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Entrepreneurs Pay Tribute to Those Who Helped Out

Since most entrepreneurs say although they may have had the idea for their business, they didn’t build their companies alone. So the Business Journal asked several Valley-area entrepreneurs the question: Which person was most pivotal in your success as an entrepreneur? Mark Widawer Owner of West Hills Web Inc. “There are not one but two gentlemen who helped me along the way. One was Joel Block who works for Growth-Logic.com. He’s a business consultant and a long time friend of mine, former business partner. He has a brilliant growth and entrepreneurial mind. “The other most important person was Spencer Schmerling from VTI Staffing.com. Both of these gentleman have very brilliant minds, yet have different views on entrepreneurship, both great risk-takers, great planners, and great thinkers.” Steven B. Nielsen Chairman and CEO of Activus Health Care Solutions, Westlake Village “The most pivotal person isn’t a person, it’s my faith and my belief in God. That’s where I derive any success and good fortune from. Beyond that, the person that stands out the most is Emil Martini. He was the former chairman and CEO of Bergen and Brunswig Corporation, a large pharmaceutical distributor that has since merged with another company and become Amersource Bergen. ‘Emil was probably was the single most influential person, because he was a creative forward thinker who had an ability to effectively communicate his vision to others in a way that allowed themselves to align with that vision and follow him. “He helped me to employ that type of leadership in my companies. His example helped me formulate a unique sales model and grow the company.” Tim Krubsack President of iO Film, North Hollywood “My other partner in iO, Howard Cohen, is the most influential person. He was there from the very beginning and helped turn our business plan into a reality. “Howard brings a vast knowledge of business to the table, as well as a really good understanding of how best to deal with people. He has good people skills which are instrumental when you’re trying to accomplish a lot with few resources. “Howard taught me how to run a startup, where my previous experiences had been working within a giant corporation. He definitely taught me a lot in terms of how to start a business.” Irwin Kir President of Newbury Park-based Ir Fastline “My mentor was one of my former co-workers at Siemens. He was a marketing guy and he pretty much taught me the tricks of the marketing trade. “I learned from him that marketing is not just being a salesman. You have to try to control the information flow to convince your target customer that you are the best. That was very important for me to understand. “He also helped me with my business by teaching me the rules: you need good product, a good business structure, and the best way to convey the benefits to the customer. You always have to have a better product than your competition.” Abdiel Sanchez Co-owner and CFO of Encino-based 4Service Inc. “My father. He showed me early on in life that you need to work really hard to get ahead. He instilled a lot of values in me as a young person and showed me how to dedicate myself to what I do. “He put the wheels in motion for motivating me toward being on my own and being an entrepreneur eventually. Being an entrepreneur came later in life, but I was focused a lot on sales and business early on, and a lot came from my father. Martin M. Cooper Chairman, Cooper Beavers Inc. in Encino “Len Gross. Len ran a large advertising agency that had offices around the country. I was a senior vice president of marketing and communications at Playboy Enterprises. I had never thought of going into business on my own until one day that I met with him. “I was up in San Francisco and we were having dinner at the Hyatt Regency in Union Square in 1981. We were going through a rough time at Playboy and Len said to me, ‘Marty you should go into business for yourself.’ I said that I didn’t have the entrepreneurial spirit and then he spent a four-hour dinner convincing me to start the business.” “One year later, I left Playboy and throughout the first ten years of running my own company, I’d call up Len and he was always ready to help.” Ruby Mansukani President, Red Peacock “My husband, John Lalwani. He is a very ambitious person and makes me more so. He always makes me want to try to be better. We challenge each other. “He led me to a personal change within myself. Together we are always wanting to double or triple our revenue. He gives me an incredible amount of drive and motivation.” George Sagadencky President, Under the Sun, Promotions, Encino “A man named Mark Blumhardt. He taught me a lot of the nature of our business and our relationships with our sales people. My company is commission-based, so while my salespeople are employees, it’s more of an individual partnership. It’s almost like running 12 different companies all in one. “Mark taught me the value of treating it as a partnership and not an employee-employer relationship, and the value of that in maintaining your relationship over time. “It definitely helped me in terms of recruiting and maintaining salespeople and attracting the type of salespeople that I want. I want salespeople who can independently function 90 percent of the time. He taught me that my role is to be their bank and supporter.” James Scheftel President of Humphrey Yogart, Sherman Oaks “My father. He was always an entrepreneur and he was always out here trying to create something out of nothing. I learned that you had to depend on your own wits rather than depending on other people to help you. I’ve never been afraid to try things because of his advice and example. It’s led to successes and its it’s led to failures. Sometimes, you try things that work and some things don’t, but I was definitely heavily influenced by him.” Vicki Torres President of Creative Communications, Van Nuys “It isn’t one person, it’s an organization: the National Association of Women Business Owners. They provide networking opportunities and they have businesswomen who are extremely successful role models. “They are supportive and they have events where you learn about things that you need to do to improve your business. I’ve been to other associations like Chambers and other groups, but in this group the energy level is just tremendous. The room is always buzzing.”

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