Recently, I had the privilege of attending the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year conference in Monte Carlo. I’m back to report that entrepreneurship is alive and thriving around the globe!
It was a whirlwind of a trip, packed with networking, thought-provoking panel discussions and personal interviews. We heard from a remarkable panel of speakers including Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize recipient; Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web; John Cleese, award-winning actor, author, humorist and Monty Python legend; and many more.
I also had the opportunity to sit down with some of the world’s most accomplished entrepreneurs. These business leaders come from more than 60 countries that combined represent a staggering 94 percent of the global economy.
In this issue and in the months to come, you’ll learn what the world’s greatest entrepreneurs have to say about leadership, innovation, overcoming challenges, bringing their visions to life and much, much more. You’ll also hear from the leadership at EY as to the importance of celebrating entrepreneurship.
Transforming vision into reality
“Be careful about making assumptions. Those assumptions can lead you down a pretty dangerous path. It is OK to make assumptions and have confidence but you had better do your due diligence as well. An assumption is having those critical for the business make sure it is happening. I am very trusting of people and in the past have had some unfortunate instances where I did make assumptions about something and they were completely the wrong assumptions.”
Dr. Alan Ulsifer, CEO, president and chair of FYidoctors
“Growth obviously continues to be a challenge. The markets demand growth if you are a publicly traded company, and growth is a metric of how the business is doing. If you want to continue to attract the best people, attract the right sources of capital to your business, you have to demonstrate that things are going well and growth is one measure that people look to. I think that if you are a business in an established market, growth can be a challenge because those markets by and large are growing more slowly. So in order to get more rapid growth, many companies are looking at emerging markets and trying to figure out what their strategy should be for emerging markets, those that have double-digit growth potential.”
Bryan Pearce, Americas Director, Entrepreneur Of The Year and Venture Capital Advisory Group EY
“One of the toughest things for me was that people have a certain image of my country, Colombia. They don’t trust a company there to have good quality and do good work, but I am very proud to offer those qualities from Colombia. It is not easy but it is something that you can accomplish. I have been down a lot of times, but the good thing I have noticed is that every time something like that happened, I have been able to obtain positive things out of it. I have been broke multiple times, but from being broke I have been able to learn from it and rebuild.
Mario Hernandez, founder and president, Mario Hernandez
Jim Turley leaves his post as Global Chairman and CEO for EY with deep admiration for the entrepreneurs who continue to use their vision and spirit of innovation to change the world.
“They have got this wonderful ability to think outside themselves, to look at the world outside these windows and see the needs that exist out there,” says Turley, who officially retired on July 1.
“Then they’ve got a vision to create a product or service or an idea to meet the need they have seen. They have got the courage to risk everything and they are as persistent as can be. Most of them fail the first time out. But they get up, clean themselves off and do it again.”
“Work carefully with a few people who get a twinkle in their eye. If you talk about your idea, some people will respond with excitement because they get it, but not everybody. Maybe you talk to 300 people and three people will get it. Work with those three people. The web took off because a few people all over the world got it. You get the support from a few people who get it and then it builds from there.”
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web
Corey Shapoff has a job that many would envy, booking well-known musical acts such as Maroon 5, Katy Perry, Christina Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson for live concerts and private corporate events. But he doesn’t take much time to stop and think about all the famous people on his call list.
“I’m a grinder,” says Shapoff, president and founder of SME Entertainment Group. “I’m the kind of guy who is always looking to what’s next. You’re only as good to me as your last deal.”
It’s that instinctual drive to always try to do it better that is embedded in the true entrepreneur and allows the next vision to become a reality.
“It’s hard for me to turn it off and say, ‘That’s great,’” Shapoff says. “I’m always thinking about tomorrow. You just can’t take things for granted in our business.”
“The skill sets of an entrepreneur involve understanding how to create business. So if you’re going to give back, why not work with kids who need it the most and actually teach them and help them to be entrepreneurs. That’s what is going to grow our economy and create stability where otherwise we’re going to have a lot of social unrest.”
Amy Rosen, president and CEO, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship
“When you’re an entrepreneur you feel like you have never met a deal that you didn’t like. You only have limited resources and limited time to be successful. You have to stay disciplined and focused and being able to say what we are not is every bit as important as being able to say what we are.”
