Education: Graduated magna cum laude from the University of Louisville and completed post-graduate studies at Harvard Business School’s Executive Management Program
Whom do you admire most and why?
Rather than admiring a specific person, I’ve honed in on human interest stories of people who suffered tragedy or setbacks and how they overcame those. For instance, I saw a report on the news about a Marine who lost his arms and legs in Iraq. He’s recovering and he just got engaged. He’s excited about getting new arms and legs. That’s inspirational. That puts in context my tribulations compared to people with insurmountable difficulties.
Your workday is off to a bad start. How do you turn it around?
I wouldn’t look to turn a bad start around; I would live through it and know you’ve got to have trying periods to appreciate life cycles. When I first got into the executive search business, I went to my boss and said, ‘I don’t think I’m going to make it. One day, I’m high because I found a great candidate and the client was thrilled. The next day, the client is upset because the candidate didn’t live up to their expectations.’ The boss smiled and said, ‘Clip your highs. Clip your lows. Don’t get overly excited or depressed.’
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
From Cecil Dye, district manager at Digital Equipment Corp.: ‘When you’re at a critical decision, sit down at your desk and write down all the positive things that can be derived from a yes answer to the decision that’s before you. After you’ve written down virtually all the wonderful things that can happen by a yes decision, take that piece of paper, wad it up and throw it in the trash. Now, write down all the worst things that can happen [from] a yes decision. If you can live with the worst negative, do it. If you can’t, then you shouldn’t do it.’
What’s your definition of success?
Success is when you’re passionate and you’re focused and you’re committed to what you’re doing, that you are totally engaged and you really believe that you’re making a difference. It’s that sense of mission mentality that you are where you need to be and you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing to experience fulfillment.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is really sitting down with my leadership team or, for that matter, any of the people in the company and listening to them work through an issue or a challenge that they have and being the sounding board to them. You kind of see that aha moment where they light up because they figured out what they’re going to do on their own. It’s watching those managers grow and develop in their skills and abilities as they’re making these critical decisions that certainly will affect the outcome of many people’s lives.
Born: Prairie Village, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City
Education: I went to Kansas State University on a football scholarship. I started out in architecture and then switched to construction science in my sophomore year and ended up with a degree in construction science.
What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
My first real job was working in the summers with a highway contractor as a laborer. I did that for three summers while I was going to college. I worked hard, worked long hours, learned a lot about construction at least on the highway side as a laborer. My first job out of college was JE Dunn and I’ve been with Dunn almost 30 years now.
Whom do you admire most and why?
Generally, the people that I admire most are those that create things, people that take vision and turn that into reality. People that aren’t scared to try new ideas or methods.
What’s your definition of success?
Success is really being at peace with yourself, if you’ve exceeded your own expectations and others’ expectations and you’re at peace with that. In the construction industry, it’s really a service business, and success is pleasing clients. It’s a client being satisfied with the project you provide; that’s another way to measure success.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Seeing a project used in the form that it’s created for. What thrills me is to go out and see a project like a children’s hospital, for example and you see how people benefit. I can go and I can see how a new environment can help a kid feel better or a family member feels more comfortable. Seeing that you were part of creating something like that is probably my favorite part of what I do.
When William Transier and John Seitz co-founded their company in 2004, they wrote personal checks to get it up and running.
North Sea New Ventures the predecessor of Endeavour International Corp. was founded as an oil and gas exploration company, and Transier was determined to build the company from the ground up.
Today, the co-founder, chairman, president and CEO uses the operating and commercial expertise he gained as a member of multifunction executive teams to run the successful company. During the last six years, Transier’s relentless commitment and tenacious spirit has been the difference between completing a deal and drilling a well.
With operations in London, Oslo and Aberdeen, he has overcome cultural differences, unprecedented commodity prices and a global recession to create a burgeoning energy company with a balanced exploration and production platform.
At the time of its formation, Endeavour was the only U.S.-based oil and gas company with a total focus on the North Sea. In the past, that had been the dominion of major exploration and production companies with diverse portfolios and an inherently larger overhead, but the U.K. sought to attract smaller, independent companies to further develop the region.
Following complicated market changes, including record-high commodity prices and governmental changes, Transier sought shorter cycle times and lower-cost opportunities in the U.S. on-shore arena to balance the longer and more expensive nature of its North Sea projects. That shift was followed by a dramatic move in which Transier announced the company is studying a full range of options to unlock the underlying value of its North Sea assets as it considers alternatives including selling specific assets or the entire North Sea business, entering into joint ventures to accelerate North Sea activities or continuing to execute the current plan.
How to reach: Endeavour International Corp., www.endeavourcorp.com or (713) 307-8700
Veronica Edwards didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of the rest of her family. There were opportunities to do just that, to enter the family business in the world of real estate and construction, to be provided a position and a paycheck, to be comfortable. But what fun is that?
Instead, Edwards wanted more than just that comfort, so she entered the work force independent of her family history and worked for more than a decade in telecommunications. After rising up the proverbial corporate ladder, she opted in 1998 to start her own company, InGenesis Inc., which then provided telecommunications staffing.
