Fred Ode launched Foundation Software in 1985 with the purpose of building a company that would be a dominant force in the construction accounting software industry — and that offered customer-friendly solutions. Each client was his own responsibility and Ode, chairman and CEO, went the extra mile to supply the client with exceptional service and attention.

The company grew, and that meant adding more employees. Ode made it his priority to bring people into Foundation Software who shared his goals and desires to provide world-class customer care.

Today, the company has nearly 4,000 clients across all the United States and goes out of its way to monitor and deliver the best customer support possible. Foundation Software makes each client feel like its No. 1 priority.

Many sales result from referrals from current clients or CPAs familiar with Foundation Software. A satisfied client is happy to tell any contractor using Foundation for Windows about the company’s service and support. Clients not only get a sophisticated yet easy-to-use accounting program but a team of experts with considerable industry and accounting knowledge.

With the system formula of sales, welcome, implementation/training and ongoing support and education, Foundation has refined its processes over the years to deliver whatever it takes to ensure the best customer service it can give.

How to reach: Foundation Software, (800) 246-0800 or

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At Faber-Castell, one of the company mottos is, “Doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” Founded in 1761 by a cabinetmaker, the firm is one of the world’s oldest industrial companies — and that motto and its longevity show that the organization stands for a consistent delivery of a quality experience in all areas of business.

Headquartered in Cleveland, Faber-Castell USA offers a wide range of creative and writing products for all ages. It is part of the Faber-Castell family of companies founded in Stein, Germany.

The motto above is a motivational driving force within the entire company, which is led by CEO Jamie Gallagher. By following through on the smallest details, Faber-Castell believes this characteristic sets the company apart from the competition. Employees know that even the smallest personal gesture can make a huge impact.

And when small gestures are considered, they may be the deciding factor in a customer’s decision to continue purchasing or seeking out Faber-Castell brands in the future, regardless of price.

Highly trained, dedicated and motivated employees are vital to the company’s success. Employees are rewarded with a yearly product allowance and discount so that they, their friends and family can purchase Faber-Castell products and, in effect, become “brand ambassadors,” spreading the word on “doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”

How to reach: Faber-Castell USA, (216) 643-4660 or

Published in Akron/Canton

People go to the emergency room because they have an immediate health issue — and they want it taken care of right away. But for Emergency Medical Physicians, quick and competent is not good enough.

The organization, led by Chairman and CEO Dr. Dominic J. Bagnoli, is dedicated to the service of patients and hospital partners, and it is easy to understand why. With “servant’s heart” and “owner’s mind” among the core values of EMP, those values define how the organization interacts with patients, hospital partners and its physicians.

Providing exceptional, cost-effective care with compassion and respect to patients motivates decisions within the medical group. The group makes a commitment that its hospital partners will also see a servant’s heart in the way EMP serves every day.

Emergency medicine physicians who had a dream to provide the best in emergency care for patients while creating an environment where physicians can excel founded EMP in 1992.

“We are committed to treating and serving each of our patients, not only with the medical expertise required but, perhaps more importantly, with the empathy that they deserve,” Bagnoli says.

EMP Emergency Medicine Physicians is a privately owned and managed group with more than 800 physicians treating nearly 3 million patients in 60 emergency room locations.

How to reach: Emergency Medicine Physicians, (330) 493-4443 or

Published in Akron/Canton

Thomas D. Halter was in a bind. The director of Web technology at AssuraMed needed to get his Web development team up to speed with the latest Java technology. Unfortunately, he was having a tough time finding a program that would meet his company’s highly specialized needs.

He was hoping to find an instructor with a curriculum that matched these needs, but he came up empty and was resigned to the fact he was now going to need to look outside of Ohio. This would add travel costs to the expense of training.

Then he came across DeVore Technologies Inc. It turned out that DeVore had an instructor and a curriculum that exactly met Halter’s requirements. But under the leadership and personality of Lori DeVore, the company’s president and CEO, the firm also had a willingness to work with Halter to meet his very precise expectations.

Once a plan was finalized, DeVore also came through with first-class training facilities and “a never-ending stream of snacks and beverages,” Halter says.

The result is an informed team at AssuraMed and a valuable partner for the future the next time Halter needs to train his staff.

How to reach: DeVore Technologies Inc., (440) 232-3846 or

Published in Akron/Canton

Cleveland Marriott East works hard to give its guests a comfortable room to sleep in so they can be at their best when morning comes. But those guest rooms are only part of the picture at the hotel.

Space is also used regularly for business meetings, weddings, retreats, reunions, parties and a whole list of other events that need to be just as top-notch as the guest rooms. A strong effort over the past year to strengthen this part of the business took Cleveland Marriott East from ranking No. 121 out of 328 in 2011 to No. 12 out of 332 in 2012 for its event services. It ranked the percentage of times a hotel received a 5 out of 5 ranking for an event.

The effort begins with bolstering the process in place to set up events, including the showing of space and discussion of details pertinent to the event the client is looking to hold. At the event itself, employees are made aware of what is happening and greet event guests as they arrive, adding a personal touch that helps everything off to a great start. The effort led by Kenny Didier, Cleveland Marriott East’s general manager, is already paying dividends.

