Thursday, September 28, 2023 Sep 28, 2023
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Executive Holidays: Calvin Carter, Gerardo Galván, Thear Suzuki, and more.

Area CEOs share their favorite memories, wish-list items, and New Year’s resolutions.

Building on last year’s Executive Holiday series, we continue in 2021 with more memories, wish lists, and New Year’s resolutions from North Texas C-Suiters. Be sure to check out our Dec. 22 post featuring Brad Alberts, Ossa Fisher, Erin Nealy Cox, and more—and our Dec. 24 post featuring Tiffany Derry, Hilda Galvan, Artie Starrs and more.

Margie Aguilar

Company Lead and Co-Founder, ISP Creative

Holiday traditions: “I love chocolate treats around the holidays because they remind me of the richness of life. Many people would consider the holidays ending after New Year’s Day, but in Mexico, there is a celebration on January 6, Dia de los Reys. It’s a tradition in my family to reflect on the story of the Wise Men who visited Jesus bringing gifts to him.”

Favorite gift: “Those seasons of life when hand-me-downs and second-hand items were replaced with brand new is very special. But I’ve long since reached a point where I have everything I need. Over the last decade I’ve really come to appreciate the gifts of time and talent. My family now has a tradition of gifting each other with acts of service. It’s special to us because it normally involves more time together and more memories made. 

On this year’s wish list: “My wish is to become better positioned to have an even greater impact on the people and neighborhoods in which I live and work. It has been said that it is better to give than to receive, and I feel that every time I give back to my community.”

Down time tips: “It’s important to shift from working in the business to work on the business. One of the ways we do that at the end of the year is by taking a retreat and reflecting on our wins, our learning moments, and our opportunities for growth. As we talk about these things, it helps us to set vision and goals for the next year.  And because we are intentional about doing this as we lead up to the holidays, it helps us to frame our goals in light of our families.  Achieving awards, being granted contracts, or delivering above and beyond client expectations are all wonderful things, but if we don’t have the love of our families, it all becomes pretty hollow. So, we build goals that help us build the company, impact the community, and love our families well.”

Memorable moment from 2021: “This year I was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award in recognition of more than 20 years of community service. It was memorable for many reasons, and it was a reminder to myself and others that how I served in my 20s mattered.  That the choices we make even when we’re young are part of the legacy we leave.”

My New Year’s resolution: “In the next year my company, ISP Creative, will give even more focus & attention to building our company culture. We will focus as a team on being the best we can be. Being inclusive, conscientious, having a strong attention to detail, being endlessly creative, thinking outside the box, and having a great time while we do it. It will be a continued dedication to creating the type of culture that other companies love to work with.”

Margie Aguilar's resolution for 2022 is to continue strengthening her company's culture.

Greg Bibb  

President and CEO, Dallas Wings; Managing Partner, Panther City Lacrosse Club     

Holiday Traditions: “Gingerbread house decorating with my wife and my children. This year, the Christmas cookies my daughter baked are amazing.”  

Greg Bibb’s favorite holiday treat—the Christmas cookies his daughter bakes.  

Favorite gift: “Reese—our Portuguese water dog we brought home last Christmas.”  

On this year’s wish list: “Winning seasons in 2022 for the Dallas Wings and Panther City Lacrosse Club”  

Down time tips: “Focus on where you are. When working, work. When with family, celebrate the holidays and enjoy your loved ones.”  

My New Year’s resolution: “Getting more sleep”  

Calvin Carter 

Founder, Bottle Rocket 

Holiday traditions: “The morning before Christmas, we head to Neiman’s downtown for Santa photos and champagne. Then it’s off to Benihana for a long lunch. We always go to Benihana because it doesn’t make sense, and the kids love it. Christmas Eve is a mad dash to wrap gifts. Christmas morning is full of banana-nut bread, mulled cider, and presents. Then, we do a repeat Thanksgiving-style dinner and finish it off with Pecan Pie that my mom brings with her from Florida. It is the best ever!” 

Favorite gift: “An Ember Bluetooth-connected coffee mug.” 

On this year’s wish list: “A one-quarter-scale Mandalorian figurine, complete with floating ‘child,’ Grogu. That, and a PlaneWave Delta Rho 350 scientific-grade astrograph telescope.”  

Down time tips: “By far the best way to enjoy your holidays uninterrupted is to have a generous time-off policy for your entire company. If they aren’t working, you aren’t either and vice versa. Give each other permission to take time with family to recharge batteries for the challenges ahead. The key is to all be off at the same time.  If you don’t have to work, just don’t. It’s much easier when you are traveling for the holidays, but if you’re home, and your home is now your office, you will be compelled to work. Family time during the holidays should never be made to feel like an unwanted interruption. After all, why do we work so hard in the first place?” 

Memorable moment from 2021: “The outpouring of love and appreciation from my fellow Rocketeers when I announced my retirement from Bottle Rocket this year.” 

