Business Owners Speak Out: Spotlighting Lorain County’s Businesses: May 3, 2021

Here are interviews with local business owners with amazing insights into today’s challenges.

ActionCOACH’s Rick Phelps virtually sits down with several business owners of the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce and dives into what’s really happening.

Check out their inspiring story for tips on how to cope with and successfully recover from this pandemic, and learn how to avoid making common mistakes.

And, most importantly, visit the company website to view their full offerings.

1-888 OhioComp – Ken Hopson, Regional Manager

We are a managed care organization, handling the medical management of workers comp claims for Ohio employers. Every employer that has workers comp insurance has what is called a managed care organization, or an MCO, and that’s what we are!

Businesses can select their MCO. When they don’t, one is randomly assigned. MCOs are paid through the workers comp premiums, and do all the medical management, the bill payments and dispute resolutions. We also have other customer services that go above and beyond, but that’s the nutshell of what an MCO is.

Ohio created the MCO’s back in 1996, and we were one of the original MCO’s!

Rick Phelps (RP): Who is your target customer?
Ken Hopson (KH): We service everything from mom-and-pop shops to restaurants to huge corporations. We will do the managed care for a farm or a huge manufacturing facility, it does not matter.

A lot of smaller businesses do not even realize that they have an MCO, or what an MCO is, so through the chamber we work to educate them. If you do not know who your MCO is, they are obviously not providing you good service. If you are a pizza shop with 15 employees, you might never hear from them. We are different than that. We talk to you if your premium is $300,000 or if your premium is $500, it does not matter.

RP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
KH: Most of our employees worked in the office before COVID, post COVID, most of our staff have been working remotely. It has worked beautifully. People are more productive now than pre COVID. It has really been not too tough for us as far as logistics and keeping our business going and getting our work done. 

RP: It has been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you have made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
KH: Go above and beyond what you are contractually mandated to do.

RP: What is most inspiring to you today?
KH: The health care workers have just been heroes. That is probably the most inspiring thing that I’ve seen in the last year. 

Contact: Connect with the team at 1-888 OhioComp by phone: 216-426-0646 or visit their website:

MAY IS OPEN ENROLLMENT which only comes around every two years! Do YOU know who your MCO is?

Fitness Machine Technicians – Kevin Bracy, Owner

We are Fitness Machine Technicians, we do maintenance and repair of all sorts of fitness equipment: treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, strength machines, any and all of them. We serve both residential and commercial customers. 

We opened our franchise location in November of 2019.

Rick Phelps (RP): Who is your target customer?
Kevin Bracy (KB): Our target is broad. A couple of our biggest customers are gyms. They are the most consistent, and that is directly related to the number of pieces of equipment they have. 

The largest segment of our business is residential. We are currently working with 50 to 60 residential customers a month. 

Our first territory is downtown Cleveland and west, out to about Sandusky, although we have had a couple of people that have called from as far away as Toledo. 

We also have the Akron Canton territory. 

RP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
KB: It is really just the shift in focus. A year ago I was focusing on hotels and apartment complexes that had a gym, but were not in the business of running a gym. Those were our core target customers. 

With COVID most of those gyms have been shut down for the better part of the last year, and that drove a shift in the focus to residential, people who had a treadmill that was down in the basement for the past five years and has been a coat rack, or otherwise not getting a lot of use. Once they decided they were going to start using it, they found it didn’t work. So we’ve got a lot of those phone calls. 

And we got a lot of other people that were not comfortable going to the gym so they added to their home gyms. We have done quite a few assemblies!

RP: It has been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you have made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
KB: I think the one of the biggest ones that continue just to be reinforced with me, is being clear about expectations and what you can and cannot do. 

Be honest in of those conversations with your customers.  I’ve had a few customers that have called me and asked for advice, and we’ve had a 15-minute conversation. And you know, I do not get paid for those conversations, but somebody walks away and feels like they have gotten to the right answer, and an answer they’re comfortable with. It is one of those situations where you put you put good stuff out into the world and that good stuff comes back to you at some point.

RP: What is most inspiring to you today?
KB: I think the most inspiring are the individuals that have some sort of a health situation that’s going on and they are really looking for this piece of machinery to either maintain or dramatically improve their quality of life. Our very first customer was working through Parkinson’s and the doctor had recommended a particular machine. They had had somebody install it, and it just wasn’t working. We figured out that the handlebars were put on backwards. And so we took it off, flipped it around, got it put on the way it was it should have been out in the first place. 

