March 1, 2008

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CEO of the Year

Utah’s business landscape is rich with professionals who have led the Beehive...Read More

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CEO of the Year

Vision Builders

Sarah Ryther

March 1, 2008

Utah’s business landscape is rich with professionals who have led the Beehive State’s economy to success. But each year a few individuals stand out above the rest. These eight professionals exude innovation, show sound business judgement and have seen proven financial success. Whether in the private, public, government or nonprofit sector, these individuals have proven to be successful leaders within their companies and their communities. Please join us in recognizing this impressive group of professionals who are taking Utah’s economy to a higher level. Public - Small Jeff Soinski Specialized Health Products International, Inc. For Jeff Soinski, president and CEO of Specialized Health Products International (SHPI), the key to operating a successful business is to always focus on ways to get better, even when things are going great. And that’s just what’s happening at SHPI, a company that develops and manufactures disposable medical products. The company achieved banner results in 2007. Revenue grew by 52 percent to $17.4 million and earnings improved by $3.4 million. SHPI also began shipping two new manufactured product lines and plans to launch two additional products in 2008. The company has also recently established distribution agreements with leading multinational medical product companies around the world. But life at SHPI wasn’t always so rosy. When Soinski joined the company in 2001, trouble was on the horizon. The company reported approximately $520,000 in revenue and a $3.4 million net loss. Times have certainly changed; under Soinski’s leadership, SHPI enjoyed $2 million in net income in 2007. “The one thing that I focused on when I became CEO is the transition of SHPI from an underperforming, early stage R&D company, to a successful operating company, with multiple revenue streams and strategic relationships,” Soinski says. “We now have 12 marketed products, licensed agreements with many leading companies and partnerships around the world.” Soinski says that growth is essential to the success of a small public company. “At the end of the day, we’re here to drive shareholder value and to continue to grow and expand. I’d say that our mantra is to really focus this company around driving profitable growth.” Growth begins with research. “We do a lost of analysis up front and a tremendous amount of market research,” Soinski says. “We talk to our users, so we can understand their needs, and then we deliver that product. Many small companies won’t make that investment to do research up front because they feel they can’t afford to. Well, I feel we can’t afford not to.” Teamwork is also vital to SHPI’s success, Soinski says. “I can’t stress enough how important our team is. I have surrounded myself with a good team and with great senior managers. And the most important part of our team is that we’re all working together towards one goal.” According to David Green, CFO at SHPI, it’s Soinski’s ability to lead the team that has equaled success for the company. “Jeff is a very collaborate manager, especially with the senior management team. If his team doesn’t have an answer, he’s able to change his question to get an answer. One of the strongest aspects of his characteristics is how he manages the team and his vision for how everyone fits together. He’s able to see the big picture, but he’s also comfortable with the details.” As SHPI continues to see success, Soinski says that the challenge he faces now is keeping the company moving. “We’ve had a lot of momentum, so now we need to continue to work hard and not lose that momentum,” he says. “What we’re going to do is continue to invest significantly in R&D, launch new products and expand our geographic territory. We’re going to continue evolving and continue getting better.” Public – Medium Sam Westover Sonic Innovations Working is what gets Sam Westover, CEO of Sonic Innovations, out of bed each morning. “I honestly love my job. I get more energy out of working than almost anything else,” he says. And that energy has paid off. In 2007, Sonic Innovations’ stock increased 48 percent and revenue increased 16 percent. Today, Sonic Innovations is the second largest U.S. hearing aid manufacturer, and one of the leading hearing aid companies in the world. Westover joined Sonic Innovations as CEO in 2006 during a period when the company needed some serious direction. At the time, the company was being run by scientists and engineers who believed that if they created the best hearing aids, everyone would buy them. But the company lacked a strong management team, and sales weren’t happening. “I had to make a lot of changes to get it moving. I brought in people and turned the focus on our customers and their needs,” Westover says. And that’s where the focus has stayed. “Everything we do starts with the customer,” Westover says. “If you can figure out what your customer wants, focus on that and build on that, then you’ll be successful.” Westover applies this customer-oriented approach to all aspects of his management style. “We have different customer segments around the world, so we really need to understand our customers and their different needs, so we research, research, research our customers. We then develop core processes to make sure that what our customers want is achieved. It all comes down to knowing your customer, knowing what they want and delivering it.” Westover takes the philosophy further, saying business crises generally occur only when customer needs are not being met. To overcome this challenge, Westover stresses that a strong CEO should know the customer, know the data, listen to the team and not delay when making decisions. Beyond being customer-focused, Westover’s management style centers on employee participation. “There are no committees, and