March 8th CEO Roundtable Featuring Matthew Hawkins

Please join Tucson Young Professionals and listen to Matthew Hawkins, CEO of Sunquest Information Systems

When/Where: March 8th, 5:30-7:00pm @ Union Public House

About CEO Roundtable:

Tucson Young Professionals holds a monthly CEO Roundtable as an avenue of professional development for our members and the community.

We ask our featured speaker to candidly speak for 30-35 minutes about their story of successes, pitfalls and laughs on their journey to becoming a successful leader.

The atmosphere is casual and conversational.

About Matthew Hawkins:

Please join Tucson Young Professionals and listen to Matthew Hawkins, CEO of Sunquest Information Systems

With a passion for healthcare and technology-enabled businesses, Matt leads the organization to help make healthcare smarter and patients safer through the delivery of innovative diagnostic and laboratory information systems to organizations across the globe. Prior to joining Sunquest, Matt served as president and board member of Greenway Health, chief executive officer and board member of Vitera Healthcare Solutions, chief executive officer and board member of SirsiDynix and vice president and general manager of Henry Schein Practice Solutions. Matt received an MBA from Harvard Business School and began his career after graduating with University Honors from Brigham Young University. Matt is deeply committed to volunteer service having held recent volunteer board positions with the Florida divisions of both the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.

January 12th CEO Roundtable Featuring Lee Lambert

Please join Tucson Young Professionals and enjoy our roundtable with Lee Lambert, Chancellor of Pima Community College

When/Where: January 12th, 5:30-7:00pm @ Union Public House

About CEO Roundtable:

Tucson Young Professionals holds a monthly CEO Roundtable as an avenue of professional development for our members and the community.

We ask our featured speaker to candidly speak for 30-35 minutes about their story of successes, pitfalls and laughs on their journey to becoming a successful leader.

The atmosphere is casual and conversational.

About Lee Lambert:

Lee Lambert, Chancellor of Pima Community College, has been Chancellor since July 1, 2013.Chancellor Lambert formerly served on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and in[masked] he served on AACC’s Executive Committee. He is a former chair of AACC’s Committee on Program Initiatives and Workforce Training.

Has been asked by the governments of China and India to speak to educators in those countries about the critical role community colleges can play in educating and training the workforce of the 21st century.

Keynote presenter for the AACC delegation at the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics World Congress in Beijing, October 2014.

Recently, Chancellor Lambert has received the National leadership award from Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education “in recognition of your leadership in the field of higher education and your contributions to the API community,” April 2015. He also received award from Arizona’s chapter of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) for service to the College’s student-veterans, May 2015.And was recognized by League of United Latin American Citizens Council 1057 at the group’s annual Educators Awards & Scholarship Banquet, April 2015.

In addition, he was named Man of the Year by the Pan Asian Community Alliance in Tucson, February 2015. He also is a Board member for the National Asian Pacific Islanders Council Advisory Board member and the Southern Arizona Council for International Visitors.


CEO Close Up with T. VanHook

After T. VanHook’s CEO Round Table event in August, we had a chance to sit down and find out a little bit more about her and lessons she’s learned as the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Tucson. Above is our flash interview with T., below is our full length close up interview.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Are you from Tucson originally? If not, how long have you lived here?

I come from a Tucson family, but I was raised in Cochise County. I came to Tucson when I graduated from high school to attend the University of Arizona. I’m not a Tucsonan, but I’m the family of Tucsonan, my father grew up here, we just lived elsewhere.


What is your favorite type of food and/or what is your favorite restaurant in Tucson?

That’s a hard question – I love Feast, they have a really varied menu that changes throughout the year so you can always find something great and different.


What kind of music do you listen to? Who’s your favorite artist?

Here in the office we mostly listen to throwback, like 70’s and 80’s music, a lot of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. I walk every morning to Rusted Root. I listen to a real variety of stuff – if you were to look in my phone you’d find a wide range of stuff.

In my office when people get stressed out, I play Krishna Das (which is played in a lot of yoga studies). When people think of nonprofits, people tend to think everyone’s holding hands and signing kumbaya. But the reality is that we’re all here because we have a passion for the mission of serving the community and sometimes those passions clash. Unless someone’s injured or killed – nothing is so urgent it can’t wait for 15 minutes. There’s this Krishna Das song which is kind of quiet and lasts about 14 minutes and we’ll play that and just sit on the couch. Anytime there’s a conflict and emotions are up people come in to my office and we chill, we listen to the one song, then we can say what’s going on. Music is really about the moment and what the mood prescribes.


Can you tell us about your educational background and how it led you to current leadership role at Habitat?

Sure, I have a degree in Art Education and a MA in Art Education from the University of Arizona. I went to the University of Frankfurt where I studied Aesthetic Theory. I did several internships in museums – none of which led to my current position.


So how did you end up falling into the executive leadership at Habitat? It sounds like you had a pretty different background from your current role.

It’s actually a quick leap. I think there are basic [relevant] skills, certainly when you’re doing post graduate research in philosophy, about writing, reasoning, and learning. After I finished studying at the University of Frankfurt, I came back to Tucson and worked in a little restaurant called Grill on Congress. Pat Benechik, who was the Executive Director at COPE Behavioral Services at the time, was a regular customer at Grill. Steve Liao was a City Council Member for the City of Tucson and he’d meet once a week with Pat.

