It was early 2009 when Gregory Jackson realized he might have a ticking time bomb on his hands.
Jackson is the founder, president and CEO of Jackson Automotive Management. Two years ago, the company owned Ford, Toyota, Mercedes Benz, Scion and Saturn dealerships in Michigan and Florida. The dealerships generated $1 billion in sales in 2008 and employed about 550 people.
But over the span of about six months from late 2008 to early 2009, the dominoes started to fall. A series of violent shockwaves hit the American automotive industry as the economy sank into its worst recession since the 1930s. ? General Motors and Chrysler both filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and, subsequently, underwent reorganization and streamlining. GM committed to moving forward with the Cadillac, GMC, Buick and Chevrolet brands, leaving the corporation to either find new owners for the Saturn, Pontiac, Hummer and Saab brands or discontinue them.
Jackson owned five Saturn dealerships, comprising half of his work force, which spent half a year on edge waiting for a definite word on Saturn’s future. In the summer of 2009, after a deal between GM and Penske Automotive Group fell through, months of waiting and wondering culminated with the worst fears of Jackson and his staff realized: Saturn was done. All new production was halted in October 2009, and all retail franchises would be closed by the end of October 2010.
“I can’t sugarcoat it. It was stressful, and it was very disheartening,” Jackson says. “There is nothing worse than to know someone’s family, walk in and tell them that they don’t have a job anymore — particularly when these were successful, profitable businesses just yesterday. There was a lot of crying among people. It was very emotional, due to the loss of jobs and the financial hardship you knew people were going to be under, both employees and managers.”
The death of Saturn tested Jackson as a leader and a communicator. He had to pilot his business through a devastating blow to morale and five dealerships’ worth of lost revenue, which dropped his company’s 2009 sales to $600 million.
What the circumstances reinforced to him was the principles of good business leadership: Keep your employees informed and make wise financial decisions.
Keep information flowing
The hardest pill to swallow for the employees at Jackson’s Saturn dealer was the fact that Saturn was a moneymaker for Jackson’s company. The cars were selling and the brand was still popular. When viewed from the store level, there was no reason to believe the dealers should ever be in danger of closing.
But car dealers are caught in the middle, between the purchasing habits of consumers and the top-level decisions of the automakers that supply the product. If one or the other stops supporting the dealer, the business is in jeopardy.
In any business situation, you have to realize what you can and can’t control. You can’t control market fluctuations, but you can control how your business prepares for and reacts to the fluctuations.
At Jackson Automotive Management, Jackson and his leadership team couldn’t control what was happening at GM headquarters, but they could control the flow of information.
“When we were going through all of this with Saturn, what we did was share information on an almost daily basis,” Jackson says. “We were getting information almost daily, when Penske was going to buy Saturn and then all of that blew up after we thought it was a done deal. When GM first announced it was going to close Saturn, there was some question as to whether they were really going to do it.”
With many questions bouncing around the shop and showroom floor and with few answers evident, Jackson kept in contact with the general managers of his Saturn dealers, making sure they had the latest and most comprehensive information available to disseminate to employees.
“Almost daily, the general managers were walking around their stores, fielding questions from employees,” Jackson says. “It was not unusual for the general manager to walk through the service department and a couple of technicians would come up and ask about something they had heard floating around. Before you knew it, five or six technicians would be up there talking to the general manager.
“The general manager would say, ‘I have this e-mail. Here is the latest word I’ve heard; you know as much as I know.’ The employees were appreciative of that. They took all the information in, and then they’d go and tell the rest of the people in that department, so everyone was up to date. There was nothing for us to hide.”
It is difficult to be frank and deliver the unvarnished truth when the news could hurt your collective morale and possibly your bottom line. But if you don’t fill the need for information, your people will. The rumor mill will pick up steam as employees take bits and pieces of news and try to form conclusions. The end result is usually destructive.
“The reality is, we’re human beings, your workers are human beings and we’re emotional,” Jackson says. “They are affected by everything from talking to their neighbor over the back fence, to talking with the lady ahead of them in the grocery line, to talking with their buddy at the bar. All of these people are giving them different stories. So you want to stop the effects of that immediately.
“You might try to create a few distractions to keep people’s minds focused on something besides the bad news. We had an event where we took all employees to see a Red Wings hockey game. We had a big ‘Sex and the City’ movie premiere night. It was just trying to have a few fun things to reduce the outside distractions and keep people loyal to the business.”
An outing at a sporting event or a staff movie night can be beneficial for taking employees’ minds off of the problems that the business is facing. But if the time comes to deliver bad news, such as layoffs or cutbacks, Jackson says you should remember that all good communication is rooted in honesty. The bad news you deliver is still miles better than the bad news you don’t deliver or try to sugarcoat.
“I’d say you have to handle it delicately but directly,” he says. “Again, the worst thing you can do is to not be completely honest with people about what is going on. The news media, the rumor mill, it’s always going to be alive and active, and the worst thing you can do is to be less than honest and allow people to carry rumors with them. You lose a lot of faith and people are emotionally distraught. You don’t want them to do something unhealthy for them or for the business in a highly emotional time.”
Take a conservative approach
The loss of Saturn hurt Jackson Automotive Management with regard to morale, manpower and sales. But in spite of all the negative fallout, the business remained on solid financial footing. Jackson attributes the resilience to a conservative financial game plan in which he emphasized rainy-day planning.
To endure bad financial times, you need to lay the groundwork when times are more prosperous. Jackson lays the groundwork for future success by limiting the amount of debt his business shoulders.
“One of the good things about our business is that we’ve never had a lot of debt,” he says. “As a result, we did have some cash and were able to weather the storm. We didn’t come out unscathed, but we were still healthy. We’ve always run very tight with regard to our expense structure, so when a lot of people started dialing back their operations, we didn’t have to do a lot of dialing back. We were already efficient.”
With some cash available, Jackson was able to open a new Mitsubishi franchise in Florida, and transfer some of his Saturn employees there, helping to cushion the blow for at least some of his people.
To acquire financial flexibility when the economy goes sour, you need to refrain from overly aggressive spending when times are good and you have extra cash in the coffers. Just because you have the cash to spend on a new venture doesn’t mean you always have to do it. You have to know when to pounce on an opportunity that makes sense for your business and matches well with your business plan and when to hold back.
“My philosophy is that if you maintain a level of conservatism, then you never have to have a fire drill,” Jackson says. “A lot of businesses went into a fire-drill mentality, because they were overly aggressive and maybe even greedy. They may be full of what Warren Buffett calls irrational exuberance. But I think if you maintain a level of conservatism, while still being able to jump in and out of an aggressive mode when necessary, that’s a good balance. A certain level of conservatism breeds safety.”
If you are going to take a chance on a new business opportunity, make sure it makes sense for your situation and make sure you have performed detailed research on the market potential of the idea.
“Don’t leverage yourself too much from a debt standpoint,” Jackson says. “Be careful about building it and hoping they will come. Don’t go out and build without an absolute certainty that the market is there. That’s not what a lot of dealers did. A lot went in and overbuilt. They built buildings and leveraged themselves out with extreme debt. Then, as cash flow slowed down, they couldn’t make their payments. That happened to businesses as a whole, not just auto dealers. So you want to have more expense structure than you think you might need. I believe in running things more tightly as opposed to loose.”
The way you maintain that level of control is to measure your goals, your finances and your spending habits on an ongoing basis. At Jackson Automotive Management, each dealer communicates its projected needs for the coming year to Jackson and his corporate leadership team. Jackson wants his general managers to think along the lines of a CEO, taking a wide-angle view to the next year’s projected expenditures, so there are as few surprises as possible.
“If you’re anticipating needing extra personnel, giving them raises or bonuses, you plan that out, put it into your forecast and approval process,” Jackson says. “That’s as opposed to a random manager promising a raise to an employee and then you end up adding that overhead as you go. Or worse, promising a raise and then realizing you don’t have the financial ability to do it, and then you have a morale issue on your hands.
“You have to have good financial controls in place to pilot a business through a recession like this. You need to have those approval processes for capital expenditures and the adding of personnel. A lot of that involves good yearly planning, which ensures that you can maintain proper control over those types of things.”
How to reach: Jackson Automotive Management and Mercedes-Benz of St. Clair Shores, (586) 773-2369 or www.mercedesbenzofstclairshores.com
The Jackson file
founder, president and CEO
Jackson Automotive Management
Education: Bachelor of science degree, accounting, Morris Brown College; MBA, Clark Atlanta University Graduate School of Business
First job: When I was a kid, I used to work in the local stores in my neighborhood taking out garbage. I was the kid out there hauling two-by-fours when the men in the neighborhood were building something. Later on, I had a paper route.
What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?
Cash is king. Without it, you can’t run your business. A lot of businesses are around now because they had cash, and they’re now poised to be major players because the industry has shrunk.
What traits or skills are essential for a business leader?
You need to have a strong understanding of finance. You need to have good people skills and the ability to make hard decisions with the knowledge that people are going to get hurt. You have to understand how your decisions will impact people’s lives, and then work to minimize the hurt.
What is your definition of success?
Success for me is having good, strong children who have grown up to be productive citizens. It starts with family. On the professional side, it is to create jobs and opportunities for people, participate in the world economy and make a difference there.
When Camille Cheney Fournier was 10 years old, she was already well established as a vital part of the family business.
“We used to have three-part commissions, and we had to tear them and get them all sorted out,” she says. “I was pretty little, because I remember I couldn’t reach far enough to put the checks in numeric order.”
But even in such a seemingly small role, she learned a valuable lesson that has stayed with her through the years and helps her as she now leads the family business, SWS Re-Distribution Co. Inc., as owner and CEO.
“It takes everybody to make the business work,” Fournier says. “It really does. Some of those tasks that I was doing, like putting checks in numerical order or sorting salesmen commission reports, all that had to be done, and somebody had to do it. It was something that even a kid could do so that the employees at the office could do something they had the skill to handle.
“It goes to show that there are so many jobs at a company, and they’re all important, and they’re all needed, and they all need to be appreciated.”
By encouraging teamwork and valuing every job at the company, which sources and redistributes food service products globally, people know how important their roles are. This has helped employees work together to increase efficiencies internally as well as for their customers, which has allowed the organization to grow from $159.3 million in revenue in 2006 to $253.5 million in 2009.
“Without everybody doing their part, it doesn’t work,” she says.
Hire and train team-oriented people
For Fournier, having the right type of people who will be willing to work collaboratively with other team members and customers has been critical to the company’s growth over the past few years. That happens by making sure she hires the right people.
“You have to have the right people that care and are proactive and ask questions that go beyond what is just expected,” she says.
It starts in the interview process by clearly laying out how SWS operates and what the company’s philosophies are regarding customer service, teamwork and collaboration.
