EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2015 Central Midwest

Ernst & Young 2015 Entrepreneur Of The Year

For these game changers, vision is only the beginning

EY has long celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women who have followed and achieved their dreams. Over almost three decades, we have applauded their commitment to innovation and perseverance in the face of enormous risk. They saw a different future and made it happen.
The EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® Program provides an enduring legacy to these dynamic leaders, recognizing their vision and impact. By uniting them in a lasting network of peers who thrive where so many others have failed, we have helped to build an influential community of innovative entrepreneurs.
Each June, we host celebrations in 25 U.S. cities to toast the vision and impact of the men and women who are regional finalists. These leaders have changed the lives of countless others by building their businesses and giving back to their communities.
Join us in celebrating their passion, innovation and tireless pursuit of business excellence.
Congratulations to all of our finalists!






Mike Hickenbotham
partner, Ernst & Young, LLP
Central Midwest EY Entrepreneur Of The Year®
Program Director, St. Louis Office






Dave Anderson
partner, Ernst & Young, LLP
Central Midwest EY Entrepreneur Of The Year®
Program Director, Kansas City Office

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2015 Central Midwest

Quick links:

Bill Zahner, A Zahner Company

Dave Bailey, Baileys’ Restaurants

Jody Brazil, FireMon LLC

Gabe Douek, Gateway Media LLC

Matthew Perry, GENESYS Systems Integrator

Bob Hummert, Grimco, Inc.

Rusty Keeley, The Keeley Companies

Michelle Jacobs, Alight Analytics | Craig Wallace, Ceva Animal Health | Neil Sommers, Clockwork Architecture + Design | Ron Baldwin, David O’Toole and Mike Maddox, CrossFirst Holdings, LLC/CrossFirst Bank | Chris Miget, EnviroPAK Corporation | Dr. Tomas Hode, Immunophotonics Inc. | Gregg D. Scheller, Katalyst Surgical, LLC | Pam Duffy, Rhodey Construction, Inc. | Dr. Mike Rea, Rx Savings Solutions

The Tracy Family, Dot Foods, Inc.

Judging Panel
David Brain, EPR Properties | John Brandmeyer, Cognios Capital | John Dubinsky, Stifel Financial | Tom Hilman, FTL Capital Partners, LLC | Terry Matlack, Tortoise Capital Advisors, LLC | Dave Spence, Legacy Pharmaceutical Packaging

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WINNER – Engineering Services






Bill Zahner
President and CEO
A Zahner Company

Bill Zahner had to make a tough call shortly after he took charge of the family metal shop in the late 1970s. The company had specialized in siding and deck work but Zahner wanted to shift the focus to metal fabrication.
Today, the firm is known for its creative metal work and intense computer integration into its fabrication processes.
The A Zahner Company works all over the world on some of the most intriguing architectural and art projects ever constructed. Among its current projects is construction of the facade for an elaborate $130 million aquarium scheduled to open this year in Fortaleza, Brazil.
Zahner, president and CEO, is a recognized expert in the field of architectural metals. He has written two books that are used as official textbooks of metal use in architecture. Starting at an early age working for his great-grandfather’s company, Zahner learned the language of the various metals used in building construction such as the feel and strength of one metal versus another. In addition, he learned the material properties as described by those who worked with the metals on a daily basis.
He met renowned architects early in his career such as Frank Gehry and Antoine Predock who prompted him to explore the limitations of metals. The company holds 11 patents that are integral to the systems built every day.
Zahner sums up his passion for addressing the challenges presented by certain metals used in architecture: “Never stop learning. Gain an understanding of why things are what they are but don’t accept those limits as unmovable, expand them and see where it may lead you. That way, those that follow will have a wider horizon to work within.”

