President and CEO
You really have no excuse for not making more money as an employee at DuneCraft Inc. under the leadership of President and CEO Grant Cleveland.
The company, which creates terrariums geared to excite people about plants and nature, regularly looks at initiatives that will make its team more efficient and more profitable.
Its piecework system for the warehouse is an example of innovation at work. Time studies are done and employees are paid by the piece for what they assemble. Employees can make no less than minimum wage and up to $13 an hour. The results of this system were quick, and productivity actually quadrupled.
With fewer people needed, the company was able to operate more efficiently. Sales doubled and the remaining team members each earned an average of $11 an hour or more.
The company has also been innovative on the trade show front. DuneCraft prepares customized proposals for customers prior to seeing them at trade shows. The proposals are based on what products they carried in the past, as well as their sales results by price point, theme and audience. The proposals include a color presentation of recommended items as well as a complete printout of their past sales history with DuneCraft.
By distilling the information into a report, it took much of the stress out of coming to a trade show and trying to figure out what new products to carry.
How to reach: DuneCraft Inc., (800) 306-4168 or www.dunecraft.com
LaCentre is innovative in all components of event planning — the in-house catering, event planning and audiovisual services provide unique menus, ideas, products and experiences to clients and their guests.
When planning an event at LaCentre, clients initially work with the sales team to discuss their needs, vision and budget. The creative and knowledgeable team then works with the catering and audiovisual staff to create a memorable and unique experience while meeting these three critical components.
Many clients need to fit presentations, lunch and breakout sessions into a small window of time. The sales team will provide the client with various options, such as ways to multi-purpose space or fast yet satisfying meals to achieve a great experience within the allotted time.
For example, by using crescent style seating, rather than classroom style, one room may possibly be used for presentations, breakout sessions and lunch. This small concept may in turn minimize attendees from shuffling from room to room at a venue and add an extra 30 minutes to another important element of the event.
The sales and catering teams also share innovation in menu planning. For example, they may suggest a salad with protein, served within a bread bowl, to help a client provide guests with a satisfying meal within a short period of time. Or they may suggest serving pie as dessert on Pi Day, or hot dogs and Cracker Jacks on Opening Day for the Indians.
The sales and catering teams also enjoy working with clients to create signature drinks that incorporate event colors, themes or favorite flavors. For example a “Pickle-tini” may be suggested to play off a client’s favorite snack or Blue Curacao may be suggested to turn a basic vodka soda into a teal concoction that matches the company logo.
These whimsical touches can make an ordinary event extraordinary for guests and help provide a memorable experience for everyone involved.
LaCentre’s in-house audiovisual team offers the newest equipment and ideas to take client’s events to the next level. With access to and knowledge of state-of-the-art speakers and equipment, the audiovisual team can transform LaCentre into a global meeting space — bringing together hundreds of employees and minimizing travel expenses. They can provide custom lighting displays to make the ballroom feel like a forest, for a client with a nature theme, or suspend aerialists from the ceiling, for a client with a circus theme. The sky is truly the limit for LaCentre’s audiovisual Team.
For more information, call LaCentre at (440) 250-2000 or visit www.lacentre.com.
Hughie’s Even Production Services
Hughie’s Event Production Services has been Cleveland’s choice for live-event design and production resource since 1953. Hughie’s believes in giving back to the city where it all began and the area that they’ve called home for 60 years.
Hughie’s is now soliciting donations of non-perishable food items from customers, vendors and the community to distribute to local charities at the end of the year.
Hughie’s offices in Columbus and Pittsburgh will also participate in this nine-month event for their respective cities in honor of the company’s 60th anniversary.
Donation drop-off containers are available in each of the Hughie’s offices for the length of the celebration.
As a “thank you” for your generous food donation, you’ll be presented you with a free, “eco-friendly” shopping bag with Hughie’s 60th anniversary logo. In addition, participants who provide a name and phone number will be entered into a drawing to win one of three new 32-inch flat-screen televisions at the end of the year. A total of three flat screens TVs will be given away, one at each location.
All donations received in the Cleveland area will be distributed to the Cleveland Food Bank, with Columbus and Pittsburgh donations going to similar charities. The winner of the flat screen TVs will be announced at the conclusion of the promotion on Dec. 15.
