20 young business leaders to watch in 2020

Newsmakers | 11 Jan |

We have all read about — or talked about (mostly behind their backs) — the stereotypes that have been assigned to the younger members of today’s workforce (think age 40 and younger). Too many people view today’s young business leaders as a generation of cornhole-in-the-office-playing, craft-beer-drinking, selfie-stick wielding narcissists who are way too self-involved because they grew up in an era when everyone goes home with a trophy.

Think again.

“Our company, Zero Mass Water, operates in a space that is just now starting to be defined: Renewables 2.0,” says Sidnee Peck, chief of staff at Zero Mass Water and founding member of Golden Seeds Arizona. “The last 20 years have opened the minds of the mass market to the value and accessibility of renewable energy. Now thought leaders and boundary-pushing entrepreneurs are looking at any and all resources we use, including what we spend our time on at Zero Mass Water: renewable water. This innovation — capturing water from an endless supply of water vapor in the air using only sunlight as a power source — will snowball, or hopefully avalanche, with myriad other innovations aiming to solve for truly resilient lifestyles driven by renewable resources.”

Today’s young business leaders are changing the face of business and bringing new ideas and innovations to Arizona that make it a better place to live, work, and play.

In this story, you’ll meet a healthcare innovator, aviation industry disruptor, the 35-year-old CEO of a major sports franchise, and young business leaders who have founded companies or brought new ideas to old ones and are changing the way their companies do business and redefining workplace culture all at the same time.

Justin Bayless, 35

President and CEO, Bayless Integrated Healthcare

Source of pride: Bayless is most proud of the Health Choice Arizona Center of Excellence award. Bayless received this award in 2016 in the area of Biopsychosocial and Physical Medicine Integration. Health Choice was the first health insurance company that validated (with data) the value proposition of our integrated physical and behavioral health delivery system.

Watching in 2020: “Healthcare remains ripe for disruption and the biggest issue continues to be keeping people healthy and out of the hospital. I believe the biggest catalysts for change to the industry will be new leadership along with technology. Millennials will begin assuming more leadership positions over the next five years in health systems which will bring a new perspective to these inherent issues that plague healthcare overall. Technology will allow providers to access more patients, deal with complexity and increased administrative burden, as well as engage patients to take a greater role in their own care. Artificial intelligence, technology-enabled activity trackers/wearables, retail and convenient care settings, along with telehealth are only at the infancy stage in healthcare and will be at the forefront of the disruption in the near future.”

Lindsey Benson, 32

Audit manager, CBIZ & MHM

Source of pride: “CBIZ & MHM Phoenix has an annual tradition of awarding a Quality Service Award to one employee in each of our departments. The award recipient is determined based on employees submitting examples of exemplary quality service provided to both clients and colleagues. I have been honored with the award twice in the ten years I have been at CBIZ & MHM. I am proud of this accomplishment as it highlights my efforts to serve my clients, mentor and train our associates, and support our directors.”

Watching in 2020: “The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is currently a hot topic in the public accounting world. Many firms are testing or developing various forms of AI to help increase the quality of their auditing procedures. Like any new technological advancement, there is a learning curve that comes with change and practitioners have to identify and develop the appropriate skills to effectively use AI. The significance of utilizing AI in the audit process will be a more data-driven risk assessment, efficiency in the audit procedures performed, and ultimately providing our clients additional value beyond the compliance process.”

Mike Bianco, 38

CEO, AvAir

Source of pride: “AvAir’s culture and reputation as a global leader in the aviation aftermarket with small company values are what makes me proud to be its newly appointed CEO. I joined AvAir just after high school as its first official employee. Since those early days in the warehouse, I’ve learned what it takes to maintain a business with minimal employee or client turnover in a quickly evolving industry.”

Watching in 2020: “Sustainability is one of the most important global issues, and companies in the aviation industry have been finding ways to reduce their carbon footprints for years. Those initiatives include finding partners whose operations are environmentally conscious. AvAir’s headquarters runs entirely on solar energy, and I expect to see more companies following suit.”

Alissa Brice Castañeda, 39

Partner, Restructuring, Bankruptcy & Creditors’ Rights Practice Group, Quarles & Brady

Source of pride: “In its 9th year, I am honored to serve as President of the Arizona Bankruptcy American Inn of Court, an association of judges, lawyers, and other legal professionals who are committed to fostering excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, mentorship, and legal skills within the Arizona bankruptcy community.”