COPE was looking for someone who could write, that would work for various departments, write grants, and do copy writing on various things. Steve Liao had told Pat I was a good writer, so one day he asked me if I’d be interested in working for COPE on a trial basis to do some writing. I went on a 90 day trial and with my first attempt at a federal grant we received $5.3 million.

Around 2002 they spun off something called RISE, which ran a homeless feeding center. I became the President and CEO of RISE. So, in my early 30’s, that was my first jaunt as a CEO of a nonprofit corporation. I stayed there until 2006, when the Town of Marana asked me to come out and look at their grant and affordable housing programs and I was there for eight and half years.

In 2000 my mother retired, and took a volunteer position in Habitat. She had no skills – zero skills in construction – she was a technical report writer. At the end of her first day, in January 2000, she called and said she’s going back. I said, “So you’re going to do construction?” She said “No, I figured out in about the first 20 minutes I don’t know how to do that, but they have regular people that come every week – I’m going to take their orders and make sandwiches for them.” She ended up doing that for almost two years. In 2002, they were doing a women’s build, and I was invited to be a part of it.


So that’s how you found out about the organization?

Absolutely, and unfortunately my mother passed away a couple years after she started here at Habitat. But it was a really wonderful legacy, and [Habitat] just seemed to be a good fit for me.


Do you have any hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?

I do a few things, I speed walk three to five miles every morning. That’s just to clear my head, think, listen to music, and get ready for the day. I make cards and I quilt. I also love to bake and cook – I like to make elaborate meals and I try to do that at least once a week for family and friends.


Do you have a leadership style you identify with?

Yes, I think every job on earth is equal. What is important is for people to know what their role is and how they fit into the bigger organization. I feel like my job as CEO isn’t to do everyone else’s job, it’s to get the right people in the right job and make sure they have the resources they need to complete the mission. It’s really about visioning and missioning. I have an entire wall in my office painted as a white board which I use and it’s there so people can come in, talk about, and illustrate how we all come together to make the system work so that we’re meeting our goals by the end of the year – that’s all that really matters.

I think it’s critical that we think things through, that we have people to talk things through with, and that we allow people to do the jobs they were hired to do. That means letting others make some of the decisions but every decision made in this corporation is my responsibility. I always say “I am responsible, I take full responsibility for my actions and I take full responsibility for the actions others take when I empower them to do so.” I think that’s really important: I’ve got everybody’s back, nobody’s going to be left out flailing because ultimately it’s my responsibility. I try to communicate that very fully to people.


What do you think is the key success factor to your personal leadership style?

I think it’s keeping it real, and I talked about this at the round-table event. There are really only a couple things you do as a leader. One, you have to be your genuine self, you have to put yourself out there – if it’s quirky or uptight – whatever it is, you have to be genuine to who you are and what your core values are. As soon as you start decision making or asking someone else to decision make contrary to their core values it’s a disaster for everyone.

Two, you have to be nice to everybody. Everybody has an equal say. You never know where the next great idea is going to come from and you want everyone in the organization to have ownership. So it’s really critical that you make sure it’s an inclusive environment. It’s knowing when to empower people to make decisions and when to take responsibility for a decision and say, I’m really excited to hear your feedback but ultimately this is my decision. The trick is making sure people understand when it isn’t a joint decision, when I’m going to listen to the feedback and think something over to make sure it’s the best decision, best fit, and best direction for the corporation.


Can you tell us about an obstacle you or your organization has faced and how it was overcome?

We’ve just come through, as an organization, a critical time of change. We had an amazing Executive Director, Michael McDonald who moved on to the Community Food Bank. Early in my conversations with Michael, he said something that really struck me, he said that he needed to put is eyes on something new, he needed a new challenge, he needed a change, and Habitat needed someone new to put their eyes on it. To the outside, it’s sometimes a negative when someone leaves or there’s big transition or big change. But here at Habitat, I think it’s been an extreme positive.

The legacy that Michael and his predecessors left was a really strong and stable organization. Now we have an opportunity to start adjusting our model, forecasting, and looking at the future so we can ensure the stability of the corporation. To the outside it looks like a set of hurdles – there’s turnover or all of these changes and that’s an obstacle – that perception.

In some cases change is very, very difficult. For long term employees change can be a huge obstacle. But what we have work through that together and continually communicate. My door is open, people can come in, and we can talk things through. Rumor mills are everywhere, external or internal in every workplace. Anyone that says that false information doesn’t move through their organization is either in denial or delusional. But I like to say let’s face it: here’s what I’ve heard, here’s what’s going on, and this is what I understand. Again, it’s where the whiteboard works – we can see by fiscal year where we want to move, what we want to do, and see a timeline of what we’re doing this year. Any person in this organization can come in and see exactly where we’re at.

I think change creates its own obstacles and what we had to do was figure out what chutes and ladders we needed to navigate that change, to make sure it was a comfortable transition for the people who transitioned with us, and that it was a comfortable landing or a positive move for people who did not stay with the organization. We’ve worked hard to do that, to make sure it’s a win-win.


Do you find that when people come to talk to you about change, that they leave here with a sense of calmness, that they know everything is going to be fine?

