I’ve been speaking with business leaders recently about the difference between entrepreneurship and managing a company. It’s funny how the two are often conflated when they aren’t the same thing at all.
Yes, many entrepreneurs successfully manage their businesses, and the consummate manager has been known to come up with a brilliant entrepreneurial idea.
At the same time, we all know serial entrepreneurs who move on to the next startup as fast as they can possibly sell their current company. And, many business leaders make a career of finding troubled companies and straightening them out.
Gauging the differences
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an “entrepreneur” is a) a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money, and b) one who organizes, manages and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.
It’s interesting that “risk” shows up in both definitions. Maybe that’s the beginning of the true difference — an appetite for risk.
Last year, I spoke with a serial entrepreneur who said that true innovators operate like they’re trying to get to the hospital to have their firstborn child. They’ll switch lanes rapidly in order to get through a green light, and generally take risks that would make the corporate world balk.
Other people who identify themselves as entrepreneurs have told me they have trouble taking advice. The same drive that lets them throw everything behind an idea makes them believe they always know best, especially when it comes to their “baby.”
When I looked up the definition of “businessman” (or woman), risk was nowhere to be found. It is defined as a person who works in business, especially in a high position, who is good at dealing with business and financial matters, and who transacts business.
This seems to suggest stability and a caretaking ability.
A need for both
In any organization’s lifespan, it goes through stages that call for different types of leaders. To be successful, you definitely need both personalities, even if one may be more important than another in a given year or phase. In fact, some large corporations create separate divisions that mimic startups in order facilitate idea generation and innovation.
There are no right answers to how founding CEOs and professional CEOs should act, but it is interesting to keep in mind that they aren’t the same thing at all.
The Bayernhof Museum in O’Hara Township is as much about the unusualness of its former owner, Charles B. Brown III, as his 19,000-square-foot home. With hidden doors and secret passages, and large collection of music boxes and other automatic musical instruments, there’s something to be discovered around every turn.
President Danielle Cuomo’s commitment to thinking differently about the on-demand, virtual assistant business model not only allowed her to build the largest team of virtual assistants in the country, but also fend off better-funded competitors such as Richard Branson.
She constantly challenges the Virtual Assist USA team to think “What if?”
The company has an ideas board, and Cuomo says if they don’t come up with three ideas daily then that idea muscle atrophies. They don’t have to be terrific ideas, but they have to be new.
She listens to all ideas and is willing to implement any that might help.
“If it fails, if we lose money, if we lose clients, that’s OK, because I want to make sure that we are continuously innovating, continuously getting ideas,” Cuomo says. “And if someone’s first three ideas don’t work, maybe their fourth is a really great idea, so I don’t want to stymie that.”
Her Ambassador program also provides opportunities for employees to join different teams for 90-day internal assignments. Someone from marketing might go learn from Web design.
“What is innovative about that is not that the marketing person is learning about the Web design department,” Cuomo says. “But what the Web design department gets to benefit from — they benefit from that marketing person’s fresh ideas, innovation, creativity.”
Virtual Assist USA sparks innovation just by switching people around.
Dennis Wilke, president and director of Rosedale Technical College, understands that training people is less important than training them for jobs employers need to fill. So he partnered with the corporate sector to determine the technical skills in demand and built programs designed to educate and train students to fill those jobs.
Today, more than 450 students are often enrolled at one time, with about 700 students completing Rosedale courses each year.
Wilke is also willing to experiment with the college’s secondary schools partners.
For instance, Rosedale has dual enrollment with the Parkway West Career and Technology Center, where some of its students come to the college three days a week. The first year, after those students graduated high school, that turned into 13 enrollments and close to $350,000 in tuition revenue.
And, he works with his team to recognize employees who go above and beyond the call of duty, while celebrating and learning from failures. By eliminating the fear of failure, Wilke sparks innovation and makes Rosedale an employer-of-choice.
“By creating an opportunity where people feel enabled to act on their own ideas, and they’ve got some freedom to have some control over their environment — that’s how you become smart because you’ve got everybody pulling in the same direction,” Wilke says.
Under new CEO Tacy Byham and her father before her, Development Dimensions International develops intuitive talent management and recruitment processes that help organizations with succession planning, leadership development and training the next generation of workers.
“It is the thing that keeps the CEOs awake at night. Do I have the right amount of talent? Do I have the right quality of talent?” Byham says.
DDI employs organizational psychologists who study behavior, as it helps leaders deal with challenges that you don’t normally get to prepare for. For example, you might find out your company is polluting and then a member of the press comes up and asks you about it.
Also, there’s a focus on helping leaders have an insight into themselves, so DDI has created engaging online assessments. As you use a video program, you could actually get off of an elevator and be met by your assistant, so it feels realistic.
The assessment, which includes testing, looks at how people perform, she says. Do they delegate well? How are they using influence skills? Can they put out a conflict?
Everything DDI does is with the future of its clients’ organizations in mind — helping make companies sustainable for years to come. And that in turn has helped build DDI to last with more than 1,000 employees in 72 offices in 26 countries.
Congratulations to Pittsburgh’s Smart 50 for strengthening the region, contributing to its economic success
Chase is honored to partner with Smart Business to present the 2015 Pittsburgh Smart 50 Awards. On behalf of our local team, we are thrilled to be part of this celebration of leadership and innovation — and the impact of both on our community.
This year’s Smart 50 honorees represent a diverse set of businesses and industries, but each winner shares an inspiring commitment to his or her organization — and to our community. We congratulate them on their well-deserved recognition for leading successful organizations.
The Smart 50 honorees have all contributed to the city of Pittsburgh — standing as a source of inspiration and leadership. While the national economy slowly gains momentum, Pittsburgh has emerged as an enviable hotbed of innovation, with industries such as advanced manufacturing, health care, education and technology fueling job growth and new investments.
Our population is growing for the first time in decades, and we’re frequently ranked on lists like Business Insider’s 15 Hottest American Cities for 2015 and Glassdoor’s 25 Best Cities for Jobs, and we ranked second on Forbes’ America’s Smartest Cities.
For these and many other reasons, our Chase Commercial Banking team is proud to call Pittsburgh home and be part of this community. Our local bankers are dedicated to helping smart leaders seize the opportunities that bring their goals within reach — offering proactive insight, tailored financial solutions and personalized service to midsized businesses in the region.
We take pride in strengthening our community by helping local businesses thrive, and we are so pleased to see the continuing strength of our robust local economy.
Irwin Car and Equipment has been a model of business continuity and stability, growing steadily and consistently under William Baker’s leadership as president and CEO.
As a result of Baker’s vision and commitment to product and employee innovation, the successful implementation of his business strategy, the efforts of his management team and the hard work of employees, the company is poised for continued success and growth.
The recent acquisition of three synergistically linked companies has further strengthened Irwin Car’s ability to serve its clients in the transit, light rail, mining and tunneling markets.
