On a daily basis, I see how the work of the private sector and the work of the nonprofit sector are inextricably intertwined — all a part of the same big picture. The more we understand that fact as a community, the more we can align our investments and leverage our strengths.
The GAR Foundation is a private foundation created in the late 1960s by Galen Roush, the co-founder of Roadway Express Inc. Roush was a standout leader in the industry who had grown the small local trucking firm he launched during the Great Depression into a national powerhouse.
When he and his wife Ruth set up the GAR Foundation to fund nonprofit organizations, they did so with the understanding that a high-functioning nonprofit sector supports the success of a business like Roadway.
As businesses grow and innovate, they need a well-educated workforce. The nonprofit sector’s many investments in education help to ensure that Greater Akron’s businesses have a ready supply of world-class, “homegrown” talent.
As businesses work to attract great talent to their teams from other places, they need the kind of cultural vibrancy that makes Akron a distinctive, quality place. The nonprofit sector’s investments in arts and culture support community vibrancy and quality of life. Businesses seek to locate and grow in high-functioning, healthy communities where citizens’ basic needs are met and all people have an opportunity to have a productive life.
The nonprofit sector supports the basic needs of Akron’s citizenry, helping to make this a community we can all be proud to call home.
One hand washes the other
We can see some ways in which a high-functioning nonprofit sector supports a healthy private sector. And yet the benefits run at least as strongly in the other direction — from business to nonprofits.
Businesses provide leadership talent to nonprofits through board service and volunteer hours. Every successful business person in Greater Akron can support the well-being of the community by volunteering his or her time and talents to nonprofits.
Moreover, as funding for nonprofit work contracts and its needs expand, cutting edge business practices become increasingly important to the operation of successful nonprofit enterprises. Practices long favored in the private sector — from the strategic use of data for performance management to rigorous outcome-based budgeting — are becoming commonplace in nonprofits.
So while many see the private sector and the nonprofit sector as “two different worlds,” they in fact have a close, symbiotic relationship. Nonprofits help to support the community conditions in which businesses can thrive and grow; thriving businesses in turn create prosperity and opportunity for the entire community. ●
Christine Amer Mayer is president of the GAR Foundation, which awards grants to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Summit and adjacent counties in the areas of education, arts and arts education, health and social services, and civic and nonprofit enhancement. She can be reached at (330) 576-2911 or email@example.com. For more information, visit www.garfoundation.org.
Have you ever wondered why simple projects often fail during execution? It could be because project planning strategies were not implemented. You might not think this is important, but many organizations have found that adhering to basic project management principles saves time and energy.
To create a strong project plan, start with the end in mind by defining the deliverables that will be provided to the customer. Once this has been established, the project manager can determine and outline the steps needed to attain the deliverables.
While these steps might initially be easy to identify, assigning a realistic timeline and the associated tasks can be difficult for the project manager alone, so he or she must depend on stakeholders to help assess these tasks.
Making key assignments
It is important to identify the appropriate stakeholders to fill these roles. The project manager, along with the stakeholders, should be able to identify hurdles and potential problems before the project starts. These should be factored into the project plan as well as potential ways to manage these problems on the front end.
The role of the stakeholders does not stop with the development of the project plan and input related to timelines. Both are dynamic documents and changes are expected as the plan is implemented.
When problems arise
A detailed project plan developed by a project manager and key team members can help identify potential problem areas. It can also aid the project manager and sponsor in making quick, confident decisions. To facilitate project plan implementation and processes:
- Identify hurdles early, consider what to assess and when further assessments should occur.
- Begin parallel activity (key team members working on activities within their area of expertise at the same time).
- Implement a method that applies advanced work, utilizing templates to complete as much pre-work as possible that will be integrated into the final product.
- Determine what the critical activities are, which if delayed will delay the entire project.
- Maintain the project plan in a highly visible area to serve as a road map for the project manager and all key team members.
- Use previous project plans and timelines to identify inefficiencies, wasted time and poorly matched tasks.
Tips for project managers:
- Trust in your team and respect its members.
