EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2014 Central Midwest Awards

Recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious business award programs, the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Awards celebrate gravity-defying innovators who build and run great companies. This June, we gather here and in 25 cities across the U.S. to honor all of our regional finalists and welcome the class of 2014 into our Hall of Fame.
Entrepreneurs change the world and make it a better place to work and live. We honor them for their fortitude and resilience, and we celebrate their ability to forge new markets, navigate uncharted territory and fuel economic growth.
Congratulations to this year’s finalists and winners for their unyielding pursuit of business excellence. We are honored to share their inspiring stories with you.

cm_eoy_RandyBusemanRandy Buseman
Kansas City EY



cm_eoy_MikeHickenbothamMike Hickenbotham
St. Louis EY




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.




Robert O’Loughlincm_eoy_RobertOLoughlin
Lodging Hospitality Management

Robert O’Loughlin has spent more than 40 years working in the hospitality industry and has honed his ability to identify the best location, best team and best plan to provide great service to his guests. The formula for how he does it is not complicated.
O’Loughlin has worked hard to develop relationships with many of the major corporations in the St. Louis region. Those partnerships have helped him endure tough times like economic slowdowns and to remain positive about the potential for growth in St. Louis. Like all successful entrepreneurs, he tightened his belt, continued to invest heavily in his properties and streamlined his operations to ensure satisfaction and a great experience for his guests.
O’Loughlin formed Lodging Hospitality Management Corp. in 1986. He initially focused on third-party management contracts and, after the severe hit on the industry due to a tax law change in the early 1980s, he began managing properties for lenders to allow for an orderly sale.
It was during this process that he began to discuss opportunities with potential investors and slowly began acquiring underperforming properties. His vast experience in the hospitality industry allowed him to quickly assess the potential of a property, buy it and pour money into it to make it a premier property.
Most recently, O’Loughlin acquired Union Station, which includes both hotel and retail venues. The first project was to turn 50,000 square feet of what was the midway into a convention center and exhibit hall. Another project is the renovation of the grand hall, transforming the beautiful and historic room into one of the best attractions in St. Louis.
When the convention center and exhibit hall is paired with the 539 guest rooms, it will allow St. Louis to attract conferences and trade shows that were never before available to the city.



Dan Schuppancm_eoy_DanSchuppan
MBS Textbook Exchange, Inc.

Dan Schuppan doesn’t mind getting knocked off his feet every once in a while. He has found throughout his life that it’s often the people who face failure that ultimately achieve the greatest successes. His ability to turn a challenge into an opportunity is a key factor in the growth that has been achieved at MBS Textbook Exchange, Inc.
Schuppan, who serves as the company’s president, has been described as a hands-on, hard-charger with lots of energy who finds a lot of parallels between sports and business. While athletes compete against opponents and search for the best strategy to best their rivals on the field of play, businesses compete each day to provide the best service in the marketplace and outperform the competition.
A major turning point for MBS came back in 1979 when its leaders made a risky decision to invest in computer automation. While the competition said it couldn’t be done, it proved to be the right decision and the company put itself in a great position for the future. Now, MBS is well positioned to capitalize on the evolution from print to digital textbooks and develop a virtual bookstore for students to purchase all their materials.
As more customers complete orders online, it’s imperative for bookstores to create a comprehensive online retail presence. The systems of MBS remain the foundation for a bookstore’s operations as the company frequently introduces expansions and improvements to system components so operations stay as progressive and trouble-free as possible. The company has carefully crafted its own line of point-of-service systems, mobile devices, online solutions and training sessions.
The company employs a diverse group of individuals. Just off the main entrance is a framed poster of the world with 35 different country flags that represent the many backgrounds of the MBS family.


Healthcare Services


Alaina Maciacm_eoy_AlainaMarcia
president and CEO
MTM, Inc.

