2019 CEO OF THE YEAR HONOREES
March 7, 2019
A chief executive officer is more than just the highest ranking officer at a company. A CEO is someone who bring teams together, supports their employees, and gives back to their communities. But, most importantly, they are someone who inspires others to believe in, and live out, the vision they’re working so hard to create. The 2019 CEO of the Year honorees not only put their companies first, but their people first.
CEO | Weave
A Eugene, Oregon, native, Brandon Rodman graduated from Brigham Young University in 2004. Working in sales until 2008, he then pivoted his career entirely. Founding Recall Solutions, which later became Weave, from his attic in Lehi, Utah, he changed gears to create an essential business tool used in over 7,000 offices today. But it wasn’t easy. In fact, in the beginning, Mr. Rodman and his team struggled. “Our company had been turned down by nearly every investor in Utah,” Mr. Rodman says. “We were running out of money. It looked like the company was going to fail. Applying to Y-Combinator was a last-ditch effort to save the company. And it worked.” Selected by Y-Combinator for funding in 2014, it was the turning point they needed.
A decade since Weave’s inception, Mr. Rodman has used his intimate experience with trial and error to grow his software into something every office needs to function. When he founded the company, there were just two employees. In 2018 alone, he hired 150 new employees. Mr. Rodman attributes his success to his focus on people. “Put people first,” he says. “Everything else is much easier if you get people right.”
His focus on people has extended to every part of his business, and he has implemented a coaching staff for every single employee, enables instant matching on 401k, and provides stock options for every full-time employee. A father of four, he is particularly proud of the parental leave policy he launched in 2018. Providing new mothers with 100 percent paid leave for 12 weeks and new fathers with 100 percent paid leave for six weeks, diapers for a year, 12 weeks of bi-weekly house cleaning services, six weeks of meals twice a week, and baby clothing. “We are encouraging all companies to review their maternity policies and make at least one improvement to their existing policies,” he says.
Mr. Rodman is also passionate about charity and doing good. “One of our core values at Weave is to be caring.” In 2018, Weave employees donated 11,000 pounds of food to the Utah Food Bank and helped 40 families have a better Christmas through the Sub-4-Santa program. After an employee has been with the company for four years, Weave will also pay for them to go on vacation if they provide some sort of charitable service while away. “It’s become a great way to get out and help people,” he says. “We are working to build a company that inspires people to want to come to work each day. A place where they feel safe. A place where they can go home with a feeling of fulfillment, not stress.”
Founder & CEO | Loveland Living Planet Aquarium
Brent Andersen has always loved the ocean. “I was inspired to become a marine biologist at the age of five, after my grandmother gave me a Time of Life book about the sea,” he says. After graduating from the University of California Santa Barbara with a marine biology degree, he had a decision to make. He could get a job in Santa Barbara as a biochemist but his dream was to work in his field of study. “One day, I listened to an audio tape suggesting I answer a question that ultimately catalyzed my dream into reality. That question was: what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”
After that, his decision was made, and one van later, he embarked on his journey. Mr. Andersen founded The Living Planet Aquarium in 1997 with the Aqua Van, which visited local elementary schools to educate children about marine science. Bringing the ocean to school children and teaching them about Earth’s diverse ecosystems, he hoped to inspire them to continue to explore, discover, and learn, the beginning of a much larger goal for Mr. Andersen. That van grew from one to many as he was slowly getting closer to his dream: bringing a world-class aquarium to Utah.
In 2004, the Aqua Van moved into a preview exhibit at The Gateway in Salt Lake City, Utah. At only 10,000 square feet, the space was quickly outgrown as visitors flooded in. With community support, the aquarium moved in 2006 to a much larger location in Sandy, Utah, at 43,000 square feet―an important stepping stone toward its final home.
In March 2014, the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium opened and has since welcomed 4.2 million guests. The aquarium features a 40-foot tunnel that allows guests to walk through the 300,000-gallon shark habitat, a penguin habitat that has grown to house 21 gentoo penguins, and a South American habitat that features free-flying rainforest birds, piranha, a giant anaconda, and 200-pound Amazonian fish. The aquarium also opened the Expedition: Asia exhibit in 2016, featuring two clouded leopards and Asian small-clawed otters. But Mr. Andersen’s dream is still growing, in October of 2018, the aquarium broke ground on the nine-acre lot that will feature nature play areas, special event spaces, and an 80,000-square-foot Science Learning Center.
