When it comes time for companies to choose the recipient of their philanthropic efforts, they often pick a nonprofit organization at random. For Breehl, Traynor & Zehe, the Cleveland-based business decided to give back to a cause that had special meaning.
For the past seven years, the brand development and marketing communications firm has been actively involved in the Ohio Chapter of the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMDF.) This organization promotes research and education for the diagnosis, treatment and cure of mitochondrial disorders, and it also provides support to affected individuals and their families. Mitochondrial diseases are hereditary disorders that affect the cell’s ability to produce life-sustaining energy.
The firm’s executive team — which includes Rosemary Breehl, president; Tom Traynor, executive vice president and chief brand officer; and Darcy Zehe, vice president — chose this organization as its cause because Zehe’s 8-year-old son was diagnosed with the disorder in 2000.
As a company, BTZ has donated thousands of pro bono hours in support of UMDF events, providing consultative marketing communications services and creating collateral, signage, advertising and promotional products.
Zehe also serves on the board of the Ohio Chapter of the UMDF and was co-chair of the 2007 Run Wild for a Cure Race committee. Her BTZ co-workers also contributed to the race by donating money, running, cheering on participants and selling merchandise at the fund-raising tables. The race took place May 12 in the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and raised more than $194,000 for the fight against mitochondrial disease.
In addition to BTZ’s contributions and community service work with the UMDF, the firm has worked with the Salvation Army for several years to adopt a Greater Cleveland family during the Christmas season. Every year, the company has purchased about $750 in gifts for the families.
Last year, BTZ adopted a family that Zehe knew through her son’s school. One of the family’s two children was battling brain cancer and the single mother was struggling to pay the medical bills. The BTZ team purchased toys and clothes for both children and some stress-relieving gifts to help pamper their mother.
HOW TO REACH: Breehl, Traynor & Zehe, (216) 861-1500 or www.btzbrand.com
The 80 associates of Bruner-Cox LLP understand the importance of giving back to their communities. In 2006, they dedicated more than 1,600 hours to help area nonprofits, local chambers of commerce and various causes in their Akron and Canton neighborhoods.
Ron Manse, managing partner of the full-service certified public accounting and business consulting firm, says from the first day of orientation, volunteerism and leadership are stressed as a means for professional growth as well as ways to become a more well-rounded individual inside and outside of the office walls.
“It is heartwarming to see our associates continually reaching out to others through countless hours of community and professional service,” Manse says. “Helping others and giving back to the community is what Bruner-Cox strives to represent.”
Firmwide, Bruner-Cox’s team members support local communities as well as those miles away. The son of a Bruner-Cox associate was stationed in Iraq during the holidays, and the firm and its affiliated companies joined forces to send holiday care packages to the petroleum and maintenance unit from Fort Sill, Okla.
The firm’s partners and its associates donated money, which was used to purchase food, toiletries, phone cards, movies, medicine, disposable cameras and games, and Akron-based GOJO Industries donated sanitizing wipes and Purell.
Not only do Bruner-Cox’s associates support worthwhile causes, its partners donate monetary support to these groups and serve as role models of leadership. Manse received the Stark County Business Advocate of the Year Award and chaired a “Turkey Trot” on Thanksgiving Day that raised more than $30,000 to benefit a local library.
Dane Mayle, the firm’s general services partner, was recently named the Jackson-Belden Chamber Member of the Year for his commitment to community service, and Greg Blasiman, the firm’s general services partner, was named Jackson Rotarian of the Year.
Founded on the tradition of supporting its community by “doing what it does best,” Manse says that each year, Bruner-Cox provides 25 percent of its professional services to area charities and nonprofit organizations on a gratis basis. These services have included strategic planning sessions, tax services, treasury duties, technology consulting and public relations services.
HOW TO REACH: Bruner-Cox LLP, (330) 497-2000 or www.brunercox.com
It can be lonely at the top, but reaching out to other leaders by joining industry groups and leadership organizations can help lessen the burden of decision-making, says Doug Hartley.