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WINNER – Hospitality






Dave Bailey
Baileys’ Restaurants

Dave Bailey always had a curiosity about the restaurant world, and it was strong enough for him to realize that the field he was pursuing — medicine — was not his cup of tea. So he worked in a range of restaurants from pizza shops to fine dining locations, taking on the jobs of waiter, cook, delivery boy and manager, choosing these positions as part of a calculated move. These experiences led him to develop plans for eateries he hoped to open in the future.
That day finally came 10 years ago when he opened his first restaurant, Baileys’ Chocolate Bar. That was followed by five other locations over the years, as well as a catering business, The Fifth Wheel.
Bailey’s plan is to have his locations complement one another by having unique concepts with a similar commitment to service and high quality food. Each restaurant promotes the others without diluting the brand or suggesting a chain restaurant feel. This concept helps create loyal customers in the highly competitive restaurant industry.
That loyalty was evident during the recent civil unrest following the grand jury announcement in the Michael Brown fatality. Baileys’ Rooster on South Grand Boulevard sustained $20,000 in damage caused by vandalism. The morning after, the staff felt a variety of emotions ranging from sadness to anger. By midday, however, the restaurant was full of patrons, and the seemingly terrible event produced a net positive on the restaurant and staff.
As owner, Bailey’s company culture focuses on empathy, integrity and controlled growth. Realizing that his success depends on his employees, Bailey seeks input from the staff, which helps him form relationships with employees. Baileys’ Restaurants promote from within, and a multilayered support system allows the business to expand with a centralized vision.

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WINNER – Technology






Jody Brazil
FireMon LLC

Jody Brazil, CEO of FireMon LLC, has made a name for himself in the network security field — and even has some firsts to his credit.
He engineered the first FBI-approved solution for the online transfer of criminal history data and the first firewall rule usage analysis application.
For more than two decades, Brazil has been recognized as a thought leader and pioneer in network security. He founded the Internet applications development startup Beta Technologies in 1997 and became CTO at FishNet Security in 2004. He also lead the implementation of the first load-balance deployment of Check Point firewall software while CTO. FishNet spun off FireMon so Brazil could develop FireMon’s Security Manager platform as the industry’s first comprehensive firewall configuration change monitoring solution.
FireMon has been recognized for creating solutions and leading an emerging market segment that addresses one of the most complex and challenging aspects of network security management.
Upon his discovery that unauthorized firewall configuration changes were often responsible for network outages during a major disruption of telecommunication services in 1997, he engineered an application that automatically monitored firewall device configuration and alerted IT administrators to unauthorized changes.
Brazil continues to maintain an active role in developing FireMon’s solutions, working with customers to ensure that the company’s road map aligns closely with the emerging demands of clients.
He remains active in supporting FireMon’s global sales, resulting in annual revenue growth over the last five years.
Admired by peers and employees as an innovative technologist with a high degree of business acumen, professionalism and entrepreneurial spirit, Brazil is a frequent commentator on global cybersecurity issues, speaking at industry conferences.

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WINNER – Media and Entertainment






Gabe Douek
Gateway Media LLC

The technology sector is a fast-paced environment, and Gateway Media LLC is an example of a nimble company that continually adapts.
Under the leadership of CEO Gabe Douek, the company focuses its efforts on the growing base of millennials who receive information from social media rather than traditional search engines. Since that time, visits to the content Gateway Media produces have more than quintupled.
While Gateway’s original mission was to build websites providing useful content for users searching the Internet, the strategy changed to adapt to evolving trends. Web visitors were asking search engines less and their friends more as time spent on social media to connect and share content increased.
Douek’s leadership fosters a relaxed, engaged and fun environment with enough structure to keep individuals focused but also enough space to encourage creativity. To prevent burn out, the company believes in limiting work outside of the office as much as possible so that employees can disconnect.
In addition, the company holds social events to keep morale high and reward employees. As a result, the company has seen minimal turnover among its 45 employees since its inception three years ago.
Gateway Media’s business model is aimed at millennials. Douek built a young team and promotes an atmosphere with a focus on collaboration. He believes in a laid-back environment that helps employees accept failure and build from less successful outcomes. Douek has developed “squad” structured teams, which help to encourage teamwork through friendly competitions. Squads often compete to generate new content, and winners earn internal recognition or gift cards.

