Tag Archives: A View From the Corner Office

Doug Fulton CEO, Fulton Homes - AZ Business Magazine June 2010

CEO Series: Doug Fulton

Doug Fulton
CEO, Fulton Homes

How would you assess the current state of the home building industry?
Today, I would say it’s in recovery. I would definitely say we have hit the bottom and we are experiencing the trough here. … From this point, things can only get better … This is our fourth year (dealing with the downturn). It’s a very, very tough cycle. This is a cyclical business, it always has been. I was here in the ’80s and ’90s when it cycled then, with the Keating, Lincoln Savings (& Loan) RTC days. It cycles. This one has been a vicious, tough, tough cycle where we’re paying for the run-up and the escalation — and the runaway inflation in the homebuilding industry is really what we had. Now, we’re paying for it.

Foreclosures are expected to be higher in 2010 than they were in 2009. How will that affect the home building industry?
Luckily, the banks aren’t fire-selling these properties, which is a good thing in two ways. One, is that it’s keeping the values somewhat stable, not letting them fall through the floor. And second, it’s very frustrating for people to buy a foreclosed home or a home that is in the short-sale mode. It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of energy, so I have an entire group out there that is very frustrated about the whole process. And guess what? I can give you an answer (on buying a new home) in 24 hours.

What strategies has Fulton developed to cope with the collapse of the housing market?
We have targeted foreclosures — that’s what we’ve done. We’ve gone after them, talked about them, we do the little tongue-in-cheek “lipstick on a pig equals foreclosure.” We have the foreclosure-cost calculator. … You can actually go onto our website … and you can punch in cabinets, countertops, flooring, paint … and it shows what you are really going to pay for this (foreclosed) house when it is all said and done and you have it all fixed up to the level where you want to live in this thing. And then there is a button off to the side of that … that goes out to our quick delivery inventory homes and finds homes $5,000 up or down of what you’re going to pay for a home that you are basically (going to have to renovate). … That’s how we’re combating the current market status.

What lessons can the home building industry take away from the economic downturn?
First and foremost, it’s a cyclical business. It always has been and it always will be. Some are going to be tougher than others. This has been the toughest one in over 30 years that I’ve experienced. Going back to quality construction, treating your people with respect. … When times get tough, people want a safe harbor. … Consumer confidence is at all time, historical lows, so if they are going to make that decision (to buy a home), they are going to go to somebody they feel comfortable with, someone they know, that their neighbors brag about — word of mouth. Obviously, word of mouth is an important way to advertise. We earn that by delivering a quality product and treating our customers (well).

What is the role of a C-level executive working in the home building industry today?

I have lots of hats. We don’t have anyone here with executive-itis. … We don’t have anyone here with their mahogany playpen at the end of the hall barking out orders to secretaries. There’s never been a secretary at Fulton Homes and there never will be. Never happen. If your garbage is full — empty it. If you want a cup of coffee — the break room is over there. We are very hands-on. So when you say “the role,” I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t do it all, not even close. I don’t want to give that impression. I hire people that I don’t have to go around wiping their nose. … I make it very clear to everyone that this is where we’re going, get them to buy into it, to understand it, and treat them with respect.

    Vital Stats





  • Joined Fulton Homes in 1981
  • Served as vice president of marketing and president at the company
  • Attended Pierce College, Utah State University and Arizona State University
  • Is a special deputy with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, a member of the Central Arizona Mountain Rescue Association and an honorary commander at Luke Air Force Base
  • www.fultonhomes.com

Arizona Business Magazine June 2010

Marinello standing in front of a building

CEO Series: Anthony Marinello

Anthony Marinello
CEO, Mountain Vista Medical Center/IASIS Healthcare

What will be the impact of Arizona’s budget cuts on hospitals in particular and the health care industry in general?

All hospitals are going to feel the impact. There are several areas: education, economy, jobs, general medical education; and it’s just going to take a big effect on us. It’s really going to change the way we do things. But we are still going to be here to take care of our patients and give them high quality of care. The cuts this year, that just occurred in March, are going to cost several millions of dollars, which will drastically impact patient care and patient’s ability to come there. But, like we say, we’ll be open and still take care of our patients.

