Updates from the President

Carol Butler, Goering Center President



Every quarter, Carol opens the Goering Center's Cincinnati Business Courier supplement with an article detailing her thoughts on current affairs, results achieved, projects undertaken and more. She shares successes and lessons learned, giving readers a breath of optimism and wisdom.

Here below are some of Carol's articles over time.

I recently attended a conference where Alan Beaulieu, PhD, President of ITR Economics, was discussing what’s come to be known as the Great Resignation - also known as the Big Quit. It describes the international trend of workers leaving their jobs during the pandemic.

As with so much over the past 21 months, it’s an unexpected consequence of the pandemic. Again we find ourselves in a unique place, and a place we’ve never been before. According to Alan, nearly 39% of the workforce is opting not to participate in work. If you doubt this statistic, just look at the related disruption we are experiencing in everything from supply chain to travel, from healthcare to restaurants. Fed-up and frustrated, more and more people are leaving their jobs to look for a salary increase and better benefits elsewhere, or to start their own business.

The result is an increased urgency around attracting and retaining talent. While the urgency may be new, ways to address these issues are not. Business leaders must focus on the essential best practices when it comes to building lasting and fruitful employee-employer relationships, including:

  • Paying people well
  • Showing employees a career path
  • Engaging employees in the company’s purpose
  • Giving employees access to the leader to present their ideas
  • Listening to employees and letting them know they are heard
  • Sharing the numbers
  • Telling employees how what they do ties into company performance

What Jack Stack first wrote in 1992’s open-book management manifesto The Great Game of Business holds true today: transparency and connectedness between employers and employees are important – even more so, when you add the dynamics of family-run businesses to the equation. But know that you are not alone in having to determine how best to engage your workforce. The Goering Center is here to support you.

Our Next Generation Institute (NGI)® has a refreshed curriculum that reflects our new reality and addresses these concerns. It is for owners and leaders of family businesses, their successors, and other family members who may or may not work in, or have ownership in, the family business. It is the perfect place to tackle the tough questions together, have difficult conversations, and gain a holistic perspective on the succession journey. This includes finding support and guidance to build better communication and trust, resulting in stronger intra-family and employer-employee relationships, and, as a result, increased retention. This hybrid program consists of twelve sessions – eight virtual and four in-person – so whether you’re a family business locally or in the region, the format is adaptable to your needs.

We’ll also soon be starting our 2022 Leadership Development Institute™. In a unique format, seasoned CEOs and presidents work side-by-side with emerging leaders in both family-run and private businesses. The program helps participants gain the skills they need to lead better and to maximize their effectiveness. Learning is focused on multiple leadership disciplines: understanding self, working with others, building teams, and problem solving.

And we continue to expand our Roundtables offering, which bring peers together to experience personal and professional growth and support each other in a safe space, as well as our Business Boards Institute™ that provides owners and CEOs some much needed partnership and support at the top.

With all that being said, perhaps most relevant to our country’s current workforce conundrum, is our Scrappy Culture for Small Business program, which we will launch this February, in partnership with ScrogginsGrear. In it, we focus on the six biggest levers companies can pull to instill a great company culture and improve retention as a result: hiring and onboarding, employee engagement, development and performance, rewards and recognition.

Education can only help, not hurt, your chances to succeed. People who come to the Goering Center are playing the odds and stacking them in their favor. Taking the time to learn from others and knowing best practices only increases your likelihood of short and long-term success.

Connection is the Key to Surviving and Thriving in Challenging Times

After a brief respite, challenging times are upon us again. For many, maintaining community and staying supportive have become declarations and statements of intent as we navigate uncharted waters.

And that’s what the Goering Center Family & Private Business Awards are celebrating this year: the new and interesting ways that family and private businesses have innovated to maintain vital connections with employees, vendors, stakeholders, customers and clients, partners, family members, and the community at large.

