David D. Dunlap
President and CEO
Superior Energy Services, Inc.
David Dunlap began his role as the CEO of Superior Energy Services, Inc. at a momentous time — the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill had occurred just nine days earlier.
With that catastrophic event as a backdrop, Dunlap realized that with about 60 percent of Superior’s business coming from the Gulf of Mexico, the company’s operations would suffer only a short-term impact.
In addition, as a mitigating factor, several of Superior’s products and services were on the front lines of the oil spill response team. Dunlap met regularly with those operational leaders whose products and services were impacted by the spill, discussing alternative uses for assets and other ways to deal with the business interruption.
Realizing the importance of communication during time of crisis, he also served as company spokesperson and industry thought leader with the company’s board of directors, employees, shareholders and other stakeholders. Through his membership on several industry trade associations, Dunlap has participated in several meetings with government officials and oil and gas operations regarding the emerging regulatory environment resulting from the oil spill.
Dunlap has helped position Superior for long-term growth. Through U.S. land and international expansion under his leadership, the company has the opportunity to grow.
Under Dunlap’s leadership, Superior accelerated its expansion into the U.S. land market by acquiring Complete Production Services, which doubled the size of the company. Superior's tremendous growth has been the result of hard work, strategic acquisitions and a focus on exceeding customer expectations.
Taking a direct approach to management, Dunlap focuses on building a team of great people around him and not a large corporate staff with much centralized control. He does not view himself as “the” entrepreneur, but rather Superior as being a company “of entrepreneurs,” with the key knowledge and customer service skills that support the task of guiding and cultivating — not trying to change.
How to reach: Superior Energy Services, Inc., www.superiorenergy.com
Distribution & Manufacturing
president and CEO
Schulte Building Systems
Like many other companies in the construction industry, Schulte Building Systems reached a breaking point with the global economic downturn in 2009. The downturn was made even more challenging, both personally and professionally, with the October 2009 passing of Johnie Schulte, who co-founded the business four years earlier with Fred Koetting.
Koetting, who then became both president and CEO, faced some tough decisions, but was inspired by his employees and knew that together they could survive the downturn. He knew it would take a collective effort from all levels to recover.
The company was forced to shrink in order to survive. A newly acquired plant in Alabama was shut down, costs were trimmed to the bone, salaries were cut by up to 10 percent and investors were asked to re-invest.
Koetting then took a dramatic step. He promised all pay cuts would be treated as loans to the company to be paid back as soon as earnings allowed. By providing that transparency, Koetting allowed the employees to see the sacrifices made by everyone.
The company achieved the collective buy-in it needed and survived. While the market declined 50 percent, SBS sales only fell 35 percent.
In addition, the company did not lose a single employee through the cuts, and by 2010 all lost wages were paid back in the form of year-end bonuses. SBS was positioned for recovery.
Any true success is a team effort, Koetting believes, and he strives to surround himself with the right people to do the job. He recognized that appropriate corporate governance was critical, so the company created a board of directors including representatives of the Schulte family and the Schulte trust as well as experienced banking and commercial representatives.
Koetting is free to innovate and allow his board to make course corrections with the overall vision or provide specific guidance as needed. New ideas are welcome and encouraged whether they work or not.
How to reach: Schulte Building Systems, www.sbslp.com
Distribution & Manufacturing
Mark C. Arnold
President and CEO
When the weekend draws near, the thoughts of many people turn to upcoming family gatherings, dinner reservations, tickets to the show or maybe even the possibility of getting a tee time at the country club.
But for Mark Arnold, many of his weekends find him doing something a lot more intense than any of these fun-filled activities.
As an active member of the U.S. Armed Forces, Arnold serves as a brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserve. When the weekends are over, it’s back to work as president and CEO at GSE Environmental.
Fortunately for Arnold, he’s proven quite adept at balancing the two leadership roles.
Arnold enlisted in the Army after high school and quickly volunteered for a Special Forces Paratroop Unit where he eventually became a Green Beret officer.
