How top global entrepreneurs turn vision into reality

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year conference in Monte Carlo. I’m back to report that entrepreneurship is alive and thriving around the globe!

It was a whirlwind of a trip, packed with networking, thought-provoking panel discussions and personal interviews. We heard from a remarkable panel of speakers including Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize recipient; Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web; John Cleese, award-winning actor, author, humorist and Monty Python legend; and many more.

I also had the opportunity to sit down with some of the world’s most accomplished entrepreneurs. These business leaders come from more than 60 countries that combined represent a staggering 94 percent of the global economy.

In this issue and in the months to come, you’ll learn what the world’s greatest entrepreneurs have to say about leadership, innovation, overcoming challenges, bringing their visions to life and much, much more. You’ll also hear from the leadership at EY as to the importance of celebrating entrepreneurship.

Transforming vision into reality

“Be careful about making assumptions. Those assumptions can lead you down a pretty dangerous path. It is OK to make assumptions and have confidence but you had better do your due diligence as well. An assumption is having those critical for the business make sure it is happening. I am very trusting of people and in the past have had some unfortunate instances where I did make assumptions about something and they were completely the wrong assumptions.”

Dr. Alan Ulsifer, CEO, president and chair of FYidoctors

 

Americas Director for the Entrepreneur of the Year Program, EY

Bryan Pearce, Americas Director, Entrepreneur of the Year Program and Venture Capital Advisory Group, EY

“Growth obviously continues to be a challenge. The markets demand growth if you are a publicly traded company, and growth is a metric of how the business is doing. If you want to continue to attract the best people, attract the right sources of capital to your business, you have to demonstrate that things are going well and growth is one measure that people look to. I think that if you are a business in an established market, growth can be a challenge because those markets by and large are growing more slowly. So in order to get more rapid growth, many companies are looking at emerging markets and trying to figure out what their strategy should be for emerging markets, those that have double-digit growth potential.”

Bryan Pearce, Americas Director, Entrepreneur Of The Year and Venture Capital Advisory Group EY

 

“One of the toughest things for me was that people have a certain image of my country, Colombia. They don’t trust a company there to have good quality and do good work, but I am very proud to offer those qualities from Colombia. It is not easy but it is something that you can accomplish. I have been down a lot of times, but the good thing I have noticed is that every time something like that happened, I have been able to obtain positive things out of it. I have been broke multiple times, but from being broke I have been able to learn from it and rebuild.

nat_eoy_MarioHernandez

Mario Hernandez, founder and president, Mario Hernandez

Mario Hernandez, founder and president, Mario Hernandez

 

Jim Turley leaves his post as Global Chairman and CEO for EY with deep admiration for the entrepreneurs who continue to use their vision and spirit of innovation to change the world.

“They have got this wonderful ability to think outside themselves, to look at the world outside these windows and see the needs that exist out there,” says Turley, who officially retired on July 1.

“Then they’ve got a vision to create a product or service or an idea to meet the need they have seen. They have got the courage to risk everything and they are as persistent as can be. Most of them fail the first time out. But they get up, clean themselves off and do it again.”

 

Jim Turley, former Global Chairman and CEO, EY

Jim Turley, former Global Chairman and CEO, EY

“Work carefully with a few people who get a twinkle in their eye. If you talk about your idea, some people will respond with excitement because they get it, but not everybody. Maybe you talk to 300 people and three people will get it. Work with those three people. The web took off because a few people all over the world got it. You get the support from a few people who get it and then it builds from there.”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web

 

Corey Shapoff has a job that many would envy, booking well-known musical acts such as Maroon 5, Katy Perry, Christina Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson for live concerts and private corporate events. But he doesn’t take much time to stop and think about all the famous people on his call list.

“I’m a grinder,” says Shapoff, president and founder of SME Entertainment Group. “I’m the kind of guy who is always looking to what’s next. You’re only as good to me as your last deal.”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web

It’s that instinctual drive to always try to do it better that is embedded in the true entrepreneur and allows the next vision to become a reality.

“It’s hard for me to turn it off and say, ‘That’s great,’” Shapoff says. “I’m always thinking about tomorrow. You just can’t take things for granted in our business.”

 

“The skill sets of an entrepreneur involve understanding how to create business. So if you’re going to give back, why not work with kids who need it the most and actually teach them and help them to be entrepreneurs. That’s what is going to grow our economy and create stability where otherwise we’re going to have a lot of social unrest.”

Amy Rosen, president and CEO, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship

 

Lorenzo Barrera Segovia, founder and CEO, Banco Base

Lorenzo Barrera Segovia, founder and CEO, Banco Base

“When you’re an entrepreneur you feel like you have never met a deal that you didn’t like. You only have limited resources and limited time to be successful. You have to stay disciplined and focused and being able to say what we are not is every bit as important as being able to say what we are.”

Jim Davis, president, Chevron Energy Solutions

 

“It’s important that you have teamwork and all your top players are well motivated with passion, principles and values. We make sure that people know where we are going and what our main objective is for that year. We promote teamwork inside and outside the company. Our directors have to make sure they are sharing our company values and principles with each of their team members.”

