2018 Smart Culture Awards

A great culture can propel your company to new heights

On behalf of Alliance Solutions Group, congratulations to all of the 2018 Smart Culture honorees! It is truly my pleasure to play a role in bringing this important event to life.
Culture is the essence and lifeblood of an organization. Culture establishes the energy within an organization and heavily influences the happiness, success and connection employees experience.
At Alliance Solutions Group, we believe an optimized culture within a business is directly correlated with an organization’s ability to attract and retain top talent. Not only that, but a healthy culture is aligned to organizational growth, too.
The Smart Culture Conference was designed to promote strong cultures in our business community by highlighting best practices and experiences with the hope that all companies in attendance can learn something to take back to their organizations.
Last year, at our inaugural Smart Culture event, there were more than 400 people in attendance. This validated the need in our community for an event that supports education on culture. As we move into the second year of the conference, we are excited to continue the momentum as we look for more ways to celebrate great cultures and provide positive learning opportunities for those looking to enhance their organizational culture.
At Alliance Solutions Group, we partner with hundreds of organizations who believe talent is their most important asset. It is our PURPOSE is to motivate the world to unlock its unrealized potential. We partner with talent and businesses to facilitate alignment to cultural goals through innovative staffing and recruitment solutions.
We know that GREAT cultures encourage employees to work toward becoming the best versions of themselves. It’s those companies that we want to partner with to deliver great experiences that drive amazing results.

Aaron Grossman

Alliance Solutions Group

Smart Culture Honorees

Aleris Corp.
Chairman and CEO: Sean Stack
One of the cornerstones of the culture at Aleris Corp. is that employees are encouraged to step away from their desks or workstations occasionally. The time away is valuable as employees are expected to “fully immerse themselves” in the tools and techniques for working “above the line.” This is defined as taking ownership and taking action in various situations every day rather than waiting or wallowing in circumstances that are beyond the company’s control.
The vision at Aleris, a global leader in the manufacture and sale of aluminum rolled products, is to profitably grow the company by enabling customers to capture aluminum’s unlimited potential. The key to making that work is to have a culture and values that empower employees to do just that.
Led by Chairman and CEO Sean Stack, Aleris values entrepreneurship and looks for people who want to take ownership and see impact from their work. It’s a talent profile that is important given that the industry continues to demand more from its companies. It all sounds pretty intense, but Aleris has made an effort to talk with employees regularly in both formal and informal settings to facilitate open communication. Questions can be asked in a less-structured environment, which helps to strengthen relationships and build trust.
Budget Dumpster
Co-founders: John Fenn and Mark Campbell
Budget Dumpster fosters a fun and engaging office environment by placing value on kindness, innovation and leadership. Co-founders John Fenn and Mark Campbell consider employees to be family, encourage professional growth and innovation, and communicate the importance of work-life balance.
Established in 2009, Budget Dumpster delivers affordable waste removal services in most major markets throughout the U.S. Working with over 250 local partners, Budget Dumpster sells thousands of temporary roll off dumpsters each week for projects big and small.
The organization’s commitment to customer service is reflected in its approach to hiring and the company’s culture. Managers focus not only on skill set, but attitude, personality and ambition when considering applicants.
The culture at Budget Dumpster encourages innovation by allowing employees to cultivate their professional skill set while directly contributing to the growth of the company.
Leaders recognize outstanding performance and innovation through one-on-one feedback, annual reviews, compensation, special project assignment and promotional opportunities. To facilitate a healthy work-life balance, staff members are encouraged to leave laptops in the office when the workday ends.
Checkpoint Surgical Inc.
President and CEO: Len Cosentino
The culture of an organization is defined by both its purpose and its people. The mission at Checkpoint Surgical Inc. is to advance the science and practice of nerve protection and repair to improve the quality of life for patients and physicians. In simple terms, this means providing innovative technology to help surgeons avoid damaging nerves during surgery and to restore lost neuromuscular function to their patients. The company is led by President and CEO Len Cosentino.
It’s a heartfelt mission that others see as intrinsically rewarding. It’s meant to generate excitement and provide a clearly articulated vision that can serve as a guide for members of the team to follow. If you don’t have a vision that lays out a clear plan, one that represents the perspiration required to reach the shared goal that everyone is striving to achieve, it will be difficult to reach your goals.
The mission and vision at Checkpoint are built on a foundation of core values: excellence, passion, purpose, urgency, service, integrity and respect. This helps to provide further clarity about how the company functions. Checkpoint believes a company boosts its odds of success when it seeks individuals who already embrace the company’s values and aspire to live them in all aspects of their lives.