“By talking to them, you can really feel that they would be the right person,” she says. “If they ask good questions in the interview process, they’re probably going to be a questioning kind of person to begin with.”
The questions people ask can vary depending on the job, but she says that if they ask about how people stay sharp in their positions and how they make sure they do the best work possible, no matter what the situation, that can be an indication of a good fit.
Once hired, cross-training them is critical to success.
“Staying sharp is really important,” she says. “We try to diversify through the type of job that each person has so their job is broken up a little bit more, they have a little bit different responsibilities so that when they come back to one that may be a little bit more monotonous, they can still be sharp doing that task.”
For example, a customer service person would primarily spend his or her day taking orders from customers and helping those customers build their truckloads of various products. The customer service people may take several of those orders and work with the customers back and forth to make the loads as efficient as possible, but they may also have to take a timeout and check someone else’s order to make sure that other customer service person made his or her order the correct way and in the most efficient manner possible.
“It’s kind of like a puzzle,” she says. “If you have a different set of eyes look at it, all of a sudden you go, ‘Oh, this could be done a little bit differently,’ so they make suggestions.”
Additionally, someone may pull an order for a customer, but then someone else will come through and check to make sure it’s all correctly pulled.
“We try to break up different people’s responsibilities, and then we throw someone in a totally different area of the company to do another task to show them what they’ve done is related to another area of the company, too.”
This approach to training helps not only avoid problems and errors, but it also eliminates silos from being built because employees are constantly doing tasks outside their main area and seeing every aspect of each order from different points of view.
“It’s nice for different areas of the office, whether you’re in customer service or accounts payable or accounts receivable or shipping or purchasing to understand how it all fits together,” she says. “When you understand that, you understand how important everything you do is and how important it is to do it correctly.”
While this approach helps the company, it also helps the employees, as well. As they learn different roles and aspects of the business, it makes them more versatile. One manager started in customer service and then went to shipping and then accounts receivable before landing her management position.
“She knows it from the ground up,” Fournier says. “We try to promote from within, because our business is somewhat complex, and it helps if our employees truly understand all the different aspects.”
Help employees build customer relationships
The greatest compliment that Fournier has received from a customer is that her team is always able to find solutions to any kind of situation or problem that a customer faces.
“Part of it starts within getting all of the people that work in your company to realize how important each of their areas of the company are and that we all make up a cog in the wheel to make it all work,” she says. “It’s important for me to meet with the customer and listen and understand what their needs are and be able to come to them with good proactive solutions and proactive ideas about what they might want to change in the future. It’s important that everybody in my company understand how important they are in making our customer satisfied and happy.”
This started with looking at how trucks were loaded. A typical truck will hold 26 skids of a product, but by being creative, SWS employees can get 35 or 36 skids on a truck.
“When they’re training, they go out and actually see the loads going out,” she says. “What we explain is, ‘This is a heavy product, and it can have something stacked on it. This is a light product, and it cannot, but it can go on top of something. This is really tall.’
“Just to understand what you’re selling when you’re sitting in an office is so important to being able to be a really good partner with your customer.”
One manager took the initiative to create a chart of which products were light, heavy and stackable to give to customers so that the customers could then maximize their orders as well to save money.
“It’s really being proactive,” Fournier says. “I’ve got a great group of people being very proactive that work here.”
That same manager also pulls her customers’ order history so she can see what their needs are and how fast they move through certain products and uses that information to make suggestions to them about what could be a good add-on to their order to create more efficiencies.
“You also have to know what your customers’ sales are and what their needs are and how fast they go through their products, because turns on the inventory is also a very important factor for the customer,” she says. “They have to be able to turn the merchandise fast enough that they want to get as much on the truck as possible so they’re not having to buy another truckload sooner because they’ve run out of a product.”
Beyond looking at their order histories, you also have to communicate with your customers. Fournier and her employees meet with customers over the phone and Internet daily and weekly and also meet with them in person two or three times a year.
“[It’s] communication — meeting with them and talking to them and finding out what their problems are and their concerns and working on solutions to correct any of the problems that their company is facing,” she says.
When she meets with them, she asks them what they like and dislike about different products that they’re currently using, but she also asks what they would like to see changed or made differently.
The approach of trying to save the customer money and time has built strong relationships that have helped fuel the company’s growth.
“We’re all on the same team trying to do the same thing,” Fournier says. “That’s a large, important part of our business — that everybody realized that we’re all on the same team. It’s not just my company that’s a team. The customers are part of the team. The end users are part of the team. We’re all in it together, and if the whole group of everybody isn’t happy and satisfied and saving money and working well, then we’re missing something, and we need to re-evaluate because that’s our job.”
How to reach: SWS Re-Distribution Co. Inc., (972) 466-9720 or www.swsco.net
The Cheney Fournier file
Camille Cheney Fournier
owner and CEO
SWS Re-Distribution Co. Inc.
Born: Dallas — born and raised; I’m a fourth generation.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in textiles and clothing, University of Texas at Austin
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a buyer in a clothing store. University of Texas didn’t have fashion merchandising — the closest thing they had was textiles.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
Tell the truth, even if they don’t want to hear it. That’s probably the best. Always tell the truth, always be honest. You have to be fair — that’s another one.
What’s your favorite board game and why?
Monopoly because I like the strategy of trying to buy the different properties. I like the strategy of the different combinations of properties you can buy in your little portfolio. ... I think games keep your brain sharp, and it’s entertainment, and it’s distracting. It’s kind of like going on a mini-vacation, and it takes your mind off of what is going on in your life, and then you’re fresh to come back to it. It’s just like reading. When I read, I usually read fiction, because when I read, it’s a release and I enjoy it, and then I can come back to reality and life and have a fresh perspective. It’s important to have enough down time that you’re always positive and sharp in your business or your family or whatever you’re doing in life.
What’s your favorite book that you’ve read?
Recently, ‘The Kite Runner.’ I’ve read several books that I liked lately. ‘The Help’ was good, too. They’re just different. It’s real interesting to see different people’s perspective. ‘Same Kind of Different as Me,’ that’s probably one of the better books I’ve read.
The wave of change in Ohio’s political leadership had quite an effect on this year’s Power 100. Ted Strickland and Lee Fisher have been replaced by the newly elected Gov. John Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. Kasich shoots up the list to debut at No. 10. while Taylor comes in at No. 60. The duo takes office with a swell of hope that it will be able to get Ohio’s economy moving again.
Two of Columbus’ civic leaders are also moving up this year. Mayor Michael Coleman moves from No. 3 to No. 2 as his campaign begins for a fourth term as leader of Ohio’s largest city while Gene Harris, superintendent of Columbus City Schools, jumps 24 spots to No. 50. Harris has played a key role in helping the district provide a better education to students.
Elaine Roberts makes another big leap with her efforts for leading Port Columbus International Airport, and she is joined on the way up by Chris Taylor at Mission Essential Personnel LLC and Joel Pizzuti with The Pizzuti Cos.
There are a total of 14 newcomers on this year’s list, meaning 14 other powerful figures were left out. There is no change at the top, of course, as Les Wexner keeps his spot. Limited Brands had a great year in 2010 and expectations are high for 2011.
So with that, we present the 2011 Power 100 list of the most influential business, civic and political leaders as ranked by our editors.
Numbers in parentheses are 2010 rankings.
1. Les Wexner
chairman and CEO, Limited Brands Inc. (1)
When only 420 people in the whole world are worth more than you financially, life can’t be too bad. According to Forbes, that is precisely where Wexner sits, with a net worth just shy of $3 billion. Limited Brands Inc. was coming off a challenging year as sales dipped for the third year in a row to $8.6 billion in 2009. But the company outperformed expectations in 2010, a sign that things could be turning around. Wexner remains chairman of the Ohio State University Board of Trustees and The Columbus Partnership. And as he told us in December, he’s always on the lookout for the next great idea. So stay tuned.
2. Michael Coleman
mayor, Columbus (3)
Despite the tidal wave of Republicans that washed over Columbus in November, Coleman, a Democrat, is still standing. Coleman plans to seek a fourth term this fall as mayor of Ohio’s largest city, and Republicans admit that he will be tough to beat. If he wins and completes his term, he would become the longest continuously serving mayor in Columbus history. One thing Coleman can proudly point to in his campaign is his ability to save money. His proposed budget for 2011 would increase the city’s rainy day fund balance to $33 million by the end of the next fiscal year. In these fiscally challenging times in Ohio, that’s an accomplishment.
3. John F. Wolfe
publisher, The Columbus Dispatch; chairman and CEO, The Dispatch Printing Co. (2)
Any fear that may exist about the future of print journalism wasn’t enough to stop The Columbus Dispatch from being named the best newspaper in Ohio for the second year in a row by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. The paper also won 35 awards in the annual contest, including 14 first-place awards — the most among Ohio’s largest newspapers.
4. E. Gordon Gee
president, The Ohio State University (4)
Gee made national headlines last fall when he suggested that the Boise States of the world don’t deserve a shot at eternal glory in college football because they don’t play a strong enough schedule. While the remarks drew much scorn in the sporting world, leading Gee to back off his position, the story reminded people about the power of Gee’s voice. Earlier in the year, Gee raised the idea of making changes in how tenure is awarded to college professors. Gee suggested that too much emphasis is placed on research and publishing prowess instead of teaching skill. We likely haven’t heard the last of this conversation.
5. Ron Pizzuti
chairman and CEO, The Pizzuti Cos. (5)
The times are tough in the real estate and construction industry, but The Pizzuti Cos. just keeps chugging along. The Columbus-based developer began work on a 700,000-square-foot warehouse in Marion for Whirlpool as well as a new office complex for the appliance manufacturer in Michigan. Pizzuti is also building a new center for the contract packager Accel Inc. in New Albany. And to cap it off, the developer was named Columbus’ best commercial real estate developer. Not a bad year.
6. Don M. Casto III
partner, Don M. Casto Organization (7)
Casto is another real estate company that is bucking the economic trend and making things happen in the construction business. The only catch is that most of these projects are either outside of Central Ohio or outside the state entirely. Here’s hoping 2011 finds more dirt flying in Columbus.
7. Steve Rasmussen
CEO, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. (10)
The company announced plans to move 1,400 suburban office jobs to vacant space in its downtown headquarters, a move that could help create even more jobs in Central Ohio. On the financial front, while 2010 revenue was off the pace from 2009 through three quarters, total net operating income was up substantially. It rose from $702 million in the first nine months of 2009 to $975 million for same period in 2010.
8. Tanny Crane
president and CEO, Crane Group (9)
Crane was named in August to the board of directors for Huntington Bancshares Inc. Her past experience as board chair for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland was cited as a key factor in the appointment. She comes aboard just as Huntington seems to be turning things around. As for Crane Group, the company remains a solid presence in Columbus.
