Chuck Alvey. Curt Anderson. Frank Martin. Heather Murren. Doug Roberts.
You may recognize some or all of these names and if you don’t, you should. They are Nevada’s Most Respected CEOs for 2007, as chosen by Nevada Business Journal’s readers. With countless nominations for the coveted most respected CEO honor, the NBJ editorial team carefully considered each candidate and are confident these five individuals are among the states most respected business leaders. These energetic, enterprising individuals love their work, are respected by their employees, have open, collaborative management styles and areinvolved within the community.
When asked what defines a strong CEO, they all replied: honest, passionate, visionary leaders, who are fair and open, accomplished communicators and intuitive listeners, and who possess an animated sense of humor. Here’s a deeper look into each one’s operations and insights.
For Chuck Alvey, all facets of life and business are based on relationships with people. “If you don’t have strong relationships, you can’t be successful,” he said. Alvey, 58, is president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development
Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN). Founded by community leaders in 1982, EDAWN is a Reno-based, private, non-profit corporation that works to recruit and expand quality companies to the region. EDAWN covers eight counties in the state’s northwestern region.
Alvey began working at EDAWN in 1998 after a 31-year career in television management in Michigan, Arizona and Nevada. Under his leadership, EDAWN has reached and surpassed its goal of an average annual economic impact of $376 million (starting at $131 million). It has gone from an annual budget of $770,000 to nearly $2.4 million. However, the proudest achievement, Alvey said, is the strong partnerships EDAWN has in the community.
The Kalamazoo, Mich.-born CEO manages his staff of about 20 in a collaborative way, using humor, communication and honesty. He finds the right candidates and lets them do their jobs. “We have a great team of people here,” he said. He takes his cues from lessons learned from his mentor, Dick DeAngelis, under whom he worked in the television industry. The two still keep in touch, talking a few times a year. “Dick taught me an awful lot about relationships and key things about honesty and integrity,” Alvey said.
In 2003, while at EDAWN, Alvey became a certified economic developer (CEcD). He also holds a degree in business administration, which he obtained in 1985 from the University of Phoenix. Alvey is a member of several economic development-related boards, including those for the International Economic Development Council National and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology.
He puts in about 60 hours a week and tries just as hard to enjoy his personal life. “I have a strict policy of work hard and play hard,” he said. “When I get out of here, I am pretty successful at turning it off.” With his three children grown and out of the house, it’s just he and Pam, his wife of 35 years. In the past, the couple hosted five exchange students, whom they consider as their own children (they have two “exchange grandchildren”). Alvey enjoys movies, music, being outdoors and traveling, often incorporating side trips into business trips. He frequently visits the Bay Area – sometimes for Giants games – and Phoenix, where he has friends. He loves to read and write, having penned two unpublished mystery novels about a female reporter.
Alvey said his work doesn’t feel like a job. He loves the ability to be creative, achieve goals and help others to do the same. “You get to an age where you start considering whether you’ve made a difference, and if you’re done,” he added. “I’m not done. I have a lot more I’d like to accomplish.”
Fair, Anderson & Langerman
Curt Anderson, 57, thrives on problem-solving. He’s the CEO of Fair, Anderson & Langerman (FAL), a Las Vegas team of certified public accountants and business and information technology advisors. “I get great satisfaction from my involvement in others’ successful achievements,” he said. “I greatly enjoy working a client issue – brainstorming it and coming up with a creative answer or a process to find an answer.”
Although he considered becoming a lawyer (like his father), he entered the fields of accounting and tax. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with an emphasis on accounting, from Notre Dame in 1971. Three years later he became a certified public accountant. “Tax is a law-driven, advocacy kind of process that allows the client to make proactive decisions to achieve better results,” he said. “It’s optimistic, and I fell into that.”
He began his career with a national accounting firm in the Midwest and then moved to Los Angeles. In 1984, he quit to pursue other business ventures, such as real estate development. Unfortunately, some of those failed. “I know what it’s like to have tough times, when you have to fix things that don’t work,” he said. Subsequently, he co-founded FAL with Lee Fair and Jill Langerman in 1988. Clients primarily are businesses, such as construction contractors and large retail-type organizations. “When I look at our existing client base, our personnel and the size of our organization, we’re a critical force as a local accounting firm, we’re a force to be reckoned with in Las Vegas,” he said.