Cleveland Clinic
President and CEO: Dr. Tomislav Mihaljevic, MD
All Cleveland Clinic employees — from the shuttle bus driver to the CEO — identify themselves as “caregivers.”
Being a caregiver describes a united behavior. The Clinic’s credo is that every life deserves world-class care. This encompasses not just the care provided to Clinic patients, but also the care that is shown to each other. Being a caregiver signifies that everyone shares and embraces the same mission. Employees are part of a collective team devoted to patients and the Clinic’s culture reflects that.
As one caregiver recently said in a random survey, “The ‘we are all caregivers’ concept is more than just a slogan or tagline — it is at the essence of who we are as an enterprise.”
The Clinic, led by President and CEO Dr. Tomislav Mihaljevic, has the belief that people perform their best in a workplace where they are valued, nurtured and encouraged to achieve their very best. The goal is to give caregivers the opportunity to reach new heights of professional and personal satisfaction. In return, they make the entire enterprise stronger.
Through a focus on diversity and inclusion, the Clinic aims to build a workforce that represents the patients and communities it serves. In 2017, the Clinic was again named one of the top five hospital systems in the nation by DiversityInc.
Corrigan Krause
Managing Director: Tom Harrison
As an accounting firm, Corrigan Krause faces industry-specific challenges when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent. Specifically, over the past two years, it has become significantly harder to find and recruit talent. Because of this, Corrigan Krause has focused on creating a culture that gives it a competitive advantage.
Increasing internal communication has been a positive initiative for the firm and various additional strategies have helped the firm to strengthen its culture. Launching an internal newsletter at the beginning of the year was just the start, and the firm hopes to soon implement a customer relationship management system. Not only has this helped keep the team engaged, but it also helps Corrigan Krause serve its clients effectively and efficiently.
Led by Managing Director Tom Harrison, Corrigan Krause strongly believes in and promotes its core mission, vision and values. These values are often discussed at firm events and at each staff meeting, where employees are recognized for exemplifying the firm’s values.
The firm has five focused core values: well-trained, caring, creative, passionate and team-oriented. Employees are hired who possess the willingness and ability to embrace those values. Promotions are based on the same criteria and the values become the operating principles of daily life at the firm.
Destination Cleveland
President and CEO: David Gilbert
Culture can’t be static, nor can it be pushed down from the top. Recognizing this fact, Destination Cleveland’s culture committee meets monthly to review new ideas and collaborate on how to implement existing ideas to ensure the organization is always strengthening its culture. The committee is made up of employees from all departments and levels of Destination Cleveland.
An employee handbook is another piece that helps support the values of the organization by providing guidelines rather than rules to team members. This approach has helped foster commitment to Destination Cleveland’s values and a willingness to go the extra mile without being asked.
Organizational values include passion, entrepreneurialism, collaboration, integrity and results. These values are demonstrated by everyone at Destination Cleveland sharing their love of Cleveland, by being bold and taking risks, by working together and with others and by being authentic, honest and getting the job done.
One of the most valuable ways in which the organization’s culture is fostered is through the example set by President and CEO David Gilbert. Along with the senior leadership team, Gilbert lives and breathes the culture that has been created, thereby strengthening the culture and illustrating to team members that everyone’s contributions are essential to fostering a strong culture.
Fire-Dex LLC
President: Steve Allison
Fire-Dex LLC defines its values by using the word FIRE. F stands for Fun, which breaks down to friendly people, unbeatable service and next generation products. The next letter is I, which stands for Integrity. Employees and leaders at Fire-Dex subscribe to the highest standards through honesty, consistency of character and doing the right thing.
The third letter is R, which stands for Respect. Team members, customers and suppliers are treated with mutual respect and sensitivity. Finally, the letter E represents Excellence. Fire-Dex is committed to quality and process excellence in every endeavor it undertakes.
Led by President Steve Allison, the company achieves these values by promoting an environment of continuous improvement through employee involvement. The company has an open floor plan for the production facility and the majority of the office, an associate engagement system called Opportunity for Improvement, cross-functional lean events and a safety committee that help support this goal.
Natural camaraderie and team building among employees is vitally important in turning out properly constructed personal protective gear in an efficient and timely manner. Fire-Dex’s commitment to customer satisfaction, production excellence and product innovations have paved the path for continued rapid growth and the ability to consistently develop and acquire new life-saving technologies in the fire protection market.
