As the owner of a commercial grounds management company, I know a lot about sustainable practices in landscaping and snow removal. Propane-powered mowers, bio-nutritional fertilizers and green waste recycling are some of the ways we’re helping protect the planet and create healthier places to live, work and shop for our clients.
But for business owners, sustainability is about much more than being environmentally conscious. Whatever your industry, you need to build a sustainable business that’s healthy and profitable. And just like in landscaping, that sometimes requires pruning.
It may seem counterintuitive to cut something back to help it grow, but as experienced gardeners know, strategic pruning is essential for healthy growth. A plant wastes a lot of fuel and energy trying to feed an old limb versus a new limb. To rejuvenate the plant, you cut it back. Removing the old wood, allowing the new wood to regenerate and grow.
For business owners, strategic pruning can mean the difference between surviving and thriving. Your products and services have to create value for your customers. If you don’t step back and take a good look at your business to be sure the marketplace values what you sell, you’re destined to fail.
Two years ago, we decided to assess the health of our business. Juggling too many balls was reducing our profits. We said, “Here’s the piece of the business that makes the most sense. Here’s where we can provide value, support our families and the community, create profit and build our enterprise.” So we started trimming and even cut off a few limbs.
Today, we’re a dramatically different company. By becoming 100 percent committed to commercial work, we’ve focused our staff and our operations on serving the customers who place the highest value on what we do. Profits have more than tripled over the last two years.
Change isn’t easy. It can even be painful. You may have to learn new ways of doing business. But if you don’t, your business will not remain sustainable.
How do you know when you need to make changes to improve the health of your enterprise? If you’re not being innovative and strategic in your business, if you’re no longer focusing on what your customers value most about working with you, or if you’re crossing your fingers and hoping things will get better, it’s time.
Building a sustainable business is not just about creating a better environment. It’s about making sure your business is going to last. Here are some tips for building a sustainable business:
Get help from experts: Look to trusted business advisers and peers for help in evaluating the value stream of your business and how to improve it. Working with a professional peer association like Vistage also can help you learn from the successes and failures of other business leaders and find the courage to make hard choices.
Reward innovative thinking: Solicit ideas from employees on how to deliver greater value to your customers. Create a culture of innovation to keep your business ahead of the curve.
Evaluate carefully: Unhealthy parts of your business can sometimes be fixed if you deploy different methods or retrain your staff. Explore all your options before making big changes.
Act strategically: Set clear goals for where you want your business to be in five or 10 years. Let your vision guide your decisions.
Monitor continuously: A sustainable business requires constant monitoring and unwavering focus. ●
Jerry Schill is president of Schill Grounds Management, a commercial landscaping and snow removal company serving many of the most prominent retail, commercial, industrial, apartment and condominium properties in Northern Ohio. For more information, visit www.schilllandscaping.com.
Today’s donors and volunteers are seeking new ways to contribute their time, talent and treasure, forcing the nonprofit industry to find innovative strategies to keep them engaged. Audience segmentation based on a donor or volunteers specific interests engages them by affirming their contribution directly impacts the causes they passionately support.
This is an issue I think about often as United Way struggles to hold onto its donors. In the last 20 years, the number of United Way donors has significantly decreased. Today we stand at only 80,000 donors in a community of more than 1.2 million people. It begs the question — how can United Way and other community nonprofits morph from our grandfather’s charity into something new, fresh and exciting?
Millennials and philanthropy
Baby boomers make up the largest share of donations to charities. Research suggests boomers determined their charities of choice in early adulthood. Following the trend of the preceding generation, millennials are currently making similar decisions about which causes they will continually support in their lifetime.
Millennials thrive on instant gratification, which impacts their approach to philanthropy. Millennials want to take action — they want to see their donations and their volunteer time impact the community immediately. This group gets involved with philanthropy because they want to personally identify with a cause.
Most millennials don’t give at the same level as their more established counterparts, but their ability to advocate is priceless. Millennials are more influenced by their peers than any of the earlier generations. They can and want to use their voice and other platforms like blogs and social media to create awareness about an organization’s cause.
Nonprofit organizations are starting to focus their research and strategies around millennials because they realize this generation is driving true community impact. To tap into this audience, nonprofits should create opportunities for millennials to give, advocate and volunteer to something specific such as kids succeeding in school or job training to reduce poverty.
