Perspectus Architecture, a planning and architectural design firm based at Shaker Square has expanded the firm’s leadership team.
The firm announced that Vladimir Novakovic, Sal Rini and James Wallis have been promoted to principals of the architectural design firm. Novakovic, Rini and Wallis are experienced in providing master planning, design and project management for health care, higher education, government, senior living and hospitality clients. With this promotion, they will become more active in business decisions guiding the direction of the company.
Magnus International Group has announced several promotions and additions to its team.
Tom Burlinski is now purchasing manager for Hardy Industrial Technologies, a division of Magnus. He has more than 25 years of notable experience in purchasing, quality assurance, customer service, safety, transportation and
Tom Szucs has been promoted to plant engineer for Hardy Animal Nutrition, a division of Magnus. As plant engineer, Szucs will employ his skills in cost-savings analysis, system optimization, project management and R&D to improve HAN’s chemical engineering processes.
Mark Pavlus has joined Magnus as senior plant engineer with more than 16 years of engineering experience in the manufacturing sector. He is focused on behavioral safety and operational improvements for Hardy Industrial Technologies.
Gordon Taylor returns to Magnus as production manager for Hardy Industrial Technologies to oversee daily manufacturing activities for the plant. He has more than 10 years of experience as a plant and manufacturing manager, operations supervisor and production team leader.
Skylight Financial Group, a leading comprehensive financial planning firm in Cleveland, Ohio, announced the creation of a new division, the Business Private Client Group (BPCG).
The new focus allows Skylight to address the increasing need to provide specialized planning for business owners looking to exit or transition control of their businesses. The Business Private Client Group works with privately held and family-owned businesses to develop a comprehensive approach to designing an exit strategy.
MesoCoat, an Abakan Inc. subsidiary located in Euclid, took the final step to the market introduction of its award-winning CermaClad corrosion and wear-resistant cladding process when it opened its first commercial facility on April 26.
The new plant is capable of producing $70 million in clad pipe annually, and is estimated to be one of the largest clad pipe manufacturing plants in the world in production capacity. The plant will help stimulate the local economy by providing highly-skilled manufacturing jobs.
Turner Construction Co., the builder of The Global Center for Health Innovation and Cleveland Convention Center, which was formerly known as Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center is pleased to announce that it expects to complete the project three months ahead of schedule.
The $465 million Cuyahoga County project began on Jan. 3, 2011 and is expected to be completed on June 1, 2013. The project is being developed, managed, and marketed by Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. GCHI and CCC will consist of a 235,000 square foot medical mart in downtown Cleveland and an adjoining convention center with 230,000 square feet of Class A exhibit space. The facility also includes more than 90,000 square feet dedicated to meeting rooms and a grand ballroom overlooking Lake Erie.
Ronald McDonald, the red and yellow M&Ms, the Budweiser frogs and the Energizer bunny have all helped their respective brands to gain the attention of the consumer. These characters make content interesting, engaging, fun, and most importantly, memorable.
That kind of content is what Sway, a new Cleveland-area content and production studio, is helping companies achieve. David Walker, vice president of interactive, and Tom Megalis, chief creative officer, started Sway with the intent of helping companies make the connection between their brands and the content they produce.
“What we’re finding is a lot of companies that we go into have invested time to do social media and content and a year later they don’t have any Facebook followers, no one is going to their YouTube channel and nothing is happening,” Walker says.
“We go in and look at their content and it’s boring, uninteresting, and it’s not engaging. You have to think about how you create something interesting, engaging and fun that people want to look at.”
Examples of the characters leading advertising today are Flo of Progressive Insurance, Mayhem of Allstate and the Geico gecko.
“They market their stuff with humor,” Walker says. “Why? Because insurance is boring and no one wants to listen to a guy saying, ‘We need to update your policy.’ They create characters and brands, and we’re telling people that same idea whether you’re selling an industrial product or insurance. Sway is all about creating engaging, fun, dynamic content.”
Dos and don’ts
Today, in the world of social media it is all about generating your audience.
“In order for me to do that effectively, I’ve got to give them something they really will latch on to,” Walker says. “That’s where a lot of people have missed. You don’t have to go spend a lot of money, but you have to form an idea, form a brand, form a concept and then start putting that out there.”
When you create a brand — the colors, the typeface, the voice — everything about it has to match.
“I think where people are missing it is they’re not getting good writing, good concepts and good ideas,” Walker says. “There’s very little really good creative thinking and strong marketing execution behind it and part of it is some people just don’t get how to do it.”
When you produce content it has to have the effect that makes people want to share it.
“We put high premium where it really counts and why we believe we’re getting traction is because of ideas,” Megalis says. “The idea has to work for your business, its strategy and it has to hit your demographic with something that’s unique and stands out.
“Sure, anybody can take great pictures or shoot a video, but if there’s no substance it’s not effective.”
A lot of companies want to share education about their business or a particular product. The idea of sharing education through someone talking into a camera is no longer good enough.
“Instead of doing it that way you have to think creatively,” Walker says. “You want people to watch it. A lot of companies just push out content and it’s very instructional, institutional and industrial and we forget about it all. In today’s world, consumers are way too savvy. The old world stuff doesn’t resonate.”
Make it memorable
Today, we are bombarded with messages from all kinds of media. Everyone wants to send a tweet or post on Facebook, so how do you come up with something that is memorable? One of the best ways is with a mascot.
“Once you create that character it transcends to social media, print, broadcast and everywhere,” Walker says. “That becomes your voice because advertising is all about making impressions that stick whether it’s online or offline. Having that mascot or that character helps people make a connection with your brand.”
This isn’t really too different than how advertising has always been. It’s doing the research to understand who that target customer is and who that core audience is.
“What will best appeal to them?” Walker says. “What do you want people to know about your product or service? Who are you trying to get it to? You have to make sure the thing you create and the message that you’re putting out there will catch your audience.”
“If it’s just words being spewed without something attached to the message, people don’t remember it,” Megalis says.
How to reach: Sway, (330) 416-9768 or www.swayideafactory.com
Cleveland may not seem like a city that comes to mind as a banking center in the United States, but nearly 100 years ago, Cleveland was awarded one of the 12 regional reserve banks that make up the Federal Reserve System.
So how was Cleveland chosen as a Federal Reserve Bank city? In 1914, a well-organized campaign led by a group of Cleveland businessmen, financiers and politicians was instrumental in the decision to locate the Fourth District headquarters in Cleveland.
A Federal Reserve Organizing Committee was established under the Federal Reserve Act legislation, says Mark Sniderman, chief policy officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
“Members were appointed and they were charged with determining which cities around the country should be the headquarters for these reserve banks,” he says.
“Cities were invited to apply, so the business and banking communities in the cities that were interested got together and outlined what their resources and strengths were.”
The Fourth Federal Reserve District comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.
“The reason for the boundaries of Cleveland’s district was due to the fact that it was steel and coal country,” Sniderman says. “It was an economic cycle in this part of the country that was driven by heavy industry.
“When cities were bidding to become headquarter cities, they were thinking about themselves as the center of an economic region of the country that had its own need for credit depending on what was driving those economic cycles.”
The other 11 banks that make up the Fed are Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Mo., Dallas and San Francisco.
“From a reputation point of view, getting a Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland elevated the stature of the city … and would be a validation that Cleveland was a major league city in the financial world,” Sniderman says.
At the time the Cleveland Federal Reserve was built, it held total assets of $613.7 million, making it the third largest of the 12 district banks. Today, the bank has assets of some $79 billion, making it the ninth largest by assets.
