Family Business Category
All was not well at Nature’s Best in 2005 when Jim Beck stepped into the role of CEO. The company’s CEO had stepped down from the family run business because of a clash with the owner, who happened to be his mother, about the future of the business.
Operations had become very expensive and the company had cut ties with Whole Foods, which made up 36 percent of the company’s revenue. Beck had been with the company focusing on IT development, but he had not previously been part of any discussion about strategy and leadership.
It wasn’t going to be easy, but as it turned out, severing the relationship with Whole Foods was actually a good thing for the company’s future. The relationship was no longer profitable for Nature’s Best and the break allowed the company to establish itself as a key distributor for independent health food stores.
Another challenge was to redesign the company’s production line and implement new software as well as consolidate operations into one building.
When all was said and done, Nature’s Best became much more efficient and was better positioned to expand into new markets and open new distribution centers.
As the company continued to evolve and even create its own brand, Beck made sure that his people felt like part of the growth. That was a key motivating factor behind his support of Greener Initiatives, a program that started as a grassroots co-op dedicated to providing healthy food for employees, their families and customers. Beck doesn’t want employees to see their work as just a job, but as an opportunity to make a difference and put their unique talents to use.
One of Beck’s next major goals is to expand eastward by acquiring a gourmet food company on the East Coast and propel his company to even greater heights.
How to reach: Nature’s Best, www.naturesbest.net
STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Technology & Business Services
For Daniel Reed and UnitedLex Corp., the root of excellence is passion. Cultivating passion and creating highly motivated, accountable and committed professionals is the secret of UnitedLex Corp., and the reason the company has driven transformation within the global legal profession.
Daniel Reed is CEO of UnitedLex and an innovator who is changing a legal industry that has historically been slow adapters of technology.
Recognizing a new opportunity to change the legal profession by leveraging technology and process improvements, Reed co-founded UnitedLex, a consulting, technology and outsourcing provider of legal services in 2006. The company’s lightning bolt moment came after several collaborative discussions with the leadership team of Hewlett Packard, which became UnitedLex’s first client, and recognition of gaps in the global legal system.
The mission that emerged was to transform the global legal industry by providing a single point of knowledge and capability in those support areas most critical to law firms and law departments in becoming efficient business operations. The biggest obstacle for Reed was that no one had ever executed such a strategy before.
Rather than adopt a law firm or BPO model for the delivery of legal support services in the areas of litigation, intellectual property, contracts and immigration, UnitedLex created a model that has a management consultancy front end, a technology development and integration enablement group and a centralized resource outsourcing engine for delivery execution. Within five months of starting, UnitedLex was providing legal services to IBM, Microsoft and Marriott Hotels in addition to HP.
By maintaining focus on current business lines, UnitedLex expects to continue to see significant growth in the future. The company is in a position to grow without cash constraints, and given the receptivity and strong demand of an international client base, UnitedLex will continue to invest in areas of core differentiation.
How to reach: UnitedLex Corp., www.unitedlex.com
Bespoke means custom made, or made to order. The term originally came from custom clothiers — from suits to shirts to shoes; anything someone wears can be made to order for him or her by the right manufacturer.
“Bespoke is the art of being able to modify your production line to do custom paint and leather colors along with many other things,” says Jon Boardman, general sales manager at O’Gara Coach Company.
In addition, how your company operates with each individual that comes in or calls is bespoke. Bespoke can fit into any business, one way or another, he says.
Smart Business spoke with Boardman about made-to-order sales and what that can mean for your customers and business.
How does bespoke work in the luxury car market?
For a normal brand you just get to pick from 10 to 20 exterior colors and five to eight interior combinations. Then, the manufacturer picks where the leather goes and the color of each piece of the interior, while dictating the type of wood that goes with this.
However, Bentley and Rolls-Royce have more than 300 exterior paints and will also mix paint to sample for a client. They offer 28 leather colors for the inside, and upon special request — while staying within the legal guidelines — they will consider doing wild game leather, i.e. ostrich and alligator.
Both Bentley and Rolls-Royce take bespoke to many other levels that people don’t even think of when looking for a new car. They can do custom woods, stains and finishes, such as satin or high gloss. They can incorporate the client’s name in the doorsills, wood veneer and even into the leather. They will inlay precious metals, jewels and shells into the veneer prior to it being installed into a car. For example, one customer request was to make a car’s veneer from a tree in his yard. Yet another option is to have no wood in your vehicle at all and go with turned aluminum or carbon fiber.