I think it can go both ways. Sometimes we talk really big ideas and I’ll tell people that the idea has to percolate in their brain for a bit and that they may have questions tomorrow or the next day. It may be more confusing once they see the big vision, but once they start settling in and they see they how things are going – you know it takes time to build trust. I’ve been here 14 months and I’ve worked hard to check in with every person every day. When I get here first thing in the morning I do a circle around of the building, say hello, see how their weekend was, and see what’s going on with everybody. It takes time for the vision or changes to really become ingrained in people. I hope people leave my office knowing they’ve been listened to and I hope they leave knowing that I care about their concerns, that I’ve been open with my answers. But sometimes, they aren’t leaving with clarity or self-confidence, but they come back.


A follow-up question: organizational change is a big deal, especially when leadership changes – was there anything really surprising or unexpected that you found in the transition? 

I was surprised a little bit at how hard the transition was for some key players. We had some public positions change and I was a little surprised early on when a department manager left after I had only been here 5 weeks. When we sat down to talk after they’d accepted another position, I found out they actually left based on an assumption. It wasn’t my intent at all – what their fear was – and we’ve continued our relationship since they left, we have lunch on a regular basis, and talk. I think it’s important to get those things out on the table and talk about them. What could’ve been an adversarial parting has actually been very positive for us and extremely positive for the person who left.


One more follow-up question: was there any sort of new skill or talent that you developed – maybe something that forced you outside of your comfort zone as a result of managing the leadership transition?

Transitions are just hard, people leaving is hard. I think I took it too personally – a lot harder than I thought I would. I remember speaking with a CEO, who I perceive as the sweetest, most loved person in Tucson, who told me that 40% of the staff left within her first 90 days because of new goals, new ideas, new objectives, and new processes. That conversation made me feel a little better – that she had had that amount of turnover.

CEOs are supposed to have these boundaries around them and it goes back to being your genuine self, I don’t think I intentionally put up boundaries, but early on to protect myself I maybe wasn’t as personally open with people, for example laughing or telling a story. As soon as I was able to kind of relax and do that, I met my husband.

He’d spoken at Building Freedom Day last year. I’d been to a SAHBA (Southern Arizona Home Builders Association), where he, Martha McSally, and a general from the Air Force talked about the transition of military families and some stuff around the A-10. I thought there’s someone really interesting and articulate about change within an organization.

So Colonel Schuld was speaking somewhere, and I called him, and I thought there’s someone out of sector that I could ask about how they handled transition, what they do, and so I went and interviewed him and asked about how he handled transition.


What is something would be surprised to find out about you?

I think people are surprised – because I’m a vegetarian, I have my dogs, I will not use plastic shopping bags – that I drive a race car that is a gas guzzler, but only on Sundays. I have a 2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500 with 606 horsepower. I love the car and I work on it myself – I’m sort of a motor-head.


I think that qualifies as surprising – what’s your favorite road to go fast on?

Well, I try not to exceed the speed limit, but the new segment of Twin Peaks Road between I-10 and Dove Mountain Boulevard is a really beautiful and smooth road. Certainly the road between I-10 and Sonoita is a lovely one to drive with a Shelby Cobra.


Do you have a mentor or role model?

I would say Tom Donovan with COPE Behavioral Services is the smartest human being I have ever been around. He’s calm, he doesn’t believe in drama. He’s creative and then takes an analytical look at the ideas. He’s that person who’s not afraid to tell me when I’m full of it or that I’m not walking my talk. He’ll also tell me when I’m not taking a risk because of fear. He reminds me to think about what my values are and to be who I am and to bring what I am to the table. So, I think he’s critical in my life for almost 20 years – in fact he’d be great for CEO Round Table.


Last question, and it may be a little cliché – but asking people who have a lot of experience who’ve been around awhile can often give some interesting answers. So the question is – what is the meaning of life?

This is a good question for me. My first husband was terminally ill for a number of years. I cared for him at home and he passed in early 2013. You learn a lot about what your priorities are and who your friends are when you’re in that type of situation. I think people talk about a home/life balance – as something you need, but I’ll take it back to the idea that you have to be your authentic you. Every day is an amazing gift.

Near my desk there are two stickers that have traveled with me throughout my career. They say two things: “Good clothes (or in my case shoes) open all doors” and “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.” Every day I make the decision, no matter what’s thrown at me, can I take a positive look at this or am I going to be negative? You’re entitled to a pity party, to your raw emotion. But we get to make choices every day. We can choose to make choices that may make the world a little better or that may not. So, I think for me the meaning of life is living every day and taking full advantage while not taking advantage of what’s around you. You have to live your life without damaging others or taking resources that don’t belong to you.


October 13th CEO Roundtable featuring Paul Bellows


Please join Tucson Young Professionals and enjoy our roundtable with Paul Bellows, Chief Executive Officer for”Be Good @ Doing Good”

When/Where: October 13th, 5:30-7:00pm @ Union Public House

About CEO Roundtable:

Tucson Young Professionals holds a monthly CEO Roundtable as an avenue of professional development for our members and the community.

We ask our featured speaker to candidly speak for 30-35 minutes about their story of successes, pitfalls and laughs on their journey to becoming a successful leader.

The atmosphere is casual and conversational.

About Paul Bellows:

Paul’s clients want to move from just knowledge, which is information, to understanding, which is awareness. They are already successful and yet they want more – they have a burning desire to make a bigger impact in the lives of their customers, employees, family and charities. Creating a better version of themselves and their business is now their primary goal.

