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CEO of the Year finalists, K to P

Everyone from Mariner Kemper to Nancy Phillips


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Mariner Kemper

UMB Financial Corp.

Mariner Kemper comes from a Midwestern banking family, whose banks include United Missouri Bank, which eventually became UMB Financial Corp. He has been with the family company for more than 20 years, becoming CEO in 2004. Headquarters are in Kansas City, Mo., and “Our offices have been in Colorado for nearly 25 years,” he says. He adds that today, Denver’s economy is doing well compared to the national economy.

According to its annual report, UMB had revenues of $878.5 million in 2015. As the financial institution looks to next year, Kemper says he will focus on manufacturing and distribution; commercial and investor real estate; public finance; health care, aviation and the M&A market “We have a great entrepreneurial city with money coming from private equity, and prices are reasonably high for selling.”

 

Jack Koo

Rise Broadband

Jack Koo’s background in finance and telecommunications and his 25 years of experience come in handy.

“Our ability to close the digital divide by providing high-speed internet to rural and suburban communities is directly tied to favorably negotiating and maintaining access to capital,” he says. “Telecommunications is a very capital-intensive business and my finance experience directly supports [our] considerable financial capabilities, fueling the company’s high growth and profitability.”

Koo says the most exciting trend in his industry is fixed wireless technology, with innovations around Long-Term Evolution, or LTE. “We’re seeing the ability to provide 10 times faster speeds and 10 times more capacity in our network [that results in improved service] to our customers in rural and underserved areas,” he says. “It’s really gratifying to see Google and AT&T talk about deploying fixed wireless service after 10 years of us beating the drum.”

 

Peter Melby

Greystone Technology

As a teenager, Peter Melby worked in IT support, and he soon decided there was a better way to provide the services. Today, he finds new ways to add personality and deeper connections in an industry that he says is historically known for being cold and disconnected.

Melby ignored naysayers as he and his partners at Greystone Technology grew the company. He was told, wrongly, that he would never be able to scale the firm’s personalized service model and would have to revert to traditional method. The firm prides itself on listening to customers and understanding their businesses. “We’ve done things the hard way at times to preserve the individual connections between team members and clients, but the results are worth it.”

Greystone Technology offers managed IT services, IT consulting, digital marketing, web development and mobile development.

 

Larry A. Mizel

MDC Holdings Inc.

Larry A. Mizel may be better known for his philanthropic work than as chairman and CEO of MDC Holdings, the parent company of Richmond American Homes. He is involved with the Mizel Arts and Culture Center (The MACC), National Jewish Health, the Allied Jewish Federation and is co-founder of the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (The CELL).

   Mizel moved to Denver in the ‘60s and earned his J.D. degree from the University of Denver-College of Law. According to its annual report, 30 percent of home sale revenues for MDC Holdings – a 1,200-person company – came from Colorado in 2015. Home sales improved, the result of a $43,600 increase in the average selling price to $420,900, mostly due to the homebuilder’s shift to higher-priced communities.

 

 

Kimbal Musk

The Kitchen

Kimbal Musk is a chef and co-founder of The Kitchen, with restaurants in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and soon Cherry Creek. Musk is from Pretoria, South Africa, and the brother of fellow serial entrepreneur Elon Musk. He opened the first location in Boulder in 2002, sourcing food from local farmers to stimulate the economy. In 2011, Musk and Hugo Matheson co-founded The Kitchen Community, a complementary nonprofit that builds Learning Gardens in schools around the U.S. Musk and Tobias Peggs recently opened Square Roots, a climate-controlled, indoor, hydroponic vertical farm in Brooklyn, with plans to open more in other large cities. The goal is to train young entrepreneurs to grow fresh food year-round, and create “forward-thinking, responsible businesses that strengthen their communities through real food.”

 

Promise Phelon

TapInfluence

Promise Phelon came to TapInfluence in 2015 with extensive experience leading technology companies. Phelon says the influencer marketing category is seeing explosive growth, and new companies are launching weekly. “Growing our talent at the pace of our market opportunity is the most critical factor for success,” she says. “Because we were one of the first companies in the marketplace, we’ve spent seven years optimizing our platform and influencer relationships, and that experience is what is helping us attract top talent.”

Strong leaders, she says, enable success within their respective teams and create a culture of accountability, autonomy and transparency. “I look for people who embody ownership, grit and relentless passion for the business.”

 

Nancy Phillips

ViaWest

When college graduates ask Nancy Phillips for advice, she says, “The most successful leaders are willing to split off from the pack and blaze new trails.”

In 1999, Phillips, originally from Toronto, co-founded ViaWest, which runs data centers in several western states. She assumed the CEO role in 2012, and in 2014 the Calgary, Alberta, Canada-based telecommunication company Shaw Communications acquired ViaWest, still based in Greenwood Village.

The Shaw acquisition has been a big change, but Phillips says employees were prepared. “In the face of change, my job is to communicate clearly and transparently across the organization about what is changing and why,” she says. “In this case, Shaw viewed ViaWest as a growth-oriented acquisition – meaning our employees were not negatively impacted. It’s been a terrific acquisition across the board, for our shareholders, our clients and for all of our employees.”

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Nora Caley

Nora Caley is a freelance writer specializing in business and food topics.

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