WINNER / SERVICES
Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Charles Sanders launched his mortgage service company, initially called Urban Settlement Services, out of the basement of his home in 2002.
Ten years later, thanks to Sanders’ entrepreneurial drive and his ability to recognize and react to changing market conditions, Urban Lending Solutions has ballooned to employ more than 800 people. It is ranked as the nation’s 28th-largest black-owned business and Black Enterprise magazine’s top-ranked growth company for 2010, a year during which the company posted a 231 percent jump in revenue.
Sanders, founder and CEO, formed the company to cultivate an opportunity he saw to take a number of “back room” lending operations such as title search and appraisal and to package them, ultimately offering a service to larger ?nancial institutions. He led the company with dedication and teamwork and built a reputation by providing title and loan origination services for people buying homes and produced some of the fastest turnaround times in the industry.
With the onslaught of the mortgage crisis in 2008, Sanders saw an opportunity to help more people, so he risked a shift in focus and retooled the company’s resources to serve the home-retention market. As the housing market fell, he transformed the company’s services to partner with ?nancial institutions to provide homeowners with options to save their homes. Sanders’ vision, leadership and delivery of services have since helped more than a million families retain their homes.
The growth and success of the company over the last ?ve years is a result of Sanders’ ability to recognize emerging markets and areas where people need assistance and to successfully marry those needs to the company’s solution management capabilities. ?
HOW TO REACH: Urban Lending Solutions, www.urban-ls.com
The sump pump market in which Glentronics Inc. competes is very established and has dozens of competitors. Prior to the company entering the field, much of it was dominated by one product. Today, that product is almost nonexistent, and Glentronics leads the market these days. Alan Schulman, president and CEO of Glentronics, is the man behind that growth.
Schulman believes that perseverance and a positive attitude will allow him to achieve any goal. These traits were essential to Schulman developing the first Glentronics product, the Basement Watchdog battery backup sump pump. It took 2½ years to develop from concept to availability, but Schulman had a feeling he was on to something that would become popular.
Twenty-two years later, Glentronics commands 85 percent of the world market for backup sump pumps. Since the company’s inception in 1989, its master theme has been to create proprietary products that provide users a superior method of accomplishing a task. From one brand of sump pump to four different models today, Glentronics has expanded its technology and has developed several patents.
The competitive advantage of the Basement Watchdog and PHC Pro Series branded backup sump pumps has been the unique self-monitoring features incorporated into the controllers. These alarm and monitoring features alert the user when maintenance is needed while performing dependably and offering energy savings.
It is Schulman’s goal to get the whole sump pump industry to use his energy-efficient design. With only the concept of building a better mousetrap, Schulman and Glentronics have established a brand known for quality products.
How to reach: Glentronics Inc., www.glentronics.com
FINALIST / NONPROFIT
When Grant Oliphant joined The Pittsburgh Foundation in March 2008, he was quick to point out that the organization urgently needed to rede?ne its role in the Pittsburgh community. But few knew the pace and extent of the changes that he had planned as president and CEO of one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the U.S.
In just four years, Oliphant has led the organization through a major transformation, positioning the foundation as a model for innovative developments and strategies in philanthropy. At a time when many other community foundations were at a crossroads during the economic downturn, Oliphant recognized that it was critical that the foundation ?nd new ways to serve the regional community and enhance services for donors.
Under Oliphant’s leadership, The Pittsburgh Foundation has renewed its focus on engaging its key constituents through new community programs and initiatives. This includes launching a $250 million Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program for students of Pittsburgh Public Schools as well as PittsburghGives, an online fundraising and research portal to raise money for local nonpro?ts. Both programs have become national models for other community foundations and fundraising organizations.
Oliphant’s commitment to continuous improvement has driven The Pittsburgh Foundation to increase its total funds as well as its philanthropic reach.
During his tenure, the organization has achieved many signi?cant milestones. Among these are developing a social media strategy, upgrading its website, realigning its grant-making strategy and creating the Legacy Fund, a vehicle by which it can now invest its own assets to support regional and national nonpro?t organizations.
As a result, it has not only managed to grow through economic downturn but has accomplished successive record fundraising years in 2010 and 2011. ?
HOW TO REACH: The Pittsburgh Foundation, www.pittsburghfoundation.org
Tim McEnery always knew he wanted to be a restaurateur. Starting out in hospitality at the age of 11 as a dishwasher, he worked his way through the ranks to become a manager by high school.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in restaurant and hotel management from Purdue University, McEnery was hired as a general manager of Green Gardens Country Club in the southern suburbs of Chicago. However, at the age of 21, he quickly found himself succeeding at what people twice his age aimed to do.
