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Posted: December 17, 2013

CEO of the Year finalists 2013: Success, in their own words

The best leadership advice I ever got

Maria Martin

Dr. Carl Clark

The Mental Health Center of Denver

CEO since: 2000

“Two things: When I was 16, my dad said, ‘If you think of something you want to do, do it now. If you put it off, 20 years can go by before you get to it.’ And my mom told me, ‘Do not let how people feel about what you do stop you from doing what you want.’ This advice has encouraged me to make big choices. I tell others to dream big and remember that leadership is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the trip along the way.”


Walter Isenberg

Sage Hospitality

CEO since: 1999

“In college, I was a management trainee at the Alameda Plaza Hotel in Kansas City and was mentored by an amazing leader, Phil Pistilli. Mr. Pistilli asked me to meet him in his office at 5:30 a.m. (very early for any 19-year-old). When I arrived, he told me we were going to go talk to the night auditor, who would be off shift around 7 a.m. He said, ‘You need to realize we are in a 24/7, 365-day-a-year business and that every associate working in our hotels is important. They need to see you, know you and know you care about them and what they do.’

“Mr. Pistilli knew every housekeeper by name, and engaged with each of them, asking them not only how they were doing at their job but how their families were doing. He was genuinely interested and caring – listening intently, making each and every one of them feel important and appreciated. Mr. Pistilli taught me a lifelong lesson I try to live by daily: Know all of your people, treat them with respect, and show them you care and appreciate everything they do, every day.”


Jeremy Ostermiller

Altitude Digital

CEO since: 2009

“It was and continues to be from my father. Because family is such an important part of my life, I even went so far as to make my father the VP of finance for Altitude Digital. The one piece of advice that has impacted me the most is to never give up, and build a lean and mean business. and that’s exactly what I strive to do every day. There were several times throughout the business that a lot of people in my position would have quit, but that thought never crossed my mind. My father would never give up on my dreams and me, and I’m doing the same with Altitude Digital.”


Kim Jordan

New Belgium Brewing Co.

CEO since: 2000

“There are two that are along a spectrum and in the same vein: ‘Pros don’t panic.’  When things are going badly, it’s good to take a deep breath or to step back and get some perspective. That does not mean that you will not move quickly or be decisive, but it does mean that generally you’re not dealing with a life-threatening situation. And if you are, of course, that requires a whole different kind of fast-thinking leadership!

“The other is the human development theory of recycling, Which suggests that we have many opportunities to ‘get it right’ or to fix things that were not done as well as we had hoped they would be the last time around. Perfection is not attainable, and excellence is certainly a process.”


Tami Door

Downtown Denver Partnership

CEO since: 2005

“I had the opportunity to work for a CEO who told me, ‘You can make widgets … you can make a difference, or you can do both. But, either way, it is a conscious choice.’ If your work does not provide meaning to you, it will not provide meaning to anyone around you and it will fall flat. But find the meaning, and you will change companies, communities and lives. When people are looking for opportunity, they should understand what it means to find passion in building a company. When I was working in banks, I wasn’t necessarily passionate about filling out loan documents, but I was passionate about helping companies grow.”


Mimi Roberson

Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children

CEO since: 2000

“Never assume you are better than anyone else or that you can achieve success by yourself.  I have been blessed by other executives trusting in me and giving me extraordinary opportunities. I never wanted to disappoint them and always knew that hard work and my integrity would be a reflection of them. Listening to others and thanking others is key to your success. Above all else, the next generation of CEOs needs to understand that working hard and being tremendously ethical are the core values of what you owe, not only yourself, but the organizations you represent.”


Nancy Phillips


CEO since: 2012

“I have received leadership advice from many people over the years on a multitude of themes.  The mosaic of influences and perspectives I have benefited from has helped shape my brand of leadership. One memorable piece of advice I received along the way came from my longtime business partner, friend and mentor, who shared a perspective that has stuck with me over the years. He shared that you can’t have a bad day as a leader, or at least your team shouldn’t know you are having a bad day. Walk through the office with an open and engaging manner, as opposed to being deep in thought, on a mission to solve problems. this will set a positive tone for your team. Many times leaders don’t understand the subtleties of how their demeanor can impact the team dynamic and engagement.”


Rob Cohen

The IMA Financial Group or

CEO since: 1999

"If you are correct, time is your ally; if you are wrong, time is your enemy. Sometimes you have to simply be patient. If you have a dream, write it down so that it becomes a goal. If you have a goal, share it with others so that it becomes a passion. Only if you have a shared passion will your odds of achieving it go up exponentially. There is something about being involved in an entrepreneurial startup that makes you feel very alive;
you experience every emotion possible.”

Maria Martin is a freelance writer.

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