How going on their own with @properties was the right decision for Michael Golden and Thaddeus Wong

Thaddeus Wong, co-founder, @properties

Thaddeus Wong, co-founder, @properties

Services

WINNER

Michael Golden, co-founder, @properties

Michael Golden, co-founder, @properties

Michael Golden and Thaddeus Wong were top producers at a small brokerage firm when they took a leap of faith and founded their own company, the real estate firm @properties, after being dissatisfied with the service and support they received from their sponsoring broker.

The new company first started selling new construction, but expanded into existing home sales within the first few years. Over the next 12 years, Golden and Wong lead the four-person enterprise to become the largest real estate brokerage firm in Chicago and one of the 35 largest in the country —  with much of the growth occurring during the recent housing market crisis.

The pair took a big financial risk to start @properties, being owed $1.5 million in commissions, which never were paid, by the previous firm. Foregoing a salary at first, Golden and Wong kept a tight budget and reinvested back into @properties. Their first payday finally came after two years when their initial client transitioned to, and completed, a high-rise development.

With that success in hand, and a strategy to expand despite the market crisis, Golden and Wong over the last five years has opened six new offices and more than doubled the number of Realtors from December 2006 to today.

The adoption of a conservative mentality through the expansion of the business has been a key factor to the company’s success. For instance, while many other real estate brokerage firms have extravagant offices, @properties has much simpler facilities. The company has invested the monies that could have been used for a more lavish office into employee resources.

Golden and Wong have studied opportunities for expansion, but want to grow strategically. They have and will continue to consider acquisitions but do not see an immediate need to acquire other firms, especially when they have been consistently drawing agents from other firms to work for @properties.

How to reach: @properties, www.atproperties.com

How Jim Beck got Nature’s Best back on track to serve its target audience

Jim Beck, president and CEO, Nature's Best

Jim Beck, president and CEO, Nature’s Best

Family Business Category

Finalist

All was not well at Nature’s Best in 2005 when Jim Beck stepped into the role of CEO. The company’s CEO had stepped down from the family run business because of a clash with the owner, who happened to be his mother, about the future of the business.

Operations had become very expensive and the company had cut ties with Whole Foods, which made up 36 percent of the company’s revenue. Beck had been with the company focusing on IT development, but he had not previously been part of any discussion about strategy and leadership.

It wasn’t going to be easy, but as it turned out, severing the relationship with Whole Foods was actually a good thing for the company’s future. The relationship was no longer profitable for Nature’s Best and the break allowed the company to establish itself as a key distributor for independent health food stores.

Another challenge was to redesign the company’s production line and implement new software as well as consolidate operations into one building.

When all was said and done, Nature’s Best became much more efficient and was better positioned to expand into new markets and open new distribution centers.

As the company continued to evolve and even create its own brand, Beck made sure that his people felt like part of the growth. That was a key motivating factor behind his support of Greener Initiatives, a program that started as a grassroots co-op dedicated to providing healthy food for employees, their families and customers. Beck doesn’t want employees to see their work as just a job, but as an opportunity to make a difference and put their unique talents to use.

One of Beck’s next major goals is to expand eastward by acquiring a gourmet food company on the East Coast and propel his company to even greater heights.

How to reach: Nature’s Best, www.naturesbest.net

How Loren Bendele got his dream of running a business with Savings.com — and an office dog, too

Loren Bendele, president and co-founder, Savings.com

Loren Bendele, president and co-founder, Savings.com

Financial Services

FINALIST

Loren Bendele has been an entrepreneur from the day he started selling Blow Pops out of his backpack at school. His mother and father owned a popcorn and yogurt shop, and Bendele would buy the Pops wholesale to sell to fellow students. It was a profitable venture until he was asked to stop by his teachers.

But Bendele’s career in business had begun.

In 2007, Savings.com was Bendele’s effort to build an online coupon site that built consumer trust with coupon codes that always work. He put in the time building relationships with bloggers who could create buzz for his business and with companies who wanted to offer their coupons on his site.

Bendele’s ability to relate to people and build those strong relationships is due at least in part to his time spent as a stand-up comedian. While it’s not a path many leaders follow to business success, being up on stage helped him develop his storytelling skills and his ability to read people.