What will be the effect of the recently signed federal health care reform?

I think everybody agrees that we need health care reform. There’s no doubt about it. The key with this will be to continue to build and strengthen relationships with our physicians, who ultimately have the relationships with the patients. It’s so new right now, that I think everybody is trying to grab it and grasp onto what the effects are going to be. You have physicians that are nervous; you have hospitals trying to figure out what (it will mean to them). It’s going to be interesting. The key part we all really agree on is the electronic medical records, which is good for the transparency and being able to avoid duplications of testing and things like that. We are currently, at Mountain Vista, way ahead of the curve on our electronic medical records, and physicians like that. It’s a very good tool to be able to see the records from the hospital or even your office, because it’s Internet based. So it’s been very, very good for us.

We’ve heard much about the nursing shortage in Arizona. Has there been any improvement in that situation?

There will always be a need for nursing. Per se, we haven’t really seen much of a shortage here. We’ve been able to attract a lot of the new graduates coming out. IASIS as a company, since 2005, has been engaged with schools and several universities. We’ve seen about 350 students coming through, which we work with them and eventually employ them, so we have been very, very fortunate in that part. We always have people looking to become a nurse. You have certified nursing assistants that want to go to the next level, so that ability is there where we provide assistance for them.

What are the areas where Arizona’s health care industry is really excelling?

In the short time I’ve been in Arizona, where I’ve seen (the health care industry is excelling in) is education. (Arizona State University) has a health school, (University of Arizona), (NAU), A.T. Still (University), Midwestern University. And actually our facility is partnered up with Midwestern University for the medical student program for physicians, and we’re looking at what the future can be to keep education and future physicians in this area. So we are really proud to be partners with them and just continuing to grow. We just engaged in this last July, so it’s very new to us.

In these changing times, what does a C-level executive need to succeed in the health care industry?

You have to build strong relationships. You have to be a good communicator. You have to be honest. You have to be up front. If something can’t be done, you’ve got to tell it. You can’t just leave things alone. You have to be visible, high visibility. You have to be able to talk to all staff, from your environmental services person to the president of your company to every physician. It’s just very, very important to think outside the box, to listen to what people have to say, because there are a lot of people with good ideas out there. That’s something I’ve prided myself on and the team I work with and our C-level here that our doors are open, we’re always there, we want to hear, we want to listen. The relationship building has been a strength for us here.

Vital Stats: Anthony Marinello

  • Named CEO of Mountain Vista Medical Center in Mesa in 2008
  • Served as CEO of IASIS’ North Vista Hospital in North Las Vegas from 2005 to 2008
  • Served as hospital administrator for Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas
  • Began career in 1979 as a hospital laboratory manager
  • Received MBA from the University of Phoenix
  • Member of the American College of Healthcare Executives
  • www.mvmedicalcenter.com
Man sitting at desk working on laptop.

CEO Series: Harry Curtin

Harry Curtin
Founder and CEO, BestIT

How did the recession affect the IT industry?
I think it really hurt IT. It really did, especially with larger corporations, I saw. It was almost like within a couple of month period that companies just shut everything off — especially large, multinational, Fortune 100 companies. You could talk to each one of them and they all had the same kind of story where “we have to cut it off,” and if they had a program they had been working on for a year, they just shut it down. I think there was a lot of fear, absolutely. The small- and mid-sized (companies), I think, really kept it up more than the large, to me. I think they felt a little bit more nimble. They stayed a little more positive, frankly. They were fighting through it more than the large companies. I think decisions from the top kind of cut everything off all the way down. It really hurt (IT) companies that were focused with larger companies, major projects. It changed them. It changed things a lot.

