COSE 50 spotlight: Cleveland’s iconic Goodtime ship charting a course for the future

“We are a landmark in Cleveland, a pioneer in tourism. We are Cleveland’s boat.”


Through rough seas and smooth, Cleveland’s iconic sightseeing ship the Goodtime has cruised on for six-plus decades, taking generations of Clevelanders on river and lakefront tours, sunset cruises and field trips.

“In nearly 65 years there have been downturns and industrial pollution and recessions and the rise and fall and rise of the Flats and the pandemic, but from the time my grandfather founded the company, we have not let that stop us,” says Goodtime III owner “Captain Rick” Fryan.

His grandfather, Vince, and great-uncle Herb Fryan, who had worked in the movie business, launched their nautical company in 1957 with a 62-by-16-foot, 68-passenger boat.

“Great Uncle Herb had the mechanical aptitude and got his captain’s license,” says Captain Rick. “At the time, there was one other boat doing lake tours, but they saw the need for more narrated tours.”

They were so confident Clevelanders would take to the water, they took out second mortgages on their homes.

Their risk paid off. Soon, Goodtime tours were so popular, they invested in a second, bigger ship. The 475-passenger Goodtime II was commissioned in 1960.

Captain Rick credits his grandfather’s business acumen for a large part of their longevity.

“He truly believed in the potential of advertising, with many ads in the Press and Plain Dealer. And he built up his database with names from his past business and did outreach. He added in school field trips, too. He was always thinking of ideas, and pretty soon he put his competitor out of business.”

The Goodtime was also one of the inaugural members of Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE), joining the Growth Association in 1969. When members moved to COSE with its 1972 formation, the Goodtime was on board. Fifty years later, they still are.

“When you are a business of our length of time, it’s important to support organizations like GCP and COSE with our membership,” says Captain Rick, who also utilizes COSE for health insurance.

“It’s important to be a part of a community, it’s important to be part of the business community. We’ve been around for 65 years, but you still have to advertise and get out in front of people.”

Captain Rick took over the Goodtime in 2012 when his father, Jim, passed away. Rick started his career on the ship in 1986, “fresh out of the Army.”

Through three generations, the business model hasn’t changed much, although the ships have grown. The Fryans launched the 750-passengr Goodtime III in 1991.

Like his father and grandfather, Captain Rick offers multiple one- and two-hour sightseeing and dining tours per week, from May to September. Some recent innovations include Friday Smooth Jazz cruises and sunset cruises.

“And we continue with our key ingredient to our success, giving good service and trying to get things right every time,” adds Captain Rick, who employs 45 people.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved one of the Goodtime III’s biggest challenges, with the ship shut down for several in-season months. They did receive PPP loans, but had to relaunch with limited capacity in later 2020. They are finally getting close to pre-COVID passenger numbers, but worker shortages, inflation and the high price of gas are new obstacles.

Captain Rick is up for the challenge.

“Every business is faced with these issues now,” he says. “It’s everywhere, it’s in manufacturing, farming, everywhere imaginable. We are prepared, though. Being frugal, my father and grandfather were huge savers, always putting money away for the future because you just never know. They taught me.

“We have gotten through difficult times before, and we are getting through this. I want to see this be operated by my son, the fourth generation, who is only 18 now. I want us to be in business 50 years from now.”

Captain Rick thinks of the Goodtime as more than just a business, however.

“We are a landmark in Cleveland, a pioneer in tourism. We are Cleveland’s boat.”

  • Email
  • Next up: Grow your business with these three lessons

    Grow your business with these three lessons

    New blog contributor Amy Wong from Dot Org Solutions LLC wants you to learn these three important lessons that will help your business grow and thrive.


    When I first saw the call for contributing writers for the COSE blog, I immediately thought, I can do this. I’m a champion for small businesses and nonprofits and this is a great opportunity to share what I have learned along the way as a business owner—and to help you avoid the mistakes I have made. 

    I’m a writer at heart and have spent my career developing content for my employers, clients and now, our business. My goal is to take the joy I have in writing and bring you meaningful content that will help your organization grow. 

