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Company Profiles

#17: JOHN LAU

Lautek Corp.

Sells computers to corporations

Growing Up

Mother Teacher, garment factory worker

Father Salesman, waiter in Chinese restaurant

Hometowns Hong Kong; New York City's Chinatown

Education M.S. physics

Jobs Vice-president of global data network at Shearson/American Express

Getting Here

"I had a lot of ideas in my mind, and I wanted to do them much faster than my management, so I decided, hey, I really need to do things on my own. So I started Lautek in the basement of my house."

My Company, My Self

Inspiration "It seems I have no choice. To drive as much as possible is part of my inner self."

Family in Business Wife, cofounder and VP; brother-in-law, chairman

What's Changed "When I talk to end users -- or sometimes to purchasing people -- they don't see me as the regular white-man majority. That continues today. It's not frustrating, just part of life."

Lose Sleep Over Cash flow

Workweek 75 hours

Last Vacation Haven't taken a week since starting company

Use a PC? Yes

What's Next May go public

Footnote

"There's so much I can do; looking back at things, I could have done so much better. In work and life, too. But there's no use in looking back. I've liked the momentum. There was nothing, then something was created -- something to the best of my ability. That's probably the driving force."

#35: ERIC KRISS
MediVision Inc.
Operates 30 eye health-care centers

Growing Up

Mother Marriage counselor

Father Physician and professor

Hometown Palo Alto, Calif.

Education B.A. music, M.B.A.

Jobs Started a music magazine; wrote music books; editor at a weaving magazine; consultant at Bain & Co. and cofounded Bain's VC arm

Getting Here

"Bain studied this business for Bausch & Lomb, which decided not to pursue it; I was at Bain Capital, read the business plan we put together -- which now had no company behind it -- and decided to buy the idea from Bausch."

My Company, My Self

Inspiration Ben Franklin -- his balanced approach to life

Family in Business None

What's Changed "We spent the first two years intensely following competitive developments, organizing a strategy to make it more difficult for competitors to enter. I'm not concerned about that anymore. If a company started next week it wouldn't bother me."

Lose Sleep Over Government regulations, especially Medicare reimbursement

Workweek 50 hours

Last Vacation "I don't think I've taken two consecutive weeks off since eighth grade."

Use a PC? Yes, and also at home

What's Next Have plans to sell company by the end of the year

Footnote

"I'm not a workaholic. I never work on weekends or at night. I always spend time with the family. I'm amazed at people who say they work 16 hours a day, because you know what? I think I've probably got 4 or 5 good hours a day."

#74: ERNEST PROVETTI

Trinity Products Inc.

Manufacturer of motors for model racing cars

Growing Up

Mother Homemaker

Father Longshoreman

Hometown Brooklyn, N.Y.

Education B.A. philosophy; seminary student

Jobs Catering, rental car agency

Getting Here

"Building engines was just something to subsidize my own hobby. I didn't expect to make a living at it. Eventually I talked my mother into letting me pull the furniture out of the house, and I built a factory in our apartment. My mother still lives in Brooklyn -- with furniture."

My Company, My Self

Inspiration Donald Trump. "I'd give up half my net worth to have lunch with him."

Family in Business None

What's Changed "What mattered back then was ego. It was driving me just to win the race. Now, I read everything I can get my hands on to learn about business."

Lose Sleep Over Wondering when the racing fad will fade

Workweek 50 hours

Last Vacation September '88, to Florida and Hawaii. "My first vacation in six years."

Use a PC? Yes, a laptop

What's Next Opening a nightclub/restaurant in New York City

Footnote

"I took theology, philosophy, Greek, and Latin for 12 years; I didn't know The Wall Street Journal from a third-grade catechism. And today I hooked up my laptop into CompuServe so I could check my stock quotes. If someone had told me a few years ago that I'd be checking a few hundred thousand dollars of stock prices, I would have said you're crazy."

#125: ANDREW DOPPELT
National Investigative Services Corp.
Corporate and financial investigator

Growing Up

Mother Homemaker

Father Owned manufacturing company

Hometown Highland Park, Ill.

Education J.D.

Jobs IRS special agent; father's company

Getting Here

"Having come from a big bureaucracy and having worked for my father, I didn't want to put myself back in the position of being subordinate. The best way to avoid that was to be my own boss."

My Company, My Self

Inspiration "There are certain measurements you can use to tell whether your company is becoming a force: being invited to give speeches in places you've never heard of; getting clients you never tried to develop but who've heard of you."

