CEO of the Year
By Linda T. Kennedy and Lindsey Hannay
In a history-making era when CEOs across the country fell by the wayside as quickly as company revenues dropped and unemployment rose, some CEOs found their finest hour. Utah Business magazine is proud to celebrate eight of Utah’s outstanding CEOs, who used their hard-earned experience and roll-up-your-sleeve-and-get-to-it work ethic to not only hold their companies together, but to lead them to exceptional success. Several of our CEO of the Year honorees credit other leaders for setting a standard they could follow. Other CEO honorees made decisions that some might consider risky business. But all of these outstanding leaders share a common belief in not settling for the status quo. Join us as we honor eight of Utah's top leaders in our 2010 CEO of the Year recognition feature.
Salt Lake Chamber
If you ever have an opportunity to listen to Lane Beattie offer business advice, you're likely to hear something that resembles an Olympic champion's mantra: work hard, do more than is expected of you, make good decisions and be willing to do the things others are not willing to do.
They are fitting beliefs coming from a leader who helped put Utah on the map as chief Olympic officer for the state from 2000 to 2003, where he oversaw the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. It was after a winning run in that role that Beattie became president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. Today, his goal is to strengthen Utah's business community and the state's overall economy.
“Lane Beattie is a pragmatic CEO,” says Marty Carpenter, director of communications and marketing at the chamber. “He's not afraid to change directions when necessary, but isn't one to take risks solely to take risks.”
Beattie shifted the chamber's focus from a primarily networking organization to one that influences public policy to benefit businesses. Since then, health system reform has been a top priority for the chamber, which recently celebrating the passage of HB 188, which expands access to the health insurance market through the Utah Health Exchange. The Salt Lake Chamber also helped the business community understand and concentrate on the importance of transportation infrastructure and education. “We did it by building coalitions, collaborating and educating people about the need,” Beattie says.
Under Beattie's leadership, the Salt Lake Chamber’s membership grew from 4,200 organizations at the beginning of 2009 to 5,700 by the end of the year, a period when many chambers in the country were losing memberships. The chamber also had its strongest sales month in the history of the organization in October 2009.
“In today's world, it is very important to stay focused and prepare for change,” says Beattie. “Through it all you must apply the principles of integrity and common sense and give everything great effort.”
“Lane Beattie is an optimist—that attitude sets the tone for the staff,” says Carpenter about Beattie's relationships with his staff. “Everyone works hard and everyone feels like an integral part of the success, not only of the organization, but of the business community and the local economy.”
Paul Jarman says that becoming CEO of InContact was the pivotal turning point in his career. “In the fall of 2000, I was working as a vise president of finance and operations of a small telecom company which eventually became inContact,” recalls Jarman. “At that time, I was asked to take charge of and turn around the company, which was in crisis. I had to make tough financial decisions, rethink our entire business strategy, and motivate our employees to stick together and keep moving forward. There were a lot of sleepless nights, and many times, I couldn't even cash my own paycheck.”
The payback now, though, is a company that last year outperformed 2008 software revenues by 46 percent in the first quarter, and 55 percent in the second quarter and third quarter, despite the recession. The company also had the largest user group conference in history in 2009, with 28 percent growth in attendance over 2008.
“Paul Jarman has reshaped inContact from its original incarnation as a telecommunications provider into a leadership position in the relatively new field of on-demand call center service,” says Heather Hurst, public relations manager at inContact. “Today, inContact has more call center implementations than any competing vendor.”
In 2004 Jarman decided to grow the business telecommunications company to a cloud-based software provider, which at the time was a very risky and unproven strategy. But Jarman followed his favorite quote by John Wooden, former UCLA basketball coach: “If you always do what you have always done, you will always go where you have always been.” He embraces the quote in a literal sense. “My employees are sick of hearing me repeat this one,” he says.
But Jarman, too, credits mentors who guided him toward success—namely Ted Stern, inContact's chairman of the board and a mentor, investor and friend for the past 10 years. “In his days at Westinghouse, [Stern] managed up to 50,000 employees and has shared his wisdom freely with me as we grew the business,” says Jarman. “One thing he always says is, ‘Enjoy what you are doing [at work] because you will spend much of your life doing that, and find people you like to work with who share your same passion.’”
At the end of the day, Jarman credits his success to his wife, Sarah, who he says is the most influential person in his life. “She has been a great partner for 18 years in business as well as life, and the person I make all important decisions with.”
Mike L Washburn
Thanksgiving Point Institute
Mike Washburn could have been an international spy; an undisclosed but well-known government agency made him several offers. As glamorous as that might have been, he turned it down, opting a path that would eventually help him make a difference in his community.
Now, leading Thanksgiving Point Institute, Washburn has brought unparalleled membership growth and community support to the organization in an economy where many nonprofits have struggled. Under Washburn’s leadership, Thanksgiving Point now generates more than 75 percent of its own support, up from 24 percent in 2003. Today, nearly 20,000 members constitute a significant portion of Thanksgiving Point’s earned revenue, and the organization received a 45 percent increase in grant awards since 2007.
