It’s time again for Nevada Business Magazine’s annual 20/20 feature. The issue highlights 20 leaders who demonstrate foresight, flexibility and fortitude in keeping their organizations and businesses afloat and thriving, particularly during challenging economic times. The editorial staff asked local executives to identify Nevada business leaders whom they feel exemplify forward-thinking visionaries. With hundreds of nominees to consider, this year’s visionaries were selected primarily as a result of multiple nominations from business executives throughout the state.
Each of the following directors, presidents and chief executive officers is strategically adapting to the sour economy, recognizing their teams, serving their customers well, anticipating the future and successfully navigating their companies or organizations through the recession.
Dr. Sherif Abdou
President & Chief Executive Officer
HealthCare Partners of Nevada
Dr. Sherif Abdou wants HealthCare Partners of Nevada (HCPN) to lead health care transformation. HCPN encompasses Summit Medical Group, Fremont Medical Centers, HealthCare Partners Health Plan Solutions, 800+ employees and 1,200+ contracted specialists.
“We believe a better care system is integrated coordinated care,” he said. “We’re going to continue to strive for that.”
To that end, he has developed and implemented the concept of PCT, the Primary Care Team, which consists of physicians, nurses, medical assistants, track managers and others, all of whom are involved in patients’ care. He fosters the belief that the patients, not the physicians, own, have access to and control over their individual electronic medical records.
What makes this new healthcare model work is all the team members share in the innovation. As far as being open to others’ input, Dr. Abdou said, “We encourage it, embrace it and celebrate it.”
Chief Executive Officer
1Velocity is a four-year-old business that’s continuing to grow during the economic downturn. It’s a telecommunications company that provides both Ethernet private lines and Internet access to customers like Ultimate Fighting Championship, Allegiant Air, the City of Las Vegas and the State of Nevada.
Ballard attributes the success to its commitment to quality since day one, hiring people with significant expertise and giving them the necessary resources to excel, maintaining open communications with both employees and customers and providing superb service.
The CEO also has founded another entity, Vegas Valley Angels, which provides capital to entrepreneurs to grow their enterprises. The group has invested more than $12 million into 20 companies since its genesis in 2003. Two of the businesses are about ready to sell to large entities.
“Four individuals got together over breakfast and started it,” Ballard said.
Lexus of Las Vegas
Lexus of Henderson
In Lexus of Las Vegas’ lobby, a special, framed “TIME” magazine article dated April 1, 2013 hangs on the wall. Along with the 150 employees’ photos and signatures, it contains their vision for where the dealership will be and how it will be viewed on that future date. This type of employee input is what Lee Butler promotes. Every month he has “Lunch On Purpose” for back and forth communication with every employee.
The dealership’s sales are up this year, and the company plans to open its new Lexus of Henderson dealership by Oct. 1. The $35 million building was built to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) gold-level standards, just as the Las Vegas facility does after being retrofitted. In typical Butler style, he got input from all the employees on the Henderson building’s floor plan before construction.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
“We’ve always done it that way,” is not acceptable to MaryKaye Cashman. She’s a trailblazer who looks and moves forward, seeking out and effecting changes that will benefit her company. One way she’s done that is by having the new Nevada Caterpillar headquarters constructed to meet LEED Gold standards. The 308,000-square-feet building, made with sustainable materials, was Caterpillar’s first and now is the company’s benchmark.
“We hope that our dedication to sustainability inspires others to think outside the box as well,” she said.
Cashman also is leading her team in a renewed focus on customer service. She’s conducted customer surveys to determine how her employees can improve and has set plans for betterment in motion.
“The heart and soul of any successful business is people—your employees and your customers, she said. “Without the expertise and dedication of the first, you can never gain the loyalty of the second.”
Wells Fargo in Nevada
Henderson Chamber of Commerce
Helping customers succeed financially is the mission at Wells Fargo in Nevada, and the man at the helm, Kirk Clausen, consistently mobilizes his employees in that direction. Staff members at the two Banking Education Centers, located in Las Vegas and Reno, teach financial literacy classes on- and off-site, covering topics like how to open a bank account, apply for a loan, and buy and maintain a home. Classes are taught in English or Spanish for free to both customers and non-customers.
