Illustration by Kolby Osborne

Entrepreneurs of the Year 2014

These finalists show they have the mettle it takes to achieve success.

Children’s Health System of Texas

CHRISTOPHER DUROVICH
PRESIDENT AND CEO

Helping a Dallas institution like Children’s Medical Center expand its reach in sprawling North Texas presents some challenges, but Christopher Durovich hasn’t let them stand in the way. When he took the reins in 2003 as Children’s youngest CEO ever, he was determined to transform the now-100-year-old hospital into a health system. Over the decade, Children’s real estate portfolio has doubled, and the nation’s seventh-largest pediatric health system now includes two full-service hospitals in Dallas and Plano, 16 MyChildren’s pediatric primary care practices in medically underserved neighborhoods, and the Children’s Research Institute at UT Southwestern. Revenue has increased 257 percent since 2003. Children’s now sees 750,000 patients annually and has approximately 6,000 employees and 1,000 medical staff. Durovich also hopes to reach up to 2 million more patients through a population health initiative, which focuses on keeping entire populations healthy through wellness care. “It’s about moving outside the four walls of our institution and engaging children to give them the opportunity for good health and not just healthcare,” he says. Durovich says he’s in the right place: “It’s a nice combination of where I started out working in life and what I get to do today.” —K.N.


Consumer Club Inc. (dba getaroom.com)

DAVID LITMAN
CEO

ROBERT DIENER
PRESIDENT

David Litman and Robert Diener started their hotel company at the height of the economic downturn in 2009. To the outsider, it might have looked like the wrong time to start a business in the hotel industry. Consumer Club Inc., an online travel and technology company that does business as getaroom.com, was started as hotel room rates were plummeting. Revenue has increased 30 percent to 40 percent annually since the company’s launch. “In October [2009], hotel prices in New York City dropped 40 percent in one month,” Litman says. “That’s the time of year when they’re usually the highest.” Falling room rates presented a unique business opportunity. “We offer discounts on hotel rooms,” Litman says. “We get our own negotiated rates and work with discount wholesalers from around the world to get competitive rates that are not available to everyone.” Dallas-based getaroom.com develops its own software, all in the United States, including software and infrastructure to link and distribute hotel inventory worldwide. Litman and Diener have worked together for more than 30 years. —G.V.


CyrusOne

GARY WOJTASZEK
PRESIDENT AND CEO

Every time you turn around, the news seems to get better about CyrusOne. Last year, its first as a public company, the Carrollton supplier of data center properties to the Fortune 1000 grew its revenue 19 percent, from $220.8 million to $263.5 million. It grossed more than $300 million from its January 2013 IPO. Things got even better in the first quarter of 2014, with revenue hitting $77.5 million—an increase of 29 percent over the same period a year ago. The company has projected that it should do roughly $305 million to $315 million in revenue in 2014. Gary Wojtaszek, president and CEO, says that on a gross basis, the company plans to add another 700,000 square feet of data center space. CyrusOne currently has over 2 million square feet of data center properties spread across 25 locations, Wojtaszek says. The company will spend between $280 million to $310 million on expansion of its properties this year. It plans to pay for this year’s growth partly by tapping a revolving line of credit, partly with cash flow from existing operations, and possibly with some additional financing. CyrusOne is using leftover proceeds from the IPO to grow the business right now. As of March 31, it had $125 million remaining from the public offering. The company’s plan is to enter two new markets every year, Wojtaszek says. Behind all the numbers is the high-end customer service that CyrusOne offers, Wojtaszek says. Company’s employees go through Ritz-Carlton training. Looking ahead, Wojtaszek says that in 2014, “we want to have an acceleration of the success we created last year.” —J.B.


Daske Inc.

DON DASEKE
PRESIDENT AND CEO

When Don Daseke was approached about buying a trucking business in 2008, it didn’t seem to be the wisest investment, at least on the surface. The management team was thin, there were no reliable past financials, and one customer represented 70 percent of its revenue. Despite these problems, Daseke saw potential in Smokey Point Distributing’s management team. “My philosophy has been to invest in people,” he says. He decided to buy the company, which became the foundation for Daseke Inc., an Addison-based open-deck trucking company that transports heavy, expensive, cumbersome, and often oversized equipment such as jet engines, airplane wings, wind turbine blades, and construction equipment. Today, in addition to Smokey Point Distributing, Daseke’s family of companies includes E.W. Wylie, J. Grady Randolph, Central Oregon Truck Co., and Boyd Bros. Daseke’s long-term goal is to take his company public. When that happens, he plans to offer stock options to employees. It’s a unique fringe benefit that is expected to help attract and retain truck drivers, a challenge facing the entire trucking industry. “Our existing driver population is aging, but not enough young people are coming in,” Daseke said. “Most young people don’t want to tell their friends they drive a truck.” Daseke Inc.’s annual revenue has grown from $30 million in 2009 to $205 million in 2013 and a projected $490 million in 2014. —G.V.


Data Center Systems

KEVIN EHRINGER
FOUNDER AND CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER

Entrepreneurs go through a lot, even when times seem good. But few endure as much as Kevin Ehringer has in getting his Dallas company, Data Center Systems, to the next level. The company’s roots extend to 1994, when Ehringer started what would become Data Center Systems’ parent, a fiber-assembly company called Optical Cabling Systems. The company faced extraordinary challenges, with its biggest client going into bankruptcy while, at the same time, its Mexican production facility experienced an embezzlement scandal. As if that weren’t enough, Ehringer’s eight-month daughter died of a congenital heart defect. But the entrepreneur soldiered on. Ehringer created a plan to make suppliers whole, keeping OCS afloat while avoiding bankruptcy. And he and his wife had another baby girl. In 2002, Ehringer started Data Center Systems as a subsidiary, and later sold the parent. It has been an upward ride ever since. With everything from banking to health care storing more information electronically, the future looks bright for Data Center Systems. The business did eight figures of revenue last year, up 17 percent from 2012. Its 67-person staff should nearly double over the next five years, with the planned addition of a 50,000-square-foot facility on a 3-acre plot of land near its current manufacturing plant and headquarters in Dallas. But don’t expect Ehringer to sell the company anytime soon. He has a number of employees who have been with him from the start, many of whom hail from Vietnam. “I feel like I would be giving up on them,” he says. “I’m not like a lot of entrepreneurs who have an exit strategy when they start a business.” —J.B.

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