Issue: September/October 2010
Best Places to Work: Bright Ideas
From a company that encourages you to find — and grow — your niche to an employee-generated encyclopedia, here are some cool concepts to steal.
Location: Mayfield Village
Number of Employees: 125
What They Do: A certified public accounting, business and financial advisory firm
Why It’s a Great Place to Work: Looking for a way to differentiate services, the firm allows employees to develop niche groups that offer expert advice on a variety of business topics.
Jonathan Ebenstein joined Skoda Minotti in 2006 with one mission: to brand the company.
“At that time, we didn’t really stand out from other accounting firms,” says the managing director of marketing services. So Ebenstein, along with chairman Greg Skoda and one of 17 fellow partners Roger Gingerich, worked on a plan to distinguish the company from others. It came down to expertise.
“We realized that as a company, we needed employees to handle our own marketing, IT, staffing and recruiting,” he says. “And since we did it for ourselves, we figured we could also offer these services as an added bonus for our clients.”
Called the Niche Group Business Development Initiative, Skoda has developed 13 expertise groups, including real estate and construction, financial staffing, health care consulting, and private wealth management. Expertise can focus on company IT assessments, advertising, branding, public relations and website design — services most may not expect from the typical CPA firm. Then there are business advisory services, such as risk advisory, estate planning and retirement planning.
Each offering is becoming a big part of the business, with about 80 percent of the Skoda’s 125 professional employees involved in at least one niche group.
“Employee careers are a blank piece of paper when they start,” Ebenstein says, adding some hires are required to have specific skill sets, but others can learn on the job. “They can color or design it anyway they want to.”
That happened for Daniel Golish, who started his career in audit and assurance services for a big firm. When he decided to return to public accounting after a long break, his interest was in valuation and litigation.
“When I expressed a strong interest in getting involved in that niche, the partners at Skoda Minotti were accommodating,” says the senior manager of the Valuation and Litigation Advisory Services Group at Skoda. “The program offers employees a sense of direction. It gives professionals, at a relatively early stage of their career, the experience to run a business on a small scale. This program allows the individual to become the expert in his chosen field, which in turn differentiates us from the marketplace.”
Number of Employees: 1,121 in Wickliffe, 2,150 in Northeast Ohio
The Idea: WikiZol is the company’s in-house encyclopedia for everything Lubrizol-related from company history to commonly used abbreviations and acronyms, such as ACC (American Chemistry Council) or DCAB (Design Change Advisory Board).
What Makes it Bright: Inspired by Wikipedia, The Lubrizol Corp. launched the idea in December, figuring it was easier to offer employees an easily searchable database than to print a constantly changing glossary. “New material is added every day,” says Julie Young, senior manager of corporate communications. “There are hundreds of entries, and we average anywhere from 25 to 75 more per month. It’s beneficial to employees around the world.” Located on the intranet home page, it’s open to employees who want to add information, and entries are monitored by peers to maintain accuracy. “The more knowledgeable employees are, the better we can serve our customers,” Young says.
Number of Employees: 77
The Idea: Children of staff are invited to the foundation’s office on Halloween for treats and tricks.
What Makes it Bright: With a staff party already planned, an employee suggested workers bring in their kids who had the day off from school. It gave the staff an opportunity to show their children where they work. Staff filled the office with scary decorations, and children dressed as witches and superheroes toured the two-floor offices of the Cleveland Foundation’s Euclid Avenue headquarters. Employees, excited to see the children they had heard so much about, handed out candy and treats along the way. “There was a buzz in the office for days before,” says Danielle Hanna, human resources generalist. “It was a chance for employees to take a break and be kids again. It was great for morale, and we will definitely do it again this year.”
Number of Employees: 345 in Northeast Ohio
The Idea: Dots president Rick Bunka led his employees through an office design process that ended with the creation of collaboration areas and huddle rooms. These special areas for brainstorming are outfitted with Idea Paint, which turns walls into dry-erase surfaces.
What Makes It So Bright: Collaboration areas and huddle rooms have dramatically improved efficiency by eliminating time used to find places to meet. “[They] have plenty of comfortable seating, plenty of space to spread out and natural bright light,” says Laure Jones, Dots divisional vice president of human resources. “It is much easier to grab a peer for an informal meeting now that there is plenty of accessible space.”
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