Tag Archives: CEO series

Benito Almanza Arizona State President Company: Bank of America - AZ Business Magazine Sept/Oct 2010

CEO Series: Benito Almanza

Benito Almanza
Title: Arizona State President
Company: Bank of America

How would you assess the banking industry’s reactions to the new financial reform law? What are the industry’s biggest concerns, particularly in regards to derivatives and less onerous regulation on small banks?
Bank of America has generally supported reforms, including the formation of a new consumer protection agency. While this reform will ultimately have an effect on many businesses across Bank of America and other financial service companies, customers and clients should not expect any abrupt changes as a result of this legislation. The full impact and scope of the bill may take years to be felt, as regulators establish hundreds of new rules to implement the law.

The year 2009 was a tough one for Bank of America in terms of the federal bailout and executive shakeup. How has repaying the bailout and installing a new CEO affected the company’s operations and public image?
In December, Bank of America took a series of important actions to move our company forward. We repaid the entire $45 billion preferred stock investment provided under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), plus interest. A few days later, Brian Moynihan was selected to lead our company. He has a level of credibility and broad-based experience few can rival, having led every major line of business in financial services, including wealth management, corporate and investment banking, and consumer and small business banking.

As Arizona president for B of A, how have you — and your peers from other large banks — addressed the concerns Main Street has about Wall Street?
The industry understands that our well-being is interconnected with the health and vitality of the economy and the communities we serve. It is not in any companies’ interest to put profit over common sense. Nor is it in anyone’s interest to lose sight of the value our industry provides among legitimate concerns about the difficulties of the recent past. Our challenge for the foreseeable future — and I think we’re moving in the right direction — is to reconcile this and strengthen our financial system by working with leaders and regulators in a spirit of trust and goodwill.

In speaking for my own company, Bank of America has introduced clarity commitments within our card, deposit and mortgage services to make sure customers receive clear and easy to understand language about their relationship with our bank. In addition, our new overdraft fee changes went into effect July 1, whereby we will decline a debit card transaction at the point of sale when there is not enough money in the account for the transaction, and not charge overdraft fees to the customer.

Small businesses are having a difficult time getting loans and various lines of credit. B of A prides itself on its No. 1 SBA-lender status. How important is that role in the economic recovery?
With 4 million small businesses customers — more than any other bank — Bank of America feels a deep sense of responsibility to support them in every way possible. In the first half of 2010, we provided $45.5 billion in loans to small and medium-sized companies, well on our way to meeting our pledge to increase lending by $5 billion over 2009 levels, or $86.4 billion.

We continue to also look for creative ways to help these businesses bridge to a stronger economy. For example, we recently announced a new program that can help as many as 8,000 small businesses obtain $100 million in federal microloans through nonprofit lenders like CDFIs, by providing CDFIs with grants to cover loan loss reserves required to get the SBA/USDA loan capital. This is low-cost, long-term capital for small business microloans nationwide over the next 12 months.

What challenges and opportunities lie ahead for the banking industry in Arizona?
Arizona’s economy will probably be on a slower track than most states because of the significant losses in our housing and jobs markets. That being said, there are many bright spots to look forward to and we must continue to make every good loan we can and focus on opportunities that will help our long-term economic recovery …

    Vital Stats


  • Has been with Bank of America for more than 30 years
  • Responsible for the overall performance of all business banking activities in Arizona
  • Graduate of Stanford University and Santa Clara University
  • Member of the California State Bar Association
  • Member of the U.S. District Court Northern District Association
  • Member of the Greater Phoenix Leadership and Arizona Bankers Association
  • Serves on the board of Phoenix Aviation and Teach for America
  • www.bankofamerica.com

Arizona Business Magazine Sept/Oct 2010

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
ron butler in a white shirt with a red tie

CEO Series: Ron Butler

Ron Butler
Arizona Managing Partner
Ernst & Young

What were some of the challenges the professional services industry encountered during the recession and what are the challenges during this recovery period?
Some of the early challenges we had, just like all companies, were reacting to change. And it wasn’t change that was gradual, it was change that so abrupt that you had to take a step back, evaluate the business that you had in front of you, figure out how you were going to respond to market conditions. For us, it was how do we respond to our clients’ needs. Our clients were faced with various forms of adversity, whether it was financing or working capital, cost cutting of their own. How did they contain those costs, what did they do?

For us, we had to find ways to go to market, talk to them about their issues, but be nimble enough and ahead of the curve because they wanted us to be there. It was an opportunity for us to find new and innovative ways to address these opportunities in adversity without any playbook, without a precedent set before. It wasn’t something we could look back five or 10 years ago and say, this is what we do in times like this. For us it was act quickly, respond to our clients’ needs and do it with quality.

What trends do you see in the professional services industry as a result of our changed economy?
As far as trends, having the ability to look to new opportunities within our clients. They have IT costs, optimization, capital management, supply chain (those) are things they are going to focus on. Those are the trends that we are going to have to focus on. It’s not just audit and tax, but it’s also other opportunities that they are going to need today. Audits and tax are required, but the things they need to address in their business aren’t those areas. It’s the things that affect their daily operations. So that’s where we need to focus our attention.

Assess the current differences between the U.S. and global markets in terms of strategic growth.

I think there are more similarities between the U.S. and global today. We in the United States have been serving a marketplace that had been growing tremendously, always looking for opportunities to expand globally. Well, when you take a look at it from the outside in, those opportunities are continuing to grow. How do we in the United States garner some of that share? How do we expand and innovate ourselves so we can take advantage of the billions of people who reside outside of this country. When you think about the companies that have an inflection point that goes from a smaller, mid-market company to a large Fortune 1,000 company, it’s the ability to make that transition from that size company to a global player. And you have to think globally. Ernst and Young is globally diversified. We have the ability to be nimble to each of those geographies around the world and bring service offerings to our clients. Our companies and our clients desire that. They want that. So when you talk about those differences, I see more similarities because you have those global companies that want to come to the United States. They are looking for opportunities outside of their market area because they believe growth is in those geographies. The world is a much smaller place to do business than it once was. It’s one where you ultimately have to spend your time thinking about the global play sheet, not just the domestic one.