The Cleveland Federal Reserve location quickly outgrew its original building and in 1921 construction started on a new headquarters for the bank. Two years and $8.25 million later, the bank was completed in August 1923 at the corner of Superior Avenue and East Sixth Street. The 13-story building is a modern adaptation of an Italian Renaissance palazzo, or fortress palace.
When the new Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland opened to the public, an estimated 40,000 visitors passed through. In 2012, about 10,000 people visited the Cleveland Reserve Bank. That includes individuals who were part of a bank tour and individuals who visited its Learning Center and Money Museum.
While free tours are given in the building today and security measures are aided by technology, back when the building was first established they didn’t have those luxuries and were worried about robberies.
“In the days when the building was built, they were worried about mobsters like the Dillinger Gang breaking in with machine guns and things like that,” Sniderman says.
As a result, steps were taken to provide as much security as possible. The original vault is housed in its own building and was constructed before and completely separate from the main bank because of its size.
The concrete walls are 6½ feet thick, reinforced throughout with an intricate, interlaced type of fabricated steel. The vault door is 5 feet thick and has a 47-ton, 19-foot-high hinge. Yet, despite its 100-ton weight, the door is so precisely balanced that one person can swing it closed.
Today, much of the purpose for the Federal Reserve System remains the same with obvious changes in technology and banking advancements forcing some adaptations.
“What’s happened over time is technology has changed some of the ways we do business,” Sniderman says. “Banks and financial entities have become more complicated. They deal in a much wider range of products. They interact in so many kinds of financial markets that supervising banks has become a more sophisticated endeavor.”
Today, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland supervises 35 state member banks and 285 bank holding companies, financial holding companies and savings and loan holding companies.
How to reach: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, (216) 579-2000 or www.clevelandfed.org
The view from Beth Mooney’s office on the 56th floor of Key Tower in downtown Cleveland overlooks Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Jacobs Pavilion and the Lake Erie shore — attractions that are part of what makes Cleveland special and reasons why Mooney loves this city and is proud that KeyCorp can call it home.
Mooney, chairman and CEO of KeyCorp, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies, with assets of approximately $87 billion and more than 15,000 employees, came to Cleveland in 2006 to lead the bank’s more than 1,000 branches. Her appointment to the CEO role in 2010 was a historic one since the move made her the first woman CEO of a top-20 U.S. bank. The announcement received national attention.
“I knew it was significant, and it wasn’t lost on me particularly from when I started in banking in 1978,” Mooney says. “It wasn’t lost on me that within a generation how transformational that was for our industry and within Key how significant it was, but it came with a degree of notoriety that I don’t think I saw coming. The world kind of took pause and noticed that banking, an industry that has long been heavily dominated by men at the top, promoted its first woman.”
While the move created big buzz, Mooney had to quickly focus on the job at hand since KeyCorp had been struggling to make a profit the previous few quarters coming out of the recession. One of the reasons she won the CEO role was her knack for developing and driving a strategy and her ability to get people to follow her. The company needed a new approach, and Mooney was ready to answer the call.
“Part of the process with the board when they selected me was to challenge me with what would be our strategy,” Mooney says. “How would Key differentiate itself? How will you make a competitive advantage? How will you know you’re winning with clients? There was a lot of dialogue around strategic vision. We just really need to stay the course, be rigorous, execute the strategy with focus and discipline and I needed to position us for that journey, reaffirm our strategic message to our employees, to our investors and find a way to capture that and bring people with us.”
Here’s how Mooney is focusing on building better relationships, providing great customer service and making sure her legacy as the first woman CEO of a top-20 U.S. bank leaves a positive and memorable mark.
Believe in your abilities
When Mooney started her career in banking, she didn’t think she would one day become a bank CEO. However, as she developed her skills and grew in the industry, she began realizing that the top spot could be within her grasp. She consciously sought opportunities in her career that would keep pushing her further.
“I was in it because I didn’t know that I would ever truly be a CEO, but that I wanted to go as far as my ambitions would take me,” she says. “I’ve made a lot of choices in my career and taken jobs, challenges and moves and very diverse opportunities in order to build what I call the best tool kit I could personally have and try to balance that with how far my abilities would take me.”
Throughout Mooney’s career, she has identified working well in a team environment, bringing out the best in others and accepting constructive criticism as some of the most important skills to have.
“One of the most critical skill sets is the ability to be effective in a team and work within environments where it’s groups of people solving problems, creating opportunities and driving business success that you have to think of yourself as a successful participant in a team and be able to exert pure leadership,” she says.
“As you get the opportunity to lead and get increasing responsibility, don’t lead with your differences; lead in a way where you bring out the best in others. You’re known for being a problem solver. You’re known to be somebody who is encouraging, coaching, mentoring, yet disciplined and delivers results.”
In Mooney’s career, there have been many role models and people who have mentored, coached and helped her get to this level.
“I have had a lot of bosses, both men and women, over the years who have invested in giving me opportunities — the stretch assignment, the difficult assignment because they believed I had a lot of capability,” Mooney says. “I tell people to take a tough job or take an assignment that’s outside your comfort zone so people can see you in a different light and realize that you’re scalable, nimble and can adapt to new situations. Never stop investing in your own abilities and your own learning.
“One of the things I’ve always said in interviews in my life whenever I was being considered for another opportunity … is I will always take the chance on my own abilities. If you give me this opportunity, I won’t disappoint you. Then work really hard to make good on that.”
Mooney says she is in her dream job, and as the company’s first female CEO she wants to make KeyCorp the best company she can.
“I want to do this well because I would like my legacy to be that this was a successful time for Key, for its clients, its communities, its employees, its shareholders — that it was transformational to our industry at a point in time and that it was a headline,” she says. “Hopefully by the time I’m done, it’s a footnote because there will be others who have risen to this level. Whenever you get that recognition and the spotlight is turned on you, I think it needs to bring out the best in you and that’s how I’ve internalized it as an extra obligation to do what’s already an important job well.”
Build better relationships
Mooney’s first steps to get KeyCorp back on track were to understand what would return the bank to profitability. She started with a focus on the company’s clients and consumers and sought to understand what they wanted from their bank.
“From a challenge point of view, what we were doing is still unique within the industry, which is a real firm focus on being very targeted about your clients and being disciplined about doing business with people that you had relationships with,” Mooney says.
“So staying very focused on our value propositions we’re going to build relationships, we’re going to do it in very targeted ways with clients who we know and appreciate our capabilities. We’re going to be clear about giving advice and solutions and not be product-pushers, and at the end of the day we have to give great service. So it was a little of back-to-basics, but with a whole new level of accountability and rigor.”
The best example of how Key showed its loyalty to its customers was when the Durbin Amendment was put in place in 2011. The legislation, which was part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, limited what banks could charge for debit card activity.
“It took a huge stream of revenue out of the banking industry,” she says. “In our case, it was $60 million in revenue that went away. The last time I checked that was real money. The different banks started talking about no longer being able to offer rewards programs along with your debit card and were probably going to have to charge a fee. So you had to make your plans for what you were going to do because it was a significant revenue difference.”
The company stepped back and ultimately came to the conclusion that it should ask its customers how they felt.
“We have been building this notion of listening to our clients, being insight driven, i.e. what do they want and need?” Mooney says. “What do they value and what will they pay for? When we [asked our clients] what we heard was don’t nickel and dime us. They feel that adding a fee was nickel and diming. What they wanted was for people to recognize and value that they have a relationship with us, and if we have a relationship that should be meaningful to the bank.”