    I started Dot Org Solutions almost 13 “lucky” years ago. Like most business owners, I sought to fill a need that I didn’t think was being met. Along the way I have learned and made mistakes; I’ve seen employees come and go; I’ve grown as a leader; and I discovered that hiring good people, especially those who can execute my vision, is critical to the success of any business or organization.  

    But I’ve learned three other important lessons along the way. And by knowing these things, our business has matured, grown and, so far, survived a pandemic. I think these three lessons can help you too as you continue to grow your business and thrive.

    Lesson no. 1: You must have three sets of plans. 

    Every organization should have an annual plan, a strategic plan (3-ish years) and a long-range plan (7-10 years). Each one serves a distinctly different purpose, but—when tied together—provide important guidance for your team. 

    Your long-range plan outlines your organization’s aspiration and goals for the future. Your strategic plan provides structure to help you achieve your long-range goals and puts your priorities front and center. Your annual plan outlines your goals for the year (sales, program, production, tactical, etc.) but also ties in “to-do” items from your strategic plan. If the pandemic taught us anything, it is that life is unpredictable. Plans can be changed when needed, but they need to be created first. 

    >> RELATED: Do I need a strategic plan? Who cares?

    Bring your leadership team together to discuss your long-range vision and define it if you haven’t already. Develop a strategic plan to help you take steps toward making that vision a reality. And build accountable, actionable, and task-oriented plans to guide you through the year.  

    Lesson no. 2: Spending time defining and living by your core values is worth it.

    If you and your leadership team don’t spend time developing and nurturing your organizational culture, your employees will. That often ends badly and is difficult to fix. Prospective employees (especially younger ones) are looking for organizations with strong, positive cultures and clear core values that align with their own. We’ve seen it ourselves at Dot Org. Candidates for the last three jobs we interviewed for specifically asked about our culture. We proudly shared our core values with them. 

    So, talk to your people about your culture. Take the time to define your core values and place them front and center. Use them as part of your HR strategy—including hiring and firing. Refer to them when times are tough. Let them guide you when making difficult decisions that may negatively impact your employees. 

    >> RELATED: Understanding and building a positive company culture

    Lesson no. 3: People are looking for personalized experiences and relevant content. 

    The past two years have shifted the way many people communicate and receive information. While we’re starting to see more networking opportunities, conferences and events, people are continuing to spend more time researching things online. They have changed their buying habits (curbside pickup, anyone?). And they are being influenced through artificial intelligence (AI) and targeted content. Companies and organizations that are producing relevant content (not sales content) are going to benefit from these trends. People are looking for personalized experiences and want to have business relationships with people they feel like they can trust. 

    Use content marketing tactics by showing your leadership and knowledge about a topic in a blog, an e-book, social media content or video (not everything needs to be sales driven). Evaluate your website and make sure you include information that your customers are looking for and calls to action that are easy to find. Make your content short and “snackable.” People also want information in a hurry. 

    Spending time in these three areas is effective and we are already seeing the benefits of starting this intentional work nearly three years ago. As I look to the future of our company, I know that planning, culture and content will continue to be critical to our ongoing success and growth. 

    Over the coming months, I look forward to writing about relevant topics in leadership, marketing and planning. Hopefully, you will find some tips that you can use to help your business grow. 

    Amy Wong is president and founder of Dot Org Solutions LLC, ( a creative and consulting firm delivering marketing, fundraising, consulting and strategic planning services to nonprofits and small businesses that work with nonprofit organizations. She is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program and is frequent speaker on the topics of leadership and marketing. She can be reached at

  • Email
  • Next up: COSE Day at the Capitol: How one restaurateur took a fight for fairness to the statehouse – and changed the law

    COSE Day at the Capitol: How one restaurateur took a fight for fairness to the statehouse – and changed the law

    COSE helped one of its members fight an unfair workers' compensation bill during an annual COSE Day at the Capitol. Registration is open for the 2022 event, which is Tuesday, May 24.


    When Toby Heintzelman, Operations Manager at The Driftwood Group, was hit with an unfair and unexpected workers' compensation bill after opening his first downtown restaurant a decade ago, he knew where to turn: his support network at COSE.

    They helped him take the fight all the way to the statehouse, at COSE Day at the Capitol, and their advocacy helped change the law. 