Hughie’s is a full service event production company and worldwide supplier of high-definition video projection equipment, concert quality audio systems, intelligent moving lights, staging systems, decor and more to satisfy all your companies presentation and special event needs.
For more information, call Hughie’s Event Production Services at (216) 361-4600, visit www.fooddrive.hughies.com or follow us on social media at www.Facebook.com/HughiesEPS or on Twitter @HughiesEPS.
Innovation is vital to the future of U.S. Bank, and it is a corporate priority to innovate and invest in technology and operations systems that make it easy, fast and secure to do business with us.
We invest in new ways to provide the information, products and delivery systems our customers need — and to enhance our capabilities in the areas of regulatory compliance and risk management. We have fostered a culture of innovation and are committed to investments in technology both externally and internally.
Our initiatives include solutions for consumers and small businesses, as well as for larger businesses and targeted business sectors here and internationally.
Paybefore has chosen U.S. Bank’s Contour Campus Card as a 2013 Paybefore Awards winner in the “Most Effective Solution” category. Paybefore Awards recognizes excellence in the worldwide prepaid and emerging payments industry.
For more information, call U.S. Bank at (216) 623-9228 or visit www.usbank.com.
Lorain County Community College
Lorain County Community College is recognized as an innovative leader in both education and economic development. Most recently, the Aspen Institute named LCCC as one of the top 120 colleges in the country in both 2011 and 2012. The college’s innovative spirit enables it to achieve this type of recognition, and it all stems from a unique approach to strategic planning. Vision 2.0, the college’s latest strategic planning process invited hundreds of stakeholders to participate and used their feedback to shape the college’s future direction.
By constantly observing the needs and opportunities of the communities served, LCCC is able to develop programming that unites education with job creation — strengthening the region for employers, students and the community.
For more information about LCCC, call (800) 995-5222,visit www.lorainccc.edu or like LCCC on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/lorainccc.
Dr. Dvora Nelson,
President and CEO
Nelson Medical Enterprises LLC
Unless you are naturally gifted to perform a particular skill, it takes a lot of practice to get good at it. In the case of medical skills, that practice, while necessary, can create a significant risk to the person on whom the skill is being performed.
Dr. Dvora Nelson, president and CEO of Nelson Medical Enterprises LLC, wanted to create a product that would solve this problem by giving trainees a place to hone their skills without fear of harming a real person. The ScleroTrainer provides an opportunity for physicians, nurses and other physician extenders to have hands-on sclerotherapy training on a model. The trainer has veins that range in size from 0.2 to 0.5 mm in diameter. It mimics the feel and effect of injecting spider veins on real people.
Successful ScleroTrainer injections directly correlate with being able to precisely inject spider veins on actual patients to remove the unsightly blood vessels.
The risk to patients of a mistake made during sclerotherapy is significant. It’s a delicate skill that requires one to accurately access tiny veins and inject caustic chemicals into the vein in order to destroy the vein. If one accidentally injects the skin with the corrosive chemicals, the skin will ulcerate and develop a painful wound.
This can scare potential trainees from wanting to learn the skill out of fear that they will make a mistake and create serious problems for their patients. The ScleroTrainer removes that fear from the equation.
How to reach: Nelson Medical Enterprises LLC, (440) 617-6061 or www.sclerotrainer.com
President and CEO
The team at Checkpoint Surgical knew there had to be a better way. The options available for nerve stimulation were either outdated or complicated and time-consuming to use.
So under the leadership of Len Cosentino, the company’s president and CEO, a world-class team of surgeons and biomedical engineers set out to create a new device. This device would help surgeons locate, identify and evaluate motor nerve tissue and muscle functions, ultimately enabling surgeons to make important surgical decisions with increased confidence.
The Checkpoint Stimulator/Locator is a state-of-the-art, handheld and intra-operative nerve and muscle stimulator. It is now used at more than 100 hospitals across the U.S., and that number is growing daily. It also has a reorder rate of 95 percent.
