On behalf of Corporate College and Cuyahoga Community College, I want to personally congratulate the recipients of the fourth annual Corporate College Smart 50 Awards, presented by Smart Business.
We are privileged to partner with Smart Business and present the Corporate College Smart 50 Awards in celebration of Northeast Ohio’s top executives and in recognition of their talent to effectively build and lead innovative and “smart” organizations. All of this year’s honorees have made a difference in their organizations and in the region. Their positive impact on employment has reinvented the Northeast Ohio landscape into one of the most up-and-coming business regions in the country.
These large, midsized and emerging companies’ leaders motivate and inspire people, they are passionate and focused in what they do. The executives we are celebrating today are able to tackle unique business challenges and continue to lead their organizations toward success. Corporate College is honored to acknowledge this year’s nominees.
Corporate College is a division of Cuyahoga Community College, a nationally recognized leader in higher education and member of the League for Innovation in the Community College. Corporate College is known for its best-in-class client solutions including training, consulting, conference and hospitality services to the business community and its strategic partners.
Since its inception in 2003, Corporate College has worked with organizations in all sectors and professionals at every level. We run our organization as a CEO would run his or her business and understand the challenges leaders and organizations face. Clients turn to us for training solutions to meet their strategic business goals and consulting services that improve individual, team and organizational performance. Corporate College provides professional training and development tailored for today’s dynamic business environment. ●
Robert J. Peterson, J.D., CPA
President and CEO
Corporate College, a Division of Cuyahoga Community College
HONOREES MacroPoint, Bennett Adelson | Eaton Corp., Craig Arnold | Akron RubberDucks, Ken Babby | Spice Kitchen + Bar, Ben Bebenroth | Green Lines Transportation Inc., Roger Bettis, | Northern Ohio Recovery Association(NORA), Anita Bradley | MAI Capital Management LLC, Rick Buoncore | Sodexo, Inc., Dennis Casey | Software Answers Inc., Paul Chaffee | Jennasis and Associates, Jennifer Chernisky | Speedeon Data, Gerard Daher | DiGeronimo Companies, Victor DiGeronimo Jr. | Incept, Sam Falletta |Clark-Reliance, Figgie Capital, The Figgie Foundation, Matthew P. Figgie | Melt Bar & Grilled, Matt Fish | Hotcards, John Gadd
Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and Destination Cleveland, David E. Gilbert | Saint Luke’s Foundation, Anne C. Goodman | BlueBridge Networks, Kevin Goodman | Burton D. Morgan Foundation, Deborah D. Hoover |Jarrett Logistics Systems Michael Jarrett | CultureShoc, Ron Kaminski | Fifth Third Bank, Northeastern Ohio, Jerry Kelsheimer | Antonio’s Pizza and LoSchiavo Restaurant Group, Vincent LoSchiavo | SmartShape Design, Mike Maczuzak | K2M Design Inc., Scott C. Maloney, AIA | Lincoln Electric, Christopher L. Mapes, | Mazzella Cos., Tony Mazzella | Explorys – IBM Watson Health, Stephen McHale | National Interstate Insurance, Tony Mercurio |Twin Sisters Digital Media Karen Mitzo Hilderbrand | The Village at Marymount, Jeffry Myers | United Way of Greater Cleveland, August A. Napoli Jr.
Northeast Factory Direct , Alex Nemet | Risk International Services Inc., David P. O’Brien | Bravo Wellness, Jim Pshock | Step2 Discovery, Chris Quinn | University Circle Inc., Chris Ronayne, | Dakota Software, Reginald Shhiverick | Peoples Services Inc., Doug Sibila | , Brandon and Jarred Smith |Cuyahoga County Sharon Sobol Jordan | Arkinetics, Bruce Taylor | Technical Assurance Inc., Edward “Ed” Taylor | Thunder Tech, Jason Therrien | Cleveland Public Library System, Felton Thomas | FOUNT, Phillip and Jackie Wachter |OnShift Mark Woodka | Cleveland Metroparks, Brian Zimmerman |
Here are the 2017 Northeast Ohio Smart 50
It was six years ago when Bennett Adelson realized that one of his customers at Bennett Adelson Consulting Inc. was unable to track its brokered freight in real time. Shippers, carriers and third-party logistics companies spent countless hours conducting check calls to ascertain the status of their brokered freight.
Adelson saw it both as a pain point in the industry and an opportunity to dramatically impact the shipping sector. He went to work and created a patented visibility platform that connects brokered freight to a cloud-based technology that allows customers to see the status of their shipments in real time, eliminating the need for check calls.
Adelson has nurtured his idea into a company, MacroPoint, which has attracted a multi-million dollar private equity investment. As CEO, he leads a company that is a transportation industry leader that has changed how supply chain organizations track their freight throughout North America and the world.
Chairman and CEO
Craig Arnold operates with a sense of responsibility to do more to make the world a better place for future generations. In his role as chairman and CEO at Eaton Corp., he engages employees in all aspects of the company’s approach to sustainability, from design and manufacturing to community outreach and more.
More than 10,000 employees participate in Eaton’s World Environment Month program to raise awareness and help reduce the company’s environmental footprint. The efforts continue throughout the year and capture the spirit of Eaton’s promise to make a difference.
Eaton is taking another step forward by examining the full equation for sustainability. The purpose is to look at how actions and products affect the environment and look for ways to put more back into society, the environment and the global economy than what is taken out. Eaton’s approach of “doing business right” rings true with employees in their personal lives, and makes sustainability more ingrained in the company’s culture.
