Will Gruver found heartfelt riches by bringing electricity, jobs and hope to developing nations through USP&E Global

Will Gruver, founder and CEO, USP&E Global

Will Gruver, founder and CEO, USP&E Global

Will Gruver pursued the American dream after earning a degree in economics from Northwestern University — but it didn’t take long for the Minnesota native to realize that working at a bank in Chicago’s famous Loop District couldn’t satisfy his entrepreneurial yearning or heartfelt need to enrich the lives of others. 

So in 2002 he threw caution to the windy city and moved to the Dallas suburb of Celina where he launched USP&E Global. His goal was to design, build and operate fuel-efficient and renewable power stations, primarily in emerging markets.
Gruver says his decision to risk it all was truly a no-brainer, because the U.S. economy was growing at a snail’s pace while overseas markets were booming. And given the choice, he’d rather be sorry, than safe.
“The barriers to entrance have never been lower while the financial and humanitarian rewards have never been greater,” he says. “There are unbelievable opportunities in out of the way places for anyone willing to take a risk.”
On the surface, it seems like Gruver’s chancy decision might yield big dividends. After all, the International Energy Agency expects global energy demand to increase by one-third by 2035, with nearly 60 percent of the demand coming from countries with a burgeoning middle class like China, India and the Middle East.
But outsiders who try to navigate the business landscape in developing nations are often stymied by language and cultural differences and bureaucratic red tape. Small firms like USP&E also face stiff competition from energy, engineering and infrastructure giants like Siemens, which plans to expand its reach in emerging markets over the next five years.
Gruver would need to leverage the expertise of experienced globe trotting partners and employees to realize his dream of bringing power, jobs and hope to people in underdeveloped countries.

Establish trust
People in struggling countries are often wary of outsiders and for good reason. Consider the impoverished West African nation of Sierra Leone where slavery and the sale of so-called blood diamonds to outsiders during the 1990s fueled a brutal civil war and now only those who can afford generators have access to electricity.
Gruver, who employs a faith-based approach to leadership, believes that creating communities and jobs isn’t a consequence of doing business — it’s a reason to be in emerging markets and a moral obligation. Moreover, he scoffs at strangers who suggest that he should hasten his company’s growth by offering officials in underdeveloped countries financial incentives to secure permits or minimize red tape.
Instead, he follows his moral compass by hiring local people to operate and maintain a power station once construction is complete. He says that providing training and jobs creates trickle-down good will, and an environment of mutual respect, that leads to new opportunities. He cites his firm’s ability to secure multiple contracts in Sierra Leone, which is experiencing annual GDP growth of 35.9 percent, as an example.
He pays local workers well once a week and gives each employee a bag of rice to supplement their family’s meals.
“You build trust by keeping your word, and by giving people jobs and a career path,” Gruver says. “Hope was lost in Sierra Leone when we arrived two years ago. It’s remarkable how just a little bit of reliable growth can make a difference. We’re not only giving these people jobs and electricity — we’re giving them hope.”

Leverage strategic partnerships
How difficult is the business climate in Sierra Leone? The country’s overall ease of doing business ranks 140th out of 185 economies according to data compiled by The World Bank. Worse yet, it ranks 173th in dealing with construction permits and 176th in getting electricity, which means Gruver needs strategic alliances to achieve his philanthropic and economic mission.
“It’s very difficult to break into a foreign country without leveraging the established trust of companies that know the ins and outs of the local business and have tenured relationships,” he says.
In addition, having relationships with highly regarded and diverse companies such as Caterpillar, General Electric, Hyundai and Ernst & Young Africa helps USP&E overtake entrenched local competitors by offering clients turnkey power solutions. And the company’s nimble size and vast network helps it customize its deliverables and pounce on prospective opportunities.
“Some competitors just sell power plant support or construction or they only work in Venezuela because they don’t have the alliances to compete on a bigger stage,” Gruver says. “We can offer everything from design to construction and ongoing support for our plants by leveraging the abilities and products of our strategic partners.”
When USP&E couldn’t find a local printer to deliver documents to a prospective client in Johannesburg, South Africa, E&Y stepped in and its actions helped the fledgling power company close the deal. Other relationships have lead to inaugural deals in France and Spain.
“We’re not a huge company so we look for mutually beneficial relationships that extend our capabilities,” he says. “We expect to generate revenues of around $50 million this year and that’s largely due to our strategic partnerships which have never been stronger.”