As founder and CEO of “Be Good @ Doing Good,” Paul works with CEOs, entrepreneurs, business owners and non-profit executive directors to help them achieve their mission and “Be Good at Doing Good” in their communities and around the planet.

His specialties: Business & CEO Coaching; Strategist; Strategic Planning; Planning Retreats; Public Speaking; Facilitating Work Shops & Peer Advisory Groups; Author; Business, Non-profit & Leadership Coaching

Paul is 100% devoted to helping all types of caring organizations and business leaders become and do more. Since that never happens by accident, he is here to help you.

Special thanks to our partner, Citi!

August 11th CEO Roundtable featuring T. VanHook

vanhook roundtablePlease join Tucson Young Professionals and enjoy our roundtable with T. VanHook, Chief Executive Officer for Habitat for Humanity Tucson

When/Where: August 11th, 5:30-7:00pm @ Union Public House

About CEO Roundtable:

Tucson Young Professionals holds a monthly CEO Roundtable as an avenue of professional development for our members and the community.

We ask our featured speaker to candidly speak for 30-35 minutes about their story of successes, pitfalls and laughs on their journey to becoming a successful leader.

The atmosphere is casual and conversational.

About T. VanHook:

T. VanHook, Chief Executive Officer of Habitat for Humanity Tucson, is a graduate of the University of Arizona who has spent more than 20 years working in community-based human services, neighborhood, housing, and transit programs for public, private, and nonprofit organizations. She has vast experience facilitating community and governmental collaborative projects for special needs and low-income populations. Most recently, as Marana’s Community Development and Neighborhood Services Director, she was responsible for housing programs, grants management, public transit, special events, and community outreach. In 2010, Ms. VanHook received the Thomas A. Swanson Regional Leadership Award from the Pima Association of Governments for her support of regional transit initiatives and for the development of neighborhood outreach programs targeted at keeping residents up-to-date on private and government development in the Marana area.

Special thanks to our partner, Citi!


July 14th- CEO Roundtable featuring Nathaniel Bradley

Please join Tucson Young Professionals and United Way Young Leaders Society members and listen to Nathaniel Bradley, Co-Founder, CEO, and Director of AudioEye, Inc.

About CEO Roundtable:

Through a partnership with Tucson Young Professionals and United Way’s Young Leaders Society we are holding monthly CEO Roundtable events as an avenue of professional development for our members.

We ask our featured speaker to candidly speak for 30-35 minutes about their story of successes, pitfalls and laughs on their journey to becoming a successful leader.

The atmosphere is casual and conversational.

About Nathaniel Bradley:

Nathaniel is the named inventor of several patented Internet and Mobile technology inventions. Mr. Bradley is a recognized pioneer and active expert in the new media and mobile Internet technology sector. He is also the named inventor of several Internet technology patents and patents pending with United States Patent & Trademark Office. Over the past decade, Mr. Bradley has been involved in the expansion, reduction to practice, mass commercialization and enforcement of Internet patents related to the customization of Internet content to end users. Mr. Bradley has been involved in the development and spin-out divestiture of VoiceAmerica, Radio Pilot, World Talk Radio & BoomBox Radio. He has been involved in the acquisition and consolidation of Internet Radio operations and mobile marketing operations including Augme Mobile in 2010. Bradley was also technical leader for the acquisition teams of then competitor Hipcricket for more than $44.5 million and Jag Tag, inc. for $5.3m both in 2011. Hipcricket, inc has emerged as a leading mobile marketing company in the United States and has completed more than 225,000 mobile marketing campaigns entering 2013. In 2015 Nathaniel was named a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year in the desert mountain region by Ernst & Young.
Special thanks to our partner, Citi!


June 9th – CEO Roundtable featuring Guy Gunther

Please join Tucson Young Professionals and United Way Young Leaders Society members and listen to Guy Gunther, VP of Operations at CenturyLink

About CEO Roundtable:

Through a partnership with Tucson Young Professionals and United Way’s Young Leaders Society we are holding monthly CEO Roundtable events as an avenue of professional development for our members.

We ask our featured speaker to candidly speak for 30-35 minutes about their story of successes, pitfalls and laughs on their journey to becoming a successful leader.

The atmosphere is casual and conversational.

About Guy Gunther:

Guy Gunther, formerly CenturyLink’s Vice President and General Manager of Tucson and Outstate Arizona, has been recently appointed the company’s Vice President of Operations for the entire State of Arizona. In his expanded role, Gunther will be responsible for operational results and customer satisfaction, representing the company in the community and with state and local leaders, and directing CenturyLink’s continued network investments in high speed broadband, Prism™ TV, and cloud infrastructure and hosted IT solutions for business customers. He will maintain offices in both Tucson and Phoenix. Gunther moved to Tucson in 2011 when CenturyLink acquired Qwest. Prior to this he worked ten years for Qwest in various leadership positions. He has previous experience in management consulting and with start-up companies in the technology and communications industries. Gunther is the current chairman of the Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO) and also serves on the boards of the Tucson Metro Chamber, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, and the Catalina Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He and his wife, Karen, have two young children.
Special thanks to our partner, Citi!



