For the fourth time in five years, Nevada Business Journal asked the state’s business community to nominate those CEOs it truly felt were the most respected in their fields, the most deserving of recognition for their ability to create a positive workplace environment, to get involved in their communities, to be at the helms of businesses Nevada can be proud of. The editorial committee was again overwhelmed with nominations.
After a difficult judging process, the committee came back with the names of six top executives who share the ability to inspire their employees and create great work environments. They share a passion for working within their communities and sometimes beyond. They find balancing home and work life a worthwhile challenge, and they look at challenges in terms of overcoming them.
“Nevada’s Most Respected CEOs,” as nominated by their peers and chosen by our committee, are: Bill Martin, Nevada State Bank; Jackie DeLaney, Sun West Bank; Thomas Schoeman, JMA Architecture Studios; Kristin McMillan, Hale Lane Attorneys; Steve Mihaylo, Inter-Tel; and Ron Geraty, MD, Alere Medical.
We asked each of the CEOs to respond to the same four questions:
How do you create a positive workplace environment?
How do you effectively balance work and home life?
How do you overcome adversity and challenges?
What is your company’s community involvement?
We’ve summarized their answers to give readers some insight into what makes Nevada’s most respected CEOs tick.
DeLaney is president and CEO of Sun West Bank, with three locations in the Las Vegas Valley and two in Reno/Sparks, and 65 employees throughout the state. Sun West is a full service commercial bank with a primary focus on small to middle-market business customers and commercial real estate accounts.
“I think creating a positive workplace environment means leading by example to set the tone for the organization. We consider ourselves an employer of choice, so we strive to create an environment where people want to work. In addition to salary, benefits and things employees look for, we want to create an environment with open communication and participation, where people have input into where we’re going – our direction – and we strive to provide opportunities for growth and education. We also encourage our employees to give back to the community, and that’s really important, as well.”
“For me, it’s a matter of prioritizing every day what needs to get done, and balancing that between the things at the home front and the work front. And really, they interface a lot – they intertwine. A lot of times I do things that are work-related and tie them into family, or try to tie family into things considered work-related, like functions or events, so I can get as much time with family, as well as work.”
“Usually I overcome challenges or adversity by just facing them head-on. Whatever it is, face it and find solutions for it.”
“We’re very involved with our community. We’re a part of the program called America’s Promise, started by Colin Powell in 1998, an initiative to get businesses throughout the country involved with at-risk children. America’s Promise focuses on five key initiatives for children: a mentor component, a caring adult relationship with a mentor or coach; safe places where kids can go in non-school hours; healthy start, so kids have a good start to every day; teaching marketable skills through educational programs; and teaching children to give back to the community. We’re also involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nevada, Boys & Girls Clubs of Las Vegas and other mentor programs and have adopted an elementary school to provide school supplies for homeless families.”
Ron Geraty, MD
Geraty is the CEO of Alere Medical Incorporated. Alere helps people who have heart failure manage their condition through at-home monitoring, using equipment that transmits data over phone lines directly to call centers staffed by healthcare professionals. In the last year, Alere (the name is Latin for “to care for or support”) has begun working with patients who suffer from coronary artery disease, and plans to start working with diabetics. Alere employs 150 people.
“Our workplace environment probably starts with the attitude that we make a difference in the lives of the patients we work with. We have a tag line in our company that appears on everything we send out: ‘Connecting, caring and empowering.’ Connecting represents the equipment and technology. Caring is the relationship that develops between nurses and patients. Empowering is what we do for our patients so they can lead better, healthier lives.”
“That is a challenge, because my wife lives in Marblehead, Mass., and I live in Reno. So I fly home every weekend. The way I balance work and home is by going home to her so we can spend a really great weekend together. I work hard to get back there every weekend.”
“I think keeping a positive attitude and being optimistic, believing in our product and balancing profit with mission, staying true to the mission of our company – all of these things aid in overcoming challenges.”
“We are a national company – however, we have no Nevada patients on our system. So, while we do things within the community, our marketplace is the nation, and we don’t consider our community just Reno or Nevada. Locally, we’re actively involved. This past holiday season we selected a local retirement home and sponsored gifts for residents who otherwise wouldn’t have received them. We picked a family in need, found out about the kids and the mother and purchased numerous gifts, like bicycles for the kids. We’re very active in Reno with the American Heart Association, and our staff has raised over $4,000 for tsunami relief efforts.”
Martin is chairman, president and CEO of Nevada State Bank, a full service commercial and retail bank with 750 employees and branches throughout the state.
“Sometimes you do things to cause an effect. And sometimes you just do things because you think it’s the right way to do things, and you get a good effect. We start with the premise that if you treat people with respect, you will get respect in return. It’s not done to create a good workplace, but I think it results in one.”
“How do I balance home life and work? Badly. People are always saying to me, ‘You’re on so many committees and boards, how do you get it all done?’ That’s easy – I don’t. And they say, ‘If you want to get something done, find the busiest person to do it.’ No, that’s wrong! The person who said that was just looking for somebody to give a job to. Seriously, I’ve been single for a while, so the balancing act hasn’t been so tough. But I’m getting married in April. I think I’m probably one of those people who are guilty of letting the work over the years take a better proportion of time than it should, as I look back. And that’s something you realize as a mistake, but it takes a long, long time to figure out.”
“Everything, every success – and overcoming challenges is obviously a success – always involves people. Different people have different knowledge and skill sets, so I rely on others for advice when facing a challenge.”
