Dustin S. Klein

Sunday, 26 December 2010 19:00

Innovation 101

There are few people who rank as my business heroes, so I was honored to hear one speak recently at Ernst & Young’s Strategic Growth Forum in Palm Desert, Calif.

During his decade-long tenure as chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble, A.G. Lafley engineered one of the most dramatic transformations in business history. Under his leadership, sales more than doubled, profits quadrupled, P&G’s market value exceeded its starting point by $100 billion, and he moved the business into every corner of the globe.

Even more impressive is that when Lafley assumed the top spot in 2000, P&G had 10 billion-dollar brands, and when he retired in 2010, the company had 23.

Lafley recognized that innovation wasn’t just developing new products; it was also improving upon existing products and brands as untapped opportunities. He listened to the customer, engaged partners through a system of “open innovation” and focused on delivering value.

About six years ago, I ran across a small piece in a national financial publication titled “Eight things I wish I’d known when I started my career.” The brief caught my eye because it cited Lafley as its source. The short list struck me as both simplistic and powerful, so I cut out the small piece and taped it to the wall next to my desk, where it remains today. And, when I need a quick shot of inspiration, I often refer to Lafley’s wisdom.

Among the eight items on the list are “know yourself,” “change is inevitable” and “see things as they are, not as you would like them to be.”

Taking Lafley’s advice, I am seeing things “as they are.”

As you may have noticed from the cover of this month’s publication, our big story is coverage of the 2010 Weatherhead 100, presented each year by COSE and Case Western Reserve University. Our supplement profiles the winners and their amazing stories of growth.

The class of 2010 is composed of a strong group of leaders who understand what it takes to build sustainable growth. These honorees see their industries as they are, not as they would like them to be, and they have adapted accordingly.

Beyond the stories contained in this magazine, Smart Business reached out to all of the honorees and asked for their views on leadership, innovation and growth. More than 50 responded, and their answers are online at our special Weatherhead 100 microsite, which you can access at www.weatherhead2010.com.

Saturday, 25 September 2010 20:00

Standards of excellence

There’s an ironic truth that most media companies have in common — they’re great at sharing news about others with their readers or viewers, but when it comes to sharing happy tidings about themselves, they often drop the ball.

We at Smart Business are no different. That’s why, this month, I’ve decided to break the trend and devote my column to sharing some good news about our team here at Smart Business.

It was a good year for journalism awards for our team of writers, editors and contributors. We garnered seven prestigious awards in three different competitions.

Later this month, we’ll be heading to Columbus to attend the 2010 Society of Professional Journalists statewide awards banquet, where we’ll receive four awards — two first place and two second place.

Senior Assistant Editor Kristy O’Hara was awarded first place for her cover story on Bill Jarvis of Revol in the “Best Personality Profile” category.

Associate Editor Brooke Bates received first place for her story on how to build a relationship with a private equity firm, featuring Bill Fink of Area Wide Protective, in the “Best Trade Report” category.

Former columnist Jim Huling’s “Business of Life” column was honored with a second place award in the category of “Best Trade Columnist in Ohio.”

Smart Business Cleveland received second place as the “Best Trade Publication in Ohio.”

During the summer, we picked up two multistate journalism awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for the Central-Southeast region of the United States (a 10-state region).

Columnist Michael Feuer received Gold (first place) as “Best Contributed Column,” and Huling received Silver (second place) in the same category.

More impressive is that this marks the fourth straight year that both men have been honored in this category, and for Feuer, this is the second Gold award he’s received.

O’Hara’s Revol story was honored with a second award this year, picking up a second place nod in the Press Club’s all-Ohio Excellence in Journalism program.

And finally, Feuer penned a book (along with myself as co-author) that was picked up by New York publisher John H. Wiley & Sons. “The Benevolent Dictator: Engage your employees, build your business and outwit the competition” is slated for an early 2011 nationwide release.

Congratulations to our award-winning writers and editors, as well as the entire team at Smart Business, for the bevy of honors and a job well done.

Sunday, 25 April 2010 20:00

What’s in a name?

