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.


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 Northeast Ohio, Award Recipients

How Kris Snyder provides mobility services to companies at Vox Mobile

Kris Snyder, CEO, Vox Mobile

Kris Snyder, CEO, Vox Mobile

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year



Kris Snyder


Vox Mobile


Kris Snyder is a driving force in the high growth, billion-dollar managed mobility services market. Having founded Vox Mobile as an entrepreneur inside a $200 million systems integrator and ultimately spinning it into its own venture, Snyder demonstrated his thought leadership and insight into the growth trends in enterprise mobility.

Starting Vox Mobile in 2006, Snyder recognized the potential to create value through mobility services before anyone else. At that time, organizations were becoming increasingly reliant upon mobile devices.

While plenty of competitors and organizations had invested in technology to implement and deploy personal computers, he recognized that there would soon be a need to provide these same services for mobile equipment, which has increased since consumer products like the iPhone and iPad were released.

Enterprises are now facing significant challenges ensuring issues like mobile enterprise security, employer software configuration and customer support do not decrease the productivity of their respective organizations worldwide. These issues are coming to a head as organizations contemplate how to allow employees to “Bring Your Own Device,” or BYOD, rather than issuing company devices.

Snyder’s customers call upon Vox Mobile to design, procure, deploy, support, manage and analyze their mobile devices. Snyder emphasizes and provides a culture to enable and empower his employees to provide satisfactory solutions to its callers every time to reduce customers’ frustrations and potential down time.

This requires a commitment to hiring top talent who are inventive, knowledgeable and believe in his vision. During 2012, he nearly doubled the number of employees, and Snyder continues to promote the innovation of software that allows for incremental scalability.

Snyder’s vision and ability to innovate in this niche industry has enabled the growth of Vox and mobile technology as a whole. This has created more than 40 percent sales growth during the last two years, with an additional 40 percent growth being forecast in 2013.

How to reach: Vox Mobile,

How Gary Schuster saved metal parts supplier OMCO from a steep decline in business

Gary Schuster, president and CEO, OMCO

Gary Schuster, president and CEO, OMCO

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Distribution and Manufacturing



Gary Schuster

president and CEO



In 2006, Gary Schuster accepted an offer to take over as the president and CEO of OMCO, a supplier of custom metal parts made using a roll forming technique. He joined OMCO at a difficult time in the company’s history.

As a result of a downturn in the transportation industry and worsened by the economic recession, the company’s sales fell by 80 percent from 2006 to 2009. However, Schuster had innovative ideas, as well as a plan to rapidly recover by expanding into new markets.

Although the company had a long-term plan of diversifying its business past the transportation industry, there was no one in the company who was exploring future opportunities when Schuster took the helm. Accordingly, he hired a key individual who specialized in sales and marketing to focus solely on finding new customers and growing the business into new markets other than the transportation industry.

After Schuster and his sales and marketing team identified a need for OMCO’s custom roll-forming products in the rapidly growing solar panel manufacturing industry of the Southwest, he relocated his top sales representative to Phoenix.

In mid-2009, the company received its first million-dollar order followed by several other significant orders that same year. Schuster quickly took advantage of these growing opportunities in the solar energy market by opening a plant in Phoenix that could centrally serve the Southwestern region of the U.S. The subsequent rapid growth in this new market resulted in an increase of more than 300 percent in the company’s sales from 2010 to 2012.

Although OMCO’s expansion into the Southwestern solar market has provided great success for the company, Schuster insists on continuing to explore future opportunities. He has started to consider further diversification within the solar market to new geographic locations, particularly Australia, Saudi Arabia and Chile. He is also identifying additional new industries for the company to leverage.

How to reach: OMCO,

How Michael Hilton is melding Nordson Corp. from a good company into a great company

Michael Hilton, president and CEO, Nordson Corp.

Michael Hilton, president and CEO, Nordson Corp.

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Public Company



Michael Hilton

president and CEO

Nordson Corp.


Driving growth has been Michael Hilton’s objective since being named president and CEO of Nordson Corp. at the beginning of 2010.

Nordson Corp., a more than 5,000-employee manufacturer of products and systems used for dispensing adhesives, coatings, sealants and biomaterials for consumer non-durable, durable and technology end markets, has been a strong company, even during the recession years. When Hilton came into the company he saw it as an organization that could grow three to four times its size in revenue.

Globally, Nordson has a presence in more than 40 countries and has been well established in locations such as China, India, Brazil, Europe and Japan for a long time. To take advantage of growth opportunities, Hilton had to evaluate the business and understand the key areas that needed attention and resources.

