Robert Francis: Top 100? It’s a mystery

Top 100 Event 2020 photo by Robert Francis

When I first began working for the Fort Worth Business Press, I was doing some freelancing for the publication. At one point, one of the editors said I should come to one of their events since I had written many of the stories on the honorees.

I did and I was impressed with the event and the honorees. This was back in 2003 and I think the event was a 40 Under 40 event at the Worthington. I later attended a Top 100 event and couldn’t image how they pulled that event together. For starters, they got 100 Tarrant County companies to give them their annual revenues? Who does that? First, who has the cojones to ask for them and second, who is crazy enough to give them to a company that is going to publish them? And then several of the CEOs are honored with various awards.

But it was always a worthwhile event.

When I began working full-time for the Business Press, I got even more involved in the Top 100 events and I’ll admit a lot of it remained a mystery.

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So, when I was appointed acting editor along with an acting managing editor, one of the first things we said to each other was that we were confident we could do the job and do it well. Except for Top 100. Neither of us really had a good idea. We devised a way to do some of the other special issues. We divvied up the work. I would do the Energy Reports and the Technology sections we had at the time, while the managing editor would do the lifestyle publications we had. Together, we would tackle the Top 100.

That first Top 100 was difficult, challenging and the most stressful thing we did. I wish I could say it has gotten easier over the years. It hasn’t.

This year was particularly challenging – what a surprise. One key to putting together the Top 100 list of private companies in Tarrant County is contacting the many companies and asking them for their revenues. Over the years, we’ve gotten to know the people in the various companies who can provide that information. It’s still not easy. Some years a company will readily give us the data. Other years, they’ve decided they don’t want to. Usually then, about 5 minutes before we go to press with the issue, that same company will call us in a panic, asking if they can still get on the list.

This year, many of those people we have come to rely on were no longer there, either furloughed, laid off, or maybe even the company was out of business. What did we do? We stretched and stretched ourselves – and the deadline – until we finally got to 100 companies, making some new friends along the way. As a result, this year, there are a lot of new companies on the list as many companies that regularly contributed to the publication either didn’t want their information published, or simply had bigger fish to fry – like staying in business.

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This year’s event was held at Joe T. Garcia’s, at their outdoor venue to allow for social distancing. And it was a great event. The weather was that rarest of events in Texas – perfect; the honorees were all interesting and everyone seemed thrilled to be out and about in the midst of a pandemic.

Here’s one thing I learned – people you’ve known half your life may be unrecognizable in a mask. I think I said hello to everyone I knew, but if I missed you, I’m blaming the pandemic.

As always, pulling together the Top 100 issue and the event was a lot of work. Also, as always, it was worth it.

And this year, in particular, it was great to see people in person with no Zoom call.

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One of our honorees this year is Jonathan Morris, owner of the Fort Worth Barber Shop, developer of the Hotel Dryce and soon to debut as host of an entrepreneur show on the Magnolia Network.

“Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines.

Because I thought the Waco wunderkinds Chip and Joanna Gaines might want to help celebrate Jonathan’s honor, I approached someone I knew who had connections with the Waco Chamber of Commerce. Eventually he found the right person, who found another right person, who found another right person and then – a few days before the event – I had one one of those red alert messages in my inbox. A lawsuit? A transcript of Jack Ruby’s confession? Fan mail from some flounder?

No, you guessed it. I received a video of the Gaineses congratulating Jonathan on his award, Entrepreneur of the Year. Thanks to all those people who made that happen.

Jonathan Morris_2 Photo by Neetish Basnet

In case you think it’s all an elaborate act, the Gaineses are as personable and engaging in a 2-minute clip as they are on their Fixer Upper program.

We surprised Jonathan with the video as we presented him the award and not only was he impressed, but the nearly 150 attendees were suddenly even bigger fans of Chip and Joanna, as well as Jonathan.

It was a fun event that seemed to go by in a flash. But as to how we did it? It’s still a mystery.  

Here is a list of the winners. More complete stories of who they are and why they are honored are available in the FWBP e-edition.

Brad Hunstable

CEO of Linear Labs
Top Private Company CEO of the Year

David J. Endicott

CEO of Alcon inc.
Top Public Company CEO  of the Year.

Bob Jameson

President/CEO of Visit Fort Worth
Business Advocate of the Year

Jonathan Morris

Owner of Fort Worth Barber Shop, Hotel Dryce and recently announced as the host of a program on entrepreneurs on the Magnolia Network
Entrepreneur of the Year

Ben Rosenthal

Co-President/CEO of Standard Meat Company
Next Generation Award

Rosa Navejar

Owner of The Rios Group
Top Woman-Owned Business 

Laura Hilgart

CEO of The Women’s Center of Tarrant County
Nonprofit CEO of the Year

Harriet Harral

Retired Director of Leadership Fort Worth
Legacy Award

Ian MacLean

Owner of Highland Landscaping
Top Family Business

Derrick Walker

Owner of Smoke-A-Holics BBQ
Small But Mighty Award

Leah King

City of Fort Worth, Tarrant County
Riding to the Rescue Award