“Mike Washburn has the ability to recognize needs of the community and forge true partnerships to meet those needs,” says Dave Francis, Utah State University (USU) Extension 4-H youth development specialist. USU Cooperative Extension partners with Thanksgiving Point to utilize the resources of both institutions to educate youth and adults.
Forming relationships based on trust and developing meaningful partnerships as a result are skills Washburn learned early on when working in corporate lending at Bank of America. “A turning point occurred when a man walked into my office on the 50th floor of the Bank of America tower in downtown Los Angeles and asked if the bank would be willing to be a sponsor of the Sundance Film Festival,” Washburn recalls. “The bank was the biggest lender in the film industry—it was a great opportunity for the bank to give back at a very grass roots level. To my surprise, my manager did not agree. To his surprise, I went to his manager and convinced him to support the opportunity.”
Eventually, Washburn became the CFO for the Robert Redford and Sundance Group, and was a founder of the North Fork Preservation Alliance, now the Sundance Preserve. Since the organization is dedicated to maintaining the balance of art, nature and community, it could be considered a fitting precursor to Washburn’s work leading an organization centered on community interests and values.
“One of our guiding philosophies is that the experiences at Thanksgiving Point aren’t about something, they are about someone.”
Dr. Robert W. Mendenhall
Western Governors University
Thirteen years ago, 19 Western governors started a mission to expand access to higher education through online, competency-based degree programs. In 1999, that mission became reality when the first students enrolled and at the same time, Dr. Robert W. Mendenhall joined as president. Since then, Western Governors University (WGU), a private, nonprofit, fully accredited online university has developed into a national university, offering more than 50 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and serving more than 18,000 students in all 50 states. It wasn’t easy getting WGU there, though.
“It was a major challenge getting WGU accredited because our model was different from any other,” says Mendenhall, explaining that having the accreditation team focus on outcomes, rather than inputs, led to eventual success. And it’s the focus on outcomes that Mendenhall uses to measure his own success as well.
“Success is building a business that can last, that provides good employment for people and that produces a product that people want and that makes the world a better place.”
Prior to joining WGU, Mendenhall started his own company, WICAT Systems, just two weeks before starting law school. WICAT Systems, which conducted computer-based training and education, led Mendenhall to his next adventure at IBM, where he led the company’s K-12 education programs.
“Maybe I would have become a lawyer, but I like to start and grow businesses that make a difference in the world, so I probably would have found some other industry where I could start and run a business.”
Today, WGU is growing more than 30 percent annually and plans to continue expanding its offerings. Mendenhall says the university’s bigger vision is to demonstrate a model for affordable education that measures learning rather than time.
“I had a mentor early in my career who taught me a lot about delegation, about spending my time on the things that really matter, about working fewer hours but making sure I was working on the right things,” he says. Now as a mentor to others, Mendenhall advises students to choose something they love. “I tell everyone to make sure they do something that matters to them.”
Dallin A. Larsen
Dallin A. Larsen says he has been an entrepreneur his entire life. “My parents taught me how to go out and sell the zucchini, and ‘don’t come back until it’s sold,’” he recalls. With a work-hard business mentality engrained into Larsen at a young age, he quickly realized that the normal 9-to-5 job wasn’t for him. While in college, Larsen opened 20 shaved-ice shacks scattered throughout Utah. Later, he opened five franchise businesses. “It taught me that a lot of success in business is because of the people. You have to get the right people on the bus.”
He credits teaming with his brother, Randy Larsen, and friend, Henry Marsh, for helping MonaVie, a distributor of acai berry-based fruit juices, achieve more than $1.6 billion in cumulative sales in 12 countries around the world in less than four years. But he says there’s something more to his company’s success than his previous ventures: establishing a for-the-people, by-the-people business philosophy.
“I believed when I founded MonaVie that the company should generate abundance in many forms—health, prosperity and well-being. This meant creating a culture in which giving back was a built-in principle governing the actions of distributors and corporate leaders alike.”
From MonaVie’s start, Larsen established the MORE Project, an independent nonprofit organization that helps feed, clothe and educate more than 2,000 children and adults in Brazil. In 2009, the project raised more than $3 million with the help of distributors and employees. MonaVie covers 100 percent of the project’s administrative costs, so all donations go to the families living in poverty. MonaVie also uses sustainable acai harvesting methods to preserve the rainforest and give local workers an opportunity of increased income.
Larsen, according to his employees, practices what he preaches. “He does not lead his company sitting behind a desk at the corporate office,” says Julie Jenkins, PR manager at MonaVie. “He travels the world meeting with distributors who are, he believes, the company’s greatest asset.”
