2018 Forty Under 40: Utah’s Rising Stars
The 30s can be a magic decade. A 30-something is old enough to have accomplished a great deal: launching a company (or several), climbing to the top of the corporate ladder, bringing innovation to an industry. But he or she is also young enough to have decades of time for new adventures and fresh accomplishments. While our lineup of Forty Under 40 honorees have already achieved major professional successes, they are perfectly poised for further growth and transformation. Join us as we pause for a moment to celebrate their current successes, before they are off and running again, conquering the world.
John Anderson has played a pivotal role in the growth of Clearlink. He worked hand-in-hand with executive leadership, private equity ownership and a team of investment bankers to successfully sell Clearlink to Sykes Enterprises for $207 million in 2016. He also spearheaded due-diligence efforts for three company acquisitions. Anderson authored GAAP revenue recognition processes for pay-for-performance marketing and sales—processes that enabled Clearlink to accelerate revenue recognition and eliminate GAAP audit deficiencies.
“Some hate the challenge of growth. It takes a sacrifice of time, patience, dedication, and tenacity. When you operate at breakneck speeds like Clearlink does, it hurts sometimes as you burn the midnight oil figuring things out to hit a deadline,” Anderson says. “However, I would not have it any other way. It is the price of growth and innovation. It is why I love working here.”
Community involvement: “This past October, I was the executive sponsor for Clearlink’s Texas Disaster Relief Task Force, leading 40 Clearlink employees to the greater Houston area to help clear and rebuild damaged homes. It was a wonderful experience seeing how a little time and sweat can make a huge impact on a family’s life.”
As a young, black man growing up in rural Arkansas, Marco Barker’s life was transformed by going to college. His experience in gaining critical thinking skills and understanding people with vastly different backgrounds from his own made him want to help others get that same life-changing opportunity. An engineering degree, MBA and PhD later, Barker has built a career as an education administrator and diversity professional.
At Westminster College, Barker has helped the college develop its diversity statement and expand its connections in the community, hosting the statewide Expect the Great conference presented by USHE and supported by state public and private institutions.
“I enjoy identifying ways to connect people; assisting individuals in better understanding diversity, inclusion and the power of embracing differences; building teams and leaders; and developing strategies for transforming environments and cultures to be more welcoming of, responsive to, and reflective of diverse perspectives and individuals,” he says.
Cause he’s passionate about: “I am most passionate about youth development and engagement with communities and populations underrepresented in colleges and universities, in leadership roles, and public service at the highest levels. Giving greater attention to this parity is where inclusion becomes a priority and has become my life’s work.”
Tanner Barney joined Progressive Leasing in 2009 and quickly tackled the company’s slow-moving underwriting process. He identified thousands of data sources and built over 150 unique algorithms in order to automate the underwriting process. As a result, the process transformed from an hours-long manual process based on hand-completed forms sent by fax into a digitized, automated process that could produce an underwriting decision within seconds.
These days, the proprietary Progressive algorithms aggregate and analyze over 25,000 data inputs to make a decision on a single lease approval. This “automated decision engine” helped Progressive Leasing grow from $40 million in revenue in 2009 to more than $1.6 billion in 2016.
In his current role, Barney oversees a team of 38 data scientists with backgrounds in computer engineering, applied mathematics, astrophysics, economics and mechanical engineering—this high-powered team manages all underwriting and data science processes and initiatives for Progressive.
Community involvement: Barney is actively involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, where he mentored a young boy for over three years. When Progressive Leasing hosted a fundraiser and goods drive for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Barney dressed up as Hulk Hogan to engage employees in the effort, which ultimately raised $10,000 and a mountain of much-needed items for the kids.
Bryan Bayles knew he wanted to be in the construction field since he learned how to frame houses at the age of 14. He is now the president of C.W. Land Co., and in the 15 months since he took that role, he has overseen the funding of over $100 million of acquisition, development and construction of communities along the Wasatch Front, which accounts for over 1,700 units and 550 acres. He is also very active with C.W. Urban, the company’s urban housing division, and has six projects with over 70 units slated for completion this year.
“Every day I’m doing things I’ve never done before. I have been fortunate to obtain experience in learning from and working with world-class developers, builders and talented real estate consultants,” says Bayles. “I enjoy bringing this expertise to Utah where, for generations before me, many of my ancestors were involved in community building in the south and southeast corner of the state.”
Community involvement: Bayles is a member of the Urban Land Institute and founded Brigham Young University’s Land Development and Real Estate Club. He regularly mentors aspiring construction management students, and has donated construction services and manual labor for the National Ability Center and The Road Home homeless shelter.
Growing up working on his family’s sod farm, BioGrass Sod Farms, Clark T. Bell knew the business of agriculture. He started his nanotechnology fertilizer company, Aqua-Yield, to disrupt that very business, save farms costs and increase their crop yield. And while he was “laughed out of the room” when he first approached farmers about adopting his technology, Bell is the one laughing now: the company has grown 320 percent in four years and is selling in 32 states and six foreign countries. But while the rising revenue growth is exciting to Bell, the most gratifying thing is seeing how his product really helps farms.
