The goal of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is to be able to manage all customer touch points on one system to improve both the end user and consumer experience — and Jonathan Ord is an expert in it.
Ord had a friend in the automobile industry who expressed frustration with the multiple systems he was using to track one customer at his dealership. Through continued conversations with this friend, Ord went to work creating a CRM for the dealership space. In 2001, Ord co-founded DealerSocket Inc. with the goal of helping auto dealers manage every interaction and touch point with their customers on one platform.
In order to put his vision and plan into motion, Ord, who is also CEO, took out a mortgage on his home and started DealerSocket in his garage. Initially his customers felt the software didn’t interface well with the sales force on the floor. Thus, he offered to work without pay at a dealership for a year to gain a better understanding of his customers’ needs.
Ord aspired to help the automotive industry and make all customers fans of DealerSocket and its products. In the first year of business, 15 clients were signed, and in the second year, the number grew to 38. Today, DealerSocket serves more than 3,000 dealers in the U.S., Canada and Australia, and supports 100,000 active users.
Even during the near collapse of the automotive industry from 2006 to 2008, Ord continued to improve his products so that dealers could survive and carry on. As a result of its persistence, DealerSocket now has 20 percent U.S. market penetration and is striving for more.
The vision and plan for DealerSocket is to continue to be the No. 1 CRM for auto dealerships through customizing CRM for large dealer groups, expanding into other countries, and developing or acquiring products that make sense for the company’s software suite.
How to reach: DealerSocket Inc., www.dealersocket.com
NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Retail and Consumer Products
president and CEO
Ball, Bounce and Sport, Inc.
In 1982, Jim Braeunig started with Ball, Bounce and Sport, Inc., a subsidiary of Hedstrom, as a factory manager. Through the two decades following, Braeunig moved up in the manufacturer of rubber balls to director of operations, vice president of operations and eventually general manager.
Although BBS historically was a profitable subsidiary of Hedstrom, the majority of the company’s other subsidiaries were not. As a result, Hedstrom went through a rollercoaster of private equity buyouts and bankruptcies in the late 1990s and early 2000s. When Hedstrom encountered its second bankruptcy in 2004, Braeunig and a couple of other local investors decided to purchase the company to focus on BBS.
Upon the purchase of BBS in 2004, Braeunig and his team immediately went to work. They hired back several employees previously let go as a result of the bankruptcy, formed a joint venture with a Chinese manufacturer, obtained the support of retailers such as Target, Walgreens and Dick’s Sporting Goods, and after two years of consistent efforts, began to collect on the receivables of BBS purchased from bankruptcy court.
Today, BBS is still connected to the Hedstrom name, doing business as Hedstrom. Braeunig made revolutionary changes to the company, taking advantage of global resources and developing strategic business relationships.
In 2010, BBS acquired Diamond Plastics, and in 2012, Bosu, New Wave Container and Regent Sports were acquired. As a result of these acquisitions, BBS expanded its product offering to plastic dumpsters and names such as Meiter and McGregor for its sporting good products.
Even though BBS is booming, Braeunig is not ignoring potential future challenges. With increasing labor costs and high inflation rate in China, the company has started to seek an alternative to outsource manufacturing of certain products back to the U.S. or Mexico.
BBS owns 98 percent of U.S. and Canadian rubber ball markets and a growing percentage of the rotational molding market.
How to reach: Ball Bounce and Sport, Inc., www.hedstrom.com
In 2009, Dominic Gallello was tasked to turn around a company known for expensive and difficult-to-use software. The mismanaged and ailing MSC Software, founded in 1963 to assist with simulations for the space program, had not updated its products in far too long, customer churn rates were high, and there was no spark at the company.
Gallello set out to build and communicate to employees a comprehensive strategy framework that reduced general and administrative expenses from 19 to 11 percent in the first year. He cut $40 million from operating expenses in his first two years. Gallello expanded R&D by 40 percent, brought on more than 40 doctorate-degreed employees through hiring and acquisition, and initiated the development of a next generation computer aided engineering (CAE) system to be brought to market this year.