every employee is part of the system,” he says. “This focuses the company on a few initiatives, and everybody in the company knows how they fit in the strategy. Here, people have clear goals, and you get an immense amount of work accomplished. It’s all about focus, accountability and collaboration.” Prior to joining Sonic Innovations, Westover spent a significant portion of his career in the health care industry. He ran Cigna’s dental insurance and small group insurance business, oversaw an orthodontic company and led a pharmaceutical company that was eventually sold to Merck. He was also the founding CFO of WellPoint, which has become the largest health insurance company in the United States. With a wealth of experience and a proven success record, Westover advises young CEOs to remember the customer and be comfortable with risk. “Everything profitable has risk associated with it,” Westover says. “If you’re not comfortable with risk, you shouldn’t be in the business.” Public – Large Josh James Omniture, Inc. Work hard, play hard is Josh James’ philosophy, and he takes that attitude to heart. James, CEO and co-founder of online analytics provider Omniture, Inc. says that whether he’s singing karaoke in Tokyo or crunching numbers in his office in Orem, it’s a combination of fun and focus that has led to his company’s success. Omniture’s story begins at Brigham Young University, where James and company co-founder John Pestana were classmates who saw an opportunity and jumped right in. “We were assigned to make Web pages, so we started making them for everyone in our class,” James says. The two soon started charging for their service and JP Interactive – Omniture’s predecesor – was born. “We were surprised with all the customers we got. We even had some Fortune 500 companies.” James left BYU and began focusing full time on JP Interactive. His next move was to consolidate his company with four other companies into, which provided tools for businesses to run their Websites. Within a few weeks, the company had more than 5,000 customers. Life began looking good, but trouble was just around the corner. “2001 and 2002 were very challenging for us. We had to let many people go right before Christmas and it was really hard,” James says. “I’ve learned, though, that to be successful in businesses, you have to thrive in failure.” Thrive is just what James did. Instead of packing up shop, James considered the dot-com disaster to be an opportunity to refocus the company. “That experience taught me that every couple months to a year you have to go in and change the company a bit,” he says. Whether it’s because of his youthful spirit or his focused CEO style, Omniture is now booming. In 2007, the company’s revenue experienced a 75.6 percent increase, its customer base more than doubled and the company’s stock performed the best among all Utah companies. Omniture also boasts a nearly 100 percent client retention rate; its customers include AOL Time Warner, USA Today and Wal-Mart. James says that changing the company when things start to slow is now his main business strategy. “Technology moves so fast, so the most important thing I can do is make sure I have the right people in the company and change the company’s strategy depending on the cycle it’s in.” Consumers are also key to Omniture’s success, James says. “We focus on our customers. We know that if we listen to them and do what they ask us to, we’re going to have a great business,” he says. James also maintains that finding the right people and making sure that they’re all on the same page is essential to any business’ success. “Everyone needs to get on board with what’s going on. If you have great people, then it will all fit together. And there always needs to be fun.” James sees a bright future for Omniture. “We want to keep getting bigger and just keep doing what we’ve been doing, but more of it.” Only six credits away from a college degree, James doesn’t see himself sitting in a classroom anytime soon. “School is a means to an end that I’ve already found.” Private – Small Lane Summerhays Workers Compensation Fund Lane Summerhays says that his number one priority is keeping Utah workers safe. If that’s truly the case, he’s doing a good job. In 2007, frequency and severity of workers’ injury claims declined, a statistic that could be contributed to the launch of the advertising campaign, “Be Careful Out There.” Fatalities also declined to a total of 14, compared to 22 in 2006 and 30 in 2005. In 2007, Worker’s Compensation Fund (WCF) continued to help Utah workers, filing two different rate reductions in 2007, which lowered rates an average of 9 percent. On top of that, WCF obtained the third lowest rates in the nation for workers compensation insurance and at the same time returned $47 million in dividends to policyholders in 2007. But it wasn’t always glory for WCF. When CEO Lane Summerhays joined the company in 1992, WCF was in financial ruin, its reputation was deplorable and employee morale was low. Summerhays stepped into action by organizing focus groups to determine where the company needed change. “The focus groups came up with a lot of recommendations, and I immediately began to implement change,” he says. “I also brought in a management team and worked to change the culture. We needed to show that we cared about our customers and cared about our employees. Since then, it’s really taken off.” But just as WCF started to experience success, Summerhays was hit with another hurdle. “One of the largest challenges I faced had to do with the ownership of the company,” he says. “Governor Leavitt asserted that the state owned the company.” Maintaining that policyholders were the true owners of WCF, Summerhays went all the way to the Supreme Court and prevailed. Summerhays plowed through the challenges and built a stronger WCF using a customer- and employee-based focus. “As a CEO, I learned that if we take care of our people, they’ll take care of customers. The result has been great; we’ve been able to reduce accidents and return millions to policyholders,” he