The 2018 Ingram’s 250

Before you can compile a roster of the most influential business executives in a market of nearly 3 million people, you first must define what it means to have influence as an executive, what it means to wield that power, and what it means, from that executive perch, to make a significant impact that goes beyond your company’s own financial interests.

Here at Ingram’s, we believe the metrics of top-line revenues and employee counts are just starting points. The way an executive or organization interacts with other businesses, with customers or clients, and with the broader community all count for much in the calculus of influence. Thus, an organization can punch above its weight as an influencer by being exceptionally philanthropic, perhaps, or by its leadership’s engagement with civic and charitable causes outside the office, or by taking on leadership roles associations specific to their industry.

True power in today’s workplace, properly understood, comes not from a top-down list of a chief executive’s commandments, but from a leader’s ability to articulate a vision and inspire others to achieve it. Not long ago, we quoted a university professor who categorized leadership as the ability to help employees achieve things they couldn’t do on their own. We think that’s about right.

In this, our third installment of the Ingram’s 250, you will see that subtext in the comments of executives who talk about the best advice they ever received from a mentor, lessons they learned from their very first jobs, how they overcame setbacks in their careers or organizations, their most effective tools for motivating employees, other CEOs they see as role models, and many other insights. In many instances, you will find that their responses
both delight you and resonate with your own value sets.

From any one respondent, the answers to these queries might shed a little light on that individual’s personality and value system. Taken in the aggregate, viewed across the full field of this region’s top executives who shared their thoughts from so many different industries, backgrounds and perspectives, what you end up with is a manual, of sorts. The guidance from these thought leaders is not a prescription for how to comport yourself in a leadership role, but how to THINK about the way you want to execute your own leadership responsibilities. What you won’t find in the following series of 42 pages are cookie-cutter questions and answers for all being recognized. This field is significantly different from last year’s in some aspects, and more so from the previous year.

We’ve strategically tiered the questioning of respondents to help readers catch on some of the basic values expressed by honorees from the inaugural i250 in 2016 and the new honorees in 2017 who are back this year.

None of this would be possible, of course, without the frankness and candor—at times, on a deeply personal level—that respondents provided to our questions. Not everyone wanted to answer every question, and in some cases— perhaps as high as 10%—honorees declined to respond altogether. We included the latter group in any case, because their positions of influence in regional commerce simply can’t be disputed, ignored or omitted. Maybe they’ll be on board next year, eh?

For Ingram’s editors, this exercise has been a great way to better know Kansas City’s power structure on a deeper level. But consider this: If the pages you’re about to read were put in front of someone who has never been to Kansas City or knows nothing about our quality of life or business infrastructure, what would the totality of these executive profiles tell them? We believe that they would see a collaborative, fertile, open, robust and engaging commercial ecosystem fully capable of supporting their enterprises, should they choose to be a part of this economy. A place where their company would have its best opportunity for long-term success. And isn’t that, after all, what business is all about?

For those who did take part and who shared their stories, we offer our most sincere thanks. We quite literally could not have done this without you. Enjoy!

adams-robROB ADAMS 

Every law firm of scale has its rainmakers, the partners who drive a disproportionate amount of the organization’s revenues. So if you plan on spending much time with Rob Adams, bring an umbrella: He’s a go-to member of the legal brain trust at the region’s largest law firm, working primarily in product liability, intellectual property litigation, insurance coverage litigation and commercial litigation.

COLLEGE: B.A., University of Kansas; J.D., University of Missouri-Columbia

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Cleaning tables. I learned that I did not want to make a living in the food business.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “One great piece of advice that I have written on a card on my desk is ‘to do anything less than your best, is to sacrifice your gift.’”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Showing appreciation for their work. Studies show that the No. 1 reason why people leave jobs is lack of appreciation. It takes a few moments, but it is so important to tell your co-workers how grateful you are for their work. Do it.”

HONORS: Adams has earned numerous honors from various legal associations and publications, including Missouri Lawyer of the Year.



On June 20, Mauli Agrawal became UMKC chancellor after a successful career in leadership at the University of Texas-San Antonio. Judging from this quote, it seems we have a lot to look forward to: “I am confident that with UMKC and the city working together, UMKC will become a university recognized widely for its excellence and Kansas City will emerge as one of the top cities of the 21st century.”

COLLEGE: Bachelor’s degree, Technology, IIT-Kanpur, India; Master’s Degree, Clemson University; Ph.D., Duke University

TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “If you are not afraid of failure and give yourself stretch goals, you will achieve things that you did not know you were capable of. However, in the process always stay true to yourself and to others.”

MOST ADMIRED CEO: “Ed Whitacre was able to rebuild AT&T into the global leader in telecommunications. He also turned around GM from bankruptcy within a few months (with) a laser-like focus on goals and a corporate culture where everyone is valuable.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “Already checked off: A photo safari on the Serengeti.”

STILL ON THE LIST: “Travel down the Amazon.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Art. Oil painting.”



In April, Matt All became the eighth leader of the largest health insurer in his native Kansas. He spent 10 executive years with the company after garnering valuable government-sector experience as an assistant insurance commissioner and chief counsel to the governor. His multi-faceted new job includes the positions of chair-man of Advance Insurance Company of Kansas, and chairman/CEO of BlueCross BlueShield Kansas Solutions.

COLLEGE: B.A., University of Kansas; J.D., Yale Law School

ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Keep the ends and the means of your life in their proper places. Your happiness, your relationships with loved ones, the good you do for others—those are ends in themselves. Your job, no matter how important you think it is, is only a means to those ends.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was CEO of the most important collective effort in human history. He never lost his humility or his humanity.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “One thing: To see my children grow up and live happy lives. If I get to see that, nothing else will compare. (Going to outer space would be cool, though!)”

PASSION/HOBBY: “One constant in my life has been music. I grew up singing, and I’m an avid fan of a wide array of musicians and composers.”




Land, sea and air travelers worldwide travel with confidence because of the vehicle-safety products Peterson Manufacturing produces under Don Armacost’s leadership. On his team of more than 650 are many second- and third-generation associates whose work has earned the company high industry praise. Armacost is in his 61st year there, having steered the company in new growth directions after offshore suppliers lured away key customers during the Great Recession.

COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, University of Missouri-Kansas City

EMERGING TREND: “The continual rise of healthcare costs and continued loss of business to importers not burdened with our labor, social and tax costs.”

SCARIEST MOMENT: His wife’s surgery after four hospitalizations. “On the day of her dismissal, we were within a quarter mile of our home when she had a seizure,” he remembers. “We called 911 and went back to the hospital and the ICU. That was the worst and scariest two months of my life. Lesson learned? Nothing is easy and life sure takes some twists and turns.”

FAVORITE BOOK: “The Joe Pickett series from CJ. Box.”


FIRST CAR: “1953 Studebaker Commander.”




Adam Aron leads the nation’s biggest player in cinema: The Leawood company and its Chinese parent have more than 1,000 theatres and 11,000 screens worldwide. He’s been in that role since January 2016, following a stint as CEO of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide (most of his career was in the hotel subset of the hospitality sector), and he’s on the board of directors of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

NOT SITTING STILL: Under Aron’s watch this past year, AMC has rolled out its innovative VIP loyalty tier program, the AMC Stubs A-List. In less than two months, it was already accounting for roughly 5 percent of sales.

EASY ACCESS: You probably don’t have to go far to take a seat in one of the company’s theaters—it has 640 venues across the U.S. alone.

THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! His interest in business is far broader than cinematic entertainment; Aron is also a co-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, where he was formerly CEO.

GOING GLOBAL: Since 2012, AMC has been an operating unit of the world’s largest theater chain, China’s Dalian Wanda Group.




The third generation ownership at one of the region’s largest grocery chains started early: “I shagged grocery carts from the lot when I was six years old,” David Ball recalls. He’s come a long way since and now runs the 28-store operation. Success comes from staying positive and true to a vision of being the best-run, friendliest supermarkets in town, with teammates passionate about providing excellent customer service and where customers love to shop.”

COLLEGE: B.A., Personnel Administration, University of Kansas

FIRST JOB: “After college, I was a bakery manager for the stores, and it was one of my most favorite jobs.” His favorite production task: “Buttered croissants.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Something in servant-leadership, probably. I never really thought about it—I knew what I wanted to do when I was just 10 or 11.”

CHANGING SECTOR: “I’ve lived through quite a few cycles of our industry, but I have a lot of hope for it, especially for our teammates: They’re great ones to work with and I get the most pride and joy watching them grow.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “By listening. Being engaged in the moment and listening.”




Few look back happily on the days of the 2008 financial crisis, but count Whitney Bartelli among them. She credits getting caught up in a work-force reduction in those days with putting her on her current career path—a change in trajectory that she might otherwise have missed. Away from the office, she dedicates herself to organizations including Executive Women’s Leadership Council (part of the KC Chamber of Commerce).

COLLEGE: B.F.A., Communications, Pittsburg State University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I worked for a small PR firm right out of college. I learned the importance of rolling up my sleeves and doing whatever was needed to be a team player, from meeting clients and writing press releases to balancing the ledger, assembling furniture and taking out the trash!”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I may have missed a calling to be a therapist. I’m a good listener and enjoy helping people problem solve.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Be yourself. Don’t try to copy another leadership style. It’s important to be authentic and accessible.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Demonstrating empathy.”




When the winds of retirement change blew through the Commerce Bank shares organization earlier this year, they filled the sails on Kevin Barth’s 34-year career at one of the biggest banks in the state. Previously the COO and market president, he succeeded Jonathan Kemper as chairman and CEO of the KC operations. He also retained responsibility for the bank’s commercial line of business, including strategy, product development and policy.

COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration/Economics, Graceland College; M.B.A., Rockhurst University

CIVIC SOLDIER: In addition to his day job, Barth also holds board seats with the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Children’s Mercy Kansas City, Kansas City Life Insurance Co., Kansas City Area Development Council, and Hodgdon Powder Co. Before that, he also held board roles with the former Kansas City Board of Trade, Cereal Food Processors and Starlight Theatre.

EARLY RISER: Barth was among the members of Ingram’s inaugural 40 Under Forty Class when that feature debuted in 1998.

MOVING ON UP: With Barth’s ascendancy, two other names take on additional prominence in local banking circles: Rob Bratcher steps into the market president’s role, and Nick Warren fills in as president of regional banking. 




The youth movement sweeping America’s work force is not sparing boutique law firms, even a highly successful litigation firm like Jim Bartimus runs. “For the first time, we have five generations alive at the same time, and they all process information differently,” he says. “Our social media was meeting at the courthouse on Monday for docket call, and we dealt with each other face to face; today, it’s all instant messages and Twitter.”

COLLEGE: B.A., University of Missouri; J.D., UMKC School of Law

WHO PLAYS JIM BARTIMUS ON TV IN “KC LAW?” “No comment. I did send that question around the office, and got everything from Sean Connery to Robert DeNiro. The older model of Sean Connery, I was told.”

NATION YOU MOST WANT TO VISIT: “Portugal. But I’m going next month. Next year, the Baltics.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Teach them the value of persistence. If there’s a single word, I think that’s it. Calvin Coolidge’s ‘Press On’ was a favorite of my Dad’s. We’re all going to be faced with adverse situations, and even joyful things can slow you down at times, but you have to be able to press on.”




A year ago, he was leading a $2.7 billion company. Today, it’s in the $5.2 billion range. That’s because after more than three years of penning new choreography that danced to the tune of regulators, Terry Bassham’s Great Plains Energy was able to merge with Topeka-based Westar Energy this year. He’s now CEO of Kansas City Power & Light and its parent company Evergy.

COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting, University of Texas-Arlington; J.D., St. Mary’s University Law School, San Antonio

THROUGH THE RANKS: This native Texan joined Great Plains in 2005 as chief financial officer, moved up to vice president-utility operations and then to the CEO’s office.

NEW BRAND: He’ll need new business cards with the change in the parent company’s name, from Great Plains Energy to Evergy (but KCP&L is still KCP&L).

POWERHOUSE COMPANY: The combined operation, with roughly 1.5 million customers in Missouri and Kansas, has about 5,000 employees.

INVESTORS ON BOARD: Trading in Evergy shares opened in June at 54.25; by late August, that was up to $57.85.



Kansas City native Marion Battaglia isn’t just all about the sale—he’s all about the sale to discerning buyers looking for the best value, fit and feel in a luxury car. A veteran of that trade for 35 years, he’s been with Soave since 2006, leading a team selling high-end vehicles to a largely high-end clientele. One key to the corporate success: He empowers employees to make decisions in the best interest of the customer without direct approval from their managers.

BRAND COMMAND: The auto group is made up of Aristocrat Motors and Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City, with a line-up that includes Mercedes-Benz, smart, Porsche, Land Rover, Jaguar, Maserati, and Sprinter.

INDUSTRY CHOPS: Battaglia sits on the board of the Kansas City Motor Car Dealers Association, and has held seats on the VW Regional Advisory Council and The National BMW Dealer Board.

PHILANTHROPIC DRIVE: He also directs the dealership’s support for diverse charitable organizations that includes Sleepyhead Beds, Uplift, Harvesters, the Ali Kemp Foundation, Hope House, the Kansas City Art Institute and the University of Kansas Hospital.




Jonathan Baum runs a family firm with Kansas City roots dating back to 1928. George K. Baum grew to become a powerhouse in the world of municipal finance, underwriting bonds for a lot of
important projects during and after World War II. The national reputation it earned allowed Baum to later move into corporate finance, where this third-generation leader oversees a nationwideteam of some 200 financial professionals.

COLLEGE: B.S., Kansas State University; M.B.A., University of Chicago-Booth School of Business

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I was as a fitness trainer for Jamie Kemper’s polo ponies. It was my job to make sure they were fit and ready to perform at the highest
level on the Polo Field. Performing consistently at a high level takes commitment and training.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE HAD ANY OTHER CAREER: “I would have been a veterinarian.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “As a leader, many decisions you must make will behard; always treat the people involved just a little more than fairly.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Is with a common and shared vision for the future.”



Kimberly Beatty is another recent and welcome addition to the Kansas City community, having arrived at MCC as chancellor last summer. She served in a variety of roles at four of the nation’s best community colleges, and brings to this job a perspective ranging from the classroom to the top administrative ranks. She looks forward to advancing, “MCC’s mission of preparing students, serving communities and creating opportunities.”

COLLEGE: B.A. in English, M.A. in English, Ed.D. in higher education with a specialization in community college leadership, all from Morgan State University in Baltimore

BEST ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Walk and lead in your truth!”

MOST ADMIRED CEO: “Barack Obama—his skill of negotiation, especially when the odds were against him, his humbleness, even though he was in the highest office—
he remained true to who he was.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Being placed in my current position
as chancellor of Metropolitan Community College.”

BUCKET LIST NO.1: “A national leadership role.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Gardening.”






From the design and building phase and throughout the life of a facility, Smitty Belcher’s company is there with infrastructure and management solutions that have built P1 a reputation among commercial, education, government/military, healthcare, industrial/manufacturing and nuclear industry clients. P1 is employee-friendly, too, having received an Ingram’s Best Company to Work For award.

COLLEGE: B.S., M.B.A., University of Toledo

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “In a marina, refinishing wood boats. It was really hard work and it instilled in me, at a very early age, to always take pride in what you do.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I can’t imagine doing anything else than what I’ve always done.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Never ask someone to do something you are not willing to do yourself.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “I went to engineering school for a semester and left because I didn’t think I needed a formal education. Many years later, I went on to get both a bachelor’s and master’s degree because I learned that to truly succeed in business, I needed to understand all aspects and combine business savvy with skilled trade.”




One of the region’s premier lights in trust management, Brad Bergman has been in the financial-services sector for more than 30 years, including his time as a commercial banker. But he’s also served as a law-firm partner and taught law classes. His field of expertise lies in providing guidance to clients in education, health care and wellness, and historical preservation.

COLLEGE: B.S., Illinois State; J.D., Washburn University

MULTI-TASKING: Bergman has had roles with various MTC Holding Corp. affiliates, including Trust Sourcing Solutions, Private Trust Group of America, Midwest Trust Company of Missouri, Trust Technology Solutions, Benefit Trust Company, Progressive Technology Integrators, FCI Advisors, and Mainstar Trust.

CERTIFIED: Bergman has also qualified as a Certified Financial Planner, and is a member of both the Missouri and Kansas bar associations.

VARIED INTERESTS: Outside the office, he’s involved with the Kansas City Estate Planning Society, chairs the board for the Johnson County Community College Foundation,
and sits on the boards or advisory boards of the National World War I Museum, the Nature Conservancy of Kansas and the Blue Valley school district.




For more than 130 years, Tension Corp. has been a fixture in KC, and a prominent one (the Berkley family, after all, produced a mayor here). After re-branding in 2011 to reflect its competencies that now go far beyond stationary and printing materials, it has become a global company under the direction of Bill Berkley, who joined the company in 1977. It still produces envelopes, of course, but also packaging and automation solutions for companies across the country.

COLLEGE: B.A., Colorado College; M.B.A., Dartmouth College-Tuck School of Business

FAMILY TIES: Berkley represents the fourth generation of family ownership at the company, and has worked to diversify into packaging and automation and international

GLOBAL REACH: In the 1990s, Tension went international with overseas operations, and today has facilities in China and Taiwan, and an operating alliance in Australia.

TOP 100: With revenues of $230 million in 2017, Tension was No. 61 on this year’s Ingram’s 100 listing of the region’s largest private companies.

CIVIC SOLDIER: Berkley is on the boards of the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, BioNexus KC and the Hall Family Foundation, and previously served as chairman of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and the Heartland Civic Collaborative.




You might say that advertising is a strand in Steve Bernstein’s DNA. After all, his father was the local ad-man legend Bob Bernstein, and the local lore holds that a 10-year-old Steve helped inspire the firm’s work for McDonald’s, giving us the Happy Meal. Now two decades into his own advertising career, he leads a firm that proudly claims a place among the largest independent U.S. advertising agencies.

COLLEGE: B.S., University of Arizona; J.D., M.B.A., University of Missouri-Kansas City

BIG-TIME CLIENTS: Over the years, Bernstein-Rein has worked on campaigns for various national mega-brands, including Wal-Mart. And B-R was one of seven agencies
still standing when long-time client McDonald’s cut its local agency affiliations from 60 firms last year.

OUTSIDE THE OFFICE: Bernstein is on the boards for UMKC, the Children’s Place and the University of Arizona Alumni Association. He’s also a member of the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, and has a history of board services that includes the Kansas City Zoo and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Village Shalom, the Jewish Community Center of Kansas City and the Jewish Federation of Kansas City.




Marty Bicknell leads a team that Barron’s ranked in the top two Independent Advisory Firms for both 2016 and 2017. He and a team of seven started Mariner Wealth Advisors in 2006
and have achieved such success that Bicknell now spends time mentoring other successful entrepreneurs. In addition to maintaining a priority focus on customers, he prioritizes doing for others through a sizeable collection of volunteer commitments.

COLLEGE: B.S., Political Science, Pittsburg State University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: Mowing and weed eating at a country club in Pittsburg, Kan. While all my friends were working in the pro shop or at their dad’s office, my dad thought a job with sweating and seeing snakes on a daily basis would build character.

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Keep your promises and live by the rule of abundance. The more people I can help achieve their goals, the happier I am.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “When my mentor, the CEO at A.G. Edwards, was replaced. The company I loved quickly changed into a culture I no longer recognized. I overcame it by leaving the company with one goal—to create something I could be proud of again. Shortly after, I started Mariner Wealth Advisors.”

BEST TOOL TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Be available and spend time with them.”




Mark One Electric is not your typical family-owned business. For one, it’s among the largest companies with majority ownership by a woman, knocking out $90 million in 2017 revenues. For another, the leadership—President Rosie Privitera-Biondo and her brothers, Joe, Carl and Tony—frequently place the company squarely behind high-visibility public works projects, as with the first phase of the Downtown streetcar line.

COLLEGE: University of Missouri Kansas City

BUILDING ON A LEGACY: The company ownership passed to the four siblings from their parents, founders Red Privitera and his wife of 62 years, the late Josephine Privitera. “We learned so much from both my parents,” Rosie says. “They instilled in us beliefs: that hard work pays off, that staying positive is essential and that staying focused on a goal will help you achieve success.”

SAFETY FIRST: Even in the risky environs of construction, electrical contracting can be dangerous work. Mark One has addressed the threat with its own inhouse, OSHA-trained safety officer, and all employees—field and office staff alike—undergo rigorous OSHA 10 instruction.



In today’s global business world, Brent Blake’s travel company focuses not just on getting people to destinations, but getting them the best return on their travel investments. Acendas Travel provides customized travel purchase options, analytics monitoring the success of travel programs and strategic initiatives that give clients access to the latest developments in the industry. It also provides crisis management that helps ensure travelers’ safety.

COLLEGE: B.S., Marketing, Oral Roberts University

ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “I give the same advice a mentor gave me: ‘It should always be about your team and never about you.’”

MOST ADMIRED CEO: “He wasn’t a CEO, but my dad was the best leader I ever knew.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Helping to lead a company that not only survived industry upheaval and business-model change, but prospered as a result.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “Being in the travel business, that’s a long list, but an African photo safari is still on it.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “My passion is wine but my hobby is golf, and I’ll never master either one!”

FAVORITE BOOK/MOVIE: “Good to Great by Jim Collins changed my career.”




Ken Block is part of a family legacy that has come to be synonymous with commercial real estate here. He learned the benefit of working hard and smart at a young age and hasn’t stopped since,
getting into real estate back in 1975. Block has been involved in the development of roughly 220 buildings with a total value exceeding $1.3 billion and more than $2.5 billion in transactions
overall in building the region’s largest commercial real estate firm.

COLLEGE: Michigan State University Honors College

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Sealcoating asphalt driveways with a buddy during my sophomore year of high school. I learned that a lot of hard work and good salesmanship
could make you some real money and fast.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER:“Working on Wall Street with a hedge-fund firm. … With a good level of salesmanship, integrity and keeping your client’s needs foremost, I believe that I could have been very successful.”

MENTOR’S BEST ADVICE: “To be a good leader, you need to show those whom you are trying to lead that you will work as hard or harder than any of them. Also, you have to be willing to listen to a lot of questions and, in turn, give very thorough and complete responses, so people can understand and learn from your leadership skills.”



Mark Bluhm is the kind of business attorney you want in your corner. As co-founder of a startup healthcare company, a bank director for 25 years and a top-of-the class MBA graduate, he knows the business world on a personal level. He’s also the kind of boss you want as an attorney, because he knows all about the uphill climb. The first two times he applied for summer clerkships while in law school, he was turned down. The law firm? The one of which he is now chairman!

COLLEGE: B.A., Stanford University; J.D., M.B.A., Washington University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I mowed lawns at Lake Lotawana during my grade-school summers. What did I learn? It gets awfully hot mowing large, sloped lake lawns in the summer; the earlier you get it done, the sooner you can go water skiing!”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “If I had known how much professional baseball players would come to make, I would have learned how to be a pitcher. Unfortunately, I would have had to learn how to throw strikes faster than 60 mph.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Ask them what they like and don’t like to do, then try to put them in a position to enjoy their jobs and be successful.”



Here’s one good reason Mayor Boehm has run unopposed since taking office in 2003. The government he leads keeps Lenexa not only a great place to live, but a solid investment, too. Once again,
this year, both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s (S&P) gave Lenexa AAA rating. Excellent management of city resources and an FY17 budget surplus were among the reasons S&P cited for awarding
Lenexa top bond status.

COLLEGE B.S., Business Administration, University of Kansas.

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Working part-time summer job at a local sod farm. Dirty, hot, long days. I learned that I did not want to be a laborer after high school.”

MENTOR’S BEST ADVICE: “Surround yourself with people who supplement your weaknesses and shortcomings, provide them with goals and objectives, compensate them fairly, and stay out of their way (trust them). They will lift you up and help you be successful.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “My biggest challenge was learning to be comfortable speaking in front of a crowd, which was forced upon me when I was appointed mayor in January of 2003 and had to deliver my first state of the city address to a crowd of over 300 people 45 days later!”




The firm founded by Brad Botteron’s grandfather in 1930 has grown, over nearly 90 years, to become a national provider of integrated
technology solutions industrial, retail, health care, and settings. For 38 of those years, Botteron has worked the ropes and moved into the leadership position, which he turned over day-to-day duties to Brian Sloan, the first non-family member to lead the Lenexa company.

COLLEGE: B.S., Brigham Young University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED:“Mowing lawns at a young age enabled me to experience the joy of work and the sense of accomplishment that comes from a job

MENTOR’S BEST ADVICE: “Like millions of others, I was inspired by Jim Collins’ famous quote, “Good is the enemy of great.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “Early in my career I placed too much responsibility on people who weren’t properly prepared or supported. To prevent this, we’ve developed training and management processes that ensure personal and project success.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Supporting them with excellent training, providing challenging opportunities, rewarding their success and expressing appreciation.”




David Brain has a wake-up call for every would-be entrepreneur: “We talk about entrepreneurs as being their own boss,” he says. “But the reality is, you have all kinds of bosses, your customers.
They decide what they want and when they want it.” After starting in consulting, he founded what is now EPR Properties, a real-estate investment trust, and built it into a nearly $400 million
company before leaving as CEO in 2015 and founding Brown Cow.

COLLEGE: B.A., Tulane University; M.B.A., Freeman Graduate School of Business

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED:“I washed dishes at the Dixie Kitchen at 103rd and Wornall. When it was rush hour, all hell broke loose. It was very demanding, and it was a teamwork job; it required coordination, staying at it and hard work. I don’t want to sound elitist, but I didn’t want to wash dishes the rest of my life—I wanted to focus on education and something more value-added than manual labor.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Bob Linder, the managing partner at KPMG when I was in consulting, had one word for me: Focus. At that point, I was interested in so many things, but you have to give it some level of focus—and focus on being focused.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Sharing. Sharing the financial rewards, the leadership, the credit, not trying to gather everything in and hold them out as employees, but as partners.”




Corporate clients interested in a heavyweight contender need look no further than Perry Brandt. His experience is as broad as his reputation for success. With the recent merger of Bryan Cave and Leighton Paisner, Brandt and his Kansas City team can look forward to providing comprehensive legal services across the U.S. for a firm that represents 53 of the world’s top 100 companies.

COLLEGE: B.A., Vanderbilt University; J.D., Vanderbilt University Law School

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “During college and also before law school, I waited tables. It was invaluable experience: I truly learned the importance and value of customer (now client) service.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “This is easy. I’m taking electric bass lessons. I should have been a rock star.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Be authentic. Everything follows from that.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “There are setbacks all the time. Get up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward.”




Some of us went bust in the office pool, betting on what food Steven Bresky wouldn’t want to live without. Our best guesses: spare ribs, pulled pork, turkey legs. After all, those are staples in the nearly $6 billion empire that is Seaboard Corp. So when he told us, “Crispix” … oh, well. Seaboard has plenty of other interests, including shipping, milling, commodities and energy, but it’s best known around the world for providing the main course.

ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Be creative, but be practical, too.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Warren Buffett; simple, rational and straightforward.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Upholding our company reputation.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “Swimming with dolphins.”



FAVORITE MOVIE: “Goodfellas.”



Well into his fourth decade in the business, Bucky Brooks enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a true mover and shaker in his field. Judge that by his recent projects alone: developing the $32 million Midwest Gateway distribution complex in Kansas and the $31 Million Addison Tech Center investment sale near Dallas. His wide-ranging career has seen him completing transactions throughout all 50 states and Canada.

COLLEGE: B.B.A., Real Estate/Regional Science, Southern Methodist University; Harvard Graduate School of Design, AMD Real Estate

ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Go for it. Risk new ideas and push yourself into the uncharted. Learn the vital lessons from past success and mistakes, but don’t get lulled into the safe “ ‘way it’s always been done before.’ ”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Steve Jobs: fearless, bold, visionary, big thinker.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “By far, it’s earning immense trust from clients.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “Learning to play blues guitar.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Reading Nonfiction and modern American poetry.”

FAVORITE BOOK/MOVIE: “Journey of Souls by Michael Newton, Ph.D.”

ONE FOOD YOU WOULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT: “Porcupine meatballs.”



Rob Broomfield is a man on a mission. As the market president for the nation’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealthcare, his job is all about finding ways for people with health insurance, especially those covered by their employers, to capture true value in their investment. “We’ve got to find a way to control overall costs,” says Broomfield, who oversees operations in Missouri, Kansas and Iowa, especially from smoking, diabetes and obesity.

College; B.A., Finance, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

IN THE WORKPLACE: “If you think about what employers are trying to do these days, it’s all about engaging their members,” Broomfield says. “We try to help people live healthier lives, and that’s what drives utilization down and makes health care more affordable for everybody.”

LOW-HANGING FRUIT: “Between 50 and 70 percent of health-care utilization involves lifestyle choices,” he says. “In Kansas, Missouri and Iowa, smoking rates declined, but not as much as others. But since 1989, obesity rates have tripled. So about 10 percent of the population is driving 90 percent of the costs.”

