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Fall 2013

Restaurant Renaissance Rick Doody infuses old-world flavor and charm into a new-world dining experience

breaking down Lean manufacturing

focus on Transitioning your business

get to know Jim Dannemiller

going for gold What’s your state of mind? Middle America is making a comeback for businesses There isn’t a lot of glamour associated with being called a flyover state; the states passed over during transcontinental flights are stereotypically viewed as bland, rural regions. Many see the cities in these states as declining or past their prime, without the strong economic draw of a Silicon Valley or the Big Apple. Flyover states got that nickname mainly because they have never been seen as a destination themselves, either for businesses or individuals. That is, until recently. The once-booming coastal states are struggling to recover from the housing and mortgage crisis that left them with high unemployment, high corporate and individual tax rates, and mounting debt. As a result, many have made cuts to essential public services such as education and infrastructure. Meanwhile, the central corridor of the U.S. is experiencing strong growth. States such as North Dakota, Nebraska, Indiana, South Dakota, Louisiana, and Texas remain financially healthy and stable, and have lower tax rates for business and individuals. This shift in the financial health of our nation is causing a trend, in that businesses are moving away from coastal states to the more economically friendly central corridor. Meredith Whitney, financial analyst and CEO of the Meredith Whitney Advisory Group, discusses in her book “Fate of the States,” how America’s new emerging marketplaces are pulling jobs and business from the coast. These states, unburdened by debt or a dependence on high taxes, are able to invest in things that are attractive to those who live and work in their cities, such as jobs, education, and recreation. For example, between 2009 and 2012, more than 12 percent of the people who moved from California went to Texas. California, which has an average corporate tax of more than 8 percent and individual tax rates as high as 13 percent, also saw Google, Amazon, and eBay invest and expand in business-friendly Texas. What does this mean? Location is more important than ever. Middle America will continue to drive the economy, and the strength of these states can play an important role in your business success. Both established companies and start-ups will need to strategically choose the best geographic locations for doing business. You need to think innovatively about how to maximize the opportunities in states with lower income, sales, and corporate tax rates. Utilize the increasingly digital economy to work outside of the typical metropolitan areas and reach national and global customers. Business leaders can, and should, look for areas that offer the best resources for employees to live and work. Those of us who live in flyover states have long known that our states are full of innumerable resources and thriving metropolitan areas. The rest of the country seems to just be waking up to the possibilities. 800-869-1834 AKRON 301 Springside Drive Akron, OH 44333

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Innovation and growth have found a new home.

Mark Goldfarb, CPA Senior Managing Director IRS Treasury Regulations require us to inform you that any tax advice contained in the body of this communication was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions.


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SS&G is a founding member of LEA Global, an international professional association of independently owned accounting and consulting firms.

first person Jim Dannemiller Title: Managing director, Akron Degree(s)/College(s): Bachelor of Science in accounting, University of Akron Hometown: Bath, Ohio Year I joined SS&G: 1993

When I was growing up, I wanted to be: A professional basketball player My first job: Sweeping floors at a trucking company during high school The word that best describes me: Reliable My first day at SS&G, I remember thinking: All accounting firms really aren’t the same. The best part about my job: Meeting or exceeding a client’s expectations about our performance My business philosophy: If you want to provide great client service, look at the situation from the client’s perspective.

The best part about my job: Meeting or exceeding a client’s expectations about our performance

The person I admire most: Abraham Lincoln My greatest achievement so far in life: Raising two children who have become productive adults

On weekends, I look forward to: Golfing

At least once in their lives, I think everyone should: See Bruce Springsteen in concert.

My favorite place in the world is: On any golf course in North Carolina

One thing people might find surprising about me is: I’m very reserved.

When I get discouraged, I: Think about what people in the military have been through. It makes me realize things in my life aren’t as bad as I make them out to be.

