A human touch enables KHM Travel Group to thrive in a tech-dominated industry


An entrepreneur’s path doesn’t always progress along a straight line. It zigs and zags, goes uphill and down, and sometimes dead-ends. And sometimes it leaves engineering school in Akron, winds through travel school in Florida, and takes a 25-year detour in the construction industry before terminating into a wildly successful travel agency in Brunswick.

Rick Zimmerman is the president and CEO of KHM Travel Group. He co-founded the company in 2005, and has grown it despite the general decline of the industry, which has been besieged by popular book-it-yourself websites.

Between 2012 and 2017, KHM more than doubled sales while adding 1,000 agents to its bullpen of 3,000, in large part by putting a premium on personalization to compete with the impersonal technology that has become so dominant.

But getting where he is today wasn’t always a given. Having studied engineering at the University of Akron, Zimmerman was set for a career in drafting. He came by it honestly — his father and brother were both engineers — and took to it naturally.

He’d been working in engineering from a young age. While at a soils and concrete lab, he was exposed to the legal nitpicking and financial hand-wringing of the business. By age 21, the field no longer excited him.

Rather than finish his degree, Zimmerman left his native state and preordained career for Kissimmee, Florida, where he attended Southeastern Academy, a travel school run out of a converted Howard Johnson. He breezed through the year-and-a-half program, headed back home to Parma and took a job with the first travel agency that offered him a position: ’Round the World Travel.

“They tapped into the fact that I was a numbers guy, so they let me do what was called the IATA report back then. Now it’s called an ARC report. I got to break down the commissions that we would make for all of our airline tickets,” Zimmerman says.

It was essential, but tedious work, and not at all what Zimmerman wanted to do. He thought he’d travel the world and plan spectacular trips for clients. Instead, he was sitting in front of a typewriter doing reports and air ticketing for minimum wage.

Disillusioned and barely eking out a living, Zimmerman stepped out of the travel business and joined his brother who, wanting to start a construction company, dangled an attractive carrot in front of his brother: more money. But a couple years in, his brother took his business to California to retrofit buildings for earthquake standards. Zimmerman didn’t go with him. Instead, he launched a home remodeling company.

His business, Diversified Services, grew through word of mouth, largely based on work he and his small crew would do for folks he knew from church. Looking to accelerate his growth, he started placing ads in TV Guide.

“One of the things I was noticing was the client that I would get from the TV Guide was not the same kind of client that I was getting from word of mouth,” Zimmerman says. “I was getting a shopper from advertising.”

These shoppers chased price, unlike the word-of-mouth clients who pursued him based on the quality of his outfit’s work. That led to an important revelation and change of tactic, which would inform his later venture.

Entrepreneurship is not just about startups; it’s also about scalability

When we think about entrepreneurship in the U.S., high profile Silicon Valley tech startups like Google, Facebook, Dropbox or Uber typically come to mind. No other ecosystem comes close to attracting so much venture capital and creating so many high-paying jobs.

Many other regions have spent the last two decades trying to find ways to replicate their model. This is the reason many economic development organizations (EDOs), incubators, accelerators, angel funds, etc., focus their time and resources on startup ventures.

The logic is solid, young companies are generating virtually all net-new job growth in the U.S. Without startups and the entrepreneurs that drive them, achieving long-term economic growth seems impossible.

Another group needs attention

All this attention on high-profile tech startups racing toward an IPO seems to have obscured a different, more low profile group of high-potential ventures that also need nurturing.

As any successful entrepreneur will tell you, the journey from idea to exit is a long one. Entrepreneurship is fraught with growing pains, and the long fight through “the valley of death” only leads to a new kind of problem on the other side — scalability.

If startups are the economic newborns, then these “scaleup” ventures are the adolescents. They may or may not be technology companies, but either way, all scaleups share one key characteristic: an untapped potential for rapid growth and job creation.

Most companies in the scaleup phase have surpassed cash flow breakeven and are modestly profitable. Most scaleups, however, still confront the same types of fundamental business challenges that plague startups — capital, sales and talent.

To get to the next level of growth, most scaleups will need capital to build staff and infrastructure. With growth comes the need to add staff and the demand to find talent to help address the many new operational challenges that come along with growth. And of course, the need to grow revenue is perpetual.

Growing revenue

While some of these young businesses may be “stuck” at a revenue plateau, they have a huge advantage over startups. They already have a customer base that validates their business model.  If they can identify and overcome their particular bottleneck, these scaleups have the potential to grow (and hire) aggressively.

While organizations have sprung up in the last decade to assist early-stage startups, few of them focus on helping scaleups achieve their true potential.

JumpStart has begun a program to assist high-potential scaleups in Northeast Ohio in their efforts to raise capital, grow sales and attract, recruit and retain key talent.

The road to success extends far beyond the startup stage. For the ecosystem to truly thrive, we must also begin looking for ways to unlock the full economic potential of our local scaleup companies. These businesses may not have generated the media attention of Silicon Valley-style startups, but they are poised to rapidly create jobs and economic impact.

And with the right help at the right time, they might just start generating some high-profile headlines of their own.

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2014 Central Midwest Awards

Recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious business award programs, the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Awards celebrate gravity-defying innovators who build and run great companies. This June, we gather here and in 25 cities across the U.S. to honor all of our regional finalists and welcome the class of 2014 into our Hall of Fame.
Entrepreneurs change the world and make it a better place to work and live. We honor them for their fortitude and resilience, and we celebrate their ability to forge new markets, navigate uncharted territory and fuel economic growth.
Congratulations to this year’s finalists and winners for their unyielding pursuit of business excellence. We are honored to share their inspiring stories with you.

cm_eoy_RandyBusemanRandy Buseman
Kansas City EY



cm_eoy_MikeHickenbothamMike Hickenbotham
St. Louis EY

PizzaRev taps passion to give customers a new way to eat an iconic dish

Nicholas Eckerman felt enough was enough when it came to the cheapening of the pizza-eating experience in America.

“We looked at pizza as being constantly compromised,” Eckerman says. “Take a pizza that always had to be communal, always had to be shared. We wanted to go in the opposite direction. We wanted to create a product that was about a personal experience.”

So Eckerman; his father, Rodney; Rodney’s longtime business partner, Irv; and Irv’s son, Jeff, set out to create a pizza restaurant that would make Cosmo Kramer of  TV’s “Seinfeld” fame very proud. At PizzaRev, you get to make your own pizza with whatever toppings you choose to put on it.

“When you order a pizza, you’re usually looking at a menu and going through it saying, ‘Let’s see,’” says Irv, who along with Rodney serves as co-CEO at PizzaRev. “You have plenty of time because the waiter hasn’t shown up yet. In our case, you’re front and center with a person saying, ‘What kind of sauce do you want? You’re engaged from start to finish and most people love that because they’ve never experienced it.”

