Education: Bachelor of science degree in marketing at Findlay University, where he met his wife Anne
First job: Started working at Ruscilli Construction when he was 12 years old
Career moves: Sold Cutco knives door-to-door; worked for Hancock Asphalt & Paving as a sales rep; began working at Ruscilli as sales manager, then promoted to general manager, then CEO
Boards: The University of Findlay Board of Trustees, OSU Knowlton School of Architecture Board of Trustees, COSI, Diabetes Association and Columbus Chamber of Commerce
What was your greatest challenge in business, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge was convincing my father to train associates outside the family to run projects. My father felt that someone named Ruscilli had to run every project in order to give the quality we wanted.
When Dad retired at 55, he was frustrated when I began training other associates. He was never convinced it would work until several years after he retired. Then he saw that we were doing well, and we were still in tight control.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
I can't really single out any one person. I was a member of the Young Presidents Organization, and after the age of 50, the World Presidents Organization. The forum still meets, and these are entrepreneurs and leaders who have had a profound effect on my business and my social life for the last 25 years.
Guys like Jeff Keeler, Jeff Wilkins, David Lauer, Tom Casto and Bob Walter -- we've been meeting for 25 years and sharing everything.
What is the greatest lesson you've learned in business?
I'm learning it every day. I've learned several lessons that have become Ruscilli doctrine -- the Ruscilli Way. We keep promises to associates and clients. We treat people the way we want to be treated -- those are a big part of it.
Adherence to those principles has had a lot to do with our success. In 2003, we received an ethics award, and those principles have a lot to do with it.
Carpenter's philosophy stems from his attitude that if you own your own store, you take more pride in ownership, have more fun doing something that you love and that you are passionate about, and, therefore, work harder, to ensure its success.
"I started selling franchises 20 years ago when people came to me saying, 'It looks like you're having fun, how I can I do what you're doing?'" Carpenter says.
The first Wild Birds Unlimited store opened in 1981, and no one was more surprised by its success than Carpenter.
"I was voted the least likely business owner in my class," he says. "I had no previous experience."
He also had very little confidence that his specialty retail store -- born from his passion for and interest in birds -- would prove even the least bit profitable.
"Everyone thought I was nuts," he says. "I had no research to back me up."
What Carpenter did have was a master's degree in horticulture from Purdue University and a notion that he could take the scientific principles he learned in school and apply them as business tools.
"I brought the scientific method into running a business," he says. "And I've since found that it is similar to some business models. I asked questions, developed theories, tested them and got my answers pretty quickly. It's a system that actually works well in retail."
His system for running a retail store, combined with his passion, knowledge and products offerings -- such as bird feed custom prepared, with no fillers, to meet the nutritional needs of the birds of each region -- led to his inaugural store's success.
By 1987, when Carpenter made the decision to offer franchises, he had convinced his wife, Nancy, to stop teaching school and start working with him.
"I hired a lawyer to create the franchise documents and I wrote a 30-page operations manual," he says.
Next, he trademarked his store name and its logo, and his wife began developing franchise support operations, such as marketing. Carpenter also formed a partnership with a bird-feeding product distributor, which he subsequently acquired in 1989. And he remained convinced that franchising was the right --and only -- strategy that would lead to Wild Birds Unlimited's growth.
"It's a better product for the customers for the stores to have local ownership," he says. "Our franchisees have relationships with people in the community. They know the community, and they know the birds in the community. They know how many hummingbird feeders to order, and in what month.
"They are the local experts. That's why franchises are the best way to grow the company, and why we've stuck with it."
Building a better birdfeeder
Wild Birds Unlimited boasts a network of 315 stores in 46 states and Canadian provinces. And Carpenter, despite running his own franchise, is primarily focused on providing his franchisees with the support they need to be successful.
"We grew slowly, opening five franchises in the first year," Carpenter says. "But by 1989, we began growing very rapidly, opening 20 to 30 stores a year."
It was then that Carpenter realized it was time to hire a true franchising expert. He chose Paul Pickett, who today serves as director of franchise development.
"Paul was our first full-time employee," he says.
Wild Birds Unlimited runs a lean operation, employing just 38 people at its headquarters, the bulk of whom are dedicated to the franchise support center.
"We are developing services that we can offer the stores," Carpenter says. "Retail is complicated. As a business owner, you do 50 individual jobs. If we can do 30 of those, the owner can do the rest."
Some of the services Carpenter's support center offers are branding, marketing and training employees on the accounting and point of sale systems.
That's not to say the company dictates to its franchisees how they should run their businesses -- the training is just designed to ensure consistency across the franchise chain.
"We are like consultants," Carpenter says. "But it is still up to the store owner to implement the plans and make them match the local market."
Carpenter says the support center's role is first and foremost to help the store owner drive customers through the front door. After that, it's up to the owner to take care of them and keep them coming back. That's why Carpenter's No. 1 requirement for prospective franchisees is a love of birds.
And not surprisingly, Wild Birds Unlimited's customers are the top source of franchisees.
"The franchisee should have a big interest in bird feeding and a desire to share that hobby with customers," Carpenter says. "They don't have to be experts on birds or bird watching, just have that passion for the hobby and sharing it with customers."
For most franchises, consistency among the stores is a key element of success. But according to Pickett, the director of franchise development, that wasn't the critical component that Carpenter believed was necessary to ensure the success of his franchisees.
"We have written standard operating procedures that our franchise system follows," Pickett says. "We have field consultants that visit our stores on an annual basis to both assist them with the growth and development of their businesses and to ensure that they are following our operating procedures. That being said, in some areas of operations, we encourage the stores not to be consistent, because each store should be the local expert in the hobby of backyard feeding.
"They do need to customize portions of their merchandise to focus on their local birds and bird feeding activity."
Despite his success, Carpenter says his own education continues.
"It's been difficult for me since I didn't get an education in business or running a business," he says. "A lot of people are good at selling product, but few have the innate talent to grow a company."
And, because growth is Carpenter's goal, four years ago he looked outside the company and formed a board of advisers to help him shape its future.
"The board has really made a big difference for me," he says.
