Welcome to Inside EFGP -- the EFGP blog!

Check back regularly for features including interviews with our members, program announcements and recaps, news about the Philly100, and much more. Not yet a member? You can attend up to two of our programs before joining.

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  • 09/18/2019 12:07 PM | Barbara Bosha (Administrator)

    Russ Starke is CEO of Think Company, a service design and digital experience design and development firm based in Philadelphia that this year earned a place on the Philadelphia100® for the seventh time. 

    Russ been a professional designer for over 20 years, working with corporate and nonprofit clients as an award-winning digital strategist, experience designer, information architect, instructional designer, business analyst, and project manager.

    Russ serves on the board of LEADERSHIP Philadelphia (Class of 2015), the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and as the executive chair of the Hospitality & Corporate Council for Broad Street Ministry, an organization dedicated to tackling homelessness and hunger in an innovative way by bringing public and private sectors together.

    The Long Island, New York, native holds an M.S. from Bloomsburg University in Instructional Technology, a B.S. in Telecommunications from Kutztown University, and was an adjunct graduate faculty member and course designer for Philadelphia University’s Digital Design and Instructional Technology programs from 1999-2010.

    Why are you an entrepreneur? I would probably say that I am a leader within an entrepreneurial organization, rather than an entrepreneur myself. However, our organization was created in response to, and remains a response to, the feeling my Think Company co-founders and I had that there wasn't a design and development organization we knew of that treated employees and serviced customers the way we thought it should, and could, be done. Working on providing and perfecting that example is intrinsically motivating for me. We certainly serve a need in the marketplace, but it might be more about how we serve that need.

    What is service design?
    Service design is the process of deliberately designing all of the touch points (digital and non-digital) that people use when interacting with a company or brand to achieve their goal -- in service of creating the best and most coherent experiences. It's about first considering, as objectively as possible, all of the individuals present in your ecosystem (customers, employees, administrators, executives, suppliers, etc.), to understand their unique wants, needs, pain points, and journeys. Then, based on that evidence, envisioning a better future for each of those personas, followed by identifying the mix of people, processes and products/services that will be necessary to make that future a reality.

    Can you share an example of great design that we take for granted and/or design you find frustrating that you'd like to see changed?

    Oh, great design is all around us, all the time -- and, in fact, one of the best ways to recognize it is to think of things that you don't typically pay attention to, that when they get disrupted, cause major inconveniences/issues: a traffic light goes out, you lose power in your home, your phone can't connect to a network, etc. The best design sort of dissolves into the background because it's so intuitive and so aligned with your needs and goals that you don't even really have to think about it. But these things that we've come to rely on so heavily in our daily lives do not happen by accident; they are the product of deliberate design thinking and smart, continuous refinement over time.

    In my opinion, any interaction (digital or otherwise) that leaves a person confused, unsure of what just happened and/or what is going to happen next or thinking "why does this have to be so HARD?" is ripe for overhaul and redesign. Period. In our work, we see this most often when organizations grow to the point that they have so many channels/sites/methods for interacting with customers and employees (often a mix of newer and legacy technologies, different approaches that need to be normalized following mergers/acquisitions, perhaps redundancies and inconsistencies of content and interactions, etc.) that they spend more time troubleshooting and resolving issues than doing anything else.

    How has being a member of EFGP helped you help your company succeed?

    EFGP has been an invaluable resource of professionals from varied backgrounds and organizations sharing strategies for addressing all of the various challenges that business leaders face. There are a lot of groups out there that claim to provide this service (often for a hefty membership fee) but tend to degrade into homogenous echo chambers and/or pay-to-play audiences for thinly veiled sales pitches. I've really found value in the EFGP methodology of creating meaningful relationships through a mix of content presentation and working sessions and setting a high bar for content topics and providers. I have a notebook filled with follow-up tactics and ideas from the EFGP sessions I've attended.