DATA DEPENDENCY: “The more we know about how a patient engages in health care,” he says, “that will help drive down costs as well.”



If Mike Brown had any guidance for Chinese business mogul Jack Ma, it might be this: “Be careful what you wish for.” Last year, Brown’s Euronet lost out to Ma’s Ant Financial in its bid to acquire web-payments processor Moneygram, but in January federal regulators nixed the deal. Then late disclosures from Moneygram cooled interest from Euronet, which went on to acquire
Innova Tax Free Group in April.

COLLEGE: B.S., Electrical Engineering, University of Missouri-Columbia; M.S., Molecular and Cellular Biology, UMKC

STILL GROWING: Euronet’s 2017 income of $2.25 billion was up a healthy 15 percent from the previous year.

GLOBAL REACH: Euronet’s payment and transaction-processing options for financial institutions, retailers, service providers and individuals spans the planet. It has nearly 38,400 ATMs, and more than 263,000 point-of-sale terminals.

MORE THAN ATMS: The company also has outsourced debit and credit card services under management in 53 countries, and from its base in Leawood serves clients in roughly 160 countries.





After doubling revenues as president and CEO of AMC Entertainment, and moving the private company into the Fortune 1000, Peter Brown went on to found Grassmere Partners. He and his
colleagues bring more than just capital to the table. Real-world experience like Brown’s, combined with unparalleled financial knowledge, allows Grassmere to be a value-enhancing partner
for the management teams of companies in which they invest.

COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, University of Kansas

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I worked at the Woodside Racket Club pro shop, where I learned the importance of being able to work colleagially with others.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER:“I would have been an artist, because the idea of creating something beautiful for the world to see is inspiring.”

BEST ADVICE FROM MENTOR: “Be absolutely passionate about what you do, or do something else.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS:“When things I have been involved in didn’t work out the way they were planned, I stayed positive and didn’t stop working to improve.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Being a good role model.”



Julie Browne’s most effective tool for motivating employees, she says, is “celebrating success.” And there’s plenty to celebrate at GEHA. It started 80 years ago to help railway mail clerks and
their families pay the cost of hospitalization. Today, GEHA is one of the nation’s largest health and dental plans for civilian federal employees, providing coverage to nearly 2 million people.

COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration and Marketing, Kansas State University; M.B.A., Management Information Systems, UMKC

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “My first job was babysitting, and I learned I wanted to wait to have my own family! Another early job was working at a donut shop. I learned that 5:30 am is too early in the morning!”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I’ve always been interested in health care and started college in Pre-Med, before switching to business school. Thankfully, I’ve found a path that didn’t include hands-on dissection in Anatomy Lab.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “As our business evolves, we research and try new ideas and develop new ventures. If an investment doesn’t meet expectations, it’s best to learn from that experience, take time to align against strategy and focus on what’s next.”




Is eCommerce killing retail? Well, it may be transforming it, but retail is still a force to be reckoned with. As Owen Buckley’s LANE4 Property Group noted in its 2018 Orange Report, demand for retail space pushed rental rates up 11 percent over the past year, in part driven by a repurposing of locations that don’t fit current consumer buying trends. Buckley has been in the thick of retail development for 33 years, founding LANE4 in 2006.

COLLEGE: B.A., M.B.A., the University of Kansas

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I was in banking in Nebraska and learned about business failure and the subsequent disruption to families during the farm crisis. I have tried to avoid similar situations ever since.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Communicate and set expectations. Nobody likes surprises (unless they are happy surprises).”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Respect each other and focus on the positives each of us bring to the table.”

STAYING BUSY: Buckley’s firm has been involved with more than $200 million of completed development and acquisition of properties over the past three years.




He’s set a Nov. 2 departure date at Cerner, but Zane Burke will leave on a high note: The company logged a record $6.32 billion in new client contracts last year, along with $5.14 billion in revenue,
another record. It just won a $10 billion contract focused on revamping the VA’s systems to match the record-keeping at Department of Defense. That, he said, is “an opportunity to assist our nation’s active and retired service members to create seamless care.”

COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting, MBA, Kansas State University

BEST ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Become an expert on something; go deep in an area that is new and become valuable.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Howard Schultz, Starbucks. Howard did the right thing for his employees, customers and shareholders; very effective with social responsibility.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Winning Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs contracts.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “To see Kansas State University football and basketball teams compete in the National Championship games.”

WHAT EMERGING BUSINESS TREND KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? “The need for world-class talent to compete in our global economy.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Live music and entertainment.”




More than an hour separated David Byrd’s North Carolina hometown from the YMCA in Charlotte, so he didn’t get to experience its youth programs then. Well, he’s made up for it: A career in executive roles took him to Durham, Jacksonville, Orlando, Charlotte and Nashville before he landed here in 2010. Among his biggest achievements: Amassing support, funding and approval for a $32 million Downtown Y expected to open in 2020.

COLLEGE: B.A., High Point University; M.A., Health Education in Business/Applied Science, University of North Carolina

RARE COMPANY: Although the Kansas City YMCA is nearly 160 years old— almost as old as the city itself—Byrd is just the ninth CEO in that span.

NASCAR-BRED: He grew up in a NASCAR world, and as a youth, sold sodas at the dirt track in Rockingham.

CAREER COUNSEL: While still in college pursuing studies in non-profit leadership, a professor suggested he check into the local YMCA. It was a match made in . . . well, it was made in North Carolina, but it was definitely a match.

CROWN JEWEL: When the Downtown facility is completed, it’s expected to attract 5,000 members and serve 15,000 through its various programs. The building will also function as a community center.




Rib rub recipes got you stumped? Maybe you need to book some time with Mark Campbell. After nearly three decades in pork-production roles, he knows what it takes to get it from farm
to grocer and from grill to plate. He’s been CEO at Triumph since 2014, stepping into that role after a decade as chief operating officer, overseeing a processing plant that, with 2,800 workers,
is among the largest employers in St. Joseph.

COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting, Westminster College; M.B.A., Rockhurst College

THE WAY UP: Before settling in with Triumph, Campbell logged 17 years with Seaboard Corp., including stints as CFO, in operations and in business development. He got there from KPMG, where he’d been in public accounting.

FARM ROOTS: Campbell hails from rural Illinois, and was raised on a small farm there.

DINNER IS SERVED: The Triumph production facility in St. Joseph turns out 1.5 billion pounds of pork every year. Do the math: That’s nearly 1½ tons a minute, every minute of the year.




He was once a starry-eyed entrepreneur himself, but unlike the legions that try and fail, Faruk Capan hit one out of the park. He founded Intouch Solutions to provide digital marketing support for the pharmaceutical industry, and those companies—with a little help from hundreds of hires he’s made—have helped turn his enterprise into one of the region’s recent additions to the $100 million-revenue-club.

COLLEGE: Marmara University, Istanbul, Turkey; M.B.A., Business Administration and Management, Central Missouri State University

RAPID HIRING: Intouch has been hiring in waves in recent years; since the end of 2013, its work force has nearly doubled, from 390 to more than 700.

TOLD YA SO: His company was just five years old when Ingram’s identified Capan as a rising young executive, including him in its 2004 class of 40 Under Forty.






When the parent of YRC Logistics decided it was time for that enterprise to stand on its own, John Carr was part of the team it relied on to execute that strategy; today, he’s running the show for the company based in Overland Park. MIQ has a global reach, with offices in North and South America, Asia and Europe. Its goal is to help companies improve their transportation networks and supply-chain efficiency.

COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, M.S., Counseling Psychology, University of Southern Mississippi

THE PATH TO MIQ: A 30-year veteran of the logistics sector, Carr previously served as president of Global Supply Chain Management at BAX Global Logistics. That came after stints with Fritz Companies and Profit/LEP International.

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: The company sharpens the skills of its work force of more than 1,000 with focused training and seminars, then rewards them with competitive pay, pay-for-performance bonuses and other special recognition.

OUTSIDE INTERESTS: Carr’s history of industry and academic support includes a seat on the advisory board for the executive master’s degree in International Logistics at Georgia Tech, and the advisory board (including time as chairman) of Kidz2Leaders, a nonprofit organization serving children of people who are in prison or jail.



On his way up, Tim Chadwick developed a learn-by-doing construction skill set. But lack of formal leadership training no longer cuts it, which is why he signed on with the leadership-development program at his alma mater. “My career is no longer just about math and science, or bricks and sticks on the job site,” he told the university. “Leadership studies will help those who follow to make this transition better than I have.”

COLLEGE: B.S., Construction Science, Kansas State University

POWERHOUSE COMPANY: MMC Corp. is an employee-owned national construction services company that had 2017 revenues of $647 million, making it No. 35 on the 2018 Ingram’s 100 list of the region’s biggest private companies.

DIVERSE HOLDINGS: The parent company operates MW Builders, Countrywide Mechanical Systems, MMC Contractors and BCS, focused on general, mechanical and specialty contracting.

FORWARD THINKING: “When it’s time for me to pass the baton to the next generation of employee-owners at MMC Corp,” Chadwick said, “we’ve got to have strong leaders who are ready, and I want people to be more ready than I was when I started.”



Founding benefactors Jim and Virginia Stowers devoted their life’s fortune—a healthy $2 billion of it— to finding a cause for cancer, establishing the Kansas City research facility that bears their name. For nearly a decade, that ship has been captained by David Chao, whose wife, Julia Zeitlinger, leads one of the research teams there. 

COLLEGE: B.A., M.A., Biology, Harvard University; Ph.D., Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

TWIN DUTIES: In addition to serving as the top executive for the institute, Chao is president and CEO of BioMed Valley Discoveries, the operating unit created to commercialize the institutes’ work by translating it into real-life applications.

RELEVANT BACKGROUND: Chao came to the institute in 2008, having previously served as a licensing executive at Novartis and as a consultant at McKinsey & Co.

HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE: He also knows a bit about biotech start-ups, having founded a pair of them.



This one-time McCownGordon Construction project manager ascended to the CEO’s chair this past January. Clearly the man for the job, he has quite literally watched the company grow up. Now that the firm’s teen years are behind it (how many teenagers do you know with annual revenue well over $500 million?), Cherafat is steering a thriving enterprise with a backlog of nearly $1.2 billion.

COLLEGE: B.S., Construction Science & Management, Kansas State University; M.B.A., University of Missouri-Kansas City

TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Be patient. Surround yourself with people who share your values. Take time to understand your business and what really matters (clue: associates and customers). Be thoughtful about how you plan and manage your career. For long-term success, keep in mind that everything revolves around personal relationships.

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: Our founders, Brett Gordon and Pat McCown.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Photography, I’ve been into photography for a long time.”

FAVORITE BOOK: “I love biographies, primarily of past presidents and military leaders.  I can’t pick one book, but have loved books on Winston Churchill and JFK.”




This was a big win for Bill Clarkson Jr. and his company six-generations old: After the fracas that sprung up over city’s early missteps toward a no-bid makeover of Kansas City International
Airport, the summer of 2017 produced some heated competition among design, engineering and construction firms. When the dust cleared, a Maryland development company had the contract,
and aligned with Clarkson Construction as the contracting lead.

STRATEGIC PARTNER: Clarkson is teamed up with Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate, based in Bethesda, Md., to rebuild the airport.

MULTI-TASKERS: In addition to its work in the transportation sector, building highways and bridges, the company builds power plants, rail lines, and municipal water systems.

THEN AND NOW: G.G. Clarkson was founded in 1880: relied on mules, horses and the raw muscle to clear and excavate home sites. Today, machines do the heavy lifting in bridge and highway construction, site development, grading and concrete paving.

LEADING THE WAY: The company has been involved in projects that have yielded some of the most prominent business and retail settings in the region, including Hallmark, Oak Park Mall, Village West and the Legends, and the National Golf Club.

DOUBLE DUTY: Clarkson Construction has been around long enough to work on spans of the Missouri River twice at the same point: For both the old Paseo Bridge in the mid- 1950s, and its replacement, the Kid Bond Bridge, which opened in 2010.




There’s talk of a Blue Wave in November, a potential national voter uprising that will punish Republicans—and will be of no use whatsoever to Emanuel Cleaver and his re-election prospects. Book it: The seven-term congressman from Missouri’s 5th District will soon be in his eighth term. In the House, he sits on the Financial Services Committee, and is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance.

COLLEGE: B.A., Prairie View A&M; M.A., St. Paul’s School of Theology

FAMILIAR FOE: Jacob Turk, it seems, is determined to become Cleaver’s own version of the Washington Generals: This will be the Republican’s seventh straight race against Cleaver, coming within 5 points only once, and losing by an average of 17.1 points.

BREAKING BARRIERS: Cleaver became Kansas City’s first African-American mayor when he was elected in 1991.

MAYORAL RECORD: During his eight-year stint in that office, his focus on economic development—and redevelopment—helped bring some big national brands here, but nothing has been as transformative as his work to make the Bruce R. Watkins expressway a reality.

ACADEMIC HONORS: Cleaver has received five honorary doctoral degrees.



For Steve Cloud, a can-do attitude is a family value. When his father started what would become Cumulus back in 1949, he writes, “he worked hard to provide the products for companies to do their jobs better, always willing to add or adapt inventory to meet their needs. It wasn’t unusual to hear my father say, “We can do that!” and then do whatever it took to make the solution a reality.” He carries that on as chairman of the industrial supplier.

EVOLUTION: It started as International Bearing and Transmission, and more recently was known as IBT, Inc. before the rebrand. It specializes in just about every moving part of a manufacturing process, including hydraulic and pneumatic systems, pumps, motors, lubrications, material-handling goods, safety equipment and much more.

BRANCHING OUT: The company has locations throughout the central U.S.; in addition to Missouri and Kansas, you’ll find Cumulus in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois.

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: To support its staff of 125, the company says it recognizes and rewards innovation and service with various employee awards and advancement opportunities. “It’s only through their knowledge and dedication that we can provide the solutions that provide our customers with success.”


Abe Cole leads an operation that has been around since 1923, when BKD Kansas City was established as one of the firm’s founding offices. His specialties are non-profits and public sector, but he also guides a team with focuses that include clients in the worlds of healthcare, manufacturing and distribution, financial services, higher education, construction, real estate, insurance, private equity and technology.

COLLEGE: Missouri State University, B.S., Accounting

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “My family owned a painting contracting company, so I grew up on the crew. It taught me that working hard paid well, but also taught me that I really wanted a desk job!”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Real Estate Agent: I love touring beautiful homes.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS:“I left public accounting for six months early in my career, that short time away made me realize it was my passion and that I had to return.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “By making sure they understand the positive impact they are making on the firm and that they are truly valued.”



One of the newest C-suiters in the Ingram’s 250, Michel Combes took the long way to Kansas City. He arrived here at the start of the year as Marcelo Claure’s successor in the role of president at Sprint Corp. Within 90 days, the company announced its pending merger with T-Mobile. Just days later, Claure turned over the reins as CEO to Combes, a French native who made his bones in European telecom circles, most recently with Alcatel.

COLLEGE: “Alma Mater: Undergraduate degrees, from Ecole Polytechnique, École Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications de Bretagne and Télécom ParisTech; doctoral degrees, Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers and Université Paris Dauphine

EMPLOYER MUSCLE: Though the ranks at Sprint have thinned considerably over the past decade, it remains a powerful employment force in the Kansas City region, with roughly 5,500 still working there.

WELL-TRAVELED: Combes has held leadership roles at an eye-popping 19 companies.

STICKING AROUND? T-Mobile deal isn’t a done deal; four federal agencies—the FBI and departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice have asked the Federal Communications Commission to hold off on merger approval until more assessments can be done. If the marriage is called off, does Combes stay on?


After founding ARC Physical Therapy and selling his majority stake in a $36 million deal, this tireless entrepreneur founded Bardavon (named after Shakespeare, the “Bard of Avon,” by the
way), where he does for health care what sabermetrics have done for baseball. When he isn’t helping companies with data to make sound healthcare decisions, you can find him tending to
business as the current chair of the KC Chamber of Commerce.

COLLEGE: B.S., Kinesiology, Iowa State University; J.D., M.B.A., University of Toledo

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: Growing up on a farm “didn’t just teach me about hard work …it also taught me about entrepreneurship and small business. I didn’t just learn about the pressures of owning your own business, I lived them.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER … “I’ve always dreamed of being an ESPN College Gameday announcer. Me, Fowler, Herbstreit, Corso, etc.—sometimes I think I missed my calling!”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “’Culture eats strategy for lunch.’ With so many talented people in the marketplace, you can really only differentiate your company with culture.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Is with honesty. By doing that, they don’t become a part of a team, they become part of our team’s solution to the marketplace.”




In 1996, Jon Cook left an established ad agency to take a chance on a young, 30-employee startup called VML. About that move, he says, “I’m grateful I trusted my gut to take advantage of an opportunity to help grow a company based on ideals I believed in.” Today, VML has more than 3,000 “VMLers” on six continents, much of that expansion spearheaded by Cook, who has held his current post since 2011.

COLLEGE: B.A., Journalism, University of Missouri

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER … ”Always knew I wanted to be in advertising. As a child, I was obsessed with creating ads and promoting products. I always loved the idea of combining creativity and innovation to inspire people.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Show Up and Follow Up. Show up as prepared as possible, look the part, be ready to stand up at the white board and share your thoughts … or help
others articulate theirs. Follow up by making good things happen because you were there.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Encouraging VMLers to bring their whole selves to work. … Every cultural resonance, custom, tradition or special VML-based activity, group or club was started because someone came to VML with a passion and an interest and felt comfortable enough to introduce it to the rest of us.”




After 30 years working for powerhouse names in the Kansas City real estate world, David Cooper made a move. He headed out on his own as broker/owner with Better Homes and Gardens, where he found that his people-focused style of doing business had earned him the trust and respect of quite a few people. His operation attracts real estate professionals interested in providing high levels of service and achieving high levels of success.

COLLEGE: B.A., University of Kansas

FIRST JOB AND LESSONS LEARNED: “Clothing sales, where I learned the right way to treat customers.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I would have been a doctor, like my father and brother.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Know your people. People first and caring for one another.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “I don’t remember setbacks. I’ve always just moved forward.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Recognize achievement and always remember their names.”




We know this about Michael Copeland: Voters in Olathe love the guy. The county seat of Johnson County has had 58 mayors since its founding in 1857—four years before Kansas became a state. And none of those has matched Copeland’s longevity in leadership; he’s now in his fifth term. Even before, he stepped up with civic leadership, earning his City Council seat in 1993. In February Copeland was appointed Regional Administrator of GSA’s Heartland Region.

COLLEGE: B.A., MidAmerica Nazarene University

DAY JOB: A longtime banking executive in the Olathe area, Copeland became the regional administrator for the federal government’s General Services Administration at the start of the year.

MANAGING GROWTH: The city’s population has nearly doubled since Copeland first joined the City Council, from 70,000 to more than 135,000.

OUTWARD-FACING: While the bulk of his mayoral duties are focused on his city, he’s also the face of Olathe as part of the vital Johnson County Education Research Triangle Authority. He also has board roles with the Johnson County Community College Foundation, KVC Health Systems and Union Station Kansas City. Past board work has included the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and KC SmartPort.




For three generations, now going on four, the name Cosentino has had a Pavlovian aspect to it in these parts: You hear it, you think about your next trip to the store. Based in Prairie Village,
this grocery chain operates 30 area stores, and it’s right where John Cosentino always wanted to be: “I would not have chosen any other career,” he says. “I feel blessed to have been given the
great opportunity of working with my family.”

COLLEGE: B.A., Marketing and Communications, Missouri State University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Manufacturing, distributing and selling Green Mill Candy and Popcorn. It actively taught me the true meaning of hard work and dedication. It was an experience that definitely was not easy, but left me with important new life lessons, (and) provided me with new perspectives within the retail business.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “The best advice was from my father. He taught me that we were in the people business, and treating people with respect and kindness is first and foremost the most important, and that common sense will take care the rest.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Create a welcoming and approachable space, actively listen, and work with great passion in all that I do. I would not expect others to follow my lead if I was not passionate about what I was doing and truly believed in it.”




For a guy who prefers to keep a low profile, Fred Coulson sure does leave his fingerprints on a lot of success stories in Kansas City’s startup community. Exhibit A: He’s the founder and chairman of Spring Venture Group, the inside sales and marketing venture for Medicare supplement and senior life insurance products. SVG ranked No. 3 among the region’s 100 fastest-growing companies last year.

COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, University of Kansas

DAY JOB: Coulson’s primary interest is serving as managing partner of Five Elms Capital, which he also founded.

FINANCIAL CHOPS: Coulson’s path to entrepreneurship was paved with bricks he made on career stops in financial services—first with Morgan Stanley as an investment banker, then as an investment professional TH Lee Putnam Ventures, a billion-dollar private equity firm.

EARLY PROMISE: Coulson was also a member of Ingram’s 2011 class of 40 Under Forty.




In a region divided by a state line—a bigger challenge than many might think—Tim Cowden’s organization is a force for unity. Among the KCADC foundational principles, you’ll find, “A success
anywhere in the metro is a success shared by all.” Every day, his team applies that idea in representing the economics of all 2.5 million people in the 18-county Greater Kansas City area.

COLLEGE: Bachelor’s, Journalism, University of Oklahoma

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Maintenance work at gas stations, where I painted a lot of curbs under the hot Oklahoma sun. What it taught me was to treat everyone with respect; I remember vividly the people who did not respect me because of the work I did and the dirty clothes I wore.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “A professional baseball player, of course! If only the MLB had agreed!”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Believe in yourself before you can inspire those around you to believe in you.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “I left economic development for the private sector early in my career, primarily because success didn’t come fast enough for me. The experience I gained helped me immeasurably when I returned.”




Dave Cummings saw the promise of technology in the equities markets when he founded Tradebot Ventures in 1999, using computer algorithms and high-frequency trades to shatter old
models of bid-offer transactions, tightening those spreads and increasing market liquidity. His next venture, BATS Global Markets, did the same, and eventually overtook the NASDAQ as the
No. 2 trading platform in America before selling for $3.2 billion.

COLLEGE: B.S., Computer & Electrical Engineering, Purdue University.

SIMPLE BEGINNINGS: Tradebot Systems was launched in a spare bedroom, with a whopping $10,000 in startup capital. These days, it accounts for up to 5 percent of total daily stock market volume in the U.S.

MORE THAN NUMBERS: Cummings also founded Tradebot Ventures, which has invested in real estate and other instruments.

EARLY PROMISE: Cummings, like so many others on this list, was an Ingram’s 40 Under Forty honoree; he earned that distinction in 2008.



What do soccer balls, polymers and private equity have in common? They are among a wide range of successful interests that have made Pat Curran one of the region’s most respected voices
of business. He’s co-founder of C3, part owner of Sporting Kansas City, and had a long history as chief executive in the world of paint, polymers and composites. C3 Capital and its related C3Holdings have invested more than $60 million in 10 different businesses.

COLLEGE: B.A., Stanford University; M.B.A. Northwestern University-Kellogg School of Business

CHANGING THE CULTURE: A generation ago, soccer was an afterthought in the U.S. But his children’s experiences with youth soccer made Curran realize that Kansas City lacked first-class facilities, and he committed to changing that. Sporting Kansas City has done much to promote the sport and the fan experience at Children’s Mercy Park.

FORWARD THINKING: In 1979, before the words “leveraged buyout” became regular elements in business reporting, Curran successfully executed one with Cook Paint, where he worked for 20 years and had risen to CEO.

BOARD BARON: Curran’s reputation and business savvy have earned him, at various times, seats on the boards of Applebee’s International, Gold Banc, Lockton Companies, Unitog, Sealright, JPS Packaging, and American Safety Razor. 




Dennis Curtin is a true real estate pioneer. When Dave Liniger founded RE/MAX in the 1970s, he found a kindred spirit in Curtin, who bought the first RE/MAX franchise outside of Colorado. This year, he was among a select group of four such pioneers who received the inaugural RE/MAX Founders Award. “The belief that you can change somebody’s life,” he said, is one key to success.
“And that’s exactly what I think real estate people do.”

COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration and Marketing, Rockhurst College

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “My first job was working in a grocery store. I did that all through high school and college. I learned how to put the customer first in every transaction, even when they might have been wrong.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I have always had a servant mentality, so my two earlier considerations for lifelong professions were either to become a priest or an attorney. Helping people in their time of need seems to appeal to me.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “To lead by example. I believe every leader should be willing to do any and all jobs in the organization, whatever they might be.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “When I was late for an appointment and he told me I must be too busy to work with him. I never got the sale and I never forgot that lesson.




David Dehaemers is in the business of getting crude oil and natural gas where it needs to go. Tallgrass owns or operates more than 8,300 miles of natural gas pipeline and about 820 miles of
crude pipeline in the U.S. They add value for their customers with a strong portfolio of integrated transportation, storage, terminal, water management, gathering, processing and treating assets,
including environment-conscious water-reclamation programs.

COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting, Creighton University; J.D., UMKC School of Law

ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Tell the people you report to, ‘I will take care of it.’ Then, do just that.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “I admire a fair number for a lot of reasons, but I don’t ‘most admire’ any.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Being able to big a big part of a successful company and provide people with good jobs and lives.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Autos and racing.”
FAVORITE BOOK/MOVIE: “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”




This 2015 Ingram’s 40 Under Forty alumnus continues to impress, having built a worldwide legal services network that is driving what it calls a digital transformation. Ask this dyed-in-the-wool entrepreneur for advice, and you’ll get a disclaimer—‘Warning: The advice you are about to get is not for the faint of heart or intended for those who just want to show up to a job. It is intended for those with material individual drive to do something great.

COLLEGE: Business, Nebraska Wesleyan; Criminal Justice, Bellevue University

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “I have a great appreciation for successful entrepreneurs and Greg Maday’s emotional quality is off the charts. He’s creative, smart, intentional and consistent—a great example of what’s possible when you prioritize being a great person before doing great things.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Leading and developing people to individually and collectively achieve things they never thought possible.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Making unique things. This ranges from making my home office desk out of reclaimed bowling alley lumber to working with Ken Jones of Innovair/ProCharger on being the first to supercharge a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.”

FAVORITE BOOK/MOVIE: “I am a big fan of The Avengers.”




Jackie DeSouza started taking swimming lessons when she was 4 years old, became a competitive swimmer and has been swimming hard since. A strong role model for any girl who dreams of success, she has risen to the top of her field, becoming the first woman to lead Research Medical Center. Hers is the kind of determination you’d expect from a person whose father rose from
poverty in Kenya to realize the dream of medical school.

COLLEGE: B.S., Health Services Administration, James Madison University; Master of Health Administration, Medical College of Virginia-Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Lifeguarding was my first job and I learned to take responsibility for the safety of a lot of people. They were having fun, living their lives
and didn’t need to know how many people lifeguards save every summer.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “If I weren’t a Chief Executive Officer, I would be an Interventional Cardiologist. Taking care of people by performing leading-edge cardiac procedures fills my cup every day.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Finish what you start. This means you must thoughtfully and strategically set priorities.”



The biggest bank in Kansas—by a long shot—got its start as a savings bank and home lender, but Capitol Federal today is a formidable force in commercial banking. It’s nearly twice as big,
measured by assets, as its closest competitor, and it’s getting bigger: Earlier this year, CEO John Dicus orchestrated the purchase of cross-town Capital City Bancshares for $37.5 million,
yielding a bank with assets of $9.5 billion.

COLLEGE: B.A., Business, University of Kansas

FIRST JOB: “I was a delivery driver for Westboro Collections.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “A professional Athlete … then reality set in!”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Don’t lie, don’t cheat and don’t steal.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “The first attempt on our stock conversion in 2010. Worked to get a better valuation and developed a better marketing campaign
for the capital raise.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Communication, or being trustworthy.”




Young lads in western Pennsylvania do not grow up without an interest in football, and thus it was with Mark Donovan. He threw for more than 2,500 yards as a quarterback at Brown University and even had a shot at The Show when the New York Giants signed him to a free-agent contract. But he would find his greatest football success in the executive offices, working for the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles and, since 2009, the Chiefs.

COLLEGE: B.A., Organizational Behavior and Management/Political Science, Brown University

ELITE COMPANY: Donovan is just the fifth president in the 58-year history of the Chiefs organization. Reporting directly to CEO/chairman Clark Hunt, he’s responsible for all aspects of business operations.

ECONOMIC IMPACT: Among the metrics the Chiefs use to demonstrate their place in the regional economy: $660 million overall economic impact every year, including $285 million in household income, supporting more than 5,000 jobs, and generating $16 million in annual tax revenue for Missouri.

DOING DIGITAL: Intensely focused on fan experience, he has steered major investments at Arrowhead Stadium, including the Wi-Fi network there, and the multi-functional Chiefs Mobile app, ticketless technology and mobile ticketing.




“Kansas City” and “barbecue” appear together in more sentences than anyone could count. And in KC barbecue lore, few names appear with the frequency and reverence of “Fiorella.” The barbecue dynasty, begun in 1957 by Russ Fiorella, is currently headed up by his granddaughter’s husband, Case Dorman. His passion ould make Russ proud. What started out as a storefront is
now the largest wood-cookery barbecue operation in the country.

