CO-CHAIR, SHOOK, HARDY & BACON
Veteran attorney Rob Adams co-chairs the general liability litigation practice group at the area’s largest law firm, serving clients in the automotive, construction, insurance and pharmaceutical sectors. Some bigger recent cases include Myers v. AbbVie, Inc., in which a jury in federal court in Chicago returned a defense verdict after 32 minutes of deliberation—a bellwether trial where it was alleged that a drug caused a bilateral pulmonary embolism.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Kansas; J.D., University of Missouri-Columbia
FORD FOCUS: Adams has been involved in, and won, several cases in which Ford Motor Co. was the defendant.
AGAINST THE ODDS: “The most rewarding cases for me are the ones where the odds are stacked against my client,” Adams once told Ingram’s. “I like the challenge of trying to package difficult facts into a morally compelling story as to why my client should win.”
LEARNING FROM LOSSES: “The trials that stand out for me are ones in which I lost where I know I should have won. These trials continually haunt me.”
CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI-KANSAS CITY
Mauli Agrawal became UMKC’s chancellor just 15 months ago, but already, he has a bold agenda: He wants the institution to raise its profile as a research university and employment driver, he wants a major expansion of the engineering enrollment to reflect the region’s wealth of companies in that space, and he wants to raise enrollment, 16,375 last fall, by 50 percent before 2028, closer to levels at urban university peers.
COLLEGE: B.A., Technology, Indian Institute of Technology; M.S., Mechanical Engineering, Clemson University; Ph.D, Mechanical Engineering, Duke University
CHANGING ROLE: Also high on Agrawal’s priorities is transforming UMKC into a residential campus, strengthening its ability to project a full college experience for students.
TRACK RECORD: Program growth is a specialty for Agrawal; as interim provost and dean of the College of Engineering at University of Texas-San Antonio, enrollment rose 40 percent, the faculty numbers jumped 50 percent and research funding rose four-fold.
FAST STARTER: In just his first eight months as chancellor, Agrawal ushered in $40 million in new scholarships, created institutes for the growing fields of data science and health equity, empaneled a mental-health task force and called for a new building to house performing-arts programs.
PRESIDENT/CEO, BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD OF KANSAS
“Success in the real world,” says Matt All, “looks different than success in school. It’s not about having the right answer; it’s about bringing out the best in others.” That’s the mindset this fifth-generation Kansan brought to the helm of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas in 2018. The Yale law graduate joined BCBS in 2007 after stints in private practice and the public sector, and now leads a company insuring more than 900,000 Kansans.
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, University of Kansas; J.D., Yale Law School
BATTERY RECHARGE: “A quiet night at home with family. It makes everything better.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “I haven’t made it yet. I’ll let you know when I do.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Benjamin Franklin. He loved a good meal and a good drink, and I’d love to hear what really happened behind those locked doors at Independence Hall.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Christmas, hands down. There’s nothing better than seeing my kids open presents on Christmas morning.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “That’s a long time from now. It’s the farthest thing from my mind.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “(a) A modern public transportation system, and (b) a Joe’s Kansas City in Lawrence.”
Don Armacost Jr.
PRESIDENT/CEO, PETERSON MANUFACTURING
For more than 65 years, Don Armacost has been a fixture at Peterson Manufacturing, the company his father acquired in 1946, when the focus was on production of after-market vehicle parts. Much of that time has been spent in the leadership role of the family-owned business, and during his tenure, it expanded to operate as many as 10 divisions producing vehicle safety-lighting and related equipment.
ON THE INGRAM’S 100: Peterson Manufacturing clocked in at No. 73 on this year’s list of the 100 largest private companies in the area with 2018 revenues of $185 million.
PAYROLL POWER: The company employs roughly 1,000 overall, with the majority of those working at its 670,000-square-foot production facility in Grandview.
VALUES-BASED: Armacost has attributed the company’s long-term success to values passed down by his father: “Treat your customers, your suppliers and your employees fairly.” From a mentor, he said, he learned leadership values: “Work hard. Always be honest..”
INDUSTRY RESPECT: He’s one of three generations of Armacosts to serve as national president of the Transportation Safety Equipment Institute.
PHILANTHROPY ON WHEELS: The Armacost Museum is one of the most sought-after venues for non-profit events, staged around a sprawling collection of his vintage cars.
PRESIDENT/CEO, AMC ENTERTAINMENT
The Kansas City region landed a big one when sports-entertainment mogul Adam Aron signed on with AMC in 2016, and he brings a big-city perspective to KC, leading a $5 billion public company. What’s our next step to big-league status? “A revitalized, modern, attractive, pedestrian-friendly urban core in the heart of the city center,” he says. Aron is a co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and a hospitality-sector veteran executive.
WISH I’D KNOWN: “The magic of discovering and learning along the way has been a highlight of the journey. I wouldn’t want anything to have been revealed earlier.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Get a really good night’s sleep.”
PAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHT: “Adding private-equity firm Silver Lake to the roster of AMC investors and add a representative of Silver Lake onto the AMC Board of Directors. Silver Lake has played such a positive role in helping me think smartly about AMC’s future.
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Joining AMC as its CEO. I have enjoyed every single day leading this company. The movie business is glamorous and fun, yet stimulating due to its constant change.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln together. They shaped a great nation that has endured for hundreds of years. Would love to hear each other’s perspective on the leadership and legacy of the other.”
CHAIRMAN/CEO KANSAS CITY REGION, COMMERCE BANK
The head of the largest bank based in the area’s Kansas City operations has put in his time at the institution. Kevin Barth Chairman and CEO, Kansas City Region, of Commerce Bank started there in 1984 as a trainee and never left. By 1996, he was commercial lending manager, then president of the bank’s Kansas City operations before being named CEO in July 2018 for a bank with total assets of $25.8 billion, $14.3 billion in loans and $19.8 billion in deposits.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration/Economics, Graceland University; MBA, Rockhurst University
PAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHT: “A well-thought-out management succession plan, both at the holding company level and in KC, ensuring continuity in management and consistency in delivery of our products and services to our customers for many years to come.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “I wish I had truly understood just how fast time goes, although I doubt I would have believed it.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “That’s going to be a while, but take a dive trip to Truk Lagoon. (Google it!)”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Business and political leaders to collaborate on developing strategic priorities and plans for how we work together to execute on those plans.”
CEO, CITIZENS BANK & TRUST
Veteran banking executive Roger Arwood leads an enterprise that registers No. 10 among locally headquartered banks, with $851 million in assets as of March 2019. But that figure will pop to the $900 million range with the acquisition earlier this year of Summit Bank of Kansas City and its $45 million in assets, positioning Citizens to become the next billion-dollar regional bank.
COLLEGE: B.S./B.A., Finance, University of Central Missouri; MBA, Northwest Missouri State University
CAREER STOPS: Arwood’s career has covered stops at banks across the Midwest, including stints in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. He came back to the Kansas City area from First Merchants Bank in Indiana in 2005 to join the former Gold Banc, a $4.4 billion player that was acquired a year later by M&I Bank.
MISSOURI ROOTS: Citizens was founded in Chillicothe in 1889, but relocated its charter and headquarters to the metro area in 2016. It offers services in wealth management as well as retail and commercial banking.
PRESIDENT/CEO, BALLS FOOD STORES
David Ball is the third-generation leader of Balls Food Stores, which operates Hen House, Price Chopper and SunFresh stores around the metro area. The president and CEO of the company has been heading up the grocery retailer for about 15 years. Balls Food purchased two Hen House stores in 1989, and there are now nine of them across the area. In its entire portfolio of about 30 stores the company employs about 4,000 workers.
COLLEGE: B.A., Personnel Administration, University of Kansas
MODEST BEGINNINGS: What is now a leader in Kansas City-area supermarkets started as a small grocery store in 1923, at 6th and Stewart streets, in Kansas City, Kan.,
by Ball’s grandparents Sidney and Mollie.
A HIGHER SHELF: Ball’s stores aim to beat the competition from superstores Walmart and Target by focusing on customer service and having employees well-trained and educated in the supermarket sector.
EARLY BLACK FRIDAY SOLUTION: Ball’s father Fred opened the area’s first Price Chopper in the 1970s at a time of high inflation. It was a warehouse-style market with the lowest prices the company could offer. It worked so well that employees reportedly had to limit the number of customers entering the stores at one time.
PRESIDENT/CMO, BANK MIDWEST
Whitney Bartelli wears two corporate hats: president of Bank Midwest, operating in Kansas and Missouri, and chief marketing officer of its parent company, Denver-based National Bank Holdings Corp. She assumed both posts in 2015 and joined the institution in 2012. Before that, she was senior vice president of retail brand strategy and management at Bank of America. She’s also is a board member of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.
COLLEGE: B.F.A., Communications, Pittsburg State University
BATTERY RECHARGE: “I find a lot of inspiration from my peers inside and outside of my industry. Spending time with them and sharing ideas with one another always gives me a boost.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “Very little in business is linear or ‘textbook perfect.’ Being successful is all about one’s ability to be adaptable and navigate both smooth and choppy waters.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “More of the national recognition it deserves. We are a world-class city who is investing heavily in our future and it is paying off. Other cities can take note!”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a bold and compassionate leader whose message of humanity and equality still rings highly relevant today. I think we could all continue to learn from him.”
The ink was dry on the deal last year, so now Terry Bassham and his crew are busy rebranding KCP&L and Great Plains Energy as Evergy. That reflects the 2018 merger that this native Texan helped navigate with Topeka-based Westar Energy. From that, two companies in the mid-$2 billion revenue range have come together to form one of the region’s biggest enterprises, with a combined $4.28 billion in 2018 revenue.
RAPID RISE: In 2005, Bassham came on board as chief financial officer at Great Plains Energy, then made vice president for utility operations before becoming president in 2011, adding the CEO’s title a year later, then completing the trifecta with board chairmanship in 2013.
NEW LOOKS: In addition to the new Evergy brand for the combined company, its New York Stock Exchange listing has been revised to EVRG.
MOMENTUM: Investors seem to be encouraged by the company’s new position; between Jan. 1 and Sept. 1, Evergy’s stock price increased a healthy 14.9 percent.
POWER PLAYER: The combined operation now covers more than 10,000 square miles, serving 1.6 million customers generating more than 27 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year from 12 power plants.
PRESIDENT, SOAVE AUTOMOTIVE GROUP
Since 2006, Kansas City native Marion Battaglia has been at the driver’s seat for Soave Automotive Group, operating as Aristocrat Motors, Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City, and BMW & VW of Topeka. He oversees dealerships offering some of the best-known brands in high-performance vehicles, and is an industry voice as a board member for the Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Kansas City. Battaglia is also involved in multiple charitable ventures.
CORPORATE CITIZENSHIP: The company’s significant presence with non-profits under Battaglia’s lead has benefited Sleepyhead Beds, Uplift, Harvesters, The Ali Kemp Foundation, Hope House, The Kansas City Art Institute, and the University of Kansas Hospital, for starters.
TOP-TIER TREADS: In addition to high-performance brands of Maserati, Mercedes-
Benz, Porsche, Jaguar and BMW, the group also deals in vehicles from Volkswagen, Land Rover and Alfa Romeo.
ON THE INGRAM’S 100: Soave Automotive booked $320 million in 2018 sales, good enough for a No. 55 showing on Ingram’s 2019 list of the region’s biggest private companies.
PRESIDENT/CEO, GEORGE K. BAUM & CO.
Jonathan Baum represents the third-generation of family leadership for the firm founded by his grandfather in 1928. After decades of public-finance work and taxable fixed-income sales and trading, the core business is being acquired by St. Louis-based Stifel Financial Corp. Baum started with the company in 1991 and is also the director of investment banking for George K. Baum Capital Advisors, an investment banking boutique.
COLLEGE: B.S., Kansas State University; MBA, University of Chicago
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “For UMKC to continue its evolution into a world-class research university.” Baum, a UMKC trustee, is passionate about the institution’s success.
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Attracting and retaining the best people.”
PAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHT: “Bringing leaders and producers to a unified strategy.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “The power of being a great listener.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving—time to be thankful, reflect on the year that was and project for the year that will be, and to be with family.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Hope to never retire.”
PARTNER, BARTIMUS FRICKLETON ROBERTSON RADER
Since founding his firm in 1977, Jim Bartimus has spearheaded major medical malpractice cases and represented Missouri against tobacco companies and Kansas in Medicare-fraud cases. A Vietnam veteran who was in the Navy, he is also very active with service organizations; since 1993, he and fellow attorneys have been making sandwiches for homeless every Tuesday at City Union Mission.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Missouri; J.D., University of Missouri Kansas City
PAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHT: “Sponsoring the Make-A-Wish Foundation. We are a major sponsor this year and were last year for the organization. It’s been a terrific experience.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Leonardo da Vinci. I’ve read a bunch of his biographies, including a new one I just read, ‘Leonardo and Gabriel.’ The guy was unbelievable and incredible in every area.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Better roads.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Hiring my partners.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “Learning to say ‘no.’”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Start bass guitar lessons.”
CHANCELLOR, METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Kimberly Beatty has been on the job as chancellor of Metropolitan Community College for about two years now, as the school is focused on making sure students leave the institution trained and employed. Earlier this year MCC announced that it had secured a $2.2 million grant to go toward its apprenticeship program and on-the-job training at area manufacturing companies. Beatty is the first African American to lead MCC.
COLLEGE: B.A., M.A., English, Ed.D., higher education with a specialization in community college leadership, all from Morgan State University.
PAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHT: “In a conversation with an employee, she said, ‘you make me matter.’ At first, I thought she said, ‘you make me madder!’ After I realized what she said, I cried. These are the types of interactions that can change the culture of an organization.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “Everyone likes to be rewarded and appreciated for their work. The higher up you go in leadership, the less likely you are to receive that level of appreciation, especially from others. I wish I was more prepared for that.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A broader image. This city is amazing! However, most people in the country don’t know it.”
CEO/OWNER, P1 GROUP
Smitty Belcher is leading the company he obtained through a merger in 1998 in its 100th anniversary. The owner and CEO of P1 Group started his career in Toledo, Ohio, in pipefitting in the 1960s and eventually purchased Huxtable & Associates, in Lawrence, in 1983. After a 1998 merger what is now P1 was formed. The mechanical-construction firm was ranked No. 122 on last year’s Engineering News-Record’ Top 600 Specialty Contractor list.
COLLEGE: B.S., MBA, University of Toledo
WISH I’D KNOWN: “I wish I had known just how fast it all goes, and I wish I had kept a journal of all the highlights along the way.”
KC NEEDS: “A World Cup soccer event—Kansas City has so many resources and things to offer. We should be showing this city off not just nationally but internationally.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “I like to get out of town, sit on a rock (probably at Lake of the Ozarks), read a book (something about business, or maybe a Tom Clancy novel), and say ‘no’ to technology, even if only for a day or two.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “FDR – Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He served four terms in succession, during the Depression and through World War II.”
PAST YEAR’S BEST MEMORY: “Seeing P1 Group reach its 100th anniversary this year.”
CHAIRMAN/CEO, MIDWEST TRUST
With more than 30 years running trust companies, Brad Bergman brings to Midwest Trust a background in financial services (he’s been a commercial banker), law (in private practice) and wealth administration. Midwest Trust provides financial advice to a range of organizations as diverse as education, health care, and historical preservation, focusing on investment management, trust administration and wealth and retirement planning.
COLLEGE: B.S., Illinois State; J.D., Washburn University
BATTERY RECHARGE: “I go and work in our vineyards or Camp Timberlake.”
RECENT BUSINESS HIGHLIGHT: “Celebrating the 25th anniversary of Midwest Trust Co., with all of our clients, employees and my family.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Marrying my wife, Libby.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “I would dine with George Washington; he had unlimited power and he gave it up to return to his farm, just like his hero Cincinnatus.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “I will look down [or up] at the people attending my funeral.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “All government institutions to make it easier to grow businesses here instead of luring out-of-market companies with incentives.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, TENSION CORP.
Leading envelope manufacturer Tension Corp. comes natural to Bill Berkley. After all, it’s in his blood, as the company was founded by his great grandfather back in 1886. Berkley joined the family business in 1977 and took over the top executive position at the company from his father, who stayed on as chairman, in 1988. Since that time, Tension has expanded into Asia, undergone a corporate rebranding and entered the packaging and pharmacy automation businesses.
COLLEGE: B.A., Colorado College; MBA, Dartmouth College-Tuck School of Business
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “To expand the envelope business into the packaging and automation business for ecommerce and prescription order fulfillment.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To stop the violence.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Thomas Jefferson. I was a history major in college with a focus on early American history. Dinner with Thomas Jefferson would allow me to hear directly from him his vision for our country.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It’s a time to step back from our busy pace and be with family and friends and all those who are important in our lives.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, being outside, getting exercise, photography, tennis and reading.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, BERNSTEIN REIN
More than 50 years since the agency bagged the elephant by
creating the Happy Meal concept for McDonald’s, Steve Bernstein is still building on the relationship forged by his father, Bob. The younger Bernstein-Rein secured even more McDonald’s business over the past year, capitalizing on the chain’s strategic change in ad delivery. The agency now represents 365 units, but does a lot more than help sell burgers.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business and Public Administration, University of Arizona
CLIENT ROSTER: Among other clients in its stable are regional retailer Havertys Furniture, Gold’s Gym, and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.
CIVIC CHAMPION: It’s tough to top the civic engagement Steve Bernstein has shown; his history of board service includes The Kansas City Zoo and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, UMKC, the Children’s Place, Village Shalom, the Jewish Community Center of Kansas City and the Jewish Federation of Kansas City, as well as the alumni association for his alma mater, UofA. He’s also a member of the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City.
PRESIDENT/CEO, MARINER WEALTH ADVISORS
What Marty Bicknell co-founded in 2006 with $300 million of assets under management is now one of the nation’s largest wealth management firms, with more than $22 billion AUM. The president and CEO of Mariner Wealth Advisors was an executive at A.G. Edwards before starting Mariner. The company has acquired seven other firms so far this year, the last being SMS Capital Management, its second expansion into the Houston area.
COLLEGE: B.S., Political Science, Pittsburg State University
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To keep and attract youth to our businesses. All business leaders should feel it’s their obligation to train and develop Kansas City’s next generation of talent.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Leaving A.G. Edwards to start Mariner Wealth Advisors.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Ronald Reagan because he is my favorite President. Just one dinner with him would be an invaluable leadership lesson and experience for me.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “To focus on what I can control and not be concerned about the things I can’t. Focusing on what’s out of your control is paralyzing. I learned this lesson from the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Get a job!”
The corporate-travel world has performed well with the continued expanding economy, keeping Brent Blake busy. He has been with Acendas since 1997, when it was still called All About Travel. Before that, Blake was chief operating officer of Passport Travel. He’s learned that even after achieving so much success in the business world, it never hurts to sharpen your financing knowledge.
COLLEGE: B.S., Marketing and Administration, Oral Roberts University
WISH I’D KNOWN: “I would have paid more attention to the finance classes in college. You just can’t have enough of the understanding of the finance side in business.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Deciding that hiring the best people is the key to long term success. Hiring the best people in sales and operations changes your company for the better.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “That’s easy: George Washington. I love history and he was right there in the midst of creating the country. In desperate times, he somehow rallied the underdogs and came up with alternate plans after initial plans failed. He was the ultimate leader who could lead other strong individuals through his humility.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A ‘no border’ mentality. In a perfect world, we would operate as a region, not different states and cities.”
MANAGING PRINCIPAL, BLOCK REAL ESTATE SERVICES
Ken Block is a titan of commercial realty in this region. Block Commercial Real Estate Services manages more than 43 million square feet of retail, office and industrial space, as well as 7,350 multifamily units. A trophy office complex it manages is Corporate Woods in Overland Park. He and his team also have developed and built more than 220 buildings worth $1.3 billion. He started in the business in 1975 with his father’s firm.
COLLEGE: B.S., Michigan State University
WISH I’D KNOWN: “In the real estate business, you don’t really have a day off. Every person you talk to is a potential client. Every time you socialize is an opportunity to meet a new client. The job is continuous, and you must be prepared to work at any time whether it’s day, night, or the weekends or even on vacation, as when opportunities arise you need to be ready to act.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “For the leaders of all of Kansas City’s communities to work together to promote our Metropolitan area as we then would all benefit from the City’s reputation and national visibility. With truly engaged and focused leadership, our community can remain a great city economically, culturally, and socially.”
CHAIRMAN, LATHROP GAGE
Widely regarded business attorney Mark Bluhm, chairman of the fourth-largest law firm in the area, knows a thing or two about running a company. He co-founded a health-care startup and was a bank director for 25 years. At Lathrop, he was CEO for four years before becoming chairman, and he was the firm’s marketing partner for four years. Among the big local companies he has represented are Russell Stover Chocolates and Sprint.
COLLEGE: B.A., Stanford University; J.D., MBA, Washington University
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Commit to only work with clients and business partners who share the highest moral and ethical values and who respect those with whom they work; you will look forward to working with them every day no matter what obstacles you face together.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A World Series championship playing in a downtown K.C. stadium, with visitors arriving at a new airport, traveling from the airport to downtown by streetcar!”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Neil Armstrong. I would like to ask him about his trip.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “First, just wake up! Then walk to breakfast in Carmel wearing shorts, a tee shirt and flip-flops.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Spend time in the mountains or near an ocean with my wife, Laura.”
MAYOR, CITY OF LENEXA
Lenexa is far from a sleepy suburb nowadays, and Mike Boehm can take a lot of credit for that. The city’s mayor since 2003, a long-time senior vice president at Commerce Bank by day, has overseen major growth, most recently with Lenexa City Center. That new downtown is opening in phases, with restaurants, retail, multifamily and offices, plus a new city hall, already open. He’s seeking a fifth term this fall to keep the momentum going.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, University of Kansas
WISH I’D KNOWN: “Ultimately, you cannot please everyone every time, so: do your homework, listen, and make the best-informed decision you can with the facts you have, and then learn from your mistakes along the way.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Ronald Reagan. Not because of his political positions, but because he lived a long and full life and had a knack for bringing people together and making us feel good about ourselves and our country.”
PAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHT: “Visiting with Warren Buffet as we welcomed Geico to Lenexa. He was like visiting with your grandfather—caring, interested, and attentive.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Simple things, like theater performances, sporting events, travel, and cocktails with friends.”
CO-FOUNDER/CEO, EFINITE CAPITAL
David Brain’s newest venture, Efinite Capital, is an investment and asset management firm working on energy, infrastructure and real estate projects. It started strong last year, funding, in partnership with Diode Ventures, a $1.6-billion Black & Veatch data-center in Virginia. Through Brown Cow Capital, where he’s CEO, he focuses on development and leasing of solar-panel farms and also invests in the area’s Plexpod shared-office business.
COLLEGE: B.A., Tulane University; MBA, Freeman Graduate School of Business
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Leave a job to start a company even with three young children and no health insurance.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “Broadly, people want to help young entrepreneurs succeed.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Harry Truman, to explore the Pendergast connection and the momentous decisions of WWII, the emergence of Mao in China, and the Korean War.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Swimming.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Work on a new deal.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “An attractive riverfront.”
PAST YEAR’S BEST BUSINESS MEMORY: “Plexpod membership growth.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, SEABOARD CORP.
Steven Bresky succeeded his father as chief executive of Seaboard Corp. in 2006, and today it’s a Fortune 500 company with just over $1.8 billion in sales during its most recent quarter. Seaboard is based in Merriam and owns the Butterball turkey brand, but it’s a far bigger player in the production and processing of pork products, and shipping container operations between the United States and South America and locations in between.
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: ““Either Shakespeare or Muhammed Ali. Why not dine with the Greatest?”
PAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHT: “Seaboard’s Centennial at Union Station. To be among so many friends and family on one night was very special.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “Think first about what your customer or counterpart wants. If it matches up with your capabilities and objectives, you both will do well.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “The acquisition we didn’t make a decade ago.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Weekend golf.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Play more mediocre golf.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A New York-style deli.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving with family and of course a Butterball turkey.”
CEO, Hill’s Pet Nutrition
Topeka-based Hill’s Pet Nutrition sprang from a veterinarian’s belief that a proper diet was the key to healthier pets. Nearly 80 years later, that vision is entrusted to Peter Brons-Poulsen, the company’s president and CEO. Among the estimated 500 people working at the headquarters and production facility in Topeka are veterinarians and board-certified experts in nutrition, making the company a key player in the region’s emerging animal-health corridor.
COLLEGE: Bachelor’s degree, Marketing/Business Administration, Copenhagen Business School
GOING GLOBAL I: Colgate-Palmolive purchased Hill’s Pet Nutrition in 1976, and now sells those pet food products in 86 nations, generating an estimated $2.3 billion in sales for the parent company.
GOING GLOBAL II: Since joining Colgate-Palmolive in 1986, Brons-Poulsen has held positions in Denmark, France, Switzerland and Australia. His first assignment with Hill’s came in 2012.
NOTABLE QUOTE: “From the moment I joined Hill’s,” he writes in his LinkedIn profile, “I’ve been impressed with how embedded our mission is throughout the entire organization and how it guides us in everything we do.”
CEO, UNITEDHEALTHCARE OF IOWA, KANSAS, NEBRASKA & CENTRAL ILLINOIS
Rob Broomfield has led one of the area’s largest health insurers for just over two years. The regional CEO of UnitedHealthCare has been with the insurance giant for close to 15 years after a stint at global consulting firm Mercer and other companies. He has said his mission is to make sure UnitedHealthCare members get the most out of their investment through preventative health.
COLLEGE: B.A., Finance, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Never settle when hiring. If you have any doubts, move on to the next candidate.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Start planning my two baseball odysseys—30 ballparks in 30 days and a summer where I attend every Royals game from Spring Training all the way through the World Series.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “Be patient. The best opportunities don’t always present themselves early on.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Recognition that starting road construction on a main route, and the all the best alternatives around that construction at that same time, is a really bad idea (yet we do it every spring).”
FOUNDER/CEO /CHAIRMAN, EURONET WORLDWIDE
Mike Brown had a vision for electronic payments in a global economy, and founded Euronet Worldwide in 1994. Today, its payment network of ATMs and point-of-sale payment sites, outsourced debit and credit card services, plus card software solutions, operates in 65 worldwide offices, serving nearly 170 countries. It’s “hard to top” that as his biggest achievement, he says, “and it begets livelihoods for 7,000-plus professionals around the globe.”
COLLEGE: B.S., electrical engineering University of Missouri-Columbia; M.S., molecular and cellular biology, UMKC
If I HAD ANOTHER CAREER: “M.D. PhD. Curing diseases. What would be better?”
BEST-ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Treat others with respect. Make them know that you would do anything to help them be successful.”
BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “See a big rocket launch. Not yet achieved. Went to a shuttle launch but it was canceled. Maybe Elon will invite me to see his big one fly?”
ONE FOOD YOU WOULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT: “Baked beans.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Modern learning techniques implemented to teach STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Entrepreneurship, Math) to our youth. The teacher-centric model will not instill the creativity necessary to compete in the next 50 years.”
FOUNDER/CHAIRMAN, GRASSMERE PARTNERS
Unbounded. That’s a good way to describe Peter Brown’s entrepreneurial drive. Among multiple current ventures, Grassmere invests in an eclectic array of promising companies like Aratana Therapeutics, The Collectors Fund and TVAX Biomedical. Brown is also a past CEO of AMC Entertainment, a co-founder of EPR Properties, and keeps a full schedule with service on various corporate boards.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, University of Kansas
WISH I’D KNOWN: “To be more decisive.”
BATTERY RECHARGING: “Playing tennis.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Working with Stan Durwood at AMC.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANIONS: “Jesus Christ—just to be able to have a conversation with him.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Nothing … I love what I do now.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A world-class airport.”
PRESIDENT, LANE4 PROPERTY GROUP
Buckley founded Lane4 Property Group in 2006, and his commercial real estate services firm has been involved in leasing several shopping centers around the area. He has represented tenants, such as Best Buy, Kohl’s and Walmart, in deals totaling more than 8 million square feet. He started his career with Leo Eisenberg Co., then transitioned to R.H. Johnson Co., where he became president in 1998 until founding Lane4.
COLLEGE: B.A., MBA, the University of Kansas
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “I have many, and they all include improving the neighborhoods around our developments.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “Things are constantly changing.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Focusing on infill locations.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Any holiday where our family is all together.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Good schools.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Vince Lombardi.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Retirement doesn’t sound like that much fun to me, so I probably won’t have to think about it.”
CEO, TRIUMPH FOODS
Mark Campbell is in his fifth year leading Triumph Foods, a major player in pork production. He started with the company in 2004 as chief operating officer after spending several years at Seaboard Corp. St. Joseph-based Triumph has 2,800 workers and is the city’s second-largest employer. The company has about $1.6 billion in annual revenues and owns half of Daily’s Premium Meats, which makes bacon, breakfast sausage and other products.
COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting, Westminster College; MBA, Rockhurst University
HOLY HOG!: Triumph processes more than 6 million hogs each year in St. Joseph.
GIVING BACK: Under Campbell’s leadership, Triumph has provided disaster relief by way of donations. This year it provided 40,000 pounds of fresh pork to Second Harvest Community Food Bank to flood victims, and last holiday season it gave 34,000 pounds.
SEABOARD CONNECTIONS: Campbell still works closely with his former company. Triumph products make their way to distributors through a marketing and sales partnership with the Seaboard Foods division.
PLANT GROWTH: Last year Triumph completed a 12,000-square-foot expansion of its St. Joseph plant, and two years ago it opened a facility in Sioux City, Iowa, with Seaboard Foods.