The company’s commitment to aggressive R&D efforts to enhance existing products and develop new products has had a direct and positive impact on sales and marketing efforts.
It also dramatically improved Irwin Car’s ability to provide dependable and reliable products to its customer base. These efforts continue to bear fruit for all of Irwin Car’s business units.
No job is beneath Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, and she expects her employees to work just as hard. For instance, one busy holiday weekend, she appeared in the zoo’s parking lot, directing traffic, pointing out open spaces and chatting with visitors.
Baker isn’t your typical CEO. She wears blue jeans and tennis shoes, and whistles while carrying a crate that holds the office cat, which she rescued during a torrential downpour.
Though she exudes southern charm, she is a savvy businesswoman. In 25 years, Baker has expanded the zoo from a small city-owned facility into one of the most visited cultural attractions in western Pennsylvania, with 1 million visitors annually.
Baker has succeeded in what seemed like impossible situations, such as rescuing three elephants scheduled for execution in Botswana. Her role as an educator and advocate for animals is contagious, and those who work with her catch it.
Serdar Bankaci learned how toxic materials found in electronic waste were contaminating the environment and wanted to do something about it.
In 2011, he founded Commonwealth Computer Recycling (CCR), an e-waste and data disposal company that redirects e-waste from landfills to secondhand users and recycling facilities.
Over the past four years, CCR has diverted more than 5 million pounds of e-waste from landfills. CCR has a zero landfilling policy — nothing collected ends up in a landfill.
As founder and owner, Bankaci focused on identifying electronics for reuse, which is why CCR sells about 10 percent of its collected volume for reuse (versus 1 to 5 percent for its competitors). Because of CCR’s competitive advantage in resale and low overhead relative to its competitors, the company has one of the lowest cost bases in the industry, allowing it to price lower and more flexibly than competitors of a similar or larger size.
With a nod to the company’s 75th anniversary, Michael Baker International launched its “75 x 5K Service” campaign in June 2015. The campaign name represents the company’s 5,000 employees committing to a combined 7,500 hours of community service such as volunteering at schools, nonprofits or humanitarian causes for the remainder of 2015.
Since the launch of the campaign, the company has featured stories of individual employees making significant contributions to their local communities on its social media channels. Only two months after initiating the campaign, Michael Baker employees exceeded the campaign goal, donating more than 9,500 community service hours and more than $400,000 in companywide contributions.
The success underscores the company’s commitment to giving back to the communities that it serves. As CEO, Kurt Bergman has challenged employees across the enterprise to continue donating time and logging hours so the company could see how far it might exceed its initial goal by year’s end.
Marsha Blanco has served as president and CEO of ACHIEVA, southwestern Pennsylvania’s largest provider of comprehensive support for children and adults with disabilities, for more than 30 years. Under Blanco’s leadership, ACHIEVA has attracted top executives, community leaders, attorneys, educators and entrepreneurs to its board of trustees, and has grown its operating budget from less than $2 million to $50 million.
She helped ACHIEVA surpass its 2014 fundraising goal of $8 million, bringing in $8.8 million that went toward new programs, services and employment opportunities in four key areas. In the past two years, Blanco has overseen the development and growth of more than six programs, several of which have been considered for international replication.
Blanco also has helped ACHIEVA reach a higher-than-average employee retention rate compared to other human service agencies in the region, with direct care providers working for ACHIEVA more than five times longer than the industry average.
Scott Bricker is executive director of Bike PGH, a nonprofit organization that works on behalf of the Pittsburgh community to make the city safe, accessible and friendly to bicycle transportation.
A cyclist himself, Bricker has biked across the country, is an everyday bicycle commuter and is a vocal advocate for cyclists’ rights.
Bricker believes firmly in hiring smart people who are self-starters and problem solvers. Bike PGH would not be able to accomplish everything it has without driven people who believe in the organization’s mission.
He also believes in rapid implementation and trying out ideas quickly to see how well something catches on in the real world.
Few organizations have had such a transformative effect in a relatively short time. Since 2007, Pittsburgh has added more than 50 miles of bikeways, thousands of bike parking spots and bike racks to every bus — changing the conversation in Pittsburgh around nonmotorized transportation.
In her first year as executive director and CEO of the Pittsburgh Business Group on Health, Jessica Brooks enabled the nonprofit, employer-led coalition to become a true advocate for its members.
Brooks helped PBGH emerge as a thought leader and expert on the Affordable Care Act and other employer health issues. She’s made sure members have access to new resources, such as a data analytics tool that enables users to better understand health care cost data associated with four common procedures in the Pittsburgh region.
The organization’s income grew by 16 percent in 2014 — in part because of higher revenue return from its annual symposium, which had a dynamic theme: “Punt or Pass, How to Score in Today’s Healthcare Game.”
And as a 32-year-old female African-American leader, Brooks jokes that she’s a reverse diversity project, often the only minority in the room when she’s representing members’ interests. She sees her leadership position as an opportunity to mentor by example.
As the new CEO of Development Dimensions International, Tacy Byham is putting into practice what she’s learned over a lifetime of watching her father lead a company committed to unlocking human potential in organizations.
DDI was founded in 1970 by Bill Byham, an entrepreneur and thought leader who shared with his family over years of dinner conversations what makes people better stewards of the things that matter to them.
Early in her career, Byham was exposed to a series of subpar bosses at technology companies that cemented her desire to focus on the science of human possibility with which she was more acquainted.
One of her personal passions is to open eyes to organizations’ failure to plan for the future, either for individual careers or company direction. She presented research to the Association for Talent Development International Conference and Exposition and won the 2006 Dissertation Award.
As the founder and CEO of Jazz, a performance recruiting software startup, Don Charlton’s vision has improved the way hiring managers recruit.
Following the mantra, “performers only,” the venture-backed company is dedicated to creating tools and solutions that help HR professionals identify high-performing candidates, better plan the recruiting process and make transformative hires.
Since launching Jazz as its sole founder in 2009, Charlton has grown the company into a multimillion-dollar venture with more than 3,000 customers. He also has opened a second office in San Francisco, the epicenter of the technology sector.
Charlton is constantly working to improve the recruiting process for companies of all sizes through Jazz. For example, his company recently announced Jazz Three, the world’s first performance recruiting platform.
The platform bridges the gap between recruiting and performance by using employee performance indicators, or “performer dimensions,” to guide hiring decisions and hire top talent.
HighJump Software Inc., led by CEO Michael Cornell, is proud of its six core values, which include the expected “customer commitment” but also state “humility” and “citizenship” as key principles.
Recognizing humility is an important component to the company’s growth and development — and it takes in being mindful that the company may falter at times. Citizenship means focusing actions on achieving individual, team and corporate goals. By sharing common values, employees guide the corporate culture.
The provider of supply chain management software also sees valued employees, innovation and integrity as core values.