How would you assess the climate for such transactions as M&As, project finance, private capital and restructuring?
I took this role over in June of ’08. So, September of ’08 the world changed. All of those activities … came to a screeching halt. Nothing was happening and nothing happened for a period of nine months. People sat back, were paralyzed by the change. Where was the new normal going to land before they moved anything forward? As I look out from this point forward, talking to our clients and companies here in our city, things are happening, things are progressing. Financing is starting to free up. Working capital on their balance sheet is more attractive than ever to utilize to go out and innovate and grow. So we’re starting to see more activity currently in our own local economy. Globally you’re starting to see the IPO markets loosening up. The returns aren’t what they hoped they would be, but people are going to the markets and the markets are opening up to allow them some capital to do things and to grow and to innovate.

I think the earlier stage companies that are venture capital backed will continue to see a little bit slower growth because there are so many other opportunities in the marketplace that are of great value, that money is going to go in that direction first. Private equity is the same. You’ll see longer-term plays, private equity looking for operations that are cash flow positive.

What can companies do in order to position themselves during this recovery in terms of finance, customer service and supply chain management?
Companies need to stay aggressive. They need to continue to look to the marketplace for opportunity. Where to put that money is going to be a long decision process requiring all of senior management to spend time thinking about those opportunities. Stay connected to your customers; stay connected to your clients. Depending on what industry you’re in, it’s going to require more face time, it’s going to require time on planes and in meetings and in cars, making sure you are addressing the needs of your clients and your customers. At the same time, mind the balance sheet. Make sure you continue to be disciplined. Many companies spent the last 18 months acquiring new discipline; what that new normal is, whether it’s cost containment measures, acquisition of products and supplies. Stay disciplined with those things. Times will improve. Things will start to grow again, and as long as you can continue to maintain that same discipline and get back to bare bones business and the blocking and tackling of fundamentals, when times (improve) you’ll be able to take advantage of those.

What skills do C-level executives need in order to succeed in the professional services industry during these tough times?
Patience, No. 1. Have the patience to respond to change. Too many times we react too quickly. There’s a difference between reacting and responding. If you react quickly, you’re going to swing the pendulum — you may swing it past the point of no return. The professional service industry as a whole needs to take a step back, respond to change. It doesn’t mean you’re not quick with it. But you respond with a well-thought out approach and strategy. If you can have that patience to do that, you’ll come through a downturn like this one stronger, better and more qualified and capable to succeed in the next one. This was unprecedented.

    Vital Stats



  • Joined Ernst & Young in Tucson in 1995
  • Moved to the Phoenix office in 2000
  • Appointed Arizona managing partner in June 2008
  • Received bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Arizona
  • Member of the Arizona Society of Certified Public Accountants, the American Institute of Public Accountants, Greater Phoenix Leadership and Financial Executives International.
  • Board member with ChildHelp International and Make-a-Wish Foundation
  • www.ey.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

Bob_Moran

CEO Series: Robert F. Moran

Robert F. Moran
President and Chief Executive Officer, PetSmart

How does the pet retail industry differ from the human retail industry?
First of all — passion. I’ve been in retail for 38 years and prior to coming to PetSmart, we use in retailing passion for the customer. But how can you be passionate about a shirt or a suit or a new coat? … I didn’t really discover passion in retailing until I came to PetSmart. … One of the things we focus on is how do we help pet parents help their pets, who have become members of the family, live long, happy and healthy lives? How can you not get behind that? … We’ve converted our environment not into, “How can I help you sir or help you ma’am,” but “Who are you shopping for today? I’m shopping for Buffy. Well, tell me about Buffy.” … All of a sudden you’re getting a life story and the conversation can go in a million different ways. Through that we’ve asked our store associates to be, pet detectives; find out how we can help, either aspirationally or inspirationally, to take care of some unfulfilled need they may have about a pet who has become a member of the family. … The other side of it is that we have enjoyed over the last 10 years within the pet retailing industry a growth of 5 to 6 percent. Probably the only sector in retailing that has been at that level has been electronics. Even in this recession we’re seeing it dip to 3 to 4 percent. So it’s a great growth industry. … This humanization of pets has really created this growth vehicle, not only for our industry, but for our company. We believe this will go on until about 2020. It’s a great industry to be in. I love the passion and it’s a great place to work …

Has the pet retail industry been able to weather this economic downturn better than the traditional retail industry, and why?
I think what has happened in this recession, which is the worst since the 1930s, is very similar to what happened after 9/11. What I mean by that is that people were sticking closer to home — we call it neighborhooding — they took staycations or no vacations at all, they found ways of not spending money but still having a good time. Pets played a role in that. The only way we suffered was in the housing side. What I mean by that is that there is a high correlation between pet acquisition and new houses. When that went into decline over the past two years that affected our industry. We have not been without problems. Within our industry, the hard goods side, the discretionary goods, the extra toy, the extra bed, the extra collar or leash has been deferred. So we had to find new ways to address the customer needs. I think we’ve been able to do that because of the humanization of pets, because of the neighborhooding, pets becoming, let’s call it, an affordable luxury in a roundabout way. … You’ll find ways to feed the dog, you’ll find ways to feed the cat because they’re members of the family. That’s probably why we’ve been more resilient than the human side.

PetSmart had to make some hard decisions last year in terms of the recession. What were those decisions and how have they helped the company?
Business is very dynamic and it’s always about gaining market share during good times and bad. We made a decision in the recession that cash was king; we had to watch our piggy bank, in a sense. What we ended up doing, because customers were not going to shop as much, we slowed down the number of stores, the number of pet hotels we were building. We also put an intense focus on expense management. … The other thing we did is we invested in the customer experience. A lot of companies didn’t do that. We increased payroll, we put an intense focus on customer satisfaction — the relationship with the customer — because we felt if we did that, as we emerged from this, we would be able to gain and pickup market share. … If you really look at other retailers during this time they cut back on payroll, they cut back on 401ks, they cut back on the quality of the associate life — they actually cut back on the customer quality of life inside a store. We didn’t do that at all.

