Thursday, 28 April 2011 17:34

Big enough and small enough

Laurie Resnick tries to position The Associated Group as both big enough and small enough to tackle any project. As one of Southern California’s largest landscape, plantscape and seasonal display contractors, the company is big enough to provide professional, expert services and build long-term relationships with clients, staff and suppliers. At the same time, Resnick enforces a culture that keeps the company small enough to focus on quality.

Under her direction as president, The Associated Group has grown significantly and developed three divisions: interior plantscape, exterior landscape and seasonal display – and been recognized for numerous design awards by the Plantscape Industry Alliance. Working as one company to offer comprehensive services, these divisions design, install and maintain projects at corporate offices, industrial parks, regional malls, hotels and casinos, and public spaces like airports, schools, churches and city buildings.

Because of her keen leadership, regardless of location, Smart Business, ThinkASG, IBM and Union Bank named Resnick to the class of 2011 Smart Leader honorees. She shared how she creates a culture of best-in-class design and extraordinary customer service.

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

It became very clear over the past year that one of the three founding partners was a determent to the company’s culture and long-term success. Her recent departure has brought fourth a renewed energy and shared vision for the future. With the improving economic climate, the staff is aligned and preparing for great things to come.

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

We have worked very hard to create a culture of best-in-class design and extraordinary customer service.

WHY WE DO IT: We do this because we have a gift that we must share. Our gift is the ability to spin straw into gold, turning ordinary things into extraordinary beauty. We do this over and over again, and when we do, we see delight in our customers’ faces.

HOW WE DO IT: We do this by creating fabulous original design and service concepts that exceed our customers’ expectations. We sell these concepts to our customers. Then we execute exactly as promised, and on time. No matter how hard it may be, we make it look easy.

WHAT WE DO: We design, install and maintain the most beautiful landscapes, interior plantscapes, and seasonal décor for hotel and casinos, retail centers, office properties, and more.

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

We employ 150 people with above industry standard wages and benefits.

How to reach: Associated Group, (714) 558-6100 or www.ag-ca.com

Published in Orange County
Thursday, 28 April 2011 17:02

From transactions to partnerships

When Bob Funari and his executive team acquired majority ownership of Crescent Healthcare Inc. in 2004, the company was facing severe economic challenges.

But by moving away from commodity-based transactional relationships and toward value-added partnerships, Funari soon changed the outlook.

His team has forged a new culture that values teamwork, accountability and innovation. Along with it, they’ve more than doubled sales, eliminated significant operating losses and achieved profitability goals.

Because of this, Smart Business, ThinkASG, IBM and Union Bank named Funari to the class of 2011 Smart Leader honorees. He shared how he innovatively transitions his company’s strategic direction to overcome challenges.

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

Crescent Healthcare was a company facing severe economic challenges when our executive team, backed by two private equity investors, acquired the majority ownership in 2004. Over the past six years we have created a culture that values integrity, professionalism, teamwork, personal accountability, innovation and a bias towards action.

As a result, we have more than doubled sales, eliminated the significant operating losses, and achieved our profitability goals. We have financed all of our growth and investments from internally generated cash flow while reducing our bank debt by 80 percent.

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

Our mission is providing high-quality care that is both appropriate and cost-effective to patients with complex disease problems in alternate settings.

For the past three years, we have been focused on transforming our business relationships with health plans, hospitals and physician groups. We are rapidly moving away from transactional relationships where the services we provide are perceived as commodities and where competition is based on price, to partnerships where there is an opportunity to create significant value for our customers, resulting in benefits for both of our organizations.

Two specific examples illustrate this change in our strategic direction:

  • We reduced the cost of IVIG infusion therapy for a major health plan in California by over $4 million per year by medically managing their members to insure that they received appropriate and cost-effective care with excellent clinical outcomes and positive patient experiences.

  • We reduced the cost of unfunded care for a major health system by over $1.5 million per year by redirecting the delivery of care to more cost effective alternate site locations. The quality of care we provided resulted in no readmissions and high levels of patient satisfaction.

