With Intrepid Investment Bankers, there is something behind the number three. There are three on the management team: W. Michael Rosenberg, CEO; James B. Freedman, managing director; and Ed Bagdasarian, managing director. They exude a combination of humility, charisma and energy when discussing their journey from aspiring bankers to their current entrepreneurial venture.
The company has a three-part focus: meeting customers’ needs, understanding how to be a strategic player and embracing innovation through unconventional standards.
Founded in 2010, Intrepid is becoming a major player in the investment banking industry, leveraging the experience of Rosenberg, Freedman and Bagdasarian.
Their experience goes back more than two decades. They built their first venture, Barrington Associates, into one of the most successful independent investment banks in the U.S. It was later sold to Wells Fargo. After Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia Securities in 2008, the trio helped integrate Barrington into Wachovia Securities.
Next, it was Intrepid’s time in the spotlight. In just more than two years, it has grown into a leading M&A adviser in Southern California as measured by completed transactions, number of bankers and revenue. This was all done during challenging economic climates and is an example of the founders’ entrepreneurial drive, vision and skill.
One of the practices that differentiates Intrepid from other investment bankers is its compensation method. Instead of the traditional salary plus bonus structure followed by many Wall Street firms, Intrepid makes every banker a “deal partner” who participates in the fees generated by the firm. This meritocracy structure rewards initiative and results.
Intrepid hopes to create a new standard for middle market investment banks with its philosophy on client service and industry. Teams that put together deals view their roles as hands-on managers of the deal process, leaving nothing to chance and driving every aspect of the transaction with passion. The firm’s senior bankers participate in each facet of the deal process.
How to reach: Intrepid Investment Bankers, LLC, www.intrepidib.com
Robert V. Sinnott believes in the idea of partnership and “doing the right thing” as a staple of a successful investing strategy. In the late 1990s, a rogue oil trader was crippling a Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors portfolio company, and the company was not likely to survive.
Sinnott, president, CEO and chief investment officer at Kayne Anderson, worked closely with the company’s management to navigate and source a large equity investment to support the company’s long-term success.
The portfolio company is now one of the largest and most respected master limited partnerships (MLPs) in North America. Both firms have prospered from the long-term relationship.
Upon joining Kayne Anderson in 1992, Sinnott brought his unique approach and deep knowledge of the energy industry, which has not only led to generating impressive returns but also to revolutionizing the energy markets by fostering institutional ownership of the industry, thus changing MLPs’ access to capital.
Sinnott sees to it that the Kayne Anderson reputation and business philosophy inspires confidence among investors and portfolio companies. The firm focuses on accountability and living up to commitments to create a sense of trust that leads to mitigating risk and continued business relationships.
Trust also begins with open communication. Sinnott believes that oral commitments are as strong as written, and insists that his team negotiate personally, rather than slipping legalities into agreements.
He also argues that terms should be mutually beneficial — an “everyone wins” mentality. If one party is in a distressed situation, you might get a little more out of the party now, but the party will be less likely to return on the next deal.
To help ensure return business, Sinnott searches for win-win deals and develops long-lasting partnerships. In the economic downturn in 2008, many investment firms were limiting investor withdrawals. Kayne Anderson recognized the uncertainty investors faced, and worked hard to ensure the liquidity investors had come to rely on.
How to reach: Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, www.kaynecapital.com
For Jeff Green, his online ad exchange company The Trade Desk is the culmination of a career spent trying to make media buying more efficient. Green started his Internet work experience while in college working for Microsoft to supply technical support — but soon was focused on with his vision of improving transparency and efficiency in online advertising.
In 2004, when everyone else in the online advertising industry doubted ad exchanges, Green founded AdECN, the first exchange for online advertising. He has since been constantly trying to improve processes to make them more efficient.
As the founder and CEO of The Trade Desk, and with his background in the industry and analytical ability, he brings his vision to reality — he can delve into what he describes as the “intricacies of online marketing” and successfully capitalize such a business opportunity.
He knows his vision and can sell it as a product to his customers and colleagues. In leading his team, Green knows the delicate balance between pushing his teammates for the best results and not micromanaging.
The Trade Desk has grown rapidly, including expanding from about 20 employees to the current number of 50 in one year. Not only is Green successful at obtaining more talented employees as his business grows, but he retains those already on board. Since the start of the company in 2009, only five people have left. More than 75 percent of employees acknowledge that working at The Trade Desk is the best job they have ever had.
Green is not only entrepreneurial; he is also community-minded and charitable. When his son’s private school had no other choice but to cut the school year short because of insufficient funds, Green volunteered to help solve the problem by using his online ad exchange platform to raise money. The school raised enough funds so it did not have to cut education time short.
How to reach: The Trade Desk, www.thetradedesk.com
A volunteer with the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue team who has contributed to the rescue of more than 90 lost or injured hikers, CEO Tim Cadogan finds the same joy in performing missions for OpenX.
The company first began in 1998 as an open source project in Europe, where its digital and mobile advertising technology became widely adopted. While it was a good basic product, there was no business model.
