Monday, November 21, 2005

Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

I’m back today from three incredible days attending the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in Palm Springs, CA. I had won the award for Illinois and was in the running for the national award but was beat out by some company called Home Depot. But, even though Agracel didn’t win the award, it was a real honor to be nominated and to have the opportunity to take part in the excellent program that E&Y put together.

Arthur Blank told of how he and Bernie Marcus started Home Depot in 1979 after being fired from Handy Dan. They ran thru half of the capital that they raised in first nine months but as Blank said, “We went into the stores and made modifications based on listening to the customers as well as the sales associates of the stores.” Today Home Depot has 1,900 stores with a new one opening every 48 hours.

We had presentations by Wayne Huizenga, who started six companies that are listed on the NYSE including Waste Management, Blockbuster Video and Auto Nation; Carl Schramm of The Kauffman Foundation; Pat Croce, former owner of the Philadelphia 76ers; Richard Teerlink, former CEO of Harley-Davidson; and Angela Basset, Academy Award Nominee Actress. There was a lot of take home from their messages.

I also got to meet some incredible entrepreneurs who are leaders in their industries. I met the fastest growing ethanol producer in the USA; the leader in the manufacture of weather stations; the developer of a mower that can cut a football field in nine minutes (where was he when I was a kid?); the developer of the Flow Jet that you might have seen on American Chopper and many others. E&Y told us that collectively the 300+ entrepreneurs that were at the conference accounted for 850,000 jobs!

The Doobie Brothers played one night and Jay Leno was the MC for the Awards Gala. We had a blast! I’ll be reporting on some of the take-aways from the conference in the next couple of days.

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