Jai Shekhawat didn’t have a whole lot of substance to offer when he began his effort to start Fieldglass. He didn’t have experience raising money, and he only had a vision in his own mind of what the company could be. On the personal side, he had a wife at home taking care of the couple’s new baby and a pile of school debt.
Things picked up a bit when he was able to recruit a team to help him on his quest. But then he got rejections from more than 90 venture firms, had a dispute with a vendor, watched expected wins turn into losses and came within a week of missing payroll.
But Shekhawat remained confident that he had a great idea. He wanted to provide firms with software that would enable them to engage more effectively with providers of contract labor.
So he tweaked his model and began to better understand the nuances of buyer-supplier interactions. He developed a model that took out cost and increased efficiency in these interactions, focusing on partnering instead of competing with staffing firms.
And while Fieldglass wasn’t the first company to do business in this area, Shekhawat’s partner model was unique and remains the only successful model in the industry.
His transaction pricing model was another challenge for Shekhawat as it was considered to be unworkable by many in the e-procurement sector. Today, however, it is the industry standard.
Shekhawat is committed to sharing his story of persistence and determination. He is a frequent guest speaker at local MBA schools on the topics of entrepreneurship, strategy and fundraising.
His attitude of helping others and serving as a mentor to those who work with him has influenced the community and his company, where turnover is less than 10 percent annually.
How to reach: Fieldglass, (312) 279-8700 or www.fieldglass.com
John Priest and big challenges are old friends. They’ve become acquainted through corporate restructuring efforts that Priest has led around the world, whether he was creating the first direct marketing program in Argentina or reinventing credit products in South Africa.
When you add his experience as a naval officer, Priest has gained tons of experience and put his natural curiosity to great use solving problems.
He put all these traits to use when he was asked to review business operations at Equable Ascent Financial LLC in 2007. The firm that specializes in distressed accounts receivable had been focused on growth but was overexposed to an asset bubble and was struggling.
Priest needed to shift the culture and create a renewed sense of purpose. He took on the roles of CEO, CFO and several other key leadership positions to set a tone and of high energy to get things turned around.
He implemented analytics and created metrics to measure performance. Despite financial pressures and challenges, Priest got his team to work with him to develop a new vision that help Equable gain market share and improve cash flow. He made smart decisions about when to invest, pulling back in 2008 as the recession grabbed hold of the economy.
This cut management bonuses temporarily, but Priest saw the bigger picture and generated even more support with his determination.
He listened to his people and pushed innovation down to all levels, resulting in great success stories to assist customers and make his company that much better at doing their jobs.
Priest is a firm believer that innovation must bubble up to management rather than be supported from the top down. He has also seen that when a company emphasizes doing the right thing at all times, good things happen including long-term success and employee retention.
How to reach: Equable Ascent Financial LLC, (847) 504-3261 or www.eafllc.com
While some might withdraw into their pain and suffering following an accident that left them seriously injured with years of recuperation ahead, Jason Wolfe used the time to teach himself about the Internet and to learn software programming.
He had learned how to overcome obstacles in life before ? he attended the Milton Hershey School for the poor and economically disadvantaged. Upon graduation, he started his adult life with the suitcase of clothes and $100 that the school gave him.
After working his way through college, he was injured while working as a whitewater rafting tour guide. During his recovery, he launched the Internet’s first coupon website, which was later called MyCoupons.com, capitalizing on the spirit of perseverance he developed over the years.
Despite some lean times, which once included having to live out of his 1984 Jeep Cherokee, he was able to raise venture capital funds and generate significant sales. The company grew to five divisions with 65 employees.
Wolfe then formed Wolfe LLC to consolidate reward, loyalty, coupon and incentive companies under one roof to serve major corporations as well as regular customers. He bought and built out a secure Visa and MasterCard certified fulfillment center and purchased on-demand printing equipment to print gift cards, reward cards and coupons.
Still remembering his humble origins, Wolfe has been to Haiti twice on mission trips to assist victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The company grants $500 per employee to give to the charity of his or her choice ? in his or her name. The employees can then utilize Wolfe’s GroupGifting technology and social media reach to promote their selected charity.
Employees also benefit from a profit-sharing program. The company turns over 10 to 15 percent of its profits directly to employees, further reinforcing the company culture of teamwork, giving, and setting and achieving big goals.
How to reach: Wolfe LLC, (877) 746-6664 or www.wolfe.com
An old proverb says if you find a need, fill it. And three longtime leaders in the financial services sector saw that it was time to start a full-service commercial bank, TriState Capital, with a niche focus on middle-market businesses, their owners and other high-net-worth individuals.
James Getz, chairman and CEO, Mark Sullivan, vice chairman and chief financial officer, and Bill Schenck, president, were at the point where they could have been considering retirement, but they envisioned a business model staffed by highly experienced and professional bankers who would focus on serving the needs of customers, bringing the personal touch of a small bank coupled with the products and sophistication of a larger bank.
