Working at Preferred Solutions Inc. for 17 years, Marie Seipenko has stamped her unique ideas all over her business, from its products to its unique business strategy designed around customer needs.
Seipenko understands that a company doesn’t have to be big to diverge from the industry norms and try new things. Since becoming president and CEO of the IT staf?ng company in 2002, she’s taken many steps to differentiate Preferred Solutions from competitors and build its niche in health care IT.
Soon after Seipenko became CEO, the IT market experienced a decline for the ?rst time in years. Seipenko watched as smaller staf?ng companies merged with each other and others went out of business. Quickly, she realized that Preferred Solutions needed to change directions if it was going to survive in the industry long term.
One of the major changes she made to reshape the company was rejecting the idea that Preferred Solutions should use one form of software or partner with one software company for customers. Instead, she helped organize the business to work with more than 500 service providers, allowing clients to maintain their current IT systems and creating a ?exible model for growth.
To position the company uniquely from competitors, she also developed a three-point business strategy: become a tier one vendor (only taking a job if they could work directly with the client), target a completely different industry — health care IT — and hire a topperforming salesperson, despite the expense.
The company also switched to using nurses on the job instead of IT employees to work with hospital customers to increase the comfort level of clients.
Although implementing these ideas was risky, Seipenko’s creativity in developing solutions that add value for Preferred Solutions’ clients has led the company to not only survive but to also successfully grow in the challenging economy.
HOW TO REACH: Preferred Solutions Inc., www.prefsol.com
Semifinalist, Staffing and Support Services
In the last ?ve years, Ann Arbor, Mich.-based software developer SRT Solutions Inc. weathered the recession and the bankruptcy of its biggest client, General Motors. And SRT didn’t merely endure these adverse conditions, it thrived under them. Led by co-founders Dianne Marsh and Bill Wagner, SRT Solutions more than tripled its revenue from 2007 to 2011 and increased its staff from 12 to 18.
SRT Solutions uses a collaborative approach to building software for its clients. Marsh, the company’s president, and Wagner, its CEO, have different technology and software preferences, which makes the company more versatile than many software developers.
Staffers work side-by-side with clients to gain an understanding of the business and technical issues that affect software design and execution. SRT’s goals go beyond creating software to helping its clients compete more effectively in their markets. The company also helps its clients understand the technology and how it works.
Marsh and Wagner take a hands-off approach to working with their employees. They give them freedom and don’t hover over them or make them feel rushed. They require R&D time of their entire team, keeping SRT Solutions abreast of the latest software being developed. This investment has produced a successful return, evidenced by the company’s strong performance under adverse conditions.
SRT Solutions’ co-founders are active as organizers, sponsors and presenters at CodeMash, the Midwest’s largest software development conference. The annual conference has grown greatly since its launch in 2007. The 2012 CodeMash conference sold out its 1,400 tickets in 22 minutes.
Marsh and Wagner believe in the importance of spreading the knowledge of technology, and to support that goal, SRT Solutions hosts free user groups and technical forums at its downtown Ann Arbor facility.
HOW TO REACH: SRT Solutions Inc., www.srtsolutions.com
Tel Ganesan likes to be told something can’t be done. His response? “Watch me.” This can-do, risk-all attitude has served him well. He tapped all his personal ?nancial resources seven years ago to launch Kyyba Inc., a home-based operation specializing in providing IT and engineering services to companies.
Today, as president and CEO of the Farmington Hills, Mich.-based, multimillion-dollar company, that entrepreneurial leap has paid off. Ganesan has met and exceeded his goals, winning the Inc. 5000 award four years in a row for being one of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.
Ganesan has achieved this growth through strategic acquisitions and diversi?cation of services. He consolidated 2007 and 2008 acquisitions under one location in 2009 to streamline company operations, and consolidated further under one company name — Kyyba — in 2010 to bolster the brand. When the ?nancial crisis hit, affecting the company’s primary client base, the automotive sector, Ganesan led the company in diversifying services to ?ll the sector’s demands generated by workforce reductions.
The staf?ng company of nearly 200 employees was recently recognized by Corp!Magazine and received the 2012 Michigan Economic Bright Sport Award.
In addition to a dedication to entrepreneurship within his own company, Ganesan encourages the development in others. He formed the Annai Ashramam USA Foundation to raise money to assist women and children with education and the ability to build lives of their own. He is also active in The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE), the world’s largest nonpro?t group fostering entrepreneurship and assisting individuals with their dreams of opening a business.
Ganesan has served as chairman of TIECon and assisted with the development of the organization’s ?agship conference for entrepreneurship.
HOW TO REACH: Kyyba Inc., www.kyyba.com
Claudine George had worked at companies where employees were not treated with the level of respect she felt they deserved. She wanted to change that and create a business where they would be valued and made to feel as if they were her No. 1 asset.