Going forward, what does PetSmart see in terms of growth within its industry in general and what plans does the company have for the future?
We’re blessed to be in a great industry. We’re in an industry that will probably grow 3 to 4 percent. How do we take advantage of that? Not only can we bring in new customers, but we can also gain market share from some of our competitors. I do see that there will probably be a slow recovery. Now it’s anticipated that we won’t see the spending levels approaching the 2007 level until 2013 to 2014. But there will be a gradual recovery. Within there are opportunities to take advantage of. Customers are always looking for new things — innovation, services that in a sense fulfill some of their unfulfilled needs. … you can create points of differentiation. What frustrates me about retailers is that they don’t look at their point of differentiation for their business. They try to do a lot of “me too, me too,” and sometimes you don’t recognize the industry anymore because everybody is trying to do the same thing.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to follow the career path you made?
I have two things. One is don’t actually map out a career path. Seek out the knowledge and experience and the jobs you really need to work on so you can demonstrate accomplishments. If you do that the career path comes to you, especially if you are successful and are willing to make certain sacrifices along the way, it will come to you. My secondpiece of advice is, and it’s going to sound trite, treat your office as a prison and escape it as much as possible, because not everything is happening here. Everything is happening out there. The more you can roam, the more you can find out what’s going on, the more people you get to know. Early in your career you call it networking, but in networking you find opportunities. You can turn some of your knowledge and experience toward those opportunities. As you get older and start getting accomplishments and you get titles along with it, you find what’s going on and where you can prioritize the needs of the company and the resources of the company, and that becomes very important.

Vital Stats

  • Joined PetSmart in 1999 as president of North American stores.
  • Appointed president and chief operating officer of in 2001.
  • Named president and CEO in June 2009.
  • Former president of Toys R Us, Canada.
  • Spent 20 years with Sears, Roebuck and Company.
  • www.petsmart.com

Arizona Business Magazine

January 2010

man standing in front of a shelf with a basketball on it

CEO Series: Brian Mueller

Brian Mueller
Chief Executive Officer and Director, Grand Canyon University

Assess the current state of private universities.
I think if you look at the top tier, the Ivy League schools, and those just below them, those people have such strong brands and such huge endowments that they are OK, and they can make it through an economic downturn without a whole lot of difficulty. … If you look at the next tier below that, I think they’re fine because their brands are good, their levels of awareness are good and the endowments allow them to keep the business of private education going. Where there is really a problem is the smaller, private universities that have great histories, that have great academic programs, that provide a great service to students, but they do not have large endowments. The economy is really hurting those kinds of institutions, which is why we’re in a good place now. We have sources of revenue other than those traditional students that come to our campus. Those sources of revenue make it possible for us to keep tuition very affordable for traditional students.

What are some of the most recent challenges that GCU has faced in the past few years, including last year’s initial public offering?
Five years ago, Grand Canyon was near bankruptcy. It was within days of going bankrupt. It was one of those private universities with a full liberal arts program that had been in existence, at that point, for 55 years, and had done a wonderful job of producing teachers and nurses, especially, but it didn’t have a large endowment. Coming in, trying to build an online program using the Grand Canyon brand for working adults was a really smart move made by the initial owners, Brent and Chris Richardson. It was a smart move, but it’s not easy to do. It’s a lot more difficult to do than people think.

They did absolutely struggle for the first three years or so, but they got the enrollment up to 15,000, it became profitable, which allowed us the opportunity to go public. That’s when they called me. They said, ‘Since you have some public company experience, would you come over and be the CEO?’

When I came over and took a look at what existed here, I thought it was a rare and unique opportunity because what you have here is Arizona’s only traditional, private university in a destination city, in a destination state, with a wonderful campus, a good brand, a long history. To build an online program on top of that is just something that doesn’t exist out there today. There is no well-branded private university that also has an extension of that mission to working adults all over the country and all over the world in an online format. There isn’t one of those, so I thought this was a wonderful opportunity, and as it turns out, I’ve been here for a year and the opportunity is even better than what I first thought.

What do you believe GCU’s role is in this current economy?
I think we have a number of very, very important roles. One, we offer working adults in the state of Arizona and all over the country a chance to do an academic program, completing a bachelor’s degree, completing a master’s degree or a doctoral degree, in an online format while they work. As we look at ourselves from that vantage point, positioned against the other players in the space, we are probably the low-cost provider … A second role that we play is that we are able to make, because of the profitability of the online students who are at the very low end from a tuition standpoint, we’re able to make the traditional college experience for traditional students in a private university very, very affordable. We just announced that we are freezing our tuition levels through the next two years, and our tuition is already way under what most private universities are. We’re lowering our room-and-board by 20 percent and we are eliminating almost all fees. We are making it possible for middle-class American families or even lower-class middle-American families to come to a private university and experience that private university setting for four years to complete their degrees and for a rate that is very close to what they would spend at a state university.

It’s a significant contribution that private universities make, because the students that they educate aren’t at all a burden to the taxpayer. There is no taxpayer subsidy that goes into supporting our students. That helps when there is a declining tax base, a declining revenue base, which is very, very important and necessary to support students who attend a state university or community college. So that’s a significant contribution to the economy. Another contribution is the fact that we are one of the fastest-growing employers in Arizona today. We’re in the West Valley, we’ve got 1,300 employees and almost 2,000 faculty members, many of them adjunct or part-time faculty members, but we are growing the employment base in Arizona. We’re one of the few companies that are in that fortunate position of being able to add hundreds of jobs on an annual basis.

We’re also going on a major building campaign here. We’re building a new dormitory that will be ready in September 2010 that will have 600 beds. We’re building a 55-thousand-square-foot events center, which will be ready next September; we’re building a new classroom facility that should be ready in September or October of next year; and we’re building an events center that will seat 5,000 people for our men’s and women’s basketball programs and for concerts. That building campaign is going to put a lot of people to work, as well.

What are skills a C-level executive needs in the private university business?
I think all of the C-level skill requirements that would be in any other industry are really important. You have to be able to think strategically about the business and set the vision for the company and make sure that it is communicated and understood and everyone knows how they are plugged into that.

Secondly, you’ve got to break down silos and you have to make sure people work together, are all on the same page and are all pulling in the same direction. There’s so much power in that and it’s not an easy thing to do. … A publicly traded company is a tricky thing, so you’ve got to run the company, but you also have to make sure you’re keeping an eye out on the target, which is to make sure that your investors get a reasonable return. So you also have to balance running the company with making sure that you are spending time with the investors, making sure that they understand your strategy, that they are comfortable with the moves you’re making, how you’re investing capital so that they feel confident that the return they are expecting they are going to get.

… With all that said, I think the people who run these kinds of companies the best are those that have a strong amount of experience in higher education. They have to be educators and people who understand education and how education works and what they think the future of education is going to be. At the end of the day, the value we are creating is around the value that is created for the students who come, learn and graduate.

