Business Leaders of the Year: 2012

Worcester Business Journal
Business Leaders Of The Year: 2012
By Rick Saia
Editor, Worcester Business Journal

“You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too.”

This quote from the late U.S. House Speaker Sam Rayburn speaks volumes about the dynamics of business today. The experience of being a follower makes a solid leader, and a leader must be an effective follower of business and market trends, as well as customer wants and desires.

When you read the stories about our honorees for this year’s Business Leader of the Year awards, you’ll find that each followed something before leading in significant ways.

To lead effectively, you need a vision and people who will embrace and follow that vision. As Rayburn put it, you need to put yourself in the role of follower so you can better articulate what it is that must be followed.

Here’s a little something about each of this year’s Business Leader of the Year award honorees:

LARGE BUSINESS – George Sakellaris

For 30 years, George Sakellaris has been passionate about the potential payoffs of energy conservation, how everyone — businesses and consumers — can benefit from lower energy use, conserving power and installing energy efficiency measures. His company, Ameresco Inc. of Framingham, has followed that vision and has grown from a startup into a $700-million, nationally recognized business. Ameresco has helped hundreds of clients save millions of dollars on their electricity bills.


Mark Durrenberger’s concern for the environment is what led him to launch New England Breeze Solar, a Hudson-based solar panel installer, a few years ago. That concern is the key to everything the company does, and he has no desire to sacrifice that for a quick buck. “We’re not here to make a killing,” he said. He attributes part of his company’s success to the fact that New England Breeze Solar pushed itself to respond to customers’ individual needs, whether that meant showing up to assess a site on a Saturday or going through alternatives to find something that would work for the homeowner.

NONPROFIT – Charles Faris

In the 1960s, he was driven to volunteer for one of the first therapeutic communities for substance abusers in the country. Today, Chuck Faris leads that organization, then known as Challenge House and now called Spectrum Health Systems. Today, 12 years after Faris became CEO and president, Spectrum has treatment facilities and programming in eight states, employs more than 1,200 people and has $47 million in revenue.


It’s hard to drive around Worcester and not notice Commerce Bank’s blue-and-cinnamon logo. The bank’s brand is ubiquitous, and it underscores its commitment to the community. “They are one of the most outstanding companies for community involvement,” said Timothy Garvin, CEO and president of the United Way of Central Massachusetts, to which Commerce employees donated and pledged nearly $75,000 in 2011. Then, consider its commitment to the future. Last October, the bank purchased the 10-story Slater Building downtown, its longtime headquarters, for more than $4 million.

Thanks to the Clark University Graduate School of Management for assisting us with our Corporate Citizen of the Year selection.

We hope you enjoy reading the stories of this year’s honorees.

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Ameresco: CarolAnn Hibbard, 508-661-2264, [email protected]