by Tom Hastings
A few weeks ago, I visited a local elementary school and spent time reading to a second-grade class. The book I read to them was entitled “I Know I Can,” published by the Columbus organization by the same name, I Know I Can (IKIC). Reading to elementary kids is the one IKIC initiative targeting younger students; business leaders from around Columbus visit elementary schools to read the I Know I Can book and plant the seed in young minds that they can be whatever they want to be, but they have to work at it to succeed. It is an important program, because it gives young students the opportunity to see people in a variety of different jobs, which inspires them to think of what they could do with their own futures. I’m proud that thinkCSC is one of the supporting businesses working with the organization.
What Is I Know I Can?
I Know I Can is on a mission to inspire, enable and support Columbus students to complete a college education. IKIC works primarily with middle school and high school students. As students enter college, I Know I Can continues to work with them, trying to ensure that they will not only achieve success in the first year of college but that they will see it through until graduation. IKIC works diligently with the students to help them build social and academic capital and an ongoing system of support that will make them more successful.
The I Know I Can Difference
This year is I Know I Can’s 25th anniversary. It is the longest-serving Columbus-based student support organization. Over the past 25 years, IKIC has given Columbus students more than $24 million in grants. In the last eight years, they’ve achieved a 20-percent increase in first-year retention. I Know I Can believes that by supporting the family, they can support college dreams. For the last several years, I Know I Can has granted a Founders Scholarship. This scholarship, up to $10,000 per year for four years. Curretly, IKIC has 40 Founders’ Scholars, all are enrolled full-time.
Why thinkCSC Supports I Know I Can
Members of the business community provide the model for young students to feed their dreams, and with more than 50,000 students being served by the small staff of I Know I Can, business leaders can volunteer to help in a number of capacities, including providing financial support.
The reason thinkCSC supports I Know I Can is simple: it’s the right thing – and the smart thing – to do. Columbus is stronger when its students are well educated. Businesses need a strong pool of talent from which to build and grow, and I Know I Can is helping to ensure the future of Columbus with their efforts, keeping our community globally competitive.
Public and private enterprises in the Columbus region are funding a non-profit economic growth initiative known as Columbus 2020. Columbus 2020 organizers are using the combined strengths of these government & business investors to significantly increase per capita income and employment by attracting major employers to the region while retaining and developing existing companies.
Columbus 2020 investors see the value of 2020’s mission and want to help it succeed. The idea is that by bringing more businesses to Columbus, the local economy will grow stronger – everybody wins. The companies involved are putting this investment forward knowing that there is no guarantee that the initiative will succeed, but this is a great symbol of leadership. As a leader, you know what the right thing is to do, you believe in it and you hope it turns out for the best – and the expectations are that it will.
thinkCSC is a proud investor in the 2020 mission, and while Columbus 2020 asks for a five-year commitment, it is not binding. However, an economic development initiative such as this – which is to market Columbus and persuade entrepreneurs of the value of moving or starting their businesses here – it makes sense to invest for the long haul. Such a venture does not happen over night; it takes time.
Columbus has been ranked by Forbes as one of the best places for business and careers. IBM, having closed the deal on the acquisition of Sterling Commerce, is creating approximately 500 high-tech jobs over the next three years. These types of stories are becoming more common, and much of this can be attributed to the efforts of Columbus 2020. New projects are regularly being considered for the Columbus region.
Am I worried that Columbus 2020 will bring in more competition in addition to jobs and prosperity? Of course, I think about remaining competitive. But as a business leader, I know in my heart that if my business and my people are strong, and if our services are relevant, we will realize more in terms of opportunity than we lose with additional competition.
thinkCSC believes in the Columbus 2020 initiative and we appreciate having the opportunity to share our Columbus stories with those businesses considering a move to Columbus. Investing in Columbus 2020 is good for the community and for thinkCSC it is smart business.
Image via: Columbus 2020
Building Business Community
by Tom Hastings
Whether you are a new business owner just starting out, or you have built a successful business in Central Ohio, you must know the many reasons that make Columbus a great place to call home for your business. Geographically, Columbus is considered a hub of the Midwest; Columbus is within a day’s drive of 50% of the U.S. population.
In addition to being home to one of the finest universities in the nation, Columbus has some of the most extraordinary minds and talents in the US. So it’s no surprise to me that Forbes recognized Columbus as one of the best cities for tech jobs and also one of the best cities for working mothers. I believe part of the reason Columbus receives these kinds of accolades is because of the support business leaders receive from the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.
Columbus is a great place to live and work, and as one of the largest business organizations in Central Ohio, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce has provided support for businesses in Central Ohio for more than a century. The evidence of their results-driven purpose is clear. As a member of the Chamber, I can say first-hand that the Chamber’s many services and helpful staff has helped thinkCSC grow and thrive. By delivering the resources, services and information businesses need, the Chamber enables companies to overcome obstacles, increase opportunities and partner together to create a better Columbus.
Creating connections to people and information is essential for finding solutions to business issues. The Columbus Chamber of Commerce plays multiple roles, acting as business coach and advocate as well as providing a strong voice to elected officials.
