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Diana Hendel has seen the fear in the eyes of the people who come to her hospitals for care. It arises not only from the situation that brought them to the hospital, but the challenges they face in their everyday lives.

“As folks become unemployed or uninsured or as work stress increases because of uncertain times, that certainly creates a lot more need for health care in our communities,” Hendel says. “So as we see our communities struggling economically and becoming more stressed economically, certainly the need for additional services and more health care services increases.”

Hendel understands the challenge that comes with her role as CEO at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach and Community Hospital Long Beach. All are part of the MemorialCare Health System.

It would be easy to be overwhelmed by the challenge and worn down by the loss of the people who don’t make it or the sight of people who walk into the hospital down to their last penny and in need of medical care. It would be understandable if some people weren’t up to all that stress. But Hendel doesn’t see it as stress.

“For me, I don’t get overwhelmed; I get challenged by it,” Hendel says. “At the times when you think you’re most overwhelmed or don’t have the time to plan, that is the signal to stop and plan with your team. Taking the time to be very clear about what the business is, what the business needs to be and coming back to that mission piece.”

Whether you’re a hospital or a manufacturing company, you’re going to have good times and bad ones. And while it’s lots of fun to be leading a business that is making money hand over fist, it’s those tough times when you earn your paycheck by showing the way back to prosperity.

You need to focus on what you can do instead of wasting time obsessing over what you can’t. If you take that approach, odds are your people will too.

“I have a little saying in my home that I see a couple times a day coming and going,” Hendel says. “It says, ‘Worry is the misuse of your imagination.’ I remind myself frequently that I love problem solving. But when it crosses over to worrying, it’s a misuse of my imagination. It helps to refocus and put my imagination to creative and positive use that is so much better for the organization and for me personally. I remind myself frequently of that.”

Here’s how Hendel works with her team to always find a way to turn challenges into opportunities.

Be curious

Do you want to prove to your people that you’re not running scared and that you’re willing to listen to their thoughts and suggestions? You could start by actually responding to the good ideas that they bring to you.

“My experience is that everybody wants to contribute,” Hendel says. “Everyone wants to be part of something that has great meaning. Every company is creating value and making a contribution to their community in one way or another. Everyone wants to have a sense that what they do brings value or contribution.

“Regardless of the kind of company, it’s about people contributing and people finding meaning in their work. Companies that focus on people’s strengths and on their contributions and how people are adding value, they are much more successful than those that just put out a product and focus on the product. It continues to come back to people regardless of the kind of business.”

Leaders who struggle making connections with their people have a hard time because they aren’t really focused on those people. They’re doing management by walking around, but they’re not engaged and are instead thinking about their next meeting and how they need to get back to their office.

“When I’m walking around, I’m trying to ask questions,” Hendel says. “Ask what is on that particular person’s mind. They often have a great number of ideas on how something can be improved.”

But it’s still not enough just to talk to people. Respond when they have a suggestion that you feel has merit, even if it wasn’t your original idea.

“We have a lot of focus on health and wellness, particularly with our own employees,” Hendel says. “There were two ideas that actually came directly from employees. As I was walking around, they said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had a walking path around our campus inside and out? People could take a break or a lunch break and know how far they are walking.’”

The other suggestion was to provide healthier foods in the cafeteria.

If you struggle with getting good ideas from your team, it could be that you focus too much on one way of receiving comments and suggestions.

“You actively look for ways and then you ask people,” Hendel says. “Here are the 10 ways you have input right now. Are there any other ways we haven’t thought of that might make it easier to provide input? The best ideas in a company come from everyone in a company, not just one or two people.”

You’ve got to get your people to see you not as an obstacle but as someone who is working right alongside them to make things happen.

“The leader is the facilitator and the guide and the strategic visionary of the organization,” Hendel says. “The most effective leader is not a micromanager. It’s the person who facilitates the very best out of every single team member. It’s much more like a coach. So I think it’s knowing the strengths and knowing the skills of each unique player on that team and honoring that. Just like a coach is best served by maximizing the skills and talents of every single player, a leader needs to do the same thing.”

Once you get the input, it all comes down to what you do with it and how openly you share your plans with your people.

“If someone has an idea, there is an expectation about what can be done with that idea,” Hendel says. “You’re not hearing someone’s idea and saying, ‘Oh, I can make that happen tomorrow,’ if in fact logistically, you can’t. It’s following back through to that person and saying, ‘Hey, we took your idea seriously. There are a few logistical issues with it, but we’re continuing to work on it.’ Keep people informed.”

Be thorough

There was a time not so long ago when electronic medical records were pretty rare in hospitals. Now they’re present at just about any hospital you go to. MemorialCare was a trendsetter in this realm, paving the way for other hospitals to make the upgrade.

Hendel says you can’t be afraid to be a trailblazer, even during difficult times, if you think the step will help your business and energize your people.

The trick is knowing when it’s time to blaze the trail and when the effort isn’t worth the gain.

“We went first and early, and it’s a long road, and it’s challenging, and it can be complicated,” Hendel says of the adoption of electronic medical records. “But we knew it was the right thing for our patients and we knew it was the very best thing for the future of medicine. So we made a decision to be leaders on that and be on the first part of the curve rather than lagging behind on that. We persevered.”

When new ideas are brought to your attention for consideration, you need to do your due diligence and ask questions as to how it might fit.

“All of our decisions start with what we are here to do,” Hendel says. “There are always many terrific ideas. We have a pretty disciplined and rigorous process that we go through on doing business planning and strategic planning.