“I have met with family farms in Florida that were about to go out of business if it were not for the Aqua-Yield technology. Seeing the end impact for our farmers and helping them survive and thrive is what I am most singularly proud of,” he says.
Community involvement: Bell serves as a board member on the Jordan Education Foundation, which raises money for teachers that do not have enough resources for their classroom. “I haven’t yet found a teacher in Utah that doesn’t dip into their own bank account to support their classroom and this must end! Our board finds ways to support our amazing teachers.”
Melissa Beutler is a national leader in the realm of construction law. Prior to joining Big-D Construction in 2014, she served at Holland & Hart, where she became an equity partner at the age of 31. She served as the chair of the ConsensusDOCS Drafting Council, responsible for the 2016 revisions to the form construction documents that are used nationwide. She is also the lead editor for two books published by the American Bar Association: Construction Jury Instructions and The Green Construction Lawyer. Beutler is among the few attorneys in Utah who has earned the LEED Accredited Professional certification from the United States Green Building Council.
“One of the most important leadership skills, especially as general counsel, is listening,” she says. “Listening to the parties. And listening for the things that are not being said. You can accomplish much more by listening than you ever can by speaking.”
Cause she’s passionate about: Mentorship. “A professional can make a huge impact to lift and build the community by personally engaging and mentoring another person,” she says. “I have devoted myself extensively to performing individual mentoring work and pro bono legal work with the goal to lift and teach the one.”
Dominic Blosil started his career at an investment bank, where he “came to appreciate the strategic complexity required to build a company where lifestyle, brand and product intersect” while working with consumer products companies. After deciding he wanted a job that would allow him to be more creative and holistic in his approach, he made the leap to Skullcandy. In 2014, he then transitioned to Traeger Grills, where he now serves as CFO.
Although the consumer products industry is rapidly changing, Blosil says he thrives on challenges and learning new things.
“The best way to adapt to industry changes is to always start with the consumer. A longitudinal view of consumer preferences and insights provides a framework upon which a brand can build a strategy that delivers on consumer needs independent of exogenous industry shifts and changes,” he says.
Cause he’s passionate about: Blosil focuses his charitable acts on individuals in need and puts an emphasis on family. Every holiday season, he provides a Christmas for families that could not have one otherwise. He also participates in Traeger’s charitable events with Tree Utah and The Road Home shelter.
Brad Bonham comes from a family of entrepreneurs, so starting Walker Edison 10 years ago was a “natural progression” in his life. “I always knew that I wanted to own my own business,” he says. “It was just a matter of what it would be.”
Since then, Bonham has taken the ready-to-assemble furniture company from humble beginnings to five countries and over $100 million in annual revenue. He works with his product development team to design new products, fosters relationships with vendors and oversees the company’s finances. Bonham’s efforts earned him a spot as an EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 regional finalist.
“I am most proud of the team we have built at Walker Edison, and as a result all of the good we can do,” says Bonham. “You can do a lot more good with hundreds of employees instead of two.”
Community involvement: Bonham and his business partner created the Walker Edison Foundation, through which they donate time and resources to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Muscular Distrophy Foundation, the Catholic League of Charities and LDS humanitarian efforts. Bonham currently serves as board chair for Make-A-Wish Utah and is involved with the Ronald McDonald House, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Utah Food Bank and Rise Against Hunger.
As general counsel at Phillips Edison, Sara Brennan took the lead in the company’s effort to spin-off its non-grocery divisions into a new standalone company: PECO Real Estate Partners. Brennan built the new company from scratch and helped secure $300 million in private equity funding for the venture.
PECO Real Estate Partners was built around a core of 40 employees who came with Brennan from Phillips Edison—and the change was “hard for people,” says Brennan. “It was a big change for everybody to go from a more established company into a newer startup. … You really have to demonstrate strong leadership; you have to lead by example. You have to empower people to do their work and really make them feel invested in the outcomes.”
Cause she’s passionate about: As the most senior female in leadership at Phillips Edison, Brennan created a networking group for women called PECO NOW. As a result, representation of women in senior leadership at the company increased dramatically. At PECO Real Estate Partners, Brennan says, “what I try to do is provide opportunities for women in the organization to be parts of meetings, be in presentations, to have access not just to management internally, but also externally, so they can build those relationships that they can leverage as they grow their careers.”
Matthew Campasano joined Moreton & Company in 2010 as a commercial insurance agent and quickly rose the ranks to become vice president. Before joining Moreton, he managed a wide variety of commercial business for Wells Fargo Insurance Services. During his career, Campasano has facilitated the brokering of commercial insurance for local and national companies in excess of over $10 million in premium.
“The insurance business has changed drastically in the last 10 years,” he says. “Businesses are faced with many new liabilities that have altered the way in which they conduct their business. This has forced the insurance industry to adapt to those risks and create new insurance products. As an insurance advisor, this evolution requires you to know your products, insurance companies and continually strive to gain and understand as much knowledge as possible.”