If I weren’t doing this, I would: Be an accounting professor at a small college

My attitude toward change is: That it is inevitable, so you need to be able to adapt

My favorite movie: Man on Fire My next personal goal is: To get into better physical condition

Success is: Seeing the younger staff at SS&G moving up in our organization and taking on more responsibility j

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industry Making more with less Ace Metal Crafts used a lean manufacturing strategy to weather the economic storm


n 2001, Ace Metal Crafts Co. was facing one of its toughest years yet. The economy was sluggish, and mad cow disease was affecting the meat processing industry — one of Ace’s main clients. The leading stainless steel fabricator and contract manufacturer was losing money and needed to find a way to cut costs and remain profitable. “I wouldn’t say we were desperate, but we were definitely depressed,” says Jean Pitzo, owner and CEO of Ace Metal Crafts in Bensenville, Ill. “We were looking for a way to improve ourselves and what we do. We knew we could be bigger, better, and stronger.” Pitzo began to explore her options for growth and found lean manufacturing — a model that focuses on eliminating waste while maintaining, and often increasing, value. In 2002, she rolled out the initiative and hasn’t looked back since. “It helped us grow through those conditions and beyond,” she says. “We cut lead time and costs. We became more profitable. We’ve also remained competitive in our environment and increased the skill set of our employees.”

Analyzing the challenge For 53 years, Ace Metal Crafts has designed and manufactured custom-made stainless steel components for food processing and packaging equipment. To determine the best way to introduce the new lean manufacturing into the company’s processes, Pitzo hired consultants to analyze all aspects of Ace’s workflow, from equipment and organization to operations and workforce. As the consultants made recommendations, Pitzo kept her employees involved and solicited their feedback. She says it was important to involve employees from all areas of the company so that they would understand the changes and buy in to the initiatives. “We try to be very transparent with our employees and involve them as much as we can,” Pitzo says. “We have a trust-based culture, which makes Ace a great place to work. It’s been easy to get employees involved and excited. People want to see the company improve.”


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Implementing lean manufacturing To begin implementing lean manufacturing, Pitzo organized the company by value streams as opposed to departments. The pacemaker value stream prepares materials, the fabrication value stream creates the products, and an additional value stream focuses on one particular client. Within these value streams are functions such as welding, polishing, glass beading, and mechanical assembly. The value streams, along with tape on the floor of the workspace indicating ingoing and outgoing workflow, keep Ace organized based on larger responsibilities. Even the shipping process is organized into the three value streams for greater efficiency. “These value streams allow our workers to learn skills, metrics, and measurements of a value stream, not just an individual task, which allows for increased production and efficiency,” Pitzo says. “Our value streams manage risk, cost, scheduling, and performance, while decreasing lead time and increasing quality.”

Ace also incorporates 5S, a Japanese organizational method that stands for sort, straighten, sweep, standardize, and sustain.  The process starts with sorting, which eliminates unnecessary materials while keeping necessary materials organized and available.  Straightening organizes workflow to eliminate waste and allow things to operate in an orderly fashion.  Sweep calls for regular cleaning to keep workspaces tidy and organized.  Standardize ensures that procedures are uniform throughout the company.  Sustaining is the result of maintaining the 5S processes and procedures. “5S has really helped us streamline our processes to make them more lean,” Pitzo says. “It’s easy to remember and follow, and provides a huge benefit.” Ace also incorporates visual management so that anyone who walks into a value stream knows its status within seconds. “We incorporated boards that include daily metrics and that are very visible to everybody,” Pitzo says. “Our scheduling system is not on paper. We have color-coded cards that go on boards throughout the plant, and if you need to change something, you just reorganize the color cards on the board. We also use red and green flags to show whether we’re on schedule.”