PizzaRev opened its first store in April 2012, opened two more later that year and by 2014, had nine stores in Southern California. The company has created 400 new jobs in Greater Los Angeles, and thanks to a franchising deal with Buffalo Wild Wings, now has a presence in Minnesota and is looking to continue to grow its brand across the country.

“We anticipate having 28 or so stores by the end of this year,” Irv says. “We believe there is nothing about great thin crust pizza at your choice, customized the way you want it at one price, and done fast, that people don’t like. So we believe as long as we keep delivering on the model, the upside is endless.”


Look for desire

One of the keys to PizzaRev’s success is its ability to find people who bring self-confidence to their work, says Nicholas, who is the company’s COO.

“Those who make it into our organization are people who we believe are self-confident,” Nicholas says. “I don’t mean in the realm of speaking or of being overly confident. I mean they want to get out and do something. They wanted this job or they are confident enough to come and tell us they want to do this job.”

In any business, skill and character are obviously the key traits that you look for when considering someone for a job. But it’s more than just looking for people who are smart or who have the ability to work well with others. How much do they want to work for you?

“That’s what we look for in our team members,” Nicholas says. “They are interested in food and beverage and in getting skills out of the process for themselves. They want to learn something that they can continue to grow with our company or that they can take to another company or to their career. We want them to learn skills. We don’t want it to just be a job.”

Once you identify people who fit that mold and bring them in the door, the next step is to help them succeed in their work.

“It’s finding appropriate skill sets and motivation for the people you are going to work with,” Irv says. “If you can find people who can fulfill the job description and motivate them to do more with their ability, sometimes people are better than they even think they can be. When you put them into the job or you put them into a new position or a new idea, your attitude toward the growth of that position and how you inspire them determines how inspired they will be at the end of the day.”


Maintain the engagement

Once you’ve got your employees on your side and feeling upbeat about what you’re doing, you work on exciting your customers and doing what you can to keep them coming back for more.

“We never sit back and just watch things happen,” Nicholas says. “We want it to be better every single day. We want to engage every customer to the next level of even where we’re at today.”

He says his proudest moments leading PizzaRev are when he sees employees strengthen that engagement and advance in the organization.

“It’s been rewarding to  building a foundation that others can build careers off of,” Nicholas says.


Bill Papariella is finding a new groove as he pilots Jet Edge International to lead the private jet industry

Bill Papariella grew up dreaming of a life spent making movies. He took the classes in high school and college that he hoped would help him achieve that goal. He couldn’t get to Los Angeles quickly enough to get started on his career in the film industry.

Unfortunately, things in Hollywood then were changing, and it was about to push the Pittsburgh native to a different path.

“I had no aspiration to go into the jet business,” says the president and CEO of Jet Edge International. “But one thing I did want was more stability. The movie business was changing pretty dramatically.”

It was the early 2000s and the major film studios were focusing more on bigger movies, leaving some of the smaller companies in the business in a tough spot.

“You just couldn’t make a living making movies outside the major studios,” Papariella says. “Maybe you’d make $50,000 or $75,000 a movie. Let’s say you made one movie a year. You’re 32 or 33 and nobody is dreaming of having kids in Los Angeles and putting them in private schools making that kind of money. It forced me to think maybe I should take a hard look at what I’ve learned and the people I’ve met.”

Papariella had earned the post of senior vice president of production and development at Universal Studios. He learned a lot about how to get things done, how to get people where they needed to be and how to stay within a schedule and a budget.

As he moved away from that business, Papariella gained quite a bit of knowledge about the private aviation industry working at Marquis Jet, NetJets and Sentient Jet. It allowed him to buy Jet Edge in August 2011 and make a go at leading a private jet business from the top.

“I almost would rather have less money to be in the movie business and say, ‘I’m in it and doing it,’ than be in the jet business making a lot more money,” Papariella says. “It was a very difficult decision. It took me probably six months to really get my head out of the business and wake up every day knowing I wasn’t in the business. I still struggle with it.”

Despite the struggle, Papariella has built a business with 75 employees and 120 full-time pilots that is taking off in a big way.

Choose your battles

Papariella bought Jet Edge because he wanted to get involved with heavy jets, planes that had large cabins and flew wealthy customers.

“That’s where the money was at, where the big boys played,” Papariella says. “It’s an area that was a little more recession-proof.”

There was a lot of money to be made, but the private jet business is not without its challenges.

“We’ve grown faster than any other company in this industry by far in the United States,” says Papariella of his business, which expects to make $125 million this year.

“That growth, coupled with the logistics of flying these aircraft has created a lot of process issues, a lot of structure issues. Those can really cripple you in certain areas if you don’t get them fixed quickly.”

One thing Papariella had to learn was how to deal with customers without losing his cool when they didn’t treat him the way he felt he should be treated.

“A lot of these guys are very terse,” Papariella says. “They want what they want. I would combat that, and it didn’t go well for me. I’ve learned to listen first and hear the clues of what it is they are really saying to me versus me thinking I hear it and being combative with them.

“I’m a Type A kid from Pittsburgh who grew up on the south side of Pittsburgh. I’m predisposed to a street fight. I’ll go there if I get angry enough. So for me, it’s a really good lesson in listening better. It’s served me well. I still could do better at it, but I’m growing in that area. I think any successful entrepreneur had better learn how to listen or they are in real trouble growing their company.”

Find the right fit

As Papariella has found his groove as a customer service provider, he has also worked tirelessly to integrate automation into his operational processes and thus reduce logistical problems.

“We’re trying to get more automated than manual,” Papariella says. “Manual leaves you more open to mistakes and scheduling errors. Aircraft scheduling errors, pilot and crew scheduling errors, maintenance scheduling errors, permit issues in China, visas, etc. Those are all things that can trip you up.

“We’re developing new software systems to help automate this process better and have a little more predictability on how we’re running things logistically.”

But even if you have the best automation system in the world, you still need good people to manage it and execute the plans. It’s another area where Papariella has learned and evolved as a leader.

“The cool thing about being an entrepreneur is you start off, and you get all these minefields in front of you, and you’re trying to hire the right guy,” Papariella says. “I had worked with my senior managers for a long time outside while I was at other companies, and they were at other companies.

“But when you grow from 12 employees to 78, there are a lot of people I don’t know. Originally, we would just hire people because we thought they fit the culture and thought they interviewed well.”

The process has changed to include a hiring committee that collaborates on personnel decisions.

