CEO Series

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Published in the September-October 2014 issue of MyLIFE magazine

Thelton McMillian
Name: Thelton McMillian
Year and place of birth: 1970; Pensacola, Florida
College attended: Florida State University, B.S. in Communications
When did you start your company?: 2006
Most valued saying: Be a Comrade.
Favorite charity: No Kid Hungry
Family: Married, with 2 daughters
Favorite Arizona destination: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Comrade is an Oakland, California-based strategy and design agency with deep expertise in financial services,
health care, technology and transactional design. The company creates digital products and services, including Web and mobile apps to help leading companies improve their user experience. With their industry focus and practical approach, they partner with clients to understand their customers and get new innovations to market quickly. They take pride in having clients such as BlackRock, JPMorgan Chase, TIAA-CREF, Wells Fargo and University of California, San Francisco as their “comrades.”

MyLIFE: What is your background, and why did you start Comrade?
McMillian: I’ve been in the communications and design business—marketing, advertising—for over 20 years. I went to Florida State University and got my bachelor’s in communication in 1992. From there I worked at various interactive 
and digital marketing agencies and rose all the way up to president and chief operating officer at Critical Mass, one of the Omnicom-owned digital marketing agencies. In 2006, I left to pursue a career-long dream, which was to start my own agency. At the point that I’d gotten to the level of president of an agency that was owned by a publicly owned company, I realized that a big part of what I wanted to do every day was to work very closely in a very hands-on way with clients, building a team, shepherding the culture—and remaining private, independent. That is really why I started Comrade.

MyLIFE: Your company is diverse. You employ artists, athletes, gourmets, gadget geeks. How has that diversity helped you become successful?
McMillian: That’s a great question! First, we love to attract and grow with very multitalented people. We look for people with a variety of interests who can bring a broad perspective as well as a variety of inspiration to the work that we do. Our office culture involves food. We do a lot of things around food—someone cooks lunch for the team on a given Tuesday—and we share interests. We find that different perspectives keep creativity fresh and keep us focused on achieving our goals. It creates a much more interested, more well-rounded perspective and team.

MyLIFE: What technologies do you use? Do you create your own to cater to each individual business?
McMillian: We work with clients in the U.S. and around the world—Europe, Asia, etc. Collaboration and being able to work remotely with clients is very important to us. We have invested in a few cloud-based technologies built around collaboration. We work with Basecamp, which handles project management, file sharing, etc. It allows people to log in, review documents and give feedback regularly. We also invested in an upgraded cloud-based PRT system, to provide better project 
budgeting, and controls for running projects for our clients, being able to report to them where we are at any given time. We invested in a technology called Workamajig. We have a lot of clients who are developing software, either Web or 
mobile applications—and prototyping to communicate what we’re going to build or how it will work, what the design will look like, what the interaction will be. We have used commercial prototyping software—Highrise, Proteo and others—but we also developed our own internal tools. A big challenge is getting websites to work across different devices—whether that be a smartphone, a tablet or a desktop computer—and across a lot of different file formats. So, we developed a lot of tools with what’s called responsive design. When it comes to branding, we use a variety of tools for stakeholders to get a sense of where they want to see the direction of their brand going. We use a technique called polarities … for example, do you want the brand to be bolder or more conservative? We use surveys to gather input. A lot of our clients want us to go as fast as possible.

MyLIFE: Imagine you are at a conference with CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. How would you describe Comrade to them?
McMillian: We are a strategy and design agency focusing on helping clients, both start-ups and well-established companies. We improve user experience of Web/mobile products and services, as well as improve their customer experience across interaction points. We work with financial companies, tech companies and retailers, so we have a strong focus in transactional-based systems, e-commerce, mobile banking, online banking applications.