“I’m proud of where we are now and I’m excited for the future,” says Mr. Andersen. But for him, it’s about more than just the aquarium, it’s about helping the planet. Mr. Andersen and his team at the aquarium have developed an artificial reef system to facilitate faster growth and restoration of coral reefs, which can help them achieve a decade’s worth of growth in only three years. “I am excited about the coral conservation work we have begun and am looking forward to scaling up that work exponentially.”
Founder & CEO | CircusTrix
A graduate of BYU and Duke Law, Case Lawrence spent the beginning of his professional career as an attorney, then a commercial real estate developer in central California. But when the Great Recession hit in 2008, he found himself at ground zero, working over the next two years to avoid bankruptcy. It was the turning point of his career. “The recession wiped me out and forced me to the brink of bankruptcy,” says Mr. Lawrence. “The harsh disruption of my career forced me to explore and take a chance.”
Now, eight years later, he’s completely changed the landscape of the trampoline park industry. After bootstrapping his first five trampoline parks, he relocated the business to Utah, where he cut the first venture capital partnership in the history of the trampoline park industry, eventually growing CircusTrix to over 300 locations. In the last year alone, Mr. Lawrence has opened 22 owned and operated parks across the world. And in 2018, they were named the number two fastest growing company in Utah.
Mr. Lawrence has successfully transitioned from a creative entrepreneur into an effective and transformational CEO, leading and shaping not only his business, but the entire industry. In 2017, he lead the acquisition of California-based Rockin’ Jump, consolidating over 40 percent of the trampoline park market. And then, in 2018, he positioned CircusTrix to acquire their largest competitor and franchise platform, SkyZone. Over the past two years, Mr. Lawrence has been instrumental in orchestrating the company’s expansion into Europe and Asia.
Today, under Mr. Lawrence’s leadership, CircusTrix is on the verge of becoming a “unicorn,” a billion-dollar private company. And it all started the day he took his sons to the trampoline park in San Francisco, California. “I was attracted to the idea of being in the business of fun and play,” he says. “After opening my first few parks, I developed an addiction to seeing joy and wonder on young people’s faces when they experience our parks.” And that addiction has lead to some truly innovative technology.
Introducing ninja parks and Cirque de Soleil-style attractions, Mr. Lawrence has taken the idea of the trampoline park to the next level. He’s even lead the initiative to explore experimentation with social needs programs within the CircusTrix parks, taking a particular interest in Down syndrome. “We have since learned that trampoline jumping is is one of the most therapeutic recreation activities for children on the spectrum,” he says. And he is enthusiastic about using CircusTrix parks for those gatherings and connections. He has also been working with his daughter to sponsor a new pilot program that uses experiential principles to teach Down syndrome children. “I want to keep growing and innovating,” says Mr. Lawrence. “My most effective years as a CEO are still ahead of me.”
CEO | Podium
In 2014, Podium started as a five-person team huddled in Eric Rea’s one-bedroom apartment. Today, the company works with more than 250,000 business to create over four million customer interactions a month. In fact, one in eight US cell phone owners have connected with a local business on its platform. One of the fastest growing SaaS companies in the US, Podium’s workforce has swelled to over 400 employees and is projected to hire 400 more through 2020.
But Podium wouldn’t be where it is today without Mr. Rea. “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” he tells us. But his professional career didn’t start out that way. “After I graduated from Brigham Young University, I took my first job at the International Atomic Energy Agency at the UN in Vienna, Austria. It might have been the most bureaucratic job in the world. Apart from the exotic location, it was the exact opposite of what I was looking for in my career.”
But while he was there, he found the inspiration needed to set him on the path to success. “I would occasionally talk to my dad about the challenges his local business faced, one of which was communicating with their customers. It dawned on me how many unsexy local businesses exist and experience those same challenges.” Coming back to Utah with his cofounder Dennis Steele, Mr. Rea started work on Podium. Now, he gets to spend 100 percent of his time working on things that local businesses need, helping them to grow and succeed.
Coming from a family of small business owners, Mr. Rea has a unique understanding of his customer base and the challenges that brings, as well as the rewards. He has led the company to be the first and best in the world at SMS-based review collection. “Find the biggest problem that you can,” he advises, “and create a meaningful solution that brings value. Then find the fastest and most efficient ways to get it into the hands of your customers.”
Since finding their success, Mr. Rea and Podium have embraced their membership in Silicon Slopes, striving to help better the tech hub with the greater business environment. Under Mr. Rea’s leadership, Podium has launched a regional Women In Leadership group, participates in the Girls Go Digital program, formed their own “Lean In” chapter, and was an enthusiastic signer of the Parity Pledge. Mr. Rea is also passionate about Kids On The Move, a community program that provides parents of children with special needs the short periods of rest they need to relieve stress and renew energy.
