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Jack 2by John Jonelis

You lose him. Jack Heyden was your father, your brother, maybe your son. A deep, intimate relationship. You know his profession—not the details, just what he did for a living. Normal so far. Then things start to turn.

His business colleagues invite the family here, and you all come, nerves raw from the shock that death brings. You arrive early, numb from the flurry of duties, people, and rituals that clutter such times and obediently take your seats in front, gazing about the room.

You have no idea what to expect.


A Place for Ideas

One thing’s certain—this doesn’t look like a place of business. The walls burst out with a massive and eclectic assortment of memorabilia. It’s visually overwhelming and you need just one place to anchor for the first time in days.

Perhaps you select a photograph, a poster, a toy on on a shelf, and focus on that. It makes you think. You wonder why Jack always spent his Saturday mornings here when the family wanted him at home.

20160726-Joe Levy - Flintmobile 500

The Flintmobile

The atmosphere is the genius of Joe Levy, one of Chicago’s prolific entrepreneurs and philanthropists, who started this group about 60 years ago. The assortment of unique items stretches from Joe’s early days—before they started naming streets and buildings after him. Business people meet in this hodgepodge every week, air opinions, ideas, and stimulate thought, and much of the collection speaks directly about luminaries in this group.

Joe Levy by Natan Mandell

Joe Levy

Before you fully collect yourself, over 30 professionals take seats facing you. This is the Levy Group, that boasts some of the most brilliant business thinkers in Chicago. Jack Heyden was their leader. Today, they’re here for Jack and for you. Unusual, right?

QUESTION: Is the way you conduct business meaningful to those left behind?


Who is Jack?

The moderator calls the meeting to order: “We lost a friend this week. Jack led this group for 20 years.” Many in the group sigh and nod and he turns to the family. “And maybe you didn’t know what’s special about this room that kept him coming back.”

The moderator singles out Jack’s son. “Why don’t you introduce the family? And then we’ll have Jack’s Saturday morning family introduce him to you.”


The Son

Your dad invited you to these meetings, so you’re the one member of the family with an understanding of what this means. Everyone in the room is with you in spirit as you halt for a painful moment, then begin to talk: “It’s easier to speak at a funeral than in front of you guys,” you say, choking back emotions. “He loved this so much.”

Then you indicate your family: “I’m looking forward to hearing afterwards what they thought this was really going to look like.” Everybody quietly laughs.

“Normally you guys start with introductions and an elevator pitch. Dad would always say, ‘I’m Jack Heyden and I help leaders win,’ and today, my best elevator pitch is—‘I’m just the son of Jack Heyden.’”


The Group

After the applause, the moderator calls on individuals via some hidden, efficient system, and they testify about Jack one by one:

  • “When I first came to this group, I looked around at these eclectic surroundings and said to myself, ‘Okay, there’s gonna be a lotta character in this group.’ One thing was magnetic—one of the big differentiators—it was Jack. He’s very to-the-point and structured and it was always very productively efficient, always in a good vein and in a good way. How impressed I was! That made me want to come back and give back. As you grow older there are two sets of people you meet at a very high level. Those that you admire for whatever reason, be it charm, achievement, financial success. But there are very few people you want to model. There’s something about this person—what they do, how they interact—I want to deconstruct it and figure out how I can absorb it into what I do, how I interact with people. Jack is one of the people about whom I’ve said, ‘I want to model this guy.’”
  • “In life, you meet a lot of people. When they say things, you think, ‘…Uh huh.’ But when Jack said it you really understood what he meant, then he showed you how to do it.”
  • “He always talked about the ‘Say/Do Ratio.’ Successful people have an incredible Say-Do Ratio. Don’t say things to your family, to your co-workers and clients and not follow through. If you say something, do it.”
  • “Whoever he was with, he gave 100% of his attention.”
  • “The first thing when I came to any meeting, he’d give me this big giant smile, whether it was last week or six months since I’d been here.”
  • “At an event, Jack asked me to introduce some of my friends because he wasn’t sure he’d know anyone. I figured, okay, he’s done so much for me and he’s bound to know someone. Pretty soon there’s a gathering at our table. It appears that Jack was the hub of a wheel—and some of the spokes didn’t know each other. So Jack spent the evening introducing me to all the spokes I didn’t know.”
  • “When I started coming, it was a low time in my business life. I’d say, ‘I’m a member of the CIO—‘Everybody I see I owe.’ And Jack was so welcoming. ‘I’m so happy to meet you. I’m so glad you’re here,’ and I’m looking over my shoulder like, ‘You’re talking to me?’”
  • “I grew up with giants in my industry. Since I’ve left, I’ve met a few people I consider giants. Jack was that leader. We all looked up to him.”
  • “Like all first companies, mine was a struggle. Jack said he’d come to my office and talk. He wound up interviewing all seven of my employees. He came back with this big document that showed, here’s the guy that does this and the gal that does that and here’s what needs to happen. He was spot-on. When he came to me for help on technology, we had that going. So we had a relationship.”
  • “When he put on his mentor’s hat, he’d say, ‘You got 10 minutes. Tell me why I should spend more time with you.’ He was trying to draw you out.”
  • “When I joined this group, I had a lot of patents. I mentioned to Jack that the odds of a little guy commercializing a patent are about 3%. Jack said, ‘Don’t think about the obstacles.’”
  • “I looked very hard for a word that encompasses what Jack was. The word I found is “Olympian.’ Jack was above the crowd. A wonderful thinker. Very important to me as I consulted with him many times. I can’t say enough about him. To me, he’s a towering presence.”
  • “I asked him to have breakfast and talk over a problem I had. His advice was really outside the box. I had not realized the wealth of experience he had—what you had to do next and how to deal with that—and I said, “Wow, this is good, Jack!”
  • “I’m very fortunate in my life to have great mentors at a very high level. Jack was of that calibre.”
  • “In a few days it will be the second anniversary of my wife’s sudden death. Jack sat in the back yard with me talking with me about the tree house, his problem with the landscapers, and he took me to a level of understanding that life goes on.”
  • “A man who was very giving. He helped people understand what they were and what they could do. Gregarious people can give cheer, but they don’t have that depth. And it’s that depth of character we all really embrace.”
  • “I had a great affection for Jack. I feel honored to be here.”
  • “I wanna make a difference. I think that’s what Jack looked forward to every day.”