Over the years, and with the help of Pickett, Carpenter and his team have developed a successful franchising program that is poised for growth.
"We do have a resource available for just about everything," he says. "Franchisees can call and ask for help, and we have a person talented in that area giving advice."
Carpenter has built his dream team of experts over the years, believing that additional staff members were needed to field questions as the number of stores increased and the product offerings and sizes of the stores continued to evolve.
"The stores are now bigger and have bigger staffs," he says. "There is more complexity in running them."
One thing he doesn't use staff for is recruiting franchisees. Word-of-mouth about franchising opportunities has prospects approaching him, not the other way around, and he has not had to commit a large percentage of his corporate resources to recruitment.
"Only two of our employees are involved in recruiting," he says. "The rest of the employees are devoted to support."
This is critical because with a solid foundation -- and a burgeoning franchise network -- in place, Carpenter has set his sights on even greater growth. He's convinced he's only tapped a minute percentage of an estimated $4.6 billion market.
"Right now, I would estimate we have about 1 or 2 percent of the market," he says. "It seems we can grow healthily, while not taking anything away from other vendors. There's lots of growth potential."
Carpenter's biggest challenge will be to develop the right marketing message to make Wild Birds Unlimited stand out from its competitors.
"There is a lot of competition for every dollar," he says. "Making our voice heard over all the retail marketing is difficult to d o. We have to find the best message and affordable ways to get that message out there."
And Carpenter is convinced that once people visit the store, they'll find it different from the big box retailers and become regular customers.
"People need to understand why it's better to buy feed at our store than the grocery store," he says. "Finding the right message is a challenge. We are continually testing and working on that."
How to reach: Wild Birds Unlimited, (317) 517-7100 or www.wbu.com
Each piece -- the medical services, the research organization and the teaching services -- needs to interact and work with the others. As CEO, Dr. Fred Sanfilippo says his mission is not only to keep these pieces together as seamlessly as possible but to also make sure employees are thinking of the good of the medical center as a whole.
"The toughest part about this job is on the communication side," says Sanfilippo. "I am constantly emphasizing that each department is connected -- our decisions, opportunities, time and resources have a much broader impact than just within a single group."
With more than 6,000 employees, Sanfilippo finds it challenging to keep that message uppermost in their minds.
"It can be difficult," he says. "The greatest challenge is breaking down those silos and showing why the best approach is to look at the group as part of a bigger whole. Some people can find that threatening."
One way Sanfilippo counters this challenge is by broadening the accountability of employees to include what is happening across the entire organization.
"It means changing the way things are done and the way people think about things, organizationally and operationally," he says. "It is a change of culture, and it is a major part of our success."
This very successful change has evolved over a short period of time -- four years -- says Sanfilippo, who adds that his challenge was to explain to his staff why the changes were necessary.
"We had to show the employees what was in it for them," says Sanfilippo.
To start, the medical center conducted a survey of its leadership.
"We asked them what culture they would like to see, and to describe the current culture," he says. "There was a big gap between the culture that was wanted and the culture they were experiencing. That drove the change. Then we laid out our plan and implemented it."
The results have exceeded even Sanfilippo's expectations.
"We've been tracking the numbers now for four years at the leadership level," he says. "The survey results show a significant change from passive-avoidant responses to leaders who are more performance-, competition- and success-oriented."
Putting the pieces together
Sanfilippo started unifying the medical center's culture early in 2001. Among the key messages he conveyed was a better understanding of the center's strengths.
"Our core business is creating new knowledge, teaching it and applying it," he says.
Part of his job was to instill an expectation that all of the medical center's employees need to keep that core mission in mind in everything they do. Then, he says, it was time to foster creativity by allowing them to take risks and think differently than they had before.
"Creativity is key to our core business," Sanfilippo says. "We developed a couple of ways to foster it and incentivize our employees to be creative. One of our organizational values is innovation, and creativity is embedded in that value, so it is high on our list. "
For Sanfilippo, incentivizing means recognizing and rewarding individuals and teams who "think outside of the box and push the envelope." Incentives, he says, include promotions for faculty based on creativity -- especially in their research -- and in allocation of resources such as money, space and staff to explore new ideas.
Today, risk-taking is rewarded, not punished.
"That has got to happen," says Sanfilippo. "People can't be afraid to voice an idea because it might sound crazy or they are afraid it won't work."
Another way Sanfilippo fosters creativity is to encourage teamwork across departments.
"We emphasize the value of teamwork," he says. "We encourage employees to build alliances and coalitions. They are great and add to our success, and the employees also get significant value from them."
Sanfilippo says his employees have relished the opportunity to be innovative. And, he says, the Medical Center's leaders now have a philosophy of wanting -- and achieving -- a sustained competitive advantage over other leading facilities in the country.
"That's hard to duplicate elsewhere," Sanfilippo says. "And we are doing that more and more."
Add increased accountability to the mix -- each leader is responsible for the success of the entire unified center, not just a piece of it -- and Sanfilippo's organizational transformation is complete.
Its success -- and the buy-in of every member of his staff -- is crucial because Sanfilippo relies heavily on members of his senior leadership team to manage the day-to-day operations of their departments.
"You have to have great people," he says. "My management style is to delegate as much as possible. I give them the authority to make decisions and hold them accountable. I don't micromanage at all."
And each leader needs to depend on every other leader.
"The department chairs and leaders need administrative support," Sanfilippo says.
So part of his plan for a change in culture included getting the "right folks on board," which he says has led to stronger teamwork in developing, then supporting, his mission, vision and values.
"That's the first step," he says. "If you've got that, then you've got a team that will have the energy and passion to figure out how to be successful. So making sure people are aligned with each other and the organizational direction is key. It is likewise critical that new faculty and administrative leaders brought in are aligned with the mission, vision and values of the organization to help drive things forward."
Sanfilippo says he's been fortunate that the leaders who have joined his organization over the past four years have "not only been on board, but have helped others get on board."
Keeping the puzzle together
The external results of the culture change are just as satisfying as the internal ones, as the center continues to improve when it comes to research grant awards and recognition.