Nearly a year later, the bank had substantial total assets. Revenue grew nearly 800 percent from 2008 to 2010.
This success has its foundation in its founders’ dedication to building relationships with customers. Trust, integrity and proven success are also key aspects of that foundation. When it comes to technology, the trio believes that it should be enabling, unobtrusive and seamless. Customers can take advantage of online banking that rivals big-bank capabilities.
The three founders plan to continue to grow their business on the same principles that have produced unmatched success so far and envision opening offices in two to four markets by 2013. Their financial expertise, salesmanship and entrepreneurial mindset were instrumental in founding TriState, and continue to be highly important in its operation and growth.
At the end of 2010, TriState ranked 406th in total assets among 7,667 commercial banks, savings banks and savings institutions nationwide.
Outside the office, the trio believes in being active and contributing members of the community. The bank has contributed to community development programs that support affordable housing programs, civic leadership and cultural enrichment.
How to reach: TriState Capital Bank, (412) 304-0304 or www.tscbank.com
Once John Tomayko earned his doctorate in health and physical education management at the University of Pittsburgh, it was a natural progression for the humble and charismatic entrepreneur to land in the health care services field.
His first business venture was at a cardiac fitness company. Embracing the wisdom of role model Peter Drucker, Tomayko applied the principle that effective leadership is thinking through the organization’s mission and defining it, and then clearly and visibly establishing it. Remaining true to his commitment to client responsiveness, teamwork and quality, he took the risk of founding The Tomayko Group through the acquisition of Mid-Atlantic Nuclear Medicine with a personally guaranteed loan from Laurel Capital.
Through a progression of acquisitions and new company development, as well as other strategic financial moves, Tomayko was able to execute his plan to create an integrated health care delivery system that would provide cost-effective services such as diagnostic imaging to hospitals, cardiology practices and multispecialty groups. He has continued to identify and invest in other health care opportunities that can be assimilated easily into the business.
Following his vision, Tomayko, who serves as company president, has been building TTG with diligence and patience, with a focus on profitability and cash flow while resources are carefully managed and a competitive edge is maintained.
The employees at TTG are motivated through several initiatives such as profit-sharing arrangements and bonuses, attractive health plans and maintaining a culture of empowerment and trust, stimulating personal growth, healthy lifestyles and team spirit. Tomayko also offers to cover insurance co-pay amounts if employees meet criteria that they are working toward and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
He is also involved in the community, raising funds for the Special Olympics and other Pittsburgh charities and is a sponsor of an annual scholarship for the masters program in software engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in memory of his brother James Tomayko.
How to reach: The Tomayko Group LLC, (412) 481-0600 or www.tomaykogroup.com
The convalescent St. Barnabas Free Home for Boys and Men was on the verge of financial collapse in 1967 when William Day was called as a consultant to study whether the facility could survive or not. After analyzing the operation of the home, which then had only 63 beds, he recommended that it not only stay open but expand into what would become a renowned 2,000-person health campus.
Day was offered the chance to implement the changes. He had just completed 25 years of service with the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and felt confident that he could bring about reorganization. The first step was to ensure that the nonprofit St. Barnabas was not solely dependent on government funding. Day created a sustainable model that was able to thrive and grow, and opened the doors to all people.
Today, the St. Barnabas Health System operates with no debt, provides services to more than 2,000 residents and employs more than 600 people. More than 40,000 are served annually at its outpatient medical center.
Day says the success is due to meeting the ever-changing needs and demands of the local and regional communities. He has overseen the development of everything from nursing homes to a library and from a conservatory to an auto repair center.
While it was necessary to borrow funds to renovate in the late 1970s, Day didn’t believe in debt. Nevertheless, he personally managed it and aggressively paid it off in 32 months.
Employees are treated as valuable assets and important partners in providing excellent service. The culture, in a few words, is based on wanting to win. Day believes people want to support and work for a well-run, well-managed workplace. Awards recognize employees for years of service and for other special honors, such as employee of the month and year and for the One Great Idea Program.
How to reach: St. Barnabas Health System, (412) 481-0600 or www.stbarnabashealthsystem.com
Maureen Lynn Mulvihill has grown quite accustomed to working under stressful circumstances. She played a large role in the start up of one company while she was pregnant with her first child, then worked with her husband to launch her own company while her second child was on the way.
The second company, Piezo Resonance Innovations Inc., has quickly become one of the brightest success stories in Central Pennsylvania. Piezo Resonance develops innovative medical devices that integrate controlled, precise motion. Mulvihill’s goal was to develop products that would help the medical community improve patient outcomes and in the process, create a strong and financially viable enterprise.
She relied heavily on her own savings and assistance from friends and family to get the business off the ground. But it took more than just money to make Piezo Resonance go. It was Mulvihill’s dedication and commitment to building the business that made the difference.