“What are the financial implications for it? Does it have the ability to serve the greatest number of people? Do we have the skills and resources to make it successful? If we don’t, what do we need to do to obtain those?”

You can’t be afraid to reject a good idea that you’re just not in a good position to implement. On the other hands, if you believe an idea is worth pursuing, you’ve got to take the leap and go after it without hesitation.

“We’re able to say to folks involved, ‘Here is exactly why we’re pursuing this,” Hendel says. “Then we’re able to say, ‘Here’s how we’re going to do it. Here’s what we know. Here’s how we’re going to train, here’s how we’re going to design it, here’s the timeline and here’s how we’re going to provide more education.’ Here’s how we’re going to make what seems like a daunting project into one that is very doable. Then we stick with it. We don’t give up halfway through. We don’t start something that we haven’t thought through and defined well.”

Don’t be afraid

You can’t lead your business out of fear or out of too much deference to the past. If you don’t allow new ideas to be discussed and then given a shot to succeed, you’ll never change and the world will pass you by.

“An organization that just takes what has happened in the past and uses that as a basis for what’s going to happen in the future narrows its opportunities,” Hendel says. “It narrows its possibilities. It often makes organizations hunker down or become paralyzed and fearful of making any change or taking any risk. That’s the time when calculated and conscious risk is what is needed for a lot of organizations.”

It would have been much easier for MemorialCare to stick with what it was doing in terms of keeping medical records instead of tackling the conversion to electronic data storage.

But if you want to have a culture that always is looking for ways to do it better, how could you pass up that kind of endeavor?

“A lot of time is devoted to what-if kinds of thinking,” Hendel says. “What if we could create this? How might we do it? What would it look like? What would it result in? How would it benefit people? We do a lot of brainstorming and a lot of thinking. We take data, but we also take seeds back from our own community and certainly from our work force to create a lot of what-if scenarios.”

Fear becomes a major factor when you get into this type of thinking.

“Even for an organization that is really solid financially, they are likely to have people on their teams who are fearful of what could happen,” Hendel says. “People are more fearful about what might happen that never does happen than putting their energy toward creating their own future.”

So what can you do to help people overcome that fear?

“I’m surrounded by talented, passionate, caring people who are right there on our team together,” Hendel says. “I keep a lot of balance in my life making sure I exercise and take care of myself. I think in the past when I’ve gotten stressed, perhaps I would not get enough sleep or eat very well. I learned quickly that getting enough sleep and eating well and taking care of myself helps me to be much better at work and much better with my family. That’s a time when you rely on relationships with a lot of people. Don’t isolate yourself. Connect with them.”

Once you’ve got your own house in order, see what you can do to help your people see the great value in what they do each day.

“We have to love what we do and we have to find reward in what we do and deep meaning in what we do,” Hendel says.

“There’s a famous story of a woman who worked in a suture factory. She was the person who made sutures for operating rooms for surgeons to use. Day in and day out, she made sutures. Someone interviewed her once and said, ‘Well, isn’t that boring? You just make sutures.’ She said, ‘I don’t make sutures, I save lives.’ She related it to her connection to something else. That is true for all of us. Those of us who can find that connection, find that meaning and find that contribution, that’s the secret to great leadership. But I think it’s also the secret to great living.”

How to reach: MemorialCare Health System, (714) 377-2900 or www.memorialcare.com

The Hendel File

Diana Hendel, CEO, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Miller Children's Hospital Long Beach and Community Hospital Long Beach

Born: Long Beach, Calif.

Education: Bachelor’s degree, biological sciences, University of California, Irvine; doctorate in pharmacy, University of California, San Francisco

What was your very first job?

I was a waitress at the Knott’s Berry Farm [Mrs. Knott’s] Chicken Dinner Restaurant. It taught me a lot about people. Everyone should work in food service. It was a good learning opportunity to realize that sometimes people will say things or do things that either caught me by surprise or hurt my feelings. I didn’t take it personally. It was an opportunity to learn to be flexible.

Who has been the most influential person in your life?

My mother, Barbara. She encouraged me and supported me and really taught me that I could do anything I wanted to do, as long as it was something I loved to do.

What did you want to be growing up?

I didn’t have any one thing. I wanted to do lots of things. I wanted to be an author, a veterinarian, a jockey. I wanted to be lots of different things. I was one of those children where every year, I had a different thing I wanted to be. I loved variety and I didn’t want to do any one thing. And wouldn’t you know, all these years later, I’m in a role where I get to do lots of different things with a lot of variety and a lot of challenge.

Best piece of advice: My favorite quote is from Eleanor Roosevelt: ‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.’ In a roundabout way, that was the best advice. Create your future, follow your dreams, don’t be limited. It’s up to you to create and not someone else’s responsibility.

Published in Los Angeles

When Victor Toledo and his partner, Chad Lacerte, were looking for a location for their new wake board park, they approached nearly a dozen cities looking for the right spot.

But once they met with members of the Allen Economic Development Corp. and spoke with representatives of the city of Allen, Texas, they knew they had found the perfect location, says Toledo.

“We talked to several north Texas cities at the same time, and they were all very receptive to the concept,” says Toledo. “But what Allen did differently is that they really stepped up and said, ‘Not only do we like it and want it, we’ve even got a place for it, and we can help you through the approval process.’”

The pair presented the concept rendering for Hydrous Wake Park to the city in January 2011, began construction in April and opened in September. Although there are 230 cable parks around the work, Hydrous is one of only 13 in the U.S., and the only one in America with three cable systems. And after just four months of operation, it was named 2011 Cable Park of the Year by Unleashed magazine, an international wake boarding publication based in France.