FOUNDER/CEO, INTOUCH SOLUTIONS
Faruk Capan likes to call his Overland Park-based company a 20-year-old startup, since it’s still experiencing exceptional growth. Despite that, Intouch is a member of Ingram’s Top 100 Privately Held Companies list, with $140 million in revenues last year, a 21-percent jump from 2017. Intouch has six offices around the globe and is continually hiring to keep up with new business. Pretty impressive for a startup.
COLLEGE: Marmara University, Istanbul, Turkey; MBA, Business Administration and Management, University of Central Missouri
AN INSIDER’S PERSPECTIVE: Outsiders “have this impression that Kansas City is so backwards, but because of the quality of life, it’s a hidden gem. I don’t know if I want to promote it too much. Let them go through the traffic issues, and we can stay here in a very healthy environment.”
FINDING TALENT: “We’re looking for innovators who are technology based with healthcare experience and an agency background. You can’t get people experienced in all three. We gave up looking for them and decided that we are going to grow our own people.”
BIG DATA: “Right now, data is becoming available from a variety of systems, and we are trying to put it to good use, not just for the sake of selling drugs.”
PRESIDENT, NOATUM LOGISTICS
Success at Overland Park-based third-party logistics company MIQ Logistics lead to its acquisition this year, by Naotum Maritime Group of Spain. John Carr stayed on with Naotum Logistics, which provides shipping solutions for several industries, including mining, industrial manufacturing, retail and consumer products, from offices around the globe. MIQ had revenues last year of $363 million.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, M.S., Counseling Psychology, University of Southern Mississippi
BUYOUT HISTORY: The acquisition by Naotum was not a first for MIQ. Before Carr became the company president, in 2013, it was purchased by Austin Ventures from YRC Worldwide in 2010, and Carr helped spearhead the business into what it is today.
SUPPLY CHAIN EXPERIENCE: Before MIQ, Carr, who has more than 25 years of experience in the supply chain industry, was an executive at BAX Global Logistics and Fritz Companies.
ASIA EXPANSION: In an interview last year, Carr said that MIQ was beefing up its presence in India and Vietnam because of their growing importance in logistics, due to economic growth and cost savings in manufacturing compared to China.
PRESIDENT/CEO, MMC CORP
When it comes to contracting, Tim Chadwick is the president and chief executive officer of an operation that does it all. MMC Corp has a general-contracting arm, MW Builders; two mechanical-contracting divisions, MMC Contractors and Countywide Mechanical Systems; and a specialty-contracting business called Building Control Services. Based in Overland Park, MMC has offices across the country, from Sacramento to New Jersey.
COLLEGE: B.S., Construction Science, Kansas State University
WISH I’D KNOWN: “I wish that I would have understood how willing the experienced people in the construction industry were to take a young person under their wing and mentor and develop their technical skills. I was terrified that my technical skills would be inadequate but quickly learned that this industry is full of teachers willing to share their trade and skills.”
PAST YEAR’S BEST BUSINESS MEMORY: “There’s certainly more than one—we have several opportunities across our organization for teams to come together and collaborate and learn about new topics within the industry and our company. I get the opportunity to attend most all of these events and I’m amazed and extremely proud of the talent we have across our organization. It amazes me every time!”
PRESIDENT/CEO, STOWERS INSTITUTE FOR MEDICAL RESEARCH
Heading a crown jewel of life-sciences research in this region, David Chao knows a thing or two about turning biotech research into startup ventures: He founded a pair of them on a career path that also included stops at Novartis and a stint as a consultant for McKinsey & Co. He joined the Stowers operations in 2009 as president, and added the CEO’s duties just a year later.
COLLEGE: B.A. and M.A., both in Biology, Harvard University; Ph.D., Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
DOUBLE DUTY: Chao also serves as president and CEO of BioMed Valley Discoveries; that entity is tasked with commercializing the institute’s work by translating it into real-life applications.
EXTENDING THE VISION: His job makes him steward for the mission that founders Jim and Virginia Stowers set forth to explore ways to treat and prevent cancer. They funded the institute with an estimated $2 billion of the family fortune.
FINANCIAL STABILITY: The institute was set up to receive more than 40 percent of the annual profits from American Century, ensuring a long-term income stream. The investment company had been founded by Jim Stowers in 1958, and he had been treated for cancer before his death in 2014.
CEO, McCOWNGORDON CONSTRUCTION
Ramin Cherafat has grown along with McCownGordon Construction, where he has been for 19 of its 20 years in business. Named chief executive officer last year, Cherafat joined the firm as vice president of construction operations before being named chief operating officer in 2012. Not only does he lead one of the most significant construction companies in the area, Cherafat holds board positions at several major institutions, including the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.
COLLEGE: B.S., Construction and Management, Kansas State University; MBA, University of Missouri-Kansas City
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Staying with McCownGordon and not going off on my own. I believed in our leadership, mission and values from the onset. Having come from a family of entrepreneurs I always thought I would one day start my own firm, but I got the best of both worlds at McCownGordon, work and grow alongside some great leaders, that time helped me prepare for my role today, and help the company go from $5 million in revenues to now having a backlog of $1.3 billion.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “You don’t need to know everything, you need to know how to build the relationships that will help you be successful.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Celebrating our 20th year of being in business. I’m so proud of how we have navigated our growth, and it all starts with having the right people.”
Bill Clarkson Jr.
CEO, CLARKSON CONSTRUCTION
There isn’t a bigger public-works construction program in the region than the one taking place at Kansas City International Airport, and Bill Clarkson Jr.’s company is piloting that aspect of the $2 billion project. He leads a family-owned enterprise that is six generations deep and a major player in large-scale heavy contracting, executing highway and bridge construction, site development and grading, and concrete paving.
THE KCI TEAM: Clarkson’s construction expertise is aligned with Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate, the firm from Bethesda, Md., that won the overall contract from the city to rebuild the airport.
READY TO ROLL: Demolition of Terminal A was completed in late July, clearing the way for actual construction to begin on the single-terminal redesign of the airport.
WHY IT MATTERS: Business leaders in the region have long argued that without a modern airport, the Kansas City region suffers from the first impressions that expansion-oriented executives have when they take a closer look at conditions here.
LONG HISTORY: Clarkson was founded in 1880, and is an established player in the Midwest among big heavy contractors.
Missouri 5th District, U.S. House
Few things in Washington are as secure as a U.S. House seat, so it’s unlikely that Emanuel Cleaver is up nights worrying about re-election next year. The Cook Political Report already scores his 5th District House seat as solid Democratic, which would represent a ninth term for the former Kansas City mayor. The closest anyone has come to laying an electoral finger on him was a 9-point margin by perennial challenger Jacob Turk in 2010, a wave election for the GOP.
COLLEGE: B.S., Prairie View A&M University; M.Div., St. Paul School of Theology
CITY ROOTS: Before packing his bags for Washington, Cleaver served on the City Council for 12 years, then as mayor for two terms from 1991-1999.
IN CONGRESS: Cleaver recently called for federal regulators to take a harder look at Facebook’s proposed currency and digital wallet (Libra and Calibra), saying the new technologies could present serious risk to the nation’s financial-services sector.
COMMITTEE DUTIES: He’s the second-ranking majority member of the House Committee on Modernization of Congress, and also has seats on the Homeland Security and Financial Services committees.
CHAIRMAN, IBT INDUSTRIAL SOLUTIONS
This should tell you something about the type of company the Cloud family has built in three generations of ownership: Of its 125 employees, nearly two dozen have been with the Merriam-based industrial-supply enterprise for at least 40 years. With Steve Cloud as chairman and his son Jeff as president, the company primarily operates in nine states, mostly in the Midwest, Texas and Tennessee.
HEAVY LIFTING: The company sells an impressive range of machine components and services (bearings, pumps, pneumatics, etc.) for industrial maintenance, repair and operations.
ALL IN THE FAMILY: It’s not just a family business, it’s a family of businesses—IBT is the largest of four operating divisions for Cumulus Companies, which took form last year. Combined, they operate in industrial distribution, conveyance belting products and aerospace parts manufacturing.
LIGHT THE CANDLES: This year, the company founded by Forrest Cloud celebrated its 70th anniversary.
MANAGING PARTNER, BKD CPAS & ADVISORS
BKD has about 3,000 accountants in dozens of offices across the country, yet is still growing on Abe Cole’s watch. Its expansion so far this year is highlighted by the acquisition of firms in Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City. The firm recently rolled out a service for clients that fights cyber attacks and has advised several corporate clients on mergers and acquisitions. Cole has been with BKD since 1996, shortly after graduating from college.
COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting, Missouri State University
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Deciding to join BKD 23-plus years ago, no doubt! BKD’s culture has made such a positive impact on my life and has provided me so many opportunities to continue to develop as a leader.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “During recent years I have developed a strong ‘personal board of directors.’ I utilize this group to advise me on significant decisions and challenge me in areas I could use improvement. If I would have known how much this group would ultimately benefit me, I would have formed this group the 1st day of my career.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To figure out a way to reduce the violence in this amazing city.”
HISTORICAL: “Abraham Lincoln. He led our country through its darkest moments and there would be so much to learn from that unique experience. Plus, he has a great first name!”
After a career in telecom in the European theater, Michel Combes was summoned to America’s heartland as president at Sprint Corp. Almost immediately, the chairs in the C-suite of the region’s largest company were moving, and the native of France inherited the role of chief executive from Marcelo Claure in the run-up to the announcement of Sprint’s merger with T-Mobile.
COLLEGE: 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.
HIGH REGARD: In December, readers of FierceWireless.com voted Combes the most powerful person in the U.S. telecom sector.
PAYROLL POWER: Sprint remains near the top of the list of the largest private-sector employers in the region, with an estimated 5,500 people working at the Overland Park headquarters.
SEASONED EXEC: Combes has held leadership roles with 19 companies.
TOP-LINE TITAN: No company in the Kansas City region comes close to the revenue clout that Sprint has; it’s 2018 revenues of $32.4 billion were nearly five times those of Seaboard Corp., No. 2 on the region’s roster of public companies.
PRESIDENT/CEO, BARDAVON HEALTH INNOVATIONS
Matt Condon was named to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation board of trustees shortly after finishing his one-year term as chairman of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. The founder of health-care tech firm Bardavon Health Innovations has been pretty busy at his day job, too. He started Bardavon in 2013, a decade after founding ARC Physical Therapy+, which operates workers-comp wellness facilities in Kansas, Missouri and Iowa.
COLLEGE: B.S., Kinesiology, Iowa State University; J.D., MBA, University of Toledo
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “To start my own business(es). Because of the entrepreneurial path I’ve lived—I’ve been able to engage the causes/markets I am most passionate about. I’ve been fortunate to find success in a few of those efforts, and the impact those successes have had on my ego has been tempered by the hundreds of mistakes and shortfalls that have consistently humbled me along the way.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Talking to my kids. They don’t want anything from me, they aren’t worried about business, etc.—they just want your time, your love and your attention. In so many ways—my kids constantly teach me about what is really important in life.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A Super Bowl victory.”
Last year digital marketing firm VML, led by Jon Cook, merged with Y&R, an affiliate firm under global WPP, and he is now leading the combined entities, YMLY&R. Cook has been chief executive at VML since 2011 and has been with the firm since 1996. Among the major clients that his team of more than 3,000 represents are Bridgestone, Dell and Office Depot. Besides the merger, VMLY&R also gained the U.S. operations of Sudler, a healthcare-marketing firm, last year.
COLLEGE: B.A., Journalism, University of Missouri
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Henry Ford. Our agency is fortunate to work with Ford and we’re helping them transition from an automotive company to a mobility company—which I would love to discuss with their founder.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “That it’s absolutely OK—in fact, it’s the right thing to do—to bring your whole self to work. I think it’s true regardless of the industry … but I absolutely know it’s true in advertising and marketing. The more we allow our true personalities, interests and passions to shine through with the people we work with, the faster we drop bias and conceptions about others, and the more effectively we communicate, bond and influence each other for good.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS KANSAS CITY
His residential realty concern has come a long way since David Cooper brought the former Prudential Kansas City Realty team under the Realogy-owned brand in 2012. It is the second-largest residential real estate company in the region, with nearly $1.4 billion in annual sales and north of 400 agents. The outfit has two offices each in Kansas City and Overland Park, as well as locations in Leawood, Lee’s Summit, Liberty and Prairie Village.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Kansas
WISH I’D KNOWN: “The importance of relationship building.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Kansas and Missouri working together.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Exercise.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “John F. Kennedy.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Give my suits to charity.”
PRINCIPAL, COPAKEN BROOKS
When you consider all that the Copaken realty dynasty has done, and Jon Copaken’s role in that since 1993, it’s surprising that his biggest achievement, he says, is “yet to come.” Just this year, he was inducted into the Midwest Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame, a recognition of more than a quarter-century of work that has primarily focused on the future of Downtown Kansas City and the urban core.
COLLEGE: B.A., American History, University of Pennsylvania; MBA, University of Michigan
IF YOU COULD HAVE HAD ANOTHER CAREER: “Definitely a rock star. While I have only minimal talents in that field, my love for live music and the thrill of performing on a world stage would have been exhilarating..”
MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Paul Copaken. While it may sound like a cop out to pick your father, he continues to display the rarest combined qualities of patience, focus on details, positive attitude and tenacity that are critical in successfully running a business.”
BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “The importance of honesty, integrity and always doing things the right way whether people are paying attention or not. While not my ‘mentor,’ it’s probably another version of Martin Luther King’s ‘The time is always right to do what is right.’”
MAYOR, OLATHE/REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR, GSA
Michael Copeland has been Olathe’s mayor since 2001 and was first elected to the City Council in 1993. While he’s not running the fourth-largest city in Kansas, Copeland is regional administrator of the General Service Administration’s Heartland Region, a federal job he landed at the beginning of last year. Another civic position Copeland has held is deputy secretary of work force services for the Kansas Department of Commerce.
COLLEGE: B.A., MidAmerica Nazarene University
BANKING BACKGROUND: Other than his governmental roles, Copeland was president and chief executive officer of Security Savings Bank, in Olathe, and was the Olathe market president at Blue Valley Bank.
TREE CITY: Olathe is often awarded the “Tree City USA” title by the Arbor Day Foundation—it has received the distinction for 27 years.
SOMETHING IN THE WATER? Olathe has won several awards for its water system during Copeland’s terms, including “Best Tasting Water in Kansas,” by the Kansas Rural Water Association, and its treatment facilities have won a number of national and state accolades.
VICE PRESIDENT, COSENTINO FOODS
With 30 stores, most flying the Price Chopper flag, John Cosentino relishes every chance to meet employees in the aisles. But a special moment came this year with a groundbreaking in Gardner. “I am excited for the opportunity to rebuild this new store for the community and city of Gardner, he says. It is “a special place to me, as it was the first location for me to be a store director.” He’s now part of the family leadership team for one of the region’s most visible grocery chains.
WISH I’D KNOWN: “To listen a little more at a younger age, especially now that some of those first-generation family members are no longer with us.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “I truly love what I do and the people I do it with. However, when I do step away, I enjoy spending time with family and friends and playing a little golf.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Being given the chance to build the first grocery store in Downtown Kansas City, The Cosentino’s Downtown Market. It was an honor to be part of helping to revitalize our city and bring life back to Downtown.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “(After my parents), I would choose Roger Maris. I am a fan of baseball and he was a friend of my family’s when he was in Kansas City.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Christmas has always been a favorite of mine as our family has a lot of great traditions.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A baseball team Downtown.”
REGIONAL OWNER, RE/MAX MID-STATES & DIXIE REGION
Dennis Curtin was the first buyer of a RE/MAX home-selling franchise outside of its original Denver-area operations back in 1975, and since then the brand has soared like its hot-air-balloon logo, amassing 120,000 agents in more than 120 countries. In the Kansas City area last year, RE/MAX offices accounted for about $2 billion in home sales. For his part, Curtin last year received an inaugural RE/MAX Founders Award for this place in the overall company’s history.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration and Marketing, Rockhurst College
WISH I’D KNOWN: “The importance of creating a Rolodex of people I met along the way.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Abe Lincoln. I would love to have been able to ask him how he personally handled the pressure and kept his focus in uniting all the opposing forces in his Cabinet.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “I don’t have the word ‘retirement’ in my vocabulary.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Exploring Argentina and Uruguay.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Continuation of the spirit of giving this community is known for.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “To buy the first RE/MAX franchise in the country.”
FOUNDER/MANAGING PARTNER, FIVE ELMS CAPITAL
Fred Coulson knows how to pick some real winners: The private-equity firm he founded in 2006 has produced seven acquisitions and one IPO, and it’s behind some of the region’s fastest-growing companies. His career in financial services has included stints as an investment banker with Morgan Stanley, then with TH Lee Putnam Ventures, a billion-dollar private equity firm, before he made his way back to Kansas City.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, University of Kansas
SPRING IN HIS STEP: He’s also the founder and chairman of Spring Venture Group, another fast-growth company that is also among the regional leaders in pace of hiring. It’s an inside sales and marketing venture for Medicare supplement and senior life-insurance products.
LOCAL BACKING: While making investment deals across the country, Coulson’s enter-
prise has also backed other high-performing area enterprises, including Smart Warehousing, SelectQuote and RFP360.
EARLY PROMISE: Coulson earned a spot in the Ingram’s 40 Under Forty Class of 2011 for high-performing executives.
PRESIDENT/CEO, KANSAS CITY AREA DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
Tim Cowden has spent more than two decades trying to attract economic activity to the Kansas City area. He is currently President and CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council, a position he has held since 2015. Before that, Cowden was the KCADC’s senior vice president of business development, specializing in corporate relocation to attract businesses to the metro.
COLLEGE: B.A., Journalism, University of Oklahoma
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “The phone call from USDA leadership in June informing us that they were coming to K.C.; 136 cities and states submitted proposals and K.C. won out over all of them for these 550 highly paid positions. I love winning almost as much as I hate losing. I am so proud of how our team and region made it happen.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Winston Churchill. He was one of the most courageous leaders in modern history. He had his flaws but was never afraid to think big and never allowed any fear of failure to paralyze his decision-making process.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Reflect on my career—then make a commitment to myself that my career was over, and that I am going to be 100 percent committed to retirement—just as I had been 100 percent committed to my career.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, COMPASS MINERALS
Kevin Crutchfield is still new in his leadership role at Compass Minerals, having taken the president/chief executive officer post in May. The Overland Park company makes plant nutrients, road-clearing salts and other products, and employs about 3,000 people in plants domestically as well as in Brazil, Canada and the United Kingdom. He came to Compass from Tennessee-based Contura Energy, where he was chief executive officer.
COLLEGE: B.S., Mining and Minerals Engineering, Virginia Tech
PAST OF ENERGY: Besides Contura, much of Crutchfield’s career was spent at energy companies. He was formerly CEO of coal producer Alpha Natural Resources and also worked at natural-gas company El Paso Corporation.
FUTURE CROPS: Right after Crutchfield was hired, Compass started a partnership with Marrone Bio Innovations that will develop new plant nutrient products aimed at helping crops more efficiently absorb nutrients. Using microorganisms, the two hope to improve crop yield and return on investment for farms.
SALT SHAKER: Compass provides salt to consumers for their walkways and driveways through its Safe Step brand of products. It also manufactures the salt used on highways and roads by municipalities across the country.
FOUNDER/OWNER, TRADEBOT SYSTEMS
Don’t call Dave Cummings a visionary: “Execution is everything,” he says. “Ideas alone are worthless.” And execute, he has. He’s the founder of Tradebot Ventures, which launched in 1999, using computer algorithms and high-frequency trades to rewrite the equities-trading industry and demonstrate the power of disruptive technology. From there, he founded BATS Global Markets, which sold in 2017 to Chicago Board Options Exchange for a cool $3.4 billion.
COLLEGE: B.S., Computer & Electrical Engineering, Purdue University
DETERMINATION: With just $10,000 in startup capital, Cummings launched Tradebot Systems in a spare bedroom. These days, it often accounts for 5 percent of total daily stock market volume in the U.S.
HIGH IMPACT: Before the CBOE acquisition, BATS Gloal Markets had risen to become the second-largest trading platform in U.S. equities markets, surpassing the far better-known NASDAQ in daily trading volume.
CAPITAL CONNECTION: Through his Tradebot Ventures arm, Cummings invests in real estate and various startups, urging entrepreneurs to action by telling them “The faster you move, the more shareholder value gets created.”
EARLY PROMISE: Cummings was an Ingram’s 40 Under Forty honoree in 2008.
FOUNDING PARTNER, C3 CAPITAL
A founding partner of private-equity firm C3 Capital, Pat Curran has invested in dozens of firms, some of which you’ve heard of and others that you might not know. But one investment that Curran is widely known for is being a part owner of soccer club Sporting Kansas City through his own investment firm called Curran Companies. He made the purchase in 2006, when the team was still known as the Wizards.
COLLEGE: B.A., Stanford; MBA, Northwestern University-Kellogg School of Management
EXTREME DIVERSIFICATION: C3 Capital has invested in everything from Southeastern Spine Institute, a spinal-care outfit in South Carolina, to Steak 44, a high-end restaurant chain with locations in Chicago, Houston, and Scottsdale, Ariz.
SPORTING FROM YOUTH: Curran didn’t set out to own part of Sporting because of a lifelong love of Manchester United. He became interested in soccer watching his children play the sport while they were growing up.
PAINT AND POLYMERS: Curran spent several years as the CEO of Cook Paint, which he helped turn into Cook Composites & Polymers through a merger with a French firm.
LOCAL BOARDS: Curran has served on the boards of several firms that have been based in the area, including Lockton Companies and Applebee’s International.
Legal-services entrepreneur Dave Deppe co-founded UnitedLex
in 2006. The company, based in Overland Park, is expanding internationally, and has about 2,700 employees in offices from Australia to Atlanta. Before UnitedLex, he owned and sold off a discovery services company to Mutual of Omaha. Deppe built UnitedLex’s Litigation & Regulatory Services and Compliance & Data Protection service lines and leads its cybersecurity team.
COLLEGE: Business, Nebraska Wesleyan; Criminal Justice, Bellevue University
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Generally, doing things that consume 100% of my attention; like riding motorcycles. Thoughts of work are not welcome here.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “To start over from scratch in 2008. It could have gone either way in the first year but the critical leaders that for some crazy reason, left their established careers to join me got us through it. Those leaders are still with me today.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “I would have dinner with Winston Churchill to understand the psyche underlying his fearlessness, perseverance and undying devotion to winning at all costs. It would be impossible to leave such a dinner unchanged.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Halloween-—the only day of the year you can be anyone but yourself.”
CEO, TALLGRASS ENERGY PARTNERS
Last fall, David Dehaemers reached something of a milestone in a career that has included the leadership roles at 11 different companies: He bested 1,300 other applicants in being named the EY Entrepreneur of the Year in the energy/natural resources category. That was in large part a tribute to the performance of Tallgrass in a market that has been brutal to those with less dexterity to changing conditions.
SPLITTING DUTIES: This past year, Dehaemers ceded the title of president to longtime Tallgrass executive Bill Moler, who also serves as the company’s chief operating officer. Dehaemers remains in the role of chief executive.
ABOUT TALLGRASS: Publicly traded Tallgrass is a growth-oriented midstream energy infrastructure company operating across 11 states with transportation, storage, terminal, water, gathering and processing assets that serve some of the nation’s most prolific crude oil and natural gas basins.
BOUNCING BACK: Since the crash in energy prices took hold in 2015, companies in that space have seen stock prices whacked, but Tallgrass has surged back from its 2016 low of $11.22, adding nearly 75 percent in value though early September.
PRESIDENT/CEO, RUSSELL STOVER CANDIES
Swiss-based Lindt & Sprüngli put the “KC” back in its KC-area acquisition when it brought Andy Deister in to lead Russell Stover in 2017. A native of Auburn, in suburban Topeka, Deister started his career as an engineer in the U.S. Navy. Naturally, this led to a transition to consumer-packaged goods. “I found myself working on nuclear reactor plant design one day, and then selling dog food and toothpaste the next,” he cracks. “It was quite a switch!”
COLLEGE: B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Cedarville University; MBA, Business, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University
FIRST JOB: “I started a lawn-mowing business in junior high and worked with it through high school. I learned the value of hard work, importance of customer service and the entrepreneurial spirit.”
IF YOU COULD HAVE HAD ANOTHER CAREER: “A fly-fishing guide. I love the art of fly-fishing and beauty of the outdoors—especially mountain streams.”
MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “My mentor and friend, Dan Doster, for the emphasis he placed on people—both the importance of surrounding yourself with great people and the responsibility for developing them.”
BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Great leaders develop others.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, CAPITOL FEDERAL SAVINGS
John Dicus has worked for Kansas’ largest bank since 1985 and was in several roles before becoming president and chief executive officer in 2003, and then chairman in 2009. With 54 branch locations in Kansas and Missouri, the Topeka-based institution ended its last fiscal year with a net income of $98.9 million, and last year it closed on its acquisition of competitor Capital City Bancshares for $37.5 million, bringing its total assets to $9.5 billion. This year the bank also celebrated its 125th birthday.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business, University of Kansas
PAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHT: “Closing on our acquisition of Capital City Bank.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Starting the Capitol Federal Foundation.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Thomas Jefferson because of his belief that you are always learning the rest of your life.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “A vacation to the mountains in Colorado.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Ignore my e-mails.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “That everything will work out just fine.”
PRESIDENT, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Mark Donovan has spent a decade with the Chiefs, and he has been president of the team most of that time, and is just the fifth person to hold that post in the team’s 60-year history. He signed on as chief operating officer in 2009, after six years with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he was senior vice president of business operations. He also serves as president of Arrowhead Events, bringing other sports and entertainment to the stadium.
COLLEGE: B.A., Organizational Behavior and Management/Political Science, Brown University
QUARTERBACK INSTINCTS: Donovan was the quarterback at Brown University and signed as a free agent for the New York Giants.
FROM NHL TO NFL: Donovan also knows pro hockey; the National Hockey League’s director of sales and marketing from 1997 to 1999.
TECH FOCUS: In Donovan’s time at the Chiefs, the team has launched stadium-wide Wi-Fi and the Chiefs Mobile app, which handles ticketing for fans and provides team and stadium information.
HEALTH EMPHASIS: Under Donovan, the team has partnered with the University of Kansas Health System, bringing its health-care expertise to the team and its staff.
PRESIDENT, FIORELLA’S JACK STACK BARBECUE
The National Barbecue Hall of Fame is primarily a creature for competition smokers, but if we had a vote, Case Dorman would get a plaque. The owner of the Jack Stack franchise has helped elevate Kansas City barbecue from—let’s be honest—some dingy venues to fine-dining status. The lines at any of its now six locations in the area, whether for lunch or dinner, attest to Jack Stack’s broad appeal with a diversified menu.
WISH I’D KNOWN: “The value of surrounding myself with smart, capable mentors.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Travel, Many of our menu items have been created through our travel experiences. And fly fishing.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Our retirement celebration for Rod Toelkes. We got to send him out on top!”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Forming our culture around our purpose (Creating Hope Through Hospitality). Servant Leadership is a core principal for our organization.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Jesus, He is God!”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving! Gratitude is the pathway to Happiness.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Go fishing.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A Super Bowl win!”
PLANT MANAGER, GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER
When Goodyear brought Dusty Douglas to Kansas in 2015 to manage the company’s sprawling tire production facility in north Topeka, it was importing someone who knew how to get his hands dirty: He started his career as a machinist in upstate New York, moving into management after joining the company in 1999, when Goodyear acquired brand rights to his former employer, Dunlop Tire.
COLLEGE: B.T., Mechanical Engineering, MBA, Manufacturing and Operations Management, State University of New York College at Buffalo
CIVIC SUPPORT: In addition to his plant-management duties, Douglas sits on the board for the Topeka Area Chamber of Commerce and on the board for the United Way of Greater Topeka.
PAYROLL POWER: The plant employs roughly 1,600 workers in prized manufacturing jobs.
ROAD WARRIOR: For nearly four years, Douglas held various roles, including production manager, at Goodyear’s plant in Santiago, Chile.
CEO, UNITED COUNTRY REAL ESTATE
Dan Duffy heads United Real Estate Holdings, which owns Kansas City-based United Country Real Estate, a network of more than 5,000 brokers around the globe in about 500 offices. The company provides a comprehensive marketing program, with specialized luxury property Web sites, and internal advertising team, a buyer database with more than 650,000 contacts and more. He’s been on the leadership team since 2006.
COLLEGE: B.B.A., Indiana University; MBA, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
BIG FOUR START: Duffy started his career at Ernst & Young, one of the “Big Four” accounting firms where he worked on debt and equity capital market transactions and in the mergers and acquisitions practice group.
A TECH TURN: Duffy was CEO and president of IT firm ePartners for five years before joining United Country, where he was named Microsoft’s “Global Partner of the Year.”
BIG SALES: Under United’s 100-percent commission program, the company said its brokers in 2018 transacted $1.16 billion more in sales from 2017 and were involved in 4,350 more transactions. Its top agent in both sales volume and sales transactions closed also happened to be based in the Kansas City area.
