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Utah Business

Meet our 2020 CEOs of the Year

A CEO is more than just the face of a company. They’re the person who faces the company’s challenges head on to blaze newer, brighter trails of success. Here are the CEOs who are making waves in 2020 and setting an example for the next generation of executive leaders.

Ryan Maxwell Anderson

Cofounder & CEO | Filevine

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
What was the biggest turning point in your career?

In my work as a lawyer before Filevine, I was constantly bombarded with urgent tasks and problems. Facing that stress, I decided I would move beyond handling urgent problems  and instead learn to build systems around the work I do. 

What one app has most revolutionized your life?

Slack is pretty damn good.

What goals/challenges are you most excited to tackle in the next 5-10 years of your career?

The current stereotype of lawyers is that they are stressed-out workaholics. This isn’t entirely true, but there’s a reason the stereotype exists. My ambition is to change the face of legal work. I want to help lawyers be happier, less stressed, and better able to achieve their goals. I want to make it happen by using technology to create the shortest path between a lawyer’s brain and her case files. I want to cut out every intermediary step so collaboration is seamless.

John P. Benson

Cofounder & CEO | Verisys Corporation

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
What was the biggest turning point in your career?

Being thrust from the role of an individual contributor to the role of leading people and guiding a business line. . A great mentor and muse guided me through this period, so I highly recommend having one.

How do you think business needs to change or evolve? And how can CEOs champion that change?

Businesses drive toward efficiency and automation. I believe in what I coin the dividend society, with resource equality based on contribution beyond the current task-based environment. A good CEO leads with change and is an evangelist for helping others understand a future that many will struggle to comprehend.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your industry?

Helping create a transformation away from our confrontational and traditional healthcare delivery models, eliminating the battles between consumers and payers, and payers and providers making healthcare a patient-provider engagement with a singular focus: well-being. 

Terry H. Buckner

CEO | The Buckner Company

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
What was the biggest turning point in your career?

In the middle of the dot-com bust, we lost one of our largest clients. It was devastating. At the same time, there were multiple suitors pitching me on selling our company to them and “de-risking” my life—something that seemed tempting.

After much contemplation, I determined that we would rise from the challenge and build a more diverse company, able to withstand the variables of a changing economy. We would emerge stronger and better. This continues to be our drive today.

What goals/challenges are you most excited to tackle next?

We are in an aging industry and haven’t done a great job of telling our very positive story to the next generation of insurance/risk management professionals. I am determined to change that. We will be actively working to recruit, train, and mentor the next leaders of our industry. 

Jonyce J. Bullock

CEO | Squire & Company, PC

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
What was the biggest turning point in your career?

I was talking with a partner in my firm and he asked, “Do you want to be a partner?” I said, “Yes, of course,” and he answered, “Then you need to talk about it.” He told me I couldn’t just assume that people knew about my career goals, I needed to own them and talk about them. That conversation completely changed the way I approached my career development.

What book most inspired or helped you in your career?

Definitely Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, specifically the theme she introduces of taking your seat at the table. I had an experience where I attended a meeting and when I walked into the room, there were a number of women who had arrived early and took the seats around the [edge of the] room while the seats at the table were filled by the men who arrived just in time for the meeting. Since then, I challenge myself and others to not hold back; recognize you belong at the table. 

Ryan Caldwell

Founder & CEO | MX

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
What was the biggest turning point in your career?

The moment I sold my first company. I was young and had learned the hard way [about] the pain and stress that goes into building a successful startup. It was a defining moment for me which ultimately led to the founding of MX.

What one app has most revolutionized your life?

Voxer. I love asynchronous communication. Voxer gives me the ability to hear someone’s voice and how they’re feeling about it when communicating, which isn’t always the case with written or typed communication.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your industry?

The financial industry is going through a monumental shift. The biggest opportunity for our industry, which is already underway, is the proper utilization of transaction and item-level data. This will change the very meaning of finances.

Marc Cameron

Managing Director | Rio Tinto Kennecott

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
What one app has most revolutionized your life?

I don’t believe personal engagement can be replaced, but I would say Yammer. I have earned the nickname “MC Yammer” for my transparent and frequent communication style. I get excited about being able to share and learn from as many people in our organization as possible.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your industry?

I believe transparency in how we do business and the importance of responsible mining and processing are areas of great opportunity. I also strongly believe that sustainable development and environmental stewardship are critical to our future.

What goals/challenges are you most excited to tackle next?

I am looking forward to mentoring others. Additionally, the carbon neutral goal is a huge challenge, but with the right leadership and partnerships, I believe strongly that our industry can, and must, be a shining star for others over the next decade.

Chip Childs

President & CEO | SkyWest, Inc.

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
What was the biggest turning point in your career?

September 11, 2001 had a significant impact on my industry and career. Life decisions during difficult times force you to commit in very strong ways. The decision and commitment to SkyWest that day, and in the days immediately following, helped me learn more about the business and the key strengths of the people of SkyWest.

What book most inspired or helped you in your career?