In less than five years as CEO and president, the company has embraced his vision, and his team is highly motivated to develop the solutions for existing and new customers. At MSC, he leveraged the synergy between the improved morale and the new technology to help customers change the world — which is precisely what the company is doing: The company was instrumental in simulations of the entry descent and landing for the Mars Rover Curiosity mission.
Gallello introduced a culture of “You never stop learning at MSC.” He encouraged managers and individual contributors to pursue professional development and funded their efforts.
He started a high-potential employee program (“Managing your Career”) to build future leaders and a management development program (“Managing by Influence”). Gallello believes that personal success should be celebrated, but must also come with responsibility.
He and his family have personally funded construction of five orphanages in Romania in the past five years and they call more than 100 children their own. Gallello also is funding the development of a farm in Romania for teenagers who cannot find jobs after high school.
How to reach: MSC Software Corp., www.mscsoftware.com
Although he was able to surround himself with talented professionals, Joseph Renton seemed to experience every possible problem when starting up a company in 1995. He had launched Systems & Software Enterprises (SSE) and utilized the technology consulting business to fund the development of new hardware products.
There was a lack of available capital, an ever-changing technology market and an aviation industry with tremendous barriers to entry for his in-flight entertainment efforts. But through it all, he never once accepted any venture capital money.
He was determined to see his vision through on his own terms. He knew he had to stay ahead of the innovation curve and that bringing in outside ownership would slow the process of finding creative solutions.
Undeterred, Renton used his relationships with bankers and clients to secure funding and even took out another mortgage on his house to see his company through its most difficult times. He knew that he had built a product that was superior to the competition and was willing to take necessary risks to prove that.
Renton focused on providing his team with interesting projects and establishing an entrepreneurial climate within the company, and he has found that the effort goes much further toward creating employee satisfaction than salary alone.
In 2001 his firm began marketing its first in-flight entertainment systems to major airlines. Soon after that release, 9/11 occurred, effectively bringing the avionics industry to a standstill. Rather than abandoning his vision during these slow times, Renton reinvested in development so his firm would be better positioned than its competition once everything returned to normal.
SSE rebounded stronger than ever, and after a decade of providing successful hardware systems, SSE was acquired by Zodiac in December 2012. However, as a true entrepreneur who is never satisfied, he used the time off to gain clarity and to prepare ways to create value in his next opportunity.
How to reach: System & Software Enterprises, www.imsco-us.com
When she took the helm of Carl Warren & Company nine years ago, Caryn Siebert was facing the challenges of a company suffering substantial losses and outdated infrastructure. She went to her first board meeting and honestly and directly told the board members that under her turnaround plan, it would be three years before the company would break even.
Siebert, leveraging her knowledge of Six Sigma and prior experience as a CEO, was successful, and she took the employee-owned third party claims and litigation management company back into black ink.
Before Siebert came to Carl Warren & Company, the organizational structure consisted of branches that acted as separate profit centers. She recognized that this configuration was damaging to the business — the branches continued to compete against each other for clients and profits.
To eliminate this situation without significant staff layoffs, Siebert decided to restructure the company by forming business lines focusing on specific services like public and insurance claims. That way, offices are working together to best allocate resources and assist clients across geographic areas.
Carl Warren & Company realized significant growth, and in 2009, was named one of the “Best Companies to Work For” in OC Metro magazine. However, as the economic recession took hold, clients wanted cheaper rates and expenses continued to increase.
Siebert knew she could not cut employees or high-level services. Instead, she decided to expand the company into a new market segment, bringing workers’ compensation in its product mix. Revenues increased to $30 million that year.
Siebert’s aptitude for instilling loyalty — there is an almost 100 percent employee retention rate — extends even further in terms of her client relationships. With customized programs, certificates of guarantee and years of experience, the company has a strong client base that only continues to grow.