Owner and CEO
Ken Babby, owner and CEO of the Akron RubberDucks, has changed the market with his vision for affordable family fun.
Since purchasing the team in 2012, Babby put an emphasis on the game day experience by improving customer service, developing unique and innovative promotions, and investing $1.65 million in a high-definition video board. He also added new picnic and group areas to the venue.
A prolific speaker, he joined numerous charitable boards and civic organizations. He helped the organization rebuild relationships with many of Akron’s major companies, which contributed to a 27.7 percent attendance increase in just two seasons.
Canal Park was the first sports venue in Ohio to implement Apple Pay, and through its affiliation with Tickets.com, the RubberDucks is changing the online and in-park ticketing experience. His team has embraced social media with significant increases in Facebook and Twitter followers, as well as using new technology such as the in-park baseball app to improve the fan experience.
Chef, Farmer and Founder
Spice Kitchen + Bar
Ben Bebenroth and his team at Spice Kitchen + Bar were leading Northeast Ohio in the farm-to-table movement long before it started trending. Spice is committed to growing, preparing and serving nutrient-dense, sustainably grown foods for the benefit of personal health, community and economic impact.
Supporting family farms and purchasing locally grown foods has a direct impact on the local economy. Directly purchasing from farmers eliminates the middleman, allowing for higher profit margins and making it more viable for family farming to span generations.
Spice sources food from within 100 miles of Cleveland. Led by Bebenroth, Spice’s chef, farmer and founder, the company grows its own products at Spice Acres in a sustainable manner for use in the restaurant, catering company and farm-share membership. It also sequesters waste into sustainable growth platforms, with composting and the re-use of noncompostable food waste as prime examples of this commitment to minimizing the company’s footprint.
Green Lines Transportation Inc.
Green Lines Transportation Inc. is a regional flatbed-trucking carrier specializing in the delivery of steel and metal products throughout the Midwest. Its driving force is the use of innovative technology in the areas of safety — for its drivers and the general public — and risk management. As a company, Green Lines Transportation drives more than 7 million miles a year, which is nearly 600 times more than the average person.
Green Lines Transportation was an early adopter of in-cab camera technology, which helps to reduce accident frequency on the roadways and is utilized as a resource for driver coaching and training. In addition, the company utilizes side curtain tarping systems, which not only saves time, allowing their drivers to be more productive, it also helps reduce work-related injuries.
Founded in 1980, Green Lines has grown its truck fleet and is proud to live by its company slogan, “Safety is part of our Delivery.”
Northern Ohio Recovery Association (NORA)
As someone who has been in recovery for more than 26 years, Anita Bradley understands the importance of blending both personal and professional knowledge to promote the power and possibility of recovery. Her experience, her sense of compassion and her ability to lead others enabled Bradley to build the Northern Ohio Recovery Association (NORA) into a place that changes lives. She founded NORA in 2004 to help those with alcohol, tobacco and drug addiction by utilizing a holistic healing and recovery approach.
Her vision as executive director at NORA is to establish innovative care to support continued recovery in communities throughout Northeast Ohio. Bradley successfully built a peer-to-peer training program and opened the Next Step Recovery House, a residential recovery housing facility on Cleveland’s near west side. She is also the inspirational catalyst for the Ohio Recovery Ride, in which motorcyclists ride through the Cleveland Metroparks in honor of breaking the stigma of addiction.
MAI Capital Management LLC
MAI Capital Management LLC was established from McCormack Wealth Advisors, a firm whose roots lie in serving the needs of star athletes working with agent Mark McCormack. Managing Partner Rick Buoncore focuses on providing wealth management services integrated across almost every part of his clients’ financial lives long before the concept existed in the industry.
The firm emerged from the downturn with stronger client relationships, even more attentive client service levels and a new appreciation for investment strategies that added staying power to client portfolios.
Over the past 10 years the firm has continued to refine its client experience, invest in critical technology and security infrastructure, and build out its distribution of services on a national level.
Under Buoncore’s direction, MAI launched a new division, MAI Investment Management, to market and coordinate the distribution of innovative, targeted investment solutions. Each unique solution is an outgrowth of the firm’s continual search for new investment opportunities.
Resident District Manager
Dennis Casey takes a genuine interest in the evolution and growth of his team both at work and outside the office. As resident district manager at Sodexo, Inc., he mentors employees in the advancement of their individual business acumen and puts them on a path to advance in their careers. His level of caring as a leader has earned the trust and loyalty of these employees and is a key reason why he’s been able to make a strong impact on Sodexo’s organization and its culture.
When Casey joined Sodexo at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, he initiated sweeping reforms and improvements to re-establish the struggling account. At the same time, he remained mindful of the people who were already in place. He helped to establish consistency in employee productivity and relations, effective budget management that targeted the elimination of waste and procedures that would meet the needs of the greater organization.
Software Answers Inc.
Software Answers Inc., run by CEO Paul Chaffee, is not only a software company but also an intellectual property business. Chaffee’s primary goal is to provide schools with the tools needed to improve the student learning experience. Chaffee’s secondary goal is to create a workplace in which employees feel their innovation and creativity is fostered and their voices are heard.
In 2002, Chaffee and the handful of employees that made up Software Answers launched a singular web-based grade book known as ProgressBook to a small number of area school districts. Fifteen years later, the company has grown exponentially with the ProgressBook suite becoming a major solution to over 70 percent of Ohio’s public school districts for monitoring and maintaining their student data at all grade levels.