“People have to interview with the committee in order to be hired and there has to be a unanimous decision by the committee,” Papariella says. “We look for you to be a cultural fit. The committee will come up with a number of action items that we want to accomplish inside the interview.”

When Papariella interviews, he likes to probe to see what kind of difficult situations the job candidate may have faced in his or her past.

“How did it work out for them?” he says. “Different lines of questions like that can help me understand how they might operate internally here. We’re much more stringent on who we’re looking at and what we want to do. For me, it’s worked pretty well. I would say nine out of 10 employees we hire now, it’s been good.”

The better you can get at getting others involved in leadership and matters such as hiring, the better off you’ll be as a leader.

“I think all entrepreneurs obsess,” Papariella says. “It’s a learned trait to let it go, but you almost have no choice but to do it because you wouldn’t survive if you didn’t. It would drive you into the dirt. For any entrepreneur, it’s delegation, good process and good structure. It will help your life and your health immensely.”

Don’t look too far ahead

You won’t find a five-year plan on Papariella’s desk, nor a three-year plan or even a one-year plan.

“When you’re growing at this level, the chance of you not changing your business plan is probably zero,” Papariella says. “I run the company off of a three-month plan right now. We hit the three-month plan, and we go into the next three-month plan. Maybe in the next year, we’ll look at a longer term goal. We look at what want to look like, the dream scenario, but we build this company on a three-month basis versus years.”

Papariella believes there are two kinds of entrepreneurs in the world. There are the startup entrepreneurs and those who have built and established their businesses and can now make more concrete plans to deal with the future.

“A guy like me, I’m trying to get to a place where we’re a viable business,” Papariella says. “We’re a good business and we’re getting better. But there are still a lot of roadblocks we have to get through. I think in the next 18 months, we’ll be a viable business. But you have to separate the two, the guys in the shoes that I’m in versus the guys who are established.”

If he were to develop a three- or a five-year plan, Papariella says there is almost no chance he would be able to stick to the points of the original plans.

“The deals you’re cutting with partnerships and sales will inevitably change the dynamic of where you’re going,” Papariella says. “A lot of entrepreneurs in my shoes would feel very similar that it’s a struggle to meet the three- to five-year goals, so why do it?”

As Jet Edge continues to grow, Papariella is firmly focused on making his business a leader in the private jet industry. But he has not completely abandoned his childhood dream of a career in Hollywood.

“Frankly, I probably will go back to it at some point,” Papariella says. “Now is just not the time. But I have a love for that business. I know it very well. I’ll probably get into it a little differently than I did the last time.”


  • Get better at being a good listener.
  • Involve your team in the hiring process.
  • Don’t get carried away with your future.

The Papariella File

Name: Bill Papariella
Title: President and CEO
Company: Jet Edge International

Born: Pittsburgh

Papariella on not being starstruck: Coming out of the movie business, I had princes of countries pitching me stories. I’m sitting in a room with a guy who is worth $10 billion, and he’s pitching a story that he wants to be made in Hollywood, and I’m the decision-maker. So being in the movie business, you work with people at a very high level because everybody wants to be in it. So I’ve never been starstruck.

Papariella on the enjoyment he gets from his work: There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t want to be here. Even if I’m feisty, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to be here. It just means I want to win.

Papariella on his introduction to the private jet industry: I had a friend who worked for the PGA Tour, which had signed a jet company as a partner. The CEO was looking for an inroad into Hollywood. So my buddy came calling and said, ‘We just signed this new partner. You should really take a look at it. It would be a really cool thing for you.’

I had never been on a corporate jet before in my life and had no interest whatsoever. Working for the studios, the big guys flew private, but they would never take the mid-tier executives on the plane. So I said no.

After some convincing and meeting the CEO, I finally agreed, and I joined a company called Sentient Jet in 2006. That’s when it started. At the time the economy was booming. Even people who shouldn’t be flying private were flying private. You could trip and fall into a jet deal back then.

Former franchisee turned franchisor, Wan Kim reinvigorates Smoothie King as CEO

Wan Kim, Global CEO, Smoothie King Franchises Inc.

Wan Kim, Global CEO, Smoothie King Franchises Inc.

Imagine it’s a hot day. You’re thirsty and hungry, but don’t want anything unhealthy. There aren’t many options available to meet all those needs. In the early ’70s, the concept of the smoothie was born out of this unmet need. Opened in 1973, Smoothie King Franchises Inc. was the original smoothie brand.

In 2001, Wan Kim had this same urge to find a healthy option to quench his thirst and satisfy his hunger. He had his first experience with a Smoothie King smoothie while studying at University of California at Irvine. The high quality, healthy product had him hooked immediately.

Kim was so impacted by the product that he became a Smoothie King franchisee in South Korea. Since 2003 he has owned several Smoothie King franchises, and in 2012 when the opportunity came about to own the brand, he jumped at the chance.

“I bought the company in July 2012,” says Kim, Global CEO. “I really love this brand. It’s not because I’m the owner, but because we have great products. There are a lot of changes still happening, but it’s exciting.”

Smoothie King, a 300-employee, more than $230 million organization, is now 40 years old. The brand has more than 700 stores and a presence in the United States, Korea and Singapore. Despite the company’s established age and fairly big size, a new owner and plenty of potential market opportunity leave the brand in growth mode today.

“Our next five-year growth plan is to open 1,000 stores in the U.S. and 500 outside the U.S.,” Kim says. “Last year the company did about 26 franchise openings. This year in the first quarter the company has done 40 to 45 signings.”

Kim’s experience as a franchisee and now a franchisor has given the company new life and Kim is excited about where he can bring the brand and its smoothies in the near future.

Here’s how Kim is spreading the word about Smoothie King in the U.S. and overseas.

Understand all areas of your business

Kim was a franchisee for nearly a decade in South Korea. His stores were some of the highest grossing for Smoothie King before he became CEO.

“Obviously franchisees and franchisors have some different views, but eventually the bottom line is to make a better brand,” Kim says. “The path they take can be different, so you have to keep communicating to each other and look at the bigger picture.”

Kim has a very unique advantage over numerous other franchise CEOs. He now has experience as a franchisee and a franchisor.

“I have both aspects and know what a franchise wants and needs, and I know how I need to communicate,” he says. “In any kind of business, sometimes people forget why we do it. So that’s why I keep communicating and keep telling our people why we do this business. We have a great mission and a great vision. We just have to talk about it.

“A lot of people want to make money and be comfortable and I get that and that’s very, very important, but there has to be another reason why we do this. Smoothie King is a healthy choice and our mission is to help people live a better lifestyle.”

While the company’s mission is to help people live a healthier lifestyle, Kim wanted to make sure that the company’s franchises were in good health also.

