5 CEOs you should know
Justin Gray, CEO Lead MD
Prior to launching his revenue acceleration agency, LeadMD, in 2010, Justin Gray was employee number seven at a payment startup that he helped grow from less than $1 million in annual recurring revenue to over $64 million in less than four years. He then sold his equity stake in the company and took a week off before being asked to overhaul the sales and marketing processes as well as the tech stacks for three different companies. This retainer consulting work is what eventually grew into LeadMD.
I started my business because… I knew that there were other people, who like me, were being told to slow down, stay in their lane and put their head down and slog through it. “Startup culture” and the tech boom began its whole second coming after the bubble during this time as well, so it was a time of multiple waves building to form something really exciting and we’ve been riding it ever since. That’s the best thing about this journey for me – in the past decade, I’ve built six businesses, sold four, and created 15 multi-millionaires, but most of all, we’ve created a vehicle to unlock our tribe’s potential.
My favorite thing in my office or business space is… Of course, I have to say my team, as they are truly the only reason I bear the oppressive Arizona heat during the summer and drive into an office every day. If it weren’t for them, I would put Arizona in my rearview for five months out of the year. However, my favorite thing in the office beyond our awesome tribe is the entire vibe. It’s kind of like the movie BIG. I always wanted to have that cool, never-grow-up vibe and I think we’ve achieved that… Whether it’s our video arcade, beer and cold brew on tap, or our bean bag farm – the space is meant to pay homage to the fact that we spend more waking time in this office than we do anywhere else – so it might as well be awesome. For me, the LaCroix fridge probably gets more use than anything as I’m absolutely addicted to LaCroix water.
My favorite place to meet colleagues for lunch or happy hour is… Even though it’s way outside my landmark bounds, I have to give a shout-out to Gadzooks. Best enchiladas in Phoenix. I go way out of my way to drive down to Seventh and Osborn just to meet people and eat those damn enchiladas… If I’m staying closer to home, I love happy hour at the Princess (La Hacienda margaritas are the jam) or OHSO.
When I have a day off, I like to… I have a 15-month-old son at home now, so my days off always involve hanging with him and my wife, most often in our pool. We just finished building our custom home earlier this year, so we’re quite satisfied just relaxing at the house. I also love to travel, so even a day is sometimes long enough to bounce over to Santa Monica or Santa Barbara. Regardless, my days off really don’t look that drastically different than the others. I’m always going to be up early and working for a few hours at least… I love what I do and building businesses is my true passion.
– Ally Richmond
Monique Porras, CEO The Kempington Group
Monique Porras graduated from George Mason University in Washington, D.C. with a degree in speech communications with an emphasis on broadcasting. Her communications skills have certainly come into play in the recruiting industry, which Porras has worked in for 14 years. Her career eventually led her to Scottsdale, where in 2014, she started The Kempington Group, which specializes in executive recruitment for technology, healthcare, consumer and creative companies.
I started my business because… The Valley gave me the opportunity to do this. It took me about a year to think about it and then I just pulled the trigger. Being a woman and a minority, I want to be a good role model.
The best thing about my company is… I vowed to humanize recruiting again. Firms will just breed recruiters and the human factor can become lost. Trying to change the culture of recruiting is where I know we stand out.
My favorite thing in my office is… The picture of my son because he keeps me motivated. That’s who I do it for every day.
My favorite place to meet colleagues for happy hour is… Bitter & Twisted in downtown Phoenix.
When I have a day off I like to… just sit without my schedule and I will be very happy.
– Allyson Wittekind
Mark Stanton, President & CEO
Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce
Mark Stanton became the president and CEO of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce in May. Before assuming his position, Stanton ran a public relations, marketing and public affairs practice. He says working for the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce is a great opportunity that not only builds on his background and gives him a focus on economic development and connectivity in the business community, but also allows him to work toward improving the quality of life in the City of Scottsdale.
The best thing about this company is… I have to go with the fundamental cores of the membership. It’s the fact that we’ve got businesses from entrepreneurial start-up companies all the way to Fortune 100 companies that represent all sorts of industries. From professional services to manufacturing to healthcare, technology, the list goes on and on. It really is an impressive commitment from these different businesses and business leaders to join the chamber and represent such an amazing myriad of industries and businesses.
My favorite thing in my office or business space is… I love the atmosphere of the office, the energy of the staff, the volunteers and the membership. It’s collaborative, it’s high-energy. Working with folks of the City of Scottsdale, all of our stakeholders and all of the strategic partners, it’s just a wonderful atmosphere.