Jim Davis, president, Chevron Energy Solutions
“It’s important that you have teamwork and all your top players are well motivated with passion, principles and values. We make sure that people know where we are going and what our main objective is for that year. We promote teamwork inside and outside the company. Our directors have to make sure they are sharing our company values and principles with each of their team members.”
Lorenzo Barrera Segovia, founder and CEO, Banco Base
“For entrepreneurs you get a great idea, you start your business and then you have to keep focused. Keep executing that idea if that idea is big enough. Never fall into the temptation of getting out of your business or change it unless it’s strategic. Secondly, try to get financing as late as you can. Never get financing as soon as you can. Thirdly, create a great team and culture, because that’s what will prevail and create value for shareholders and your community. That’s how you scale your business. The last one is to dream big.”
Martin Migoya, CEO, Globant
“It was nothing but a gut feeling. The only thing I knew was there was a big opportunity in yogurt. I grew up with yogurt. Being from Turkey yogurt was a big part of our diet. I wasn’t sure if I could do it – break through in the world of yogurt in retail.
The category was owned by two major companies; Dannon and Yopliat owned about 70 percent of the market, and they had been there for years. As a startup you go to the specialty stores first. That’s how you start and you grow and once you reach a certain level then you go to the big retailers.
I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to go to the big retailers and be in the regular dairy aisle. That was a crazy idea and nobody thought that would go, but at least we tried. When we tried, we convinced one retailer in New York, ShopRite. The result from that was we were able to expand to a couple of other retailers. After the second or third customer that we had success with for our yogurt, I knew it wasn’t going to be about selling, it was about making enough.”
Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, president and CEO, Chobani Inc.
One of my favorite business books, which also made it as a Broadway play and a big-screen movie, is “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” written by L. Frank Baum in 1900. My hero in this story is not the young orphaned Dorothy, nor the Cowardly Lion, the desperately in-need-of-some WD-40 Tin Man, nor even the Scarecrow in search of a brain.
Instead it is the Wizard. To understand why the dubious Wizard is my favorite character, one must get past the portrayal of him as scheming, phony and at times nasty.
To appreciate the man behind the curtain, recognize that he is a very effective presenter, though at times this ex-circus performer behaved a bit threatening. OK, he was a jerk, but the point of this column is to take you down the yellow brick road on the way to the enchanted Emerald City and corporate success.
From this tale there is a lesson that one can say all sorts of things, not be visible, and yet still have a meaningful impact.
Another takeaway is that playing this role provides plausible deniability. This absence of visual recognition is particularly beneficial in negotiating when you, as the boss, use a vicar, aka a mouthpiece, to speak on your behalf. This allows you to have things said to others that you as the head honcho could never utter without backing yourself into a corner.
Another plus is you can always throw your mouthpiece under the bus if necessary, of course, with his or her upfront understanding that sometimes there must be a sacrificial lamb. This is not only character-building for your stand-in, but also many times presents an unprecedented opportunity for him or her to learn in real time.
Perhaps the Wizard was the first behind-the-curtain decision-maker, but today this role is used frequently in business and government. In a similar vein, the “voice” of Charlie from the well-known 1970s TV series “Charlie’s Angels” was always heard, but he was never seen.
Frequently there is much to be said for using anonymity to float a trial balloon just to get a reaction. Think about a son having his mom test the waters by talking to dad before the son tells him he wants to drop out of junior high school to join the circus. Maybe that’s even how our former circus-drifter-turned-Wizard-of-Oz got his start.
In the negotiating process it is important to have a fallback when the talks hit a rough patch by instructing your vicar to backpedal, saying that he or she has just talked to the chief and the benevolent boss said, “I was overreaching with my request.”
This also serves to build a persona for the boss-behind-the-curtain as someone who is fair-minded and flexible. All the while, of course, it’s the boss who is calling the shots and maneuvering through the process without getting his or her hands dirty.
The value of using this clean-hands technique is that it enables the real decision-maker to come in as the closer who projects the voice of reason, instead of the overeager hard charger who at times seems to have gone rogue.
It actually takes a bigger person to play a secondary role behind the curtain rather than always be in the limelight. It also takes a hands-on coach and counselor to maneuver a protégé through the minefields to achieve the objective.
However, accomplishing the difficult tasks through others is true management and the No. 1 job of a leader who must be a master teacher.
After you have guided a handful of up-and-comers a few times through thorny negotiations, you will gain much more satisfaction than if you had done it yourself, while engendering the respect and gratitude of your pupils. They in turn will have learned by doing, even though they were not really steering the ship alone.
