40 Under Forty: Class of 2016

Leadership? Check.

We can’t get into this without some ground rules, so right off the bat: If the Baby Boom covered the period from 1946 to 1964, what defines Generation X and the Millennials? Only a gaggle of eggheads like social scientists could take such a simple question and turn it into a series of “yes, buts …” and argue that Generation X started as early as 1961, or runs from—get this—1964-1974. A generation in 10 years? Please. Millennials, too, have been saddled with undefined starting points.

We get it: Generations aren’t all neatly defined by starting and finish lines. One of our favorite stories about the Baby Boomers entails a man born on the leading edge in 1946, who became a parent at age 18, in 1964. His daughter, technically, was a Boomer, too, but they clearly weren’t of the same “generation.”

With that in mind, any exploration of gener-ational leadership requires a definition. To be consistent with the traditional Boomer measure of 1946-1964, a like period for Gen-X would run 1965-1983, and 1984 until the end of 2001 for Millennials. OK, so it runs a year past the start of the most recent millennium. Deal with it.

Many societal pundits have commented on the barbell effect that they say puts Gen-X at a huge disadvantage to either the leading or trailing generations in terms of their sheer numbers. But if you set some reasonable breakpoints—still can’t get over that 10-year bit—Gen X isn’t quite as outnumbered as some have said. We’ve seen numbers like 78 million Boomers/46 million Gen-Xers/81 million Millennials. Unless immigration has become a much bigger factor than we’ve been led to believe, those numbers simply don’t wash.

Live-birth statistics since World War II suggest that it’s more like 76 million Boomers, 62 million Gen-Xers and 75 million Millennials. Still a big dip in the middle—on the order of 12-13 million—but not so pronounced as the 25-30-million gap we’ve heard about.

All of that is a long wind-up to this point: two-thirds of the nation’s Gen-Xers are now more than 40 years old—the oldest are in their 50s. It won’t be long before 40 Under Forty is strictly the domain of the Millennials, who just last year overtook both previous generations in terms of share of the U.S. work force.

Which raises a question with great import for the Kansas City region as well as the nation: As the Boomers bow out and Gen X moves forward in fewer members, is the pipeline of emerging leaders filling quickly enough, and with the need-ed quality? It is if you listen to what members of the 2016 Class of 40 Under Forty have to say about leadership, how they understand it, and where they believe it will take them.

Edward Greim, a lawyer with Graves Garrett, views leadership through the prism of team, but with accountability at its core: “The leader is the one who holds himself or herself accountable, and where necessary, holds team members accountable,” he says. “No other principle will sustain a team over the long run.”

Says Lesle Griessel of Northwestern Mutual Financial Net-work: “The greatest thing about leadership is who you have to become to do it well. As the business environment evolves, we must be able to continuously develop and grow ourselves, especially to be in a position to lead others.”

Jaclyn Anderson of Waddell & Reed says leadership begins with a vision and is sustained by perseverance. “Without a vision there can be no plan, and without a plan there is no assurance of growth or success,” she says. “A clear vision of the end goal and perseverance to carry it out will help ensure success.”

For Jessica Spalding, it’s more about action than talk. “Showing your team how to do the impossible will help to empower those individuals so that they can do the same,” she says. “Building an organization is hard; building an amazing org-anization is even harder. It takes leaders willing to roll up their sleeves alongside a group of individuals willing to unlock their potential and let go of self-doubt.”

Matt Hoggatt of Adknowledge cites the motivational piece. “The most important part of leadership is being able to attract and motivate great people,” he says. “Building a great team culture is super important because a great culture has the ability to overcome obstacles and fill holes in your strategy.”

Leadership, says Brian Sharbaugh of Premium National Products, “manifests itself in many ways.” But sometimes, he says, “the strongest leaders aren’t the people who naturally possess the skills or want to become leaders, but the people who need to be encouraged to challenge themselves to achieve more and to be convinced that they can make a difference.”

Sporting Kansas City’s Jake Reid cites the Get-Your-Hands-Dirty Principle: “You can’t ask someone to do something if you’re not willing to do it yourself,” he says. “Leadership to me is not about giving orders, it’s about leading by example, and getting in the mix with your staff on a daily basis. If you’ve never done it, or aren’t willing to do it, then it’s difficult for your people to rally behind you.”

