Aligning the Herd One Gazelle at a Time

Aligning the Herd One Gazelle at a Time

“Goals without routines are wishes; routines without goals are aimless” is a quote taken from Scaling Up: The Rockefeller Habits 2.0 by Verne Harnish. This book has inspired a business and leadership event that ABG Capital has been fortunate enough to attend; the Gazelles ScaleUp Leadership Summit.

It’s been three months since eight of our leaders attended Gazelles 2016 ScaleUp Leadership Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. Seventeen dynamic speakers and authors captivated our team by sharing their wisdom, experience, and talent for success.  We gathered for discussions throughout the conference spending time reviewing notes, sharing ideas, and reflecting on strategies and initiatives that would best benefit our organization in the short term. Upon returning to the office, our leadership team agreed to meet once a week to hold ourselves accountable, narrow down our top take-ways, and decide on the one big rock or number one priority for the remainder of the year. Together we came to a similar conclusion of what that one big rock is and what we feel is needed to be even more successful, creating alignment through shared consciousness and empowered execution.

The first step in this process is to share the plan with each employee and identify opportunities for all employees at all levels in the organization to make decisions and solve problems by enabling rather than directing. This concept of engagement through empowerment leads to a “team of teams” approach to foster transparency and allow for stronger communication and understanding of the company’s strategic plan. The execution portion of ScalingUP pinpoints three critical components that must happen throughout the organization in every team; priority, data, and rhythm.



Promoting trust and purpose with and between teams will contribute to bottom-up results from daily interaction. Our company initiative for quarter three and four is to ensure that each team is meeting regularly to define its big rock for the week, month, and quarter.  We’ve been instrumental at achieving improved communications resulting in better efficiency and enhanced teamwork between departments.

Align Today is a tool we use to keep everyone in the loop by sharing a one page plan available for all to see, update, and work together toward aligning department initiatives with the company’s common goal or BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal). We recently outsourced Centric Performance to conduct employee surveys and management review meetings for selected teams to help identify each employee’s understanding of his or her role and how it contributes to the common goal of the company. Leadership is serving others and bringing out the best in people.  It’s important to rally the emotional connection and understand the importance of what each employee values to truly have an engaged staff who wants to develop individually and succeed as a team. Our plan is to involve the employees in designing a plan for their own critical numbers and KPIs to create buy in, appreciation, accountability, and involvement toward the common goal.

As you can see, the quote we began this with has a lot to do with the processes and tools we have injected into our environment. Routine matters. Let’s face it–if you’re moving without a routine, your priorities are most likely scattered and you have no analytical evidence to uphold any of your efforts. Even more important, your goal, or “big rock” that every employee and department should be focusing on as a priority, should be backed by rhythm. The rhythm within your day-to-day tactical progress is your routine–that “groove” or effortless pattern you get into when you master your priorities and data.

We realize that growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together in synchrony. If there’s one key we continually take away from the Gazelles it’s that our people are our rhythm. They are the force that continually pushes us toward success. If we cease to invest and cultivate in our employees, then there will be no perpetual development. All of our growth depends upon their activity within our organization. Activity that sprouts innovation.

Best Places to Work in PA and Celebrations


Before we talk about the festivities we enjoyed last weekend, we have a some very exciting news! We are proud to announce that ABG Capital ranked on the Best Companies Group’s 2015 Best Places to Work in PA list for the fifth year in a row! We are so excited and proud to be number 16 on the list of small to medium sized Pennsylvania companies! The Best Companies Group compiles the rankings by sending out a survey to employers and employees in hundreds of companies in the commonwealth. Using a formula, they score the surveys based on the answers to the questions. Employers fill out their survey listing the perks, benefits and offerings that they feel showcase the best parts about their company and employees fill out a separate survey with satisfaction-based questions. We are honored to be ranked so high on this list of innovative workplaces. Now that we got to toot our own horn for a second, let’s get into what really matters: helping during the holidays and, of course, partying.

