Top executives shine by building, leading innovative organizations

The 50 smartest companies in Central Ohio are being honored in this month’s magazine. These businesses of all sizes have leaders who motivate and inspire people with their passion. And their efforts are having an impact on the region through 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 Oct. 14 event that will honor these inaugural members. In fact, I actually picked up my phone at least once and said, “Smart 50, this is Jayne.”

Setting yourself apart

One of the fun pieces leading up to the Oswald Cos. Smart 50 Awards was helping at a judging panel in September. 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 they stayed true to their identify in the face of societal changes. They brought different groups of people together to accomplish their goals, or practiced internally what they preached to their customers.

It was easy to see that these are companies that 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 Columbus.

Difficult decisions

At the end of a long day, I also had a chance to interview the judges who heard the executives’ 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 group met at the end of the day to discuss what they’d heard, the judges said certain companies seemed to have picked up champions who felt strongly about what a particular business was doing. (Even during the lunch break, a few of the judges told me they were still thinking about some of the companies they’d heard from.)

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 answers varied. Some thought it was the passion these leaders felt for their businesses. Others noticed how much they talked about their employees.

Whatever the case, they certainly made an impression, which is what I guess being a Smart 50 company is all about.