Hilton believes the keys to achieving Nordson’s financial and strategic goals are innovative new products, growth in emerging markets and strategic acquisitions. In the 10 years prior to Hilton’s leadership as CEO, Nordson completed just five acquisitions. Since then, the company has made six acquisitions with global footprints and complimentary product offerings.

Through this recent acquisition activity, Hilton acknowledges that risks must be taken to continue to grow globally. These risks are most prevalent in adding new products to the company’s portfolio and the difficulty of integration into Nordson’s culture. As part of the risk mitigation process, Hilton has ensured that each acquisition/merger target passes the Integration Process Plan, which examines culture and market comparison.

With Hilton’s leadership, Nordson has generated record earnings and is on track to achieve its new strategic goals. Sales have increased and total assets have doubled since he has taken over as CEO. Dividends also have increased annually for 49 consecutive years, placing Nordson among only 15 other public companies to do so for that length of time.

How to reach: Nordson Corp.,

How Marc Brenner has transformed a simple auto mechanic school into a diverse college campus at Ohio Technical College

Marc Brenner, president and CEO, Ohio Technical College

Marc Brenner, president and CEO, Ohio Technical College

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Family Business Award



Marc Brenner

president and CEO

Ohio Technical College


In July 1969, Marc Brenner and his father Julius founded the Ohio Diesel Mechanics School. Over the course of 30 years, the school grew, added programs, training, and changed locations and names. In 1996, Brenner’s father retired, and he assumed complete and total responsibility for all aspects of the school.

In his new leadership role as president and CEO, Brenner implemented major changes throughout the organization, including redesigning classrooms, shop floors and training courses. One of the most successful strategies that Brenner implemented was a change in the marketing approach from targeting middle-aged adults to targeting 18 to 25 year olds.

This strategy led to rapid expansion, and in 1998, because of the increase of program offerings and campus developments, the school’s name was changed to Ohio Technical College, a private and accredited technical college providing career-oriented auto mechanic training.

Over the years, OTC has faced numerous obstacles such as obtaining financial aid for its students and limited housing. Through Brenner’s business acumen and vision for his college campus, he was invited by President Clinton to be a part of the advisory team to start Direct Loans, which offers financial aid to for-profit schools. OTC also purchased several houses, which are now used to house its students.

As the school’s growth continued, BMW of North America developed an interest in OTC and created a specialized training facility on the campus — one of only four training sites in the U.S. Most recently, the college opened a branch campus called PowerSport Institute that specializes in motorcycles.

Brenner and his team have developed partnerships with industry leaders such as Kawasaki Motorcycle, Yamaha Motor, Victory Motorcycle, Honda, Polaris and others. This branch campus of OTC now trains about 250 students and total enrollment for OTC and PSI averages 1,500 students on an annual basis. In 2009, OTC was recognized as the National School of the Year.

How to reach: Ohio Technical College,

How Drew Forhan and ForTec Medical are delivering a medical equipment phenomenon

Drew Forhan, founder and CEO, ForTec Medical

Drew Forhan, founder and CEO, ForTec Medical

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Health Care and Pharmaceutical Services



Drew Forhan

founder and CEO

ForTec Medical


As the founder and CEO of the mobile medical equipment company ForTec Medical, Drew Forhan leads through a collaborative, creative and competitive environment. His leadership qualities include integrity, perseverance and a bias toward action.

Forhan says he has an innate entrepreneurial spirit and drive that has been his personal motivation since he started ForTec at the age of 27 with one truck and one laser. He saw a need in the medical field for a new model to give hospitals and physicians access to innovative technologies. Ultimately, ForTec offers a business model that provides hospitals and physicians a simpler/less expensive way to utilize the latest and greatest medical tool technology.

The concept is such that when a medical operation requires a certain piece of technology a hospital system cannot afford to buy, ForTec’s service can be utilized to gain access to the equipment. The ForTec service also provides a trained technician, all for which there is a one-time usage fee.

This model eliminates hospitals capital expenditure or operating lease commitment for new technologies, which can cost nearly $2 million per piece of equipment. ForTec’s service simplifies hospital operations, but it was no easy task to get this idea off the ground. ForTec’s service has a number of moving parts that need to work in unison to maintain a profitable operation.

Forhan encountered many difficulties along his path, one of the toughest being financing. Each piece of equipment requires a large amount of capital expenditure, and often new technology is introduced annually. So the company’s model is all about logistics, demand and turning profit within the year.

