reinvention.” 
 
 “After the success of his first book and after reading his new book, we knew we needed to bring Josh in for a discussion that will allow our members and the public to discover ways to drive change in their personal  lives, businesses and the region ”stated Chris Scharrer, Executive Director of Leadership Oakland.  “Over the next 12 months we will be celebrating 25 years of successful leadership development and outstanding programing.  Josh will kick off both our Breakfast Series and our 25th Anniversary Celebration.”
 
In the book Linkner asserts, “Change is unavoidable. You need to decide: will you drive change or be driven by it?  By choosing to deliberately reimagine your own status quo, you can secure a strong future for both your company and your career.”  Disrupt. Retool. Create.  Overhaul.  Join us to Reinvent! 
 
For more information about Josh and his new book visit http://joshlinkner.com/the-road-to-reinvention/

To register for the series or for an individual breakfast go to www.leadershipoakland.com.
 
The event is sponsored HAP, DTE Energy Foundation, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, McDonald Hopkins, Corp! Magazine and Center for Computer Resources.

One Stop Shop Business Center partners with PTAC to help businesses pursuing government contracts

Oakland County’s One Stop Shop Business Center will soon be offering free counseling services that can help businesses interested in obtaining government contracts at the local, state and federal levels.

Beginning Wednesday, Schoolcraft College’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) will open a satellite office in the One Stop Shop Business Center to counsel businesses interested in learning how to obtain government contracts for goods and services. The center is located on the first floor of the Executive Office Building, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road in Waterford.

“Our One Stop Shop Business Center is a valuable asset for startup and second-stage businesses looking to improve their bottom line,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “Adding PTAC’s expertise to the many services we already offer makes it that much more convenient for businesses who want to learn the ins and outs of obtaining government contracts.”

A PTAC counselor will be in the center every Wednesday, meeting with scheduled clients in the morning and with walk-in clients from 1-3 p.m., said center Supervisor Greg Doyle. Morning appointments can be scheduled by calling PTAC at (734) 462-4438.

“We are always looking for new ways to help Oakland County businesses,” Doyle said. “We are very excited to offer PTAC services here through our One Stop Shop Business Center.”

PTAC was created by Congress in 1985 to expand the number of businesses capable of participating in the government marketplace. Locally, the goal is to get more government contracts awarded to Southeast Michigan businesses. Services include:
  • Orientation to government contracting
  • One-on-one counseling
  • Training seminars and conferences (which may require a nominal fee to attend)
  • State of Michigan bid notices
Since 2000, the Schoolcraft College PTAC office in Livonia has served more than 6,000 businesses and had more than 25,000 counseling sessions. In the past five years, clients have received nearly $600 million in prime government contracts.
PTAC also has a satellite office at Automation Alley in Troy.

Fooke USA sets up shop in Pontiac

Fooke USA is opening an office in Pontiac as the base for its parent company's North American operations.

Fooke is a family-owned business that develops milling machines for a number of industries including aerospace, automotive, railway, and mold and die. Fooke USA is the German-based firm’s North American arm.

"Pontiac has the potential and the space so we can expand our facility," says Matthias Hofmann, CEO of Fooke USA.

Hofmann expects Fooke USA to employ as many as 25 people, primarily specialized technicians, in Pontiac within the next three to four years. The company currently employs Hofmann and he expects to hire a handful of people by the end of the year.

Fooke USA made the leap into Pontiac thanks to the help of Automation Alley. The business accelerator's International Business Center hosts foreign companies looking at establishing an office in Metro Detroit. It provides a temporary home base and professional services that help these companies make a soft landing into the Metro Detroit area.

A dozen foreign companies have made this transition at Automation Alley since it opened the program in 2011. Those companies now have operations in the region that have created 433 new jobs.

Source: Matthias Hofmann, CEO of Fooke USA
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Immigration law firm Fragomen adds to Troy office staff

The Metro Detroit office for Fragomen is growing nicely along with the national economy and local automotive industry rebound.