9. Alex Shumate
managing partner, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP, Columbus office (6)
Shumate’s effort to help Gov. Ted Strickland craft a new school funding plan for Ohio won’t mean much now that Strickland is gone. But that doesn’t change the fact that Shumate has been and still is one of Columbus’ most respected lawyers. He continues to serve as global managing partner at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP. He is also a fellow of the Ohio State Bar Association and a life member of the Sixth Circuit Judicial Conference.
10. John Kasich
governor, Ohio (new)
Kasich steps into his new job leading the state of Ohio with a great deal of support but, perhaps, even more pressure. There is little patience on either side of the aisle these days, so Kasich will not get much of a honeymoon at the Statehouse. He’s talked about privatizing job creation, eliminating the Ohio Department of Development and phasing out the state income tax. But, first, he must find a way to balance the state’s budget by closing a hole that could approach $8 billion. So we say, good luck, Governor. You’re going to need it.
11. Steve Steinour
chairman and CEO, Huntington Bancshares Inc. (11)
Steinour was confident he could turn around the fortunes of Huntington, and through the first three quarters of 2010, he appears to be making strides toward doing just that. Steinour cited the growth in auto loans as a particular bright spot. Both Moody’s and S&P raised their ratings outlooks for Huntington during the second half of 2010. So the future appears to be looking up for Huntington.
12. David Blom
president and CEO, OhioHealth (12)
The health care system completed its transition in the fall to operate four urgent care centers in Dublin, Grove City, Lewis Center and New Albany. OhioHealth was also named a Top 10 health system for the second year in a row by Thomson Reuters. Finally, Blom who serves as secretary of the Central Ohio Hospital Council, was honored by TechColumbus as its Executive of the Year for companies with more than 50 employees.
13. Jay Schottenstein
chairman, Schottenstein Management, American Eagle Outfitters, Retail Ventures Inc., SB Capital Group, DSW (8)
It was an up-and-down year for Schottenstein. Sales at both American Eagle and DSW were up over 2009 through the third quarter of 2010. Schottenstein also bought 500,000 shares in American Eagle for $6.79 million in September. On the downside, however, news leaked that Schottenstein has been dealing with a family legal squabble that could have ramifications on his family’s vast holdings.
14. Larry James
partner, Crabbe, Brown & James LLP (13)
James continues to be near the heart of what’s happening in Columbus. He served as chair of the Columbus City Council Charter Review Committee and the Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent Advisor Panel in 2010. He also continues his civic involvement as president of the board of trustees for the King Arts Complex, president of the Lincoln Theater Association and co-founder of the African-American Leadership Academy. In addition, James was named general counsel to the USA Track & Field board of directors.
15. John Beavers
partner, Bricker & Eckler LLP (14)
Beavers established and directs the Business First Advisory Board Exchange that finds, trains and places experienced advisers on advisory boards of business organizations. He was named Columbus Corporate Lawyer of the Year in the 2010 edition of “Best Lawyers.” He continues to be a respected voice in Columbus when the conversation turns to governance.
16. Donna James
managing director, Lardon & Associates LLC (15)
James was appointed by President Obama to chair the National Women’s Business Council responsible for providing recommendations for growing women-owned small businesses. She also serves on numerous boards and is the founder and chair of the Center for Healthy Families, a nonprofit focused on transforming the lives of pregnant and parenting teens and their children.
17. Curtis A. Loveland
partner, Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur LLP (16)
Loveland was once again ranked as one of the top lawyers in his area of practice for his work with corporate clients, mergers and acquisitions. Loveland also serves as board secretary for footwear retailer Rocky Brands Inc., where sales through three quarters of 2010 were up over the same period for 2009.
18. Dr. Steve Allen
CEO, Nationwide Children’s Hospital (18)
June 18, 2010, will go down in the books as a pretty good day for Allen. It was a day in which he welcomed both Gov. Ted Strickland and President Obama to his nationally renowned hospital. Obama’s visit was to discuss a road expansion project that Nationwide Children’s is spearheading for a neighboring pediatric hospital scheduled to open in 2012. Strickland arrived later to sign an important bill to help the effort to end childhood obesity.
19. Melissa Ingwersen
district president, Central Ohio, KeyBank (19)
It was announced in late December that Ingwersen would be leaving JPMorgan Chase, where she has been in charge of Central Ohio bank operations, to take on a very similar role with Cleveland-based KeyBank. Ingwersen began her new position in Columbus in January.
20. Ty Marsh
chairman, Columbus Bicentennial 2012 Organizing Committee (17)
Marsh resigned his post last summer as president and CEO of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. He said he had accomplished the goals he had established when he took the position and felt it was time to move on to new challenges. He didn’t stay out of the public eye for long, however, as Marsh is now a key player in the plans to celebrate Columbus’ 200th birthday.
21. Bea Wolper
co-founder and partner, Emens & Wolper Law Firm Co. LPA (21)
Wolper’s law firm is up and running and focused on providing legal services for family-owned businesses and closely held firms. Wolper is a frequent author and lecturer on estate planning, wealth transfer, family-owned business issues and acquisitions. She also teaches courses on entrepreneurship and succession planning at Ohio Dominican University and for the Ohio State Bar Association.
22. Michael Fiorile
president and COO, The Dispatch Printing Co. (23)
Fiorile has moved on from being chairman of the NBC Affiliate Board to chairman emeritus. Fiorile played a key role in the movement of NBC affiliates to make a change with “The Jay Leno Show” when it’s 10 p.m. slot began to erode ratings for their late local news broadcasts. Fiorile was hailed for the strong leadership he demonstrated in this situation and overall.
23. Matthew G. Kallner
attorney, Law Offices of Matthew G. Kallner (22)
Kallner’s quiet hand continues to be as strong as ever, particularly with Republicans back in control of the state government. In the area of economic development, Kallner is involved with the efforts of CODA Automotive and the relocation of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. headquarters.
24. Dr. Steven G. Gabbe
CEO, OSU Medical Center (new)
Gabbe continues to steer a $1 billion medical center expansion. The largest construction project in OSU history has accounted for 10,000 jobs, with 6,000 permanent jobs at the medical center and 4,000 other positions that can indirectly be attributed to the project.
Gabbe has also agreed, at the request of OSU President Gordon Gee, to extend his leadership as senior vice president and chief executive officer of the OSU Medical Center beyond his initial contract.
25. Curtis Moody
president and CEO, Moody-Nolan Inc. (29)
It’s been another good year for Curtis Moody. In March, he was the speaker for Ohio State’s winter commencement. He spoke in the Jerome Schottenstein Center, one of several buildings on the OSU campus that he personally designed as principal architect. Less than a month later, Moody watched proudly as the new $118 million student union building opened on the campus, giving OSU’s 55,000 students a place to enjoy, grow and thrive.
26. Peter Geier
CEO, OSU Health System; COO, OSU Medical Center (20)
Geier pointed to increased demand for patient services as a key reason for OSU’s foray into the retail health clinic business. Two FastCare centers opened at Giant Eagle grocery stores in the Columbus area, geared to treat ailments and conditions that do not require a trip to the emergency room.
27. Russell Gertmenian
managing partner, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP (27)
Gertmenian’s law firm was one of a dozen Columbus-area firms to take part in a scholarship drive for The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. He continues as a board member with the Columbus Metropolitan Library Foundation and is also part of the Ohio Business Roundtable.
28. Rob Portman
U.S. senator, Ohio (new)
Portman is a familiar name to Ohioans and to those who follow the national political scene. While he is one Republican replacing another, taking over for retired Senator George Voinovich, Portman still rode the wave of voter frustration with the Democrats. He successfully hammered Lee Fisher on his failure to create jobs for Ohioans, so we’ll see how Portman fares in helping people get back to work. Like Kasich, results will be expected quickly.
29. Linda Heasley
chairman and CEO, Limited Stores (30)
The company has relocated to new headquarters in New Albany and is riding a wave of fresh energy. Heasley is confident she can build on the fact that the company turned a profit for the first time in 16 years and continue the women’s clothing retailer’s success.
30. Jack Kessler
owner, John W. Kessler Co.; chairman, The New Albany Co. (24)
Kessler was one of a number of Columbus business leaders to co-host a pre-election fundraiser last October for new U.S. House Speaker John Boehner. Otherwise, Kessler kept a rather low profile in 2010.
31. Doug Kridler
president and CEO, The Columbus Foundation (31)
Kridler leads the ninth-largest community foundation in the United States. The group has committed $500,000 to the Great Needs Challenge, which helps those in need with health care, housing, food and work assistance. Kridler also serves on the board and executive committee of Compete Columbus, a leadership group working to develop a regional economic development strategy.
32. John P. McConnell
chairman and CEO, Worthington Industries Inc.; majority owner, Columbus Blue Jackets (35)
Worthington began to turn things around in 2010, recovering from what the company described as its worst year ever. While net sales fell to $1.9 billion from $2.6 billion in 2009, the company realized net earnings of $51.5 million, compared to a loss of $103.7 million in 2009. As for the Blue Jackets, McConnell posted a video on the team’s website expressing cautious optimism about the team’s future in Columbus and thanking fans for their continued support. But he also called on other community leaders to step up and work with him to find a solution to the team’s arena issues.
33. Jeffrey Wadsworth
president and CEO, Battelle Memorial Institute (39)
Wadsworth was named to the board of trustees at The Ohio State University as well as to President Obama’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The council supports the Obama administration’s innovation strategy by helping to develop policies to foster entrepreneurship and help get new ideas from the lab to the marketplace.
34. Roger Geiger
Ohio executive director, National Federation of Independent Business (34)
Geiger worked hard to help John Kasich unseat Ted Strickland and become Ohio’s new governor. One of his key talking points was a need for lower taxes in Ohio to help smaller businesses. He also encouraged business groups to let their voices be heard when it comes to endorsing candidates for public office.
35. John B. Gerlach Jr.
chairman, president and CEO, Lancaster Colony Corp. (32)
Lancaster’s net sales for fiscal 2010, which closed at the end of June, once again topped $1 billion and grew 0.5 percent over fiscal 2009. Gerlach continues to focus on staying flexible to accommodate future growth potential. He also remains active with the Dean’s Advisory Council for The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business.
36. Boyce Safford III
director, Columbus Department of Development (36)
Safford took part in an economic development round table in April with other city leaders to discuss strategies for job retention, creation and attraction. He also called on additional funding to be allocated to social service agencies to help them meet an increased demand for their services.
37. Gene Smith
director of athletics, The Ohio State University (38)
Smith is chairman of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee for the 2010-11 academic year, a term which began last September. So you can look for Smith next month on CBS as he reviews this year’s selection process for March Madness. Smith also received a pay raise at OSU that makes him one of the highest paid athletic directors in the country, according to the Associated Press. Smith manages a $120 million budget with 36 intercollegiate sports, the most of any athletic department in the nation.
