Columbus (2544)

Wednesday, 09 April 2014 18:53

E-commerce: A sea change in retail

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Columbus has been very attractive to many West Coast e-retailers that need a presence on the East Coast, like Seattle-based Zulily, says Kenny McDonald, CEO of Columbus 2020. As e-commerce grows, many companies are discovering Columbus works well for their fulfillment centers, even as they struggle to control supply chain costs.

“When you’re pulled to the Eastern market of the U.S. and Canada, Columbus makes an enormous amount of sense,” he says. “And what most people find once they get their boots on the ground is that the talent base is really pretty strong, from top to bottom, and it’s a good value to boot.”

The company doesn’t have to be headquartered on the West Coast, either. For example, New York City-based Gwynnie Bee recently chose the Columbus region for a new fulfillment center.

“Columbus is a centralized location that allows us to service our customer better from a shipping standpoint; customers receive their shipments faster and at a lower cost to execute,” says Robert Escobar, vice president of operations at Gwynnie Bee. “Second, Columbus’ overall infrastructure is geared towards fluid and just in time supply chains like ours. Although labor is getting tight as the economy improves, the Columbus talent pool is great, from senior managers to warehouse associates. The market is an epicenter for distribution and logistics companies.”

McDonald feels that e-commerce is more than just a trend.

“It’s really a sea change in corporate business models,” he says. “Companies like Zulily don’t even have storefronts, and those business models really didn’t exist in that fashion 10 years ago.”


Watching shipping costs

Keeping costs down is certainly something that is important to all retailers, but it can be particularly imperative for e-commerce companies.

Jeff Zimmerman, director of the Columbus Region Logistics Council, calls this the Amazon effect — where you need to deliver goods to the customer for free, unless they have expedited needs.

“More consumers are buying through e-retailers expecting access to product selection, a Web interface, that allows them to place an order and source goods without the cost of transportation,” Zimmerman says. “So, that e-retailer wants to be as close as they can.”

The natural location that Central Ohio has to reach dense population centers with a one-day truck drive means e-retailers want to use the Columbus area to reach customers east of the Mississippi.

“Retail doesn’t really have a rosy picture in general. I think we’re probably headed for another sub-standard year in terms of double-digit growth,” says Katy Keane, an adjunct logistics professor at The Ohio State University and president of Koncatenate. “That’s really going to be important as retailers, and all companies, look to control costs wherever they can. A lot of people are re-thinking their shipping strategy.”


A crisis in trucking

When any retailer does a market study, it’s easy to see that transportation costs are only going to go up, making it critical to manage them closely, Keane says.

“Where labor market and cheap land used to be the No. 1 guiding principle of the results of a network study, now it’s often transportation because diesel has gone up and we are in a crisis in terms of trucking,” she says.

The federal government recently put in new safety regulations, limiting truck drivers’ hours. This sounds good on paper but likely will have far-reaching consequences, Keane says.

It puts more traffic on the roads during the same hours as the rest of the population, as opposed to traveling a lot at night. This in turn could impact the road infrastructure and increase the need for construction — and some already call Columbus the Orange Barrel City.

It also creates some practical problems. For example, Keane says during the test phase of these new service hours several years ago, she received a phone call in the middle of the night.

“The store manager called me at three in the morning and said, ‘I can see the truck. I have my crew of 15 people here waiting to unload this truck and he refuses to back up.’

“And I said, “What do you mean ‘you can see the truck?’”

Keane learned from the president of the trucking company that the truck driver was in the parking lot but had run out of hours. He had an on-board recorder and didn’t want to start the truck and back up because he would be in violation of hours of service.

Keane says it was a ridiculous situation, but that’s how serious it was to violate the regulations.


Learn more about logistics with a related story: Playing on Columbus’ strengths — A focus on workforce is paying off in logistics, but more remains to be done

Subtle adjustments to the claim adjudication process have led to managed care organizations (MCOs) being asked to start collecting expanded data on new injuries.

“An employer’s MCO plays a key role in initiating claims,” says Lance Watkins, AVP, Client Services, CompManagement Health Systems. All injury reports are routed through MCOs to ensure that the required data is in place before a claim is reviewed by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) for allowance.

Smart Business spoke with Watkins to better understand how MCOs will operate under the new process.

