GROUP360 Worldwide began life more than 50 years ago, providing color separations to the printing industry. Over the years, the company expanded through the acquisition of other businesses, such as publishing, packaging and large format printing. Each business ran as a completely separate unit with no combined efficiencies and no cross-selling of capabilities. Most significantly, there was no master plan and no vision to speak of.
In 2005, Mark Rutter became CEO of the strategic marketing services firm. Rutter, who is now chairman and CEO, has set the foundation of what would become a worldwide communications business that others would follow. When Rutter became CEO, the company at that point was struggling and ready to call it quits. Rutter, however, saw a way to transform product development and marketing in the fast-moving consumer goods business. In 2007, he bought GROUP360 with an unwavering belief in the capability of its people and a clear vision of the future of product marketing.
After the purchase, Rutter’s first order of business was to win the hearts and minds of the entire organization and get employees to see and believe in the vision. The vision was as simple as it was profound — link together all services under one roof, providing one point of contact and one markup. Not only could he save major corporations significant time in getting their products to the market, he could save them millions of dollars while doing it, providing a huge competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Now serving major retail chains throughout the U.S., GROUP360 Worldwide is at the forefront of the fastmoving store brand movement.
How to Reach: GROUP360 Worldwide, www.group360.com
For more than 25 years, Ernst & Young has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women who make our economy vibrant.
Ernst & Young founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year® Program to recognize those with a passion for “thinking big” and to bring together visionaries and leaders to inspire each other and our communities. We have gathered here, and in 25 cities across the United States, to honor all of our regional finalists and welcome a new class of entrepreneurs into our Hall of Fame, recognizing their resilience, ingenuity and innovation.
We applaud them for overcoming challenges, inspiring others, opening new markets and, ultimately, fueling economic growth in the Central Midwest. Let’s celebrate their achievements, perseverance and tireless pursuit of business excellence.
Congratulations to all of the 2012 Central Midwest finalists.
Randolph Buseman is a partner in the Kansas City office of Ernst & Young.
Michael Hickenbotham is a partner in the St. Louis office of Ernst & Young.
Finalists and Honorees
Industrial Manufacturing and Mining
Energy and Chemicals
Retail and Consumer Products
At Gragg Advertising, staff members will often refer to the “Energizer Bunny.” They aren’t talking about the pink bunny that is still beating those drums, but rather the nickname they have given Greg Gragg, chairman and CEO of the full-service direct response marketing firm.
Gragg’s “Energizer Bunny” moniker originates from the energy he puts into every business venture in which he is involved. A 20-year veteran of the advertising, interactive and marketing industries, Gragg worked for both large and small agencies prior to his founding of Gragg Advertising in 1992. The company is not a traditional advertising one; rather, it is more of a marketing technology company. Powered by machines that automate to gather and analyze data, the company is manned by skillful people with innovative minds that transform the data into information that helps re-engineer processes, increase revenue, gain efficiency in operations and maintain compliance with regulations.
Aided by Gragg’s unique and insightful forward thinking, the business has produced innovative services, which continue to enhance quality lead management for clients across the country. He continues to grow his agency and his client base to accommodate for emerging technology and remain competitive in the advertising and marketing industries. The company is always looking for ways to expand business and diversify the agency.
From developing new products or branching out into new business, Gragg is not afraid of developing new technology in order to create a successful business. Recently, Gragg made it his priority to expand to more industries outside of the career college realm that Gragg Advertising mostly serves. With an expanding new business department, he hopes that the hiring and recent growth the agency has seen can transfer to different types of business.
How to Reach: Gragg Advertising, www.graggadv.com
president and CEO
Dawn Ainger showed up for her job as a software engineer at Genova Technologies one day in 2001 to ?nd the doors locked and the company shut down, with plans to ?le for bankruptcy. She never dreamed of being an entrepreneur, but seeing few other options, she decided to buy Genova and take it in a new direction.
There were only nine employees left.
In a stunning turnaround, Ainger diversi?ed the company, focusing on IT market segments — and Genova has grown to have 74 full-time employees and 70-75 contractors.
Sales have increased 145 percent during a time of unfavorable economic conditions and strict government budgets.
She surrounded herself with employees who instilled the right “attitude, aptitude and integrity,” which is the tagline Ainger, president and CEO, carries with her on a daily basis.
“It was challenging at times, but I was able to let go because I surrounded myself with intelligent, trustworthy people who had those values,” she says.
