Nearly 50,000 offensive-minded, growth-oriented CEOs turn to SmartCEO magazine to find ideas and inspiration to help them grow their businesses. Each issue includes behind-the-scenes looks at local success stories, columns written by key opinion leaders and other resources to help the region’s middle-market CEOs conquer the daily challenges of running a business. SmartCEO magazine is published on a bimonthly basis with editions in four major markets: Baltimore SmartCEO, New York SmartCEO, Philadelphia SmartCEO and Washington SmartCEO.
When CEO Gail McGovern joined the American Red Cross, the iconic nonprofit was facing an operating deficit of $200 million a year, plus resulting debt of $600 million. It took a leader with tremendous business savvy to make the organization’s model work again, and the Red Cross found it in McGovern, a former AT&T executive. McGovern embarked on a comprehensive listening tour, soliciting input from volunteers and chapter executives around the country. She empowered the chapters to bring forward ideas and created a new realm of 21st-century volunteer opportunities, such as scanning Google maps for areas where help might be needed in the wake of disasters. Less than two years after joining the Red Cross, McGovern became the first CEO in its 134-year history to be invited to join the board.
New York SmartCEO
Following a roller-coaster career in the world of restaurants and night clubs, OTG Management founder and CEO Rick Blatstein had his epiphany after he reluctantly accepted a position managing the restaurants and food vendors at Philadelphia International Airport during a mid-90s blizzard. When the blizzard hit, he became inspired to disrupt the airport hospitality industry after experiencing the misery of stranded travelers. Today OTG Management is the second-largest privately held airport food operator in the U.S., operating at airports including Newark Liberty, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International. To accomplish its vision of a better, more customer-centric terminal, OTG has partnered with airlines JetBlue and Delta. Early on, Blatstein recognized the potential of iPads for his industry, installing them at departure gates for convenient internet access and food orders.
Nutrisystem, Inc. CEO Dawn Zier inspired a downtrodden workforce to stage a complete company turnaround. When Zier joined Nutrisystem, the company was struggling with a stagnating portfolio of weight-loss products, a misguided focus on discounts and a corporate culture that was adrift, engendering disillusionment in team members. But Zier’s hard work and strategic thinking has put Nutrisystem back on track. The company has made its products more accessible at retail outlets, developed more meals for diabetics and vegetarians and offered its snacks as standalone products, rather than as part of a meal package. Zier also has implemented a new culture focused on accountability, customer service and solutions.
Lion Brothers Company, Inc. is an icon of Baltimore manufacturing, having produced textiles and emblems for the Girl Scouts, NASA, the NHL, and even the very first Super Bowl, in its 115-year history. CEO Susan J. “Suzy” Ganz came to the company almost by accident when her father purchased it in the 1970s, then died unexpectedly while she was still attending business school. At the time, Lion Brothers was saddled with debt, but Ganz fell in love with the textile giant and resolved to turn it around. She led an emphasis on lean manufacturing and forward-looking technologies that enabled quicker product turnarounds. Her leadership has helped the company innovate new products and plan an expansion strategy across multiple continents.
New York SmartCEO
Borderfree, Inc. and CEO Michael DeSimone have broken down the barriers of global ecommerce. When DeSimone joined the company in 2005, Borderfree focused on currency conversion for online retailers. However, he soon realized that sales weren’t being closed because retailers had so many other legal, logistical and financial issues to work out before getting to the point of converting currency. DeSimone repositioned the company into a comprehensive ecommerce solution that helps clients navigate the maze of international shipping from click to delivery. This innovative concept has been rewarded with explosive growth, from $13 million in revenue in 2010 to $110 million in 2013, followed by a successful 2014 IPO.
Leesburg, VA-based K2M has revolutionized spine surgery with its minimally invasive products. Following a 2014 IPO that netted the company $147 million, K2M is poised to take on major, entrenched competitors such as Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic. Already, K2M is growing in scope as it moves into new headquarters that could see the company to revenues of $400 or $500 million. But for president and CEO Eric Major, it’s all about the outcomes for happy patients — whether it’s children in Ghana with severe spinal deformities or a K2M staff member whose life-long problems with scoliosis were resolved using products she helped engineer.
Freeman A. Hrabowski III is president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), but he is also so much more — a gentleman, a scholar and an academic superstar who has for many years been at the vanguard of recruiting minority students into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Under his guidance, UMBC has thrived as a hub for academic opportunity, but also for entrepreneurship, as graduates have returned to the university’s technology and research park to further grow their startups and established companies, embracing Hrabowski’s infectious, enthusiastic motto: Never stop learning.
The old saying that “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” has never felt more spot-on than in the case of TerraCycle Inc. The story begins with founder and CEO Tom Szaky’s ailing pot plant named Marley, miraculously revived by a diet of worm poop, and ends with a million-dollar company producing recycled and upcycled goods from tents, mail bags and more. (It still makes worm-poop fertilizer too.) What’s more, TerraCycle’s collection and recycling programs have attracted scores of big-name corporations, including Colgate, Kraft Foods and Nestle, as well as schools and hospitals across the country.
Most companies work hard to establish their brand in the public mind, but it can be just as daunting to redefine a brand that is already firmly lodged there. That’s the task confronting Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP. While many still consider AARP an association for retired people, nearly half of its current members are still part of the active workforce. Consequently, Jenkins is working to reposition AARP as a lifestyle brand that fulfills every need for those 50 and older, including those looking to switch careers rather than end them. The end goal: to redefine the concept of aging itself.
