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Up Close With Leaders at the Inc. 500|5000 Conference, 2011

Inc. 5000 CEOs talk about the most fun they've had at work, what secrets about them would surprise their employees, and what they really think about earning an M.B.A.

Let's Talk From top left: Russell Sarder, Amy Kelly, J.J. Frazer, Ken Ampy; bottom: Thomas Gruner, Michele Sutton, Aaron and Jacob Dallek, Daniel Turner

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We chatted with attendees at the 2011 Inc. 500|5000 Conference about their businesses and how they got started. We felt compelled to ask about some of their childhood memories and secrets, too. Here's a sampling of their answers.

When did you start your first business, and what was it?

"Selling Snapple out of my school locker."
—Daniel Turner, president, TCG

"A computer consulting business, when I was 14."
—Aaron Dallek, co-founder, Cheap Ink

"A promotional products company called Taste of Jamaica, in 1981."
—Michele Sutton, president, Sutton Ferneries

What's the weirdest thing in your office?

"A suitcase full of broken glass."
—Gene Gray, president, Innovative-IDM

"A sword, inspired by The Art of War."
—Ken Ampy, CEO, Astyra Corporation

"A 6-foot-tall Homer Simpson cutout."
—Daniel Turner

"A green protection stone, given to me by a palm reader 10 years ago."
—Joseph Hodges, CEO, Inetico

"A bust of John Wayne and a 3-foot-tall Godzilla."
—J.J. Frazer, president, New Horizon Security Services

"Besides me? A 200-pound wooden cell phone covered in crystals."
—Wasim Khaled, CEO, Luxmobile

"My brother."
—Darren Slosberg, CEO, Legacy Converting

Who do you wish would friend you on Facebook?

"Jack Welch."
—Gene Gray

"Larry David."
—Jacob Dallek, co-founder, Cheap Ink

"Oprah."
—Thomas Gruner, CEO, KG Technologies

"Steve Jobs."
—David Smith, CEO, Tekscape

"My first girlfriend."
—Darren Slosberg

What business idea do you wish you had come up with?

"Digital picture frames. I had that idea 25 years ago!"
—Ken Ampy

"Bottled air."
—Daniel Turner

"Skype."
—David Smith

"Post-it notes."
—Kris Mmastrangelo, CEO, Harmony Healthcare International

"The iPod."
—Thomas Gruner

Name one thing about you that would surprise your employees.

"Growing up, I was the only person in my family who went to church on Sundays."
—Gene Gray

"I cry a lot at movies."
—J.J. Frazer

"I was on an exercise show called Body Electric in the '80s, and I had a mullet."
—Joseph Hodges

"I was Miss Jamaica."
—Michele Sutton

"I'm licensed to drive an 18-wheeler."
—Amy Kelly, owner, PicFlips Flipbooks

"I'm an outstanding harmonica player."
—Steven Sullivan, CEO, Sullivan International Group

"I read a few hundred books a year."
—Russell Sarder, CEO, Netcom Learning

What's one memento from your early days you're still holding on to?

"The original checkbook from the first bank silly enough to give us a checking account."
—J.J. Frazer

"A note from my dad telling me that he was proud of me."
—Cloud Ettinger, Founder, Red Cloud

What kind of kid were you in high school?

"A perfectionist."
—Amy Kelly

"The second shortest. I was 4 foot 9."
—Gene Gray

"Kind of like Ferris Bueller. I was always doing bad things, but I never got caught."
—Steven Sullivan

"Talkative. I went by J.J., which stood for Jabberjaw."
—J.J. Frazer

What's the most fun you've ever had at work?

"Sadly, I really get off on data entry."
—Daniel Turner

"When we land a large account, I dance on the table."
—Michele Sutton

"When we reach our target every month, we throw a party."
—Russell Sarder

If you never had to worry about making money, what would you do?

"I'd take care of my kids. They are 1 and 3."
—Daniel Turner

"I'd make short films."
—Joseph Hodges

"I'd sit on the beach all day and play my ukulele."
—J.J. Frazer

"I'd be a professional triathlete."
—Darren Slosberg

"Charity work; raising money for catastrophes like the earthquake in Haiti."
—Michele Sutton

"What I'm doing now."
—Mark Gilreath, CEO, Endochoice

What do you wish you had known when you were launching your company?

"How to fire people faster."
—Daniel Turner

"Don't wait to pay yourself."
—Cloud Ettinger

"Tread carefully when someone mentions lawyer."
—Steve Sarowitz, founder, Paylocity

If you were dictator for a day, what's the first thing you would change?

"I'd get rid of taxes, of course."
—Kris Mastrangelo

"I'd get rid of both political parties."
—Mark Gilreath

"I'd make more hours in a day."
—Amy Kelly

"I would step down. That's no way to lead."
—Stéphane Côme, CEO, LCS Technologies

"Everyone must have a job."
—Darren Slosberg

An M.B.A. is...

"Your first failure."
—Steve Sarowitz

"Thriving in a recession. Once you've done that, you've earned your M.B.A."
—Gene Gray

"Very important. It definitely gave me skills I use every day."
—Noreen Guanci, CEO, Long Term Solutions

"Actually pretty useful, but nowhere near sufficient."
—Mark Gilreath

"A total, utter, absolute, ridiculous waste of time."
—Daniel Turner

IMAGE: John Davis
From the November 2011 issue of Inc. magazine




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