5 visionary leaders who saw past their horizons to discover award-winning excellence

2023 Vistage Member Excellence E-book

In every industry, there are those who inspire, lead and shape the world around them. These are leaders who turn their products into household names, who measure success through the lens of their team’s happiness, who think outside the box, and who give back at every opportunity.

2023 member e-book cover Limitless Horizons

We’ve contained these stories in our new e-book, “Limitless Horizons,” which showcases the 2023 Vistage Member Excellence Award winners who know no boundaries and help others see past their horizons.

Here are just a few of their stories, each one an example of what is possible when you decide to dream — and go — big.

Industry Titan

Aaron Walker Aaron Walker | Raleigh, North Carolina
CEO, Vadum, Inc.
Vistage member since 2020

What started in 2005 as a contract between defense contractor Vadum and the U.S. Navy has transformed into partnerships with companies such as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed.

“We are a defense organization, but we don’t try to emulate other defense organizations,” says Walker, who drove accelerated growth by leveraging technology development and machine learning to better analyze complicated sensor data in tactical environments.

In the last few years, Vadum has seen 20-30% growth year-over-year, with revenue increasing from $6 million to $17 million since 2018. During that time, Walker doubled the company’s headcount from 40 to 80 employees.

He credits this rise in numbers to his leadership team, which acts as a strong foundation for the company to rely on.

Walker is fueled by these leadership pillars:

  • Becoming better every day.
  • Turning adversity into an opportunity.
  • Taking time to think through solutions.

Champion of Culture

Joe Janssen | Salem, Oregon
Senior Vice President and GM, Cherry City Electric
Vistage member since 2021

Driven by purpose, Janssen has worked daily to become the most impactful leader he could be. Honing in on consistent profitability and nurturing relationships has led Cherry City Electric to record 36% growth and profit in one year, a first for the 45-year-old company.

A key factor contributing to this phenomenal success was Janssen’s unwavering commitment to protecting and nurturing his most valuable assets — his employees.

By carefully selecting projects aligning with the team’s capacity and schedule, Janssen ensured they could consistently deliver high-quality work without overburdening the workforce. This approach drove financial success and prevented burnout, fostering a resilient and motivated workforce.

As a passionate and encouraging servant leader, Janssen’s leadership pillars include:

  • Treat others with kindness, and good things happen.
  • Be appreciative of people and what they have to offer.
  • Honor and encourage each voice.

Innovation Igniter

Amanda Signorelli | Las Vegas, Nevada
Co-owner, Golden Steer
Vistage member since 2019

Signorelli would’ve never guessed that a background in technology and venture capital would lend itself to the success of her family-run business.

Signorelli and her husband took over her father’s restaurant, Golden Steer Steakhouse, just a few years ago.

“The biggest thing for us was trying to understand how do we come out of this with larger growth opportunities for growth and a substantially higher enterprise value,” she shares.

Seizing the reins, Signorelli launched a complementary e-commerce business that ships nationally and has seen 20% year-over-year profit growth. That isn’t the only growth Signorelli has fostered. The company is adding additional square footage that’s projected to yield 25% in top-line revenue growth.

Over the next five years, Signorelli plans to open a location outside of Nevada and solidify Golden Steer’s national reach.

Signorelli’s leadership pillars are:

  1. Trust requires candor.
  2. A drive to succeed is contagious.
  3. Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

Community Contributor

Meg Clark | Hunt, Texas
Owner, Camp Waldemar
Vistage member since 2016

Camp Waldemar was founded as a place for girls to grow spiritually, mentally and physically. Once a camper herself, Clark has maintained the camp’s fourth-generation traditions while implementing new and relevant programs each year.

This year, she’s introducing a mindfulness program and launching a family camp designed to connect families over a shared vision.

Clark attributes her success to the people she works with and the continuous strive for excellence. She built homes for her staff and their families on the property and encouraged growth in all realms of life.

Under Clark’s leadership, Camp Waldemar achieved remarkable growth in revenue, profit and camper headcount, with 103% booking capacity in 2023.

Clark recommends surrounding yourself with people who:

  • Bring something different to the table, like skills that you might not have.
  • Have similar challenges. They can offer different perspectives and better answers.

Legacy Designer

Dr. Ashok Thareja | Silver Spring, Maryland
CEO, A&T Systems, Inc.
Vistage member 2011-2023

Mention the ’80s, and what comes to mind is colossal hair and shoulder pads. Yet, for Thareja, that iconic era signifies something bigger — the start of A&T Systems, a company he founded almost four decades ago.

Thareja’s passion is not just about building a successful business, but also about growing individuals within the organization. Many employees, including the current CEO, started at the company in entry-level positions and were nurtured to become strong leaders to ensure the future of A&T.

One of the most significant milestones for Thareja was the company’s successful transition to 100% employee-owned, which allows continuity while also providing his long-standing team members with a stake in the company’s future success.

Ashok’s sage words for other leaders considering a transition:

  • If you’re not running the company, who can in your absence?
  • Have a clear succession plan.
  • Plan not only for your success but for your team’s success.

Related Resources

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World-class leadership lessons: Advice from 100+ award-winning executives

Category: Leadership

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About the Author: Mary Ellen Sheehy

As Chief Member Programs Officer, Mary Ellen Sheehy leads Vistage’s Member Programs team, delivering world-class events, Networks, expert speaker programs and other benefits that provide small and midsize businesses with resources and con

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