Re:Thinking Business (2011 BE100s Overview)

BE100s CEOs revamp their companies to reap profits through global business strategies, emerging technology, and training a more competitive workforce.

Selected as BE’s 2011 Industrial/Service Company of the Year, Bridgewater represents one of last year’s top performers. Although economists such as Boston believe the worst is over, they warn entrepreneurs to proceed with caution. Countless companies continue to be punished in the anemic housing, advertising, and banking sectors. Healthier, nimble firms still remain in cost-cutting mode as they pounce on new opportunities. Here’s a look at how the BE 100s have responded to today’s business environment and how some have successfully expanded into new, fertile territory.

Industrial/Service: Retooling for Growth
Over the past year, the nation’s leading African American CEOs had to adjust to challenge and change. As a result, the BE industrial/service companies posted a 4.66% boost in revenues to $18.7 billion and a 16.51% decrease in payroll to 56,271 employees.

Forward-looking entrepreneurs such as Sid E. Taylor, president of Warren, Michigan-based SET Enterprises Inc. (No. 18 on the BE industrial/service companies list with $222 million in revenues), have restructured operations or pursued new ventures—which include planning a southern expansion. In fact, Taylor completed a business makeover in 2010, diversifying his steel metal processing and assembly services operation by launching two new units: SET Duct Manufacturing Inc. and SET Construction Inc. The move boosted revenues by 30%, one of SET’s most impressive performances to date. Taylor projects sales to exceed $270 million in 2011. “This made good sense for us because 40% of the duct manufacturing business is steel and that is the business that we are in,” he says. “In our quest to diversify we felt that construction was another good fit for us. We hired some people to do things like drywall, carpeting, and finish interior work.”

St. Louis-based World Wide Technology Inc. (No. 1 on the BE industrial/service companies list with $3.3 billion in revenues) became one of the comeback champs. After a revenue decline of 13% to $2.2 billion in 2009, WWT’s revenues jumped 52%. Company officials maintain that sales for its products and consulting services were buoyed by corporations and government agencies expanding their tech budgets. Gartner Inc., a Stamford, Connecticut, research firm, reported that worldwide IT spending was $3.4 trillion in 2010, up 5.4% from 2009.

With a strong global presence in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, and China, WWT derives roughly 50% of revenues from technology hardware and equipment for data centers, while design and consulting have become its fastest growing segments. The upsurge in demand prompted the recruitment of some 200 engineers and tech specialists, increasing WWT’s total workforce to nearly 1,400 employees.

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