Larsen says he believes MonaVie can become a $20 billion company in the next 20 years, but he has an even broader vision for the company’s future. “My goal is not for MonaVie to be the best company in the world, but to be the best company for the world.”
Cache Valley Electric
As a high school student, Jim Laub experienced a major turning point when he realized he would never be the third baseman for the New York Yankees.
“At that point, I began to think more about joining the family business that my grandfather started in 1915. College and a career began to be more important than it had been.”
After graduating from Utah State University, Laub began working full time at Cache Valley Electric in 1974. Now as the company’s president and CEO, Laub works to emulate his father who laid the ground work for a company that has experienced tremendous growth in the past four years.
Allison Milne, business development director for Cache Valley Electric, attributes the company’s success to Laub’s forward-thinking philosophy and his ability to explore new technologies without abandoning the company’s history and traditions.
Today, Laub measures success by the influence he has on his employees, as well as in the community. “Success can be measured by how you are able to give back to the community you live and work in, and to what degree you are able to assist individuals or organizations that need a helping hand.”
Laub adds that the best part of his job is developing relationships with others and knowing that he is leaving things better than they were before.
“Jim takes the time to recognize and comprehend what his employees and his customers need and value,” says Milne, emphasizing Laub’s skills for understanding, and his integrity and loyalty with others. “He doesn’t use a one-size-fits-all template with them and he never relies on stereotypes or common conclusions. He takes the time to get to know people and see them as individuals.”
Consequently, Cache Valley Electric has an unprecedented low turnover rate. Only one of the company’s employees left in 2009. “Cache Valley Electric is successful because of what the men and women do on the jobsite every day of the year, in all kinds of weather and under all kinds of difficult circumstances,” Laub says. “Management needs to be visible and supportive of its employees.”
Jack Livingood says one of his strategies for business was inspired by a Nelson Mandela quote: “There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Livingood translates the quote to mean “think big.” And since joining Big-D in 1978, thinking big has led to the construction company’s success.
“During my career, Big-D has grown from $3 million in revenue to more than $600 million in revenue, and we have completed more than 100 million square feet of construction,” he says. “Today we have more than 400 employees working out of six offices and throughout the western United States.”
Livingood’s long-term professional vision is “to create a company that is grounded in values where there is no difference between what is said and done, to create an environment where good people can have outstanding careers, and to ultimately be the most sought after company in the business.”
Cory Moore, Big-D Construction says one of Livingood’s greatest skills is encouraging his employee’s entrepreneurial spirit, and surrounding himself with great and influential people. For Livingood, success is a matter of keeping promises to customers, employees and community. “The measurement is successful long-term relationships,” he says.
Livingood, who was elected Big-D president at age 28 and CEO at age 35, says he values the lessons he learned from role models in the business world: Steve Covey for teaching personal responsibility; Jack Welch for teaching candid communication; Kent Murdock for teaching consistent company culture; and his father, Dee Livingood, for teaching him the values that have defined his business career and led to his success.
Moore says Livingood is also respected for his passion when it comes to construction and business. “Jack likes to be ahead of the curve when it comes to any new innovations in the construction industry and the markets. I think this is very clear with how Big-D Construction maneuvered to become one of the first in the green building community to be nationally certified,” he says, adding Livingood’s innovative leadership has placed the company on the road to long-term success.
Three beliefs help Todd Pedersen lead his company, APX Alarm, every day. First, provide the best service possible. Second, improve something every single day. Third, treat your employees like gold. “They are your greatest asset in your organization,” he says. “I believe the finances and profitability will work themselves out if you follow these basic principles.”
Pedersen definitely has some evidence proving those principles’ effectiveness. APX Alarm has experienced tremendous growth and job creation over the last 10 years, now employing up to 9,000 employees. Under Pedersen’s direction, the company has become one of the largest full-service residential security companies in the United States and is ranked No. 7 in the SDM list of the largest 100 security installation and monitoring companies. In 2009, the company was recognized by J.D. Power and Associates for providing an outstanding customer service experience.
Pedersen says the company couldn’t have reached success without its employees, and he considers them his heroes in the business world. “Really, it is the people I work with every day—from our executive team to every employee in the company, it is a privilege to have such a wonderful team.” Pedersen adds that partnerships with Goldman Sachs, Jupiter Partners and Peterson Partners have also played an integral role in helping the company grow and expand.
Pedersen also credits his family, especially his father and grandfather, for instilling leadership and a strong work ethic in him. “I grew up in a family with a lot of pride. They taught me the importance of making correct decisions in life. As a result, I never wanted to do anything that would embarrass or hurt the family name.”
Beyond APX Alarm, Pedersen also created and leads the APX Family Foundation, which last year donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to charitable initiative throughout Utah.
“Perhaps Todd's greatest legacy is his desire and commitment of APX and its employees to make a difference in the communities we live and serve,” says Stuart Dean, director of Public Relations at APX Alarm.