“My current heaviest involvement is heading the foundation for Nevada State College. Nevada is one of only a few states without a state college system. When this college – which already has 1,300 students – continues to grow, people are going to look back and say, ‘How did we ever get along without a state college system?’ Almost all states have a community college, state college and university level. Penn State, Michigan State, Utah State all have grown up and become huge universities, and other state colleges formed under them because that’s the natural progression of events. It’s a tough fight, hard to get donations, because people read in the paper that we don’t need it, but in five years they’ll look back and say, ‘Boy, did we need this!’ because we’re going to have another 3,000 or 4,000 new students.”
Kristin McMillan is president and managing shareholder of Hale Lane, a Nevada law firm with offices in Reno, Las Vegas and Carson City and close to 120 employees throughout the system. Hale Lane practices commercial law, commercial transactions, litigation, taxes and estate planning and has an in-depth utilities practice. The firm has always been known for its real estate work, and represents all sizes of businesses, as well as individuals.
“We create a positive workplace environment by appreciating the people within our firm. We recognize our employees throughout the year, with celebrations of anniversaries, special occasions, passing the bar. We recognize employees if they achieve something within the community, or get a special position on a board of directors. We have a number of social events for members of the firm and a regular retreat for lawyers and managers, and some of the activities at the retreat have become part of our culture. Our business is very serious and we take our work seriously. However, we also like to laugh and have fun; it’s important not to take ourselves too seriously.”
“I’ve always worked hard. In fact, my mother described me as a workaholic when I was 13. It’s been a personal challenge for me, but I have a wonderful and supportive husband; he has provided the best encouragement and has been a sounding board for me through the years. He makes sure we take vacations and spend time doing what we enjoy, like sports. Sports are a big part of our family; I have two very active teen boys who play soccer. And we try to maintain routines. One tradition is that Friday is family night. We might just go out or order pizza, but we take it very seriously as a commitment, and you have to have a very serious conflict to excuse attendance.”
“I’ve been very fortunate in my professional life, able to work with very talented, energetic and motivated people who give me energy and keep me going. That helps me meet challenges.”
“We do expect our professional employees to be involved in the community in some way, whether it’s doing nonprofit work, joining a Hale Lane team for a charitable cause, or doing pro bono work for a less fortunate family. We firmly believe it’s important for us to stay connected to the community in which we live and work. One thing we’re involved in is rallying our troops to be part of the Chamber and Clark County Weekend Mentor Plan to get teachers to move into our area and work in our district. We’re involved in that as a firm.”
Steven G. Mihaylo
Mihaylo is chairman and CEO of Inter-Tel, the largest provider in the U.S of voice mail and business telephone systems to the middle market. Mihaylo founded Inter-Tel in 1969; the company now has 70 locations worldwide – five in Europe and 65 in the U.S. – 2,200 employees and a research-and-development budget approaching $40 million this year.
“We believe our people are our greatest resources – really our only resource. We encourage our people to be independent, give them their job objectives and turn them loose.”
“I try to take a decent vacation every year and spend a couple weeks with my family. And weekends, of course, as much as possible are spent with the family. It’s hard, but you can work it in if you try.”
“You just have to realize that if you’re tenacious and keep working at them, you’ll generally solve the problems or conquer the challenges and turn them into opportunities.”
“I’ve always been a little suspicious of public companies that spend corporate resources, but philanthropically, I have given millions to education and things that involve kids. I’ve been involved with Junior Achievement over 25 years. I set up scholarship foundation for the high school I went to over 20 years ago, I have been active in the university I attended – California State University at Fullerton. I have donated to University of Nevada, Reno, I support Bishop Manogue High School, and have been a lecturer at colleges and universities for over 20 years. I’ve mentored a lot of kids and been active in Boys & Girls Clubs, Boy Scouts and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.”
Schoeman is president of JMA Architecture Studios, the largest and oldest architectural design firm in Nevada. JMA, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in March, has 170 employees, two offices in Southern Nevada and a new office in San Diego. JMA has developed six individualized studios working in the fields of healthcare, hospitality, commercial, education, public projects and interiors.
“It starts with recognition that our employees are the resources of the company. Without our employees, we wouldn’t exist. Toward that end, we do a number of things to be a positive workplace for our people. For architects, career is all-important, so we try to make sure each member of our team has career opportunities and the opportunity to grow in the organization. We pay for all their education while they’re with us, whether they’re pursuing a grad or undergrad degree or attending seminars and conferences related to their careers. We bring in breakfast every morning, and we have employee-sponsored events of their choosing.”
“Family always comes first. That’s never an issue in our organization. We work very hard – don’t get me wrong – but if something comes up, family comes first. And we encourage people to take their vacation time. At other firms, people might accumulate over 10 years of vacation; here, they have to use it. Go enjoy the time with your family – we’re always going to be in demand and the work will be here. I have a wife of 20 years and two teens and only recently made a commitment to sit down at the beginning of each year and schedule my vacation time; otherwise I won’t do it. The first 10 years with JMA I did not take a vacation. I was consumed with the work. Architects are like that.”
“Those are all opportunities, sometimes disguised. I usually look at adversity and challenges as creative opportunities to respond to.”
“We support a number of nonprofit organizations, and I’ve always had a commitment personally to a few nonprofit organizations every year. I serve on several boards and am currently on the Desert Research Institute Foundation board. The firm also does some pro bono work for nonprofits so they can use our drawings to do fund-raising for capital improvement programs. We feel you should be involved in improving your community.”
Nevada is known for being business friendly, for being low on taxes and high on opportunity. Nevada should also be known for the quality businesses that locate or open here, and for the CEOs at their helms. Congratulations to all the companies nominated, and to those six individuals chosen – the companies are making contributions to Nevada’s economy; their CEOs are influential community leaders making contributions to our quality of life.