Business Owners Speak Out: Spotlighting Solon’s Businesses

Here’s a collection of interviews from Northeast Ohio business owners with amazing insights into today’s challenges.

ActionCOACH’s Mark Phelps and Rick Phelps virtually sit down with fellow members of the Solon Chamber of Commerce and dives into what’s really happening.

Check out their inspiring stories for tips on how to cope with and successfully recover from this pandemic, and learn how to avoid making common mistakes. Be sure to check out special offers from these businesses. We can all use a little extra help right now!

And, most importantly, visit the company websites. Reach out to those who offer services you can use. Let’s support each other and get through this together!

Brennan Inc. President, David Carr

Brennan Inc. is a global producer of hydraulic, pneumatic, and process control parts. They have facilities all around the world, their manufacturing consists primarily in the US, Canada, United Kingdom, China, India, Germany and Israel. Brennan Inc. is headquartered in Solon, Ohio and they offer well over 60,000 SKU’s.

Mark Phelps (MP): Who is your target customer?
David Carr (DC): From an industry standpoint, we do an incredible amount in mobile construction (Caterpillar, John Deere). We are also big in the mining industry, oil and gas, and space exploration. In Canada we are heavily involved in truck and trailer and also home building. Recently, we started to get into the appliance industry. We are pretty diverse.

MP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
DC: It certainly made things challenging! From a sales standpoint, sales and marketing have been challenged. A lot of our business is based on personal relationships and building that level of trust through personal interaction. Another issue we face is not being able to travel to our international facilities. Anytime there’s an issue of some kind, it forces you to evaluate your business practices and hopefully you become a better company as a result of looking internally.

MP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
DC: We have looked at all aspects of our business. With all of the unemployment, it has been a challenge to find people. We had to learn to do more with less.  Fortunately, we were already working on some initiatives and when COVID hit, we had just launched Microsoft Teams across our entire company.

MP: It’s been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you’ve made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
DC: Our biggest mistake is that we have hired people and let them linger too long when they weren’t performing. If someone isn’t performing, it’s not just themselves that they’re impacting. It’s the rest of the company. So we aim to evaluate people quicker and faster to determine whether or not they’re going to succeed within our organization, not only from a performance standpoint but also from the cultural standpoint.

MP: What is most inspiring to you today?
DC: I am really excited about the next frontier, and that’s space exploration. We are just on the cutting edge with aerospace and it could explode which I think is pretty exciting, not only for our business but us as people and as a life form.

Contact: Phone: 440-248-1880 Visit their website: http://www.brennaninc.com

D&R Bagels Owner, Rita Hendry 

D&R Bagels is a bagel shop that does more than just bagels… They do catering and are able to cater any event such as weddings or corporate events. They offer 22 different varieties of bagels and make them from scratch every single day with no preservatives.

Rick Phelps (RP): Who is your target customer?
Rita Hendry (RH): We are very popular with high school kids. It’s a great place for them to stop and get a quick sandwich at a good price. They can come in and get a sandwich for under five dollars. The favorite bagel sandwich is called the “Kyle” which is grilled with an egg, a hash brown patty, hotsauce, and muenster cheese.

RP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
RH: We’re definitely feeling it… We were able to remain open only closing for five days. While closed we got a lot of customers calling us at home asking if we were open and making special requests. So we came back because we had the demand and our customers were asking us to come back. It has been a struggle but business is getting better. We struggle a little bit during the week, but we are pretty much back to normal on the weekends. During the week, we no longer have kids coming in since school is now remote. Our dine-in is still not 100% but we are doing a large volume of takeouts.

RP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
RH: We are trying to accommodate everything such as social distancing and sanitizing. We’re doing what we can to be very flexible with our customers and to provide the best service possible. Our catering is still a little lacking because no one can have large gatherings and catering used to be a large portion of our business. We are specializing in box lunches. Everything is in a box, from the condiment to the napkin to the silverware, sandwiches, and desserts, so this helps with folks hosting an event that instead of offering a buffet, they can offer food without any contact.

RP: It’s been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you’ve made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
RH: The biggest mistakes that we make, and we seem to not be able to correct, is we want to have hands on everything 24/7. That makes it very difficult because you don’t have a life outside of work and you have to learn to delegate a lot more and give responsibility to other people so that you can have some kind of break. We are so proud of this business and we feel that we need to be here all the time. Customers do love seeing the owners but we need to learn how to distance ourselves and that’s been really hard for us to adapt to.

RP: What is most inspiring to you today?
RH: I am inspired by a challenge and I am always up for a challenge. For example, a company wanted us to do a Mardi Gras themed party for them and I cook Italian food so I was not really familiar with Mardi Gras traditions. I did some research and it ended up being a hit, the customers loved it! Cooking is a passion of mine.

Contact: Phone: 440-498-4555 ***Be sure to give Rita at D&R Bagels a call for any of your Jewish holiday staples.

Planned Financial Services President and Founder, Frank Fantozzi

Planned Financial Services helps people make good financial decisions. Their goal is to recreate what they call “return on life”. This is the alignment of personal values and goals with financial capability. The decisions made here are meant to help put customers on a path to achieve what really matters most to them.

