The Young Entrepreneur Council asked 12 successful young entrepreneurs to share which business leaders they look up to. Here are their best answers.
1. Clate Mask and Scott Martineau of Infusionsoft
Infusionsoft co-founders Clate Mask and Scott Martineau inspire me with their singular focus to help small businesses succeed. After meeting many of their team, we realized there's not a single employee we didn't want to take out for a beer! The culture infiltrates the entire company, and they're open and receptive to anything that will support small businesses.
--Kelly Azevedo, She's Got Systems
2. Female Entrepreneur Marie Forleo
She's built an incredible business, and her customer service and entire team is top notch. I think she's created an awesome internal company culture, and it shows from the outside of her company too. She's motivating and keeps everything on the positive.
--Nathalie Lussier, Nathalie Lussier Media
3. Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz
Rand Fishkin at SEOmoz is an entrepreneur who has really created an amazing company culture. He puts a strong focus on transparency and has made SEOmoz into a community. That community and culture of exchanging expertise and ideas has made his company into an industry leader.
--Lauren Fairbanks, Stunt & Gimmick's
4. Jeff Lawson of Twilio
I was lucky enough to spend an evening at Twilio visiting a friend who worked there. While I was there, I saw and felt an amazing culture in action. The employees felt like a team that had genuine camaraderie and a great, high-productivity environment. Jeff comes from Amazon, who is also known for a great culture, so it's no surprised they have a great culture of their own.
--Jason Evanish, Greenhorn Connect
5. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook
Did you know Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has one of the highest approval ratings of tech firm leaders? He's an inspiring young founder who built one of the most notable digital companies in recent history. I greatly admire his commitment to hack culture, and the company's well-crafted growth. It will be fascinating to see his performance as a public company CEO.
--Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.
6. Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway
I may never have the level of business acumen that Warren Buffett has, but the way he works with investors and employees alike is phenomenal. CEOs are glad when Buffett takes an interest in their company and to be a Berkshire Hathaway investor is an education in and of itself. Just read his annual letter to his investors to get a glimpse of what I'm talking about.
--Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting
7. Ilya Pozin of Ciplex
Ilya Pozin has converted his Los Angeles-based marketing agency Ciplex into one of the first completely hierarchy-free agencies. Clients are positioned at the top, employees (grouped into teams) in the middle, and "senior" staff (known as "team support") at the bottom. This is clearly an avant-garde structure (or lack thereof) which has been utilized by the most cutting-edge companies. To see an agency do it is quite inspiring.
--Zach Cutler, Cutler Group
8. Tony Hsieh of Zappos
I'm inspired by what Tony has done at Zappos, not necessarily because of the awesome atmosphere he's created or the rabid loyalty of his employees and customers, or the culture thats synonymous with fun and success. I'm amazed he did it without being that "rah rah!" Type-A personality that you hear so much about when it comes to creating culture. Tony proves that it's not how outgoing you are, it's how dedicated you are to creating and living out the culture, and how you can relay that message.
--Trevor Mauch, Automize, LLC
9. Brent Grinna of EverTrue
Something that appears very small but that has a great impact is simply eating lunch as a team. This allows the group to have a brief period of unwinding, while creating a culture of all-inclusiveness. A team I've seen do this is EverTrue, and the benefits are clear--they've grown by keeping everyone on the same page and maintaining an atmosphere of camaraderie.
--John Harthorne, MassChallenge
10. Brant and Brock Bukowsky of Veterans United
Brant and Brock Bukowsky are two great examples. They founded Veterans United, which has grown into the nation's leading veteran mortgage lender, with close to 1,000 employees. Their secret sauce is to create an absolutely stellar work environment. Think massages, free lunches, blowout parties, transparent management, humble founders, a charitable focus, and opportunities for both personal and professional growth.
--Brent Beshore, AdVentures
11. Joe Reynolds of Red Frog Events
Few entrepreneurs have taken the measures Joe Reynolds has to create a great company culture. Red Frog's office is themed like a summer camp and feels like a Disneyworld attraction, including a tree house, climbing wall and zip-line. But it's not just about having a cool office--Red Frog's employees seem genuinely thrilled to have the privilege of working there. It's a result of hundreds of brilliantly designed policies, perks, and systems. To anybody who has ever visited their Chicago headquarters, it's clear why they are consistently ranked among the best places to work.
--Emerson Spartz, Spartz Media
12. Steve Jobs of Apple
Steve Jobs caught a lot of flak for being a jerk to his employees at times. However, it is still hard to deny his power to put together amazing teams full of top talent, squeeze every drop of their potential from them, and make awesome products.
--Neil Thanedar, LabDoor