Here at thinkCSC, our emphasis is on technology. I believe that the initiatives taken by the Columbus Chamber of Commerce over the last several years have directly contributed to Columbus receiving recognition as a city known for its tech jobs.
When most people think of the Chamber of Commerce, they think of a traditional institution, a civic staple, something that one’s involvement with is considered an admirable civic responsibility. And it is. But the Chamber is also a pro-active, evolving organization of community development. When you pull back the bureaucratic curtain, you can gain first-hand experience of the passion the Chamber embodies. This drive is the kind of attitude that is behind real community-based involvement and in-depth holistic activism.
The Chamber prioritizes the needs of our local economy, employing the experience and expertise of its members, to implement a road map guiding Columbus businesses to success. thinkCSC is pleased to be involved with helping The Columbus Chamber achieve its goals.
by Tom Hastings
thinkCSC has a partnership with LifeCare Alliance. LCA provides a wide range of services to elderly and medically-challenged members of our community. Those services include Meals on Wheels, cancer clinics, wellness clinics and housekeeping services.
On a personal level, I have been a driver for LCA’s Meals on Wheels program since 2006. I have many fond memories of the people that I have served over the years. One memory, in particular, always puts a smile on my face. Catherine was 95 years old and still lived on her own. Every time I arrived with a meal, Catherine would have a gift of candy waiting for me.
Catherine was an only child, and her parents and friends had long passed away. Although I was sure that Catherine was lonely, she never acted that way. She was always happy and engaging with whomever crossed her path. During many of our visits, Catherine would describe trips that she had taken over the course of her long life. She had traveled to each of our 50 states, with the exception of Rhode Island! Even at 95 years old, Catherine’s mind was sharp. Hearing her stories gave me a sense of self-awareness — so often we tend to rush through life that we pass by spectacular opportunities to hear how others made a difference in our world. Catherine passed away a few years ago, but the memories of our visits together still make me smile.
Leola, a 90-year old woman currently on my route, has weathered many losses. Her husband and daughter have both passed away, as has one of her grandchildren. She has three other grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Leola is not able to leave her apartment very often, but she always has a smile on her face. The simplest outings make her happy. I always ask what her plans are for the week, and usually it’s a doctor’s appointment or a trip to Olive Garden for dinner. Whatever her plans, they are the highlight of her week. I have come to care about her a great deal, and if she has nothing planned, I feel a little sad. When I know that someone will be coming to take her out, it warms my heart.
I think that opportunities with non-profit organizations like LifeCare Alliance help us to truly appreciate life. Too often we tend to judge our older citizens on what we perceive as the end of their path, and we forget about the life they have lived and the people that they touched along the way. We are all walking our own paths, and, in many cases, we are unaware of the people whose lives we may be impacting. There is so much we can gain by learning from the experiences of others who have come before us.
It is easy to get caught up in the rush of our lives. But slowing down, even for a brief moment, can be a powerful and rewarding gift to yourself. If you would like to support LifeCare Alliance and their efforts, please sign up to volunteer or visit their giving page.
Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk
by Tom Hastings
There’s a challenge before Columbus area business leaders today. How can you demonstrate true commitment to the betterment of the business community without reaching down to help young people climb up?
This was one of the broader themes that came out of the Columbus Partnership retreat I attended at Harvard University a few months back. I was there with about 30 other chief executives and founders from Columbus to meet with public officials, distinguished fellows and professors, and to exchange ideas and talk about business development.
Although we touched on many innovative and stimulating subjects, one idea resonated throughout the gathering: strengthen our schools to strengthen our businesses.
I reflected on what that meant for Columbus and the greater Central Ohio business community. I see two major opportunities for us. Columbus should join the growing number of major cities that place responsibility for the school systems under the purview of the mayor.
But, beyond creating a formal pipeline to introduce young professionals into the Columbus economy, I think another challenge is getting involved personally. How much time have any of us given back, so that Columbus-area students benefit from the wealth of knowledge we have in the business community?
So here’s how I see it. Our police department, fire, and most city services ultimately fall under the auspices of the mayor. Why not education? The schooling of our young people makes a difference in the quality of leadership we will have in the public and private sector. So instead of having an elected board, we should have in the mayor, a single point of authority — and accountability — for the success or failure of our schools.
Mayors are a lot like chief executives. They have to have strong managerial skills. They have to know how to efficiently coordinate limited resources. They have the most power in terms of summoning more attention and resources where needed. Like they respond to the needs of all citizens, mayors can and should be called upon to respond to the needs of students and us, the employers who want to invest in our future workforce.
We’d be joining about a dozen other major cities around the nation, including New York, Boston, and Chicago which now, well into their new structure, are seeing improved test scores, fewer teacher strikes and superintendents who stick around longer without the political in-fighting typical of elected boards. Moreover, struggling schools no longer have to clamor for services and fight for funding when it’s the mayor’s responsibility to meet those needs.
Business community leaders must work with government leaders as part of this process. We must define the kind of skills and assets we need our students to have to compete in our increasingly competitive and global marketplace.