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Just another Friday at ABG

Happy Friday! We’re hoping everyone had a fantastic week. We’ve been keeping busy here at ABG Capital with visitors and planning sessions and conferences all week. Let’s tell you a little more about all this.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, GlobalPOPs held their annual planning session in our new conference room and on Thursday and Friday VoIP Innovations held theirs.These sessions are designed to create a yearly and quarterly plan for the companies so they can stay ahead of their competition and continue pleasing their customers. Here are some pictures of the two planning sessions:

ABG Capital Annual Planning

The GlobalPOPs Team

ABG Capital Strategic Planning 2

The VoIP Innovations Team

On top of all the strategic planning that was going on this week, InspiraFS had a few visitors in the office this week too. They were just in time because our build-out project is almost complete! There are only a few small final touches that need to be finished up, include the wall designs that we have being printed right now. We’re looking forward to showing off the office in two weeks for the big unveiling at our Open House.

This week our HR Manager, Sharon Kolesar, spent a few days out of the office at the Pittsburgh Human Resources Associations (PHRA) 2013 Annual Conference and Exposition. This year was their 65th anniversary and they celebrated by hosting another fantastic HR convention. Some of the topics they covered were creating an inclusive culture, healthcare, decreasing stress, analytic tools that can help any HR professional, and even health and wellness topics.

The last thing we need to mention is that it’s that time of the year when our Executive Team will be heading out of the office for the second Gazelles summit of the year. The first summit they attended this year was in Orlando and focused on growing leadership within the organization. This summit is in Las Vegas and will be centered around growing the entire organization. The members of the Executive Team who will be attending are Jeff Tapolci, Jason Tapolci, Ron Eggert, Dan Ravenstahl, Sebastian Kiely, Pete Littlejohn, Nick Medina and Corey Potts. We can’t wait to see what this summit has in store for everyone at ABG Capital!

We hope you have a great weekend. 🙂

Just another Friday at ABG

It’s safe to say that our office will be receiving a face-lift very soon. We’ve been mentioning that we put together an office decoration committee and we’re happy to announce the materials for phase one of the whole office redecoration project have been sent off to the printer. We’ve gone through tons of ideas and edits and then more edits on top of that. The next step is to get the materials from the printer and start placing them on the walls. We are going to have three huge pieces and then some smaller things ready to go for our open house on November 1st. Since that dates getting close, we can give you an idea of what these three huge pieces are going to be. One is going to be a giant clock that represents the 12 Chimes of Life. The second one is a giant tree that will highlight employees and other things that matter at ABG Capital. The last, and probably the most exiting piece included in phase one, is a giant (26ft long) timeline that walks you through the lifetime of ABG Capital. These things are going to look amazing in our office and we can’t wait for them to be finished.

This week we also had a visit from Robin at Sunnybridge Natural Foods. She gave a great presentation on how health and wellness can be achieved through nutrition. The session was topped off with lunch and Sunnybridge gluten-free bakery treats, which everyone said were yummy!

TrichellesmallOn Monday we welcomed a new employee, Trichelle Barish, to the ABG Capital community. Trichelle was hired as the new Provisioning Representative for VoIP Innovations. Everyone help us in welcoming Trichelle!

The next piece of news that we have to share is about Halloween. We’re looking forward to the costumes and candy that are going to fill the office on our Halloween Party! Not only are we going to have a Pot Luck lunch, but we’re holding costume contests. There will be a prize for the best woman, best man, scariest and funniest costumes. There will definitely be pictures of the winners along with all of the other festivities that we’ll have going on.

If you remember from last week we were cheering on our Pittsburgh Pirates as they were making their way through the series against the cardinals. Unfortunately, our excitement didn’t last much longer because last night’s game proved to be the end of truly great season. It was a sad night in Pittsburgh, but it’s safe to say that this season was legendary. See you next year Buccos!


Just another Friday at ABG

Pittsburgh PiratesHappy Friday from ABG Capital! Before we get into any company updates, we just have one thing to say… LET’S GO BUCS! If you haven’t heard, the Pittsburgh Pirates made the playoffs for the first time in 21 years. Needless to say, it’s an exciting time for Pittsburgher’s. There was even a guy who was so excited after the Buccos won the wild card game, that the only way he could express that excitement, was to jump off the Clemente Bridge! The second playoff game in St. Louis starts at 1:07 today and you’ll probably be able to catch some employees watching the game in our new conference room!