New Year’s resolution: “Catch up on all the preventative health measures I have put off, such as Cooper Clinic, functional medicine checkups, Rolfing, brain-health study, and more. After all, when it’s gone, it’s gone, and I would like to hold on to my physical and mental health as long as possible.” 

Gerardo Galván

General Manager, Topo Chico

Holiday traditions: “We love to celebrate holidays and birthdays as a family, and family means both family and friends—the most the merrier. Our holiday marathon starts on Nov.18  with my birthday, followed by Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. We end the marathon with the Three Wise Men Cake on Jan. 6. There are no fewer than 25 to 30 people at each event.”

Gerardo Galván celebrates a holiday marathon with family, culminating on Jan. 6 with a Three Wise Men cake.

Favorite gift: “Any gift under the Christmas tree on the morning of Dec. 25 when I was a child. It was a magical moment to wake up, run to the Christmas tree, and discover what Santa Claus had left for me that day.”

On this year’s wish list: “After losing some good friends and close family during these two years of the pandemic, I wish the same gift to all: health and happiness. I also hoping that everybody contributes their part to eradicate this pandemic from the earth.”

Down time tips: “During the holidays, connect with family and friends by having quality time together. We all know work is very demanding, as we are responsible of many goals and tasks, but we are also responsible for bringing love and happiness to the family. When you are young, you want to conquer the professional world, and it is very easy to lose focus and forget about quality time for the family. As you get older, you realize that your family has always been there for you, supporting you, and cheering for you. You also need to cheer for them and give back to them. My best advice would be not to wait until you get older to realize that family must be No. 1. Aligning your priorities doesn’t mean you cannot be an excellent performer at work.”

Memorable moment from 2021: “Rappelling off several rock walls—the tallest one being 100 feet—with my wife Lolys, my son Roberto, and his girlfriend Rachel during a 12-hour trekking expedition called Matacanes at beautiful mountains close to Monterrey, Mexico.”

New Year’s resolution: “Take more exciting trips with my family. We love trekking. Two years ago, we did Patagonia in Argentina, which was around 100 miles of trekking on ice, mud, rocks, and dirt, surrounded by amazing nature.”

Sean O’Brien

CEO, O’Brien Architects

Holiday traditions: “Elf on the Shelf for the kids, playing paintball with my brother, awkward games of Cards Against Humanity with the family, and giving bonuses to my employees!”

Favorite gift: “The gift of spending Christmas with my whole family again is very special. I have three brothers and three sisters. When we get together, something crazy always happens.”

A young Sean O’Brien with his mother at his grandparents’ home.

On this year’s wish list: “Art has become a big part of our lives. My wife and I started collecting a few years back after attending Two X Two for the first time. Special occasions such as Christmas are an opportunity to bring new color and life into our home and offices.”

Down time tips: “All of us at the firm have a strong work ethic and are very passionate. Architects in general are not good at saying ‘no.’ We have reminded each other daily to set boundaries. It’s becoming a habit to stop and ask what impact our work choices, such as responding quickly to an email, will have on the quality of our lives.”

Memorable moment from 2021: “In order: Being named a DBJ Best Place to Work, being named to the D CEO Dallas 500, and having the highest-grossing year as a firm ever.”

My New Year’s resolution: “My goal is to stay humble. When you succeed, people tell you how great you are. It’s healthy to acknowledge praise, but I always look for constructive criticism.”

Nikky Phinyawatana

Founder and CEO, Asian Mint Restaurants

Holiday traditions: “I look forward to seeing our extended family at my grandmother’s house, where we have celebrated for more than 30 years. We do Christmas lunch and then graze all afternoon and do our ($50 limit) white elephant gift exchange. It is so fun to see what everyone brings. Blackberry cobbler is our family’s traditional treat, and chocolate chip cookies.”

Nikky Phinyawatana loves the holiday cards she receives from her young children.

Favorite gift: “I love thoughtful gifts, and most of them are from my young kids. They give me cards full of drawings of the family and then explain the drawing to me in detail. It communicates their point of view, and I love it. I cherish these drawings.”

On this year’s wish list: “Maybe I am crazy, but I am most excited about gifting myself my sauces made with monk fruit sugar. This ties to my 2022 resolutions. I don’t do this often, but I was so proud of my creativeness for even thinking of this! I’m also going to share this with my dad.”

Down time tips: “Don’t schedule much of anything or work meetings during the holidays. Use this time to connect with friends and families and catch up on what you are most grateful for this past year. Gratitude is the gift, and it will lead to relaxation for the mind and body.”