Clausen has made it a priority at the bank and among his team to ensure all clients and guests are welcomed, receive friendly and thorough assistance, and can tell the company appreciates their patronage. When the team is not at a bank branch, you likely can find several of them out in the community volunteering for various causes, working at a food drive, helping Boys & Girls Club kids select new shoes or any number of other volunteer efforts.
“Our team is incredibly energized about the work we do,” Clausen said.
Senior Vice President of Business Development Governmental Affairs
Burke Construction Group
“If you’re not at the table, you just might be on the menu.” Tony Dazzio, whom Gov. Jim Gibbons recently appointed to the Nevada Commission on Economic Development, subscribes to this adage. Rather than sitting out and complaining, he jumps in wholeheartedly.
He prepares for the unexpected, carefully plans company growth and strives for a balance between quality construction and personalized service. Burke Construction Group, a commercial general contractor, can and does offer its clients one-stop shopping, as the staff can assist with every aspect of the building process, from dealing with jurisdictional issues to providing utility systems.
After 25 years of serving only Southern Nevada, the group became licensed in 21 additional states to expand its geographic reach. Today, it continues to pursue state and federal contracts, and is identifying coming trends in market technology and demand.
“While we’re operating in an unstable environment, our company’s foundation remains strong,” Dazzio said.
Finnegan Erickson Associates (FEA)
Globalization isn’t new for Finnegan’s firm, but today the focus on serving clients in other parts of the world is more intense. The engineering firm already has worked in Asia and the Mideast, and now is moving into South America. Finnegan’s goal in the next few years is to double the current 15 percent of business outside the United States.
Other ongoing efforts include concentrating more on public works, excellently taking care of existing clients and developing niches that likely will be in demand once the economy turns around. One of these niches is using three-dimensional modeling to manage a building through its entire cycle, from conception to construction and on to occupation and maintenance. FEA also is concentrating on creating sustainable designs, one of which is a LEED gold-certified, Illinois casino.
“My business partner and I are not even contemplating anything other than success in this changed and readjusted world,” Finnegan said.
Territory Vice President
Idaho, Nevada and Utah, Mountain Plains Region, University of Phoenix (UOP)
Kathy Gamboa successfully fosters a culture at the University of Phoenix in which team members are heard, and encouraged to creatively problem solve and do what’s right. The fun atmosphere is one of shared camaraderie and laughs where employees feel comfortable speaking up.
“I believe in taking care of the people, and the rest will follow,” Gamboa said.
What has followed includes building an international network that allows Nevada students to interact via technology with the other 475,000 students and 560,000 alumni around the world, whether for advice, homework help, mentoring, or other reasons. In addition, Gamboa is working on ways to deliver educational programs in a customized fashion to meet students’ different needs. Finally, she is looking to the school’s faculty and staff (it has more than 27,000 practitioner faculty), and their expertise to brainstorm, generate solutions, and help UOP stay current with the business world today.
Nevada State Office of Energy (NSOE)
Jim Groth knows how to advance renewable energy in Nevada and has the conviction and courage to present ideas and fight for progress. He proposed and managed Super Solar One, a renewable energy solar system. Also, to further energy economic development here, he united more than 40 experts in energy, land development, law and the public sector to comprise the Nevada Energy Economy Strike Force.
The NSOE released a Multi-State Agency Renewable Energy RFP that solicits power purchase agreements from engineering, procurement and construction contractors to provide solar and other renewable technologies to state agencies, across 55 sites.
The director also has suggested a congressional land grant action to transfer 3.2 million across (5 percent) of Nevada’s federal land to the state for renewable energy development.
“Most of all, I want Nevada to succeed, and I will do whatever it takes to get there,” Groth said.