Anderson manages by influence and enjoys helping his staff members achieve success. All employees must attend “FAL University,” an in-house, four-year training program. In addition, every employee can use up to $1,000 a year on any type of personal development program, whether a seminar or Pilates class. Anderson is also working on ways to reduce the long hours his employees work (he averages about 50 hours a week and avoids the office on Fridays). Setting an example, he urges his staff to get involved in civic affairs. Anderson is treasurer of the Police Athletic League and is a member of the Las Vegas Arts Museum and the Opportunity Village Foundation boards. “I think you have to make the world a better place,” he said.
For recreation, Anderson flies a helicopter, exercises, reads, watches movies and travels with his wife, often to visit his two adult children. Suffering from a “low threshold of boredom,” he’s involved with different businesses, he said. He typically develops one or two commercial office projects a year. He’s co-owner of MDL Group, a commercial asset management group and involved with Service 1st Bank.
“Being a CPA is my vocation, and I consider my other business pursuits as avocations,” he said. “They help me improve my ability to serve my clients. They make me more of a resource.”
As a new graduate of Rancho High School, Frank Martin worked as a carpenter for J.A. Tiberti Construction, in Las Vegas. J.A. Tiberti, the owner, became Martin’s greatest mentor. More than 30 years later, Martin is now the president and CEO of his own company, Martin-Harris Construction (MHC) and carrying on Tiberti’s legacy of mentoring in his own company.
“I could call Tiberti and talk with him at any point in time, even though back then, he ran the largest construction company in Las Vegas,” the 60-year-old Martin said. “He always found time for me. That’s something that I’m trying to do myself.”
One of Martin’s core values is giving the company’s 900 employees opportunities to succeed and meet their goals. Martin offers an education program, in which any employee of six months or more can apply for and receive scholarships covering 50 percent of tuition and 100 percent of books for any career-related course. “I love having the ability to make people more successful than they ever thought they could be,” Martin said.
Martin also promotes from within and internal success stories abound. A senior project manager began as a project administrator 12 years ago, obtained an architecture degree and now runs anywhere from $75 million to $150 million worth of work.
Years ago, Tiberti stressed to Martin those who put forth extraordinary efforts, yield extraordinary returns. So Martin’s made a habit of working 12- to 13-hour days. “You see financial success everywhere but the biggest returns are found in the opportunity to foster success in the people around you,” Martin said.
Martin co-founded MHC with Frank Harris in 1977. Based in Las Vegas, MHC is a general contractor that specializes in design-build, industrial and commercial building, public works, schools and tilt-up construction. Today it incorporates two additional entities: M&H Building Specialties – an interior and exterior finish firm – and JBM Underground – a wet and dry utility company.
Among others, milestones achieved over the years include building Jerry’s Nugget Casino and being selected as one of the contractors for the Green Valley master-planned community.
Martin’s success hasn’t come without setbacks, as he verged on bankruptcy twice. The first happened in 1989. At that point, he learned about and implemented a business plan, a strategic plan and a budget. “Those were some of the most exciting times as a businessman,” he said.
His wife and high school sweetheart, Bonnie, has been with him through it all. His eldest son, Guy, is the vice-president of operations for MHC, and second son, Jerrad runs JBM Underground. Martin has five grandchildren. When not working, Martin enjoys spending time at the family’s Utah cabin and competing with their show horses. Each year he and his three brothers camp together with their sons and grandsons.
Although J.A. Tiberti has passed, Martin sees him in Tiberti’s son, Tito. “I also want to be able to look in my sons’ lives and see myself,” he said. “That’s truly the largest compliment a man could hold.”
Nevada Cancer Institute
At age 41, Heather Murren already retired from her first career and is five years into her second. After graduating in 1988 from Johns Hopkins University with a bachelor’s degree, she worked 13 years as a financial analyst. She started her career on Wall Street with Salomon Brothers, then worked for JPMorgan and lastly, for Merrill Lynch. In 1993, she became a chartered financial analyst (CFA).