Lorenzo Barrera Segovia, founder and CEO, Banco Base

 

Martin Migoya, CEO, Globant

Martin Migoya, CEO, Globant

“For entrepreneurs you get a great idea, you start your business and then you have to keep focused. Keep executing that idea if that idea is big enough. Never fall into the temptation of getting out of your business or change it unless it’s strategic. Secondly, try to get financing as late as you can. Never get financing as soon as you can. Thirdly, create a great team and culture, because that’s what will prevail and create value for shareholders and your community. That’s how you scale your business. The last one is to dream big.”

Martin Migoya, CEO, Globant

 

“It was nothing but a gut feeling. The only thing I knew was there was a big opportunity in yogurt. I grew up with yogurt. Being from Turkey yogurt was a big part of our diet. I wasn’t sure if I could do it – break through in the world of yogurt in retail.

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, president and CEO, Chobani Inc.

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, president and CEO, Chobani Inc.

The category was owned by two major companies; Dannon and Yopliat owned about 70 percent of the market, and they had been there for years. As a startup you go to the specialty stores first. That’s how you start and you grow and once you reach a certain level then you go to the big retailers.

I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to go to the big retailers and be in the regular dairy aisle. That was a crazy idea and nobody thought that would go, but at least we tried. When we tried, we convinced one retailer in New York, ShopRite. The result from that was we were able to expand to a couple of other retailers. After the second or third customer that we had success with for our yogurt, I knew it wasn’t going to be about selling, it was about making enough.”

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, president and CEO, Chobani Inc.

Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2013 Gulf Coast Area

How Kenneth L. Robison takes his passion and uses it to engage others at Crest Industries

Kenneth L. Robison, CEO, Crest Industries

Kenneth L. Robison, CEO, Crest Industries

Family Business Award of Excellence

AWARD RECIPIENT

Kenneth L. Robison
CEO
Crest Industries

Kenneth L. Robison has had a strong work ethic going back to the time when he was a young boy foregoing baseball and childhood games with his friends to learn about business. Through his family’s business, he learned how to weld and operate machinery and how to put together structural steel and electrical assemblies.

After getting his MBA from the University of Texas, he returned to Crest Industries and gained first-hand experience in many of the jobs that make up the organization. This experience served him well when he became CEO since it gave him a wealth of knowledge and insight into how people do their jobs throughout the company. Robison brings that same curious enthusiasm to his work these days, and it becomes contagious to those around him, strengthening the culture and improving the level of service to customers.

The relationships that Robison builds become critical when the company needs to take bold steps to keep growing. Robison doesn’t take unnecessary risks and the ones he does take, he and his team do as much research as they can to ensure success and prevent the downside from occurring.

His goal, whether it’s looking at tomorrow or his 2020 vision plan, is to be on top of things and armed with the data he needs to make the best decisions for his company. He thrives on being the leader and helping his company take the next step, but he also takes a lot of satisfaction from seeing the people on his team experience their own victories. He doesn’t see leadership development as a cost.

Instead, he sees it as an investment in the company’s most valuable asset, its people. The support of others stretches beyond the walls of his company. It includes a committed focus to working with charitable causes as well as helping the future leaders of Crest Industries to get what they need to fulfill their potential.

How to reach: Crest Industries, www.crestoperations.com
How Strike sees 65 percent compounded annual growth with Stephen Pate at the helm

Stephen V. Pate, CEO and chairman, Strike LLC

Stephen V. Pate, CEO and chairman, Strike LLC

Construction & Industrial Services

AWARD RECIPIENT
Stephen V. Pate

CEO and chairman
Strike LLC

Over the past 10 years, Stephen Pate has worked hard to create a company culture around eight pillars that make up the foundation of Strike LLC: safety, excellence, quality, accountability, performance, integrity, passion and long‐term relationships.

With his focus that success is not achieved by a single individual but rather by the organization as a whole, Strike has accomplished a 65 percent year-over-year compounded annual growth rate, a testament to Pate’s ability to take risks during times of uncertainty.

For instance, in 2009 while many companies were sitting on cash due to market place instability, he invested in significant resources to create a state‐of‐the‐art cost‐tracking portal for the pipeline and facilities construction company.

This portal has proven to be a competitive advantage for Strike as it provides transparency to the client’s job cost.

Additionally, when companies were strategically eliminating employee benefits due to economic uncertainty, Pate created a fitness program to inspire and motivate employees.

Since its inception in 2003, Strike has created various business units with more than 15 locations throughout North America, which have helped drive Strike to become one of the leading single‐source energy services providers.

Pate understands that his is a “people” business, and he passionately cares about not only his customers who pay the bills, but also each of his employees whose safety and happiness is of utmost importance.