One of his keys to attracting customers and quality employees alike is not only a belief in his self and what he is selling, but the ability to get his audience to believe, too.

Bendele didn’t have a crystal-clear vision of what his business was ultimately going to look like, but he knew he wanted great people and an office dog. A sign hanging on the office door that says “Dog on premises” and the smiling faces on the people who work at Savings.com indicate he has met those goals.

But Bendele is not satisfied with what he has achieved to this point. He is developing a grocery application that would be available on all smartphones. It would allow consumers to walk into a grocery store and look up the best deals within the grocery store as well as download any available coupons.

Bendele is hopeful that within five years, Savings.com will be the most dominant player in grocery couponing.

How to reach: Savings.com, www.savings.com

How Scott Law founded Zotec to provide a simpler way to handle medical billing

T. Scott Law, founder and CEO, Zotec Partners

T. Scott Law, founder and CEO, Zotec Partners

Health Care

FINALIST

T. Scott Law saw the trends developing as medical billing continued to get more and more complicated. Thinking there had to be a better way he set out to improve the medical delivery process for medical practices by founding Zotec Partners in 1998 as a solution.

Now, insurance submissions and rejection appeals, which in the past had taken upwards of 13 minutes to prepare, can be completed more accurately in seconds using Zotec’s advanced Electronic Billing Center software programming and client-focused support personnel.

Zotec has functioned as both a software licensor and a billing service provider, though these two arms originally operated independently. Clients could choose to only license the software, or they could also choose to partner with Zotec’s billing services team.

After working under this model for many years, Law recognized that there was room for improvement. Clients that chose only to license the EBC software were not achieving the level of efficiency he knew could be reached by Zotec’s services team.

Relying on a billing team at Law’s small start-up company that had yet to build a recognizable brand was understandably not palatable for clients. They were comfortable using the EBC software, but Law felt there was a greater method to help improve client bottom lines.

Over time, Zotec has earned its clients’ trust, primarily due to Law’s continual focus on providing a quality software product and personalized experience. In 2007, Law believed that his company had generated enough credibility and was ready to be taken in a completely new direction. He shifted Zotec to a “bundle” approach, where clients could no longer license the software separately from the service.

By providing a bundled offering with consultative services included, all clients now have access to an experienced billing expert who can provide guidance and support.

Customer reaction to this has been extremely positive, and client bottom-lines improved dramatically as a result.

How to reach: Zotec Partners, www.zotecpartners.com

How Moctesuma Esparza built a business he could be proud of with Maya Cinemas North America

Moctesuma Esparza, founder and CEO, Maya Cinemas North America, Inc.

Moctesuma Esparza, founder and CEO, Maya Cinemas North America, Inc.

Media

WINNER

If you saw a movie script that detailed the life of Moctesuma Esparza, you would never believe that it was historically accurate. Esparza was a leading activist and organizer in the Chicano movement of the 1960s, fighting for civil rights and equality for Mexican-Americans.

His involvement left him at one point indicted and facing life in prison for being an organizer of the revolution. But within two years of having the charges dropped, Esparza had not only turned things around, he was working in the West Wing of the White House with security clearance.

Having overcome those kinds of odds, Esparza might have been on easy street with the launch of a multiplex theater chain. But he has worked hard to ensure Maya Cinemas North America, Inc. is all about quality.

His passion is not in day-to-day management, but rather in bringing an idea to life. So he spends a great deal of time working on developing business strategies, identifying new locations to expand into and then getting that location off the ground.

Esparza has also been a leader in raising new market tax credits since part of his strategy is to target markets that other movie theater companies are reluctant to enter. In order to succeed, he hired a dedicated and highly involved president and COO, Frank Haffer, to manage long-term operations and hired strong local managers to run his multiplexes.

Esparza is admired by colleagues for his innate ability to persuade and inspire. He recognizes and rewards individuals who contribute to the company’s vision while giving managers the freedom to perform their jobs how they see fit.