At first, the product was targeted for upper-extremity orthopedic surgeons, but it is now being used for orthopedic trauma; orthopedic lower, head and neck; plastics; neurologists; and hand surgeons. Oral surgeons have also found a use for the device, and sales have doubled in each of the past two years.
Awareness of the product is spreading around the world as it has been adopted in Australia, South Africa, Canada and soon Kuwait. It was also featured during a live surgical web presentation in Paris, generating new awareness in Europe.
One of the keys to its success is the fact that it is simple to use and doesn’t require a lot of training in order to become familiar with the device. This saves time and helps procedures go more smoothly.
How to reach: Checkpoint Surgical, (216) 378-9107 or www.checkpointsurgical.com
Thomas Kinisky, President and CEO
Jean Angus, Innovation process director
Saint Gobain Performance Plastics
Innovation has always been top of mind for Thomas Kinisky and his leadership of Saint Gobain Performance Plastics.
He works hard to empower his people to be both innovative and forward thinking in their daily work. When you have employees who are collaborating to contribute valuable solutions to your business, you have a strong culture that is ready for any challenge it may face.
So it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when the company created The Plastics Innovation Council, and then received essays from 75 employees explaining why they deserved to be named to the council.
This group was ultimately formed with 20 members, and its task was to take innovation at Saint Gobain to even greater heights. Despite the culture, the council discovered that there was no evidence of an enterprise-wide, systematic and comprehensive program on creating and nurturing innovation. A search was convened and Jean Angus was brought in as the company’s innovation process director.
Angus developed a program based on three platforms: people, strategy and solutions. The result is a company that was good at innovation and is now one of the leaders across any type of industry you could name. More than 100 workshops have been held and more than 1,500 people have been trained.
Saint Gobain has engaged customers and identified undiscovered customer needs in 30 market applications. This disciplined approach has built a wave of momentum toward innovation that continues to build.
How to reach: Saint Gobain Performance Plastics, (216) 245-0529 or www.plastics.saint-gobain.com
Steve Schilling, Team leader
Cole Nuyen, Co-leader
Fairmount Minerals Business Innovation Team
It’s easy to talk about innovation, and many businesses use the word and think that’s enough to demonstrate that their company is on the leading edge of new ideas. That’s never been the case at Fairmount Minerals and nowhere is that more evident than with the company’s Business Innovation Team.
Launched in 2008, the Business Innovation Team charged itself with designing and implementing an innovation program for Fairmount, including an innovation center concept and a process for innovation input from all facilities.
Led by Steve Schilling and Cole Nuyen, the result is a thriving program that is constantly flowing with new ideas to make Fairmount Minerals a better and stronger business. Communication portals were developed to allow ideas to be submitted and considered.
It’s a rigorous seven-step process to give the idea the best chance of succeeding. The seven steps are concept, feasibility, business case, development, testing and validation, implementation and launch.
An idea management subteam assigns roles and responsibilities for managing this process and facilitates conversations needed to keep an idea moving.
In 2012, the Fairmount family contributed 51 innovative ideas and generated more than $58,000 in cost savings.
One of the innovative ideas was for an alternative mixing paddle developed by a team at the Technisand Troy Grove facility in Troy Grove, Ill. It is made of better quality material, costs less and reduces the downtime needed for paddle repair. The product is already paying dividends at several Fairmount facilities.
How to reach: Fairmount Minerals, (440) 279-0245 or www.fairmountminerals.com
Say the word “innovation,” and immediately you think about business legends like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos, as well as the companies they created – Apple and Amazon. Too often, however, we focus on the people who have been tabbed as innovators and the companies that develop those breakthrough products, services and solutions, such as Apple’s iPod and iTunes, or Amazon’s marketplace and unique ecosystem.
True innovation goes much deeper than a single leader’s vision. It is an all-encompassing philosophy that permeates an organization and defines its purpose for being. For me, at least, I prefer to think about innovation in its broadest terms, extending its definition to include corporate cultures and innovative management styles. Think about how Facebook and Microsoft are run, and how at both organizations employees are a key factor in the idea creation, or ideation, process.
