Celebratory crowd honors Most Admired Companies of 2021 – AZ Big Media


A limited-capacity crowd celebrated the Most Admired Companies of 2021 Thursday evening at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort.

“It’s appropriate that we are celebrating Arizona’s Most Admired Companies tonight because we are coming off a year that completely changed workplace culture,” joked Az Business magazine Editor in Chief Michael Gossie. “It was a year in which a business lunch meant opening your front door for the UberEats driver … whom you now call Freddie, your new BFF.”

In selecting Arizona’s Most Admired Companies for 2021, Az Business magazine partnered with BestCompaniesAZ to review more than 200 nominations, identifying top companies that show strong leadership, a commitment to the communities, and concern for their employees and customers. From those nominations, the Most Admired Companies of 2021. 

READ ALSO: Here are ways to create a diverse and inclusive workforce

Title sponsors for the Most Admired Companies of 2021 were WaFd Bank and Taylor Morrison. The  VIP sponsor was TBConsulting. The  digital sponsor was USAA.

In addition to honoring the 40 Most Admired Companies of 2021, six spotlight awards were also presented. Winners of the spotlight awards were:

Excellence in leadership: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

Excellence in customer service: Cresa

Excellence in diversity, equity, and inclusion: Blue Yonder

Excellence in innovation: Adopt Technologies

Excellence in workplace culture: FirstBank

Excellence in social responsibility: Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona


Most Admired Companies of 2021

Adopt Technologies

Most Admired Company: 2020-2021

Top Arizona executive: Brett Helgeson, CEO and managing partner

What it does: Information technology company delivering cloud-based solutions and IT management, design and support to small and medium-sized businesses.

Admirable trait: Helgeson was recently recognized as one of the top 25 IT CEOs in the U.S. by IT Services Report, and the honor is well-deserved. Helgeson strongly believes in and fosters an environment focused on open communication, constructive feedback and sharing thoughts and ideas. He believes if team members are successful and happy, Adopt Technologies will be successful with its clients.

American Express

Most Admired Company: 2010-2021

Top Arizona executive: Gabrielle Vitale, executive vice president, chief compliance and ethics officer

What it does: Largest credit card issuer by purchase volume.

Admirable trait: In 2020, American Express launched an action plan to advance its diversity, inclusion and equity priorities. The plan is supported by $1 billion in investments, enhancing diverse representation and equal opportunities for American Express colleagues, customers and communities. In 2020, American Express made additional investments to achieve full pay parity, reaching 100% pay equity for colleagues across genders globally and across races and ethnicities in the U.S.


Most Admired Company: 2018-2021 

Top Arizona executive: Rick Smith, CEO and founder

What it does: Develops Taser, cameras and software products for law enforcement and civilians.

Admirable trait: To show Axon is just as committed to its employees’ personal lives as to their professional lives, Axon partners with outside organizations and experts to promote healthy living. Benefits at Axon start on Day 1, and Axon offers a flexible work environment, unlimited PTO, parent support networks with expert-led Weldon webinars throughout the year, unlimited 24/7 access to wellness and mental health services and free legal assistance to employees.

Banner Health

Most Admired Company: 2020-2021 

Top Arizona executive: Peter S. Fine, president and CEO 

What it does: Nonprofit health care system.

Admirable trait: Banner defines leadership through distinct and clearly defined behaviors. The organization’s new leadership model, launched post-pandemic and built on the “Banner Strong” movement, has three pillars: Demonstrate Heart, Elevate Team and Inspire Success. Banner Health demonstrates the heart of Banner through courage, self-awareness and valuing each team member’s story. Banner elevates its teams with intentional connection, collaboration, and creating action towards a better future. Banner inspires success with preparation, high quality decisions and perseverance against setback.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

Most Admired Company: 2011, 2017, 2021

Top Arizona executive: Pam Kehaly, president and CEO

What it does: Offers health and dental insurance plans for individuals and families in Arizona.

Admirable trait: During the pandemic, BCBSAZ was called upon by the state to help deliver hope to the community. The company quickly mobilized its team and its trusted partners. Starting on Jan. 11, BCBSAZ rallied the hundreds of volunteers needed each day to staff the State Farm Stadium vaccination site and other sites. During the three-month assignment, BCBSAZ volunteers and partners logged nearly 15,200 shifts and more than 145,000 hours in the historic effort.

Blue Yonder (formerly JDA)

Most Admired Company: 2016-2021 

Top Arizona executive: Girish Rishi, CEO

What it does: Software company providing business planning, execution, delivery, labor and supply chain solutions.

Admirable trait: With 45 offices across 25 countries, Blue Yonder’s 5,500 associates represent a diverse global community. The organization is committed to diversity and inclusivity, and launched its DIVE initiative (Diversity, Inclusion, Value and Equality) in early 2020 centered around three key pillars: awareness and education, outreach and recruitment, and engagement and empowerment. DIVE is Blue Yonder’s commitment to creating a diverse environment where associates can grow and thrive with the freedom to be unique and authentic.

Burch & Cracchiolo

Most Admired Company: 2021

Top Arizona executive: Andrew Abraham, president

What it does: One of the Southwest’s premier law firms

Admirable trait: An attorney at a firm in direct competition with Burch & Cracchiolo recently described the law firm as “good people who happen to be great lawyers.” Burch & Cracchiolo is known for being generous to both its staff and community. The firm supports nonprofits, economic development organizations, the arts community, the educational community any many others. Burch & Cracchiolo is a legacy partner for Local First Arizona, and the law firm supports teachers through its Star Teacher Award program.


Most Admired Company: 2010-2021

Top Arizona executive: Paul Komadina, senior managing director and Arizona market leader

What it does: Commercial real estate services and investment firm

Admirable trait: CBRE’s workplace culture stems from its RISE values — respect, integrity, service and excellence — which are the foundations upon which the company is built. At CBRE, these values are timeless and transcend all markets, service lines, languages and business cultures. As a global organization, diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of CBRE,  which is committed to fostering an environment that provides everyone the opportunity to succeed, values the differences of each individual, and recognizes their contributions to CBRE’s success.

CHASSE Building Team

Most Admired Company: 2019-2021  

Top Arizona executive: Barry Chasse, founder 

What it does: General contractor in Phoenix and Tucson

Admirable trait: In 2019, Barry Chasse was named Construction Executive of the Year by the Valley of the Sun Chapter of Construction Financial Management Association. Chasse was recognized for his philanthropic drive, care for other people and commitment to the construction industry. He also led the team to 2020 Tempe Business of the Year by the Tempe Chamber. In addition, since 2019, Chasse has been recognized by Arizona State University as a member of the Class of Sun Devil 100 honorees.


Most Admired Company: 2021

Top Arizona executive: Richard Buscher, regional vice president and general manager

What it does: Nation’s largest retailer of used autos

Admirable trait: CarMax’s culture of innovation, diversity and inclusion is grounded in its core values, where winning together is driven by embracing and celebrating our differences. CarMax requires all associates to complete diversity and inclusion as well as unconscious bias training. One CarMax associate at the CarMax customer experience center in Tempe said: “The culture is incredible. I love the…


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