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
CEO and co-founder
president and co-founder
Liberty Power Corp.
David Hernandez and Alberto Daire weren’t scared off from founding Liberty Power shortly after the 2001 Enron Corp. scandal. It was a trying situation, however, and entering the power industry at that time presented significant risks. Banks were hesitant to make loans, and customers had lost trust in utility companies.
So the pair took a different approach — Liberty Power was able to position itself as the “anti-utility company” that focused on customer relationships and excellent service rather than chasing profits.
Hernandez and Daire have led Liberty Power to become the largest independent retail electricity supplier as well as the largest Hispanic-owned energy company in the U.S.
The company’s rise to distinction reflects the strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit that the founders live and lead by. Both came from humble backgrounds, invested every cent they had to start the company, and neither took a salary for the first three years of operation.
One of the key factors in the growth and success of Liberty Power was that the company was able to build strong, personal relationships with customers. Daire went door-to-door to hundreds of businesses to seek customers while Hernandez negotiated with power plant owners to find suppliers.
When the switch was thrown in September 2002, 100 commercial customers in the New York City area came online with Liberty Power.
While the electricity was then flowing, the challenges did not end there. Liberty Power struggled to obtain lines of credit and almost ran out of money. Hurricane Katrina and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill brought additional problems. Liberty Power had to find a new creditor when a large, multi-national bank collapsed.
Attacking these challenges and solving them has made Liberty Power a stronger company as it moves into the future.
The company mirrors its relationship-building efforts for customers to employees as well. With a “people first” philosophy, employees share the company culture values of accountability, diversity, integrity, respect, teamwork and trust.
How to reach: Liberty Power Corp., www.libertypowercorp.com
Philip Anson Jr.
STS Holdings Inc.
When it comes time to honor employees who have been with 29-year-old STS Holdings Inc. for 10 years, CEO Philip Jay Anson Jr. gives the employee a Rolex watch as recognition. The Rolex watches are a small expense when thanking employees for their loyalty — the main reason why STS has been able to grow into the type of company it is today.
In fact, Anson says, STS does not have to work overtime to attract talent these days. Nearly every day someone knocks on the company’s door looking for an opportunity; some are willing to start at entry level as they just want to be part of STS.
When his father Philip Anson Sr. took over STS operations in 1997, everything was going well. The company had been experiencing growth and became the market leader in its niche industry of providing aircraft mechanics to large repair centers around the U.S. But like the bulk of the airline industry, things were not so rosy after 9/11. Overnight, STS lost more than half of its revenue.
Anson was asked to take over STS’s operations by the board of directors with the goal of diversifying the company and developing additional sources of revenue. Instead of cutting expenses and waiting for business to recover, Anson convinced the board of directors to invest as much as possible in talent and infrastructure. He then was able to design extremely scalable systems that could handle 10 times the amount of business.
Not only has STS since been growing its revenues and employee headcount, it has also assisted many of its customers to grow, for example JetBlue and Northwest. An example of their ability to innovate and revolutionize the market pertains to how STS was able to install the Wi-Fi systems in the Air Tran Airways fleet. To the surprise of Air Tran, STS installed the systems in one shift as opposed to the estimated three to four shifts.
How to reach: STS Holdings Inc., www.stsholdings.com
Retail & Consumer Products
Shoes for Crews, LLC
Matthew Smith knew he was on the path to leadership at Shoes for Crews LLC since he first began working for the company in high school, a company his parents founded in 1984. In fact, instead of the typical college student pondering what to do in life, Smith spent his college days answering the question, “How can I use the people around me to be most successful at what I know I will do with my life?”
From this early onset until today, Smith’s leadership strategies over his team of 484 employees and customers at 140,000 locations all still depend on teamwork, a reminder that some of the best ideas are suggested by others.
Shoes for Crews is the leading manufacturer and designer of proprietary slip-resistant footwear in the workplace and has been for more than 25 years. The company produces and sells 110 styles of footwear, with outsoles created with a rubber grid pattern to grip the roughness of the floor surface and to help channel liquids away from the bottom of the sole.
It was a business prospect who initiated the idea for the slip-resistant footwear business, a customer who suggested the employee payroll deduction business model, and a new face at a trade show who assisted in the development of a quality rubber formula that no competitor to date has been able to replicate. Smith’s leadership has joined these unique ideas to develop Shoes for Crews into the success it is today.
When Smith became the vice president of Shoes for Crews in 2001, the company only sold its footwear domestically. Since then, the company has begun production in both Canada and Europe and, just in 2011, opened a sales office and warehouse in Shanghai.
