Meet This Year’s CXO’s of the Year
Every year, Utah Business Magazine awards members of the C-suite for outstanding achievement. Recognized by their peers at the CXO of the Year event, these men and women exemplify what it means to be a leader—not just for their companies, but for their communities at large.
Chief Technology Officer, BrainStorm, Inc.
The greatest technology in the world is worthless without a market to support it, says Derek Adams, and it’s his job to help bridge the gap between those who make tech and those sell it. “Understanding that the external teams [such as sales and marketing] are just as critical to the success as the engineering that goes into the product is critical,” he says.
In the last few years, BrainStorm has transitioned from a services business to a software company. The change required the company to shift its skillset and the way it thought about doing business. That initial pivot got them into the software game and the shift in attitude helped make them a market leader in it.
“I was able to get the right people in. We developed the product, and then continually evangelized internally to help make the shift,” Mr. Adams says. “Since that time, we’ve transformed the product into something that is competitively unique in the space. I’ve been able to lead a great group to strategize, plan, and execute a vision to take BrainStorm into an industry leading position.”
Chief Information Officer, GPS Capital Markets, Inc.
Brent Bailey is the Chief Information Officer for GPS Capital Markets, Inc., a corporate foreign exchange brokerage firm. In addition to achieving record growth last year, the company made a number of changes internally. That meant internalizing all development initiatives, migrating all servers to the cloud, and meeting new regulatory requirements from Europe. Mr. Bailey led the charge on all accounts, developing three- and five-year plans and setting up teams to achieve them.
Of course, leadership isn’t all about strategy. According to Mr. Bailey, “Leadership is less about amassing knowledge and skills and more about recognizing knowledge and skills in others.” Adopting a democratic leadership approach, he has helped his team learn how to succeed on their own terms. As he says, “Over time you realize that an effective leader builds leaders out of those around himself/herself without fear of losing status or power.”
Chief Financial Officer, PrinterLogic
Shane Callahan is the Chief Financial Officer for PrinterLogic, print management software developed for the enterprise. Over the past year, the company has more than doubled in size, expanding operations outside of Utah and into North Carolina and Germany. Doing so has required new levels of efficiencies including automating recurring tasks, reducing the revenue recognition cycle, and eliminating the need for additional employees on the finance and accounting teams.
Mr. Callahan’s hard work paid off, with financial processes and procedures in place to scale, PrinterLogic was able to secure a $15 million Series A and expand the enterprise internationally. But being the CFO isn’t always about the blocking and tackling of corporate finance and accounting, it’s about comprehending all elements of the company’s operations. “You need to be a partner with the rest of the organization which requires excellent communications skills and a broad understanding of each functional area,“ he says, “Building a relationship of trust among your peers and throughout the organization is also a critical skill.”
Chief Operations Officer, Acima Credit
Rob Christiansen believes an entrepreneurial spirit is key to the work he does as Chief Operations Officer for Acima Credit. After getting his start developing the first all-natural cough syrup for babies at Zarbee’s, he went on to create a children’s sleep tablet. From there he joined Lucid Software where he ran project management at one of Utah’s premier software companies. Overall, his experience developing products and growing companies has greatly contributed to his ability to do both for Acima Credit.
As Acima’s COO, Mr. Christiansen culminates all of his experience in product experience to focus on ways the company can leverage emerging technologies to service their merchants, customers, and employees more effectively. He leads Acima’s strategic and tactical improvements and brings the spirit of innovation to his team.
President and Chief Operating Officer, Lucid
Dave Grow is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Lucid. When he first started working for the tech company in 2010, his role was defined ambiguously as “help figure out and grow the business.” Though the goal has largely remained the same, Mr. Grow has taken on many different roles to ensure the realization of it. In the past year alone, that has meant expanding the company internationally by translating the product into several new languages and marketing it to new audiences worldwide.
Of course, expanding worldwide wasn’t the only risk Mr. Grow took. At the time he accepted the position the company was making less than $1,000 per month. Despite the fact that he had an M.B.A. underway and an offer to continue working with a top-tier consulting firm, he couldn’t resist the urge to be part of building something. Build something they did. “In entrepreneurship you rarely know when and how those great opportunities will come,” Mr. Grow says. “But it’s worth being open to change and blowing up the five-year plan for those unique opportunities.”
