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CEO & President | AM Transport Services
David Abell is the CEO and President at AM Transport Services, a small, family-owned freight brokerage in Olney, Illinois. A former Army Engineer, David started his logistics journey in technology and moved on to marketing and sales before taking over as CEO. He enjoys the fast-paced and ever-changing landscape of the logistics industry and working with the great team at AMT.
In his spare time, David teaches a business class at the community college, reads as many books as he can fit in, and works on his 1966 Ford Custom 500 project car. He and his wife Paige have two smart, funny, and strong-willed children who love to travel as much as their parents (ask him about the family Christmas adventure). So far they’ve visited six National Parks with plans to check out a few more.
Founder & CEO | OpenTent
Sam is the Founder and CEO of OpenTent, a 22-person Salesforce consulting partner for purpose-driven teams. OpenTent is building a world in which the organizations working on the most important social issues of our time have the platforms, people, and processes to work with confidence.
Sam tries to bring a Beginner’s Mind to every room and use his curiosity about the world to create meaningful growth experiences for his team and clients. He almost went to rabbinical school and now finds ways to bring those traits to his team at OpenTent, leading with vulnerability and encouraging it in others, and creating space for the team to be who they are. He sees the power of every human to grow and change: he used to dislike running and dogs, and now runs several miles each week and is totally obsessed with his puppy. Originally from rural Maine, he now lives in Denver with his wife Amalia and brand-new son Lev.
CEO | Paragus IT
Delcie Bean started the company that became Paragus when he was 13 years old. As Paragus has become one of the most successful, fastest-growing IT firms in the region, Delcie has increased his commitment to humanitarian causes and dedication to the community. In 2014, he created Tech Foundry, an educational nonprofit designed to address the need for a skilled IT workforce in the region by providing in-depth training for underrepresented communities.
He also believes in giving back to his employees. Paragus has a unique Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) structure that puts ownership of 40% of the company in the hands of its 50-plus employees. Paragus is a Forbes Small Giant company.
Partner | 60 Minute CFO
Tracy Bech (she/her) is a serial entrepreneur having started, run, and sold 2 successful businesses. She’s passionate about lowering the business failure rate by educating business owners and leaders about best practices and business strategy. She is a partner at 60 Minute CFO, a consultancy based on the eponymous book that helps business leaders better understand their financial statements and finally understand what their CPA, banker, and CFO are telling them. She is also CEO of Starboard Collectives which facilitates groups of CEOs in the moving and storage industry where they share financial analyses, best practices and focus on business development.
A serial entrepreneur, Tracy loves thinking up business ideas and writing business plans for fun. When she’s not focused on business, you can find her in her native habitat (The Pacific Northwest) wearing a puffy coat and trucker hat. She’s a mom of 2 curious kids and wife to an inventor husband.
President & CEO | imageOne
Josh is President & CEO of managed print services provider, imageOne. Based in the Detroit, MI area, iO was founded 30 years ago with a single purpose: to deliver the X to everyone, everyday, everytime. The X is genuine care that consistently drives extraordinary energy, actions and experiences. iO helps clients optimize their print environments, secure their IT environments, and implement workflow solutions.
Josh joined iO in 2018 as VP of Operations. He has three perfect school aged kids (Teddy, Cece, Lou) and an amazing wife (Ali) of 20 years, who met as undergrads 25 years ago at Northwestern University. In his free time Josh enjoys yoga, reading, and building forts with his kids.
Founder & CEO | Shannon Cohen, Inc.
Shannon is the Founder and CEO of Shannon Cohen, Inc., a company of hope dealers curating products, spaces, and experiences that nourish human souls. The products have been featured at Target, Meijer, and West Elm. Shannon’s “Tough Skin, Soft Heart” podcast is available on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher with subscribers spanning 12 countries.
Shannon is also Founder of the global Rockstar Woman™ Brunch, serving nearly 1000 women throughout the U.S and Canada annually. For the past two years, she has been named one of the 200 Most Powerful Business Leaders in West Michigan and one of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan by the Grand Rapids Business Journal. She is an alumnus of the prestigious W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network Fellowship, proud mom of a 3rd grader, and celebrating 13 years of “I do” with the love of her life!
Chief Operating Officer | Peak Performance International
As Head Integrator at Peak Performance International, Sarah Crane helps make the company’s vision – to help leaders reach their full potential – a reality. With prior experience at a Big 4 accounting firm and non-profit organizations, Sarah uses her background in leadership development, organizational effectiveness, and change management consulting to meet the needs of clients in a variety of industries and roles. She has an MBA and degrees in economics and geology from the University of Michigan.