Corporate social responsibility
We can also reach a new audience of donors within our corporate community. Like millennials who want to be more engaged, many corporations want a similar hands-on approach to philanthropy. Businesses are seeking opportunities to create a new kind of impact in their ever-changing communities. This is an opportunity for nonprofits and corporations to leverage their partnerships.
More corporations are aligning their philanthropic giving directly to their values whether it’s youth development or green initiatives. And business leaders also strategize their philanthropic giving around issues most important to their employees and their brand.
For example, housing services partner with banks to provide financial counseling and foreclosure prevention services in the community. And there are companies committed to education where employees serve as mentors to guide area students through academic challenges.
Millennials and corporations are becoming more strategic about their philanthropy. It’s vital for nonprofits to find ways to remain relevant in this new environment. Nonprofits need to be specific; it’s no longer enough to ask a donor to give to “help people in need.” Now, it’s a matter of focusing to improve graduation rates or ensuring kids read at grade level.
Let’s take advantage of opportunities to engage donors and volunteers by creating targeted, personal and localized giving opportunities, volunteer projects and chances for our audiences to use their voice to support our causes. ●
Bill Kitson, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland, is committed to advancing education, income and health by engaging community members to give, advocate and volunteer. He can be reached at (216) 436-2101 or email@example.com. For more information, visit www.unitedwaycleveland.org.
Customers can make or break a business, no matter what stage or industry. One of the main downfalls of an unsuccessful business is not having the customer in mind when developing new products. Whether it’s focus groups, market research via landing pages or customer surveys — the list of ways to examine a customer/market fit is endless and can often be costly.
So how do you successfully stretch a dollar to develop that next “it” product? The answer is simple — focus on listening to your customer.
At LaunchHouse, we see it, preach it and utilize it time and time again when working with early-stage startups. The Lean Startup Customer Development process, popularized by Eric Ries and Steve Blank, is a way to make sense of relationships between customers and products, and the best part is that it can be applied to businesses at any level or industry. One of the key takeaways of this process is how to apply these principles to get, keep and grow your customer base.
Here’s an example of a big corporation not utilizing customer development when designing a new product.
Do you remember when BlackBerry launched the BlackBerry PlayBook? Only after launching the product did BlackBerry receive the negative reviews causing the company to dramatically cut prices. Needless to say BlackBerry lost its potential customers to the competition.
Start on day one
So, what steps can a business take in order to ensure successful product launch the first time around?
1. Get up, move around and leave your building. Not everything can be learned behind the comfort of a desk. Loyal customers are not created in a controlled office environment. They’re everywhere — malls, schools, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. Take an afternoon to hit the streets. Make contact with potential customers and conduct field interviews.
2. Communicate with your customers. Customer validation is key for every business. Focus on customer development and conduct interviews, building an understanding of customer’s needs. Utilize the feedback and established needs, build the minimally viable product, iterate. Do this until the product is complete and ready for launch.
3. Your customers are dynamic; their needs will change as well as the product trends and buying actions. Don’t communicate with customers only during customer interviews or only when launching new products. Implement a continual customer development method that works in harmony with your business to track changing trends.
4. Get to know your market. Whether it is a new market, a new segment or an existing market with a long line of supplementary products, build a knowledgeable team who is prepared to take on the competition.
5. Organize it. Implement it. Share the overall goal of generating customer satisfaction. Information collected during customer interviews, focus groups, surveys and other methods must be tracked, organized, focused and applicable for departments at any given time.
Now take charge! Next week commit yourself to talk with 10 new customers. Ask yourself: What methods are you using to ensure customer growth and retention? What have you done in the past? What was the result? What new strategies can be implemented in the future?
Try out these tried and true methods and by the time you’re ready to launch a new product, there will already be customers eager to purchase the product. ●
Todd Goldstein is the CEO and managing partner at LaunchHouse, a business accelerator and co-working community that fosters entrepreneurial success and job creation through seed capital, education and innovation. Since 2008, Goldstein has invested in a diverse portfolio of 51 startup companies, which have raised more than $10 million in funding. For more information, visit www.launchhouse.com.