Coming on board as CEO in 2008, Cadogan had to start from scratch as the first U.S. employee, incorporating the company and defining a vision and strategy for a new kind of advertising technology platform business.
OpenX’s seeks to unleash the full economic potential of digital media companies. Its solutions provide a unique software as a service platform by combining ad serving, an ad exchange, a supply side platform and content valuation.
Cadogan began with building a high quality team with the right skills to deliver on a vision to create a comprehensive display-ad platform for publishers, an alternative to industry titans Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.
This mission has remained constant, and OpenX now employs 282 people. The company has seen sustained profitability since the fourth quarter of 2011 and now powers a solution for thousands of customers globally.
At the heart of Cadogan’s approach is actionable innovation. OpenX was one of the pioneers of Real-Time Bidding in the digital ad exchange space, which continues to account for the largest and fastest growing portion of the company’s revenue. Additionally, its Open-SaaS ad server is, via its innovative application program interface design, a platform that allows its partners to innovate to match their own requirements.
In the past 12 months OpenX has created two industry firsts — the first ad serving solution to acquire and fully-integrate a supply-side platform, LiftDNA, and the first company in the ad technology space to add a content valuation solution, JumpTime.
Future plans include core innovation, scale, global expansion and multi-screen.
How to reach: OpenX, www.openx.com
When Jeff Stibel founded Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., he wanted to assist businesses in establishing their reputation as credible enterprises.
Formerly the president and CEO of Web.com, Stibel saw there was a significant need for small businesses around “credibility.” He and his team founded a company around this need. Determined that it was critical to have a brand name in credibility, Stibel acquired the rights to certain assets from Dun & Bradstreet in 2010.
The business he acquired had a declining revenue base, but Stibel wanted the storied brand, ability to use the name and the ability to tap the data. He quickly shut down the existing business and reformed it to provide credibility analysis for businesses throughout the U.S. and Canada.
If you look at employment growth alone, you would conclude that he’s been a success. Starting with just eight employees, the company has now grown to more than 600 employees.
But that is not the only impressive attribute. Stibel has become well-known for his “failure wall” where employees write about their business mistakes and miscues. He believes that every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. The principals of positive failure have even been incorporated into the company’s performance evaluations — employees are graded on failures and calculated risk-taking.
Stibel believes in the importance of creating an outstanding workplace environment for his team to thrive. In appreciation of his staff, he began an innovative education savings plan, which allows his employees to set aside a wage-deferred contribution that is company-matched. He then triple matches it by donating directly to the school district.
Additionally, Stibel rewards high-performing employees each year with an all-expense paid vacation. Not surprisingly, his company has a low turnover rate. In just three years, the company has grown into a business that is experiencing significant growth, and became profitable in 2012.
How to reach: Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Co., www.dandb.com
Rick Stollmeyer would not have been the only person to put a potentially life-altering business deal on hold in the fall of 2001.
The fact that this deal involved expanding his business to New York City, which was still grasping to find some sense of normalcy in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, only gave Stollmeyer more justification to hold off.
But as soon as the airports opened again, Stollmeyer dismissed the fears that many felt about flying so soon after the attacks and headed to New York to finish the deal for Mindbody, Inc. The client could not believe that Stollmeyer had made the trip, but ultimately signed off on the deal because he had made the trip. It got even better when Stollmeyer realized that a woman he had met on this leap-of-faith trip would eventually become the woman he would marry.
A strong work ethic, commitment to getting the job done, and the ability to remain focused and tune out distractions are traits that Stollmeyer took from his experience in the U.S. Navy. They each helped him build Mindbody into the largest cloud-based software provider in the health, wellness and beauty industries.
The business is run on a foundation of Stollmeyer’s personal leadership traits. One of his greatest successes is actually his inability to integrate into the typical corporate environment. He tried the more corporate approach but after witnessing the lack of compassion, drive and deeper meaning that came with it, he decided to unleash his own entrepreneurial spirit and hasn’t looked back since.
Stollmeyer expects a lot from his employees and values competence and character in every person who works for him. Compassion is the third of the three Cs that are important to him. He wants employees to care about their colleagues as much as they do themselves. The result is a vibrant and productive work environment, and a company that continues to grow.
How to reach: Mindbody, Inc., www.mindbodyonline.com
Mel Elias had a lot of worldly experience when he first got involved with The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. He had completed his military service in Singapore, graduated from the London School of Economics and practiced law in Singapore, before opening and operating a The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf franchise in his native Malaysia.
He saw a lot of potential in the coffee retail chain and helped organize a buyout from the founding owners. Elias then moved to Los Angeles and helped transform The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf from a family-run business to a structured enterprise.
When he became president and CEO in 2008, he battled through intense competition and limited external financing to extend the company’s brand across the U.S. and around the world in multiple channels and formats.
One thing that makes the company unique is the fact that it buys directly from coffee farms and tea estates, thus knowing where every bean and leaf comes from. Elias buys only the top 1 percent grade available in the world, ensuring quality in every cup.
He also was able to see the growth of at-home coffee consumption and develop the company’s own single-serve beverage system. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf conceived, created and implemented its own system in 10 months, including national distribution in more than 4,000 locations as well as a 10-country launch.
