St. Louis (751)

STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Finalist

 

Stephanie Leffler

CEO

Juggle, LLC

 

Ryan Noble

President

Juggle, LLC

 

As the heads of Juggle, LLC, CEO Stephanie Leffler and President Ryan Noble bring extensive entrepreneur experience to the company as well as a strong top-down culture.

From their initial small online shop to a large software company, the two learned an extensive amount about the software/online industry, as well as the leadership skills necessary to grow a company at a rapid pace.

In 2008, Leffler and Noble founded Juggle with no outside capital, although they recently completed a capital infusion. The company began as an online reference resource and has become a network of websites covering thousands of topics.

Leffler tackles strategy and operations while Noble handles development and research in the company that has been further divided into ROImedia and CrowdSource.com. ROImedia works to drive online traffic and generate advertising fees, while managing 1,000 niche websites. CrowdSource.com utilizes the newest technology and ideas with the goal of becoming a software as a service organization for crowdsourcing functions.

Since 2010, the company has more than doubled in employees. Leffler forecasts that current investments in personnel and software will yield significant dividends in the coming periods.

The two consider the crowdsourcing industry to be an enormous opportunity and hope to become an industry leader.

Juggle also has an employee-first culture that creates an environment frequently listed as one of the area’s best places to work. The workplace includes a masseuse, hair stylists, ergonomic outfitters, free oil changes in the company parking lot, a personal trainer and in-house workout facility. Employees are encouraged to frequent the company’s lounge where free drinks and healthy are provided.

Leffler and Noble have had success attracting and retaining valuable management personnel because of competitive pay, flexibility and the fun work environment.

How to reach: Juggle, LLC, www.juggle.com

STL Ernst & Young Entreprneur of the Year

Turnaround

Winner

 

T. Michael Riggs

Chairman

Jack Cooper Holdings

 

Jack Cooper Holdings Chairman T. Michael Riggs is an optimist. How else can you explain why he bought his largest competitor in the car-hauling industry, which was 10 times the size of his company and on a downward spiral at the beginning of the recession?

Riggs shared the step-by-step details of his vision with his board and co-workers, but it didn’t hurt that he had done it before — three times.

He’s taken four struggling companies and turned them around by applying two principles. First, Riggs learned long ago that he’s a problem-solver, not a problem pointer-outer. Second, his success is tied to what he calls the “Zoe Philosophy,” which focuses on building a company for the long term, considering how business decisions will not only impact the company today but also for the next 20 years.

When Riggs bought Jack Cooper in 2009, the company was about to go bankrupt. U.S. sales had dropped from 17 million cars to 11 million, and car-hauling companies were closing.

He first focused on hiring — yes, hiring — the right employees.

Then, Riggs implemented a relentless focus on EBITDA with terminal managers and teams. Identifying unprofitable terminals and routes, he parked trucks rather than run unprofitable routes. This paid off when both GM and Toyota, his largest clients, suddenly put in large orders for the following week. The two were facing significant rate increases elsewhere.

As the largest trucking based car-hauler in the U.S., Jack Cooper continues to grow and has more than 2,500 employees. Riggs’s experience allows him to see where changes can be made, contracts adjusted and efficiencies identified.

The company has differentiated itself from competitors by building a new internal tablet-based system that considerably increases driver efficiency, invoicing processes and route selection. Another development is route and load modeling.

Riggs also continually looks at acquisitions for Jack Cooper, both in the U.S. and abroad.

How to reach: Jack Cooper Holdings, www.jackcooper.com

STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Finalist

 

Gary Jaffe

CEO

GL Group, Inc.

 

With 22 years in his family’s book selling and distribution business, CEO Gary Jaffe has helped GL Group, Inc. remain profitable when others are exiting the market. He also has continued the many company programs that give employees a better quality of life.

Formerly Booksource, Inc., GL Group has been family-owned since its founding in 1974. Jaffe took over as CEO two years ago, after slowly working his way up through the company.

Jaffe’s leadership style empowers the more than 160 employees to set high, but attainable expectations and encourages them to see the company as their own. This includes allowing employees daily access to company financial information, bonus trends, etc., as well as implementing departmental daily goals, or scorecards, that are tied to bonuses and metrics.

The company’s vision is to be the “best place to work in America.”