Denise Portnoy of Spencer Fane cites the role of service-oriented leadership: “To be a successful leader, you must really listen critically to your team, be calm in stressful situations, and support and mentor those around you. The focus of leadership should be ‘what tools can I provide my team to help them succeed,’ not ‘what do I need my team to do for me.’ ”  

Leadership, says Kalinda Calkins, is grounded in values: “Strong leaders act with integrity and don’t compromise them-selves or their beliefs when doing business.” Employees stay at a company, she says, “because they believe in the management
and direction of the leadership.”

Ricky Paradise distills leadership down to two words: Own it. “Own your role, own your responsibilities, and own anything else that needs to get done,” he says. “As a leader, definitely own your failures. Own everything.”

Like we said: The future is in good hands. But we’ll leave you with a final thought: The most recent generation, born after 2002—let’s call them Generation X-box—won’t hit high school for another year. That means more than a third of the Millennials have yet to reach 22, the prime time for picking up a college degree. There’s a lot of work-force change—and changes in leadership—coming, and soon. Meet this year’s leaders.



“My greatest career achievements,” says Jaclyn Anderson, “have been achieved through a non-traditional path.” In that sense, you could view her career as a case of cart before the horse—but one where the horse would have a hard time keeping up. She had no college degree, and no experience in economics, when the director of research for investment management at Waddell & Reed recruited her to apply for a new role as economic analyst. Clearly, some-thing in her work in the client-services division demonstrated that she was ready for much more. Not only did she jump into those uncharted waters, she went back to college full-time to earn her degree from Baker University—summa cum laude—in business administration and finance. And she wasn’t done: Anderson then bagged an EMBA degree from Washington University in St. Louis. Today, the 34-year-old is U.S. Economist at W&R, where she provides daily economic analysis and forecasts for executives and portfolio managers who have more than $100 billion assets under management. She holds a Series 6 securities FINRA license, and is a member of both the National Association for Business Economics and the CFA Society. “In addition, faith, family and service are incredibly important to me,” Anderson says, which is why she spent nearly a decade volunteering with a local ministry called My Sister’s House, duties which included a mission trip to Zimbabwe. Now, with the ink barely dry on the graduate degree she earned in December, she looks forward to new volunteer opportunities, time with her boyfriend, and indulging herself a bit with travel, photography and art. 



Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 11.47.46 AMJAY BEEBE
Less than a decade ago, assets under management at Creative Planning stood at $591 million. Today? More than $17.4 billion. One reason for that dramatic surge has been the addi-tion of sharp, talented, dedicated investment professionals like Jay Beebe. Since joining the Leawood firm less than three years ago, this 33-year-old private wealth manager has been among the top performers in the firm’s history in terms of AUM growth, with more than $400 million in client assets. But Beebe also understands the larger role he plays in the firm’s success: “I have also served as a mentor to other advisers on how to grow and manage their practice,” Beebe says. “Servant leadership is the way to go. People in the organization have to know you are working with them to drive their success and not just your success.” He and his wife, Mary, have a pair of sons ages four and one, so Beebe says it’s “imperative to find time to spend with them while they are young.” He’ll capitalize on that, for example, by bringing the boys along on business trips to Oklahoma, where his parents live. “This extra time in the car has been great for the relationship,” Beebe says, “and also has allowed him to spend time with my parents and build a lasting relationship.” For the past six years, he’s served on the board of Wildwood Outdoor Education Center, which provides educational programs for schools in this area and conducts summer residential camps for inner-city youth. “For many children,” Beebe says, “this is the only time they are exposed to nature, and away from what can be a very difficult setting.”



She was one of the first 15 employees hired when Tulsa-based BOK Financial entered this market as Bank of Kansas City. Today, the bank has nearly 300 employees and boasts $400 million in assets, and Kalinda Calkins has played a key role in that growth, having launched the Treasury division, where she’s senior vice president and treasury services market man-ager. She’s been recognized with company awards for top production, top sales team and top percentage above goal, and is a local chairman’s award winner, having grown a portfolio that includes some of Kansas City’s top companies. But, the 32-year-old says, “the most significant accomplishment I have is the sense of pride I have for my organization and amazing team we have amassed and the growth we have achieved in a tumultuous economic envi-ronment.” That doesn’t happen without a healthy application of leadership, which Calkins says is, “above all, the ability to inspire loyalty both to the company and brand, and to the person themselves. Strong leaders act with integrity and don’t compromise themselves or their beliefs when doing business.” Just a year before signing on with BOK, she earned her degree in marketing at Kansas State University, where she continues to serve on the finance board and as an executive mentor. She also serves on the board for The Children’s Place, is a member of the art leaders program at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and is a  past president of the Ozanam Guild. “Kansas City,” Calkins says, “has given much to me.” She and her husband, Bret, make their home in Prairie Village.