Sarah lives in metro Detroit with her husband, child, and two cats, and spends her spare time exploring local parks and finding the best places for a long walk. If you run into Sarah at the Summit, be sure to ask her about books – she’s a dedicated participant in her library’s annual summer reading challenge!
Co-Founder | imageOne
From Blow Pops to Forbes Best Small Companies! Rob started his first business in high school selling Blow Pops out of his locker. In 1991, he co-founded imageOne, which has been recognized as a Top 25 Small Businesses in America on the list of Forbes Small Giants, an Inc. Magazine Best Places to Work, and as the number one Top Workplace in Michigan.
Rob is the Visionary/CEO of The 10 Disciplines for Managing and Maximizing Your Energy, a coaching program that helps entrepreneurs build the inner foundation to maximize their impact in business and life. He is the author of the best-selling book, donothing,™ the most rewarding leadership challenge you will ever take and the host of the donothing retreat and Leading with Genuine Care podcast. Rob challenges business leaders to look inward with mindfulness and meditation by sharing his own journey.
Rob has completed 14 marathons, is an avid meditator, and loves living next to his mother-in-law in Northern Michigan.
Co-Founder & CEO | Flowers for Dreams
Steven Dyme is the Co-Founder & CEO of Flowers for Dreams – the first B Corporation flower brand with locations across Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis. Once named among Business Insider’s 20 Most Inspiring Companies in America, their Midwest-based business donates to a different charity with every bouquet sold. To date, that’s resulted in over $1.1M donated to some 220 small neighborhood nonprofits – all from the sale of flowers.
Steven is considered a leading voice on impact entrepreneurship in the Midwest, having served on the Illinois Governor’s Task Force on Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Enterprise, being awarded the Mayor of Detroit’s Spirit of the City Award for their justice work, and penning op-eds on ethical business for Crain’s, Forbes, the Chicago Sun-Times and more.
Steven is based in Chicago. He makes a mean homemade ice cream, and he’s happy to talk to you about dinosaurs if the opportunity arises – particularly his favorite, the ankylosaurus.
President | Reell
Shari Erdman has been at Reell for 19 years and served in many roles throughout the organization, her longest tenure as the VP of Global Coworker Services (HR). In February of 2022, Shari was promoted to President and began a two year succession to CEO. She loves Reell because it is a company that cares for its people and is committed to “Doing What’s Right.” Reell is a service-oriented company and Shari is passionate about serving all constituencies with excellence while upholding Reell’s core values. She earned her BA and MBA from the University of Northwestern. Her current role as President includes overseeing the global responsibilities of Coworker Services (HR), Sales, Operations, Engineering and Quality. Shari also serves as an Officer and ESOP Trustee.
After work, Shari enjoys spending time with family. Shari’s husband is a teacher and they have three children, two grandchildren and two more on the way! Shari also enjoys spending time on the lake in the summer and gardening.
Founder & Editor-in-Chief | 21 Hats
Loren is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of 21 Hats, an online community for business owners. He hosts the 21 Hats Podcast, a peer group conversation that has been tracking the experiences of 10 business owners for more than three years. He also edits the 21 Hats Morning Report, a daily email newsletter that has been named the best newsletter for business owners by Inc magazine. Previously, he was a senior editor covering entrepreneurship at Inc, Forbes and the New York Times. He has also been editor-in-chief of Philadelphia magazine and executive editor of George magazine. He has spoken and moderated discussions at numerous conferences and seminars on entrepreneurship.
Loren is based in New Jersey. If you’re a baseball fan, ask him about his time working as a coach with the Texas Rangers at their training camp in San Pedro de Macoris, home to more shortstops than any other place on Earth.
Business Advisor/Coach & Founder | Catalyst Growth Advisors
Bill Flynn is founder of Catalyst Growth Advisors, where he works with leaders to take the guesswork out of growth. Bill has accomplished much, failed often, and learned many useful lessons from thirty years of studying the science of success. He is best described as a pragmatic Simon Sinek; an optimist and an operator. Bill embodies his core purpose — simplified servanthood — by spending each working moment to help create a compassionately productive society by enabling enlightened leaders to focus on the few things that truly matter to their teams and key stakeholders.
He has worked for and advised hundreds of companies, including startups, where he has a long track record of success spanning multiple industries. Bill has been a VP of Sales eight times, twice a CMO and once a GM of a division of a $100MM IT services company.
Trainer & Keynote Speaker | ZingTrain
Elnian’s 16+ years of experience at Zingerman’s includes multiple businesses and positions, from her start at Zingerman’s Mail Order to logistical experience at ZingTrain. Elnian brings this breadth of experience to her role as a trainer, sharing Zingerman’s approach to business through ZingTrain’s public and personalized training, facilitation, and keynotes.