Community involvement: Campasano is deeply involved with the Salt Lake Chamber, serving over nine years with the Good Will Ambassadors (formally the Salt Shakers) and other committees. He also served six years with the Salt Lake Association of Independent Insurance Agents and as a member of the Young Agent Advisory Committee for WCF Insurance. He is currently a board member for Junior Achievement and the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association.
Marty Carpenter’s career has hardly been linear—entrepreneurship is his third career, following stints in broadcasting and public policy. He headed communication for the Salt Lake Chamber, then ran communications for Gov. Gary Herbert’s 2012. He later served as a senior advisor to the governor and as the administration’s primary spokesman, and then he ran Herbert’s 2016 campaign.
“This new chapter, running an external affairs firm, draws from things I’ve learned as a broadcaster and as a policy/political communication strategist. I’m still writing and helping clients understand the best way to articulate their message,” he says. “I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to do something I enjoy and something that comes naturally to me to help others.”
Community involvement: “I am just a few months into a new role as a member of the Weber State University board of trustees, which I enjoy very much. It is a great opportunity to give back to my alma mater. I feel really fortunate to be involved in a number of policy areas with the work I do for clients—being involved in the community while at work, I feel like I can contribute more than I otherwise could.”
It was 10 years ago in Oakland, California, that Chris Conard started his career as a coach for Playworks, a nonprofit focused on providing children with safe, healthy play. In 2010, he launched Playworks Utah, taking initiative although he had no established network in the state. That year, Playworks Utah had five school partners and reached 2,500 children—today, Playworks partners with 62 schools and reaches 33,000 children.
“I witnessed first-hand the power that safe and healthy play has in building stronger relationships, empowering youth to get active, and to effectively teach values of resilience, grit, curiosity, empathy and perseverance,” says Conard. “These are all traits that I strongly believe lead to success in adulthood, and I became passionate about cultivating these values in our nation’s kids. These non-cognitive skills are strongly linked to adult success, yet are under-taught in our current education system, and I wanted to move forward on a path that allowed me to be a part of that change.”
Community involvement: In addition to the work he does with Playworks Utah, Conard is a Rotary member, a board member for Voices for Utah Children, and is involved with Action for Healthy Kids.
The Great Recession left Michelle Leo Cousins without a job and pondering her future. “Having loved the event industry in my corporate career, I began working on the start of my business and launched in the summer of 2010,” she says. And she found near-instant success. Her company, Michelle Leo Events, has won a Best of State award every year from 2011 to 2017. It is also the only Utah event-planning company to be included in Vogue and Martha Stewart Living “Top Planners” lists. Michelle Leo Events was also named “Wedding Specialist of the Year” in 2017 by Luxury Travel Guide.
“When [clients] tell me and my team that the final result is better than they could have ever imagined, and when they take a few minutes to personally thank and acknowledge my team for our time and efforts … that’s what keeps me going,” says Cousins.
Cause she’s passionate about: “The event industry requires hands-on experience, which I’ve become passionate about providing to college students seeking a career like mine. In 2012, I developed the MLE Internship Program for students studying event planning, hospitality, travel and tourism. Over the years, the program has developed into an educational course that exposes students to different types of events, a variety of clients and budgets, and various professionals and venues in the industry.”
Heather Erickson’s father was the manager of a small radio station, and she became involved in the marketing and PR for that station while still very young. She jokes: “I don’t know if I was attracted to my profession or if I was already in my profession from day one.”
Previously, Erickson worked at Ancestry.com, where her efforts helped consumers see the brand as a consumer-tech brand rather than something for older hobbyists. In her role as vice president of marketing for Instructure, Erickson creates strategic and compelling marketing programs. She was instrumental in the release of Instructure’s employee retention and leadership empowerment tool, Bridge Retain, and during Instructure’s IPO.
“At my core I am an improvement strategist,” she says. “I love improving things. Any day I get to solve a problem or take something good and make it better is a good day.”
Cause she’s passionate about: Erickson is passionate about diversity and inclusion in companies, and does informal mentorships throughout her team at Instructure. “As a woman in leadership I strongly believe that I can’t just focus on myself, but need to be an active advocate for others,” she says. Her family also sponsors two children—one in the Dominican Republic and one in Malawi—through the organization World Vision.
At McKinnon-Mulherin, Paige Frame progressed rapidly from entry-level proofreader to manager of custom projects to director of operations—reaching the role of president in less than nine years from starting with the company.
“As president, I’m most proud of blending the old with the new. [McKinnon-Mulherin] has a long history of hiring exceptional writers, editors and designers. I’m happy to continue that legacy, which allows us to deliver the highest-quality services by hiring and vetting the best people,” she says.
Her approach has proved successful, with the company exceeding targets in sales revenue, employee satisfaction, team efficiency and gross profit margin within the first half-year of Frame’s tenure as president.
