Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year, 2013 Northeast Ohio, Award Recipients

How Kris Snyder provides mobility services to companies at Vox Mobile

Kris Snyder, CEO, Vox Mobile

Kris Snyder, CEO, Vox Mobile

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Technology

Winner

Kris Snyder

CEO

Vox Mobile

 

Kris Snyder is a driving force in the high growth, billion-dollar managed mobility services market. Having founded Vox Mobile as an entrepreneur inside a $200 million systems integrator and ultimately spinning it into its own venture, Snyder demonstrated his thought leadership and insight into the growth trends in enterprise mobility.

Starting Vox Mobile in 2006, Snyder recognized the potential to create value through mobility services before anyone else. At that time, organizations were becoming increasingly reliant upon mobile devices.

While plenty of competitors and organizations had invested in technology to implement and deploy personal computers, he recognized that there would soon be a need to provide these same services for mobile equipment, which has increased since consumer products like the iPhone and iPad were released.

Enterprises are now facing significant challenges ensuring issues like mobile enterprise security, employer software configuration and customer support do not decrease the productivity of their respective organizations worldwide. These issues are coming to a head as organizations contemplate how to allow employees to “Bring Your Own Device,” or BYOD, rather than issuing company devices.

Snyder’s customers call upon Vox Mobile to design, procure, deploy, support, manage and analyze their mobile devices. Snyder emphasizes and provides a culture to enable and empower his employees to provide satisfactory solutions to its callers every time to reduce customers’ frustrations and potential down time.

This requires a commitment to hiring top talent who are inventive, knowledgeable and believe in his vision. During 2012, he nearly doubled the number of employees, and Snyder continues to promote the innovation of software that allows for incremental scalability.

Snyder’s vision and ability to innovate in this niche industry has enabled the growth of Vox and mobile technology as a whole. This has created more than 40 percent sales growth during the last two years, with an additional 40 percent growth being forecast in 2013.

How to reach: Vox Mobile, www.voxmobile.com

How Gary Schuster saved metal parts supplier OMCO from a steep decline in business

Gary Schuster, president and CEO, OMCO

Gary Schuster, president and CEO, OMCO

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Distribution and Manufacturing

Winner

 

Gary Schuster

president and CEO

OMCO

 

In 2006, Gary Schuster accepted an offer to take over as the president and CEO of OMCO, a supplier of custom metal parts made using a roll forming technique. He joined OMCO at a difficult time in the company’s history.

As a result of a downturn in the transportation industry and worsened by the economic recession, the company’s sales fell by 80 percent from 2006 to 2009. However, Schuster had innovative ideas, as well as a plan to rapidly recover by expanding into new markets.

Although the company had a long-term plan of diversifying its business past the transportation industry, there was no one in the company who was exploring future opportunities when Schuster took the helm. Accordingly, he hired a key individual who specialized in sales and marketing to focus solely on finding new customers and growing the business into new markets other than the transportation industry.

After Schuster and his sales and marketing team identified a need for OMCO’s custom roll-forming products in the rapidly growing solar panel manufacturing industry of the Southwest, he relocated his top sales representative to Phoenix.

In mid-2009, the company received its first million-dollar order followed by several other significant orders that same year. Schuster quickly took advantage of these growing opportunities in the solar energy market by opening a plant in Phoenix that could centrally serve the Southwestern region of the U.S. The subsequent rapid growth in this new market resulted in an increase of more than 300 percent in the company’s sales from 2010 to 2012.

Although OMCO’s expansion into the Southwestern solar market has provided great success for the company, Schuster insists on continuing to explore future opportunities. He has started to consider further diversification within the solar market to new geographic locations, particularly Australia, Saudi Arabia and Chile. He is also identifying additional new industries for the company to leverage.

How to reach: OMCO, www.omcoform.com

How Michael Hilton is melding Nordson Corp. from a good company into a great company

Michael Hilton, president and CEO, Nordson Corp.

Michael Hilton, president and CEO, Nordson Corp.

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Public Company

Winner

 

Michael Hilton

president and CEO

Nordson Corp.

 

Driving growth has been Michael Hilton’s objective since being named president and CEO of Nordson Corp. at the beginning of 2010.

