Thinking ahead Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2010
Master Entrepreneur of the year

Stephen Polk is always thinking about the next step. It’s that foresight that has helped make R. L. Polk & Co. a place his great-grandfather and company founder Ralph Lane Polk would have been proud of.

Since being named chairman, president and CEO in 1994, Polk has helped the company evolve from its roots as a directory publishing business.

He took the traditional printed catalog business that supported the automotive space and took it online. He spearheaded the purchase of CARFAX Inc. in 1999, an entity that has become a major revenue source for R. L. Polk. And he sold the company’s nonautomotive assets and focused on global expansion to become the pre-eminent source of automotive information and solutions.

“Being an entrepreneur is all about being able to take a gamble,” Polk says. “The whole idea behind taking a risk is the uncertainty about it.”

Polk seeks to recognize when a business has matured and can no longer contribute to growth. Success in business is achieved when you can identify and pursue investment opportunities in complementary businesses that can augment your own strategic vision.

While he accepts this role as his responsibility, he doesn’t set the course for his business alone. Polk believes in a decentralized business model where employees share in the task of understanding customers’ future needs and helping the business evolve to meet those needs.

He values each employee’s opinion and helps foster an environment that promotes a culture where everyone sees him or herself as an important asset to the company. The employees’ knowledge is needed to see how the company can fit into emerging markets and what products and services will be appropriate to make it work.

How to reach: R. L. Polk & Co., (800) 464-7655 or