Cynthia Cordes earned her law degree from Notre Dame in 2004, then set out to make a dif-ference—and did. As an assistant U.S. attorney, she led local efforts to address one of the uglier aspects of mankind’s character: human trafficking. She launched a task force that grew to include 20 federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies, and more than 60 non-profits and health-care providers. Cordes herself prosecuted some of the most complex trafficking cases in Justice Department history and rescued all types of trafficking victims—involved in commercial sex and forced labor as children and adults, men and women, from both the U.S and overseas. Until she came along, not a single case of human trafficking had ever been prosecuted in the history of Kansas City. By the time she left the Justice Department in 2013 to become a partner at Husch Blackwell, she had prosecuted more of those cases than any other assistant U.S. Attorney in the country. Accordingly, the DOJ named her Crime Victim Rights Act Champion of the Year. Her passion for that work continues at Husch with the launch of the first-of-its-kind pro-bono legal clinic in human trafficking, which offers free legal representation to trafficking victims nationwide, as well as the firm’s first 501(c)(3) non-profit to collect funding for victims for their non-legal needs. She also spearheaded a compliance program for companies and corporations in the manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality, and health-care sectors, with programs to help rid supply chains of illicitly gained labor, and to train employees and subcontractors in identifying the signs of human trafficking. The 37-year-old is married to Bradley Cordes, and they have three children.



matt dameronMATT DAMERON
If you’ve ever doubted whether the choices we make as teenagers can impact the lives of thousands, spend a few minutes with Matt Dameron, and ask him about the American Legion’s Boys State program. He took part in it back in high school, and “it shaped my life,” Dameron says. Accordingly, this 38-year-old lawyer has been paying it forward with Boys Life for 20 years, most recently as director for a program that enrolls hundreds of participants every year. It is, he says, “a role I never dreamed I would have the chance to hold.” Those expe-riences have infused in him a deep commitment to public service, going back to his work as a campaign coordinator for the late U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton in 1998. After earning a law degree at MU, Dameron sandwiched stints in private practice around a two-year run as law clerk in the U.S. Court of Appeals. He then went to work for Attorney General Chris Koster in 2009, rising to chief of staff and overseeing an executive team that managed litigation, and served as counsel on several constitutional and other high-profile matters for the state, among other responsibilities. He also had oversight of the office’s $23 million budget, its legislative affairs and communications activities, and personnel policies and decisions. He returned to private practice in 2012, and two years later became an equity partner at Williams Dirks Dameron as a litigator representing individuals, classes and businesses in class actions, individual cases, and commercial disputes. “I’ve endeavored to make service a cornerstone of my professional life,” he says, “and I’ll continue to do so in the future.” He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children.



Don’t be fooled: Central Nebraska may not be known on the coasts as a hotbed of entrepreneurship, but it’s alive and well on the High Plains. Adam Eakes was steeped in it, as the son and grandson of entrepreneurs, and the values he absorbed there live in him today. “I saw first-hand the work ethic of not only my family, but those in my rural com-munity,” says Eakes, a 37-year-old producer for insurance brokerage IMA. “This upbringing has shaped me as a father, husband, community volunteer and in my career.” His father, Eakes says, taught him early that “urgency equals profitability.” Accordingly, “I live by that motto in everything I do. This urgency combined with my leadership skills resonate with my clients, and has helped me obtain new business.” Last year, Eakes led the IMA Kansas City office in sales and finished in the top 5 percent of all sales professionals within the Denver-based company, which posted nearly $150 million in revenue and was growing at twice the national average. He has logged community service with Project Uplift and Gillis, is a past-president of his homes association in Fairway, sits on the board for the Mission Hills Country Club and he serves as chair for the Dads Club at Highlands Elementary. He also served as a volunteer with The First Tee of Greater Kansas City, a non-profit that inspires youth through the game of golf, and is devoted to causes that help secure scholar-ships to give low-income K-12 students access to quality education. He and his wife, Leslie, have two young children.