Software Answers has been recognized as one of the best employers in Ohio for the past six years. The environment fosters creativity, promotes the balance of work and home life, and encourages personal growth.
President and Founder
Jennasis and Associates
Jennifer Chernisky, president and founder of the digital marketing firm Jennasis and Associates, has developed a team of work-from-home employees, allowing mothers and fathers to earn an income and still be available to their children and family whenever they choose to be. The diverse group of designers, writers, developers and strategists bring expertise from their particular field to create the best solutions to achieve client goals.
Chernisky began her one-woman virtual administration firm in 2011 with three clients. Today, Jennasis and Associates has expanded its client base and has seen its team of marketing professionals and experts grow to include those with backgrounds in pharmaceuticals, higher education, insurance, social services, technology, architecture, ministry, legal, startups, and TV and film.
The firm has garnered national recognition, and clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to smaller nonprofit and for-profit concerns spread across the country. Chernisky also opened a satellite office in Philadelphia and most recently one in Kansas City.
President and CEO
Speedeon Data, led by President and CEO Gerard Daher, helps its clients maximize their return on marketing spend with custom data solutions that allow marketers to identify and engage customers with the right message at the right time. It does this by sourcing multiple data sets and overlaying them with data sciences, modeling and analytics that lead to customized offerings.
The company’s growing revenue has allowed it to make investments in product management, sales, marketing and engineering, while also investing in personnel. All new hires receive direct training on the company, data assets, partners and customers in addition to shadowing all departments. Continuing education is given in the form of internal training and regular guest lectures from industry experts, while professional development resources are allocated for employees to attend conferences and receive additional training within their fields. Such investments have allowed the company to keep turnover low.
Victor DiGeronimo Jr.
President and CEO
Victor DiGeronimo Jr. is president and CEO of DiGeronimo Companies. As part of the third-generation leadership team, he continues to carry out the strong work ethic and innovative thinking instilled by his family. His steadfast leadership and direction, coupled with his business acumen and ability to take necessary risks, has propelled the organization forward and maintained the family legacy.
DiGeronimo has expanded existing services, entertaining unique project opportunities and expanded the company into new geographic regions. These ventures required foresight, extensive market analysis and financial planning in order to mitigate risk and increase future viability. DiGeronimo’s proven leadership and innovative thinking, as well as an understanding of business challenges, allows the company to push ahead of its competitors.
As a family, the DiGeronimos have always taken an active philanthropic role, both locally and nationally. Aside from monetary donations, time, labor and materials have also been donated in order to complete improvement projects for schools, parks and other community service projects.
Owner and CEO
Under the leadership of Owner and CEO Sam Falletta, Incept has grown at an average rate of 20 percent per year for the past 10 years, growth that can be attributed to the development of successful customer experience strategies for numerous Fortune 500 companies, as well leading Incept on the forefront of employee engagement trends.
Transforming a call center company into a sought after career meant leaving the traditional contact center approach behind. Falletta encourages Incept employees to be the best versions of themselves by giving the company a youthful appeal with progressive policies, no dress code, community involvement and more, resulting in Incept being recognized as one of the Top Workplaces in Northeast Ohio by WorkplaceDynamics five times.
By ensuring employees have emotionally bought into what Incept is trying to achieve, continuing to build its culture with a focus on performance and ensuring that employees are working toward something meaningful, the company continues to have happy employees and happy customers.
Matthew P. Figgie
Clark-Reliance, Figgie Capital, The Figgie Foundation
Matthew P. Figgie, Chairman of Figgie Capital, Clark-Reliance and The Figgie Foundation, is an eighth-generation Clevelander who employs extraordinary individuals who help the company aggressively grow products, capabilities and competencies on a global scale. For the past seven years, Clark-Reliance has been recognized as one of the top workplaces in Northeast Ohio, and is a six-time award winner as a great workplace for top talent.
Evolving from Figgie’s vast experience on Wall Street, Figgie Capital encompasses global asset allocation, alternative investments, currency and commodity trading, venture capital, economic forecasting and mergers and acquisitions. This broad expertise is used to effectively maximize overall returns, while limiting total volatility in today’s uncertain and unpredictable worldwide markets.
The Figgie Foundation continues to fulfill its mission through a focus on supporting our community in a multitude of areas and unique missions. A strong advocate of the arts, the foundation also supports children through many investments.
Owner and Founder
Melt Bar & Grilled
Matt Fish, owner and founder of Melt Bar & Grilled, has transformed the grilled cheese sandwich into a new product category — gourmet grilled cheese — bringing it national notoriety. He hadn’t planned to create a restaurant empire, yet Melt Bar and Grilled operates more than 10 locations, and the staff who stood by his side from the get-go are now managers and corporate executives.
Being first-out-of-the-box has allowed Melt the freedom to experiment, tweak and perfect its concept so as to retain its position as the product category leader.
Growth has been limited to one full-service restaurant per year to ensure that quality standards are maintained. It has entered into management contracts, but did so with consideration to maintaining its image, food-quality standards and financials. Melt encourages charities to schedule events at its locations, covers the cost for production of flyers and donates 20 percent of the check subtotals to the charity.
Vice president, Product Management and Engineering
Mark Fleming, vice president of product management and engineering at Vitamix, doesn’t want innovation for the sake of innovation. He wants innovations that work with consumers to make their lives easier in a real, tangible way. He had that in mind when he recently led the 96-year-old company through its largest, most significant product launch in decades: the introduction of the Vitamix Ascent™ Series blenders.