Watching in 2020: “There are no crystal balls to peg exact timing of course, but historic economic cycles portend a coming correction or recession.  There are many ways Quarles & Brady’s bankruptcy and restructuring group helps its clients strategize and prepare before a downturn hits so they are best positioned to weather market volatility that economies inevitably encounter.”

Samuel S. Chang, 40

Real estate partner, Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie

Source of pride: “I am very proud of the long-standing, trusting relationships I have developed with my clients, ranging from mom and pop shops to some of the largest businesses in Arizona.  I am honored to provide guidance to my clients’ real estate projects and developments, which are making Arizona and Phoenix “the hot place to be.” I make a point to roll up my sleeves and be in the trenches with each of my clients.”

Watching in 2020: “Through my work being the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Foundation for Senior Living (FSL), I have learned that Arizona is the third-worst state in the nation for affordable housing and the fourth-worst with respect to affordable housing to seniors. Although this may not be one of the largest issues in 2020, it will slowly become a major issue in the future if the key players in our industry, as well as other industries, don’t work together to address this before it becomes a crisis. Similar to our duty to look after and pave the way for our future generations, we also have a parallel responsibility to take care of the generations before us.”

Ahron Cohen, 35

President and CEO, Arizona Coyotes

Source of pride: “Growing up in Minnesota, I always dreamed of a career in sports. Still, I never imagined I would become the youngest CEO of a major pro sports franchise. Being named CEO of the Coyotes stands out because it means all those years of school and law school, late nights at the office and hard work have paid off.”

Watching in 2020: “To me, it’s the way technology continues to impact fans’ experience both at games and at home. Our organization has become very attuned to a variety of analytics and better understanding of how Coyotes fans connect with the team and our players. In 2020, coming to the game will be even less about viewership and more about the total experience. Our fans want to speak out on social media, they want to order merchandise and food on their phones, and they want to text us their vote for player of the game or to opt in for future offers and content. The more we create a seamless, immersive experience for you that extends beyond what happens on the ice, the more we can drive success for our franchise and the NHL.”

Alexis Krisay, 37

Partner and president of marketing, Serendipit Consulting

Source of pride: “Purchasing a building to house the growth and creativity of Serendipit gives me the most pride. I have always wanted to have space where my team felt at home, felt excited to come to work and where it didn’t really feel like work and one that they were proud to showcase to their friends, colleagues, and family. This building is that. It has given me new energy for the growth of the company. The ability to have the means to see my vision come true.”

Watching in 2020: “The trend that I think will have the biggest impact on our industry is personalization. Consumers expect personalization and marketers are going to have to adapt. This is going to challenge us as marketers to dig deeper to understand all the needs, wants and preferences of consumers. As marketers, we are going to need to deliver spot-on personalization that captures consumers at their first engagement with our brand. For marketers, this expands our campaign creation and segmentation efforts and will require us to develop creative intelligence in our delivery and conversion processes.”

Ty James Largo, 38

CEO and creative director, AWE Collective

Source of pride: “Like any proud parent, my ongoing, proudest accomplishment is the generations of Awe team members we’ve helped raise before watching them flourish all across the country throughout various industries. Our Awe alumni shine as directors, VPs and business owners, themselves, and I’m so proud of their accomplishments.”

Watching in 2020: “If you’re looking for big impact, I’ll always double down on invention. The element of surprise can break a competitor’s carefully crafted PR campaign, shatter their calculated digital buy or diminish the results of any tried-and-true marketing approach. I love hearing competitors say, “I didn’t know our industry could do things like that.” They can’t plan for your invention –– and that’s why it works.”

Elizabeth “Izzy” Lawrence, 27

State regulatory advisor, Arizona Public Service

Source of pride: “Choosing to pursue an MBA while working full time gives me great pride. While trained as an engineer, at the time I was working as an operations shift supervisor at a natural gas power plant, which was very challenging. However, I knew I wanted to learn more about how businesses operate, and my MBA would help me gain this knowledge. I’m set to graduate in May 2020.”

Watching in 2020: “One trend I think will have a big impact on the utility industry in 2020 is the adoption of grid-scale batteries by utilities. This trend is one of many solutions necessary to enable utilities to incorporate greater amounts of renewable energy into their systems and reliably serve the electric needs of their customers 24 hours a day.”

Sonny Patel, 25

Founder and CEO, Insurmi

Source of pride: “Successfully launching my company is a huge source of pride for me. I was 21 when I started Insurmi, maxing out credit cards and taking out loans just to get to the company off the ground. Looking back on it all – especially now having raised a $1 million investment – I’m immensely proud.”

