Smart Business and Cuyahoga Community College congratulate the 2015 Family Business Achievement Award honorees. These companies represent 12 of Northeast Ohio’s successful family-owned businesses who are growing for the next generation. Here are the 2015 honorees:
2015 Family Business Achievement Award Honorees
ABCO Fire LLC, Robert Titmas, CEO | AT&F, Michael Forde Ripich, president and CEO | Antonio’s Real Italian Pizza, Fred LoSchiavo, owner | Chapman and Chapman, Walter K. Chapman, CEO and director | Geis Companies, Fred Geis, co-principal and co-owner; Gregory Geis, co-principal and co-owner | Great Lakes Integrated, Jim Schultz, chairman, president and CEO | Health Aid of Ohio Inc., Carol Gilligan, president | MidWest Materials Inc., Brian Robbins, CEO; Noreen Koppelman-Goldstein, president; Bradley Robins, vice president | Ohio Technical College, Marc Brenner, president and CEO | PRADCO, Kristin Tull, Ph.D., president and corporate secretary | Security Self Storage, Norm Kotoch Jr., president | The Fedeli Group, Umberto P. Fedeli, president and CEO
■ Robert Titmas, CEO
ABCO Fire LLC started as a one-man operation founded by Robert Titmas Sr. Now, 40 years later, it is one of the region’s largest and oldest family-owned providers of fire-protection equipment and services. More than six family members work in the business, and more than 20 family-related employees work at various branches of ABCO.
As the second-generation owner, manager, parent and community leader, CEO Robert Titmas strives to lead by example, just as his father did before him. The company culture also operates this way, as evident by his leadership and employee compensation — a number of employees have been with the company for more than 10 and even 20 years.
Founded as West Shore Fire Equipment and Protection, ABCO has seen many changes, new faces, growth and profitability since the beginning. It changed its name to ABCO Fire Protection in the early 1980s and entered the Pittsburgh marketplace through the acquisition of Abelson Co. Other acquisitions across the region included S.R. Smith Co., ACE Fire, Fire Extinguisher Sales & Service, Akron Oxygen & Supply, Harold D. Hard Co., Pure Force, Cambridge Fyr-Fyter, Fire-X Associates, Eckert Fire Protection, Debson Equipment and Superior Fire Safety. Today, ABCO counts more than 40,000 customers.
ABCO has found that a family business atmosphere brings with it a culture optimistic about future growth. Equality and the selection of women leaders has been a priority, and the culture also stresses accountability — a practice that lets everyone know that working in the business is a privilege, not a right.
■ Michael Forde Ripich, president and CEO
John J. Ripich was working at a Cleveland-based boiler shop in the 1930s when he began to envision more efficient fabrication methods. Ripich knew he could build a company that would focus on its customers’ success and in 1940 founded the American Tank and Fabricating Co., now known as AT&F.
As the company’s capabilities increased, Ripich purchased equipment and hired and developed team members to meet and exceed customers’ expectations.
During World War II, Ripich and a young metallurgist developed a solution to replace contaminated and fatigued metal used in aircraft — a serious safety issue. The result was used in the industry for decades to follow.
As the business grew, so did the need for space. In 1950, the company built a manufacturing facility on Elmwood Avenue in Cleveland.
Ripich also invested in relationships with customers, partners and team members. He passed his trademark urgency, unwavering passion, strategic vision, integrity and hard work ethic on to his sons, Larry and John R. Like all the members of the Ripich family, Larry and John R. started working at AT&F early on.
Thoughtful succession planning has led to seamless integration into leadership roles for Larry, John R., Terry, Bob, Ken and current President and CEO Michael Forde Ripich.
It’s hard to overstate the positive impact of the continued involvement of the family. While each leader has had his or her own unique talent, all have shared the vision that has led to success for the company, its customers and team members.
■ Fred LoSchiavo, owner
Tony LoSchiavo got his start in the restaurant business in 1967 when a good friend told him of an opportunity to sell pizza like they made back in Italy. LoSchiavo loved the idea so much he quit his job as a truck driver, mortgaged his home and opened one of the first pizzerias in Greater Cleveland.