The company began as Computer Systems Group, a small, homegrown business that specialized in recruiting IT consultants and engineers.
George did not expect to make money overnight and took a methodical approach to building the organization she had envisioned. In 2000, she took her clients and rolled them into a company called ICONMA LLC. She invested as much capital and pro?t into the growing company as she could. Money was a challenge in those early days as many clients were pretty slow about making payments.
As the stress mounted, George was advised to obtain certi?cation as a woman-owned business. This turned out to be a big help in staying a?oat. She continued to work hard to try to provide better service and encourage clients to consider her ?rm. Over time, her efforts paid off and the company continued to grow.
But all the while, George’s attention did not waver from her employees. She wanted to know what drove them to come into work each day and what opportunities they sought for their own personal growth.
She wanted to provide them with a voice in the company’s goals so they would feel part of the success as much as she did. And she wanted them to have a sense of optimism, no matter how bleak things looked at times.
The result is a company that continues to grow with employees who indeed feel like they are No. 1.
HOW TO REACH: ICONMA LLC, www.iconma.com
It was a great opportunity but, unquestionably, a great challenge as well. For the ?rst time since 1915, Henry Ford Health System was going to build a new hospital. The health care system had grown since that time, but it was through acquisition rather than new construction.
Nancy Schlichting felt the pressure, but she was supremely confident she was up to the challenge. This new hospital would be used, viewed and analyzed for years to come by millions of people. Schlichting wanted all those observations to be positive.
So the CEO and her team embarked on a design that would revolutionize the design of hospitals and the type of care that they provide. Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital was going to be modeled after a northern Michigan lodge with wooded areas and paths for walking and biking.
The latest in medicine and technology would be offered, along with comprehensive wellness and preventive programs.
To ensure that customer service and culture would stand out, Schlichting hired an executive from The Ritz-Carlton Hotel to be CEO at the hospital.
In addition to exemplary customer and patient service, Schlichting wanted safety to be a priority at the new hospital. She makes her way around all of the company’s hospitals on a regular basis to gather feedback and address any issues that may have developed so she can quickly address them.
Her regular presence has served as an important reinforcement to her words of quality and accountability. The results indicate she’s on the right path. Satisfaction scores since the hospital opened are in the 99th percentile and admissions are higher than many other hospitals in metro Detroit. The hospital is also projected to break even in its third year.
HOW TO REACH: Henry Ford Health System, www.henryford.com
When working for an Italian company after graduating with a computer engineering degree from Michigan State University, Jason Teshuba wanted to learn Italian. However, he could not ?nd a good teaching program that provided a fresh and practical way to learn a language. This experience led him to develop his own business, Mango Languages, in 2007.
The business’s founding was not without risk. Although they received some bank loans, CEO Teshuba and his three other founders mainly funded the business personally, racking up loans and using personal credit cards to get the business off the ground.
The quartet also needed to think outside the box if it was going to compete against other language software programs and come up with a concept other language programs weren’t using.
Mango Languages’ competitive advantage is that it teaches practical conversations for immediate exchanges instead of unnecessary vocabulary a person will most likely not use. The software also uses semantic color mapping to teach grammar in place of less engaging verb conjugation lists.
While there were many ?nancial and logistical obstacles in the way of Mango’s launch, Teshuba never saw them that way. He feels the true entrepreneurial spirit means that you embrace every challenge with creative thinking — and believe that you can do anything.
In the future, Teshuba plans to continue investing capital in research and development, production capacity, mergers and acquisitions, and new geographic markets. His vision for the company is 1 billion users by 2021 by launching the new products in the U.S. and some foreign markets.
Teshuba is actively involved with the National Museum of Language, a nonpro?t organization that works to promote a better understanding of language and its role in history, contemporary affairs and the future.
HOW TO REACH: Mango Languages, www.mangolanguages.com
Jane E. McNamara looked at Credit Counseling Center Inc. and she saw a good business that could be even better with a little work. It needed standardized service delivery methods and processes to bring order and take out confusion from the work the company did to help those in dire ?nancial straits.
She also decided the company needed a new name and so Credit Counseling Center Inc. became GreenPath Debt Solutions. As president and CEO, McNamara invested in a task-based computer system that automated parts of the operation that didn’t need human involvement.
She also standardized some decision-making processes and created a quality assurance department dedicated to ensuring that consumers receive the same high-quality service at all its locations.
GreenPath’s reputation surged as the services wowed clients. Partnerships were established with large creditors such as Chase, Bank of America and HSBC, who began referring their customers directly to GreenPath.
There have been challenges along the way, however. In 2011, actual revenue was off signi?cantly from what was budgeted, and GreenPath had to undergo signi?cant restructuring. The workforce was reduced and several locations were shut down to cut costs. Despite the blow to the corporate culture, the company was able to recover through decisive leadership and began to turn back toward pro?tability late in the year.
