Columbus CEO - May 2020 issue

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C O V I D - 19 • S P E C I A L I S S U E

When will How will we restart How do I file for unemployment? we be able the economy? to meet in person Should I just put it again? on a credit card?

When can we reopen? When will I be WILL SPORTS able to begin marketing EVER BE THE again? SAME?

Will opening When will China completely prematurely hurt recover? us in the long run?

Will we have to raise taxes?


What is our 2020 budget bad is going to How the recession look like? going to get?

Are we really essential?

How will I make my loan payments this month?

How can we Is there innovate to ever going survive? to be Will my employees ever want to work in an office again?

enough toilet paper?

Will I still be able to provide health insurance for my employees?

Will state government take our funding away?


ill we Will I get any help from W be able the federal government? to make How will I find a new job?

When will the virus How long will we be run its wearing masks? course?


Will there be enough ventilators WILL MY INDUSTRY for the patients SURVIVE who need them?

WHEN ARE MY KIDS GOING BACK TO SCHOOL? How will this crisis change the workforce?

How many staff members will I have to furlough?

How can I other Will my suppliers support business remain solvent? throughowners this?

WHAT IS MAY If I can’t fulfill this contract, GOING TO amI going to get sued? LOOK LIKE?

Are my investments safe? ever going to be the same How will we take care Where will I Will my Isaslife it was in the before-times? What if I get sick? of our most vulnerable? find capable customers new staff WHAT’S GOING H ow am I going members once I TO HAPPEN ever come can hire again? TO THE REAL ESTATE MARKET? to retire now? back? Are people going to travel THIS CRISIS?




Is rescheduling for August too soon? September?


How can my When will May 2020 business model we get back to 05 be improved? work? How do I turn this crisis 77384 8 into an opportunity?

CEOCover_Final_May2020.indd 1

What is this Am I going to lose going to do to GDP? my life savings?

like they used to?

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Photos by Rob Hardin


COVID-19 • Special package

Giant institutions shuttered. Downtown skyscrapers, dark and quiet. Entire sports seasons canceled. April was rough. But amid social distancing, spirits shone. People put aside their egos and fears. Columbus researchers made groundbreaking discoveries at record speed. Building projects continued on schedule. And small business owners kept hope alive.

May 2020 Cover design by

Yogesh chaudhary May 2020 l ColumbusCEO

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Departments 62 E. Broad St., P.O. Box 1289 Columbus, Ohio 43216 Phone: 614-540-8900 • Fax: 614-461-8746


Reopening the economy will not be easy, but thankfully generosity abounds.


81 Leaderboards

Columbus Site Manager

Central Ohio data centers

Alan D. Miller

Publisher/General Manager


Ray Paprocki

Associate Publisher/Advertising Director

07 Breakdown

Rheta Gallagher Editorial

The region’s health care leaders share what it’s been like on the frontlines.


Katy Smith



Disability Rights Ohio is an advocate for those often overlooked.

A former fighter pilot and ER doc, OhioHealth’s CEO is in the midst of the biggest battle of his career—attacking the COVID-19 crisis.


Yogesh Chaudhary Digital

Julanne Hohbach

Columbus innovators band together to tackle coronavirus issues.


Brittany Moseley Custom Content PROJECT MANAGER

Emma Frankart Henterley Photography PHOTO EDITOR

Associate photo editor

Rob Hardin

Company’s software locks down data with puzzle-like technology.

74 Preparing for a sale

18 Spotlight: Small Business

A sound strategy helps business owners be ready even in the worst of times.

Roll Bicycle company hopes people get moving and keep moving during crisis.

77 Guardian angels

20 Spotlight: Emerging Business

Tim Johnson

24 Spotlight: Innovation In-Depth

14 Tech Talk


Dr. Stephen Markovich

22 Spotlight: Nonprofit

08 Profile: Dr. Stephen Markovich

Jeff Bell

Photos courtesy Stephen Webster/OhioHealth

05 Editor’s Notes

Nurse navigators help cancer patients deal with their challenges.

The owner of confectioner Mmelo finds that business slowing down isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Advertising ADVERTISING Manager

Susan Kendall


Terri Tribbie, Telana Veil, Amy Vidrick



Digital Specialist

Steven Mace


Samantha Belk Marketing


Lauren Reinhard

Our annual celebration of the best places to work in Central Ohio. Inserted after page 24




Columbus CEO (ISSN 1085-911X) is published monthly by Gannett. All contents of this magazine are copyrighted © Gannett Co., Inc. 2020, all rights reserved. Reproduction or use, without written permission, of editorial or graphic content in any manner is prohibited. Publisher assumes no responsibility for return of unsolicited materials. Known address of publication is 62 E. Broad St., Columbus, Ohio 43215. Periodicals postage paid at Columbus, Ohio, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Senzd address changes to Columbus CEO, 62 E. Broad St., P.O. Box 1289, Columbus, OH 43216.

The local chapter of The Gathering USA, unlike its national counterpart, welcomed women and men to its events. Scattered chapters of the national organization continue to operate. Local donors to the group, which changed its name to Rela when it adopted a new focus in the past few years, broke from Rela because it no longer catered exclusively to Christians. A story in the April 2020 issue mischaracterized information.

l April Toll Free: 877-688-8009 2020 2 ColumbusCEO

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Columbus CEO is postponing its Top Workplaces awards ceremony. We are following the recommendations of public officials in addressing the coronavirus outbreak. Originally set for May 27, the event will be rescheduled at a date not yet determined. Columbus CEO will communicate those details as soon as they are available. We look forward to honoring our award winners at that time. SPONSORS

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Editor’s Notes *

So many more questions than answers


6:32 pm

Photo by rob hardin

he news has been hard to watch this month, yet it can be difficult to tear yourself away from it. With a virus we’ve never seen before and don’t fully understand still out there making people ill, we are being told we’re going to begin a soft reopening of Ohio’s businesses May 1. What will life look like this summer? That’s a matter of conjecture. The Columbus Partnership is gathering survey responses regarding attitudes about what a return to work would need to involve, and Battelle is scenario modeling outcomes to share with public health officials. There’s a strong chance we’ll all be wearing masks. Plastic barriers between workers and customers will feature prominently in the retail world and health care settings. Indoor spaces of many types probably will be subject to limits on the number of people inside at any given time. Though I’m sure there will be plenty of loud complaints from some corners of Ohio, I believe we will make the necessary adjustments and accommodations to protect our health and the health of our neighbors. We won’t be walking openfaced into bars and restaurants to enjoy happy hour or dinner together anytime soon. How to define the experience of living and running businesses in the time of COVID-19? Neighborhood sidewalks filled with people out walking in the spring twilight. Birthday parties with loved ones treasuring the chance to connect on Zoom. Unprecedented mass unemployment. Trepidation in every grocery store. Simultaneously missing one another and being deeply afraid of the infection we could be carrying. So many more questions than answers. The economy is in tatters. How bad it’s going to get is anyone’s guess. Our public institutions, behemoths in the

What would have been Gallery Hop April 4 community, were brought down overnight. Hungry people are showing up at pantries in droves. But a sense of optimism and caring stubbornly persists. “Maybe you just don’t realize it when you’re in the middle of it,” Tom Katzenmeyer told me when I asked how he’s managed to essentially jump through rings of fire in the past few weeks. As CEO of the Greater Columbus Arts Council and finance chair for the board of trustees at the Columbus Metropolitan Library, in quick succession he had to cancel the Greater Columbus Arts Festival and vote to furlough three quarters of library staff indefinitely as the coronavirus ravaged the community. “The sector that I work in, the arts, has really been knocked on its ass, and I don’t think there’s any better way to say that,” Katzenmeyer says. But “people in this city want their arts.” Generosity has poured in, he says, in the form of major corporate donations, a $1.5 million gift from the Columbus Foundation, a commitment

from the Franklin County commissioners, and a successful Artists’ Relief Fund campaign that raised more than $230,000 in less than a month, much of it in small increments like $25 and $50 gifts, he says. With social services agencies straining under demand, Lisa Courtice, CEO of United Way of Central Ohio, is seeing generosity, too. The agency that serves as a “systemic umbrella” to raise and deploy money for basic needs raised $1.7 million for COVID relief in a few short weeks, “new money from donors we had never heard from before, who are quick to want to be part of the solution and engage,” Courtice says. Businesses have “been even kinder and more open.”

Katy Smith, Editor May 2020 l ColumbusCEO

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Learn more at

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Breakdown Compiled by Laurie Allen + Designed by Yogesh Chaudhary

Voices of our health care leaders Over the past several weeks, those charged with the region’s health and well-being have faced challenges unlike any they have faced before. Our health care professionals say they’ve found strength in numbers. From building a convention-sized field hospital to canceling surgeries, all have had to dig deep in this unprecedented time. Here’s what Columbus’ health care leaders have had to say.

“We don’t stand alone. I think we need to feel a little more confident in ourselves. Anxiety is our enemy.” Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, OhioHealth chief medical officer

“We will get through this, and we may be pleasantly surprised at how things could change for the better. I’m very optimistic.” Dr. Nicholas Kreatsoulas, chief clinical officer, Mount Carmel Health System

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d encounter a worldwide pandemic. … I truly believe when we get to the other end of this, we will be stronger.”

“If I sit here trembling at my desk being anxious about [the worst-case scenario], I won’t get anything done. I’m taking this one day at a time.”

Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Columbus Public Health Commissioner

Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

“I believe the main lesson is how important it is for everyone to pull together proactively for the same goals, and Ohio has been a national model for that.” Tim Robinson, CEO, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

“Have we done all we can logically? Without widespread test kits, it’s an elusive diagnosis.” Dr. John Weigand, chief medical officer, National Church Residences May 2020 l ColumbusCEO

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profile By Steve Wartenberg

Stephen Markovich President and CEO

OhioHealth Age: 61

In position since: July 2019 Previous: Executive vice president of OhioHealth, president of OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, major general and commander of the Ohio Air National Guard Education: Bachelor’s degree in

engineering, University of Michigan, 1980; MBA, Wright State University, 1982; MD, Ohio State University, 1993

Family: Markovich and his wife, Kathy, live in Dublin and have three children: Andrew, Alex and Ian.

Caretaker in chief Dr. Stephen Markovich has trained his entire life for crisis command—as a military pilot, family and ER physician and health care executive. Now, his skills are being put to the ultimate test. Situational awareness. Early in his Air Force career, Stephen Markovich learned these two words were the key to success—and survival. “Situational awareness is being aware of what’s going on around you at all times, where you are in a threedimensional space,” says Markovich, who flew the A-7D Corsair and F-16

Fighting Falcon on three Middle East deployments. “I’ve been shot at from the ground with missiles, in the air with missiles, from the ground with guns and mortars—and I’ve never been hit, knock on wood. I’m even prouder of the fact that everyone under my command made it home.” And now, Markovich, 61, a family and emergency physician and the president and CEO of OhioHealth, faces perhaps the biggest challenge of his accomplished careers in the military and in medicine: Leading the region’s largest hospital network though an unprecedented pandemic in which lives are at stake and every

day includes a new crisis. The situation is dire, and it requires awareness and leadership to create, coordinate and carry out OhioHealth’s emergency plan. Gov. Mike DeWine once estimated there could be as many as 10,000 new COVID-19 cases a day in Ohio by May, a situation that could overwhelm the region’s hospitals. Markovich compares the coronavirus crisis to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. “It’s very similar in that this is a disaster of national proportions and could devastate lives and the national economy,” he says. “But it’s happening in much more of a slow motion with a

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Stephen Markovich lot more unknowns.” With his knowledge of situational awareness and a military-style command structure in place at OhioHealth, Markovich has led his team of 12 hospitals and 200 ambulatory sites, hospices and home health sites through the equivalent of flying combat missions in a war zone. “We have a complete Incident Command Center in place,” Markovich says. “The hub is here [at the OhioHealth David P. Blom Administrative Center in Columbus], with Incident Command Center spokes on all our campuses. It’s all about creating the right team and structures and role

Photos courtesy Stephen Webster/OhioHealth

I don’t think I could have gotten through everything I’ve gotten through and come out on the other side without the people in my life.

clarity, and empowering our people to make decisions. It’s how you protect your people, protect and communicate with your patients and manage your supply chain.”

First flight Growing up in Detroit, Markovich had two dreams: The Air Force and medicine. The first goal came from his father, Lee, who had served in the Air Force and took his son to local air shows; the second from his mother, Joline, a nurse. There was one problem: “To be a pilot in the Air Force, you have to go to college and be an officer,

and you had to join before you’re 26 if you wanted to fly,” Markovich says. This meant medical school would have to wait. And wait, and wait, while Markovich flew fighter jets. “People who have never flown [a fighter jet] don’t really understand what it’s all about,” he says. “Once you’ve flown upside down at 700 miles an hour, you never want to stop doing it.” While a military career was tempting and rewarding, especially the upside down at 700 mph part, Markovich was determined to become a doctor. “A lot of folks said, yeah kid, you’re dreaming, but I figured out how to do it,” he says. The figuring involved a switch from active duty to the Ohio Air National Guard, and the start of medical school at Ohio State University at the ripe, old age of 29. Between his second and third years of medical school in 1991, Markovich was deployed to the Middle East as part of the Gulf War and flew combat missions in the no-fly zone over Iraq. “The military is so focused on safety and teamwork and leadership,” Markovich says. “People tap you on the shoulder at various points in your career, in the military and in medicine, and say ‘here’s an opportunity.’ ” The opportunities came quickly. And Markovich dove in. He logged more than 2,000 hours as a fighter pilot, led the development of the military medical-response task force for medical disasters in the state, rose to the rank of major general and served as commander of the Ohio Air National Guard. “On the morning of 9/11, I was seeing patients,” Markovich says. “My nurse came in and said, ‘Marko, look at the TV,’ and I saw the second plane hit the tower. My pager went off. It was the guard in Springfield and they said, when can you get here? I said, May 2020 l ColumbusCEO

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OhioHealth CEO Stephen Markovich’s approach to dealing with the pandemic: Hope for the best and plan for the worst; put the right people in the right places; and ultimately, find a way to evolve and take the waste out of health care.

How long do you think this COVID-19 pandemic will last? We just don’t know. It could last nine weeks, it could be 16 weeks or even into the fall. We just don’t know. We hope for the best and plan for the worst. And, if it takes a year to develop a vaccine, we could have another round of this in the next flu season. Do you think the decision to shut the Arnold Sports Festival to spectators helped slow the spread of COVID-19 here in Ohio? I think when we look back, in retrospect, it will be significant. We may never know the exact number of cases it prevented, but it sent a message that we are taking this seriously and putting the health of the community in front of the economic impact. It was a very strong message from Governor DeWine and Mayor Ginther and put Ohio out in front. How will the COVID-19 pandemic change health care? Before we can evolve, we first have to get through this. And then rebuild our economy in multiple sectors. But, I can say that in health care, so many smaller hospitals were already living on razorthin margins. We need to find a way to raise the clinical bar and preserve capacity, especially in our more rural regions. We have to figure out how to finance it and make it more cost effective. We have to take the waste out of it. Will all the teleconferencing between doctors and patients taking place now because of the coronavirus be part of

OhioHealth’s Incident Command Center (before masks were widespread)

this future? Yes. Look at how much work we’re doing remotely now. This has forced us to change our behaviors relatively quickly. A few months ago, not many people had heard of Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health. I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting her, but I’m so impressed by her skill and passion and her ability to navigate an extremely complicated system. She’s a rock star, and when this thing is over she can write a book or maybe be on Dancing With the Stars. Has it been hard for you to step away from seeing patients as you assumed higher leadership roles, especially during this crisis? I made the decision when I was named president of Riverside to step away from seeing patients. Because of my schedule—I didn’t want to be disrespectful to my patients. Philosophically, I’m still taking care of patients. But not one at a time—5,000 at a time. I can influence and set priorities. I try and be a visible leader and put scrubs on and go into our operating rooms and talk to our doctors and nurses and patients. It keeps me grounded. In the past, during something like [the COVID-19 pandemic], I would have been in the trenches leading one of the incident command teams. Now, my role is to put the right people in the right places and work on the overall structure and interface with the community and city and state and the other hospitals and CEOs. I’ve learned a lot about being a CEO and I’ve learned a lot about how strong and amazing our people are.

I’m on my way—and that day we were flying missions over the United States as part of the no-fly zone.” Markovich and his Ohio Air National Guard unit were deployed to the Middle East twice. In his “other” career in medicine, Markovich practiced family medicine and was an emergency-room physician. He served as president of Riverside Methodist Hospital, was OhioHealth’s senior vice president for acute care operations and was named the president and CEO of the region’s largest health system in July 2019, replacing the retiring David Blom, who led OhioHealth for 17 years and remains a key business leader in the community. “It became clear to us that Steve was the right guy for the job,” Blom says. “He has the right values. He’s grounded, and humble and smart, and people like to follow him because of these characteristics.” Soon after Markovich settled fully into his new role, which followed a year-long transition period, Blom began receiving emails from former OhioHealth colleagues. “They thanked me for the transition period and supporting Steve for the role,” he says. “The number of emails has accelerated in the midst of this crisis.”

The rules of leadership Over the years, in the military and in hospital administration, Markovich observed the leaders around him and took notes on how they brought out the best in the men and women they led. “It’s all about people,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s combat or if it’s surgery, leadership is all about how to get people to work cohesively and collaboratively and achieve more together than they could on their own. You do it by inspiring and challenging and teaching. You have to build trust,

It doesn’t matter if it’s combat or if it’s surgery, leadership is all about how to get people to work cohesively and collaboratively.

