Entrepreneur Of The Year Award
By Joyce Romine
In today’s dot.com world, there may be more entrepreneurs than
ever. But no matter what the industry, it takes determination,
vision and leadership to succeed. The finalists and winners
in the prestigious 2000 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year®
Awards program clearly demonstrate these qualities and more,
making them standout in the crowd.
The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year awards program was
founded in 1986 to recognize and honor those individuals whose
ingenuity, hard work and innovation have created successful
and growing business ventures. A total of 67 award programs
are held worldwide.
Award recipients are selected by an independent panel of judges.
The 2000 regional award recipients were announced June 15 at
an awards dinner at the Ritz Carlton. Regional award winners
are eligible for the National program. National award recipients
will be honored at a gala during the Entrepreneur Of The Year
Institute International Conference in November. The Entrepreneur
Of The Year program is founded and produced by Ernst & Young
LLP and is co-sponsored nationally by USA TODAY; the Kauffman
Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership; the NASDAQ-AMEX Market
Group; CNNfn and CNN. Local sponsors include the RCGA; A.G.
Edwards & Sons, Inc.; Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C.; Sprint;
LaSalle Bank; St. Louis Business Journal; and KMOX News/Talk
Entrepreneur Of The Year
Gregory A. Sullivan
President and CEO G.A. Sullivan
Bruce Hoskins, (left) director of marketing and Greg
Sullivan president and CEO of G.A. Sullivan discuss
the opening of the company’s first international office
in the Netherlands.
A summer job programming computers became the foundation
of Greg Sullivan’s own company originally based out of
his one-bedroom apartment in Dogtown. Today, G.A. Sullivan
has grown into an international Internet software company
that employs 300 people.
The company specializes in providing e-business solutions
for middle market companies, e-business start-ups, as
well as Fortune 500 companies. The company concentrates
on providing custom program design for e-business. G.A.
Sullivan continues to aggressively expand in U.S. middle
market cities and in Europe. In 1999, the company opened
five new offices including an international office in
the Netherlands. With its first client, the company successfully
created a virtual insurance company and garnered international
attention just months after establishing a presence in
the market. In the next several years, the company foresees
40 to 50 percent annual growth.
Instead of being “all things to all clients,” Sullivan
has directed his business to what he knows best—software
development consulting, focusing on providing e-business
solutions. G.A. Sullivan partners with web hosting companies
to provide full-service solutions for companies conducting
business on the Internet. “The key to our success has
been our focus on the value of information to business,”
Sullivan says. “We’re always looking for innovative ways
to deliver information to our customers, then help them
develop a strategy and build, execute and operate on that
“The key to our success has been our focus on the value
of information to business,” Sullivan says. “We’re always
looking for innovative ways to deliver information to
our customers, then help them develop a strategy and build,
execute and operate on that strategy.”
Sullivan strives to attract and retain quality employees
through competitive compensation packages along with several
intangible benefits. A commitment to family is emphasized,
illustrated by the fact that the average work week is
42 hours, while other larger firms have average work weeks
in excess of 50 hours. Sullivan also encourages—and models—community
As founding chair of the St. Louis RCGA Technology Gateway
Alliance, Sullivan charged forward with tremendous volunteer
support to create one of the fastest-growing regional
technology alliances in the U.S. Membership has grown
from zero to 300 in just two years. Today, St. Louis serves
as a role model for other cities trying to advance their
region’s technology base.
“St. Louis really is a great place to grow a business,”
Sullivan says. “There are many opportunities here to create
leaders in the industry.”
Sullivan and his company have been recipients of the National
Small Business Person of the Year in 1999; Inc.’s 500
list of fastest growing private companies in America for
1997 and 1998; and Deloitte and Touche Technology Fast
500 list of fastest growing technology companies in the
U.S. in 1997, 1998 and 1999.
Entrepreneur Of The Year
President Digital Partners Inc.
Matina Koronis' company Digital Partners is a
technology integration firm specializing in
the advertising, graphics and printing industries.
Partners (DPI) was launched in 1994 when Matina
Koronis spotted a niche in the marketplace. While
the computer industry was rapidly growing, it seemed
there was a critical lack of customer service in
the graphics industry. This market is extremely
deadline sensitive so service and responsiveness
from vendors is critical. Koronis felt if an organization
could be formed that focused exclusively on this
market, she and her staff could deliver the highest
level of service.