Lean strategy results in rapid growth Although the processes were implemented to deal with the economy, they worked so well that Ace Metal Crafts has continued with the lean manufacturing model because of its proven effectiveness. Since the company began implementing lean manufacturing, it has grown 171 percent, Pitzo says; in the past three years alone, business is up 36 percent. And the savings realized from lean manufacturing was large enough to allow the company to move to a new building in August 2011, doubling in size from 40,000 square feet to 80,000. The savings also enabled Ace to institute a profitsharing bonus plan beginning in January 2013. “Each quarter, if the company hits a minimum level of profit, we divide 15 percent of our profits among the employees,” Pitzo says. “The first two quarters have been very effective. We really feel that if our employees are helping us make these lean manufacturing improvements, they should share in the benefit of those improvements.” As a result of its improvements, Ace was recently selected by Toyota — a pioneer in lean manufacturing — to receive additional assistance in the lean process. A

“We cut lead time and costs. We became more profitable. We’ve also remained competitive in our environment and increased the skill set of our employees.” — Jean Pitzo, owner and CEO, Ace Metal Crafts

Toyota representative is visiting Ace twice a month for 24 months, teaching the company how to use lean tools even more effectively. Pitzo has no doubt that the future leadership of Ace Metal Craft will continue utilizing the lean manufacturing strategy — she is currently grooming her daughter, Angela Pitzo, to become the next CEO. Angela has been with the company for two years, and has never worked in an environment that wasn’t lean. “We’re really moving ahead,” Pitzo says. “Lean manufacturing has become an efficient and effective methodology to run our company. It is now part of our company culture and identity; it is ingrained in us.” j

Three tips from Ace Metal Crafts’ Jean Pitzo on implementing lean manufacturing outside help. Hire a consultant who has helped other companies with the process and consider employing a continuous improvement champion whose job it is to ensure your company identifies improvement opportunities and remains lean. The Association of Manufacturing Excellence, which can help you network with other companies that have gone lean, is another excellent resource.

 Elicit

a lean culture. Your employees need to be on board with lean manufacturing in order for it to work. A trust-based culture that encourages communication and employee participation is most effective for lean manufacturing implementation.

 Cultivate

be afraid of failure. Keep trying and keep practicing. Lean manufacturing is not a program that you try for a while and then stop. It is about changing your company’s identity, which can take time.

 Don’t

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case study


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î Ş

fall 2013

Restaurant Renaissance Rick Doody infuses old-world flavor and charm into a new-world dining experience

Photos: Jesse Kramer


ike many young adults, Rick Doody was unsure of his goals after graduating college. He had no idea that by accepting a job in London, he would set in motion a chain of events that would forever change his life. Doody was working for Tesco, a British multinational grocery store and general merchandise retailer, when the opportunity arose for a business trip to Bologna, Italy. A simple business dinner during this trip would set him on a brand new career path. “I went to see this gentleman, Vito, who made fixtures for retail stores,” Doody says. “At the time, my father had a well-known company — one of the largest retail design companies.” In Italy, everything centers on family, and that connection got him preferred treatment. Although Doody didn’t work for his father’s company, Vito went out of his way to take care of Doody. Impressing the son was as important as impressing the father in an attempt to gain new business. “I was just a college graduate,” Doody says. “I didn’t have squat to do with my dad’s company, but they wined and dined me as the son of the company owner. In America, where things are more structured and formalized, that wouldn’t have been an option. But Vito and his friends took me to dinner, and I can honestly say I’ve never eaten like that in my life.”

He said the restaurant owner came to the table to speak to his hosts, who translated for him. “He said he was honored to have me at his restaurant,” Doody says. “He brought over several bottles of wine and asked me if I wanted to try the special, which was fish. I was still pretty young, and I had never experienced that way of embracing food and the experience of dining.” Doody arrived in Italy unsure of his future, but he left with his heart set on the Italian restaurant business. He was determined to return to the U.S. and recreate his Italian dining experience as part of his own restaurant concept. After 12 years of research and development, Doody’s vision became a reality with the opening of the first Bravo restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, in 1992.

La Cucina Italiana Doody’s initial vision for Bravo was one of whimsy. Patrons dined in a setting evocative of a presentation of William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” Doody descried the initial menu as “esoteric and almost nouveau-Italian.” The presentation was theatrical and whimsical, with white tablecloths, stone and granite interiors, and an overall theme of Roman ruins. “It wasn’t what you might see in Italy,” he says. “You might see elements of it, but I doubt you’d see the entire Bravo concept in Italy.”