FIRST JOB AND LESSONS LEARNED: “I started out as a line cook and dishwasher at Smoke Stack Barbecue, where I found my passion for food service.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I once thought I wanted to be a computer technician, realized that tech wasn’t my strength. The restaurant industry has been my passion.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “I have had so many great mentors, most notably my father-in-law, Jack Fiorella. Jack used the phrase, “One Jumbo at a time,” which for us meant “one guest at a time.” Be your best at each opportunity you have to serve and you can build and grow a business. The other great advice I received was to surround yourself with people smarter and more skilled than you; that one came pretty easy for me, as I’m not very smart or skilled!”




Dan Duffy leads a real estate company focused on increasing profitability and efficiency for agents and brokers through training, marketing and technology solutions. Rapid expansion has led to United being named one of the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private companies in 2015, 2016 and 2017. This year, for the fourth time, the prestigious Swanepoel Power 200 name him one of the most influential leaders in residential real estate.

COLLEGE: B.B.A., Indiana University; M.B.A., Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Lifeguard and kids swimming teacher; it taught me how much I enjoy helping and serving others.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Anthropologist. One of my undergraduate professors, Nicholas Toth, lit a fire of curiosity within me about the study of ideas such as what came before, how the human condition has changed over time, how societies are formed and collapse, and development and use of technology.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS:“I was once hired as CEO of an international technology business with a poor culture. We addressed it by first capturing our shared values and guiding principles and then aligning all actions and inactions with them.”


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For the past 21 years of Leawood’s history as a city, taxpayers have been able to save on letterhead costs, because only one person has served as mayor in that stretch: Peggy Dunn. A dynamo who promotes business growth, she’s also a fixture on philanthropic boards and civic groups across the broader metro area, and is generally regarded as half of the region’s premier Power Couple, along with husband Terry.

COLLEGE: B.A., Sociology, University of Missouri-Kansas City

FIRST JOB AND LESSONS LEARNED: “Selling clothing in a neighborhood retail shop. I spent all of my earnings on new clothes for myself, but I learned good customer service skills that have proven invaluable throughout my life.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I would have enjoyed being an art museum director as I loved Art History as a college student.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “If the horse is dead, dismount!” Know when to move on!

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “When Leawood County Club closed years ago, it caused distress for numerous Club members as well as adjacent neighbors. The property is now approved for a beautiful single-family homes where half of the lots have already sold. It will also include a lovely park that will be dedicated to the public once completed.” 




As retirement’s sunset beckons, Steve Dunn reflects on 43 years with the company founded by his grandfather, but employee-owned today and one of the nation’s biggest general contractors. When he started as safety director in 1975, he recalls, “I quickly learned that the superintendents who were mostly World War II veterans knew a heck of a lot more about construction and safety than I would ever know. I definitely learned a lesson in humility.”

COLLEGE B.S./B.A. Marketing, Rockhurst University

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “My mentor—Bill Dunn, Sr.—gave me the best advice: 1) treat others with respect the way you would like to be treated, and 2) as a leader, always be willing to share your success with others.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER … “I definitely thought about being a high school history teacher and football coach. … Somehow, I found time as a hobby to coach grade-school football for 25 seasons. I still hear every now and then from some former players on how my coaching had a positive impact on their lives.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “I’ve been very fortunate not to have any big career setbacks. Like anyone, I have made my share of mistakes, but I never let them get me down. I’ve always tried to stay positive.”

ON MOTIVATING EMPLOYEES: “Be a good listener and respect other points of view.”




Terry Dunn made his original mark in the world turning family-owned JE Dunn Construction into a respected name in construction coast-to-coast, then into an employee-owned company
to spread that wealth. Three years after turning over the reins at JE Dunn, he remains deeply entrenched in Kansas City business behind the scenes and in philanthropic ventures, sharing and supporting ideas to improve civic life and business vitality.

COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, Rockhurst University; MBA, UMKC

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Working construction as a JE Dunn laborer at the age of 15. I learned to work hard, listen and learn.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Banking. While working on an MBA from UMKC, I worked at Columbia Union National Bank as a management trainee. I’ve also served on a number of bank boards and thoroughly enjoy banking.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “To be a great listener and a servant leader.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Providing vision, empowering a team through servant leadership and owning the culture of the company on a 24/7 basis.”



Moving a truck sounds relatively easy. You put somebody behind the wheel, and there you go. But what if you’re a truck manufacturer or dealer who needs to move a lot of trucks, all the time?
That’s where entrepreneurial accountant-turned-CEO Tom Duvall saw a need and filled it. Today, TruckMovers provides moving services, inventory management and more for clients including
Navistar and Daimler.

COLLEGE: B.S., B.A., M.A., Accounting, University of Missouri

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Busing tables and washing dishes at a local restaurant in the small town where I grew up. (It) was always very busy and the owners were very demanding, so I learned a strong work ethic at an early age.”

IF YOU COULD CHOOSE ANOTHER CAREER: “I actually started my professional career as a CPA, so this IS my ‘other career;—and I love what I do.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “Early in my current career, my largest customer, who was a broker, lost their largest customer, so the business that we had developed was cut in half overnight. I learned very quickly that I didn’t want to rely on other people or companies for my company’s success, so we focused our attention on servicing end-customers directly and forging long-term partnerships” with them.




Steve Edwards joined Black & Veatch in 1978, then worked across a variety of the engineering firm’s platforms for the next 35 years. That set the stage for his appointment as chief operating
officer in March 2013, part of the planned transition to become chairman and CEO. He oversees engineering, consulting, construction and related infrastructure businesses in the power,
oil and gas, water, telecommunications, and security markets.

COLLEGE B.S., Electrical Engineering, University of Missouri-Columbia

HIGH-WIRE ACT: Telecom, in fact, is where the company has the strongest reputation; Engineering News-Record has ranked it No. 1 in the world in that category in eight of the past nine years.

RARE COMPANY: Black & Veatch is also ranked in the Top 150 of the Forbes list of Largest Private Companies.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE: The company Edwards leads is also the 12th-largest employee- owned corporation in America.




For more than a quarter-century, he was Mr. Overland Park, serving on the City Council for a four-year term and then as mayor for a remarkable 24 years. During virtually all of that span, it was among the fastest-growing communities in Kansas and is now the state’s second-largest city. But Eilert wasn’t done; in 2006, he won a seat on the Johnson County Commission, then the first of two terms as chairman, where he will serve through at least 2019.

COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, M.A, Business Education, Emporia State University

TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Don’t hold back taking a well-considered risk.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “The late Ben Craig, President/CEO Metcalf Bank. A good banker but also a great supporter of many important community initiatives.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Meeting the needs of a growing community and helping bring tens of thousands of jobs to the community.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “Do more international traveling.”

WORRISOME CHALLENGE: “How to reach the best decision in a society that is becoming more and more polarized.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Trying to hit that little white ball.”

FAVORITE BOOK: “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.”




If the state ever does get around to widening Interstate 70, perhaps a lane designated for Warren Erdman would be in order— he’s certainly made enough treks to Jefferson City and back to
contend for that. A longtime champion of Missouri’s civic causes, he plays a role in communicating with policy makers for a railroad that operates in nine states and Mexico, giving Kansas City
exporters access to Gulf and Pacific ports.

COLLEGE: B.A., Westminster College

BIG AGENDA: The various initiatives that he’s been a part of recently include the (just-abandoned) bid to create a Downtown arts campus for the University of Missouri-Kansas City, marshaling voter support for the recurring votes on Kansas City’s earnings tax.

POLITICAL TIES: Erdman’s connections go well beyond the KC-Jefferson City link; they include Washington, too. Before joining K.C Southern, he was chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond. Before that, he had roles in both the Bond and John Ashcroft administrations when they served as governor.



Board-certified in neurology and neuropathology, Melinda Estes brings a caregiver’s perspective to her duties at Saint Luke’s, where she leads one of the largest private-sector work forces in the region—more than 10,000 people at a system hospital or affiliate. In that role since 2011, she most recently was designated chair-elect for the American Hospital Association’s board of trustees and will be its top elected official in 2020.

COLLEGE: B.S., Sam Houston University; M.D., University of Texas Medical Branch; M.B.A., Case Western Reserve University

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I studied and played the bassoon for many years as a child and teen, and I worked hard at that goal. But early in my adult life it became clear to me that to really excel in a musical career takes much more than practice—it takes supreme talent. And while I was proficient, a hard worker, and had a natural love for it, I realized it was not my path..”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Storytelling. In the world of health care, it’s easy to get buried in the data. We measure success or failure in fractions, and it can be challenging … to take in the bigger picture. But when we can remind our team why we do what we do, and show them the impact they have on real people’s lives, I believe that’s when we can inspire them to new heights.”



David Fees is the top executive at a suburban hospital, but there’s nothing typical about his vision: He sees health care heading in new directions, and is pushing Liberty Hospital along that path with physical-plant changes and innovative programming. In the latter category, count the hospital’s alignment with the Norterre development, blending lifestyle amenities that appeal to young families, active adults and seniors alike.

COLLEGE: B.B.A., Pittsburg State University

CHANGE AGENT: In more than 30 years at Liberty Hospital (seven as CEO), Feess has overseen multiple large capital projects, including a doctor’s building, south tower, medical plaza, cardiology unit and medical office building.

NORTERRE RISING: The first suites in the $66 million multi-use project opened in the spring, featuring short-term recovery and nursing rooms, a 65,000-square-foot fitness
center and prepared meals. Definitely not your father’s senior-living setup. Unless you father lives there, of course.

MAJOR EMPLOYER: The hospital is also an economic engine for the northeast part of the metro area, with more than 1,300 employees and a patient base that extends well beyond Liberty.


From hardware store janitor in high school to CEO of a nearly $2 billion bank is quite the career arc. Along the way, Bill Ferguson also considered architecture, “because of its creative nature and my desire to help clients build their dreams.” Looking back, he says, “My banking career has afforded me those same opportunities.” His organization serves 16 communities through 33 branches in Missouri and Kansas.

College: B.A., University of Nebraska–Lincoln;  EMBA, Bloch School of Management,  UMKC

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Janitor in a hardware store, where I learned to work hard and discovered that I enjoyed working with people more than working alone.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “My first leader, my father, taught me to care for everyone equally, a value he modeled for us throughout his life.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “My biggest career setback was the cancellation of a project for which I was relocated, due to a large bank merger. I overcame that with a positive attitude, lots of patience and working hard to create new opportunities for growth.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Bring passion to everything I do and engage them to self-discover, (1) how they motivate themselves or (2) what brings their passion to life.




Since A.C. Ferrell founded the company 75 years ago, Ferrellgas has grown to become synonymous with propane delivery, growing both organically and via strategic. Most of the 240-plus distributors acquired in that span have been on the watch of Jim Ferrell, who took the leadership baton from his dad in 1965. Today, it’s a publicly traded company with nearly $2 billion in annual sales, and the nation’s second-largest propane supplier.

COLLEGE: B.A., Business, University of Kansas

NATIONAL PLAYER: Ferrell is a past President of the World LP Gas Association and a former Chairman of the Propane Vehicle Council.

BIG FOOTPRINT: Ferrellgas has roughly 1 million customers nationwide, and employs more than 4,000 people.

INNOVATION: The company’s Blue Rhino tank exchange business is booming, with 52,000 locations—up more than 5,000 this year alone.

EXPANSION: New Blue Rhino production plants in Alabama and California are projected to cut the company’s fleet mileage overall and reduce costs of both fuel and vehicle repairs.



Omaha-based Kiewit is among the nation’s 10 largest engineering firms, and its footprint in Kansas City bolster this region’s national reputation for being a center of design excellence. Dave Flickinger is the point man for the company here, leading teams that collectively turn our more than $1 billion each year in power generation, transmission and distribution work.

College: B.S., Civil Engineering, Pennsylvania State University.

TRACK RECORD: On the way to the regional headquarters in Lenexa, Flickinger worked as a field engineer and managed safety and quality, human resources and business development functions for Kiewit.


BEVERAGE OF CHOICE: “Soda—any kind.”

FIRST CAR: “Toyota Celica—$900 from the local used-car dealership.”

ONE FOOD YOU WOULDN’T WANT TO LIVE WITHOUT: “Potatoes—French Fries, Chips, Tater Tots, Mashed; it really doesn’t matter.”  


From telecom, to higher education, to the energy sector, Gary Forsee has dedicated a lot of years to the border region of western Missouri and eastern Kansas. Today, he sits on several
boards of directors, including that of Evergy, the 1.6-million customer energy company that was created by this year’s merger of KCP&L and Westar Energy. Foresee is also dedicated to various charitable and civic organizations.

COLLEGE: B.S., Civil Engineering, Missouri-Rolla (Missouri University of Science & Technology); honorary degree, Engineering, honorary doctoral degree, MUS&T.

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “My first job was in June of 1972, as a supervisor in a central office for Southwestern Bell, managing older people. They were in their 30s and 40s!”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “To balance time across your customers, your associates and your owners/shareholders/constituents. Also, great leaders anticipate change.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “Get up and go at it again.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Is to walk in their shoes and be grounded in what the organization does.”


Fresh from an update on his business card, Mike Frazier is now president and CEO at ReeceNichols, the region’s undisputed leader in residential realty. He signed on with the firm in 2007 as CFO and COO. Now, his focus is on helping managers, agents and employees with business issues. “The most rewarding part of my job,” he says, “is working with agents to help them become more profitable and efficient.”

COLLEGE: B.A., William Jewell

DIFFERENT PATH: Frazier had a comparatively late start in real estate; he worked in banking before joining Hallmark and logging 15 years with Crown Center Redevelopment.

PASSION/HOBBIES: Time with family, golf, exercise and travel.

THEY’RE EVERYWHERE: It would take a concerted effort not to connect with a ReeceNichols agent—the firm has 2,900 of them in nearly 30 offices in Missouri and Kansas, plus 350 more in more than 30 franchise offices.

MONSTER PRODUCTION: Frazier is now at the helm of a company that yielded 17,000 transactions last year—the equivalent of nearly two home sales every hour of the year—worth a combined $4.78 billion.



Those who have had a problem making a go of renewable energy could learn a thing or two from Rob Freeman. This forward-looking fellow is part a group that founded Tradewind. Three years later, he was instrumental in forging a partnership with Enel SpA, an Italy-based player in renewable energy. That partnership has resulted in more than $5 billion in U.S. wind and solar projects and expects to double that number over the next three years.

COLLEGE: B.S., Geology, University of Missouri; J.D., University of Arkansas

ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “The most valuable asset for any business is consistently good judgment—hone the craft. And when you hire people who have it, make sure they are highly valued. Focus on people. Expect it to take more money and more time than you can imagine. Secure ‘anchor tenant(s)’/some validation of your business plan, before you launch, if possible.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Elon Musk—at least for his outrageous vision and courage.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Not sacrificing personal values while achieving material success.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “I need to work on a bucket list!”

PASSION/HOBBY: “To make some measurable and lasting positive change to our business-as-usual approach to things for future generations.”




Somewhere in the executive offices at Terracon Consultants in Olathe, the strains of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” must be wafting through the air. As David Gaboury prepares to wind down his tenure at the helm of this environmental engineering giant, he has indeed done things his way, overseeing acquisition of dozens of smaller firms to create a $650 million beast with more than 4,000 employees in 150 offices nationwide.

COLLEGE: B.S., University of Massachusetts-Amherst; M.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology; A.M.P., Harvard Business School

MOVING ON UP: On Gaboury’s watch, the firm soared 63 spots on Engineering-News Record’s list of the nation’s Top 500 Design Firms, most recently finishing at No. 24.

SUCCESSION: In June, the company announced that Gayle Packer would take on Gaboury’s duties as president, positioning her to become CEO in 2019. She previously was executive vice president and chief administrative officer, working on both the acquisition and integration of roughly 50 companies since joining the firm in 2007.



After an energetic career in energy, this co-founder of local propane giant Inergy LP (which he also guided through a merger into Crestwood Equity Partners,) is taking it easy…sort of…but not really. He still has a hand in business, but helping others succeed is his passion. In addition to his contributions to the building the economic future of the region as a co-chair of KCRising, he
serves on several non-profit boards.

COLLEGE: B.A. History, William Jewell College; Oxford University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “A paper boy at 11 years old (later, I called it Publishing Distribution). I had to buy the papers, rubber bands, bags etc. I had to collect subscription money door-to-door every month. I learned “revenue – cost of goods sold = profit.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Something in technology. To be in a business that changes the way people live in a decade or two is fascinating.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Stay the course and believe in people.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “Aspiring to be promoted based on the corporate ladder. I have been promoted and demoted a couple of times, when it didn’t make sense. Ambition is important, but self-awareness is a game changing component in life and business.”

MOTIVATING EMPLOYEES: “Be more invested in helping them achieve their potential, their own goals and objectives in the business, rather than today’s most urgent business goal.”


There is precisely one member of the Ingram’s 250 who combines piano-playing skills with ballroom dancing background and has held the title of Miss Farm Bureau Queen 1976. If you guessed
Esther George, you are correct. These days, she’s mastering the art of bank regulation and oversight as the top executive for the Federal Reserve Bank’s 10th region. She’s in charge of more
than 1,600 employees here, in Denver, Oklahoma City and Omaha.

COLLEGE: B.S./B.A, Business Administration, Missouri Western State University; M.B.A., University of Missouri-Kansas City; American Bankers Association Stonier Graduate School of Banking; Stanford Graduate School of Business

WIDE INFLUENCE: In addition to western Missouri (the only state with two Fed Bank district headquarters), George oversees bank operations in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming and northern New Mexico.

MADAM REGULATOR: For most of her 36 years there, George was in the Division of Supervision and Risk Management, rising to chief regulator to oversee state-chartered banks and nearly 1,000 bank and financial holding companies.

CRISIS MANAGER: George had hands-on roles in banking supervision and discount window lending activities during the banking crisis of the 1980s and post-9/11.



Carl Gerlach retired this past year from his day job at a screen printing company, and that can only mean more good things for Overland Park—after all, the city now has his undivided attention. That seems to be what voters like, as they have re-elected him three times following his initial victory in the 2005 mayoral race. He’s a hometown boy and was a four-year basketball letterman at K-State.

COLLEGE: B.S., Marketing, Kansas State University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “A sales and customer-service position. It helped me learn each customer has different needs and we need to look for creative solutions
that solve their unique needs.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER … “I attempted to play college basketball and study engineering, which was difficult. I would like to have been an engineer because I enjoy building things. That is why in my position as mayor I enjoy focusing on development and redevelopment because it involves building new assets for the community.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Don’t try to be someone you are not. Find the style that fits you and is inclusive of others and develop your own team.”



When it comes to regional credit unions, the numbers from the National Credit Union Association tell the story: It is indeed a CommunityAmerica world, and everyone else is just living in it. No. 1 on our list of area credit unions last year, CACU’s $2.57 billion in assets nearly topped those of Nos. 2-9—combined. Hometown product Lisa Ginter has been at the helm there since 2015, keeping its growth arc intact.

College:  B.S./B.A., Accounting, Rockhurst University

TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Don’t try to get there really fast! There are so many life lessons you learn along the way that help define you as a leader.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “I love spending time with my family on the weekends at our lake house. It is a great place to ‘unplug’ and actually play games with your grown kids.”

FAVORITE MOVIE: “Not sure I can pinpoint one, but I love watching old movies.”

FIRST CAR: “My first car didn’t come until I was in college that I had to share with my two sisters. It was a used, older Ford Mustang. Six weeks later, the engine blew.”

LITTLE-KNOWN FACT: “I am embarrassed to admit that I get caught up in those Bachelor/Bachelorette series. I DVR them so I can zip through them. I think it helps to normalize my life!”




In the university world, you can’t spell “chancellor” without “CEO”—and Doug Girod is definitely the man for that job. His combination of real-world experience, coupled with a gift for academic writing and teaching, gives him the unique perspective of a hard-working doctor who is also very much at home in academia. Prior to his current position, he was executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center.

COLLEGE: B.A., University of Calif.-Davis; M.D., University of Calif.- San Francisco

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Out of high school in Oregon, I moved to Silicon Valley and got a job with Atari building Pong home video game systems. Helped me land my next job in more advanced manufacturing while I went to night school. In all it helped me appreciate that I did not want to be an electrical engineer as I thought.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER  … “I can’t think of another career than medicine. If I had to choose—professional race car driving.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Be true to yourself, never stop learning and surround yourself with the best people you can find.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Help them see a better future for our organization and their role in making that happen.”



This 2014 Ingram’s 40 Under Forty alumnus is in the business of finding people the best insurance deals possible in the senior health-care space. He says his most effective tool for motivating
employees is to let them know they work for someone they can respect and who has a relationship with them. Reading the personal testimony of employees on the SVG website, it’s clear that
he has built a happy team that believes in a common mission.

COLLEGE: B.A., University of Missouri; MBA, Baker University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “My first real job was at 15, as a dishwasher in a banquet hall. It taught me the importance of staying in school and getting an education.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I would have loved to coach baseball, especially youth baseball.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Understanding that success comes from the people you surround yourself with—so, build great teams.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “I joined a market research firm as their VP of sales in 2008, during the recession, (but) the economy did not support the strategy. I took four lessons from the experience: control what you can, think deeper through potential outcomes of every situation, do your research, ask others’ opinions so you can look at the situation from all angles. And no matter the situation, strive to better yourself each day.”




As his career winds down in the construction sector—he turned over the President reins at McCownGordon Construction last year—Brett Gordon performs the neat trick of looking to the
past, without looking back: I was fortunate that I found the career I love at an early age (my father was in the industry), so I never really explored any other career paths, says the man who
co-founded one of the region’s largest construction companies.

COLLEGE: B.S., Colorado State University; M.B.A., Rockhurst University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Paper boy, when I was 9 years old. The most important thing I learned was customer service. Back then, you had to go door to door every month and collect payment. It was a great interface with the customer—the better you listened and implemented what they wanted, the better your tips were.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Check your ego at the door, listen intently, learn all that you can, plan and then act.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “We lose projects every day (each is setback in its own way). You try to learn from each loss and move your focus forward on to winning the next project.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “First, entrusting them, providing them the necessary resources, and then empowering them to be successful.”




In nearly four decades with the firm that is now Stinson Leonard Street, John Granda has immersed himself in the legal architecture of Kansas City business. A specialist in corporate law, he has represented clients in—to name but a few—securities offerings, mergers/acquisitions, takeover defense, SEC reporting and compliance, going private, joint ventures and leveraged buyouts. Before that, he was on the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission in its New York offices.

COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, M.B.A., University of Iowa; J.D., L.L.M., Taxation, Georgetown University

UNWAVERING: Granda’s articulated his keys to success when he was among the first Rainmakers designated by Ingram’s back in 2002: “Work real hard, do a great job,” he said then. “Be known as someone who has a lot of expertise, put the clients first, treat their business like your own, and be a good person.”

SMALL-TOWN VALUES: A native of small-town McComb, Ill., he arrived in Kansas City—without significant connections here and no book of local business—in 1980. Why pick KC? Turns out, he just liked the place. And that it was, on balance, a saner place to live than the Big Apple.



Tom Grant’s experience as a chief executive dates to 1983, when he led what was then one of the nation’s biggest life reinsurance companies, Business Men’s Assurance. Throughout his career,
he has built companies into attractive acquisition targets, including BMA. With LabOne, took a company with market capitalization of less than $80 million and crafted it into a $934 pickup for Quest Diagnostics in 2005.

COLLEGE: B.A., History, University of Kansas; MBA, Wharton School of Finance, University of Pennsylvania

BUSINESS PEDIGREE: Grant’s grandfather founded BMA in 1909, and his father oversaw the construction of the company’s headquarters that would become the BMA Tower. That iconic building overlooking Downtown has been converted into high-end condominiums.

BOARD BARON: The biggest companies in the region have turned to Grant for his guidance; he sits on the board of directors for Commerce Bancshares, and has previously served on the boards of AMC Entertainment, Inc., Assicurazioni Generali Life Insurance Co. and Kansas City Power & Light. He’s also served as senior adviser at private-equity firm Five Elms Capital.


Greg Graves handed over the CEO reins of Burns & McDonnell at the end of 2016, after a 12-year tenure marked by phenomenal growth in both employee-base and sales. But he’s not a man
to let the grass grow under his feet (except, perhaps, on his Missouri ranch). As University of Kansas Health System chairman, he continues a long personal tradition of dedication to the

COLLEGE: B.S., Mechanical Engineering, South Dakota School of Mines & Tech; MBA, Rockhurst University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “As a paper boy at the age of 6. I learned to be nice to my dad as he’d help me on cold Sunday mornings in South Dakota!”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANOTHER CAREER: “I would have entered politics, believe it or not. I love the service aspect but I would certainly hate today’s negativity.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: Henry Bloch: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “I almost got laid off during some tough days at Burns & Mac in 1982. I was lucky to be one of the younger/cheaper guys and would simply accept any task ever given me.”





Here’s a bit of trivia to tuck away: Sam Graves is one of only two congressmen whose districts include both the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. So the Missouri Republican and Tim Walz have
that in common, if not party affiliation. Graves is gunning for a record 10th term representing the sprawling 36-county district, which runs from Hannibal to St. Joseph. A native of Tarkio, he’s
a sixth-generation family farmer.

COLLEGE: University of Missouri-Columbia, Agronomy

POLITICAL DNA: His brother, Todd, now a prominent lawyer in Kansas City, is a former U.S. attorney for the Department of Justice.

D.C. CLOUT: Graves chairs the House subcommittee on highways and transit, and is a member of the House Committee on Armed Services.

DOMINANT: Since squeaking out a four-point win to punch his ticket to Congress in 2000, Graves has won re-election every two years with no less than a 3-2 margin over his challengers.





Don Gray truly rose from the ranks, with a BPU career spanning more than 40 years. He oversaw the research, design and construction of the state-of-the-art Nearman Water Treatment
Plant in KCK and received a prestigious industry award from the American Water Works Association. The annual BPU Charity Golf Tournament he helped to establish is in its third decade of raising money for children’s charities.

COLLEGE: B.S., Microbiology, Kansas State University; B.S., Chemistry, Rockhurst University; M.B.A., University of St. Mary

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I worked at a fast-food restaurant and learned the importance of quality, safety, cleanliness and appropriate appearance. They key was dependability, teamwork and, most of all, customer service.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Possess values of trust, honesty, accountability, dependability and integrity. Also, focus on building relationships, active listening, team building and communications skills.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS:“I was passed over for a key promotion and overcame that by broadening my education and obtaining an MBA. And I took a number of leadership courses.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Is by providing them an environment in which they can achieve their maximum potential.”




Once upon a time, a mentor told Don Greenwell to “be a coach”— and in a way, that’s exactly what he became. His organization, started in 1887 as the Master Builders’ and Traders’ Exchange,
has evolved into a vital non-profit association delivering important services for those in the building industry—from career development, to safety training, to marketing assistance, laborrelations help and much more.

COLLEGE: B.S./B.A., Finance, University of Missouri-Columbia; J.D., UMKC School of Law

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I was a dishwasher/busboy at Terrace Lake Inn in south KC. I learned how good it felt to be part of a hardworking, interdependent work team.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Being an economist would be interesting. It’s the crossroads of two subjects I like: finance and sociology.”

BIGGEST SETBACK: “Being in the vortex of the energy industry meltdown in 2001-2002. Networking and building new business relationships made for an amazing journey.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Is discovering what an employee finds motivating.”




If you enjoy a glass of spirits at the end of a long day, raise that glass to Gus Griffin. His company makes, among many other ingredients, beverage alcohol for some of the finest vodkas, gins,
bourbons and whiskeys in the world. The food industry depends greatly on MGP, too. Between the distilled spirits and food sides of MGP, 2017 net sales grew by 9.2 percent and gross profit by 16.4 percent. Those are numbers worth toasting.

COLLEGE: B.A., Economics, M.B.A., College of William and Mary

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Selling Cable TV door-to-door. It taught me the benefit of, literally, just getting your foot in the door!”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Ad copy writer. I love marketing and the power of well-crafted communications.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Never assume everyone has bought in. Constantly communicate, reinforce and engage.”

BIGGEST SETBACK: “I once launched a new brand that was a colossal failure. The straightforward, honest and transparent way in which I addressed the situation, combined with the skills, knowledge and relationships I developed cleaning up the problem, really helped build my own personal brand.”




Carrying on the vision of a Kansas City legend, Wendy Guillies is the KCK-born, Wendy Guillies has a lot of passion for this region and the work begun by her foundation’s founder—Kansas City business legend Ewing Marion Kauffman. Today it is one of America’s largest private foundations, with more than $2 billion in assets. Focused on the development of individuals and communities through education and entrepreneurship, Guillies spreads the Kauffman effect here, nationwide and globally.

COLLEGE: B.A., Journalism, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I was a waitress for a small restaurant in my hometown. I was pretty amazed at how thoughtless (and cheap!) some people can be, even when you provide the best service you can. That was a rather rude awakening.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER:“I think I would have enjoyed teaching, especially at the high school or college level. I have such respect for teachers and have benefited from some great ones.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “The most powerful leaders expand the power of those around them.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “To authentically want them to be successful and then do whatever I can to smooth that path for them.”