“My motivation is my team,” she says. “Our employee satisfaction in the middle of this year was 94 percent, and I often hear people talk about having their dream job at McKinnon-Mulherin.”
Cause she’s passionate about: “I love helping organizations improve their communication, but in a perfect world, our high school and college students would graduate with a firm grasp on good writing and put us out of business. To help try to make that a reality, I mentor college-aged students through studentmentor.org and work with them to improve their writing and résumés as they start new careers.”
In his position at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Ben Hart feels he has the opportunity to help make a difference in the lives of Utahns by helping create jobs. Hart works to recruit businesses to the Beehive State and, over his 16-year career, has helped create impactful workforce initiatives. For example, he was deeply involved in the creation of the Utah Aerospace Pathways Program, which offers students the opportunity to train and certify in aerospace manufacturing, and in Talent Ready Utah, the governor’s initiative to help connect the business and education community in order to create a more engaged and prepared workforce for the future.
“[I enjoy] helping create and grow high-paying jobs,” says Hart. “While some wonder how low the unemployment level can go, I believe we need to catalyze economic growth until every Utahn has the opportunity for meaningful employment and underemployment is no longer a concern.”
Cause he’s passionate about: Education—in specific, helping students better prepare for future careers. He has served on boards and committees focused on career and technical education, along with work-based learning. Through his work at the Utah Cluster Acceleration Partnership, the Utah Aerospace Pathways Program and Talent Ready Utah, Hart is directly involved in furthering educational efforts.
Christina Haas says her work allows her to tap into “the possibility of enhancing communities and human experiences through the built environment”—something even more important in healthcare architecture, where Haas excels. Since 2011, she has played a key role in expanding FFKR’s healthcare client base. Projects Haas has led include Intermountain Healthcare’s TOSH campus expansion and West Jordan Clinic, University of Utah Health’s Midvalley Health Center, and the Moran Eye Center Surgical Expansion.
“The architecture and construction industry continues to experience more pressure to deliver quality projects with smaller budgets and shorter schedules. As a firm, we work to identify best practices and workflows that allow us to refine our design processes, enabling us to continue delivering great service and quality projects for our clients,” says Haas. “I think inherent in a designer’s nature is the desire to always seek better solutions, both personally and professionally. We are problem solvers at heart, and as the industry evolves to pose new problems, we respond with new approaches and solutions.”
Community involvement: Haas advocates for the inclusion and retention of women in architecture as a founding board member of Women in Architecture Utah. She is also a regular guest studio critic for the University of Utah’s College of Architecture + Planning.
When he was young, Mark Hansen’s grandfather, a successful businessman, suggested he learn accounting to understand the language of business. Following that advice showed Hansen the possibilities of accounting and finance, and he was hooked.
Hansen spent his early career at EY, where he gained experience with high-growth businesses and transactions, including several initial public offerings. At Pluralsight, Hansen has helped grow the company with eight acquisitions over the past four years and three rounds of equity funding totaling nearly $200 million.
“I was Pluralsight’s first Utah-based accounting employee, and we’ve now grown our team to 17 people,” he says. “Several of these people have been promoted, some have pursued additional education and one is in the process of obtaining his CPA license. I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment when I look at this team, the great work we’ve done together and the future that lies ahead of each of them.”
Community involvement: Hansen is involved in coaching kids sports, including flag football and soccer. “It provides a great outlet for children and a place for them to learn valuable life lessons, particularly the importance of teamwork and how to overcome adversity.”
As a developer, a consultant, and now as the director of finance and operations for RizePoint, Chris Heaton has shown that taking risks and innovating pays off. At HP, he developed a dynamic pricing model that improved profit margins and added millions of dollars in profit. At RizePoint, he served as interim CFO for seven months, and in that short time negotiated a successful debt round, reduced days of sales outstanding from 75 to 41, and reduced cash burn to the lowest level in three years.
“Take chances. I think my best successes have come through not trying to replicate the way that other people have solved a problem, but to find [my] own way to solve it,” says Heaton. “It’s both more motivating and more rewarding to find a solution that is uniquely yours.”
Community involvement: Heaton founded the BYU chapter of the American Red Cross. He also volunteers for the Utah Tech Council and participates in RizePoint’s community outreach program, Rize and Shine. “When I moved to Utah two years ago, I was surprised by the strength of the culture of Utah technology. I’d worked in other places with thriving technology companies, but Utah is uniquely dedicated to growing its ‘Utah’ culture,” he says.
Joshua Irvine was planning a traditional corporate career, but while working on that path he discovered that he would soon be out of a job. After assessing his options and professional strengths, he decided to build his own firm, an innovative law firm capable of efficiently serving clients through a re-boot and redesign on the traditional law firm model.”
Irvine Legal is built on a model of transparent, transaction-based pricing that is scalable internationally. The firm has developed strategic of counsel relationships with attorneys in India, China, Germany, England and Mexico. The firm recently opened a new office in Ahmedabad, India. “I developed a mantra of building a business without borders,” says Irvine. “I wanted to create a team of professionals capable of providing the same level of service and confident counsel no matter where the business questions arose. Our motto is to provide a global reach with a local touch and we’re doing it one new office at a time.”