- Ensure that there is evidence of constant management and participation without being restrictive.
- Go into the project identifying the objectives and deliverables and be able to communicate these to the team.
- Maintain a highly visible project plan.
- Clearly define expectations and relevant work processes.
- When problems arise, meet briefly with key team members, identify problems and potential bottlenecks and deliver customer solutions.
- Facilitate team member/customer communication.
- Remove obstacles and manage conflict constructively.
- Understand that not all teams are created equal.
- Understand that adding more manpower does not always solve the problem.
- Recognize and reward achievement.
To be effective, a project manager must be able to assess the project needs and respond with an effective plan. When everyone moves in the same direction, decisions are made quickly and with confidence, ensuring quality deliverables. ●
Victoria Tifft is founder and CEO of Clinical Research Management Inc., a full-service contract research organization that offers early to late-stage clinical research services to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.clinicalrm.com.
Still fresh in our minds is Paula Deen’s fall from grace, Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction (whether intentional or accidental), News Corp.’s O.J. Simpson book deal, KFC’s Oprah Winfrey chicken coupon debacle, and of course, the Carnival Cruise disasters. All were major crises in the past decade that prompted a “we better be prepared” attitude among industries, businesses and institutions.
Before a disaster strikes, your survival strategy and blueprint for crisis communications must already exist.
The same is true for a mom-and-pop store as well as a Fortune 500 company. Every business is vulnerable; in these uncertain times, we are probably more vulnerable than we thought for a variety of reasons. The important concept to grasp is that a crisis can happen to any of us.
The current economic climate is enough reason to develop a crisis-management plan (and we won’t make you nervous by mentioning strikes, layoffs, closings, tainted products, activist threats, sexual harassment and workplace injuries). Are you ready to handle media queries when your back is against the wall? Failure to comply with legalities and industry regulations also poses potential predicaments.
Here are several suggestions to prepare for various scenarios:
1. Assess your assets and obstacles. Where are your company’s vulnerabilities? Who would be affected if a crisis occurred? Staff? Customers? How would those affected be informed and reassured?
2. Assemble a crisis team — the fewer members, the better. Clearly define each member’s responsibilities in advance so the team is “at the ready.”
3. Put a plan in writing. Keep it simple, well organized and easy to understand.
4. Prepare background data. Include company and facility information, product lists, fact sheets and applicable data.
5. Set up an internal notification procedure. Designate a single spokesperson and an alternate. Decide who does what and when.
6. Establish external contacts. Compile (and update) lists of emergency response teams, media contacts, key customers and suppliers, major investors, elected officials and industry experts. Make certain the lists are updated as addresses/contacts/phone numbers/emails change.
7. Practice your PR plan. Train spokespeople how to communicate with assertive reporters, concerned investors, frightened employees, nervous clients and others who may be affected by a crisis.
8. Establish a command center. Determine where the crisis team will convene and operate from during a crisis. The space must be centralized and secure, with adequate computer and telecommunications capabilities.
9. Test the plan. Initially — and periodically — rehearse the procedure, discuss the possible scenarios and identify any weaknesses the crisis communications plan may have. Make appropriate tweaks.
Ride out the storm
Remember, time heals. Accidents and mistakes can be forgiven, even forgotten over time, if handled properly and with integrity. The way your company handles the crisis will dictate the shape of your reputation once you emerge. Your goal should be to manage crises from a point of strength and resolve. That’s probably the bottom line.
Your company will do much better in keeping your good reputation and business relationships if it has a good PR program in place before any issue happens. If your firm already has established credibility, it will serve as a foundation to weather the storm. ●
Rod A. Covey is president of Covey-Odell Advertising Ltd. of North Canton. He launched Covey-Odell Advertising in 2008, and the North Canton Area Chamber of Commerce named the company the 2009 business of the year. For more information, visit www.covey-odell.com.
The nation is officially in the midst of economic recovery, albeit without the substantial job growth we had all hoped for.