Alaina Macia climbed the ladder quickly at MTM, Inc., proving that she has what it takes to build a successful and enduring business. She joined the company in 2003 as an analyst, soon transitioned to vice president of operations and assumed the role of president and CEO in 2005.
When she took her role at the top, MTM was reliant primarily on one contract.
Since that time, she has diversified the medical transportation management company into more markets as well as different services and solutions often centered on the company’s role in managing non-emergency medical transportation.
MTM is a family-owned and operated company and Macia is the daughter of the company’s founders. When she became president and CEO, Macia did not shy away from bringing change to the business. Her initial focus was on marketing, and the company embarked on a complete rebranding effort, which included a new logo, new colors and a new website.
As she looked at personnel, Macia wanted to build a capable team at the company’s headquarters that was proficient in sales and proposals. She wanted dynamic project leaders who could lead the development of infrastructure in new states or regions as the company grew.
Her focus and commitment to people has resulted in a high retention rate that has enabled her to build a very capable management team that keeps the company moving forward.
Macia views her employees as both teammates and family members. She doesn’t look strictly at the resume, but instead seeks to find someone who will fit in with the team and mesh well with the corporate culture.
That culture is open and transparent, fostering an environment of inclusiveness at MTM. Macia sends emails throughout the year to her management team asking, “If you were me, what would you do differently?

Industrial Services


Smitty Belchercm_eoy_SmittyBelcher
P1 Group, Inc.

Smitty Belcher did not leave much in reserve when he started P1 Group, Inc. He used his entire life savings, moved his family from Toledo, Ohio, and invested all the funds he had into the business. Belcher, a self-made entrepreneur with drive and determination running through his veins, does what it takes to get the job done and meet his goal.
P1 Group, an electrical, mechanical and service contractor, was built on the principles of honesty, integrity and delivering high-quality products and services. The professionally courteous workforce that Belcher has assembled maintains the highest level of safety protocols at all times. The five founding companies that originally made up P1 Group each brought a special expertise that now makes the company one of the most diverse and well-rounded organizations in the industry.
The growth strategy that P1 Group followed from that point forward was not an easy one. Anytime you choose to build an organization through the acquisition of other companies, it can lead to some very challenging circumstances.
Risks include cash flow, bonding, retaining employees, maintaining existing and acquired clients, and ensuring existing profitability of the company. Belcher managed this uncertainty of change through strategic planning, wise financial management and understanding the importance of hiring the best and brightest staff.
When seeking companies to acquire, Belcher’s goal was to add components or divisions that provided synergies for his current business and his customers. This strategy established a strong company built with vision and planning that expanded products and services through a deliberate process.
Belcher and his team have earned and sustained a best-in-class reputation, both externally and internally. The result of a focus on short-term success on the way to long-term prosperity is a business that has been recognized as one of Ingram’s Magazine’s best places to work.



cm_eoy_DavidPayneDavid Payne
PayneCrest Electric, Inc.

David Payne was only 16 when he managed his first project for Payne Electric, Inc., the company his father founded in 1954. The project was a weekend shutdown to retrofit a St. Louis automotive plant. After college, at his father’s recommendation, Payne joined a Charlotte, North Carolina-based electrical contractor where he learned the value of empowering employees to make good decisions in the field.
He later returned to Payne Electric and acquired the firm with a partner in 1985. Facing a significant customer challenge, Payne’s retired father offered his son his most valuable advice: “Leadership is accepting responsibility.” Now, Payne was on his own, but he was ready.
Payne provides a highly attentive support system for employees and their families. For example, when an employee on an out-of-town project learned his wife was frantic about a burst pipe in their home, Payne arranged and paid for the repairs. This “love policy” provides generous travel allowances, charter planes and numerous touch points.
As president, Payne also takes a creative approach to his leadership on the business side. He uses rigorous evaluation tools to hire the best people. Once he believes in them, he allows them to make decisions and trusts that those decisions will be best for the business. Payne embraces labor as an equal partner and works hard to share his passion with his people. He encourages his leaders to be true role models and to work just as hard to help individuals succeed as they do on their own responsibilities.
When the 2008 recession put a hit on PayneCrest’s “bread and butter” of automotive and homebuilding work, Payne embarked on a cultural transformation. He infused talent and set a clear direction for the future. He acquired Beach Electric to serve grocery chains and helped PayneCrest bounce back with style to continue growing. The effort furthered his reputation for getting things done when it counts.