Even in times of economic downturns, when other companies cut employee benefits, Pate stayed adamant to “do right by all” and although the easy answer to save money and improve the bottom line would be to take the cost-cutting route, Pate did not. Strike even increased wellness programs to encourage employees when a need was noted. Pate has always believed in Strike’s vision and through its growing years, his personal investment and that of the Pate family funded the company.

How to reach: Strike LLC, www.strikeusa.com

 

How Don Klein took a chance and made people smile with Chesmar Homes Ltd.

Donald P. Klein, founder and president, Chesmar Homes Ltd.

Donald P. Klein, founder and president, Chesmar Homes Ltd.

Consumer Products

AWARD RECIPIENT

Don Klein
Founder and president
Chesmar Homes Ltd.

Don Klein had spent 27 years working for national homebuilders, and he had an opportunity to move to yet another one when he made a seemingly bold move. He turned down a sizable bonus and chose to invest his own money to create a company he could call his own.

Chesmar Homes Ltd. is the product of Klein’s passion for making people happy. This applies to customers, business partners, investors and his employees, who he calls “Chesmarians.”

Klein is committed to hard work and dedicated service, but in doing so, he wants to see smiles all around. He wants employees to feel like they are part of a family and bring the passion that comes forth when you work alongside people you truly care about.

As the company grows and evolves, he wants strong personalities to shine through and feel comfortable applying their talents to help Chesmar achieve success.

All this became key when the company faced its greatest obstacle. Chesmar needed to find good locations on which to build. Klein tapped his relationships to find good communities to go to and his employees backed up his reputation by creating a strong product for customers.

As a result, Chesmar ranks at the top of its industry in customer satisfaction.

But it’s not all about business for Klein and Chesmar Homes.

Klein’s primary philanthropic focus revolves around the Greater Houston Builders Association’s Benefit Home Project. He has chaired the committee for the last six years, being extremely successful in recruiting and partnering two or three homebuilders with community developers each year to build a benefit home.

The builders solicit donations from contractors and vendors to construct a project home for about 25 percent of the retail sales price.

The home is then sold with the profits going to Texas Children’s Cancer Center, the Alzheimer’s Association and Home Aid Houston.

How to reach: Chesmar Homes Ltd., www.chesmar.com

 

How Mark Ellis continues to grow LINN Energy’s portfolio of long-life oil and natural gas assets

 

Mark Ellis, president and CEO, LINN Energy, LLC

Mark Ellis, president and CEO, LINN Energy, LLC

Exploration & Production

AWARD RECIPIENT

Mark Ellis
President and CEO
LINN Energy, LLC

As the president and CEO of LINN Energy LLC, an upstream exploration and production company, Mark Ellis demonstrates innovation in a unique business model, and his steadfast commitment to a strategy differentiates LINN from any other competitor in his industry.

Ellis’ guidance has been instrumental to LINN as it has grown from a handful of natural gas wells with a few employees into a top-15, publicly traded, multi-billion dollar E&P company employing more than 1,100 people in more than 24 offices across the U.S. Ellis employs a very diverse management team and relies on them to make quick and valuable decisions.

To avoid a big company mentality, he balances LINN’s entrepreneurial spirit and values consistent with a smaller company, while pushing for continued growth and expansion. In his view it’s a marriage of financial and operational.

A common theme in Ellis’ career has been acquiring smaller companies, which plays into the unique business model at LINN. Since inception, LINN has completed 58 acquisitions, including the most recent acquisition of Berry Petroleum. LINN’s acquisition program focuses on U.S. oil and natural gas basins that provide significant opportunities for future growth. The program also targets assets that are financially accretive and provide long-lived, high-quality production with relatively predictable decline curves and low-risk development opportunities.

Ellis’ strategy has allowed the company to grow proved reserves at an average of approximately 59 percent per year to 4,796 Bcfe in 2012 from 255 Bcfe in 2006.

LINN is dramatically different from its upstream peers in vision and business structure and is larger than all the rest put together. LINN has upheld a strategy of acquiring, developing and maximizing cash flow from a growing portfolio of long-life oil and natural gas assets. Ellis has been able to maintain LINN’s distribution stability through the recent credit crisis, while 23 percent of its competition has been forced to either reduce or suspend distributions.

How to reach: LINN Energy LLC, www.linnenerg
How Bruce Northcutt overcame hurdles and used innovation to guide Copano Energy LLC

Bruce Northcutt, President and CEO, Copano Energy LLC

Bruce Northcutt, President and CEO, Copano Energy LLC

MidstreamServices

AWARD RECIPIENT

Bruce Northcutt
Director, President and CEO
Copano Energy LLC

When Bruce Northcutt took the reins in 2009 as CEO at Copano Energy LLC, he faced a number of challenging circumstances. The company’s founder had just passed away and the economy was in the throes of a deep recession. Further, there was a great deal of uncertainty as to the future direction of the energy industry.

But Northcutt had been with Copano Energy since 2003 as president and COO, and he had helped take the company public in 2004. He knew what the company did well and was confident he had what it would take to steady the organization during this difficult time.