Ainger is now able to focus on the long-term path of the company rather than micromanaging her colleagues and the day-to-day operations. She believes you must hire, right from the start, people who display these values.
“A work environment is much easier to operate when you can trust your people and you enjoy being around them,” she says.
Ainger treats her employees as if they were family. She cares about what is important to them and stresses worklife balance, and she sets that tone from the top.
The tone provides for a prosperous environment and an exceptionally low turnover ratio, less than 3 percent in the past 10 years — and of the nine professionals with the company in 2001, seven are still with Genova.
HOW TO REACH: Genova Technologies, www.genovatechnologies.com
president and CEO
In the midst of the recent economic downturn, Pat Perry decided he had to “?re” his biggest client. As president and CEO of Genesys Systems, an innovative engineering ?rm, he was very concerned about how the client’s culture was negatively affecting Genesys employees.
Perry saw far greater damage possible to his biggest asset — his employees — than in losing the client.
He challenged his people to make up for the lost revenue in other ways. They were able to do it and survived the recession on a strong note, despite having a reduced workforce due to the business slump.
“We not only replaced that income, we beat it, and most importantly, we walked our talk and reinforced our highest values,” Perry says.
He bravely vowed that after the dif?culties Genesys had in 2009, the company would not take part in the next recession. To that end, the company began to look for ways to diversify its product and service offerings to existing and potential clients.
For example, Genesys is now using an idea that grew out of a 1910 rock-crushing machine to recycle old carpet into saleable plastic. It is also looking into other potential uses for the technology including ways to recycle electronic scrap.
The company is establishing an ESOP that will allow employees to have a controlling interest in Genesys within ?ve years.
Perry is concerned also about his performance — from the employee level. Each year, he has them anonymously provide feedback on how he has been managing operations.
He says that if the employees aren’t happy with what he is doing, then he will know it is time for him to step down.
HOW TO REACH: Genesys Systems, www.genesyscorp.net
Benny Lee had become the majority shareholder of DuraComm Corp., an industrial power supply builder and distributor, and right away, he knew something had to be improved.
Lee, who is now CEO and sole owner, saw that the company was tied to one large national customer, which he believed was not an optimum situation. In fact, during his time with DuraComm, a majority of the business had been through 10 customers or less.
“This had proven extremely dif?cult and had put the company in a risky position,” Lee says. “I made it my goal to expand the customer base within the power supply business, as well as by expanding into green energy markets through both solar energy and LED lighting.”
Lee then implemented a comprehensive expansion strategy, seeking additional business segments and developing new lines of power supply products and compact models that took advantage of new technologies.
He launched an LED lighting division in 2009. The company outgrew its 10,000-square-foot facility, so Lee moved DuraComm to a 47,000-square-foot facility and added another 2,200 square feet of space to that warehouse.
When Lee took over DuraComm, the existing managers spent the majority of their time deep in the details of the business and focused less time on the bigger picture.
They are now moving toward Lee’s style of management — he considers himself to be a visionary and very forward-thinking. In his opinion, the management team of any organization should be the same way.
Within the next ?ve years, Lee expects the company to realize signi?cant growth in both the power supply portion of the business and the LED lighting portion.
HOW TO REACH: DuraComm Corp., www.duracomm.com
founder and CEO
president and co-owner
When Cory Wiedel took two years off from college to open his ?rst business, it was ultimately unsuccessful, but the experience cemented his ambitions to be an entrepreneur. With his solid work ethic, he paid off his debt and ?nished school a few years later.
He soon developed an interest in the nutritional supplement business — the ?rst step that would lead to Complete Nutrition.
Wiedel originally owned several top-producing General Nutrition Center franchises. One of his employees, Ryan Zink, eventually became his partner as the two set out to give the industry a fresh outlook on nutrition.
The key, they thought, would be to give customers more personal attention and advice in an upscale nutritional supplement store by providing better education, motivation and follow up.
It didn’t take long to come to fruition. The hundreds of Complete Nutrition stores across the nation now employ certi?ed personal trainers, former strength coaches and other experienced ?tness professionals.
Along with the consultative approach, Complete Nutrition sells products that are exclusive to the company, as well as kits and systems to customers and creating packages of products that are customized to an individual client.
As a result of this concept, 245 franchises were awarded in 2010. Growth was so fast that Wiedel, CEO and founder, and Zink, president and co-owner, decided to put a freeze on any new franchise contracts.
This was a precautionary move to make sure that existing franchisee sales ?gures did not suffer as more stores were added.