“As soon as I bought the company I looked at how many single franchisees we have, because when I was a franchisee I thought becoming a multi-unit franchisee was actually very challenging,” he says. “As a franchisor, they don’t understand what kind of challenges franchisees have when they have a second or third location.

“I started to visit some multi-unit franchisees that we have to look at what kind of system they have in place. Today, we are assembling all those systems so that whenever we have a single franchisee try to become a multi-unit franchisee we have some system to help them grow.”

Having those systems in place will become very beneficial as Kim continues to look at ways he can expand the brand.

“Right now we are in growth mode and are opening a lot of stores and also expanding into other countries,” Kim says. “When you grow, you are hiring a lot of people and when you’re expanding outside the United States you encounter different cultures. In order for me to assemble all those differences I need a really strong mission for why we do this business so that it doesn’t matter what kind of culture or background you’re from.”

Prepare for growth mode

Today, Kim is focused on growing the Smoothie King brand outside the U.S. and in the Southern parts of the U.S. where the company has a strong presence, but a lot of potential still remains.

“We want to make sure that we secure our market before we expand to a different part of the U.S.,” Kim says. “That expansion is happening in Florida, Texas, Georgia and other southern parts of the U.S. Going outside the United States we are looking at Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan and the Middle East. Our goal is to open two markets this year and two more markets next year.”

Fast-paced growth like Smoothie King is expecting requires a strong culture and mission that make the company attractive anywhere it goes.

“When you are in growth mode I would advise that you want to have a really strong culture in your organization, so that whomever you hire can be blended into your culture,” he says. “You have to set up a strong mission, vision and keep communicating with your employees.”

When you take your company outside of the United States you will experience a lot of cultural difference, and you have to be prepared for it.

“A lot of times when people don’t have any experience with different cultures they will think it’s wrong, but in fact it’s different,” Kim says. “In order for you to go to other countries and do business you have to learn how to respect their culture. If you don’t respect their culture they will know immediately. You have to educate your employees.”

The vast cultural differences Smoothie King employees will experience as the brand continues to expand isn’t the only change they’ll have to accept, they’ll also have to buy into the sheer amount of growth that Kim sees in the company’s future.

“A lot of times when companies grow employees don’t really see how far we can go,” he says. “When we start to grow there is a lot of work coming in and a lot of things are changing. It is very important that I need to keep communicating with employees that we can get there, because if you don’t believe we can get there, then it’s not going to happen.”

One of the first things Kim did when he bought the company was to tell the employees about the growth plan and a lot of people didn’t buy in.

“They were thinking, ‘Oh, it’s a new owner; of course he’s going to be thinking of growth, but it’s not possible,’” he says. “So I had to keep communicating that it’s going to happen and one by one, I started to show them that this would happen and then it really happened and people believed in the plan. I know there are still people who don’t believe where we can go, so I still have to communicate.”

Kim bought the company a little more than a year ago and he is having a blast seeing the company succeed little by little.

“I tell my employees to imagine if we were the size of any big fast food company, the world could be a different place,” he says. “It’s not just about making money and having success. It’s also about influencing more and more people to live a healthier lifestyle.”

How to reach: Smoothie King Franchises Inc., (985) 635-6973 or www.smoothieking.com

Kailesh Karavadra is focusing on culture and talent to deliver outstanding results at EY San Jose

Kailesh Karavadra, managing principal, EY San Jose

Kailesh Karavadra, managing principal, EY San Jose

Kailesh Karavadra didn’t always want to be an accountant. In school he studied electronic engineering and later decided he wanted to try his hand at accounting. He fell in love with the profession and first joined EY in the U.K.

A few years later, the $24 billion accounting firm asked Karavadra if he’d be interested in moving to Silicon Valley.

“With my background in engineering and computers and business background in accounting, it made a lot of sense with what the Valley was going through in the early ’90s,” says Karavadra, managing principal of EY’s San Jose office. “So I came here, and I loved it, and have been here ever since.”

Karavadra has been with EY for more than 20 years, but it was in early 2012 that he was named managing principal for the 750-employee San Jose office, an announcement that coincided with the firm’s 50th anniversary of its presence in Silicon Valley.

“When we wake up every day and we put on our EY uniform and we come to work, our heart and soul is in building a better working world,” Karavadra says. “Over the past year I’ve had the chance to talk to almost every one of our employees, from our partners to our staff, and connect with them and listen to what’s on their minds and understand some of the complexities and challenges we work with.”

Karavadra has been focused on continuing to foster a strong culture at EY as well as continuing to recruit and retain top talent that will help the firm in its goal to build a better working world.

Here’s how Karavadra is making sure EY San Jose is prepared for the future.

Start with culture

Karavadra has been with EY for 23 years. He’s been with the firm for so long that when he speaks with young professionals today they’ll say, ‘Twenty-three years! Aren’t you bored?’

“I laugh because I have never had a single boring day,” Karavadra says. “The one differentiator is our culture and our people value that a lot.”

EY has been named to Fortune’s best companies to work for list for 15 consecutive years.

“That comes from our inclusiveness and flexibility and that we really empower our people,” he says. “For our employees, every day they show up for work it’s about choices. What we try to do is cultivate a culture that empowers them to make the right decisions, leverage the information that’s available in our culture and have diverse thinking to do the right things when serving our clients and our firm.”

Karavadra and the San Jose office encourage and empower employees to drive their own bus. “There are so many opportunities within our firm to drive their careers, to learn so many things, to be able to experience many things, and that’s the culture we want them to be able to feel,” he says. “Our employees are excited, they’re energized, they’re enthusiastic, and they’re passionate about what we do.”

One of the things that EY is very proud of is inclusiveness and that is something that Karavadra heard loud and clear from his people as something they value.

“This isn’t just about ethnicity and gender and those things that many organizations like ours do a great job around, but it’s the diversity of thought,” he says. “We encourage our people to bring that diversity of thought, to bring the different thinking and look at the problems we’re trying to solve for our clients and the value we’re trying to add to our clients in different ways.”

Developing a culture such as what Karavadra has in San Jose and what EY has bred around the globe hasn’t happened overnight.

“There’s a great saying out there that I personally believe in, which is, ‘People don’t care what you know until they know you care,’” he says. “At the foundation of our culture is the caring. We treat ourselves as family.

“One way we foster that culture is through our alumni and our retired partners. We did several events last year where we bring our retired partners back, and it’s amazing to me the pride, passion and excitement they have for our firm. We have almost 1 million alumni that have gone through the EY culture. During these events we invite our alumni to reconnect with each other, as well as reconnect with current employees.”

Another way Karavadra helps foster EY’s culture and helps to build a better working world is through five things that he constantly talks about with his team.

