The continuous improvement culture emulated by Julian Cass and his team at AkzoNobel Packaging Coatings Inc. North America constantly asks how the company can better tomorrow today for its customers.

Cass, who serves as vice president of the Americas at AkzoNobel, a leading supplier of coatings, inks and adhesives to the packaging industry, makes sure the company is doing right by its customers. The company delivers on its promise of ‘Tomorrow’s Answers Today’ through a culture of values it lives by day-in and day-out.

The first is focusing on the customers’ future. The company only provides products and services that improve the futures of its customers. AkzoNobel makes it very clear that this is the basis for why the company exists.

The second is embracing entrepreneurial thinking. The company thrives on an environment that encourages new ideas for customers. Employees are always challenging standards and bringing great ideas to market as a result, which keep customers coming back for more.

The third aspect of its culture is a focus on developing the talents of its people. AkzoNobel knows that if its people don’t grow, neither will the company and therefore no customers would exist. The company focuses on developing existing talents, nurturing new skills and progress to attract and retain employees of the highest quality to develop the business.

Another key element to customer service is courage and curiosity. The more questions posed, the better a product or service will be. By challenging employees and the products they are creating, AkzoNobel ensures that it is always improving.

Lastly, the company makes sure everyone acts with integrity and responsibility. Employees have to be aware of rules and regulations that they must comply with in whatever part of the world they are in. But it’s more than that. It’s about doing things the right way and doing them right the first time. Ethical and responsible behavior along with these other values, provide the business and its customers with trust.

How to reach: AkzoNobel Packaging Coatings Inc. North America, (440) 297-8556 or

Published in Cleveland

Akron-Canton Airport isn’t just popular for its airfare rates, which are the lowest in the region on average. It’s also an innovation leader in the airport industry, continuously adding and improving on features and amenities to promote both the ease and comfort of travelers coming through the facility.

President and CEO Richard B. McQueen leads the airport in creating such efficiencies, ensuring customers reach their destinations as quickly and as stress-free as possible. CAK employs people — not machines — to provide customer service, as well as general and flight information, via the airport, phone or social media outlets. Information desk staff can be reached daily until midnight, while Web-based questions are routed to specific departments and answered on the same day that they are received. Skycaps are also available to lend a helping hand and push wheelchairs — run through CAK’s new wheelchair sanitizer — through the airport.

But efficiency and quality of service isn’t enough at CAK. The airport goes to great lengths to ensure customers are also comfortable during their time within the facility. Professionals can enjoy the quiet, free-of-charge business lounge, complete with comfortable chairs, computers, a printer and a fax machine. Those looking to escape work can enjoy massage chairs in the relaxation stations, available throughout the terminal. And children won’t ask, “Are we there yet?” when they enter the CAK Playport. Free Wi-Fi also enables customers to pass the time, as well as download CAK’s iTunes playlist.

Additionally, CAK recently completed a $5 million project to build a new food court and add a completely new screening area. State-of-the-art screening equipment was installed, as well as additional screening lanes to speed travelers along to their gates. For those looking to pick up passengers, they can simply pull into the free waiting area and wait in their car while monitoring flights on arrival screens.

How to reach: Akron-Canton Airport, (330) 499-4059 or

Published in Cleveland
Thursday, 31 May 2012 20:01

Movers & Shakers

Libra Industries announced that Phil Jones has been named as director of manufacturing. His main duties will include overall responsibility for contract manufacturing and assemblies operations in Libra Industries’ two plants located in Mentor, Ohio. Jones will maintain a strong focus on strategic leadership and continuous implementation of lean manufacturing techniques. He has more than 25 years of experience in manufacturing management in a variety of industries including industrial regulators and fittings.

Medical Mutual recently announced Dan Polk has been appointed vice president of small group sales and broker distribution. Polk will be responsible for 1-99 group sales and retention in Ohio, which the company just brought in-house for the first time in 13 years. Joining Medical Mutual in 1990, Polk has held a variety of positions within the sales and customer relations division, including service representative, small group sales, senior sales representative for large groups, 51-99 group business unit leader, and, most recently, director of sales and broker relations.

Medical Mutual also announced that Mark Hren has been appointed vice president and general auditor. Hren will be responsible for leading a team focused on financial, operational and information technology auditing, as well as enterprise risk management. Before joining Medical Mutual, Hren served in the audit practice at Ernst & Young specializing in insurance industry clients. At Medical Mutual, Hren has served in various positions including market leader of individual products in the sales division, manager of financial analysis and most recently as the director of financial reporting, a position he held for six years.