LoSchiavo Restaurant Group LLC/ Antonio’s Real Italian Pizza is a family-owned and operated company, with 10 locations and growing. His son Fred is now running most of the locations, alongside his sons Anthony and Vincent.
LoSchiavo was known for his fun-loving character as well as making some of the best pizza around. Loyal patrons lined the streets on opening day for a taste of his delicious Italian creations. After being met with enormous success at the Parma location, LoSchiavo decided to open another location on the south end of Parma — and saw even greater success.
Now, three generations later, Antonio’s has been a tradition of quality pizza in the Cleveland suburbs. It’s a place where family and employees are empowered to take responsibility, contribute to the company’s mission and success and experience personal growth. The values of honesty, teamwork, dedication and loyalty, as well as stressing consistency in quality, service and food, offered in a unique environment by a staff that’s committed to one another, their customers and the community is a sure recipe for success.
The mission statement of Antonio’s brings it all together: “To deliver exceptional restaurant experiences by building an organization where people are inspired to better their lives.”
■ Walter K. Chapman, CEO and director
Twelve members of the family have joined the firm over the years, with the fourth and fifth generations currently represented.
As general agents for Aetna, Chapman and Chapman were pioneers in developing employee benefit plans in the 1920s and 1930s for clients such as Goodyear, Goodrich, Timken, Cleveland Cliffs, Lubrizol and Scripps-Howard. Founded by Frank Chapman, the agency was operated by his son, G.B. “Byron” Chapman. In turn, his son George ran Aetna’s general agency in Cleveland for 50 years. The father-andson team was the largest producer of insurance business for Aetna in the nation for 30 years. George formed the current corporation of Chapman and Chapman as an independent agency in 1963, providing independent consulting and brokerage services.
Family succession is a cornerstone of the culture at Chapman and Chapman. The family takes care to offer its clients an approach consistent with family values. CEO and Director Walter K. Chapman, Frank’s great-grandson, explains it this way: “At Chapman and Chapman, we have a family atmosphere, meaning that although not everyone is blood, the office is extremely close-knit and feels like a part of the family.
“Everyone within our walls takes pride in the company’s history and strives to make sure the name continues to perpetuate the legacy of those who founded it.”
■ Fred Geis, co-principal and co-owner
■ Gregory Geis, co-principal and co-owner
It was 1967 and Erwin Geis, who began his career as a mason, founded Geis Cos. with a focus that combined Old World craftsmanship with innovation and progressive construction technologies. As the company grew, its capabilities expanded and it became a pioneer in using the concept of design/build development with its first industrial park in Macedonia, Ohio.
Geis instilled the dignity and pride of his company into sons Fred and Gregory. The brothers completed many years of successful projects by being reliable, fast-paced and offering turnkey construction.
Co-owner Fred has served as co-principal for 15 years, during which time he exponentially expanded the company’s operations and successfully completed more than 300 projects. While recently focusing his attention to
more philanthropic interests and exploring new markets for the company, Fred continues to provide daily executive guidance to the firm. He also donates his time as a board member of MidTown Inc., the Botanical Gardens, the Portage County Development Board and the Geis Foundation.
Gregory, co-principal and co-owner, coordinates the efforts of the sales team and in particular works closely with the real estate brokerage community. Gregory has worked in construction since he was a teenager, first hauling bricks and laboring for his father.
He works closely with clients to guide their present and future requirements, directs the firm’s land acquisition and disposition efforts and is responsible for expanding the firm’s reach beyond Northeast Ohio.
■ Jim Schultz, chairman, president and CEO
Great Lakes Lithograph, now known as Great Lakes Integrated, began in the midst of the Great Depression in 1931 when Joseph and Elsie Schultz seized an opportunity to use his skill as a highly respected printer and her keen insight into business operation and selling.