“Looking at the success of these parks around world, we thought bringing the concept to a healthy, vibrant market like Allen, especially because it’s in the Sunbelt, would be a good match, as the city is very youth oriented and very sports oriented,” says Toledo. “We really drew on the European parks in our design and strategy to create a ski resort type atmosphere in the middle of the city.”

Smart Business spoke with Toledo about the new business, and how the Allen Economic Development Corp. has been key to its early success.

What part did the Allen Economic Development Corp. and its members play in your decision to locate in Allen?

They have been very accommodating. They have really been a true partner throughout the whole process. Hydrous is located in a city park, nestled between a skate board park and the high school, which has 5,200 students, just opened a $30 million performing arts center and is completing a $60 million high school football stadium. Allen is a city that really cares about culture, sports, recreation and education, and it has done a tremendous job.

We approached several cities at the same time, and Allen was one of them. They saw an opportunity, they saw the presentation, and they immediately set up a meeting for us with the Parks Department and the city manager’s office, and they really helped us expedite the process.

Once things were set in motion, how did the city and the economic development corporation continue to assist you?

We have an ongoing relationship with the city because they are our landlord; we rent space from them. The Allen Economic Development Corp. was our liaison with the city, and they helped us secure a long-term lease on the property at a nominal cost. The fact that we didn’t have to invest any capital up front for the land made Allen a very attractive option for us, allowing us to focus our investment on the building, digging the lakes, digging the well and building a pro shop. We didn’t have to invest anything for the land, and without that incentive, we probably wouldn’t be here.

The city and the economic development corporation are also our marketing partners. One thing that’s attractive about this venue is that it’s a regional draw, and we get a number of visitors from foreign countries. We estimate that less than 10 percent of the people who wakeboard here actually live in Allen.

How has the city assisted you with water concerns?

There was a drought last summer, so as we were digging the two lakes, the city also allowed us to dig a 1,200-foot well so that we would have our own dedicated water source that was not subject to drought restrictions. That’s a big up-front cost, but we now don’t have a water bill.

The city didn’t want us to compete with its existing water resources and was able to accommodate us. And quite frankly, we couldn’t have competed with the existing water resources because of the drought restrictions.

How did your fall opening help you get up and running?

We really would have much rather opened in March at the start of the busy season, but the way it worked out, we signed the lease in January, got engineering approval in March, broke ground and finished by September, which was a pretty ambitious timetable.

So rather than wait until March to open, we decided we wouldn’t open the restaurant until then but we would at least get our feet wet and get some experience under our belts. That way, in March, we are ready to really show our best because we already have five months’ experience running the park.

We had time to make sure we had made good personnel decisions and marketing decisions, rather than just opening in a whirlwind with a brand new staff. And we’re feeling pretty good about our decisions right now.

Would you recommend that other businesses consider locating in Allen?

Absolutely. The economic development council and the city have been tremendous partners. They have a very pro-business attitude and they care about their city. They are very aggressive about attracting the right type of businesses and diversifying their tax base. And in our case, they also provided an amenity that Allen’s residents previously didn’t have — a lake. There was no boating culture here at all, and now Allen has become the wake boarding go-to spot in the country with wakeboarding videos regularly shown around the world.

Victor Toledo is co-owner of Hydrous Wake Park in Allen, Texas. Reach him at (214) 755-9905 or victor@hydrouswakeparks.com. Reach the Allen Economic Development Corp. at (972) 727-0250 or www.allentx.com.

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by the Allen Economic Development Corporation, strategically positioned in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro.

Published in Los Angeles

A true leader realizes he has flaws. Before he can be a leader he has to fix them.

The problem is never the other person; it’s you.

Many people I have mentored love to play the “victim.” “If only this hadn’t happened to me.” Or, “If this person hadn’t done this to me, everything would be better.”

One way to work on yourself is to hire a personal coach. Several years ago, I hired a personal coach, and it changed my life significantly.

My personal coach helped me “step out of my life” and think about things from a different angle. He helped me improve both my personal and professional relationships.

I met with him once a week until I felt as if I could utilize the structure and support he provided on my own.

In a sense, it was very much like seeing a therapist. My personal coach encouraged me to read books I would have never thought about reading, opening up entirely new perspectives on life. We would discuss how the themes in the books applied to me. He made me think about how I led.

I learned that you control how you think, act, and feel. When you’re in rush hour traffic and running late, who is to blame? Not the traffic ? you chose to leave during rush hour.

Define ‘being in charge’

“Control” doesn’t mean you should be controlling.

To gain total control of your leadership abilities, you don’t need a single best-selling author to tell you how. You already have total control over the process; you just need to let go of the control.

Somehow that doesn’t sound like the big idea for us perfectionists and Type A achievers, does it? Letting go sounds a little weak and threatening. That’s because what we’re really talking about here is vulnerability.

Interestingly, when you let yourself be truly seen, revealing your heart and soul ? and insecurities, lack of knowledge, prowess, certainty, whatever — what you truly gain is the power to be comfortable. And being comfortable to be yourself radiates security. It’s true. Vulnerability is amazing. People pick up on it like magnets.

What’s more, when you feel comfortable in your own skin, you do a much better job at work, at home, and in your personal life. Let go of control and let yourself be truly seen. Transparency is wonderful.