President & CEO | Jerry Seiner Dealerships
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Chris Hemmersmeier attended Northwestern University, where he met and married his wife, Sandy Seiner. After working with Arthur Andersen in Chicago for a few years, he was convinced by his father-in-law, Jerry Seiner, to relocate to Salt Lake City. “I thought going back to law school would be the plan,” he says. “I enjoyed the automotive industry so much, I just never did law school.” Having anticipated a career in automotives, he quickly became fascinated with the industry. Starting out in sales, he quickly moved through the ranks, and in 2012, was named president and CEO of Jerry Seiner Dealerships.
Mr. Hemmersmeier takes a progressive approach to business, always open to change and innovation. Under his leadership, the dealerships have grown exponentially. By anticipating demographic changes in the market area and adapting dealership growth to those dynamics, he has set the company up for success in short and long term.
One of his first strategic initiatives was to create Seiner Management, Inc., a holding company for each of the dealerships to consolidate tax benefits and overall corporate management. Through his leadership, he transitioned the company from the strong single-leader entrepreneurial model that Mr. Seiner practiced to a corporate model with the general managers acting with broad authority and discretion over their respective subsidiary dealerships.
But the industry hasn’t been without its hardships. “During the worst few years of the recent recession, the automotive market in Utah declined 50 percent from its height,” Mr. Hemmersmeier says. But what he cares about most isn’t money, it’s people. “During that time, as a company, we decided to not lay off any of our people. We cut back in a lot of other areas. My philosophy in business is to put our people first. If our people feel truly valued, they will deliver excellence to our customers and to each other.”
Known for his integrity and commitment to his employees, customers, and community, Mr. Hemmersmeier has distinguished himself from his peers. He regularly participates in philanthropic work, primarily with humanitarian outreach programs for underserved populations. He serves on the board of trustees at the Madeleine Choir School and was a former president of the advisory board of trustees at Judge Memorial High School. He also serves on the Salt Lake County Board and advocates for the automotive industry through working with the New Car Dealers Association on legislative matters. He is also active in the Utah Chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization and has brought with him many of the concepts he’s learned through the organization of the dealerships.
CEO | Visible Supply Chain Management
Jared Starling was a leader long before he guided Visible Supply Chain Management toward success. He played volleyball on the Nike Junior Olympic team as well as at Orange Coast College, earning Second Team All-Conference and leading the team in kills. His competitive nature and tenacity parlayed well from sports to business, as he took on an aging supply chain industry that was in dire need of a change.
But what initially drew him into the industry was family. “My father had been in supply chain almost all my life. When being a professional athlete didn’t work out, learning the family business seemed to be the logical step.”
Throughout his career in supply chain management, Mr. Starling picked up a wide variety of skills and jobs. From sales to operations, he was quickly positioning himself to later purchase and lead a big supply chain company of his own. While finishing his bachelor’s degree, he took careful note of where operations could be optimized to help serve customers better. There, he realized that, sometimes, the smallest changes could lead to big improvements in customer experience.
When Mr. Starling joined Visible Supply Chain Management, he pushed to bring the consortium of various separate business divisions under one umbrella. It was a large undertaking, but in the end, it was worth it. Optimized packaging and fulfilment of service benefits everyone, and now the company can provide a totally comprehensive service to their clients. “The consolidation from four small businesses to one mid-size business has been a great accomplishment for our team,” says Mr. Starling. “We were able to accomplish this while still producing 20 percent year over year growth. This said amazing things about our leadership team and their ability to influence the culture throughout the organization.”
Today, success for Mr. Starling includes the privilege of analyzing compelling data that may help his customers save money and grow their businesses. “As a service oriented business, we measure success by the success of our clients’ businesses. Their growth is our growth. Their achievements are our achievements.”
Outside of the company, Mr. Starling makes giving back to the community a priority. He is a member of the Parcel Shippers Association, the only entity fighting solely for the interests of parcel shippers on Capitol Hill, at the Postal Regulatory Commission, and with the Postal Service. The PSA is dedicated to supporting the vitality of the parcel shipping industry by fostering competition and keeping members informed of their rights, regulations, and opportunities to grow their businesses.
