When you stay in a hotel there are so many things that could go wrong. The hotel could lose your reservation, a TV remote control might not work, a light could be burnt out, the air conditioner may be noisy, or in David Kong’s case, the room may not contain an iron and ironing board.

On a trip to Germany to attend a black-tie event, Kong’s attire became wrinkled while traveling. His hotel had no extra irons or ironing boards, but the staff took his clothes and got them ironed. The next day, the staff bought a new iron and ironing board for his room and also sent a fruit basket to apologize for what had happened.

“My impression of the hotel went sky high, because they went out of the way to make it right,” says Kong, president and CEO of Best Western International Inc. “When something goes wrong, it’s an opportunity to build guest loyalty if you take care of the problem correctly.”

The customer experience is exactly what Kong is focusing on to keep the Best Western brand relevant after nearly seven decades. Headquartered in Phoenix, Ariz., Best Western International Inc. is the world’s largest hotel family with more than 4,000 hotels in more than 100 countries and territories. The company has 1,200 corporate employees and annual revenue of more than $6 billion worldwide.

Over the past eight years, Kong has been working diligently to build and capitalize on Best Western’s strengths surrounding the customer experience.

Here is what he and his team at Best Western have done to keep the company’s brand relevant through the years.

 

Unlock potential

When Kong joined Best Western, most of his friends couldn’t understand why he would make the move to Phoenix to work for the midscale hotel.

“I saw tremendous potential at Best Western, and I wanted to be a part of the team to unlock that potential,” Kong says. “When I started as CEO, I wanted to define the key strengths of Best Western but also look at how we can make the brand more relevant and contemporary.”

The Best Western brand is 67 years old, making it the most senior hotel brand. Kong’s objective was to not appear as anything less than relevant and contemporary and to fit with today’s customer tastes.

“In that regard, we had a concerted effort in separating from hotels that detract from the brand, meaning they didn’t provide the cleanliness, upkeep or service that the brand should be known for,” he says.

Best Western split from more than 1,000 hotels during the last eight years and implemented standards that ensured delivery on the brand promise. The hotel family also created partnerships with Harley Davidson, Disney, AAA and others to not only penetrate those customer bases but better position the Best Western brand.

“We’ve done a lot in terms of how we keep the brand relevant and contemporary and deliver on the brand promise,” Kong says. “That was just step one. You have to do the basics.”

Kong also thought that Best Western needed to be known for certain aspects of the hospitality industry, so the company launched the I Care Clean program, which uses UV wands for cleaning and black light for inspecting cleanliness in rooms. It also launched the Descriptor program, which allows travelers to choose the Best Western that meets their needs out of the company’s three different hotels — Best Western, Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier.

“Ultimately, when I talk about unlocking potential and looking at who we are and what we stand for and capitalizing on that, it’s really about what is Best Western,” Kong says. “If you look at how Best Western is different from any other hotel brand, it’s because we have some very caring, sincere, salt-of-the-earth type of owners in our brand who are very passionate about the brand.

“The big opportunity for us was to capitalize on that, because that is something we have at Best Western that nobody else has and we want to turn that into something that’s relevant to the consumer.”

 

Connect with the customer

To drive that desire forward, Best Western crafted its vision statement to lead the industry in superior customer care. Today, everyone talks about customer service, but in this digital world, the human touch is disappearing very quickly.

“Everybody is focused on innovation, efficiency and productivity like using kiosks to check in and ordering food and beverage from a tablet computer, and there is very little chance to interact with the guests,” Kong says.

“Our industry is the hospitality industry, and it’s about hospitality and caring for people. We have made that our vision, and we started to create programs to capitalize on how we care more than anybody else.”

If you’re looking to keep your brand relevant or expand upon it, you have to find what you want to be best at.

“Take a look around you, study the environment and assess what the unmet need is,” Kong says. “I talked about us living in a fast-paced digital world and ‘humanity’ is disappearing because people are so focused on efficiency and productivity. So our unmet need was that ‘humanity’ was disappearing.

“Then you have to define yourself. Look at yourself and see if you have any attributes that can be leveraged to capitalize on that unmet need. The third thing is to begin to develop a plan to meet your end goal. The last thing is you set measurements and you make continuous improvement.”

To make the message of caring and top-notch customer experience stick, you have to ingrain it into your culture.

“That cultural shift is what we are working on now,” Kong says. “To live our vision, we have to make sure that every single employee cares. We have put together a cultural change initiative that involves selecting the right employees and giving them the right training and resources.

“It involves aligning all our business systems and business processes along this caring initiative, so at the end of the day, all our people, systems and processes are all aligned to deliver superior customer care.”

Creating this culture change is so important because a lot of companies simply have a program of the day, which is a one-time event rather than a system for creating a company mentality.