Then, after attending a wine tasting, McEnery spotted an opportunity when he discovered few wineries had restaurants. In 2005, he opened the first Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant and has expanded to eight locations with three to four additional units scheduled to open in 2012.
McEnery attributes much of his success to the Cooper’s Hawk Wine Club, a point-based loyalty program combined with a monthly wine club. He even hired an internal technology team to design proprietary software to manage the club.
McEnery also understands his employees need to be knowledgeable, so he created a wine training program. The program includes daily pre-service tasting sessions and daylong education courses. After completing the courses, Cooper’s Hawk helps employees prepare for the Introductory Sommelier Course held by the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Cooper’s Hawk is also involved in the community and has developed the Cooper’s Hawk Cares program that donates to various nonprofit organizations. McEnery hosts a Wine Club Golf Outing each year to support Chicagoland’s Keep on Keeping On Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting the local special needs community. The outing has raised more than $50,000 for the organization in three years.
How to reach: Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants, www.coopershawkwinery.com
WINNER / NONPROFIT
Michael Robb is energetic and passionate about serving the Pittsburgh region. He is the executive director of three nonpro?t organizations: Center for Community Resources, Alliance for Nonpro?t Resources and the Nonpro?t Development Corp. Over the course of six years, CCR, a nonpro?t providing support and services throughout its community, has grown from one organization into three and from 52 employees to 139.
This success is a result of Robb’s visionary ideas. He has converted his vision into reality through his strong leadership skills and his ability to manage people, ?nances and systems. He thinks on his feet, uses human and ?nancial resources to overcome obstacles and doesn’t let a “no” stop him when he knows it’s the right direction for the organization.
While CCR cut its budget this year, Robb continued to look for ways to improve the organization. CCR has been expanding programs outside of Butler County. Alliance is expanding its grants and marketing department. NDC is coordinating a housing initiative for low-income, ?rst-time home buyers in Butler County.
Robb currently oversees 59 programs available to more than 180,000 residents throughout the region. He pursues programs and services that aren’t currently being offered to ?ll gaps and expand service lines. He also looks to ?x those that are not operating ef?ciently.
Robb consistently applies three principles as the business model for each of the agency’s programs: provide a quality service, operate a program in a supportive environment and administer a program at an affordable cost.
CCR is currently pursuing agencywide compliance and accreditation to strengthen its infrastructure. When completed, the organization will be able to offer its plan to other agencies to enhance the entire nonpro?t community. ?
HOW TO REACH: Center for Community Resources, www.ccrinfo.org
Since his childhood, teamwork has played an important role in the life of The Finish Line Inc.’s chairman and CEO, Glenn Lyon. Growing up from humble beginnings in Brooklyn, N.Y., Lyon sought opportunities to join teams and lead them, whether playing Little League Baseball or serving as president of his high school class.
Now at The Finish Line, a retailer of athletic shoes, apparel and accessories, he has continued his focus on team building. When he became CEO in 2009, he issued a challenge to his vice president of human resources: Make The Finish Line the best place to work in Indianapolis. The company realized that goal this year when the Indianapolis Star selected it as one of the Top Workplaces for 2012.
Lyon helped achieve this distinction by putting a focus on pay-for-performance culture where results are prized and people are rewarded accordingly. His team has been behind upgrades in many benefit plans while keeping costs in line or under industry norms.
Lyon’s team has also put in place a new strategically driven corporate social responsibility program. This year it launched a multi-year, multi-million dollar commitment to the Special Olympics through the company’s Finish Line Youth Foundation. The foundation has raised millions for children’s organizations, including a record $1.78 million in its 2011 holiday campaign alone.
In the future, Lyon plans to continue his focus on omni-channel retailing, a concept that calls for a consistent and seamless customer experience across multiple platforms — stores, digital, mobile, social and catalogs. It requires a total transformation of The Finish Line’s core technology systems, stores, marketing and operations.
How to reach: The Finish Line Inc., www.finishline.com
FINALIST / MANUFACTURING
Fred Potthoff knows ?rsthand the power of establishing relationships. As a young pharmaceutical salesman, his career was propelled upward when a parking attendant he’d gotten to know at one of his call sites was asked for advice on ?lling a sales position. That attendant recommended Potthoff, and he secured the job.
Potthoff has incorporated this lesson of maintaining and developing relationships into the business he co-founded in 1988 — Kroff Inc., based in Pittsburgh. He has since grown the company — at an average annual growth rate of 24 percent — by developing relationships with and empowering his 70-person staff.
To nurture strong relationships with employees, Potthoff ?rst ensures a good ?t by being involved in the hiring process. He offers highly competitive salaries to attract and retain topnotch sales candidates with degrees in chemical engineering and provides uncapped commissions to his sales team.
The strength of his associate relationships can be seen in the geographic growth of the company, in addition to revenue. Kroff has become a holding company encompassing eight businesses — most developed by Kroff employees who saw a new market opportunity.