The Bentley stand on bespoke is stated as follows: ‘We enjoy working with our customers on their bespoke requests and are only limited by the boundaries of good taste and our ethical and environmental responsibilities.’
What’s the relationship between bespoke and an enhanced customer experience?
Bespoke allows a person to make a vehicle — or any other product — exactly what he or she wants. Whether the customer prefers a black car or a pink car, he or she has the ability to take part in the design of the car.
Why might some business owners consider using this concept for their company?
It is a great way to distinguish your company from the next, even though you are in the same field of business. Anything that gets a client to be more active in his or her purchase can only help everyone involved.
A 2011 Los Angeles Times article pointed toward the accelerating trend for customized products, especially with millennials, those ages 18 to 39. In the article, Alexander Chernev, an associate professor of marketing at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, said by doing it themselves — ‘the Ikea effect’ — customers derive additional value.
Do you have any advice for executives on how to incorporate bespoke best practices?
Bespoke doesn’t have to be used in its traditional meaning. By modifying a customer’s experience with any company or brand you are making his or her experience unique. So, be creative and think outside the box.
A unique and memorable experience will have that person returning to you and speaking highly of your company while he or she is out with friends. You can do many things to thank your customers, from small dinners to event tickets to elaborate parties, anything to make sure you stand out to a client.
Jon Boardman is general sales manager at O’Gara Coach Company. Reach him at (310) 659-4050 or email@example.com.
Social media: Visit us at facebook.com/BentleyBeverlyHills.
Insights Luxury Autos is brought to you by O’Gara Coach Company
STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Trinity Products, Inc.
Since founding Trinity Products, Inc. with two partners in 1979, Robert Griggs has been taking huge personal risks. At its inception, Trinity had only a rented office space with four telephones, one employee and a borrowed debt of $15,000.
The company began primarily as a steel pipe supplier and then branched into fabrication. Adding fabrication services increased value to customers and allowed Trinity to diversify its customer base. This expansion brought about the addition of new product lines, high-rise sign structures and billboard and sign pole fabrication.
Because of Griggs’ tenacity and intense drive to succeed, the company has continued to be successful over 34 years. In this time Griggs has heavily invested in new equipment and technologies in order to facilitate the growth of the company’s different business units. In 2002, Trinity completed the construction of a 10,000-square-foot coating facility which allowed Trinity to diversify into painting and coating steel pipes.
Griggs’ vision was not finished. He focused on becoming vertically integrated by building his own steel mill with capabilities of producing spiral weld pipe. Production of the plant started in 2004 and was not completed until 2007, when the mill began to roll pipe. This created new challenges as the company not only learned how to roll pipe, but had to assume management of more employees. The risk of expanding services on the brink of the global economic downturn proved to be fortuitous, as the diversification allowed Trinity to remain nimble.
Additionally, the company broadened its expertise by investing in industry certifications like the American Institute of Steel Constructors facility approval, and obtained quality approval from states regulatory agencies in California, New York, New Jersey and the Army Corps of Engineers. Today, the company is the second largest producer of large structure pipe in the United States and currently has a larger market share than it had before 2008.
How to reach: Trinity Products, Inc., www.trinityloprofile.com
Economic hardships, the sluggish job market and continued uncertainty surrounding the future of health care reform have taken a toll on employees. Now is the time to demonstrate your commitment to your workforce and boost morale by finding ways to effectively communicate your organization’s employee benefits package.
“Employers in the United States spend nearly 40 percent of payroll on benefits. That being said, a strategic approach to benefits communication is no longer a business tactic geared toward only large organizations; it is a necessity for employers of all sizes,” says Jessica Galardini, chief operating officer at JRG Advisors, the management arm of ChamberChoice.
Smart Business spoke with Galardini about taking a strategic approach to benefits communication.
Why should employers be taking a strategic approach to benefits communication?
A strategic approach can boost employee appreciation and comprehension. Maximize your annual open enrollment period by reiterating the positive aspects of what your company offers. ‘Value-adds’ such as paid holidays, vacation time or paid time off, and profit-sharing plans should not be overlooked.
Remind employees about the relevance of the financial contributions made on their behalf. Employers often pay a significant portion of the premiums for medical, dental and vision benefits, and full premium for life and disability insurance benefits. It’s not uncommon for employees to overlook how much employers pay for all components of the benefits package, which is why personalized benefit statements can be powerful communication tools. Referred to as the ‘hidden paycheck,’ these statements incorporate annual salary, the total value of all employee benefits, paid time off, etc.
