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Bigger Audience, Bigger Stage

Written by Patrick Gregg

The most insightful business leaders in history have always been quick to note that growth is not a bad thing. And since it began in 2001, the West Virginia Business Hall of Fame has been growing and evolving.

The most notable evidence of that growth and evolution occurred last year when the event's host, the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics, announced that the Hall of Fame would move from its traditional Morgantown setting to The Greenbrier, the iconic and internationally renowned resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Further, the event will now kick off the West Virginia Business Summit this year on the evening of August 29, providing access to the Hall of Fame for the hundreds of registrants to the annual gathering of business leaders and policymakers.

Marty Becker
Marty Becker, 2009 inductee and chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee

“These changes reflect the right time, the right place and the right people,” said W. Marston “Marty” Becker, a 2009 inductee and chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee. “This is an outstanding event, and we are excited about the changes to the Hall of Fame this year.”

The improvement of the event better reflects the Hall of Fame’s membership, titans of industry with a connection to the Mountain State. John Chambers, executive chairman of the board and former CEO of Cisco Systems, graces this hall — a business leader who was included in the World’s Best CEOs, named CEO of the Year by Chief Executive Magazine and was among Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. Earl G. “Ken” Kendrick, managing general partner of Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, has ownership interest in the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and is an ultra-successful entrepreneur in several industries. How about the late Mike Puskar, co-founder of Mylan Pharmaceuticals, the force behind the redevelopment of Morgantown’s Wharf District and a giant supporter of economic development and community projects? And many more.

“The individuals who have been honored, and will be honored each year, in the West Virginia Business Hall of Fame, are a very special group of people,” said Javier Reyes, B&E Milan Puskar Dean. “They have vastly improved the business landscape and brought a unique sense of spirit to our beloved West Virginia, and I can’t think of a better time to celebrate those successes than at the West Virginia Business Summit.

“It just makes sense, as our event continues to grow, that we fuel the momentum and upward trajectory of the Hall of Fame by giving it even more exposure and making it available to attendees at the Business Summit. This is a great opportunity to elevate the event to its deserved stature, and to make it available to the business leaders and policymakers who are working to shape the business community of our great state. And the focal point of the event is that we are celebrating the accomplishments of people with strong connections to West Virginia.”

The Greenbrier
This year's WV Business Hall of Fame induction ceremony will kick off the annual West Virginia Business Summit at The Greenbrier on August 29.

Stephen G. Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber, host of the West Virginia Business Summit and Annual Meeting, said, “We are so pleased to partner with the West Virginia Business Hall of Fame to present this prestigious event. For nearly two decades, the Hall of Fame has recognized and honored individuals with a strong West Virginia connection who have made significant contributions to business. This event will be an exciting start to the Business Summit this and every year.”

Since its inception in 2001, 62 individuals have been inducted into the West Virginia Business Hall of Fame from a variety of business sectors and from various parts of the country and world. And with all of the different characteristics Hall of Fame members possess, their common threads are their love and respect for the Mountain State — and the great impact they have had on it.

West Virginia molds people

Don Panoz
Don Panoz, 2015 inductee

Hall of Fame inductees are a wonderful blend of state natives and out-of-state “adopted” West Virginians, representatives of traditional and non-traditional industries, and individuals whose success stories are statewide or nationwide or global. And whatever their story, they are adamant about West Virginia’s effect on them.

“I know I was inquisitive, number one, about a lot of stuff. I never really accepted things just on face value. I love a challenge,” said 2015 inductee Donald E. Panoz, co-founder of Mylan Pharmaceuticals. “I didn't really see any benefit of doing what everybody else was doing. I wanted to spend my time doing something new and different. Oddly enough, looking back at my life now, there was always enough stuff that was an opportunity to do something different that worked. You have to take time every day to dream, and then you have to take time to make your dreams come true. You also have to realize that the more you dream, you will have the occasional nightmare, and then you have to find ways to deal with the challenges and overcome them.”

Dr. Frank Alderman
Dr. Frank Alderman, 2014 inductee

Dr. Frank Alderman, the CEO of MedExpress who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, said the state’s influence on him set the tone for his business practices, even to this day. “I was fortunate to grow up in White Sulphur Springs, a stone’s throw from The Greenbrier. I am the youngest of six, and many of us worked at The Greenbrier spanning from caddying to waiters and waitresses in room service and the main dining room,” he said. “We were constantly exposed to The Greenbrier’s devotion of delivering a best-in-class customer/guest experience with a mantra of ‘Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen.’ This mantra influenced me deeply as I strived to ingrain it into a healthcare delivery platform with a vision of providing great care, not just meeting but exceeding patient expectations, in an environment that was warm and welcoming.”

“I was born and raised in West Virginia,” said Richard Adams, who recently celebrated his 40th anniversary as CEO of United Bankshares, Inc., and was a Hall of Fame inductee in 2002. “I am a WVU graduate. I love West Virginia. It’s home, and it’s a great place to raise a family.”

Richard Adams
Richard Adams, 2002 inductee

United now has more than $19 billion in assets with 145 offices in five states. Adams said that as West Virginia’s largest headquartered company, United is committed to improving the business climate in the state. “I want to try to help make business competitive in West Virginia,” he said. “From a business standpoint, we’ve made some progress. The important thing is to be absolutely involved, supporting issues that make us competitive to create jobs.”

Every inductee has brought positive recognition to a state that is many times faced with negative stereotypes. Of his successes putting West Virginia on the map or bringing it recognition, Panoz said, “Well, I’m honored about that. When I was doing it and when you’re involved in it, you never consider that. You’re not doing it for that acclaim or that notoriety. Mike Puskar and I looked at Mylan Labs, for example, as an opportunity for two young guys to create something. We knew we were going to be successful, but we never thought to the extent that the company could grow, or the impact it would have in the world. You got up every morning and you were dedicating yourselves to building something.