What is changing in the data collection process for MCOs?

Previously, standard incident reports included only the basics: the employee’s name, address, birth date, employer information and injury description. Additional details, such as the injured employee’s marital status and normal work hours, would eventually be pursued, perhaps by BWC after the allowance was determined.

MCOs are now being asked to gather more data before the claim is submitted to BWC. While this may often require a phone call to the employer, having more claim details in BWC’s hands before they make an allowance decision is a good thing.

What new information is required?

Among the new information MCOs are asked to collect is the employer’s certification or rejection of the claim. This question may be posed before a thorough investigation has been conducted. It may be appropriate to withhold this decision until better information is available. The claim can still be submitted to BWC for adjudication. However, there may be cases where the incident and injury are not in dispute, and an early certification may accelerate treatment for the injured employee.

How are additional allowances being treated?

Another area where BWC is asking MCOs to play a larger role is in the consideration of additional medical conditions on a claim.

Usually, when a treating physician seeks to expand the allowances and treat new conditions, it is an indication that the claim may be growing in complexity and cost. When the request for new conditions is submitted through the MCO with a treatment request, the MCO is to provide a recommendation on the existence of the condition. It is an awkward position to be in because the question of causality — whether or not the accident caused the condition — is what BWC will ultimately use to determine if the condition should be allowed on the claim.

One of the roles of the MCO is to reconcile the treatments to the medical conditions and move the claim toward resolution. MCOs study medical documentation daily and typically have faster access to sound diagnostics reflecting the condition of the injured employee.

What do these changes seek to accomplish?

Ultimately, the goal is to help injured employees return to the workplace as quickly and safely as possible. The most powerful cost driver in workers’ compensation claims is lost time, and the speed and clarity of information is a vital part of the return-to-work process.

BWC leans heavily on MCOs to resolve claims from the medical side and evaluates each MCO on their effectiveness in helping injured employees get back to work. BWC provides quarterly evaluation data on MCOs, called Measurement of Disability Scores (MoD), which reflect the MCO’s return-to-work performance compared to established benchmarks. With the MCOs and their client employers having a vested interest in the return-to-work scores, it is appropriate that MCOs be empowered to help accelerate the process and establish the informational framework for resolving claims.

Lance Watkins, AVP Client Services, CompManagement Health Systems, can be reached at (614) 376-5524 or

Insights Workers’ Compensation is brought to you by CompManagement Health Systems

Gary Schottenstein learned from his father, Irving Schottenstein, to treat your customer right and fairly. And after more than 35 years in the real estate business, he still holds true to that — and tries to treat everyone that way, from customers to employees.

In fact, the chairman and CEO of Schottenstein Real Estate Group keeps a voicemail to remind him, and because it makes him feel good.

Bruce Heine was trying to buy one of the company’s condominiums for himself and his wife. The two had a lot of health problems.

Schottenstein says Heine couldn’t qualify for a mortgage. So, even though he didn’t know him very well, he told him to go ahead and move in, and pay what he could until he could buy it.

He got this call in August 2012:

I very sadly wanted to let you know that my wife died Friday night after six hours of open-heart surgery. I just want you to know that you allowing us to get into that beautiful place meant everything to her. She was the happiest I’ve seen her in years.

She saw me through five surgeries and some business setbacks, and she stuck with me with five IVs and I almost lost my leg. And it just — everything, she just willed me through it. And you making this, allowing this, to happen is immense.

I don’t — I know you’ve done hundreds of thousands of transactions, but you will never do a transaction where you have anyone more appreciative and grateful than myself and my wife.

Heine’s wife spent 10 days in the condo, and Heine himself died just over a year later in September 2013.

Schottenstein is very proud of the experience, but makes no brags about it: “I am not trying to toot my own horn. You’ve just got to feel for other people.”

Here’s how Schottenstein Real Estate, one of the largest developers and builders in the Midwest, focuses on customer satisfaction and team building.

A customer-centric culture

Schottenstein Real Estate strives to be open and forthright with customers. Management tries to get feedback from residents, so it throws different events and has staff mingle with residents.

“We’re a company that, if you want an appointment with the vice president, they’ll come to your home or business,” Schottenstein says. “We’re not some out-of-state company with ABC in the name that no one can figure out who they are.