“Employees can see right through that,” he says. “It doesn’t stick. You have to have the right people in place. They have to feel empowered. They have to feel like they have all the tools to do what it is that you want them to do. There needs to be compensation systems and performance management systems aligned with that, and it has to be customer-centric.

“All those things need to be lined up. That’s how you can affect the cultural change.”

In addition, the leadership team has to be involved for the cultural change to take effect and for it to be sustained.

“If the leader doesn’t walk the talk, then employees see right through it,” Kong says. “If the leader is always, every day, every moment, living what he is preaching, then people get invigorated and inspired by that. The leadership is everything.”

Through these brand relevance initiatives, Kong and his team at Best Western want to be the dominant player in the broad midscale market.

“If you take all the industry measures, whether it is revenue per available room, market share in that respect, our relationships with all the major buyers, whether they are travel agencies, big corporations or independent travelers — in all those aspects, we want to have the superior market share,” he says.

“Every company should set goals for themselves, because if you don’t set goals, you don’t know whether you’ve gone there or not, and you can’t stay on that path.” ?

 

How to reach: Best Western International Inc.,

(800) 780-7234 or www.bestwestern.com

Published in National
Sunday, 31 March 2013 20:00

Northeast Ohio Movers and Shakers

GrafTech International is pleased to announce that three of its scientists have been recognized for their achievements and contributions to graphite material science.

Dr. Julian Norley, GrafTech’s vice president of corporate R&D, is one of five international experts and the only North American scientist selected to present a plenary lecture at the Annual World Conference on Carbon in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July 2013.

Dr. Tracy Albers, manager of advanced materials, was honored at the Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Production Awards in Washington, D.C., in February 2013. The award recognizes the achievements of women in science and manufacturing.

Within the GrafTech organization, Dr. John Chang, senior corporate fellow, received the 2012 Chairman’s Award in recognition of his innovation and initiative in the development and commercialization of super-premium needle coke, a key raw material in premium graphite electrodes.

 

Cleveland Clinic has named a new member to its board of directors and four new members to its board of trustees.

Named to Cleveland Clinic’s board of directors is James A. “Jimmy” Haslam III, owner of the Cleveland Browns and chairman of Pilot Flying J and Pilot Logistic Services, which includes more than 650 retail locations and 25,000 employees.

Those named to the board of trustees are: Tom Glocer, the founding partner of Angelic Ventures, a private investment firm focusing on financial services, media and health care, and previously, he held the post of CEO of Thomson Reuters; Stewart A. Kohl, co-CEO of The Riverside Co., a private equity firm focused on investing in smaller market-leading companies; Jonathan Korngold, a managing director at General Atlantic, where he is a member of the firm’s executive committee and investment committee, head of its global financial services sector and co-head of its global health care sector; and Michael B. Petras Jr., CEO of AssuraMed Inc., a distributor of medical supplies for patients with chronic diseases, and previously, he served as president and CEO of GE Lighting.

 

Dix & Eaton, an integrated communications consultancy, announced that Chas Withers, president of the firm and a member of its board of directors, has assumed additional responsibilities as COO.

Withers, 47, has been with Dix & Eaton for a total of 15 years but in two separate stints. In his broadened role, he will be responsible for day-to-day operations, client service, staff management and development, practice development, and marketing.

 

NAI Daus has announced that it elected Alec Pacella as the firm’s new managing partner.

Pacella brings 24 years of experience in real estate investment strategies to NAI Daus. Pacella’s main objective as managing partner of NAI Daus is to continue to attract and maintain a growing base of clients with the best and brightest results-oriented brokers. ?

Published in Cleveland
Sunday, 31 March 2013 20:00

DeLores Pressley: Advocate tenacity

I enjoy the value of a good word. “Tenacious” is a good word. It’s defined as: “persistent in maintaining, adhering to or seeking something valued or desired.”

As we look at the subject of increasing effectiveness, I believe we must start with this characteristic as our jumping-off point.

If increasing your effectiveness in the workplace is something that you desire and value, then you must tenaciously seek it on a daily basis. You must become a tenacious advocate for the measure of effectiveness that you desire.

With this foundation in mind, let us look at five surefire ways to increase your effectiveness in the workplace.

1. Take a personal inventory.

Note: At this point, I assume that you have goals and plans in place for yourself, your team, your department, etc.

At least once a week, ask yourself, “How am I doing?” and “Am I any closer to my goal?”

Assess which situations have held you back in some way. Before proceeding any further, take the time to resolve these situations.

In order to increase your effectiveness, you cannot move forward with baggage that hinders your progress. People, systems, techniques and the like must be evaluated along the way.

An open and honest personal inventory is a surefire way to increase your effectiveness.

2. Get organized.

Increasing your effectiveness means change, and change is very traumatic for individuals who are not organized in the first place. Organizing your work is key to your ability to do things better, faster and more smoothly.

Do you have a timeline for your goals? Do you have specific action plans to reach those goals? Do you take the time to make a to-do list on a daily basis? Have you cleared your office, workspace and life of clutter?

