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Based in Columbus, Ga., Carmike Cinemas has grown considerably since it started operations more than 30 years ago. Founded in 1982 with the acquisition of a small theater chain from Fuqua Industries, the company is now one of the top motion picture exhibitors in the country.

“Today, we are the fourth-largest circuit in America and publicly traded on the NASDAQ,” President and CEO David Passman says.

Founded by President John Staluppi in the early 1970s and starting out with Honda motorcycles, Atlantic Auto Group has become one of the leading automotive dealership groups in the Northeast. The company has put together the right combination of staff, facilities, capacity and convenient locations, allowing Atlantic Auto Group to present itself as the best choice for its customers. 

“We are most known for being the largest auto group in the Tri-State area,” Staluppi says.

Since founding the company, Staluppi has developed and executed an ongoing expansion plan. This has created the leading provider of vehicles on Long Island. 

Success doesn’t come easily or often in the pharmaceutical industry. “In our business, it takes many, many years to develop a product,” Aradigm Corp. President and CEO Igor Gonda says. But Gonda understands that passion and motivation are the most crucial drivers behind his company’s efforts to introduce breakthrough treatments for respiratory diseases.

Gonda has led Aradigm Corp. since 2006. The Hayward, Calif.-based pharmaceutical company specializes in the development of drugs and devices for the treatment and prevention of severe respiratory diseases. 

Affinity Gaming’s story is certainly one of rebirth and renewal. Based in Las Vegas, the company’s history dates back to 1959. Formerly known as Herbst Gaming, the company became Affinity Gaming after successfully emerging from bankruptcy proceedings in the wake of the Great Recession. Since then, the company has achieved increased operating income thanks to improved operating and marketing efficiencies. 

“I started with the company in August 2014,” CEO Michael Silberling says. “Our ongoing company initiatives and marketing promotions are helping us to drive operating efficiencies and growth.”

Local Identity

Today, Affinity Gaming has 3,500 employees and 11 casinos in four states. Its portfolio includes Primm Valley Resort & Casino, Buffalo Bill’s Resort & Casino and Whiskey Pete’s Hotel & Casino in Primm, Nev.; Silver Sevens Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas; Rail City Casino in Sparks, Nev.; Lakeside Hotel & Casino in Osceola, Iowa; Mark Twain Casino & RV Park in La Grange, Mo.; St. Jo Frontier Casino in St. Joseph, Mo.; and Golden Mardi Gras Casino, Golden Gates Casino and Golden Gulch Casino in Black Hawk, Col. Each is distinguished by its own individual brand. At its larger casinos, the company has arenas to provide compelling entertainment. Customer service is emphasized throughout its portfolio. Affinity Gaming seeks to stand out through keeping slot games fresh and enhancing food offerings.  

“Behind the scenes, we have become a data-driven company with improved analytical capabilities supplemented by partners such as G&P Integrated Marketing to help with decision making,” Silberling says. “Food and beverage along with quality service help us stand out.” 

These amenities are critical for success in a complex competitive and regulatory environment. In addition to traditional competition, Affinity Gaming also competes with online and social gaming, as well as other slices of the entertainment market. 

“Our focus has been on strengthening our product and engaging in marketing to understand customer preferences and the elasticity of demand,” Silberling says.  

Everything is focused on building relationships with customers. For example, Affinity Gaming incorporates a great deal of value into its loyalty program. High-volume, loyal customers get rewarded with significant items. Benefits for loyal customers are a big piece of bringing people back.

Looking to Improve

To support its efforts, the company has been investing in people, process and technology. This includes new leaders in CFO, CMO, CTO and planning and analysis positions. 

“We’ve brought in smart, commercially driven people to build the team,” Silberling says. “At the front line level, we’ve instituted panel interviews. These group interviews are where we look to gauge their interpersonal skills and behavioral traits.”

Managers and senior leaders are making personnel decisions in that panel interview process. They look separately at a candidate’s requisite skills, but the panel interview process ensures that no candidate progresses without the necessary customer service skillset. New hire orientation includes a tour of the property and assignment to a mentor. All employees also take part in daily informational sessions to communicate goals and recognize people for the service behavior the company wants modeled. 

With process, the company is utilizing techniques that are similar to lean manufacturing to remove waste. As for technology, Affinity Gaming is deploying it in ways that allow the company to reduce response time. For example, its real-time slot marketing initiative lets hosts and managers know if a player is playing at a high level of velocity so it can provide them with a human touch on the spot.

Additionally, Affinity Gaming’s CRM program keeps track of customers. Customer profiles help the company stay on top of how often they visit and monitor for changes. Another key technology investment is its hotel yield system, software that constantly examines area rates and adjusts them online and in real time for reservation agents. 

Affinity Gaming is confident that it will continue to see good growth. It has been exceeding 30 percent growth per quarter recently and believes it can continue to grow its existing portfolio while looking at growing its footprint down the line.

“We have a lot of opportunity to continue to get better with service and food offerings thanks to our investments,” Silberling says. “We are still nimble enough to make decisions and enjoy what we do. We have hard working, smart, commercially driven people here that make this a satisfying place to work.” 

Innovation is critical to United Launch Alliance (ULA) because it is “key to our survival,” according to Vice President Jim Sponnick. The company is a 50-50 joint venture owned by The Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin, and has accomplished 100 percent launch success, having launched 88 consecutive, successful missions to orbit since it was formed in December 2006. 

“Our ethic at ULA is perfect product delivery – the perfect product is our focus on 100 percent mission success and the perfect delivery is continuously improving every step in the process to meet the needs of each downstream customer throughout the value stream,” Sponnick explains. “We have to ensure our processes are not going stale, so we are ever-improving our reliabilities and efficiencies. It is a major focus of what we do each day.”

Teledyne TWT Products operates in a decidedly high-tech marketplace. It produces an electronic product – a microwave tube assembly – that allows for the direction of energy along frequency bands for use by a U.S. fighter aircraft to jam enemy ground radars, for example. 

“It is a high-tech product that has been around since the 1960s,” General Manager Michael G. Ryan says. “It is on the majority of military aircraft and vessels.”

The 2013 Gallup State of the American Workplace Report revealed that engagement continues to hover at incredibly low levels with only 30 percent of the workforce actively engaged. The study indicated that 52 percent of the workforce was disengaged and 18 percent were actively disengaged. The number of engaged manufacturing and production workers was even lower than the average at a meager 24 percent. Gallup estimated that actively disengaged employees alone cost the United States $450 billion to $550 billion annually in lost productivity. The numbers in the United States are staggering, but the results are even worse globally, where Gallup’s 2013 State of the Global Workplace indicated that only 13 percent of the global workforce is considered engaged.      

Practically every product or piece of industrial equipment used in almost every industry has evolved significantly during the past 40 years. The impact of new technology on business cannot be overstated, particularly when it comes to the way information and communications are transmitted and received.

In the eyes of Sherman + Reilly™, a leading manufacturer of power line stringing and installation equipment for the utility and telecom industries, change wasn’t coming fast enough to its core market. “For the most part, the utility industry has been stagnant when it comes to the design of the equipment used to string electrical distribution and transmission lines,” says Mike Dunn, senior vice preident and General Manager for the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company. “Most of the equipment being used in the industry was designed and engineered in the 1960s and 1970s, and it hasn’t changed much from that point in time to today. 

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