Watching in 2020: “ The biggest innovation for insurance will be AI-powered technology. AI can be applied in a number of ways – chatbots perhaps being the most well-known – and its top benefits include increasing customer engagement, capturing business leads, and analyzing data. These can also translate into increased customer satisfaction, higher consumer retention rates, and significant cost savings by cutting down on administrative time and call center volume.

“The immediate impact of AI in the insurance sector will be twofold. First, quite simply, AI will bring insurance into the digital age by providing ways for companies to connect with consumers how they want to be communicated with. Secondly, AI is the key to bridging the millennial insurance gap, which is larger than ever. Millennial consumers value efficient, authentic experiences with brands and smooth-operating technology to help facilitate them. That said, AI is well-positioned to streamline insurance company’s complicated legacy workflows to deliver the immediate and easy-to-use consumer experience today’s millennials crave.”

Sidnee Peck, 37

Chief of staff, Zero Mass Water; founding member, Golden Seeds Arizona

Source of pride: “In my first year at ZMW I was entrusted with a project to manage and install a Hydropanel array in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria wiped out access to electricity and water to almost everyone on the island. I am incredibly proud to have led the project that now provides uninterrupted clean drinking water to community members in Utuado, PR, storm or shine.”

Watching in 2020: “Our company, Zero Mass Water, operates in a space that is just now starting to be defined: Renewables 2.0. The last 20 years have opened the minds of the mass market to the value and accessibility of renewable energy (the electricity we use to power our lives) using endless resources like the sun or wind. Now thought leaders and boundary-pushing entrepreneurs are looking at any and all resources we use, including what we spend our time on at ZMW: renewable water. This innovation – capturing water from an endless supply of water vapor in the air using only sunlight as a power source – will snowball, or hopefully avalanche, with myriad other innovations aiming to solve for truly resilient lifestyles driven by renewable resources. Some of these are simple by design, like going back to the “milkman model” for things like milk or other liquid consumables, and some require significant science and engineering, like better plastics that decompose (Loop, NüMilk (read more here), and The Renewal Workshop (more here) are just a few that inspire). The impact of this mindset shift, and hopefully new consumer standard, is not only transformative for our physical impact on this planet, but is frankly necessary for survival; to look at the impact of just one area, clean drinking water, we can look at gaps like the 2 million Americans without access to water (NPR report), and 2.1 billion globally (UN). ‘Sustainable’ products used to be a luxury and often a gimmick; today the better solution is not only superior, but often more affordable, too.”

Brian Poe, 39

Wealth counselor, Versant Capital Management

Source of pride:What I get most excited about is helping people with a financial plan that’s designed to reflect their goals beyond just their money. Through life’s major events – from marriage or divorce, to inheritance or selling their business – being a trusted family advisor that helps people prosper and thrive across generations is my most rewarding professional accomplishment.”

Watching in 2020:Women will control 70% of the U.S. wealth by the end of the decade. The average life expectancy of women today is 81 years. The average age a woman becomes a widow is 59. And 90% of women will be solely responsible for their finances at some point in their lives. Women have become significant household earners and more often are becoming the key decision makers. The need for better financial education and wealth management professionals who can relate and build ongoing relationships is crucial for this growing segment of women in money management.”

Hannah Porter, 31

Shareholder, Gallagher & Kennedy

Source of pride: “In 2018, I was the second chair in a month-long jury trial in which my client was accused of bribery.  The government ultimately ended up dropping all charges against my client. It was a hard-fought case that garnered a lot of publicity, so it was gratifying to get such a great result for my client.”

Watching in 2020: “As the amount of electronically stored information continues to grow, so too do the costs of pre-trial e-discovery.  These high costs, when coupled with the fact that Arizona courts require extensive early disclosure of information, are forcing clients to reevaluate whether mediation or another type of alternative dispute resolution makes more sense than litigation.”

Tiffany Pham, 30

Assistant vice president, treasury management application support, Western Alliance Bank

Source of pride:With 12 years in the banking industry, I’ve had some fantastic career-accelerating prospects that utilized both my background in economics and role as an accredited payments professional. Western Alliance Bank, Member FDIC, has afforded me many complex and exciting opportunities that are points of pride from growing our one-person team, among them, being called on as a Subject Matter Expert for the bank’s Electronic Banking Products and most notably, being a major contributor to large-scale projects, including systems mergers and conversions.”

