ADAPTING, THRIVING, HIRING, GROWING...IN WNY. YES, REALLY.
BY: Amanda Repp & Brendan Cunningham
As a community entering into a season of renewed vitality and fresh possibilities, we are encouraged to shed the preconceptions of a long, barren winter. For many across WNY, the struggle of the wintery months is perfect analogy to a considerable period of stress facing a majority of Buffalo-based businesses. Despites widespread belief that local businesses are experiencing losses or remain frozen in the status quo- there are numerous organizations experiencing expansion, rebirth and surplus. From the perspective of local Human Capital Firm, APA Solutions Inc. and business leadership expert, Joan Graci, there could not be a better time for businesses in Buffalo, NY to grow. From Graci’s perspective, “organizations that are succeeding are doing different” and “those organizations that can successfully connect their unique corporate mission to niche markets, emerging technologies, holistically-connected employees and lean business practices are the first to break the cycle of stagnation.” Drawing from her extensive research on Inc 500|5000 companies, Graci and her team have made it their mission to mentor local organizations on the demands of “doing different” and strategically planning for advancement on a local, national and international scale. With respect to the emerging leaders of today’s vibrant Buffalo business community, APA Solutions recognizes the local businesses that embody the many forms of today’s growth, innovation and success:
In the heart of Elma, NY, one can find clevermethod, a refreshing full-service web development firm that is challenging the standard of Buffalo-based imagination, innovation and technology. True to its namesake, clevermethod prides itself in its ability to provide creative, strategic and highly technical services to companies in WNY and across the nation. From mobile application development, web marketing and analytics, to outstanding web design, clevermethod offers its clients a holistic, expert and fun approach. Founded in 2000, out of a simple basement office, clevermethod has quickly transformed from a traditional two-man show to a thriving, nationally recognized organization. For clevermethod partners Doug Kasperek and Matt Hasselback, “Tech is a passion, and we have a lot of fun doing it. Although we take our work very seriously, we do it in a fashion that makes the experience enjoyable for ourselves and our clients.” On all accounts, clevermethod is devoted to being different-so much so, that one need only look to its striking website to get a feel for the team’s distinct identity- “We are problem solvers, strategists, artists, programmers, technologists, application architects, content developers and storytellers.” When asked about the key to their growth, clevermethod partners Kasperek and Hasselback spoke of a passionate commitment to going above and beyond in their quest to help their clients. In the words of Hasselback, “We’re not simply mass producing-whether we are working for a Fortune 500 corporation or a small Mom & Pop business, we are consistently focused on an attention to detail, quality product and output, and also the creativity of our ideas. When given the license, it really works out.” In addition to designing the web identity of local organizations like Moog, Delaware North Companies and Calspan, clevermethod is putting Buffalo on the map by competing with leading technology firms across the country.
AUDUBON MACHINERY CORP.
814 Wurlitzer Dr. North Tonawanda, NY 14120
Although the legacy of Buffalo manufacturing giants like Bethlehem Steel are slowly fading into the history books, there is an unmistakable rumble of new growth in the areas of niche manufacturing in the WNY area. Leading this upward movement is the Audubon Machinery Corporation and its family of companies, specializing in the innovative production of oxygen generating systems, life sciences equipment and environmental solutions. Located in North Tonawanda, NY, Audubon Machinery Corporation grew from a single company, Oxygen Generating Systems International (OGSI) in 1995, into a multifaceted brand spanning the fields of renewable energy, industrial and medical. When questioned about the companies’ expansive background of growth and Inc. 5000 honors, Audubon co-founder and president Joe McMahon attributed an undeniable spirit of competition, innovation, efficiency and a strong collaboration with his partners, Bob Schlyer and Christopher Collins. Sharing his perspective on Audubon’s growth ethic and strong team culture, McMahon stated, “We have spent a lot of time and energy training our employees to think about how to perform their work more efficiently. We run our team through Certified Lean Professional training and Six Sigma. We are constantly looking at the sales per employee ratio, and on a regular basis, we ask, “Are we an efficient operation or not?”” It is with this spirit of lean (and green) manufacturing that McMahon and his team approach the global markets with confidence and success. Today, Audubon and its companies, OGSI, Schlyer Machine, Starboard Sun, IMT Solar and the newly acquired Roe Biomedical work with clients in over 70 different countries around the globe. Audubon proudly supports the growth of the Buffalo community by manufacturing all of its products locally, operating a 42,000 square feet “Certified Green Building” and purchasing a majority of its manufacturing parts from WNY vendors.