As CEO, Smith has devised a plan based on values learned from his parents, established goals and expectations to guide his business, and leads a company that continues to expand and thrive globally.
How to reach: Shoes for Crews LLC, www.shoesforcrews.com
Retail & Consumer Products
president and CEO
Mario Murgado is president and CEO of Brickell Motors, and one of the most established business leaders in South Florida. Since arriving to the U.S. in the mid-1960s as a young boy from Cuba, Murgado has paved a path of success with values based on hard work, tenacity and an ongoing desire to learn.
In May 2001, with a dream and a vision, Murgado purchased an automotive dealership and started from scratch under the Brickell Motors name. That year, Brickell Motors was a new dealership with a clear goal — to spread the joy of what a great auto dealership should be.
Over the last 11 years Murgado has built and developed a thriving business in one of the country’s most challenging industries — the automotive industry. Even through the 2008 economic downturn, the worst crisis the industry has seen, Brickell Motors continued to grow, retaining every employee and adding new franchises. Founded with just three employees, the dealership has grown substantially and now has 128 employees.
The idea for the original business strategy has more to do with ethics than it does sales: it’s to give customers an exceptional customer experience in an atmosphere of trust and transparency. In doing so, Brickell Motors has changed the way the automotive industry is perceived and has become one of the leaders in sales and service experience.
During the last few years while the industry has gone from 17 million annual unit sales to 10 million, Brickell Motors has continued to see success in all areas of the business and expanded to include a luxury vehicle retailer. The business’ success is a direct result of the effort and passion put forth by its leaders and employees.
By implementing innovative marketing strategies, taking risks to yield new business and establishing itself as a charitable organization, Brickell Motors is succeeding in one of the most challenged industries.
How to reach: Brickell Motors, www.brickellmotors.com
Retail & Consumer Products
Norbert P. Donnely
Norbert Donelly didn’t start his career with a comfortable job in his father-in-law’s business, Tervis. Rather, he began his career out of college working for a Wall Street bank. That was the scenario until 1989 when tragedy struck — and Donelly had to step up to the plate and become an entrepreneur.
Donelly’s father-in-law, John C. Winslow, had passed away. Donelly took charge of the company and from day one, he showed the traits of a successful entrepreneur with his innate ability to learn quickly and his flexibility to adapt to any situation.
Tervis, founded in 1967, is famous for the original insulated cup and for its high quality, nearly indestructible insulated tumbler. Donelly started with finding out just who were the Tervis customers, and then he made contacts and built relationships.
The more time Donelly spent learning about Tervis, the more he realized that the company produced an iconic product. He determined that he not only wanted to create a fun experience for the customers, but also for the employees of the company.
One of his main goals was to create and maintain a work environment and culture that fostered creativity, innovation, fun, flexibility and the entrepreneurial spirit.
To put his vision into effect, Donelly hired experienced employees, talented leadership, forming a knowledgeable board of directors, and taking risks. He was able to expand the product offering, install a futuristic manufacturing structure, start a licensing program, open a line of Tervis company stores, and launch an award-winning retail website.
Underneath it all, seven principles guide Tervis, which were developed by Donelly and his leadership team ranging from fostering a culture that implements innovation to managing growth intelligently.
In the past five years, Tervis has nearly quadrupled in growth, from nearly 200 to 800 employees, and sales increased by 78 percent between 2010 and 2012.
How to reach: Tervis, www.tervis.com
How Rick Silva transformed Checkers Drive-In Restaurants to become a category-leader in sales growthWritten by SBN Staff
president and CEO
Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc.
Throughout his career, Rick Silva has earned a reputation for bringing energy, vision and endless dedication to his work. He has also become known as an approachable leader as president and CEO of Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc. No matter who he is talking to, be it a general manager, a franchisee, or an investor, Silva is genuinely interested in everyone’s ideas, always looking for new ways to improve and grow the Checkers/Rally’s business.
Checkers and Rally’s began as two separate, but similar fast-food concepts , both dedicated to giving guests great food at great value with fast and friendly service. Checkers was founded in 1986 in Mobile, Ala., and Rally’s in 1985 in Louisville, Ky. Checkers was moved to Florida in 1987 and quickly began to grow.
The two brands merged in 1999 as Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc., becoming the nation’s largest chain of double drive-through restaurants. When Silva joined the company in 2007, it was struggling with slowing sales, leadership turnover and underperforming locations.
