Economic Bright Spots – Firms Offer Dozens of Reasons to Look Ahead with Optimism

Economic slump? There’s no denying some fundamental economic forces (including the flow of credit) have had a devastating effect on companies, especially many connected with the automotive industry.

But all is, clearly, not lost.

Indeed, Corp! magazine, in our second annual review of Michigan’s Economic Bright Spots, discovered dozens of companies, large and small, who are not only weathering the storm but arguably riding above it altogether.

They each offer many reasons for us to look ahead with optimism. Read on to learn more and be inspired.

Acme Manufacturing
Auburn Hills
www.acmemfg.com
Even as Acme Manufacturing gets ready to celebrate its centenary next year, CEO Glen A. Carlson Jr. says the manufacturer of engineered surface finishing systems is focused on efforts that continue to produce growth. Carlson points to low employee turnover among Acme’s 65 employees as something that’s key to its success. “Acme is in a niche industry and having creative and experienced people is key to developing innovative finishing solutions that increase our customers’ quality, productivity and overall competitiveness.” Those customers come from some very demanding industries, including medical device, aerospace and nuclear energy as well as consumer products. And even though Acme is already generating some 65 percent of its sales from outside the United States, it expects to do even better in the years to come. “One year from now Acme will have continued to expand our export sales and developed new market niches,” says Carlson, who adds that an ongoing investment in research and development, new product applications and, of course, its people, will continue to generate returns as it enters its second century.

Advent Engineering Services, Inc.
Ann Arbor
www.adventengineering.com
While engineering companies capable of handling various projects are legion, Advent Engineering has taken a different tack, concentrating on serving as an “owner’s engineer,” with most of its work supporting the design, construction, licensing or operation of complex nuclear facilities. With just over two dozen employees on staff, the firm is organized into highly experienced, multi-discipline engineers, says CEO David A. Horvath. “This approach has allowed Advent to assist plant owners or engineering/construction organizations in managing complex multidiscipline activities that are traditionally difficult to control with traditional organizations.” The result is an organization that is able to grow-”by adding projects while maintaining flexibility. As Horvath explains, the unique role Advent plays in advocating for the owner of a project is invaluable, particularly when dealing with different companies. “Advent is poised to benefit from something of a renaissance in the nuclear power energy,” says Horvath. “The demand for Advent’s services in the design, licensing and construction of new nuclear power plants in the U.S. is expected to increase dramatically, even under the most pessimistic projections of electrical power demand and new nuclear plant orders. Advent is already experiencing growth as a result of increased interest in nuclear energy.”

Aernnova Engineering US, Inc.
Ann Arbor
www.aernnova.com
Part of the worldwide Aernnova Group, which designs and builds complex airplane parts such as wings and fuselages, the young Ann Arbor engineering office has 40 employees who have already earned a reputation for excellence. Headquartered in Spain, where it began operations in 1993, Aernnova has its eyes on the U.S. defense systems market, having seen success in various projects for commercial airline manufacturers such as Boeing and Sikorsky, Brazil’s Embraer, Canada’s Bombardier as well as Airbus and Eurocopter in addition to Eads-Casa in its home country. In the short term, Aernnova expects to enjoy double-digit growth, says CEO Juan Carlos Ortiz, largely because of the company’s experience in the use of composite materials. “Our total commitment to deliver what we promise to our customers is what sets us apart,” says Ortiz. “We have demonstrated in many programs and with many customers a commitment to deliver on the promises made, notably in the development of all the engineering drawings and analysis reports for the Boeing Large Cargo Freighter Swing Zone Project.”

Albert Kahn Family of Companies
Detroit
www.albertkahn.com
For more than a century, the architectural firm founded by Albert Kahn has been making headlines-”and setting trends. Indeed, Kahn is said to have virtually invented sustainable design, being the first to incorporate the use of daylight and natural ventilation into designs for both factories and office buildings. Even though his formal education ended at grade five, the firm’s founder put five brothers through the University of Michigan, most graduating with architectural or engineering degrees. Today the firm continues its groundbreaking progress, with more than 100 employees who are LEED Accredited professionals, recognized as such through the U.S. Building Council’s program for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. CEO Stephen Q. Whitney points to the firm’s continuing emphasis on meeting clients’ needs as proof of its success. “At Kahn, we recognize that real estate assets are the second largest cost to an organization, and we understand that clients’ facility-centered needs extend beyond just the traditional architecture and engineering offerings that many of our competitors have chosen to focus on.” In addition to a suite of services that includes commissioning, facility management, relocation management, program management, strategic facilities planning and sustainability analyses, Kahn has developed a proprietary sustainability capital planning tool that helps guide clients through the strategic planning of their facilities, allowing them to incorporate sustainable materials and systems, ultimately mapping a sound business strategy for the client to follow. “Clients are both empowered and assured as they become better positioned to match their preferences against the most viable options for the sustainability of their facilities and the integration of these options into their corporate strategy,” notes Whitney. “By proactively addressing sustainability on a strategic, portfolio level, we can help clients position their companies for near-and long-term advantage.”

The Beal Group
Ann Arbor
www.gobeal.com
Start with affordability. That’s what Beal CEO Stewart W. Beal says sets his company apart from the competition. “Our basic model is to deliver high quality goods and services at an affordable price,” says Beal of the construction, development and management firm. “Whether you are renting office space, renting an apartment, or have hired us to complete a construction project for you, our customers will benefit from our business model.” Expecting to manage more than 300 apartment and office spaces in 50 different buildings throughout the southeast Michigan and northern Ohio areas a year from now, Beal plans to further capitalize on the financial strength of the company, using an aggressive business growth strategy to continue creating jobs. “We also expect to produce some exciting real estate development projects in the state of Michigan.”

Brandmotion LLC
Grand Rapids
www.brandmotion.com
It’s easy to fall in love with Brandmotion’s products, especially if you hate the idea of leaving your technology behind when you get behind the wheel. Brandmotion is creating its own brand of magic-”by integrating the convenience of iPods and even navigation systems on an aftermarket basis. And they do it in a way that makes it look like the work was done at the factory. As CEO Jeff Varick explains, Brandmotion has been offering standout solutions since its debut at the 2005 SEMA show, the annual event organized by the Specialty Equipment Market Association. “We address the need consumers have for better designed, better integrated solutions for using portable electronics conveniently and safely in the car,” says Varick. “Most mass market solutions clutter the vehicle with cigarette lighter cords and suction cups that are not well integrated, and not particularly safe to use in the vehicle. Our solutions pull from our experience as automotive designers, and are closer in appearance and function to what the car companies eventually may provide, but at a fraction of the cost.” One of the latest examples of Brandmotion’s work: a state of the art hands-free phone for safe, convenient cell phone conversations that includes a one button connection to live 24/7 concierge and dispatch services. Varick says Brandmotion will continue to succeed through partnerships that help clients grow their brands. “Our understanding of vehicle integration techniques at low cost and high quality and our partnership network with engineers, designers, manufacturers and distributors is key to our future.”

Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories
Detroit
www.caraco.com
Founded in 1984, Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories, Ltd. is one of the fastest growing companies in the generic pharmaceutical industry. While struggling at first, the company began to excel as the result of an alliance with Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd., today the fifth largest pharmaceutical firm in India and Caraco’s majority shareholder. CEO Daniel Movens points to people as being key to Caraco’s success. “Our company has a dedicated team of individuals that bring with them a host of talents and assets,” he says. “This capable team collectively drives the success of our company both tactically and strategically. We are very optimistic of our capability to support our growth and have high expectations for the years ahead.” Movens says the firm intends to stay at the forefront of the generic drug industry. “We must continually work to eliminate costs that could negatively impact our production while providing additional focus on quality. We need to be custodians of the industry by educating the public at every turn as to the value that generic pharmaceuticals offer in reducing health care costs in the U.S., and how Caraco is part that solution.”

Dan’s Cement
Chesterfield Township, Mich.
www.danscement.com
A family enterprise since its inception 20 years ago, Dan’s Cement specializes in commercial foundations and poured walls. “We offer a wide range of commercial, residential, industrial and institutional construction including retail, churches, schools, offices and health care,” says President Dan Vollmar, who says the firm’s success is based on “providing excellent customer service and outstanding project delivery.” The firm also works closely with several unions, including carpenters, laborers, iron and operators unions. Its success may be reflected in its corporate slogan: “Built on a solid foundation.”

Dean Foods/Country Fresh
Dallas, Tex.
www.enjoydeans.com
Headquartered in Dallas, but with a strong retail presence in Michigan, Dean Foods and its popular Country Fresh brand of dairy products continues to shine. Indeed, Country Fresh is the third largest of Dean’s regional brands and Dean’s DSD Dairy is the largest processor and distributor of milk and other dairy products in the country. The company operates more than 100 plants in the U.S., employing some 26,000.

DFCU Financial
Dearborn
www.dfcufinancial.com
How do you measure success? If you’re Mark Shobe, CEO of DFCU Financial, a key yardstick would seem to be how much money he can return to members-”some $50 million in the last three years as part of the organization’s “special patronage dividend.” All eligible members received at least $50 with many others receiving thousands of dollars, depending on the amount of business they do with the financial institution. “It’s gratifying to know that our special patronage dividend is helping members, so many of whom are struggling in our area,” says Shobe. “We know times are tough and we are proud to be in a very strong financial position to be able to reward members for their relationship.” Shobe says DFCU Financial is concentrating on expanding its branch network while continuing to focus on prudent management practices. “Years ago, the best practices, operational efficiencies, expenditure policies and growth strategies were put in place and are now allowing us to successfully weather this economic storm.”

EView 360
Farmington Hills
www.eview360.com
“Masters of their craft.” That’s how Eview 360’s CEO Melissa Centra describes the 18 employees in two company locations–Farmington Hills and Dubai. Certainly that’s important for any organization that supports a client’s brand across print, Web and three-dimensional environments. The firm’s licensed LEED Accredited Professional architects, interior, graphic and Web designers as well as application developers, marketing executives and 3D modelers work together to deliver powerful brand messages. Recently, the firm worked with Tessera Executive Search, not only defining their brand values and making sure their message was consistent in all environments, but designing their corporate office to enhance the brand experience. Another client is Ford Land Development, for whom Eview 360 has worked to achieve consistency in marketing literature and online. Centra says the company is making a difference by helping clients strengthen their brand. “We contribute to higher revenues, increased employee morale and client satisfaction.” The future, she says, will be more of the same, the emphasis being on more. “We hope to grow our business in our vertical market groups: print, digital and environments design.”

Fab Masters
Marcellus, Mich.
www.fabmasters.net
As a progressive, independent manufacturer of custom aluminum machined and fabricated parts, Fab Masters provides aluminum extrusion acquisition, CNC machining, welding, fabricating, finishing and light assembly. But the real success story comes when customers run into difficulty, which is where Fab Masters shines, according to Ronald Troxwell, president and owner. For a project at the White Sands National Monument Park, for example, “we realized and then corrected a design flaw that saved the customer thousands of dollars,” says Troxwell, who sent a crew to help with proper assembly. “Because of this personal service, Fab Masters gained a foothold in a new marketplace.” Troxwell says the company is one that’s “not afraid to deviate from the norm. We are open to innovation and new technology to cut cost and add efficiency. When challenged by our customers, we pursue those challenges, not shy away.” Indeed, four years ago when customers asked for an aluminum welding service, Fab Masters dived right in, putting on a 31,500 square foot expansion. And the new welding shop is now one of Fab Masters’ largest services. Troxwell says Fab Masters is ready for a rebounding economy and expects to double its capacity over the next five years, the result of aggressive marketing and the building of relationships between suppliers and customers.

Farbman Group
Southfield
www.farbman.com
Looking ahead is a big part of what makes the Farbman Group so successful, says CEO Andrew V. Farbman of the full service real estate services firm his father, Chairman Burton Farbman, launched in 1976. “We encourage team members to look ahead and identify potential opportunities, staying ahead of the curve and taking risks when appropriate,” says Andy Farbman. One example: using its hometown experience as a catalyst to reposition and turn around distressed Michigan commercial assets. “This has helped us to continue to grow while other companies continue to downsize,” says Farbman. That expertise has piqued the interest of lenders beyond Michigan. “It’s because we identified a need and took a risk in markets outside Michigan.” Employee creativity is often a major factor in the firm’s success-”suggestions for flexible work hours and job sharing opportunities has resulted in turnover being reduced by more than 70 percent. But at the core is a firm that gives clients the attention they need but with the global reach found through the NAI network of which Farbman is a member. “We have the ability to be light on our feet, as well as flexible and visionary in our thinking,” says Farbman. “We capitalize on our ability to mobilize to meet a client’s need within 24 hours of their request.”

Georgetown Utilities
New Hudson, Mich.
www.georgetownutilities.com
Now in its seventh year, Georgetown Utilities has a simple motto: “We place clients in a better financial position than we find them.” It does it through energy conservation, on both the demand and supply side of the equation. With just 11 full-time employees but access to a cadre of contractor and consultant resources, Georgetown tackles the opportunity of reducing cost at every level, including energy auditing, acting as a brokerage for natural gas and electricity, and consulting on a customer’s choice of deregulated sources of energy. Georgetown will also help a client reduce its use of energy, helping to drive out cost without compromising quality or impacting internal operations. Its flagship product-”a Natural Gas Conditioning System-”separates hydrocarbon molecules to produce a more efficient combustion process. But Georgetown’s success is even more basic than that. “In general, what sets Georgetown Utilities, as a company, apart from other companies is the different mindset we take in solving the energy consumption problems,” says CEO DeVon George. “We apply technology to ensure better usage of the energy directly at the source. We make the energy more efficient.” In a timely addition to its services, the company is marketing units designed to address any airborne biological contamination such as swine influenza in public buildings. The technology, company officials say, renders the virus or bacteria unable to reproduce by delivering a dose of energy to completely alter its DNA.

