Dustin S. Klein

Wednesday, 24 May 2006 12:14

Itchy trigger fingers

CEOs are not hired to make decisions for the businesses they run. Rather, they are hired to make good decisions that lead to positive outcomes for those companies.

Wall Street’s gutters are littered with the remains of CEOs whose lousy decisions led to the downfall of their companies. Too often, it wasn’t an inability to decide upon an issue that led to the problems but an inability to make good decisions regarding that issue. Simply put, bad decisions lead to bad outcomes.

Decisiveness is a critical skill that any competent leader must possess, but success is contingent upon the number of good decisions outweighing the number of bad ones.

Being decisive can be deceiving. If you’re too decisive, you risk being impetuous, and impetuous leaders can do just as much damage as those who simply makes bad decisions over and over. That’s because you can avoid being impetuous — it’s a behavior rather than a mindset.

A smart CEO stops and thinks before reacting, taking time to process the issue and weigh the pros and cons of each side. They consider the risk/reward ratio before committing and recognize that a big upside with little downside is an easy decision to make, while those that contain great risk if something goes awry deserve more careful consideration.

Walking this fine decision-making line isn’t easy. Society moves quickly, and people demand answers faster than ever.

But great leaders don’t give in to the pressure and that they deftly manage that tenuous balance among thoughtful decision-making, impetuousness and indecisiveness. They also realize that if you take too much time to weigh the issues, you’ll find yourself unable to decide on anything.

For those who fall into that trap, climbing out is difficult. The public is quick to label an overly thoughtful leader or someone who relies too heavily on consensus-building as indecisive or weak.

With your business career riding on the decisions you and you alone make, it’s no wonder that great CEOs often quip that it’s lonely at the top. As for the others, those who have itchy trigger fingers too often shoot first and ask questions later, which is a guaranteed recipe for failure.

Tuesday, 31 January 2006 12:15

Power 100

Lists are made to be fluid, as are the fortunes of those who appear on them. This year’s compilation of Columbus’ 100 most powerful business and community leaders is, then, a reflection of the changing face of Columbus influence.

Six names grace this year’s list for the first time, including power broker couple Larry and Donna James, attorney-lobbyist Matt Kallner, and Porter Wright Morris and Arthur Managing Partner Robert Trafford, all of whom have been long overlooked.

Six people have dropped off our Power 100, most notably Main Street Business Association’s Walter Cates, retired Urban League president Sam Gresham Jr. and former Workers’ Comp CEO James Conrad. Seventeen others moved up or down at least seven positions.

Those gaining influence this year include Nationwide Realty Investors’ Brian Ellis, The Columbus Partnership’s Bob Milbourne, The Ohio State University President Karen Holbrook and attorney Pat Dugan.

At the other end of the fortune wheel are Gov. Bob Taft’s continued slide, Ty Marsh and Mark Barbash’s drop from the teens into the 20s, Jack Kessler’s gradual move out of the limelight and J. Daniel Schmidt’s sudden drop.

Here, then, is the 2006 Smart Business Power 100 list. Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.

1. Les Wexner
Chairman and CEO, Limited Brands Inc. (1)

Columbus remains Wexner’s domain. His name and influence are everywhere, from the Wexner Center for the Arts and the Wexner Institute for Pediatric Research at Children’s Hospital to Wexner Heritage Village. The spin-off companies from Limited Brands — such as Too Inc. — continue to flourish as Wexner’s “offspring” multiply. He is also a founding member and chair of the OSU Foundation and the Columbus Partnership.

2. John F. Wolfe
Chairman, publisher and CEO, The Dispatch Printing Co. (2)

In addition to his media conglomerate, Wolfe is one of the largest contributors to local community programs. He also has part ownership in the Columbus Blue Jackets.

3. Thomas Hoaglin
President and CEO, Huntington Bancshares Inc. (3)

Hoaglin’s influence continues to grow, but it’s tough for him to rise above Wolfe and Wexner. Not only does he run the largest locally owned bank, he is also chairman of the Downtown Development Corp. and chairman-elect of the Columbus Chamber.

4. Jerry Jurgensen
CEO, Nationwide (4)

Jurgensen has become a key player in downtown development and sits on the boards of the Columbus Chamber, Law Enforcement Foundation of Ohio and Columbus Children’s Hospital. He is a powerful member of Ohio Business Roundtable, Downtown Development Corp. and Columbus Partnership, and in September was named chairman of the newly formed CompeteColumbus’ 25-member board.

5. Michael Coleman
Mayor, city of Columbus (5)

In late November, the mayor pulled out of the race for Ohio governor, putting his focus firmly on running Columbus. He’s succeeded in getting the public and private sectors to work together, and his recommitment to Columbus could prove valuable to downtown’s continued revitalization and economic fortunes.

6. Ron Pizzuti
Chairman and CEO, The Pizzuti Cos. (7)

Pizzuti’s influence continues to rise. He controls 2,000 acres in several markets, including prime development acreage near Rickenbacker Airport, and his name has become synonymous with large-scale development.

7. Jay Schottenstein
Chairman, American Eagle Outfitters; chairman, Retail Ventures Inc.; chairman, American Signature Inc./Value City Furniture (10)

Schottenstein spun off DSW from Retail Ventures, immediately took it public and paid down more than $160 million of Retail Ventures’ debt. His real estate division bought a key office tower downtown for $12.28 million and a parking lot for $1 million, snapping up some vital property. His leadership shake-up in 2004 has begun to pay dividends, and his holdings are on their way back. He’s a rising power player worth keeping an eye on.

8. Alex Shumate
Managing partner, Columbus and Cincinnati offices, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey (9)

Shumate’s star continues to rise. The former deputy chief of staff to the governor leads the firm’s legislative counseling and administrative law activities and is a trustee of the Columbus Partnership, the John Glenn Institute and the Wexner Center for the Arts.

9. Bob Walter
Chairman and CEO, Cardinal Health Inc. (6)

Another tough year — and questions about salary — force Walter down on the list. But Cardinal Health remains a top industry player with revenue in excess of $60 billion, so his influence hasn’t waned while his attention may have been diverted.

10. Tanny Crane
President and CEO, Crane Group Inc. (8)

Crane runs one of the largest family-owned companies in town, and her expertise is sought by Wendy’s International and the chamber of commerce. She is a member of The Columbus Partnership. While she’s done nothing to cause her stock to fall, others have done plenty to garner higher spots on this year’s list.

11. Jack Schuessler
Chairman and CEO, Wendy’s International (11)

Settling into his role as successor to Dave Thomas, Schuessler has become a major player in the restaurant industry, as well as a large contributor to the community. He is a member of The Columbus Partnership and was the 2005 general chair of Mid-Ohio Foodbank’s Operation Feed.

12. Larry Hilsheimer
Managing partner and vice chairman, Columbus office, Deloitte & Touche LLP (12)

Hilsheimer’s influence is undisputed. He is completing a successful term as chairman of the Columbus Chamber and is on the Dean’s Advisory Council at Fisher College of Business.

