There's a certain feeling you get the moment you enter an innovative company -- you can almost feel a buzz of excitement and energy in the air.
Employees seem more motivated, management walks the halls with a purpose and the owners resonate with passion as they talk about the company and the mission.
This year's honorees at the Innovation in Business Conference proffered that type of message to the judging panel through their insightful nomination forms and discussions and/or visits by staff members of SBN magazine over the years.
Co-developed by SBN and founding sponsor Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Ohio, the Innovation in Business Conference is designed to honor those companies and individuals who eat, sleep and breathe innovation. Rather than judge a company based strictly on its revenue or profits, the Innovation in Business awards are about those people whose drive to stay one step ahead of the competition is almost as strong as their wonder at developing new processes, products and services.
Honorees are recognized in three categories -- Master Innovators, Visionaries and Rising Stars.
Each year, the four members of the conference's panel discussion are named Master Innovators as recognition for their years of proving they have what it takes to take charge in the race for innovation. This year's group of Thomas Sullivan, A. Malachi Mixon, Jacqueline Woods and Dr. Luis Proenza join last year's inaugural group of panelists -- Jack Kahl, Thomas Murdough, David Daberko and Robert Mahoney.
To be considered as Visionaries, individuals or companies must demonstrate their ideas not only were one step ahead of their industry competitors, but that it was possible to turn those ideas into successful businesses.
Rising Stars are those people or businesses that are quickly garnering recognition from their peers. They may be successful young companies or start-ups that are sure to effect change within their respective industries. They are the ones whose names you'll be hearing a lot more of in the years to come.
So who exactly are the judges that helped decide which companies and individuals would be recognized at the Innovation in Business Conference? It's a group comprised of former honorees, creativity consultants and staff members at SBN:
- Edward Tromczyski, co-founder of PlanSoft, 1999 Rising Star honoree;
- Ken Thompson, CEO of Rainbow Printing, 1999 Visionary honoree;
- Jack Ricchiuto, a Cleveland-based management consultant who helps business owners build creativity in their companies;
- Denny Proux, an Akron-based creativity consultant;
- Connie Swenson, editor of SBN Akron/Stark;
- Dustin S. Klein, editor of SBN Cleveland;
- Michael Marzec, publisher of SBN.