Insights for more than just manufacturers

Smart Business put a special focus on manufacturing this month, but like so much in business this issue also has common themes that relate to all industries — from workforce development to emerging risks and leadership.

Unlike other areas of the state, Columbus doesn’t really have the self-image of being a manufacturing hub. But it’s still an important sector for the Central Ohio region.

All together, more than 1,700 manufacturers employ more than 85,000 people, according to Columbus 2020. Other reasons why manufacturing is thriving, include the fact that the region:

  • Is a global trade hub with excellent rail and highway connections to major ports and cargo flights. Manufacturers can reach more of the U.S. and Canada within a day’s drive from the Columbus region than from any other major metro.
  • Has one of the lowest private sector unionization rates in the country, at 3.1 percent.
  • Features over 100 manufacturing-related educational and training programs.

To learn more about Central Ohio’s manufacturing sector, check out this month’s cover story where four manufacturers discuss how they handle their workforce, and others talk about the emerging risks manufacturers face.

Workforce development isn’t just a challenge for manufacturers, though. Alvis’ Denise M. Robinson shares how her organization helps individuals who have spent time in the criminal justice system become productive employees in the Building Stronger Communities feature.

Robinson wasn’t the only strong leader featured this month. Right after Dan Creekmur, president of Columbus Gas of Ohio, stepped onto the stage at a January Columbus Chamber of Commerce event, he lost a bet — a bet that his young age wouldn’t be mentioned in the first few minutes.

While being in his 30s and leading more than 1,100 employees is unique, it also gives him a different perspective. Find out more about his views on leadership and service in this issue.

What a corporate boardroom and artist studio have in common

This month’s Smart Business focuses on women in business. We have some great stories and good advice from female executives at all stages of their careers — as well as one professional artist.

When I first got the idea to interview Lenka Clayton for Uniquely Pittsburgh, I wondered if featuring an artist in a business management magazine was too much of a stretch. I even mentioned that fear to Clayton when I was talking to her.

As our conversation progressed, though, her perspectives on work-life balance, as well as being a mother and a professional, echoed a lot of what I’ve heard from female business executives.

Clayton also mentioned that there’s so much advice out there about how to balance your home and professional lives — and so much of it is contradictory and not helpful — that she hesitates to add to that cacophony.

Who knew that the corporate boardroom and an artist studio would be so similar? Clayton pointed out that every artist who is surviving in the profession is an entrepreneur. Also, because you’re self-employed, like many entrepreneurs who are starting out, she says there’s no structure for insurance or retirement and when you’re not able to work it can be very stressful.

The issue of being both a parent and a professional, which led to Clayton’s Artist Residency in Motherhood, is one I often hear about from women in business — and strikingly don’t hear much about from male executives. (Although to be fair, I wouldn’t think to bring the subject up with a male executive.)

“There’s a whole misnomer in business of doing everything — being an incredible business woman or powerful business man and also an incredible mother (or father), and trying to do those things at once,” Clayton says.

Today, Clayton has been surprised at the robust response. Her open-source residency is even being utilized in countries that have a strong support for new mothers, like Germany, France, the Netherlands and Australia. Clearly, she found an unmet need.

Letting go of the past is the first step to a bright future

Businesses reinvent themselves all the time. The reasons for such upheavals vary, but it might be because the original market became irrelevant, competition became too fierce or technology turned a once profitable product into a commodity. No matter the cause, business leaders facing tough times either adapt their business to the new conditions or they go out of business.

History serves up quite a few examples of successful makeovers: Berkshire Hathaway was a textile company that Warren Buffett invested in back in the 1960s. Buffett gained a controlling interest in the firm and turned it into a holding company for his billions in global investments after the U.S.-based textile industry declined in the 1980s. Royal Dutch Shell traces its routes to an antiques store in the 1830s that imported and exported items from the Far East, including seashells. As the combustion engine became more common, those imports expanded to include oil, and the company built the first bulk oil tanker. The antiques are long gone, but the company’s name is visible on thousands of gas stations around the globe.

Think where these companies would be if they had tried to hang on to their original business. American-made textiles declined precipitously as cheap Asian goods flooded the market. If Buffett had tried to keep Berkshire Hathaway operating as a textile company, you probably wouldn’t know his name today. And imagine if Shell was still dealing in exotic shells, silks and spices in addition to the oil business. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it, especially when the profit in the latter would dwarf the former? Why keep selling things that aren’t related to your core business anymore?

Those are questions you should constantly ask yourself. If you are moving toward a new market, are you still holding on to the equivalent of the antiques business? Before you can truly move your business forward into a new market, you have to let go of the past.

This can be hard to do, especially if you’ve spent years profiting from a particular market. You’ve seen ups and downs before, so why walk away when things might rebound?

The answer is simple: You can’t serve multiple masters. You need to focus your business on the market with the highest growth potential and not divide resources among different priorities. Just like Cortez, you have to burn your ships, eliminating the option of retreat so everyone is focused only on the advance.

Letting go is never easy, but if you hope to be the next Berkshire Hathaway or Royal Dutch Shell, the market you started in may not be the best one for future growth.

Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc., the publisher of Smart Business Magazine and operates SBN Interactive, a content marketing firm.

