2012 Columbus Smart Leaders: Farah Majidzadeh, CEO/Chairperson, Resource International, Inc. Featured

7:18pm EDT July 11, 2012
2012 Columbus Smart Leaders: Farah Majidzadeh, CEO/Chairperson, Resource International, Inc.

Farah Majidzadeh, CEO/Chairperson, Resource International, Inc.

Give us an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.

A small business such as mine, starting from the basement of my home providing technology and research and development services, is extremely sensitive to rapid changes of political structure, government spending trends, and, of course, interest rate and recession. While fortunate enough that my original clients still have confidence in my company, I have faced many obstacles during the past 39 years in business; the largest of which was the hostile banking situation from 2007-2009. The challenges of this period were quite different for the company than they had been in the past. While the business environment required the normal challenges of a typical recession: diversification; outreach to greater client pool; more innovation; cutting back expenses, etc.; as a small business, firms like mine no longer had the support of a friendly banker.

As part of the global problem, bankers were now threatening small businesses by calling in and cutting off their line of credit, in turn destroying striving organizations. I unfortunately also faced this challenge. Because the Florida real estate market had severely slowed down, my local office there had suffered financially and was creating a burden on the rest of the corporation. In recognition of the national trend and dim possibility of the Florida market come back, I made the decision to close the Florida office. Even though as a company we had more than $40 million in project back log, I could no longer tolerate the unfriendly relationship of the new management of my banker of 37 years.

Leaving our long time banker, we overcome this obstacle by finding a new banker who believed and supported small businesses.

In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

With my two youngest children off at school, I wanted to take on a new challenge and was exploring many business opportunities. My husband, Kamran Majidzadeh, a professor at The Ohio State University, was invited to present a paper at the second International Conference on Pavement Design, held in London, England in 1972. I attended the conference with him, and was fascinated by the new state-of-the-art, non-destructive, and non-intrusive pavement testing technologies being developed in Europe at the time.

Upon return from the conference, Kamran had begun to do research on the first generation of a pavement testing equipment called Dynaflect and was exploring its application in road maintenance. He was keeping the new equipment in our home garage at the time, and I had decided I would like to market the product.

On my very own stationary, I sent out typed letters to various clients, hoping for one or two responses of interest. Just two weeks later, I had my first two clients, Delaware County Engineer's Office and the City of Worthington Engineer's Office, who were interested in the innovative equipment. With these contracts in tow, I quickly launched a small technology firm, Resource International, Inc., from the basement of my family home with the unique capability of diagnosing the conditions of pavements.

See, to me, I developed Resource International, Inc. with the notion that innovation is everything, and that to succeed and prosper as a company, you must stay on top of the trends and latest technology. Our company started as a niche research and development firm, and has grown to a multi-million dollar company during the last 39 years due to innovative techniques, methods and equipment. I truly believe that the day you stop learning and believing in these innovations, you and your company are en route of failure. I wholeheartedly believe in the need to always move forward, and I lead my company in the same manner. Innovation is our past and our future.

How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?

Resource International, Inc. is a family owned and home grown company. For more than 20 years, Rii was headquartered in Westerville, Ohio and Delaware County. In 2002, in response to Mayor Michael B. Coleman's call for bringing business back to Columbus, and with the creation of the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation (CDDC), I relocated Rii's corporate office to the Columbus area in Franklin County. We moved our then 120+ employees into a new office in the City limits, as well as our laboratory facilities, all without asking for any tax incentives.

We also believe in hiring from our community and giving back to the regional economy. This idea has never wavered in our 39 years of business, as I strongly believe in never outsourcing projects, using American-made equipment (if possible), and the commitment to interviewing and hiring as many local professionals as possible.

Additionally, both my staff and my family have been very active in various Columbus organizations, events, and major Columbus projects. Our staff actively campaigned in support of various bond issues in making Columbus a great community.

Other contributions that I feel my company and myself have brought to the community include:

  • Being an active supporter of the “Ohio Women Hall of Fame” — I am a current member of the Advisory and Selection committee and a strong advocate and supporter of this important organization.
  • Fundraising goals and charity contributions — In addition to my staff being engaged in various City and Franklin county projects, Rii helps reach their goals by matching their collection in many fundraising events and projects.
  • Educational scholarships and assistance — Established in 1998, the Majidzadeh Family Scholarship at The Ohio State University is intended to support a “female athletic individual with preferred education objectives of engineering.” So far, six students have benefited from the scholarship.
  • Educational scholarships and assistance — Established in 2006, the Majidzadeh family scholarship at Otterbein College is available to minority students for paying back their college loans.
  • Educational scholarships and assistance — Rii provided financial assistance for one year to a graduate student at OSU who needed additional support to complete his degree requirements. He is now a PhD student at the University.
  • Educational scholarships and assistance — Established a Rii fellowship at IREF in 1992 for fellowship students studying in transportation engineering to study graduate work at OSU. Four students have currently graduated from OSU.
  • Financial assistance, as needed — Rii has always been there for its staff and whenever needed provided financial assistance to its employees who had faced financial distress, bankruptcy, and unforeseen family urgencies. We have been there to provide them assistance, as needed.
  • American Red Cross — Rii has held blood drives on various occasions including two in the past year.

In addition, I personally make contributions to local charities that I full heartedly believe in and that I feel make a difference in our community. We have provided contributions to such organizations as Face the Mission, Hunger Alliance, Mid Ohio Food Bank and participated in charities such as Women's Funds, Children Defense, Domestic Violence and Nationwide Children's Hospital, etc.

Farah Majidzadeh is the CEO and chairperson of Resource International, Inc.