Family in Business None

What's Changed "I don't do any investigations anymore. I'm strictly sales, marketing, and administration -- where I think my talents lie."

Lose Sleep Over Raising money

Workweek 60 to 70 hours

Last Vacation "Can't remember."

Use a PC? No

What's Next In process of merging with Laventhol & Horwath. Also talking with Hollywood producers about TV show based on the investigation business

Footnote

"I like the idea of a merger -- it's going to give us a million dollars of referrals every year and a lot of money to finance growth. Plus I end up becoming a partner in an international firm."

#151: SHEILA WEST
Archery Center International Inc.
Distributor of archery products

Growing Up

Mother Secretary

Father Professor

Hometown Jacksonville, Fla.

Education 30 hours of college

Jobs Inspirational speaker for homemakers; homemaker

Getting Here

"I was at the 'empty vision' time of my life -- I'd been a homemaker for 18 years, my children were teenagers. I'd shot competitive archery in high school and my husband was a hunter, so he suggested buying a compound-bow store as a stepping-stone."

My Company, My Self

Inspiration Helping other entrepreneurs: "It stimulates me to stretch more."

Family in Business Husband, cofounder; son-in-law, purchasing agent; daughter, director of marketing

What's Changed "At first it was hard to accept I was a CEO. I mean, CEOs are people who run major companies. But I decided CEO stands for catch every obstacle and create endless opportunities, and I said OK, that's me."

Lose Sleep Over Profitability

Workweek 60 to 70 hours

Last Vacation Hawaii last fall -- the first since starting ACI

Use a PC? Laptop on the road

What's Next A new company for business and personal development and seminar workshops

Footnote

"My mother raised me by herself, and she was working, so I'm a survivalist. I didn't let stumbling blocks get in my way. I learned how to cook, how to be a wife, how to be a parent, so I figured, why can't I learn how to sell archery equipment?"

#184: CAROL RUSSELL
Russell Personnel Services Inc.
Provides full-time and temporary personnel

Growing Up

Mother TV makeup artist

Father Stage manager with the Minsky Brothers burlesque show

Hometown Manhattan

Education High school. "I never finished Hunter College."

Jobs Worked way up through temporary-services industry, starting as file clerk

Getting Here

"I became a junior partner at an employment firm -- you have all the work and none of the say. I just decided the time had come to push off on my own."

My Company, My Self

Inspiration Reading everything -- from biographies to religion

Family in Business None

What's Changed "I do miss just being able to look up and tell everybody something. There's a camaraderie you miss. Also the uncertainty, which may be why we push ourselves to grow."

Lose Sleep Over Wanting to grow faster

Workweek 40 to 45 hours

Last Vacation Four days in Palm Desert, Calif. "By the fourth day I was going crazy. I couldn't stand not working."

Use a PC? No. "I'm a PC illiterate."

What's Next New offices, maybe franchising

Footnote

"I'm an extremely ambitious human being, and the more successful I become, the more ambitious I become. My anxiety is, can I get far enough fast enough? I don't want to sound grandiose, but it's kind of like being a success junkie."

#214: RICHARD H. NOVAK
N.H.S. Inc.
Manufacturer and distributor of skateboards and related products

Growing Up

Mother Beautician, store clerk

Father Maintenance engineer, construction

Hometown Capitola, California

Education One year junior college

Jobs Fisherman, garbageman, sailor, surfboard maker

Getting Here

"My partner, a friend, and I made the first precision bearing wheel and jumped into a 1950 Chevy and drove around the country selling it, and within a year or so we had a fistful of money. We only did it so we could surf most of the time."

My Company, My Self

Inspiration "My parents, a friend I sailed with for a year and a half, an older Chinese man."

Family in Business Nephew in production

What's Changed "I hate responsibility, but I have a ton of it. I don't enjoy expensive cars or houses or any of that stuff. But I like the game of business, I think it's fun."

Lose Sleep Over Dealing with employees' problems

Workweek 45 hours

Last Vacation "I've been all over the world a few times, surfing. Now, I'd rather stay here."

Use a PC? No

What's Next Maybe license off parts of business

Footnote

"When I was 18 I saw all these people retiring at 55 and their bodies were destroyed and they didn't have any money; I didn't have any money either, but my body worked, so I figured if I retired now, and went to work later, it would probably balance itself out."

