Connor: Top businesses see opportunity beyond adversity


Adversity and lean times can be the foundations for opportunity – and nowhere is this more evident than in this issue of the Fort Worth Business Press as we feature our annual listing of the Top 100 Private Companies in Tarrant County, ranked by total revenues. We also list the top 19 public companies. The businesses recognized range from giants such as privately held Ben E. Keith with more than $3 billion in sales to Glendarroch Homes with $8 million. In the public sector there is American Airlines at $24.9 billion and GreenHunter Energy Inc., a water resource management company, at $17 million. What captures the imagination are the stories behind these businesses. Most started out with little more than hope and a sense of opportunity. Some are almost brand new businesses that have shown incredible growth. CEC Electrical of Fort Worth, for example, was founded in 2009 by CEO Ray Waddell and already boasts $51 million in sales. This week’s 92-page Business Press, the biggest in our history, documents case after case of folks who believed in themselves enough to take some risks and parlayed that belief into business success. Randy Watson, honored with the Strategic Management Award during our Top 100 awards ceremony, started out selling boots and worked his way up the ladder to succeed John Justin and J.T. Dickenson as head of Justin Brands, the legendary Fort Worth company now owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Earlier this year. Watson was named Entrepreneur of the Year in the Southwest by Ernst & Young. Remember the mid-1980s in Texas business? It was an ugly time, with oil at $6 per barrel and a savings and loan seemingly defaulting every other day. Our honorees as 2013 CEOs of the Year remember it well. For both, Dan Feehan of publicly held Cash America and John Goff of privately owned Crescent Real Estate Holdings, those lean years provided opportunities that the two men seized to build successful companies and stellar careers. Feehan was living in Houston and had invested in Cash America, the huge pawn shop business. The company needed some help and guidance so Feehan came to Fort Worth to take a closer look and see how he could help. It was 1988 and he met with the company’s founder, Jack Daugherty. Daugherty sensed that he could get Feehan to run the company but he needed to get him on a fast track. Two years later, Daugherty had Feehan in the top role, where he’s stayed for 25 years. For Goff, opportunity meant quitting his job as an accountant at Peat Marwick to work with a client he met there: legendary investor and Fort Worth native Richard Rainwater. That was 1987. Shortly after beginning his new job, Goff met former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, who needed help with his real estate investments. Before long, Goff convinced Rainwater that there was a future in real estate. Rainwater and Goff began a long and successful run in commercial real estate, and the run continues today for Goff and his several companies. Fort Worth’s business legacy has been built on such stories and you can find a number of them in this issue of the Business Press. The message in all of them: When others see trouble, look for opportunity.

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