Northcutt has never been afraid to work with smart people, even if they were smarter than he was. The value of bringing this knowledge to the table and applying it to the future of his business was worth much more than stroking his own ego.

During the global recession in 2009, Northcutt and his leadership team knew they had to be proactive and reduce operating costs to avoid layoffs. The team brainstormed as a group and produced a list of some 100 items they could cut back on, with the exception of those related to safety, in order to keep all team members and avoid having to reduce distributions to shareholders.

Changes ranged from temporary salary cuts, to eliminating small luxuries like bottled water in the office. These ideas allowed the company to avoid layoffs and pay shareholder distributions as scheduled.

Innovative thinking has paved the way to success at Copano Energy, and Northcutt encourages his team members to do the same by using their imaginations at the company to find solutions to difficult problems.

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, one of the largest publicly traded pipeline limited partnerships in America, completed on May 1 its acquisition of Copano Energy.

How to reach: Copano Energy, www.copanoenergy.com
How Larry O’Donnell sets the pace as a CEO on the road for Rockwater Energy

Larry O’Donnell CEO, chairman and president, Rockwater Energy Solutions

Larry O’Donnell
CEO, chairman and president, Rockwater Energy Solutions

Energy Services

AWARD RECIPIENT

Larry O’Donnell
CEO, president and chairman
Rockwater Energy Solutions

Larry O’Donnell does not think being a CEO means a lot of sitting in a corporate office just issuing orders.

Rather, he spends his time at Rockwater Energy Solutions on the road, visiting locations and holding town hall meetings with his employees. He also holds regular calls with employees where he discusses in detail a particular one of the company’s core values.

O’Donnell believes in leading by example and involving everyone in decisions so that it ensures employee buy-in.

For example, upon the formation of Rockwater, a major task was to develop a brand for the new company. O’Donnell took this very serious, particularly since the acquired businesses had been family-owned. He made sure he got all levels of management involved in a collaborative approach so everyone could have a stake in the decision. He strongly believes in making everyone feel accountable.

Rockwater was created in 2011 through a roll-up of several companies. The goal was to be the first oilfield service provider that could service companies through the entire fluid lifecycle. Since O’Donnell helped create Rockwater, he brought in a strong management team that had the same core values and integrity he wanted to instill throughout the company: RISE — Respect, Integrity, Safety and Excellence.

The RISE values denote the high standards expected of Rockwater employees. O’Donnell lives the values he promotes, cares deeply about his team and creates an atmosphere of respect across the company by striving for excellence and safety while always doing the right thing.

Rockwater has a platform for continued growth for the years ahead as hydraulic fracturing operations continue to grow, increasing the need for efficient and environmentally-conscious water usage.

O’Donnell’s vision and plan for future growth includes a balanced approach to organic and acquisition growth. He envisions Rockwater becoming the leader in the water management and chemical additives segment of the oil and gas industry.

How to reach: Rockwater Energy Solutions, www.rockwaterenergy.com
How David Dunlap steered Superior Energy clear of fallout from an oil spill

David D. Dunlap, president and CEO, Superior Energy Services, Inc.

David D. Dunlap, president and CEO, Superior Energy Services, Inc.

Transformational

AWARD RECIPIENT

David D. Dunlap
President and CEO
Superior Energy Services, Inc.

David Dunlap began his role as the CEO of Superior Energy Services, Inc. at a momentous time — the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill had occurred just nine days earlier.

With that catastrophic event as a backdrop, Dunlap realized that with about 60 percent of Superior’s business coming from the Gulf of Mexico, the company’s operations would suffer only a short-term impact.

In addition, as a mitigating factor, several of Superior’s products and services were on the front lines of the oil spill response team. Dunlap met regularly with those operational leaders whose products and services were impacted by the spill, discussing alternative uses for assets and other ways to deal with the business interruption.

Realizing the importance of communication during time of crisis, he also served as company spokesperson and industry thought leader with the company’s board of directors, employees, shareholders and other stakeholders. Through his membership on several industry trade associations, Dunlap has participated in several meetings with government officials and oil and gas operations regarding the emerging regulatory environment resulting from the oil spill.

Dunlap has helped position Superior for long-term growth. Through U.S. land and international expansion under his leadership, the company has the opportunity to grow.
Under Dunlap’s leadership, Superior accelerated its expansion into the U.S. land market by acquiring Complete Production Services, which doubled the size of the company. Superior’s tremendous growth has been the result of hard work, strategic acquisitions and a focus on exceeding customer expectations.
Taking a direct approach to management, Dunlap focuses on building a team of great people around him and not a large corporate staff with much centralized control. He does not view himself as “the” entrepreneur, but rather Superior as being a company “of entrepreneurs,” with the key knowledge and customer service skills that support the task of guiding and cultivating — not trying to change.

How to reach: Superior Energy Services, Inc., www.superiorenergy.com
How Walter Blessey Jr. places success in the hands of Blessey Marine Services’ employees

Walter Emanuel  Blessey Jr., chairman and CEO Blessey Marine Services Inc.