TYP – SALC Annual Member Mixer

*Member Only Event- Must be a current TYP Member

Hello Tucson Young Professional Members,

You are cordially invited to attend the prestigious TYP-SALC Annual Mixer. The Southern Arizona Leadership Council plays a unique role with our group as mentors. The group of CEO’s have a mission to improve greater Tucson and the State of Arizona by bringing together resources and leadership to create action that will enhance the economic climate and quality of life in our communities to attract, retain, and grow high quality, high wage jobs.

This is an event you don’t want to miss!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015 from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM (MST)

El Cisne Restaurant
4717 East Sunrise Drive
Tucson, AZ 85718

Please note this is a member’s only event and non-member guests may not attend.

May 12th – CEO Roundtable featuring Rosey Koberlein

Please join Tucson Young Professionals and United Way Young Leaders Society members and listen to Rosey Koberlein, CEO at Long Companies

About CEO Roundtable:

Through a partnership with Tucson Young Professionals and United Way’s Young Leaders Society we are holding monthly CEO Roundtable events as an avenue of professional development for our members.

We ask our featured speaker to candidly speak for 30-35 minutes about their story of successes, pitfalls and laughs on their journey to becoming a successful leader.

The atmosphere is casual and conversational.

About Rosey Koberlein:

Chief Executive Officer Rosey Koberlein oversees leadership and strategic planning for all of Long Companies, including Brokerage, Mortgage, Title and Insurance. With nearly 30 years of real estate experience, Rosey has served in branch and senior management positions within Long Realty Company since 1991.

Long Realty Company, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate and wholly owned subsidiary of HomeServices of America, Inc., is the leading real estate brokerage company operating in southern Arizona. It offers an unparalleled level of award winning residential and commercial real estate services through a network of more than 1,200 licensed real estate associates in more than 38 offices, including 24 affiliate realty and property management companies that are independently owned and operated from Phoenix, throughout Arizona and into Mexico.

See more at:
Special thanks to our partner, Citi!citi


Close Up | Edmund Marquez

Interview with Mr. Marquezedmund close

Edmund Marquez: Oh, where did you get the cassette tape recorder? You got a freaking cassette tape on your smart phone. I feel like listening to Van Halen right now.

Stephanie Bermudez: It’s the Recorder app on my iPhone. Easy download from the App Store. I will send you a mixed tape of the interview.

Edmund Marquez: Mixed tapes remind me of going steady. That’s sweet!

Jennifer Wong: This interview is for Tucson Young Professionals. We have started doing post CEO Roundtable interviews with featured speakers. You are the first to be interviewed for a series we’re calling CEO Close-up. We hope to reach those who were unable to attend CEO Roundtable and also those who attended but are interested in learning more about you. Let’s dive-in!

Edmund Marquez: Alright, I’m very open and ready for anything.

Were you born and raised in Tucson?

Yes, born and raised in Tucson at Saint Joseph’s Hospital on November 18, 1973.

What was it like growing up?

Being born was amazing. I remember that vividly, it was dark… Nah, I’m just kidding. I think growing up in Tucson was great. I think it puts me more in touch with the desert, for sure, more in touch with the sunsets and the sunrises. I say that as a cyclist because I watch the sunrise every morning. Then I just remember the days of me roaming around the desert as a kid. I remember the smell of the desert after it rains. I feel in touch with Tucson. Those are my mountains right there. I mean, no matter where I travel in the world, I always come back to those mountains.

Did you always live on this side of town [northwest side]?

Yeah, pretty much. I grew up on the Craycroft/River area so I always stayed east. And even though my wife and I are even talking about getting another house, it’ll probably be within two miles of where I am today. That’s kind of my area. That’s where I feel at home. That’s my home. So, growing up in Tucson was cool, though. It’s been interesting to watch it expand and grow. It’s had growing pains. It’s had lots of victories. It’s still probably not where it should be. You know, I think most people would agree, you know politically or via infrastructure or job creation, but I think it’s an amazing, amazing city. I mean, if you talk to Joe Snell at TREO [Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities] and what do we have to sell that’s our number selling point is our weather. That’s a beautiful…I mean I can cycle like 360 days a year. It’s just beautiful out so yeah, we’re spoiled here. We’re spoiled. It’s a great place.

Have you lived elsewhere?

No, I mean the closest to living elsewhere was I was a water ski instructor in Lenox, Massachusetts for two summers in a row so I lived out in Lenox in Pittsfield, Massachusetts but it was in the summer so I would say, “Oh, Massachusetts is so beautiful,” and they always say, “Well, you’ve never been there in the winter,” so yeah, it was beautiful. That’s about it. I know I’ll live here forever. I’ll never move. This is it. I’ll die here.

When did you realize you were an entrepreneur at heart?

Gosh, I grew up around entrepreneurs. I don’t think I ever “realized” it. My dad was thirty-year Allstate agent, starting from scratch, working out of a Sears booth in Sears. My grandpa was really the big entrepreneur. My grandpa, I won’t go too deep in the story, but he uh, we’re from Clifton, Morenci, Arizona, that side of the family. My grandpa owned a tortilla factory, a Mexican restaurant, a barbershop, a Kirby vacuum cleaner store and an insurance agency. And so, he kind of owned the businesses on the one street because his dad wouldn’t allow him to go work in the mines where the rest of his friends are working. As a Mexican-American, everyone worked in the mines because it was a quick paycheck, you were immediately at a certain income level and you kind of had the life. But people were also dying of emphysema or dying in the mines or treated unfairly in those years, so my grandpa was an entrepreneur. So, I just kind of grew up that way. As a kid, my sister and I, we’d invite neighbor kids over and we’d have our own little carnival and we’d charge them twenty five cents to bounce the ball into the bucket or whatever. My buddy, Kevin Bruger (spelling?), had a great game room at the house so we’d charge the kids to come over and play in the game room. Yeah, so we were always entrepreneurs. I always loved making money.

