Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty that features a volatile stock market, rising taxes and a stagnant job market, 10 remarkable business leaders have managed to not only survive, but to expand and succeed. They are the recipients of Smart Business Pittsburgh’s 2012 Pacesetter Awards.
This year’s Pacesetters have set new benchmarks by which economic achievements in our region are measured: the first and foremost is the net revenue recorded for business; the recruitment of new clients while retaining the loyal ones; the development of new markets, new products, new or enhanced services; the retention of employees at all levels; and the development and implementation of strategic growth plans.
These remarkable men and women, representing emerging, midmarket and centurion business categories, are profiled in this issue of Smart Business and were recognized at the 26th annual St. Barnabas CEO Leadership Conference on Sept. 17 in the Kean Theatre on St. Barnabas’ North Hills campus.
The theme of the 2012 Conference was Show Me the Money… The Big Business of Sports. Sports is big business locally, nationally and globally. Here in Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania, we are blessed with three major pro teams, nationally recognized college athletic programs as well as outstanding pro athletes in individual sports.
The economic impact of sports on our area was discussed and assessed by an outstanding roster of speakers: Ralph E. Cindrich, NFL sports agent/consultant; Frank Coonelly, president, Pittsburgh Pirates; Bob Ford, PGA Club professional and head pro of Oakmont Country Club; Mark Hart, director of planning and development, Pittsburgh Steelers; Suzie McConnell-Serio, Olympian and head coach, women’s basketball, Duquesne University; Steve Pederson, athletic director, University of Pittsburgh; and Matt Shaner, CEO/owner, Pittsburgh Power.
It’s interesting to note that, according to business writers and historians, the sports industry has performed better during a declining economy than in “normal” economic times. Fans turn to sports-related pursuits to distract them from the stress of economic doubt, according to “The Business of Sports” by Scott Rosner and Kenneth Shropshire.
St. Barnabas is proud to once again partner with Smart Business Pittsburgh. And our congratulations to all the pacesetters introduced in the pages of this magazine. This is, and always will be, a great country because of men and women like you.
William V. Day is president and CEO of St. Barnabas Health System.
The 2012 Winners:
Successful business leadership in this time of economic turbulence and uncertainty is no mean feat. Yet, that is exactly what 11 outstanding business leaders have accomplished and why they have been singled out by Smart Business Pittsburgh.
They have not only set the pace for our region, they have stepped up that pace. That’s what leaders do. They are the men and women who keep our economy moving, not stagnating. They navigate the road to success through strength and consistency. Responsible risk-taking, groundbreaking innovations, “doing the right thing as well as the smart thing.”
All 11 of these Pacesetters, representing three categories: emerging, midmarket and centurion, are profiled in this issue of Smart Business Pittsburgh. They were honored at the 25th annual St. Barnabas CEO Leadership Conference on Sept. 19, in the Kean Theatre on St. Barnabas’ North Hills campus in Gibsonia, Pa.
The theme of the 2011 Conference was “We’ve Got Energy … Earth, Wind and Fire.” Energy was chosen because of its tremendous influence on the decisions people, businesses and even governments make. And because of the new economies, the new business opportunities and new jobs, being created by the advanced energy industry.
Keynoting the conference was Pennsylvania’s Lt. Governor Jim Cawley with this impressive lineup of energy speakers: George Ellis, president, Pennsylvania Coal Association; Kathryn Klaber, president and executive director, Marcellus Shale Coalition; Simon J. Tripp, senior officer, The Battelle Group; Daniel S. Lipman, senior vice president, Westinghouse Operations Support & Core Process Innovation; Michael Krancer, secretary, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection; and Caren Glotfelty, director, environment program, The Heinz Endowments, and co-chair, environmental policy committee, University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics. Ray Carter, vice president and general manager of WPXI-TV, was the conference moderator.
James C. Roddey, Allegheny County’s first chief executive, moderated the morning’s panel discussion, which explored various forms of energy — Marcellus Shale, nuclear, coal, wind and solar power — and their economic impact on our region.
As many economic experts agree, we have an energy-hungry world, demanding reliable, affordable, sustainable energy sources to fuel industry and provide for personal consumption. It is time to fight our way out of what seems to be the Great Recession. Energy in all its forms will be the ultimate weapon in that fight.