MAYOR, CITY OF LEAWOOD
Peggy Dunn isn’t ready to call it quits as Leawood’s mayor. After 22 years in that role, she’s up for re-election for a four-year term in November. The city has continued its run as one of the area’s premier suburbs on her watch, with increasing commercial development. Meanwhile, she and husband, Terry Dunn, the retired CEO of J.E. Dunn Construction, are involved in multiple philanthropic efforts throughout the metro area.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Missouri-Kansas City
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “According to Wallet Hub’s ranking of 1,300 cities across the nation with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 on 40 key metrics, Leawood ranked No. 1 in the country!”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Going to Leawood voters for a temporal sales tax increase to help fund the construction of the city’s new Justice Center. Approval allowed the city to avoid issuing long-term debt and the corresponding property tax increase.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Ronald Regan. He was a great leader and always demonstrated strength and wisdom with the very toughest decisions.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Since I am happier when busy, I’m not sure if I’ll ever find myself in a position of ‘retirement.’”
FORMER CHAIRMAN, JE DUNN CONSTRUCTION CO.
Steve Dunn might be retired from JE Dunn Construction Co., but the impact of what he set into motion is very active today. Last year, the firm completed the renovation of the University of Kansas Health System’s main campus, work is underway on the Loews Kansas City Convention Center Hotel, and it is renovating the Lightwell Building, formerly known as City Centre Square, at 1100 Main St. He started at the company in 1975 as security director.
COLLEGE: B.S./B.A. Marketing, Rockhurst University
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Our annual company board meeting last January, I had the satisfaction and thrill as a father to have my son, Tim Dunn, replace me as the chairman of JE Dunn Construction Group.” Tim Dunn is a fourth-generation leader there.
WISH I’D KNOWN: “The one thing I know now, that I didn’t know when I started my career is: don’t let your pride get in the way of asking for help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A Downtown baseball stadium. It would be a huge economic development stimulus to our downtown.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Upon first retiring as Chairman of JE Dunn, my wife and I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was both historically and spiritually fulfilling!”
FOUNDER, DD RANCH LEAWOOD
In four decades with J.E. Dunn Construction, much of it in the chief executive’s role, Terry Dunn led its expansion to become one of the nation’s Top 20 contractors. Then, proving that there are second acts, he retired and founded DD Ranch Leawood. It bills itself as “the business home for senior executives who have retired from major companies and are staying actively engaged as investors, directors and entrepreneurs in corporate, civic and charitable initiatives.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “The importance of having balance in one’s life. Develop a balance in mind, body and spirit.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “I worked with Alana Muller and with Allan Katz of America Public Square to develop, plan, fund and schedule a very social entrepreneurial project called KC Common Good.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “In working with a great team of leaders at JE Dunn, we developed the road map to grow JE Dunn from a local contractor into a lean national contractor. Over eight years ago, we developed the road map for a partial ESOP ownership with the Dunn family.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. I have a special devotion to Saint Padre Pio, the great Catholic mystic of the 20th century.”
CHAIRMAN/CEO, BLACK & VEATCH
More than 10,000 employees for engineering giant Black & Veatch execute projects in oil and gas, water systems, telecommunications, and security markets around the world. The man behind the curtain, with overall responsibility for the firm’s engineering, consulting, construction and related lines is Steve Edwards. He joined Black & Veatch in 1978, was named chief operating officer in March 2013, then chairman and CEO that fall.
COLLEGE: B.S., Electrical Engineering, University of Missouri
ON THE INGRAM’s 100: With $3.5 billion in 2018 revenues, the firm ranked No. 9 among the region’s biggest private companies.
TITAN OF TELECOM: For the ninth time in 10 years, Black & Veatch earned the No. 1 global ranking for 2019 in the telecom projects sector from Engineering News-Record.
PAYROLL POWER: Edwards helms the 12th largest employee-owned corporation in America.
A FORBES FORCE: Forbes magazine’s 2019 list of the nation’s biggest private companies slotted Black & Veatch at No. 122.
CHAIRMAN, JOHNSON COUNTY COMMISSION
He’s done it again: Last November, Ed Eilert put himself on the line with Johnson County voters, and they once again sent him back to the County Commission as chairman, this time through 2023. And by a nearly 30-point margin over his closest challenger. Such is the connection he’s made with voters over a span of nearly 40 years, 28 of them as mayor/council member in Overland Park, now nine more at the county level.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, M.A, Business Education, Emporia State University
WISH I’D KNOWN: “That technology would offer unlimited opportunities.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Construction of the new County Courthouse.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Going to work for a New York Stock Exchange member firm as an investment adviser.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Neil Armstrong, to learn first-hand the flight experience and personal feelings as he walked on the moon.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “4th of July.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A coordinated effort by our community colleges to encourage young people who choose not to pursue a four-year college degree that there are good job skills to learn in a much shorter time period.”
EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, KANSAS CITY SOUTHERN
Warren Erdman has spent nearly 10 years in his role as executive VP of administration and corporate affairs at Kansas City Southern, though he has been engaged in corporate affairs at the company since 1997. Erdman manages the transportation holding company’s federal, state and local government and regulatory affairs. Before joining Kansas City Southern, Erdman was chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Kit Bond for 10 years as well as Missouri Gov. John Ashcroft.
COLLEGE: B.A., Westminster College
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “The announcement of agreement by the U.S., Mexico and Canada on the new USMCA Agreement.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “President George H.W. Bush, to learn more about his inclusive and compassionate approach to diplomacy and public policy making.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Full engagement of its business and civic leadership in state policy making and elections.”
RETIREMENT: “Begin a tour of all of Missouri’s most significant sites and landmarks.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “The importance of keeping up communication with business and community acquaintances.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “At home at Old Kinderhook on the quiet Niangua Arm of the Ozarks.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, SAINT LUKE’S HEALTH SYSTEM
A board-certified neurologist and neuropathologist, Melinda Estes oversees a health system with 18 hospitals and campuses and 12,000 employees. Last month, Saint Luke’s South in Overland Park unveiled a new neurorehabilitation center with robotic technology. In her current role since 2011, Estes was formerly president and CEO of Fletcher Allen Health Care, in Burlington, Vt., and also CEO of Cleveland Clinic of Florida.
COLLEGE: B.S., Sam Houston University; M.D., University of Texas Medical Branch; MBA, Case Western Reserve University
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Choosing health care as my profession. As health-care providers, we are up close for some of life’s most cherished moments—the birth of a baby, a clean bill of health. And we also care for people during their most difficult or vulnerable times, and it’s our privilege to be there with them, and for them, during these times. The compassion we share can make a lasting difference.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “In August, we celebrated the ribbon cutting for the new Saint Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute, the only comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation hospital of its kind in the Kansas City region. I could envision the hard work, milestones, and healing that will take place inside.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, LIBERTY HOSPITAL
David Feess says he wishes he’d known earlier in his career “the importance of resiliency, determination and commitment in achieving long-term success.” From the looks of things, he latched onto those values pretty quickly. Now in his fourth decade at Liberty Hospital, he’s been chief executive for the past eight years. The hospital, with nearly 1,300 employees, admits roughly 8,000 patients a year and treats far more as out-patients.
COLLEGE: B.B.A., Pittsburg State University
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Spending time with family and friends.”
PAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHT: “The creation of a partnership with MU Orthopaedics to collectively improve orthopedic care in the communities that we serve.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Joining the team at Liberty Hospital 31 years ago.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “George Washington. I would love to hear the story of his vision to develop and create Mount Vernon, a national treasure.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving (time with family and friends).”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Go fishing.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A Downtown baseball stadium.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, CENTRAL BANK OF THE MIDWEST
Bill Ferguson, president and CEO of Central Bank of the Midwest, had some more responsibility added to his plate when his company announced the acquisition of the parent company of BankLiberty earlier this year, which adds 13 bank branches in the Northland and Independence on top of the 33 it already operates. The deal makes Central Bank of the Midwest an institution with $2.3 billion in combined assets.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Nebraska–Lincoln; EMBA, Bloch School of Management, UMKC
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Choosing to remain in a leadership position after a very difficult challenge early in my career. I’m thankful for the coach who challenged me to lead.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “To create success you will need to try many different ideas or solutions, so fail fast in order to find the right answer quicker.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Spending unstructured time with my family, listening to great music or taking in a good podcast that lets my mind drift to find new ideas or solutions.”
KC NEEDS: “To preserve the rich history of its urban core and showcase the diverse heritage the city was built on. We have the culture, industry, job market and quality of life to rival any major metro area in the country. I would like to see KC tell its story on a national stage and share the Midwest’s best kept secret.”
From almost Day One after he answered his father’s call to help run the family business in 1965, Jim Ferrell has embraced acquisition as a growth strategy, and 2018 was no different: Ferrellgas picked up four smaller propane companies last year, more M&A activity than any other regional company. Nearly 250 acquisitions since he started, Ferrellgas is the nation’s second-largest propane supplier, with $2.07 billion in 2018 sales.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business, University of Kansas
INDUSTRY LEADERSHIP: A past chairman of the Propane Vehicle Council, Ferrell is also a past president of the World LP Gas Association.
NATIONAL REACH: In 2018, the company delivered nearly 636.7 million gallons of propane to customers across the U.S.
RETAIL BOOM: One of the most significant acquisitions in Ferrellgas history came in 2004, with a $340 million deal. Today, the company has 54,000 retail exchanges sites nationwide to reach individual consumers, rather than bulk users.
PRINCIPAL, MLP HOLDINGS
Bill Gautreaux has been a player in the energy sector—specifically, with natural-gas liquids—most of his working life, founding a pair of companies and taking them to acquisition. Then he and John Sherman teamed up on Inergy, a fast-growth firm that sold to Crestwood Midstream Partners in 2013, paving the way for MLP Holdings. Gautreaux also has a highly respected eye for art; ArtNews counts him and his wife, Christy, among its Top 200 collectors in the world.
COLLEGE: History/Philosophy, William Jewell College; honors at Oxford University
WISH I’D KNOWN: “You can’t be too prepared and don’t assume that people understand what you are saying.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “After rebuilding the hometown team and winning the pennant followed by the World Series, David Glass had the foresight to pick John Sherman as the next owner of the KC Royals.”
BEST DECISION: “Being a co-founder of a start-up and partnering with the right people.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Alberto Giacometti. To explore the intersection of insanity, creative genius and the arts and to see if I could get a good deal on a sculpture.”
BOARD BARON: He’s everywhere on the board scene, with seats representing education and entrepreneurship, the arts and philanthropic/civic initiatives, just for starters.
MANAGING PARTNER, BRYAN CAVE LEIGHTON PAISNER
Wesley Fields took the reigns last year after law firms Bryan Cave and Berwin Leighton Paisner merged. He concentrates on public finance, corporate transactions and general business matters for the practice. That work involves him in the banking and finance, higher education and health-care industries, among others. Fields has been with Bryan Cave for 21 years, a partner for nearly 13, before his promotion to his current position.
COLLEGE: B.S., Yale University; J.D., University of Virginia School of Law
TIF EXPERT: Fields has served as the lead counsel of the Kansas City Tax Increment Financing Commission for more than 15 years, working on more than 100 development and infrastructure projects valued in excess of $5 billion.
HARVESTERS SUPPORTER: Fields has served on food bank Harvesters’ board of directors for several years and was once chairman. In 2017, Harvesters and the Kansas City Chiefs awarded him the DiPardo Spirit Leader, and he was honored before a game.
A FAMILY AFFAIR: Lawyering is in Fields’ blood. His father, Taylor Fields, is managing partner at Fields & Brown, where his sisters also work. Carla Fields Johnson is a partner, while Denise Fields is an associate.
EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, KIEWIT ENERGY GROUP
Dave Flickinger heads up the international engineering firm’s Kansas City operations in Lenexa and leads teams that perform more than $1 billion in annual power generation, transmission and distribution work. He has spent more than 25 years at the Omaha-based company, starting his career as a field engineer and moved on to overseeing safety and quality performance, human resources, business development and strategic market leadership.
COLLEGE: B.S., Civil Engineering, Pennsylvania State University
HEART HEALTHY: Earlier this year, Flickinger and a fellow Kiewit executive were co-
chairs of the American Heart Association’s KC Heart Ball, which raises money for prevention and awareness programs.
VARIED SPECIALTIES: Flickinger’s varied positions in the company have lead to him becoming a specialist in air quality control upgrades, transmission and distribution, and fossil fuel generation.
POWERING SCRANTON: Flickinger’s team constructed Invenergy’s high-efficiency power plant outside of Scranton, Pa., which can power more than one million homes.
It came online at the beginning of the year.
PRESIDENT/CEO, REECENICHOLS REAL ESTATE
Mike Frazier runs the top residential real estate firm in the area, with just under $5.3 billion in revenue last year. As president and CEO of ReeceNichols, a job he took on in July 2018, he oversees an operation of more than 2,200 agents. With the company since 2007, Frazier came on as chief financial officer and took on the role of chief operating officer six years later. Prior to ReeceNichols, he was with what was Crown Center Redevelopment Corp.
COLLEGE: B.A., William Jewel College
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “John Wooden—I am a huge sports fan, but also a fan of people who dedicate their life to helping others. Wooden’s record and reputation were impeccable. His longevity and ability to continue to connect with people made him a legend.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “I’ve learned over the years that your job is really not about you at all, but rather serving others and building relationships, both within your organization and outside of your organization.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Coming to work for ReeceNichols. As a company, we help people find their home—their sanctuary, where they raise their families and make memories that last a lifetime. It’s incredibly rewarding to help families who put their trust in our hands.”
MANAGING PARTNER, LATHROP GAGE LLP
Cameron Garrison has been managing partner at Lathrop Gage LLP for about two years, taking over the duties of Mark Bluhm. At the firm for just over 17 years, Garrison chairs its executive committee and helps to guide its strategic direction. An intellectual property litigator, he represents consumer-product manufacturers, retail chains, marketing and media firms, life sciences companies and companies in additional industries.
COLLEGE: B.A., Government and History, University of Virginia; J.D., Washington and Lee School of Law
LATHROP GAGE LLP LIFER: Garrison was hired by Lathrop Gage LLP directly out of
law school and spent 15 years as a partner with the firm before his promotion.
MORE THAN LAW: “Our lawyers and staff understand that it is no longer enough to only provide exceptional legal services. We must also do so in a way that reflects a thorough understanding of our clients’ business pressures and adds value at every opportunity,” Garrison said when he was promoted.
TRUE ADVERTISING: Garrison has defended clients in trials dealing with false advertising, as well as copyright, patent and architectural infringement.
PRESIDENT/CEO, FEDERAL RESERVE BANK
Esther George strutted her Show-Me stuff in July as one of two Federal Reserve board members opposing a reduction in the federal funds rate. Her argument? Economic indicators didn’t support all the recession-fear talk. Downturn coming? You’ll have to show her, first. She’s been in independent voice on the board, both for and against rate cuts, since being named to the KC branch’s top spot in 2011, succeeding Tom Hoenig.
COLLEGE: B.S./B.A., Business Administration, Missouri Western State University;
MBA, UMKC; Stanford Graduate School of Business
MIDWESTERN MAVEN: George oversees the Fed’s 10th District, which includes more than 1,600 employees and offices in Denver, Oklahoma City and Omaha, as well as the Kansas City mother ship. The district spans western Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming and northern New Mexico.
EYE ON COMPLIANCE: Before taking on the CEO’s duties, George spent most of her Fed career in the Division of Supervision and Risk Management, including time as chief regulator for nearly 1,000 bank and financial holding companies.
FUN FACT: In 1976, this native of St. Joseph was voted Missouri Farm Bureau Queen; her musical interests have included playing the piano and ballroom dancing.
VICE CHAIRMAN, SELECTQUOTE INSURANCE SERVICES
After Tom Grant sold his LabOne to Quest Diagnostics for $934 million in 2005, he wasn’t quite finished in business. He went on to become president of SelectQuote Insurance Services, which shares insurances terms and rates to help consumers make informed choices. Until he stepped down as president in 2017 and transitioned to his current board position, he had built up the company’s SelectQuote Senior and SelectQuote Auto and Home lines.
COLLEGE: B.A., History, University of Kansas; MBA, Wharton School of Finance, Univer-
sity of Pennsylvania
FAMILY BUSINESS: Grant’s son Bill is the president of the senior division at SelectQuote. The two also worked together at LabOne before its sale.
BOARD WARRIOR: Grant serves on the board of private-equity firm Great Range Capital. He has also served on the boards of such large corporations as AMC Entertainment, Assicurazioni Generali Life Insurance Company, Commerce Bancshares and Kansas City Power & Light.
MERGER VETERAN: The sale of LabOne wasn’t the first rodeo for Grant when it came to major M&A activity. He was the CEO of life reinsurance company BMA from 1983 to 1990 until the sale of the company to Generali in 1990.
MAYOR, CITY OF OVERLAND PARK
Carl Gerlach is approaching his 15th year as mayor of Kansas’ second-largest city. Overland Park has experienced significant growth since his time as an elected official in city government, which dates back to 1995, when he was first elected to city council. Now a lot of Gerlach’s focus, and the city’s, is on redeveloping existing areas and setting a plan for where the city will be several years from now through community group ForwardOP.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, Kansas State University
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To grow to 3 million people so we can better afford arts, culture and professional sports teams.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Vision Metcalf, which set the direction for the redevelopment of Metcalf Ave from Shawnee Mission Parkway to 119th Street. The process involved thousands of OP residents who took the time to participate and who gave great suggestions and opinions for the future of the spine of our city.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “I like all holidays if my family is all there. But Thanksgiving is probably my favorite … a time to be with family and friends and to count our blessings.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Probably play golf! Love the game, would like to play more and be better at it.”
CEO, COMMUNITYAMERICA CREDIT UNION
Lisa Ginter had several roles in her nearly 25 years at CommunityAmerica Credit Union before becoming chief executive officer in 2015 in a promotion from chief operating officer, so she has played a big role in securing its spot as by far the top credit union in the metro area, with assets of $2.6 billion. The Lenexa-based institution also boasts 32 branches, 230,000 nationwide members and about 800 employees.
COLLEGE: B.S./B.A., Accounting, Rockhurst University
WISH I’D KNOWN: “I think it’s important to remember it’s a journey. It’s easy to focus on quick growth when you are passionate about your role and organization. Slow down, follow your heart, do your best, get involved and influence where you can, and good things will follow!”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION YOU EVER MADE: “Building a strong relationship with my Board of Directors. My dream has been to help our members achieve financial peace of mind at every life stage, and with their support, along with my Executive Team and the amazing employees at CommunityAmerica, we’ve made incredible strides in this area with so much additional excitement ahead.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “I love going to the lake with my family.”
CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS
Doug Girod wasn’t just a doctor before becoming a chancellor. The head-and-neck surgeon joined the KU Medical Center faculty in 1994, then took on the additional challenge of academia and gradually rose in its ranks to chancellor. He became executive vice chancellor of the medical school in 2013 and was hired for his leadership role, overseeing all of KU, two years ago. Revamping its budget model is among his accomplishments.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Calif.-Davis; M.D., University of Calif.-San Francisco
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A bi-state cohesive vision for the future with a high degree of collaboration between municipalities. Followed by a new airport and public transportation plan.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Hard one—it’s been a busy year! Probably seeing the Kansas Legislature and Governor start to refund higher education.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Christmas—we have so many great family traditions with my wife and three children. My favorites are having a breakfast after opening stockings that consists of a chocolate fountain and mimosas before opening presents.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Go for a long motorcycle ride then take my wife to dinner and celebrate!”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “Never burn a bridge if you can avoid it.”
CHAIRMAN, MCCOWNGORDON CONSTRUCTION
Co-founding McCownGordon Construction in 1999 was the best decision Brett Gordon says he ever made, and he now chairs a firm that had $463 million in billings last year as a contractor, making it one of the largest in the metro area. Some notable projects include Children’s Mercy Hospital’s research tower, the 46Penn project,and the mixed-use remake of the Kansas City Star building. Construction is in Gordon’s blood, as it was his father’s career path, as well.
COLLEGE: B.S.. Construction Management, Colorado State University; MBA, Finance, Rockhurst University
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To raise the bar on education in every area of the City (and across the entire metropolitan area). Our success and continued growth is entirely dependent on how well we educate and teach the future generations.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Being able to celebrate MGC’s 20th anniversary and the grand opening of our new office headquarters at the same event.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “Never take yourself too seriously.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Wake up early, grab a cup of coffee, turn the page to the next chapter; and go live and impact as many lives in the next half of my life, as I have in the first half.”
CHAIRMAN, UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS HEALTH SYSTEM
Retirement? Greg Graves is redefining the concept. Going on two years since he left the top job at Burns & McDonnell, he just helped complete a $130 million capital campaign for the University of Kansas Health System, where he’s board chair. He co-chaired the effort that will bring the NFL’s draft here in 2023, and he’s lead independent director for UMB Financial (among multiple other board roles).
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “CEOs don’t make great companies, great people do.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “That’s now an easy one—every minute at La Dolce Vita Ranch, out on Lake Deanna pulling my grandkids on a tube.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Beginning my career at 100 percent employee-owned Burns & Mac.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Just one more lunch with Henry Bloch. Every time was a blessing.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Veterans’ Day; it’s the day I most remember my Dad.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Spend an entire day just with Deanna (headed for Hawaii).”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To think of ourselves as just one big town. One for all, all for one.”
6TH DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVE, U.S. HOUSE
Since 2001 Republican Sam Graves has served the 6th District, which spans the northern part of Missouri over a 36-county area. The sixth-generation farmer from Tarkio is in his 10th term and is a ranking member of the House Transportation Committee and is also on the Committee on Armed Services. He recently helped secure $20.7 million in funding for the Missouri Department of Transportation to repair old bridges.
COLLEGE: B.A., Agronomy, University of Missouri-Columbia
DISASTER RELIEF: Graves and other congressional leaders in Missouri were successful in passing legislation earlier this year that provided federal assistance to 68 counties in Missouri impacted by flooding.
ROCHEPORT REPLACEMENT: Graves and other lawmakers were able to obtain funding to replace the Rocheport Bridge, which spans the Missouri River in the middle of the state along I-70 and is considered one of state’s most important transportation connectors.
ELECTION DOMINATOR: With the exception of his first election to the House, in 2000, Graves has won by a wide margin—safely more than 20 percentage points—against Democrat contenders.
CEO, SPRING VENTURE GROUP
Insurance-comparison tech firm Spring Venture Group is big on metrics, so try this one on: Since Chris Giuliani was named CEO in 2012, it has grown from 27 employees to more than 600, and in May, it opened its third office, in Scottsdale, Ariz. Steeped in the world of tech and Big Data, Giuliani actually started his career in the mortgage business. He joined Spring Venture in 2011 and was promoted to his current position the following year.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Missouri, B.F.A., Baker University
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Continued investment in technology and the people that make the technology. K.C. is on fire in the tech world; just a few years ago, few would have guessed that we’d be among the top cities for tech startups. Taking advantage of this momentum by continuing tech investment will only propel our great city.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “If I could go back to the start of my career and give myself one piece of advice, it would be to embrace the use of data the way I do now. An innovative approach to data can benefit every aspect of your business from your customer’s experience to improving internal processes.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Absolutely nothing while hanging on the beach!”
PRESIDENT, THE BUILDERS’ ASSOCIATION
For a guy who doesn’t get paid to swing a hammer, Don Greenwell sure does help get a lot of things built hereabouts. In his role with the Builders’ Association, he advances the interests of more than 750 commercial contractors, suppliers and service providers employing more than 25,000 people. His best business decision ever? “To practice business rather than law,” he says.
COLLEGE: B.A., Finance, University of Missouri-Columbia; J.D., University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
WISH I’D KNOWN: “Some people serve only their own personal self-interests.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Eating healthy food.”
RECENT ACHIEVEMENT: “Working with someone in The Builders’ Association Construction Mentoring Program to find their first job in construction.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “One would be Harry Truman, because of his boldness.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Working with the earth.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Read a non-business book.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Dramatically increased funding for start-up businesses.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, MGP INGREDIENTS
Gus Griffin has five years under his belt leading MGP Ingredients, a distilled-spirits distributor based in Atchison. Before that, he spent several years at Brown-Forman Beverages, in Louisville, as senior VP and global managing director for the Jack Daniel’s brand of whiskey. He has also served in various executive capacities at
California-based Next Level Spirits and Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, in Nashville. Griffin is on Atchison Hospital’s board of directors.
COLLEGE: B.A., Economics, MBA, College of William and Mary
PAST YEAR’S BEST BUSINESS MEMORY: “Donating 400 tons of dried distillers grain to help farmers after the floods.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “The importance of delegating.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Mark Twain. To hear his observations on our world today.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Putting away a lot of barreled whiskey to age.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “More sushi.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Go for a walk with my wife.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Spending time at a beach.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Labor Day.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, EWING MARION KAUFFMAN FOUNDATION
Wendy Guillies runs one of the largest private foundations in the United States, with more than $2 billion in assets and founders’ names that are among the most important in Kansas City history. From Kansas City, Kan., Guillies was named to her current post in 2015, after joining the foundation in 2000 and becoming vice president of communications. Though the foundation has a global reach, it is very focused on the educational development of young people in Kansas City.
COLLEGE: B.A., Journalism, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
ENTREPRENEURSHIP FOCUSED: Guillies and the foundation are strong proponents of entrepreneurship in Kansas City and around the country and push for government assistance of startups, or at least creating environments where those efforts aren’t penalized.
1 MILLION CUPS GROWS: In April 2012, the foundation started 1 Million Cups, a now-national network of entrepreneurial-support groups that network every Wednesday and discuss challenges their businesses face and try to come up with solutions.
It now has groups in about 180 communities.
KAUFFMAN SCHOOL GRADS: The Ewing Marion Kauffman School, which was founded in 2011 to help urban students academically succeed, had its first graduating class of high school seniors in May. All 38 of them were accepted to college.
PRESIDENT, PARK UNIVERSITY
Time in the corporate world has served Greg Gunderson well in academia. The president of Park University, earlier in his career in Omaha, was a project controller at ConAgra and then director of finance at APAC Customer Services. He was also an accountant at Cray Research and Arthur Anderson. Gunderson has been in his current post since the beginning of 2016. He came from Webster University, in St. Louis, where he served as chief financial officer and vice president.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, University of Nebraska-Omaha; MBA, University of St. Thomas; PhD., Academic Administration, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
NEW DEGREES: This fall Park University is offering three degrees new to the institution, a Master of Arts in National Security Studies, a Bachelor of Music in Audio Engineering and a cyber security concentration in the Bachelor of Science in Information and Computer Science program.
ACTIVE DUTY SERVICE ASSISTANCE: Park, which has a history of supporting members of the U.S. military, recently announced it is offering a free course to active-duty members that might have been impacted by tuition-assistance restrictions.
KENYA CONNECTION: Park signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this year with Moi University, in Eldoret, Kenya, that will lead to collaboration between the two institutions.
FOUNDER/CEO, NORTHPOINT DEVELOPMENT
When you consider the rise of Nathaniel Hagedorn’s commercial realty empire—averaging better than 11 million square feet of space for each of its six year—consider this, too: The company is working to double that total by bringing on-line 68 million more square feet of space. NorthPoint focuses on Class A industrial development, self-storage and multifamily properties in 21 states.
WITH A “B”: Fueling the firm’s real-estate investments, Hagedorn has raised more than $5.5 billion in capital in the past six years.
GAME-CHANGER: One of NorthPoint’s biggest early successes has been right in its own back yard, developing Logistics Park Kansas City in southwest Johnson County. The 1,700-acre logistics center has capacity for 17 million square feet of building space, and still isn’t to the halfway point with completed projects.
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.
Don Hall Jr.
EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, HALLMARK CARDS
The third-generation leader of an iconic business for the Kansas City region signaled a major transition this year by relinquishing the duties of president and CEO, but Don Hall Jr. is still with the company founded by his grandfather more than century ago. He joined the business in 1971 and became president/CEO in 2002. Hallmark is a nearly $4 billion company with 3,400 local employees (and 30,000 globally).
COLLEGE: B.A., Economics/Literature, Claremont McKenna College; MBA, University of Kansas
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: Handing over operating responsibilities “to someone who has essentially prepared for the role of CEO since he began his career at Hallmark 30 years ago (Mike Perry) and who has such a great understanding of our business, our brand and our beliefs and values. The business is in very capable hands for the future.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A commitment to collaboration. As a community, we still have too many things that divide us and interfere with our ability to create a more vibrant community for all. Now that we have one of those divisive forces removed and can declare an end to the ‘Border War’, we need to find ways to reach across our state line and other divides to create positive change.”
FOUNDER, CHURCH OF THE RESURRECTION
Adam Hamilton founded the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in 1990, and it is now considered the largest United Methodist congregation in the world, with approximately 13,000 members. Resurrection celebrated a brick-and-mortar feat in Leawood, its home city, in 2017 with its new $81-million main campus and church that seats 3,500 people. The church also has locations in Blue Springs, Kansas City, Olathe and Overland Park.
COLLEGE: B.A. Pastoral Ministry, Oral Roberts University; M.Div., Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University
PRESIDENTIAL DUTIES: In 2016, Hamilton was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In 2013, he preached at Obama’s Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service.
SERVICE TO SCHOOLS: For its congregation’s work volunteering at inner-city schools in the area, the Church of the Resurrection received the Kansas City Public Schools’ first ever Community Champion of the Year award this year.
PROLIFIC AUTHOR: Hamilton has written several books, including “Making Sense of the Bible: Uncovering the Power of Scripture,” and “Unafraid: Living With Hope and Courage in Uncertain Times.” All of his sermons, since 2001, are also archived online.
