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CEO of the Year finalists 2013: Success, in their own words

Lisa Ryckman //December 18, 2013//

CEO of the Year finalists 2013: Success, in their own words

Lisa Ryckman //December 18, 2013//

Art Nutter


CEO since: 1992

“Lead fearlessly. Capitalize on your strengths. Empower others. Know yourself. Understand when it’s time to let go and move on to your next opportunity.”


Paul Larkins

SquareTwo Financial

CEO since: 2009

“Never read your own tea leaves. Humility, and the shadow you cast, have a deep impact on the people you lead. Allow emerging leaders to get outside of their comfort zones. It is important to allow for this and accept that some failures will result. When failures do happen, turn them into learning and development opportunities. Make decisions!  One will rarely have all of the desired information when tough decisions need to be made, but that should not become an excuse for delays or a lack of decisioning. I have yet to make a ‘perfect’ decision – and I doubt I ever will.”


Brian Freeman

Growers Organic

CEO since: 2005

“Look to your peers for insight on how to make your business better. There are common elements to all businesses. Watch, listen closely and learn from others’ missteps. That awareness can help pave a smoother road for your journey. It is easy to get bogged down with the ‘what.’ Often, it is critical to focus instead on the ‘why’ – why do I get up every day and do what I do? In times of turmoil and uncertainty, it is the grounding influence of the ‘why’ that keeps us focused, motivated and optimistic.” 


Lisa Calkins

Amadeus Consulting

CEO since: 1994

“Remember to have fun on the path to where you are trying to go. Don’t wait to have fun until you get there. Every time I think I’m in a good place professionally, I find something bigger and better to strive for. I seek more because I believe there are always opportunities for growth, creativity and fun in the workplace. I incorporate some fun activity every day at work, whether that’s hosting company luncheons, hiking trips, winter sports ventures or game nights with employees. If you wait to get to the end to have fun, you will miss your chance. The journey is the best part.”


Lee McIntire

CH2M Hill

CEO since: 2009

“Put the best minds around you and keep them busy and happy. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Spend a lot of time on strategy and then stick to it with a vengeance. When jobs were difficult, I decided to get really good people around me. CEOs will all tell you to work on keeping them happy, not just with salary. Do they feel they’re learning? Challenge them. It takes time, and that means time advising, listening, empathizing and pushing them back into the ring. The good people rise, and then you have successors. It’s a circle.”


Michael Gellman


CEO since: 1998

“Be keenly aware! Listen to your customers, listen to your employees. Watch the trends, watch your financials. Talk to competitors, talk to your clients. Ultimately, the answers to most of your questions are right in front of you. Should you expand into a new vertical? What will your new product offering look like? How will you prepare for the future? At SpireMedia, my acuity has been my greatest tool. When we started, we were creating simple websites. Our clients were asking for guidance during the planning phases. We listened and we became one of the first firms to incorporate information architecture into our development process.

“Before the mobile app revolution, our partner AT&T told us they needed a group to help them evaluate the use of custom software on smartphones for business customers. We built a mobile research and development department. Later, when the iPhone was released, we were perfectly positioned to capitalize on the craze that would soon follow. Now, the market is telling us what’s next. Overall, as simple as it may seem – just open your eyes, take off your headphones, get out of the office. Cognizance is a major key to major success.”


Bill Graebel

Graebel Relocation Services

CEO since: 2007

“No matter where you may be in your career, and wherever in the world that business or life may take you, always be guided by principles of what is right, because the truth and ethics are the only way to conduct business and your life.”


Matt Taylor

Mercury Payment Systems

CEO since: 2009

“Work really hard to find great people and give them clear guardrails and the room to run. Remember to enjoy the process and the importance of building trust. And when it comes to building a great team, there are a million things that matter, but the ones that matter most are these: First, lead by example by being clear about your goals and crisp in your decision-making and consistent in follow-up. Second, suffer together. Seriously – teams are a necessity when the goal, obstacle or pressure is too much for an individual to achieve. Lastly, hold people accountable.”


Bill Carmichael

Summit Automotive Partners

CEO since: 2012

“You are not in competition with your managers; therefore, do not try to be the smartest person in the room. Your job is to inspire and empower. Encourage your managers and employees to project a voice and think strategically. This advice made me realize that creating high-performance employees and teams is based on them realizing they are empowered and have the ability to make a difference. This makes being a CEO so much more fun and rewarding. Ultimately, this helped me reach a high level of success in numerous situations.”


Peter Adams
Rockies Venture Club
CEO since: 2011

“The next generation of CEOs needs to be successful at synthesizing tons of complex information from many sources and disciplines and making new and innovative products, processes and services from them. To prepare for that, they will need to be trained in multiple disciplines and understand what the leading edge looks like from multiple perspectives. I started out in philosophy for many years before transitioning to business and technology. Having those different backgrounds has really helped me to take advantage of some great opportunities that have come my way.”