This initiative represents a complete overhaul of the company’s household product line, from premium blenders to premium blenders with smart home technology. With this introduction, Vitamix put itself in a position as the category leader — the first among its peers to utilize wireless technology to improve the high-performance blending experience.
The Ascent™ Series blender launch signifies the biggest product development for the company in more than 20 years. The completely new line of blenders represents the next wave of high-performance blending and could replace the entire household product offering from Vitamix.
John Gadd, CEO of Hotcards, has created a high-tech marketing platform to design and print custom products. Despite a challenging business model that doesn’t rely on items in stock and ready to ship, the company printed more than 5 billion square inches of paper for over 50,000 customers in all 50 states in 2016.
To support this model, Gadd developed a culture of fun and speed. He attracts employees through his high enthusiasm and 24/7 work ethic.
Today’s world demands faster turnaround time at economical prices. To compete in an industry in which products can be found, ordered, produced and shipped from all over the globe, Gadd has developed a custom graphic design company that can design and produce any type of printed material to help customers’ get their message out. In addition to his entrepreneurship, Gadd is well known in Cleveland because of his volunteer activity and willingness to give back to the community.
David E. Gilbert had quite a year in 2016. The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission (GCSC) hosted nine major sporting events that grossed $16.9 million for the Greater Cleveland area. This effort was helped by the contribution of more than 40,000 volunteer hours. GCSC also secured the 2019 Major League Baseball All-Star Game and a major international men’s soccer tournament.
At Destination Cleveland, which like GCSC, Gilbert leads as president and CEO, an advertising campaign was able to drive 1.2 million visitors to Cleveland. The organization’s website reached 4.4 million visits in 2016, a 36 percent increase from the previous year. As if that wasn’t enough, Gilbert also found time to serve as president and CEO of the 2016 Cleveland Host Committee for the Republican National Convention.
Gilbert’s ability to lead and work toward a common goal of driving economic impact and improving quality of life in Greater Cleveland has produced great results in Northeast Ohio.
Anne C. Goodman
President and CEO
Saint Luke’s Foundation
Anne C. Goodman shares the commitment to continuous learning that has enabled Saint Luke’s Foundation to fulfill its mission of helping people lead healthier lives, building stronger neighborhoods and supporting resilient families. She has challenged staff members to think differently about how they do their work and encouraged them to collaborate. Through her guidance and leadership as president and CEO, Goodman has helped her team understand that in order to achieve transformative impact, everyone needs to work together.
Saint Luke’s Foundation actively brings individuals together from outside of its target neighborhoods and compels them to help the foundation, its grantees and community stakeholders to think differently. While conventional wisdom might suggest that these local nonprofit leaders were aware of what their peers were doing, Goodman helped them understand that many leaders were in the dark about what was happening outside their own domains. She has promoted an environment of collaboration that has helped people across the nonprofit sector build closer bonds.
Managing Director and Partner
As Managing Director and Partner of BlueBridge Networks, Kevin Goodman works both internally with an expert operations team and externally with vendors, customers and business associates to drive development, marketing and sales. He encourages innovation in a way that empowers employees as it builds demand and revenue.
Innovative products and services must be continually created and recreated to meet an ever-changing IT world. Goodman encourages his IT experts to question the status quo and continually search for innovative solutions. Recently named Top Midmarket IT Executive by The Channel Company and Midsize Enterprise Summit, Goodman has led BlueBridge to double-digit growth for the past 10 years.
Goodman, however, recognizes that he is only as capable as those around him. By surrounding himself with experts in their chosen fields, and respecting the knowledge that they bring, Goodman has effectively taken the BlueBridge model to industries throughout the region, the country and the world.
Deborah D. Hoover
President and CEO
Burton D. Morgan Foundation
Deborah D. Hoover is a firm believer in the power of entrepreneurial spirit. As president and CEO of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, she leads by a philosophy that the philanthropic sector must use all of the tools at its disposal to be truly effective and achieve its full potential. Hoover has worked hard to optimize the foundation’s potential as an entrepreneurial enterprise, constantly influencing and adapting to the shifting entrepreneurial landscape in the region.
The foundation approaches its work through the lens of venture philanthropy. It employs targeted problem solving, strategic partnerships and catalytic grants to achieve its goals. The Burton D. Morgan Mentoring Program, based at JumpStart, is funded by the foundation and boasts a team of more than 100 volunteer mentors who have helped more than 100 startups gain their footing and begin to grow. Programs like this have helped Northeast Ohio become a region where entrepreneurs can pursue their dreams.
Jarrett Logistics Systems
Jarrett Logistics Systems develops new solutions for its clients monthly as part of its individualized account management philosophy that uses customization to set itself apart from other third-party logistics companies.
Each customer, large or small, receives a dedicated logistics coordinator and a customer account team to provide it with the highest level of customer service. By cultivating long-standing relationships, new solutions are created and immediate needs and challenges are met with ease. Its recently developed JLS Advanced Analytics provide customers the ability to have information at their fingertips.
Michael Jarrett, company president, believes success comes from hiring people with integrity, character, honesty, respect and work ethic. Jarrett has an “open door” policy and is always accessible to discuss new ideas, opportunities and projects that will take his organizations to the next level. He encourages this process by conducting weekly walk-throughs of the office and warehouse areas, speaking personally to each employee.