Silva led a restructuring and expansion of the business. He recruited industry-leading talent to the management team, led new brand strategy and directed the implementation of best-in-class operating and performance management systems. He took risks in new technology, developed new product lines and laid out an aggressive plan for sales and unit growth.
All this occurred at a time when many restaurant chains were closing units and businesses in every sector were pulling back on investments. Silva encouraged franchises to believe in the future and his own belief in the brand has generated a complete transformation of the Checkers/Rally’s brand.
Thanks to Silva’s leadership and perseverance, the chain has experienced category-leading sales growth with more than two straight years of consecutive same-store sales increases every quarter. Moreover, the company is expanding again with new franchisees signing up in record number and a new Checkers or Rally’s restaurant opening almost every week.
How to reach: Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc., www.checkers.com
How John Rivers perfected his passion for brisket, turning it into an acclaimed barbecue eatery with 4R Restaurant GroupWritten by SBN Staff
chef and CEO
4R Restaurant Group
From president of a $1.4 billion pharmaceutical operation to pit master, John Rivers stepped out of 20 years in corporate America to pursue his dream of opening a traditional Texas smokehouse in Florida as a platform to introduce his 18-hour, slow-smoked Angus brisket in what was otherwise considered a pork-dominated market.
He had spent two decades perfecting his recipe for brisket in his back yard. However, it was a heartfelt call in 2004 to raise funds to help offset the overwhelming cost of cancer treatment for a 6-year-old girl that brought Rivers’ passion to a new level.
Moved by the family’s story, Rivers organized a barbecue fundraiser that resulted in more than 500 attendees and the launch of what he dubbed his “barbecue ministry.” For the next five years, Rivers fired-up the smoker anytime a church, family, school or charity was in need of help.
Working from his garage, Rivers’ ministry quickly grew in popularity, prompting the bottling of his 4R signature barbecue sauce and later a line of signature rubs. The ultimate leap of faith was in October 2009 when Rivers opened the first of three 4 Rivers Smokehouses in Winter Park, Fla.
Since opening his restaurants, Rivers, who is chef and CEO, does not focus on the top line or bottom line growth. Rather, he focuses on his employees’ and customers’ experiences. He has found that spending time on employees and customers, and of course, his product, helps drive his growth.
In his first year in business, Rivers received numerous accolades from the media, including “Best Barbecue” by Florida Travel + Life magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando magazine, Orlando Business Journal and Orlando Weekly; “Best Sandwich” by Orlando magazine and two Silver Spoon Awards from Orlando Home & Leisure.
Rivers was most recently featured in Cigar Aficionado, Restaurant Business, Cooking with Paula Dean and was a recipient of Cooking Light’s 2012 Taste Test Awards.
How to reach: 4R Restaurant Group, www.4rsmokehouse.com
How John Kunkel used his restaurant industry experience to create critically acclaimed concepts at 50 Eggs Inc.Written by SBN Staff
founder and CEO
50 Eggs Inc.
John Kunkel exaggerated his age to get his first job was as a dishwasher in a restaurant at age 15, but there was no exaggerating his can-do attitude and strong work ethic, which allowed him to escalate the ranks of the restaurant industry.
When Kunkel ventured out to open his own restaurant around the time he was 30 years old, he had succeeded at all positions within a restaurant, from line cook to dishwasher to general manager. By then, he was very much in tune with the industry and believed he had what it would take to develop and run his own concepts successfully.
With years of service and food industry experience under his belt, Kunkel was able to blend all his different learning’s into one cohesive plan when it came to creating the business model for Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Khong River House and Swine Southern Table & Bar, which all make up 50 Eggs Inc., a full-service creative firm focused on developing irrepressible brands within the entertainment and hospitality industries.
Kunkel, who is founder and CEO, knows the restaurant business has some of the highest failure rates of any business. From the beginning, he had to have a strong vision which needed to be executed to perfection. The greatest and still ongoing challenge for 50 Eggs has been growing from a one restaurant concept company to a multi-concept company.
In order to retain key employees, 50 Eggs supplements the industry standard with benefits and incentives such as performance bonuses.
Throughout this process, Kunkel has been an avid researcher to proactively learn from other operators’ and his own mistakes to ensure 50 Eggs expands the right way. Although challenging throughout, by developing the correct systems, processes and procedures at the outset, 50 Eggs has been able to grow in number of concepts and branch out into fine dining from fast casual. All of Kunkel’s concepts have received critical acclaim.
How to reach: 50 Eggs Inc., www.50eggs.com