Chief Executive Officer
After Tony Hsieh sold Zappos.com to Amazon.com last year for about $850 million, he penned his first book, “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose.” In it, he reveals the business lessons he’s learned and the reasons for his entrepreneurial success, which include passion, positivity, culture, and customer service. His book has made it to number one on The New York Times Bestseller and other lists.
In mid-August, he kicked off a three-month, 20-plus city book tour in a refurbished, 47-foot-long bus, delivering “happiness across the nation.” Hsieh and his team are traveling from city to city across the U.S. on the Delivering Happiness Bus, which is equipped with green grass on the inside, the latest technology, and a refrigerator full of Red Bull. They are visiting companies, colleges and nonprofit organizations and throwing events, like barbecues, happy hours, book signings, town hall meetings and more.
Shred-it Las Vegas
What came out of a brainstorming session between Bob Linden and his employees was that the company should provide recycling services. So Linden made it happen through a collaboration with Evergreen Recycling Inc., a company licensed to sort and process recyclables. Now, in addition to its document shredding services, Shred-it is offering recycling to offices and apartments. When it comes to new ideas, Linden always asks, “If it was ideal, what would it look like? How would we know it’s happening?”
The franchisee places great importance on investing in his employees. He procured short- and long-term disability insurance coverage for them and pays 100 percent of the premiums.
What Linden is doing well is focusing on community, reiterating the company’s core values and making the workplace a fun one (he calls himself CFO, “chief fun officer”).
Founder & Co-owner
Realm of Design
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” This Dr. Seuss quote is a favorite of Scott McCombs, whose company manufactures architectural products like balustrades, columns, crown molding, fireplace surrounds, fountains and more. McCombs, in fact, is working tirelessly to do what he can for the environment.
He has developed and perfected an architectural stone, called green stone, made of 99.8 percent renewable materials including recycled glass (from Mandalay Bay and the Luxor) and pozzolan-based cement. This stone is ideal for use in mantels, fireplace surrounds and other pieces. He and the employees currently are finishing a new 30,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, constructed with green stone, which resembles the Swarkestone Hall Pavilion in Derbyshire, made famous in a Rolling Stones album cover.
“We are closing the glass recycling loop, enabling us all to erase or reduce our carbon footprint,” McCombs said.
Nevada Secretary of State
Since Ross Miller’s first day as Secretary of State, his office has either had a new project in the works or ready to launch. Currently, it is developing the Nevada Business Portal, a Web-based platform that allows Nevada businesses to complete all licensing, payments and filings online for state and local governments. The first phase was Miller’s office taking over state business license fee collections, which created significant, extra state revenue while simplifying the process for businesses. Subsequent phases should debut in early 2011.
Miller’s office, also charged with restoring the state’s job market through positive economic development marketing, has developed WhyNevada.com, an extension of the nvsos.gov Web site that regularly receives numerous hits. WhyNevada.com details the advantages of conducting business in Nevada.
“Our office has reduced expenditures while at the same time implemented improvements in business services,” Miller said.
To better address client needs, Mike Mixer has added to the company’s local office new service lines including a Retail Investment Division, a Multifamily Division and an Asset Resolutions Division that offers professional receivership services. The Asset Resolutions Division, which serves as a one-stop shop for distressed properties, handles everything from brokering to property management.
This year Mixer rolled out the Colliers University professional development program, which encompasses a range of in-person and online courses, to help develop the knowledge and skills of the company’s brokers and employees.
Mixer encourages Colliers’ people to dream up innovative ideas and solutions to complex real estate transactions. He strives to make the work environment fun and vibrant and foster a culture of excellence and giving. Colliers’ commitment to both customers and staff has resulted in the company turning a profit for 17 years in a row.
Attorney & LEED AP
Holland & Hart
To remain relevant as an attorney specializing in construction litigation, construction and design representation, green building and sustainable business, Melissa Orien became Nevada’s first LEED Accredited Professional (AP) attorney, which among other requirements involved passing an exam. She also drafted the construction industry’s first green building contract and is the lead editor of a green building book for construction lawyers that’s slated for publication by the American Bar Association in fall 2011 (the final title hasn’t been determined yet).