PRESIDENT, VanTrust Real Estate
David Harrison left Opus Northwest commercial real estate development company in 2010 to found Caymus Real Estate, which became what it is today, VanTrust Real Estate, in 2012. The full-service development company builds office, industrial, multifamily, retail, institutional, governmental, hospitality and recreational properties. It also provides real estate services, including the oversight of acquisition, development, asset management, design and construction.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, Rockhurst University
RECOGNIZABLE WORK: VanTrust has played a part in the development of several recognizable buildings in the Kansas City area, such as Burns & McDonnell’s headquarters expansion, the UMB tower at 49th and Main streets, and the Dairy Farmers of America headquarters, in Kansas City, Kan.
JOHNSON COUNTY BOOM: VanTrust is developing 50 acres in Prairie Village’s Meadowbrook Park, which will have single-family dwellings, townhomes, senior housing, a boutique hotel and retail and restaurants, and is proposing an office building in Hallbrook.
BIG IN TEXAS: VanTrust is one of the builders of Frisco Station, in that city outside of Dallas, which is an ongoing mixed-use project on 242 acres which will house several million square feet of offices, retail, hotels, as well as housing.
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, MISSOURI’S 4TH DISTRICT
Vicky Hartzler has won five straight elections to the House of Representatives, four of those with more than 60 percent of the popular vote. The Republican oversees Missouri’s 4th District, which spans from the southern Kansas City suburbs to the West and Columbia to the East. She is a member of both the House committees on Agriculture and Armed Services. Hartzler was a Missouri State Representative from 1995 to 2000.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Missouri; M.A., Education, University of Central Missouri
REPUBLICAN BENCHMARKS: At the time of her first election, Hartzler was only the second Republican woman elected to Congress from Missouri. She was also the first Republican to win her district position since 1955.
HOME ECON EXPERT: Hartzler taught high school home economics for 11 years before entering the Missouri Legislature.
LARGE DISTRICT: The 4th District is made up of 24 counties, including Cass, Johnson and Pettis, which includes Whiteman Air Force Base.
ON THE FARM: Hartzler grew up on a farm in Cass County, attending Archie High School. Fast forward several years, and Hartzler and her family own a farm, again in Cass County, near Harrisonville.
President/Chief HR Officer, Black & Veatch
It wasn’t exactly a shattering, but the glass ceiling definitely cracked earlier this year when Black & Veatch went outside the ranks to designate its next president: Stephanie Hasenbos-Case, the first woman to hold the title for the Overland Park engineering giant. She picked up that title, along with duties as chief HR officer, in January, and is responsible for talent and organizational capability as B&V it continues to expand into global markets.
COLLEGE: B.A., International Business, University of Notre Dame
OTHER ROLES: Hasenbos-Case also serves on the corporate board and its compensation committee and chairs the administrative committee for employee benefits. On top of that, she’s executive sponsor of the company’s charitable arm, the Black & Veatch Foundation.
BEFORE B&V: Hasenbos-Case was previously with Grant Thornton International,
and she has done consulting or corporate leadership for such big-name companies as Accenture, Bank of America, Deloitte, H&R Block and Sears, Roebuck & Co.
PRESIDENT/CEO, YRC WORLDWIDE
Trucking has been Darren Hawkins’ professional career, and most of it with Fortune 500 firm YRC Worldwide, where he has been the leader since 2018. He started there in 1991, when it was still called Yellow Transportation, and stayed on for more than 17 years as director of field sales. Though Hawkins is at the top of the game in his industry, he wishes he would have made a bigger bet on a relatively well-known e-commerce firm.
COLLEGE: B.B.A., Marketing/Transportation, The University of Memphis
WISH I’D KNOWN: “Amazon’s stock price.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Hiring people smarter than me.”
PAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHT: “Celebrating, honoring and recognizing 21 of our 31,000 employees for extraordinary safety and skills achievement, representing YRCW in the National Truck Driving Championships.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Abraham Lincoln, the ultimate example of personal sacrifice for the greater good.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Whatever the grandchildren choose.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A world-class airport.”
CEO, GARNEY CONSTRUCTION
Mike Heitmann took a job at Garney Construction directly out of college in 1990 and has stayed put ever since. His title has changed a few times at the water and wastewater contracting firm, founded in 1961 by Charles Garney. An expert in specialized-piping materials, different construction methods and integrated project delivery, he was promoted to vice president then transitioned into his current role in 2011, overseeing 1,500 employees.
COLLEGE: B.S., Architectural Engineering, The University of Kansas
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Going to work for Mr. Garney. Thank you, Scott Hallier.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “The importance of strong personal relationships.”
PAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHT: “Seeing the growth of our future leadership.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A downtown baseball/football stadium.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Leonardo DaVinci. I’m curious if he had to clean his paint brushes or if he had someone do that for him.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Nothing.”
OUT OF THE OFFICE: When he started at the firm, and for the 15 years that followed, Heitmann was focused on building pipeline systems across the country before returning to the Kansas City headquarters in 2004.
CEO/Chairman, NIC Inc.
If you’re going to work for Harry Herington, plan on breaking a sweat. And not just in the fast-paced world of public-sector IT services. This Harley-riding whirlwind, who recharges his batteries by paddle-boarding and kayaking, says one of his favorite experiences over the past year was “competing in a triathlon with my employees.” That energy, combined with his vision, helped drive the Overland Park company to $345 million in 2018 revenues.
COLLEGE: B.S., Wichita State University; J.D., University of Kansas School of Law
WISH I’D KNOWN: “The importance of knowing when to say ‘no’.
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Pursuing long-term culture and vision vs. short-term revenue goals.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Robin Williams. He was a fascinating and complex comedian, actor and philanthropist.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Halloween.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Begin a month-long trip exploring America.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Better recognition for the community’s talent and innovation.”
MANAGING PARTNER, STINSON LLP
Over the past year or so, this Kansas City law firm has grown—acquiring smaller firms in St. Louis and Dallas—and contracted: The former Stinson Leonard Street is now just Stinson LLP. “We consummated two mergers, adding substantial expertise, but still kept our expenses under budget and had a record year on almost every metric,” says Mark Hinderks, the Kansas City office’s managing partner, assessing recent firm achievements.
WISH I’D KNOWN: “When I started I had (and even now still have) a lot to learn, but I would not now wish away the value of the experiences from which I have incrementally learned over the years.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “A weekend trip to the lowcountry with my wife.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “All of my best business decisions have involved people I decided to associate with, either as mentors earlier in my career, colleagues mid-career, or as part of our leadership team more recently.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “I would dine not with a historical celebrity, but with my own grandfather, from whom I learned most of the important things I know about life.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving, because of its theme of gratitude.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Cross-state-line collaboration to address metro-wide issues.”
PRESIDENT, AUTOMATIC SYSTEMS, INC.
Automatic Systems builds systems that move large amounts of items, from car lifts that are used in the lots of Las Vegas casino resorts, to conveyors that wind around warehouse and factory floors, as well as airport baggage-handling areas. Michael Hoehn has overseen the business for close to 16 years after a five-year stint at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Based in Kansas City, ASI also has operations in Michigan and South Carolina.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business (Finance and Accounting), Georgetown University
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “The day we were chosen for a large strategic partnership—the look of joy and validation on everyone’s face here was priceless. The vibe was part celebration, part ‘What did we just do?,’ but mostly “they see us for who we are.”
BEST DECISION: “Saying ‘yes’ when hiring the right people and no’ to wrong projects.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Watching my kids play sports and grow—it reminds me that we compete today to build character for tomorrow, not to count the W’s and L’s.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving—football marathons, unstructured time with the family, and no list of gifts to find.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “I can’t even picture that scenario at this stage—we’re having too much fun with what we do.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, OLATHE HEALTH
When Stan Holm started his duties at the helm of Olathe Health in November, the system’s board handed him the keys to a billion-dollar health-care enterprise with roughly 12,000 patient admissions each year. In that role, he oversees the crown jewel of the system, Olathe Medical Center, along with the Miami County Medical Center and Olathe Health Physicians practice group.
COLLEGE: M.S., Health Care Administration, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
CAREER TRACK: Holm has been in health-care management for 24 years, working in hospital systems in Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and, just before coming to Olathe, Kansas.
BIG FOOTSTEPS: Holm replaced Frank Devocelle, who retired after 47 years with the system, most of that as CEO.
OUTSIDE THE OFFICE: He also brings a history of active engagement in the com-
munities where he’s posted, including roles benefiting local chambers of commerce, Rotary, Habitat for Humanity, Boys & Girls Clubs, and the United Way.
PRESIDENT/CEO, KVC HEALTH SYSTEMS
Jason Hooper has spent more than 25 years at behavior healthcare and nonprofit child welfare organization KVC Health Systems, including over a decade in executive management and more than three as chief executive officer. He oversees more than 1,600 employees at 35 locations in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Kentucky and West Virginia. He was president of KVC Hospitals before his current post.
COLLEGE: B.A., Baker University; M.S.W., University of Kansas
REVENUE AND PATIENT GROWTH: Since becoming a KVC executive, Hopper has more than doubled its revenue. The organization also started serving private and military families, in addition to those in the welfare system during his tenure.
HIGHER EDUCATION: KVC is starting the first college campus to help youth make the transition from foster care. It purchased a 25-year lease on the former West Virginia University Institute of Technology site and is raising funds for its operations.
STRONG BEGINNINGS: Hopper credits much of his success to his mother, a hard-working single parent, and he says it’s always been his goal to have a life work that would make her proud. He also had instructors in high school and at college who pushed him to take further steps in education.
PRESIDENT/CEO, KANSAS CITY UNIVERSITY
The Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences continues to expand during Marc Hahn’s leadership. It opened a new campus in Joplin in 2017, and now the institution recently announced it is adding a dental school to that facility. Another big achievement to have taken place, earlier this month, was the beginning of enrollment for KCU’s largest biomedical sciences class in the school’s 103-year history.
COLLEGE: B.S., Syracuse University; D.O., Des Moines University
WISH I’D KNOWN: “The world is gray. Issues and people are not always black and white! Often different perspectives, ideas, experiences simultaneously have value and validity. There is good in most everyone and in many situations.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A logical approach to inclusive prosperity.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Joining the Kansas City University team in 2012, I was fortunate to become part of a team of faculty, staff, administrators and trustees who are committed to making a difference in the health and well-being of our region.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “As always, it’s graduation for all of our students each May. It’s very rewarding to see the next generation of physicians, scientists and health professionals move forward in their careers to impact the “well-being of the communities we serve.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, DICKINSON FINANCIAL CORP/Academy Bank
A decade after the near meltdown of the nation’s financial sector, Paul Holewinski can look back with a measure of pride. The best business decision he ever made at the helm of Academy Bank and Armed Forces Bank, he says, was keeping both privately held during that crisis. “It served as a catalyst for current growth and future success,” he says. Today, parent Dickinson oversees $2.7 billion in combined assets, more than all but five other area banks.
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Early morning run or workout.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Vince Lombardi. He put Green Bay on the map and was a legendary motivator. I would like to pick his brain about those glory years of Packer football.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving. Great meal, family, football and a nap. Life is good.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Play golf.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Downtown baseball.”
DIRECTOR, KC RISE FUND / CEO, KCRISE CAPITAL
In a region starving for venture capital, Darcy Howe is something of a patron saint for entrepreneurs. She knows the turf. For a generation as angel investor and agent of change, she’s helped build a regional entrepreneurial ecosystem, connecting funders, entrepreneurs and advisers. She also founded Women’s Capital Connection, linking investors to women-led, early stage businesses, especially those grounded in innovation.
COLLEGE: B.S., Marketing, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “To put a 1-, 3- and 5-year plan into writing. It crystallizes and makes you accountable.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Alexander Hamilton, the builder of a system which has withstood time and spawned capitalism.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “July 4: family, outdoors, fireworks and everyone in the U.S. of all faiths and ages can enjoy it together.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Having already done that, I built a couple more enterprises! Purposeful work>full-time leisure for me.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Belief in its collective greatness.”
CEO, ADVENTHEALTH MID-AMERICA REGION
Sam Huenergardt has been on the job a little over a year overseeing the AdventHealth Shawnee Mission system, a job he took on after serving as top executive for Advent’s Parker Adventist Hospital in Colorado. During Huenergardt’s short tenure, the company announced it is expanding the AdventHealth South Overland Park hospital by 193,000 square feet and 85 beds,
with a ground-breaking scheduled for the fall.
COLLEGE: B.B.A., Accounting and Finance, Union College; MBA, Baker University
WISH I’D KNOWN: “I wish I had known that the things that matter most are in your control: Be a good teammate. Do more than people ask of you. Have a positive, optimistic outlook.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “To engage with local government in a meaningful way.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A more collaborative and effective approach to mental health treatment.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Burn my calendar, while enjoying a hot cup of coffee.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Helping my kids (5th & 7th graders) with their homework.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “I’d love to have dinner with Martin Luther or Billy Graham and learn from them about leading through revolutionary social change.”
Sr. VP-General Counsel, Kansas City Power & Light/Evergy
She wears a lot of hats at KCP&L—now rebranding as Evergy—but a real feather in one of those caps came last year. That, says Heather Humphrey, was “closing the merger transaction that brought KCPL and Westar Energy together to create a local, Fortune 500 company that will better serve customers and benefit shareholders for years to come.” She oversees corporate legal and compliance, including litigation, regulatory issues and audit functions.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Mo.-Columbia; J.D., Washington University School of Law; MBA, Bloch School of Management, UMKC; Tuck Executive Program, Dartmouth College.
WISH I’D KNOWN: “It’s a lot of work with very little return to try and fit into the box the rest of the world wants to put you into. Defining that ‘box’ yourself is a lot more fun with a heck of a lot bigger payoff.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Hanging with the ‘cool kids club’—which is literally what my two kids call themselves. Dorky, but makes me laugh every time.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Moving from St. Louis to Kansas City in 1996.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Find another job to do. Seriously.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A renewed commitment to great public schools (including pre-K) and a comprehensive crime solution.”
KC-DENVER REGION VP, TURNER CONSTRUCTION CO.
The ink was barely dry on his college diploma when Mark Iammarino started with Turner Construction as a field engineer in 1983, and he’s been a fixture in the company ever since. Most of his career was in the company’s Great Lakes region, out of offices in Chicago and Cleveland, before he was assigned to the Kansas City market in 2014. Earlier this year, the Denver market was added to his responsibilities.
COLLEGE: B.S., Construction Technology, Bowling Green State University
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Relocating to the Kansas City market.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “A three-day trip—anywhere.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Sleep in and binge-watch any TV series.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To be the World Cup soccer host in 2026.”
ABOUT TURNER: A public company, it’s the nation’s largest domestic contractor, with 2018 revenues of $13.2 billion.
CHAIRMAN/CEO/CO-OWNER, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
If the Chiefs fulfill fan hopes for a 2020 Super Bowl trophy, it’s possible that the only person standing between Clark Hunt and Kansas Citian of the Year honors might be Patrick Mahomes. Hunt inherited the leadership mantle at the club after his father’s 2006 passing, and has put in place the pieces to build a consistent winner—the past three AFC West titles were the club’s first trifecta in 59 seasons here.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, Southern Methodist University
DID YOU KNOW I: At one point, Hunt’s grandfather, the legendary Texas oilman H.L. Hunt, was widely considered the world’s richest man.”
DID YOU KNOW II: Clark Hunt finished first in his class and was a two-time winner of the Provost Award for Outstanding Scholar, SMU’s highest academic honor.
EARLY LEADERSHIP: Hunt earned Academic All-America honors as a member of SMU’s soccer team, and served as its captain.
ATHLETIC GENES: Hunt’s father, Lamar, not only helped found the American Football League (later to merge with the NFL), but professional soccer and tennis leagues, among other interests. The elder Hunt was the first owner of the Kansas City Wizards soccer team, now Sporting Kansas City.
CEO, V2 Ventures
Nearly a decade ago, Marco Ilardi came to Kansas City to work for the digital marketing/tech firm Adknowledge, a move he considers his best business decision. “We have enjoyed seeing the evolution of the city in such a short period,” he says. To say nothing of the company, now rebranded as V2 Ventures. Over the past year or so, it has set up two new ventures, he says, “and it has been great to see them get traction and grow from the ground up.
COLLEGE: M.A., Business Administration, Truman State University
WISH I’D KNOWN: “The importance of the team that you surround yourself with and how critical they are to a path of success.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “When I am able to exercise daily, it helps me keep my stress levels low.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “I love Christmas, it’s a time a year where everything seems to slow down and I get to spend valuable time with my family.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Travel to somewhere I have never been, or have only traveled for business. I want to see much more of the world, leisurely.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Their sports stadiums Downtown.”
Co-FOUNDER, Cerner Corp.
He’ll forever be known for co-founding that health-care IT startup—back then, known as PGI & Associates—but Cliff Illig has irons in lots of other fires. Always has. Not surprising for an Eagle Scout, who learned early about setting goals and meeting them. He resigned as vice chairman at Cerner in January, having turned a three-man startup into the region’s largest private employer—more than 24,000 employees worldwide, and 14,500 of them here.
DID YOU KNOW: His commitment to Scouting includes being the third of a four-deep generational line in the tribe of Mic-O-Say (His tribal name? Least Towering Maple.)
A FAN AT HEART: He’s well known as a co-owner of Sporting Kansas City, but also a big baseball fan; you see him a lot on televised games at Kauffman Stadium, in front-row seats. Given that . . .
COULD IT BE? Illig has declined comment since the announcement that his friend John Sherman is purchasing the Royals, and little is known about the investor group backing the acquisition. But earlier this summer, Illig sold 411,200 shares of his Cerner stock, raising $24.8 million. Do 2 and 2 add up to partial ownership of another pro sports team here?
Co-OWNER, SIOUX CHIEF MANUFACTURING
In the 45 years after he and his brother acquired the family business from their father, Joe Ismert embraced one overarching principle to Sioux Chief Manufacturing: Innovation. It would drive every aspect of the company’s growth on the way to annual revenues of as much as $250 million. His name adorns at least half of the 40 patents the company has secured for plumbing products designed and manufactured to meet industry needs.
PHASING OUT: Ismert has long been known at the office as Joe P.; his son, Joe N. Ismert, is the company’s president. Roughly two dozen members of the extended family are among the roughly 700 people working there.
ELBOW ROOM: In 2017, the company opened an expanded facility and moved its headquarters from the Peculiar offices to the CenterPoint KCS Intermodal Center industrial complex in south Kansas City. The 600,000 square-foot-space, expandable to 1 million square feet, was originally budgeted at $40 million.
DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS CANCER CENTER
His work is literally changing the nature of cancer care in this region, and the life-or-death aspects of it are constant companions for Roy Jensen, who has been a primary driver of the National Cancer Institute designation at the center. To that end, he says, the biggest achievements over the past year have come “every time we get to tell a patient their scans are clear.” The next goal, he says, is Comprehensive Care designation from the NCI.
COLLEGE: B.S., Biology/Chemistry, Pittsburg State University; M.D., Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “You probably won’t remember a single teleconference and won’t forget a single Scout camp out.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Get out and enjoy nature.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Working at a job I would gladly do for free.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Jesus.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Christmas, no contest.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Go on my morning run with my dog.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.”
President/CEO, Stormont Vail Health
In a sea of change for turnover among corporate leadership, nowhere has the trend been more visible than in health-care administration, and Topeka’s largest provider has been no exception. This year, Robert Kenagy took the baton from Randy Peterson, who retired in the spring. Kenagy, a family practitioner by training, joined the hospital, the region’s second-largest in numbers of admissions, as chief medical officer in 2016.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, Wichita State University; M.D., University of Kansas School of Medicine; M.A., Medical Management, Tulane University
PATH TO TOPEKA: Before coming to Stormont Vail, Kenagy had been senior vice president of St. John’s Health Network in Tulsa. That came after a stint as senior vice president of physician services and CEO of Via Christi Clinic in his hometown of Wichita.
BEFORE MEDICINE: Before committing to earning his medical degree, Kenagy spent two years working for the Boeing Co.
MUSIC LOVER: In 2014, Kenagy and his wife established a music scholarship that would grant a student scholarship of $5,000 a year, the largest of its kind in the WSU Department of Fine Arts. Kenagy’s mother was a music-education graduate there.
PRESIDENT/CEO, WESTLAKE ACE HARDWARE
Word on the street is that the retail business is tough. Joe Jeffries must not have heard. The top executive at Lenexa-based Westlake Ace Hardware oversees about 130 stores in this region along with eight other states and is actively growing the business. At the beginning of the year, it purchased 13 stores in Texas and entered California. Jeffries has been with Westlake Ace since 2014, when he joined as chief operating officer.
PAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHT: “After a period of consideration and due diligence, electing to move forward with a rather large expansion into the state of California.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “Knowing how to effectively build trust and the importance of true professional trust within business.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Being willing to surround myself with people that are far more talented than myself.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Go sport fishing in the Florida Keys for a week or two, and then start something else and stay busy.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “A beach or lake with my family combined with some fishing.”
RETAIL LIFER: Prior to Westlake, Jeffries’ career included executive positions at Office Depot and crafts retailer A.C. Moore.
CFO, ASCEND LEARNING
When Ascend Learning made chief financial officer Mandeep Johar its top executive at the Leawood headquarters last year, it was meeting of Man, Mission and Moment. Joining Ascend after nearly 25 years with General Electric, he says, was a natural fit: both aim to change lives through the company’s branded content in education, focusing on health care, fitness and wellness.
COLLEGE: B.S., Muskingum College; MBA, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
IF YOU COULD HAVE HAD ANY OTHER CAREER: “Health care, either as a physician or a researcher. It is very appealing to give back to society by doing your job well.”
BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Ensure I have both accountability for the outcomes and responsibility for the resources to drive the outcomes. I have found that counsel to be very helpful especially as we work in more shared team and resource environments and remembering to have clarity on both these aspects is important to ensure success.”
FAVORITE BOOK: “Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove. It resonates with me because we constantly need to think about the unexpected changes or strategic inflection points that could impact our business.”
GENERAL MANAGER, KC BOARD OF PUBLIC UTILITIES
The BPU conducted a national search for its new general manager, but it ended up choosing a 40-year veteran at the organization. Bill Johnson took on his new post in March, promoted from manager of electric operations and technology. He started out at in an entry-level position but over the years has worked on major projects to upgrade technology systems, electric transmission and distribution, and operating processes.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business, MBA, Ottawa University
BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES IS: “Accepting personal responsibility for things that are within your control and working hard for the benefit of others.”
IF YOU COULD HAVE HAD ANY OTHER CAREER: “Probably something in sports or medicine. Both areas were a primary interest of mine when I first went to college. I ended up pursuing a career in telecommunications and utilities.”
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Going back to grad school later and advancing my career.”
MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “John H. Johnson, for his nontraditional rise from poverty in the south to become one of America’s most successful businessmen. Also, for his innovative leadership to bring to the market a voice that inspired a nation.”
BEST ADVICE: “Lead by example. Communicate clearly. Acknowledge others, reward success.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, H&R BLOCK
Jeff Jones is about to start his second year leading H&R Block, a job he took after resigning as president of Uber, where he took issue with how the company was being managed. It’s a bittersweet time for Block; co-founder Henry Bloch died earlier this year, but soon after, it acquired Wave Financial, a financial-solutions platform for small businesses. Overall tax returns for the firm also increased during its past fiscal year, at 20.2 million.
COLLEGE: B.A., Communication, University of Dayton
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Resigning from Uber.”
WISH I’D KNOWN: “Be patient. A career is a long period of time.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “What’s retirement?”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Oprah Winfrey. She’s not ‘historic’ but she embodies success and serving others in powerful ways.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Golf. It forces me to stay in the moment.”
PAST YEAR’S HIGHLIGHT: “Seeing the H&R Block team embrace change and deliver great results.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A Downtown pro sports team.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving.”
COMMUNITY BANKING PRESIDENT, U.S. BANK
Mark Jorgenson’s duties as president of U.S. Bank’s nationwide community bank network take him from California to Ohio, north to Canada and into the Southeast. After more than 25 years leading the bank’s KC operations, “the good thing for me is that Kansas City is in the middle (good for work travel!) and my wife and I choose to stay here,” he says, and he maintains a vibrant schedule with civic and non-profit board roles.
COLLEGE: B.A., Economics/Business Administration, Coe College; MBA, Washington Univ.
WISH I’D KNOWN: “My role as a leader is not telling people what to do in the moment but work to prepare them to make their own decisions when that moment arrives.”
BEST DECISION: “Never settle qualitatively when it comes to bringing new talent on board.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Abraham Lincoln. I am fascinated by how he worked with a team of rivals to arrive at decisions that were in the best interests of our country.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving—it seems to be less stressful than some other holidays and we definitely have much for which to be thankful.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Go on a long trip, probably overseas.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A compelling plan to reduce violent crime—something behind which the entire community can unite.”
GOVERNOR, STATE OF KANSAS
The 48th governor of Kansas was sworn in at the beginning of 2019 after spending about 15 years in the Kansas Senate. The Democrat served as minority whip and was ranking minority member of the Ways and Means Committee. Kelly also worked for several years at the Kansas Recreation & Park Association, where she was executive director before she was elected to the Senate. Born in New York, she grew up in a military family that frequently relocated.
COLLEGE: B.S., Psychology, Bradley University; M.S., Park and Recreation Administration, Indiana University-Bloomington
BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Putting the right people in the right positions so they can use their current skill set to the benefit of everyone, but also so they can grow professionally.”
IF YOU COULD HAVE HAD ANY OTHER CAREER: “I would have taken Mickey Mantle’s spot in center field for the New York Yankees.”
MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx. Blakely launched the Sara Blakely Foundation which encourages and educates young women to hone on their entrepreneurial skills. She was the first female billionaire to sign onto the Gates/Buffett ‘Giving Pledge.’”
FORMER VICE-CHAIRMAN, COMMERCE BANK
He started his financial-services career in New York and Chicago, but was there ever any doubt that Jonathan Kemper would stake his claim in the city where four generations of the family before him (and now six) have prospered in banking? He did that in 1982, then spent 36 years in executive roles, leading the Kansas City operations before retiring last year.
BEFORE COMMERCE: Young Kemper’s road back to Kansas City entailed career stops at Citicorp, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and—raise you hand if you ever heard of this one—investment bank M. A. Schapiro and Co.
STAYING BUSY: Kemper remains on the bank’s board and holds multiple community board duties, including his role as chairman and co-trustee of the William T. Kemper Foundation. He’s also president of the Kansas City Public Library board and is on the boards of the Downtown Council, Pembroke Hill School, Tower Properties and the Kansas City Design Center, and he has held board roles with MRIGlobal, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Citizens Association, and the Smithsonian National Board.
PRESIDENT/CEO/CHAIRMAN, UMB FINANCIAL CORP.
We have to share him with Denver, but Mariner Kemper’s footprint in Kansas City is unmistakable. The key executive for UMB Bank’s parent, which has $23.4 billion in assets and $1 billion in revenues, is on the executive committee for the American Royal, the board for the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and he’s lifetime director for Agriculture Future of America, but he’s also well-known for supporting the Denver arts scene and Boy Scouts.
WISH I’D KNOWN: “College ain’t so bad.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Running.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Abraham Lincoln.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Throw my phone into the ocean.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “No state line.”
It’s been another huge year for C2FO, on track to potentially become KC’s biggest entrepreneurial success since the founding of Cerner Corp. The digital platform, which helps companies worldwide leverage more than $1.2 trillion in receivables, secured $100 million in investment capital last year. Last month, it doubled that with a $200 million infusion led by Softbank Vision Fund, thought to the single largest capital infusion in the region’s history.
COLLEGE: B.A., American History, Northwestern University
FAMILY TIES: He’s one of three sons of the legendary R. Crosby Kemper Jr. to have served as CEO of UMB Bank.
ALWAYS INNOVATING: Kemper is also founder of The Collectors Fund, a private equity fund focused on alternative asset classes.
BOARD BARON: An active angel and venture investor, Kemper holds corporate board roles for UMB Bank and its parent, UMB Financial; NIC, Inc.; and Dwolla. His history of board service includes AXA Art, Sipvine, and Cboe, the Chicago Board of Options Exchange, which bought Kansas City’s BATS Global Markets, the equities trading platform, for $3.4 billion in 2016.
Crosby Kemper III
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, KANSAS CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY
No surprise that Crosby Kemper relishes a good book, given his job. The surprise might be that the library doesn’t have fine wines and great cigars in the vending machines. They combine to offer his consummate battery-recharge. But he’s flexible:
“a glass of good Cabernet (Bordeaux, pinot, grenache also included)” will do the trick. He can raise that glass to voters in the city who, by an 84-16 margin last fall, approved a higher library levy.
WISH I’D KNOWN: “Though President Kennedy was correct that ‘Life isn’t fair,’ life has a way of responding to effort and intelligence over the long haul: therefore the most important law is Emerson’s Law of Compensation.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Hiring and/or promoting my senior staff: they do the work, I take the credit; we’re all good at what we do.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Winston Churchill and/or Mark Twain: Good cigars and good wine would surely accompany either.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Easter: Bunnies, resurrection, and it comes after Lent.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Read Don Quixote with a good glass of Cabernet and a cigar.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Civic leadership.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, THE CHILDREN’S MERCY HOSPITAL
In the less than a year that Paul Kempinski has spent on the job with Children’s Mercy Hospital, a lot has happened. The University of Kansas Health System has transferred several pediatric care practices to the hospital, and Children’s Mercy formed a partnership with the Centrus Health network. He came to the job from Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children (N/AIDHC) in Wilmington, Del., where he was president.
COLLEGE: B.S., Health Planning and Administration, Penn State University; M.S., Health Systems Management, Rush University
THE BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Lead from the inside out, get to know the people doing the real work, be empathetic, approachable, and authentic. Building relationship capital will make the achievements more meaningful and weathering the storms more tolerable.”