Executive Director | Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company
“I grew up in the arts,” says Jena Woodbury, the executive director of Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. “The arts are like breathing air.” She began dancing at the age of three, following her training across Utah, California, New York, and France. At 19, she enrolled as a dance major at the University of Utah and founded her own dance company, which toured throughout Utah for two years.
After completing her bachelor’s degree, she joined Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, the company her mother helped found the year Ms.Woodbury was born, as its marketing and education director. Then, in 1998, she moved to Portland, Oregon for further opportunities working with the Imago Theater, the Vancouver, Washington School of Arts and Academics, and the Do Jump Movement Theater. Eventually she returned to Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company in 2000. In 2011, when Ms. Woodbury’s mother, Joan Woodbury,and business partner, Shirley Ririe, decided to step down, they asked Ms. Woodbury to take over as executive director.
Fostering a fifty year old company into the new age hasn’t been difficult for Ms. Woodbury, and she relishes the opportunity to take it forward. “Ririe-Woodbury is local, but we are an international company,” she says. As one of the oldest contemporary dance companies in America, they have toured across the world. “Regardless of how great the company is, it isn’t easy being the first person to assume the leadership role of a founder-driven company,” she says. “But I’ve embraced that I’m a different person. And the company will be different.”
Since her appointment as executive director, Ms. Woodbury has facilitated tremendous growth and stability for the nonprofit organization. Serving over 32,000 public, private, charter, and homeschooled K-12 students, Ms. Woodbury has also secured profitable programming engagements both regionally and nationally.
Her efforts also secured an invitation from the US State Department’s Bureau of State Education and Cultural Affairs for the company to conduct cultural diplomacy in Mongolia and South Korea, touring across both countries for the entire month of May in 2018 as one of three dance companies on the DanceMotion USA tour. Believing that dance is for everybody, Ms. Woodbury continues to enforce this core belief by embracing senior citizens and special needs into the dance company’s programming. Working to provide access to the arts regardless of income, geography, education, physical ability, race, age, gender, and language barrier is her passion.
By stepping out of the spotlight and into a leadership role, Ms. Woodbury has taken the legacy of her mother’s company and transformed it into something innovative and inspiring. “I enjoy creating a place where talented people can come together to create something meaningful and relevant,” she says. “Creative dance is such a powerful tool. We’re not teaching steps. We’re fostering creating thinking and community engagement experiences.”
President & CEO | Geneva Rock Products
When Jim Golding first approached his career, his interests were broad. “My academic interests growing up included sciences and math,” he says. “When I was 16, I narrowed my career choices to geology, dentistry, and engineering. I chose civil engineering.” A graduate of Brigham Young University, Mr. Golding began his career in 1980 after a two-year Latter-day Saint mission to Argentina.
In the middle of a recession, employment was hard to come by, and he found himself working in the oil fields of Evanston, Wyoming. Gaining hands-on experience as a design engineer and surveyor for Rocky Mountain Engineering and Surveying, he gained a broad depth of knowledge before being hired at Geneva Rock Products in 1984. Since joining the Geneva Rock team, he has worked as an estimator, project manager, area manager, vice president of construction, president, and now CEO.
Under Mr. Golding’s leadership, Geneva Rock Products will continue to see growth and maintain its successful climb. By fostering change and challenging the status quo, he finds new ways to reinvent old processes, making them more streamlined as well as more competitive. He is never satisfied by doing the things the way they have always been done, unless they’ve been proven to be the best way.
Mr. Golding has always created an environment where employees feel comfortable and appreciated. And the people he works with are the most enjoyable things about his role. “I enjoy the people. The friendships and partnerships run deep in our company. To value people is what brings success to any organization and enjoyment to the challenges of each day,” he says. From dressing up as Santa Claus at Christmas to thank managers and distribute gifts to carefully considering his employee’s lives and families outside of work, he takes pride in the environment of friendship and camaraderie that he’s created. When asked what his personal business philosophy was, he says: “It may sound corny, but team is everything. Don’t take too much credit for the accomplishments of the team. Everyone is important, and they need to know it.” Working side by side with his employees, Mr. Golding’s strength is his relatability. His friendly, approachable disposition attracts people.
Founder & CEO | Kuali, Inc.
In the beginning of his career, Joel Dehlin was a coder studying accounting at Brigham Young University. After graduating, he worked with the tax technology group at Arthur Andersen. Then, he spent ten years working for Microsoft where he specialized in a variety of technical management roles, including as executive producer for a massive multiplayer online game and another where he co-invented the Microsoft Surface. Mr. Dehlin also authored a book and amassed 21 patents.