“You may think you should handle something this way or that way, and then you come to a meeting, put your problems out on that table and flesh them out,” says the president and CEO of Portage Precision Polymers Inc. “It’s like having a board of directors.”
Hartley, along with three other stockholders, founded Ravenna-based Portage Precision more than five years ago. Today, the 60-employee company sells synthetic and natural rubber polymers to the mechanical, architectural and construction industries, and revenue hit $18.1 million last year, up from $12.5 million in 2004.
Smart Business spoke with Hartley about how he achieved that growth by taking risks and following his gut.
Q: How do you learn to recognize good business opportunities?
Find out what customer requirements are, and provide service and quality that the larger companies are failing to do.
Everybody has various opportunities that come across their desk or in person. The people who take advantage of opportunities and don’t let them pass by are the ones in life who are successful. When opportunities come your way, you need to do something about it, or somebody else will. If I wouldn’t have done what I did, somebody else would have, eventually.
In the beginning, a lot of businesses are all about risk-taking. When I don’t follow my gut and don’t do things according to the way I feel deep inside, nine times out of 10, I kick myself later because I was wrong. You make mistakes in business and in life, but you need to learn from those mistakes.
We’re a private company, and my employees need to know when things are good, and they need to know when things are not good, so we’re all on the same page.
Q: How do you communicate your strategic plan to your employees?
We share information with our employees every month that many companies do not, like financial information and customer information. For years, I worked for people who really kept a lot of that stuff close to their vest, and I saw where it actually hurt people.
Q: How does sharing this information benefit your company?
The rumor mill doesn’t go very far here. I think a problem a lot of companies have is not so much market forces but imploding from within. You need to treat your employees just like your customers. They need to know what’s going on in order to be positive and hardworking.
Attitude is everything. If you get up and have a good attitude coming into work, you’re going to do a good job all day. If your attitude’s bad, you’re not going to do a good job. That’s how life works.
Q: How do you make sure you’re making smart decisions?
I work with my management team. I may have a particular direction in mind, but we bring all the pros and all the cons out on the table, discuss it and think about it. Whatever the consensus is, that’s usually the way we go. I look at my management team as my advisers in their various areas.
I don’t believe in dictatorships and management by threats; my position is as the head coach. There are football teams where the head coach is screaming, yelling and kicking at them all the time. And then there are the coaches who really listen and work hard with the rest of their coaching staff; those seem to be the ones that are more successful.
Business and sports mirror each other quite a bit, and you need to run a business a lot like a successful sports team.
Q: What things are critical to the growth of a company?
You have to know your market very well. In my particular business, [the] raw materials we use are derivatives of oil, so if there’s a major situation with oil and that’s something we’ve had to manage the last few years it certainly affects us. Knowing that market can add to our profitability or take away from it, if it’s not managed properly.
You also have to stay in touch with your employees and everybody who’s working with you. The more a company grows, the harder that becomes. Once you get to a certain point, a good human resource department is very helpful. We hired a human resource manager last year in order to serve our employees well.
HOW TO REACH: Portage Precision Polymers Inc., (330) 296-6327 or www.pppmixing.com
The honesty of business leaders has become a front-page story and a topic of discussion in boardrooms worldwide, and Larry Hilsheimer strove to make that value a priority for his team at Deloitte & Touche USA LLP.
“There are a lot of examples within the business world where integrity has failed,” says Hilsheimer, former managing partner of Deloitte’s Columbus regional office. “Compromising our integrity for even one client is not worth the damage that it would cause to our brand.”
Before leaving in October to become executive vice president and chief financial officer of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., Hilsheimer managed 295 employees at the Columbus office, which provides audit, tax, consulting and financial advisory services. Deloitte & Touche USA is a member of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, which includes 135,000 professionals in nearly 150 countries and had global revenue of $20 billion last year.
After joining Deloitte in 1978, Hilsheimer moved up the ranks and was responsible for Deloitte’s services to its most strategic clients for a 14-city, seven-state region that includes Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, western Pennsylvania, western New York and West Virginia.