What should be considered when preparing a benefits communication strategy?
A variety of factors should be considered, including life stages. In what stage of life are your employees? Are they single? Newly married? Ready for retirement? Employees have different needs from their benefits packages at different stages of their lives.
Employees respond differently to technology, which also should be taken into consideration. Email communications, a company intranet site and/or webinars might be well received by some, while others will benefit more from group forum discussions and presentations. Technology creates greater efficiencies and a new approach to benefits communication, but it should not be substituted for face-to-face and ongoing personal communication.
Another challenge is communicating with employees working remotely or in other locations, as well as those working weekends and/or shifts other than 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You also are faced with new employees entering your workforce and older employees who might retire. People get promoted, married, divorced and have children. All of these life stages and factors can present challenges to effective communication if not taken into consideration upfront.
How do employers develop a benefits communication strategy?
Utilize your benefits advisor to help develop the communication strategy that will work for your organization. Ongoing education and communication are critical since the benefits needs of employees change throughout the year. So, provide employees with instruction and access to make needed changes. Effective programs work best when communication is employee friendly. Employees need to be shown how benefits work together, and they need guidance in order to make the best decisions.
If your organization is facing a change in benefit or contribution structure, make sure to plan how it will be communicated. Be honest, accurate and concise when delivering any message that relates to change. Your advisor can provide benchmarking data to compare your package to others in your industry, geography, etc., to help keep changes in perspective.
Because benefits have a profound impact on job satisfaction, effective benefits communication is one of the most challenging responsibilities facing employers today. The right approach and techniques can put some control back in the hands of employers, and boost employee morale.
Jessica Galardini is the chief operating officer of JRG Advisors, the management arm of ChamberChoice. Reach her at (412) 456-7231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights Employee Benefits is brought to you by ChamberChoice
STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
TradeWind Energy, Inc.
chief development officer
TradeWind Energy, Inc.
TradeWind Energy, Inc.
What do a technology entrepreneur, a musician turned engineer and a corporate attorney have in common? They lead TradeWind Energy, Inc., one of the largest developers of wind energy projects in the U.S. However, the company hasn’t always been in that position.
In the early years, TradeWind positioned itself to be a wind power development company headquartered in the Midwest. The development process began by identifying key locations and then negotiating leases on the locations in order to build site inventory. Although Rob Freeman, Matt Gilhousen and Geoff Coventry had the drive necessary to succeed, TradeWind had an uphill battle from the beginning.
One early setback stemmed from the actions of a founding member who, having left the company, criticized the traditional sources of energy such as coal and nuclear. Unfortunately, TradeWinds’ customer base at the time comprised these same utility companies, and the local utility companies saw hostility in the gesture.
It was evident that a change was necessary in order for the company to survive. As TradeWind reached an inevitable breaking point, Gilousen, chief development officer, and Coventry, COO, met with Freeman and determined that the business had a future with Freeman at the helm as CEO.
TradeWind made a strategic decision to focus its efforts on getting control of some of the highest wind resource sites in the country. The strategy has been to focus on developing the lowest possible delivered cost of electricity from wind rather than focusing on markets that have had policy directives for wind power. This strategy has proved to be a key to TradeWind’s success.
TradeWind also secured transmission rights for physical delivery of wind power from Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska to the southeast U.S. The company expects growth will come from innovative combinations of technologies in natural gas, wind and solar.
How to reach: TradeWind Energy, Inc., www.tradewindenergy.com
As summer begins, more of us will be taking some well-deserved vacation time, but business doesn’t grind to a halt just because you happen to be away from the office. That means more entrepreneurs and business executives will be relying on online and mobile banking tools to stay in touch with their business finances.
Given the need to access financial information in real time, what does the future hold for online and mobile banking? More importantly, how can these resources help business executives make better decisions for meeting their strategic goals — now and in the future?
Smart Business spoke with Susan Brown, senior vice president and Marketing Group manager at California Bank & Trust, about how online and mobile banking tools are helping executives not only access account information, but also provide sophisticated technologies for meeting complex business and treasury management needs.
Why has mobile banking become so important to business customers?
In today’s fast-paced business environment, you can’t afford to be out of touch with your finances. It’s become more essential than ever for entrepreneurs and their teams to have 24/7 access to a variety of business metrics, such as account balances, payables, receivables, cash on hand and more.