Esparza hasn’t forgotten where he came from. He launched an innovative program that gives patrons the opportunity to round up their purchase to the next dollar and have the money donated to a local college scholarship fund that will be restricted to students within a designated area.

How to reach: Maya Cinemas North America, Inc., www.mayacinemas.com

Jim Kudis has turned Allegheny Petroleum Products into a well-oiled machine

Jim Kudis, President, Allegheny Petroleum Products Co.

Jim Kudis, President, Allegheny Petroleum Products Co.

Jim Kudis and a partner started Allegheny Petroleum Products Co. for the same reason many people start a business — they loved what they did and saw a niche that their company could exploit.

While the company, a manufacturer of industrial lubricants and additives, was seeing annual growth of 20 percent in its early years, Kudis and his partner struggled with money and didn’t take a salary for the first year or two.

“Most small businesses are generally undercapitalized, which we were,” says Kudis, president. “We lived off whatever money we had, which definitely helped because it cut back on the expenses and some of the money going out the door.”

Starting a business is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You have to live it and love it. You have to roll up your sleeves and do anything you have to do to run that business.

“If you don’t want it that bad, don’t do it,” Kudis says.

The company’s focus in the beginning was providing industrial lubricants to the various manufacturers in the Pittsburgh area. Back then the major oil companies were retreating from the marketplace, becoming very big and going through distributors. Most of the distributors didn’t have the technical know-how of what the lubricants do and how they work.

So Kudis saw a void in what the major companies used to be strong at and what the distributors couldn’t do and that ended up being the niche that Allegheny Petroleum jumped into.

“That was the big advantage to going into the manufacturing part of the business,” Kudis says.

Last August, Kudis and Allegheny Petroleum Products Co. celebrated 25 years in business. In December 2012, Kudis bought out his partner to become the sole owner of the 85-employee company, which saw 2012 revenue north of $110 million.

Here’s how Kudis has grown Allegheny Petroleum Products Co. from a start-up into a successful organization.

Bring in the right talent

While Kudis and Allegheny Petroleum struggled with capital early on, the turning point for the company came around its fifth or sixth year in business.

“We were supplying one of the plants in Cleveland and we made a proposal to do what was a new concept at the time, fluid management,” Kudis says. “We had to put in 125 bulk tanks, which are carbon steel, 500-gallon tanks that ran about $1,500 each.

“So we had to make a more than $200,000 investment to put these tanks in and put in consigned inventory, which ran us another couple of hundred thousand dollars. So we were about $400,000 into this.”

A year later the global buyer for that company called Kudis and told him what a great job Allegheny Petroleum was doing managing their Cleveland plant. He offered Kudis the contract to manage the company’s remaining 70 plants.

“So off it went and today they are my largest customer,” he says.

From that point on, the business has had to function much differently and required new skill sets to keep the company growing.

“My biggest focus today is making sure my managers have all the tools and things they need to do their job, whereas 20 years ago I was doing it myself,” he says. “Now it’s managing people, keeping them excited, making sure they have ownership in the things that they’re doing, and have the tools to do the job that they need.”

Allegheny Petroleum has five fairly distinct areas and Kudis is in touch with each one of the people that manage those areas.

“I’m not trying to do their job, but I’m trying to help them so they can do their job and that’s the key thing,” he says. “It’s all about people.”

To find the right leaders for his business, Kudis chased those executives down and drafted them all.

“I handpicked them and coerced them into coming to work for the company,” he says. “I chose them because I saw the qualities they had. I saw a real desire in each one of them to do well, and that’s where my attention started.

“What I saw in my interaction with them was that they could handle themselves well and present themselves well in front of people. They were knowledgeable and wanted to be more knowledgeable.”

The first thing Kudis looked for in the people he brought in was whether they were good quality people and good solid citizens.

“That’s probably the common thread through most of the people who work here,” Kudis says. “Talent would be second after that — they can manage people and enjoy the ownership of their part of the business. They embrace it and treat what they’re doing like their own.

“It’s just looking in someone’s eye and seeing that they have a desire to do well, not only for themselves, but for the company too. A lot of people want to punch in, get a paycheck, punch out and go home, and that’s not the kind of people I want managing.”