When I was asked to deliver a college commencement speech, a friend of mine suggested I reflect on my 35 years of business experience and talk about the 10 lessons I would like to share with graduates about business and life. Here they are.
No. 1: There is nothing more important in life than relationships. Relationships could be with family, friends, faith or community. On their deathbed, the thing that people reflect on is relationships. If it’s that important at the end of life, it should be at the top all your life.
This brings me to the law of reciprocity: You can get anything you want if you help other people get what they want.
No. 2: It’s always important to add value. So no matter what you’re doing, ask yourself, “Am I making a difference? Am I making a contribution? Am I going above and beyond?” Manage expectations, so you don’t overpromise and then under deliver.
No. 3: Solving problems. I don’t have to have all the answers. Nobody said you possibly could. So it’s a matter of who.
Once, my son asked, “What is the difference between going to school and being in the business world?” I said, “Well, in school, you have to be good at what you do. And in business, you have to know who is good at what they do.”
No. 4: About 80 percent of success is choosing the right people. To be world-class, you have to have the right people in the right place. You have to engage your constituents, your customers and your co-workers.
If you can get people emotionally involved and engage them, you can move mountains. The point is — nothing really starts until somebody is enthusiastic.
No. 5: We are not all called to do extraordinary things, but everybody has to do ordinary things extraordinarily. I think many times people say, “When I get to be very successful, I can do this or this.” I think many times we miss many opportunities every day.
No. 6: Management consultant Peter Drucker once wrote, “Wherever you find something getting done, you find a monomaniac with a mission.” At some point, you have to be so single-focused and have such drive, work ethic, energy and will to spend the amount of time it takes to be the best at what you do — and simultaneously balance your life to be a peak performer.
No. 7: If you don’t know where you are going and what you’re doing, how am I going to follow you? It’s important to look at your goals and write them down. Once you know the goal, and determine what the action plans are, people will follow you.
No. 8: Life is constantly learning how to learn and continuing to learn as much as you can in the areas that you are interested in or need to know. Learning is a lifelong experience.
No. 9: Even though there are many lessons in each of these, the Pareto Principle (80 percent of your sales comes from 20 percent of your clients) works with just about everything — it’s a small percentage of things that we need to focus on that is going to make the difference.
No. 10: At the end of the day, the lesson is not about a comparison. It’s about a contribution. Have you gone from “success to significance?” Have you made an impact? Have you made a difference? ●
Umberto P. Fedeli is president and CEO of The Fedeli Group. For more information, visit www.thefedeligroup.com.
Supplier diversity is a proactive business process that seeks to provide historically disadvantaged suppliers equal access to purchasing opportunities. It promotes supplier participation reflective of a company’s diverse customer base and the diverse business community.
The business case for a company to have a quality supplier diversity program includes the following:
■ Any company that expects to do business in this millennium has to understand the demographics of its customer base.
■ The minority population is the fastest growing segment in the U.S. — projected to be 50 percent as early as 2020.
■ Minorities and female consumers are also the fastest growing segment in the U.S. marketplace and they are loyal customers.
■ Minority and Women Business Enterprises represent a significant and growing proportion of the economic pie.
■ Companies that embrace diversity and establish early successes in this area will have a competitive advantage in the future marketplace.
For the last 12 years, the Consortium of African American Organizations has been involved in many supplier diversity efforts. CAAO has seen what works well.
Building your program
Here are five things a company should have in place to build a successful supplier diversity program:
1. Corporate commitment — The only way any supplier diversity program is going to succeed for the long term is to have a written commitment from the CEO all the way to those in the purchasing department. A company diversity policy should be put into place that reflects the commitment to the corporation to work on having a qualified diverse supplier base.
2. Analyzing the current situation and setting goals for improvement — Before a company implements its supplier diversity plan, it should analyze where the company stands in doing business with MWBEs locally and nationally. A set of reachable goals should be established that allows the company visible and increased improvements in its MWBEs spend. The company should communicate its supplier diversity goals both internally and externally.
3. Involvement of community based organizations — Each community has organizations that work closely with MWBEs. This includes organizations that provide training, networking opportunities and financial education/assistance.
In Northeast Ohio, groups like CAAO, the Urban League of Greater Cleveland, the Minority Business Development Agency, the National Association of Women Business Owners, the NAACP and the Hispanic Business Association are examples of some of the organizations that help corporations connect with qualified MWBE vendors.