Walter Emanuel Blessey Jr., chairman and CEO
Blessey Marine Services Inc.

Distribution & Manufacturing

AWARD RECIPIENT

Walter Blessey Jr.
Chairman and CEO
Blessey Marine Services Inc.

The way that Walter Blessey Jr. measures the success of his company is through his people. He is successful, he says, because his employees are great at their jobs. Like so many entrepreneurs, Blessey used to do everything himself, and now he has learned to put his faith in individuals and their abilities to do what they do.

Blessey Marine Services Inc., a multi-faceted inland tank barge and towing vessel fleet, and its employees have a track record of improving revenue by more than 25 percent in the last three years, so it’s easy to see why Blessey, chairman and CEO, has faith in the team that he’s assembled.

Blessey puts a great deal of time into his employees, not just on the job site, but away from the office or fleet as well. To show his employees how much faith he has in them, Blessey has a unique program that allows all employees to buy shares in the newest additions to the company fleet. Employees invest their personal money into shares of ownership in newly constructed vessels. The employees usually make their investment back within two or three years of the vessel being placed into service. The investment will continue to produce income for another 25-30 years.

There are many things that make Blessey and Blessey Marine Services original and innovative. One area that stands out is the Captain’s Club meetings for when all of the captains are in town together in order for everyone to meet each other. Blessey believes that it’s vital that every employee gets to know fellow Blessey co-workers.

To this end, the Blessey team also holds an annual trip to reward high-level executive team members and captains of boats without any injuries, safety issues or downtime. The trip gives everyone a great opportunity to get to know each other and boost the bond among office and field personnel even further.

How to reach: Blessey Marine Services Inc., www.blessey.com
How Dana Sellers looks for people with big ideas and big plans at Encore Health Resources

Dana Sellers, CEO, Encore Health Resources

Dana Sellers, CEO, Encore Health Resources

Health Care

AWARD RECIPIENT

Dana Sellers
CEO
Encore Health Resources

Dana Sellers was looking for a summer internship and not having a whole lot of luck when she decided to take a summer job with IBM manufacturing typewriters. In exchange for tuition reimbursement for graduate school, Sellers decided to stay with IBM as a polymer specialist.

A few twists and turns followed as Sellers continued to hone her skills and gain the insight she would need to start her own business. With her partner, Ivo Nelson, Sellers launched a health care IT consulting firm with a focus on clinical transformation for providers.

The company grew and eventually merged with IBM. But after three years, it became obvious that IBM could not provide the more personal focus that smaller health care clients require. So Sellers decided to venture out again and start Encore Health Resources with her partner.

One of her greatest skills as a leader is the ability to take methods and tools that have proven to be effective for one client and replicate them for others. The ability to come through and provide great service to clients helped Encore get into competition with some of the top global consulting firms and succeed.

When Sellers is looking for people to join her team, she’s not as interested in what they have already done. She wants to know what they can do and will do in the future to help her organization improve. These people also need to be adaptable and willing to move here or there as the needs of customers change.

But it’s not all work at Encore. The company has rooms named after popular board games like Monopoly, Scrabble, Life and Twister. It is a nod to one of the company’s core values, “Work Hard, Play Hard!”

Sellers is a firm believer that if you give people opportunities to spend time together, both in work and at play, the strong relationships that are formed will take you far.

How to reach: Encore Health Resources, www.encorehealthresources.com

 

How Peter Duncan created an ‘impossible’ technology at Microseismic Inc.

Peter Duncan, founder, president and CEO, MicroSeismic Inc.

Peter Duncan, founder, president and CEO, MicroSeismic Inc.

Technology

AWARD RECIPIENT

Peter M. Duncan
Founder, president and CEO
MicroSeismic Inc.

Peter Duncan has led multiple start-ups over his long career in geophysics. In his most recent venture, Microseismic Inc., he has created a company that utilizes cutting edge technology to help customers monitor their reservoirs.

He had the vision and work ethic to commercialize an idea for passively monitoring seismic activity from the surface, which many industry experts thought at the time was impossible. Further, he was able to adapt his technology to meet the demands of the market as the U.S. shale plays came online and the recent domestic natural gas and oil boom began.

At the time of Microseismic’s inception, the demand for frac monitoring was virtually non-existent, but seeing the opportunity for his company’s technology to enhance customer value by monitoring their growing number of non-traditional, enhanced recovery wells, he has pioneered a new industry that has much larger companies scrambling to replicate.

Microseismic competes with organizations that are far larger in size, and recently competitors have taken notice of Duncan’s success and competition is heating up. Duncan, who is founder, president and CEO, believes that competition is what will make his company even better, which is evidenced by the continued growth of Microseismic.

However, one of the biggest challenges that he believes his company faces is the need to convince users of his services and that his technology can provide additional critical data to make their drilling programs better.

According to Duncan, just a few years ago, only 0.5 percent of all fracked wells were monitored and recently that number has grown to just 4 percent. Obviously, there is room to grow, and Duncan views this challenge as a great opportunity. He is actively working to analyze and present the data that his company collects to convince engineers how valuable this relatively new technology can be to their drilling programs.

