SBN Staff

Although he has 67 employees today, it was just six years ago that Duane Jones was running D2 Abatement Inc. with just one employee. Taking two-hour sleep shifts, he spent his first years as the company’s president and CEO balancing his time among building capital, developing a unique market strategy and sharing his vision for services to sustain and promote environmental wellness.

In spite of beginning with a personal bankruptcy filing, Jones never let that get in his way. His hard worked soon paid off when his market niche strategy of cost savings and process improvements, combined with his dedication and sacrifice to his vision, helped generate D2’s first revenue streams. Since then, Jones’ company has achieved average yearly growth of 28 percent, in spite of economic and financial pressures. Jones has also not had to take out any bank loans, allowing D2 to operate as a debt-free corporation.

One of Jones’ proudest achievements is growing D2 not with the help of a large majority company partner but rather with the hard work and talent of his team. Combating the industry stigma that a minority company isn’t sophisticated enough to handle and manage government-based projects for asbestos and lead abatement, Jones has been determined to show that is not the case. In fact, he’s successfully diversified D2’s services to include industrial cleaning, environmental recycling and industrial staffing.

Jones’ the key to succeeding has been developing a skilled and knowledgeable team. He ensures that all D2 employees are cross trained, licensed and certified in most of the company’s service areas, and also makes an effort to keep his employees up to date on the most innovative and effective industry techniques and training as a hands-on leader, allowing employees to learn new skills and creating low turnover.

How to reach: D2 Abatement Inc., (586) 977-6471 or www.d2abatement.com

Paul Glantz started his business with a simple philosophy – success is borne out of serving the customer. So when he launched the theater company Emagine Entertainment Inc., his goal was to provide an exemplary movie-going experience for consumers. He set out to learn as much as he could about the film industry and found that one of his major obstacles was securing the films themselves because of the practices of large film distributors that favored older theaters in the markets that Emagine was entering. It took some convincing to change the restraint of trade practice in the industry in the industry, but he eventually secured Emagine’s access to all new feature film releases.

It was just the beginning for Glantz’s plan to shake things up by reimagining the way people watch movies. Once he raised the capital and created his futurist theater with Cinema Hollywood, he then worked tirelessly in the community and on advertising campaigns to make consumers aware of the theaters’ innovative product offerings. Glantz quickly won over customers with features such as stadium seating, availability of alcoholic beverages and high standards of cleanliness and food quality. And he didn’t stop there.

As chairman of Emagine, Glantz continues to look for ways to improve the customer’s movie-going experience, whether it’s in presentation, construction or seating. Luxury seating and motion-controlled chairs are now offered at all Emagine locations and in 2005, the theater chain became the first in the world to offer 100 percent digital projection for enhanced viewing. Then in May, he opened Emagine Royal Oak movie complex, which includes private bowling lanes complemented with 10 luxury movie auditoriums.

How to reach: Emagine Entertainment Inc., (248) 842-5817 or www.emagine-entertainment.com

We are a nation on the verge of professional burnout. The financial crisis has taken its toll on everyone, from technology entrepreneurs, to retail managers, to employees up and down the ranks of corporate America. With stress levels skyrocketing and fierce competition from abroad, how can we as a nation, as well as individuals, reclaim our role as creative leaders and innovators?

If you don’t believe we’re really in a crisis here, check out these statistics. According to the recent MetLife 9th Annual Study of Employee Benefit Trends, employee loyalty across industries is at a three-year low. One in three workers hopes to find a new job in the next twelve months. More alarming, a recent Gallup survey found that 17% of employees interviewed were actively disengaged and trying to subvert their organization. Over 54% were passively disengaged – their bodies were still in the office, but they had essentially left.

No organization can flourish when half (or more) of its workers have a foot out the door. And no industry can thrive when its companies are bogged down with unhappy, unmotivated employees. Companies need interested, motivated people to excel; disengaged workers cost companies money and seriously impede productivity. Stressed out front-line employees can cause serious reputation problems. In the worst cases, employees are sabotaging their employers through fraud and other insider crimes.

Many of these problems can be attributed to layoffs and increased stress for those who have to pick up the slack in the office. But there’s something else at work here: a severe and chronic lack of time off. According to an Expedia.com survey, 63% of Americans work more than 40 hours a week and hand back more than $21 billion in unused vacation dollars each year. Worse, we feel guilty about the little time we do take off, even though Americans put in two to three times more in total hours on the job each year than Europeans and two and a half more weeks than the Japanese. Here in the U.S., younger workers are leaving the fast track in droves to take less stressful jobs. Why? Because work demands keep rising while satisfaction and payoffs decline.

