Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Nominees
Kansas City, Missouri, June 2007
For the past 21 years, it has been Ernst & Young’s incredible honor to recognize excellence in business and the tremendous efforts of entrepreneurs. These men and women have tackled adversity and risen to change the world as we know it. They create jobs, support their communities, and provide the products and services that help drive the economy.
Ernst & Young is pleased to recognize Acendas, Inc. as a 2007 Finalist.
We all applaud the leadership and success that each of the finalists and award winners has achieved. We are pleased to bring you their stories of success and inspiration!
Brent Blake and Gary Davis
Inspired by the book Good to Great, Brent Blake and Gary Davis took a perfectly good travel agency and transformed it into something great by developing strong client relationships and deploying forward-thinking technology. Today, Acendas is Kansas Cityâ€™s largest locally-owned corporate and leisure-travel company.
As co-presidents, they have grown revenues 400 percent in 10 years by transforming their company from a traditional travel agency to a corporate travel-management firm. Acendas has three divisions: a corporate travel center, a meetings and incentives called Cypress, and Platinum Vacations, a leisure travel for businesses, monitoring travel and entertainment spending, assisting with employee travel, handling travel crises. It offers large customers an on-site employee who spends all of his or her time serving that corporate client.
When they took over in 1999, they make a few key changes that boosted the fortunes of Acendas. They altered the firm’s pay structure to a variable, performance-based system, allowing high-achieving employees to earn substantially larger incomes when they meet measureable goals. The team implemented technology to help clients proactively manage the risk associated with business travel, delivering unique products like Cliqbook , an online booking tool that rivals consumer-driven web sites like Expedia and Orbitz. Gary and Brent also consolidated all company business units into one corporate headquarters.
Acendas serves many of the Midwest’s largest corporations, including Russell Stover Candies, American Century Investments, Payless Shoe Source and Zimmer Companies, making it amoung the top 1 percent of travel agencies nationwide named Acendas to is All-Time Winners Honor Roll for fastest-growing companies. A mainstay on the list for 11 of 13 years, Acendas was the only Kansas City-based travel company to make the honor roll.
Brent and Gary set the tone at Acendas, focusing on advancing employee professional development, the pursuit of excellence, and profitable growth. They apply the “help others develop” philosophy and support numerous Kansas City nonprofits through volunteer work, donations, and contributions of travel packages for charity auctions.
Article contents taken from the Advertising Supplement to the Kansas City Star, June 2007