The Columbus, Ohio, area is one the nation’s most-promising cities. Its job market is growing faster than the national average. The metro area of more than 1.9 million residents is home to 15 Fortune 1000 corporations. It hosts one of the U.S.’s largest academic powers in Ohio State University and counts 23 college campuses in its neighborhoods. Columbus Business First covers the region’s dynamic business community with the most authoritative report found in Columbus, and its news staff analyzes and provides insights into the business and economic developments that keep the city abuzz.
Crisis Management: Expanding Andelyn Bioscience on becoming for-profit, navigating pandemic
Even before starting construction on a $100 million facility, a biotech affiliate of Nationwide Children's Hospital had to adapt to two huge changes simultaneously: Switching into for-profit mindset and securing safety in a pandemic.
Andelyn Biosciences Inc. is building a 185,000-square-foot manufacturing facility for the genetic materials used in gene therapy research and treatments. Eventually the factory could double in size if it adds enough commercial-scale clients.
The company already has grown to 120 employees from 100 at the start of the year, most of whom transferred from the hospital's Research Institute. With more than a decade supporting research and clinical trials, the staff already was flexible, adaptable and committed to quality, CEO Mayo Pujols said.
"So as we’ve transitioned to a for-profit, geared towards commercial company, the I think the add-on for our team has been more of around a mindset of scalability, and the mindset of: It is important to think about it as a business," he said in the latest episode of Columbus Business First's Crisis Management podcast.
That means paying more attention to controlling costs while investing in processes and systems to ready for a much larger production output.
"Rather than just having quality as a mindset and you have to do quality work, we actually put the systems in place to ensure quality is engineered into everything we do.
"We kind of took it a step further and preparation for being a commercial entity, and that’s been new to the team. ... And they’ve done really well."
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic in Ohio coincided with an already planned shutdown to bring in new equipment for larger production capacity within the Research Institute, until the new facility is ready. Before reopening in September, Andelyn had to layer in safety measures such as modifying work schedules to keep employees distant if they can't work from home.
Some employees did contract Covid-19 or had to quarantine because of exposure, Pujols said.
"More recently, we are starting to now see impacts from our suppliers," he said. "And I think we’re not alone.
"We were able to do a little bit of stockpiling, but not probably enough to say we’re out of the woods."
Crisis Management: Nikola Labs on the Covid 'fog of war' and changing CEOs
As of January, Nikola Labs Inc. was headed for its best year ever. By April, like many businesses shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, the startup was in "the fog of war."
In the latest episode of Crisis Management, Columbus Business First's podcast about steering a business through the pandemic, Nikola co-founder Will Zell and CEO Brian Graham discuss how Graham succeeded Zell mid-pandemic after two years as COO.
After a more than seven-year mentorship relationship, the two had essentially co-led the company with distinct yet complementary approaches.
Women of Influence: FrazierHeiby CEO Lauren Parker
Lauren Parker is no stranger to imposter syndrome.
She questioned herself in her early days as an account executive in the high-stakes world of New York City public relations firms right out of school. Now in her early 30s and a little less than a year into her tenure as CEO of Columbus' FrazierHeiby, she's aware that she might not fit the profile of a top executive at a decades-old firm.
"I have to look in the mirror every day and say, 'Am I old enough to do this? Do I have the experience to do this?'" Parker said during a recent taping of our Women of Influence podcast.
But she knows the answer to that question is yes, in part because she isn't doing it alone. Parker took over the firm at the start of 2020 in a leadership transition that also saw Ann Mulvany and Whitney Somerville, then vice presidents at the firm, join her as senior partners and co-owners.
Together the three women have laid out "grand plans" for the firm's future, Parker said, plans that look a little different because of their relatively young ages. And they've adapted those plans as needed amid the unexpected challenges wrought by the pandemic, working together to keep the staff safe and clients happy.
Check out the full episode of the podcast for more on how the unique leadership structure and open communication help Parker feel confident in her role, plus her takes on how she's melding her New York City experience with the opportunities and culture of a firm based in Columbus, Ohio.
Women of Influence: Centric Consulting VP Gina Heffner on bettering business by reducing travel
When Gina Heffner started her career, she was a typical consultant: a "road warrior," traveling all over the country week in and week out.
She didn't mind and made it work, aided by the fact that her husband also traveled extensively and the couple didn't have children yet.
But after a while, she found her way to Centric Consulting, a firm founded with the explicit purpose of bucking that industry norm.
"Centric was started by three guys who said … 'We still want to do great work for great clients, but we want to work where we live,'" Heffner said. "And so 20 years ago, they founded Centric with the express purpose of getting consultants off the road."
Heffner, who now leads the firm's Columbus office, said the different approach at Centric helped her identify what work/life balance looked like for her, even as she still spent plenty of hours helping clients.
"If you ask 10 people what the definition of their work/life balance is, you're going to get 10 different answers, right? … I work lots of hours. I probably work … 50 to 60, sometimes 70 hours a week," Heffner said during a recent taping of our Women of Influence podcast.
"For me, work/life balance was always: I'm not getting on an airplane, and I'm here to put my kids on the school bus, I'm here to get them off the school bus. … I get to schedule my day, every day, based on what's important that particular day."
Crisis Management: Simple Times Mixers on e-commerce, to-go cocktails and what growth looks like now
Simple Times Mixers’ big problem prior to 2020 was space.
Its first two years of business were spent building its brand and then trying to keep up with demand as it used rental kitchen space.
Last year it finally moved into a home of its own, not just giving it a retail storefront and space for events, but also quadrupling its production size with plenty of space to grow.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit this spring and knocked out 75% of its sales.
A year that was intended for big growth — geographic expansion, adding jobs — became one about survival.
How did Tinus and his team get Simple Times to survive the past eight months? How have consumers changed? What does the growth opportunity look like now?
Tinus talked with Columbus Business First for this episode of Crisis Management where he shares those insights and experiences and touts a big reputation win in a national poll this fall.
Women of Influence: ImprovEdge CEO Karen Hough
Karen Hough has built her business around her improv background, but it came in handy in a way she never could have expected amid the challenges of 2020.
"We proved to ourselves that we are truly improvisers," said Hough, founder and CEO of ImrovEdge, a Powell-based business that provides business training workshops "with an improv twist."
Prior to the pandemic, Powell said, about 5% of the firm's clients had taken advantage of its services virtually. The arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic prompted a quick pivot.
"We had to then go to our clients help them understand that we have the ability to provide the same services, the same programs we were already contracted for, but do it virtually on any platform they choose," Hough said. "So I have this amazing group of producers, you name a technology platform, they have mastered it. And so we literally went from serving 5% of our clients virtually to 100% of our clients in a space of about two to three weeks."
Check out the latest episode of our Women of Influence podcast to hear more from Hough about how the company tackled that task – it required a lot of 20-hour days for the founder – as well as more on how she used her performance background to build an unusual business.