But before you jump ship or your employees do, there is a way you may be able to address the morale, stress and burnout problems through a simple and age-old practice: a sabbatical (we call it a Reboot Break!).

What is a sabbatical, exactly? It’s a set period of time away from work. A sabbatical can last from one month to a year, and it allows workers to take a break to renew and refresh their lives and better balance their priorities. Corporate sabbatical programs vary from paid for time off (usually for a period of one to three months) to unpaid time off with benefits intact and a guaranteed job at the end.

Intel is a leader in offering sabbaticals, and provides a good example for other corporations. Established 15 years ago, Intel’s program has enabled more than 69,000 of the company’s workers to take a significant period of time off. All levels of employees, from the CEO to assistants, are eligible after seven years to take two months off at full pay. Most employees save up vacation time, tacking on another month to their break. Management likes the program because it helps Intel attract and retain good people and broadens the knowledge and skill sets of those who cover for the sabbatical taker. The real payback comes when they employee returns with renewed energy, creativity and a fresh perspective.

Companies are catching on. Fortune magazine recently added sabbaticals to their criteria for naming the 100 Best Companies to Work For. Twenty-one companies that made the 2011 list offer sabbaticals, including Microsoft, The Container Store, REI, Adobe Systems and several law firms.

If you think you can’t do it, or you think your company would never agree to giving you some time to reboot, think again. There’s a lot you can do to get yourself some time away from work. In a new book, Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life By Taking a Break, I and my co-authors offer a step-by-step guide to getting the time you need – and making the best of that time once you get it.

Here are just a few of the steps you can take now to get yourself the time you need:

Research. Find out through human resources (or your company’s equivalent) if your company has a sabbatical program. If not, see if they would be willing to read a proposal. Ask about requirements, and look to other companies in your industry for models. (A successful competitor that offers a program could help you make a compelling argument!)

Fund Your Freedom. For most people, finances are the number one barrier to taking time off. Instead of deciding you can’t do it, get creative. Are there assets you can sell? A house or apartment you could rent out while you travel? Could you borrow some of the money, or tap (gently) into your savings, and then live on less during your time off? Or, take the long view and start saving now for time off. Stash the money in a separate sabbatical savings account.

Make Your Case. Create a plan for what you want to do, when you want to do it, and how much time you need. Outline exactly how your responsibilities will be covered while you are gone. Identify ways the organization could benefit, such as increased innovation, retention and attraction and better morale. Assure them

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Talk to your spouse, partner, family and colleagues about what you want to do and how it might affect them. Get their support. Talk to your boss about how you’ll make a smooth transition.

Unplug. As part of your break, unplug from the office and clients. Tell them ahead of time when you are going and returning, but don't stay tied into the office. (AARP actually requires their employees to unplug during their one-month paid sabbaticals.)

Sabbaticals are life-changers. They can renew and reinvigorate your life and your career, helping you reprioritize and better balance your life. Don’t be surprised if, as the burnout fades, your perspective about your work changes. You may decide that staying right where you are is the best thing for you, and all it took was a break.

CATHERINE A. ALLEN is the chairman and chief executive officer of The Santa Fe Group, a strategic consulting firm based in Santa Fe Group, New Mexico and sits on several corporate and nonprofit boards. She is the co-author of Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break (Beaufort Books, 2011) with Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley and Jaye Smith. She can be reached at cathy@santa-fe-group.com.

Tuesday, 03 May 2011 15:20

Aflac the clever duck!

Aflac, Inc. averted what could have been a major public relations nightmare when they fired comedian Gilbert Gottfried, the longtime voice of the Aflac Duck, for the incredibly insensitive remarks he tweeted immediately after Japan’s earthquake and tsunami.

Aflac CMO Michael Zuna was decisive in the decision to release Gottfried for good business reasons. After all, the company generates the bulk of its revenues in Japan and any hesitation or equivocation would have appeared to support and fuel Gottfried’s dismissive attitude toward the terrible suffering of the Japanese people.

The real genius of the Aflac marketing machine was to immediately announce and launch a national search for the new voice of the Aflac Duck. In little over a month, they announced that Dan McKeague had beaten out more than 12,500 contenders for what has to be one of the best voice-over gigs in the ad business.