4. Creating mentor/mentee training programs — Many successful supplier diversity programs have developed mentor programs for both qualified MWBEs and those who are one or two steps away from qualifying. These programs can be designed to help the MWBE with coaching, guidance and training to better position the MWBEs for new business opportunities and overall growth.
5. Monitoring progress — This is an important part in any supplier diversity program that is trying to set goals. A designated individual should report on a regular basis the actual usage of on-site diverse workers on major projects, as well as the different departments (not just construction) reporting on a variety of contracts being sent to and won by diverse vendors. ●
William Holdipp Jr. is the assistant executive director of the Consortium of African American Organizations. For more information, visit www.caao.net.
Few Americans really understand capitalism. They think mostly about getting a job someday and think capitalists are the rich guys who live in New York City. When I was growing up, my teachers would ask me what I aspired to be — perhaps a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher — but never once did they tell me I could own a piece of the rock and become a capitalist.
My teachers never spoke to me about owning or starting a business. I knew absolutely nothing about how to start or run a business. It was always, “Who are you going to work for?” or “What do you want to be?” It was never, “Do you know how to start or run a business with only a little money?” My school never brought any guest speakers into my classroom to teach me about business.
Focus on your approach
The closest I ever came to running a business was my childhood lemonade stand at my Aunt Eva Jane’s house, where I spent my summers as a youth.
Even after I graduated from Harvard Business School, where I learned the principles of running a business, I still focused on employment in my early years. I had little money and never realized I could own something. After I had worked for 10 years and made money for others but little for myself, I began to question what I was doing. Then I began to learn about leveraged buyouts and sale-leasebacks, and how I could use a bank’s money to purchase a company with very little equity.
This thinking led me to purchase a small company called Invacare Corporation with $19 million in sales for $7.8 million with only $10,000 of my own money — I was 39. Today the company has grown to $1.5 billion in annual sales. Some 100 deals later, here I am at 73 still looking for my next deal. Once I learned my first lesson of capitalism with Invacare, I repeated it many times over.
Own your piece of the pie
The lesson I learned, which I wish had occurred earlier in my life, is to own something as soon as you can — no matter how small. Become a capitalist! There are very few people who can accumulate wealth based on salaries. Learn your skills while on someone else’s payroll and then when you have your own company, you will have the positive outcomes that only your ownership can bring.
The lack of learning about entrepreneurship really needs to change in America; we have to change the mindset among those teaching our youngsters.
Believe in capitalism
Capitalism is the freedom to create something new and reach one’s self-realization.
I believe in this so strongly that I work every year with Richard Osborne, a professor at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management, in a course he teaches on entrepreneurship.
I am one of the subjects for his class to do an in-depth study of my life experiences and professional career.
Some of those who have been invited to participate in the class include entrepreneur Dan T. Moore III and former Cleveland Clinic CEO Floyd “Fred” D. Loop.
Each student is expected to write a 3,000-word article that captures what he or she has learned about entrepreneurship. This assignment accounts for a big portion of their grade — so they are highly motivated to do a good job.
Mal Mixon is the chairman of Invacare Corporation. A complete story of his rise from rags to riches is told in his book “An American Journey,” published by Smart Business Books. It can be found at www.anamericanjourneybook.com and on Amazon.com. To contact Mixon, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.invacare.com.
I recently visited with an entrepreneur whose journey over the past nine years included excitement, challenge, transformation and growth. Brand Castle founder Jimmy Zeilinger and I first crossed paths in 2005 when he and his wife, Andrea, were honored by Smart Business as one of that year’s “Rising Stars.”
At the time, Brand Castle was a scrappy startup with a few cooking products — some under the Crafty Cooking Kits name; others licensed under the Crayola name. The company was born from the Zeilingers’ passions of cooking and doing crafts with their children.
Today, Brand Castle looks much different. It employs a few dozen people (more than 50 in the busy season); does business internationally; holds expanded licensing agreements with well-known brands like Disney and Hello Kitty; engages in private label creations for top retail and grocery chains; and sells more than 500 active SKUs. For the Zeilingers, it has been an amazing journey that Jimmy says is still in the early stages.