    “COSE Day at the Capitol is one of the best experiences one can have with COSE,” says Heintzelman.

    The annual event, taking place May 24 this year, provides small businesses with the unique opportunity to meet in-person with policymakers in Columbus to share challenges and to discuss how they can work together to enhance Ohio’s small business climate.

    Heintzelman originally joined COSE for health-care options. He was also interested in energy programs. But it took that surprising bill to lead him to take advantage of the myriad of resources COSE offers.

    “We had purchased a restaurant space in Playhouse Square where the previous tenant had left,” he explains. 

    “As we were doing our due diligence and working on opening the place, we were informed our workers' comp bill would be the same as the past tenants’ bill, and they did not have a great track record. I really did not understand it, but seeing as how workman’s comp was one of the core competencies COSE had, I reached out. They said, ‘that doesn’t sound right, let us look a little deeper.’”

    Eventually, it became apparent that due to Ohio’s successor liability laws at the time, business owners who started a business or who moved their business to a location previously occupied by a completely separate company could inherit workers’ compensation liabilities. Driftwood was being penalized for a previous owner’s bad record. 

    “All we were looking for was fairness,” says Heintzelman. 

    “We understood being a new business we couldn’t get a group rating right away, that’s acceptable. What I had a problem with was I was being given an experience rating of someone who had run a business poorly, just because I had the same kind of business in that space. I didn’t buy the business, I did not buy any of the employees, none of those things. We weren’t trying to beat the system.” 

    That’s when COSE’s advocacy team really came into play. 

    “I was invited to go along to COSE Day, and we had some meetings and I got to tell my story to people who then could see it was an issue for their constituents and the businesses of Ohio, it wasn’t a fair shake. I got to do that a couple times. 

    “COSE never gave up. [This issue] was always at the forefront. They made sure we were represented with our political people and that businesses were given an opportunity to let their grievances out.”

    Finally, in 2015, Governor Kasich signed House Bill 259, which included a provision to help ensure entrepreneurs would not be penalized in the form of increased workers’ compensation rates, outstanding balances, or uncovered claims costs for assuming space that was previously inhabited by a completely separate business with negative claims experience.  

    “It was beneficial for my company and eased the way for us to be able to purchase more restaurants and not be too concerned with what was there before,” says Heintzelman. “It saved us thousands and thousands of dollars. It allowed me to have a piece of equipment I need for my business without a problem. It allowed me also to be responsible for my own actions and my own business decisions."

    “That wouldn’t have happened without COSE.” 

    The 2022 COSE Day at the Capitol is Tuesday, May 24.  Registration is now open. The day includes networking with public officials, speakers, a roundtable, an opening reception and a visit to the Ohio Statehouse to attend business-focused committee hearings. 

  • Email
  • Next up: How to do effective competitive research for your small business on a budget

    How to do effective competitive research for your small business on a budget

    Learn how to build an effective strategy to monitor and research your competitors without breaking the bank.


    As a small business owner, you should regularly check out your competitors. Not to spy on them, but to do competitive research. Competitor analysis allows you to know your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and helps you learn the industry trends.

    However, it’s not just enough to check on your competitors’ social media accounts and subscribe to their email list. You need to have a solid strategy for effective monitoring and research.

    Below, we will help you know more about competitive research, its importance, and how you can effectively do it for your small business on a budget. Read on.

    What is competitive research and why is it important?

    Competitive research is the assessment of both strengths and weaknesses of your current and potential competitors so that you can identify any future opportunities or threats. 

    When doing competitor research, you can consider the marketing strategies that the competitor uses, the plant facilities, financials, number of employees, etc. By doing the competitor analysis, you can realize how your products or services perform in the industry and what you can do to improve them. 

    Here are the main benefits that you can get by doing detailed competitive research:

    Benefit no. 1: Helps you better understand the market 

    Well-done competitive research can help you know the current industry trends that you may have missed. The ability to study or identify the current industry trends is vital for business growth, as it helps you improve your business’s value proposition.

    Benefit no. 2: Allows you to improve your marketing

    Customers are always looking for the best products or services that will make their lives better. If your clients have been leaving you for your competitors, the chances are high that you are not doing something right. Competitive research can help you know what your competitors are doing right to improve your marketing.

