As the head of Chase Plastic Services Inc., Kevin Chase has always been an entrepreneur at heart. The principles and discipline he brings to the of?ce permeate the company’s culture and energize his workforce as they work toward common goals. Together with his wife Carole, they framed their vision in a manner so that their employees are driven and dedicated.
At the outset, it was only Kevin, the president, and Carole, vice president. As a young couple with two children, establishing a business was a very bold move. Despite their circumstances, the couple worked hard to create a company capable of producing the type of service they dreamed of.
Chase Plastic Services is the product of the couple’s vision, integrity and perseverance. The business is small-to-medium-sized, with a much stronger emphasis on the customer than the typical plastics provider. Education and knowledge are critical tools used for approaching a decision. Unlike larger plastics providers, bureaucracy is kept to a minimum and employees are carefully selected to ful?ll a need when it arises.
It is through their strong devotion to integrity, discipline and strength of character that the Chases formed their company’s core ideology of “Purpose + Core Values.” The company’s purpose is to provide world-class service to their customers and suppliers, while their core value is customer satisfaction as a result of high expectations, execution, teamwork, character and independence.
The Chases lead by example and inspire employees to embody these principles in their professional and personal lives. In developing their management style and company goals, they have leveraged the concepts in Jim Collins’ books “Built to Last” and “Good to Great.” They also constantly examine industry trends, looking for expansion opportunities.
HOW TO REACH: Chase Plastic Services Inc., www.chaseplastics.com
As the second-generation CEO of Butterball Farms Inc., Mark Peters has successfully managed to build upon the success of his father and grow the company into an industry leader.
According to business experts, family businesses survive through a second generation only 30 percent of the time. Through hard work, the in?uence of a number of mentors and leveraging a proven product, Peters has beaten those odds. He has successfully led Butterball Farms and positioned it for signi?cant growth moving forward.
As the founding CEO, the strength of Peters’ father was entrepreneurship, not delegation, so when Peters suddenly became CEO upon his father’s death in 1995, he admittedly struggled to keep a debt-free company a?oat. Within the ?rst two years, the company was nearly bankrupt.
However, by looking at the company in his own way, Peters was able to put his own experience and talents to work. Ultimately, he didn’t just stabilize Butterball Farms, he put it on a path to growth.
The current Butterball Farms management team is a re?ection of Peters, which is a complete, 180-degree change from when he ?rst took over. De?ned by their hard work, experience, intelligence and values, Peters gives his management team signi?cant autonomy as it handles a majority of the day-to-day business. Peters’ delegation philosophy allows him to focus on the future growth of the company.
In short, the key to his management team is trust in his people — that they are the right people for the job, will do the best possible work with minimal supervision from Peters and will adhere to executing on Peters’ strategy and vision for the future of Butterball Farms.
HOW TO REACH: Butterball Farms Inc., www.butterballfarms.com
In 2006, after years of making pickles in their tiny Michigan kitchen and using their great-grandmother Lala’s recipe, Joseph McClure and his brother, Bob, started McClure’s Pickles. Six years later, the company has expanded and now produces relish, bloody mary mix and other products. The McClures credit their steady growth to putting the customer and product ?rst. They place all of their efforts into the best possible product and service and let their customers’ word-of-mouth do the rest.
Although their products are now sold in major retail chains across North America, the United Kingdom and Australia, Joe McClure can still be found greeting customers at the Detroit farmer’s market where they began selling the pickles.
The personal engagement McClure’s Pickles has with its customers, in person and through social networks, continues to shape its products. In fact, in 2011, a customer’s online suggestion resulted in collaboration with Detroit’s Better Made Potato Chips to create the McClure’s Pickles chip line. McClure’s Pickles continues to grow and would like to add to its product line, continue to partner with other companies and expand the company’s capacity to accelerate its future growth.
The company recently moved from a 3,000-square-foot facility into a 20,000-squarefoot warehouse. It currently operates in about 15 states, Canada and Australia but plans on branching out to other major metropolitan cities in the United States.
As Detroit recovers from a tough economic hit, the move has become symbolic of new beginnings for many residents. From donating products for others’ new business launches to mentoring and providing warehouse space, the McClures place a high priority on fostering fellow growth.
HOW TO REACH: McClure’s Pickles, www.mcclurespickles.com
When Michael Uckele began negotiations to take over his family’s nutrition supplement business in 2005, it was a troubled time for the company. Uckele Health & Nutrition Inc. had just been hit with a large lawsuit settlement and sales had plummeted 50 percent to $1 million. Uckele negotiated a purchase of the company from his father and his uncle and set to work turning the company around.
Uckele put in a great deal of time and effort in the early stages of building up the company but eventually realized he could work 24 hours a day and never complete all the tasks needed to grow the company, so he began hiring a team to share the workload.
