EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2014 Central Midwest Awards



Bob Taylorcm_eoy_BobTaylor
chairman and CEO
Executive AirShare Corporation

Bob Taylor did not get hooked on aviation by dreamily watching airplanes fly overhead. It all started when he asked the widow of an aviation maintenance company CEO what he could do to help. Her husband had died in an aircraft accident, and when Taylor asked what he could do to help, she replied by asking him to run the company.
And he did just that, later selling the company and setting out to start his own aviation business. It wasn’t an ideal time to do that, however. Only a couple of months had passed since Sept. 11, 2001, when the world was rocked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
But Taylor knew it was the right time to start his business, so he forged ahead and Executive AirShare Corporation was born. The company grew and business was booming, but Taylor knew he needed more scale to spread out its fixed costs. He had also started thinking past being an early stage company and started thinking bigger and bolder. He knew that a newer fleet would be required.
The good news for Taylor, the company’s chairman and CEO, was bank financing was easy to get. Aircraft historically held its value, so the decision to expand was made.
But the economy did not stay strong for long and soon, Taylor faced a recession and a climate where inventory was not moving. When a company takes delivery on twice as many aircraft as are sold to customers, things can get pretty tight.
But Taylor has persevered through these and other challenges by caring for his people, striving to find new ways to innovate and ensuring that his aircraft are always operating at peak performance. With his employees, Taylor works hard to have pilots work out of a single location, which cuts down on travel as much as possible and drives loyalty to the business.


cm_eoy_JamesSpencerJames Spence
president and CEO


James Spencer is changing how people consume news, sports and entertainment. The founder of Newsy, Spencer has built an innovative journalistic model in partnership with the Missouri School of Journalism.
Newsy is a product of Spencer’s efforts to combine this model with a low-cost Midwest business strategy and an attractive touchscreen design. The effort has paid off and resulted in Newsy shooting to the top 10 of news apps for the iPad.
Spencer knew the market for traditional print news was declining as consumers changed the way they consumed information. The current generation of college graduates does not read the newspaper and doesn’t watch the local news at 6 or 10 p.m.
Content is consumed on demand. The presence of mobile Internet is becoming more and more important to captivate audiences, and the need for a viable platform to deliver news and entertainment on a global scale is obvious.
Spencer’s goal is to stay ahead of the curve and remain innovative in a rapidly changing technological and economic environment. Newsy’s approach is to be a news analyzer, not an aggregator. Newsy is the only video news service producing daily video news that highlights the nuances in reporting with two- to three-minute multi-source videos that accelerate the understanding of how a news story is reported from different sources around the world.
Journalists are allowed to follow their true aspirations at Newsy. They work together to write, produce and edit media content. The team is confident that its unique approach to its work and the content that results are key reasons why the company has been able to develop a new and evolving consumer base. Most of the Newsy on-air personalities are boomerangs who came back from other parts of the journalism world to recapture the passion for their work.


Michael Kulpcm_eoy_MichaelKulp
president and CEO
KBP Foods

If you want to see Michael Kulp cringe, just start talking about the benefits of running a business with a top down management structure.
You won’t find it at KBP Foods, where Kulp has a unique structure built around the company’s mission to create ultimate customer satisfaction by developing people through superior implementation and strong systems.
One of the things that drew Kulp to the restaurant business was the absence of any bells and whistles. He saw it as an effort-based business that rewards hard work and effort. Kulp understands that is it not just his presence that makes a company go. He believes his people are his greatest asset and invests in employees to ensure both organizational and individual success.
Compensation is incentive-based all the way down to the store manager level with each manager’s compensation tied to the financial performance of individual stores or areas. By getting these managers invested in performance, Kulp is able to encourage employees to be personally and financially invested in the company’s success, and he’s able to reward and provide opportunities to employees who put in the effort.
Kulp, the company’s president and CEO, seeks consistency at each store through systematic and uniform processes. Everyone knows what is expected of him or her and what he or she needs to do. It’s just a matter of working that plan and dealing with challenges as they come.
Beyond the performance of the company, Kulp wants to help his people build a better life for themselves. The Ambassadors of Excellence program is geared for the top 12 to 20 managers at the store or area levels. It consists of 2 ½ days of development including etiquette, case studies and personal and business finance. It allows top performers to be targeted for retention and shows there is a path for those who want it.


cm_eoy_MikeValentineMike Valentine
Netsmart Technologies

Mike Valentine found a company that lacked vision when he arrived at Netsmart Technologies. There were too many silos, too many people weren’t aware of what others in the company were doing. So he set out to flatten the organizational structure and transform the executive leadership team. He hired a new CFO, rebuilt the finance and accounting structures and introduced the company’s first chief medical officer and chief clinical officer.
The internal reorganization allowed management to focus on new approaches to client engagement and alignment.
Valentine also reshaped the board of directors, which included a number of individuals whom he trusted and could have an influential impact in the health care industry. He understood that building the right team, culture and environment would be a major stepping stone to success.
He set the tone for how things would be done by introducing a mantra: vision driven, cause connected, passionate about our opportunity and obligation. It serves as a constant reminder to everyone in the organization of the key role Netsmart plays as the knowledge and technology partner to health and human service providers nationwide.
Under Valentine’s leadership as CEO, the focus of the company shifted to a client-centric model that measures attributes in the context of its clients. He introduced a concept called the “solutionarium” where clients come together to share ideas, walk through strategies and ultimately build road maps into the future where their strategies are aligned.
Valentine helped the company launch the Everyday Matters Foundation, a learning and funding resource for those within the behavioral and public health communities. The foundation’s website offers clinicians, consumers and community members a place to share stories, celebrate successes and suppress myths and stigmas about mental and public health issues. It’s another way to connect Netsmart clients and people to health care leaders.