"We've seen a significant increase in funding from the NIH [National Institutes of Health]," Sanfilippo says. "And because of the governor's Third Frontier competition, we've put together some very strong programs and proposals with other organizations that don't typically get together."
Never far from Sanfilippo's mind is the fact that the real glue that holds his organization together is its people. The culture change he has instituted has not only allowed more innovation but has also attracted top-notch researchers who want to work for him.
"We have excellent, world-class people that are very competitive," he says proudly.
And Sanfilippo is acutely aware that his role includes supporting their efforts.
"We are putting in for larger programmatic grants, and we are getting quite a few of these," he says. "The programs are bringing in more world-class folks to complement the ones we already had."
That's important because the medical center is getting more national recognition for its research and teaching efforts, which translates into more press, more publishing of findings and results in prestigious publications and, not coincidentally, more money.
"The recognition brings in more resources," he says, "Which, in turn, allow us to do more."
Even so, Sanfilippo is quick to point out that the medical center isn't wasting its hard-earned cache and simply applying for any and all funding available. There is, he says, a definite strategy at work and a laser-like focus behind the center's research direction.
A big part of his strategy relies on the new, unified culture and teamwork that he worked so hard to put in place.
"We are really playing to our strengths," he says. "Our most competitive growth strategy leverages these on a variety of levels. We look for interfaces [among the three medical center pieces], and we have been successful."
For example, the medical center has been historically strong in cancer genetics and informatics and imaging aspects, as well as cardiovascular research.
"We've become more focused because we have the interface with clinical care and research in those areas," Sanfilippo says.
While the culture change has had numerous positive impacts, Sanfilippo admits he still faces challenges, the most pressing of which is diminishing funding. He says the gap between what the medical center earns and what it receives through the state, and what it costs to operate, is growing.
"Our biggest mission here is education and research," he says, "and our funding has been decreasing."
Some of the gap in funding is made up by clinical services, gifts or donations from previous patients or alumni.
"That is a major source of funds as well, and we are fortunate to have so many people in the community that help us close that gap," he says.
But Sanfilippo isn't sitting back waiting for patients, either; the center markets its services in a number of ways.
"We have a trained staff whose goal is to get patients here," he says. "We do it in each of our areas."
One way they market the center is by telling its story to as many people as possible.
"We talk about what we're about, what we do and the quality of care, which is why we do it all," Sanfilippo says.
Again, the basics of this plan rely on communication and people, which, in turn, rely on having a great culture in place.
"A lot of our marketing efforts focus on our physicians," he says. "They are what drive everything. At the end of the day, it is the people that are creating our success."
How to reach: The Ohio State University Medical Center, (800) 293-5123 or medicalcenter.osu.edu
"If anything, I brought a sense of urgency to this plan that was different from my predecessor's," he says.
Morris believes AEP lost its way during the energy trading boom, and it was time to get back to doing what he knew the company does best -- managing its assets, getting close to the customer and re-engineering its generation and distribution facilities. And, he wanted to implement the plan as quickly as possible.
Morris restructured the organization, promoting and hiring seven district presidents to run each of the company's districts at the local level.
"Now the governor of Oklahoma is not looking for someone in Columbus when there is a problem in Tulsa," he says.
And going forward, AEP will build a 1,200 megawatts integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant to meet growing consumer demand. IGCCs, says Morris, are cheaper to operate and more efficient than conventional plants. He also plans to funnel a large amount of capital into improving environmental performances of existing plants..
Despite the big changes and the new layers of upper management, Morris remains approachable.
"I'm just a kid from Fremont, Ohio, that just happens to be running this company," he says.
Smart Business spoke with Morris about his strategies for AEP and the changes he's made since assuming the energy company's top spot.
What were your primary goals when you took over leadership, and what progress have you made?
To wrap my arms around such a large footprint. The company had already decided which way it wanted to go in '02 and spent much of '03 divesting nonregulated activities. I was strongly behind this strategy.
I came in at the end of the planning cycle and was ready for the 'doing' cycle. We have since sold all our assets that were for sale except two interests, one in Australia, the other in Mexico, and they are not high on the list.
The other important decision was to grasp the value of our historic coal power plants, and with a large capital expenditure, extend their environmental lives. They are the cheapest power plants in the United States. I tackled that with a great deal of urgency because there are some very real benefits in doing so. Most recently, we looked at the eastern side (of our territory) and saw we needed to ensure adequate capacity for future electric needs. That led us to a decision to build a new 1,200 megawatts integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant.
There has been some fear of rate increases because of the current market prices of coal. There have been huge price spikes in indigenous fuels -- prices have gone up dramatically in the last year or so. The PUCO collectively needed to find a plan to bridge us to 2008, so it approved the rate stabilization plan. It is an opportunity to do the rational thing for both customers and shareholders, with slow but predictable rate increases.
In 2009, it will be an open market. We'll see what that's like. We don't want a price shock to hit the Ohio economy.
How is leading AEP different from leading Northeast Utilities?
Northeast Utilities is a big company, but because of its geography, I could get from New Hampshire to Connecticut by car in two hours. I can't go from Columbus to Indiana in less than four or five hours. So the geographic sizes of the companies are very different.
The people are similar -- hard-working and dedicated to serving the public and to keep the lights on. What is unique to AEP is that it is still digesting the merger with Central and South West Corp. that added Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas to the company.
We have not yet totally embraced that. The states are very different. The regulatory view is different in the Western states. At Northeast, I dealt with three states' regulatory authorities, each with a very different personality, plans and environments. AEP is in 11 states, and each commission is governed very differently.
Financially and operationally, we have pulled together. Culturally, we are still working. That is why we reorganized and named division presidents, so we have a higher degree of identity in each region. We are not running everything out of Columbus. We re-embraced this notion, which works for our customers, the economy of the states, as well as our shareholders.
What were AEP's greatest strengths when you took over, and how have leveraged them?
One of our biggest strengths is the company's incredible platform -- we are the largest generator of electricity, we have the largest number of customers, the strongest transmission system, and the distribution network reaches every corner of the country.
We have a great deal of physical strength and, historically, our engineering has been a strength. When we build the IGCC plant, it will be the largest in the United States, building on the number of firsts that we've stood for over decades.