She got on and started using it, and just the joy on the individuals face, as she call out to her partner “Look, I’m using it, I’m using it, I’m moving!”

That’s pretty cool that we get to be able to do that!

Contact: Connect with the team at Fitness Machine Technicians by phone: 440.322.3200 or visit their website:

Check them out on Facebook page as well

Gravity Marketing LLC – Elizabeth Hockerman, Partner 

Gravity Marketing is an outsourced marketing service. We call our main service offering VMO, which stands for virtual marketing officer. The idea there is we are working with small and mid-sized businesses who do not have an internal marketing department. We serve as their chief marketing officer, their marketing director, and marketing manager. They get a whole team of people that are a part time marketing department for less than the price of one full time executive.

Gravity Marketing was founded in Milwaukee in 2009. 

.Rick Phelps (RP): Who is your target customer?
Elizabeth Hockerman (EH): We help small and midsize businesses, mostly B2B companies. We also are heavily specialized in digital marketing. We do work with some B2C companies, tech startups, and people that are looking to use pay per click advertising to drive sales through their website. For the B2B companies we do email prospecting, lead generation through the website, and marketing materials development. 

The difference between gravity and an advertising agency or a marketing agency is that we are focused on sales driven ROI. So just like the CMO inside of an organization, we are looking at talking to the business owner about what are your business goals? Where are things that we can do to bolster sales? So how do we feed more into your already existing sales pipeline? And how do we make sure that we focus on the foundational things that you could be doing, like communicating to your customers, finding look alike customers or look alike industries that you would do well in., and then really kind of take it step by step, once we find something that works as a good lead generation tool, we let that run and we add another layer to help grow their business.

An ideal client is successful, has a strong sales team, but doesn’t have a marketing function. They need assistance with digital online reputation and reaching that broader net of people that would hear about them through places other than what the sales team can reach in a day.

RP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
EH: The impact that COVID has had on Gravity has been interesting, a little different than the things that you hear that some businesses are suffering. What we found early on with COVID is that our clients needed to figure out, just like everyone was trying to figure out, how to work from home and how to use video conferencing. With our clients, we had to help them shift to marketing initiatives that they could do online, to get the word out.

A lot of our clients responded in their own way to COVID. Some really pivoted their business, so we needed to support them and get the word out there.  We have a technology company that normally does embedded computing and embedded technology systems, that decided to make a contact tracing and proximity monitoring system. They used their technology for the first time to offer a product directly to businesses.

We also work with a manufacturer who makes hydraulic components. They decided to help with an effort to design and build face masks that they are now trying to get N95 certified. 

RP: It has been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you have made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
EH: There must be a balance between what your ideal client is and who is knocking on your door to do business with you. If someone is not an ideal client, it does not mean you have to say no, but acknowledge that you have that ideal client for a reason. Figure out if there is a way that you can adjust your service offering so that you can still work with them.

Another lesson was with the hiring process. Try to remain as objective as possible. We put together a five-step hiring process that helps us remain objective and focused on the fact that we want a certain type of fit with our company. Hiring the wrong person, whether it’s the right person in the wrong seat, or the wrong person in the right seat, can really mess up the growth of your company. Hire slowly, fire quickly!

RP: What is most inspiring to you today?
EH: What has inspired me for the past few months is how quickly people can bring something to market. Whether it is knowledge or a product or service, based on the needs that people have now. It’s really impressive to see all this different technology and products and services that have become available in a short amount of time.

Contact: Connect with the team at Gravity Marketing by phone: 414-376-6500 or visit their website:

We do a webinar every other month. In April it was focused on the importance of owning your contacts database. Check out our website for our next webinar!

Great Lakes Computer Corporation  – Bob Martin, President

Great Lakes Computer Corporation has two sides. On the service side we do computer servicing, post warranty, break, fix, repair work. In our Managed Services Division, we focus on the small business market and outsourced IT support.

Our market niche includes enterprise groups or medium enterprises. The federal government is one of our larger customers. We do everything from the 15, desktop law firm and professional services company, to the 25 desktop manufacturing facility.  We are a mile wide and an inch deep. We do a lot of that work for our local customers here in Lorain County. 

As we move forward cybersecurity has been just huge. We have a got a lot of new features and functions coming out so that is the area that we’ve focused on, because that’s the area that I see the most need.