13. Robert Werth
Managing partner, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP (13)

Leads the city’s largest law firm and serves in leadership roles on important community boards, including the chamber and the Columbus Technology Council.

14. & 15. Larry and Donna James
Partner, Crabbe Brown & James; president, Nationwide Strategic Investments (respectively) (NEW)

Talk about a power couple. As the “James” in Crabbe Brown & James, Larry’s expertise is sought by Wolfe, as well as numerous governmental entities, and he is actively involved in the region’s cultural circles. In her capacity as head of Nationwide’s diversified financial services arm, Donna has been named by national publications as one of the most powerful African-American women in the United States. She rubs shoulders with the likes of Wexner as a member of Limited Brands’ board, as well as fellow board members at Coca-Cola. Donna recently announced a March retirement from Nationwide, but plans to open a private consulting firm where her services — and powerful connections — will be in high demand.

16. John Beavers
Counsel for Boards and Executives Group, Bricker & Eckler LLP (14)

Beavers leads the firm’s powerful Counsel for Boards and Executives Group and is a member of the Ohio Business Roundtable, a trustee of the Economic Club of Columbus and on the Mayor’s Steering Committee for Operations and Efficiency Review. He’s an expert on entrepreneurship and a key player in helping foster business growth in the community.

17. Don M. Casto III
President, Don M. Casto Organization (16)

Casto’s retail developments pepper the region. He is a member of the chamber board and plays a significant role in downtown redevelopment.

18. Friedl Bohm
Chairman, NBBJ (18)

From the tallest apartment complex in Singapore to Seattle’s Museum of Flight, NBBJ continues to be a powerful force in architecture, with Bohm firmly entrenched as its leader.

19. Curt Loveland
Partner, Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur LLP (20)

Loveland serves on the board of Applied Innovations Inc., as well as on the executive advisory board of the Ohio University College of Business and the board of directors of the Business Technology Center.

20. George Jenkins
Partner, Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease (21)

Jenkins combines powerful past political connections with private investment savvy. He serves on the boards of technology companies ECNext and C.P. Technologies, among others; he also serves on the Kent State board of trustees.

21. Matt Kallner
Attorney, Law Offices of Matthew G. Kallner (NEW)

Despite his low-key public persona, few lobbyists have as much influence in Ohio as Kallner. As former director of government relations for The Limited, he managed two Political Action Committees and the political activities of Wexner. Since December 2001, Kallner’s been on his own, representing such clients as Wexner’s Limited Brands, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Huntington Bancshares, MI Homes, Worthington Industries and New Albany Co. He also works closely with Mayor Michael Coleman, despite political party differences.

22. Bea Wolper
Partner, Chester, Wilcox & Saxbe LLP (22)

Wolper’s family business expertise (she co-authored a book on the subject) keeps her phone ringing. She is a member of the COSI board, the Family Business Center, Wexner’s Director’s Circle Council and The Capital Club. She is also founder and president of the Women’s Business Board.

23. Michael Fiorile
President and CEO, Dispatch Broadcasting Group (23)

From his post atop this media conglomerate, Fiorile wields great influence. He is also a member of the powerful National Association of Broadcasters’ Television board.

24. & 25. Neil Clark & Paul Tipps
State Street Consultants (24 & 25)

With a client list that’s a who’s who of Ohio businesses, not-for-profit organizations and local governments, Clark’s and Tipps’ powerful independent lobbyist firm remains a power player. Diebold Election Systems, National City Bank and Limited Brands are just a few of the companies that seek their expertise and influence.

26. Leonard Schlesinger
Vice chairman and COO, Limited Brands Inc. (28)

As Schlesinger’s role at Limited Brands increases, his community involvement and power grows as well. He is a member of the governing committee of the Columbus Foundation, the strategic advisory group of The Ohio State University Medical Center, the executive committee of the Franklin County United Way and the COSI board.

27. Karen Holbrook
President, The Ohio State University (35)

Holbrook was named to the new CompeteColumbus board and continues to make OSU a leading educational and research institution. She serves on the boards of Huntington Bancshares, United Way of Central Ohio and the Columbus Chamber. She is also on the boards of the National Council for Science and the Environment and CEO’s for Cities.

28. Mark Barbash
Director, Columbus Department of Trade & Development (15)

Barbash’s efforts to unify the public and private communities to attract new business to downtown are paying off, but his department’s power isn’t necessarily what it used to be.

29. Ty Marsh
President and CEO, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce (17)

Marsh continues to spearhead efforts to drive business and job growth in the region, including the creation of CompeteColumbus. He’s in the thick of things, but the influence of other players has increased at a quicker pace.

30. Jack Kessler
Chairman, The New Albany Co. (19)

Besides running a powerful real estate development firm, Kessler is a member of the JP Morgan Chase board. He’s reined in his public involvement compared to years past, but his close ties to Les Wexner certainly don’t hurt his influence.

31. Rich Langdale
Founder, NCT Ventures; executive director, OSU Center for Entrepreneurship (26)

Langdale chairs OSU’s Entrepreneurship Steering committee, and his venture firm keeps its eyes open for new investments. He founded and funded the OSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship.

32. Roger Geiger
Vice president, Midwest region, National Federation of Independent Business, Ohio (27)

As head of the organization’s Midwest region, Geiger helps determine the candidates who will get NFIB’s powerful endorsement. With elections looming in November, including the governor’s race, many eyes are turned his way.

33. Curt Moody
President and CEO, Moody/Nolan Ltd. (29)

Moody’s firm has served as principal architect for projects such OSU’s Schottenstein Center, the Greater Columbus Sports Commission and The Mall at Tuttle Crossing. Among Moody’s 2006 plans are two high-profile Cincinnati school projects.

34. Kurt Tunnell
Partner, Bricker & Eckler LLP (30)

This former chief legal counsel to Gov. George Voinovich has a great deal of influence in political circles and chairs his firm’s government relations practice. He is also general counsel for the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association and is counsel to the Ohio Republication Party.

35. Robert M. Eversole
President and CEO, Fifth Third Bank, Central Ohio (32)

Eversole is on the chamber board and the Dean’s Advisory Council for OSU’s Fisher College of Business.

36. Jeff Keeler
Chairman, Team Fishel (33)

Keeler influences companies including Ruscilli Construction and AirNet as a board member of these firms, and is active in the World Presidents’ Organization and the Chief Executives Organization. His inner circle includes Bob Walter and Jack Ruscilli.

37. Carl F. Kohrt
President and CEO, Battelle (34)

Kohrt has put his stamp on Battelle’s presence in the community and works with OSU to improve Columbus and commercialize technology. He continues to trumpet new research and foster stronger collaboration between the two research organizations.

38. Bob Taft
Governor, state of Ohio (31)

You can’t get more lame duck than Taft is these days. As if Ohio’s lagging economy wasn’t enough, he was named one of the country’s three worst governors by a national magazine. On a bright note, and perhaps as his one positive legacy, Taft’s Third Frontier initiative finally received voter approval last November.

39. Curt Steiner
Senior vice president for external relations, The Ohio State University (36)

Steiner has put his pedigree as former chief of staff for former Gov. George Voinovich to good work in this position and helped OSU President Karen Holbrook improve the university’s fortunes. Steiner is proof that political connections pay off.

