Street Talk: Leaders, lend an ear


When it comes to the topic of leadership, there may not be a better in-state expert than Tom Izzo.

The Upper Peninsula’s favorite son took time last week to deliver the breakfast keynote at the Great Lakes ACG Capital Connection, where he talked about some of the lessons he’s learned in his 40-year coaching career. Of course, no marathon oration from Izzo would be complete without some colorful stories about his mentor, former Michigan State basketball coach Jud Heathcote, who passed away last month.

When discussing the importance of leaders being able to adjust, Izzo spun a tale from his time as an assistant under Heathcote, when the Spartans traveled to Australia for a preseason game.

As Izzo explained it, when the team landed, Heathcote gave them time before the game to explore the city and get some bonding time in. When the team started to slip midway through the game, Heathcote looked up from the huddle and saw freshman center Matt Hofkamp, an Ionia native, with an earring.

“He went ballistic, off the charts ballistic,” Izzo recalled.

After the game, which the Spartans lost, Izzo was called to Heathcote’s hotel room and got chewed out. Among the legendary coach’s concerns and in between unprintables, Heathcote wanted to know why his top assistant was unaware Hofkamp had gotten his ear pierced. So, Izzo dutifully left to talk to the team’s leaders, Mark Montgomery and Grand Rapids native Matt Steigenga.

When Izzo asked what was up with Hofkamp, Montgomery and Steigenga explained that when the team landed, Heathcote had told them the trip was about camaraderie, building chemistry and sticking together.

“’So, Monty and I said, what can we do to show coach that we’re really going to be in this camaraderie mode?’” Izzo recalled Steigenga saying. “‘So, we all went downtown and we got our ear pierced!’”

When Izzo went back up to deliver the news to Heathcote, that he now had 13 newly decorated ears on the roster, the door was slammed in his face. And Izzo went back to his room, awaiting the next day’s ride to the airport.

Unsurprisingly, the bus the next morning was dead quiet as the team dreaded Heathcote’s arrival.

“Here comes Bev (Heathcote, Jud’s wife) walking on the bus, ‘Hi Tom, Hi Bev,’” Izzo said. “Here comes Jud walking behind — with two clip-on earrings.”

However amusing the story was, it came with a message.

“You can adjust to the times without changing your principles,” Izzo said. “That kind of taught me something. I was shocked and relieved and happy, but it was interesting … I try to realize that we all have tough jobs and we all have to spend time with other people and we all have to learn to adjust.”

CEO camp

Mercantile Bank of Michigan is hosting a kickoff event to introduce an “intense” six-month boot camp program for local business owners and CEOs.

“Kickoff to Business Growth Bootcamp” will begin at 7:30 a.m., Sept. 12, at Mercantile Bank of Michigan, 310 Leonard St. NW. The launch event will introduce the Business Growth Bootcamp concept to potential participants, including business owners and CEOs.

“Business owners, entrepreneurs and CEOs have and continue to struggle with the concept of ‘taking their business to the next level,’” said Tom Tubergen, principal of Tuber Marketing, which is one of the event’s sponsors. “The boot camp kickoff event will offer a brief introduction to our monthly business boot camp series — attendees will learn about a mathematical formula that describes exactly how they can take their business to that next level, including critical leadership and team-building concepts, and financial management techniques.”

The boot camp is a series of six full morning workshops meeting the second Tuesday of the month beginning in October and running through March. The lessons are tailored for business owners, entrepreneurs and CEOs doing $4 million to $10 million in annual sales revenue who want to aggressively grow their revenue or position their company for sale in the next three to five years.

DieCad Group President Bobbie Blanton will present the launch event keynote, “The Challenges of Leading a High Growth Company,” followed by time for a Q&A segment.

Pay pal

Paying for city taxes and services just got a little more streamlined.

The city of Grand Rapids has rolled out a partnership with PayIt, a mobile and web platform for government entities, to launch a new web app called GRPayIt through which all city transactions will now occur.

Grand Rapids residents can create accounts to pay water, refuse/waste and property tax bills with a single sign-on. The app allows users to pay, manage and receive notifications about their accounts and includes the ability to pay parking tickets, as well.

“We are building the website for our community,” said John Globensky, city treasurer. “It is available on their terms, on any device, at any time, on supported browsers.”

Supported browsers include Google Chrome, version 60 or higher; Mozilla Firefox, version 59 or higher; Microsoft Edge/Internet Explorer, Internet Explorer 11 or higher; and Apple Safari, version 9 or higher.

Payment options include single, partial and full payments based on payment type. Most services will offer an auto-pay or auto-reload function. Customers will receive notifications for new bills and reminders as due dates approach.

“The online web application brings many departments together for the customer rather than the customer coming to find us,” Globensky said.

The GRPayIt web app (which is mobile responsive) is available at

It will be available for download on iTunes and Google Play in the next few weeks.

Just ducky

If you see a fleet of giant rubber ducks floating down the Grand River this Thursday, Sept. 14, don’t be alarmed. It’s all in good fun to benefit a clean-water nonprofit.

DeVos Place Convention Center and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel will host the Association of Water Technologies’ Annual Convention and Exposition on Sept. 13-16.

As part of the conference, association members will purchase more than 300 large rubber ducks and race them down the Grand River, starting at the Gillett Pedestrian Bridge behind DeVos Place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

All proceeds from the race benefit Pure Water for the World — a nonprofit working to improve the health and livelihood of children and families in Central America and the Caribbean by providing tools and education to establish sustainable, safe water, hygiene and sanitation solutions.

More than 1,300 attendees of the conference will participate in educational sessions, networking and browsing an exhibition hall that will showcase the latest advances in the changing field of water treatment.

“Grand Rapids is the perfect place for the AWT Convention because water is an essential part of the city’s identity,” said Marc Vermeulen, AWT president-elect. “You are never more than 6 miles away from a body of water. AWT can learn a great deal from Grand Rapids, such as utilizing its water for outdoor recreation, navigating crops on the Fruit Ridge, the ‘farm-to-fork’ movement and even its popular beer scene, where nearly 50 local breweries draw on the water supply in West Michigan.”

To learn more about the organization, visit 

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