Best Businessmen of 2017

Who is the best businessman of 2017? Here’s a round-up of well known business leaders, as well as some you’ve never heard of, to mark 2017 as a year to remember among an elite circle of entrepreneurs and visionaries who are out there doing things right (and different)!

Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

Jeff Bezos

The 53-year-old founder and CEO of Amazon became the world’s richest man this year. His fortune increased by about $34 Billion in 2017 to take his net worth close to $100 Billion; which can be largely attributed to wise investment choices he’s made over the years: getting into ecommerce when an average retailer made $3000 in sales each year, AWS which now runs the likes of Netflix and Airbnb, his real estate insvestments in Washington and Texas which make him the 25th largest land owner in the US according to Land Report, his investments in Uber and Google, products like Kindle and Echo … the list is long.

His recent acquisition of whole Foods sent ripples across the retail sector and the company announced a $4.5 Billion content budget for Amazon prime video- the only company that spends more is Netflix. Apart from Amazon, of which he owns 16%; he also owns Blue Origins, a space exploration company and The Washington Post. Bezos is a visionary not only because he launched one of the most successful companies of this century but also because even after more than 20 years in business Amazon still functions like a startup- almost every month it gets into a new category in which it has no expertise.

The willingness to try triumphs over the fear of failure. In an age when authenticity is in short supply, Bezos has stuck to his vision of putting the customer first. The journey from a garage operation in 1994 to a wall street darling has been a spectacle to watch. According to professor Scott Galloway of NYU Stern, Amazon Echo will revolutionalize branding. With voice search technology present in millions of homes, Amazon aims to be your only retailer; and with billions of dollars in cash, it seems inevitable.

Submitted by — Abhishek Kumar

Danni Lin (B.S., M..S.)

Lin is the CEO of GREAT WINE Inc.. GREAT WINE, Inc., is a company which produces wine to start a new conversation about wine — what is your wine character or “vinotype?” Dani was a former Data Scientist at Microsoft.

Under Lin’s leadership, GREAT WINE now collaborates with Tim Hanni, MW (the first American who became Master of Wine), and myVinotype — a smart wine recommendation platform for wine-related businesses and connoisseurs to learn more about clients’ wine personalities. Launched in 2011, myVinotype first started as a website widget and a consumer survey. By 2016, the platform has launched an iOS app, and has become available in eight languages worldwide. All these features are supported by data analytics in order to be more client-oriented.

Like many, Danni Lin (B.S., M.S.) had experiences of going into a supermarket, and got lost in massive product lists and ads. She thought how knowledgeable she was in wine affected her likes and dislikes — until she had a conversation with Tim Hanni, MW. Hanni is one of the first Americans to become Master of Wine, and introduced Lin to the scientific concept of “vinotype,” i.e. wine preferences and sensory abilities of people.

Lin then transformed from a wine novice to a wine educator who encouraged consumers to speak their mind — what they really enjoy drinking and experiencing. Lin quitted her stable job at Microsoft. But with a strong financial background, analytical expertise, knowledge of advanced technology, and professional knowledge of wine, Lin is taking her business to the next level of growth and expansion worldwide through her extensive international experiences and connections.

It is Lin’s hope to introduce the traditions and innovations of Californian winemaking to more clients around the world. Here is a piece of advice from Danni: “Be ready to change for the market.” She said, “I think success lies in the willingness to change, both as a person or as a business. The market will tell you what it needs, and the key to success is to be ready to change — after all, taste does change over time! For example, when GREAT WINE is founded in 2015 in both the USA and China, it was one of the few companies in the industry that successfully caught the changing tides of the Chinese market. Chinese young professionals now prefer affordable wines with traceable origins, and stop chasing after high price tags. By introducing the possibility of comparing tea flavors of pu-erh and jasmine to wines, GREAT WINE carries the mission of introducing the traditions and innovations behind Californian labels to the global market.” GREAT WINE, Inc. is recognized as Best Wine Tasting Experience by Qminder. The company’s CEO, Danni Lin, is honored in 425 Business Magazine 30 under 30.

— submitted by Michella Chiu

Steve Casto

Casto is the founder of Omaha Financial Planners: In 2017, Steve Casto of Omaha Financial Planners created theSMART retirement system. SMART stands for the Strategic Machine Allowing Retirement Tranquility.Why is SMART so important today? It helps retirees maximize the value of their retirement income they receive from the money they’ve saved.Think of saving money for the future like climbing a mountain. Imagine being that poor misguided mountain climber who doesn’t pack the right stuff and doesn’t possess the skills to both climb to the top of the mountain and more importantly get back down safely.