Practice being fallible

To one likes being wrong. When we were younger, we all considered leaders such as our president, parents, teachers or ministers to be infallible. But being an authority or a leader isn’t a person who is always right. In fact, being always right is impossible. There is no such animal.

A true leader — the real authority ? is a person (or institution) who has a process for lowering the likelihood that they are wrong to acceptably low levels.

Taking this to a level of reality and openness in your workplace, how do you accomplish this? Can those around you let you know when you are going down the wrong path? Do you think this is the case, or do you have the systems in place to make sure this is true?

If you haven’t been called on a decision you’ve made or something you’ve said in more than a month, chances are good that you haven’t made it clear to your colleagues you will be occasionally, absolutely wrong. Those you lead need to know you are counting on them to let you know when they disagree, and that you will be ready to hear their opinions.

Being wrong can be right

Be open to being wrong. This is vitally important to manage effectively. Those you work with will value your leadership and authority even more when they know this is the case.

Force yourself into uncomfortable situations. The only way you will ever expand your horizons is to expand your comfort zone.

If a situation is uncomfortable for you, acknowledge it. Say, “I’m really nervous about bringing up this issue. I’ve been worrying about it for days.” You’ll be surprised how the other person reacts.

As author Seth Godin said, “You can’t have success unless you’re prepared to have failure.”

A wise friend once told me to do what you fear. It will be your best ally.

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has voted the company as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana. Harding can be reached at dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com.

Published in Indianapolis
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 19:01

David McKinnon on being up against it

Let’s start this column out with my definition of adversity in business: A situation where if not dealt with correctly, significant negative results will occur, including in some severe cases the possibility of the ultimate death of the business.

Every business leader in the world has to deal with adversity at some point in the lifecycle of the business. Adversity automatically comes with the territory of business leadership/ownership and comes in many shapes, sizes and forms.

Early in my career, I experienced two severe and simultaneous doses of adversity. Reflecting on those challenges, I believe that there are four necessary ingredients for successfully getting through it.

Determination

An absolute and resolute personal commitment to get through the stacked odds for failure is mandated and required to even have a chance of overcoming this obstacle.

Confidence

Your hand must be steady and your demeanor, calm and confident. This is necessary as you must project this to employees, customers, bankers and all who intersect with your leadership during this crucial time.

I love the example of the flight attendant who with a smile, simply asks the next row “Anything to drink for you?” after the plane has just hit a big bump. Everyone who is scared is now watching that flight attendant’s reaction with heightened interest, so he or she can gauge his or her own reaction. When the passengers see the smile and hear, “Anything to drink for you?” they know that it must be no big deal. That’s what leaders have to do in times of adversity.

Optimism

You must be able to talk positively about a future that does not include the adversity. This helps others also believe that the adversity has a beginning and an end. It creates a more optimistic view of the future, and more importantly, it doesn’t let the adversity define you or the company.

Faith

Without my faith, I would have never been able to mentally and physically survive two crises, which threatened the end of our business.

In the fall of 1989, it seemed that Molly Maid was doomed to fail.

First, Molly Maid was sued in a class-action lawsuit for tens of millions of dollars by a few of the franchisees.

Secondly, we had partnered with a large and well-financed company with intentions to significantly grow Molly Maid. As a result of the lawsuit, they suddenly decided to remove their financial backing, which put Molly Maid into immediate, virtual bankruptcy.

The lawsuit was going to be very expensive to defend and without financial support, the prospect for our survival was bleak at best. Many of my advisers suggested that I bury the company and get on with a new track.

I instead chose to tackle the adversity head on. I put together a 14-step business plan with measurable milestones. When implemented, this plan would take Molly Maid from having a lawsuit to defend and no money to a place with no lawsuit and dollars in the bank to pay creditors and “keep the lights on.”

I shared our turnaround plan and our incremental results, however small, against that plan with everyone — our franchise owners, our creditors, our landlord, our bankers and potential investors. We even had a large creditor to which we owed over $50,000, to whom we sent a $50 check to each month along with our bank statements and financials. This turned out to be crucial, as our “supporters” loved the transparency.

In 2011, Molly Maid franchise owners had double-digit top line growth over 2010 in what many say is an adverse business climate. In fact, since our 1989 adversity, our business has had significant growth in all but 2 years.

Anything to drink for you?

David McKinnon is the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Service Brands International, an umbrella organization that oversees home services brands including Molly Maid, Mr. Handyman, 1-800-DryClean and ProTect Painters. For more information, visit www.servicebrands.com.

Published in Detroit

From South Korea to the Soviet Union and the United States to the United Kingdom, organizations around the world are looking to grow through global expansion. In fact, in most industries, the term “business without borders” is already a reality. By working in technology for more than two decades, I have experienced this move to a global economy for the past several years as tech companies, such as IBM and Microsoft, have long realized the revenue potential of expanding outside of the U.S.

However, more recently, I have had the opportunity to play a central role in building a global corporation. As a native South Korean, I had lived and worked in that country for most of my life. Several years ago, I found myself serving as CEO for a software company that was expanding outside of South Korea to the U.S. With that experience under my belt, in 2010, I helped $1.4 billion South Korean giant SK C&C strategize a plan for the global growth of its mobile commerce technology. I became CEO of CorFire, the mobile commerce business unit of SK C&C USA, with the understanding that I would open its North American headquarters.

I was excited about bringing the mobile commerce lifestyle to its full potential in the United States — technology that South Koreans have embraced for nearly 10 years. However, I was equally enthusiastic about building a truly global company — one that would sell its technology platform around the world and partner with companies regardless of geography. I also understood that building and managing a global work force brought a unique set of challenges, or in business-speak, “opportunities.”