Rick Phelps (RP): Who is your target customer?
Bob Martin (BM): On the maintenance side, instead of an industry specific our target customer has lots of locations, lots of printing equipment or IT equipment. That works very well because those logistics are difficult for a company to support, maintain. With our years in service and our partnerships, I can probably get somebody to Albuquerque quicker and I get them to Akron. We have a very wide range of support subcontractors or 1099 part time folks. We help international companies like Parker and Eton and Bendix that have manufacturing facilities all around. 

On the managed services side or the IT support side, we really don’t focus on a particular industry. Manufacturing does well, simply because of the demographics of the area. We  do a lot of professional service businesses such as lawyers, medical billing, simply due to the demographics of the area. 

RP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
BM: From last March to May, I don’t think any of us slept. I mean, it was just a huge impact on us. And, you know, everybody needed it done yesterday. I think that people are starting to settle in, I’m not sure if we’re going to see that rebound, where people are coming back to the office space.

I think with this new work at home paradigm, the biggest impact on the business is going to be cybersecurity. How we businesses keep their people and their data safe. It is a daily battle. It is something that an owner used to think about every now and then, and now it is something that they should be thinking about every day.

RP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
BM: I think we struggled just like everybody else. But you know, we made sure that everybody maintained their job, everybody maintained their salary, all those good things that keep our people healthy, happy and safe. 

Our costs keep going up, but we try to absorb that versus pass it on to the individuals. As a result we don’t have a lot of turnover. 

RP: It has been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you have made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
BM: I tend to be very analytical.  I’m an electrical engineer, so I get it naturally, unfortunately. I think the one of the mistakes I make is not following my gut enough and just go for it. And you know, that is risky. But a lot of times, the Elon Musks of the world, they going for it.

RP: What is most inspiring to you today?
BM: Oh, I’d say these young folks with their energy. The energy and the ideas they bring to the table. So getting energized or getting introduced to new people with new ideas and, and that energetic attitude I think is what Jazz’s me up.

Contact: Connect with the team at Great Lakes Computer Corporation by phone: 440-937-1100 or visit their website:

Great Lakes Computer Corporation supports several charities. One, Fill This House, they donate warehouse space in their facility. When kids graduate out of foster care, they get put into an apartment. Fill This House fills the apartment with everything needed, from dishes to bedding to sweepers and a microwave, allowing this kid to start his life with some brand-new stuff. 

Help Fill This House take over more of the Great Lakes Computer Corporation’s warehouse!

Platinum Restoration – Amanda Stephens, Media Spokesperson

Platinum Restoration is a leader in fire, water and wind mitigation and restoration. Anytime someone has a pipe burst or basement flood, our water mitigation team will deal with the water damage, so our full restoration team restore the space, from start to finish. This May we celebrate 20 years in business!

Rick Phelps (RP): Who is your target customer?
Amanda Stephens (AS): Our business is twofold when it comes to our target customers. First, we work with insurance agents and adjusters to provide their clients who have major insurance losses with our elite mitigation and restoration services. 

We also market and do brand awareness campaigns directly to the customer, the homeowner, the business owner, or even a property manager who needs our emergency services after a storm or fire. 

RP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
AS: Because our work is deemed essential, business did not suffer. We took extensive efforts to ensure that our clients felt safe when we entered and worked on their home or property. 

Early in the pandemic, when we were not sure exactly what this virus was, we had some customers ask us to postpone the work because they did not want us entering their homes.

Now the biggest challenge that we face are backorders on building materials. And we are not talking about back orders of a couple weeks, we are talking back orders of months. 

RP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
AS: We made sure that we were in contact with whomever is the main point of contact, the actual homeowner, or the insurance adjuster, or the property manager, so they knew exactly where we were going to be, how many people were going to be there and how long we were going to be there.

 We also ordered full protective gear for our teams, so they were completely covered head to toe. This was for the safety of the homeowners and business owners, as well as our own team members. 

RP: It has been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you have made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
AS: Make sure that you are able to create a level of trust between your team and the client. Communication is key.

RP: What is most inspiring to you today?
AS: Our business owner, Michelle, reached out to other business owners in our in our industry and to other business owners in our communities to see how we would be able to work together and learn from each other to make sure that the clients and our teams were safe.