We have hired a number of people for the project, adding to our technical talent base. The results have been outstanding.
What about areas for improvement?
Like so many companies, AEP lost its way trying to be in energy trading. It was logical to be a big trading house. Our business lends itself to that because of our closeness to our customers, regulators and building assets. When you think about what electricity provides each household and school, and when you go to worship, without electricity, it would be a tough place to be.
AEP took the same path as many others, and none succeeded. So we looked at what we are really good at. We are very good at managing our assets. Overseas was a different environment. And energy trading was phony at the beginning and proved phony at the end. The demand for energy never changed, but as prices changed, traders were trading among themselves.
How have you prioritized the company's goals for the next five years?
I don't think there's any question that we need to improve the environmental performance of our generating facilities, with an additional emphasis on reliability and safety. We need to be closer to customers and regulators, and we've restructured the company into that mode.
That means decisions about Oklahoma are not made in Columbus. The individual company president is responsible for managing the business, listening to the customers, reacting to politicians and regulators.
Since we started the new structure, I feel relationships have formed and we have better communication. I know it's working better. We also need a new fleet of power plants built by the end of this decade.
Has following a leader such as AEP's former chairman, president and CEO, E. Linn Draper, required changes in your management style, or have the board and your staff been accepting of your style?
My interaction with this board is frighteningly similar to the board at Northeast Utilities. I thought it would be different and would require change on my part, but I am just as comfortable as I was there. Linn led this company with a tremendous amount of dignity.
If there is any difference at all, I may be a little more approachable.
How to reach: American Electric Power, (614) 716-1000 or www.aep.com
Education: Graduated Berry College, Rome, Ga., 1974, bachelor's degree, accounting
First job: I was an accountant with Coca Cola Co. in Rome, Ga.
Career moves: Worked for Coca Cola, then moved back to Indianapolis; started Product Action in 1980
What was your greatest challenge in business and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge is one I have today. Product Action must manage its growth in many dimensions. We are expanding internationally, growing our engineering services and developing major new customers. As we grow in those directions, the challenge will be to continue our focus on impeccable quality.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
The person I admire most is my father. I admire him for giving me good ethical practices and standards, good values, and teaching me how to treat people. He taught me to never give up -- never to stop working toward your goal, but not to run over people, either. I like that. And he was a great supporter of his son.
What is the greatest lesson you've learned in business?
The greatest lesson I've learned is to have focus. We focused on one thing and did it incredibly well. As we have grown, we continue to deliver our quality services as well, if not better, than when we started.
"Our sales are growing 15 to 19 percent this year," he says. "That's what we're doing all the time." Steenbergen compares his strategy for acquiring new technology to that of buying a new car -- you don't want to buy that first model, no matter how exciting it appears.
Instead, Steenbergen buys the third model, knowing that the bugs have been worked out. That allows him to improve his price points, as well. But that's not to say Print Communications lags behind when it comes to technology. Says Steenbergen, "We were the second printer in the area to put [a digital image press] in."
And then there's his strategy for financing.
Over the past 14 years, Steenbergen has tried to minimize his financing of equipment, preferring to pay cash. This is in stark contrast to many competitors, who found themselves overextended financially in the late '90s when companies that had previously published all of their corporate materials using outside printers starting putting them on the Web instead.
Sales in the printing industry slowed, and additional financing became tougher to come by because banks began looking differently at the industry. Explains Steenbergen, "Today, banks look at the management and how it is performing, how the company is performing, more than the equipment."
So to stay ahead of both his competition and the technology curve, Steenbergen is determined to leverage technology to provide more services to his customers. His goal is to reach "partner" status with each customer and understand his or her needs before they arise.
"The industry is changing," he says. "With technology, we can teach you what you need to be No. 1."
Smart Business spoke with Steenbergen about how he's integrated technology, and its impact on the printing industry.
How have you kept up with technology changes and leveraged new innovations?
You just keep buying new equipment. It's an ongoing thing because technology changes so fast. In the printing industry, you have two basic types of equipment - a web printer and a sheet-fed printer. Web printing technology hasn't changed as much, mainly because there are more clients needing brochures than 250,000 magazines.
Changes in front-end technology -- from completion of the design to plate -- have been there for five years. It's no different from buying the first model of a car. You may have liked it, but the next year it went away or the front end was improved.
When Texas Instruments introduced the first calculator, it cost $500. It was the same one that, two years later, if you opened a checking account at a bank, you got for free. Now, there is no net equity in the equipment.
It used to be you bought a web press and it would last 30 years. Typically, you financed the equipment for seven years. Now, however, after five years, you can end up upside down [owe more than it is worth] on a piece of equipment.
Banks are looking at the industry and questioning whether it is a good place to put money. They're no longer looking at the equipment itself as security. It's similar to what happened in the '80s, when farmers needed to buy new equipment. The feds said, 'Wait a minute, we have loaned them too much money. What are that combine and that land worth?' So the feds didn't guarantee the loans. It didn't make sense, and it shut a lot of farmers down.
A lot of printers were buying $3 million sheet-fed presses and chasing the same work. The sheet-fed printer is a high-end press, and a lot of the work was annual reports. That kind of work is gone.
It dried up as businesses consolidated and when companies began launching Web sites. Why spend the money when you can post the information on a Web site?
How much did the rise of the Internet affect your business?
I wasn't printing a lot of anything that got hit by the Internet. Because of our customer mix, when one segment was down, another was booming. The Internet eventually affected the number of pieces we print.
For example, we printed a lot of advertising fliers that are inserted in the newspaper.
Our clients decided that what they needed to do was to send out something that would get customers in the store. Instead of 16 pages of advertising, they now print four pages to tantalize the customer.
We do the majority of our printing for the retail segment. We do finance some of our equipment, if it is a major piece, or we use cash. The press we just put in was vendor-financed -- the vendor knows he is selling more than equipment; he is also selling consumables for the press. He is selling us plates, and the company's money comes from the plates.
We're all smarter now. Three years from now, we'll have 3-year old technology, and after five years, you can't count on the value of that machine. We stay informed of the technology by going to a print show every year in Chicago. Customers want everything faster, cheaper and better quality.