The Bard famously wrote in Act II, Scene II of Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

In his play, Shakespeare shrewdly pointed out that Romeo and Juliet’s love wasn’t in itself a crime. Rather, it was Romeo’s family name, Montague, which constituted the perceived crime of his and Juliet’s passion. Thus, the play’s tragedy was built on the foundation of Romeo having the wrong name.

In the corporate world, names, in the form of brands, hold similar power. A strong brand can emit a positive reputation, while having the wrong name can be detrimental to your company’s health.

Nowhere has this played itself out more dramatically or publicly than with Toyota, which for decades had a platinum-level brand name. Before its litany of troubles, the name Toyota conjured up two words — quality and reliability. Not so much anymore.

Conversely, Apple enjoys a hugely positive brand name. When you think of Apple, you think about innovation and being on the cutting edge. If Apple suddenly entered the consumer appliance market, people would no doubt be doing their laundry in Apple-branded washing machines and dryers.

One key to having a strong brand name is consistency, which in part means providing products and services that do exactly what a company claims they will do. Nike has done a tremendous job of creating consistency through its tagline “Just Do It.” Images associated with winning and success come to mind.

Finally, consider how PNC gradually eliminated the name National City a year-and-a-half after acquiring the venerable Cleveland-based bank holding company instead of dropping the National City name the moment federal regulators approved the final pieces of PNC’s acquisition.

By simply adding a “now part of PNC” to “National City” during the transition period, the Pittsburgh-based financial institution quietly recognized the power of National City’s brand while at the same time incorporating its own equally powerful brand into the equation.

Through this method, PNC used a systematic integration to establish a strong brand in the marketplaces where it had not previously been.

As you think about your own brand, keep this in mind: The power of consistency is very often underrated but remains absolutely critical to building and maintaining a successful brand.

When you ask Mervin Dunn about his success as president and CEO of Commercial Vehicle Group Inc., you’ll instantly be struck by his humility. Rather than espouse the company and what he’s accomplished, he simply says he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Dunn grew up in a low-income household in Kentucky, where he was the most educated person in the household by the time he finished third grade. He won the regional 2008 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award in the turnaround category for his efforts in diversifying CVG’s customer base to become a publicly traded global manufacturer of parts for the commercial vehicle market. Despite that, Dunn never forgets where he came from or how hard he worked to rise above it.

Smart Business spoke with Dunn about how his upbringing impacts CVG’s philanthropic efforts as well as his own beliefs in giving back.

Q. What does corporate philanthropy mean to you?

A. I first found out about philanthropy when I was in the fourth grade. I lived in a very, very poor neighborhood, a slum. The Shriners took us to the Ringling Bros. Circus and they took all of our pictures in front of the school bus. The next day, there was a story in the newspaper with the headline, ‘Indigent Children Taken on Field Trip.’ Up until then, we didn’t know that we were that poor.

So today, my idea with kids is this: We live in a very affluent area, so most of the kids have everything but not always have they been taught to dream. My gift to them, if I can do it successfully, is to teach them how to dream. If you can teach them how to dream and how to work hard and go get (what they want in life), that’s my idea of philanthropy. It’s not always giving money; it’s giving time, which is more valuable.

Q. How do you instill that in a company culture so that employees understand how important this type of philanthropy is to the next generation?

A. It’s important for them to know what’s instilled deeply in youth. Everybody in my company knows my background. In a way, they know it better than I do. My story is something I was always ashamed of when I was little. But it has done me so much good now. Where I lived, you dealt with confrontation every day. And, in business, you deal with confrontation every day. You just don’t get to use your fists as much now. My thing is to teach everybody that we’re lucky. There are a lot of people who work a lot harder than I do, but even if you work hard, you have to have a little luck, too. People need to realize that if you don’t give a little of that back, it’s not a good society. But I think we’ve got people that understand that and give.

My time is spent with my kids and the kids in the community — either the community I live in, where my company is, where my kids go to school in or the community of our employees’ kids. We cannot always provide everything to everyone, but we can provide some jobs, we can provide some vision and teach them how to dream a little bit. When they walk in and see my Ford GT there, they think, ‘This guy really came from nothing and he’s got all this and did all this.’ That says that you can do it no matter who you are in this country. There are a lot of people out there with a lot of more money and with larger companies than us, but there are very few that can compete with us about how we feel about giving to kids and giving of our time. That’s what is important to us.