St. Barnabas was proud to once again partner with Smart Business Pittsburgh, and our congratulations to all the Pacesetters you will meet in the pages of this magazine. Let’s keep up the pace!
William V. Day is president and CEO of St. Barnabas Health System, www.stbarnabashealthsystem.com.
The odds were against Z Brand Group when it was first formed. Born into
a downturned economy, the company also faced the challenge of having 70 percent of its client base composed of nonprofit organizations — the sector hit the hardest by the recession. But despite these challenges, Goldie Z. Ostrow was able to get the company off the ground and see it quickly thrive.
Leaving the design and marketing communications company she had previously co-founded, Ostrow decided to establish Z Brand as a new kind of agency that would deliver a high level of quality services, including advertising campaigns, across a variety of platforms, as well as offer social media to her clients for the first time — all at a more streamlined cost. As president and director of business development, she grew her business by networking and mixing tactics such as giveaways, a billboard campaign, social media and a website.
Z Brand has grown a loyal client base by delivering exceptional return on investment for its clients. Ostrow strives to keep costs low through a variety of smart business practices, such as eliminating excess, smart shopping for the best vendor quote, subleasing agency space and taking advantage of advertising specials and deals for both Z Brand and its clients.
With clientele including many of Pittsburgh’s largest companies, Z Brand also does extensive pro bono work with several high-profile nonprofit organizations.
Ostrow is as active within the community as she is with her business. She serves on the Friends of CAPA Advisory Board and recently joined the boards of Family Resources, Rodef Shalom Congregation and Hillel Jewish University Center. Additionally, she chaired Rodef Shalom’s public relations committee and served on the United Way of Allegheney County’s strategic marketing committee.
How to reach: Z Brand Group, (412) 697-2800 or www.zbrandcreative.com
As a former NFL player with the San Diego Chargers and the Pittsburgh Steelers,
Charles Sanders has always been a very involved philanthropist within the Pittsburgh community. The running back turned businessman understands the importance of helping those in need and has played an active role in bettering the lives of others.
His contribution does not stop at supporting charities and local programs, however. One of his largest contributions came in 2002 when he and his wife, Elisa, founded one of the most highly rated, privately held vendor management companies in the country, Urban Settlement Services. The company later changed its name to Urban Lending Solutions and has been on a steep growth curve for the past few years.
Nearly 10 years after its founding, the company continues to grow, adapt and garner accolades for the problem-solving work it has done for lenders and servicers. A certified Minority Business Enterprise, the company has been named a National Minority Supplier Development Council Supplier of the Year, listed as a 2009 and 2010 Black Enterprise 100 in services firms and a 2009 Top Five Fastest Growing Firms in Western Pennsylvania by the “Pittsburgh Business Times.”
Sanders, the company’s CEO, has built the company on excellence, dedication and teamwork and got its reputation for providing title services and loan origination work for people buying homes. With the onslaught of the mortgage crisis, Sanders saw an opportunity to grow and help more people, so he decided to shift his focus. The company looked to provide comprehensive products and services to support the residential and commercial mortgage and real estate industries delivering some of the fastest turn times in the industry.
While Sanders has taken hard hits on the football field, he didn’t like seeing people in his community suffering from the hard-hitting effects of the mortgage crisis. Sanders grew the company’s services in recognition of and in reaction to the mortgage crisis. He saw that he was in a perfect position to help those in need when the housing market fell in 2008 and partnered with financial institutions to provide homeowners with options to save their homes.
Those options include solutions for residential, servicing and commercial. Urban Lending Solutions is experienced with both prime and subprime transactions, as well as loan requirements. It offers full title insurance across the country, as well as appraisal and alternative valuations, settlement and closing services. The business provides a full complement of loan origination services.
Today, Urban Lending Solutions is a leading provider of home retention services, focused on saving people’s homes. Urban provides creative solutions regarding loan modifications, loan workouts, call campaigns, borrower engagement and other loss mitigation activities. Additionally, Urban Lending Solutions offers contract underwriting, market-to-market diligence, predictive data analytics, a Web services platform and other servicing sector products.