Getting organized is another surefire way to increase your effectiveness in the workplace.

3. Keep a daily journal.

Keeping a journal of the day’s events and accomplishments is a healthy way to clarify your goals and also think things through so you make good decisions.

Journaling your day also allows you to see the tasks and areas of your work where you spend the majority of your time. In order to increase your effectiveness, you must discover these areas and tasks and evaluate whether they are leading you closer to your goals.

It may seem tedious, but making a note of everything you do and how much time you spend is a great way to increase effectiveness. Do this throughout your day so nothing gets left out.

4. Work with the go-getters.

In any changing situation, it is to your advantage to build a small team of allies that you can rely on and trust to do specified tasks or functions.

These people are your “go-getters” — they are self-motivated, disciplined and enthusiastic about their work. Connect with these people regularly in order to build a support system around your goals. Allow their effectiveness to enhance yours.

Powerful change happens when motivated people work together toward common goals.

5. Become obsessed with possibilities.

Protecting a familiar routine that you would rather not change is a surefire way to stunt and, ultimately, decrease your effectiveness. Simply doing things a certain way because “we’ve always done them that way” will hinder creativity and deflate motivation.

Always be willing to think of the possibilities that lie ahead. Consider new techniques and strategies that bolster excitement within your team. Evaluate (there’s that word again) everything in order to achieve success. ?

DeLores Pressley, motivational speaker and personal power expert, is one of the most respected and sought-after experts on success, motivation, confidence and personal power. She is an international keynote speaker, author, life coach and the founder of the Born Successful Institute and DeLores Pressley Worldwide. She is the author of “Oh Yes You Can,” “Clean Out the Closet of Your Life” and “Believe in the Power of You.” Contact her via email at info@delorespressley.com or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.

Published in Cleveland

No matter what your business is, you need a quality system in place that ensures consistent, always striving for perfect results. Rather than just trying to inspect each product when it is completed, the better solution is to build upfront quality controls and assurances into the system and products. The discipline will benefit your business and your customers. When quality is a guiding principle, everybody wins and nobody has to compromise.

Clark-Reliance has adopted the ISO 9001 system from the International Organization for Standardization, the worldwide “gold” standard for quality. Other systems can also be used very effectively. In our product manufacturing, for example, we also adhere to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ internationally recognized industrial and manufacturing codes and standards for public safety.

One of the benefits of ISO standards is they aim to harmonize various industry and national standards to facilitate interoperability among products worldwide. There are a number of ways quality management systems, such as ISO standards, can benefit a business.

What is a quality management system?

ISO 9001 is based on the principle that a company will deliver quality products and services on a continuous basis if employees follow process instructions carefully and accurately. The standards call for documenting all steps required for a successful operation and implementing automated checkpoints.

When any of the feedback mechanisms flag an error, employees find the cause of the deviation, and the process instructions may be tightened or the operator retrained, if necessary.

The system ties together every part of the organization and its procedures from the time an order is taken to the time the product is built and delivered. In addition to assuring product quality, this system also allows manufacturers and customers to track the origin of materials used in production.

Management needs to be on board

With ISO 9001, all layers of leadership within the organization must fully endorse quality management. Each year, leadership should integrate quality objectives into the annual corporate goals. Then, the team can examine how to achieve those targets and what staff and equipment should be committed to support implementation.

Importance of certification

To be aligned with a system such as ISO 9001, you first need to contact an accreditation agency, which will then put you in touch with an auditing firm. The auditors come on-site for a few days to evaluate the organization’s compliance with ISO 9001 quality principles. When auditors identify shortcomings, major problems must be addressed before certification is granted and minor ones receive a one-year grace period.

To maintain compliance, certification must be renewed every three years. Even if a business is not successful in its certification audit, simply going through the evaluation and reviewing the findings can help significantly improve business discipline and adherence to quality processes and procedures.

Impact

Research continues to show that businesses that adopt a quality system, such as ISO 9001, are able to grow sales faster and retain customers better than they could otherwise or have done previously.

Whatever quality system or standards you adopt, a formalized process is necessary for your company. The more procedures and metrics you have in place, the more likely you are to be successful. As an organization, you become more “teachable,” and eventually, the processes and procedures become naturally integrated into the fabric of the business. ?

 

Matthew P. Figgie is chairman of Clark-Reliance, a global, multi-divisional manufacturing company with sales in more than 80 countries, serving the power generation petroleum, refining and chemical processing industries. He is also chairman of Figgie Capital and the Figgie Foundation, a member of the University Hospitals Board of Directors, corporate co-chairman for the 2013 Five Star Sensation, and chairman of the National Kidney Walk.

Rick Solon is president and CEO of Clark-Reliance and has more than 35 years of experience in manufacturing and operating companies. He is also the chairman of the National Kidney Foundation Golf Outing.