Passions—for her work, for teaching, for her family—define Merritt Engel, the 39-year-old president of Merrigan & Co., a direct-marketing specialist that focuses heavily on the needs of non-profit clients. She joined the company in 1997, shortly after earning her degree in communications studies from Rockhurst University, and learned the ropes while knocking out a graduate degree in that field over the next four years. She rose to vice president there, then last year, bought the firm from founder Bob Merrigan and became president. “I take great pride in serving my clients well,” Engel says. “My work with nonprofits is tremendously fulfilling, and I am honored to help them achieve their missions through effective marketing and com-munication.” Her office near 55th and Troost almost borders the campus at Rockhurst, where since 2010 she has fulfilled another passion as adjunct instructor in non-profit leadership studies, marketing and technology. “Mentoring young professionals, especially my students at Rockhurst, is near to my heart,” she says, as is spending time with her husband, Kevin, and their children, ages 15 and 12. Among the career achievements she values are membership in the Kansas City Direct Marketing Association—she has been recognized by the club as both Young Direct Marketer of the Year and Direct Marketer of the Year—joining the faculty at her alma mater, and developing a new curriculum there, Technology and Communication Trends in Nonprofit Organizations. Engel is also a speaker at conferences across the country on topics related to non-profit communication, e-mail marketing and direct-response strategies.




If you’ve ever known the dread of staring at that phone and knowing what you’re most likely to hear on your next cold call, consider the achievements of Jake Falcon. He moved to Kansas City from Texas a decade ago when he began building a wealth-management practice from scratch. Eighty thousand cold calls—80,000!—and hundreds of retirement-planning semi-nars later, he’s an award-winning wealth manager whose team at the Falcon Financial Group, a UBS Financial Services affiliate, has more than $230 million in assets under management. “Integrity, tenacity, knowledge, and discipline are the values I live by every day,” says Falcon. “The most satisfying part of my career includes helping people to succeed and retire with confidence.” Falcon completed the Investment Strategies and Portfolio Management Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School in 2012, then started Falcon Financial a year later. Since then, he’s been promoted three times, and now holds the title  of Senior Vice President-Wealth Management, and he’s a Chairman’s Council member, too. The firm has recognized him as No. 2 under the age of 35, out of 800 in that age group, and he’s been a consistent leader in net new assets among the Kansas City complex, where he was most recently ranked third in production out of 88 advisers. Among his civic contribu-tions has been work with Catholic Charities, the First Hand Foundation, and various other organizations—work, he says, that “keeps me humbled and thankful for where I am today.”  The 34-year-old Falcon is single, but not for long: He’s engaged to Rachel Lewis.




While 40 Under Forty is replete with success stories, not every high achiever has lived a gilded life. The ability to recover from failures, in fact, propels many to greater heights. That lesson is never far from Brandon Fancher’s mind. “My story, albeit an unlikely one, is more about never giving up, and the importance of not letting failures define you,” says the 34-year-old Vice President–Investment Officer, PIM Portfolio Manager for The Fancher Pribula Group of Wells Fargo Advisors in Overland Park.  “I am absolutely blessed to have amazing people around me who accept me for my faults, yet accept nothing less than my best.” Younger adults typically don’t have assets that compare with older generations, but Fancher is making his mark in wealth management with a bit of a counterintuitive focus: successful Millennials. That work earned him an invitation to speak at Barron’s magazine’s Top Teams in Advisory conference in Las Vegas, where he addressed tactics that help bridge the financial-advice divide among Millennial entrepreneurs. He’s also earned a reputation for philanthropic service, assisting the largely impactful Big Slick Celebrity Weekend from the ground up for Children’s Mercy Hospital, serving on the Children’s Mercy Cancer Center Auxiliary board (including a term as president), and on the host committee for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City’s Kids Night Out event. His work is grounded in a deep sense that this region is poised to be a center of wealth creation. Kansas City, he says, “is at the absolute forefront of a technological, creative, artistic, multicultural revolution.” Accordingly, “I have attempted to position our team to capture that market share with meaningful dialogue—especially among influential Millennials.” He and his wife, Hannah, have three children, ages 6, 10 and 11.