The final step is to let the subordinate take credit for getting the big job done. This will also elevate you to rock star status, at least in his or her eyes. Soon those who you’ve taught will emerge as teachers too, and the big benefit is that you will populate your organization with a stellar team of doers, not just watchers.
So, forget about the Wicked Witch of the West and move backstage for the greater good of the organization.
A few years ago, one of my friends embarked on what he deemed an ambitious, yet simple plan: Write a New York Times Best Seller.
“Ed” had reason to be optimistic: His first two books had sold well and he had successfully leveraged them to launch a burgeoning consulting practice. Ed also had a nationally known book publisher to handle distribution for this book, and he had developed a comprehensive marketing and promotions plan for the launch.
Ed felt all the pieces were in place and was sure he would succeed. His goals were two-fold: break out from the pack and grow his business, and hit the New York Times Best Seller’s list. While his head told him the first goal was more realistic, his heart was set on the second — publicly claiming it was his only true benchmark of success.
Needless to say, Ed’s book didn’t make the list. Few books do. That doesn’t mean Ed’s book was a failure. Quite the contrary, it was a huge success.
As a result of Ed’s book, he landed numerous speaking engagements with organizations and companies around the world. He began to command four- and five-figure speaking fees from those engagements, and his book was purchased and distributed to every attendee.
Further, Ed’s speaking engagements lead to dozens of private companies hiring him to provide one- and two-day seminars, where he taught executive teams how to implement the ideas he espoused in the book. Ed was also presented with numerous business opportunities for new and existing clients to tackle initiatives beyond the book’s subject matter that he had not previously considered but were related to his expertise.
Finally, Ed did sell thousands upon thousands of copies of his book in bookstores nationwide and online through booksellers like Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. His book was in the hands of the right people — and lots of them — and he had established a national profile.
Viewed through this lens, there is little doubt that Ed’s book was wildly successful — even if it wasn’t a New York Times Best Seller and even if it didn’t stack up to his primary benchmark.
This is the reality of book publishing. Each month, I speak with dozens of entrepreneurs and CEOs about their nascent book ideas and the possibility of having Smart Business Books handle development and publication of their stories and manuscripts. I begin every conversation the exact same way: “If your goal is to have a New York Times Best Seller, we’re not the right option for you.”
That’s because you should write books for the right reasons. If your only goal is getting on a best-seller’s list, then your ambitions are off the mark. Writing and publishing a book is not like a professional sports team’s season — there isn’t one winner who takes the championship and a bunch of losers who fall short. Publishing a book is not an all-or-nothing proposition.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t aim high with your goals, and having your book become a best-seller is certainly one way to measure success. Setting reasonable expectations, however, is essential.
So why write a book?
One of the most important questions you should be able to answer when thinking about writing a book is, “Who is going to read it and why?”
As Ed’s story demonstrates, a book is a very useful business development tool. It is an immediate conversation starter, an excellent credibility builder and one heck of a leave-behind. If you’re engaged in marketing, why not capture your expertise through a book?
Another reason is to celebrate a milestone or establish a legacy piece. It could be for a 50th or 100th anniversary, or to recognize the history of an organization upon the founder’s retirement or death.
And, if you are interested in helping others succeed, a book is a great way to share your expertise or what makes you and your organization special. For example, if you’ve built an amazing corporate culture where productivity blossoms and innovation flourishes, the “how” and “why” are good subjects for a book. And if you’ve been involved with several mergers and acquisitions, consider sharing what worked and what didn’t, and the lessons learned along the way.
Whatever your story, the key is having a reason to share it with others. The bottom line: It’s your story. Make it count.
Four years ago, Jorge Gonzalez didn’t have to be told that economic factors were not conducive for banks to report good earnings. There were indicators everywhere: the economy was weak, the real estate market was weak, interest rates were down and regulatory costs were up.
While those uncontrollables made it challenging to reposition City National Bank of Florida, of which he was president and later CEO, Gonzalez had a plan. And it worked. Last year, the bank had the best year in its history. Net income was $190.2 million, compared to $34.4 million in 2011. Revenue for 2012 was $190 million.
The success caught the eye of several suitors, and Banco de Credito e Inversiones of Chile purchased City National Bank in May from Bankia of Spain for $882.8 million, which was 1½ times its book value.
