The road to the middle market CEO corner office is paved with mile markers that guide in surprising, unpredictable, and some might even say “mysterious” ways! But how do you get such a widely coveted position? This is the question often heard during decades of ROI’s executive search interviews, conducted with top-level executives. ROI’s Into the Corner Office podcast is a new inspiration and answer platform which premieres visionary tales of adventure with great endings and highlights, from powerhouse CEOs driving the formidable success of the U.S. economy’s middle market sector. The CEOs behind this impressive growth reveal insights which equipped them to lead their organizations. Showcasing dynamic leadership stories, Into the Corner Office dives into the heart of what informed and formed these CEOs. Guests share their backgrounds, talk about their early years, and explore what shaped them before they were known for their successes in growing, developing, and leading extraordinary middle market companies and teams. Telling their own stories – straight up and right Into the Corner Office.
Howdy Holmes, CEO, Chelsea Milling Company
Howdy started working at Chelsea Milling Company in 1963 as a sophomore in high school. He worked in many departments, learning the company from the ground up during his high school and college summer breaks.
He left the company in 1968 saying he would return later, but first, he was going to pursue a boyhood dream. He wanted to be a race car driver. He spent 20 years in motorsports winning regional races, the Formula Atlantic Championship, and Rookie of the Year at the Indianapolis 500 in 1979. He competed in the Indy 500 six times, qualifying on the front row in 1984, and held the best average finishing record of anyone who started more than four events from 1911 – 1988 when he retired from driving race cars.
As a businessman, Howdy operated a motorsports marketing company and an advertising company, which served the motorsports community. He authored an award-winning book called, “Formula Car Technology” and was a contributing writer for magazines and newspapers about racing. He was also one of the first color commentators of racing for ESPN.
Howdy rejoined the family business in 1987. “The relationships between racing teams and manufacturing are kind of twin sisters in the sense that you’re always trying to improve something with the mechanical equipment.”
Howdy led a transformation of the then 100-year-old family business. With the help of others, a professionally managed strategic vision was successfully introduced.
Today, known for its Quality and Value, “JIFFY” Mix is uniquely positioned for the 21st Century. “JIFFY” is the market share leader in retail prepared baking mixes. In 2007, Chelsea Milling Company entered the foodservice market space, selling to commercial and non-commercial customers.
Ross Wainwright, CEO, Alida
Ross Wainwright is a seasoned software executive with a proven 30-year record of fast-tracking ideas that will disrupt existing markets.
As Alida’s leader, Wainwright firmly believes in a world where the best business decisions are those made with customers, not for them. He has aligned his global team to help companies uncover and action their customers’ truths to improve experiences and create meaningful relationships.
Wainwright has set Alida on course to realize an aggressive growth agenda that accelerates innovation and provides the utmost value to its customers.
Before joining Alida in December 2019, Wainwright was CEO of the Americas region for global networking and services provider Dimension Data/NTT. Prior to that, he spent over 15 years with SAP, where his most recent roles were Chief Customer Officer for the S/4Hana Cloud business unit and Global Head of Financial Services.
Wainwright has been featured in the Globe and Mail, Forbes, BNN Bloomberg and named #21 on the list of ‘Top 50 SaaS CEOs of 2020’ by the Software Report.