Victory Brewing Company co-founders Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski met on a school bus in 1973 and kept their friendship alive over the decades through a shared love of brewing. They found a market ripe for the plucking when they opened the Philadelphia area’s first craft brewery in the 1990s. Today, Victory proudly brands itself as an American company rooted in European tradition, a testament to both the founders’ background in German brewing and their reliance on natural, unprocessed flower hops. It’s a winning concept that resulted in a major expansion as recently as 2014.
New York SmartCEO
Tough Mudder co-founder and CEO Will Dean propelled the company from a startup to a $100 million mud-run event juggernaut. The Tough Mudder brand is synonymous with daunting obstacles, such as the signature Electroshock Therapy, which sends mud runners through dangling wires live with as much as 10,000 volts of electricity. Now, Dean is looking to downplay the brand’s emphasis on tough challenges and play up the fun. At the same time, Tough Mudder is scaling a new obstacle of its own: breaking into the urban racing market.
They say there are limits to the things you can brand, but someone forgot to tell Frank Perdue. In the 1960s, he set out to brand America’s most common and in-demand protein — chicken. And he succeeded. Today, Perdue Farms is the number-one premium chicken products brand in the U.S., with annual sales topping $4.6 billion. But the innovation didn’t stop there — Perdue’s son Jim Perdue, chairman of Perdue Farms Inc., took the baton and ran with it, generating unheard-of levels of interest in the Perdue brand through an emphasis on sustainable farming.
Future 50: Featuring the region's fastest-growing companies
Growing a company isn’t easy, and it’s fraught with obstacles. And yet, this year’s Future 50 winners still fight the good fight in the name of growth, never satisfied with maintaining what they’ve already achieved — and that’s the will and the passion of the entrepreneur.
Baltimore SmartCEO: CEO of the Year
Since arriving in the early 1980s, Ellicott Dredges president and CEO Peter Bowe has patiently and steadily led the company through tough business cycles, ownership transition, foreign political unrest, crashing capital markets, and changing trends in manufacturing and dredge usage. Not only did he revive Ellicott when it was on the brink of extinction, he rebuilt it into one of the oldest, largest and most successful dredge manufacturers that proudly delivers a “Made in America” product to the world.
New York SmartCEO
In an era when the healthcare discussion is apocalyptic in tone, Robert C. Garrett, president and CEO of Hackensack University Health Network, is leading the $5.35 billion, 11,400 employee organization headlong into the new world order of healthcare in the U.S. by fostering impactful partnerships, creating innovative preventative and wellness programs, and executing strategic acquisitions and growth opportunities — all while keeping the mission clear: Provide more people with the highest quality of patient-centered care.
Philadelphia SmartCEO: CEO of the Year
When iPipeline CEO Tim Wallace took the helm in 2006, the company was a small technology solutions provider that was standing at the head of the fragmented, trillion-dollar insurance industry. Over the past 8 years, Wallace embarked on a vision quest to “no less than revolutionize the industry,” spearheaded strategic acquisitions, fueled national and global growth, cultivated a customer-centric corporate culture, and boosted the company from $7 million in revenue and 35 employees, to nearly $100 million in revenue and 500 employees.
Dr. Jack London, CACI’s executive chairman and chairman of the board, started at CACI in 1972 as a program manager and its 35th employee. Through a leadership philosophy founded on character, an aggressive policy of mergers and acquisitions and an inherent understanding that computer applications were shifting toward networks, he grew the company from a small consulting business into a multinational information solutions and services firm with more than $3.5 billion in revenue and 15,000 employees in 120 offices worldwide.
When market demand for Heavy Seas beer began to outstrip the brewery’s production capacity, Hugh Sisson, founder and managing partner of Clipper City Brewing Co., LP – Brewers of Heavy Seas Beer, launched a multi-year, multimillion-dollar production facility project to boost Heavy Seas’ capacity. With new brews on the horizon, a restaurant brand licensing deal and a scallywag attitude, Sisson is leading Heavy Seas into new waters and positioning his brewery to snag a larger share in the ultra-competitive craft brewing market.
New York SmartCEO
With her strong reputation in the online retail world, Michelle Peluso, CEO of Gilt Groupe Inc., took on the position after serving more than three years on the fast-growing, flash-sale e-retail market leader’s board of directors. Now, as the e-retail first mover makes strategic decisions on business lines, ramps up its mobile presence and solidifies its existence at the intersection of fashion and technology, Peluso is leading the march toward Gilt Groupe’s eventual IPO.
In less than seven years, Jeff Shanahan, president and CEO of CardConnect, managed to re-brand the company, move its headquarters from Cleveland, OH, to King of Prussia, PA, make nine strategic acquisitions, onboard a new technology and grow the company to 125 employees and $349 million in revenue. It was all part of a grand plan to solidify CardConnect’s foothold in the data and transactions security market, tap into the global financial marketplace and gain access to world-class talent.
When the dot-com bust and 9/11 attacks left his company nearly bankrupt, Reggie Aggarwal, founder and CEO of Cvent, had a choice to make: shutter the doors, or come back better than ever. After thirteen years of “fighting hand in hand” with his management team, Cvent is back up and running, and continuing its mission of transforming the meetings and events industry. After a successful IPO in 2013, Cvent now boasts a market capitalization of more than $1 billion. But Aggarwal is just getting started.