Published in Cleveland

Decent bosses typically try to lead by example. As a leader, you must model appropriate behavior to promote the greater good and to send a constant message with teeth in it.

The French term “esprit de corps” is used to express a sense of unity, common interest and purpose, as developed among associates in a task, cause or enterprise. Sports teams and the military adopt the sometimes-overused cliché, “One for all and all for one.” “Semper Fi” is the Marine Corps’ motto for “always faithful.” We commonly hear, “We’re only as strong as our weakest link.”

However, the real test of team-building and motivational sayings is that they are good only when they move from an HR/PR catchphrase to a way of doing business — every day.

As soon as you put two or more people in the same room, a whole new set of factors comes into play, including jealousy, illogical pettiness and one-upmanship, all of which can lead to conflicts that obstruct the goals at hand. Certainly, much of this is caused by runaway egos. Perhaps a little bit of it is biological, but most of it is fueled by poor leadership. Everyone has his or her own objective and it’s the boss’s responsibility to know how to funnel diverse personal goals in order to keep everyone on track. This prevents employees from straying from the target and helps avoid major derailments. Essentially, it all gets down to the boss leading by example with a firm hand, understanding people’s motives and a lot of practicing “Do as I say and as I really do myself.”

Communicating by one’s actions can be very powerful. A good method to set the right tone is stepping in and lending a hand, sometimes in unexpected and dramatic ways. This shows the team that you govern yourself as you expect each of them to govern their own behavior. In my enterprises, I constantly tell my colleagues that the title following each person’s name boils down to these three critical words: “Whatever it takes.” Certainly, I bestow prefixes to this one-size-fits-all, three-word title, such as vice president or manager, but I consider these as window dressing only.

After speeches, when I explain this universal job description, I always get questions from the audience about how I communicate this concept. I follow with a real-life experience that played out in the first few months after I started OfficeMax. As a new company, we had precious, little money, never enough time and only so much energy, which we preserved as our most valuable assets in order to be able to continually fight another day.

In those early days, too frequently, I would see what looked like a plumber come into the office, go into the restroom and emerge a few minutes later presenting what I surmised to be a bill to our controller. I knew whatever he was doing was costing us money and probably not building value. The third time he showed up, in as many weeks, I immediately followed him into the restroom (much to his shock and consternation). I asked him what in the world kept bringing him back. He then proceeded to remove the john’s lid and give me a tutorial on how to bend the float ball for it to function properly. That was the last time anyone ever saw this earnest workman on our premises. Instead, after making known my newly acquired skill, whenever the toilet stopped working, I became the go-to guy.

This became an object lesson to my team about how to save money. At that time, 50 bucks a pop was a fortune to us. It got down to people knowing that all of us in this nascent start-up were expected to live up to their real, three-word title. This was our version of how to build esprit de corps. Others began boastfully relaying their own unique “whatever it takes” actions, and it became our way of doing business.

The lesson I learned in those early days was that it wasn’t always what I said that was important but rather what I did that made an indelible impression. A leader’s actions, with emphasis on the occasionally unorthodox to make them memorable, are the ingredients that contribute to molding a company’s culture.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

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Published in Akron/Canton

When sales and marketing departments get together to position a product, new or existing, in the marketplace, it is often a challenge to get both parties to agree on what should be a product’s messaging.

While both parties bring great ideas to the table and a business case can often be made for why their ideas should be given importance, there are a few things that should always be considered as a part of a product’s key message — and some that should never be a part of that message.

 

WII-FM

They often say that a customer’s favorite radio station is WII-FM — “What’s in it for me?” When it comes to technology, this is doubly important, especially as more individuals get involved with the buy cycle.

A salesperson no longer speaks to a room full of tech experts and a few executives that must sign off on the sale. Today, the salesperson may be speaking to business users prior to ever coming in contact with the information technology side of a company.

These users might not know what the brand new development you’ve implemented behind the scenes of your product means. They won’t care if it’s built on the latest and greatest platform. Instead, they want to know what your product being built on the latest and greatest platform means to them.

In this instance, case studies and customer success stories are of tantamount importance. A salesperson needs to have these pieces with key messaging about how the product has helped other similar businesses and how it could potentially help theirs.

 

Features and functions

But just because a salesperson might be speaking to more people in a company during a sale doesn’t mean they can only focus on the aspirational nature of their product. There will still be people involved in the technical side of a company who need to know whether or not your product can integrate with the systems they currently have in place.

These individuals will be seeking information about the features and functions of your product. They will want to see those latest and greatest improvements and innovations in your product. But they are heavy investors in WII-FM.

They are seeking the same answers to “What’s in it for me?” but with a different focus on how a product will benefit them.

Because of this dual focus on needing to know the technical aspects of a product but also seeking to meet personal and business goals, these features and functions cannot be the main focus of a product’s messaging. It, like case studies and success stories, needs to be a piece of the message of a product when it is taken to market.

