Brad Sugars, 36
ActionCoach, Las Vegas
Projected 2007 Sales: $220 million
Description: Executive business coaching
Driven to Succeed: When other 15-year-old boys were obsessing about video games and girls, Australia-born Brad Sugars was dreaming up business ideas. By the time he was 22, he'd owned more businesses than most 50-year-olds and was educating business owners about how to run their companies.
Street Smarts: Although the path to success was fairly short for the trained accountant, Sugars absorbed a wealth of business know-how. At 22, he founded ActionCoach, his business coaching franchise company, but Sugars didn't settle for just one entrepreneurial venture. "Over the years [since I started ActionCoach], I've owned and operated pretty much everything, from magazine publishing to insurance to dog-food businesses," says Sugars. "And now it's good because I coach in what I do, not what I theoretically believe." As it turns out, business coaching is the perfect endeavor for Sugars: It combines his love of deal making with his adventurous entrepreneurial spirit.
Staff Smarts: Quality employees with a range of expertise are his company's most valuable assets. Says Sugars, "You have to make sure you have not just good people around you, but great people." It was Sugars' aptitude for finding skilled employees that helped him franchise his business. After being trained by ActionCoach, his employees had the skills and knowledge to take on clients of their own, so Sugars decided that if he wanted to keep his brand strong and meet his goals for expansion, franchising was the way to go.
Global Expansion: In the 14 years since Sugars started ActionCoach (formerly known as Action International), the company has expanded to 24 countries and more than 1,500 coaches. Essential to its success is ActionCoach's mission of helping other businesses. Sugars--who is also one of Entrepreneur.com's experts--says, "I love a business where you can make a profit and help people at the same time."
Follow His Lead: Knowledgeable team members can help you grow your business to new heights. --Kim Orr
John Vechey, 28; Brian Fiete, 29; and Jason Kapalka, 37
PopCap Games, Seattle
Projected 2007 Sales: More than $20 million
Description: Creator and provider of downloadable games
Level One: When game designer Jason Kapalka first met John Vechey and Brian Fiete in 1997, the two 19-year-olds had just been wooed from Indiana to work at Kapalka's former employer, a gaming company. "We hit it off really well," says Kapalka, who was impressed by an online game the two teens had created. "We kept in touch, and around 2000, we were all a little unhappy with our jobs. We thought, 'Hey, we could start our own company.'"
Beyond the Bust: As it turned out, the years 2000 and 2001 weren't kind to internet companies. "We didn't have the best timing, but we survived because we didn't have many expenses," says Kapalka. The business's first low-overhead stomping grounds were in the co-founders' respective apartments. PopCap adapted to uncertain times by experimenting with direct game downloads from its website. The gamble paid off, and within a couple of years, the company moved to a real office in Seattle. It has since added offices in Chicago; San Francisco; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Dublin, Ireland.
High Score: "We're just trying to keep a very simple business model: Make games. If people like them, they'll buy them," says Kapalka, adding that top sellers include Bejeweled, Bookworm, Chuzzle and Peggle--all games that are easy to learn but hard to master. People certainly love PopCap's games: Their content generated around $75 million in sales of their content across all platforms and partners in 2006. A lot of that is because the games have more in common with Pac-Man and Tetris than with World of Warcraft. PopCap is helping to engineer a shift from complicated, hard-core gaming to casual gaming for general audiences. Says Kapalka, "We're moving toward the democratization of video games." And that's a winning formula.
Follow Their Lead: No matter how fast your company grows, stay focused on keeping your product quality standards high. --Amanda C. Kooser