His military training has given him the ability to deal with challenges and work effectively with people to make things work in his organization.
Arnold firmly believes that the ability to be adaptive in meeting customer needs, adjusting to unexpected obstacles, and implementing new ideas is absolutely essential to GSE’s success.
He believes in empowering the organization’s people across all job functions to promote innovative thinking and a unifying commitment to the company’s success and future.
Arnold conveys this message every day through a rigorous schedule in which he is constantly working closely with customers and colleagues around the globe to move the company forward.
By providing a voice to every person through his ideation sessions where he emphasizes that he is only one voice and one vote in the room, Arnold is able to retain employees. It promotes collaboration and gives each person an opportunity to speak up and let their feelings be heard about the topic at hand.
When he isn’t at work or on reserve duty, Arnold makes sure he has time for his family. He also continues to be active with Ohio University, his alma mater.
How to reach: GSE Environmental, www.gseworld.com
Distribution & Manufacturing
Crane Worldwide Logistics
After working for a logistics company called Eagle Logistics for many years, John Magee concluded that the business he once knew and loved was no longer for him. He resigned subject to a 12-month non-compete agreement.
Magee and eight other former Eagle executives, all with one year non-competes, decided they would use the 12-month period to develop a business plan, find a financial backer, and then in month 13, kick off a new business.
They found a private equity firm to back them, got seed money from Jim Crane, and went to work developing a business plan that took the best of the management, operations, and back office aspects of Eagle, and addressed those aspects that were in need of repair. Magee and his colleagues launched Crane Worldwide Logistics in 2008.
Launching a new company during the economic crisis has its obvious challenges. Attracting top industry executives and employees from comfortable jobs to join a start-up was the most significant obstacle the leadership team had to overcome.
The vision of the company is the most vital aspect of the business and helped attract talent to the company. Crane aims to be a mid-sized logistics provider. To compete against the largest competitors, the focus is on large, high touch, high value, and high service logistics services where commodity pricing isn’t the determinative factor. In fact, Magee has walked away from several proposals where he believed the margins derived were inconsistent with the Crane vision.
Magee and his team believe strongly in the company’s character statement; CRANE, which stands for Customer-centric, Responsible, Attentive, Integrity and Execution.
Crane’s business is currently about 40 percent air, 30 percent ocean and 30 percent ground delivery. Magee attributes the success of Crane to the 1,200 like-minded employees who share the vision of building a niche logistics company which competes on service ability, and not just price.
How to reach: Crane Worldwide Logistics, www.craneww.com
Distribution & Manufacturing
Little has come easy in life for Amit Bhandari. He left his home in Indore, India, at the age of 17 to come to the United States and pursue the entrepreneurial instincts that were beginning to drive him.
Those instincts were strong, but they weren’t enough to prevent some tough times. Bhandari worked as a waiter to make ends meet as he attended school and got the education he needed to pursue his career path in the chemical engineering industry.
He also established a day care business, a real estate investment business and a convenience store along the way. All this time he was building up a cash reserve he would eventually use to start a company of his own.
He founded the BioUrja Group of companies in 2006, recognizing a need for a company that could address the significant logistical challenges oil companies and independent refiners face to reliably procure ethanol to meet federal mandates.
His keen eye for opportunity would serve him well as he continued to make wise decisions to build his presence in the industry. He took risks, including the mortgaging of his own home and use of his own personal funds to obtain a key strategic asset through a bankruptcy auction.
When those risks paid off, his company grew stronger.
Bhandari looks to build relationships with people to enable him to factor their perspective into those key decisions that need to be made. With everyone on the same page, execution becomes cleaner and efficiency increases, leading to an even stronger organization.
Through all the success, Bhandari has not forgotten the tough road he took to achieve success. He works hard to support mentoring programs that can help the next generation of talented leaders to get their chance to fulfill their potential and big dreams. And his staff is often right there by his side, reaffirming his instinct in developing great leaders.