Global Tooling Systems
Macomb Township, Mich.
www.global-tooling-systems.com
Ask Executive Vice President Ronald Bellestri what makes Global Tooling Systems different and he’ll tell you in one word: service. “A perfect example of this was last October when a customer called us on Wednesday and said they were in trouble with some tooling. They asked if we could be in California for two months to help them make their deliveries. We had 24 people on a plane that Friday morning and they were working the same day.” Bellestri says Global Tooling’s ability to understand and proactively address the customer’s needs is what drives the firm. With some 260 employees, the firm is clearly positioned for even greater success in the years to come.

Grand Traverse Pie Company
Traverse City, Mich.
www.gtpie.com
Yes, it’s about pie. Michigan pie, made with Michigan ingredients. But Grand Traverse Pie Company is also about people, says CEO Michael Busley of the 13-year-old firm. “We meet the need for a place for those who work and/or live close by to come in for a respite from the outside world for a meal and some positive human contact,” he says. “We are more than simply a food establishment with relevant products; we strive to be that neighborhood destination which resonates from the positive experiences inside.” Busley and his 350 employees (in 17 locations) succeed by focusing not only on the experience, but also on the operational side that makes that all possible. “A year from now I hope the view from the Grand Traverse Pie Company is one with a stronger operational and brand execution standpoint,” he adds. “We are working harder than ever to strengthen our core and to increase brand awareness. This should lead to healthy long-term pie shops here in Michigan, in Indiana and into Illinois as well.”

Hennessey Capital
Huntington Woods, Mich.
www.hennesseycap.com
In today’s tough times, money is on everyone’s mind. But regardless of the business climate, there are always opportunities for a firm like Hennessey Capital, launched in 2002 as part of a group of companies whose missions include real estate and angel investing. Simply put, Hennessey Capital provides working capital solutions for growing business-to-business companies that might be described as “pre-bankable” but post-revenue, in transition or otherwise not meeting the credit guidelines of traditional bank lending. As Mike Semanco, the firm’s president and COO, explains, speed has a lot to do with Hennessey’s success. “We are a small but experienced team, allowing us to understand and adapt quickly to changes in market conditions and respond to the needs of our clients promptly and with confidence.” But money isn’t everything. “We serve as trusted advisors, connecting clients to the right people at the right time to make their business a success. Whether it’s assisting with sales strategy, accounting and legal services, operational improvement or technology, we act as a business resource for our customers.” In the end, the goal is clear: “It’s to help our clients strategically grow their business, and that requires a multi-pronged approach that includes but is not limited to working capital.” In 2008 alone, Hennessey provided working capital to some 32 companies, including a furniture manufacturer tight on cash but strong on growth potential, an engineering design and manufacturing firm (who received a $1 million line of credit that resulted in revenue growth of $5 million, the direct result of being able to fund new programs). Semanco says firms like Hennessey Capital play a vital role in jumpstarting the economy, one business at a time. “In an environment where traditional lending is extremely difficult to secure for the majority of small businesses, they are able to use the additional cash flow we offer to take on new business opportunities, expand operations, implement new marketing initiatives or complement a current bank line.”

iDashboards
Troy, Mich.
www.idashboards.com
Giving companies the information they need is something not every organization can promise. iDashboards does it, through a suite of business intelligence software tools that uses patented “visual intelligence,” displaying real-time information but without the expensive consultants typically required of competing products. CEO Shadan Malik says iDashboards, founded in 2004, delivers immediate value in a short time. “The entire organization experiences the benefits of real-time operational intelligence, having a direct impact on the bottom line.” The idea behind iDashboards is brilliantly simple. “Now more than ever, businesses are required to do more with less,” says Malik. “With the mounting pressure for people to produce and demonstrate their value, organizations are seeking affordable solutions for ensuring every budget item remains on track. Dashboards offer a unique visual reporting solution that can be used in any industry and across the enterprise.” An example might be in health care, where hospitals can track patient satisfaction. But having the data is one thing; making it work is quite another. “Every company collects data, but this is only half the job,” says Malik. “The capability to easily view those information assets is what provides actionable insight.”

ImageSoft Inc.
Southfield, Mich.
www.imagesoftinc.com
A document management, workflow automation and process improvement company, ImageSoft uses industry leading software (including OnBase) to deliver faster return on investment to its clients, most within one year of working with ImageSoft. CEO Scott Bade says that advantage has served the company well. “It’s one of the reasons that our product is the most widely deployed document management solution in counties and municipalities throughout the state of Michigan.” Indeed, some 10 Michigan counties are ImageSoft clients and the list continues to grow. But technology isn’t the only value ImageSoft brings to the table. “Customer service is a second key differentiator and a strong contributor to the growth and success of our company,” says Bade. “We deliver what we promise and delight in exceeding our customers’ expectations. That’s really what our people strive for and, as our customers will attest, we typically achieve that goal.” Growth, says Bade, will come from success building on success. “We are a firm believer in leveraging our existing customer base to grow our business, and one of the ways we accomplish that is by pulling out all the stops to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations. In turn, we not only generate additional business from existing customers, but they often sing our praises to their constituents, which leads to new sources of business for ImageSoft.”

Institute for Athletic Medicine/Athletic Republic
Auburn Hills, Mich.
www.unleveltheplayingfield.com
A vision to decrease injuries in athletes was the catalyst for an investment by Dr. John Samani and Dr. Thomas Perkins, two orthopedic surgeons with a dream to provide the best medical services available. With their Institute for Athletic Medicine a key part of the venture, the vision is taking shape. Patients and athletes receive diagnoses, treatment and education, which includes surgery, physical therapy and performance training. “It’s our firm belief that there is a better way to train athletes,” says Dr. Samani. “Whether recreational or professional, maximizing quality of life and athletic potential is our primary focus.” Adds Dr. Perkins: “Our staff has the sports-science knowledge to improve physical performance safely and effectively. We assess strengths and weaknesses and create a rehabilitation or training program like no other-”one that is tailored specifically for the patient or athlete-”in an environment that can’t be found anywhere else.” Both owners say they plan to expand the services, focusing on fitness and wellness programs for first responders or individuals looking to continue an active and competitive lifestyle after injury.

