Business leaders learn important skills in a surprising setting.

Surrounded by three miles of walking trails, a waterfall and a Birds in Flight sculpture by Michael Bashaw, most people wouldn’t expect to see a 70,000-square-foot facility rising up out of natural prairie grasses in Tipp City.

They also, at first glance, might assume it’s a nature center or spa; however, it’s actually a nonprofit organization called Aileron, which has been teaching business executives and owners how to effectively grow and manage their businesses since 1996.

Named after the moveable flaps of airplanes, Aileron is former CEO and owner of Iams Clay Mathile’s way of paying it forward to other businesses that want to learn how to evolve and adapt in an ever-changing work world. 

“Aileron helps businesses that are past the start-up phase,” says Jean Holloway, strategic development manager at Aileron. 

Typically, businesses that utilize Aileron’s services and programs have more than 10 employees, have between $1-20 million in sales, and wish to learn about implementing a framework into their organization. However, they’ve helped businesses with up to $100 million in sales. 

“As a business grows, it faces more complexity [in its structure],” says Joni Fedders, president of Aileron. “Growth can be a huge issue. The world works at a fast pace and opportunities are endless. The challenge in today’s crowded marketplace is focusing on how a business can stand out and be noticed.” 

Aileron’s approach is the implementation of a professional management system, which can help businesses understand the direction they need to take to grow and be successful. 

This professional management system is essentially a three-part model: direction, operation and control (DOC). 

With this system, questions like “How do we continue to shift and develop people?” and “Do we have a strategic plan?” are answered in the many workshops, programs, roundtables and peer groups at Aileron. 

Business presidents, owners, CEOs, board members, managers and more also have access to a business advisor who understands the uniqueness of each business, its industry and the many concerns a business may have. 

“Implementing this [DOC] model shows how all the questions and solutions are interconnected,” says Fedders. 

The DOC model is further broken down into six parts: performance management, strategy, leadership, business structure, people development and culture. 

“They are shocked when they get in a room with other lead figures from different industries, like architects, landscapers, government agencies,” says Fedders, “because they have similar struggles.”

She adds that she has attended some of Aileron’s programs and workshops even before being hired as president of Aileron in 2002. 

“It creates a mind shift from ‘I can’t do this’ to ‘I can do this and I’m not the only one,’” says Fedders. “You can see the relief and excitement in the room.”

As the DOC model increases Aileron’s client’s progression in the work world, it is also growing the number of businesses Aileron impacts each year. 

“Aileron’s spirit and energy are bigger than we ever imagined,” says Fedders. “We’ve only begun to scratch the surface.”