Bringing the centralized vendor management concept to the commercial sector, Urban Lending Solutions commercial unit offers a full complement of services, including appraisals, title and settlement services, as well as construction audits, tax reduction services, cost control and risk cutting. The company can centralize all facets of commercial transactions so that clients can access all of the real estate and mortgage services they require from one source, saving time and creating cost-efficiencies.
The growth and success of the company over the last five years is a direct result of Sanders’ ability to recognize emerging areas people needed help in as well as the company’s solution management capabilities. His vision and delivery of services has provided a beacon of hope for families across the country. Through the organization’s home retention work, Urban Lending Solutions has become an industry leader and since 2007, the company has helped retain nearly one million homes.
Since 2006, Sanders’ leadership and direction have resulted in revenue growth from $10 million to more than $100 million. Through the company’s expertise in emerging markets and its ability to help meet and even exceed goals, the company is one of the largest providers of home retention services focused on saving people’s homes and removing debt. The company now has offices in North Carolina and Colorado, along with its headquarters in Pittsburgh, and today, it is the nation’s largest minority-owned settlement services company.
HOW TO REACH: Urban Lending Solutions, (412) 325-7046 or www.urban-ls.com
Under the leadership of President Mark T. Perry, Tetra Tech NUS Inc.,
a provider of consulting, engineering and technical services, has grown more than 40 percent in the past three years.
This growth has been spurred by Perry’s vision to transform NUS from a government contractor into a diverse company that offers full-service environmental engineering. Having been partners with the U.S. Navy for many years, Perry knew the importance of that relationship, but he saw other opportunities for NUS in the marketplace.
His vision began with pursuing work from the private sector, an area that NUS was unfamiliar with. He also saw that there were Pittsburgh markets that NUS could address to help the company become more sustainable. After identifying a few ways to diversify the company’s services and add new clients, he looked to support those endeavors with acquisitions and mergers.
Perry went to a sister organization of Tetra Tech that had strengths in areas NUS wanted to get involved in. It wasn’t long before the companies merged and NUS was looking to add another acquisition. This time NUS acquired a company called Quattro Engineering, a manufacturing engineering design company that had connections to local chemical and steel companies.
With new acquisitions, business and services, NUS needed to hire new employees to run its new departments in water and wastewater, energy and natural resources, and nuclear services. These new departments have allowed NUS to successfully bid for and implement larger-scale projects such as the Marcellus Shale Natural Gas exploration. Other opportunities have come from the commercial sector working with NASA, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Coast Guard.
While the company has seen strong growth and expansion nationally, Perry has fostered local growth and employment along with it. In the last two years, NUS has added 50 employees and plans to add another 30 this year.
Perry’s drive and vision to succeed has helped NUS increase revenue and positioned the company as a leader of engineering solutions to environmental problems. The company continues to see significant growth in revenue and employee count and has been opening new offices around the country. In fiscal year 2011, offices are planned to open in Alabama, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
HOW TO REACH: TetraTech NUS Inc., (412) 921-7090 or www.tetratech.com
Sean McDonald is no stranger to the Pittsburgh Pacesetter ranks, having been
recognized now for the third year in a row — and for good reason. As president and CEO of Precision Therapeutics Inc., a life-science technology company focused on cancer research and development, McDonald has led the company to impressive growth and advancements in the industry.
He believes Precision Therapeutics can become the next big life sciences success story, and over the past few years, every sign points to that statement becoming more and more of a true fact. From raising increasingly larger amounts of venture capital dollars each year to developing new products and hiring new employees, the company is firing on all cylinders.
The company has been able to triple its employee base in the last three years, adding more than 20 employees just in the last six months. Precision has also doubled its sales force over the past year. Additionally, a second clinical laboratory and a third research facility have been opened, as well. The additional work force and space will allow the company to expand its work to meet doctors’ and patients’ needs by being able to personalize the treatment that is best for the patient.
McDonald’s focus is to advance clinical trials and research in an effort to improve the quality of life for the patient. As the company continues to grow, McDonald leads his work force by challenging his employees and himself to develop creative solutions for the constantly changing business climate. The dynamic corporate culture at Precision encourages employees to educate themselves further by attending education, research and advocacy events. In order to accomplish this, he encourages input and accountability from his employees and maintains an open-door policy. The promotion of education allows employees to stay ahead of the fast-moving industry and encourages career advancement.