Think globally, act locally

While this phrase is often used to refer to environmental issues, the term’s essence was central to the decision-making process around building CorFire’s global operations. As CEO, I needed to create a vision for our work place and culture. To be successful on the business side, we would need to bring the best practices from South Korea. However, we also would need to establish a local presence and integrate new ideas and cultural nuances, from the U.S. or other countries, into the environment.

In order to do this, I was keenly aware that I’d need to surround myself (and listen to) other people who had experience in managing global workplaces. Together, we could identify the guiding principles for our new company, brainstorm recruiting strategies, set the corporate tone and, in sum, determine who we wanted to be when we “grew up.”

Communicate, communicate, communicate

It is no coincidence that successful companies typically have strong, effective communicators at the helm. Effective communication is even more critical for new companies and ones that are bringing diverse cultures together. For executive teams that are building diverse workplaces, it is critical to examine various communication styles and develop ones that work within the framework of the organization.

For example, there are many South Korean workplace practices that are similar to those in a U.S. office environment. Yet, there are South Korean business customs that U.S. workers haven’t accepted or even experienced. In setting the tone for our company culture, I drew on the value management system of SK, which is based on respecting the dignity and creativity of each employee. I also kept an open mind to other communications methods that worked best for the entire team — regardless of my comfort level or familiarity with them. In the end, we landed on a philosophy where employees are encouraged to talk openly and often and where divergent opinions are heard and respected.

More is more

The business of yesteryear was one where many ideas became synthesized into one. The world’s most successful companies have tossed that approach for one in which more ideas, more strategic thinking and more tactics to solutions are examined, accepted, and executed as they make sense. In a global company, the tenet of open-mindedness is especially critical. While fundamental processes to conducting business must be in place, there also needs to be the willingness to keep the door open for new ways to work, build teams and cultivate innovation.

To build a successful and innovative global company we need more diversity than ever, and we are not going to achieve that within the confines of a rigid, inexpressive workplace culture. Differences in culture and business backgrounds are good and, in fact, are a valuable asset. The richness and varying experiences of our new team is helping us deliver the passion that will, in turn, create the profits and help us be the global company we want to be when we grow up.

Sang Yook is the CEO of CorFire, the mobile commerce business unit of SK C&C USA. You can reach him at (770) 670-4700.

Published in Atlanta

When Bernadette Boas was given a pink slip from her very lucrative, global vice president type of role, she was happy.

But she didn’t understand why, so she decided to do some self-reflection.

“I was that bitch with the walls up, and there was no internal dialogue going on at all,” she says.

She recognized that her ruthless attitude had taken a toll on her health, as her body was mocking symptoms of a heart attack because of the stress and angst she was experiencing. She also saw that she had all the luxuries of life, but she didn’t have the things that really mattered — loving relationships and warmth.

“When I realized it was because of that nasty attitude, I was horrified at how many people I had hurt over the years,” she says.

She decided to write her book, “Shedding the Corporate Bitch,” as an apology to all the people she’s hurt over the years and to address how people can shed the ruthless leadership shell.

Smart Business also spoke with her about how business leaders can more effectively handle difficult people in the workplace.

How do you recognize toxic behavior in your team?

Any good, aware manager is going to see that an individual within their team or department or organization is toxic. It’s whether or not they’re willing to address it and not just look at their productivity.

For instance, that attitude for me produced a lot of great results for our customers. Our customers appreciated the fact that I would go at it with my own internal team and fight for them, and therefore I and created a lot of great results. But internally, what I did was create a lot of toxic environment among our organization.

The manager, they know when they have someone who is toxic, so they have to confront it and address it. When somebody is toxic, there’s something underlying that. There’s something underneath that. When someone is productive and good at what they do and is very much a leader but is taking on these attitudes and mindsets, they’re doing it for other reasons. Businesses don’t want to get under the covers and play therapist. When you think about coaching and why coaching and executive counseling is so effective, it’s because they are addressing that underlying motivation and underlying agenda underneath the behavior. Managers just need to pay attention to it, confront it and then just recognize that it could be easily addressed once they do — it’s not a lost cause when you have that individual.  It doesn’t automatically mean they have to be fired. It just needs to be addressed.

How do you effectively address it?

Often times the person afflicting on to other people, they don’t really see it. They don’t see they’re being as damaging as possible. Some of them breed off of it. They love the idea that they’re intimidating people or they’re making people uncomfortable or they’re demanding. At the same time, they’re not seeing what it’s doing to themselves personally and professionally. A lot of times it’s confronting that. If someone had confronted me, I’m a smart woman; I would have woken up to it eventually. I would have saved a lot of the personal and professional damage I did to myself.

Unfortunately, a lot of companies don’t do a lot of training and coaching on managing people in difficult conversations in the workplace. They need to arm their HR organization or their managers with the tools to sit someone down effectively and needs to facilitate a dialogue with someone. Depending on that manager’s own personality, some can just call you out on it right away. Some will just sit you down and say, ‘Look, you’re hurting yourself in your career with the attitude you’re bringing to the business.’ Other people aren’t very good at dealing with confrontation. They may need training or have someone in the HR to facilitate and mediate that type of conversation.