This kind of bold and decisive action is just one of the reasons why the Aflac brand, headquartered in Columbus, GA, has more than doubled in brand equity, from 6.4% in 2002 to 12.8% in 2010, as a percentage of its market cap. The value translates from just under $1 billion in 2002 to $3.4 billion in 2010, according to CoreBrand’s Brand Equity data.

This growth of brand equity comes at a time when their competitive peers have lost brand equity – from an average of 4.8% in 2002 to 3.8% in 2010. Brand equity value currently stands at $800 million for the average insurance company. That is what we call creating separation from your competitors.

As much fun as the Aflac Duck is to watch, it is doing some pretty significant business.

James R. Gregory is the CEO of CoreBrand. Reach him at jgregory@corebrand.com.

Anyone who is familiar with Jellyvision Lab’s work knows that the company has been an innovator in human-machine interface since 1995, plugging out such interactive hits as “You Don’t Know Jack” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

But there is another way that Jellyvision has been an innovator, largely thanks to company president Amanda Lannert’s efforts: its culture.

Lannert was named one of 2010 Smart Leader honorees by Smart Business and U.S. Bank. We asked her how she overcomes challenges, innovates and gives back to the community.

Give us an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.

In 2000, a few months after I joined the company as director of marketing, the company was headed toward a steep cliff. The company’s core business was in CD-ROM games and despite a very successful run with interactive hits like You Don’t Know Jack” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” the CD-ROM market itself was dying.

Even though I was the most junior executive in the company, I prevailed on the rest of the team to be clear-eyed about the gravity of the situation and begin the process of laying off employees in order to keep the company alive — employees including myself.

As painful as this was, it allowed Harry Gottlieb, the CEO, to raise a little money and reconstitute the company, taking it in a new direction. In less than a year, I was rehired to the post of president. Nine years later, the company is thriving.

 

In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

Jellyvision has always been fortunate to be staffed with extraordinarily creative, talented and decent people who’ve had the opportunity to work on interesting projects. But I’ve tried to take those ingredients and, like adding pectin to pie, bound them with daily delight. Institutionalized delight. It is fun to work at Jellyvision.

Of course, the work can be hard and frustrating at times, but even then, employees bask in the humor and fellowship of each other’s company. This inclination flows from the top, because I practice it and live it every single day. I make a point of praising in public.

When we lose our electricity every summer (thank you ComEd), I gather the entire company in a giant game of ‘Murder.’ No birthday passes without an e-mail to the company letting everyone know who to celebrate that day. On my birthday every year, I insist that all the men in the company ‘honor’ me by growing out their facial hair the month before and come to work that day in a mustache.

And I try to make sure Jellyvision’s clients ‘feel the love.’ My goal is for everyone at Jellyvision to understand that being fun and easy to work with, being empathic and grateful, is a fundamental reason why our clients keep coming back for more.

How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?

For the legions of Chicago improv artists and comedians who are waiting tables and filling temp jobs to make ends meet, Jellyvision provides hope: There is a place on the shore of Lake Michigan where they can ply their talents, actually get a real salary, medical insurance and a 401(k) plan and, as a bonus, be treated with endless respect. Do you have any idea how much creative ability is given birth in this city? Go to Los Angeles, more than half the people there with real talent come from Chicago. Jellyvision contributes to the second city, by hiring some of our best and brightest and keeping them away from ‘the great sucking sounds’ of the East and West Coasts. Moreover, I have served on the board of directors of the Chicago Improv Festival and was a mentor to startups in Chicago’s accelerator program, Excelerate.

How to reach: The Jellyvision Lab, www.jellyvision.com

The business model of a sales funnel shows leads that enter at the top and filter down to become customers at the bottom. The simple logic of this model suggests that to grow what comes through at the bottom as customers, you need to increase the leads that you fill into the top.

Effective Web marketing that produces leads through quote request forms and phone calls is a proven way to pour more into your funnel,” says Kevin Hourigan, the president and CEO of Web designWeb development and Internet marketing agency Bayshore Solutions. “However, without the right processes and people in place to effectively turn those leads into customers, just turning up the volume on inbound leads can create more chaos than clients.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to keep your sales funnel free from roadblocks and improve performance in filtering leads to customers.

What’s wrong with a huge increase in leads?

There are two situations where more leads might not be a good thing: if the leads are unqualified and will never become customers, and if there are more leads than your current structure can handle.