    Why is being recognized with the Philly100 important to your company? When you see the list of folks who make the Philly100 each year, it's hard not to say, "I want to be in that club.” Importantly, nobody can pay their way onto this list -- it only happens when you've been objectively successful in running the business, and therefore providing great value and opportunity in the Greater Philadelphia area and beyond. It meant a lot to us the first time we were included in 2011, and it hasn't lost any luster for us -- in fact, we're more humbled by it now with our seventh win(!) than probably ever before.

    “Five Questions With…” is a series of interviews in which EFGP CEO Members share insights about their career journeys, their industries, and the value of EFGP membership. To learn how joining EFGP can help you grow your company, visit efgp.org


  • 08/30/2019 11:05 AM | Barbara Bosha (Administrator)

    Even entrepreneurs with no intention of growing, selling, or otherwise “touching” cannabis will benefit from attending “Cannabis 101,” EGFP’s September program, says attorney Steve Schain, of Hoban Law Group, a panelist for the program whose practice is 100-percent focused on cannabis.

    “The cannabis industry requires the support of a range of other industries, including transportation, insurance, law, IT, packaging, recruiting, and many others,” Steve says. “Anyone who runs a company and wants to move it successfully into the cannabis space will learn something valuable at this program.”

    Steve will join a panel of business owners with experience integrating cannabis-related workstreams into their companies who will tell their stories and answer your questions. Here’s the complete panel lineup:

    • Steve Schain is Senior Counsel at Hoban Law Group, an international practice devoted to cannabis and hemp law. Steve represents entities, governments, and individuals in choosing a structure, preparing and submitting license applications, regulation, compliance and litigation, and drafting legislation.
    • Riley Cote is a former Philadelphia Flyer who now runs the hemp company Body Check Wellness and the Hemp Heals Foundation, which supports sustainable agriculture, sustainable health, and clean natural medicine, while focusing on a holistic approach to optimum health.
    •  Victor Guadagnino Jr. is Chief Business Development Officer of the regional dispensary Keystone Canna Remedies and a former internal medicine and cardiology practice bioethicist.
    •  Lindy Snider is a cannabis-business-development expert and founder/CEO of Lindiskin, a skin-care product line for cancer patients. Lindy previously held senior positions for the Philadelphia Flyers, Comcast-Spectator, and the Wells Fargo Center. She also founded Athletes for Care, which empowers athletes to improve global standards of health, safety, and quality of life.
    •  Scott Berman is an investor in cannabis-related businesses and founder of a California-based cannabis-distribution company. Scott also ran online campaigns supporting ballot measures to legalize marijuana and is a statistician for the Philadelphia 76ers.

    Members are welcome to bring a guest! Their first event is complimentary! 

    Register for Cannabis 101!

    Tuesday, September 10, 2019 - 5:30pm – 8:00pm

    Philadelphia Country Club
    1601 Spring Mill Road, Gladwyn, PA 19035

  • 08/26/2019 1:04 PM | Barbara Bosha (Administrator)

    James Madison is co-founder of Expressway Cinema Rentals and Format, a commercial-production company. There are three common owners across both companies. James serves as CEO and CFO of Expressway Cinema Rentals and CFO of Format. Expressway Cinema Rentals was ranked #69 on the Philadelphia100® in 2018. The company reported revenue of more than $2.7 million that year, which was up more than 31 percent from 2017. It expects similar revenue growth this year.


    Why are you an entrepreneur?  

    I am a creative person -- I’ve always had a passion for film making and I’ve been making movies since high school. But I also have a logistical skillset. I was always the guy doing the production management and keeping things running, which led me to a producing track at Temple, where I studied film and video. I’ve found the same skills that enable someone to keep production operating smoothly are tailor-made for entrepreneurialism. Running a business is a creative endeavor to me, and I really enjoy it. 

    Why do business in Philadelphia, rather than L.A. or New York? 
    We are proud to be a cornerstone of film and video production here in Philadelphia. Our community is here, and Philadelphia will be our headquarters forever.

