Sheldon Wolf, founder and CEO of Spellex Corp., credits perseverance and high-caliber employees for the business success he has achieved over the past quarter-century.
What began as a budding idea at the kitchen table of his one-bedroom apartment in 1988 has blossomed into a leading provider worldwide of specialized dictionary enhancement software solutions for the healthcare, legal and scientific communities.
On Thursday, April 19, Wolf will be honored by the College of Business at The University of Southern Mississippi as its 2012 Boardman Entrepreneur of the Year during a special ceremony set for 6 p.m. at the Great Southern Club in Gulfport, Miss. He is a 1972 graduate of Southern Miss with a bachelor’s degree in music education.
“I am surprised, hugely honored and humbled by this award,” said Wolf. “Having my own alma mater recognize me as one of their graduates who went out into the world and made something of myself is wonderful recognition. Also, being put in the same category as the very successful business people who have received this award before me makes me feel incredibly proud.”
The annual Boardman Entrepreneur of the Year Award is part of the Boardman Forum, established by Joseph Boardman of Gulfport, Miss. Nominations for the honor are presented by the Southern Miss Business Advisory Council.
“Sheldon Wolf is most deserving of this award. He has effectively modeled the necessary traits for successful entrepreneurship: leadership, management, and teambuilding ability,” said Southern Miss President Martha D. Saunders. “Our students will certainly benefit from his advice.”
Following his graduation from Southern Miss, Wolf taught junior high school music for two years in Albany, Ga., before leaving to make his mark in the business world. After spending the next several years working in a variety of information technology positions, Wolf began to envision great potential for vertical market software spelling tools for industries that required specialized terminology. The vision for Spellex was born.
Spellex products now have more than 1,000,000 users in 42 countries and counts among its notable clients – Microsoft, IBM, the United Nations, the Supreme Court, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, General Electric and the United States Senate.
“Sheldon represents the very spirit of Southern Miss and entrepreneurship that Joe Boardman and the Business Advisory Council hoped to recognize with this award,” said Dr. Lance Nail, dean of the College of Business at Southern Miss. “Sheldon took the risk to venture out on his own and create value through hard work and servicing customer needs. He truly represents the spirit of this award.”
Wolf is quick to point out the keys to his company’s success which includes offices in the U.S.; Cambridge, England; Glasgow, Scotland and Queensland, Australia.
“The key to a successful business lies within the people who work in that business,” he said. “While having a good product or service is important, a business’ real success depends on having high-caliber people working in your company. It’s important to create a company culture that breeds successful people – one where everyone participates and benefits from the success of the company.”
Wolf also extols the virtues of hard work and determination. His father, a native of Poland, dropped out of school in the fifth grade to help support the family. When the Nazi regime began to take hold in Eastern Europe, Wolf’s father was conscripted to work in the coal mines in Germany for a year before he was allowed to emigrate to the United States.
His father became permanently disabled when Wolf was a small child and their family of four was supported by Wolf’s mother who worked as a bookkeeper during the day and a waitress at night.
“Perseverance is another vital key to success,” said Wolf. “The ability to persevere when others give up is an innate personality trait in some people, but can also be learned.”
In Wolf’s office hangs a plaque inscribed with a favorite quote from noted Mississippi author and speaker Zig Ziglar: “You’ll get everything in life you want, if you just help enough other people get what they want.” Wolf has adopted that philosophy whole-heartedly.
“I run my business with this aphorism and, in many ways, I live my life this way as well,” he said.