40. Melissa Ingwersen
President, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Central Ohio (38)

Ingwersen’s adjusted to the Bank One merger well and remains a central figure in Columbus’ business community. She sits on the chamber board, as well as the boards of the Arts Council, Franklin University, YWCA and Grant/Riverside Foundation.

41. Bob Milbourne
CEO, The Columbus Partnership (51)

It’s a big rise for Milbourne, but as head of the influential organization comprised of 24 executives who represent the most influential and powerful companies and leaders in the city, what he says carries a lot of weight. He also sits on the chamber board.

42. Julie Kunkel
Managing partner, Ernst & Young (39)

Kunkel runs the 200-employee office and handles the Limited Brands account. Past clients include Target and Best Buy. She is also national director of E&Y’s retail and wholesale practice.

43. John P. McConnell
Chairman and CEO, Worthington Industries (41)

Under McConnell’s leadership, the $3 billion steel processor and manufacturer continues to prosper. He serves on the board of directors of Alltel Corp. and The Wilds and is active in the community.

44. Lewis Smoot Sr.
President and CEO, The Smoot Corp. (42)

Smoot continues to be a major player in the region’s construction community, landing high profile projects such as the Agricultural Building at The Ohio State University and The Columbus Zoo’s Tiger Pass. He is also on the board of directors of MI Homes and a trustee of the Columbus Foundation.

45. Jack Ruscilli
CEO, Ruscilli Construction Co. Inc. (43)

Ruscilli’s clients include Big Lots, AirNet and Bob Evans, and you can find his company’s red, black and white Ruscilli logo on trailers and cranes all over the region. Among current projects is the OSU Scott Laboratory building.

46. Tami Longaberger
CEO, The Longaberger Co. (37)

Her company is in transition as she’s replaced ex-president Dave DeFeo with former Avon exec Jim Klein, who just happens to be a turnaround specialist. Sales were up last year, but Longaberger still let go more than 200 people. She remains a powerful force in the community, serving on the board of directors of The John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy.

47. Cheryl Krueger
President and CEO, Cheryl&Co (40)

Krueger’s drop can be attributed to her sale of the company last year to 1-800-flowers.com. She remains at the helm of the business and involved with The James Foundation board, among other groups, but whenever a founder sells, it clouds the future. She could creep back up the list in ’07.

48. John B. Gerlach Jr.
Chairman, president and CEO, Lancaster Colony Corp. (45)

Gerlach sits on the Dean’s Advisory Council, Fisher College of Business and the Huntington Bancshares boards, and is a member of the Columbus Partnership. His is one of only 22 U.S. companies to have increased cash dividends each year for 43 consecutive years and has paid a cash dividend to shareholders for 170 consecutive quarters.

49. Dwight Smith
President and CEO, Sophisticated Systems (47)

Smith is chairman of Columbus State Community College’s board. His impressive customer list includes Nationwide, Limited Brands, the state of Ohio and the Columbus chamber.

50. M. Valeriana Moeller
President and CEO, Columbus State Community College (48)

Under Moeller’s leadership, Columbus State continues to thrive. She serves on the boards of COSI, the chamber, Columbus Technology Council and the Downtown Development Corp.

51. Michael Gonsiorowski
President and CEO, National City Bank Central Region (49)

Gonsiorowski leads city’s fourth-largest financial institution and serves on the boards of the Columbus Jewish Federation, United Way and Mount Carmel Health Systems.

52. Bob Weiler Sr.
Chairman, The Robert Weiler Co. (50)

Weiler, a powerful developer, serves on the board of the Ohio Capital Corp. for Housing, an organization that works to create affordable neighborhoods throughout Ohio. He also serves on COTA’s board of trustees.

53. Bill Ingram
CEO, White Castle Systems Inc. (51)

Ingram chairs The Columbus Foundation’s board of trustees, where he is responsible for leading the organization that makes policy and determines grants.

54. Blane Walter
Chairman and CEO, inChord Communications (44)

Walter sold the business in September to New Jersey-based Ventiv Health Inc. and remains president of Ventiv’s Communications division. Nothing has changed for Walter’s community involvement as of yet, but selling a company always contains many unknowns. He could also creep back up the list in’07.

55. Nancy Kramer
Founder and CEO, Resource Interactive (53)

Kramer’s business keeps growing. She serves on the boards of Too Inc., Columbus Technology Council and the chamber. Clients include HP, AOL, Sony and Victoria’s Secret.

56. David Meuse
Principal, Stonehenge Financial Holdings (54)

The former CEO of Banc One Capital Holdings holds the purse strings on this $325 million investment firm and is a member of the Columbus Partnership. He also serves on numerous boards.

57. Frank Kass
CEO, Continental Real Estate Cos. (55)

Kass is co-chair (with his wife, Linda), of the 2005-06 United Way campaign. Beyond his Columbus projects — including the Borden building — the high-profile developer is engaged in multiple projects in Pittsburgh.

58. Michael Petrecca
Managing partner, Columbus office, PricewaterhouseCoopers (56)

Petrecca manages one of the most prestigious accounting firms in town and stands by the firm’s high ethical standards. He is an officer on the board of CAPA Columbus.

59. Dick Emens
Partner, Chester, Wilcox & Saxbe LLP; executive director, Family Business Center (57)

Emens co-founded the Family Business Center and is a trustee at Franklin University, where he is a past chairman.

60. Zuheir Sofia
Chairman, Sofia & Co. (58)

Sofia remains a powerful figure in the regional banking community, sits on the board of directors of Dominion Homes and is a member of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System board.

61. Michael Morris
Chairman, president and CEO, AEP (60)

With two years under his belt at the helm, Morris has been busy making his mark on the power company, including a $3.7 billion commitment to improve the environmental performance of AEP generating plants by 2010. Morris serves as chairman of the Edison Electric Institute and is a member of the Columbus Downtown Development Corp.

62. Abigail Wexner
Founder, chair, Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence (64)

Wexner has more than a powerful name; her influence continues to grow in the region as she’s made a name for herself as a community activist focused on children’s issues. She serves on the boards of Limited Brands and The Wexner Center Foundation.

63. Jim Grote
Founder, chairman and CEO, Donatos Pizzeria (61)

Grote has settled in nicely as the owner of Donatos after buying back his company from McDonald’s. He has served as general board chairman of the YMCA and on the President’s Roundtable Forum.

64. Herb Glimcher
Chairman, president and CEO, Glimcher Realty Trust (59)

Last year, Glimcher handed the reins of his company to his son, Michael. But he remains active in the community and had a hand in managing, acquiring and developing more than 100 shopping centers over his 40-year career.

65. Fred Sanfilippo
CEO, OSU Medical Center (65)

Sanfilippo’s ability to lead the Medical Center and OSU’s research efforts have given him greater influence and trust among regional business leaders.

66. Doug Kridler
President and CEO, Columbus Foundation (68)

Community heavy-hitters such as Bill Ingram, Leonard A. Schlesinger and John Gerlach rely on Kridler’s instincts and management skills as he oversees the foundation’s $800 million fund.

