Posted: December 01, 2011
CEO of the Year: Large company finalistsBy
Margaret Sue Allon, CEO, Allonhill
In 2008, Sue Allon founded Denver-based Allonhill, a financial-services firm that brings oversight to the mortgage industry, reviewing loans for such diverse segments as major banking institutions, government agencies, hedge funds, institutional and private investors.
In the 2011 ColoradoBiz ranking of the Top 250 Private Companies in the state, Allonhill posted the top growth among companies in business at least three years. It reported a 382 percent gain in 2010 over the previous year and revenues of $19.35 million. The third-party reviewer of mortgage loans has 330 employees.
"I took a stand in an industry where other firms, before mine, knew that information on loans was flawed, yet did not speak up," said Allon, the daughter of a Colorado Springs auto mechanic and stay-at-home mom.
Allon opened a second office in October. The 35,000-square-foot space in the Denver Tech Center can accommodate several hundred employees.
Allon's vision for her company is to continue striving for transparent information in an industry that has suffered for the lack of it.
"If we look at a loan, investors can be assured that what we found is what was reported," she said. "We have never wavered from our independence, or allowed anyone to talk us into bending the rules."
Greg Baldwin, CEO, Baxa
After a medication error caused the death of an infant in 2007, Baxa CEO Greg Baldwin invited the mother to speak to the company's employees.
"The root cause was a pharmacist error, and the hospital's decision not to engage available safety warning limits," Baldwin said. "Rather than blaming ‘user error,' we decided that if ‘to err is human,' we needed to be in the business of trapping and preventing errors."
That led the company to make a strategic shift to focus on the safety of each patient dose, through dose-management software and safety surveillance tied to the use of the company's ExactaMix 2400 automated compounder, Baldwin said.
The Douglas County-based medical device and software firm, awarded the 2009 ACG Corporate Growth Award by the Denver chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth, had revenues of nearly $157 million in 2010, an increase of about 5 percent for the company, which employs nearly 600 workers.
"The greatest impact I've had as a CEO is by driving strategy and building and supporting our culture," Baldwin said. "Over the years, Baxa's strategy moved from just providing tools to pharmacists to actually playing a proactive role in preventing medication errors - through new product development, a strategic acquisition in 2009 and continually improving our existing products."
John Beeble, CEO Saunders Construction
Saunders Construction has continued to thrive in the real estate downturn and has championed sustainable building practices, as evidenced by several of its projects showing up in the Colorado Sustainable Design Awards program sponsored by ColoradoBiz, including Casey Middle School in Boulder, a finalist in this year's competition that earned LEED Platinum certification.
Since 2003, Saunders has completed 22 projects that have been certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program (LEED) overseen by the U.S. Green Building Council and has seven more under construction or in the planning stages that will seek LEED designation.
The company's current high-profile projects include the new IKEA store in Centennial, DaVita's headquarters under construction at Union Station in Denver and the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne.
For CEO John Beeble, his greatest impact has come from "laying the foundation that is creating a culture of change, flexibility and adaptation for our organization in an industry not known for these characteristics. Also, introducing corporate social responsibility into our company's language and identity. We are one of the first commercial construction companies to publish a CSR laying the groundwork and baseline for continued focus on our triple bottom line."
Greg Byles, CEO, GTRI
GTRI provides information technology consulting for the enterprise, federal and state government, health care, educational and other markets nationwide. Its core practice includes physical infrastructure, integrated solutions and network monitoring and management.
GTRI launched in 1998 as a three-man operation out of a home office. Today, CEO Greg Byles oversees a 200-person company that has annual revenues of more than $300 million and has evolved from selling computer hardware to delivering IT solutions.
Its recent projects include improving the speed and efficiency of the nation's 911 emergency response capabilities, safeguarding a national gas pipeline to meet new security requirements, enhancing patient care in a health-care facility, and managing and securing data used in next-generation military, transportation and space exploration projects.
"I don't believe it has been me or any single contributor that has made the most significant impact," said Byles, who has 20 years of experience in the Denver IT industry. "We have been lucky enough to grow year over year, and to do that everyone has to contribute as a team. The greatest impact has been our relentless commitment to our customers and the reciprocation from them as well. Everyone at GTRI has impacted our success."