Key decided to reorient its products around the notion of relationship building. The bank not only didn’t pull its rewards program, but expanded it, which was the opposite of what other banks ended up doing. It even landed KeyBank on the “ABC Nightly News.”
“When [ABC] listed the banks that weren’t charging their customers’ fees, Key was prominently displayed, and I got a sound bite where I said, ‘We asked our clients. They didn’t want to be nickeled and dimed. They wanted to be valued, and we went for reinforcing ‘Bring us your relationship and we will reward you’ versus going the fee route.’” Mooney says.
“That is value-spaced, relationship-based and that is a commitment to an extraordinary service. That is trying to find solutions that fit the needs of your clients and positioning yourself to be different in the market. I look at that as one of those examples that you can point to that says something is different at Key.”
In order to differentiate your business from others in your industry you have to be able to use your relationships to your advantage.
“I would start with the basic premise that the more you can understand about what your client wants, needs, values or what will differentiate you is an incredibly powerful strategy,” she says.
“The power of unleashing the ability to take that which you provide and build it, package it and deliver it in a way that really resonates with what your client wants, to me, is probably the only truly valid growth strategy over time.
“To the extent that you believe that you can build something — if you build it they will buy it — is a lost strategy these days because we’ve come to an age where choice and knowledge about choices, the rapidity of change and the ability to switch has probably never been higher.
“Retaining loyalty and building relationships takes a different value proposition and takes different work. It has to be rooted in what your clients want and need and finding proactive, robust ways where you find those outlets to listen and understand is a linchpin of a successful strategy.”
Form a strategy
The strategy of relationship building and customer service initiatives at KeyCorp go back to before the recession hit. However, as the recession increased pressure on the banking industry, those strategies gained importance.
“Even before the downturn we stepped back and said, ‘What are the things we want to be known for?’” Mooney says. “This goes back to 2007 and we said, ‘We better get really, really good at customer service because at the end of the day nobody truly stays loyal to a product, nobody really stays loyal to a location, a brand; they stay loyal to people and they stay loyal to how you make them feel.’”
KeyCorp looked outside the industry at how others were delivering service in order to better grasp how the company should move forward.
“We looked to Lexus and Ritz-Carlton and really calibrated how we trained our people, what we asked them to do and how we measured them,” she says. “We put in customer satisfaction surveys and all sorts of things to ask what sort of experience you received. You need to teach your people this is what service looks like, and this is how it feels to the client and then you call the client and ask them did they indeed experience you that way.”
Through that kind of training and initiative, KeyCorp got its customer satisfaction levels up to what most community banks experience.
“In the last two years, the slope of that line has accelerated to the point where the Holy Grail in service has always been the local community bank,” she says. “We’re right at the level of the service that community banks have give,n and we’ve really gapped out from our competitors.”
“You’ve got to decide what it is people want. Learn from the best in the industry, not just your business. Create a way to train people to it. Test that it’s happening and then recognize and reward so it becomes a virtuous cycle within your company to make giving great service part of how people get up.”
For any strategy to be effective, there are a few critical factors that you need to make sure you do.
“For a good strategy to be great, there is only one way and that has to be the consistency of execution of the strategy,” Mooney says. “First, you have to start with clarity of the strategy to the people who have to implement it. Your employees have to understand clearly what your strategy is. What’s your strategy and how are you going to differentiate? How are you going to compete and what does winning look like?
“Secondarily, it’s the consistency with which you execute that strategy over time and that your ability to focus on execution is done with rigor and accountability. Then make appropriate course adjustments, but do so with consistency.
“I don’t think there has ever been a great strategy that wasn’t executed over time with rigor, with accountability, with clarity, with buy-in, with recognition, with reward that is meaningful to the client. This whole notion of ‘It’s a journey, not a destination’ that you have to stay with it over time and people need to understand it and believe that it’s real and get up and know what’s expected of them and do it over and over and over again, to me, it’s that clarity and consistency and the disciplined, focused execution that makes a difference.”
The course of implementing a strategy takes a lot of hard work by everyone involved, but the CEO has to play the most crucial role.
“The trajectory, the pace, the rapidity and the tone and feel of [a strategy] is uniquely a CEOs role to help shape that, to help give it a face and something that your employees can follow, your clients can understand and your communities can appreciate,” she says. “Then ultimately create the shareholder value from those strategies that will make it rewarding for them to invest in your company. It’s kind of unique being the bearer of it as well as the driver of the strategy.”
No matter how good a strategy sounds or how good it looks on paper, it will not succeed unless you get buy-in from your employees who have to ultimately be the ones who do the work.
“The first cornerstone for how do you get followership in a strategy has to be the simplicity of the message, the consistency of the message and you can’t communicate enough,” Mooney says. “Every chance I get it’s here’s who we are, here’s how we compete, here’s how we’re going to be different in the marketplace, here’s how you help us win. It’s consistency of messaging. Then what I hope I do effectively is, ‘I hope I’m very authentic. I’m very genuine. I’m very down-to-earth, and I put things in terms people can understand and can see themselves as part of.’
“So there is this constant, clear messaging and consistency of communication that you have to get protocols and rigor around where the content is compelling and understandable and you see yourself in that strategy.”
Another way to get people to follow you is to truly show your company how much you care about its well-being and success.
“I think the other thing that is unique to my style is that people know I’m passionate and I believe in what we’re doing,” she says. “I value our employees. I believe in our clients and our community. I’m committed to our shareholders, and I think there’s a bit of a rising tide in the messaging that people want to go with that.
“It becomes something that they can rally around. The rigor around making sure those messages are done continuously and reinforced doesn’t happen by chance. There is a whole protocol and operationalizing of that messaging to make sure that it is not just ad hoc, that it is indeed consistent, clear and inspiring.”
Today, KeyCorp is continuing to leverage its relationships and devotion to customer service. Since the downturn, the company has reported eight straight quarters of profitability, and it has further plans to keep growing.
“The cover of our annual report captures it well; it says, ‘Strong, Focused and Building Momentum,’” Mooney says. “I feel like with eight straight quarters of profitability Key is solidly back to profitability and that what we need to do as a company from here is to build on our momentum and the sources of where we’ve been able to grow our business and return to profitability – and just be relentless around doing so.”
To ensure the continued success of your business, you need to not only focus on relationships and service, but on new opportunities as well.
“You need to do both grow your core and do the things you do well as well as seek to always do new things that are additive to your business model, but with a keen sense of prioritization,” Mooney says.
“If you try to do everything, you do nothing well. You have to be disciplined in what you prioritize, ‘planful’ in what you choose to execute, and then rigorous in how you measure and hold people accountable for what you’re doing. Those three stages of attributes need to be part of a constant vigilance making sure you answer those three questions and then it becomes a virtuous loop.”
How to reach: KeyCorp, (216) 689-5580 or www.key.com
- Never stop investing in yourself.
- Build relationships and leverage them to succeed.
- Use strategy to deliver a consistent, clear message.
There are a number of people who would argue that St. Louis’ slogan “Gateway to the West” could be updated to “Gateway to the World” — and Elizabeth Stroble, Ph.D., the newest president of Webster University, believes it more than most.
During the expansion of America, St. Louis was indeed a “Gateway to the West.”
“[Today,] I would say the slogan could be reversed as well; the world needs to see St. Louis as a gateway,” Stroble says.
As president, Stroble has been finding ways to continue to expand the institution’s presence globally in an effort to provide students with a more diverse curriculum that not only benefits them, but the businesses and communities that those students then work and live in.
Webster University is based in St. Louis, and has campuses in Geneva, Vienna, The Netherlands, London, China and Thailand. The college employs some 1,200 full-time faculty and staff members and has 21,000 students — 8,000 of them in St. Louis.
