Last Thursday evening, Larry Lukis and I were honored to be named by Ernst & Young as Entrepreneurs of the Year for the Upper Midwest region (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas) in the Technology category.
It was a black-tie event, which if you know either of us, you are aware that we’re not big on ties, much less tuxedos. But I have to admit, it was an enjoyable, very well-run event that we enjoyed sharing with several of our colleagues and our spouses. When it came our turn to accept our award and say a few words to the 400+ people in attendance, I did my best to make sure everyone knew that the success of Proto Labs has been the result of a lot of hard work by many people. We also attempted to make that clear in the press release that went out the next morning. So to all Proto Labs employees: congratulations to you too.
As we walked out of the ballroom we saw a couple of huge photos of Larry and me being displayed for the event, and one of our unnamed colleagues (Don Krantz) decided to bring them out to Maple Plain for display. I’ve grudgingly agreed to leave them on the wall at HQ for a brief period of time, at which point mine will probably be a gift to my mom who collects that sort of thing.
On a related note, one of the most common questions I get from the press or investors is, “How would you describe the culture of your company?”. Up until the E&Y event my standard answer was, “Collaborative Meritocracy”…after which I would explain that we work hard to benefit from working as a team and reward good ideas that get implemented. But now I’ve decided to also include the word “entrepreneurial” in the answer as well, and expand my answer to “Entrepreneurial Collaborative Meritocracy”. I realize that 16 syllables is a lot of work to say, but the idea is recognize that we clearly have an entrepreneurial heritage thanks to Larry, and also to convey the “passion to succeed” mentality that is at the heart of so many things going on worldwide around this great company.
Brad Cleveland is President and CEO of Proto Labs, Inc.