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WINNER – Services






Matthew Perry
GENESYS Systems Integrator

The recent recession provided a defining moment for GENESYS Systems Integrator. Due to an underestimate of a project’s magnitude, the provider of automotive conveyors was on the verge of disaster.
Founded in 1997 by brothers Matthew and Pat Perry, GENESYS was desperate for projects on the heels of the recession. A team member sold “The Corvette Project,” which helped to improve the Corvette plant processes in Bowling Green, Michigan.
Through a concerted effort, the company made it through, but the project was a turning point. Matthew and his brother decided to part ways. Pat left GENESYS for another of their business interests and Matthew took over as president. He realized that the problem was with individuals overly focused on the small picture who had too much control and not enough checks and balances. It forced the company to think differently and to let go of those individuals.
While that type of situation might have prompted a mass exodus, 18 employees came forward and asked to invest in the company. They now own 3 percent.  Perry says it wasn’t the money that really made a difference — it was the commitment and dedication those employees showed that helped him see the value in what they did and their belief in it.
From the aftermath of The Corvette Project, Perry introduced the Iron Triad concept of three entrepreneurial company teams that would lead future growth. The Iron team focuses on the broad range of building products, the Nickel team targets the automotive industry, and the Cobalt team concentrates on developing new markets and ventures in industrial uses, including waste to energy, recycling, fiber and food.
The goal for each team is to act as a magnet and attract clients for a coordinated and team approach.

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WINNER – Distribution






Bob Hummert
Grimco, Inc.

In 1977, a group of three investors mortgaged their homes a second time, took a leap of faith and purchased Grimco, Inc., a manufacturer of signs and sign supplies, leveraging the rest of the purchase price through a bank loan. At 28, Bob Hummert, the company’s current majority owner and one of the original three investors, left his job as a St. Louis bank loan officer to run the company.
Since 1978, the company has seen an average growth rate of 18 percent and has expanded its geographical reach.
Grimco traces its roots back to 1875 when it was founded as the Grimm Stamp and Badge Co., a manufacturer of embossed signs, seals, stamps and badges. In its first 100 years, the company had a total of four different owners. Grimco over the years became more focused on manufacturing traffic and retail embossed signs.
In 1985, Hummert, CEO, bought out the other two investors. He has built a company culture that reflects his own values and characteristics of compassion, hard work and humility. His ability to recognize and develop talent, even when others do not see it, has allowed him to build a solid succession plan that will enable the company for future growth.
In order to keep a tight focus on operating to maintain its strength, health and ability to accomplish aggressive growth goals, the company has adopted a core group of principles. These are talent, cash flow, differentiation and the understanding that Grimco is a work in progress. By following these principles, Grimco has been able to expand into Canada and now has 42 locations in the U.S. and five in Canada.

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WINNER – Construction






Rusty Keeley
The Keeley Companies

Rusty Keeley learned some lessons in empowerment and accountability while working at his father’s asphalt paving company that have stuck with him thorughout his career.
His father, Larry Keeley, allowed him to take the risk of purchasing a small directional drilling company on his own. This gave Rusty skin in the game, using his house as collateral in the purchase.
Incorporated as American Directional Boring Inc., the company grew and prospered largely due to a long-term underground electric cable replacement contract that remained in place for 20 years. Keeley, CEO, recently spun off a third company, ZeroDay Technology Solutions, to focus on meeting technology demands.
In 1997, he bought his father’s company, L. Keeley Construction, and began to diversify and expand its services. General, industrial and heavy civil services divisions were added.
Those ventures put a huge strain on The Keeley Companies’ resources, and Keeley assumed significant risks with his personal guarantee of loans needed for company cash flow. A severe test occurred in 2000 and 2001 when the fiber cable boom began to collapse and several failed companies owed money to American Directional Boring. Keeley borrowed and mortgaged every available asset to continue to meet payroll and equipment demands of the growing organization.
Keeley’s willingness to put his assets on the line shows his refusal to even consider the concept of “no.” He is known for his enthusiasm and his self-deprecating sense of humor.
Keeley has acknowledged that his batteries are charged when he is in the presence of people. He firmly believes in establishing close personal relationships and networking to help others and his competitive nature fortifies him to welcome challenges and obstacles with a “can do” attitude that seeks only to find solutions while refusing to accept excuses.