With the freeze on new franchises, the company could focus on building its infrastructure properly for future growth.
Complete Nutrition has been recognized by business magazines in 2011 for its outstanding growth.
HOW TO REACH: Complete Nutrition, www.completenutrition.com
Chairman and CEO
ASPEQ Holdings Inc.
Leadership is in John S. Eulich’s blood.
It has been ever since he developed a personal business plan while at Harvard Business School. This innate desire to lead would serve him well as he embarked on a mission to save INDEECO, a manufacturer of electric heating and control systems.
The company, now known as ASPEQ Holdings Inc., was struggling mightily in the summer of 2005, and Eulich was asked to take over and turn things around.
Eulich stepped in, and over the next year, he helped build a new management team, systematically eliminated areas that were holding the company back and sought to increase ef?ciency throughout the organization.
His leadership acumen put him in a position to make all of the key decisions and take on a powerful role to lead ASPEQ back from its problems. But Eulich worked hard to engage other leaders in the internal makeover while he pursued outside growth opportunities.
Eulich keeps a close eye on the results and provides advice to managers and executives, and he makes it a point to empower his team to run the business.
Eulich took on the challenge at ASPEQ despite the fact that he had recently retired from Mark Andy Inc. He didn’t have to work again, but he saw the challenge and wanted to make a difference.
And he did make that difference. As chairman and CEO, Eulich set high expectations. He helped take a relatively ordinary type of business, making electric heaters, and turn it into a successful and competitive enterprise.
He created incentive programs to inspire his people and made sure that when the company succeeded, his people succeeded. When you’re a leader, it’s what you do.
HOW TO REACH: ASPEQ Holdings Inc., www.aspeqholdings.com
Dr. Steve Lasky
Advanced Analytical Technologies Inc.
J. Lasky had a vision for what Advanced Analytical Technologies Inc. could be. Achieving that vision, however, was proving to be a big challenge.
Lasky and three other investors had launched the company with the hope of producing for workers in the life science industry a robust line of products that were both simple and easy to use.
Lasky wanted to make a positive difference in the world, and this company was going to help him do it. But one of the first new technologies the fledgling company developed failed, outraging customers and putting the future of the company at risk.
But Lasky was not about to give up. He took over as director of research and development, raised capital, went back to the drawing board to reassess the makeup of the new technology and devised a product that turned out to be a hit with the market.
Lasky has grown the business through his determination, but as CEO, he is anything but a micromanager in the way he leads his people.
Employees work in teams, and Lasky gives his people the best tools and full freedom do what they need to do to come up with great ideas.
There was no panic when the company struggled because Lasky believed if they worked collaboratively, they would find a way to make their new product work. He considers himself to be an idea guy, but that doesn’t mean he has to provide all the input to make things go.
Rather, he views success as having a team that works hard and is constantly being challenged to come up with a better way to help customers.
HOW TO REACH: Advanced Analytical Technologies Inc., www.aati-us.com
WINNER – Bio Science
Dr. David Faber
Trans Ova Genetics
Raised on a farm and equipped with a veterinary degree, Dr. David Faber took his passion for improving livestock and founded Trans Ova Genetics in 1980 — in his garage, without capital or clients. As an industry pioneer, Faber had to personally develop the company’s foundation of equipment and techniques.
But his efforts have paid off.
Today, Sioux Center, Iowabased Trans Ova Genetics is the global leader in animal reproductive technology, with 16 locations nationally and more than 170 employees.
As president, Faber has grown the company by applying his technology to provide valuable industry services, including embryo collection and transfer, in vitro fertilization, sexed semen and cloning technologies.
Additionally, these technologies have inspired joint ventures, including Hematech, which produces antibodies in cows, and Exemplar Genetics, which produces genetically engineered pigs as medical models.
The company continues to ?nd new applications for its various technologies, making its potential for growth limitless.
But from the start, Trans Ova Genetics has enabled farmers to yield increased numbers of livestock, which speaks to Faber’s ultimate goal: increasing animal protein production to sustain the world’s ever-growing population and to do so in an environmentally friendly, sustainable way.
Faber’s other focus is on developing the next generation of leaders in the industry. In an effort to combat the national decline in students entering related ?elds as well as the loss of educational programs relating to animal biotechnology, Trans Ova Genetics gives more than 20 scholarships to students in the animal reproduction, veterinarian and biotechnology ?elds.
The company also sponsors youth livestock events such as 4H and FFA.
HOW TO REACH: Trans Ova Genetics, www.transova.com