Kaiser Permanente has announced the hiring of Maria Dawe, account executive; Michael Willis, manager, account management; Tim Krenn, senior sales executive and Dick Schoeler, manager, broker relations, small group and individual sales.  All of these new employees will be working from Kaiser Permanente’s administrative offices in the North Point Tower in Cleveland.

Spectrum Surgical Instruments Corp. has announced the appointment of Jim Rygiel to director of endoscopy division. Originally trained by Olympus in the areas of rigid and flexible endoscopes, Rygiel has more than 19

years of endoscope repair experience. As a certified master repair technician, Rygiel has extensive knowledge relating to procedures, endoscope processing, storage, care and handling, and refurbishments.

CNA National Warranty Corp. has promoted Jay Sharpnack to the newly created position of national sales manager. Sharpnack joined CNA National in April 2010 after establishing a successful career including corporate, managerial and sales positions in the automotive industry. In this new position, Sharpnack will continue to be based in Cleveland and will be responsible for managing CNA National’s sales production at auto dealerships across the country through the company’s six regional vice presidents.

Madison Electric Products has announced Rob Fisher as vice president of marketing. In his previous role as director of marketing, Fisher played an integral role in helping Madison break ground in the electrical industry by crowdsourcing product development through the Sparks Innovation Center and leveraging social media to connect with a broader audience.

Fisher joined Madison Electric Products in 2009. Drawing on 13 years of diverse, cross-industry experiences, Fisher spearheaded the development and implementation of the company’s visual identity, public relations, social media and marketing strategy. Under Fisher's direction, Madison Electric Products has received numerous marketing and social media awards.

Great Lakes Science Center, home of the NASA Glenn Visitor Center, announced the promotion of Jamie Finley Simoneau to COO. Simoneau will be heavily involved in strategic planning for the organization and responsible for all operations, marketing, guest services, contract partners, special events and the OMNIMAX Theater. Simoneau joined Great Lakes Science Center in 2006 and most recently, served as vice president of marketing and guest services, with responsibility for the majority of earned-revenue areas.

Published in Cleveland

Sponsors Notes WCCS

Blue Technologies Inc.

How does your organization make customer service a competitive advantage and price less relevant?

The ‘Commitment to Excellence,’ our five-point pledge of accountability and reliability, is backed by the mechanisms and resources established to provide Blue Technologies’ world-class service throughout Northeast and Central Ohio. The fact that your organization can run your business while Blue Technologies handles your office technologies provides a peace of mind that is absolutely priceless when presented to the client.

How have you created a culture of customer service in your organization?

From day one, each employee is indoctrinated with the core concept of the ‘Commitment to Excellence’ and his or her individual role. This is for every employee — delivery person, service technician, dispatcher, receptionist, order processor or salesperson.

How do you attract and retain employees who embody your organization’s belief of customer service?

The ‘Commitment to Excellence’ is advertised in our corporate literature, on our website and in every job posting. Our management team does not look at it as a warranty or guarantee program — the ‘Commitment to Excellence’ is a way of life at Blue Technologies. Each employee’s performance is compared to standards, which embody his or her role within the organization.

How do you go above and beyond?

You have to slow down, spend time face to face with the client and ask lots of questions. When executed properly, the client will tell you exactly how it wants to do business with you.

How to reach: Blue Technologies,

Cleveland Clinic

What is your organization’s philosophy of customer service?

Patients first. This is one of the fundamental principles guiding Cleveland Clinic. Patients are our reason for being and the focus of all Cleveland Clinic’s plans and activities. We exist to provide the best possible outcomes for every patient. The culture of the clinic is focused entirely on clinical success, boundless compassion and care for the special needs of the sick and their families.

A culture centered on ‘patients first’ acknowledges that the technical aspects of what we do are not enough. It takes the integration of clinical treatment, empathy and the best physical, emotional and spiritual experiences to positively impact a patient’s perception of care and the outcomes of his or her treatment.

How does your organization make customer service a competitive advantage and price less relevant?