“While I worked for another company for two-and-a-half
years, I noticed the lack of high-level service
in the graphics industry,” Koronis says. “With a
phenomenal, hard-working staff, we have developed
close partnerships with our clients.” Today, DPI’s
client list includes Anheuser-Busch, The Zipatoni
Company, The Earthgrains Company and Enterprise
DPI positions itself as a technology integration
firm, specializing in the advertising, graphics
and printing industries. DPI sells and services
Apple Macintosh and Silicon Graphics computers and
servers, Cisco Networking equipment, computer peripherals,
software packages and color printers. DPI has been
recognized by Apple Computer for three consecutive
years as an “Apple Specialist” and was recently
honored by Apple as an example of an outstanding
The company’s goal is to improve the internal efficiencies
for its clients, so its clients can spend less time
figuring out computers and more time creating. DPI
also can implement data management software and
work flow solutions to reduce the time staff spend
searching for files, client logos or past jobs.
“We try to humanize the technological side of things,”
Koronis says. “Our clients work with our staff to
provide the best service.”
The company started with Koronis as the sole employee
but quickly added staff, with more than 15 today.
Koronis’ first hire is still with the company as
testament to her staff’s loyalty. DPI has very little
turnover due to a strong profit sharing program,
financial incentives, employee empowerment, promotions
from within and a team atmosphere. Recently, when
Koronis was out for three months due to neck surgery,
her staff stepped up and kept the business running
“without missing a beat,” Koronis says.
he company is in the process of doubling its square
footage and remodeling. DPI plans to market an image/asset
management software tool nationally. This software
requires the combination and integration of hardware
products sold only by DPI and will help customers
gain control over their own data. DPI is adding
staff to support the high-level integration.
Entrepreneur Of The Year
Michael F. Shanahan Sr.
Chairman & CEO Engineered Support Systems,
Michael Shanahan, Sr., heads up ESSI, a
holding company for six subsidiaries that
manufacture equipment. Here Shanahan
(right) discusses an upcoming project with
Wallace Handy, marketing manager.
Shanahan’s desire to stay in his hometown
of St. Louis resulted in the purchase and
turnaround of Engineered Support Systems Inc.
(ESSI). Shanahan has been a director with
the company since its formation in 1982. In
1985, he was named CEO, and in 1987, chairman
of the company.
Since going public in 1985, ESSI has grown
dramatically. The company was started by the
directors with the purchase of Engineered
Air Systems in 1982. Since then it has been
on the fast track of raising profits and shareholder
value through both growth and acquisition.
Currently, ESSI is a holding company for six
wholly-owned subsidiaries: Systems Electronics
Inc., Engineered Air Systems, Keco Industries,
Engineered Coil Company, Engineered Electric
Company and Engineered Specialty Plastics.
They have realized economies of scale as well
as a technological boom.
The 1999 purchase of Systems Electronics Inc.
(SEI) doubled the size of ESSI with respect
to revenues, earnings, future contract backlog,
personnel and facilities. The acquisition
also gave ESSI a leg up in people and technology,
bringing greater opportunities for growth.
The SEI purchase was the fourth significant
acquisition for ESSI over the past two years.
“Our broad base of talent makes us stand out
in the marketplace,” Shanahan says. “People
are the assets that are never on the books
but they’re what make the company successful.
We’re blessed with energetic and intelligent
Shanahan says the items the company produces
are unique, often assembled by hand and require
a tremendous amount of research and development
and up-front prototype assembly. “Only the
best prototype wins the contract. We make
150 different products for the military and
work hard to establish quality control and
a strong customer-service attitude.”
The general categories of equipment produced
by the ESSI group of companies include rapid
deployment, light and heavy military support
equipment; electronics and automation systems;
and plastic products.
Major trends in military procurement policy
both domestically and internationally, an
updated Department of Defense approach to
conflicts around the world, and the use of
military equipment in human crisis/natural
disaster situations greatly favor the company
and offer unparalleled growth opportunities.
ESSI is staged to grow rapidly by creating
an entity that recognizes the benefit of consolidating
its strengths with a corporate structure.
As ESSI acquires other companies and internally
creates the ability to provide new types of
products, it will be positioned to do so effectively
while recognizing profit immediately.