Employee benefits include allowing new mothers to bring their babies to work until 6 months old or partially reimbursing day care payments for the first year. GL Group also holds many social activities and has in-office massages and yoga classes. The company provides tuition reimbursement, extensive job training such as a four-week on-boarding course and is developing stock options for long-term employees.

Jaffe hosts a monthly lunch for 10 employees to discuss the company and answer questions, while sending out annual employee surveys to seek ideas for improvement.

GL Group has recently focused on educational channels to deliver high-quality goods and services to its customers. Under Jaffe’s leadership, from 2010 to 2012, sales have grown approximately 30 percent, even with the challenges from the rise of technology and e-books.

The company is consolidating locations to create efficiencies and starting to expand internationally. GL Group’s people philosophy has continued with the move through discussions of mileage reimbursement and the idea of including laundry facilities in the new headquarters.

How to reach: GL Group, Inc., www.goodluckgroup.com

STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Finalist

 

Mark R. Bamforth

founder, president and CEO

Gallus BioPharmaceuticals, LLC

 

Mark R. Bamforth helped an American pharmaceutical company grow into a multi-billion dollar company, which led to his 20-plus year career running its operations in the U.K. and Boston. But he grew weary of the bureaucracy that placed limitations on his innovative problem-solving skills.

Having been brushed off by executive recruiters, Bamforth struck out on his own. He convinced his wife to let him risk everything, quit his job and mortgage the family home to start his own company.

He formed Gallus BioPharmaceuticals, LLC in 2010 by rescuing a floundering St. Louis pharmaceutical production facility, which he had vigorously tried to convince his former company to buy. As founder, president and CEO, Bamforth turned the company around in just a few years. The family-type atmosphere includes many executives he brought on from his previous experience, the 160 existing employees whose jobs he saved, and the 65 additional jobs that have been created.

When Bamforth transitioned the old staff to Gallus, he realized many employees’ careers had been stuck in neutral. Re-energizing the workforce became a top priority, as overdue promotions and additional moves built employee morale and retention.

He continues that today with quarterly meetings for feedback and recognition.

Work/life balance remains important, which is certainly demonstrated by how Bamforth still manages to spend a few days during the week and the weekends with his family in Boston.

One of the most unique elements at Gallus is that approximately 50 percent of employees are unskilled workers who gain valuable work experience with on-the-job training.

Bamforth has worked to diversify Gallus’ services to include a mix of large-scale production and research and development suites for smaller biopharm companies and universities seeking lab space for their own projects.

His goal is to annually to decrease the company’s dependence on its biggest — and nearly sole client, when he came into the picture — Johnson & Johnson.

How to reach: Gallus BioPharmaceuticals, www.gallusbiopharma.com

STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Finalist

 

Robert D. Taylor

Chairman and CEO

Executive AirShare Corp.

 

After Robert “Bob” D. Taylor asked the widow of an aviation maintenance company CEO what he could do to help, he found himself running the company until it was sold. And by that time was he hooked on aviation.

It was November 2001, only a short time after 9/11, and Taylor wanted to start his own aviation company despite the industry’s turmoil. Executive AirShare Corp. was created with the idea of running an aviation company the right way.

As chairman and CEO of the only “days-based” fractional aircraft ownership company, Taylor has built a business that excels at meeting the demands of clients with a focus on safety and customer service. It serves a niche market looking for large light jet or smaller aircraft.

With its fractional ownership, the business’s regional approach puts it closer to customers and drives down costs. Compared to the typical hours-based model, the days-based rate model has more customer flexibility and fewer “dead head” trips where pilots are shuttling empty aircraft between locations.

From the beginning, Taylor looked for ways to turn circumstances into a competitive advantage, such as using the increased regulatory scrutiny over commercial aviation to drive business for fractional ownership.

But it hasn’t always been easy. With business booming, EAS moved to buy a newer fleet of better light jets just before the recession hit. The value of certain aircraft dropped approximately 60 percent from 2007, and the company had to sell excess aircraft for a loss.

Taylor and his fellow shareholders had to step up time and time again to invest in and keep the company moving forward. Their belief allowed EAS to avoid downsizing.

Today, the company has grown to be the largest operator of Phenom light aircraft. EAS maintains a fleet of 26 aircraft, while maintaining another 16 for other owners.

