The Frederick County Office of Economic Development (OED) received 146 nominations for lead executives, founders, entrepreneurs and company owners of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations for Frederick’s Top 50 CEOs. The final list included criteria based on the CEO’s individual responses on the following: Strategic leadership concepts; significant growth under his or her leadership; number of employees; tenure; company’s turnover rate; company’s median salary; number of times CEO was nominated; and the CEO’s involvement in the community.
Get to know four of the top 50 this month:
Pete & Jim Plamondon are committed to their company mission, and to giving back to the community. As the leaders of Plamondon Hospitality Partners, their 1,200 employees are empowered by their expert and caring leadership.
Through his love for the community, Michael Planz leads Community Living, Inc. with heart and passion. He has worked tirelessly to increase the salaries of his staff, increase access to healthcare, and close the transit gap for those he serves.
Jim Racheff’s “open door” policy has led his company, DMS, Inc., to success. He believes his job is to support and organize his staff, and under his leadership the company has experienced steady growth and doubled the number of employees. He encourages his staff to follow his example and become volunteers and leaders in the community.
Bill Richman & Kevin Klink, co-CEOs of Microbiology International, have inspired their staff and led their company to success through their hard work and innovative business strategies.
What brought you to Frederick County?
Pete: After graduating from Cornell University and working for 5 years at Marriott and 8 years in WDC in commercial real estate, I joined my father's company in Frederick in 1992.
Jim P: I joined the family business in 1995 and moved here to be part of the community. I got a BA from University of Notre Dame (1985), JD from George Washington University Law School (1988), I worked at a private practice at Fulbright & Jaworski for 2 years, and I was an Assistant United States Attorney in Washington DC for 5 years.
Michael: I was born in Pittsburgh and went to the University of Pittsburgh. My wife was looking for a teaching position and was offered a job in Frederick. I decided to go along and check it out and have been here ever since.
Jim R: After 22 years in the military, my father retired and we settled here where he made the I-270 commute each day. I graduated from New Market Elementary, New Market Middle, and Linganore High School. After attending University of MD I took a position supporting cancer and HIV/aids researchers with a small, local company. After working my way up from a starting position, I purchased the company from the founder and have worked with our employees to grow capabilities and revenues to where we are today.
Bill & Kevin: My partner and I felt that Frederick had the right economic setting for what we were going to try to accomplish. We got a great deal on our initial real estate and we knew the market would continue to favor us in that regard as we grew, especially in comparison to other jurisdictions. We really had no competition in the area, Frederick is convenient to both BWI and Dulles which was important to us as we knew our sales plan would require extensive air travel. Also our long range plan included growth of the company in terms of staff and we knew Frederick to be a great place to live with an extensive, well-educated labor pool.
Please describe your personal values or your strategic leadership ideas for your company.
Pete: To lead from our mission statement, "the values you respect." Lead by example and allow the leaders to bring forward their ideas for growth and development.
Jim P: My father, brother and I developed mission statement when Pete and I bought the business from our dad--"The Values You Respect."Core declarations focus on family, education, community involvement, safety, and "our attention to you is relentless, gracious and urgent." Strategic ideas include hiring associates who share these values, provide excellent training, allow them the freedom to execute on our business strategy, and continue to grow the organization to provide for personal and professional growth.
Michael: I believe in creating a vision for the future, communicating that to the leadership of the organization and giving them the tools to carry it out. Our organization is working toward a goal of inclusion for all people with disabilities in all aspects of community life.
Jim R: The core strength of any enterprise is its people, and for me that includes our employees first and foremost but also our collaborators and colleagues, our customers, and our community. Business and economics are, at their foundation, about providing goods and services to people in a mutually beneficial exchange. I see my job as bringing highly qualified, diverse people together, challenging them with difficult problems, supporting them, and then getting "out of their way.”
Bill & Kevin: I believe that my life and my company is built on the premise that I don't deal in transactions, but rather relationships. In terms of leadership, our success has hinged upon working with suppliers that are the best in the industry, and we feel it's critical that we hire people that are not only qualified for the job for which they are hired, but we hire folks that we feel will go the extra mile to help our company deliver exceptional service across all of our product lines.
Since you founded or started with your company, what innovative new ideas or concepts did you implement? What has your sales growth been like and is there a turnaround story?