How to reach: Commercial Vehicle Group Inc., www.cvgrp.com

Recognizing entrepreneurial excellence

The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® awards recognize the men and women who put everything on the line to turn ideas into viable enterprises. Now in its 24th year, the awards honor those who build the market-leading companies that make our communities, our country and, indeed, the world a better place.

Being a recipient of this prestigious business award means you’re at the top of your game and puts you in the company of such entrepreneurs as Tom Adams of Rosetta Stone, Michael Dell of Dell Inc. and Pierre Omidyar of eBay Inc.

An Entrepreneur Of The Year® nominee must be an owner/manager of a private or public company with primary responsibility for the recent performance of the company and an active member of top management. The nominee’s company must be at least two years old.

Successful entrepreneurs, whether company founders or current leaders, have a knack for taking businesses to the next level. They employ creative ways to find the capital and resources they need to reach their goals as well as build and grow businesses.

If this sounds like you, consider applying to be a 2010 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year®.

Nominations are now being accepted and are available at www.ey.com/us/eoy, for downloadable forms or electronic submissions or by calling (800) 755-AWARD.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010 19:00

Virtual brand builder

When Chris Dalton co-founded Acquity Group LLC in 2001, it was during the aftermath of the dot-com crash and some people thought he was crazy to launch a new IT consultancy firm.

Dalton defied the naysayers. He understood that CEOs sought practical ways to use the Internet as a business channel and recognized where others had gone awry. He incorporated highly tailored and creative integrated technology solutions, providing values to organizations by meeting specific business goals.

“I knew that if we put together the right kind of consultancy, based on what defunct dot-coms had not done, we couldn’t lose,” Dalton says.

Nine years later, Dalton, the company’s president and CEO, has silenced the critics. Acquity Group has been on a growth tear, posting a compound annual growth rate of 60 percent and employing more than 300 people.

Winner of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award in the services category, Smart Business spoke with Dalton about how to use technology to define a brand and transform a business.

Q. How important is defining an organization’s digital brand?

A. We look at the technology revolution and evolution as very similar to when television and radio began to grow in that organizations need to embrace this channel and get the message out about what their brand represents. That may be in the quality of information that you’re conveying to constituents about the products that you offer or about the ways you’re going to engage with them.

The consumer right now has a demand for a certain caliber of service. Your brand needs to represent all the value that’s going to come from your organization. If you have a true customer-centric relationship via the Internet then your brand is going to be morphed and shaped and evolved in many different ways because virtually you can touch anyone in the world and reach them with your brand.

Q. What’s your approach to educating CEOs on how the practical use of technology can be transformational?

A. We have to be receptive to the fact that everyone’s learning. The most valuable part of our dialogue is giving real-world examples of what other clients are doing, how they’re using technology to reach their customers, engage their customers and transform their brand. In that dialogue, once you begin to bring real-world examples to apply and the results they’re driving, that helps with a transformation. It takes a person who is not sure they get it but says, ‘What is Twitter and how can I use that in my business?’

The largest brands out there — Motorola, GM, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble — want to reach their customers, engage with them and find the right medium that holds the most value to bringing that customer over and educating them about the quality of their brand. We explain to CEOs that they must begin to think they can use technology as a means to differentiate themselves.

[See the video below where Dalton talks about building your brand] 

Q. Does that help you foster strong, long-standing relationships?

A. Relationships are the most important part of our business. If I’m a strategic adviser, I need to be a resource that brings value to your business. I need to come in and bring some insight, challenge your team and show them the realm of opportunity and potential. We don’t need to have the biggest project. Instead, we need a string of projects where each time we deliver we create value and help the business transform.

How to reach: Acquity Group LLC, http://www.acquitygroup.com/

Recognizing entrepreneurial excellence

The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® awards recognize the men and women who put everything on the line to turn ideas into viable enterprises. Now in its 24th year, the awards honor those who build the market-leading companies that make our communities, our country and, indeed, the world a better place.