Planning for retirement is a lot like that mountain climb. Before you retire you saved your money and that is called the accumulation phase. During retirement you climb down the mountain by taking money out of your retirement account and that’s called the distribution phase. It sounds simple enough but it’s not and that’s because the math changes dramatically at the top of the mountain.When it comes to managing your money during retirement, SmartMoney Magazine said the following: “The distribution phase of retirement, the time when you withdraw funds from savings, makesthe accumulation part look like child’s play.”

— Submitted by Bob Smith

Craig Wolfe

Wolfe is president of CelebriDucks. “I decided to start a whole new division of my company to make rubber ducks in America again. It was one of the most difficult things I ever attempted….like a brand new company. The rubber duck was invented in America and then the whole industry went overseas. I tried to get factories to do it right here and it was a disaster….but I persisted…..I even had to send the whole operation from Ohio to New York to try and make it work….Bottom line…finally, and it’s quite a story,…made it work! You can even watch them making rubber ducks at our factory in the Bronx that HGTV’s Home Factory shot there in the Made in America section on our website. How I survived all this is a miracle…But I did not stop there….I had the crazy idea to make rubber ducks that were also PVC free that would be the safest rubber ducks in the world for babies to teethe on…..oh wow….was that an ordeal….it had never been done with food and medical grade materials…..end result….it worked and not even China can do what we are doing in the USA! In the Made in America section on our website, you can see all the babies loving them!”

Phillip Cohen

Phil is the CEO and Founder of Cohen Architectural Woodworking in St. James, MO (not far from St. Louis). Phil is an amazing individual and worthy of a best businessmen of 2017 recognition.

What makes Phil special? Phil comes from hard beginnings. He was a drug addict and suffered from depression. His father committed suicide. Failing at many things Phil found himself on a small farm. He began making birdhouses and toy trucks out of wood as a means of rehabilitation. People liked them and started buying them. He got a business license and eventually started his own firm.

He transferred his skills into commercial work. Cohen Architectural Woodworking was born. Phil then started supplying many national companies such as Walmart with millwork and custom wood cabinetry. Today the company has a newly expanded facility that includes 54,000 square feet and some 80 employees. Cohen has clients in all 50 states.

Phil is also special with the hiring practices of the company. He believes in giving people a second chance, no matter their background, if they are willing to do the work. Cohen hires a lot of ex-felons and others who would not receive job offers from most corporations. Many of these ex-felons have turned into excellent employees. Some are now in management and executives with the firm.

Phil believes he got a second chance at life and is willing to help others turn their lives around. He maintains an open door policy and is always accessible to help any team member.

In addition to hiring practices, Cohen is involved in many charitable and social causes. From working with local schools, to establishing optional classes at no charge for employees and their spouses on a variety of topics, to offering an employee a $1,000 bonus when they buy their first home, Phil goes above and beyond to help the communities he serves.

For his contributions Phil was recently named the 2017 Business Person of the Year for the State of Missouri by the Small Business Administration. He also works hard to provide a safe workplace and recently won two safety awards for 100,000 work hours without an accident from a national trade association. In addition the company has won multiple awards for woodworking design.

— Submitted by Steve Turner

Skyler Ditchfield

Ditchfield isco-founder and CEO of Geolinks.com. Skyler Ditchfield currently serves as the CEO of GeoLinks,the fastest growing fixed wireless ISP in the country, and Inc. Magazine’s 2017 Inc. 5000 NO. 5 Fastest Growing Telecommunications Company in America. Under his leadership, Ditchfield has led the company to record more than 100% growth for six years straight, and is on track for a seventh. In 2017, Ditchfield spearheaded GeoLinks’ efforts in obtaining its status as a California Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) public utility, allowing the company to expand into the national marketplace. Furthermore, Ditchfield successfully completed the company’s first ever acquisition allowing GeoLinks to expand its service offerings. While not yet publicly announced, Ditchfield will close out 2017 with another massive acquisition under his belt, officially making GeoLinks the market leader in its’ space.

Aside from making what began as a two-person operation in 2011, into what is now a 65 employee (and growing) 8-figure company, Ditchfield is passionate about cultivating the best company culture around — one that combines respect, collaboration and a “best idea wins mantra.”

— Submitted by Lexie Olson

Sheldon Smith

Smith is the Founder and Executive Director of the Dovetail Project. He has developed an organization that works to give young African-American fathers — ages 17 to 24 — the skills and support they need to be better fathers for their children and better men in the Chicago community.

