As president and CEO of General Carbide, Mona Pappafava-Ray isn’t afraid to go against the grain of conventional wisdom to keep her company delivering on its promises to employees and clients. By setting high standards for herself and her team, Pappafava-Ray has grown the company through two recessions, the loss of the company’s largest commodity product to China and exit of three major customers. Though her management style is one that consistently challenges the status quo, her philosophy that “You do not deserve a win, you earn a win,” has guided General Carbide to overcome obstacles and achieve growth.
As CEO, Pappafava-Ray has led four acquisitions, created a real estate partnership and made strides to grow the company’s brand image internationally to its strongest point since it was founded in 1968. She believes in investing in General Carbide and its people to ensure the company’s sustained growth and long-term success.
In February 2009, Pappafava-Ray saw that General Carbide’s top line was moving toward a 30 percent decline as a result of the recession. While investing was the last thing many executives were doing at this time, Pappafava-Ray developed a plan to navigate the economic downturn by investing in capital, plant improvement and training. Though part of the plan involved cost reduction with pay cuts for employees and staff, she showed her team her personal commitment by reducing her own pay by 30 percent and giving up all corporate benefits. Using the motto “fight,” Pappafava-Ray rallied everyone at General Carbide to implement and execute the plan. Under her leadership, the company was able to keep every hourly employee in place throughout the recession. By making the company and its people the number one priority, she succeeded in putting General Carbide on track for explosive growth, ending 2009 with top-line organic growth at more than 90 percent and increasing 2010 net sales by 60 percent.
How to reach: General Carbide, (724) 836-3000 or www.generalcarbide.com
Patrick Daly has a successful track record of taking a business venture and running with it. So when he joined Cohera Medical Inc. as the company’s president and CEO, he felt prepared for the challenges it presented. For one, Daly recognized the potential Cohera Medical had in the market for surgical adhesives with the breakthrough technology of its initial product, TissuGlu. Yet to take the potential of its vision and make it a reality, Cohera Medical needed a leader who could translate the value of this technology for investors.
Since he joined Cohera Medical, Daly’s leadership had been critical in growing the company, both by recognizing investment opportunities and bringing on talent to achieve them. Coming in, he quickly developed a business strategy for Cohera Medical to bring TissuGlu to market while also strengthening its focus on innovation. Six months after accepting the position in 2005, Daly had already negotiated a license for the new technology, raised seed money to hire staff for new product creation, secured office and laboratory space and was on his way to completing the largest angel financing round of any life sciences companies in the Pittsburgh. In the past six years, Daly has helped raise millions from angel investors and brought the company’s head count to 24 employees.
Daly’s growth strategy for Cohera Medical also includes a best-practices approach that is unique to its industry. It includes providing employees with full benefits and completing a comprehensive annual audit. With this approach, Daly creates an atmosphere where employees, investors and vendors have confidence in the company’s management and vision. By helping Cohera Medical build an infrastructure for long-term growth instead of focusing on “quick-flip” technology, he’s opened the company up to many new business opportunities.
How to reach: Cohera Medical Inc., (412) 231-1500 or www.coheramed.com
As president and CEO of AIReS, Bryan Scott Putt often reflects back on the words of his father, who founded the company 28 years ago: “Take care of your customers and profitability will follow.”
Putt’s leadership was vital in building a reputation for AIReS as a quality provider of relocation services. In 2000, he made the decision to transform AIReS from a moving company into a relocation management company. By motivating his team to embrace the new strategy and transition to managing the entire lifecycle of the relocation process, Putt added new corporate clients and increased AIReS productivity, staff and market share. Since he joined AIReS, the company has grown from 30 employees to 250 employees and dramatically increased revenue.
Though it was a risk, Putt knew refocusing the company would be crucial in setting it apart from competitors. For Putt, taking on risks and embracing change is natural, which is why he furthers a culture at AIReS where “good enough” is never accepted. With the “AIReS way” — a philosophy that describes the company’s culture of customer service excellence — he sets high expectations for employees and emphasizes an above-and-beyond approach to customer service and client management. With the goal of achieving service excellence, AIReS has thrived against competition that accepts mediocrity.
Putt says that great business starts with great people. He invests in his employees as his greatest asset, which is why when the recession hit, he made the executive decision to circumvent any layoffs or pay cuts at AIReS. While the company predicted revenues to fall as much as 25 percent, keeping his team intact allowed employees to stay focused on providing world-class customer service. As a result, AIReS has grown fivefold in the last few years, despite a 40 percent industrywide decline.
How to reach: AIReS, (412) 788-0461 or www.aires.com
As a testament to his leadership skills, Scott Graf used his experience in the industry to become president of BCD Meetings & Incentives in 2006 following two mergers of meeting and incentive providers. He gained the trust of the combined management team by making sure that all voices and perspectives would be heard and given consideration.