ITC Holdings
Novi, Mich.
www.itc-holdings.com
Ever wonder how the electrical power you use on an everyday basis actually gets to your home or business? Few do, in large part due to the reliability of Michigan-based ITC, said to be the nation’s first and largest fully independent transmission business. Formed when DTE Energy divested itself of the high-voltage tower part of the power utility (and led by the former head of the business, now ITC Holdings’ CEO Joseph L. Welch), the firm quickly staked its claim as one of the industry’s movers and shakers, going from one of the worst in class as far as reactive maintenance was concerned to one of the best in just a year. Today the firm is operating in five states and has 320 employees. A recent initiative is its Green Power Express, a type of superhighway corridor that will facilitate the movement of power from wind turbines and solar farms to where it’s needed, the essence of ITC’s core business. The $10-12 billion project will include new transmission projects in Michigan and throughout the Midwest, a 3,000-mile network of high-voltage transmission lines capable of moving up to 12,000 megawatts of renewable energy. Welch says ITC continues to demonstrate industry leadership and growth with a predictable and stable business model, one that enables the company to invest in significant transmission infrastructure improvements in its service territory as well as in new regions of the country. “We will continue to pursue industry standards that promote regional transmission systems and an electric superhighway capable of meeting the nation’s current and future energy needs.”

LeanLogistics, Inc.
Zeeland/Holland, Mich.
www.leanlogistics.com
Just 10 years since it opened its doors, LeanLogistics has made a name for itself, aligning with the CHEP global packaging consortium and leveraging one of the industry’s largest transportation networks, according to CEO Dan Dershem, who says combining technology and services gives LeanLogistics the ability to tailor transportation solutions to the needs of its customers. “Our customer service is a unique distinction,” says Dershem. “We consistently receive unprecedented high marks in customer satisfaction and service.” Dershem is quick to credit the firm’s 105 employees for the success of LeanLogistics. “They’re responsible for delivering exceptional service and that dedication is reflected in our own customer-satisfaction survey, where more than 90 percent of clients indicated they are planning to renew or expand their service, and more than 90 percent indicated they would be willing to provide referrals for LeanLogistics.” The company has also received recognition for exceptional customer service from Consumer Goods Technology, which said its readers ranked LeanLogistics as having the top customer service experience in supply chain execution. LeanLogistics also received a Stevie Award as part of the American Business Awards program, in recognition of its customer service department, an achievement Dershem says is particularly gratifying. “We founded LeanLogistics with the philosophy that our success would be dependent on offering innovative technologies supported by exceptional customer service. To be recognized as a Stevie Award winner validates our approach, and our belief that we deliver the best service in the transportation industry.”

LimnoTech
Ann Arbor
www.limno.com
When LimnoTech CEO Paul Freedman opened the doors to LimnoTech in 1975, the co-founder wrote what any good company should have: a mission statement. It was decidedly “save the world” in its tone: “do cool things with computers, work with good people and-”most importantly-”help save the water environment.” Since then, Freedman, an engineer by training, is doing very specific things to realize that vision, including listening to the clients he and the 78 employees who work at LimnoTech serve. “Our ability to determine and even anticipate the specific environmental needs of clients-”and then to help them resolve those issues-”sets us apart from our competitors,” says Freedman. “Once we have established the unique needs of each client, we provide them with the best water environmental science and engineering, frequently tailoring or improving that science, to help them make decisions to resolve their problems.” Even if it means changing nature itself. “An example of this is our project for the Lower Don River in the city of Toronto, a site of urban decay badly in need of restoration. A significant requirement of the restoration was a river redesign that would efficiently accommodate highly variable flows during wet and dry weather.” Freedman expects LimnoTech to maintain its focus even as it grows to meet client demands. “We will still continue to consider ourselves a ‘small giant’ in the water-consulting world-”a small company with a big influence. And we will have the same core of highly skilled and experienced professionals providing the most up-to-date water science and engineering to a diverse array of clients to help them resolve their environmental concerns. We also expect to be different because for nearly 35 years we have been evolving and adapting to meet the changing environmental regulations and special water resource management needs of our clients.”

McKeon Products Inc.
Warren, Mich.
www.macksearplugs.com
It was 1962 when the father and mother of McKeon Products’ current CEO, Devin Benner, bought the company from its founder. Since then, the Benner family has made history, inventing the first moldable silicon earplugs and becoming the leading producer of earplugs. Today its “Pillow Soft” brand is sealing out water and preventing swimmer’s ear (or allowing the spouse of a snorer to sleep in peace). The ability of the company to be first to market in addressing the needs of health conscious consumers has made it successful. So have the 45 people who work at the company’s sole location in Warren. Benner, who expects to see 10 percent growth over the next year, continues to oversee innovation. “One of our latest innovations is our new Mack’s Dream Girl Soft Foam Earplugs designed to fit women’s ears. Most of the earplugs on the market today are one size fits all, so up until now, women, who on average have smaller ears than men, had to put up with the extra pressure and pain associated with wearing an earplug that is too large. Another innovation is our new Mack’s Rockin Roll-Ups Wallet Earplugs, which mark a convergence of convenience, technology and hearing safety. It’s these types of innovations that allow us to introduce truly unique consumer preferred products that can’t be duplicated.”

Meadowlark Builders, LLC
Ann Arbor
www.meadowlarkbuilders.com
According to CEO Douglas Selby, Meadowlark Builders’ business proposition is unique: “We set the standard for sustainable building while delivering the highest quality craftsmanship and customer service.” Delivering on that promise includes offering a complete service, from design to advanced building techniques, to high-efficiency HVAC work, to custom cabinetry and finish details. The company does much of the work in house, which gives customers better pricing as well as Meadowlark control over quality and delivery. “We work hard to make our clients’ experience with the building process as quality-driven as the work itself,” says Selby. “Our designers, engineers and craftsmen pride themselves on being able to handle any challenge with grace and excellent execution, and we offer the best quality of product available. We have staked out this position in the industry early, and constantly innovate to stay ahead of the pack.” Staying ahead of the environmental curve is also part of the strategy. “We are the first building company in our region to offer deep green building combined with a full suite of other building services to complement our green building expertise,” adds Selby, who adds that the firm “consistently pushes the envelope to try and better our own building practices, and uses these results to actively push our industry toward a zero-impact building future. We monitor and measure our work to provide feedback for new developments in technique and products.” Interested? So are a lot of other people: Meadowlark Builders has a year-long backlog for its services, a testament to its reputation for quality and service.

Menlo Innovations LLC
Ann Arbor
www.menloinnovations.com
It’s been eight years since Richard Sheridan, now president of Menlo Innovations, actually worked for someone other than the clients that flock to the Ann Arbor-based software development firm. Today, his 12 colleagues continue to “break all the rules”-”with no walls, offices, doors or cubes. Sheridan likens it to Thomas Edison’s original invention factory in Menlo Park, N.J., for which his software development firm is named. It’s here that the modern Menlo has produced software for numerous industries, including heath care, makers of scientific equipment and even high-fashion e-commerce operators and those involved with diesel motor diagnostics. What the projects have in common is Menlo’s “built to last” attitude that includes bringing in high-tech anthropologists into the mix. Sheridan says he plans to continue breaking ground in the software development industry, having adopted a mission of “ending human suffering in the world as it relates to technology.” By focusing on the needs of project sponsors, end users and software teams, Sheridan says Menlo’s goal is to “return the joy to one of the most unique endeavors in the history of mankind.” Sheridan says the firm’s reputation as a thought leader is at least partly due to “the financial results our clients are producing through the products and services we’ve helped bring to market.” The future for Menlo is likely one where business ownership is contagious. “Because of the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship we foster, we will have started at least two other new businesses,” in large part due to the “leveraged play” model where Menlo receives lower fees in return for an equity position and rights to royalty or revenue sharing on an ongoing basis.