Now that we got that out of the way, we can start talking about some ABG Capital news. Since it’s the beginning of Buctober… oops… we mean October (had to sneak another Pirates reference there :)), we want to give a shout out to all the October birthdays and anniversaries. For birthdays we have Tim Linn on October 6th and Jacob Crisman on October 24th. For anniversaries we have Sebastian Kiely celebrating 7 years on October 19th and Randy Stegner celebrating 4 years on October 26th. We want to wish these employees a happy birthday and happy anniversary!

Cameron | ABG Capital

Jason Tapolci, Jeff Tapolci, Cameron Nutter

Speaking of anniversaries, our newest employee Cameron Nutter just got to spend his one month anniversary at the Rivers for lunch with Jeff and Jason Tapolci. Cameron is working with VoIP Innovations as a Technical Support Representative. Congrats on hitting your one month mark Cameron!

In other news, the build-out project is starting to come to an end. We’re starting to look like a real office again! We mentioned the office decoration committee last week, and we’re glad to announce that things are in the works to start making their way onto our walls. Very soon we’ll have an office that represents the ABG Capital culture and we couldn’t be more excited. Here are a few pictures of the newest places in our office:

ABG Capital Vending Machines

Our brand new vending machines.

ABG Capital Lounge

The TV and lounge area in our new conference room. This is where you’ll see us watching the Pirate game today!

ABG Capital Storage

Our new storage closet.

ABG Captial Copy Center

The future copy center.

ABG Capital Office

One of the new offices that’s almost ready for its’ owner to move in.

ABG Capital Volunteers at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies

Happy Monday! As you remember from our Just another Friday at ABG post last week, we mentioned that some people in the ABG Capital office were taking a half day to go do some volunteer work. That volunteer work took place at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies where we were equipped with buckets of waters and sponges to clean thousands of headstones. Our mission was to help the cemetery prepare for their Memorial Day celebrations next weekend. We had a gorgeous sunny day on our side and we were able to get through all the headstones we needed to.

This is the second year ABG Capital has volunteered at the cemetery and we hope to do it again next year because it’s such a rewarding experience. We were even approached by some veterans who wanted to offer their thanks to US! If you’d like to see pictures from our day, please visit our Facebook page.

ABG Capital CEO and Veterans

Jeff Tapolci and Veterans

The National Cemetery of the Alleghenies is a national cemetery that serves as the final resting place for thousands of veterans and their families. The cemetery lies on 292 acres and is a beautiful place that is well taken care of by a staff of no more than 20. If you are interested in being a part of the volunteer program at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies, please contact their office for more information.

Around Town with Jeff

WHO: Jeff Tapolci, Jason Tapolci, Sharon Kolesar, Dan Ravenstahl, Ron Eggert, Lowell Smith, and Nick Medina

WHAT: 2013 Leadership Summit Presented by Fortune

WHERE: Orlando World Center Marriot Resort in Orlando, FL

WHEN: May 9-10, 2013

Jeff and his Executive Team have been attending these Fortune summits twice a year since the spring of 2007.  These summits are broken into two different themes; the spring summit focuses on growing the leaders within an organization and the fall summit, that will take place in October, will focus on the overall growth of the organization.

ABG Capital Lunchbreak

Where they had their lunch breaks!

When I was talking with Jeff about this particular summit, he said that this was definitely one of his favorites, and he’s been to quite a few of them! It wasn’t just the theme of this summit, it was the overall experience; the speakers, the food, the city, and the venue, were all top notch. He even mentioned that it’s great to see Verne Harnish, founder and CEO of Gazelles, make changes over the years to the summit based on the attendee’s comments.

Before this summit, the days were much longer and had additional speakers which made the days seem almost as if the next break couldn’t come fast enough.  Jeff noted that the days ended earlier this year and it made for a much more relaxing time.

As we mention the speakers, let’s talk about one that stood out in Jeff’s mind. His name was Giovanni Livera. There were eight speakers with various background, but Giovanni had the most energy out of them all. He is one of “the most sought-after corporate entertainers in America,” and he proved that at this summit! A second speaker that grabbed Jeff’s attention was the U.S. Naval Academy Graduate, David Marquet. He told stories of how he took a nuclear powered submarine that was “dogged by poor morale, poor performance, and the worst retention in the fleet, until David Marquet took Command.”