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

The services we provide improve the quality of life for people throughout California. Every year, the care we deliver saves or sustains the lives of over 30,000 people.

We have increased the number of people working for Crescent Healthcare from 436 in 2004 to 535 today. At the time we acquired the majority ownership position in the company, we made significant improvements in the health care and retirement benefits we provide to our employees.

Our family foundation contributes over $150,000 each year to organizations that address the health care and educational needs of children who have significant unmet needs.

How to reach: Crescent Healthcare Inc., (800) 722-8085 or www.crescenthealthcare.com

Published in Orange County

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

Published in Chicago

General Manager Jeff Brock and his team at The Loth Co. take a straightforward approach to innovation: How is technology being used? And based on what they’ve found, Loth invested in a resource center for its team and clients.

“Our resource center was an investment in our philosophy around innovation,” Brock says. “It is dedicated to providing knowledge, products and services centered around technology and its impact on space. There is not another company in the market that addresses these issues the way Loth does.”

Brock was named one of 2010 Smart Leader honorees by Smart Business and Blue Technologies. We asked him about how he faces — and overcomes — challenges, as well as how Loth 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.

Most recently would be our purchase of the Thomas W. Ruff Co. When merging two organizations, culture is always a challenge. We created a market survey that gave us a great deal of strategic knowledge around our past and, more importantly, our future. This information afforded us the opportunity to rethink our brand and create a new regional strategy. One culture, one brand — Loth.

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

We look at how company’s today are using technology and how their real estate supports or hinders its use in their organizations. How is technology helping your company grow? How does it have an impact on collaboration and distribution of information?

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

We believe strongly in giving back — whether the work we do civically or socially. We have been active supports with the Children’s Hunger Alliance, Nationwide’s Children’s Hospital, The American Heart Association, United Way, Camp Mary Orten, The Columbus Chamber, The Grandview Chamber. In addition, we are a small business that looks to continue to recruit and grow our associate base. We support intern programs locally through CCAD and The Ohio State University. The Loth Co. is over 100 years old and has been a fixture in both the Columbus and Cincinnati markets. Our commitment to this regional and city remain strong.

How to reach: The Loth Co., www.lothexperts.com.

Published in Columbus

The “survival of the fittest” concept really resonated with Anand Gala – and many of his peers – when the recession hit the food service industry, which operates with thin margins to begin with. Providing the best service, suddenly, was more important than ever.

The challenging times required keen leadership from not just the president and CEO, but everyone at Gala Corp. – a privately-owned hospitality and food service company with a portfolio including Applebee’s, Del Taco and Famous Dave’s BBQ.

So the company created Gala University, a leadership development program where management candidates learn skills like innovative problem-solving. Basically, Gala invests to keep employees at the top of their game so they’ll be prepared and empowered to keep the company at the top of its game.

Because of this entrepreneurial leadership, Smart Business, ThinkASG, IBM and Union Bank named Gala one of the 2011 Smart Leader honorees. He discussed how he survives tough times by focusing on human capital and giving back to the community.

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

The most recent example is the current economic recession that we are still dealing with. From a high point of 2007, we began feeling the hit – and this (food service/restaurant) is in an industry that has very thin margins to begin with. The impact of the recession was that it forced or accelerated changes that were necessary for survival.

The result of these changes – at the speed at which we made them – was that we were able to maintain 90 percent of our EBITDA from 2007 in 2009 and 2010. It forced us to become better operators, managers and leaders. It also prompted us to have a laser focus on our Human Capital – making sure that it was not just the top of the company that provided leadership but that each level, including the restaurant managers, were providing clear leadership and ensuring that we had the best people in place who were committed and passionate about service and hospitality. It was important that we were providing the training and development to keep everyone at the top of their game.

As a result of our efforts, we (have been) experiencing very strong growth in sales during these past nine months and are seeing better flow through to the bottom line.

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

I prefer “entrepreneurial leader,” as we are willing to try many different things, so long as we have thought them through and they make sense. I believe that if you can clearly define the problem and engage the leadership around you, each will come up with different solutions. Many times, a solution that comes from outside your industry or outside of the department that is struggling delivers the best results because you’re getting a fresh perspective. I have found that there are no limitations to how to solve a problem.