In 2012 ForTec served roughly 2,000 hospitals in 40 states. The ForTec team — now almost 300 — has delivered specialized medical equipment and the related service team in 50,000 surgeries, through 26 different facilities throughout the United States.

Forhan’s future vision for ForTec includes growing through deepening relationships and strategic acquisitions.

How to reach: ForTec Medical,

How Carol Klimas has taken Lake Ridge Academy to new educational heights

Carol Klimas, president, Lake Ridge Academy

Carol Klimas, president, Lake Ridge Academy

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Education and Non-profit



Carol Klimas


Lake Ridge Academy


The Lake Ridge Academy Board of Directors took an unprecedented step hiring Carol Klimas, an individual with a solid track record of success and respect in the banking industry, to serve as the first president of the K-12 school, when the Faculty Search Advisory Committee had made it clear that it wanted someone from the academic world.

The committee wanted someone who truly understands, appreciates and supports academics. You can only imagine committee’s bewilderment and dismay when Klimas, the banker, was hired in 2007.

But it was not Klimas, the banker, who showed up for work. It was Klimas the entrepreneur — an innovative, optimistic and hardworking individual who appeared more inspired by the school’s economic woes than overcome by them.

Rather than focus on introducing short-term solutions, she initiated an endless series of interviews, focus group sessions, and best-practice research to create a plan of action that would resonate with and mobilize a wide array of constituents. She assembled a list of practical tactics, weaving in inspirational strategies, which later became the foundation of Vision Beyond 50.

Any preconceived ideas of whether a banker could successfully lead an educational venture were soon shattered by Klimas’ absolute resolve to tackle each problem in a cooperative and collaborative manner.

Klimas believes the critical backbone of the school is its faculty and has championed efforts to attract and retain exceptional talent. The credentials of the faculty today are quite impressive with about two-thirds of them having taught at a college level and the majority having a master’s or Ph.D. degree.

As a result of Klimas’ efforts, overall enrollment growth at Lake Ridge increased by 12 percent, inquiries are up 45 percent from the prior year and applications have increased by 20 percent since last year. Klimas believes a target student population of 480 will be achieved in the next two years, which is more than 100 students above current enrollment.

How to reach: Lake Ridge Academy,

How Joel Adelman and The Advance Group of Companies are helping fellow entrepreneurs grow

Joel E. Adelman, founder and CEO, The Advance Group of Companies

Joel E. Adelman, founder and CEO, The Advance Group of Companies

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Professional Services



Joel E. Adelman

founder and CEO

The Advance Group of Companies


In 1998, Joel E. Adelman established The Advance Group of Companies, which is dedicated to providing entrepreneurial staffing companies with the opportunity to flourish and grow. Advance not only provides capital funding to its clients, it also provides various back office services that include information technology, payroll and tax, and recruiting/search software.

Based on his experience and knowledge, Adelman, who is founder and CEO, intended to establish a business selling consumer products. However, his exposure to payroll services at a national staffing convention led him to uncover an underserved market. This fueled Adelman’s passion, and he became determined to create a new solution for the staffing industry.

Adelman combined several different services into one business, developing a company with few direct competitors. Advance offers entrepreneurs all-inclusive services and support.

The company recently introduced a new service, Workforce Solutions, which matches the demand and supply of labor. Adelman once again identified a need in the market and discovered a manner in which to capitalize on it, bringing together small and midsize staffing firms and introducing them to Fortune 500 consumers in need of their services.

As the largest independent provider of funding and leading provider of solutions for the temporary staffing industry, Advance has grown steadily. As to be expected, the company’s revenue declined during the recession. However, Adelman’s foresight and management decisions allowed the company to enhance its earning potential by expanding its service offerings.

When the economy began to improve and the demand for staffing escalated, Advance grew at 25 percent. Advance has maintained that 25 percent growth rate for the past three years and forecasts that it will continue to grow at this rate.

Adelman’s one-of-a-kind business offers fellow entrepreneurs an opportunity to realize their aspirations via technological and monetary support. As a result of his innovative and unique offerings, the supply of labor better matches the demand.

How to reach: The Advance Group of Companies,

How Jimmy Zeilinger used parenting experience to found Brand Castle and its cooking kits

Jimmy Zeilinger, founder and president, Brand Castle, LLC

Jimmy Zeilinger, founder and president, Brand Castle, LLC

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Retail and Consumer Products



Jimmy Zeilinger

founder and president

Brand Castle, LLC


The idea of Brand Castle, LLC, came to Jimmy Zeilinger while he was in a local bookstore and came across a cookbook aimed for parents who wanted to create cooking projects with their children.