Beyond his new job at Nationwide, Hilsheimer is active in civic and community organizations, such as the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, The Ohio Business Roundtable, Children’s Hospital Board of Trustees, Wexner Center, Battelle for Kids, Easter Seals, Compete Columbus, Columbus Downtown Development Corporation Board, Capital South Board, Center for Child and Family Advocacy Board, Deloitte Foundation Board and several groups at The Ohio State University.
Corporate integrity starts at the top, and leading by example is how Hilsheimer communicates that message to his employees.
“I try to engage all of our associates and teammates in focusing on excellent client service and on teaming to make sure that we bring all of the resources of our firm to the interest of the client,” he says.
Hilsheimer says it’s important for employees to understand their clients and their clients’ needs so they can work together to provide the strongest possible solutions.
“It’s a common problem in business that people tend to function in their silo within their little area of expertise and oftentimes, they don’t stop to think that their customer might be better served if they leveraged the other resources in the employee’s company,” he says. “If a client engages [a service provider] in multiple disciplines, they end up generating more revenue for [the company], but we ultimately get paid if our clients are satisfied.”
The culture at the local Deloitte offices tended to be a fast-paced environment, and Hilsheimer says his employees thrived in those situations.
“Our people are the most satisfied when they are the most challenged, in terms of a high-demand project, where they are working nights and trying to meet deadlines,” he says. “Oftentimes, those are the things that really get them excited, and it’s exhilarating because they are learning a lot, very quickly.”
But, he says, work is a big part of life but it’s not all of it, and business leaders are challenged with driving a high-performance culture at a great place to work while also providing the flexibility and freedom for their employees to enjoy the rest of their life.
“If employees need to participate in some event outside of the workplace and have competing demands with things in the office, we want to keep the lines of communication open so we can help achieve their goals while still serving our clients’ needs,” he says.
Hilsheimer says companies can pave the road to success by doing what is right for their employees and their clients.
An executive’s responsibility, then, is to ensure that his company maintains its brand recognition within the marketplace and does-n’t do anything to damage it.
“Our values are around integrity and outstanding value to our clients, commitment to each other within the firm in terms of helping each other succeed, and having a diverse population that helps make the organization stronger,” Hilsheimer says.
HOW TO REACH: Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., (877) 669-6877 or www.nationwide.com
Michael Rojas, CEO,Ayalogic Inc.
Michael Rojas is not an executive who waits for brilliant ideas to fall onto his desk. Instead, he is often seen writing feverishly at the whiteboard, troubleshooting or gathering his team to announce his next exciting innovation.
The CEO of Akron-based Ayalogic Inc. manages his software and telecommunications company with passion and enthusiasm, and his clients and staff are constantly inspired by his accessibility and excitement. Working on the front line, Rojas serves as a role model and encourages his employees to share their innovative ideas.
Ayalogic’s Qmunicate solution integrates voice, text and document transfer tools into a single platform, reducing costs and enabling businesses to dramatically improve their management of communications technologies. With a patent pending for this software, Rojas plans to add it to the eight patents he already holds for previous innovative solutions.
HOW TO REACH: Ayalogic Inc., www.ayalogic.com or (330) 253-2700
Len Pagon Jr., President and CEO, Brulant Inc.
Companies that want to maintain an innovative edge must have insight and vision, and Len Pagon Jr. combines both as president and CEO of Beachwood-based Brulant Inc.
The high-growth company fuses the creative design and Internet marketing capabilities of an interactive agency with deep technology expertise and Big 5 management consulting firm knowledge and approach.
Through Pagon’s stewardship, Brulant has sustained remarkable revenue growth over the past four years with a compound growth rate of 70 percent, has successfully executed several acquisitions and spin-offs, and has remained financially stable throughout its history.