Services & Real Estate


cm_eoy_CrisBurnamCris Burnam

David Payne was only 16 when he managed his first project for Payne Electric, Inc., the company his father founded in 1954. The project was a weekend shutdown to retrofit a St. Louis automotive plant. After college, at his father’s recommendation, Payne joined a Charlotte, North Carolina-based electrical contractor where he learned the value of empowering employees to make good decisions in the field.
He later returned to Payne Electric and acquired the firm with partner in 1985. Facing a significant customer challenge, Payne’s retired father offered his son his most valuable advice: “Leadership is accepting responsibility.” Now, Payne was on his own, but he was ready.
Payne provides a highly attentive support system for employees and their families. For example, when an employee on an out-of-town project learned his wife was frantic about a burst pipe in their home, Payne arranged and paid for the repairs. This “love policy” provides generous travel allowances, charter planes and numerous touch points.
As president, Payne also takes a creative approach to his leadership on the business side. He uses rigorous evaluation tools to hire the best people. Once he believes in them, he allows them to make decisions and trusts that those decisions will be best for the business. Payne embraces labor as an equal partner and works hard to share his passion with his people. He encourages his leaders to be true role models and to work just as hard to help individuals succeed as they do on their own responsibilities.
When the 2008 recession put a hit on PayneCrest’s “bread and butter” of automotive and homebuilding work, Payne embarked on a cultural transformation. He infused talent and set a clear direction for the future. He acquired Beach Electric to serve grocery chains and helped PayneCrest bounce back with style to continue growing. The effort furthered his reputation for getting things done when it counts.




Dr. Steven St. Petercm_eoy_StevenStPeter
president and CEO
Aratana Therapeutics, Inc.

Dr. Steven St. Peter wasn’t a doctor of anything at the age of 14, but it was already clear to those who knew him that he was cut out to be an entrepreneur. His resume included managing the nacho stand at the Kansas Coliseum; owning his own lawn mowing business for which he employed many of his friends; and then using the capital from mowing lawns to purchase part interest in a motel.
He was once asked how many lawns he could mow, to which he responded, “How many lawns do you have?” It was an example of his ability to manage capital, to lead others to achieve success and the strong work ethic and passion he possessed.
These attributes have served him well as the president and CEO of Aratana Therapeutics, Inc. St. Peter sets a vision for his business and then gets everyone engaged in working hard to achieve it. His goal was not to create a business and then flip it, but rather build a company that would be an industry leader with the ability to change the entire animal health industry.
It hasn’t always been easy. St. Peter had to work hard to educate the health care investment community on the regulations of pet therapeutics. He had to manage a developmental stage business with minimal revenue to meet stock price and analyst expectations, which is an ongoing challenge.
And there are other challenges. But St. Peter is not afraid to take risks and maintains a diverse, talented team of employees who share his philosophy and appreciate the explicit, constant communication that are hallmarks of the culture at Aratana.
The result is abusiness that is changing the way pets are cared for and is stepping out as an industry leader in the space.



Justin Siegel




cm_eoy_DanSiegelDr. Dan Siegel
Deli Star Corporation

Dr. Dan Siegel has spent most of his life around meat. He attended the University of Illinois and earned his bachelor’s degree in biology, and his master’s and doctorate degrees in meat science. He maintains a role in the food industry as a consultant addressing issues involving quality, safety and regulatory issues.
Siegel founded Deli Star Corporation in 1987 inside a 4,000-square-foot slaughterhouse. The company now has two main locations and processes turkey, pork, beef and chicken for large national accounts. Siegel is the chairman of Deli Star and vice president of King’s Food Products. He is an inventor of a new case-ready vacuum packaging format that employs a nitrite-containing film to cause and maintain the consumer-preferred red color of fresh meat. His FreshCase technology received the DuPont Diamond Award and has 17 worldwide patents.
Justin Siegel, Dan’s son, is president of Deli Star. He has been with the company for 11 years and in the meat industry for 12. He also attended the University of Illinois, but he was on a different path than his father, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in finance.
Despite the different path, Justin has proven to be a leader in the field, having overcome challenges in the industry. He has developed innovative meat solutions that have led to much success for Deli Star’s customers.
His first job was selling irradiation food machines. Justin started his career at Deli Star doing sales and marketing. It took some time, but the duo now delivers to both national and international processors, sandwich makers, quick-service restaurants, restaurant distributors, wholesale food distributors and supermarkets.
Justin has helped the company add new product lines and improve work productivity, inventory and process control. He also partnered with a company in St. Louis to build a Web-based software system to manage Deli Star’s business.