Being a devoted parent, he immediately thought of the hassle it would be to obtain all the ingredients needed to complete a cooking project in that book and how a kit that included the ingredients would make the task so much easier. After consulting about the kit idea with his wife Andrea, he quickly discovered that he had a great idea on his hands.

Since selling its first Crafty Cooking Kit in February 2005, Brand Castle has become the leader in interactive baking kits for children and adults. However, that success didn’t come without its hurdles.

Brand Castle almost closed its doors after its first six months as a result of listening to market researchers who wrongly advised Zeilinger, who is founder and president, on the type of demand for his products. Relying on this information, he spent all his personal savings and borrowed from family to launch Brand Castle by “slotting” the products via the grocery channel.

Six months later, this strategy proved to be unsuccessful when the products were not selling as anticipated and national retailers began to close out the product. Instead of closing the business, Zeilinger decided to change the market strategy to embrace seasonality and elected a low margin, high volume approach when selecting retailers.

Brand Castle is now an international company with employees in the U.S. and China. What started with six products ranging from paint-your-own-brownie to a rainbow cookies kit has grown into a portfolio of more than 300 items sold under three different brand names and numerous licenses, including Crayola, Disney and Sanrio. Each Brand Castle product aims to help families create memories.

How to reach: Brand Castle, LLC,

How Jeremy Sopko is striving to grow Nations Lending Corp. into a top mortgage banking company

Jeremy Sopko, CEO, Nations Lending Corp.

Jeremy Sopko, CEO, Nations Lending Corp.

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Financial Services



Jeremy Sopko


Nations Lending Corp.


Jeremy Sopko and his business partner founded Nations Lending Corp. in 2003 after working for five different lending companies. Sopko, who is CEO, envisioned a company that would stand the test of time, overcoming regulatory and compliance challenges, fluctuations in interest rates and other challenges in the industry.

Sopko’s varied experiences with different lending companies allowed him to see the good and the bad in the mortgage industry. He leveraged his experiences to shape the vision of Nations Lending, a national mortgage lender and mortgage banking company serving 41 states.

His business philosophy is focused on open lines of communication with his staff, as well as allowing his employees to voice their own opinions, come up with new ideas and actively participate in the growth of the business.

Sopko’s emphasis on transparency can be seen in an active workplace that promotes frequent training opportunities and a true team environment. His unique, energetic leadership philosophy has been a catalyst for the strong growth Nations Lending has shown in its 10 years of existence.

The company has grown from a small lending operation to a dynamic multi-dimensional organization aimed at consistent growth. It also has grown 20 times over in the number of employees since 2003. Sopko has proven that he is a dynamic leader through the company’s ability to attract customers because of its quality service and honesty.

Sopko places a strong emphasis on people. He has more recently placed a heavy emphasis on professional development to promote more accountability and improved functionality of his departments so they can operate more independently. He is a strong proponent of frequent training sessions, and this has improved his staff’s pass rate for state licensing exams to more than 90 percent.

The mortgage industry is constantly changing, and the emphasis on training is important to Sopko and his vision for Nations Lending Corp.

How to reach: Nations Lending Corp.,

Honoring the best of the best in Northeast Ohio

Whitt Butler, program director and advisory partner, Ernst & Young

Whitt Butler, program director and advisory partner, Ernst & Young

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



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.


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


Kenneth L. Robison
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,
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

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,


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


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.,


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


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



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,
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


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,
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.



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.,
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


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.,
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


Dana Sellers
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,


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.



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.,

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


Stacey Gillman Wimbish
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.,

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



Joel Bomgar
Founder and CEO

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,


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


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,

How Mark Montgomery surpassed a disadvantage to take Axium to new levels

Health Care


Mark Montgomery
President and CEO
Axium Healthcare Pharmacy Inc.

Mark Montgomery knew it would be tough to launch a new business in a competitive market, but he also faced another disadvantage. Although he had become a successful entrepreneur, he did not have the scientific knowledge of clinical pharmacy — the specialty he wanted to enter.

Montgomery took the approach of being transparent in this disadvantage through his business ventures and by hiring highly educated and trained people who understood the technical aspects of clinical pharmacy, his disadvantage has not been an issue. Two years after beginning an executive consulting relationship with Axium’s owners, he was hired as president and CEO which included an ownership position.

With his “people first” mentality, he has taken risks that have led to rewards. Despite past deficits in cash flow, Montgomery has not sacrificed the quality of Axium employees and their benefits. He does not sacrifice quality over quantity as well as compensation.