67. David Milenthal
Chairman, HMS Partners (66)

Milenthal has served on a number of high-profile community boards, including OhioHealth Hospital System Foundation, Capital University, OSU Development Committee and BalletMet Columbus.

68. David P. Blom
President and CEO, OhioHealth (70)

Blom leads this large hospital system that posts more than 100,000 admissions each year. He also serves on the boards of the chamber of commerce and Dominion Homes.

69. Robert Schottenstein
President and chairman, M/I Schottenstein Homes Inc. (71)

Schottenstein’s power has increased, as he added the title and responsibilities of chairman.

70. Pat Dugan
Partner, Squires, Sanders & Dempsey LLP (79)

Dugan’s influence through the Columbus Venture Network and the tide of money expected to be made available through the governor’s Third Frontier Project propelled him back up the list this year. He is a member of the board of directors of Ariel Corp. and a trustee of the Raymond E. Mason Foundation.

71. Phil Urban
President and CEO, Grange Insurance (73)

Urban is the former board chair of Experience Columbus and a well-known name throughout the community.

72. Terry Foegler
President, Campus Partners for Community Urban Redevelopment (73)

Foegler is former assistant city manager and director of development for the city of Dublin. Construction in the campus area continued this year as the area surrounding The Ohio State University has been dramatically improved.

73. John Christie
President and COO, Worthington Industries (75)

Christie’s insight is in demand by the Columbus Council on World Affairs. He is also a former board member of the Ohio Public Works Commission, Franklin University and Bank One advisory board.

74. and 75. Alan Wasserstrom and Rodney N. Wasserstrom
Co-presidents, Wasserstrom & Sons (85 and 86)

A good year for one of the largest family-owned businesses in the area, combined with the valuable real estate interests in downtown and The Brewery District, have propelled these two back up the list again.

76. Robert Massie
Director and CEO, Chemical Abstracts; chairman, Columbus Technology Council (76)

His Columbus Technology Council work, in conjunction with OSU’s Karen Holbrook, is helping making the city high-tech.

77. Jan Allen
Owner, The Field Coaching Institute (77)

Allen works with Ohio’s public university presidents and maintains her deep political connections.

78. Brian Ellis
President, Nationwide Realty Investors (96)

The Arena District is still an important part of downtown’s fortunes. Accordingly, Ellis is involved in many important decisions and efforts and is the go-to guy for projects in that critical district.

79. Robert Trafford
Managing Partner, Porter Wright Morris and Arthur (NEW)

Trafford runs the powerful law firm with a practice focused on complex litigation, such as securities, RICO and trade secrets. He’s a member of the chamber board, a trustee of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and president of the Legal Aid Society.

80. Janet Jackson
Executive director, United Way Central Ohio (82)

Her role at United Way puts her in a prominent spot as she raises funds and manages a high-profile nonprofit.

81. Gene T. Harris
Superintendent, Columbus Public Schools (83)

Harris’ efforts in trying to right a troubled academic environment, combined with maintaining an inner city school system, have helped her gain increased support from community business leaders.

82. Sandy Harbrecht
President, Paul Werth Associates Inc. (84)

With the Haunty Agency acquisition fully integrated into her operations, Harbrecht’s been on a growth spurt. She serves on the boards of the Columbus Museum of Art, The Council for Ethics in Economics and Easter Seals.

83. John Rosenberger
Executive director, Capital South Community Urban Redevelopment Corp. (80)

Rosenberger in August announced he would retire at the end of 2006. Over his 22-year career, he was responsible for many small projects to make downtown vibrant. He doesn’t plan to go out with a whimper.

84. Joe Alutto
Dean and John W. Berry senior chair in business, OSU Fisher College of Business (87)

Chairman of Experience Columbus, Alutto also oversaw the committee that replaced Andy Geiger as OSU athletics director.

85. Todd Cameron
President and CEO, Fitch:RPA (88)

Cameron continues to grow his company and his reputation in the community.

86. Paula Inniss
President, Ohio Full Court Press (89)

Inniss remains a ball of energy and a vibrant force in the community through her board membership at Columbus State Community College. She is also involved with the United Negro College Fund.

87. Bill Habig
Executive director, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (90)

Habig is a powerful force, determining where development and improvements happen.

88. Cameron Mitchell
President, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants LLC (95)

Mitchell continues to expand his national restaurant empire, while keeping the city of Columbus on the national forefront. He is well-known throughout the country, and is on the boards of the National Restaurant Association and the Culinary Institute of America.

89. Kyle Katz
President, The Katz Interests Inc. and New World Restaurants Inc. (69)

With his revamped Buggyworks building, Katz is one of the major players downtown. His developments continue to succeed, and he is a member of the Downtown Commission, but too many others had strong forward momentum this year, causing his dramatic fall.

90. Doug Borror
Chairman, president and CEO, Dominion Homes (78)

Has a knack for riding the housing market ups and downs. His corporate restructuring is proving effective as well. He is an OSU trustee and sits on the board of Capital South Redevelopment Corp, but recent accusations of “shady mortgage dealings” by local media outlets downgrade him a bit for ‘06.

91. J. Daniel Schmidt
President, JDS Cos. and Downtown South Association (67)

Schmidt remains involved in downtown redevelopment. Beyond his Grandview project, Schmidt is involved in some green design work, but his name doesn’t seem to be on as many lips this year as it has been in the past.

92. Douglas Morgan
Managing partner, Columbus office, Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP (92)

A board member of Children’s Hospital Foundation, Columbus Technology Council and the Business Technology Center, Morgan’s influence is felt throughout the region.

93. Gary McCullough
Senior vice president, Ross Products (100)

As head of this Abbott division, McCullough leads one of the largest companies in the city. With the science-based nutritional products market gaining steam, his role gets more powerful. Sits on the boards of the chamber, United Way of Central Ohio, COSI and the Columbus Partnership.

94. Artie Isaac
President, Young Isaac Inc. (91)

Isaac’s clients include Homestead Communities, Revealty and OCLC.

95. and 96. Cameron James and Ken Mills
CEO and president, Mills/James Productions Inc. (93 and 94)

With a strong commitment to the community, both men are known for giving back and getting involved.

97. Craig Morrison
CEO, Hexion (NEW)

Morrison led the Borden Chemical management team through parent company Apollo Management’s acquisition of Resolution Performance Products and Bakelite AG to create the world’s No. 1 resins company, Hexion, last year. A newcomer to the list, Morrison is also a chamber board member and although he was already leading a top company in Columbus, a nascent power star in the community.

98. Robert Bernstock, president and COO, The Scott’s Co. LLC (NEW)
A former Campbell Soup and Vlasic executive (he ran Vlasic from 1998 to 2001), Bernstock joined Scott’s in June 2003 as executive vice president and president, North America. In October 2005, he was named president and COO of the parent company. He is a member of the chamber board and a rising star.

99. Robert C. White
Founder and chairman, The Daimler Group (97)

White’s focused on development in the Westerville/Polaris area and redevelopment of a former landfill at Gowdy Field. He’s built partnerships with Casto and Schottenstein Real Estate.