 Just read through the various awards and recognitions Emily Fors has accumulated over a 15-year career—but bring a sack lunch, because it’s going to take a while. Fors is responsible for developing and implementing all communication strategies nationally at JE Dunn, and since starting there in 2011, has zipped up the ranks to become the youngest female vice president, and third-youngest overall, at the region’s largest general contractor. “What’s far more impor-tant to me than simply the title,” Fors says, “is that I am trusted and regarded as a leader by the Dunn family and senior executives of such an amazing, entrepreneurial company.” But she’s also been drawn into roles with various civic, philanthropic, and professional organizations in the area. She’s a founding board member of LiveKC, which focuses on making Kansas City more attractive to young professionals, and with her husband Rollie—who made 40 Under Forty just last year—co-chairs the American Cancer Society’s Coaches vs. Cancer effort. For the next year, she’ll serve as president of the Society of Marketing Professional Services in this area. “What I am most proud of is my family and setting an example for my two boys. I still try to pass off that ‘mommy works in construction’—at least for as long as they will buy into it. I’m pretty sure that means they think I drive a forklift,” she cracks. “However, when they point out a blue tower crane, I can’t help but feel proud. So maybe I’m not actually climbing a crane every day—I have climbed one once!—but I am proud to be trusted and considered a leader in a company that is building Kansas City.”



Over the course of its 18 installments, 40 Under Forty has profiled a great many suc-cessful young leaders, and some of their companies have grown into pillars of the business community. Even among those people we can think of few who ever built an enterprise that’s likely to generate $72 million over the next four years, based on nothing but the tal-ent they were born with, the values they’ve picked up along the way or the skills they’ve polished with years of dedicated focus and preparation. That’s what Alex Gordon stands to realize over the next four years, based on the contract he recently signed with the Kansas City Royals following their run to the past two World Series, and the title in 2015. Chief among members of the team, Gordon seems to have been embraced as a the Local Boy Makes Good figure—like Mike Moustakas, a Californian, and Eric Hosmer, a Floridian, Gordon was a first-round pick, but his Nebraska roots and success at NU (where he was a two-time All-American) before joining the organization have given this native of Lincoln a particular appeal to hometown fans. As has his performance on the field and leader of the team. He’s arguably the most influential Royal since George Brett, and like Brett, he could end up being aligned with the team from draft day to retirement. Converted from third base to left fielder, he’s won four Gold Glove Awards, a Platinum Glove Award and one Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award in MLB. He’s under contract through 2019, with a mutual option year in 2020, when he turns 36.



We’ve all heard about government of the people, by the people and for the people.  Edward Greim is making his living—and sadly, finds no shortage of work—as a lawyer in cases of government against the people. Just within the past year, this partner at the Graves Garrett law firm has been working to expose or defend against government misconduct in cases that include the first and only nationwide class-action lawsuit challenging the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups (as lead counsel), and successfully defending groups accused of, in essence, thought crimes for their support of Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Those kinds of cases, the 39-year-old says, represent his most significant career achievements—those stemming from civil rights, taxpayer, and whistleblower litigation. He also practices constitutional law and complex com-mercial litigation, and has been involved in high-profile cases regarding Missouri’s redistricting plan, Missouri’s tobacco tax, early childhood education, clean energy, and religious liberty pro-posals. For starters. It’s easy to see why Missouri Lawyers Weekly tabbed him as Influential Lawyer of the Year in 2013. Greim stays plenty busy with efforts outside the office, too, including roles as treasurer and organizing lectures for the Catholic Lawyers Guild, running a religious-liberty essay contest for local eighth-graders, staging expert presentations and debates as president of Kansas City’s Federalist Society, and being active in his parish. “My goal is to at least suggest that there is an alternative way to meet the challenges of our professions, lives, society and govern-ment,” says Greim, who along with wife Claudia is raising five daughters, ages 2-10.



As a chartered financial consultant and chartered life underwriter, Lesle Griessel knows all about helping clients position themselves for long-term success. But where she really makes a difference for RPS Financial Services, a part of Northwestern Mutual, is by helping position the company for the long haul: She’s also the chief development officer for the Leawood office, where the task of hiring is not a one-way street. “We view the recruiting and selection of financial representatives as a mutual selection process,” Griessel says. “The office evaluates a candidate’s potential for success as a financial representative. At the same time, the candidate evaluates the office’s ability to support each individual’s professional and financial goals.” That mutuality must be working out just fine, thank you, because while on her watch, RPS placed third nationally in the number of full-time recruits in 2013. A Wichita-area native, she earned a degree in finance from the University of Kansas before signing on with Northwestern Mutual. Griessel—who was the youngest direct report to Managing Partner Philip