Cleveland Clinic’s management is based upon the responsible use of resources for the improvement of patient care. This means that medical waste is minimized and operational efficiency is rewarded. Clinic physicians work together in multidisciplinary teams to assure that every patient gets a correct diagnosis and the most effective treatment. The key is to provide seamless, coordinated care.

The embodiment of ‘patients first’ is an essential component of Cleveland Clinic’s customer service and competitive edge. The clinic competes on the basis of how well it diagnoses and treats patients, prevents disease, reduces mortality and provides state-of-the-art practices — all areas that can vary significantly among hospitals and physicians and where competition can drive efficiency and innovation.

How to reach: Cleveland Clinic,


How have you created a culture of customer service in your organization?

A culture of service and quality permeates our organization. Our president speaks at every new employee orientation, emphasizing the importance of service and employees’ contribution to our success. We focus on the ‘Moments of Truth,’ which are those interactions between a customer and a product, service or employee that results in the customer forming or changing an impression about our company. In addition, every employee is trained in MAGIC, which stands for ‘Make a Great Impression on the Customer.’ MAGIC is a philosophy and training tool. It creates a culture of service and provides a positive and memorable customer experience.

In addition, SummaCare has really differentiated ourselves through our focus not only on service but on the quality of service and overall customer experience. We have adopted customer experience characteristics that are applied to our day-to-day operations and interactions with our customers. These characteristics are the adjectives used to define the optimal customer experience, such as hassle-free, timely, accurate, consistent, personalized, etc.

Furthermore, the Service Quality Committee, a multidisciplinary corporate committee, drives the service culture throughout the company. Each area within SummaCare is accountable to measurable service indicators and process improvements to facilitate excellent customer service. In an effort to recognize stellar service performance, the SummaCare Service Excellence Award is presented biannually to honor the department that makes the single most outstanding contribution to the quality of service provided to either internal or external customers in the previous quarter.

How to reach: SummaCare,

John Robert’s Spa

The better the experience, the less price becomes an issue.

We have always made our purpose crystal clear to our employees, starting in the interview process. Our purpose statement has been the same since day one in February 1993. Stacy DiJulius, founder of John Robert’s Spa, was passionate about bringing something more to the beauty industry than just good hair. Her vision was, as a team, to ‘enhance the quality of lives around us.’ Whose lives? Team members, guests and the community. How? Through providing the ‘JRX’ or The John Robert’s Xperience.

The JRX is delivered through providing three critical elements that when we provide one or more of them, we become more of a nonnegotiable entity in our customers’ lives and make price significantly less relevant. The three critical elements of the John Robert’s Xperience are fashion, escape and confidence.

Fashion — Our guests trust us with the most sacred thing they have, their looks. They depend on us to have cutting-edge skills and expertise that will guide them to look their absolute best. They should not be able to find a higher technically trained service provider anywhere in the industry.

Escape — It is a stressful world out there, and everyone is trying to balance so much between work and home life. We are that one place where they can get away for a 60-minute vacation, unwind and be replenished.

Confidence — Self-esteem cannot be measured. But we put the bounce back in people’s step — the one they get when they know they look their best and the confidence that gives them a huge advantage in their daily lives.

When we get our team members to focus on selling fashion, an escape and confidence, we become an incredible value. When we sell a 5:30 haircut or manicure, we sell an expensive haircut or manicure, which is why we focus on marketing the JRX 365 days a year to our team members, in countless ways.

I know this has been a key reason why last year, 2011, was our best year ever in revenue and profit. If you make a commitment to the experience, growth will naturally follow.

How to reach: John Roberts Spa,

Executive Caterers at Landerhaven

How have you created a culture of customer service in your organization?

Executive Caterers believes that customer service is not a part of our business; it is our business. We have two buzzwords in our company. One is ‘urgent’ and the other is ‘hospitality.’ These words can be found in every meeting we have. To Executive Caterers, urgent is the manner in which we respond to our clients’ requests. Hospitality is our creed. Every person that enters Landerhaven is treated like a guest in our home. Guests’ comfort is how we judge ourselves.

How do you attract and retain employees who embody your organization’s belief of customer service?

Many of our employees have been guests prior to being hired by Executive Caterers. They have told us many times that the way they were treated as guests motivated them to seek employment with our company. Retaining employees who live our customer service goals are very important to us. We have the pleasure of working with some staff members for longer than 40 years. Our ‘Super Star’ program is a great example of rewarding our customer service super stars. The Super Star program is based upon peer-submitted examples of great customer service that they have witnessed take place. A winner is chosen and rewarded monthly.