Gonzalez’s plan centered on having the right foundation in place to create the scalability and the proper infrastructure to support growth.
“You can’t just start to grow organizations,” he says. “So many times when we run across companies that have very good growth plans on the top line relative to how they are going to acquire new business, they haven’t necessarily thought through how they are going to be able to absorb and manage it once it is in the door.”
Gonzalez also issues a caveat. There is more to a plan than words on a piece of paper.
“You can have the best business plan in the world but if you don’t have the right people to execute the plan, you’re not going to get home. You’re not going to be able to get across the finish line.”
Here is how Gonzalez made sure the foundation of the organization, the backbone, the people and the technology were all in place and had the scalability to create a larger organization.
Build a rock-solid foundation
There is an undeniable benefit to having an organization’s foundation in place before successful growth can occur. Gonzalez envisioned a simple “if-then” approach.
“This allowed us to do two things,” he says. “No. 1, accelerate the growth because we were ready to take it on, and No. 2, navigate the less-than-easy landscape economically because the different ingredients were in place that were necessary to be able to execute our plan.”
When you are about to build the foundation, identify the empirical formulas.
“The foundation to any business is, No. 1, people,” he says. “In our business, I like to say that our money is not any greener. It is about having the right people in the right seats.
“So we spend a lot of time making sure that we have people who have the right skill sets, the right experience, and very importantly, are willing to operate within our culture.
“It is one thing to hire good people, but if they don’t fit into the organization’s culture, then ultimately you don’t have people performing at high levels.”
When repositioning a company, you need to have the strength and presence to lead you through some turnover.
“We had turnover of probably 50 percent of our employee base over the last four years as we’ve repositioned the company,” Gonzalez says. “But the 50 percent turnover was intentional. Sometimes the people that were in our organization had the right skill sets for the company at that period of time, but may not have had the right skill sets for the company that we were trying to build and the objectives that we are trying to reach three or four years later.
“It is just too important of a factor to not deal with.”
As for the “50 percenters” who made the grade, they need to understand how the culture has been redefined. The values need to be clearly defined and presented in a bottom-up approach.
“I wanted everybody to participate in trying to define and agree to what that culture should be,” Gonzalez says. “We made that a very critical component of the things that were in our plan that we needed to work on.”
The effort should be about defining the culture, having engagement, and everybody making that decision and sticking to it, he says.
“I think a lot of organizations do a good job of talking about core values. They do a good job about talking about culture, but then in the execution of that, it is lost.”
Empower and measure
Empowerment is a big part of culture because people need to be empowered to take a sense of ownership of their respective businesses. Culture in many ways is the motivational quotient that may be the difference between business success and failure.
“The leader needs to be able to delegate the decision-making and the authority to the people who are executing the jobs day in and day out,” Gonzalez says. “Give them the ability to make decisions within certain parameters. Outside of those parameters, then we need to have a sit-down conversation. But they need to feel empowered to be able to go run the business.”
Another way to look at the parameters is to think of them as guardrails.
“We kind of set guardrails for ourselves,” he says. “In other words, we want to operate within these rails so we give people the leadership to say, ‘Hey, between these ranges, go do your thing.’”
It is essential to have measurable objectives that you want to accomplish over a period of time.
“I am a big believer in that if you don’t measure things, they typically don’t happen,” he says. “So that is also part of going back to culture. Each line of business has key performance indicators and metrics that we focus on because, again, if you can’t go back and assess or measure relative to what you set out to do, then how do you assess whether you are able to accomplish that or not?”
Write into your culture a goal of adaptability, about how important it is to be flexible.
“If you are not adapting, not changing, I think you are almost falling backward,” Gonzalez says. “Part of our core values is embracing change. We have to be able to adapt, and our plan can’t be so rigid that it doesn’t allow us to adapt with whatever uncontrollable wolves are out there.”
Much of the culture is really just about standard operating procedures.
“There is nothing I’m talking about here that is exotic in its execution,” Gonzalez says. “It is more about executing simple blocking and tackling techniques and how to operate a business.
“But sometimes people get lost in the complexities and forget about the basics. So focus on things that are really creative to the organization, things that really move the needle, and try to execute those to the best of your capability.”
When accountability is discussed when talking about an organization, it also means employees being accountable to each other. Its value rivals that of family bonds.
“You are part of a team,” Gonzalez says. “If you are not doing your job, you are letting the company down, but you are also letting down everybody else around you.”
