Honouring the leading lights – CEO Connection

27 May 2014

Every year at its Mid-Market Convention, CEO Connection honours the companies and leaders of the middle market. For its 2013 conference, it teamed up with the prestigious Wharton School; brought together government officials and subject-matter experts with some of the best thinkers of academia and business to share ideas and explore issues; and helped to a give voice to the silent majority.

The mid-market - defined as companies with revenues between $100 million and $3 billion - continues to be commonly under-appreciated in the US, even though it accounts for more than $5 trillion of the US GDP and represents upwards of 40 million employees.

At CEO Connection's Mid-Market Convention, politicians were represented by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who opened the proceedings by comparing his city to a $6-billion company, followed by a keynote address from former Pennsylvania Govenor Ed Rendell, who touched upon topics ranging from the long-term benefits and ROI from public/private partnerships, what great government leadership means, and Washington, DC's dysfunction and bold steps to put the US back on track.

Business luminaries such as Ben & Jerry's CEO Jostein Solheim, who gave the second day's keynote speech, were also in attendance. With a programme that included breakout sessions on such issues as how mid-market companies can reach emerging markets; how the education system needs to evolve to meet staffing needs of the future; and how new healthcare regulations affect the mid-market, the convention covered important and provocative topics over its two-day agenda.

Punctuating the summit was a dinner, held on the event's first night, at which the 2013 CEO Connection Mid-Market Awards were presented. Four awards are given each year from CEO Connection - Mid-Market Company of the Year, Mid-Market CEO of the Year, Mid-Market Rising Star and Social Impact Award.

"As exciting and engaging as the Mid-Market Convention is, the awards dinner is always a real highlight for me," says Ken Beck, chief executive officer, CEO Connection. "It is gratifying to honour the stars of the middle market every year, because they are so often overlooked in our business environment. Our mission at the CEO Connection is to galvanise the middle market into a unified voice - and the Mid-Market Awards are one of the best ways we do that."

Seeing stars

Mid-Market Company of the Year honours the mid-market company that embodies the highest standards of leadership in business and society. The 2013 Company of the Year winner was Insperity, a Houston-based leading provider of human resources and business solutions for the US's best businesses.

Insperity has a remarkable growth story; Paul J Sarvadi, co-founder and current chairman and CEO, has helped guide the company's growth from a two-person shop with three clients in 1986 to a publicly traded company that earned $2.2 billion in revenue in 2012, and operates in 57 offices throughout the US. Insperity supports 100,000 business clients and more than two million employees.

Sarvardi comments, "It is wonderful to be recognised by the Mid-Market Awards, and I am very proud of what it says about Insperity. In fact, all of our employees really earned this win."

"It is gratifying to honour the stars of the middle market every year, because they are so often overlooked in our business environment."

The company has been honoured multiple times in the past - on a national and state level. Recognised as one of "America's Most Admired Companies" for five years in Fortune magazine, Insperity was also named for five consecutive years on the Information Week 500 list of the leading information technology innovators. It was included six times on the Forbes Platinum 400 list of the best big companies in the US in the business services and supplies category. In 2013, with more than 2,200 corporate employees, Insperity was named in the top 3% of the US's top workplaces by Workplace Dynamics. The firm has been named eight times by Texas Monthly as one of the best companies to work for in Texas, and 11 times by the Houston Business Journal as one of the best places to work in Houston.


The award for Mid-Market CEO of the Year is given to the mid-market CEO who embodies the highest standards of leadership. Taking the prize for 2013 was John A Meyer, chief executive officer of Arise Virtual Solutions, the leading work at home/virtual solutions company in the world.

"It is a true honour to win this, and I am grateful to CEO Connection for recognising what we have accomplished at Arise Virtual Solutions," says Meyer.

Meyer, with a little more than two years in the position, has already made a profound positive impact on Arise; driving growth, setting a strategic vision and managing the global operations of the business. He has more than 30 years of leadership experience with large publicly traded organisations, and building high-growth organisations in the US and internationally.

Best and brightest

The Mid-Market Rising Star Award recognises the early career mid-market executive who has demonstrated the greatest potential for leadership and lasting impact. Dylan Taylor, chief executive officer of Colliers International's Americas region, picked up the award. In his position, he oversees operations in more than 200 offices in ten countries, with more than 7,000 employees and revenues of close to $1 billion.

Under Taylor's stewardship, Colliers was ranked the number one brokerage firm in the US by Commercial Property Executive, and the Lipsey Company's annual survey listed Colliers as the second-most-recognised commercial real estate brand in the world. Taylor was also named by the World Economic Forum as one of the top young global leaders in the world in 2011 for his professional accomplishments, his commitment to society and his potential to impact the world through inspiring leadership. Taylor is the only real estate industry professional to be selected as a Delphi Fellow for Big Think, a digital knowledge forum that assembles the top thinkers from around the globe.

"I'm fortunate to be able to work with some of the best and brightest in our industry - and for the team to be recognised for the work we do is very satisfying," says Taylor.

Social network

CEO Connection's Social Impact Award was given to the mid-market CEO who has had the greatest impact in public service, social enterprise and/or philanthropy. The 2013 recipient was Steve Bilt, president and chief executive officer of Smile Brands, the largest provider of support services to general and multispeciality dental groups in the US. He has headed up the company's Smiles for Everyone Foundation since its launch in 2005.

"My work with the Smiles for Everyone Foundation is personally fulfilling at a level that's hard to describe," explains Bilt. "I am very lucky to be involved with such a worthwhile cause; being recognised for this work is icing on the cake."

Bilt has served in executive roles in multiple healthcare-service organisations, including a provider of outpatient kidney dialysis services, and a provider of speech, occupational and physical therapy. He was named Entrepreneur of the Year in an international programme for those who have created and sustained successful companies, and is a member of the Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame and Academy. Bilt was honoured with the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award from the Orange County Business Journal for his role in founding and developing Smile Brands, and he has led the Smiles for Everyone Foundation to two American Red Cross Humanitarian Awards, and numerous other international awards and recognition.

The 2013 award honourees all share a sense of the importance of the middle market to the world's economy - and have all been responsible for great growth and success for their respective companies. Recognising their achievements is in line with the mission of the Mid-Market Convention, which is to bring mid-market stakeholders together to share ideas, help each other and change the world. The 2013 summit, "marked the beginning of a new era of impact by and for the mid-market," concludes Beck.