Dallas Entrepreneurs of the Year 2011

See what the remarkable finalists in this year’s Ernst & Young competition have been doing at their growing companies.

XETA Technologies
Greg Forrest
President and CEO

When national business services company Xeta Technologies was looking to expand its operational footprint in August of 2004, it acquired Greg Forrest’s innovative, Seattle-based company called Blue Jack Systems. Forrest quickly made a name for himself at Xeta with his revolutionary mindset, and was promoted to president and then CEO in 2007.

In the few years he has been with the company, Forrest’s leadership has been instrumental in increasing Xeta’s revenue and executing aggressive growth strategies and infrastructures through strategic acquisitions. He has been key in the decision to acquire five new businesses in the past three quarters.

Forrest’s forward-thinking outlook on the company has also been influential in the decision to place a heavy emphasis on exemplary delivery of “services,” a relatively unheard-of approach for a communications equipment vendor. As a result, Broken Arrow, Okla.-based Xeta has been able to offer comprehensive turnkey services to its customers, expanding beyond its historical voice-equipment focus to offer voice, idea, and data solutions and services.

Forrest has been an entrepreneur since college, and it’s that experience that has given him the foresight to view the company with a long-term focus. In February 2011, Forrest and Xeta announced a merger agreement with PATEC Holding Corp., which will acquire the company at the beginning of this month and give Xeta even more growth potential. —K.A.

Vestcom International
John Lawlor
Chairman and CEO

Shortly after joining Vestcom International as chief commercial officer in 2008, John Lawlor recognized a new trend in retailing that he believed the company could capitalize on—shopper marketing.

He met with other Vestcom executives to create a strategic repositioning plan, which was presented to the company’s board for approval.

Shopper marketing applications allow retailers to mine data that can be used to influence shoppers’ in-store buying decisions.

“Fully 70 percent of shoppers come into a store without a list,” says Lawlor, who became chairman and CEO of Vestcom in 2009.  “They may have a general idea of what they want to buy, but they make decisions about specific purchases after they come into the store.”

Vestcom was founded in 1985 in Little Rock, Ark., and offered supermarkets an outsourcing option for printing shelf edge price labels. The company later provided customers with a more efficient way to make weekly price changes. It then focused on the data aspect of those changes, enabling retailers to use information about millions of transactions to drive sales, reduce labor costs, and create a more appealing shopping environment.

The average tenure of Vestcom’s top 20 customers is 20 years, Lawlor says, and 19 of those customers are on multi-year contracts. The company has just completed the best four-year period in its history, with a 71 percent revenue increase. —G.V.

Zix Corp.
Rick Spurr
Chairman and CEO

Rick Spurr has always been a step ahead of the pack. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame at age 20, Spurr landed his first job in sales on a management track with IBM. Decades later, and after holding multiple positions with global and regional companies, Spurr came out of early retirement to join the innovative team at Zix Corp. in 2004.

It was the company’s groundbreaking technology that caught his attention. But it has been Spurr’s savvy and forward-thinking attitude that’s helped this Dallas-based, encrypted e-mail services company succeed in recent years. 

Under Spurr’s leadership, the company has restructured its strategic direction by focusing on its core values. Spurr opened up sales by investing in third-party distribution techniques that have resulted in a sales increase from 33 to 54 percent in one year. He was instrumental in a decision to create strategic marketing messaging to explain the company’s complex technology to clients. And he decided to model the business around a recurring revenue stream, years before anyone else in the industry saw the value of doing that.

At the end of the day, Spurr is focused on the longevity and growth of the company. And, with just 10 percent of business e-mail users in the United States currently protecting their e-mail services, Zix Corp. appears to have solid growth potential in the years to come. —K.A.