“No. 1 is that we really do contribute to the success of the capital market,” he says. “No. 2 is that we truly help and improve as well as grow businesses. The third is we support entrepreneurs. Fourth is we are incubators for leaders. Fifth is giving back to the community.”

Find and retain top talent

Those five things are important aspects of the EY culture, but they also help drive why employees love to work for the firm and why potential employees are attracted to working there as well.

“There’s a saying by John F. Kennedy Jr., ‘Some people see the world the way it is and say why, others see it differently and say why not,’” Karavadra says. “When we go on campuses we see a lot of very young, talented people who want to make a difference, who want to contribute and have a sense of belonging.”

Karavadra makes sure to talk a lot about the firm’s family culture, team atmosphere and sense of empowerment.

“We also bring our current employees because we want them to be the voice and they will shoot from the hip and give an honest view and opinion of what it’s like working here,” he says.

Karavadra also goes on these campus visits to speak with potential hires. He wants to make sure he understands what those candidates are looking for in a company and in a job.

“What they tell me is they want to work in a dynamic environment,” he says. “They love the innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and the teaming aspect of an organization.”

Focusing on recruiting strong talent is important, but all that energy is wasted if you don’t also focus on retaining those great candidates once you have them.

“It’s not only important to hire good talent and keep them here, but for our clients in the markets at-large it means that when people have energy, enthusiasm and they believe that we’re doing the right thing, they’re going to provide exceptional client service,” Karavadra says.

“They’re going to be a part of the highest performing teams and when you add our global strength and structure to the local empowerment in our local offices, that’s a real strong recipe for people to have a successful career.”

Karavadra believes that above all else, trust is one of the biggest factors for retaining talent in an organization.

“I truly believe in my DNA, that trust is at the heart of it,” he says. “Young people these days are incredibly smart, incredibly connected and talented.

“But when we’re out there talking to people, the most important thing that I share, whether it’s for recruiting or with employees, there is nothing more important than making sure you hold the ethics, reputation and integrity of yourself and our firm at the highest level. Nothing should compromise that.”

Whether you’re on campus recruiting or trying to attract experienced hires, establishing trust is the most important thing.

“They need to feel that this is an organization with honesty, trust, integrity and teaming. Where employees feel there are common goals and we work together,” he says.

While trust is a big reason employees will remain with a company, a second big reason is training and the ability to develop new skill sets.

“We put in 2.7 million hours of training last year for our people,” Karavadra says. “We really want our people to be the very best they can be. It is important for us to make sure we provide all of the latest and relevant insights to them, whether it’s classroom training, industry training or leveraging our web-based technology tools. The San Jose office is the global technology center, so we have a lot of our thought leadership around the world that we develop right here for our technology clients.”

Training at EY is not the only formal training team members get, they also get to take advantage of the firm’s apprenticeship model.

“What I learned when I started as a staff member 23 years ago is that I looked at people around me and there were mentors and coaches who took an interest in me and cared about me,” he says. “They would take me aside and say, ‘You just did this inventory account, this cash reconciliation, and looked at this tax document. Here’s why it’s important for us, why it’s valuable to the client and the impact it could have.’

“Right away from the first day, the training climatizes you to understanding the importance and the accountability that we have on the work that we do. It’s not just showing up every day to put in your number of hours and then we clock out. There’s a real importance to that training.”

How to reach: EY San Jose, (408) 947-5500 or www.ey.com



Work on establishing a culture that is attractive to employees.

Devote time to recruiting the best talent for your organization.

Provide training resources to help retain your best talent.


The Karavadra File

Kailesh Karavadra

Managing principal

EY San Jose

Born: Kampala, Uganda

Education: He studied electronic engineering and received a master’s degree in engineering from University College of North Wales in Bangor.

What was the first job you had and what did you learn from it?

I delivered newspapers. I used to get up at 5:30 a.m. before school and do it again after school. So it was twice a day, six days a week. I was always inspired by working hard and taking my responsibilities seriously, because you’re accountable for the things you are doing. Hard work will always get you a reward.

Who do you look up to?

I have five mentors that I am in constant connection with who are across five different continents. That has happened because of the years of experience here and the networking. I can call them anytime and pick their brains and they try and make sure they support what I am doing.

If you could speak with anyone from the past or present, with whom would you want to speak with?

The one person who has shaped me more than others is Mahatma Gandhi. I have always been incredibly inspired by the willpower he had. He was someone who realized that something needed to change and he was willing to take the first step.

Bill Byham and Development Dimensions International have no lack of good ideas for the R&D process

Bill Byham, chairman and CEO, Development Dimensions International Inc.

Bill Byham, chairman and CEO, Development Dimensions International Inc.

Bill Byham holds a doctorate in industrial/organizational psychology — but that’s not the only way to define him. While he is not only considered an expert in the scientific study of employees, workplaces and organizations, he was one of the first in the world to use a groundbreaking hiring technique called assessment centers.

Some 35 years ago, Byham worked for J.C. Penney Co. when he began using simulated on-the-job techniques to find the most qualified potential employees.

“Assessment centers are a way of evaluating people by putting them through simulations where the people can show what they can do rather than just conducting an interview,” Byham says. “It’s like picking a basketball player — you wouldn’t interview them, you would put them out on the basketball court to see what they could do.”

Byham had great success with these assessment centers at J.C. Penney and wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review that made him famous, gaining the interest of many big companies looking to use this technique.

It wasn’t long until an entrepreneurial opportunity was born. He partnered with Doug Bray of AT&T and started Development Dimensions International Inc., which today is a leader in talent management, leadership development, hiring and talent acquisition.

“We help companies make the most of their employees,” says Byham, chairman and CEO. “We help organizations be more successful in hiring people by teaching interviewing skills. We are very big in the training business, particularly at the supervisory level, where we train more than 500,000 people a year.

“We also have a big business to help companies determine who will be their fast trackers and how to develop them for higher-level jobs.”

Since Byham started DDI, a 1,100-employee, $200 million organization, the company has trained upwards of 20 million people. Today, his focus is on the continued R&D of products in training and development techniques.

Here’s how Byham goes about R&D to keep DDI in front of its customers and on the cutting edge of its industry.

Generate ideas

DDI places a great deal of energy into its R&D process. As a global company, DDI offers its products in as many as 20 languages. Rolling out changes to an existing product or developing a completely new one is a big cost. Costs and language aside, however, to remain an industry leader, you need to have plenty of ideas, and good ones.

“We do so much R&D here,” Byham says. “A problem that we do not have is a lack of good ideas. We have more good ideas than we know what to do with.

“So the first problem is trying to slim down the list of projects because all the projects are in the multimillion dollar range.”