Being a recipient of this prestigious business award means you’re at the top of your game and puts you in the company of such entrepreneurs as Tom Adams of Rosetta Stone, Michael Dell of Dell Inc. and Pierre Omidyar of eBay Inc.

An Entrepreneur Of The Year® nominee must be an owner/manager of a private or public company with primary responsibility for the recent performance of the company and an active member of top management. The nominee’s company must be at least two years old.

Successful entrepreneurs, whether company founders or current leaders, have a knack for taking businesses to the next level. They employ creative ways to find the capital and resources they need to reach their goals as well as build and grow businesses.

If this sounds like you, consider applying to be a 2010 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year®.

Nominations are now being accepted and are available at www.ey.com/us/eoy, for downloadable forms or electronic submissions or by calling (800) 755-AWARD.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010 19:00

Consistency advocates

I don’t typically go inside fast-food restaurants, opting instead for the drive-through window, but I made an exception while on vacation recently so that I could get out of my car and stretch.

So there I was, standing at the counter in a McDonald’s, waiting for my children’s order to arrive, when the journalist in me suddenly took over. I started watching the organized chaos that is fast food unfold and etched the goings-on into my mental notebook.

The drink station was completely computerized. As orders were punched in drinks were automatically filled. There were miniature digital timers on every piece of machinery, each ticking down toward the completion of some sandwich or order of french fries. And there were posters with precise instructions hung at every workstation.

I knew McDonald’s — like Starbuck’s — employed a sophisticated system that ensured consistent products and services no matter which restaurant you were in worldwide, but it was still impressive to see it in action.

Thinking about it, there is clearly a competitive advantage to doing what these two juggernauts do, and perhaps that’s why this month’s cover story subject, Kevin McMullen, set out to do the same at Fairlawn-based OMNOVA Solutions Inc.

McMullen recognized that much of what made OMNOVA great was stuck in silos that prevented a true open culture of innovation and information from taking root and making it possible to create consistency companywide.

He launched the One OMNOVA concept, which was designed to crack open those silos and transform the organization. This month’s behind-the-scenes look at how new company mission was developed and implemented is truly eye-opening.

One of the results of One OMNOVA is having a customer in Bangkok, Thailand, receive the same experience as one in London, England. Speaking of experiences, by now you’ve probably noticed our new columnist, Kevin Daum, and his column, “The Awesome Experience.”

Daum is a New York City-based entrepreneur, author and business coach, who has owned a former Inc. 500 company and worked with Gazelle’s founder and CEO, Verne Harnish.

His new book, “Roar: Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle,” hits the shelves of bookstores nationwide this month. Daum’s answer to consistency is for CEOs to embrace the idea of offering every customer, employee and vendor an awesome experience every time there is a touch point. You can read a preview of “Roar” at http://kevindaum.com/awesomeroar.

Monday, 25 January 2010 19:00

Locks and keys

 Since Robert Klein founded Safeguard Properties in 1990, the mortgage industry has undergone significant change. Today, with more than 600 employees and a network of thousands of contractors, Safeguard is the nation’s largest privately held mortgage field services company, and each month, it inspects and maintains more than 1 million defaulted and foreclosed properties nationwide for banks, mortgage servicers and investors.


Klein, the National Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year winner in the services category as well as a regional winner, shared his thoughts with Smart Business about how he communicates with his team and keeps his company on the industry’s cutting edge.


Q: Your business operates nationwide, which doesn’t allow for easy face-to-face meeting with your team. What is your philosophy of people management?

For one thing, we don’t use voice mail during the workday. If someone isn’t in the office, their call is directed to a colleague who picks up the phone on their behalf and takes care of a client’s issue. And we have a receptionist who actually talks to callers. When someone calls Safeguard during business hours, we want them to be greeted by a real person, not a machine. And when our clients need something, they shouldn’t be directed to someone’s voice mail if the person they are calling isn’t at their desk. In this high-tech world, we believe a personal touch distinguishes our service.