Our customers want color on every page. So we buy our equipment from people that are progressive, and our customers are just like us -- they want quality, service and value. In the old days, you told people you had to pick two of those three. Our mission statement is that customers will get all three -- the best price, the fastest turnaround and service.
Have you had to change anything about your sales team in order to adapt?
Currently, we have two outside sales representatives. Ten years ago, a company our size would have eight salespeople and two customer service people. Salespeople did a lot of cold calling, a lot of researching on the road and three-martini lunches.
The reality is, no one wants that sales approach today. They want the best service, quality and price. So today, we have two salespeople and nine customer service reps.
Once we get your business, you need a point of contact and to know that someone's looking out for you. You'll have that salesperson, but the customer service rep will contact you daily.
We now conduct all business with phone calls and the Internet. There is little face-to-face contact anymore. And right now, we are operating at 85 to 90 percent productivity. There is not a lot of room for more work. The printing industry is a connection-type business. For good customer service, the timing has to be perfect.
We retain our people by paying them well and treating them well -- like people.
How have you managed the company's growth?
I didn't have any bad habits, and I didn't buy too much equipment. The Internet killed businesses that were overfinanced. My success is based on luck and a lot of hard work.
We service the heck out of our customers and work 10 times harder to keep your business. A lot of our work is continual publications, so we are not as vulnerable. Any of our top 10 clients could go away and we'd survive.
The challenges I face today are the same as they've been since the beginning -- getting good, quality people. I still have customers that I had when I started, and in 14 years, I've only had one year that was not a growth year. We are the 180th largest printing company in the country, but no one knows, our customers or our competitors.
We recruit people from all over Indiana and the surrounding states. As the sheet-fed guys go away, that's good and bad. There aren't a lot of web printers in the area, so there isn't a pool of people to draw from. We have to go to Columbus and Detroit to recruit.
We go to job fairs and vocational schools. Most of our turnover is in the entry-level positions. I hired most of my employees in January of '91, and most of them are still with me, except for those lower-level jo bs.
What in your past has helped prepare you for running this company?
I started out with common sense and a strong work ethic. I worked in grade school delivering groceries. My parents instilled those ethics -- to work hard, be fair and have fun, but don't lose sight of what's important.
Right now, that's my grandchildren. In December of 1990, I quit my job of 20 years and bought the assets of the printing company. We were able to walk in and quickly start printing.
After six months, we had a positive cash flow, and I didn't look back. I worked a lot of 80-hour weeks.
What's the biggest challenge you face today?
To stay ahead of the technology curve and take care of our customers' needs. We need to read their needs before they happen. We want our customers to feel that we are their partner, not a vendor, and choose us not strictly as a low-bid vendor.
We produce a real estate publication in Columbus, and then Realtor companies wanted their own magazines. Now individual Realtors want their own magazine, to be a front-runner and stay ahead of their competitors.
My biggest personal challenge is getting time off. I am 53, and I would like to eventually retire. So my biggest challenge is making sure that we are covered for the future.
My succession plan includes involving more family members. And we might sell to a larger company; who's to say. I'm not looking for that to happen soon, though. I'm old, not tired.
How to reach: Print Communications Inc., (800) 968-8216 or www.pciprint.com.
"We'll be at $50 million by 2007," she says.
After nearly 24 years in business, Krueger says she has finally learned how to leverage her company's strengths.
"We know when to put on the gas," she says. "And when to put on the brakes."
Krueger has had to do both frequently during the past two decades, as what started out as a strictly retail store operation has turned into a largely catalog and Internet-driven business.
"Eighty-five percent of our business used to be in Ohio," Krueger says. "Now that number is less than 15 percent."
But the company's evolution took time and, says Krueger, a lot of trial and error.
From the company's inception in 1981 through 1989, Krueger focused on retail locations. A self-professed farm girl -- "I was born and raised on a farm. I was tied to my grandmother's apron strings at home, preparing meals" -- she opened her first physical location at The French Market in Columbus.
Krueger learned the tools of her trade after graduating from Bowling Green State University in 1974. One of the places she worked was The Limited, where she says she learned a lot about the retail business from company President and CEO Les Wexner.
"One of the reasons we've done so well is our merchandising ability and the way we present the products," Krueger says. "I learned that at The Limited."
In 1981, Krueger and partner, Carol Walker, her former college roommate, felt that the last thing busy working moms had time to do was bake fresh, homemade cookies, and the concept for Cheryl's Cookies, which eventually became Cheryl&Co., was born.
Armed with her grandmother's cookie recipe, Krueger hired her brother to run the production end of the company and Walker ran the store. Krueger kept her job, working in New York and flying home each weekend to help out.
"There were no strategic plans. I was basically in survival mode," she says.
Krueger sacrificed her personal life, including all of her financial assets.
"I was not on the payroll," she says. "I was working in New York to subsidize the company. I sold all of my assets and turned them into cash, and there were still times I put our payroll on my credit card."
In 1986, Krueger had to cut her ties with The Limited and focus on her own company full time.
And she soon lost her partner, Carol Walker, to cancer.
"That was a turning point," Krueger says. "I lost my safety net."
Starts and stops
Krueger says two key strategies accelerated the company's growth and success in its first 15 years.
The first was the company's transition from Cheryl's Cookies to Cheryl&Co. Krueger says although the company's retail stores were successful, she knew she should be looking at additional sales channels and products. So she put the brakes on further store development and shifted gears, focusing on new products and marketing strategies.
"The name change allowed us to broaden our product offering to containers, cookie jars, cake slices and gourmet coffees," says Krueger. "Cookies only make up about 10 percent of our sales now."
Krueger says the company started out with five cookie varieties, and now offers more than 200 products. The company also gave the customer a reason to buy by promoting specific occasions such as Valentine's Day and Halloween.
"We made that change in 1986, and it's the best thing we ever did," she says.
After that, Krueger launched the company's corporate business wing and was the first cookie company to begin mailing a catalog.
"Our catalog does more business than Mrs. Fields," she says, "even though they are more nationally known."
That was the beginning of the company's multisales channels - Krueger's second key strategy -- and by 1999, she had launched an Internet site that allowed customers to order online.