What was your first business venture? I guess that would be the carnival, right?

That’s close to it. The first business I got to operate was, I mean, I went to go work early. I worked at Little Anthony’s as a bus boy was I was fifteen. I had a blast. I was head of the bus boys within months because I just worked my butt off. I would just enjoy it. I use to challenge Tony Terry, the owner. I’d go in on Sundays when no one really showed up, the restaurant was pretty slow, and I’d clean it to the best of my ability. Then I’d go to the office and give Tony the challenge to find something wrong in his restaurant. That was kind of my first taste of it. And then I worked at the pool and turndown (?) at Ventana, but then the first real taste was, I graduated high school and I had bad grades. I had like a 2.3, I played sports (or didn’t play sports?), and then I went to my dad and basically said, “Can I go work at your Allstate agency.” And he said, “Sure.” And that was the first taste because he didn’t let me do much at first but after a while, I caught on pretty quickly and he pretty much handed me the keys and was like, “You run the agency while you go to college.” And I did, me and my high school quarterback, we ran my dad’s Allstate agency, but we got him Agency of the Year, two years in a row because we sold a ton. We just had fun with clients. We just goofed off. So, from there I became the Director of the Cedric Dempsey Cancer Center Run at U of A. We had a huge running event that benefitted the cancer center and we had 6,000 runners and raised half a million dollars on a Sunday. So it’s huge, it blew it out of the park. And then, I went to go work for Eegee’s. They gave me a job offer and uh, yeah, I got to be creative at Eegee’s, but I realized at Eegee’s that I’m not good at having a boss. One day, Bob Greenberg, one of the owners, I love the owners, I don’t bring up Bob Greenberg, long story short, my boss, my immediate boss, had a heart attack while we were having lunch one day and we were able to save him with CPR but I ended up running the whole marketing department my senior year of college and one day, I’m working my butt off. I mean, I’m going boardroom, classroom, boardroom, classroom, you know, Colorado Rockies, U of A. I mean, I was dealing with everybody, still going to school, trying to take tests and one night, I’m working late, the office is closed. It’s just me and the owner. Bob Greenberg comes and leans against my door and just kind of looks at me and goes, “Kid, you scare me.” I’m like, “I scare you?” And he’s like, “Yeah, you got tons of energy and you’re running all over,” and he meant it in a nice way, but at the same time, I took it like, if I’m working my butt off and I’m going a million miles an hour and that scares the owner, that should excite the owner. I said, I don’t need to have a boss. So after that, I quit my job, had resumes out there, had a job offer from Warner Brothers in Burbank. Passed that up, stayed, became an Allstate agent at age 22. And then, boom, crazy from there. If you want to hear entrepreneurship, I said this when I spoke to the group, but at one time, I owned ten companies. I opened Allstate, starting hitting their bonus level and crushing it. I started making too much money for a 23 year old. I was good with it, I was very conservative with it, but I ended up buying my dad’s agency, that’s still Allstate. Then I bought his building, still not a business, but still an Allstate agency. Bought a car dealership. Bought three Chevrons, an Arco am/pm, then opened up a finance company, a warranty company, a real estate development company, and I’m forgetting something. Nah, I don’t remember the other one. But yeah, so I just expanded huge. I was running ten companies at one time. That’s too much for anyone though. I mean, even though, like four or five, like you can group four and four together and you’re kind of vertically integrated within the group, it’s still just a ton of running around.

Was it just you or did you have partners?

I had a partner in the dealership, automotive repair, the finance company, warranty company. My sister was my partner in the gas stations. And then, it was just me on the real estate development and the Allstate agencies.

What was your most interesting job?