How to reach: Carl Warren & Company, www.carlwarren.com
Every member of Dr. Vinod Jivrajka’s family is an entrepreneur, so it’s no surprise that Jivrajka is being recognized for excellent entrepreneurship skills. Born in Mumbai, India, Jivrajka started medical school at age 17, after which he came to the U.S. and began working for hospitals in New Jersey and Kentucky.
He eventually moved to Compton, Calif., after attending a conference in Los Angeles and falling in love with Southern California. After two years, he became a partner with two doctors with whom he would work for the next 25 years. Though the practice was the busiest group in the region at the time, he couldn’t sit still. The entrepreneur in him wanted to try something different.
Until the 1980s, there was no concept of a management care organization. Jivrajka saw an opportunity to innovate the industry. After decades of practicing as a physician, he realized the operational efficiencies a medical management company could achieve by overseeing both the management group and the medical group.
He borrowed money using the equity of his personal home, persuaded his slightly skeptical friends to buy in, and founded AppleCare Medical Enterprises in 1996, which includes two AppleCare Medical Groups, a management services organization, a hospitalist medical group and an insurance agency. By 1999, the company had grown by 10,000 percent.
Jivrajka, who is founder, president and CEO of AppleCare, successfully recruited 22 employees to start with him, of which 12 are still at AppleCare today. By making doctors’ interests the management company’s interests, AppleCare successfully created a work environment that put doctors first, which enabled it to gain doctors’ trust, confidence and loyalty.
He has led the growth of AppleCare to 185 management employees cooperating with almost 1,000 affiliate doctors servicing more than 75,000 AppleCare members. The company celebrated its 10th anniversary in April.
How to reach: AppleCare Medical Enterprises, www.applecaremedical.com
Heidi Golledge can speak to the benefits of an early start in entrepreneurship. While a student, she began selling candy bars via fundraisers and would give all her earnings to her single-parent mother to help pay household bills. She later began selling rabbits to pet stores, and earned enough money to purchase a computer.
With that entrepreneurial background and her education, she began brokering home loans, but despite some lucrative periods, she wanted her own show. She saw an opportunity to partner with companies like Monster.com to offer another layer to the recruiting business that would allow more visibility to job opportunities via multiple channels. She met her future business partner and in 1999 the two started CyberCoders.
The company has developed into a leading, worldwide recruiting firm that utilizes technology and highly skilled recruiters to match people with companies.
Golledge later bought out her partner to take the company in a strategic direction that brought financial risk — an online career community (“job blog”) that would eventually be known as the CareerBliss arm of CyberCoders. She was determined to offer a way for people to learn about a company’s culture before seeking a job there to make sure that the culture fit the person’s needs and career path. The risk paid off and CareerBliss produced 100 percent year-over-year growth in revenue for the last three years.
Built on a recession-proof business model, CyberCoders has opened or expanded multiple offices during the recent economic downturn. While others were laying off employees, CyberCoders was opening offices and hiring more people, taking advantage of top talent.
Inspired by her family values, Golledge makes them her business values as well. She treats employees like family and looks to make them feel successful and happy. Golledge believes that a happy person is a productive person, and she has zero tolerance for disrespect in the workplace.
CyberCoders, www.cybercoders.com; CareerBliss, www.careerbliss.com
Retail & Consumer Products
When Nick Seedorf was completing his religious studies in college, he believed he was on a journey, and he could see himself investing in the spiritual lives of college students.
But he had no idea that instead he would follow in the footsteps of three generations of family entrepreneurs instead.
More than 10 years later, he has one of the fastest growing companies in the nation, with nearly 100 employees and millions in revenue. But what does he believe is the best part about this? He still invests in people and relationships — through an opportunity he never expected.
