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Have you ever made a promise and failed to keep it? Of course you have, you’re human. That doesn’t make you a bad person, assuming it was not your intention to deliberately deceive the person or people to which you made the promise. But sometimes in our zest to please others, we don’t always think through all the details before we open our mouths. We just push forward believing that we can make it happen. In the event that we can’t live up to the promise, we apologize and try to learn from our mistake. Aligning commitment with a promise…
Alco Packaging was a troubled company when Melvin Berlin purchased it in 1988. At the time, he offered his son, Andrew, the chance to be part of the negotiating process and then serve as general counsel and director of marketing at the newly acquired company. Within a year, Andrew became the company’s president. A second-year associate at a Chicago law firm, Andrew had grown up soaking in every bit of knowledge he could from his father about how to succeed in the working world. “I didn’t know he was my mentor at the time, I just knew he was my…
Approximately 60 percent of the U.S. commercial population is self-funded today, and as health care premiums continue to rise under fully insured plans, self-funding looks to become even more attractive. However, many employers don’t realize how much self-funded health insurance has evolved with strategies and plans designed to help control costs. “Self-funding does not look the same as it did just a few years ago,” says Mark Haegele, director of sales and account management at HealthLink. Smart Business spoke with Haegele about how self-funding fits into health care today. What’s driving the increase in self-funded health insurance? Health insurance premiums…
Joe Vietri had a lot of moving parts to monitor as he oversaw the acquisition of optionsXpress Inc. by Charles Schwab Corp. Vietri, a 20-year employee for Charles Schwab, was tasked with leading the integration effort of the two brokerage firms. “Cultures are delicate,” Vietri says. “You really have to understand and have perspective for what both sides bring to the table.” The easy thing to do for the sake of expediency would have been to simply force the culture of Schwab onto optionsXpress. Schwab, which has about 13,500 employees, including 300 at optionsXpress, really liked some of the things…
Industrial and DistributionFINALISTTodd Berger first got a taste for the transportation and logistics industry as an intern for American Backhaulers — and it didn’t go well. He vowed to never work in that industry again.After all, it was a time when pioneer companies like Google and Apple were the leaders of innovation, and in Berger’s words, the transportation and logistics industry “just wasn’t ‘sexy’ and lacked innovation, and I wanted to change that.”Fortunately, Berger thought it over and came up with a different goal. He re-entered the industry in 2001, working as a dispatcher at Transportation Solutions Group. Berger recognized…
     Emerging EntrepreneurFINALISTThere were six would-be entrepreneurs incubating at a company called Focal Communications; after each left the business on his own accord, they came together in 2008 to build a venture that they felt had no peer.The result was Peerless Network, Inc., one of the largest interconnection networks in the country. Through Peerless, wireless carriers, local exchange carriers and cable companies can connect with each otherUnder the leadership of John Barnicle, the entrepreneurs created a culture that is acutely focused on providing excellent customer service. Barnicle has a great deal of respect for the team and has established a culture…
Health CareFINALISTWhen Michael Butler founded Life Spine, Inc. 10 years ago, his objective was to focus on a specialty of orthopedics — customized approaches to spinal surgery. He felt that he could create a company that would be flexible enough to quickly respond to these specialized surgeon requests.Life Spine has become a fast-response, nimble company. Employees set goals for how many products they plan to build, time those launches and are empowered to make decisions quickly. Failures are “learning events,” and risk adverse perspectives are not welcome. This has been a key to innovation.In addition, all employees are cross-trained, which…
TechnologyWINNERAndrew Sieja began his career as a computer programmer specializing in knowledge management solutions and Web storage — and after a few years, the entrepreneur bug bit him. In 2001, he and two friends pooled their resources to form their own software-consulting firm, kCura.After a few years, Sieja, president and CEO, realized that to be a market leader and to have the highest quality of employees, he had to make difficult decisions that might not be popular. There was a department that continuously launched products lacking the quality necessary for the company to maintain its market position. The situation was…
 Private Equity/Venture Capital BackedWINNERWhen they first got into the health insurance business, neither Brandon Cruz nor Clint Jones had much knowledge about the industry, except that there had to be a better way to utilize the Internet to help both the health insurance companies and the individual consumer.This lack of familiarity allowed them to “think outside the box” and be innovators in the industry. Cruz, the president and chief technology officer, and Jones, CEO, founded GoHealth in 2001.With their energy and skills to understand, challenge and help reshape a complex market for health insurance, these entrepreneurs stood apart from others.While…
Consumer Products and ServicesFINALISTWhen Escalade, Inc. was stuck in a rut, it needed a radical business philosophy to become innovative and assume leadership in branding and innovation within the sporting goods market. The development of new product lines had become a secondary priority to the needs of the growing dominance of big box retailers, and that had to change.Bob Keller took the wheel as CEO of Escalade in 2007 with a simple mission: breathe new life into the company. His plan was to use his philosophy to construct a company driven by product development and branding — rather than the…
Health CareFINALISTWith J.P. Fingado as its CEO, API Healthcare has more than doubled the number of hospitals and staffing agency clients it serves and is regarded as the nation’s leader in healthcare-specific workforce management technology.Fingado’s ability to drive such success at API Healthcare is because of his capacity to lead the people working with him. In his four years as CEO, the company’s workforce has increased significantly to match its rising sales growth. But regardless of the company’s size, Fingado’s management philosophy has remained the same: building people based on their strengths, not their weaknesses.The success and record-breaking growth API…