McDonald’s commitment to scientific advancements stretches beyond the company. He serves as chairman emeritus of the Pittsburgh Technology Council and sits on the board of the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative. He is chairman of the board for Aethon, a company backed by venture capitalists that is trying to develop autonomous robotics for the health care industry. McDonald also sits on the board of directors for Philips Respironics and several other technology companies.
McDonald has definitely made a positive impact within Precision, the Pittsburgh region and the industry. He’s shown his willingness and proven his ability to master a wide range of unfamiliar issues in the complex world of oncology, including clinical studies, technical laboratory processes, reimbursement and billing, and physician relationships.
McDonald constantly challenges himself to be a better leader. He has created a company that is dedicated to the ongoing clinical trials and research to better provide physicians and patients with actionable clinical information to personalize cancer treatment. He continues to drive the company into the development of genomic and proteomic profiles to predict tumor response to chemotherapy.
These trials and extensive research have led to the company’s flagship diagnostic test called ChemoFx, which helps to determine the most effective type of chemotherapy to treat individual patients’ tumors. It has also led to an exclusive partnership with Med BioGene Inc., a Vancouver-based life-sciences company that is helping to develop a lung cancer test called LungExpress Dx.
McDonald showed his unwavering commitment to the company once again by continuing to secure investors to raise venture capital dollars. Due to the company’s continued growth and advancements, Precision has received more interest from larger venture capital firms, and in 2010, he secured $33 million in new investment funds — Precision’s largest round of capital. That round of funding brought the company’s total venture capital intake past the $100 million mark.
McDonald doesn’t just recruit investment dollars, but he has also been instrumental in recruiting and retaining top-notch executives with proven track records to lead the management team and attract key opinion leaders in oncology to serve as speakers and advisers for the company.
Through McDonald’s commitment to continuing the strides that the company has made in cancer research, Precision has showed an annual growth rate of 25 percent and now has nearly 300 employees. He has defined Precision as one of the leaders in the personalized medicine arena and is expanding its unique capabilities to include several platforms to meet the needs of doctors and patients.
HOW TO REACH: Precision Therapeutics Inc., (800) 547-6165 or www.precisiontherapeutics.com
Despite the challenges facing health care, MedCare Equipment Co. has managed to flourish, exceeding revenue projections. The company owes its success in large part to CEO John M. Sphon and his approach to business growth and customer service.
Leading the company since the 1980s, Sphon oversaw MedCare’s transition from a medical and surgical distribution service of Excela Westmoreland Hospital to a limited liability corporation in 2008. He facilitated its growth by expanding its service area to 14 counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, as well as portions of eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia.
While its four hospital partnerships increased the size and scope of MedCare, Sphon did not let this growth undermine the company’s community-focused customer service. Because MedCare is locally owned and operated by these regional health care partners, the company avoids the negative aspects of a national chain and can focus on improving patient care.
Sphon also serves as vice president of Ambulatory and Ancillary Service at Excela Health — southwestern Pennsylvania’s third-largest health care provider — of which MedCare is a part. Prior to concentrating his efforts on enhancing Excela Health’s home-care services, Sphon was also responsible for overseeing the health system’s owned physician practices. As a result, Sphon understands firsthand the value of clinical expertise, which he has applied to MedCare by placing clinicians and patients at the forefront of the company’s focus. MedCare often serves as a conduit between care providers and consumers to aid in medical compliance.
Although Sphon takes the lead in exploring possibilities for improving company services, he also empowers his associates to develop their own creative solutions to business problems. Sphon and his associates are always looking for opportunities to improve patient care. They look for MedCare’s services to be a component of the continuum of care, rather than a mere retail sales opportunity.
How to reach: MedCare Equipment Co., (800) 503-5554 or www.medcareequipment.com
InterTECH Security LLC’s multimillion-dollar growth came to an abrupt halt after floods caused by Hurricane Ivan destroyed the company office in 2004. The stress of the loss, compounding the demands of its increasing growth, brought the company to a precarious crossroads. But Ronald M. Petnuch stepped in to lead a recapitalization of the company, seeing opportunity in the security integration and building automation marketplaces.