The strength of the culture is very important to McNamara and she encourages her employees to get involved in philanthropic opportunities. GreenPath has donated hundreds of pounds of food and thousands of dollars to area charities to support their drives. Employees have also taken part in gift drives to make sure children have a happy holiday season.
HOW TO REACH: GreenPath Debt Solutions, www.greenpath.com
In 2006, few investors were prepared to back a start-up company, let alone one in a relatively unknown industry. However, Jeffery Prough identi?ed a void in the approach to caregiving and recognized that many problems could be resolved preserving people’s
independence through the application of technology. His unwavering determination to succeed, industry knowledge and personal ?nancial investment attracted ?ve initial investors, and Critical Signal Technologies Inc. was born.
Prough, who is president and CEO of CST, a provider of 24-hour personal emergency response monitoring and related services to elderly, disabled and chronically ill people, has increased the company’s number of subscribers, and the company has become an industryleading innovator. Among CST’s innovations are medication management, TeleHealth, managed care and multiresident solution programs. In 2009, CST acquired the assets of GTL Inc., which does business as Link to Life, a 30-year-old PERS monitoring provider.
Today, CST is considered one of the fastest-growing companies in the industry and is now the fourth-largest independent multichannel TeleHealth supplier in North America with more than 68,000 current and 300,000 lifetime subscribers. It’s considered to have the industry’s most ?exible and scalable monitoring platform and is supported by two fully redundant, multilingual, 24/7 care centers.
CST is taking on an integral role in health care reform. The application of its technology provides an avenue for early intervention during crisis. The company’s ability to proactively alert health care providers of changes in their patients’ status and intervene to assess an emergency helps drive down health care costs and reduce unnecessary hospital readmissions or costly emergency medical transportation. CST’s scalable and ?exible infrastructure leads the industry in the development, delivery and support of innovative solutions.
HOW TO REACH: Critical Signal Technologies Inc., www.CSTLTL.com
When Dr. Christopher Newton ?rst joined Emergency Physicians Medical Group PC, he had no interest in one day becoming the CEO of the company. However, the company went through a transition of ownership, and after several scenarios were considered, the job Newton didn’t think he would ever have was his.
As president and CEO of the medical group, a provider of clinical staf?ng and management services for emergency departments, urgent care centers and clinical decision units, Newton has faced great obstacles that he has successfully overcome. When Newton took the CEO position, the company was highly leveraged, had ?at revenue and little growth for several years.
In a short period of time, Newton helped to drastically alter this course for the company, and 2011 resulted in the best growth and ?nancial performance in company history. Newton also led a diverse group of new shareholders and executive leaders to reorganize the corporate structure and create a partnership model to increase engagement and retention of valued providers. Newton also created a business model to ful?ll EPMG’s vision by investing in clinicians and creating an environment of ownership, transparency and trust. This resulted in the Trusted Partnership Program, which develops and recognizes employees for their contributions to EPMG and its client sites. The company rewards each level of designated partnership by sharing the corporate pro?ts, offering an opportunity for all employees to enjoy a partnership with the company, which was a shift in the culture of EPMG.
To continue its growth, the company has implemented a strategic growth plan. EPMG plans to grow within current regions, expand beyond existing service areas, and explore acquisitions and new service lines. All of this assists the company to create highly effective emergency departments that help ensure compassionate patient care.
HOW TO REACH: Emergency Physicians Medical Group PC, www.epmgpc.com
Lifestyle Lift, a facial cosmetic surgery practice based in Troy, Mich., was founded in 2001 by Dr. David Kent. The idea for Lifestyle Lift originated one day when Kent was treating a patient for some other issues. The patient asked if he could do something to improve her appearance that would be less expensive than a traditional facelift and that would not entail putting her under general anesthesia.
Kent, who was trained in cosmetic surgery, believed he could do something for the woman using local anesthesia, making it less risky and less invasive and shortening the recovery period. The patient was pleased with the results.
From that starting point, over a period of 11 years, Kent and his team of physicians have evolved a broader range of services, all based on the original model: less invasive, with a quicker recovery and at a lower cost. Kent feels his ability to recognize his entrepreneur skills has allowed him to form a leadership team that has created an infrastructure of systems within the company, which help guide the company to triple its size within the next ?ve years.
Lifestyle Lift has expanded its practice to more than 40 locations in 22 states by ?nding and recruiting physicians willing to learn how to do the new, less invasive type of facelift and by learning how to select good locations and to manage a geographically dispersed practice not under its direct control.
The company has established an innovation center in Albuquerque, N.M., where it tries out new tools and technologies to improve patient care and enhance clinical outcomes. One of the innovations was responsible for generating 10 percent of the company’s revenue within eight months of its introduction.
HOW TO REACH: Lifestyle Lift, www.lifestylelift.com