Chief Engineering Officer, Vivint Smart Home
Handling the backend cloud infrastructure that supports more than a million smart homes with over a billion events each day means constantly working to improve the customer experience. But to JT Hwang, Chief Engineering Officer at Vivint Smart Home, the C-suite isn’t all about leadership. “For technical leadership roles, strong hands-on experience in the field is crucial for success and credibility,” he says, “having a computer science background combined with 15 years as a software engineer gives me the foundation needed to properly manage risks in my organization.”
Of course, it’s worth mentioning how exactly Mr. Hwang deals with those risks when they arise—especially because his method is decidedly “unrisky.” When the company decided to upgrade their Smart Home Hub in 2013, they spent millions of dollars purchasing legacy inventory they were planning to replace. Though they never wound up needing the backup plan, having it in place meant Vivint could afford for things to not go as planned without hindering the user experience.
Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing; Chief Commercial Officer, BioFire Diagnostics
Rachel Jones is the Senior Vice President of Sales and the Marketing and Chief Commercial Officer for BioFire Diagnostics. In nearly seven years of sales, the company has grown to a cumulative revenue of $1 billion in FirmArray product sales. FilmArray is the new standard for syndromic infectious disease molecular diagnostics, but it wasn’t always that way. When the product launched in 2011 the market was not overly supportive of syndromic testing, the core of FilmArray’s technology, and the product was not very robust.
With only a handful of team members, Ms. Jones and her team made the decision to move ahead, placing themselves at the forefront of an about to be booming market. “It was a huge risk, we could have ruined our chances of long term success by failing miserably in the beginning,” she said. “But we didn’t. We worked hard to support our early adopters and it paid off, we have been able to stay in front of our competition.”
Corey B. Lindley
Founding Executive, President, and Chief Financial Officer, dōTERRA
Corey B. Lindley’s first business was a flop. After investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into a franchise business in Utah, Mr. Lindley and his wife had to close the business and lose their investment. But doing so taught the dynamic duo a valuable lesson, one that helped their next venture become a worldwide success. With more than five million advocates and offices in Malaysia, New Zealand, and Costa Rica, dōTERRA’s essential oils business is just getting started.
“Part of my responsibilities include overseeing operations, which include dōTERRA’s Cō-Impact Sourcing®, an initiative that seeks to develop long-term, mutually beneficial supplier partnerships while creating sustainable jobs and providing reliable income in underdeveloped areas,” he says. “I grew up on a small farm, so I feel like my work has come full circle through this initiative.” Being able to give back is the greatest job of Mr. Lindley’s career. “Through these initiatives, we are able to provide pure, high-quality essential oils for customers around the world, while giving back to the communities and individuals who work so hard to produce them.”
Vice President of University Advancement, Weber State University
Brad Mortensen is the Vice President of University Advancement at Weber State University where he helps students secure the support and resources they need to be successful. “Without a doubt, the most satisfying part of my job is seeing the impact it has on students and the opportunities it creates to improve their lives,” he says. “Over the past few weeks, as we finished another academic year, I came to know many touching stories of graduates who persevered through many difficult challenges to earn their degrees.”
As a result, Mr. Mortensen and his team have seen Weber State recognized as the fastest growing computer science and engineering programs in the state. The school has received significant investment by state legislature, alumni, and other supporters which has allowed them to increase faculty, expand scholarships, and update engineering buildings on their Oden campus. All while providing new opportunities for their students. “Knowing I have played a part in securing more scholarship opportunities for students, planning additional campus facilities, and creating more student job opportunities gives me my greatest job satisfaction.”
Vice President and CXO, Young Automotive Group
A few years ago, Kelly Moss looked at his successful role as general manager at different dealerships for Young Automotive Group, took a breath, and asked for an executive role. He got it. At the time, he was the only non-family member in an executive role, and all eyes were on him.