Pittsburgh manufacturers sound off on the risks

Business can be tough, but manufacturing can be really tough. That was my immediate takeaway from talking to manufacturers of all sizes for this month’s special focus on Pittsburgh manufacturing’s emerging risks.

U.S. manufacturers must develop a flexible workforce in order to respond to external factors.

They also need to use technology to compete on a global level, but it’s hard to know where to invest with confidence. While additive manufacturing has caught the attention of many, it’s not widely used by those who need to do more than small or customized batches. (Don’t miss the advice on this from Albensi Laboratories, which is light-years ahead of most with its implementation of new technologies.)

Bill Starn, CEO of Starn Tool & Manufacturing Co. gave the best overview of the industry.

Historically, in manufacturing, every five years, there would be some sort of a recession, Starn says. Then, after an 18-month period of problems, a company could make it up.

“That’s just not been the case in the last 16, 17 years,” he says. “Starting with 2001, we’ve had two major recessions and a lot of instability in between.”

While Starn feels Pittsburgh has done a fantastic job of changing from the steel industry to the high-tech industry, it’s still not seeing the type of expansion that others, such as North and South Carolina, are.

But as exciting as digitalization, 3-D printing or the internet of things are, Starn emphasized that the biggest weaknesses come back to not understanding every nuance of your business.

“I’ve been a software provider to manufacturing for over 25 years, in another business, that is specifically designed to help them run their business,” he says. “And I see even today with the great technologies that we have available and the softwares we have available, people still don’t know diddly about their business.”

It’s often just that simple, whether you’re in manufacturing or another sector. Know your numbers. Know your risks. Plan accordingly.

The secret is to never stop

The theme of this month’s magazine is leadership. While you could argue that every month we focus on leadership, I wanted to highlight different sectors that are leading change. From health care, technology and education to sports, economic development and business, it’s a good mix.

As Nationwide Children’s Hospital pushes the frontiers of genomics, Air Force One makes the bold move to do away with sales commissions and Capital University ponders how the next generation can be trained to collaborate. I hope you are inspired.
Always searching

I talk to CEOs every month about how they lead their companies. While some general principles stay the same, I hear something different from everyone I talk to. For some, it’s all about the relationships. For others, it’s about having the vision and not being afraid to act on it.

But the best business leaders are always trying to learn, improve, grow and find new ways of doing things. I don’t think you ever find all the answers; it’s more important to keep looking.

Girls definitely allowed

Women in business is something I enjoy advocating for, and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, featured in this month’s magazine, has gained a reputation for hosting women’s events. Part of that has to do with having a female executive director, Linda Shetina Logan, which is unusual in her industry.

Logan, a passionate Cleveland Indians fan who didn’t have Title IX in high school, believes she has the best job in the world — one where she gets paid to go to a baseball game.

Columbus also has a focus on women and girls that translates over to sports.

“If you think about our community, our chief of police is a woman, the head of our airport is a woman. We have all these women that naturally are in leadership roles here. It’s not just in name only, but we feel like we walk the talk,” Logan says.

The Sports Commission even started an event, the Women’s Sports Report. The breakfast, which was held in February, honors the athletic successes and achievements — both on the playing field and off — of women and girls in Central Ohio.

Dynamic organizations shape this month’s issue

At the National Aviary, where growth is influencing some interesting and new things, an emotional connection is paramount.

Executive Director Cheryl Tracy told me that when visitors can get close to the birds, it helps with the Aviary’s mission of inspiring people to have a respect for nature through an appreciation of birds.

Experiences like participating in a lorikeet feeding, where participants have a cup of nectar, go into the exhibit and the lorikeets will fly down and eat out of their hand help set the organization apart.

Another emotional connection comes from the novelty of a baby sloth surrounded by hundreds of birds. Or, live birds flying through the atrium of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

The Aviary also does a number of programs with underprivileged schools, like One Northside, which aims to bring its environmental education to every Northside second grader.

“We’re beginning to embark on another program with some of the city schools as well. It’s a way to bridge the surrounding neighborhoods with the cultural assets that exist in the city,” Tracy says.

You can learn more about this and other fascinating stories in this month’s Uniquely Pittsburgh.

While the National Aviary isn’t officially part of our Who to Watch list, the centerpiece of this issue, it’s certainly one of the many dynamic organizations that make Pittsburgh such an exciting place to live.

The list is also just a sampling of the people or projects that are driving positive momentum in Pittsburgh’s growth and development. In fact, when I reached out to some of my contacts to ask for suggestions, I was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming response — and how little repetition there was.

You may have been sad to flip the calendar, and say goodbye to the Penguins Stanley Cup year, but our Who to Watch list spotlights some of the great things that are in store for 2017.

Collaboration highlighted in Who to Watch list

Columbus continues to outdo itself, from winning the Smart City Challenge to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 16-game win streak that ignited even the hearts of causal hockey fans.

With new development and public/private partnerships the hallmark of many community initiatives, it’s an exciting time to be living and working in Central Ohio.

In this month’s issue, we share our thoughts on the leaders we expect to play a pivotal role in shaping the new year with our Who to Watch list. This sampling of the people or projects that are driving positive momentum in Columbus’ growth and development are an exciting group.

At the same time, I got to know Lynnette Cook, executive director of Community Research Partners for our Building Stronger Communities feature. If you’ve never heard of the nonprofit, you’re not alone. But you will have heard of their work.