Hire diverse and passionate people
Companies encounter unfamiliar technical and cultural challenges when they venture beyond the U.S. border. Having a diverse, multi-cultural staff with global business experience is critical in an environment where local knowledge plays a critical economic role. This is especially true in emerging markets, where decision makers are interested in knowing whether companies are interested in them as people or just want their dollars.
There’s no shortage of opportunities for globally experienced engineers and energy-savvy technicians — especially in Texas. So how has a mid-size company with fairly limited resources managed to hire 110 movers and shakers over the last three years?
“We promote our mission because it attracts like-minded people who want to work for more than a paycheck,” Gruver says.
Indeed, what people want most is the chance to make a difference according to Alexander Hiam, the Massachusetts-based author of “Business Innovation for Dummies.” Although a great salary doesn’t hurt, professionals are flocking to disruptive, world-changing organizations where they can feel good about what they do.
Interviews at USP&E usually start with a rudimentary question and answer exchange, but the conversation quickly turns toward the company’s overseas exploits. At that point, candidates who are merely interested in collecting a paycheck usually exit, while those who are passionate about the company’s mission are hooked on the idea of traveling the world and meeting buyers, sellers, and facility managers on multiple continents with different languages, cultures and customs.
And since engaged employees are generally more productive than their less motivated counterparts, the passion factor allows Gruver to boost the return on his fairly small staff. His experience is validated by more than 29 studies that link employee engagement to better service, sales, profits and shareholder returns.
“I lead an awesome team of executives, directors, engineers, project managers and technicians,” Gruver says. “They can have any job they want but they work for USP&E because they’re passionate about helping people.”

Harness the power of the Internet
USP&E doesn’t pay for advertising on Google or Yahoo, and it doesn’t have a commercial sales team. Yet, the company manages to garner five to 15 legitimate leads per day through the strategic deployment of some 80 websites.
Gruver studied web development in college — and refers to himself as a technophile — so he knows a thing or two about search engine optimization. Invariably, USP&E comes up near the top of the page when a prospective client searches the Internet for power engineering solutions or providers because the company owns the rights to a variety of keyword-rich domain names.
A strategic domain name can increase a website’s ranking especially if the domain matches the search query. The tactic is especially effective for small companies that don’t have a large advertising budget or well-known brand, since it snares prospective clients who search on keywords or phrases instead of a company name, and having a strong web presence may even attract investors.
“Executives often think that they have to pay for strategic Internet placement but that’s simply not true,” Gruver says. “Managing search engine optimization is so important to growing companies that it needs to be a top priority for executives right after cash flow.”
Speaking of cash flow, it’s still a daily priority for Gruver given the company’s age and rapid growth. He’s learned to say no to unnecessary frills and how to streamline operations by investing in mission critical areas that yield the best return. He credits his mentors with telling him the truth about frivolous spending instead of what he wants to hear while teaching him the virtues of risk taking and pushing boundaries.
“It’s amazing how just one disruptive idea can change the fortunes of so many people,” Gruver says. “We’re not just creating jobs — we’re creating hope — and that’s a wonderful thing.”
How to reach: U.S. Power & Environment Global, (469) 726-4780 or www.uspowerco.com

The Gruver File

Name: Will Gruver
Title: CEO and founder
Company: USP&E Global

Born: Minneapolis, Minn.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in communications and economics, Northwestern University.

What was your first job?
My first job was a youth pastor, but I started my first company when I was just 10. It was a landscaping business which I built up and sold to my partner after I finished high school.
Who do you most admire in the business world and why?
Entrepreneurs, especially those who head-up small businesses, because they’re the risk-takers who are pushing the boundaries and making a difference in this world. It’s the developing nations that offer the greatest growth and philanthropic opportunities, but it takes courage, passion and a forward-thinking strategy to pursue those opportunities.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Practice work-life balance. It’s easy to become entrenched in your business and overlook family and friends. I’m more motivated and productive on a daily basis because I have balance in my life.
What’s the key to success in emerging markets?
There’s so much corruption that’s it’s critical to build trust. You won’t muster repeat business unless you take the time to become a valued and trusted supplier.
What’s your definition of business success?
It may sound like a cliché, but helping other people. It’s easy to make money; the hard part is making a difference. There are unbelievable opportunities in this world for anyone willing to take a risk. For a company to thrive there has to be a reason for it to exist. Profits are important but it’s how you get there that counts.