CEO and Founder
Ron Kaminski, CEO and founder of CultureShoc, has built an organization that empowers people, provides opportunity, values clear expectations and demands continuous improvement.
Kaminski has been strategic about onboarding people with compensation structures that make sense for both employees and the company — it’s essentially a meritocracy that awards people based on performance. The company utilizes the Entrepreneurial Operating System to facilitate highly effective internal meetings; weekly, quarterly and yearly goals; and clarity around what is expected of employees who share in the success of the business via bonuses tied to growth and revenue.
CultureShoc recently developed My Employee Knowledge Center, a software that helps business owners achieve freedom and employees achieve clarity and accountability through documenting and executing on important company processes. This now gives CultureShoc a product that can be licensed for a monthly fee and is supported through consulting and implementation, which creates the opportunity for more passive income.
Fifth Third Bank,
Jerry Kelsheimer, regional chairman of Fifth Third Bank, Northeastern Ohio, focuses on building a culture that centers on employee engagement and a supportive team effort to achieve results. His involvement has significantly improved internal employee engagement scores, which has led to several top workplace awards including The Plain Dealer Top Workplace in 2011 and 2013-2016, and being named to the NorthCoast 99 list from 2014-2016.
To help serve business owners who are going through a sale or ownership transition, Kelsheimer strengthened the internal team of experts who consult, support and solve issues that arise for clients during such transitions.
His attention to customer focus has led to third-party gathered Customer Experience Scores that, for Kelsheimer’s region, are the best in the company as of December 2016. His effective leadership has led to increased business results, including a 160 percent increase in business unit earnings contribution in the past five years.
Antonio’s Pizza/LoSchiavo Restaurant Group
Antonio’s Pizza and LoSchiavo Restaurant Group Owner Vincent LoSchiavo is all about building a team of outstanding people who want to do better and be better.
That type of culture leads to a team that will provide a great product and service and build a reputation in the community for excellence. Everyone has to buy in for this type of culture to work at every level of the organization.
LoSchiavo’s culture is one of hard work with high standards. Mixing productivity with accountability creates an environment for success. When competition grows, the company sticks to its values and follow its methodical approach to business, which has enabled the company to remain a leader in the market with store sales three times higher than the industry average.
LoSchiavo is always searching for new ways to encourage people to better their lives. The team is the future of the business and the company invests in their well-being and their future.
CEO and Founder
As SmartShape Design’s reputation for innovative design has grown over the years, so has its breadth and scope of expertise through work for startups to Fortune 100 internationals, all under the leadership, support and vision of CEO and Founder Mike Maczuzak.
The firm now boasts complete end-to-end expertise, able to deliver market-ready hard good, soft good and digital design solutions, including complex HIPAA-compliant software development and assisting clients with manufacturing across any market or industry. The company’s core differentiation is in its end-to-end service offerings, from concept to market-ready solution, particularly in its manufacturing and tooling expertise.
SmartShape’s approach to product design is above all else collaborative. The team collaborates with client partners to innovate, working together to identify the best solutions to top industry problems. Internally, the team’s engineers and designs keep in constant contact, from idea to market-ready solution to ensure that the end product is fully functional and produced cost-effectively.
Scott C. Maloney, AIA
K2M Design Inc.
Scott C. Maloney, AIA, president of K2M Design Inc., leads by example and holds himself accountable for the high standards of the organization. He follows through on every promise, and his drive and passion for the business of architecture has laid the foundation for a successful business.
The economic downturn required K2M to fundamentally change the way it operates. Maloney personally led with a substantial pay decrease to ensure stability of staff in the organization. He also spearheaded the “building your bucket” campaign that focused on growing relationships to collect as much work as possible.
This led to very productive years in 2011–2013, and moved the company through the downturn successfully.
K2M strengthened its focus on people and projects by strategically adding a chief experience officer in 2016. This new position cemented the importance of people as a critical component to the success of the organization.
Christopher L. Mapes
Chairman, president and CEO
Christopher L. Mapes has a lot of respect for people who choose to do more with their lives than simply follow the path in front of them. When you have a culture that respects an individual’s voice and encourages teamwork and collaboration, you build an organization that can more easily overcome challenges.
As chairman, president and CEO at Lincoln Electric, Mapes has made a concerted effort to balance his day-to-day responsibilities managing the business with the obligation he feels to develop his employees. These strategic matters are critical to building engagement and providing strong leadership to the entire company.
Lincoln Electric has positioned itself as a world leader as a designer, developer and manufacturer of arc welding products and robotic arc welding systems, as well as plasma and oxyfuel cutting equipment. At the same time, training and education has always been a priority, whether it’s the company’s own employees or others in the welding industry who need to expand their knowledge.
Tony Mazzella, CEO of Mazzella Cos., has enacted his vision of running an organization that is focused on the customer journey and quality products, diversifying into multiple businesses while creating a company of experts and a culture of lifelong learning.
Mazzella Cos. currently holds 18 patents or patents that are pending. Under Tony’s leadership, these innovations have changed the landscape of both the lifting and metals industries. The impact of these products, services and concepts has led to significant employee and revenue growth. The business also pursued expansion through organic growth and acquisition of related lifting and metal businesses, which has created diversified offerings to the market.
Looking to the future, last year Mazzella Cos., in conjunction with Cuyahoga Community College, started its own apprenticeship program through which employees can earn either their journeyman’s card or an associate degree in lifting technology. This is the first program of its kind in the U.S.
