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...]

Creating the Long-term Plan: Getting There

Background Vox is a customer-experience consulting firm based in Chicago. Using its trademarked CustomerspectiveTM Process, Vox helps its clients provide a comprehensive and integrated "Customer Experience" that drives retention, cross-sales, referrals and bottom-line results dramatically higher. Vox started in 1997 as a marketing communications agency but over time evolved into a firm that focuses primarily on customer retention, an important but often overlooked area in many service-oriented businesses. Vox created a niche in the Chicago market as being "the voice of the customer experience" and quickly found themselves in high demand among Fortune 500 companies. Challenges The … [Read more...]

Business Coaching: Providing the Framework for Success

Background Media Staffing Network is a job-placement agency based in Chicago. The company offers job placement, recruitment consulting, candidate and corporate training, and outplacement.Laurie Kahn founded Media Staffing Network in 1993 following a successful radio career in Kansas City and Chicago. After "getting fired" - one of the best things to happen to her, she said - she took a position as a temporary sales representative at a local radio station. It was during this position that she got the idea for her company, which started as Rep Temps before eventually evolving into Media Staffing Network. Challenges Media Staffing Network was one of many businesses that experienced a … [Read more...]

Creating a Measurable Sales Process

Background Mac Arthur Corporation, is a minority-owned, ISO/TS-certified supplier of labels and related products and services. The company, based in Grand Blanc, Michigan, has served major automotive customers since 1962. It ships hundreds of millions of labels each year to 14 countries around the globe. Challenges In 2006, a single customer represented a large percentage of business at Mac Arthur Corporation. Thomas Barrett, vice-president of Mac Arthur Corporation, said the company focused much of its energy on serving this single client and management felt they could improve the quality of service they provided to all the company's customers and, in the process, increase revenue. … [Read more...]

From One Man Band to an Ensemble

The Big Picture Home Theater Company is a home-theater design and installation business based in Wilmette, Illinois. Owner Patrick McFadden, a sound-system enthusiast, opened the business in December 2003 and quickly built a customer base through customer referrals. Challenge The Big Picture Home Theater Company started as a one-man operation but as new business continued to pour in, one man could no longer handle all the work. Patrick hired several new staff members but was still too busy tending to the day-to-day operations of the business that he could not focus on what was needed to bring his company to the next level. He wanted his company to grow in a manner that would ensure its … [Read more...]

Regaining Control

The owner of this contracting business had over 25 years of experience, but this year things seemed to be slipping behind. He was spending all his time reacting, putting out fires with customers, employees, vendors, but no time building his business. In fact his crews were all under manned because he just hadn't had time to do any recruiting. The highest priority was staffing, we needed people on the jobs so that the projects wouldn't fall behind. Through a combination of outsourced staffing and a streamlined hiring process he was up to full strength within a month. His sales people were relived and had renewed confidence that the company could deliver work on time. We restarted long … [Read more...]