With the growth, Clark has started to delegate more. He listens to his department heads and leaders in the company, as well as new beginners to collect ideas.
With a de-centralized organization like Whitestone has grown into, you want to build a structure from the ground up that feeds back into your corporate operations center, he says.
“It’s like a starfish. You can have the head, but you have to have strength out in the tentacles to be able to make decisions,” Clark says. “You have to empower people to do the right thing. You have to have the right people to make those decisions.
“Then when they run into difficult situations, they go to the correct department and they get it corrected,” he says.
Clark also has found that in some areas, it’s better to outsource.
“We’ve found in our proposal area that we’ve had to contract out to get the best writers in the country to write for us, because that’s a very difficult curve to be able to train people, to bring them up to the standards of the level that we’re moving into,” he says.
The company is going to continue to find the right mix, as it looks into growing overseas.
“Our branding, our name is out very well across the country, and we’re just trying to continue building a good organization,” Clark says.
“Whitestone would never be what it is without the commitment of our team and knowing we were making a difference,” he says. “If you aren’t making that difference and helping others, you are missing the point of business.”
- Safeguard your reputation, as much as performance.
- Meet all challenges with the right attitude.
- Your core people drive the culture.
The Clark File:
Name: John D. Clark Sr.
Title: President, CEO and Founder
Company: The Whitestone Group Inc.
Born: Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, but grew up in Cincinnati
What was your first job and what did you learn from it? My first job in high school was being a bus boy at Mariemont Inn, near Cincinnati. I started there in the seventh grade. I learned that I didn’t want to give butter to ladies for a quarter. I’d get tipped because I’d go get them extra butter or I’d get their cigarettes.
I said I want to be the gentleman sitting the chair for the future. But it was a good learning experience. I worked there three years.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received? It’s interesting — some of the best advice I ever received was when I was standing on the tarmac at Air Force One with President George W. Bush at the foot of the stairs. It was about being a leader, but I don’t want to share the specifics.
My mother, Stella Clark, who owned a restaurant for years, also gave me some great advice. As early as age 8, whenever I was at the restaurant, she made sure I shook hands with everyone. Her advice: When you shake a man’s hand, you’ve got to look him in eyes. She raised me to believe that my word is my bond.
What do you like to do when you’re not working? I live on a farm. I have horses. I work out; I do a lot of boxing, as part of my training. But just relax, and enjoy the family and enjoy the grandkids.