Explorys – IBM Watson Health
Stephen McHale is CEO of Explorys, a company formed in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic that addresses the national imperative to leverage electronic health records for the improvement of medicine. The company’s network accelerates discovery of critical correlations, trends and outcomes across millions of patients, clinical records and diverse topologies, providing unique insight to enable providers and life sciences organizations to deliver safer, more efficient and more effective health care.
Since its inception, the Explorys platform has been adopted by 19 major integrated health care systems, 310 hospitals and 220,000 providers that collectively deliver billions of dollars in care annually.
McHale’s career has involved founding, investing in and building technology companies. He is recognized for his focus in data mining and business intelligence-related ventures. McHale believes that Cleveland can play a central role in this evolution of health care given the region’s large hospital systems and research institutions.
President and CEO
National Interstate Insurance
President and CEO Tony Mercurio has helped National Interstate Insurance set itself apart from competitors by building an insurance experience around its customers powered by a talented and engaged workforce.
The foundation of the company’s growth and success is a strong desire to provide world-class customer service, which requires a sustained effort from every employee to return phone calls promptly, have the tools and training needed to do the job efficiently and properly, be empowered to make decisions and make them quickly, and to provide real expertise for its valued customers.
Employees are encouraged to generate and submit new product and service offerings. Those ideas are passed to committees that investigate market opportunity and revenue potential. If approved, the product group moves efficiently through implementation and product launch. The company offers on- and off-site training courses, a tuition reimbursement program and a Leadership Academy for managers to promote professional development and accelerate employee progression.
Karen Mitzo Hilderbrand
Twin Sisters Digital Media
Karen Mitzo Hilderbrand, CEO of Twin Sisters Digital Media, has led the company through 30 years of dynamic changes in the music and publishing industries.
The record label dedicated to teaching children through music faced significant challenges as the age of digital music took hold. As many major record labels went out of business or consolidated, Twin Sisters shifted, becoming a more rounded educational products company servicing the retail segment.
When the company faced similar challenges to its publishing business as children’s media went digital, Hilderbrand shut down the publishing company and focused solely on building a sustainable, recurring revenue stream through intellectual property licensing of content.
The company invested in a central database for all of its content, called Pub Hub, to distribute content to hundreds of partners. Twin Sisters Digital Media was then rebranded and thousands of innovative products were added to the line over the next several years.
The Village at Marymount
Under the leadership of President Jeffry Myers, The Village at Marymount consistently receives superior Centers for Medicare and Medicaid ratings, is listed in U.S. News and World Report among the best facilities, is a NorthCoast 99 winner for the past three years and received the American Health Care Association Silver Baldrige Quality award in 2015.
Myers’ ability to partner with key health care providers and empower leadership staff members to do the same has proven essential to the success of innovative programs implemented by the organization.
Residents and patients also have had the opportunity to participate in groundbreaking medical pilots because of new partnerships Myers and his team have forged.
For example, Myers obtained the grant funding for the Music and Memories program, which helps patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s reconnect with their memories through music. While the organization is proud of its accomplishments, Myers continues to focus on improvements to the care of the residents.
August A. Napoli Jr.
President and CEO
United Way of Greater Cleveland
August A. Napoli Jr. has built a career on making the organizations he leads stronger. In 2006, he became president and COO of the Summa Foundation, where he was instrumental in expanding public and private sector support for the health system. He led a transformation as Summa Foundation changed its focus from one of stewardship to grant seeking and grant making.
Napoli was the first president and CEO of a faith-based community foundation that was established to provide philanthropic leadership and education and support the charitable work of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. He also oversaw the campaign in support of the renovation and new construction at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
In June 2016, Napoli joined United Way of Greater Cleveland, where he serves as president and CEO. He is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville and served as adjunct faculty for Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations.
Northeast Factory Direct
Alex Nemet purposely created a furniture showroom at Northeast Factory Direct that looks and feels like a warehouse, as there is no air conditioning and often no heat. Nemet, the company’s founder, buys in bulk directly from factories, hence the name, allowing him to offer significantly lower prices on his products than the competition.
By identifying with people who would rather pay less to see furniture in their own homes than pay more for a posh showroom experience, Nemet has built a company that has achieved steady growth over the past 15 years. He sets quarterly goals for himself and empowers his employees to do the same, encouraging everyone to be creative in their pursuits. He leads Northeast Factory Direct with a mix of fearlessness and humility, and is unafraid to either acquire new product lines or stop something that isn’t working. The result is a company that has earned the loyalty of its customers.
David P. O’Brien
Chairman of the Board
Risk International Services Inc.
David P. O’Brien had already grown familiar with Risk International Services Inc. prior to joining the business. He believed there was a lot of value in the company and felt it had a solid foundation. At the same time, he thought there was the potential to do more in the virtually untapped market of risk consulting.
So in 2012, he took a significant financial risk and purchased a sizeable portion of Risk International. He also became the company’s chairman. At that time, other leaders in the business were given the opportunity to buy shares in the company and declined. There was concern as to whether O’Brien would be able to replicate his previous growth record at Oswald Cos. in a non-brokerage environment.
Those who believed in what O’Brien could do were rewarded for their faith. Since his investment, Risk International’s annual revenue has increased by an average of 41 percent each year.