Safeguard’s motto is ‘Customer service = resolution.’ We live it every day. It is embedded in our training, which every Safeguard employee and every contractor who works for us receives. When a client has a problem, it is our job to resolve it. That is why we come to work every day.
 
Q: Innovation is critical in order to keep from being commoditized. How do you innovate?
 
Our use of technology has allowed us to innovate on many levels. Because our work is performed in the field not behind a desk, we utilize handheld technology to provide real-time updates on the status of more than 1 million property inspections and 250,000 work orders that our contractors perform every month. This includes uploads of more than 25 million digital photographs monthly documenting work performed, which accompany electronic written updates and invoicing. Our clients have 24-7 real-time access to status reports on all of their properties under Safeguard’s management.


Another innovation has been our unique REO property model. REO stands for ‘real estate owned’ by the lender or investor after foreclosure. As a result of the mortgage crisis, more REO properties have come onto the market and remain on the market longer. Safeguard created a new model for maintaining these properties that separates the marketing and management functions, enhances their market value, reduces their time on the market and helps maintain the integrity of neighborhoods in communities hardest hit by foreclosures.

Q: What impact has this had?

This model has changed the way the industry services REO properties and has been adopted by large government agencies, such as Fannie Mae and HUD.


We also use technology to create as many opportunities as we can to listen, to exchange ideas, to resolve issues in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation. This includes industry conference calls, webinars and other ‘virtual meeting’ communications. There is a reason why we were born with two ears and one mouth. We need to listen twice as much as we talk. Innovation doesn’t come from sitting in a room alone and thinking up good ideas. It comes from interacting with people throughout our industry, listening to what a customer needs and finding a way to deliver it quickly, efficiently and with the highest quality.

Q: You’ve mentioned in the past that one of the keys to Safeguard’s success is the ability to ‘understand your client’s needs and bring them actual value.’ How do you glean this information from your clients and what strategies do you use to deliver the value they need?
 
Safeguard believes in bringing people together to open the lines of communications. None of us are smart enough to solve problems on our own. But working together, there isn’t a challenge we cant overcome. We meet face-to-face with our clients. We attend industry conferences where representatives from all facets of our industry are engaging in dialogue. We also host two of our own conferences each year.
 
The first is a National Property Preservation Conference in Washington, D.C. It is where we invite representatives from all areas of our industry to come together to raise issues and work to address them in a spirit of cooperation. Participants at our conferences include our mortgage servicing clients, government representatives from HUD, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, VA and FHA, the code enforcement community, and our competitors in the mortgage field services industry.
 
In August, we hold a vendor conference in Cleveland, and we invite our thousands of contractors from across the country. At that conference, we update our contractors on guidelines. We discuss best practices for maintaining and inspecting properties and give them an overview about major developments that will be impacting our industry. Importantly, our contractors hear from panels of experts that include our clients.
 
Q: Strong relationships seem to be at the core of your company’s success. How do you foster and strengthen those relationships?
 
Our clients are national. Safeguard is headquartered in Cleveland. We travel a great deal, meeting with our clients on a regular basis. We also hold regular calls with our clients — which we call ‘staff-to-staff’ calls — where the counterparts from Safeguard and the client interact, raise and resolve issues, and keep one another updated. After these calls, everyone receives a meeting summary, and follow-up items are identified and tracked.
 
We are active in our industry trade organizations and in the trade organizations that our clients are involved in. We support initiatives that are important to them. As an example, in Cleveland, we are actively involved with the Cuyahoga County Foreclosure Prevention Program. This organization has helped thousands of homeowners avoid the loss of their homes. As a company that inspects and maintains homes that are vacant and abandoned by homeowners facing foreclosure, we see firsthand the impact of defaults and foreclosures on families, neighbors and entire communities. We do our best to help raise awareness that homeowners in trouble can find help. We do what we can to encourage borrowers to reach out and communicate with their mortgage companies and to get help through the Foreclosure Prevention Program. There is no more important step a borrower can take to prevent the loss of their home.

How to reach: Safeguard Properties, (216) 739-2900 or www.safeguardproperties.com

Saturday, 26 December 2009 19:00

Healthy beginnings

I have never been one of those people who create a litany of New Year’s resolutions, hoping to drastically change the way I live my life. It’s an utter waste of time and energy, and most people end up breaking their promises long before President’s Day.