Those that stayed in business throughout the “Great Recession” likely survived by adopting lean practices and “Six-Sigma’d” their business to the ultimate in efficiency. The problem in continuing with the efficiency approach is that most companies have reached the point of diminishing returns.
So what now? Where do you grow from here?
The answer is simple: Think like a startup. Consider developing a product that addresses an unmet need. That may sound easier said than done, but 2014 may be the year for your company to think about an investment in new product development.
This approach is a true means of providing the wealth creation and job growth that your business wants and our economy needs.
As the CEO of one of the longest-running business incubators in the country, I have the privilege of working with startup companies poised to disrupt markets with innovative technology. These companies are creating jobs, changing the way we do things and are positioned for exponential growth. “Veteran” companies can do this as well, likely without the excruciating task and wealth-diluting exercise of convincing angel or venture capital groups to invest.
Spending resources, however, on anything more than incremental product improvement may be new for many businesses. Acting this way would mean spending money on a venture that may not see a return, which can be scary.
Mind of a startup
The trick to thinking like a startup is to view your new initiative through the eyes of an investor. Equity capital investors are champions of taking risks, but they are even more proficiently skilled at mitigating risk. They manage risk by thorough evaluation and diligence, and also by building a portfolio of investments that allow for some failure.
So long as their “winners” cover the less successful ventures, returns can be lucrative. Successful companies today may take the same approach by managing a portfolio of new product ventures and finding ways to wring the risk out of each.
Tips for reducing risk
Develop a compelling case for your product: Learn why your target customers are suffering without your new product. Understand how your product can offer them relief and why your product is the only option to provide that relief.
Make it real: Talk to your customers — lots of them. Confirm that the product you envision would really solve their problem. Research your competition to see if others are developing similar solutions. Find out if your customers would be willing to invest time/resources to help you develop your new product. If so, this is a good sign you are on to something.
Monetize: Create a detailed assessment of your customers’ comprehensive costs with and without your new product. Make sure the gap is a healthy multiple of what you plan to charge for your product.
Protect your idea: Make sure you have adequate barriers in place to protect your intellectual property or trade secrets.
Hedge your bets: Diversify your portfolio with two or more development efforts. Even if you are not a statistician, it is easy to see that betting on the success of one of three ventures that each has a 75 percent chance of succeeding is a smart risk.
By thinking like a startup and evaluating your ventures like a professional investor, you can build a portfolio of wealth and job creating products while smartly managing the risk. The only difference is that you don’t have to work out of your garage. ●
Anthony Margida is chief executive officer of the Akron Global Business Accelerator, a National Business Incubator Association Innovation Award winner. AGBA currently serves 38 technology-based startups and has created 640 jobs for Northeastern Ohio in the last five years. For more information, visit www.akronaccelerator.com.
Through the recent uncertain economic times, we have all had to adjust our budgets and personal spending choices. As a marketer, I can say that the mentality that has been applied to personal spending has also been present in the executive suite. Businesses are making calculated choices as they budget for marketing expenditures.
We have advised many clients to take advantage of today’s business climate by trying to steal market share from competition that has become passive and is relying on past success to fuel future business projections. In fact, now is a great time to recharge your marketing!
The world has changed and the economy is starting to move forward. Many of your competitors are still resting on their heels, reluctant to change their marketing due to a lack of funding or understanding.
It’s time to take advantage of your competition’s inability to change. Try something new that connects with your customers in a relevant, meaningful way. Get your customers involved by asking them to write reviews, send photos or videos, attend live events and advocate for your brand.
The reality is that the price to participate and implement some of these common marketing tactics is lower than it has been for years, while the cost of doing nothing will leave you further behind.
Major players like Google have shifted to a “mobile first” strategy as smartphone sales have outpaced desktop computers. Therefore, digital marketing needs to consider responsive designs that automatically adjust sizes to fit on various mobile and tablet screens.
And it’s not just the technology that has changed … consumers are rejecting the outdated transactional marketing (i.e., buy now!) in favor of a more relational form of marketing.