In the future, EAS plans to expand itsPhe core region into additional Texas and other markets.

How to reach: Executive AirShare Corp., www.execairshare.com

STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Finalist

 

Jeffrey Keane

founder and CEO

Coolfire Media, LLC; Coolfire Originals; Coolfire Solutions

 

A leading television production company in St. Louis, Mo.? Unheard of, until Jeffrey Keane started three media companies and found a niche producing shows, including “Welcome To Sweetie Pie’s” on the Oprah Winfrey Network, “Fast & Loud” on Discovery and “Mom Friends Forever” on Nick Jr.

With his family’s support, in 2002 Keane launched Coolfire Media, LLC, a production/post production company. As CEO, he attracted top talent and grew the company into an organization that works with the country’s top agencies.

But the vision didn’t stop there.

With the aid of a few likeminded employees, Keane broke into the television production world in 2009 with Coolfire Originals. Using their skills to produce short clips, they laid out story ideas in such a way to grab the attention of the television networks.

So far, the company has sold six projects with two more anticipated to launch this year. Keane is working to get a scripted division up and running to be able to produce a feature film.

In that same year, 2009, Keane created Coolfire Solutions. Self-funding two start-ups during one of the worst economic downturns speaks volumes to the success, leadership and drive of their founder.

After an unplanned meeting with an employee’s relative, Keane became intrigued with how the company could make a useful tool for the military. Coolfire Solutions focuses on research and development to provide mobility app solutions to military and enterprise customers.

Employing approximately 100 people, Keane strives to maintain productions within the city to the extent possible. In fact, all five of the company’s scripted television shows are based on characters that live in the city of St. Louis.

That love for St. Louis more recently led Keane to create the Coolfire Foundation, which will help underprivileged children obtain the right education to work and excel in the media industry.

How to reach: Coolfire Media, LLC; Coolfire Originals; Coolfire Solutions, www.coolfire.com

STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Finalist

 

John H. Kramer Jr.

President and CEO

Cambridge Engineering, Inc.

 

John H. Kramer Jr. earned his way to the top with more than 20 years at Cambridge Engineering, Inc., including establishing successful sales in some difficult regions in the U.S. He has worked in nearly every area of the company that was founded in 1963 by his father and uncle.

With his overall company experience and ability to draw people together, over the past eight years as president and CEO Kramer has driven the organization through the economic downturn.

The company that set standards in the heating industry was very dependent on industrial and commercial building starts. So, during the recession, Cambridge’s core market, warehouse new construction, dropped by more than 90 percent.

With Kramer’s leadership, the company has rebuilt to prerecession revenues and profitability. By focusing the core sales and marketing team on retrofitting existing commercial infrastructure, Kramer has launched four new companies to build additional markets.

He envisions a growing and stable company that is shielded from the ups and downs of the commercial construction market.

Thus, Kramer is always looking for opportunities to use Cambridge’s products in new ways, such as when he traveled to China last year to explore expanded distribution.

During the recent recession, Kramer also had to make difficult downsizing decisions that affected employees and their families. However, by treating the people with integrity, respect and care, he was able to keep the relationships with these individuals strong so they were willing to return as the business recovered.

Kramer’s investment in people development is significant. He regularly sends his leadership team through training and supports an internal coach — the vice president of quality, keeper of corporate culture.

Cambridge also has an employee recognition program, an online CambridgeU that provides more than 3,000 training courses to employees, and a variety of team activities.

How to reach: Cambridge Engineering, Inc., www.cambridge-eng.com

STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Transportation & Logistics

Winner

 

Artur Wagrodzki

president

Artur Express

 

Tomasz Tokarczyk

president

Artur Express

 

The partnership between Artur Wagrodzki and Tomasz Tokarczyk, current presidents of Artur Express, started when, at a young age, they became neighbors in New York. Their families had emigrated from Poland and both men didn’t know any English.

Today, they’ve acclimated and thrived through hard work and refusing to give up with things get tough.

First working as black car service phone operators and dispatchers, Wagrodzki and Tokarczyk used their knowledge of the logistics of the transportation industry to start Artur Express in 1998. They had one company truck and a trailer.

Initially, the two focused on providing and managing drivers and freight rather than trucks. But in 2006, the company headed in a new direction to accommodate customer requests and invested in company-owned trailers and driver education. This embodies their leadership and management style of controlled risk-taking.