MyLIFE: What are some current challenges facing your industry?
McMillian: It changes, as you can imagine. One of the key challenges is the pace of change. And that is driven by new 
technologies, new changes in consumer behavior, new regulatory changes that are happening often in financial service
clients. Making sure we adapt and evolve as well as understand all the new technologies and interactions. One of the other challenges we are facing that is a blessing and a curse is the democratization of design. More and more CEOs and 
organization leaders are realizing that design—in terms of not just visual, but for websites, mobile and web apps, how it looks and works—is more important than ever. We are doing everything we can to help our client leaders learn the basics of design and how to think about design in the context of the work they are doing because this will help their client experience and interactions. It has elevated the role that design plays in corporate America but it also breaks down our own expertise. It’s like being a plumber, teaching someone how to be a plumber and then putting yourself out of business. That is why it’s a blessing and a curse. The other macro challenge we are seeing is a shift toward smaller project sizes in terms of revenue, budget and time frame. This is a macroeconomic or corporate investment change. Companies have invested on their own in digital media. We are seeing a digital plateau, and there are not the big capital projects as there has been in the prior five or six years. This has created a definite challenge for us in our industry.

MyLIFE: In terms of your vision, where would you like to be 10 years from now?
McMillian: I look at vision in terms of timeline and direction and purpose, behavior that drives our decisions. I would love to continue what we started in 2006, working with leaders to help them improve customer experience and improve their strategy and design so that from a human perspective doing daily business—banking, consuming—is made
easier. Also, I want to get more and more into health care and the way they use mobile, Web and downloaded apps to 
improve and provide remote health care. I would like to expand internationally and increase the scope of our impact. We believe that improving design has a positive effect on people’s lives, such as making sure their banking experience is safe and secure, making sure they prepare for retirement, get the best health care. That is what drives our work.

MyLIFE: You have an impressive list of clients. Why should companies consider a business relationship with Comrade?
McMillian: The first is our approach to doing business. We have a philosophy: “Be a Comrade.” To a client, this means that we deliver high-quality work, top-notch service, quick response time, that we’re flexible and adaptive and understand their personal needs as well as what their customers need. We deliver value. We have proven over and over that we are able to solve complex problems very quickly—whether it’s a branding problem, a service problem or a customer problem.

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Published in the July-August 2014 issue of MyLIFE magazine

Name: Carrie Martz
Year and place of birth: 1956, Davenport, Iowa
College attended: ASU, BS in Marketing
When did you start your company?: 1980
Moved to the Valley: 1973
Family: Single, with two adult children, son-in-law and one granddaughter
Most valued saying: “We aren’t here for a long time—we’re here for a good time.” Bob Parsons
Pet: A Japanese Chin named Oryo
Favorite Arizona destination: Anyplace she can go with her granddaughter.

Martz Parsons is a full-service advertising agency founded in 2013 after the acquisition of the Martz Agency by GoDaddy founder, Bob Parsons. After running the Martz Agency for more than 30 years, Carrie Martz joined with Bob Parsons in October 2013, creating Martz Parsons.

The company remains one of the top 20 advertising and public relations firms in Arizona and is growing at a rapid pace. Providing a full range of advertising and public relations services to the agency’s diverse clients, Martz
Parsons offers local, national and international advertising and strategic marketing services, including creative, media, branding, promotions, collateral, social media, research and digital media.

MyLIFE: Carrie, you opened your agency’s doors 34 years ago. What core principles do you attribute to your success in what is clearly a very demanding business?
Martz: The first thing I have to tell you is that it doesn’t feel like 34 years—it surprises me every time I see that number because you’re right, it is a very demanding and very competitive business. I would have to say that the endurance has to come from doing something I’m truly passionate about and I love. That is the only way that you could stay in this field for that period of time. It’s one thing to be working in the industry, it’s another thing to be working in it and also be financially responsible for it—two aspects that sometimes don’t always work cohesively. I would add that I have tried not to take what we do so seriously that I would make myself sick over it. I know many people handle stress differently, and one way I always tried to handle that is to have a sense of humor. I can’t say that I’ve always been balanced in my work and home life, but I try to maintain a positive attitude on both fronts. That has certainly helped keep me in the game and I think contributed to the success. I know in the long run it’s really about being fortunate to work with very smart people that I value and treat as I would like to be treated. I think respect and honesty are our business principles—and I think that we should all live by them.