However, I do recognize the significance of closing the door on one year and the opening of another as the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31 and a new year begins.

There is something alluring about “new,” as it is often accompanied by hope and opportunity, as well as a chance to start a new chapter in a continuing saga.

So it’s apropos that we enter 2010 by focusing on Cynthia Moore-Hardy, president and CEO of Lake Health Inc., which in October opened the doors to the newest hospital in the Lake Health chain, its state-of-the-art TriPoint Medical Center.

Moore-Hardy undertook the $155 million project by soliciting input and ideas from the chain’s 2,700 employees, using a team approach during the planning process. That may sound like just another platitude about how to get buy-in and create a sense of ownership in a large project, but for Moore-Hardy, the philosophy is real.

“You have to work within the culture of your organization or the culture you’re trying to create within your organization,” she says. “It’s important to know what your employees, volunteers (and) physicians are thinking, and have a mechanism that allows them to have input into decision-making.”

So Moore-Hardy, who came up through the ranks with registered nurse training, engaged every area of the organization for feedback and ideas. She spoke face to face with as many different employees as possible and developed teams of people cross-staffed from different departments to evaluate ideas.

The result was a facility that had the fingerprints of the entire organization upon it and offers patients and visitors a different type of medical center.

“We wanted to create, instead of a place where people feel like they’re going for sick care, a place that represented health,” Moore-Hardy explains.

With American’s attention firmly focused on health care and wellness, that’s a new approach to an old idea, and one that Moore-Hardy attributes to the innovative nature of Lake Health’s team.

As for me, I’m approaching 2010 like most other years — with a healthy dose of anticipation and hope and with my eyes wide open in search of golden opportunities.

Contact executive editor Dustin S. Klein at dsklein@sbnonline.com.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 19:00

Controlling your own destiny

As chairman of The Timken Co., Ward “Tim” Timken Jr. has a dual role: He plots the vision for the $5.7 billion global manufacturer and its 25,000 employees, and he also meets with elected officials to ensure the company’s voice is heard on proposed regulations that might affect not just Timken but any manufacturer.

The current economic meltdown hasn’t helped his cause on either front.

“In part, the private sector has itself to blame,” Timken says.

He cites Wall Street greed, exploitation of a relaxed regulatory environment and a hunger to live beyond our means as reasons why much of the American public today views business as part of the problem.

“The challenge before business leaders is to make a compelling case for their ability and determination to develop solutions to the problems we face,” he says.

Timken shared his views on the role executives should take in public policy matters as well as his thoughts on manufacturing’s future at a recent Smart Business Live luncheon. Here are some excerpts.

Remain optimistic. Many of us have seen declining sales, shrinking profits and tight credit markets. Industries across the region have been forced to reduce employee benefits and let some good workers go. Despite the trouble, I remain optimistic about the future.

It is inevitable in a free market system that individual enterprises come and go, yet the market endures. It is precisely this flexibility and agility that gives our economy its legendary ability to bounce back stronger than ever. In this cycle of renewal, we continually redeploy our resources to newer and better uses, expanding our ability to create greater prosperity for all.

Know the effects of public policy. Public policy changes threaten a structural transformation. If we were only talking about opinion polls and statistical trends, we might not worry too much. We might console ourselves by saying that, like our sales orders, public trust in business would bounce back once the economy began growing again.

Unfortunately, these changes in public sentiment are accompanied by changes in public policy that are structurally transforming our economy and making it more difficult for the market to demonstrate its trademark resiliency.

In early 2008, when trust in U.S. business was at its highest ever … anyone who would have predicted then that within a year the federal government would nationalize General Motors and take a major ownership in the country’s largest banks would have been dismissed as a crackpot. Yet, that is the reality we face today. Not since the Great Depression has the government intervened so dramatically and decisively in the economic life of the nation.

Be a change leader. There are many benefits to the growing environmental awareness that has swept across the world of business and public opinion. We are stewards of the earth and should find new and better ways to use our precious resources.