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and people have to know you’ll go to the mat for them and you’re invested in their development and their lives. I have had some experiences that forced the development of these skills.” Soon after he took over at OhioHealth, all of Markovich’s leadership skills would be put to the ultimate test.

Pandemic closes in Health officials started hearing about a new flu-type virus in December, Markovich says of what would soon be called the novel coronavirus, which spread from China to continents and countries around the world, and eventually to Ohio, causing people to become ill with the COVID-19 disease. OhioHealth’s Incident Command Center created teams of senior leaders responsible for 10 critical areas: supplies, inpatient, emergency department, surgery, access/security, redeployment of personnel, ambulatory, employer services, home care and communication. At the daily meetings, which Markovich attends via video to stay safe, each team leader

Markovich with OhioHealth staff during a recent week. gives an update on their area, and Markovich asks: “What barriers are you facing, what do you need from senior leadership?” Markovich declined to share the number of OhioHealth patients and hospital employees diagnosed with COVID-19, saying this was being handled by Gov. DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health. “We have had several

positive results [for COVID-19] and we submit all that information every day to the state,” he says. There were 13,275 diagnosed COVID-19 cases in Ohio on April 22, with 557 deaths, numbers that were rising daily. There were 2,779 patients in Ohio hospitals, with 838 in intensive care units. “Not everyone who is diagnosed is being admitted to the hospital, about 25 percent are,”

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Markovich says. “And, of that 25 percent, about 20 percent are in the ICU and not everyone in the ICU needs to be on a ventilator. Right now, we have an adequate supply of ventilators and we continue to look for more; partnering with surgery centers, [obtaining] machines used for anesthesia; I think we’re in good shape now.” Testing patients to determine if they have COVID-19 is another important issue, and one that took a significant amount of time in January and all the way into March. “Early on, it took about seven days to get the results, then about five days,” Markovich says. “If someone was sick and dehydrated and not able to take care of them-

selves, they were admitted and treated as if they have COVID-19 until we got the test results back and knew. Now, it’s down to hours, less than two hours with our in-house testing kits.” Personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff also has been something to track closely in the battle against COVID-19 as hospitals in New York and around the country began reporting shortages in mid-March. “At the moment, we have enough personal protection gear,” Markovich said in early April. “I get a report every morning and we talk about it in terms of days of inventory we have on hand for masks, gloves and scrubs. Periodically we’re concerned, and we’re working

Stephen Markovich with his F-16 Fighting Falcon in 2001.

hard with our supply chain. Our community has been amazing and people and commercial businesses are coming to us and saying they have N95 masks, where can they drop them off.” There also have been reported shortages of ventilators, but in early April Markovich felt OhioHealth’s supply was adequate. “And, we’ll continue to look for alternatives and additional ventilators from our partners and surgery centers and anesthesia operations that use them. And, if we run out, we can ventilate a person by hand with a [ventilator] bag.” OhioHealth hospitals passed out 500 iPads to patients with the coronavirus or a respiratory illness that could be the coronavirus to reduce the number of times nurses have to enter their rooms. The iPads allow patients and medical staff to communicate remotely and eliminate unnecessary trips into the room that would require the use of PPE, reducing the number of protective gear items used and discarded. OhioHealth hospitals are using IV poles with extra-long cords so nurses can check and refill IV bags from outside a patient’s room, again reducing the use of PPE. The hospital system has incorporated video conference calls and telehealth visits between physicians and patients, and it eliminated elective surgeries for a time. The goal at OhioHealth, and at hospitals across the country, has been to free up as much medical staff and beds as possible for the growing number of COVID-19 patients in preparation for a surge, which was for a time expected in late April. OhioHealth also brought in additional medical personnel. “We’ve created a process to add to our medical staff,” Markovich says. “New graduates from medical school and residents and physicians in the community who are not affiliated

[Staff are] tireless and so dedicated. And my job is to protect them and take care of them and make sure they take care of themselves. 12 ColumbusCEO l May 2020

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with our hospitals or are retired that have a relationship with us. And new nurses, even before they’ve taken the nursing exam.” Before a fighter pilot takes off, he or she goes through a long series of checklists. “We have these checklists because the human mind can become confused, especially in times of stress,” Markovich says, adding he believes checklists are important in operating rooms and meeting rooms. “I’ve brought these checklist techniques to my teams here. I think the health care field can learn from the military and the nuclear power industry and the transportation industry. How to do things in a complex and high-risk environment where you can’t fail.”

Collaborative care The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on health care systems and hospitals across the nation. The effort in Central Ohio is coordinated by the Central Ohio Hospital Council, which is composed of the CEOs of OhioHealth, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Mount Carmel Health

System and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. All four CEOs are relatively new in their positions. “We are setting up command centers, gathering data and making decisions quickly across multiple institutions,” Jeff Klingler, president and CEO of the Central Ohio Hospital Council, said in late March. “Steve is really good at reaching out to other folks, whether it’s his own folks, the CEOs of the other hospitals, the National Guard, the CEOs of other local companies, city or county officials. He’s on top of it and working with them as soon as possible. I’m not sure if this comes from his military background or from medicine, but I really appreciate his ability to reach out to and work with so many others.” Klingler and the four hospital network CEOs normally meet quarterly and discuss topics such as the opioid epidemic, infant mortality and chronic diseases. “Now, we’re meeting twice a week, teleconferencing,” Markovich says. “That’s one of the things I’m most proud about—how we help each other out and do what’s best for the community as a whole.”

In late March, the Central Ohio Hospital Council announced plans to convert the Greater Columbus Convention Center into a field hospital, stating that the “planning and coordination continues with regional hospitals, nursing homes and surgery centers as we work to maximize our resources.” “The initial plan is for 1,000 beds, but I’m told the physical capacity could swell to 1,500 if there’s the need,” Markovich says. Another thing Markovich is quite proud of is how the men and women he leads have responded to the most challenging health crisis any of them have ever experienced—and put themselves at risk to help others. “They’re tireless and so dedicated,” he says. “And my job is to protect them and take care of them and make sure they take care of themselves and their families and stay safe and resilient. In the military, we talk about the importance of having a good wingman. It’s so important. And, and I’d be proud to take any of these people here [at OhioHealth] as my wingman.” Steve Wartenberg is a freelance writer.

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Tech talk By Cynthia Bent Findlay

‘Can’t Stop’ the tech community Columbus innovators and volunteers join forces to respond to crisis with positivity.

Can’t Stop CBUS Organizers: Jordan Davis, Derek DeHart

Investment to date:

Entirely volunteer based, supported by corporate community Volunteers: 1,000-plus Launch date: March 15, 2020


n effort that started with a tweet has become a movement to lift Central Ohio out of the coronavirus doldrums. Jordan Davis, director of Smart Columbus, was among the first to tap into the zeitgeist the evening of March 15, as COVID-19 be-

gan to shut down life as we knew it. That’s how Can’t Stop CBUS was born. “Thinking out loud... @ SmartCbus and @InnovateOhio should quickly organize a virtual hackathon to crowdsource technology and/or policy solutions that address the challenges people are facing in this time. Thoughts!?!” Davis recalls seeing the writing on the wall. Columbus would have to band together to get through the challenging period ahead. She, a handful of tech community and corporate leaders, and hundreds of volunteers have pushed the idea storm into a fully built series of projects, some of which may live long after the coronavirus crisis has passed. The “mothership”—cantstop-

Photo courtesy CAN’T STOP CBUS

Screenshot courtesy CANT STOP CBUS—now is home base for 15 projects, with more every week. There’s the Curbside Concerts effort, where you can send a musician to serenade a lonely lock-in— and the artist is paid with a grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council. There’s We Feed Cbus, providing restaurants with funds to feed frontline workers and the foodinsecure, and a project supporting the Mid-Ohio Food Collective as it faces record demand. There’s a repository of resources for people making homemade masks with donated materials, helping others stay fit or find employment, tools to help solve the digital divide between students of different income levels, and the list keeps growing. Davis says what’s happening under the hood, though, is what’s most impressive. “We’ve evolved from let’s set up a process to get as many people driving towards impact as possible,” Davis says. “We’ve now created a process to convert ideas into projects, get people onboarded, and track success.” The process can support 30 projects, sharing services like marketing—all through volunteerism. Experts in project flow such as Open Columbus will focus on going beyond minimum viable product,

providing mentoring and process support to get products deployed. More than 20 organizations from the Mid-Ohio Food Collective to TechLife Columbus, BLK Hack and COhatch are marshaling resources. Measurement Resources is helping track impact. Nationwide’s innovation team has pitched in to support some projects, such as one linking parents and teachers with online tools to support home learning. A Slack channel plugs volunteers into projects, and more than 1,000 have signed on. “What we’re saying about our process is we have a fundamental belief that everything is solvable. We can rally as a community to confront these challenges, and the answers might be complex. Someone couldn’t sleep thinking about this or that problem, and we’ve all said yes, let’s see what we can do.” Smart Columbus, she says, has always been around to solve problems. Davis says the process created in less than a month could create new community solutions long-term. “There’s something very powerful about what’s happening right now,” she says. “It should be a muscle we use in good times as well as bad. There will always be a need.” Cynthia Bent Findlay is a freelance writer.

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Celebrating WARM’s Culture Each month, Better Business Bureau Serving Central Ohio is highlighting a local business that exemplifies one of the Torch Award principles, defined as “Character, Culture, Community & Customers.” This month, 2012 Torch Award recipient Westerville Area Resource Ministry (WARM) is being showcased for its commitment to the principle of “Culture,” which states that leaders should steer their organization toward a culture of trust through clarity of purpose, empowering employees and opportunities for growth.

As a leader, how do you unite your team around your organization’s vision and mission statement? We live our mission—our mission, our values are something that we implement daily. And, as leaders, we model that philosophy.Part of the reason people want to work or volunteer here is because they see the passion and compassion that we serve people with. I often say, we live for the mission and we exist because of the very things that we articulate in our mission, vision and values statement. And that statement is not a poster for us; it’s not a punchline. It’s not something we develop and then put on a shelf; it’s something that we live every day. How do you empower your employees to help shape the expectations and culture of your organization? There are a number of ways we do that, including through engagement and employee ownership. When we engage people to do their work on a daily basis, they get a feeling of fulfillment. We know that when people own their work—when they have skin in


150 Heatherdown Drive Westerville, Ohio 614-899-0196 • Executive director: Scott Marier Employees: 16 Founded: 1972 Charity Seal Holder since 2015

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the game—it’s a natural part of what they do. We have the same philosophy when it comes to how we delegate authority. We give our employees the authority that matches their level of responsibility. We have policies and best practices, of course, which really serve as guidelines. Our employees know that they are empowered and that we will stand behind them because we trust them to make the best decision for their clients and our organization.

What practices does your company use that demonstrate leadership’s commitment to individual employees? A key aspect for us is listening to ideas and concerns. For example, last year I personally met with every one of our employees, to listen and discuss our culture, our values, their expectations and our expectations. That was helpful. We also conduct regular meetings with staff, periodic trainings to talk about culture, regular performance reviews, and we offer a specified number of hours per quarter that WARM will invest in an individual’s training, if they want to take an outside class or certification. Really, a lot of what we do is less formal—things like celebrating birthdays or handing out Easter devotionals, because we are a faith-based organization—but they are an essential part of cultivating the kind of culture we want to have here. We want people to be excited about coming to work.

About: WARM provides “a hand up, not a hand-out” to individuals in the Westerville area who are living at or below federal poverty guidelines. In addition to providing food to families in need, WARM offers a number of programs that provide individuals with the tools necessary to promote family stability, improved self-esteem and increased self-sufficiency.

The WARM team accepting their Torch Award in 2012

4/23/20 11:38 AM


Building Trust in Trying Times Now more than ever it’s important to Start With Trust. Along with our partners, we’re working hard to help everyone get through this. Visit to find resources and let us know how BBB can help you.


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spotlight By Laura Newpoff + Photo by rob hardin

Small Business

Rolling with it Bicycle purveyor Roll hopes the pandemic gets more people moving for good.


tuart Hunter got his start in retail design and strategy in 1993 with industry giant Fitch in London. After six years there, he was asked to open the firm’s San Francisco office where, as vice president and creative director, he worked with top brands. He also spent more than a lot of time on airplanes and at dinners. In his pursuit of a healthier lifestyle and remembering how much

“It became apparent to me that, in many ways, the bicycle industry was still all enthusiasts for enthusiasts. I saw an opportunity to attract more people to riding bikes.” Stuart Hunter Founder and CEO, Roll Bicycle Co.

Roll Bicycle Co.

1510 W. Lane Ave., Columbus, 43220 Business: Custom bicycle maker and retailer

with four shops/service centers.

CEO: Stuart Hunter Employees: 25-50 based on the season Founded: 2006 Revenue: Would not disclose

he loved riding bikes as a kid, he started visiting bicycle stores to find the perfect set of wheels to help him get moving again. The experience, however, was anything but a fun ride. “I could get better service getting a $2 cup of coffee,” Hunter says. “I was completely ignored by the 18-yearold kid who worked there.” In 2002, Hunter was recruited to Columbus by NCT Ventures to help turn around one of its portfolio companies, Retail Planning Associates. After the firm was sold, Hunter was able to make an exit in 2005. Even though it had been several years, the experience in San Francisco was fresh in his mind, and it became the inspiration for launching a bicycle company of his own. “It became apparent to me that, in many ways, the bicycle industry was still all enthusiasts for enthusiasts,” Hunter says. “I saw an opportunity to attract more people to riding bikes. Roll Bicycle Company would be a bike store for the rest of us.” Bicycles can be customized in myriad ways from saddle style to frame color in Roll’s shops and on its website, and it also supplies bikes to more than 60 U.S. shops. While major brands insist on massive annual commitments to achieve a certain

tier of pricing, Roll starts retailers with a small selection of bikes and offers custom-builds—there are 400 possible combinations—that can be shipped to them within 72 hours. Roll, like everyone, has been forced to adjust amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Bicycle stores were counted among essential businesses by the state of Ohio, but even as its fourth shop was opening at 317 W. Bridge St. in Dublin, Roll closed its shops to walk-in customers and instead began going to them. It now shares its full inventory online, delivers bikes to customers’ homes and picks up bicycles for repair. Customers can make appointments to test bicycles in the shop, but the company limits those to one per hour and wipes all bikes down upon entry and exit. Last fall, Hunter hired Ryan Hughes as COO to help Roll expand into new markets. An avid cyclist, Hughes brought experience in retail analytics, operations and logistics from his time at Bath & Body Works and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The addition to the executive team was inspired, in part, by the book Traction by Gino Wickman. Hunter says it lays out the case for why “visionaries” need “integrators.” “There’s a difference between be-

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Stuart Hunter and Ryan Hughes ing a local retailer and then rapidly becoming a national supplier and partner,” Hunter says. “You become a different business and need a different level of aptitude and experience. Ryan has a level of experience at scale that we didn’t have.” A goal to double sales at partner shops from 2019 to 2020 stands even as the coronavirus pandemic worsens. “We are hopeful that cycling is seen as one of the approved activities that can help put a silver lining on this crisis,” Hughes says. “I’m optimistic that a lot of people will have developed new, healthy habits out of this and that will lift the cycling industry overall.” To further its mission to move the community, Roll has been working with the nonprofit organization Community Development for all People to train people on Columbus’ South Side as bike technicians and, ideally, Roll will hire them afterward. The “Buy One, Get One” program donates a refurbished bike for every new Roll bike that’s sold. “Bikes change lives,” Hunter says. “How can we get people riding bikes for more reasons, more often and elicit positive change in customers and the community you serve?”

Your guide to what you can’t miss. the Arts the Eats the Community and more @columbusalive

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Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer. May 2020 l ColumbusCEO

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spotlight By Brittany Moseley

Emerging Business

Sweet pause Mmelo Boutique Confections is using the coronavirus crisis as a time to reflect on its business model.


ack in March, which seems like another lifetime rather than a mere two months ago, Michelle Allen was looking ahead for her business, Mmelo Boutique Confections. The previous year had been a learning process for the small business, which makes beautiful, tasty artisanal treats. Allen had figured out wholesale, cultivated a great staff and was in the process of moving to a new kitchen after four years spent at the Economic and Community Development Institute’s Food Fort. Then coronavirus hit.

“I spent the first few days in shock as all our corporate business, catering events, retail and wholesale business went away in the span of 48 hours.”

File/Columbus Monthly/TIM JOHNSON

“I spent the first few days in shock as all our corporate business, catering events, retail and wholesale business went away in the span of 48 hours,” Allen says via email. “Once I stopped hyperventilating, we started to plan. Our days are spent trying to figure out what’s going to get us through this with our business and our amazing team intact.” For Easter, Mmelo offered delivery within a 20-mile radius of its Downtown store. It was a first, and while Allen says it was a success, it also forced her to think about the brand’s business model. “We now have to figure out how to do that outside of the holidays and what a menu of that nature would look and taste like,” Allen says. “We want to make sure that whatever service we invest in now continues to support our business when this thing is over.” Trying to run a small business in the midst of a global pandemic is one of many interesting moments

in Allen’s career. Born and raised in Columbus, she started working in film production after graduating from Ohio State University. That led her to New York, where she ran a production company for a decade. There, she met her husband Paul, who serves as the brand director for Mmelo. After a vacation in Barcelona, Spain, the couple decided to move there. They ended up staying 13 years. It was there that the food bug bit Allen. “There was a real kind of food revolution going on there. All the gastronomy that you hear about now, that all really started there,” Allen says. “I started studying food science in Barcelona. I think probably because I have a child’s palette, I gravitated toward sweet food and started doing confectionery work.” Allen decided she wanted to move home to Columbus to open a shop. She jokes that after two years of negotiations, her husband

Michelle Allen fills Easter orders April 9.

