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CEO of the Year
Di Lewis & Heather Stewart
March 1, 2012
He’s well on his way, too. The company has grown from a backyard startup to more than $175 million in sales for 2011.
“Robert is one of the best CEOs that I’ve ever worked with on boards. He’s also probably one of the most creative, innovative, intuitive leaders that I’ve been able to work with. And I really expect that someday he’ll hit his billion-dollar goal and he’ll have a billion-dollar company or even better. I would be the last one to bet against him on anything he sets his mind to,” says Ed Ekstrom, vSpring Capital managing director.
Pedersen has led the company through several major changes. He made the call to take ZAGG public in 2007. The move ensured the employees benefited from the company’s growth, he says, and to get access to capital for acquisitions. It wasn’t an easy process, but it paved the way for another big move.
In 2011, ZAGG acquired Utah-based iFrogz, which expanded the company’s product lines into protective cases for Apple devices. While he is excited about ZAGG’s growth, Pedersen says he doesn’t measure success by simply making money.
“I’ve now realized that at least for me, success is making a difference,” he says. “Making the difference in the lives of employees, making the difference in my family.... That’s what really determines and defines success for me is to keep myself grounded no matter what, through it all. And ultimate happiness is when we’re all able to come together for a common cause and be able to change the world in our own little way.”
That focus on people, family and employees is key to Pedersen’s success. Ekstrom says by understanding how behaviors translate to organizational results, Pedersen has created a strong company that works hard.
Ekstrom says his friend has a strong vision of where ZAGG will go, but never considers himself above learning and is very teachable. Pedersen is able to take that new information and translate it into a plan.
What really demonstrates Pedersen’s leadership is his down-to-earth nature. “First and foremost he never asks anybody to put in more time or work harder or be someplace that he’s not willing to be himself,” Ekstrom says. “He leads out by example.”
The Larry H. MillerGroup of Companies
“I remember the first day I went to work with my Dad,” says Greg Miller. He was 13 years old, and his tasks included sweeping the car lot, putting logos on the backs of the cars and helping out in the parts department. Over the years, he worked in nearly every aspect of The Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, from data entry to sales and then to management. In his early 20s, Miller left the company to start his own graphics business. “I decided I wanted to get out from under my Dad’s shadow,” he says.
Eventually, he sold that business and rejoined his father’s company, spending time in several divisions, including KJAZZ television, the Golden Eagles, construction management and then the car business. Miller joined the management company in 2005 and became CEO in 2008.
Since that time, he has focused on instilling a professional management structure in the organization. His leadership has led to several improvements, like an innovative inventory system for the car dealerships that reduced inventory from $270 million to $140 million. Automotive revenues have increased 15 percent over the past year, and the company has added 13 new dealerships. The Fanzz sports apparel division has added 34 new stores and expanded into seven new states. The group of companies is expanding on all fronts, from the new Megaplex Theatre announced for Valley Fair Mall to the new upscale ProStop convenience stores.
Miller says he leads the company in a more collaborative way than his father did. “I try to delegate and try to spread the heavy load over as broad a footing as I can. My Dad really was a classic entrepreneur who liked to have his hands in everything and touch everything and make every decision.” Witnessing that management style first hand, Miller says he saw how stifling it could be. “It was great for the first 20 years—I think it was an essential part of what made our organization what it is today. But at some point, we got too big for that type of management.”
Miller has positioned the company to take full advantage of the economic recovery. He successfully implemented a plan to eliminate all acquisition debt and build a cash reserve; he also divested the company of under-performing divisions and expanded the strong, core businesses.