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Michelle Jacobs
Alight Analytics

In 2007, Michelle Jacobs was working as a part-time consultant for a well-known advertising agency when she noticed that the advertising performance reports the firm was providing to clients weren’t delivering a clear picture of actual results. In fact, the reports had a paralyzing effect on client decision-makers because they fell so short of the goal.
Jacobs discussed this with her former co-worker Matt Hertig, an IT professional who was working for a database company at the time. The two realized an opportunity existed to offer improved and timely reporting at an affordable cost.
They co-founded Alight Analytics in Jacobs’ spare bedroom by offering marketing analytic reports that primarily leveraged the no-cost Google Analytics service, which pulls information about website visitor activity. They presented the data in an intelligible format that would help companies decide where to spend their next ad dollar.
Over the last six years, Alight’s product offering expanded into more sophisticated services due to the volume of client demand and technological gains within the industry segment. The company’s key proprietary innovation is a database that acts as a bridge between the various sources of data (for example, Internet sources such as Google Analytics or Facebook, and TV sources such as the Nielsen ratings) and the end user reports.
Jacobs brings the core operational and marketing expertise to the company and is responsible for researching and finding every tool and database utilized as a component within their varying analytic services. She is responsible for helping clients such as Helzberg Diamonds, AMC Theatres and Hill’s Pet Nutrition maximize their online and offline marketing efforts.
The company now employs 20 and is located in the River Market district of Kansas City. The open, relaxed environment of the loft-style office gives the feel of innovation and collaboration.

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Craig Wallace
CEO and North American zone director
Ceva Animal Health

Craig Wallace’s road to becoming CEO and North American zone director of Ceva Animal Health took a couple turns before he achieved his true dream of running his own business.
Growing up, Wallace had aspirations of playing baseball. While he played baseball at Georgetown College, he graduated with a degree in physics and chemistry, and became a high school teacher. After three years, he decided to pursue a position in pharmaceutical sales.
After a few years, and still in search of a fulfilling career, he switched to animal health sales and worked for Fort Dodge Animal Health. He was there for 20 years until another firm acquired the company. He then sought an opportunity to build a company from the ground up.
When Wallace joined Ceva Animal Health, it was a startup environment with few resources. So his first priority was consolidating the different offices, which were located all over the country, into one. The experience he gained through numerous acquisitions at Fort Dodge taught him if he didn’t establish a center of gravity, the employees wouldn’t follow.
He strives for an entrepreneurial spirit within the organization and for employees to conduct themselves as the owner of their business.
Wallace made sure the DNA of Ceva was well-defined, well-established, and employees understood that taking risks was fundamental to their growth and prosperity. He prides himself on bringing hard workers into the organization, regardless of prior experience. He firmly believes as long as the right core qualities exist, the animal health piece can be taught.
Every employee must be honest, hardworking, willing to take risks, have common sense and good decision-making skills. Wallace has instilled these core qualities into Ceva’s operations, and he believes this has been the catalyst for the company’s success.