    Vital Stats



  • Named CEO of Grand Canyon University in 2008
  • From 1987 to 2008 was employed by Apollo Group
  • From 1983 to 1987 was a professor at Concordia University
  • Received his Master of Arts in education degree and Bachelor of Arts degree in education from Concordia University
  • www.gcu.edu
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
Man looking up in front of a colorful painting

CEO Series: Brad Casper

Brad Casper
CEO, Henkel Consumer Goods (The Dial Corporation)

Consumers have been cutting back sharply on their purchases as a result of the recession. How has that affected Henkel Consumer Goods’ overall operations, such as vendor relationships, supply chain management, marketing, research and development, etc., and how has the company responded to those challenges?
The challenges have been significant in the past year. It hasn’t materially affected our relationships, but it has forced us to be much more nimble with both with our vendors who supply us, as well as our retail customers who we sell to. You cannot take things for granted in this environment, particularly with our retail customers. One day you think you have the merchandising support, you think they have their back behind you, only to find out that someone has come in and maybe taken your ad space or taken your display space. So that’s forced our organization to be very reactive, to be very sharp with our price points, because value during this recession has been really the operative word. Fortunately, we have a number of great brands that have done very well during this recession, like Purex laundry detergent, Dial bar soaps and body washes, even Right Guard and Renuzit have done excellent. We’re growing share in all of those businesses.

What signs is Henkel Consumer Goods seeing that the recession is abating?
We follow the consumer confidence data very, very closely, and we saw — just in February and March — just as we saw the Dow Jones start to pick up, we saw the consumer confidence (and) you can do a pretty strong correlation analysis between consumer confidence and (the purchase) of consumer goods. Now, they’re still looking for deals. The consumer is still looking for value and bargains, but we are seeing our market sizes that were more discretionary, like air fresheners, a year ago were declining, are (now) starting to grow slightly.

So those categories that I think consumers would classify as “I want, but I don’t need,” we’re starting to see purchases come back in those areas that are wants.

What are some sustainability initiatives Henkel Consumer Goods is undertaking both in its operations and its products?
Henkel has a rich heritage and history in sustainability initiatives. This isn’t something we do just because of the recession; it’s something we do every day. Even starting with the building that we are in, this is going to be a LEED-certified building. We’ve only been open eight or nine months, but we designed this with sustainability in mind. Within our organization we created a kind of self-promoting area we call Eco-mmitment. It was a campaign we kicked off internally because with thought that in order to be a sustainable company (we needed to have) sustainable employees. Eco-mmitment was an internal grassroots effort to create awareness of more sustainable practices that we have here in our offices, as well as in our homes. So we’ve rolled that out, so that all of our employees are a little bit more aware of that.

But when it comes to our innovations, we have a number of sustainability initiatives that are in fact being very successful in the market. More than two years ago we launched Purex Natural Elements — it’s a natural detergent — and it became a $100 million business within a year and we didn’t even have to advertise. It sold itself off the shelf with its natural surfactants. … Again, Henkel’s history in this goes back 40 years. Before most people in this country were talking about sustainability, Henkel was practicing it. And so we (Dial), kind of as the little sister who’s been part of Henkel for five years, we’re adopting these behaviors pretty rapidly.

You worked to make sure Henkel Consumer Goods remained in the Valley. Why was that so important?
It all begins with people. First and foremost, a company can be an accumulation of brands and buildings, but at the end of the day what makes it special are the people. And moving this from the Valley, whether it was just from the East Valley to the West Valley, there’s the risk that we would lose some of our valued employees. Add to that, if you were to take it out of Scottsdale-Phoenix altogether, the probability that we lose the majority of our intellectual property — that would have stood between us. Moreover, when I was offered this job, I was looking forward to moving to Scottsdale, and when I got here I didn’t want to move, I wanted to keep us here!

What skills do C-level executives need in order to succeed in a multinational, consumer products company such as Henkel Consumer Goods?
I think it begins with having a really strong strategic mind and framework. You really have to understand the markets in which you compete, where and how your competition is likely to try to defeat you, and then, kind of like a sports coach, you have to try to figure out how you navigate vis-à-vis them. So you have to understand your own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Business is about people … and therefore you have to learn how to tap those resources that you have. You surround yourself with the best people, but you have to motivate them … and that’s true both of a domestic company, as well as a multinational.

I think when you get into multinationals, we’re working across borders, we’re working across time zones. I’ve been on conference calls earlier this morning with our parent company in Germany as early as 7 a.m. You have to learn to work in a diverse environment, you have to be tolerant of differences, you have to try to leverage those differences to make you stronger. Sometimes that may mean being tolerant of what you thought might have sounded like rude or very straightforward behavior, and it just might be the cultural differences at play there.

Interpersonal effectiveness at the C-level is so critically important, and it’s not just because you’re a multinational; you’d fail, probably, if you weren’t effective in those areas.

    Vital Stats



  • Named president and CEO of The Dial Corporation (Henkel Consumer Goods) in April 2005.
  • Joined Henkel from Church & Dwight, where he served as president, personal care, since 2002.
  • Spent 16 years at Procter & Gamble.
  • Member of the Greater Phoenix Leadership Council and a board member of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.
  • Holds a bachelor’s degree in science degree from Virginia Tech University.
  • www.henkelna.com
man sitting in chair in front of office window

CEO Series: Steve Cowman

Steve Cowman
Appointed CEO and Board Member, Stirling Energy Systems (SES)

How has the recession affected the alternative energy industry?
It’s had a major impact on the solar industry and the renewable energy industry on two fronts. First of all, there are a lot of solar companies that are not going to make it through the current credit crisis because they are going to run out of capital. … You need to have a pretty strong balance sheet at the moment and you need to have a pretty strong parental structure to support you through this. That’s not just solar — that’s a lot of the renewable companies.

The second issue is getting the funding for the projects themselves. That is a huge challenge because these projects are typically between half a billion and a billion dollars in terms of capital requirement. … What’s really impressed me about the Obama Administration and the DOE (Department of Energy) is that they recognize that there is a technical challenge here given where the credit markets are. They also recognize that renewable energy has the real potential to be competitive in price with fossil fuel after three to five years. But to do that (companies) need some help to actually get there. I think the stimulus package, as it’s been outlined, has tremendous potential to help the renewable (industry) in general and the solar (industry) in particular.