The immigration law firm (formally known as Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy) is based in New York City but has a growing satellite office in Troy. It now stands at 15 people after making two hires over the last year. It is now looking for a senior paralegal.

"We are probably going to add more (staff)," says Alexandra LaCombe, managing partner of the Troy office for Fragomen. LaCombe was recently named the managing partner of the Troy office. She started as a senior attorney at the office 14 years ago.

Fragomen handles immigration law for a broad range of clients in the Metro Detroit office. Those include a number of automotive firms (two of the Big 3 are represented by the Troy office), local institutions of higher education, and financial firms.

"A lot of our clients are bringing a lot of work in-house while before they would use contractors," LaCombe says. "As they grow, we grow."

LaCombe plans to cement Fragomen’s position as a leader in immigration law during her tenure as managing partner of the Troy office.

"We want to make sure that if anybody needs any immigration expertise, they come to us first," LaCombe says.

Source: Alexandra LaCombe, managing partner of Fragomen's Troy office
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

HBR Labs launches VeriShow online collaboration tool

HBR Labs is promoting its new VeriShow technology this summer, positioning its online collaboration software to become a fixture with high-end retailers.

The Farmington Hills-based tech company's platform is designed to connect companies and customers online quickly and painlessly. VeriShow provides spontaneous video conferencing, chat, and assistance by simply clicking on the “Live Help” button between customers and customer service representatives.

"It's designed to allow any company that needs to engage customers to do so instantly," says Yuval Moed, CEO of HBR Labs.

The 7-year-old company is focusing on selling to high-end retailers in the car dealership, real-estate, fashion and banking industries. HBR Labs created the multimedia software platform 18 months ago but is ramping up its marketing of the product now that it has worked the bugs out of it.

"We perfected the technology so it's now a pleasure for everyone to use," Moed says.

HBR Labs employs a staff of eight people after hiring one new person (a quality control professional) over the last year. It currently has open positions for two sales professionals to help market and sell VeriShow.

Source: Yuval Moed, CEO of HBR Labs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Saphran Solutions introduces capacity and asset planning system

Saphran Solutions, a Michigan-based developer of management software programs, is introducing a new capacity and asset planning system to help companies more accurately forecast product demand and reduce costs.
 
Saphran’s proprietary software program, CapacityBase, simulates and evaluates multiple product-demand scenarios to map out a company’s short and long-term capital investment plans to maximize returns. The new software allows manufacturers to more effectively manage assets, avoid future risk and reduce costs.
           
“Our CapacityBase solution gives original-equipment manufacturers, especially automotive suppliers, invaluable forecast information for capital asset planning and management,” said Ken Bassey, Saphran’s founder and CEO.  “Our software allows suppliers to better manage their assets, eliminate unnecessary costs and identify potential trouble spots.
 
“The efficient use of capital assets is critical to business success. When Saphran’s management programs are integrated with a company’s legacy ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems such as SAP or Plex, they provide senior executives with the most accurate and detailed forecast-demand information available today.”
 
Other Saphran management software programs and modules include:
  • PartBase – Active Demand Forecasting:  A forecasting tool that seamlessly integrates external market data from multiple sources.
  • QuoteBase - Estimating and Quotation Management:  Improves the ability to collaboratively develop quotes with “what if” scenarios and sourcing options.
  • ConnectBase – Real Time Integration:  Enterprise data integration with synchronization and automated matching capabilities.
  • CostBase – Margin Management:  Integrates cost, price and margin information for improved analysis.
  • IntelligenceBase – Data Warehouse/Cube Analytics: Provides external and internal Key Predictive Performance Indicators (KPPIs) for on-demand analysis and reporting.
  • Interactive Management Dashboard – Real time “drill-down” analytics for identifying key factors impacting business performance.
 “Capital and capacity are two areas that traditionally have been poorly managed,” noted Don Stilwell, Saphran’s vice president of Sales and Business Development. “Companies that can find ways to more effectively manage these important assets will gain a major competitive advantage.
 
