Daniel Gizaw founded Danotek Motion Technologies knowing that renewable energy would play a key role in addressing environmental concerns about the world’s depleting natural resources. However, that wasn’t initially his mission for his company.
While Gizaw launched the company to improve energy efficiency in transportation and energy conversion, renewable energy was only a part of the focus. Yet when he saw the value of wind turbine energy in meeting an increasing energy demand, his vision evolved. By expanding on his company’s fuel-efficiency solution, Gizaw innovated the wind turbine industry and transformed Danotek Motion Technologies into the leading developer and manufacturer of permanent magnet generators for wind turbines.
Investing in wind turbine technology was not without risk. As Gizaw and his team approached wind turbine companies with Danotek’s innovative solution for improving the reliability, efficiency and weight of turbines, some initially resisted the change. But Gizaw knew wind turbines were capital intensive and their operation required significant financial sacrifices before there would be progress and stuck with it, even borrowing money from friends to finance Danotek’s payroll.
His determination to see the idea through eventually gained Danotek the support of private equity and venture investors, and he began winning large turbine companies over with his vision and enthusiasm for harnessing the full potential of wind energy in a cost-effective and sustainable way. Before long, Danotek Motion Technologies had secured financing, and the company was well on its way to building a state-of-the-art company, and in 2008, several major wind turbine companies signed a contract to develop up to three of Danotek Motion Technologies’ three megawatt generators.
The market growth, coupled with the profitability of the business, has led Gizaw to focus his business plan on renewable energy and transportation.
How to reach: Danotek Motion Technologies, (734) 426-5976 or www.danotekmotion.com
Each day, Joanne Ducker Ulnick encourages her team at Ducker Worldwide LLC to live the five core values that her father, William Ducker, established when he started the company 50 years ago. The only difference is that she has added a sixth value added to that list: “Ducker’s team members are our key asset which we support, develop and grow.”
With as strong a focus on her people as she has on her clients, Ulnick has continued her father’s legacy of being a pioneer in the business-to-business market research industry. Yet as CEO and managing partner of strategic consulting and research firm, she hasn’t always had an easy road.
Ulnick led the company through challenges including a major loss of senior management, an international expansion strategy, the loss of her father -- and the company’s leader -- and the most recent challenge of a worldwide economic recession. Although many of Ducker’s clients had budgets reduced as much as 90 percent, Ulnick and her team made it their goal to help clients navigate the economic storm by providing them with strategic insights and advice, whether they could pay for it or not. She also maintained a focus on building a culture of mutual support and loyalty to keep her people engaged and motivated.
By investing in clients as partners and demonstrating perseverance and resolve to her team, Ulnick ensured Ducker didn’t lose a single client in this time, and the average client relationship is 15 years.
In 2009, Ulnick saw an opportunity to further expand Ducker’s service offerings, leveraging the firm’s core competencies to become involved in mergers and acquisitions planning. With the new service lines in place, Ducker Worldwide projects annual revenue increases of more than 25 percent over the next five years.
How to reach: Ducker Worldwide LLC, (248) 644-0086 or www.ducker.com
Before research and development was even a department at Duperon Corp., Terry Duperon was already ensuring it played a major role in the vision and direction of his company. From the launch of the company in 1985, Duperon has emphasized that ongoing innovation in ideas and technology would be critical in moving his company forward as a leader in manufacturing mechanically cleaned barscreens and complementary equipment, which is used to manage wastewater, storm water, raw water intakes, beautification and barriers for fish and other aquatic life.
In fact, it’s largely because of Duperon Corp.’s ever-evolving product lines and its patented designs that other vendors are unable to compete. Duperon, who serves as chairman, says the company’s goal is to obsolete itself every seven to 10 years, because if it doesn’t, someone else in the market will. And the result has been impressive, as the company has achieved continued year-over-year growth, with several years of more than 25 percent annual growth.
Duperon’s passion for entrepreneurship is clear to his employees, but it also extends to the community, where he serves as a business mentor and teacher. Duperon teaches a course on entrepreneurship called Duperon Education, which employees and community members attend. Through the course, he teaches others with an entrepreneurial spirit how they, too, can harness the ability to invent and recognize opportunities both in life and in business. Ane he plans to keep spreading his passion for entrepreneurship by leading and motivating his employees to pursue their dreams
Despite the challenges of the recession, Duperon’s ability to inspire his team and be an innovator in engineering, design and manufacturing technology has brought his company continued success, receiving recognition in a variety of publications.
How to reach: Duperon Corp., (989) 754-8800 or www.duperon.com
Everyone is familiar with the Golden Rule, but not everyone uses it to their advantage. That’s not the case for Fred Calero, co-founder, president and COO of EnovateIT, a health care technologies company. Everything Calero does adheres to the Golden Rule, and he and his company are better off because of it.