Mr. Moss has since flourished in the role, which oversees operations for 14 different car dealership locations as well as Rocky Mountain Raceways. Recently, he assisted with a transaction that involved more than a dozen different property owners, and a multi-year development agreement with two local municipalities and a new car manufacturer. In August, that effort will result in the largest footprint Mazda dealership in the country.
Throughout his career, Ms. Moss says he’s learned empathetic leadership and mutually beneficial cooperative relationships can lay a strong foundation for success. “I believe in any key role of leadership you must be able to understand and accomplish win-win situations and relationships,” he says. “One-sided relationships last months or maybe a year or two while win-win relationships can last decades. I believe it is a fine line between being competitive and always winning versus understanding and empathizing to have consistent win-win lasting situations.”
Matthew C. Peterson
Chief Marketing Officer, Jive Communications
Though Matthew C. Peterson now oversees the branding, public relations, and demand generations operations for Jive Communications as its Chief Marketing Officer, Mr. Peterson’s background is in software engineering. This technological understanding has helped him navigate the ever-turbulent waters of marketing automation. “Marketing is becoming more of a science every day,” he says, “and the analytical nature and mathematics of software development has helped prepare me to employ a metrics-based approach to all our marketing spend and efforts.”
If one part of his role is managing metrics, the other part of his role is managing people, and Mr. Peterson’ management style is all about authenticity. “I’ve learned that I’m a good manager for smart, motivated, ambitious, and risk-taking employees. These people make major mistakes sometimes, have big personalities, strong opinions, and are sometimes difficult to collaborate with. However, I’d much rather deal with those problems than try to motivate the passive, educate the uninformed, or deal with a victim or passive mentality.” In Mr. Peterson’s mind, the best leaders are the ones who know themselves and don’t try to be anyone else.
Chief Financial Officer, Traco Manufacturing, Inc.
Owen Power is the Chief Financial Officer of Traco Manufacturing, Inc. Though that may sound as though he’s a “number’s guy,” he’s quick to mention he’s anything but. After moving his family from South Africa to the United States in 2007 Mr. Power had to start from the very bottom, taking his CPA exam as though he weren’t already a qualified chartered accountant in his home country (he was). But working his way up taught him the value of the big picture.
“The 21st century CFO is no longer a ‘report the numbers guy,’” he says. “The CFO is a partner with the CEO and needs to be able to interpret the numbers into actionable plans for companies to remain viable in a fast-paced economy. The CFO must be able to see and understand the whole business, not just the financial results.” And understanding the big picture means being able to step back and look objectively at what you’ve built. “Financial success can come and go,” he says. “It can be fleeting and sometimes it may not come at all despite the effort. But who I am is within my control. If I can look back and see a better me today, than I have been successful.”
Executive Vice President, America First Credit Union
Rich Syme is the Executive Vice President of America First Credit Union, and he’s been busy. In the past year Mr. Syme has increased membership by 950 percent and increased assets by nearly one billion dollars. By focusing on marketing initiatives that would drive new customers to the credit union, as well as enhancing the user experience using internet and mobile technologies, Mr. Syme has ushered in a new era his company. The trick, he says, is all about surrounding yourself with the right people… and letting them do their jobs.
“At the end of the day, relationships and teamwork are the keys to success. I think early on in my career it was all about me and showing what I could do. Now my favorite thing is to see the success of others in the organization as they work together,” he says. “I enjoy working and the relationships with all of our incredible people who truly are dedicated and passionate for the work they do in doing whatever it takes to help our members.”
Chief Operating Officer, MarketStar
Keith Titus is the Chief Operating Officer at MarketStar, but he didn’t take a direct route to the top. After spending a number of years working on a project with Motorola, Mr. Titus decided to take a risk by taking a job with a large tractor manufacture base in Atlanta. It wasn’t a good fit. Four months into the job, Mr. Titus realized that he had jumped from one all-consuming job to another, and that he wanted to spend more time with his family.