As marketing attracts a population of leads, each business has a certain percentage that will ‘filter out’ for qualification reasons. The challenge lies in keeping the filtering out from being due to reasons like: ‘they never got back to me,’ or ‘they couldn’t answer my questions about the product or service.’

In today’s world of readily available online information, customers are accustomed to getting the information they need quickly. If they can’t get it quickly and conveniently from you, they won’t wait. They’ll move on to your competition.

Why is an immediate response so important?

Numerous studies have shown that the quicker a business can respond to a Web form inquiry, the more likely they are to win that potential client’s business. This is a key aspect in a top performing sales funnel.

If you can immediately reach an online inquirer, impress them, and then set up the next step (an appointment for a face-to-face meeting, an appointment for a detailed project scope discussion call, offering a proposal, etc.), then in many cases you could eliminate your competition.

If you are able to sufficiently impress the inquirer that you are capable and competent as well as establish rapport, then you can interrupt their shopping mode and foster a feeling of: ‘maybe I don’t need to continue shopping right now,’ in your potential customer.

If you don’t provide as immediate a response as possible to your online inquiries, chances are a competitor will. You invest time, money and effort into the SEO, focused messaging and marketing that generates this lead. You don’t want to let a competitor beat you to the pivotally important first contact.

How can I be the best first contact?

In the dynamic and fast-paced world of online marketing today, a number of marketing automation tools exist, from simply sending out e-mail alerts to key people that announce new form-submissions to automatically integrating online form inquiries into your CRM tool, with workflow technology to automatically assign the lead. In addition, automatically triggered e-mails that acknowledge the online request and offer relevant, valuable content to a prospect should always be sent as an inbound marketing best practice.

The real challenge, and what creates a distinct advantage, is getting beyond technology-based responses to make a live, in-person interaction. This may not have to be the ultimate sales representative. Dedicating a marketing resource as a ‘first round of response’ to inbound leads can have the additional benefit of gathering qualification information beyond what is collected in a Web form that directs the lead either on to a focused sales conversation, or into a nurturing program.

This first contact, whether from the sales, marketing or any other team, is your company’s first live impression, so the process and people in this role need to ensure capability and availability.

  • Capability through adequate education on your company’s products and services.  This will best ensure a ‘knowledgeable’ initial impression versus ‘an appointment setter’ that doesn’t connect with the potential client. This knowledgeable trait is doubly important for a company’s sales reps. It is safe to assume, with the sheer amount of information instantly available online, that your potential customers are well aware of general product attributes and even price-points before they speak to you.
  • Availability to respond with reasonable immediacy. This may require some creative scheduling, based on the patterns of when your inbound leads occur. For example, your first responder may need to shift work hours to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. if leads tend to arrive during the traditional lunch hour or shortly after 5 p.m. Each business can clarify an optimal approach to immediacy through understanding the psychographics of their target customer and researching their online behaviors. Look to your website analytics to see the data specific to your business.

The key to clearing any clogs in the sales funnel centers on making the process as smooth as possible for both the target customer and your firm. When leads can be smoothly filtered along the funnel, the time and efforts of your sales force are put to best use, and your marketing organization can gain quick insight on messaging points and other potential adjustments to improve overall lead quality. When potential clients quickly encounter a knowledgeable and helpful representative of your business, you already win from a branding standpoint, and you are set up to more easily win their business.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions’ Web marketing methodology, click to: www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.

KEVIN HOURIGAN is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

CHICAGO, April 26, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Low-cost summer camp requests have almost doubled since 2008, according to a new work-life report released today by ComPsych. Overall summer care requests have increased by 7 percent as more working parents seek help from ComPsych Work-Life services. ComPsych Corporation is the world's largest provider of employee assistance programs and is the pioneer and worldwide leader of fully integrated EAP, behavioral health, wellness, work-life, HR and FMLA administration services under the GuidanceResources brand.

"Working parents are increasingly looking for help in locating free or reduced-cost options for summer care and activities," said Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, Chairman and CEO of ComPsych. "This is a major change from pre-recession trends, which included more-expensive options such as sports or performing arts-themed camps.

"Employers who support their workforce with ComPsych programs – including a staff of experienced work-life specialists who can research low-cost summer alternatives – will see better productivity, less distraction and less stress in their employees."