Michelle Allen

Mmelo Boutique Confections

445 N. High St., Columbus, 43215 Business: High-end artisanal treats Founder: Michelle Allen Employees: 9 (before coronavirus) Revenue: Would not disclose

File/Columbus Dispatch/BARBARA J. PERENIC

founder, Mmelo Boutique Confections

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agreed. After moving home in the fall of 2015, Allen held a pop-up at Easton during the holiday season, and a year later opened Mmelo’s Downtown storefront. ECDI has been an invaluable resource during the startup phase, she says. “I had a hair products business before … I was a producer for 13 years … but I had never run a food business, which I can say is entirely different,” Allen says. “I’m still actually honing my understanding of how to run a food business.” Another support for Allen has been Neil Collins, co-leader of Innovate New Albany, a business incubator. Collins says he invested in Mmelo because of the product and the people behind the company. “The Mmelo products are superior. They’re remarkable products—the kind of product that people remark about, they talk to other people about. And when they see it, they don’t forget it,” Collins says. “Michelle was somebody I felt like I could really work with because she was trying to create something [that] would be … treasured by the customer she wanted to serve.” One of Allen’s chief challenges has been staffing. This year she finally found the best team for Mmelo, only to have to furlough many of them due to coronavirus. “We’ll do everything we can not to lose them at this point,” she says. Last year wasn’t exactly a breeze for the business owner, either. “We had anticipated growing 20 percent, 30 percent. We ended up growing 67 percent,” she says. “The accommodation of that additional 37 percent … was huge. We limped to the finish line.” As difficult as the pandemic is on Allen and other business owners, she sees a small blessing in the middle of these tough times. “As bone-crushingly painful as it is, I do think it’s an opportunity to course correct for Mmelo,” she says. “We grew too fast last year, and it was extraordinarily hard and painful managing that. This forced pause is giving us the rare opportunity to really look at our business and make some productive choices about what comes next.” Brittany Moseley is assistant digital editor.



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spotlight By Bob Vitale


Advocating equity Disability Rights Ohio effects change by influence. If that doesn’t work, it goes to court.

“Sometimes we can bring a problem to someone’s attention and they’ll fix it. But when the barriers in the system are so ingrained, that’s when it requires things like a class action.” Kerstin Sjoberg, executive director, Disability Rights Ohio

Disability Rights Ohio 200 Civic Center Drive, Suite 300 Columbus, 43215 • Mission: To advocate for the human, civil and

legal rights of people with disabilities in Ohio.

Executive director: Kerstin Sjoberg Employees: 63 Revenue: $5.3 million (2019)



health care facility in Cincinnati told an employee she had to keep her service dog on a leash, something her paralysis made impossible. She lost her job after the dog was banned. A high school student in Summit County spent her days in a classroom by herself because her autism presented a communications challenge. A Dayton shopping mall designated a bus stop almost two football fields away from its nearest entrance. No sidewalk meant people using wheelchairs had to negotiate an obstacle course on their way inside. Across the state, people turn to Co-

Kerstin Sjoberg lumbus-based Disability Rights Ohio when barriers block access to jobs, schooling, public accommodations and services. The nonprofit group is among a nationwide network of government-designated organizations set up to protect and advocate for Americans with disabilities. That mission includes taking state agencies and private entities to court. As part of its federal and state designations, Disability Rights Ohio inspects facilities that serve people with disabilities and investigates allegations of abuse or neglect. But it also employs less confrontational ways of effecting change. “It’s not always completely adversarial,” says Kerstin Sjoberg, who became executive director in March after 11 years with the organization. “Sometimes we can bring a problem to someone’s attention and they’ll fix it. But when the barriers in the system are so ingrained, that’s when it requires things like a class action.” Sjoberg, a lawyer, says she wants people to feel empowered to demand their rights. But she understands why they sometimes find that difficult. “When you’re dependent on, whether it’s a private person or a

public agency or a service provider for care, it creates vulnerabilities,” she says. “Maybe you’re afraid to complain because you’ll lose your services. Maybe you like the person who’s helping you and you don’t want to get them into trouble.” Jason Johnson and his wife were told by the Warren Local School District that their daughter Lakia, who has Down syndrome, could not join a traditional kindergarten classroom. They joined a lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Education that was recently settled. For 15 years—Lakia is now 21— Disability Rights Ohio helped with school officials, and the district has become much more amenable—“it also was an education for them,” Johnson says. Lakia has flourished. She was a member of the homecoming court a few years ago. In Cincinnati, a complaint filed in U.S. District Court motivated a rethinking of the service dog’s ban, and the woman returned to work. In Dayton, a federal lawsuit is pending against owners of the Dayton Mall and several retail tenants. Bob Vitale is a freelance writer.

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Media Sponsor:

Uncommon collaboration. Unrivaled impact. We know even the best are better together. Ready to join in?

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spotlight By Erin Laviola + Photo by Rob hardin


Data guard dog New encryption software aims to lock up data and keep privacy intact.


nce data has been stored online, whether in a cloudbased file or exchanged via email, it may be vulnerable to hackers. Central Ohio company LockDown has developed a protective shield to guard against these attacks, both from modern technologies and, potentially, against the more sophisticated computers of the future. “The company was founded based on an encryption that was built to provide quantum resistance,” CEO AJ Auld says. “Today’s encryption is mathematical-based. Our patented solution is both mathematical and random data-based.” To protect sets of information, the

“It’d be like taking your puzzle and shredding it into very small pieces. Then add a random set of other puzzles that have also been shredded.” AJ Auld, LockDown CEO


250 W. Old Wilson Bridge Road Suite 140 • Columbus 43085 Business: Communications platform that

protects user data with patented encryption.

CEO: AJ Auld Employees: 7 Raised to date: $4.8 million

AJ Auld encryption needs to be as difficult as possible to crack. Think of LockDown’s technology like a puzzle. “It’d be like taking your puzzle and shredding it into very small pieces. Then add a random set of other puzzles that have also been shredded,” Auld says. “Throw them all in the same area and then try to figure out which ones belong to your puzzle.” Founder and chief investor Randy Wilcox, a Columbus real estate developer, was inspired to launch LockDown after meeting the engineers who developed the encryption software. “These guys had figured out how to do encryption much better than anyone else. As quantum computing becomes available, all of the things encrypted with current technology could be broken. We think our product wouldn’t be included in that category.” At this stage, LockDown does not make any promises about whether it could withstand an attack from a quantum computer because quantum is not yet here. The technology is still in the research phase. In the meantime, LockDown is focused on guarding data in a “zero knowledge, zero trust” environment. The LockDown consumer product is a messaging platform in which the user has control over how their data is used, even when sharing it with others. Once the partner no longer needs your information, you can revoke all access to it. LockDown users rely on threefactor authentication to access the

system and there are no passwords, which are frequently the target in phishing attacks. Such attacks are among the most common security risks companies face. According to the FBI, compromised business email accounts cost American companies $1.7 billion in 2019. Steve Swick, chief security officer for AEP, says employees routinely receive hoax emails from compromised accounts. “We coach our employees [about] what to click on and make sure they understand what a phishing email looks like,” Swick says. “A decade ago, we could protect people from themselves. We could put in controls. Today, everybody is exposed. They can click on things we can’t stop.” Swick adds multi-factor authentication significantly mitigates the risk of being hacked. LockDown aims to reduce risk further by building additional layers of protection. Each message inside of a chat is individually encrypted. Auld compares it to a secured bank vault. “Every single jewel is in its own separate safe with a separate key.” LockDown customers include manufacturing and product development companies, law enforcement agencies and legal entities. Auld says health care companies also have expressed interest in the encryption software. The company reported $2.75 million in angel investment as of February 2019, but declined to share financial information beyond that. Erin Laviola is a freelance writer.

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Scotts Miracle-Gro

Jewish Family Services

Resilience is Strength Employees flourish in workplaces that make good decisions fast, flex with the times and see enormous challenges—like the coronavirus crisis—as opportunities.

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All about the people

ÂŽ. We

Awarded Top Workplace for the 8th year in a row by ColumbusCEO magazine

 Â? Â? Â? Â?  ­ ­ €‚ƒ‚ƒ

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Contents 02 Methodology

About the employee survey process for identifying Top Workplaces.

04 By the Numbers Key metrics from the employee survey.

06 Top Workplaces 2020

Some 85 companies are seen as top-notch by their employees.

Bridgeway Academy Photo courtesy Bridgeway academy


Building resilience A workplace culture that embraces flexing of roles and operations when the environment shifts is crucial to company survival all the time, but especially when a crisis hits.

26 Special Awards Extra recognition for companies excelling around themes of leadership, values, training, flexibility, communication, benefits and more.

Large Employer

12 MedVet At chain of pet hospitals, “everyone is a leader” approach drives success.

14 Scotts Miracle-Gro “Gro-ing” employees through connection, giving back. Midsize Employer

18 Fast-growing mortgage lender puts culture first. Small Employer

22 Jewish Family Services “Agency full of helpers” abides by three simple questions.

Leading Specialty Healthcare for Pets

Teamwork. Leadership. Compassion. Thank you to our team for providing exceptional care to our patients and an unrivaled experience for our clients and referring veterinarians. Today, and every day, we appreciate your teamwork, leadership, and compassion. Our success wouldn’t be possible without you. MedVet is proud to be named a 2020 Top Workplace in Columbus.

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About the Top Workplaces Survey Methodology


ho determines Top Workplaces? The best judges: the employees who work there. For the eighth year, Columbus CEO has partnered with Philadelphia-based Energage to rank the Columbus region’s Top Workplaces. The process is based on a scientific survey of employees who rate their workplace culture. It also gives company insights about what makes them unique. “Recruitment and retention are a key

Join the Twitter conversation on Top Workplaces at #CEOWork.

focus for every organization today,” says Eric Rubino, CEO of Energage. “The employee engagement survey at the heart of the Top Workplaces program provides the foundation for unearthing unique culture differentiators to recruit and retain the right talent.” The process began in July 2019, when Columbus CEO invited anyone to nominate companies as Top Workplaces. Energage also reached out to area companies. Throughout the process, 1,097 employers in the region were invited to have their employees take the survey. Any organization was eligible to participate, provided it had at least 50 employees in the region. Employers could be public, private, nonprofit, or governmental. There is no cost to enter the Top Workplaces program. For the 2020 list, a record 131 employers agreed to take the survey. Combined, they employ 33,645 people in the region. Of those employees who received questionnaires, 21,344 responded, either on paper or online. For this year’s winners list, 85 Columbus-area employers were ranked based on their employee

survey feedback. The employee engagement survey of 24 questions gathers responses regarding issues relating to workplace culture: • Alignment: Where the company is headed, its values, cooperation, effective meetings • Coaching: Managers care about concerns, are helpful, encourage employee development • Connection: Employees feel appreciated, work is meaningful, working at full potential, clued in to each other • Engagement: Productivity, retention, recruiting • Leadership: Confidence in company leaders • Performance: Execution, openmindedness, innovation, clued-in leadership • The Basics: Pay, benefits, flexibility, training, expectations Want to participate in the 2021 program? Just go to nominate to submit a nomination. Bob Helbig, Energage

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Employee assessments What matters most at Top Workplaces are factors such as values, meaningfulness and work-life balance, according to employee agreement to these survey statements. C onn ect I feel genuinely appreciated at this company

Important factors

My job makes me feel like I am part of something meaningful.

Survey statements are grouped into six factors, ranked here by how important they are in employees’ assessments of their workplaces. 2020 Connect Align

81% 77%



The Basics


Leader Coach

67% 64%

Top Workplaces, by type

This company enables me to work at my full potential. I feel well-informed about important decisions at this company.

73% 72% 72% 61%

Al ig n I believe this company is going in the right direction. This company operates by strong values. Meetings at this company make good use of my time. There is good inter-departmental cooperation at this company.

75% 69% 60% 59%

P ERFORM Senior managers understand what is really happening at this company. This company encourages different points of view. At this company, we do things efficiently and well. New ideas are encouraged at this company.

67% 67% 64% 62%

T h e B asi c s This job has met or exceeded the expectations I had when I started. I get the formal training I want for my career. My pay is fair for the work I do. I have the flexibility I need to balance my work and personal life. My benefits package is good compared to others in this industry.

60% 58% 48% 46% 33%

Lea der I have confidence in the leader of this company.

n Private n Nonprofit n Public n Co-op n Partnership n Government

60% 15.3% 9.4% 5.9% 5.9% 3.5%


C oac h My manager cares about my concerns. My manager helps me learn and grow. My manager makes it easier to do my job well.

63% 60% 59%

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These 85 organizations are 2020 Top Workplaces. They are listed by their rankings as determined by Columbus CEO research partner Energage in each of three categories based on number of employees in the region. Data is current as of employee surveys conducted last fall.

Large organizations (350 or more employees) Rank

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13






Ricart Automotive



Auto dealership


Keller Williams Realty of Central Ohio



Real estate


Fifth Third Bank









Webberville, IL

Olentangy Local School District




Lewis Center

Kimball Midwest



Wholesale distribution


Worthington Industries



Metal products


Kenneth’s Hair Salons and Day Spas



Personal care


Discover Financial Services




Riverwoods, IL

Scotts Miracle-Gro



Consumer goods


Fairfield Medical Center



Health care





Health care - veterinary


Otterbein University






515 1,146 520 542 2,629 470 1,820 356 2,135 1,154 2,210 425 449

Midsize organizations (125 to 349 employees) Rank






1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23



Mortgage lender

New Albany

Northwestern Mutual Columbus



Financial advisors

Milwaukee, WI

Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Service





SS Bendure-Hartwig



Life insurance










Civil engineering


Wellington School










Lake Shore Cryotronics



Measurement instrumentation


Diamond Hill Capital Management



Investment management


North Community Counseling



Behavioral health





Behavioral health


Summit Home Care



Health care


Hamilton Local School District





Panda Restaurant Group




Rosemead, CA

Wireless Vision




Bloomfield Hills, MI






America’s Floor Source








Industrial packaging






Chicago, IL

Romanoff Group








Human and social services





New York, NY



200 154 153 150 126 292 143 273 151 128 140 164 303 313 133 163 298 175 263 131 278 170 243

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24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37

Total Quality Logistics



Third-party logistics


Diley Ridge Medical Center



Health care-hospitals

Canal Winchester

Friendship Village Dublin



Health care-senior living


Kokosing Construction





Lindsay Automotive



Auto dealership


Friendship Village Columbus



Senior living






Denver, CO






Roush Auto Group



Auto dealership






New York, NY

Bridgeway Academy





Madison Health





Ohio Housing Finance Agency



State government


DASCO Home Medical Equipment



Durable medical equipment


144 130 232 295 272 217 175 136 317 230 188 349 138 147

Small organizations (124 or fewer employees) Rank

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35






Homewatch CareGivers



Health care


Vantage Point Logistics



Supply chain technology


Leading Edje








Health care IT


Two Labs



Pharmaceutical consulting





IT services


Choice Recovery



Collection agency


Manifest Solutions



Managed services

Upper Arlington

Revolution Group





Richwood Banking





Setterlin Building



General contractor


Quality Supply Chain Co-op



Restaurant supply chain


Durable Slate





Jewish Family Services



Human and social services


First Federal Savings & Loan Association



Mortgage lending







H.R. Gray



Project services

Jacksonville, FL

Eco Plumbers





Bold Penguin










Dynamix Engineering





Dave Gill Chevrolet



Auto dealership







National Auto Care





Dynamit Technologies





Colliers International



Commercial real estate


Paul J. Ford & Co.





Columbus Marriott Northwest





United Schools Network





Kokosing Industrial





Drury Hotels




St. Louis, MO

CME Federal Credit Union



Credit union


Kubota Tractor




Grapevine, TX

Welch Packaging




Elkhart, IN

WesBanco Bank




Wheeling, WV


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Building resilience A workplace culture that embraces flexing of roles and operations when the environment shifts is crucial to company survival all the time, but especially in times of crisis. By Kathy Lynn Gray

+ Photo by Tim Johnson Maureen Metcalf


f there’s ever been a time when the resilience of each and every business is being tested, it is now. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, some are surviving. Some are teetering. And some are thriving. While the circumstances for each company vary, having a resilient staff from the top down is a common denominator. That means, explains leadership expert Maureen Metcalf, having a staff that stays flexible and focused in times of uncertainty, doesn’t give in to panic, has a collaborative mindset and finds something positive in challenging situations. “It’s more important now because the rate of change is accelerating,” says Life at Bridgeway Academy

Bridgeway co-founder Abigail David

“Our brains are wired to keep us safe and for many people, safety means following a routine that’s proven and trusted.” Maureen Metcalf, leadership expert 8 ColumbusCEO l Top Workplaces 2020

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Metcalf, founder and CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute in Columbus. “Our brains are wired to keep us safe and for many people, safety means following a routine that’s proven and trusted. But we’re in an environment where sticking to those routines creates a disadvantage for our companies.” That probably isn’t new information for leaders of Columbus CEO’s Top Workplaces for 2020. One is Bridgeway Academy, a private school for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. “The only constant at Bridgeway Academy is change,” says Erin Nealy, co-executive director of the Columbus school. “It’s part of our culture.” Nealy, a music therapist, and co-executive director Abigail David, a speech therapist, started the private school in 2005 after recognizing that services for children with developmental disabilities were scattered across the city. They decided to consolidate the services in one school. Since then, an initial enrollment of 12 has ballooned to 202 students, from preschoolers through 12th graders, housed in two buildings in the University District and northeast Columbus.

Bridgeway co-founder Erin Nealy

“I found Renier Construction while looking for a good construction company in the medical space. Renier was on point from the beginning. My practice is exactly what we expected. It’s beautiful. If anyone asks what I think about Renier, I say, “Absolutely!! Use them!”

