Balco CEO Ronnie Leonard had no prepared remarks – reflecting the likelihood, she said, that her company would be named a winner.
So when Wayne Chambers, chairman of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, tore open the envelope at the chamber’s Small Business Awards luncheon Wednesday and delivered the news, Leonard said she would have to wing it.
“Well, I don’t have a speech – the good news is we’re about finished here,” she said, getting a big laugh from the 340 in the audience.
The chamber has handed out the awards recognizing some of the region’s outstanding small businesses for 10 years now. This year, Balco won for companies with between 26 and 100 employees.
Icon Structures won for businesses of between one and 25 employees. This year’s luncheon was at the Hyatt Regency Wichita.
Balco manufactures nine different categories of architectural products. Its products are in some high-profile projects, such as the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the 88-story Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Icon Structures is a building contractor with $6 million in sales and almost 20 employees.
The two winning companies were among 10 finalists that included Building Controls and Services, Cassandra Bryan Design, Chapple Insurance Group, Kansas Truck Equipment, Mid American Credit Union, Mize & Co., J.P. Weigand & Sons and Zernco.
The 10 finalists were named in March after a lengthy process in which scores of company were nominated and their applications assessed.
“Considering Wichita is home to 11,000 small businesses, it’s an honor just to be nominated,” said Chambers.
After Balco was nominated for the award, company leaders considered whether to go ahead with it and then thought: Why not? They would get to meet a lot of new people and, if they won, they would get a chance to tell more people in Wichita about their company.
But the process had another benefit, as well, said Becky Crisler, Balco’s manager of sales support.
It was a bit like going through an internal audit: asking staff members specifically what they do, how the company performs and how the company helps the community.
It’s a valuable exercise in self-examination, she said.
Jon Rolph, president of Sasnak Management, delivered the luncheon’s keynote address, cautioning those in the audience not to let their business lives overwhelm their personal lives.
Icon Structures president Brandon Wilson joked during his acceptance speech that “this is pretty flattering. I guess, after Jon’s speech, I was curious if there were any auctioneers in the house, because I might want to put my business up for sale.”
Wilson even told a story on himself: While his wife was in the hospital preparing to give birth to their second child, he sat beside her working on the new company’s first project.
But he said that he and his wife, Tricia, who run the firm together, love what they do. Building the company from scratch over the past nine years has been tremendously rewarding.
“Long hours, hard work, but at the end of the day, we go to work every day doing what we love to do,” Wilson said.