Energy Focus Inc.
You could say Energy Focus Inc. has a bright idea — but that would only be part of the story. Thanks to a process it adopted to go through the expensive and time-consuming steps to obtain a patent, and by following a unique methodology, EFOI is able to protect the advanced technology and ideas that go into its lighting products, allowing the company to innovate the LED field.
When the U.S. Navy recently contracted with EFOI for LED lighting, a portion of the order was for LED fixtures already qualified and manufactured at EFOI. But the remainder required a solution to a legacy 2-foot fluorescent fixture with more than 1 million lamps in total, which is the major general shipboard lighting fixture for the fleet.
EFOI then developed the M1 IntelliTube. A cross-disciplinary team lead by Roger Buelow, CTO, worked almost exclusively for months on the challenges to meet strict military standards.
The success of the M1 IntelliTube and the contract means that 7 percent of the U.S. fleet will now use LED lights. This will save the Navy 1.8 megawatts in power, which translates into 1 million gallons of diesel fuel per year.
In addition, the M1 IntelliTube allows for a 40 percent reduction in total ownership cost over the fixture’s lifetime by eliminating the maintenance/storage burden.
The next step is to supply the rest of the fleet with LED solutions, increase EFOI’s LED military product line, and penetrate emerging markets like the Navy support fleet and ally navies.
How to reach: Energy Focus Inc., (440) 715-1300 or www.energyfocusinc.com
President and CEO
You really have no excuse for not making more money as an employee at DuneCraft Inc. under the leadership of President and CEO Grant Cleveland.
The company, which creates terrariums geared to excite people about plants and nature, regularly looks at initiatives that will make its team more efficient and more profitable.
Its piecework system for the warehouse is an example of innovation at work. Time studies are done and employees are paid by the piece for what they assemble. Employees can make no less than minimum wage and up to $13 an hour. The results of this system were quick, and productivity actually quadrupled.
With fewer people needed, the company was able to operate more efficiently. Sales doubled and the remaining team members each earned an average of $11 an hour or more.
The company has also been innovative on the trade show front. DuneCraft prepares customized proposals for customers prior to seeing them at trade shows. The proposals are based on what products they carried in the past, as well as their sales results by price point, theme and audience. The proposals include a color presentation of recommended items as well as a complete printout of their past sales history with DuneCraft.
By distilling the information into a report, it took much of the stress out of coming to a trade show and trying to figure out what new products to carry.
How to reach: DuneCraft Inc., (800) 306-4168 or www.dunecraft.com
LaCentre is innovative in all components of event planning — the in-house catering, event planning and audiovisual services provide unique menus, ideas, products and experiences to clients and their guests.
When planning an event at LaCentre, clients initially work with the sales team to discuss their needs, vision and budget. The creative and knowledgeable team then works with the catering and audiovisual staff to create a memorable and unique experience while meeting these three critical components.
Many clients need to fit presentations, lunch and breakout sessions into a small window of time. The sales team will provide the client with various options, such as ways to multi-purpose space or fast yet satisfying meals to achieve a great experience within the allotted time.
For example, by using crescent style seating, rather than classroom style, one room may possibly be used for presentations, breakout sessions and lunch. This small concept may in turn minimize attendees from shuffling from room to room at a venue and add an extra 30 minutes to another important element of the event.
The sales and catering teams also share innovation in menu planning. For example, they may suggest a salad with protein, served within a bread bowl, to help a client provide guests with a satisfying meal within a short period of time. Or they may suggest serving pie as dessert on Pi Day, or hot dogs and Cracker Jacks on Opening Day for the Indians.
The sales and catering teams also enjoy working with clients to create signature drinks that incorporate event colors, themes or favorite flavors. For example a “Pickle-tini” may be suggested to play off a client’s favorite snack or Blue Curacao may be suggested to turn a basic vodka soda into a teal concoction that matches the company logo.
These whimsical touches can make an ordinary event extraordinary for guests and help provide a memorable experience for everyone involved.
LaCentre’s in-house audiovisual team offers the newest equipment and ideas to take client’s events to the next level. With access to and knowledge of state-of-the-art speakers and equipment, the audiovisual team can transform LaCentre into a global meeting space — bringing together hundreds of employees and minimizing travel expenses. They can provide custom lighting displays to make the ballroom feel like a forest, for a client with a nature theme, or suspend aerialists from the ceiling, for a client with a circus theme. The sky is truly the limit for LaCentre’s audiovisual Team.