Potthoff and his partner gave them the opportunity to run their “business within a business,” and this trust has paid off with the expansion of projects to Japan, Europe, Africa and South America.
Its continued diversi?cation led the company to being voted into Pittsburgh’s 100 fastest-growing private companies for 2010.
Kroff companies provide an array of products and services for customized chemical, engineering and technology solutions, optimizing environmental, manufacturing and water treatment processes by reducing downtime and meeting the regulatory requirements of customers.
Outside of Kroff, Potthoff has done extensive volunteer work and serves on several boards and donates to Urban Impact and The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. ?
HOW TO REACH: Kroff Inc., www.kroff.com
FINALIST - Technology
co-founder and CEO
After top executives at several companies told Will Fleming and his co-founder, Adam Rubenstein, that they saw a need in the future for having multilingual websites, they created MotionPoint Corp.
While there was a demand for multilingual websites, companies did not want the costly IT investment necessary to maintain mirror sites.
So Fleming went to work on ?nding a better solution. Initially when MotionPoint, a translation and globalization services company, was founded in 2000, its focus was to help online retailers provide more complete, accurate and timely product information to shoppers.
One of the most popular features of MotionPoint’s “virtual product brochures” was consumers’ ability to view product information in different languages.
MotionPoint soon learned that while retailers had a limited need for its virtual brochures, nearly every company with a diverse customer base was interested in making its website multilingual.
As co-founder and CEO of MotionPoint, Fleming listened to what people were asking for.
The company developed a suite of patent-protected technologies that make it quick and easy to add any language to any website — without any client IT development.
Companies can provide MotionPoint with the main language site and its software translates the website into multiple languages.
MotionPoint’s systems are capable of performing the same change to the translated sites without someone having to maintain a mirror site and sift through coding to isolate the change, resulting in a more cost-ef?cient option.
This approach continues to be a game-changer, eliminating the cost and complexity traditionally required by website translation.
MotionPoint’s ?rst multilingual website client debuted in Spanish in 2003. Fifteen more sites followed in 2004.
By 2007, MotionPoint was launching more than 100 websites every year. Today, MotionPoint services hundreds of clients, serving billions of multilingual Web pages each year.
HOW TO REACH: MotionPoint Corp., www.motionpoint.com
Dhiraj 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 to establish the world’s largest math factory. To get started, he quit his job, sold his home, moved into a single bedroom apartment with his wife and newborn son and invested in what would become Mu Sigma Inc.
For the first six months, Rajaram tried to make headway with very little success. But finally, Microsoft decided to give Mu Sigma a shot. It was a small opportunity, but it was the chance Rajaram had been looking for. Shortly after that, three more clients showed interest and the momentum continued to build.
Seven years later, Rajaram is the chairman and CEO of the largest pure play analytics service provider in the world. Mu Sigma offers marketing, risk and supply chain analytics to multiple Fortune 500 companies and employs more than 1,500 people around the world. It drove disruptive innovation in the industry by integrating the disciplines of math, business and technology, which brought a harmony between the creation and consumption of analytics.
How to reach: Mu Sigma Inc., www.mu-sigma.com
FINALIST / MANUFACTURING
William Baker’s willingness to take risks in the face of uncertainty has propelled Irwin Car and Equipment into new niche markets, new product and service offerings, and ultimately, new revenue.
When President and CEO Baker bought the Irwin, Pa.-based engineering and manufacturing company 19 years ago, it was already well established as a key player in the state’s mining industry. Baker has built upon this foundation and expanded its capacity and product lines to include heavy-duty material handling equipment for the metals industry as well.
He’s led 13 product line acquisitions of synergistically related companies and product lines as well as added several distribution product lines. By diversifying services and expanding to seven niche-like business units, Baker ensured Irwin was stable when the recession hit.
His willingness to take risks continued to prevail despite this recession. Throughout 2008 and 2009, Baker invested in new CNC machinery and a high-tech quality and research and development laboratory. He also expanded the company’s Blairsville facility twice in three years.
The company’s ever-evolving capabilities ensure it meets the customer-speci?c needs of the industries it serves. In fact, Irwin manufactures about 80 percent of its industrial products in direct response to its customers’ needs.
Baker has ensured that Irwin is more than only a fabrication shop, bringing the weight of the company’s experience to bear on customers’ projects.
Baker’s investment in reassessing the company’s capabilities and infrastructure has put Irwin in a position for explosive growth as the economy picks up. The business ?nished 2011 with the highest sales revenue in its history and has had a record start in 2012. It employs 106 people, grown from seven when Baker ?rst joined the company. ?
HOW TO REACH: Irwin Car and Equipment, www.irwincar.com