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An elegant draw In the late 1990s, Columbus business magnate Les Wexner was developing Easton Town Center, a village-style shopping district adjacent to the Interstate 270 outerbelt on the northeast side of Columbus. Easton Town Center would feature upscale retail stores and restaurants, similar to Wexner’s Limited Brands (now known as L Brands Inc.) family of stores, which have included The Limited, Lerner New York, Victoria’s Secret, and Bath & Body Works. Wexner wanted Easton Town Center to include an Italian restaurant, and he approached Doody, who by then had been successfully piloting Bravo for more than seven years.

As the chain expanded, Doody and his team found that Bravo’s whimsical décor and cutting-edge menu were, indeed, esoteric. They appealed to a certain niche, a diner looking for that specific type of dining experience. But the concept wasn’t gaining a great deal of traction when it came to mass appeal. When customers want Italian food, they’re often in the mood for classic Italian fare served in an atmosphere that evokes home cooking, as opposed to a Shakespearean stage. Doody didn’t want to outfit all of his tables with the red-checkered tablecloths stereotypical of family-style Italian restaurants. But he and his staff knew they had to start sanding and polishing the Bravo brand, drawing it closer to a classic Italian concept while keeping many of the design and food elements that made Bravo unique. Doody decided to add more classic Italian dishes to Bravo’s menu, including lasagna Bolognese and margherita pizza. The Roman-ruin décor was toned down and simplified, but the restaurant still maintained a touch of formality and elegance with the retention of white tablecloths. “We tried to emphasize simplicity and flavor, and tried to not get too far away from that once we refined the concept,” Doody says. Great Italian cooking is all about making good food from simple ingredients, and most dishes at Bravo are limited to four or five ingredients. After successfully rebranding and redesigning Bravo, Doody saw another opportunity to return to the rustic Italian roots that he first experienced during his initial trip to Italy years before. The team at Bravo capitalized on that opportunity with the opening of Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio.


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However, Wexner didn’t want a Bravo at Easton because he felt the restaurant didn’t fit within the larger concept of the shopping center. So Doody began developing the restaurant that would become Brio Tuscan Grille. “Les Wexner and Yaromir Steiner of Steiner and Associates approached us wanting something a little different, a little more upscale,” Doody says. “So we developed this idea of a restaurant that is more authentic to what you might find in Italy. The food and the décor have an emphasis on Tuscan design and Tuscan themes.” Brio opened at Easton Town Center in 1999 with a menu that offered a number of traditional Italian dishes but that had an increased emphasis on grilled items. The Brio entrée selection includes steaks, chops and fish, and the price point is slightly higher than Bravo, with an average check difference of about $7.

Quality control The opening of Brio accelerated the growth of Doody’s company. Today, there are more than 100 Bravo and Brio locations in 31 states. The company, which employs about 9,000 people, went public on the NASDAQ in 2010. Along the way, the focus of Doody and his management team has shifted from merely driving growth to managing it. He has worked to find — and maintain — the right growth rate for his company so that it continues to steadily increase in size and value, but not so quickly that it outruns its resources. He says the company has figured out its sweet spot, which is between seven and 10 restaurants a year. Opening restaurants at that rate allows the company to grow while still ensuring that it strives to be the best Italian restaurant in the market. Doody says that while his company has the ability to open Bravo and Brio locations at a faster rate, it’s not worth the potential risk. “If we were trying to open 20 or 25 new restaurants a year, we’d mess it up operationally,” he says. “We don’t

“We try to get a little better every day and in every way. That is our informal motto. We’re constantly working to tweak things and make them better.” — Rick Doody, Founder & Chairman of the Board, Bravo Brio Restaurant Group

want to be too slow with openings, or we’d never be able to expand our footprint. But if you do it too fast, you can cut corners and make mistakes, and we don’t want to find ourselves in that situation.” Doody’s company has yet to expand to the West Coast, but locations are planned in California and Las Vegas as the company continues to evolve and change. Menus change every quarter, restaurants are remodeled on an ongoing basis, and Doody maintains a consistent focus on training. He learned from Ritz-Carlton that restaurant owners must train every day, so the company is constantly pushing the envelope, and improving its training and hiring practices, with the goal of hiring the best possible people and giving them everything they need to succeed. The success of that approach shows through in the company’s retention rate and the number of people who have been on board for extended periods of time. “In short, we are very committed to our brands and everything our brands stand for,” he says. “We try to get a little better every day and in every way. That is our informal motto. We’re constantly working to tweak things and make them better.”