For more information, call LaCentre at (440) 250-2000 or visit www.lacentre.com.
Hughie’s Even Production Services
Hughie’s Event Production Services has been Cleveland’s choice for live-event design and production resource since 1953. Hughie’s believes in giving back to the city where it all began and the area that they’ve called home for 60 years.
Hughie’s is now soliciting donations of non-perishable food items from customers, vendors and the community to distribute to local charities at the end of the year.
Hughie’s offices in Columbus and Pittsburgh will also participate in this nine-month event for their respective cities in honor of the company’s 60th anniversary.
Donation drop-off containers are available in each of the Hughie’s offices for the length of the celebration.
As a “thank you” for your generous food donation, you’ll be presented you with a free, “eco-friendly” shopping bag with Hughie’s 60th anniversary logo. In addition, participants who provide a name and phone number will be entered into a drawing to win one of three new 32-inch flat-screen televisions at the end of the year. A total of three flat screens TVs will be given away, one at each location.
All donations received in the Cleveland area will be distributed to the Cleveland Food Bank, with Columbus and Pittsburgh donations going to similar charities. The winner of the flat screen TVs will be announced at the conclusion of the promotion on Dec. 15.
Hughie’s is a full service event production company and worldwide supplier of high-definition video projection equipment, concert quality audio systems, intelligent moving lights, staging systems, decor and more to satisfy all your companies presentation and special event needs.
For more information, call Hughie’s Event Production Services at (216) 361-4600, visit www.fooddrive.hughies.com or follow us on social media at www.Facebook.com/HughiesEPS or on Twitter @HughiesEPS.
Innovation is vital to the future of U.S. Bank, and it is a corporate priority to innovate and invest in technology and operations systems that make it easy, fast and secure to do business with us.
We invest in new ways to provide the information, products and delivery systems our customers need — and to enhance our capabilities in the areas of regulatory compliance and risk management. We have fostered a culture of innovation and are committed to investments in technology both externally and internally.
Our initiatives include solutions for consumers and small businesses, as well as for larger businesses and targeted business sectors here and internationally.
Paybefore has chosen U.S. Bank’s Contour Campus Card as a 2013 Paybefore Awards winner in the “Most Effective Solution” category. Paybefore Awards recognizes excellence in the worldwide prepaid and emerging payments industry.
For more information, call U.S. Bank at (216) 623-9228 or visit www.usbank.com.
Lorain County Community College
Lorain County Community College is recognized as an innovative leader in both education and economic development. Most recently, the Aspen Institute named LCCC as one of the top 120 colleges in the country in both 2011 and 2012. The college’s innovative spirit enables it to achieve this type of recognition, and it all stems from a unique approach to strategic planning. Vision 2.0, the college’s latest strategic planning process invited hundreds of stakeholders to participate and used their feedback to shape the college’s future direction.
By constantly observing the needs and opportunities of the communities served, LCCC is able to develop programming that unites education with job creation — strengthening the region for employers, students and the community.
For more information about LCCC, call (800) 995-5222,visit www.lorainccc.edu or like LCCC on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/lorainccc.
Dr. Dvora Nelson,
President and CEO
Nelson Medical Enterprises LLC
Unless you are naturally gifted to perform a particular skill, it takes a lot of practice to get good at it. In the case of medical skills, that practice, while necessary, can create a significant risk to the person on whom the skill is being performed.
Dr. Dvora Nelson, president and CEO of Nelson Medical Enterprises LLC, wanted to create a product that would solve this problem by giving trainees a place to hone their skills without fear of harming a real person. The ScleroTrainer provides an opportunity for physicians, nurses and other physician extenders to have hands-on sclerotherapy training on a model. The trainer has veins that range in size from 0.2 to 0.5 mm in diameter. It mimics the feel and effect of injecting spider veins on real people.
Successful ScleroTrainer injections directly correlate with being able to precisely inject spider veins on actual patients to remove the unsightly blood vessels.
The risk to patients of a mistake made during sclerotherapy is significant. It’s a delicate skill that requires one to accurately access tiny veins and inject caustic chemicals into the vein in order to destroy the vein. If one accidentally injects the skin with the corrosive chemicals, the skin will ulcerate and develop a painful wound.
This can scare potential trainees from wanting to learn the skill out of fear that they will make a mistake and create serious problems for their patients. The ScleroTrainer removes that fear from the equation.