MyLIFE: You have a strong belief that the customer is No. 1. So why is it that in this tough economy we are finding companies that don’t seem to share the same value for customers?
Martz: I’m so glad that we are talking about this because I just experienced the absolute worst customer service with a security company that I hired to put a [alarm] system into my home. One of the little buzzers kept going off and the system stopped working. After trying to get through their automated system for 10 minutes, I finally got through and spoke with a human being. The man who I spoke with asked ridiculous questions and he told me the earliest they could get to me was two and a half weeks. I said, “I’m a woman who would like to feel secure, so I would imagine that you could move that time frame up—because what if there was an emergency situation?” He said, “We’ll put you on the list.” After this, a message came on the line about a customer service questionnaire. So, I stayed on the line—I never do this, I never stay on the line. This time I did and answered their questions. I responded on every single question with a 1—very dissatisfied. At the end, I received a message that said, “Thank you for taking our survey. We understand you are very dissatisfied,” and then the call ended. I would expect that within 10 minutes that would trigger something that would let someone know there is a very dissatisfied client. It has now been over 24 hours, and I have not received a phone call. I looked at that and I thought, “How do I deal with that?” With social media as prominent as it is right now, all I would have to do is tweet about this and start ranting about it on my social platform, and it could hurt their business. I sit here in awe, trying to figure out how these companies survive, and all I can think is that we as consumers are too busy to find alternatives. Even though we may not be satisfied, which I’m not, for me to find another company that can do this requires time—and I don’t have it. I think the only reason they’re getting by with what they’re doing is not because they are the only game in town—it’s because we as consumers are so overwhelmed that we are allowing this kind of mediocrity to be the norm. I’m hoping that will change because we all deserve far better respect for the dollars we spend. The companies that will rise above all this clutter in the next several years, I’m hoping, are those that truly understand customer service. That’s why I have that strong belief, because I am a consumer and I expect great service because that is what we give. That’s why people come to us. We may not always be able to satisfy every customer’s need immediately, but we demonstrate our care and concern. We will continue to grow and be successful because we give customers what they want. Bob Parsons has been evangelistic about this, which is why this partnership is going to be so great for us. One of Bob’s top beliefs is: Give customers what they want. That means listening to your customers and surprising them by doing a better job than they ever expected—and that creates long-term relationships.

MyLIFE: Tell us more about the partnership with GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons. You certainly make a dynamic duo. What is your vision for Martz Parsons for the next several years?
Martz: I thank you for saying that we make a dynamic duo. I am humbled and honored to be put in the same sentence as Bob Parsons. Look at what he has done and who he is. I keep telling everyone that I am truly living a dream right now. I have so much respect for Bob and what he is allowing us to do. This sort of thing doesn’t typically happen. He is giving us an opportunity that no other agency—I would bet in the country—has, and that is that he wants to create the most sophisticated, talented advertising agency, as one of the best places to work, west of the Mississippi and then east. He wants to make sure we attract the best talent and offer expertise not seen before, under one roof, at the highest level. In our industry, you grow by acquiring new clients. As you get those new clients, you hire people to serve their needs. Rarely can you hire people and wait for the business. Bob has changed the paradigm of this business for us. He said, “Hire and create capacity within your business.” Go out and find the best people. Once you have that core team and people are having fun with what they’re doing, and you’ve got that capacity, make sure you’re taking care then of your customers—they’re No. 1.Don’t worry about the bottom line. What will happen magically is that the business will come. I know our clients are raving about us, because they’re referring us business. It’s magic. It’s almost like we are a technology company, an incubator for good ideas.