Try to make sure people understand that their contribution to your plan is key to the success of everyone else around them.
“If they truly believe in the culture and that they are part of this big family, then they are letting the family down,” he says. “Your job is to create that accountability both from a leadership standpoint but also from a peer standpoint so that everybody feels there is a responsibility to the best of their capability.”
Accountability comes in many different forms. Gonzalez uses a lot of real-time coaching, assessing and a lot of feedback.
“We take the opportunity when we see somebody doing something right to recognize them right away,” he says. “When we see somebody who needs help, we want to deal with that situation right away. I think sometimes there is a tendency to want to put that on your to-do list and unfortunately, you never get to that list.”
To make the feedback process as successful as it can be, it should be a continual process.
“It’s not just a once-a-year process whereby people sit down for 30 minutes and get their performance review and then go back to doing what they were doing,” Gonzalez says. “We try to make it an ongoing part of the management style over the organization.
“In other words, we want people to be given real-time assessments of how they are doing. And it’s not just the things that need improvement. It’s about reinforcing the correct behaviors and the results. We spend a lot of time on that.”
For the underperformers, you may either coach them up or coach them out, but always prepare for the unexpected.
“Make sure you always have a list of people that you are talking to in the marketplace that are potentially good hires for the organization. If you have an unexpected departure, you don’t want to just hire quickly,” Gonzalez says. “If you are not prepared with a list of people who you have been recruiting over a period of time, then you are probably more prone to make a quick decision that may not be the best one.”
How to reach: City National Bank of Florida, (800) 435-8839 or www.citynationalcm.com
Build a rock-solid foundation.
Empower and measure employees.
Stress accountability among workers and management.
The Gonzalez File
President and CEO
City National Bank of Florida
Born: Miami, Fla.
Education: I got my bachelor’s degree from Florida International University in Miami in finance and international business and am a graduate of the Kenan-Flagler Business School Executive Leadership Training program at the University of North Carolina.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
My dad used to make custom kitchens for people, and that was kind of a part-time job. The one thing that it taught me was to have a significant work ethic and the discipline to make sure that the things that have to be done are done. And the other thing was that my dad always taught me that you have to take care of your client. You have to make sure that when you deliver a kitchen that it is of the quality they expect it to be.
Who do you most admire in business?
I do read a lot of former GE CEO Jack Welch’s books. He has a very simple style of management that I can relate to. I like the things that he says, and I’m not sure how much of those, depending on the business, you can execute or not. But I really admire people who are entrepreneurs and take the risk to start a business based on an idea. The luxury of my business is that I get to meet so many different business owners and listen to their stories of how they started out of their garage or just ran across a business idea and now they have this $50 million or $100 million business. The entrepreneurial spirit and perseverance and the unwillingness to give up, and the willingness to take risks to me are characteristics that I find extremely recognizable.
What is the best business advice you have ever received?
No. 1 is don’t give up; persevere. That’s from my father, Jorge Gonzalez. I don’t think there is a substitute for hard work; the relentless desire to achieve something — that cannot be replaced. Going back to people, that’s somewhat in your DNA, in my opinion. I think you have that or you don’t. It’s very hard to instill. It can be done, but it doesn’t come easy. The other thing is to always do the right thing, in other words, always take the high road. I think those are two important pieces of advice that I try to live by every day.
What is your definition of a business success?
I think so many times you measure success on your own terms, but ultimately I think the true definition of success is how your clients feel about what you are doing, and if they are sticking around. Sometimes we get too caught up in measuring our own success when really we should be asking our employees and our clients if we are being successful.
In his autobiography, famed filmmaker Frank Capra wrote, “If you have to think about it, forget it.” The idea that one’s gut instincts were the best guide to success certainly served the man who made such timeless classics as “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
I’m a firm believer in that notion. Because I’m in the business of consumer products, I try to look at things from the customer’s perspective — from concept to delivery. What do they want or need? How will they use the product? What can make it more appealing or useful? What will differentiate my product from other similar products out there?
Trust your gut
I’ve learned to always trust my gut. The bottom line is that if the customer doesn’t like my products, he or she isn’t going to be buying them. It’s that simple. And if they’re not buying from me, I’m not going to stay in business for very long!
A huge mistake people often make in business is to overthink things or make things too complicated. For example, you should make purchasing easy for your customer — buying from you shouldn’t be a chore. So if you have a product that your customer doesn’t understand right away or if you make them think too much about it, the intrinsic benefits of the product will evaporate. Either way, you’ll be doomed.