Memorable moment from 2021: “Taking 24-hour trip to NYC booked literally that morning, jumping on a plane that afternoon, and just rolling in the city for 24 hours. Life is short, and ‘fun’ is my word for 2021! So glad I did it, and I will start to take more trips like this.”
New Year’s resolution: “2021 has taught me to be more aware of my time and the importance of taking care of myself physically and mentally. My dad was diagnosed with cancer, and it hit home. I am learning so much. I am getting to see firsthand how food is medicine to heal and maintain wellness. Here’s to a healthier 2022!”

Francois Reihani

Founder and CEO, La La Land Kind Café

Holiday traditions: “Sugar cookies!”

Favorite gift: “My first ever bike”

On this year’s wish list: “A classic car”

Down time tips: “I have no balance!”

Memorable moment from 2021: “Each of our four new store openings.”

New Year’s resolution: “Try to take a step back and enjoy.”

Jon Roth 

CEO and Executive Vice President, Dallas County Medical Society 

Holiday traditions: “I fondly recall my parents hosting Christmas parties that included aunts, uncles, and cousins, who we did not regularly visit. Both my parents had several siblings, and they all had many children, so when we all gathered in my parents’ small home, it would be total chaos for hours on end. It was magical.”

Favorite gift: “My parents were very generous to their five children, even though we did not have a lot of money. As an adult, I realized that they worked hard all year long to make Christmas special for all of us. My favorite gift had to be when I was about 8 years old. It was the Atari—as in the original—video game console that was new at the time. I was the envy of the playground.”

On this year’s wish list: “I am looking forward to spending time with my grown children, one of whom has been away at her second year at TCU, and the other of whom moved into his first apartment this year here in Dallas. I miss seeing those kiddos every day.”

Jon Roth with his son and daughter, gathering for the holidays.

Down time tips: “Be intentional with your time. Rarely throughout the year do we, as a society, collectively slow down in the way that we do around the holidays. My advice is to use that time to connect with family or friends before the New Year ramps up and the opportunity to do so is lost.”

Memorable moment from 2021: “Hosting COVID-19 vaccination clinics last January, which resulted in 20,000 physicians and their medical staff in Dallas County being vaccinated at a time when the supply was extremely limited. Our member physicians had been on the front line of this pandemic for a year, and we were proud to be able to offer them this protection at a critical time.”

New Year’s resolution: “My New Year’s resolution is to connect more with others—both professionally and personally. COVID has reduced opportunities to connect with others as much as I need to, to feel successful and fulfilled. I need to be with others to fill my cup, and hopefully help fill theirs as well.”

Linda Silver  

CEO, Perot Museum of Nature and Science   

Holiday traditions: “Attending a performance of The Nutcracker is a traditional favorite Christmas treat, and I feel fortunate to live in Dallas where the Texas Ballet Theater’s annual production is always beautiful. This year, Alexandra Farber’s portrayal of the Sugar Plum Fairy was particularly inspiring.”  

Favorite gift: “When my son was 9, he gave me a ‘compliments jar’ for Christmas. He decorated an old peanut butter jar and wrote on little slips of paper all the things he liked or admired about me. I still have it, and he’s off at college. Later, I learned the idea was my daughter’s, and he just ran with it.”  

On this year’s wish list: “This year more than ever, I have health and patience at the top of my list of wishes.”  

Down time tips: “My best advice is to spend quality time with family and friends engaging in activities that build long-lasting memories, like a trip to the Perot Museum!”  

My New Year’s resolution: “I’m resolved to get up earlier in the mornings so I can take my dogs on long walks. As this year I am wishing for health and patience—I hope this resolution will help with both!”  

Linda Silver's New Year's resolution is to take her dog's on long walks.

Thear Suzuki

Global Client Service Partner, EY

Holiday traditions: “Our extended family tradition is to gather on Christmas Eve for dinner and open gifts right at midnight, instead of waiting for Christmas morning. It’s a lot of fun to watch the kids get excited about the countdown to midnight. Every year, we also enjoy my mom’s famous Hainanese Chicken Rice dish.”

Favorite gift: “A family picture book, because I love looking back on fun and meaningful memories captured.”

On this year’s wish list: “This year I’m looking forward to receiving a special watercolor painting by Scott Bodell of my courageous mother comforting me when I was a young girl. Our family survived the Cambodian genocide because of her bravery, perseverance, and resourcefulness. In America, even with no education, my mother has been able to abundantly provide for our family.”

Down time tips: “Schedule in free time to give family members down time and the freedom to do what they want.” 

Suzuki was among the immigrants featured in President George W. Bush’s book, Out of Many, One.

Memorable moment from 2021: “Seeing my parents and boys spend quality time with President Bush in his office after the release of his new book, Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants. My parents were able to share their story of survival and express their gratitude for freedom, the kindness of others, and the opportunity to pursue the American dream.”

My New Year’s resolution: “My New Year’s resolution is to say no to the things that distract me from what really matters. This includes slowing down and setting aside quiet time to reflect on what I’m doing and redirecting my focus when I get off track.”

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