Cause he’s passionate about: “I am currently working to develop an approach in which we will either begin girls-only schools in certain foreign countries or else provide scholarships for young girls to come to the U.S. to obtain a more complete primary and secondary education before returning home.”
In today’s world, there are all kinds of ways to turn off ads, from DVRs to ad blockers. To Kevin Knight, the challenge of how to make people pay attention to advertisements represents an opportunity to be cleverer about how they’re presented.
“I’ve been lucky to be part of some of the companies that have made advertising better during this timeframe, like the personalized targeting made possible by Facebook, or the ads that help you pursue something you’re interested in at Pinterest, or the kind of marketing that bypasses ads altogether in favor of engaging the experts people already trust at Experticity,” he says.
Careers are long and nonlinear, Knight says, and he’s found it’s better to focus on whether or not and what he’s learning rather than worry about its trajectory. He tries to help those he works with succeed in the same way. “I want people to look back on any time they spent on my team as a period of tremendous growth for them,” he says.
Community involvement: Knight is a member of the marketing program advisory board at Brigham Young University and the partner board for the University of Utah College of Humanities.
In his role with Parley’s Partners, Bill Knowlton has assisted in the remediation and repositioning of in excess of $450 million of Brownfield projects in Utah and California, encompassing 7.8 million square feet of industrial and multifamily developments. In addition, the real estate development firm has secured more federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits than any other multifamily developer in Utah.
“Affordable housing is the greatest challenge facing Utah this decade. There is currently a shortage of 38,000 affordable dwelling units in Utah. However, less than 650 units are placed into service each year,” says Knowlton. “Demographic forecasts predict that metro Salt Lake’s population growth will continue to strongly outpace national benchmarks over the next five years, driven by job growth and net in-migration. All of these people need an affordable place to live.”
Community involvement: “After college, I started a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation, which organized, funded, built and operated small-scale HIV/AIDS clinics in rural Uganda. We literally provided the brick and mortar for what has become known as the Rakai Hospital. The Rakai Hospital treats thousands of expectant mothers and infants on a yearly basis, who are vulnerable to malaria, malnutrition, gastrointestinal disease, HIV/AIDS, obstetric complications, respiratory infections and skin diseases. The Rakai Hospital is now entering its 14th year of operation and is completely self-sustaining.”
Even before she went to law school, Erin L. Laney knew that she wanted to give back to the community and “be part of a larger mission.” When she left Aldridge Pite, LLP, the firm where she practiced since graduating law school, she decided she wanted to take a “hard left turn” in her career and began working for the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. From there, she went on to the Girls Scouts of Utah, where she found the perfect combination of her professional ambitions and passion for community involvement.
“I joined an industry about which I knew little and had little experience—that turned out to be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling decisions I’ve ever made,” says Laney. “I am so incredibly thankful I trusted my gut and took a risk.”
As vice president, philanthropy and strategic partnerships for the Girl Scouts, Laney works with leading Utah businesses to further the Girls Scouts’ mission.
Community involvement: Laney serves on the boards of Voices for Utah Children and Now Playing Utah, and on an advisory board for KeyBank. “Each of these organizations, at their very core, are focused on making the community around them a better place—those are causes I can get behind!”
Jeff Lind was drawn to the fast-paced world of finance early on, and thought he’d make a career of it. But when a friend suggested he use his drive and innate creative abilities to help start an ad agency, Lind’s plans took a detour—and he’s never looked back.
The agency started with one employee, but Lind soon helped it grow to over 70 employees in three offices: New York City, San Francisco and Salt Lake. “I never thought I’d leave finance,” he says, “but Codeword got so successful so fast, I had to make a diversion in my otherwise planned career to continue building this renowned agency.
Cause he’s passionate about: Lind was acquainted with a woman named Kristin Sumbot who battled cancer twice in her life, eventually passing away from cancer in June 2017. “Kristin … decided to use her last few months on earth doing as much cancer awareness work as she could. My team had the opportunity to do assist her in some of that earned media awareness, and we had the pleasure of watching Kristin talk about what she and her family was going through with several top-tier outlets and individuals (including Vice President Joe Biden, as part of the White House’s Moon Shot Initiative).”
“I’ve always loved the outdoors and grew up with a mind for engineering so when I found an opportunity at the pre-revenue venture of Klymit it was a perfect fit,” says Matt Maxfield. It truly was a good fit: Maxfield was a key driver in growing Klymit to over $17 million in annual sales, and the products he’s designed have sold over a million units worldwide.
The outdoor industry is always evolving and changing,” he says. “Most notably the retail landscape has changed. We’ve seen major staples in outdoor retail close their doors over the last few years, which has created both challenges and opportunities in distributing product. Through expanding and developing our product line to reach a broader market and being open to new methods of distribution, we have been able to see great success in helping people sleep comfortably outside.”