You see the administration building tower over Parkville, and immediately, the image tells you “typical bucolic small-town college campus.” And you couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, the
university led by Greg Gunderson has both a national footprint and a global reach. Many of its more than 16,500 students take classes on-line or at 41 campus sites across the nation, including satellite classrooms Downtown and in Lenexa City Center.

COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, University of Nebraska-Omaha; MBA, University of St. Thomas; PhD., Academic Administration, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

APPEAL TO VETS: Victory Media has designated Park as a “Top 10 Gold Military Friendly School,” ranking it fifth nationally among private universities with more than 10,000 students.

BUSINESS SENSE: While Gunderson came to Park from Webster University in 2016, he has a long history in business to draw on—he was a project controller at ConAgra and director of finance at APAC Customer Services, both in Omaha, and served as a tax accountant in St. Paul, Minn., at Cray Research and Arthur Andersen.

CRAFTY: Gunderson has interests you don’t run into every day: He’s a fan of the ice sport curling, and can turn out writing pens on a wood lathe.




There are sound reasons why UMB has emerged as the biggest player in Kansas City banking, with customer deposits that dwarf those of even the national banks operating here. Vision: Under
Mike Hagedorn’s leadership, UMB continues to grow by focusing on the areas that are central to this region’s business interests, including agriculture (it’s one of the nation’s top farm lenders),
consumer and business loans, and home mortgages. 

COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration (Finance and Accounting), Iowa State University; executive-education training at Harvard Business School, the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania), and Ross School of Business (University of Michigan).

FAMILY CONCERNS: Hagedorn is banker. His father was a banker. And his brother. His wife of nearly 30 years, at one point, was a bank examiner. “We still talk about banking at family get-togethers,” he once blogged. “It probably drives some of our spouses nuts, but that’s just who we are.”

DEAL-CLOSERS: As the bank was recruiting him to become CFO in 2005, he initially declined. But after meeting the leadership, dissecting the UMB culture and reviewing the bank’s financial statements (they “screamed ‘opportunity,’” he recalls), he brought the family here from Iowa.




There is business growth, and then there is something called hyper-growth. The latter frames Nathaniel Hagedorn’s world at NorthPoint Development. Since acquiring the former Briarcliff
Development in 2012, this St. Louis native has turned North-Point into a national powerhouse in commercial real estate development, especially in industrial/warehouse and multifamily

BOOM! Hagedorn is averaging—again, averaging—roughly $500 million in capital raised over the past six years for NorthPoint’s projects.

SINCE ITS INCEPTION: NorthPoint has developed more than 49 million square feet of Class A industrial space around the nation, including the mammoth Logistics Park Kansas City near Gardner in southwest Johnson County.

CORE VALUES: The company cites as its guiding principles financial discipline, putting people first, taking ownership of every situation, doing the right thing—every time—and promoting philanthropy.




He’s been in his job since 2013 and has already been lauded for renovating his school’s Kansas City campus and for opening a second campus in Joplin. His efforts at community outreach are
winning praise, too. Marc Hahn’s off-campus activities include the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, the board of directors for the Kansas City Area Development Council and serving as a
Trustee of Rockhurst University.

COLLEGE: B.S., Syracuse University; D.O., Des Moines University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Emergency Medical Technician for an ambulance company. Besides reinforcing my interest in medicine, it taught me the importance of being able to triage patients—it translates to all aspects of life.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I actually have straddled two careers, that of medicine and academic administration; it has allowed me to care for patients, but to also educate the next generation of physicians, scientists and health professionals to carry on long after I am gone.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “The former Surgeon General of the U.S. Army taught me that, when dealing with people, the world is grey. It is rare that people or situations are all black or white, good or evil, right or wrong.”




As family-owned businesses go, they don’t come much bigger than Hallmark. Founded by Joyce Hall 108 years ago, it’s run today by his grandson, Don Hall Jr., and even as it pivots to
embrace the digital age, the company remains a formidable force in both the personal expressions sector and in bolstering this region as a magnet for the creative class. His brother, David,serves as the company’s president.

COLLEGE: Degrees in Economics and Literature, Claremont McKenna College; M.B.A., University of Kansas

VARIED LINES: You hear Hallmark, you think greeting cards. But the company is a lot more: It has more than 2,000 Gold Crown retail stores, a home and gifts division, the
Crayola unit, Crown Media (including the Hallmark Channel and three 24-hour cable networks), and real-estate development through Crown Center.

PASSING IT ON: The company’s products form the foundation of many other family businesses, as most of the Gold Crown stores are owned by independent entrepreneurs who leverage the Hallmark brand and products for their own success.



A little more than a year ago, Adam Hamilton reached pinnacle of one worldly summit. The United Methodist congregation he founded in 1990 took the wrappings off a new 3,500-seat sanctuary on the church’s main campus in Leawood. The $81 million project is the physical heart of what is now billed as the largest United Methodist congregation in the world, despite launching with a handful of congregants from his family.

COLLEGE: B.A., Pastoral Ministry, Oral Roberts University; MDiv., Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

BRANCHING OUT: From its base in Leawood, the church has fanned out across the metro area and now operates additional campuses in Olathe, Downtown Kansas City
and Blue Springs.

PROLIFIC MESSAGING: Hamilton is also the author of 22 books that, among other topics, tackle thorny theological questions and explore the meaning of biblical passages.

DIGITAL DIVINITY: If you don’t catch him at a service, you can catch his message via his blog, or follow through Facebook and Twitter, the latter being a significantly more civil brand of discourse than, say, a political-oriented feed.



With more than 30 years of regional industry experience and plenty of significant projects on his resume, Dave Harrison leads an award-winning VanTrust team. The firm offers services in
development and acquisitions, as well as in asset and construction management, approaching every property and each client’s interests with a trustee’s concern for detail. Its portfolio of work
spans much of the nation’s interior, from Las Vegas to Ohio.

COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, Rockhurst University


MOST-ADMIRED CEOS: “Cecil and Larry Van Tuyl, because of their work ethic, their business acumen and their commitment to their people.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Being involved in the formation and growth of VanTrust.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “I haven’t gotten around to writing up a list.”

WHAT EMERGING BUSINESS TREND KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? “Figuring out what inning we are in, in this economic cycle.”

ONE FOOD YOU WOULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT: “Quik Trip roller dogs.”



In Vicky Hartzler’s mind, it was a case of federal overreach. So last month, she introduced a bill in Congress to put local school districts back in control of their own lunch programs. That’s just
one example her common-sense approach in representing Missouri’s 4th District. Hartzler introduced that measure last month to counter federal requirements that she says are leading to wasted food and hungry kids who won’t eat the restricted fare. 

College: B.A., University of Missouri; M.A., Education, University of Central Missouri. 

FARM ROOTS: Hartzler grew up on a Cass County farm and still lives on one, along with her husband and daughter.

EXTENDED REACH: The state has eight congressional districts, but Hartzler’s is one of the biggest in the region, covering 24 counties in western Missouri.

REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE: Hartzler’s familiarity with education issues comes right out of the classroom—she’s a former teacher in the Lebanon and Belton districts.

HOUSE CLOUT: Hartzler is a member of the House’s Agriculture and Armed Services committees, chairing the oversight and investigations subcommittee for the latter.


He leads a $4.9 billion company that moves freight for clients, but Darren Hawkins also understands that nothing moves without people. He tells aspiring executives, “Customers grow revenue, but employees grow customers, so take great interest in all employees.” YRC Worldwide boasts 32,000 transportation professionals throughout North America, transporting more than 20 million shipments annually for more than 250,000 customers.

COLLEGE: B.A., Marketing, Supply Chain and Logistics, University of Memphis

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Michael Kneeland of United Rentals—he built a first-class team during difficult times in a tough industry. The team made the company great and he pushes all the credit toward the group, not toward any individual.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “I’ve been fortunate to work in many areas of the transportation field and, looking back at all the great people whose careers that I’ve had an opportunity to contribute to, is something I’m proud of.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “To be the pilot in command of a fighter jet.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “I really enjoy Kansas City, but my passion  is all things Tennessee: family, farm, SEC Football.”

FAVORITE MOVIE: “Secondhand Lions.”

ONE FOOD YOU WOULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT: “The fried chicken at Rye.”



This one-time bus boy might today be called a very significant “water boy.” Mike Heitmann steers a company that has spent nearly 60 years creating systems to move water and wastewater
for municipal, federal, industrial and private clients. Garney’s reputation has been built on not only a dedication to quality but on a collaborative approach that gets quickly to the unique
needs of each project.

COLLEGE: B.S., University of Kansas

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Bus boy and dishwasher at a local restaurant in St. Louis. I learned that bus tubs full of dirty dishes are very heavy!”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I always enjoyed architecture. However, I quickly gravitated toward engineering and construction because my lack of creativity wasn’t cutting it in architecture.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Develop a clear vision and communicate it thoroughly and frequently.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “I have been placed in positions where I haven’t been able to utilize my strengths. You just need to keep plowing ahead and work hard toward what you believe in.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “By showing them that you care.”


His company focuses on web sites for federal, state and local government, but the goal is to make the citizen experience better when interacting with those governments and getting information from them. Herington and his team work with more than 5,500 entities on digital government services that provide transparency, efficiency, convenience and mobility. In his words, NIC was doing digital “before the Internet was cool.”

COLLEGE: B.S., Wichita State University; J.D., University of Kansas School of Law

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Mowing lawns. Attention to detail was the key to  securing recurring business; I learned that early, and I learned it the hard way.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “ER physician. The ability to provide critical care to individuals when they need it most would be an incredible honor.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Trust is everything. Never work for a company or person you do not trust. I give this same advice to my employees every day.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS:“Making an extreme strategic decision before truly understanding the business model. I overcame it by admitting the mistake and lack of understanding to myself and to my team. Then, we worked together to find the best solution.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Creating a positive and trustworthy environment.”




Most of those making the thousands of daily trips on the Downtown streetcar have no idea who Stan Herzog is. They should: They’re riding on rails his company laid. The St. Joseph heavy contractor won the bidding for the $86 million phase of the original 2.2-mile starter line, and seems a good bet for landing more as plans advance to extend the route to near the UMKC campus.

COLLEGE: Studied at Northwest Missouri State University, University of Missouri-Columbia

HEAVY HITTER: According to Engineering News-Record, Herzog Contracting was No. 92 among Top 100 firms for contract bookings last year, at $875 million—nearly the same volume as McCownGordon Construction (No. 95) and Burns & McDonnell (No. 99).

OTHER LINES: In addition to municipal streetcar systems, the company works in commuter and light rail, in ports and heavy highway construction, and in vehicle maintenance facilities.


Eat at a McDonald’s or a Chipotle this past year? Was the burger tasty? How ’bout that wrap? Then thank Steve Hewlett and his team at Earp Distribution, which likely provided the building
blocks for that main course. From its inception in 1954, Earp Meat Co. has specialized in the delivery of fresh meats to restaurants and hotels and institutions in the metro area.

SHIFTING GEARS: In 1962, the stage was set for a dramatic change of direction with the addition of two small burger joints to the client roster. They went by the name of McDonald’s.

BOOM TIMES: From meat patties to other elements of the menu, the company began serving a growing number of McDonald’s, venturing outside the market in 1972 to service Wichita, then adding markets in Joplin, Springfield and most of Nebraska.

DOMINATING: Today, Earp Distribution delivers to hundreds of McDonald’s sites in the Midwest, along with 50 Chipotle locations. It opened a new 184,000-square-foot distribution center (including a 20,000-square-foot freezer) in Wyandotte County in 2011, a site that will accommodate additional growth.




Mark Hinderks believes in maintaining a sense of humor, which probably served him well in the key role he played in the powerhouse merger that created Stinson Leonard Street. He’s also focused on the general state of the legal industry. A frequent author and presenter on legal matters, he is also co-founder of “Ethics for Good,” an annual legal ethics program that also raises money for charities and legal scholarships.

COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science and Economics (cum laude), J.D., University of Kansas

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I worked at a service station in high school and learned three things: customer service, how to get bugs off windshields and that I really should go to law school.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Late-night television comedy writer, because life is funny each and every day, and I’m not good enough to play pro golf.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Be consistent and transparent.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “Humor and hard work overcome, or work around all setbacks.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Frequent and honest communication.”


When things need to be moved—regularly, efficiently and with precision—Michael Hoehn and the team at ASI are the go-to guys. From the manufacturing and parking of cars, to industrial assembly and finishing, baggage handling and warehouse systems and more, ASI designs, builds and installs state-of-the-art automation for material handling. Hoehn’s previous experience as a restructuring consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers has served him well in diversifying the family business into the multi-industry company it is today.

COLLEGE: B.S., Business (Finance and Accounting), Georgetown University

ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Focus on how to build a team that lets each member run with their strengths, including yours.”

MOST ADMIRED CEO: “Hugh Andrews, chairman of Andrews McMeel Universal, leads with long-term vision, empathy for his team and an ability to hire the best and get out of their way.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Our mission at ASI is the build the best team imaginable to help our customers succeed. So, my biggest achievement is the construction and development of our current team.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Cheering on my kids at all their sports and activities; that includes caddying for my 11-year-old daughter recently.”

FAVORITE BOOK: “Abundance-The Future is Better Than You Think, by Peter Diamandis.”



Paul Holewinski is CEO of a family-owned company that houses both Academy Bank and Armed Forces Bank. Academy has branches throughout Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arizona and Florida. Armed Forces Bank serves active and retired military and civilian customers in all 50 states and across the world. Holewinski has been steering the ship since 2009, having taken that wheel just after the banking industry nearly hit the rocks.

COLLEGE: B.S., Finance, St. Louis University; M.B.A., St. Louis University School of Business; J.D., St. Louis University Law School

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I had a paper route from age 12-16. I think I made about $15 per week. This was back when you delivered the papers and collected money from people on your route. I learned that dropping off a paper was easier than collecting on the product/service, which was helpful later in life as a banker.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “GM for the Green Bay Packers is my dream job; still hoping they’ll call someday.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Betty Rae’s ice cream.”



He’s only the second person to hold this position at KVC, which has operated in the world of behavioral healthcare and child welfare for close to 50 years. Having worked directly with children and families, managed others who were doing so and made his way through leadership roles (including president of KVC Hospitals), Jason Hooper brings a 360-degree perspective to the KVC leadership role.

COLLEGE: B.A., Baker University; M.S.W., University of Kansas.  

TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Keep it simple. Be yourself, trust your instincts and fight for what you believe in.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Wayne Sims. Wayne is known as a great leader for how he built KVC from the ground up, but what I admire most is the incredibly kind, thoughtful and caring person he is and how his strong values always drove his actions.”

Bucket List No. 1: “I would love to surprise my wife by learning to play the guitar and serenading her with our wedding song. I guess the cat is out of the bag now, though!”

Passion/Hobby: “I truly enjoy the game of soccer, especially when coaching my kids or watching them compete.”


Venture and early-stage capital plays a critical role in the local economy, but is overlooked by most people, partly because it entails support for business at its most vulnerable stage. Darcy Howe has made it a mission to support that level of entrepreneurship, and the KC Rise Fund, which invests alongside institutional venture capital investors in companies here, has backed some highly successful ventures.

College: B.S., Business, Indiana University

SUCCESS STORIES: Among the firms that KC Rise Fund as supported are blooom, ShotTracker, IdleSmart, Bardavon Health Innovations and payit.

PROVEN RECORD: Before she joined KC Rise Fund, Howe was among the founders of Merrill Lynch Private Banking and Investment Group. Before she retired in 2015, effort had gone from 30 advisors to 350, with a total of $240 billion in assets under management. She also was a founding member of the Women’s Capital Connection.

NOT ALL ABOUT PROFIT: Her commitment to the nonprofit world has been substantial as well, with a history of board or committee service that includes the Kansas City Ballet, the audit committee for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the United Way of Greater Kansas City.


One of the newest members of the regional business leadership set, Sam Huenergardt succeeded Ken Bacon earlier this year at the helm of Shawnee Mission Health, a $2.15 billion health-care giant in Johnson County, and one of the region’s four busiest hospitals, in terms of admissions. You can discern a lot about what he brings to this new role by knowing that his favorite book at the moment is Patrick Lencioni’s The Ideal Team Player.

COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, Union College; MBA, Baker University

ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Do more than people expect you to do. Place more value on your team than yourself. Don’t worry about who gets credit for success.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “During my time at Central Texas Medical Center in San Marco, Texas, I worked with a campaign team to successfully pass legislation in Texas that helped our hospital help the community. The Medicaid waiver program helped create sustainability for emergency medical services and a public health clinic. It was such a rewarding experience to see that come to fruition and immediately help people.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “I’ve always wanted to visit the Holy Land, and I’m excited to say I’ll be doing so in March 2019! After studying the Bible my whole life, it will be amazing to see where some of these stories took place.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Spending time with my family is my favorite thing to do.”


In a way, it’s fitting that Heather Humphrey’s favorite movie is “Working Girl.” She’s responsible for all litigation, regulatory and corporate legal matters, compliance and audit functions for the energy giant that was formed through the merger of KCP&L’s parent and Westar Energy. A devotee of the arts, she serves with the Nelson-Atkins Business Council, as well as the boards of both Starlight Theatre and Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey.

COLLEGE: B.S./B.A., University of Missouri; J.D., Washington University; M.B.A., UMKC 

TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Be an issue-spotter and problem-solver. Stretching to the next role requires irrational confidence in many ways. Don’t accept the perceived limits of your own swim lane. Be smart and humble and surround yourself with other very smart and very humble people.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “Visiting the Great Wall of China.”

WHAT EMERGING BUSINESS TREND KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT?  “I think a lot about energy and technology—at all times of the day.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “I have a 12-year-old and a 4-year-old. What are hobbies?!?”

ONE FOOD YOU WOULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT: “I can live without dark chocolate, but not nearly as well.”




He was a month shy of four years old when his father’s football team brought to Kansas City something called a Super Bowl trophy. For nearly half a century, Chiefs fans have been looking for the other bookend, and since his father left us 12 seasons ago, they’ve pinned their hopes on the son to deliver. Will 2018 be that year? The prognosticators have their doubts, but the fans at the NFL’s premier tailgating stadium are unwavering in their faith.

COLLEGE: Bachelor’s, Business Administration, Southern Methodist University

BRAIN POWER: On the field, muscle counts. In Hunt’s office, things are tad more cerebral. He finished first in his class at SMU and twice received the university’s highest academic honor, the Provost Award for Outstanding Scholar.

FIELD GENERAL: There’s a sizeable stripe of athleticism in these genes, too: Hunt was a captain of SMU’s soccer team, and twice earned Academic All-America honors.

BUSINESS PEDIGREE: His father earned a fortune by founding the old American Football League, making televised football a Sunday sacrament in America, and launching professional soccer and tennis leagues, among other interests. But the real money in the family started with Grandpa—H.L. Hunt, the Texas oil tycoon.




Who says you can’t make money with a social-sciences degree? Annie Hurlbut has a pair of ’em. But more important, she has the soul of an entrepreneur. While still an undergrad in 1976, she firstcame across intriguing hand-woven garments in the ancient Peruvian capital of the Incas, and fell in love with alpaca as a source. Hmmmm … would American consumers pay for those? Forty years later, via Peruvian Connections, the answer is clearly, “yes.”

COLLEGE: B.A., Archaeology, Yale University; M.A., Anthropology, University of Illinois

FAMILY BEGINNINGS: Hurlbut founded the company with her mother, Biddy. Annie designed and produced from Peru; mom sold from the family’s farm near Tonganoxie in Leavenworth County.

GENDER EQUITY: Peruvian Connection is more than women’s wear; it also offers sweaters, shirts, polos coats and jackets for men.

MEDIA MAGNET: Hurlbut and her work have been featured in The New York Times, People, Vogue, Glamour, Women’s Wear Daily and, naturally, Ingram’s.





Mark Iammarino wasn’t happy about Turner’s second-place finish on bidding for the job of rebuilding KCI, but says, “I’m over it, as I can see that the out-of-town developer is now $300 million over and another year beyond our deliver promise.” Along with his wry sense of humor, Iammarino tracks half a billion dollars in annual business in the Kansas City and Denver areas for the nation’s largest contracting company.

COLLEGE: B.S., Bowling Green State University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I was a Field Engineer, performing line and grade for Turner Construction on a $50 million hospital project in Cleveland. I learned that you always measure twice before you cut!”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Developer of commercial buildings. I wanted to make an impact into Chicago’s skyline and the local communities, but of course I was looking to make the big money.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “First impressions count, so never under-dress for meetings. He made me iron my cotton Polo shirt before meeting with bankers!”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Is being humble. I started my career with a lot less experience then most engineering graduates these days.”




With Paul Gorup’s 2015 retirement and Neal Patterson’s passing two years later, Cliff Illig is the last working member of an iconic trio that changed the face of business in Kansas City. The Cerner Corp. co-founder and his entrepreneurial running mates created a health-care software company that went from startup in 1979 to the largest private employer in the region in 2018, with more than 24,000 employees worldwide—14,000 of them right here.

COLLEGE: Accounting and Business Administration, University of Kansas

VISION: Confidence in Cerner’s growth potential has spawned major satellite operations in Wyandotte County and now south Kansas City, where the Innovation Campus is projected to house 10,000 more workers by its 2025 scheduled buildout.

KA-BOOM! Prospects for that growth sharpened considerably in May, when the Department of Veterans Affairs reached a contract with Cerner worth $10 billion over the next 10 years; the task is to get the VA on the same records system as the Department of Defense. When Cerner landed that deal with the Pentagon in 2015, it was being called the biggest electronic-health system contract in history.

FAN-TASTIC: Illig is the well-known co-owner of Sporting Kansas City, the region’s professional soccer team, and those who know his face will often see it on camera, in the front-row seats behind home plate at Kauffman Stadium.



In 1957, an entrepreneurial man by the name of Ed Ismert got some investors together and started a catalog plumbing-supply company called Sioux Chief. It’s still an Ismert-family enterprise, but it’s come a long way from Ed’s first one-page, two-sided catalog. Today, his son Joe, and a team that includes a good number of extended family members, are putting out an astounding selection of American-made plumbing parts.

College: Rockhurst College

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I was stock boy at the local Ben Franklin. I learned to be on time, be accurate, be helpful and communicate clearly.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “A professional baseball player. What could be more fun. And I hear the pay ain’t bad!”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Communicate your expectations clearly and simply.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “After being told “No” after my third “perfect” sales pitch to a large prospective customer, I heard “Yes” after the fifth!”




Your local Westlake Ace is a great neighborhood hardware store that is part of a 10-state, 121-store organization. More than 100 years old, Westlake became a wholly-owned Ace subsidiary in 2012. This year, Joe Jeffries took over as CEO upon the retirement of Tom Knox. Before joining Westlake in 2014, this one-time hourly store associate was CEO of A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts, an arts, crafts and floral merchandise retailer.

BEST ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Be willing to take risks; look for the more challenging assignments even if you aren’t a subject matter expert. The experience will expand your knowledge base, allowing you to grow your technical skills as well as your potential leadership abilities.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “I’ve admired many over the years. Currently I follow Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn; his approach to leadership interests me on many levels.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT? “Climbing the ranks from an hourly associate to being CEO of a mid-sized, publicly traded company, and now this amazing opportunity I have.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “I want to travel and explore Alaska.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Sport fishing, when time permits, with my wife and children. Plus, we are big football and basketball fans!”



This native son of Kansas City isn’t happy about not having achieved Comprehensive Cancer Center designation for his operation—yet. But he says, “Stay tuned.” If there’s a man for the job,
Roy Jensen is the guy, having already be instrumental in achieving first-tier National Cancer Center designation for the group in 2012. That success is credited to his guidance of a world-class leadership team, a team that Jensen assembled.

COLLEGE: Associate’s, Neosho County Community College; B.S., Pittsburg State University; M.D., Vanderbilt University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Putting up hay for 3½ cents a bale. The major lesson I learned from it was that if you want to be successful in this world, you had better be willing to work hard.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “If I had my choice I would have been a player in the NBA, because I loved playing basketball, but medical school has turned out to be a pretty good Plan B.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Don’t confuse leadership with micromanagement; they have nothing to do with each another.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Hire great people, put them in charge and get the heck out of the way. 



The job was the right fit, the company was the right fit, the timing made it the right fit: Will all of that keep Jeff Jones anchored here? The well-traveled former executive for Target Corp. and Uber landed his first chief executive’s role here last fall, bringing to H&R Block a distinct vision of how technology is changing large organizations. That’s particularly relevant as the tax-preparation service continues to push beyond clients’ paper returns.

COLLEGE B.A., University of Dayton

HIGH PRAISE: Upon Jones’ hiring, board chairman Robert Gerard declared, that Jones “is a transformational leader, one who deeply understands today’s consumer and knows how to drive results in large-scale operations. Given his proven record of success in innovation and change management, the board is confident Jeff is the right person to evolve and grow our business in the years ahead.”

CRISIS MANAGER: Jones is credited with implementing efforts to drive traffic and regain loyalty from customers after Target’s brand was battered in the wake
of a notorious 2013 data breach.

C-SUITE PATH: He also served in leadership roles for The Gap, Coca-Cola Co. and the famed Leo Burnett ad agency.


U.S. Bank has been Mark Jorgenson’s professional home for literally all of his 37-year career. In 1981, he went straight from grad school into a job at a U.S. Bank predecessor. Today, he
leads the national bank’s community banking operation, overseeing the activity of more than 1,100 bank branches outside metropolitan areas. He chose to keep his family here in KC, where he is dedicated to a number of local institutions and causes.

COLLEGE: B.A., Economics and Business Administration; M.B.A. (emphasis in Finance), Washington University in St. Louis

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “The property and casualty commercial insurance space. It is similar to banking inasmuch as one manages risk for the benefit of clients.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “The best leaders are interested in finding out what’s right, rather than always being right. A corollary to this is that if a leader thinks he or she has all the right answers, they will stop asking all the right questions.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Involve them in the decision-making process, which creates a situation where we have better information with which to make decisions, and leads to a higher level of ownership/commitment.”



He’s been a big-bank CEO, taught English in China, co-founded a public-policy think tank, and founded and chaired the Shakespeare Festival. You don’t squeeze such accomplishments into one lifetime without being well-read. Fitting, then, that Crosby Kemper III now devotes his energies to leadership of the Kansas City Public Library, where he’s pushed to expand the range of offerings in allmanner of media, not just books.

COLLEGE: B.A., History, from Yale University.

SOUNDING OFF: Kemper is a regular on KCPT public television’s weekly “Ruckus,” weighing in on current events shaping life in Kansas City, the Midwest and the nation. He’ll dive into development subsidies, city spending on the jazz museum, the new airport and hotel initiatives and much more, all from the perspective of a limited-government libertarian.

NATIONAL CHOPS: His past work includes editing and contributing to a book on Winston Churchill, serving on the foundation board that governs Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello property, and won the Gold Medal for Libraries from the Institute for Museum and Library Services presented at the White House by former First Lady Laura Bush, who had been a librarian herself.



The torch was passed—again—within the Kemper family, this year, with Jonathan Kemper retiring as chairman of Commerce Bank’s Kansas City region and vice-chairman of the parent company. That came just a day before his brother, David Kemper, retired as the chief executive of the St. Louis operations. That role passed on to David’s son and Jonathan’s nephew, and the sixth generation of the iconic Missouri banking family.

COLLEGE: B.A., Harvard; M.B.A., Harvard Graduate School of Business

STILL ENGAGED: Kemper probably isn’t putting his business attire in mothballs just yet; he remains on the parent bank’s board, and the advisory board for the Kansas City operations, plus various community boards and his role as chairman of the William T. Kemper Foundation.

CIVIC BIGFOOT: His robust civic service includes the board of trustees for the Kansas City Public Library, where he’s president, the board at MRIGlobal, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Citizens Association, Kansas City Design Center, the Downtown Council and the Smithsonian National Board.

GROWTH ROCKET: FDIC on-line records only go back to 1994—12 years after Kemper started his career there—but even in the span since then, his time at the bank saw it go from $1.77 billion in deposits to $21 billion, and from 25 locations to 164.



It’s a public company, but make no mistake: The Kemper family influence still runs deep at the parent of Kansas City’s UMB Bank. And that starts with its chairman, Mariner Kemper, who
owned, by the SEC’s reckoning, more than 4.8 million shares as of this spring. Alas, while he’s the figurehead for the largest Kansas City-based bank in terms of market deposits, we must share him with Denver, his home base.

COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, University of Puget Sound

SHAREHOLDER SUPREME: Kemper’s shares in the company amount to 9.62 percent of that share class, and carry a book value of nearly $365 million.

FAMILY SUCCESSION: He’s the third son of the late R. Crosby Kemper Jr. to have risen to leadership of the bank, following in the footsteps of Sandy (who left that role in 2000) and Crosby III, who turned over the reins in 2004. Mariner was also the sixth Kemper (covering four generations) to lead the bank since its founding in 1913.

INDUSTRY PRAISE: Forbes designated Kemper as “America’s 7th Most Powerful CEO 40 and Under” in 2013, and American Banker gave him its 2008 Community Banker of the Year award.


