EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2014 Central Midwest Awards




Greg Graves
chairman, president and CEO
Burns & McDonnell

Greg Graves started his first paper route when he was 6 years old. At first his father helped, but Graves was soon delivering all the papers, dealing with bill collections and finding new customers. It was early evidence that when Graves had a job, he put his whole heart and soul into it.
Further proof came when Graves decided to start giving his customers Christmas cards. It was based on the knowledge that people are more likely to give a gift if they have first received something themselves. Graves saw his own Christmas gifts increase substantially and learned a valuable lesson about what can be gained when you show your customers that you care.
So when Graves became CEO at Burns & McDonnell, an engineering, architecture, construction, environmental and consulting firm, it should have surprised no one that less than a decade later, he had helped the company grow to new heights.
Part of his success is his people philosophy. Graves, who also serves as chairman and president, understood that you’ll earn more support and loyalty when you show your employees that you are on their side. Demonstrate you want the best for them as much as you do yourself and the business.
Each employee at Burns & McDonnell receives a minimum annual bonus. Graves revised the employee stock ownership plan to allow employees to participate from day one as opposed to waiting up to 18 months to begin enjoying the benefits of employee ownership.
He wants his executive team to have the same appreciation and value for employees that he does. When a top performer does leave, the manager has to talk about it at the officer meeting. It ensures that everyone is focused on retaining the best employees and cultivating a culture where great people want to work.

Financial Services


cm_eoy_ByronThompson Byron Thompson
chairman of the board
Country Club Bank

Byron Thompson led a successful career at UMB Bank and was ready to retire and spend time with his family. He had spent his life working hard, providing for his family and caring for his wife who was battling multiple sclerosis. He set out to do that in 1985, but found that he was not ready to completely step away from his work.
He and a friend in the banking community decided to take another chance on a local bank, Ward Parkway Bank, known today as Country Club Bank. During the transition phase of acquiring the bank, Thompson faced two family tragedies.
His daughter, Amy, was shot in 1986 and dealt with the ramifications of a brain injury until she died in 1989. Then, another daughter, Tricia, was left permanently disabled after being hit by a drunken driver in 1989.
Despite the tremendous tragedy, Thompson endured and built Country Club Bank into the strong organization it is today. He was guided by a question he was asked by one of the nurses who cared for his daughters: “How do you know you’ve done your very best?” The question drove him to work hard to continue to provide for his family and care for them during these tragic times.
Thompson, the bank’s chairman of the board, believes in helping people and enriching their lives. He views every one of his employees as part of a larger family community and he focuses on taking care of each of them, as well as encouraging them to take care of each other.
Most community banks don’t offer the scale of services that you can find at Country Club Bank, but those services are a critical part of the plan for Thompson. His goal has always been to find new ways to help people and never be satisfied that he has done enough.



John Pantanellacm_eoy_JohnPantanella
president and CEO
Chemline, Inc.

John Pantanella learned at a young age that he had to work hard for what he wanted. He held various odd jobs throughout his teens that imbued in him a strong work ethic. He met many business owners during this time and enjoyed hearing stories of their endeavors, which inspired him to one day start his own business.
Pantanella completed a degree in industrial engineering and soon found a job in a Toronto laboratory formulating chemicals. This job appealed to both his analytical and creative sides, and he was soon making formulations and going out into the field to help customers solve problems.
With the idea of starting his own business in mind, Pantanella and his wife moved back to the states where he took a job in St. Louis selling chemicals. Simultaneously, he started developing formulas in the garage of his rented home. He worked tirelessly during evenings and weekends to develop three fast-set polyurethane coating formulations that are still being used today. Then, in 1997, he quit his full-time job and launched Chemline, Inc.
He struggled through the first six years of business, splitting his time between developing formulations and hitting the road to sell them. In 2004, he bought Chemline’s first facility, and hired employees to help.
When the recession hit in 2008, Pantanella, president and CEO, restructured the business and hired two highly capable executives. The duo helped Chemline reduce costs and increase profits during the recession.
One of the secrets to success for Chemline is the way Pantanella brings research and development, sales and customers together to develop and determine the best solution for that particular situation. It helps ensure that the company will continue to be tuned in to customer needs and continue its hard-earned growth.