says. “I’ve learned that to be successful as a CEO, you need to get good people, train them well, give them a vision and leave them alone to do their jobs.” When not leading WCF, Summerhays spends much of his time volunteering with the United Way as a member of its executive committee. “Working with the United Way has been a very satisfying way to go into the community and give back to the lives of the disadvantaged,” he says. Summerhays also encourages his employees to get involved with the United Way. “Eighty percent of our employees participate in the United Way. Some give their time to serve in the kitchen or in schools. Our employees are very caring and giving.” With plenty of triumphs, Summerhays has decided to bring this chapter of his life to a close and will retire this year to serve a mission with his wife for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As for his hopes for WCF’s future, Summerhays says, “I would like to see the company continue to have a culture of company service and to continue taking care of Utah.” Private – Medium Aaron Garrity XanGo A “dream come true” is how Aaron Garrity describes his position as CEO of XanGo. “I always wanted to start my own company, I talked and dreamed of it for years,” he says. In 2007 that dream got even bigger. The company experienced phenomenal international growth, opening several new markets worldwide, welcoming 10,000 international distributors and earning more than $1 million in revenue within the first month of business in Malaysia. XanGo also hired 353 employees, introduced XanGo.TV and is expanding operations at its distribution facility Spanish Fork. If XanGo had to be summed up in just one word, “growth” would be it, Garrity says. “When you take a company from start to approximately one million distributors, understanding growth is important,” Garrity says. “The ability to grow management and make appropriate decisions is vital. With that said, it’s also important to be able to maintain the overall corporate vision and objectives, knowing the people and the organization.” But XanGo has not always experienced such success. In 2001, the company prepared to launch in a very shaky market. Realizing that obtaining start-up capital from outside sources would be unlikely, Garrity mortgaged his home. “We felt the time was right, so we started XanGo with almost nothing more than a whole lot of energy and a dream,” he says. After becoming CEO of XanGo just 16 months ago, Garrity’s main objective was to keep the company focused and specialized. “XanGo tells one simple story and that’s the story of mangosteen. We’ve specialized this one story and we’re the first in our industry’s history to be five years into the market with just one product.” XanGo’s efforts to educate the world about the health benefits of mangosteen have contributed to the company’s success, Garrity says. In 2007, the fruit’s popularity grew after being discovered by Oprah Winfrey and The New York Times. As CEO, Garrity says he tries to create a company culture that’s flowing with energy, innovation and charity. When XanGo was first launched, Garrity stressed the importance of making charitable giving a part of his business model. Today, that model is known as XanGo Goodness, and it benefits families and children around the globe. Overall, Garrity says that it’s a combination of focus, specialization, having a strong management team and a positive company culture that has equaled success for XanGo. As for the future of XanGo, Garrity says that he hopes to see the company become the greatest direct sales company in the history of the industry and continue the quest to share mangosteen’s story with the world. Private – Large John Hanshaw MountainStar Healthcare Though his dream was to become a wrestling coach, John Hanshaw found his true calling in health care. “I had a bad knee injury so I couldn’t wrestle,” he says. “I went to work as an accountant in a hospital and got to know the hospital’s CEO. He began mentoring me and encouraged me to begin a career in health care management.” As CEO of MountainStar Healthcare, Hanshaw leads nine hospitals, a psychiatric health care facility, a growing number of outpatient surgery and imaging centers as well as multiple physician practices and clinics in Utah and Idaho. “There’s been all kinds of challenges because I am responsible for the normal challenges a hospital has times nine,” he says. “One of my main objectives is to create a network behavior among this group of organizations that used to work independently.” Under Hanshaw’s leadership, MountainStar hospitals experienced the expansion of key departments in 2007, including an $11 million renovation at Ogden Regional Medical Center, a $10 million state-of-the-art upgrade at St. Mark’s Hospital and a $32.6 million expansion at Timpanogos Regional Hospital. Beyond these upgrades, Hanshaw also established a plethora of new patient services in 2007. Hanshaw says that his main goal as CEO of MountainStar is to improve health care across the state. “Unquestionably, the health care delivery system is subject to criticism in terms of cost and value; our vision is to build a better health care system,” he says. “It should work better for patients and work better for doctors and nurses.” Hanshaw says that a better health care system begins first with employees. “I think that it’s all about creating a team of people who you can trust and letting them do their job with your support. If the vision of the organization is clear, they will figure out how they contribute to that vision and they won’t need to be managed too tightly,” he says. According to Dr. Scott Williams, chief medical officer of the Mountain Division and former president and CEO of HealthInsight, it is Hanshaw’s management style that has led to his success as CEO. “John establishes a clear direction and then communicates that to people. As a leader, he gives his team a lot of latitude to fulfill their responsibilities and then holds them accountable.” In the future, Hanshaw says he hopes to see health care