Awards: Finalist, 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year, Ernst & Young
Recipient, Dallas Business Journal’s “40 Under 40”Award
Finalist, INC. 500, fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.
Dallas 100 Entrepreneur Award, USP&E placed seventh out of the 100 fastest-growing privately held companies in the Dallas area

 

Giving back: How much charity is enough?

Fred Koury, President and CEO, Smart Business Network Inc.

While attending an event we put on with a local charity, I was impressed with the difference that seemingly minor things can make in someone’s life. I was proud of the contribution and effort that our employees put into the event and the dedication the nonprofit showed for its mission.

The event made me think about the business community and all of the wonderful things companies do for those in need. Take the recent destruction from Hurricane Sandy as an example. Businesses have pledged more than $90 million in assistance, two-thirds of which was monetary donations to organizations like the American Red Cross.

While companies give back in as many ways as possible, even during these difficult economic times, I was wondering if there wasn’t more that could be done in our local communities. Not every effort has to always include a financial component.

Here are some nonfinancial ways to give back in addition to what you already do for the community:

  • Give more time. Some organizations have a greater need for man-hours in addition to financial backing. Your business may already give generously on the financial side, but maybe your favorite charity could use a labor boost as well. Nationally, about 35 percent of companies have some sort of formal volunteer program. Consider donating employee time to help out with a big project or basic cleaning and organizing.
  • Offer advice. You probably already serve on one or more boards for a nonprofit, but there is always another charity out there that could use your help. You don’t have to become a full-fledged board member, but you can offer advice as needed to help the existing members navigate through a problem that plays to your strengths. If the nonprofit is looking for a board member and you don’t have the time, help it find the right person by making a recommendation or referral.
  • Hire nontraditional employees. One way of giving back to the community is helping others help themselves. There are many skilled employees with either physical or mental disabilities that could be a great addition to your company if given the chance. When you have a job opening, make sure you are considering all candidates, including those from nontraditional backgrounds.
  • Do pro bono work. If you can provide a service that a nonprofit needs, consider donating it. Marketing, printing, IT services — basically anything an office needs is probably something a charity could use. Find out what the nonprofit could use, then figure out a way to help out. Even if your company can’t help, maybe you know someone else who can.

In this season of giving, it’s not hard to find a worthy cause. There’s also no question that you and your company have most likely already given a lot, assuming you are in a position to do so. But there’s an old question that asks, “How much charity is enough?” The answer is easy: Just a little more.

Take the time to evaluate whether you can do just a little more than what you are already doing to make an even bigger difference.

If you are in search of a worthy cause, consider donating to The Pillar Fund, a donor-advised fund administered through the Cleveland Foundation. For more information, contact Dustin Klein at [email protected]

Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) [email protected]

For 15 years, the Pillar Award for Community Service has honored the importance of giving back

Dustin S. Klein, Publisher and Vice President of Operations, Smart Business Network Inc.

This year, we celebrate the 15th annual Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service program — Smart Business’ initiative that recognizes the symbiotic relationship between the for-profit and nonprofit communities.

Most people are relatively humble about their philanthropy. It’s a personal issue, and they’ve been taught it is not good taste to boast about how much money they give to a specific cause or the countless hours they spend volunteering for an organization.

Discussing philanthropy, especially when it comes to thinking about how business and nonprofits work together, however, is a good thing.

When we co-founded the Pillar Award in 1998 with Medical Mutual of Ohio, our organizations had three common goals: honor and reward companies that have made a commitment to community service, encourage other companies to get involved with the community, and identify and share creative ideas that companies of all sizes can use to make the community a better place to live and work.

It’s safe to say that the program has lived up to its lofty promises.

Along the way, we added a fourth goal — give back to the community ourselves. We established The Pillar Fund, tied it into the existing program and began distributing grants to regional nonprofits.

Together with our partners, we have been humbled to read more than 1,000 nominations over this decade and a half and honor more than 100 organizations and individuals who best exemplify what happens when we band together to strengthen our communities — we make a difference in people’s lives.

As you read about this year’s finalists, please consider the following ways in which you can give back:

Find your cause. Align your giving or volunteerism with something you personally believe in or care about; something that fits with what your company does or something close to your employees’ hearts.