Very simply too, performance reviews, [need to be] done more regularly and effectively. They have performance review processes but they’re done reactively — they’re not proactive with a purpose or effective to where it shifts or creates change in that individual. Unfortunately, a lot of companies fall short on being able to leverage those opportunities where they sit down and have a conversation with their employees or managers to address those kinds of issues. That’s the time to do it — whether it’s during the process or a one-off because of an issue because someone is creating havoc within the organization.

How to reach: www.sheddingthecorporatebitch.com

Published in Atlanta

Gregory Kenny considers himself and General Cable Corp. fortunate to have made it through the past three years of the recession. When the fourth quarter of 2008 came about, the president and CEO had the challenge of leading a business operating in an industry that had a 30 percent decline in global demand.

General Cable Corp. is a Fortune 500 manufacturer and distributor of copper, aluminum and fiber optic wire and cable products. The company employs 12,000 people and Kenny had to make sure every one of them was focused on the task at hand to remain culturally aligned and focused on opportunities in global markets.

“We saw global demand fall in this industry, excluding China, by 30 percent, which is a big number,” Kenny says. “Some regions fell more than that. Managing with a 30 percent reduction in demand across the board as well as compression pricing, caused us to take extensive steps and redouble our efforts around lean manufacturing.”

Those steps and efforts weren’t easy tasks, but Kenny has made sure he constantly looks for ways to keep the $4.86 billion organization moving forward.

“Clearly the recovery is long when you have a financially induced recession,” he says.

Stay motivated and focused

When you experience a drop in demand like General Cable did, you have to make sure your company culture can handle that type of shake up. You have to be prepared for ups and downs in demand.

“Keeping people motivated and focused was not hard,” Kenny says. “We have a very good team here that’s been through cycles and we’re looking forward strongly.”

The change in demand the company saw wasn’t the only challenge Kenny had to deal with.

“I think the tremendous changes in our long-term material costs up and down has also been difficult,” he says. “We buy a lot of aluminum, copper, petrochemicals and steel and they both fell dramatically and then accelerated dramatically and then fell again. Managing tremendous changes in input costs in a weak overall market is challenging.”

Since General Cable is used to operating in an industry that goes through cycles, it didn’t have to make drastic changes to handle the new pressures.

“We already had a culture that had been in place since about 2000 around lean manufacturing,” Kenny says. “What we did is continue to look very hard on the cost side, but that’s really a continuous part of our culture. We did have salary freezes and hiring freezes. We didn’t have any major layoffs, but as different countries struggled with demand, we had to adjust our crew counts, so we were a smaller company than we were in 2007. While a global financially-driven recession wasn’t well seen, we were in a sense prepared for it because our mission has been clear, our costs were already in excellent shape and we didn’t have one of those moments where we had to reinvent the company.”

What Kenny did have to do was continue to drive the culture forward and look for new ways to help in that effort.

“We are always looking to do more with less culturally and we have expanded the company globally to many product areas and countries and not every country suffered in exactly the same way,” he says. “Being good at our business and the diversity helped us get through this in quite a different way than 2001 to 2003, which was much less severe, but was actually a more difficult time for the company.”

Getting through unforeseen challenges such as these, comes down to the people you have in your organization.

“You have to have the best team you can have on the field and pay great attention to recruiting the great athletes,” he says. “You have to also keep your culture together in terms of everybody fighting as a team and that’s critical. Those cultures aren’t easy to invent overnight. You have to be mindful of who you are and also take a longer view in the business.”

When the economy takes a hit like it has, you have to remain calm, but act appropriately.

“Things don’t go down forever and they don’t go up forever,” Kenny says. “We try to prepare for what if demand picks up 30 percent or what if the world goes into a double-dip recession. We’re constantly looking forward and stressing our own balance sheet and organizational capabilities to be sure we’re ready for it. Clearly, the world isn’t smooth and linear and keeping that access to capital markets and being able to borrow money remains critical. Don’t lose your nerve about the business because sometimes the best opportunities are when lots of people are fearful.”

While General Cable’s culture was already equipped to handle the decline in demand, Kenny did create councils to help align the company and keep it operating as one.

“What we’ve done is said, ‘What if we could take a breakthrough from one place and carry it to the next in five minutes or one minute? If we could know everything we know in our facilities all around instantaneously, wouldn’t that be a powerful weapon?’” he says. “What we did, without creating corporate bureaucracy, was created councils around safety, which is our paramount concern.”

These global councils helped keep alignment and also opened eyes to potential new opportunities and ways to improve the business.

“If we can act as one and really compete as one company, not as 20 or 30 separate companies that are simply affiliated with General Cable, we’d have a powerful idea,” Kenny says. “That has helped get us through because we share heavily a lot of the new products we launch in one place in the world or another that are maybe developed and thought about somewhere else and then leveraged into that market. I think it’s a big idea and we get better at it every day, and it’s a powerful part of our success.”

The councils were so successful that the company didn’t just form them around safety, but created some for certain product families as well.

“You have to be good at both cross-utilizing assets, meaning seeing a market opportunity and looking inside to see what you have to meet that, or helping to create it,” he says. “That work around focusing on key customers and unmet needs and running that through our technology group to see if we can actually do it has been really important. You have to think about which disciplines are decisive in your company. You have to think about what things are core to your DNA.”

Expand your business

While General Cable’s culture played a big role in the company’s ability to overcome recessionary challenges, it was Kenny’s global outlook that really set the stage for growth and new opportunities.

We know that in the developed world, there’s both a recovery that has been underway and we believe it will continue as well as a need to rebuild the infrastructure that was built many years ago,” Kenny says. “In the developing world, the population growth is quite a bit higher and the infrastructure clearly lags. One of our ideas was if we can take the free cash and know-how and the business model of lean culture into the developing world, that’s a powerful set of opportunities.”