My favorite place to meet colleagues for happy hour is… There’s really not one spot because there’s just such great opportunities in the north part of town, the central and the Old Town area. I always try to frequent our members’ organizations, companies, restaurants and businesses. I try to mix it up. I do like sushi. I enjoy a lighter lunch.
When I have a day off, I like to… spend time with my family – my wife and my two children: Drake, my ten-year-old son and Olivia, my eight-year-old daughter. That’s just more fun and I just relish that time. I enjoy being with them, coming up with good adventure plans, getting out, enjoying the community and spending time together.
– Andrea Estrada
Stacey Grondahl, Founder We Do Men: The Man Spa
Men call Stacey Grondahl the “Boss Lady,” and rightly so. She knocks them into place at her spa with a variety of treatments and builds them up. By the time the appointment is over, her clients feel refreshed and energized. “Men are so much easier than women,” explains Grondahl, who was born in North Dakota but raised in Bakersfield, California. “They’re more fun and they’re more loyal.”
I started my business because… I walked in the door of the building and it hit me like a brick wall. I had no plans to open a business. If you asked me years ago, I would have said I just never had the desire. This just kind of happened, like energetically. I just walked into my now facility and knew it was supposed to be mine. I knew I was supposed to create something amazing. This place belongs to me. It feels really good in there. This is my space.
My favorite thing in my office or business space is… I like the whole thing. If I had to say one thing, I would say my little back patio. My place – the front and back – is filled with natural light. I’ve always lived up on the perch, the second, third or fourth floors. They all have tons of windows and tons of light. I thrive in my sunlight. I had a Feng Shui expert come in and look at my home and office. She said, “You’re an Eastern girl.”
My favorite place to meet colleagues for lunch or happy hour is… I’m addicted to ChopShop. It’s one of my favorites, or I like Farm and Craft. Cornish Pasty Company, too. I’m gluten intolerant. I love the gluten-free Moroccan turkey. I also love the salmon salad with lemon pesto and different sauces. I don’t worry too much about the sauce. The oil over the salad.
When I have a day off, I like to… Well, I work at home. When I’m not working, I’m still working. That’s what happens when you love what you do. I’m always on to the next thing. I like to go to the movies. The last good movie I saw was Mission Impossible. I also saw The Equalizer and Mamma Mia, because it’s just entertaining. My girlfriend’s a musician. I was raised on music and movies. I love the theater at Fashion Square. It’s fancy. It has the best seats and it has booze so I’m in heaven. I can get buzzed and have popcorn – and it’s all mine. I love concerts and going to the Marquee.
– Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
John Creighton, Regional Vice President On Q Financial
John Creighton grew up and attended college in Ohio. After graduation, he took a position as an area manager for a national flooring company, which took him to California. By the mid-2000s, the position expanded, and he expanded with it, moving to Arizona for the new role. He met the man who would go on to found On Q Financial in Gainey Village playing basketball in 2005. After a year of discussion, Creighton joined him in 2006 as a mortgage consultant. In 2015, he was promoted to oversee all nine On Q Financial offices across Arizona.
The best thing about this company is… How we built the On Q vision and culture around our people. As such, we attract and hire only the best people in the business, from executive management, top quality mortgage bankers, processors, underwriters to other operational staff. For the consumer, our streamlined platform allows them to close loans quickly, while allowing the mortgage consultants to get out from under the paperwork so they can focus on cultivating relationships with their referral partners.
My favorite thing in my office or business space is… She is going to kill me, but I have a framed piece of “artwork” from my niece (now a high school student back in Ohio), which she made me when she was nine years old. One side is a big happy face and says “when you are home,” while the other side is a frowny face and says “when you are away.”
My favorite place to meet colleagues for lunch or happy hour is… Far and away, SOL Cocina is my spot – and has been for a decade. They have the best tacos, the best muddled cocktails, the best tequila list and the best daily specials in the area. If you haven’t gone yet, what are you waiting for?
When I have a day off, I like to… Right now, there are no days off! In addition to my work with On Q, I am volunteering in my spare time on the executive committee for the Weekend Jetaway, a culinary casino event set for November 9 benefiting The Challenge Foundation. The organization is a project of passion for me in that it helps smart, ambitious, and hard-working students break the cycle of poverty through educational opportunities. Challenge takes a whole-student approach, awarding tuition scholarships and individualized support services to low-income students.
– Alison Bailin