Get involved. Writing a check is nice, but lending vital manpower can be just as impactful. Organizations such as Business Volunteers Unlimited provide lists of available group projects that regional nonprofits need to have accomplished.

Make a difference. When you get involved in something you care in, this is what happens. And better yet, not only will you impact others’ lives, but you will find that you’ve changed your own. 

Dustin Klein is publisher and vice president of operations for Smart Business Network Inc.

How Dan Doyle Jr. leads a business model at Dex Imaging that puts profits toward people

Dan Doyle Jr., co-founder, president and CEO, Dex Imaging Inc.

Dan Doyle Jr. wanted his father to be a partner in his new business venture. So naturally, he brought the proposal to the breakfast table. One morning, over egg whites, he thoughtfully laid out his plan, all the while preparing for the possibility of a tough sell. What he wasn’t prepared for though were Dan Doyle Sr.’s terms.

“In order to get him out of retirement, he made me commit a third of our profits to local not-for-profits,” says Doyle, co-founder, president and CEO of Tampa, Fla.-based Dex Imaging Inc. “He didn’t take a paycheck. That’s what he wanted.”

Doyle knew giving away a third of the company’s profits would be a tall order to fill. But he also felt confident that with his and his father’s expertise in the office imaging industry — Doyle Sr. sold a previous business for $3.5 billion — they could build Dex Imaging into a high-growth document imaging dealership.

So he accepted his father’s terms. In fact, he took it a step further, agreeing to distribute another third of top line profits back to the company’s noncommissioned employees.

After all, “It’s not easy to negotiate with your father,” Doyle says.

Since the duo co-founded Dex in 2002, they’ve successfully fulfilled their commitment to giving two-thirds of its profits to employees and local not-for-profits. And in the meantime, they’ve still managed to grow the business from $1 million to $100 million in revenue, spreading its footprint to 24 locations across five states and 560 employees.

Here’s how Doyle keeps Dex Imaging profitable while taking care of its employees and the community.

Make it more than money

Starting out, it was pretty easy for Dex Imaging to meet financial commitments to employees and not-for-profits, Doyle says. For one, the company had just 14 employees. But also, Doyle and his father had been involved in the Tampa community and done business there for some time. The area’s recent struggles motivated them to take on a bigger role with Dex.

“It was during a time when the banks were getting all rolled up and moving to Charlotte County in the Bay Area as well as other areas in Florida,” Doyle says. “So Tampa banks used to support all the not-for-profits, and that kind of diminished as the banks moved their headquarters.”

However, as they opened new offices in other cities, not everyone understood the giving back philosophy and its significance for the organization. Profit-sharing was an easy concept for people to grasp. But Doyle wanted the community involvement to be equally valued by employee and the company culture.

“In the beginning, people kind of questioned us,” Doyle says.

“What our management learned is it’s easy to sit there and say, ‘Yes,’ and find people and not-for-profits that are looking for money. But then we would quiz them on ‘OK, well why did we support this cause?’”

To connect people to the why, Doyle asks each branch of the company to choose which not-for-profit they want to support with the third of their profits. And recognizing that every branch operates somewhat differently, he also leaves how they decide up to them.

Some offices meet weekly to discuss organizations they’re interested in supporting, while others get together monthly or quarterly to talk about their plans and criteria.

“We don’t dictate how we should do it and how they should look at each not-for-profit,” Doyle says. “I just want to know that they’re involved with it, they understand it and that they’re willing to commit themselves to it.”

For Doyle, the main concern before committing the money is whether or not people have done their due diligence. So he likes to ask staff as each branch questions to make sure they’ve dug deeper. For example, “How many dollars end up back in the local community’s hands?” and “What support is the organization most in need of?”

“See if they can give you a little background besides just the title or the name,” Doyle says. “If they said Boys and Girls Club, do they say, ‘Oh, they help boys and girls,’ and kind of waffle on it? Or do they say, ‘They get into this particular cause and they’re finding matches, or we’re supporting the program that helps grandparents that are taking care of grandchildren because the parents are deadbeats?’”

As a leader, asking the tough questions helps employees understand their reasons for getting involved with a not-for-profit. By making them dig deeper, you encourage people to choose missions or causes that speak to them personally and will motivate them to make a bigger impact.