Stroble came to Webster in 2009, and with the university turning 100 in 2015, she has been evaluating where the college can grow and improve itself for the sake of its students, communities and business partners.
“What I learned since I arrived here was that Webster University has a tremendous history of being globally excellent with room to grow the global excellence,” Stroble says. “It’s highly innovative and entrepreneurial and its mission, going back to its founding, was to meet an unmet need.”
During the last four years, she has been assessing the university’s strengths and opportunities.
“The strengths and opportunities at Webster are to continue to connect the pieces and parts of that global network so that strength builds upon strength and that we stay connected, not only locally but globally,” Stroble says.
Here’s how Stroble is advancing the university’s strengths and opportunities.
Do a thorough assessment
Before coming to Webster University, Stroble was provost, senior vice president and COO at the University of Akron in Ohio. Wanting to find a presidency position, she came to Webster.
“The move to Webster University was about the presidency of an institution that’s local here in St. Louis but has a global reach and impact, and that was what was most interesting to me about it,” Stroble says.
With the school’s international footprint a big drawing factor, Stroble began to assess the university’s strengths and opportunities in that area and how Webster could benefit students, businesses and communities.
“I spent a great deal of time in the St. Louis community not only interacting with faculty, staff and students here but with local business and community leaders who have a global footprint in their own organizations and want to increase the global interaction in St. Louis, because that makes it a thriving community and a globally competitive community,” she says.
Stroble also began visiting every international location and many domestic locations of Webster University.
“Part of what fascinates me and continues to about Webster University is the diversity that comes from being located in different places,” she says. “While the location is different and the diversity of the students is different, the academic programs reflect local market needs.”
Taking that tour of various Webster campuses helped Stroble assess where the university could improve.
“You have to take plenty of time listening and asking for other people’s advice and counsel,” Stroble says. “One of my fundamental questions was, ‘What do you most hope that your new president will preserve about Webster University, and what do you most hope the new president will seek to change?’
“My sense in every organization is that there are these sacred traditions, values, habits and processes that people hope will continue. It’s always an assessment of whether you, as president or the new leader, will agree with those, but it’s important to know them.”
Stroble’s assessment left her with a sense that Webster University, like most organizations, had some ambition and pent-up hope and demand for change.
“If you don’t know what that is, you can’t help to fulfill the hopes and dreams that caused you to be the president who was selected,” she says. “That is an important learning opportunity, and you need to seize it to its fullest advantage, because when you’re new, it’s the greatest warning opportunity.
“Over time, it’s harder to see things with fresh eyes and … it’s hard to disabuse yourself of the notion that there might be better ways to do things.”
As an incoming leader of an organization, you have to take advantage of not knowing very much about the operation because you can ask the naive question and gain a lot of insight.
“Over the course of my presidency, it’s my role to listen to what’s going on in the external environment,” Stroble says.
For Webster University, that’s an external global environment and what’s happening in the world of higher education but also in the world of culture, diversity, politics, economics and the larger environment that we all live in and hope to shape.
“How do I learn about that and help to communicate that effectively to the university community so that we can truly not only be responsive but lead the change that the external environment wants?” she says.
“In turn, how do I learn well enough what the strengths are of Webster University so I communicate those well to an external environment to continue to attract students, high-quality employees, donors, external support, and local and global support partnerships?”
To help aid in that responsibility, Stroble has been investing in developing Webster’s talent around global diversity and knowledge and is focused on improving curriculum.
“We revised our general education curriculum to focus on global citizenship, and we have been building many more partnerships with international universities, especially in parts of the world where we are not,” she says. “That’s why it’s important for us to expand the campus footprint beyond Europe and Asia.”
Webster University wants to open global opportunities for its students and St. Louis businesses at the same time to bring an infusion of global talent to St. Louis and across the world.
“This focus on people, partnerships, curriculum and programs that help support student travel, more scholarship prospects for international students and raising our profile in terms of how well we communicate about the opportunities we can create at Webster University for businesses and other higher education institutions has been the work I have been doing,” Stroble says.
Develop global talent
True to Webster’s mission to fulfill a need, one of the institution’s goals is to build capacity in potential new geographies. These new international locations need to have a stable political environment, a stable and growing economy, and a need in that local community for American-style education taught in English in the degree programs Webster offers.
Globalization at Webster University is much more comprehensive than most other universities. Some even say that globalization is baked into the university’s DNA.
“It’s my job to help deepen this, broaden it, strengthen it, further it, but it certainly dates back to before I arrived,” Stroble says. “It was such a part of Webster University from its inception that we were ahead of the curve. Again, we’re an institution that prides itself on meeting a need and being entrepreneurial and naturally saw opportunities to do that outside of St. Louis well before it became cool to be global.”
Webster’s effort globally is much more about creating synergies and mutual benefit than it is about carrying the American message abroad.
“We’re much more about being truly global and figuring out how to live that through preparation of students, who we hire and how we think about the geography than we are about how we export an American education that might seek it,” she says.
While constantly looking at new international locations for the college, Stroble is also extremely focused on how that global diversity can benefit the local community in St. Louis.
“We have purposefully built a program with the state of Missouri called the Global Internship Experience that provides interns from international locations for companies here in St. Louis and sends Missouri students to international locations to do internships there,” she says. “We’ve been doing that for 25 to 30 years and it continues to expand.”
Another effort to broaden education and benefit businesses is the creation of a Confucius Institute.
“The point of a Confucius Institute is that you provide an arm for increasing knowledge of Chinese language and culture in your local community,” Stroble says. “Ours was founded in 2008, and it was the first in the state of Missouri. Our Confucius Institute provides resources to local businesses who seek to learn more about how to do business with the Chinese.”
This institute is a direct connection of Webster’s expertise and relationship with the Chinese Ministry of Education that opens up doors and opportunities for young people and businesses.
“It would be hard to know the world without knowing China,” she says.
All of these advancements to the global education of Webster’s students provide a platform for lifelong learning.
“It’s not only about the important topic of being a citizen of the world and seeing things in a large perspective or relating to people who have had experiences different from ours; it’s about creating an open point of view about learning, changing and responding to an environment that will continue to change,” Stroble says.
“If you learn how to navigate a different country, different language, a different culture, different politics, a different lifestyle, that positions you to learn about new technologies, new field development, new environmental challenges across your lifetime. You open up your world in more ways than globally.” ?
How to reach: Webster University, (800) 981-9801 or www.webster.edu
Listen and ask questions about the organization as a new leader.
Evaluate the organization’s strengths and opportunities.
Develop a presence to benefit stakeholders locally and globally.
The Stroble File
Elizabeth Stroble, Ph. D.
Born: New Castle, Wyo.
Education: She earned a degree in history and English from Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. She has two masters of arts degrees, one in history and one in American and English literature, both from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. She received her doctorate in curriculum studies from the University of Virginia-Charlottesville.
Background: She spent time at Northern Arizona University-Flagstaff and University of Louisville-Kentucky. At University of Akron she was the dean of the College of Education and was promoted to provost, senior vice president and COO. She then sought a presidency and came to Webster University.
What was your first job and what did you learn from that experience?
I was a waitress. I worked my way through college waitressing. Serving the hungry public teaches a lot about communication skills and being attentive to detail and being pleasant to interact with. I learned a lot about customer service.
What got you into education?
During my next-to-last term at Augustana, I was in the student teaching program. I had this spectacular student teaching assignment and after about the second or third day I decided this was my life.