Kudis gives his team the autonomy to do things on their own, which means they have the power to make decisions.

“I give them a free hand to do what makes sense,” he says. “My motto is to make the decision on your own and if you don’t think it’s your decision, then come to me. As long as you have an explanation about why you made that decision, you’re never wrong. You’ve got to be in the game and engage and make decisions.”

Decide how to grow your business

Making decisions is a very important aspect of running a business, especially when it regards growing your company to the next level. Kudis has had to make countless decisions over 25 years and each one helps the company continue its growth. Now those decisions rest on the shoulders of his managers.

“That’s what I expect from the people in a management role,” Kudis says. “In the dealings they have, there comes a point where maybe it’s beyond where they should make a decision on something. In involving putting part of the company at risk or something of that nature, every one of them knows where that line is, where that decision should not be theirs.

“All the other decisions whether they are small, large or whatever, I expect them to make it. It’s really easy to say three or four days later that you made a wrong decision, but to be in the game and make the decision right there, to me that’s important as long as they have an answer why they made a certain decision.”

Every month or every other month Allegheny Petroleum has what it calls a What’s Up Meeting to check in on the different areas of the business.

“I grab each of the managers and we sit down for about two hours and we go around the table while everyone exchanges what they’re doing,” he says. “You get so focused on the part of the business that you’re in and sometimes you have two different groups sort of working on the same things, or maybe they’re doing something that somebody in another group has worked on and knows the answers to help them out. So those meetings have been very beneficial.”

One of the biggest decisions Kudis has made for Allegheny Petroleum was to give the company a global presence. However, global business carries many challenges along with it.

“Learning how to deal financially in different countries has been a challenge,” Kudis says. “One thing you have to learn is what the tax implications are. Each country is different. You should do business with an accounting firm or law firm that can find out answers for you. That really makes it easy.”

Allegheny Petroleum didn’t utilize those resources in the beginning on the first two countries where the company launched its efforts and there were snags.

“Had I used our law firm or our accounting firm, it would have been a lot easier,” Kudis says. “Make sure you understand what it takes to do business in a foreign country before you start doing business there.”

Another big decision that has streamlined business for the company was using a global pricing index with its major direct customers.

“We now move our pricing quarterly as these prices move,” he says. “In the past every time there was an increase you had to go in and present everything to your customer and sit and argue about the pricing. Now that it’s indexed at the end of the quarter, it’s just a matter of how the pricing has moved and that has really streamlined the pricing.

“Our customers feel very good because they know it’s indexed to something that they can see. I feel good because as my raw material costs rise or drop it keeps my profits pretty steady. It really makes it easy to not worry about the pricing side of your business as much.”

Now that Allegheny Petroleum has streamlined business, entered into global markets and become a substantial player in its industry, Kudis is excited to find where the next level is.

“My vision is how do I double and triple the business,” he says. “Everything had been done organic and we might look at doing some acquisitions. The next level will also mean being more global.

“You have to think down the road and get out of the box to think about things that maybe you haven’t thought about in the past, because once you stop growing you’re done.”

How to reach: Allegheny Petroleum Products Co., (412) 829-1990 or www.oils.com

 

Takeaways:

Find the right talent for your leadership team.

Give the leadership team the autonomy to make decisions.

Constantly look at how to keep growing your business.

 

The Kudis File

Jim Kudis

President

Allegheny Petroleum Products Co.

 

Born: Homestead, Pa.

Education: Graduated from Penn State and received a bachelor’s degree in business logistics.

What was the very first job that you had and what did you learn from it?

I worked in a steel mill. I was a laborer so I drove a high lift and moved different things around. My dad worked there and he said, ‘This man is going to pay you, so you better work so that you make sure you earn every dollar you get.’ I still live by that today.

Who is someone that you looked up to?

My grade-school basketball coach. If we played bad we would come back and practice until 11 o’clock at night to make sure we did things right. We won the state championship that year. Hard work eventually pays off.

What Allegheny Petroleum product are you most proud of?