“I would say every core basic principle came from West Virginia. West Virginia was the core of my values, and that’s what carried me through. I was able to conduct business deals, whether it was in Ireland or Australia or the United States, or doing business in Asia back in the ’70s and ’80s. I think that was my foundation.”

Alderman said, “To this day, I feel strongly walking in the shoes of others. You can find inspiration and insights that can lead to meaningful change.”

A business mind

The business climate in West Virginia, like any state, has evolved over time. And time has shown us that business success comes to those who can adapt.

“I practiced both pharmacy and medicine (emergency medicine) across the state of West Virginia,” said Alderman. “The same themes of being genuine, caring and friendly resonated in both my personal and professional lives. As a practicing emergency medicine physician, I saw firsthand that many patients in the ER weren’t truly emergent and could be served in a more appropriate, lower-cost environment. The emergency departments across the state perform life-saving, critically important work every day, and we sincerely respect this fact. We felt we could alleviate some of the overcrowding in the ERs and aid affordability, while providing a great patient experience delivery of high-quality health care.”

Julie Smith
Julie Smith, 2012 inductee

For ChangePartner co-founder Julie Smith, a 2012 Hall of Fame inductee and co-founder of the world’s largest behavior-based consultancy, adaptation meant doing something she loved and pouring all of her business knowledge into entrepreneurial ventures.

“When I’d come home on the weekends, I would spend all my time with my husband Mickey Heston, converting our family farm into a tourism destination,” Smith said. “What started as a hobby over 15 years evolved into five businesses: a winery, distillery, restaurant, event center and brewery. We started building out Heston Farm because Mickey wanted to have a backup plan in case his mining construction company became affected by the downturn in coal.”

Smith’s entrepreneurial mind forged yet another new business last year that has a focus on healthcare, which, like Alderman’s MedExpress, is important to the state.

“ChangePartner, Inc., uses technology to hardwire standards across healthcare systems to achieve superior results in cost, quality, safety and the patient experience,” said Smith. “This company is going to be my last hurrah. I am really excited because it will be transformational, not only in healthcare but in many other industries.”

And while the entrepreneurial mind and spirit remain mysteries in many respects to those of us who don't necessarily think that way, Panoz, himself, tried to put his finger on it. “I can't explain why I kind of think that way,” he said. “I think it’s because the things that catch my attention or the things that I want to do are the things that are different and new. Then, I follow a path to try to make my dreams come true. It just clicks and I see something that clicks, and it makes sense to me and off I go. I'm still doing it.”

Impacting West Virginia and its communities

Adams said that his personal philosophy and United’s mission reflect a value of communities and people, which is essential to his company no matter where they are doing business. That philosophy, he said, blossomed in his home state.

“It doesn’t matter which of the five states where we have a presence that we’re talking about, our mission is the same,” said Adams. “Excellence in service to our employees, our customers, our shareholders and our communities. And we carry that wherever we go. The philosophy of how we do business is rooted in community service.”

Like Adams, Alderman yields to the traits of his fellow West Virginians as his foundation. “I am very proud to call West Virginia home and am continually inspired by my family, friends, colleagues and community. West Virginians are extremely hard-working, and exhibit perseverance and GRIT (guts, resiliency, initiative, tenacity),” said Alderman. “The foundation of our business is to serve with the vision to exceed expectations while being genuine, caring, compassionate and friendly. We approach each and every day with servant leadership, energy, passion and strong work ethics.”

A global perspective

While a student at West Virginia University, Smith went to work as an intern at WVU’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and Development. She soaked in all she could and left 12 years later when she co-founded the Continuous Learning Group, where she had clients all over the globe.

“CLG’s clients were spread all over the world, so for 20 years I spent very little time in West Virginia. We had offices in the U.S. (Morgantown, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Dallas), Singapore, Canada, Australia and Japan, and I would go wherever our clients needed us,” she said. “But I will tell you that I always took West Virginia with me wherever I went — my work ethic, my drive, my sense of understanding. And those tools served me well.”

After co-founding Mylan in West Virginia, Panoz continued to cultivate success in such international locations as Ireland, Australia, Asia and Scotland. Domestically, he founded highly successful companies in California and Georgia. “I had a chance to grow up in a place where you could experience a lot of things without a lot of hoopla,” he said. “What I learned in West Virginia has been a real business advantage all over the world.”

Mike Puskar
Mylan Pharmaceuticals co-founder Mike Puskar was among the inaugural group of eight inductees in 2001, founded under then-B&E Dean Jay Coats.

The honor of induction

As the Hall of Fame has now grown to a different location and time of year, inductees expressed a feeling of honor in being part of it all.

“There is something about being honored by those from your home state that is particularly satisfying,” Becker said. “This is even more so when you look at the list of those honored and their significant accomplishments. These are West Virginians of great stature in their chosen fields of accomplishment. Their singular achievements compete favorably not just in West Virginia, but on the national and global stages. When you know or meet each of the Hall of Fame inductees, there is an energy, a focus, a passion for what they do that is exciting, and you can see why they have been such a success.”

“I’m really honored. I never could have imagined that, as I was going though different phases of my life, that all these things would happen,” Panoz said. “I never really thought about it that way. Then, to be recognized in a state that has my roots and my wife’s and my family roots, to be recognized by that state as doing something special? I’m humbled and I’m very honored.”

Adams said, “I think of the success stories we have in West Virginia and how we need to promote them. There are many of those stories, and we need to focus on them in order to tell our story.”

In the meantime, many are looking ahead to August 29, an evening that will signal honor, growth, evolution and hope.