After leaving to spend time with his family, he began working with the technology division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Expanding the church’s online footprint, creating its first mobile apps, updating its websites, and creating systems supporting the Church’s global operations, he found a passion for what he truly wanted to do. But his path was not a direct one, and his position with the Church was followed by c-level positions at O.C. Tanner, iQor, and Instructure, where he managed teams working on the groundbreaking learning management system, Canvas.
In 2014, he was approached by the Kuali Foundation, a nonprofit group of academics, to create and lead Kuali, Inc. And Mr. Dehlin believed whole-heartedly in the company’s purpose to create not only simple software, but affordable, open source software delivered from the cloud. “The most significant turning point in my career was deciding to take the risk and start a company: Kuali,” he says. “The higher education market has become accustomed to bad software. The reaction we get from customers when they use our software is priceless. We will keep making more and more great software.”
Since becoming the company’s CEO, Mr. Dehlin has positioned the company for success in both the short and long term. His search for capital was responsible. The typical Silicon Valley fast track to an IPO was not the path that would lead Kuali to success, and Mr. Dehlin was prudent. Instead, he waited until it was necessary to seek funding, finally seeking opportunities with partners that believed in Kuali’s mission. “I really feel fortunate to have found investors who care about higher education and are aligned on creating a different kind of company,” he says.
Mr. Dehlin seeks to build a positive workplace culture, and is a strong advocate for diversity in the workplace. In 2019, Kuali signed the Parity Pledge, committing to interviewing at least one female candidate for every leadership position in the company. He is passionate about including and encouraging women to excel in technology, and supports that both within the company and his community. Under Mr. Dehlin’s leadership, Kuali is also planning to take a more active role in helping to support organizations like Women In Tech and SheTech in 2019.
CEO | MasterControl
“My dad brought home our first PC when I was in high school. I was enamoured. I did some very simple coding in Basic and thought it was so cool. From that point on, I have always thought it would be interesting to run a software company.” After spending time in the software industry as an internal merger and acquisitions corporate treasurer and working with KPMG in Chicago, Jon Beckstrand joined MasterControl as CEO in 2002. At the time of his appointment, the software company had only 40 employees. Today, under Mr. Beckstrand’s leadership, MasterControl is approaching 500 employees. Having doubled its services in Australia and tripling them in Europe, the company has seen nearly 40 percent growth since 2018.
For Mr. Beckstrand, growth all comes down to the MasterControl mission statement: to bring life-saving innovations to more people sooner. “I measure success by what we deliver to our customers,” he says. And the faster they can deliver it, the better. “That begins with hiring a high-performing team.”
While looking for growth opportunities, he realized the company had been focusing on providing the best digital solutions to the quality management functions of a company, but there were other areas of the business that would benefit from an automated quality management system.
“If our customers have the tools to bring a product to market much sooner while ensuring quality integrity, that means a patient doesn’t have to wait for therapy.” Mr. Beckstrand is committed to helping life sciences companies improve their process as well as overall quality and safety with technology so they can produce the best products.
Internally, Mr. Beckstrand brings transparency to his teams, creating an atmosphere that facilitates camaraderie amongst coworkers. He encourages everyone in the company to join clubs that participate in group activities such as hiking, cycling, skiing, or golfing. He is also committed to fostering STEM education, and created Education Days where all employees’ children are invited to attend an inspiring event to teach them about STEM and provide the tools they need to continue their curiosity in the sciences. “It’s important to find meaning in your work beyond a paycheck,” Mr. Beckstrand says. “Be part of a team of great people who you enjoy working with and make your life better. Even more rewarding, be part of an organization that has a great mission and is accomplishing something that brings value to people.”
CEO | USANA
CEO of USANA Health Sciences, Kevin Guest has overseen record company growth as well as new product development; strategic marketing; and USANA’s audio, video, and event productions worldwide. Celebrating their 26th year of business in 2018, the company has further strengthened their foothold in the direct sales industry by reporting its fifteenth consecutive year of mind-blowing record sales and earnings. After being named CEO in 2016, he has been the driving force behind USANA’s massive success. However, he has been with the company since its humble beginnings in 1992 when he was contracted to produce its live events.
Mr. Guest oversaw the launch of the USANA Celavive™ skin care system last year, formulated with InCelligence™ technology, to help unlock the body’s power to physically defy visible aging. He also lead the announcement of USANA opening four new markets in Romania, Italy, Germany, and Spain. With the addition of these countries, USANA is now available in 24 countries around the world.