We make what’s called a backup bearing oil for the steel mills, which is called a Morgoil. When steel mills roll steel it goes between these rolls and on the end of these rolls there are bearings. They are huge bearings that get very hot. The oil goes through to lubricate the bearings and they also cool the bearings on the outside with water to keep them from getting too hot.

So the oil has to be able to accept water and kick out the water as it goes back to the tank and it gets circulated back through the bearings. You don’t want water lubricating your bearings, so our oil kicks out the water pretty good. That’s one of our hallmark products.

If you could speak with one person, whether from the past or present, with whom would you want to speak to?

Joe Paterno. I admired the way he ran the football program at Penn State. I’m not in total agreement with what happened at the end of his career. All through the history of what he did, he represented a class act. He was very well-respected. I enjoyed watching him and what he represented for the school.

Honoring the best of the best in Northeast Ohio

Whitt Butler, advisory partner, Ernst & Young;  program director, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Northeast Ohio

Whitt Butler, advisory partner, Ernst & Young; program director, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Northeast Ohio

For 27 years, Ernst & Young has championed the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women pursuing excellence in their businesses, teams and communities.

Ernst & Young founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year Program to recognize the passion of entrepreneurs and to build an influential and innovative community of peers. We received more than 1,680 national entries for this year’s program, from the country’s most deserving entrepreneurs. Their triumphs stand as a testament to the role they play as visionaries and leaders.

Entrepreneurs change the world and make it a better place to work and live. We honor them for their fortitude and resilience, and we celebrate their ability to forge new markets, navigate uncharted territory and fuel economic growth.

We gather here in Northeast Ohio and in 24 other cities across the U.S. to honor all of the finalists and welcome the new class of entrepreneurs into our Hall of Fame.

Congratulations to all of the 2013 Northeast Ohio Entrepreneur Of The Year finalists and winners. We applaud them all for their unyielding pursuit of business excellence and we are honored to share their inspiring stories with you.

 

Whitt Butler, advisory partner, Ernst & Young;  program director, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Northeast Ohio.

 

Here are the 2013 Northeast Ohio Entrepreneur of the Year winners and finalists:

Distribution and Manufacturing

Winner – Gary M. Schuster, president and CEO, OMCO

Finalist – Scott T. Becker, president and CEO, Chromaflo Technologies Corp.

Finalist – Jeffery L. Rand, owner and president, HB Chemical Corporation

Finalist – James R. Keene, president and owner, Keene Building Products

Finalist – Michael K. Baach, CEO, The Philpott Rubber Company

 

Education and Non-profit

Winner – Carol L. Klimas, president, Lake Ridge Academy

Finalist – William Scott Duennes, executive director, Cornucopia, Inc.

 

Financial Services

Winner – Jeremy E. Sopko, CEO, Nations Lending Corporation

Finalist – Brendan Anderson and Jeffery Kadlic, co-founders and co-managing partners, Evolution Capital Partners, LLC

Finalist – Jeffery Concepcion, founder and CEO, Stratos Wealth Partners, Ltd.

Finalist – Ralph M. Della Ratta, managing director, Western Reserve Partners, LLC

 

Health Care and Pharmaceutical Services

Winner – Drew C. Forhan, founder and CEO, ForTec Medical

Finalist – Dale M. Wollschleger, president, ExactCare Pharmacy

 

Professional Services

Winner – Joel Adelman, founder and CEO, The Advance Group of Companies

Finalist – Scot Lowry, president and CEO, Fathom

Finalist – Alan Jaffa, CEO, Safeguard Properties Management, LLC

 

Public Company

Winner – Michael F. Hilton, president and CEO, Nordson Corporation

Finalist – Walter M. Rosebrough – president and CEO, STERIS Corporation

 

Retail and Consumer Products

Winner – Jimmy Zeilinger, founder and president, Brand Castle, LLC

Finalist – James D. Braeunig, president and CEO, Ball, Bounce & Sport, Inc.

Finalist – Kimberly Martin and Sarah Forrer, co-owners, Main Street Cupcakes

 

Technology

Winner – Kris Snyder, CEO, Vox Mobile, Inc.

