Engaging leadership

G & S Research Inc. has come a long way from being run on credit cards and out of a couple of spare bedrooms, says Gary
Schwebach, who co-founded the company with George Grubb in
1997. Since then, G & S has grown from that tenuous position to
2006 revenue of nearly $8 million and about 50 employees.

Schwebach, president and principal of the company that
does market research for firms in the health care industry, says
that during the past 10 years, he has learned a lot about what it
truly means to be a leader.

“My job in the company is to set a strategic vision for the
company, where we want to go and how we want to get there,
and then put the people in place to be able to drive that,”
Schwebach says. “It may not get there on the original plan or
the original path that I used.”

Smart Business spoke with Schwebach about letting others
help lead your business.

Q: How do you build a leadership team?

You need to make sure that they can get on the same page
with the existing leadership and yet feel like they can bring
new ideas to the table. We have some pretty brutal executive
meetings where I’ll come up with an idea, and I’ll ask a couple
people, and they’ll look at me like I’m crazy.

Then they lay it out. We figure out, ‘OK, maybe I was a little
off on that one.’ We are open to communicating and to hearing
new ideas and taking action.

We get very involved in a charity event where the whole company goes down and works for five hours sweating their tails
off. It’s a motorcycle ride for Riley Hospital. When you’re running around under a tent in 90-degree weather in June, barriers
break down pretty fast. That transcends and goes to where
now they can come and talk to me about other things.

It’s part of that emotional intelligence that allows you to work
and treat other people as equals even though, on the chain,
you’re not. Once you get away from that chain, there is no difference.

Q: What advice can help any CEO be more successful?

Running something, whether it’s a business or an organization, can be an extremely rewarding experience. But it can also
be extremely frustrating. The key to doing it successfully is
doing the things that make the rewards come more frequently
than the frustrations.

I can walk in at any moment and there will be an e-mail or
there will be something that goes on or somebody will come to
me with an issue, and I have to go into problem-solving mode.
You deal with those and you fix them, and you move on.

The real reward comes from coming up with an idea or going
out and talking to one of the more junior people, and they say,
‘Hey, have you ever thought of doing this?’ You come back and
think about it and say, ‘Hey, that might work.’ You put it into
action and find out, ‘You know what, it did work.’ It can be very
rewarding in driving that.

The old saying is that it’s lonely at the top. It’s only lonely if
you isolate yourself. It’s not lonely at the top if you have a good
team and you encourage communication.

Q: What one thing can get a CEO in trouble?

I have confidence in my own inability to know everything.
People who follow that first style of management really shut
themselves out to a lot of good ideas and an opportunity to
make a lot more money. Even Jack Welch was not innately
born with all the good ideas in his brain.

A lot of it comes from interacting with people as you’re moving up the ladder. Just because you reach the top of the ladder
doesn’t mean you should stop interacting. Being promoted to
run something, there isn’t a light beam that comes out of heaven and pops you on the head and all of a sudden, you have all
the wisdom of Solomon. It’s a process.

Q: What is the key to a healthy business partner relationship?

You don’t have to be cut from the same cloth, but you have to
trust them completely. The other thing is a total commitment
to each other. No matter what happens, we’re going to look out
for each other. We’re going to make sure the commitment we
have to each other in a business sense is the most important

It’s almost like a successful relationship. I’ve been married
for almost 30 years. The reason I’ve been able to stay married
that long is I always put my wife first. I always look out for her,
and she always looks out for me. This is a similar thing.

HOW TO REACH: G & S Research Inc., (317) 252-4500 or www.gs-research.com