COTA and W. Curtis Stitt power on by creating efficiencies, working smarter

Build onto the foundation

COTA continues to strive to be a good steward of its funds, while serving the community, Stitt says. That’s certainly been demonstrated by one industry metric that shows how efficiently the organization is operating: cost per service hour.

“We’ve gone from a point where we were operating on a level 32 percent higher than our peers, to a level where we’re operating better than our peers,” he says.

col_cs_wcurtisstitt5_1116At some point, however, you do run out of ways to save money, if you’ve done a thorough job.

COTA isn’t there yet, but Stitt says they can’t forget about their responsibility for tomorrow, too.

Central Ohio is expected to grow by at least 500,000 people by 2050, with more than 300,000 new jobs being created. COTA has to have a solid plan to grow its service over the next 35 years, to keep pace with that and keep its public transit relevant.

“A community where public transit is nonexistent or irrelevant is a community that’s going to die,” he says.

Stitt and his team are filling in the solid foundation that was started with the previous leadership, in order to eventually build a next generation transportation system.

“You can’t focus just on today,” he says. “If you’re planning just for today, you won’t keep up because everybody else is planning what’s going to happen five years, 10 years, 15 years out. They’re pursuing those plans, and they’re laying the foundation for those plans today.”

 

Takeaways:

  • If you feel you’ve made it, you’ll fall behind.
  • Be open minded and creative to new ideas.
  • Operating smarter doesn’t just mean cutting costs.

 

The Stitt File:

Name: W. Curtis Stitt
Title: President and CEO
Company: Central Ohio Transit Authority

Born: Cleveland, Ohio
Education: B.A. from Kent State University, J.D., Chase College of Law, Northern Kentucky University

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? Paperboy. I developed a strong work ethic at a young age, and learned the value of good customer service.

What’s the No. 1 quality you strive for as a leader and why? I always try to lead by example in terms of my commitment to our mission, goals and values.

You said ycol_cs_cota1_1116ou face more internal and external responsibilities as COTA’s president and CEO. How have you changed how you manage yourself as a result of that? One of the things that I’ve learned, and I’ve had to do, as CEO, is just sit back and listen to the rest of the leadership team and others on our staff here — and not be so eager to offer my opinion.

Delegation is a difficult thing for some people, including yours truly, particularly in areas that are your strength.

When I first took on the helm here at COTA as CEO, sitting in leadership team meetings, my general counsel would give me strange looks because I was answering all of the legal questions, pre-empting her opportunity to even speak up. I had familiarity with COTA’s legal issues and could provide answers because of my experience, but it wasn’t fair to general counsel to speak so quickly.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not working? I enjoy lots of things, but three favorites are:

  • Spending time with my family, especially my granddaughters.
  • Listening to jazz.
  • Coaching track and field.