38. Larry Hilsheimer
president and COO, Nationwide Direct & Customer Solutions (41)
Hilsheimer is focused on Internet strategy and operations, affinity, strategic alliances, and Nationwide’s call-center-based sales units. In addition, he oversees Nationwide Bank, Nationwide Better Health, Veterinary Pet Insurance and Nationwide’s Customer Services organization. He also sits on the Dean’s Advisory Council at the OSU Fisher College of Business and is a board member of The Ohio State University Alumni Association.
39. Jack Ruscilli
chairman, Ruscilli Construction Co. Inc. (40)
Ruscilli continues to serve as chairman and work with the fourth generation at Ruscilli’s to lead the construction firm. The company took on a $24.4 million construction project in late 2009 to gut Cunz Hall at The Ohio State University and recycled much of the old material from the building to show the benefit of doing so.
40. Lewis Smoot Sr.
chairman and CEO, Smoot Construction Co. (33)
Smoot has stepped down from his role as president at Smoot Construction Co. and passed the reins to his nephew, Mark Cain, who has led the company’s office in Washington, D.C., for several years.
41. Michael Gonsiorowski
Central Ohio regional president, PNC Financial Services Group Inc. (42)
The PNC Foundation committed $250,000 in grants to BalletMet Columbus and the Center of Science and Industry for programming that will help prepare area preschoolers to succeed in school. The program incorporates creative movement and science into learning activities designed to engage their minds and bodies. This represents the first major grant effort by PNC in the Columbus area. Gonsiorowski has also been serving as chair of the board of trustees for United Way of Central Ohio. As for PNC, the company reported a slight dip in revenue but a larger gain in net income for the first three quarters of 2010.
42. David Milenthal
CEO, The Milenthal Group (43)
Milenthal and his company were big supporters of both Gov. Ted Strickland and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, who were ousted in the November election. Otherwise, Milenthal kept a rather low profile in 2010.
43. Kurt Tunnell
managing partner, Bricker & Eckler LLP (45)
Tunnell was elected managing partner at the firm in February 2010. He spoke last spring to the Ohio Chemistry Technology Council about the potential impact of the 2010 election on chemical manufacturers. Tunnell remains a respected voice in the Columbus region and is being looked to for guidance at Bricker & Eckler.
44. Abigail Wexner
founder and chair, Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence (50)
Wexner continues to serve as the chair of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Center for Child and Family Advocacy and is the founding chair of KidsOhio.org. The latter group has been busy in 2010 advocating for students in Ohio’s schools and raising awareness in less-publicized issues, such as the growing poverty in Ohio’s suburban school districts.
45. Michael Morris
chairman, president and CEO, AEP (51)
AEP reached $13.5 billion in 2009 revenue and was on pace to top that figure after the third quarter of 2010. Morris is leading efforts to develop an advanced interstate high-voltage transmission system that is both reliable and efficient. Morris is chairman of the Columbus Downtown Development Corp. and Capitol South.
46. Curt Steiner
senior vice president for government affairs, The Ohio State University (46)
Steiner continues to strengthen OSU’s ties with government and civic leaders. His efforts have led to formal recognition of OSU by Ohio’s Board of Regents as the state’s national research university. OSU is using this position to push an aggressive agenda at the congressional level.
47. Nancy Kramer
founder and CEO, Resource Interactive (47)
Kramer leads the largest independent, woman-owned agency in the United States. Her company has been chosen by Advertising Age as one of five agencies on its way to the top.
48. Chester R. Jourdan Jr.
executive director, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (48)
Jourdan was elected to the American Highway Users Alliance Board in October. The advocacy organization promotes safe, uncongested highways and enhanced freedom of mobility. His term will run through 2013.
49. Dwight Smith
founder and CEO, Sophisticated Systems (49)
Smith took part in a panel discussion at The Ohio State University in late November to discuss the state of the national economy. The discussion, which included Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, focused on the importance of finding a way to create new jobs. Smith said his IT company is taking advantage of every opportunity it can to drive new business.
50. Gene T. Harris
superintendent, Columbus City Schools (74)
Harris was honored in February with the Community Leadership Award presented by the Key Club at an event hosted by Les and Abigail Wexner. Harris was also rewarded for her efforts to move the school district from academic emergency to continuous improvement with a new four-year contract that also included a pay raise. Harris had deferred previous votes by the board to give her a salary bump.
51. Elaine Roberts
president and CEO, Port Columbus International Airport (60)
Roberts is flying high after a five-year agreement was reached that offers an unprecedented sharing of 75 percent of net airport revenues with no cap to airlines that operate out of Port Columbus. She cited her team’s discipline in managing costs and increased passenger activity for the ability to share revenue and expand services.
52. Bob Weiler Sr.
chairman, The Robert Weiler Co. (52)
Weiler serves on the board for the Ohio Capital Corp. for Housing, which seeks to provide affordable housing in Ohio. He also continues to offer perspective as the Leader-In-Residence at Franklin University’s Leadership Center.
53. Rich Langdale
founder and managing partner, NCT Ventures; interim CEO, DOmedia LLC (53)
Langdale is a serial entrepreneur who has founded or co-founded more than a dozen companies. DOmedia is his latest business venture, a media planning and buying platform that covers alternative, traditional and digital out-of-home media. Langdale didn’t create this company, but he was named interim CEO in July to assist in raising capital for the business’s growth.
54. Jordan A. Miller Jr.
president and CEO, Fifth Third Bank, Central Ohio (54)
Miller lent his services to another Central Ohio organization when he was named to the James Cancer Hospital Board that oversees the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. He is on numerous other civic boards, including the Columbus Partnership, United Way of Central Ohio and the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges.
55. Jane Grote Abell
chair, Donatos Pizzeria LLC (55)
Abell continues to provide strategic counsel for the business in her new role. The company announced in July it had sold the majority share of its Cincinnati and Indianapolis markets to Titan Restaurant Group LLC. The result will be a transition from company-owned restaurants to franchise-owned units, plus the addition of 10 new restaurants in those markets.
56. Craig Marshall
managing partner, Ernst & Young LLP, Columbus office (56)
Marshall serves as secretary/treasurer for the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission. This board oversees capital improvement funds for planning, construction, renovation and expansion projects at Ohio’s theaters, museums, historical sites and publicly owned professional sports venues.
57. Michael Petrecca
managing partner, Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, Columbus office (57)
Petrecca continues to serve on the boards of the Ohio Society of CPAs, the Greater Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau, also known as Experience Columbus, and TechColumbus.
58. David Meuse
principal, Stonehenge Financial Holdings, Stonehenge Partners Inc. (58)
Meuse is responsible for providing counsel as it relates to matters of investment origination, portfolio asset management and disposition of Stonehenge investments. He continues to serve on several boards, including those at State Auto Financial Corp. and Kenyon College.
59. Robert M. Eversole
principal, Stonehenge Partners Inc. (59)
Eversole serves as a board member of Advanced Drainage Systems, as well as Nationwide Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, the Dean’s Advisory Council for The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and the Catholic Foundation.
60. Mary Taylor
lieutenant governor, Ohio (new)
Taylor became the first CPA to serve as Ohio’s state auditor. Now, along with Gov. John Kasich, she is part of a team that is faced with great pressure to turn around Ohio’s economy and create new jobs. She was the only Republican elected to a statewide, nonjudicial office in 2006 when she took over as auditor. She clearly knows a lot about which cities and school districts have their act together fiscally after auditing them over the past four years. Now we’ll see what she can do to help get the whole state turned around.
61. Michelle Abreu
co-founder, chair and president, Oxford Consulting Group Inc. (61)
Abreu continues to help Oxford Consulting Group grow and expand its presence in Columbus. She is also a board member of Amethyst Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides long-term addiction and mental health treatment, integrated with affordable housing, to women and families.
62. Tami Longaberger
chair and CEO, The Longaberger Co. (62)
The basket-maker has expanded its online sales options but still relies heavily on its independent home consultants, who number in tens of thousands across the United States. The company is also on Facebook and continues to hold events across the country for basket enthusiasts.
63. Bill Ingram
CEO, White Castle Systems Inc. (64)
More than 1,350 entries were submitted in 2010 as candidates for induction into the restaurant chain’s Cravers Hall of Fame, the most ever since the program began in 2001. That long list was whittled down to 13 inductees in November. Clearly there’s still plenty of love for these tasty little sliders.
64. Cheryl Krueger
founder and CEO, KRUEGER+CO. Consulting Inc. (65)
Krueger received accolades from Gov. Kasich during his gubernatorial campaign as both leaders support significant changes to the Ohio Department of Development as a means to stimulate the economy in Ohio.
65. J. Richard Emens
partner, Emens & Wolper Law Firm; chairman and executive director, Conway Family Business Center (66)
Emens has been busy working with his team at Conway Family Business Center to put together programs that help family businesses succeed. More than 115 such businesses have been honored by the not-for-profit organization over the past 11 years.
66. Brian Ellis
president and COO, Nationwide Realty Investors Ltd. (67)
Ellis has been hard at work moving forward on Grandview Yard, a project that is expected to eventually contain 1.5 to 2 million square feet of commercial and retail space and create 5,000 new jobs for the region. Ellis says one of the keys to the success of the project will be the ability of the cities of Columbus and Grandview Heights to work together.
67. Denny Griffith
president, Columbus College of Art & Design (68)
The college opened its 132nd school year with 1,385 students, an 8 percent increase over what had been projected. Griffith is also serving on Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman’s 2012 Commission, focusing on the image and marketing aspects of the group’s efforts.
68. Joe A. Alutto
executive vice president and provost, The Ohio State University (69)
Alutto spoke early in the year about the consolidation of the arts and science colleges and the move from quarters to semesters in 2012 and the opportunity that will exist to reinvent the educational experience at OSU. He also talked about the One Ohio State Framework, an effort to integrate fiscal, program and physical planning at the school.
69. Ted Ford
president and CEO, TechColumbus (70)
Ford expressed hope for continued growth for the 315 Research & Technology Corridor, a 10,000-acre span of property that continues to evolve as a research park. As a technology incubator in Central Ohio, the organization has invested more than $11 million in technology startups since 2005.
70. Sandra W. Harbrecht
president and CEO, Paul Werth Associates (73)
Harbrecht was one of our inductees into the Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame in 2010. She continues to work hard as the chair of Experience Columbus. Her public relations and marketing company, Paul Werth Associates, gained some valuable social media expertise when it purchased Huber & Co. in March.
71. David Harrison
president, Columbus State Community College (new)
Harrison took over as president in July, then welcomed a record enrollment of 30,955 students when autumn classes convened in September. That’s up 25.8 percent over autumn enrollment for 2008. The college board also approved a $15.2 million project to renovate and add more than 17,000 square feet to the campus’s Union Hall.