That’s certainly the case at Dex, where many employees give back their time to their chosen organizations beyond  the profit contribution, whether it’s serving on boards and committees, getting involved in events, or just reaching into their own pockets to support a cause, Doyle says.

“The only way to really get into it is to understand that particular organization,” he says.

“It wasn’t just that somebody sent them a letter and they agreed to it.”

It’s also a point of pride when employees see your company’s name linked to organizations they feel benefit their local communities.

“People come in with their son’s or daughter’s soccer league, asking can we sponsor that — all the way to their church or their school, to bigger events that are hosted by whatever city,” Doyle says. “And it’s pride. They see our company’s name associated with these things and people are proud of it.”

Give more to get more

Today, Dex has minimal employee turnover. But the company’s people philosophies don’t just help it retain employees. They’re also a way to attract new talent to the company.

“We know we’ve done a good job when people say, ‘Hey, are you hiring?’” Doyle says. “When we’re hiring people, we tell them the story and they’re hooked on it.”

But making big commitments to people can’t just be a story. You also have to follow through.

During the economic recession, many of Doyle’s employees wondered whether the company would stick with its commitment to distribute two-thirds of its profits to employees and their not-for-profit causes.

“In 2009, I was nervous because — especially in Florida — it wasn’t the best financial year for anybody,” Doyle says. “We’d made some commitments to some local not-for-profits. But it would have been great to have the money sitting in our bank as a reserve.”

Despite the challenges, Doyle says the decision to stick with the commitment was a no-brainer.

“I was brought up under the philosophy that the more you give, the more you get,” he says. “So it keeps your pencil sharp, but it motivates you and it pushes you.

“When we stretched ourselves when we gave a third back to employees — and actually we gave them a little more than a third because we didn’t want anybody hurt — it took everybody by surprise. And once they realized that we were sticking to that and making sure that they were receiving their checks, they realized that we were going to stick to the other third going to not-for-profits.

“It was just another one of those moments where they go to raise their head above some other companies that either went by the wayside or turned the other way.”

The key is view community giving as an investment rather than a donation, Doyle says.

“The theory behind it was if we can support our local community and make it stronger, businesses will thrive,” he says. “And if businesses thrive — our business is very dependent upon other businesses thriving — we will thrive.”

The same goes for employees. Investing a third of your profits back into your people obviously has a positive impact on employee morale. But it also gives Dex a competitive advantage. Much of the company’s business is service-related. So when its service technicians have a real vested interest in retaining customers, it creates a better experience for customers.

“Having control of their financial destiny also empowers employees to take on bigger roles in decision-making — something the company already encourages with its hands-off management style.

“So we try to push them to make a decision today,” Doyle says.

“If they think the customer is right, they should give them that credit. And don’t wait and tell the customer, ‘I’ve got to look into it. I’ll call you back.’ That’s the thing people hate the most. People hate being put off.”

To show people he walks the talk, Doyle also subscribes to the management philosophy of leading by example. He knows that employees want to be a part of companies that have leaders who look out for their best interests and the interests of their community.

Sometimes that requires stepping back, for example, when it helps to empower employees. When he sees one of his managers getting overly involved in their people’s decisions, he likes to remind them that micromanaging goes both ways.

“I always ask them if they’d like me to get more hands on,” he says. “If I feel like they might be micromanaging, I’ll say, ‘Do you want me looking at every decision you make every day? And they always say, ‘Well, no.’ And that works doesn’t it?”

Other times it’s about modeling the values he wants to instill in the organization. Doyle serves on numerous not-for-profits boards as well as committees to support causes that inspire him — showing his people that even the CEO can take time to give back.

“I’ve explained to our management that ‘Look, I’m willing to sacrifice my time and my family time to do this,’ and I expect the same from them,” he says. “But they also see what it gets back.”

Admit what you can do

A big concern with giving away a percentage of your company’s profits is what happens if you don’t have the money. What if I need to fund an acquisition, hire new staff or cut costs during a recession? Doyle knows these challenges all too well.

“I don’t think any of us would have predicted what happened at the end of 2008 and 2009,” Doyle says.

“The fear always is that you give away a third of your profits and that’s a third of your profits you could have had as a nest egg, just in case you do end up in a financial crisis.”

But instead of avoiding profit-sharing initiatives, Doyle simply advises businesses considering these kinds of people strategies to be realistic. Don’t overcommit.