All of us have our journeys, whether they are in life or in business. Each journey has its own purpose and length of time. Some take days; others weeks, months or even years. And what better time than a new year to pause and reflect on our journeys — those completed, those still in progress and even those that are just beginning.
Ken Lanci is another entrepreneur whose journey I watched this past year. Lanci has been on a journey of faith since 2007, the year he nearly died.
His journey involved re-evaluating his purpose in life. He re-devoted himself to his family and friends. He invested more of his personal time and money toward giving back to the community. He even ran for public office. And Lanci took the time to chronicle his journey in a book, “Working For The Greater Good of All … Really!!”
Next month, one of my personal and professional journeys reaches a milepost as my fourth book, “The Unexpected: How to Build Market Share and Earn Loyal Customers for Life,” is published by Smart Business Books.
Looking at lessons
What makes this journey so special is that the Smart Business brand will grace the book’s spine. Taking the time to reflect on this journey reminded me of a few important lessons:
1. Going to market is not a journey’s end. Unlike my first experience writing a book, I now recognize that publication is not the end. Instead, going to market — whether it’s a book or your company’s new product or service — is just the culmination of the first or second leg of a much longer journey. Too many of us forget that once the product or service hits the market, the real work actually begins.
2. You must embark on a journey for the right reasons. Many people fail to establish a concrete goal when they begin a journey. If you don’t have a plan in place, you’ll likely end up running in circles with little to show for your efforts.
3. Few things beat compelling storytelling. People love stories. They are what connect us. One of the greatest lessons we learned while researching “The Unexpected” was that strong storytelling can help enhance — or damage — an organization’s brand.
4. Entrepreneurship is the bread-and-butter of innovation. Speaking with more than 100 entrepreneurs during my journey reinforced a long-held belief that entrepreneurs are among the most innovative and energetic people on the planet. They are constantly on a journey. Never, ever, doubt an entrepreneur’s ability to achieve his or her goals.
I said it before and I’ll say it again: We all have our journeys. What is yours?
Dustin S. Klein is publisher and vice president of operations for Smart Business. Reach him at email@example.com or (440) 250-7026.
Many people ask me how the new generation of leadership can honor the family legacy and tradition while still putting its own “stamp” on the company culture. This can be particularly difficult today when we have so many generations working in the same place. However, history and tradition form a strong foundation for the company culture and provide stability and help to build loyalty.
Below are some techniques that I often share with clients that have a desire to preserve and honor the best of the past while evolving the company culture to support the generations of the future.
Interview the elders
First, if you are in the new generation of leadership, you might consider interviewing members of your founding generation. Consider asking them about the values that were most important to them as they grew their business.
If your founding leaders are no longer alive or able, you could consider interviewing the oldest employees, or thinking back to some of your earliest memories of your parents, grandparents and others who worked in the company.
The next step is to answer those same questions yourself. In particular, how would you like to be similar to or different from the leaders of the past? Compare and contrast the values that you hold most dear, and the attributes of the people that you like to be surrounded with and consider as leaders.
Take the time to write it down. Think about ways to distinctly describe the traditional culture that was developed by your forebears. Once you’ve decided which aspects of that culture you wish to preserve and what you would like to change, rewrite a description of your company culture and values.
Hold an encounter
Several years ago I was working with a large family business. During our first family governance meeting, I divided the room in half, with parents and grandparents on one side of the room, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the other side. I gave each side a large piece of paper and asked them to write down the most appreciated values and characteristics that the other team brought to the company.
I asked the older generation to report first, and it was magical to watch the faces of the younger generation as they heard their parents and grandparents describe the value of their energy, fresh ideas, connectivity and sense of wonder.
The most touching moment, however, came as the children rolled out an exhaustive list of attributes they valued in their parents and grandparents. It was a wonderful way to develop a foundation for their family governance.
Expand the presence of the culture
Another important step in both honoring tradition and developing one’s own company culture is to utilize the cultural description of the company in policies, procedures, plans and professional development materials. Some questions to ask:
- How does your strategic plan reflect and support your company culture?
- What behaviors do you recognize, reinforce and reward in your organization? Do they support your company culture, or do they work to undermine that culture?
- Are you able to translate the language in your company culture and values into specific behaviors that you would like to see demonstrated by employees?