I learned the most from the car dealership. My god, I mean, gas station was just like, gas stations were just pay a million and half or a million, two for a location, pay people minimum wage and sell beer and cigarettes. I mean, there wasn’t much to that. I mean that was just kind of a ridiculous business. That’s why you see so many shutting down. It just doesn’t make sense anymore. The car dealership taught me a ton because I came over from Allstate pretty cocky. I was pretty cocky because I’m like, I’m 23, I’m number 2 producer in the country for auto. I’m just crushing it. And, I didn’t really understand business yet, I was just like cocky. Because at Allstate, you just sell and you service and they send you a paycheck. And that was kind of it. The car dealership was a totally different dynamic, where you would start at zero every single month. There is no renewal income. And then there’s an inventory. You have to control inventory. So, I fell on my butt numerous times at the beginning just trying to figure it out. I had to learn a P&L (profit and loss) and a balance sheet. I had to figure out the business. But ultimately, we did figure it out. We grew from a small, independent to a Suzuki store, which was kicking butt. The dealership was jamming until the economy turned. And then, the economy turned and like I said at the meeting, I got my butt kicked. I mean, the car dealership went from making tons of money to losing a hundred, hundred fifty thousand a month. And it just kicked our butts. And then we closed it and we were okay, but then Suzuki kind of screwed us there. And Suzuki, eh, they didn’t try to, they weren’t trying to be malicious, but they had so many dealerships that were failing at the turn of the economy. Because you think about most dealerships that went from independent to Suzuki had just put in a ton of money to do so because you had to invest to become Suzuki that they had so many cars coming back, they took our brand new cars instead of just buying them from us at what we paid for them, they rolled them through the auto auction, getting pennies on the dollar. So I went from owing just a little bit of money to owing millions and so, it bankrupted me. So, bankrupted me, lost my house. I mean, I got my butt kicked, went back to my agency and that’s when the defining moment came and that’s when I went back to what I consider nowadays a small agency. I owned the building, but at that point, I could have fired my one staff that I had left and my dad and I could have gone in there and run the small agency or I could starve for the year and I can keep my one staff and starve for a year knowing that after a year, I’m going to ask Allstate to buy another agency. That’s what we did. And so, since that first year, I think I told the story at the meeting, I remember a defining moment going to the grocery store and I remember seeing this tall, beautiful, blonde woman pushing her kids around in her cart and I remember, I just got done owning a car dealership, being on TV and owning a Ferrari to I couldn’t buy all the groceries that I wanted to buy. It was a rough freaking, I mean I literally I remember I had like fifty bucks in my account and I couldn’t buy all the groceries because I still had five more days until payday. I was like, Holy crap, what a reality, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was like clarity. It provided clarity in my life to…what do I truly want? I want my kids and my wife to spend time with me, to have quality in life, to have a roof over their heads, to have transportation, to be involved in my community, to be well-rounded and overall, to just have fun and be a good person. And that was so much clarity to me, so I kicked ass for that year. Long story short, I was able to buy another agency and I thought I was done at that point, so I bought two, my dad’s and that one. And then I kicked so much butt, long story short, I bought six more after that. So now, I’m a mega agency. I’m the largest Allstate agency in Arizona. We’re pretty huge. We have three locations and life’s good and I have a lot of fun. So, it’s a good time. I love my clients and I love my agencies and I’ll never go buy another business. You can record that on your cassette, I will never go buy another business. So, maybe down the road, I may invest in small ways in other things, but I’ll continue to…Jim Click’s taught me to just continue to invest in my own business.


How old were you when you started making money as a business owner?

As a business owner I was 22, which you think about it nowadays, that’s freaking young. I’m 41 now, I was 22 and by 23 I was making a lot of money. I don’t drink alcohol, while my buddies would go to Dirt Bag and drop freaking $200 on a Saturday night. That was a car payment for me, I had a nice car. It was nice, yeah.

You don’t drink alcohol at all?


What made that decision for you?

I’ve never really been into it. I’ve drank twice; once in High School on my Senior Trip. Ah, in college a couple times as a fraternity boy but I just never enjoyed it. I’m pretty realistic with myself, I analysis myself a lot. I try and stay really well rounded. Even to this day emotionally to physically and mentally, with alcohol I don’t see an upside. I think people tend to do stupid things. They tend to have excuses for the stupid things that they do because they say they were drunk. I don’t like the lack of control. I just always considered it a level of stupidity.

Did you ever get any peer pressure in high school or in college about that?

Noooo… not really. To me, I always liked being different and everyone was drinking. They’d offer me a beer like, “hey man here’s a beer” and I would respond, “I don’t drink, man” and they’d be like, “oh, really? cool”. I was always the designated drinker. I am still always the designated driver. Like my wife likes to drink freaking wine with her girlfriends and I will be the D.D. I have been the freaking D.D. forever. So here’s something to learn about my personality, if I do something I want to do something to the best of my ability. So, my Senior year drinking on my senior trip I got a little to wild and crazy that night and then in college I did 21 shots on my 21st birthday. So, if I do things, I do them to the best of my ability so I know to stay the hell away from it. I have never seen most of the drugs out there and I hope I never take any because if I took any, I would do it to the best of my ability. I just stay away from it. So, I become addicted to things like, cycling or traveling or I just put myself, you need to understand your own personality and my personality is “go hardcore if you do it”. So, I just stay away.

When did you realize that was your personality and you became ok with that?