Industrial and DistributionFINALISTWarren Young decided one day at age 50 to pursue an entrepreneurial path. His career had been full of diverse professional experiences. Over the years, he had learned that he was passionate about fixing problems and building businesses. He set off to look for a company to purchase and grow — and Acme Industries, Inc. came into view.When Young purchased Acme from the founders of the company, he made the tough decision to remove members of management who did not share his vision. He did not stand for management members satisfied with the status quo and stagnant growth.Rather,…
The fear of failure is something that even the most successful and gifted of employees can bring with them to the office. They are afraid the product won’t be successful or the phone call won’t be returned. I can still remember being almost terrified to make a sales call on one of the largest food companies in the world because I was afraid I would fail. If we don’t work through this fear, it will almost certainly lead to paralysis. We procrastinate while waiting for better conditions to develop and remain “stuck” where we are, rather than where we want…
Most leaders understand that it’s critically important to collaborate regularly on initiatives with their employees, but are they getting all they can out of these interactions?What leaders may be missing is a new paradigm for employee engagement and competitive advantage.Many of them are working from an old style of management in which business decisions are made at the top and leaders follow a hierarchy of authority. Senior executives must still set strategy and manage for results, but they can likely achieve better outcomes by letting go.Authors Craig Schreiber and Kathleen M. Carley explain that adapting a participative-style leadership environment allows…
Most leaders understand that it’s critically important to collaborate regularly on initiatives with their employees, but are they getting all they can out of these interactions?What leaders may be missing is a new paradigm for employee engagement and competitive advantage.Many of them are working from an old style of management in which business decisions are made at the top and leaders follow a hierarchy of authority. Senior executives must still set strategy and manage for results, but they can likely achieve better outcomes by letting go.Authors Craig Schreiber and Kathleen M. Carley explain that adapting a participative-style leadership environment allows…
More information leads to better decisions, and big data is providing companies with enough background to take much of the guesswork out of decision making.“The larger the data set, the greater the context. Big data promises the tools to make observations much sharper and guide decisions based on facts or highly likely predictions, as opposed to intuition or sheer courage,” says Satyendra Rana, vice president at HTC Global.Smart Business spoke with Rana about how companies can take advantage of big data and its potential for improvement and innovation.What is big data?Big data is a paradigm shift in the way businesses…
Most leaders understand that it’s critically important to collaborate regularly on initiatives with their employees, but are they getting all they can out of these interactions?What leaders may be missing is a new paradigm for employee engagement and competitive advantage.Many of them are working from an old style of management in which business decisions are made at the top and leaders follow a hierarchy of authority. Senior executives must still set strategy and manage for results, but they can likely achieve better outcomes by letting go.Authors Craig Schreiber and Kathleen M. Carley explain that adapting a participative-style leadership environment allows…
Enterprise Content Management (ECM) enables organizations to go beyond traditional document management by providing an integrated enterprise platform for managing the complete life cycle of information, automating content-centric business processes and enabling records management.“Companies are using ECM in a wide variety of ways to solve diverse business problems. New technology innovations are rapidly increasing the capabilities of ECM, making it an even more useful tool,” says Prashant Kothari, head of ECM practice for HTC Global Services.Smart Business spoke with Kothari about ECM and how it can help organizations manage ever-growing content and information.Why ECM is important?An ECM platform can help…
The big buzz in the insurance industry today is around Core Systems Modernization.“Core Systems Modernization is the process of insurance companies adapting to the needs of customers by bringing their processes and technologies using the numerous possibilities available today,” says Vani Prasad, vice president of Insurance Technology for HTC Global Services.There’s a big push toward modernization as companies continue expanding their web presence and establishing mobile solutions to make their products accessible to more customers. By using new technologies such as mobile, virtualization and cloud, companies are building bridges with their current core systems, creating new value from existing assets.…
The big buzz in the insurance industry today is around Core Systems Modernization.“Core Systems Modernization is the process of insurance companies adapting to the needs of customers by bringing their processes and technologies using the numerous possibilities available today,” says Vani Prasad, vice president of Insurance Technology for HTC Global Services.There’s a big push toward modernization as companies continue expanding their web presence and establishing mobile solutions to make their products accessible to more customers. By using new technologies such as mobile, virtualization and cloud, companies are building bridges with their current core systems, creating new value from existing assets.…
Technology – FinalistWhen global e-business leaders WPP Group plc and Deloitte Consulting launched Roundarch in 2000 at the height of the dot-com boom, Jeff Maling and Geoff Cubitt were on board.Five years later, when the company had only one active client and was up for sale, they were still on the scene. But this time, they were the buyers. Their last effort to stay with Roundarch by extending an offer to buy the firm was successful.Since that time, the two co-CEOs have overseen a 40 percent compounded annual growth by offering rich Web applications, mobile apps, digital marketing campaigns and…
Private Equity/Venture Capital -- FinalistDhiraj Rajaram had been working as a strategy consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton when he became intrigued by the lack of people holding analytical positions at this well-known firm.The shortfall in human capital resulted in some 80 percent of the enterprise data not being analyzed. As he looked around the industry, he noticed a lot of companies had very little talent on hand to analyze numbers that could lead to better decisions for their businesses. This convinced Rajaram to create a company that would help institutionalize data-driven decision-making using a global delivery model.In short, Rajaram wanted…
Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:00