“Our products help companies use capital assets much more effectively by integrating critical external and internal management information in a single system to improve decision-making processes to an extent never before possible.”
 
About Saphran Solutions
Founded in 2004, Saphran Solutions is located in Southfield, Michigan.  An independent software developer, the company helps automotive suppliers and other manufacturers achieve dramatic efficiencies and increased profitability by narrowing the gap between business planning and performance.
 
The company’s software modules are designed for original equipment suppliers with sales of between $50 million and $20 billion.  Saphran’s software programs can be implemented quickly; pay for themselves within three to six months; provide significant competitive advantages, and help protect and increase profit margins.  More information about Saphran is available at www.saphran.com.
 

July business workshops offered by the Oakland County One Stop Shop Business Center

Business owners and entrepreneurs who need assistance are encouraged to attend seminars offered by the Oakland County Business Center. Unless otherwise noted, all programs are held at the Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, west of Telegraph, in Waterford. For pre-registration and location map, visit www.AdvantageOakland.com/businessworkshops or call (248) 858-0783.
 
CEED Small Business Loan Orientation: July 9, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Location: Farmington Hills City Hall Community Room, 31555 W. 11 Mile Road, Farmington Hills. Many small businesses face obstacles when trying to obtain a business loan. If your business is located in Oakland County and you have a need for alternative financing consider learning more about the CEED Small Business Loan Program (formerly CEED MicroLoan Program). Discover the requirements and process necessary to apply for and obtain a Small Business Loan. (CEED is Center for Empowerment and Economic Development). Fee: This workshop is free, but pre-registration is required.
 
Break the Rules, Close More Sales: July 10, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. A business development workshop for business owners, company Presidents/CEO's & professional service firms and sales people; in two short hours, you'll learn how to establish trust with your prospects, prospect more efficiently, shorten the sales cycle, eliminate stalls and objection, take control of the sales process, and differentiate your company. Fee: $40 per person, pre-registration is required.
 
Business Research: Feasibility to Expansion: July 16, 9 a.m. to noon. Thinking of starting a business and want to research your business idea? Do you want to identify market trends and opportunities to grow your sales? Are you looking for new customers or to diversify your market base? Business Research shows you ways to find your ideal customers, your competitors, perform competitive analysis and more. The workshop is presented by The Oakland County One Stop Shop Business Center, Oakland County market researchers and an Oakland County Public Library business reference librarian. Fee: This workshop is free, but pre-registration is required.

Get a Grip on Your Business | EOS Workshop: July 17, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. If you are the owner, leader or manager of an entrepreneurial organization who wants to see your business consistently run better and grow faster, Mike Kotsis, a professional EOS implementer, can help you and your team simplify, clarify and achieve your vision. You will walk away with a focused action plan using the EOS workbook containing the tools that will help you to gain more traction in your business. Don’t let the company run you – Get a Grip on Your Business. Fee: $40 per person, pre-registration is required.
 
Legal Basics for Small Business: July 29, 9 a.m. to noon. Legal Basics provides new and existing Michigan entrepreneurs with an understanding of the key legal considerations when starting and operating a business in Michigan. The program also addresses how to select the best type of legal structure for your business, how to protect your business interests when dealing with customers, suppliers or independent contractors. It also provides important information and guidelines for establishing short and long term succession plans. Fee: $20 per person, pre-registration is preferred, but payable at the door.
 
Walk-In-Start-Up Thursdays: Every Thursday 9:30 a.m. to noon and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson wants entrepreneurs to prosper. His Walk In Start Up Thursdays Small Business counseling initiative is for individuals who want to launch a business but don’t know where to begin. They will receive confidential, one-on-one advice from an experienced business consultant with no appointment necessary.
Fee: There is no fee. Walk-in sessions are available on a first come, first served basis and each session is limited to 15 minutes.
 