100. Bill Schottenstein
Owner, Arshot Investment Corp. (98)

Schottenstein remains a key player in downtown development.

Wednesday, 28 September 2005 13:02

New age pitchman

With the growth of the Internet and the expansion of cable and satellite television, CEOs have been forced to rethink their advertising messages.

Today’s business executives want more than attention-grabbing ads — they are demanding ad messages that are in sync with their company’s strategic plan for growth, says Peter Krivkovich, president and CEO of Cramer-Krasselt Co., a 500-employee marketing communications firm that last year billed more than $550 million from clients including CareerBuilder, Hyatt Hotels, Master Lock and Steve Madden shoes.

“Creativity by itself is nothing,” says Krivkovich. “Creativity that is rooted in strategic insight is the key to success.”

Over the past year, powered by effective ads such as CareerBuilder’s “Working with Monkeys” campaign, Krivkovich and his team have delivered just that. Smart Business spoke with him about how CEOs are adapting to this brave new world and what it takes to remain on the creative cutting edge.

How have technological advancements altered the dynamics of advertising?

The fundamentals of compensation —our revenue stream — have changed dramatically. The bulk of compensation came out of traditional media — television, newspaper, radio and magazines. At one time, it was a very simple formula of a fixed percentage; now, it’s a combination of hourly and percentage. But it’s always been tied to some expenditure of dollars.

Now, when you get into new media and the Internet, there is not a lot of cost involved. All of a sudden, your budget parameters are different, yet your labor costs can be fairly high because your labor intensity can be higher.

[Previously,] if you did three or four television commercials, you sat back and ran them. Now everything is viral, so on-demand in terms of messaging, that it is a constant action.

What new factors should a CEO take into consideration when thinking about how to craft and disseminate a message?

[There is] a whole series of different talents you have to incorporate. That doesn’t mean that those other ones go away, but there is a much broader spectrum of communication opportunities. It also requires certain kinds of people that, 10 years ago, you didn’t need. Think about it — text messaging, product placement, a mini-series. We’ve done [that] for Sea-Doo and Ski-Doo — eight half-hour shows on The Outdoor Network. This is something that just wasn’t done before.

Or even doing viral Web sites, as we have done for CareerBuilder, where we created a fictitious company that is run by monkeys. All of those things get young people involved in the product, the category and, ultimately, with the brand.

How does that affect creativity?

Creativity, more or less, hasn’t changed. The spectrum of opportunities for the creativity that can be utilized is much broader. There are more avenues to express it and more avenues that are extremely untraditional.

It’s everything from creating unusual Web sites to wrapping buses and posters to text messaging to video streaming.

How do you foster that type of creative thinking?

The biggest thing is getting people enthused and aware of all the opportunities. We have lots of group sessions. We bring in people who are working on niche technology or niche ways of getting something more interesting done, [such as] putting a chip on a cup of Coke that sings to you every time you drink it.

You constantly try to expose your people to many ideas and options, which may or may not be relevant, but may spark an idea somewhere else. You create a very fertile ground for ideas. (That) absolutely has to start at the top. It’s not going to be at the bottom; otherwise, it would get squashed.

Who are some of the most creative CEOs and how do they separate themselves from the pack?

Clearly, Phil Knight at Nike. All of the things that [Gregory D. Brenneman, CEO of] Burger King is doing. Also, [Matthew Ferguson, CEO of] CareerBuilder.

They are willing to look outside the box at ways to solve a problem. If you are solving problems in the traditional way, then your only hope is to outdo someone who is doing the same thing.

You may have a shot of outdoing someone once. Maybe you outdo someone twice. But it is highly unlikely that you are outdoing other competent competitors if they are doing the same thing you are doing and you are doing the same thing that they are doing.

It’s those CEOs who look at something and say, ‘We could do this, but here is a different avenue or two or three that we can get at the same consumer with the same loyalty, whatever the needs are.’

How important is it to integrate that thinking into a company’s strategic planning process?

It’s critically important. In today’s environment, you have technology and competition in almost any industry moving at such an incredible pace. Your ability to differentiate is windows that are increasingly open and closed at a faster and faster rate. What used to be a year advantage becomes eight months’ advantage becomes five months’ advantage. Sometimes, it’s literally weeks.

When you hit the market, when you launch something, when you introduce something, when you expose something to your user, whether it is B-to-B or B-to-C or any other combination, it has to be something that gets immediate attention, not attention that they’ll think about in six months, because in six months, they’ll have five other options.

What can happen in the execution stage that turns a good idea into a bad one?

When the people who are creating the idea get so wrapped up in the idea itself that they forget who they are talking to. They are more enamored with the execution of an idea than they are with the strategic underpinning of an idea.

What has made Cramer-Krasselt so successful?

We are basically brand transformers. We look at a brand and take all the attributes on the left hand side — the rational things that a company is proud of — and try to distill them down to one sentence. That is very hard to do. It takes us months of working with the company.

Then we take the right side, where the consumer is, and look at the issues the consumers have —happiness, fears, anxiety, joys, etc. We take all of those things and distill that down to a sentence that is relevant to the issue.

And then we try to find a connection between the two. That connection is the insight that begins to drive you toward an execution that resonates.

How to reach: Cramer-Krasselt, (312) 616-9600 or http://www.c-k.com

Wednesday, 31 August 2005 20:00

Innovative thinking

Full coverage of the Smart Business Innovation in Business Conference presented by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is available in our September 2005 Cleveland edition.

What is innovation?

The word can mean different things to different people. For a manufacturer, it may be the introduction of a new product. For an accounting firm or law practice, it might be the addition of a new service line. And for a maverick business leader, it could be his or her management style.

In a nutshell, innovation in its simplest form is the idea that savvy management stirs the pot occasionally, never sitting on its laurels and is constantly tinkering with a company and its offerings.

Just as important, innovative CEOs encourage their employees to consider what’s never been done or how something can be done better. And they develop corporate cultures that reward innovative thinking at its best.

Each year, we honor innovation through the Smart Business Innovation in Business Conference, presented by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, by looking at how companies develop ideas, implement them and take them to market. We also look at how the region’s business leaders creatively run their organizations.

Award recipients have created new companies, introduced new products or services and even changed entire industries. There are four distinct groups of honorees — Master Innovators, Visionaries, Rising Stars and Innovators.

The Master Innovators are also conference panelists. For this region to continue to thrive and grow, there must be a healthy dialogue of ideas, insights and strategies to kickstart brainstorming and inspire new innovation. This year’s panel discussion features best practices on vision and keys to develop and implement strategic plans to take your business to the next level.

Visionary awards are presented to well-established organizations and experienced business leaders who demonstrate a long-lasting commitment to the development and implementation of smart ideas.

Rising Stars reflect up-and-coming business leaders and companies that are on the cutting edge of their industries, either with newly minted innovative products and services, or by employing unique management styles or strategies.

And finally, Innovators are those companies or individuals whose ideas cannot be overlooked and deserve to be shared with the region’s business leaders. On behalf of Smart Business and our conference sponsors, I invite you to read through the profiles of this year’s honorees and think about one question: How does your company innovate?