Just like many of the people and organizations on our Who to Watch list, CRP was formed from a partnership. The United Way of Central Ohio, the City of Columbus, Franklin County and The Ohio State University all appoint members to CRP’s board.

Because so much of the work that they do is jointly funded across the community, they wanted to create an entity that could speak to those needs, and Cook says that’s how CRP was formed.

“It is a great thing in my experience because it means I have all four of them at the table at least at some point to talk about their common interests,” she says. “And they at least once a year, and often more than that, will talk among themselves, even without staff in the room, around the issues they are facing and the upcoming projects, in terms of research they think they need to have done.

“I think that’s a real benefit to the community that they try to coordinate like that.”

When you read over the Who to Watch list, don’t forget to look for all of the joint partnerships that are mentioned, just like CRP’s. This strength of Columbus is something that I see again and again — and it certainly helps drive the region’s economic development.

Pull back and see the big picture of your life

Leaving a legacy is something a lot of business owners starting thinking about as they mature in their careers — and discussing — when I talk to them about management challenges.

It’s actually good to hear that building wealth may not be the first consideration. Yes, it’s nice, but building something that will stand long after you’ve moved on is a much more permanent legacy.

Building business legacy

In this month’s issue, we’ve highlighted western Pennsylvania companies that have stood the test of time. I know this isn’t a comprehensive list, but it is a good snapshot.

Some common themes that emerged from these businesses, which have been around for 50 or more years, are an ability to adapt and listen. Many of these companies make completely different products and provide completely different services than when they first started. Some have diversified, and others have move into entirely new lines of business.

And at this point, part of their culture is pride in that longevity. After everything that has changed, they, and their employees, can proudly say, “We are still here.”

Our Uniquely Pittsburgh, which highlights Lawrenceville, examines another kind of legacy. This revitalized neighborhood has built on its roots and blossomed into a place where people want to live, work and play.

See the big picture

All this legacy talk makes me wonder about what legacy I’ll leave with my own life, which is a particularly potent thought around New Year’s resolution time.

You don’t have to found a company or business dynasty to leave a legacy. But it is good to sometimes think about the bigger picture, and what kind of permanent impression you can leave on the world.

We all want to make our mark, and we can certainly do that in different ways. So, as we kick off a new year, take a little time and consider: What are you building that will stand long after you’ve moved on?

The Medical Mutual 2017 Pillar Award for Community Service, Central Ohio

Medical Mutual along with Smart Business, our co-founding Pillar Award partner, presents the eighth annual Pillar Awards for Community Service.

The Pillar Awards honor organizations of all types and sizes that make outstanding contributions to their communities. For nearly a decade we have recognized companies and their employees who have gone above and beyond to invest time and resources to strengthen the relationship between for-profits and nonprofits.

At Medical Mutual, we recognize that companies are only as great as their employees. We are committed to improving Columbus and the communities we serve and strive to continually live up to that responsibility in everything we do.

I’d like to congratulate this year’s recipients for their outstanding service and dedication and for helping to improve the quality of life for the residents of Central Ohio. This is truly what the Pillar Awards are all about.

One of the Pillar Awards that will be presented tonight is a special honor given to a company whose employees best exemplify the values of Medical Mutual’s own employee SHARE Committee.

SHARE, which stands for serve, help, aid, reach and educate, is the heart and soul of Medical Mutual’s charitable giving effort. The SHARE Committee helps coordinate more than two-dozen community events every year, involving nearly half of the company’s 2,400 employees.

It’s truly an honor to be in the company of such outstanding organizations that exemplify the theme of “improving the communities we serve” by encouraging a charitable environment and directly supporting the communities in which they live and work.

On behalf of Medical Mutual and Smart Business, we congratulate all our 2017 Pillar Award recipients.

neo_pa_rickchiricosta_2016Rick Chiricosta
Chairman, president and CEO
Medical Mutual of Ohio




Pillar Award

col_pa_katefinleyBelle Communications

Kate Finley, CEO |

Belle Communications has worked with Central Ohio anti-human trafficking organization Freedom a la Cart, pro bono, since spring of 2014. Founder and CEO Kate Finley and her team have donated more than $125,000 in agency time to support Freedom a la Cart in its mission to empower survivors of human trafficking.

As a testament to this work, Freedom a la Cart’s Eat Up! Columbus campaign raised more than $200,000 in donations at two events from 2014-2015. All funds directly support resources and workforce development for survivors of human trafficking.

This year, Finley further increased her involvement by serving as the committee chair for Eat Up! Columbus, leading a team of 75 committee volunteers and overseeing the strategy and program for the 300-person event, which will take place March 11, 2017.

This commitment involves the entire agency, with various members of the Belle Communications team providing support in the areas of media relations, social media strategy, community relations and administration.

Finley and other members of the Belle Communications team also contribute their time to champion the field of public relations and support professional development within the industry. For example, they serve as guest lecturers for The Ohio State University within the Strategic Communication Department and Public Relations Student Society of America events.

Giving back was built into the agency’s culture from the beginning, with Finley taking on Freedom a la Cart as a pro bono client less than one year after founding Belle Communications.
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Big Lots

col_pa_davidcampisiDavid Campisi, president and CEO |

Big Lots is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of families and children struggling with poverty. To achieve this, it gives time, money and other resources to nonprofits and community programs throughout the U.S., with significant efforts dedicated to Central Ohio.

