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Indiana's entrepreneurs of the year.


The setting is the sixth annual Entrepreneurs Of The Year awards ceremony, sponsored by Ernst & Young, Inc. magazine, Merrill Lynch and PSI Energy. Delivering his acceptance speech to the well-dressed crowd seated comfortably in The Indiana Roof Ballroom, Barry LaBov captures the excitement of the evening in words: "I'm not new to functions like this; I used to be one of the guys playing in the band afterwards."

Humor's not the only asset of this entrepreneur. LaBov, president of LaBov & Beyond Productions Inc., has watched his Fort Wayne company quickly become a national leader in the audio production industry since its beginning in 1987.

Operating at first out of a basement studio in his home, LaBov initially took no salary but used all profits for the firm's expansion. His company, now located in an old three-story mansion downtown, is still debt-free and handles national accounts for such clients as ABC-TV, northAmerican Van Lines, Wendy's restaurants and Walt Disney Studios.

In addition to advertising music, LaBov & Beyond also specializes in custom telephone on-hold recordings, audio employee newsletters, training programs and sales manuals. Another recent growth area for the company has been "post-scoring" television commercials and feature films--adding music and sound effects to visuals in order to enhance the finished product.

At LaBov & Beyond, employee training is ongoing. Courses offered on company time help employees improve their skills in negotiating, time management, music production and use of computers. Employees may get raises when they complete the courses successfully. Weekly staff meetings and employee stock-option plans also contribute to LaBov & Beyond's continued growth and success.

After starting with virtually nothing only a few years ago, it's hard to believe that a Fort Wayne company could come so far in a business that's often transacted on the coasts or at least in Chicago. But according to LaBov, "success and creativity have nothing to do with your ZIP code."


In January 1989, Dan Ledwinka, a frustrated union pipefitter, decided to quit his high-paying job and start his own business. Opposed to the union's operations, he became self-employed and headed in a new direction. With his tools, his truck and a small loan from his father, Ledwinka created LED Mechanical Inc., a mechanical/HVAC contractor in Columbus. Having a wife and two young children, striking out on his own wasn't easy, but "when everything's against you, you've got to learn to walk upstream," he says.

Ledwinka's outstanding work quickly earned him a reputation. His company grew rapidly and additional capital was soon needed to keep the business going. It was obtained primarily through great sacrifices made by Ledwinka and his family.

In just three years, LED's growth has been phenomenal. Company profits have increased tenfold, while operating facilities have physically expanded three times. Ledwinka attributes this growth to several things: surrounding himself with good people, working extremely hard and practicing absolute honesty. However, he also admits, "there's no secret to success, it's an abstract form of religion."

Ledwinka's known to be demanding but fair: "I expect my employees to do the job I pay them to do." LED Mechanical provides good-paying jobs for skilled workers, and encourages employees to be involved in the decision-making process. As the company's president, Ledwinka is only the fourth-highest-paid employee ... "money's not everything."


For John Gaylor, it all began in 1984 with an initial investment of $1,000. Gaylor founded an electrical construction corporation called V.J.G. (Valerie and John Gaylor). In 1985, he went on to create the first division of V.J.G., which is now known as Gaylor Electric.

Carmel's Gaylor Electric is the largest "merit-shop" (non-union) electrical contractor in Indiana. In addition to new construction, remodeling, repair and maintenance, the company focuses on negotiated "design and build" electrical construction in both the private and public sectors. Gaylor also has expanded into several other industries, including pulp and paper, air transportation and steel.

As the company's president, Gaylor believes that "training has put us on the leading edge." Gaylor Electric University's four-year apprenticeship program offers a variety of courses, including data communications, fiber optics and high voltage. In addition to technical training, Gaylor Electric University also offers courses in management, safety, customer relations and foreign languages. These classes keep employees on top of a competitive industry that becomes more global everyday.

As a full-service, bonded and licensed shop, Gaylor serves both American and overseas clients. Between February 1986 and February 1992 revenues earned multiplied 37.3 times. In addition, Gaylor's sales nearly doubled this past year, while a lot of other companies suffered through times of recession.


"When we started our company, the Midwest was known as the 'rust belt' and many wondered if it would ever emerge again." Donald Ehrlich, president and CEO of Lafayette's Wabash National Corp., never wondered. Now his company's at the top.