Of all the area’s entrepreneurial success stories in the digital age—there are many—few compare to what Sandy Kemper’s. Founded amid the wreckage of the financial-services sector in 2008, C2FO is an on-line market for working capital, allowing companies to sell their receivables for the best price and manage peaks and valleys in their cash flow. It raised an astonishing $100 million in its latest funding round in February.

COLLEGE:  American History, Northwestern University

STEEPED IN FINANCE: Kemper’s path to his latest entrepreneurial venture included a stint as CEO of UMB Bank, a seat filled at various time by two of his brothers and previously by his father, the legendary R. Crosby Kemper Jr.

CONNECTED: Kemper is also an active angel and venture investor, and he holds corporate board roles for UMB Bank and its parent, UMB Financial, NIC, Inc.; AXA Art, Sipvine, and Cboe, the Chicago Board of Options Exchange, which bought Kansas City’s high-flying BATS Global Markets, the equities trading platform, for $3.2 billion in 2016.

PAYING IT FORWARD: Kemper has both philanthropic and business interests in education, having founded a program to help improve academic performance of inner-city school children as well as co-founding the non-profit Agriculture Future of America, a scholarship and leadership-development initiative.

ZOOLOGICALLY INCLINED: His family farm is home to horses, sheep, chickens and bees.



He’s been in the CEO chair at Security Benefit since 2011, but the spirit with which he led a turnaround of the company and continues to lead today won Mike Kiley a 2018 regional Entrepreneur of the Year award. Within just his first four years on the job, sales at Security Benefit grew from $1 billion to $7 billion. Today, the company holds assets totaling more than
more than $33 billion.

COLLEGE: B.A., Holy Cross College

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “A paper route, and I learned that getting up at the crack of dawn and being chased by unfriendly pets is not necessarily worth a dollar an hour!”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I enjoy music, and my favorite musicians are lyricists. Words can leave quite an impression, and I truly love the process of refining a speech to ensure maximum impact. In my next life, I’m going to write music or poetry.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “‘The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” If I expect greatness from my team—which I do— then I had better come to the table fully prepared to give them everything I have.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Is with accountability and recognition.”



Scott Kincaid leads a diversified collection of five family-owned business. Three of the Kincaid clan’s companies focus on buses—the familiar Kincaid Coach vehicles you’ve no-doubt seen on the road, the student-transportation services of DS Bus Lines and the vehicle sales of Midwest Bus Sales. The other two businesses? Ready-mix concrete and Information technology solutions.

COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, University of Tulsa

ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “There are two things you always control: your attitude and your work ethic.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Warren Buffet. The best at finding the right person for the job, properly delegating responsibilities and then motivating them to desire success.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT? “Our North Kansas City CNG project delivered in August of 2016. Midwest Bus Sales worked diligently with the school district, Clean Energy, Thomas Built Bus, Freightliner and Cummins to develop and deliver the largest alternative-fuel school bus conversion. Overall, the project is a 10-year pro forma with North Kansas City that reduced the operational budget by over $2 million the first year.”


The employee owners at Inland Truck Parts have had their interests in the hands of Greg Klein, and as CEO, he has not failed to deliver: Last year, the company expanded its operations into Louisiana, and earlier this year, it announced that it was broadening is reach again by merging with Denver-based Drive Train Industries. Inland has about 100 local employees, but 750 across its various operations.

THE LONG HAUL: Klein has been with the company since becoming CFO in 1995, and he was named president in 2014 before taking the reins in late 2016.

POLICY CHOPS: Klein has previously served as chairman of the Employee-Owned S Corporations of America, a group that works to inform lawmakers on issues of concern to employee-own companies.

FLIRTING WITH DIAMONDS: The company will soon celebrate its 75th anniversary; it was founded in 1944 and has nearly 30 locations in the Great Plains region.

KEEPING ’EM ROLLING: Inland’s parts inventory is huge; it covers light-, medium and heavy-duty trucks, SUVs and 4x4s, and has in-house component shops and onsite re-manufacturing assets.

TOP 100: At $137 million in 2017, Inland was No. 70 on this year’s Ingram’s 100.

Kansas Secretary of State

As Secretary of State, Kris Kobach is proud of having cut his office budget from $7 million to $4.6 million, while maintaining quality service for the citizens of Kansas. That same desire to save the taxpayer money while delivering necessary services is just one of the traits he hopes to bring to the Kansas governorship, should he win the office come November.

COLLEGE: B.A., Government, Harvard University; Master’s in Philosophy, Doctorate in Political Science, University of Oxford; J.D., Yale University

WHAT’S AT STAKE FOR BUSINESS IN THE ELECTION? “Spending in Kansas keeps going up and up and up, and as a result, the Legislature keeps increasing taxes to the point that business owners and Kansas residents are being taxed to death. We’ve seen record tax increases in 2017 in income taxes, and in 2015 in sales taxes. Those never should have happened, and that’s on top of a rising flood of property tax increases— a stealth tax increase due to reappraisals. We have to get state spending under control.”

TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Never stop learning.” 

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Chick-fil-A’s Dan McCarthy. His restaurants prove that one can glorify God through anything, even a fast-food restaurant.”



Power? Ann Konecny knows all about it. Oversees an enterprise that delivers power equipment across Kansas and western Missouri, this third-generation owner is truly one of the region’s power players among the c-suite ranks. If a road gets built in these parts, Foley’s equipment was probably involved. The company sells, rents and services a huge range of heavy construction equipment.

COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration (magna cum laude), Wichita State University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I had lots of jobs growing up in a family business. One of the most fun was clearing some land to make a pasture. It was a job where you could see immediate, tangible results from a hard day’s work. Today, I will sometimes tackle a short-term physical project for that sense of gratification.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “My grandfather taught me that wealth and other superficiality is not the measure of a person. He advised me, ‘wherever you go in life, there will be people richer than you and people poorer than you. Get used to it.’”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “I’ve had a ton. Overcoming them includes persistence, determination, humility, and being willing to learn.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Being transparent and authentic.”



One of the region’s biggest names in wealth management, John Kornitzer is the rain-making founder and CEO of Kornitzer Capital Management and its mutual fund group, Buffalo Funds. Kornitzer Capital, at last count by the SEC, had $6.99 billion in assets under management, serving nearly 5,000 clients. In addition to running the place, he also serves as a portfolio manager, working with fixed-income and equity portfolios.

DIVERSE CLIENTS: Of the 4,975 clients reported by KCM on its federal reporting, the bulk of assets under management (about $4.2 billion) are held by 10 investment companies. Individual investors account for more than 1,800 clients, and among them are 574 high-net-worth investors.

PATH TO OWNERSHIP: He honed his investment skills on Wall Street for 11 years, seven with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, and four with Butcher & Singer. Then came nearly a decade with Employers Reinsurance Corp. rising to vice president of investments. Throughout a series of acquisitions—by Getty Oil, Texaco and General Electric Investment Corporation—Kornitzer managed assets for ERC, then headed out on his own, founding KCM in 1989.



The eighth CEO at Burns & McDonnell, Ray Kowalik showed us early in his tenure that no good deed goes unpunished. A leading voice in the drive to turn KCI into a contemporary, one-terminal operation, he issued a spirited call to action last year with a newspaper commentary that kick-started the civic process. Voter approval for the work followed, and though the job went to a competing firm, Kowalik still believes a better KCI is in the city’s best interest.

COLLEGE: B.S., M.S., Civil Engineering, University of Missouri-Columbia

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Selling Christmas trees. I learned I didn’t want to work for less than minimum wage!”

ANOTHER CAREER: “I loved economics but I couldn’t figure out how to make a living with that major. Now I know I could have had Esther George’s job. How cool!”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “My college advisor encouraged me to get my master’s degree, but more important, to teach a class. He said the ability to prepare for and speak in front of a group would help me immensely in my career. He was definitely right.”

BIGGEST SETBACK: “Two years out of my career to take on a financially-challenged project with an unreasonable client. Our team on that project is still among some of my closest professional relationships. Adversity makes you closer.”




This gentleman, who always wanted to be a trader, is obviously a natural. Since his arrival at Lansing in 1995, business has been booming in the physical trading of whole grains, feed ingredients,
specialty and energy products via all modes of transportation both in North America and internationally. Today, Bill Krueger leads the company as CEO, in bold initiatives that include strategic
acquisitions and investments.

COLLEGE: B.A., Agricultural Business, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; MBA, Keller Graduate School of Management, DeVry University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Buying grain in Atchison, Kansas, for Congrats Trade Group, where I learned the basics of the industry.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “None—always wanted to be a trader.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Always focus on making yourself more valuable to the company. Promotions will follow success.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Explaining to them what I see in their future for them, personally.”

[#Beginning of Shooting Data Section] Nikon D2X 2006/08/11 11:03:58.7 Compressed RAW (12-bit) Image Size: Large (4288 x 2848) Lens: 85mm F/1.8 Focal Length: 85mm Exposure Mode: Manual Metering Mode: Multi-Pattern 1/160 sec - F/3.5 Exposure Comp.: +1.0 EV Sensitivity: ISO 100 Optimize Image:  White Balance: Direct sunlight AF Mode: AF-C Flash Sync Mode: Not Attached Color Mode: Mode II (Adobe RGB) Tone Comp.: More Contrast Hue Adjustment: 0° Saturation: Normal Sharpening: Normal Image Comment:                                      Long Exposure NR: Off High ISO NR: Off [#End of Shooting Data Section]


John McDonald had the vision for commercial brewing when it simply didn’t exist. Jeff Krum had something else: Investment capital AND business expertise. Anyone who knows a craft brewer
can tell you those skill and asset sets rarely overlap. Krum was on board from the inception at Boulevard, but didn’t join the staff until 1994. He served as CFO, and became president after
it was acquired by Belgian brewer Duvel Moortgat in 2014.

COLLEGE: B.A., Economics, Haverford College

MORE THAN KC: In addition to overseeing Boulevard, Krum is president of the Belgian owner’s national sales organization in the U.S., as well as Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, N.Y.

VISION MEETS VISION: Krum’s collegiate focus on restoration and adaptive reuse of historic buildings downtown settings meshed well with McDonald’s plans to set the brewery up on what was then a nearly vacant stretch of asphalt, Southwest Boulevard.

ENTREPRENEUR AT HEART: Krum is also the co-founder of Ripple Glass, which recycles glass (such as Boulevard bottles!) local and regional glass recycling solution.



Nearly a quarter-century after joining General Motors as an engineering director, Bill Kulhanek manages the auto maker’s Fairfax Assembly Plant, one of the crown jewels in Wyandotte County manufacturing. He started those duties in 2011, and after administering a $265 million plant upgrade, oversees 2,300 workers producing the Cadillac XT4 and the Chevrolet Malibu.

COLLEGE: B.S., Mechanical Engineering, University of Detroit; MBA, Wilmington University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “An internship. Fantastic way to gain experience (resume builder) and evaluate if the career is right for you.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Listen to your team members, be transparent, truthful, and always act with integrity.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “Setbacks are part of life and happen all the time; believe in yourself, persevere, and with hard work, any setback can be overcome.”




At one time a 14-year-old fast-food restaurant cook himself, Michael Kulp now leads an organization that provides quick, quality food at 581 restaurants in 23 states. He has a passion
and vision for growth that has seen KBP surge from $7 million in annual sales to more than $600 million. On the civic side of things, Kulp is a long-time supporter and active board member at the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City.

COLLEGE: Business Management and Marketing, Colorado Mesa University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Fast-food restaurant cook. It helped to frame my work ethic, built an acceptance of authority and built my respect for the industry.”


BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Courage is contagious.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Ensure that we help them find the right fit personally, professionally and financially in our business to help them achieve what’s most important to them, and doing so with an authenticity that is abnormal in today’s business world.”



System revenues alone put Mel Lagarde in an elite circle: HCA Midwest Health operates seven hospitals and multiple physician practices and clinics in the Kansas City region, including some of
the biggest medical centers in town—Research, Overland Park, Menorah, Centerpoint and Lee’s Summit, among them—and generating north of $8 billion. He came to that role in 2011, overseeing
a system with more than 1,400 licensed beds.

COLLEGE: B.A., Master’s in Public Health, Tulane University

LASTING POWER: Lagarde has been with HCA for 40 years, rising through the ranks to lead several different divisions of the publicly held hospital network.

PAYROLL PUNCH: Among regional employers, only Cerner Corp. issues more paychecks than HCA, which has just over 10,000 people working across the region.

THE ROAD TO KC: Before landing his current position, Lagarde held leadership positions at HCA hospitals in Georgia, Virginia and Texas.



It’s hard to overstate the role played in St. Joseph by Mark Laney and his team of more than 3,300 caregivers and support staff at Mosaic Life Care. Naturally, one element is being the largest
employer in town, and by a significant margin. More important to the region is the hospital’s role as a regional health-care magnet, drawing patients not just from St. Joseph and surrounding counties, but across multiple states.

COLLEGE: B.A., University of North Texas; M.S., Medical Management, University of Texas-Dallas; M.D., University of Texas Medical Branch

SERVED WITH MAYO: Laney is a pediatric neurologist by training, having completed his fellowship in that specialty at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He’s also a past president of the Mayo Clinic Alumni Association.

THE ROAD TO ST. JOE: Before arriving at Mosaic in 2009, he spent eight years as president of the Cook Children’s Physician Network and 12 more before that on staff at Fort Worth-based Cook Children’s Health Care System.

HIGH PRAISE: Becker’s Hospital Review has named Laney one of the nation’s 30 Best Physican Leaders of Hospitals and Health Systems.



Gordon Lansford has been in the CEO chair of the region’s biggest construction company since 2014 and steers a ship that generates nearly $3 billion in annual revenue and is ranked among
the best in the industry in several major construction sectors. He also works with various philanthropic and civic organizations around the region, including Children’s Mercy Hospital, Boys and
girls Clubs of Kansas City and United Way of Greater KC.

COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting and Business, Baker University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Mowing lawns; learned to run a small business.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I can’t imagine doing anything I love more than working at JE Dunn.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Set the tone by the way you act.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “I’ve only had two jobs, so I’ve been blessed and lucky that it’s all gone well.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Is with trust and transparency.”

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Planning, design, construction management and capital programming for transportation systems—Brian Larson brought it all to TranSystems, where during a 35-year career he rose to chief executive and now chairs the board for a firm with nearly $200 million in annual revenues. His tenure at the top has been marked by both organic growth and acquisitions that have taken the company from just 15 employees to more than 1,000.

COLLEGE: B.G.S., Philosophy, B.S.C.E., Civil Engineering, M.S., Engineering Manage-ment, University of Kansas

PACKING PUNCH: For a firm of its size, TranSystems operates in a surprisingly diverse set of engineering disciplines—working for airports, airlines, public-sector agencies and entities, rail, marine, trucking and automotive concerns.

BROAD REACH: The firm operates nationwide, with more than 30 offices.

OUTSIDE THE OFFICE: Larson sits on the advisory board for the University of Kansas School of Engineering, and has a rich history with leadership or membership on boards in the engineering sector, secondary education and financial institutions.

PASSIONATE ABOUT: Not just auto racing, but tying that interest to the needs of sick and hospitalized children.


Herewith, an executive with one of the most varied backgrounds you’ll ever find. When she graduated high school (at 16!) she had a summer job drafting maps for the U.S. Forestry Service. Career
stops for Sandra Lawrence have included stints in management consulting, investment banking, statistical research and the computer industry—just to name a few. Children’s Mercy has
had the good fortune of being her professional home since 2005.

COLLEGE: A.B., Psychology (Statistics), Vassar College; Master’s in Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; MBA, Harvard Business School

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I have been fortunate to have had many jobs, and careers, and I have loved every one of them. Now, while I work as Chief Administrative Officer/EVP at Children’s Mercy, I serve on the boards of Evergy, American Shared, NACD, the Hall Family Foundation, the Stowers Institute and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I thoroughly enjoy that part of my career, as well.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Enjoy the process of asking questions. That’s how we learn, incorporate great input from others and develop important relationships. Understanding how a process works gives me the comfort to step back and focus on the big picture.”




It seems as though Carlos Ledezma never had to look for work—it came looking for him in his native Texas when he was just 14, and he’s been hard at it ever since. The son of Mexican immigrants,
he is living the American Dream and its Kansas City corollary as owner of Cable Dahmer Auto Group. Last year, those dealerships amassed nearly $342 million in sales of new and used vehicles, parts and service. Look for large gains at the end of 2018.

QUICK STUDY: Ledezma arrived in Kansas City in 1994 and took a job on the Miracle Mile in Independence, at Cable Dahmer Chevrolet. Just eight years later, he owned the place.

FLEXIBLE APPROACH: “The automotive business,” Ledezma says, is like any business, and in a dealership, we have five to eight different businesses within a business. Each one runs separately with a completely different model and agenda. The key is to find the “X” factor to make the business run.

SUCCESS FACTORS: Ledezma attributes the company’s success to three elements: “People. Vision. And dedication to process and procedures,” he says.

TO YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS: ”Have dreams. Develop goals to reach them. Read them Daily. Adjust as needed. Dont listen to the noise.”



The importance of Bayer Animal Health’s role in the regional animal-health corridor—and of Joyce Lee’s position therein—was demonstrated earlier this year when she was one of four animal-health executives nationwide to receive the inaugural Feather in Her Cap Award. She’s been leading the North American headquarters in Shawnee since the spring of 2016, coming to this region from Zoetis, where she was executive vice president.

COLLEGE: B.B.A., Baylor University. MBA, Jacksonville University

OTHER STOPS: Lee has also held senior leadership positions at Pharmacia and Pfizer working in strategic planning, sales management and commercial operations. At Zoetis, she was area president for Canada and Latin America.

BAYER FOOTPRINT: The animal-health division and its roughly 650 employees account for half of the German conglomerate’s presence in the region; Bayer Crop Science in Stilwell roughly matches its sister organization’s employment level.

GLOBAL PLAYER: The parent company reported $17 billion in overall revenue for 2017.



Two years ago, Jim Lewis was the head of a bank with a very respectable $852 million in assets. Today, only two other locally based banks have more in deposits than his Security Bank
of Kansas City, thanks to the 2016 unification of seven other banks sharing a marketing brand, and Security boasts more than $3 billion in assets. It’s also one of the easiest to access, with 45 locations in the region.

BUSINESS-MINDED: Security Bank’s commitment to business lending shows up in statistics from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.—that data put the bank at No. 3 in the region for commercial lending among banks headquartered here, trailing only Commerce Bank and UMB.

BUSINESS PEDIGREE: The seven banks that merged to form Security Bank were part of the Valley View Bancshares holding company, which traced its ownership roots to a pair of high-profile business figures from Kansas City’s past: the late banker/developer Frank Morgan and his uncle, Sherman Dreiseszun.



David Lockton’s leadership has brought the company from $400 million in revenue a decade ago to $1.4 billion. It’s a growth story that has been happening ever since he left a job in 1976
to join his late brother, Jack, as the ninth staffer at Lockton. A few years after that arrival, he oversaw the company’s expansion beyond its construction-industry focus into numerous other
industries and led a major international expansion.

COLLEGE: B.A., Kansas State University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Selling stuff door-to-door. Selling can be really humiliating at times.”


BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “People don’t necessarily follow you because you are competent. They follow when they believe you care about them.”




He’s the proud keeper of a Kansas City entrepreneurial legacy: Ron Lockton leads the company his late father founded in 1996. And no, this is not his father’s Lockton. That small but
fast-growing insurance brokerage service today is a large but fast-growing global provider of employee insurance and benefits programs and solutions. And it’s the world’s largest private independent brokerage, with 2017 revenues that topped $1.4 billion.

COLLEGE: Bachelor’s, Economics, University of Kansas

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “My brother Steve and I had a lawn-mowing service when we were teenagers. It helped us learn how to deal with lots of different people. It also taught us how to finish what we started and the value of hard work.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I love to teach and coach, so a possible career alternative might have been as a high school teacher and basketball coach.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “ Set a good example, and don’t ask people to do anything that you aren’t prepared to do yourself.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Caring about our associates and putting them first.”


The lessons you learn in business leadership aren’t exactly the ones you learn leading soldiers into battle, but it’s safe to say that Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy has both skill sets in his toolkit. The highly decorated combat veteran, with tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan on his record, became commanding officer at the Army’s prestigious Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in 2016.

COLLEGE: McNeese State University

ADJUNCT DUTIES: Lundy is also deputy commanding general for the Combined Arms, U.S. Training and Doctrine Command.

AIR AND ARMOR: Lundy’s military career started right out of college, with assignments in Air Cavalry and Armored Cavalry at Fort Bragg, N.C.

HONORS: The decorations on his chest include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Master Aviator and Parachutist badges, Combat Action Badge and the Ranger Tab.



Entrepreneurial spirit struck Greg Maday at an early age—as an 8-year-old paperboy. Today, his day job is concrete-industry chemicals, just one aspect of a varied life. He’s also an owner in the Sporting Kansas City soccer club and co-founder of both a steel-products company and a capital-investment firm. He also has been active in various positions at the American Royal for nearly 20 years.

COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration-Finance, University of Missouri, Columbia; Postgraduate studies, Harvard Business School

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: The paperboy job “(taught me the simple importance of running your own company. It taught me the importance of getting the job done, no matter the obstacles, or in our case, the elements. It taught me that people depended on us to complete our task successfully by 6 a.m. every morning. It also taught me the importance of providing exceptional service. Finally, it taught me that I didn’t get paid until I collected, which we did on a weekly basis!”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Country/western songwriter. I’d prefer to be a singer, but don’t have the voice!”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Leaders go last. Successful leaders set it up for everyone to go first, then you follow.”



Mike Maddox views a setback as an opportunity to get better. Asked for an example, he told us, “Some may have thought it was a setback when we started CrossFirst Bank in the midst of a financial meltdown.” That meltdown was the brink of the not-so-fondly remembered “Great Recession.” Through sound management, CrossFirst survived; 10 years later, it crossed the $3.5 billion mark in assets.

COLLEGE: B.A., Business, J.D., University of Kansas

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED : “I started my professional career as an attorney. I learned the importance of preparation and the skill of asking great questions.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “A professional basketball player in the NBA!”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Coach (Roy) Williams always told us a saying Harry Truman was fond of: ‘It is amazing what you can accomplish
if you do not care who gets the credit.’”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Is to think and dream big!”



One of a comparative handful of public companies based in Kansas City, Compass Minerals is a global producer of salt, plant nutrients and magnesium chloride, primarily used in treating road surfaces and as a fertilizer. Since 2013, the man running the show has been Fran Malecha, who brought with him a quarter-century background in agribusiness.

COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting, University of St. Thomas

WINTER WELCOME: Most of us may chafe at the condition of roads during a Midwestern winter, but the snowy days that produce them are rays of sunshine for Compass. The harsher the winter, the better for the company’s line of road-treating chemicals.

GROWTH STRATEGY: On his watch, Compass Minerals has made acquisitions in both North America and South America to drive future growth, along with major investments in its core assets for production of salt and plant nutrients.

PREVIOUS STOPS: Malecha was COO of the global grain business at the Canadian firm Viterra Inc. before joining Compass, and logged service in various management roles at General Mills for 15 years before that.



Managing over $29 billion for high-net-worth clients through-out and outside the U.S. takes more than just an average team. And that’s what Peter Mallouk prides himself on having at Creative Planning—a team devoted to doing one’s best for others. “That approach not only attracts and retains the right people,”
he says, “but weeds out those who are looking for transactional or product roles that don’t fit our culture or values.”

COLLEGE: Four-major undergraduate, University of Kansas; J.D., M.B.A., University of Kansas

FIRST JOB LESSONS LEARNED: “Delivering newspapers. What I ultimately learned was how critical it is to have parents willing to support aspirations. I was too young to drive, so my dad had to drive the route while I tossed the papers and my mom would follow as I collected door to door. I am sure they secretly partied like rock stars the night I told them I was going to move on to mowing lawns.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Politics was appealing at one point, then, well, it became less appealing! Now, that’s actually the worst job I can imagine.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “To create a culture where everyone knows that they are part of a place that is always doing its best for others.”



If you’ve ever enjoyed the fabulous interior of Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, you know what Bill Massey’s company can do. With 7,000-plus employees in more that 60 branches nationwide, PCG executes complex projects for commercial and industrial clients in varied sectors. And they love what they do: Massey reports the company is enjoying the highest level of employee engagement and job satisfaction in its history.

BEST ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Focus every day on being the best version of yourself, be confident and humble. Invest in and take care of the people around you.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “The past few years have been an exciting time for our company. We have been able to continue our unprecedented growth while at the same time focusing on our core value of “Employee Success and Well Being.”

WHAT EMERGING BUSINESS TREND KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? “The speed at which technology is impacting all businesses; construction is not immune to this reality. Sometimes it is difficult to anticipate where to invest next, like everyone, just keeping up with technological advancements is not good enough, PCG wants to lead the pack.”

FAVORITE BOOK: “Two books by Jim Collins really had an impact on me: Good to Great and Built to Last. They helped me formulate what ‘right’ looks like for PCG.”



When her current employer was looking for a new CEO back in 2013, it didn’t have to look far: Bridget McCandless had been on the foundation’s board since its inception in 2003. A physician by both training and practice, she brought to the task a medical background in internal medicine, having worked in both private practice and for non-profits.

COLLEGE: MD, University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine; MBA, Health Care Leadership, Rockhurst University.

POLICY WONK: McCandless has long been involved with health policy and public-health improvement, and was health-policy adviser for the Local Investment Commission.

PRACTICING THE PREACHING: Before joining the foundation, she put that experience to work as the founder and director of the Shared Care Free Health Clinic, one of the region’s largest health clinics devoted to serving the poor and uninsured.

POWER PLAYER: The foundation was created in 2002 as part of the Hospital Corporation of America’s purchase of Health Midwest. Last year, a seven-year legal battle ended with the HCA agreeing to settle the case by paying the foundation an additional $160 million.





Downtown Independence is still working to reclaim the full charm it oozed when a fellow name of Harry Truman was living a few blocks to the west, but it has come a long way over the past 20 years. And if anyone could be credited for that revival, it’s Cindy and Ken McClain. The founding partner at one of the region’s premier litigation law firms and Cindy have invested millions of dollars and hours of to bring commerce back to the town square.

COLLEGE: B.A. (magna cum laude), Graceland College; J.D., University of Michigan Law School

MAJOR PLAYER: Since 1991, McClain’s track record includes major-case victories that total nearly $400 million in damages awarded by juries. And those are just the major cases—since 1986, his aggregate volume of awards and settlements is north of $1 billion.

BUSINESS IS POPPING: When Polly Pop’s, a craft soda enterprise, opened on the square last year it gave Cindy and Ken McClain a 17th business in
the neighborhood. Among their other investments there are restaurants, an art gallery and a specialty grocery.

ACCOLADES: He’s done as well from a civic perspective as he has with litigation, earning more than dozen distinguished-service civic awards and industry honors.





Effective this year, Pat McCown retired after nearly 20 years of pouring his heart and soul into the construction company he founded with Brett Gordon. What did he leave behind? Well, 2017 revenues from the firm reached half a billion dollars. Perhaps as important, he left a legacy of corporate and personal philanthropy that few will match, and of personal service to a huge list of non-profit boards and civic initiatives.

COLLEGE: B.S., Civil Engineering, Missouri University of Science & Technology; M.B.A. University of Missouri-Kansas CityCOLLEGE: B.S., Civil Engineering/Math, Missouri University of Science & Technology

SIGNATURE WORK: One need not look far to find a major project with McCown-Gordon’s fingerprints on it: The Museum at Prairiefire and adjacent parking
garage, HyVee Arena, the KU Med Center’s Health Education Building, the new sanctuary at Church of the Resurrection—it is a very long and very impressive list.

MODEL EMPLOYER: McCownGordon has also been a three-time winner of Ingram’s Best Companies to Work For award. That’s not something to be taken lightly—
companies can’t win it more than once in any three-year period, and it only dates to 2008.

STEWARDSHIP: In addition to the time, talent and treasure the staff is encouraged to devote to non-profits, the company itself designates at least 10 percent of after-tax profits to various philanthropic causes, including humanitarian and artistic.

LITTLE-KNOWN FACT: Before entering the construction industry, McCown developed an expertise in coal gasification and tertiary oil recovery methods.


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Madeleine McDonough doesn’t just make a priority of increasing diversity at both the law firm she chairs and the sector she represents—she is, in fact, a part of that diversification. Fewer than 35 percent of lawyers at U.S. firms are female, fewer still are minorities, and far fewer are women in the top executive’s role, as she has been at Shook since January 2017.

CONNECTING THE DOTS: Without that diversity themselves, she has said, firms will not be able to truly connect with the needs of clients in an increasingly diverse society.

C-SUITE PATH: McDonough served for 10 years on the firm’s Executive Committee before becoming chair, and led its pharmaceutical and medical-device division,
the largest practice group of its kind.

PRESCRIPTION FOR SUCCESS: In another life, she was a clinical pharmacist, a role that paid huge dividends in representing pharmaceutical companies, medical device makers, and food and cosmetics manufacturers.