In order to develop all these good ideas that DDI brings to the table, the company fosters a sense of empowerment among its employees.

“The whole company is built on empowerment — that is to empower people to own their job and feel responsible to make decisions,” Byham says. “If you treat your employees so that they feel empowered and they treat their job like they own it, then people will always want to improve and come up with ideas.”

In addition to a sense of empowerment, DDI prides itself on having a management team that is very open to new ideas and has a willingness to make changes.

“That’s one of our big problems — we make so many changes all the time because people come up with new ideas,” he says.

The management team works to narrow down the options.

“We have a series of meetings to cut them out and usually it’s not hard to get it down to eight,” he says. “But then to get it down to two or three new projects is tougher. R&D to us is brand new, game-changing products, or a big change in what we’re doing.”

DDI’s biggest product is called Interaction Management, which is a supervisory training program that is among the best-selling of its kind in the world.

“We try to update it every six or seven years,” Byham says. “That essentially becomes a new product.”

DDI recently finished a new middle management training program. The concept rethinks how middle managers get trained, including what they get trained on and how their skills are developed and what happens after that in the company to make sure they really learn it and apply those new skills.

“It’s not just coming up with a new idea,” he says. “It’s coming up with the whole pathway to learning and change, which starts out with a better understanding of their needs.”

Focus your R&D efforts

Part of having a strong R&D process is being able to not only take suggestions from your customers for products and develop those, but also being able to develop products out in front of what your clients want before they know they want it.

“You have to look at R&D in that sense as a 50/50 balance,” Byham says. “We do a lot of customer surveys. We’re out with our customers a lot and they’ll say, ‘We want a training program on this.’ However, I think it was Steve Jobs who said, ‘If you only give your customers what they ask for, you’ll always be behind.’

“What I’ve always noticed is you have to be out in front of the customer because sometimes it takes us several years to develop these things. If you just try to keep up with that hot topic, we won’t get it out until it is no longer a hot topic. So we have to anticipate needs and then be ahead of that.”

DDI has had instances where it was ahead of customers on products. Just a few years ago DDI developed a product to help companies prepare for retirements and how to handle an older workforce.

“We’ve been way ahead of our contemporaries and competitors on that,” he says. “The bad side is the whole thing is built on the assumption there is going to be a huge amount of retirements. With the economy being what it was until recently, a whole lot of people who were going to retire decided not to. We’re still ahead of the tide there a little bit.”

The R&D process isn’t just about finding the next new product, but also devoting some effort to keeping well-performing, existing products up-to-date.

“The more products you have, the more it costs you to keep the old products good,” he says. “The ratio for us is around 60 to 70 percent old products and 40 to 30 percent new. You have to look at the sales of the old product. If you’re still going up with the old product, you will want to keep investing in it.”

Byham likens it to Tide for Procter & Gamble. There have been 20 new versions of Tide and they’re still making money on it. They’re going to keep that product and put it in front of customers.

“If you really have an excellent old product, like we have with Interaction Management, you would not want to let that go, but you still want to be out looking for new things,” Byham says.

Plan for the future

Byham’s biggest focus may be on R&D, but another forward-thinking area he is keeping in mind is succession planning. Byham is 76, and very aware of his age. He knows that anything could happen at any time requiring someone else to lead the company.

“There’s never been a company more ready for retirements because the whole company is so dedicated to growing our own leaders,” Byham says. “We practice what we preach.”

One of the keys to succession planning that DDI lives by is that you can’t develop everyone for high-level jobs.

“If you try to spread your money out evenly across people, you don’t have any effect by it,” he says. “The first big thing is to define who are the people who have the most raw talent to be developed. Then you have to look at how you accelerate their development.

“You keep on developing everybody and you keep on promoting people, but there are certain people you promote faster who are being accelerated up the ladder.”

DDI also believes that you don’t aim people at high-level jobs. You aim people at a level of jobs, like the C-level, but you don’t name the job specifically because companies today are too dynamic.

“We preach that companies should do away with the old succession plan, which was to take an organizational chart and move people up who are next in line,” Byham says. “We have done all kinds of research that proved that did not work.

“Instead you should get a pool of people who are the most talented and get them to aim at a level within the organization rather than a particular job. Then when the job is open, you choose from that pool.”

How to reach: Development Dimensions International Inc., (412) 257-0600 or www.ddiworld.com



Foster an environment that breeds idea generation.

Focus R&D on a mix of customer demands and brand new ideas.

Think about the future of your company and who’s going to lead it.


The Byham File

Bill Byham

Chairman and CEO

Development Dimensions International Inc.

Born: Parkersburg, W.Va.

Education: He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ohio University and a doctorate from Purdue University.

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

My family was in the undertaking business. If you work in a funeral home, there’s a lot of work to do. My early job experiences taught me the importance of good interpersonal skills.

How would you describe your work habits?

I value creativity a lot, but at the same time, I have a strong scientific orientation of proving it and challenging and doing research. I’m pretty good about coming up with new ideas, but I’m also very good about punching holes in new ideas and doing research to make sure they really work.

Who is someone you look up to in business?

I looked up to my father. He was an entrepreneur and owned his own company.

What is your favorite DDI product?

It would have to be our supervisory training program called Interaction Management. We have trained millions and millions of supervisors.

How top global entrepreneurs turn vision into reality

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year conference in Monte Carlo. I’m back to report that entrepreneurship is alive and thriving around the globe!

It was a whirlwind of a trip, packed with networking, thought-provoking panel discussions and personal interviews. We heard from a remarkable panel of speakers including Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize recipient; Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web; John Cleese, award-winning actor, author, humorist and Monty Python legend; and many more.

I also had the opportunity to sit down with some of the world’s most accomplished entrepreneurs. These business leaders come from more than 60 countries that combined represent a staggering 94 percent of the global economy.

In this issue and in the months to come, you’ll learn what the world’s greatest entrepreneurs have to say about leadership, innovation, overcoming challenges, bringing their visions to life and much, much more. You’ll also hear from the leadership at EY as to the importance of celebrating entrepreneurship.

Transforming vision into reality

“Be careful about making assumptions. Those assumptions can lead you down a pretty dangerous path. It is OK to make assumptions and have confidence but you had better do your due diligence as well. An assumption is having those critical for the business make sure it is happening. I am very trusting of people and in the past have had some unfortunate instances where I did make assumptions about something and they were completely the wrong assumptions.”