Founded in 1985, Wabash National is now the third-largest commercial trailer manufacturer in the country. Producing both standard and customized truck trailers, the company also was the first to introduce the "RoadRailer," which consists of trailers and detachable rail bogies that allow vehicles to run both on highways and railroad lines. With its state-of-the-art, 740,000-square-foot facility, the company's main strategies center on the assessment of customer needs, engineering and manufacturing, product differentiation and corporate culture. Widely known for its computer-aided design and production, Wabash National is the nation's top manufacturer of both aluminum-plate trailers and fiberglass reinforced plastic trailers.

"Somebody once said to us that successful companies are made of the three Ps: people, profit and product. But at Wabash National we believe that the three Ps are people, people and people."

Training programs emphasize quality, service and product innovation. In addition, many employees also take advantage of educational courses that focus on manufacturing, leadership skills and basic finance. Courses are offered both on and off the job site, and are often taught by Purdue University faculty members. Between 1986 and 1990, Wabash National's sales more than doubled. Currently, with increasing U.S. and foreign demand, sales and market share continue to rise. "The rust belt is no longer the rust belt, and we're proud to be back."


James Risk was born into a family where the word "can't" didn't exist.

Kirby Risk Supply Co. of Lafayette is a full-service electrical equipment and supply distribution wholesaler. It services the industrial, construction and commercial markets with a complete inventory of electrical products including Allen-Bradley, General Electric and many others. Founded in 1926, the family business has become the largest Indiana-based electrical supplier.

As the company's president and CEO since 1972, James Risk has led Risk Supply to the top by developing a strong management team, focusing on customer service and emphasizing internal growth. The company has expanded into 20 communities, including locations in Ohio and Illinois. This expansion resulted in a compounded growth from 1984 to 1991 of 28 percent per year.

"Sacrificial customer service" is the motto by which all Risk Supply employees live. "People here are willing to get up from the dinner table or take a call at two in the morning if it's for our customers." The company provides several additional customer services, which include a customer inventory improvement program, design and technical services and commercial and industrial lighting. In addition, Risk Supply prides itself on the fact that 95 percent of all customer orders are filled from stock.

Risk believes that the company's success is a direct result of concern for others. "We care about our employees, their families, our vendors, our customers and the communities in which we serve."


When Don Taylor founded Personnel Management Inc. in 1986, he had no idea how quickly it would dominate the service industry. "You never know how well you're doing. You just have to work hard and see how it turns out."

The company, based in Shelbyville, provides both temporary and long-term staffing services for Central Indiana businesses. Personnel Management Inc. focuses on staffing assistance for all levels, including plant, clerical, technical and professional employees. Employee selections for clients include in-depth interviews, background investigations and a wide variety of tests, ranging from basic math to involved psychological profiles. Personnel Management continually recruits potential employees, conducts interviews, then presents its most qualified employees to clients. The company works closely with each client, determining needs and preferences. Because of this commitment to service, client turnover is kept at a minimum.

Personnel Management is owned solely by staff members. Because of this, employees take pride in the company and its progress. Their goal is to provide "superior staffing at very competitive pricing." As a result, in 1991 Inc. magazine named Personnel Management the 35th-fastest-growing privately held company.

As the company's president, Taylor believes that "success is a true balance. Our clients are everything to us--what's in their best interest is always in our best interest."


According to Bill Bindley, "an entrepreneur is one that recognizes ability in others and builds a team that can assess risk, make decisions that create businesses and hopefully generate a profit."

In 1968, Bindley left his family's small pharmaceutical business and pursued his dream of establishing a nationwide pharmaceutical distribution network. From Bud Hook, he learned how the drug chains operated, and concluded that by purchasing pharmaceuticals directly from the manufacturer, he could offer the industry a better deal. Hook Drugs accepted the offer, others soon followed and Bindley was on his way.

Starting out in his father's basement, Bindley has finally reached the executive suite. With sales exceeding $2.5 billion, Bindley Western Industries Inc. of Indianapolis has become one of the five largest pharmaceutical wholesalers in the United States.

Today, Bindley Western services nearly every nationally known drugstore chain. Customers can be found in 36 states and are supplied from 13 distribution centers across the country. Marketing efforts once focused on chain drug customers, but have recently expanded to include independent drugstores, hospitals, state institutions and other health-care facilities.

Serving as the company's chairman, CEO and president, Bindley believes that building and maintaining credibility leads to financial rewards. "Individuals and companies are intertwined. People don't like to be misled; they have to believe what you say."


