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Utah Business' CEO of the Year

Bold, Caring Leadership Honored at CEO of the Year Awards

Salt Lake City—A business is only as good as the team running it, and that team is only as good as the leader at its forefront. On Thursday, Utah Business honored a dozen of Utah’s finest CEOs for their exemplary leadership.

“We meet with dozens and dozens of business leaders throughout the year, and one thing we’ve noticed is that great CEOs are quick to give any credit for their success to their team,” said Donnie Welch, publisher of Utah Business. “Teams are important. Teams are essential for turning a vision into reality. But all great CEOs understand one thing: the buck stops on their desk.

“The chief executive has ultimate responsibility for the successes and failures of the organization he or she leads, and that can be a lonely burden to bear, no matter how great, capable and committed your team is,” Welch added. “When it comes down to it, the toughest, most painful decisions rest with the CEO, who understands that employees—and their families—depend upon the growth and success of the company.”

Among the CEOs honored was Joel Clark, CEO of Kodiak Cakes, who shepherded the company through 16 hard years to the brand’s first million, and now into the thriving present of well-earned success.

“The fact that Kodiak Cakes is even still around is a modern-day miracle,” Clark said. “[This award] really is a tribute to the people I work with. I think we all feel the same way—it’s the people that we work with. … I remember being fearful about growth and being fearful of having a lot of people work with me. Actually, that’s turned out for me. That’s become my favorite part of the job.”

That has also been the case with Nathan Rafferty, president and CEO of Ski Utah, who started working at Ski Utah in 1994 as an unpaid intern after finding out that he could make a career out of his all-consuming hobby.

“At the end of the day, this award isn’t about me, it’s about our industry—I’m just the ski bum who gets to hold the fancy award,” he said. “If you ever get the chance to work where your main focus is not making a buck but inspiring people … you’re going to find yourself in a pretty happy place.”

For Vivien Bohme, CEO of Bohme and a Brazilian immigrant, the recognition and the success preceding it are a symbol for other immigrants trying to achieve the American Dream.

“I’ve been here for a couple of decades and the first thing that we tried to achieve at Bohme was not just to sell pretty clothes and make money doing it,” she said. “It was to show immigrants with little money in their pocket that they too can have a multimillion dollar company—especially in this political climate.”

Utah Business also recognized John B. Lund, president and CEO of America First Credit Union with the lifetime achievement award. Lund recounted an incident where he and his wife were dining at a local eatery when the waitress noticed his America First Credit Union-branded shirt and said he had saved her life—as a single mother with a mountain of debt, she went to America First Credit Union as a last-ditch effort to get her life on track, and was helped immensely.

“Whether we literally saved her life or not, I don’t know,” he said, but noted that it didn’t really matter in the course of trying to help all of their members. “It’s the team we have that makes us a success, serving our members and trying to improve their lives.”