But Krueger also experienced her share of setbacks during that time.
"Our least successful experience was opening a store in New York City in 1985," she says.
It came about because the company's New Jersey store was doing very well. So when a space in Herald Center, next to Macy's, became available, Krueger jumped at the opportunity.
"We spent $250,000 to open the store," she says. "We thought it would do a lot to make us more nationally known."
That strategy would have worked, Krueger says, but the owner of the property became involved in a money laundering scheme and the shopping center was forced to close for four months not long after Cheryl's Cookies opened its doors.
"It took us a while to recover from that," Krueger says. "And we shifted our focus to the catalog and the Internet."
That shift has proven successful for Krueger. Cheryl&Co. now publishes 10 catalogs each year and ships products all over the world.
"We ship to Canada, Iraq," says Krueger. "And we used to have trouble year after year getting financing. Today, banks are beating down our doors."
All grown up
Krueger compares managing the company's growth to raising a child.
"At first, you are very hands-on and want to understand everything," she says. "As the child grows up, more people are involved, and eventually the child goes off to college."
Over the years, Krueger says she has been able to share responsibility for the company with more sophisticated managers and executives.
"We started hiring one at a time," she says. "First, I hired a manufacturing expert, then a finance person. I evolved from micromanaging to strategic thinking; it's a great place to be."
Part of Krueger's continued growth strategy is to refine the company's marketing techniques. She says that thanks to advances in technology, such as the Internet, she is able to get her hands on critical information faster, and keep the company nimble and able to respond to changes in buying trends.
"We get our information faster, and the early bird gets the worm," she says. "We leverage our strengths by doing a lot of data mining. We can now look at our customers' buying profiles and see who to mail a catalog to and who not to e-mail. We can hone in on the most profitable customer segments and not waste money. We didn't have that capability seven years ago."
Armed with this knowledge, Krueger is also able to make better decisions about other aspects of the company.
"We are now managing our own call center and providing better customer service," she says. "We are better at judging our staffing requirements, and when those Internet orders pour in, I can tell instantly if we have the inventory to accommodate them."
Krueger says this just-in-time information allows the company to expedite orders, sometimes shipping them the same day.
"The information is awesome," she says. "How you use it depends on the human beings receiving it."
In fact, Krueger says the company's future potential can sometimes be overwhelming. There is one question that she and her team will be deciding on, to steer the company in the future.
"We have four great sales channels," she says. "Which ones do we want to go after?"
Krueger says it is critical to focus on just one or two. Too much energy spent on an underperforming channel will draw valuable resources away from the others, and spreading the focus across all four will leave money on the table.
"Since 1999, when we launched the Web site, we've been challenged to become experts in Internet marketing," she says.
But the Internet is where the customers want to shop, so it is where Krueger will be pushing on that gas pedal.
"It's where our customers want us to be," Krueger says. "It is our fastest-growing sales channel."
That said, Krueger admits that she is still learning how to comfortably manage the company's rapid growth.
"As we continue to grow, there are a lot of questions to be answered," she says. "How do we manufacture and produce to meet demand? Do we add on? Lease space?"
But rather than let those questions overwhelm her or pull her focus away from working on her business, Krueger has taken a more strategic approach to growth - drawing a map that leads toward success.
"There are 100 ways to get there," she says. "Without a road map, it could be a meandering road. We want to be more direct."
While this map is still on the drawing board, Krueger says it includes walking away from distractions.
"We plan to stay focused on where we can have an impact," she says. "We've been offered grocery stores and vending machines. We've had to walk away from some business, but that is better for us long-term. That is an important turning point for us."
How to reach: Cheryl&Co., (800) 433-1787 or www.cherylandco.com
"This allows me to spend my time growing our global sales force," says Szumlic, who previously served as the company's vice president of marketing, sales and support.
After all, he says, it is that global sales force, made up of the company's network of resellers, that is responsible for JAAS' success. Five years ago, the company partnered with Solomon (which subsequently became part of Microsoft) to offer manufacturing software products through this established network of resellers. Szumlic says as long as the company offers outstanding service, resellers continue to choose JAAS's products.
Over the same five years, Szumlic has helped the company narrow its focus to target middle-market clients in the manufacturing industry, which has dramatically increased the company's revenue.
Szumlic says the company is focused on manufacturers with with sales of $5 million to $200 million, which stems from the employees' expertise in that area. Utilizing JAAS' core competencies continues to pay off, allowing the staff to focus on the specific needs of manufacturers.
"We come up with a way to help them solve their problems," he says.
But Szumlic says JAAS is not without its own set of challenges. Increasing the quality and frequency of updated product releases can be difficult, especially when the company places a premium on doing so.
According to Szumlic, the company can fix software issues more cost-effectively by releasing a new version release than it can by offering "hot fixes" to clients. And it can add functionality when it does so, which adds value to the customer.
Smart Business spoke with Szumlic about the challenges of running a quickly shifting software development firm and the strategies he uses to effectively manage a global staff.
What are the greatest changes in your industry in the past five years, and how have they affected how you manage the company?
The biggest change is that we operate in the mid-market now. (But) the industry is moving away from proprietary software into open architecture.
We have a lot more flexibility to present best-of-breed solutions, so we don't have to be all things to all people now. Instead of trying to handle companies' office and customer service solutions, we can focus on manufacturing. This flexibility allows us to operate in our core competency and not shortchange offices on their needs.
Is that focus what makes JAAS unique?
We've remained true to manufacturing companies that employ our products to address real-world issues. We help them come up with a way to solve their problems.
When we first started the company, we partnered with Solomon Software, which later became a part of Microsoft. That allowed us to spend our time and efforts on our products in our core area of competency -- manufacturing. We have gained acceptance by our network of resellers and their customers. Solomon is used for the financials side, Microsoft for everything else.
What generates the most sales for us, though, is the redistribution of our products through our reseller network. We are able to leverage our existing sales force out there that know the products and territory.
They are responsible for marketing and sales in their areas. Using that reseller channel is the most profitable for us.
What operational challenges does the speed of change in your industry create?