Calero’s story goes back to the late 1990s when hospitals began to look at making the transition to paperless processes. Calero knew this was inevitable and in 2003, started Enovate with an emphasis on customizing products to meet the needs of individual practitioners and moved to being a manufacturer of carts, wall stations and wall arms. Making that shift was the biggest risk of his life. It was in 2009 when the company decided to shift to manufacturing its own products and it faced a difficult decision. Humanscale, Enovate’s primary vendor at the time, comprised more than 90 percent of its business. Does it tell Humanscale that it is going to compete or spring it on the vendor as it releases new products?
Calero decided to tell Humanscale months in advance that Enovate would become a competitor. Humanscale threatened to cut its product supply but eventually came to an agreement with Calero. He knew it would have been easier to just roll out the new products, but if the tables were turned, he wouldn’t want to be treated that way.
Calero also applies the Golden Rule to employees. Any employee who wants to explore different areas of the company will get a chance to do so. In fact, many of his office employees started on the assembly lines. When you treat people right, it fosters employees who love what they do and look out for the company’s best interests.
HOW TO REACH: EnovateIT, (248) 655-0548 or www.enovateusa.com
Bridget Lemberg, director and toxicologist at Forensic Fluid Laboratories Inc., has been practicing toxicology and pharmacology for more than 20 years. And that experience has led her to develop new methods for oral fluid drug testing and technology.
Lemberg started Forensic Fluid Laboratories in 2005 after a pervious start-up she worked for went bankrupt. She took the technology that she had developed there and used it to start her new company.
In the early stages, Lemberg was on her own, running sales by day and doing lab work by night. Now that the company has grown to 30 employees, she no longer has to run double duty, but that growth hasn’t come without its challenges. Lemberg has worked hard to hire strong employees, develop procedures and policies, and create training and performance measurements.
In its sixth year now, Forensic Fluid Laboratories continues to grow and the testing method developed by Lemberg is gaining traction. Using saliva, according to Lemberg, is more effective than using urine in drug tests. The company’s motto used to be, “Pee for enjoyment, not for employment.” The motto has recently been changed to “Spit on a stick, simple and quick.”
Oral fluid testing is more accurate than urine, it is easily observed, no facilities are needed, it’s virtually impossible to cheat and the test will show what drugs and how much of a drug is in the blood, says Lemberg. Lemberg’s company can also monitor compliance for therapeutic drugs such as Vicodin, Prozac, Ritalin and Xanax, as well.
These practices and methods have helped make Forensic Fluid Laboratories stand out among more conventional labs, and its scientific expertise and state-of-the-art technology save valuable time. As an exclusive industry leader, tests only take five minutes and results come back within 24 hours.
HOW TO REACH: Forensic Fluids Laboratories Inc., (269) 492-7700 or www.forensicfluids.com
Everyone at FloraCraft Corp. strives to put the customer first and goes above and beyond to meet customer needs. That drive for excellent customer satisfaction at the floral and crafts company is a direct result of the leadership that Chairman Lee Schoenherr demonstrates.
Schoenherr always puts customer first and treats them as if they were his boss, as opposed to just a number. His constant effort to treat people right has also given the 200-employee company its family feel. Schoenherr recognizes employee achievements and rewards those who carry out the company’s mission that allow for success.
Schoenherr has built a business model that demonstrates a capacity for innovation and creativity by motivating those around him. He is always looking for ways to recognize and reward his employees, which drives innovation and ideas. Schoenherr is an independent thinker and many of the company’s approaches have been a result of the efforts of the employees, combined with his overall direction.
Schoenherr is never fully satisfied and is always looking for ways to continue to improve the business. From creating better products to finding ways to cut costs, he is driven to deliver a quality product that also saves customers money. He played an integral role in combining the floral side of the business with the craft side by recognizing that Styrofoam could be beneficial to both sides of the company.
FloraCraft expanded to become the largest fabricator of Styrofoam for the floral and craft industry through acquisitions and reinvestment in the company, which required overcoming obstacles such as cost reductions, economies of scale, vertical integration, marketing outside of the industry and major competition. His guidance, leadership and ability to encourage others to be creative and innovative has continued to solidify FloraCraft Corp. in the floral and crafting business for more than 60 years.
HOW TO REACH: FloraCraft Corp., (231) 845-5127 or www.floracraft.com
As a kid, Alan Kaufman wasn’t focused on playing games. Instead, he was busy chasing new business ventures.
Since he was 10, Kaufman has had the drive of an entrepreneur. When other kids opened lemonade stands in front of their homes, Kaufman set up shop at the busiest intersection he could find to beat out the competition.
Today, the chairman, president and CEO of HW Kaufman Financial Group uses that same drive to lead the insurance company to the top of the industry. The perseverance and penchant for risk he showed as a young boy still exist in adulthood. The Kaufman Financial Group was founded by Kaufman’s father in 1969 as a holding company serving general agents and brokers of specialty insurance products and has matured into an unsurpassed network of corporations today.
Kaufman has built the network through mergers and acquisitions, which have fueled the fire of his personal and professional growth throughout his career. His vision of global client service came about in 1996 when he acquired the formerly public company led by his late father.