Entrepreneur Of The Year
President Kupper Parker Communications
Bruce Kupper founded Kupper Parker
Communications in 1977, today it is the
largest independent, full-service
communication firm in St. Louis.
starting his own business in 1977, Bruce Kupper worked
for a large international advertising agency where he
felt he was just part of a giant machine. But he wanted
to be a bigger gear. So with a vision of creating value
for his clients, their customers and his own company’s
operation, he launched Kupper Advertising.
Today, as Kupper Parker Communications (KPC), it is the
largest independent, full-service communications firm
in St. Louis, with regional offices in seven cities, $220
million in billings and 208 employees.
A native of New England, Kupper found building a business
in the close-knit St. Louis business community a challenge
as he competed among 285 advertising agencies, 150 public
relations firms and numerous marketing operations. But
he was not afraid of failing and plunged in headfirst.
"We operate out of cautious risks," Kupper says. "Many
people are afraid to fail. But in business, it's not a
question of what's right or wrong. If something doesn't
work, you do something else. If something was well thought
out, yet it still fails, it's okay, because you still
learned something and how to do it better."
This attitude, combined with enthusiasm, commitment and
hard work, has proven successful for KPC. The agency has
never lost money in any quarter. Over the past decade,
the agency has sustained 45 percent growth in annual net
profits. No single account comprises more than 8 percent
of the company's billings.
KPC recently acquired an agency in London and is planning
additional acquisitions and aggressively managed internal
growth. Selecting acquisition partners with complementary
strengths or powerful market niches maximizes the potential
return on investment.
"We're not intimidated by not having firsthand knowledge
of a market," Kupper says. "We have the basic skill set
that plays as well in St. Louis as it does in New York
or London. Many companies are afraid to go global because
of the different cultures. But the world is getting smaller,
and I want to be playing on the big field, so I have to
be able to build in these international markets."
KPC has achieved recognition as one of the top 20 independent
communications agencies in the Midwest and the second
largest Media Consulting operation in the U.S. Its business-to-business
division ranks among the top 75 in the U.S. PR Week named
KPC as the 15th fastest growing health care public relations
firm and Business Marketing recognized KPC as one of the
fastest growing business-to-business agencies. KPC is
one of the 50 largest independently-owned agencies in
the U.S. and by the end of 2000, KPC will be one of the
25 largest independently-owned agencies in the country.
Despite these achievements, Kupper says he's not resting
on his laurels. "We're small and still growing. There
are 100 organizations bigger than we are, so we have a
long way to go yet."
Entrepreneur Of The Year
President Marketing Direct, Inc.
In just three years, Dennis Barnes' company has
made a name for itself, providing a full range
of direct marketing services.
Barnes Jr. started his direct mail business with a foundation
of experience in the field, a desire to improve on the
model he came from, and an innate sense of leadership.
At age 31, and in business less than three years, Barnes
has grown Marketing Direct from $173,000 in annual sales
in 1997 and created a thriving corporation with more than
$4.8 million in sales last year.
The company provides a full range of direct marketing
services, including database management, list development,
creative, printing, telemarketing and mailing services.
Barnes believes leadership is an art, and continually
educates himself and reads about leadership skills. "My
philosophy as a leader is to provide people with the tools
and resources needed to excel and grow," he says.
Most direct marketing firms outsource their creative work,
or establish their own in-house creative department. However,
Barnes wanted to provide the best possible prices for
his new clients so he decided not to outsource. Instead
he linked up with an established creative firm and moved
its staff into his own office space. Barnes was able to
control both time and quality and be up and running quickly.
The result was profitability in only eight months.
As much as Barnes is dedicated to teamwork among his employees,
he also is determined to work with his clients as a team.
He hired a database marketing manager to foster communication
between his clients and his database developer. Now the
company has established an ASP Division, an Internet-based
service that delivers leads and other information to outside
sales representatives instantly. "This is tremendously
effective for marketing and sales people," Barnes says.
Service is a hallmark of the business as well. "Meeting
commitments is the greatest thing you can do for your
business," Barnes says. "People don't remember when you
meet your commitments, but they sure do if you don't meet
After attending a Young Entrepreneurs Organization conference
at the Disney Institute, Dennis determined a 10-year plan
for his fledgling company. Marketing Direct has already
exceeded even Barnes' loftiest projections. He has achieved
his five-year plan in two-and-a-half years.