Watching in 2020: “Technology is changing the shape of every industry. In 2020, I feel that tech innovations currently underway in banking, especially in my area of payments, will surge. The result will mean that banking will become more convenient and accessible to a wider range of busy business professionals. In the same vein, it will help our industry enhance connections with clients by increasing accessibility and improving communications.”

Scott Scharli, 37

Customer billing manager, SRP

Source of pride: “I helped lead a team that created a critically important customer-facing program in less than 45 days. The task at hand seemed almost impossible to accomplish and many doubted it could be done. This experience taught me to never underestimate the power of teamwork, and I am grateful to have been part of such an amazing accomplishment.

Watching in 2020: “Batteries. Large-scale batteries can fundamentally shift how power companies generate and distribute electricity, while residential-scale batteries will provide customers with greater control over their energy use. And batteries that power electric vehicles can lead to homes and businesses becoming the gas stations of the future.”

Amy Scoville-Weaver, 31

Sustainability program manager, Arizona State University

Source of pride: “My career has taken me around the world. When I returned to Phoenix, I wanted to continue to channel my experience and dedication to sustainability professionally in my home state. I’m incredibly proud of my position with ASU and the opportunities it gives me to direct our educational and research capacities to solve critical issues.”

Watching in 2020: “ As evident in the August 2019 Business Roundtable note, companies are taking center stage in solving the world’s biggest problems. Higher education institutions, such as ASU, provide crucial intellectual firepower to design innovative and informed solutions. As corporations continue to seek alliances in 2020, I envision ASU emerging as a thought partner and co-designer of solutions. The impact of this will be felt across our research, students, faculty and communities as we continue to explore how to design create and shape a future in which Earth will thrive.”

Matt Skelly, 29

Associate attorney, Burch & Cracchiolo

Source of pride: “Nothing makes me prouder than standing up for people who are being taken advantage of, and in this job, I’m lucky enough to get to do that on a regular basis. Most recently, a truck driver facing multiple personal challenges called me because the company he used to drive for sued him for something he didn’t do. He was in a difficult place, the company was treating him terribly, so I took his case to trial and now, instead of having to pay them, they owe him a significant amount.”

Watching in 2020: “As we’ve seen at Burch & Cracchiolo, recruitment of young legal talent is more competitive than ever.  This tells me that the legal industry is thriving and becoming more competitive, which means firms will have to focus on the little things that go into customer service more than ever to stay ahead of the curve.”

Adam Shipley, 24

Planning and zoning analyst, City of Maricopa

Source of pride: “As a City Planner and an Economic Development Practitioner, I curate a built environment that works for everyone. My proudest accomplishment is every time I help a new entrepreneur transform their dream into a reality, bringing a positive force into the community.”

Watching in 2020: “Climate change will have the biggest impact on development going forward. We need to think globally and act locally, mitigating climate change with net-zero waste buildings and adapt to drought, extreme heat, and climate refugees. The need for urban resiliency will redefine the way we plan, build, and live.”

Scott Vanderpool, 37

Senior vice president and Phoenix market executive, Bank of America

Source of pride: “Implementing a Hispanic-Latino Business Council strategy for Bank of America’s largest 20 Hispanic-Latino markets across the country, including a council here in Phoenix to direct more financial, philanthropic and thought leadership capital towards helping grow Hispanic-Latino businesses, clients and households. This included a new Spanish language multimedia marketing campaign and more than $3 million in Latino economic grants to build capacity for business-related nonprofits serving the communities with the largest Latino populations, including Phoenix and Tucson.”

Watching in 2020: “The continuing emergence and adoption of artificial intelligence within the financial industry to serve individuals, businesses and institutions with greater personalization. In addition, this will represent an opportunity for the workforce in our industry to reinvent itself as more functions and processes are digitized, which has the potential for more value-add human interaction and building personal relationships between client and for one on one advice and guidance.  I am most excited for this evolution to see how technology will allow us to better serve our clients and their highly individualized needs.”

Lindsi M. Weber, 40

Shareholder, Polsinelli

Source of pride: “In September I had the honor of being sworn in and admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court in a private ceremony at the Court, which is a moment I will always remember.  As for my daily practice, one major accomplishment was moving into the role as lead trial counsel with responsibility for developing case strategy and leading the trial team.”

Watching in 2020: “A trend I have seen recently and would like to see continue in 2020 is an increased awareness of the importance of being kind.  While litigation is contentious, I have found that a little bit of kindness can make a big difference in negotiations, improving the litigation process, and can be instrumental in obtaining positive results for my clients.”

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