ABG Capital Executive Team

Part of the team waiting for their plane.

All in all, this summit provided the ABG Capital Executive Team with a great deal of information. One of the hardest parts about these events, is coming back to the office to figure out the next steps to take with the tools you’ve just learned. It’s not possible to utilize every single tool or technique that they learned at the summit, but after analyzing all the notes, the Executive Team will come up with an action strategy that will be implemented into the ABG Capital structure.




WHO: Jeff Tapolci and Sean Andreas

WHAT: Pittsburgh Cornell Football Association Baseball Event


WHEN: Monday May 13, 2013

Jeff was invited to this event by Sean Andreas, the VP of Wells Fargo Insurance Services who is also our broker and a good friend of Jeff’s. It was a night filled with old football stories, Pirates baseball, food and drinks. The event was open to any Pittsburgh alumni, former/current players, and friends of Big Red Football. Jeff also brought along his son and his friend and they had a great night touring the Pirates offices and watching the game.

cornell football picsmall

The view from their seats

PNC Park was a different venue than what Jeff is used to being at for these types of events, but nonetheless, it was a great event with great people. He even had the chance to catch up with the Cornell Head Football Coach, David Archer. He remembers hanging out and watching the game tapes last year with him when he was only the assistant coach.

Sean Andreas is well known for bringing together great people with similar interest and Jeff described this as a night out with the guys. Everyone was joking around and teasing each other, and telling great stories from back in the day. He even learned that Cornell is considered the blue-collar ivy league school! Overall, this was another fantastic event where Jeff can share the ABG Way with his community.

ABG Capital Heads to the Gazelles

It’s that time already? Yes it is! This week at ABG Capital, our Executive Team will be attending the 2013 Gazelles Leadership Summit presented by Fortune. Jeff and the team attend Gazelles events twice a year and they are usually in May and October. This year, Jeff will be taking Ron Eggert, Jason Tapolci, Dan Ravenstahl, Lowell Smith, and Sharon Kolesar. Nick Medina from M2 Telecom, a strategic partner of GlobalPOPs and VoIP Innovations, will also be joining them.

Gazelles LogoThe summit will be held on May 9-10 at the Orlando World Center Marriott Resort. During these two days they will hear from speakers from a wide variety of industries, but who all share a common interest: Leadership. A few of the speakers will be Jack Stack, Founder and CEO of SRC Holdings as well as author of The Great Game of Business, Laurie Bassi, author of Good Company: Business Success in the Worthiness Era, and Giovanni Livera, World Champion Magician, Celebrated Inventor, and author of Live a Thousand Years: Have the Time of Your Life.

Jeff makes it a point to attend these events every year and every time he gets back, he strives to educate the ABG Capital staff on the new techniques and best practices he’s learned. In this case, he will come back from the summit with information about leadership and he will strategize new ways that he and the Executive Team can work to implement any new tactics. When they return next week, you can expect that we’ll be filling you in with all the tips they got from this summit. Hopefully they’ll even take some pictures that we can share with you!

Around Town with Jeff

Welcome to our newest ABG Capital blog series! The CEO of ABG, Jeff Tapolci, is always looking for events going on around Pittsburgh where he can learn new things and promote ABG. This is something that we consider part of The ABG Way and that is something that Jeff takes very seriously. He usually goes to a few of these events each week and there is always something to say about them, so we figured that we might as well fill you in!

WHO: Board members and shareholders

WHAT: Dinner and Drinks after a long day of work

WHERE: Cadillac Ranch

WHEN: Monday April 29, 2013

On Monday this week we had our quarterly board meeting. I’m sure you would agree that board meetings are always the best way to start off a Monday! Well maybe we should rephrase that… The gatherings AFTER board meetings are always a great way to kick off a Monday! During this meeting our board members had the opportunity to discuss some important ABG news. The top executives issued a state of the union for their respective companies as well as a status report, and they reviewed the 1st Quarter to ensure everything was going according to plan. Their ultimate purpose is to serve as an entity that establishes accountability and offers problem solving guidance to ABG and its portfolio companies.