Who is someone you’ve admired in the education world?
I worked for the chairman of the history department at Augustana, J. Iverne Dowie, and I looked up to him greatly because he had been blind since he was three years old. My job was to read books and papers out loud to him, and he and I would discuss what I had read. I admired his intellect and how gentle he was as an individual and how accomplished he was to be the department chair. A lot of what I learned about teaching and university work was from his direct example.
What are you looking forward to at Webster University?
I’m excited about this institution continuing to live that mission of setting a distinct standard for global education and preparing our students to be individually excellent and citizens of the globe.
If you ask Nicholas DeIuliis about the state of the energy industry these days, he would tell you it’s the nature of the industry that keeps it exciting and evolving.
DeIuliis is president of Consol Energy Inc., a more than $6 billion, publicly owned producer of coal and natural gas and one of the leading diversified energy companies in the U.S. He and Consol have been focused on new technologies, new energies and, above all else, keeping Consol one of the leading producers in its region.
“Energy has always been a big issue within our regional economy, national economy and now the global economy within the last number of years,” DeIuliis says. “Consol Energy still looks upon those tried and true forms of energy, but what’s really changed in the last number of years is how we’ve evolved in deploying technology in both the coal and natural gas side.”
As the industry continues to push forward, the success of companies such as Consol depend upon its ability to keep employees safe, effectively communicating and remaining innovative.
“The most important thing we do is we establish what our values are and we literally numerate them for our teams,” DeIuliis says. “We say what our top values are and which is first, second and third. For us, No. 1 is safety. Second is compliance. And third is continuous improvement and taking a long-term view.”
Here is how DeIuliis is helping to drive those values at Consol Energy that, in turn, help drive the company.
In the energy industry, there are all kinds of dangers that employees face while on the job. DeIuliis and his team take great pride in running a company that focuses on keeping its workforce safe.
“Safety has always been something that is critical to us throughout our history, and we’ve been around for about 150 years,” DeIuliis says. “So we’ve learned what works very well and also learned the hard way through those 150 years what doesn’t work very well when it comes to safety.”
DeIuliis wants to take the challenge of safety and turn it into an opportunity, which sounds simple, but it’s often very challenging.
“We first started with the philosophy of safety itself,” he says. “What is our culture going to be when it comes to safety? Is it truly going to be our top value that will not change during market swings? A value is something that is constant. So first and foremost, that is our most important top value.
“Secondly, if it’s our top value, what’s the expectation going to be? Are accidents part of the business of extracting natural gas or coal resources, or can we truly take an approach of zero accidents of any kind across the entire employee base as the expected outcome and expected goal?”
Consol has taken the latter approach and created an absolute zero program that says the only acceptable standard of performance is no accidents to the employees on any given day across the entire company.
“Anything that’s an accident no matter how small or slight is an exception to that rule and a violation to that philosophy,” he says. “So you have that philosophical change that needed to occur to turn a challenge into opportunity, and over the last three or four years, it has turned and evolved into the culture and philosophy.”
Now DeIuliis and Consol have to find the ways to further improve the company’s safety outlook.
“What are the tactical things we’re going to do to improve our performance?” he says. “How are we going to bring the science and technology to the table to get smarter about risk identification, hazardous mitigation and overall employee training? All of those things lead you to a better place on safety performance.”
Communication is king
In conjunction with safety performance, how well Consol Energy communicates its message relates to how easily and effectively it can improve the organization.
“Communication is the lifeblood of taking a concept or an opportunity and making it a reality,” DeIuliis says.
Consol Energy has nearly 10,000 employees and 6,000 to 8,000 contractors on top of that. So communication throughout the organization is critically important to furthering a concept, philosophy, a new technology or standard, and whether or not that comes to fruition — and when it comes to fruition.
“Sometimes the when part is just as challenging and just as important as whether or not it actually comes to fruition,” he says. “You can’t overemphasize the importance of communication, especially in a complex and large organization or a complex and large world such as what we’ve seen in the energy space throughout the U.S. and the globe.”
Saying that your company communicates is easy, but actually getting results from your communication is much more difficult. You have to utilize multiple communication tactics.
“We use what we call a portfolio approach to communication,” DeIuliis says. “We don’t put all our eggs in one basket, one means or one method of communication. We will utilize a range of those like you would in an investment portfolio.”
Consol uses everything from closed-circuit TVs that update employees on safety procedures, initiatives, technological breakthroughs, compliance issues and regulatory issues to training programs to make sure that employees are engaged.
“We look at that as an investment in communication that is going to get that know-how rate of return, which will be very good, not just for the shareholders of the company and stakeholders but, most importantly, for the employees themselves, because they will be in a more safe and compliant place,” he says.
“There’s a whole range of different communication tools that we use … that will put us in a better position to succeed in that communication challenge and opportunity.”
In order for communication to be most effective, especially in a company the size of Consol, there has to be someone who has ownership of the messages being spread throughout the business.
“The communication approach goes back to the messaging and the content of what you’re saying,” he says. “The ownership is across the entire company. In reality, it extends beyond the employees within the company. It extends to our partners and other stakeholders that touch or deal with the company in some, way, shape or form. It might be the customers downstream that we’re selling the coal and natural gas to; it could be our contractor partners providing services at our rig sites and coal mines or anyone in between.”
While everyone owns a part of the communication process, it’s also critically important that that communication process and the messaging behind the communication are viewed as owned by action, not just by words with the leadership of the company.
“The leadership of the company for us means many different people, not just our CEO and chairman,” DeIuliis says. “It’s our CEO and chairman all the way down to the mine foreman, all the way down to the employee working on the barge line or all the way down to someone standing on one of our rigs right now.
“It’s a group effort and everybody has a role and a responsibility. Your actions have to be consistent with what you’re saying.”
Just as important as safety and communication are within the energy industry, so too is the need to remain innovative. Recent substantial growth in natural gas drilling and advancements in clean coal technology are two areas driving energy these days.
DeIuliis and Consol look inside and outside the industry in order to bring the best innovation to the forefront of the company’s operations.
“There are two broad groups I look to over time for help and insight,” DeIuliis says. “One is the management team that we work with and around. They’re the best and brightest in the industry. Getting that comfort level and that trust level with the exchange of ideas and thoughts as time goes on is the lifeblood of any successful organization.”
The other broad group DeIuliis looks at is almost the mirror image of his leadership team. He looks toward entities and individuals with insights and experiences outside the industries Consol works within.
“It’s amazing how many already established processes, technologies and concepts are out there in entirely different industries that are being viewed as innovations and ground-breakers with the coal, natural gas and fossil fuel industry that we operate in,” he says.
“Every time we tend to look outside our box and outside our industries, we always come away with an injection of innovation that keeps us going.”
As the world of business and that of energy continue to evolve and change as time goes on, the success of a company comes back to its values.
“In the energy industry, we’ve seen a lot of volatility and a lot of peaks and cycles through the years,” DeIuliis says. “We’ve become used to a certain extent of the things that will enviably occur. But if you go back to the values, and those that are truly the values of your organization, and if you’re the safest and most compliant operator in that environment, you’re going to be the most successful or profitable whether it’s a market peak or trough.”
The key to managing through those kinds of ups and downs has been simplicity.
“The way we manage in those downturns is sticking to those values and as long as we’re pushing for better safety performance, compliance and continuous improvement, we will be fine in any market,” he says.
How to reach: Consol Energy Inc., (724) 485-4000 or www.consolenergy.com
Find ways to improve the processes of your business.
Implement communication tactics that allow your business to succeed.
Innovate through internal and external channels.