What signs of recovery are you seeing in your industry?
What I’m seeing right now is mostly that companies are taking a deep breath after everything and they’re looking at, “OK, maybe I’m not ready to do something today, but what should I be doing tomorrow?” They’re starting to plan for later this year, next year; (they) don’t want to let things get to the point where things are just falling apart. (They) want to stay on top of it, but what’s (their) next step? So they are really in the planning phase in my book, and they are opening up their ears and thinking about what they need to do next. Even though they may not be ready today, they are taking those initiatives to move in the right direction.

What are the benefits of IT outsourcing?
It allows you to focus on your core business. It can reduce costs greatly, if it’s done right. It can also create more of an efficiency in your business, because you aren’t focusing on an area that you aren’t an expert in. You can stay focused on what you’re really good at and just do it that much better, rather than being distracted by an area that’s not really a core. Our company, we outsource areas where it’s not our competency or something we want to do long term.

In terms of image, does the outsourcing of services still face challenges?
I think so. I think people in the late ’90s and early-2000s got a view of outsourcing that it’s shipping a job or a service overseas, which is not the case. That’s a piece of it, but lots of companies — I’ll use manufacturing as an example. You may manufacture a whole component, but maybe a piece of that is something you’ve never been able to manufacture correctly, you haven’t gotten the quality you wanted, you haven’t gotten the pricing right, and you essentially outsource that piece. Maybe it’s a local company down the street that does it … I think that if (people) are just looking at it as (work) goes overseas, that is not the right way. I think you need to look at what the solution is. (BestIT) is a U.S.-based organization; essentially when a company signs on with us, if it’s an extensive enough contract, we’re going to need to hire here. AZ Business Magazine March 2010So we’re going to be creating jobs, as well as they are going to be creating jobs for themselves, because now we’ve reduced what their costs are and they can hire in sales or project management — wherever they feel the gaps are in their business.If (people) look deep enough, they’ll find organizations that offer outsourcing that may not be what the typical outsourcing is.

What does an IT professional need in order to be considered part of the C-level team?
(There needs to be) a lot of hard work, a lot of focus, a great attitude — people that are really committed to helping support the business. And not taking this (job) as a nine-to-five, but also thinking out-of-the-box in terms of where can you take the business up to the next level, or what you can do yourself to help the business.

    Vital Stats



  • CEO of BestIT
  • Founded BestIT in 2004
  • Owned an investor relations firm with a focus on small-cap technology firms
  • Worked as an investment adviser at Charles Schwab
  • Worked at Oracle Direct Sales for Oracle Corporation
  • Attended Buffalo State College
  • www.bestit.com
Sharon Harper, president and CEO, Plaza Companies - AZ Business Magazine February 2010

CEO Series: Sharon Harper

CEO Series: Sharon Harper


Sharon Harper
President and CEO, Plaza Companies


Assess the current state of commercial real estate development in the Valley.
The commercial office sector is being impacted significantly. Vacancies are on the rise, rental rates are going down. In addition to all those statistics there is also kind of a shadow vacancy factor in place, in that companies are downsizing and subleasing their space or not occupying that space. And so all of that does have impact. There’s been negative absorption for some seven quarters in our region and probably more to come. So it has forced the industry to do a number of things. First and foremost, there’s no new construction really underway, so that’s going to have some impact. Secondly, building and business owners have had to adjust the way that they do business, and certainly in the case of Plaza Companies we have so that we can maintain a competitive edge for our buildings, for our tenants, for our investors. An example of this is that we are very focused on maintaining our buildings; we want them to be in excellent condition. We want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make our buildings competitive. We’re working with our tenants, making sure that the buildings are clean and safe and accessible and beautiful and wayfinding is well-organized, and doing what we can to enhance their businesses. We are an owner and a property manager who is so hands-on, really thinking about the tenant, how their business is doing, how they are faring, as well as how we are performing for our investors and our owners and the facility itself. That makes a difference. There’s a concerted focus and effort and it’s my thought with our company we go above and beyond in every way we can, and it’s made a difference. Our buildings are doing quite well because of it.