Today, Duncan’s willingness to take risks and go against conventional wisdom has given Microseismic a 95 percent share in the market.

How to reach: MicroSeismic Inc., www.microseismic.com

How Kenneth L. Robison takes his passion and uses it to engage others at Crest Industries

Kenneth L. Robison, CEO, Crest Industries

Kenneth L. Robison, CEO, Crest Industries

Family Business Award of Excellence

AWARD RECIPIENT

Kenneth L. Robison
CEO
Crest Industries

Kenneth L. Robison has had a strong work ethic going back to the time when he was a young boy foregoing baseball and childhood games with his friends to learn about business. Through his family’s business, he learned how to weld and operate machinery and how to put together structural steel and electrical assemblies.

After getting his MBA from the University of Texas, he returned to Crest Industries and gained first-hand experience in many of the jobs that make up the organization. This experience served him well when he became CEO since it gave him a wealth of knowledge and insight into how people do their jobs throughout the company. Robison brings that same curious enthusiasm to his work these days, and it becomes contagious to those around him, strengthening the culture and improving the level of service to customers.

The relationships that Robison builds become critical when the company needs to take bold steps to keep growing. Robison doesn’t take unnecessary risks and the ones he does take, he and his team do as much research as they can to ensure success and prevent the downside from occurring.

His goal, whether it’s looking at tomorrow or his 2020 vision plan, is to be on top of things and armed with the data he needs to make the best decisions for his company. He thrives on being the leader and helping his company take the next step, but he also takes a lot of satisfaction from seeing the people on his team experience their own victories. He doesn’t see leadership development as a cost.

Instead, he sees it as an investment in the company’s most valuable asset, its people. The support of others stretches beyond the walls of his company. It includes a committed focus to working with charitable causes as well as helping the future leaders of Crest Industries to get what they need to fulfill their potential.

How to reach: Crest Industries, www.crestoperations.com

How Jeff Davis believes satisfied customers and employees make The Brock Group successful

Jeffrey Gerald Davis, CEO, The Brock Group

Jeffrey Gerald Davis, CEO, The Brock Group

Construction &  Industrial Services

FINALIST
Jeffrey Gerald Davis
CEO
The Brock Group

In his 36 years with The Brock Group, Jeff Davis has worked his way from project manager to CEO — and has taken the company from being a family owned business to a multi-national, multi-craft service provider.

Not only that, but the company has seen 500 percent growth since 2006 after acquisition by a private equity firm and through significant acquisitions and organic growth. This growth was achieved based on Davis’s vision and his ability to express that vision to Brock’s investor such that it was willing to make significant investments in the company.

Another key to the rapid growth was that Davis and his management team could have access to and build long-standing relationships with the executive management of Brock’s customers.  It allowed Brock to present itself as a provider of value that senior customer leaderships require — that Brock is not a vendor among vendors relegated to the purchasing/AP department but is a valued partner in achieving lower operating costs.

Davis leads the company through behavioral-based management and behavioral-based safety which has resulted in Brock achieving excellent safety rankings and expanding the employee and customer base to what it is today. Davis believes that by having satisfied employees, it leads to satisfied customers and translates into a successful business.

As an entrepreneurial leader, Davis instills in his employees his core belief that a customer-centric focus is crucial to success. His leadership style revolves around a central theme from advice given to him years ago by Jerry Brock: “Give the customer $1.10 worth of effort/services for $1.” Davis has maintained this attitude as a core value in the way he interacts with employees, customers and third parties alike.

Davis also has led efforts with others in the industry to develop and fund schools to train welders/painters to draw them into the profession and to generate enthusiasm into making a career in the industry.

How to reach: The Brock Group, www.brockgroup.com

How James Frischhertz serves as the rock for his family and employees at Frischhertz Electric

James Joseph Frischhertz, president, Frischhertz Electric Co., Inc.

James Joseph Frischhertz, president, Frischhertz Electric Co., Inc.

Construction & Industrial Services

FINALIST

James Frischhertz
President
Frischhertz Electric Co. Inc.

It was a moment of professional accomplishment tinged with a deep sense of personal loss. James Frischhertz had been thrust into the role of president at Frischhertz Electric Co. Inc. after the untimely death of his brother, Bernard Jr.

His first thought was to throw himself into his work and be on the job 12 hours a day, seven days a week. In fact, he only took two days off the entire year, one for Christmas and one for Mardi Gras.

He needed to keep the company afloat, protect jobs and maintain everything that was already in motion while he simultaneously tried to develop a new business plan that more closely fit his vision for the company.

Over the next two decades, he presided over tremendous growth with the development of two new business entities: Frischhertz Technologies and Frischhertz Services. He also purchased an audio company called SoundWorks.

In 2005, he dealt with tragedy again when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. Company operations were paralyzed, but Frischhertz was up to the challenge once again.