cm_eoy_AdamBlakeAdam Blake

Adam Blake has built a business in Brightergy that is both innovative and successful, but the path to prosperity wasn’t without a few bumps along the way.
The clean energy business struggled in its early days with employee turnover and a hiring process that wasn’t the best it could be. Blake, the company’s CEO, knew that a change was needed in both the system used to hire new employees as well as the process that was followed to get them acclimated to their new jobs.
So he created a new position, the director of culture, to make Brightergy a great place to work. The move paid immediate dividends and has helped Brightergy continue its growth trajectory.
Blake manages through a flat management structure, which allows employees to connect with management quickly on any business issue they might face. Blake does not force his will on his team or the company. Instead, he specifically encourages an environment where others can present alternative ideas and solutions.
One of the key operational challenges Blake has faced is the development of innovative financing tools to help Brightergy clients make strategic investments in solar and other energy management solutions.
Although it has been a struggle to make the complicated process of project financing simple for Brightergy’s clients, the company’s success in this area provides it with an innovative competitive advantage. This is because Brightergy can provide several financing vehicles from which potential customers can choose.
The company’s great work extends beyond the operations of the business. Brightergy’s corporate responsibility initiatives include volunteering in the community, sponsoring environmental events and educational programs, and participating in the Clinton Global Initiative through the Clinton Foundation.
And through BrighterSchools, a proprietary renewable energy classroom curriculum, Brightergy has introduced more than 150,000 K-12 students to renewable energy education that is tied directly to services provided to those schools.




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.



cm_eoy_NathanielHagedornNathaniel Hagedorn
NorthPoint Development Co.

Nathaniel Hagedorn has wanted to be an entrepreneur for as long as he can remember. While still in high school, he started his own business mowing lawns, growing it to nearly 50 clients. His love for small business carried on into adulthood.
Today, he leads NorthPoint Development Co., a commercial real estate development firm, as CEO, where he’s created an organization where innovation, integrity and loyalty thrive.
Hierarchy does not play a big part in the way things are done at NorthPoint. The management structure at the company is very flat and each member of the executive team, including Hagedorn, has his or her own specialty. It makes for a powerful group that can cover a great deal of technical and economic ground.
Monthly meetings with the entire staff allow each team member the opportunity to voice questions, concerns and thoughts.
Hagedorn works hard to find the right people and then works even harder to keep them at the company. He understands that they are the most critical asset in a market that involves incredible amounts of both technical and creative expertise.
Employee ownership and project bonuses are used to give employees both direct and indirect incentives for meeting goals and completing projects.
One of Hagedorn’s favorite quotes comes from Warren Buffett, who said, “Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.” The words define the reason Hagedorn has been able to keep NorthPoint profitable, despite fierce competition and a fluctuating economy.
But it’s not just about work at Northpoint. The company matches 100 percent of contributions employees make to charity. NorthPoint also is a dedicated contributor to Down’s syndrome organizations and the Special Olympics.
In this year’s Polar Bear Plunge, which benefits the Kansas City Special Olympics, NorthPoint alone contributed 85 percent of the total amount raised.


Carmen Jacobcm_eoy_CarmenJacob
president and CEO
NextGen Information Services, Inc.