As the most tenured trainer at ZingTrain, she’s covered every topic on offer! Her particular areas of expertise are customer service, visioning, employee training, open book management, change management, and leadership. Elnian finds it exceptionally rewarding to figure out what a client needs, then tailor training to deliver it; helping them adapt and apply the tools and techniques used at Zingerman’s successfully. Elnian’s style is engaging, humorous, and full of real-world stories. She enjoys connecting with participants from a wide array of industries.
Elnian lives in Michigan, and around the holidays, you can find her planning for her annual murder mystery party that she hosts for friends!
CEO | Smiley Technologies
Elizabeth is the Co-founder of Smiley Technologies, Inc., and she has been President and CEO since 2015. Smiley provides the software and services for community banks across the country. Elizabeth co-founded the company with her brother, and never imagined that she would be CEO. As a very people-oriented leader, Elizabeth believes putting people at the core of the organization’s culture is the crux of their success.
When she’s not working, Elizabeth enjoys problem-solving, hiking, traveling, and spending time with her family outdoors. Elizabeth lives in Arkansas with her two teenagers, Grace and Gavin, and her extreme athlete/ motivational speaker husband, Jeff. Oh, and she has her pilot’s license – who’s ready for takeoff?!
President | ChoiceOne Engineering
As a husband, father, and president of the 70 person, two-office company ChoiceOne Engineering, Matt gets to live his vision daily of “being a positive impact for others so that we are enjoying life together.” The one thing that has remained constant in all of his roles has been the need to continue learning and becoming a better version of himself. He is a continuous learner and believes there is something to learn from everyone; he learns as much from conversations with his young kids and seeing how they process the world, as he does from business leaders and friends. Matt looks forward to learning from everyone attending the Small Giants Community Summit.
Matt lives in Ohio with his wife and children. His original plan was to be a math teacher, until his high school math teacher told him he wouldn’t be good at the job. Matt admits that his teacher was right, and we sure are glad that we get to benefit from this career switch!
Founder & CEO | MultiFunding
Ami, Founder and CEO of MultiFunding and author of The Growth Dilemma, has earned a national reputation as a thought leader in business finance. An in-demand speaker and trusted advisor to growth-focused business leaders, Ami has helped thousands of business owners achieve ambitious growth goals through creative and personalized funding solutions. His work has helped create tens of thousands of jobs. For more than 20 years, Ami has challenged executives to think differently about how they capitalize growth. Regularly featured in national media including The New York Times, Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Forbes and Fox Business News, Ami also writes a weekly column for Inc. Magazine. He has advised the White House, the Federal Reserve Bank and the Treasury Department on credit markets. Ami regularly speaks at corporate, academic and industry events on topics including entrepreneurship and access to capital.
Ami was born in South Africa, and he currently lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with his wife, two children and his Corgi-Spaniel.
Founder & Chief Executive Officer | Peak Performance International
Marty is the Founder of Peak Performance International, a coaching and training company committed to helping successful leaders reach a level of confidence, performance, and fulfillment beyond what they thought was possible. His experience includes working closely with C-level executives and senior leaders at some of the world’s top companies. He holds a psychology degree from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin.
Marty lives in Metro Detroit with his wife, two children, and dog. He enjoys serving on Boards of Directors for non-profit organizations, and when he’s looking for some fun, he competes in triathlons with his friends.
Chief Operating Officer | MACKEY
Meet Sarah Grace
A woman of many hats, Sarah Grace (lovingly known as SG) oversees the operations, strategy, sales, and marketing initiatives at MACKEY. She also supports the business development functions and client services by providing workshops and training on specific MACKEY tools and processes.
As someone who thrives when in community with others, it’s no surprise that SG feels most in her element at MACKEY by supporting clients. She loves helping small businesses build and grow into enduring ones, moving owners from struggle and stress to clarity and confidence.
Sarah Grace is passionate about empowering minority business owners and building stronger and more resilient communities. She’s also a bit of an architecture buff, avid reader, and Formula 1 fanatic. When she’s not helping clients change the world for the better, SG’s whipping up fancy cocktails for family and friends. If you see SG at the Summit, be sure to ask her about one of her favorite people, Dolly Parton!
Managing Partner | Human8
Camille leads the Human8 business across North America. Human8 encompasses the regional acquisition of Gongos, Inc., of which Camille became sole owner and CEO in 2012.