The moderator stands to close the meeting. “We’re hearing stories about how giving and how public and how embracing he was. One of the things I found remarkable about Jack—he would not let us know how sick he really was.

It wasn’t an issue. He was gonna be here. He was here 4 weeks ago—strong, present. He was a very sick man at this particular point but he did not let it be known. Being for the other person is very, very powerful. And that’s what this group’s all about—giving and sharing.”

QUESTION: Is the way you treat people meaningful to those left behind?



Graphics courtesy Joe Levy, Nathan Mandell, and the Jack Heyden family.

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved


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Bator TInnovation in Offering the Ordinary in an Extraordinary Way

By Kenneth C. Bator, MBA

Let’s talk about a product that nobody wants to need. Can you transform the customer experience and make shopping for it enjoyable? Now that would be an innovation!

The product is DME. For those of you not in the healthcare industry or not familiar with the acronym, DME stands for durable medical equipment. Basically any piece of equipment used in the home to aid in a better quality of living qualifies as a DME. Common examples include wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches – none of which would be thought of as innovative.

Bator 3b

Let’s face it, for those that are unfortunate to have a need for DME, heading to a business that specializes in this area isn’t a highly anticipated event. Regardless of how friendly, accommodating, and empathetic the staff might be, it’s still akin to a “hosptalesque” experience. But then there’s Mobul, the home mobility stores in Southern California.

Bator 2b

Mobul’s innovation is in the how they display DME. Rather than feeling like your walking into an urgent care center, you’re greeted by people that are eager to serve, in a store that’s large and wisely laid out. The floor is set up in sections that mirror common rooms in the house such as the living room, bedroom, and kitchen. This allows people to, in essence, “test drive” the equipment in a similar environment to their homes. Customers also get a better sense of how the DME will look. A bathroom support bar affixed to a shower-like tile wall is a better visual than a product hanging on a hook in hard plastic.

Bator 1b

The beauty of Mobul is also in the alignment of the brand and culture – possibly achieved instinctively if not consciously:

  • The brand of a high-end store, or as CEO and founder Wayne Slavitt would say, “The Nordstrom of home mobility.”
  • The culture of delivering an experience that makes a DME customer comfortable when shopping for an item he or she would rather not need to buy.

The innovation came from anticipating and uncovering a need. To my knowledge, no one asked for a better floor plan in shopping for DME. The founders saw the opportunity and ran with it. Sometimes innovation simply comes from offering the ordinary in an extraordinary way.


Kenneth Bator is president of BTC Small Business


This article first appeared in News From Heartland

Copyright © 2016 Kenneth C. Bator


Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved


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3vby Terry Flanagan

Your next opportunity may be right under your nose.  When people with common values and objectives—coachable individuals with unique expertise come together, they can deliver value in a very short timeframe.  

Eighteen months ago, four of us formed a new advisory firm, “ATVM – A Third View Medical.    The reasons we believed this was the right thing to do may have broad implications for other new and established companies.