After only a couple of years as president and CEO of InGenesis, Edwards started to see significant changes in the telecommunications industry and switched the company’s focus to medical staffing. Today, the company, which is staffed by doctors, RNs and other trained medical professionals, provides service to top commercial clients, government medical centers and military treatment facilities across the nation.
And after the shootings last year at Fort Hood, InGenesis had 15 staff members on site that day caring for wounded soldiers. Service like that is why Edwards has listened to multiple offers from those interested in purchasing her company. But she doesn’t return that interest. Instead, she wants to stick around and see how InGenesis can continue to grow and evolve.
Edwards recognizes that there will always be change and challenges in the business, and she wants to prepare herself and her company as best as possible. That was why she returned to school and worked toward her MBA and why she is still in school working for her doctorate in human resources and organizational leadership.
She could have followed the rest of her family. She could have taken an easier road. She could have sold her company.
But where’s the fun in that?
How to reach: InGenesis Inc., www.ingenesis.org or (866) 448-0033
Stewart Pisecco is quite proud of the business he has built with Psychological Software Solutions Inc. But he’s just as prideful, and perhaps even a little more pleased, with the benefits that have resulted from his company’s impact on the K-12 special education industry.
Pisecco was a tenured professor at the University of Houston and had received numerous accolades in the study of child development. But he felt there was more he could do to help schools reach disruptive students. They just needed a proven intervention strategy.
Pisecco developed Review360 as a system that he likens to TurboTax. As with the software that tax filers use, Pisecco’s system gives teachers a way to analyze student data, deliver interventions and track progress.
With Review360, schools have a more clearly defined way to help their students achieve their full potential. And that is a critical aspect in Pisecco’s appraisal of his own company’s success.
The company’s motto is, “Doing good, doing well.” But it is more than just a motto; it is the principal tenet that guides its business model. Pisecco, the co-founder and CEO, wants the product to do well and garner high renewal rates as well as help the financial performance of his business.
But he also wants it to do good in terms of helping students and helping schools in communities everywhere feel as though they are reaching their students and helping them to achieve to their highest potential.
With the success PSS has achieved in special education, the company plans to increase its focus on general education with a spotlight on professional development and academic research and aims for vertical expansion in the K-12 education industry while operating within the behavioral arena.
Pisecco’s approach champions a paradigm shift in how school districts leverage data-driven technology for effective decision-making.
How to reach: Psychological Software Solutions Inc., (877) 411-7360 or www.psiwaresolutions.com
Growing up, brothers Ned E. Schwing and Robert L. Schwing had a paper route together. That partnership in newspaper distribution was the start of a lifelong collaboration.
After graduating from college, the brothers researched potential opportunities for a new business and finally settled on the delivery of health care. As a result, they founded SouthWest Renal Care and finally found a group in El Paso willing to invest in dialysis centers with them. Despite their lack of experience, the men were committed to succeed and friends and family believed in the brothers enough to provide the majority of their initial capital.
The brothers dedicated long hours working in their centers to learn as much as they could and eventually sold the business with the intent of taking six months off. That plan lasted a month before the Schwings founded Physicians Surgical Care, which owned and operated freestanding, outpatient ambulatory surgery centers across the country. In 2004, the brothers merged the business with another and went public.
But a year earlier, in 2003, while still involved with Physicians Surgical Care, the Schwings founded National Cardiovascular Partners LP, which collaborates with cardiologists and hospital systems to develop, own and operate outpatient cardiovascular catheterization labs and inpatient catheterization programs. Ned serves as chairman, while Robert serves as CEO.
The brothers also established Specialty Therapeutics Care in 2006, aimed at serving hemophilia therapies, and they have two other businesses in varying stages of development
When Ned and Robert are not overseeing their companies, the brothers devote themselves to their community. They regularly contributes time and money to the American Heart Association and the Legs for Life program, and both brothers also chair and support various other charity efforts.
How to reach: National Cardiovascular Partners LP, (713) 812-7586 or www.ncplp.com
Retail & Wholesale
When hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the New Orleans community, David Blossman decided to help the best way he knew how by making beer.
As president of Abita Brewing Co. LLC, he created Abita Fleur-de-lis Restoration Ale after seeing so many people lose their homes and places of business to the hurricanes. The restoration project meant that his employees could return to work and actively help their community heal. One dollar from each six-pack sold went to the restoration effort, and proceeds from the new brew raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. Inspired by the ale’s success, Blossman decided to use the company’s 20th birthday celebration as a way to help the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s Employee Relief Fund. That’s typical of Blossman’s efforts to involve his entire company in charity efforts by encouraging employees to volunteer time at fundraising events.
Blossman’s love of brewing started at an early age he entered home-brewing contests as a child but was often too young to collect the prizes. Later, as an adult, after acting as an investor in the company, he took over in 1996. Abita’s home state of Louisiana is a vital part of its identity. And Blossman sees to it that as many ingredients as possible come from the state. For example, the Strawberry Harvest Lager uses strawberries from the state, and the Pecan Harvest Ale includes Louisiana’s own natural pecans.