I thought about getting into the high tech watch business a few years ago. Everywhere I looked, I saw watches that would monitor your heart rate, check your workouts, interface with your computer, create a workout program and cook dinner too!
Yeah, it was revolutionary stuff, but for me, that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. Because I’m also a consumer, I asked myself what I personally wanted in a watch.
First, I wanted to be able to actually read the dial without squinting at a tiny display.
Second, if there were too many buttons, or I needed three hands to get to the function I needed, that would be a big problem for me. Truthfully, most of the watches out there were not what I wanted to buy.
I figured there were other people out there just like me, so when I had the opportunity, I came up with a vastly simplified watch that was easy for the average person to use. It had a nice, big display and you didn’t need a phonebook-sized manual to figure out how to use it. The odds makers would have said to go high tech, but my gut said low tech. I followed my instincts, went with low tech and wound up with a huge hit.
Still, do your homework
Bear in mind, I’m not saying you should ignore the world around you. Doing your homework and staying aware of business trends is always important. In fact, we have more resources at our disposal than ever before. Research studies, product test launches and focus group data can be invaluable.
Still, it’s easy to get caught up in all the information and have it cloud the big picture. All the data in the world doesn’t guarantee success — no matter what your marketing department tells you! — but it can help reinforce one’s decision-making.
Like everything else in our world, the science behind business has become increasingly complex over the years. But sometimes it’s wise to take a step back and evaluate your business or a new opportunity from a wider view. If you do so, you’ll often find that a broader perspective offers you a much clearer look at what you’re dealing with and the solutions will also be easier to spot.
As you move forward with your business, always remember what got you there. What did your customer or client like about you? New ideas and opportunities will continually come your way as you expand and you always should be open to them. At the same time, it’s important to follow your instincts. Stay grounded and never forget how you initially achieved success. The path to a bright future begins by believing in yourself to make wise decisions.
Tony Little is the founder, president and CEO of Health International Corp. and executive chairman of Positive Lifestyle International. Known as “America’s Personal Trainer,” he has been a television icon for more than 20 years. After overcoming a car accident that nearly took his life, Little learned how to turn adversity into victory. Known for his wild enthusiasm, Little is responsible for revolutionizing direct-response marketing and television home shopping. He has sold more than $3 billion in products bearing his name. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Early in his career, Paul Demirdjian had been involved in developing software applications to facilitate process efficiencies, enhance customer service and product delivery. At the time, he knew he was only scratching the surface of the potential that Web-based technologies held.
He envisioned that websites of the ’90s would quickly evolve from simple information presentation layers into transaction layers, enabling companies to interact with and sell to their customers.
This vision was accelerated by an experience he had dealing with an online electronics retailer whose call center couldn’t locate his order, nor did they know if the product was in stock.
Astounded to learn that the retailer’s website couldn’t access inventory information, Demirdjian realized there was a growing need for a software platform that could allow companies to integrate disparate systems so that real-time information could be aggregated in one database with one administrative environment and one branded customer experience.
In 1999, Demirdjian started Internet Business Integrated Solutions to pursue his vision and began building architecture for what would become Jagged Peak’s flagship software — EDGE. After founding IBIS, he realized he needed additional expertise. In 2000, Demirdjian merged IBIS with Compass Marketing Solutions to form Jagged Peak.
In 2009, Jagged Peak was approached by a global consumer products company with a difficult challenge that revealed a major competitive advantage. The client needed a single solution provider that could create B2B and B2C web stores, provide order management, set up and manage distribution, as well as the warehouse and transportation management systems, and they needed it fast.
Jagged Peak was able to deliver within 60 days because EDGE is web-based, so rather than installation, it merely requires configuration and activation. It also spans the entire eCommerce ecosystem, handling everything from order capture to order management to order fulfillment.
Since then, Jagged Peak’s EDGE platform has been recognized as a best-in-class ECP and OMS.
How to reach: Jagged Peak, www.jaggedpeak.com
Crystal Clear Technologies
Crystal Culbertson had launched a successful business, but there was something missing that would make Crystal Clear Technologies even better. Culbertson decided she needed to begin performing the services that she was selling in order to bring the consulting firm to its full potential.