“I value my relationships with my family, and to a certain extent, my community, as the first and foremost judge of hos successful I am,” he says. “I have always said there are six things that drive us in our careers: inspiration (being inspired by a higher power), people (those who inspire us to be more), what (the actual act of what we are doing in our work), power (the desire to do more and be more and have more of a say in our own future), experience (learning a new specialty and becoming an expert at it), and money (the size of your paycheck). I have had success with all of these areas (to varying degrees), but all have taught me different lessons when I needed them.”
Chief Financial Officer, Midwest Commercial Interiors
Hal Wamsley has worn a lot of hats over the years, but common among them has been the need for strong leadership skills. “Gain respect, gain trust, let them know you care and that you are willing to work as hard as it takes to do the job at a high level, and then let them prove themselves and rise up to the challenge,” he says. “People will rise up and achieve success in their respective position if simply given guidance and the opportunity. All it may take is a little vision, direction and motivation, and get out of the way.”
Mr. Wamsley says he finds the most satisfaction in helping his organization grow and those around him succeed. “Knowing that so many people are depending on the success of the company for their livelihood, and to be a part of the management team responsible for the company’s success, is motivating as well as thrilling for me. We open the door and encourage each individual to prove themselves and succeed,” he says. “I do not need to worry about any member or our team not giving 100 percent at all times. This makes me even more motivated to make sure I can do all I can do to help lead the company to higher highs.”
President and Chief Marketing Officer, ThomasARTS
In the last year, ThomasARTS has expanded to two East Coast locations and grown their business at home. With that growth has come an even greater need to keep a close watch on client relationships, but it’s a challenge Anne Wood has embraced. “We need to get there ahead of the consumer and the client if we are going to be able to lead them,” she says. “My role is look at those client needs and have our executive team ensure we have the resources or do what it takes to acquire those resources and expertise.”
Through her career, Ms. Wood has learned that putting the client first and keeping an eye on the company’s long-term goals are reliable ingredients for success. Occasionally, that means making initially unpopular choices, she says, but it’s a leader’s job to hold to that vision rather than seeking to be liked at all times. “In our fast-paced industry of advertising, our job is constantly changing in order to stay current and provide relevant offerings to our clients,” she says. “I’ve always measured my success based on the success of our clients. As their brands build, their sales increase, their influence grows—that means we’re doing our job successfully.”
Chief Operating Officer, DecisionWise, LLC
To be good at the C-level takes a breadth of experience, says Matthew Wride, Chief Operating Officer at DecisionWise. “You are primarily responsible for seeing how the various pieces fit together. You don’t have to be an expert in each area, but you need to have a solid understanding in each business function,” he says. “Your job is to fully integrate each business discipline, but you can’t do that if you don’t understand what each function does.”
That attitude has come in handy as Mr. Wride has risen through the ranks. Another important component of the job, he says, is knowing the “why” behind answers to problems or questions—information that can’t be found on Google but can make the difference between the right or wrong decision. In many ways, he says, the essence of good leadership rests in solving problems intuitively.
“Your team is constantly confronting a challenge where they need help. They expect you to help them. I am not suggesting you do the work for them; that would not be the right way,” he says. “But you can help them gather resources, think differently, or see a way through the challenge that was previously hidden. The right leader helps his or her team ascertain the challenges and solve them, so they can move forward.”
Chief Product and Technology Officer, Workfront
Steven ZoBell wouldn’t describe himself as a risk-averse person. Then again, his definition of risk is a little different than most people’s. “I will try anything at least once. I believe that the impossible just takes longer than people want to give it. So, I don’t view any of the decisions that I have made as big risks,” he says.
One of the most valuable lessons he learned was that no situation, no matter how bad it looks, is ever so dire as to not be able to be improved upon. Success, he says, is the culmination of countless ordinary actions. That attitude has helped keep him even-keeled in the face of difficult problems and given him a zest for solving them.
“I have a deep passion for solving complex problems, and I get to tackle one of the most pervasive problems in the modern workplace: how to enable greater velocity across teams while providing visibility of strategic outcomes to stakeholders,” he says. “I love the fact I regularly get to interact with, and learn from, brilliant individuals in market-leading companies around the world that are using Workfront to drive their digital transformation.”