    Benefit no. 3: Helps you to identify market gaps

    Competitive analysis in marketing is all about identifying the market’s opportunities and threats. After the analysis, you can identify an underserved market that you can start to focus on.

    Benefit no. 4: Helps you to plan well for the future

    You may not take immediate actions after the competitor analysis, but you can use the data to improve your future practices. For instance, you can improve your marketing or change your pricing strategies to gain a competitive advantage.

    Six Steps to Doing Effective Competitive Research Inexpensively

    Here is a short, step-by-step guide on doing effective competitive research:

    Step no. 1: Understand your competitors

    First, you will need to know the types of businesses you are competing with to make the most accurate data comparisons.

    In business, there are two main types of competitors: direct and indirect. Direct competitors are the businesses offering the exact products and services that you offer. Indirect competitors offer different products to yours, but they are substitutes to what you offer.

    When doing competitive research, you should only focus on the direct competitors. If possible, you should write all the competitors by name.

    Note: if the list is long, you can reduce the number to focus on seven to 10 competitors. Your list should be comprised of companies that:
    Sell the direct products/services to yours
    Have similar business premises to yours
    Have an equal marketing share to yours
    Are new to the market but who are more experienced than you

    Step no. 2: Create a spreadsheet

    You should keep your data organized to reduce errors. For this reason, you should have a spreadsheet where you will compare and contrast the following aspects from your competitors:

    The price range of the products or services
    The social media engagement of the competitors
    Marketing tactics, including the content used for generating the leads
    Keyword terms your competition are ranking for

    Step no. 3: Analyze your competitors’ engagement

    The best way to know your competitors’ engagement is to check how the users respond to your competitors’ posts. Check the average number of likes, comments, and shares on the posts to know if:

    Some comments attract more likes and comments than others
    The comments are negative, positive, or a mix of the two
    Readers respond more on some social media platforms than others
    People tweet more topics than others 

    Be sure to document the observations to your records/spreadsheet.

    Step no. 4: Observe the competitors’ marketing tactics

    From the engagement, you should now check the content promotion strategies that your competitors use. Some of the things to pay more attention to include:

    Types of content they’re producing
    Keywords used

    As you analyze, you should write down the keywords or any other content marketing strategies that your competitors are using but you are not. You should also note the social media platforms that your competitors use most to promote their content and feedback.

    Step no. 5: Know how your competitors market their goods

    Marketing remains top-secret to many firms, and you may not explore all the marketing tactics of the firm by solely checking their social media accounts. You can assume the role of a potential customer to dive deeper into the competing business by doing the following:

    Subscribe to your competitor’s emails
    Purchase a product
    Shop for products online and abandon the cart
    Subscribe to their blogs

    As you do the above activities, be sure to document the company’s responses to cart abandonment, to your blogs subscriptions, social media following, etc.

    Step no. 6: Conduct a SWOT analysis

    The last step is to conduct a SWOT analysis for your business and the competitors. A SWOT analysis examines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a business. 
    Examples include the company’s:

    Number of employees
    Market share
    Partnerships, etc.

    Threats and opportunities are external and not easy to control. Examples include the economy, market size, regulation, and so on. You can aim to do a SWOT analysis for your business and competitors every year so that you can weigh the current positioning of your business against your competitors.

    A final word on competitive research

    Aside from the effective yet rudimentary methods discussed until now, using sophisticated tools designed for competitive research will only help save you time, money, and energy. The challenge is to get the vital data needed without having to get saddled with expensive subscriptions that most comprehensive tools require.

    There are many free or relatively inexpensive research tools that we recommend trying out, such as Ubersuggest, SimilarWeb, Spyfu, Moat and more. While most of the free versions provide valuable data and insights, they invariably get better by upgrading to their paid versions.

    The bottom line is that it’s vital that you know the performance and positioning of your business amongst your competitors so that you can plan well for your future. Follow our guide above and seek professional help when need be.

    Nachum Langsner is the Co-Founder & CMO of LocalBizGuru, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Cleveland, OH. He has over 10+ years of experience in the SEO industry and is a frequent presenter and instructor of digital marketing and SEO seminars for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Greater Cleveland area for organizations such as COSE, Jumpstart, the Better Business Bureau, Score and the Ohio SBDC at CSU.  