Petnuch has since successfully developed InterTECH as a market leader that helps safeguard people, property and assets through customized security solutions. This success can be seen in the company’s rapid growth during Petnuch’s first three years as president and CEO, when InterTECH’s annual revenue increased by 123 percent through the end of 2008. The company has continued to grow in size, in addition to revenue, with the number of employees jumping from 34 at the time of the recapitalization to 138 employees in June 2009.
Intertech has opened divisions in Houston and San Antonio to serve its current customer base and penetrate its vertical markets. SDM magazine named it one of the “Top 45 Integration Companies in the United States.”
These results speak to Petnuch’s dedication and work ethic. Petnuch lives by three concepts that he feels are key to his day-to-day work: Keep integrity in place at all times. Be committed to what you are doing — study it, work at it and practice it to become the very best. And lastly, add value to the people and organizations you live and work with.
The Pittsburgh Technology Council recognized InterTECH as one of the “Top 50 Technology Companies” in 2008, and the company is recognized as one of the Pittsburgh’s fastest-growing companies. Petnuch serves on several boards including the Holy Family Institute and the Central Catholic High School boards.
How to reach: InterTECH Security LLC, (724) 742-4900 or www.intertechsecurity.com
John H. Hartzell III has taken G.I.S. Inc. from a small, family-owned business to an international company that is setting industry standards in both technological advancement and green initiatives. Since its 2001 management transition, the distributor and fabricator of thermal and acoustical insulation systems has doubled its bottom line.
Co-owner Hartzell has personally guided the company to accelerate its marketing efforts and improve sales through various technological enhancements. Most notably, Hartzell has led G.I.S. to develop custom software to ease everyday operations, forgoing costly or generic off-the-shelf programs. By working with software technicians, the company has created a tailored program to provide a response time for quotes, orders and inventory tracking that rivals if not exceeds nationally known software. Such efforts have made G.I.S. a leader in fast confirmation of ordering, competitive pricing, customer satisfaction and reputation among peers.
Hartzell has also fine-tuned sales and hired additional employees, focusing on both new and outside sales. G.I.S. has been able to reach lower accounts not normally accessed by a regional Pittsburgh company, as well as expand sales nationally and occasionally internationally.
Although G.I.S. is making technological leaps, it isn’t sacrificing its dedication to the energy conservation field. In addition to providing energy-saving LEED and sometimes recycled material products, the company seeks out ways to operate green itself, reinvesting to reduce waste through consolidation in addition to recycling and repurposing scrap fiberglass to keep it out of landfills.
Hartzell and his team at G.I.S. operate with integrity, ingenuity and reliability to outperform competitors and best serve customers. Being green while helping customers save on operational costs has earned the company respect and trust both as a business and leading community steward in the Pittsburgh region.
How to reach: G.I.S. Inc., (312) 777-8860 or www.gisinsulation.com
Hacked salaries were common among companies trying to survive the recession, and General Carbide Corp. was no different. To stay afloat and retain as many employees as possible, Mona Pappafava-Ray had to cut employee salaries and wages between 10 to 30 percent from October 2008 to September 2009. But she also convinced every company manager to also accept pay cuts, and as business improved in December 2010, she gave back part of the cut wages to all of her employees. And when business kept growing with the start of the new year, she returned the remainder.
Pappafava-Ray stands out as a leader because she not only believes that her people are the General Carbide’s biggest asset, she acts upon the belief. Her caring nature, however, is coupled by a sharp business mind. Pappafava-Ray is as dedicated to the long-term health of her company, which manufacturers more than 50 grades of tungsten carbide tooling, as she is to her employees. She consistently invests $1 million annually in equipment and facilities and has extended the company’s network of sales representatives in China, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as Europe, expanding the company’s capabilities and business opportunities.
This dedication to staff and service has paid off, with General Carbide experiencing a 40 percent increase in the number of employees working at the company over the past year as well as a 30 percent increase in sales. Her success in helping the manufacturing company achieve a position of leadership in the market earned Pappafava-Ray a 2011 “Pittsburgh Business Times” Women in Business Award.
General Carbide was named a 2010 Business Ethics Award winner by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh’s David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business.
How to reach: General Carbide Corp., (724) 836-3000 or www.generalcarbide.com