In 2015, 656 Ohio-based associates volunteered more than 1,500 hours. Associates also planted and maintained a 17-bed community garden in west Columbus. The estimated 2,000 pounds of produce were donated to the LSS Westside Food Pantry through the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

In spring of 2015, Big Lots strengthened its philanthropy by launching the Big Lots Foundation, which prioritizes four mission-aligned giving areas: health care, hunger, housing and education. The foundation especially supports organizations and programs in these areas that positively impact the lives of women and children.

In the foundation’s first year, the company raised more than $2 million from its vendor community to support Big Lots charities. In the same timeframe, 39 Big Lots associates raised more than $40,000 to support Pelotonia and cancer research. That momentum built in 2016, as associates raised over $157,000 to support Pelotonia, with 72 riders and 11 virtual riders.

The Big Lots Foundation also raises money through national point-of-sale donation campaigns. In one such campaign, Big Lots customers and associates raised $2.2 million to support Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

In addition, Big Lots supports the community through food donations. In the past 12 months, Big Lots donated more than 7 million pounds of food to Feeding America, which brings its total contribution to more than 50 million pounds of food for Feeding America.
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Columbus City Schools Office of Student Mentoring Initiatives

col_pa_dangoodDan Good, Ph.D., Superintendent/CEO |

Columbus City Schools is the largest district in Ohio with an enrollment of nearly 52,000 students in 109 schools. The student body speaks over 100 languages and 89 percent of CCS students come from families impacted by poverty.

To better address the socio-emotional needs of students, Dan Good, Ph.D., superintendent/CEO, established the Office of Student Mentoring Initiatives in November 2015.

The vision is to ensure each CCS student is paired with a mentor to support them in the development and attainment of high school graduation and post-graduation goals. OSMI seeks to accomplish this by strengthening existing, developing new and aligning all school-based mentorship programs.

In its first year, OSMI introduced two pilot programs:

  • My Brother’s Keeper School Success Mentor Initiative, piloted with sixth graders at three schools with a focus on eliminating chronic absenteeism. Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent or more of the school year for any reason, which for CCS is 18 or more days. This program served nearly 120 students, and rates of absenteeism dropped from nearly 6 to more than 10 percentage points.
  • The Senior Mentorship Program was implemented to provide off-track seniors with mentors. Nearly 70 students were served across five schools, and by the end of summer 2016 all but 12 graduated.

This school year, OSMI’s goal is to serve 1,000 students. The MBK program is being expanded to also serve ninth graders at 19 high schools. The SMP will serve seniors at all 21 CCS high schools.
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col_pa_stephensrasmussenStephen S. Rasmussen, CEO |

From associates volunteering at local food banks to donating money through the United Way, Nationwide embeds philanthropy, workplace giving and volunteerism into its culture.

The Nationwide Foundation has committed more than $355 million, since 2000, to nonprofits across the country that work to meet crucial needs in communities with a significant presence of Nationwide associates.

In 2016, the foundation’s $1.5 million gift to Feeding America was shared with 22 food banks where associates live and work. Nationwide executives also serve on food bank boards. In Central Ohio, Nationwide’s support of the Mid-Ohio Foodbank represents about 43 percent of the Columbus community’s Operation Feed campaign revenue and 16.5 percent of the food bank’s volunteers.

Another initiative is Make Safe Happen. The No. 1 cause of childhood deaths is preventable accidents, so Nationwide created a website ( that provides information and actions people can take.

Nationwide associates donate about 15,000 units of blood a year in nearly two-dozen locations, and Central Ohio associates contribute approximately 5 percent of the local blood supply.

Other causes that Nationwide supports with time and money include American Red Cross disaster relief programs, United Way and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

By partnering with VolunteerMatch, Nationwide makes it easy for associates to connect with organizations that suit their interests. In 2015, associates logged nearly 115,000 volunteer hours. Through the Nationwide Volunteer Network, associates can earn paid time off and a $100 grant for their organization for every 25 hours of volunteer service (up to two per year).
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PMM Agency

kimberlyblackwellKimberly A. Blackwell, CEO |

PMM Agency’s company-wide culture of servitude and giving back includes organized volunteer activities with area organizations and social responsibility through office-wide sustainability efforts and earned credentials, such GreenSpot. This City of Columbus initiative is a place where people can go to learn about living and working greener, and commit to doing it in their homes, businesses and communities.

In addition, members of PMM — a nationally award-winning agency that has earned a reputation as a trusted brand manager — are affiliated with local organizations like the Columbus Urban League, Dress for Success Columbus and YWCA Columbus.

Grateful in the journey, CEO Kimberly A. Blackwell subscribes to the belief “to whom much is given, much is required.” Blackwell’s companies include PMM Agency, PMM Productions, PMM Promotions, PMM Elite and PMM Media.

She leads from governance positions, serving as a board member and trustee for affiliates of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, YWCA Columbus, the Columbus Urban League, King Arts Complex and the Center for Healthy Families.

In 2017, Blackwell will serve as chair the American Heart Association Great Rivers, “Go Red for Women” campaign. She is also a member of the Executive Leadership Council (ELC), a network of the nation’s most influential African-American executives; the Women Presidents’ Organization; and lifetime member of the National Black MBA Association®.