In the past, traditional online banking tools accessible via desktop PCs and laptops met these needs, but smartphones and tablets are now becoming preferred devices for accessing information. A recent report predicted that by 2014 smartphone shipments are likely to top 1 billion units, and that by next year sales of tablet devices will exceed sales of traditional laptops.
Data like this makes it clear that mobile devices are going to be key tools for business leaders to get more done in less time.
Has mobile overtaken online banking?
Mobile banking is not different from online banking — you’re just using a different device and tools to access information remotely. The more people rely on tablets and smartphones, the more mobile apps will grow in popularity. The most likely scenario for the near future is that most business users will adopt a hybrid approach, using traditional online banking tools in the office and mobile apps on the road.
Why is online banking expanding from transaction-oriented to customer-centric?
The best financial institutions are customer-centric. These banks focus squarely on strong relationships between their clients and business bankers. Clearly, customer-centric institutions want online and mobile banking resources and technologies to reflect and mirror those values.
Transactions are important, so of course online and mobile services need to support high-transaction volumes. However, the real value is banking experts helping clients make the best use of sophisticated tools to meet complex needs, such as cash management and fraud prevention. This is why a customer-centric approach will continue to be a focus.
Will the popularity of online and mobile banking impact the future of bank branches?
When online banking first emerged, many in the industry thought it might mark the end of branch banking. However, face-to-face contact is still important, especially in a business-banking context. Many transactions, such as those involving deposits and cash withdrawals, require a network of branches. There will be a gradual decrease in the number of branches, but branch banking isn’t going away anytime soon.
What online or mobile options are available?
Most people know they can pay bills online, check the status of payments and review balances, but there are other online tools that offer more sophisticated capabilities. For example, businesses can use advanced treasury and cash management solutions customized to meet highly specific needs.
What new capabilities under development could be used in the future?
Institutions are investing in user friendly and interactive websites, as well as introducing new apps that allow clients to service their banking needs from tools like mobile devices and iPads. As the capabilities of these devices grow and devices are introduced, banks will develop new, interactive ways to support their clients’ growing needs that complement the traditional avenues.
Susan Brown is senior vice president and Marketing Group manager at California Bank & Trust.
Mobile: To learn more about California Bank & Trust’s business mobile banking app, now optimized for iPads, visit www.calbanktrust.com.
Insights Banking & Finance is brought to you by California Bank & Trust
STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Engineering & Consulting
President and CEO
Terracon Consultants, Inc.
David Gaboury doesn’t rest on Terracon Consultants, Inc.’s success, though it could be tempting to do so given Terracon’s history of profitable growth. Instead, since becoming president and CEO 11 years ago, he has continually evaluated changes in Terracon’s market, its clients’ expectations and its business operations, challenging employee owners to embrace a culture of continuous improvement.
He is not afraid to make changes, even big changes, if they will make the company better. Gaboury’s unique ability to take a very complex situation and reduce it to the most fundamental question, the question that will define the outcome, is a rare talent that allows him to make difficult decisions efficiently and effectively.
When Gaboury joined the firm in 1997 as COO, Terracon was a successful Midwest consulting engineering company. The entrepreneurial opportunity and challenge was to scale this up and profitably grow the firm to become a national leader. As an outside hire, his first challenge was to strike a balance between showing appreciation for the firm’s success to date, fitting in and building relationships, while concurrently bringing in new ideas and vision.
This was accomplished by a central emphasis on building strong consensus around the strategic direction for the firm and developing and implementing clear, concise strategic plans. The entrepreneurial building blocks he used to consistently and profitably grow the firm were to build and strengthen Terracon’s existing services while adding adjacencies; emphasize the balance of internal and acquisition growth; build into a core competency of identifying, making and integrating acquisitions; and develop corporate services consisting of best in class corporate functions.
Today, Terracon is the national leader in its market space. In Terracon’s recently completed Strategic Plan 2017, the firm is taking on three key base entrepreneurial strategies for the future — greatly expand adjacencies related to its four core service lines; excel at employee safety, well-being, and engagement; and grow its presence outside the U.S.
How to reach: Terracon Consultants, Inc., www.terracon.com
STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Co-founder and CEO
While it may not have been her career aspiration to be an entrepreneur, Lisa Nichols knew an opportunity when she saw it. She had worked in corporate accounting and sales and marketing, and both Lisa and her husband Greg had subpar experiences with IT departments at corporations. This sparked their desire to change the way IT staffing is conducted.