Contact: Connect with the team at Platinum Restoration by phone: 440-327-0699 or visit their website: 

Ryan – St. Marie Insurance – Mindy Nielsen, Agent & Spencer Ryan, Owner

Ryan St. Marie is an independent insurance agency in Lorain County since 1999. In March of last year, they moved to their new building at 105 Cleveland Street, the old Decker building. They do home and auto insurance as well as business insurance, Life and Health Insurance.

Mark Phelps (MP): Who is your target customer?
Mindy Nielsen & Spencer Ryan (MN, SR): Our personal line clients are incredibly diverse, all the way from kids that are in dorms, to baby boomers in a single-family dwelling, and everything in between. On the commercial side there is no limit. We write every type of business imaginable; it doesn’t matter if they’re big or small!  We write a lot of smaller artisan contractors, your plumbers, drywallers, carpenters, electricians, your landscapers, and we handle them just like we handle our larger accounts.

MP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
MN, SR: We closed our office on March 23 for the safety of our staff and we sent everybody home. Then all the rebates started coming back and complicating things! Our two primary companies, Erie Insurance and Westfield insurance, were very proactive, giving individuals rebates on their insurance. That was great because people were using their cars less, and your insurance premium is calculated based on how much you use your car.

MP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
MN, SR: We were proactively calling and adjusting our commercial client’s sales projections midterm, which we normally would never do. We were being proactive, reaching out to customers to see if we needed to adjust their sales projections or increase their deductible for the short term.

MP: It has been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you have made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
MN: I would say the hardest part with what we do is listening to the customer fully to understand what is needed, versus us trying to solve the problem at hand. Just listen, especially right now.

SR: I would say be humble. You cannot walk into a customer who has been doing their business for 20 years, and say, I understand exactly what you need. We take the time to really understand their business.

MP: What is most inspiring to you today?
MN, SR: People’s grit to survive. People are going to scrap, scrape, scratch and claw their way to survive this thing. Those that come out on the backside of this thing are going to be stronger, they are going to be the Phoenix is coming out of the ashes. If anything COVID has taught, its taught us a lot about ourselves.

Contact: Connect with the team at Ryan-St. Marie by phone: 440.322.3200 or visit their website: If you have any questions regarding your insurance, we are here to help. We are here to advise you and help you.

The LCADA Way – Joe Matuscak 

The LCADA Way is mainly focused on behavioral healthcare with a significant emphasis on substance abuse treatment. The communities that we serve are Lorain County, Medina County, Wadsworth County, Cuyahoga County and Erie County. We also do services in mental health, medication assisted treatment, and prevention services in the schools.

We are celebrating our 40th anniversary this year!

Rick Phelps (RP): Who is your target audience?
Joe Matuscak (JM): Our target audience is typically focused on those battling an addiction, or substance abuse. That does not have an age target – it can be anywhere from 12 years old, all the way up to people in their 60s and 70s.

Our customers are not just the people we serve. It is also the families and communities that we serve. We tend to look this from a 360 degree viewpoint. When we help somebody, we need to make sure we educate the family and the community as well.

From a fundraising standpoint, we have several events throughout the year, our focal point, or our main event is our dinner in October every year, where we bring in a national celebrity or speaker, who has an issue with addiction or has a family member with an addiction issue. They tell their story and it really resonates with the people who attend. And this year being our 40th year, we are having a alumni reunion event at crushers Stadium in August. We are opening it up to our alumni, staff, clinicians, and anybody in recovery, for a celebration and get together at Crusher Stadium. 

RP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
JM: With the COVID, the biggest impact was moving from a traditionally provided face to face service into a technology world. We had been doing telehealth on a very minimal basis for probably eight years or so, but when March 13 of 2020 happened we quickly had to organize not only ourselves, but also our customers, to begin providing telehealth services as needed. 

We did a lot of outreach via telephone calls as well to make sure that people were still able to maintain sobriety.

We ended up moving approximately 130 staff to their homes, got them set up and  trained in Zoom. We kept our women’s residential open, still providing a safe atmosphere.

RP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
JM: I think one of those actions was giving the cell phones and technology to people that needed it.

At first, we saw about a 13% decline in accessing services, just because of the COVID and the pandemic had the courts shut down, the probation department shut down, Children Services, etc., all shut down. 

They were not checking in on these people to ensure they seek the services that they needed. The stimulus package also put money in the pockets of people that had not yet hit rock bottom (needed before they seek services). 

Because of the pandemic, there has been a lot of isolation, a lot of mental health issues going on. A lot of people doing additional drinking as you can see through the alcohol sales. So that has not slowed down. In fact, the actual number of overdoses has increased tremendously in during the pandemic.