Kaufman has seen his organization grow to nearly 1,000 employees, and with that kind of growth come challenges. He has faced those challenges by adding management talent and creating a coordinated vision of growth for the many companies within the organization.
Kaufman has built a diversified business model, with the companies within the organization performing differently during certain points in the economic insurance cycle. That, in turn, has provided growth opportunities at all times in the marketplace. Kaufman plans to continue to expand the organization into a global player through the acquisition of companies and talent, increasing market share through innovative new product development and using the latest technology and organic revenue growth, expanding its reputation as a dominant leader in the insurance industry around the world.
HOW TO REACH: HW Kaufman Financial Group, (248) 932-9000 or kaufmanfinancialgroup.com
Dr. Toby Hamilton had spent years working in overburdened, overcrowded emergency departments, where wait times were long and patients’ frustrations were high. He realized he could either spend his career apologizing to patients and their families for the wait, or he could follow his dream.
He knew there had to be a better way to treat patients, so he founded Emerus Emergency Hospitals in 2004 with the idea that the emergency medicine system should be built around the patient and not around the hospital, and that care could be delivered efficiently.
To mitigate the financial risk, he brought on five partners, all of whom were emergency medicine specialist physicians who subscribed to his philosophy of top-notch care delivered quickly.
He saw the competition that he faced, and it annoyed him. Others took advantage of a license the state issued for free-standing emergency rooms and delivered care well below where he wanted it to be. He knew the standards for his hospitals would need to be far higher than those in the guidelines for free-standing ERs because his concept was more robust and needed to allow for inpatient beds to treat the types of cases he envisioned his business taking on.
And to further prove the difference to patients, in 2010, he launched a “15 minutes or it’s free” campaign that promised patients that they would be seen by a physician within 15 minutes of filling out their paperwork, or their care would be free.
His commitment to higher standards paid off. The hospitals have experienced tremendous growth over the past seven years and his competitors are attempting to replicate his initiatives in their own models. But while many try to imitate, none has succeeded because of how high those standards are.
How to reach: Emerus Emergency Hospitals, (281) 292-2450 or www.emerus.com
The word Contango isn’t found in any dictionary, yet it is used every day by natural gas and oil traders and NYMEX floor brokers.
Contango describes a market condition of expected rising prices. Expected declining prices are referred to as backwardated. Because Kenneth Peak, founder, chairman and CEO, takes prides in his company’s forward thinking, he thought Contango Oil & Gas Co. sounded better than Backwardated Oil & Gas Co.
Peak founded Contango, an independent natural gas and oil company, at the age of 54 using his life savings. He has built the business by outsourcing as much as possible and running the company with only a handful of employees. The continuing decline in computing power costs are revolutionizing business, lowering barriers to entry, leveling the competitive playing field between big and small companies and allowing talented people to freelance as never before.
Consolidation continues to dominate the natural gas and oil exploration industry, with companies rationalizing their assets, and downsizing their staffs. “Do more with less” is the industry’s credo, creating opportunity for Contango by increasing the pool of talented people, as well as making available prospects and producing assets that no longer fit the strategy of larger companies.
Peak believes what sets Contango apart from other companies is not what it does, but how it does it. The company has organized itself and set goals that are simple and clear: to build a profitable, independent natural gas and oil company.
Peak judges Contango like a competition, and the company is shooting for 10s for originality in its daily work. When Contango does a routine job that everybody in the business does, its goal is to do it better than anyone else. Peak strives for exceptional execution of any ordinary task, and if the business can score mostly 10s, it will foster a fun, exciting, and profitable company.
HOW TO REACH: Contango Oil & Gas Co., (713) 960-1901 or www.contango.com
Chief R. Davis, owner, president and CEO of Chief Solutions Inc. and Chief Contractors Inc., has been in the sanitary engineering industry for more than 28 years.
In 1985, he started Chief Contractors Inc. to begin installation of sewer systems and related work. Davis founded Chief Solutions Inc in 1999 with a brand name that better fit the engineering and wastewater industry, and Chief Contractors remains an active company and hard assets holding company.
For more than 20 years, Davis has grown Chief Solutions into a successful and competitive business that keeps up with the latest technology and trends in the sanitary engineering industry and pre-engineering evaluation and inspection services, providing crucial engineering data for more than 108 million feet of storm and sanitary sewer lines. He holds several patents on inspection equipment and renewable energy patents in the United States and abroad and is always open to new ideas pertaining to the market and his business to help move the company to the next level.
His company has offices in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and Indiana, with plans to expand into several more states in the near future. Davis has continued to provide his clients with the very best service and strives to complete all projects on time and with exceptional service.
Davis is a hard-working business leader who continues to look for growth opportunities and ways to put his company ahead of competition. In 2007 he was inducted into the National Hall of Fame of the National Association of Minority Contractors and in 2010 he was awarded the Minority Mentor of the Year Award by Greater Houston Business Procurement Forum.
HOW TO REACH: Chief Solutions Inc., (713) 202-8573 or www.chiefsolutionsinc.com