Um, I don’t know, I think as a kid. Even to this day we’re all still trying to get in touch with who we are. I get a lot of that from cycling and being alone. Right now, my ride home is without my team and I love that time because I am alone and can think of details. As a kid and even in college I had this routine where I would go ride my bike at night. I had this routine where I would work and go to school, you know, study my butt off; I’d come home, change, get on my bike, I’d go do the same route and it was a tough route because we lived in the mountains, in the hills. So, I would do the same route everyday and I’d come home and have a chicken breast, I’d have some rice and I’d have some green beans every single night. I am very repetitious. So, I find myself on the ride and then my parents, we lived in a 3 story house on top of a hill so I’d go sit on the roof and just stare at the city and think about life. As I said in the meeting the other day, some people think in the past, some in the present and some in the future. I am straddling the present and future, I am already half way thinking here and already half way thinking about where I am going next. So, I am always trying to move somewhere. Another thing that drives me alot is that I firmly connect with the fact that we get one shot at this life. You get one shot and that’s it. You’re on this planet once and it is not very quickly. So, I want to make the most of it. I want to make sure that I live the best possible life that I can possibly live while I’m here. Look at like, Dave Murray who just walked past who is 72 years old, he was a UA Track and Field coach for 35 years, he’s an in the Hall of Fame; he’s at 72 and he still shows up to freaking ride every morning because he’s holding on to life because he understand that as soon as he stops, his body will begin to adjust and change and age. So, there’s a difference between aging and growing old. You can continue to age but do you want to grow old? I mean, he’s 72 and he keeps up with me. I’m 41 and I’m a pretty good cyclist but it’s amazing that you can age at the rate that you choose. It’s based on what you eat, how much you sleep, how much you work out. You know, eating is half the battle. People that continue to eat the things that they know are bad for them it’s that they don’t take the time to get to know themselves. When you take the time to get to know yourself and stop doing what the majority of people do everyday, you have to be aware “I don’t like that, I don’t want that, that doesn’t feel right, I’m going to stop doing it”. So, I am pretty big on that.


If you were a super hero what super power would you have and why?

Oh, man fly. I want to fly so bad. I have dreams about that. I would go Superman. Fly! I just want to fly so bad, it’s freedom. It’s funny, I just took this Tony Robins thing yesterday, I love Tony Robins. He sends email things with questionnaires so that you can get to know yourself and to think and feel your deepest thoughts. One of the questions was, where are you at today and where are you going to be in 3 years from now. I wrote down, I just want to continue to be free and that’s what I want. As I said in the meeting, Warren Buffett said, “the meaning to success is, go where you want, with who you want, when you want.” That’s just freedom, to do what you want. I would fly! To walk out there and stand and just take off, I would be all over that. I would be all over that.

Every hero has successes and downfalls. What would you say is the greatest achievement and biggest come back?

I would say my greatest achievement are my kids. Oh, it’s so true and amazing! I am still blown away by the fact I met a girl when I was 19 and dated her, it’s one thing to date somebody. Then the got engaged to her and the whole world knew that I had attached myself to her, while I was a sophomore in college and she was a junior. Then, you marry her in front of all your family and friends; that’s something to, when you make a promise in front of 500 people. Then, it’s something to create other human beings with her, that just blows me away. I mean, no matter what we can create with our hands or business wise; to create some freaking human beings and to live with them and watch their personalities grow and try to prepare them for the world… that is pretty freaking cool. My biggest comeback, you already know but I will say that getting knocked on my ass was the greatest thing to ever happen to me. Best thing. Because if not, I would be 40lbs heavier than this, I would be unhappy, I’d be lost, I wouldn’t see my kids very much. That is where I was headed, that is what I was doing. I was just busy and eating badly and not working out and thought I was the man because I was making a lot of money.

Would you have done thing differently? If so, what would you have done differently?

Gosh, first of all, I would hate to have to do it again. It’s funny enough that I told my wife this the other day, “you know as much as I enjoy the experiences that we’ve had, you know, the journey we’ve been on, I would not want to do it again”. I move forward, to me it’s like taking your Monopoly and moving back 10 places. I wouldn’t want to do it over again. If I had to do it over again, gosh, I would hate it because I wouldn’t be where I am today and doing what I am doing today and I’m exactly where I want to be. So, that’s tough to answer. If anything I would go back to freaking May of 2000 when I opened a car dealership and I’d open and buy here, pay here lot, that’s the difference; instead of doing retail and I’d be kinda a scummy car guy with but here, pay here with cheap cars on the South side but I’d have made a ton of money. But, that would’ve just fed the issue, I’d still be an empty suit. I’d have a ton of money but who cares, you know. Funky answer, I guess. 

What advise would you give to today’s young professionals?

Ah, young professionals, god get involved in your community. Join aboard, join a networking group, you know, get involved. We’re splintered as a community; there’s the democrats and the republicans, there’s the neighborhood, there’s the businesses, we’re splintered as a community. The thing we don’t realize is that we’re all on the same team and it’s not Tucson vs. Albuquerque vs. Austin vs. San Diego. We don’t get it. We’re so busy fighting, it just drives me crazy. If you’re a young professional in the business community get involved in the community and have a voice. Don’t just be the neighbors be the crazy ones that get up and say something at a supervisors meeting. I mean have a presence as a business owner or a business person. Get involved and have a voice to so that we’re not always say no in the City of Tucson. Just get involved. Don’t just sit in your cubicle and pray to god that you get your paycheck on the 5th and 20th. Make a difference in your community, get involved and make sure Tucson is the best it can be, really. Financially, work your ass off; show up early, leave late. Get your education, go to University of Phoenix if you have to and continue learning. Always keep learning and find yourself a mentor. I have 3 really, really freaking strong ones; Jim Click, Rob McCallister, and Peter Marcus those are mine, they’re my elders. They’re the guys I go to when I have a problem, an issue or need a strategy. They’ve all been there before, to learn from the people in their 60’s or 70’s, because they have already stepped on that crap and they will tell you where not to step. It’s amazing, I don’t have to go figure things out, I just go to guys who often times may be smarter than me or have experienced more than me and say, “what do you think about this” and it’s amazing the answers you’ll get. A lot of it is because they have fallen on their butts already. So, definitely get a mentor.


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