Rob Cohen, chairman and CEO, IMA Financial Group Inc.
IMA Financial Group is a diversified financial-services company with several subsidiaries, the largest of which is the insurance brokerage IMA Inc.
The company opened its Colorado office under Cohen's leadership in 1989. IMA was named the Agency of the Year by National Underwriter in 2010 and was a ColoradoBiz magazine Top Company finalist in 2011. Revenue has grown from $16 million in 2001 to $90 million in 2010.
Eleven years ago, Cohen and his wife, Molly, agreed to "adopt" 35 third-graders through the I Have a Dream Foundation and stay with them through mentoring and financial support until they graduated from high school. Since then, 34 of the students have graduated, and 80 percent are enrolled in secondary education.
Cohen is former chairman of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the board of trustees for Metropolitan State College of Denver. He co-founded and is chairman emeritus of the Metro Denver Sports Commission.
"Rob's greatest impact as a CEO is his vision and ability to inspire those around him," his colleagues at IMA said. "Rob led the company in investing in the company's infrastructure at a time when others were contracting. As a result, IMA has seen steady growth and improved profitability in 2011 and is positioned for explosive growth as the economy improves."
Ralph Christie, chairman, president and CEO, Merrick
Ralph W. Christie has led Merrick for more than 14 years. During that time, the employee-owned engineering and architectural services company has transitioned from a regional firm to the international stage, with offices in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom and the completion of projects in more than 43 countries.
Christie, who joined the company in 1992, oversees management of 478 people in 13 offices. He was elected president and CEO in 1997 and became chairman of the board later that year. Christie has more than 35 years of technical and management experience in the engineering and construction industries and has been involved in numerous business groups, including the Colorado Space Coalition, which he has co-chaired for more than seven years.
Over the past five years, under Christie's leadership, Merrick has increased revenues from $56 million to $127 million and added more than 160 employees. The company's strategic vision under his leadership includes maintaining zero to minimum debt even during the recession and keeping the company involved in diverse markets to minimize risk.
"I hope my biggest impact on the organization has been providing a platform and building a culture that instills professional and personal growth of our employees," Christie said.
Robert Uhler, chairman and CEO, MWH Global
Robert Uhler stepped down as CEO of MWH in November after 35 years with the global engineering, consulting and construction company, which employs more than 7,000 on six continents.
The company has worked on of some of the world's largest wet infrastructure projects for more than 4,000 municipalities, governments, multinational corporations and industries. Among its recent projects is the $5.5 billion expansion of the Panama Canal.
"The greatest impact I've had as CEO is to move the business sophistication of the company from a technical-practice business to a socially responsible business practice," Uhler said. "This is manifested in several ways. First, the systems and corporate talent have been upgraded to the viewpoint of a much larger global firm. Secondly, the strategy of being a high-value, differentiated firm has paid the dividend of being in the top three companies in the world in our sector.
"And, finally, the internal development of talent and social responsibility has cascaded sustainability awareness and responsibility to more than 25,000 employees, grade-school children and clients globally," he said. "I am always amazed when I hear stories from employees who tell me how they write home to their parents to share, with pride, the ethos of their employer, MWH."
Jesse Wolff, president and CEO, Goodwill Industries
Goodwill Industries of Denver serves more than 30,000 people a year and is poised to become the largest human-services nonprofit in Colorado. Goodwill has opened four new stores (bringing its total to 24) since Jesse Wolff joined the organization in August 2010. It also opened a new warehouse, five new donation centers and a career connection center, and has a partnership with Amazon to sell used books.
Prior to Goodwill, Wolff served as president and CEO of The Kempe Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on child abuse treatment, prevention and research. He was also CEO of Community Shares of Colorado, his first nonprofit position after a 15-year career in investment portfolio management and corporate finance.
This year marked the first that a Goodwill store reached more than $3 million in revenue. Gross revenues in 2010 were $46 million; 2011 revenue is estimated to be at $54 million. Goodwill now employs 1,200 workers, up from 882 in 2010, and donations are up 20 percent over last year.
"We have been able to grow Goodwill rapidly while still focusing on building a great culture and living our values as an organization," Wolff said. "One has not come at the expense of the other."