 

Price is never a feature

One thing that should obviously be included in discussions during a sales cycle but should never be considered part of the WII-FM or features and functions is price. Both sales and marketing often want to focus on the price as a benefit of a product. It is frequently seen as a cost benefit that the purchasing company would be receiving the great software, the great support and the huge benefits to their company and selves for the “small price” charged.

This is why the key message of any product, new or existing, in the marketplace needs to be value — the value you bring to a company, the value you bring to a customer, the value you bring to their existing systems. If you convince them that you’re the most valuable offering in the marketplace then price is not an issue. Every product message needs to further the value of that product in the marketplace.

 

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. http://tomnies.cincom.com/about.

Published in Columnist

For Chuck Shive, coming to Mikesell’s Snack Foods Co. was an opportunity to get into a different industry and utilize his background to make a difference. He entered Mikesell’s as the executive vice president of marketing, looking to upgrade a more than 100-year-old potato chip brand.

Not long after Shive started, the company’s CEO, David Ray, retired and Shive made the leap to president and CEO in May 2012, becoming only the fourth CEO in history of the company, a 180-employee organization with annual revenues of more than $40 million.

Once he was in the top spot, he turned his attention to building on the company’s strengths while also taking the opportunity to rebrand outdated packaging and also introduced new flavors of chips.

“It was an opportunity to take the equities that the brand has and build on those,” Shive says. “We didn’t want to touch the quality of the product, because in 100 years we’ve learned how to make it pretty well over here, but we wanted to take a look at the packaging and differentiate it and emphasize our premium product.”

While Shive and his team at Mikesell’s believe they have the best chip in the marketplace, the branding and packaging didn’t reflect that. Shive set out to make some overdue changes and upgrades.

“The keys were building on the strengths that we do have, but also looking at the challenges and opportunities going forward and being willing to address those rather quickly so we could establish our new strategic direction going forward and get that in front of our employees and in front of our partners and make sure it was a dynamic transition as it was happening,” Shive says.

Here is how Shive combined company strengths with new ideas to improve a more than 100-year-old brand.

Find your direction

Undertaking a challenge such as rebranding a company, not to mention one with a rich history, is a daunting task. Shive had to make sure he did his due diligence before moving forward with ideas.

“You have to ask a lot of questions,” Shive says. “Ask a lot of questions with your team, with your employees and with your suppliers. How do they view the company? How do they see the strengths and weaknesses of the company? What are the opportunities going forward? What are the great ideas?”

Mikesell’s received a lot of ideas from its employees over the past year and especially since Shive has been in charge. The company executes on the ideas that make sense and will move the business forward.

“There’s a lot of good institutional knowledge among partners and employees that all you have to do is ask and they’re willing to share that information and ideas,” he says.

Sitting in the CEO chair, Shive had his own ideas about where he wanted to lead the company.

“There are a lot of opportunities out there and some are opportunities that make sense for you and some don’t,” he says. “You’re going to understand that as you move forward and move through the planning process and strategy development process and then the execution around that strategy.”

While Shive had his own ideas about direction, that doesn’t mean he ignored others’ input in the decision process.

“It is a balance,” he says. “You strategically have an idea of where you want to go and through asking a lot of good questions and getting a lot of good feedback and working with your executive team and others, you refine that strategy based on what is realistic to expect and execute going forward.

“At the same time if you believe in your strategy, your team and employees, and the company understands what that strategy is and you’ve communicated it well enough, then it becomes time to implement it and execute it.”

Define your brand

To execute on the direction Shive wanted to take the company moving forward, he sat down and discussed how they wanted the new branding to look and what the challenges and opportunities would be.

“We basically took an overall review of our branding as a company, our branding on our packaging and what the strong points were that we wanted to keep and what we thought we could do better with going forward,” Shive says. “Some of the key equities of the brand and packaging that we have is, No. 1, our name.

“Mikesells is an iconic brand for this region, so we didn’t want to touch that to any degree, but we wanted to refresh the small town feel that we have.”

Mikesell’s old packaging as well as some of its competitor’s old packaging was what Shive calls “old foil cartoon-looking packaging.” Mikesell’s made subtle switches such as moving from a foil bag to a matte-finish bag, which gave the product a much more premium look and feel in the marketplace.

The company also cleaned up some of its messaging that has appeared on the packaging since 1910. The slogan changed from, ‘They are delicious’ to ‘Creating delicious since 1910.’

“We went through that process and some consumer testing and reviewing with the steps along the way to make sure we were making the right moves and that consumers were delighted by the new packaging we were coming out with,” he says. “Then it just became the process of implementing that with our packaging partners to bring the new branding to life on the new bags.”

The company also took the opportunity to find what differentiates Mikesell’s from its competitors in the snack food arena.