Fund That Flip Inc.
CEO: Matt Rodak
The greatest impact of culture to the success of Fund That Flip Inc. is how little day-to-day management its team requires. People show up every day knowing what they need to get done and are personally motivated to excel at their duties. This frees managers to focus on performance enhancements rather than correcting bad behavior. It enables the management team to be true multipliers for growth and profitability rather than reactive “firefighters.”
People want to win. In order to win, they have to understand how to put points on the scoreboard. By aligning individual objectives with company objectives, each team member can draw a direct line to their individual results and how it helps the company. Under the leadership of CEO Matt Rodak, the company lays this out during the interview process. High-performers get excited about the opportunity to work autonomously while at the same time, contributing to a much bigger vision.
Each team member is also given a monthly opportunity to talk about their career path and where they want to be in the next six to 12 months. This allows the company to work with each team member on bespoke development plans to ensure they are getting what they want out of their employment and more importantly, life. 
CEO: John Gadd
At Hotcards, it is difficult to pinpoint any specific thing or things that have led to the company’s creative, collaborative environment. Everything that is done each day — from CEO John Gadd’s incredibly contagious and inspiring positive attitude, to the ping pong table located just outside of the conference room doors to the “teamwork makes the dream work” attitude exuded by team members. Each of these points play a part in the environment that has been created at Hotcards.
“Create without fear of failure.” “Learn like a 4-year-old.” “There’s always a better way, seek it.” These are just a few of the core behaviors defined in the Hotcards Culture Book that directly influence the success of the company’s DreamTeamers, and ultimately the success of Hotcards.
Team members are constantly sharing new things they have learned, such as a new skill in a design program or a handy app that will make order processing more efficient. There is no fear of being judged by others.
Employees are not confined to specific processes “because that’s how we’ve always done it.” Employees are encouraged to improve in every aspect of their lives as they see fit. This ranges from learning new skills in an area of interest, to creating new and improved workflows within the company because they are confident and comfortable in their ability to try something new.
President and CEO: Bill Priemer
Sometimes the best kind of fun comes as a surprise. At Hyland, you never know when it might happen. Pop-up People Places can appear anywhere on campus, offering food, drinks, photo booths, fun swag and opportunities to take a break and hang out with co-workers.
Impromptu fun also comes from the top down. It’s not uncommon for employees to get a morning email from President and CEO Bill Priemer telling Hylanders to get their teams together for a quick event in the large atrium later that afternoon. One of the most unique events is the human Hungry, Hungry Hippos game complete with scooters and laundry baskets to see which team can eat (collect) the most balls on the volleyball court.
Camaraderie is homegrown around Hyland. For example, a large rock in the middle of the path connecting the three-building campus is painted over and over again throughout the year to recognize company and local events. It’s been painted by interns, customers, celebratory Cavs fans and even customers during their onsite user group meetings. There is also a large and loyal group of Ohio University alumni who paint it at least once a year while wearing their favorite Bobcat gear.
LeafFilter Gutter Protection
CEO: Matt Kaulig
LeafFilter Gutter Protection CEO Matt Kaulig began working as a dealer selling gutter protection, but the company he worked for was too divided to be efficient. Kaulig knew that the key to success was working as a team that had a united, externally motivated goal. It’s why Kaulig made the decision to take over the rights of LeafFilter and grow the business into an international success story.
LeafFilter has many systems in place to keep this tight-knit atmosphere alive throughout a period of rapid growth and change. Clear communication and transparency is the key, which fosters a family-like environment within the company. Technology is a huge communication aid, and is used in a multitude of ways within the company. Weekly video conference calls with employees in the field allow them to touch base with corporate employees and stay in the loop with larger business initiatives.
Moreover, the company recognizes excellence with daily emails honoring the top performers in the company. This works as a motivational tool, as well as a meter for reaching company goals. Kaulig also sends weekly video segments to all employees recognizing outstanding efforts and highlighting company milestones. LeafFilter holds regular celebratory catered luncheons as a reward for all its employees’ efforts.
Meaden & Moore
CEO: Jim Carulas
Meaden & Moore moved its headquarters to One Cleveland Center in May 2017 to achieve an environment that would give staff and clients the opportunity to think both creatively and collaboratively. The new office brings down the walls and lets in the light and maximizes the use of technology from wireless access throughout to the smartboards and wall monitors in the conference and workrooms.