Smith designed the program based on his own experiences, which included being incarcerated as a teenager, furthering his education, finding employment, and becoming a father at age 20. Now at the age of 28, Smith has been named 2016 Top 10 CNN Hero and most recently a Steve Harvey Hero, Civic Leader for The Obama Foundation and named 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30.

The Dovetail Project’s 12-week curriculum includes workshops focused on teaching vital parenting skills and life skills. Over the course of the program, students receive training to finish their education and seek employment. Workshop facilitators also educate students on felony street laws — introducing life-saving methods to help them avoid conflict and incarceration.

To date, 337 young men in Chicago have graduated from the program since its founding in 2009.

— Submitted by LaQuita Washington

Rob Kosberg

Rob is the founder of Best Seller Publishing, the definitive leader in authority marketing and business growth strategies using a best selling book. Rob is recognized for his expertise in helping coaches, consultants, and entrepreneurs to Publish. Promote. Profit. (TM) with their own Best Selling books.

His Company has consistently yielded tremendous results for our clients, usually with immediate new opportunities for speaking engagements, free publicity and leads and sales.

Best Seller Publishing works with clients to:

• Write and Publish the ideal book that positions them as a thought leader in their field. We help to dial in the right audience, create the hook, title and table of contents before working with our award winning ghostwriting team.
• Then we create the cover, design the interior and exterior, format for digital and soft cover version and get ready for the promotion phase.
• Our next step is to promote our authors new book via press releases, paid advertising and massive social media exposure to create our next best selling author — GUARANTEED.
• We don’t stop there though. We now begin to book our new best selling author on TV, radio, blogs, podcasts and speaking engagements. All this is DONE FOR YOU service and it is all guaranteed.

BSP has published best selling books for former U.S. Ambassadors, Fortune 500 C — Suite executives, financial advisors, attorneys, dentists, doctors, chiropractors, hollywood stuntmen, environmental scientists, coaches, consultants, professional speakers and a dozen other industries.

— Submitted by Bianca Ramirez

Alex Doubet

Doubet (pronounced Doo-Bay), founder of Door, a tech-enabled flat fee brokerage that is disrupting the real estate industry.

Door charges homeowners a flat rate of $5,000, compared to the traditional 6 percent commission fee, for its brokerage services. Last year, home sellers saved an average of $15,000 under Door’s model.

Alex explained to The Dallas Morning News that the “idea came to him after his mother sold her two-story converted duplex… for $857,000 in the conventional commission way. She didn’t get so much as a thank-you note, much less a bottle of wine, from the two Realtors who pocketed a combined $51,400. “It was a bigger commission than the average household income in Dallas. It was nuts,” says Doubet, who has already been involved in several successful early ventures and a couple of real estate flips. “It was a presumptuous transaction. And that ticked me off.

Door’s commission on a $400,000 house would be $10,000 if it represents both the seller and buyer vs. $24,000 in traditional Realtor commissions. The more expensive the home, the greater the savings. The tipping point is a $168,000 sales price.”

Alex would be happy to discuss the flat fee brokerage model — and how Door is expanding into new markets, including Austin and Houston.

We have enjoyed amazing growth. We sold more homes last quarter than we did in the entirety of 2016. Our customer satisfaction is industry-leading with an NPS near 80. These are proof points that the market is beyond ready for a better way in real estate. The recognition that the rules are now different for sellers, and that buyers expect an altogether different experience really play in Door’s favor.

This was never about being a discount brokerage. This is about aligning the customer experience with the value delivered. Our innovation is in both process and technology. There just is not a way to improve customer experience with flat fees unless you look at it differently. We look at the world through the Seller’s and Buyer’s eyes, not as a traditional Realtor.

As a result, many of the industry’s leaders hate Alex for preaching the advantages of flat fee brokerage. Here’s the account from the San Francisco Business Times on his recent appearance at The Inman Connect real estate technology conference:

“Doubet’s comments drew harsh words from an audience member who questioned the legality of publicly discussing commissions.”

Alex began his career at US Road Sports (USRS), an endurance event company that owned over two dozen events with over 120,000 participants across the country. USRS was sold to Life Time Fitness in the beginning of 2014. At USRS, Alex was the Director of Finance.

Subsequent to USRS, he was the Chief Operating Officer and Junior Partner of Advantix Marketing, a search engine marketing and optimization agency and a member of the 2015 Inc. 5000 list.

— Submitted by Tim Livingston

Summary

This is by not means an exhaustive list, so if you would like to add to it, get in touch and submit your choice for the best businessman of 2017!

This article is scheduled to publish on the new blog businessmen.biz .

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