While the business had certain global markets underway prior to 2007, the real jump came from buying Phelps Dodge International Corp., a $1.4 billion cable maker principally in South America, Central America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia.

“They had 50 some odd years of experience really thinking across trading regions, geographic cultural regions, freight regions, and they really took a model of high knowledge of distant cultures and got very good at it,” he says. “They brought local know-how and a tremendous record in lean and safety and what we brought was access to the products that those societies would need in the future as they develop.”

Kenny took Phelps Dodge’s know-how and General Cable’s expertise and entered Mexico, Peru, South Africa and India.

“We have largely increased our position in these markets,” he says. “We looked at other global opportunities so we acquired a business that made cables for wind farms and we also acquired in North Africa in Egypt and Algeria. I think when you identify opportunities you have to think about what you do well and where you want to be.”

Before entering new markets you have to consider certain aspects of doing business there to determine whether it is a good move.

“We look at what are the demographics, what is the civility of the country, if it’s not stable can we tolerate the instability, and then getting local ownership and buy-in as well as expertise here to get it done,” he says. “We have to look at every market and see, can we be successful there? Do people make products of good quality and does the country have laws and how are they enforced?”

Aside from understanding whether a market is a good fit, you have to begin to think in terms of your global markets if you truly want to build a global company.

“You can build to an extent yourself, but until you become multicultural as a company and really think as much in French and Spanish as you do in Mandarin, it’s hard to spot the opportunities because you don’t know what you don’t know,” he says. “I think Phelps Dodge helped tip us over to some critical mass of know-how and then we continue to build behind it.”

What Phelps Dodge brought to General Cable was a better understanding of the new markets the company wanted to get involved in. You have to be able to grasp critical elements of entering new geographies to be successful.

“You have to look at demographics,” Kenny says. “Look at whether it is a young population and growing. Is it a level playing field? Do they want quality products or is it a market that doesn’t appreciate making products to standards and making it correctly? Look at transparency and whether people pay taxes. Can you sell in a transparent way and be successful?”

Understanding those aspects of new geography you are preparing to enter is critically helpful. Once you have made a decision on where to go, start slow and get familiar with the area.

“If you have a product that can be exported, start with a small office and hire locals,” Kenny says. “What we generally do is look for people who share our values, but are from that country or that region and get to know them and how they think. Let them educate you on local mores. Learn the turf. Look at the experiences of other companies in the country. I think you can engage the chamber of commerce which will have international companies in it and they are generally very hospitable in terms of telling you what the pros and cons of the market are there. Usually there’s a foreign commercial office in the embassy, which is also a useful call.

“You have to build a case around that country and then look at the competitors and see how you want to start and where you’re going long term. It’s hard to do from Cincinnati. You need feet on the street. Linguistically, it’s a must to have someone who speaks the language fluently, both English and the local language.”

The company’s geographic diversity and product diversity have been two big factors to its success and growth recently.

Net sales increased from $4.38 billion in 2009 to $4.86 billion in 2010, with gross profit increasing from 519.5 million to 554 million in the same time period.

“Even in a down market, if you keep getting better and smarter and things turnaround, you can have a really strong rebound,” Kenny says. “Leveraging 12,000 people and the 48 or 49 factories we have has been really, really helpful in getting us through this, as well as spotting new markets and opportunities and not being afraid to enter them.”

HOW TO REACH: General Cable Corp., (859) 572-8000 or www.generalcable.com  

Takeaways

-         Align your culture for the greater good of the company

-         Create company councils to improve best practices

-         Search for new opportunities during a downturn to grow business

The Kenny File

Gregory Kenny

President and CEO

General Cable Corp.

Born: Long Island, N.Y.

Education: Attended Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and received his MBA from George Washington University and a Masters in public administration from Harvard.

What was the very first job you ever had, and what did that experience teach you?

I had my own lawn business because I like working outdoors. My first full-time job was in the grocery industry, which is a tough business and they work you hard. So I grew up working, and feeling not entitled comes from a long history of working and making things happen.

Whom do you admire in business?

I admire the folks who get stuff done on the floor every day. When you find them turned on and excited it drives General Cable forward and that’s the most exciting part for me.

What is one of your favorite countries you do business in outside of the U.S.?

I can’t answer that because we’re in many countries, but I would say that I do enjoy getting far off the track. I avoid classically touristic places. I like smaller villages and getting in with the people and understanding more about that society.

What is a place you aren’t doing business that you’d like to break in to?

I see opportunity in Southeast Asia and also I think we could do a bigger job in South America than we’re currently doing. We are also looking at sub-Saharan Africa.

Published in Cincinnati
Thursday, 09 February 2012 09:51

Managing growth while maintaining culture

Last year, we introduced you to Collection Auto Group and owner Bernie Moreno.

The company is still making tremendous strides in the automotive industry, so we sat down with Moreno again to see how Collection Auto Group continues to drive success.

What's your greatest business challenge?

Managing our growth while maintaining our culture. We have grown from 25 people to almost 300 in just under seven years. We have a very unique culture that puts the customer at the core of everything we do. We don’t consider ourselves a “dealership,” but rather, we consider ourselves a customer service business. As such, recruiting, hiring, motivating and retaining the absolute top performers is critical. We also spend a lot of attention on making certain everyone understands our mission and our core values.

What makes you an innovative leader?

