Twelve years ago, EY decided to go global with its Entrepreneur Of The Year awards and establish the World Entrepreneur Of The Year program — and the results have been, shall we say, an international success. The conference, held annually in Monaco, features Entrepreneur Of The Year country winners competing for the World Entrepreneur Of The Year title.
Assembling business leaders from around the world in one place to be honored is a huge accomplishment — the wealth of experience, as well as the variety of successful leadership styles, is outstanding.
Here are some thoughts from the collection of the world’s most accomplished entrepreneurs — innovators, futurists, turnaround specialists and problem-solvers — about leadership styles. ●
“I built the company based on people, not on experience from before. They were willing to learn and try anything. We had a bunch of people who had never done this before. None of us had run companies. None of us had worked in high levels of companies. None of us were from Fortune 500s. Chobani not only became a business that grew, but Chobani was like a school to us, including myself.”
founder, president and CEO
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 United States
2013 Entrepreneur Of The World
“Early on, the business was centered on me, and I had to make all the decisions alone. Now I share those decisions with my 10 main directors. If there are differences in opinion, I make the last decision.
The other thing is that I have had to ensure that the people who are invited to work here are people with principles, values, integrity, responsibility and passion. If I don’t see a person with passion, they don’t hang around the company very long.”
Lorenzo Barrera Segovia
founder and CEO
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Mexico
“I’m a very passionate person, which will never change. When you grow, you gain more experience and the kind of problems you face change. As you grow, you need to grow with your organization.”
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Argentina
“In the startup days, you have to be very innovative, hire and retain talent, refine your business as you deploy in the marketplace, and you learn things from it. Today, with a solid track record of business success, I can focus on what’s next and think more strategic and long-term than you’re allowed to in the early days. My style has evolved as the business has matured.”
Chevron Energy Solutions
“Entrepreneurship and leadership is about always having ideas, knowing that it is possible even though everyone says it is too difficult. Maintain the positive and always have new ideas.”
Mario Hernandez, founder and president, Marroquinera
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Colombia
“To keep the entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurship alive once you've got past the startup base, I think it is making sure people understand why they are there. There are always things you can do to improve your business. You should be rethinking and retooling it every chance you get. The key thing is to make sure everybody in the organization understands the story, where are you going — how are you going to get there? And the belief that you are doing the right thing —people want to know their purpose. Keep the energy going, keep a strong sense of purpose.”
Dr. Alan Ulsifer
CEO, president and chair
Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Canada
“The skill sets of an entrepreneur involve understanding how to create business. Why not work with kids who need it the most and actually teach them and help them to be entrepreneurs? That’s what is going to grow our economy and create stability where otherwise we’re going to have a lot of social unrest.”
President and CEO
Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship
“I like to be involved. I want to know everything that is going on. But I have to delegate to my team. That was the biggest adjustment for me, and it’s not an easy thing to do. It’s that delegating to others, trusting them and reinventing yourself. Now that we’ve grown, I put more responsibility on my team and rely on my team more than I once did.”
President and founder
SME Entertainment Group
“If someone makes a mistake, what do you do? You laugh with them. You don’t yell at them. You laugh. It just keeps things light and lively and people want to do their very best. You let them know they screwed up, but you also let them know it’s OK.”
National Heritage Academies
Leaders often talk about how the traits of accountability and transparency helped make them who they are, but to retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, who served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for four years under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, leadership is quite simply how you listen, learn and lead.
It’s not just a coincidence that communication is as important in the war zone as it is in an organization — and that’s where Mullen emphasizes listening to what his team members have on their minds.
Smart Business talked with Mullen about the challenges of being in command:
Q. What do you see as the most important trait that any leader must possess?
A. Integrity. Be true to yourself, and obviously true to your values. The value of integrity intrinsically has been a driver for me since I was a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. It has served me exceptionally well.
Integrity encompasses being honest, truthful and consistent — both publicly and privately in leadership positions — and representing that in every situation. It is most evident in the toughest decisions you have to make.
Q. And how can you ensure integrity is present in leadership?
A. What I loved about command was the responsibility and authority that came with it. But more than anything else, the other piece was accountability — accountable leadership. That is not just having someone hold you accountable, but having enough strength yourself as a leader to hold yourself accountable.
