Paying it Forward: Founding Aileron to Lift Lives Across America

The American Dream

From a very early age, Clay showed interest in entrepreneurship and the pursuit of learning. What began as vocational exploration — Clay learned how different businesses worked in his small farming community — later evolved into a dream to build and grow something bigger than himself.

Realizing a Dream Through Professional Management

Later in his career, when Clay purchased The Iams Company, he realized a hard truth many business owners face: He didn’t know how to run a company.

“I guess you’ll have to learn how to,” Clay’s wife, MaryAnn, advised. That counsel catalyzed Clay’s journey to learn the best practices for running a business. On that journey, he stumbled upon professional management: a system for running a business that focuses on sustainability, scalability, and long-term planning.

Clay’s implementation of professional management at Iams was critical in scaling the company, sustaining a people-focused culture, and doubling the company’s size every four years.

Clay documented the professional management concepts that fueled Iams’ success in Run Your Business, Don’t Let It Run You, a practical guide for growing a business.

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A Champion for Businesses

After realizing first-hand the power of professional management to transform a business and its people, Clay was inspired to equip other business leaders — a community Clay deeply believed to be the backbone of the American economy — with the systems, resources, and trusted confidants that powered his success at Iams.

Supporting Business Owners to Raise the Quality of Life Across America

Deeply embedded in Clay’s vision was a belief that supporting America’s small business owners would catalyze a ripple effect that could raise the quality of life across America. Armed with reverence for business owners and a drive to lift lives, he rallied a trusted team who set out to build an organization that would prove that theory true.

“I believe that by being a trusted friend to the business owner, focusing on professional management, and becoming a sustainable organization, we will help to drive growth and development of individuals and organizations and raise the quality of life for the individual, for the community, for the country, and even the world.” –Clay Mathile

A System, Community, and Campus for Leaders

When Clay shared his dream with the leaders he trusted to bring it to life, he set four intentions: to be a trusted friend of the business owner, to develop people and businesses, to emphasize professional management, and to build something that would last forever. From that vision, the concept of Aileron was born.

Aileron’s DOC System of Professional Management

At the heart of Aileron is the DOC System of Professional Management, a system uniquely designed for running a thriving small business; while many business frameworks are crafted for large corporations, the DOC System helps small business owners navigate the complexities that arise when a company grows to beyond 10-15 employees.

The system emphasizes practical, usable tools over theoretical concepts so it can support dirt-under-your-nails and high-tech companies alike. Its six areas of focus — strategy, leadership, culture, people development, organizational performance, and business structure — help business owners set direction, align the organization, and stay the course.

To date, more than 2,500 business owners have participated in Aileron’s flagship program, Course for Presidents, which onboards business owners to the DOC System.

A Community and Campus Focused on Forever

Along with thoughtful partnership, funding and empowering a team of trusted business leaders to build and operate it, Clay endowed a 114-acre campus in Tipp City, Ohio — a retreat for business leaders to step away from the day-to-day, focus on professionally managing their businesses, and learn and grow without distraction.

A Support System for Practicing Professional Management

Aileron’s campus was intentionally designed to be the physical manifestation of what it takes to run a thriving business: focus, leadership, big-picture thinking and dreaming. Every detail of the campus embodies those themes and supports the meaningful work business owners and teams need to do to professionally manage sustainable, thriving organizations.

When it opened in 2008, it became the home for Aileron’s community: a peer network of like-minded business leaders, professional management practitioners, and business advisors and coaches who are passionate about helping small business owners thrive. Today, 15,000 business leaders visit Aileron’s campus every year to get away from the day-to-day and focus on their businesses.

Continuing Clay’s Legacy

For nearly 30 years, Aileron has developed companies across America and operated sustainably through a blend of Clay and MaryAnn’s endowment, customer revenue, and donations.

Continuing Clay’s Legacy