After college, Seedorf’s high school hobby of buying and selling products grew into an e-commerce business called myGearStore.com, a mobile accessories retailer. The company was started in his one-bedroom apartment while he was a newlywed. The enterprise grew over the next few years, and he wanted to consolidate his suppliers through a distribution company, rather than continuing to buy direct from so many manufacturers.
Seedorf researched distributors, but he found no one was solely focusing on mobile accessories and keeping the right products in stock. Along with his insights into the size of the opportunity and the unaddressed pain points of retailers, Seedorf saw the need for a distributor who was a trusted adviser and had high-touch service and the right product assortment.
He launched nuCourse Distribution Inc. on Jan. 1, 2008, as an electronics accessory consultant as much as it is a distributor. Molded into an accessory advisory firm, the company focuses on building one-to-one relationships with each brand and each customer to effectively be “the matchmaker” in the marketplace.
This customer intimacy strategy has helped Seedorf build and keep customer connections and has given the market an understanding that not every retail outlet desires the same product, but the demographics of an area defines product sales.
How to reach: nuCourse Distribution Inc., www.nucourse.com
Retail & Consumer Products
Personal ego was the furthest thing from John Fuller’s mind when he took over as CEO at The Johnny Rockets Group Inc. Instead of talking about what he wanted to do, Fuller set out to build lasting relationships with people in the corporate office and with franchisees and suppliers for the eateries that offer “timeless American food.”
And when he learned that no CEO from the company had ever visited its top suppliers or stepped foot in a particular franchise location, he became even more driven to develop a strategic plan for the future that incorporated everyone’s insights and contributions.
Fuller found that many of his franchisees had set their own path because of the lack of communication from the home office. The result was a company culture that had splintered in many different directions and left the organization without a strong common identity.
Fuller spends about half the year visiting restaurant locations to speak with employees and customers. He takes feedback and uses it to shape the decisions that are made at locations around the world. The effort has brought alignment and a sense of empowerment to employees who feel like they are a bigger part of this iconic organization.
His goal was not to turn every location into a clone of the others. One of his four key business principles is to focus on building leaders who can be difference-makers, rather than caretakers. By building a solid team able to handle the day-to-day operations, leadership can make decisions that can make a long-term difference in the business.
Fuller also believes in the need to see how customers are experiencing the product on a regular basis, which avoids being caught by surprise by a flaw in the service delivery. He advocates making every customer smile at least once during a visit to create joy, as well as understanding when problems do arise.
How to reach: The Johnny Rockets Group Inc., www.johnnyrockets.com
Retail & Consumer Products
Hezy Shaked has faced many different challenges throughout his life. So when he and his wife, Tilly, realized that $3,000 was not going to be enough to complete their cross-country journey of the United States, Shaked was not shaken a bit.
He was committed to being the provider his family needed, so this young man who had been born and raised in Israel took his first U.S. job at a garage. His living accommodations were under a staircase, but Shaked remained positive about his future.
He took inventory of what he could do and focused on the idea that all humans need clothing. So he took a few retail items and a strong work ethic and traveled to an Orange County swap meet.
Things began to come together and Shaked evolved from a few items at a swap meet to a truck full of new clothing and apparel to the opening of his first retail store in Los Alamitos, Calif.
As the founder, chairman and chief strategy officer of Tilly’s Inc., Shaked continued to focus on providing value and working hard to get his customers what they wanted. He was willing to make investments to build the infrastructure he needed to keep his company growing.
This high level of commitment is also evident in the way Shaked goes about hiring employees and building a strong culture. He understands how much his employees depend on him for their livelihood and makes sure they see it every day. He is willing to spend money to make things happen, but is careful about those decisions so that he doesn’t put the future of the organization at risk.
It’s a spirit that allows the company to succeed and allows Shaked to help those outside Tilly’s who really need it. The company has consistently supported a number of charitable causes through both its time and monetary donations.
How to reach: Tilly’s Inc., www.tillys.com