Lisa Wehr learned how to manage her 22 employees not from a class or a business book but from a group of Alaskan huskies.
Before Wehr founded Oneupweb in 2000, she led a very different life as a professional dog musher in Alaska. For 10 years Wehr raced a dog team in competitions such as the Knik 200 and the Klondike 300.
Most entrepreneurs can point to lessons learned in moments of doubt, but few have a story that can match Wehr's. Her most trying moment came during her final race, the Nushagak Classic -- a 400-mile journey starting and ending in Dillingham, Alaska. Near the end, she mistakenly steered the sled onto a floating sheet of ice, causing Wehr, her dogs, and her sled to plunge into the water. Alone in the Alaskan hinterlands, Wehr struggled for nearly three hours to free every dog and her 100-pound sled. The team was discouraged, exhausted, and numb with cold, but she motivated it to press on -- by spending a few minutes talking to and petting each dog. Later that day, her team finished second out of 30 sleds.
In the end, Wehr realized she'd had enough of making life-or-death decisions, but she still draws on the experience when running her marketing firm, based in Suttons Bay, Mich. In her dealings with employees and customers, Wehr, 42, says she makes a point of giving individual attention -- similar to the way she rallied her dog team, minus the petting, of course.