In addition to his abilities as a printer, Joseph was also an inventor, having received 57 patents. One of his inventions — a “press ink wash-up” device, which cut down the wash time from three to four hours to 20 minutes — is still used today on offset printing presses.
Their son George started working in the business in 1939. He took over leadership of the operation in 1950, and grew the company by acquiring innovative printing technologies. His son Jim started with the company in 1971 and became CEO in 1986. His brothers Tom, Bob and Ken also worked in the company.
Jim, who also serves as president and chairman, proceeded to build and stay true to his grandparents’ tradition and quality for which Great Lakes Integrated had become known. The company has expanded its offerings to include software technologies to support the marketing needs of its customers with high-end commercial and digital printing.
The fourth generation of family is now in the business. Jason Schultz is the vice president of marketing, Jeremy Schultz oversees customer service in the Digital Print Center and a niece works as a designer and customer service representative in the technology division.
■ Carol Gilligan, president
Health Aid of Ohio Inc. is a family-owned business, but the “company family” extends beyond just family members. This is due in part to the smaller size of the company and to the fact that many long-term employees have “grown up” with the company.
Carol Gilligan, president, founded the company in 1984 in the basement of her home. Over the past 30 years, Health Aid has expanded to four locations in Ohio and one in Western Pennsylvania.
More than a dozen key personnel have worked at Health Aid for more than 15 years — and this longevity and continuity has created one large “Health Aid Family.” The organization provides loans to employees, and allows for flexible working arrangements and support where needed.
Gilligan is actively involved with each location and visits regularly to ensure a feeling of inclusion. In addition to an open-door policy for employees, there is a friendly relationship between family and non-family senior staff.
Each member of the senior staff works closely together to create a strong, supportive management presence. The senior team provides leadership but also humor and fun.
The longest serving family member is Kristin O’Neill, who has worked closely with Gilligan for 28 years building the revenue management and information technology programs. The youngest family member is Bailey Gilligan, Gilligan’s granddaughter, who works part time in customer service while pursuing her college degree.
Gilligan’s succession planning has evolved over the years, and hopes to pass the family business on to one or more family member.
■ Brian Robbins, CEO
■ Noreen Koppelman-Goldstein, president
■ Bradley Robbins, vice president
MidWest Materials Inc., a third generation family-owned and operated steel service center,
was founded 63 years ago by Joseph Koppelman and his brother Harry. Today, his daughter, Noreen Koppelman-Goldstein, is president of the company. CEO Brian Robbins and Vice President Bradley Robbins represent the third generation to lead the company.
MidWest is enhancing its history of continued investment in its property, facility, systems and operations to maintain the highest levels of safety, efficiency, quality and delivery.
Since assuming the CEO position in 2004 Brian has lead MidWest Materials to record profits in 10 out of 11 years. He also serves as president of the Association of Steel Distributors, an international trade association. He has dedicated himself to innovate and advocate for the U.S. steel industry and to nurture the growth of young leadership in the industry and his company.
Koppelman-Goldstein’s valued history of both the steel service center business and employee relations serves the company well. She is the past president of the Lake County Bar Association and a member of many nonprofit boards.
Brian and Koppelman-Goldstein have been major benefactors with regards to empowering their employees and
management, which has contributed to the company’s growth in sales and technology.
Bradley rejoined the company two years ago and has assumed many duties from sales to production management, ensuring continued growth and customer service. He also represents the company in many trade groups including the Steel Tank Institute.
Ohio Technical College
■ Marc Brenner, president and CEO
One of the first changes occurred in 1996 when Julius retired and Marc assumed the roles of president and CEO. The next year, the name Ohio Technical College was adopted to better describe the program offerings, and major changes were made to accommodate growth in student enrollment and employment demands.
In 2003, Marc’s son Jordan joined the school and soon became the director of admission. His success in that role enabled him to become director of marketing. Together with his father, the two worked to change the school’s marketing focus from middle-aged adults to 18- to 25-year-olds.
Six years later, Marc’s other son Justin joined the school as director of corporate development and started working with organizations on how they could assist OTC with training needs, resource development and equipment requirements.