Friday, 29 July 2005 09:47

Fostering change

Bharat Desai isn’t the type of leader who sits still. The chairman, president and CEO of IT service company Syntel Inc. lives and dies by tinkering with his company’s products, services and even its internal operations.

“It’s absolutely critical to innovate,” says Desai. “In the information technology industry, things are changing and evolving all the time. We see our role as helping clients figure out how they can use innovative technologies to create a competitive advantage in their business. That is a continually ongoing process.”

Accordingly, Desai, who launched the company in 1980 with $2,000 and an MBA from the University of Michigan, has been among the most daring in his industry. In 1992, when competitors were focused on delivering on-site services, Desai was spearheading offshore operations in Mumbai, India. Today, he’s put the emphasis on using his company’s own products and services to create better efficiencies within Syntel’s operations before offering them to the public.

“We thought that we first had to make our own example,” he says. “And only after we drive our own example home can we really take our message to our clients.”

Smart Business spoke with Desai about the importance of innovation and how the prevalence of outsourcing has changed the IT industry landscape and Syntel.

What is your philosophy for fostering innovation?

I emphasize the importance of innovation across the whole organization through constant communication. The best ideas come from people closest to our clients’ businesses.

We encourage people to innovate and take risks in delivering superior value to clients. We recognize people who take risks and come up with new ideas to push the envelope on how we can bring additional value to customers.

Let me give you a few examples. We launched two new service offerings in the last couple of quarters — SSN Secure and Synapp Test. SSN Secure was in response to clients’ escalating need for security of information.

The Social Security number is used extensively in financial services and health care applications. And yet, there is heightened need for security. Syntel came up with an offering that would help these clients create a security blanket around Social Security numbers.

The other one is Synapp Test. As more software is developed, there is an explosion in the use worldwide. There is also an increased need to ensure that software is really well field-tested so that people don’t encounter bugs once it is in use. We created this offering which allows clients to field-test software.

We applied various sophisticated tools and techniques to ensure that when software comes out, it is very well tested and there is a high degree of confidence in its robustness.

How do you solicit input from clients to address their escalating needs?

Through constant communication. The best way to understand customers’ needs is to be very close to them and learn more about their business. One of the initiatives we have taken is that even though we are a technology company, we’ve increased recruitment of people that understand specific industries and specific industry domains well.

It is these people (who are) communicating with clients, understanding their challenges and opportunities, then coming up with solutions proactively that we believe will help solve those problems or help them take advantage of opportunities.

What steps do you take to communicate the message that you’re encouraging employees to take risks?

We publicize new ideas internally. We have several publications, and one of the things they [feature] are great ideas that were presented and how an idea helped deliver value to a given client.

We recognize people who go out of their way in driving innovation. We also have rewards for people who have really strong performance — financial incentives. And then, for people who have really superior performance, they get nominated for our annual president’s award program. This is a program where roughly a dozen (out of 5,000 employees) of the top performers worldwide are invited on a cruise that my wife and I host.

It puts them in very elite company. Anyone can nominate someone. Typically, people nominate people who have shown exemplary performance in their group or in their interactions with them. We used to get 50 to 70 nominations. Last year, we put it on the intranet and got over 200 nominations.

How do you recruit these top-notch people?

You have to define the profiles of people who you think will be successful in your industry and who are aligned with your culture. Our culture is to be very customer-driven. We want people who are customer-driven, who are responsive to the needs of customers and who are motivated by growth and innovation.

We look for those attributes in people because those are the people who we know will be successful in our company and will have a multiplied effect on the innovation at Syntel.

How does your Indian operation create a competitive advantage for you and your clients?

There are several key benefits. First, availability to a highly talented work force. India has 500 million people under the age of 25, and there is a huge focus on education. Access to this very vast, very deep talent pool is No. 1.

Two, because the talent pool is so large, it allows clients to take on large projects. By outsourcing to us, they can ramp up or ramp down very quickly.

If they had to do that project in-house, to staff up 200, 300 or 400 people would be very difficult. But they can come to us and say, ‘We have this project that needs to be delivered in 15 months. We looked at the staffing profile, and it looks like we may need 50 people for the first six months, then 300 for the next nine and then 50 for the next three.’

We can quite easily manage that. So the second is scalability.

Third, because of the first two, it allows them (clients) to get a time-to-market advantage over their competition. A development cycle or innovation cycle that normally would have taken 12 to 18 months we can sometimes collapse to three to six months.

Finally, because the wage rate is so attractive there because the cost of living is so much lower, it allows them all of these benefits at a very attractive price point.

How do you identify opportunities without distracting from your core competencies?

By being in the marketplace all the time. My job is to figure out where are the next set of opportunities for Syntel. I do that by communicating with clients, talking to employees, talking to people in the industry and listening to my advisers. I encourage our leaders to do the same thing.

We have a periodic review process to decide which one of the many ideas that we have on the table we want to actually pursue.

Three quarters of your sales are driven from the applications outsourcing division. How do you ensure you’re diversified enough to weather a downturn in the marketplace?

We are actually further segmented by industry. We have penetration into financial services, health care, insurance, automotive, telecommunications, transportation, and logistics, and retail.

We have very specific plans for expansion in each industry. Applications outsourcing is really a service type, and each of these industries has their own drivers. By servicing multiple industries, leading the innovation process and driving the message innovation across the enterprise, we think we can mitigate the risk of a downturn in any one segment.

Do you practice what you preach for your clients within Syntel?

One of the things a leader has to do is drive change. Syntel has reinvented itself multiple times. Twenty-five years ago, when we started the company with $2,000, we were a local IT staffing company.

We grew from a local IT staffing company to a national staffing company that had lots of foreigners in the work force to a solutions company to an offshore outsourcing company. As we made each of those turns, it was very important to drive a message of change across the organization.

Human nature is to resist change. A leader has to successfully communicate where the enterprise is headed and get the organization aligned behind the change. I was lucky to have a team that understood the reason and motivation behind the change.

Therefore, we were able to successfully execute on that change. I firmly believe that you have to practice what you preach.

What lessons did that experience teach you?

As you are transitioning work, you have to recruit top talent that is capable of executing on that work. You have to have a very well-defined process for making the transition work.

And, most importantly, if you are going to transition from one mode of operation to another mode of operation, it is very important that the new mode of operation work so much better than the previous mode that people don’t even question it. They say, ‘Wow. This is so good. Why didn’t we do this before?’

HOW TO REACH: Syntel Inc., (248) 619-2800, http://www.syntelinc.com

Friday, 01 July 2005 05:44

Mark Goldston

While CEO of internet service provider NetZero, Mark Goldston led the highly publicized 2001 merger of his company and rival Juno to create one of the largest ISPs in the business. Since then, the former Einstein/Noah Bagel Corp. and L.A. Gear executive has been on a growth tear. A marketing guru, Goldston knows how to give consumers what they want. He pioneered the idea of high-speed dial-up connections, forging an active user base of 5.3 million people and annual revenue in excess of $448 million. Goldston has used a combination of organic growth and targeted acquisitions, buying complementary Internet businesses — such as Classmates.com and, most recently, PhotoSite — to strengthen his company’s core. Goldston shares his thoughts on management, focus, core competences and merging rival companies.