Key findings of the report:

  • As a percentage of overall work-life calls, summer care requests have increased by 7 percent in 2011, with parents seeking less-expensive alternatives for their summer needs.
  • Camp requests overall have increased to 42 percent, surpassing Infant and Toddler Care.
  • Nanny Service requests have dropped from 9 percent to 6 percent, as in-home care has become increasingly cost prohibitive for many families.
  • Requests for relatively expensive summer camps, such as sports and performing arts-themed camps, are less than half of early 2008 levels, before the recession.

To see the report, click here and to see the accompanying video, click here.

About ComPsych

ComPsych® Corporation is the world's largest provider of employee assistance programs (EAP) and is the pioneer and worldwide leader of fully integrated EAP, behavioral health, wellness, work-life, HR and FMLA administration services under the GuidanceResources® brand. ComPsych provides services to more than 13,000 organizations covering more than 35 million individuals throughout the U.S. and over 100 countries. By creating "Build-to-Suit" programs, ComPsych helps employers attract and retain employees, increase employee productivity and improve overall health and wellbeing. Follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ComPsych.

SOURCE ComPsych Corporation

By now, everyone knows that you should "go green." The advantages include reduced energy costs, having employees that are proud to work for a company that values environmentally-friendly practices, and being a company that sets the standard for green business within your industry, just to name a few.

Tiffany Bloomer, Director of Business Development, and Ashley Reiff, Marketing Coordinator, of Aventis Systems, Inc., discuss the many benefits of going green and how a company can easily and cost-effectively do so by utilizing virtualization and refurbished IT equipment.

For more information on Aventis Systems, visit www.aventissystems.com or call 1-866-528-9313.

Tiffany Bloomer is the Director of Business Development for Aventis Systems, Inc. Reach her at tiffany@aventissystems.com.

Ashley Reiff is the Marketing Coordinator for Aventis Systems, Inc. Reach her at ashley@aventissystems.com.

Thursday, 21 April 2011 09:59

InfoCision makes the connection

As communication channels expand from the traditional phone call to a bounty of online platforms, the direct marketing industry is challenged to keep up. InfoCision Management Corp. is no exception – but the difference is that they see this challenge as an opportunity.

In business since 1982, InfoCision is the nation’s second largest privately held teleservices company and a leading provider of direct marketing solutions for Fortune 100 companies and nonprofit organizations.

Chief Marketing Officer Ken Dawson has been instrumental in InfoCision’s transition from a traditional teleservices company to a full-service direct marketing partner. He revolutionized InfoCision’s service offerings to include multichannel solutions and highly personalized, highly targeted communication driven by data analytics.

Smart Business sat down with Dawson to get his take on overcoming business challenges, championing innovation and adding value for clients.

Give us an example of a business challenge your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.

For all of us in the direct marketing industry, a key challenge over the past several years has been adapting to changes in the ways people communicate. A number of personal exchanges that once required a phone call can now be accomplished via mail, e-mail, text message and Web (on Facebook and Twitter, for example). Where there was previously one central channel for communication, there are now multiple channels positioned side by side.

At InfoCision, we actually saw this challenge as an opportunity. More channels mean more ways to reach more people. While contact center solutions remain the core of what we do, we have made a significant investment in expanding our multichannel services. In the past few years, we have built a direct mail division; and we continue to develop new Web services, like our innovative online campaign system. Perhaps most importantly, with our Business Intelligence Group, we have advanced our data analytics capabilities. Leveraging data allows us to help our clients reach people in the most effective way possible across multiple channels.

In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

In order to thrive in today’s business environment, you have to be an innovator. You have to constantly be looking for new ways to make your operations more effective and efficient. Fortunately, InfoCision has always been a progressive company, both in terms of our technology and the services we offer. We are continually enhancing our capabilities and developing solutions to help our clients reach more people and earn the highest possible return on investment (ROI).

InfoCision employs innovation to give our clients new and more effective ways of connecting with customers. For example, our Best Time to Call technology uses data to tell our Communicators when they are most likely to reach a person by phone. Our variable data printing capabilities enable us to personalize mass mailings to the individual. And our online campaign system gives people the ability to interact with organizations on the Web. All of our innovations serve the same purpose: Provide our clients additional ways to connect with customers on a more personal, one-to-one basis.

How have you added “value” to the products and services you provide to clients?