Doctor Adetoro, MD,

Founder & Lead Physician, IntervalMed General Contractors

Columbus, Ohio


Photos courtesy Bridgeway academy

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Funding and best teaching practices are always subject to change, so the cofounders need to be nimble. “We need to be moving as quickly as the landscape around us, and we cannot become complacent,” Nealy says. With a challenging student body to teach, resilience is key for every employee, she says. To nourish that resilience, Nealy and David give their staff a voice and include them when developing new programs and making decisions about the longterm growth of the school. “We’ve given them the ability to become leaders themselves and have a sense of ownership of the programs they’re helping develop,” Nealy says. Nealy and David also stay mindful

of what teachers are experiencing in the classroom and support their staff with needed resources as well as counseling for those with particularly demanding students and situations. That kind of support helps build employee resilience, says Greg Moran, a Columbus businessman who teaches leadership classes at Ohio University. “When people are operating from a place of fear, they have access to much less of their capacity as a person and worker,” Moran says. “If you as a leader operate from a context of optimism, hope and gratitude, employees have access to a much higher degree of their faculties.” Moran has put his advice into practice during a career that’s included

The ScriptDrop team having fun together pre-social distancing.

time working on corporate innovation at Ford and Nationwide and more recently as chief operating officer of Aware. The Columbus startup helps companies securely deploy collaboration tools such as Slack and Facebook at Work. While many companies have shrunk during the COVID-19 crisis, Aware’s business has soared because it can be used when employees are working remotely. “When we think about resilience, so much of it comes down to giving people the opportunity to tap into their own innate resilience, their own ability to weather a challenge with the highest amount of function possible,” Moran says. As the new coronavirus forced people to work from home, that resilience was tested—and hopefully strengthened, he says. At Aware, employees who normally work in a large, open room and sit down at a community table for lunch each day had to figure out quickly how to transition. And as employees worked from home, company leaders had to adjust. “How could we adapt to a schedule where two adults were at home working and watching their kids? How could people continue to work creatively with each other?” Plenty of technology has helped, Moran says, including a daily 4:30 p.m. “check-in” time over Zoom where employees can talk about any issues they’re having and what’s going on throughout the company. Metcalf says the ability to adapt quickly to a business disruption—a disruption magnified beyond measure by the pandemic—has been a wakeup call to many businesses. “There’s got to be enough fluidity in the system to adapt to unexpected situations,” she says. “So many organizations are so lean that they’ve removed all the slack and because of that they lack resilience.” The change to a more resilient operation has to start with a company’s

Photos courtesy scriptdrop

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leaders, she says. Rather than focusing on the negatives of the situation, they need to see the positives. “That ability to reframe, to take something unfortunate and find something positive in it, is a huge skill, one of the biggest for sustaining resilience,” Metcalf says. “The more we can master the ability to put stuff into perspective and go forward in a constructive light and support one another, the better off we will all be. That positivity is as contagious as the negativity. From a business perspective, it impacts absenteeism and engagement, so it impacts the bottom line.” Jessica Behrendsen, director of content and marketing for another of this year’s Top Workplaces winners, ScriptDrop, says a resilient workforce enabled her company to quickly reframe its business model in light of the coronavirus in March. ScriptDrop connects pharmacies and pharmacy systems nationwide with courier companies to streamline workflow of prescription deliveries to individuals. In mid-March, ScriptDrop expanded its services so individuals can initiate their own prescription deliveries through a text. “We realized that, with everything going on, this is something

people needed more than ever,” Behrendsen says. “We condensed one to two years of work into five days and everyone rose to the challenge, which speaks highly of our executive team. They make us want to work hard for them.” ScriptDrop CEO Nick Potts exudes positivity and resilience, Behrendsen says. “He has an excitement about what we’re doing as a company and for how much he wants us to succeed, individually and as a company. We’ve had to move some people to different teams through our changes, but not one single person complained. Our staff understands there will be times of chaos and times when things are orderly and they’re OK with both.” Behrendsen says Potts is empathetic, open and transparent about what’s going on within the company—qualities that help employees rally behind him when change is needed. “It’s really important that your leadership team is setting an example of what you want your culture to look like, to be able to withstand when things get tough,” she says. Setting an example is vital for leaders, Moran says. “Volunteer to help with things you

don’t get credit for,” he says. “There’s a tendency in the corporate world for people to focus on the things they get credit for. That’s not a resilient behavior. In times of plenty that can work, but not when the going gets tough. That’s when you want people focused on the team, on the team being successful.” Leaders also need to focus on building and maintaining resilience when they’re not facing a crisis, Moran adds. One way is to put employees in jobs “they’re not 100 percent sure they can do” and making sure they have enough mentoring and support to be successful. As employees work from home because of the coronavirus crisis, he’s asked them to “look down the road and think about what would make them more resilient,” such as having a higher internet speed or different equipment, Moran says. “You’re more resilient when you feel enabled,” he says. “I want someone who stays calm, is interested in as much data as possible, is willing to act with incomplete information, has empathy and courage and has positivity. You have to start from a place of optimism.” Kathy Lynn Gray is a freelance writer.

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A feathered friend at MedVet

MedVet CEO Dr. Linda Lehmkuhl

MedVet Chairman Dr. Eric Schertel, left, and CEO Dr. Linda Lehmkuhl bestow an employee award.

Large Employer

MedVet At growing chain of pet ERs, “everyone is a leader.” By Laura Newpoff


n 2019, MedVet’s veterinarians, specialists and support staff cared for more than a quarter million pets, guiding them and their families through specialty procedures involving things like jaw fractures, pancreatic disorders and cancer treatments. It was able to improve the lives of so many pets because of an ongoing expansion of its network to 29 locations in 15 states. That growth, however, hasn’t come at the cost of diminishing its close-knit culture. The entire MedVet network operates from the core values of teamwork, leadership and compassion, or TLC. They are the foundation of the “MedVet Experience,” where all employees work together to provide the best possible outcomes for patients, clients and referral partners. Dr. Eric Schertel, MedVet’s executive

chairman who has been with the company since 1999, says a key component of the business model has been to build strong relationships with its 7,500 referral partners. To do that, MedVet realized years ago that happy employees who felt that they were valued and that their work was meaningful would be the ones to accomplish that goal. “The core values of teamwork, leadership and compassion—those were developed to really reflect on what (cofounder William DeHoff) started in the organization (in 1988),” he says. “As time went on, we grew to realize the employee was really the person who delivered all those pieces of the MedVet experience. It led us to set aside the employee experience as our No. 1 strategy. It became a strong message.” Part of that employee focus was centered around developing leaders from within through experiential learning programs, leadership development summits and ongoing training. The message was that “everyone at MedVet is a leader,” says Dr. Linda Lehmkuhl, CEO. “We realized a few years back that successful leaders in an organization help drive culture and lead to the behaviors and results we are looking for,” she says. “You couldn’t just hire those people. We wanted our veterinarian to become our medical director.” MedVet dedicated itself to develop-

ing employees both as individuals and as members of specialty and emergency health care teams. When employees felt engaged and empowered, they succeeded in delivering a top-notch experience to everyone who encounters its hospitals.

Community focus As MedVet has grown it has made a commitment to meet the needs of the local communities it serves by providing continuing education for local veterinarians and their teams. It partners with organizations and events as the emergency veterinarian onsite, provides care to service dogs and drives education and

highlights MedVet Founded 1988 Ownership Private Sector Veterinary Employees 2,400

Headquarters Worthington

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Photos courtesy MedVet

mistake, it will not be held against me in the future.” •  “I feel that I have a strong support system with my coworkers and am always given opportunities to grow and learn. I also feel that management always listens to any concerns and is so flexible and willing to work with schedules as best to their ability and the hospital’s needs. I also love what I do and what we do here as a hospital.” •  “Tremendous opportunity to do high impact work and work with amazing and engaged people. Overall, at MedVet, we do work that truly makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Coronavirus impact

MedVet family pets are welcome at work.

awareness of emergency and specialty Videocalls care throughout the community. Employare the new ees also teach animal CPR at community normal. events for free. MedVet also is active in educating its referral partners about industry best practices. It supports animal-related charities in each community and offers discounts to military members and rescue groups. The employee and community focus were top of mind for MedVet’s employees who were surveyed as part of the Top Workplaces awards program. Here’s what they said: •  “I absolutely love my job on many them best, not on someone else’s terms. levels, from the excellent standard of I feel free to point out things I think are medicine that we are able to practice, to not working and that my concerns are the fast pace and ability to learn sometaken seriously. I know that if I make a thing new every day, to the interactions with clients and referral partners. I enjoy my co-workers, my manager is very compassion“I am part ate and I would “I feel that I not want to work of a team that anywhere else.” have a strong really values my •  “I am support system with part of a thoughts and team that my coworkers and ideas.” really values my thoughts am always given and ideas. I opportunities to grow have flexibility to work and get and learn.” things done as I do

i love mY job because:

MedVet has mostly expanded through mergers and acquisitions over the years, often buying small community emergency rooms and then expanding them by adding specialists. It’s now dipping its toe into the world of starting practices from scratch and has plans to open a new one in July in Salt Lake City. That practice likely will be impacted by the industry’s changing protocols because of the spread of the global pandemic Covid-19. MedVet has had to take several steps to protect its workers and clients because its business is considered an essential service and its emergency rooms are busy even as the virus spreads. These steps include: •  MedVet is practicing social distancing by providing only curbside service with client-free lobbies. •  It is communicating predominately by phone or video formats throughout the client’s visit. •  Visitation is suspended for end-oflife circumstances. •  Its team is following enhanced cleaning protocols, excelling at personal hygiene and not traveling. •  Continuing education and other events have been postponed. Lehmkuhl says MedVet will continue to preserve public health while focusing on delivering urgent care. Employees will work as teams and be responsible for different shifts to minimize exposure across their own group. “It’s amazing how fast a team can come together and drive change when you really need to,” she says. Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer. Top Workplaces 2020 l ColumbusCEO

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Large Employer

Scotts Miracle-Gro “Gro-ing” employees with connection, giving back. By Laura Newpoff


ristin Dean joined Scotts MiracleGro 20 years ago to work in its finance department, a career move that was perfectly logical since she was an accountant. Over the years, however, she decided to step outside her comfort zone by taking jobs in the information technology department and later in human resources, giving her a chance to expand her skillset and understand how different disciplines help the lawn and garden company flourish. The various roles she’s filled, she says, demonstrate the vast opportunities available at the Marysville company. And she recently proved that point again by saying yes to a new challenge as vice president of enterprise management. “About a month ago the leadership team said, ‘We need a special area to focus on engagement,’ ” she says. “We need to understand what our associates are thinking about and what’s important to them. Creating this (position) shows our commitment to our associates.” A big part of her new role, which will involve “continuous listening,” will be her participation in all of Scotts’ employee resource groups—networks that include people of shared backgrounds

or experiences and those who want to support them. The goal, she says, will be to keep a finger on the pulse of associates to see whether Scotts is on the right track or whether things need to move in a different direction.

Connecting more At the beginning of April, Scotts launched its fifth employee resource group for those who are in or want to support the LGBTQ community. It joined other networks for women, veterans, black employees and young professionals. Dean says while other large companies have long had networks for those in the gay community, Scotts needed to wait for associates to come to the company

and say, “We’re ready.” And that’s exactly what they did. “I think it’s really cool that (these groups) aren’t started from corporate,” says Dean, who is a member of all of the networks. “It started with our associates. They come up with a charter and we support them along the way. Associates really need to connect with something. They have a passion for our business and what we do and these (networks) are an outlet for people who just like to connect more.” Kreg Elsass, brand manager, lawns marketing, leads Scotts’ young professionals network. He joined the group the same year he started at the company in 2016, seeing it as a way to get to know people outside his department. Over time, it’s meant much more. “It gave me a chance to take on

Photos courtesy Scotts Miracle-Gro


Employee gardens at Scotts

The Scotts garden at Franklin Park Conservatory

highlights Scotts Miracle-Gro Founded 1868 Ownership Public Sector

Consumer goods

Employees 5,500

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some leadership opportunities outside of my day-to-day job,” he says. “It’s been a fun experience to help other young professionals take advantage of the culture here where you’ve got a very entrepreneurial spirit mixed with this family environment that trickles down from leadership.” Through the network Elsass is able to meet frequently with company leaders and offer recommendations about changes that can be made to benefit younger workers. He’s also used the platform to bring in leaders from outside

“It gave me a chance to take on some leadership opportunities.“

the company to speak on career development topics.

Community good

At Scotts, the networks are funded by the company and have a big focus on community outreach. That’s been especially appealing to Jim Fuller, plant safety manager, who spent 13 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. As part of the veterans group he takes part in the annual Central Ohio Veterans Stand Down that helps former military members with a variety of services including clothing, health “(Younger screenings and benefits counseling. workers) come in As baby new to Scotts and find boomers retire and work out right away forces across that stewardship is the country continue to get important. They see younger, the it’s a priority for the networks and the work they do in company.” the community likely

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will be attractive to younger generations who, surveys show, equate giving back to a great work environment. “(Younger workers) come in new to Scotts and find out right away that stewardship is important,” Fuller says. “They see it’s a priority for the company.” The networks also give different groups of people a chance to interact. Fuller says his group, for example, teamed up with the black network to put on a coat drive a few years ago. The work the networks do in the community is an extension of an overall corporate philosophy of giving back. As a baseline, every Scotts employee gets two paid days off to “Give Back and Gro” by volunteering in the community. “Gro-ing,” in fact, is a community service theme. In 2018, Scotts launched a Gro1000 program that supported 1,000 community gardens and greenspaces across the U.S. over an eight-year period. It aimed to help children affected by food insecurity, children with special needs and refugee populations. Sensory benefits of the gardens also were designed to help people for therapeutic purposes. The program allowed seniors to work with pre-schoolers and veterans to work

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Scotts Miracle-Gro CEO Jim Hagedorn

with teenagers to transform abandoned lots and empty school yards into community assets. The 1,000th garden was installed in 2018 at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Called the Scotts Miracle-Gro Children’s Garden, the 2-acre garden is the largest horticulture project ever taken on by the conservatory. Wanting to take its advocacy further, in 2019 Scotts launched a “Gro More Good” program to connect 10 million

children by 2023 to the benefits of gardens and greenspaces through hands-on work in communities and by providing grants, educational curriculum and training. To accomplish its goal, Scotts is working with national and grassroots organizations, from the National Head Start Association and No Kid Hungry to 4th Street Farms in Columbus. At its headquarters, associates also plant gardens each year where they harvest the vegetables and then donate them

to the Marysville Food Pantry. Other examples of community outreach include Scotts’ support of the Central Ohio Heart Walk as a leading fundraiser and ongoing participation in Pelotonia. Scotts also recently launched an internal cancer support community to offer employees resources, access to counseling and medical professionals and support from group sessions. During the coronavirus outbreak, Scotts is essential as its products are integral to the food supply. In early March, corporate staff began working from home. It has not implemented furloughs or layoffs, and it increased pay for employees still in the field. Scotts’ supply chain is making face shields for use by health care workers. “When you look at the news, it tends to focus on all the negative stuff that’s going on, and many people might not see all the great things people are doing,” Fuller says. “One thing that’s really resonated with me the most during my (13 years here) is the commitment (CEO Jim) Hagedorn has made to give back to the community.” Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer.


MAKE US BETTER! At Worthington, better is a mindset. It’s a commitment all of our employees share. Because of their accomplishments, we can provide our customers better solutions and our communities better leaders. We’re Worthington, and we’re makers of better because we believe that together, better is possible.

Make your mark at Worthington!

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Midsize Employer Fast-growing mortgage lender puts culture first. By Christine Bryant

highlights Founded 2018 Ownership Private Sector

Mortgage lending

Employees 200

Headquarters New Albany employees helping build houses.

b ca w k The company’s one-year anniversary

Photos courtesy


an Snyder believes a great culture is more than just office perks. While an onsite gym is certainly fun and useful, Snyder says to attract the best talent—and keep that talent happy— it’s critical for companies to look into investing in people at a deeper level. “It’s about each of our team members being encouraged to share their ideas and understanding they’re truly valued,” the CEO of mortgage lender says. “Some companies look to invest purely in surface perks like a personal chef or gym or masseuse, but we invest in our people at a deeper level first. Then, we have fun.” That employer philosophy has helped experience significant growth in just two years. Headquartered in New Albany, opened in December 2018 and now has nearly 200 employees. The idea behind was inspired by another business of Snyder’s. In 2014, Snyder started a company in Columbus called Homeside Financial that has grown from seven employees in a small temporary space at Easton to more than 500 employees across 40 locations nationwide. The company continues to thrive as a top 50 national mortgage bank, serving more of the traditional retail footprint.