With its employees as its greatest asset, HighJump feels it has a significant advantage over its competition by the nature of their knowledge, talent and commitment. Those employees also respect and trust customers and each other — conducting business according to the highest standards of ethics and professionalism.
President Danielle Cuomo has been running Virtual Assist USA for nearly a decade, navigating through industry changes — from “virtual assistance” being a relatively unknown service to competitors entering the space (including a company owned by Richard Branson) and eventually outpacing those competitors.
She started the organization by borrowing $400 from her grandmother, and within two years grew it into a multimillion-dollar company. Cuomo believes in Virtual Assist USA’s mission: delivering on-demand services for entrepreneurs and business owners who need Web designers, administrative assistants, marketing professionals, etc.
In 2015, Cuomo started an idea-finding program to encourage all employees to submit ideas. She knows that even the best ideas don’t come fully formed, so she created a process to refine, develop and identify the ideas with the most market potential.
Cuomo also ties her employees compensation to creativity and innovation, always follows the rule “hire people you would work for” and isn’t afraid to make mistakes.
The success of Knowledge Center Enterprises LLC is a testament to John Degory’s ability to convert doubters and skeptics among public safety professionals that technology can make their lives easier during the chaotic events they must manage.
Before Degory, the company’s president and CEO, and his team created Knowledge Center, the idea of cloud-based incident management existed, but the idea of it far surpassed the execution as sold by the players in the marketplace at the time.
It took persistent application of persuasion and technology to change the paradigm and create a new industry standard.
To be sure, online incident management is far more complex than a free game downloaded from a smartphone app store. But it must work just as well technically, and in terms of engaging the user in a way that delivers results.
It’s the understanding of these two concepts, and their ability to deliver on them, that has created success for Knowledge Center.
A record of environmental stewardship and a commitment to the community rank high among the factors that have helped enable CONSOL Energy to become an accomplished energy company today.
Led by CEO Nick Deluliis, CONSOL is one of the leading diversified energy companies in the U.S., with its Appalachian coals sold worldwide to electricity generators and steelmakers and a natural gas division that has grown from a coalbed methane producer to a complete exploration and production operation.
The company operates the largest private research and development facility in the U.S. devoted exclusively to coal and energy utilization and production. In addition to supporting CONSOL Energy’s gas and coal operations, it also focuses on energy development, improving energy efficiency and reducing pollution.
This facility was borne out of CONSOL’s values — safety, compliance and continuous improvement — to identify opportunities and implement solutions that drive safety, production and utilization of resources in more efficient ways.
While assuming the leadership of a firm named for its founder is not always an easy task, Elliot Dinkin found his leadership experience with larger firms was crucial to expanding Cowden Associates during a turbulent time of state and federal regulatory changes.
He’s been able to innovate and introduce tools that help clients make sense of employee benefits and Social Security optimization strategies.
Dinkin, president and CEO, quickly became the top business generator at Cowden Associates, valued for his opinion as a thought leader so much that he has created a blog, “What’s Dinkin Thinkin?” In this blog, he discusses some of the most critical employee benefits and compensation issues for employers.
He sees his blog as more than an opportunity to showcase the expertise of Cowden Associates or its work for clients. Dinkin sees it as a platform to guide the industry as it tackles the biggest issues of the day.
Chromalox, headed by CEO Scott Dysert, develops advanced thermal technologies for industrial heating applications. Started 100 years ago when a self-taught engineer invented the first metal-sheathed resistance heating element, Chromalox has grown to serve an increasing number of global markets and industries.
Just as much as proprietary technology or product offerings, the company’s core values and beliefs add measurable value to the Chromalox brand. They dictate the way associates are treated and its strategic partnerships with customers.
Those customers rarely need off-the-shelf solutions, which requires the company to apply its technical competence, experience and expertise to understanding customer needs and providing individualized heating solutions.
The company’s principled approach to business has helped it attract skilled, passionate employees, many of whom are considered experts in their fields. They have an “anything-is-possible” attitude with strong technical capabilities, strive for continuous improvement and are accountable for delivering the best solution for customer applications.
J.D. Ewing is a hands-on, selfless leader who has always practiced the open-door policy.
He realizes that being a business owner has its perks, but it isn’t always an easy job. Each day starts and ends with countless decisions and responsibilities, and he knows that his team of people are counting on him for direction.
People in leadership roles often measure their success by what they have accomplished. As president and CEO of JMJS Inc., dba COE Distributing, a wholesale distributor of office furniture and accessories, Ewing feels success is surrounding himself with a team of outstanding employees and his philosophy is to lead rather than manage.
Managers tend to control business activities and work hard to be involved in everything they can. A leader guides and gives employees the opportunity to make decisions.
He believes that employees’ strengths make the company stronger. By following this method employees are more engaged and feel valued.
David J. Fenoglietto joined Lutheran SeniorLife in 2002, and assumed the duties of interim CEO in 2004.
Shortly thereafter, he became president and CEO of the organization, which provides a variety of services to support older adults in living an abundant life.
One recent innovation at Lutheran SeniorLife has been the SilverSmart™ Technology Center at the Passavant Community, which is used by residents, their families and staff.
The center showcases state-of-the-art technology items designed for seniors that facilitate aging in place. Visitors have the opportunity to see and interact with technology that focuses on increasing safety, assisting with daily activities and promoting quality of life.
A group of resident volunteers, the Technology Test Pilots, meet regularly to test and evaluate a variety of products and give their opinions as to whether they would be beneficial to older adults.
The River City Brass seeks to entertain, educate and engage audiences of all ages by sharing American musical culture in the Pittsburgh region, nationally and internationally.
In his five years as general manager, James Gourlay has added his optimism, vision and world-class musical leadership and talent to this mission. He has restored River City to financial health while laying the foundation for the future.
Historically, River City has been fairly traditional, but Gourlay put together smaller ensembles that enable the organization to reach new audiences and venues. It’s also led him to collaborate with disc jockeys, rappers, dance companies and other arts organizations to create what he calls “new musical DNA strands.”
In addition to performing in regularly scheduled venues outside of the city, Gourlay has taken the band into schools, nursing homes and even on marches through disadvantaged neighborhoods. River City also took over the Pittsburgh public schools’ Saturday music program, which it has expanded considerably.
While he was building a small chemical supplier/boiler repair company, Dean Grose, president and CEO of Comtech Industries Inc., started thinking out of the box — or more specifically, out of the tank.
Through an existing key relationship he had with Chevron Corp., he developed the firm’s revolutionary water storage product, the DYNA Tank. Subsequent proprietary engineering has produced the only mobile water storage system in the entire Marcellus Shale oil play.
Previously, water associated with the fracturing process was stored in an open pit.
Having the ability to relocate, being scalable and exceeding certification standards, the tanks have all but eliminated any chance of spills and containment breach.