Dr. Daphne Preuss, founder and CEO, Chromatin Inc.

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Private Equity/ Venture Capital -- FinalistLike many entrepreneurs, Dr. Daphne Preuss started with a seed of an idea. The difference? Her idea also started with a seed.Preuss launched Chromatin Inc. in 2000 while working as a professor at the University of Chicago. Her research focused on synthetic biology technology to create customized feedstock for the agricultural industry. After founding a business venture to develop this technology, she soon realized that her vision for the company was somewhat different than that of its business leadership. As they pursued a different path with the technology, they struggled to secure financing and new…
Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:01

Gary Rabine, CEO, The Rabine Group

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FINALIST: Master EntrepreneurGary Rabine enjoyed working for his father’s business growing up, cultivating a knack for grading yards and driveways. Later, working for a family friend’s paving company, as well, Rabine realized that paving was his passion. At just 18, he started his own paving business, partnering with his dad and enlisting help from school friends.Thirty years later, Rabine has grown the organization signi?cantly in size, staff, revenue and services offered as CEO of the Schaumburg, Ill.-based Rabine Group. The companies of The Rabine Group provide a wide range of local, regional and national services beyond paving to the commercial,…
Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:00

Honoring the best of the best

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Congratulations to all of the nominees, finalists and winners in the 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Midwest Area program. For more than 25 years, Ernst & Young has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women who make our economy vibrant. This has never been truer than it is today. The energy and passion from these entrepreneurs is being felt in a dramatic fashion throughout the Midwest right now. It is great to see!Ernst & Young is the world leader in advising, guiding and recognizing entrepreneurs and founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year® Program to recognize those…
WINNER: Health SciencesMark Thierer had a vision for SXC Health Solutions Corp. to become the pharmaceutical cost management partner of choice. In his short time as CEO and chairman, he has transformed SXC from a boutique provider of pharmacy bene?ts management (PBM) software to a rapidly growing full-service company.His vision included three goals: developing a ?exible business model based on customization, building a service model to take advantage of SXC’s ?exible technology platform, and executing a strategy to acquire PBM clients.To expand its business, Thierer and his team leveraged a claims processing system along with the knowledge and expertise gained…
Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:01

Elliot Weissbluth, CEO, HighTower

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FINALIST: Emerging EntrepreneurMany ?nancial advisory ?rms talk about putting the needs of their clients ?rst. Elliot Weissbluth wanted HighTower to be a ?rm that actually put that philosophy into practice.He created the company with the idea that his team of advisers would not push plans or products on clients that did not ?t their needs. The goal wasn’t to make the ?rm look good, it was to serve clients the best way possible. By providing that kind of exemplary service, success would no doubt be achieved.Weissbluth gathered the insight and knowledge he would need to lead this kind of firm…
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