How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins is an outstanding book on how every institution, no matter how big or great, is vulnerable to decline. It provides solid context and evidence regarding the importance of maintaining focus and avoiding complacency.

What goals/challenges are you most excited to tackle next?

It’s extremey difficulty to know exactly what challenges and opportunities lie ahead because they’re constantly changing. I truly enjoy the process of preparing for anything that may come our way—good or bad. 

Russ Fletcher

CEO | Xyngular

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
What was the biggest turning point in your career? 

An important one to me was when I stopped identifying myself as an IT person and started defining myself as a businessman with knowledge of IT.

How do you think business needs to change or evolve? And how can CEOs champion that change?

Milton Friedman said that business was all about maximizing shareholder data, but in today’s world businesses owe a responsibility for societal change. Businesses, and by extension the CEOs that run them, have a responsibility not just to make money but to make money by doing good.

What goals/challenges are you most excited to tackle next?

Scale. Proof of long term business success is its ability to scale from small, regional to large, global. I am excited and eager to see if we can be one of those companies.

Grant Gordon

Cofounder & CEO | Artemis Health

How do you think business needs to change or evolve? And how can CEOs champion that change?

Capitalism has a kind of gravity that pulls people toward being selfish. In the short run, optimizing for yourself is logical, but in the long run if we optimize for each other (coworkers, partners, customers, etc.) then more value is created for all. We need more CEOs that cultivate environments where people are rewarded for being good people in addition to being good at their jobs. This is about creating core values, weaving them through the fabric of their companies, and living them every day.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your industry?

Employers pay for the healthcare of about half the people in America, but for them, data about their health benefits is an afterthought. Over the next 5-10 years, there’s an opportunity to give them the tools and the knowledge to become data driven in the way that the other parts of the enterprise have become data driven. This, in turn, will give them the leverage they need to bend the cost curve down in US healthcare.

John Graham

CEO | 1-800 Contacts

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
How do you think business needs to change or evolve? And how can CEOs champion that change?

Change has to start with the customer. I’ve worked and consulted with dozens of companies and very few of them really understand what they are doing for [their customers]. They’re too focused on budgets, org charts, and product launches. CEOs have to constantly ask if what the business is doing is right for what the customer needs. 

What goals/challenges are you most excited to tackle next?

Domestically, our healthcare system is a mess. Solving that issue is vexing and generally comes down to a trade off between cost and access. Access to vision care is quickly going to become universal and affordable.

Internationally, 2.5 billion people lack access to vision care. Many people in the developing world who are diagnosed as blind could see with access to glasses and proper vision care. We’re determined to be at the center of that. 

Michael Jensen

CEO | Utah Navajo Health System, Inc.

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
Who is your role model of success, and why?

My parents have had the largest influence on my life. My father was a military pilot. He understood the value of hard work. My mother was a nurse. She was passionate about patient care and quality. Together they were excellent examples of how to improve a workplace.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your industry?

Most every organization would improve if it had better standardization, quality and transparency. Healthcare especially needs to become more transparent and understandable for its customers. Most patients do not understand the procedures that they are getting, the cost of the procedures, and how to determine the quality of service. Some progress has happened recently in healthcare, but much more work needs to be done in the areas of transparency, standardization and cost minimization.

David S. Layton

President & CEO | Layton Construction

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
Who is your role model of success, and why?

My father has always been my role model. He left us with very important values, which we call our Layton Way. I tell employees whenever you consider how to deal with a new situation, ask yourselves these questions:

Is it honest?

Is it safe?

Does it build unity among my team, in the company, and with customers?

Does it meet Layton’s standard of quality?

This is our culture. It is what sets us apart from our competitors. It is the way we choose to do business..

What goals/challenges are you most excited to tackle next?

I’m really excited about our merger with the STO Building Group. This opportunity will allow us to continue growing our business in the next decade while enabling our employees to expand their career and ownership potential in the merged entity. The net result is a plan to maintain sustainable growth which ensures our customers continue to get the predictable outcomes they have come to expect from Layton.

Rob Moore

CEO | Big-D Construction

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
What was the biggest turning point in your career?

When I was only 24 years old, I was presented with an opportunity very early in my career and asked if I was interested in leaving the construction field and transitioning into a management position. I thought to myself, “You better take this opportunity and work it hard.” 

What book most inspired or helped you in your career?

The Game of Work by Chuck Cooradt and The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. Both books resonate with me and parallel my own style—direct and to the point with values and standards in alignment with my own.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your industry?

Creating an awareness for the next generation that there is a future in the construction industry which will provide you with a career, not merely a job, and allow you to make a good living while doing it. 

Blake Murray 

Founder & CEO | Divvy

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
What was the biggest turning point in your career?

 It was January 2016 when I had a long night of self reflection rooted in being incredibly dissatisfied with my professional life. I knew I had more to give. I made a decision that night to go for broke. To not live with regret even with the high risk of failure. 

What one app has most revolutionized your life? 

Twitter. I’ll never understand the fascination with business books or leadership books. Twitter is all the content you need and it’s real-time. I’ve recruited some of our most important leaders through Twitter and continually latch on to incredibly valuable insights that validate much of what we already do at Divvy.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your industry? 

