CEO Live

Breaking business news and updates in and around Columbus

  • 3 Keys to Creating a Decisive Mindset

    Posted on Nov 27, 2013

    Your ability to make decisions is the deciding factor in your personal and professional success.  Being a decision maker is the most coveted prize in business.  


  • SBA seeks award nominations

    Posted on Nov 26, 2013

    The U.S. Small Business Administration Columbus District Office is taking nominations for the SBA's annual awards. The 2014 SBA award winners will be announced at a ceremony during Small Business Week late this spring. Nominations are open through Dec. 13, 2013, in the following categories:

    • Small Business Person of the Year

    • Small Business Exporter of the Year

    • SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year

    • Family-owned Business of the Year
    • Entrepreneurial Successs Award
    • Financial Services Champion of the Year
    • Home-based Business Champion of the Year
    • Minority Small Business Champion of the Year
    • Women in Business Champion of the Year
    • Small Business Development Center Service Excellence
    • Women's Business Center Excellence in Service Award

    The 2013 Ohio Small Business Person of the Year was Karri Bass, president & CEO of Illumination Research of Mason, OH. Bass and 53 small-business owner/advocates from across the country were honored at the SBA's National Small Business Week ceremony in Washington D.C. last June. 

    Contact Shannon Feucht in the SBA COlumbus District office for nomination forms:

  • Executive Q&A: Ira Sharfin

    Posted on Nov 25, 2013

    As president, CEO and co-owner of Continental Office Environments since 2005, Ira Sharfin leads one of the top office furnishing and service providers in Central Ohio. COE was founded as an office-supply company in 1939; today, the company offers services ranging from branding and consulting to flooring and walls. The company employs 238 people, the majority of whom are based in Continental’s Columbus HQ. The company also has offices in Toledo and Pittsburgh.

    Q: Tell us a bit about the company:

    A: Our company is approaching its 75th anniversary in 2014, so we’ve been around for a while. The company’s roots were really in office supplies and furniture. For the last 10 years we’ve really grown…our furniture business, expanded geographically and gone into other businesses as well.

    We’ve got a very large flooring business….We’ve got two other businesses. One is called 3D Branding, which is a division within Continental Office Environments that works on helping our clients physically brand their space and tell their story within the work environment.

    The other one is more behind the scenes, but it’s called Workplace Consulting Service. We help companies with managing assets—it could be storage, it could be reconfiguring work environments. We’ve got some technology tools …we’ve created so they can track projects. We really augment their on-site facilities team(s).

    That’s kind of how we’ve grown over the years. We’ve got about 230 people across our various locations now.

    Q: What was your 2012 revenue?

    A: We’re north of $100 million. We don’t’ give that breakdown, but we’re (over) $100 million.

    Q: Where’s your greatest growth opportunity?

    A: Our greatest growth opportunity varies by market. But from a furniture standpoint, we’re about 70% furniture and related services. We’re probably 20% flooring and modular walls, and then 10% would be our services business.

    Q: Where are your greatest Columbus growth markets in 2014?

    A: I just had an executive retreat with my team and we’re looking to grow across all those areas. In terms of those four capabilities--floors and wall, furniture, the two services--we’re looking to grow those out. We’re going to put a strong emphasis on (the) education and healthcare (industries) because those tend to be strong sectors in Central Ohio. Not that we don’t focus on corporate and government, but if you think about Ohio Health and Mount Carmel and OSU Wexner Medical Center, there’s just so much going on.

    Q: Do you work with those organizations?

    In some form or fashion we’ve worked with all of them. That’s probably what I’m most proud of beyond our team, is that we’ve got such an awesome, cool list of clients. Not just because we’ve been around for so long and not because of me, but it’s more the people that we’ve hired and the relationships that we’ve built. We just want to do more in those sectors.

    Q: You have a background in consulting, in mergers and acquisitions--how did you get into office environments?

    A: My entire career, I spent 16 years as a consulting partner with…PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM.

    Because of my consulting background and I was doing strategy and M&A, I got to see a lot of different industries. I was always fascinated with sales and marketing and related customer services. Having an industrial engineering degree, I was always liked warehouse logistics operations. I had known Frank Kass, who is one of my business partners along with Jack Lucks, who is my other partner. Frank and I started talking after I moved back to Columbus where I grew up. I moved back in 2004, I was still consulting with IBM.

    One thing led to another and I decided to join and become a partner with those two. It was one of those (things) where the timing was perfect. I was looking to shift and change my career and really own something I could help build and take to the next level. Everything lined up. Both of them are great mentors and partners. We’ve been able to bring in new talent and new people to help me lead the company to the next level.