THE CEO YOU ADMIRE MOST: “George Washington. The challenge of charting the
course for our nation must have been incredible. He was bold, resilient and perseverant.”
IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY OTHER CAREER: “Physical therapist and athletic trainer. I love sports and admire athletes who work hard to recover from injuries and return to championship level performance.”
ONE FOOD YOU COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT: “Pizza.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, SECURITY BENEFIT CORP.
Mike Kiley became the head executive of annuity and mutual-fund firm Security Benefit Corp. in 2011 after it was purchased and taken private by Guggenheim Partners, where he serves as vice chairman. As of the end of March, Security’s total assets totaled $34.6 billion. It is used in several retirement markets, including overall fixed annuity sales, bank market fixed annuity sales, and the K-12 education market. Founded in Topeka in 1892, it has more than 1,300 associates.
COLLEGE: B.A., Holy Cross
MORGAN STANLEY EXPERIENCE: Kiley was at Morgan Stanley before Guggenheim and Security, where he was CEO of its Van Kamp Investments division and president and CEO of Morgan Stanley Funds Distributors.
TECH CONNECTIONS: Kiley is on the board of SE2, a technology and outsourcing firm providing administration services for annuity and life insurance manufacturers looking to outsource non-core aspects of their respective businesses.
ENTREPRENEURIAL RECOGNITION: Last year, Kiley was named Entrepreneur of the Year 2018 Heartland Winner by Ernst & Young. The award “recognizes entrepreneurs who are excelling in areas such as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.”
ANNUITY EXPERT: Kiley was hired by Guggenheim specifically to assist during its 2010 acquisition of Security due to his 25 years of experience in annuities and mutual funds.
CHAIRMAN/CEO, BURNS & MCDONNELL
His predecessor may have drawn up the growth-strategy playbook, but Ray Kowalik is the one who drove Burns & McDonnell into the end zone in 2018, as it staked its claim to being the biggest engineering-design enterprise in a city filled with them. It’s $3.5 billion in revenues, for the first time, eclipsed Black & Veatch, and Burns Mac is still expanding a corporate headquarters where 5,500 people are now employed.
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “How to be leader.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Tennis, golf, and lake time with the family.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Looking at 18 pages of new hires in our Focus magazine that started at Burns & Mac in June.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Ronald Reagan—I loved his leadership style. Great to hear the story of how he got Russia to take down the wall.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Memorial Day—reminds me of the sacrifices others made for our freedom and kicks off the summer season.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Hop on a plane and go somewhere warm, after I sleep in.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “More swagger PLUS Chiefs winning the Super Bowl and Royals winning the World Series.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, KINCAID GROUP
In the vernacular of today’s youth, “killing it” is a good thing—at least as far as business goes. If you’d like a more precise definition, just ask Scott Kincaid: His family-owned company, with interests in motor coach transportation, ready mix, vehicle sales, IT and digital security, saw 42 percent revenue growth in 2018 alone. His father, Don, started things off with a school bus company in 1977.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, University of Tulsa
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “Empowering others to make decisions and even fail at times will be 10 times better than any of my own ideas.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Some of my best days are often after a 30- to 60-minute run.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “We diversified into the security and door-access industry with the acquisition of American Digital Security out of Liberty, MO. Huge potential and growth opportunities with our existing infrastructure around the Midwest and K12 relations.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “We’ve had some big wins over the last several years…(but) I really do feel my best business decision is on the horizon, not the past.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A nationally recognized, unified vision across state lines, which is financially supported by all surrounding municipalities.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, INLAND TRUCK PARTS
It took some doing, says Greg Klein, but one of his biggest achievements over the past year or so, he says, was “finally completing an acquisition we have been working towards for decades.” He’s the chief executive at Inland Truck Parts, a national player with 2018 revenues of $166 million. Celebrating 75 years in business this year, it offers parts, remanufacturing and repairs for all sizes of trucks.
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “That I would reach my career goals. It would have taken a lot of the stress out of the early years.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Spend time at my cabin in the mountains.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “To partner with only people of the highest character and ethics.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Abe Lincoln, to try to understand his thought processes on arriving at such enormous decisions.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Christmas.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Sleep in.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Visionary leadership.”
REGIONAL PRESIDENT, KANSAS CITY, PNC BANK
Dale Klose is a longtime executive at PNC Bank and the former National City Bank, in Cleveland. But he’s been busy in Kansas City over the last two-plus years, charged with expanding the PNC brand in the metro area as regional president. PNC recently opened its second area branch, in the Crossroads neighborhood, and in June signed a five-year deal to sponsor a community plaza in the Power & Light District. Its other location is in Overland Park.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business/Managerial Economics, University of Pittsburgh; MBA, Baldwin Wallace University
PAST YEAR’S BEST BUSINESS MEMORY: “After launching PNC Bank in Kansas City a few years ago, my best memory of this past year is witnessing the successes of the team. It’s been very gratifying to see the positive results that have come from all of their hard work in building the business and in giving back to the community.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Completion of the new airport terminal as soon as possible!”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “It’s never too early to start building relationships inside and outside of your organization. After 34 years in the business world, it’s amazing to me the number of invaluable connections that you make and the close friendships that develop over time.”
CEO, FOLEY EQUIPMENT
In 15 cities, at 18 locations across a 100,000-square-mile sweep of Kansas and western Missouri, the name Foley is synonymous with heavy equipment. And the woman doing the heavy lifting at Foley Equipment is Ann Konecny, whose grandfather founded the company in Wichita nearly 80 years ago. The company sells new and used equipment from Caterpillar and two dozen other manufacturers.
COLLEGE: Finance & Economics, Wichita State University
BATTERY RECHARGE: “I am often overscheduled, So, while I have a lot of interests, it is most important for me to find adequate time for exercise, sleep and downtime to read and think.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “I loved seeing the presentations of and participating in team building with our Safety Leadership Council. This is a peer-recommended, cross-disciplinary team of people helping advance our safety journey. I’m very proud of this team.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving—I’m a grateful gal.”
MORE THAN MACHINES: Foley Equipment also offers rentals, parts and service for
the full range of equipment it sells.
Founder/CEO, Kornitzer Capital Management
He keeps a low personal profile, but the organizational profile of Kornitzer Capital Management and Buffalo Funds is sky-high in this region: Combined, the Mission-based wealth manager is overseeing $9 billion in client assets, making it No. 11 on the list of the region’s biggest wealth management firms. Kornitzer serves as a portfolio manager at KCM, working with fixed-income and equity portfolios.
DIVERSE CLIENTS: While KCM reported a client based of 4,766 on its most recent SEC adviser reporting site, more than half of those assets under management are held by 10 investment companies.
HIGH-END CROWD: Among more than 1,200 individual investors, KCM serves 589 high-net-worth investors who account for nearly $2 billion in aggregate wealth—on average, $3.96 million each.
STREET SAVVY: Kornitzer learned the investment ropes with an 11-year stint on Wall Street at the firms of Merrill Lynch and Butcher & Singer. He followed that up at Employers Reinsurance Corp. for 12 years, where he served as vice president of investments, then founded KCM in 1989.
PRESIDENT, BOULEVARD BREWING COMPANY
He’s got the job every beer-lover in Kansas City dreams about: Jeff Krum heads up one of the nation’s largest craft brewers, with a production capacity estimated at 700,000 barrels a year. Krum has been along for the ride since the brewery’s inception in 1989, either investing, advising, then ultimately working, very closely with founder John McDonald. Krum took the top job in 2016, after serving as chief financial officer.
COLLEGE: B.A., Economics, Haverford College
BEER BARON: With nearly a dozen brews produced year-round, and nearly a score of seasonal, specialty or limited-release production lines, Boulevard has a beverage that can suit any taste. Or, perhaps with the Oatmeal-Raisin Cookie or Apricot Sour ales, any acquired taste.
GLOBAL OWNERSHIP: In 2013, the Belgian brewer Duval Moortgat purchased the brewery from McDonald and his backers.
CORPORATE CITIZEN: The brewery supports hundreds of organizations and events each year, including those seeking beer donations, but also with space in its events center overlooking Downtown from the Southwest Boulevard mother ship.
PRESIDENT-COMMODITIES/RISK, THE ANDERSONS
After nearly a century of merchandising, storing and transporting grains for feed, food and energy, Lansing Trade Group agreed last year to sell the remaining interest to minority owner The Andersons, Inc., a public company based in Maumee, Ohio. Bill Krueger was the LTG chief executive who saw that deal through, and he stayed on board at the Overland Park offices to oversee the commodities trading operations and risk management.
COLLEGE: B.A., Ag Business, University of Nebraska
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “How important culture is to a company and how far a company can go if the employees believe in the culture.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Playing golf.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Jan. 2, the day we merged with The Andersons, allowing them to enter the Kansas City market.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “To leave a large company and start something on my own.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Steve Jobs. I think he may have had one of the most creative business minds ever.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Christmas.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Whatever my wife tells me to do.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, KBP FOODS
KBP Foods, a franchisor of Yum! Brands, KFC and Taco Bell restaurants was No. 30 on Ingram’s Top 100 Privately Held Companies 2019, with $780 million in revenues last year, and it’s on track to place even higher under Mike Kulp’s leadership. The company is adding restaurants to its Midwest and East Coast portfolio at a rapid annual rate. Kulp gave the company its current moniker after he bought out the former owners of Zancanelli Management Group.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration/Marketing, Colorado Mesa University
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Building a capital structure that brought key members of our management team into equity positions. This opportunity helps us to attract and retain great people and helped us to make meaning financial differences in their lives.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Abraham Lincoln. He was self-made. A leader that demonstrated unmatched courage, conviction and selflessness.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Finding a way to help someone close to me in the business achieve a meaningful breakthrough or goal.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “The influence that you can have when convicted.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A Downtown ballpark.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Start the first day of my next career.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, WILLIAM E. HERZOG ENTERPRISES
Brad Lager is a busy guy. As the top executive for Herzog Enterprises, he’s tasked with leading the heavy construction firm Herzog Contracting Corp., rail-maintenance arm Herzog Transit Services and rail-management innovator Herzog Technologies. Lager is yet another example of emerging young leaders in the region’s power-player companies. Still in his 40s, he’s heading up enterprises with nearly $900 million in combined revenue in 2018.
COLLEGE: B.S., Computer Management Systems, Northwest Missouri State University
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “You don’t have to be right every time or on every decision and very few decisions have to be made instantly and/or in a bubble. The best decisions come by surrounding yourself with people smarter than you, making sure each of them have the opportunity to articulate their perspective and not making a decision until it is necessary. More time and more information often brings more clarity.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “I am a farm boy at heart so spending weekends on the farm and in the tractor.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Our kids are still relatively young, so Christmas is still a special time.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “I love what I do and every day is a new challenge. I cannot imagine retiring. … I have 25 years to figure that out!!”
CEO, MOSAIC LIFE CARE
Being the chief executive at Mosaic Life Care means more than just serving residents of St. Joseph: The city’s population is just 3.5 percent that of the Kansas City MSA, but Mark Laney’s health system nonetheless ranks among the 10 largest hospitals in the region based on patient admissions. That’s a reflection of the outsized role it plays in regional health care in northwest Missouri, northeast Kansas and beyond.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of North Texas, M.S., Medical Management, University of Texas-Dallas and University of Texas-Southwestern; M.D., University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston
PAYROLL POWERHOUSE: With nearly 3,600 employees, Mosaic Life Care is easily the largest employer in St. Joseph.
MAYO MENTALITY: A pediatric neurologist by training, Laney not only 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.
TEXAS ROOTS: Laney worked for eight years with the Cook Children’s Physician Network and 12 more before that on staff at Fort Worth-based Cook Children’s Health Care System, then came to St. Joseph in 2009.
MANAGING PARTNER, DENTONS
The Midwest lost Lisa Krigsten to the nation’s capital for a decade, but her roots helped bring her home. After serving at high levels as a prosecutor in the Justice Department, she signed on with the law firm that is now Dentons (the world’s largest) and directs its Kansas City office operations. Before taking on those duties, she was a key figure in its bet-the-company litigation, drawing on her experience in federal regulatory law.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Kansas; J.D., University of Iowa College of Law
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “To have confidence in my own instincts.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A bit less humility. This is an incredible community and we should not hesitate to boast about it.”
FAVORITE BOOK: “The Nancy Drew books still have a special place in my heart. With her signature ingenuity, Nancy could solve the most intractable mystery, often before dinner. Looking back, those books may have influenced my decision to become a prosecutor.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Tough question. I come from a long line of energetic people who never retired, they simply found new career adventures.”
ELITE COMPANY: She was also a Women Executives–Kansas City honoree in 2018.
PRESIDENT/CEO, JE DUNN CONSTRUCTION CO.
After 90 years, three generations of family ownership and a structural change to sell the company to employees, JE Dunn Construction tuned to someone not named Dunn for the next chapter in the general contractor’s evolution. That someone was Gordon Lansford, and what an evolution it’s been: As CEO, he oversees 20 offices nationwide, helping drive 2018 revenues to a record of nearly $3.6 billion, up more than 30 percent under his leadership.
COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting & Business, Baker University
BEFORE CONSTRUCTION: A certified public accountant, Lansford worked for KPMG before joining JE Dunn.
C-SUITE DEBUT: Before he moved up a rung in 2014, Lansford spent 15 years as CFO for Dunn.
CIVIC WHIRLWIND: Among an impressive roster of non-profits and civic initiatives, he’s done board service or otherwise supported Children’s Mercy Hospital, the United Way the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Boys & Girls Clubs of Kansas City, Baker University, the Kansas City Sports Commission and Newhouse, the
BOARD MEMBER, EVERGY/WADDELL & REED/ASHS
If we didn’t know better, we’d suspect Sandra Lawrence has an identical twin—or triplet. How else to explain the impressive presence on so many boards and non-profits in the Kansas City area. Following a number of years with Children’s Mercy Hospital, she now holds corporate board roles for Evergy (merged from Great Plains Energy and Westar Energy), American Shared Hospital Services and the Ivy and Waddell & Reed Mutual Funds Complex Trust.
COLLEGE: B.A., Psychology Statistics, Vassar College; M.A., Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; MBA, Real Estate/Finance, Harvard University
BOARDS: Lawrence is a director with the National Association of Corporate Directors/Heartland, Hall Family Foundation, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Women Corporate Directors.
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: The Evergy merger. “The process of going through the merger, and helping to design the new organization, gave me the rare opportunity to think comprehensively about organizational structure, synergies, culture, and governance.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “The value of having mentors to help put everything into perspective. I benefited from the wisdom of several mentors, over the years, but did not have a full appreciation for just how much value they were giving to me, did not always know what questions to ask and did not actively take advantage of their generosity.
OWNER, CABLE DAHMER AUTOMOTIVE GROUP
Carlos Ledezma, who came to Cale Dahmer as a consultant, has been head of the auto group for about 25 years, buying up the company in stages over time. It currently has seven locations around the area under the Buick/GMC, Cadillac, Chevrolet and KIA banners. Cable Dahmer Auto Direct, in Independence, is its pre-owned vehicle outlet. Ledezma came to the area from Texas in 1994 as a consultant to area auto dealerships.
IMPRESSING THE OWNER: Two years after Ledezma came to town, founder Jerry Dahmer made him a partner. Ledezma acquired his first dealership in the group in 2002.
AUTOMOTIVE FAMILY: Amanda Ledezma, Carlos’ daughter, is the general manager of Cable-Dahmer Chevrolet. His sister, Sylvia Ledezma Flores, is head of human resources for the company.
GIVING BACK: In 2017, Ledezma received the Heartland Corporate Citizen of the Year Award from the Truman Heartland Community Foundation for volunteering hours and financial support to about 50 organizations in the area.
ON THE INGRAM’s 100: Cable Dahmer came in at No. 46 among the region’s biggest privately companies this year, with $433.2 million in revenue, quite a jump from 50th place and just under $342 million in 2018.
CEO, BAYER ANIMAL HEALTH
Kansas City was lucky enough to acquire the skills of Joyce Lee when Bayer Animal Health made her CEO in 2016; now we’ll see if Elanco will keep her here after buying the Shawnee-based business unit for $7.6 billion last month. If so, they’ll be leveraging an executive who believes in “putting the greater enterprise’s benefit before your own functional area’s benefit and taking risks.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Baylor University; MBA, Jacksonville University
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “1. Business results can be incredible when your customers can understand your purpose. 2. Cultural complexities are more difficult to solve than any business challenges.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Spending time with family and nature.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Retrieving a message that said two of our colleagues were recognized as the supplier of the year. Made me really proud of them.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANIONS: “Both of my grandfathers passed away way before I was born. Although they are not any historical figures … they are heroes to me.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday season where people reflect on gratitude and to be thankful.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, SECURITY BANK OF KANSAS CITY
For nearly 40 years, Jim Lewis has been a fixture at what is now Security Bank of Kansas City, rising through the ranks to assume leadership of the former Valley View State Bank in 2007, then helming the transition of seven banks into one cohesive brand in a 2017 consolidation. That move instantly created a Top 5 entity in the highly competitive Kansas City market, and Security maintains that position with more than $3 billion in assets and $2.4 billion in deposits.
STABILITY: Noncurrent loans as a portion of lending portfolios are just one metric that addresses financial stability, and Security Bank scores with an impressive 0.4 percent figure—about half what most U.S. banks have on their books.
PAYROLL POWER: With 549 employees, its one of the biggest financial-services employers in the region.
BANKING PEDIGREE: The holding company that previously included Security Bank, and Valley View Bancshares, was originally part of the banking empire created by a dynamic pair of late legends in regional financial services, Sherman Dreiseszun and Frank Morgan.
CHAIRMAN, LOCKTON COMPANIES
This will help put David Lockton’s career into perspective: When he joined his brother, founder Jack Lockton, at the latter’s 10-year-old insurance brokerage in 1976, it still had fewer than 10 employees. Today, the world’s largest privately held independent brokerage has more than 7,000 employees worldwide, with more than 90 offices in 27 countries. Nearly all of that growth has come since he took the helm in 1998.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Finance, Kansas State University
ACCOLADES: The company earned No. 1 rankings in client satisfaction from J.D. Power in 2016 and 2017, and has a nine-year streak as a Business Insurance Magazine “Best Place to Work in Insurance.” On a personal note, he won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the EY Entrepreneur of the Year program in 2017.
DID YOU KNOW: Before jumping into insurance, Lockton got his start in banking, logging a year with First National Bank in Kansas City.
GOING GLOBAL: Lockton orchestrated the 2006 acquisition of a London brokerage that immediately earned the firm international status.
CIVIC CHAMPION: A mentor in the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program, he has also devoted time to organizations that include United Way of Greater Kansas City.
PRESIDENT/CEO, LOCKTON COMPANIES
“You’ll have up days and down days throughout your career,” Ron Lockton muses, “but, if you keep doing the right things day in and day out, you’ll build a successful career.” That’s not just a map to personal success, but one that the company founded by his father in 1966 has used to become the world’s largest privately held independent insurance enterprise. Lockton rose to the top executive role there in 2017.
COLLEGE: B.S., Economics, University of Kansas
BATTERY RECHARGE: “A weekend in the country.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Recruiting and hiring a great reinsurance team and celebrating with all of our spouses at Farina.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “To invest in top talent—people.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “James Madison, Father of the Constitution. It would be great to hear his thoughts on the influencers and the framing and writing of the constitution.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Great public education—it’s a key building block for a great community and a great economy.”
MAYOR, KANSAS CITY
Quinton Lucas became mayor on Aug. 1 after serving on the City Council since 2015. The 35-year-old, raised by his mother in a single-parent household, secured a scholarship to attend the Barstow School, and after college was a professor of law at the University of Kansas. During his inauguration address, Lucas stressed the importance of infrastructure improvements, such as finishing the new KCI on time and within its budget.
COLLEGE: B.A., Washington University; J.D., University of Kansas
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To reduce crime and to make Kansas City a safe place to live, build a family, and launch a business—regardless of zip code.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “To not practice law full time in Washington, D.C. I had a great job offer there—the kind you’re told to work toward while in law school—
but I decided to come back to Kansas City and haven’t looked back.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “How many boards and commissions there are in Kansas City. We will appoint about 964 total people to these positions, so I wish we would’ve known about the full bureaucracy from the jump so that we could have these boards up and running and working for Kansas Citians.”
COMMANDING OFFICER, FORT LEAVENWORTH
Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy is a highly decorated combat veteran, with tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan on his record, who became commanding officer at the Army’s prestigious Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in 2016. It’s a key part of Fort Leavenworth, which has nearly 5,400 active-duty personnel, 2,150 civilian employees and an estimated economic impact of $3 billion.
COLLEGE: B.A., McNeese State University; M.A, Strategic Studies, Command and General Staff College, Army War College
OTHER DUTIES: Lundy is also deputy commanding general for the Combined Arms,
U.S. Training and Doctrine Command.
DID YOU KNOW: The fort is one of the biggest single users of Kansas City International Airport, booking more than 1,000 monthly flights—not including passenger volume from families and business activity related to the fort.
HONORS: A highly decorated officer, Lundy has earned 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.
Greg Maday wears a lot of executive hats. When he’s not running SpecChem, a company he co-founded in 2006 that manufactures construction chemicals for the concrete sector of the construction industry, he might be watching soccer, as a part owner of the Sporting Kansas City professional soccer team. He’s also co-founder of DDB, which makes steel products for the concrete industry and is a founder of private-equity firm Rock Island Capital.
COLLEGE: B.S.,Business Administration/Finance, University of Missouri-Columbia; post-graduate studies, Harvard Business School
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “Sometimes ‘even when you’re right you’re wrong.’”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS … “’swagger.’ We need a touch more confidence. Our Midwestern politeness is sometimes mistaken for weakness.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Seeing our associates grow and advance from within.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving…we should all be a little thankful.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Picked good partners.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Winston Churchill.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Sleep in.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, CROSSFIRST BANK
Mike Maddox would love to tell you a growth story, but he can’t talk just now about what he and the team at CrossFirst Bank have achieved. The company is in its SEC-mandated quiet period, having filed for an initial public offering of stock. Anyone pondering shares in this bank should take note of this: Founded amid the financial-services meltdown of 2008, it’s already the third-largest local bank in this market.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business, University of Kansas
COMPETITIVE SPIRIT: Maddox knows a bit about competition, and playing under pressure. He was a member of KU’s national championship basketball squad in 1988.
ROCKET RIDE: Expansion in to Texas and other markets has helped fuel growth for the bank, which first broke the billion-dollar asset barrier in the third quarter of 2014, the $2 billion a mark five quarters later, and $3 billion in 2018.
LEAN AND MEAN: Perhaps the most impressive stat in the FDIC library is that CrossFirst has done all this with just seven offices operating in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Maddox has attributed the decision to refrain from excess brick-and-mortar construction as a key to the bank’s cost-containment strategies.
When you consider the Kansas City region’s emergence as a national center of logistics—and what that discipline entails—you have to think that Paul Malir was born and bred to do what he does: Since joining TranSystems in 1993, he’s developed broad skills in development freight projects, including intermodal air and rail systems. He became president of the firm in 2009, a time when engineering firms were being slammed with the effects of the Great Recession.
COLLEGE: B.S., Civil Engineering, Kansas State University; MBA, University of Kansas
UP THE LADDER: Before becoming president, Malir was chief operating officer for the firm, a role that followed his work as regional vice president and national market sector leader in the federal and aviation units.
NATIONAL FOOTPRINT: With its headquarters in the Crown Center complex, TranSystems operates nearly three dozen offices in 15 states across the nation.
ON THE INGRAM’S 100: Its billings of nearly $192 million for 2018 put TranSystems at No. 72 among the region’s largest private companies this year.
CHAIR, SHOOK, HARDY & BACON
Madeleine McDonough spent nearly four years as a clinical pharmacist, earned her law degree at the University of Kansas, then leveraged it all to great success, representing pharmaceutical companies, medical device makers, and food and cosmetics manufacturers. Now leading the firm with more lawyers in this region than any other, she says that “finding connections between and among fields of study can make a career (and life) far more rewarding.”
COLLEGE: B.S., UMKC School of Pharmacy; J.D., University of Kansas School of Law; LLM, Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “How fast it goes—and the importance of finding something to enjoy every day.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Long walk with a fun podcast. I have dozens saved up.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Celebrating Shook’s 130th anniversary with great colleagues.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Sleep in. And then, not worry about the clock ever again.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To meet and exceed each of the goals of KC Rising and more emphasis on developing our riverfront.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Marie Curie, the first woman to win the Nobel prize. She said that ‘nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.’”
PRESIDENT/CEO, MULTIVAC U.S.
Matt Malott’s career has coincided with the greatest increase in wealth the world has ever seen. So it’s good to be linked to a global company that deals in the foundational elements we take for granted in the First World, packaging systems for food-product quality and safety, life science and health-care products, and industrial goods. The U.S. unit sells plenty of those systems domestically, too, making it one of the region’s 100 largest private companies.
COLLEGE: B.S., Marketing Management, Park University
UP THE LADDER: A Kansas City-area native, he joined Multivac in 1988, and has worked in package design, manufacturing, sales and marketing, in addition to senior leadership roles.
GLOBAL PARENT: The U.S. unit Malott leads is a subsidiary of Multivac Group, based in the Bavarian burg of Wolfertschwenden (try saying that fast three times!) in Germany.
It has operations in 75 countries around the world.
ON THE INGRAM’S 100: With 2018 revenues of $219,000, Malott’s company ranked
No. 68 among the 100 largest private companies in the Kansas City area.
DEAKER PRINCIPAL, OLATHE FORD LINCOLN
It’s tough for a company to secure two spots on the Ingram’s 250—one more reason why Olathe Ford Lincoln stands out. Sam Mansker and his co-pilot, Marc McEver, bought the dealership in 2003—in Mansker’s case, after more than three decades with the company. They are driving stellar growth at the largest Ford dealership in the region: Over the past decade, sales have soared from $309 million to nearly $593 million in 2018.
IN FOR THE LONG HAUL: Mansker was still in the Air Force when he started working at the dealership in 1971.
IMPACT PLAYERS: With a work force of more than 300 (up 10-fold from the com-
pany’s inception) Olathe Ford Lincoln sells more than 25,000 vehicles a year.
RECOGNITION: Ford has honored the Olathe dealership’s sales volume with its Top 100 Club award an impressive 25 times, and with the President’s Award 14 times. The latter distinction goes to only about 7 percent of the nation’s 5,000-plus dealerships for high levels of customer service and experience. The company also has earned Ford’s rare Triple Crown Award, recognizing President’s Award winners who also had Top 100 status in both sales and service.
PRESIDENT/CEO, PERFORMANCE CONTRACTING GROUP
Under Bill Massey’s leadership, Performance Contracting has left its mark on the metro area. From the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts to the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection and Children’s Mercy Hospital, Performance Contracting has grown alongside Kansas City. The company, with 7,500-plus employees, executes complex projects for commercial and industrial clients in more than 60 branches nationwide.
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.”
PARTNER, HUMPHREY, FARRINGTON & McCLAIN
Biblical David might never have reached for the sling and stone if he’d had legal representation like Ken McClain—but we’re pretty sure Goliath would nonetheless have felt the sting of defeat.
McClain and his boutique litigation firm in Independence have won truly spectacular judgments for the Little Guy during a nearly 40-year career, and his top verdicts alone total more than $400 million since 1991.
COLLEGE: B.A., Graceland College; J.D., University of Michigan Law School
Mr. INDEPENDENCE: More than 20 years ago, McClain started investing in small businesses and shops to help restore vitality to the Independence Square in the city’s downtown. Millions of dollars later, the list of shops and retailers he has or still owns numbers nearly 20.
WITH A “B”: Over the course of his career, he has negotiated settlements or won jury verdicts with a combined value north of $1 billion.
SPECIALTIES: McClain has specialized in legal actions against the tobacco industry, asbestos suppliers and makers of artificial butter flavorings used in microwave popcorn. He’s won verdicts totaling more than $100 million for a few workers at microwave popcorn producers.
DOWN GOES GOLIATH: His most recent David-vs.-Goliath case involved a husband and wife who sued the nearly $500 million HMS Holdings Corp. for breach of contract for failure to make follow-up payments after a software firm acquisition. Verdict: $60 million.
PRESIDENT, CREATIVE PLANNING
The numbers keep popping with Creative Planning’s assets under management, now $42.1 billion, with 96,000 clients. For Peter Mallouk and his crew at Creative, that’s up a tidy 2,046 percent from $1.92 billion in 2010. Small wonder, then, that he, individually, and his firm have been recognized multiple times by Barron’s and Forbes as America’s No. 1 wealth manager and No. 1 firm, the nation’s fastest-growing advisory over the past decade.
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Even a two-day getaway with the family is enough to completely recharge me. We do that throughout the year, and I always come back with a lot more energy.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “While our competitors were contracting, we were reinvesting everything, working harder than ever and expanding throughout the recession and beyond. Our clients, and the company, emerged in great shape.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Never going to happen!”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “An NBA team.”
DEALER-PRINCIPAL, OLATHE FORD LINCOLN
You have to hand it to Marc McEver: When he acquired an ownership stake in Olathe Ford Lincoln—where he’s worked since he was 19—he strapped himself onto a growth rocket. In 2010, the dealership’s revenues stood at $322 million, making it one of the region’s largest such enterprises. Last year? A whopping $592 million and change, setting Olathe Ford ahead of anyone else posting sales numbers in the market.