“The big dream I had beyond Homeside was to create a financial technology company that focused on digital banking, building an ecosystem to enhance a customer’s journey to homeownership, and leverage AI/ML (artificial intelligence/machine learning) to help not only qualify the customer, but recommend to the customer if they should buy or not,” Snyder says. began with a handful of employees who worked at Homeside and has expanded quickly as more customers have begun taking advantage of a digital one-stop shop to buy a house or expand their current home. “Homeownership is

the single greatest wealth creator for the majority of consumers across the country, and our goal is to simply make more homeowners,” Snyder says. Later this year, the company will begin offering high-yield, FDIC-insured savings accounts to help individuals save money. It also will offer real estate brokerage services at a deep discount to customers buying or selling homes. What Robinhood did to stock trading and SoFi did to student loans, Snyder says he hopes Lower can do for housing. “Clean, simple, thoughtful and with a purpose,” he says. “If we can do that, well, we will be really big.” To do so,

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“A big deal for sure as a new company, but what you get out of that is simply reinforcement that we are on the right path to providing a place to work where people don’t hate their lives,” Snyder says. “The last thing I want is to win an award or be recognized and then have the majority of our team roll their lives.” That’s especially important at a time Once in a generation when COVID-19 and how workplaces are adapting is the top concern for many employees. “Give me a real, authentic This year, jobs site culture that can survive even a once-inranked as the 21st best place a-generation pandemic, and I’ll take that to work in North America. over a trophy,” he says. Out of the gates, Snyder says “I am the company strived to make transparent, bullish that we caring and quick “Give me a decisions for its can, as long as real, authentic employees. “It we continue to like you culture that can survive isn’t go through keep a great how to do this even a once-in-aculture.” of stuff generation pandemic, intype business and I’ll take that over school, so we all were coming from a trophy.” the standpoint of long term versus short however, Snyder knows the importance of having a staff that’s all in—and being all in for his staff. “I am bullish that we can, as long as we continue to keep a great culture and find smart people (who have) bought into our mission,” he says.

i love mY job because:

term,” Snyder says. “So we immediately sent as many people as we could home to work remotely.” The company pushed out communication to its customers and was available to answer questions day or night. “We have a great leadership and management team that worked overtime to make common sense decisions with the interest of the team at the center,” Snyder says. “We definitely remained as open for business as we could, because we had customers across the country relying on us to come through on their purchase or refinance of their home.” As it does with many companies across the country, the situation remains fluid, he says.

Secret sauce Instead of hiring leaders from the outside, Snyder says he looks for them from within. “As the business grows naturally, you will have gaps in your organization chart,” he says. “When you launch a business, you don’t need a head of sales,

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Casual Friday

CEO Dan Snyder

human resources or operations. You have a small team that wears a lot of hats.” Through his multiple businesses, Snyder has learned that a great culture that develops future leaders is much easier to achieve with more continuity. “I personally love watching people grow their careers beyond what they thought possible,” he says. “For example, I had a college intern work for me named Lauren Randall. She did some sales and some admin work, and I ultimately hired her after she graduated as a recruiting coordinator.” Fast-forward to today, and Randall serves as the director of human resources for the

company. “We have so many examples like Lauren across our company,” Snyder says. “It is our secret sauce.”

Leadership journey In addition to investing in its own employees, offers several other leadership opportunities that make the company a top workplace. “We bring in talented speakers once per month to talk about their leadership journey and hopefully provide perspective to our growing


team,” Snyder says. The company’s Emerging Leaders development program provides leadership training to employees, while an employee-led philanthropy committee gets employees involved in the community, with endeavors including Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Junior Achievement and the New Albany Foundation. “We invest heavily to support our team members as they come up with ideas to engage their co-workers or help the community,” Snyder says. Christine Bryant is a freelance writer.


We’re thrilled to be a Top Workplace honoree for the eighth year in a row, but we won’t stop there. Our culture of continuous improvement drives us to keep pushing to provide outstanding customer service and support the best sales force in the industry.

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Experience the


Fairfield Medical Center is proud to once again be named a Top Workplace by Columbus CEO. For more than a century, we’ve been a regional healthcare provider who delivers both exceptional care and experiences to our patients and employees.

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Small Employer

Jewish Family Services

Senior services includes a cart of goodies.

‘Agency full of helpers’ abides by three simple questions.

is ac leap i f

By Peter Tonguette


s the extent of the coronavirus crisis started to become evident, the employees of Jewish Family Services felt motivated, energized and maybe even a little inspired. In mid-March, during their first week of working remotely, the team threw themselves into need assessments, outreach, delivering meals and other productive activities. “Our team is really good at a crisis,” says Karen Mozenter, the CEO of the Bexley nonprofit organization whose mandate is to assist Central Ohioans in gaining economic independence and developing emotional well-being. “Everybody leapt into action, and it was almost a frenetic pace,” Mozenter says. “When you’re an agency full of helpers, it helped people feel some control, and it made people feel good to be helping.” By the time the second week closed in, however, Mozenter and her colleagues realized it might be time to dial things back. “We all decided, OK, now we need to take a breath,” Mozenter says. “The

highlights Jewish Family Services

reality was sinking in. We know this is going to be a long haul; we have to take care of ourselves.” For 112 years, Jewish Family Services has exemplified an organization committed to the long haul. The organization derives its principles from a trio of questions attributed to ancient Jewish leader Hillel the Elder. First among them is: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? “We were founded by the Jewish community to serve, at the time, Jewish immigrants coming from Europe who were making Columbus their home,” Mozenter says. The second question—But if I am only for myself, what am I?—inspires CEO Karen Mozenter

Founded 1908 Ownership Nonprofit Sector Human and social services Employees 52

Headquarters Columbus Photos courtesy Jewish Family Services

the organization to work with clients outside of the Jewish community, while the third—If not now, when? —gives the group its commitment to acting in the here and now. “That’s our call to action because we know there’s an urgency to the work,” says Mozenter, who breaks down the organization’s work into two main categories: helping clients gain employment and community services, including counseling, case management and service navigation. Jewish Family Services prides itself on taking a holistic approach to its clients’ needs. “If people call us because they need help finding a job, we are finding out what else is going on in their lives,” Mozenter says. “We know if we don’t help them address other issues, like transportation, child care, rent, food security, those types of things, they’re not going to have success in the workplace.” The organization employs 52 people, most of whom provide services directly to the individuals who walk through their doors. “It’s career counselors who are helping people find jobs, who are doing career coaching, helping with life skills,” Mozenter says. “We have social workers who are doing case management.” Among those 50-plus workers, only a small minority, around seven, perform

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philanthropy before accepting her initial position with the nonprofit. “I was really looking for something that would utilize all my different skills and my varied career path, working with a really highperforming organization with people who would be excellent colleagues, and also something that feeds my soul,” she says. “Jewish Family Services just delivered on all fronts.” In managing her team, Mozenter is committed to what she calls “frontlineforward” thinking. “We want the people who are on the frontlines, who are working directly with clients, to feel empowered so that they can bring ideas and innova“Racially tions to the work,” she says. “That we’re creates a culture diverse, religiously where people really buy in we’re diverse, by to what we’re nationality—in every doing.” The workimaginable way. It force reflects a wide variety of contributes to a cultural backcaring culture.” grounds, equipping the team to inter-

administrative duties. “Everyone else is either providing direct services or managing the program teams,” Mozenter says. “It’s very hands-on. I think part of what makes us a great workplace is that we have a very collaborative culture.” Mozenter, who joined the organization in 2017 as its COO before becoming its CEO two years later, can offer firsthand testimony about the qualities of the workplace. An attorney by training, Mozenter had stints in the fields of education and

“Our team is really good at a crisis. Everybody leapt into action, and it was almost a frenetic pace.”

i love mY job because:

act with a diverse client base. “Racially we’re diverse, religiously we’re diverse, by nationality—in every imaginable way,” Mozenter says. “It contributes to a caring culture because we see all those different perspectives.” Mozenter says that staff members internalize the principles that guide Jewish Family Services, using the example of one of her workforce development directors who happens to be part of a refugee family from Somalia. “We all have our keycards for security access to the building, and on the back of his keycard, he has Hillel’s three questions,” Mozenter says. “We have our value statements in every single office and conference room and along the wall as you come in the building.” Of course, when the coronavirus outbreak compelled Jewish Family Services to send its employees home, statements on office walls would no longer be seen. Instead, the nonprofit had to reinvent its work habits in a heartbeat. “We’d seen it coming,” Mozenter says. “Luckily, we’d already had all our documents in the cloud and [were] using SharePoint.” Weekly staff meetings and daily leadership meetings now take place on Zoom;

Panda Express is honored to be recognized as one of the

Top Workplaces

in Columbus To learn more about the Panda family, visit us at Top Workplaces 2020 l ColumbusCEO

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Working remotely

a virtual birthday party was recently held for one staffer, and a group calling itself the Morning Coffee Group logs in at 9:15 a.m. each workday. The shift from the physical to the virtual has also led to fresh approaches to engaging clients. “We’re using the phone, we’re using Zoom, we’re doing tele-

therapy,” Mozenter says. “That happened within a week’s time. We’re doing a lot of just checking in with clients and making sure they’re OK.” Other collaborations are emerging, too. For example, Jewish Family Services and Catholic Social Services are sharing a live document listing community resources. “A social

worker from our staff, who is heading up this project, is now working with a staff member at CSS, so CSS staff can also access the document and contribute information as well,” Mozenter says. Mozenter is aware that that the work done by her team can be taxing. “Our staff members who work with Holocaust survivors, their clients die too frequently,” she says. But the collaborative, committed workplace promoted at the nonprofit helps prevent mental burnout. Mozenter points to a saying by her predecessor, former CEO June Gutterman: “We’re Jewish Family Services: Family is our middle name,” Mozenter says. “[If] somebody has a family member who is ill, we are flexible with our staff members so that they can meet the needs of their own families.” The results speak for themselves: Just ask those served by the organization and the employees who represent its soul. Says Mozenter: “Sometimes I’ll just get a voicemail out of the blue from someone who says, ‘I just want you to know about a staff member and what a difference they made in my life.’ ” Peter Tonguette is a freelance writer.

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Special Awards L




All the jobs The CEO of Eco Plumbers understands what his employees face.




h i


became licensed as a plumber. “I went out on my own with a few close friends doing new construction plumbing,” he says. “When the economy downturn happened in the early 2000s, I learned a lot about the trials of growing a business and personal growth.”

By Christine Bryant

His small team made the decision to start from scratch in 2007. That’s when he founded Eco Plumbers, a residential plumbing company. This year, the Hilliard-based business that helps clients save water and energy had grown to 87 employees. “I was young enough and still very ambitious, and that is when the Eco Plumbers came to be,” Gaynor says. While the business model emphasizing sustainability has been a hit with clients across Central Ohio, Gaynor himself been a hit with his employees by ensuring they feel they have a direct role in the success of the company. “I’m committed to growing these folks,” he says. “I

Team spirit


t starts at the top. That’s the personal rallying cry of Aaron Gaynor, who as owner and CEO of Eco Plumbers has faced his share of challenges over the years. It was through these tribulations that he realized in order to transform and grow his company, he would need to grow as a leader. As someone who has been at the bottom and the top of the business ladder, Gaynor has learned lessons that help him connect with his employees and be the leader he is today. “Having grown this company from the ground up, I have worn every hat,” he says. “Knowing what people go through to be in the trades and the positions they are in gives you a real insight into the job and what they are doing every day. I understand what they are going through because I have been there before.” Gaynor began his career in trades in 1997 immediately out of high school. At 23, he took his state plumbing test and

CEO Aaron Gaynor

Summer picnic race

highlights Eco Plumbers Founded 2007 Ownership Private Sector Plumbing Employees 87

Headquarters Hilliard

Slushies at the office. Photos courtesy Eco Plumbers

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nic race

understand that my team has great ideas to share, or they occasionally need to just vent. Sometimes they just need to know that their managers care.” Through company huddles and meetings, as well as his open-door policy, Gaynor works to check in with everyone on a regular basis. “Communicating with my team as much as possible is important to me,” he says. “You can tell by team member actions when they are engaged.” That transparency and attention to meeting his employees’ needs has never been more evident than now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plumbing is considered an essential business, so Eco Plumbers employees are still out interacting with the public. The company prioritizes safety by following federal health guidelines to conduct regular temperature checks on employees, enhance the cleaning of all equipment and trucks, and provide protective gloves, boot covers and masks. The company has creatively taken a page from the medical field’s playbook, too. Eco Plumbers has implemented a video call tool called the “Virtual Plumber” on its website, minimizing contact while still meeting a client’s needs. “This allows them to get help with an emergency or advice about a plumbing issue to help them decide if they need to schedule a service call,” Gaynor says. “We are taking this day by day.”

Christine Bryant is a freelance writer.

Engineers, Surveyors, Planners, Scientists

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Special Awards L




Jumping in Randy Schoedinger makes sure employees are freed up to excel.







to take on the responsibility himself, indefinitely. “That’s a perfect example of his leadership style,” said Carley Childress, the company’s human resources manager. “He genuinely cares about all of our employees.”

By Laura Newpoff + Photo by Rob Hardin

Staying accessible

t Schoedinger Funeral & Cremation Service, employees across the company for years have taken turns taking night call, a process that requires them to spend the night in an apartment atop the company’s downtown chapel to answer the phone from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. It’s a job that, while not loved equally among employees, has worked smoothly for the company that has to respond to deaths at all hours of the day. The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, however, made rotating multiple people in and out of one space untenable. Company leaders at first tried to come up with a way to set up a system so associates could handle the calls from their homes, but technology challenges made it more efficient to keep the current system in place. Not wanting to increase the odds of an employee contracting the disease from another person in the company, CEO Randy Schoedinger decided

Schoedinger got his start with the company working as a driver when he was in high school in the 1980s and then joined full time in 1994. He, along with his brother Michael, who serves as president, are sixth-generation leaders of a business that was founded in 1855, six years before Abraham Lincoln became president. Schoedinger, in fact, is one of the city’s oldest family-owned businesses. As CEO, Schoedinger says he spends at least 50 percent of his time focused


on company culture, whether through ongoing improvements to its wellness program or finding ways to be more accessible to employees. “I’m a big believer that you can’t be an effective leader unless you truly care about people,” Schoedinger says. “I hope that comes across in the mutual caring and compassion we’ve established in our culture.” The company has a mix of employees of different ages and levels of experience, which keeps him on the hunt for new ideas that will help attract and retain workers. In survey responses for the Top Workplaces program, an employee commented that Schoedinger “makes good decisions after weighing the pros and cons.” He’s “open to new ideas and is willing to try something as a test project knowing there may be things we need to change or update.” He’s worked with Childress to implement several initiatives to better connect with Schoedinger employees and make them feel appreciated, such as small group get-togethers to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and associate appreciation events that highlight their accomplishments. He also makes himself accessible to employees through routine visits to the company’s 10 locations where he speaks with them and the

CEO Randy Schoedinger

highlights Schoedinger Funeral & Cremation Service Founded 1855 Ownership Private Sector Funerals Employees 177

Headquarters Columbus 28 ColumbusCEO l Top Workplaces 2020

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grieving families they are serving. “The (associates) value that time where they get to talk with ownership or leadership,â€? he says. “It’s important to be out there and asking them how they’re doing and actually seeing what goes on in the facilities.â€? As the coronavirus outbreak worsened in March, Schoedinger made several operational changes. Services and visitation were made strictly private with the option of complimentary on-site video streaming. Families who choose to hold a private service will have the option to hold a public memorial service at a later date. For those families, the company will waive the memorial service fee. Schoedinger also emphasized good hand hygiene and cough etiquette habits to its associates and heightened daily disinfection practices for high-touch surfaces. Childress, who shares an office with Schoedinger, says he wouldn’t ask an employee to do anything at work that he wouldn’t do. She says it makes him relatable and approachable. “When he’s around, he’s the first person to say, ‘Do you need help moving this?’ â€? she says. “Or, ‘I’ll get the phone, you guys are busy.’ â€?

Because being a top workplace starts on the inside. Madison Health takes great pride in providing comprehensive and personalized healthcare for our communities. We are now proud to provide our employees a top workplace

Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer.

Our employees love it here as much as our residents do! Thank you for naming Friendship Village Columbus as a top workplace for the past five years.

FVC is a Life Plan Community with a full range of residential and healthcare services under one roof.

Call (614) 304-3415 or visit to learn more. 5800 Forest Hills Blvd. • Columbus, Ohio 43231 • Top Workplaces 2020 l ColumbusCEO

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Special Awards A





Adapt and succeed Trust is central to life at Two Labs Pharma Services. By Peter Tonguette


irst, let’s clear up something about that name. The Powell-based company Two Labs Pharma Services supports pharmaceutical manufacturers in getting their drugs to the right patients through the right means. “The overarching mandate is to help them find the path from the clinical development of the drug to the patient,” says Howard Miller, the company’s general manager of commercialization and one of Two Labs’ three



a t




founding principals. Given such a mission, many take it as a given that the word “labs” is short for “laboratories.” Not so, says Miller. “It refers to two Labrador retrievers,” says Miller, whose colleague, Two Labs founder Rich Wartel, owned the two dogs for which the company was named. The pet-friendly atmosphere continues to this day. “I bring mine in every day,” Miller says. “Oftentimes our clients put up with tennis balls hitting the wall and dogs occasionally barking in the background.” For Two Labs’ approximately 160 employees, including around 50 in Central Ohio, the significance of the reference runs deeper. “It’s very much like a family,” Miller says. “We’re highly loyal, and we don’t drool that often, but occasionally.” The company was founded in 2003 to service pharma companies that lacked the resources to guide a drug from development to market. “Back in the ’80s and ’90s, every company was vertically inte-

grated,” Miller says. “They did the R&D, they did the distribution of the product, they collected the cash.” Two Labs adopted a patient-centric approach, reverse-engineering strategies for its pharma clients by first asking the question: Who is this drug meant to serve, and how can we best get it to them? “Is it coming through a traditional retail pharmacy, or could it be going through a specialty pharmacy?” says Miller, adding that Two Labs often takes on so-called “orphan” or “ultra-orphan” drugs—some serving only hundreds of potential patients. Drug affordability is also a priority. Two Labs participates in events like Rare Disease Day and hosts speakers at

highlights Two Labs Pharma Services Founded 2003 Ownership Private Sector Pharmaceutical Employees 126

Headquarters Powell

Two Labs employees mostly work remotely, but gather on occasion. Photos courtesy Two Labs Pharma Services

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Principal Howard Miller and his Labrador, Hunter

group meetings to talk about specific drugs and their benefits. Such presentations can sometimes hit close to home. “Employees in the company talked about their own challenges from a health standpoint and how the industry has helped support them,” Miller says of a recent group meeting. Much of Two Labs’ staff works remotely where clients are based, including Boston and the Bay Area. To help maintain culture, employees travel to clients in groups, and far-flungers are often brought back to home base. Employees are encouraged to get to know each other personally, not just professionally.

