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Indiana's Entrepreneurs of the Year
Judy Nagengast, CEO
Continental Design & Engineering

Entrepreneur of the Year: Judy Nagengast

Judy Nagengast, CEO of Continental Design & Engineering, observed during her speech at Entrepreneurs of the Year Awards Banquet that men and women look at business differently. "For men it's about how big you are. Men are always concerned with size," Nagengast said with a chuckle, "But for women it's more about balance."

Balance is an understatement, considering that Nagengast took on the helm of Continental Design when she had two toddlers, ages 1 and 3. Judy and her husband, Bill, started the company when they moved to Anderson in 1985. Bill was working for General Motors' Guide Lamp Division, which is now Delphi Interior and Lighting Systems, when he realized the need for additional design staff. In response, Bill Nagengast created Continental, hiring the employees and then contracting them out to General Motors. But the time spent running the company limited the time he could spend designing, so Judy took over running the company. By 1985, Judy Nagengast was CEO, having incorporated the company and taking ownership of 99.9 percent of the company, with Bill serving as the chief operating officer while continuing to work for Delphi.

Company services now run the gamut from engineering consulting to technical staffing and computer aided design as well as CAD station rental and systems administration. In 1992, Continental also opened a design center in Detroit and in 1995 purchased DuPouy Associates, a competing firm in Anderson. All this activity resulted in revenues just shy of $14 million and a staff of 275 employees.

Nagengast says her management style relies heavily on a statistical approach, analysing all different areas of the business in order to pin-point problem areas before the situation becomes critical.

"When there's a problem, I try to figure out what's happening and not blame people." Nagengast says, "People aren't bad people if something is not working; it's a problem that has to be solved."

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