Upcoming Workshops
August
7: Team SBA Financing Roundtable
13: Business Research: Feasibility to Expansion (PM)
13: CEED Small Business Loan Program Orientation
19: Create Your Marketing Plan
 
September
9: Business Research: Feasibility to Expansion (AM)
10: CEED Small Business Loan Program Orientation
17: Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) Certification Orientation
23: Introduction to QuickBooks
30: SCORE Small Business Loan Workshop 
 

Plex scores $50M in private-equity funding

Plex finds itself $50 million richer this summer after landing big financing investments from T. Rowe Price and Accel Partners.

The Troy-based company makes cloud-based ERP software for manufacturers. Plex describes its software platform as built from the plant floor up, enabling users to increase productivity and profitability at existing facilities by streamlining the manufacturing process.

The 19-year-old tech company was acquired in 2012 by Francisco Partners, a private-equity firm based in Silicon Valley. Plex also received a $30 million investment in 2012 from Accel Partners, a venture capital firm also located in Silicon Valley. The new $50 million capital infusion is considered an equity investment.

Plex plans to use its new round of seed capital to grow the sales and marketing efforts of its software platform. It is also planning to put some of that money into research and development of new technology.

"We have been working on a new user-interface over the last year," says Katy Teer, a corporate communications manager for Plex.

Plex has a staff of close to 400 employees and 20 interns. It has hired 156 people since January of last year. It also has 27 openings for everything from sales to senior technical writers right now. More information on those jobs is here.

"We're in an aggressive hiring plan right now," Teer says, adding she was employee No. 220 when she started at Plex two years ago. The firm expects to cross the 400-employee threshold later this year. "We're a really fast-growing tech company here in Metro Detroit."

Source: Katy Teer, corporate communications manager for Plex
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

123.net hires 10 people as it grows wireless business

123.net is hiring in Southfield, and with good reason.

The Internet/data center company has hired 10 people over the last year, including six people for its wireless Internet division. It’s in the process of adding summer interns right now, and the firm plans to hire more staff later this year. The reason?

"Demand," says Jim Hart, director of wireless operations for 123.net. "We don't add head count because it's speculative. We add people because there is a need."

The 17-year-old company has been hard at work expanding its tech center at its headquarters in Southfield. The 130,000-square-foot structure at 24700 Northwestern Highway just brought an extra 15,000 square feet of data center space online.

123.net wireless Internet product has led the company's recent growth spike. Hart explains the speed of that product's deployment has been second to none.

"There is a demand for it," Hart says. "People just want it."

123.net also has two interns on top of its staff of 40 employees. It is currently looking to add three more summer interns. The company plans to use its internship program as a talent pipeline for future employees.

"We're hoping to convert a couple of them as soon as their internships are complete," Hart says.

Source: Jim Hart, director of wireless operations for 123.net
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Varnum targets Metro Detroit with 12 newer hires for Novi office

The Varnum law firm has been around a long time. One hundred and twenty-five years, to be exact. And the Grand Rapids-based firm sees a big part of its future in Metro Detroit.

Varnum offers a broad range of legal services, ranging from technology development to employee litigation. It opened an office in Novi 12 years ago, and it has grown significantly in the last year.

"Our firm has concluded that the Metro Detroit area is a place where we have many current clients and many opportunities with clients," says Rich Hewlett, partner at Varnum. "We see a lot of really good attorneys here as well."

Varnum has hired eight attorneys and four paralegals at its Novi office over the last 18 months. It currently has a staff of 29 attorneys, eight paralegals and 18 support staff in Novi. Hewlett expects the Novi office to continue growing for the foreseeable future.

"We have a lot of really good things going on here," Hewlett says. "We see this area as a place that is very favorable to us."

Source: Rich Hewlett, partner at Varnum
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Cirrus Group leverages spike in school district customers

Schools are becoming an increasingly important part of Cirrus Group's future.

The Rochester Hills-based company specializes in back-end software for school districts and after-school programs. It has expanded significantly into school districts in the Phoenix area, where it represents six school districts.