“Obviously, the more people see your name out there supporting local causes, the more local causes come to you, which is good and bad,” he says. “You get to learn a lot about local charities that might be small that are underfunded and have a tremendous impact on our community. But it also comes to a point where you have to turn down certain not-for-profits, which is always tough.”

People involved with not-for-profits are typically pretty passionate. And obviously, you don’t want to destroy anybody’s dreams or hopes. But you also need to make sure you don’t promise more than what you can deliver.

“You have to keep in mind that there are things out of your control that might have a financial impact on your organization,” Doyle says. “We took a philosophy that we’re going to push ourselves by donating a third, and even if we give away that third, we can still survive any storm. Obviously, it’s been tested just going through 2009. So just keep that in mind. Don’t overextend yourself.”

One way the company stays accountable to its commitments is by being incredibly transparent about its financials. Three times a year, Doyle convenes all of Dex’s employees at a town-hall meeting, where he goes over the company’s financials.

By letting employees know exactly where the company stands, you show them that everyone is in it together. So the better you do as a company, the bigger impact the company can have for them and their community.

Every now and then Doyle may have a branch overcommit to a not-for-profit. But in these cases, the company has always been able to back up their donation from corporate.

How did Doyle know a third would be a doable percentage for Dex? Well, he didn’t.

“To be honest with you, that was a total crapshoot,” he says. “That was just a deal I cut with my dad.”

So how should you set your goals for community giving? Doyle suggests coming up with a figure that you can stick to as you grow. That way you’ll be able to see your company’s success pay off.

“When we started, we were very small,” Doyle says. “So the impact locally wasn’t big. Now, you look at it, and the last year, we gave away almost $4 million.”

How to reach: Dex Imaging Inc., (800) 886-2329 or www.deximaging.com

Takeaways:

  • Connect people to the organizations they’re helping.
  • View giving back as an investment.
  • Don’t overcommit.

 

The Doyle File

Dan Doyle Jr.
Co-founder, president and CEO
Dex Imaging Inc.

Born: Baltimore, Md., but has lived in Florida since he was five.

Education: Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

What would you do if you weren’t doing your current job?
I would probably work in the marine industry. I love boats.

What is one part of your daily routine that you wouldn’t change?
I meet my father for breakfast every morning.  This is where the two of us have time to talk about whatever is on our minds with no disruptions.

What do you to regroup on a tough day? 
I walk the seawall behind my house with my 6-year-old son. He loves the outdoors and all living creatures and loves to talk about them.

What do you do for fun? 
I hang out with my family. My wife and I both love having our kids around. We go out for dinner every year on our anniversary with all of them. It’s just fun to spend time with them and hear what they have to say.

Where would you like to go that you’ve never been? 
I would love to go to the Galapagos Islands.

2012 Pillar Award Finalist: Todd Leebow, president, Majestic Steel USA Inc.

Todd Leebow, President, Majestic Steel USA Inc.

Community outreach is deeply engrained in the culture at Majestic Steel USA Inc., from the company’s fundraising efforts to volunteerism to its financial support for local organizations. The national distributor of prime, flat-rolled steel products has continued to engage in initiatives that make a real and lasting impact in Northeast Ohio communities each year.

Under the leadership of President Todd Leebow, Majestic Steel USA drives its mission and mantra of “We Will” by partnering with community organizations that deliver valuable services to the community such as Hunger Network, Achievement Centers for Children, the Red Cross and others.

The same goes for its corporate partners. The company partners with prominent athletic organizations that can help enhance awareness and build widespread support for local causes, such as the Browns’ Touchdown for Tots, the Cleveland Cavaliers Manufacturing Scholarship program to the Cleveland Indians Up to Bat initiative in support of Achievement Centers for Children.

Majestic Steel associates have also logged more than 1,000 combined volunteer hours in support of a wide range of community outreach initiatives, proof that the company owns the results of their efforts.

One of their major areas of focus is Northeast Ohio’s fight against hunger. In 2012, the company collaborated with the Lake Erie Monsters to put on the Shut out Hunger initiative, for which 130 Majestic associates, family and friends volunteered and helped collect more than 1,000 food items for the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland.

Majestic Steel has also served as title sponsor for the Walk for Hunger event for the last five years, raising more than $600,000 to help feed families in Greater Cleveland.