  • Email
  • Next up: Introducing the "Platinum Rule" of communication and how to embrace it

    Introducing the "Platinum Rule" of communication and how to embrace it

    You've heard of the Golden Rule. Learn how the Platinum Rule can help you become a more effective communicator.

    “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” Many business professionals diligently attempt to practice the Golden Rule at work that we all learned as youngsters. A workplace communication version of that philosophy would be "Communicate with other people the way you want them to communicate with you."  While it's a nice warm and fuzzy concept, a quick reality check indicates a serious flaw in the logic: the Golden Rule assumes everyone has the same needs as you.

    While the Golden Rule doesn’t work at a certain level of specific application, the "Platinum Rule" does. Rather than communicating with other people the way you want them to communicate with you, the Platinum Rule stresses communicating with other people they way they want you to communicate with them. I first learned about this strategy from Dr. Tony Alessandra in the 90s. It is 10 times harder to do well, but 100 times better than the Golden Rule when it comes to communicating. So, you do the math and see how much value you see using it.

    Here are 11 best practices and lessons learned that can help you evolve into Platinum Rule Workplace Communicators:

    1. Accept the reality that people are different. Many of you are acquainted with the various personality style profiles that validate this aspect of diversity. DiSC, MBTI and MIR all point to key differences in how people communicate and, therefore, how they like to be communicated with at work.

    2. Recognize that your personality style preference has its inherent communication strengths and weaknesses. Play your strengths while minimizing the negative impact of your weaknesses. 

    3. Strive to be flexible and adaptable. These are two characteristics that are helpful in just about any situation, but especially when communicating.

    >> RELATED: How do I get my company to rock at communicating?

    4. Plan workplace communication one individual interaction at a time. This means a time commitment, and that’s where the "10 times harder" part comes in. While it’s easier to go through the motions of communicating on Golden Rule autopilot, that strategy misses the target most of the time.

    5. Focus on your communications being receiver-centered instead of sender-centered. They realize the whole communication process revolves around sending messages to receivers on their terms that will help them accomplish the specific outcomes of that communication process. It’s all about them – the receivers –and the outcomes and not at all about us, the senders.

    6. When you know or can accurately guess the primary style of the receiver, modify your approach accordingly. Your goal is to maximize comfort for the receiver and minimize the conflict inherent in our communication differences. In so doing, you increase the receiver’s potential for active listening, understanding, retention and action that support your defined outcomes.

    7. When you don’t know the receiver’s style, look for clues. These clues can be found in the type and amount of words they regularly use, the tone of their voice, their pace of delivery, body language, even attire and what you see in their work space.

    8. While we have a component of each style quadrant in us, we tend to wear one hat more than the other three. Using the DiSC terminology, if the receiver looks like a D, sounds like a D, uses D words and even dresses like a D, they are probably wearing the D hat at that moment. So, communicate with that D the way that D wants you to.

    >> RELATED: Read more by Phil Stella

    9. When you don’t yet have enough of a sense for their preferred style, use some all-purpose default strategies. These strategies should initially work until you get more telling signs. Talk less and listen more. Tell less and ask more. The extroverts will appreciate your less-is-more approach that allows them to talk more, and the introverts will be more comfortable with you. Ask good, focused questions to gather important information without interrogating or intimidating.

    10. Offer choices where possible and appropriate. Under-promise and over-deliver on those choices. And make sure they’re receiver-centered choices.

    11. And above all, Platinum Rule Communicators interact with uncommon courtesy. This means saying what you’ll do, doing what you say and being respectful of the receiver’s time, feelings and needs.

    Like I said up front, being a Platinum Rule Workplace Communicator is 10 times harder than interacting on Golden Rule autopilot, but 100 times better. If you want to evolve into a much higher level of workplace communication effectiveness, make the commitment to do what it takes. All the rest is just practice and details.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication,, 440 804-4785, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication and sales pitches A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.   

  • ">Email
  • Next up: How to improv my elevator speech

    How to improv my elevator speech

  • Email