“I think we were the first developer to implement a total satisfaction guarantee warranty for any resident.”

Schottenstein Real Estate’s first core value is to: “Build honest, open relationships with residents, customers, contractors, related parties and the public, so that our promises and integrity are unquestioned and reaffirmed to all.”

By striving to reinforce the customer’s trust and their decision to contract with Schottenstein Real Estate for one of the most important parts of their life — where they live, you build long-term relationships.

“When someone does business with you, they have confidence in you, and you want to try to, obviously, earn their confidence and trust ongoing in the future,” Schottenstein says.

Building the right team

Real estate, like many industries today, can be challenging, from locating and acquiring land to getting entitlement approvals. However, the right team is essential to success.

“We’ve been able to attract a very good team of associates, including vice presidents in charge of different divisions, and we’ve been able to maintain, for many years, great sub-contractors and suppliers and vendors, many of which have been doing business with us for almost 40 years,” Schottenstein says.

Even with the downturn in real estate over the past four to six years, Schottenstein Real Estate has still been able to grow and start a number of new projects, which is a testament to its employees.

Finding the right people to hire is a very important factor in any company, Schottenstein says. You need to spend a lot of time interviewing and ensuring someone is the right fit.

“You have to be very definite on the job description and what you expect out of someone, and you have to ask a lot of questions and make sure that they can meet those objectives,” he says.

Schottenstein Real Estate has found that a mix of internal promotions and recruiting talented people from competitors is a successful combination.

Once the employee has been hired, Schottenstein says, you should try to treat him or her as well and fairly and honestly as you can. By helping the employee grow and meet personal goals for success in their job, employees will want to stay with the organization for years.

You also need self-starters and self-motivators, who enjoy doing their work. They aren’t in it just for the money.

“You want people who enjoy getting up every day, going to work, that don’t clock-watch,” he says. “And, to me, no matter what position you’re in, you have to have good communication skills.

“Even people who are on the Internet and computer all day, I want them to be able to communicate with their co-workers and certainly with the public, the customers, anybody else. You have to be able to communicate and also, you have to realize that you’re part of the team,” Schottenstein says.

“Generally speaking, you have to really be sure that they like the industry that they’re in. You don’t want people just holding a place until retirement or just doing it for the money.”

Working smarter

Teamwork is very important in any company. Employees need to be able to understand how they fit in with their job duties as part of the whole organization.

One way to get associates to buy into the company’s mission and vision, Schottenstein says, is giving them freedom with their schedule, including the ability to take personal time off to participate in family and non-work events.

“We like to have them schedule their own time and meetings and not punch the clock. We don’t have a clock to be punched here,” he says.

The hours aren’t as important as the efficiency and performance.

“We don’t necessarily require someone to work a lot of long hours and overtime hours,” Schottenstein says. “We would rather have you work smarter and better; quality of time is more important than quantity of time on the job.”

So, how can you measure someone’s performance without just looking at the hours they put in?

If someone is in leasing or sales, Schottenstein says it’s pretty apparent by how much they are selling. Otherwise, working smarter means being focused, and not wasting time.

“When you’re at work, you have to be able to put your personal life behind you somewhat — you have to be able to focus,” he says, “and keep yourself aligned with what the company wants you to do.”



  • Build honest, open relationships, so your integrity is unquestioned.
  • Hire people who have passion beyond the paycheck.
  • Encourage staff to work smarter, not longer.


The Schottenstein File:

Name: Gary Schottenstein

Title: Chairman and CEO

Company: Schottenstein Real Estate Group

Born: Columbus

Education: Bachelor of science in business administration with a concentration in accounting from The Ohio State University.

What was your first job, and what did you learn from it? My first job was really working construction and maintenance for apartment communities, and what I learned was to appreciate the hard work done by all the contractors and laborers. When you’re out there you can see how hard people work — and primarily working with their hands.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received? The best business advice I ever received was from my father, Irving Schottenstein. He said to always care about your customers and try to treat them fairly and honestly.

Who do you admire in business? I admire people who are able to be successful in business, but also successful in their family life and have time to give back to the community, the city and to charitable organizations.