Now, think about the breakthrough products that eventually went bust. Hopefully, you don’t have a basement full of Beanie Babies, boxes of Silly Bandz, or a home library filled with laser discs. It is more common to land on a singular breakthrough product that temporarily revolutionizes your industry rather than develop a product through a process that’s repeatable or scalable. And, just as true, no matter how innovative and creative your management team’s style may be, without the proper processes in place to push ideas through a system that takes them from mind to market, you’ll eventually have trouble keeping the lights on.
It all comes down to developing a culture imbued with innovation at its core. But this also requires having a servant culture in place where every person who works for the organization thinks about the customer first.
Consider San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels, where employees strive to create “Kimpton Moments” by going above and beyond with guests and delivering memorable experiences.
Kimpton overcomes the inherent limitations for creating new innovative products that being a boutique hotel chain includes by approaching innovation through its employee interaction – and then rewarding employees for their creativity. For example, when team members put in the extra hours to ensure world-class service delivery, the hotel chain has sent flowers and gift baskets to their loved ones. And when they create an innovative service experience, the company rewards staff members with such things as spa days, extra paid time off and other goodies.
And then there’s the Boston Consulting Group, a management consulting firm that’s known for developing innovative business processes and systems for its high-end clientele. Part of BCG’s internal process is a focus on team members maintaining a healthy work-life balance. When individuals are caught working too many long weeks, the company’s management team issues a “red zone report” to flag the overwork.
Talk about innovation! And no product, service or solution was developed, marketed or sold.
And finally, few organizations are more innovative than DreamWorks Animation. But beyond plugging out groundbreaking animated movies, the studio’s culture embraces empowerment and innovation. Employees are given stipends to personalize their workstations so that they create whatever inspirational atmosphere they need to succeed. And, as the story goes, after completing Madagascar 3, the crew presented a Banana Splats party, where artists showed the outtakes.
Not only are these three companies known for being innovative in their respective industry spaces, they also share the honor of being members of Fortune’s 2013 “Great Places to Work” list.
So how do you take the first steps toward transformation or put those initial building blocks in place to begin the journey? There’s no magic formula, but there are some common traits – and they revolve around empowerment and establishing a culture that cares.
- Are open-minded and ask “What if?”
- Teach team members how to see what is not there and identify opportunities in the marketplace to take advantage of those gaps.
- Develop cultures where innovation thrives through open and honest communication.
- Flatten the organizational structure and recognize that innovation can come from anyone and anywhere.
- Make innovation, itself, a cyclical and continuous process.
Stop and take an internal assessment of your organization, your team and of yourself. If you can’t check a box next to each of these five traits, stop and ask yourself why. Then begin your own journey to greatness.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee recalls a time when computer users around the world were quite nervous about the power of Netscape.
“A lot of people thought, ‘Oh, wow, a clingy and controlling Web company. What do we do about it?’” says Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and inventor of the World Wide Web. “Then they weren’t worried about Netscape anymore. They were worried about Microsoft, and they worried about Microsoft for a long time. Then they woke up one day and said, ‘Wait, the browser is not the issue. It’s the search engines.’”
Today, it’s the social network that has people worried, says Berners-Lee. But whichever medium is in society’s crosshairs, he says the fear is very similar in each case.
“When you have a monopoly, it slows innovation,” Berners-Lee says. “It reduces competition, and it’s generally not good for the market. One of the most important things about the Web is it being an open platform. The ’Net is a neutral medium. I can connect and you can connect, and we can talk. That is really important to an open market and democracy.”
One of Berners-Lee’s primary missions with the W3C is to ensure the Web is being used to its full potential. But it is also to make sure it remains an independent entity so that everyone who wants to has the opportunity to tap into that potential.
“If you can start tweaking what people say or you can start intercepting their communications, it’s very powerful,” Berners-Lee says. “It’s the sort of power that if you give it to a corrupt government, you can give them the ability to stay in power forever. It’s healthy for us to not put the Internet directly under the control of the government, but to have a set of multi-secular organizations at arm’s length from government acting responsibly and taking many views.”
Still plenty of room to grow
Berners-Lee helped launch the World Wide Web Foundation in 2009 to bring the power of the Web to more people.