Among the new team members were an operations chief and a team of nutritionists to create the detailed formulas used in the company’s products. Uckele says the best advice he received was from one of his mentors: “Don’t overload your superstars.” Today, Uckele’s leadership style is a collaborative one. He recognizes that his forté is working with customers to develop concepts for products that will meet their needs. He works with his executive team to brainstorm the details of the products, and then they turn it over to their staff to carry out the production. Uckele de?nes success by how innovative his people are working together, how well the products they develop meet their customers’ needs and how happy his employees are.
Since Uckele took over the company, things have fallen into place. Uckele Health & Nutrition has quadrupled its staff, boosted its revenue and now ships its products to more than 40 countries worldwide.
HOW TO REACH: Uckele Health & Nutrition Inc., www.uckele.com
Even the most daring entrepreneurs wouldn’t consider the midst of a recession to be the best time to start a business, especially one in which they had no experience while using their entire retirement fund to do so. But that’s just what Pam Turkin did in 2009 when she launched Just Baked, a Livonia, Mich.-based cupcake bakery.
Without experience in the culinary arts, Turkin began learning everything there was to know about the baked goods industry by researching existing companies, studying numerous recipe books and reading Internet blogs. She spent her weekends trying out cupcake recipes, and a year later, she opened her ?rst bakery selling wholesale to local stores. After selling excess cupcakes from an order to the public resulted in a high return, Turkin quit her job in marketing and dived into the bakery full time, selling to the public.
Just Baked has since grown into a 12-store chain throughout metro Detroit. The company has investment to expand the franchise nationally and into approximately 10,000 grocery stores, already selling to The Kroger Co., Meijer Inc. and within Detroit Metro Airport.
Despite its rapid growth, Turkin has maintained a high level of personal involvement in her company. She often places orders, personally delivers cupcakes and even makes an effort to work a full day in the bakery so that she is familiar with both her product and her employees.
All of Just Baked’s cupcakes are made fresh daily using the highest-grade ingredients, with time put into presentation. The company offers more than 50 different ?avors of gourmet “jumbo” cupcakes, as well as “mini” cupcakes, homemade brownies, cookies, scones, granola, decorated layer cakes and more.
HOW TO REACH: Just Baked, www.justbakedshop.com
Ryan Blair’s life is an open book, literally. His story of graduating from the life of a gang member to that of a millionaire is portrayed in The New York Times best-seller titled, “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I went from Gang Member to Millionaire Entrepreneur.”
Blair is the co-founder and CEO of ViSalus Sciences, a marketer and distributor of health and wellness products. He founded his ?rst company at the age of 21 and started and sold two others before he helped found ViSalus. The company employs thousands of people and has more than 60,000 distributors worldwide.
ViSalus grew quickly, and in 2008, it was sold to Blyth Inc. A few months later, the economic recession hit and ViSalus was left one month away from having to declare bankruptcy. Blair and his co-founders invested all of their savings to give ViSalus one more month of operating capital to test an idea they believed would save the company — the Body by Vi 90-Day Challenge. In July 2009, the Body by Vi 90-Day Challenge was launched with little response. The move was a total corporate transformation and a huge risk, which looked as though it would result in failure. However, Blair’s industry disruptive business model of acquiring customers by leveraging mobile and social technology started to gain traction. That year, the company’s revenue tripled, and in 2011, ViSalus saw sales increase sevenfold, and they haven’t slowed since.
The new business platform leveraged the primary strengths of network sales: momentum and social marketing. ViSalus continues to gain customers through a customer-?rst approach and a focus on customer acquisition and retention. In February 2012, the company added 113,000 new members and currently boasts an 8-to-1 customer-to-promoter ratio.
HOW TO REACH: ViSalus Sciences, www.visalus.com
As president and CEO of Plex Systems Inc., Mark Symonds has high standards for his company and his employees, but he also works hard to create a culture of fun and creativity. Symonds knows a major leadership challenge is putting the right people in place at a company to allow for growth while also keeping the culture protected. At Plex Systems, a developer of the Plex Online cloud and SaaS ERP solution for the manufacturing enterprise, he has put in place a culture that helps employees feel like they are part of important decisions at the company.
In addition to hiring the best people with solid work ethics, Symonds makes it a point to cultivate trust with employees. It’s why he decided not to cut any employees during the recession.
The fact that one of Plex Systems’ core values is meritocracy, eliminating seniority, also opens the culture up for idea sharing. Symonds doesn’t just expect managers to come up with new ideas for innovation and growth; he wants ideas from every employee. Building break and game rooms throughout company facilities is one way he fosters an environment of collaboration and openness among employees in all areas of the organization.