    When we started out producing features and short films, we found that Philly had a shortage of resources, equipment, and infrastructure that filmmakers -- especially young ones -- need. At the time, filmmakers had to truck a lot of equipment down from New York. We filled that niche with the company that became Expressway Cinema Rentals, and it grew into the predominant production-supply company in the region. 

    Expressway is also proud to own and operate Bud’s Studio, Philadelphia’s only video production studio purpose-built for the advertising community.  The previous owner, Bud’s Autobody was our mechanic for many years and a pillar of the community in our neighborhood.  We are honored to carry his namesake and continue the tradition of excellent service that the building has been known for over generations.

    My partners and I are all about taking care of our community, which means creating opportunities for the people we work with and the people who work for us. Fortunately, we’ve been successful in achieving that goal – especially for the many freelancers who work in our production crews and the amazing staff at our headquarters.

    Can you share more about Format?

    Format was the original production company, formerly Expressway Productions, the synthesis of all things Expressway and the origin of our legacy. We work with major brands like Levi’s, Comcast, Ikea, and many others. We recently rebranded to differentiate the identities of the two companies. We chose the name Format because of the variety of ways that visual messages reach today’s consumers -- a production company has to be able to deliver at the highest quality across all formats, and that’s what we do. 

    How important has EFGP membership been to you? 
    It’s been a huge asset. Having a place in the area’s entrepreneurial community, which EFGP provides, is very important to me. Before I joined, I was learning on the fly, very quickly, with little opportunity for validation. EFGP membership offers a safe space to talk about your business with like-minded people who understand what you’re going through and are usually jumping the same hurdles. There are so many opportunities to learn from -- and with -- my peers. The organization’s leadership does a great job of curating events that are very helpful to all its members. 

    What was the impact of winning Philadelphia 100®? 
    Winning the Philly100 gave us reassurance of where we are at as a company – that we are on the right track -- and gave us the confidence we need to keep moving forward. It proved to us that we had successfully evolved from filmmakers to business owners.

    “Five Questions With…” is a series of interviews in which EFGP members share insights about their career journeys, their industries, and the value of EFGP membership. To learn how joining EFGP can help you grow your company, explore our website (you're on it!).

  • 08/23/2019 3:54 PM | Barbara Bosha (Administrator)

    Valerie Schlitt is founder, owner, and CEO of VSA, Inc., a lead-generation firm based in Haddon Township, New Jersey that she founded in 2001. Last year, her company’s revenue was $4.6 million, up from $650,000 in 2015. VSA was ranked at #5 by EFGP and the Philadelphia Inquirer on the list of 2018 Philadelphia 100® Award Winners.

    Why are you an entrepreneur?
    I have always loved to create and build things – to make something from nothing. It’s a process that requires creativity, the ability to solve problems, and the willingness to overcome challenges. And entrepreneurship gives you the freedom to chart your own path. That’s something you don’t get by being part of someone else’s organization.

    But I think there’s another, related question that entrepreneurs have to answer, and that’s “why do you stay an entrepreneur?” I think entrepreneurs are wired to always be influencing forward momentum – to be going after the next best thing. In my case, I am optimistic that – whether things are up or down – I can always make my company better. And that’s why I am still an entrepreneur after 18 years.

    What do you consider to be the most important characteristics of entrepreneurs?
    This is something I think about all the time. The most important characteristics of successful entrepreneurs are, I think, tenacity in the face of adversity and optimism. We absolutely have to have those. But being successful also requires a little bit of naïveté, good problem-solving skills, and a high tolerance for risk.

    What is the "elevator pitch" for your company?
    VSA helps companies grow by connecting them to qualified prospects who can convert into sales. We do this with a team of skilled individuals who use the telephone and email as their tools to engage with our clients’ prospects. We primarily focus on clients in healthcare, education, and manufacturing/logistics
    .

    What was the impact of winning the Philly100 on your company?
    It was amazing! It put VSA on the “map” and got other people looking at us, it validated us as a growth company, and it gave us credibility. The recognition also opened my eyes to companies in our region that are forward-thinking and growth-oriented.