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Neil Sommers
Principal and owner
Clockwork Architecture + Design

While working at an architectural firm, Neil Sommers met co-worker Christian Arnold, and it was the beginning of a long, collaborative relationship that lead to the founding of Clockwork Architecture + Design.
With about $3,000 in savings between the two, Clockwork was launched in 2005 with a business model that set out to change the way architecture and interior design services were delivered.
There were only two jobs in the pipeline when the two started the firm. It was this willingness to take risks and trust their instincts that helped Clockwork experience success over the past decade.
Sommers, principal and owner, defines innovation as meeting clients’ needs in an unexpected manner that both addresses their requirements while incorporating ideas they’ve never considered. Specifically, one of the innovations that Clockwork has been pioneering is the use of burnt or charred materials, which provides a unique visual to many of the firm’s interior design projects. Sommers is not only an architect but an amateur blacksmith with his own blacksmith shop.
From the beginning of the company, the focus of Clockwork’s management team has been to operate lean. Some of management’s philosophies that Sommers and Arnold embrace include encouraging their employees to take on as much responsibility as possible and to shift executive responsibilities to the lowest employee levels of the firm. This allows employees to be stakeholders in the quality and business development of the company. Through an aggressive compensation approach, which encourages all employees to pursue new business by providing them with a bonus of 10 percent of the gross amount of the projects they win, Clockwork has set itself apart from others in the industry.
A focus on flexible hours has led to employee retention that Clockwork has enjoyed since few employees have resigned in the past 10 years of operations.

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Ron Baldwin
Chairman, president and CEO






David O’Toole






Mike Maddox
CrossFirst Bank CEO

CrossFirst Holdings, LLC/CrossFirst Bank

When Ron Baldwin, chairman, president and CEO, hit a plateau in his career in 2007, he came to a realization. The bank he was working for was divesting in order to cut down on cost, and he decided to move on. His decision, which he called life-changing, was to charter a brand new bank. To help with this undertaking, he brought in Mike Maddox, CrossFirst Bank CEO, and David O’Toole, CFO, as founding partners of CrossFirst Holdings, LLC/CrossFirst Bank.
When they discussed the leadership style for the bank, the three founders did not want to follow the traditional bank hierarchy with one president and multiple vice presidents. They wanted multiple leaders with various backgrounds and perspectives who could voice opinions on what was best for the company as a whole. As a result, the founders instituted the CrossFirst Office of the Chairman, a group of 19 partners — nine of which are founding partners — that meet regularly to discuss day-to-day company operations and to make strategic decisions for the future.
Baldwin, O’Toole and Maddox believe if they hire and retain quality employees who are trained properly, then the end result will be extraordinary service for the customer and clients. They believe that what differentiates CrossFirst is the willingness to make significant upfront investments in employees in order to find those that fit the overall vision of the company.
The hiring process is very detailed to make sure employees possess CrossFirst’s Four C’s: character, competence, commitment and connection. The company has significantly expanded its workforce, growing by 81 percent from 2012 to 2014.
Each of the founders carries “promise cards,” pieces of paper that list the promises they have made to people (customers, employees, etc.) they need to fulfill, and pull them out several times a day to make sure they are on track to meet them.

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Chris Miget
EnviroPAK Corporation

Eighteen years ago, Chris Miget was one of the founders of EnviroPAK Corporation, a molded pulp manufacturer. Two years ago he was asked to take over as president and use his unique entrepreneurial style to help improve company performance.
Miget has found success by listening to clients to get key insight into their needs and by re-engaging EnviroPAK employees across all levels to deliver innovative products.
Miget promoted several employees who had demonstrated the skill set and passion for EnviroPAK’s mission. He instituted a review of process workflows that allowed the company to better understand its true capacity, and started a process to identify key infrastructure and fixed asset areas in which to invest that would provide the best ROI for the company.
To address efficiencies that were lacking, Miget brought in outside perspectives to offer solutions in areas of unfilled positions and those that had continually struggled. These changes consisted of implementing best practice processes, efficiency metrics and improved documentation for the entire process.
To cut down on the time between product design and delivery time, Miget facilitated an in-house product life cycle system from design engineering, building of molding cast and tools to preliminary product testing — cutting down the time from six to two weeks.
Miget regularly engages with employees across all levels of the company, which has helped him identify employees to promote. These new leaders are provided with continuous mentoring, allowing them to further develop their skills. This has brought about a culture change that has seen increased retention rates. About 42 percent of current full-time employees have tenure of at least five years. Miget has been able to stabilize leadership and rebuild employee trust as the employees view the president as someone who is engaged, listens and appreciates their contribution to EnviroPAK.

