Once again this year, we’ll present nine leaders from Central Iowa’s most successful businesses, nonprofits and educational institutions who will share information on 10 programs, initiatives or approaches that can be applied to any business or organization. It’s one of our most popular events — at which each leader shares ideas for five minutes. The next day, a special publication featuring all 90 Ideas comes out as an insert in the Business Record.


Here’s a bonus: Below, we share one idea from each leader, submitted for our 90 Ideas publication.



Dan Houston

Chairman, President and CEO, Principal Financial Group


It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. 

It’s important to remember where we come from, but I’m frankly far more interested in the future. This is especially true for any successful organization – in the absence of clear goals and outcomes in mind, it’s hard to know how to measure progress and what winning looks like. When I’m corresponding with Principal colleagues, I often end my message with a simple phrase: “We press on!” It’s a reminder that while we honor our legacy and celebrate our achievements, the work is never done, and progress is a team effort. 


Marty Martin

President, Drake University


Practice joyful accountability. 

Joyfully accountable people are curious and creative, bold and brave. They take ownership for all of the events and actions in their lives in that they are unwilling to delegate being their own fundamental creative force. They accept that everything that happens is a result of the choices they make, and that they always have a choice (which doesn’t mean they always have choices they like). The joyfully accountable person sees things as they are and strives to do their best no matter what is placed in front of them.


Beth Shelton

CEO, Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa


Your lens today is not your lens forever. 

Every experience causes incremental shifts in perspective. Frustration can lead to tunnel vision, thinking this current feeling is permanent. Today’s lens is not the forever lens. Overcome tunnel vision by recognizing that each person’s perspective is uniquely stamped by their experiences. While diverse and even contradictory, there are multiple perspectives that are true.


Hannah Elliott

Co-owner, Lola’s Fine Kitchen


Treat your staff better than your clientele. 

Hiring and keeping staff is a challenge, especially in the service industry. Low unemployment is great to see, but it has hit the service industry hard. I have been lucky enough to have great staff that consistently receive praise for their wonderful service. My managers and I work hard to create an environment that is fun, safe and welcoming. The staff is our first priority, making sure that they have work/school/life balance and that they feel appreciated and most importantly that we make a job that can be less than glamorous really fun. They enjoy being at work and they take ownership of the restaurant and our food, and it shows in how they interact with the guests. Taking time to care for your staff ends up taking care of the guests.


Don Coffin

CEO, Bankers Trust


Assume good intent. More importantly, have it. 

In today’s world of email and text communications, intent can become blurred. As a leader, make it clear that you expect others to have good intentions. A strong team is focused on what is best for the organization, your customers and your team members. And when intent isn’t clear, encourage civil conversations to find common ground and positive outcomes.


Debi Durham

Director, Iowa Economic Development Authority/Iowa Finance Authority


Take advantage of unrealized potential. 

Supplier diversity ensures you purchase the variety of goods and services your business or organization needs from a diverse group of businesses. It not only is the right thing to do, but also is a sound business strategy that helps promote innovation and drives competition (on price and service). Supplier diversity programs are an untapped resource that help organizations better realize the potential of a highly optimized supplier base while also demonstrating a commitment to doing business in diverse markets.


Izaah Knox

Executive Director, Urban Dreams


Leave your mark. 

Ultimately, it's not about us; it is about the future. Every day I start my day with a quote: “What am I going to do today to be the best parent, community advocate and leader at Urban Dreams?” This helps me stay focused on my personal mission, the mission of Urban Dreams, and helps me say yes or no opportunities that I encounter both personally and professionally. But this doesn't work unless you have a personal mission or a “why.” 


Richard Deming, MD

Medical Director, MercyOne Cancer Center and Founder, Above + Beyond Cancer


Memento Mori: Remember that you will die someday. 

Live today with passion. If diamonds were as plentiful as grains of sand, they would be worthless. If we lived forever, wasting a day of our life would be trivial, but it’s because we don’t live forever that makes today so valuable. Today is a good day to begin to live the autobiography you would like to read. Remembering that you will die someday is not an invitation to sulk and mourn. You are not dead yet! It’s a trumpet blast to wake you up to the possibilities that today presents to you.


Melissa O’Neil 

CEO, Central Iowa Shelter & Services


People will tell you are not good enough. 

I first learned this as an athlete. There will be some who believe in you always, and others who try at every turn to make you believe you are not good enough. This is true in business as well. While I seek input regularly from what I call my cabinet and listen to my team for positive critiques, the rest of the time I subscribe to the theory that what others think of me is none of my business.