InfoCision adds value to our services by customizing all our offerings to meet individual client needs. We tailor our solutions for each and every organization we work with. If a client needs a web application and phone support for contacting online leads, we can do it. If a client needs a phone call that leads to a direct mail piece, we can do it. Rather than simply provide a static set of services, we customize everything to produce the best possible results.

Our full spectrum of direct marketing solutions also adds value for our clients. These days, marketing success requires giving your audience as many choices as possible. Most organizations come to us for call center solutions and discover we offer so much more: direct mail, creative services, interactive solutions, data analytics, etc. Because we have all these capabilities under one roof, we make multichannel interaction seamless. We use data to tie all the channels together and ensure our clients are reaching customers the way they prefer to be reached. That’s a true added value, and one that helps drive results and maximize ROI for our clients.

How to reach: InfoCision Management Corp., (330) 668-1400 or www.infocision.com

Wednesday, 20 April 2011 14:59

Pattern of growth

Growth is nothing new to Manu Shah. His company’s been experiencing it for 36 years straight – ever since M S International Inc. opened in 1975.

Shah, president and CEO, is in the stone business; his company is a global distributor of natural stone, and the largest supplier of natural stone products in the U.S. His team knows a thing or two about staying rock solid, and not even the economic downturn could keep them from growing.

Competitors cut back or closed down, but Shah set out to follow core values, seek new opportunities and invest for the long-term by innovating everywhere, from sales and marketing to the supply chain. So while his industry shrank 40 percent during the last two years, Shah grew 45 percent.

Because of this, Smart Business, ThinkASG, IBM and Union Bank named Shah one of the 2011 Smart Leader honorees. He shared how he innovates to expand while investing in employees and the company.

Give an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.

Since opening in 1975, MSI has grown for all its 35 years of history. In the last quarter of 2008, the political and economic uncertainty, the volatility of consumer sentiment and the continuation of the global debt crisis caused a large business challenge in the form of how to compete with fear. Most of our major competitors – and the building industry in general – dealt with the fear by laying off workers, reducing pay, curtailing investments, closing locations and stopping new product innovations. Many companies in our industry decided to just shut down, or fell into bankruptcy.

After one year of survival tactics, we put aside our worries and charged forward taking risks and making calculated investments for the long term.

Instead of copying our competitors during those turbulent times, we asked all our leaders to keep our core values intact, continue to invest for the long term, and take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities in the industry. We asked our leaders to plan for knock-out punches and demand the necessary resources for execution. Some examples include:

1)    Continued hiring at an aggressive pace and encouraging hard work and over time where required

2)    Continued expansion of new branches and necessary infrastructure spending.

3)    Continued investment in innovation and marketing and product development

4)    Extended helping hands to key vendors, needy employees and few longtime customers.

5)    Most importantly, did not lay off a single employee due to lack of work.

6)    Most importantly, did not lay off a single employee or reduce benefits due to a lack of work!

The strategy worked wonders: Between 2008 and 2010, MSI grew by 45 percent while the industry shrank by 40 percent.

Most companies measure their success by top-line or bottom-line growth; we at MSI look at the market share growth. Market share is calculated geographically, customer segments and different product lines. The best time to get market share is during a downturn in the economy when opponents are weak.

We hired and trained over 150 employees nationwide in 2010. Opened three new branches. Made huge investments in IT software and hardware to improve productivity. Revitalized HR, including a focus on wellness and a digitized review process.

In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

Innovation is the engine of growth.

Innovation in sales and marketing – developing state-of the art display systems physically and in the virtual world.

Innovation in product packaging – attractive packaging to the consumer and more green, environmentally friendly packages.

Innovation in hiring and retaining talent.

Innovation in supply chain management, including clarity and transparency with all major vendors.

Innovation in never using “OPM” – Other People’s Money. About 95 percent of our A/P is paid as soon as shipments are confirmed shipped from 35 countries – 30 to 90 days before our competition pays.

Innovation in information systems to get all info as soon as it happens to all with the need to know.

Introduce many databases with ARC (Analysis, Recommendations, Conclusion) by using over 40 servers with real-time data.

How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?

We expanded wellness program to every employee, introduced matching charitable contributions to all 500-plus employees, trained 15-plus college students during summer (which we do each year), added 40-plus employees locally in Orange County, received “Best Place to Work” recognization in Orange County as well as an award for large family-owned business and an award for the Business of the Year by the City of Orange.

We work with numerous community organizations on their needs, as well.

How to reach: M S International Inc., (714) 685-7500 or www.msistone.com