We are a very focused enterprise. We are strategic. We are clear in our communication of our goals, and we are clear in the execution and accountability measurements related to those goals. So everybody in the company understands what we’re trying to accomplish, the timetable upon which that has to be accomplished and the measurement of success that we will utilize to determine whether we do a good job.

The fundamental business model that we have is to be the Dell or Southwest Airlines of the Internet. We were in a category where we pioneered the notion of being value-priced. We were the ones who built the low-cost provider model, and we created such an automation-based company that we were able to do what our competitors were doing, with, in some cases, one-seventh to one-tenth the number of employees. So we generated in excess of $700,000 of annual revenue per employee, when most of our competitors were less than half of that. While they had thousands of people, we had hundreds. A lot of that had to do with our investment in state-of-the-art software and hardware architecture that would allow us to scale the company without having to increase our manpower base on a linear basis.

Our core competencies are what drove us to acquire these companies. Our core competencies are our marketing ability, our ability to create scalable software and our ability to bill people on a monthly, recurring basis at a cost that’s virtually lower than anybody in the industry. Those are our three core competencies. So when we look for companies to acquire, they have to fit within our strategy of consumer Internet subscription services, and they have to fit within those three core competencies.

The most difficult part of the [NetZero-Juno] merger was creating the spirit that we were one. These were two companies that spent the better part of two years just slugging it out against each other. (They were) very competitive and sued each other several times. The hardest part was getting everyone to understand that business is business, and now we’re all one big happy family and on the same team.

We don’t manage by consensus. You want to get a lot of people’s input and create a forum for spirited debate. You want to allow people to have their day to disagree with what might be the accepted group opinion. But at the end of the day, you have to call the ball. Rarely will we have anybody come to me saying, ‘I wouldn’t have done it this way.’ Our top management has been here together for a long time. So our continuity — the top 40 or 50 people in the company — is virtually unparalleled. If you look at some of the great companies of the Internet — eBay, Amazon or Yahoo — the management teams have turned over. We’ve got people here who have pretty much built this company brick by brick. They’re really living in a house that they’ve built.

I am a real student of marketing. I’ve spent my entire career in marketing and consumer products, so I have a very distinct way of looking at business opportunities, where I tend to do a very sophisticated level of segmentation of the markets I’m thinking of either going into or acquiring companies within.

The best advice that I ever got came from my dad. He passed away right when I got out of graduate school. The first job I took was with Johnson & Johnson. I worked on the marketing team for Tylenol. The best advice he gave me was, ‘You have to be passionate about what you’re doing, but most importantly, you have to try to figure out how to develop your go-to-war skill.’ He said that if they declared World War III tomorrow and we all had to be specialists in something, regardless of how broad your experience and responsibilities are today, what would your specific go-to-war skill be? That one thing that you think you do better than anybody. I decided that my go-to-war skill would be marketing. Even though over the years I’ve done a lot — turnarounds, management and the like — my go-to-war skill has always been my marketing. I always come at something from a marketing bent. And so I seek opportunities that need better marketing. I’m trying to play off my strength.

How to reach: United Online, (805) 418-2000 or www.unitedonline.net

Wednesday, 29 June 2005 09:57

Scratch that itch

It's a simple question, really. What makes an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurs are a unique breed. They differ significantly from professional managers, such as Jack Welch.

That's not a knock against Welch, who assumed the reins at GE and, over the course of 20 years, transformed it into a global powerhouse. He was a visionary leader who became America's most admired CEO. But he wasn't an entrepreneur.

Professional managers are essentially handed a larger, well-established company and tasked by the board of directors with building market share, turning around a troubled enterprise or, in some cases, just keeping the business from crashing into the ground.

An entrepreneur, on the other hand, builds a business from scratch, rarely starting off with more than an idea. Entrepreneurs have that can-do attitude that rubs off on others and gets them to line up and shout, "How high?" Here are four traits that you'll find in nearly every entrepreneur.

* Risk-taker. Entrepreneurs lay all their money on the table. They aim high and bet big, accepting the fact that the odds are they'll lose more often than they'll win. Successful entrepreneurs, however, learn from their mistakes and apply the lessons to their next ventures or initiatives.

* Vision. Visionaries clearly see what they want to accomplish and remain focused on their goals. How many people 20 years ago would have been willing to bet on the guy claiming people would buy $4 cups of coffee? But Howard Schultz did just that when he founded his first Starbucks coffee house. Today, he runs a company with a market cap of more than $21 billion.

* Confidence. Failure is never an option to an entrepreneur. There's always a solution waiting to be found that results in success. Failure happens, of course, but that's the down side of taking risks. True entrepreneurs exude a steady, confident attitude that says if they just stick with it, the business will succeed. They have utter faith in their product or service, and never, ever waver.

* Motivator. Because they're not content with the long process of working their way up at a large company, proving themselves at every level and building legions of believers along the way, entrepreneurs possess the ability to inspire employees, build champions and get the most out of talented rising stars.

Monday, 23 May 2005 12:32

Refocusing the lens

I'm convinced America has lost its collective mind.

Gas prices continue to skyrocket with wild abandon. Inflation is creeping up despite the Fed's best efforts to keep it in check. We're playing nation-building in the Middle East while the North Koreans mock us, boast of having nukes and lob missiles into the Sea of Japan.

Further, one party in Congress screams about "activist judges" who, coincidentally, were mostly appointed by presidents within their own party. And the other party threatens to slow down all congressional business rather than develop its own ideas and then sitting down at the negotiating table.

As if that weren't enough, as a nation, we've blindly allowed private beliefs to creep into politics and dictate our public policy.

It's clear we're focusing on the wrong things these days. But in the midst of this madness, I found a bright spot from the unlikeliest of places -- Bill Gates, chairman and founder of Microsoft.

Rather than bash his company as countless others have, let's look at Gates, the man, and how he truly understands the importance of his wealth and power.

As the world's richest man -- his fortune is estimated at $46.5 billion -- Gates is also the most philanthropic man on the planet, perhaps the greatest philanthropist in history. His Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been busy giving away its nearly $29 billion endowment at an unprecedented rate in the face of attacks against his company.

But what makes Gates' foundation impressive beyond its sheer scale is the focus of his grants -- education and health. Not coincidentally, they are the two areas of society with the greatest impact on our world and its future.

Nearly every CEO cites finding skilled workers and controlling rising health care costs among the top three issue for his or her business. Simply put, a well-educated and healthy work force is the key to making our free-market society work -- whether you subscribe to the economic philosophies of Adam Smith or Alexander Hamilton.

I don't know Gates' political bent, and quite frankly, I don't care. But his ability to identify and fund solutions to the critical problems that society faces gets to the heart of not just what's right in our personal lives but also what it requires for our businesses to survive and thrive.

And for that alone, Gates should be a role model.