(It makes us) continue to develop innovative solutions. In order to do that, we get input from organizations, developers, support staff and marketers. We ask them, 'What we can do to make our product better?'
We also get global input from our group of resellers and our end users. We want to make sure we understand their needs and are putting them in the proper priority. It can be a challenge to balance the input from the field and the customers' requests in a proper manner -- it's a balancing act.
We start with our local support team first, then the developers. We see if the change is feasible and what the cost would be to develop it. Then we analyze to see if we add the feature (if) it will improve the product's marketability. We don't do anything in a vacuum, and we have a lot of experience in manufacturing.
How do you ensure your clients don't jump ship to a competitor?
Ninety percent of our sales come from our resellers replacing competitors' systems with ours. Because of the new openness in software architecture, we are much more service-oriented. In a major city, there can be eight Microsoft resellers. Customer service becomes that much more important.
We respond quickly -- that is our No. 1 goal. We continue to offer new features that benefit our resellers' customers and end users. Recently, we came up with a product configuration that was rules-based.
It helps our customers to ask the right questions to get the product configured properly so that they don't have orders going to the shop floor that are incorrect. It helps manufacturers reduce inventory and reduces costs. Users can make the system analyze costs and see where their costs are.
Today, manufacturers can't raise their prices but they can find ways to reduce operational costs to become more profitable.
How do you manage a global sales force?
The obvious issues are with languages, time zones and cultures. You have to be the most cognizant of other cultures. The Internet is a saving grace for us. I can respond to a report from Indonesia now (in real time). Time zones are actually in our favor now, in terms of training and demo shows, which we can do without traveling and spending time in a plane.
Our last eight to 10 deals were in Viet Nam and China. We've had great success in the Pacific Rim. We are one of the few Microsoft products (resellers) that are enabled to use the Chinese character set. That feature was developed by a local distributor there.
Another factor is pricing and the exchange rate. You don't own the price, but we make as much margin as possible considering the constant market change. One of the reasons we went with Solomon is its network of resellers (is) already in place; Solomon already had a global presence.
How are you approaching continuous improvement issues within the company?
One of our biggest challenges is to improve the quality and frequency of our software releases and reduce hot fixes. Whenever you add an update to a software product, you find out there's at least one scenario you forgot to test, and it can break the software.
If that happens, you have to send a hot fix to the client, so client A has hot fix A and client B has hot fix B, and you end up maintaining multiple hot fixes. Improving the quality of the testing and doing three or four major releases during the year fixes the problem, and you can add new functions and features as well.
Our April 1 release fixed or enhanced eight or nine issues, and we added five new areas of functionality like engineering phantoms. Instead of running to fix this issue or that, we can improve the overall quality of the product.
Eighty percent of our sales come from the Microsoft Solomon portion. We work with them to know what's coming down the road. And we meet with them face-to-face once a month or once a quarter to find out how their changes will impact what we're doing.
What are your biggest personal challenges in managing JAAS?
Time is my biggest challenge. It takes a lot of time to develop a global reseller channel; a lot of things go into it. When you are making and developing software, decisions have to be made the right way to move everything forward.
I have to balance my time to make sure that everything is moving forward together as a team, with cohesiveness in everything we do. One of our big internal discussions and communications is our weekly staff meetings -- we have departmental meetings weekly; staff meetings are every two weeks.
We discuss issues that have arisen, where we are on our goals and, if we have time, other issues. Once an issue and how to deal with it is established, the staff is empowered to handle it within their departments.
The staff trusts that if I say, 'Do it; go ahead,' that I'm not as worried about the outcome as long as they have put their best feet forward. How to reach: JAAS Systems, (614) 759-4167 or www.jaassystems.com
Education: University of North Carolina, bachelor of arts, political science, 1962; J.D., 1965
First job: Assistant coach, University of North Carolina
Career moves: Left UNC to become assistant coach at the University of South Carolina. Assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets before becoming head coach. Hired as assistant coach of the Pacers, promoted to general manager in 1986. Named president of Pacers Sports & Entertainment in 1988.
Boards: Board of directors, The Pacers Foundation, IU-PUI Metro and the Indiana Literacy Foundation
Fast facts: Walsh was drafted in the third round by the old Philadelphia Warriors of the NBA, but never played. He turned down an opportunity to practice law with the New York firm of future President Richard Nixon to follow his love of coaching.
What was your greatest challenge in business and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge is to reach the NBA finals. To do that takes perseverance.
Whom do you admire most in business?
I admire Jerry Colangelo from the Phoenix Suns. During his career, he went from a scout to an owner.
What is the greatest lesson you've learned in business?
Was there any single moment that sold you on the world's greatest game?
My big moment, probably when I was a young man in New York and my father took me to Madison Square Garden to see the games. When I was an assistant coach at South Carolina, I became aware of Indiana basketball and always felt that I would love to be a part of it. So when I got the opportunity to come to Indiana, it really was a dream come true.
But that, Ball says, is simply not true, especially in industries such as manufacturing and commercial real estate.
"They (women) are surprised when they run into it [glass ceiling]," she says.
Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, NOWIB was formed to provide a sounding board for women business owners and executives. In 1979, no other organization provided that function. NOWIB was designed to provide its members with networking and friendship opportunities -- opportunities that enable women to broaden their careers, Ball says.
"You can ask a member, 'You just got promoted, how did you do it?'" she says.
Today, however, NOWIB isn't the only professional organization providing networking opportunities. And that's why Ball is making changes to its programming in an effort to target new members.
Beyond the traditional networking opportunities, Ball has cut several deals to offer members access to high-profile, high-powered business and government executives, and is putting her members deeper into the loop about the inner workings of the city.
"It is hard to put a price tag on that information," Ball says. "It can be a powerful thing."
NOWIB, she says, is looking to attract new members who have not joined other professional organizations. There are thousands of women who are unaffiliated with groups, and Ball hopes to draw from this pool rather than take members from existing groups.
And, as part of her changes, NOWIB is expanding its leadership group to avoid burnout. Previously, a dozen or so women were in charge of most of the programming and project,s and were tasked with the bulk of the labor, leading to a lot of them walking away after a period of time. Now, the goal is to have more than 40 women as chairs of committees by year's end.