Nordson Corp., a more than 5,000-employee manufacturer of products and systems used for dispensing adhesives, coatings, sealants and biomaterials for consumer non-durable, durable and technology end markets, has been a strong company, even during the recession years. When Hilton came into the company he saw it as an organization that could grow three to four times its size in revenue.

Globally, Nordson has a presence in more than 40 countries and has been well established in locations such as China, India, Brazil, Europe and Japan for a long time. To take advantage of growth opportunities, Hilton had to evaluate the business and understand the key areas that needed attention and resources.

Hilton believes the keys to achieving Nordson’s financial and strategic goals are innovative new products, growth in emerging markets and strategic acquisitions. In the 10 years prior to Hilton’s leadership as CEO, Nordson completed just five acquisitions. Since then, the company has made six acquisitions with global footprints and complimentary product offerings.

Through this recent acquisition activity, Hilton acknowledges that risks must be taken to continue to grow globally. These risks are most prevalent in adding new products to the company’s portfolio and the difficulty of integration into Nordson’s culture. As part of the risk mitigation process, Hilton has ensured that each acquisition/merger target passes the Integration Process Plan, which examines culture and market comparison.

With Hilton’s leadership, Nordson has generated record earnings and is on track to achieve its new strategic goals. Sales have increased and total assets have doubled since he has taken over as CEO. Dividends also have increased annually for 49 consecutive years, placing Nordson among only 15 other public companies to do so for that length of time.

How to reach: Nordson Corp., www.nordson.com

How Marc Brenner has transformed a simple auto mechanic school into a diverse college campus at Ohio Technical College

Marc Brenner, president and CEO, Ohio Technical College

Marc Brenner, president and CEO, Ohio Technical College

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Family Business Award

Winner

 

Marc Brenner

president and CEO

Ohio Technical College

 

In July 1969, Marc Brenner and his father Julius founded the Ohio Diesel Mechanics School. Over the course of 30 years, the school grew, added programs, training, and changed locations and names. In 1996, Brenner’s father retired, and he assumed complete and total responsibility for all aspects of the school.

In his new leadership role as president and CEO, Brenner implemented major changes throughout the organization, including redesigning classrooms, shop floors and training courses. One of the most successful strategies that Brenner implemented was a change in the marketing approach from targeting middle-aged adults to targeting 18 to 25 year olds.

This strategy led to rapid expansion, and in 1998, because of the increase of program offerings and campus developments, the school’s name was changed to Ohio Technical College, a private and accredited technical college providing career-oriented auto mechanic training.

Over the years, OTC has faced numerous obstacles such as obtaining financial aid for its students and limited housing. Through Brenner’s business acumen and vision for his college campus, he was invited by President Clinton to be a part of the advisory team to start Direct Loans, which offers financial aid to for-profit schools. OTC also purchased several houses, which are now used to house its students.

As the school’s growth continued, BMW of North America developed an interest in OTC and created a specialized training facility on the campus — one of only four training sites in the U.S. Most recently, the college opened a branch campus called PowerSport Institute that specializes in motorcycles.

Brenner and his team have developed partnerships with industry leaders such as Kawasaki Motorcycle, Yamaha Motor, Victory Motorcycle, Honda, Polaris and others. This branch campus of OTC now trains about 250 students and total enrollment for OTC and PSI averages 1,500 students on an annual basis. In 2009, OTC was recognized as the National School of the Year.

How to reach: Ohio Technical College, www.ohiotech.edu

How Drew Forhan and ForTec Medical are delivering a medical equipment phenomenon

Drew Forhan, founder and CEO, ForTec Medical

Drew Forhan, founder and CEO, ForTec Medical

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Health Care and Pharmaceutical Services

Winner

 

Drew Forhan

founder and CEO

ForTec Medical

 

As the founder and CEO of the mobile medical equipment company ForTec Medical, Drew Forhan leads through a collaborative, creative and competitive environment. His leadership qualities include integrity, perseverance and a bias toward action.

Forhan says he has an innate entrepreneurial spirit and drive that has been his personal motivation since he started ForTec at the age of 27 with one truck and one laser. He saw a need in the medical field for a new model to give hospitals and physicians access to innovative technologies. Ultimately, ForTec offers a business model that provides hospitals and physicians a simpler/less expensive way to utilize the latest and greatest medical tool technology.