Montgomery holds a high regard for the culture he has created and provides employees the resources necessary in the areas of IT, human resources, legal compliance and accounting. He values their expertise and this has led to the continued investment in his people. This reputation has attracted a seasoned member of the FDA among other highly trained clinical pharmacists.

His leadership abilities do not stop at the employee level; Montgomery seeks opportunities to expand through mergers and acquisitions. In December, Axium was purchased by the Kroger Co., the fifth largest pharmacy in the U.S. This transaction will help Kroger become a specialized pharmacy, while aiding in Axium’s geographical retail expansion.

Such a “big risk-big reward” approach has been the backbone of Axium. This knowledge of business and entrepreneurial tactics has overcome Montgomery’s lack of scientific pharmaceutical training and has lead Axium down the path of success.

As Montgomery’s manta says, “Success is measured by outcomes, and outcomes are attained through understanding and action.”

How to reach: Axium Healthcare Pharmacy Inc.,

How Dan Doyle Jr. built DEX Imaging to be a company customers can always count on for solutions

Dan Doyle Jr. president and CEO DEX Imaging

Dan Doyle Jr.
president and CEO
DEX Imaging



Dan Doyle Jr.
president and CEO
DEX Imaging

Dan Doyle Jr. had two objectives in mind when he co-founded DEX Imaging in 2002 with his father, Dan Sr.

He wanted to create a privately-held dealership that focuses on quality service. He also wanted to give back one third of the company’s profits to charities and educational programs within the markets where DEX does business.

That commitment to both community and customer service has not wavered a bit over the past decade as Doyle has grown his business through the headwind of one of the toughest economic downturns the industry and the country has ever seen.

DEX has the lowest employee turnover rate in the industry as many of its sales, administrative and service personnel have been with the company since its inception. This means there is a legacy of performance excellence that customers of DEX Imaging experience first-hand.

One of the reasons employees stay is that the company has created a business environment that promotes transparency and encourages everyone to succeed in what they do. The company’s profit-sharing program awards bonuses to employees who consistently achieve high levels of performance each year.

When employees join DEX, they go through a rigorous and comprehensive in-house training program that not only provides certification on the makes and models that DEX sells, but also the makes and models of all other manufacturers.

This creates the opportunity for customers to have one option that can service all their document-imaging assets. The company also has an inventory auto-replenishment system that keeps warehouses fully stocked at all times with equipment, parts and supplies.

But just as important as the company’s operational philosophies are its philanthropic efforts. DEX’s Charitable Outreach Program has donated millions of dollars to organizations ranging from schools to special-needs programs to at-risk child mentoring agencies.

Giving back creates stronger communities and helps the company take an active leadership role in making a difference in the place it calls home.

How to reach: DEX Imaging,

How John Kunkel used his restaurant industry experience to create critically acclaimed concepts at 50 Eggs Inc.

John Kunkel founder and CEO 50 Eggs Inc.

John Kunkel
founder and CEO
50 Eggs Inc.



John Kunkel
founder and CEO
50 Eggs Inc.

John Kunkel exaggerated his age to get his first job was as a dishwasher in a restaurant at age 15, but there was no exaggerating his can-do attitude and strong work ethic, which allowed him to escalate the ranks of the restaurant industry.

When Kunkel ventured out to open his own restaurant around the time he was 30 years old, he had succeeded at all positions within a restaurant, from line cook to dishwasher to general manager. By then, he was very much in tune with the industry and believed he had what it would take to develop and run his own concepts successfully.

With years of service and food industry experience under his belt, Kunkel was able to blend all his different learning’s into one cohesive plan when it came to creating the business model for Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Khong River House and Swine Southern Table & Bar, which all make up 50 Eggs Inc., a full-service creative firm focused on developing irrepressible brands within the entertainment and hospitality industries.

Kunkel, who is founder and CEO, knows the restaurant business has some of the highest failure rates of any business. From the beginning, he had to have a strong vision which needed to be executed to perfection. The greatest and still ongoing challenge for 50 Eggs has been growing from a one restaurant concept company to a multi-concept company.

In order to retain key employees, 50 Eggs supplements the industry standard with benefits and incentives such as performance bonuses.

Throughout this process, Kunkel has been an avid researcher to proactively learn from other operators’ and his own mistakes to ensure 50 Eggs expands the right way. Although challenging throughout, by developing the correct systems, processes and procedures at the outset, 50 Eggs has been able to grow in number of concepts and branch out into fine dining from fast casual. All of Kunkel’s concepts have received critical acclaim.

How to reach: 50 Eggs Inc.,