Mr. Guest’s vision for USANA has always been about innovation and avoiding irrelevance, which has lead to laying the groundwork for major changes to the company’s look and product line. As a member of USANA’s board of directors, Mr. Guest is in a unique position to ensure USANA stays on the right path with his vision for both the short and long term. He has already overseen the redesign and modernization of USANA’s home website, and has been instrumental in the company’s shift in marketing strategy.
Mr. Guest understands the importance of company culture, and thanks to his efforts, USANA will now offer two additional days of PTO and 16 hours of “family hours” that employees can use during the year to ensure they get as much time with their families as possible. They are also giving employees 12 weeks of fully-paid maternity leave and six weeks of fully-paid paternity leave. Mr. Guest stresses the importance of family time over work, and spent most of 2017 and 2018 working with USANA employees and the human resources department to craft a new benefits policy system.
In addition to USANA’s new family-centric policies, Mr. Guest has also worked to make many other great benefits available to help foster company culture, such as onsite fitness facilities and excellent health and life insurance policies. Under Mr. Guest’s guidance, USANA’s charitable arm, the True Health Foundation, accomplished some truly amazing accomplishments as well, raising over $2 million in donations and delivering over 3,500 volunteer hours in 2017.
President & CEO | Allied Electric Sign & Awning
As the president and CEO of Allied Electric Sign & Awning, you see the results of Monica Collard’s work nearly everywhere you go. From restaurants to shopping malls and sporting venues, her success doesn’t go unnoticed. But she didn’t start her career in the sign industry nd she credits her parents for enabling her success. “After seven years in the pharmaceutical industry, graduating from the University of Utah, and spending countless Sunday dinners discussing starting a family business, my dad at age 50 decided to retire from the corporate world and start a manufacturing business with me,” she says.
Celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2018, Ms. Collard has led Allied Electric through challenging times into unprecedented success. Growing from a small business with only a few employees in a 3,200-square-foot property in 1993, today the business has over 30 vehicles in the fleet; 70,000 square feet of production space; three locations across the Wasatch Front and another in Las Vegas, Nevada; over one hundred employees; contractor licenses in five western states, and producing, shipping, and installing signage for businesses across the country, including Hawaii and Alaska.
However, that success did not come without growing pains. “After purchasing a small sign company in Las Vegas, and realizing we did not know the market as well as we should have, we struggled to compete profitably our first year,” she says. “We lost good people and significant money.” But Ms. Collard didn’t let a moment of hardship stop her. “I was feeling pretty discouraged and was hard on myself for not doing a better job, but we were determined to succeed.” Under Ms. Collard’s leadership, innovation, and bootstrapping mentality, they did. “I certainly learned not to assume you know something. Always do your homework. It might just keep you from doing something stupid!”
Learning from her challenges in Las Vegas, Ms. Collard looks toward the future for further growth and improvement. And she hopes others will learn from her experiences too. When asked for her advice, she says: “Do what you say you will do; focus on quality, not price; and find your niche.”
In addition to being the powerful force behind her company, Ms. Collard was also appointed to the Real Salt Lake Royals Leadership Council, an organization that promotes awareness of and empowers women to reach their full potential. She has also served on the planning commission for Sandy, Utah, for the last 15 years, is the team manager for her son’s competitive soccer team, and is the tournament director for Max Cup, an annual soccer tournament involving 150 teams.
CEO | Clearlink
The turning point in Phil Hansen’s career came when he was in a meeting at a marketing agency. Fresh out of college in the mid-to-late 90s, he was sitting in the back when the question was brought up on whether the client needed a website. After both the client and the leaders of the marketing agency kicked the idea back and forth, they ultimately decided against it, deciding the internet fad was just that: a fad. Mr. Hansen put in his two weeks shortly after.
After leaving that marketing agency, Mr. Hansen took over the business development side of a startup web development company. Then, after partnering with a young marketing company, Clearlink was created. Three years later, Mr. Hansen was named CEO. Taking on personal risk, Mr. Hansen fueled the new company to the next level, and hasn’t backed off from aggressively pursuing opportunities and never allowing his team to be satisfied since. “We are on our way to becoming one of the worldwide leaders in offering a seamless end-to-end customer experience that fully encompasses the customer journey,” he says. And none of that would have been possible if he’d agreed that the internet was just a fad.
Mr. Hansen has made a real impact on Utah’s business community by building meaningful relationships and really connecting with people. “Something that a competitor once told me is that businesses don’t grow. People do. That is to say the people who work here every day help the business grow through their own growth and actions. They are the ones deciding what to say on the phones, what to write on the website, what to discuss in team meetings. Helping them grow is the best way to help our business grow.”