How does your organization make customer service a competitive advantage and price less relevant?

Every event we are involved with includes a long list of value-added benefits to our clients. These benefits all add additional levels of customer service that separate us from our competition.

How to reach: Executive Caterers at Landerhaven,

The Brewer-Garrett Co.

What is your customer service philosophy?

We have established long-term partnerships and an ongoing commitment to our customers through a firm dedication to customer service. Many of our customers do multiple projects with us. Price is less important than proven performance. Three of our public sector clients have won the prestigious Governor’s Award for Excellent in Energy Efficiency, further exemplifying our customer service competitive advantage.

We firmly believe in the ongoing commitment to our customers. Our success hinges upon keeping relationships with our customers strong and is validated by the many, very long-term, repeat customers on The Brewer-Garrett client list.

How do you recognize and reward your VIP customers?

Our best customers get the opportunity to do business with us throughout the life of their building. Through multiple phases of energy conservation programs and ongoing operations and maintenance services, our customers are rewarded with lower operating costs for their facility, while the indoor environment is improved, providing the most productive environment for their employees and clients.

We further recognize our VIP customers through on-site visits from our senior management team and owner. Our CASE program (Customer Assurance Review and Evaluation) gives our customers the opportunity to rate our performance and have dialogue with management. Any immediate needs are addressed, but more importantly, it gives senior management an opportunity to prepare our organization for the needs and challenges our clients will be experiencing in the future.

Lastly, in addition to traditional business and entertainment options, we also host an annual customer appreciation day for our VIP customers, where a day of golfing is concluded with a steak dinner and awards ceremony.

How to reach: The Brewer-Garrett Co.,

Colortone Staging & Rentals

What is your customer service philosophy?

At Colortone Staging & Rentals, everything we do is customer-focused because we recognize that what we do for our customer reflects upon their customer. CSR is a premier audiovisual and staging company with expertise in event design and production. We stage a multitude of events, including corporate meetings, awards banquets, special events, trade shows, concerts, webcasts and videoconferences. CSR also manages audiovisual equipment for hotel properties and operates a full-service equipment rental division. The solutions we provide, combined with our highly trained technical staff, ensure the success of every event. Our quality is unmatched and our attention to detail is unsurpassed.

How do you approach teaching your team to be service-oriented?

The staff at CSR consists of the best in the business. Our technicians have an average of five years in the audiovisual and event management business. Their diverse backgrounds allow us to think on our feet, act quickly and provide flexibility and creative problem solving to every situation we find.

The company is also an active member of the community, consistently finding ways to give back where it can.

How to reach: Colortone Staging & Rentals,

Published in Cleveland
Thursday, 31 May 2012 20:01

June Cleveland Deals

Looking back at the first quarter of 2012, M&A activity slowed down more than anticipated. According to S&P Capital IQ, disclosed deals during this time period showed a decrease of 12.7 percent in deal value and a 23.9 percent drop in the number of deals completed when compared to the first quarter of 2011. The number of disclosed deals in April was down 25.4 percent in deal volume and 18.6 percent in total deal value from April 2011.

Although deal volume and total deal value remained lower, purchase price per transaction increased over 9 percent April 2011 to April 2012. This is in accordance with the overall M&A environment where large cash sums available from both strategic buyers and private equity for investment and more availability of debt have driven multiples higher.  The deal volume over the past few months should not be indicative of the entire year as the current slowdown in deal flow is partially driven by last year’s slowdown in new deal activity. Startup activity for many M&A firms has been very strong since the beginning of the year. For some firms, new deal activity is up over 50 percent.  

Some of the startup activity is tax driven, but most of the activity is driven by a very propitious M&A environment with high valuations and ample buyers. This high level of activity should translate into more activity later in the year. The old adage is that April showers bring May flowers. In terms of M&A, we are seeing many more showers now than we did at the end of last year.  

One company that has remained very active is the The Riverside Co., which completed two acquisitions and two exits in April. The first acquisition was for Cincinnati-based Galaxy Associates Inc., a specialty chemical company which will be added on to another Cincinnati-based chemical company, Dubois Chemicals. Galaxy is expected to improve and increase the metal finishing business for Dubois. 

Riverside’s second acquisition was The Baby Jogger Co., which manufactures and markets baby strollers and other mobile baby products sold in over 50 countries.

Finally, BASF, a $75 billion German-based company, acquired Cleveland-based Novolyte Technologies Inc. Novolyte, a manufacturer of electrolyte formulations for lithium-ion batteries, will expand BASF’s lithium-battery electrolyte production globally and add to BASF’s long-term objective of becoming the leader in materials and components for cell and battery manufacturers worldwide.

ALBERT D. MELCHIORRE is the President of MelCap Partners LLC, a middle-market investment banking firm. He is also a director on the ACG Cleveland board. For more information on MelCap Partners, please visit For more information about the Association for Corporate Growth, please visit

Deal of the Month Parker Hannifin Corp. takes the honors this month for the closed acquisition of Snap-tite Inc. on April 3. The acquisition will strengthen the instrumentation and fluid connector groups within Parker, especially in the oil and gas markets. Parker will now be able to offer high-pressure applications along with Parker’s previous suite of options. Snap-tite, located in Erie, Pa., is a manufacturer of high-pressure fluid power components for oil, gas, industrial and research markets.

Published in Cleveland
Monday, 30 April 2012 20:01

Jim Forbes: Special Report on Accounting

An accountant can serve many types of roles for CEOs, from hands-off keeper of the books to proactive, fully engaged adviser. It’s up to executives to decide how heavily they want to rely on their accountants. But in general, the more interaction they have, the fewer financial surprises they’ll run into.

“Once something’s done, you can’t change it, obviously,” says Jim Forbes, tax principal with Skoda Minotti. “So we try to tell all of our clients that the more we’re involved on an ongoing basis, whether it’s in decision-making or just helping them forecast where they’re going to be at for the end of the year, the more effective we can be.

“If you’re not having somebody look at your taxes until the end of the year, you can end up getting a big surprise. Sometimes it’s a nice surprise; sometimes it’s not. But the key question is, does the client want to pay for service throughout the year, or do they just want to hire you to be the historian?”

One of the areas where accountants can provide crucial help is in monitoring quarterly tax estimates.

“If you don’t work with your CPA throughout the year, you might be underpaying [quarterly estimates] or, conversely, you might be overpaying,” Forbes says. “If you’re overpaying, you might look at it as a nice surprise. But really it just means you didn’t use you cash efficiently.”

There are many business situations for which accountants, if they’re consulted ahead of time, can provide valuable advice: buying fixed assets, making investments, timing the recognition of income, compliance with loan covenants, and monitoring pricing, material costs and margins.

“For most of our clients, we try to be involved on a regular basis, at least quarterly, because we can give them options — maybe it’s a way to reduce taxes or to run their business more efficiently,” Forbes says. “Of course, they may turn around and say, ‘That’s not what I want to do.’ But at least they’ll know what the options are.”

Jim Forbes, principal with Skoda Minotti’s Tax Planning and Preparation Department, has 17 years of experience working with small and mid-cap public companies and privately held C- and S-corporations.

HOW TO REACH: Skoda Minotti, or (440) 449-6800

Published in Cleveland
Monday, 30 April 2012 20:01

Cleveland May Deals Page

Much like the weather, Northeast Ohio had a hot month in March. More than half of March’s closed transactions (both corporate and financial) had international ties from either the buyer’s or seller’s perspective. Perhaps company fears regarding the European economic crisis have subsided or at least grown numb, due to this level of international activity.

In March, activity in the domestic cross border M&A market is up on a dollar value basis but down on a transaction basis. According to S&P Capital IQ, the number of disclosed deals in March was down 10.2 percent from February. The number of disclosed deals in March 2012 compared to March 2011 was down 38.4 percent. On a more positive note, the dollar value for all disclosed transactions in March 2012 was up 22.6 percent and 13.8 percent, compared to February 2012 and March 2011, respectively. The dollar value of all disclosed transactions for the first quarter of 2012, however, was down 6.9 percent from the first quarter of 2011. Also, the number of disclosed deals was down 22.2 percent across the same quarterly period.

Lincoln Electric joined the international-transaction train this month with its March 8 acquisition of Weartech International Inc., a producer of cobalt-based hard facing and wear-resistant welding consumables. Weartech has manufacturing plants in Anaheim, Calif., and Port Talbot, Wales. Materion Corp. of Mayfield Heights completed its acquisition of Aeropsace Metal Composites from Farnborough, England, on March 1. AMC produces high-performance ultrafine particulate reinforced metal matrix composites sold into the performance automotive, aerospace, defense and precision/high-speed machinery markets.

MCM Capital Partners, Morgenthaler Private Equity and Rockwood Equity were all on the selling end of transactions this month. Rockwood announced the sale of Asset Recovery Corp., which provides end-of-life solutions for computers and electronic equipment, to Arrow Electronics. Morgenthaler Private Equity sold Avtron Loadbank, a designer and manufacturer of power integrity test and measurement devices, to Emerson. MCM Capital Partners sold ESSCO Inc., a distributor of floor care products to Indianapolis-based Cardinal Equity Partners.

In addition, the Weinberg & Bell Group acquired Aerorepair Corp., based out of Londonderry, N.H. This marks the group’s third aerospace investment. The first two were Hawk Corporation and Cargo Airport, both of which they have exited.

ALBERT D. MELCHIORRE is the president of MelCap Partners LLC, a middle-market investment banking firm. He is also a director on the ACG Cleveland board. For more information on MelCap Partners, visit For more information about the Association for Corporate Growth, visit

Deal of the Month

The deal of the month goes to Park-Ohio Holdings Corp. for finalizing the acquisition of Fluid Routing Solutions on March 26. FRS is a manufacturer of industrial hose products and fuel filler and hydraulic fluid assemblies. Its production facilities are located in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and the Czech Republic. FRS has more than 950 employees and generated estimated revenue of $190 million for the trailing 12 months ending Jan. 31. ParkOhio is a leading provider of supply chain logistics services and a manufacturer of highly engineered products headquartered in Cleveland.

Published in Cleveland
Monday, 30 April 2012 20:01

Northeast Ohio Movers and Shakers

The Davey Tree Expert Co. recently announced that Pat Covey has been named the new COO for all U.S. operations and Jim Stief has been promoted to executive vice president, operations.

Karl Warnke, Davey’s chairman, president and CEO, said the changes are part of an effort to recognize factors that have been critical to Davey’s success during this unstable economic period.

A long-time employee of Davey, Covey has served in various capacities with increasing responsibility in both the operations and administrative/support segments of the company. His most recent position was executive vice president, operations, a title he has held since 2007.

Jim Stief will be responsible for all U.S. residential and commercial operations, in addition to the Davey Resource Group. A 33-year employee of Davey, Stief began his career in the Atlanta residential territory. Over the years, he has served in a variety of capacities within the service line, including as operations manager of the western region.

NCA Financial Planners and its President and CEO, Kevin Myeroff, has been ranked by Barron’s magazine as the second best financial adviser in the state of Ohio, and the No. 1 adviser in northern Ohio.

NCA Financial Planners, an independent, full-service financial planning firm, has been on the “Top 1,000 Financial Advisers” list for the past seven years. It was also recently named a Weatherhead 100 company, making it one of the 100 fastest growing companies in Northeast Ohio. On a national level, Myeroff has been recognized as one of ‘America’s 100 Top Advisors’ by Barron’s for the past seven years.

Positively Cleveland has announced that Michael Burns joined the organization as senior vice president of convention sales and services.

Burns has 30 years of experience within the hospitality industry, particularly in hotel operations, national sales and meeting planning. He spent 22 years with Conferon (now Experient), a nationally known meeting planning company in a variety of account management and leadership roles.

As the senior vice president of convention sales and services for Positively Cleveland, Burns is overseeing a sales team that is responsible for engaging stakeholders and soliciting companies interested in bringing their meetings and conventions to Cleveland, and a services team responsible for ensuring the best convention experience possible.

Great Lakes Integrated, a Cleveland-based graphic communications and printing company, is pleased to announce the appointment of a new CFO and two changes to the company’s executive leadership team.

David Eckhardt, CPA has joined the company as CFO. Eckhardt brings more than 25 years of experience in both private and public accounting, specializing in the manufacturing industry. Before joining Great Lakes Integrated, he served as CFO and controller at Advanced Polymer Coatings in Avon Lake and controller at Q-Lab Corp. in Westlake.