Eat well, live well No great company reaches the peak of its industry without accepting and implementing feedback from its customers, and Bravo/Brio Restaurant Group is no exception. Along with internally spawned expansion and improvement initiatives, Doody and his leadership team do a lot of listening. The restaurant group has a sophisticated IT department that collects and analyzes data from customer feedback and focus groups, and the company accepts feedback on everything from the menu to the décor to the layout of the restaurant. That feedback has led to the implementation of new ideas at both Bravo and Brio. For example, the restaurants have rolled out lighter menus for both restaurants as the result of guest requests, Doody says. “The new trend in food is that less is more,” says Doody. “There are a lot of people who don’t want to sit down at lunch, eat a 1,500-calorie lasagna dish and yawn through meetings in the afternoon. So we’ve introduced

menu items with smaller portions and lighter dressings — not necessarily different dishes from our regular menu, just lighter variations of existing dishes.” Customer feedback is, in many cases, not quantifiable; it’s based primarily on opinion. But although you might not be able to measure it, you still have to manage it, because if your guests don’t like what they see, you’re not going to like what you see at the cash register. “At the end of the day, this is a gut-instinct business,” Doody says. “You had better feel right about what you’re going to do, whether it involves a menu item, a price point or some other aspect of the business. For us, it has to resonate with our guests, because that is who we are. We need to listen to the guests and understand what they want.” j

Leave guests wanting more

Rick Doody’s tips for restaurant success get complacent. “Keep listening, keep learning, and keep searching. Keep figuring out how you can tweak things to make them better, but don’t make those decisions in a vacuum. It has to resonate with your guests.”

 Don’t

what you want to be. “Understand the basics — what you are, where you want to go and how many locations you want to have. Some of the most successful restaurants out there have one location, and that’s it. They’re great at what they do in that single location, and they don’t want to mess with it.”

 Understand

your culture. “Know what you value as an organization and, in turn, what values you want your people to embrace. Then be sure they live and project those values every day. If you say one thing and do another, you won’t last long.”

 Understand

economics. “You might have gotten into this business because you love food and you love serving people, but it’s still a business. And it’s a very risky business, at that. You have to understand cash-on-cash returns, the principles of smart growth and, in general, how a business operates behind the scenes. If you’d rather focus on the menu, you need to hire someone who is qualified and trustworthy to run the business aspect of things. Don’t leave that to chance.”

 Understand

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focus on Transitioning to the next generation Choosing the right path is vital to a winning succession plan


uccession planning is one of the most important things a business owner will ever do. While many don’t want to think about a time when they will no longer be with their company, having a plan in place is essential, even for those who don’t plan to sell or otherwise leave any time soon. Nothing has to be set in stone. As circumstances change, your plan will continue to evolve. The key is for your business to be prepared should an unexpected opportunity or issue arise. A plan helps your employees and stakeholders understand the direction of the company and helps you determine your wishes for yourself and the future of your business. “Business owners have a lot to think about when it comes to transitioning leadership or ownership of the company to someone else,” says Stacy Feiner, a director at SS&G Parkland. “There are several transition options that need to be considered, and the owner, stakeholders, and business itself need to be ready for a transition.”

your management team ensures that the buyers already understand the ins and outs of your business. This makes the transition easier, and financial partners will generally feel reassured about the level of experience and talent that managers possess. Finally, many business owners choose to seek an external buyer. When considering an external buyer, it is important to capture the highest valuation of the company. In this case, especially, you’ll need to start far in advance of a potential sale to ensure everything is in order and to maximize your selling price. Speak to an outside professional who can execute an audit and ensure you have successful systems in place.