On a practical level, ideas and solutions are often “floated up” from employees. “It’s really just a foundation of listening to the folks that are actually closest to the client,” says Miller. That close-knit ethos recently underwent a big test: In response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, Two Labs is now working entirely on a remote basis. The workers are deprived of face-to-face interaction, not to mention the dogs that roam the halls, but Miller says the staff was unusually well-equipped to roll with the punches. “The trust that we have at the end of the day allows us to bring a level of flexibility to the relationship that oftentimes differentiates us,” says Miller, pointing to the freedom given to employees to build their own work-from-home schedules. “We have people who are getting up early so that they can get their work done before the kids get up, or they want to get to it in the evenings,” he says. Adds Miller: “None of us anticipated what was coming, but we have a highly adaptive culture and a highly supportive culture.” Peter Tonguette is a freelance writer.

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Direction I believe this company is going in the right direction. Northwestern Mutual Columbus

Special Awards The following special award recipients were chosen based on standout scores for employee responses to specific survey statements. Employees rate these statements on a seven-point scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree.


Pat McCurdy Kimball Midwest Midsize

Randy Schoedinger

New Ideas New ideas are encouraged at this company. Homewatch CareGivers

Doers At this company, we do things efficiently and well. Leading Edje

Work/Life Flexibility I have the flexibility I need to balance my work and personal life. First Federal Savings & Loan Association

Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Small

Aaron Gaynor Eco Plumbers

Values This company operates by strong values.



My manager helps me learn and grow, my manager makes it easier to do my job well, my manager cares about my concerns. Ricart Automotive

Senior managers understand what is really happening at this company. Keller Williams Realty of Central Ohio

Leadership I have confidence in the leader of this company.


Communication I feel well-informed about important decisions at this company. Northwoods

Appreciation I feel genuinely appreciated at this company. Two Labs

Meaningfulness My job makes me feel like I am part of something meaningful. Olentangy Local School District

Training I get the formal training I want for my career. SS Bendure-Hartwig

Benefits My benefits package is good compared to others in this industry. ScriptDrop


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C O V I D - 1 9 • S p e ci a l I ss u e


SO MANY UNKNOWNS Sometimes it feels like a scene from a dystopian movie about the future, like nothing any of us has ever seen. The coronavirus pandemic shut down the city practically overnight, or at least it felt that way. Giant institutions shuttered. Downtown skyscrapers, dark and quiet. Entire sports seasons canceled. Highway traffic sparse. Grocery store shelves empty. Devastating in so many ways, yes. But amid all the social distancing, spirits shone. Columbus researchers made groundbreaking discoveries in their labs at record speed. Companies retooled to make desperately needed equipment. Our health care heroes kept going to work, risking their lives to save others. And small business owners kept hope alive that they could shield their staffs and keep doing what they love best. Here’s a snapshot of the past month. May 2020 l ColumbusCEO

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Economic recovery?

Probably Return to the old ways? Not likely

Besides financial devastation, the coronavirus pandemic is forcing innovation. Online learning on a massive scale. Retail reckoning accelerated. The need for offices, open to interpretation. There’s no sector the pandemic hasn’t touched. By Evan Weese • Photos by Rob Hardin


he first week of March, state officials barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival, decimating what would have been a $53 million economic infusion and providing a glimpse of how drastically the novel coronavirus would impact daily life. A rolling new reality set in over the days and weeks that followed, as major gatherings were shut down and nonessential employers were ordered by Gov. Mike DeWine to shut down or send employees home to work. A public health crisis became an economic one. Layoffs have occurred at an unprecedented pace. Companies have gone under. Government and nonprofit budgets have been strained. The historic self-imposed economic shutdown begs the question: When will Central Ohio’s $129 billion economy return to full health?

Like Pearl Harbor The numbers are astonishing at every level. More than 855,000 workers filed for unemployment in Ohio during the first four weeks after the state began to

shut down, compared with only about 715,500 in the previous two years combined, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. At least a quarter of the $22 trillion U.S. economy was taken offline due to government shutdown orders, according to a Moody’s Analytics study completed for the Wall Street Journal. The same share of Ohio’s nearly $700 billion economy shut down. Still, the extent of the damage is unclear. It’s anybody’s guess as to how deep and long-lasting the downturn will be. What’s clear is that, as ugly as the 2008 downturn was, this new one induced by the coronavirus—likely later to be labeled a recession or depression—is unlike any prior drop. Governments essentially flipped the switch on the economy to prevent the coronavirus from spreading too quickly and overwhelming the health care system. The uniqueness lies in the sheer speed with which it all unfolded, leaving businesses no choice but to lay off workers or close their doors altogether. “I don’t think it’s anything like 2008. This is more like Pearl Harbor

and the World War,” says Alex Fischer, CEO of the Columbus Partnership, an organization of CEOs from leading businesses and institutions in Central Ohio. “I’m not trying to be dramatic. I just think this is bigger than that deep economic recession we were in. That was still more narrowly focused. This has rocked the fabric of every business—not that a recession doesn’t. Almost nothing like a bomb going off has this immediate impact, just these immediate closings and the economic damages that result from that. I do think the depth of this and the breadth of it is historic.” Hopes for a rapid, V-shaped recovery were dashed as initial 15-day shutdown orders dragged on through April. “It will be more of a Nike Swoosh. I’m not seeing a hard ‘V’ right now and I’m not even seeing a ‘U,’ which are often more customary in recessionary times,” says City of Columbus Auditor Megan Kilgore. “We are going to see a sizable, to-be-determined drop and then we will see a steady upswing, I believe, as businesses are allowed to reopen, and an increasing upswing as restaurants reopen, small

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the painful coronavirus economy labor market 5.5% Ohio seasonally adjusted

unemployment rate in March, up 1.4% from the previous month

4.4% U.S. seasonally adjusted

unemployment rate in March, up 0.9% from the previous month

855,197 Initial jobless claims filed in Ohio Columbus’ bustling Short North, practically deserted. businesses get back online, hotels reopen, salons reopen, and so forth.”

What’s in a comeback? The key variable in the economic recovery is the virus. Health officials and economists agree business as usual is off until there is a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. With efforts underway to get the economy going again, recovery won’t be like flipping a light switch, and there’s plenty of disagreement from people who worry the virus could resurge if we move too fast to get back to the old normal. Reports out of Wuhan, China, where the virus is thought to have originated, suggest industrial production is far from back to normal and that consumers are skittish. It was promising that federal policymakers were able to act relatively quickly in implementing trilliondollar stimulus programs. “This is very unusual, I don’t think there’s ever been a period in American history where we’ve had active monetary and fiscal policy where the stimulus has come so close to the shock itself,” says

Nationwide Chief Economist David Berson. “So that’s very positive.” To be sure, consumers, which account for some 70 percent of the American economy, won’t be sustained by $1,200 one-time stimulus checks if the crisis drags on. “That maybe covers your rent but not much more,” says Bill LaFayette, economist and owner of Regionomics LLC. “People have fallen into a hole and payments are being deferred, they’re not being forgiven. And in the meantime, people aren’t going to have a whole lot of money to spend.” There should be pent-up demand for vehicle sales and other purchases that were put off. The extent, however, depends on containment efforts and the willingness of consumers to venture out and spend money. It’s clear some aspects of the economy will take a year or more to get back to full speed. Brian Ross, CEO of Experience Columbus, recently told the tourism group’s board he doesn’t expect large meetings to happen regularly until the second quarter of next year. The spike in unemployment will impact the budgets of governments that rely on income taxes such as the

over a four-week period through April 11, more than the previous two years combined (715,512)


Decline in leisure and hospitality workers in March Source: Ohio Department of Job and Family Services

hospitals $1.27 billion Estimated monthly losses for

Ohio hospitals, primarily due to the suspension of elective surgeries and procedures that went into effect on March 18 Source: Ohio Hospital Association

restaurants $698 million Lost sales by restaurants in the

first 22 days of March, said the Ohio Restaurant Association, also estimating the loss of more than 100,000 jobs. The group expects 1 in 10 restaurants may permanently close due to the pandemic. Source: Ohio Restaurant Association

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tax revenue $3.3 billion Potential decrease in Ohio’s

General Revenue Fund collections in 2021—$24.6 billion to $21.3 billion—if downturn is as severe as 2008 recession. The estimate is based on inflation-adjusted revenues falling by 4.2% from 2007 to 2008 and by 13.2% from 2008 to 2009. Source: Policy Matters Ohio

local nonprofits $8,318,500 Hit to fundraising. Most (59%)

health and human service nonprofits canceled fundraising events due to the coronavirus, resulting in the loss of key fundraising sources Source: Survey of 89 local institutions April 3-7 by the United Way of Central Ohio and Human Service Chamber of Franklin County and Illuminology

housing 30% Estimated decrease in new

home listings in April compared to a year earlier, based on a preliminary analysis by the Columbus Realtors, with homes put into contract down 22 percent. Source: Columbus Realtors

city of Columbus. Nonprofits are likely to suffer from a strain on resources as they did during the Great Recession. Small businesses don’t enjoy the financial reserves of their larger peers. And a deep recession could exacerbate economic inequality, as the Great Recession did, according to a study by the Pew Research Foundation. To weather the storm, local business executives, economic development leaders and government officials are counting on the traits that were supposed to drive continued economic growth heading into 2020: a diverse economy, the “Columbus Way” of public and private sector collaboration, an educated talent pool, affordability and the presence of stable institutions such as the state government and Ohio State University. “I add all of that up and I’ve got to believe that we’ve got more of the ingredients to thrive into the future,” Fischer says. Some industries are better positioned. Central Ohio can flex its logistics muscles during a time when consumers are stuck at home and relying on e-commerce more than ever. “Our industrial expertise is a huge advantage for us. As manufacturing and logistics respond to this push for e-commerce, we should be really well positioned,” says Michael Copella, managing director for the Columbus operations of CBRE. Retail disruption for years has stalked major Columbus employers including L Brands and Abercrombie & Fitch. There’s suddenly a forcing mechanism to rethink everything, potentially shaping retail stores and foot traffic for years to come. “This is going to define a generation of retail,” says Kenny McDonald, president and chief economic officer

of One Columbus, the economic development organization for the 11-county Columbus region. “For a town as invested in retail and retail technologies and leadership as we are, that’s going to be really important. Are we going to lead through that? Are we going to be an example of that?” Businesses across all industries have been forced to adapt. Drive Capital, a Columbus-based venture capital firm, imparted wisdom on portfolio company executives in March as governments first ordered shutdowns. “The first was, in a stress test, assume that a third of your business goes away and you don’t sign a whole bunch of new business. And if you don’t have 18 months of cash, you’ve got to do some expense adjustments,” says Mark Kvamme, co-founder and partner of Drive, which recently raised $650 million in two funds to continue investing in Midwest technology companies. “The second thing is, for every week we’re involved in this, it will take four times that amount of time before we get to normal.” Scars from the last crisis—for those who went through it—are helping this time around, says Don DePerro, president and CEO of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. “I think business owners learned a lot during the Great Recession. And as a result, that has really helped them prepare for what we’re going through right now,” DePerro says. “Maybe not so much work remotely, but working with a smaller staff. We’re more accustomed to working very lean.”

When innovation flourishes Some good may come out of the coronavirus crisis. It’s said that neces-

calendars suddenly cleared events

Memorial Tournament Columbus Arts Festival* Buckeye Country Superfest* Experience Columbus-hosted meetings* Arnold Sports Festival* Ohio high school winter championships* Short North, April 4

Red, White and Boom Ohio State Fair

Total Impact

$35-37 million $10-15 million $30 million $74 million $53 million $11 million $15 million $98 million

Source: Survey of organizations *Canceled or severely restricted

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sity is the mother of invention and, in many ways, the shelter-at-home order has forced companies, nonprofits and governments to rethink operations. Everyone from toddlers to nursing home residents is suddenly well versed in video conferencing, even with their doctors in some cases. Companies are pivoting like they haven’t since World War II. There’s Aunt Flow, the maker of tampons and pads, which started producing face masks. Research giant Battelle landed a $400 million federal contract to sanitize and reuse protective masks using a new technology. And distilleries are producing hand sanitizer. “During these times is always when innovation really flourishes,” says Jordan Davis, director of Smart Columbus, Central Ohio’s $550 million smart cities initiative. There’s an opportunity to address some of the region’s needs in creative ways. In Columbus CEO’s annual survey of economic conditions completed last fall, business executives said improving education was the most important factor to improving the business climate. Less than six months later, students wrapped up their school years in online classes. The notso-subtle nudge from the coronavirus could precipitate permanent change. As organizations conduct business via videoconference, executives are wondering about the level of need for real estate going forward. Copella sees employers taking a flexible approach that upends traditional settings. “If people do work from home more, you could see larger companies say, hey, instead of having an office we’ll buy every one of our employees a membership to a coworking location,” Copella says. “I could see that being [something] employers offer as a perk to attract talent.” The adage “never waste a good crisis” is as relevant as ever. “I want people to say, how did you guys do this?” says McDonald, who has led One Columbus since it was formed in 2010 in response to the Great Recession. “From March 2020 to whatever point in the future we’re having that conversation, I want that to be a success story for the Columbus region, and a national model and maybe even an international model.” Evan Weese is a freelance writer.

Commercial real estate

endures The pandemic is not the Great Recession. Retail and hospitality are being hit hard. But overall— for now—projects still are being built, deals are getting done and lenders are in a strong position. It’s a time to look for opportunities. By Laura Newpoff • Photos by Rob Hardin


aron Gilbert has been working in commercial real estate since 1998 when he sold and leased medical office space in The Big Apple. In 2001 he returned to his native Columbus and joined a family-owned retail real estate firm. Over a 22-year career, Gilbert has seen the industry weather the 2001 recession that was worsened by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the Great Recession that ended in 2009 but caused pain for years after that. Those shocks to the American economy were gut wrenching for real estate professionals, but they seem like small potatoes compared to the devastation the novel coronavirus is wreaking on his industry today. “Given the amount of retail closures, we have never experienced anything like this,” says Gilbert, managing principal of the Gilbert Group. “What complicates all of this is that nobody knows how long it’s going to last.” Across Ohio, closures have been far reaching since Gov. Mike DeWine in mid-March ordered nonessential businesses including fitness centers, nail salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, bars and restaurants—except takeout—closed. He then issued a stay-at-home order that started March 23. All those empty stores changed the dynamic among tenants, landlords and their lenders. For Gilbert, whose firm owns

multi-tenant retail centers and manages a portfolio with 650 commercial tenants, it’s the most challenging situation he’s ever dealt with professionally. Landlords have mortgages to pay and tenants are under lease obligations, whether they’re operating or not. DeWine’s April 1 order that lenders defer payments from landlords for 90 days, while well-intentioned,

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has only added to frustrations, Gilbert says. By April 8, he had collected about 45 percent of the rent due to him on the first of the month. “I think the order caused way more confusion,” he says. “Tenants are using that order to justify not paying their rental obligations and many lenders are viewing the order as a request and generally are declining. Landlords are still being pushed to make concessions even though their lenders are not making those same concessions. It’s still a mess.” Gilbert expects most landlords to do everything they can to help their tenants stay in business. There’s a real concern about vacancy rates moving forward, he says. Many landlords are negotiating relief where tenants pay some rent in April, May and June with the balance being amortized over the rest of 2020 or 2021. “We continue to connect with our clients and our tenants because each side realizes we are in this together,” Gilbert says. “Landlords want to do the right thing—there’s a connectedness there.”

Empty offices Retail, leisure and hospitality properties will be the hardest hit asset classes, sources interviewed for this story say. Office buildings will be right behind them. According to a Moody’s Analytics report on COVID-19’s impact on commercial real estate, office vacancies are expected to soar while asking rents decline both this year and the next.

Brent Crawford’s Bridge Park work continues. Photo by TIM JOHNSON

Michael Copella, the managing director of CBRE in Columbus, says so far he hasn’t seen office tenants moving to sublease space or trying to exit leases, but the longer a shutdown drags on, the more likely those scenarios are to occur. Like retail, office tenants are having conversations with their landlords about what’s possible with rent relief. “Every situation is different, but there’s a sense of flexibility and a willingness to try to work something out,” he says. According to CBRE, there was 89,420 square feet of office space absorbed in the first quarter in Central Ohio, down from 104,931 square feet in the same quarter of 2019. In Copella’s opinion, that’s “a fairly slow start to the year and, given our belief that transactions will slow in the second

HigHer vacancy means lower rent Michael Copella, managing director of CBRE’s Columbus office, had the following takeaways on the state of commercial real estate in Central Ohio in the first quarter of 2020: • 651,000 square feet of office and 8.2 million square feet of industrial were under construction. How much of that space is absorbed by tenants will be critical to the overall health of the market, however demand for industrial product remains steady. • The average rental rate for new office (under construction) is $30.72 per square foot compared to $21.35 per square foot for existing Downtown or $18.98 for existing suburban space. It could be a challenge to get those rents if vacancy increases or demand goes down. • For office in the first quarter, there was just 89,420 square feet of space absorbed which, “in my opinion, is a fairly slow start to the year and, given our belief that transactions will slow up in the second quarter, it could mean that available space may sit vacant for longer, which might lower rental rates.”

quarter, it could mean that available space may sit vacant for longer, which might lower rental rates.” While Copella says office buildings in the city are only about 25 percent occupied now, he doesn’t expect the market to shrink away as a new workfrom-home model rises. “Cool offices help companies become an employer of choice,” he says. “Best-in-class employers will have a combination that will allow employees to have the flexibility of working both at home and in the office.”