CASTLE SOFTWARE INC.
50 Countryside Lane Depew, NY 14043
With the help of mascot and resident online educator, Professor Bill, Castle Software, Inc. is propelling traditional American education to the next level of 24-7-365 connectedness. Headquartered out of Depew, NY, Castle Software pairs innovative 21st century technology with an online classroom experience, positively transforming and streamlining the relationships between students, teachers, parents and administrators. Founded in 1991, Castle Software stemmed from the cooperative vision of experienced educators and software engineers seeking to make a positive difference in the education of students across the country. According to partner and general manager, Scott Fischer, it is “our vision to establish exactly how technology might play a role in the way we educate students and determine academic success.” Over the last 21 years, Castle Software has matured into a full K-12 online classroom and assessment resource that follows its students from elementary school to high school graduation. From Mathematics, Sciences and Social Studies to English and Foreign Languages, Castle Software emerges as an accessible and valuable supplement to daily classroom activities. With approximately 25% of its employees based out of WNY and exciting plans for future growth, Castle Software looks to new product development, quality customer service and the latest technologies to extend its reach across the country as the fundamental source for K-12 e-learning.
VoIP SUPPLY, LLC
Sonwil Drive Buffalo, NY 14225
Buffalo-based VoIP Supply, LLC is North America’s largest VoIP (Voice over IP) solutions provider. If you’re unsure what VoIP technology is or, haven’t heard of the company, then VoIP Supply may have already helped to counter the mindset that there’s limited opportunity in Western New York.
In 2002 Benjamin Sayers, President and CEO, noticed a growing demand for VoIP products and there was nowhere to purchase them. VoIP Supply was born as an internet retailer offering customers the most VoIP education and best customer experience the industry has seen.
Now, in 2012, VoIP Supply is celebrating a 10 year anniversary and is poised for growth; emerging strong from the recession with a sustained 20+ percent year-over-year growth rate for this past decade. VoIP Supply was able to purchase its very own headquarters building in January of 2011, committing the company to Western New York, and has added seven new employees since then.
VoIP Supply continues to be a local leader by making Buffalo Business First’s list of WNY’s Top Private Companies for seven straight years and recently garnering a Best Places to Work in WNY nomination for the fifth time. With 36 employees the company continues to hire programmers and “A” players to join their sales team. Overall, VoIP Supply’s growth continues to come from technology hardware sales though they do offer nationwide deployment services and special deals with their service provider partners.
The company is seeing growth by introducing new solutions and expanding into new markets like Canada and the European Union. New solutions include affordable solutions on the video communication front, mobile VoIP applications for smartphones, and new devices from new brands like CloudTC and AltiGen. It’s brands like these that keep the company on the forefront of emerging tech and has elevated them as a leader in the industry and that leadership translates to economic and social impact in our region, “We work with Camp Good Days as the primary charity receiving support from the company, via work donated and financial support. We do work with and support others such as the Buffalo City Mission, Gilbert Memorial, St. Jude’s Research, and a few others – these are mostly financial support.”
In terms of their success, according to company executives it’s about investing in people and developing strong teams. “Invest in your people and your customers will reward you. VoIP Supply may be an eCommerce entity without a brick and mortar store but, 75% of our sales come from inbound phone calls. And every time someone calls, they get a live person who is well versed in the technology and highly capable of educating the customer and finding the right solution for their needs.”