There are many companies across our region eagerly tackling some of our most pressing environmental challenges. Today, we are investing heavily in new technology and production capabilities to help make wind energy a more viable and widely available power source.

In Timken’s case, and many others, the entrepreneurial spirit, combined with innovation, has been a powerful force for positive change. Government’s role should be to help us unlock the power and focus it on the greatest challenges we face, such as climate change, not legislate it.

Position for the future. One of the areas we see with potential for growth is on the wind energy side, renewable resources. We are investing ahead of the curve to make sure we understand our role in it and create value for our shareholders by being the company positioned to take advantage of that market. The main shaft bearing in a 1.5 megawatt turbine is about 8 feet tall. There are about three companies in the world that can make it. We’re one of them.

Know that you can do good and make profits. Doing good and making a profit aren’t mutually exclusive. Timken has been a green business before it became a hip thing to do. Our foundational product — the tapered roller bearing — was invented and found market acceptance precisely because it allowed machines to achieve greater power output with less friction. Less friction means less energy consumed, and our engineers are constantly looking for new ways to attain greater fuel efficiency for our customers. That’s good for business, and it’s good for the environment.

We do a lot of these things because it makes good sense. For example, in 1990, it took me a certain amount of energy to make a ton of steel here in Canton, Ohio. Between 1990 and today, I reduced it by 29 percent. So it takes me 29 percent less energy to produce a ton of steel than it did in 1990. I did that because it makes sense for me to do that.

Make your voice heard with elected officials. At the end of the day, this is our country. It works best when we are all engaged together — business, government and citizens. Our continued engagement is critical because times are tough for many of our neighbors and it is critical to rebuilding the trust we have lost.

Stay educated. This is a constant struggle given the demands of running a business and the speed and volume of information out there. Every day, someone is devising a new law that affects your ability to succeed in the marketplace and keep people employed.

Finally, act. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or send an e-mail to make sure your view is known. Understand the issues and be able to clearly articulate the impact of those issues on your organization, so that our elected officials hear that firsthand. The future truly is in our hands.

How to reach: The Timken Co., (330) 438-3000 or www.timken.com

Monday, 26 October 2009 20:00

Do unto others

Years ago, I worked at a company where few people enjoyed coming to work each day.

Too often, managers screamed at their staff in public. Verbal assaults were so brutal at times that otherwise mentally tough people were brought to tears. Watching this display of unprofessionalism on an almost daily basis served as one of the reasons why I left daily newspaper journalism.

I’m certainly not downplaying how important it is to hold people accountable for meeting goals, but I absolutely believe that direct feedback should be done professionally and behind closed doors. Otherwise, you run the risk of sowing the seeds of fear, distrust and disloyalty among your employees.

If you want to kill a business quickly, demotivating team members is a great way to do so. Success depends on people who are fully engaged with your organization’s mission and motivated to do whatever it takes to excel. Much of that is based on treating people respectfully in every discussion. When you don’t, you’re just bullying your way toward achieving goals.

Carl Albright, this month’s cover story subject, understands the importance of respect and motivation. For Albright, president and CEO of InfoCision Management Corp., treating people the right way means he sets a good example of how the company’s culture should work.

It also means communicating clear expectations of what the company’s goals are, how results will be measured and how people will be held accountable.

“If people like being at the job, I think they are going to work harder for me, for the company and ultimately for our clients,” Albright says. “If they don’t like it here … then they are literally going to start phoning it in.”

If InfoCision’s 2,000-plus employees weren’t engaged and excited to be working for the teleservices firm, then many of Albright plans for the company’s future growth would be in jeopardy.

Instead, Albright’s simple, friendly gestures, his desire to get to know his employees beyond the office and his innate ability to show genuine appreciation for their work have combined to help lead InfoCision to new heights year after year.

Unfortunately, the same didn’t hold true for my former employer, which developed a well-deserved reputation for having a revolving door. It shouldn’t have been a surprise. When you think about it, it’s amazing how just a little respect for your fellow man can have such incredible results.

Contact executive editor Dustin S. Klein at dsklein@sbnonline.com.