Among its recent cutting-edge projects, Brulant created an interactive media experience for Nationwide Financial customers, redesigned and rebuilt the Philosophy Cosmetics Web site, developed an innovative solution for an IBM tool, and established visualization tools for Pearle Vision and Johnsonite flooring company.
HOW TO REACH: Brulant Inc., www.brulant.com or (216) 896-8900
Victoria Tifft, President, Clinical Research Management Inc.
While serving as an infections disease control biologist with the U.S. Peace Corps in West Africa, Victoria Tifft contracted malaria and returned to the U.S. with a commitment to spend her life working to provide treatments for infectious diseases.
Tifft started Hinckley-based Clinical Research Management Inc. with three employees in 1996, and the company has grown to more than 200 employees and 2006 revenue of more than $19 million. CRM is a full-service clinical research organization that supports the development of FDA-regulated vaccines, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
In addition to partnerships with veteran-owned small businesses, CRM is working with larger Northeast Ohio institutions to expand business opportunities. CRM’s sister company, M3 Clinical, opened in October 2006 to focus on monitoring, auditing and data management of drug and device trials for the commercial and academic sectors.
HOW TO REACH: Clinical Research Management Inc., (330) 278-2343 or www.clinicalrm.com
Fred Ode takes a laid-back approach tobusiness, and in the summer, he andthe 62 employees of Brunswick-based Foundation Software Inc. can often beseen sporting shorts, sandals and T-shirts.
“I have no problem bringing suits andCPAs into this place, where everybody’swalking around with their cut-off shortsand T-shirts,” says the company’s founderand CEO. “What people see is a vibrant,alive, intense workplace where people get along and like each other.”
After starting his career as a secondary school math and business teacher,Ode established his constructionaccounting software firm in 1985.Revenue increased from $4.5 millionin 2004 to $6.5 million last year.
Smart Business spoke with Odeabout why daydreaming is good forCEOs but complacency is not, andwhy worrying everything to death isnot necessarily a bad thing.
Q: How can other CEOs grow theircompanies the way you’ve grownyours?
Andy Grove, of Intel, wrote thisbook, ‘Only the Paranoid Survive,’and the one thing I’ve seen withbusinesses — including mine — isthat you have to be paranoid andworried. You can’t become self-satisfied when things are going well.
It’s not like you’re saying, ‘What’s going to go wrong?’ Instead, you’re asking, ‘What can we do better? What can we do to continue growing? What is going to happen in the market? What are our competitors doing?’
You have to have a certain intensity. I’vebeen like that since I was 3 years old. I’m abit of a worrier — it’s an understatement.
Business is so complex and convolutedthat if you look at it as, ‘Start a business, sellyour product and service it,’ you’re doomed.You have to worry it to death, and I don’tmean that in a negative way. You have tofocus on everything: your people, the market,the competition, your product, your service.
Q: How do you avoid getting overwhelmed?
Bring in people that have a skill set you don’t have. If you worry everything todeath, one of the things you think about isyourself. I’m very confident — and I certainly can be accused of being cocky —but, by the same token, I’m extremely self-critical.
You also can educate yourself. I’ve readhundreds of business books over theyears — on sales, marketing, management, leadership, biographies and histories of business. Relative to perfect knowledge, you’re always stupid; there’s alwaysan infinite amount of knowledge outthere.
There’s no perfect businessman. I’m verygood at running a $6.5 million company,and I know I’m not good at running a $20million company. We’re going to get theresomeday — and go beyond that — so Ihave to prepare for it. The way I run mybusiness today cannot be the way I run ittomorrow.
I haven’t always been like that. For thefirst 10 years, I was sort of like a bulldog. Ijust plowed my way through everythingthrough sheer hard work, effort and intensity.
Q: What happened to make you changeyour approach?
I was ready to walk. I hated my companyand my job, and I was absolutely miserable.I had probably 10 employees and a couplehundred clients, and that’s it. I very seriously considered selling and getting out.