Grose’s vision was also to position Comtech as a services provider. He has partnered with two outside companies in the past six months to position the company to better withstand volatile changes in the market by leveraging its reputation as well as its expanded service offerings to effectively provide added value for clients.
A. J. Harper assumed the position of president of the Healthcare Council of Western Pennsylvania in 2005. His leadership has helped its many member institutions to weather the changes at the federal and state level.
The Healthcare Council of Western Pennsylvania, a regional trade association representing a continuum of health care providers that is celebrating its 75th anniversary, serves as a neutral convening authority for providers across the region. While members might compete for patients in the marketplace, Harper and his team enable members to work collaboratively to address common issues and concerns as well as share best practices.
As the turbulent times of the past decade put enormous pressure on Healthcare Council members, Harper and his staff responded by creating programs, from seminars to training, that share expertise in many key areas.
Under Harper’s leadership, the Healthcare Council has expanded its Allied Members program to more than 60 members.
When Paul Hennigan became president of Point Park University, it was emerging from the 2008 financial crisis with some challenges. Hennigan immediately focused on two areas: shoring up the foundation and painting a vision for the future.
Since its founding, Point Park has been both a residential university and a university with a significant percentage of commuter students. Hennigan’s vision of the future focused on embracing the university’s most central attribute: its downtown location.
He is improving and enhancing the physical campus through an ambitious expansion program that has lead to great results. The Academic Village project on the Boulevard of the Allies corridor at the heart of campus is one of the largest single sources of new investment downtown.
New student apartments, public space enhancements along the boulevard, construction of a student union and athletic center, and relocation of the Pittsburgh Playhouse are expected to create more than 3,600 full- and part-time jobs.
Gabriela Isturiz, co-founder and president of Bellefield LLC, brings more than 20 years of experience as a computer engineer in business technology consulting, software development and systems integration. She has devoted the past 15 years to the legal technology vertical and has worked with over 100 law firms, including some of the largest in the world.
Bellefield was recognized this year as one of the 100 fastest-growing private companies in Pittsburgh. The company’s growth over the past three years made it the second-fastest growing tech company in western Pennsylvania.
Her company is committed to helping lawyers improve their work lives by developing innovative and intuitive applications that solve real-world challenges. The company does this by identifying a problem, evaluating it from many different perspectives and working tirelessly to create the best possible solution.
Bellefield’s flagship product, iTimeKeep, ranks as the most adopted mobile time entry solution for attorneys for the second consecutive year.
As president and co-founder of Atlantic Engineering Services, J. Gilbert Kaufman has helped the firm grow into a national practice. Operating on the principles of synergy, creativity and timeliness, the firm has more than 13,000 completed projects with a total constructed value of more than $11 billion.
Kaufman and his AES team have built deep relationships over his nearly 40-year career that have resulted in collaborations on dozens of buildings. His project expertise has included apartment complexes, office buildings, hospitals, theaters, parking garages and more.
AES was an early adopter of computer assisted design technologies, and more recently has successfully deployed a drone and camera to inspect and assess historical structures from vantage points previously inaccessible or dangerous if visited in person.
Known as one of the region’s experts in historic masonry restoration, Kaufman also has completed structural rehabilitations and renovations for historic structures throughout the U.S.
Edward H. Kennedy, president and CEO of Tollgrade Communications Inc., is putting his experience transforming the telecommunications industry to work by helping utilities modernize the nation’s power grid.
In just two years he refocused the business onto a new path.
After taking Tollgrade private and negotiating the company’s acquisition by a private equity firm, Kennedy used the capital he raised to focus R&D on developing a new class of smart grid sensors that could blanket the distribution network. Due to its vastness, this network is largely unmonitored and where more than 90 percent of outages occur.
With battery-free sensors and predictive grid analytics software that allows utilities to get ahead of outages, Tollgrade produced something no other industry player achieved to date. Plus, the new technology could be retrofitted into the current network.
Kennedy helped transform Tollgrade into a multimarket oriented technology player that will drive a new period of increased profitability.
The Rivers Club has undergone a remarkable turnaround after membership and usage fell, and infrastructure and mechanical systems began to fail.
The reversal is partly due to bringing back Jack Kimbell as general manager. (He was in that role shortly after the club opened in 1984.)
One of Kimbell’s skills is turning around a difficult situation by working closely with the people involved.
He has overseen the return of popular senior staff who left years ago, while bringing in talent from other clubs he has operated.
Kimbell also worked with the board and staff to generate a list of small items that made a big difference, without a big impact on the budget. Then, he was able to get the capital to start to make strategic investments.
Today, the Rivers Club has garnered a new 12-year lease extension, and the club’s owner and landlord are partnering to invest more than $3.5 million for renovations.
NuGo Nutrition began when President and CEO David Levine, a runner, became frustrated that he couldn’t find a good, healthy nutrition bar.
Figuring that others must be unhappy as well with corn syrup-laden vegetable fat disguised as chocolate, and aware of all the outdoor and physical activity going on, he realized a tastier, healthier nutrition bar could fill an enormous niche. All he had to do was make it.
After he and his co-founder finalized their concept, they went to a group of 23 local investors to get started. And they’ve grown steadily since — now producing tens of millions of bars annually and selling in all 50 states, plus Canada.
But part of the credit goes to the partnerships Levine found in the area from Costco and Giant Eagle to the East End Food Co-op.
“Pittsburgh has turned out to be a wonderful market,” Levine says. “We take great pride in producing our products here.”
Energy production is one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S., especially in the Pittsburgh region.
While growing the company’s legacy business lines, COO Greg Lignelli has spearheaded System One’s expansion into oil and gas, wind and renewable energy, smart metering and utility support services.
System One now has a proven methodology to connect skilled energy candidates with global energy employers. As a result, the firm has moved well beyond the traditional temporary staffing model to collaborative managed partnerships, including developing a proprietary single-source, technology-driven recruiting and on-boarding platform.
Lignelli also serves as a company champion for the System One Technical Training Center, which develops a ready-made workforce for energy-related nondestructive examination and pipeline inspection.
In addition, Lignelli has led the acquisition process for Quality Programs (2015), Joulé Inc. (2013) and Compliance (2011). While maintaining a focus on energy and engineering staffing, the company has built a diversified portfolio of services.
Since co-founding Sentric Inc. in 1994, President Mike Maggs has worked to transform the company into a national HR software provider, drawing on his background of being raised by an entrepreneur dad.
While most companies were searching for ways to cut costs, Maggs focused on how to best serve clients. Sentric employs an all-in-one, cloud-based HR and payroll software, making sure that software and service work together to solve real business problems.
Under his leadership, Sentric has grown to more than 2,000 clients across all 50 states, with two satellite offices.
The company makes it a point to do the right thing for both employees and clients.
It also promotes work/life balance, is transparent in its processes and operates under the philosophy that: “The only thing you have at the end of the day is your reputation, so make decisions and treat people in a manner that will have a positive impact on that reputation.”