The concept is such that when a medical operation requires a certain piece of technology a hospital system cannot afford to buy, ForTec’s service can be utilized to gain access to the equipment. The ForTec service also provides a trained technician, all for which there is a one-time usage fee.

This model eliminates hospitals capital expenditure or operating lease commitment for new technologies, which can cost nearly $2 million per piece of equipment. ForTec’s service simplifies hospital operations, but it was no easy task to get this idea off the ground. ForTec’s service has a number of moving parts that need to work in unison to maintain a profitable operation.

Forhan encountered many difficulties along his path, one of the toughest being financing. Each piece of equipment requires a large amount of capital expenditure, and often new technology is introduced annually. So the company’s model is all about logistics, demand and turning profit within the year.

In 2012 ForTec served roughly 2,000 hospitals in 40 states. The ForTec team — now almost 300 — has delivered specialized medical equipment and the related service team in 50,000 surgeries, through 26 different facilities throughout the United States.

Forhan’s future vision for ForTec includes growing through deepening relationships and strategic acquisitions.

How to reach: ForTec Medical, www.fortecmedical.com

How Carol Klimas has taken Lake Ridge Academy to new educational heights

Carol Klimas, president, Lake Ridge Academy

Carol Klimas, president, Lake Ridge Academy

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Education and Non-profit

Winner

 

Carol Klimas

president

Lake Ridge Academy

 

The Lake Ridge Academy Board of Directors took an unprecedented step hiring Carol Klimas, an individual with a solid track record of success and respect in the banking industry, to serve as the first president of the K-12 school, when the Faculty Search Advisory Committee had made it clear that it wanted someone from the academic world.

The committee wanted someone who truly understands, appreciates and supports academics. You can only imagine committee’s bewilderment and dismay when Klimas, the banker, was hired in 2007.

But it was not Klimas, the banker, who showed up for work. It was Klimas the entrepreneur — an innovative, optimistic and hardworking individual who appeared more inspired by the school’s economic woes than overcome by them.

Rather than focus on introducing short-term solutions, she initiated an endless series of interviews, focus group sessions, and best-practice research to create a plan of action that would resonate with and mobilize a wide array of constituents. She assembled a list of practical tactics, weaving in inspirational strategies, which later became the foundation of Vision Beyond 50.

Any preconceived ideas of whether a banker could successfully lead an educational venture were soon shattered by Klimas’ absolute resolve to tackle each problem in a cooperative and collaborative manner.

Klimas believes the critical backbone of the school is its faculty and has championed efforts to attract and retain exceptional talent. The credentials of the faculty today are quite impressive with about two-thirds of them having taught at a college level and the majority having a master’s or Ph.D. degree.

As a result of Klimas’ efforts, overall enrollment growth at Lake Ridge increased by 12 percent, inquiries are up 45 percent from the prior year and applications have increased by 20 percent since last year. Klimas believes a target student population of 480 will be achieved in the next two years, which is more than 100 students above current enrollment.

How to reach: Lake Ridge Academy, www.lakeridgeacademy.org

How Joel Adelman and The Advance Group of Companies are helping fellow entrepreneurs grow

Joel E. Adelman, founder and CEO, The Advance Group of Companies

Joel E. Adelman, founder and CEO, The Advance Group of Companies

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Professional Services

Winner

 

Joel E. Adelman

founder and CEO

The Advance Group of Companies

 

In 1998, Joel E. Adelman established The Advance Group of Companies, which is dedicated to providing entrepreneurial staffing companies with the opportunity to flourish and grow. Advance not only provides capital funding to its clients, it also provides various back office services that include information technology, payroll and tax, and recruiting/search software.

Based on his experience and knowledge, Adelman, who is founder and CEO, intended to establish a business selling consumer products. However, his exposure to payroll services at a national staffing convention led him to uncover an underserved market. This fueled Adelman’s passion, and he became determined to create a new solution for the staffing industry.

Adelman combined several different services into one business, developing a company with few direct competitors. Advance offers entrepreneurs all-inclusive services and support.

The company recently introduced a new service, Workforce Solutions, which matches the demand and supply of labor. Adelman once again identified a need in the market and discovered a manner in which to capitalize on it, bringing together small and midsize staffing firms and introducing them to Fortune 500 consumers in need of their services.