Why is Arizona behind other states in developing solar energy?
Arizona is a great state and Phoenix has clearly grown, but it’s grown on the back of a particular focus … real estate, the holiday center, the golf complexes. … It hasn’t really focused on the industrial side of it. I think if you look at what has actually happened to Phoenix over the past 10 to 15 years, there’s been a slow erosion of its industrial and technological base. And some of the very large companies like Motorola, ON Semiconductor, Intel … have significantly slimmed down or have actually outsourced. And they haven’t just outsourced overseas. …

They’ve moved to New Mexico, they’ve moved to Nevada, they’ve moved to California. I think, to be honest, Arizona fell asleep at the wheel. … (it) didn’t really provide the right type of incentives, and I think it has paid the price.

However, I would say that in the last year, there’s been a shock of reality. Obviously, Arizona has seen the biggest collapse in housing prices. It saw the biggest run-up and it saw the biggest collapse, as well. I think of GPEC (Greater Phoenix Economic Council) as being particularly proactive in terms of trying to bring that awareness, in terms of trying to attract (companies). … That (Arizona) Senate bill (1403) that just went through … is significant, but it won’t fix the problem. But, it does show a culture change in the Arizona Legislature in terms of wanting to be more proactive about attracting inward investment at this time.

What do governments have to do in order to get more companies to turn to alternative energy?
There are two things the state has started to do. The first thing they’ve done is they are mandating renewable targets. So, they are mandating to the utility companies that they must have a certain percentage of their power come from renewables. And if there’s not, there will be financial penalties. That’s the stick, if you like. And the carrot that they are actually providing is the stimulus package to help the renewable companies to get the projects in the ground. So they’ve got those two things running parallel.

What do you see in the future for the alternative energy industry?
The potential is tremendous. You have a fantastic manufacturing and engineering base here. …  You have a large number of really blue chip, Fortune 100 U.S. multinationals that have established a really strong technology base here. You have Arizona State University that has some fantastic programs, and you have a great environment for people to live in. So, it’s a really attractive place and I have to think that the future will be really good. … (However) there are companies who have worldwide headquarters here but do no manufacturing here — who shall remain anonymous. So, the real challenge for Arizona is how do you get those companies to increase their level of vertical integration and move beyond just having headquarter functions to having manufacturing and design (here)?

What kind of leadership team works best for a company like Stirling?
Ideally, you want someone who brings a well-honed skill set. You want someone who has experience in, hopefully, one or two different areas, someone who has good interpersonal skills. … So it’s your personality, it’s your attitude. … If you have a can-do, we can knock down any barrier to make it work (attitude), you will make it work. … So what’s the ideal executive? The answer is there is not an ideal executive. What you want is a good mix.

    Vital Stats



  • Appointed CEO of Stirling Energy Systems in June 2008
  • Held numerous senior management positions at Greenstar Ireland, General Electric, Harris Corporation, General Semiconductor, Vishay Intertechnology, Volex Europe.
  • Earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering from the University College, Dublin and Sheffield University; master’s degree in management science from Trinity College Dublin
  • www.stirlingenergy.com
man with red tie standing in front of Dean's office

CEO Series: Robert E. Mittlestaedt Jr.

Robert E. Mittelstaedt Jr.
Dean, W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University

How is W.P. Carey’s curriculum changing due to the economic crisis?
The curriculum in any business school has to involve some fundamental, timeless subjects that never change. So accounting and some aspects of finance and people management and other things will go on forever, but in every case we have to find a way to adapt to the changes in the external environment, whether it’s societal or specific kinds of business issues. I think that most business schools now are re-thinking seriously their curriculums in light of what has happened in the last couple of years, in particular issues in the areas of risk management, ethics in decision making and globalization … It doesn’t mean that the entire curriculum will change, but we have to find a way to weave those things more into almost everything we teach.

Could business schools have done more to create an ethical climate among corporate executives that could have averted this crisis? Does that argument have any merit?
My experience over many years now tells me that parents have to do more to teach ethical values to their children, and society has to take responsibility for holding people accountable for ethical behavior. Sadly, I have found that in most people, when they cross ethical lines, you find out it’s not the first time and they started doing it early in their life. By the time we get them as undergraduate business students, that’s about the end of the time when you can influence it.

We push hard on ethics from day one, and the students who come into our program hear about ethics on day one from me, and throughout the time that they’re here and they are required to take ethics courses. … This is something that’s a broad societal problem that we have to deal with, and we’re are doing as much as we can in business schools and will continue to put even more emphasis on it, but it’s not something that can be solved just in a business school or just in a university alone.

What are some of the future trends you see for business schools?
I expect to see all business schools more concerned with some of the things that we have been thinking about here at ASU. For instance, whether you believe in global warming or not, it is indisputable that we have to worry about sustainability, simply because of the number of people on the planet. … There are all sorts of things that become different issues where we have society and business interacting, whether we like it or not, in a much more integrated fashion than we have had in the past. … Issues of instant communications, doing business differently than our predecessors did, are very real and have to be part of a curriculum. … All those things find their way into a curriculum, both in terms of changing the way we teach, the kinds of things we teach, the impact they have on individuals.

How would you assess the relationship between W.P. Carey and the Valley business community?
I believe that our relationship with the business community at the W.P. Carey School is quite strong. We have many business leaders that are on our advisory councils, advisory boards to departments, to the whole school; we have many businesses that support us by sending students here to work on their MBAs or even their undergraduate degrees. And we have many business leaders who are not graduates of our school but who believe we have to have a strong business school to help Phoenix grow, and so they support us.