The year was 2011 and the well drilling activity in the Marcellus Shale was booming. The time was right to launch Deep Well Services as a western Pennsylvania oilfield service company rivaling the traditional energy entities from hotbeds such as Texas, Oklahoma or Colorado.
Mark Marmo joined DWS the next year as CFO and applied his expertise in corporate operations to the growing company.
In early 2013, he was named president and has led DWS into rapid and continuing growth, even as other companies in the industry have experienced slowdowns.
One example of how Marmo listens to customers and understands their needs is the recent launch of a state-of-the-art snubbing unit to cushion the vibrations caused by drilling. Unlike any operated by local or national companies, the innovation is evidence DWS is becoming a technological leader in the industry.
Sincerely committed to clients, personnel and community and core values, Joe Massaro III’s leadership is the driving force behind Massaro Construction Group Inc.’s sustained success.
Massaro shares his time and business expertise by serving on the boards for The Neighborhood Academy, the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, Gateway Rehabilitation Center and his alma mater, Central Catholic High School.
Massaro Construction serves the communities in which it works because it is the right thing to do. The company has a deep appreciation of the value and benefits that the region’s nonprofit and community-oriented organizations bring to its neighborhoods.
Giving back is ingrained in the fabric of Massaro’s culture and the company is proud to support those that support others.
Led by Massaro, president and CEO, the company’s goals include connecting youth to careers in construction, environmental sustainability, charitable contributions and pro bono services.
Under CEO Kraig McEwen’s leadership, Aesynt, which manages medication for hospitals and health systems, was privatized with an equity investor and transitioned away from its prior corporate owner.
In its first full fiscal year as a private company, Aesynt achieved significant growth and realized record financial performance. This year, the company expanded its business to include sales in more than 15 countries and has built a strong executive team.
With unprecedented change happening in the health care industry, from new reimbursement models to consolidation to increased regulation, remaining viable demands cost reductions of 20 to 30 percent while simultaneously maintaining or improving care quality. Aesynt and McEwen are answering this call for greater efficiency by optimizing both labor and drug expenses for all medications, allowing its health care partners to reduce costs and improve patient safety.
Its medication management solutions portfolio helps its clients integrate, automate and manage medication preparation and delivery systemwide, driving more affordable patient care.
If you’ve ever tried to organize your family photos and memorabilia, you probably said to yourself that there had to be a better way or they’ll all be lost someday.
That’s what helped drive CEO Glen Meakem to found Forever Inc., a digital solution in the cloud where people and families can save and share their memories for generations in a secure, trustworthy location.
A veteran of The Gulf War, Meakem returned home and wanted to decompress by traveling around the U.S., visiting family and collecting memories. He was leery of social media sites that claimed ownership of the photos, compressed them and sold customer information to advertisers, so in 2014 he launched Forever as an alternative.
Today, it has thousands of members and is growing rapidly.
Forever also developed a mobile app that uploads all photos taken on mobile devices directly to a user’s Forever account.
David Morehouse used to sneak into Pittsburgh Penguins games as a kid, never dreaming that he’d end up as president and CEO of the team, which has an estimated value of $565 million, according to Forbes.
He first joined the Penguins as a senior consultant on the new arena project in 2004.
One of his first steps leading the organization was gathering concrete information about what people thought of the team. Rather than piggybacking on the Steelers working-class brand, Morehouse discovered the
Penguins have their own brand niche that was more about innovation, technology and energy.
Along with better understanding the fans, and those who weren’t fans yet, through polls and focus groups, Morehouse also built relationships with other regional CEOs, presidents and his employees.
He never shoots down an idea without hearing his employee out, makes sure he has face-to-face communications and sticks to a plan once he creates it.
President Rick Newton founded Newton Consulting LLC after 25 years as a highly successful IT consultant. He believed there was an unmet opportunity for flexible delivery of values-driven consulting services tailored to client needs and budgets.
More important to Newton was the culture of the company he wanted to build and the nature of the client relationships he wanted to create.
He wanted to redefine consulting to embody his personal values of service, integrity and trustworthy relationships, and to incorporate something else he hadn’t seen in other companies: shared sacrifice and reward.
Newton believed that this could be achieved while maintaining a balance between work and family. With these attributes, he often describes the company as the “anti-consultant” consulting firm.
Yet since its founding in 2003, clients and employees have embraced his vision and the firm has grown year after year, adding multiple service lines and offerings along the way.
Pamela Petrow, president and CEO of Vector Security Inc., doesn’t believe in one-size-fits-all security.
Instead, the company’s experts ask the right questions, listen and then customize the right mix of products and services to meet its customer’s complete security needs. And if those needs change, Vector Security’s relationship-focused approach means it makes sure the system continues to be a perfect fit.
Part of The Philadelphia Contributionship — the nations’ oldest insurance company that was founded in part by Benjamin Franklin in 1752 — Vector Security has emerged a leader in the security industry. It provides security solutions to more than 270,000 homes and businesses in North America, and has won multiple awards for its outstanding service.
Petrow started with the company in 1982, working her way up to her current role in 2010. She was presented with an EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2014 Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia Award.
Under the tutelage of President and CEO Bill Polacek, JWF Industries has thrived in the areas of innovation, talent development and community involvement.
Polacek established JWF in 1987 in Johnstown as a process-based metal manufacturer. Since its inception, JWF has grown to include seven subsidiaries, most notably, Environmental Tank and Container and JWF Defense Systems.
JWF is committed to rectifying the shortage of skilled workers — a major problem in the region — through its training and development initiatives.
The company developed an in-house college production welder program that is certified and accredited through Pennsylvania Highlands Community College. This is a five-week paid program, and since its inception eight years ago, hundreds of employees have taken advantage of it.
JWF Industries also offers tuition reimbursement for all employees who would like to earn additional degrees, complete existing degrees or take advantage of training programs.
Amelie Construction & Supply, founded in 2003 by Danielle Proctor, is a certified Woman and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise providing specialty highway, street and bridge subcontracting services and materials. Headquartered in Saxonburg, Amelie Construction is certified to work in nine states and the District of Columbia.
With no prior experience in construction, Proctor learned the job by working as a laborer, and picked up the management side of the business by tapping the knowledge of industry veterans.
Through targeted pricing, extensive planning, innovative implementations and a strong focus on safety, Amelie Construction has established excellent ongoing relationships with federal agencies, prime contractors, suppliers and various trade unions to provide a timely and safe source of structural construction services and materials.
Since its inception, the company’s projects have come to include ornamental steel for the 31st Street and Hot Metal bridges and steel erection and repair along Interstate 79 at Kirwan Heights and Neville Island.
It didn’t take long in 2012 to fill the vacant CEO position at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. The resignation came down June 13 and by Aug. 1, Lisa Scales, who had been COO of the organization, was named president and CEO.