Carmen Jacob leads with her heart in a very visible, very genuine way. She once attended a breakfast seminar where she noticed a woman arriving late, after breakfast had been served. Jacob felt the need to help the woman, so she made the woman a plate of food so she could eat breakfast.
After the speaker, the woman could not thank Jacob enough. As it turned out, Jacob learned that the woman had been going through some rough times and Jacob’s act of kindness had made a significant impact.
For Jacob it’s simply the way she lives her life and leads her business, NextGen Information Services, Inc. A native of Guatemala, Jacob grew up with next to nothing other than an appreciation of the value of money and the ability to overcome obstacles in order to follow her dreams.
Her idea for NextGen came from listening to friends and neighbors who primarily worked in the IT field. Jacob herself did not have a background in the field, but was very inquisitive, allowing her to gain the knowledge she needed.
The company she co-founded has grown into a leading provider of staff augmentation to St. Louis and companies throughout the U.S.
One thing the company’s president and CEO learned early on was that she needed a good team to tackle the areas that she wasn’t an expert in. She found a great support system in her co-founder and in Lori Eaton, her vice president and right-hand person who she has worked with for more than 14 years. Jacob and Eaton balance each other with Eaton providing the strategic direction and Jacob driving the vision and overall mission of the organization.
The result is a company with a diverse and dedicated group of professionals who take after their leader.


cm_eoy_AndyFrommAndy Fromm
chairman and CEO
Service Management Group, Inc.

Andy Fromm has always been driven and entrepreneurial, even when he was spending days cleaning neighborhood swimming pools. He now takes the same customer-focused approach to do the job right as chairman and CEO at Service Management Group, Inc., and the result is a company that has a global presence.
One of the reasons Fromm has enjoyed success is that he understands you can’t get too excited with just winning a new client. The trick, and the true value for your business, is to keep them coming back for more.
As a result of SMG’s devotion to this tenet, the company maintains a 98 percent client retention rate and more than 50 percent of its new business comes from client referrals. This is also a testament to the company’s ability to drive products forward knowing that clients are not going to stick around if the offering does not evolve.
SMG’s first project was measuring associate engagement for a local drugstore chain. With a strong focus on catering to multi-unit businesses in the restaurant, retail, grocery and entertainment industries, the company began taking on more client projects, and measurement of the customer experience quickly became the company’s bread and butter.
Since Fromm found the company in 1991, SMG has been focused on the future. It has offices in the United Kingdom and Tokyo and is currently exploring new markets for expansion as the company continues to grow.
Fromm is also dedicated to serving the Kansas City community. He recently concluded a six-year term on the executive committee of the Kansas City Zoo board of directors and his company has been offering customer experience measurement services pro bono to the zoo for the past nine years. As a result of the insights gained, zoo attendance has doubled.


cm_eoy_ElsThermoteEls Thermote
TVH Parts Co.

Els Thermote first began working for TVH Parts Co. at the age of 7. Sweeping floors and counting inventory gave her a sense of what the company her father, Paul, started was all about.
As the company grew from a small, local company to a major international supplier, Thermote grew with it. She worked her way up through the ranks with hard work and determination. Early in her career, she focused on expanding the international reach of the company, which had been founded in Belgium.
She even took the bold step of moving to South Africa so she could work on saving a branch that had not been performing well. When TVH acquired the Kansas-based SMH in 2003, Thermote volunteered to relocate to Olathe, Kansas, to establish the company’s American presence. Since becoming CEO of TVH Americas, Thermote has been a key factor in the growth of the business.
One of those key factors is Thermote’s commitment to highly enthusiastic customer relationships. She understands that customers rely on TVH to supply a wide range of quality parts at competitive prices. She created a customer experience management initiative in 2010 that documents every point of contact the company has with its customers. It creates the opportunity to continually check in on processes and come up with new and innovative ways to provide even better service to customers.
As hard as Thermote works for her customers, she brings the same passion and energy to the well-being of her employees. Her goal is to create a challenging and rewarding work environment that encourages teamwork, growth and development, along with creativity and the initiative to help the company keep getting better.
Thermote believes in a healthy work/life balance and strives to make that possible for everyone.



cm_eoy_LisaNicholsLisa Nichols
co-founder and CEO
Technology Partners, Inc.