72. Robert Schottenstein
chairman, president and CEO, M/I Homes Inc. (71)
The company lost $15.2 million through the first three quarters of 2010, which was better than the $69.1 million that was lost for the same period in 2009. Schottenstein said the builder will proceed cautiously and continue to hope that employment and housing begin to stabilize.
73. Chris Taylor
CEO, Mission Essential Personnel LLC (94)
Revenue at this professional services firm has grown fast, going from $43 million in 2007 to $375 million in 2009. Business remained strong into 2010 as the company inked a $475 million contract to assist U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan with data collection and analysis. The company also headlined the 2010 International Peace Operations Association Annual Summit in Washington, D.C.
74. Michael Glimcher
chairman and CEO, Glimcher Realty Trust (72)
While overall revenue and earnings continued to struggle in 2010, average store sales and occupancy in the company’s mall properties provided some hope by inching forward in the third quarter. Glimcher announced plans in late August to buy Hawaii’s second-largest shopping mall through a joint venture.
75. Frank Kass
chairman, Continental Real Estate Cos. (76)
Kass spoke out in August about the lack of adequate parking in downtown Columbus and the impediment it creates for growth in the city. He suggested public/private partnerships could be the answer to erasing the reluctance of some businesses to relocate downtown.
76. Janet Jackson
president and CEO, United Way of Central Ohio Inc. (77)
The agency has set 10-year goals that lay out specific benchmarks to be achieved in the areas of education, income, health and home safety. As an example, Jackson wants to reduce by 20 percent the number of households in Franklin County that don’t earn enough income to meet basic needs. The goals will not be easy to achieve as fundraising for 2009-10 was down 16 percent from the prior year. Officials are also concerned that donors are directing their contributions to programs outside of the United Way system.
77. Cameron Mitchell
founder and president, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants LLC (79)
Mitchell’s company is planning to open an eighth Ocean Prime restaurant in Denver in early 2011. Ocean Prime has won several awards across the country, including Best Piano Bar in Tampa, Best Bar in Orlando and Best Dining Service in Columbus. Mitchell himself is serving as chair of the board of trustees for the Culinary Institute of America.
78. Joel Pizzuti
president and COO, The Pizzuti Cos. (99)
The developer was keeping busy as the year wound down. Construction has begun on a 700,000-square-foot warehouse in Marion for Whirlpool Corp., as well as an office complex in the appliance manufacturer’s hometown of Benton Harbor, Mich. Closer to home, Pizzuti has been hired to build a 417,000-square-foot center at the New Albany Business Park for contract packager Accel Inc.
79. Neil Mortine
president and CEO, Fahlgren Mortine (84)
Mortine led the agency’s first acquisition in six years, buying the PR firm Edward Howard. He also spearheaded the purchase of GRIP Technology to bolster his firm’s digital capabilities. Mortine encourages his team to use their skills for “the greater good” and the firm itself has ongoing pro bono relationships with several organizations, including the Franklin Park Conservatory and the Columbus Symphony.
80. Guy Worley
president and CEO, Columbus Downtown Development Corp. and Capital South Community Urban Redevelopment Corp. (80)
Work is continuing on Columbus Commons. The old mall was dismantled beginning in late 2009 and continuing into 2010. A park is scheduled to open in the spring and work is ongoing to bring tenants to the 1.2 million square feet of space.
81. Douglas Morgan
partner, Hahn Loeser & Parks LLP (78)
Morgan was honored with a Community Service Award from the Columbus Bar Association for his contribution of time and service to Central Ohio. He is also involved with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, where he chairs the Green Council, and the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Foundation.
82. Sheri Tackett
founder and president, Delta Energy LLC (82)
The company broke ground over the summer on its new headquarters in Dublin. The building is expected to be completed in March. A time capsule was left that will be unearthed in 2017 in honor of the company’s 20th anniversary. Among the items in the capsule: Silly Bandz, drawings by the children of employees, a gasoline receipt and natural gas price charts.
83. Robert Trafford
managing partner, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP (75)
His law firm was once again named one of the best in the nation by Chambers USA. He is also a member of the Ohio Business Roundtable, a director with the executive committee of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and an honorary trustee with the Columbus Council on World Affairs.
84. David Bianconi
founder and CEO, Progressive Medical Inc. (new)
Bianconi was inducted into the Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame this year. Bianconi has helped his company consistently grow and adapt since he launched it as a provider of electromedical equipment in 1986. Bianconi serves on the boards of TechColumbus and Kids Chance Ohio.
85. Robert C. White
co-founder and chairman, The Daimler Group Inc. (87)
A great deal of hard work paid off in January with the opening of the JamesCare Comprehensive Breast Health Center on the old Gowdy Field landfill site. An open house is scheduled for April at the four-floor, 114,000-square-foot center. Daimler worked hard to get EPA-mandated remediation completed to get this project, which includes a new regional headquarters for Time Warner and an eye and ear center for OSU.
86. James Davidson
president and partner, Schottenstein Zox & Dunn (86)
Davidson is coordinator of the employment litigation practice area, focusing on commercial and employment litigation. His firm received numerous accolades in 2010, including being named a top health law firm in Ohio for the sixth year in a row.
87. George Barrett
chairman and CEO, Cardinal Health Inc. (90)
As CEO for most of fiscal 2010, Barrett watched his company register $98.5 billion in revenue, up from $96 billion in fiscal 2009. Barrett is a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award of Excellence in Global Business from New York University Stern School of Business and a recipient of an Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
88. Barbara Kunz
president, Health and Life Sciences Global Business, Battelle Memorial Institute (new)
Kunz is replacing Jeff Wadsworth as chairman of the board at The Ohio State University’s Medical Center. She is also a trustee of OSU’s James Cancer Hospital, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Research Institute Board and is the chair of the technology commercialization subcommittee. Kunz is the chairwoman of the board for BioOhio and chairs that group’s finance and audit subcommittee. BioOhio works to help companies advance in the biosciences industry.
89. Dave Sceva
president, Central Ohio, U.S. Bank (93)
Sceva presented a check in March for $1.05 million to the new Ohio Union. A total of $500,000 will go to the new Union and the balance will benefit more than 900 student organizations at OSU. The Union, a focal point for student life, activities and organizations, is recognizing the support by naming its theater in honor of U.S. Bank. The theater hosts movie showings and a lecture series and will now be known as the U.S. Bank Conference Theater.
90. Alex Fischer
president and CEO, Columbus Partnership (100)
Fischer’s organization is a collection of top executives from Central Ohio’s largest companies. It has set a goal of raising $30 million over the next five years to help spur economic development in Ohio.
91. John McEwan
managing partner, Deloitte LLP’s Central Ohio practice (91)
McEwan’s team moved into a new building in 2010 that Deloitte calls an “office of the future.” Designers focused on creating a space that would be sustainable and foster a collaborative environment that includes all of the necessary technology and features employees need to succeed.
92. Deborah Pryce
senior public policy adviser, SZD Whiteboard (new)
SZD Whiteboard is a consulting enterprise with roots in Schottenstein Zox & Dunn. Pryce brings both leadership and legislative experience to the table, having served as House Conference Chair, the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives.
93. Adam Heeter
CEO, Oxford Consulting Group Inc. (new)
Heeter graduated from Leadership Columbus, an intensive 10-month program meant to develop informed and committed leaders in the Columbus area. He manages all Oxford business units and functional disciplines, including sales and client delivery, and has played a central role in Oxford’s dramatic growth.
94. Tom Krouse
CEO, Donatos Pizza (new)
Krouse took over as CEO in October. Before this, he headed up the development of Donatos’ new brand concept, franchise growth strategy and started the Jane’s Dough Foods business unit. Now, he is primarily concentrating on growing the Donatos brand through franchising as the pizza chain currently holds development rights for an additional 250 franchise stores.
95. Sue Zazon
president and CEO, FirstMerit Bank, Columbus region (96)
Zazon and FirstMerit Bank were recognized for their contributions to the Madison County Hospital Foundation. On the financial front, the bank reported third quarter net income of $29 million, down from the previous quarter but up from the $22.8 million registered in the third quarter of 2009.
96. Debra Penzone
president, Charles Penzone Family of Salons (97)
Penzone continues to be a visible presence in the Columbus region trying to help and inspire people to succeed. She is on the board of Dress for Success Columbus, an organization that helps give women the skills they need to achieve in today’s business world.
97. Philip R. Smith II
office managing partner, KPMG (new)
Smith is a big believer in giving back to the community. He donates his time to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio and mentors Central Ohio youth weekly through the Project Mentor program. He has been an integral member of KPMG Columbus’s United Way campaign, which has raised more than $125,000 each of the past two years.
98. Martin Inglis
executive vice president, CFO, Battelle Memorial Institute (new)
Inglis made lovers of classical music throughout Columbus very happy through his efforts to help the Columbus Symphony Orchestra erase a projected $1.5 million deficit. Cost-cutting, corporate support and taxpayer dollars all helped the cash-strapped musical entity end its 2009-10 season with a surplus of about $200,000. Inglis’ own company, Battelle, stepped up with $900,000 of support and Inglis was named chairman of the symphony’s board.
99. Thomas M. Zaino
managing member, Columbus, McDonald Hopkins LLC (new)
Zaino is not only well known in the business community in Columbus, but he is also a nationally recognized expert on multistate tax issues. He heads the law firm’s Columbus office, is chair of the firm’s multistate tax practice and is on the firm’s board of directors. He is also a sought-after tax expert in Ohio for companies and business owners facing tax audits or needing state tax policy changes.
100. Jim Tressel
football coach, The Ohio State University (new)
You’re not a leader if you don’t have people to follow you, right? Well, Tressel has more than 100,000 people following him every Saturday in the fall. They wear vests and cheer on his team during the game and then they solemnly sing “Carmen Ohio” with his boys after the game is over. Most of all, of course, they adore him for going 9-1 against that school up north. But it’s about more than football with Tressel. He’s active throughout the Columbus community with numerous charitable causes, and he’s a big reason why OSU’s athletic department is so successful and generates so much revenue. So he belongs on our list.
When the announcement came in November 2008 that DHL would discontinue its Express domestic services in the United States, there was a lot of uncertainty.
The division was asked to reduce its operating costs from $5.4 billion to below $1 billion, a decrease of more than 80 percent. Ground hubs would be closed and stations reduced from 412 to 103. It called for the loss of 9,500 jobs.
The one certainty was the end result of all the changes: return DHL Express USA to the company’s core competency of international shipping.
Difficult decisions are usually made when you’re going through a restructuring process. But as details are fleshed out, you and your employees can’t lose sight of the future.
Jack O’Neill understands this. As vice president of operations, he oversees all Express operations in the United States, including, air, hub, gateway, security, customs, engineering, fleet and customer. He led operations through the realignment, which included relocating its hub in Wilmington, Ohio, to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Additionally, O’Neill had to ensure his 2,300 operations employees stopped thinking about domestic products and services and learned the world of international shipping. In understanding the new direction, the company assumed the philosophy that every employee was a salesperson there to meet customer needs.