The five years prior, Scales was in charge of daily operations at the food bank, which serves 11 counties with a staff of 100 and a monthly number of 800 to 900 volunteers.
The organization distributes nearly 2 million pounds of food every month through a network of member agencies and direct distribution programs.
Scales joined the food bank in 1996 as supervisor of its Green Harvest program.
Her immediate goal as CEO was to develop a strategic plan, which has four focal points: providing quality access to food, developing a network of high-performing agencies, leadership development of the food bank staff and expanding the food bank’s marketing and communications.
Walking into the offices of Schell Games, which develops innovative and educational video games, visitors are greeted by bright colors and desks adorned with toys. But it’s not only the physical space that is “happy,” it’s the employees as well.
CEO Jesse Schell’s focus on respecting people’s opinions is a key element of the loyalty he inspires — and why the company has an unusually high employee retention rate. He doesn’t pay attention to titles or status, and gives his employees freedom to make their own decisions.
Schell has an innate ability to get people to visualize new ways of thinking about important issues.
It is this force that has enabled Schell Games to become one of the largest and most successful game studios in Pennsylvania.
Despite the ups and downs of the industry, Schell has steadily expanded his company through controlled growth, eschewing the common industry practice of massive lay-offs after a completed project.
Founder and CEO Scott Barnyak
Founder and Chief of Marketing and Sales Christy Maruca
Founder and Director of Talent Acquisition SDLC Partners
Chris Simchick, Scott Barnyak and Christy Maruca founded SDLC Partners with a set of core operating values that have become the bedrock of the organization’s culture.
A high level of client satisfaction, repeat business and a focus on hiring and retaining the right people has fueled SDLC’s growth.
Clients have commented that SDLC is different than its larger global competitors because teams quickly assimilate and add value by working with clients in a productive and collaborative way.
The company expanded into the Philadelphia region in 2013. It also recently consolidated its business intelligence and business transformation practices into one practice to create better value for its clients through the conversion of data and processes.
As the director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, Robert Stein helps businesses throughout western Pennsylvania work smarter.
One of the ways he personally does this is by helping companies adopt technology in IEE’s specialized IT consulting division, which he also heads.
Above all, Stein values the idea that human connections build business. He focuses on finding professionals who have both a deep knowledge of the challenges facing entrepreneurs. He also oversees regular education programs and social events to bring together the IEE’s diverse community of entrepreneurs.
In 2014, the IEE helped 55 entrepreneurs start or purchase a new business. It provided 6,294 hours of counseling to 646 local business owners.
The IEE’s counseling and programs helped create 72 jobs and save 440 existing jobs. It also raised more than $10.6 million in financing for its members, and its client companies increased domestic sales by more than $23 million.
Campbell Transportation Co. Inc. is the leading regional river industry services company on the Upper Ohio River.
Headed by Chairman and CEO Peter Stephaich, it provides a full line of marine services on the rivers.
Building on the strength of its management team, its creative focus on customer service, the ability to respond quickly to market opportunities, low cost of capital and a clear strategic business plan, the company has grown from a regional operator to a national carrier that transports more than 20 million tons of freight per year.
During the past four years, Campbell has designed and built a new state-of-the-art logistics computer program and added a new accounting system that has helped it manage its business.
Stephaich fosters community by developing a quality team of individuals with high ethics and gives them the opportunity to excel and succeed not only at their jobs, but in their personal lives.
As president and CEO, David J. Stern has helped Paris Cos. go from a small, retail dry cleaner to a multimillion-dollar, multimarket textile services company.
Here’s just one example of the business’s commitment to excellence:
If Paris Cos. has 135,000 individual garments arrive for laundering each week, an accuracy of 99.9 percent still means 14 misplaced garments. Multiply 14 mis-shipments by 52 weeks, and the result is 728 potential customer inquires and time-consuming follow-ups.
In pursuit of absolute dependability, Stern installed a tracking system, where an RFID chip is inserted into each rented garment. The chip stores garment, user and location information as well as a wash history. Scanners automatically track the process step of each garment and upload data to a central management system.
This technology is just a tool. Stern believes the innovation comes from being used in the context of a sound plan that makes Paris Cos. a more valued service partner.
Patrick Stewart saw a need to help self-insuring companies navigate the complex health care environment in search of efficient and effective benefit plans. So in 2014, he and some alumni, from IT consulting firm Pepperweed Consulting, which he had previously sold, launched Innovu.
The company’s product is called EmployerVault, and it captures, integrates and archives a client company’s benefits information in the cloud while maintaining Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act data compliance.
Stewart’s goal is to take the company national, grow staff from 10 to 50 employees within two years and then add another 30.
Calling EmployerVault “a human capital dashboard,” Stewart, founder and CEO, stresses that client input was a large factor in developing the solution, in which by integrating the data, a CFO or CEO can look at company benefits plans, assets, liabilities and risk in a novel way.
He expects to have 1,000 clients within 20 months and to release a new product, EmployerHorizon.
President and CEO Jeremy Waldrup has a passion for cities, particularly Pittsburgh.
Although not a native, since joining the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, his voice has been one of the most often heard. He is a consistent advocate of the burgeoning downtown, which now has nearly 10,000 residents.
As a small nonprofit, the PDP is not in a position to be the lead financier or the biggest employer on downtown projects. So, Waldrup has focused on making the PDP the central source for information.
The PDP’s annual State of Downtown report has grown each year, with new metrics, statistics and other useful data that has helped financiers, developers and employers make decisions. Waldrup and his team have made the PDP the source for information on downtown living and destination activities, with its social calendar and living guides.
This past July, the PDP also unveiled Picklesburgh, a two-day festival that celebrates the pickle.
Rosedale Technical College President and Director Dennis Wilke fosters an environment of passionate, talented and caring people who work together for its students, employers and the community.
To inspire his team, Wilke developed his own leadership cookbook, a list of 30 behaviors and actions. He is then held accountable by the department heads who use it as a score sheet.
Wilke also hosts an annual “State of the School” to review the past year’s performance and illustrate key short-term goals. This year, he began the new tradition of a midyear update, via a video message.
In 2014, he started offering personal and professional development funds.
In addition, an employee reward system — small coins with the college’s logo — can be redeemed for cash, prizes or a paid vacation day.
Rosedale Tech has increased revenue by 400 percent under Wilke’s leadership. The number of employees has doubled, and educational offerings will have tripled by year’s end.
Dennis Yablonsky became the CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and its affiliated organizations — the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, the Pennsylvania Economy League of Southwestern Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance — in 2009.
A native of the Pittsburgh region, Yablonsky is an accomplished and experienced veteran of managing and leading dynamic business growth as a private business leader, a nonprofit economic development professional and a high-ranking appointed government official. He has grown companies from the ground up to a greater profitability and success both in the private sector and as the founding CEO of the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse and the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, revolutionary models for the focused growth of technology companies.
Recently, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development celebrated 571 economic development deals across 10 counties in 2012 and 2013, representing $5.6 billion in capital investment and a total job impact of more than 20,700.
Chairman and CEO Michael Zamagias had succeeded in multiple business ventures before taking the reins of the startup that became TeleTracking Technologies.
Founded as a software company, TeleTracking’s purpose has always been focused on improving the way hospital services support caregiving.
Under Zamagias’ leadership, the company’s solutions have been integrated into an enterprisewide operational platform. It provides live information, via dashboards, to create a “moving picture” of patient, staff, physician and asset location, bed capacity and critical workflow data so health care providers can manage operations in real time.
The company leases its software and hardware, which allows it to have better predictive cash flow and targeted funds for research and development.
By remaining agile and responsive, TeleTracking has an impressive annual growth rate of 21.8 percent over the past 10 years.
Zamagias also recognizes the importance of having the right people. That’s why TeleTracking hires nurses and other hospital personal, rather than industrial consultants.
It’s no accident that “brand” is in the name of Z Brand Group. President and CEO Goldie Ziskind Ostrow knows that branding is key not only to her client’s success but her firm’s as well.
Beyond advertising, social media, PR and outreach, Ostrow made sure she hired a strong staff and found a great location to develop her brand.
Ostrow isn’t just a sharp businesswoman, she knows numbers, understanding her client’s budgets and how to get the most of out of them.
Z Brand has done everything for itself — print, digital, broadcast, branding and social marketing. The company knows what’s proven to be effective. It also recently became Google AdWords certified and is on its way to becoming a certified Google Partner.
By adapting to the latest innovations in the way that most small firms do not, Z Brand can provide services comparable to large national agencies.
Chase Commercial Banking is privileged to serve a broad range of “smart” businesses, working with extraordinary leaders of midsized companies here in Pittsburgh and across the globe.
Our strongest relationships are built upon a shared vision of leadership and excellence rooted in the following principles:
Focus on the customer. Leaders of successful organizations remember they are in business for one reason — to serve their customers. True customer orientation means acting in the customer’s best interest at all times, from providing exceptional service to offering outstanding, innovative products and solutions that meet their needs and continually exceed expectations.
High standards of performance. As important as strategy is, “smart” leaders know their business has to execute superbly to achieve greatness. They set the highest expectations of performance, maintain financial discipline, act quickly on problems and keep focused on results. Striving to be the best is what motivates leaders to seek continual improvements.
Commitment to integrity, fairness and responsibility. Good people want to work with and for good leaders who set the highest standards of integrity, demand that customers, employees and partners be treated with respect and fairness, and cultivate a culture of responsibility and ethical behavior.
At our company and at many of the best companies throughout history, the continual creation of good leaders is what has enabled the organization to stand the true test of greatness — the test of time.
Fragasso Financial Advisors, located in downtown Pittsburgh, has been making the financial success of our clients personal for more than 40 years. And while the company has grown into a successful independent investment management firm, one thing has remained constant — our commitment to the highest level of personal service.
Our clients, who range from affluent individuals to retirement plan sponsors and nonprofit institutions, deserve sound financial planning and asset management. Our structure helps us remove conflicts of interest and concentrate on the things that truly matter — our clients’ goals. It is our responsibility to understand the unique needs and challenges of each and every one of our clients, while at the same time wrapping our services in a superior experience that is uniform across the firm and that happens every step of the way.
Providing every client with quality, standardized service through all departments is important enough to us that our staff dedicated more than a year building and training on the Fragasso client experience. We don’t just give lip service to our standards of care. It is ingrained in our culture. With a 99 percent client retention rate*, we believe many of our clients would agree.
A “smart” leader cares about his or her employees, demonstrates clear and effective communication and is passionate about selecting and developing talent.
A Fairmont Pittsburgh leader inspires trust through actions that demonstrate empathy and genuine care for others. This creates a motivating and energizing work environment in which employees are empowered to take ownership of their efforts. Smart leaders recognize that their personal influence is more powerful than their positional authority.
Clear and effective communication is also crucial. In order to set employees up for success, leaders must first make sure they know what is expected of them. Employees look to their leaders to communicate clear expectations for their roles and to provide ongoing performance feedback. They also rely on their leader to follow up and assist them when expectations are not being met. At Fairmont Pittsburgh, leaders are viewed as coaches who understand that effective feedback drives positive behavior and achieves results.
A Fairmont Pittsburgh leader understands that skills, knowledge and experience are important but selecting talent is the key to building a high performing, talent-based organization — and establishing a true competitive advantage. A successful leader hires for talent and trains for technical skills. Leaders at Fairmont Pittsburgh are also passionate about developing that talent once it is in place and providing the guidance and resources employees need to grow within their careers.
In practice, these three traits can be seen in a variety of personalities and management styles within the leadership team at Fairmont Pittsburgh. They provide a solid foundation while still allowing individuals to execute their leadership authentically.
Clark Hill PLC is an entrepreneurial full service law firm serving clients in all areas of business legal services, government and public affairs and personal legal services. Clark Hill is built upon a core set of values that guide us in our relationships with our clients, our interactions with each other and our connection to the communities in which we serve.
These values have a real and lasting impact on the way we conduct our business, the way we treat our clients and colleagues, and the way we go about growing our firm. We believe these values come into play in each and every client experience, and are essential to the ultimate success of our lawyers and our firm. We believe these values are essential to a “smart” leader:
Relationships Fuel Our Firm. Respect is the foundation of our strong relationships with clients and colleagues. We are tenacious advocates for our clients while being approachable and supportive.
Everyone Matters. We value the contributions of each individual in our firm and encourage fresh ideas and diverse perspectives. We embrace the differences among our colleagues, enriching our experiences.
It’s Not Just About Us. Making a positive impact is central to who we are. We devote our personal and collective time, talent and resources to making our communities better places to live and work.
By embracing new ideas, technologies and cutting-edge business solutions, we provide relevant legal counsel with industry perspective. Our experienced attorneys and other professionals consistently deliver client-centered solutions. Clark Hill clients expect the best, and we deliver by responding quickly to their needs, understanding their business issues and providing outstanding legal advice.
The HDH Group Inc., now a Hub International Co., is pleased to support the smart business owners and leaders of western Pennsylvania. Although we made the decision to join a national organization, one thing remains constant, our commitment to the highest level of customer service. Joining Hub International brings our clients a wider array of services, expertise and technology to truly help them reduce their overall risk footprint.
Every business faces risk — insurance is just one part of handling that risk — our goal is to make every client better in some way. In order to do that we need to create a workplace that nurtures individuality and creativity, and then be able to back that up with true deliverables to our clients. We value strong relationships with our customers and strive to become a true “Trusted Adviser.” We follow a process to be successful:
Understanding our clients — it starts with getting to know each other. We strive to understand the business risks facing our clients today, tomorrow and the next three to five years.
Developing a plan — to help mitigate, transfer and deal with the risks. This takes great communication and a true understanding of our clients businesses, then working together to develop both a short-term and long-range plan.
Deliver truly measurable results — our goal with every client is to somehow make them better and ultimately lower their cost of risk. In order to do that, we have invested heavily in professionals that can truly make an impact on our clients, from our Certified Safety Professionals (CSPs) to our HR compliance specialists and wellness coordinators. We make an impact, measure that impact so that our clients can see the progress they are making and hold ourselves accountable.
By embracing technology, and investing in the right people, we can consistently meet our goal of lowering our clients’ costs of risk, thereby increasing our clients’ bottom lines.
In the beginning, there were fires, caves and the story. Since the dawn of civilization, humans have embraced story as our fundamental communication style. Story is hardwired into our psyche, has driven the growth of civilization and frames our experience in the 21st century. At WordWrite, the importance of an authentic story drives everything our leaders do:
Rooted in truth: The best leaders anchor everything they do in what their employees, customers and other stakeholders know to be true. We all have opinions and interpretations — the ones that win the day are those that come from a place of truth.
Fluent storytellers: Leadership is about engagement and motivation. Great leaders are great storytellers. They enable their teams to do the unthinkable, create solutions that delight their customers and add lasting value to society through persistent commitment to advance more than their bottom line.
Engaging the audience: Remarkable leaders understand that if their audience isn’t engaged, there’s no success. The best leaders continually read their audience to ensure they are engaged —and they adapt their messaging, their tone and their approach to ensure engagement that delivers results.
WordWrite has spent years perfecting an approach that helps organizations develop and share their valuable, unique story in a way that is unique, compelling and memorable. StoryCraftingSM links our expertise in marketing, messaging and public relations with our clients’ business expertise to reach and engage their important audiences.
What’s your great, untold story? We’d like to help you share it.
Smart leadership is about making the most of your work hours by learning to delegate, prioritize and simplify.
People in leadership positions tend to think their success and value at work is measured by how late they stay at the office, or how much time they spend outside of work answering emails and reviewing reports. As a result, leaders often feel stressed and burned out from even the smallest tasks.
There’s a law of diminishing returns, where the more time we spend on something, the more the quality of work decreases. Setting a time limit for an activity can help you focus and get it done.
Leading a group of people requires a mutual sense of trust and understanding between the leader and team members. As a first step toward that goal, leaders should learn to connect. Building a real personal connection with your teammates is vital to developing the shared trust necessary to build a strong culture of accountability and exceptional performance. With that culture in place, the team can achieve a successful business, a happy team and a fulfilled leader.
One of the best ways to practice smart leadership is to delegate tasks to your team so you can focus your energy on the responsibilities that are specifically yours.
Not only is it crucial to ensure that you have competent people on your team, it’s also important to allocate work in ways that empower others to do their best and play to their strengths. The most crucial role of leadership is facilitating the performance of the team as a whole.
It’s always nice to recognize the innovations of others, but perhaps even more valuable is when you can exchange knowledge and make new connections.
Now in its second year, the Smart 50 Awards, presented by Chase, bring together like-minded leaders who are making a difference in the sustainability and growth for the Pittsburgh region.
At last year’s event I heard positive feedback about the ability to make connections more than any other feature of the night. Comments such as: “Everyone in the room seemed energized to be there and the networking opportunities were great” weren’t unusual.
It’s motivating to find out what others are doing, especially when they are so excited to talk about it.
I got a preview of this at the judging panel in October, where many of the 50 winners vied for three additional specialty awards, which will be announced at the event.
I heard a number of great stories. Some of my favorites included companies who looked outside of their industry for solutions, or organizations where the importance of the higher mission shined through every word about the business. Who wouldn’t want to give it their all for a company that is saving the world — even if it’s just a little bit at a time?
Another strength of many of these smart organizations is bringing parties together and helping everyone create change. This is especially true for the nonprofit winners. Collaboration isn’t just a buzzword for them; it’s central to their identity.
I also noticed an emphasis on execution and coming through on what they promised, whether that’s improving customer delivery or just saying “I’d rather be hit by a bus than miss a deadline.”
Listen and learn
I’m always energized after the Smart 50 judging panels because you get to hear so many cool ideas. These business leaders talk about their products or a really interesting concept, and your first thought is, “Wow, that makes so much sense. I wish I’d thought of that.”
So, if you’re coming to the Smart 50 event — or at your next networking opportunity — make sure that you meet as many people as you can. Listen and learn about the amazing things that organizations are doing in the Pittsburgh region.
Yes, networking is ideally about generating sales opportunities for you and your company, but it’s also a great way to energize yourself by exchanging knowledge.
Since he moved his business, Bicycle Heaven, a combined repair shop and museum, out of his house, Craig Morrow’s fascination with bicycles has only grown. Now, he can see people’s reactions as they take in the thousands of bicycles he’s collected for more than 25 years.
Morrow once had bikes squirreled away in various garages, but now he’s able to showcase everything and let people have fun taking it all in. If you haven’t been to his shop/museum yet, don’t miss this month’s Uniquely Pittsburgh, which shows a small piece of what Bicycle Heaven is like.
Morrow says his passion has only grown, as he’s able to make more people smile than ever before.
Removed from the results
I wonder how many employees would find increased passion for their work if they could see more customer reaction.
So often today we don’t interact face-to-face. We make phone calls, send emails and put out orders, while removed from the people we serve. In many cases, we hear a lot more bad news than good.
A sales person might get a compliment for a job well done, but does it trickle back to all of the people who made that happen? When you’re at a networking event and someone shares with you how much he or she loves your service, do you always share that story when you go back to the office?
If your staff is doing a great job serving customers but doesn’t see the results firsthand, they don’t get the positive re-enforcement that can make each day a joy to come to work.
Sharing the smiles
At Smart Business, I enjoy going to our events. I get to talk to people about the magazine and their companies, face-to-face. Interacting with our customers in person gives me a satisfaction that I can take back to the office and use to fuel the daily grind.
Perhaps there are ways to put more employees in the same room as your customers, such as customer appreciation lunches. Not only does it allow your customers to be more familiar with your company, it lets your employees better see the results of their work.
Or, the next time someone gets a compliment from a customer make sure that it gets read aloud at a meeting, rather than just sit in an executive’s email inbox.
If you do customer satisfaction surveys, make sure the results are shared with all employees — even those who don’t interact with customers firsthand. Senior management may use these surveys to develop strategic plans, but it won’t help improve day-to-day experiences. Your staff can’t respond to the needs of customers when they don’t really know how customers feel, and they can’t take satisfaction from a job well done without being kept fully abreast of how the company is seen by others.
If you don’t have one already, put up a bulletin board that showcases successes, whether that be testimonials or thank you cards. This kind of positive feedback shouldn’t just be used to drum up new business — it can boost the spirits of your current workforce.