She stays up to date on new issues and changes in the construction and green building industry, which allows her to steer her clients away from potential pitfalls. She works to develop relationships with her clients to clearly understand their ongoing needs.
“As a result, I can assist with problems in a timelier, more cost effective manner,” she said.
Lied Discovery Children’s Museum
When Linda Quinn took over the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum three years ago, it was outdated and short on funds. In the ensuing 36 months, she has revamped more than two-thirds of the exhibits, which now educate children about relevant topics such as conservation and nutrition. She began a program that takes the fun, hands-on learning experience to the classroom and another, YouthWorks, through which high school students gain work experience. She is seeing the fruits of her efforts in increased attendance, membership and the number of students she connects with via outreach. Attendance, for example, jumped to 160,000 in 2010 from 87,000 in 2008.
The next huge milestone for the museum is a move in 2012 to a new, larger facility next to the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
“It really is a dream come true for this organization,” Quinn said.
President & Chief Executive Officer
Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority (REMSA)
One of Patrick Smith’s ongoing strategies in overseeing REMSA’s ground and air (Care Flight) ambulances, education programs and wheelchair services is “hiring people as smart as or smarter than me, turning them loose and asking, ‘How can I help?’” he said.
He holds Employee Focus Groups twice a month for employee feedback on ways to improve patient care and the workers’ lives. Many of REMSA’s services, like its Point of Impact child safety car seat program and its flu and pneumonia vaccinations for homebound people, began as ideas purported by an employee. When five of the organization’s critical care paramedics recently served in Afghanistan with the National Guard, they had the highest save rate of soldiers due to the quality of REMSA training they’d received previously. As a result, the Pentagon is considering having REMSA train all of the military’s paramedics or the paramedics’ trainers.
President & CEO
North Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce
Only in the role of president & CEO of the chamber for four months, Michael Varney already has jumped in wholeheartedly, implemented new programs and taken some risks.
With only three other employees to do the work of about 10, Varney created and staffed three new committees and beefed up a fourth with volunteers—about 50 total. He launched “Breakfast with the Board,” which means every Thursday morning, he and one-plus board members break bread with a dozen Chamber constituents to gain insight, information and feedback.
The NLVCC is about to launch two innovative, affinity programs in which the Chamber and a vendor join forces to market and deliver products or services to the membership that help them make or save money. (Varney couldn’t reveal anything more.) If this latest idea is successful, he said, “It will have a serious impact on members’ bottom lines.”
When Patty Wade realized the real estate development market was going to drastically decline, she started Wade Consulting Group, a development/consulting/government advocacy firm that helps new businesses grow and assists existing companies moving to or enlarging in Nevada with expansion.
“The group shepherds these growing companies through the rocky shoals of the political, environmental, financial, sales, contractual, legal, business planning, marketing and virtually any other needed areas of development to best ensure timely success,” Wade said.
In only three and a half months, she already has landed 20 clients. This success is in part due to the diverse contacts and relationships she has nurtured over the past two decades both in Nevada and Washington, D.C., her ability to take risks and her strong work ethic. She continues to create such alliances and remain informed about key market trends in the industries she’s involved with to better serve her clientele.
Founder & President
Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease (WPI)
After her daughter suffered for several years from chronic fatigue syndrome, Annette Whittemore got busy. She created a research program and institute dedicated to uncovering the causes of and developing effective treatments for neuroimmune diseases, such as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Gulf War illness, atypical multiple sclerosis and autism.
She created a national network of researchers, doctors and patients along with an advocacy program that resulted in federal support for the institute. She established a partnership between the Whittemore Family Foundation, private donors, the State of Nevada and the University of Nevada, Reno to fund a $77 million dollar research facility at UNR’s School of Medicine. In fact, Whittemore now is moving into WPI’s recently completed clinical patient facilities and research laboratories at UNR.
She speaks often at international medical conferences and workshops and now is a voice for the neuroimmune community before federal and state legislatures.