PMM also annually contributes, gratis, to the production of the Columbus Urban League’s annual Equal Opportunity Empowerment Day Luncheon. PMM provides the design, programming and outreach and engagement of this signature event to raise money for the civic organization’s programming.
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Sophisticated Systems Inc.

col_pa_dwightsmithDwight E. Smith, CEO and founder |

Sophisticated Systems Inc. has, since its inception, fostered a culture that invites and inspires employees to give back to their community.

Within the last year, the SSI employees have coordinated or participated in initiatives for Central Ohio organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Salvation Army, Junior Achievement, I Know I Can, the Homeless Families Foundation, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, Pelotonia and the American Heart Association.

The employees have read to second grade Columbus City School students about the importance of a college education. They have helped children experience the magic of the holidays through collecting and donating toys. They have helped shape tomorrow’s leaders through mentoring. They have raised awareness and funds to save lives by preventing heart disease, stroke and cancer and more.

To give another example, in 2015, the SSI team stepped up to coordinate healthy lunch and learns, office walking activities and engaged associates and their families in the annual Central Ohio Heart Walk. SSI engaged 17 walkers and raised more than $5,000 in support of the walk and the mission of the American Heart Association.

In addition, SSI also supported roughly 20 nonprofit clients through in-kind donations in the form of discounted services to the tune of nearly $82,000 in 2015.

CEO Dwight E. Smith founded SSI on the principals by which he lives — ethics, integrity, excellence, respect and commitment, which includes commitment to clients, partners, vendors and community.

Smith also founded two nonprofits: Thanks Be to God Foundation and My Special World.
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The Champion Companies

col_pa_brianyeagercol_pa_michelleyeagerBrian Yeager, president and CEO | Michelle Yeager-Thornton, co-founder and COO |

Giving back to a community that has given so much to The Champion Companies is something that is very important to Brian Yeager, president and CEO, and Michelle Yeager-Thornton, co-founder and COO.

In 2014, the company created the Champion Cares Foundation to support people within the community who are in need with the help of Champion’s business partners, residents and team members. The foundation has chosen to partner with three local organizations — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio, the YWCA Family Center and Children’s Hunger Alliance — that each focus on providing basic needs to people in need in Central Ohio.

In order to raise awareness and money for the foundation and its benefactors, Champion hosts an annual golf outing. Team members volunteer their time to plan, design, set up and work the event each year. So far, the golf invitational has raised more than $235,000 for charity. Last year, Champion raised $100,000.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio Bowl For Kids’ Sake event, the Champion Cares Golf Invitational and serving meals and volunteering in the Employment Resource Center at the YWCA Family Center have provided Champion’s employees the opportunity to get involved and give back. It also allows the company’s team members to have fun together outside of the workplace.

The company has organized internal contests surrounding these events to urge involvement and challenge employees to raise money. The result has fostered friendly competition and team bonding, all while supporting charitable organizations.
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col_pa_gailkelleyGail Kelley, CEO |

TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® believes in being part of the community and helping through several different causes. By providing trucks and movers, they’ve been able to impact thousands of families in the community.

Each year TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® Columbus, owned by CEO Gail Kelley, gives back to mothers in need through the company’s national charity campaign, Movers for Moms®. The campaign collects items for mothers living in domestic abuse and homeless shelters that are delivered each Mother’s Day. In recent years, they’ve collected over 2,000 items for My Sister’s Place. They partnered with various childcare centers and chambers of commerce to help collect the essential care items.

TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® also has donated moving services and transportation to Son Ministries, Project Help Clothing Ministry, the American Red Cross, The Ohio State University Chadwick Arboretum & Learning Gardens and the First Community Church. These nonprofits have come to rely on equivalent value of thousands of dollars of moving services.

Over the past several years, TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® has been a huge partner with A Kid Again. Every year the organization has a holiday party for the families they serve. TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® sends two trucks and four men to transport all the gifts, decorations, supplies and prizes.

Habitat for Humanity-MidOhio also values TWO MEN AND A TRUCK’s® ongoing partnership, which includes moving services for families — that way, homeowners are able to focus their energy and efforts on preparing families for a new and exciting chapter in their lives.
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Nonprofit Board Executive of the Year Award

Poe Timmons

col_pa_poetimmonsBoard member and founder
A Kid Again |

Children with life-threatening illnesses and their families need to make certain that hope continues. They need opportunities to spend quality family time in a fun-filled group activity or destination event outside the hospital.

In order to test that theory, in 1995, Poe Timmons took 178 people — kids with life-threatening illnesses and their family members — to Magic Mountain in Columbus. She put $1,400 on her credit card to cover the cost, and Adventures For Wish Kids Inc. was born.

By 2000, the organization had started serving not only families whose kids were being treated at Nationwide Children’s Hospital but also those in Dayton and Cincinnati. The reach expanded to Cleveland in 2008.

With Timmons’ unwavering commitment and leadership, the organization survived the recession and was renamed A Kid Again in 2009.

Timmons has remained an incredible donor, with a family-giving history exceeding $1 million. And in 21 years, the nonprofit has held more than 450 adventures with over 200,000 attendees; raised over $25 million; has had more than 2,500 volunteers providing tens of thousands of hours of service; and formed hundreds of corporate partnerships.