What does business success mean to you? It’s not just one word or something. I would say: No. 1, enjoying your work and the people that you work with; No. 2, would be accomplishing project goals, including building households which can appeal to and satisfy the residents; and No. 3 would be to develop communities which enhance the overall city and state where it’s located.


Learn more about Schottenstein Real Estate Group at:

Twitter: @SRE_Group

How to Reach: Schottenstein Real Estate Group, (614) 418-8900 or

We ♥ (heart) logistics.

The award-winning UPS ad campaign certainly strikes home for Columbus. The city is naturally attractive as a distribution and logistics hub for its geographic access to 46 percent of the U.S. population within a 10-hour drive, as well as strong supply chain talent and value.

In fact, the logistics industry employs 9 percent of Central Ohio’s workforce.

But just like with manufacturing, distribution and logistics jobs may not be the first thought of those entering the workforce, says Kenny McDonald, CEO of Columbus 2020.

“It’s still probably a misunderstood term and a misunderstood industry,” he says.

Jeff Zimmerman, director of the Columbus Region Logistics Council, says logistics is a term that has been around forever.

“But no one has ever really known what logistics was until UPS turned it into a little ad campaign,” he says. “And we heart logistics suddenly makes logistics a little bit chic, fashionable or at least visible.”

Although Columbus’ geography and a clustering effect allow the region to win some things, McDonald says there’s been an intentional effort on top of that by business, government and education.

“The industry itself — end users, shippers, as well as 3PLs [third-party logistics] and a variety of other service providers — has come together and really worked on the workforce,” he says.

Advocating on behalf of the industry

One focus of the Columbus Region Logistics Council is developing a skilled workforce with 21st century work skills as a competitive advantage.

“Business doesn’t have the opportunity to slow down to train an employee,” Zimmerman says. “They’ve got to come in with a prerequisite skill.”

The council advocates to both students and student’s parents at all levels — secondary, post-secondary and vocational/technical — so they are aware of not only jobs but also career opportunities in the logistics industry at-large, Zimmerman says.

“That’s been one of the things that the logistics council has done really successfully for our region: We’ve been good cheerleaders, good advocates and good stewards on behalf of the success and the ongoing growth of the industry,” he says.

By putting a focus on workforce, the industry has created better communication to the educational system, which has responded through curriculum and programs that allow students to matriculate into the workforce better equipped, better prepared and more successful.

Both The Ohio State University and Columbus State Community College have logistics degrees, and OSU has a master in business logistics engineering. The MLBE program focuses on supply chain optimization and technology, allowing students the rare opportunity for hands-on experience running a transportation management system.

“The industry is increasingly more sophisticated, and as a result of that we’ve got to work closely with education to make sure that we can make all of those pathways visible and keep the pipeline of talent flowing through the system into industries successfully,” Zimmerman says.

Being proactive for future growth

The traditional methods businesses use to seek logistics talent still work today, Zimmerman says, but they need to be a little more proactive with recruiting.

“Are they sponsors of programs, and do they have visibility?” he says “Are they actively engaged in the internship process to bring talent into their environment to create awareness — to educate and bring that student through a successful experience so that they can go out and be a mouthpiece for not only the business, but for the industry at-large?”

Katy Keane, an adjunct logistics professor at OSU and president of Koncatenate, a supply chain consulting practice, sees the industry changing.

“There’s a lot of automation that’s going on right now in terms of distribution centers,” she says. “Companies are spending millions of dollars in high-tech automation for automated sorting and retrieval systems or things like that.”

Employees no longer are just picking and packing boxes, and it takes a more tech-savvy labor force to handle high-tech equipment.

Keane also foresees a potential truck driver shortage, especially with the new hours of service rules and safety regulations that are weeding out drivers.

“We’re working on training those logistician leaders of the future with some excellent programs, incredible faculty and all of that, but again, my concern is the ones who actually have to execute the work,” she says. “We need to do a better job in educating the middle market, the middle labor pool.”

“We have worked and continue to work,” Zimmerman says. “As the pace quickens and growth increases, we’re going to need more people. And so we’ve got to be able to bring more people into the system, attracted to opportunities in the industry and then prepared with the right levels of training.”