“It’s not our packaging, it’s our product, but with our old packaging you really didn’t get a look and feel of what our product was,” Shive says. “You didn’t see the actual appetite appeal that our product has, so we wanted to emphasize that on the new packaging moving forward.”

Mikesell’s strength was its product and the rebranding of its packaging helped to emphasize how good the product really was.

“A lot of people may look at a brand change as an opportunity to correct weaknesses, but for us we look at it as an opportunity to build on the strengths that we have,” he says. “That’s a more proactive than reactive approach to take to it.”

Building on those strengths allowed Shive and Mikesell’s to develop a newer brand that will help push the company forward for many years.

“It’s about getting to an area that you’re really comfortable with that you’ve kept the soul of the brand and enhanced it to where it meets what you’re looking for going forward,” he says. “It’s not a quick fix. Our point of rebranding and upgrading our packaging was not so we could do it every couple of years.”

Add new products

Once the new branding had been put in place, Shive kept busy last summer by also adding new products to the company’s line of potato chips. Mikesell’s introduced a sweet chili and sour cream flavor and a Tuscan spice flavor.

“We wanted to put flavors in there that matched consumer wants and desires,” Shive says. “These are the first new flavors we’ve added in more than five years. We’re constantly reviewing what our offerings are and whether we see any need for new products out there.”

Mikesell’s is always consulting its employees, consumer feedback and its partners to help drive new product decisions.

“We get to try new flavors constantly,” he says. “We take them through a process where we rank them versus existing flavors or rank them on the taste qualities and expectations of a particular flavor going forward.

“If we have a particular item out there where it doesn’t seem like we made the right decision for what the consumer was looking for, then we’ll look at moving that out and replacing it with a new flavor or new offering.”

One of the reasons Mikesell’s released these two new flavors was because it had been a while since the company had new offerings out in the market.

“By the nature of the business, consumers are looking for new, different flavors and we’re making a conscious effort to be a little more responsive to that,” Shive says.

Releasing new products that make an immediate impact is a game of hit or miss.

“You want to do all of your due diligence and define what that product is going to be based on robust consumer and market research,” he says. “Then you have to follow through with it and be prepared to support it when you bring it out.

“A lot of people want every single item or product that they introduce to be a home run and that’s just not going to happen. You have to go in knowing that and expecting that. You take the learning’s from that, and you apply them to the next one.”

How to reach: Mikesell’s Snack Foods Co., (937) 228-9400 or www.mike-sells.com

Takeaways

Gather input for any new direction of your business.

Build on strengths, don’t correct weaknesses.

Do consumer and market research surrounding new product releases.

The Shive File

Chuck Shive

President and CEO

Mikesell’s Snack Foods Co.

Born: Vicksburg, Miss.

Education: Graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a B.S. in business administration

Sports: He was a pitcher at Southern Miss from 1987-89. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies and spent one year in their minor league system. “All I ever wanted to do was be a professional baseball player, and I got to do it for a little bit.”

What was your very first job, and what did you learn from that experience?

One of my first jobs was working in a production plant on a production line grabbing containers of pesticides and sticking them into boxes for eight hours a day. What I learned was in that line, nobody is independent from anybody else. In what is considered a basic menial job, you’re still dependent on the guy to your right and the guy to your left to make sure that the line ran correctly.

From the earliest job that you could have, even to the role I’m in now, you’re still reliant on interactions with other people.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

None of us is smarter than all of us collectively. The collective wisdom of a group outshines any individual wisdom.

What is your favorite Mikesell’s product?

It’s tough to pick among them, but I’m a big fan of the new sweet chili and sour cream chips. A close second would be our bold Bahama barbecue kettle chips. I like spice and flavor.

What are you most excited for about the future of the company?

Where we are today there’s still so many growth opportunities out there that we haven’t tapped and putting our strategy in motion to go out and attack those growth opportunities is what gets me going every day.

Published in Cincinnati
Thursday, 28 February 2013 19:00

Donna Rae Smith: Face your fear

Growing up, I was terrified of heights. To cope with my fear, I did what many people do: I avoided it. The funny thing about avoidance is that, while it sounds like a passive tactic and an easy way out, it actually requires energy.

I would plan ways to avoid being confronted with heights. Eventually, I had enough of avoidance. I decided that I wanted to confront my fear. So I booked a trip to the most challenging place I could think of: the Grand Canyon.

It would have been terrifying enough to stand at an observation point and peer down into the canyon. But that wasn’t my plan. I was going for broke. I was going to descend into the canyon on foot.

 

One step at a time

That slow descent into the Grand Canyon has become for me a metaphor for confronting any fear. The message is simple: Instead of allowing fear to be a paralyzing force, confront it one step at a time.

You don’t need to be afraid of heights to know fear. Fear is the single most limiting force in our lives — whether it’s fear of failing at a new venture, fear that our ideas will be rejected, fear that we’ll lose our jobs, or fear that people will discover we’re not as competent or talented as they think.

