Onward & Upward

B.E.'s 2000 Small Business Award winners are flying high. Here's why.

was the excitement of being a major player in the meat industry,” recalls the slugger. “I’m only a legend in my own mind,” he says, offering a modest assessment of his stint as a big leaguer from 1991 to 1996.

His experience at Nebraska Beef prepared him well for the challenges of starting a business. And within nine months, he was out on his own.

“The first reality,” he says about the early days of running a business, “was probably being turned down by everyone for any type of capital.” Friends, banks, venture capitalists, and loan programs refused him because he had no track record and there were only about three minority-owned businesses in the industry. Hughes, however, extended All American Meats a line of credit to purchase and resell boxed beef.

The arrangement benefited both men because Buchanan sold products in markets that Nebraska Beef wasn’t in. However, the rejections from lenders forced him to alter his strategic business plan from one that detailed fast growth to a blueprint with more protracted goals. The ultimate aim for All American Meats was the retail market. The company, needless to say, needed capital to achieve this goal. Buchanan deliberately went after and won contracts with the Defense Commissary Agency and the national school lunch program. “Lenders respect government contracts,” he says.

Buchanan operated alone for most of the first two years, reselling boxed beef and ground beef products to a growing list of customers. Another objective for the company was to get into the meat processing side of the business. By the end of 1998, All American Meats was processing its own raw materials, and is currently producing 200,000 pounds of ground beef per day.

Buchanan, who graduated from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, believes it’s important that a businessperson be familiar with all phases of his or her operation. “It’s good to wear different hats, but it’s also good to know when to delegate,” he says. “You don’t do anything without having good people.

“My goals for All American Meats are to be a $50 million company by 2003, put together a limited partnership with minority investors, and purchase at least a billion-dollar food processing operation,” Buchanan says. “It’ll happen.”

The Business Innovator of the Year Award recognizes individuals who have successfully set trends and broken new ground in their respective industries.
Don R. Johnson
Chairman and CEO of Continuum Healthcare Systems Inc.
An alcoholic father might be the reason Don R. Johnson, 50, will be the first African American to build a for-profit hospital.

“My dad was an alcoholic,” says Johnson, chairman and CEO of Continuum Healthcare Systems Inc., based in Houston. “He worked hard and drank hard.” His father’s problem motivated Johnson to go into the healthcare field, after he earned degrees in sociology and psychology. “I wanted to fix my family and what I wound up doing was fixing me. I loved my dad, but I didn’t want to be like him.” The last time Johnson himself had a drink was

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