Ernst & Young San Diego honored local entrepreneurs Wednesday night, including a special award for real estate and banking mogul Ernest Rady.
Rady was given Ernst & Young’s Lifetime Achievement Award, only the fourth person to win the award from San Diego’s branch.
The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards is an annual event held in 26 regions around the country.
This year’s San Diego awards recognized excellence in emerging companies, high technology, consumer and business products, turnaround and health and science.
In addition to Rady’s lifetime achievement award, Ernst & Young gave a Master Entrepreneur Award to Les Cross, chief executive officer of the therapeutic device company DJO Inc.
“Entrepreneurs are a special breed,” said emcee Sandra Maas, a news anchor with KUSI. “Our nominees have the uncommon ability an vision to meet adversity face on and overcome it with hard work, courage and creativity.”
The winners included Jeff Goldberg and Tanner Haigwood, CEO and chief operating officer of Cali Bamboo, a company that makes products like fences, flooring and ceilings out of bamboo rather than standard wooden planks.
Polina Braunstein, president and CEO of Quake Global, won the high technology award for her work turning the satellite communicator company.
The award for turnaround went to Jose Luis Laparte, president of PriceSmart.
Laparte is credited with taking the warehouse club company, which operates largely in Central America and the Caribbean, from millions of dollars in losses in 2004, to 60 consecutive months of growth sales.
The health and sciences award went to Alexis Lukianov, chairman and CEO of NuVasive.
Lukianov told attendees that while he’d always been passionate about his company, which makes the tools and implants for a revolutionary kind of back surgery, he’s become an even bigger advocate since having the surgery himself.
Jeffrey McCain, CEO of the software company McCain Inc., which largely makes programs to help municipalities direct traffic, won for consumer and business products and services.
McCain was out of the country on business, but McCain’s vice president of operations accepted the award on his behalf, thanking the company’s staff.
All the winners said they could never have accomplished their goals without their company staff.
“What is an entrepreneur? A good idea surrounded by people who know how to get it done,” said Cross, the CEO of DJO.
Rady, the lifetime achievement award winner, has become as famous in recent years for his philanthropy as for his business ventures.
The University of California, San Diego’s Rady School of Management, as well as the Rady Children’s Hospital are named after him due to his substantial contributions.
Rady made his fortune after founding the real estate company American Assets, and later moving into banking with the creation of Westcorp Inc.
While he’s been successful in multiple industries and is known for generosity, he kept his advice to his fellow entrepreneurs down to earth.
“When you’re climbing up the ladder, be careful whose feet you stepped on,” he said. “Because if the direction should be reversed, those feet may be attached to the ass that you have to kiss on your way down.”
The winners of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Awards were selected from a group of 16 finalist companies. The finalists also included:
- Sam Brown, Knight & Carver Wind Group
- Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive
- Hany Girgis, SGIS
- Marcus Hompesch, Profil Institute for Clinical Research
- Dr. Jamie Howard, Imagine Communications
- David Inns, Jitterbug
- John Kontopuls, ELITE
- Dr. Jay Kranzler, Cypress Bioscience
- Peter Leparulo, Novatel Wireless
- Paul Stannard, SmartDraw.com