POWER PLAYERS: McDonough has represented some of the biggest names in business, including all of the 10 world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies. (Think Pfizer, Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline).



Marc McEver started out in the Detail Department of Olathe Ford back in the 1980s and later decided to try his hand at selling. Long story short: He found his calling. He went on to create the dealerships Commercial and Fleet Departments, which together account for more than 25,000 sales per year. McEver has been a Dealer Principal since he and Sam Mansker purchased Olathe Ford in 2003.

TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Don’t expect it to happen too fast; great opportunities take time.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Alan Mullaly for saving Ford and, more importantly, changing the culture.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “My rise from car porter to owner.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “Play Pebble Beach with my son.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Family and golf.”






As the CPA firm’s founder and senior partner, John Meara brings five decades of experience to the table, with expertise in business valuation, fraud examination and financial forensics. He also gives direction for the firm’s litigation support services and provides general business consulting. And clients aren’t the only ones seeking his skills; he has lectured for the Graduate School of Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting, University of Illinois

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Developing real estate. Creating beautiful buildings for people to live and work in brings me great satisfaction, but the risk of financial loss is too great to ignore.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Great leaders teach by example. My wife says, “More is taught by what is caught!” and it’s true.”

BIGGEST SETBACK AND YOUR RESPONSE: “My modest real estate empire crashed and burned after the 1986 tax act reduced tax benefits for real estate. Coupled with the end of the Baby Boom, which reduced the need for offices and housing, real estate declined in value, in many cases by 20 percent to 50 percent. If you had 20 percent in equity, your equity disappeared overnight. How did I overcome it? Work, work, work!”




Last year’s bid to push a makeover of Kansas City International Airport did not produce the typical outcome of a Michael Merriman deal: The proposal to fund a Burns & McDonnell-led rebuild of KCI was shot down by the City Council, a rare rebuff to a man with a long record of growth from his behind-the-scenes work in various lines of finance. His family owns Financial Holding Corp., parent of Americo and dozens of other corporate ventures.

“GO PONIES!” Merriman, his wife and their children are all graduates of Southern Methodist University.

FINANCIAL MENTORING: Merriman’s father, the late Joe Jack Merriman, was the chief executive at Waddell & Reed from 1961-1969.

DIVERSE HOLDINGS: Other FHC interests include life insurance, securities, mortgage finance and gas exploration.

DOWNTOWN FOOTPRINT: Among the parent company’s holdings is a 50 percent interest in the partnership that owns two of the central business district’s biggest hotels: The Kansas City Marriott Downtown, and across the street, the Muehlebach Tower of the Kansas City Marriott Downtown.



Trey Meyer was brought on to manage technology at Midway Ford in 1991 and became president in 2009. In his time there, the company has enjoyed an impressive 18-year streak winning the Ford President’s Award, the highest honor a Ford dealership can receive (Midway has won it a total of 21 times). It has also won plenty of other awards, by making the most of a great truck-selling location at the heart of the lower 48.

COLLEGE: B.S., University of Kansas

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “My first job was with a local computer company. I built and installed PCs, as well as trained users on their operation, despite being self-taught and 16 at the time. I always felt over my head, as I couldn’t believe I was teaching very smart people at prestigious companies how to use computers! It taught me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and gave me the confidence to tackle other challenges that I thought were just beyond my reach.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I’ve always wanted to teach. Watching someone light up when they learn a concept is a great feeling, and it somehow makes the world just a little better. I also enjoy sharing knowledge with those around me. I think teaching would have been a very rewarding career.”




In 1909, a man named Myron Green opened the first Myron Green Cafeteria in Kansas City. In 2001, that company merged with Treat America, which then was purchased by John Mitchell, Sr. Today, that story of growth and forward motion continues as the younger Mitchell leads the company through its transformation into Company Kitchen, a workplace food solutions company offering not just food, but nutrition and wellness support as well.

COLLEGE: B.A., English, Philosophy, University of Kansas; J.D., KU School of Law

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “In high school, a friend and I mowed lawns for more than 50 clients. It was hot and dirty work but a great lesson in entrepreneurship at a young age. Happy clients were our best marketing tool. Our biggest challenges were getting clients to pay on time and avoiding dog droppings.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Establish the vision, strategy, and success metrics and then get out of the way! My job is to support the team, not the other way around.”

GOOD EATS: Company Kitchen is doing its best to flip the model of food offerings at work; far from stale vending-machine fare, it provides creative, customized menus for corporate dining areas, catering services and more



Flipping the stock rationalization from “The Godfather” on its head, when it comes to the company his family has run for nearly 150 years, Jonathan Mize sees his work as something that isn’t just business—it’s personal. Many of those client company, after all, have been buying from this Atchison enterprise for more than a century. The wholesale hardware distribution company ships products to retailers in 13 states.

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Besides working in the warehouse for my company back in high school, my first actual job away from the business was selling cars with Overland Park Jeep Eagle back in the early ‘90’s. I learned to listen, that some people did not like car salespeople, but selling was fun.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Radio personality/DJ. I would’ve really like to be on KY102 back in the day. But now with all the changes that have taken place—consolidations, satellite, etc., I think that I made a better career decision.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Treat everyone with respect. The person sweeping the floors could be the owner of the business.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “Losing a major account. But staying focused and positive, and finding new opportunities to make up for that loss.”

MOTIVATING EMPLOYEES: “Being approachable, willing to listen, getting input from employees.”


Five large health-insurance providers serve the Kansas City market, creating fierce competition for the roughly 3 million people enrolled in health-care insurance programs. Since 2004, Cigna HealthCare of Kansas and Missouri has relied on Frank Monahan to carry the company’s banner with an office that serves both states. He’s a veteran of nearly 30 years in the industry, having worked for some of the biggest names in insurance.

COLLEGE: B.S., Finance, LaSalle University

TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Hold true to your aspirations and harness your passion for what you do.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “David Cordani, our current CEO. His inherent compassion while expecting and enabling you to reach your full potential is inspiring. He always leads by example.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Developing talent.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “Completing a full triathlon.”


FAVORITE BOOK/MOVIE: “Book, Good to Great; movie, Rocky—the original.”




Wichita-born Dayton Moore is in his 12th full season with the Kansas City Royals. He arrived in 2006, with the goal of winning a World Series; that happened in 2015. But a stellar career is just part of Dayton’s story. His dedication to this community is every bit as strong as his passion for baseball. He helped established Kansas City Urban Youth Academy, empowering underserved youth through baseball and softball, academic and social opportunities.

COLLEGE: A.A., Garden City Community College; B.S., Physical Education/Health, and M.S., Sports Administration, George Mason University

ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Surround yourself with people who have earned the right to speak into your life; trust in their experience and wisdom. Forgive others daily, and when you make mistakes, learn from them and don’t stay wounded. Most importantly, leadership begins and ends with putting others first.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “We’ve always tried to do our best to represent the Glass Family, Kansas City, our fan base and the game of baseball with integrity and class.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Spending time with my family and studying all aspects of leadership and great leaders.”

FAVORITE BOOK: “The Management Methods of Jesus, by Bob Briner.”



Kansas City boasts hundreds of global, national and regional-scale animal-health companies operating here, but few of them have the kind of labor-to-revenue ratio of Blue Springs-based Durvet: It generated nearly $184 million in 2017 sales with just 38 employees. Orchestrating that symphony of efficiency is Todd Muenstermann, the former CFO who took the leadership role in 2015 after the retirement of Bob Hormann.

COLLEGE: B.S.B.A., Central Missouri

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Leaders shouldn’t have all the answers and certainly better not think they’re the smartest person in the room. It took me some time to figure this one out and come to the realization that leadership isn’t about having all the answers … it’s about having the right questions.”

HUMBLE START: The company launched in 1970 with a single van and a 500-square-foot rented space. Today, it has a 78,000-square-foot warehouse with advanced logistics and distribution technology.

PIONEER: The company was the first in the over-the-counter animal-health market to both make and distribute its products, a model that became a standard for the animal-health supply-chain business.



John Murphy cast a big shadow over business in Kansas City as three-term chairman of the largest law firm here. After turning over the reins at Shook, Hardy & Bacon early last year, he’s gone back to his passion, serving clients, but also focuses on finding creative solutions for the firm with the goals of budget predictability, efficiency and results.

COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, University of Connecticut; J.D., Washington & Lee University School of Law

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I mopped floors at a factory that made ball bearings. They would spray oil on the bearings while grinding them, so things would get pretty messy. I learned if you want a quality result, you have to work hard at it. I convinced myself I was going to do a better job mopping those floors than anyone else in the factory.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER careeR … “I would have taught American history. I am fascinated by the period between the beginning of the American Revolution and the end of the Civil War.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “A true leader looks at every result with a window/mirror mentality. When things go right, thank everyone who contributed. When things go wrong, look in the mirror and figure out what you could have done better.”


Tim Murphy knows that true achievement in business means succeeding when times aren’t good. “We are in a very cyclical industry which can present challenges when our market slows dramatically,” he says. “We have always dealt with this challenge in a positive manner that has allowed us to continue to grow when our competitors are reducing services and staff.” The company sells new and used trucks at nearly 70 U.S. dealerships.

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Janitor for the grade school I attended. I had a very strong-willed supervisor and I learned early on the importance of hard work and completing the job timely and accurately.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER “I would have liked to explore a military career. Our son is an F-16 pilot in the Air Force. I have had the privilege to get to know a number of his fellow pilots and crew members and they are an impressive and cohesive group serving our great country.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Being open and honest is paramount. Learn to have a great deal of empathy while setting high standards of excellence and support your team.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Setting a culture that encourages open, two-way communication. Always give a full explanation of the ‘why.’”



We can say one thing for sure about Kathy Nelson: She is fearless. You have to be, to put yourself out there in a Dancing With the Stars-type competition, as she did not long ago to benefit Cristo Rey School. (She won that competition’s Grand Champion honors, by the way.) Nelson is among the leading proponents of sports in Kansas City, working to recruit NCAA-level championship and strengthening the sports ecosystem’s economic impact on the region.

COLLEGE: B.A., Truman State University

INDUSTRY HONORS: Nelson was recognized for her acumen with a seat on the
National Association of Sports Commissions’ board of directors in 2016, and Compete Magazine recognized her work by naming the Kansas City organization as Sports
Commission of the Year in 2017.

CAREER PATH: After starting in local television news, Nelson worked in marketing, sales and promotions with Metro Sports and Time Warner Cable, then segued into the sports commission world as director of its Women’s Intersport Network for Kansas City (WinKC), then taking her current role in November 2011.

GROUND-BREAKER: Nelson was the first woman to win a regional Emmy for the production of an NFL game in 2002.



What better first job for a CEO than Little League referee? All these years later, Rex Newcomer is still spending his time making calls. “You can’t make everyone happy; you just have to call it the way you see it,” he says of that experience. Newcomer and the rest of the folks at this family-owned enterprise are doing Bud Pace’s memory proud nearly a century after the company was founded; 2017 sales surpassed $350 million.

COLLEGE: University of Kansas

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER:“I would have been a librarian. Why? Getting paid to read.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Effective leaders come in many shapes and sizes. They all consistently pursue their passion and live their vision with a clear understanding of where they are going and why. Their energy attracts people and fuels the team commitment that sustains the focused attention necessary to achieve lasting success.”

BIGGEST SETBACK: “No single setback for me. I often refer to a quote that is often attributed to Winston Churchill: ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’”



When Mike Nill joined Cerner in 1996, it had just over 650 employees and annual revenues of $189 million. Today, it’s the world’s largest publicly traded health IT company, with 26,000 mark for employees, and had $5.14 billion in sales—a 271-fold increase. Nill is responsible for worldwide business operations including intellectual property, consulting, information technology transformation, infrastructure, managed services and client support.

COLLEGE: B.S., Computer Information Systems, Rockhurst University

IN SYNCH: Nill’s job is to make sure the oars are rowing together with the company’s development processes, from implementation through management and support.

RESULTS: Under Nill’s leadership, the company says, a combined investment of $4.9 billion in research and development has yielded the highest code quality in Cerner’s history.

WHAT LIES AHEAD: Nill has also been instrumental in executing the plan to build Cerner’s south Kansas City Innovation campus. On that 290-acre site, the company is building a $4.45 billion complex of 16 buildings covering 4.7 million square feet. It will eventually be home to 16,000 Cerner workers, further enhancing the company’s stature as the region’s largest private-sector employer.


They say it’s easy to fail in the restaurant business but, for Michael Norsworthy, failure is proving hard to come by these days. 54th Street—which includes both a Grill & Bar concept and a newer Restaurant and Draft House concept—is truly on the move. In fact, National Restaurant News has cited 54th Street (with nearly $118 million in 2017 revenue) among next-generation brands poised to break into their list of Top 200 restaurant chains in the U.S.

COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting, UMKC.

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I worked at McDonald’s when I was 15 years old. While it was a good experience, I couldn’t wait to get out of the green polyester uniform and paper hat.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I probably would have been an accountant—that was my degree. It sounds kind of boring to me now, though.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Surround yourself with people smarter than you.”

BIGGEST SETBACK: “My greatest setback was a failed restaurant concept, but I learned from the mistakes and tried again until I got it right.”




Tyler Nottberg has quite the diverse resume for the CEO of an engineering firm. He was a co-founder of the Legal, Economic and Regulatory Affairs practice for an organization focused on providing in-depth research and insights to executives to support their decision-making. He also worked as a Policy Analyst at The Eisenhower Institute and for Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, both in Washington, and on the senator’s 1996 presidential campaign.

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I worked at a Sinclair gas station on 60th & Mission Road in Fairway, KS, which is now a Pizza 51. In addition to learning how to pump gas and change oil, I learned what it meant to be in the service industry. More importantly, it was the spot where I asked my future wife out on our first date when we were 17!”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I would have been a travel writer. Any excuse to travel to new and interesting places is right up my alley. The world is a big place and I’ve always felt like I had many miles to go before I sleep…”


OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “We had to close a couple of offices a few years ago, and when that happened, morale was low. Fortunately, our entire team pulled together and helped U.S. Engineering emerge as an even stronger organization.”

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One of the region’s most accomplished trial lawyers, David Oliver specializes in complex business disputes in both state and federal court in Missouri and Kansas, as well as in other parts of the country. He’s highly respected for that work, but is a strong advocate for resolving disputes before they ever see a courtroom. He sees lawsuits as a last resort, and tries to help clients understand why—and how—to avoid them.

COLLEGE: B.A. (cum laude), Haverford College; J.D., Boston University School of Law

SPECIALTIES: Oliver focuses primarily on cases of accounting and professional liability, business litigation and class-action defense. He’s also a certified
mediator and special master/discovery commissioner in certain cases.

CIVIC SOLDIER: Oliver’s board service history reflects his interests in promoting education, working on behalf of AlignED, MRIGlobal, William Jewell College, UMKC, DeLaSalle Charter High School and Teach for America. He’s also an advisory board member for the Spencer Art Museum at the University of Kansas, sits on the board of the Francis Family Foundation and is a trustee of the Murphy Charitable Fund.

INDUSTRY RECOGNITION: In addition to earning a place on Chambers USA’s list of top lawyers, he’s on the list of the Best Lawyers in America for business law.


Perhaps one of the reasons self-awareness tends to be rare among people is that Jeff Oddo has the market cornered on it. Looking back on a particularly painful business setback, City Wide’s chief exec now says, “I’m much better today knowing just how terrible I was back then.” Fortunately, he also seems to be good at finding solutions for “terrible.” He eventually led the department at the heart of that setback to 600 percent growth.

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “My Dad always said, “Everyone needs to be broke at least once, so they can appreciate what they’ve accomplished later in life.” He meant it. He didn’t want to give me or my brothers a free ride, which is why we grew up working. I learned how to have a work ethic and feel great about accomplishing something.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Probably a philosopher. I love to read, learn, solve problems and teach.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Jesus said, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ I believe any owner can delegate almost anything in a business—except vision, culture, your people. If I focus on these things, most everything else will fall into place.”

Best Way to Motivate Employees: “Understanding what they want to accomplish and helping them accomplish it.”


Not quite two years ago, in the wake of a sudden and troubling downturn, WireCo WorldGroup turned to veteran executive Jim O’Leary to provide some stability in the leadership role for a global maker of wire and synthetic rope and products that help drive industry. That he’s done, as 2017 revenues turned back to growth mode, albeit slightly. The company logged $655 million in sales, up $5 million from 2016.

COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, Pace University; MBA, Warton School, University of Pennsylvania

PREVIOUS STOPS: He came to WireCo from Kaydon Corp., designer and manufacturer of custom-engineered products for industrial, aerospace, medical, military, alternative energy and after-market customers, and was chairman and CEO there. He also served in executive capacities with Beazer Homes, USA; U.S. Industries, and Hanson PLC.

GLOBAL REACH: Headquartered in Prairie Village, WireCo has on hand only about 200 employees in the corporate offices, but employs nearly 3,500 worldwide in its manufacturing plants, research and development centers and distribution facilities.

STILL A FORCE: WireCo clocked in at No. 32 this year on the Ingram’s 100 list of the region’s largest private companies.


Danny O’Neill had a vision, a passion and serious love for coffee when he poured his life into creating a custom-coffee company, starting in his Brookside home. But this cycle-rider’s drive kept at it, and he eventually turned the company into one of the region’s most visible entrepreneurial ventures. He’s built on that platform with lines of tea, with merchandise and a series of area coffehouses that keep the brand in the consumer’s eye.

COLLEGE: B.A., International Studies & Political Science, Iowa State University; MBA, Rockhurst University

ROAD WARRIOR: When he’s not at the office/warehouse on Southwest Boulevard, up on the farm near Excelsior Springs or off to Costa Rica to inspect the next crop of coffee beans, you’re likely to find him on his BMW bike, occasionally making trips with some real shady characters to raise funds for charitable causes.

TRIBUTE: Mentored by Henry Bloch himself, O’Neill was recognized as UMKC’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management as Kansas City Entrepreneur of the Year.

BEAN THERE, DONE THAT: Each employee at the company is given a bean-themed handle; O’Neill’s, fittingly, is Bean Baron.



When he came to Kansas City Southern in May 2006 as chief financial officer, Patrick Ottensmeyer was getting back on the train. Though he was recruited away from a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company, he had previously worked for Santa Fe Pacific Corp. and Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The company’s operations are central elements of NAFTA, connecting commercial and industrial centers of the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

COLLEGE: B.S., Finance, Indiana University

NAFTA’s RAILROAD: Kansas City Southern operates railroads that connect this region to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas and Louisiana, as well as Kansas City Southern de Mexico, which reaches the port cities of Lázaro Cárdenas, Tampico and Veracruz. It also have a 50 percent stake in the Panama Canal Railway Co.

ASCENSION: Ottensmeyer became the railroad’s chief executive in 2016 upon the retirement of David Starling, and oversees a rail system that runs from the Midwest to Mexican ports on the Gulf and Pacific. The low point for the company’s stock during that transition year was $67.66 a share; bouncing back under Ottensmeyer, it’s now pushing $120.



Things go well on Bob Page’s watch. The University of Kansas Hospital is consistently ranked among America’s top hospitals by U.S. News & World Report and as the top hospital in Kansas and Kansas City. And it’s growing, too: Just last year, he and team celebrated the opening of Cambridge Tower A on their main campus, and in the past two years have acquired hospitals and practice groups in Hays, Larned, Great Bend and Topeka.

COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting, Illinois Wesleyan; M.B.A., Saint Louis University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “A bagger and checker at Jewel grocery store in Elgin, Il. My biggest learning was how important customer service is. I learned how to focus on delighting customers to the point they would choose my line when they came to the store.”

ANOTHER CAREER: “My dream was to play professional baseball. I played on a traveling baseball team as a kid and we would play 80 games a season between February and October. Unfortunately, I blew my knee out as a 12-year-old and was never quite the same.”

BIGGEST SETBACK: “I applied for an executive position early in my career and was not selected. While disappointed, I realized I needed to continue to hone my skills and never give up. Things have worked out OK since that time.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Sharing a vision for the future that is not focused on any individual employee, but rather the greater good we can do for others who come to us for their care.”



She just might have the best political connections you can find among communications professionals in Kansas City, having worked in the Clinton White House and on behalf of Hillary herself over the years. This Kentucky native founded Parris Communications in 1988, and has made it a go-to source of strategic communications counsel for prominent companies not just in Kansas City, but across the nation, including Fortune.

COLLEGE: B.A. (with honors), Indiana University, MBA, University of Kansas

MISSION: Her firm helps clients manage public relations and strategic corporate communications messaging, media relations, public affairs and crisis communications.

BOARD CHAMPION: The roster of civic and philanthropic boards she has served on is as impressive as it is long: Children’s Mercy Kansas City, Boys & Girls Clubs of Kansas City, Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, University of Kansas Advancement Board, Starlight Theatre, Kansas City Women’s Employment Network, United Way of Greater Kansas City—that, folks, is just a start.

HONORS: Her many civic honors include the Kansas City Spirit Award, Central Exchange’s Firehouse Award, Kansas City Woman of the Year, Public Relations Professional of the Year, and William Jewell College’s Distinguished Service honorary degree.



For more than 30 years, Lenora Payne has helped people decipher the mysteries of information technology. She started TGS as a place companies could go for comprehensive IT services that are strategically aligned with their business goals. She seems to have found a niche that needed to be filled; Payne and her company have won numerous industry and client awards since the company began in 2005.

COLLEGE: Courses at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED “I started out as an Inside Sales Representative and I learned the importance of becoming an expert in your career of choice. Staying up to date on the latest training is crucial in an ever-evolving industry.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “To align what you do with who you are. At TGS, we strive to support small and minority businesses. As a certified minority- and woman-owned
company, supporting fellow companies has always been of high importance to me.”

BIGGEST SETBACK: “When working to get a business off the ground, there are almost always going to be trials and moments where you wonder if you made the right choice. However, it was through these struggles that I learned the meaning of ‘hard work pays off.’ ”


One of the region’s biggest success stories of the past generation, Garmin launched in the 1980s with two principals—Gary Burrell and Min Kao. They’ve been retired for years, but left behind a $3 billion public company, and put Cliff Pemble in charge of that legacy. He has helped transform it from its roots as a GPS-system specialist, diversifying it to include personal-use and wearable technologies for health and fitness.

COLLEGE: B.S., Mathematics and Computer Science, MidAmerica Nazarene University

MORE THAN MANUFACTURING: In assessing the company’s most recent fiscal year performance, Pemble noted achievements that don’t show up on the bottom line. “Garmin was recently included in the Forbes Global 2000 list, placing 430th out of more than 300,000 companies,” he said. “We also were ranked 41st in the Forbes Just 100.”

SUCCESS METRICS: Corporate citizenship is just one of the seven metrics by which Garmin defines success. The others: producing quality goods, treating customers well, minimizing environmental impact, supporting the communities we operate in, commitment to ethical and diverse leadership, and treating workers well.

WHAT’S IN A NAME: Garmin was first called ProNav, which was the name of the company’s first product. Garmin represents the first names of its two founders.
which was the name of the company’s first product.



We weren’t surprised to learn that Tammy Peterman’s first job was as a medical clinic assistant. She learned from her physician father, at an early age, that helping people is important. That focus was at the heart of her nursing career and her first steps into executive roles, and it remains her top priority, now that she oversees Kansas City operations for a world-class health-care provider’s flagship hospital.

COLLEGE: B.S., B.S.N., M.S., University of Kansas

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I worked evenings as a Unit Secretary at the local hospital. That job allowed me to learn a lot about the inner workings of a hospital and, more important, I learned the focus of patient care should always be the patient.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Dad mentored me throughout my life; more specifically, with regards to health care, he taught (and showed me) how vitally important it is to be honest, communicate efficiently and effectively, treat people well and care deeply.”

BIGGEST SETBACK: “Others might have seen my decision to work part-time when my daughters were young as a professional setback. I overcame any potential negative perceptions by staying engaged professionally and organizationally and working hard every day.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Always reminding staff, regardless of position, their impact on others is great and sharing that impact through storytelling.” 



In the administrative circles of health care in Kansas, Randy Peterson is both a well-known and highly respected figure. Before joining Stormont Vail in 2012, he had been the interim CEO overseeing a pair of Via Christi hospitals in Wichita, and before that, he‘d been president and CEO of Salina Regional Health Center. Now, he’s leading the biggest acute-care facility in the capital city, one with nearly $2 billion in revenue and more than 3,200 employees.

COLLEGE: B.S., University of Nebraska; M.S., Health Sciences, Wichita State University

EXECUTIVE TRAITS: Effective leaders, Peterson says, demonstrate honesty, forward-thinking, competence and the ability to inspire those who work for them.

DOMINANT: With 586 beds, it’s the largest hospital between Kansas City and Wichita, and it boasts the region’s only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care and only verified trauma center.

BEYOND TOPEKA: The organization includes 10 clinics throughout northeast and into central Kansas, plus 20 more with specialty medical services in the Topeka area. It’s Cotton-O’Neill Clinic network covers urgent care, orthopedic surgery, women’s health, cancer and digestive and heart disorders, among others.


An 18-year-veteran at one of the nation’s Big Five banks, Tim Petty has been market president in the Kansas City region since early 2016, overseeing commercial banking in this region and Oklahoma. He enjoys working with businesses and has more than 30 years in the industry. He leads a combined work force of roughly 2,000 working at bank branches, its call center or its data center here.

COLLEGE: B.S., Business, Kansas State University

IN-HOUSE HONORS: He’s a repeat winner of U.S. Bank’s Vanguard award, an honor accorded to only the top 5 percent of all commercial bankers there.

ACTIVELY ENGAGED: His board, committee and civic service has benefited a long list of organizations, including Kansas City Area Development Council, Kansas State-Olathe, Olathe Economic Development Board and Kansas City Tomorrow.

PHILANTHROPIC SUPPORT: Petty has supported the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Greater Kansas City; the Greater Kansas City United Way, March for Babies and March of Dimes; and Millcreek Community Church.


In the span of one career, Jim Polsinelli has taken a three-man startup and turned it into one of the 50 largest firms in the U.S., with 783 attorneys, and No. 69 in American Lawyer’s AmLaw 100, based on its 2017 revenues of $475.1 million. That was good enough to put it at No. 91. He has helped Kansas City flex its blue-collar muscle representing companies in manufacturing, distribution, industrial hardware, trucking, mining and more.

COLLEGE: B.A., University of Missouri-Columbia; J.D., University of Missouri-Kansas City

LEARNING CURVE: He’s a big believer in the power of education, among Polsinelli’s extracurricular duties over the past four decades have been multiple board and committee stints on behalf of public K-12 schools and systems, as well as higher education, including both UMKC and Rockhurst University boards.

HONORS: A robust roster of recognition includes regular rankings in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, Corporate/M&A; Best Lawyers in America for both corporate law and mergers and acquisitions, the bar association’s Baron of The Boardroom award, Missouri Lawyers Weekly’s inaugural ICON Award in 2018, UMKC’s Outstanding Career Achievement Award and its law foundation’s “Man of the Year” Award—even Rockhurst High School, with its Ignatian Award.



Given all her other interests supporting various causes and philanthropic efforts, Jeanette Prenger impresses with the work she’s done to turn her information technology services company into a thriving enterprise. Over the course of 30 years in IT—23 of those with her own firm—she has reaped numerous awards on both local and national stages, including honors from Enterprising Women Magazine, Forbes and Business Week.

COLLEGE: “B.S., Management Information Systems, Park University

GUTS: She founded ECCO Select in 1995—with a single client. Today, she has more than 250 employees serving Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies.

TRIPLE PLAY: ECCO Select had a long run on Ingram’s Corporate Report 100 for its fast growth, and is now an annual fixture on our lists of the region’s top minority-owned and women-owned business. Hispanic.com has also singled the company out as one of the nation’s fastest-growing Hispanic-owned companies.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Her husband, Kevin, is vice president for talent acquisition, and their son Darren is COO at the firm.

BIG-COMPANY HISTORY: She was previously a software developer and manager for companies that included Sprint, TWA, the Federal Reserve Bank, and Waddell & Reed.


Whether it was throwing newspapers from a careening truck in 100-degree weather as a teen or buttoning up the white collar to launch his public-accounting career, his first jobs taught Mark Radetic that “hard work and a commitment to excellence, no matter the job will lead to client/customer satisfaction, recognition and success.” The lessons paid off; today, he leads the region’s largest locally headquarted accounting firm.

College: B.S., Accounting, Benedictine College

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Baseball Commentator/Analyst.  I love a microphone and I love baseball.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Treat all people with respect and understanding. The people you see as you climb the ladder of success are the same you see coming down.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “I didn’t pass the CPA test on the first try, which was disappointing, but committed an entire summer to attending classes and studying which lead to success.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Be their cheerleader and make sure they are recognized for their efforts, especially for a job well done. Also letting them know you care about them both professionally and personally.”       


Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Zales—Beryl Raff has excelled in executive roles at some of the nation’s biggest names in retailing, earning her spot in the Women’s Jewelry Association’s Lifetime Hall of Fame. With a resume like that, it was small wonder that the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett himself, entrusted to Raff one of the true jewels among his various business holdings in Kansas City, Helzberg Diamonds. She’s been in that role since 2009.

COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, Boston University; MBA, Drexel University 

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “At my father’s furniture store in Philadelphia. I learned work ethic and what it takes to run a business.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I have a long list of passions to pursue one day, any one of which could be my next career—playing piano, restoring houses, culinary school or maybe opening a high-end resale store.”

Best Advice from a Mentor: “Your team is your most important asset and the key to success.”

Biggest Setback: “As the eighth female Chairman and CEO of a Fortune 1000 company, I got caught up in boardroom politics and lost my position. It was a hard lesson on the reality of business politics.”




Want to know what Mike Rainen is up to these days? Just look for the closest apartment complex under construction—there’s a good chance his Rainen Companies has a hand in it. His real-estate development background goes back 20 years, covering multi-family apartments and condominium conversions, but he’s also had hand in industrial property development in the region.

COLLEGE: B.A., Finance, University of Texas

SWITCHING GEARS: Rainen’s first business success came with Rainen Business Interiors; one of its subsidiaries, Mid Continent Office Distributors, became the largest firm of its kind in the Midwest. Then, in 1992, he founded Rainen Companies and moved into real estate.

GOVERNMENT NUDGE: Had it not been for the savings and loan crisis that led to creation of the federal Resolution Trust Corp., where might his career have taken him? At any rate, that enticed him to buy his three apartment complexes, and off he went in real estate.

HIGHLIGHTS: His portfolio includes the Sulgrave-Regency luxury condos, considered among the most successful condominium-conversion projects of that kind here.




One of the founders of the former BATS Global Markets, Joe Ratterman became its CEO in 2005 and eventually led the company through a merger with CBOE Holdings in 2017. He’s seen his share of wins and he doesn’t take his good fortune for granted. He and his wife, Sandy, give back in many ways, including their Hope in the Streets and Worship Wagon initiatives, which provide food, necessities and weekly church services for the homeless.

COLLEGE: “B.S., Math & Computer Science, University of Central Missouri

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “At the age of 13, on a military base in The Netherlands, working in the meat department at the local military commissary. I learned early on that a career requiring education and/or actual skills would be so much better than unskilled minimum-wage labor. I also learned that regardless of the job you have, being responsible, being on time, and working hard were important traits.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I almost chose to be a teacher during and even took a semester of education degree classes. I thought it would be awesome to teach high school math—that is, until they took us on a field trip to an inner-city high school. I changed my major that day to computer science and never looked back.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Be who you are, don’t try to be somebody else, and hire great folks around you who are better at the things that you aren’t good at.”



For all the talk about how the state line interferes with regional business, it mattered not a whit when the chamber was looking for a its next president and CEO in 2016: The board plucked out a name familiar to most everyone in the other Kansas City: Joe Reardon. The former CEO of the Unified Government in Wyandotte County hails from a family with a political history and connections spanning decades.

COLLEGE: B.A. (summa cum laude), Political Science, Rockhurst University; J.D. University of Kansas School of Law.

CROSS-BORDER ADVOCATE: Reardon not only advocates for regionalism; he teaches a course in it at his alma mater, Rockhurst.

MAYORAL RECORD: On Reardon’s watch, the formerly moribund economy of Wyandotte County helped orchestrate Google Fiber’s designation of KCK as first in the country for that service; $600 million in GM plan investments, a $300 million Hollywood Casino deal and a $190 million Cerner office complex in Village West.

SETTLING IN: Reardon took the chamber job after a year leading the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and resuming duties with former law firm employer
McAnany Van Cleave and Phillips.



Amazingly enough, he’s still recruiting prospective home buyers with his web page on the ReeceNichols site. Jerry Reece, the iconic name and chairman emeritus of the residential realty firm he founded, keeps at it, 48 years after starting his real estate career with Kroh Bros. Realty. In 1987, he acquired its residential real estate division, called it J.D. Reece Realtors and merged with J.C. Nichols Real Estate in 2002 to form the region’s biggest realty concern.

COLLEGE: B.S., Finance, University of Oregon

WINNING STREAK: Every year since the Reece and Nichols merger, the company has been No. 1 in residential realty sales for the Kansas City region. And the firms competing for No. 2 haven’t come anywhere near close to dethroning the champ.

COMMERCIAL, TOO: With more than $100 million in annual sales volume, Reece Commercial Real Estate is one of the 10 largest companies operating in that space in the greater Kansas City region. It’s an affiliate of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire-Hathaway, which owns ReeceNichols residential.

STILL GROWING: Just this year, ReeceNichols made another strategic move, merging with Carol Jones, Realtors, of southern Missouri. That made ReeceNichols the largest local real-estate company in both Missouri and Kansas.




Bob Regnier organized the Bank of Blue Valley in 1989 and remains at the heart of a continuing success story. Total assets as of the 2017 annual report were in excess of $687 million, and loans topped $529 million. Regnier is a big believer in showing that gratitude for the bank’s success by supporting the community it serves. You’ll find his name associated with a broad range of civic and philanthropic organizations around town.

COLLEGE: B.A., Kansas State University; MBA, University of Missouri-Kansas City

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Working for my dad. I learned that if you want your kids to work for you, have them go someplace else for their first job. I lasted six weeks and quit.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Probably real estate. As a banker and as a real estate developer, it is a special feeling to point to something and say that you had a part in creating something that becomes a … part of the landscape.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Never give up. You can overcome 99.9% of problems if you approach them strategically, honestly, intelligently and keep working until you succeed.

BIGGEST SETBACK: “The Great Recession. I walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and came out on the bright side. I learned a lot in the process.”


Charles Renner chairs Husch Blackwell’s public-private partnership team, and he sees in that field the means to safeguard the public weal. “What we are finding with P3,” he says, “is that there is value in competition. When the public side solicits multiple bids, competition has a kind of leveling effect that compensates for a public entity’s lack of experience around various kinds of infrastructure projects.”

COLLEGE : B.A., Political Science, University of Missouri-Kansas City; J.D., UMKC City School of Law

P3 PILLAR: Renner conducts an annual survey and analysis of P3 projects nationwide in constant search for emerging best practices. Then he applies those to client advisory to push forward on large-scale public projects.

PASSION/HOBBIES: His three children and their sporting activities; American History (particularly the Civil War-era), and running—on occasion, marathons.

OUTSIDE THE OFFICE: Renner has been a member of the Citizens Association and the South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, and is past president of Kansas City Consensus.



In some ways, Lamar Hunt is still with us on Sunday afternoons each fall. Less visible is the lasting legacy he left with Hunt Midwest, still owned by the Hunt family. Under the direction of president and CEO Ora Reynolds, one key division continues to break new ground—literally—in industrial real estate. The emergence of SubTropolis as a major industrial/distribution site has been a hallmark of Reynold’s 27 years with the organization.

COLLEGE: B.A., Finance, Indiana University

GOING DEEP: On her watch, SubTropolis has expanded to cover 6 million feet of underground space, including the SubTropolis Technology Center, a data-storage facility. She also oversees holdings in development of commercial, mission critical, multifamily, senior housing and master-planned residential projects.

OTHER HOLDINGS: In addition to SubTropolis and Hunt Midwest, the Hunt family’s holding includes the Kansas City Chiefs, Hunt Southwest, FC Dallas Soccer Club, Toyota Stadium, the Chicago Bulls and United Center.

CIVIC SERVANT: Reynolds finds time in that schedule to serve as vice chair for Starlight Theatre’s board, is a member of the KU Advancement Board, sits on a Commerce Bank advisory board and is on the board for the Urban Land Institute.


John Ricciardelli leads a team that represents a unique partnership between Honeywell and the U.S. Department of Energy at the Kansas City National Security Campus. It’s part of the National Nuclear Security Administration, whose focus is security through the military application of nuclear science. The Kansas City site focuses on manufacturing non-nuclear components of the U.S. nuclear stockpile and other initiatives.

COLLEGE: B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Penn State University; EMBA, Texas Christian

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I started working at age 7, packing squid and fish heads at my brother-in-law’s fish market in Atlantic City, N.J. I made $3/Saturday until I turned 14, at which time I was legal age to work and made $35/week. I learned that I definitely wanted to get an education and not work hard/manual labor.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I always tell my HR folks that I would have gone into HR/Organization Development. In my leadership positions, I have always been passionate about people and organization development.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “First, most of my mentors said ‘getting the job done, meeting your commitments is the best way for advancement.’ The second part is ‘Listen before deciding.’ Make sure you get everyone’s ideas/positions and involve the stakeholders in the decision for more buy-in.”

DEAN/CEO, Kansas State University- OLATHE

Manhattan, Kansas, may be the K-State epicenter, but the Olathe campus led by Ralph Richardson is shaking things up on the state’s eastern border. It’s a place where professionals come for continuing education, where students prepare for bioscience and biotech careers and businesses can get updates on industry technology. They also work with K-12 schools to ensure tomorrow’s leaders have the necessary education and skills.

COLLEGE: B.S., D.V.M., Kansas State University; Internship, Purdue University; Internal Medicine Residency, University of Missouri; Oncology training program, University of Kansas Medical School

BEST ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Don’t be afraid to take on new opportunities. Change can be very invigorating and you don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re in the midst of the battle and have to solve problems. Strive for the best communications possible. In our home, we practice the Four Rules of Communication: Be honest. Keep current. Attack the problem, not the person. Act, don’t react. (Ephesians 4:20-32)”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “To tour the back roads of the United States with Beverly—my best friend and wife of 50 years.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Quail hunting behind my bird dogs.”


Turn-around specialist Michael Riggs acquired controlling interest in Jack Cooper Holdings, and he’s lived up to his billing. Within four years of that purchase, Riggs was recognized as Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Central Midwest region in 2013. A specialty transportation and logistics provider, the company’s Jack Cooper Transport is the largest automobile-
hauler in the nation.

COLLEGE: B.S., Business, General Motors Institute (now Kettering University); MBA, Harvard Business School.

TWO-TRACK CAREER: Riggs has roughly equal blocks of experience in the trucking and manufacturing industries, logging at least 20 years in each.

INDUSTRY CHOPS: He serves on the executive committee of the American Trucking Association, and as chairman of the Auto Carriers Conference, and is past winner of Automotive Supply Chain Magazine’s Global Outstanding Achievement Award.

POLITICAL CONNECTIONS: If Democrats win the lieutenant governor’s race in Georgia come November, Riggs will have an in at the capitol in Atlanta—his daughter Sarah Riggs Amico won the Democratic primary there this year. She serves as executive chairman for Jack Cooper Holdings.


You can’t see the craftsmanship Greg Righter’s team brings to construction projects, but what they do is an exercise in beautiful precision. Berkel has been providing vital foundation infrastructure since its 1959 founding in the basement of Charles J. Berkel’s home. Today, the late Mr. Berkel’s company, with Righter at the helm, has a nationwide presence with seven offices, coast-to-coast.

COLLEGE: B.S., Pre-Engineering, Furman University; B.S., Civil Engineering, Clemson University; M.S., Civil Engineering, Georgia Tech

TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Do all of the little things right
and the rest will take care of itself.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Alan Roach (my predecessor). He dedicated his
45-year career to one company. That kind of loyalty is rare these days.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “The successful management of a $53 million foundation contract earlier in my career.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “Hiking the Grand Canyon.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Windsurfing.”



Frank Ross has plenty of company among the Ingram’s 250 whose careers started with busing tables. It takes a motivated self-starter to make those dishes disappear, just like it takes determination and vision to do what Ross has done at Polsinelli. He has grown the firm’s business department exponentially, and its Intellectual Property and Health Care groups became separate departments due to their performance and growth.

COLLEGE: B.S., Kansas State University; J.D., Washburn University School of Law; Master’s, Georgetown University Law Center

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Busboy in my family’s Italian restaurant. From watching my mom and dad and others around me in that setting, I left with a lasting impression about the importance of being deferential, developing relationships with clients and making people feel special from the service you give them.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “To be a leader, never focus too long on the successes and never dwell too long on the failures; run the risk of knowing you are never going to please everyone but don’t let that stop you from trying.”

BIGGEST SETBACK: “Something happens every week that makes you stop and take a deep breath. No matter what happens, get back on the horse.”


Topeka-based Westar Energy turned to William Moore in 2002 to clean up the mess left behind by David Wittig, and Moore, in turn, summoned Mark Ruelle to work the numbers as chief financial officer. With the ship righted, Moore headed out in 2011, and Ruelle became chief executive, where he steered the ship to this year’s successful merger with it’s next-door neighbor,
Great Plains Energy. That union was effective in June.

COLLEGE: B.A., M.A., Economics, University of North Dakota

PRE-MERGER: In his role as president, and CEO at Westar Energy, Ruelle worked with Great Plains’ Terry Bassham to navigate the choppy regulatory waters that stretched their merger effort to three years. He now serves as chairman of the combined entity’s board of directors.

BOARD SERVICE: In addition to his energy-sector board duties, Ruelle sits on the board for Stormont-Vail Health, which runs the Topeka region’s primary medical center, and held a similar role until this spring with Houston Wire & Cable Co.

ENERGY BEHEMOTH: The combined companies now unified as Evergy serve 1.5 million customers in Missouri and Kansas, are likely to post revenues of more than $5 billion a year, and have 5,000 employees.


Toby Rush is too dignified to say so, but he could be delivering a big “Told You So” to regional investors who have a reputation for excessive restraint in funding startups. The poster boy for entrepreneurial success in Kansas City, his EyeVerify (now operating as Zoloz) sold for a report $100 million to a subsidiary of China’s Ant Financial in 2016, handsomely rewarding those who ventured on board. Before that, he built and sold Rush Tracking Systems.

COLLEGE: B.S., Kansas State University

JUST THE BASICS: Rush does double duty for Alibaba’s Ant Financial, serving as senior director of technology investments. That work focuses on what the company calls its BASIC core technologies: Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Security/Privacy, Internet of Things and Computing.

GROWING GLOBAL: Zoloz, which develops biometric-based digital security systems, has offices in China, Singapore and the U.S., and more than 200 million people worldwide its technologies.

BEFORE ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Rush started his career as an analyst with Accenture, then served as senior project manager for BSI Consulting in Houston and project-development lead with SAT Corp. before launching Rush Tracking Systems.



The sixth president and CEO of MRIGlobal is a 30-year veteran with a resume that includes director of technical operations, director of chemical sciences and Midwest VP. Under Tom Sack’s leadership, MRIGlobal is maintaining its research leadership role; recently, he announced a 5-year, $19.9 million research contract from the National Cancer Institute (NCI)—a renewal that reflects MRIGlobal’s long commitment to cancer research.

COLLEGE: “B.S., Chemistry, Rockhurst College; Ph.D., Analytical Chemistry, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “My first job was working as warehouse staff for an architectural hardware company, where I learned the importance of sweating the details and working together as a team.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Engineering. I’m inquisitive and have always enjoyed the challenge of determining how things work and how we can use technology to our fullest advantage.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Helping our team see the big picture and understanding their personal roles in MRIGlobal’s mission to create solutions for a safer, healthier, more sustainable world.”


Lisa Sackuvich had an inspiration for a more compassionate and efficient means to serve patients whose lives depended on medication delivered by needle, and in 2000, she founded ARJ
Infusion Services. It would become one of the region’s remarkable growth stories as a woman-owned business, surging to more than $86 million in 2017 revenues. Last month, she
passed the duties of CEO on to her son, Andy Copeland.

COLLEGE: BSN, Avila University

MAKING GOOD: Sackuvich borrowed the $100,000 in startup capital for ARJ from her brother—and completely repaid him in less than two years.

PAST IS PROLOGUE: Nursing has run in the family for three generations, she says, but it was a childhood experience with a health issue that created a lingering desire
to do something that would ease the anxiety many kids—even adults—face when staring down the needle.

PAYING IT FORWARD: Through its corporate philanthropy, staff donations and Sackuvich’s personal philanthropy, her success with ARJ has helped steer more than $2 million to various charities.



A 20-year veteran at Waddell & Reed, Philip Sanders does double-duty for Kansas City’s second-largest wealth-management, serving as both chief executive officer and chief investment officer. That, surely, keeps him busy: the firm has more than $80 billion in assets under management for more than 150,000 individual and institutional investors. He also is CEO of Waddell & Reed Investment Management Co.

COLLEGE: B.A., Economics, University of Michigan; MBA, University of North Carolina-Charlotte

PREVIOUS STOPS: Sanders came to Waddell and Reed from Bank of America. He began his investment career as an equity research analyst in 1988 and was appointed portfolio manager in 1992.

PIONEERING FIRM: Waddell & Reed, founded in 1937, is one of the nation’s oldest mutual-fund companies.

REMODELING: After a decline in the numbers of advisers and overall AUM, Sanders has said the firm is committed to upgrading its long-held broker-adviser system to mesh with demands of current investors.



If you love the experience of watching a ballgame at Kauffman Stadium, raise that oversized beer can to Earl Santee. Kauffman is just one of the amazing revitalizations and re-envisionings that Santee and company have made happen worldwide. Their incredible body of work also includes the London 2012 Olympic Stadium and, if you’ll pardon the expression, the re-imagined Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York.

COLLEGE: Bachelor of Environmental Design, Bachelor of Architecture, University of Kansas

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Working construction with my dad. I learned a lot from it—principles that are on display through the culture of Populous today, such as the value of putting forth quality work and having an intimate understanding of how things actually get built.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “If it had been a choice, I would’ve been a professional athlete. Sports have always been a passion for me, from the passion of competition to the joy of drawing people together—the core focus of Populous. The clear outcomes are hard to argue with too, you either win or you lose.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR “Never settle or fear risk. This mantra is both personal and professional for me, as it encapsulates the entrepreneurial spirit of Populous.”


Andy Sareyan is proof positive that Kansas City attracts major talent. Before taking his current position, he was president of the National Journal Group. Before that, he was Chief Brand Officer and President of Consumer Brands for media giant Meredith Corp. He joined Meredith upon its acquisition of Time, Inc., where Sareyan spent 18 years in a variety of leadership positions for popular magazine titles.

COLLEGE: B.A., Middlebury College; M.B.A., Stanford University

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Gary White of Water.org is a rare blend of innovation, genius and humility on a mission to change the world.”

BIGGEST PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT: “Mostly singles and doubles, and plenty of strike outs so far. Still swinging for the fences, though, at Andrews McMeel.”

BUCKET LIST No. 1: “I have a novel kicking around, waiting to be written.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “I love music and sports but I probably spend more quality time reading books than anything else.”

FAVORITE BOOK/MOVIE: “Book: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman; Movie: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”



Philip Sarnecki started making a name for himself at Northwestern Mutual way back in 1989, as an intern. In 2008, the company sent him to Kansas City with the goal of creating a brand-new venture. Today, that venture, RPS Financial Group, is an award-winning organization with six offices, more than 140 financial representatives and a staff of more than 300. He’s also is an award-winning film producer.

COLLEGE: B.S., Political Science, B.S., Finance, University of Illinois

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Walking the bean fields of east-central Illinois from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the blazing heat with long-sleeve shirts
and long pants wasn’t much fun.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “When I first went to college, I had two thoughts. One was to be a college football coach (my brother is a high-school football coach) and the second was to get my MBA and go into investment banking on Wall Street. What I didn’t like about either of those were the lifestyles.”

BIGGEST SETBACK: “Honestly, I’ve had so many setbacks I wouldn’t know where to start. I think overcoming setbacks is all about attitude. What is your grit level? How much pain can you take until you quit? I’m thankful for every one of my setbacks, because every one of them has made me more resilient.”



It’s hard to overstate the role that Peggy Schmitt’s medical center plays, even in a market blessed with ample health-care assets. NKCH admitted more than 21,000 patients last year—fifth-busiest among regional hospitals, and by far more than any other in the Northland—and it had multiples of that as outpatients. She provided a steady hand there after the 2012 rumblings over whether the city should sell the 451-bed hospital.

COLLEGE: B.S.N., University of Missouri-Columbia; J.D., Yale Law School

SEASONED VETERAN: Schmitt came to North Kansas City Hospital in 1993 as vice president and general counsel, and was elevated to President/CEO in 2012.

IMPACT: The combined operations at NKCH generated more than $1.7 billion in 2017 revenues.

JOBS MAGNET: More than 2,700 people are employed at the main hospital and its associated clinics, including 337 physicians and 925 nurses.

Jim Schwartz-SUBMISSION-CMYK.pdf


Just this year, this CEO of America’s largest domestic franchisee of Pizza Hut and Wendy’s restaurants was elevated to the chairmanship. Jim Schwartz and his colleague, Troy Cook (CFO now turned vice-chairman), have grown NPC’s Pizza Hut units from 350 in 1995 to more than 1,213. They’ve also built a Wendy’s portfolio of 386 restaurants since 2014. The pair have been leading the company together for more than 23 years.

COLLEGE: B.S., Business and Accounting, University of Kansas

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: First real job was Ernst & Young (formerly Arthur Young & Co.), where I was surrounded by incredible talent and success. The Kansas City office then was a breeding ground for future firm leadership, so I could truly see firsthand what success looked like.

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Broadway performer. Why not? Use every bit of creativity and talent to entertain at the highest level.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “For the team to truly ‘get it’ you have to sell,
not tell, by first defining true reality. Then, keep it simple and focused.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Engaging them at both a personal and professional level staying true to oneself. Find the common ground of what’s important to all.”


She’s out of politics as a candidate—for now—but the former governor of Kansas and Secretary of Health and Human Services under Barack Obama is still in a position to shape the state’s business environment. Word is, she’ll be working every political connection to support the candidacy of Democrat Laura Kelly in the governor’s race. In that sense, she’s lead engineer on the Stop Kobach Express. Will it work? We’ll know on Nov. 7…

COLLEGE: B.A., Trinity Washington University; M.A., Public Administration, University of Kansas

D.C. CHALLENGE: Her HHS team had the unenviable task of creating the on-line registration system under the Affordable Care Act, an experience that demonstrated the demands of digitizing federal operations on a national scope. But by the time she left office in 2014, many of the bugs had been worked out.

FAMILY TIES I: She’s the only daughter of a governor ever to be elected governor in U.S. history. Her father, John Gilligan, was governor of Ohio.

FAMILY TIES II: Her husband, Gary Sebelius, is the son of the late Keith Sebelius, who represented the Big First Kansas congressional district in the 1970s.


Hands down, none of the chief executives relatively new to the Kansas City region has bigger shoes to fill than does Brent Shafer. In January, Cerner announced that he would succeed the late Neal Patterson, one of the co-founders, who died in July 2017. The significance for this region is enormous: Cerner is already the biggest private employer, with more than 14,000 workers already here and plans to add more than 10,000 others by 2025.

COLLEGE: B.A., University of Utah

BOUYANT: In a note to Cerner employees after he finished his 10th week of employment this spring, Shafer’s optimism came shining through: “Cerner has the potential to improve the lives of millions around the globe, and I’m confident in our capacity and the resources we have to meet that goal,” he wrote.

THE RIGHT FIT: Shafer’s background offers some clues into where Cerner could be heading with its business model. Founded as an IT software company catering to medical providers, it has moved significantly into the population health realm, and Shafer’s work at Philips dealt with patient monitoring, imaging, clinical informatics, sleep and respiratory care, and working with consumer brands.


Neal Sharma has managed to do something very special: He’s got an incredibly successful business that is also a place where people love to show up every day. DEG is a digital agency that takes a
“Do the right thing” approach to clients and associates alike. The belief, which is proving a sound one, is that a culture in which people can comfortably maximize both their personal and professional potential results in work that helps clients succeed.

COLLEGE: B.A. (cum laude) in Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics and Government, American University; M.B.A., University of Kansas

BEST ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Work in and help create truly entrepreneurial environments, where people can impact and affect their destiny, where people are not limited by anything but their potential, and where people are working for something in an environment that embodies their beliefs, values, convictions and ambitions.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “I would have to pick a person many might select, Steve Jobs. Though it is apparent that he likely wasn’t the nicest person you could ever meet (especially in his youth), he is the rare person who not only had an expansive vision, but the proven ability to turn that vision into reality. In the process, he radically transformed at least major industries: personal computing, movies and animation, music and telecommunications.”

Bucket List No. 1: “To see space.”



Charlie Shields spent 20 years in Jefferson City—12 in the House, eight in the Senate—developing a reputation as someone who could work across the aisle and bring people together. Those are skills that mesh nicely with a business sector as roiled as healthcare is today. He’s been leading Truman Medical Centers since 2014, after serving as COO at the Lakewood campus.

COLLEGE: B.A., Marketing, M.B.A., University of Missouri-Columbia

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “During high school, I worked in an auto parts store. I learned more about business from the two owners than I learned in six years of college
and graduate school. Managing employees, inventory control and cash flow were the issues they dealt with every day. It was a great education!”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Strange as it may sound, professional musician. I loved politics and I love health care, but I also love music. Anytime you can get paid to do something you love, it doesn’t feel like work!”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Amazing things can be accomplished when you don’t worry about who gets the credit. Surround yourself with smart people and work hard to enable their success.”



Greg Silvers has his hand on the throttle at EPR Properties, and shows no signs of relaxing that group. After the real-estate investment trust, a public company, saw its first half-billion-dollar revenue year in 2017, it was on track for a 29 percent increase after the second quarter of 2018, and could surpass $700 million. More fundamentally, it is rewarding investors with annual dividends that have steadily increased 66 percent since 2010.

COLLEGE: B.S., Tennessee Technological University; J.D., University of Kansas

EXPANDING VISTAS: EPR was founded as Entertainment Properties Trust, specializing in movie theaters and other entertainment venues, but has expanded into recreational
venues for what you might call “staycationers” and charter-school properties.

EARLY BUY-IN: Silvers previously worked for the law firm that is now Stinson Leonard Street, but left in 1998, just a year after the forerunner of EPR was founded. Before succeeding co-founder David Brain as CEO in 2015, he held various positions as general counsel, executive vice president, chief development officer and chief operating officer.

EXPANDING VISTAS: EPR was founded as Entertainment Properties Trust, specializing in movie theaters and other entertainment venues, but has expanded into recreational venues for what you might call “staycationers” and charter-school properties.

EARLY BUY-IN: Silvers previously worked for the law firm that is now Stinson Leonard Street, but left in 1998, just a year after the forerunner of EPR was founded. Before succeeding co-founder David Brain as CEO in 2015, he held various positions as general counsel, executive vice president, chief development officer and chief operating officer.


His extensive real-estate practice has proven the old industry adage of “Location. Location. Location.” That multifaceted world will give Chase Simmons a broad-based skill set to draw from when he becomes Polsinelli’s chairman on Jan. 1. That’s when he takes the reins from long-time chairman, Russell Walsh, who says, “Chase is an extremely talented and knowledgeable attorney … a superior leader and demonstrates excellent character. I have the utmost confidence that he will lead Polsinelli to many successes.”

COLLEGE: B.A., Southern Methodist University; J.D., University of Georgia

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “My first job was teaching tennis. I learned I didn’t want to teach tennis all my life. My first job after law school was Polsinelli. Here, I learned all I know.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Be open to a lot of examples and role models but find and refine a style that is authentic to you.”

BIGGEST SETBACL: “Every time I lost a hearing and decided I was terrible and in the wrong profession, I overcame it by waking up the next morning and moving on.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “A culture of entrepreneurship and innovation where achievement is rewarded and the pain of inevitable setbacks is fuel for the future.”



In 2013, Husch Blackwell made Jeff Simon its managing partner of its Kansas City office. A consummate business-law attorney, he also runs that operation with a profound commitment to servant-leadership. And he’s passionate about the need for business executives to roll up their sleeves and address the social ills in the community where they have prospered. The firm had nearly $350 million in revenues in 2017.

COLLEGE: B.A. in English, University of Missouri, J.D, University of Missouri School of Law

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “A go-fer in a car dealership. I learned how to scrub shop floors, clean bathrooms, detail cars, and do what I was told.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “But for the absence of any talent whatsoever, I would choose to be a blues musician so that I could explore the human condition and the souls of which it is composed.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “A leader should not expect to be served, but to serve.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “Too many to mention (but in all cases), perseverance.”

MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Genuinely care about their happiness and success.”


In the real world, the shortest distance between two points is rarely a straight line, especially where transportation is concerned. That’s where Rob Slimp and HNTB help make connections. “Our nation’s health depends on its ability to move goods, services and people efficiently and effectively from point A to point B,” he has said, which means adapting as an industry to social and technological change in that sector.

COLLEGE: B.S. Civil Engineering, Louisiana State University

BIG JOB: HNTB was back over the $1 billion mark in revenues last year, growth that the firm credits to his work to build long-standing client relationships and directing delivery of complex transportation infrastructure projects amid challenging economic and legislative climates.

THE ROAD AHEAD: To create a strong infrastructure system in the U.S., Slimp said, “today’s large, complex multimodal projects should be benefiting from multiple sources of funding—including a commitment to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent by increasing user-paid fees—expanding the use of tolling, and accelerating the growth of public-private partnerships.”