We recently created a leadership development program called Gala University, where we teach management candidates to seek alternative ways to think of solutions to problems. The focus on leadership development as a strategic advantage is how we are acting more entrepreneurial in our leadership, as this is not common in our industry.

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

I feel a great sense of commitment to this topic. We operate restaurants that are very much a part of our local communities and neighborhoods. As a matter of fact, Applebee’s is known as the “Neighborhood Grill and Bar,” and we try to bring this to life each and every single day. We do this through significant community outreach, whether it is supporting classroom and reading programs for our local schools or helping their various sports and activities groups raise funds for a trip or new uniforms.

We think that there is a great deal that we can do to thank our guests and neighbors – our community – for the patronage that they provide us. I am particularly proud of the most recent events that we did during Veteran’s Day, when we honored all active and retired military with a free meal and collected messages of thanks for those in uniform. With those messages we created a wall collage and now display it proudly for all to see each and every day.

Additionally, while our communities and many others are still struggling, we assisted the Toys for Tots program and became official collections centers for toy drops and helped provide a great holiday for so many children in our local communities.

And last, but not least, we helped raise thousands of dollars in donations – that we matched – for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation during the recent grand opening of our Famous Dave’s BBQ Restaurant located in Orange.

How to reach: Gala Corp., www.galacorp.com

Published in Orange County
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

Published in Orange County
Monday, 11 April 2011 16:29

Compassionate one

Since co-founding Autism Spectrum Therapies in 1997, Ronit Molko and her team have been singularly focused as compassionate advocates for individuals and their families navigating the challenges of autism.

The challenges for this population are numerous, and as co-CEO and chief development officer, Molko’s mission is to help individuals with autism achieve their full potential. Through her efforts, she’s actively changing the dialogue on autism by working with school districts to provide support and training to school personnel, partnering with local regional centers that provide in-home programs and working privately with families.

Molko recognizes that innovation is critical in this realm, and in every endeavor, she and her team look to develop programs and service offerings that stretch the boundaries into new territories and new thinking.

Because of this, Molko was named one of 2011 Smart Leader honorees by Smart Business, ThinkASG, IBM and Union Bank for her above-and-beyond work in the field. We asked her how she overcomes challenges, innovates and gives back.

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

The current financial situation in the state of California presents providers of autism therapy services with significant challenges as they receive funding through the state’s regional center system and the local school districts. We have not allowed this financial crisis to compromise the delivery of our clinical services to our clients.

The organization is responding to this challenge by structuring our clinical service model to provide the same high-quality interventions to our clients in accordance with the goals that we set for each individual. AST is also addressing the challenge by increasing our services to private insurance companies, military beneficiaries and other payors, and by adding new and innovative services.

You mention innovation. In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does AST employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

As a board-certified behavior analyst and licensed clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of children with autism, I am focused on the development of innovative programs and new service offerings for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities across the lifespan. We utilize the latest applied behavior analysis research and tools to develop treatment plans, which use the most effective and innovative strategies to promote child development and the acquisition of communication, social, play and self-help skills.

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

From its inception, Autism Spectrum Therapies has been a compassionate advocate for individuals and their families navigating the challenges of autism. Our mission is to help individuals with autism achieve their full potential. At AST, we have always believed that the best results are achieved with family-focused programs and hands-on parental involvement grounded in applied behavior analysis. Our autism therapy programs are based on scientifically proven methods designed to develop skills within developmentally appropriate play activities and natural family routines. As the child grows, our program expands to incorporate other play and social opportunities available at school and in the wider community.

As the rates of autism and the need for high-quality autism service have increased, we have responded by expanding our service area and service offerings to meet the needs of our clients. Today, we are one of the largest providers of autism therapy in California and employ 475 highly qualified and well-trained staff members.

How to reach: Autism Spectrum Therapies, www.autismtherapies.com.

Published in Orange County

Scott Bowling faced the greatest challenge of his career after the merger between Exceptional Children’s Foundation and the Kayne Eras Center in 2007 and 2008.