"We are taking a divide-and-conquer approach to ensure our success," Ball says.
Smart Business spoke with Ball about the challenges women executives face and how NOWIB helps them meet those challenges.
What prompted the Network's formation in 1979, and is its mission still similar today?
There weren't many places where professional women could meet. So eight women founded the network. They envisioned an organization dedicated to the development and growth of businesswomen in managerial, executive or professional positions.
Our mission is the same today -- to provide a venue where professional women can make contacts and create friendships and connections with others who have similar interests and needs.
What have been the Network's biggest challenges?
In 25 years, there have been a lot of challenges. Recently, I would say providing consistency and depth to the programming and organization has been our biggest challenge. We've had a lot of turnover in the leadership of the organization, which meant not a lot of consistency.
There were a few women that did the bulk of the work, and they got burned out and walked away. So we have been working to change that. Seven of the women on our board this year will stay into next year, and our vice president and treasurer are also staying on. There were 12 women holding leadership roles in the past. Today, there are 28, and we are doing more succession planning, to become a healthier organization.
By the year-end, we hope to have 41 women in leadership roles -- we have enough projects for them -- so that not one chair of each group is doing everything. We now have speakers lined up through mid-next year.
What are the biggest challenges women face in today's business world?
Twenty-five years ago, we knew there was a glass ceiling for women in business. Today, the edges of that ceiling are thinner, but there are still industries where women will get to a certain point and get no further.
Part of the challenge is that often a woman's greatest strength is not always valued. Typically women manage by collaboration and in a team concept. We have a desire to get others' opinions, and that can be looked at as a weakness or as indecisiveness by men. That is still a challenge.
The younger generation of women can be naïve about the glass ceiling. Their perception is that, 'My mom did that (blew through the glass ceiling) -- it's not there anymore. Some of the industries where we still find that ceiling are in some manufacturing industries, financial planning and commercial real estate. It's easy to find executive positions in the marketing and human resources fields.
But in these other industries, there is still an absence of mentors for young professional women. A lot of women still think that if we work hard that someone will notice. And often it just isn't that simple.
Talking to other women in similar roles helps. You can ask the question -- 'You just got promoted, how did you do it?' Getting access to other women in other companies can be valuable because often you can't talk to others in the same company.
What are the most beneficial tools the Network provides its members?
The first and foremost beneficial tool is access to women, ideas and information. We have some marvelous speakers that have high-level, visible leadership roles in both the public and private sector. They discuss business issues as well as how being a woman affects what they do.
There are also small group discussions at the tables and important information about what's happening in Indianapolis. We also bring in men and women who know who's doing what -- what the vision is for the future. We are bringing in high-level executives who know the inner workings of the city. They give us the insider scoop at the city's biggest employers.
And we also have smaller special interest groups that meet all around the city and discuss specific issues. We have marketing, sales, communications and entrepreneurs special interest groups, as well as downtown and north side lunch groups.
How does your background as an educator help in your role as president of NOWIB?
I have been an elementary teacher, a business teacher at a college, and I own my own business. There are several pieces that I draw from each of those experiences. My background as a teacher helped me put together relevant material geared to the attention span of adult women.
The programs are informative but have to move quickly. Most recently, I've owned my own business, which means I'm willing to take risks. And I've learned that there are different approaches to achieving goals, and I am flexible enough to make changes when I recognize that something is not working.
This can re-energize others, and we have made some very positive changes in the network.
How do you plan to grow the organization?
Marketing. It's been an interesting organization. We were very large at one point, then smaller again as other organizations formed.
We decided to identify and target the most appropriate women for our organization. We are very fortunate that we have committee chairman that are marketing professionals.
We upgraded our Web site and developed one newsletter that is being requested by twice the number of women that are in our membership. We are targeting successful professional women who are after programming that they can't get anywhere else. There are thousands of unaffiliated women, and we want them to join us. We are not competing for the same women who are already part of other organizations, but those who are not going to anything.
We are marketing our speakers first and our venue second because it is not the venue that is the attraction, it is clearly the speakers. Our marketing group, for example, has scheduled some high-level speakers. It started out with five members attending, and we now have 25 or 30 members there. It is about niche programming and communicating. We send out direct mail with our calendars to all the members and ask them to identify guests who would be interested in the programs.
And you have to make those guests feel welcome. So often, you attend a meeting and no one talks to you. When you leave, you don't go back because you didn't have fun or you didn't feel comfortable.
We get to know our guests and call them after the meeting and ask them to come back. We don't let them sit by themselves.
Are there an increasing or decreasing number of women business leaders in the Indianapolis region and why?
I have no scientific facts, but my perception is that not a lot of top executives in the area are women, although there are more than you realize. It's just that women executives tend to be more low-profile. I don't see a lot of announcements about women CEOs.
Some companies that are started by women get bought out by someone else. We lose a lot of local companies. And I still see a lot of the traditional ol' boy town here, especially in manufacturing and some other industries. At one of the bigger companies in town, women can get to a level II executive, but you don't see them way at the top.
My perception is we're about the same as we have been for several years -- I don't see huge increases or decreases in women executives. We have stable companies and industries and not a lot of rapid change, which creates opportunities for women. We have had some changes but not anything dramatic.
What are the Network's biggest operational challenges, and how do you meet them?
Our biggest challenge is financial. We came into this year with significant debt, which we needed to turn around and address with our membership. The only way to address it was to grow through memberships. That's another reason we have developed more innovative programs and sponsorship opportunities.
We restructured our debt, and our creditors are happy. We will be debt-free by the end of next year, probably sooner. We are also looking at changing our structure. In the past, we've had professional management companies running the organization. Now, the board is running it.
We have wonderful leadership and training opportunities. We have a great mix of women. Some are young -- 25 or 26 -- and then we also have seasoned professionals. It is great to team up the women right out of school with those who have 30 years of experience.
It gives the younger women opportunities because they can say, 'I helped lead a fund-raising event for 200 people for NOWIB, I can replicate that here.' How to reach: Network of Women in Business, (317) 767-7672 or www.nowib.com