Camille actively consults Fortune 500 brands to make business decisions on behalf of consumers. She believes operationalizing human centricity as a strategy for growth and building cultural buy-in has a harmonizing effect on stakeholders. Beyond driving behaviors through insights, impactful communication, and change management initiatives, she believes adopting an ‘outside-in’ approach to humanizing consumers is essential in a world where data is trying to win.
Camille is an active member of the board of the Insights Association, a contributing member of the Forbes Agency Council, an official judge of the North American Customer Centricity Awards, and sits on the Board of Detroit-based Forgotten Harvest. She has served as Chairperson of the Advisory Board of Michigan State University’s Master of Science in Marketing Research Program and has contributed to the University of Michigan’s Institute for Survey Research.
She and her husband, three adult children, and Westie, Gus, reside in suburban Detroit, MI.
Senior Graphic Designer | Phire Group
Melissa Pudar is a senior designer at Phire Group, a brand definition and activation consultancy based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Phire Group takes a non-traditional approach to marketing, focusing on transforming brands through deep cultural impact. In her role, Melissa works with a wide range of clients and her team to tell authentic stories and inspire connection through bold visual experiences. She has a love for problem-solving to create a brand identity that is unique to an organization’s true purpose and potential. With a fine arts degree from the University of Michigan, Melissa combines logic, strategy, and creativity in her projects.
In her spare time, Melissa enjoys cooking for her friends and family, making things with her hands (currently learning ceramics!), and hiking through the Michigan woods. She lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and two cats.
Founder | Consuela
In 2005, after many uninspiring years in the corporate grind, Conni found herself sitting on a beach trying to figure out how to have more meaning, passion, and fun in life. Conni returned from that trip and started Consuela. In her childhood, she spent her happiest memories bumping along dirt roads in interior Mexico, and it became part of her heart and her happy place. Since the brand’s official launch in 2006, Consuela has created prints, textiles, and a line of totes and handbags. Consuela’s team and offices are located in both the U.S. and Mexico. Conni leans into the power of meaningful relationships– Consuela’s products are manufactured in Mexico by artisans, multi-generational family factories, and friends formed through years of trips and relationship building.
Conni celebrates the accomplishments of women through her company’s “It’s Not About the Bag” program, which has recognized over 1000 women thus far. Her company’s mission is to share joy, celebrate individuality, and make each day ridiculously awesome!
CEO | Reell
Kyle Smith joined Reell in 2006 as President and was appointed CEO in 2009. Headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, Reell has been designing and manufacturing innovative motion-control solutions since 1970. Kyle attended the University of Missouri at Columbia on a music scholarship and graduated with a BS in Chemistry. He also attended Brown University in Providence, RI and received a Ph.D. in Solid State Chemistry.
Kyle formerly was at Eastman Kodak focused on medical imaging R&D where he worked with laboratories in France, Italy and Japan and manufacturing facilities in North America, Brazil, France, and China. He also worked at Hill-Rom in Batesville, IN and over the next three years, Kyle held positions that included: Executive Director of Strategic Marketing, VP of Research and Development and Acting General Manager for the Care Division.
Kyle is blessed with a wonderful wife, Diane, and two children who are now accomplished young adults. Kyle enjoys doing community work through a local church, traveling, camping, gardening, riding ATV’s and is an ardent fan of the KC Chiefs.
Co-Founder & Chief Revenue Officer | Arkona
Ryan Tansom started his entrepreneurial career at his family business where he was the Executive VP and responsible for the strategic, operational, and financial strategy of the $21 million company. Ryan helped turn the company around and bring intentional focus to the right strategies which enabled it to be sold for 8 figures to a local competitor in 2014.
Ryan took his experience and founded Arkona to create the Intentional Growth™ Framework which helps owners view – and run – their company like a financial asset through educational training, fractional CFO services and strategic planning.
Ryan also hosts the popular Intentional Growth™ podcast that has 325+ episodes, and 430k+ downloads. After 400+ Intentional Growth™ Training sessions and hundreds of podcast interviews, Ryan has his finger on the pulse of the market like few others.
When he’s not working, Ryan enjoys spending time with his wife and their twin daughters, working out (and documenting the results!), and practicing transcendental meditation.
Co-Chief Operating Officer | ClearVision Optical
Jen Trakhtenberg is the Co-Chief Operating Officer of ClearVision Optical. She developed and designed the company’s intern training program, from which the company has effectively grown their CVO family. She enjoys mentoring colleagues in the areas of performance management, teambuilding, talent scouting and career development. She also cultivates dynamic philanthropic campaigns, holiday celebrations, motivational exercises, and networking activities that keep employees energized and connected.