“Maybe now 25 or 30 percent of the world uses the Web,” Berners-Lee says. “That’s still a massive gap and a massive number of languages where there still isn’t a lot on the Web. There’s a lot of culture that isn’t represented and a lot of countries where they haven’t the backbone for a good Internet base.”
The foundation has designed and produced the Web Index, the world’s first multi-dimensional measure of the world’s growth, utility and impact on people and nations. It covers 61 developed and developing countries, incorporating indicators that assess the political, economic and social impact of the Web in that country.
“The higher level of the Web Index is looking at impact,” Berners-Lee says. “Is it really affecting the way people do politics? Is it really affecting the way you do education? Is it affecting health?”
The recent turmoil in Egypt was a wake-up call to many who are connected to the Internet, but have started to take its power for granted.
“They thought the Internet was like the air, that it would always be there,” Berners-Lee says. “And people started asking the question, ‘Who could turn off my Internet?’”
Fortunately, there are countless efforts underway from those in the technology industry not to restrict access, but to take the Web to even greater heights.
“The art is designing it to work with all kinds of devices because different customer segments are going to use different devices in different countries,” Berners-Lee says. “If you’re designing something new on the Web, you need to make sure it works on all devices.”
How to reach: World Wide Web Consortium, www.w3.org
The greatest challenge of opportunity is said to be the ability to take the next step and understand what it will take to maximize that opportunity and achieve growth. Amy Rosen knows the importance of that comprehension.
“The skill set of an entrepreneur involves understanding how to create a business,” says Rosen, president and CEO for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).
Andres Cardona, who grew up in a rough neighborhood in Miami, is one of the best examples of this entrepreneurial spirit.
“He was on the verge of dropping out of school because his mom had lost her job, and he had to help contribute to the household,” Rosen says.
Fortunately, Cardona had become involved with NFTE. His natural leadership skills, along with the knowledge he was gaining from NFTE, empowered him to do something that would not only help his family, but also other youngsters in Miami.
Cardona founded the Elite Basketball Academy, an organization that would help kids hone both their basketball and leadership skills. He began with one kid and was making 70 cents an hour. Now, he’s a CEO with more than 150 kids, a staff of employees and he’s making money. He’s enrolled at Florida International University studying finance while he runs his business and supports his mom.
“I’m sure it will be the first of many businesses he runs,” Rosen says. “This is just a kid who needed to have his eyes opened to opportunity and learn some basics about business.”
A great place to start
The mission of NFTE is to work with young people from low-income communities, such as Cardona, and engage them in a different vision of opportunity and success.
“It’s basically an entrepreneurship class where they actually go through the whole business-creation process,” Rosen says. “At the end, which really gets to our mission, we want kids to actually connect school with opportunity so they stay in school. Kids start learning how to multiply fractions because they are figuring out their personal return on investments in their new company. We want them to start much earlier thinking about their future.”
Rosen points to Cardona as an example of a youngster with a great gift. But in too many cases, with too many young people, those gifts go unrealized and the child becomes an adult with nowhere to go.
“We want them to have a vision of success and whether they become entrepreneurs and create their own businesses or bring to their jobs and their employers an entrepreneurial mindset. That’s going to give them a much better chance at success,” Rosen says.
The work being done by NFTE fits like a glove with EY’s mission to drive entrepreneurialism in the business sector.
“Our cultures are so aligned around entrepreneurialism in general and we are all running competitions and promoting the notion that we need more entrepreneurs to solve problems,” Rosen says. “Now we have partners on every single one of our boards worldwide. They don’t have to be asked to do it. They really like doing it.”
Cardona was featured at the recent EY World Entrepreneur of the Year Award program in Monte Carlo. Other budding young leaders who have risen through NFTE also have been honored by EY.
“In every city where we have an operation, they feature our winning entrepreneurs,” Rosen says. “So the kids get an opportunity to network and see what success looks like and to go to the kinds of places they’ve never been and participate that way. And they get a sense of recognition for their work.”
Rosen says there’s nothing better than working with young people to prepare them for what lies ahead.
“If you’re going to give back, why not work with kids who need it the most and actually teach them and help them to be entrepreneurs,” Rosen says. “That’s what is going to grow our economy and create stability.”
How to reach: Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, (212) 232-3333 or www.nfte.com