Kostika Radivoj has been named executive vice president of sales. Radivoj has worked at Great Lakes Integrated for over 34 years in a variety of areas, including: estimating, customer service, production planning, purchasing, scheduling and most recently held the position of executive vice president of operations.  In his new position, he will be responsible for the day-to-day management and business development of the entire Great Lakes Integrated sales’ operations.

Additionally, Robert Schultz has been named executive vice president of operations. Schultz has worked at Great Lakes Integrated for more than 35 years. He has served in positions including: estimating, accounting, CFO and executive vice president. In this new position, he will be responsible for the day-to-day operations, including overseeing processes, procedures and standards, as well as leading the continuous improvement initiatives within the company.

Published in Cleveland

Since the 1930s, the excitement of gambling has offered millions of people the thrills of the uncertain outcome. However, if you’ve lived in Ohio, you have had to travel out of state for the past 80 years to indulge in gaming entertainment. This May, that all changes with the opening of the new Horseshoe Casino in downtown Cleveland’s historic Higbee Building.

Expected to bring more than five million annual visitors to the Cleveland area and have a large economic impact, the Horseshoe Cleveland brings needed growth and attention to Northeast Ohio.

This past March at the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s 2012 annual meeting, Gary Loveman, chairman, president and CEO of Caesars Entertainment Corp., the company that manages the Horseshoe brand and 54 other casinos around the world, spoke to the crowd about the casino experience and impact the new Horseshoe facility would have on the Cleveland area.

“We are very excited about the opening of what will be the most dynamic event in the gaming world here in Cleveland on the 14th of May,” Loveman says. “We have a $450 million investment that we have done with our partners at Rock, a partnership that was formed around the opportunity to develop casinos here in Ohio, the first in Cleveland and then in Cincinnati.”

The Cleveland casino will feature some 2,500 gaming positions and will serve about 700,000 meals to guests here in Cleveland on an annual basis. Guests will primarily stay at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, which is now owned by the partnership, but an additional 70,000 or so room nights will be used by guests in a number of the other facilities in the area.

“We anticipate some 5 million visitors to the casino in the course of its first year of operation, which will exceed by a considerable number the level of visitation that currently exists for many of the very attractive facilities or athletics and other entertainment in Cleveland today,” Loveman says.

Loveman, who joined Caesars in 1998 as COO and was named CEO in 2003, has since been named the gaming and lodging industry’s best CEO by Institutional Investor Magazine for four consecutive years. He is looking forward to a strong relationship between the Horseshoe casino and Cleveland.

“This experience will be Horseshoe, but it will also be Cleveland and it will reflect all of the things that this city has to offer,” he says. “It is our intention to build our experience through a network of collaborations with other fine providers of cuisine, lodging, transportation, and entertainment here in the area. Already, my colleagues have had discussions and entered into some levels of agreements with the athletic teams here in Cleveland, with Playhouse Square and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

The goal for Loveman and Caesars is to provide Cleveland with entertainment and customer service with few of the negatives that are often associated with gaming.

“We take our obligation in the communities in which we operate very seriously,” he says. “Our partners at Rock Gaming and we came together in large part because we share that commitment. We are in the business of making sure we provide that service at the highest possible level while being the most thoughtful and innovative company possible and looking after those that suffer adverse consequences from these services as well.”

All Caesars employees are trained in handling and helping people who show signs of addictive gambling and no one under 21 is permitted in the casino.

“We try to make sure that we have the tightest standards possible that would make it difficult for addictive gamblers to find our facilities attractive places to visit,” Loveman says. “We seek out such customers and ask them if they are having a problem and provide them access to clinical resources and everything we can to make sure that they find the help that they might need. We also started Project 21 to make sure no one under the legal age of 21 could enter our facilities or participate in gambling if they entered our facilities. We restrict where we advertise, with who we advertise, and the manner in which we advertise to make sure no vulnerable group is addressed from our business at all.”

For those who participate in a safe manner, the new casino will provide a level of entertainment and economic activity that Cleveland hasn’t seen before.

“My hope is that when I have the opportunity to visit with you a year or two from now, you’ll tell me that you had the chance to visit with us, your friends have visited with us and found the experience appealing … and in every respect we and our partners at Rock have risen up to the incredible opportunity you’ve given us to join you here in Cleveland,” he says.

HOW TO REACH: Caesars Entertainment Corp.,

Published in Cleveland
Monday, 30 April 2012 20:01

Inclusion drives economic growth

Inclusion of minority and women-owned companies isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do to economically benefit the region.