How to reach: Nelson Medical Enterprises LLC, (440) 617-6061 or www.sclerotrainer.com
President and CEO
The team at Checkpoint Surgical knew there had to be a better way. The options available for nerve stimulation were either outdated or complicated and time-consuming to use.
So under the leadership of Len Cosentino, the company’s president and CEO, a world-class team of surgeons and biomedical engineers set out to create a new device. This device would help surgeons locate, identify and evaluate motor nerve tissue and muscle functions, ultimately enabling surgeons to make important surgical decisions with increased confidence.
The Checkpoint Stimulator/Locator is a state-of-the-art, handheld and intra-operative nerve and muscle stimulator. It is now used at more than 100 hospitals across the U.S., and that number is growing daily. It also has a reorder rate of 95 percent.
At first, the product was targeted for upper-extremity orthopedic surgeons, but it is now being used for orthopedic trauma; orthopedic lower, head and neck; plastics; neurologists; and hand surgeons. Oral surgeons have also found a use for the device, and sales have doubled in each of the past two years.
Awareness of the product is spreading around the world as it has been adopted in Australia, South Africa, Canada and soon Kuwait. It was also featured during a live surgical web presentation in Paris, generating new awareness in Europe.
One of the keys to its success is the fact that it is simple to use and doesn’t require a lot of training in order to become familiar with the device. This saves time and helps procedures go more smoothly.
How to reach: Checkpoint Surgical, (216) 378-9107 or www.checkpointsurgical.com
Thomas Kinisky, President and CEO
Jean Angus, Innovation process director
Saint Gobain Performance Plastics
Innovation has always been top of mind for Thomas Kinisky and his leadership of Saint Gobain Performance Plastics.
He works hard to empower his people to be both innovative and forward thinking in their daily work. When you have employees who are collaborating to contribute valuable solutions to your business, you have a strong culture that is ready for any challenge it may face.
So it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when the company created The Plastics Innovation Council, and then received essays from 75 employees explaining why they deserved to be named to the council.
This group was ultimately formed with 20 members, and its task was to take innovation at Saint Gobain to even greater heights. Despite the culture, the council discovered that there was no evidence of an enterprise-wide, systematic and comprehensive program on creating and nurturing innovation. A search was convened and Jean Angus was brought in as the company’s innovation process director.
Angus developed a program based on three platforms: people, strategy and solutions. The result is a company that was good at innovation and is now one of the leaders across any type of industry you could name. More than 100 workshops have been held and more than 1,500 people have been trained.
Saint Gobain has engaged customers and identified undiscovered customer needs in 30 market applications. This disciplined approach has built a wave of momentum toward innovation that continues to build.
How to reach: Saint Gobain Performance Plastics, (216) 245-0529 or www.plastics.saint-gobain.com
Steve Schilling, Team leader
Cole Nuyen, Co-leader
Fairmount Minerals Business Innovation Team
It’s easy to talk about innovation, and many businesses use the word and think that’s enough to demonstrate that their company is on the leading edge of new ideas. That’s never been the case at Fairmount Minerals and nowhere is that more evident than with the company’s Business Innovation Team.
Launched in 2008, the Business Innovation Team charged itself with designing and implementing an innovation program for Fairmount, including an innovation center concept and a process for innovation input from all facilities.
Led by Steve Schilling and Cole Nuyen, the result is a thriving program that is constantly flowing with new ideas to make Fairmount Minerals a better and stronger business. Communication portals were developed to allow ideas to be submitted and considered.
It’s a rigorous seven-step process to give the idea the best chance of succeeding. The seven steps are concept, feasibility, business case, development, testing and validation, implementation and launch.
An idea management subteam assigns roles and responsibilities for managing this process and facilitates conversations needed to keep an idea moving.
In 2012, the Fairmount family contributed 51 innovative ideas and generated more than $58,000 in cost savings.
One of the innovative ideas was for an alternative mixing paddle developed by a team at the Technisand Troy Grove facility in Troy Grove, Ill. It is made of better quality material, costs less and reduces the downtime needed for paddle repair. The product is already paying dividends at several Fairmount facilities.
How to reach: Fairmount Minerals, (440) 279-0245 or www.fairmountminerals.com
Say the word “innovation,” and immediately you think about business legends like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos, as well as the companies they created – Apple and Amazon. Too often, however, we focus on the people who have been tabbed as innovators and the companies that develop those breakthrough products, services and solutions, such as Apple’s iPod and iTunes, or Amazon’s marketplace and unique ecosystem.
True innovation goes much deeper than a single leader’s vision. It is an all-encompassing philosophy that permeates an organization and defines its purpose for being. For me, at least, I prefer to think about innovation in its broadest terms, extending its definition to include corporate cultures and innovative management styles. Think about how Facebook and Microsoft are run, and how at both organizations employees are a key factor in the idea creation, or ideation, process.
Now, think about the breakthrough products that eventually went bust. Hopefully, you don’t have a basement full of Beanie Babies, boxes of Silly Bandz, or a home library filled with laser discs. It is more common to land on a singular breakthrough product that temporarily revolutionizes your industry rather than develop a product through a process that’s repeatable or scalable. And, just as true, no matter how innovative and creative your management team’s style may be, without the proper processes in place to push ideas through a system that takes them from mind to market, you’ll eventually have trouble keeping the lights on.
It all comes down to developing a culture imbued with innovation at its core. But this also requires having a servant culture in place where every person who works for the organization thinks about the customer first.
Consider San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels, where employees strive to create “Kimpton Moments” by going above and beyond with guests and delivering memorable experiences.
Kimpton overcomes the inherent limitations for creating new innovative products that being a boutique hotel chain includes by approaching innovation through its employee interaction – and then rewarding employees for their creativity. For example, when team members put in the extra hours to ensure world-class service delivery, the hotel chain has sent flowers and gift baskets to their loved ones. And when they create an innovative service experience, the company rewards staff members with such things as spa days, extra paid time off and other goodies.
And then there’s the Boston Consulting Group, a management consulting firm that’s known for developing innovative business processes and systems for its high-end clientele. Part of BCG’s internal process is a focus on team members maintaining a healthy work-life balance. When individuals are caught working too many long weeks, the company’s management team issues a “red zone report” to flag the overwork.
Talk about innovation! And no product, service or solution was developed, marketed or sold.
And finally, few organizations are more innovative than DreamWorks Animation. But beyond plugging out groundbreaking animated movies, the studio’s culture embraces empowerment and innovation. Employees are given stipends to personalize their workstations so that they create whatever inspirational atmosphere they need to succeed. And, as the story goes, after completing Madagascar 3, the crew presented a Banana Splats party, where artists showed the outtakes.
Not only are these three companies known for being innovative in their respective industry spaces, they also share the honor of being members of Fortune’s 2013 “Great Places to Work” list.
So how do you take the first steps toward transformation or put those initial building blocks in place to begin the journey? There’s no magic formula, but there are some common traits – and they revolve around empowerment and establishing a culture that cares.
- Are open-minded and ask “What if?”
- Teach team members how to see what is not there and identify opportunities in the marketplace to take advantage of those gaps.
- Develop cultures where innovation thrives through open and honest communication.
- Flatten the organizational structure and recognize that innovation can come from anyone and anywhere.
- Make innovation, itself, a cyclical and continuous process.
Stop and take an internal assessment of your organization, your team and of yourself. If you can’t check a box next to each of these five traits, stop and ask yourself why. Then begin your own journey to greatness.
How often does this happen to you? The day after you attend a networking event, you get a few generic email requests to connect on LinkedIn with people you chatted with for two minutes. They say, “I’d like to add you to my professional network ...”
I get several of these unsolicited requests a week from second level connections I don’t even know or have only met briefly.
First, I check out their profile. For those I’m not interesting in connecting with, I simply ignore their request. For those people I am interested in, I politely respond by indicating that, “I prefer to get to know people better before formally connecting” and suggest that we begin an email dialogue.
The purpose of that dialogue is to begin to answer the question, “Is this a person I can help … or who can help me?” Notice it’s an “or,” not an “and.” I’m continually amazed at the high percentage of people who never respond to that initial suggestion.
Full disclosure here, I’ve been an enthusiastic and strategic networker since before it was called networking. Some colleagues even call me the “Godfather of Networking” — I like that. I prefer high touch to high tech and view social media as an effective tool to enhance and expand relationships generally started by face-to-face or voice-to-voice conversations. If you consider that approach as old school or antiquated, I’m guilty as charged.
That said, LinkedIn allows you a fast, simple and no-cost way to make a poor impression on people you just met or don’t even know. So, here are some simple best practices to help you avoid doing that and ‘link in’ with style and class:
1. Don’t be a LinkedIn loser. Some people believe that it’s more important and valuable to have quantity over quality in the number of contacts. I don’t. They call themselves LIONs — Linked In Open Networkers … but loser works fine for me.
Be selective about whom you invite to connect with and whom you agree to connect with. A primary use of the site is to ask others in your network to refer or recommend you and to do the same for them. That’s pretty hard to do when you don’t even know the person or the only connection you have is that you’re both in the same discussion group.
2. Don’t be generic. When you do invite someone to connect with you, avoid the generic system-generated request. Instead, take the extra minute to craft a brief personalized note indicating why you want to connect with them.
Try something like, “Bill, I enjoyed our brief chat at the COSE meeting last night about your new venture at Glitztronics. I’d like to learn more about it and look for some ways to help each other. Please accept my invitation to LinkedIn.” How hard was that? How much time did it take? More importantly, what kind of an impression did those three simple sentences likely make on Bill?
When you accept invitations from others, reply in a similar manner with a short note thanking them and suggesting some ways you might help each other.
3. Don’t be superficial. When you ask people for a recommendation or referral, also send a personalized note. Make sure they know your work well enough to write a specific and meaningful testimonial. Indicate in that note which of your qualities you’d like them to highlight.
And, of course, offer to reciprocate. When you agree to write a recommendation, check out their existing ones first so you can give yours a different spin.
This all sounds like common sense and common courtesy, doesn’t it? Well, our workplace culture killed off common sense years ago, and we allowed common courtesy to die off slowly from lack of use. So, if you want to connect with style and class, do it with uncommon sense and uncommon courtesy. How’s that for old school?
Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication Inc., where he empowers business leaders to communicate confidently. A popular trainer and executive coach on workplace communications and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty at the University of Phoenix and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative. Reach him at (440) 449-0356, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.communicate-confidently.com.
I found myself several years ago looking for a new opportunity in my business life. I had changed careers once before, but this time I didn’t want to make that kind of change. Instead, I wanted to find something better in the industry in which I was currently working.
As with so many other industries nowadays, I knew mine was poised for a technological revolution.
At the time, the term “social media” was just forming on the lips of those in the dot-com industry. Facebook was battling MySpace for leadership in the personal information arena, and other Internet-savvy companies were just beginning to develop networks of people involved in collecting and exchanging other types of information.
One company, LinkedIn, was quietly establishing a database of professionals that allowed subscribers to compile a list of contacts inside and/or outside their industry with the click of a button. Times certainly were changing.
Observing one of the originals
My first encounter with LinkedIn was with one of its original power users. He taught a class of outplacement recruits about establishing a LinkedIn account. I learned how to post a soft version of my resume online, develop a set of broad-based contacts and literally network my way into a job interview.
There were a number of tips and tricks he provided to get my name listed on the first page of a company’s search for candidates. Some of those are still useful, while others are now obsolete due to sophisticated search engine optimization techniques.
Today, my use of LinkedIn has gone far beyond looking for a new job. It has exploded to where I am now connected with thousands of people inside and outside my own industry that have common business interests.
Nurturing and extending
I have also become a hub of introductions and contacts for others, as well as myself, by nurturing and extending my professional persona via LinkedIn.
The usefulness of LinkedIn, especially for a C-suite officer, doesn’t just mean “friending” other C-suite executives. LinkedIn cuts across most company functions when it comes to people, organizations and groups of individuals with a common interest.
I use LinkedIn every time I come across a new company or name of an individual. A company’s website is often the first link I tap to peruse and gather information, but a company’s LinkedIn site seems to connect me deeper into the organization.
The company’s LinkedIn site gives me access to people who don’t appear on the company’s home page. Within this space, I can look for contacts with interesting backgrounds and experiences aligned to my own company’s interests or requirements.
Productivity tools abound
Many social media tools, like LinkedIn, are productivity tools for the C-suite executive. I get information and insight from the many user groups I have joined.
I participate in discussions regarding technology trends and channel opportunities. I learn about customer behavior, sometimes even competitor behavior. There are also comments and information I glean on potential new markets and future M&A business partners — everything pertinent to tier one interests of a senior executive.
If I am interested in finding a good person to fill an open job position, an outside recruiter or my HR department can always find a slate of qualified candidates. LinkedIn, however, serves as a handy tool for helping me peel back a few layers from each resume. I often get what I refer to as a 3-D view of the person behind the text of a CV.
In my humble opinion (IMHO), within the social media frenzy that now exists in cyberspace, the head of the class for business networking is LinkedIn.
Tom Salpietra is president and COO of EYE Lighting International, a manufacturer of lighting equipment. His company was awardeda the 2011 Evolution in Manufacturing Award. Reach him at email@example.com.