Learn more about logistics with a related story: E-commerce — A sea change in retail


How to reach: Columbus 2020, (614) 225-6063 or; Columbus Region Logistics Council, (614) 225-6086 or; The Ohio State University, Fisher College of Business, Department of Marketing & Logistics, (614) 292-8808 or

Monday, 31 March 2014 01:11

Building Stronger Communities: LifeCare Alliance

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Working together: LifeCare Alliance marries the needs of for-profits with its own

LifeCare Alliance would not be able to serve its 15,000 active clients without support from the corporate community — companies big and small deliver Meals-on-Wheels, work in its dining centers, deliver pet care, assist with numerous volunteer opportunities, and purchase catering and wellness services.

President and CEO Charles Gehring says he always hears how much corporate associates enjoy working with LifeCare’s clients, which in turn makes them appreciate their employer. However, building relationships between for-profit and nonprofits needs to go both ways.

Smart Business spoke with Gehring about how corporate partnerships are critical to LifeCare and its clients, and vise versa.

SB: How do strong relationships with for-profit companies help nonprofits like LifeCare Alliance?

CG: An association with a well-known company lends the “seal of approval” to what the nonprofit does and is. This association is critical to how LifeCare and its services are viewed by the community. Companies employ people who can be volunteers. LifeCare has more than 90 companies who “Adopt-a-Route,” which means they allow employees to deliver Meals-on-Wheels on a daily basis. This saves the cost of a paid driver, about $12,000 per route, per year.

Companies also provide subject matter experts to assist with numerous projects. For example, our IT committee has only two board members. The rest are volunteers who are experts in information technology. They provide the knowledge we lack as a not-for-profit with a small staff. This is an area not-for-profits do not use enough.

Perhaps most importantly, the relationship must go both ways. We must provide a benefit to the for-profit partner. That might include employee recruitment and retention programs, like our Adopt-a-Route program, ways to assist their community without large financial commitments, programming for their employees, programs which address the concerns of their employees, co-marketing efforts and others.

SB: What challenges have you faced when building these relationships?

CG: Often, for-profits feel we only want to meet with them in order to ask for money. Actually, LifeCare generally wants to provide them with something. Money is nice, but for-profit companies can do many other things.

I view our company partners as guardian angels. A for-profit will watch over us closely because they know they are assisting our community. For example, we purchase sandwich buns and dinner rolls for our Meals-on-Wheels from White Castle, one of our best community partners. While we pay retail price, White Castle insures we get outstanding products and services, while knowing their products are being consumed by, and benefitting, those most in need.

SB: What have you learned about how to better create these relationships?

CG: Start slow, and determine what the for-profit company wants and needs. Often, not-for-profits only tell a company what they need.

Instead, take the time to listen and ask questions of potential for-profit partners. What are their priorities for their business and community, and where are their associates’ interests? In this way, we can better match what we do to their needs, and most likely provide them with a service or program of interest.

In 2014, we need to create a strong ‘win-win,’ not a one-sided relationship.

SB: How would you advise nonprofits to create long-term ties with corporate America? Or, on the flip side, how can for-profit companies create stronger links to worthy causes?

CG: The relationship has to go both ways. And, I cannot stress enough that not-for-profits must listen to the priorities of the for-profit. Many not-for-profits continue to only ask for-profit partners for money.

It is critical to develop other partnership opportunities. As another example, LifeCare operates L.A. Catering as a social entrepreneurship venture, which helps generate revenue to serve more clients. A company could buy catering from us if it were going to purchase catering for an event anyway. It provides a social and community aspect to the event, and I guarantee the associates appreciate that community care.

These types of partnerships between for-profits and not-for-profits develop deeply, and on multiple levels, with both gaining tremendous knowledge about each other. Much like a marriage, isn’t it? Also, like a marriage, we need to make our work together fun.

How to reach: LifeCare Alliance, (614) 278-3130 or

Learn more about LifeCare Alliance at:

Twitter: @LifeCareAllianc

Healthy relationships are good for you — and in my experience, this is as true for companies as it is for people. At Molina Healthcare of Ohio, our involvement with community partners has enhanced our reputation, raised brand awareness, allowed us to model our mission in action and motivated everyone in the company to do our best.

Giving back can improve the bottom line, too. Eighty-two percent of U.S. consumers consider corporate social responsibility when deciding how to spend money, according to a May 2013 Cone Communications study.

