A. Ray Dalton
It's often been said that entrepreneurs thrive in chaos, including difficult economic periods, because they discern more opportunities amid change and upheaval than their more comfortable competitors. Or perhaps they simply have more energy than others. Ray Dalton embodies all those elements, and more.
"I'm really excited about people who are whining and crying about the economy," he told OVA members in an unusually inspiring presentation at the May lunch, "because it just leaves more time for me to see their customer."
Dalton has been seeing more than his share of customers and prospects since establishing PartsSource in 2001. Since its founding, the company—an innovative supplier of hospital equipment--has recorded an average annual growth rate of 38%, putting it on track to possibly become a billion-dollar company before too long. He said that growth will moderate a little this year, but that he still expects to grow by about 25% this year.
Dalton is one of the most celebrated and decorated serial entrepreneurs ever to have operated a company in Northeast Ohio. The Los Angeles native founded his first venture at the age of 25; PartsSource is his seventh company. He sold two former companies to GE, and later ran one of the company's divisions. But eventually he decided to start yet another company. In 2004, he was named Entrepreneur of the Year for the Northern Ohio region by Ernst & Young. PartSource finished # 1 on the most-recent Weatherhead 100 list of fastest-growing companies in the region, and it has also appeared on the Inc 500 list of fastest-growing companies in America. In 2005, Dalton published an inspirational memoir about his career, Proceed With Confidence—Lessons Learned From a Serial Entrepreneur.
His presentation was rich in advice about how to operate in the current downturn. "If you want to be successful, and you want to grow through this credit crisis market we have, there are some very fundamental things I would recommend you do. One of them is, see your customer, look them in the eye, and ask them, ‘hey, what do I need to do to do more business with you?'"
Now is probably not the best time to add new product offerings, he counseled. "Stay very close to doing what you do, and do more of it. Probably now is not the time to be chasing opportunities. Now is the time to be drilling a deeper hole in your customers' opportunities. You want more share of wallet right now." He added that two of the best things about the Northeast Ohio region are the work ethic of its people and the easy access to quality professionals in such fields as accounting and law. "You'd have to be a billion-dollar company in L.A. to have the same access to professionals that a $50-million company has here."
Always a contrarian, he made a compelling case that now is actually a great time to be an entrepreneur. "I would tell you you will find no better time to be a middle-market company. It is a great time to be in business. You may find that shocking, but it's real, because the pillars of strength and credibility of these Fortune 500 companies is shaken."
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June 12, 2009
2009 Venture of the Year Award
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Quick, Quality, Low-Cost Medical Care
As the economy gets rockier and consumers grow ever more cost-conscious about their health care, Q² Health Clinic sees an opportunity to add low-cost clinical care in mid-sized markets, through nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
CEO and founder Sue Irwin, who has spent more than 30 years in the insurance reimbursement industry, said the company plans to open four clinics in Ohio in the next year, all tied to pharmacy practices in mid-sized towns. "The pharmacists are welcoming us with open arms. They want to offer their customers more services, build their own businesses, and give back to the communities. They also have a very loyal clientele, which will help build ours."
The company is seeking to raise $1 million. For more information, contact Sue Irwin, at 440-934-6135, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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NEO Incubator Network Delivers Results
The Northeast Ohio Incubator Collaborative—or NEOinc—is a collection of six incubators throughout the region that provide office space, coaching and connections for start-up and early-stage companies. Formed in late 2006, it is a subset of the statewide Edison Technology incubators program.
"We serve as a front door for all entrepreneurs," explained Wayne Zeman, chair of NEOinc, and vice president of venture development for MAGNET. "Our focus is on technology-based businesses. But if someone comes to us with a non-technology business, we'll get them to the appropriate" group or other helpful resource.
In the last three fiscal years, he says the collaborative (which recently added its sixth member, the Beachwood Business Incubator), has helped create 750 jobs. Its client companies have generated over $300 million in revenues during that period, and have attracted about $80 million in investment capital.
For more information, contact Wayne Zeman, at 216-432-4197, or email@example.com.
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