If you’re tough, you keep talking to people, asking questions and looking into yourself, and there’s an answer there. I ultimately brought a person in to help merun operations. That took a big burdenoff my shoulders, and I was then ableto reflect a little more and realized I hadto grow as a businessperson. That wasa big turning point for me.
Q: How do you define your company’scontinuous improvement philosophy:‘When better is possible, good is notenough’?
Better is always possible. Last year, wedidn’t have a good year; we had a greatyear. So, rather than get complacent, weasked, ‘What can we do? Can we createnew products for other entry points inthe market? Can we improve our research and development to get productout the door more quickly? Can we builda new consulting division?’
I’ve seen many competitors go down thedrain over the last 20 years. These companies were substantially bigger, more successful and more prestigious than us. Theywere good, but they didn’t worry aboutbeing better.
Q: On a personal level, how do you handlethe growth of your business?
My biggest role now is change: What’scoming down the pike, and what will thenext one to five years bring? I read a lot ofbooks and newspapers, network withother people in the industry and go to conferences and trade shows.
I daydream a lot about it; you can’t underestimate that. It’s something you need to dosometimes. Just sit there — whether it’s ona beach or with a beer in your backyard, itdoesn’t matter — you daydream, you fantasize, and you think.
HOW TO REACH: Foundation Software Inc., (800) 246-0800 orwww.foundationsoft.com
As sole owner of EXCEL Management Systems Inc., Curtis Jewell couldn’t be happier.
“I’ve been married three times, and having a business partner is like being married,” he says. “I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life, and I’m very comfortable managing what I decide to take on. I don’t need partners for money because I believe in a light debt as opposed to investors.”
Jewell also serves as president and CEO of his Columbus-based company, which provides systems engineering and management services to federal, state and local government agencies, as well as commercial clients. The company reported $13.5 million in 2006 revenue.
Smart Business spoke with Jewell about managing his company through smart debt and doing what’s right for his staff and customers.
Q: How can other executives grow their company the way you’ve grown yours?
Unmitigated gall. I’m not an IT genius, and I run an organization of 120 people where about 110 of them are IT geniuses. That’s the unmitigated gall.
I’ve done it on smart debt. I love debt. If you have a good relationship with a bank and a good healthy line of credit because you’re creditworthy and have a good banking record, you’re able to borrow what you need when you need it. You pay it back, and you have no obligations and no diluting of your profits.
After almost 18 years in the business, I can finance any debt need out of my own resources, as opposed to having to draw on my large line of credit that I almost never need. I may borrow from the bank only because my money may be working in a better way than to disturb it for some business purpose.
I’ve grown the company through aggressive sales and marketing. I try to get in with the customers early in the budget-planning process and track their goals and what they’re going to want in terms of technology over the next year or two. By the time they put out a request for proposal, I’m well aware of their need, and I’ve already begun planning to respond to it.
Q: How can companies create long-term customer relationships?
Give more than you take. As long as you’re doing that, and you’re open and honest and everything’s on the table, everybody appreciates that. If you’re always looking out for their best interest, why would a client want you to leave him?
Q: How can business leaders create an atmosphere of responsiveness?
You just care about that customer. We operate with a partner network of companies across the country that respond on our behalf. If that partner company can’t do it, I’ll fly someone out there who can.
That costs me, and I’ll probably lose all my profit, but I’ll do it to make sure it gets done right. You do what it takes to make sure your client is OK.
Q: How do you communicate that to your staff?
That’s what people need to understand; their first client is their staff. I support my staff so they have no reason not to deliver the best of who they are to my client. It just goes down the line, and it’s widespread.
We are building a company and getting well compensated for it. We’re not just working together; we really like each other because we’re satisfied. Nothing creates a better relationship and enjoyment for people when they know they’re delivering great service and are appreciated by their client.
Q: How do you reward your employees?
We thank them for providing that level of service on behalf of the organization. Sometimes we remember it when their raise comes back around, but I make it a point not to have money be the only way we say thank you. It’s a bad precedent.
People need to know it’s OK to do things right and not always expect to get money from it. I don’t believe in that.