Many employees say he is the reason they work for the company. They respect him, trust him and enjoy working with him as they manage meetings and events for customers across the world. Graf demands and emphasizes diversity, tenacity and accountability in all employees.
His role as global president exemplifies the term entrepreneur. Under his leadership, BCD M&I has become one of the leading meetings and management providers in the world. It has been recognized by Corporate Meetings & Incentives magazine since 2007 as one of the top 25 providers in the industry.
During the recent economic downturn, he kept the company on track, adapting to meet revenue targets, making a strategic West Coast acquisition, and investing in new client-facing technology.
As a global leader based in the United States, Graf does not impose American business models on other countries ? rather, he believes that each country must be allowed to operate in an environment that favors its culture and business model. He encourages collaboration across country boundaries instead of direct reporting lines into the United States.
In addition, Graf has helped shape company culture through several initiatives including assistance to local-level children’s charities, corporate level Focus 5 (people, customer, innovation, quality and growth) initiatives as goals for employees, an employee recognition program called the Platinum Circle, educational initiatives supporting graduate and undergraduate programs as well as college internships and association initiatives. These include serving on industry boards and at events and acting as faculty in certification programs.
How to reach: BCD Meetings & Incentives, (312) 705-2126 or www.bcdmi.com
Dr. Juliet Stacy Breeze didn’t join Richmond Bone & Joint Clinic P.A. with the idea of taking the business in a new direction. She was just there to help her husband, Scott, who was pursuing his dream of building his own medical office.
But Breeze began to develop a business plan that would expand the practice’s scope to include more services and more physicians. She saw the potential of a comprehensive musculoskeletal care clinic and began meeting with financial institutions to secure funding for her idea.
Initially, there were more skeptics than believers, and it appeared Breeze was going to have a tough time making her idea a reality. But through some help from relatives and one local bank, she secured financing and took on the full-time position of practice administrator to see the project through.
Within a short period of time after construction, the comprehensive clinic was one of the leading providers in Fort Bend County. It included general, spine and pediatric orthopedic care, physical therapy, aquatic therapy and imaging services. New locations began to pop up, and the business took off.
Breeze is a big believer in technology and the benefits it can provide a business. But as CEO, she still makes it a point to maintain a personal touch. In fact, Breeze believes that technology allows her more time to concentrate on the personal needs of her patients. She makes time to review the hundreds of patient satisfaction surveys that come into the practice each month to maintain the highest standard of care at all times.
How to reach: Richmond Bone & Joint Clinic P.A., (281) 344-1715 or www.rbjc.com
In September 2004, when Bahadir Inozu founded NOVACES LLC, he chose “advancing process improvement” as the company slogan.
The slogan has been representative of the company’s culture from the start. The business philosophy of Inozu, CEO of the management consulting firm, shines through in the company’s values: the highest standards and best practices in work performance, an immaculate reputation and integrity, and solid results on which to build success.
Inozu is the kind of leader who rolls up his sleeves, working shoulder to shoulder with his employees to address client needs.
Just as NOVACES was being established, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Inozu was among those who resolved to rebuild the city, deciding to keep his company headquarters in New Orleans and leave his position as a tenured professor and chair at the University of New Orleans to focus his full attention on NOVACES. In the wake of Katrina, Inozu’s leadership enabled his company to grow and prosper for six consecutive years.
While Inozu faced the challenge of transitioning from academia to the business world, he understood the biggest challenge was relying on others. He entered into promising partnerships and hired the right people to invigorate the business. He overcame the cultural challenges by sticking to his communication strategy, which today still contributes to the growth of the company.
Management consulting firms are competitive when they remain a step ahead of the organizations they support, and leaders such Inozu must build internal capabilities that allow the firm to continuously refine its understanding of client needs. Inozu’s experience in applied research has enabled NOVACES to stay ahead of the curve and become an industry thought leader.
How to reach: NOVACES LLC, (855) 668-2237 or www.novaces.com
John C. Higgins loves a challenge, and as a leader, he is always ahead of the curve and the first to hit obstacles when they arise in his industry.
Higgins has led NEUTEX Advanced Energy Group Inc. on a 20-year journey, from a logging company to a broad service firm offering logging, land management and planning services. These services merged together into one business in 2006 to combine and create a common brand identity for all areas of the organization, including development, construction and consulting, under one roof.
As president and CEO, Higgins has a vast wealth of experience working with builders and material manufacturers, which has helped in his most recent venture, the development of energy-efficient advanced lighting technologies. The lighting business is part of a responsibility that Higgins feels to provide efficient and reliable energy products without further depleting the world’s limited energy resources. Higgins’ hope is that this will be another step toward making a difference in energy usage.