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Dr. Tomas Hode
Immunophotonics Inc.

As the CEO of Immunophotonics Inc., Dr. Tomas Hode has had to play many roles to help the company rise to where it is today. This includes being a leader in the laboratory where the company develops a cancer vaccine product, in the financial aspects of the business and as a recruiter of passionate researchers.
Hode competes with some of the largest health science companies for top talent and has succeeded in landing key professionals from universities and research tanks at a fraction of the cost they were making before — a true testament to the inspirational nature of his leadership.
Hode has also successfully raised his seeding capital rounds, as well as subsequent rounds of venture capital to fuel the company with its Federal Drug Administration trials.
He has also created a series of subsidiary companies and satellite research facilities across the U.S. and Europe and continues to find new avenues to obtain grant and capital funding to operate these locations, which accelerates the research taking place.
Hode started Immunophotonics during the recent economic downturn when many might have suggested that a biotech startup was destined to fail. Those formidable odds didn’t stop Hode and his team from forging ahead with their vision. He has instilled the passion in his team to weather the startup business cycle past the point where others in the field have perished.
The company’s mission is to “create a world in which cancer is neither deadly nor a precursor to debilitation and suffering.” Hode and his team are so passionate for this mission that it led them to create a nonprofit organization, I Can Win, which assists people in need of therapy. The company doesn’t benefit from these compassionate care cases, further illustrating the level of dedication each employee has in the mission.

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Gregg D. Scheller
Katalyst Surgical, LLC

When Gregg D. Scheller wants to receive feedback on the products Katalyst Surgical, LLC, has manufactured, he goes straight to the operating room and talks to surgeons using his ophthalmic or neuro instruments.
This feedback, along with Scheller’s creativity and insistence on high quality, allows Katalyst to create products to take market share from larger competitors.
Katalyst Surgical owes much of its existence to Scheller’s creative energy. Along with his business partner of more than 22 years, William Bates, Scheller thrives on inventing the next breakthrough surgical instrument in order to grow Katalyst.
His path of entrepreneurship with numerous startups under his belt has not, however, been without obstacles and struggles. When first starting out, Scheller went without a salary for months, and struggled at times to make payroll for his employees. He encountered stress-related health problems, and decided to take better care of himself. Scheller, chairman, started participating in triathlons and encourages all Katalyst employees to participate in what has become an annual company tradition.
While he is involved in every aspect of his company’s operation, Scheller lists R&D as his passion, where he gets to give life to his ideas. Most of the ideas for new products come from his interaction with surgeons and developing strong relationships over the years. Scheller has had numerous examples in which surgeons phoned him directly for help with a problem they were encountering during surgery or a new procedure that required new tools. Every complaint is considered an opportunity to improve, Scheller says.
In only the first five years after creating Katalyst, Scheller has already created a sister company, Kogent Surgical, and has grown sales of its ophthalmic products to more than 40 countries. The company now partners with Medtronic, Inc., as its world-wide distribution partner, which is expected to drive growth going forward.

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Pam Duffy
President and owner
Rhodey Construction, Inc.