If your company is ready to reap more rewards from community partnerships, now is the time. Here are some strategies that can produce excellent results.

Support volunteerism

Encouraging employees to volunteer is great. Making it easy and financially rewarding for them to donate their time and money is even better.

Molina offers volunteer time off, giving employees paid time off to donate 16 hours per year to the charitable institution of their choice. If employees don’t have a group in mind, our Employee Activities Committee identifies opportunities that will be rewarding and convenient, while also serving our membership.

The volunteer time off pays immeasurable dividends in employee pride, community appreciation and positive word of mouth as employees talk up the program — all while helping organizations that serve the greater good.

Donate your expertise

No doubt, there are nonprofit organizations near you that could benefit from your business experience.

We encourage our leaders to get involved; they currently represent eight board seats at various organizations. I, myself, am honored to serve on the board of directors at the Children’s Defense Fund and Hands On Central Ohio. In return for my time, I get to work on projects of personal interest. I’m also able to network with other business leaders who serve on these boards, people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Collaborate with like-minded organizations

A way to demonstrate the integrity of your business is to partner with associations that align with your corporate values. Molina works with community organizations to identify a need and then help fill it.

As two organizations that prize healthy living, the YMCA and Molina make perfect partners. Recently, we were able to connect exercise and healthy eating in the minds of kids at the Y’s Saturday Sampler in Cincinnati. Children made smoothies in blenders using “smoothie bikes”— stationary bikes powered by pedaling.

Create your own event

At Molina, as we work with others who serve low-income individuals and families, we often meet people who inspire us.

For the past five years, we’ve been able to shine a light on the good deeds of everyday heroes with our Community Champions Awards. Recipients are voted on by the community, and honored with an awards dinner and a $1,000 grant for the nonprofit of their choice. This special program makes me proud to be a part of Molina Healthcare, while also contributing to the success of the company.


Amy Schultz Clubbs is the plan president of Molina Healthcare of Ohio, the state’s second largest Medicaid Managed Care plan with 262,000 members.

How to reach:

Learn more about Molina Healthcare at:

Twitter: @molinahealth

The world of technology startups is dominated by one overriding characteristic: uncertainty. Uncertainty in marketing, feature sets, customer needs and even in revenue models nip at founders as they strike out and try to create something new.

Uncertainty is not exclusive to young companies, as executives from small businesses to multinational corporations confront the unknown daily. We can wade into the froth of data and events and hope not to be pulled under, or we can employ a technique that compiles the input and processes it in a manageable way — the strategic framework.

In startups, one framework gaining popularity is Lean Startup. For the more seasoned business, frameworks come in all shapes and sizes. Sales alone has hundreds of frameworks for acquiring customers. For strategy, most are born from management consulting, like Porter’s Five Forces or the GE-McKinsey Nine-Box Matrix.

Helping reduce cognitive load

The mind is a wonderful processor, but the amount of information needed to predict the future and make decisions is overwhelming for even the brightest, i.e., the failed Long-Term Capital Management hedge fund.

Frameworks provide the structure and methodology for systematically categorizing data and modeling it so that it makes sense. They work because they are essentially organizational heuristics — techniques for problem-solving that use mental shortcuts to reduce cognitive load.

Business frameworks tend to be fast and thrifty, leading to solutions that are effective but not necessarily optimized.

Choosing the best framework

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to attribute the effectiveness of a business solely to the application of a particular framework.

In psychotherapy, there is extensive research behind which of the myriad forms of therapy, from cognitive behavioral to narrative therapy, is the most effective. The results of meta-analyses of these frameworks yield a surprising result: Not one approach works consistently better than others.

While psychotherapy as a whole is unquestionably effective, the specifics of the schools of thought are not important. The takeaway is that using a framework is much better than not using one.

Some flexible considerations for frameworks:

  • Any framework approach is better than none. A framework should be consistent with your intuition and past experience.

  • Favor simplicity over complexity. The mind has a love affair with complicated ideas but complex does not equal better.

  • A framework requiring a process implementation that creates more overhead than any potential gain is doomed.

  • You don’t need to know why a framework is effective, but be aware of the basic underlying assumptions. If those basic assumptions are no longer valid due to market conditions or a changing environment, it’s time for a change.