I just found that even with those decisions that can be very unpopular, if you are true to that value of integrity, even if it may not seem to some to be the best decision, it [integrity] holds you in the best stead as a leader over the long term. And because of that, it becomes incredibly supportive of those very, very tough decisions.
Q. So what can help a leader make those tough decisions more effectively?
A. As a more senior leader, I learned to keep a diversity of views around me. The more senior I got, the more diverse the people, the recommendations and the discussions had to be in order for me to make the right decision.
I had people around me who were willing to say, ‘Hey, this is when you got it wrong,’ as opposed to the opposite, which is isolation, where nobody will tell the emperor [he] doesn’t have any clothes on.
Q. You’ve mentioned the importance of listening to others in order to help you become a better leader. How did you do that?
A. Everywhere I went, whether we had a town hall meeting or we could call an all-hands meeting, I would take questions from the audience. So, for example, when a young enlisted man would give me a question of which I didn’t know the answer, I said, “I don’t know the answer, but give me your email address. I will go research it and get back to you.”
I did that. I went back and looked at whatever their concern was. And some of those concerns generated significant changes in the military, or in the particular service they were in. For me, as chairman, that was a vital part of trying to understand what I was asking them to do, and then taking that feedback and trying to fix the problem that they raised — if it made sense to do it.
A good leader can make such a difference, and create something out of nothing, whereas a bad leader is unable to do that. The ingredient that makes a difference is leadership. ●
Retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen served more than 43 years in the Navy, having served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011, and as chief of naval operations from 2005 to 2007. He will be the keynote speaker at the Dec. 5 American Red Cross Hero Awards. Learn more about the Hero Awards at www.clevelandheroes.com.
Consider this business scenario: You’ve landed a big account for your company by converting a highly prized prospect into a valuable client. The new client has hired you to handle a specific scope of work and is counting on your team’s ability to deliver work that goes above and beyond.
While nothing is more important than delivering great customer service to satisfy the client, you may not realize that you’re probably overlooking unrealized opportunities to forge a stronger relationship with your customer.
In today’s business landscape, most large companies offer an array of products and services. More often than not, however, your clients use you for a specific service or skill set. And unfortunately, in this scenario, most companies focus solely on the task at hand — delivering what they’ve been contracted to deliver — failing to take ample time to think about the bond they’re creating with the client and what could be next.
In more simple terms, it is one thing to provide service that keeps a customer; it is another to keep that customer and expand the relationship to become a trusted partner.
Provide value in a deliberate way
The good news is that this is an easy fix. Establish a content marketing program that allows you to distribute thought leadership to your clients.
A content marketing program will help you provide value that other service providers may not, and when clients see you as an informational resource and partner, it will be easier to expand the relationship.
Take this example into consideration: You are an insurance provider and your main product is life insurance, therefore most of the communication you have with your clients surrounds that topic.
With a comprehensive content marketing program in place, however, you can educate your clients on the recent trends in the insurance industry and how that affects the individual. At the same time, you can give them an overview of your company’s wellness program and let them know that if they joined, they could reduce their monthly premiums.
As you can see, you’re not just providing your client with the original service, you’re also providing them with both your thought leadership — aka value — and additional offerings.
Personal connections payoff
Aside from providing value to the client with the content you distribute, a strong content marketing program allows you to showcase your brand’s personality. Clients will be able to connect with your brand on a more personal level.
Providing continually updated content through the right channels to the right clients enhances your day-to-day communications. Clients start seeing you as thought leaders and partners instead of just service providers.
It will help you expand relationships and, as a result, generate new business through more products and services.
Show them more than just what they see on the surface — show them how active you are in the community, or how much fun you had during a recent company outing. If may sound trivial, but your clients do similar things, and seeing you connect with the community and/or employees will help forge a more personal connection. You never know; you and your client may support the same charity, organization or team.
Open communication also will help strengthen relationships to the point where you can capture a premium price and eliminate price-jumping clients. Clients will pay more for a valuable relationship than simply look to get the lowest price elsewhere. ●
David Fazekas is vice president of marketing services for SBN Interactive. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 250-7056.
You would think someone like Douglas Merrill would be a heavy multitasker, with multiple devices in hand, fielding several conversations — both real and virtual — simultaneously.
But you would be wrong.
Merrill, who was the CIO at Google until 2008, doesn’t like to multitask. He says that when you do it, you aren’t using your brain’s full capacity and aren’t as effective. He recommends focusing on one thing at a time.