A great many things must happen before something produced on a ranch or farm reaches your grocery store. And in these parts, a lot of the heavy lifting for that is done by Associated Wholesale Grocers, where David Smith has been driving the ship since January 2016. And not just hereabouts; AWG provides wholesale groceries to more than 3,400 stores in 26 states. “I feel blessed by being able to make a living doing what I truly love.”

BEST PART OF YOUR JOB: Working with and helping people. How great is that!”

Advice To Young Entrepreneurs: “Never let youth, inexperience, lack of resources, or naysayers dissuade you from pursuing what you’re passionate
about. Those with passion and determination overcome all obstacles. They find a way.”

First Car: “1974 GMC Jimmy—I wrecked it a month after getting the keys.”

Little-Known Fact: “I’m a car nut and was the No. 1 fan of the British television show “Top Gear.” Things haven’t been the same since it left the air.”

TOP 100 STATUS: In recent years, AWG has been a running mate of another agri-business giant, Dairy Farmers of America, at No. 1 and 2 in the Ingram’s 100 list of the region’s private companies. This past year, it came in second once again,with annual revenues of $9.7 billion.



What, we asked Pete Smith—bracing for the answer—is one thing about you that might surprise people who don’t know you well? “There are no surprises,” snorts Smith, one of the region’s premier no-nonsense attorneys. “With me, you get what you see.” Many an opposing counsel in courtroom action would ruefully attest to that. Smith’s own stated declaration that he simply won’t be outworked has served clients for half a century.

COLLEGE: B.S. Accounting (magnu cum laude), University of Kansas; J.D. (magna cum laude), UMKC School of Law.

HE’S ALL BUSINESS: Smith makes his living serving clients in complex business litigation, commercial transactions, bankruptcy, financial restructuring, and labor and employment law.

NOT JUST LEGAL THEORY: Unlike lawyers for whom business leadership is an abstract concept, Smith has done hands-on work in the real world as owner of several banks and as co-founder of the former Electronic Processing, which did data processing for federal bankruptcy court.

INDUSTRY PRAISE: For more than 30 years, Smith has been accorded a spot in Best Lawyers in America; ditto the Super Lawyers’ Business Litigation list since 2005. He’s also dean of the trial bar, and a fellow with the American College of Bankruptcy.



There are many reasons to admire Rick Smith’s executive capabilities, but the most tangible example isn’t entirely in the C-Suite. Get a gander sometime at the new Dairy Farmers of America headquarters in western Wyandotte County, perhaps his signature project with the national dairy cooperative. Every inch of the place oozes corporate mission and message with its design, bolstering the work of the 300 employees there.

RAPID GROWTH:. Since its founding in 1998, DFA has grown to more than 14,500 dairy farmer members and 41 plants nationwide.

No. 1: Once again, DFA clocked in as the private business with the highest revenues, and by quite a long way: It booked $14.7 billion in 2017, up a healthy 8.9 percent from the previous year.

VALUES-DRIVEN: After becoming CEO in 2006, Smith set about creating a values-based culture, one focused on operational discipline and efficiency.

THE PATH TO DFA: Coming from a dairy-farm background himself, Smith previously served as general counsel, then CEO, of Dairylea Cooperative in New York state.

INDUSTRY MUSCLE: Smith also has held leadership roles with the National Milk Producers Federation, Global Dairy Platform and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.


Now in his third decade at Henderson, Rich Smith assumed his current role in 2013. The combination of professional expertise and personable demeanor he brings to the role makes him very different from the sort of CEO who lives in a world apart from employees. He’s well-known and well-liked for his ability to “incite enthusiasm without even trying” and “connect with people at a level most wouldn’t think possible for someone in his position.

COLLEGE: B.S. Mechanical Engineering, M.S. Architectural Engineering, University of Kansas

ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Believe 100 percent in what you and what your company does. Care about your employees and coworkers. Trust your fellow leadership team. Have some fun and celebrate along the way.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Joel Manby, former president and CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment. I love his servant-leadership views that the decisions should be based on people—not always on the bottom line—and that the best competitive advantage is a healthy and strong culture, where people feel heard, included and motivated. If you do that, the bottom line takes care of itself.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “After being promoted, leading the company through a restructure, helping create a new senior leadership team and the development of our Vision and Purpose.”


This one-time high-school music store clerk is now regularly involved with billions in real estate and real-estate-related transactions, but says he still makes use of the lessons in customer service he learned as a teenager. A proud native son, John Snyder has worked with the Civic Council, the KC Rising initiative and the Kansas City Area Development Council, and sits on the Board of Governors for his alma mater, University of Kansas School of Law.

COLLEGE: B.A., Economics and Political Science, Illinois Wesleyan University (magna cum laude); J.D., Order of the Coif, University of Kansas School of Law

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Most likely I would be in retail (but if talent wasn’t an issue, I would be a rock star or endurance athlete). My father worked in retail management his whole career and I always liked retail business, from an employee, merchandising and customer interaction standpoint. I went to college to earn an economics degree and assumed I would get an MBA and go into retail management. But somehow, I ended up going to law school and now use my economics degree toward economic incentives for real-estate development projects, instead!”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “I don’t care when you get to the office or when you leave, as long as you get here before me and you leave after me!”



The biggest collection of collegiate undergraduate promise in Kansas is, to be completely Cavalier about it, not to be found in Lawrence, Manhattan or Wichita. Overland Park is where it’s at as the home of JCCC, the state’s biggest institution of higher education, in terms of enrollment headcount. Joe Sopcich took the lead there in 2013, after more than 20 years in various administrative roles..

COLLEGE: B.S., Political Science, University of Kansas; B.A., American Studies, MBA, Notre Dame; Ph.D., Governance, KU

THRIFT MASTER: Sopcich oversees an institution with a $150 million annual budget, or about $5,000 in spending per student. Think that’s a lot? Well, for some perspective, consider that at the first level below college, K-12 public schools, spending per pupil in Kansas was north of $13,600 this year.

TILTING THE SCALES: When you talk about community colleges in Kansas, JCCC is central to every issue—while there are 18 other campuses in the system, Johnson County enrolls more than 25 percent of all community-college students in the state.

GLOBAL MESSENGER: Among various awards and recognitions, Sopcich was presented the Fulbright Award, which he won in 2011.



Brad Spring is in the early days of his fourth decade with KPMG, where he runs the accounting giant’s Kansas City operation and serves as its national business transformation tax leader. But life isn’t all about numbers for Sprong; he enjoys civic involvement, as well. This year, he co-chaired the American Heart Association’s Heart Ball, and among his other pursuits has a seat on the executive board of William Jewell College, his alma mater.

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I was a light duty mechanic (tires, oil changes, brakes, etc.) The job taught me how to treat customers, a strong work ethic and the importance of trust in co-workers as there were a lot of times your fingers, and sometimes your life, depended on the other mechanics’ holding up their end of the job (literally, when it came to semi-truck tires.)

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Sometimes when negative things happen, it isn’t anyone’s fault, thus, make the best of the situation, smile and be positive.”

BIGGEST SETBACK: “I don’t view anything as a setback, only as experiences to learn from. To grow from a rough experience, I reflect on how I could have handled the situation differently to change the outcome, which helps shape my decisions going forward.”

Anne St. Peter.tif


Everything you need to know about Anne St. Peter’s approach to leadership can be gleaned from the structure she chose when she co-founded Global Prairie in 2008. As a certified benefit corporation, it seeks to balance purpose and profit. “To be a good leader, it is helpful to first know how to be good follower,” says this career advertising executive. “There is enormous value in knowing how to work within a team and on its behalf before assuming a leadership role.”

COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, Wellesley College

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I was a teenager working as the night receptionist in my hometown Catholic Church rectory. I learned first-hand the dedication and selfless service of our parish priests.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “In my next life, I would come back as an architect—so exciting to think about a life revolving around design, purpose and sustainability.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “Our biggest setback was having a client file for bankruptcy after stringing us along for almost a year. Sadly, we learned the hard way the valuable lesson of Trust But Verify.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Rallying a team around a higher purpose.”


Do not engage Steven St. Peter in any academic one-upsmanship: Chemistry degree from KU, medical degree from Washington University, MBA from the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He also was a Wall Street investment banker. He has applied all of that knowledge to Aratana Therapeutics, the animal-pharmaceutical company that was No. 1 on Ingram’s list of fastest-growing local companies this year.

TAKING THE REINS: He co-founded Aratana in 2010, then moved into the chief executive’s role two years later.

BIG-TIME GROWTH: The company’s ability to get three medications approved by federal regulators led to explosive revenue growth through 2017, and further
use of one of those canine applications for cats could lead to more. And more are in the development and testing pipeline.

BUSINESS PEDIGREE: His brother, Robert, is CEO of the Kansas Health Institute, and Robert’s wife, Anne, co-founder of Global Prairie, is another Ingram’s 250 honoree.

BOARD ROLES: His board history includes bio-defense concern PharmAthene, Proteon Therapeutics, a pair of pharmaceutical companies and the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute (now BioNexus) and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.



It’s not just a feel-good platitude; it’s a core value for Brent Stewart: “We achieve more working together than we achieve apart.”
A passionate advocate of servant-leadership, he brings that philosophy to the United Way, distributing tens of millions of dollars to support dozens of non-profits in the Kansas City area. He came here from Portland in 2008 with a prime directive to consolidate four separate United Way organizations. Mission accomplished.

COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, Howard University; M.A., Regional Planning, Penn State University

SUCCESS METRICS: In its most recent annual report, United Way said its affiliated programs connected nearly 90,000 children with quality after-school or preschool programs, more than 60,000 victims of abuse or neglect found shelter, and nearly 110,000 uninsured residents secured health-care services.

SERVICE-MINDED: Stewart can give as good as he takes when it comes to board service: he’s on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank, City Year Kansas City,
the National Association of Corporate Directors, the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission and advisory council for UMKC’s Department of Public Affairs,
and the Workforce Investment Board for the Full Employment Council, among others. 


Sunderlands have been at the heart of the Ash Grove for generations—and they built quite a business. When it came time to sell last year, the price tag was $3.5 billion. Ash Grove will operate under the auspices of Ireland-based CRH, up to now the cement giant’s biggest customer. Even given everything he helped build at Ash Grove, he considers his work leading the family’s philanthropic Sunderland Foundation his biggest professional achievement.

COLLEGE: Bachelor of Science, Business Administration, Trinity University.

Advice to Young Executives: “Get involved in civic activities or a nonprofit.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “My father, James Sunderland, for his work ethic and integrity.”

BUCKET LIST No. 1: “Golfing in the United Kingdom.”


FAVORITE MOVIE: “Field of Dreams. I love a good sports movie.”


MOVING ON UP: The cash infusion from the sale of Ash Grove made the charitable organization the third-largest in the Kansas City region, surpassing even the Hall and Bloch family foundations in asset size.


Transplanted to the Kansas City region last year, Daryl Sykes has a big job for Ford Motor Co.: He’s the plant manager for the Claycomo assembly line, where F-150 trucks and Transit vans roll out of production behind a work force of more than 7,300. Ford’s investment and expansion here several years ago touched off a land rush for industrial space by parts suppliers, generating thousands of additional jobs.

COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting and Finance, Ohio State University

PREVIOUS STOPS: Before arriving at Claycomo two years ago this month, he spend 24 years in other Ford settings, most recently as plant manager in Louisville.

INVESTING IN KC: The Transit line was added after Ford agreed, with state incentives approved several years ago under Gov. Jay Nixon, to upgrade the site to the tune of $1.1 billion. That has nearly doubled the plant’s work force, which stood at 3,700 as recently as 2014.

MORE THAN RELEVANT: The 1,269 acre Claycomo site opened in 1951. But for the superior work ethic demonstrated by line workers there, it could have been cut during any number of Ford retrenchments over the years. The company’s ability to produce vehicles at a lower cost here has helped keep the 4.7-million-sqauare-foot plant running.



Els Thermote can proudly claim to be a 36-year veteran of TVH—but then again, she was sweeping floors and helping with inventory counts when she was all of 7 years old. The Belgian company bought System Materials Handling of Olathe in 2003, and her father entrusted to her that operation, which she has turned into a materials-handling parts powerhouse throughout the Western Hemisphere.

COLLEGE: Bachelor’s, Business Marketing, Hantal (Kortrijk, Belgium)

CITIZEN OF THE WORLD: Thermote is capable of communicating with well over half the people on the planet—she speaks or is fluent in seven languages.

RECOGNITION: She was a finalist in the Midwest Region for E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year honors in 2014. She was also a 40 Under Forty honoree in 2011, a WeKC winner in 2017, and TVH has been on the Ingram’s 100 the past five years as one of the area’s top 100 private companies.

PREACHING—THEN PRACTICING: A healthy work/life balance, she believes, contributed to her own success, but it doesn’t stop there. She embraces the same outlook for nearly 1,000 employees (about half in Olathe), which helped make TVH one of Ingram’s Best Companies to Work For in 2014.



The company Jonathan Thomas oversees started in the one-bedroom Kansas City apartment of its founder, Jim Stowers. With $100,000 in seed money from 24 investors, Stowers started off with a modest offering of just two mutual funds. Today, Thomas oversees a money-management organization of 1,300+ employees in six global offices. Not a bad rise for a fellow who started out working at a Dairy Queen when he was 11 years old.

COLLEGE: B.A., University of Massachusetts; M.B.A., Boston College

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “A professor. I’ve actually taught classes at a couple of universities over the years and really enjoy working with students.”

TO YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS: “Entrepreneurs … must realize from the start that success won’t come easily or instantly and there will be challenges. But, through hard work, strong conviction, determination, a thorough understanding of your clients’ needs and the competitive landscape, success eventually will be achieved.”

SCARIEST MOMENT: “The global financial crisis in 2007-08.”

FAVORITE MOVIE: “Tie between Caddyshack and Rudy. One is just hilarious and still holds up well to this day. The other is very inspirational and speaks to what you can achieve if you work hard enough.”

LITTLE-KNOWN FACT: “When I was in college, during the summer, I was a truck driver.”



At this point in her career, Polly Thomas focuses is on assisting employers with strategic health and welfare plans for their employees. She first developed her passion for health promotion and disease prevention as a practicing physical therapist. Interestingly, it was a disappointment along that career path that put her on the road to what she does today. There are a lot of happy employers and healthy employees who have benefited from that turn of events.

COLLEGE: B.S., Physical Therapy, University of Missouri

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “My first job was working in a bagel store when I was 15. I learned that there should be no job beneath a person and that it takes an entire team of people doing their part in order to make things run smoothly.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I would have been a physician, probably an orthopedic surgeon, because I love the reward of knowing you are helping others and giving others the ability to move and stay active would be especially rewarding.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “You have a moral and professional obligation to mentor and bring others in the organization along with you. The extent to which you do that will be the ultimate measure of your success.”



Bob Thompson traded muddy jeans for a business suit when he left the farm to earn a law degree—but truth be told, he never really left the farm. Were he able to choose another career, he says, “I would be a full time farmer/rancher.” That would be Kansas City’s loss—he’s one of the most successful and influential lawyers in town, specializing in complex commercial business litigation at the recently merged firm.

COLLEGE: B.S. J.D., University of Missouri

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Farming. I learned that hard work is important, but that timing and a little bit of luck plays into an individual’s success. Don’t convince yourself that results are all because of your own merit (or lack of it).”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Work very hard and don’t assume anyone owes you anything.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “In 1986, we had a huge flood and I was not making any money farming. I went back to law school, and at the same time never gave up our farming business. My wife, Cindy, never wavered in her willingness to do this together and face what was a big challenge for our family at the time. She put me through law school while we had two young children, and we worked on all of these things together.”



Country Club Bank has grown incredibly, since its birth as the stand-alone Ward Parkway Bank in 1953. Today, it has locations all across KC and maintains its 60-year focus on being a partner for the community. A community banker through and through, Paul Thompson has also served on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank’s Kansas City operation, where he brought that community banker’s vital perspective on economic issues to the board’s activities.

COLLEGE: B.S., B.A., Creighton University; M.B.A., Rockhurst University; Graduate School of Banking, University of Colorado

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Mowing lawns in grade school and high school. Among other things, I learned the value of not procrastinating. Invariably, if I did put off mowing for a day, it would assuredly rain the next day.” 

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “My fantasy career would have been to be a professional golfer. On a more realistic note, I think maybe I could have been an attorney. I like logic, persuasive speech and finding solutions to problems..”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Be authentic, listen more than you talk and remember that “nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Communicating openly and honestly while conveying an authentic interest in seeing them succeed as they contribute to our overall success.”



Brenda Tinnen didn’t wait long to get into event management. When she was still a girl, she helped her mother in the ticketing office for the Kansas City Athletics, back in 1967. After running arena facilities in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Housting and Pheonix, she came home to Kansas City and is now executing the plan at the Sprint Center for AEG. The Denver-based company turned to her in 2007 when the Sprint Center opened.

MAKING IT HAPPEN: Critics said the $276 million arena couldn’t succeed without an anchor tenant, perhaps an NBA or NHL team, but even without that, her tenure has produced an aggregate economic impact of $1.01 billion, and the arena has drawn more than 11 million visitors, making it one of the nation’s businest venues.

ANCHOR: Tinnen has also worked to help secure the Big XII men’s basketball tourney, which will remain at the center through 2020.

HONORS: In addition to being recognized by Ingram’s in its annual WeKC awards (Women Executives-Kansas City), Tinnen has been the Kansas City Sports Commission’s Executive of the Year, Woman of the Year for The Central Exchange and Pollstar Magazine’s Facility Executive of the Year.



Thirteen years with Cerner gave Mike Valentine intimate understanding of health-care information technology. But an entrepreneurial itch he thought he’d scratched before joining Cerner never really went away. In 2011, he saw an opportunity to put his imprint on a business, and left for New York-based Netsmart, then moved its headquarters to Overland Park and set about doubling its number of clients and revenues.

COLLEGE: B.S., Industrial Engineering, Kansas State University

TRIPLE PLAY: Valentine has indeed built an award-winning enterprise; few companies have matched the behavioral-health IT concern’s performance. It has earned spots on both Ingram’s Corporate Report 100 (for fast growth) and the Ingram’s 100 (for revenue size) in recent years, and has also been one of our Best Companies to Work For.

THE CERNER INFLUENCE: As with a number of Kansas City tech companies, Cerner was the run-up to entrepreneurship with Valentine. As COO, he oversaw delivery and client relationships for the company’s worldwide operations.

BOARD SERVICE: Valentine is on the board of Streamline Health Solutions, a NASDAQ company, and his non-profit service record includes the American Heart Association, American Royal, K-State and Wildscape Foundation.


Just a guess here, but corporate meetings under Randy Vance must come with good eats, because he knows the turf: Before joining one of the nation’s biggest construction-materials companies, he held executive roles at Farmland Industries, Interstate Bakeries and Hostess Brands. He joined Ash Grove as CFO in 2011, became president three years later, and helped put together the deal when it sold for $3.5 billion last fall.

COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, MBA-Finance, UMKC

TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Seek a mentor who will challenge your
abilities and encourage you to reach beyond your potential.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Charlie Sunderland, retired Chairman and CEO of Ash Grove Cement Co. Charlie’s humble, collaborative leadership style fostered a strong culture of employee engagement for over 30 years.”

BUSINESS TREND THAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT: “Finding and retaining qualified people at all levels of responsibility is critical to our continued success. Our specialized industry is significantly impacted by the tight labor market.

BUCKET LIST NO 1: “Play Augusta National Golf Club”

FAVORITE BOOK: “Good to Great” by Jim Collins




Michael Viazzoli tasked with delivering for the combined customers of the Bank of Kansas City/ Missouri Bank & Trust merger that produced Mobank, part of the $30 billion BOK Financial banking enterprise. He moved to Kansas City in 2011 and has dedicated much time to his adopted home through board positions with organizations including Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Kansas City Area Development Council and University of Kansas Medical Center.

COLLEGE: Bachelor’s, Economics, University of California-Davis; MBA, University of Chicago-Booth School of Business

First Job/Lessons Learned: “Sweeping floors and cleaning bathrooms in my father’s machine shop. I learned about the value of hard work and that
everyone has a role to help a business/team succeed.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I never wanted to be anything other than a banker.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR:  “Know when to lead, when to manage and when to act.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “About 25 years ago, I was put in a role that did not match well with my skills and interests. I overcame it by accepting it as a challenge, performed well and positioned myself for the next career step.”




His is not a job for the faint of heart: In a region riven by a state line—and the politics that often divide us—David Warm represents the potential for true regional collaboration. He’s been executive director at the Mid-America Regional Council for nearly 30 years, pushing programs and policies, as well as data, that extoll the virtues of this region as a place to live, play,
work or own a business.

COLLEGE: B.A., political science and economics, University of California-Santa Barbara; Master of Public Administration, University of California-Riverside

WIDE REACH: Nonprofit MARC is an association of city and county governments that serves as a planning organization for nine counties and 119 cities in the region.

POLICY PRESCRIPTIONS: MARC’s 2017 Quality of Life in the Kansas City Area, just one example of its rich data tranche, found that far from education and public safety issues that dominate the headlines, people here say family is the most important factor in determining quality of life, followed by financial well-being and health.

FOOTING THE BILL: MARC’s $68 million budget comprises federal, state and private grants, local contributions and earned income; a large part of that goes to local
governments and other agencies for programs and services.




Pat Whalen has been called a cybersecurity and data-privacy trailblazer, been named among the world’s best at Internet and eCommerce law, and listed among the top IP lawyers in the U.S. He has counseled financial institutions in all aspects of their data-breach response strategies, first-chaired dozens of jury trials and arbitrations and secured seven-figure jury verdicts. In addition, and is active with various civic and professional organizations.

COLLEGE: B.A., University of Kansas; J.D., University of Texas School of Law-Austin; M.B.A., University of Texas-San Antonio

FIRST JOB LESSONS LEARNED: “Researcher at a publishing company. In addition to research skills, I learned the importance of triple-checking everything.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “Teacher/Professor. Not only is it an amazing way to serve others, it provides for a lifetime of learning.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Voraciously pursue learning so you can continuously improve as a leader.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “Failing to more rigorously assess the fit between myself and the first company I worked for after graduate school.”



In her first job as a waitress, Debbie says she learned to never waste a trip. Great training for a woman who now leads an organization dedicated to eliminating waste and maximizing results for more than 3,000 Kansas City area charitable funds. By providing tools and service that help donors better plan and execute their giving Wilkerson and her team play a vital role in the day-to-day life of Kansas City’s legendary generosity.

COLLEGE: B.A., Psychology, University of Kansas; J.D., K.U. School of Law

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “It probably would have been something in logistics. As a working mom of four kids, I learned to coordinate the movement of precious cargo from afar.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Be careful of your expression when you walk down the hall. People are always reading you.”

BIGGEST SETBACK: “I slowed down and was part time for many years when my kids were little. But it was a slowdown, not a setback.”



Retirement didn’t last long for Steve Wilkinson. He took down his CEO shingle in 2015, after 18 years at the helm of Menorah Medical Center, but a desire to be part of a world that does great things for others stayed with him. So, when Prime Healthcare came calling this year, with an offer to lead its four-hospital regional presence in the Kansas City area, it didn’t take much coaxing for him to sign on.

COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, Kansas State University; M.S., Healthcare Administration, Colorado University

ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Make the most of your first job –
it paves the way to the rest of your career.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Richard Brown, chairman, Stowers Resource Management. He expanded my knowledge of leadership, strategic thinking, how to have a vision of a desired future, as well as operational management.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Being a CEO of a medical center that allowed me to know we were making a difference in people’s lives every day.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “Golf in Scotland and Ireland.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “My grandsons and family, and golf.”


A construction-sector career came with extra baggage for Bridgette Williams, and has required “proving over and over again—in a time when women in the executive suite were still considered window dressing—that I could handle the challenges of male-dominated industries,” she says. And yet, she says, there’s more to her than career. “I may be a busy executive,” Williams declares, “but I am, and always will be, first and foremost, a wife and a mom.”

COLLEGE: B.A., Communication, Pittsburg State; B.A., Liberal Arts, Ottawa University; MBA, Helzberg School of Management, Rochurst University

TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Pay your dues. I don’t care what gender or color you are, plan on learning the ropes, the nuances, all facets of a business, organization or industry before you take on the title of CEO. Ask a lot of questions of business veterans you respect and want to emulate. Develop and nurture true relationships.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “Facilitating cooperation among local, state and federal governments to create a long-term plan to make and keep our fast-decaying roads, bridges and highways safe to drive on.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “My family and my work are my passions, in that order.

FAVORITE BOOK: “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing



After learning the finer points of information technology by developing, managing and owning data centers, Chad Williams founded Quality Technology Services, now QTS Realty Trust, in 2003. Fifteen years later, he’s at the helm of a $446 million company providing IT solutions, data center hosting and cloud storage for clients nationwide, primarily for clients in health care, financial service, the public sector.

GOING PUBLIC: A decade after the company was founded, Williams took it public, and the 4.28 million outstanding shares have a book value today of more than $70 million.

HANDS-ON LEADERSHIP: The company says Williams has been involved in every aspect of operations at QTS, including strategic acquisition and financing, site selection, design, development and construction and customer management.

FOOTPRINT: QTS operates 25 data center facilities covering a combined 4.8 million square feet.

OUTSIDE THE OFFICE: Williams aligned with the U.S. Dream Academy as a board member, an organization that works to improve the lives of children whose parents are in jail or prison.



Starting her fifth year in command of the area’s largest health benefits provider, Danette Wilson is leading a charge toward making health care simpler and more affordable for Blue KC’s 1 million-plus members. Recent innovations on her watch are the new Spira Care Centers, one-stop locations for primary care, diagnostic tests, lab tests, x-rays and other services, covered at 100 percent for those members at every visit.

COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, University of Nebraska

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I would have owned my own business.”

BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Focus on doing the right thing rather than on needing to be right.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS: “Early on in my career, I was passed over three times for a promotion because my supervisor didn’t think I could do the job. I was persistent and continued to apply for the promotion. He eventually gave me the job but told other leaders he expected me to fail. I proved him wrong.”

BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Is giving them big jobs, the resources they need, and then holding them accountable.”



For the past four elections, Kevin Yoder has coasted into the U.S. House, never by less than double digits. His fifth attempt, though, comes during a whacko political season where, it seems, anything goes. He’s a fifth-generation Kansan who grew up on a farm raising livestock and grain near—yes—the burg of Yoder. He’s a past winner of the Guardian of Small Business award from the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

COLLEGE: B.A./B.S., English & Political Science, J.D., University of Kansas

POLITICAL RISE: Yoder cut his political teeth in the Kansas House of Representatives, chairing its Appropriations Committee.

FORMIDABLE: The Trump effect in 2016 produced an electorate that limited Yoder’s victory margin to just over 10 points, but he’s won 3rd District Contests by more than 37.

UP NEXT: He’ll be seeking a fifth term against Democratic nominee Sharice Davids, whose background includes an eclectic mix of White House Fellow and mixed-martial arts fighter.



The American Midwest seemed quite foreign when he arrived in 2010, but Julián has made himself very much at home, doing great things at the Nelson-Atkins, where attendance is up 43 percent over that span. That probably has much to do with a new approach to visitors that he and his team have taken: “Come on your own terms.” The idea is to not push art and education on people, but to help them discover it in a very personal way.

COLLEGE: Diplomé de l’Ecole du Louvre, Art History, Ph.D., Philosophy, Aesthetics from the Sorbonne, Paris IV.

FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “I was 17 years old when I got my first job as a stage manager in Mexico City. I learned very much from that experience, including how difficult it was to be on my feet all day and the importance of precision. There was such an urgency at curtain time, and that has informed my great respect for deadlines.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN ANY OTHER CAREER: “I have a great admiration for around-the-world solo sailors (for example, the Vendée Globe solo race) and their incredible endurance amidst the limitless expanse of the ocean. I dream of what it might be like to have myself tested that way. But I also have a deep fear of the ocean’s power, so my dream would actually be overcoming that fear.”


The Ingram’s 250 field is largely, but not entirely, determined by our editors’ best assessments of the financial throw-weight each member has in his or her professional arsenal. Often, that comes down to simple matters of capital resources: As a starting point, executives from the largest organizations clearly wield more commercial influence than those at one-man shops and startups. But corporate revenues, C-suite salaries or employee payroll totals don’t alone define what it takes to make this select field. We assess the influence that these leaders have on regional commerce, on public policy, on civic initiatives and on philanthropic ventures. Their ranks represent the largest employers in the region and the size of revenues, yes, but we also consider profitability, which is why some large-company executives one might think of as slam-dunk picks don’t show up here. And we’ve carved out space for a select few who, though retired from day-to-day corporate life, still wield huge influence on matters that shape regional business and define us as a community. Is it all purely scientific? No. But a combined 50 years of editorial experience covering business here tells us that these people, at this time, are the most powerful business leaders in the Kansas City area. 

Submit Your Nominations

An interesting exercise for our readers and your associates may be to create your own list of the most powerful and influential business leaders in the greater Kansas City region. Your choices may often be the same as our own; however, we would be interested to know whom we may have missed and what makes your candidate qualified to be included in our 2018 class. Please email DBoone@Ingrams.com