  • Try to avoid jumping into the next cool framework, unless the bell of intuition rings. But conversely, don’t be a zealot for any particular approach.

Framework thinking is designed to allow strategic decisions to be made using a simplified model of the business’s ecosystem by avoiding two sins of the CEO — paralysis by analysis or jumping to conclusions with no supporting data.

Todd Whittington is the executive director of 10xelerator, a technology startup accelerator in Central Ohio. Todd has had a winding career path focusing around innovation processes, user acquisition marketing and operations improvement with a strong bent towards measurement and analytics.

How to reach:

Learn more about 10xelerator at:

Twitter: @10xelerator

If being online is a part of your business strategy, you need more than a quality, user-friendly website. You need smart SEO.

When a person conducts an online search using words related to your business, SEO increases the likelihood that your website is listed at the top of the results. It allows you to reach a greater audience online — but only if it’s done correctly. Start by understanding some key strategies insiders use to ensure both humans and search engines like your website.

Use strategic website organization

Create a list of relevant keywords and use them strategically throughout the website. This is a good strategy, as long as you play by the rules.

Search engines seek to match the most useful and relevant information. To maintain integrity, search engines change algorithms frequently to outsmart “schemers” who find loopholes.

When changes occur, websites can be penalized with lower result rankings.

Incorporate relevant keywords in page titles, body copy and metadata. Titles and meta descriptions typically appear in the search results. When searches include keywords that match your page title and description, those words appear in bold, helping your page stand out.

Dedicate each Web page to one topic, product type or service. This ensures when a keyword is searched the most relevant Web page within your site pops up. It increases the likelihood users will click the link and find what they need.

It also helps decrease bounces — when a visitor immediately leaves a Web page — which search engines use to consider how long visitors stay engaged on your website.

Label images

Images should include relevant keywords in image titles, descriptions and alternative text. Proper alternate text helps with SEO and even provides sight-impaired Internet users an understanding of images, enabling them to more easily navigate your website.

Start a company blog

A company blog provides a platform to consistently post high-interest, industry-related content. This attracts audiences who search on a topic that may not otherwise be represented. It is a good practice to focus on one topic for a single post and include relevant keywords within the title, body copy and meta description.

Link your website to other sites

A well linked website shows search engines that a site is trustworthy. Claim your listings in reputable online directories, referral sites, review sites (Yelp, Google+), and reputable trade and news organizations and associations. Add a website link in company social media profiles, and include keywords in profile copy and content.

Invest in search engine marketing

If your website is new or you want to add to your SEO, consider advertising on search engines. Search engine marketing helps your website appear above or on the side of search results as an advertisement, so your company has exposure, even if your website isn’t in the organic search results.

SEM has a unique set of best practices, so use a certified associate or agency to handle an online advertising campaign.

These steps will increase relevant website traffic. Being diligent in reviewing website analytics and maintaining optimization best practices assures your website is being found.

Kelly Borth is the CEO and chief strategy officer at GREENCREST, a 23-year-old brand development, strategic and interactive marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into market leaders. Kelly has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the U.S.

How to reach: (614) 885-7921, or

Learn more about GREENCREST at:

Twitter: @GreenCrest

Companies use customer service metrics to gauge how customers view them. But that’s not enough — not if you really want to delight customers.

Successful companies listen to what customers are saying and use it to drive operational change. Feedback isn’t just analyzed at the corporate level, but throughout the entire organization.

When we rolled out an updated customer service survey, we implemented three key things to ensure each person understood its importance and their role in it.

Make it more than a score

In the past, we used the Customer Service Index as a measure. We had great scores, but that’s all they were — numbers. They didn’t give us a way to understand the customer experience, so we introduced the Net Promoter System.

Based on the fundamental perspective that every customer can be divided into three categories — promoters, passives and detractors — it asks one question, “How likely is it that you would recommend Safelite to a friend or colleague?”

Customers respond on a 10-point scale and are categorized as follows:

  • Promoters (score 9-10), loyal enthusiasts who keep buying and refer others, fueling growth.

  • Passives (score 7-8), satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings.

  • Detractors (score 0-6), unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth.

To calculate your NPS, take the percentage of customers who are promoters and subtract the percentage who are detractors.

