Helping a Youth Organization Mature through Strategic Planning

The DeKalb County Youth Service Bureau (YSB) is a nonprofit 501 c3 organization that has provided counseling, groups, and other supportive services to adolescents and their families for more than 40 years. Its clientele have been identified as at-risk and typically are from low-income households. Challenge YSB's story was typical of so many nonprofits out there - they were trying to fulfill a great need for service with limited funding. For 42 years, the organization managed to keep up with a growing number of clients (a 325 percent increase during a 10-year period) until the economy crashed in 2008. Jason Nicol, Executive Director, explained, "At that point, we lost 25 percent of … [Read more...]

Establishing a Reusable Sales Process

Recycling Services (RSI) develops, implements and services office paper recycling programs in the greater Chicago metropolitan area. Capitalized with $10,000 in 1984, David Levinson and Michael Finn formed the company to respond to the growing solid waste problem in Illinois by making recycling services available to businesses and the general public. Now in its 25th year, Recycling Services operates a 40,000 square-foot recycling plant located on the southwest side of Chicago, where it processes over 9,000 tons of secondary fiber per month. The company employs 50 people. Challenge Since opening RSI in 1984, Levinson and Finn grew their company organically and through strategic … [Read more...]

Plan Provides ‘Safe Haven’ For Organization

RefugeeOne (formerly Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Ministries, or IRIM) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that provides a full range of services to refugees and immigrants resettling in the Chicago metropolitan area. Every year, RefugeeOne assists more than 3,000 refugees (approximately 600 are new each year) and immigrants from around the world to find housing, learn English, acclimate to American culture, develop computer and other employable skills, find jobs, obtain medical and other care, access the public school system for their children, apply for citizenship, and obtain care for elderly family members. RefugeeOne's programs are made possible through the dedicated efforts … [Read more...]

Moving In The ‘Write’ Direction

Write On Command is a writing, editing and project management business based in Springfield, Illinois. Owner Bridget Ingebrigtsen leads a team of writers, editors and VAs who assist small-business owners with their projects. Challenge In 1998, Bridget Ingebrigtsen started working as a freelance writer and editor after leaving her full-time job as an editor in the not-for-profit industry. With a newborn daughter at home, Bridget needed more flexibility and felt she could make a good living as a freelancer. "I had jobs coming in here and there; nothing consistent, but the jobs were coming in," Bridget said. "I made money, but I never thought it could sustain me or provide a lasting and … [Read more...]

Breeding A Healthy Business

AnimalSense is a Chicago-based dog training and behavior company. The company offers group classes, private lessons, behavioral consultations, an academy to teach dog training, as well as a host of special educational and dog-centered programs to enhance the lives of people and their pets. Challenge As the owner of a dog-training and behavior company, Jamie Damato was doing what she loved to do - work with animals and with fellow dog-lovers. But, her job wasn't all fun and games. There was the not-so-fun part - the business side - that was dragging her down. Her entrepreneurial mind was always going, making her venture into new territory without first thinking it through thoroughly. "I … [Read more...]

Redesigning A Company’s Infrastructure

Mary Cook & Associates was founded in 1986 to provide design service to the builder/developer, golf/resort and senior housing industries. The Chicago-based firm serves clients from around the country. Challenge For two decades, Mary Cook & Associates experienced "unprecedented growth," largely due to a demand for its services in the residential housing industry, says founder and owner Mary Cook. And although the company was able to meet the demand and deliver quality work for many years, there was a problem lurking under the surface, she said. "I didn't invest the time and money in important things like hiring and training, so I was always struggling with personnel issues and … [Read more...]

No Time to Find the Right Employees

Recycling Services (RSI) develops, implements and services office paper recycling programs in the greater Chicago metropolitan area. Capitalized with $10,000 in 1984, David Levinson and Michael Finn formed the company to respond to the growing solid waste problem in Illinois by making recycling services available to businesses and the general public. Now in its 25th year, Recycling Services operates a 40,000 square-foot recycling plant located on the southwest side of Chicago, where it processes over 9,000 tons of secondary fiber per month. The company employs 50 people. Challenge As a growing company, RSI needed to hire new staff members to handle existing business as well as to … [Read more...]

Playing by the Rules: A Punk Circus Band Incorporates

Mucca Pazza is a 30-person punk circus marching band based out of Chicago, Illinois. When it was founded in 2004, the band was one of a handful of renegade marching bands in the country. Now it is performing in Chicago and touring nationally. Challenge When Mucca Pazza began earning money for performances and concerts, they encountered several challenges regarding the "business" of their group. "Our big concern was to not 'kill it' by making it official," said Meghan Strell, a cheerleader in the band. "We wanted to figure out how to incorporate our punk rock band." The band members were unsure how ownership of the band would work, as well as how to begin the budgeting process and … [Read more...]

To Buy a Business or Not Buy a Business … That Was the Question

Mark and Janice Utendorf were interested in purchasing a lawn care service company in the Chicago area and needed guidance through the acquisition process. The company offers customized lawn care programs including fertilization, weed control and pest control. Challenges The couple was on vacation when they received a call that a reputable, local lawn care service was for sale. Mark had experience working for several green industry companies so when this opportunity presented itself, the couple felt it was worth consideration. But, it was March and if they were interested, they would have to take ownership of the company in April before the warm weather started. "Lawn care companies are … [Read more...]

Getting Partners on the Same Page

Orbit Media Studios is a Chicago-based web design firm. Orbit specializes in web design and development, e-commerce, content management tools, hosting and creative vision for both large and small businesses in Chicago. Partners Barrett Lombardo and Andy Crestodina founded Orbit Media Studios, first in 1997 as a company that designed and built multimedia comics, and again in 2001 as a web design firm. In 2004, a third partner, Frank Voznak, joined the fast-growing business. Challenge When Orbit Media Studios entered into a partnership with Anchor Advisors, Ltd. in 2007, the web design firm was facing a number of challenges. Andy explained, "We were never going to grow … [Read more...]