How to reach: Cleveland Marriott East, (216) 378-9191 or

Published in Akron/Canton

WCCS 2013 – AtNetPlus Inc.

Management and employees alike consider AtNetPlus Inc., first and foremost, to be a service company that also happens to provide IT solutions to its clients. Over the past several years, with the help of partners Jim Laber and Jay Mellon, AtNetPlus has deliberately shifted its training and processes to make customer service a top priority.

As the company has grown, it has recognized the need to integrate the delivery of outstanding customer service into the company culture. In 2010 it developed four service standards: attitude, communications, accuracy and efficiency. These have become a core philosophy throughout the organization.

Every employee has the service standards at their desk as a reminder that they are not just words but that they illustrate what the company believes are the critical factors that lead to customer satisfaction. They are talked about frequently by management and in everyday conversations.

Everything starts with attitude. The right attitude can change an unhappy client into one of the strongest, most vocal supporters. Clear and consistent communications are necessary to maintain a positive atmosphere. Both accuracy and efficiency are important. However, when a choice must be made, accuracy takes precedence over efficiency within AtNetPlus.

Each service standard is dependent on the preceding one. Combined, they result in happier, more loyal clients and a corporate culture in which employees feel empowered to do more for customers.

How to reach: AtNetPlus Inc., (330) 945-5685 or

Published in Akron/Canton

Customer care is a culture at AkzoNobel Packaging Coatings. It is paramount within every functional department and at every level of the business.

Julian Cass, vice president of the Americas for AkzoNobel, a leading global supplier of coatings, inks and adhesives to the packaging industry, helps drive that culture. At the forefront of its world-class customer care is its customer order management specialists team.

This team is renowned for its expertise and understanding of both its clients’ businesses and packaging coatings to deliver supreme customer service and responsiveness. The professional relationships — both internal and external — are based on trust, respect and performance with many years of proven record.

In addition, the company’s “End-to-End Alignment” Operational Excellence initiative has delivered significant and sustained service-level improvements. Since inception in May 2012, service levels of 97 percent and higher are now the norm.

This is a key initiative that has delivered significant and sustained business improvements. The end-to-end alignment team helped streamline operations from demand to raw materials. End-to-end alignment sessions were held in support of streamlining operations across key supply chain functions.

What inspires AkzoNobel is seeing the opportunity others cannot, and what unites the company is the intelligence to deliver customer care where others have not.

How to reach: AkzoNobel Packaging Coatings, (440) 297-8556 or

Published in Akron/Canton

It gives Karen Considine a great deal of comfort to know that ABCO Fire Protection Inc. is on the job to ensure that the four medical buildings she manages for Parma Hospital are in compliance with all fire regulations.

Considine has worked with ABCO on these properties for the past four years, and she says each encounter has been a pleasure. Whether it was a new fire alarm system that was needed in one building or the numerous issues that resulted in calls, needs are always addressed in a quick and seamless fashion.

This ease in dealing with ABCO stems from a philosophy that begins at the top with President and CEO Bob Titmas. The goal is to show customers why the product or service they are proposing is a good idea, rather than just tell them it is and leave it at that.

ABCO employees want customers to understand that the company always has their best interest and safety in mind.

The company’s pricing is not the lowest, but Titmas and his team believe that the value customers get from the company make it less of a factor. By focusing on that expertise, ABCO builds relationships with customers that endure.

How to reach: ABCO Fire Protection Inc., (216) 433-7200 or

Published in Akron/Canton
Friday, 31 May 2013 20:00

Moving beyond, "What's in it for me?"

"Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What's in it for me?’”  — Brian Tracy

If you listen to HR directors or marketers, they will tell you that the starting point — or at least a key — to influencing your stakeholders is to address the question, “What’s in it for me?” Often referred to in corporate speak as WIIFM, this is a legitimate question.

We all have an interest in ensuring that we have our needs met. Every interaction or relationship has a degree of self-interest that doesn’t qualify as selfishness. To ignore that is to guarantee our failure as leaders. But it’s not enough.

As leaders we need to recognize that people yearn for benefits for others as well. It is in our nature to be relational. In his book, “To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others,” Daniel Pink suggests three qualities and three abilities that can enhance our influence in ways that are consistent with human nature and recognize that desire to make a positive difference in the world.

He first posits the following three qualitiesas the new ABCs of selling.

Attunement is described as the “capacity to take someone else’s perspective and calibrate your words and actions to another’s point of view.” It’s the challenge of communicating and delivering services and messages so others can understand them and receive them.

Buoyancy is defined as the “capacity to stay afloat on what one salesman calls ‘an ocean of rejection.’” What person hasn’t seen the value of persistence in the face of continual opposition?

Clarity is described by Pink as the “capacity to make sense of murky situations … and to move from problem-solving to problem-finding.”

Whether you’re selling a service, a product or serving on a school board, being able to see the factors contributing to the problem at hand is essential to helping others and moving them to effective solutions.