Michael "Mickey" Maurer supports people in their endeavors because "that's just the way human beings should treat one another."

As president and CEO of both MyStar Communications and IBJ Corp., Maurer joins his wife, Janie, in a commitment to instilling pride in others.

In addition to MyStar, which operates WTPI-FM in Indianapolis, and IBJ, which publishes the Indianapolis Business Journal, Maurer is also the president and CEO of Maurer/Shaw Productions, a movie production company that produced the feature film "Diving In" and the TV movie "Freeze Frame." He believes "success is a whole life philosophy; however it revolves around education, experience and being results-oriented."

One of Maurer's many entrepreneurial incentives is the "Maurer Challenge Grant." Through this grant, a self-directed business leader whose company has had favorable results is granted up to $100,000 to create a two-year approach dealing with a community concern.

The Maurers also have contributed to form the largest scholarship fund at the Indiana University School of Law. A full scholarship is granted to qualified students who, in return, agree to perform community service during their year of funding, and to repay the grant to the law school if or when they are able to do so.

Furthermore, Maurer's work with the Jewish Community Relations Council has helped foster relationships among African-American and Jewish children. From the boardroom to the school playground, Maurer is dedicated to providing people with opportunities that promote personal growth and creativity.

Although Maurer encourages others to achieve their maximum potential, he stresses taking it slow and easy: "Don't be in a hurry. Don't sacrifice the quality of your life to get ahead in the business world."


Ronald Pearson is thankful that his children are active and healthy. "They constantly remind me of what it means to be blessed, and that it's time to help those who are less fortunate."

As president of Pearson, Crahan & Fletcher Group Inc., Pearson has used his advertising experience to implement some of the state's most successful fund raising and recruiting campaigns. Founded in 1977, his Indianapolis company is based on the idea that creativity and marketing work well together to create exceptional advertising. As a result, Pearson, Crahan & Fletcher is one of the more successful advertising agencies in Indiana.

Pearson's achievements speak for themselves. His public service announcements for the 1982 National Sports Festival in Indianapolis were eventually chosen by the U.S. Olympic Committee and ABC Sports to promote the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Likewise, his local multimedia recruiting campaign for Big Brothers was used nationwide, and ultimately yielded a twofold increase in Big Brothers' volunteers.

Pearson's long list of personal involvement includes organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs, the United Way and the Campaign for Healthy Babies. He believes that community service must be the result of an inner desire to help others. "If it's not from the heart, then it's not the right motivation." Company employees agree with this philosophy. Their participation is particularly evident during the holidays when they "adopt" needy families through the United Christmas Service.

A devoted volunteer and civic leader, Pearson doesn't find his efforts to be anything extraordinary. "If you're part of a community, it only seems natural that you should give something back. Our company has demonstrated the ability to help those in need; the key is commitment."


"If one lives a long time and stays out of jail, then one tends to receive many awards." Born in 1902, Dr. Herman B Wells is a legend in his own time.

Wells received both his B.S. in business and his M.A. in economics from Indiana University in Bloomington. A young go-getter, Wells was awarded an instructorship in economics at his alma mater in 1930. In 1935 he was chosen dean of the IU School of Business, and in 1938 he was inaugurated as Indiana University's 12th president. At age 35, Wells was the youngest state university president in the country at that time.

Wells always has had a vision of what Indiana University should be. Serving as IU's president for 25 years and then as chancellor for the past 30 years, his wisdom and knowledge often are called upon by others. Said to have a "ready, fire, aim" approach to solving problems, Wells never dwells on the past or looks back; he forges ahead toward academic excellence.

Wells' leadership and ingenuity have been recognized around the world. In 1957 he was appointed U.S. delegate to the 12th General Assembly of the United Nations. His talents also have been sought out by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and The American Council On Education. Wells has served on various White House commissions and U.S. State Department missions. He's also been an adviser for National Educational Television and the National Commission on Humanities.

Known for his ability to inspire others, Wells' optimism and enthusiasm are unmatched. A progressive leader, Wells supports academic freedom, civil rights and campus diversity. "I've lived a long time and I know that change is inevitable and necessary."

Wells truly has had a lifetime full of outstanding achievements. Helping others for nearly 60 years, he's living proof that "the individual can make a difference."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Curtis Magazine Group, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Domingue, Deborah
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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