Thanks to Timmons’ investment of her time, treasure, talent and heart, A Kid Again became a reality for kids and their families.

“Right from the start, Poe took me under her wing and taught me how to lead others with humility. Her extraordinary wisdom, combined with her unstoppable determination to invest, improve and empower others to succeed, immediately garnered my respect and admiration for her unmatchable leadership,” says CEO Jeffrey Damron of when he first met Timmons.
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Kathleen Warnick

col_pa_kathleenwarnickChair elect | past board member
NAWBO | Women’s Small Business Accelerator (WSBA) | Young Entrepreneurs Academy |

A successful woman business owner for more than 20 years, Kathleen Warnick knows the importance of helping other women, whether as business owners or as strong, productive, engaged members of their communities. Through her organizational and nonprofit board participation, Warnick supports organizations that promote business ownership and entrepreneurship of women and youth.

In her fourth year on the board of directors of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Warnick is currently the chair-elect of the organization, which is the voice of over 10 million women-owned businesses throughout the U.S.

As an active NAWBO board member, she visits chapters, assisting them with building strength in their membership, advocacy and business acumen. In 2017, she will take over as national chair.

Warnick was instrumental in bringing the 2016 National Women’s Business Conference to Columbus. The national conference drew attendees from 97 percent of the 60 NAWBO chapters across the country, infused over $400,000 into the Columbus economy and hosted 650 attendees.

Warnick also advocated bringing the Young Entrepreneurs Academy to the Columbus market — securing NAWBO Columbus as the 2014-2017 licensee and helping it get off the ground.

She recently concluded a three-year term with the Women’s Small Business Accelerator. Warnick led the organization in the development of sound, compliant financial policies. In addition, she introduced the organization to and sponsored the cost of its texting and donation match for its annual gala fundraising, and sponsored two scholarships for women to go through the organization’s education programs.
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Nonprofit Executive Director of the Year Award

Tasha Booker

col_pa_tashabookerExecutive director and vice president
City Year Columbus |

During her tenure, Executive Director Tasha Booker has engineered significant changes and advancements to City Year Columbus.

Leading a team of 12 full-time employees and 54 AmeriCorps members, Booker was instrumental in increasing City Year’s partnership and impact with the Columbus City School District.

Previously, City Year Columbus provided services to four schools — South High School, Linden McKinley STEM Academy, Mifflin High School and Livingston Elementary School. For the 2015-2016 school year, City Year added two additional schools, Trevitt Elementary and Champion Middle, both part of the East High School feeder pattern.

In the past, City Year responded as Columbus City Schools asked for help. Now, the organization is strategically focusing on the elementary and middle schools that feed into four high schools. This will hopefully have a long-term impact, following students to higher grades and providing a continuum of programming.

Thanks to Booker’s relationships and tenacity, City Year Columbus was awarded its first district funding in its 20-year history. Also, under her leadership, of the students who worked with City Year AmeriCorps members, 65 percent showed improvement in math and 72 percent showed improvement in English and language arts on end-of-year assessments.

Within the organization, Booker added structure to the advisory board; established policies for professional development stipends and flex time; and increased collaboration between departments.

As a graduate of Columbus City Schools, Booker brings a unique perspective. She embodies the City Year value of belief in the power of young people, making certain that students are given the attention and mentorship they deserve to learn and thrive.
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Bill Faith

col_pa_billfaithExecutive director
Coalition for Homelessness and Housing in Ohio |

Bill Faith has served as the Coalition for Homelessness and Housing in Ohio’s executive director since 1994. The COHHIO is one of the largest and most active of all statewide homeless and housing coalitions in the country.

The COHHIO pushes for systemic changes to benefit people in need. Its seven programs work together to help increase affordable and supportive housing and reduce homelessness in the state.

The nonprofit, under Faith’s leadership, works to help homeless disabled individuals get Social Security Disability Insurance benefits; advocates for tenants’ rights to help stabilize rental households; provides training and technical assistance to the agencies that serve homeless individuals and families; promotes nonpartisan voting to increase civic engagement; helps facilitate the 80-county process to apply for federal homeless dollars annually; advocates at the state level on behalf of homeless youth; and offers a resource-rich annual conference.

COHHIO also responds quickly to legislation that threatens vulnerable and disenfranchised populations. It fought successfully against legislation that would allow for-profit out-of-state debt settlement companies to charge unsuspecting customers unlimited fees.

In recent years, advocacy efforts have broadened to include consumer and voter protection. For example, the nonprofit directed efforts among voting advocate groups to push back against restrictive voting laws and led efforts that resulted in budget funds for an absentee ballot application mailing to all Ohio voters in 2016.

On the national level, Faith has served as chairman of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition for six years and also as president of the Board of Directors for the National Coalition for the Homeless.
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Paula Haines

col_pa_paulahainesExecutive director
Freedom a la Cart |

Committed to making a difference in the lives of human trafficking survivors in Central Ohio, Paula Haines has led the way for how businesses can employ and empower survivors of human trafficking to build a new life of self-sufficiency and freedom.