By building employee trust and collaboration, Symonds has led the company to increase its revenues while competitors’ decreased. He makes it a priority to keep rolling out new ideas and improvements for software that provide value to the company’s customers in real time. The company’s Plex Online system for manufacturers has been recognized with numerous awards for its innovation and technology, which is a testament to the company’s culture that allows employees to feel valued and makes them always want to produce at a higher level.
HOW TO REACH: Plex Systems Inc., www.plex.com
Lynn Mustazza has been an entrepreneur since the age of 5, when she convinced her parents to purchase a Frosty the Snow Man snow-cone machine. With the machine in a wagon and the wagon in hand, Mustazza hit the streets, soon turning a 3-cent pro?t. Unfortunately, her venture was cut short when the neighborhood bully took her money and broke her machine.
Her success as the founder and current president and CEO of Jawood Business Process Solutions LLC has been much greater and far more enduring. The Bingham Farms, Mich.-based provider of IT and business process solutions has provided consulting services to the health care payer industry for more than 20 years.
Jawood began in the mid-1980s, amid what could be considered a crisis, when Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan downsized its workforce through an early retirement program. Mustazza connected with ?ve other employees who had left BCBSM to turn this crisis into an opportunity.
Jawood, started primarily as an employee leasing company, hiring many former BCBSM personnel and contracting them back to BCBSM. It has since evolved and become an industry leader in IT consulting and process solutions to Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies, as well as other health care payers across the Midwest.
Mustazza has led the company’s evolution into an industry leader in IT consulting and process solutions, which has led to explosive growth. The company has more than doubled its revenue in the past six years, and grown to almost 350 employees. The personalized and ?exible environment Mustazza maintains has resulted in an impressive 95 percent retention rate.
HOW TO REACH: Jawood Business Process Solutions LLC, www.jawood.com
Sabah Ammouri immigrated to America with his family at the age of 5. Originally from Iraq, Ammouri spent his childhood overcoming language, cultural barriers and ?nancial instability.
The challenges of his early life helped instill in him a strong work ethic. He used his determination and willingness to work hard as the building blocks for a successful business career, establishing ATM of America Inc. in 2001 and growing it into Michigan’s largest independent sales organization.
At ATM of America, President and CEO Ammouri has established a culture in which everyone feels empowered to go above and beyond to serve customers. The culture is advanced by the team Ammouri has assembled. His handpicked team of six to eight individuals possesses the same passion for rede?ning success, expressing their entrepreneurial spirit and excelling in the ?nancial services industry. Ammouri believes the relationships he has built, both inside and outside the company, are the key to the great achievements and lofty reputation of his company.
Throughout his journey, as he established ATM of America as a successful company, Ammouri still continued to meet and overcome challenges. In the early stages of his business, ATMs were less popular than they are now. Ammouri had to convince his merchant customers of the future success ATM services had to offer.
His persuasion paid off as electronic ?nancial services became a major player in today’s society. Ammouri’s initial risk paid off greatly for his customers and himself. Using the momentum from those initial wins, Ammouri has branched out to Platinum Processing, a new company he founded that caters to credit card processing, going hand in hand with the services offered by ATM of America.
HOW TO REACH: ATM of America Inc., www.atmofamerica.com
When you walk into the environment Rich Sheridan has created at Menlo Innovations LLC, it looks less like the software company that it is and more like a classroom or advertising agency.
Noticeably missing from Menlo is the presence of cubicles or of?ces. Employees gather around tables to work and communicate openly and frequently with each other. Even Sheridan, co-founder and CEO, sits among his staff, not isolated in an of?ce. The atmosphere is light and collaborative, with a casual dress code and open arena setting.
Menlo employees work in pairs each week, sharing one computer and switching partners each week. Employees work 40 hours a week, never on weekends and are always encouraged to take vacation time. This originality and innovation is what has set Menlo apart from its competitors. Sheridan applies the concepts to everything within his company, from a simple paper and board design to indicate what each team is working on each week to hiring people as “high-tech anthropologists” to study each customer and client. These employees and teams examine company work processes, culture, employee breakdown and user/ system interaction.
Menlo has been named one of Inc. magazine’s fastestgrowing companies in America since 2007 and shows no signs of slowing down. It is moving to a new of?ce location in downtown Ann Arbor that will triple its current square footage. In addition, the company plans to continue its entrepreneurial incubation efforts. Sheridan invests time, personal resources and support to help employees create new businesses and follow their own entrepreneurial goals. Sheridan sits on many nonpro?t boards, and Menlo regularly sponsors many nonpro?ts and events, including United Way, Ann Arbor Summer Festival, St. Luke Lutheran Church, Michigan Israel Business Bridge and more.
HOW TO REACH: Menlo Innovations, www.menloinnovations.com