How to reach: BioUrja Group, www.biourja.com
Distribution & Manufacturing
President and CEO
American Alloy Steel Inc.
As Arthur Moore transitioned from serving the United States in World War II to building a career in the steel industry, he noticed some similarities between the two pursuits. While there were obvious differences, Moore was struck by the importance of discipline, a strong work ethic and a desire to be the best that was present both in the military and the working world to which he now belonged.
He took advantage of the opportunities afforded him to learn about the steel industry and put that knowledge to use in 1971 when he launched American Alloy Steel Inc. When he discovered his partners did not have the same knowledge that he had, he bought them out and moved ahead on his own.
It was slow at times, but his business grew and the focus he put on building strong relationships paid off in multiple ways. Customers were impressed by his knowledge and professionalism as were suppliers. The result was a business that always had a plan to follow to achieve success.
Inside the company, a thriving culture has made American Alloy an enjoyable place to work. Free lunches are offered each Friday, creating an environment that is pleasant in the good times and supportive when employees are going through difficulties. Loans are available to those who need them with flexible payback plans that allow borrowers to get back on their feet without feeling pressured to pay off their debts.
The generosity extends beyond the walls of American Alloy as the company is always doing what it can to help needy families during the holiday season. The result is an organization that has built a strong reputation for the way it treats its customers, its vendors and its employees. This has positioned American Alloy to expand its reach and bring its all-around quality to other parts of the world.
How to reach: American Alloy Steel Inc., www.aasteel.com
Distribution & Manufacturing
Walter Blessey Jr.
Chairman and CEO
Blessey Marine Services Inc.
The way that Walter Blessey Jr. measures the success of his company is through his people. He is successful, he says, because his employees are great at their jobs. Like so many entrepreneurs, Blessey used to do everything himself, and now he has learned to put his faith in individuals and their abilities to do what they do.
Blessey Marine Services Inc., a multi-faceted inland tank barge and towing vessel fleet, and its employees have a track record of improving revenue by more than 25 percent in the last three years, so it’s easy to see why Blessey, chairman and CEO, has faith in the team that he’s assembled.
Blessey puts a great deal of time into his employees, not just on the job site, but away from the office or fleet as well. To show his employees how much faith he has in them, Blessey has a unique program that allows all employees to buy shares in the newest additions to the company fleet. Employees invest their personal money into shares of ownership in newly constructed vessels. The employees usually make their investment back within two or three years of the vessel being placed into service. The investment will continue to produce income for another 25-30 years.
There are many things that make Blessey and Blessey Marine Services original and innovative. One area that stands out is the Captain’s Club meetings for when all of the captains are in town together in order for everyone to meet each other. Blessey believes that it’s vital that every employee gets to know fellow Blessey co-workers.
To this end, the Blessey team also holds an annual trip to reward high-level executive team members and captains of boats without any injuries, safety issues or downtime. The trip gives everyone a great opportunity to get to know each other and boost the bond among office and field personnel even further.
How to reach: Blessey Marine Services Inc., www.blessey.com
Founder and CEO
Jerry Lasco did not grow up wanting to be a restaurateur. He was a pilot who had flown planes for both the U.S. Air Force and what was then Continental Airlines. He and his wife, Laura, loved to travel internationally and wine tasting had always been part of the experience.
But soon after Lasco and his wife moved to Houston, the tragedy of 9/11 struck. Lasco was furloughed and suddenly found himself out of work. Fortunately, he looked at it as an opportunity to start a new career. He was willing to take an hourly position at a wine store to learn more about the wine industry, as well as fine-tune his palate and plan his next move.
He became drawn to creating a wine bar that also sold retail wine. He and his wife invested all their savings to open one of Houston’s first wine bars, The Tasting Room Wine Cafe. It flourished and continues to set the standard for wine bars.
As founder and CEO of Lasco Enterprises, he leads with three principles in mind: Employees and business partners are the highest priority, customers must have an enjoyable and memorable experience, and the company must give back to the communities that support his business.