To accomplish the task, O’Neill used communication, education and reinforcement of the message and culture.
“It’s really an education. It’s awareness, it’s training, it’s making sure that everybody is engaged in understanding what it is we’re trying to provide to our customer base, what is the real priority and the objective of the organization,” he says. “With that, you engage each and every employee in every facet of the company and make them understand … everything that they do impacts the customer experience.”
The realignment was a major change for the organization, so management’s top priority was getting employees on board.
It should be no surprise that when you’re taking on a large initiative, communication is imperative from the beginning to the end.
“Even when you think you’ve overcommunicated, you probably haven’t communicated enough,” says O’Neill, who spends time in the field every week talking to employees.
O’Neill and the senior leadership team attacked communication from every angle. There were e-mails and bulletins, town-hall meetings and personal conversations. They found the best way to communicate employees’ roles in the realignment was in person because it allowed for providing clear information and receiving feedback.
“You really need to define the objective and your objective really needs to be crystal clear for that message to be concise,” O’Neill says. “If there’s any ambiguity in that objective or any ambiguity in the way you present that, the audience is going to have a hard time interpreting it and understanding it. Then you get mixed learnings or understandings out of that message.”
If multiple members of your leadership team are speaking to employees, you must make sure that the same message is being communicated.
Before conducting town-hall meetings, O’Neill and his team met to discuss their message about international shipping and customers. The company’s communications team helped craft the message and included a set of questions expected to be asked and answers of how to respond.
When you’re tackling complex issues, you need to be prepared and honest with your communication.
“Sometimes it’s a tough message, but you need to deliver those tough messages and be upfront about them,” O’Neill says. “In doing that, you gain the trust and confidence of your employees that you’re being forthright.”
Direct employee conversation is twofold, though. Town-hall and staff meetings are not just about what you want to say but what employees want to communicate.
O’Neill has been in town-hall meetings where employees can’t get enough questions in and others where the audience is silent. If he doesn’t get any questions right away, he starts talking informally about a topic that interests that particular group and asks for their advice.
“Once you ask them for advice on a question that relates more importantly to them, they begin to talk and open up about what we can do to help them,” O’Neill says. “Once that conversation starts to go, you generally get people feeling more comfortable, you get them feeling at ease, because they really feel like you’re there to learn something about them and how you can help them.”
Knowing employees are the crucial link to customers’ wants and needs and that employees need to be properly educated and equipped to do their jobs, O’Neill and the senior leadership took the feedback from the town-hall meetings and discussed it as a group. To better organize the information, they would provide the feedback to a point person who would consolidate it. O’Neill and the other executives would then prioritize the ideas as “easily actionable” or “needs more research.”
“It’s important if you really want the people to engage and rally around the organizational pride, in our case international shipping, you have to provide that closed-loop feedback cycle,” O’Neill says. “If you’re going to ask the employees for suggestions, we need to make sure we circle back and implement them or tell them why we’re not going to do it and make sure they understand the logic behind that.”
Once its determined if the idea is actionable or not, the feedback is either communicated by the direct supervisor or the senior leadership team in the next town-hall session.
“We communicate not only current events but, ‘These are some of the things we’ve heard from you, and these are some of the things we’re doing about it,’” O’Neill says. “It gets the ownership and buy-in that we really are listening to them. It’s one thing to listen; it’s another thing to really hear and understand what they’re saying.”
In communicating with employees, you need them to rally around the change.
As part of DHL’s realignment, all Express USA employees went through training to become a certified international specialist. Everyone from the front-line employee to the senior management team was required to attend classroom and online sessions geared toward international shipping, trade facilitation, processing shipments and clearance activities — all things that, at the end of the day, can affect customer service.
“Each and every employee needs to rally around their roles, what their responsibility is, how it aligns with the overall objective and how they really do impact the customer even though it may not be clearly visible,” O’Neill says. “(Training) is something we have undertaken that helps us make sure that everybody understands their role in satisfying the customers’ needs.”
The senior leadership team was actually the first to go through the certification, as should your team if you’re implementing a crucial companywide program.
“If we go through it first, we get a chance to assess the training and (evaluate) it,” O’Neill says. “By doing that, we can make sure that training is going to deliver what we really want it to deliver as an organization. What were our priorities when we first said we need to develop and deploy that training? Does it, in fact, meet those objectives?”
The second reason for the leadership team to partake in training is employee buy-in.
“You really have to walk the talk; as a leader, it’s one of the traits that is most critical,” O’Neill says. “If you deploy a major training platform and the senior leadership team doesn’t go through it, it sends an indirect message that it’s not that important. If you go through it, you send a couple of messages. One, you sponsor that training because you went through it yourself. Two, you send a critical message that it’s important for the organization to have that training.”
Along those same lines, the Express division’s training staff trains operations managers, supervisors and directors to deliver some of the programs to their employees.
“We support that, because it does make the training more believable,” O’Neill says. “If a manager delivers training, that manager has to support that training. He also knows what message has been delivered with that training with his employees versus a trainer coming in that works for another function. The messaging might not be the same as what the manager might deliver. Something might be skipped; something might be missed.”
The final aspect of company training is testing. O’Neill, along with every Express employee, had to score a 98 percent to become a certified international specialist. The test included questions like shipping requirements to clear customs and international capitals — essential information needed to send a customer’s package.
“Testing gives us knowledge of whether or not the employee really understands,” O’Neill says. “Do they have the information, and did they really hear it and understand it? Do they know how to apply it on their job? If you test them and they fail the test, then chances are, they’re not going to do their jobs the way they were intended to be done. What that means is we’re going to have delays in shipment processing. We’re going to have delays in service. Our customers aren’t going to appreciate that too much.”
You can communicate and you can educate, but that doesn’t mean employees understood the message.
“We think people hear what we say or interpret what we write, but it’s not necessarily the case,” O’Neill says. “You really have to listen carefully to see if people have gotten the message. If somebody hasn’t gotten the message, they’re going to create their own message and usually that’s not the message we want them to give. Listening and having some feedback mechanisms to make sure the message is clear and everybody does what needs to be done is crucial.”
How do you make sure employees heard what you said? You ask them point blank.
“‘What are our priorities? What are we focused on?’” O’Neill says. “You have to ask them those types of questions to make sure that the message has been heard.”
And you have to constantly reinforce your message. When O’Neill went into the organization a year and a half ago, employees couldn’t tell him the company’s core competency. Today, without hesitation, they say international shipping.
Another way to validate that your message has been heard is engaging with employees in their work. O’Neill and his senior leadership team spend days on the road with their couriers visiting customers or sitting next to customer service agents in the call center.
“We get to experience firsthand what our front-line employees are doing, and does it really support the message that we delivered?” he says. “Does it support the direction that we need to go in? Does it support the training we provided them? You really have to inspect what you expect.”
Because there can be a disconnect between top management and lower-level employees, O’Neill has found his staff members are appreciative when he spends time with them and they’re willing to share feedback on what can make their job easier and the tools they can use to better serve the customer.
If you’re spending time with your employees, though, the main thing to look for when it comes to whether or not they understood your message is engagement.
Since the realignment, DHL Express USA has seen more engagement from customers and employees. The business has stabilized and is actually growing. Returning to its core business has meant an improvement in services, which has translated into greater customer retention and growth. For employees, it has given them a sense of confidence in a strategy moving forward.
“The employee that is engaged in the organization has an interest in it,” O’Neill says. “You can tell when somebody is just doing a job because it’s a job, and that’s OK. But we really want people to be engaged in the organization. You know they’re engaged if they’re asking questions. You know they’re engaged if they’re performing the job the way they were trained to do the job. You know they’re engaged if they have a good relationship with the customer. Once again, that customer touch point is so critical, so it’s those types of things that we really try to observe.”
How to reach: DHL Express USA, (800) 225-5345 or www.dhl-usa.com
The O'Neill fileJack O'Neill
Vice president of operations
DHL Express USABorn: Saugus, Mass.
What was your first job?
The first job I ever had was actually a salesman in an electronics department of a department store. It was an interesting job for me, because I never sold anything nor did I know anything about electronics at the time.
What did the experience teach you?
I learned that sales and marketing are critical to success. In this department store in the electronics group, we sold a set of stereo headphones, and we used to sell them for $9.99. They were low quality; it was the cheapest set of headphones we had. We couldn’t sell them. We couldn’t get them off the shelf.
We were having a sale one weekend, so we thought we would put an ad in the paper and try to get them sold for $5.99 and deplete our inventory. In printing the ad, a mistake was made. The mistake said this was a set of stereo head phones, normally sold for $19.99 on sale for $15.99. Oddly enough, the first day of the sale — we must have had 80 sets of these headphones in the store — they flew off the shelf. Customers came in; they thought they were getting a great bargain.
The whole positioning of how a consumer hears a message to me was definitely one of the learnings I took out of that role and that particular experience I had.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I enjoy being on the front line. I don’t enjoy sitting in business meetings. I don’t enjoy that part of the job; I know it’s a necessity. I’m an operations person at heart. I grew up in the business unloading trucks as my first job within the logistics industry. I really have appreciation for the front-line employee and what they do for the organization.
Mit Shah was enjoying the fruits of his labor.
As Shah, founder, senior managing principal and CEO of Noble Investment Group, a company that invests in and manages hotels, he had successfully gotten the business past the struggles that followed the Sept. 11 attacks when travel and tourism dollars fell. Everything was back on track, and the company had been growing, earning spots on the Inc. 5,000 list through the years, and in 2008, it recorded $325 million in revenue.
But things have slowed from the pace Shah and his team are used to.
“We’ve built this model over 17 years — great people, great human characteristics — but clearly the last two and a half years have created a real pause of how we approach our business,” Shah says.
One of his challenges is having extremely talented people, which most wouldn’t think is a problem, but in tough times, it proves to be.
“How do you keep a group of highly successful, highly talented, highly motivated, passionate leaders engaged and focused on the ability to manage what we have when you’re an organization that’s truly built for continuous investment and continuous growth, and that’s how you’re structured?” Shah says.
He’s also been challenged by looking for opportunities to grow the business and figuring out how the market will shake out.
“That has been a big part of my responsibility to continue to surround myself with people who internally and externally will give me good insight as it relates to how do we see opportunities going forward,” he says.
And then it’s been just hunkering down on the business basics.
“Continue to do what the books say you’re supposed to do — stick to your core values during times of great opportunity and during times of crisis, take care of people, make sure that you continue to commit to things that are part of who you are and who you espouse to be,” Shah says.
Over the past three years, by building a solid group of peers to rely on, focusing on his people and looking for opportunities, Shah was able to successfully move Noble forward — earning $346 million in revenue in 2009 — and prepare it for future growth.