He plans to align Marketing Direct with public relations,
advertising and multimedia/video production firms to make
those channels of business available to his clients. The
company has relocated to larger offices three times because
of its growth, most recently to an 8,500-square-foot office
Entrepreneur Of The Year
Chief Executive Officer Primary Network
Brian Matthews (right), CEO, chats with John
president of Primary Communications. Matthews'
Primary Networks is one of the largest Internet
Services Providers in the region, providing local,
lond distance and cellular services.
Matthews founded Primary Network in 1994 with the goal
of becoming the area's largest provider of Internet, voice
and data services in the Midwest. With a carefully chosen
management team, key strategic partnerships and cutting-edge
technology, Primary has become a leader in the industry
in just six years.
Matthews' primary responsibilities include development
of the company's short- and long-term business strategy,
development of strategic partnerships, investor relations
and oversight of all acquisition activity.
Primary Network is a turnkey Internet Telecommunications
Solutions Provider. The company is one of the largest
Internet Service Providers (ISP) in the area. They provide
local, long distance and cellular services to both the
business and residential community.
With a staff of 100 and growing, Primary Network employs
the top Network and System Engineers, Database and Program
Developers and Web Site Designers to provide the full
range of competitively priced, advanced communications
services, building a seamless communications network suited
to the specific needs of their customer's business.
The creativity in Primary is their full service Internet
and Telecommunications mentality to both business and
residential users. Matthews knew the break up of the Bell
system was going to create significant opportunities and
he positioned Primary to be in the right place at the
right time. By providing a full suite of services he separated
Primary from the other newcomers who were either ISPs
or CLECs. He was thinking big, so he built his company
the way he envisioned the major players were going to
take their services to the marketplace-bundled.
The vision was a success. Revenues have increased more
than 350 percent in less than 36 months. The employee
base has grown from 10 in 1997 to 225 currently. Primary
was named the number one "Fastest Growing Company" in
the 1999 St. Louis Regional FAST 50 Technology Awards
and was ranked No. 22 "Fastest Growing Tech Company" in
Entrepreneur Of The Year
Rodger O. Riney
President Scottrade, Inc.
Rodger Riney, (standing) president, discusses
recent trade with Brian Bachelier, trading
specialist. Riney started Scottrade in 1980 and it is
now the ninth largest online brokerage firm in
Riney joined Edward Jones & Co. after college as its first
manager trainee. He went on to become a general partner
and learned many aspects of the brokerage business while
working personally with Ted Jones. By the late 1970s,
Riney spotted the potential of the discount brokerage
industry. He started Scottsdale Securities in 1980.
Since founding the company, Riney has achieved a retained
earnings growth rate over 20 years in excess of 48 percent
compounded annually, maintaining a 15 to 20 percent after-tax
profit. He was included in the Inc. 500 list of fastest
growing private companies in 1994 and 1995. In addition,
105 branch offices have been opened. In 1996, Scottsdale
started Scottrade, the Internet trading site of Scottsdale
Securities. Today, Scottsdale does 92 percent of its transactions
online. To better focus on this core business Scottsdale
Securities recently changed its name to Scottrade.
"Securities is a fascinating field and intellectually
stimulating," Riney says. "You never stop learning and
there are many rewards."
Riney initially funded the company through personal savings.
However, the most daunting aspect of the start up was
the high cost of advertising and the fact that they were
competing against many firms that were large and solidly
entrenched in the discount brokerage business. Scottsdale
grew market share by opening small, one person, low-overhead
offices in cities around the country. The more offices
they opened, the lower their average advertising cost
per branch became. One-person offices grew to two people
and more as Scottsdale provided very low commissions to
investors through its expanding office locations.
"I've always striven to keep overhead as low as possible
to be a low-cost provider," Riney says. "I also feel it's
important to be generous to our employees and customers
by giving them more than they expect."
With the addition of online trading in 1996, the firm
experienced many changes. The volume of trades has grown
by 15 percent compounded monthly for the last 39 months.
Scottrade's unique business model links technology with
personal broker service. Today, Scottrade is the ninth
largest online brokerage firm in America. Scottrade plans
are to have 250 offices within the next five years and
compound the company's revenues at about 30 percent a
Entrepreneur Of The Year
Harry T. Morley
President Taylor-Morley Inc.
