Boiled down, Thomas Cleary's business strategy is fairly easy to understand.
"The key to everything is having a clear definition of your goals and objectives and a very detailed plan on how you are going to achieve them," said Cleary, chairman of the board and chief executive of G&H Technology of Camarillo.
It is this strategy, in part, that has earned Cleary a top honor in the 1997 Greater Los Angeles Entrepreneur of the Year Award Program sponsored by the Ernst & Young LLP accounting and consulting firm.
Cleary was selected by a panel of business professionals as the top entrepreneur in the category of manufacturing. The program also honored entrants in the categories of real estate-construction, retail, service, technology, entertainment, communications, consumer products and emerging businesses. In 1996, Cleary was a finalist in the entrepreneur of the year program's "turnaround" category.
G&H Technology manufactures components for the military and the aerospace industry. Much of the company's work focuses on parts for satellites and space stations.
"It's about the most exciting thing that's ever happened to me in business," Cleary said of the 1997 entrepreneur award.
"It's a big ego builder," said Cleary, who has been involved in the aerospace business since 1949. "You go through life, work a lot to do certain things. You always have types of problems associated with your work and you always kind of wonder, are you doing the right thing, doing it correctly?"
Cleary and his business partner, Carl Weiss, put together a group of shareholders and investors in 1992 to acquire the struggling G&H Technology from the Penn Central Corp. At the time, the manufacturing operation was ripe for a turnaround, having lost $16 million over the previous three years.
"The company had a fine reputation, good products and certainly a high percentage of its population was competent and good employees," Cleary said. "We had a very clearly defined business plan. We spent almost a year putting the deal together. We studied the backlog of the company, what contracts it had on hand, what programs it was involved in."
Resurrecting companies was nothing new for Cleary, whose business career has involved righting the course of a number of high-tech operations. Although Cleary has consistently left one company to move on to the next, he said his goal is different with G&H Technology.
"My plans are, quite frankly, to stay with the company and grow the company," Cleary said. "This is not just a turnaround and a flip. Most of my turnarounds have been as a non-equity person. This time Carl and I have equity large enough to control the company."
Cleary and the other regional entrepreneur award recipients are eligible for an international entrepreneur award to be handed out in November. The competition will pit the regional award recipients with winners from the programs throughout the country and abroad.