The Brenner family takes precautions when expanding the business and hiring professionals with the necessary knowledge and expertise to ensure success.
The number of students has increased from 350 in 2000 to 1,500 today, representing 33 states. During the same time, the administrative and instructional staff has increased from 55 to more than 300 full-time employees.
Plans include the purchase of additional buildings to house expanded program offerings to fulfill specialized and technical needs now being discovered in workplaces.
■Kristin Tull, Ph.D, president and corporate secretary
While the management-consulting firm was founded in 1955, her father Terry Owen, Ph.D., developed much of the existing organization when he joined the company in 1971. He built the organization into one of the most respected management-consulting firms in Northeast Ohio. In 1991, Tull joined the firm while pursuing her doctorate in industrial organizational psychology.
Working with individuals and companies was extremely satisfying for her, and she earned the title of vice president and became a minority stockholder in 1996. In 2003, she increased her ownership to more than one-third. PRADCO became a woman-owned organization in 2008 with her mother Edda Owen and Tull as majority owners. That same year, Tull was promoted to president of the organization and her father became CEO.
The Owens have worked at PRADCO for a combined total of 80 years, and Tull, who also serves as corporate secretary, is now in her third decade of service to the organization. Having Tull work at PRADCO along with her mother, father and children helps promote a familyoriented atmosphere in the company.
As such, Tull looks out for the welfare of both the external clients and PRADCO’s employees. There is a deep sense of caring for individuals at PRADCO. It is not surprising that many Northeast Ohio management consultants at one point in their career “learned their trade” at the firm.
■ Norm Kotoch Jr., president
Just like a family member you can call and count on at any time, Norm Kotoch Jr.’s cell phone number is accessible to Security Self Storage tenants if needed. Kotoch, president, knows how to treat customers, many of whom may be going through the inconveniences of moving.
Founded in 1983 by his parents, Connie and Norm Kotoch Sr., the company has been owned by the Kotoch family for more than 30 years. Kotoch joined the Security Self Storage team in 1997, quickly moving into the role of president. Shortly after, his two brothers began active roles within the business, which they also retain.
As president, Kotoch oversees daily operations for all Security Self Storage facilities — including handling major acquisitions and business expansions, conducting and managing corporate sales and addressing customer needs, questions and concerns. His father continues to oversee the general health and future of core business assets.
Together, the father and son team plan for future growth. Now with six total facilities (and continual plans to expand), Security Self Storage has locations in Aurora, Highland Heights, Westlake, Wickliffe and Willoughby (two locations).
Included in the company’s dozen employees are Kotoch’s son and daughter, who, along with the other employees, help bring personalized service and innovative storage solutions to consumers — complete with peace of mind and the same attention to detail and respect one would provide a member of their own family.
■ Umberto P. Fedeli, president and CEO
Family and business are two words that describe Umberto P. Fedeli, president and CEO of The Fedeli Group — and the foundation of The Fedeli Group, specializing in employee benefits consulting and property and casualty risk management solutions.
As a first generation Italian- American, Fedeli learned early in life the importance of being surrounded by family, love and loyalty. As a young businessman, he developed his business model around what he respects best, holds in the highest regards and believes is most important: family and relationships. His business continues to embody the lessons he’s learned from his immigrant parents and family.
Fedeli’s Italian culture places great emphasis on family and food, and so does his business. Fedeli’s mother Lucia and sister Lorry are guest chefs in the corporate kitchen. Fedeli’s brother Danny, oldest son Nick and daughters Diana and Christina, also work at The Fedeli Group. Being surrounded by his family in all aspects of his life is a priority.
He treats his associates like family, too. Fedeli firmly believes the most critical relationship in business is with associates. The Fedeli Group emphasizes a culture of relationships to solve problems and add value.
Fedeli believes when people feel nurtured and comfort themselves, they treat others in a more nurturing and comforting way. When associates are engaged and buy into the company’s mission, the chances of success are increased. A motto of his company is “our family taking care of your family.”