Harry Morley, president of Taylor-Morley looks over
plans with one of the company's architects,
Harry Morley joined Taylor-Morley more than 20 years ago,
the company was building less than 20 homes a year and
had revenues of just under $6 million. Since that time,
Morley has grown the company, building a total of more
than 7,500 homes and completing more than 120 high-quality
Taylor-Morley is a private company specializing in residential
construction, land and real estate development, and property
management in the greater St. Louis area. For 18 consecutive
years, the company has been awarded numerous Homer Awards
for excellence in home building. Today, the company has
closing revenues in excess of $70 million, and is currently
marketing 18 separate communities. In addition to the
residential communities the Company has expanded into
commercial construction with the renovation of the Hadley-Dean
Building and the Fairgrounds Hotel, as well as the construction
of Sherbrook Village, a skilled nursing facility.
"Our objective is complete customer satisfaction," Morley
says. "Building a home is the American Dream, and we take
that responsibility very seriously. My name is part of
the company, so I stand behind everything we build."
The company also takes great effort to get to know its
customers through focus groups and surveys. "The company
that knows its customers best has no competitors," Morley
Morley is a rare executive who can be accessed directly
without screened calls. He also believes his prime asset
is people. "We hire for attitude and do a lot to promote
and train our employees," he says. "Without satisfied
employees, we can't have satisfied customers."
In addition to his contributions to his business, Morley's
list of professional accomplishments include the appointment
by the President of the United States as Assistant Secretary
of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, serving
as the first president and CEO of the St. Louis RCGA,
and founder of the St. Louis Sports Commission.
Entrepreneur Of The Year
Robert H. Chapman
Chairman and CEO Barry-Wehmiller Companies
Robert Chapman, chairman and CEO of Barry-Wehmiller
Companies, goes over some paperwork with
Teresa Bowen, human resources assistant.
Since 1975, chapman has led the company, a
manufacturer of packaging automation equipment
and provider of engineering consulting services.
Chapman believes if you can share your vision of what's
possible, you can inspire people to achieve. With that
leadership philosophy, he has transformed Barry-Wehmiller
Companies from a manufacturer of equipment for the beverage
industry to a diversified provider of packaging automation
and consulting services.
In 1975, at the tender age of 29, Chapman assumed his
leadership position from his father, owner of the company,
who died suddenly. Chapman forged initiatives into new
areas of the beverage market and increased market position
and revenue from $18 million in 1975 to $71 million by
1981. However, as the brewing industry dramatically reduced
new equipment purchases and international currencies devalued,
Barry-Wehmiller faced the sudden elimination of its bank
credit and a financial crisis that continued from 1983
But there was a silver lining. Chapman transformed his
focus from growth in historic markets to fundamentals
to build shareholder value. A direct result of this strategy
was the 1987 divestiture of two-thirds of the company.
This IPO exceeded all expectations with a 35 times over
"I set out to design a business, not react to the market,"
Chapman says. "The role of leadership is to have vision
that creates value to allow us to grow and prosper."
The experience led Chapman to develop the "Strategy for
Growth, Value and Liquidity" that has driven the company's
success since 1987. Management used this strategy to acquire
12 companies, increase revenue from $20 million to $250
million and in 1999, achieve record earnings. This strategy
led to the most successful acquisition program in the
packaging industry and established Barry-Wehmiller as
the lead consolidator with a 24 percent compound growth
in shareholder value over a 13-year period.
The strategy also was instrumental in the formation of
the packaging industry's first "pure play" consulting
practice, Barry-Wehmiller Design Group. The company's
balance of customers, products and markets also were improved.
The company's primary product lines are filling and capping
equipment, vertical form fill and seal machinery, conveyance
products and cartoning/casepacking equipment and engineering
consulting services used by a wide variety of Fortune
100 consumer products companies. Barry-Wehmiller delivers
its products and services globally.
Chapman's latest venture is moving his company to a new
community where it will be even more valued-the world
of e-commerce. "We are taking the great talent, capabilities
and vision of our company to our e-commerce site and giving
customers a portal to the packaging industry," Chapman
says. "By wrapping things of value around our product,
we create a package that makes doing business with us
a memorable, positive experience."