So she and her husband, who was also the company’s president, brought services in house. It wasn’t easy and the Culbertsons had to raise some of the money for the firm by borrowing against their own property. But the risk paid off, despite a lot of sleepless nights.
CCT provides IT services to the military and government and advises companies seeking help through federal procurement policies. As you might expect when doing business in the government sector, there can be a lot of obstacles to work through. But Culbertson, the company’s CEO, has proven to be effective at making sense of it all and helping her business stay ahead of the curve.
She’s even shown a willingness to take a loss to help her customers when they really need it. It was March 2010 when CCT sent eight employees to Japan to install a secure broadband network at Kadena Air Base. The company had $1 million of supplies en route just as a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the island country.
Shipping delays ensued and additional time was needed to locate supplies. But word of the cooperation and willingness of her people to find a way to make it all work spread quickly to others and opened the doors to new projects opportunities for CCT.
The drive and determination Culbertson showed to be there for her clients when they needed her most have been key factors in the company’s success. The company continues to grow and has reached a point where potential buyers have approached Culbertson. But the strong commitment she has for her people has kept her from seriously considering any of these offers.
How to reach: Crystal Clear Technologies, www.crystalcleartec.com
How Mike Kaufman turned a tough predicament into an opportunity to build a great business in Kaufman Lynn ConstructionWritten by SBN Staff
Michael I. Kaufman
president and CEO
Kaufman Lynn Construction
Mike Kaufman did not start Kaufman Lynn Construction under the best of circumstances. He was a father of four who suddenly found himself out of work and needing a job to support his family.
His first step was to dust off his tools from college and begin taking odd jobs for homeowners as he simultaneously looked for an opportunity to break into the commercial side of the construction industry.
He got an offer to perform as a subcontractor which he took eagerly, but it required him to take out a personal loan from his mother-in-law in order to pay his crew and purchase supplies. But through hard work and skillful management of cash flow, he was able to leverage that first commercial project into other opportunities and steadily build the scope and scale of his projects.
As president and CEO at Kaufman Lynn Construction, Kaufman sees the ability to track and understand costs as a core competency of the business and a contributing factor in the company’s ability to weather economic downturns. During the recession, it allowed him to take his profits and reinvest them into developing new market sectors that would help the company.
As other contractors were laying off employees, Kaufman took advantage of the newly available talent pool.
One of the most important goals for Kaufman was to build a business that is sustainable with sound practices and processes and a willingness to adapt on a job-by-job basis.
As a result, Kaufman has built a company that is viewed from the outside as available, adaptable and accountable for everything it does. It enables Kaufman Lynn to compete against the biggest and the best contractors in the country.
But there’s always room for more improvement, so Kaufman encourages his employees to further their skills and pursue training that can help them get even better at what they do. The hope is to develop leaders that will ensure the company’s success for years to come.
How to reach: Kaufman Lynn Construction, www.kaufmanlynn.com
Dan Doyle Jr.
president and CEO
Dan Doyle Jr. had two objectives in mind when he co-founded DEX Imaging in 2002 with his father, Dan Sr.
He wanted to create a privately-held dealership that focuses on quality service. He also wanted to give back one third of the company’s profits to charities and educational programs within the markets where DEX does business.
That commitment to both community and customer service has not wavered a bit over the past decade as Doyle has grown his business through the headwind of one of the toughest economic downturns the industry and the country has ever seen.
DEX has the lowest employee turnover rate in the industry as many of its sales, administrative and service personnel have been with the company since its inception. This means there is a legacy of performance excellence that customers of DEX Imaging experience first-hand.
One of the reasons employees stay is that the company has created a business environment that promotes transparency and encourages everyone to succeed in what they do. The company’s profit-sharing program awards bonuses to employees who consistently achieve high levels of performance each year.
When employees join DEX, they go through a rigorous and comprehensive in-house training program that not only provides certification on the makes and models that DEX sells, but also the makes and models of all other manufacturers.
This creates the opportunity for customers to have one option that can service all their document-imaging assets. The company also has an inventory auto-replenishment system that keeps warehouses fully stocked at all times with equipment, parts and supplies.
But just as important as the company’s operational philosophies are its philanthropic efforts. DEX’s Charitable Outreach Program has donated millions of dollars to organizations ranging from schools to special-needs programs to at-risk child mentoring agencies.
Giving back creates stronger communities and helps the company take an active leadership role in making a difference in the place it calls home.
How to reach: DEX Imaging, www.deximaging.com