ABG Capital Board Meeting

At ABG Capital, we’re lucky though, because our board meetings usually aren’t that bad. We’re not saying they’re fun, but we’re not saying they’re unbearable either! Usually we even try to avoid the typical board room, but sometimes that’s just not possible. No matter how comfortable or uncomfortable we are for the meeting, we always find that the best part is wrapping the meetings up with action items and then heading out to relax. This may seem unconventional compared to other board meetings, but that’s how we operate under The ABG Way.

In our case, we chose to unwind at Cadillac Ranch with dinner, drinks, and cigars. Along with Jeff, we had John Nemcek, Santo Laquatra, Jason Tapolci, and Adam Scott. Dan had to head home because he wasn’t feeling too well. This was a relaxing night filled with some quality male bonding time for the good ol’ boys.

One of the most memorable parts to this night were the stories that Santo couldn’t resist sharing with everyone. If anyone knows Santo, you might find this a little hard to imagine because he’s a very quiet and reserved guy most of the time. He was going on and on about the things he did while he was going to school at Cornell and playing football as well as when he was a kid growing up on the Northside.

Outside of Santo’s entertaining stories, these guys still managed to talk about business and attempt to solve the world’s problems. Well at least any ABG problems. They love taking time out for relaxation like this because that’s where most of their ‘light bulb moments’ grow from. This is the time when their minds are free to think of things in a different light, while also just enjoy listening to some great stories! In the end, these meetings turn into just a bunch of guys hanging out trying to solve business issues.


WHO: Jeff and Sharon

WHAT: PVCA Luncheon on Psychometrics

WHERE: Duquesne Club

WHEN: Tuesday April 30, 2013

On Tuesday, Sharon Kolesar, our HR Manager, joined Jeff at the Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association (PVCA) for a luncheon that discussed psychometrics. The focus of this luncheon was on how to recruit, retain, and continue to engage the right people for your organization. The tool that they highlighted was called the predictive index (PI), and while we don’t use this exact practice at ABG Capital, it’s always nice to learn about other tools out there.

There was so much to be discussed at this luncheon, but what Sharon and Jeff got out of it was that this PI tool can be used in hiring new employees and putting existing employees in the right seats. This goes along with what Jim Collins had to say in his book, Good to Great. This technique is designed to make sure that managers make the right decision when hiring new employees. They want to hire the best people for the open position as well as for the organization. We understand that when you hire a new person, you need to focus on growing that employee into a better worker than any other person in their industry. To be able to do this effectively, managers need to know who they want to search for, keep around, and ultimately keep engaged with the organization.

Jeff is very active with the PVCA so he already knew most of the people there and was able to introduce Sharon to them. They even had the chance to sit with Kelly Szejko who is the President of the PVCA and her son, Ian, who is also involved with the PVCA. During this luncheon they also got to meet Jeff Kimball who is someone they’ve known about, but never actually met. Once they got to talking with him, they found out that he has moved on to a new chapter in his life and had become a Business Growth Consultant.

A few weeks ago, Jeff and Sharon received a questionnaire that would be determine their own PI. They were given the results when they got to the luncheon and they were SPOT ON to each of their personalities! Even though we may not use this exact technique in our hiring practices, we use similar tools that provide the same results: putting the right people in the right seats. Tactics like these are what got me hired at ABG Capital and I truly feel like I’ve been put in the seat I’m supposed to be in!


WHO: Jeff and Natalie

WHAT: Network After Work

WHERE: Villa on the South Side

WHEN: Wednesday May 1, 2013

On Wednesday, Jeff Tapolci and Natalie DeCario, our Communications Specialist went to a relatively newer event in Pittsburgh called Network After Work. It was just like any other networking event, but it seemed more like a speed-dating atmosphere. We had some light hors d’oeuvre and drinks, got to know a few strangers, and handed out business cards until they saturated the room. It was a good time and we were able to meet a few new people and even catch up with some old friends. Jeff even ran into someone who knew his mom from one of ABG’s previous companies, Computer Comfort! That’s one of the great things about living in Pittsburgh; it’s big enough where you can always find someone new to talk to, but you can still find a familiar face in the crowd.