His people-centric attitude has become a central theme in the culture at Clearlink, creating a ripple-effect that has pushed hundreds of employees to achieve the next big step in their careers. His focus on relationships has become such a passion that he founded a nonprofit, TheHouse.org, that focuses on fostering genuine human connection on a broader spectrum through community events, resources, and even scholarships. By facilitating intimate gatherings that encourage vulnerability and laughter, they can develop deeper and more meaningful connections among guests.
“I am deeply concerned with mental health issues, how they are viewed by society, and the lack of awareness and treatment, particularly for the youth. Depression, suicide, isolation, it is heartbreaking to see these things becoming so prevalent in our young people. This is why my wife and I put so much effort and so many resources into our nonprofit to help combat the feelings that push so many down this path.”
Founder & CEO | Peek
Named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs, and a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Ruzwana Bashir is no stranger to business success. But her launch into the limelight started by planning one simple trip. “I was organizing a birthday trip to Istanbul with my friends,” she tells us, describing how, and where, the idea for her groundbreaking company started. “In the process, I spent over 20 hours researching the best things to do there and then calling far-flung activities companies to try to book the experiences I’d discovered. The whole process ended up being lengthy and frustrating, so I found myself wishing that there was a one-stop shop to book amazing activities online, but it didn’t exist. So I figured it was time to build it!”
A self-proclaimed travel junkie, Ms. Bashir didn’t start her career with the idea for Peek in mind. Before founding the company in 2011, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Oxford University, where she was President of the Oxford Union. She then worked for Goldman Sachs and the Blackstone Group, and received her MBA from Harvard Business School where she was a Fulbright Scholar. “I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. In the end, business school may not have helped prepare me for entrepreneurship in the way I had expected, but it did bring me to the United States and gave me exposure to the world of startups.”
Since founding Peek and leading the company to success, Ms. Bashir has had her fingers on every endeavor Peek went after. Including deciding to build their primary office here in Utah. “It was a bit risky for us to come into this new environment, but we’ve been really excited to a part of the community, even though it was new to us and we didn’t really know anyone. But we’ve found amazing people to join our team here, and we’ve built a great culture that’s unique to Peek. It’s one decision we made that I’ve been especially proud of.”
Ms. Bashir is passionate about connections, and using Peek to connect the world through experiences is her favorite thing about her job. “Each booking we take represents a special moment in someone’s life,” she says, and that moment is special to her, too. But her position has also helped her to connect with more than just the clients and small businesses with which she works. She’s been able to connect and support her fellow female entrepreneurs along the way. “There’s a great community of female CEOs encouraging each other,” she tells us, and she’s passionate about those connections as well. “I’m actively involved in the entrepreneurship community, especially empowering female entrepreneurs who still only receive 2 percent of venture capital.”
Founder & President | InclusionPro
Sara Jones began her career practicing law. But she left almost a decade ago because she wanted to have a bigger impact. “When I first started my career, I had very little power to change organizational culture. Most entry-level people rarely do.” But she found ways to build her influence, shaping her own path away from law and into tech. “Some very unique opportunities presented themselves, ones I never would have gotten by continuing to practice law.” And she’s always loved technology and innovation. Having worked on over 400 patents as well as driving several technologies from the product and business side, she loves seeing the impact those technologies have.
But Ms. Jones is has always been a problem solver and when she saw a problem in the new industry she’d chosen, she took it upon herself to address it. “Despite being so forward thinking, I saw the same problem in tech as I saw in law: so many leaders struggle building inclusive teams and in hiring and retaining talent. I’ve seen firsthand how diverse teams can innovate and drive high performance. So I launched InclusionPro to address this need in the industry.” Now, she works to break down diversity and inclusion into manageable steps, providing leadership training and on-site coaching to businesses looking toward the future.
If Ms. Jones is anything, she is a devoted driver of innovation in technology, both in Silicon Slopes and beyond. “I’m passionate about women in STEM careers. Having gone through a STEM degree and a law degree all the way to partner at a law firm and CEO at a tech company, I have deep knowledge about why we lose women at every step of the career path,” she says. And she’s worked hard to change that. In 2007, she cofounded the Women Tech Council, a nonprofit which now has a community of over 10,000 men and women nationwide.
