WINNER Phu Hoang CEO Virtium Technology, Inc. www.virtium.com
A true tale of the pursuit of the American dream, the story of Phu Hoang progresses from surviving a Vietnamese refugee camp to earning advanced engineering degrees in Canada and the U.S. before launching his own thriving company in the high stakes, high-tech arena.
Virtium Technology, Inc. was founded in 1997 to engineer and manufacture embedded SSD and industrial memory products required in networking, transportation, communications, gaming and mobile monitoring system applications. Hoang recognized early on the burgeoning demand for big data, and accurately gauged the explosive growth in steady storage technology in the fields of telecommunications, medicine, energy and security.
But it’s his focus on the long term that really distinguishes Hoang among CEOs, evidenced in part by his adapting then altering the company’s entire business model from hardware specialization to now developing its own firmware and wholly new layers of SSD software to round out its offerings. Today, Virtium builds more than 200 individual products — with more to come. Hoang has heavily invested in talent during the past five years, comprising an international engineering and research team charged with assuring future product development stays at the forefront of the industry.
And despite the coming and going of high-tech competitors during the past 15 years, Virtium has enjoyed consecutive annual growth, which Hoang would attribute to anticipating the needs of clients in an ever-changing technology environment; while others laud a leadership style that prioritizes equality among his team and always putting others first.
Exemplifying this, Hoang is overtly committed to employee personal development, covering expenses for bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and actively promoting a balance of work and family among his staff. Further, he established and continues to fundraise for the Savice Foundation, which in the past seven years has built 11 schools and funded thousands of scholarships for children living in rural Vietnam.
FINALISTS Michael Purcell Founder and Chief Marketing Officer Global Cash Card www.globalcashcard.com
While working in the staffing industry, Michael Purcell saw payroll checks shipped from a central location to people across the country who would then hand-deliver them. Certain there must be an easier way to pay, Purcell founded Global Cash Card with the motto “Systems plus service equals easy.”
In the early days, the market didn’t understand pay cards let alone want to use them. A resilient entrepreneur, Purcell, the company’s chief marketing officer, trudged through the troubles, confident that his product could improve the way companies operated.
Purcell knew that off-the-shelf software couldn’t offer the payment flexibility that customers needed, so Global Cash Card developed its own proprietary system. Facing major competitors, the company leaned on stellar customer service to set its product apart. With the motto as a formula for success, Global Cash Card has added new clients every day for four years.
The company’s unparalleled customer service is reflected in its online system demonstration, where customers can trial the program exactly as they’d use the pay card in actual practice. Global Cash Card also stands out for its all-inclusive in-house approach, which provides instant on-site communication to customers.
Purcell’s brothers also hold leadership positions at Global Cash Card, so when his brother Anthony suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed, they all spent months at his side. Even with the leaders absent from the company for several months due to the family emergency, Global Cash Card grew significantly that year. That’s when Purcell knew he’d built a business with a strong foundation, and succeeded at hiring people who could carry the company through tough times.
Now, Global Cash Card is on track to continue growing nationally and internationally. While taking advantage of the “land grab” available in the U.S., Purcell also partnered with businesses in South Africa to expand the company’s global reach.
Maria Thompson President and CEO Agile Sourcing Partners www.agilesp.com
Breaking into a mature industry with long standing traditions and thin margins isn’t easy. So Maria Thompson pinched pennies, tackled projects no one else wanted and secured deals with a handshake to get Agile Sourcing Partners off the ground.
The president and CEO is comfortable blazing trails. She was the first one in her family to graduate from college. And when she started Agile, she reinvented decades-old processes and provided innovative solutions and value to prove her worth to the mostly male decision-makers in the gas and electric industry. Over time, Thompson gained the trust of her male colleagues, positioning Agile as a preferred provider of procurement, project management and staffing services to utilities, suppliers and manufacturers.
Thompson started Agile with a personal investment of $510 and a small loan from an equity partner. Since then, she’s managed to create a debt-free enterprise with six locations and has tripled the company’s management team the last two years.
One area of particular focus was employee development and benefits. To Thompson, being an employer is both a privilege and a responsibility. Agile employees receive 401(k) plans, life insurance and flexible holidays. She also sponsors on-the-job training and educational opportunities for high-performing employees and has rewarded her team with bonuses during their ascent.
Thompson also provides internships to college students. In fact, Agile is now the third largest employer of graduates from the University of San Diego, Thompson’s alma mater.
Employees are encouraged to give back to their communities and Thompson leads by example. She speaks at schools, mentors protégées and hosts bring your child to work days. She also encourages employees to engage in outside activities.
Last year, Agile donated $200 to each employee’s charity of choice and the company matches employee donations up to $100. Additionally, the company donates 5 percent of EBITDA to charitable organizations.