As independent and self-sufficient as they are as a group leadership team, you have to get out to the remote leaders and see their clients in that local geography on a consistent basis, he says.
That way, there’s a real relationship with the corporate office. For example, once a year, NEP runs its board meeting in a different overseas location.
“It’s important that we are very visible, as a board and as a leadership team in the states, to re-enforce all of the things that they know and love about their local teams,” Rabbitt says.
The corporate office also hosts company leaders in Pittsburgh once a year, and has monthly global meetings and one-on-ones every two weeks between Rabbitt and division presidents — all to stay in touch.
“Running international business is to me really not that difficult as long as you have strong leaders running the local markets,” he says. “That’s what the key is, and that’s not a whole lot different from any business. If you’ve got strong people running things, you have the ability to manage no matter where they are.”
With a strong team, good financial partners and fortune at picking the right acquisitions, Rabbitt says NEP’s strategy of putting a worldwide network in place has become a reality.
“We’re winning more and more business because we’re putting services together or putting geographies together to service clients across packages that others can’t compare to,” he says.
“So you’re winning things on an apples-to-orange perspective, as opposed to an apples-to-apples, which they’ve always been in the local markets.”
- Expand around your client needs.
- Find like-minded businesses for acquisition.
- Keep the strong leaders, no matter where they are.
The Rabbitt File:
Name: Kevin Rabbitt
Company: NEP Group Inc.
Born: Overland Park, Kansas
Education: B.A. in managerial studies, Rice University; MBA, Harvard Business School
What was your first job and what did you learn from it? I was in sixth grade and I had a paper route. I convinced the teacher to allow me to go home at lunchtime and miss recess afterwards. I’d ride my bike home. I’d fold and deliver the papers.
Afterwards, I’d go up to the local drugstore and I’d already taken pre-orders from all my classmates. So, I would buy candy for 30 cents and sell it for $1. I had all of the money in advance, so it was definitely good cash management.
I did better on the candy than I did on the paper route, but I needed the paper route, in order to convince the teacher to allow me to leave.
I learned that building relationships matters. I learned how to be entrepreneurial, where you can do more than one thing at a time. And I learned that if you meet client needs, you could generally charge a premium price.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received? The first business I ran was a place called Texas Ice Stadium. It was a youth-oriented ice skating facility in Houston, Texas. The owner was Ralph O’Connor, a former Fortune 500 CEO and a mentor of mine.
He taught me: Make sure you treat your people well, because those are the people who are truly delivering service every day to your clients.
What do you like to do when you’re not working? I am a youth sports coach for two of my four kids. I coach them both in basketball, as well as my six-year-old son in soccer. I get a lot of satisfaction in not only coaching them but their friends. I like them to develop the sports skills, but it’s more about learning how to compete and how to work hard at something.
I’m also extremely active in the Young President’s Organization.
If you weren’t a CEO, is there another job you’d like to try? I’d be a college basketball coach. I was an assistant coach when I was at Texas State University and we went to NCAA tournament in 1997. What I love about college basketball is seeing young men at that age develop, both their basketball skills, but also their lifelong leadership and teamwork skills.