“In addition to combining systems, policies and procedures of two large nonprofits, a significant amount of planning, thought and effort needed to be invested to effectively integrate the two organizations’ cultures,” says Bowling, ECF’s president and CEO.

As a result, today ECF is the only organization of its kind that can provide support to a person challenged by developmental disabilities from birth through the senior years. From 16 sites in communities throughout Los Angeles County, ECF offers established programs in Early Start, Kayne Eras K-12 school, Fine Arts, Developmental Activity, Residential Living, Independent Living Skills, Work Training and Supported Employment, reaching nearly 2,300 children and adults with mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, acquired brain injuries and related conditions.

Because of his efforts, Bowling was named one of the 2010 Smart Leader honorees by Smart Business and Chase Bank. We asked about how he put together the two organizations and how ECF impacts the community.

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

One of the greatest challenges followed the merger, which was legally consummated on July 1, 2008. It was the critical first step of identifying the members of the Integration Task Force that paved the way for the successful integration.

With both organizations represented, the key target areas identified and plans to facilitate ‘oneness’ were developed and implemented. Among the myriad areas of focus were: board development and board participation policies, personnel policies and procedures, strategic planning, logo redesign, constructing a workable organizational structure, redesigning the ECF website and marketing materials, and numerous staff and community events to promote us ‘coming Together.’ It was a tremendous challenge, and one our team overcame, together.

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

The merger was motivated by ECF’s vision to expand its impact on the community, while creating a replicable service model. By combining the Kayne Eras Center, a multiservice nonpublic school and agency into ECF, we are able to respond to the needs of the community unlike any other nonprofit organization in the state.

Today, ECF is the only organization of its kind that can provide support to a person challenged by developmental disabilities from birth through the senior years by offering: Early Start, Early Head Start, K-12 education, therapeutic services, center-based and community employment services, developmental activities, fine arts training, and residential housing and support services.

With the provision of these comprehensive, lifespan services to over 2,200 individuals with special needs a year, ECF cultivates/develops a work force for businesses throughout Los Angeles County, helps students to overcome learning barriers and prepares them for advanced education and contributes toward a more productive society.

ECF also employs over 400 staff and shapes communities from 16 program locations. Furthermore, our advocacy efforts help to create more inclusive neighborhoods and foster greater awareness of the benefits offered by people with special needs.

How to reach: Exceptional Children’s Foundation, www.ecf.net.

The Smart Leaders Class of 2010

In November 2010, Smart Business and Chase Bank recognized 10 business leaders for their commitment to business excellence and the impact their organizations make on the regional community. Treated to a keynote address by MemorialCare CEO Barry Arbuckle, these 10 leaders comprise the honor roll:

  • Scott Bowling, CEO, Exceptional Children First
  • James Chu, CEO, ViewSonic
  • Adam Coffey, CEO, Web Laundry
  • Renee White Fraser, president and CEO, Fraser Communications
  • Bryan Green, founder and CEO, Advantage Fitness Products
  • Lawrence Jackson, president and CEO, Long Beach Transit
  • Greg Jenkins, partner and co-founder, Bravo Productions
  • General Robert Nolan, commander, Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base
  • Neal Schore, president and CEO, Triton Media Group
  • Nien-Ling Wacker, chairman and CEO, Laserfiche

Published in Los Angeles
Tuesday, 30 November 2010 08:16

Commanding presence

As Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Brig. General Robert C. Nolan II commands 16,000 men and women who develop, test, and evaluate manned and unmanned aircraft systems in both experimental and proven aerospace vehicles.

That’s no small job, especially when you consider that Gen. Nolan’s work supports the conduct of test and evaluation programs for the Department of Defense, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps.

Gen. Nolan assumed command of AFFTC on October 5, 2010, coming to Edwards from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., where he served as director of Standing Joint Force Headquarters, U.S. Northern Command.

Among the more innovative initiatives he’s overseeing – efforts to bring new technology to the forefront to help the nation meet its many challenges overseas including hydrogen powered unmanned aerial vehicle that can loiter over a location for a week at a time.