Romine is a St. Louis-based writer and owner of Streamline Communications.
gaining experience in the Wendy's and Casa Gallardo restaurant
chains, Ted Geiger began his career with Chevy's in 1992
and remained with them after they were purchased by Pepsi
in 1994. His region grew from 30 to 70 restaurants nationally
by 1997. That year, Geiger and his partner, John Wicker,
satisfied their entrepreneurial spirit when they bought
four existing St. Louis Chevy's sites. Geiger has since
doubled the sales of the existing sites in less than three
years and has opened three more regional locations. Current
sales have grown 200 percent in three years to $16 million
with 800 employees. Geiger also recently started "J. Bucks
Cassilly, Executive Director
a trained sculptor, Gail Cassilly is skilled at creating
"art out of nothing." That's also how she created the
City Museum. Forged from architectural salvage and constantly
changing, the City Museum has brought national recognition
to St. Louis in its first two years of operation. The
City Museum began as a for-profit venture, shifting to
a non-profit organization after having difficulty finding
investors. At the two-year mark, the City Museum already
covers roughly 90 percent of its $2.3 million budget through
earned income, nearly all from admissions. Attendance
has been at about 300,000 each year. In addition, the
museum paid down its debt from $6 million to $2.2 million
at the end of 1999. This sound fiscal approach, coupled
with the economic development it's generating in the St.
Louis warehouse district, is attracting attention from
national foundations and others who laud Cassilly as a
Con-Form International, Inc.
was the mother of invention for John Conboy, a homebuilder
by trade, who formed Con-Form International in 1991. Conboy
saw a need to improve the taping of off-angle corners
when drywalling. As a result he invented STRAIT-FLEX and
found a welcoming market. He obtained patents for his
product in 1995. Initially, he was involved in all aspects
of creating, packaging and marketing his product while
he continued his home building career. Soon he fully committed
to his new business and, while still keeping sales direct,
now has sales throughout the world with goals of dominating
the drywall corner bead industry. He also has another
patent for a sanding machine that will soon go into production.
Kathleen A. Flemming, President and CEO
Flemming started Frontenac Bank in March 1998, the first
new bank in the St. Louis area in more than two years
and the first bank ever in Earth City. Flemming is thought
to be the youngest woman in Missouri and possibly the
United States to both organize and run a bank. She served
as vice president at Boatmen's (now Bank of America) for
seven years where she established a professional athletic
relations division specializing in a private banking group
for professional athletes. She has retained about 80 percent
of that portfolio. Frontenac Bank was one of the first
community banks to have an Internet banking site. This
goes along with Flemming's passion for customer service.
Her goal is to maintain Frontenac Bank's status as a community
bank and open about five branches in the future.
E. Grench, President & CEO
Home Delivery Incontinent Supplies Co., Inc. (HDIS)
is the nation's largest direct marketer of adult absorbent
products for incontinence. Sales are direct to consumer,
serving primarily the elderly, women and the disabled.
The firm is the largest direct distributor for every major
manufacturer in the category including Kimberly-Clark,
Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. In 1992, HDIS
rolled out its own brand, Reassure, to meet the economic,
quality and dignity needs of its customers. Founded in
Grench's basement with a $2,000 investment, HDIS finished
1999 with a 28 percent growth rate, 70 employees and $24
million in sales.
began in 1990 as a new commercial subsidiary of COBRO,
Inc., a Department of Defense aviation contractor. During
the past 10 years, InAir has focused exclusively on aviation
automation. InAir builds the industry's only complete
automated fleet management software in partnership with
the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), the Sabre Group
and Emery Worldwide. John Arens joined InAir in 1994 and
the company increased tenfold in revenue. It also grew
from seven to 100 employees. Growth, while important to
Arens, comes second to his desire to perfect the technical
aspects and functionality of the InAir product. InAir
plans to be first to market with an integrated, Internet-based
environment for aviation fleet management. The majority
of InAir's current revenues comes from software maintenance
and support. Business-to-business e-commerce interchange
of aviation parts, service and information is a major
growth platform for InAir.