In addition to feet on the ground, Majestic Steel provides financial support to a number of community organizations. In the past year, the company’s total corporate and associate financial contributions surpassed $350,000.

 

How to reach: Majestic Steel USA Inc., (440) 786-2666 or www.majesticsteel.com

2012 Pillar Award Finalist: Robert Smith, CEO, Smith Medical Transportation Systems Inc.

Robert Smith, CEO, Smith Medical Transportation Systems Inc.

Smith Medical Transportation Systems Inc. is the corporate sponsor for the American Red Cross Muskingum Lakes Chapter’s Automated External Defibrillator program, which has so far distributed 200 AEDs. The goal is to provide a defibrillator to every location that has a fire extinguisher in the county.

“Of all the things we do, this is the most important one because it can immediately save someone’s life,” said Robert Smith, CEO of Smith Medical Transportation Systems.

Eight years ago, Smith was also instrumental in negotiating MedFlight operations to Tuscarawas County, which faced an uphill battle trying to locate the service to a rural community. The service remains in a partnership with MedFlight to provide rapid response to critically ill or injured patients.

Among the many organizations that have benefited from Smith Medical Transportation Systems’ service, in addition to the Medflight and the Muskingum Lakes Chapter of the American Red Cross mentioned above, are New Philadelphia’s First Town Days community festival; Dover’s Canal Days community festival; Baltic’s Homecoming community festival; Personal and Family Counseling; Tuscarawas County 4-H Youth; and dozens of community benefit golf outings for various fundraising groups.

Smith Medical Transportation Systems’ corporate financial contributions include $25,000 to Garaway Belden Community Center, a multipurpose community center used by the Garaway School District and Sugarcreek seniors and rented privately for community functions; $25,000 to the Twin City Hospital Emergency Room renovation in Dennison; $25,000 to the Pomerene Hospital Emergency Room renovation in Millersburg; and financial contributions to various projects for Union Hospital in Dover.

Smith’s antique ambulance is often driven in local festivals and parades, and the LifeFlight helicopter is often displayed with its crew at community events. “It helps to be able to present our team members to the community during a time when they are not in crisis,” Smith says.

 

How to reach: Smith Medical Transportation Systems Inc., (330) 602-5180 or www.smithambulance.com

2012 Pillar Award Finalist: Thomas F. Zenty III, CEO, University Hospitals

Thomas F. Zenty III, CEO, University Hospitals

Leading Clevelanders had community service at the forefront of their minds when they met a century and a half ago to establish what would become University Hospitals. But even the most civic-minded among them could scarcely have imagined the scope, impact and creativity of the community service they seeded in 1866.

With its health care network of physicians, hospitals and outpatient facilities, University Hospitals and its flagship academic medical center are renowned for producing clinical research and innovations and educating the next generation of physicians, nurses and health care professionals.

Guided by CEO Thomas F. Zenty III, University Hospitals contributed more than $267 million in services and funding to benefit its community in 2011. These benefits include nearly $140 million in free and subsidized medical care for Northeast Ohio’s neediest residents. Yet today, UH’s community impact extends far beyond its traditional role as a charity-care safety net.

UH trains tomorrow’s medical professionals. It conducts life-saving research to discover therapies and cures for society’s most vexing illnesses. It uses its resources to reach out to its communities to improve health. And University Hospitals is using its civic and economic power as an anchor institution in new ways to revitalize its community and create prosperity.

UH’s board and leadership have emerged as national leaders in local community service. This is enlightened self-interest. Promoting the most vibrant and livable region and the strongest possible economy makes Northeast Ohio more appealing to residents — who are University Hospitals’ customers — and to professionals that UH seeks to recruit and retain.

University Hospitals also sees this work as an extension of its historic civic commitment and an extension of its mission: to heal, to teach and to discover.

 

How to reach: University Hospitals, (216) 844-1000 or www.uhhospitals.org

2012 Clark-Reliance Youth Philanthropy Award Finalist: Tara Coury, author, “The Safe House”

Tara Coury, Author, “The Safe House”

Tara Coury began her volunteer work at the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center of Cleveland when she was a freshman at Magnificat High School and used her skills as an artist to work with an art therapy group. She soon became more interested in the work at the center to help the children deal with the stresses of domestic violence and was inspired to find a way to make more of an impact.