Dr. Alan Ulsifer, CEO, president and chair of FYidoctors


Americas Director for the Entrepreneur of the Year Program, EY

Bryan Pearce, Americas Director, Entrepreneur of the Year Program and Venture Capital Advisory Group, EY

“Growth obviously continues to be a challenge. The markets demand growth if you are a publicly traded company, and growth is a metric of how the business is doing. If you want to continue to attract the best people, attract the right sources of capital to your business, you have to demonstrate that things are going well and growth is one measure that people look to. I think that if you are a business in an established market, growth can be a challenge because those markets by and large are growing more slowly. So in order to get more rapid growth, many companies are looking at emerging markets and trying to figure out what their strategy should be for emerging markets, those that have double-digit growth potential.”

Bryan Pearce, Americas Director, Entrepreneur Of The Year and Venture Capital Advisory Group EY


“One of the toughest things for me was that people have a certain image of my country, Colombia. They don’t trust a company there to have good quality and do good work, but I am very proud to offer those qualities from Colombia. It is not easy but it is something that you can accomplish. I have been down a lot of times, but the good thing I have noticed is that every time something like that happened, I have been able to obtain positive things out of it. I have been broke multiple times, but from being broke I have been able to learn from it and rebuild.


Mario Hernandez, founder and president, Mario Hernandez

Mario Hernandez, founder and president, Mario Hernandez


Jim Turley leaves his post as Global Chairman and CEO for EY with deep admiration for the entrepreneurs who continue to use their vision and spirit of innovation to change the world.

“They have got this wonderful ability to think outside themselves, to look at the world outside these windows and see the needs that exist out there,” says Turley, who officially retired on July 1.

“Then they’ve got a vision to create a product or service or an idea to meet the need they have seen. They have got the courage to risk everything and they are as persistent as can be. Most of them fail the first time out. But they get up, clean themselves off and do it again.”


Jim Turley, former Global Chairman and CEO, EY

Jim Turley, former Global Chairman and CEO, EY

“Work carefully with a few people who get a twinkle in their eye. If you talk about your idea, some people will respond with excitement because they get it, but not everybody. Maybe you talk to 300 people and three people will get it. Work with those three people. The web took off because a few people all over the world got it. You get the support from a few people who get it and then it builds from there.”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web


Corey Shapoff has a job that many would envy, booking well-known musical acts such as Maroon 5, Katy Perry, Christina Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson for live concerts and private corporate events. But he doesn’t take much time to stop and think about all the famous people on his call list.

“I’m a grinder,” says Shapoff, president and founder of SME Entertainment Group. “I’m the kind of guy who is always looking to what’s next. You’re only as good to me as your last deal.”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web

It’s that instinctual drive to always try to do it better that is embedded in the true entrepreneur and allows the next vision to become a reality.

“It’s hard for me to turn it off and say, ‘That’s great,’” Shapoff says. “I’m always thinking about tomorrow. You just can’t take things for granted in our business.”


“The skill sets of an entrepreneur involve understanding how to create business. So if you’re going to give back, why not work with kids who need it the most and actually teach them and help them to be entrepreneurs. That’s what is going to grow our economy and create stability where otherwise we’re going to have a lot of social unrest.”

Amy Rosen, president and CEO, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship


Lorenzo Barrera Segovia, founder and CEO, Banco Base

Lorenzo Barrera Segovia, founder and CEO, Banco Base

“When you’re an entrepreneur you feel like you have never met a deal that you didn’t like. You only have limited resources and limited time to be successful. You have to stay disciplined and focused and being able to say what we are not is every bit as important as being able to say what we are.”

Jim Davis, president, Chevron Energy Solutions


“It’s important that you have teamwork and all your top players are well motivated with passion, principles and values. We make sure that people know where we are going and what our main objective is for that year. We promote teamwork inside and outside the company. Our directors have to make sure they are sharing our company values and principles with each of their team members.”

Lorenzo Barrera Segovia, founder and CEO, Banco Base


Martin Migoya, CEO, Globant

Martin Migoya, CEO, Globant

“For entrepreneurs you get a great idea, you start your business and then you have to keep focused. Keep executing that idea if that idea is big enough. Never fall into the temptation of getting out of your business or change it unless it’s strategic. Secondly, try to get financing as late as you can. Never get financing as soon as you can. Thirdly, create a great team and culture, because that’s what will prevail and create value for shareholders and your community. That’s how you scale your business. The last one is to dream big.”

Martin Migoya, CEO, Globant


“It was nothing but a gut feeling. The only thing I knew was there was a big opportunity in yogurt. I grew up with yogurt. Being from Turkey yogurt was a big part of our diet. I wasn’t sure if I could do it – break through in the world of yogurt in retail.

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, president and CEO, Chobani Inc.

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, president and CEO, Chobani Inc.

The category was owned by two major companies; Dannon and Yopliat owned about 70 percent of the market, and they had been there for years. As a startup you go to the specialty stores first. That’s how you start and you grow and once you reach a certain level then you go to the big retailers.

I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to go to the big retailers and be in the regular dairy aisle. That was a crazy idea and nobody thought that would go, but at least we tried. When we tried, we convinced one retailer in New York, ShopRite. The result from that was we were able to expand to a couple of other retailers. After the second or third customer that we had success with for our yogurt, I knew it wasn’t going to be about selling, it was about making enough.”

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, president and CEO, Chobani Inc.

Rick Bennet and CCA Global Partners have strength in numbers

Rick Bennet, co-CEO, CCA Global Partners Inc.

Rick Bennet, co-CEO, CCA Global Partners Inc.

With more than 2,700 locations and 800 independent retailers, Rick Bennet oversees a cooperative that has significant strength in numbers. In fact, CCA Global Partners Inc. has more purchasing power in its floor covering business than Home Depot.

Founded by two independent retailers in the floor covering business in 1984, Howard Brodsky and Alan Greenberg, CCA Global Partners’ primary business is Carpet One Flooring & Home. CCA is a cooperative of 14 independent brands in the home improvement industry with more than $10 billion in aggregate gross sales and more than 100 consecutive quarters of profitability. Its retail floor covering stores and its non-floor covering businesses each see annual revenue of about $5 billion.

“These people have come together with our management and our infrastructure and are able to bring scale to their business and compete with big box and other large retailers by banding all of their purchases and resources together,” says Bennet, co-CEO at CCA.

Despite that ability to band together, the downturn in the housing market had an impact on CCA and its independent retailers.

“We entered the downturn early and I would suggest that we’re coming back out of it later,” says Bennet, who was formerly president and CEO of Kauffman’s and vice chairman at May Department Stores. “These guys are small independents and so they have been really rocked. The biggest challenge we continue to face is just keeping people up and moving ahead.”

Bennet has had the task of helping his retailers cope with the downturn, push through it and now move forward.