Dave Hataj, President, Edgerton Gear
DAVE HATAJ is the second-generation president and owner of Edgerton Gear, Inc., a Wisconsin-based custom gear manufacturer, where has worked for over 30 years. As a journeyman machinist by age twenty-one, he then earned a Bachelor's Degree from the University of California-Irvine. He completed his master’s thesis of Systems Theory and Family Business from Regent College in Vancouver, BC. In 2014 he earned a Doctorate of Transformational Leadership from Bakke Graduate University, developing a curriculum called Craftsman with Character. The course introduces high school students to the trades and manufacturing as an excellent career path, while developing character and soft skills. (https://www.craftsmanwithcharacter.org/)
He is the author of Good Work: How Blue Collar Business Can Change Lives, Communities, and the World. (Moody Publishers April 2020)
Lewis Gelmon, President & CEO, Johnny Rockets Canada
JR Canada Restaurant Group Ltd. (JRC) was founded in 2015 by Canadian business entrepreneur Lewis Gelmon, better known as the original master developer for Domino’s Pizza in Canada. In 2015, JRC purchased the Canadian Master Development rights (“Master License Agreement”) for Johnny Rockets, an iconic world renowned “Americana” restaurant brand. Gelmon raised and contributed to the initial equity seed capital of $8.8 million with plans to expand JRC across Canada via acquisition and franchising. By the end of 2019, JRC had proven out the Johnny Rockets brand having reported consolidated store profitability on its corporate locations, including same store annual sales growth of 12.5%.
JRC entered the COVID-19 pandemic in an enviable position of a strong balance sheet with zero debt, solid management, capital reserves and a robust online delivery component. JRC’s decision in 2018 to decelerate growth and embrace third party delivery, rather than open additional locations, gave JRC a significant advantage from March 2020 and beyond. Unlike many of its competitors who were forced to implement delivery haphazardly, Johnny Rockets Canadian store sales were only marginally impacted (down 20%) and did not suffer the significant fiscal losses and store closures that became common in the industry.
Re-Release: April Foster, Founder & CEO, Inked Brands
April Foster is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Inked Brands, where she's obsessed with starting & scaling microbrands, many of which are founded by influencers or media companies.
Prior to founding Inked, April co-founded Studio Calico, a leader in the direct-to-consumer paper-crafting category, where she pioneered subscription services and organically scaled from a $4k initial investment to multiple 7-figures in a few years.
April has been named an Entrepreneur of the Year in Kentucky as well as been recognized on the Inc5000 list of fastest-growing companies in three consecutive years. She’s obsessed with combining relevant products, paid content, and smart marketing with influencer brands such as Studio DIY, The Bucket List Family, Meghan Rienks, and Ali Edwards. She's most proud of her family, however. April lives on a farm in Bowling Green, Kentucky with her husband, Greg, and their five children: Claire (10), Cal (8), Sam (8), Kit (6), and baby Nell.
Matt Coughlin, Founder & CEO, XSELL Technologies
Matt is a leader with a contagious passion for great customer engagement, and the economic and business impacts created when customers are engaged in exactly the right way.
Prior to founding XSELL, Matt had the opportunity to work with many quintessential brands including Disney, Apple, Carnival, AT&T, GE, Walgreens helping them to bring their customer experience to life.
His experience in these environments led to his observation of a power law in sales, regardless of the brand, wherein top performing agents were not marginally better than their peers - they were multiples better and they delivered disproportionately successful results.
This observation drove Matt’s curiosity around the ability to scale the actions, tactics, and strategies of top performers to an entire enterprise.
Matt founded XSELL Technologies on the premise that this was not only possible but when done exceedingly well it would radically transform the digital customer experience.
Matt has since grown XSELL to deliver on this premise, leading XSELL’s clients to experience transformative business results.
Matt has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Illinois State University. He is married to his college sweetheart Kerri; they have three kids - Emma (21), Charlie (18) and Henry (16), all of whom are top performers.
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Inside the Mind of the CEO
This is a great show for people interested in understanding the backgrounds, journeys, and challenges of CEOs. If you are selling or marketing to the mid-market CEO, this is a must listen.
Listening to each person’s growth and journey adds to my leadership skills. The interviews are easy to listen to and show ceos in a genuine light.
Brandt and his incredible guests dive deeper into the CEO jouney than any other podcast out there! Even if you aren't striving to be a CEO, you’ll get tons of actionable advice and heaps of inspiration from truly engaging individuals that worked hard to get where they are. Thanks so much for putting out such a spectacular show Brandt - keep up the great work!