The DeIuliis File
Consol Energy Inc.
Education: Graduated with a chemical engineering degree from Penn State. He received a master’s degree in business administration and a juris doctorate from Duquesne University.
Career: DeIuliis began his career in Consol Energy’s research and development group in 1990. He became vice president of strategic planning responsible for optimizing the value of Consol Energy’s assets resulting in the creation of CNX Gas Corporation, where he served as president and CEO from its 2005 inception until early 2009. He has been the president of Consol Energy since February 2011.
DeIuliis is also director at-large of the board of directors of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, a director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Bituminous Coal Operators’ Association Inc.
Regionally, he is on the advisory boards of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation and the Catholic Foundation. He is a registered professional engineer in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and a member of the Pennsylvania Bar.
While many companies would be like a ship without its captain after the loss of its illustrious founder, Jess Jackson, the Jackson Family Enterprises had a very capable successor in Rick Tigner — one who would continue the family-owned winery group’s reputation and make mom and dad’s favorite chardonnay into the favorite of their millenial children too.
In April 2011, Jess Jackson died of cancer at the age of 81. He was an individual whose vision, perseverance and work ethic helped transform the wine industry.
He started the Kendall-Jackson wine business with the 1974 purchase of an 80-acre pear and walnut orchard in Lakeport, Calif., that he converted to a vineyard. Nearly 40 years later, Jackson Family Wines is among the world’s most successful family-owned winery groups, composed of more than 35 individual wineries.
Jackson Family Enterprises is the company that oversees Jackson Family Wines, its global sales organizations and the Kendall-Jackson brand. Tigner was named president of Jackson Family Enterprises a year before Jackson passed away. A 24-year veteran of the alcohol beverage industry, Tigner has held positions at Miller Brewing Co., Gallo, Louis M. Martini and nearly 20 years with Jackson Family Wines.
“When I first became in charge of Jackson Family Wines three years ago, one of my goals was to actually get one team, one dream,” Tigner says. “If I can get all 1,200 employees going in the same direction at the same time, how powerful would that be?”
The company, its 1,200 employees and its more than 30 brands of wine, was solely in Tigner’s hands, and it was now up to him to keep the operation flourishing.
“Our company mission is to be the best wine company in the world,” Tigner says.
Here’s how Rick Tigner is taking Jess Jackson’s legacy and moving Jackson Family Enterprises forward.
Connect with consumers
In any industry, it is extremely easy to be hands-off with consumers. In the wine industry, many vineyards deal with distributors or trade partners and aren’t very tight with the consumer. Tigner says that isn’t the case at Jackson Family Wines.
“Innovation comes in different forms and fashions,” he says. “In the wine business, what you get is a lot of what I call the ‘sea of sameness.’ You look at a wine magazine ad and you see a bottle and vineyard, but it can be anybody’s bottle and anybody’s vineyard. The question is how do you connect with a consumer in different ways?”
Last January, Tigner was featured on the TV show “Undercover Boss.” He saw this as a new way for a wine company, especially a family wine company, to go on television and tell people about who the business is as a family, as a company and how it produces its products. The blogosphere gave generally rave review about Tigner’s TV appearance.
“The one thing that we’re always very, very focused on is quality,” he says. “We want to make sure that consumers know that whether it’s the Kendall-Jackson brand or the La Crema brand, quality is one of the foundations of our organization.”
To tell its consumers about its products, Jackson Family Wines is putting more focus on social media. The company recently hired a digital marketing team to make sure it has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
“A lot of companies have pretty pictures,” Tigner says. “What we actually want is engaging content … versus the standard picture of a bottle in a Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast magazine.”
Being involved in social media is becoming increasingly important, but it isn’t enough to just have a Facebook page; you have to engage with your fans and potential customers.
“If you look at Facebook, a lot of brands have Facebook, but the question is do you listen to the people who are on your Facebook page?” he says. “Do you react to how they talk about you on Facebook? We listen, and we learn from that activity. These are our friends and family who actually went online and signed up on our Facebook page, because they’re looking for interaction.”
Tigner says this interaction can’t be boring or constantly the same old thing. You have to be looking for ways to keep your audience involved and engaged.
“The key for us in regard to capturing our consumer is actually listening to them,” he says. “We create content that they want to see on video or in photos. We’ve done a lot of recipes. A lot of people want to talk about food and wine pairings. We have spent hours and hours and hours putting together a recipe program for our website.”
Jackson Family Wines has a lot of pages on its website and on its social media because even if a consumer doesn’t go to them all, those pages are there and available to them. The same thing goes for YouTube.
“If you go to YouTube and capture that consumer and they see a training video or a wine education video or a food-and-wine program, the next time they go look at your YouTube, you better have new content,” he says. “It has to be ongoing engagement, intriguing and informative. If you don’t have that, then you’ll lose your consumer. Those are things we’ve done to continually engage the consumer.”
What this kind of engagement helps Jackson Family Wines do more than anything is reach a more diverse audience. Many of the company’s consumers are baby boomers and social media is helping the brand reach the younger generations.
“We want to keep the baby boomers like myself who’ve been drinking our brands for a long time,” Tigner says. “But we want to capture the millennials. Who is that 25- to 35-year-old out there who has disposable income to buy premium wine? We have to give them the messaging and the content.
“We’re going out and making it new and fresh for them so it’s not just their mom and dad’s favorite chardonnay, but it becomes their favorite chardonnay and then their favorite cabernet or pinot noir.”
Educate about your product
The wine industry can be very complex due to the sheer number of wine styles, brands and varietals that make each bottle different. For Jackson Family Wines, it is crucial that its staff and its business partners are knowledgeable about the company’s products.
“In our company, we have 1,200 employees,” Tigner says. “In our sales team, there are about 400. I would argue we have the best sales team in the world and the best fine wine team.”
Tigner makes this argument because the company has four master sommeliers on staff and nine more in training out of a total of 180 in the U.S., who help to educate the sales team.
“They educate our sales teams, our distributors and our internal staff,” Tigner says. “We want to make sure everyone who works for our company, whether in IT, marketing or finance, has knowledge about wine and a passion about wine.”
Transferring that knowledge outside of the company is the hard part. Jackson Family Wines has to work with its distributors, trade partners and, more recently, directly with consumers to educate them on the products.
“In this business, 20 years ago, manufacturers or wineries like us spent all our time selling our wine to distributors and educating our distributors who then sold to retail stores who then sold to consumers,” he says. “About 15 years ago, that was still important, but the next piece was actually us communicating with our trade partners.
“In the last five years, all that is still important, but now we’re talking directly to our consumer, whether it’s online, in our tasting rooms or our wine club program.”
One of the biggest things related to education that Tigner has to keep aligned is the messaging Jackson Family Wines spreads both internally and externally.
“We broke down our strategic initiatives into three simple buckets,” he says. “You want to keep it simple so everyone knows what the plan is. Our strategy is lands, brands and people. So that when people want to know what are we working on, you can break it down to land, brands and people, and then we have the initiatives below that.”
To aid in keeping this message aligned and helping to push the company forward, Tigner has implemented management meetings.
“In the last three years since I’ve been put in charge, I’ve had more senior management team meetings,” he says. “We really didn’t have those before.
“Every quarter, we bring in the top 50 managers of the company plus outside guests and visitors and we talk about lands, brands and people. We talk about the strategic initiatives. I want to make sure everything we put in place at the beginning of the process is still being worked on.”
While his management meetings are a new tradition, there are some things that Tigner wants to maintain, like the company’s culture.