Pam Duffy began working for her father John Rhodey at Rhodey Construction, Inc., when she was 15. When Rhodey started looking for a successor in 1999, he picked Duffy to groom as president. Her father had turned over all his duties to her before his passing in 2006, and helped her steer the company out of a financial crisis that hit in 2004/2005 when a major client reduced its spending significantly, causing the company to spend time in the red.
Duffy eventually found a bank that would help the firm. She and her father had to withdraw funds from their 401(k) plans to keep Rhodey Construction afloat. By 2007, however, the company was in the black and has been profitable ever since.
A strong believer in the value of strategic planning, Duffy has worked with noted St. Louis-based business planning consultant Collaborative Strategies, Inc., since 2006. She also participates in two peer-mentoring groups, Small Business Roundtable, a group she joined in 2000, and Vistage International, a CEO peer-review networking organization that helps executives grow their businesses.
Her exposure to these thought-leaders reinforces her commitment to measure current and future success delivering value to clients. She says her father believed in taking on all comers, which remains the prevailing attitude in the industry today, especially after suffering through a prolonged downturn. Duffy, however, has found that having the fortitude to say no to prospective clients that are not a good fit for Rhodey Construction helps keep the company profitable.
The competitive point of differentiation at Rhodey Construction is grounded on faith in a three-part creed: “Take care of the client. Be honest and honor your contract — even if it means losing money. Do your best.”

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Dr. Mike Rea
Rx Savings Solutions

The germ of an idea came to Dr. Mike Rea while working as a pharmacist at a national drug store chain. A customer asked him which of the eight medications she was taking for high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol she could skip that month because she couldn’t pay her rent if she bought them all. He told her he would research her question and spent eight hours that evening doing so. The next day, he gave her a report on how to optimize her medications along with cost-saving suggestions. She was able to save $250 a month, and it gave Rea, CEO, the impetus to start Rx Savings Solutions.
The company has grown significantly since it was founded by drawing and retaining top talent and a large, respected clientele. A total of 22 are now employed, including pharmacists, physicians, pharmacy technicians and information technology personnel.
Mutual of Omaha approached him to see if he could apply his strategy to claims for their clients. Rea entered an arrangement with the insurance firm, and soon landed the state of Kansas Employee Health Plan and the Berkshire Hathaway Media Group as customers.
As Rea showed from the first time he helped a patient, he has built the company on the same mantra that he tells all new employees: “Do something good first, and then let the consumers come to you.”
Rea strives to make sure all clients and employees know this is how the company is successful, because they are in the business of helping others.
All Rx Savings Solutions employees are on the same bonus metric, depending on how many patients they add. Rea believes this bonus metric allows for everyone to be focused on the growth of the company together.

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Lifetime Achievement Award






The Tracy Family
Dot Foods, Inc.

When Robert and Dorothy Tracy founded Dot Foods, Inc. in 1960, they knew that in order to succeed their new company would have to be built on a strong foundation. The husband and wife duo instilled a set of values at Dot Food that hasn’t wavered in more than 50 years. The brand promise is prominently displayed — even the trucks bear its message: Trusted values. Innovative solutions. Shared growth.™
The promise reminds employees what is expected of them, and tells Dot Foods’ business partners what to expect.
That vision still exists today, cultivated by Dorothy and carried out by numerous second- and third-generation family members throughout the U.S.
The most significant innovation Robert, who passed away in 2006, initiated was the company’s original concept — food redistribution. Dot Foods buys full truckloads from 650 manufacturers and consolidates their products in nine distribution centers. The company then resells the products weekly in less-than-truckload amounts to distributors. There is usually no extra cost to the distributor, and manufacturers compensate Dot Foods to handle distribution of their costly less-than-truckload orders.
Dot Foods is the nation’s first and largest food redistributor, offering more than 105,000 products, and employing more than 4,500.
The Tracy Family Foundation, founded in 1997 with the same vision as Dot Foods, helps to revitalize the Mount Sterling, Illinois, community, where the company is headquartered, through support of education, the YMCA, the redevelopment of downtown and other projects.
The Tracys didn’t set out to invent a new way to distribute food products or to create a company that would become the industry leader in food redistribution. Their goal from the beginning was much humbler: to help improve their customers’ business.

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Judging Panel






David Brain
former president and CEO
EPR Properties

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John Brandmeyer
Cognios Capital

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John Dubinsky
Stifel Financial

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Tom Hilman
Managing partner
FTL Capital Partners, LLC

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Terry Matlack
Managing director and co-founder
Tortoise Capital Advisors, LLC

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Dave Spence
Legacy Pharmaceutical Packaging