Within days, he had set up an office in Baton Rouge and tapped relationships he had built over the years to get his hands on some generators.

Under his strong and empowering leadership, employees began to put their lives back together and as soon as they could relocate back to New Orleans, the company got back on its feet too.

People aren’t just a tool that Frischhertz uses to build his business or a group that he touches every once in a while for show. His leadership is truly inclusive, whether it’s recovering from a disaster, holding his family together during tough times or helping his employees to do the best they can on the job.

He understands how the smaller touches can make a big difference with people and focuses on those to maintain a healthy corporate culture.

How to reach: Frischhertz Electric Co. Inc., www.frischhertz.com

 

How Basim Shami follows his plan to take Farouk Systems to even greater heights

Basim Shami, CEO, Farouk Systems Inc.

Basim Shami, CEO, Farouk Systems Inc.

Consumer Products

FINALIST

Basim Shami
CEO
Farouk Systems Inc.

So what did Basim Shami do to prepare himself to one day take the reins at the business his father, Farouk, launched 27 years ago in the family garage? Well, he started his own business, of course.

The younger Shami took leftover and excess chemicals from his father’s company and altered solution formulas to create a salon-inspired line of pet grooming products.

It was a strong hint that Basim Shami had the entrepreneurial genes in his blood, and it’s now allowing him to take Farouk Systems Inc. in some new and interesting directions. His goal is to create “a small L’Oreal,” though Shami claims he would do a better job of integrating acquisitions. He understands that new and different is a hit in the beauty business and works hard to support a research and development team that can help Farouk Systems on top of its game.

Shami has built a network of more than 1,500 educators that serves as a natural testing place for his company’s products, as well as a great source for new ideas and product enhancements.

But as committed as Shami is to his job and to the company that his father built, he understands that he can’t do everything by himself. His job is to create a vision that everyone can get behind and then remove obstacles so that employees can make it happen.

Shami is not the same man as his father. He takes a more deliberate approach to decisions and closely studies the markets and consumer trends to validate potential new opportunities. He brings people along for the ride so that everyone who shares in the effort can also share in the great sense of accomplishment when a strategy helps Farouk Systems achieve a goal.

This awareness of others led Shami to launch a partnership with a local community college to start a cosmetology program, where units earned via the partnership can count toward college credit.

How to reach: Farouk Systems Inc., www.farouk.com

 

 

 

How Stacey Gillman Wimbish led The Gillman Cos. through one of the toughest climates in the automotive industry

Stacey Gillman Wimbish, president, The Gillman Cos.

Stacey Gillman Wimbish, president, The Gillman Cos.

Consumer Products

FINALIST

Stacey Gillman Wimbish
President
The Gillman Cos.

Stacey Gillman Wimbish may have learned a lot from her father, a legend in the Houston automotive dealership business, but there was no playbook for the challenges she has had to face since taking over the family’s Texas automotive dealership business, The Gillman Cos., in 2008.

Gillman Wimbish, president, has led her 14-dealership company through the economic impacts of the Great Recession when there were two hurricanes, a Japanese earthquake and tsunami that caused numerous issues and delays from Japanese automakers, and domestic manufacturers were cancelling franchises.

Through all these unforeseen challenges, she developed and executed a strong and consistent plan. The tenet of that plan was to assess the situation honestly no matter how difficult and have the courage to make needed change.

Gillman Wimbish transitioned the organization through all of these crises allowing not only for the company to survive, but come out much stronger. She embodied the famous motto, “Keep calm and carry on.” She reduced cost in line with the expected medium to short-term volume declines and made the hard decision to cut employee headcount. She also emphasized to her management team the need to constantly measure performance and press for timely changes whenever they were needed.

While her path to leading The Gillman Cos. was not certain, the automotive retailing business has always been in Gillman Wimbish’s blood. During her career, she has worked in almost every function of the dealership operations including accounting, vehicle and parts sales and finance and insurance. Her knowledge of the automotive dealership business and all its many facets has been a key to her success in leading the company.

With her leadership and strategic plan, Gillman Wimbish was able to manage through these adversities and bring the company back to operating and financial success. In 2010, she was named one of the 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry.

How to reach: The Gillman Cos., www.gillmanauto.com

How Joel Bomgar took a personal problem and found a fix that has helped millions in Bomgar

Joel Bomgar, founder and CEO, Bomgar

Joel Bomgar, founder and CEO, Bomgar

Technology

FINALIST

Joel Bomgar
Founder and CEO
Bomgar 

Joel Bomgar was great at fixing computers, but the unbillable time he spent traveling from one client site to the next was making it pretty tough to make any money.

He decided there had to be a better way and after realizing there wasn’t a good product on the market, he went to work to develop his own solution.

He developed his own remote support software that enabled him to troubleshoot customers’ computers through the Internet from the comfort of his own desk.

More importantly, he didn’t have to drive anywhere to identify these problems.

Over the past decade, that piece of software has evolved into the Bomgar Box, a robust remote support solution now used by nearly 7,000 organizations in 65 countries worldwide.