By focusing on providing quality customer service and timely deliveries, the company’s reputation has grown at an astonishing rate. In the 15 years of operation, Artur Express has not experienced a year where the company did not outperform the previous years.

The company has an operations team of more than 60 that works out of its St. Louis headquarters and five satellite offices to field a fleet of 375 trucks.

Another key to success has been employing the right technology to help the company simplify and streamline processes to better serve customers and the drivers, often by developing its own software.

Wagrodzki and Tokarczyk maintain a philosophy of treating their drivers with care and providing employee benefits that create a competitive advantage in an industry with high turnover. That treatment crosses over to the corporate employees, who can receive increased payouts as the company exceeds expectations and benchmarks.

Their idea of running a successful company has always been to keep everyone involved by working through failures and achievements as a team.

How to reach: Artur Express, www.arturexpress.com

STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Finalist

 

Matthew J. Condon

CEO

ARC Physical Therapy+

 

Growing up on a farm in rural Iowa, Matthew J. Condon learned nothing in this world comes easily. But it was after he was injured on the Iowa State University football field that he understood the importance of exceptional physical therapy.

Starting ARC Physical Therapy+ 10 years ago with the goal of simply providing excellent physical therapy service, ARC has grown to be an information technology company that is redefining employer wellness programs by utilizing technology and data reporting to build customized programs.

ARC sets itself apart by giving clients innovative protocols, outcome reporting and management, and adopting of some of the industry’s leading-edge technologies and processes. For example, ARC tracks data to tell who would be the best medical care provider to an employee, based on the injury sustained and the employee’s demographics.

As CEO, Condon has successfully grown the company from a one-site physical therapy location with 300 patient visits to a multi-location business now serving 75,000-patient visits per year.

While the core business remains unchanged, the company’s tremendous growth has been the result of an environment where employees strive to meet the highest industry standards with creativity and innovation. Nearly all of the walls of ARC’s corporate office are painted with a special paint that essentially acts as one big whiteboard. This allows for a personalized workspace and the ability to freely brainstorm new ideas.

In line with the company’s external data reporting, Condon created a system to internally track therapist data related to patient service, creating a healthy sense of competition.

Even with the challenge of navigating the impacts of health care reform, Condon takes great pride in the fact that ARC has absolutely no debt.

In the future, he plans to start expanding into new geographic areas in Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma, while specifically targeting areas in the 17 states where workers’ compensation is employer directed.

How to reach: ARC Physical Therapy+, www.arcpt.com

STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Industrial Products

Winner

 

Joe Burgess

president and CEO

Aegion Corporation

 

Insituform Technologies was facing stagnant revenues, low earnings and a proxy battle with a major shareholder in 2008 when Joe Burgess took on the challenging role of president and CEO.

Now, not only has Burgess’s entrepreneurial spirit and fresh perspective reinvigorated the company, creating a trajectory of significant growth and diversification, but he also transformed the firm with a series of acquisitions and a new name — Aegion Corp.

So, how did Burgess completely change the culture and direction of company and its existing base business as a municipal government contractor to more than double revenues since 2007? He did so by not being afraid to think unconventionally. Burgess moved a company with a rich 40-year history into more profitable energy markets to become a global pipeline protection and rehabilitation business.

To start the company’s overall diversification strategy, Burgess held his first Evergreen Strategy Process, which gathered the entire management team to discuss new ideas, products, markets and service offerings. The strategy sessions continue today on a quarterly basis.

Burgess’s mantra was that “no good idea will go unfunded.” He motivated employees to stretch themselves when thinking of new ideas and product offerings.

He also created a pay-for-performance culture and compensation programs for executives and employees. Burgess recognizes compensation is typically the single greatest motivator of retaining high-performing individuals, and thus “one size fits all” is not sufficient.

Burgess’s innovation, which has become part of the company culture, has led to new technology being used in copper mines in South America and a workforce that has more than 300 engineers dedicated to creating complete engineering solutions to customers’ complex structural integrity problems.

In addition, Burgess is a strong believer in corporate responsibility. He started the practice of setting aside company funds to be used for charitable activities, as well as capturing employee man-hours that are contributed to charity.

How to reach: Aegion Corp., www.aegion.com