    Q: Who are some are you notable clients?

    A: We’ve had some great longstanding clients. Time Warner would be one, Huntington Bank, Limited Brands, Nationwide Insurance, certainly Ohio State and OSU Medical Center, Ohio Health.

    Q: What tips would you give to a firm wanting to refresh the office but don’t know where to start?

    A: Think about what’s important to your company? What are your values, what are your behaviors, what do you want your space to say? Talk to your employees, not just your managers and executives. Talk to your employees and find out how they’re currently working and how they think they could be more effective, productive, collaborate better, better serve clients. Oftentimes those are the best ideas.

    What we’re finding is with multiple generations in the workplace, a lot of the 20-year-olds coming in… want to work differently. The whole world of the workforce is changing. Their expectations are different than they were 10, 15, 20 years ago. A lot of the young workers, and even people who have been in the workforce for a while, they don’t want to just show up and sit in a cubicle. They want different zones where they can be creative and collaborate. That’s what we’re really helping companies do in terms of how are the different interactions happening at work and how can you create the right work environment to help people deliver the greatest possible performance.

    It’s really not about furniture, chairs or tables--it’s really about the experience that you can create for your employees. I think it’s evident when you walk into an Apple store or a Starbucks, you can kind of feel it. I tell people every day, it’s really not about the furniture. We’re a very large Herman Miller Dealer--I think our furniture is outstanding--but it’s really about what you do with those assets and how do you create that environment that not only helps attract people but helps retain people.


  • Dublin company delivers targeted placement for vets returning to the civilian workforce

    Posted on Nov 22, 2013

    OnPoint Performance Solutions, a veteran-owned recruiting, talent placement and mission support firm has moved into its new company headquarters in Dublin's Commerce Park. The firm's co-founder and president Todd Miller discussed the move and the company's expansion in a news release earlier this week: 

     The decision to relocate its headquarters was due to the company’s success and increased business lines. A local success story, OnPoint has grown from a good idea to a $9 million company in just three years. OnPoint provides talent placements services and supports the US military with trainers by recruiting from a pool of veterans and cultural/language professionals. The company is led by two Army veterans, Lieutenant Colonel Todd Miller (Ret.) and First Sergeant Dan Whitney (Ret.), who have been friends and colleagues for years, both in and out of uniform.

    “This is our way of continuing to serve our country out of uniform with genuine and valuable services to the Departments of Defense, State, and Homeland Security, as well as local corporations and communities,” said Miller, the company president, Ohio native, and West Point graduate. “We have an experienced, robust, and proven recruiting apparatus with the networks necessary to complete our mission nation-wide. We are two successful, time-tested, and proven leaders who have a disciplined approach to life, business, respect for and adherence to processes and procedures, and a determination to see things through to the end.”

    The two vets founded OnPoint with the desire to continue serving their country and create potential for others to serve. Miller and Whitney worked together at The Ohio State University as faculty members in the Army ROTC program and were on the Training & Technical Service Group at Columbus’s own Mission Essential Personnel for two years, as director and business development manager respectively. OnPoint prides itself in matching personal skills and career goals with opportunities.

    “We started this company because we identified a real need for our services. We plan to deliver,” said Whitney, vice president and COO. “The real long-term value in our human capital talent center is not in the number of people we employee or where we employ them, but in who we are, and how we do it – we are a company of character that provides a genuine service to our nation.”

    OnPoint creates value through its diverse portfolio of services in multiple markets: government, academic, and commercial. A key to OnPoint’s success is establishing successful industry partnerships. The company’s core solutions include:

    Talent Acquisition and Placement

      • Leadership & Management (Program, Operations, Logistics, Maintenance), Program & Operations Analysts, Business Development, Subject Matter and Technical Experts
      • Language & Cultural Experts for Translation & Interpretation, Cultural Advisors, and Language Instruction


    Mission Support Services

      • Recruiting, Administrative Support, Instruction & Training


    OnPoint’s success is truly remarkable, particularly in these lean times. According to a New York Times article, of the more than 20 million small businesses in the United States, only about 500,000 are currently in a position to do business with the federal government. Of those, only about 1% (5,000) ever win contracts of the magnitude OnPoint has: $9 million over the last three years. While the company was founded and is headquartered in central Ohio, it continues to expand its footprint, and grew to more than 70 employees in 32 locations in 2012, including a recent expansion into the United Kingdom. OnPoint is a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB).