“I sort of accomplished what I wanted to do on Wall Street and started to get a little restless to do something different,” she said. It was while working as a volunteer translator (she’s fluent in both Spanish and French) for the Nevada Health Care Centers, a non-profit organization that provides healthcare to the community, that she stumbled on a new passion. She became interested in cancer care and treatment, and soon discovered the state lacked a place that offered early-phase clinical trials and conducted leading-edge research. She began working with others on a way to provide the missing elements. Three years later the Nevada Cancer Institute (NVCI) opened.
NVCI is a Las Vegas-based, non-profit cancer research and care center, which offers experimental therapies for cancer patients, along with education and support in prevention and treatment to the community. It has outreach offices in Fallon, Elko and Sparks.
As co-founder, chairman and CEO, Murren is the keeper of the organization’s vision and corporate culture. She recruits staff and speaks on behalf of NVCI. She isn’t compensated monetarily for the work she does – about 60 to 80 hours’ worth a week. “I think it’s important for people to see you have skin in the game,” she said. In fewer than two years of operation, NVCI was designated the state’s official cancer institute by the Nevada Legislature. The staff has grown to 275 employees. They have opened 55 clinical trials and treated nearly 2,000 patients.
Murren encourages and welcomes employee input. All workers are shown the strategic plan and allowed to comment and ask questions. Staff meetings are held monthly, birthdays are celebrated jointly and communication with employees is regular. The organization also offers an active wellness program, encouraging the staff to exercise and eat well, and supporting flexible work schedules.
“We do all of those things to make sure NVCI is a place where employees want to come to work,” she said. “The people who work here are extraordinary individuals.” Murren also loves to go to work every day. “It’s totally absorbing and unpredictable,” she said. “Often I hear from people for whom we’ve made a real difference. That’s enormously gratifying.”
Murren achieves balance by hiking, running and reading (mostly historical fiction and biographies). In addition, she does other community work. She’s a member of the Council for a Better Nevada and Service 1st Bank’s board of directors, among others.
For seven years after college, Doug Roberts did social work for the Conservation Corps in Sacramento. Using his sociology degree from Iowa State, he worked in various positions, from a teacher of mentally-handicapped children to a Juvenile Hall deputy probation officer.
When the difficulty of supporting his family (a wife and two young girls) on a social worker’s income became too much, he ventured into construction work. Despite the switch, he never lost his giving spirit. Today, he still helps others through charity work.
Roberts, 46, is a partner with Panattoni Development, a company that develops, leases, owns and manages industrial, office and retail projects. He began working for the company in 1995, first in Sacramento, then in Reno and Las Vegas. His focus primarily is industrial and office development. He works about 45 to 50 hours a week, spending time in the Reno and Las Vegas offices each week.
“My job really is to take a project all the way from land acquisition to building completion, and oversee the entire process,” he said. Projects he’s supervised include the two Amazon.com distribution facilities in Stead and Fernley, and the Lamb Business Center in Las Vegas. “It’s rewarding financially and otherwise,” he said. “You get to see something from the ground up that you’ve built.”
Roberts works well with his staff. “I try to make everybody happy while at the same time making a profit,” he said. “I’d rather lose money than have somebody be unhappy with his or her job.” He credits his boss, Carl Panattoni, with teaching him it’s possible to make a fair profit in business while being honest and treating people fairly.
The San Diego-born Roberts also creates camaraderie among his staff, by talking about their days, discussing the week ahead and frequently having lunch together. “We have a ‘no-jerk policy’ inside and outside the company,” he said. Next to his profession, Roberts spends a big chunk of time working with non-profit groups. He, his wife Shirley Folkins-Roberts and another friend founded and are active in the Reno chapter of the Keaton Raphael Memorial, a support service organization for children and families afflicted with childhood cancer. “It takes up a great deal of our time,” he said. Roberts also is a six-year member of the Reno Rotary and involved in Western Industrial Nevada and EDAWN.
To balance his life beyond work, Roberts hikes, downhill skis and travels with his family. He has two children living at home, Breanna, 9 and Patrick, 6, and two residing in Davis, Calif. – Nikki, 26, and Jennifer, 23. Roberts’ hobbies include playing guitar and bass (typically rock ’n ’ roll and some country) with pick-up bands locally and performing martial arts (kenpo karate). The one lesson he’d want to impart to his grandchildren, when they come along, is: “Work hard and do the right thing.”
Doresa Banning is a freelance writer based in Northern Nevada.