Over the past 11 years, the WTC has recognized over 200 tech leaders, mentored over 2,000 college women in STEM, and activated over 12,000 high school girls through its SheTech program. She is still actively involved in the WTC as its COO. She is also on the Talent Ready Utah core team and has served on the board of the Women Leadership Institute and the Utah Open Source Foundation. “I also look for opportunities to expand my perspective in the community, such as joining the Utah Conversations Project hosted by Utah Humanities.”
Cofounder & CEO | Chip
Sean Wilson spent the early days of his career consulting. After earning his MBA from the University of California in 2014, he used his expertise in digital strategy to consult with Fortune 500 companies such as Facebook, NBC, Disney, MLB, Omniture, and Adobe as they made their digital transitions. Then, as program director of Adobe’s CMO.com, he worked on c-level initiatives to grow the website’s influence within the global marketing economy.
But during his tenure as a consultant, Mr. Wilson had an innovative idea: a cookie delivery company. The idea began one night when he and his then-pregnant wife, Sarah, wanted a late night snack. At the time, Mr. Wilson had already been considering a business plan focused on the food industry. But when he couldn’t find a bakery that offered late-night deliveries to satisfy his wife’s craving, he decided to start that business himself. In 2016. Chip was born—a company that has since become a Utah favorite.
Living in Los Angeles at the time, where late night food delivery was quickly gaining momentum, Mr. Wilson was determined to bring this trend back to Utah. And with so many tech startups already in Silicon Slopes, he knew he could stand out by introducing something new. He believed he could disrupt the tech economy by bringing something physical into the landscape, innovating by implementing ordering apps and delivery tracking to a traditional industry. Using the launch of the app to begin delivering during BYU football games to Lavell Edwards Stadium, the company still continues to deliver to Jazz basketball games from inside the Vivint Smart Home Arena today.
Since opening their original location in Provo, Utah, Mr. Wilson has taken the company from a small rental kitchen with a staff of ten to eight locations with over 100 employees today. And while he started the company with the intent to only deliver, when customers began lining up outside the doors of their rental kitchen, he knew it was time to begin expanding and offering storefront locations with in-store pickup. Today, Chip can be found across Utah and Idaho.
As Chip grew, Mr. Wilson knew their best bet for success would be to utilize the technology at their disposal to streamline their process and better serve today’s tech-savvy customers. By integrating the delivery app to manage and communicate orders between drivers and in-store employees, customers can now use the app to place orders and receive alerts when their order is sent out for delivery. In building Utah’s original cookie delivery company, Mr. Wilson has positioned himself as a leader in the industry as the first to offer late-night deliveries and real-time tracking.
President & CEO | Diversified Insurance Group
“I entered the insurance industry immediately after graduating from college,” says Spencer Hoole, the president and CEO at Diversified Insurance Group. “It was not my first employment choice, but I didn’t have a lot of other options… okay, I had no other options and no marketable skill sets.” But for someone who supposedly had no marketable skill sets, he’s certainly done well over the course of his 26-year career. In fact, in the beginning of his career, Mr. Hoole was often overlooked. “When I began my career, no one ever had me sign a non-compete because they didn’t think I would amount to much or last long in the business. Nine years later, that gave me the luck and leverage I needed.”
In 2001, Mr. Hoole cofounded Diversified Insurance Group and has since been spending his career working with and insuring venture-capitalist-backed, private-equity-financed IPO and public companies, particularly in the technology and life sciences industries. He has insured 21 out of 26 IPO companies in Utah, and specializes in cyber risk, errors and omissions, venture capital asset protection, and directors and officers liability coverage.
Mr. Hoole attributes his hard work to his success, and the reason he’s an expert in the industry today. From entering the industry with little knowledge of it to running one of the most successful insurance companies in Utah, it’s easy to see he’s right. When asked what he thinks makes a good leader, he says: “Someone who works harder than their employees, serves others, and leads by example. A servant leader is the most effective type of leader in a service industry.”
Mr. Hoole is actively involved the venture and technology communities, a member of the Utah Technology Council’s board of trustees, the former president of TechAssure, a v100 member, and a contributor to the Investors Choice Capital Conference. He is also the cofounder of the Summit Directors and Officers Conference and has co-chaired the event for the last 18 years. “I have spent much of my professional career dedicated to supporting the growth of our tech industry and helping companies grow from start-up to mature industry leaders. By helping create a sustainable and viable tech ecosystem, we are helping to provide meaningful, high-paying jobs and opportunities for our kids and future generations. This multiplier effect trickles down and permeates all aspects of society. Job creation is the single most important thing we can give back to our communities.”
Learn more about our 2019 CEO Of The Year honorees by watching the videos below: