Tech entrepreneur takes her job quite literally

July 31, 2006

BY MICHAEL KRAUSS

Who is Annemarie Omrod? She's CEO of Chicago-based John Galt Solutions. She's a top Chicago tech entrepreneur little known in the local community. She doesn't seek the spotlight or venture capital. She's quietly growing her software company one client at a time.

Omrod just added to her roster Sterling, Ill.-based Wahl Clipper Corp. -- a global leader in making trimming tools for the beauty- and barber-salon trade, consumer personal care and animal grooming.

Her privately held software company competes in the lucrative supply-chain solutions market, which industry analyst AMR estimates generates $5.5 billion in sales and is growing at 7.4 percent annually. Her clients know her accomplishments and value her technology.

Her company takes its name from the iconic figure in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, where John Galt leads an intellectual strike of leading industrialists to protect the world manufacturing economy from socialism.

A collector of minds

"It's what John Galt represents in the book," Omrod says. "He was the collector of great minds."

Omrod has collected and packaged powerful thinking about demand planning into her software.

Her company's forecasting software helps real world companies such as Elkay, Hasbro, John Deere, L'Oreal, Oil-Dri, Wells Lamont and Wahl Clipper anticipate and forecast production so that supply equals demand, and costly inventories stay low.

In today's competitive free market economy, John Galt Solutions helps manufacturing companies remain profitable.

Steve Bartok, demand planning manager at Wells Lamont, says, "John Galt has hit a home run with their capabilities to assist decision-makers in identifying areas of the business that need forecast adjustment actions. They are the driver of our forecast process."

El000kay manufacturing exec Chuck Macke adds, "We have enjoyed a good relationship with Anne's organization for years."

The 39-year-old Omrod is a New Jersey native and Drexel University computer science graduate who came to Chicago to make her fortune at the Board of Trade. Instead of succeeding in soy bean futures, Omrod hit it big in technology.

In 1996 she co-founded John Galt Solutions with her husband, Kai Trepte. Today the duo sit atop the old Commonwealth Edison building at 125 S. Clark guiding a software business that is a world stopper.

"We want to be No. 3 in demand planning," says a polite, ambitious and low-key Omrod. Unlike the boisterous, overblown dot-com-era entrepreneurs, Omrod eschews venture capital. Her business prospers through hard work, penny pinching and boot strapping.

The company is self-funded and successful. Yet Omrod is self-effacing and quietly aggressive. She describes herself as having "Midwestern values" despite growing up on the East Coast. The formula is working.

Though you've probably never heard of John Galt Solutions or demand planning software, Omrod's technology has more than 5,000 customers, and the math kernel or processing logic for her product is licensed and incorporated into the products offered by global software giants like PeopleSoft, Oracle and QAD.

Her software company isn't the biggest. She employs 25, but her aim is to capture and dominate the small and mid-size market sector. Her competitors include Manugistics and i2, two powerhouses in the manufacturing and logistics arena. Omrod's success is based on serving the middle market, and it works.

She's just back from South America and has expansion plans for Europe.

Finding tech talent

Omrod is bullish on growing a software business in Chicago though she says finding tech talent is a problem.

"We have a hard time finding experienced software engineers who've worked across the product development life cycle," Omrod says. She needs engineers with database skills, consulting expertise and supply chain knowledge who can multitask.

They might be easier to find in Silicon Valley, but Omrod's staying put. She likes the Midwest business environment.

Her advice for Chicago's emerging entrepreneurs is simple: "Focus on growing your customer base before you worry about venture capital. That will come once you have customers."

Being a profitable No. 3 firm providing real value to mid-size companies appeals more to Omrod than world domination of the supply chain software market.

Now that's the kind of ambition Ayn Rand would have liked.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.

 

 

 ©2006 Marion Consulting Partners