Here’s a sampling of great lessons we can take from our honorees, whose focus on connection allowed them to flourish in a difficult time:

  • Abstract Displays, Inc. found adversity a fertile ground for growth, making improvements and changes that they had discussed for months and years. The result is the launch of an awardwinning virtual platform for clients, customers, and prospects to connect.
  • Barnes Dennig found that virtual events generated new business with larger audiences in expanded geographic markets. Innovative new content ideas generated contacts and brought in new clients for the firm across a range of service offerings.
  • Car-Part.com started a virtual monthly “Water Cooler” to help prevent feelings of isolation, relieve stress, and provide an informal way for employees to stay connected and for new employees to have the chance to meet their co-workers.
  • Designs Direct Creative Group invested in software and tools that allowed customers to digitally tour their showrooms and review new products. They met with their largest suppliers and manufacturing partners to ensure they had the cashflow to maintain appropriate staffing levels.
  • Dooley Social Studio determined which of the family businesses they support were most at-risk from the pandemic and worked with them to develop plans for communicating authentically via social media.
  • GMi Companies started making Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) when its traditional business dropped by 50%, enabling other businesses to reopen their doors to the public and employers to bring their employees safely back to their offices. They had their best year yet.
  • JBM Packaging partnered with their customers, purchasing supplies and equipment that enabled their “essential worker” team to work safely in person.
  • Necco leveraged technology to ensure staff, clients, and the foster parents they serve had the right tools to access the educational, behavioral, and physical healthcare resources they needed. Thanks to their rule-changing advocacy, foster parents and staff could take part in teletherapy, virtual home visits, and virtual training for the first time.
  • Sweets & Meats BBQ grew their customer base by taking their food trucks out to Cincinnati area neighborhoods. They offered online ordering and curbside pick-up, kept their carry-out open, partnered with Kroger to sell packaged meats and sides in their neighborhood store, and launched boxed meals.
  • VonLehman CPA & Advisory Firm found that virtual tools opened doors to new ways of doing business. By designing an approach around those they serve, the firm gained a greater understanding of their clients’ needs and impacted their bottom line.

Inspiring, right? There’s insight here from which we can all benefit. I salute the leaders of these businesses for their thoughtful vision and creativity in maintaining the connections they already had and growing new connections during such challenging times.

I hope you’ll join me in congratulating all our Family & Private Business Award honorees, including Jack Brendamour of Junk King, our 2021 Rising Leader, who personally knows the value of contingency planning; and Michael Miller of LCNB National Bank, our 2021 Volunteer of the Year, who has been a judge for the awards for ten years and demonstrates the value of giving back through community service at the Goering Center.

On behalf of the entire Goering Center team – including our many volunteers and community partners – we wish that your year ends on a strong note – and that you arrive in 2022 healthy, happy and whole!

Until we connect again,

Most of us wouldn’t consider working with a builder on our dream home if that builder didn’t have a blueprint to follow. Without a plan, how will the builder and their team make our wishes a reality, much less successfully guide their subcontractors such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters through the building process?

As someone building a business, can you imagine having a blueprint guiding you and your team to the outcomes you want? A business blueprint serves to outline the choices you’ve made about how you will compete and win in your field, be it on price, value, cost, speed to market, locations, differentiation, or some other factor, such as your purpose, culture or mission. This framework determines not only where you go, but also where you don’t go. It’s something your employees should be able to understand, align with, and follow so you are working together efficiently and effectively to meet your goals.

If there’s anything the last year has taught us, it’s that the uncertain is certain. On a practical level, our recent Next Generation Institute underscored the importance of having a plan–or blueprint–in place to cover the unexpected: Although Jack Brendamour, Junk King Cincinnati CEO, didn’t find his founder’s written plan until recently, he was still able to navigate the sudden death of founder Pete McCreary just a few short years ago. The answer? Pete set them up for success – he always talked openly about the business and his plans with Jack and his team, so they knew what to do.

Plans are meaningless if they sit in people’s heads – or on a shelf. You need to communicate your plans with your team, as the Hollenkamp family confirmed during that same NGI session. When Writely Sew founder Jerry Hollenkamp experienced a near fatal heart attack, his son was able to fulfill the firm’s orders during their busiest time because he knew whom to contact to get the work done. He had clarity, guidance, and understood the direction he needed to go when facing a critical business decision.

These stories highlight how now is the time to work on a shareable plan that covers any personal and professional contingencies – that covers business decisions. At the Goering Center, we hear this loud and clear. Our own blueprint includes anticipating what our members need and building programs that meet those needs to help them thrive. With that in mind, I’m pleased to announce that we are introducing BLUEPRINT, a new program this summer. In a total of eight hours, BLUEPRINT delivers a simple, personalized framework that will give participants focus and accountability to make thoughtful decisions as they encounter changing circumstances and environments.

Most family and private business owners know what they want and need to do, but the idea of putting it on paper, let alone creating a “strategic plan,” makes them shut down. BLUEPRINT will work with one business at a time, meeting you where you are to develop your plan. Look for details on a launch event with Thrive Village, our partner in BLUEPRINT, this July.

