Now entering its 23rd year, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year recognizes the contribution of entrepreneurs who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global award of its kind Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 135 cities in 50 countries. To learn more, we recently sat down with Rene Salas, partner and program director of Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year for the Greater Washington area.
What is something most people don’t know about the event?
Rene Salas: This is truly an inspirational event. It is a global, year-long program. It honors the entrepreneur first and foremost, the risks they’ve taken, the leadership they’ve demonstrated and the successful business models they’ve created. The program doesn’t just rely on a company’s revenues. That makes this program especially difficult to judge, since there is such a qualitative aspect. It also makes it that much more exciting! Today’s winners become tomorrow’s household names.
How do this year’s nominee’s relate to prior years, especially given the economy?
Rene Salas: Interestingly enough, we received more nominations this year than last year. Entrepreneurs truly are the backbone of America’s economy. Especially in economically challenging times, their energy, passion and innovation propel successful companies forward. There are plenty of companies out there that are still growing and succeeding despite these difficult times. Their leaders defy all odds. We’re excited to highlight them through this program.
Who judges the program?
Rene Salas: An independent panel of judges is assembled to select the pre-finalists, finalists, and award winners. We have a panel of 8 judges representing various industries and experiences – venture capitalists, CEOs, Board Members, former winners. They bring a depth of experience that is unmatched and they really understand the process because so many of them have sat in those entrepreneur’s seats. The judges are: Brian Hayhurst, Managing Director, The Carlyle Group; Richard H. Helms, CEO, Abraxas Corporation; Catherine C. Jones, Senior Vice President, UGL-Equis; John McClain, Senior Fellow, GMU Center for Regional Analysis; Philip O. Nolan, Chairman, President & CEO, Stanley, Inc.; Robyn M. Sachs, President, RMR & Associates; Stephen J. Trevisan, CEO & President, Accelovance; and Dave Vos, Senior Director, Rockwell Collins.
When are winners chosen?
Rene Salas: The judges review every single nomination form. Some are chosen to receive an onsite interview as part of the due diligence process. Finalists are announced on May 1. Award recipients are not announced until the black-tie awards banquet on June 18. There are usually 7-8 regional award recipients (based on industry category). Those individuals move on to compete at the National level in Palm Springs, Ca., in November. There, at an event hosted by Jay Leno, 10 award winners are announced, and one winner is selected overall to represent the US in the World competition in Monte Carlo the following May.
How can our readers get involved in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year program?
Rene Salas: Tickets and tables are now available for the June 18 Greater Washington awards banquet. This event attracts over 700 regional business executives and is a premier opportunity to network with leaders of high-growth companies. For more information you can call the program manager, Erika Chambers, at 703-747-0858 or visit here. The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year awards banquet is a high energy, exciting event and offers attendees a great opportunity to network with hard to reach C-level executives.