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “The opportunity that was going to be offered. I would have been able to share more appreciation for the two guys who mentored me.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “A family party of 14 and 18 holes of golf.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Just seeing several of the departments working to get in a better position as we move into a very interesting time for selling vehicles.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Taking the offer to start a fleet department for Olathe Ford in 1986.”
HISTORICAL COMPANION: “My dad, to talk about all the successes, kids and grandkids.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Head to Arizona and play golf!!!”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Less winter.”
FOUNDER, MEARA WELCH BROWNE
Hands-down, the best business-related decision John Meara ever made, he declares, was “going into and returning to public accounting.” For half a century, including 40 with the boutique accounting firm he founded in 1977, he’s counseled some of Kansas City’s leading companies and executives. And not just with financials: Meara has also been at the table for civic discussions used by policy-makers to set a community agenda.
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “That 50 years would go by so quickly.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Completing projects (both personal and business) stimulates me and recharges my batteries.”
HIGHLIGHT: “An email from a client and friend of nearly 50 years with his regards for my reputation. He referred to my ‘well-respected and recognized name.’ I was honored!”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Newt Gingrich, because I love his knowledge of history and ability to apply that knowledge to current events.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “4th of July at the lake in Minnesota! Friends and Family for the 4th”
KC NEEDS: “To be a leader in solving problems in the inner city. During the past 50 years, KC has declined in population and little has improved. Civic leaders believe the key is good public schools; anything that can be done to improve them will solve many of our issues.”
CHAIRMAN, FINANCIAL HOLDING CORP./AMERICO LIFE
One of the region’s most influential companies is also one with perhaps the lowest public profile: Financial Holding Corp. and its Americo Life subsidiary have worked behind the scenes for decades in development deals, especially with projects to revitalize Downtown. Michael Merriman is a third-generation leader of the firm, which controls dozens of other corporate ventures.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business, Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University
FINANCIAL ROOTS: The late Joe Jack Merriman, Michael’s father, previously served as chief executive at Waddell & Reed, from 1961-1969.
DOWNTOWN TIES: Americo was long affiliated with the former DST Systems in efforts to revitalize the Quality Hill neighborhood Downtown. The area includes the former Folger’s plant, which had a family tie to Merriman. At the turn of the 20th century, the coffee company located here thanks to one Frank Atha; Joe Jack Merriman later married into the Atha family.
DIVERSE HOLDINGS: Other FHC interests include life insurance, securities, mortgage finance and gas exploration. The parent company’s holdings include a half-interest in the partnership that owns The Kansas City Marriott Downtown and Muehlebach Tower.
PRESIDENT, MIDWAY FORD TRUCK CENTER
Heading up IT at a company doesn’t normally equate to a clear road to the company’s lead role, but it did for Trey Meyer. Named president of Midway Ford Truck Center in 2009, he has put in significant time at the company, having been hired as technology manager in 1991. Midway specializes in the sale of light and heavy trucks and was named 37th in the Ingram’s Top 100 Privately Held Companies 2019, with revenues of just more than $601 million in 2018.
COLLEGE: B.S., University of Kansas
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “Enjoy the journey. I sometimes wish I had been more focused on the here and now.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Choosing to accept a position at Midway Ford Truck Center, 28 years ago!”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving. The family benefits of Christmas without all the pressure.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Quiet time working around the house.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Day 1 on my quest to become bored! I would try to do nothing!”
ROOTS IN TECH: Meyer was formerly a programmer at the University of Kansas.
He’s one more branch from the tree of health-care entrepreneurship that Cerner Corp. has been in this region—and a big branch, at that. Bill Miller spent six years there, serving as vice president for managed services, outsourcing and tech services business units, then moved to OptumInsight, a health-services platform for UnitedHealth Group. In 2017, he came to Mediware Information Systems, which rebranded as WellSky a year later.
COLLEGE: B.A., Economics, M.A., urban planning and public policy, University of Kansas
BOOM: In just the three-year span from 2015-18, WellSky saw its revenues nearly double, from $147.2 million to $297.2 million. The latter figure was good enough to earn the company a No. 56 slot this year on the Ingram’s 100 list of the region’s largest private companies.
ABOUT WELLSKY: The company has clients in four health-care disciplines—hospitals, home-health settings, medical practices and facilities, and the health-care-related business vendors and other entities.
GLOBAL REACH: Among more than 10,000 customer sites served, WellSky counts among clients some of the nation’s largest hospital systems and post-acute care franchises in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Singapore.
PRESIDENT/CEO, BLISH-MIZE CO.
Yes, even hardware wholesaling is a relationship business, so for Jonathan Mize, “going out to visit with customers” is always a highlight of his work. He represents the fifth generation of family ownership for an Atchison-based company that’s nearly 150 years old, selling hardware to retailers in 13 states and offering on-line sales of more than 60,000 items through its Hardware House site.
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “How to motivate people better.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Playing basketball over the noon hour with other local business people.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Coming back to work for our company—29 years and counting!”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Ronald Reagan. He was such a charismatic individual, plus a great leader. It would be cool to get some pointers from him.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Christmas Eve. Just the anticipation/excitement for the upcoming day.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Travel with my wife.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Less violence.”
KC PRESIDENT/GENERAL MANAGER, CIGNA
Kansas City is a competitive health-insurance market, and Frank Monahan has dug his heels in here for 15 years as the president and general manager of Cigna’s Kansas City operations, as well as having responsibilities for Nebraska. With area operations based in Overland Park, Cigna’s local enrollment is more than 220,000 residents. As an overall company, Cigna’s revenues last year came in at $49 billion, a 15 percent increase from 2017.
COLLEGE: B.S., Finance, LaSalle University
INSURANCE VETERAN: Besides his time at Cigna, Monahan was also at competitor Aetna for 11 years. In all, he has worked in insurance for about 30 years. Monahan was also at Premera Blue Cross and Capital Blue Cross.
EXPANSION: In 2016, Cigna launched a KC Medicare Advantage plan that includes most of the area’s largest health systems and 1,200 primary care physicians and specialists.
SHAPE UP SHAWNEE: Cigna has worked with the City of Shawnee on its workplace wellness program, called Shape Up Shawnee, involving regular seminars, individual nutrition coaching and on-site fitness facilities at city hall.
MARATHON MAN: Monahan is passionate about fitness, and it is on his bucket list to one day complete a full triathlon.
GENERAL MANAGER, KANSAS CITY ROYALS
It might seem long ago, but Dayton Moore had a big hand in making the Kansas City Royals a two-time World Series competitors and champion of one earlier this decade. The team’s general manager started that role in 2006 after he had worked in various positions for the Atlanta Braves for more than a decade. Major League Baseball named Moore, under contract through 2020, Executive of the Year in 2014 and 2015, the years of its two World Series appearances.
COLLEGE: A.A. Garden City Community College; B.S., Physical Education/Health and M.S., Sports Administration, George Mason University
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Retirement is not something I’ve ever thought about. Baseball is all I’ve ever wanted to do, and I can’t imagine a day where I don’t love being around the game.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “Everything and everyone matters; however, while everyone is important, no one is necessary. Even the greatest players retire, and the game of baseball goes on. The same is true in any business.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Branch Rickey. He had a terrific baseball mind and was way ahead of his time. He knew the importance of what baseball meant to society and how he could use the game to do good for others.”
The “vet” in Durvet speaks to veterinary supplies, and the company is forefront in the Kansas City region’s emergency as a global center of excellence in animal health. Leading that charge for Durvet since 2015 is Todd Muenstermann, who heads a company founded on innovation in 1970—it was the first animal-health enterprise to both make and distribute over the counter animal-health goods.
COLLEGE: B.S./B.A., Marketing, Management, University of Central Missouri
THE LADDER UP: Before becoming the chief executive, Muenstermann spent nearly 20 years as a marketing manager, then vice president of sales for the Blue Springs company.
ON THE INGRAM’s 100: With $194.2 million in 2018 revenues, Durvet clocked in at
No. 72 on list of the region’s biggest private companies.
GROWTH ARC: Currently operating in 78,000-square-foot warehouse, the company is working on an expansion that will tack on 54,000 more square feet.
PARTNER, SHOOK, HARDY & BACON
For three terms over 15 years, John Murphy has led the city’s largest law firm, using that clout to drive change. “If you are going to work in a city, you also have to be an active member of that city’s civic and philanthropic communities,” says the Shook, Hardy & Bacon partner. And he’s not done: When retirement beckons, he says, “I fully intend to start an encore career where I hopefully can use my years of experience to help others grow.”
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Connecticut; J.D., Washington and Lee University College of Law
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “How much fun and rewarding the last 40 years was going to be.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Watching sports (pretty much any sport).”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Seeing construction work begin on the new terminal at KCI.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Abraham Lincoln. I have always been fascinated by his decision to appoint his main rivals as key members of his administration. I would love to talk with him about that decision.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To continue to build on the spirit of collaboration that has this region moving in a positive direction.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, KRM, Inc.
KRM, Inc., led by Michael Norsworthy, is a Kansas City-based restaurant chain that operates eateries under the names 54th Street Grill & Bar and 54th Street Restaurant & Drafthouse. The company currently operates in the Kansas City area, as well as in and around St. Louis, San Antonio and Dallas, and the two Texas metros are getting more outlets this year. Last year, Nation’s Restaurant News named KRM one of its Top 200 brands.
COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting, UMKC
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “I knew but refused to listen to the three most important things when starting a business: Location, Location, Location.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Ray Kroc of McDonald’s, I’d love to hear him talk about the restaurant business during his era.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Christmas because it is the only day the restaurants are closed.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Try to figure out what the hell I’m going to do with my time.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Hiring and retaining my top five people that make me look good every day.”
PAST YEAR’S BEST BUSINESS MEMORY: “Being on the Forbes List of Top Employers to work for in Missouri.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Going to the gym.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “An NBA team.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, MURPHY-HOFFMAN COMPANY
Tim Murphy leads Murphy-Hoffman Co., a 3,700-employee firm that sells and leases Kenworth and Volvo long-haul trucks through a network of 100 locations in 16 states that includes 70 dealerships, 28 leasing locations, cold-storage facilities and financing offices. Earlier this year, the company added Ford Transit vans to its rental capabilities, increasing final-mile delivery options for its clients. MHC was born out of Ozark Kenworth, which was founded in 1975 in Springfield.
COLLEGE: B.B.A, Spring Hill College
LOYALTY: Murphy is on the board of trustees of Spring Hill College, in Mobile, Ala.
FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS: Not only does Murphy oversee his company’s MHC Financial Services business line, but he is also on the board of directors of UMB Financial Corp., the metro’s second-largest bank.
BUILDING TRUCKING’S FUTURE: MHC partnered with Ozark Technical Community College earlier this year to expand the school’s diesel training facility in Springfield. The 12,500-square-foot MHC Diesel Technician Training Center opened its doors in early 2019.
ARKANSAS GROWTH: Last year MHC relocated MHC Kenworth/Volvo – Springdale, in Arkansas, to a new facility off Interstate 49, making it the largest MHC has in the state. The new location is 70 percent larger and features an amenity-filled trucker’s lounge.
PRESIDENT & CEO, KANSAS CITY SPORTS COMMISSION & FOUNDATION
The Royals and Sporting Kansas City have bagged championships in baseball and soccer in recent years. Kathy Nelson hopes to complete the trifecta with a Super Bowl victory parade. Her work helps put this region in the national spotlight for pro, college and amateur sports events, and a big focus now to get global exposure for the city as a host for soccer’s 2026 FIFA World Cup.
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “‘Pressure is a Privilege – Billie Jean King.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “A day at our lake house with our two daughters.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “To work with the St. Louis Sports Commission in crafting legislation to support our efforts in attracting amateur sporting events to our cities.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Kevin Gray, my predecessor. I’d love to tell him all about the great things happening in Kansas City because of his vision years ago. I also think he would be very proud of the Sports Commission, how we are focused on making a better KC through sports and how Sprint Center has transformed our community.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “After sleeping in I’d spend time getting my workout routine back in shape.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, D.H. PACE COMPANY
The best business decision Rex Newcomer says he ever made at family owned D.H. Pace was something he didn’t do: It was “not to sell the business,” he say, succinctly. Quite the opposite, the company based in Olathe has been active in acquisitions, facility expansions and broadening its product line of commercial and residential doors, loading dock equipment and specialty products.
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “The power of patient persistence.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Exercise and reading.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “The growth and contribution of our younger leaders.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Alexander Hamilton. He was at the center of events in the revolution, the formation of the first government and in key legislation that established the country on a sound footing.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “4th of July.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Start writing a book.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To grow into a biotech and technology hub.”
COO, CERNER CORP.
Change has come at the top of the region’s biggest employer, but the ranks of Cerner’s executive team are stocked with seasoned veterans, including Mike Nill, who came on board as a software engineer in 1996. He oversees creation, implementation, management and support of the company’s information technology, and has led numerous ventures as the company has morphed from health-care provider software into health analytics.
COLLEGE: B.S., Computer Information Systems, Rockhurst University
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “That you need to focus more about your success in your current position, rather than proving you can do the next job.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “A good workout. Or farming.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Watching the expansion of our new Innovations Campus.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Completion of our recent Amazon partnership.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Ed White, who was the first American astronaut to EVA (extravehicular activity). It would be interesting to talk to someone crazy enough to crawl outside of a spacecraft orbiting the globe at a speed of 17,000 mph.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “4th of July, because I am a pyromaniac.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A Super Bowl win to go with our recent World Series win.”
CHAIRMAN/CEO, U.S. ENGINEERING
Tyler Nottberg might be the fifth generation of his family to lead U.S. Engineering, but he didn’t take that top position without exploring other paths. Before joining the firm, he was co-founder of the legal, economic and regulatory affairs practice at business-education network Gerson Lehrman Group. He’s been a project engineer, project manager and vice president at the firm, which has done work on the H&R Block headquarters, among other significant area projects.
COLLEGE: B.A., Middlebury College
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “The highs and the lows of business and life are never as high or as low as they may seem at the time.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Watching our class of interns give individual presentations on all of the work that they did this summer, the lessons they learned, and how much they appreciated the mentoring that our full-time team members provided. Every one of them gave me hope for our future, meaning U.S. Engineering’s future as well as our community’s.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Joining U.S. Engineering after my wife and I had been living away from Kansas City for a number of years.”
STINT IN POLITICS: Nottberg worked for former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and for his 1996 presidential campaign.
COO, BURNS & MCDONNELL
“I grew up in a family where everything we could do ourselves, we did,” says North Dakota native John Olander. From that kernel springs the entrepreneurial mindset that helps drive successful team formation and organizational growth at the region’s largest engineering firm. He leads the Transmission & Distribution Group, a major service line in the energy sector. with more than 1,500 engineering and technical professionals in offices or on project sites worldwide.
COLLEGE: B.S., Engineering, North Dakota State University; MBA, University of Kansas
HIGH PRAISE: The unit he oversees routinely earns annual No. 1 engineering firm recognition from Engineering News-Record.
THE LADDER UP: After coming on board in 1991, Olander reached senior executive status in 2008, as vice president, then became general manager of transmission distribution in 2012, joining the board of directors three years later.
NON-PROFIT INTERESTS: He on the board for the Mid America Chapter of the National MS Society and on the advisory Board for Blue Valley’s Center for Advanced Professional Studies.
SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENTS: “Successfully executing very large projects with a design-build delivery method in both the United States and Canada.
PRESIDENT, CITY WIDE MAINTENANCE
Jeff Oddo put the already successful City Wide Maintenance on a heightened growth path when he took over as president from his father, Frank, in 1996, and the expansion continues. The janitorial-services franchisor signed on its first international franchisee, in Canada, earlier this year. It has also bolstered its presence in Florida and New York. City Wide is now in 55 U.S. regions, with nearly $250.5 million in 2018 revenues, up 17.5 percent over 2017.
COLLEGE: B.A., Kansas State University
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Franchising! By far the best decision; anyone who has a
good business model should consider franchising it.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “I really wish I understood the monetary value of my
time. I don’t bill by the hour, but if I had thought about my work in terms of an hourly
rate, I would have delegated much more. By doing so, I suspect City Wide would have
been more successful earlier on.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Jesus, because he was the greatest influencer/leader in the world. Not only did he believe in what he preached, he was willing to die for us and our sins.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “I love playing guitar and running!”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A Downtown sports stadium for our local teams.”
OF COUNSEL, BERKOWITZ OLIVER
If one word could describe David Oliver, it might be “collaboration.” He’s a trial attorney who encourages clients to avoid the emotional and financial cost of going to trail. He’s a huge proponent
of improving execution at non-profit organizations. And with his consulting practice, he helps companies diversify and strengthen their boards and practices. As for non-profit service, one other
word comes to mind: “Ubiquitous.”
COLLEGE: B.A., History, Haverford College, J.D., Boston University School of Law
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “That life is more unpredictable than I thought and flexibility
is a key to success.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Successfully managing a dual career: practicing law and now legal consulting with not for profits on making them better businesses.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Surrounding myself with law partners smarter than I am.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Thomas Jefferson. Understanding his role in creating our country. Asking why he never freed his slaves.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Don’t know, since I doubt I will ever ‘retire.’”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Business leaders who care as much about the community as their businesses. We have that tradition, but need to be encouraging it now more than ever.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, KANSAS CITY SOUTHERN RAILWAY
Kansas City is famous for being midpoint of the NAFTA Superhighway—Interstate 35—but it’s also the home of a key rail component in trade with Mexico: Kansas City Southern Railway. And Patrick Ottensmeyer has been driving that train since 2016, when he became chief executive of the publicly traded company, which logged $2.7 billion in 2018 revenues and employs more than 6,000 people across its lines.
COLLEGE: B.S., Indiana University
INFLUENCE: Earlier this year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce turned to Ottensmeyer to serve as chairman of its U.S.-Mexico Economic Council, citing his career track record of bringing public-sector and private-sector officials together to promote trade.
ABOUT KCS: The transportation holding company has rail lines that run through the central U.S. and into Mexico and Panama, reaching ports on both the Pacific side of Central America as well as the Gulf of Mexico.
SE HABLA ESPAÑOL: The company also has a Mexican subsidiary: Kansas City Southern de Mexico, which has terminals in Lázaro Cárdenas, Tampico and Veracruz. Further south, it has half-interest in the Panama Canal Railway Co.
Gayle Packer has gradually reached the top at Terracon, an Olathe-based engineering consulting firm with 4,500 employees in 140 offices in all 50 states. Named chief executive officer in January and retaining the president title she held since June 2018, Packer first joined the company in June 2004 and was senior vice president and director of corporate sales until another promotion in 2012, to executive vice president and chief administrative officer.
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, B.S., International Studies, M.S., Agricultural Economics, Ohio State University; J.D., University of Minnesota Law School; LLM, Agricultural Law, University of Arkansas School of Law
FIRST CAR: “A 1981 Ford Escort wagon my dad bought from the junk yard.”
IF YOU COULD HAVE HAD ANY OTHER CAREER .. “Travel planner—I love helping people experience the world.”
BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Learn from your mistakes, but don’t look backwards; you aren’t going that direction.”
FIRST JOB, AND LESSONS LEARNED: “Working in our family farm market. I learned values like hard work, treating people fairly, always doing your best and enjoying the little things in life every day, particularly valuing family and friends.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, University of Kansas Health System
For more than a decade, Bob Page worked to get the University of Kansas Hospital off the ropes and into high-performance mode. Since becoming chief executive in 2007, he’s been matching the mission—statewide care provider—to the model, with hospital acquisitions in Hays, Larned, Great Bend and Topeka. “I wish,” he says, “I would have learned about mergers and acquisitions and deal structures earlier in my career.” Could have fooled us.
COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting, Illinois Wesleyan
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Playing golf.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “We were recognized as the fifth-best academic medical center in the country by Vizient.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “To purchase the former Heartland Spine and Specialty Hospital in Overland Park.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Speaking as a baseball fan, Lou Gehrig. He was the consummate baseball player—talented, all about the team, humble …”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Christmas.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Sleep in, play a round of golf and have a great dinner.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A world-class airport.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, Parris Communications
Roshann Parris founded her public relations and strategic communications firm in Kansas City in 1988, and has built a roster of local clients among some of the most recognizable names in regional business: Burns & McDonnell, H&R Block, Polsinelli, and others. Civically involved, both locally and nationally, she has served the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and, while managing her firm did work for both the Clinton and Obama administrations.
COLLEGE: B.A., Indiana University, MBA, University of Kansas
OVERSEAS COORDINATOR: Parris lead teams to coordinate candidate and presidential visits to dozens of countries to attend numerous events, including the funeral of Mother Teresa in India, peace efforts in the Mideast and the 2012 Summer Olympics.
BOARD SERVICE: Parris has served on several area civic and philanthropic boards, including Children’s Mercy Hospital, United Way of Greater Kansas City, and UMKC’s Board of Trustees. In 2013, she was named chair of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the fourth woman to achieve the honor in its then 126-year history.
POLITICAL BEGINNINGS: Parris started her career in Washington, D.C., as a researcher on U.S. Middle East policy for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and soon joined the staff of U.S. Sen. Walter D. Huddleston (D-Ky.).
CEO, TECHNOLOGY GROUP SOLUTIONS
The best business decision Lenora Payne ever made, she says, was starting one. “Even though it was difficult to start, it was truly worth the trouble,” says the owner of this IT consultancy, which has soared to $142 million in annual revenues. “Being my own boss is something I’ve wanted since I recognized my mother as an entrepreneur. She owned an antique shop when I was little, and she was quite successful. I think my mom is the one that gave me my entrepreneurial spirit.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “To hire a reputable CPA and lawyer when starting my business. They are a quintessential part of starting a business and I could have fast-tracked TGS’s success (and avoided a few headaches) with their additions.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Maya Angelou.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving. Being around my family is what I look forward to each November. Gathered around one big table and sharing a meal is the best way to connect with my loved ones.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “I don’t see myself in retirement, really. But when that day comes, I’ll probably want to take a trip out of the country and travel.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Better access to technology. Data drives our community, and without access to that data, or the ability to collect that data, we cannot continue to grow.“
He was one of the first employees hired by Gary Burrell and Min Kao with a venture they incorporated as Pronav International. Today, it’s Garmin International, and that young software engineer is now at the corporate helm. Clifton Pemble has helped steer the company from its roots in vehicle navigation systems into personal-use and wearable technologies for health and fitness, but it remains a powerful global force in GPS technologies.
COLLEGE: B.S., Mathematics/Computer Science, MidAmerica Nazarene University
UP THE LADDER: Pemble held roles in systems engineering and software engineering management before he was invited to sit on the company’s board in 2004. He became president and COO in 2007, then assumed control after Kao retired as CEO in 2013.
BEFORE PRONAV: Pemble’s career started with AlliedSignal, where he worked on general-aviation satellite navigation systems.
GLOBAL REACH: Garmin has 13,000 associates in 60 offices around the world, including roughly 3,500 at its expanding Olathe headquarters.
COMPANY MOTTO: “Beat Yesterday.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, HALLMARK CARDS
After a 30-year commitment to Hallmark, Mike Perry has risen to the top of management at this iconic Kansas City company. He was promoted to president and chief executive officer in June from president at the Hallmark Greetings division. His step up the ladder replaced two members of the founding family, Don and Dave Hall, who respectively took the roles of executive chairman and executive vice chairman. Perry joined Hallmark in 1989.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, University of Missouri-Kansas City
THE BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Focus first on being a good listener. One of your most important roles you have as a leader is to help your team see where we’re going. Leaders who don’t listen well often miss the important nuances that would have helped both them and their teams gain a deeper level of understanding and engagement.”
BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES: “Being myself. Be as honest, candid and transparent as you can be. Demonstrate humility. People generally want to make a positive difference. Being honest and transparent about challenges and opportunities helps everyone to better understand and collectively engage in the work at hand.”
COLORFUL PAST: Perry served as president and CEO of Hallmark’s Crayola division from 2009 to 2015.
KC MARKET PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS HEALTH SYSTEM
She was already executive VP, chief nursing officer and COO, so when the expanding health-care giant created the role of market president last year, Tammy Peterman was a natural choice. “I’ve always known people are critical to any organization,” she says. “What I know now is that hiring the right people, ensuring there is a great culture fit, and supporting them to be successful are some of the most important roles of any leader in any organization.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Nursing, BSN, M.S., University of Kansas School of Medicine
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Spending time with family—outside, traveling, attending sporting events or just hanging out.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “The day Charlie Sunderland announced a (Sunderland Foundation) gift of $66 million to support our health system.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “To stay at The University of Kansas Health System—even during the not-so-great days many years ago.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Abe Lincoln (we share the same birthday, Feb. 12th). He saw our country through difficult times and also had some challenges in his family life.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A new, beautiful, updated and well-resourced airport—which we’ll have some day.”
KC MARKET PRESIDENT/CEO, U.S. BANK
Tim Petty has overseen the Kansas City market for US Bank since 2016 and has been with the organization in a leadership role since 2000. Before that, he was a vice president of commercial banking at Bank of America, so he’s held top roles at two of the five biggest commercial banks in the country. Petty says that strong leadership and being a servant-leader with compassion and integrity is crucial to the success of a company and has helped his endeavors as well.
COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting/Finance, Kansas State University
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Picking my boss. All of us get the opportunity to work for someone but taking time to research the person you will report to before you say ‘yes’ is really important. I got that advice many years ago and I am so happy I followed it.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “One thing that never gets old is spending time visiting a business owner’s place of business and taking a tour. I love hearing their stories and seeing their eyes light up as they talk about their business and their people. I get to do this multiple times a year, and it is always the highlight of my day. Recently I met with a business owner who came from Cuba with nothing. He became a regional president of a Fortune 100 company and is so proud to be an American and have had the opportunity to excel in a place like this. It is inspiring to hear those stories.”
COO, Saint Luke’s Health System
If anyone can tell you how health-care delivery is changing, Julie Quirin can. As COO at the largest non-profit health system in the region, she’s overseen operations not just at the four flagship hospitals, but development of a community-hospital concept that has added services in Overland Park (two sites), Olathe, Kansas City, Kan., Roeland Park, Leawood and, most recently, Shawnee. The system she helps manage had nearly $6.9 billion in 2018 revenues.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business/Corporate Communications, Buena Vista University; M.A., Organizational Communication, University of Kansas
ENDURING WISDOM: When Quirin was recognized as a 2009 Women Executives-Kansas City honoree, she offered this career advice to aspiring female executives, but it holds true for either gender today: “Always be authentic. … I think it’s important to be yourself, understand
your natural style and assess your strengths and weaknesses in order to improve.”
IMPACT: Hospitals in the Saint Luke’s network combined to admit more than 50,000 patients in 2018, roughly 15 percent of all admissions in a highly fragmented (and competitive) market.
THE LADDER UP: When the role of COO was created last year, Quirin brought to those duties a CEO’s perspective, having previously held the top executive roles at both Saint Luke’s South in Overland Park and the mother ship Saint Luke’s Hospital on the Country Club Plaza.
Rosie Privitera Biondo
PRESIDENT, MARK ONE ELECTRIC
Rosie Privatera Biondo, her three brothers and their 300 employees are still savoring the new-car smell of their 131,000-square-foot West Bottoms headquarters, a massive facility that will keep the company positioned as one of the region’s elite electrical contractors. Her involvement in civic initiatives, too, has set an example of what it means to engage with important causes—and how to do it right.
COLLEGE: University of Missouri-Kansas City
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “To learn how to golf.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Sun and swim.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Electing our new vice presidents at Mark One.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Mother’s Day.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Don’t retire.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “More housing Downtown, restaurants, entertainment.”
CHAIRMAN/PRESIDENT/CEO, ECCO SELECT
The best business decision Jeanette Prenger ever made, she says, was “to quit ‘working in the business’ and focus on ‘working on the business’” she founded in 1995. That might explain how the IT staffing and services firm won its largest multi-year contract not long ago. “We have a lot of people that worked hard and really pushed themselves to provide and execute solutions that have helped us with existing and new clients,” she says.
COLLEGE: B.S., Management Information Systems, Park University
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “Hire slow, fire fast.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Doing anything that involves being in or around water. I love boating.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Winning our largest multi-year contract. We have a lot of people that worked hard and really pushed themselves to provide and execute solutions that have helped us with existing and new clients.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Jesus Christ. I have a lot of questions.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Christmas. It’s a very special holiday for our family. It’s not about the gifts, but the celebration of the most special birthday for our family.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Give away my business clothes.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A solution to the violence in our city. It’s not only devastating for the victims and their families but it has tarnished our city’s reputation.”
MarksNelson’s Mark Radetic has been with the accounting and business-advisory firm since 2003. He handles businesses in several industries, construction and car dealerships in particular. Radetic was formerly a partner at Henderson, Warren & Eckinger. A baseball commentator in another life, and an eager public speaker in this one, he stresses the significance of a strong team environment in the workplace.
COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting, Benedictine College
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Stan Musial. Though it was in the waning years
of his career, he was a childhood idol who played with greatness, humility and had a
wonderful sense of humor.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “The importance of being a contributing part of a great
culture: ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Getting to work 2 hours before anybody else arrives.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Governments on both sides of the state line working together and bringing an NBA or NHL team here.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “A tie between 4th of July and Thanksgiving.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Up at 6 a.m., do my speed walk and have a mimosa for breakfast!”