Higgins plans to bring the same passion and energy to this project that he does to all the work at NEUTEX. He’s never been afraid to plot a new course, and the key to his success is his ability to bring his people along with him. This latest venture is just another way for Higgins to plot new ground.
In addition, Higgins works hard to convey his sense of dedication, drive and duty to his employees so that they’ll do the same. He occasionally has to rely on blind faith and fearlessness to get through a tough situation, but his sense of humor allows him to persevere with a sense of hope that the hard work will pay off.
How to reach: NEUTEX Advanced Energy Group Inc., (713) 534-1724 or www.neutexworld.com
Kemal Farid is always one step ahead of the competition, one of the big reasons Merrick Systems has been so successful over the years. After co-founding Merrick in 1989 as a software company focusing on regulatory compliance and pipeline-supply management, Farid soon realized that the spectrum of upstream operations was ripe for digital innovation.
Throughout the 1990s, he broadened Merrick’s focus to address additional aspects of the upstream business, including drilling, field-data capture, hydrocarbon accounting and technical data management.
As the new century began, Farid embarked on a series of technology acquisitions that included innovative approaches for operations, engineering and business functions across oil and gas production and drilling processes. Next up was global expansion, as Farid helped position Merrick to be a global player with projects and a presence in Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific Rim.
These moves grew revenue, until the economy took a tumble. But Farid was able to lead Merrick through that time with smart decisions to shed noncore products and streamline operations. As a result, when the economy began to turn around, Merrick was ready to start growing again.
As president and CEO, Farid promotes a family environment in the workplace. He launched the business with his aunt, Samina Farid, and as a single father, raised his young daughter. And when Farid wed his wife, Sherry, in 2005, the entire Merrick team celebrated with the couple at the wedding.
Today, the company continues to grow and prosper thanks to an attitude of persistence and commitment that Farid seeks to impart to his people and throughout the organization.
Thanks to the leadership of Michael Small, president and CEO, and Jack Blumenstein, co-president, there are more than 6,000 Gogo-equipped commercial and business aircraft in service today.
A simple idea drawn on a restaurant’s paper napkin laid the groundwork for Gogo to launch a telephone system for airplanes ? leading to a revolutionary mobile broadband Internet network for use in the air. The cellular technology is now installed on roughly one out of every three aircraft in the domestic fleet of major U.S. airlines.
Small’s mission when he joined the company was to revolutionize mobile Internet to air travel and to enhance Gogo’s position as the global leader in in-flight connectivity. He recruited top talent and partnered with leading companies, such as Google and Hewlett Packard, to help establish Gogo Inflight Internet service.
To get connected on Gogo, all travelers need is a Wi-Fi enabled device and a Gogo account.
Gogo is committed to continuous improvement of its system, reducing costs, cycle times and signal failures. The company plans to introduce voice systems and a new generation of cabin equipment for business aviation soon.
Its current partners include Air Canada, AirTran, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, U.S. Airways and Virgin America.
Small and Blumenstein are active in nonprofit organizations and institutions and collaborate with Gogo partners on charitable affairs. Small sits on the board of CeasefireNJ and PAX — The Center to Prevent Youth Violence. The Charlie Blumenstein Water and Wildlife Internship program honors Blumenstein’s deceased son and provides for a paid internship each summer at The Nature Conservancy Silver Creek Preserve in Idaho. Gogo recently partnered with Delta Airlines to support disaster relief efforts in Japan, matching contributions made in-flight to the American Red Cross, to whose site Gogo gave complimentary access.
How to reach: Gogo, (630) 647-1594 or www.gogoinflight.com
Cindy Marion takes pride in the success of Marion Montgomery Inc. But it’s the satisfaction of the clients at her marketing and communication services firm that brings an even bigger smile to her face.
Marion had worked for many marketing firms that were more interested in their own glory than that of their clients. She wanted to start a business that sought to not only meet client expectations but to exceed them. She wanted to build a team of employees who felt the same way and would work hard to find great ways to give clients what they were looking for.
It hasn’t always been easy. In 2004, a dishonest client did not honor hundreds of thousands of dollars in billing payment commitments after work was delivered. Marion still honored the vendor commitments and proceeded with payment to them, even though she hadn’t received payment herself. It’s part of her belief that the company is about more than dollars and cents; it’s about the people who come to her for service and the employees who provide it.
Marion, the firm’s president and CEO, does not place strict boundaries on the relationships between her team and its clients. She wants to find the solutions they are looking for and provide the service that they need. She wants her team to be empowered to find creative solutions to challenges and relieve the stress of clients, not add stress to their busy lives.
Marion also wants to help the people who may one day work for her, so she encourages her employees to speak about careers in the communications field and provide their expertise for others who are just growing into the field.
How to reach: Marion Montgomery Inc., (713) 523-7900 or www.mmihouston.com