Traditional marketing consisted of developing messages that “spoke at” consumers. Successful marketers are embracing technologies that “speak with” customers and engage them in a way that gets them talking about a company or brand. This word-of-mouth approach is built on an understanding of what your customers are willing to do to advocate for your brand in social media.
Today you can easily engage your customers because the marketing landscape has changed dramatically over the past few years with the introduction of new technologies and media options not available or proven two or three years ago.
Social, mobile and local tools are now available to help you connect with potential customers in a more dynamic way, targeting them by geography and behaviors. More importantly, these new tools allow you to measure your message’s effectiveness and gain feedback instantly.
Adopt a strategy
That’s why every business needs a social media strategy to take advantage of new opportunities and manage reputation management risks. Even if you don’t plan to participate in social media, you at least need to actively monitor your industry and what people are saying about your brand.
In the past, digital and online may have been a small part of the budget, but not today. It should be considered first and become heavily integrated with everything you are implementing.
The economy, marketing technology options and consumer mindsets are better than ever.
Now is the time to explore and see how these new media options can factor into your existing marketing efforts. ●
Kevin Kinsley is vice president/client development for Hitchcock, Fleming and Associates Inc. The son of a custom home builder and an avid DIYer, Kinsely likes to build things. So he understands the relevance of a strong foundation when building solid client strategy, campaigns and programs. Contact him at (888) 376-7601 or email@example.com. For more information, visit www.teamhfa.com.
During the past 15 years as an entrepreneur, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and know people who have helped me immensely along the way. But my first opportunity for learning how to lead an organization from good to great came when I was a senior captain for Larry Kehres, the recently retired, and legendary, football coach at the University of Mount Union.
I played football at Mount Union under Kehres, known to his former players as LK, in the early years of the school’s dynasty. When LK retired as the head football coach at Mount Union, he left with the winningest record in college football history — 332-24-3 over a 27-year period. Amazingly, that’s an average of less than one loss per year during his entire career.
He won 11 national titles and has the record for most consecutive wins — 55 — in NCAA history. Even more astounding, is that prior to reeling off 55 straight wins from 2000 to 2003, his Purple Raiders won 54 straight games from 1996 to 1999. For those with a calculator handy, that’s a 109-1 record for eight seasons. His record speaks for itself, but there is no doubt in the minds of those who follow Mount Union that he is the greatest coach in college football history.
I learned a lot from LK, but in regards to entrepreneurship, he taught me the importance of discipline, persistence, focusing on the details and having a passion for greatness. As Jim Collins, the author of “Good to Great,” said, “A culture of discipline is not a principle of business, it is a principle of greatness. Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. The best people don’t need to be managed. Guided, taught, led — yes. But not tightly managed.”
I saw that firsthand with LK’s leadership skills. Having great people, in the right positions, and all headed in the same direction is what gives your organization an opportunity to achieve greatness. I often say that Tom Brady is a great NFL quarterback, but would be a crummy offensive guard.
Accountability is essential
Leaders put their people in the right positions, hold them accountable and keep them headed in the same direction. LK made sure all these criteria were met with his teams. Being good was simply not good enough. You had to have the discipline to be great. As Collins put it so well, “Good is the enemy of great.” He must have interviewed LK for his book.
Collins’ Level 5 leaders differentiate themselves from other leaders in that they have a blend of personal humility and extraordinary professional will. Having great people might make your organization good, but without the right leadership you will not become great.
As Collins said, “The vast majority of organizations never become great, precisely because the vast majority become quite good — and that is the main problem.” Just like most football teams. Except for those coached by LK. ●
Michael Jarrett is the founder and president of Jarrett Logistics Systems and PackShip USA in Orrville. Both companies have won numerous growth awards multiple times, including the Weatherhead 100, Cascade Capital Growth Award, INC 500/5000, The Entrepreneurial Edge Award and the NEO Success Award. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.jarrettlogistics.com.
When asked what the key to remaining relevant in business for an extended period of time was, a prominent CEO once quipped to me, “Planned obsolescence.”