We believe that the future of banking is software-led. People want experiences that make their jobs more efficient. We see the entire financial services landscape shifting to an experience-led approach.

Justin Nielsen

Founder & CEO | Onset Financial Inc.

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your industry?

If our industry can start to align more with tech companies and the focus on innovation and true fintech, then I believe major technological change can happen in an industry that has been relatively stagnant for the past 50 years.

How do you think business needs to change or evolve? And how can CEOs champion that change?

Businesses need to focus as much on the people who make up the business as the model that any enterprise may be following. When company shareholders and business leadership are able to focus on the people they work with and the people who are working so diligently to help the organization succeed, then it becomes an enriching opportunity for everyone to personally grow and realize true fulfillment and reward – not just financially, but emotionally as well.

Kevin Stickelman

CEO | National Ability Center

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
What was the biggest turning point in your career?

I was given the opportunity to step into a leadership role in the ski industry at a different resort than I was working for at the time. I probably never would have taken that step without the encouragement and mentorship of the person I was working for at the time.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your industry?

Bringing adaptive recreation into the mainstream is one huge opportunity. Right now the outdoor industry relies on organizations like the NAC to provide recreation opportunities to individuals with disabilities. Wouldn’t it be great if people didn’t have to rely on adaptive organizations for these opportunities and could participate just like “normal” people?

What goals/challenges are you most excited to tackle next?

For the NAC to really disrupt the outdoor industry and blow the doors open on what possibilities of adaptive recreation include. 

Dave Thomas

CEO | ThomasArts

Photographed by Justin Hackworth
What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your industry?

The opportunities lie in the over 50 market. There are so many people still aging into this diverse and affluent segment, that it will continue to offer opportunities for marketers for years to come. 

How do you think business needs to change or evolve? And how can CEOs champion that change?

Business is always changing. If you stand still, you are losing ground to your competitors. As a CEO you can’t get comfortable; you have to be willing to take risks on big ideas, people, and new approaches.

What book most inspired or helped you in your career?

Early on, someone gave me a very practical book called How to Build a Small Ad Agency and Run it At a Profit by Len Gross that helped give me a solid foundation for my advertising career. More recently, Thinking Fast and Slow by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman has helped reshape the way my views on human behavior and decision making. 

Mary Young

CEO | Young Living Essential Oils

How do you think business needs to change or evolve? And how can CEOs champion that change?

For me, It is about keeping the basics of good business practices in place. Honesty, integrity, and working together for the success of the goal are the most important attributes of any business. I constantly ask, “Are you driven to have power or driven to empower?” Attitude starts at the top, and the CEO has the opportunity and responsibility to lead the way and set the example. 

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your industry?

Because our farms are the foundation of our business, we are continually involved in the preservation of Mother Nature. When you believe in what you have and what you do, the focus is to grow what you have. 

Lindsay Bicknell is the project coordinator for Utah Business magazine. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, she graduated from Miami University of Oxford with a degree in communications. She has a background in television, print, and web media, as well as public relations and event planning. As a transplant to Salt Lake City, she can't get enough of the mountains and loves snowboarding.

Comments (7)

  • Avatar

    Emily

    What great examples of leaders and insights they share – thank you! The line-up doesn’t show much diversity, however. Maybe more than one female CEO will be highlighted next year?

  • Avatar

    Rocio Summers

    Astounding lack of diversity. As much of these CEOs have very impressive backgrounds, I encourage this magazine on making an effort in including more women and racial and ethnic diversity when you appoint CEOs or other relevant leaders to be awarded.

    Not surprisingly the ad I see when I open the page is a nice men suit by Hugo Boss.

    • Elle Griffin

      The reality is that there are not very many women CEOs in Utah, and the ones that exist have been honored in years past. If we want more women CEOs of the Year, then we need more women CEOs, and if we want more women CEOs, we need more women in leadership roles, and if we want more women in leadership roles, then we need our current leaders to hire and mentor women into positions of leadership. It’s a process, but we’re working on it!

      • Avatar

        Jessica Davis

        Even the photo chosen to represent the article on LinkedIn wreaks of the lack of diversity.

        And thanks Elle Griffen for what you commented on. Great challenge to people who want to see the list evolve for everyone’s sake.

    • Avatar

      John Doe

      So you want a CEO to win an award because of their race or gender? This group is fairly representative of the successful companies based in Utah. It’s not a full representation – no short list can be. But in my interactions with dozens of Utah Founders and CEOs, this is what I see. Let’s celebrate their accomplishments, which I believe has more to do with their effort than gender, color, orientation or any other factor.

  • Avatar

    Cheyenne

    The lack of women CEOs may be valid, however Utah Business is reinforcing the male stigma with the image they’ve chosen to use on the homepage for this story. A man’s suit jacket? It’s a disappointing representation from the outset.

    It’s wonderful to learn more about the great leadership within Utah.

    • Elle Griffin

      We changed it to one of our honorees because we wound up having a good wide-screen shot of him. But for the record, women can wear suit jackets too…

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