    What makes EFGP membership valuable to you?
    EFGP’s presentations are always very relevant, particularly as I consider ways to grow my company. I always hear something I can relate to and learn from. EFGP is helping me avoid the traps that I otherwise would not have even known about. My EFGP membership provides me with education, inspiration, and the opportunity to talk things through with people who have been where I want to go, and who are very supportive.

    Five Questions With…” is a series of interviews in which EFGP members share insights about their career journeys, their industries, and the value of EFGP membership. To learn how joining EFGP can help you grow your company, keep exploring our website!

  • 08/23/2019 3:32 PM | Barbara Bosha (Administrator)

    Jim Neumann is founder and president of Allturnaa multi-channel marketing provider based in Doylestown, PA that employs an analytically centric approach using individual customer-level preferences to determine channel and message mix.

    Jim founded Allturna in 2012 after spending the first 20 years of his career leading the evolution within larger advertising agencies to leverage data, technology, and analytics in the design and deployment of targeted and measurable marketing programs.

    Allturna is a four-time winner of the Philadelphia 100®. Its most-recent win was last year, when it was ranked #37th on the list with 2017 revenue of $1.6 million, up from $691,600 in 2015. The company’s 2018 revenue was almost $2.1 million.

    Why are you an entrepreneur?
    The allure of starting my own company was always very appealing to me, but the thought of “starting over” in the midst of what I felt was a fairly successful career prevented me from taking the leap for decades. That was until the day the company I was working for went out of business and closed their doors two days before Christmas, which is when I realized I needed to have more control of my own successes and failures and began my own firm.

    What are the most important characteristics of successful entrepreneurs?
    There are three characteristics that I personally employ, and which have worked well in helping me start and grow my business. 

    First, you have to be willing to do the work – especially in the early stages of any business. Because there is no one to delegate to, this can mean doing things that may not feel comfortable. But doing them myself has helped me grow and it also demonstrates to my team that we are all in it together. 

    Second, you have to build a good team and a good culture. Creating an environment where people work together to achieve a common goal is powerful.

    And third, you have to be honest with yourself and your prospects and clients. Not getting help for skills that you need help with is silly – you’re only hurting yourself and your firm. Telling clients and prospects what you are good at and what you are NOT good at creates a long-term relationship.

    How do you see marketing evolving over the next ten years?
    I jokingly say that after 25 years marketing has finally come around to my way of thinking. When I started my career, the use of data, analytics, and technology was novel and interesting but certainly not at the center of what marketers or their agencies focused on. Now you have agencies touting the number of “data scientists” they have on staff and their data acumen. I think that trend will continue, but consumers are becoming more and more aware of their digital footprint and the need to balance privacy with some of the benefits that data-driven marketing brings. Legislation in the EU and pending legislation in California help to foreshadow the trends relative to consumer data privacy and protection.  While these laws won’t eliminate the use of data as a core approach to marketing, it will certainly raise the bar relative to making the use of personal data more ethical and understood.

    How has EFGP membership helped you grow Allturna?
    I joined EFGP at a point when I really needed to work on the business, not just ithe business. EFGP membership has helped me realize there are many other folks like myself living parallel lives in different universes who face similar challenges and are willing to share their experiences to help us all collectively succeed. I’ve met complementary businesses through EFGP, and while we haven’t jointly sold work with any other EFGP member, we have tried and will continue to try. It’s a great networking group and the speakers provide relevant topics that I can use in my business.

    What was the impact of winning the Philly100?
    Winning the Philly100 made me realize that Allturna (and I) had moved from the surviving stage to the thriving stage. We spent so much time in the early years working to simply create an income stream and establish our capabilities and footprint within our client base, that I really didn’t think about the fact that we were creating a company that could have lasting success until going to the CEO Breakfast and Awards Banquet the first year. Now it’s become a bit of an annual event where I look forward to seeing other multi-year recipients and catching up.

    “Five Questions With…” is a series of interviews in which EFGP members share insights about their career journeys, their industries, and the value of EFGP membership. To learn how joining EFGP can help you grow your company, explore our website (you're on it!).

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