Top executives shine by building and leading innovative organizations

The 50 smartest companies in the Pittsburgh region are being honored in this month’s magazine. These businesses of all sizes have leaders who motivate and inspire their people with their passion. And their efforts are being felt throughout the region thanks to their innovation, impact on employment and business continuity/sustainability.

I’ll admit I’ve been living and breathing Smart 50 for the past month — helping coordinate our editorial coverage and assisting with the Nov. 19 event that will honor these inaugural members — and it’s been great to learn more about the work they are doing.

Setting yourself apart

One of the most enjoyable pieces leading up to the Chase Smart 50 Awards was helping at a judging panel in October. This is where many of the 50 winners vied for three additional specialty awards, which will be announced at the event.

I helped work on the video that will feature clips from these business leaders and their representatives.

As I interviewed several dozen CEOs, presidents and owners, they shared stories of overcoming problems, setting themselves apart and making a difference. Even though I’d read about the companies on their nomination forms, the businesses came alive when I heard from them directly.

Some pushed the envelope by developing new ways to operate, or invested in new ideas that are making a difference in the lives of their customers. They brought groups of people together to accomplish their goals, or found ways to advance the profile of their entire industry.

It was easy to see that these are business leaders who care. They care about their customers. They care about their employees. They care about their products and services.

And they care about being a part of the Pittsburgh region.

Difficult decisions

I also had a chance to interview the judges who heard the executive’s presentations.

They spoke about how challenging it was to select the top three awards — so many of the companies are doing such innovative, impactful things that are setting them up for long-term success.

When the two judging groups met to discuss what they’d each heard, the judges said certain companies seemed to have picked up champions who felt strongly about what a particular business was doing.

I asked several judges: What were some of the common traits you noticed among the Smart 50, as it relates to leadership and the companies that these business leaders run?

The answer from nearly everyone was the same — the passion these leaders felt for their businesses and employees.

The details may have varied, but each and every one of the Smart 50 certainly made an impression, which is what I guess being a Smart 50 company is all about.