What do you foresee for commercial real estate in 2010?
I think 2010 is going to be another year of flat rates, if not a reduction in rental rates. I think there will be increased vacancies. I think that a number of building owners are having difficulties with their financing and with their loans. As these shorter-term loans come due, it’s going to have an impact on the marketplace. And finally and most important in this marketplace is the owner’s ability to provide tenant improvement dollars to attract a tenant. Many owners cannot do that. And so tenants are, I think for the first time in my history in this industry, tenants are looking to the credibility and the substance of the building owner. Can they keep the buildings up? Can they provide the tenant improvements? Can they keep the promises? Can they keep the lights on? Tenants care about that. And that’s very important right now, more so than ever … and the second part of it is that some substantial companies have had problems performing on their loans and on their buildings and that’s been very unnerving for tenants. They want to know that there are building owners and managers that have credibility, integrity and are going to see the project through, and that gives a competitive advantage and we’ve certainly seen that here at Plaza.
Plaza Companies specializes in health care construction.

What difference did that make during the recession when compared to other commercial real estate developers?
Plaza Companies actually is focused on three specific areas of business. One is medical office/health care, the other is seniors housing and the third is bioscience and biotechnology. And it was in 2005, in a company retreat with the top leaders here at Plaza, that we made a concerted effort to broaden the base of where we are involved in business. We wanted to have certain unique sectors that are related to one another, yet provide it a bit of diversification for us. In addition to that, on our service lines we have grown our facilities’ property-asset management divisions, our leasing department, and our construction division. So we have diversification at that line, as well. And I can tell you that diversification has made a significant difference, and I am most appreciative that several years ago, when no one would have projected what is going on now, our company set the stage for sustainability during these difficult times. And that has made a difference.
Secondly, the sectors that we are involved in have ridden the storm a little bit better than others. They’re very dependent upon demographics, and not just the growth of demographics but aging, as well, and also the whole notion of innovation, research and science. All of that ties together and these are growth, with a small ‘g,’ industries right now.

What strategies did Plaza Companies implement to ride out the recession and how is it repositioning itself for the recovery?

Once again, we readjusted and repositioned our company in 2005, and started to grow foundationally a diversification program and that has paid off significantly for the company. I think that our strategy has stayed the same, our focus is the same; we’ve never deviated from the core principles of our business. But we’ve all worked harder in this company, as well. People are stepping up in all of the divisions here at Plaza Companies, doing what they can because it is more difficult and it is harder to achieve the same goal than it was just a couple of years ago. And so we’re focused, we’re diligent, we’re careful, we’re all working harder, and we are in sync here jointly with the management and all of the employees of the company.

What skills do C-level executives in commercial real estate development need to acquire or cultivate in order to succeed in these difficult times?
I think the traits that a CEO needs to have in difficult times are the very same traits in all times. I think that it’s important to have a vision and to be able to articulate that vision and to inspire and excite people that are going to help carry that vision out, and that’s really what I’ve tried to do here at Plaza. And it’s not just me, but it’s other senior managers here at Plaza.We understand what we’re trying to accomplish. We are so committed to carry through and being accountable for what we commit to do, and we need to be inspired and we need to inspire others to do that.And we also need to be very realistic about the realities of the world, and we have to have high expectations for performance and for people. And more so than ever, the core values of the company need to be part and parcel to everything that we do.

Vital Stats

  • Co-founded the company in 1982 with Dr. Harold Gries
  • Recipient of the 2007 Sandra Day and John O’Connor Award for outstanding community service
  • Is a member of the board of trustees of the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, the board of directors of the Arizona Community Foundation and the Banner Health Foundation, and past chairman of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC)
  • Served on the finance committee of Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign
  • Received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Journalism from Creighton University in Omaha
  • www.theplazaco.com

 