Fostering collaboration and interaction are an integral theme of the new space, from the open floor plan, glass walls, numerous workrooms and meeting spaces to the interesting and inviting “café.” White noise has been added to help reduce the noise level and a new glass wall solution was installed to temper the sound coming from individual offices. The company has also used unique colors to capture the change and future focus that the space signifies for the firm, as well as “green” carpeting that is made from recycled fishing nets.
Under the leadership of CEO Jim Carulas, Meaden & Moore offers professionals the flexibility to manage their workloads and balance them with personal commitments. The “work anytime, anywhere” mentality allows employees to do just that. The result is an environment where employees support each other to reach the most important goal of exceptional client service.
National Automotive Experts/NAE
CEO: Kelly Price
National Automotive Experts has developed numerous programs to reinforce the importance of culture in the company. NAE’s mission is to be a professional, passionate organization that is driven to be both adaptable and responsive to its partners’ needs.
The company is in the relationship business and its people are viewed as the foundational core of this premise. Associates have the opportunity to recognize each other through use of the Incredible Program. Individuals can document on an Incredible form when someone else has done something that goes above and beyond or simply merits an extra acknowledgement of appreciation.
The recipient keeps a copy of the form, a copy is maintained in the personnel file and the manager receives a copy. All Incredibles are read out loud in front of all associates during the monthly associates meeting. Once all the Incredibles have been read, two forms are randomly drawn for each recipient to receive a $25 gift card and two others are randomly drawn to receive credit toward the company store.
These monthly meetings are led by CEO Kelly Price. She has built a company that values self-motivated, disciplined and responsible people who consistently exceed expectations and are truly committed to providing the best customer experience possible.
Chairman and CEO: Chuck Rotuno
OEC was established in December 2000 to provide high-quality technology solutions to automakers and their franchised dealers, and facilitate the sale of original equipment replacement parts. In the past 16 years, the company has extended this mission domestically and abroad, seeking e-commerce expertise in expediting and supporting its parts supply chains.
Using patent-pending technology, OEC also offers proprietary solutions that provide real-time, dynamic pricing for OE replacement parts. OEC is led by Chairman and CEO Chuck Rotuno.
Technology professionals who work at OEC spend the majority of their time doing heads down tech work. Recognizing that this is not easy work, the company has designed its culture to meet the needs of the population, and employees are celebrated at every opportunity.
There is an understanding that happy employees produce high-quality work, so the company offers a work-life balance that provides them with more time to do the things they want to do and come back to work happy.
Some of the perks of being an OEC employee include flexible work arrangements, 20 PTO days at hire date, 12 paid holidays each year, free smartphones and free electric car chargers on site. OEC offers high-growth opportunities in a casual environment that fosters strong work-life balance.
Oswald Cos.
CEO: Robert Klonk, Senior Vice President, human resources: Marty Guastella
Oswald Companies is celebrating the 125th year anniversary of being in downtown Cleveland, as well as being the second-oldest company in the city. It’s an employee-owned company, which builds a culture of camaraderie and drives engagement in the workplace.
Part of the way Oswald employees are compensated through bonuses and incentives is by personal goal setting that ultimately gets approved by managers. By creating an entrepreneurial setting, it provides an opportunity for employees to contribute to the development of the company.
Oswald Appreciates is a system where employees can send each other recognition, thanking individuals for going above and beyond. This is a public system, so anyone in the company can view the gratitude. At the end of the year, those with the most recognition are celebrated.
Oswald employees are encouraged to create and own their own committees. One of the most popular groups at the company is one created for young professionals that enables individuals in this demographic to meet and discuss the current landscape of the workplace from their eyes.
Led by CEO Robert Klonk and Senior Vice President of Human Resources Marty Guastella, Oswald has found that all of these positive, entrepreneurial opportunities in the company have forged a welcoming and inclusive culture where all employees feel they have a say in their personal and professional development.
Palmer Holland Inc.
CEO: W. Bryn Irvine
Palmer Holland Inc. supports a healthy lifestyle for its employee, and has implemented a company wellness program that promotes all areas of well-being — physical, mental, community, career and financial health.
Employees can earn free health, dental and vision benefits by participating in different healthy living activities. But, in order to earn the reward, people must complete at least one activity in each of the well-being areas the company lists. It is Palmer Hollands’s way of encouraging employees to have an all-around healthy lifestyle, which means more than just going to the gym every day.