Friday, 22 April 2005 07:31

Enough with the bad news already

The bad news in newspapers and on TV is enough to send all of us into a group depression. Instead, let's be bold and daring and focus on something more positive, like regional business successes.

Look at your organization and ask, "What have we done well?" You'll be surprised at what you find -- modest revenue growth, job creation, new product development.

And when you quit listening to the partisan hype from both sides, blow away the storm clouds that have hung over Stark County since last year's presidential election and take a good, hard look at what business leaders are doing, you'll realize things aren't as bad as they seem.

Without question, the loss of jobs at Hoover and Timken was a major blow to the community's labor, economic and tax base. And as such, they pose a serious challenge to overcome. But those are only two companies out of tens of thousands, and many of the rest have stories worth hearing.

Smart Business is proud to join the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce as a sponsor of its annual Business Excellence Awards of Greater Canton. Together, we're helping focus attention on the best this area has to offer rather than dwell on the worst.

It's easy to talk about the bad things. They get our blood boiling, bring out our passion, create a rallying cry and, to be honest, "Hoover cuts 1,000 jobs; community doomed," is a more salacious headline than "XYZ Co. sales rise 10 percent; 18 jobs added."

But that's the point.

In a quick-hit, ratings-ruthless, 24-hour news cycle, we've been reduced to junkies scrambling to latch on to the latest tragedy and watch it dissected from every angle until it is bled dry.

We don't have to accept it. It's just as important to make success part of our regular regional discussion. And whether it sells newspapers, garners TV viewers or gets the mob mobilized becomes irrelevant when you cast away the façade and recognize success is achieved one job, one percentage point growth and one dollar at a time.

It's up to you -- and us -- to create that buzz and make the public dialogue meaningful. If we don't, we'll remain a nation of zombies, letting others dictate what's worth our attention.

Thursday, 24 February 2005 10:23

Fostering growth

When Ray Leach took the reins at JumpStart Inc. just more than a year ago, he knew the challenges the job posed. As a serial entrepreneur, he understood the barriers to entry any new start-up faces and the hurdles a CEO must clear.

"I've been an entrepreneur who started a company at a very young age with very little capital and I grew a small business and ultimately, it got much larger," says Leach. "We're looking for people who have ideas or talent in technology or intellectual property that can end up creating $30 (million) to $50 million companies."

Leach began his career at IBM and later co-founded Publishing Solutions Inc., a systems integrator that was recognized by Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management as the sixth fastest-growing company in Ohio from 1990 to 1995. He sold that business in 1997.

He also founded Capella Investments Inc., a firm that provided angel and management consulting to start-up technology organizations. And he was the Entrepreneur-in-Residence for CommonAngels, the largest angel investing organization in Boston.

Today, Leach manages JumpStart, a nonprofit organization owned by founding entities NorTech (the Northeast Ohio Technology Coalition) and Case Western Reserve University. JumpStart invests in early stage, high-growth-potential companies. Early stage companies are defined as those with less than $10 million in revenue, while high-growth means the owner has a solid plan for reaching $30 million to $50 million in annual revenue within five to seven years.

JumpStart's fund has $9 million in the bank and Leach hopes to raise an additional $9 million soon. The organization invests an average of $250,000 in a client company, with a potential investment range of $50,000 to $800,000.

To date, Leach and his team have put their financial backing behind five regional companies -- Ayalogic, Day-Day Ltd., Embrace Pet Insurance, PreEmptive Solutions Inc. and Stanton Advance Ceramics.

Smart Business caught up with Leach to discuss his thoughts on entrepreneurship, managing a start-up venture fund and identifying the best of the best.

What lessons from your own business experiences do you apply to your job?

Many. It always takes longer than you would expect for you to accomplish your goals. That's a fundamental truism across any entrepreneurial business. Most entrepreneurial organizations are run by optimists, and optimists have shorter time windows in their own minds than reality.

So the first lesson is that it's always a little harder. There will be things that occur that you cannot anticipate ahead of time, and it's going to take you longer than what you might initially have envisioned to accomplish your goals.

The second lesson is, you never do yourself justice if you dream small. One of the biggest lessons I learned early in my business was when I contemplated who I wanted for my board or what kind of company would be interested in my product or offering, that you have a tendency as an entrepreneur to sell yourself and your idea short.

So while it's difficult, and while it may take you longer to get to where you want to go, that should not prevent you from going after the absolute most capable board member or investor that could bring the most significant benefits to your business.

Also, don't be bashful. Go after a marquee player. You hurt yourself if you don't dream big and try to find resources and relationships around your business that help you do that.

What are the key traits you find in entrepreneurs?

There's no textbook entrepreneur. (They) come in all shapes and sizes and backgrounds and perspectives and disciplines. You look for people who can communicate, who have a vision, that are ethical and who have energy.

But they can be from any kind of discipline. They can be a housewife, a researcher at Case or a programmer working for a large company that wants to start a new one. Fundamentally, there is no textbook example of the kind of entrepreneur we're looking for.

We're more interested in individuals that have the ideas that can be significant wealth-creating entities. And we meet lots of individuals that have restaurants or have service businesses that are great entrepreneurs, but we don't necessarily engage with those kinds of scenarios because we're looking for things that could be $30 million to $50 million businesses.

I think there's a big [misperception] about entrepreneurship, that entrepreneurs are born with everything they need to grow a fast-growing high-potential businesses. One of the reasons Jumpstart exists is that we fundamentally believe and know it's true that you can meet a great Type A entrepreneurial person who may have the vision and the sales skills, and may have part of what that entity needs, but if that opportunity is actually going to grow and be a sustainable organization that can grow into a business of the size we're going to focus on, they'll need a lot more than just that.

We're trying to bring the most critical resources that entrepreneurs we meet will need in order for them to actually be successful in the earliest stages of their development.

What are those resources?

There are three fundamental sets. First, we intend to act as a convener for all interested stakeholders in high-growth entrepreneurship in 15 counties across Northeast Ohio. So hopefully a year from now, people who approach or get engaged with JumpStart recognize that Jumpstart has the ability to connect people to great ideas and connect ideas to resources that are required for them to take the next step of their development.

The second piece is we have a team of individuals that have been involved in business development activities for start-up, venture-backed companies, as well as a handful of founders of former venture-backed companies, who are on a full-time basis advising and assisting, and ultimately mentoring and working with what our business plan calls for -- 225 companies over the next three years.

Finally, we'll actually be making investment decisions for the best of the best companies that we engage with and provide intellectual capital to. Our plan calls for us to invest $9 million in 40 companies over the next three years, and we're going to invest in the businesses that we think have the greatest likelihood of attracting additional capital after ours as the company develops, as well as create economic wealth for the region.

So how do you identify which companies to fund?

It's a huge challenge. Every 120 days we have an application deadline. We evaluate and score every plan and go through a process to try to identify the plans that have the greatest potential to generate long-term economic wealth.

We select those companies, do significant due diligence and ultimately make a decision on which of the companies we'd like to invest in by the end of that round. We're the farm system for potential venture-capital backed companies in Northeast Ohio.

How to reach: JumpStart, (216) 363-3406 or www.jumpstartinc.org