The difference is that unlike my fear of heights, many of us don’t realize our fears and we don’t comprehend how they hold us back. Until we can name them, we can’t confront them.

I realized that my fear of heights was crippling when I admitted the lengths I was taking to avoid my fear. People use avoidance around fear all the time: we avoid speaking frankly or truthfully for fear of confrontation or for fear of being perceived as a whistleblower.

We avoid showing emotion or appearing too human for fear of being perceived as weak; we avoid excelling, for fear of being given more responsibility that we won’t be able to handle.

 

We become conditioned

In some cases, our mechanisms for avoidance are so ingrained we fail to notice we’re even doing them anymore. A boss who has a longstanding habit of intimidating employees and creating a climate of fear will be slow to admit that his behavior is masking his own fears — fears of his authority being challenged or undermined, or fears of being exposed as an ineffective leader.

An employee who fears management may go to great lengths to hide issues of safety on the plant floor; he fears that if management finds out, he’ll lose his job. Avoidance takes energy — negative energy, and can leave us physically and psychologically exhausted over time.

Both the boss and the employee may be so accustomed to avoidance that they fail to realize the toll it’s taking on them. They don’t realize that they would be more effective (and safer) if they confronted their fears rather than avoided them.

Are you using avoidance as a tactic when it comes to fear? Are you spending energy and devising tactics to avoid what you fear?

 

Where to begin a solution

Begin by paying attention to what you’re avoiding. Listen to your gut as you go through your day. Are there instances where you avoid doing/saying what you know is in your best interests because you fear the result?

Take small steps. Once you know what you’re avoiding, force yourself to take small steps in the direction of your fear. If you’ve gotten feedback that employees find you unapproachable, what can you do to be more open? Start with a small time commitment, such as five minutes.

What can you do in five minutes? Believe it or not, five minutes can be powerful. Perhaps initiate a five-minute conversation with an employee — ask a question, listen attentively to the answer, and then restate what you heard.

Fear keeps us stuck in place — for weeks, months, or even years. The only way forward is through awareness and willingness — awareness of what we fear and willingness to take the first step.

 

Donna Rae Smith is a guest blogger for Smart Business. She is the founder and CEO of Bright Side Inc., a transformational change catalyst company that has partnered with more than 250 of the world’s most influential companies. For more information, please visit www.bright-side.com or contact Donna Rae Smith at donnarae@bright-side.com

Published in Akron/Canton
Thursday, 28 February 2013 19:00

Northeast Ohio Movers & Shakers: March 2013

VeDISCOVERY, a tier-four provider of computer forensic services, data collection and processing, comprehensive document review and hosting of unstructured information recently appointed Wayne Pignolet to chief operating officer, Paul Cervelloni to vice president of sales and Martin Mangan to vice president, product development.

Pignolet is an experienced business leader with small and midsized organizations and joins VeDISCOVERY to manage all aspects of business operations. He has successfully started and also helped turn companies around in China, Europe, Mexico and the U.S. He has worked with Moen Inc., Hanley Wood and has owned his own business.

Cervelloni has held several positions within the information technology industry. He has served as the CIO for Fortune 500 companies and led complex buying processes for global enterprise software and services. He has extensive sales training and experience, which helped him sell enterprise software to corporations that valued stable, scalable, high-performance IT assets.

Mangan is responsible for the vision, implementation and creation of the VeDISCOVERY platform suite and is experienced in all facets of software development, database design, data processing and testing. Mangan leads a team of eight developers, designers and quality assurance professionals who understand the complexities and needs of processing semi-structured and unstructured data.

 

Alliance Solutions Group, a full-service staffing and recruitment agency with offices in Cuyahoga, Summit, Portage, Franklin, Lorain, Lake, Mahning, and Wyoming counties, has appointed Rob Sable as its new CIO.

As part of Alliance Solutions Group's executive team, his responsibilities include overseeing the company's overall information technology operations, support and strategy. He will also manage the implementation of new technology tools across the company's seven branch offices and nine business units, with particular emphasis on creating new tools and systems that improve the staffing process in ways that create competitive advantage for the company.

In his new position, Sable will utilize his 16 years of experience in IT consulting and enterprise software to ensure that the company's clients are matched with the right talent as quickly as possible.

Bruner-Cox LLP recently announced the promotion of Lisa Hilling to assurance services partner.

Hilling joined Bruner-Cox in 2005 with eight years of “Big Four” accounting experience. As partner Hilling provides audit and accounting services for hospitals, colleges, private foundations and governments. She is also responsible for audits in accordance with OMB Circular A-133 and Government Auditing Standards.

 

 

League Park Advisors, a boutique investment bank, has announced the promotion of Wayne Twardokus to director. Since joining League Park in early 2011, Twardokus has led the firm’s Industrial Group closing six deals in the specialty chemicals and gas, specialty distribution, and manufacturing industries.