As the largest independent provider of funding and leading provider of solutions for the temporary staffing industry, Advance has grown steadily. As to be expected, the company’s revenue declined during the recession. However, Adelman’s foresight and management decisions allowed the company to enhance its earning potential by expanding its service offerings.

When the economy began to improve and the demand for staffing escalated, Advance grew at 25 percent. Advance has maintained that 25 percent growth rate for the past three years and forecasts that it will continue to grow at this rate.

Adelman’s one-of-a-kind business offers fellow entrepreneurs an opportunity to realize their aspirations via technological and monetary support. As a result of his innovative and unique offerings, the supply of labor better matches the demand.

How to reach: The Advance Group of Companies, www.advancepayroll.us

How Jimmy Zeilinger used parenting experience to found Brand Castle and its cooking kits

Jimmy Zeilinger, founder and president, Brand Castle, LLC

Jimmy Zeilinger, founder and president, Brand Castle, LLC

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Retail and Consumer Products

Winner

 

Jimmy Zeilinger

founder and president

Brand Castle, LLC

 

The idea of Brand Castle, LLC, came to Jimmy Zeilinger while he was in a local bookstore and came across a cookbook aimed for parents who wanted to create cooking projects with their children.

Being a devoted parent, he immediately thought of the hassle it would be to obtain all the ingredients needed to complete a cooking project in that book and how a kit that included the ingredients would make the task so much easier. After consulting about the kit idea with his wife Andrea, he quickly discovered that he had a great idea on his hands.

Since selling its first Crafty Cooking Kit in February 2005, Brand Castle has become the leader in interactive baking kits for children and adults. However, that success didn’t come without its hurdles.

Brand Castle almost closed its doors after its first six months as a result of listening to market researchers who wrongly advised Zeilinger, who is founder and president, on the type of demand for his products. Relying on this information, he spent all his personal savings and borrowed from family to launch Brand Castle by “slotting” the products via the grocery channel.

Six months later, this strategy proved to be unsuccessful when the products were not selling as anticipated and national retailers began to close out the product. Instead of closing the business, Zeilinger decided to change the market strategy to embrace seasonality and elected a low margin, high volume approach when selecting retailers.

Brand Castle is now an international company with employees in the U.S. and China. What started with six products ranging from paint-your-own-brownie to a rainbow cookies kit has grown into a portfolio of more than 300 items sold under three different brand names and numerous licenses, including Crayola, Disney and Sanrio. Each Brand Castle product aims to help families create memories.

How to reach: Brand Castle, LLC, www.brandcastle.com

How Jeremy Sopko is striving to grow Nations Lending Corp. into a top mortgage banking company

Jeremy Sopko, CEO, Nations Lending Corp.

Jeremy Sopko, CEO, Nations Lending Corp.

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Financial Services

Winner

 

Jeremy Sopko

CEO

Nations Lending Corp.

 

Jeremy Sopko and his business partner founded Nations Lending Corp. in 2003 after working for five different lending companies. Sopko, who is CEO, envisioned a company that would stand the test of time, overcoming regulatory and compliance challenges, fluctuations in interest rates and other challenges in the industry.

Sopko’s varied experiences with different lending companies allowed him to see the good and the bad in the mortgage industry. He leveraged his experiences to shape the vision of Nations Lending, a national mortgage lender and mortgage banking company serving 41 states.

His business philosophy is focused on open lines of communication with his staff, as well as allowing his employees to voice their own opinions, come up with new ideas and actively participate in the growth of the business.

Sopko’s emphasis on transparency can be seen in an active workplace that promotes frequent training opportunities and a true team environment. His unique, energetic leadership philosophy has been a catalyst for the strong growth Nations Lending has shown in its 10 years of existence.

The company has grown from a small lending operation to a dynamic multi-dimensional organization aimed at consistent growth. It also has grown 20 times over in the number of employees since 2003. Sopko has proven that he is a dynamic leader through the company’s ability to attract customers because of its quality service and honesty.

Sopko places a strong emphasis on people. He has more recently placed a heavy emphasis on professional development to promote more accountability and improved functionality of his departments so they can operate more independently. He is a strong proponent of frequent training sessions, and this has improved his staff’s pass rate for state licensing exams to more than 90 percent.

The mortgage industry is constantly changing, and the emphasis on training is important to Sopko and his vision for Nations Lending Corp.

How to reach: Nations Lending Corp., www.nlcmortgageloans.com

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