M. Kaminer, President
May 1998, Craig Kaminer founded Influence to meet the
growing needs of numerous Fortune 1000 companies that
are modifying their existing business models to take
advantage of the new "E-conomy." The company operates
primarily as an e-business solutions provider and incubator
in the Midwest. Influence specializes in developing
and building e-businesses by providing integrated e-commerce
strategies, graphic design, e-commerce site development,
technology implementation and e-marketing services for
its clients. Influence's unique business model provides
a hybrid of the Internet professional service provider
as well as an interactive advertising organization.
The company's strategic focus is on vertical market
segments, primarily in the Midwest, by targeting mid-size
project engagements from $500,000 to $2.5 million. Revenues
have exploded from $470,000 in 1998 to more than $4.4
million in 1999.
Midwest, founded in 1958, is the oldest distributor of
Stihl outdoor power equipment in the U.S. The company's
products include chain saws, lawn care equipment and construction
equipment. Stan Crader was appointed president in 1986
and embarked on a strategy of growth through acquisition.
During the next seven years, the company completed the
acquisitions of other Stihl distributors in Kansas, Nebraska,
Oklahoma and Texas. During 1999, Kaiser Midwest had sales
of $51.3 million and income before taxes of $2.0 million.
The company experienced growth in sales and income before
taxes of 20 percent and 55 percent respectively since
1997. Sales are forecasted to increase an additional 10
percent in 2000.
Steven Lowy, Chairman
Lowy is current CEO of four companies: Lowy Enterprises
Investments, Lowy Enterprises Properties, Envision, Inc.
and Quatrix, LLC. In January 1994, Lowy purchased 100
percent of the stock of Envision, Inc., which provides
information technology consulting to large corporations
using state-of-the-art technologies. Since purchasing
Envision, the company has opened offices in Phoenix, Austin,
Houston, and has more than doubled sales and the number
of employees. Lowy Enterprises purchased Quatrix LLC in
January 1999. Quatrix is an IT consulting firm specializing
in computer programming and Internet development for large
Each division has separate management, sales forces, recruiters,
administrative/staff personnel and goes to market as separate
companies, a marketing approach similar to General Motors
Division approach. Overhead is kept low by sharing the
same legal, accounting, back office, office building space
and other corporate expenses. Healthy competition drives
each company to outperform the other.
LSI Lowery Systems Inc.
Systems, Inc. designs, sells, installs and services high-end,
customized business software for mid- to large-size companies.
Lowery has consistently been the number one IBM business
partner firm in St. Louis for sales of IBM mid-range products.
The firm is also an IBM Premier Software Partner, offering
the full line of IBM software products including WebSphere,
Tivoli and Lotus Notes. As a Certified Microsoft Solution
Provider firm, Lowery Systems has a staff of specialists
who design, install and support a wide range of complete
computer networks. Lowery has built his company from two
employees to 51. Revenues and profits have grown to $8.6
million in 1999. Projected revenues for 2000 are $12 million.
T. Noland and James W. Tanner
Pharma Tech Industries, Inc.
"Ted" Noland was hired by Pharma Tech to turn the company
around to be sold. But he quickly realized the company
had real potential with the right management talent, a
focus on the right product and hard work. In 1990, Noland
found the other half of his management team in James Tanner,
an engineer with industrial management experience. The
two put together a deal with their own capital to purchase
the assets of Pharma Tech.
duo focused on contract manufacturing of over-the-counter
pharmaceuticals, specifically topical powders, an area
generally overlooked by its competitors. The business
steadily grew and overflow-only manufacturing soon turned
into complete manufacturing of all topical powder products
for pharmaceutical powerhouses such as Noartis, Schering
Plough and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Over the next 10 years,
14 employees turned into 102, sales increased to $13 million,
and two production lines were transformed into seven state-of-the-art
lines efficiently producing 25 to 30 million bottles of
products a year. The company has had profitable margins
and net income every year since Noland turned the company
PRO Networks Corporation
Sargent founded PRO Networks in 1989 as a division (IDS
Systems Integration) of Integrated Design Engineering
Inc. He started the division to first sell the peripheral
that supported the IDE manufactured devices that provided
connectivity to mainframe computers. As companies moved
away from mainframes and people started buying individual
computers, networks started to develop. Sargent then shifted
the division's direction to selling products that supported
The division eventually grew larger then the parent company
and Sargent purchased it in 1997. He kept the client base
and the employees and moved the company's headquarters
to Chesterfield in 1998. The company now employs more
than 22 technology professionals and has expanded its
services to include infrastructure support and consulting.