Lisa Nichols, co-founder and CEO of Technology Partners, Inc., an IT staffing and consulting firm, wants every individual or organization that interacts with her business to come away delighted with the experience. Her daily mission is to make a positive difference in the life of every person she encounters, no matter how small or large the impact. It’s how she lives her life, and it’s how she leads her business.
She started Technology Partners with her husband, Greg, back in 1994. Greg was a consultant at the time and through his experiences with several different contracting firms, the couple saw the ways in which the IT industry could be improved. The company had a rather humble beginning, originating in the Nichols’s basement, but their hard work paid off.
One factor in the company’s growth is the transparent margin business model it uses. By working on a low, fixed margin, the company offers better pay for consultants and better value for clients. And by making that margin transparent, Technology Partners gives its clients and consultants the respect they deserve, fostering true partnerships.
Lisa’s leadership focuses employees on simple core values: conducting business ethically and with integrity, delivering on commitments both internally and externally, and practicing the Golden Rule — always respecting diversity of opinion. So it should come as no surprise that Greg and Lisa, as well as their employees, are deeply involved in giving back to charitable and philanthropic causes. Lisa volunteers time to many professional boards and organizations including the St. Louis Women’s Forum, Junior Achievement of Greater St. Louis, Stages St. Louis, BreakDown St. Louis and Go Red for Women, just to name a few.
Lisa encourages her employees to get involved too, helping them to grow more connected to each other and the company.


cm_eoy_AnthonySansoneSrAnthony Sansone, Sr.
CEO and chairman of the board
Sansone Group

Anthony Sansone, Sr., CEO and chairman of the board of Sansone Group, founded the company in 1957. Through the course of the company’s existence, Sansone has focused on future markets and diversification in order to shift the firm’s core business in the direction of the most viable economic opportunities within commercial real estate. Much of the company’s success can be attributed to that diversification. That diversity can be seen in the company’s broad concentration, which includes property and facility management; acquisitions; and leasing/brokerage, development and redevelopment of retail, industrial, office and residential properties.
Sansone began at a small real estate firm before joining his brother in an attempt to partner with a contractor to build a small subdivision. They knew little about residential development, so even though they sold all the homes in the subdivision, they lost money.
Undeterred, Sansone became a commercial real estate broker and acquired real estate to develop an area Target store. There was undeveloped land on the Target property, which Sansone asked to sell on the store’s behalf for its price minus his commission.
After acquiring a partner to help cover the costs, Sansone built a 30,000-square-foot shopping center, which he leased entirely before it was built. It was his first big break. He went on to develop more than 7 million square feet of shopping centers, 1,200 apartment units and manage and/or own more than 20 million square feet of property in 13 states.
Sansone has remained successful by adapting, never being afraid to recreate and refocus the direction of the firm. The company’s five-year strategic plan, adjusted annually based on the previous year’s results, is shared with company associates so everyone has a clear picture of the company’s direction.
A testament to his industry achievements, in 2011, Sansone was inducted into the Midwest Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame.



Judging Panel

cm_eoy_j_DavidBrianDavid Brain
president and CEO
EPR Properties
Kansas City, MO


cm_eoy_j_JohnBrandmeyerJohn Brandmeyer
Cognios Capital
Leawood, KS


cm_eoy_j_JoeBurgessJoe Burgess
former president and CEO
Aegion Corporation
Chesterfield, MO


cm_eoy_j_MaxineClarkMaxine Clark
Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc.
St. Louis, MO


cm_eoy_j_HarryHeringtonHarry Herington
CEO and chairman of the board
NIC, Inc.
Olathe, KS


cm_eoy_j_TomHillmanTom Hillman
managing principal
FTL Capital Partners, LLC
St. Louis, MO


cm_eoy_j_DavidSchulteDave Schulte
managing director and co-founder
Corridor Infrastructure Management
Leawood, KS


cm_eoy_j_DaveSpenceDave Spence
Legacy Pharmaceutical Packaging
St. Louis, MO