  • Pamela Springer appointed chairman & CEO of Mindset Digital

    Posted on Nov 20, 2013

    Today's announcement from the digital communications training firm includes the hiring of Mindset's new VP of client engagement Nick Fortine: 

    Columbus-based Mindset Digital is continuing to expand – announcing today that its new CEO and chairman of the board is Pamela Springer, former CEO and president of Manta and a leader in growth stage businesses.

     “Pamela has deep experience in building great companies that exceed client and investor expectations,” Mindset Digital co-founder Debra Jasper said. “We’re thrilled that she has agreed to take on such a critical leadership role.”

     Springer, named by Business Insider as one of 2012’s most powerful women running today's biggest start ups, also is now a full partner in Mindset Digital. She said she agreed to join the firm because it provides the kind of professional training that makes a real difference – helping Fortune 500 firms, hospitals and universities keep pace in a digital age.

     The average attention span these days is just eight seconds – there is just too much information and too little time, Springer explained. “So companies need more effective ways to get employees up to speed. That’s why Mindset Digital designs courses for today’s hyper-distracted workforce. The training is visual, easy to remember and leads to action.” 

     In addition to bringing in Springer as CEO, the firm has also named Nick Fortine, former head of marketing and sales for e-Cycle and past vice president of sales at ECNext/Manta, its new vice president of client engagement.

     The expansion comes as Mindset Digital is increasing the number of scalable online training and certifications it offers to help large workforces adopt new technologies and approaches. 

  • Recap: TechTomorrow 2013

    Posted on Nov 19, 2013

    Nearly 300 gathered at the Columbus Chamber’s TechTomorrow event last week to discuss sustained innovation in the IT industry.   


  • Ohio AG reaches $17 mil. settlement in Google Cookies suit

    Posted on Nov 18, 2013

    From Ohio AG Mike Dewine's announcement today:

    Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, along with the attorneys general of 36 other states and the District of Columbia, announced today a $17 million settlement with Google Inc. concerning its placement of third-party cookies on Safari Web browsers during 2011 and 2012.

    “Consumers’ default privacy settings were circumvented without their knowledge,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We take these issues seriously, and we negotiated to reach a comprehensive settlement that not only provides significant payment to the states but also addresses the specific practices involved.”

    Google generates revenue primarily through advertising. Through its DoubleClick advertising platform it sets third-party cookies — small files in consumers’ Web browsers — that enable third-party advertisers to gather information about those consumers, including their Web surfing habits.

    By default, Apple’s Safari Web browser is set to block third-party cookies, but from June 1, 2011 to February 15, 2012, Google circumvented Safari’s default privacy settings and set third-party cookies on Safari Web browsers. Google disabled the circumvention method in February 2012 after the practice was widely reported on the Internet and in the media.

    The attorneys general allege that Google’s circumvention of the default privacy settings violated state consumer protection laws and related computer privacy laws. The states claim that Google failed to inform Safari users that it was circumventing their privacy settings and gave them the false impression that their default privacy settings would block third-party cookies. In turn, users’ Web surfing habits could be tracked without the users’ knowledge. 

    To resolve the allegations, Google agreed to pay the attorneys general $17 million. Ohio will receive $716,624.13, which will go to the Consumer Protection Enforcement Fund.

    Google also agreed to:

      • Not override a browser’s cookie-blocking settings without the consumer’s consent unless it is necessary to address fraud, security, or technical issues.
      • Not misrepresent or omit material information to consumers about how they can use any particular Google product, service, or tool to directly manage how Google serves advertisements to their browsers.
      • Improve the information it provides to consumers regarding cookies, their purposes, and how consumers can manage cookies while using Google’s products or services.
      • Maintain systems designed to ensure the expiration of the third-party cookies set on Safari Web browsers during the time the default settings had been circumvented.

    The Ohio Attorney General’s Office was part of the settlement’s executive committee, which also included Maryland, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Vermont, and Washington. Also participating in the settlement were the attorneys general of Arizona, Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

    A copy of the settlement, an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, is available on the Ohio Attorney General's website.

  • Ohio October business filings up again

    Posted on Nov 15, 2013

    Via Secretary of State Jon Husted:

    8,052 new entities filed to do business in Ohio in October 2013. These numbers are up compared to October 2012, in which 8,001 new entities filed with the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State’s office has assisted with 76,614 new business filings to date in 2013 (January-October). This is an increase from the same time period last year, in which there were 74,735 new business filings.

  • AIA Columbus celebrate city's best architectural design

    Posted on Nov 14, 2013

    The American Institute of Architects Columbus Chapter honored the 2013 Design Award winners at last night's awards ceremony held at the Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture. 