7 Centre Drive Orchard Park, NY 14127
As one of the WNY’s leading global manufacturing firms, ITT Enidine is a front-runner within the fields of energy absorption, vibration isolation, and noise attenuation. With its product applications spanning across industrial, aviation, defense and rail, and its sales in more than 125 countries worldwide, ITT Enidine is an organization undeniably poised for new growth. When questioned as to the key to ITT Enidine’s substantial history of upward movement, Director of Operations, Dennis Scully and Human Resources Manager, Gina Orsini referred to a “global, highly diversified business” with “a cultural transformation that instills a lean culture and foundational set of values based on respect, responsibility and integrity.” In Ms. Orsini’s words, “We (ITT Enidine) strive to do the right thing always, by our customers, our co-workers and ourselves.” With its headquarters located in Orchard Park, NY, ITT Enidine is inextricably linked to and invested in the local community. From re-investing in its business, building and employees, to securing new machinery and technologies, ITT Enidine makes every effort to “work smarter.” ITT Enidine partners with 107 suppliers within the region (Buffalo, Rochester & Erie, PA) and 60% of its total yearly spend is kept locally. With such a diverse platform, lean manufacturing culture and breadth of technical expertise, ITT Enidine solidifies itself as both a global growth company and proud pillar of the WNY community.
155 Rano Street #300 Buffalo, NY 14207
While most of the population is lost to the complex applications of ceramic technology, Buffalo-based ENrG, Inc. is exceeding the limits of its frontier. Founded in 2003, ENrG Inc. is a corporation devoted to the manufacturing, research & development and application of thin ceramic membranes. In particular, ENrG Inc. implements a ceramic technology platform across market segments including harsh environments, fuel cells, clean energy, solar, super conductors, flexible heaters, igniters and oxygen sensors. When asked about the future of ENrG Inc., CEO and president John Olenick stated, “We’re expecting to expand within the next three to five years, with major projects entering the market this year and next.” With regard to this spirit of growth, Olenick refers to Buffalo, NY as a “good area to find people with the background that we need to grow our vision.” From Olenick’s perspective, “RIT, RPI, Syracuse, UB and Alfred State” are sources of outstanding quality, highly educated human capital for his growing corporation. Competing on both a national and international scale, ENrG Inc. emerges as a leader in the demanding field of flexible ceramic membranes-an innovative technology mastered by only one or two other companies in the world. From his detailed descriptions of complex chemical reactions to his viewpoint on “rare earth” materials used in production, it undeniable that Olenick and his ENrG team are both knowledgeable and passionate in their quest to make Buffalo a new hub of clean energy and ceramics technology.
Stovroff & Taylor Realtors
1127 Wehrle Dr # 10 Buffalo, NY 14221
Stovroff & Taylor Realtors has had a 24.29% growth rate resulting in $1.91 million in sales. With respect to their competitive edge, Joni Stovroff admits, “I make sure I stay on top of the market and I surround myself by good people,” a mantra that has served her and her business well over the years. Their main challenge continues to be “overcoming rising costs and attracting the best people.” For the team at Stovroff and Taylor realtors it comes down to, “Finding good people who will complement our new relocation initiative. We call it “Sold on Buffalo.” We’ve featured it on commercials and numerous newspaper and magazines. We want to help top companies attract the best people. Just like we do.”
So if there is in fact a common denominator for success in business in this town, at least based on what some of the more successful entrepreneurs would lead us to believe, considering the results of our poll; it will be getting and keeping the best people you can find. This might or might not come as a surprise for many business owners out there. It might even seem like common sense to many. And perhaps Cicero was right when he told the Senators of Rome over 2000 years ago, “Good help is hard to find.” It was true then and it is true now.
But let’s take this one step further. These companies are certainly not the biggest it town but their track records speak for themselves and they are thriving. Jim Collins classic book on successful businesses talks about the importance of “getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus and the right people in the right seats.” It seems like these Buffalo businesses are falling right in line with this concept and they are striving to build their own futures by following his advice. So since “people” seem to be the driving force no matter how you cut it we asked an employment expert to offer her 2 cents to check to see if we were on the proper track and this is what Joan Graci, Employment Expert, and President of APA Solutions/Career Reform volunteered totally independently of what the other interviewees tendered.
"Great companies not only a have a strong Business Plan; they have a comprehensive Human Capital Plan (a Plan that includes Hiring, Retention and Development of their internal employees). This plan should fit like a transparency over the organization’s strategic goals and be in direct alignment to the vision and mission."
So I guess what we are saying is, if you want to make it in this town, if you want to position yourself to compete: “it’s all about the people.”!