Gen. Nolan was named one of the 2010 Smart Leader honorees by Smart Business and Chase Bank. We asked about how he overcomes obstacles and approaches innovation.

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

The last organization I commanded was called on to support the earthquake relief effort in Haiti. We were asked to fill a gap in staffing capability in a regional combatant command. We were trained and ready to respond within hours but were used in a manner that we did not foresee. We used high-end communications equipment and social media technology to create a virtual office and meeting place to gather specifics on the disaster, exchange real time information and target relief supplies.

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

Innovation is simply trusting and enabling people in your organization. Innovation comes from fostering an environment of trust and allowing people to take risk without penalty. We are currently supporting several innovative efforts to bring new technology to the forefront to help the nation meet its many challenges overseas, including hydrogen-powered, unmanned aerial vehicle that can loiter over a location for a week at a time.

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

I am currently the commander of an organization that employs or supports the employment of 16,000. Many of these people serve in high-end engineering and science jobs working on cutting edge technology for the Department of Defense.

How to reach: Edwards Air Force Base, http://www.edwards.af.mil/

The Smart Leaders Class of 2010

In November 2010, Smart Business and Chase Bank recognized 10 business leaders for their commitment to business excellence and the impact their organizations make on the regional community. Treated to a keynote address by MemorialCare Health System CEO Dr. Barry Arbuckle, these 10 leaders composed the honor roll:

Scott Bowling

Nien-Ling Wacker

General Robert Nolan

Renee Fraser White

Lawrence Jackson

James Chu

Adam Coffey

Bryan Green

Greg Jenkins

Neal Schore

Published in Los Angeles
Tuesday, 30 November 2010 06:37

Turning aspiration into action

In 2008, Joel Fruendt knew things had to change. Clarke, a global environmental products and services company where Fruendt served as general manager, made it a strong priority to build sustainability into the business in such a way that positively impacted the business.

“We were determined to change an industry that hadn’t changed in 50 years,” Fruendt says. “With the implementation of this major initiative, we integrated sustainable, fiscally sound practices in all areas of our business.

Because of this, Fruendt was named one of 2010 Smart Leader honorees by Smart Business and U.S. Bank. We asked him about the dramatic shift, what innovation means to him and the importance of giving 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.

The sustainability initiative was a major paradigm shift. My role was to ensure that this philosophy was integrated into everything we do, every situation we face. Together as a company, we identified the three passions that drive our business: innovation, sustainability and community.

From the launch of Natular, the first reduced risk product for mosquito control, to converting our corporate fleet to hybrid vehicles, Clarke has put aspiration into action. Through changes to energy use and system-wide green policies, we have set forth clear goals to reduce waste, tap renewable energy resources, drive sales of NextGen sustainable products as identified in our Clarke Eco-Tier™ Index  and reduce our carbon footprint. Introductory projects aimed at replacing paper-heavy processes not only significantly increased productivity and improved efficiencies, but generated a savings of nearly $100,000 in the first year.

A top-down and bottom-up initiative, Clarke has committed significant resources and staff hours to ensuring that sustainability is part of the Clarke corporate culture. A sustainability committee that includes front line staff and top management alike establishes clear expectations and accountability – including an annual report of progress – to ensure that all Clarke employees are empowered to “Be the Change.”

This radical departure from the status quo in public health programs has inspired significant changes for the company, its employees and the industry at large.    

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

In 2002, Clarke set out to build a new, green larvicide from the ground up. After six years and over 35,000 hours of development and regulatory review, Natular became the first larvicide to have five formulations OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) Listed, enabling them to be used in and around organic agriculture. In 2010, we received the highest honor of our industry – the 2010 U.S. EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. This award recognizes outstanding chemical technologies that incorporate the principles of green chemistry into chemical design, manufacture and use. Natular is the fifth pesticide ever to be awarded this recognition and the first public health product.