MyLIFE: You are well-known for giving back to the community. When in your career did you feel it necessary to become so involved in the community?
Martz: I got involved doing fundraising for the cystic fibrosis board for children and put an event together. We raised a lot of money. It made such an impact on the kids that I wanted to do something even bigger. I’d just had my second child—I had two healthy kids. I thought, “I need to give back to the children’s hospital because I’m so fortunate—and I want to make sure I pay it forward.” I started, with two other people, a nonprofit called Home of Miracles. In a period of about 10 years and with eight programs, we raised $7.5 million for Phoenix Children’s Hospital. We even did the program in Dallas and Houston and raised a couple of million. It was a way for me, who couldn’t write a check for millions, to raise money a hundred dollars at a time. I just got hooked. I just saw the beauty of philanthropic endeavors and I realized that even though we can’t write big checks, we could make a difference doing what we do. The agency took on dozens of nonprofits from that point, and we gave our services away. We helped with branding, websites, PR. Not only did that give me feel-good moments, but it was also a catalyst for growth for the agency. People knew that we were authentic, that we cared about the community and met people that we normally would not have. Imagine now, working for a man who is one of the leading philanthropists in the country right now, whose business practices are all about giving back. This is really music to my ears.

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Published in the May-June 2014 issue of MyLIFE magazine

Name: Jim Flinn
Year and place of birth: 1964; Lansing, Michigan
Colleges attended: University of South Carolina, B.A.; Thomas M. Cooley Law School, J.D.; University of California, San Diego, M.A.S.
When he joined OASIS Hospital: 2010
Moved to the Valley: 2010
Family: Married with 7 children
Most valued saying: “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Abraham Lincoln
Favorite Arizona destination: Home or golfing at the Wigwam with his wife, Amy

OASIS Hospital is the outgrowth of an idea acted on by 42 orthopedic and spine surgeons in the greater Phoenix Valley to bring high-quality, cost-effective health care to a specific patient population that would transform the hospital experience—both for patients and for physicians. The hospital broke ground in August 2009 and was completed in June 2011. OASIS Hospital now routinely sees more than 400 patients per month and has become Arizona’s busiest hospital for elective, adult, inpatient orthopedic and spine surgeries.

MyLIFE: What can you tell us about your organization? Why did you choose Phoenix? How does OASIS ensure quality health care and high-patient satisfaction?
Flinn: About eight years ago, 42 orthopedic and spine surgeons met to discuss how they could make their day at a hospital as efficient as a day at an ambulatory surgery center. They wanted to make sure they had a place to treat their inpatient population that would accomplish two goals: First, the setting would need to be as efficient as possible—surgeons are just like you and me—they want to go to work, take care of business and then go enjoy their personal lives. Second, the facility should treat physicians and their patients as if they were at a five-star resort. That’s what they wanted to accomplish, and for whatever reason, they felt that they couldn’t accomplish that in the hospital they were performing surgeries. OASIS Hospital is ideally located because it’s right next to the airport, and that ties into our vision of who we want to be—a destination hospital not only for Phoenix, but also for the state of Arizona and the rest of the country. The mission we have is caring for patients like they’re family. It’s a very simple mission, but it drives everything we do.

MyLIFE: Can you talk about your staff at OASIS Hospital?
Flinn: We have over 200 professional medical staff members here. Out of that number, about 60 are surgeons. The rest are support medical staff members. We have hospitalists who care for patients during the day, and intensivists who are here at night, so there is always a physician present at OASIS Hospital. We contract with the intensivists—they’re the same group that runs the ICU at St. Joseph’s Hospital. We also have anesthesiologists and cardiologists, and a medical team in case there’s an emergency. The other staff members—the nurses, the techs, the radiologists—all of them work at OASIS Hospital because they have a passion for orthopedic care. When we started OASIS, I gave each of those 42 surgeons who wanted to build this place 10 business cards. All the cards had on them was OASIS Hospital and a cell phone number. I said to them, “You pick out the 10 best people you work with at the hospital where you do surgeries today, and tell them to give me a call.” We started out with 400-plus applicants for jobs, from housekeepers to nurses to techs. These were all people that the surgeons who were going to work here already knew. These people loved orthopedics and had made a positive impression on the surgeons. So, even though these doctors were coming to a brand-new facility, they were immediately surrounded by the familiar faces of the talented people they’d already worked with. That gave us a jump start.