Founder and CEO
For more than nine years, Jim Pshock, founder and CEO of Bravo Wellness, has led and fostered growth at the company as a pioneer in the wellness and employee benefits industries. This growth is a direct result of Pshock’s drive to train and raise-up thought leaders in the organization.
His commitment to maintaining a culture of learning is exemplified by his support of and investments in Bravo University, the company’s internal continuing education and career development department.
Over the past year, Pshock has doubled-down on his commitment to develop an efficient and impactful company by engaging a cultural survey of Bravo employees, introducing a new framework for strengthening employee engagement, recasting the company’s vision and mission for the next 10 years, and establishing an accountability and succession plan. These key decisions have resulted in a renewed focus for sales, talent development, retention of clients and market differentiation.
President and CEO
When Chris Quinn assumed the role of president and CEO at Step2 Discovery in 2015, he challenged his team to come up with disruptive products that would showcase the company’s exemplary design work. Shortly thereafter, Step2 launched the most innovative play kitchen on the market, the Grand Luxe Kitchen.
Equipped with a deluxe refrigerator and an oversized oven that both light up, it set a new standard in the toy industry. This year, Step2 is collaborating with British luxury car manufacturer McLaren Automotive to launch the officially licensed Step2 McLaren 570S Push Sports Car, a toddler-sized push car version of the McLaren 570S sports car.
Quinn leads Step2 with transparency, candor and an appreciation for his employees that stretches beyond the company walls. He is active in the community through philanthropic efforts, demonstrated by a partnership with the Streetsboro Police Department last December, which resulted in a $10,000 donation to the department on behalf of Step2.
University Circle Inc.
For many years, University Circle stakeholders shared a collective desire to better inform residents, students, employees and visitors of the area’s unique history and ongoing innovation. These partners worked together to craft the vision and guiding principles for a new program — CircleWalk.
Launched in 2016, CircleWalk is a 40-point district-wide interpretive program that shares the stories of the people, places and institutions that have built University Circle. University Circle Inc. (UCI) engaged an interpretive consultant to work with more than 30 institutional and public partners to create authentic, compelling stories with engaging imagery.
It’s one example of what UCI has done under the leadership of President Chris Ronayne to transform the organization into a community service corporation, which is defined as a national model to deliver services without tax dollars. Ronayne harnessed the energy of a busy 2016 and used it as an impetus to develop new programs and projects, and to complete ones already in progress.
Under the vision and leadership of President Reginald Shiverick, Dakota Software has become an industry leader for environmental management software.
Shiverick is the co-inventor and patent holder of Parametric Filtering, a technology that uses interactive dashboard reports to allow users to perform “on-the-fly” analysis of numerous data points while providing unique insights and performance comparisons and across the enterprise.
Dakota Software has released several environmental management applications, including dedicated tools for air, water and waste management, as well as tools for the procurement and taxonomy of state-specific environmental regulations. These tools expand the capabilities of its clients beyond environmental compliance and broaden strategic impact to include tactile environmental management programs, workplace safety programs and corporate sustainability platforms.
Shiverick moved the company to Playhouse Square in 2013 and into an open office space that facilitates free-flowing conversation and team building. He’s hired bright, up-and-coming talent to support creativity and has helped invigorate Dakota’s image and brand.
President and CEO
Peoples Services Inc.
Doug Sibila faced a difficult situation as president and CEO at Peoples Services Inc. in 2008 and 2009. It was a time when few companies were willing to risk capital, let alone lend money for commercial real estate. Sibila had to make some hard cuts to streamline the organization after a 30 percent drop in revenue. Rather than sit back and wait for the economy to turn around, Sibila leveraged the strength of his balance sheet to make a multi-million dollar acquisition, nearly doubling the size of the company.
Peoples was able to build on that success and complete additional acquisitions in 2013 and 2015. The newly acquired companies had several customers that were existing Peoples customers, enabling Sibila to enhance services with better communication and more in-house services. Understanding the total supply chain and the services offered helped customers be more efficient and built loyalty that enabled Sibila to continue to expand company services.
Co-founders and owners
The story of NOOMA begins with two hockey players growing up in the Cleveland area with one simple problem: They couldn’t find a sports drink that they liked. Brandon and Jarred Smith did some research and still couldn’t find anything that worked. So while still in college and playing minor league professional hockey, they decided to take the initiative to make a sports drink of their own.
It began as a side project to solve a personal problem as they tried to convince buddies to drink unmarked, mysterious looking samples. Before they knew it, they had cases of drinks crammed into every corner of their mother’s house, ready to hit the market. NOOMA was born.
The brothers, NOOMA’s co-founders and owners, became part of the Cleveland fitness community, dragging a cooler full of cold drinks everywhere they went. The product uses real ingredients, is gluten free, paleo friendly, vegan, kosher and has no sugar added. And it helped bring people together around the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.
Sharon Sobol Jordan
Chief of Staff
In 2011, a new form of charter government was created in Cuyahoga County that made sweeping changes to how its government functions. Sharon Sobol Jordan joined this “startup” government as chief of staff, the highest-ranking appointed official.
In this position, Jordan serves as chief strategy officer and policy adviser to the county executive, leads the county’s top team and directly supervises the cabinet officers. Under her leadership, the county is proactively building greater strategic focus and operational strength.
Jordan brings her own spirit of innovation to her role every day. She has challenged the top leadership team to use tools and training to shift mindsets inside the organization to allow everyone to take on the role of a leader and driver of a shared vision for the future. Her deep commitment to public service and the success of her team drives her to continuously challenge her staff to make a difference in everything they do.