Arizona Business Magazine February 2010

man standing in front of a chandeleier

CEO Series: Curt Waisath

Curt Waisath
President and CEO, Gold Canyon

How did Gold Canyon get started?
We started Gold Canyon because my wife wanted to stay home with our kids. And I’m a CPA, so I could tell her exactly how much she had to make in order for us to survive financially. That was back in 1995. … We always loved fragrances in our home, but we were always disappointed when you’d go into a store and smell a candle and it’d smell great and you’d bring it home and light it — and no fragrance. Our other pet peeve was when you would light a candle and it would burn right down the middle. So we said, ‘We’re going to create a candle that will throw fragrance through your whole house and will burn even and clean from top to bottom.’ We thought, ‘Hey, that’s easy. It’s just wax and fragrance.’ Well, two years later we finally figured it out. … About that same time we adopted our second child and he was from New Mexico and we went to pick him up. On the way home we were discussing the pros and cons of starting this little candle business and on that trip we decided, ‘Yep, we’re going to do it.’ So I went back to work on Monday and said, ‘Hey, we have a brand new baby boy and I need to give you my two weeks notice.’ I don’t know what we were thinking; a brand new baby and no income. We really, really believed in our product and knew we had something special.

How has the recession affected your business?
We definitely felt it with the recession. I don’t think we felt it as badly as, possibly, the rest of the world. But we felt it. We provide a great opportunity for individuals (demonstrators) to actually make money. In a recessionary time like this, where people are struggling and can use $200 or $500 a month, it makes all the difference to their family. We have that opportunity for them to do that. And so we’re starting to see more and more people join the business and start selling for us.

What are some of the strategies your company has employed to meet the economic challenges brought on by the recession?
Our strategy has changed a little bit during this economy. We really focused on obtaining new customers into our business, for and on behalf of our demonstrators. So we’ve done a lot of marketing out in the world, whether it’s Internet or advertising or different promotions to draw new customers into the business. We believe we have the world’s finest product, but the world is not running to us. And we keep saying, why is the world not running to us? And we believe it’s because they don’t know about us. So our focus during this time has been to really let people know more about Gold Canyon.

With so many people losing their jobs, the number of entrepreneurs in this country has grown. What advice do you have for these new entrepreneurs?
If I had to give advice to an entrepreneur, I would have to say believe in your product. Whatever you’re doing, you have to believe in it wholeheartedly. And then I would suggest them jumping in with both feet. I think so many entrepreneurs say, ‘I’m going to do this on the side and when it takes off I’ll quit my job.’ I just think it’s very difficult for a business to take off without you working it full time. I think that was one of our successes. We jumped in, new baby and no income, but with both feet and we had to make it work and it did.

What signs, if any, do you see that the economy is improving?
We had a great June and a strong July. Some of the figures we look at in our business is the average party size. Our partysize for both June and July was up over the prior year. That’s a big indicator for us. Our average fundraiser size is up over prior year for both those months, as well as our average Internet order. All those are really key indicators that started kicking in for us in June andJuly.

What are the keys to being a successful leader in a startup company?
I think the key to success to leading a small group really is understanding the people that you are working with. We always hear people are your greatest asset — and they truly are. It takes a leader that can understand and can motivate and inspire people to want to come to work. It’s different for us as an entrepreneur that owns the business … we live and breathe it and are empowered by that. A lot of times co-workers don’t have that — it’s a job. And they are inspired by other things, whether it’s money or their outside adventures with their family. So how do you get a co-worker to say, I want to go to work and I want to make Gold Canyon better? That’s what I look for in a leader that can come into a small organization like us and inspire people to want to own their world and make it better.

    Vital Stats



  • Started Gold Canyon with his wife, Karen, in 1997
  • Worked as an accountant for seven years at Henry & Horne.
  • Holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Utah and a Masters in taxation from Weber State University
  • Board of directors for the National Candle Association and the Direct Sales Association Vice president for the Prayer Child Foundation
  • www.goldcanyon.com
Rhonda Forsyth President and Chief Executive Officer John C. Lincoln Health Network

CEO Series: Rhonda Forsyth

Rhonda Forsyth
President and Chief Executive Officer
John C. Lincoln Health Network

How would you characterize the health care industry in the Valley?
When I think of health care for the Valley, for the most part we’ve been a growth industry. We have had incredible new facilities that have been built and new partners that have come into town. … But we’ve also been experiencing the downturn in the economy right now, so we are struggling like every other business, and it’s somewhat concerning. Hospitals in particular have been a safety net for our patients, for families, for our community for quite a long time and that is being threatened because of changes in the economy.