MyLIFE: What do you credit your success to?
Flinn: We really do have a superb medical staff here. Everyone who performs surgery here is very like-minded. They’re high-quality doctors. Without that, and without their involvement on a day-to-day basis, we wouldn’t be anywhere. But also those associates I talked about—the employees we have—I personally talk to every single person before they’re offered a job here. I make sure they’re on board with our mission and our values, and they understand what their job is. Everyone at OASIS has the same job, and that’s to have a positive impact on each and every person they come in contact with. We believe that the human experience—the patient experience—is job number one. It’s all about the patient.

MyLIFE: Can you tell us about any strategic partnerships you have in place with other health care providers?
Flinn: Our primary strategic alliance is with our physicians, obviously. We continuously try to add value to their day and their business practice. When we opened, the physicians were going to own 60 percent of this hospital—that was the model: 60 percent ownership by the physicians, 20 percent ownership by Dignity Health and 20 percent ownership by United Surgical Partners International, or USPI. But, when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, it put the brakes on that plan. There’s some language in the act stating that if a hospital wasn’t Medicare-certified by 2010, physicians couldn’t have ownership in the hospital. At the end of 2010, we didn’t even have windows in the building, let alone Medicare certification. The business alliance now is with Dignity Health, which owns 50.01 percent, and USPI, which owns 49.9 percent.

MyLIFE: What, if any, initiatives or programs does OASIS Hospital have in place to improve the well-being of the population in the Valley?
Flinn: Because we are a specialized hospital, we do a very limited amount of programs in comparison to other facilities. We, like every other inpatient hospital in the country, had to complete a community-needs assessment, so we leveraged Dignity Health’s community needs assessment and then made it our own by focusing on two areas: access to care, and promoting a healthy lifestyle. For promoting a healthy lifestyle, we host community education through our physicians—we’ll sponsor them. We try to educate the population about the latest and greatest in orthopedic care. We also host and sponsor sporting events, such as 5k and 10k runs.

MyLIFE: What do you see as the greatest challenges facing hospitals—and do they affect OASIS Hospital?
Flinn: I would say, globally, financial challenges. I think if you asked any hospital CEO, financial challenges would be among the top three concerns on their list. I wouldn’t consider the Affordable Care Act my most pressing issue, because it’s not really “here” yet. Implementing the health care exchanges has been a slow process. But I will tell you, when it comes, the pressure is going to be intense—yes, there will be more insured individuals, but the payment is going to be much less, if you’re paid at all. So, you have to be a valued-added provider, which means you have to provide high-quality care. Anytime you are dealing with the federal government, you have to show quality and you have to be cost-effective. There is no question that the cost to do a case here at Oasis Hospital, overall, is much less than it would be at a larger facility. We’re well-positioned for the health care exchanges. Affordable care organizations are a challenge for us because they align patient populations with large health care providers. There are several large health care providers in the Valley, and the more strategic and robust they become, the more they will funnel patients into networks and to providers within those organizations.

MyLIFE: What is your vision for OASIS Hospital for the next several years?
Flinn: Our vision is to transform the hospital experience. What does that mean? When other health care providers look at OASIS Hospital, we want them to say, “Wow! We need to find out what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, because they’re getting great results.” We want to help reduce the stress level patients experience when they are not well. We want patients’ stress levels to go down the minute their physician says, “We’re sending you to OASIS Hospital.” That’s our vision for our patients. For us as a hospital, we want to be the destination hospital of choice. We already are in the Valley, but we want to be that for the entire country.