Principal and Managing Partner
Two years ago, Arkinetics was in the midst of transition, attempting to change the status quo and break through to a new level of performance and culture. Bruce Taylor understood the importance of culture in any successful business and tackled the challenges that his company needed to overcome in order to meet its ambitious goals. He took steps to ensure that his employees were in the right roles and had the ability to maximize their own unique gifts.
He invested time in a weekly meeting cadence with his leadership team to set and track goals and solve lingering issues. Taylor, the company’s principal and managing partner, empowered his team to speak up when they had ideas or just something they needed to say. It was a difficult process in the beginning, but the result of Taylor’s changes was a healthier culture and a group of employees poised to keep pushing the company forward.
Edward “Ed” Taylor
Visionary and Founder
Technical Assurance Inc.
Edward “Ed” Taylor has combined a paternalistic style with a focused drive for success to guide Technical Assurance Inc. through startup, growth, economic and industry challenges. He has steadfastly grown the company by developing long-lasting client relationships, innovative solutions and an engaged workforce. Internally, his team’s commitment to be present, to live and work with integrity and to embrace growth — principles established by Taylor — has helped move the company forward.
The company’s visionary and founder, Taylor’s beliefs translate personally as well as professionally. In 2016, Technical Assurance established the Building Performance Symposium, a niche thought leadership series that includes a mix of in-person and web-based events hosted by the company and strategically selected partners.
Within the business, Taylor leads the charge to recruit, retain and reward talent. He has built a purposeful culture that encourages employee engagement and fosters growth without sacrificing quality. The company has been profitable year over year for 23 years and is poised to continue growing.
When thunder::tech President Jason Therrien started the marketing firm, he had a vision to build an organization that could provide creative solutions for clients. Through constant evolution and adaptation to the ever-changing marketing landscape, the firm is realizing that vision.
For instance, the firm is using drone technology to capture and deliver content, specifically videography, in unique ways. The agency has an FAA-certificated remote pilot with a small UAS rating on staff. Its user experience lab is a one-stop shop for testing websites and applications on a wide variety of devices and platforms. It also offers premium services for more advanced testing and expert analysis.
The agency has created dozens of projects that leverage 3-D printing, which makes client projects more engaging and helps deliver a higher return on investment. Its slow-and-steady approach to growth has proven to be an effective, sustainable business model that sets thunder::tech apart from its competitors.
Cleveland Public Library System
Felton Thomas has always had a passion for libraries. A native of Las Vegas, he became the youngest employee in Las Vegas-Clark County Library District at the age of 13. A librarian noticed his enthusiasm and encouraged him to become a page. Thirty years later, he’s ascended the library ranks to lead one of the top library systems in the country.
As president at the Cleveland Public Library System, Thomas’s vision is for the library system to be a strong leader in defining a more prosperous future for Cleveland. He wants to battle the digital divide, illiteracy, unemployment and other community deficits through innovative programming and action at all library branches.
Thomas has launched a Downtown Destination campaign to reposition the main library for the 21st century and market its status as a major downtown attraction. By guiding the system through the recession, maintaining superior service and keeping all neighborhood branches open, Thomas has people excited about the library system’s future.
FOUNT is a design and production house with a focus on luxury leather bags and accessories. The company began in late 2013 as husband-and-wife creative team, Phillip and Jackie Watcher, began to pursue their passion to create quality products that are ethically made in the U.S.
The endeavor, which started in the couple’s home, quickly turned into a bustling creative studio in downtown Cleveland that’s added employees as its reputation has grown.
The company works with local businesses when possible. For example, its dust bags are sewn by a refugee group in Akron, Ohio, and are screen printed by a local business. All of the company’s marketing materials are designed and printed in the city, and its web photography and video production supports local artists.
The company says it’s striving to revive the fashion industry in the U.S., swimming against the fast-fashion trend and emphasizing ethically made goods produced by workers earning a fair wage.
Mark Woodka, CEO of OnShift, is heavily involved in entrepreneurial mentoring both within the organization and outside of it. Internally, he mentors the next-generation of entrepreneur — this year alone four employees have left OnShift to start their own businesses. He also offers mentorship with several external organizations, including technology incubators and venture associations.
Woodka spearheaded OnShift’s utilization of “The Advantage” process, a framework that allows the company to distribute goal sharing across the organization. It encourages collaboration that fosters the same understanding of and commitment to goals across the organization.
The company continues to innovate and add complementary products to its flagship staff scheduling software. For example, its OnShift Engage software works toward solving the senior care providers’ issue of engaging employees so they stay long-term. The company has combined a mix of tried-and-true technology alongside new innovations, which has helped OnShift modernize its industry-leading software.
Brian M. Zimmerman
In these busy times, the ability to visit a park and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life has perhaps never been more important. Brian M. Zimmerman is doing his part to make Cleveland Metroparks a destination for countless distractions through interaction with the natural world. His leadership as CEO has been instrumental in activating transformative projects for Northeast Ohio, including an $8 million federal grant, the largest awarded to Cleveland Metroparks to date.
Zimmerman leads by example with his involvement on multiple boards, including Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Destination Cleveland and Flats Forward. He encourages and inspires a culture of giving for Cleveland Metroparks employees and is a leading committee member of the agency’s annual campaign to inspire employees to give back to local and national charitable organizations identified by Cleveland Metroparks. In 2017, Charity Choice boasted 100 percent participation from the agency’s leadership and management.