Jen graduated Summa Cum Laude from Binghamton University with a Business Management degree and holds a Master’s in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from NYU. She was honored as one of the Top 50 Most Influential Women on Long Island by Long Island Business News in 2021 and was recently awarded a Leadership Scholarship by the Optical Women’s Association. Jen resides in Long Island, NY with her husband and two children. She loves traveling, fitness classes (yoga, cycling, Zumba), reading and listening to great business podcasts (aka grown-up fairy tales) while walking.
Founder | Flock DC
lisa is the founder of Flock DC, a family of real estate management companies that tend to over two billion dollars in property throughout the District proper. She is also the Co-Founder and Chief Relationship Officer of BirdWatch, a home management/property technology company.
In 2022, lisa finished her business book/memoir Self Elected: How to Put Justice Over Profit and Soar in Business.At this time, Flock also launched the birdSEED foundation, a philanthropic effort to advance economic and housing justice for the BIPOC community. birdSEED offers no-strings down payment grants to first-time BIPOC home buyers in the DC region.
When not change-making and homemaking, you can find lisa surrounded by pets and hiking DC’s famous Rock Creek Park with her best friend – her ten-year-old son Beckett. And if you’re ever on the hunt for new music, be sure to chat with lisa – she used to be a DJ!
Senior Account Executive | Phire Group
Casey is a senior account executive at Phire Group, an Ann Arbor-based brand research, articulation, activation, and measurement company. The agency was founded in 2004 to help organizations unearth authenticity and unleash possibility in order to connect, inspire, and create action. In his role, Casey manages accounts for purpose-driven organizations in Michigan and throughout the country ensuring alignment with client strategies and goals, communicating with clients on a daily basis, and expanding relationships. He graduated from Miami University with a Marketing degree and crossed state lines following graduation to join the team at Phire Group.
Casey lives in Metro Detroit with his lovely fiancée and rambunctious golden retriever. When away from his desk, you can often find him in the kitchen, on a long walk with the dog, at one of Detroit’s many excellent concert venues, or with his eyes glued to the TV watching the latest HBO hit.
Predictive Index Engagement Manager | Palladian West
Mary works at Palladian West, an executive search and team architecture firm dedicated to helping businesses find exceptional talent and build dream teams. She uses the Predictive Index to provide teams with the people-centric data to support their business strategies, helping teams reach results they didn’t believe were possible. She has an educational background in social work and years of experience working in a variety of industries.
Mary lives in Grand Rapids, MI. In her free time, she loves reading Louise Penny mystery novels.
Founder | Phimation Strategy Group
Dave Haviland is founder of Phimation Strategy Group, where he provides management consulting to leadership teams at second stage businesses. Phimation works with leaders to find and develop untapped potential in great businesses. Dave’s approach centers on “ROI with heart,” emphasizing good business decisions while honoring each company’s culture and relationships. His clients are often multi-generational family businesses, or businesses that operate in a similar fashion.
Dave graduated from Yale with an American Studies degree and spent a year after graduation biking around the country. Nowadays, his time outside work is filled with 3 teens, “beer league” hockey, and a blossoming karaoke career.
Founder & Visionary | AssistPro
Jenna Spencer is a Delegation Expert. She loves connecting with people, and helping them learn new ways to delegate so they can focus on their area of expertise. She is the Founder and Visionary of AssistPro™, an executive assistant matching and delegation coaching service created to free up time and create growth for busy leaders. Since founding AssistPro in 2014, Jenna has worked with hundreds of clients, helping them find the ”Right-Fit Assistant™” and teaching them how to delegate and develop their assistants into leaders, as well. AssistPro has grown more than 50% each year since its founding – and has led to her creation and launch of an extension of the company devoted to helping entrepreneurs and small business owners on the path to Delegation Mastery.
When she’s not working, Jenna loves to travel, play tennis, and read great books while sipping coffee. She lives with her husband and children on their 20-acre “hobby” farm.
Coach | Great Game of Business
Kevin Walter, Great Game of Business (GGOB) coach and practitioner, is best known in the Chicago area as principal for the corporate catering and event planning Tasty Catering. He was a founding partner of this family business with such honors as a Forbes Best Small Company in America, Caterer of the Year, Top Small Workplaces, Best Places to Work and Psychologically Healthiest Workplace in the nation.
Kevin has found that, over four decades, the most employee engagement and business success that he has experienced occurred while practicing open book management. This led to a passion for coaching the principles of The Game with other organizations across the world. Now, Kevin is a highly sought-after GGOB coach and speaker. Kevin was also inducted to the Chicago Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame.
When he’s not working, Kevin loves to escape to Arizona in the winter for some golf time with his wife, Andrea. Having two daughters of his own and being the youngest of 11 kids, it’s safe to say Kevin is a family man!