Describe the education industry in Arizona in terms of employment.
Education is a big sector of our society and I don’t believe there are very many people today that would deny that education needs to be there. …  (T)here’s more to learn today and a child today needs to learn more and get to a higher level of knowledge just to be competitive in the work force than they did a generation or two generations or three generations ago. You have to have an education sector that is strong and employs a fair number of people if you’re going to be competitive.The fact that we have gone through a financial crisis and budget cutbacks and furloughs and layoffs means that it’s not different than any other business, and it is in fact a business. It may be state supported, partially in the case of our university, but it is nonetheless a business that is subject to the same kinds of economic whipsaws as other sectors. The difference here is that our students don’t just go away because the economy got worse. In a retail establishment the customers may not show up and you may not have to have as many (establishments) open. We still have 52,000 students showing up on this campus in the fall …

    Vital Stats




  • Dean at W.P. Carey since 2004.
  • Between 1973 and 2004, he served in numerous leadership positions at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Author of “Will Your Next Mistake Be Fatal? Avoiding the Mistake Chain That Can Destroy Your Organization.”
  • Earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Tulane University.
  • Served five years as a U.S. Naval officer.
  • Received an MBA from the Wharton School.
  • wpcarey.asu.edu
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
Richard L. Boals President and CEO Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

CEO Series: Richard L. Boals

Richard L. Boals
President and CEO
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

What are some of the major trends in the health insurance industry?
In health, I think there is a shift toward an increased responsibility toward the individual. We’re asking people to take accountability for themselves. We’re giving them information that they can use to monitor their health status, but we also would hope that they would lose weight, they would quit smoking, they would wear their seatbelt and do the things that are sort of common sense, but can make their life much more enjoyable and in the net, save a lot of money.

In the business world in terms of health insurance, how is that industry looking right now in Arizona?
It’s actually, I think, very healthy. We, like every other industry, are starting to feel the pain of companies who are laying-off employees. So, we’re seeing a little bit of shrinkage within the general size of our group, but we’re growing at about 7 to 8 percent a year, so we feel very good about where we’ll be when we come out the other side of this economic downslide.

How has the recession affected the health care industry in general and health insurers in particular?
There are a couple of things that are happening. In the hospitals, they are starting to see fewer elective surgeries and to some extent that is the bread and butter of a hospital, and if people are holding off getting things done, that pulls down on their revenues. They are also seeing more cost-shifting from the government — or we’re seeing the cost-shifting from the government — and as Medicare and Medicaid pay less and less, I think it’s difficult for hospitals to make a bottom line.

What role is Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona taking in the debate over health care reform?
We’re trying to take a very active role both locally and in Washington. We believe that everybody ought to be covered. We’re a little perplexed that of the 40 million or so uninsured that about a quarter of them already qualify for some state or federal program and simply have not been enrolled. So as we talk about expanding the government’s role, I think we need to expand their accountability for getting people enrolled. But we believe that everybody should have access to good coverage. We believe that the government should not form a competing model, to not promote us but to try to bring us down. Beyond that, I think we’ll see what comes of it. I really believe that the government has an extraordinary opportunity here to inject energy into the health care system. My fear is that as they try to ratchet costs down and save money, they’re going to discourage innovations, and a few years from now we are going to be very disappointed that the supply of physicians and nurses and new technologies is going to be less than it is today.

BCBS of Arizona is working with the Arizona Healthcare and Hospital Association and the Arizona Chamber Foundation on what has been called “the hidden health care tax” in the state. How and why did Blue Cross Blue Shield become involved in this issue?
We’ve been interested in this issue for a long, long time. We were happy to see that others were beginning to recognize that this is a serious problem. About 15 percent of our premium is a result of a government program not paying their fair share. As the hospitals and doctors figure out that they can only push so much to the insurance companies or to the private individuals, they have to speak up and say it’s time for the government to start paying a more realistic amount for the care they are providing to their accountabilities, the elderly and the indigent.

What advice do you have for a C-level job candidate on how they can show either that board of directors or that panel they’re interviewing with that they are somebody who can successfully lead a change in a business?
I think it gets down to two things. One, it’s about the customer — you always have to have them in mind. And it’s about the people you hire to support you. Being in a C suite assumes that you are not doing the physical work, that you’ve hired a team of talented and dedicated people who are going to make you look good, and over the years I have been very fortunate; people have made me look good.

    Vital Stats




  • Joined BCBSAZ in 1971
  • Appointed CEO in April 2003
  • Board member for BCBSAZ, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and TriWest Healthcare Alliance
  • Board member for Greater Phoenix Leadership, the Translational Genomics Research Institute and the ASU W.P. Carey School of Business Center for Services Leadership
  • Won the ASU Alumni Leadership Award and the American Jewish Committee’s National Human Relations and Centennial Leadership Awards
  • Bachelor’s degree in accounting from Arizona State University; completed executive development courses at Duke University, the University of California, Harvard University and the University of Michigan
Bob Matia Managing Partner Squire, Sanders and Dempsey

CEO Series: Bob Matia

Bob Matia
Managing Partner
Squire, Sanders and Dempsey

What impact has the current recession had on the legal profession?
With the credit markets being down as much as they were this time around, the flow of corporate legal business was definitely affected more than in past recessions. A lot of people view law firms as recession proof, and to some extent some of the practice areas within a law firm are recession proof. Litigation, for example, seems to go on and on whether there is a recession or not, and that is in fact happening now in our firm. But this time around, the corporate group was affected much more than in the past and that has caused different challenges.

Do you foresee any long-term changes in how law firms conduct the business side of their operations as a result of the economic crisis?
It’s been a wake-up call for the law profession … I think there was a complacency that had developed among law firms about how carefully they had to watch developing trends. But I think this has been a good wake-up call, so I think you’ll find law firms staying more conscious of staffing and not trying to get too far ahead in staffing; maybe slightly curtailing the kinds of lead hiring we used to do. We hire every year out of law school. We’re having in Phoenix six new lawyers joining us out of the class of 2009.

They were originally scheduled to arrive in October. We’ve deferred that arrival to January of 2010. I think you’ve probably seen in the paper a number of other moves by other law firms, some taking different forms of action. … I think you’ll see tinkering here and there. I don’t think you’ll see vast changes in the way we do things, but we’re looking at it. We’re looking at it on a monthly basis, checking the numbers, trying to see if we see a trend in one practice area or another.

You have represented the city of Phoenix in its dealings with developers of its downtown mixed-use complex. How would you describe the evolution of Downtown Phoenix from a governmental and legislative aspect?
The change in 30 years has just been remarkable. It’s great. … During the course of 30 years, we got a bill passed that established economic development as a major public purpose in Arizona, which has significant implications in that we feel it probably was the turning point in permitting condemnation for economic development purposes, a subject which is not popular in all sectors of the economy. But certainly there were instances where a single property owner could hold up an entire, major, new downtown development, and the governmental units simply had to have a way of dealing with that. Condemnation was one of them and we’re pleased about that. But there’s a new challenge, actually, to the subsidies that cities have made available to developers, both downtown and in other kinds of zones that are created for economic development. The (state) court of appeals has just thrown out part of the subsidy the city of Phoenix gave to CityNorth. Whether that goes to the Arizona Supreme Court depends on the Supreme Court.