#253: JERRY MEADOR
Home Grown Woods Inc.
Manufacturer of wooden gift items

Growing Up

Mother Homemaker

Father Safety engineer

Hometown Nashville

Education College night school after Vietnam

Jobs Musician; public works official

Getting Here

"My wife and I were both job burnouts -- she was a guidance counselor and I was in government in this small town near Nashville -- so with enough savings to get us by we decided we would just quit and go to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., to open our business."

My Company, My Self

Inspiration "The money. And having created the business ourselves."

Family in Business Wife, cofounder and VP of finance

What's Changed "It certainly was scary to get started up. Of course, we never considered failure as an option. It just took a lot of nerve to leave two secure jobs. It's still scary -- but today we don't have as much time to worry about it."

Lose Sleep Over Cash flow

Workweek 70 hours

Last Vacation Florida beach with family in September

Use a PC? Yes, a little

What's Next Starting another company -- "I'd rather not say what kind right now." Plan to keep Home Grown Woods for a while.

Footnote

"I guess you'd call me a redneck. Music is my first love -- I played a lot around Nashville many years ago, and it gets in your blood and won't leave you. And my roots are in the country. I like trucks and fishing and my dogs and my kids."

#282: C. RON MARTELL
Microdynamics Inc.
Provides CAD/CAM systems for apparel and shoe companies

Growing Up

Mother Worked at family business

Father Owned auto repair shop

Hometown Orange, Tex.

Education M.S. engineering

Jobs Designed weapons systems at Sandia Laboratories

Getting Here

"I had a personal goal to start a business by the time I was 30; I missed the target by a year. I grew my first company to $25 million, sold my interest, and started Microdynamics the next year."

My Company, My Self

Inspiration Father, who ran his shop with a 10th-grade education

Family in Business None

What's Changed "I used to work on the weekends on technical problems, and I've tried to disassociate myself from those. I worry about the bigger business issues now."

Lose Sleep Over Cash flow and profitability. "Since we're VC-backed, there's constant pressure to maximize profits."

Workweek 60 hours

Last Vacation January, to Colorado for a week of skiing

Use a PC? No

What's Next Grow to $100 million, then start new company

Footnote

"We're shipping a lot to Russia, and since the key to Gorbachev's remaining in power is his being able to build up consumer goods, hopefully our equipment will help do that. Because he's been the best thing for peace. I've come full circle -- and I feel a lot better giving the Russians shoe factories and apparel equipment than worrying about nuclear weapons."

#336: PAMELA KELLEY
Rue de France Inc.
Manufacturer of French lace curtains

Growing Up

Mother Homemaker; took over business when husband died

Father Owned and managed funeral home

Hometown Washington, N.J.

Education B.A. math; J.D.

Jobs Attorney for Securities and Exchange Commission; cofounded law firm in 1983

Getting Here

"My husband and I lived in Paris for a few years, and I had French lace curtains on my window. I figured that if I thought they were an attractive alternative to Levolor blinds, maybe other people would, too. I also wanted a business excuse to go back to Paris."

My Company, My Self

Inspiration New-product development. "That enthuses me, gets the brain working."

Family in Business Husband consults on advertising

What's Changed "When I started I had no resources for locating raw materials or asking questions. A lot of what I was doing was in the dark. Now, the challenges come from managing people."

Lose Sleep Over Cash flow

Workweek More than 70 hours, between this and law firm

Last Vacation Competed in an international women's sailing championship last fall (crew placed 5th)

Use a PC? Yes, a laptop

What's Next More of the same

Footnotes

"When time pressures get overwhelming, my husband asks, 'Well, why do you have two jobs?' But I like my partners in the law firm, and I don't have too many people I can complain to in my own firm, since I'm the top."

#343: MICHAEL FEENEY
Educational & Fun Ltd.
Retailer of educational toys and teaching aids

Growing Up

Mother Nurse

Father Funeral director

Hometown Reading, Pa.

Education Left 11th grade to join Army; mortuary school

Jobs Vietnam 1966 to '68; funeral director; coroner; county commissioner

Getting Here

"My wife was a teacher, but the stores she went to for good materials were always out of stuff. It was frustrating. So we opened our own store, decided to give it a try."

My Company, My Self

Inspiration Former colleagues

Family in Business Wife, cofounder and main buyer

What's Changed "The attention. With one small store, nobody at the toy show wanted to talk to me. With three stores, they're inviting me to the back room for a soda. Now, with five, they're giving me a sandwich, too."