His company followed a strict rule: Every 18 months, it would introduce a new product and make an existing one obsolete. This, he explained, drove innovation and filled the product pipeline.
This same “constant reinvention” philosophy permeates many of the world’s best companies. They understand that to stay competitive you must develop corporate cultures imbued with innovation and the will to try new things.
Apple, for example, regularly introduces new versions of its iPhone, iPad and iPod, thereby ensuring that it keeps revenue streams fresh and products in demand. And rarely a day goes by that you don’t get a notification that an app on your smartphone or tablet has an update available.
You may have noticed with our January 2014 edition that we are in the midst of our own little reinvention. While we remain true to our core commitment of bringing you the best insight, advice and strategy from regional business leaders, we have introduced several new initiatives.
First, we added more contributing columnists to the publication and our website. Some of these new voices will appear quarterly; others two to three times per year.
In case you missed them, last month we introduced five of these regular contributors: Mal Mixon, chairman of Invacare Corp.; Terry Davis, president and CEO of Our Lady of the Wayside; JJ DiGeronimo, president of Tech Savvy Women; Stewart Kohl, co-CEO of The Riverside Co.; and Cheryl McMillan, Northeast Ohio Vistage chair.
This month, we feature another group, including Umberto Fedeli, president and CEO of The Fedeli Group; Bill Kitson, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland; Todd Goldstein, CEO and managing partner of LaunchHouse; and William Holdipp Jr. of the Consortium of African American Organizations.
And, in future months, you’ll hear from such regional leaders as Case Western Reserve University President Barbara Snyder, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, JumpStart’s Jerry Frantz, Fairmount Minerals’ Chuck Fowler and Hospice of the Western Reserve’s William E. Finn.
Two new features
Second, we’re excited to introduce two new features — Uniquely Cleveland and Building Stronger Communities.
Uniquely Cleveland provides a behind-the-scenes look at something that’s, well, uniquely Cleveland. This month’s article, for example, looks at some of the items housed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. In upcoming editions, we’ll peel back the curtain to discuss the business side of Walnut Wednesdays and PlayhouseSquare, and even explore what goes into pulling off the annual Taste of Tremont.
Our new Building Stronger Communities feature spotlights nonprofit organization leaders who are working hand-in-hand with the business community to strengthen the regions where we all live and work.
We’re also adding more “first-person” features, penned by the entrepreneurs who are shaping Northeast Ohio’s business community. The article written by restaurateur Sam McNulty about why he’s investing in Ohio City, which ran in January’s print edition, is just one example.
Finally, we’re launching a new signature event for 2014 — the Corporate College Smart 50. It will recognize the leaders of the 50 “smartest” organizations in Northeast Ohio, so don’t miss your opportunity for nominations.
All of these new initiatives are designed to bring this region’s business community just a little closer together. As always, we welcome your suggestions for story ideas, people to interview, voices to include and topics to cover. After all, this is your publication. ●
Dustin S. Klein is publisher and vice president of operations for Smart Business. Reach him at email@example.com or (440) 250-7026
One of the most popular books on business transformation today is “Patients Come Second.” It is aimed at health care providers and espouses the premise that you cannot take outstanding care of your patients without first attending to the needs of your employees.
This is a radical concept in health care as the patient had always been considered the nucleus for organizations. What is becoming clear is the tenet that without a workforce at its peak in performance, providing an exceptional patient experience is quite difficult.
It takes the three “E’s”
Ensuring your workforce is healthy and well so that every associate can perform at his or her peak level means more than just providing a brochure rack with health information in the lunchroom. It takes engagement, education and empowerment.
At Akron General, we have engaged our employees by offering a comprehensive Be Well program that provides easy-to-follow steps including wellness screening and health risk assessment. Employees have their body mass index measured and are screened for high blood pressure, cholesterol, nicotine use and other indicators.
Through the use of an internal website, employees can access the latest educational materials on an entire range of medical conditions that offer encouragement and advice on getting and staying healthy. The website keeps track of their progress and tallies point toward their wellness goal.