This allowed us to change our vocabulary and actions. Satisfaction was no longer good enough. We needed to delight customers to earn a promoter. We can dig into the data to show what experiences create a promoter or detractor. This metric has become a part of our daily conversations.

Share scores directly and in real-time

In a service organization, such as Safelite AutoGlass, there is typically one person the customer interacts with — the technician. As the faces of our company, it’s essential that technicians embrace customer service views.

Technicians set goals for their scores, and each week, store managers provide them with the customer service survey results. They review negative comments together and discuss ways to improve.

This real-time information is key because technicians remember the specific customer and situation that led to a low score, allowing better understanding of what might be done differently.

Align scores to rewards

To stress the importance of customer service performance goals, they are tied to rewards for everyone throughout the organization. For example, a field staff member who gets a written customer compliment receives an Excellence in Service Award. Those with a high number of Excellence in Service Awards are recognized in the lobby or our headquarters with a framed photo and call-out.

Celebrating together encourages a continued goal of customer delight.

While there is much more to creating a customer-centric culture, finding the right tool to listen is key. You may have to try several metrics to find one that works best for your organization. Ultimately, what you do with the feedback is more important than how you collect it.


Tom Feeney is the President & CEO of Safelite AutoGlass®. In his 25 years with Safelite Group Inc., Tom has been instrumental in establishing Safelite AutoGlass® as a national company and a well-known brand.

Since 2008, he has set the course for growing Safelite’s profits by 200 percent through two core principles: People Powered and Customer Driven. Tom is the recipient of the 2011 International Service Excellence CEO of the Year Award, the 2011 1-to-1 Media Customer Service Champion, the 2013 Columbus CEO Customer Service Award and many more. For more information, visit

Learn more about Safelite AutoGlass at:

Twitter: @safelite

At the end of January, I received an email that Gwynnie Bee, an e-commerce retailer, was opening a flagship fulfillment center in the Columbus region, creating 400 jobs — and so began my research into Columbus as a distribution hub for this month’s feature story.

I’d always heard that Columbus is located in the perfect spot, accessible to most of the U.S. population within a day’s drive.

I knew it was basically the mini-New York with many fashion retailers headquartered in the area.

What I didn’t know was the deliberate effort on behalf of business and government leaders to turn a core competency into something stronger.

An intentional effort paying off

Within the past decade, Columbus has put together an intentional economic development effort on behalf of the region and community for distribution and logistics.

Kenny McDonald, CEO of Columbus 2020, told me that 50 percent of the industry’s growth has come from that effort.

He says they treat businesses that expand or relocate distribution centers to Columbus like customer accounts, periodically checking in with them.

Jeff Zimmerman, director of the Columbus Region Logistics Council, reports that there is a clustering effect in the city because people want access to intermodal terminals, air cargo freight, efficient roadways and transportation routes, and an educated workforce.

He called it somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the council creates a visibility for the region’s capabilities, so people become more attracted to it, adding to the capabilities.

Katy Keane, an adjunct logistics professor at The Ohio State University, says that with transportation costs continuing to go up, Columbus’ proximity becomes even more important, but the outlook for logistics in Columbus is rosier than in many other cities because there’s such a great support system.

“All the plans that many people have worked on for years are coming to fruition,” she says.

Columbus has done a good job of building up its infrastructure — where Rickenbacker Inland Port is ground zero — “with the idea that if you build it, they will come,” Keane says. “And they are coming.”

Consciously, with purpose

This approach reminds us that there’s always room for improvement — a way to make something stronger. Successful businesses take what they do well and turn it into something great, and then strive for exceptional.

You need to find your strengths, and then create long-term plans to nurture, grow and cultivate those strengths into something more.

As a fan of Malcolm Gladwell, I like to think about the 10,000-hour-rule, where he says it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Have you and your employees spent 10,000 hours on your core competencies?

And just like the city of Columbus and its fortuitous location, you can’t rest on your current success because then you’re in danger of being left behind.

For example, every person I talked to about Columbus’ logistics industry kept reminding me that it’s an ongoing effort. They aren’t done. In fact, they’re just getting started.

Jayne Gest is an associate editor at Smart Business Columbus. Jayne is interested in the people and businesses making a difference in Columbus.

How to reach:, (800) 988-4726 ext. 281 or

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