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Published in the March-April 2014 issue of MyLIFE magazine

Name: R. Glenn Williamson
Year and place of birth: 1956; Montreal, Quebec
When he started the CABC: 2003
Family: Married with 2 children
Family pets: A dog named Dozer (Australian Shepherd), registered American Paint Horse named Thunder
Favorite Arizona destination: White water rafting on the Colorado River

For centuries, Americans have admired people who have “can-do” energy.

When Glenn Williamson moved to Arizona from Canada, he brought with him that same attitude. This philosophy—and his vision of a way to increase and enhance business between Arizona and this country’s neighbor to the north—has had and will continue to have many benefits.

The Canada Arizona Business Council (CABC) was Williamson’s baby. It is now a 10-year-old child on the verge of adolescence. He is as proud of it as he is of his wife and their soon-to-be 16-year-old twins (a boy and a girl).

But being a father is only one of many, many roles Williamson has played throughout his life—among the others are hospitality sales/marketing manager, investment banker, CEO, visionary and leader. And all the while, he has allowed his true nature to shine a light of positivity, integrity and that special “can-do”ness that is unique to people who are in touch with the kind of sensibility that exists when heart and brain work well together.

Here’s an opportunity to get to know Glenn Williamson as he answers some questions about his life and the CABC.

MyLIFE: Where are your roots?
Williamson: I was born in Montreal and schooled in Rothesay, New Brunswick. Then, I entered the hospitality industry and worked with the Four Seasons, Westin and Sunshine Village Ski Resort in Banff. I chose not to attend college. I consider myself open to opportunities and, thus, a student of life. A life-long learner.

MyLIFE: What brought you to Arizona?
Williamson: I came to Arizona 27 years ago, when I was working on a deal to bring a tech company public and discovered that I enjoyed the desert climate in Arizona as much as I liked business numbers. I’d found my niche—being good at raising capital—so, I started several companies here and took them public.

MyLIFE: What’s your history doing business in Arizona?
Williamson: I was one of the senior guys at GoVideo in the late 1980s and after that was president and CEO at KinetX Aerospace, and a director at Obsidian Strategics. I have been in leadership positions with EPCOR Water USA, CEO at Nest Ventures and on the board of the Arizona District Export Council. My current full-time position is serving as the CEO and founder of the CABC, along with my recent appointment by the Canadian government as honorary Consul of Canada for Arizona.

MyLIFE: What can you tell us about starting the CABC?
Williamson: In 2003, while working deals with companies between Canada and Arizona, I saw numbers for the bilateral trade going on between here and there. I made it a goal to increase bilateral trade from $2.5 billion into $5 billion per year. That simple idea was the origination of the CABC.

MyLIFE: How does the CABC function?
Williamson: The CABC is set up like the Young Presidents’ Association and the World Presidents’ Association, on a membership basis. There are 100 members who contribute their ability to make connections and then get out of the way so that channels of trade and business can establish the flow that brings the best and highest good to all involved. Our office is a virtual one—for this kind of work, bricks and mortar are unnecessary. Please see our website—it tells our story and holds a lot of information and resources to educate residents of both Canada and Arizona about the relationships we are growing and enjoying.

MyLIFE: On what kind of foundation is the CABC built?
Williamson: There are three pillars that hold up the CABC’s mission to partner with Arizona citizens in economic growth, development and functionality. One is foreign direct investment. The second is tourism. The third is trade.

MyLIFE: How does foreign direct investment from Canada benefit Arizona?
Williamson:  Over the last 10 years, more than 300 Canadian companies have taken up space in the realm of Arizona’s great climate and geography. And, they have kept this state’s economy going during the deep recession in recent years. While it is true that Canadians who purchased Arizona’s devalued homes saved money in doing so, they are now paying property taxes. Canadian-owned companies with a presence in Arizona—such as Circle K, Bombardier Aero, Colliers International, IMAX Theatres, AirCanada and ELRUS Aggregate Systems—have hired hundreds of employees, and have purchased acres and acres of property. If you, a friend or neighbor has a job in one of these companies, it’s due in part to the efforts of the CABC network.