Finalist – Yuval Brisker, co-founder, president and CEO, TOA Technologies

Finalist – David Levine, president, Wireless Environment, LLC

 

Family Business Award

Winner – Marc Brenner, president and CEO, Ohio Technical College

Finalist – Marty Kanan, president and CEO, King Nut Companies

Finalist – Scott J. Balogh, president and CEO, and Steven Balogh, vice president, Mar-Bal, Inc.

 

How Mel Elias has built The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to be a difference maker

Mel Elias, president and CEO, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

Mel Elias, president and CEO, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

Consumer Services

FINALIST

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

 

How Walter Driver and Scopely, Inc. envisioned a different kind of gaming experience

Walter Driver, CEO, Scopely, Inc.

Walter Driver, CEO, Scopely, Inc.

Media

FINALIST

Walter Driver, the CEO of Scopely, Inc., graduated from college with a degree in creative writing, a skill he says was necessary to envision a company as distinctive as Scopely, a developer and distributor of mobile apps to enable third-party game developers to build, retain and monetize an engaged audience.

Driver saw an opportunity in the technology space since most gaming companies in Silicon Valley focused on the code and programming behind the applications they created. But Driver wanted to make gaming an emotional experience. With the vision of fusing technology and traditional entertainment, Scopely was born.

The technology industry moves extremely quickly, and Driver has proved his ability to adapt in an ever-changing environment. For example, when Scopely was first founded, most games were developed on the Facebook platform. However, Driver quickly identified the maturation of the technological ecosystem and shifted focus to the iOS platform for mobile devices.

At the highest level, Scopely is building a network of socially connected games that are supported by its proprietary platform. The company allows independent game developers to compete head-to-head against the largest developers in the world in the battle for reach, revenue and users.

Scopely’s technical infrastructure allows developers to develop games efficiently. Its social mechanics are designed to create experiences that retain users and drive them to continually engage.

What distinguishes Scopely further is that unlike traditional publishers or social platforms, Scopely takes a hands-on approach to working with partners. By partnering with elite developers and dedicating resources to each game title it publishes, Scopely ensures that it only produces quality products.

Driver’s strategy has paid off. Experts expect 1 billion smartphone users by the end of 2013 and more than 2 billion by the end of 2015. Tablet sales are growing even faster. The growth in the mobile device industry is organic, and Scopely has identified a way to profit from the wave sweeping across the globe.

How to reach: Scopely, Inc., www.scopely.com

How Alan J. Fuerstman put his heart and soul into Montage Hotels and filled a niche

Alan J. Fuerstman, founder and CEO, Montage Hotels & Resorts

Alan J. Fuerstman, founder and CEO, Montage Hotels & Resorts

Real Estate & Hospitality

WINNER

Alan J. Fuerstman began to show his natural aptitude for the hospitality industry at the young age of 17. He was still in high school and had started to work part time as a bellman at a Marriott Hotel in New Jersey. It was his attention to detail, ability to serve guests and willingness to always lend a hand that was quickly noticed by management.

The result was an offer to join Marriott’s management team after Fuerstman graduated from Gettysburg College. He quickly rose through the ranks at a number of luxury hotels before being recruited by Steve Wynn to open the prestigious Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

Through all this, Fuerstman gained experience and put himself in position to pursue a personal vision he had been thinking about. He wanted to create something new, a small ultra-luxury hotel that prided itself on gracious hospitality and attention to service and detail without the stereotypical pretentiousness of a five-star hotel.

As founder and CEO of Montage Hotels & Resorts, Fuerstman has been involved in all aspects of the company’s growth. He didn’t have brand awareness, but he did have a strong sales and marketing vision that could focus on the core differentiators that Fuerstman was confident would win over prospective guests.

And while he has taken a hands-on approach to every aspect of Montage Hotels & Resorts’ growth, Fuerstman never fails to demonstrate the importance of his people and the value that they bring to the culture and the company.

He doesn’t focus on awards and doesn’t want his employees to feel pressured to do something that isn’t possible. His attitude is to “focus on your own backyard first,” believing that consistent effort and dedication to your job will bring you all the recognition you and your business deserve.

How to reach: Montage Hotels & Resorts, www.montagehotels.com