Logistics up, mom-and-pops down The pandemic to date has had little effect on building construction projects, says Rick Trott, CBRE’s senior vice president. Here’s what he’s hearing from developers, contractors, project superintendents and private equity firms, which he shared in an update for CBRE: Projects already going are continuing on schedule; most projects that have not broken ground are being postponed but not canceled; most purchase and sale agreements for land and investment sales are being extended; getting approvals from municipalities has been challenging, but they are adapting; developers are leaning toward larger buildings for speculative projects; and lenders are standing behind their clients and are honoring prior commitments. A silver lining for Central Ohio, Copella says, is that it’s a major distribution hub since it is located

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within a one-day drive or one-hour flight from more than half of the U.S. “Rickenbacker (International Airport) is a huge strength for us right now,” Copella says. “There is an opportunity where this does change the supply chain. You could see more manufacturing distribution come back into the U.S. Central Ohio is accessible to such a large portion of the population and is known for its distribution talent, so the region could really benefit from this.” COVID-19 is having more of an impact on mom-and-pops than it is on larger companies, says Mike Simpson, president of NAI Ohio Equities. “Institutional-type clients are still willing to go through with deals,” he says. “Clearly fewer deals will be closed. Thankfully, most are being postponed and not terminated.” Capital markets have been impacted by the pandemic, with lenders’ appetites for risk diminished, says Doug Falor, vice president and principal at Provident Realty. American Banker recently reported on a Trepp analysis of 12,500 commercial real estate loans held by U.S. banks that determined that industry loss rates could go from less than 1 percent in 2019 to 2.5 percent five years from now. Trepp estimated a 35 percent default rate for the hotel industry. Federal programs like the stimulus, Paycheck Protection Program and the Commercial Paper Funding Facility— a program that helps companies maintain the flow of short-term debt that funds everyday expenses, including rent—could ease the impact on some businesses, Falor says. “Instead of trying to be precise, policymakers are seemingly casting a wider net with more resources in a proactive manner, economically speaking.”

Opportunity abounds Because DeWine hasn’t closed construction sites, building still is going on across Ohio, including at the mixed-use Bridge Park in Dublin that’s being developed by Crawford Hoying. Brent Crawford, principal and founder, says before the pandemic there was a lot of “froth in the market” with aggressive pricing for real estate and rising costs for materials and labor. So, just like with other downturns, the pandemic likely will lead to

a market correction. Crawford says he and partner Bob Hoying are in the fortunate position of having guided their company through the Great Recession. They are taking lessons learned and applying them to the situation they face today. That includes grabbing market share where they can and taking advantage of longstanding relationships with equity and lending partners. One key difference between now and 2008 is that banks are far better capitalized than they were 12 years ago. Then, they were part of the problem. Now, they are part of the solution, Crawford says.

“Like in 2008, you have to also look at this difficult situation as an opportunity, which this will be,” Crawford says. “When investors are extremely bullish, it is often the time to sell. And when they are scared, it is a time to buy. We are already are being approached about attractive opportunities in Columbus that we will explore with our banking and investment partners. We’ve been doing this 25 years, so at this point, (we) have seen a few things and know these are the times money can be made, not just lost.” Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer.

Innovation on


Columbus region companies and research institutions are ground zero for development of the equipment, medicine and information sharing the world needs to combat COVID-19. By Laura Newpoff


n Jan. 19, a 35-year-old man in the state of Washington visited an urgent care with a cough and fever. He had just returned to the United States from visiting family in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Nearly 2,500 miles away, scientists inside Columbus’ premier research institution realized they had a problem. Though the virus had yet to spread across the U.S. and become the singular focus of the 24-hour news cycle, the people at Battelle, which plays a key role in the global scientific community, were keenly aware of the outbreak happening in China. A decision was made quickly. Battelle would use its expertise in infectious disease to ramp up development of highly complex tests called assays to support the creation of a vaccine and therapies

to treat COVID-19. The research giant’s work, however, didn’t stop there. Across the street from its King Avenue headquarters sits one of the country’s largest universities and its renowned medical system. For years, leaders inside Battelle and Ohio State University have come together to advance health care. With a vaccine more than a year out and a shortage of COVID-19 testing, they decided to jointly develop a laboratory that could offer test results in as little as five hours. Gabe Meister, research leader at Battelle’s biocontainment facilities, says the institute can take risks when there’s an urgent need. Without weeks of hand-wringing about costs, in a matter of days the two organizations performed analytical validation and set up a lab. The partnership is a result of the strong relationship between Dr. Peter May 2020 l ColumbusCEO

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Photo courtesy BATTELLE

prehensive Cancer Center, including three projects looking for a vaccine. Other highlights include a clinical trial using plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 to help heal others, and a study looking at nitric oxide for its antiviral properties and as a potential treatment to prevent the need for ventilators.


Lab sample testing at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Mohler, vice dean for research at Ohio State’s College of Medicine and director of the Dorothy M. Davis Heart & Lung Research Institute at the Wexner Medical Center, and Battelle’s CEO, Lou Von Thaer. “They moved mountains to bring this together,” Meister says. “Dr. Mohler and his team have been unbelievably open to these new faces (from Battelle) and the new instrumentation we brought in. We all just came together and said, ‘We’re all in, let’s find a way,’ and we did.” Battelle has opened a second test processing lab at its West Jefferson facility. And Ohio State and OhioHealth helped the institute on a project sanitizing N-95 masks for Ohio’s first responders. Meister says he’s now validating multiple testing options to keep the market diversified and protect supply chains. Battelle also will study the best ways for people to return to an

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open society, continuing work on a COVID-19 vaccine and therapies.

Ohio State University One of the problems with testing for COVID-19 has been a shortage of kit components like swabs and the sterile solution that’s needed to transport them. In response, Ohio State researchers, in less than a day, created their own solution, receiving approval from the Food and Drug Administration in early April. The Wexner Medical Center worked with the colleges of engineering and dentistry to 3-D print more than 50,000 swabs for test kits that will go to hospitals across Ohio. Ohio State also is sharing the tests with other cities, including Detroit, Chicago and New York City. Indeed, there are more than 80 research studies going on across campus in partnerships with the Wexner Medical Center and the James Com-

Photo courtesy ROGUE FITNESS


A lab at Battelle

As the world leader in scientific information, CAS is positioned to help researchers accelerate the discovery of a vaccine and treatments for COVID-19. The organization takes scientific information from around the globe, extracts the details and makes them discoverable. The goal is to close the gap between the huge volume of information that’s available and the specific insights needed by a particular pharmaceutical company or research institution. In early April, the organization, which is a division of the American Chemical Society, released for free an open access dataset of chemical compounds with known or potential antiviral activity to support research, data mining and analytics applications. The dataset contains nearly 50,000 chemical substances. It also was uploaded at the Allen Institute for AI in response to the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy call to action on COVID-19. Manny Guzman, the president of CAS, and Dr. Michael Dennis, vice president of innovation, say there’s been a huge appetite for COVID-19-related information. As of mid-April, the dataset had been downloaded by more than 600 organizations.

Respirator hood testing at Rogue Fitness

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CAS also has opened all its content, technology and people to anyone working on COVID-19 solutions. Its report, “Research and Development on Therapeutic Agents and Vaccines for COVID-19 and Related Human Coronavirus Diseases” has been downloaded a record 235,000 times. CAS also has translated COVID-19 public health information into Chinese, Arabic, Somali and Spanish for state agencies. And it donated 50,000 disposable gloves to local hospitals, including the Wexner Medical Center. “This has been an energizer for us,” Guzman says. “This community of people we have here, everybody is absolutely leaning in to contribute. We can help connect the dots with the global scientific community.”

too, including transparent boxes between doctors and patients. “The shift to make these products was a pretty easy decision,” says Grindley, who has been with Plaskolite for 37 years. “If we were doing other products that weren’t needed right now, I’d have trouble bringing people in. But our employees are completely behind this.” Fitness equipment manufacturer Rogue Fitness also has revamped operations to make personal protective equipment, working with OhioHealth and the state of Ohio. In mid-April, Rogue was preparing to supply 500,000 masks, 300,000 face shield frames and 1 million face shields to medical groups. The company also is working on approvals for respirator

Plaskolite and Rogue Fitness


Private companies in Central Ohio are helping fight COVID-19, too. Thermo​plastic sheet maker Plaskolite has 10 plants across the U.S. operating around the clock to help customers produce up to 3 million face shields per week and 200,000 partitions for grocery stores and other retailers. The company also has donated 5,000 face shields to Central Ohio hospitals. CEO Mitch Grindley, who was succeeded by Ryan Schroeder in late April but remained as executive director of the company’s board, says Plaskolite is having a hard time meeting demand for the plastic needed for both products. He expects the need to continue: There are more than 1 million retailers in the U.S., and he thinks most will want partitions to protect workers. Other plastic products could become commonplace in health care,

Photo courtesy PLASKOLITE

Retail checkout barrier

hoods for medical workers. Owner Bill Henniger says via email the company is donating PPE to homeless shelters, drug treatment centers and nonprofits. Responding to COVID-19 ties into its mission of doing “whatever it takes to get the job done.” “We started (the COVID-19 efforts) by providing internal stimulus packages to our team, then began buying 500 meals per day from local restaurants and buying groceries from Weiland’s (Market) for everyone at Rogue,” Henniger says. “The leadership team knows we have to help keep a healthy ecosystem as best we can. This has always been our mission and always will be.” Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer.

experience Columbus’ small business owners have faced tough choices about closing, laying off employees and whether to pay bills. Meanwhile, they wait on a federal stimulus program that’s been difficult to access. By Bob Vitale and Amy Braunschweiger Photos by Tim Johnson


etween March 15 and March 22, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all of Ohio’s non-essential businesses to close in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. Small businesses—restaurants and bars, retail shops, salons and others—were especially hard hit. Some have tried to weather the storm by taking their wares and services online, and many are adopting new business strategies that in normal times follow months of planning. Some have closed their doors with plans to reopen. Some have closed permanently. The difference is often whether they have enough cash on hand to stay afloat and whether they’ll be able to get help from disaster relief programs that were part of the $2 trillion federal economic stimulus package. We spoke with six small Central Ohio businesses—from a one-person eyebrow and lashes studio in Clintonville to a rapidly expanding health care startup in Dublin—to gauge how people are coping with an unprecedented disruption in business as usual. We found a yoyo of emotions: Support for the state shutdown, but frustration with the process of seeking federal help; concern for employees that sometimes trumps concern for their own bottom lines; and a sense that a new normal awaits once Ohio reopens. May 2020 l ColumbusCEO

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SmileMD 5890 Venture Drive Suite A, Dublin 43017 Business: Mobile anesthesia services for dental and medical practices. CEO: Saket Agrawal Employees: 19


n mid-March, expansions into Kentucky and Illinois were set for SmileMD, a Dublin company that sends anesthesia teams to dental offices to keep patients out of hospital beds. The company was ready to hire six employees in Central Ohio, a 30 percent expansion for the business founded in 2014. A chief growth officer had just joined to oversee sales that had tripled each year. CEO Saket Agrawal had been following the news from China, Italy and the American coasts about COVID-19 and thought of his own emergency plan. “I always had in the back of my head, what if I lose a doctor, what if they just quit on me or they have a health issue or get in a car accident and my revenue drops 50 percent overnight?” he recalls. “So that’s how I ran my company. I always had that reserve: Here’s the money we cannot touch because I need to be able to sus-

Saket Agrawal

tain an impact to the business.” That worst-case drop in revenue came for SmileMD on March 16, when Gov. Mike DeWine stopped all but emergency dental procedures in Ohio to limit exposure to the coronavirus and divert personal protective equipment to hospitals. But it was far worse than Agrawal ever imagined. Overnight, business dropped off completely. “They didn’t give us time to digest it. One night you get a memo saying all dental is cut off,” he says. A big if—approval for funds from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program—was resolved the week of April 20. The moves into Kentucky and Illinois are now planned for late this year. Salaries were cut, but no one was laid off. “If we knew it was only a month, we probably wouldn’t have had to take such drastic measures,” he says. “But if we waited to cut costs … or a second wave occurs, we’re not going to have a business.” Agrawal is optimistic about the future; he hopes to reopen in mid-May. He says the pandemic that shut down SmileMD also made its case. “The whole goal is to make sure hospitals have space for COVID patients. Our business really helps with that. This crisis, if there is a silver lining, just highlights the importance of the service we’re providing.” -Bob Vitale

Letha Pugh and Wendy Miller Pugh

Bake Me Happy 106 E. Moler St., Columbus 43207 Business: Gluten-free baker and food maker. Owners: Letha Pugh and Wendy Miller Pugh Employees: 12 Revenue: $750,000 (2019)


hen Gov. Mike DeWine shut down all but carryout at Ohio restaurants March 15, the owners of Bake Me Happy issued a social-media plea to friends of the gluten-free bakery in Merion Village. “We are responsible for lots of people,” Wendy Miller Pugh and her wife, Letha Pugh, wrote on Facebook. “We have been good stewards of our funds, but they won’t last forever without community support. We need your help.” Customers responded by buying gift cards that kept revenue coming in. The business began taking online orders and offering bake-at-home cookies, cookie-decorating kits and frozen family-sized meals. Business was up, they say, even though wholesale orders from Ohio State and Denison universities stopped when the state shuttered schools in early March. Anxiety was

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Femme Jolie Eye Design Studio 3709 N. High St., Columbus 43214 Business: Salon that offers eyebrow sculpting and tinting, eyelash extensions, makeup and waxing services. Owner: Felicia Rand Employees: 1 Revenue: Would not disclose

F on the rise, too, for the owners and their 12 employees. “Our big conversation was, are we doing the right thing?” says Wendy Miller Pugh. “Are we keeping everyone safe? We want to keep going, but if somebody gets sick, then what?” At the bakery, the Pughs reassured employees things were going well, even as they closed two hours earlier each day. Bake Me Happy allowed just four customers inside at a time and stopped the sale of espresso drinks that required people to wait. “I could still feel the anxiety in the air,” Letha Pugh says. The two decided in mid-April to close down for a two-week break. Everyone got paid based on their average hours over the previous month. “When we all left there on Saturday [April 11], it was like a load… I feel lighter already,” Wendy Miller Pugh says. “It was like the last day of school before spring break. People were skipping out of there. That makes you feel like, OK, we did the right thing.” Letha Pugh wonders shorter hours might be the new normal. The couple already marvel about how quickly they were able to change procedures and products. “I’m not real comfortable with just reopening, but I also understand the need to start the process of reopening,” she says, Bake Me Happy might have more of these periodic two-week breaks. “If this is the new normal, we’ll -Bob Vitale adjust accordingly.”