Finally, employees are empowered through incentives to actively participate in activities that will lead to their better health. By completing simple steps and collecting the required points, employees save real dollars off their organization-sponsored health insurance premiums.
Over the course of several years, enhancements to our Be Well employee wellness program have helped to increase participation in many of the free and low-cost resources offered to employees including an on-site fitness center, on-site massage, wellness lectures and the annual wellness screening. Comparative data from 2011 and 2012 shows aggregate improvement in certain categories for employees who have participated.
Fully embrace the program
Some say programs like this are unsustainable. That is true only if an organization does not fully embrace a wellness culture starting at the top of the leadership chart. Everyone, from the CEO down, needs to walk the talk.
It takes engagement, education and empowerment, and a major commitment from the organization to embrace its employees and create a culture of wellness.
Our country is experiencing a sea change in health care, a major transformation away from the concept of focusing on sick care to preventing illness through wellness initiatives. Since 1997, Akron General has led this charge. Now, the nation is noticing.
The first step in creating a culture of wellness and ensuring a healthy workforce is by making a commitment. We are committed to working with employers to help them create a culture of wellness and prevent sickness and injury within their organizations.
While much has been debated about the cost-benefit ratio of wellness programs, it is important to remember the words of American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson who is quoted as saying, “The first wealth is health.”
After all, isn’t good leadership all about doing what’s right?
Dr. Thomas “Tim” L. Stover, MBA, is president and CEO of Akron General Health System. Contact Dr. Stover at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.akrongeneral.org
“America’s colleges and universities have gotten the entrepreneurial bug.” So says a recent report from the U.S. Department of Commerce titled, “The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University.” From my vantage point on various national boards and committees related to our nation’s economic competitiveness, I wonder why it is that business and industry are either unaware of, or ignoring, the massive potential synergies of this largely untapped and increasingly enthusiastic university resource.
Perhaps this is because of old notions of universities as isolated “ivory towers,” but that could not be further from the truth. The fact is that the role of universities has changed dramatically — we are now anchors for clusters of innovation and generators of multiple forms of capital, including creative, social, financial and natural capital. We have become conveners and developers dedicated to the principles of relevance, connectivity and productivity.
Research is vital
Here is why university-based research is so vital to Northeast Ohio’s economy:
Jeremy Siegel, a professor of finance at The Wharton School of Business, observed that, “Economic growth is based on advances in productivity, and productivity is based on discovery and innovation.”
In fact, nearly every economist agrees that the creation of new technological knowledge through research is our most direct economic avenue for acquiring added value.
They understand that when new knowledge is quantified in a market environment, it creates fuller employment, capital formation, growing profits and surpluses for reinvestment.
Put more simply, research begets new companies, which beget new jobs, which beget economic expansions and ultimately the creation of new wealth. It’s the economic version of “the birds and the bees.”
Unfortunately, too few companies recognize that academic research is a source of innovation with the potential to ignite economic chain reactions within their businesses. U.S. colleges and universities perform the bulk of our country’s basic research, and they compete for approximately $32.6 billion of federal support for research.
Seize the opportunity
For innovation to flourish, we might expect that the source of knowledge creation — basic research at our universities — would be closely linked to its application by industry. But industry presently supports less than 6 percent of university research in the U.S., a figure that has declined from a high of 7 percent. This is a major disconnect — and an opportunity waiting to be seized.
Northeast Ohio is making progress in developing its innovation ecosystem, as witnessed by such government, industry and academic collaborations as the National Center for Education and Research on Corrosion and Materials Performance in Akron, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown and the Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network in Cleveland.
Indeed, at The University of Akron we have moved far beyond the traditional tools for licensing and commercialization to create a broad-based and robust platform, or “tool chest” for economic development that focuses on collaboration with the private sector.
To truly grow NEO’s innovation ecosystem, more corporations and businesses need to leverage the opportunities presented by those universities and colleges bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.
Luis M. Proenza is president of The University of Akron and serves on the Executive Committee of the Council on Competitiveness, the Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy at the National Academies, as well as its Council of the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable. For more information, visit www.uakron.edu.