Coury realized she could blend her passion for art with her goal to impact the organization. She developed a group of characters who had psychological profiles similar to the children she worked with at the center and wrote a story around them. She painted pictures and hand-lettered text to accompany them. Her book was a hit with the children and adults at the center.

Tara decided to turn the story into a real children’s book to raise money for the center. She found a local publisher, and the paintings and text were turned into a hardcover children’s book. An initial print run of 1,000 full-color books was completed in October 2011.

Her efforts to market the book were more successful than she dreamed. She and her book were featured on television, radio and in a variety of publications in Northeast Ohio. Sales of her book, “The Safe House,” have helped Tara generate more than $14,000 — all of which has been donated to the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center of Cleveland.

Today, one year later, Tara is a freshman at Barnard College at Columbia University in New York City. She has been using the book as a platform for her cause — to promote awareness of domestic violence.

Her book is available on Amazon.com, as well as numerous bookstores — including the Barnard bookstore.

 

How to reach: Tara Coury, (440) 821-5821 or [email protected]

2012 Pillar Award Finalist: Ellen Burts-Cooper, senior managing partner, Improve Consulting and Training Group LLC

Ellen Burts-Cooper, Senior Managing Partner, Improve Consulting and Training Group LLC

Ellen Burts-Cooper, senior managing partner of personal and professional development training firm Improve Consulting and Training Group LLC, makes giving back a priority for her staff. Employees are required to contribute to the community in at least one of the following three ways: a minimum of four volunteer hours; a financial or material donation; or use of their skills to help, such as offering project assistance.

Their efforts make a big impact, including the building of the Kaboom Playground for Imagine Cleveland Schools in 2012, and providing leadership training for more than 1,000 students annually.

Burts-Cooper holds the company to the same standard as a whole. Improve Consulting and Training Group offers either pro bono or at least a 50 percent discount to numerous nonprofit clients, including National Black MBA Association Cleveland and National, Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Foundation, Girl Scouts of Northeastern Ohio, Cleveland Metroparks, Center for Families and Children, Cleveland Public Library, YWCA Greater Cleveland and many more.

Revenue generated from youth development services is donated back into the community in the form of scholarships, internships, school supplies, college application fee and computers.

The company contributed $25,000 to the Cleveland Foundation to establish the Bagby Palmer Memorial Scholarship Fund in 2011 and gave $5,000 in additional scholarships that year. A $1,000 donation was also made to the National Urban League. In 2012, contributions to additional scholarships rose to $8,000, and the organization donated more than $16,000 in supplies to local nonprofits. Corporate financial contributions for 2011 and 2012 totaled $42,000.

Improve Consulting and Training Group’s efforts on an employee and company level ensure Northeast Ohio continues to be a great place for people and organizations to flourish.

 

How to reach: Improve Consulting and Training Group, (216) 539-8737 or www.improveconsulting.biz

2012 Pillar Award Finalist: Enzo Perfetto, manager, Handyman and a Hammer For Our Troops

Enzo Perfetto, Manager, Handyman and a Hammer For Our Troops

Enzo Perfetto is grateful for the opportunities he received from his father that enabled him to be the successful businessman that he is today. It is largely because of that strong upbringing and the things that he has achieved in his life that Perfetto feels such a calling to find ways to give back to his community.

Perfetto has become a mentor to students who want to learn more about the construction industry at Cuyahoga Valley Career Center. He felt that most colleges don’t offer the skills in heating and cooling systems and electrical processes that students need to excel in the homebuilding arena. So he set out to build a foundation and lay the groundwork for students to gain those kinds of skills.

The result is a summer camp that brings together students in grades seven through nine for 30 hours over a one-week period. They learn about using power tools and get a much-needed base level of knowledge that can put them in a better position to find success in the industry.

Perfetto, manager of Enzoco Homes, which does business as Handyman and a Hammer For Our Troops, also wanted to do something to help veterans. He met with the VA Hospital in Cleveland and learned that veterans’ benefits do not cover minor home repairs.

He is working with the Paralyzed Veterans of America to come up with future fundraising events and a program that would fill a critical need by helping to make these repairs that while minor, still need to be done.

Through both of these programs, Perfetto has found a way to honor the help he received from his father and to make a huge difference in the lives of future construction industry workers and veterans.

 

How to reach: Enzoco Homes, (440) 221-9613 or www.enzoco.com