Billionaire Mark Cuban has his own time management strategy. Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, says you should completely avoid meetings unless you are closing a deal. Otherwise, he says, they are a waste of time.
Both of these proven leaders have learned that how you manage your time is paramount to your effectiveness.
As a CEO, you are swamped every day with calls and emails from people wanting a piece of your time. Some are internal, some are charity requests, some are from friends or family members and others are from service providers.
To help wade through this sea of information, it’s important to have a system in place to help you free up time to think about your business and the things that matter most in life. These open times are what author Richard Swenson refers to as “margin.” They are the spaces between ourselves and our limits that are reserved for emergencies.
But for many business leaders, there are no spaces left.
The way out of this trap is to set clear goals and values for yourself and your organization. Once you do that, you will have a filter through which to evaluate everything. Everything will have an immediate yes or no answer, eliminating the “let me think about it” category completely.
The key is to establish what your goals are first and then prioritize what is important. With your priorities straight, you will find more time to put toward important things on your goals list, but don’t forget to leave time on your daily schedule. There is no way to foresee all emergencies, so by leaving yourself some margin, when something unexpected happens, you already have time built in to deal with it.
Once you have margin built into your life, you have to have the discipline to stick to it. There will always be the temptation to take every meeting or answer every email. But if you use your goals and priorities as a filter, those requests are easily either accepted or declined based on where they fall on your priority list.
If you want a life where you can experience more peace and joy and less anxiety, start looking at your priorities and establish some margin in your daily schedule. ●
Deny, deny, deny; fall, tuck and roll; or put your head in the sand?
The quick answer to this headline is none of the above. A leader, by definition, must do exactly that — lead, which means being in front of a variety of audiences, including employees, investors and customers. Not everyone is going to be a gung-ho supporter. Sooner or later you’ll encounter a naysayer who either has a point to prove or is on a mission to make you and your company look bad.
Many of these verbal confrontations come out of nowhere and when least expected. As the representative of your organization, it is your responsibility to manage these situations and recognize that sometimes a “win” can simply minimize the damage.
When under siege, it’s human instinct to fight, flee or freeze. Typically these behavioral responses aren’t particularly productive in a war of words. Engaging in verbal fisticuffs could simply escalate the encounter, giving more credence to the matter than deserved.
If you flee by ignoring the negative assertions, you’ll immediately be presumed guilty as charged. It’s hard to make your side of the story known if you put your head in the sand.
By freezing, you’ll appear intellectually impotent. Worse yet, pooh-poohing a question will only fuel the aggressor’s determination to disrupt the proceedings. You could use a SWAT-type police and military technique to elude a confronter by falling, tucking and rolling to safety, but that usually only works on the silver screen.
Perhaps the best method to manage unwelcome adversaries is to be prepared prior to taking center stage. This applies to live audiences or a virtual gathering when you’re speaking to multiple participants, which is common practice for public company CEOs during quarterly analyst conference calls.
Most gatherings of this nature include a Q&A segment where the tables are turned on the speaker who must be prepared to respond to inquiries both positive and negative.
Before any such meeting, it is critical to contemplate and rehearse how you would respond to thorny or adverse statements or questions.
A good practice is to put the possible questions in writing and then craft your responses, hoping, of course, that they won’t be needed. This is no different from what the President of the United States or the head of any city council does prior to a press conference or presentation. The advantage of this exercise is that it tends to sharpen your thinking and causes you to explore issues from the other perspective.
In some cases you’ll find yourself in an awkward or difficult situation where there is no suitable yes or no answer, or when the subject of the interrogatory is so specific it is applicable to only a very few.
The one-off question is easiest to handle by stating that you or your representative will answer the question following the session rather than squander the remaining time on something that does not interest or affect the majority.
The more difficult question is one that will take further investigation and deliberation, in which case the best course of action is to say exactly that. Answer by asserting that rather than giving a less-than-thoughtful response to a question that deserves more research, you or your vicar will get back with the appropriate response in short order. This helps to protect you from shooting from the hip only to later regret something that can come back to haunt you.
Effective speakers and leaders have learned that the best way to counter antagonism is through diplomacy. It’s much more difficult for the antagonist to continue to fight with a polite, unwilling opponent.