Michigan First Credit Union
Lathrup Village, Mich.
www.michiganfirst.com
As one might expect, having service at the top of its priorities is a natural one for the six-branch financial institution that boasts an even wider reach through its 19 in-school student branches. For President and CEO Michael Poulos the focus on delivering a positive member experience begins “the moment they step inside one of the branches.” From an immediate personal greeting, service standards are important. So is measuring the performance. “Teller lines are timed four times a day to ensure that Michigan First members are served within seven minutes the vast majority of the time,” says Poulos. There’s also a focus on technology, notably evident in the ability of a member to open an account in about 10 minutes as well as an innovative “scan and deposit” service that gives busy members the ability to deposit checks from home or office. There’s also a revamped Web site rich with financial tracking tools members can use to efficiently manage their money. Offering a variety of services will continue to be important to Michigan First, says Poulos. But so is a program to teach financial literacy in area schools. “Michigan First will also continue to expand the [email protected] financial literacy program, with the goal of extending the program across the 44 communities Michigan First serves.”

Models & Tools
Shelby Township, Mich.
www.modelsandtools.com
Even when the automotive tooling industry was healthy and profitable, Models & Tools never abandoned its focus on serving the aerospace industry with the tight tolerance required. By the time the automotive industry faltered, the 81-employee firm had already allocated resources to the aerospace sector, the result being continued growth in revenue. But that’s just part of the story. In reality, bidding on aerospace assembly tooling projects starts with very little information being provided by the customer. “People’s ingenuity, creativity and the ability to conceptualize and visualize what is required becomes critical,” notes CEO Jeff Cunningham. “Also critical is delivering this tooling on time and within budget, which we do routinely.” The experience and expertise of Models & Tools’ staff also comes into play to achieve the dimensional tolerances required in the aerospace industry. A new 115,00-square-foot, climate-controlled, high bay facility means more capacity and the ability to compete for larger jobs, says Cunningham. “Our customers, who have always told us that if we had a bigger facility we would be able to win more work, made good on their promises to us.” Models & Tools expects to continue to grow through additional hiring.

Moon Valley Rustic Furniture
Clarkston, Mich.
www.moonvalleyrusticfurniture.com
Moon Valley Rustic Furniture has proven that “Made in U.S.A.” can become a distinction, especially in an era where cheap off-shore is all too ubiquitous. Designing and building its products from a 75,000-square-foot facility and retailing through a network of 2,150 dealers undoubtedly keeps the firm’s 26 employees and CEO Richard Detkowski busy. But that’s what drives its success. “Our design and quality of product is what sets us apart from the competition,” says Detkowski. “It allows families to come together, at picnics, campfires, or just sitting on the porch swing with loved ones.” Detkowski foresees an expansion of marketing to the entire continent and a diversified product line in the next year; building an even more efficient organization using automation is also in his game plan for growth.

MRA, Inc.
St. Clair Shores, Mich.
www.goMRA.com
This leader in mobile exhibit and event marketing, with a specialization in custom vehicle solutions, still calls its 46-employee complement its key ability to surpass its clients’ needs and expectations. As CEO Harry Kurtz explains, the firm’s husband-and-wife driver attendants are often trained as brand ambassadors, assigned to specific tours that align with their passions and interests. “They inspire ownership and quality work,” says Kurtz. “And it results in reduced operational costs while increasing the superiority of the work for our clients.” MRA’s leadership position is likely to continue, through growth in revenue, profit and employee base. “All are due to our concerted efforts in maintaining customer loyalty and conquesting new clients using forward thinking communication strategies and technology to publicize our expertise, quality craftsmanship, and business results for our clients.”

Nemeth Burwell, P.C.
Detroit
www.nemethburwell.com
The law firm calls itself the largest woman-owned practice in Michigan that exclusively represents management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes. When CEO Patricia Nemeth and Linda Burwell launched the firm in 1992, they set out to build a reputation for excellence and continue to do so. Says Nemeth: “We have been adding an additional attorney and two support staff even as the nation’s legal profession continues to experience unprecedented layoffs and firm closures. Our firm’s growth has been from the ground up and not the result of mergers or acquisitions. We have been able to grow through strategic hires at our own pace, reinforcing that our strategy is the right one for the firm, regardless of economic conditions.” A strategy for “finding peace” in cases involving employment law appears to be at the heart of what Nemeth Burwell brings to the legal table. “It is our aim to do this by working closely with our employer clients to prevent, resolve and litigate employment disputes,” adds Nemeth. A recent move that added some 9,000 extra square feet of space is likely to result in several more attorneys and support staff being added to the firm. Nemeth says the firm’s niche in employment law continues to attract attorneys who are committed to this area of specialization. “We’ve built our firm through amassing the depth of employment law knowledge that is attractive to labor and employment attorneys who want challenging cases in a collegial atmosphere. In five years, we will have a 22-year history, which will further our reputation as an established firm with a loyal, diverse and growing client base that brings opportunity for attorneys who seek career satisfaction in a boutique firm. It is because we have a deep bench of attorneys that we are able to provide our clients with such a high level of legal counsel.”

Nextep Systems
Troy, Mich.
www.nextepsystems.com
From self-order kiosks, digital menu boards, online ordering, or Web management tools, Nextep Systems and its 20 employees is in continual delivery mode. Just four years in business, the firm, led by CEO Tommy Woycik, has quickly made a name for itself in a category defined by its ability to save people time. “People are busier than ever and are continually seeking tools and technologies that save them time,” notes Woycik. While the ATM, e-commerce, and pay-at-the-pump are all examples of self-service technology developed to save customers time, Nextep takes it at least one step further. “Everything we put into the marketplace must be simple, intuitive, and high-performance,” says Woycik. “This requires exceptional attention to detail and an overarching commitment from the company that nothing goes out with a single known defect.” When problems occur, everything stops until the issue is resolved. “The idea here is that Nextep has no business developing new products unless the existing software is 100 percent in the eyes of our customers.” Woycik expects Nextep to be 30 to 50 percent larger a year from now, following a 100 percent compounded annual growth since its inception. “We still expect significant annual revenue growth tied to new account sales,” says Woycik in response to concerns over the economy in general. He expects Nextep will be the number one provider in the markets it serves-”airports, casinos, deli and grocery, restaurants, and stadiums and arenas.