Network After Work is and international organization and they have events like this all the time. This is only their second Pittsburgh event, but you can expect to see the third event happening in July at Bar Louie in Station Square.

The venue for this event, Villa, was fantastic as well. We got to meet the owner who allowed us to see the upstairs portion of the building and it was a great space that we can see utilized for the different activities we do at ABG Capital.

Like I mentioned before, Jeff is always at events like these so maybe you’ll spot him at one sometime! If you do, make sure you introduce yourself and let him know that you’ve been reading about him.


WHO: Jeff and Ron

WHAT: J.P. Morgan 2nd Annual Energy Summit/Symposium “Jurassic Spark”

WHERE: Heinz History Center

WHEN: Thursday May 2, 2013

Jeff Tapolciand Ron Eggert attended this event as a way to broaden their horizons and learn some new things about a different industry. Since most of ABG Capital is focused around technology, getting a look into the Energy sector was a good way for them to seek new opportunities and represent ABG.

The symposium examined Energy from a World-Wide, U.S., and Western Pennsylvania point of view. There were industry experts, investors, politicians, business men and women, along with many other backgrounds who all shared a common interest in the Energy sector.

This event stared with a few speakers from J.P. Morgan and then led into a panel discussion and then lunch. They even had the chance to walk through the Heinz History Center. The highlighted exhibit they have going on right now revolves around what it was like in 1968.

As I mentioned before, ABG Capital has primarily focused on technology but you never know what you may find at an event like this. When I was talking to Jeff about this, he explained his philosophy to me; “I like going to things like this because I always learn something. It’s just like taking a class on the side that you might be interested in. It’s like think, if you never play outside of your sandbox, you might never see what the other sandboxes have to offer.” This makes sense if you know anything about Jeff because he is always looking for a bigger sandbox to play in!

Just another Friday at ABG Capital

What a beautiful Friday we are having in Pittsburgh! It’s also been a great week for us at ABG Capital as well. We started off the week with our Quarterly Board Meeting and our Annual Shareholders meeting. Our board members are Jeff Tapolci, John Nemcek, Santo Laquatra, Jason Tapolci, Dan Ravenstahl, and our shareholders are Jeff, Jason, Dan, and Adam Scott. During this meeting the top executives issued a state of the union for their respective companies as well as a status report, and they reviewed the 1st Quarter to ensure everything was going according to plan. Their ultimate purpose is to serve as an entity that establishes accountability and offers problem solving guidance to ABG and its portfolio companies.   They closed these meetings by having a relaxing dinner with a few drinks and cigars at Cadillac Ranch. If you want to read more about how their ‘after meeting’ went, check out our newest blog series called Around Town with Jeff. This series follows the ABG Capital CEO, Jeff Tapolci, as he makes his way to many different events around Pittsburgh each week.

This week was also an exciting time for Inspira! Lowell Smith, Ron Eggert, Jeff Linkowski, Joe Golubski, and Pete Littlejohn all attended the 2013 NIPA Annual Forum and Expo in Las Vegas. Jeff even did an educational presentation where he discussed how TPA’s Record-keepers and Advisors can provide a valuable service to their clients by educating them on the benefits of mandatory distribution and helping them set up a routine process for sweeping out small accounts. Jeff did an awesome job with his presentation!

Dan - ABG Capital

Dan Ravenstahl… The lucky winner!

Next we have to mention our Cinco de Mayo celebrations. First, we had a fantastic pot-luck lunch where we had everything from tacos, walking-tacos, dips, chips, and toppings galore! It was by far one of the best lunches we’ve had! After lunch we moved on to pulling the winner of our Cinco de Mayo basket filled with all of the necessary things for a celebration. The winner was Dan Ravenstahl and he was such a great winner because he shared his winnings with the staff! We can’t forget to mention the most important part of the basket raffle. As you’re probably aware, we place a high value on our giving back initiatives and the Make-A-Wish Foundation is an organization that we do most of our fundraisers for. After all of the ticket money was calculated  we ended up raising $650 for Make-A-Wish! It’s always a great feeling to give back to well-deserved organizations.

That wraps up this week’s Just another Friday at ABG Capital. Thanks for reading and enjoy your weekend 🙂