MyLIFE: How does Arizona invest in Canada?
Williamson:  In terms of trade, only about 35 Arizona companies have a business presence in Canada. Dial Corporation, PetSmart, General Dynamics, the Apollo Group and Gold Canyon Candle Company are a few whose names are quite familiar.

As for the tourism industry, Arizonans think of Canadians as snowbirds—visitors who arrive during winter to take advantage of the mild desert climate. Canadians would love to see more “swelterbirds” across their provinces during the summer months!

MyLIFE: How is the CABC unique?
Williamson: No other state in the 50 has something similar to the CABC. It’s a good model. Other countries could take a page from our book if they are interested in bilateral trade with Arizona businesses. The other thing that makes us unique is the amount of time that has already been invested in the CABC. It has stood the test of time and has proved to be of great value to Arizonans personally as well as to the state’s economic landscape.

MyLIFE: As honorary consul to Canada, what do you do?
Williamson: I’m not getting calls at 3 a.m. from people who need help
crossing the border! I see that the title will help me bring Arizona a greater understanding of foreign trade and markets by practicing with Canada. Other countries have not been able to do in this state what the CABC has been able to do. Although I would be happy to see other countries establish similar councils, I’ve been fortunate to be at work on this goal for over a decade. As consul, I plan to keep doing what I’ve been doing: making and keeping good business connections across the border.

MyLIFE: What is your vision for CABC in the year 2024?
Williamson: I hope the CABC is still composed of 100 members and has achieved a 15 percent baseline for growth. I hope that the annual CABC Resource Guide is published as a hardcover book and that our annual event, Ice on Ice on Ice, is in its 10th year of being a well-attended, well-appreciated festive fundraising event in Arizona. In 10 years, Arizona residents will be able to enjoy a Canada House—just as they enjoy the Irish Cultural Center now in downtown Phoenix.

For additional insight into how the CABC and Williamson’s can-do attitude are advancing the relationship between Arizona and Canada, he invites you to visit Canada, support Canadian companies that move into Arizona and appreciate how bilateral trade and foreign direct investment benefit the two countries he loves best.

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Published in the Jan-Feb 2014 issue of MyLIFE magazine

Name: Craig Weiss
Year of birth: 1973.
Colleges attended: Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania; juris doctorate degree from Arizona State University College of Law; attended The Hebrew University of Jerusalem for one year
When he joined NJOY: June 2010
Favorite charity: He believes in anonymous giving
Family: Married with children
Family pets: 2 dogs—Chachki and Kabbalah (Cotons)
Favorite Arizona destination: Jerome
NJOY is known as the industry’s “Gold Standard” because of its best-in-class products, patented technology, superior branding, experienced management team and responsible business practices. NJOY is the first independent electronic cigarette company to support the nationally recognized We Card Program, Inc. and join the nonprofit organization’s Manufacturers Advisory Council as part of its efforts to prevent underage use of the company’s products. NJOY is currently in more than 80,000 stores in the United States and more than 10,000 stores across the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands. NJOY offers disposable and rechargeable electronic cigarette products for adult smokers. These products provide nicotine with rich tobacco or menthol flavor, without tobacco smoke or odor. NJOY is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, with offices in New York and London. To learn more about NJOY products, visit

MyLIFE: Can you share how the company got started, what your motivation was for bringing your products to market and why you chose Scottsdale as your headquarters?
Weiss: I was a patent attorney for a little more than a decade at an intellectual property law firm founded by my father in the 1970s. I was one of four brothers, all of us attorneys working at this firm. We were a very entrepreneurial firm, always looking into new business opportunities. As IP attorneys, we met with inventors and other entrepreneurs in the community, and we saw ourselves as entrepreneurs as well. One of our entrepreneurial endeavors led us to China in 2005. My brother Mark was there and saw an electronic cigar at a trade show. He said, “This would be a great product in America.” After he founded NJOY in 2006, I became a shareholder and then came onboard as president in 2010 and CEO shortly thereafter. Obviously there are a lot of smokers in the world, certainly in the United States—almost 20 percent of the adult population (about 45 million Americans). There’s an urgent need to provide a satisfying alternative to what they’re currently using.

