Company: Clearfield, Inc., Plymouth, MN
Entry Submitted By: Gary Young Ink
Company Description: Clearfield, Inc. designs and manufactures the FieldSmart fiber management platform, which includes its latest generation Fiber Distribution System (FDS), the Fiber Scalability Center (FSC) and the Fiber Wallbox. Clearfield is a public company, traded on Nasdaq:CLFD.
Nomination Category: Company/Organization Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Best Turnaround of the Year
Nomination Title: Clearfield Inc.
1. Describe for the judges the financial or operational turnaround achieved by the nominated company during the eligibility period (up to 500 words):
Clearfield Inc. is the very definition of a successful turnaround company. Under
the leadership of its new CEO, Cheri Beranek Podzimek, the Minnesota-based fiber
management company recorded its first $1 million profit this year with a 25%
Before June of 2007, the Company was unfocused, with research & development
as well as manufacturing efforts spread across a multitude of technologies and
geographies. Known at the time as APA Enterprises, the Company had not
recorded an operating profit for more than 20 years. The Board of Directors
decided it was time for a change in leadership.
Over the next 12 months, Ms. Podzimek spearheaded efforts to close or sell-off
operations that were not strategic. Perhaps more importantly, she ensured that
potential growth engines received the resources necessary to move forward.
Within three months of her leadership, the Company recorded its first profitable
quarter and soon thereafter was re-branded Clearfield. The new brand provided
employees and other stakeholders the opportunity to jettison the baggage of the
past, and look forward to a bright future.
Ms. Podzimek is an anomaly in this industry – being one of very few CEOs in an
industry traditionally monopolized by men. She is credited with the street smarts
and vision necessary to take the company to the next level.
Ms. Podzimek recognized the market potential of focusing on the rural telecom
marketplace. Rather than pursuing the larger telecommunications sector,
represented by extremely large prospects -- and competitors -- she saw the
revenue possibilities within the rural Fiber to the Home (FTTH) market. A major
part of Clearfield’s success has been focusing on the 1,100 independent rural
telecommunications companies – who need the connectors, splitters, connectivity
cabinets and other equipment that Clearfield provides.
Clearfield has also expanded its global scope. In 2008, the company won its first
international accounts after signing with distributors in Canada and northern
Europe. The new markets have helped to fill the revenue gaps that could have
developed because of slowing U.S. home construction.
Revenue growth is only part of the story. To maximize profitability, Ms. Podzimek
championed an effort to reduce manufacturing costs. Gross profit accelerated with
growth of more than 40%, due to a combination of product redesign and
manufacturing outsourcing. Throughout the sourcing initiatives, Podzimek
maintained that the Company should only perform those manufacturing steps that
it could do better than alternative sources. However, maintaining the “small-town”
culture of its employee community was a key objective of the program. Although
Clearfield now produces nearly half of its product line at facilities outside of
its Minnesota-based manufacturing plant, the Company was able to maintain its
workforce of 110 employees.
The company has gained a true technological edge this year through the
development of a number of FTTH innovations. These industry-first products
included the FieldSmart Fiber Scalability Center, FieldSmart Fiber Distribution
System, FieldSmart Fiber Management Wallbox, and the Clearview Cassette,
The future looks particular bright for Clearfield. With Ms. Podzimek’s steady hand
on the wheel and eye on the horizon, the course is set for continued growth.
2. List the URLs (web addresses) of any online news stories, press releases, or other documents that you would like the judges to see that support your entry. IMPORTANT: List each URL on a separate line, begin each URL with http://, and enclose each URL in square brackets. For example, [http://www.yourcompany.com/pressrelease.html]:
3. Provide a brief biography of the person or persons who lead the nominated company (up to 100 words):
Clearfield, Inc. President and CEO Cheri Beranek Podzimek is considered a
visionary in the telecommunications networking industry, and has extensive
leadership experience in the field of emerging high-tech growth companies.
In July 2003, Cheri Beranek Podzimek joined Clearfield, Inc., formerly known as
APA Enterprises as president of its subsidiary, APA Cables and Networks
In June 2007, she was appointed president and CEO.
Previously, Podzimek served as president of Americable, which was acquired by
APA in June of 2003.
She also served as chief operating officer for Americable from 2001 to 2002.
Podzimek has held a variety of leadership positions with emerging high-growth
technology companies, including:
o Vice President of Marketing, Transition Networks (1996-2001)
o Director of Marketing, Tricord Systems (1992-1996)
o Director of Marketing, Digi International (1988-1992)
Podzimek has extensive non-profit experience including:
o City of Fargo, North Dakota
o The Metropolitan Planning Commission of Fargo/Moorhead
o North Dakota State University (NDSU)
Podzimek earned a Master’s of Science degree from North Dakota State
University and her Bachelor’s of Science degree from Southwest Minnesota State