The company boasts a retention rate of 98 percent and
still has six of its first seven employees.
Rapid Development Services, Inc.
several part-time entrepreneurial ventures, Leon Gurevich
made a full-time commitment when he formed Rapid Development
Services (RDS) in 1993 with Emmanuil Grigg, vice president,
engineering. RDS provides innovative manufacturing solutions
using the latest technology, and offers clients highly
flexible and reliable manufacturing solutions. Today,
RDS focuses on robotics as the core of its manufacturing
solutions. Client confidence in the approach has blossomed
due to minimal start-up troubles, ease of maintenance,
and bullet-proof quality. This confidence has allowed
RDS to grow by 30 percent annually. RDS now occupies an
18,000-square-foot facility with plans to expand. Gurevich
predicts RDS will continue the same growth rate for the
next five to 10 years and will fully develop a national
and international customer base, employ about 100 people
and have about $30 to $50 million in annual revenues.
1994, Greg Keller led a team of 17 financial service professionals
who recognized the value they brought their clients as
a result of their combined efforts. Leveraging off this
team concept, Renaissance Financial was formed. By fostering
an entrepreneurial spirit, encouraging team members to
fully develop their specialty area, and creating ownership
in separate divisions, the team succeeded. Today the company
has become a premier financial services company with more
than $600 million in client assets. With 60-plus employees
now, the company's overall retention rate is 70 percent.
Trips and other unique rewards for employees are key to
the company's retention rate.
Sweet Traditions LLC
Traditions is the largest independent franchisee of Krispy
Kreme stores, operating five stores in the St. Louis area
and two in Chicago. Currently, Sweet Traditions is concentrating
on expansion in the Chicago area, expecting to build fives
stores a year for the next three to four years. Also the
company is closing on a property in Chicago to build a
20,000-square-foot commissary to produce doughnuts for
use at store openings and to ship to satellite stores
in Chicago. Based on the planned expansion, Sigurdson
expects the company's revenues to grow as much as $100
million. Sigurdson and the management team stress continuous
improvement and are always seeking and addressing feedback
they receive from customers and employees.
1999, Telcobuy.com was spun off of World Wide Technology
(WWT), a company Kavanaugh formed with partners in 1990.
Telcobuy.com has been a separate operating unit of WWT
since 1995. Telcobuy.com provides a comprehensive, vendor-neutral,
Internet-based, business-to-business marketplace for the
buying and selling of telecommunications infrastructure
products and services. This marketplace helps participants
build-out and upgrade telecommunications networks more
quickly, more efficiently and at a lower cost than by
traditional means. The company's estimated value is $150
million. Kavanaugh fosters a team approach to the company
and believes each of his managers should focus extensively
on providing opportunities for every employee. As a result,
the company has strong retention of key employees, having
lost only two executives in the last five years.
The Vandiver Group
a business operating out of Donna Vandiver's dining room,
today The Vandiver Group is the largest independently
owned public relations firm in St. Louis. Most of the
employees who helped Vandiver start her business in 1993
are still with the agency today. By 1995, Vandiver had
five employees. Today, the agency employs 17 people. Innovative
reward programs and a mentoring program are just some
of the ways the agency attracts and retains employees.
The Vandiver Group develops business strategies; corporate
vision, mission and strategy statements; and award-winning
communication programs for Fortune 500 corporations, government
entities, transportation districts, health care organizations,
retail businesses, nonprofit entities and others. The
agency has won 17 awards for communications work during
the past two years.
Walsh & Associates
& Associates Inc. was founded in 1968, operating from
an industrial park. Its primary operating strategy was
to bring an approach to customer relationships that aspired
to move the chemical distribution function from a commodity-type
position, where competitive position was based on price,
to a point higher on the value chain that emphasized product/operational
knowledge and service.
Under the direction of the Walsh family, the company has
expanded into operations at six physical locations. The
company's 1999 revenue of $57.6 million was generated
serving customers from Idaho to Indiana. The company's
revenue growth, steady for more than 30 years, has been
entirely organic and has been maintained by expanding
the company's business into complementary areas, such
as containers and equipment. Some customer relationships
are more than 25 years old. Walsh & Associates was recently
ranked as the 35th largest chemical distributor in the
U.S. and in the top 10 of independent specialty chemical
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