Under the leadership of CEO W. Bryn Irvine, the company places a high significance on maintaining a work-life balance. To encourage employees to spend time with their families, they are allowed to have flexible work schedules and work remotely. The company has “use it or lose it” paid vacation and personal days to assure that employees spend quality time away from work. Employees are even encouraged to welcome their families to the home office.
The Palmer Holland kitchen often has spouses and children visiting over the lunch hour.
There is also a policy that prohibits employees from eating at their desks, which encourages people to get away from their work and eat lunch without a computer screen in front of them.
Rathbone Group LLC
Managing Partner: Joel H. Rathbone
Rathbone Group LLC has developed a structure for its workweek that has led to a strong, healthy culture under the leadership of Managing Partner Joel H. Rathbone.
It begins with Management Monday, when the management team meets in the morning to review the events of the last week and discuss what the goals are for the week to come. This is the first event of many in the week where the firm practices its philosophy of open communication.
Team Tuesdays and Team Thursdays provide opportunities for the manager of each team to discuss items from Monday’s meeting and make sure that the team is in alignment with the goals for the week. Trainings, lunchtime learnings and other employee gatherings largely occur on these days.
On Working Wednesday, the goal is to avoid any meetings and allow all employees to have an unfettered focus on what they are trying to accomplish for the clients. It doesn’t always work as leaders sometimes have to remind themselves that there is value in peacefully being able to work through difficult tasks without interruption.
The most popular day is Fun Friday. Work still gets done, but it is also a day where something fun is planned to remind everyone that the workplace is a healthy and fun place to be.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
President and CEO: Greg Harris
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame prides itself on living its mission “to engage, teach and inspire through the power of rock ‘n’ roll.” The mission inspires every action that is taken on behalf of visitors, inductees, donors, and — most importantly — employees. Everything that is done uses the mission as its guiding light. It directly ties into the Rock Hall’s vision, which is “to broaden our reach through meaningful connections with fans, artists, partners and each other.”
As an employer, the Rock Hall, led by President and CEO Greg Harris, actively searches for candidates who are passionate, driven, engaged music enthusiasts to help further this mission and support the culture that it fosters.
Internally, all Rock Hall team members adhere to the following core values on a daily basis. “Fans First” means to deliver a world-class experience by going beyond what is expected. “We are Storytellers” means to create personal connections between the people, stories and events of rock ‘n’ roll.
“Empower Innovation” signifies the need to innovate and strive for continuous improvement. “Success as a Team” represents the importance of achieving great things together and “ABOVE ALL” is a reminder that team members value and celebrate collaboration and respect in all interactions.
The SpyGlass Group
Co-presidents: Brad Clark and Ed DeAngelo
The philosophy at The SpyGlass Group can be defined through the company’s WHY statement that highlights the three Cs that the company believes defines its business model: careers, culture and clients. The company is led by Brad Clark and Ed DeAngelo, who serve as co-presidents.
The first C focuses on the creation and opportunity for careers for employees. The company’s recruiting style is different in that SpyGlass Group purposely looks to hire ambitious, young professionals right out of college.
The goal is then to create careers through ongoing training and opportunity. Because of this type of recruiting, the majority of SpyGlass Group’s staff members are in their early 20s, which creates a high-energy and youthful culture with motivated individuals.
The second C represents culture and the importance that culture plays in the success of the company. Career opportunities offered through training and promotions creates a competitive atmosphere in all departments of the company, setting monthly and even weekly goals through every role.
The third C stands for clients. With SpyGlass Group investing in its employees’ professional and personal lives, it has enabled the company to retain many of its employees year after year.
UCP of Greater Cleveland
President and CEO: Patricia S. Otter
UCP of Greater Cleveland is a nonprofit serving the needs of children and adults with a wide range of disabilities, not only those individuals with cerebral palsy. Throughout more than 65 years of growth, the agency has expanded from a nursery school and camp program organized by a group of parents to a high-impact, thriving organization meeting the needs of more than 1,000 individuals annually.
Led by President and CEO Patricia S. Otter, UCP prides itself on a culture that impacts the operations and success of the organization on an ongoing basis. Employees report that the focus on client care and excellence make them proud to work at the agency. While industry-wide turnover rates for direct care employees averages above 50 percent, UCP’s turnover remains close to 30 percent at any given time.
The agency has made a concerted effort to familiarize team members with each other through an employee spotlight program. This weekly feature highlights employees from various departments, which is distributed via email, the employee newsletter and through internal sites. The agency is currently in the process of a major organizational culture initiative that involves input from stakeholders at all levels and is expected to take the strong culture to an even higher level.