Steve Rosenbaum


Creating the Uniform of Youth

There’s big money in the action sports industry. A subset of sports overall, when it comes to sports that young people 13-25 years-old want to learn, action sports, or primarily skateboarding, surfing, and snowboarding are among the most popular. Skullcandy leverages off this collision of sport, culture and apparel by creating must-have audio gear that’s become an unofficial uniform of youth.

Meet the Mid-Market Elite

Superior growth rates, a track record of innovation, an exceptional corporate culture, charismatic leadership, compelling business models—these are some of the qualities we sought in choosing the Chief Executive’s Mid-Market Elite. Applying that criteria, our researchers and judges selected 100 companies that stand out amid the middle-market universe.

The Sweet Smell of Success

Few companies can trace their lineage to Oprah Winfrey, but Scentsy of Meridian, Idaho can. Flashback to 2003. Kara Egan, and her sister-in-law, Colette Gunnell were watching Oprah’s “Millionaire Mom’s” show, and were inspired to create something amazing that people could not live without. They began working on a safe and simple way to scent the space around them, a wickless alternative to the typical flame operated candles. The result was Scentsy.

Generational Leadership In the Middle Market

It’s a rarity in business for a company to survive, much less thrive, through three successive generations. The Cellular Connection, headquartered in Marion, Indiana, stands out as a company which has successfully navigated this most difficult test.

Growing by Leaps and Bounds

When asked to describe rapid growth start-ups most people conjure up images of high tech companies, conceived in incubators and nurtured by infusions of capital from savvy angel investors. This is not the case with Chicago, Illinois based Red Frog Events.

The “Easy Button” of the Middle Market

Mid-Market Company of the Week: Access America Transport

Many young college grads would be happy working for a large, well established company, especially if the slot put the young graduate on a glide path towards corporate success. This was not the case with Ted Alling. At the ripe age of 24, Alling and two friends from college decided to strike out on their own. Starting in a back office of a small Chattanooga-based construction supply company, Alling decided to take on his former employer and created Access America Transport (AAT). Since its founding in 2002, AAT has carved out a niche as the middleman between trucking companies and shippers, using organic technology to help companies keep their trailers full and shippers move their freight efficiently. Currently, AAT has some 6,000 customers including 100 members of the Fortune 500. Alling grafted a combination of an entrepreneurial spirit and devotion to customer satisfaction onto Access America Transport. “Access America is a people company,” says Alling, “A people company that does third party logistics.” Alling believes that as CEO, it is incumbent upon him to raise the energy level of his company. Yet, he continuously monitors the well being of each and every employee and satisfaction of each customer. Alling is the first to say he is not an innovator. He does stress that AAT’s corporate innovation comes in two forms. The first is a high sense of urgency to the execution of transporting goods on behalf of AAT’s customers. Second, Alling strives to get smart people interested in an industry that many would not usually consider for a career path. Today, AAT’s employees more than 600-people and generates annual revenues in excess of $500 million. Operational excellence is maintained by utilizing off-the-shelf and homegrown technologies which allow AAT to drive efficiencies across all modes of transportation including truckload, intermodal and specialized freight. Outside of AAT, Alling hopes to cultivate future generations of entrepreneurs. In this vein, Alling and his partners created the Lamp Post Group - a venture capital and small business incubator. Lamp Post’s goal is to assist aspiring entrepreneurs take their ideas from the planning stages to reality through financial investment and business guidance. AAT sits at #9 on Forbes’ list of America’s Most Promising companies and Alling was recently named as one of the South’s leading young entrepreneurs by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama Foundation. ////////////////////////////////////////////////   Ted Alling Title: Co-Founder & CEO - Access America Transport Size: 600-Employees Location: Chattanooga, TN Goal: Double the workforce, break the $1-billion revenue barrier, while making Access America Transport the best place to work in America. Fact: A shipment bound from Nashville to Los Angeles ran into trouble. The only way to get the delivery to the customer on time was through chartering a jet. The company lost $35,000 but the customer got their delivery. Unique: Access America Transport has a “Bring Your Instrument to Work Day” where music fosters a sense of company as community.  