Over the years, we have challenged ourselves to pursue new innovations and technologies. But with the development of Natular we set a goal higher than any we’ve ever tackled. By doing so, we’ve proven that we can create solutions that are not only scientifically and economically sound, but also help safeguard people and our environment. This award is a wonderful recognition for the development of a “Next Gen” chemistry for mosquito control that reduces the pesticide load two to 10 times lower than traditional synthetic chemistries and reduces toxicity as much as 15 times less than a commonly used organophosphate alternative. The projected adoption of Natular by local, national and international agencies will result in less pesticide load in the environment, cost and time savings in applications, and overall improvements to public health.

While product innovation is key to future success, my additional charge was to use innovation to reduce costs in sustainable ways. Our service operation, which serves municipalities and communities around the country, is primarily conducted from vehicles. Historically, pickup trucks mounted with gas-powered sprayers would perform adult applications, trucks would drive and idle through neighborhoods to treat storm drains with larvicide, and gasoline-powered backpack applicators would treat hard-to-reach areas.  Recognizing the overwhelming contribution of transport fuel to Clarke’s overall emissions, in 2009 Clarke began an overhaul of its fleet, replacing traditional vehicles with more efficient vehicles and electric hybrids, replacing gas-powered spray equipment with electric spray systems, and using electric-powered ATVs for off-road application.

Efforts to replace paper processes in Clarke’s service operations resulted in transportation related efficiencies and successes as well. Clarke replaced paper with an integrated software package (developed by Clarke’s IT and service operations staff) loaded onto hand-held devices that utilize GPS navigation and routing, mapping, intelligent scheduling, real-time tracking of crews, and up-to-the-minute reporting.

The project significantly increased productivity and efficiencies, and had a real financial impact as well. In 2009, Clarke reduced the miles driven by field operators by 36 percent, generating a significant savings for this service alone.

Development and implementation of custom sustainable technologies, including point-to-point navigation, has allowed Clarke to reduce its fleet size by 30 percent in one season.

Overall, fleet measures implemented in 2009 resulted in a 16 percent reduction of CO2 emissions from transport fuel, a significant contribution to Clarke’s goal of a 25 percent reduction of total carbon emissions by 2014.

In addition, we cut our wheels from four to two with bicycle applications for storm drain larviciding. Instead of spending hours in a truck, idling as they dropped mosquito larvicide into standing water drains, Clarke employees are now trained to do applications from bicycles – promoting good health as well as good stewardship, all while reducing emissions. In 2009, 33 percent of all street basin applications were performed by Clarke’s bike crew. In 2010, that number approaches 70 percent.

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

Clarke’s public health initiatives are responsible for preserving the health and quality of life for millions of people around the world. Our mission is to make communities more livable, safe and comfortable and we work with community leaders to ensure that our role is not one of supplier, but as partner with a vested interest with the success of those communities.

As such, Clarke employees give back in these communities, with employee-led sustainability service projects including seed harvesting in Illinois prairies and community service days, providing volunteer labor at local food pantries and women’s shelters.

In 2009, Clarke provided 715 hours of volunteer service and committed additional resources and implemented policies to encourage 100 percent employee participation toward a goal of 2,080 employee volunteer service hours annually by 2014.  In 2009 we established the Clarke Cares Foundation, designed to provide relief from mosquito-borne disease in communities of need around the world. Through a partnership with The Carter Center, The Clarke Cares Foundation has raised funds to send 38,000 DuraNet, mosquito bednets to Kanke, Nigeria – enough for every man, woman and child to sleep safely underneath a bednet, preventing the spread of malaria and lymphatic filariasis.

With social responsibility as part of our corporate vision, we are committed to making an extra effort to help people within the communities we serve.

How to reach: Clarke Mosquito Control, http://www.clarke.com/

In October 2010, Smart Business and U.S. Bank recognized nine business leaders for their commitment to business excellence and the impact their organizations make on the regional community. Treated to a keynote address by Middleby Corp. Chairman and CEO Selim Bassoul, these nine leaders composed the honor roll:

Nancy Ruscheinski

Bill Skeens

Dave Brittsan

Amanda Lannert

Scott Morey

Joel Fruendt

Jason Beans

Jim Signorelli

Larry Neibauer

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