Lose Sleep Over Cash flow

Workweek 5 hours; full-time county commissioner

Last Vacation Camping at the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania

Use a PC? Yes, at home and in both offices

What's Next Two more stores

Footnote

"Since Vietnam I haven't touched a gun. Even now, I can feel a tightness in my chest just talking about it. There's a place in a person's life to understand what a gun is and how it's used, but I don't think it should be for very young kids. So parents who want to isolate their children from that for a time know they can walk in our store and there's no evidence of violence."

#364 and #388: TERRY SHULTZ
Louisiana Business College of Monroe
Draughon Training Institute
Career schools

Growing Up

Mother Homemaker

Father Bought and managed the two schools

Hometown Alexandria, La.

Education Some business school; general aviation training

Jobs Went directly into working at the schools

Getting Here

"My father died when he was 47. I was 21 and my mother and I wanted to keep the family business. So I moved up to Shreveport and started learning the ropes."

My Company, My Self

Inspiration Being around intelligent people, the doers

Family in Business Sister, in marketing department

What's Changed "Your identity changes many times over through rapid growth. Who you are as a manager, as a person, your role in the company."

Lose Sleep Over Bringing in new students

Workweek 50 to 60 hours

Last Vacation Took their kids to Disney World last December

Use a PC? Sometimes

What's Next Recently started a software company

Footnote

"I think some of the self-discipline I learned from aviation has given me the strength to face the challenges in this business. It teaches you self-confidence. Initially one of my biggest challenges was my youth. People don't quite accept you when you're very young. I don't feel that too much anymore; a lot of it has to do with my self-confidence."

#432: RAY MARTIN
Jemson Cabinetry Inc.
Distributor of kitchen and bath cabinets

Growing Up

Mother Homemaker

Father Minister, farmer

Hometown Ephrata, Pa.

Education High school

Jobs Ran a chicken farming operation, construction company

Getting Here

"I was buying my kitchen cabinets from a local distributor, and I loved the products he was handling, but he ended up losing the line. The factory eventually offered me the distributorship."

My Company, My Self

Inspiration "I'm rather a religious person, and think there's a higher meaning in life than seeing how many dollars I can make."

Family in Business Father helped start the company

What's Changed "I've turned over the day-to-day responsibilities -- in fact, just this week a CEO was named in the company. I don't enjoy management much, and it was time to leave the business to professional managers."

Lose Sleep Over Not much, now that others run the show

Workweek 20 hours in helping new CEO

Last Vacation Week in Vermont this summer with wife and kids

Use a PC? Yes

What's Next Active investor in several small firms; public service

Footnote

"Up to half my time I'd like to contribute to nonbusiness groups; for instance, I'm on the board of a housing advocate for low-to middle-income families. And I'm in, I guess you could say, a venture capital position with some companies. That's where my interests lie now."

#447: JAMES DELANO
Lion Coffee
Coffee roaster and distributor

Growing Up

Mother Teacher and worked in family business

Father Runs wholesale distribution company

Hometown St. James, Mo.

Education B.A. art history

Jobs Worked for father, renovated historic building

Getting Here

"I studied design and had seen the original Lion Coffee trading cards from the 1880s and 1890s. The company had an illustrious career in Toledo but had ceased manufacturing; I thought having an historical brand of coffee at the coffeehouse I was building in Honolulu would make a nice tie-in."

My Company, My Self

Inspiration "I couldn't work for a stodgily managed company, and I really enjoy providing a good place for people to work."

Family in Business Father on board of directors

What's Changed "If there are things I miss, I start doing them again. I enjoy running the espresso machine at the café at our roasting plant and unloading the coffee bags -- I like the physical labor."

Lose Sleep Over Keeping shelf space in stores

Workweek 50 hours

Last Vacation New York City, Vancouver

Use a PC? Yes

What's Next Reopen the original downtown coffeehouse

Footnote

"All the outside interests that people bring to the company are important. I want people to live and breathe Lion Coffee part of the time, but I want them to have other interests that move their souls a little bit."

#485: YOUSIF GHAFARI
Ghafari Associates Inc.
Architectural and engineering services

Growing Up

Mother Homemaker

Father Tobacco company employee

Hometown Alma El-Chaab, South Lebanon

Education Masters degrees in math and in engineering

Jobs Engineer at another firm

My Company, My Self

Inspiration Japanese managers

Family in Business Wife, corporate counsel; cousin, VP of finance; sister, clerical; sister, sales

What's Changed "Bankers. Now, they're knocking on our door."

Lose Sleep Over Keeping employees happy as company grows

Workweek 50 hours

Last Vacation This fall, to Europe

Use A PC? Yes

What's Next Open new offices