For years, we were operating under another court of appeals case, known as the Wistuber case, and I always thought it struck a very good balance between hard consideration and soft consideration on what cities were getting for their subsidies. The problem is that the Arizona constitution has a gift clause in it, which says public bodies can’t give away their money to private interests without getting value back for that money. TheWistuber case made it clear that you could look at things like increased tax revenues and improving job availability, but you also had to have some hard considerations for what you were spending your money on. I always thought  that was a great balance. We’ll see how this comes out.

Given the current economic climate, what changes have you made to future workforce planning?
I think law firms will stay closer to the break-even point on need, on staff. We had the luxury of delaying responses to ups and downs in the economy in the past. Law firms are being much more conscious today of the cost of legal services to clients. Even the largest corporations are getting our attention in terms of trying to give them the very best service we can for the lowest cost. So we’re going to pay a lot more attention, probably, to having balanced legal teams in terms of experience level. For example, on a typical corporate transaction or litigation matter, we will probably pay a lot more attention to what the blended hourly rate would be if you looked at all the people who are working on the account.

    Vital Stats




  • Started with Squire, Sanders and Dempsey in 1966
  • Opened Phoenix office in 1979
  • Listed in the 2009 edition of “The Best Lawyers in America”
  • Selected for inclusion in the 2007 inaugural edition of “Southwest Super Lawyers”
  • Designated a Center of Influence by Arizona Business Magazine in 2008
  • Received law degree from Case Western Reserve University
  • Works with the Arizona Business Coalition, the Arizona Justice Foundation and the Phoenix Community Alliance
  • www.ssd.com
Keith Maio President and CEO National Bank of Arizona

CEO Series: Keith Maio President and CEO National Bank of Arizona

Keith Maio
President and CEO
National Bank of Arizona

Assess the current state of the banking industry in Arizona.
It looks pretty tough. The economic environment is difficult. What we deal with in Arizona is that we have a real estate-dominant economy, so many of the local banks are heavy in real estate lending. And — as we all know and see and live in our homes every day — assessed values and real estate valuations have declined dramatically, and that puts pressure on banks. That’s starting to trickle through to the consumer segment and small business segment. Everybody is feeling impacted. That being said, I would tell you that the banks in Arizona, the vast majority, are highly capitalized. So they’ve got the capital base to weather the storm.

In terms of the storm, are you seeing any light at the end of the tunnel?
I haven’t seen the light yet. I know it’s there, but I haven’t seen it yet.

How has the turmoil at the nation’s largest banks affected Arizona-chartered banks?
I think it’s a little bit anecdotal in nature. Some of the problems that the big banks feel are not felt directly by the more local, Arizona banks. Local banks tend to be a little higher capitalized, which is a good thing, and their exposures are more direct-lending exposures versus securities investments and off-balance sheet vehicles.

At the end of the day it’s all about credit contraction, so it impacts people different ways. But the local banks are more direct lenders, so it’s what happens directly in their market.

Do you think that’s a positive thing?
I think it’s a positive thing, other than the fact that we have been impacted so badly in Arizona relative to the rest of the country. So that makes it tougher. But at least when you have direct exposures, you are able to assess on an individual basis what that exposure is.

We are hearing more about the role off-bank balance sheet structures have had in the sharp decline in capitalization among the larger national banks. What type of exposure to such off-bank balance sheet structures do local banks have?
Local banks don’t have much exposure there, and what it allows those banks to do is to assess their risk on a transaction-by-transaction basis, rather than market valuations on pools of securities. So it’s a little easier to assess their risk. Local banks have a little bit more capital to weather the storm, but their exposures on the lending side tend to be a little bit greater than the large national banks.

What challenges and opportunities does the current financial crisis hold for local banks in general, and National Bank of Arizona in particular?
Having been through this before, I think there is an opportunity — and as a CEO you’ve got to always look at the long run, not just the short run. You need to manage what we’re all in the middle of today, but you need to keep an eye on the long run. In getting through this, these tough times actually make people and good organizations better. You’ll learn, ‘What could I have done better before,’ and people who want to improve will improve.

Organizations that can improve end up much better off in the long run. And generally, anytime you have a market disruption — which this is — there’s turmoil in the market and there’s disruption. However, over the long run it presents market-share opportunities to banks. I think that’s an opportunity a lot of us have in the long run — to resettle what the market shares look like at the end of this. For the survivors, it’s a very good thing.

At the end of the day it’s all about credit contraction, so it impacts people different ways. But the local banks are more direct lenders, so it’s what happens directly in their market.

Do you think that’s a positive thing?
I think it’s a positive thing, other than the fact that we have been impacted so badly in Arizona relative to the rest of the country. So that makes it tougher. But at least when you have direct exposures, you are able to assess on an individual basis what that exposure is.


We are hearing more about the role off-bank balance sheet structures have had in the sharp decline in capitalization among the larger national banks. What type of exposure to such off-bank balance sheet structures do local banks have?

Local banks don’t have much exposure there, and what it allows those banks to do is to assess their risk on a transaction-by-transaction basis, rather than market valuations on pools of securities. So it’s a little easier to assess their risk. Local banks have a little bit more capital to weather the storm, but their exposures on the lending side tend to be a little bit greater than the large national banks.

What challenges and opportunities does the current financial crisis hold for local banks in general, andNational Bank of Arizona in particular?
Having been through this before, I think there is an opportunity — and as a CEO you’ve got to always look at the long run, not just the short run. You need to manage what we’re all in the middle of today, but you need to keep an eye on the long run. In getting through this, these tough times actually make people and good organizations better. You’ll learn, ‘What could I have done better before,’ and people who want to improve will improve.

Organizations that can improve end up much better off in the long run. And generally, anytime you have a market disruption — which this is — there’s turmoil in the market and there’s disruption. However, over the long run it presents market-share opportunities to banks. I think that’s an opportunity a lot of us have in the long run — to resettle what the market shares look like at the end of this. For the survivors, it’s a very good thing.

