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Neal Rothermel, 34, & Mandy Moore, 35: Virtual Meeting Strategies

Don't call Neal Rothermel a young millionaire. "I'm not real comfortable with it," says the principal of meeting and event planning company Virtual Meeting Strategies (VMS). He's careful to point out that it's VMS that garnered over $25 million in gross revenue in 2001, not him personally. That kind of attitude from husband and wife co-founders Rothermel and principal Mandy Moore has shaped VMS into the well-grounded business it is today.

VMS has grown from humble beginnings in 1995 in Indianapolis. Rothermel came from a background in the corporate meetings and incentives industry and Moore had been working in large-scale special events. They had each been the other's boss at various points. "The only equitable thing to do was to become fifty-fifty," says Rothermel. One computer, two file cabinets and $1,000 got them up and running, working from their home. They have since added more than 40 employees and moved the business to larger digs.

A focus on Fortune 500 and pharmaceutical companies has kept VMS recession-proof and growing. Though the company offers videoconferencing and other enhancements to a client list that includes Eli Lilly and IBM, the bulk of its business involves old-fashioned face-to-face meetings.

"Company culture" isn't just a catchphrase at VMS, it's a passion. Rothermel calls it their greatest achievement. A written set of core business values that emphasize an entrepreneurial spirit, unshakeable ethics and teamwork permeates everything the business does. "It's not just words on a piece of paper," says Rothermel, "those are things we live by."

Success Secrets

What has been your biggest challenge?
Neal Rothermel: The biggest challenge is momentum and sales. We had the right idea, but getting it off the ground [requires a] combination of the right attitude, the right staying power and also being in the right place at the right time. All of that has to be in alignment.

What has been your greatest accomplishment?
Rothermel: What I'm most proud of is the team atmosphere and the great company culture centered on those core values we've created.

What are your future plans for VMS?
Rothermel: We want to continue our aggressive growth. We want to be the leading full-service meeting planning company in the Midwest.

Amanda C. Kooser, Gisela M. Pedroza, April Y. Pennington, Devlin Smith and Nichole L. Torres contributed to this article.

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This article was originally published in the November 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Got ID?.

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