The innovation was achieved through third-party strategic alliances and employee engagement initiatives. It did not include any additional shareholder investments.
Through all the success that The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has had, the company also has been able to make a big difference in philanthropic causes. Elias wants employees to understand that they have a higher purpose than just making a profit; their goal should be to have a successful company that uses its success to make a positive difference in the world.
How to reach: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, www.coffeebean.com
Smaller is better, according to Concession Management Services, Inc. Chairman and CEO Clarence Daniels Jr. It was because of CMS’ smaller size that brands such as Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf allowed Daniels to operate one of its stores at the Los Angeles International Airport.
Founded in 1992, CMS is an airport concession company that operates restaurants such as Panda Express, Coffee Bean, Carl’s Jr. and Cinnabon in airports in Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Diego, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Houston and Tampa Bay.
Daniels admits that operating in airports is extremely difficult. There are many stakeholders who feel they own the airport concessions, such as the airport commissioner, airport staff and the airline station manager. There are also numerous regulations that govern everything from security to employee pay to the design of the store. These are all obstacles that Daniels constantly works to overcome.
CMS concessions such as Panda Express, Coffee Bean, Carl’s Jr. and Cinnabon are among the highest grossing restaurants in the country. Daniels attributes his success in customer service to being hungrier than the competition. His managers volunteer to open the restaurants earlier than the competition, or even open the stores 24 hours a day.
The company uses its knowledge of the industry to become a sought-after partner for national, regional and local restaurant brands that want to gain entry to the airport concessions industry. Because malls and neighborhoods are saturated with restaurants, airport real estate is highly sought after. However, most restaurant owners don’t want to invest the time to learn how to gain this entry, nor do they have the experience working with organized labor.
CMS has capitalized on these issues and developed an approach to licensing where the company pays restaurant owners attractive licensing fees to allow it to own and operate their concepts in airports. This approach has enabled CMS to bring numerous restaurant brands to airports around the country.
How to reach: Concession Management Services, Inc., www.cmsairports.com
Jessica Firestone founded Tempest Telecom Solutions, LLC in July 2005 because she felt a woman-owned business in the telecom network equipment sector could be successful given the growing attention to diversity at the leading Tier 1 operators. She also had a strong interest in reuniting a specific team of individuals who had all successfully worked together.
Tempest is a leading provider of telecom infrastructure equipment and related services, helping service providers and network operators build, expand and maintain their networks faster and more cost-effectively.
Firestone has extensive sales experience in the secondary equipment market. Her career evolved quickly in sales and sales leadership positions because of her energy and intuitive understanding of her customers. Tempest meets the need for cutting-edge technology support as well as repairing and supporting hardware that is no longer under manufacturer warranty.
An example is the current 2G/3G/4G cell phone trends, in which Tempest is involved in decommissioning 2G infrastructure, repairing and maintaining 3G infrastructure as it ages out of manufacturer’s warranty, and installing and expanding 4G networks nationwide, with a thorough understanding of various local and state security and emergency services response regulations.
Tempest’s positioning within the current 4G-conversion trend is unique, as the company is able to leverage experiences gained with larger nationwide and international cell carriers and translate those solutions into smaller-scale answers for its regional clients. Because of this positioning, Tempest is also able to anticipate the direction of the industry.
Within the repair and maintenance aspect of the business, the company strives to create replacement parts that meet or exceed the original equipment manufacturer component. Replacement parts are shipped with all cables and components in place, ready to use.
Tempest’s creativity and innovative nature helps to differentiate the company. Known for being flexible, customer centric, and always willing to go beyond normal obstacles to dig deeper and solve customer challenges, the company is poised for further success.
How to reach: Tempest Telecom Solutions, LLC, www.tempesttelecom.com
At age 32, James “Jamey” B. Edwards took a huge risk by giving up a highly lucrative career at Lehman Brothers as an investment banker to become the CEO of Emergent Medical Associates; he was a businessman with no medical background or experience with the health care industry.
That meant he had a huge learning curve and had a lot to prove to the physicians as well as the executives of the company. But he met the challenges head-on, implemented various programs and increased revenue by more than 268 percent since his 2006 arrival. With results like that, Edwards earned the respect and trust of the company and the physicians.
One of the key factors he believes is necessary to grow a business is to create a culture of which everyone wanted to be a part. Edwards worked hard to establish a reputation for EMA to be the fastest growing company of its kind, providing high-quality care, and being employer of choice for providers and group of choice for hospitals.
Edwards believes in assembling the right team with the right people and empowering them to make the right decisions. With a lot of emphasis and resources being placed on training, these result in corporate employees who may better assist the physicians who then are trained so they may better attend to their patients. If physicians and patients are happy, it leads to the success of the business.
Two leadership groups are involved in managing EMA: physician leadership and executive leadership. The two groups may have different goals and visions for the company at times, but Edwards has created a “Senior Counsel” to help establish a partnership between the providers and operations teams.
Since Edwards joined EMA, the company has grown its number of physicians from 60 to 329. The company plans to continue to grow by acquiring sites located in Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Las Vegas, and by organic growth.
How to reach: Emergent Medical Associates, www.ema.us