“We are not exclusively floor covering, but it is at the core of our business,” Bennet says. “Many of the things that we have opened up are things like cabinets or lighting, but they are all home improvement, so we are closely tied to the housing business and the economy has been tough out there and housing has been the worst of it.”

Here’s how Bennet and CCA Global Partners Inc. have helped independent retailers through a tough time and as a result, repositioned them for the future.

Face the facts

In a tough economy it is very hard to have to start rationalizing business and look at cutting costs. When times get tough it comes down to basic math, and you can’t spend what you don’t have.

“You do what you’ve got to do,” Bennet says. “The tougher challenge has really been the emotional one. When you go through five or six years of downturn and you’re waiting for things to bounce back, the drag on people’s patience and emotions is really tough and much more problematic than just the cost cutting that had to happen a couple years ago.”

During those years Bennet often found himself on the phone with owners of their business facing such challenges as having to fire a friend or relative.

“I get calls from guys saying, ‘I need your advice. We’re under a cash flow press and I’ve shed all the workers that I can and I’m now down to family and I’m facing firing my brother-in-law. What do I do?’” he says.

At that point, tough business decisions have to be made.

“You have to save the business first, because if the business is saved and things get better then you can re-employ,” he says. “If the business dies, then you’ve got no chance.”

One of the biggest problems CCA deals with is assuring its independent retailers that it’s OK to ask for help.

“If you’re in trouble as a small business, the best thing you can do is ask for help earlier, because then there’s time to do some of the tough decisions and save the business,” he says. “If you wait until your balance sheet is totally upside down and you’re facing bankruptcy there’s very little that can be done.”

The other challenge CCA faced was market attrition. About a third of the independent retailers in CCA’s space have shut down over the last eight years.

“Our store count is down only fractionally,” Bennet says. “Now that the pendulum is starting to swing, people actually get under more cash flow pressure because they’ve got to invest in buying product as the business starts to turn up.”

Today, business is starting to turn around for CCA and its retailers. Some of them, however, are hesitant to invest in the business, to rehire people and spend money on advertising and marketing.

“It’s tough to cross that line because you’re worried about the next customer that’s going to come in the door or when the next downturn is going to be,” he says, “and you’re nervous about launching a new ad or hiring a new person.”

But that’s where CCA’s decades of experience come in. CCA tries to provide incentives, coaching and a sounding board for people who need to make those tough decisions. The message — the time is now to switch to offense.

“Their brain tells them, yes I should, but their heart tells them, I’ve just been beaten up so badly I’m not sure I can make that investment,” he says. “The market has definitely shrunk, but it’s time to start investing in the business and get market share and it’s hard for an independent guy to step across that line.”

Reinvest and branch out

The first step in getting CCA’s independent retailers back on track following the downturn was to have them reinvest in their businesses to take advantage of new opportunities in the market.

“You first start with people whose basic business is in pretty good shape,” Bennet says. “If somebody still hasn’t made the tough decisions, then you’ve got to make the right business adjustments to your expense model before you go making investments.

“If you’re dealing with a small business that has operated with some discipline, made those cuts and their basic business is in good shape, then you have to start investing in people and advertising to move forward. If the business is growing, then it might be time to push them into the next step, which is to open an adjacent business. If they’re even stronger, then you may suggest that they open a branch.”

CCA itself made similar moves to advance its brands over the years. CCA was originally Carpet Co-op of America. The first strategic change for the company was to move from a carpet co-operative to a floor covering business. What was originally the Carpet One business became Carpet One Floor & Home.

Today, CCA is making the next strategic shift, which is to spread out beyond floor covering into all aspects of the home improvement field, as opposed to filling only one part of it.

“We’ve moved into the kitchen and bath business with cabinets,” Bennet says. “We have a lighting business, and we continue to contemplate other additions to that. We’ll try to engage in anything that involves home improvement so we provide synergies and leads to our dealers, as well as synergies with the customer.”

When looking to break into new markets you have to ask yourself, what’s the value that you’re providing? As you answer that question you determine where you can add on.

“For us it’s a service equation,” Bennet says. “We’re in the customer’s home and we’re providing the service. What other products can you add to that? It’s the question of what do you do well and how do you do more of it rather than trying to add stuff that’s irrelevant to your business.”

Even CCA had to learn the hard way that going too far outside your core area is a difficult undertaking. A number of years ago it tried its hand at tuxedo rentals.

“It was out of our space,” he says. “You get out of your sweet spot and you’re operating a little bit more in the blind, and you bring less expertise and value. It taught us to stay close to home.”

It comes back to that core question of, where do you add value and what are you good at. You have to make sure you get honest answers to that question.

“When you go into a new business, make sure you’re leveraging things that might work for you,” he says. “Whenever it came to standing something up that was brand new because you thought it might fit, you have to second guess it. You can dream up things that you might add to any of those business structures, but if it’s outside of the core of what you do, you have to be careful.”

CCA keeps asking the question, ‘What do we do well and how do we add to that?’

“If it’s small business, it has to do with the home and we can provide scale, then it’s an open place for us to work and we’re always looking for those places,” Bennet says.

“The world of housing has gone through a lot of attrition, so as that bounces back we’re in a terrific position to pick up a lot of share, and being able to bolt on these different extensions of what we do is a lot of fun to work on. We feel better today than we have in five or six years.”

How to reach: CCA Global Partners Inc., (800) 466-6984 or www.ccaglobalpartners.com



Don’t be afraid to ask for help in a tough situation.

Make the necessary efforts to save the business.

When good times return, be ready to invest for the future.


The Bennet File

Rick Bennet


CCA Global Partners Inc.

Born: St. Louis

Education: He has a degree in business from University of Central Missouri and a MBA from Washington University.

What was your first job and what did you take away from it?

I was a short-order cook for a little drive-in restaurant called Carl’s in St. Louis. I started working for Carl himself at 90 cents an hour. It was all about good relations with the customers.

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

I had a mentor once say to me, ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.’ That stuck in my head very strongly, and I really believe in the power of self-determination. I try to impress that in our company. If you’re going to spend time trying to figure out how somebody else screwed it up, you’re not going to get anything done.

The second one is Peter Drucker’s advice, which was managing your strengths. So many people spend all of their time trying to correct their weaknesses. You have to know what you’re good at and what you love to do and leverage that. I try to live by that.

If you could speak with someone from the past or present, with whom would you want to speak with?

Abraham Lincoln.

If you were going to redo some flooring in your house, what product would you use?

This new product line of New Zealand wool is exceptional. It’s beautiful. I got out ahead of the launch and put some of it into my home, which we just remodeled. The brand name of it is Just Shorn, as in shearing a sheep. I love the distinctiveness of wool and the softness and warmth under your foot. It’s an exciting addition to what we do, and it’s a terrific product.