“When I first took over being the president, we had a great training program, recruiting program and succession program,” he says. “I want to make sure we have that exact same culture. Culture doesn’t show up on a P&L, but culture is very, very important to the company.”
The culture is something Tigner wants to be identical whether it’s the IT, finance, marketing or production departments.
“I want to make sure all our employees are treated similar and fair throughout the entire organization,” he says. “I take it upon myself on a regular basis to check in with middle management, lower management, field workers and sales workers because I want to make sure everyone has the right communication and we’re all on the same page.
“I spend most of my time making sure the messaging of the organization runs wide and deep.”
Just like a generous pour of chardonnay. ?
How to reach: Jackson Family Wines, (707) 544-4000 or www.kj.com
Connect with your consumers using new channels of communication.
Keep your content engaging and new.
Educate internally and externally about your product or service.
Twenty years ago, Bert Jacobs and his younger brother, John, were looking for ways they could avoid getting typical jobs. Jacobs and his brother never agreed with the standard path for someone coming out of college. In fact, at that time, Jacobs was delivering pizzas and teaching people how to ski to earn a living. The brothers were looking for a unique path to live life how they wanted to live it.
“We wondered if we could create something that fit us better,” Bert Jacobs says.
That fit was The Life is good Co., an apparel and accessories company that spreads the power of optimism in its products and through its nonprofit organization, The Life is Good Playmakers.
Fast-forward to today and Life is good has 260 employees and saw 2012 revenue north of $100 million. Not bad for two brothers who wanted to maintain the fun in their lives.
Jacobs serves as CEO, or chief executive optimist, while his brother John serves as chief creative optimist. The two started their company 19 years ago aided by a drawing of a smiling character named Jake, who has become more than just a logo on the T-shirts but a symbol of optimism and the driving force behind the company and its inspiring message.
“Jake is our hero here at Life is good, and we like to say that Jake has superpowers,” Jacobs says. “Those superpowers guide our decisions.”
Simplicity, gratitude and humor are just a few of the 10 superpowers in total that help shape how the company does business. In recent years, the Jacobs brothers have had to do some self-evaluation as leaders and plan more strategically to understand where to go next with their company and its message.
“We’re 19 years in business and we’re really less about being a clothing company and more about the clothing being a vehicle for an important message,” Jacobs says.
Here’s how Jacobs has overcome the growing pains of leading a small private company into a larger corporation.
Find your direction
Since early in Life is good’s existence, the company’s inspirational message has been both a strength and a challenge for Bert and John Jacobs.
“Our message is so clean and simple that it applies to a tremendous array of different things,” Jacobs says. “So we have a lot of choices, which is a great place to be for a business, but it can also keep you up at night thinking about what we should do and shouldn’t do.”
Jacobs remembers one instance when the company was just above $1 million and he got a call from a large liquor company wanting to purchase more than $6 million worth of T-shirts from Life is good.
“We could have had 600 percent growth, and it was really, really tempting, but it really didn’t have anything to do with the reason why we liked the brand, started the brand or the vision of the brand,” he says.
“There has always been that pressure, and when you’re given an opportunity to go and hit the gas, it’s real tempting to do it.”
That call was the late ’90s, but in recent years, Jacobs says it’s too dissimilar.
“There are always people bringing ideas and opportunities, and I think we have to look and say, ‘How do those opportunities line up with our mission? How do they line up with our vision and with what we’re trying to do with our lives?’” he says.
Knowing what move to make next is one of the biggest challenges in any business. The way to attack that challenge and consider it an asset is to know who you are and act like it.
“That’s how we define branding internally at Life is good,” he says. “The mission of our company is simple — to spread the power of optimism. If we’re going to make a business decision that drives revenue, that’s great. But if it drives revenue and it doesn’t spread the power of optimism, it’s not so great.”
These business decisions come back to the company’s inspirational leader — Jake and his superpowers.
“These superpowers have to start showing up in the deals we do,” Jacobs says. “A big driver of these decisions is knowing our brand. We had good gut instincts back in the early days. Today, we can really line it up against criteria, and it’s pretty easy to take a look and see whether it’s a fit or not.”
Decisions regarding company direction take a great deal of focus. You must consider all that is at stake and who will be impacted by the decisions.
“You need to get away from the details of the business and ask what you want to do with your life,” Jacobs says. “If someone is trying to make a decision about their business and they’re not looking at how that’s going to serve their life, then they’re not going to make the right decision, in my opinion.”
Once you answer that, you have to look at who the stakeholders are of the business and what they want to do.
“You have to start with the highest priorities and who owns that organization and what are they trying to do and where do they want it to be,” he says. “A big part of that is including your customer base in those stakeholders, because a business can’t continue, it can’t thrive, and it can’t grow or do new things without your customers. Then make a decision based on that.”
Regardless of what decision you ultimately make, you have to ensure that you go through a process to understand why you’re making that decision.
“There have been times with this business that we didn’t go through that process, and those are the times that it stings you,” Jacobs says. “We’re lucky that none of those times we did things that sank the ship and we can still live our dream. But if you don’t watch those things, you can lose your dream.”
Just as understanding the company’s direction in recent years has been a challenge, so too has having to let go of some of the leadership responsibility both Jacobs and his brother have had in the past.
“Like many small businesses — the people who started the business play a very critical role,” Bert Jacobs says. “You can sort of kid yourself at some point that nobody can do something better than you can.”
The Jacobs brothers began reading about the struggles that companies go through and the mistakes that leaders make. One thing they saw over and over was that leaders have a tendency to place blame on others for issues in the company, but they’re afraid to have a self-evaluation.
“That was a big step for us,” Bert Jacobs says. “What we did was we created a task force at Life is good and we asked them to critique my brother and I and our other four partners. It was sobering. They were really honest and really candid. There were many areas where we weren’t doing a great job.
“The task force and the criticisms forced us to put some structure in place to reorganize the whole company and align on all our major strategies.”
Going through that evaluation opened doors and enabled autonomy to Life is good and its top management and general managers of its different business units.
“When we clearly paint the vision of where we want to go and we get out of the way, they’re not as good as us, they’re better,” Jacobs says. “That decision has been a real revelation and a breakthrough that a lot of small business owners sometimes never make or make too late.”
For Jacobs, realizing that taking an extra day skiing up in Maine isn’t a bad thing every once in a while has helped him and the business grow.
“The business might be better off without me on a given day,” he says. “Maybe by being around we can get in the way of things. Instead, if we put people in place and we trust the job that they can do, then unexpected things can happen.
“I can point to spots through the years where we probably could have grown stronger, faster and smarter if we did a little less. When something is your baby, you hold it white-knuckled sometimes, and I think we have gotten over that and we’re enabling more things to start happening.” ?
How to reach: The Life is good Co., (617) 266-4160 or www.lifeisgood.com
Great Lakes Science Center, one of the nation’s leading science and technology centers and home to Northeast Ohio’s NASA Glenn Visitor Center, has named Dr. Kirsten Ellenbogen as president, starting May 6.
Ellenbogen brings more than 20 years of experience as an informal educator, learning researcher and senior leader to her new role as the third president for the science center. Her energetic leadership during the last two decades has advanced informal science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education through four centers with a national or international scope and a combined funding of more than $30 million.
Glenmede, a privately held and independent investment and wealth management firm, announced that Andrew W. Kirkpatrick joined the firm as vice president of wealth advisory in the firm’s Cleveland office. Kirkpatricks’s areas of focus include specialized fiduciary matters and client service with an emphasis on multigenerational trust administration and estate planning.