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elicia Rand felt like things were finally starting to click for her this winter. She launched Femme Jolie Eye Design Studio in 2017 after years of doing eyebrows and lashes out of others’ salons because she wanted to run a business her own way and treat customers the way she wanted to be treated. “If you’re going to be in a space for seven, eight hours a day, you want to enjoy it,” she says. “It’s really like a girly space that I made for myself.” She made some early mistakes, she admits, but had found mentorship through the Women’s Small Business Accelerator, which helped. Her appointment book was nearly full March 18 when Gov. Mike DeWine ordered barbershops and salons to close. Rand understands why. There’s

no socially distant way to wax or tweeze eyebrows or do someone else’s makeup. “I don’t have many rules, but I’ve always told customers, you cannot come in sick,” she says. “I don’t have a service where I don’t touch a face.” Femme Jolie is closed umtil salons can reopen, and Rand gave up a parttime job delivering groceries because of concerns for her 6-year-old daughter, who had been fighting infections since fall. But, “I hope you didn’t want a woeis-me story,” she laughs. “I actually think this happened at the best time it could have. It forced me to get over myself. I took a notepad and started writing out all the potential ways I could make money.” Rand, who is 39, is focusing on a side project selling T-shirts and gifts online. She’s staying connected, too, with the women who see her studio as a place to unwind and talk about their problems at home and at work. She had been getting a lot of “my brows look crazy” comments from friends and customers, but she knew they also were missing that space to share. She sent them an email with a photo of her with her two children, added her cell number and told them she’s there if they want to talk. Rand is confident customers will return. Her lease is up in July, and she’s planning to return as well. “I will reopen,” she says. “But I’ll probably have people wear masks.” -Bob Vitale

Felicia Rand

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Pursuit 937 N. High St. Columbus 43201 Founder and CEO:

Nate DeMars

Business: Retail suits, shirts and ties, plus tailoring services Employees: Before COVID-19,

15 at peak

Revenue: $1 million+

Megan Pando

Makers Social and Studio 614 and Owner: Megan Pando Businesses: Makers Social is a bar where people can make crafts, and Studio 614 is an art studio where people can sip wine. Employees: 20 part-time before



egan Pando give birth to her son, Nico, on Feb. 24, a month after she opened her second business. Makers Social is a Franklinton bar where people can create crafts, from leather keychains to wooden six-pack caddies, while sipping cocktails. The pregnancy was a surprise, but Pando had dreamed of opening a space like Makers Social for years. In 2015 she opened Studio 614 in the University District, a venue where people paint while drinking wine. That first month, Makers Social brought in triple the revenue Pando had projected. She expected the next few months to be full of work while also caring for a newborn. Her husband, Dave, who owns a paintball park in Grove City, would be doing the same. Three weeks after her baby’s birth,

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine shut down the state’s bars to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. That day, Pando and her husband closed all three businesses. Pando furloughed her 20 part-time employees. She has enough savings to keep the businesses afloat for two months, she says. As of mid-April she hadn’t yet dipped into the savings. But she also hadn’t paid her bills. Her application for the Paycheck Protection Program was pending in late April, but as the government’s stimulus ran dry, Pando reinee in her hopes. (When this article went to publication, a second stimulus bill was being voted on by the House of Representatives.) Next, Pando and her husband will figure out which bills can go unpaid. Makers Social’s landlord agreed to postpone rent until it reopens. These days, both she and her husband spend almost all of their time at home, enjoying their baby. “I can forget about everything ... when [Nico’s] looking up at me.” With Ohio businesses slated to start reopening May 1, Pando was hoping Studio 614 could reopen for groups smaller than 10 and that her husband’s paintball park would be allowed to reopen, as it’s outdoors. Since giving birth, Pando has visited Makers Social a few times. But instead of focusing on the empty bar, she’s being productive. “I wanted to paint a mural in each of the restrooms. So I’m going to play some music and get on the ladder and paint these murals.” -Amy Braunschweiger


ithin roughly a month, Nate DeMars, founder of specialty suit shop Pursuit, closed his stores because of COVID-19, laid off all his employees, spiraled into a dark funk while running his hobbled business single-handedly, and then—reprieve!— learned he was green-lighted for two loans under the federal stimulus program, letting him rehire eight employees. It has been a rollercoaster of tears, adrenaline and anxiety. And while relief washed over him when he learned he would receive loans under the Disaster Relief and Paycheck Protection programs, he felt guilt, as he knows other business owners who need—and haven’t received—this help. Spring and summer—wedding season—is the busiest time of year for Pursuit, a custom suit shop founded in 2011. Since moving to the Short North

Nate DeMars

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in 2015, business quadrupled, and in fall 2018 DeMars opened a Cincinnati shop, expecting sales there to double this year. Then COVID-19 hit. By Sunday of the week Gov. Mike DeWine closed restaurants, DeMars knew staying open to the public wouldn’t work. “No tailor wants to be standing next to someone, pinning them,” he says. Ahead of closing, DeMars laid off his in-store employees first, then his leadership team. He began renegotiating payments to vendors, grateful for their flexibility. “I’ve never not paid a bill in my life,” he says. Normally, the Short North store does a little over $1 million in annual sales, just over half from weddings. He had hoped to barely get by online. DeMars also serves on the Short North Alliance board. “I’ve cried about once a day for someone else’s businesses,” he says. “Everyone around us is a small business. You feel a personal connection.” He hopes much of Pursuit’s 2020 business is delayed, not lost. And while he can’t imagine opening before mid-May, he’s brainstorming changes for a socially distanced near future, including “pre-tailored” suits. “This might sound dramatic, but I’ve been thinking about this as a neardeath experience, but as a business,” DeMars says. “I’m not going to stick my neck out there and take on more debt to have the same business I had beforehand.” -Amy Braunschweiger

Aslyne Rodriguez

EmpowerBus Founder and CEO:

Aslyne Rodriguez

Business: Provided transportation to and from work, education and health care. Closed April 2020. Employees: 19 at its peak Riders served: 5,000+


mpowerBus was a star of Columbus’ new mobility scene, which has sprung up since Smart Columbus was launched amid a reckoning in transportation. It transported people to work, school, or health care. But April 7, it idled its vehicles for good. Before COVID-19 hit, “We were going in the right direction,” said CEO Aslyne Rodriguez. “We were looking at partnering with another transport company to be able to have a bigger impact.” The business brought together Columbus’ low-to-moderate income communities and companies in need of a reliable workforce—Worthington Industries was its biggest client. Along with its 15-passenger vans, EmpowerBus, through Smart Columbus, also operated an autonomous shuttle in Linden. When the coronavirus crisis began to unfold, Rodriguez couldn’t find masks for employees or find a way to keep passengers 6 feet apart. “That’s impossible in a 15-passenger van,” she says. The company lost contracts, and

“ridership started to dip as [people] were either not going to work or didn’t want to get on the vehicle.” Rodriguez first laid off her 19-person staff, most of them drivers. She then made the decision to close permanently because she couldn’t see how to keep vans sterilized to ensure safety. EmpowerBus helped a wide array of people: formerly incarcerated men living in halfway houses; people who’d lost driving privileges; and immigrants without driver’s licenses. It worked primarily with manufacturers and logistics companies, serving all three shifts and charging companies $150,000 for a year of service. Employees would pay between $3 and $5 per round-trip to get to work. “Our selling point [to companies] was that the cost of turnover is way more expensive than the cost of our service.” The company owned three vans and rented or leased others as needed. Until it became profitable, it received support from the Wells Foundation, Columbus Foundation and United Way, among others. After Rodriguez told employees EmpowerBus was closing, a driver who was formerly incarcerated called her. He thanked her for seeing him as a human and not a criminal, saying he’d never forget it. Rodriguez speaks both of grief and of overwhelming support. “I’m going to be OK, and so are the people we served and the people who worked for us,” she says. “I’m a person of faith, and I believe I was meant to do this work. And that the small ripples we started will hopefully go beyond me.” -Amy Braunschweiger May 2020 l ColumbusCEO

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Estate Planning

Maximizing the deal Acquisitions are still moving forward. Here’s what to consider when selling your business. By lin rice + Photo by Rob Hardin


lthough the onset of the novel coronavirus has already caused unprecedented effects on the U.S. and world economies, until recently, businesses have been changing hands at a staggering rate. As many baby boomers have been considering their retirement plans, paired with a market that’s been flush with cash in recent years, more than 10,300 businesses were sold in 2018 and more than 9,700 last year, according to Even in the best of times, selling a company ends up being more than the average business owner bargained for. And with 45 percent of sales considered opportunistic, having a plan before an offer is presented is critical to getting the best value and ensuring the business’ health into the future. To help present a complete picture of what you should be considering when you begin thinking about selling your business, Columbus CEO spoke with wealth planners and business owners to hear what they believed to be the most important things to consider when preparing to sign that final dotted line. And while the current crisis has forced most entrepreneurs to stop and consider their long-term prospects (and probably how they’re going to make payroll this month), what those experts had to say could come in handy once the future seems clearer.

Ask yourself: Am I ready? Before getting into the weeds of bal-

Michael Copella

Adam Koos, president and portfolio manager of Libertas Wealth Management Group

Things to consider You’ve realized that it’s time to begin selling your business. But where to start? Libertas Wealth Management Group President Adam Koos offers the following quick tips as you prepare. • Before doing anything else, ask yourself if you are emotionally ready for the process. • Understand the actual value of your business to potential buyers. • Plan ahead and prepare for the process, rather than doing things on the fly. • Ensure you have maximized the value of your business by getting your financial and administrative house in order before beginning. • Consider what you want the outcome for your employees to be as you plan. • Don’t do it alone—gather a team of quality professionals to help sell your business. • The right buyer isn’t necessarily the first offer. Think about what you want to ultimately become of the business you built. • There’s no time like the present to begin your preparations—begin forging the relationships you’ll need today.

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ance sheets and financial projections, take a step back and think about the big picture: Are you ready to do this? “Before someone sells their business, they should be thinking about their personal vision—how much will their lifestyle cost them, what they are going to be doing in the near future and in their retirement,” says Kori Manus, a wealth management adviser with Heartland Planning Associates. “Do they want to travel? Be close to family? Take into account philanthropy? Health costs? We really want people to understand what their vision is before making decisions.” Along with feeling confident about selling, it’s crucial to understand the effort involved in the process. “It’s one thing to feel like you’re ready to let go and move on to other things in life,” says Adam Koos, president and portfolio manager of Libertas Wealth Management Group. “It’s another thing to start crunching numbers, meeting with your selling team, and to sit face-to-face with buying candidates that you’ll inevitably need to interview. Selling this thing you’ve built takes on a new kind of life.”

Get help As a business owner, you’ve probably become extremely well-versed in your particular area of focus. That doesn’t mean you have the skills or experience needed to sell a company and get the best outcome. Richard Hetsko, former owner of Oberlin Hearing Care, sold his practice in Oberlin last year and is awaiting the final closing. As a doctor, he was happy to listen to the advice of business experts when it came time to sell. “I’m an audiologist, so my business experience was basically nil,” Hetsko says. “I realized I needed help selling, determining how that would interact with both my business and personal finances, and the advice I received from my financial planner was crucial.”

Be ready for opportunities Not surprisingly, many business owners have a lot of work to do when it comes to preparing to sell their company. But if the predictable aspects of a sale are already prepared for, owners can be positioned to take advantage of good opportunities to sell if they arise.

“Many business owners fly by the seats of their pants, and by the time they’ve procrastinated about ‘selling someday,’ a life-altering event takes place and they’re forced to get rid of the business in a fire sale,” Koos says. “Plan ahead. Have your nondisclosure agreements signed, know what your business is worth, put together a comprehensive evaluation, and use the information to grow in the right way so that you can sell for more when you’re ready.”

Get your financial house in order now If there is one commonality among business owners considering selling their companies, it’s that hardly any of them have things nearly as in order as necessary, Manus says. “I recommend five years minimum to prepare for your sale, typically,” Manus says. “I would even prefer to have a 10-year horizon, but that’s not realistically how it happens. I’m a believer that even if you have no intention of selling, it’s always a good time to be preparing for it. You should be running your business like you’re going to sell next year.”

Plan for your employees The decision to sell is going to affect more than just yourself and your family, Koos says. If you are at all concerned about the long-term health of the business you’re selling, you should incorporate how you want things to turn out for your employees into the planning process. “Do you have a team member who acts as your right hand who would also be instrumental to the longer-term success of the company post-sale?” Koos says. “Perhaps you want to provide some sort of job security as you negotiate with buyers. Having staff who are trained veterans can provide peace of mind to the buyer in question as they are individuals who can often assist with ensuring a smooth transition, post-sale.”

Know your value At the end of the day, your business is worth what prospective buyers are willing to pay for it. This advice ties into relying on your team of


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advisers—they can help you get a clear, unemotional picture of your business’ value. “So many times you’ll see owners without a clear picture of what their company is worth,” Manus says. “They think it’s worth more than it is, or inflate numbers—they’ve never done the math. The due diligence required prior to selling, very few business owners actually do it, unless they were working with an adviser.”

Trust yourself Relying on your expert advisers is crucial during the sale process, but the final decisions ultimately fall to you, business owners say. Do your due diligence, get all the good data and advice you can, but don’t discount your own instincts—and that goes for buying a business, as well as selling one. “I would tell prospective buyers not to hesitate to get the information they need to comfortably complete the deal,” says Rick McCann, president and recent buyer of Mid Ohio Golf Car. McCann says he got lucky

“Before someone sells their business, they should be thinking about their personal vision.” Kori Manus, wealth management adviser, Heartland Planning Associates

with the quality of staff he inherited, but wishes he would have advocated for more information in the buying process. “The way you have to look at it is if the deal falls through because the seller becomes uncomfortable with your need to fully understand what you are buying, then the deal probably should not have progressed. As a buyer, you have more leverage than you might think.” Hetsko says he went into private practice in 2001 after the multispecialty practice he was a part of dissolved. Based on advice at the time, he set up his small business as a C-corp, which didn’t turn out to be the best way to position his new company. “I took the best advice I had at the time, but found out selling a C-corp is very different from selling an LLC or sole proprietorship,” Hetsko says. “I would say take the best advice of the advisers you have, but make sure you do your own double-checking and research to make sure [that advice is] valid.” Lin Rice is a freelance writer.

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Health Watch: Breast Cancer

Nurse navigator Casey Gallant has worked extensively with cancer patient Kathy Walker.

Treatment angels Nurse navigators guide patients through one of the most emotionally and physically exhausting times in their lives. By Laurie Allen + Photo by Tim Johnson


athy Walker remembers how she and her husband Ken felt when they heard the dreaded words: You have a malignancy. “Your head is just swimming. You have no idea what to expect,” Walker says. “My husband’s ears just closed off, and the doctor started speaking to me.”

For Kathy, who learned she had breast cancer last May, and her husband, who received a prostate cancer diagnosis in 2018, it was a time of overwhelming uncertainty, anxiety and fear. Walker feels enormous gratitude for the nurse navigator who became her “angel” throughout her treatment. Her husband wishes he’d had a navigator of his own. Both are doing well today. Walker’s navigator, OhioHealth breast cancer nurse Casey Gallant, says she and other nurse navigators are there for patients throughout their cancer journeys—from the time of diagnosis to aftercare and surveillance. Their role is to make a frightening process less daunting and link patients to all the resources they may need, including financial, transportation and emotional support. “We are their point of contact,” Gallant says. “We are their people. One of the main issues they face is loss of control. We try to do the little things that bring as much comfort as possible.” Her first contact with patients

comes not long after diagnosis. “Their heads are spinning, they’re scared. We focus on the most important piece, one piece at a time.” Often that means preparing for surgery, or reviewing their specific treatment plan. In Walker’s case, chemotherapy came first. She was about to have her chemotherapy port placed and was in a large surgical waiting area when Gallant introduced herself. She gave her a cap, pillow and blanket for the infusion room, which is cold. “I was totally amazed. It makes you feel special. It was totally unexpected,” Walker says. Gallant also gave her a threering binder containing information about the cancer treatment process, which moves rapidly and can be overwhelming. “You get so much literature. It’s like drinking through a fire hose,” says Walker, who lives in Grandview Heights. She says Gallant was with her at every step, including a day she was so sick from chemo she couldn’t get out of bed. “The phone rang and May 2020 l ColumbusCEO

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it was Casey, and she could tell right away something was wrong,” Walker says. She urged her to call her oncologist immediately, which she did, and received new medication to help with side effects. On the day of her double mastectomy, Gallant was there with the special items Walker would need after—a surgical bra, a pillow to place between her and the seatbelt. Navigators help prepare their patients for everything from dressing changes and drain care to the how their bodies will look and feel immediately after surgery. “It’s a life-changing event,” the navigator says. Navigators also connect their patient partners with OhioHealth’s integrative cancer program, which includes nutrition, fitness, art therapy and mind-body stress reduction techniques. Cancer navigators are becoming more common in hospitals. The program started with breast cancer and has expanded to include other types. Their services fall generally into two categories: diagnostic and treatment. Diagnostic navigators join patients once they are called back for more testing up to the time of biopsy and diagnosis. The treatment navigators step in once the diagnosis is made and patients learn about their treatment plans. Larger systems such as OhioHealth have both types, with diagnostic navigators concentrated in major treatment sites (in OhioHealth’s case, Riverside, Grant and Dublin Methodist hospitals). Hospital navigators link patients to community resources and are vital conduits between physician and patient, translating information and relaying messages. “That’s what I’m here for. I’m that extra person

“We are their point of contact. We are their people. One of the main issues they face is loss of control. We try to do the little things that bring as much comfort as possible.”

in their corner,” says Karen Keil, a breast cancer nurse navigator at Mount Carmel Grove City. Mount Carmel East and Mount Carmel St. Ann’s also have navigators. Keil and others develop rapport with patients’ cancer team specialists and usually hear back from them quickly, she says. She is in close contact with them from diagnosis on to help patients anticipate and understand what is happening. “Some need a little more information, and some need to just hear it a little differently,” Keil says. Navigators work with social workers and rely on community organizations such as Pink Ribbon Girls and the Columbus Cancer Clinic to make sure no need goes unmet. (Patients also can access services through the American Cancer Society in Ohio and the Cancer Support Community Central Ohio.) “We could not do this without social workers,” Gallant says. Filling gaps for women without insurance, who may live in underserved communities and have more complex needs, also falls within the purview of navigator programs, such as those at Mount Carmel and Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. The latter makes use of lay navigators who focus on eliminating barriers to care and work closely with clinical teams, says Chasity Washington, director of the Center for Cancer Health Equity. Because those women may not see the same physician at every visit, Keil at Mount Carmel says she makes sure to be at all their appointments and arrange for interpreters when needed. “That’s where we really concentrate, to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks. Our role is all-encompassing. We want to be there from start to finish. Patients just really benefit from that.” Walker says her cancer team and Gallant in particular helped her feel less afraid and more aware of what was happening throughout her cancer experience. “I felt like I wasn’t alone on an island. If it weren’t for Casey, there’d be a lot of ‘what ifs.’ It’s like having a little angel in your corner. It made me feel awesome.”

Casey Gallant, nurse navigator, OhioHealth

Laurie Allen is a freelance writer.

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WE BELIEVE IN THE STRENGTH OF OUR COMMUNITY Our doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers have dedicated their careers to taking care of others – especially in crisis situations. And that’s what we’re doing now with the COVID-19 outbreak. Working with our fellow health systems, our government leaders and our communities, we are here for you. This is new for all of us. Together we are writing history. We understand that well-being goes beyond just treating disease, so we’ve prepared resources to help you avoid it. And resources to help with your mental health, too. • We’ve created a digital toolkit full of trusted information to help put your mind at ease • We’ve also compiled some of our favorite apps to help you find a sense of calm during these uncertain times • You can find this information and more at: • Download the OhioHealth app for convenient management of your health needs

Your friends, neighbors and caregivers at OhioHealth

© OhioHealth Inc. 2020. All rights reserved. FY20-434101-Brand-COVID-19. 05/20.

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Last Look Photo by Rob hardin

New normal The pandemic left the bustling Short North deserted. When businesses reopen, it’s likely most people will be wearing masks. 84 ColumbusCEO l May 2020

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