Common Values

At the early stages of a business, the team is certainly the most important element.  It can be argued that it’s ALWAYS the most important element.  Examine your team.  Ask yourself if the other founders share the same values: 

  • Trust and knowledge of one another
  • A high level of ethical competence
  • A strong work ethic
  • A high standard of performance
  • An unquestioned desire to deliver value to the client

You might identify other values than these, but it’s important that the ENTIRE TEAM hold them in common and hold them passionately.  Three of our partners knew each other from their association with IMC, the Institute of Management Consultants, so we had time to build relationships, observe, and be sure of one another.  

Ask yourself:  “Does my team share common values?  Am I sure?”  If the answer is YES, then you have a key element to a great organization.


Common Goals

Does your team share common goals?  Our company is a consultancy.  Each of us is committed and determined to add value to clients in three fundamental ways:

  • By helping them grow revenue
  • By improving operating efficiency
  • By utilizing capital resources more effectively

Between us, there is no argument over these goals; we all share them in a profound way. 

Ask yourself:  “Can I honestly say that my entire team shares common goals?  Am I sure?”  If the answer is YES, you have another of the key elements to a great organization.



Complimentary Skill Sets

Recently, one of my respected friends, Bill Burnett, challenged me rather directly.   He asked the reason the business was formed.  That may seem on the surface an innocuous question but knowing Bill, I appreciated the depth of  his challenge.  It made me pause. 

I reflected back on how one of our partners, Bill Pierrakeas, once asked if we had the right team assembled.  That question had caused us to come together in a serious way.  At that time, we identified three fundamentals that challenged the “why” of our existence.   In other words, what made us think that our TEAM offered something significant?   I believe these three questions are important to all companies. 

  • First:  Does the majority of the team have significant experience in the industry? 
  •  Second: Does each team member bring a distinct and unique skill set to the table that can be leveraged for the benefit of the organization as a whole?  
  • Third:  Are all the key roles filled? 

In our case the answer was, “Yes,” and, “Yes,” and unfortunately, “No.” 

  • YES—Three of us come with an experience in consultancy in the same industry – health care.  That puts us in a strong position to help those companies we intend to serve.  
  • YES—Each of us come with distinct and separate subject matter expertise.  That makes for a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  The members build on each other and the team can leverage its skills. 
  •  NO—After we identified the fundamentals, the partners realized very quickly that we lacked one ingredient crucial to our kind of organization—experience in transaction advisory.  In our case, two of us knew a person to fill that role—a person we could trust—one we had watched in action over time—a person that brought the same values to the table.  For us, it was an easy choice.  Fortunately, that person agreed to come onboard. 

Ask yourself:  “Can I honestly say that my team is strong in its industry?  Do the members offer complimentary skill sets?  Is the team complete?  Am I sure?”  If the answer is yes, then you have another of the key elements to a great organization.


Getting Good Guidance

With a foundation of strong values, strong goals and complimentary skill sets, the real work of building the business began.  For the next four months, we met weekly to hone our value proposition and prepare for our announcement or coming out party.  

For that event, we gave each partner an assignment:  Bring industry practitioners to the table.  Yes, we set ourselves up to get shot down.  The night before the event, I recall a heightened sense of nervousness.  I now know how opening night jitters actually feel.  But we would not launch our venture without outside counsel and this posed the best opportunity to elicit passionate debate.

This particular play started off at a favorite restaurant and in an orderly manner.  Introductions.  Then a couple well-placed questions.  That opened up the conversation and from there it flowed freely.  You know you have a successful meeting when the wait staff tells you the restaurant is closing.  We knew we had something real!

Ask yourself: “Have I sought objective outside guidance?  Not friends, family, and fools, but really objective outside guidance?”  If the answer is yes, you have another of the key elements to a great organization.


Lean on a Trade Group

Since that time, the partnership is formalized with an operating agreement and a value proposition that we constantly fine-tune. We show even more focus today than at the beginning.  We continue to make presentations to our peers.  They like what they see and willingly make introductions for us.  

In our case, the Institute of Management Consultants provided the opportunity for four professionals to share values, get to know one another, develop a high level of trust and a desire to build a business, and find the connections to make it a reality.  

Ask yourself:  “Is there a professional organization I can look to for such support?”  Seek it out.

I share this story so that others can see the same opportunity.  At the recent GROW Conference, many of the speakers made the same point:  

Aldonna Albers said, Opportunities are waiting for discovery.

Somers White said, Opportunities go to those who are prepared and are willing to make the effort to become very prepared.

Charlotte Roberts said, Business models are waiting to be discovered but you have to think that way to find them.  

And finally Rick Berrara said, It’s up to you to develop your overpromise and to execute your over-deliver.

Always, always over-deliver.   



ATVM – A Third View Medical

888-985-0006A Third View Logo



IMC – Institute of Management Consultants 


GROW Conference


Photos courtesy  A Third View Medical.  Edited by John Jonelis.

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved



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