That’s the message from the Northeast Ohio Economic Inclusion Forum Series. The series aims to engage the public, private and nonprofit sectors in creating a targeted, comprehensive economic inclusion action plan for Northeast Ohio.

“A lot of growth in the economy comes from small businesses, and minority small businesses are an important part of that fabric,” says Sandra Pianalto, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. “It is very important to our economic growth, both from a region and a country, to have every individual, every part of the workforce, fully engaged.”

The March panel for the third phase of the series, “Perspectives from the Private Sector,” discussed the role larger companies can and should play in fostering economic inclusion, and how this benefits their business.

Create a diverse staff to foster innovation

Inclusion begins internally with the hiring of a diverse workforce, says Chris Connor, chairman and CEO of Sherwin Williams. This ensures you can provide relatable service to your customer base.

“We look to hire, recruit, train and develop the leadership of our company from this broad spectrum of different folks so that we can, in fact, emulate and look like our customers,” Connor says.

A diverse staff also fosters innovation and creativity by bringing together diverse perspectives.

Diversity of ideas is critical to better decision-making,” Pianalto says. “We made it a part of our strategic direction almost 10 years ago to make sure that we had a very diverse and inclusive organization and culture.”

To ensure an inclusive culture, inclusion must be embraced, communicated and incentivized from the top down.

“This is a topic that gets discussed in the boardroom; it’s a goal that I’m measured on by my board,” Connor says. “There are compensation and incentive goals on this topic of inclusion, so it’s on everybody’s hearts and minds. We just made this a business prerogative as opposed to a check-the-box, to-do project.”

How you can help

Although Pianalto says bank lending is on the rise, the current economic state makes it difficult for small companies to gain access to capital. That’s where larger companies can step in to help their client companies.

Paint manufacturing companies commonly support professional painting contractors by selling them the equipment and materials they need on credit. This enables the contractors to begin work, hire others and generate cash flow.

“You’re seeing more businesses step in in a very focused, strategic segment of supporting customers in providing some of that financial quota to get these things going,” Connor says. “We’ve done a lot of that for minorities, and we’ve been richly rewarded by that.”

Larger companies can also ensure smaller companies are able to do business by “unbundling” large projects, breaking it down into smaller pieces so that people have the chance to bid on types of business that they’re capable of handling.

This method was adopted in the building of Cleveland’s Horseshoe Casino, with a point scale used to evaluate potential contractors’ levels of inclusion.

“It takes a little bit more coordination on the front end, but at the back end, the rewards, the mentality, the excitement it creates within the job of people that would have never been afforded this opportunity before is immeasurable,” says Jeff Cohen, CEO and founder of Rock Cos. and vice chairman of the Cleveland Cavaliers and co-visionary of the Ohio Casino Initiative.

While this unbundling can help small companies on a local level, Warren Anderson, president and general manager of Anderson DuBose — the 17th largest African American-owned industrial services company in the U.S. — says this unbundling can hurt growing minority and women-owned companies by making a job too small.

“If you’re a small-to-medium company like mine, a small contract is too small,” he says. “But a national contract with a bundled approach across the country is too large.”

With that in mind, companies can also take another approach to inclusion by giving big contracts to prime contractors that are capable of handling the magnitude and encouraging them to partner with smaller subcontractors for local materials and labor. Cohen says such partnerships added value to potential contractors on the casino project’s inclusion evaluation scale.

Service matters

Women- and minority-owned firms have an obligation to earn business through top-notch service, says Anderson.

“I compete for contracts based on superior price, service and personnel,” he says. “So to me, in terms of running my business, it’s about being as good as anybody and being attractive … for companies to award contracts to, so I’m included in the bids.”

Successful women and minority-owned firms also have an obligation to help other women- and minority-owned businesses with their growth.

“We encourage those who have been successful to turn around, reach back and lend a helping hand to those who have not been as fortunate,” Cohen says. “You need to provide those opportunities, because in many instances, that’s all it’s about — being given the opportunity to perform.”

For more information:

Watch “Rachel Talton of Synergy says economic inclusion action plan will benefit northeast Ohio”

Watch “Jodi Berg of Vitamix Corp. says inclusion promotes innovation and inspiration”

How to reach: The Northeast Ohio Economic Inclusion Forum Series,

Published in Cleveland