As the founder and CEO of the company which he named after himself, Bomgar has forged his success by focusing on the niche remote support market versus diversifying. He targets large enterprises instead of consumers and produces an appliance-based solution instead of software as a service.

The company itself has a positive, fast-paced culture that is family friendly and is based on Bomgar’s own values and desire to work in a place he believes to be “the best place on the planet.”

Innovation is a priority for Bomgar and he gives employees the freedom to create as long as it feeds the company’s primary goal of improving tech support. This freedom within focus approach allows product engineers and developers to explore futuristic ideas while keeping everyone moving toward the same end goal.

There is also great freedom when it comes to choosing philanthropic causes to support. Bomgar wants employees to support causes that are important to them personally. The Bomgar Care Network is a rotating team that solicits ideas for philanthropic activities from employees and then leads activities in support of those programs. The company also donates its technology to nearly 100 missions around the world.

How to reach: Bomgar, www.bomgar.com

 

How Richard Weissman found the silver lining in The Learning Experience

 

Richard Scott Weissman, president, CEO and co-founder, The Learning Experience

Richard Scott Weissman, president, CEO and co-founder, The Learning Experience

Family Business

FINALIST

Richard Scott Weissman
president, CEO and co-founder
The Learning Experience

For Richard Scott Weissman, there’s a silver lining in each storm cloud.

“The best time to learn and grow a company is during the worst of times; adversity builds character and forces a company to develop systems that mitigate risk while never sacrificing the brand,” he says.

Through a focus on core competencies of motivating people and creating lasting concepts in business, Weissman has led The Learning Experience, one of the leading providers of child care and early childhood development services.

But it wasn’t easy street. After a few years as a boutique investment firm operator, he decided that his father Michael Weissman’s business, child care, had a lot of potential, and he wanted to be part of it.

Many serious discussions were held, and there were differences of opinions. Finally, they went ahead with expansion plans and bought a bankrupt rival chain. Michael retired and Richard located a fund to invest in the company. However, the fund wanted to change everything. Richard returned to his career on Wall Street — but then 9/11 occurred.

Richard and the rest of the management team strongly believed that if they could expand and build strong foundations for the company during the crisis, then they would be ready to “explode” when the economy stabilized.

The Weissman family put $6 million into the company to grow during the recession.  Richard felt the need to hand-hold certain franchisees during the economic crisis. Most stayed on board with TLE; however, the few that were not bought into the vision of the Company, left.   He heavily invested in technology, which has enabled the Company to cut from 95 employees to 70 in the corporate office.  TLE has more than 200 schools and is opening on average two new schools per month. It has also reached the mark of being one of the top 10 child care companies in the U.S. as ranked by license capacity.

How to reach: The Learning Experience, www.thelearningexperience.com

How Gary Kiedaisch is revolutionizing the cooler industry at Igloo Products Corp.

Gary Kiedaisch, chairman and CEO, Igloo Products Corp.

Gary Kiedaisch, chairman and CEO, Igloo Products Corp.

Consumer Products

FINALIST

Gary Kiedaisch
Chairman and CEO
Igloo Products Corp.

When Gary Kiedaisch and private equity firm J.H. Whitney first targeted Igloo Products Corp., Wal-Mart had successfully driven down cooler prices and had a 60 percent share of the cooler business. In addition, Wal-Mart had been rotating regional sales among the three main cooler suppliers — Rubbermaid, Igloo and Coleman — so that no company would be able to be dominant in the market.

Kiedaisch did not see the “Wal-Mart model” as sustainable, as it did not inspire consumers to buy new coolers. Instead, he saw the situation as an opportunity. Kiedaisch thought he could re-energize the category by giving consumers a reason to update their current coolers. He shared this vision for Igloo and the opportunity he saw and along with J.H. Whitney they purchased Igloo in October 2008 making Kiedaisch chairman and CEO.

Kiedaisch’s vision for Igloo Products Corp. faced two primary challenges. First, the economy was in a downturn and oil prices were on the rise, impacting the price of resin and increasing the cost to produce coolers. Secondly, he had to work around Wal-Mart and determine a way to move Igloo away from its buying and pricing practices either by growing sales outside of Wal-Mart or convincing Wal-Mart of a strategy to implement price differentiation.

Kiedaisch started growing the Igloo business outside of Wal-Mart through the use of specialty retailers and introducing features into the coolers that Wal-Mart was not able to offer. By creating an entrepreneurial organization, and empowering his employees, Kiedaisch and his team have been able to successfully implement more than 200 new products to the market. This resulted in Igloo being able to grow the business outside of Wal-Mart by 20 percent.

Kiedaisch met with the Wal-Mart board and presented his strategy and success in growing sales outside of Wal-Mart, ultimately convincing Wal-Mart to get in the game. As a result, Igloo went from having low margins and low profitability and getting beat up by Wal-Mart to developing a strategic partnership.

How to reach: Igloo Products Corp., www.igloocoolers.com