Give your people incentive to do their best. I bring on people of such quality that they own their area of the business. They’re not micromanaged. They get incentives, and they’re paid high scale to bring them in. Once they start to see the growth, it’s shared. Don’t shortchange the key people that make your operation successful.
Q: What can prevent a company from growing?
A lot of company owners don’t even know how to read their financial statements to manage their organization to profitability. You’ve got to know what you’re doing from day to day or month to month.
Don’t just set a budget. You’ve got to see if you’re keeping to the budget, if you need to adjust it or if you’re spending too much in any one category. If you’re not aware, and you don’t know what those things mean and how to take action on them, your company could be doing something far different than what you thought.
HOW TO REACH: EXCEL Management Systems Inc., (614) 224-4007 or www.emsi.com
Richard Cottingham sees no reason to micromanage his employees. Instead, the president of the $39.8 million Cottingham Paper prefers to spell out his company’s goals and let his 81 employees do their jobs. When you hire employees with independent spirits and the attitude and work ethic to be good decision-makers, you don’t need to be a micromanager, says the leader of the disposable, industrial and chemical products company.
Smart Business spoke with Cottingham about how he successfully manages his company.
Perform assessments. Over the years, we’ve tested (potential employees). You can have them take (an assessment test) on a computer and get an immediate answer. It gives you a full report and shows the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses. The weaknesses are things that you’re going to have to work with them on.
You don’t make your entire hiring decision just on that test, but it helps eliminate a number of people that are applying for the job that just aren’t going to make it.
Follow your instinct. You still have to interview and you’ve got to get a gut feeling for somebody. If you have a gut feeling that somebody would do well but they bomb on the test, then they did a snow job on you in the interview.
You’ve got to feel comfortable with them because if you don’t, you hired the wrong person.
None of this is precise. If anybody could ever figure out how to hire a great salesman every time, they’d be a millionaire.
Have faith in your employees. They know that I have trust in the job they do. That goes back to not micromanaging. I always tell my supervisors they have to think like an owner: ‘If you owned this company, what decision would you make?’
Establish a standard. We’re going through a process now that we haven’t done in a long time. We’re setting up standard operating procedures, and it’s very important to do or I wouldn’t be doing it. Without standard operating procedures, people will just make a decision on their own that could be costly or might not be the right decision.
We’ve been doing this for about a year. It’s not an overnight deal. We’re using in-house people to write up the procedures. They put down who’s accountable for implementing the procedures. ... With the standard operating procedures, everybody should do it totally right.
We share it with them as we get it done. You have to do it a little bit at a time because they have to understand it. If you overflood them with information, then it’s going to go in one ear and out the other.
The benefits are that there shouldn’t be anymore questions of, ‘How do I do this?’ It cuts out mistakes. You can do everything 98 percent right and 2 percent wrong, and guess what gets the most attention? We’re just trying to eliminate that 2 percent as much as we can. It’s never going to be 100 percent, but at least it will be better than it was.
Listen to your customers. We do surveys and customer visits where we get feedback. We ask them, ‘What are we doing right and what other things would you like to see that we’re not doing?’ Another question is, ‘If you were going to choose your perfect distributor, what would they be doing for you?’
You need to be prepared to sometimes get negative feedback. That’s what you want, though, because if you don’t get that kind of feedback, you can’t correct things.
Anytime somebody responds on a survey, it’s always personal to them. It doesn’t mean your entire company is wrong; it could be just one episode.
For example, if you go out to dinner and get a waiter or waitress that doesn’t treat you very well, chances are you’re not going to go back there. Out of 10 waiters and waitresses, nine of them might have been great. You just got the one that was bad and guess what? They just lost a customer.
It can take five years to get an account and 30 seconds to lose one. You’ve got to keep telling your people that.
Be the customers’ choice. Customers have a number of people they can buy from. They make a decision to buy based on a lot of parameters: price, variety, service.
When it comes down to making that decision, I want the customer to choose Cottingham. We have to convince the customer that we’re the best out there.
