Dallas Entrepreneurs of the Year 2012
The finalists in this year’s Ernst & Young program show they have the grit it takes to achieve success.
The Dwyer Group
Chairwoman and CEO
Dina Dwyer-Owens is on a mission to hit $1 billion in system-wide sales by late 2013, so she understands where her franchisor service brand company is headed. But it wasn’t until she went stealth on CBS’ hit reality show Undercover Boss that she gained a deeper appreciation of her business.
The show, which aired in January, showed Dwyer-Owens mulching, planting, and crawling halfway into an oven to fix a thermostat. Although the work was hard, the takeaway was priceless. “I got to experience firsthand what our [franchise workers] do,” she says. “It was a big ‘ah-ha’ for me.”
Dwyer-Owens learned that you can never communicate too much or over-train. As a result, she has simplified compensation programs, reinforced training initiatives, and established scholarship and Women in Trades programs.
She became president and CEO in 1999, taking the helm after her father died from a heart attack. The holding company has grown to seven different brands, including Mr. Rooter and Glass Doctor, comprised of 1,600 franchise owners representing 3,000 locations. The Dwyer Group currently has $800 million in system-wide sales.
A certain TV show hasn’t hurt the Waco company’s bottom line, either. “Undercover Boss has created wonderful interest for us,” she says.
Dymatize Enterprises LLC
Dymatize CEO Michael Casid had always known he wanted to own his own business. So when a high school friend called after college with an idea to form a protein shake company, he went all in. Dymatize got off the ground, but soon had to overcome the failure of its first product, which was based on a patented cotton-seed protein.
“Giving up or failure; I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it,” says Casid, who worked for three years (and wore many hats—president, graphic designer, IT guy) without paying himself a salary, to help control costs. “That was a concern, but I knew we’d just do it.”
After 17 years, that fortitude paid off, as did the company’s investment in vertical integration of manufacturing. Farmers Branch-based Dymatize, which recently acquired a protein bar company in New Jersey, has 200 employees and 250 products on the market in more than 50 countries. Its facilities and products are NSF Good Manufacturing Processes-certified for sport, which ensures that all 250 of Dymatize’s offerings are free of ingredients banned by professional athletic organizations.
“The goal ... is that more and more people start seeing Dymatize in their daily lives,” Casid says. “I’d like it to be a household name.”
— Liz Johnstone
Eagle Energy Co. of Oklahoma LLC
Steve Allen Antry
Chairman and CEO
In 2010, Steve Allen Antry was being interviewed for a commemorative publication when he remembered a similar book in his office’s lobby at Eagle Energy Co. of Oklahoma. As Antry flipped through it, his eyes landed on a long-forgotten inscription: “Steve, When the sequel to this book is written 25 years from now, I have no doubt that your name might appear therein. Love, Dad.”
Although Antry is successful in the oil and gas sector, this wasn’t always the case. His dad gave him that book in 1985, the year that Antry was laid off as a petroleum landman. “It was sort of a dark period in my life because the oil industry was in bad shape,” he says.
But the market cycled back, and Antry made a name for himself—most notably in 2009, when he founded Eagle Energy. Last year his company was rated the third-fastest growing in Tulsa, with annual revenue growth of 2,800 percent. The growth rate from 2009 to 2011 is even more astounding, at 8,000 percent. In just two years, Eagle Energy has gone from $100 million in assets to more than $2 billion.
As his father predicted, Antry has certainly earned his place in that commemorative book.
Encore Wire Corp.
Daniel L. Jones
President and CEO
As the construction industry began to suffer due to the recession, Daniel Jones used the opportunity to expand Encore Wire Corp.
“When things started slowing down at the companies we were buying from, it would slow us down and compromise our service level,” says Jones, president and CEO of the company. “So [our vendors] pushed us into the market.”
McKinney-based Encore Wire previously purchased its products in pieces from third-party manufacturers, then assembled and sold them as finished goods to wholesale electrical distributors. But in 2006, Encore began building facilities to handle manufacturing itself. They included an armored cable plant, a tray cable plant, and a research and design center. Last year, the $1.2 billion company broke ground on a $30 million aluminum wire plant that will begin operation later this year.
Bringing things exclusively in-house has proven to be a good move. Encore has more than 1,000 employees, zero debt, and more than $80 million in cash. Since 2010, sales have growth 6 percent—while competitors’ sales have slumped. “We were staying in contact with our customers to find the void in the market and build [the products] ourselves,” Jones says. “We were simply acting on our customers’ needs.”
— Shashana Pearson-Hormillosa
For Andres Ruzo, LinkAmerica Inc. has been his own version of the Bible parable of the seven fat cows and the seven lean cows. Ruzo, who came to America from Peru in 1980, discovered telecommunications in 1994. That’s the year he started LinkAmerica, which sold equipment within the communications industry.
“For the first seven years, it was really easy,” he says. Telecommunications was a new, small market. Ruzo built his business around taking old technology, refurbishing, repairing, and selling it. “I would make a lot money,” he says. He says those years were the fat cows years.
Then in 2001 the dot-com bubble burst, which slowed down his business. And then there was 9/11, which nearly killed his business: “I had to reinvent myself.” In 2007, when he had downsized from 100 employees to five, Ruzo decided to morph his company into doing services, instead of supplying equipment: “We needed to embrace change very quickly or be a dinosaur.” For Ruzo, these were the years of the lean cows.
Now that he has refined his platform, Ruzo says he’s in a new phase—not fat cows or lean cows, but lean bulls.
His new strategies seem to be working. In 2007, Rowlett-based LinkAmerica generated $2 million in sales. Last year, it generated $214 million.
For Ruzo, this is the time of “holy cows.” He’s still blown away by the success of his company.
Nitin Ahuja and Rahul Singh
When Nitin Ahuja was just 8 years old and still living in India, his father died suddenly, leaving him to help support the family. In that tragic moment, a great entrepreneur was born.
As an adult, he spent 20 years in the technology industry, including a couple of entrepreneurial ventures and a stint at Xerox, before launching ECMi in 2003. Five years later, that company evolved into Entercoms Inc., a provider of technology-leveraged services in after-market operations. Ahuja aimed to use his company to bridge the gap between software and customer service. “The after-market service experience helps the perception of the product, and it establishes the service of the company,” Ahuja says. “If you fail that, you’ll never get a chance again.”
Because Ahuja’s roughly 400 employees are dedicated to making Entercoms’ clients look good, the CEO fully invests in them. “If [employees] are well taken care of,” he says. “then they aren’t showing up to an 8-5 job, they are showing up to build the company.”
During the past three years, Ahuja and co-founder Rahul Singh have driven the company’s compounded annual growth of 60 percent and manage roughly $1 billion in inventory for Fortune 100 companies. Entercoms has offices in Irving, Denver, India, and Ireland.
— Shashana Pearson-Hormillosa