We started to return to the classroom this month for our first in-person Leadership Development Institute session since the pandemic. We socially distanced and wore masks, and people were delighted to get back to an in person experience.

On May 20, we are hosting an in person, half-day workshop at the Goering Center on the incredibly important topic of diversity and inclusion. Next month, Josh Baron, author of the Harvard Business Review Family Business Handbook: How to Build and Sustain a Successful, Enduring Enterprise, is our guest speaker at our Theodore M. Berry International Friendship Park luncheon. We will be out by the Ohio River – people will be able to spread out, and we’ll have boxed lunches to keep things safe.

We are also building on our recent economic impact study. We’ve heard from so many businesspeople who say that last year was their best year ever. What can we learn from them and how can we help you incorporate these learnings into your blueprint?

Looking to the future, our Goering Center team will continue to evolve. Effective July 1, Tony Schweier, of Clark Schaefer Hackett, will step down as Chairman of the Board of Directors; Jonathan Theders, of RiskSOURCE Clark-Theders will step into the Chairman role and Aaron Hansen, of Hansen Scaffolding, will become Vice Chair. Concurrently, Jon Adams, of SALIX Data, will transition his chairmanship of the Board of Advisors to assume a full seat on the Board of Directors; Dan Barnett, of Johnson Investment Counsel will be the new Chair of the Board of Advisors. We are deeply grateful to Tony and Jon for their generosity and meaningful contributions to the Goering Center community. We are excited for the new leadership to move their work forward and motivate our team to achieve continued success.

As the world continues to open up, we’re excited to help you do what you do best – run your business.

After a year that forced many of us to disconnect physically from people and processes we likely took for granted, it might seem odd that I want to celebrate connection.

But connection lies at the heart of family and private businesses. There are, of course, the familial and familiar ties that the business owners have to each other. And then there are the intimate and consequential ties that these businesses form with the communities that helped give rise to them.

Over generations of service, the owners of family and private businesses get to know and understand the communities they serve, growing successful businesses that succeed in no small part because they are connected to the community and answer the community’s needs.

But these aren’t one-way relationships, as our recently commissioned economic impact study demonstrates. The power of the connection between family and private businesses and our community is on full display in this economic impact study conducted by the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.

We presented our findings at the Center’s 2021 Economic Forecast event on February 18. I’m excited to share that this study found that in 2020, our 400-plus Goering Center Core Member businesses had a total economic impact of more than $13.5 billion and directly and indirectly supported 63,858 jobs with nearly $3.7 billion in earnings in the Cincinnati metropolitan area:

  1. Core Members generated $7.4 billion of direct operating expenses and employed 29,366 individuals with wages of nearly $2.0 billion.
  2. Core Members had an additional $6.1 billion of indirect output, which supported another 34,492 jobs with earnings of $1.7 billion.

In addition - Goering Center’s Core Members generated:

  • $8.1 million in local sales tax revenue for Ohio counties
  • $42.0 million in state sales tax revenue for Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana
  • $44.0 million in local earnings tax revenue

Our study also found that relative to the impact of COVID-19, while our Core Members have been negatively affected by the pandemic, they have also displayed ingenuity and resilience and are optimistic for the future of their businesses:

  • Nearly half indicated that they have increased their use of online platforms to offer goods and services.
  • More than half (55 percent) have created new products or service offerings.
  • More than half (55 percent) believe that general business conditions will be better in six months than they are currently.

The findings are remarkable. And while in many respects it feels like we’ve lost a sense of connection to each other and our families, clients, and suppliers over the last 12 months, it’s clear that our members have figured out how to come together to work successfully. In fact, over 80% of our Core Members have been back at work through most of the last year, overcoming barriers to stay connected safely to each other as a community, business, and business family.

At the Goering Center, we’re working to keep connected with our members through our programs, workshops, institutes, and roundtables.

We’ve made these resources available virtually for now so our members can continue to share their ideas, challenges, and opportunities openly. We are looking to stream small group sessions in February and are hopeful that we can begin to have these sessions in person in the second or third quarter.

Connection will be vitally important to moving forward. There is so much opportunity in our business environment today and as we come out of this pandemic. It will be fascinating to hear about the people who’ve figured it out, adjusted, adapted, and come out stronger.

The Goering Center will be there to share these stories and help you reach out and connect with others who can be of help to you and whom you can help, too. That’s the power of connection.