Prior to joining League Park, Twardokus was employed at Harris Williams & Co. and its predecessor entity, National City Corp., where he originated and executed mergers and acquisitions for publicly traded and privately held middle market companies. During his time at National City he authored various industry research reports with a focus on the specialty distribution and industrial manufacturing industries, in which he remains active today. Prior to Harris Williams, Wayne was a member of the distribution practice at Brown Gibbons Lang & Co.

 

 

Brouse McDowell, a leading regional business law firm, has announced that Clair E. Dickinson, former Ninth District Court of Appeals Judge, has rejoined the firm in the Akron office as a partner in the Appellate and Litigation Practice Groups.

Dickinson previously served as firm counsel and chair of both the firm’s Appellate and Litigation Practice Groups. He also served nearly eight years as a member of Summit County Council and was president of that body for three years.

During his almost 12 years in the court, Dickinson participated in deciding more than 4,000 cases and wrote the lead opinion in approximately a third of those cases. He has both argued cases before the Ohio Supreme Court and sat as a visiting justice on that court. Dickinson’s practice will be focused on appellate advocacy and litigation.

 

Brouse McDowell is also happy to announce that Meagan L. Moore, an attorney in the Cleveland office and Elizabeth G. Yeargin, an attorney in the Akron office, have been named partners in the firm.

Moore is a member of the Environmental Practice Group and focuses in the areas of environmental litigation and counseling. She provides regulatory compliance support to the firm’s industrial and municipal clients in matters relating to water, air, solid waste and hazardous waste and assists clients in reducing their exposure to environmental liabilities in transactions. She is also a part of the firm’s Insurance Recovery Practice Group where she focuses on cost recovery for underlying environmental liabilities.

Yeargin is a member of the firm’s Business, Corporate & Securities and Business Restructuring, Bankruptcy & Commercial Law practice groups. She focuses her practice on transactional work, principally in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, general corporate law, finance, and commercial transactions and agreements.

Published in Cleveland

Early signs, notably positive economic indicators and rising corporate earnings, point to an M&A market poised for strong deal flow in 2013. Sustained improvement in these trends will bolster confidence and bring more buyers and sellers to market. Buyer cash reserves and an accommodative credit market should lend further support.

January deal volume was light, down nearly 20 percent from a year ago, but not atypical of a seasonally slow month for M&A. Behind the numbers are several billion-dollar-plus deals, including ConAgra’s $6.7 billion acquisition of RalCorp Holdings. Other mega deals announced in recent weeks were Liberty Global’s pending $24 billion acquisition of Virgin Media, Reliance Steel’s $1.2 billion acquisition of Metals USA, and Dell’s $22 billion take-private by Silver Lake Partners, marking the largest LBO since 2007. These are strong signals that buyer confidence is returning and likely harbingers of more M&A activity on the horizon.

Local corporate buyers are on the hunt for deals. Timken Co. acquired Denver-based Wazee Companies LLC, a $30 million provider of motor, generator, wind and industrial crane services to the aerospace, mining, power generation, and oil and gas markets. Lincoln Electric Holdings Inc. acquired Tennessee Rand Inc., a $35 million manufacturer of tooling and robotic systems for welding applications in Tennessee, complementing its purchase of Wayne Trail Technologies last May. CBIZ Inc. purchased Diversified Industries Inc., a Minnesota company that provides payroll and human resource solutions to small and midsized businesses nationwide, making it its ninth acquisition in the last 12 months.

Notable private equity activity includes five deals from The Riverside Co., including Operating Tax Systems, which provides driver and vehicle compliance services primarily for the commercial motor vehicle industry. Other buys include Austin, Texas-based Alchemy Systems LP; Houston-based Jacosoft LLC; Bohemia Interactive Simulations s.r.o. of Australia, and GiveAnything.com Inc., a N.Y.-based company.

 

Deal of the Month

 

Global environmental consulting, engineering and technical services company Tetra Tech Inc. acquired American Environmental Group Ltd. of Richfield, a provider of specialty environmental, design, construction and maintenance services to solid and hazardous waste, environmental, energy and industrial clients. Founded in 2002, AEG employs 500 with annual revenue of approximately $95 million. Tetra Tech adds an East Coast presence with AEG, complementing its comparable legacy operations in Southern California, enhancing its ability to assist landfill operators, mining and power clients with disposal challenges.

AEG is Tetra Tech’s fifth acquisition announced in the last 12 months. Including AEG, the company completed two acquisitions in the U.S., two in Brazil and one in Canada. Tetra Tech employs 13,000 people worldwide and reported sales of $2.0 billion in fiscal year 2012.

Andrew K. Petryk is managing director and principal of Brown Gibbons Lang & Co. LLC, an investment bank serving the middle market. Contact him at (216) 920-6613 or apetryk@bglco.com

Published in Cleveland