Pete: The biggest idea was to enter the hotel business from a company that was in the restaurant business. It is ALL hospitality and the skill set is similar. It compounded the growth of our company and has allowed us to be a stronger player working with top brands such as Marriott and Hilton and apply those "best in class" traits to our being the franchisor of our own brand, Roy Rogers restaurants.
Jim P: In 2002, we made the strategic decision to buy the Roy Rogers trademark and franchise system. We had been a Roy Rogers franchisee since 1980 (when our father left Marriott to start his own business), and this was a bold move that showed our commitment to the brand and belief that it could grow again in numbers. We now have 53 restaurants (blend of corporate and franchised) in 6 states and are growing in unit numbers. As Pete indicated in his remarks, the other big decision was to expand into hotels in 1996.
Michael: Being a state-funded organization, our growth is not measured by sales. However, since I started in 2010, our budget has gone from approximately $5 million per year to $10 million per year. The biggest in change in what we do is an emphasis on employment for people with disabilities. We have traditionally been known as a housing provider but have been focusing more on getting people into jobs.
Jim R: Our environment is one of on-going research, discovery and innovation, so our culture is one that supports the introduction of new ideas from across the workforce as well as a willingness to try, fail, learn and improve. We embraced employee autonomy via self-directed work teams and established a "bossless" organization. At times, these approaches have left external stakeholders scratching their heads: our organizational chart isn't a pyramid, it's a circle. Our business cards don't have titles, but every member of the organization has a valuable contribution to make. As the CEO, it is my job every day to facilitate my employees’ success, so they can help others achieve their goals.
Bill & Kevin: We started the company basically with a few pieces of lab equipment that we got on a consignment basis. We still work with that supplier today. As we grew we started to realize that we could do a better job producing the test kits for the lab equipment we were selling than any of our competitors, because we were in all of the labs that bought from us. Additionally, a few years back we realized that we could service the equipment better than everyone and began offering service contracts to all of our customers. Since our inception, we've never seen a flat year; however, 2017 was our best year ever as we eclipsed $10M in sales.
Who is the leader you most admire and why?
Pete: My father who continues to be my role model. He rose to a very senior executive position at Marriott and was highly respected. He is firm but fair and always showing compassion for those who worked for him.
Jim P: Our dad has been my most admired leader. He launched this company in 1980 from the basement of our house; he focused on the highest standards, communication, and growth. The mission statement, the values you respect, was a direct result of his thought process and the way he operated the business.Pete and I try to emulate this and further the strategy as we grow and expand our footprint.
Michael: Franklin D. Roosevelt - despite some significant challenges, he led the country through a very difficult period and had a vision to meet the needs of an ailing country.
Jim R: The person that best exemplifies the values I strive to follow is my grandfather. Graduating college before he was 18 (college was different in the 1900's!) he was a small business owner in a community in Wisconsin (grocery and 5 and dime store). When he passed away and we had to close out the accounts at the grocery store, we learned that for years he had quietly carried neighbors who were "down on their luck" in making sure that they had food for their families. Everyone came into the store and got their groceries, some could pay and some couldn't - and my Grandfather didn't treat any of them differently. Today, we might call that "servant leadership" or social entrepreneurship: he just did it because it was the right thing to do.
Bill: I really admire Elon Musk. He taught himself how to program computers at an early age. He's founded multiple companies including computer software, solar power and space travel, yet remains true to his vision to make a completely sustainable society
What do you love to do for fun in Frederick County? On any given weekend, where could you be found?
Pete: I enjoy being in the downtown and patronizing the local restaurant scene.
Jim: I love to run and bike all around Frederick County, hike to Sugarloaf, and play golf.And we love to shop and eat at the restaurants downtown.
Michael: Hanging out with my family, hiking on one of the many trails, spending time downtown (doing whatever), or driving my kids around to one of the many recreational/sports activities available to them in the county.
Jim R: I have two kids, ages 12 and 11, that still like their father enough to spend time with him. My daughter shares my love of reading, so you could find us at Curious Iguana or Brainstorm Comics (she's going through a superhero phase). My son has taken to camping and fishing, so overnights to Cunningham Falls (followed by a big breakfast the next day at Mountain View or Denny's). My wife Tracy and I are also lucky that we live and work in Frederick, so it gives us some extra time to volunteer with groups like the United Way, Blessings in a Backpack or with Hood, Mount St. Mary's and the FCC Foundation.
Bill: I love to Mountain Bike. Frederick County has phenomenal trails and is amazingly close to other jurisdictions with great trails as well.