MyLIFE: How big is your market share in the United States and Canada?
Weiss: I would say we have about 30 percent of the U.S. market, and we are in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. We’re in 7-Eleven, Circle K and virtually all the top convenience store chains, as well as Costco, Walmart and Walgreens.

Canada is a very unique situation because right now the law in Canada says it’s illegal to sell electronic cigarettes that contain nicotine. So, it’s a closed market. There are non–nicotine-based electronic cigarettes, but at the end of the day it’s sort of like non-alcoholic beer—it’s hard to get excited about it as a market opportunity. We are very interested in the Canadian market, though. We’ve been taking steps to see if we can make some progress within the legal framework there. I’m hopeful that next year we will be able to enter that market.

MyLIFE: How would you describe your current relationship with the tobacco industry? And what is your vision for your products?
Weiss: The tobacco companies are our mortal enemies. Our mission is to make cigarettes obsolete. The tobacco companies want people to keep smoking—that’s the core of their business. Even if they had gotten into the electronic cigarette industry, which is not an industry they created—they didn’t invent the technology—they only recently discovered the electronic cigarette category because of the success that independent companies like NJOY have had at taking away their customers. But we view ourselves very much not like a tobacco company—we’re not affiliated with tobacco companies. Our product doesn’t contain tobacco. Our company mission is make their antiquated technology obsolete—which has been tobacco/paper in the past—with an integrated circuit chip power-source heating element.

MyLIFE: What is your strategy for promoting your brand?
Weiss: We are a proponent of mass advertising. It’s critical for companies like NJOY to advertise and communicate to smokers that they have an alternative. Tobacco companies have been banned from television [advertising] since 1970 because their products have known adverse health consequences for the people that use them. There is no scientific evidence to show that is true of our product. Our products do not contain tobacco and don’t meet the definition of a cigarette. Unfortunately, they have the name cigarette in the title of the category—electronic cigarette—but that’s like calling a car an electric horse. It is critical that we advertise and communicate to smokers, to educate them because they may not be aware that there is a satisfying alternative.

MyLIFE: Can you talk about the effects of smoking electronic cigarettes? Are they less harmful than smoking tobacco cigarettes?
Weiss: The emerging data from scientific journals published to date indicate an enormous harm reduction potential for electronic cigarettes. There’s no combustion in the production, and there’s no burning, which generates thousands of chemicals in tobacco smoke. There’s no carbon monoxide produced, and there’s no tar in the products.

MyLIFE: Earlier, you mentioned that you are in all 50 states. What is your customer base?
Weiss: I don’t have demographics data based on customers just because when someone walks into a 7-Eleven or a Circle K in Montana, they don’t pass along that information to me—their ethnicity or their age. But, we require our retailers to verify age to make sure that people who buy our product are of legal smoking age. We also do a robust age verification through our website for customers who are in areas where they cannot find our product locally.

MyLIFE: MyLIFE: Any closing remarks?
Weiss:  We think of ourselves as a technology company. We’ve made incredible progress in innovations with our products. I’m an inventor and a patent attorney. We’re very focused on using technology to solve what I think is one of the world’s greatest problems. We have a public health epidemic not just in the United States but the world. The World Health Organization says a billion human beings are going to die in the 21st century from smoking. Governments have tried very hard to deal with this public health epidemic, and unfortunately they’ve failed to make any kind of meaningful dent in this terrible epidemic. I think it’s important to give this technology a chance. Electronic cigarettes have already outpaced the nicotine replacement therapy pharmaceutical market, which spent millions of dollars and decades trying to solve this problem unsuccessfully. It is very encouraging, from my perspective, that in the past three years electronic cigarettes have grown in popularity—something quite amazing. Cigarette smoking has been declining as electronic cigarettes have gained in popularity. That’s a trend that everyone should be happy about.