All I can say is: I’m glad I wasn’t one of the judges for The Chamber’s annual Small Business Celebration. I would have found it extremely difficult to choose one business over another. This year’s group of Top 10 Small Businesses is simply one of our best.
Consider this: despite difficult economic times, the 2010 Top 10 Small Businesses showed – on the average – 29 percent growth in revenue and 26 percent growth in number of employees. Simply amazing!
This year was my first Small Business Breakfast, an exemplary Chamber event featuring the Top 10 CEOs telling their stories of trials and tribulation, risk and success. Though each of the 10 has their own tale to tell, they all had these things in common.
Determination: Each of the Top 10 have shown unwavering determination in their goal of building a successful business – whether it was starting out as a single mother with an office in the basement (Patrice Manuel, P/Strada), to completely changing their business model midstream in order to grow (John Schram, The Purple Guys). They pursued the education they needed; got the certifications necessary to open new revenue streams; found and worked with mentors who could show them the way and open some doors (Byron McIntosh, Greenleaf Construction Co.)
Innovation: Vision turned into action makes for a successful business, and our Top 10 have turned their ideas into thriving, growing enterprises. Like the “King and Queen of Green (Gary and Trish Walker, Magic Touch Cleaning). His ‘aha’ moment came when he saw cleaning chemicals making colleagues sick. That was 20 years ago, and today the couple spreads the word about all things green.
Or a print shop that went through the time and expense of getting green-certified, and has now morphed into a full-service marketing consulting firm (Kathryn McDaniel, ColorMark). And the company that markets to the growing, 24-million member diabetes market, handling home delivery of the medicines and supplies diabetics need and providing an innovative online diabetes management tool for their customers (Bob Shea, Global Medical Direct).
Strong employee relations: Many of the Top 10 CEOs talked about their employees as family; all credited them as key to their success. For some, weathering the tough economic times meant taking the measures necessary to keep all their employees on the job, clearly communicating the company’s situation, making sure all were informed and involved (Ernie Straub III, Straub Construction). For others, it’s meant providing a strong employee benefits package, including one company that provides its employees with a one-month sabbatical (Dan Nilson, Bishop-McCann).
Community service: One of the attributes the Small Business judges examine carefully is the business’s record of giving back to the community. That service – for these Top 10 CEOs – is both local and global. In one case, the Top 10 CEO both initiates and participates in community betterment projects both at home in Kansas City and with the coffee growers with whom he does business worldwide (Danny O’Neill, The Roasterie). Another company focused on child obesity and designed a special athletic program for underserved schools (Matt Condon, Athletic Rehabilitation Centers).
My congratulations to all the Top 10. Great businesses setting a great example.