Cause he’s passionate about: “Helping youth get away from their screens, video games, and getting outside. I have been involved with our local scout troops for many years in leadership positions and volunteering. … Some of the great teaching moments and realizations in their lives and mine have happened when we’ve been out exploring.”
With over 15 years in the accounting industry, Matt McReynolds has moved up the leadership ranks quickly. He was an audit partner for five years before becoming the office managing partner for the assurance practice in Salt Lake City. With his leadership, the assurance practice tripled in size from 2012 through 2017. He also successfully coordinated the introduction of BDO, the fifth-largest accounting firm in the world, to the Utah market.
During McReynolds’ tenure, the firm has experienced double-digit top line growth, all of which was achieved through organic success. He has instilled a positive culture in the firm, leading to high employee morale and a turnover rate of less than 10 percent—a figure unprecedented in the public accounting industry. “I consider each person in our office and our client colleagues to be good friends. I’m surrounded by amazing people from every angle,” he says.
“Significant changes in regulation and technology have shaped the public accounting profession over the last two decades. The one constant in public accounting is change. Adapting has meant embracing those changes to continue bringing high-quality services to our clients.”
Community involvement: McReynolds currently serves as treasurer for Friends for UPD K9, an organization that provides support and assistance in the placement of K9 service animals, as well as other support including ballistic vests for the canines.
Austin Miller planned to take a short career detour on his way to medical school—but that detour ended up becoming his passion. Miller started off as a corporate recruiter for Workfront, then transitioned into executive HR roles for various companies before starting his own recruiting firm, IsoTalent. Miller enjoys focusing on the psychology of performance, and “improving the way a business interacts with their most important human asset.”
Human resources is so much more than just an administrative department, he says—it is a “value-added, ROI-driven” department that puts people in a position to succeed. “People perform better when they are happy; it’s a fact!” says Miller. “I could go on about the success that matters in helping businesses grow, but what matters most is the people I can help and the value I can add to a company at the same time.”
Community involvement: In addition to coaching little league teams and devoting time to the Special Olympics, Miller works with teenagers at the high school level on career counseling and behavioral profiling. He’s spoken to various high school classes about emotional and social intelligence, as well as finding a career, writing résumés and knowing how to interview well.
Rachel Nilsson says she took the plunge into entrepreneurship in order to bring a little extra money into her family. She had always loved fashion and saw a market need for kids clothing that was fashionable, unique and, most importantly, functional. Now, her company, RAGS, has been featured in Vogue, was named one of the “Top 15 Coolest Kids Brands in America” by the Huffington Post, and was voted one of the top 10 pitches of the season on Shark Tank.
“I have always been a competitor,” Nilsson says. “I love a good adrenaline rush and something that challenges me. It is in my blood. I played soccer all the way up into college and was always a thrill seeker. As you get older and have kids, it is sometimes hard to find those outlets. Being an entrepreneur and business owner is the next best thing.”
Community involvement: Utah Community Action helps low-income individuals and families overcome barriers to self-sufficiency. “They teach self reliance and empowerment,” explains Nilsson. “We heard about this cause and also heard that while they are teaching the parents, the kids need something to play with! So we donated hundreds of toys to their facilities.”
Kimball Dean Parker
Director of LawX, Brigham Young University School of Law
Director, Parsons Product Lab
Attorney, Parsons Behle & Latimer
Law is in Kimball Dean Parker’s blood—his grandfather, father and siblings are all lawyers. When a friend told him about a thorny legal problem, Parker realized just how he could put that generational zeal for law to use.
“I realized that it’s unreasonable and unfair to expect non-lawyers to navigate the legal system without help,” he says. “I started to look into how technology is being used to aid those who can’t afford legal services. And I found that simple fixes could help in big ways. I decided to explore how I could make things better.”
Parker is helping make things better through LawX and CO/COUNSEL—the former is a legal idea incubator that helps foster and develop ideas to help make navigating the law easier for those outside the profession, while the latter is a legal crowdsourcing website that helps visually map the logic of the law.
Cause he’s passionate about: Parker has spent much of the past two years trying to make the law fairer for low-income individuals. CO/COUNSEL and LawX are efforts to help those who cannot afford a lawyer to navigate the legal system.
In 2014, Eric Rea and his partner started Podium out of a spare bedroom—now, the company has grown to nearly 300 employees. Rea has led three separate fundraising rounds for more than $35 million and helped make Podium one of the fastest-growing companies in the state. Under Rea’s guidance, Podium now powers reviews and feedback for over 12,000 local businesses with over 130,000 users. Rea is one of the highest-rated CEOs on Glassdoor for small- and medium-sized companies with a 94 percent approval rating.
“As the CEO of a growth-stage startup, you are presented with a completely new landscape, not only year-to-year, but often times month-to-month. Part of the challenge this presents is continuously recalibrating expectations and setting audacious goals,” says Rea. “I am convinced that much of our growth has come from ignoring the conditioning that tells us to temper expectations and instead relying on a ‘why not?’ mentality. More often than not, that mentality has been rewarded with results much higher than we would have been able to produce otherwise and I trust it.”