Build your peer group
One of the aspects of business that Shah says has been particularly critical the past few years has been forecasting out where the market would go and how things could change, but he can’t do this alone. He’s come to rely on a core group of people that he’s built over the years to help him better make decisions about his company.
For example, he may have dinner with the CEO of Hilton Hotels one day and the president of Wake Forest University on another, and they both play a critical role in his life.
“I always stayed very close to a group of people that I viewed could help me on a broader basis,” Shah says. “It goes back to this peer group — never being the smartest person in the room, always having the smartest room, and always finding people who I could befriend and I could build a relationship with and build a partnership with, who, in essence, I could learn from and build a base of knowledge that I wouldn’t get in just running my company.”
Having a group of people to get feedback and ideas from has also helped him bring in the best people when those openings arise. To build his group, he got out on the road and met with people continuously, and this went back as far as 18 years ago. Over the years, his group has also evolved and today includes top executives of the world’s major hotel chains, basketball coaches, people in service businesses and manufacturing as well as investment bankers.
“That’s really helped me think about things, both then and now, in a way that helps me lead more effectively,” he says. “I have the power of and the benefit of a broad range of thinking, and then I can take those thoughts, and I can incorporate them into my own and lead through that manner.”
To create a group for yourself, Shah suggests getting out more to build those relationships with people.
“Go to meetings, go to conferences, find out the best industry events,” he says. “Walk around, shake people’s hands, get to know people, and take every opportunity that you have to understand those in whatever business and industry are at the tip of being visionary, of being organizations that have had sustainable track records, that are respected among a group of people that you respect, and find opportunities to establish relationships.”
Sometimes that means you have to make the tougher decision in the here and now. You may want to go do something fun, but instead, you need to choose to do what will be most beneficial in the long term.
“There’s been times all across my entire career where it’s an opportunity to either go have a dinner or to be in the same room or to go to a meeting or a conference, and you have no idea what you’re going to get out of it,” Shah says. “But spend those times as opposed to saying, ‘Let’s go find the best place to watch the game tonight,’ and really go and find an opportunity to establish a friendship.”
When you meet people and get to know them, it’s important to remember that they’re people just like you, so use that as a base to build that friendship.
“It doesn’t matter if someone is the CEO of a big Fortune 100 company or if they’re just your golfing buddy,” he says. “At the end of the day, when you peel back everything, people are just, if you find good human beings, decent people. They’d much rather go have a barbecue sandwich than have something fancy. They’d much rather have a beer together and talk about your families than always be talking about how you’re going to win market share here and how you’re going to do that. That all comes, but break it down to just finding quality human beings and building friendships with them.”
Focus on your people
During the downturn, Shah didn’t cut his 401(k) match, community service programs or the company Christmas party. Instead, he doubled the budget for his employee engagement committee so it could plan things like bowling outings and have a really nice holiday party.
“Let’s be honest, this is a tough labor market,” he says. “People aren’t jumping jobs right now, so we get that. You can’t use that as a crutch, because as soon as the market comes back, they’ll leave for a better opportunity once available.”
Despite the challenging times, it’s crucial to make sure you continue to focus on your people and how you can support them. Look at the people that aren’t your senior managers — just your everyday, salaried employees — and reflect on what their intentions are.
“Do they have the character and confidence, and then do they care about the company’s best interest?” Shah asks. “If they do, then making that decision is very easy.”
If you have employees that would leave to go across the street for 5 percent more, then Shah understands not wanting to put the resources out to support them, but at the same time, he also questions why that is.
“What does that mean?” he says. “That means that if you haven’t brought in that person who has that character and if you haven’t done the things to promote that loyalty, whose fault is it? Is it the team member’s fault or the employer’s fault that they’re not loyal?”
When you face yourself with this kind of a situation, that’s when it becomes difficult to decide whether to put money toward your people or to keep it for the company.
“If employers are in that situation, then it’s hard for them to part with their dollars because — they’ll never admit it and they’ll never sit in front of a town hall and say, ‘All of you employees are commodities,’ — they would never say that, and if they feel that, they’ll make a decision and say, ‘We’ll just hoard the cash,’” Shah says. “But if you really believe in your team members, and if you really believe they have the organization’s best interest and they’re going to be there for the long haul, then you take care of them. You always take care of them.”
In fact, as 2009 came to an end, Shah was anticipating a surplus in the budget and predicted that they would be creating a supplementary bonus program with it in addition to putting some of that back into the company as a buffer for this year.
“You always go to the denominator of what’s the right thing to do,” he says.
The economy has changed business the past few years, so you can’t just rest on your laurels and expect clients to come your way.
“You’ve got to look through a number of different avenues,” Shah says. “It’s far different than it ever was. Generating business in general is different than what it was before — in any industry.”
Over the past couple of years, Shah has been diligent about looking for new opportunities, and that starts with knowing your market.
“It’s really about having a very good understanding of your marketplace so you don’t have to be a big national organization or global organization,” he says. “We could be just the best hotel group in Atlanta, but we need to know Atlanta like the back of our hand.”
Knowing your market also goes back to your peer group and having people you can talk to about how the market is going so you can better predict how things may shift. On top of that, it’s important to have a niche.
“You have to find a niche in the business,” Shah says. “I think that companies of the future that are going to be very successful will have a niche. They aren’t broad-based companies that do a lot of things. They’ll find a couple things they do really well, and they focus on those things, and they outperform the competition there. It’s way too difficult to be good at many different things.”
For example, Shah knows that his company is good at hotels, but he also recognizes that it isn’t cut out to go into, say, grocery stores or office buildings.
“You can’t just, all of a sudden, wake up one day and say, ‘I think we’re going to be grocery-anchored retail,’” he says. “There’s some smart leaders in our organization, but we don’t know anything about grocery-anchored retail, and I can’t just go hire someone who knows about grocery-anchored retail and pretend we can be a great company overnight.”
Instead, you have to look at what your company already does and what expertise you already have within the organization.
“You have to say, ‘What are you built to go do that’s as good as or better than the best people that do it in your business?’” Shah says. “Based on that, how do you build that if you have not already? If you think you have it already, how do you go and execute around that area?”
If you see that the opportunities aren’t in that area and you do think you have to explore a different area, you need to do it in a smart way.
“If we don’t know how to do something, we always go get the talent first and go and build a model around it, and then start with one and continue to grow,” he says. “That’s what we’ve historically always done.”
The key is you have to be able to live with whatever consequences come as a result of the direction you head.
“Understand what your downside is,” Shah says. “Know what you can live with. It’s hard. How do you be visionary, be aggressive, be strategic and also manage risks without just being completely paralyzed by it?”
How to reach: Noble Investment Group, (404) 262-9660 or www.nobleinvestment.com
The Shah file
Founder, Senior Managing Principal and CEO
Noble Investment Group
Born: Morristown, N.J.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, economics, Wake Forest University
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a basketball coach. If I can’t be a coach, I want to be an announcer.
I’m first generation American. My parents are both immigrants. I’m the eldest child of immigrants. They think about education and stability, and you’re like, ‘Hey! I’m going to be a basketball coach or announcer.’ They’re like, ‘What are you talking about? You’re going to be a doctor.’ I was like, ‘All right, I guess I’m going to be a doctor,’ — until I got to college and took bio and chem and physics and hated all three with a passion.
Did you get the chance to coach at all?
I used to coach kids basketball when I was in college. One of the first things that really helped me think about what I wanted to do with my life was when a friend of mine was going to be the head coach, and he asked me to be the assistant, and he transferred schools, so I ended up becoming the head coach before the first game, and it was the most thrilling thing to me.
I was coaching these 11- and 12-year-old kids, but these kids were just wide open. They listened, they cared, they were good enough where you could teach them things. I was like, ‘This is really great.’ They’re 12, so they’re going to listen to you, and they don’t care that you’re 18 — they’re 11, so they look at you as a leader. I was like, ‘Wow. This is the first time anyone’s listened to me.’ It got me really excited about the opportunity to lead and the opportunity to be somewhere where I could teach and help people maximize their potential.
What’s the best book you’ve read?
I’ve got a number — Jim Collins’ ‘Good to Great.’ It’s kind of a pat answer. It was the first book I ever read that gave real tangible evidence of what companies did over time to help them not only survive but thrive through multiple periods of economic volatility. It helped me think about my business in ways I never had thought about it before.
If you’re looking for something less business-oriented, ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch was a great book because it really touched on things that, to me as a human being, we should always think about.
In an industry that isn’t known for efficiencies, Kohler Coating is making great strides.
The company manufactures precision thin film metering technology systems for corrugating and coating applications, which are used in the production of corrugated board. The corrugated board industry produced 93.5 million tons of containerboard in 2009, which was worth roughly $45 billion. Nearly half of that was produced by Asia and almost one-third by the United States. While there’s a lot of production going on, there aren’t a lot of efficiencies to accompany it. The average corrugator has less than 27 percent process efficiency that consumes between $250,000 to $1 million a year in energy, $400,000 to $800,000 a year in adhesive and $30 million to $50 million a year in paper consumption.
Recognizing these inefficiencies, under the leadership of President Herb Kohler, Kohler Coating has developed equipment that doubles the energy efficiency of some corrugated plants and reduced the adhesive consumption by more than 40 percent. By doing these things, the company is teaching its customers to operate greener by using less adhesive, water and energy and by generating less carbon dioxide. For example, if Kohler was able to reduce the weight of all boxes by only 20 percent, this would save 20 million tons of paper per year, which is a $12 billion savings, and also save $240 million of natural gas per year. That same initiative would also eliminate 40 million tons of carbon dioxide.
Kohler has developed the Iso-Thermal process in response to its customers’ desires to reduce their manufacturing costs and production waste while producing lighter and stronger board. They do a complete analysis of each board manufacturer’s current process and facility to determine the needs of that manufacturer. Because of the analysis, the machinery and adhesive chemicals required are specific to each customer, which results in higher success and customer satisfaction rates.
Because this process is individualized for each customer, research and development is crucial to continuously improve the manufacturing of corrugated board. To do this, Kohler has established the only corrugating pilot line in the world to test different aspects of the Iso-Thermal process and board processing. The pilot line is housed at Kohler’s Canton facility, and the company received a $750,000 grant from the state to improve the pilot facility and create the Canton Corrugated Paper Center to further create cutting-edge technology for the production of lightweight, high-grade corrugated materials.
How to reach: Kohler Coating, (330) 499-1407 or www.kohlercoating.com
Suddenly immersed in Switzerland to head teams from 17 different countries, Kelly Grier was understandably overwhelmed. It was late 2000, after she moved her family overseas for a position with Ernst & Young LLP.
Grier was responsible for Europe, Middle East and Africa engagement teams, and she was having trouble handling the group’s broad differences. Some advice from the chief financial officer of a client turned the challenging experience around and shifted her mindset going forward. He told her she wasn’t in the “United States of Europe.”
