Entrepreneurs Conference: No Excuses

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Shifting Gears: New Realities, New Rules, New Opportunities

Game Changers: Success Strategies for the 21st Century
Entrepreneurs must take steps so their businesses come through today’s crisis transformed—stronger, more efficient, and better equipped to sustain any and all challenges. That’s the advice of three topflight CEOs: Harold T. Epps, CEO of PRWT Services Inc. (No. 25 on the be industrial/service companies list with $167 million in revenues) and this year’s BE Industrial/Service Company of the Year; Suzanne Shank, president and CEO of Siebert Brandford Shank (No. 1 in tax-exempt securities with $5.4 billion in lead issues on the be investment banks list); and Ulice Payne Jr., founder and president of Esquire Petroleum, one of ExxonMobil’s leading distributorships. Here are their game-changing approaches:

FIND TOP TALENT IN TOUGH TIMES
The turbulent financial markets affected every aspect of Shank’s business. So what did she do? “We decided to use this as an opportunity to hire talent,” she says. “We increased our staff by about 30% in 2008, because we had the opportunity to hire really great people from all of our competing firms.”
FORGE PARTNERSHIPS THAT WORK
PRWT has grown through strategic alliances with the nation’s largest corporations such as Lockheed Martin and, recently, Merck. “So we now have diversification that allows us to better weather some of the storms that can happen when you have a single-focused company,” says Epps. And he says get to know the people you want in your circle before you need something.
KNOW YOUR BUSINESS
In building Esquire Petroleum, which sells fuel wholesale to gas stations, Payne learned all aspects of the oil industry—from exploration to retail sales. By doing so, he has been able to determine cost, risk, sales, and margins. And since 2007, his distributorship has grown from 14 million to 35 million gallons in the Chicago market. His philosophy: “Fish where the fish are. Basically, know your business because it’s hard to be successful if you don’t.”

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