Osiris Innovations Group
Auburn Hills, Mich.
www.osirisinnovations.com
A supply chain management services firm, Osiris works with its clients to “make supply chain management a more transparent and efficient process for both suppliers and buying organizations.” With that in mind, CEO David Saroli launched the firm in 2004, his vision being to automate the so-called procurement to payment process. He appears to have succeeded, having been recognized by clients and the industry he serves. Clients typically achieve savings of 7-12 percent, often the difference between surviving or failing in the current economy. Part of the benefit is being able to automatically connect to customers’ e-procurement environments, thereby automating the process. “Suppliers not only are saving a tremendous amount of money in process costs but they now have a tool that allows them to compete in all markets,” notes Saroli. “By combining decades of non-production purchasing experience with a striking e-business solution, OIG is able to help companies reduce costs, errors and cycle times throughout the supply chain. By uniquely connecting supply chain partners electronically with proprietary web based tools that reduce costs and accelerate the revenue recognition cycle, OIG helps organizations increase efficiency and improve cash flow.”

Partners in Architecture, PLC
Mount Clemens, Mich.
www.partnersinarch.com
A full-service firm, Partners in Architecture, PLC, which provides complete planning and architectural services, has distinguished itself by offering clients a degree of partnership that they have not before experienced. CEO Michael Malone says a good example of what can be accomplished when this type of real partnership is employed is the Westview Elementary School built for the Fitzgerald Public School District. “The award-winning school was designed to support exploration, discovery and team based learning, while remaining flexible to the educational demands of the future.” With classrooms for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade organized into innovative learning communities, each having their own identity and central resource area, the result was a sense of place for each student while providing flexibility for both large and small group instruction, as well as distance learning activities. Included in the design was a closed loop geothermal ground source heat pump system that provides heating, ventilation and air conditioning for the building, tapping renewable energy sources and resulting in substantial energy cost savings. Making lasting contributions to the communities where they serve is something Partners does regularly, says Malone. “In fact, the firm has made character, measured in part by community service, a condition of employment.” Looking ahead, the firm has purchased and is renovating an historic building in downtown Mount Clemens; the original Macomb County Firehouse. The adaptive reuse plan for this centennial structure calls for exterior rehabilitation honoring the building’s original grandeur and modernized professional suites-”one of which will become the expanded home to the firm’s growing design team. “Partners is fortunate to have a large number of emerging architects on staff who are both talented and dedicated,” adds Malone. “We are committed to providing a wealth of professional development opportunities to this in-house team, supporting them in the accomplishment of their career goals. Over the next five years, we anticipate that these architects will mature technically and creatively and will provide our clients even greater counsel and partnership.”

Phimation
Ann Arbor
www.phimation.com
Sure, there are plenty of consulting firms that do business strategy. Or marketing strategy. Even more that do organizational strategy. But what if the firm requires all three? As CEO David Haviland explains, that’s when clients turn to Phimation. “Few companies operate as effectively in our target market of small businesses in Michigan as we do in the nexus of those three areas,” he says. “Results in that nexus enable and require cultural change in a company, which is a delicate process-”especially when a company is growing and wants to preserve what has made it successful while also creating a different platform for future growth.” Recent successes in the development of new marketing strategies included staff discussions on how to better work with customers, a restructuring of the organization to capitalize on the new positioning and strategic planning discussions to identify and prioritize other changes the leadership team needed to make. “Being able to integrate those different dimensions enables us to create substantially greater value for our clients,” adds Haviland, who says the need for a company to become more disciplined and structured without losing the creativity and agility that has made it successful is key. “That is not easy. We provide best practices and experience that leadership teams need to improve their capabilities and the business’ results. But simply providing those tools is not enough for these companies. The other important piece of what we do is understand their personalities, capabilities, values and culture, which we use to customize the management tools we offer to their unique situation. This dual-pronged approach ensures that the company is improving based on best practices, but also retaining the feeling and strengths of the business.”

Plante & Moran
Southfield, Mich.
www.plantemoran.com
Ask Managing Partner Bill Hermann what sets Plante & Moran apart from the competition and it’s the firm’s culture that figures prominently. “Our culture can be explained in two simple words, ‘We care.’ We care about our clients, we care about our communities, and we care about each other.” Not only that, but the firm demonstrates that value in a variety of ways, including a commitment to work-life balance, recognizing individuality, buddy programs, a generous paid time off policy and scholarship programs for children of staff. The strategy appears to be working-”Plante & Moran’s turnover rate continues to remain low for its industry. “The fact that our turnover is consistently one of the lowest (if not the lowest) in the industry is proof positive that people enjoy working here,” adds Hermann, who quotes a client, Dave Lutton, president of Charles Reinhart Company Realtors: “When working with the staff it’s evident they enjoy working for Plante & Moran. This is important to us because it means we see the same staff year after year and that consistency allows them to gain a deep understanding of our business.” While primarily serving medium-sized, owner-managed businesses, Plante & Moran brings a broad range of services that touch all parts of a client’s business. In addition to audit and tax, the firm offers financial, human capital, operations, strategy, technology and family wealth management services. Says Bill Hermann: “We have said that we offer clients the ‘best of both worlds’-”the robust service offering of a large multi-faceted firm with personal attention that is typically found in a smaller firm.”

Precision Gage
Hillsdale, Mich.
www.precisiongage.com
Established in 1984, Precision Gage, Inc. has earned an international reputation for innovation, leading edge technology and an unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction. The company boasts a comprehensive and diversified range of design and manufacturing services tailored to meet a customer’s specific needs and a commitment to developing a professional working relationship. The company says having the latest in technology and the best in equipment plus exceeding expectations with a wealth of machine tool and production expertise are its keys to success.

Service Express, Inc.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
www.seiservice.com
With an average annual growth rate of 20 percent, the question isn’t whether SEI is successful. It’s how. President Ron Alvesteffer says it’s the corporate culture of the on-site hardware maintenance service company that focuses on IBM, HP, Sun and Dell mid to high-end servers. “We start by hiring the right people,” says Alvesteffer of the organization with its 75 staff in Michigan (135 total in some 14 locations). “We have a very thorough selection process that matches candidates’ talents with our SEI culture.” Add in the vision component-”to work with employees to help them achieve their personal, professional and financial goals-”and you’ve got a winning formula. “Our people development drives the growth of our company,” notes Alvesteffer, who expects to see growth of 15 percent with two new offices and 10 percent more staff over the next year. Training will also be a big factor, along with other business improvements. “We will continue to develop our people with professional development training, as well as optimize our inventory size and accuracy, our cash flow and our proven ability to deliver exceptional customer service.”