Using Lisa’s financial and sales skills and Greg’s IT background, they co-founded Technology Partners in 1994. Lisa makes that sure employees understand and follow three core values — conducting business ethically and with integrity; delivering on commitments both internally and externally; and practicing the Golden Rule and always respecting diversity of opinion.
Her genuine belief in doing the right thing, which may not be the most profitable thing, and her desire to continually challenge herself and her employees, is a model to which companies today may well want to imitate.
Technology Partners employs more than 350 employees and has brought innovative methods to the IT staffing industry. The company uses a flat, hourly margin — the spread between client bill rates and employee pay rates — and discloses this margin to both the customer and its employees.
Conventional wisdom says this disclosure was ill advised for business; however, the company’s business model now serves to be a competitive advantage. Forbes magazine has taken notice of Lisa’s innovative business model and chose her to appear in the Most Powerful Women issue of the magazine in June.
Using a board of advisers to counsel her in major decisions to help grow the company, Lisa has chosen board members with various backgrounds and experiences within different industries.
With a collaborative approach in managing its employees, Lisa actively encourages her workers to avoid “silos” and to voice any desires to change positions if desired. Many employees have worked in all or many of the company’s main operational roles.
How to reach: Technology Partners, www.technologypartners.net
A space plan is a made-to-order layout of your office space. If well designed, it will be flexible enough to accommodate future changes in your organization, such as staffing additions or managerial promotions, without the need for major interior renovation.
“An efficient space plan will increase productivity, efficiency and employee morale by maximizing the capabilities of your space,” says Sam McWilliams, managing partner at SMC Consulting, LLC.
As companies grow and reorganize, space can become fragmented, which challenges departmental and personnel adjacencies.
“These are common challenges that come with organizational change and growth, but can be addressed with proper planning,” says McWilliams.
Smart Business spoke with McWilliams about how a space plan can help you get the most out of your office space.
How is a space plan developed?
Determine what your current and future needs are, then reach out to a professional space planner or designer. He or she can evaluate your existing space plan and determine whether it can be reconfigured to accommodate those needs, or requires additional space.
Architects are not always required for interior planning. By hiring a designer/space planner, you will be able to keep your professional fees to a minimum.
What should be expected from a designer?
The interior design professional should be knowledgeable about building codes and Americans with Disabilities Act requirements to ensure that your space is properly designed.
Expect the designer to conduct site surveys and perform employee interviews to identify company goals. It is important to understand what challenges employees and companies are facing with their current space to understand why a company is looking to make a change. This process is called programming and is a critical step in developing a space plan that will make the best use of the space available.
What are the next steps?
The designer will generate a space plan that reflects the compilation of details gathered from programming. Generating these drawings should be a collaborative effort between you and your designer.
Departmental adjacencies and alignments will be identified, that can create ‘neighborhoods’ of groups that need to collaborate and interact with one another on a daily basis. Workspaces will be designed to accommodate work processes that allow daily activities to be performed more efficiently. By developing a standard footprint for an open plan environment, your new space plan can promote collaboration, increase productivity and reduce real estate costs.
How much flexibility does a space plan offer?
A flexible space plan allows companies to preserve space for future use by utilizing temporary space via ‘hotelling,’ a method that allocates unassigned space for visitors, field personnel or huddle rooms for small meetings. These temporary areas can be easily converted to more permanent workspaces without interruption or loss of existing space allocations.
Incorporating an open environment in your space plan can increase space allocation. Designing workstations in modular size will allow for easy reconfiguration in the future. Workstation ‘typicals’ can be easily reconfigured using the same panels to create smaller or larger workstations depending on your needs.
How will implementing this space plan render measurable results?
By utilizing the appropriate square footage, you can reduce overhead costs and increase workplace efficiency and productivity by:
- Implementing company standards.
- Workstation and office design.
- Defining and improving adjacencies.
- Reducing or eliminating architectural fees.
- Proper allocation of square footage.
- Eliminating wasted space.
- Alternative work solutions.
- Improving IT infrastructure.
Change can be a challenging but rewarding process. Developing your space plan may take time, but the effort is worthwhile when you see the impact it has on your company.
Sam McWilliams is a managing partner at SMC Consulting, LLC. Reach her at (724) 728-8625 or email@example.com.
Insights Furnishings is brought to you by SMC Consulting, LLC