Finally, when being challenged, never personalize your response against your questioner; always control your temper; and don’t linger on a negative. Keep the proceedings moving forward and at the conclusion keep your promise to follow up with an answer. This will build your credibility and allow you to do what you do best, lead. ●
Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. “The Benevolent Dictator,” a book by Feuer that chronicles his step-by-step strategy to build business and create wealth, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Reach him with comments at email@example.com.
My 7-year-old son Cole recently gave me a Rainbow Loom bracelet, which is made of linked rubber bands. It is today’s school-age children’s craze, and Novi, Michigan-based Choon’s Design LLC is churning out the kits at a record pace.
With more than 1 million units sold in the last 24 months, Rainbow Loom is the brainchild of Choon Ng, a former Nissan crash safety engineer who invented it while working on a craft project for his daughters.
And Rainbow Loom, it turns out, isn’t its original name. When it was created, it was called Twistz Bandz.
Timing is everything, and Twistz Bandz may have sounded a bit too much like Silly Bandz — the last “wrist” craze that swept the nation. Between November 2008 and early 2011, every school-age child in sight was wearing layer upon layer of Silly Bandz on their wrists. It was as hot a product as anything since Beanie Babies.
Twistz Bandz’s arrival, it seems, happened just as Silly Bandz ran into what every hot new product eventually faces: competition. Look-a-likes with similar-sounding names began flooding the market. They were cheaper, and you could buy them more readily at more retail locations. The core brand quickly diluted. So Ng did what any smart businessperson would: He changed the dynamics of the situation.
Thus, Rainbow Loom was born.
Enter social media
Within a few months, the product — which allows its young owners to custom-create bracelets — was gaining attention. Much of this was due to a full-tilt social media blitz, including videos on YouTube and an engaging Facebook page, where users could share their designs.
More recently, Ng has become vigilant in protecting his patent and U.S. trademark — battling all wannabe competitors from launching similar-sounding products and flooding the market to dilute his own brand.
His success — or failure — is yet-to-be determined. But his efforts will prove fruitless if he’s not already looking ahead to the next product. This is the dirty little secret to any hot toy craze and the core dilemma every business leaders faces: How do you remain relevant as consumers’ wants, needs and desires ebb and flow — sometimes as swiftly as the wind changes direction.
Get beyond being a fad
Success in business relies upon building a sustainable operation that will outlast any cyclical “must have” product explosion.
There needs to be the creation of an idea continuum — an innovation factory, if you will. Innovative leaders must review, measure and adapt a company’s products, services and solutions to the changing whims of the marketplace. You need to talk to customers, vendors and prospects. And you need to regularly take the pulse of the market.
If you haven’t taken at least some of the gains from today’s success and invested it into research and development for tomorrow, you’re already losing ground. Today is today, and just like the disclaimers for financial investing warn — past performance does not indicate future results.
In the end, the only thing that matters is this: Is your next big thing built to last? Or, like every other craze that’s every hit the market, will your opportunities to remain relevant long into the future fade away after the competition creeps in and dilutes your market? ●
Dustin S. Klein is publisher and vice president of operations for Smart Business. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 250-7026.
EY recently announced promotions of seven professionals based in its Northeast Ohio offices.
Doug Campbell was promoted to partner. He is a member of EY’s Transaction Advisory Services practice. Campbell has more than nine years of experience serving private equity and corporate clients on the buy and sell sides, and he has extensive carve-out divestiture experience relating to sales and tax-free spin-off transactions.
Aaron Swartz was promoted to partner. He is a member of EY’s Assurance practice. Swartz has more than 13 years public accounting experience serving multinational Securities and Exchange Commission registrants and non-public clients primarily in the diversified industrial and consumer products, chemicals, transportation, retail and entertainment industry sectors.
Dan Tompkins was promoted to partner. He is a member of EY’s Advisory practice. Tompkins has more than 15 years of experience working with companies in a variety of industries from a financial, operational and strategic auditing and process improvement perspective.
Michael Dreis was promoted to executive director. He is a member of EY’s Tax practice. Dreis has more than 15 years of diverse business and project management experience serving various industries, including retail, heavy and light manufacturing, utilities, automotive, pharmaceuticals and distribution companies. His functional specialization includes accounting methods, inventory, capitalization and depreciation, the research credit, Section 199 deduction and Internal Revenue Service audit support.
Gary Hengelsberg was promoted to executive director. He is a member of EY’s Assurance Practice. Hengelsberg has more than 17 years of experience providing accounting and auditing services to a broad range of clients, primarily in the industrial products, consumer products and automotive industries. He is responsible for leading teams to support the internal inspections program and other internal monitoring and regulatory activities.
Ed Kilbane was promoted to director. He is a member of EY’s Assurance practice. Kilbane is the director of Americas Assurance Implementation and works with representatives across North and South America to embed new firm policy and enable technology into the audit practice. He has more than 20 years of experience and has worked in both a client service and operational capacity over his tenure
Colin McFarlane was promoted to director. McFarlane is the Global Content Management & Production leader at EY, leading a large global team providing world-class content services across its global enterprise internally and on the EY public website. He is responsible for the strategic development of EY’s content management capability, enabling infrastructure and processes.
Kadish, Hinkel and Weibel recently announced its partner, Stephen L. Kadish has been named the Best Lawyers 2014 Cleveland Tax Law “Lawyer of the Year.”
Kadish has been a leading tax attorney in Cleveland for more than 40 years. His practice areas include taxation, estate planning, probate and business law. Kadish was a founding member of Kadish, Hinkel and Weibel in 1975 and has been a veteran lecturer on tax and business planning matters.
Blue Technologies Inc., an office technology provider, announced its acquisition of Smart Solutions Inc., a Beachwood, Ohio-based IT solutions provider to clients in the education, legal, professional services, government and corporate sectors.
Smart Solutions will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Blue Technologies renamed Blue Technologies Smart Solutions. Bill Julka, president of Smart Solutions, will remain onboard as vice president and all employees will be retained during the acquisition.
Blue Technologies expands its footprint into the IT space by more than doubling the service and support teams to provide users with an unparalleled level of knowledge and skill.
Great Day Improvements LLC has announced that Sven Kramer has been promoted to national sales manager. He moves to this position from general manager of Stanek Windows, a division of Great Day.
In his new position Kramer will oversee sales training in all markets where Great Day sells its Patio Enclosures, Stanek Windows and SoftWall Finishing Systems. He began his career as an installer with the predecessor of Stanek Windows.
OverDrive, the world’s leading distributor of e-books and other digital media to libraries and schools, announced the appointment of Lee C. Milstein to the new position of chief strategy officer.
Milstein, who previously held leadership roles at YouTube, AOL and DivX, will lead OverDrive’s emerging digital media businesses, including the expansion into streaming video, education content, services and help direct the company’s overall strategy and strategic partnerships.
In addition to Milstein’s strategic role, he will also lead a market development team that will be based in New York City. ●
When it comes to running a family business, some decisions can mean the difference between running the company for a few years before selling it and keeping the business in the family for generations. Kirk Zehnder stood at that crossroads a few years ago with Earnest Machine, and it took some critical decisions to find the long-term path.
Earnest Machine is a 65-year-old, family-run, industrial distributor of nuts and bolts with 75 employees. Zehnder, whose grandfather started the business, is president and CEO.
“We stepped back and said, ‘We can probably run this business for five or 10 years and have a good lifestyle business, or we could make some hard changes and focus on the long-term,’” Zehnder says. “We decided to focus on the long-term and so a lot of family exited the business.”
Some family members took over a main part of the business while Zehnder and other family members retained the distribution side of the business.
“We are selling 2,000-year-old technology,” Zehnder says. “Yet, we embrace change pretty well and we mitigate the family madness that comes with family business.”
Zehnder has been CEO for five years now and his biggest challenge has been changing the focus from the business to the customer and looking at the industry in a bigger perspective.
“We really had to broaden our perspective of the industry and what we do in the industry, and then focus on creating the best customer experience we can,” he says.
Here’s how Zehnder is making the tough calls to keep Earnest Machine running strong.
Make critical decisions
By pausing and thinking about where you want your business to be in the future, you’ve taken the first step to go in a new direction.
“Five to 10 years is a realistic number,” Zehnder says. “Most people can see where they’re going to be in five years. When a company or a family wants to sit down and truly design where they want the business to be in five years, those things start to highlight the weaknesses and the threats start to become apparent.”
Looking out long-term for Earnest Machine helped to address some of the family dynamics that were influencing decisions.
“It’s never easy having some of these discussions,” Zehnder says. “It’s kind of like the credit business — you pay now or you pay later. Sometimes people’s feelings get hurt and people disagree. But you know that’s short-term versus the long-term unwinding of a family business.”
Make the customer count
To keep Earnest Machine growing and in a strong position, Zehnder knew the focus would have to be on the company’s customers.
It seems obvious to have a focus on the customer rather than on the business itself, but in an established family business, the managerial attention sometimes gets paid to things that are less relevant to the business.
“Industrial distribution is five to eight years behind other trends,” Zehnder says. “People aren’t thinking any differently about their nuts and bolts purchases than they are about their coffee. So by focusing on that, we think we set ourselves apart to be different.”
One of Earnest Machine’s recent investments has been its website. Customers can now log in and manage their own accounts. The company can also create custom shipments for customers such as putting their name and logo on the box.
“We have seen over the last five to 10 years that the customer’s expectations have changed pretty radically,” he says. “We took the approach that we are competing with the best retail organizations out there creating a customer experience — that’s who our real competition is, it’s not the people selling nuts and bolts. A little shift in the perspective of the customer gave us a boost that adds value to the company and to our customers.” ●
How to reach: Earnest Machine, (800) 327-6378 or www.earnestmachine.com
Unlike most college campus presidents, Robert Peterson doesn’t have a background in academia. He’s spent more than 30 years in the private sector working for Squire Sanders, EY, Park Corp. and I-X Center Corp. When Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College, went looking for a new president in 2012, however, that’s exactly the kind of experience it was looking for.
“The college had decided to recruit somebody with business experience,” says Peterson, who assumed the role of president and CEO of Corporate College in October 2012. “That was a great decision, because we are effectively a consulting practice dealing with businesses and providing solutions.”
Corporate College offers training and solutions in areas such as organizational effectiveness — leadership training, team building, change management, supervisor training and executive coaching — quality and continuous improvement programs — Lean Six Sigma, ISO 9000 and OSHA — and IT training.
“When it comes to curriculum, we have to look at the needs of the business community and make sure we have curriculum that addresses those needs,” Peterson says. “There is no need for a course that’s not in demand.”
While Corporate College has been a world-class provider of these services for some time now, it hasn’t put much effort into marketing itself and leveraging the successes it has had. But all that’s changing.
Here’s how Peterson has been using his business experience in the world of academia to further Corporate College’s aspirations.
Utilize your background
While Corporate College is affiliated with Cuyahoga Community College and offers training courses, the college acts more like a consultancy than an academic institution. Having a business background has helped Peterson grow Corporate College and better understand its customers.
“When you’re working across diverse industries, you learn a lot about business,” Peterson says. “That perspective is very helpful in dealing with the business community in Northeast Ohio. Secondly, I’m from the business community. I walked the walk and talked the talk. I understand the situations that they’re in.
“Thirdly, I understand that businesses need to move at the speed of light and that they need a solution that works well.”
That mentality is different than the typical academic environment where fall semester starts Aug. 28 and that’s when everyone starts working.
“When you’re dealing with a business, you have to be quick, nimble and responsive,” he says. “You also have to be a good listener. You can’t act like you’re the expert and you know everything. Businesses don’t want someone who is going to tell them how much they know. They want somebody who is going to listen and provide a solution, and that’s the dimension that I bring.”
In Peterson’s first nine months at Corporate College, he had the opportunity to recruit people to his team. He did so by filling openings with people that had private sector experience.
“That allowed me to assemble my own team,” he says. “We’ve got a good blend of college professionals, but bringing in private sector people adds to the ability to understand the needs of the business and respond quickly.”
Develop a strategy
Peterson’s strategy since arriving has been to make Corporate College the No. 1 provider of corporate training services and solutions in Northeast Ohio. To achieve this, his first step was to increase Corporate College’s visibility throughout the region.
“When I came in, Corporate College had not been very good at marketing itself,” Peterson says. “Brand awareness and brand identification really weren’t there. The accolades and the reviews of what we do are off the Richter scale. However, colleges aren’t used to marketing themselves to businesses. They are used to marketing themselves to teenagers.”
Peterson and his team developed a strategic marketing plan and looked at everything Corporate College had done historically. They also needed to identify where to take the college in order to create a road map for the future.
“Historically, Corporate College divorced itself from Cuyahoga Community College,” he says. “Nobody knew they were affiliated. I however, feel that Cuyahoga Community College is our strongest asset that helps us sell Corporate College.
“I can call any CEO in town and tell them I’m from Corporate College, and I have a hard time getting through. If I call and say I’m from Cuyahoga Community College, I get a return phone call. Cuyahoga Community College has a stellar reputation in Northeast Ohio.”
Due to that reputation, Peterson decided co-branding Corporate College and Cuyahoga Community College was the right solution.
“I’m proud to say I’m a part of Cuyahoga Community College,” he says. “If I relate myself to Cuyahoga Community College, it’s a much easier sell than if I distance myself from it.”
Leverage your strengths
Now that Peterson has built a strong team around him and put more emphasis on marketing Corporate College’s offerings to businesses, he can focus on the most important aspect — the training curriculum.
“As a college, we’re not necessarily profit-motivated, not that we want to lose money doing what we’re doing, but it’s more important for us to do the right thing and make sure that our solution is the right one,” Peterson says. “I’d rather not sell training to you if it’s not going to fix your problem. We’re there to design and sell a solution that specifically addresses your needs in the workplace.”
Corporate College does that through two means — one is traditional open enrollment through a course catalog, and the other is to deliver a customized training program.
“When it comes to curriculum, we can either design it ourselves, or we can go to a third party curriculum content provider, and we can license it from them,” he says. “If we do a lot of training in a certain area, it’s more cost effective for us to make the upfront investment, design the curriculum and own it so we don’t have to license it each time.
“If it’s training that we only do from time to time, it’s more cost-effective to go to a quality third party. That brings credibility to Corporate College and provides world-class training for our customers. I’m always looking for opportunities to partner with first-class content providers to bring best-in-class solutions to Corporate College.”
At the end of the day, what’s important to Peterson is to continue to find ways to make Corporate College a better solutions provider to Northeast Ohio businesses.
“If businesses don’t have trained employees, one of two things is going to happen: They’re either going to fail and go under, or relocate and move to where the skilled workforce is,” he says. “We’re part of the business retention efforts of Northeast Ohio. Our sole purpose in life is to make businesses successful.” ●
How to reach: Corporate College, (216) 987-2800 or www.corporatecollege.com
Corporate acquisition activity is seeing a resurgence, signaling optimism for an uptick in the M&A market. Year-to-date, aggregate deal value exceeded the comparable period last year by more than 40 percent, supported by a solid flow of large cap deals, with September reining in Verizon-Vodafone and marking the second largest M&A deal on record.
The month saw several billion-dollar-plus transactions across diverse sectors, most notably Koch Industries-Molex in electronics; Jarden-Yankee Candle in consumer products; Packaging Corp. of America-Boise in paper and packaging; Stryker-MAKO Surgical in health care; and SKF-Kaydon in industrials. With acquisitions a primary means to return growth to shareholders, we can expect large corporates to continue to chip away at the cash stockpile on balance sheets.
The middle market is seeing steady deal flow where strong niche players continue to be attractive targets. Ohio corporates also are flexing their muscle with deal announcements in September:
RPM International Inc. of Medina acquired Exton, Pa.-based Expanko Inc. for its Performance Coatings Group. Expanko is a producer of terrazzo tile under the FritzTile brand, as well as cork, rubber and rubber/cork floor tiles serving the education, health care, hospitality and sports/entertainment markets. The company has annual sales of more than $12 million. Expanko will benefit from RPM’s marketing and distribution strength to expand beyond its strong east coast presence.
Nordson Corp. completed the acquisition of the Kreyenborg GmbH and BKG Bruckmann & Kreyenborg Granuliertechnik GmbH companies from Kreyenborg Group. The Münster, Germany-based businesses will add to Nordson’s portfolio of engineered melt stream components and enhance its ability to serve OEM machine builder customers in plastic extrusion markets, as well as bring product solutions in plastic compounding, recycling and related applications.
Akron-based A. Schulman Inc. acquired Perrite Group, a thermoplastics manufacturing business serving the electronics, appliance and niche automotive markets. With operations in Malaysia, the U.K. and France, the acquisition is expected to increase Schulman’s Asia Pacific revenues by 35 percent, and will double the size of the company's existing Engineered Plastics business in the region.
Akron Brass Co. acquired Reach Engineering LLC, a provider of specialized electronics to the emergency and industrial vehicle markets. The Wooster-based fire industry manufacturer expands its product offering with Reach, which has expertise in emergency vehicle products and services, and is recognized as an innovator of solutions specifically addressing the needs of the fire service.