Shelving, Inc.
Auburn Hills, Mich.
www.shelving.com
Now approaching 50 years in business, Shelving, Inc. does exactly what its name suggests. And while the storage options have grown in what’s approaching five decades (the firm was launched in 1960), CEO Joe Schodowski says customers have come to expect a higher standard. “We have more experience than any other firm in the shelving and storage equipment industry,” he notes. “We offer the widest selection of sizes and capacities available so there is possibly no shelving or storage problem that we can’t solve.” And while Schodowski has embraced technology that wasn’t around when Shelving, Inc. opened its doors, sound business practices are also entrenched in the way the company operates. “Our Web sites are easy to navigate and our merchandise is priced competitively. We have our most popular sizes and capacities in stock ready for immediate shipment.” Even so, customization is readily available. “We are able to offer turnkey design and installation services with our own work crews,” notes Schodowski. “Our team is committed to provide the best customer experience available in the market. We all understand that the customer is our boss and without a customer we have no business. We are passionate about making sure our customers receive the best available products and services that they have every right to expect.” Indeed, living up to the firm’s slogan-””We make space work better”-” requires nothing less.

Solid Signal
Novi, Mich.
www.solidsignal.com
Specialization? If it’s related to high-tech electronic equipment, Solid Signal is the place experts and consumers alike are likely to head when they need the latest gear, whether it’s satellite equipment, satellite radio, marine, automotive, antenna or any combination from a lengthy list of tools and devices, all on the company’s Web site. As CEO Jerry Chapman puts it, there’s only one place to sate the appetite of techies to whom the company appeals. “Solid Signal is the place to go for specialized high-tech electronic equipment. We are the experts. Consumers can’t go to just any retailer to learn how to use many of the products we sell. Where we stand out is in the step-by-step instructions we provide on the phone and on the Web to every customer. Solid Signal has what you need and we provide the best value to the consumer by holding their hand through the entire process, which includes redefining the whole experience of what they can buy online.” A year from now, Chapman expects a whole new ballgame. “We may look the same from an outward appearance. But, our product mix will be different. It will be more specific, matching the customer needs even better than today. Customers will come looking for us. Customers will want to come to us, not just stumble across us because we fit their needs.” What Solid Signal will also bring to the mix is a greater understanding of the customer. “We want to know what the customer wants ahead of time,” says Chapman. “We want to know what they say about us after the sale. We want to address their needs, not ours. If we master understanding and fitting their needs we all win.”

Strategic Staffing Solutions
Detroit
www.strategicstaff.com
Knowledge. For Strategic Staffing Solutions’ CEO Cynthia J. Pasky, it’s a powerful tool for differentiating the 19-year-old company. “We have a unique depth of industry knowledge, meaning we know as much as, if not more, about our customers’ industry, than our customers do,” says Pasky. And the basis for that knowledge? “We listen to our customers, assess their actual needs and tailor solutions to directly address those needs.” Pasky and her management team also read customers’ industry-specific periodicals and keep up with the day-to-day happening in their industry. “This allows us to establish trusting and long-term relationships with our customers,” adds Pasky. “Our customers know that we have the knowledge and skill to handle their companies’ information technology and business process needs and trust we will achieve results that ultimately benefit them.” In fact, one customer recently acted on that trust factor, ultimately expanding its business to Lithuania, where Strategic Staffing Solutions has an active presence. Pasky says the visible role of the agency (which focuses on IT consulting, customized project solutions and vendor management programs as well as executive search) continues to expand. “It is especially important in this economy that we are able to do more than just service customers; we seek solutions that help spend our customers’ dollars more efficiently.”

TAC Worldwide
In Michigan: Bloomfield Hills, Dearborn, Flint
www.tacworldwide.com
For 40 years, TAC has been providing great people and great service. Jim Cowper, who heads TAC Engineering, says having built a “proud following” with major automotive manufacturers and suppliers in Southeast Michigan continues to pay dividends. “New customers like DTE Energy and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan demand a history and commitment to progress from their new partners,” notes Cowper. “TAC has provided that. In a time when competitors were closing up shop, TAC was building new expertise in the areas of design and engineering services.” Cowper says TAC has credibility that goes beyond the technical expertise for which it has access. “TAC has also built a great reputation as a company that cares about its people and its customers. With that reputation comes a responsibility for helping others, and TAC has participated in many events including resume-writing assistance, conducting mock interviews and mentoring college grads. We’ve also been a leader in charitable contribution drives. The bottom line is you don’t last 40 years in a cutthroat business by keeping the status quo. You must grow, and TAC has done that.” The company has also positioned itself for new growth. As Cowper explains, “Design and engineering services continues to grow from an automotive-based model to include defense and government-ready models that are flexible enough to handle the needs of existing customers like BAE and Oshkosh and potential customers like TACOM, General Dynamics and Northrup-Grumman.”

Trivalent Group
Grandville, Mich.
www.trivalentgroup.com
Trivalent Group CEO Larry Andrus has what some might call distinctly different views about the role technology plays in an organization. Others might call it refreshing. “Technology is an enabler to your business success. Period. It should work just like turning on your light switch or picking up the phone and getting a dial-tone.” Those words are from the firm’s Web site. So are these: “The reality is, technology is complex and getting more complex as time goes on. You need a partner who will cut through the complexity and help ensure your business technology is adaptable, affordable and meets the changing economic climate to stay competitive and profitable.” Andrus and his team are doing their part to make technology easier to swallow by customizing packages, all to the benefit of their customers. “We have the ability to syndicate projects into a financial package that allows customers to choose between making a capital expenditure for their solution or a single monthly operating cost,” he notes. “What this means is that our clients can leverage our economies of scale and buying power into efficiencies for their own business.” The approach is one that Andrus says is becoming ever more prevalent. “In today’s business landscape, clients want more services from fewer vendors. The ‘do more with less concept’ that is prevalent in the market is pushing more clients toward finding trusted partners that can simplify their businesses: saving costs and time.” Even more to the point is the thought that an internal IT department is no longer a differentiator. As such, business logic would suggest it’s an activity that can (and should) be outsourced. “The Trivalent solutions allow businesses to do just that-” leave the technology to us and focus on what makes your business more successful.”

Tropical Smoothie Café
Linden, Mich.
www.tropicalsmoothie.com
As area developers for the national chain (based in Destin, Fla.), Craig and Dianne LeMieux are committed to taking the smoothie concept to the next level. They’re doing it by offering Michiganders what they refer to as “a healthy alternative to fast food.” The chain’s wide variety of real fruit smoothies, including a new menu line of coffee and green tea smoothies, is part of their recipe for success. So is a choice of toasted wraps, bistro and flatbread sandwiches as well as gourmet salads-”all in a tropical aura. But atmosphere is part of the mix, with stores featuring tropical themed murals, palm tree plants and Tiki hut canopies. Craig LeMieux is confident the focus is a winner. “For our customers, it is a healthier option for meals on the go without sacrificing taste. For our franchisees, it is creating a niche category, with higher asset values that enable them to run a profitable business.” The LeMieuxs expect to have between five and 10 more locations open or in the construction phase a year from now (up to double the 10 they have in operation currently). And they remain optimistic about the prospects for the brand. “We are relentless in our efforts to share our passion for this brand with as many people as possible,” says Dianne LeMieux, who adds that customers are one of the biggest sources of future franchisees. “What that tells us is that our commitment to providing superior service and hospitality is paying off.”