Is the health care industry recession-proof?
A lot of people think health care is recession-proof. From our perspective though, we find that we still have people coming in for services … but many people don’t have the ability to pay for their care, and that is why we’ve experienced a downturn; people can’t pay their co-pays, a lot more people are uninsured, so they still need our services and we are here to provide for them … So, I don’t think we are recession-proof. We’ve gone through changes, we’ve had to reduce expenditures, we’ve had to look very critically at some of the services that we provide and assure that they are still mission critical.

What are the major legislative and financial issues facing the Valley’s health care industry?
Well, it’s unclear right now from a legislative standpoint, both how health care reform is going to manifest itself and then on more of a local level, what’s going to happen … the (state) Senate has passed a bill that includes pretty dramatic payment cuts for hospitals, and also reduces accessibility for many people in our community. There are proposals right now to eliminate coverage for a number of children with KidsCare. So those things are really concerning. However, nothing is in its final form and we don’t know. I would just encourage our legislators and our congressmen to really look at what it is that health care provides in the community and be thoughtful about changes that are being proposed.

What are some of the new trends in health care delivery?
It’s an exciting time to be in health care. … one of the great things that has happened is really bringing biosciences and biotechnology to Arizona, and we have really benefited by having those kinds of partnerships with researchers and with some of our scientists in the community. So, when you look at health care out in the future, you really see the opportunity to treat you as a patient on much more of an individual level, so that, through biosciences, we understand you at a molecular level, rather than just say, ‘Well, you have heart disease and the standard treatment for heart disease is X, Y, Z.’ Now we’re saying … ‘We’re looking at you and molecularly this is how you will respond to this kind of drug or this kind of treatment and we know what will work and what won’t work.’

As baby boomers age, what type of competitive edge does that give local health care facilities?
It does concern me — obviously there’s opportunity — but it does concern me from the standpoint that we have people who have far more diabetes, we’re seeing more incidences of certain types of cancers and heart diseases, and many more chronic diseases. So when you look at baby boomers aging and the incidences of chronic disease, there’s opportunity in treating those people, there’s also concern about it potentially overwhelming the health care system. We’re going to need many more nurses, physicians, facilities, and we’re going to need to be smarter about how we take care of people.

How has health care evolved locally?
The most exciting thing that I’ve seen in health care in Arizona is that providers recognize … that we do a much better job of taking care of patients when we work more closely together. So a lot of our initiatives are really bringing a health care team together to look at you as a patient and say what’s going to make sense through an entire continuum of care, and make sure you get the right treatment at the right time. Also, that we work much more cooperatively with you to do preventative work.

To what do you attribute your success at the C-level?
I think I have a great passion for John C. Lincoln and a great passion for our mission. I feel so honored to come to work every day and to work for people who are really making a difference in people’s lives. … I think I’m also analytical, I like to think strategically, I try to think beyond what are the issues of today, but look to where do I want John C. Lincoln, where do I think we should be five years from now, 10 years from now. I also very much value getting the right person in the right job, and we just have some excellent, excellent people here at John C. Lincoln. While I can look to things where I really feel I’ve made a difference here at John C. Lincoln, I know I’ve done that in the context of a really fabulous team of people.

    Vital Stats





  • Appointed president and CEO of John C. Lincoln Health Network in April 2009
  • Joined the network in 1987
  • Held executive posts at both network hospitals
  • The network includes John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital and John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital
  • Under her leadership, North Mountain Hospital was recognized for excellent patient care by U.S. News and World Report
  • Earned a Maser of Science in business administration from Arizona State University
  • Is involved with the Better Business Bureau, the Phoenix Boys Choir and the American Cancer Society