Tom Adams, CEO of Rosetta Stone, a company that makes software that teaches language skills to users, has been named Executive of the Year by the American Business Awards. Since Adams joined Rosetta Stone as CEO in 2003, the company has grown rapidly. Revenue topped $209 million in 2008 and, earlier this year, the company went public, raising $112.5 million.

The award was announced at the annual American Business Awards dinner in New York City on June 22. "It's really a recognition for what the company has achieved," says Adams.

The fact that Rosetta Stone has been such a success is particularly remarkable given that language-learning software is hardly new. With a strong brand and a powerful retail distribution network, the company has been able to charge a premium price for its products, which partly explains investors' enthusiasm for the stock.

Prior to joining Rosetta Stone, Adams worked in China as a commodity merchant, where he says he used the company's software to learn the language. One of the secrets to the company's success, in his estimation, is that its software instructs users through auditory and visual lessons, which simulate the way that a child learns language. "You can never look up the meaning of a word, and we don't explain anything," Adams says.

Businesses in any industry and of any size are eligible for the Stevies, as the American Business Awards are known. The awards are intended to recognize the most innovative, fastest-growing, and all-around best companies, among other categories.