RP: It has been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you have made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
JM: The biggest challenge we face is staffing. There is a huge need for social workers, or licensed people to provide these services. If we could go back, I would say that we would have started that push for additional people in terms of training, working with LCCC and others to provide an actual certification courses so people can come become counselors. 

RP: What is most inspiring to you today?
JM: Well, the answer to that what keeps me going is the passion to help one person have a successful outcome. We know we have several that fail. However, that one successful outcome where they reunify the family with each other, and that alumni comes back and tells their story about how they were so grateful for our services, and become a member of our community working towards a greater good.

Contact: Connect with the team at The LCADA Way by phone: 440-989-4900 or visit their website:

The LCADA Way reunion coming up at Crusher Stadium in August – check the website for more information.

Our big fundraising event is in October. Anybody wanting to donate an auction item, or be a sponsor of the event, is more than welcome!

You Belong – Amy Taylor, Founder & Owner

You Belong is an agency that assists individuals with disabilities and barriers to employment in being successful. We do that by utilizing state and federal resources to fund job readiness through employment support. If an individual is working with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, the Medicaid Bureau of Workman’s Compensation, or the VA, we can assist them with a variety of tools and resources to help them prepare for work for the first time or return to work if they have had a period of absence. All these services are provided at no cost to the individual. If someone comes to us and does not know how to get connected to those resources, we help them with that, too!

It is easy for the process to become complicated and cumbersome for the individuals who receive services. We wanted to make our message that they belong, they belong in the community, they belong in the workforce, they belong everywhere that everyone else belongs. And it does not matter that they have a disability, it does not matter that they have challenges, they are equal and valuable and important, just like you or me or anyone else.

We are a placement agency, but not in the same concept as like a temp agency. We look for permanent placement for individuals in what we call competitive integrated employment. 

We offer specialized services like vocational evaluations, where someone can help learn about what it is that they are interested in. They get a customized report about their work interests, preferences, and abilities. 

If you think about our services on a continuum, placement would be very one end – “I want a job, I’m getting a job”, and vocational evaluation would be on the other end – “I don’t really know what I want to do, or what I am capable of doing”. Then in between, there are assessment services and what we call work adjustment, on site job training to build stamina, to develop interpersonal skills, to develop good work behavior. 

Rick Phelps (RP): Who is your target customer?
Amy Taylor (AT): The first is individuals with disabilities and barriers to employment.

The second customer is employers. All our services are provided at no cost to an employer. We do what we call employer engagement, where we reach out and we provide services for free to the business community to help educate and support diversity and inclusion in businesses. We help them understand how having employees and businesses that are accessible to all parts of their community, which includes individuals with disabilities, is important for them to thrive and to do well.

If a store is in a heavily populated area with individuals with autism, for example, it would behoove them to have a number of individuals who have autism working in their store, because then it not just appear welcoming, but it will actually be welcoming to individuals with autism and their families.

RP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
AT: I think the impact was minimal because how we provide services is already so customized. But keeping track of every industry’s expectations, knowing how to get in touch with people in retail, how to get in touch with people in healthcare, and how to connect on our business side has been probably the most challenging. The rules and guidelines are changing like wildfire! We try to stay knowledgeable and up to date for each one of those industries so that we can be helpful and knowledgeable when we go in.

RP: It has been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you have made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
AT: Probably my biggest mistake is underestimating the potential for growth, I think that it’s really easy to be fearful of growing too much too fast. But when you have the right people in the right kind of team, you can lean into that and have wonderful things happen. And I think my biggest mistake was being afraid of that.

RP: What is most inspiring to you today?
AT: The first thing that comes to mind is very cheesy, but it is what it is! 

Really incredible things can happen when you just say yes!

We are always saying, what if? What if it goes bad? What if it’s not right? What if it’s not perfect? 

But what if it is? What if it goes really well, what if it is perfect? What if it gives you everything you can do? 

We have a daughter with special needs, and this year, during the pandemic, she has grown more in the time period that she’s been home than she has in the last several years! All we did was say, yes, we are going to try. 

Contact: Connect with the team at You Belong by phone: 440-320-7439 or visit their website:

If your business is interested in partnering with us, we would be more than happy to meet with you and help you explore that option. 

If you know someone who’s interested in receiving services, we’ll be happy to help them as well!