Van Wyk Risk & Financial Management
Grand Rapids
www.vanwykcorp.com
A risky business? When Max B. Van Wyk opened the doors to his firm 27 years ago, it might have seemed like it. But he had a strong business plan and a determination to make sure his clients were well served. Today, Van Wyk is an obvious success, having enjoyed 20 percent annual growth since its inception and earning the kudos of clients who more often than not remain in the Van Wyk fold. Max Van Wyk has his own ideas of why the firm has remained successful. “The one thing that truly sets Van Wyk Risk & Financial Management apart from its competitors is the fact that we do not have commissioned sales people. Rather, we are all salaried professionals. We have strategically assembled a powerhouse team of experienced professionals who successfully mitigate client risk with an arsenal of expertise, resources and creativity-”and do so without the ‘my client vs. your client’ mentality that typically permeates our industry.” The result is a trust-building atmosphere. “Our clients rest assured knowing that when we set up a long-term plan to manage their risk, we do so only with their best interest in mind.” A 98 percent client retention rate is proof that the approach works.

Vendor Managed Solutions
Troy, Mich.
www.vmsglobal.com
As one of the country’s leading custom service integrators, Vendor Managed Solutions is changing the face of the supply chain and how its clients implement their purchasing operations, materials management, logistics and inventory programs. As CEO Rumia Ambrose-Burbank explains, the firm’s success is no accident. “We are very deliberate in our approach to consolidating our clients’ purchasing operations as well as customizing a broad spectrum of viable value chain solutions. What makes VMS truly unique is that our clients can leverage our skills, expertise and sheer scale in a way that is often out of reach to their single enterprise.” By reducing costs of procurement by a typical 25 to 35 percent, clients can focus their organizations on core competencies and higher value-added activities. Ambrose-Burbank makes a strong case for VMS involvement: “We reduce the costs of transactional processing, we tap into category expertise and use our market leverage to deliver concrete savings to our clients and we reduce cycle time and improve sourcing efficiency. We also provide our clients with a one-stop e-commerce destination tool, mitigating the need for our clients to make major IT investments.”

Vision Computer Solutions
Northville, Mich.
www.vcsolutions.com
Founded in 1995 on the premise of providing technology management and support solutions for small to medium sized businesses, Vision Computer Solutions has done what it promised. And more. Today, the firm will even go to a client’s home, where it provides expert computer repair or even computer purchase advice. CEO David Marino says the approach fulfills a need Vision saw from its inception. “We recognized a need in this industry to provider high-level support and solutions to businesses that normally would not have access to such resources. Most small businesses do not have the resources to hire the quality of IT administration that we employ, so by taking advantage of our services they end up with the benefits of this skill set without having to pay the salary.” Still, Vision’s approach remains rare, according to Marino. “True managed service firms are few and far between. There are many companies that claim to provide these services but do not have the technology integrated in their own environment to do so. Vision made a large investment in itself to provide these managed services as they should be delivered to our clients effectively, efficiently, and at a cost that is easy to digest.” In the process, the company has earned its place as a valued partner. “Very rarely do we work with someone without forming a great, lasting relationship,” notes Marino. “Our goal is to become a valued technical resource to our clients.”

W Industries
Detroit
www.w-industries.net
A metal fabrication company that services the defense, automotive and industrial sectors, W Industries boasts a depth of experience in processing, fabricating and welding a wide array of metals and consistently exceeding customer quality and delivery expectations. The company says it is driven by a passion for unique and inventive thinking dedicated to the highest craftsmanship and quality standards. W professionals have focused on engineering excellence and advanced manufacturing processes to produce ground-breaking solutions that exceed the industry’s ever changing demands. The company’s full service offerings include engineering, design and program management expertise and its manufacturing processes provide state of the art laser, plasma cutting, forming, welding, metal finishing and painting, all in house.

Walsh College
Troy, Mich.
www.walshcollege.edu
As one of the best recognized names among private business-centric educational institutions in its market, Walsh College continues to offer practical, accessible business education to the residents of southeast Michigan. As President Stephanie W. Bergeron explains, a commitment made when the school was founded in 1922 stands firm, even as the area struggles. “We are committed to helping our community survive this crisis, learn from it, and come out of it stronger, more responsible and prosperous,” says Bergeron. With some 86 percent of Walsh alumni remaining in Michigan when they graduate, the effort made is one that will continue to reap benefits. “They will continue to fuel our state’s economy with their intellectual capital,” says Bergeron. Longstanding partnerships with several area community colleges gives transferring students up to 82 transfer credits toward a bachelor’s degree. Once at Walsh, the curriculum blends business education theory and practice such that its graduates are well prepared for the jobs for which they are hired. “Employers value the ability of Walsh graduates to go right to work, applying what they’ve learned in the classroom,” adds Bergeron.

Wellco Corporation
Royal Oak, Mich.
www.wellcocorp.com
When it comes to managing health care costs, Wellco takes what’s arguably a different yet refreshing approach. “Rather than focus on what’s wrong, we focus on doing what’s right,” says CEO Scott Foster. “Other programs that incorporate cost sharing and a change of benefit plans merely shift costs, often without regard to the core problem: the demand for health care.” The firm’s wellness programs combine cutting-edge technology while integrating best practices and a documentation of outcomes. The result, says Foster, can be savings of tens of thousands of dollars annually. “Wellness is a revolution that can enhance almost every aspect of your company where, after all, your company’s fiscal health is the bottom line,” he says. “We are the only return-on-investment health system with measurable results.” Foster, who says the approach has been tested in hundreds of organizations, points to quantifiable improvements in corporate health costs and risks. “Previously, businesses have not had the resources necessary to effectively cut health care costs and to know which of their efforts are working.” Foster is hoping the wellness approach, which he calls “white label and rebrandable,” finds its way into various health systems, health plans and benefit firms who want to build their brand without sacrificing outcomes.

ZenaComp
Farmington Hills, Mich.
www.zenacomp.com
In some scenarios, surprises can be downright delightful. But typically not when it comes to technology. It’s that premise that ZenaComp takes with its clients, says CEO Mark Lichtman. “ZenaComp’s pledge is keeping our clients fully informed with no surprises, especially in this very complex industry.” Acknowledging that break-fix technology services are fraught with frustration, Lichtman says his company has found a better way. “We realized how costly and inefficient this model of delivering technology service was and developed ZenaCare, our proactive and proven approach to computer network management and database development.” One client in particular has found the approach to be so attractive, it’s hired ZenaComp as its chief information officer, network manager, and technology service engineer. “Since ZenaComp manages computer networks more efficiently, with more knowledge and experience, this customer is saving 25 percent of what they would pay with their own internal staff,” notes Lichtman.