The focus on employees is critical because they are the ones who touch customers and if they are happy, your customers are more likely to be happy. Business partners are also critical to your success, and Lasco focuses intently on building a strong rapport so both sides can achieve success.
When customers have a memorable experience, they’ll tell people about it and your business will take off, Lasco says, and it has to be at every level of service as one bad aspect of a customer’s experience has the potential to spoil the good. And building strong bonds with your community fosters even more relationships and creates a positive image for your business.
How to reach: Lasco Enterprises, www.lascoenterprises.com
Chairman and CEO
Igloo Products Corp.
When Gary Kiedaisch and private equity firm J.H. Whitney first targeted Igloo Products Corp., Wal-Mart had successfully driven down cooler prices and had a 60 percent share of the cooler business. In addition, Wal-Mart had been rotating regional sales among the three main cooler suppliers — Rubbermaid, Igloo and Coleman — so that no company would be able to be dominant in the market.
Kiedaisch did not see the “Wal-Mart model” as sustainable, as it did not inspire consumers to buy new coolers. Instead, he saw the situation as an opportunity. Kiedaisch thought he could re-energize the category by giving consumers a reason to update their current coolers. He shared this vision for Igloo and the opportunity he saw and along with J.H. Whitney they purchased Igloo in October 2008 making Kiedaisch chairman and CEO.
Kiedaisch’s vision for Igloo Products Corp. faced two primary challenges. First, the economy was in a downturn and oil prices were on the rise, impacting the price of resin and increasing the cost to produce coolers. Secondly, he had to work around Wal-Mart and determine a way to move Igloo away from its buying and pricing practices either by growing sales outside of Wal-Mart or convincing Wal-Mart of a strategy to implement price differentiation.
Kiedaisch started growing the Igloo business outside of Wal-Mart through the use of specialty retailers and introducing features into the coolers that Wal-Mart was not able to offer. By creating an entrepreneurial organization, and empowering his employees, Kiedaisch and his team have been able to successfully implement more than 200 new products to the market. This resulted in Igloo being able to grow the business outside of Wal-Mart by 20 percent.
Kiedaisch met with the Wal-Mart board and presented his strategy and success in growing sales outside of Wal-Mart, ultimately convincing Wal-Mart to get in the game. As a result, Igloo went from having low margins and low profitability and getting beat up by Wal-Mart to developing a strategic partnership.
How to reach: Igloo Products Corp., www.igloocoolers.com
Stacey Gillman Wimbish
The Gillman Cos.
Stacey Gillman Wimbish may have learned a lot from her father, a legend in the Houston automotive dealership business, but there was no playbook for the challenges she has had to face since taking over the family’s Texas automotive dealership business, The Gillman Cos., in 2008.
Gillman Wimbish, president, has led her 14-dealership company through the economic impacts of the Great Recession when there were two hurricanes, a Japanese earthquake and tsunami that caused numerous issues and delays from Japanese automakers, and domestic manufacturers were cancelling franchises.
Through all these unforeseen challenges, she developed and executed a strong and consistent plan. The tenet of that plan was to assess the situation honestly no matter how difficult and have the courage to make needed change.
Gillman Wimbish transitioned the organization through all of these crises allowing not only for the company to survive, but come out much stronger. She embodied the famous motto, “Keep calm and carry on.” She reduced cost in line with the expected medium to short-term volume declines and made the hard decision to cut employee headcount. She also emphasized to her management team the need to constantly measure performance and press for timely changes whenever they were needed.
While her path to leading The Gillman Cos. was not certain, the automotive retailing business has always been in Gillman Wimbish’s blood. During her career, she has worked in almost every function of the dealership operations including accounting, vehicle and parts sales and finance and insurance. Her knowledge of the automotive dealership business and all its many facets has been a key to her success in leading the company.
With her leadership and strategic plan, Gillman Wimbish was able to manage through these adversities and bring the company back to operating and financial success. In 2010, she was named one of the 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry.
How to reach: The Gillman Cos., www.gillmanauto.com