    The annual juried awards received more submissions this year than last, tallying 39 architecture submissions (built projects) and 10 project submissions (unbuilt projects) according to AIA Columbus. The 2013 Design Awards merit award winners are: 

    Edamame Sushi + Grill, Columbus
    Charlie Choe, Owner
    Bass Studio Architects, Design Architect
    Photography by Brian Bass Photography

    The Ohio State University South High Rises
    , Columbus
    The Ohio State University, Owner
    Schooley Caldwell Associates, Architect of Record
    Photography by Brad Feinknopf

    The Jack, Columbus
    1000 South Front, LLC, Owner
    WSA Studio, Design Architect
    Photography by Brad Feinknopf

    Livingston Park Pavilion, Columbus
    City of Columbus Recreation and Parks, Owner
    Meyers + Associates, Design Architect
    Photography by Randall Schieber

    WLVT PBS 39 New Broadcast Center, Bethlehem, Penn.
    Lehigh Valley Public Telecommunications, Owner
    URS Corporation, Design Architect
    Photography by James Maguire

  • Columbus job growth tops state/national rates

    Posted on Nov 12, 2013

    This morning's Columbus 2020 announcement: 

    The Columbus Region added 4,000 jobs in July and August and continued to outpace state and national rates, according to the third-quarter economic development update released today by Columbus 2020, the 11-county regional economic development organization. Due to the government shutdown, the report—which contains regional economic analysis by Regionomics® LLC, as well as data supplied by Columbus 2020 and the Columbus Chamber of Commerce—does not include September figures for Ohio or the Region. 

    The Region has added 16,800 jobs over the past 12 months. That 1.8 percent 12-month increase also bests the state (0.6 percent) and national (1.6 percent) rates. Third-quarter unemployment in the Region held steady at 6.2 percent, equal to June’s numbers and again ahead of Ohio and the U.S. (both at 7.3 percent in August). U.S. unemployment dipped slightly to 7.2 percent in September.

    “The Region’s employment numbers are encouraging across the board and especially so in the areas of IT, business services, finance and healthcare,” said Jung Kim, director, research, Columbus 2020. “Columbus remains one of a handful of U.S. metros whose current employment surpasses its pre-recession peak.”


    The Region’s housing numbers mostly mirrored the overall economic upswing. Building permits issued during July and August were up 27.1 percent from the same months of 2012, compared to a 15.7 percent increase nationally. The number of home sales in the Columbus Multiple Listing Service (MLS – slightly larger than the Region) increased 23.9 percent year over year compared to 14.6 percent nationally. For the quarter, Columbus MLS home sales totaled $1.433 billion, a 22.2 percent increase over the third quarter of 2012.


    “Central Ohio is growing in a balanced way, and seeing growth across a number of key sectors. Project activity remains very strong and we expect that the Region’s growth will continue its upward trend,” said Kenny McDonald, chief economic officer, Columbus 2020.

    In the first nine months of 2013, Columbus 2020 added 174 new projects to the Region’s economic development pipeline and hosted 44 first-time visits from companies and/or their location consultants. Manufacturing represented 45 percent of the 128 active projects at the end of September, followed by headquarters and business services with 27 percent. Those 128 active projects reflect the organization’s application of more stringent standards on how a project is classified as active.

    The Columbus 2020 team visited 14 U.S. cities and Japan during the third quarter. Visits included business development missions, industry conferences, existing headquarters visits and consultant and active project calls. The Japan mission included meetings with more than 40 companies and participation in the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Annual Meeting.

    The entire report is available for download at



  • Thirty-One Gifts gives big to Ronald McDonald House

    Posted on Nov 7, 2013

    Thirty-One Gifts announced its selection of Ronald McDonald House Charities as its national philanthropy partner. From today's announcement:

    Thirty-One Gifts announces they have chosen Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) to support as a national philanthropic partner. Through their Thirty-One Gives philanthropy initiative, the organization will provide financial support, product donation, and sales consultant volunteer involvement.

    Thirty-One’s support includes a $450,000 monetary donation over three years, and 150,000 welcome bags for families staying at all Ronald McDonald Houses in the U.S.  Thirty-One will introduce a new product in their spring 2014 line that will provide a portion of the proceeds from each unit sold to RMHC.

    Thirty-One Gifts is the nation’s largest direct-selling organization offering stylish and functional totes, purses, home organizing solutions and more. Throughout its 10-year history, Thirty-One has always been committed to giving back to pay forward the many blessings they have received. In 2012, the Thirty-One Gives initiative was born with a strategic mission to support nonprofit organizations nationwide that empower women and girls, strengthen families and change lives. In 2012, Thirty-One Gives donated nearly $17 million in product and monetary contributions nationwide.