Community involvement: In order to help other entrepreneurs gain a leg up, Rea mentors BYU students and others in small startups. He is also passionate about Kids on the Move.
Luke Saari always knew he would do well in a career that let him work closely with people, and he found a career that helped him succeed by prioritizing relationships above all else. As a leader, he has also strived to be genuine and take full ownership of decisions good and bad. Using those attributes to build strong teams has helped Saari, and Apex, adapt through the challenges of growing a business and staying abreast of changing technology.
In a flat industry, Saari has been able to increase revenue by 500 percent in the past three years, improving margins at the same time. “We work in a very commoditized space,” he says. “Well over 50 percent of the companies that enter the space are out of business within 36 months. I’m proud that we worked hard enough and solved enough problems to be on the positive side of that statistic.”
Cause he’s passionate about: “I have a special needs daughter that spent a lot of time at Primary Children’s Medical Center. We became acquainted with The Forever Young Foundation and Sophie’s Place and have stayed connected to both. … I think they do great work and are incredible about helping families through very difficult times.”
Over the last 14 years, Davis M. Smith has had three successful businesses as an entrepreneur. But after his first two ventures, Smith decided he wanted to create a company that would be focused on creative positive social impact. His company, Cotopaxi, is an outdoor gear brand that donates a certain percentage of its revenue to developing countries.
“Building social impact into my business has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done,” says Smith. “It has been incredibly challenging, but also very satisfying to see that a business can not only do well, but can do good at the same time. It makes coming to work every day exciting and meaningful.”
Smith’s efforts have been honored through the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s CEO of the Year award, and he was recently selected to be a Presidential Leadership Scholar.
Community involvement: Smith is on the board of the Women’s Leadership Institute and GirlUp, a UN Foundation nonprofit focusing on leadership and education for girls. He is also on a Loan Committee for the International Rescue Committee, and is on the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council, where he works with refugees in Jordan, Turkey, Slovenia and Sweden.
Jon Soldan discovered a knack for streamlining corporate processes while working as a project coordinator at Verizon Wireless. His job was to help improve processes and programs, making the work of his co-workers and the experience of customers more enjoyable, effective and efficient. “I found a unique blend of my skills, interests, and something I felt really made a difference. The rest is history!”
During his time at HealthEquity, Soldan has led three successful acquisitions representing more than 45,000 new members and $160 million in custodial assets. But more than that, he’s proud of the people around him who he gets to help grow in their own individual careers.
“Mentoring team members in operations and other departments has been truly inspiring, to see people gain confidence in themselves and advance their careers,” he says. “I know I’m doing my job when I learn of a promotion, receive a graduation announcement or other accolade from people progressing professionally and personally.”
Cause he’s passionate about: Education and learning. “I’ve taught for the University of Utah’s Eccles School of Business (Operations and Information Systems) for seven years and have enjoyed some of the greatest experiences of my life.”
As a kid, Jeffrey Steed thought lawyers were practically superheroes—they could do anything, solve any problem, help those in need. So, despite being diagnosed with severe ADHD and told he would not be able to succeed in college because of it, let alone law school, Steed persisted and fulfilled his dream. In addition to finding success at one of the state’s largest law firms, Steed has found numerous ways to help others, just as he imagined doing when watching Perry Mason as a child.
Among those ways is the Utah Bar’s Wills for Heroes initiative. Spurred by stories of 9/11 first responders dying during rescue efforts but not having their affairs in order, Steed helped form the nonprofit organization that provides free estate planning services to first responders throughout Utah.
Community invovlement: Steed has assisted in the creation of hundreds of private foundations and public charities. He serves as general counsel and sits on the board of directors for various for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Steed has served as chairman of the Section for Nonprofit and Charitable Organizations, as a board member with the Young Lawyers Division, as president of the Serving Our Seniors (SOS) initiative, and as president of the Wills for Heroes initiative.
To do genealogy work well requires some detective work, and it was that challenge that first drew Jessica Taylor into the industry. As she also became enamored with rudimentary web design and collaborating with others in the industry, starting a genealogy company became a fitting intersection of the things she loved.
Taylor says she’s proud of her company’s ability to provide very high-quality research and client services despite aggressive recent growth. “We have kept our status as the highest client-rated genealogy research firm in the world and have been able to do it while growing our revenue by 150 percent in the last three years,” she says.
In the years since founding Legacy Tree, the industry has been revolutionized by the digitization of records, as well as the arrival of DNA testing for ancestry, which “added a huge tool to genealogy that had been previously non-existent,” says Taylor. “While some have been intimidated by the challenge to keep pace with advancements in DNA technology, we’ve embraced these changes and adapted.”
Community involvement: Taylor is a member of the International Rotary Committee for the Salt Lake Rotary chapter. She co-administers a supporting entity for genealogy-related businesses called the Genealogy Business Alliance, and she co-founded a group that provides sex and intimacy education for over 5,000 women.