CHIARMAN/CEO, HELZBERG DIAMONDS
Beryl Raff already had what one would consider a formidable retail career even before Warren Buffet hired her to take on her current role in 2009 leading Helzberg Diamonds. Prior to Helzberg, Raff held executive positions at Macy’s Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. and was chairman and chief executive officer of Zale Corp. Raff is also very involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Helzberg is a regular fund raiser for the organization.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, Boston University; MBA, Drexel University
HISTORICAL COMPANION: “Princess Diana—I love the KC Royals and the British royals.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Coming to Kansas City to join Helzberg Diamonds.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “The importance of developing a network. I would have achieved much less in my life without the aid and support of others.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “A couple of days at the beach and a good night’s sleep.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Before beginning an active volunteer role with Make-A-Wish, I’d sleep late.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Economic solutions to create more opportunity for everyone: unemployed,
underemployed, business, labor, the arts, education—everyone across the board.”
HALL-OF-FAMER: Raff was inducted to the National Jeweler’s Retailer Hall of Fame in
2009 and is a long-time member of the Women’s Jewelry Association’s Lifetime Hall of Fame.
PRESIDENT, RAINEN COMPANIES
Michael Rainen founded Rainen Companies in 2002 from an interior-furnishings enterprise, and since then, the firm has developed numerous multifamily properties around the Kansas City area. The first purchase his new company made was of three apartment complexes from Resolution Trust, and then Rainen was off and running. Among some of his best-known investments over the last few years include Liberty at Shoal Creek, in the Northland, and Pershing Lofts, near Union Station.
COLLEGE: B.A., Finance, University of Texas
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To move the state line to the west of Lawrence.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Trust your gut, even when others don’t agree. I was opposed by my own team on a strategy that I believed in. I made the decision to go for it. It quadrupled our business in four months!!”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Ben Franklin, he was a renaissance man and a visionary.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Valentine’s Day, Kathy and my anniversary.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Promoting a bright, very hard-working manager who has been with me for 16 years to vice president and COO. She is doing great!!!”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Not to retire.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “You don’t have to work 24/7 to succeed, but if you start with $500 and lose that at ‘go,’ it helps.”
PARTNER, HUSCH BLACKWELL
Charles Renner is an expert in public-private partnerships; every year he conducts an annual nationwide survey and analysis of these initiatives and uses his findings to advise clients and communities on developments they are considering. That has yielded significant experience working on community improvement districts and tax increment financing, creating what he believes is healthy competition between municipalities for business.
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, University of Missouri-Kansas City; J.D., UMKC City
School of Law
BIG PROJECTS: The chair of Husch’s public-private partnership group has been involved in several high-profile works, including the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
A GROWING TREND: Renner’s latest 3P survey found that communities are increasingly less opposed to public-private partnerships—only 48 percent of participants in this year’s survey said they encountered opposition, compared to 73 percent in 2018.
VIBRANT DOWNTOWNS: Renner has written that public-private partnerships are vital in creating the types of city centers that many communities prefer—downtown areas where people live, work and play that attract a work force of young professionals.
FOUNDER, HOPE IN THE STREETS/WORSHIP WAGON
He’s always been an advocate of doing well and doing good, and these days, a lot of focus is on the latter. Joe Ratterman’s work with a pair of faith-based initiatives reflects a spiritual strength that informed his work with the former BATS Global Markets, even though he wishes he’d realized the connection earlier. He’s still got a hand in business with a board seat for Axoni, a New York company specializing in blockchain technology.
COLLEGE: B.S., Math/Computer Science, University of Central Missouri
BATTERY RECHARGE: “A 5-mile run or 30-mile bike ride usually clears my mind and gets me back to 100 percent physically and mentally.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Watching the management team at Axoni complete their latest funding round ($36 million).”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Working with my senior team to expand our company and start a European affiliate.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Roger Bannister. I would love to hear his story leading up to breaking the 4-minute mile.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day (Aug. 4 this year).”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Start an around-the-world, multiple-month cruise with my wife.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A Broadway-play ecosystem. Long-running, top-billing shows.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, GREATER KANSAS CITY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Joe Reardon has had a lot on his plate since taking the lead at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce more than three years ago, but that’s nothing new for the business leader, who has headed several high-profile area organizations. His current task is to represent the interests of 2,200 businesses around Kansas City and to promote the area. Among the projects he has actively promoted is the new terminal at Kansas City International Airport.
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, Rockhurst University; J.D., University of Kansas
School of Law
MAYORAL EXPERIENCE: Reardon served as mayor and chief executive officer of the United Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, for two terms, over which time saw the implementation of Google Fiber’s high-speed Internet into the area, as well as the development of Sporting Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Park.
HEALTHY CITY FOCUS: Reardon is on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Prize advisory group, which annually provides awards to U.S. communities that demonstrate a commitment to health opportunity and equity.
BACK TO SCHOOL: He was an instructor at Rockhurst University from 2013 to 2017, teaching regionalism to students majoring in economics, political science and management.
PRESIDENT/CEO, BANK OF BLUE VALLEY
Over the past year, Bob Regnier put the filigree on 30 years of community banking by merging into Heartland Financial. It’s a culmination, he says, of the best business decision he ever made: “Starting the Bank of Blue Valley” in 1989. That’s the macro. The micro is what he’s seen daily, as with a recent encounter: “Watching a long-time customer we helped in a start-up phase realize a gain on their sale,” he says, is what it’s all about.
COLLEGE: B.A., Kansas State University; MBA, University of Missouri-Kansas City
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “The value of starting up a new bank.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Going to a good movie with my wife and getting into the story.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Mark Twain. His insights on life were pithy and poignant
and he always delivered them with humor, which caused you to give them consideration.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Look for opportunities to help new businesses get started and succeed.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To get a little swagger. We should be proud of what our city has to offer.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, HUNT MIDWEST
Hunt Midwest might be known best for SubTropolis, the 6-million-square-foot underground storage facility that is the world’s largest. But the company, under the leadership of Ora Reynolds, has been very busy above ground, too. Google plans to go into a coming Northland development, Arlington Business Park, and Hunt is significantly expanding in senior housing. Reynolds has been in her current post since 2014 and joined the firm in 1990
COLLEGE: B.S., Finance, Indiana University, Bloomington
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Stronger population growth to continue to fuel local economic development.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Surrounding myself with smart and authentic people throughout my career.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “The value of developing deep relationships.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Sleep!!!”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Retire!! Do absolutely nothing while walking on an exotic beach!”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “First day of spring—not an official holiday but…”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Too many to name and the year is not over yet!”
John Ricciardelli has led the Kansas City operations of Honeywell since 2016 and has been with the company for more than a decade. He is charged with managing and operating the Department of Energy’s National Security Campus near Martin City, which makes non-nuclear parts for the country’s missile-defense system. Since the New Jersey native began his term at the facility, employment has increased by 2,000, to 4,500 workers.
COLLEGE: B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Penn State University; EMBA, Texas Christian
AIRBUS ASSISTANCE: Before coming to Kansas City, Ricciardelli was with Honeywell’s Mechanical and Air Management Systems in Phoenix, where he worked on the Airbus A350 XWV jet airliner’s development and was responsible for profit and loss of the business.
BOARD SERVICE: Among the civic boards Ricciardelli serves on are the Kansas City Area Development Council and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.
HUMAN RESOURCES: Ricciardelli has said that if he could pick a different career path, it would be in the human resources field, because of his passion for people and organization development.
PRESIDENT/CEO, JACK COOPER HOLDINGS
Everything you need to know about the way Michael Riggs runs a business was summed up in 2014, when he told Automotive Purchasing & Supply Chain magazine: “The idea of a genius with a thousand underlings, or a superstar who everyone bows down to, is a horrible business philosophy. … Build the best management team then get out of their way.” He’s done that at Jack Cooper, parent of the vehicle-transporting giant serving the auto industry nationwide.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business, Kettering University; MBA, Harvard Business School
GETTING TO COOPER: Riggs worked for General Motors and other vehicle-sector interests before he acquired Jack Cooper in 2009, stopped the bleeding, and began expanding. From 120 on staff when he started, it’s one of the largest car-haul companies
in North America, employing more than 3,000.
FULL CONTROL: He, his children and grandchildren own more than 70 percent of voting securities. The grandchildren piece is significant; the shares in trust for them are a constant reminder that the company needs to take a long-term path to success.
HONORS: Ernst & Young recognized Riggs as its Midwest region’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013, and he’s also a past recipient of Automotive Supply Chain magazine’s Global Outstanding Achievement Award.
PRESIDENT/CEO, BERKEL & COMPANY CONTRACTORS
Greg Righter leads Berkel & Company Contractors, a foundation-construction business that was founded in 1959 and does work nationwide from its seven U.S. offices. Berkel has laid foundations for some of the country’s most sizable developments, including high rises, stadiums, hotel-casino resorts and power plants. One of the employee-owned company’s advantages is that it manufactures much of its own equipment in-house. This makes repairing and replacing tools more efficient.
COLLEGE: B.S., Civil Engineering, Clemson University; M.A., Civil Engineering, Georgia Tech
MAKING ROOMS: One of the projects Berkel has worked on this year is the new headquarters of hotel owner Marriott International. It has done excavation work on the site, in Bethesda, Md., which will include a 21-story office building and a 244-room hotel.
FOUNDATION FLEXIBILITY: Berkel is able to create deep foundations, develop retention systems and make ground and soil improvements to projects.
A WIDE REACH: Besides its Bonner Springs headquarters, Berkel has office in the Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, Nashville, Orlando and San Francisco areas. It does work in the Caribbean and has a growing international presence.
ON THE INGRAM’S 100: Righter’s company clocked in at No. 58 on this year’s list of the region’s largest private companies, with $263 million in 2018 revenues.
PRESIDENT/CEO, UMB BANK
Jim Rine is proof that you can still work your way to the top sticking with the same company. The president and CEO of UMB Bank has spent his entire professional career at the institution, which was spanned just under 25 years. He was promoted to his current position in October 2018 from the role of president of commercial banking. Rine leads the metro’s second-largest bank in terms of assets, with just under $22 billion as of the end of last year.
COLLEGE: B.S., Finance, Missouri State University
FIRST JOB, AND LESSONS LEARNED: “When I started my career at UMB as a credit analyst, I quickly realized I had a lot to learn about the business. This led me to understand the importance of relationship-building, being humble and asking for help, and listening.”
BUCKET LIST No. 1: “I am a big music fan. I would love to spend the afternoon with Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin and just ask to hear his stories—the unknown tidbits on his life, music and career.”
BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Surround yourself with the best people, treat them well, and be secure enough in your own abilities to give them all the credit along the way.”
BUSINESS DEPARTMENT CHAIR, POLSINELLI, PC
Whether the enterprise is on a corporate level or family-owned, Frank Ross helps people grow their businesses. At Polsinelli, he has expanded the business department from 30 attorneys in 1998 to more than 400, and he has been part of several major mergers and acquisitions totaling billions of dollars, in health care, technology, architecture, among others. Earlier this year, he expanded Polsinelli’s Employee Stock Ownership Plans practice.
COLLEGE: B.S., Kansas State University; J.D., Washburn University School of Law; LLM,
Georgetown University Law Center
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Closing the combination of Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health into the new CommonSpirit Health, a transaction valued at more than $30 billion.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “I thought I knew what patience meant when I started my career—now I really know what it means.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Accepting Jim Polsinelli’s offer to join his law firm in 1980.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A path forward to help this wonderful community solve the cycle of violence that crosses both sides of the state line. It seems to be an impossible goal, but it’s so worth the effort.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Time away with family and/or friends in Hawaii or Napa Valley.”
CEO, CUSTOM TRUCK ONE SOURCE
Fred Ross is part of a family that has created a monster in the trucking and heavy-equipment world, with sales, rentals, parts and services. The focus on keeping clients’ vehicles in motion is paramount, Ross says. “If our customers cannot be productive, they cannot make money.” Custom One, he says, is built from the ground up to create more efficient, more effective and more affordable machinery has been the key to the company’s growth.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Ross and five siblings founded the company in 1996, and more than a dozen members of the family are employed there.
INDUSTRIAL MUSCLE: The company’s client roster looks like a portrait of blue-collar America, as it serves sectors that include construction, energy, telecom, forestry and waste disposal.
NATIONAL REACH: With more than 1,450 employees working in two dozen locations across the nation, clients have ready access to the company’s product and service lines.
ON THE INGRAM’S 100: Custom Truck One Source came in at No. 27 on the 2019 list of the region’s 100 largest private companies, with nearly $857 million in 2018 revenues.
Words of wisdom from Tom Sack: “Business/workplace is a team sport,” says the chief executive at the region’s best-known research lab, so “don’t hesitate to ask for help, as there is likely someone somewhere that has handled the same situation you are experiencing.” His company contract with government agencies an various industries, operating from labs in four states, either directly or on a contract basis.
COLLEGE: B.S., Chemistry, Rockhurst University; Ph.D., Analytical Chemistry, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
BATTERY RECHARGE:“I like to exercise, read and work in the garden.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “I’ve had a wonderful time telling the MRIGlobal story at a variety of community venues as we celebrate our 75th year of creating solutions for a safer, healthier, more sustainable world.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Nikola Tesla, because of his impact on modern technology, most specifically the use of alternating current for transmission of electricity, but also for his creativity combined with his eccentricity.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Halloween.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Sleep late and after a cup of coffee, review my calendar that has no meetings on it.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To reduce violent crime.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, AMERICAN CENTURY INVESTMENTS
Phil Sanders has wealth-management firm Waddell & Reed Financial squarely focused on social responsibility and inclusion. In March, he signed the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge with hundreds of other CEOs. Following that, Waddell celebrated Pride Month on the company’s campus. Speaking of its headquarters, Sanders is leading the firm to a move from Overland Park to a yet-to-be-revealed location on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metro.
COLLEGE: B.A., Economics, University of Michigan; MBA, University of North Carolina-Charlotte
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Martin Luther King, Jr.—one of the most courageous, disciplined and inspirational leaders of our time. A positive agent for change who left a lasting impact on society.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving, without a doubt … reflective, quality time with family without the commercial distractions.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Probably sleep in, then spend the day planning a couple of trips to some destinations on our bucket list.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Family vacations. I love “active” family vacations, travel, hiking, golf, etc.”
Co-FOUNDER/SENIOR PRINCIPAL, POPULOUS
Populous, the architecture firm that Earl Santee co-founded in its current form in 1985 out of the HOK Group, goes large. That’s what happens when you design arenas and entertainment venues as a big part of your business. Santee and his team, based in the old Kansas City Board of Trade Building, have worked on some significant ones around the world. They include stadiums for Olympics and World Cup competitions, several NFL venues and many others.
COLLEGE: B.A., Environmental Design/Architecture, University of Kansas
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Belief. We need to believe anything is possible. We’ve become too cynical about great ideas. The future of Kansas City, the potential of Kansas City is unlimited. We need more people to engage, to enable and to execute great ideas.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “How fast 40 years can go by. Looking back, I wish I would’ve enjoyed the ride more.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Mark Twain. I love great storytelling.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Focusing on great relationships.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “I will watch the sunset over the Colorado mountains with a bourbon in my hand.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “One of our startup businesses won two great contracts.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, ANDREWS McMEEL UNIVERSAL
Andy Sareyan had been around the publishing block before taking on the lead position at AMU. He was founding publisher at Real Simple magazine and was in several roles at Time Inc. for 18 years, including president of Entertainment Weekly. At Meredith Corp., he led publications like Better Homes & Gardens and Ladies Home Journal. Last year, he oversaw a facelift for the digital-and-print-entertainment-provider’s Downtown headquarters.
COLLEGE: B.A., Middlebury College; MBA, Stanford University
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Hard to choose just one when you’re surrounded by cartoonists and creative people. A trip to Gary Larson’s home early this year to talk about The Far Side was amazing.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Albert Einstein, hands down. Maybe the greatest and most curious mind of all time combined with extreme humanity and humor in spades.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Again, hard to think of something that stands out, but I know the good ones all felt risky at the time. Leaving a long career in New York for a new one in K.C. ranks high.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Probably Christmas. The beginning of Daylight Savings Time a close second.”
MANAGING PARTNER, NORTHWESTERN MUTUAL
Philip Sarnecki has spent his entire professional career at Northwestern Mutual, starting with the financial-services company in 1989 as an intern while attending the University of Illinois. He stayed on, was eventually named a managing partner in the Cincinnati office in 2005,and came to Kansas City in 2008 to create the RPS Financial Group, which has grown to several cities and is the second-largest in the Northwestern Mutual organization.
COLLEGE: B.S., Political Science, Finance, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Hard to boil it down to one. Having Northwestern Mutual offering the opportunity to acquire all seven of their offices in Arizona, New Mexico and El Paso. It was the first time in the history of the 162-year-old company that they did something like this. Second, becoming Chairman of the Board of the Northwestern Mutual Managing Partner’s Association was quite an honor.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “How much I can accomplish is really a function of the quality of the people with whom I surround myself.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Starting my internship with Northwestern Mutual while in college.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A new airport. I think it’s on its way.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, NORTH KANSAS CITY HOSPITAL
The sands of her career hourglass are running out for Peggy Schmitt, who will retire at the end of the year after leading the Northland’s biggest health-care provider for seven years. That will wrap up her duties with the hospital and its Meritas Health subsidiary after more than 25 years. She came on board there in 1993, serving as vice president and general counsel until taking the top executive’s role in 2012.
COLLEGE: B.S., Nursing, University of Missouri; J.D., Yale Law School
IMPACT: The region’s fifth-largest hospital, NKCH admitted more than 21,000 patients for treatment in 2018, and had revenues of more than $1.75 billion.
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: Last year, the hospital earned Magnet designation, accorded to only about one in 12 hospitals nationwide. It’s the highest achievement a hospital can receive for nursing excellence.
OUTSIDE THE OFFICE: Schmitt, a former board member for Synergy Services, has most recently been on the board of directors for the Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce.
FORMER CHAIRMAN, NPC INTERNATIONAL
Jim Schwartz recently retired from Overland Park-based NPC International, where he most recently served as chairman after serving for several years as chief executive officer of the nation’s largest Pizza Hut and Wendy’s franchisee. At the time of its sale to a private buyer last year for $1 billion, it owned about 1,200 Pizza Huts and close to 400 Wendy’s. Schwartz has served on the boards of fast-casual
Asian restaurant chain Pei Wei and energy firm Ferrellgas.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business and Accounting, University of Kansas
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Closing a long but very rewarding career at NPC.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Courage to stay in one place—no job-hopping.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “Continued patience and human kindness for all—it’s a wonderful city!”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “DaVinci—so much creativity—how to channel in the modern world.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving—family and practicing gratitude which we do not do enough.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Exercise.”
CHAIRMAN/CEO, CERNER CORP.
As CEO of Cerner, the area’s largest private employer, Brent Shafer oversees more than 14,000 employees locally for a total of 28,000 in offices around the globe. Stepping a bit out of its traditional health tech role, the company announced that it is partnering with LifeCenters to provide primary care and wellness services to senior housing developments. It also developed the Cerner Learning Health Network, which does automated data collection for clinicians.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Utah
LEADING FOR LEADERS: Shafer has held executive positions at some of the country’s
leading corporations, including Phillips, GE Medical Systems and Hewlett-Packard.
A FOCUS ON SAAS: Like many major tech companies, Cerner is focused on converting
to a Software as a Service platform to provide more seamless software updates and
increase client satisfaction with the product.
WAITING FOR THE RIGHT FIT: When Shafer’s predecessor, Neal Patterson, died in 2017,
it took Cerner six months to find a successor. Shafer was the right fit at the right time.
EARLY PASSION FOR HEALTH CARE: Shafer says he first became especially interested in health care while in college, when he worked in a children’s hospital to help make ends meet.
If you pick two words to describe the Neal Sharma management ethos, they’d have to be: No Limits. Since co-founding DEG in 1997 as a web-design firm, then unleashing talent that introduced email marketing, digital strategy and brand consultancy lines, he’s made DEG a consistent high-growth company. More than that, though, DEG has attracted widespread attention as an innovative employer that fully engages its staff through entrepreneurship.
COLLEGE: B.A., Communications, Economics, Government, American University; MBA, University of Kansas
HIGH PRAISE: Among its many accolades, DEG has been recognized by Inc. magazine as one of its “25 Companies That Are Changing the World.” And Sharma personally has been a Central Midwest finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.
ACTIVE PLAYER: His board service includes duties for AlignED, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the local chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization, KC Rising’s steering committee, and the advancement board of the University of Kansas Medical Center. He’s also a fellow with the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program.
GLOBAL SPRINGBOARD: DEG’s notoriety in the digital space eventually attracted a suitor, and Japanese ad/PR giant Dentsu came calling last year with an acquisition.
PRINCIPAL, MLP Holdings
The deal hasn’t closed yet, but John Sherman is already considered to become the new successor of the Kansas City Royals. The longtime area businessman and backers are reportedly spending $1 billion on the team and word is he’ll be introduced as the new owner in November. The deal has given Sherman, a businessman known widely in KC circles, more of a national profile, even though he has been a part-owner of the Cleveland Indians since 2016.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business, Ottawa University
FULL TANK: Sherman founded Inergy, a national retail seller and distributor of propane,
in 1996. It went public in 2001 and underwent a $5-billion merger with Crestwood Holdings in 2013.
BOARD PRESENCE: He’s on the board of Crestwood Equity Partners, as well as utility company Evergy, which owns KCP&L and Westar Energy. Additionally, he serves on the boards of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, among others.
COPYING CLEVELAND? Since Sherman took his ownership stake—and vice chairman title—with the Indians, the team has won the American League Central every year, with a World Series appearance in 2016. Maybe more of that can rub off on the Royals?
PRESIDENT/CEO, TRUMAN MEDICAL CENTERS
Charlie Shields’ professional career went from health care to Missouri politics and then back to health care, and now he runs one of the biggest hospital systems in Kansas City, as president and CEO of Truman Medical Centers. He came to Truman after spending 20 years in the Missouri Legislature – two of them as President ProTem of the Missouri Senate. Prior to politics, Shields was with the former Heartland Health, which is now Mosaic Life Care.
COLLEGE: B.A., Marketing; MBA, University of Missouri-Columbia
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “That you can’t ‘plan’ your career.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Receiving the letter from the Sunderland Foundation rewarding the TMC Foundation a $10 million grant toward our new newborn intensive care unit.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “To always surround myself with a very talented team of leaders.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Harry Truman. I met him when I was five years old, and I would love to meet him again.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Hit the road to travel and explore our beautiful country.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “More direct flights out of our new terminal at KCI.”
TRUMAN TRACK: Shields joined Truman in 2010 as chief operating officer of Truman Medical Center-Lakewood and took on his current roles in 2014.
PRESIDENT/CEO, EPR PROPERTIES
Almost from its inception, the company that is now EPR Properties has been a fast-growth demon as a real-estate investment trust specializing in entertainment venues and gathering spaces. Under Greg Silvers, the boom goes on: 2018 revenues were up a handsome 22 percent over 2017, and topped $700 million. Shares in the public company are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, and are up 25.7 percent over their one-year lows.
COLLEGE: B.S., Systems Engineering, Tennessee Technological University; J.D., University
of Kansas School of Law
MISSION CHANGE: Founded as Entertainment Properties Trust, the REIT began by focusing on acquisition of movie theaters and other public-gathering entertainment venues. That has grown to include all sorts of recreational venues, as well as charter-school properties.
LEGAL PERSPECTIVE: Silvers began his legal career with the law firm that is now Stinson LLP, but before that, was a systems engineer with Electronic Data Systems (the company founded by the late Ross Perot) and Volume Shoe Corp.
UP THE LADDER: Silvers succeeded co-founder David Brain as CEO in 2015, following roles as general counsel, executive vice president, chief development officer and chief operating officer.
OFFICE MANAGING PARTNER, HUSCH BLACKWELL
You can deduce a lot about Jeff Simon’s management style from this observation on life and work: “No one really has all the answers,” he says, “no matter how exuberantly they try to convince you otherwise.” That mindset, a prerequisite for true collaboration, has helped him build up the Husch Blackwell book of business over the past five years, with the firm topping $353 million in revenues for 2018.
COLLEGE: B.A., English, University of Missouri; J.D., University of Missouri School of Law
BATTERY RECHARGE: “An evening at Knuckleheads listening to good music.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Being in the company of the many amazing young people who have started their careers with our firm.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Aligning myself with smart, hard-working people of integrity.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “St. Ignatius Loyola. Because he is the coolest
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving. No pressure, and plenty of family, football, and food.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Watch the sunrise over the Mediterranean from the Costa Brava of Spain.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A genuine belief in the common good.”
CHAIRMAN/CEO, POLSINELLI, PC
Back in the mid-1990s, the law firm that today is Polsinelli, PC, landed a summer intern by the name of Chase Simmons. Turns out, that internship was a bigger deal than the leadership may have realized at the time: 21 years later, that promising student has emerged as the top executive for what is now an AmLaw 100 firm. Polsinelli has more than 875 lawyers working in 21 offices nationwide.
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, Southern Methodist University; J.D., University of
Georgia Law School
THE LADDER UP: Simmons was a member of Ingram’s 40 Under Forty in 2010, earning that distinction for impressive work on a long roster of large development projects in the region. That track record eventually made him chair of the firm’s real-estate practice.
OTHER HONORS: Simmons is also a perennial member of The Best Lawyers in America listing, and holds a Tier 1 rating from Chambers USA for real-estate law.
FILLING BIG SHOES: The firm’s leadership designated Simmons as incoming chair in May 2017, and his duties officially began at the start of this year. He’s the face of change at a growing firm, having succeeded longtime chair Russ Welsh, who, like the firm’s founding namesake, Jim Polsinelli, also retired over the past year.
PRESIDENT/CEO, MILBANK MANUFACTURING
When Milbank Manufacturing turned to Brad Skinner last year to succeed Lavon Winkler as chief executive, it was definitely getting a known commodity: For more than three decades, Skinner had worked for the company, which produces electrical and power products, including metering devices, enclosures and related equipment. From a start in production in 1986, he has held leadership roles in sales and marketing, and became president in 2016.
COLLEGE: Park University
A FAMILY AFFAIR: In turning to someone outside the Milbank clan, the company got something as close to kin as it could find. “Milbank has been like family to me,” Skinner said after his appointment. “I have been fortunate to work in many areas of the business throughout my career and cherish the legacy of this company.”
ABOUT MILBANK: The company was founded in 1927 by Charlie Milbank, Today, the Milbank family ownership now runs three generations deep.
GLOBAL REACH: From production facilities in Kansas City and Arkansas, 22 regional warehouse and a network of more than 4,000 distributors, Milbank ships products nationwide and to three dozen other nations.
PRESIDENT/CEO, HNTB Corp.
Robert Slimp heads up HNTB, one of only two dozen billion-dollar private companies in the Kansas City region. The engineering and architectural design firm operates in such heavy infrastructure lines as aviation, bridges and highways, tunneling, rail systems, among others. A reflection of how the industry is changing over the course of a century: HNTB is now heavily invested in development of smart roadways and autonomous vehicles.
COLLEGE: B.S., Civil Engineering, Louisiana State University
UP THE LADDER: Slimp joined HNTB in 2005, taking in increasingly influential executive positions at the local, regional and national levels, including duties as president of both its Northeast and Southeast divisions before becoming CEO in 2017.
ABOUT HNTB: The employee-owned design firm, founded in 1914, specializes in the infrastructure space, often with large-scale public projects. It offers services in planning, design, program management and construction management.
ON THE INGRAM’s 100: HNTB clocked in at No. 24 on this year’s list of top private companies, with 2018 revenues of nearly $1.25 billion.
PRESIDENT/CEO, WACHTER, Inc.
In the 25 years after he joined Wachter, Inc., as an electrical apprentice, Brian Sloan worked at increasingly higher levels of responsibility for a company that has been family owned for three generations. And not just family owned, but family oriented: Sloan himself is a second-generation Wachter employee. Last year, he was designated to succeed Brad Botteron in the chief executive’s role.
ABOUT WACHTER: William Wachter established the company in 1930, and from its base in Lenexa, it has more than a dozen offices nationwide, providing integrated technology equipment for key sectors in manufacturing, retail and health-care settings, among others.
INDUSTRY IMPACT: Wachter’s products and services address cabling, network, electrical,
and technology systems, and many of its clients are Fortune 500 companies across North America and Great Britain.
ON THE INGRAM’S 100: With 2018 revenues of $241 million, Wachter ranked No. 62 on Ingram’s list of the region’s biggest private companies this year, and across the country, it employs more than 1,160 people (about 185 in the Kansas City area).
CHAIRMAN, McDOWELL RICE SMITH & BUCHANAN
Not many people in town have more business-law experience than Pete Smith at McDowell Rice Smith & Buchanan. A bar member since 1971, he has specialized in business, bankruptcy and civil defense litigation, and he’s an entrepreneur, to boot. The bad news for opposing counsel? He’s not going anywhere. Asked about retirement, he shot back: “There won’t be such a day. Work is who I am.”
COLLEGE: B.S. Accounting, University of Kansas; J.D., UMKC School of Law
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “How nice it is to practice law on the Country Club Plaza. My buddy, Jimmy Polsinelli, moved his firm to the Plaza in the very early 1970s. We thought he was nuts; I moved our firm to the Plaza in the early 1990s; I wish I had been nuts earlier.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Long motorcycle trips. Banff in Canada, Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, Montana in the U.S., etc.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Winning a Jury Trial in Wyandotte County District Court in a Malicious Prosecution case. [I represented the Plaintiff, and a team of lawyers represented the Defendant.]”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Ayn Rand.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Christmas.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, HENDERSON ENGINEERS
Rich Smith has held the top job at Lenexa-based Henderson Engineers since 2013 and has been with the firm the bulk of his 30-year career. That entails overseeing 11 offices across the country and some formidable projects. Some of its larger local undertakings during Smith’s time at the firm include the renovation of the Kansas City Convention Center, working on the first phase of KC Live! in the Power & Light District, and the mixed-use Park Place, in Leawood.