"We have grown quite a bit in the school district space," says Michael Garret, COO of Cirrus Group. "We have also experienced growth in all of our segments."

The 11-year-old firm’s software handles operational, financial and customer management functions for child-care facilities, community centers and school districts. The platform manages enrollment, participant payments and communications, scheduling and government compliancy requirements including state and local subsidy payments and food care programs. The subsidy part has proven to be a distinct competitive advantage in recent months.

"We are one of the few companies that offers a subsidy management tool," Garret says.

That has allowed Cirrus Group to hire two people in software development and customer service over the last year. It currently has a staff of 14 employees and three additional openings for software developers.

Source: Michael Garret, COO of Cirrus Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Michigan-made film being shot at Troy office building

A Troy office building will serve as the backdrop for a new Michigan-made film being shot this summer.

Read more

Walk-In Start Up Thursday | Special Topic: Advice on Government Contracts

Budding entrepreneurs whose business will be headquartered in Oakland County are invited to attend the new, free Walk-In Business Counseling Service every Thursday in the Oakland County One Stop Shop Business Center.
 
During Walk-In Start-Up Thursdays, entrepreneurs who want to start a business but do not know where to begin can receive confidential, one-on-one advice from an experienced business counselor in a supportive atmosphere with no appointment necessary. Counselors will provide direct answers to start-up questions, suggest next steps and provide guidance on business planning tools.
 
Walk-In Start Up Thursday | Special Topic: Advice on Government Contracts

June 19, from 1:30 p.m. to  4:30 p.m.
Oakland County Executive Office Building
2100 Pontiac Lake Road, Waterford MI
Fee: This program is free to attend.
 
Join Alexander Masters, Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) Counselor, this Thursday afternoon for conversation and coffee at the Oakland County One Stop Shop Business Center. Chat with Alex about government contracting, procurement assistance, and other relevant contracting topics. The Oakland County Purchasing Department will also be on hand to answer questions. For more information, please call 248-858-0721 or smallbusiness@oakgov.com.

Level One Bank hires 18, grows assets 25 percent

Level One Bank is well on its way to the next level, thanks to a spike in its asset size and staff.

The Farmington Hills-based bank’s assets have grown 25 percent over the last year, topping out at $630 million. Its deposits also stand at $545 million. That has allowed the company to grow its staff to 145 people at its seven branches across the region. It has hired 18 people over the last year, mostly in lending. The bank currently has four open positions.

"Our primary businesses are focused on commercial loans," says Patrick Fehring, president & CEO of Level One Bank. "We're seeing a lot of action in our loans to entrepreneurs. We're also seeing an increase in our residential mortgage loans."

Fehring expects his bank to grow another 15 percent this year. He sees Level One Bank's status as a local bank as a key ingredient to its success at a time when an increasing number of people don’t trust large financial institutions.

"We think that gives us a distinct competitive advantage," Fehring says. "It's easier to connect with a decision maker at Level One Bank."

Source: Patrick Fehring, president & CEO of Level One Bank
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Telegration expands cloud computing services offerings

Cloud services are becoming an increasingly important part of Telegration's bottom line and its growth prospects for tomorrow.

The Clawson-based firm specializes in technology consulting. It services a broad range of organizations, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to local government agencies. The 24-year-old company’s products include local, long-distance and Internet services, and it's expanding into cloud computing this year.

"We are adding more products and services to our portfolio," says Rayon Treadwell, marketing administrator for Telegration. "Our customers are clamoring for cloud services."

Telegration is still in the process of fleshing out its cloud computing experiences, which it expects to complete this year. The company is also ramping up its marketing.

"We're starting to increase the visibility of our cloud services," Treadwell says.

Telegration has continued to grow its company as it expands the services it offers. It has hired five people over the last year and now has a staff of 50 employees and two interns. Among its recent hires are a channel support manager, sales engineer, finance specialist and customer service professionals.

Source: Rayon Treadwell, marketing administrator for Telegration
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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