[24]7- Making Customers for Life

No one wakes up in the morning excited to call their bank, cable company or rental car service. The experience can lead to customer frustration and potential divorce from the service provider. Yet, with all the advances in Internet Voice Response (IVR) services, no one was bridging the between the companies utilizing IVR and their customers who were forced to navigate it.c

A Bright Light in the Middle Market

Livermore, Calif.-based Bridgelux occupies industry space that would be the envy of any CEO. Bridgelux creates solid state lighting (SSL) solutions to meet the growing demand for light emitting diode (LED) systems. There is tremendous demand for replacing aging technologies such as such as incandescent, halogen, fluorescent and high intensity discharge lighting with solid state lighting.

Finding the Sweet Spot in Salty Snacks

Karl Schledwitz and Monogram Food Solutions exist in the highly competitive space of meat snacks, corn dogs and processed meats. Monogram Food Solutions was born in 2004, when Schledwitz and partner Wes Jackson purchased regionally popular Circle B and King Cotton smoked meat brands from Sara Lee Corporation.

Reinvention by Empowering the Consumer

Mid-Market Company of the Week: Yelp

The internet destroyed the Yellow Pages, a long standing consumer staple of local business information, but people still needed directories to find everything from restaurants to plumbers. That basic need for information became the foundation for Yelp. Jeremy Stoppelman left PayPal in the summer of 2003 (at the time he was VP of Engineering) to attend the Harvard Business School. Yet, the allure of Silicon Valley called and after his first year at HBS, Stoppelman joined an incubator started by Max Levchin (co-founder of PayPal) for a summer internship. It was there that Stoppelman was reunited with his former PayPal colleague Russel Simmons. Stoppelman and Simmons had been talking about doing something with local review or local search and began asking questions. How do you get your friends to help you find the best plumber or doctor or nicest restaurant close by? Soon, the duo created an e-mail type of product where you ask friends to help you come up with a ranking of businesses, a precursor of Yelp. Yelp was launched in February 2004 and took off. By June 2006, it had 1 million unique visitors per month. The site was very popular in San Francisco, but then came the question of scalability. People told Stoppelman that Yelp might work in San Francisco, but it would not fare as well in larger metropolitan areas. Stoppelman bridged this gap in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, etc. by creating the "Yelp Elite Squad." This group, comprised of the most prolific “Yelpers” were invited to social events held at bars and restaurants, thus turning an online experience into a community of like minds. “You want experimentation,” says Stoppelman, “Every once in awhile you stumble upon something that blows your mind.” According to Nielsen, 85% of consumers find local business information online. Yelp has demonstrated that it is a “go to” platform for such information. Yelp’s mobile application was used on approximately 10.4-million unique mobile devices on a monthly average basis during the second quarter of this year. 117-million people visit Yelp’s website each month and 47-million individual reviews have been written. According to Elon Musk, "Effectively, Yelp is fulfilling a much better function than the Yellow Pages ever did. What Jeremy did was come up with an unmet need to know about local businesses and services." Read more at: Source: CNN Money / Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman ignored advice from Elon Musk and Peter Thiel and succeeded anyway / September 19, 2013 - Source: The Startup Boys: A Conversation with founders Russel Simmons and Jeremy Stoppelman by Angela Balcita -
Jeremy Stoppelman Co-Founder & CEO - Yelp Size: 800 employees Location: San Francisco, CA Goal: Leveraging off of Yelp’s domestic success in overseas markets Fact: Every second, a consumer generates directions to or clicked to call a local business from a Yelp mobile app. Unique: When Yelp went public, after Stoppelman pushed the button to ring the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange, he received a call from President Obama, congratulating him.
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New Poll: CEOs Find Challenges In Using Customer Data To Drive Innovation

Ability to harness and sort through data for meaningful insights remains a hurdle, many say. “The key is...finding what is actually relevant.”


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CEO Confidence Falls To Decade Low, But Few Predict Recession

Chief Executive’s June survey of 278 U.S. CEOs shows leading confidence indicator now at 5.5/10, the lowest reading in nearly a decade. Majority forecasts worsening conditions in the year ahead, though not a recession.