- What are five things that you as a leader do daily to support and nurture your company culture and the values you hold dearly?
Our country’s small businesses have a unique capacity to provide this legacy, honoring the best of the past and valuing new opportunities for the future.
Lisë Stewart founded Galliard Group in 2004 to serve the unique needs of family-owned and closely-held businesses. For more information, visit www.galliardinc.com.
I first visited Ohio City in the early ’80s with my parents and six siblings to shop at the West Side Market, and I remember my immigrant mother and first-generation father sharing their love of the old-world vibrancy of the market. I also remember how dilapidated the surrounding neighborhood was — but how it had a soul and energy that the insipid suburbs lacked.
Fast forward to the early ’90s. I was studying urban planning at Cleveland State University’s Urban Studies College, and I had a number of opportunities to study aboard. There was a trip to my family’s farm in Ireland and later a summer in Poland, along with more than a dozen backpacking trips to Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East and all across North America. I’d become fascinated with cities and the way the best of them can make the lives of their citizens robust and happy.
These travels inspired new ideas to bring back home and have also made me love Cleveland all the more. It seems that the people who complain about Cleveland are the ones who don’t have a passport.
The rebirth begins
I opened my first restaurant on a whim during my junior year at CSU. After an eight-year run, CSU refused to renew the lease and I was on the hunt for a new location. After considering cities across the country and overseas, I realized how lucky we were to live in Cleveland at that moment in time. The opportunity present in this “post-industrial frontier” was astounding, and there was no better example than Ohio City. Wanting to control our real estate, my business partners and I were able to purchase the real estate for our first Ohio City venture — McNulty’s Bier Markt, Bar Cento and Speakeasy — for $400,000.
That’s less than my Manhattan friends were paying for a closet-sized condo. The year was 2003, and people all over thought we were crazy to invest in blighted Ohio City. They thought we were completely insane when we bought the building across the street that was condemned and vacant to open Market Garden Brewery.
Then something happened: We were joined by many other like-minded entrepreneurs who opened fantastic owner-operated businesses like Crop Bistro, Soho Kitchen, Bonbon Pastry, Joy Machines Bike Shop, Johnnyville Slugger Custom Baseball Bats, Vision Yoga and many more.
The skeptics went quiet when they saw that the rising tide actually was lifting all ships. The urban pioneering Conway brothers of Great Lakes Brewing Co. saw record sales at their 25-year-old brewpub. The 101-year-old West Side Market hasn’t been this busy in decades. And now our biggest challenge in Ohio City is finding parking for the thousands of cars that visit each week.
But something else happened too. All of a sudden, everyone wanted in on Ohio City. The rent on my one bedroom apartment above Third Federal Savings & Loan went up to $1,075 per month and a years-long waiting list formed for housing in the neighborhood.
As of this writing, there was only one available storefront north of Lorain Avenue and nearly 500 residential units are under construction or shovel-ready within a 10-minute bike ride. I just bought a scruffy piece of land a three-minute walk away and will build seven fee-simple townhomes where my mortgage will be less than my current rent. Naysayers will cry “gentrification,” progressive thinkers will see that progress and revitalization is happening at a pace and scale rarely seen.
Recognizing the need to diversify Ohio City’s retail so it’s not simply a restaurant/bar/brewpub district, we are actively promoting and collaborating with other forms of retail. And we’re putting our money where our mouths are by purchasing the Culinary Arts Building on West 24th Street and working to convert it to a 43,000-square-foot fermentation facility with a retail store open six days a week selling our house-made beer, whiskey, cheese, charcuterie, kombucha, vinegar, pickles and so on. We’ll also offer tours, classes, cooking demonstrations and culinary training programs on site.
Get back on your feet
So what does the future hold for Ohio City?
Now that the commercial corridor is vibrant and largely full, the big push is on housing. As the oldest residential neighborhood in Cleveland, we’ve got an amazing stock of beautiful historic homes. While most have been painstakingly restored, there are still historic restoration opportunities. New construction — both for sale and for rent — is where we can bring in the thousands of housing units that are in demand. I’m in the process of buying buildable land within a 15-minute bike ride of the West Side Market to meet the huge demand for housing close to the energy of West 25th Street.