    Vital Stats





  • Executive vice president, Zions Bancorporation, parent company of National Bank of Arizona
  • Joined National Bank of Arizona in 1992
  • Has served as president since 2001; appointed CEO in 2005
  • Current chairman, Arizona Bankers Association board of directors
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of New Mexico; graduate, Pacific Coast School of Banking
Merl Waschler

Merl Waschler’s First Job

Merle Waschler
President and CEO, Valley of the Sun United Way

Describe your very first job and what lessons you learned from it.
As a young adult in high school and my early college years, I worked at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in my hometown state of New Jersey. I consider my time at Greystone to be one of those pivotal life-shaping experiences. As an orderly and camp counselor, I worked serving the needs of mentally ill adults and children from all walks of life. Here I learned the power of empathy, patience and the true meaning of human potential. These virtues continue to shape my life and career daily.

Describe your first job in your industry and what you learned from it?
Upon graduating from Penn State University, I began my finance and accounting career at Arthur Andersen. Throughout my tenure at the firm, I sharpened my skills in business management and developed a business approach to accounting. I continue to utilize the financial management, operations and strong business ethics I learned early in my career at Arthur Andersen. I am genuinely grateful that my first industry job led me to a strong relationship with United Way. During my career at the firm, I served as a United Way loaned executive. As such, I worked alongside United Way staff helping to increase the understanding human service needs, and encouraged donations to the annual fundraising campaign. This journey has come full circle for me, as loaned executives are tremendous support to Valley of the Sun United Way.

What were your salaries at both of these jobs?
I made minimum wage at Greystone Park (around $3.25 an hour) and earned about $10,300 a year at Arthur Andersen.

Who is your biggest mentor and what role did they play?
My career and professional mentorship hit its pinnacle as Valley of the Sun United Way’s president. I am fortunate to have the counsel of leaders that span diverse industries, leadership levels and areas of expertise. As a leadership group, I look to corporate CEOs, nonprofit leaders, community philanthropists and many others for advice on pressing issues in the areas of education, income and health to guide Valley of the Sun United Way’s work. Equally important is the community’s voice to ensure pressing human care needs continue to be met. This wide-range community perspective is powerful and reflects a desire from all to create opportunities for a better tomorrow.

I continue to be inspired by my professional and community mentors and will work vigorously to improve the quality of life in our community for individuals, families and children.

What advice would you give to a person just entering your industry?
The nonprofit sector continues to innovate and transform to meet community needs. I would encourage individuals entering the field to consider that changing community conditions takes time, tenacity, innovation and a degree of risk. I’ve seen an increasing number of nonprofits moving toward the integration of business models and social change theories. All of this represents a great opportunity for individuals, organizations and the communities served by nonprofits.

With this in mind, find an organization that fits your passion and has bold community goals. Surround yourself with innovative thinkers and agents of change. Reach for the opportunity that maximizes results for you and the organization. Remember that long-term change will not be achieved overnight — look for an opportunity with longevity.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing instead?
I can honestly say that I cannot imagine doing something else. We often seek to find that job we can be so passionate about that it does not seem like “work” or a “job.” I am very lucky to be living that today. It’s so rewarding to work with business, nonprofit, faith-based, government, academia and so many other sectors to strengthen the quality of life in our community each and every day. I’ve met so many inspiring individuals whose lives have been touched by Valley of the Sun United Way and our many partners. I am humbled to be serving our community and will continue to do so proudly.

Doug Parker, Chairman and CEO of US Airways

CEO Series: Doug Parker

Doug Parker
Title: Chairman and CEO
Company: US Airways

Describe your very first job and what lessons you learned from it.
My first job was as a bagger at a Kroger store in Michigan. I started part-time the day I turned 16, but then went full-time in the summer the day after school got out. I did basic bagger duties — bagging groceries, collecting carts from the parking lot, etc. While most people preferred to stay inside and bag, I was always quick to volunteer to get carts, as I preferred the more physical work. It was a good experience, primarily because it taught me a work ethic at an early age. It helped me see what life was like in the real world and gave me a true appreciation of the value of putting in an honest day’s work. I also learned that if you put the cookies on the bottom of the bag, customers get upset.

Describe your first job in your industry and what you learned from it.
My first job in the industry was a financial analyst at American Airlines in 1986. I took this entry-level position straight out of business school in 1986. It was a great first job because American hired a lot of MBAs into finance, so it was both easy to get acclimated with other new hires and also a great place to learn the industry from a lot of talented professionals who had been in the business for a while. I also liked beginning in finance, because it allowed me to learn a little bit about the entire company and how it all fit together versus learning a lot about one certain area. That broad scope was helpful in allowing me to understand how the airline business worked in a relatively short period of time.

What were your salaries at both of these jobs?
Three dollars an hour at Kroger and $34,000 at AA.

Who is your biggest mentor and what role did they play?
I have had a number of great bosses over my career and I learned a lot from each of them. If I had to choose a single mentor in our industry though, I’d pick a person I never worked for, Herb Kelleher of Southwest (Airlines). I, like many people, have admired how Herb has built Southwest to be a successful airline with a true team spirit and camaraderie that other airlines haven’t ever been able to accomplish. I like how he has done so by communicating with his employees and making sure not to take himself too seriously. Over the past seven or eight years, I’ve gotten to know Herb well through industry associations, and whenever we’re together, I work very hard to observe what he does and how he thinks about situations – it’s served me well and I’m thankful that he’s given me that opportunity

What advice would you give to a person just entering your industry?
I would tell them that this is a great industry because virtually every management discipline is important and valued. Marketing is important because it’s a customer service business; operations is obviously important because there is arguably no more complex a series of operating issues than at an airline; finance is important because the business is so capital intensive; maintenance is essentially a very complex manufacturing organization, etc., etc. As a result, I think we have areas for everyone to make a real difference, which is not true of most industries. So I always recommend that unless people really know what they want to do, they should start in an area where they can learn a little about the entire company and then over time gravitate to the area they find the most interesting. I also advise them that this business is not for the faint of heart; it’s very dynamic and a bit like a roller coaster ride — but if you like action, change and a lot of moving parts (like most of us here do), you’ll love it.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing instead?
I’m not sure since I’ve never worked outside of this industry, but my guess is I’d be doing something similar in a different industry. While I love airlines, I’m not the CEO because I know so much about this business — there are many people in our company who know much more about airlines and airplanes than I do. Most of what I do is find the best people I possibly can and make sure they are engaged and motivated and working together as a team to accomplish our collective objectives. It’s that team-building piece that I enjoy, and I imagine if I weren’t here, I’d be somewhere else where those skills were important.