“I was an engineering major when I entered college, and quickly switched to business after starting a job with the local minor league hockey team. I had a mentor who gave me a tremendous amount of exposure and opportunities to learn how a business works and I was hooked,” says Sarah Waters. That path led to her heading up sponsorship campaigns and partnerships for the NBA Hornets and Clippers.
More recently, Waters launched the business intelligence team for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, where she oversees all fundraising and reporting data for more than 170 hospitals, hundreds of corporate and media partnerships, and countless awareness-related analytics.
Analytics helps the organization make better-informed strategic decisions, says Waters, and raise more money for the member hospitals and the children they serve. In fact, CMN Hospitals annual fundraising grew from $240 million in 2007, when Waters joined the organization, to $400 million today.
Community involvement: “I have a passion for women- and girl-related initiatives,” says Waters. She has served on the board of Girl Scouts of Utah and is a member and volunteer of the Junior League of Salt Lake City, which focuses on initiatives to support and empower women in the community.
Josh Weiner was a founding member of the Peak Performance Group at Summit Partners, where he served as an investor and adviser to more than two dozen companies. He joined Solutionreach early in 2016 (having served as a board member from 2013 to 2016), and since that time the company has grown from $70 million to $100 million run-rate.
“It is truly inspirational to go to work every day with hundreds of talented people who want to revolutionize the way healthcare works. We all come to work as patients of one sort or another. It is my colleagues’ passion to build, sell and deliver tools for our doctors that gets me most excited,” he says. “My style is energetic and collaborative, but extremely data-driven. In my experience, when talented, motivated, high-integrity individuals are given the opportunity to step up, they will rise to the occasion.”
Community involvement: “I have worked as a mentor and advisor to numerous startups, including Jhana, an educational technology startup acquired by Franklin Covey in 2017, and YoGov, a company that focuses on streamlining government services to increase civic engagement. My wife and I are passionate supporters of immigration rights groups and actively support the National Immigration Law Center.”
Nick Wood says adaptability is the key to success in commercial real estate—a lesson he learned coming out of the Great Recession and later adapting to tech advances like the movement from physical property tours to virtual tours. During his time as a broker, Wood closed hundreds of transactions representing over $100 million in transaction value. He later served as director of research for Newmark Grubb and then moved into his current role as managing director.
“Commercial real estate and all of the positive momentum in our state and local economy are so exciting right now. There is opportunity all around us. It is exciting to see companies that we helped lease their first 1,500-square-foot space grow into several hundred thousand square feet just five years later and that we could play a small part in their success,” he says.
Community involvement: Wood serves on the board of the Mayan Miracle Foundation, which provides resources and support for poverty-stricken Mayan villages along the Yucatan Peninsula. “During my first visit we passed out food, clothing, toiletries—but my favorite was passing out soccer balls and seeing the kids’ excitement as they were distributed. My biggest takeaway from the experience was seeing how truly happy the people were despite living with so little.”
As a young college kid at Brigham Young University who’d grown up experimenting with recipes alongside his parents, James Worthington thought he could impress girls with his cooking skills and his signature dish: chunky cinnamon French toast. Today, that item is a much-beloved staple at Kneaders Bakery and Café, which his parents started in 1997. Worthington would learn the “ins and outs of running a service-based business and worked in every aspect of the bakery” and later ascend to CEO in 2013. With his guidance, Kneaders has seen 500 percent growth in restaurant locations to 59, with more projected to open in 2018.
“Successful business is grounded in building a solid foundation with guiding principles, but within those solid plans there has to be flexibility to roll with the punches and meet whatever the day might bring,” says Worthington. “If I get to the end of the day and my team has left feeling good about the work we have done together, our company partnerships are in good standing and we have meet the needs of the customer, then I feel confident and motivated.”
Community involvement: Kneaders is a title sponsor of the American Fork Canyon Half Marathon and a founder of the Hope Fights Childhood Cancer Campaign. It has also donated one million loaves of bread to feed the hungry throughout the last 20 years.
Spencer Young II is among the fourth-generation of family leadership at Young Automotive Group. “I always knew I wanted to work in this industry, and I began my career as a lot technician as soon as I was old enough,” he says. He worked his way up through the organization and was named president in 2014. During his tenure, the company has more than doubled in size with the construction of five new dealerships and the acquisition of six new automotive franchises.
“After the recession in 2008 and 2009, the future of some manufacturers was uncertain, so we developed a plan to diversify our portfolio,” Young says. “We aggressively went out and purchased new stores and added franchises we didn’t already have. … Presently, we offer a wider variety of products and services to our customers, and we are better positioned to compete with other dealer groups.”
Community involvement: “Giving back to our community—especially our youth—is a cause I’m extremely passionate about,” says Young. Through its Caring for Our Young program, the company provides donations and sponsorships to local colleges and high schools, the Ogden Trails Network, Utah Pride and countless youth organizations.