In only two years, Haines founded and implemented three successful fundraisers for Freedom a la Cart: Eat Up! Columbus, Cause Cookies and Pies with Purpose. Eat Up! Columbus alone has raised more than $200,000. During these years, she first served as Freedom’s board president before stepping in as executive director in June 2016.

Her revision of Freedom’s workforce training program through mission-focused management has enabled the nonprofit to employ 30 women and supports more than 50 ladies in Franklin County’s CATCH Court founded by Judge Paul Herbert. The survivors now have access to:

  • Individual case management to establish and attain long-term personal, vocational and educational goals and plans.
  • A peer navigator, who has previously been through the program, to act as a mentor.
  • Individual therapy for mental health and substance abuse issues.
  • Educational and vocational support.
  • Life skills, enrichment classes and support groups.
  • Pro-bono legal services.
  • Dental procedures with licensed dentists.

Haines also created a business plan to expand Freedom’s catering service into a brick-and-mortar café to create more opportunity for the organization to employ more survivors and broaden outreach and advocacy efforts in Central Ohio. The model is scalable and has the potential to develop in other cities ready to employ intentional economic empowerment as a means to break cycles of exploitation.
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Ernest L. Perry Jr.

col_pa_ernestperryPresident and CEO
HandsOn Central Ohio |

Ernest L. Perry Jr. has been able to fuse mission, strategy and operating priorities into cohesive, value-driven and focused activities through his leadership at HandsOn Central Ohio, which connects people, local resources, volunteers and service organizations to opportunity.

Through its 2-1-1 hotline, HandOn links people in need with those who can help, whether it’s food, emergency shelter or assistance with other issues. It also collects information to help social and human service organizations better respond to current needs and anticipate those in the future. This data gives the community a baseline that can be a roadmap to change lives.

While food and homelessness remain two of the community’s highest needs, HandsOn has been able to deliver more than 1 million meals to over 300,000 people through its comprehensive emergency food network, and assist over 7,000 individuals and 3,000 households with shelter.

As president and CEO, Perry expanded the organization to include three director-level board members, which added two new corporate relationships, and was a catalyst for completing a strategic plan and recreating HandsOn’s mission. He also has helped increase visibility, establishing and deepening partnerships around the city.

Internally, by analyzing roles and responsibilities, he was able to establish clear career pathways, which led to the promotion of nearly 10 team members. With the clarification of roles and responsibilities, staff compensation could be reviewed, resulting in the first organization-wide base salary growth in four years.

Perry is a firm believer in collaborative efforts bringing the best results and he is on a constant quest to break down agency silos.
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From the hearts of our sponsors

The sponsors of the 2017 Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service support the program because they believe in its mission — to recognize the critical tie between the for-profit and nonprofit communities.
Here is a little bit about each of this year’s sponsors.


Clark Schaefer Hackett

Philanthropy is an integral part of Clark Schaefer Hackett’s culture. Our mission is to better the lives of our clients, people and communities, and we take that to heart. By supporting and strengthening the areas where we live and work, we’re building remarkable relationships and investing in the future.

Clark Schaefer Hackett provides opportunities for our employees to participate in firm- and office-wide community service events with local nonprofit organizations. At our most recent company meeting, employees formed groups to participate in “Wheels for the World” – a team-building activity that resulted in the finished assembly of more than 60 bicycles that were then presented to young students from the Wilmington City School District.

Our employees also give back by supporting our annual United Way fundraising drive, as well as donating their time and talents on an individual basis to numerous civic, nonprofit and other community organizations.

We believe that it’s important for all organizations to look at the “triple bottom line,” and evaluate not only their financial performance, but also their environmental and social impact. By focusing on doing well and doing good, businesses can make a positive difference in our communities.



GREENCREST exists to make a difference in the businesses we serve and to build partnerships where everyone wins. At her core, Kelly Borth, founder and president of GREENCREST and a former Kent Clapp Award honoree, has an innate, firm belief in the value of helping others — both personally and professionally. Borth instills this belief in her entire team, who know they are here to make a positive impact in the communities in which we live and work.

As an organization, GREENCREST has a strong culture and a long history of giving of our time, talent and treasure. Over the years, the professionals at GREENCREST have donated thousands of hours in service to the community through volunteer service and pro-bono initiatives sponsored by GREENCREST, which is a past Pillar Award recipient. The company continues to volunteers its time and provide pro-bono work, and contribute to the community financially through its GREENCREST Living Hope Foundation, a donor-advised fund administered by The Columbus Foundation. Established in 2007, the core mission of the foundation is to give living hope to children and individuals in the community who, due to economic challenges, might not otherwise have the resources to live to their fullest potential.

The GREENCREST Living Hope Foundation supports local charities, collaboratively chosen by the GREENCREST team, where we feel passionate that our contributions will make a difference. In addition, every GREENCREST member is involved in selecting various charitable organizations that help people who need a helping hand. Team members plan a service project that goes along with any contributions GREENCREST makes as an organization.

Since its founding, GREENCREST has demonstrated a commitment to serving the local community, a unique characteristic for a small company. We understand that we all benefit when we can live and work in a thriving, healthy community, and that we all need to do our part to leave the world a better place.

GREENCREST is proud of its history of working with other central Ohio businesses whose leaders share this passion and vision for being ambassadors for community causes. We all have the opportunity to be great role models. The  community as a whole benefits when we contribute to causes that are greater than our ourselves.