It is on the abilities side where an inappropriate focus on WIIFM falls short. The third ability that Pink points to is Service (the other two are Pitch and Improvise). He calls this “the final secret to moving others.”

Service is the foundation from which the other principles flow: If your sales force or you as a leader are not perceived as helpful, all the improvising, pitching, clarity, buoyancy and attunement won’t help you build a sustainable business. However, when people can see that you truly want to help them, these other principles can help you.

Pink breaks this ability down into two parts: make it personal and make it purposeful. One aspect of the value of making it personal is in recognizing those you’re seeking to influence as people.

Making it purposeful is seen in Pink’s examples of “emotionally intelligent signage,” such as a sign in a church lawn that says, “Children play here. Pick up after your dog,” rather than just “Pick up after your dog.”

Adding “Children play here” reminds people that it’s more than a rule. It moves from being a regulatory requirement to a reasonable request.

Finally, Pink proposes a philosophy of “servant selling.” Applying a “servant selling” framework to your need to influence your employees could lead to questions like,

“Will my employees’ lives be better if they do what I’m asking? When we accomplish our shared goals, will the world be a better place than when we began?”

So for organizational leaders, our three tips are as follows:

Make it personal. Move beyond solving a puzzle to serving a person.

Make it purposeful. How will this decision or business deal make the world a better place?

Make it possible. When leading employees make sure you give them the resources to get the job done.

Following these three principals will increase the probability that fewer people will ask, “What’s in it for me?”


Andy Kanefield is the founder of Dialect Inc. and co-author of “Uncommon Sense: One CEO’s Tale of Getting in Sync.” Dialect helps organizations improve alignment and translation of organizational identity. To explore how to align your efforts to move others to your organizational identity, reach Kanefield at (314) 863-4400 or

Published in Columnist
Friday, 31 May 2013 20:00

The mindful organization

Mindfulness, a concept originally characterized by Ellen Langer in 1989 as a state of alertness that is manifested in active information processing, includes creating new categories rather than relying on categories present in our memory; welcoming new information by being open and attending to changed signals, welcoming more than one view and being aware of multiple interpretations, and avoiding being on auto-pilot.

In 1999, Karl Weick and Kathleen Sutcliffe extended the concept of individual mindfulness to the collective dimension, describing it as the widespread adoption and diffusion of mindfulness by the organization’s members. Mindfulness helps organizations to notice more issues, process them with care, and detect and respond to early signs of trouble. Weick and Sutcliffe describe five cognitive processes that constitute organizational mindfulness: Preoccupation with failure, reluctance to simplify interpretations, sensitivity to operations, commitment to resilience, and deference to expertise. These, they contend, are prevalent among members of high reliability organizations.

So how does organizational mindfulness apply to the management of organizations?

Let us look at these five processes one by one.

Preoccupation with failures

Mindful organizations demonstrate an ability to learn from failures and breakdowns. The organization learns from what did not work and identifies gaps to ensure transformational success. These firms see failures as an opportunity to learn and to try again instead of getting discouraged and throwing in the towel.

In no way does this mean that you ought to get totally absorbed with failures. Mindful leaders spend equal time celebrating successes and analyzing failures to move the organization forward.

Reluctance to simplify interpretations

High performance organizations refuse to simplify interpretations, especially when facing intense competition, increased complexity and large amounts of data.

Business professionals are exposed to an enormous amount of internal data and market information. They face variations in the degree of analyzability of market information, in the degree of information commensurability, and in the equivocality of information coming out of multiple sources in the organization.

The inherent levels of information uncertainty and ambiguity require they focus on complex problems without reducing and oversimplifying them.

Sensitivity to operations

Leaders of mindful organizations purposefully invest in developing capabilities of their front line personnel. They pay attention to all organizational actors whether in leadership or in the “trenches.”

Mindful leaders listen actively to the rumor mill and embrace feedback coming from organizational skeptics. Being sensitive to operations also entails adjusting strategic programs by taking into account the knowledge of people who actually do the work.

Commitment to resilience

Resilience is one of the dimensions of the organizational confidence construct.

Leaders of mindful organizations commit to the success of all organizational programs. They purposefully develop shared beliefs, courage and resilience when implementing business strategies so that the organization keeps going when facing adversity.

The role of organizational champions and change agents is equally important to build collective confidence in teams.

Deference to experts

Decision-makers in business units should rely on the expertise of specialized centers of excellence to optimize business decisions and firm performance. Business leaders should avoid improvising and ought to defer tough decisions or complex problems to internal experts.

The five characteristics of high reliability organizations proposed by Weick and Sutcliffe can be applied and operationalized by any company in search of business excellence. Organizational mindfulness and mindful champions can play a critical role in the success of organizations. I call this mindful business management. I encourage you to read more about this emerging theory on organizational mindfulness.


Stephan Liozu ( is the founder of Value Innoruption Advisors and specializes in disruptive approaches in innovation, pricing and value management. He earned a Ph.D. in management at Case Western Reserve University and can be reached at

Published in Columnist