As she was building the business, she went without paychecks so that her employees could get paid and focus on the work they needed to do to help the company get on its feet.
Mulvihill, the company’s president, has continued to support her employees as the business has become more established. She encourages them to continue their educations and serve as strong contributors in the community. She wants them to be mentors to younger people and help pave the way for them to become strong and successful individuals in their own lives.
This focus on personal growth and development is a key part of the foundation of Piezo Resonance and a key reason the company is now poised for success on the business end.
Clinical trials are planned this year for the company’s first medical device and the company is scaling up to be ready for production once it is approved.
How to reach: Piezo Resonance Innovations Inc., (814) 355-0003 or www.piezo-res.com
It didn’t take long for David Stern to realize that the business his family had built, and built quite successfully, needed to change if it wanted to continue the prosperity. Paris Cleaners Inc. was started as a dry cleaning company in the 1940s and that worked quite well into the 1970s.
But Stern saw changes ahead that threatened the future. New fabrics and consumers trends were being developed that would limit the need for dry cleaning services. The company needed to adapt and give its customers another reason to continue using its services.
Stern settled on uniform rentals and a new division of the company was born. Of course, it wasn’t easy to make this new division a success. Stern initially served as salesperson, washroom operator, delivery driver, maintenance technician and president of the division.
But despite the overwhelming responsibilities facing him, he was able to build a strong culture and lay the ground work for a successful business concept.
He tries to keep things personal and intimate to provide the same level of services one would expect from a large company, but with the touch of a small business. Employees see that and develop long-term relationships with customers that help the company thrive.
As the uniform rental division began to peak, Stern looked to innovate once again and created a division for hospital linen services. Using the same approach, Stern again built a concept, drew in customers and found another way to drive growth.
Stern trusts employees to make good decisions and gives them the power to keep the company moving ahead. He maintains a sense of curiosity that always has him looking out for the next great idea or the next step that will help his business be an even better help to his clients.
Frank W. Alderman has been helping people since his days growing up in Sulphur Springs, W.Va., when he would shovel driveways on snow days, deliver the newspapers, mow lawns and sell ice cream at a local ice cream shop.
Oh, and he also caddied at the local golf course.
It’s that work ethic that is the core of MedExpress Urgent Care, a health care center Alderman created to give patients important medical services that are timely, affordable and provided with great care.
He witnessed the scenes that play out in many emergency rooms where overcrowding is an issue due to unnecessary visits by many of the patients. He started slowly, learned what worked and what didn’t work, and gradually built more and more centers.
As CEO, Alderman shares his passion both for service and for his customers with his employees and asks them to be just as dedicated and committed to providing the best care they can give.
He believes his method of providing this care and service is a win for everyone involved, from the patient to the employer who sends a patient to MedExpress to the insurance companies who handle the financial end to the employees who provide the service.
Alderman empowers his employees to find unique solutions that satisfy patients beyond the typical experience they might be expecting. This style fosters a high employee retention rate and makes them ambassadors for MedExpress in the community.
While Alderman is pleased with the success of the MedExpress concept, he is far from content. He stays active on Capitol Hill, meeting regularly with Congressional leaders to talk about the value of urgent care in today’s world and the debate about affordability.
His goal is to continue to make his business better and never rest on his laurels.
How to reach: MedExpress Urgent Care, (304) 225-2500 or www.medexpress.com
Jeffrey Kendall wants to grow his business his way. He realized that as Liberty Tire Recycling expanded through acquisition, the potential existed that the company would take on new parts that didn’t see things the same way that he did.
So it was with that thought in mind that he launched One Liberty. It would be a companywide initiative designed to ensure that Liberty Tire Recycling maintains the highest standards and best practices across all of its operations.
Company leadership and key consultants meet with new acquisitions to help them understand the standards and practices that Liberty looks for them to adopt and why these are critical to the ongoing success of the company.
It covers everything from manufacturing and safety to transportation, logistics, accounting and human resources.
But you shouldn’t get the idea that Kendall wants to dictate everything that happens in his business. He and his executive team make a concerted effort to work with employees to take ownership and pride in what they do. He openly solicits input and suggestions from employees at all levels to improve and adopt the very best standards for the business.
The CEO stresses to his team that no one will ever be criticized for coming forward with a suggestion or an idea. This leads to high employee morale as everyone understands that they have a stake in the game and a voice in how the business moves forward.
It was through innovation that Liberty launched LTR Products, a subsidiary that produces a rubber mulch as an alternative to traditional wood mulch for use in landscape and playground surfacing.
The company has also built new headquarters, which will include a showcase area for Liberty’s products. Kendall believes this will be a powerful business development tool for the company’s efforts to be environmentally conscious.
How to reach: Liberty Tire Recycling, (412) 562-1700 or www.libertytire.com