If this sounds a bit highbrow, that’s because it is. I’m not unaware of the great amount of effort and political will that must be channeled into making this vision a reality.
In the meantime, I’m challenging myself and I’m challenging you to join me in giving more of yourself to Columbus youth. A role model from the business community may be the only positive image some see, and it could spark their desire to achieve more.
I’m inspired by members of the Columbus Partnership, who, for example visit schools and read to elementary school students once each month. I think meeting with high school juniors and seniors, who are contemplating college, can be beneficial as well. The gift of time and experience is what business owners have to give. Let’s walk the walk and talk the talk. Do more than pay lip service to these issues.
I’m starting by looking for opportunities to invest and pour into Ohio students. And next, I want to lay down the gauntlet by carving out time for my employees to do the same. The challenge is before you. Are you in?
by Tom Hastings
Colonel Eric Kail wrote an excellent article about leadership character in The Washington Post. He says, “Selflessness is all about strength, and it’s not for the faint of heart. Weakness, on the other hand, takes the path of least resistance; and as humans, that means being selfish — wanting all the credit and none of the blame. Real strength is measured by what we enable our followers to accomplish through our service to them.”
To be an effective business leader, one must come from the perspective of helping others play to their strengths. The Columbus Partnership enables us to be such leaders. Three strong pillars support the organization: the Columbus Chamber, TechColumbus and Columbus2020. Each pillar is vital to the health of the Columbus business climate.
The Columbus Chamber looks at the business climate in the Central Ohio region holistically and develops programs to encourage companies to stay in the metro. The Columbus Chamber works well with all the other chambers in the surrounding counties in a cooperative effort to retain businesses. They offer professional development events such as speakers and opportunities for members to learn and grow through networking, trade shows, and other opportunities.
TechColumbus encourages small businesses by arranging funds, or putting them in touch with the opportunity to get investment funds. They are always looking for fresh ideas for professional development. TechColumbus partners qualified people with young entrepreneurs to review business plans and goals. They also have many roundtable discussions with business leaders in town. A unique value proposition and a business plan that has sexy elements to it appeals to the leaders associated with TechColumbus.
Columbus2020! is the newest initiative in the Columbus Partnership. Columbus2020!’s focus is to attract business to Columbus from throughout the country and the world. Their staffers travel extensively talking about how great Columbus is as a business location. Over 200 companies are considering relocating here since Columbus2020! started. They do a great job of getting the news out and telling our story. CSC is proud to be an investor with Columbus2020! They have about 160 investors in Columbus2020! ranging from small investors to big companies that cut checks for $100,000.00. Community involvement through Columbus2020! is a win-win all the way around.
Our goal at CSC, partly working through The Columbus Partnership, is to serve our fellow business owners. If I am giving my people all the access, tools & encouragement that they need to succeed, I am being an effective leader. We are excited about the current and future possibilities in Columbus. We invite you to join us!
by Tom Hastings
Recently I was invited to attend a Columbus Partnership leadership retreat at Harvard. My experience was eye opening and encouraging! The Columbus Partnership is a civic organization of community leaders whose goal is to improve the economic vitality of Central Ohio. Although The Partnership has many guiding principles & initiatives, their current focus is with economic development in Central Ohio-which is being executed. through the Columbus 2020! Plan.
I had an amazing surprise right off the bat – I was invited to fly on Les Wexner’s private jet with Partnership members. I definitely count this as a top five business experience! We flew to Cambridge and met for two days with Harvard Fellows and Professors who talked about business development, leadership and many other important topics. The conference provided a great opportunity for me to grow professionally and personally.
My initial take away from the leadership retreat is the humility of this group of leaders. The prevailing attitude was, “We’re here to learn because we believe that leadership is a journey and not a destination.” Their concise focus and mission is to develop Columbus & Central Ohio into the greatest community in the US to both work and live.
The Partnership retreat started with a roundtable discussion about the generations from Baby Boomers to Generation X and Generation Y and the differences on how people think based on their generations. We dovetailed into how each generation works and what they expect from the companies where they work. I found it fascinating: We are all the same and yet we are not-based on the generational timeframethat each of us was raised. Generational leadership is blossoming in Columbus, and to have this conversation with Harvard Fellows about what makes each of us tick is applicable to Columbus and our workforce.
Three successful city leaders led another discussion on where government and business work well together and where they don’t. The Partnership can take this information and knowledge and apply it to Columbus. When city government and business community leaders work together, long-term goals can be realized more effectively.
The Partnership believes – and I agree – that community involvement is good business. The biggest gift you can give and the biggest difference you can make is your time. Whether it’s reading to a second grade class or meeting with juniors and seniors who are contemplating college, the time and experience you share with students is invaluable.
I learned much at this leadership retreat-the value of trans-generational communication, the importance of humility & the positive impact and outcomes of community involvement.
CSC is already drawing up a plan to participate in Columbus education programs and expects to become more proactive and impactful in the daily business objectives of Columbus – I hope that you do too!