When it comes excellence in business, it's all in the sauce.
Having that "secret sauce" was the theme carried by the 20 suburban companies and organizations honored Thursday evening at the 22nd Annual Awards for Business Excellence program sponsored by the Daily Herald Business Ledger. Around 165 suburban business leaders attended the recognition event at the Stonegate Conference Center in Hoffman Estates.
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Keynote speaker James A. Sikich, CEO and managing partner of Sikich LLP in Naperville, told the group the key to the success of his company was formed in 1998, when they developed a core business plan. The company stayed focused on that plan and, as a result, achieved 16 percent growth per year since then. His firm, he noted, was one of the 10 fastest growing companies in the nation.
"It is the reason we are still in business today," Sikich said. "That is our secret sauce."
Sikich highlighted six points that every business needs in their plan for success: a firm game plan that you are focused on, the willingness to take risks and make mistakes, finding and keeping good talent, having a solid "backbone" infrastructure, maintaining a good culture, and solid leadership.
For leadership, Sikich stressed that good leaders need to grow with their companies.
"I've seen a lot of organizations that have outgrown their leadership, and when that happens, they start to sputter," he said. "Leaders need to grow and learn with the organization, or they should get out of its way."
Many of the honorees echoed Sikich's remarks, many noting their success would not have happened without the backbone of their workforce.
"If you have the right people on the bus, you're going to survive," said Craig Zoberis, president of Fusion OEM Systems Inc. of Burr Ridge, who was honored in the small business category.
Kathy Rezny of York Furriers, honored in the retail category, stressed that value by inviting a dozen of her employees onto the stage and individually recognizing them, one of whom she said was marking 35 years with the 80-year-old company.
"They are our backbone," she said. "These people are why we are a success and have been in business for 80 years."
The AABE awards are given for business achievement, growth and community involvement, to suburban companies, business organizations and nonprofits. Nominees come from the Daily Herald Business Ledger's circulation area of Cook, DuPage, Kane and Lake counties, as well as portions of Will and McHenry counties, or are Chicago-based firms with a significant presence in the suburbs.
Sherry Manschut, marketing director of Western DuPage Special Recreation Association in Carol Stream, noted the qualifications are not that difficult to achieve.
"Everything that is required to be considered for this award, we do on an everyday basis," Manschut said when accepting the award in the not-for-profit category.
The 2012 honorees are:
Small companies: Bath Planet, Palatine; Crimson Design & Construction, Naperville; Fusion Systems, Burr Ridge; Lavelle Law, Palatine; Motiv8n U Personal Training & Wellness Coaching, Naperville; Patrick A. Finn, Palatine; Sherman Oaks Dental, Naperville; The Music Connection, Orland Park.
Mid-sized companies: Aria Group Architects, Oak Park; Lifecare Innovations, Burr Ridge; Priority Services, Villa Park.
Large companies: Classic Cinemas, Downers Grove.
Educational: College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn
Innovation: Davisware, West Dundee; Impact Networking, Waukegan; Jacksoneye, Lake Villa
Not for Profit: DuPage Homeownership Center, Wheaton; Western DuPage Special Recreation Association; Carol Stream; WINGS, Palatine.
Retail: York Furriers, Elmhurst.
Presenting sponsors for the 22nd Annual Awards for Business Excellence are Associated Bank and B Gunther & Co. Marketing partner is Leaderboard Tournament Systems, and corporate sponsor is The Stonegate Conference & Banquet Centre.
Detailed information on all the AABE honorees will be featured in a special section of the April 16 Daily Herald Business Ledger.