The Smart 50 Specialty Awards recognize companies that demonstrate excellence

Last month, the leaders of 50 top organizations in Central Ohio were recognized as the inaugural Smart 50 class of 2014. These leaders were chosen for their ability to effectively build and lead successful organizations by plying innovation, demonstrating impact and forging companies built to last.

These leaders were honored at a special celebration Oct. 14 at the Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel. And, from this group of Smart 50, the leaders of three organizations were recognized with special awards in three distinct categories:

Innovation: How does the organization develop and take to market new products, services and solutions?

Impact: How do these products, services and solutions benefit the organization, its employees, investors and other constituents, as measured by such items as:

  • Sales and expansion.
  • Revenue or employee growth.
  • New building construction and expansion.
  • Attraction of funding and investments.
  • Diversification of products and services.
  • Use of technology as a business tool.
  • Differentiation from the competition.
  • Giving back to the community.

Business Continuity: How does the combination of innovation and impact create a sustainable organization that is scalable?

The 2015 Oswald Smart 50 Awards were presented by Smart Business and sponsored by CompManagement, GREENCREST, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, Rea & Associates, Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel, Sequent and US Bank. Here are the Smart 50 Specialty Award winners that were unveiled on Oct. 14.



col_LisaIngramLisa Ingram
White Castle System Inc.

  • With Lisa Ingram’s leadership, White Castle System Inc. has unleashed a torrent of standard-setting creativity in all segments of its business. For example, its recently completed frozen food plant in Vandalia, Ohio, is a state of the art facility that earned the coveted Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.
  • White Castle has accelerated the important role innovation plays in shaping its future, from a focused and thoughtful menu development program to employing technology to enhance guest experience. Recent successes include the launch of a mobile ordering platform, and two new product successes — Belgian waffle sandwiches and Sriracha chicken sandwiches — drove sales and traffic.
  • Ingram has created urgency around responding to the challenges of a tough business climate that’s wildly competitive. And she is leading by example. A tireless worker, she does whatever it takes to ensure White Castle’s future is even brighter than its glorious past — whether that’s wrestling through the tough examination of legacy ideas and programs, working behind the counter on occasion or risking the vulnerability of trying new ideas.



col_MichelleHeritageMichelle Heritage
Executive Director
Community Shelter Board

  • The Community Shelter Board, which seeks to end homelessness in Columbus and Franklin County, has developed a transformational new model under Michelle Heritage’s leadership.
  • Troubled by long waitlists for shelter beds for single men and women, Heritage championed a community commitment that no one should have to sleep on the streets. This led to a new building that provides shelter for up to 356 single adults and 85 families.
  • Knowing that facilities aren’t enough, Heritage is building a plank out of poverty with a service model where case managers, called navigators, provide consistent, comprehensive care. Not only do navigators work with people throughout their stay in shelter, but also support people after they are housed to ensure they maintain stable housing.
  • The National Alliance to End Homelessness released “the Columbus Model,” a toolkit that highlights how CSB measures performance and uses data to improve system efficiency and quality. Other communities are being encouraged to use CSB’s materials to realign and strengthen their homeless services systems.


Business Continuity

col_JimSmithJim Smith
Elford Inc.

  • As the five leaders of Elford did before him during its 104 years in business, Jim Smith continues to execute Elford’s mission statement to be “more than JUST the best building contractor.” He does this by strengthening his employees’ skills and providing them with the necessary tools and educational resources to offer excellent customer service to every client, every day.
  • Smith regularly practices the principles illustrated in two of his favorite books, “The Servant Leader” and “Good to Great.” He puts an unmatched emphasis on investing in his employees, recognizing that while it’s imperative to have the right systems and equipment, it’s more important to have the right people in the right roles.
  • Successfully leading the company through the Great Recession, Smith has kept Elford in the top three of Columbus general contractors, surpassing some national competitors.
  • He recently built up his staff to better serve Elford’s existing and new clients, while increasing employee retention to 96 percent, promoting from within and implementing leadership training and mentorship programs.