Are you ready to make the change? Prior to the transition, business owners need to determine readiness at several levels. 

Four options to transition your business According to Feiner, there are four main transition options: family succession, an employee stock ownership program, management buyout, and an external buyer. If you want to transition ownership of your business to a family member, you need to look at both skill sets and the desire to take over in order to identify who that family member may be. In addition, experience is critical. “The successor should have external business experience and/or have rotated in different positions throughout the company,” Feiner says. “He or she should also have developed relationships with key stakeholders, financial institutions, customers, and employees.” If family succession is not an option, consider an employee stock ownership program. For an ESOP to work, you need to have an engaged workforce that will work hard to make the business succeed. ESOPs can motivate employees to take the company to the next level because it taps into their fundamental human desire to own what they spend their lives working on. “ESOPs cultivate the workforce and embed it within the community,” Feiner says. “They create a commitment to the business.” Another option is a management buyout. Selling to


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Are you ready? What will your role be once the transaction is completed? Some owners are willing to stay on for a period of time to assist the new ownership, or to transition to serving on the board of directors. Others want to disengage following the transition. “Many business owners are so worried about the business that they don’t think about what life will be like after the transition,” Feiner says. “The transition needs to begin with owners determining their vision for the future. This way, they are unencumbered during the actual transition and can continue to focus on the business.” Are your stakeholders ready? To prepare them and ensure there are no surprises, regularly update your succession plan and include your board and employees in the planning. If you don’t already do this, you should start. Is your business ready? Before transitioning, complete an audit and address any concerns that may arise. Doing so will increase the interest of buyers and potentially increase the sales price. Making sure your business is in the best shape possible will allow you to enter the transition phase with less stress and a clear, updated outlook of your business. j

For more information about succession planning, contact Stacy Feiner at or call 440-394-6150.

the last word

with Bob Littman

Pay it forward

Make the time to mentor your future leaders


o matter what point you are at in your career, it is always worthwhile to have someone to look to for guidance and advice. A mentor who can provide motivation, direction and professional encouragement can sometimes make all the difference between just having a job and having a successful career. There is great value in having the opportunity to learn from the experiences, achievements, and failures of others. It gives us perspective on what’s worked, what hasn’t, and how we can adapt and change to become the best possible versions of ourselves. For established professionals, it is important to seek out mentoring opportunities and pass on the best practices you’ve learned in your career. Busy schedules often push the responsibility of mentoring to the wayside, but coaching the next generation should remain a top priority. How else will your company continue to thrive? Taking the time to serve as a mentor can help develop talented professionals who are motivated and invested in the future success of your company. Whether you work with a new employee or someone less experienced within your peer group, there is always something you can learn, too. Mentoring can expand horizons for both parties involved, and opening up the communication channels within an organization builds trust and can bring new, innovative ideas to the table. I am proud that at SS&G, mentoring has always been a part of our culture. We have a strong group of accomplished professionals who promote mentoring to younger employees and help them grow and learn, both professionally and personally. If your company doesn’t have a mentoring program but you are interested in becoming a mentor, look to

“I am fortunate now to be in a position where I can pay it forward by serving as a mentor myself, and I encourage others to do the same.”

groups such as young professionals organizations or alumni societies that often have mentoring programs. Building a mentor relationship with someone outside of your company can provide you and your mentee with a good outside perspective on how to accomplish goals and overcome challenges, not to mention networking opportunities that might not otherwise be available. The importance and value of being a mentor should not be underestimated or overlooked. I have had people throughout my life and my career who have inspired me and shown me what it takes to be a strong leader and dedicated professional. It is with the encouragement and support of mentors that I am where I am today. I am fortunate now to be in a position where I can pay it forward by serving as a mentor myself, and I encourage others to do the same. j

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SS&G Solutions Fall 2013  

General business newsletter from SS&G, a certified public accounting and business advisory firm

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