Ulmer & Berne LLP is pleased to announce the addition of Laura McBride as a partner in the firm’s litigation department. Based in the firm’s Cleveland office, McBride will be the co-chair of the firm’s Energy, Natural Resources and Utilities Practice Group.
Her experience includes public utilities and public law litigation, federal and state contracts and regulatory matters, and business litigation of all types. She also has significant experience in health care and life sciences matters.
Howard Hanna has recently announced that Howard Hanna IV, president of Howard Hanna Ohio & Michigan, was named to the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World (LeadingRE) board of directors. LeadingRE is a network of 550 top independent, local and regional brand-name international brokerage firms in residential real estate. The board of directors reads like a who’s who of real estate, with some of the best minds in the business guiding the organization.
Collection Auto Group is pleased to announce that, for the seventh consecutive year, Mercedes-Benz of North Olmsted has been recognized as one of the country’s top Mercedes-Benz dealerships.
Since 2006, the local dealership has received the prestigious Best of the Best Dealer Recognition Award every year from Mercedes-Benz USA. The local dealership is one of only a handful in the U.S. to receive the honor for seven years in a row.
Welty Building Company Ltd. has announced the appointment of Donald Lydon as group president of Welty Facilities Services. In this role, Lydon will be responsible for overseeing the facilities management to extend the life of facilities and equipment, reduce operating costs and improve energy efficiency for Welty customers.
Lydon comes to Welty after 20 years with Zaremba Management Co. where he was vice president, commercial properties, and was responsible for land acquisition, development and construction for the company’s offices and industrial building portfolio. l
In January 2002, Theodore Zampetis took over as president and CEO of a struggling Shiloh Industries Inc. The leading manufacturer of advanced metal product solutions for high-volume applications in the North American automotive, heavy truck, trailer and consumer markets was $290 million in debt and the banks would not finance the company any further.
Zampetis had only a few weeks to either file a 10K with the SEC or file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Rather than roll over and give in, he began to execute a strategy, and he had to do it quickly.
“I got together with my president and my plant head and said, ‘Here’s what I am going to do. Here’s how I’m going to reduce cost and start creating cash flow tomorrow,’” Zampetis says.
Most people had all but kissed Shiloh Industries goodbye but not Zampetis. He knew he could turn the company around.
“We held a teleconference with the banks and all 12 entities were in on the call, and we explained the plan,” Zampetis says. “‘Here’s what is happening, here’s why it’s happening, and here’s what I’m going to do in the next 15 days, 30 days, three months, six months,’ and on and on.”
With time being of the essence, everybody started signing on quickly. Zampetis went around to each customer and plant to tell customers and employees what has happened, why it has happened and what the company’s plan was.
“I told them, ‘You will look back in six months and be proud of what you accomplished,’” Zampetis says.
Here is how Zampetis nursed Shiloh Industries from the edge of bankruptcy and brought it back to life.
Stop the bleeding
Once Zampetis made everyone aware of the dire situation the company was in, he began to focus on stabilizing the business.
“It was execution in three areas: No. 1, I’ve got to stabilize the company because the company was sick, demoralized and it was dying,” Zampetis says. “Once we stabilized the company, the next thing was figuring out what was the root cause of the problem.”
Zampetis had to understand where the company made money, where it lost money and why it was making or losing money.
“Once we started characterizing the process at each plant internally and focusing internally, it became clear to me what the priorities were in the bigger picture of the company and what I had to do,” he says. “Yes, there were a thousand problems, but I didn’t care about the thousand problems. I only cared about the top 10 problems and how I could attack them quickly one by one.”
At the same time, there were external pressures. For instance, one of Shiloh’s main customers had good news for the company. It still had a multimillion-dollar program with Shiloh that it wanted to continue with the organization. The only problem was that Shiloh had no cash to fund the program.
“I said … ‘We are going to the customer and let me talk,’” Zampetis says. “The next day, we were at the customer talking to the highest level in purchasing, and I told him that, in my 31 years in the business, I never thought I would go to the customer and politely, but with tears in my eyes, tell him that he’d better take the contract he awarded to us and give it to someone else, because we simply have no cash.
“‘Under your terms and conditions, we cannot do it. However, if you help us, we can probably do it and do it better than anybody else in the world.’”
With the banks unwilling to budge because the company was $290 million in debt, Zampetis and the executive director of purchasing at the customer company negotiated back and forth until they agreed to help Shiloh Industries fund the program for them.
“I knew one thing; even though this would be a battle going forward, there was only one way to go, and that was up,” he says. “From that point on, Shiloh Industries started climbing and generating cash flow and applying that cash flow back into the company to protect our critical skills and technologies.”
Shiloh’s critical technologies were devastated. The company needed to understand how to bring them up to be best in class and, at the same time, not to let any program down or make any customer dissatisfied.
“We started generating cash flow and applying it intelligently and above all, started deleveraging the company,” he says.
Once the company began to slowly recover, Zampetis had to make sure to communicate throughout the organization so people stayed focused and kept moving forward strategically.
“If we are going to reinforce a culture of transformation, we have to communicate and we have to communicate not only our problems but give our employees, from top to bottom, an idea of what is the source of the problem,” he says. “You have to have a disciplined mind to characterize the process quickly and identify and measure the impact and analyze.”
Moving forward, Zampetis made sure that any decision he made was strategic.
“When the company is in deep trouble, you’ve got to make decisions strategically about all the wonderful ideas that got you into the problem to begin with,” he says. “The old management team did not learn their lesson.”
Shiloh had three objectives: No. 1, to stabilize the company and start generating cash flow, No. 2, to apply that cash flow to deleverage the company and rebuild the company internally, and No. 3, to develop its people to be disciplined so such past situations never happen again.
But just as the company was regaining its footing, the recession of 2009 hit. Chrysler and GM, which make up 60 percent of Shiloh’s business, filed for bankruptcy.
“Everybody thought we were done,” Zampetis says.
As signs that the economy might be in trouble began to spread, Zampetis and Shiloh Industries were taking precautionary measures.
“If you look at our records and look at what happened in November 2008, I took my salary down to almost nothing because I knew there was going to be a disaster,” Zampetis says.
Shiloh’s sales went down 53 percent, its variable manufacturing cost went down 49 percent and its fixed cost, including Zampetis’ salary, went down 39 percent. However, the company made sure to protect its critical skills during the recession.
“I showed our leadership that in a moment of crisis I wasn’t thinking about lining my pocket,” he says. “I told them, ‘We are suffering and sacrificing right now, but at the end of the day, you will look back and be so proud.’”
During 2009 when all of this was happening, Shiloh Industries ended up generating $18 million extra free cash flow and reduced debt.
“In 2010, we were expecting the industry to start picking up because some of our competitors went bankrupt in 2009, and we picked up a lot of their business,” he says. “Our sales revenue from 2009 to 2010 went up 69.7 percent.”
The company’s productivity nearly doubled, its technology became extremely efficient, quality was exceptional and the employees were pumped up about the company’s progress.
“The year 2011 was a wonderful one, and 2012 was a very good year,” Zampetis says. “We now are a clean-balance-sheet company. We have advanced technologies that are the best in the world.”
Today, Shiloh Industries is a $600 million company with 1,400 employees. With the company back to pre-crisis levels, Zampetis decided to retire as president and CEO in December 2012. However, he left the incoming leadership with a very stable company.
“It will be a two-point approach,” he says. “One is to maintain all the good disciplines and don’t water them down because that would be a big mistake. But then the company’s mission looking forward is growth.” ?
How to reach: Shiloh Industries Inc., (330) 558-2600 or www.shiloh.com