Reaching for success Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2009
Finalist
Marketing, Media and Entertainment

Benjamin Fertic thought he was just going to Hawaii to compete in the World Ironman Championship. Instead, he was taking the first step toward taking control of the company that puts on the race each year.

At the race in 1996, Fertic met the owner of World Triathlon Corp., which owns the Ironman trademark, and developed a relationship that led to his participation in company board meetings as an IT specialist. Fertic was growing his consulting and was happy to help WTC, but turned down an offer in 1998 to join the company. Two years later, however, he saw the enormous potential in the Ironman brand and closed down his company to join WTC as a vice president.

But by 2001, he could see that his new employer was not reaching its potential. He wrote a 14-page business plan outlining his vision for the company, which included expanding to half-Ironman races and women’s events, and pursuing new royalty and licensing arrangements.

And when the company experienced its worst year ever in 2003, the CEO stepped down, and Fertic took his plan to the board. And although its members worried if they had the resources to expand, they still appointed Fertic president.

Fertic enacted his plan by using Ironman participants as ambassadors rather than spending money on marketing. Using word-of-mouth, a Web site and products carrying the Ironman name, the company grew to 70 Ironman events. He added a women’s series, and the Irongirl brand is now the second-largest women’s event series in the world. And he has negotiated new sponsorships, licensing and royalty agreements and achieved significant revenue growth.

The biggest challenge for Fertic will be resisting making short-term decisions without thinking about the long-term implications as he pursues the company’s mission of getting more people involved in Ironman and improving their lifestyles.

How to reach: Ironman Corp., (813) 868-5940 or http://ironman.com