Blossman also hosts local events to promote his brand, such as gourmet beer dinners and pub crawls. He also expanded the company’s marketing tactics into social media and recently produced a beer cookbook.
Blossman’s determination and his love of brewing kept the company moving forward after the storms, and he plans to expand production to all 50 states in the near future.
How to reach: Abita Brewing Co., (800) 737-2311 or www.abita.com
Power & Utilities
Stephen D. Johnston had everything going for him. After graduating from the University of Mississippi, he landed a job with Wachovia Securities Inc. and the young investment banker went to work making a name for himself.
Then, one day, a local entrepreneur offered Johnston a job at his start-up company. At the time, the new venture consisted of a three-page business plan, a three-bedroom house and five employees.
If he accepted the offer, Johnston would have to withdraw from his EMBA program and take a 60 percent pay cut, but he followed his intuition and joined SmartSynch in 2000.
Almost as soon as he came on board, he discovered that the company which develops smart grid intelligence solutions for the utility industry was nearly out of money. Johnston used his prior experience in banking to secure millions in capital and revamp the business plan. Prospects looked grim once again in 2001, when the company’s largest vendor, Motorola, decided to discontinue its product line that was vital to SmartSynch’s survival. To avoid a mess, Johnston arranged a deal to purchase the division from Motorola.
In 2004, the company faced significant turnover, including the loss of its founder/CEO. Confident in his commitment and vision for the company, the board of directors named Johnston CEO. After settling into his new position, Johnston persuaded AT&T to buy in to his company’s technology. Every other public carrier soon followed AT&T’s lead and bought into the smart grid, resulting in a 100 percent increase in revenue from 2008 to 2009.
The future looks promising for Johnston and his company. Recently, the company gained recognition as “One of the Most Intriguing Green Tech Innovators in America” by BusinessWeek and the total potential benefit of implementing smart grid technologies over the next 20 years is estimated to be $75 billion.
How to reach: SmartSynch, (888) 362-1780 or www.smartsynch.com
John T. Rynd became the CEO at Hercules Offshore Inc. in 2008, just months prior to the collapse of the global economy. Becoming a new CEO at a time when commodity prices plummeted and Gulf of Mexico drilling tumbled to unforeseen lows made the transition to CEO a difficult task but one that Rynd, who also serves as president, was ready to tackle.
Rynd helped the company remain the market leader in the Gulf of Mexico by maintaining a presence throughout the downturn and developing unique ways to generate business. For example, throughout the past year, Rynd has helped Hercules Offshore enter into a number of creative agreements to manage other companies’ assets. The agreements provide a means by which Hercules can continue to expand its asset base, leverage its geographic footprint and expand upon its reputation for operational excellence but do it without expending any capital.
Rynd has also overseen major advances in oil and gas drilling. The art of drilling offshore oil and gas wells has not changed significantly over the years, but Hercules has been working on developing advanced subsurface technology to allow the company to drill wells with submersible gear, representing a huge breakthrough in offshore drilling technology.
For the future, Rynd has indicated that the company plans to take the necessary risks to expand its market share and global footprint by acquiring other companies or company assets. However, since debt is not easy to acquire and is nearly cost prohibitive at this point, Hercules’ leaders will closely evaluate all acquisitions to ensure they are value-added and will significantly contribute to the vision of Rynd and his leadership team.
Rynd’s personal motto is, “Let’s control what we can control.” By focusing on things that the company can control, Rynd has reduced the company’s cost structure and improved it operationally.
How to reach: Hercules Offshore Inc., (713) 350-5100 or www.herculesoffshore.com
Manufacturing & Distribution
Dozens of summers ago, when Mike Donovan was 11 years old, he asked his father for a relatively significant amount of money in order to make a purchase. The details about what Donovan longed for are lost, but the words and wisdom that his father shared with him are not.
If you want that money, his father said, you’ll have to earn it.
Donovan thought about how he might be able to earn enough money to get what he wanted. What in the world could he do? After all, he was only 11. And then, in the first of many eureka moments of his life, Donovan realized he had a mower and he could start a lawn service company. Soon, he had a customer, too. And before he knew it, he had more than enough money to make that purchase. And by the end of the summer, he was on his way to something far larger than he could have initially dreamed. Seven years later, just prior to beginning his first college classes, he sold his equipment and his clients for about $80,000.
Donovan has that same attitude as the principal of Heat Transfer Solutions Inc., an exclusive distributor of McQuay HVAC equipment parts in southeast and central Texas. Whatever he wants, and whatever his employees want, must be earned. First, he produced quality HVAC products, then he specialized the business by providing solutions to customers with special needs. Later, he focused on building long-term relationships with customers. And today, he focuses most on his employees. Because he values them and he wants them to stay around, he gives them certain powers and control. As a result, he has lost only four employees in seven years.
In addition, he is a big believer in giving back to the community and requires all commissioned staff to engage in at least one outside volunteer activity.
How to reach: Heat Transfer Solutions Inc., 832-328-1010 or www.htseng.com