3 business leaders on taking risks and reinventing yourself in the workplace

The West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance recently bestowed its annual Everest Award on three regional business leaders.

The Everest Award is presented to “a person who has reached the heights of being a legend or leader through his or her actions, making a significant positive impact on business, the community and quality of life within the Interstate 75 Growth Corridor,” according to the chamber.

The honorees at the July 19 event were Steve Behler, retired Kemba Credit Union CEO; John Danis, chairman and CEO of Danis Building Construction Company; and Thomas Urban, Mercy Health North Market president and CEO.

We asked each about the I-75 Cincinnati-Dayton corridor, taking risks and what advice they’d offer to job seekers. Here’s what they had to say:

Q: How can business leaders and government officials along the corridor work together to encourage even more growth throughout the corridor?

URBAN: My sense is the existing working relationship is strong among business and government leaders which has created the foundation for all the growth the I-75 corridor has been experiencing over the past 20 years. The West Chester/Liberty Chamber Alliance provides an opportunity for much of that dialogue and communication to take place. The story of how the Union Center – I-75 interchange was developed and built is perhaps the clearest example of collaboration and determination.

BEHLER: "A collaboration effort with prominent business owners both within the corridor and within the region when making significant decision regarding new and existing opportunities along the corridor. Provide incentives to business owners to build and invest in the area allowing growth opportunities within the corridor. Hold one-on-one or small focus groups with like-minded companies to share ideas and create opportunities to grow and prosper within the area. Assisting each other to meet the needs of the community and grow ones business.

“Business leaders can proactively meet with government officials to express areas of concerns or current laws that impede the growth of their businesses. By working collaboratively together, business leaders and government officials can remove barriers, making it easier to conduct business along the I-75 Growth Corridor and make it more inviting to other businesses to relocate their businesses to the I-75 Growth Corridor. Utilizing the Chamber’s sphere of influence, business leaders along the I-75 Growth Corridor can work together, share best practices, learn from each other and come together as one unified voice when having positive dialogue with government officials.”

DANIS: "I believe that to achieve real, sustainable growth, collaboration is key. There has to be unified support for change. Importantly, this means open dialogue, shared resources, and the philosophy that has guided Danis for generations; people are our greatest asset."

Q: What’s the riskiest move you ever made in business, and did it pay off?

BEHLER: "We made a decision to move the company's headquarters out of the current area where we had been established since 1934 to a brand new market nearly 20 miles away. This business decision had an impact on the entire environment of the company. This was risky for several reasons: this impacted the majority of the employees who worked within the company's headquarter and we moved into a new business market. We left a comfortable and established market where we were successful. It was risky because the new community could have rejected us, staff may not have followed us, and our members could have left us as they could have thought we were no longer convenient or accessible to them."

“Did it pay off? Absolutely. All but one employee accepted the move, our current members stayed with us, the new market embraced us and we tripled the size of the organization. We could have stayed in the current location and settled for the status quo which was working for the credit union at that time. That would be safe, but we took the risk to move the organization to a new area because we had the vision that this was the right thing to do, to ensure long time and lasting success along with new growth opportunities.”

DANIS: "A restructuring of family holding in 1997 led to an opportunity for me to acquire Danis Building Construction Company. Taking the leap to acquire this portion of the company was risky for me, but worth it. Danis is now headquartered in Miamisburg with divisions for building construction, industrial construction, and through acquisitions, we have expanded to Florida and North Carolina. Today, we are one of the nation's largest healthcare builders, working on 20-25 campuses at a time and we continue to grow our healthcare expertise."

URBAN: "At the time, several years ago, acquiring physician practices and employing physicians was considered risky. However, for Mercy Health that strategy became the foundation for our clinically integrated delivery network in Butler County and surrounding areas, improving access to high-quality healthcare for the communities we serve."

Q: For business owners or employees who find themselves out of their former industry or job, what sort of advice would you give to help reinvent oneself to reenter the workforce?

DANIS: "Capitalize on what you know instead of focusing on what you don't. Specific industry experience is important, but as an employer, if you can show me you are able to apply current skills and abilities in a new way, I am more likely to take notice."

BEHLER: "Prepare for the social media world of today. Invest in technology for yourself and your business. Reach out to your current connection network and find a mentor to assist you through the process of reinventing yourself. Dig deep within your heart to find your passion and take the opportunity to do something you really love and care about to make a positive difference in the lives of the people you touch and the community in general."

URBAN: "Breathe deeply. Think positive. Be open-minded. Use that period of transition to reflect on perhaps what you always wanted to do but never had the time. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn more about potential areas of interest to you. Use your network. Don't be bashful to ask for help."

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