that is even more sensitive to patient and individual needs, while also accommodating practitioners. “We in the health care profession need to act as prudent stewards of resources. If we execute on those things, we will have growth in our future and will attract talent.” With more than 30 years of experience in health care, Hanshaw advises young CEOs to remember their roots. “Don’t forget where you came from. No task is too small. Don’t be consumed with a sense of self importance, but be consumed with a sense of serving an organization and patients and caregivers.” Government Bill Sederburg Utah Valley State College After a 30-year career as a Michigan state senator and as the president of a state university, many might be ready to call it a day. Not Bill Sederburg. Instead, Sederburg kept his focus on the future. “One day I’m walking down the street in front of the capitol building when a new legislator asked me, ‘In your day, how did you do such and such,’ and it dawned on me that I was becoming part of Michigan’s past. That’s when I decided that I wanted to be somewhere where I could be part of the future. So my wife and I decided to go on an adventure,” he says. His adventure brought him to Utah, as he left Michigan’s Ferris State University and found himself president of Utah Valley State College (UVSC) in 2003. Since then, Sederburg has driven UVSC into the future, most notably by helping the school achieve university status in 2007. This was an accomplishment that most didn’t think would be possible in at least 10 years – Sederburg made it happen in four. “The quality of the school was better than people were giving it credit for,” he says. “My job was to convince the power structure that the quality was there and that we were ready for the change.” The transition from college to university means more funds for the school, an increase in full-time faculty members, a reduction in adjunct faculty members and the creation of graduate programs, Sederburg says. “The real challenge begins now that we’ve been granted university status. We’re changing a lot of policy, doing a lot of hiring and putting even more emphasis on academic quality.” Sederburg says one challenge that he must juggle everyday is the fact that UVSC is half businesses and half government. “To be successful, I have to respond to the market and recruit students all while being highly regulated. Leadership is a key element. Another key element is to get a mutual vision of where we want to go,” he says. Presently, Sederburg is working with his administrative team to build a political and business strategy to decipher what kind of university UVSC will be when it officially makes the switch in July 2008. “We’re working to create a new model, focusing on people, place and profession. My key strategy is to get a mutual vision of where we want to go. I know that one of our main goals is for UVSC to build people of integrity and character.” Once UVSC becomes UVU, Sederburg says that he will continue to look into the school’s future. “I’m always thinking of the future. A school can change so much over time, and I’m ready to help move UVSC forward.” When he’s not leading UVSC, you’ll find Sederburg swinging his tennis racquet. “I love to play tennis. I’m on the court every Monday.” Non-Profit Jeff Edwards Economic Development Corporation of Utah Though his real passion is chemistry, Jeff Edwards, CEO of EDCUtah, has found his niche in bringing business to Utah. Since joining EDCUtah in 2001, Edwards has helped Utah welcome many notable businesses, including KraftMaid, Fusion Technologies and Conestoga Wood Specialties. Working with government and private secor leaders, Edwards has also helped establish Utah as one of the hottest places for businesses relocation. One of Edwards’ most successful accomplishments was securing Procter & Gamble’s move to the state finalized last year. “That was a wonderful project and a classic example of what excellent partnership can do,” he says. “Many didn’t think that we could do it, but my job was to say, ‘We can do this. We can make it happen.’ Once everybody got on board, we did what had to be done and it worked.” As Procter & Gamble readies to move into Box Elder County in 2010, the area is looking forward to the creation of at least 300 new jobs, with wages expected to be more than 200 percent of the Box Elder County median. Long before joining EDCUtah, Edwards worked as a high school teacher in Utah, teaching chemistry, a job that he says has helped him in his current position as CEO. “Teaching was very rewarding, but as I started my family, I realized that I couldn’t make it on a teacher’s salary. But, perhaps being a teacher is part of what has helped me in my position as I had to take principles and change them into something that others can understand, which is fundamental to my job now,” he says. As EDCUtah CEO, Edwards says building and maintaining partnerships is central to his success in recruiting new companies. “Everybody’s got to work together,” he says. “We have to have a remarkable level of cooperation. We are really built on partnerships. We’ve enjoyed support from local businesses, rural and urban cities and all different kinds of companies. Almost all operations have seen the value in helping Utah’s economy.” Beyond establishing partnerships, Edwards says that one of his strategies is building strong employees. “I believe in having teams and empowering them. We have some very high quality people here, and I’ve found that the best way to manage is to give them autonomy and things will move forward,” he says. “I also think that diversity is important. We’ve got bankers, real estate experts, mechanics – all different flavors of people. It’s served us well. Different businesses from outside the state will look at us and see how different we are, but that we can all work together. “We all have the same goal,” he continues. “We want to create quality jobs. We work together to send the message that Utah is a good place to do business.”
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