Cleveland Cavaliers

Beginning with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ ownership group, led by Dan Gilbert, Jeff Cohen and Nate Forbes, giving back is a major priority for our organization. Not only is philanthropy important to our culture, we consider it our obligation and duty to do what we can to give back to the people of Northeast Ohio.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and our family of teams, the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters and AFL’s Cleveland Gladiators, are committed to making a positive impact on the lives of children and families in Northeast Ohio. Throughout the year, each team supports a full roster of community outreach initiatives that address important social issues with an emphasis on education, youth and family services, health and wellness, volunteerism and entrepreneurship.

The Cavs organization aims to set the standard for being champions in the community.

In addition, our team members understand the importance of getting involved in our community, and we offer a variety of ways throughout the year for them to do so. From donating to United Way to donating time to wrap presents for children in need at the holidays, we are proud of the effort our team members put forth to make an impact in the Cleveland community.

Our owner, Dan Gilbert, likes to say that you “do well by doing good.” We take that to heart here at The Q, and hope that others do as well. We are in a position to be able to help others, and it’s our privilege to do so.


Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board

At the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB), philanthropy is part of our DNA. Philanthropy and giving back to the community is part of what CSRAB does day-in and day-out.

The employees of CSRAB support a number of organizations through the State of Ohio Combined Charitable Campaign. CSRAB also ensures the Ohio Statehouse is a place where all Ohioans feel welcome to come and participate in the governance of our republic.

As a state agency, CSRAB’s philanthropic philosophy is different than a privately held corporation’s giving priorities. As an agency, our philosophy is aligned with the historical tradition of philanthropic institutions. At the same time, we strive to educate citizens on the workings of state government and hope to inspire future leaders of Ohio.

At CSRAB, employees are encouraged through the actions of Executive Director Laura P. Clemens. There is no better way to lead and inspire an organization than through active leadership from the top down. Clemens’ leadership and passion for giving is what CSRAB’s 2016 Ohio Combined Charitable Campaign had a participation rate of 90 percent.

CSRAB takes the long view as we look to engage and give back to the community. The agency feels that the best way to give back to all citizens of Ohio is to educate and inspire the future leaders of Ohio about state government and the important role the Ohio Statehouse has played in the history of this great state for more than 159 years.



Engagement doesn’t happen overnight. It is the result of a long-term commitment by your organization to connect with and invest in the wants and needs of your target audience.

Convero develops content marketing programs that increase engagement and performance. Our five-step process delivers detailed plans — from strategy and planning to execution and measurement — for organizations across a wide range of industries, including banking and finance, health care, higher education, manufacturing and associations.


Digizoom Media

We are visual storytellers who believe that creativity should arise and flourish without boundaries. Whether it’s bringing your brand, your value proposition or your organization’s culture to life, we accompany our award-winning visuals with carefully crafted scripts that support your messaging objectives, engage your audiences and inspire action. Telling your story, engaging your audience and driving results is what we do best. Your vision is our passion.

We amplify your presence by providing high quality, cutting-edge video content. We are dedicated to warm, professional standards of service, and guarantee satisfaction with our products and your experience. Our primary focus is to serve the business community through producing content engineered to expand your reach.


Hughie’s Event Production Services

Hughie’s Event Production Services has been Cleveland’s live-event design and production resource since 1953. Hughie’s believes in giving back to the city where it all began and the area that we’ve called home for 60 years.

Hughie’s is a full-service event production company and worldwide supplier of high-definition video projection equipment, concert quality audio systems, intelligent moving lights, staging systems, decor and more to satisfy all your presentation and special event needs.


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Prop up your philanthropy with the right support

Once again in January, Smart Business and Medical Mutual are recognizing the Central Ohio companies and their employees who invest time and resources into strengthening the relationship between nonprofits and for-profits.

From the bottom up

This year not only did I get to read — and write — about some great organizations, I also interviewed several people at Budros, Ruhlin & Roe Inc., the winner of the Medical Mutual SHARE Award. This award recognizes philanthropy efforts that are spearheaded by the employees, more than executives.

It’s heartwarming to learn about the changes that Budros employees have already seen under a more unified community service plan. So, be sure to check out the story.

But one thing CEO Peggy Ruhlin said really struck me. I asked her if she has been surprised about anything as Budros’ has implemented more formal processes around its philanthropy. She says that she’s been surprised how nearly every job candidate brings up Budros’ community service before the interviewer can.

It can’t be an afterthought

Millennials, and Generation X to a lesser degree, want to work for good companies. They are doing their homework upfront. For many of them, corporate philanthropy and community service are no longer a nice-to-have; they are a key part of why they apply for a job.

One of my co-workers recently told me her daughter, a millennial, is looking for a job. She’s only applying to companies with a social good component. It’s a deal breaker for her.

Anyone can add a philanthropy page to their website, but if job candidates are proactively bringing this up during their interviews, you need to make sure those claims are being consistently fulfilled.

I think more companies can take a page out of Budros’ book. Until something is formalized, measured and laid out, it’s too easy to let it slip into the background.

Corporate philanthropy and community service are a competitive advantage when it comes to hiring talent, so it’s critical that you treat it as such. It has to have the same support system as the other competitive advantages you nurture in your company’s culture.