Mark Phelps (MP): Who is your target customer?
Frank Fantozzi (FF): We have two divisions so we have two target audiences. Our first target audience is the entrepreneur, business owner. I can either help them through their business or through planning to get better benefits. My job is to help cultivate people through the wealth growth process. That accounts for 70% of our firm revenue. Our next target audience is involved in a division called 401K prosperity. If you’re going to attract and retain talent, you have to have a reasonable corporate retirement plan of some sorts.

MP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
FF: It showed that we can pivot. All it did was change how we had to interact with our clients. We prefer physical meetings because there is so much more you can garner. COVID changed the way we deliver our service but it didn’t diminish the effectiveness of how we delivered our service. Physical meetings can be harder to plan so we think from a business development standpoint, that’ll change that aspect of our business. One of the biggest challenges from COVID is managing the media and the lack of context. We have to create context for our clients so that they can see both sides of what is actually happening.

MP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
FF: I think you have to be respectful to your team. I had to make sure from a leadership standpoint, that we were empathetic and that we provided a safe environment for everyone. From an ongoing basis, we created an environment where people feel that they can work safely and that’s an obligation that has to come from the top down. We have to appreciate not only our clients but also our employees. We allowed our employees to work from home for up to six weeks and then we slowly opened our office back up so employees felt more comfortable. You have to have camaraderie and this is hard to create when working from home. We also sent many emails and made calls so that our clients knew that we were on top of things and that we had their back.

MP: It’s been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you’ve made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
FF: I would recommend getting yourself a mentor or a board of advisers for your company. When you’re in the business, you tend to not see things that are on the outside peripherally that can hurt you. Surrounding yourself with smarter people than you is a good thing to do. So if you’re a professional, I say get a mentor. If you’re a business owner, get a board of advisors. It’s worth the money spent in a time to hold yourself accountable. I would also say that when trying to grow a business, everyone puts a lot of effort into sales. I always took great care of my clients, but at the end of the day, you got to worry about your clients first and selling second. If you don’t take care of your clients and you lose something, it takes a lot of effort to replace that. if someone hires you, that means they really trust you so take great care of them. Then with sales, I don’t think people put enough into sales training. Now everyone’s so tech heavy, no one’s teaching interpersonal skills. The art of conversation is becoming a lost art.

MP: What is most inspiring to you today?
FF: The biggest inspiration for me is watching my kids transition in life and seeing all the decisions they are making. Community wise, I’m the Chairman of the Board at Life Act, and we go in and teach kids how to recognize signs of depression in themselves or a friend so that we can take action to get them help. I think we made a huge difference in Northeast Ohio with Life Act so I get a lot of satisfaction that we’re growing our program and our goal is to become statewide. With Planned Financial Services, I’m excited about always figuring out how to make our business better, more relevant, and more effective to our clients. So I get all that personal satisfaction of what I’ve done with our firm to help our clients, but it’s the excitement of the ever changing competitive landscape in our industry that fuels me.

Contact: Websites: www.plannedfinancial.com and www.401kprosperity.com ***Offer: Second opinion offer – Discovery Process Notice: Planned Financial is looking for another adviser to join their team!

FMI Medical Systems – Director of Operations, Dazhuang Meng & HR Director, Patricia Harrity & IT, Tim McCroskey

FMI Medical Systems is a Research and Development Center specializing in designing high-end medical imaging equipment (CT scanners). They are focused on humanity and are striving to aid in the health and quality of life for the patients their equipment serves around the world. Since the 2020 pandemic, FMI now also manufactures and distributes face masks to the Solon community and beyond.

Mark Phelps (MP): Who is your target customer?
Dazhuang Meng, Patricia Harrity, Tim McCroskey (DM, PH, TM): We aim to sell to anyone looking for quality masks in the Solon community. We sell to individuals, families, schools, as well as for businesses. One of our big customers has been beauty salons, and places like that. And we have a distributor in the market as well. Customers can purchase our masks directly from us via our Shopify website (https://fmi-medical-systems.myshopify.com).

MP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
DM, PH, TM: The biggest change is that we now manufacture masks for the community. We have extremely strict standards for our workspace and go to extra effort to keep track of everyone and stay safe. We now have a half million masks that are ready to ship.

MP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
DM, PH, TM: We provided ten thousand masks to our local community to help our community stay safe. We provided masks to fire fighters, police officers, schools, Solon businesses, and many more. In total we have sent masks to 125 locations just to try and reduce the spread of the virus.

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?
DM, PH, TM: We didn’t get masks shipped until June and could have done so sooner. Early on one person was in charge of the mask program and held it close to their chest. Our team now knows what we are all doing and stay in communication as to what is going on. We learned to in include everyone and work together as a team.

MP: What is most inspiring to you today?
DM, PH, TM: Seeing the people we have and how dedicated they are to what we do. There is lots of passion for the work we do. We are one of only two or three mask manufacturers in the state of Ohio and are ready to serve the community at the state level.

Contact: Connect with the team at FMI Medical Systems by phone: 440-600-5952 or visit their website: www.fmimedical.com and check out their 10 and 50 packs of blue and pink face masks. They offer special quantity discounts for custom orders.