COLLEGE: COLLEGE: B.S., Mechanical Engineering; M.S., Architectural Engineering; University of
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Investing in a chief people officer, Talent, development and culture are so important and a CPO has been an investment in our employees.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Meeting with employees and understanding how important it is for them to feel engaged and connected and to work for a company that cares about them.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “In 2015 we made the decision to be a ‘people first’ company with the belief that earnings would follow. That indeed has been the case.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “No matter how good a decision is, there will always be detractors. As long as you are making decisions for the right reasons and for the long-term benefit of others, you can relax and have confidence in that.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, DAIRY FARMERS OF AMERICA
Rick Smith has been in the driver’s seat at Dairy Farmers of America, the region’s largest private company, since 2006. The largest milk processor in the U.S., it serves more than 14,000 dairy farmer members nationwide, and has 46 plants turning out not just milk, but cheese, butter, ice cream and other dairy ingredients. Since creation of the Ingram’s 100, DFA has been the unchallenged No. 1, and had $13.6 billion in 2018 revenues.
PRIORITIES: Smith has set a growth agenda for the company that is grounded in increasing the value it brings to members and expanding its global reach.
INDUSTRY CHOPS: Smith also is highly respected in the dairy industry, holding seats on the boards of National Milk Producers Federation, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.
AT INCEPTION: DFA was created in 1988 with the mergers of four large U.S. milk cooperatives: Associated Milk Producers, Mid-America Dairymen, Western Dairymen Cooperative and Milk Marketing, Inc.
THE WORLD AS MARKET: DFA helps develop products for large food companies around the planet—a good position to be in as rising global wealth has fueled huge demand for more protein in the diets of a growing middle class.
PRESIDENT/CEO, Associated Wholesale Grocers
David Smith leads the second-largest private company in the Kansas City area, with revenue last year of nearly $9.7 billion, and he’s seen a lot of change since joining AWG in 2003. He was promoted from executive vice president of operations in 2015 after opening its Gulf Coast Division a few years before. AWG currently supplies goods to more than 3,800 supermarkets across the country, up from 3,400 when he took on the top role.
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Involves accountability—one of our core values. During our budgeting process, one of our operating division teams made a big mistake. They under-projected expenses associated with a contract transition and the true financial impact was budgeted for less than what it actually was. I can report that they are right on target and will more than offset this mistake. That’s accountability. Owning up to your mistakes but better yet, making up for them with voluntary actions so that the disappointments stop at the source.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Jesus. To have dinner with my Lord and Savior would be the ultimate. While I know Him by his Word, and by His Spirit, I would love to see him as the person as well.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Go fishing. That also applies to Day Two, until infinity.”
U.S. REAL ESTATE CHAIR, DENTONS
For nine years, John Snyder led the local office for Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, but he stepped into a new leadership role this year as chair of its U.S. real estate practice group and global real estate group. He specializes in commercial real estate transactions around the country, dealing with the industrial, mixed-use, multifamily, office and retail sectors. He also works both with developers and financial institutions to craft development projects.
COLLEGE: B.A., Economics and Political Science, Illinois Wesleyan University; J.D., University of Kansas School of Law
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “Law school does an excellent job of teaching young lawyers how to think and analyze legal issues and case law and statutory authority. What it doesn’t do well is teach young lawyers the practical and business side of the law. I wish I knew how important it was back then to understand our client’s business and their end goals and the role of lawyers in helping clients to achieve those goals.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Personally, it was not only the decision to go to law school (over obtaining an MBA), but also the decision to specialize in commercial real estate. Externally, it has been matching up clients with business opportunities, which has not only benefited the clients, but has also strengthen the client relationship.”
PRESIDENT, JOHNSON COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE
This is it for Joe Sopcich: After 27 years in higher education, he’ll retire at the end of the academic year. He’s been leading Johnson County Community College since 2013, but had served there for 20 years in a number of administrative roles. He’ll leave an institution fundamentally transformed since his start in 1992, having steered board approval two years ago for a $102 million agenda to build new fine arts facilities, design studios, library and career and technical education buildings.
COLLEGE: B.S., Political Science, University of Kansas; B.A., American Studies, MBA, Notre Dame; Ph.D., Governance, KU
RARE COMPANY: Sopcich was just the fifth president in the history of JCCC, which was founded in 1969 in the former Merriam Grade School.
BEFORE HIGHER ED: Sopcich started his career in Chicago with the Leo Burnett Group, then worked in the non-profit sector briefly before coming to JCCC.
MARKET DOMINANCE: Kansas has 19 community colleges, but JCCC is the rock star among them, enrolling roughly one in four community-college students statewide.
HIGHER-ED EVANGELIST: Sopcich won the Fulbright Award in 2011, traveling to Russia to conduct seminars promoting the benefits of the community-college system in the U.S.
Anne St. Peter
Co-FOUNDER, GLOBAL PRAIRIE
Corporate America is all abuzz about social responsibility, so you could forgive Anne St. Peter if she were to ask: What took you so long? In 2008, she launched marketing/communications whiz Global Prairie as a Certified Benefit Corporation, or B Corp., and she believes more of them would be a perfect fit here, given the city’s philanthropic bent. Why? They reflect a level of “caring about community, employees and profit on a level playing field,” she says.
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, Wellesley College
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “That being the oldest of six children and 17 grandchildren provided me invaluable experience leading a team—so relax and follow my intuition.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Spending time with my family. Talking to other leaders and their approach to thriving in life.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: Taking Global Prairie employee-owned—“a dream come true for me and my co-founder,” she says.
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Amelia Earhart—a strong, brave, pioneering Kansas leader.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Easy: Christmas! I start playing Christmas carols on Sept. 1.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Go to Mass and thank God for my wonderful career. “
OFFICE MANAGING PARTNER, KPMG
In addition to his local duties of leading the Kansas City KPMG office, Brad Sprong is the national tax leader of the “Big Four” accounting firm’s private markets group. He has been with the company for 33 years, nearly seven of them as office managing partner. Sprong was given the national tax leader role about a year ago and assists clients globally in the telecommunications, banking, and real estate industries, as well as others.
COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting, William Jewell College
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Joining a great firm and sticking with them. The firm has provided endless opportunities so I was never “bored” and because of my longevity, the network I have within the firm makes life fun and support for almost any question I may have is just a phone call away.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A lower violent crime rate. This can be achieved through restoration of family values, education improvements and instilling the sense of hope and pride in our communities.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Benjamin Franklin—a true innovator in his time and his experiences would be fun to listen to and learn from.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “There are fish to catch, mountains to hike and volunteer needs are endless.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD OF KANSAS CITY
A veteran of Blue KC, Erin Stucky worked her way to the top of the organization. At the beginning of the year, she was named to succeed retiring CEO Danette Wilson, stepping up from executive vice president of market innovation and development. Most of her positions at Blue KC were in marketing and sales, and the head of the largest area health insurer has led health and wellness and payment innovations, among other endeavors.
COLLEGE: B.S., Education, University of Missouri-Columbia
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Accepting a position as a sales consultant at Blue KC more than 25 years ago.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “When we think of our health, we tend to focus on the more visible and physical attributes. An individual’s behavioral health has an impact on both the mind and body and is inclusive of overall well being. The problem is that, too often, the fear and shame involved in seeking treatment keeps individuals from having the conversations that could lead to real change. It’s that stigma surrounding the topic of behavioral health that we can address as a larger community. We need to promote behavioral health awareness, coverage and solutions, and Blue KC recognizes this and is working to address it.”
CHIEF SALES OFFICER, SE2
He was in on the ground floor when financial-services giant Security Benefit was designing a new business, one to serve the needs of insurers nationwide. Compared to where it was then and now, SE2 stands as Tom Spencer’s proudest achievement, and with good reason: “Going from a startup with one location in Topeka, to a company employing nearly 2,000 associates, global headquarters in Topeka, Kan., and offices in Texas, New Jersey, Nebraska, Ireland, and India,” he says.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Missouri-Columbia
FIRST JOB AND LESSONS LEARNED: “A 14-year-old dishwasher at Whisker Rivey’s.
You always have something to look forward to when you get off work!!”
ONE FOOD YOU WOULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT: “No question: Jack Stack Barbecue.”
FAVORITE BOOK: “The Brothers Karamazov. I’m amazed at Dostoevsky’s incredible insight into human nature.”
ABOUT SE2: The company builds and launches new direct-to-consumer life products, helps insurers increase speed to market, expand into new market segments, and manage financials and operations.
PRESIDENT/CEO, UNITED WAY OF GREATER KANSAS CITY
Brent Stewart worked for several years leading YMCA chapter across the country before settling in Kansas City. He has been in his current post for more than a decade now as it continues to be a leader in helping community-service endeavors. During its most recent fiscal period, the organization gave funds to more than 300 group to support their work throughout the community, from child counseling to homeless shelters.
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, Howard University; M.A., Regional Planning, Penn
WELL TRAVELED: Before coming to Kansas City, Stewart headed up the United Way in Portland, Ore. He has also help leading positions at United Ways in Everett, Wash.; Battle Creek, Mich.; and Westchester County, N.Y.
BANK ON IT: Stewart was named to the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in 2016, bringing the perspective of United Way’s funded organization, and those it serves, to monetary policy.
SPIRIT OF CARING: The United Way of Greater Kansas City recently kicked off its most recent fund-raising campaign with its Spirit of Caring event at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
PARTNER, STUEVE, SIEGEL and HANSON
For trial lawyers, the recognitions don’t get much better than the one Patrick Stueve picked up in April: “Being inducted into the International Academy of Trial Lawyers in London—it is considered the most prestigious academy of trial lawyers in the world.” Can’t
argue with that. Or with the spectacular results the litigation firm has secured for clients in class-action lawsuits yielding more than $1.5 billion in settlements over data breaches.
COLLEGE: B.A., Economics, Benedictine College; J.D., University of Kansas School of Law
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “Thirty years to develop and implement your career goals is a very long time. Be patient and enjoy the journey.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Fly fishing in the Rockies. Quick fix: a round of golf.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Leaving a lucrative hourly practice and to implement a new, innovative business model for legal services for complex business litigation, using results-based fee contracts rather than charging fees based on an hourly rate.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “John Marshall—George Washington was his mentor and general during the Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson was his first cousin and rival, John Adams appointed him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Marshall authored the most important case in the history of the Court, Marbury v. Madison. It would need to be a long dinner.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To expand light rail and use it as a development tool to integrate our city.”
PRESIDENT, SUNDERLAND FOUNDATION
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, Trinity University
RISING TO PROMINENCE: The cash infusion from the sale of Ash Grove to Ireland-based CRH sent the foundation soaring through the ranks of the region’s non-profits, with nearly $1.49 billion in assets.
RAISING THE BAR: In 2018, the foundation presented huge gifts to Children’s Mercy ($75 million) and the University of Kansas Health System ($66 million) in 2018.
ART & AIR: Among a long list of other philanthropic contributions, the foundation underwrote the KC Repertory Theatre with $50,000 for the 2019-20 season, and pledged $1 million to help the Univ. of Central Missouri build a new terminal and flight-education facility.
PHILANTHROPIST OF THE YEAR: Sunderland, along with his brother, former Ash Grove CEO Charlie Sunderland, joins the two only other recipients to date—Henry Bloch and Bill Dunn, Sr.—as Ingram’s Philanthropist of the Year.
CLAYCOMO PLANT MANAGER, FORD MOTOR CO.
Few corporate entities in the Kansas City region have grown as much over the past decade as Ford’s assembly plant in Claycomo, which leveraged a $1 billion plant upgrade in 2015 to crate thousands of new jobs. A year later, the company brought in Daryl Sykes to oversee production as plant manager. The impact of all that has spilled over to attract parts suppliers operating in huge production facilities across the region.
COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting/Finance, Ohio State University
RETOOLING EXPERIENCE: Sykes worked for 24 years at Ford’s assembly plant in Louisville, eventually serving as plant manager there. Before coming to Kansas City, he helped manage a $129 million plant upgrade and retooling to introduce production of the Lincoln MKC.
MANUFACTURING MUSCLE: With roughly 7,000 employees working in three shifts, the Claycomo plant makes Ford the biggest manufacturing employer in the Kansas City region.
DID YOU KNOW? When Ford opened the plant in 1951, the mission had nothing to do with cars or trucks—the plant’s first production line was for bomber wings for the U.S. Air Force. It made the switch to vehicle production five years later.
PRESIDENT, TVH AMERICAS
It’s been a busy year for Els Thermote and her team at TVH. Thermote, North American overseer for the Belgian family’s global industrial parts supplier, has also been managing the 250,000-square-foot expansion—expansion, mind you—of its already massive 575,000 square foot operations center. She’s led things here since the family assigned her to Western Hemisphere duties in 2003.
COLLEGE: Bachelor’s, Business Marketing, Hantal Business School (Belgium)
EMPLOYEES FIRST: A past winner of Ingram’s Best Companies to Work For, TVH again flexes that muscle with its latest expansion. It includes a café and restaurant—with an on-site chef—a meditation room, and a half-mile outdoor walking path.
RISING STAR: Thermote was a member of Ingram’s 2011 Class of 40 Under Forty.
MORE THAN MACHINERY: In addition to her work at TVH, Thermote demonstrates her real-estate investment skills with the Villas Agua Dulce development. The vacation spot in the Dominican Republic offers luxury units that range from $180 to $3,400 a night.
Darren Taylor has only been in his current role as president and chief executive officer of federal-employee insurer GEHA for about a year, but the company has already made a big promotional splash during his tenure, becoming the official health, dental and vision plan partner of the Kansas City Chiefs, with quarterback Patrick Mahomes II as spokesperson. Meanwhile, GEHA revenue crossed the $4-billion line last year, increasing 5.6 percent from 2017 under Taylor.
COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting, Truman State University; MBA, Baker University
BEST ADVICE FROM A MENTOR: “Always be on the lookout for talented people who share similar values and, if possible, find a way to make room for them, whether you have a specific position available in your company or not. Great people make great companies and timing is not always perfect.”
FIRST JOB, AND LESSONS LEARNED: “When I was 14, I earned a job detailing classic cars. This taught me how to work for and please a perfectionist boss or company leader without having to be perfect. Patience, the ability to stay calm in most any situation, and paying close attention to detail won the day.”
BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE EMPLOYEES IS: “My ability and desire to sincerely relate to individuals one at a time or in group settings.”
PRESIDENT/CEO, AMERICAN CENTURY INVESTMENTS
Jonathan Thomas has been president and CEO of American Century Investments since 2006, after one year as the wealth-management company’s chief financial officer. Before coming to KC, Thomas held banking-executive roles in New York. American Century, meanwhile, currently has about $170 billion in assets under management. Among the firm’s recent news is the launching of Avantis Investors which is
set to start offering five equity exchange traded funds this month.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Massachusetts; MBA, Boston College
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “The power of culture.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Returning to my hometown—Kansas City—to work at
American Century after more than two decades on the East Coast.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “New experiences with my family.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “4th of July.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “The public launch of Avantis Investors, a new division of American Century Investments.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Sleep.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A Super Bowl win!”
PRESIDENT/CEO, NORTH AMERICAN SAVINGS BANK
Paul Thomas knows what it takes to stand up to a challenge: He served as chief credit officer at NASB just ahead of the banking sector’s meltdown, and has helped steer the Grandview bank through both that national crisis and its own robust recovery. With vibrant growth in its loan portfolio, NASB has more than doubled its interest income since he became CEO in 2013, coming up just shy of $2 billion at the end of 2018.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration (Finance, Banking and Real Estate), MBA, Trulaske College of Business, University of Missouri-Columbia
FOCUS: On his watch, the bank has expanded its lines of banking and mortgage products, with the latter including conventional, FHA, and VA loans. It has also found success with non-traditional products, including non-recourse and bank-statement loans for self-employed borrowers.
THE PATH TO NASB: Thomas was chairman and CEO CBES Bancorp in Excelsior Springs.
ABOUT THE BANK: NASB has nearly a dozen locations from St. Joseph to Harrisonville.
THE BIG LEAGUES: As a public company, NASB hangs out with some very big players. Among area-headquartered banks, Commerce and UMB have roughly 10 times the Grandview bank’s $2.2 billion in assets.
PRESIDENT, EMPLOYEE SERVICES DIVISION, CBIZ
Polly Thomas has been taking care of CBIZ employees since 2009, when she came on at the accounting firm as a benefits consultant.
Since then, she has held several titles at the company and was promoted to her current role, President of the Kansas City CBIZ Employee
Services Organization in 2016. Areas under Thomas’ oversight include strategic benefit planning, population health management, wellness programming, on-site health centers, and others.
COLLEGE: B.S., Physical Therapy, University of Missouri-Columbia
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “Obstacles and challenges are opportunities to learn and grow. There is always a solution to them provided your mind is open to creative solutions and you have a willingness to ask for help when needed.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Eleanor Roosevelt. She fought for human and women’s rights and I would love to hear first-hand about her experiences.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “Yoga.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving—I love preparing the dinner and what the holiday itself stand for.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Watching the CBIZ team compete in the first annual KC Urban Youth Academy’s Queens of the Diamond event.”
CHAIRMAN/CEO, COUNTRY CLUB BANK
As Chairman and CEO of Country Club Bank Paul Thompson runs one of the largest financial institutions in the metropolitan area, with just over $1.4 billion in assets as of the end of 2018. Banking is a family business for Thompson, as his father took over CCB as a majority shareholder in 1985. Before starting at CCB in 2003, Thompson had executive roles at the former Heritage Bank of St. Joseph and MidAmerican Bank & Trust Co., which was bought by CCB.
COLLEGE: B.S./B.A., Creighton University; MBA, Rockhurst University; Graduate School of Banking, University of Colorado
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “It has always been about hiring great people … making good hiring decisions is the best decision because that is a decision that has positive consequences for years to come and pushes all of us to ‘raise our game.’”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “To figure out how to overcome some of the inefficiencies associated with a state line going through the middle of it. This is not an easy fix, but I believe there are a lot of wasted resources (i.e., human, financial, etc.) that could be redirected and put to use in a much more efficient manner than is currently the case.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Take my wife back to Bermuda where we celebrated our honeymoon! (I seem to recall that they have golf courses there as well!)”
FED CRED: Thompson is a Class A Director on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
PARTNER, BRYAN CAVE LEIGHTON PAISNER
No, the farmer-lawyer model did not go out with Abraham Lincoln. It’s working just fine, thank you, for Bob Thompson. The family farm near Nevada, Mo., has always been his passion, but law provided a financial insurance policy against drought, wild market fluctuations and the costs of raising a family. He’s used that day job to become a high-profile lawyer specializing in complex commercial litigation, and, he’s pretty damn good at it.
COLLEGE: B.S., Animal Science/Agricultural Economics, J.D., University of Missouri
ALL AG, ALL THE TIME: At the office, Thompson has been the longtime co-leader of the law firm’s Food and Agribusiness Industry Group; away from it, he’s board chair for the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City.
TIES TO HOME: The Thompson family’s ties to their farming roots are more than just strong—his wife, Cindy, represents the northern stretch of the county on the Vernon County Commission.
HONORS: An armful of awards from various legal publications and groups includes the 2016 Distinguished Counselor designation from the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association. That one is a tribute to those whose lifetime practice has been marked by extraordinary character, integrity and the highest standards of professionalism.
SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT/GENERAL MANAGER, SPRINT CENTER/AEG
Brenda Tinnen has run the Sprint Center since it opened in 2007. A native of the area, she moved away from here in 1988 and was involved in the operations of facilities across the country, including Houston, Los Angeles and Phoenix, before taking her current position for Los Angeles-based AEG, hosting some of Kansas City’s most memorable sports and entertainment events over the last 12 years. But Tinnen wants more company Downtown.
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A downtown baseball stadium.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “The U.S. Gymnastic Championships. It was an incredible experience, from Simone Bile’s making Olympic history, to having three local athletes in this high-level competition, to the great support from the K.C. region for the athletes and all of the smiles of the future athletes. Once again, we have proven that Kansas City can host a world-class event—the best of the best.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “Jacqueline Kennedy was the epitome of style, grace and elegance, which she maintained during one of our nation’s greatest tragedies. Her restoration of the White House, and fundraising and restoration of Grand Central Terminal in New York City intrigues me.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “Whatever Mick Jagger does.”
STARTING EARLY: As a girl, Tinnen helping her mother in ticketing for the Kansas City Athletics.
SECRETARY, KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
Go back seven generations of Kansans, and you’re into the infancy of the state itself. Such is the depth of roots David Toland brings to the Kansas Department of Commerce as secretary in the Laura Kelly administration. Already, he’s pursuing sweeping changes within the state’s leading economic-development agency, exploring ways to boost both domestic and global trade, and taking point on efforts to end the incentives border war with Missouri.
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science; MPA, Public Administration, University of Kansas
FIRST JOB/LESSONS LEARNED: “Was as a carryout at a grocery store in my hometown of Iola, Kansas. The boredom of the tasks I did was a good motivator for a shy kid to make conversation with customers. … It was actually great training for doing economic development later in life, because that work is, after all, just about relationships and connecting with people.”
THE TASK AHEAD: Toland is leading the department’s strategic planning process for the state’s economic development initiatives. The goal is to replace the Redwood-Krider report that became a foundation for those efforts more than 30 years ago.
PATH TO TOPEKA: Toland previously was the first CEO of Thrive Allen County, a non-profit coalition focused on improving of life and economic conditions in his home county.
Mike Valentine learned about driving top-line sales from one of the masters—Paul Gorup, Cerner Corp. co-founder—and nothing he’s done in the 8½ years since taking the wheel at Netsmart suggests he wasn’t paying attention. He took a New York company with largely flat growth, relocated to Overland Park, and built a vibrant health-care IT company providing software and services for the enormous behavioral-health market in the U.S.
COLLEGE: B.S., Industrial Engineering, Kansas State University
BEFORE NETSMART: Valentine spent 13 years at Cerner, wrapping up that time as chief operating officer. His entrepreneurial side included co-founding Maryville Technologies, a IT company.
ON THE INGRAM’S 100: In his time at Netsmart, Valentine has orchestrated growth from $109 million in revenue to $355 million in 2018, earning the No. 50 spot among the region’s 100 largest private companies.
BOARD COMMITMENT: On the corporate side, Valentine has seats on the boards for Streamline Health Solutions and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, and his board philanthropy benefits the American Heart Association, American Royal, K-State and the Wildscape Foundation.
PRESIDENT/CEO, MID-AMERICA REGIONAL COUNCIL
Call him the Great Collaborator: In the absence of a governance structure for a region that sprawls into two states, David Warm builds cooperation and consensus among area municipalities and public-sector leaders. In three decades with the Mid-America Regional Council, he’s been an advocate for data-driven programs and policies designed to help the region improve its standing as a place to live, play, work or own a business.
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science/Economics, University of California-Santa Barbara; MPA, University of California-Riverside
SHARED VISION: MARC is a non-profit association of city and county governments that serves as a metropolitan planning organization for nine counties and 119 cities in the region.
SEEKING SOLUTIONS: MARC’s huge cache of data and research has demonstrated that people in this region consider family is the most important factor in determining quality of life, followed by financial well-being and health.
HOW IT’S FUNDED: Lacking its own ability to generate revenue, MARC has a budget that 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
PRESIDENT/CEO, WILBERT FUNERAL SERVICES
Some of us are numbers people. Some are word people. Chalk Dennis Welzenbach up as both—after all, he was both an accounting and English major in college. He’s applied both skill sets to his work at Suhor Industries, now Wilbert Funeral Services, since 1987. There, working with owner Joe Suhor, he helped build one of the region’s biggest private companies as CFO, becoming president, then CEO as Suhor transitioned the chairman’s role.
COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting/English, St. Ambrose University
FUN FACT: Welzenbach is a licensed funeral director, which fits neatly into the company’s
niche. It serves the funeral industry with burial vaults, monuments and related concrete products.
BEFORE SUHOR: His was a bit of a circular path from pure accounting with Ernst & Whinney for eight years, then to construction with Massman Contracting, before he took his finance skills to Suhor Industries.
ON THE INGRAM’s 100: Wilbert Funeral Services landed at No. 79 this year, with 2018 revenues of $161.6 million.
CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: In addition to being a Rotarian and serving with the Knights of Columbus, he’s on the board for Harvesters—The Community Food Network.
MANAGING PARTNER, SPENCER FANE
Patrick Whalen’s legal specialty has certainly kept him busy lately. The managing partner is a leader in cybersecurity and data privacy litigation. A partner since 2001, Whalen has also been chairman of the Kansas City-based firm for close to seven years. He speaks at legal events across the country on cybersecurity and counsels financial institutions on digital threats. He has also been involved in seven-figure jury verdicts on Internet and ecommerce issues.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Kansas; J.D., University of Texas School of Law-Austin; MBA, University of Texas-San Antonio
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Surrounding myself with dedicated and collaborative professionals.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “George Marshall—-to gain insights into many of the key historical events of the last century as well as his extraordinary and selfless leadership.”
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “Adversity teaches more than prosperity.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Witnessing Spencer Fane’s inclusive culture welcome and integrate new talent.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “A new airport!”
PRESIDENT/CEO, GREATER KANSAS CITY COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
The numbers are both staggering and reassuring. Staggering in that the foundation Debbie Wilkerson heads has grown by more than $1 billion in assets since 2010, and since its inception 40 years ago, has thrown offer more than $4 billion in grants. Reassuring in that those dollars speak to a community philanthropic spirit that Wilkerson promotes and builds on through her work, a spirit that helps define this area’s collective character.
COLLEGE: B.A., Psychology, University of Kansas; J.D. University of Kansas School of Law
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “Having a career and kids isn’t a crazy life. It’s a full life.”
BATTERY RECHARGE: “For work inspiration, I read the Harvard Business Review. I love learning about strategies that cross sectors.”
RECENT HIGHLIGHT: “Our first-floor flood. We got to test our disaster recovery plan and it worked!”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Asking Jan Kreamer and George Bittner for a job.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Definitely Thanksgiving. Lots of food, family and friends, but no frantic shopping.”
RETIREMENT, DAY ONE: “A trip to Fiji is high on the list.”
KANSAS CITY NEEDS: “The will and determination to address racial equity.”
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HEAVY CONSTRUCTORS ASSOCIATION OF KANSAS CITY
Bridgette Williams became the first female, and African American, to head up the Heavy Constructors Association of KC (when she was promoted to the position in 2017. Prior to that, Williams was had another major responsibility in the world of labor, as president of the Greater KC AFL-CIO, and she was the first African American in that role. She’s passionate about repairing KCs aging roads and bridges.
COLLEGE: B.A., Communication, Pittsburg State; B.A., Liberal Arts, Ottawa University; MBA, Helzberg School of Management, Rockhurst University
ADVICE TO NEW CEOS: “Once you are in that position, get to know the people who are working for you, what their jobs entail, what they need to do a better job. Then represent your organization with confidence and vision based on reachable goals and realities. See a future for your company and make it happen.”
WHAT SHE MOST ADMIRES IN A LEADER: “The CEO who has come through and out of the trenches and achieved her or his position based on a commitment to ongoing learning, who works whatever hours it takes and who has a vision of not just who she wants to be, but what she wants her company or organization to be. CEOs who run on a high-octane fuel of personality, passion, compassion, honesty, ambition, humility and pragmatism.”
CHAIRMAN/CEO, QTS, Inc.
With a U.S. presence locked down—it has more than a score of data centers from California to New Jersey—QTS systems has been poised to go global. This year, Chad Williams pulled the trigger, laying out $44 million to acquire a pair of locations in The Netherlands, where it had previously leased space. The Overland Park company offers co-location, cloud and managed space services, with facilities
covering more than 6 million square feet in North America.
BEFORE QTS: Williams founded the company in 2005, with a single site of 35,000 square feet. He previously was CEO of Quality Group of Companies, family-owned and founded by his father in 1962. That enterprise included interests in commercial real estate, design-build development, commercial interiors and vehicle and technology leasing.
BOUNCING BACK: After a 2018 reorganization that triggered some unease among investors, the company’s stock has surged. From its 2019 low, share were up nearly 43 percent by mid-September.
BOARD SERVICE: Williams sits on the board of the U.S. Dream Academy, a non-profit that serves children who have an incarcerated parent, with a goal of ending a cycle of poverty, crime and academic failure.
DIRECTOR/CEO, NELSON-ATKINS MUSEUM OF ART
Julian Zugazagoitia has led the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for nearly a decade, and annual attendance has risen by about 100,000 during that time, to 500,000. Last year, he was named chairman of the Andy Warhol Foundation board, where he’s served for eight years. He also oversaw the launch of Art Course, a mini-golf area on the museum’s grounds. Prior to the Nelson, Zugazagoitia was director and CEO of El Museo del Barrio, in New York City.
COLLEGE: Diplomé de l’Ecole du Louvre, Art History, Ph.D., Philosophy, Aesthetics from the Sorbonne, Paris IV
WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: “That everything changes, always, and today at a faster pace! Being nimble and adaptable is essential.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION: “Launching Art Course, a new way to generate revenue, excitement, fun and engage our visitors with outdoors and the collection.”
HISTORICAL DINNER COMPANION: “My grandfather, to know what it was like to be in the government fighting the dictatorship of Franco. Unfortunately, they failed, and hence our immigration stories.”
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: “Thanksgiving. We didn’t grow up with it, but since living in the U.S., it’s totally our favorite!”