    “We are identifying one key national mission partner from each of three pillars of support,” said Wendy Bradshaw, director of philanthropy at Thirty-One Gives. “Those pillars are organizations that support women, girls and families. We selected Ronald McDonald House Charities as the organization fulfilling the family pillar partnership because of their dedication to creating, finding and supporting programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children.”


    A major focus of the partnership will be the involvement of Thirty-One’s independent sales consultants with local RMHC Chapters. There are more than 120,000 Thirty-One Gifts consultants throughout the U.S. and in Ontario, Canada. RMHC’s wide geographic outreach enables Thirty-One associates to be able to be personally involved by volunteering with programs locally. The charity also was chosen because many of Thirty-One’s employees and consultants have been helped through RMHC.

    RMHC programs support the entire family by providing stability and vital resources to help them focus on what’s most important, their child. These family-centered programs are offered at 78 percent of the top children’s hospitals in the world.

    “We know that children heal better and faster with their families nearby, and through the Ronald McDonald House program, RMHC is there to provide all the comforts of home, keeping families together while their child receives critical care at a nearby hospital,” said RMHC President and CEO J.C. Gonzalez-Mendez. “Thirty-One Gifts’ support will help make their stay more comfortable and will add many more volunteers to our nearly 144,000 staff and volunteers who help deliver our services.”

    Thirty-One enables customers and consultants to support Thirty-One Gives in many ways – by rounding up their purchase, buying cause products, Gives Care Ribbons, through individual donations to their charitable fund, and more.


  • 740 area codes running out

    Posted on Nov 6, 2013

    The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is seeking public input into the addition of a new area code in 740 portions of Central and Southern Ohio. PUCO announced the beginning of the new area code process today: 

    The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has opened a proceeding that will lead to the creation of a new area code in all or portions of the 740 area code, which comprise central and southeast Ohio.     

    The PUCO has been notified by the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA) that the 740 area code is projected to run out of available phone numbers by the second quarter of the year 2015. NANPA oversees the distribution of telephone numbers and assigns area codes for the entire United States.

    “The PUCO is encouraging Ohioans in the 740 area code to engage with us during this process, to reach an outcome that ultimately serves them best,” stated PUCO Chairman Todd A. Snitchler. “Through a consumer survey on our website, individuals can vote on their preference on an overlay or split option for the 740 area code and provide comments that will be part of the official record in this case. We want to hear from those who will be affected.”

    There are two viable options under consideration in the case being looked at by the PUCO to address the 740 area code issue: Option one involves an overlay. An overlay would permit retention of all current 740 numbers, but require 10-digit dialing for local calls within the 740 area. All new subscribers would receive the new area code.

    Option two involves a split. Under a split, seven-digit dialing of local calls would remain within the area code, but would require approximately half of wireless and landline customers within the current area code to change their telephone numbers.

    Additional information about the 740 area code matter is available on the PUCO’s website at along with the consumer survey that can be completed and submitted online. The PUCO Call Center is also available to answer questions by calling 1-800-686-PUCO (7826). In addition, comments can be submitted by mail to the PUCO at 180 East Broad Street, Columbus OH 43215. The public comment period in the case will close on Nov. 27th.  

  • Legacy, team ethic reflected in former Buckeye’s office space

    Posted on Nov 6, 2013

    Thompson Hine partner-in-charge Tony White wraps family, tradition and team ethos into his work


  • Ohio Dominican brings on new director to strengthen adult ed programs

    Posted on Nov 4, 2013

    Ohio Dominican University welcomed Karen Gray, executive director of adult education, to campustoday. ODU announced Gray's appointment last week:

    Ohio Dominican University (ODU) has appointed Karen Gray as executive director of Adult Education. She will assume her new role on Nov. 4. Gray will oversee the university’s efforts to identify, develop and implement new market-sensitive academic offerings and formats for students in its LEAD program for working adults.

    Gray brings nearly two decades of higher education experience to ODU. She returns to ODU having spent the last two years as director of Dual Enrollment at Columbus State Community College (CSCC). She first joined ODU in 1994 as a financial aid counselor, and served as director of the university’s Office of P-16 Partnerships from 2006-11.

    Gray also has served as assistant director of Adult and Continuing Education at Capital University; director of Development and Corporate Relations, assistant director of Student Services, and student service associate at Franklin University; and program coordinator of Financial Aid at CSCC.