In this year's Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year[R] program, we introduce you to business men and women who are working like horses to not only bring home the bacon for themselves, but to create jobs for people across the state, country and world.
Entrepreneurs often praise the many individuals who help their businesses run, but there is something that many entrepreneurs often fail to mention--that they, too, are just plain amazing at what they do. Building businesses, jobs and a better way of life for people is hardly easy. It's being the bigger person, it's thriving as a small fish in a big pond, it's sticking to your guns, it's tossing and turning, it's a headache. But above all, as these workhorses can tell you, it's rewarding.
Kyle Bateman & Addison Sovine
Co-Founders, Action Target Inc.
Addison Sovine and Kyle Bateman were schoolmates in an auto body shop class when they became entrepreneurs and partners. Now their company, Action Target, is a leading global supplier of superior shooting range products for law enforcement, military and commercial ranges. It has set itself apart from competitors by manufacturing and installing all of its own products.
Sovine and Bateman say you can learn the technical traits of an entrepreneur, but there's a lot more to it. "The quality of really knowing how to work, to do so effectively, and to enjoy it--that is likely a trait that depends mostly on the mind and heart of the individual," Bateman says. Sovine agrees. "There has to be part of it in your blood. You can go through the mechanics of running a business, but I think success comes easier when you have a strong, natural, guiding feeling directing you."
DISTRIBUTION AND MANUFACTURING
Ted Broman says he was surprised to learn that others viewed him as an entrepreneur. "I didn't see myself as that, although everyone around me did." No matter what you label him, Broman has created several multimillion-dollar companies. In 2004, he actually stepped down from CEO of one of his successful companies to become a sales rep for IntegraCore, a supply chain management company. He soon assumed leadership and in 2006 purchased 100 percent of the company.
As CEO, Broman has helped the company adopt a culture that inspires employees and pleases customers. The company has expanded from 20 employees to 500, growing 427 percent during the worst three years of the recent recession.
His advice to entrepreneurial hopefuls is to focus on sales and customer service. "Where a business blossoms or dies is in its ability to attract and keep customers. Without that, there is no business," Broman says.
Jeff Reynolds & Bruce Remund
Managing Partners, VMI Nutrition
Bruce Remund and Jeff Reynolds both left corporate America to amp up VMI Nutrition, a contract manufacturer specializing in powdered nutritional supplements and foods.
Remund says he has been surprised by the synergy he and Reynolds have as business partners. "We have been lifelong friends who traveled complementary education and business paths prior to working together; however, you never know how those relationships will play out in the trenches of running a company," he says. "I believe that single 'surprise' alone is the fuel that drives the company."
And the company has certainly been using that fuel. In the last six years, its annual revenues have doubled four times, achieving its five-year plan in only one and a half years. Going forward, Rem und and Reynolds hope to drive the profitable growth of VMI through science-based services, optimize performance through technology and design, and continue leading highly engaged people.
RETAIL AND CONSUMER PRODUCTS
CEO, Campus Book Rentals
While just two classes shy of graduating with a master's degree, working at a comfortable job with a growing family including a wife, a two-year-old and a baby on the way, Alan Martin decided to start his own business. Within a few short years, Campus Book Rentals was not only turning sizable profits, but also saving students tens of millions of dollars.
Martin faces problems head-on. For example, while on-campus bookstores first saw Campus Book Rentals as a competitor, Martin now partners with them to bring rentals to students on campus, which accounted for more than $1.5 million in revenue last year alone.
Martin offers new entrepreneurs some valuable advice about having a successful business and a balanced life. "Remember that value isn't always created in the trench, and burnout doesn't make shareholders money," he says. "Clearing your head from time to time can actually improve your ability to think clearly, make decisions and execute."
CEO, RIMPORTS (USA) LLC
Selling crayfish to the mailman was just one of the "hair-brained ideas" that set a very young Jeffery Palmer on his current business track. "I have always been entrepreneurially minded, whether I knew it or not," Palmer says.
Spending nearly 10 years in China helped Palmer gain the skills and confidence to start his own business. "I have never looked back," he says. Nor has he ever doubted his success. "Not even a thought. I always knew that, no matter what, it would all work out for the greater good."
Palmer grew and evolved RIMPORTS from a consulting company to a proprietary product-driven company. Among other things, he is currently striking major business deals with Wal-Mart around a scented wax and candle-warming product. RIMPORTS is projected to more than double its revenues this year compared to last year and plans to follow a similar growth curve for the next several years.
Rett Clevenger, CEO
Jana Francis, Founder and President Steal Network
When Jana Francis couldn't find a website selling trendy baby products at a great price, she decided to start her own--BabySteals.com. The first year, Francis performed every job function from buying to social media outreach to accounting to janitor--not to mention being a mother of three.