“Every one of these countries is very unique. Every one of its people are very distinct,” Grier remembers him saying. “They have their own culture, their own mores, their own business practices, and you can’t just come in here and impose the American way. You can’t even try to come in here and have one homogenous approach to all of the different geography, because it’s vastly different from one country to the next.”
Grier is closer to home today, as the managing partner of Ernst & Young’s Chicago office, but she remains a huge proponent of global mobility — if for no other reason than she sees her clients expanding globally all the time. To be able to serve them competitively and effectively, leaders like her need that same expansive mindset, whether or not they hone it overseas.
“That criticality of being able to operate with a global mindset and function effectively in any geography around the world — having that sort of intellectual agility is critically important for us, as a firm, to serve our global client,” she says. “Even if you are solely a domestic organization, the fact is that the global environment is influencing your success, because your competitors might be overseas and pulling your business outside of the U.S. You face domestic competition where there’s a more global mindset, and they’re offering a differentiated solution because of that advantage.”
Grier’s broadened perspective translates into everyday inclusive leadership when she leverages her team’s diversity into a common vision.
“You can’t generalize people or places or business practices,” says Grier, who oversees 1,700 employees at E&Y’s second-largest office. “You really need to understand and respect that there are vast differences — and that’s the power of it. If you aren’t able to harness the power of it, it will be an incredible impediment to your success.”
Draw out diversity
When Grier met with teams from the 17 countries she oversaw, she’d get about 17 perspectives around the issue. She grew so accustomed to that constant diversity of thought that she notices when it’s missing from her team today.
“I can just sense when I’m not getting everything,” she says. “In some cases, I’m not getting everything because people in the room aren’t contributing everything that they have to contribute, and in some cases, it’s because I don’t have the right complement of people in the room. There’s no panacea for this; it’s really a learned behavior that comes from operating in a highly diverse environment where those diverse perspectives are really valued.”
You can obtain diversity on your team by intentionally building it in, but that doesn’t mean you need to place employees just to fulfill a quota of minorities.
“When we talk about diversity of perspective, it’s not necessarily their ethnicity or even their gender — it’s their experiences that inform a more diverse perspective,” Grier says. “You could align (team members) with other activities, other projects, other teams within the organization. Even transferring them from one business to another business or from one function to another function broadens one’s perspective. You could certainly ask that they take on a leadership role in community organizations. There’s almost an infinite amount of opportunities to broaden one’s perspective and create that kind of diversity of thought and experience.”
You can also highlight diversity by grouping cross-sections of employees for projects. Grier forms task forces with representatives from various generations, service lines, genders and ethnic backgrounds. The internal communications task force, for example, represented a spectrum of communication styles, which helped develop more effective messaging that would resonate across the company.
An intentionally diverse team is crucial, but it’s moot if you don’t maximize, and later leverage, the team’s diversity. In order to do that, you have to tap into every viewpoint you can and consider its weight in the discussion.
“Diversity without inclusiveness is counterproductive if anything,” Grier says. “You’ve got to have the ability to really draw out different perspectives and then synthesize a wide variety of thoughts and perspectives. You’ve got to know when you’re not getting that broad and diverse spectrum in the dialogue. Looking for the folks who may not be fully engaging or participating and drawing them out, that sends a message that everybody matters.”
One of Grier’s partners, for example, is an “intellectually sophisticated thinker” with plenty of valuable perspectives to share. He’ll fill an hourlong one-on-one — and then some — with his distinct ideas. But in a two-hour group session, he only makes a couple of comments.
“I’ll ask him in advance of the meeting, ‘This is what we’re going to talk about. You have such a valuable perspective; I want people to be able to benefit from that perspective. I really want you to talk specifically about this when we get everybody together,’” Grier says. “I needed to know that person well enough on a one-on-one basis to know that this is his style, that he does have this incredible broad perspective that’s very valuable. For me to draw that out and get that that very valuable perspective infused in our group discussions, I needed to approach it differently.”
Welcome all ideas
Part of inclusive leadership is soliciting opinions. But if you’re quick to brush off certain perspectives, see how quickly the feedback stops.
You need to give diverse perspectives a safe place to surface by creating an environment where all opinions are welcome.
“How, as a leader, you respond to that contrarian view will really dictate whether or not people feel safe in sharing a perspective that’s different from the norm,” Grier says. “You’ve got to be visibly both encouraging and then rewarding those folks to share a perspective that is different.”
The way you react to comments that directly challenge your stance can be the biggest revelation about your leadership style.
“As a leader, you’ve got to be able to face some criticism of how you’re seeing things, and not become defensive or dismissive,” Grier says. “That immediately shuts down that communication channel. You’ve got to express a little bit of humility — perhaps, ‘I didn’t know that,’ or, ‘I hadn’t thought about it that way.’ You really set the tone by how you behave — not only as a leader of the team but when your own perspective is challenged.”
Even if you end up going with the majority, your decision-making process only benefits from a richer variety of thought. If you want to expand the possibilities on the table, you’ll want to vet every perspective you can.
“If somebody says something that’s a little out of step with the normative thinking and you don’t give that point of view ample airtime in the discussion or if you’re dismissive, if you’re defensive, if you don’t really listen to what’s being said and understand it fully before you make an opinion of what place it has in the discussion, that will immediately shut down that candor that you want,” Grier says. “Make sure that everything that you say is grounded in the spirit of inclusiveness and encouraging that candor, because it’s very easy to just react quickly in a manner that sounds dismissive. At that point, the conversation’s over and everybody around takes a message from that; it’s not just the person who may have made the statement.”
You set the stage for an inclusive environment, but you won’t get far if you’re the only one with that mindset. Enforce an open attitude from your team members, too.
“Where you see a member of your leadership team cutting somebody off at the pass, you’ve got to call them out on that — obviously in a constructive manner and in a respectful manner — so the person who made the comment knows you insist on having that open and inclusive environment,” Grier says.
That’s sensitive territory; so many leaders prefer to privately pull the violator aside later. If you can do it constructively though, as Grier does, call the person out in the meeting to make a point for everyone.
“I would probably say, ‘Bob, I think that Jim was about to share a perspective that I would find very valuable,’” she says. “‘Before we move on to the next point that you were going to make, I want to make sure that he has an opportunity to complete that thought.’”
The more diverse viewpoints you draw out, the more perspectives you have to keep straight. Managing and synthesizing those is the key to leveraging diversity.
To keep track of what her employees think, Grier records it all.
“I take copious, copious notes,” she says. “It sounds so fundamental, but I will take notes of every one of these conversations. Very quickly, you see themes emerge. They’re not exact replications of one another but there are common threads through these conversations. It really does become apparent after having several of them and reflecting on, ‘What were the key themes and how do I then coalesce those messages into one message that will resonate with everybody?’”
Writing gives Grier something to reference and ensure everyone’s voice is represented. By synthesizing opinions inclusively, you’re setting yourself up for buy-in later on.
For example, Grier spent the first 90 days as managing partner of the Chicago office on a listening tour, meeting one-on-one with partners, senior managers and various staff members as well as with groups of employees. All she did was ask questions about moving the company forward — and listen. Then she melded several perspectives into the vision she conveyed to employees later.
Sure, you won’t satisfy every person’s wishes every time, but weaving every perspective through your thought process will show employees you listened.
“People are more inclined to buy in if they’ve got some skin in the game and they’ve been a part of crafting that vision,” Grier says. “Having that upfront engagement — my 90-day listening tour — people could hear the words that they had said to me in the messages that I then conveyed in a more synthesized fashion afterward. They knew that I had listened to them and they know that their perspective was part of the strategy, and they were on board in driving toward that strategy.”
Another benefit of drawing diverse opinions out during your meetings is exposing members of your team to them. Those discussions can build buy-in by enhancing understanding of the issue, potentially turning employees on to ideas they initially shoot down.
“For example, when a company launches a new internal development program, members of its team may jump to conclusions about what that program means to them,” Grier says. “Team members could make assumptions based on their previous experiences with similar development programs, which impacts their engagement. To maximize results, leaders should elicit a diversity of perspectives right away, debunk misconceptions and incorporate relevant suggestions. Those steps should greatly improve the participation of your teams and the program’s success.”
If you make those steps habitual, you’ll extend the power of diversity into the fabric of your organization. When Grier compares the business world that she witnessed overseas a decade ago with today’s environment and then projects another 10 years into the future, she realizes the importance of continually harnessing all perspectives in an ever-expanding global paradigm.
“You can’t rely on just saying the right things; you’ve really got to experience a mind shift,” Grier says. “Most companies have a stated objective of having an inclusive culture and really celebrating diversity. But first of all, it needs to be grounded in the fundamental imperative, which is that the world is different today than it was a decade ago, and it will be profoundly different a decade from now. We need an entire paradigm shift to be able to not only survive but really thrive in that changed global environment.”
How to reach: Ernst & Young LLP, (312) 879-2000 or www.ey.com
Chicago Managing Partner
Ernst & Young
Born: St. Cloud, Minn.
Education: B.A. in accounting from St. Mary’s College at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana
Favorite travel destination: Italy or France
What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
My very first job was as a babysitter. I certainly learned the importance of being responsible and communicating well. I actually had a wide set of experiences when I was young: I worked at this Dairy Queen-type shop. I also worked at a machine shop, if you can believe that, for a period of time as I was putting myself through college. I’d say you can probably take all of those experiences together and one of the key lessons learned is just respect — respecting everybody for what they bring to the table, having a bit of humility to how you approach the people that you work with at all spectrums of the work environment. I have a great deal of empathy and support for the people who come in and empty my trash bins because that’s very much aligned with a job that I would have been doing to put myself through college.
Your workday is off to a bad start. How do you turn it around?
I truly don’t have many days that start off on a bad note. I actually just love what I do. There’s array of challenges or issues that I’ve got to deal with, but rarely does that actually cause me to perceive that as a bad start. My workday is also very dynamic. What I do from 7 to 8 and then what I do from 8 to 9 and thereafter is very different. So it would be difficult for me to get mired in any particular issue because I’m so quickly on to the next.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
It’s got to be being able to clone myself to be a multitude of places at the same time. I feel like I’m trying to do that on any given day, anyway.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?
I would say Martin Luther King. He was such a dignified leader and was so committed to his values and faced such incredible adversity. He could have gone down a path of conflict and destruction and he didn’t. He was so committed to his values of what’s right and what’s wrong that he was able to really galvanize this whole sweeping nation of change in a way that was still aligned with his values. That’s difficult to do. It would be easy to become frustrated and angry and try to force change in a way that is perhaps not aligned with your core values. Somehow, in the face of adversity we can’t even imagine, he was able to do it. As a leader, that’s a quality that I greatly admire, that ability to galvanize and inspire others to do good and to carry out the mission without losing your way from a core value perspective.