It’s no easy following in the footsteps of your big brother. Especially when said big brother builds from scratch a company that over a generation becomes a global force with more than $500 million in sales.
But Aron Ain has proven to be more than up to the task. It’s nice that somebody notices.
Ain was recently named the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in New England for the Technology category. He was selected by a panel of judges, with the award issued last week at a gala in Boston.
Ain’s brother, Mark, formed Kronos Inc., then a maker of workplace time clocks (“Did you ‘punch in?’”), in 1977. Two years later, fresh out of Hamilton College, his younger brother Aron came aboard. Aron perfomed several roles over time, working his way up until taking over for Mark as CEO in 2005. By then, Kronos had become a $500 million-per-year software company, offering solutions for time and attendance, payroll, human resources and schedule optimization, and employed more than 1,000 people in four buildings along Route 129 in Chelmsford.
It’s easy to see that Kronos (the word is Greek for “time”) has changed markedly since its founding 35 years ago. Less obvious is its successful change just in the past seven years, the time of Aron Ain’s tenure as CEO.
For example, in 2007, Aron Ain played a leading role in negotiating the sale of Kronos — then a public company — to a private-equity firm, Hellman & Friedman, for $1.8 billion.
And just last year, he accompanied Gov. Deval Patrick and a coalition of business executives, academic leaders and government officials on the Massachusetts-Brazil Innovation Economy Mission to pursue job growth and economic development partnerships between Massachusetts and Brazil.
Ain has built the company up to annual sales of more than $800 million. He continues to think globally, opening offices in China and making the aforementioned inroads in Brazil.
Kronos also instituted what it calls a Technology Employee Development (TED) program, where new hires rotae through six different departments before landing where they best fit for the long term.
Thirty-five years after starting up, Kronos still has elements of a startup. It’s why Ernst & Young gave its top technology entrepreneur award — an award that often goes to somebody running a small company — to Aron Ain.