There is much concern voiced about the high demand for parking in Ohio City. While it’s a great problem to have, it also performs double duty as a motivation to build out our neighborhood densely and vertically, with a strong bent toward public transport, protected bike lanes and walkable areas. When I move into the new townhomes in Duck Island (just next to the Velvet Tango Room), my walk to work will go from crossing the street to a whopping three minutes. And what was once a blighted piece of derelict land at the corner of Abbey Road and Columbus Avenue will soon be home to seven townhomes.
Sometimes people cringe when they hear words like density, walkability and bike lanes. Funny how they love these things in cities like Paris that were designed before the automobile became the exclusive focus of city planners. It’s ironic when the same people that are skeptical of bicycle commuting in the winter would think nothing of skiing at sub-zero temperatures and enjoying a beer après-skiing ankle deep in snow. Maybe it’s time we start living the lifestyle we so admire when we holiday overseas. Or more likely, it’s getting back to Cleveland’s roots.
Ohio City was once a dense, vibrant, walkable neighborhood with department stores, hardware shops, dentists, doctors, taverns and breweries galore. I hope it will be once again. We certainly are well on our way ... and the best is yet to come! ●
Sam McNulty is an entrepreneur and owner of Market Garden Brewery & Distillery, Nano Brew, Bar Cento, Speakeasy and McNulty’s Bier Markt in Ohio City. For more information, visit www.marketgardenbrewery.com.
Capital markets often treat smaller companies like Randy Newman’s song “Short People” suggests: “They got no reason to live.” Access to capital is often the difference between success and failure in business, and that access can be particularly challenging, even for smaller companies.
Bank loans are not always possible or favorable, and they can come with onerous requirements. Short of a bake sale, many leaders are left wondering how to find the funds needed to drive innovation, build market share and overtake competitors. Increasingly, leaders of these businesses turn to private equity.
For years, PE was misunderstood as a realm of multibillion-dollar deals. That’s true of the banner headlines, but most PE transactions involve smaller companies. PE can work for both owners who wish to cash out of the business they’ve built, and those who seek a partner with whom they can expand their business.
Why choose PE?
PE delivers results. A good PEfirm provides a lot more than money, creating opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable. A PE firm makes companies bigger and better while providing opportunities for wealth creation for everyone involved. A great PE partner will offer the following:
- Focus on growth.
- Move smartly through the due diligence and acquisition process in ways that minimize disruption and uncertainty while providing liquidity quickly.
- Pay a full and fair price.
- Be flexible.
How PE works
PE firms generally invest majority stakes in companies, but minority deals are not uncommon.
Some PE firms focus on turnarounds, but most invest in successful companies, then help them move to the next level.
What does PE deliver?
Financial support is the clearest benefit, but global, experienced firms deliver major resources and talent that smaller firms cannot otherwise access.
Boots on the ground and deep expertise are powerful tools for supercharging growth.
Aligning interests for the best outcomes
Great PE investments always involve properly motivating every stakeholder for the success of the deal. That’s why Riverside is delighted when the original owner retains a stake in the company, allowing the owner to receive what we call the “second bite of the apple” when our stake in the investment is ultimately sold.
Anatomy of a great deal
When the owner of Wildlife International approached us with an offer to sell in 2010, we were excited about the possibilities for this wonderful environmental testing company. Wildlife was an outstanding company, but the leaders were great scientists and by their own admission not great businessmen.
Riverside identified growth and efficiency opportunities, and then worked with management to fully realize Wildlife’s potential. In two years, we expanded and professionalized sales processes, improved management, and paid for and guided the creation of new lab space and expanded product lines.
The result was a doubling of the backlog, sales funnel and earnings during our hold. When we sold the bigger and better company to an industry buyer at a logically much higher price it was a huge win for our investors, but also a tremendous result for the company and its sellers.
When interests align, beautiful things happen.
Stewart Kohl is the co-CEO of The Riverside Co., a global private equity firm based in Cleveland. In addition, Kohl is active in many civic organizations. He is an Oberlin College trustee; co-chair of the board of trustees of the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland; a trustee of the Cleveland Clinic, as well as a member of its Wellness Institute Leadership Board and co-chair of the Cleveland Clinic Capital Campaign. For more information, visit www.riversidecompany.com.