How many employees actually come in contact with your customer? Here, it’s sales, customer service and our drivers. You’ve got a lot of other support staff that still have to do their job in order for that customer to be happy. We train that all the time.
It only takes one person in this company to mess up and upset the customer.
Join a networking group. Almost all of the people in the groups I’ve been with are in different businesses, but what I’ve found out is almost all the problems are common to all of us.
When you’re running your own company, it’s sometimes lonely at the top because you have nobody to talk to. One thing that’s good about (networking) is you find out you’re not alone.
Hit the road. It took me years before I took two weeks of vacation because I felt guilty. After I hired my current CFO, I felt comfortable that she could handle pretty much everything if I was gone for two weeks.
It’s in your mind; you think you can’t be gone for two weeks. But when you do go, guess what? Nothing happens. You’re only a phone call away too. Just do it and you’ll find out that maybe they had the best sales week of the year.
HOW TO REACH: Cottingham Paper (800) 870-5441 or www.cottinghampaper.com
Sometimes the simplest of strategies can create the most successful results, as Steve Peplin, the CEO of Talan Products Inc., can attest.
The Cleveland-based company provides custom metal stamping, tube forming, aluminum extrusion and aluminum fabrication services for many industries.
Talan was founded in 1986 with one goal: Find a customer who needs a part made for them, and then obtain the expertise and equipment to manufacture it. When Talan started, it made one part for one customer. During its second year, the company added another part for another customer.
The challenge in being the sole manufacturer of one part for one client is that it leaves no room for errors. If a mistake is made, a project can become a losing proposition, and too many losses could spell disaster.
Through its philosophy of partnering with customers, an idea that was just evolving in the ’80s, Talan found itself in a unique position. The company’s first two customers, as well as its third and fourth, continue their business relationship with Talan today.
Peplin takes an innovative approach to running Talan. Through open-book management, financial metrics are shared with the entire work force. Profit and loss reports are generated weekly and compared with the annual budget during meetings. Any variances over .1 percent are analyzed or discussed.
He has found that sharing this information with employees brings them together and keeps everyone working toward a common goal. By basing bonus plans on controllable costs and company profitability, all employees not just the managers are able to keep their eye on the ball.
Peplin strives to retain his employees and improve his work force through training initiatives and remedial training to enhance areas that are found to be deficient. His executive team is given proficiency and emotional intelligence assessments, as well as traditional and nontraditional leadership training.
Always looking toward the future, Peplin plans to maintain his company’s proven winning formula: Provide excellent customer care and success will follow.
HOW TO REACH: Talan Products Inc., (216) 458-0170 or www.talanproducts.com
When Twinsburg-based PartsSource LLC was first established, its executives knew that without a commitment to customer service, they would quickly lose customers to the competition.
Ray Dalton, founder, president and CEO, and Don Hubbard, senior vice president sales and marketing, take pride in their company a provider of replacement parts for medical equipment and its ability to deliver on the customer service promise.
PartsSource doesn’t treat customers differently based on their size.
Hubbard says all large companies started out as small customers, and small customers deserve the same level of service as large ones.
Each new customer is assigned its own customer service representative, who is backed up by a permanent support team. Every call to PartsSource is answered by one of five receptionists, and customers aren’t transferred into voicemail unless they specifically request it.
Customers are guaranteed a callback within two hours of their initial request, and every order is followed up with a personalized thank-you card and a phone call to ensure that the part arrived on time and worked properly.
New hires get a week of customer service training. Then, they are placed in a designated area of the call center, with the training and development manager nearby to answer questions and intervene with customers as necessary.
New hires meet with Dalton near the end of their first week, and he explains their ownership of the customer experience. They must tackle any situation or problem first because “the people closest to the problem have the most power to rectify the situation.” Before customer service reps go solo, they must understand the company’s expectations of consistently excellent customer service.
HOW TO REACH: PartsSource LLC, (330) 963-7030 or www.partssource.com