I don’t know if I am an “innovative leader,” but I do know we always look for creative solutions to challenges others have found difficult or impossible. We strive to keep our organization on the leading edge by being on the forefront of technology; whether by using social media, iPads for our sales people, or state of the art customer relationship management systems.

What's the greatest lesson you've learned in business?

Not everyone has the skills needed to be singularly devoted to following through on the mastery of the details required to delivery excellent customer service. Knowing this, we continually reinforce the need to put in place organizational processes to help manage these details.

What has been Collection Auto Group's impact on the economy?

We employ almost 300 people and generate over $250,000,000 in gross sales revenue. We are one of the largest collectors of sales tax in Cuyahoga County. We donate about $500,000 to local charities. We also provide human capital in the community to help improve this region.

How do you provide value and go "above and beyond"?

We take the purchase or servicing of a car from a transaction to an experience. Anyone call “sell” a luxury vehicle; we want to provide our customers one of the best, if not the best, service experiences they have ever had.

Collection Auto Group

28450 Lorain Road

North Olmsted, OH 44070

Phone: 440,716.2700

E-mail: info@collectionautogroup.com

Web: www.collectionautogroup.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Collection-Auto-Group

Published in Akron/Canton
Tuesday, 03 January 2012 15:11

Creating value

When Robin Sacks was a sophomore in college, her grandfather passed away, leaving the family business to her dad. She had no interest in business — she was a writer and theater person — but she helped run it full-time and went to school full-time.

After graduation, she ran it for six years, and what she learned from everyone was that her grandfather was a man of integrity.

“This is about relationships,” she says. “That’s what I learned from my grandfather. It’s about people; it’s about knowing each other, standing by each other. It’s a relationship thing and not so much to do with payables and receivables — it’s about people. That changed my perspective on business.”

Later in life, as she pursued other career options, she decided to write a book, “Get Off My Bus,” and Smart Business spoke with her about the book.

What are the key principles for business leaders in your book?

Here’s something I see a lot. You’ve got a boardroom of CEOs and executives who are in one end of the building and they’re trying to come up with a solution to a challenge — whatever it is. Somewhere at the other end of the building is an hourly employee and, at that same moment, says to his co-worker, ‘Why do we do [insert problem]?’  Often in companies, everyone is, ‘Here’s your title, your department, your level, your responsibility,’ and nobody’s talking. You have people who have solutions to your challenges, but there’s no reason for those people within a corporation to connect.

One of the concepts with the bus is to realize that any moment you have a challenge, there’s probably somebody sitting next to you who has the answer, but we’re so busy looking so far out at who’s out there that we don’t look next to us, and we miss opportunities constantly because we’re not on the same bus. We’re not together. We’re ‘Here is us; here’s you. And why would that person ever have an answer to what I’m trying to do now.’

Oftentimes the leaders will go at it the wrong way. ‘Oh fine, we’ll bring all these people together but we don’t want to give them too much information. What is it they can possibly help us with?’ The reality is within a company’s culture, you have to have an encouraging culture where you’re encouraging employees — ‘Hey you may be there and I may be here, but we are all in this together and we have to work together. The bottom line is if our challenges don’t get solved, it hurts all of us.’

How do you get out of that mindset?

We have all these default fears going on — fear of, ‘Hey, if that’s not my idea then I don’t want to use it. I’ll take the idea, but I want to put my name on it.’ That encourages people not to share, and that, unfortunately, is one of the defaults we’ve got in our society — it’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine; if I put it out there, even though it’s a phenomenal idea, someone’s going to take it — so we stop creating. We’re afraid.  

That’s not a corporate mindset; it’s a human mindset. One way to change that is study some of the companies that are absolutely phenomenally well known for having those types of encouraging, inviting environments — the Progressives, Nordstroms of the world. We have a bunch of them here in Cleveland.

How do you study them?

Don’t reinvent the wheel and say you have to change everything. That’s not going to happen. Study some of the companies that have implemented encouragement programs because those companies are not only wildly successful, but they get it. They understand that your greatest asset ever is your human component and just because somebody has this job title — you’ve put this label on them by virtue of what they do — there are a ton of skills that person has.

Encourage employees. Say, ‘Look, this might be your job title, but you all have a wonderful skill set that we know nothing about and by encouraging you to share some of those things, all of sudden, you become such a more valuable employee to us, and because of that we have to create more value for you.’ You start to see symbiotic things that happen. It all affects the bottom line. The more value I can see in you, it starts to solve our challenges, but also I need to compensate that value. It doesn’t have to be monetary. There are a lot of ways to do that.

How to reach: www.robinjsacks.com/get-off-my-bus-.html

Published in Cleveland

Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez was physically starting a new Miami law office from scratch. She didn’t have a team of employees. She didn’t have an actual office yet. From a support standpoint, however, she had a stacked deck.

Joining McDonald Hopkins LLC as its newest managing member in 2011, Rodriquez had the rich culture and resources of a firm with an 80-year history of client service success.

“So it really was very much of a start-up operation, except that I had a really good solid team supporting me all the way,” Rodriguez says.

Smart Business spoke with Rodriguez about the keys to entering a new market, starting with finding and developing a strong team of employees.

Use your network to find talent

One is to let people know that we are here through selective marketing, through interacting in the community, getting the word out, introducing the firm. The other is using my personal contacts to recruit the kinds of lawyers that we are looking for. We identify the practice areas we need, the client type, the personality set and either directly approach those lawyers or through my contacts identify who those lawyers are and then use those relationships to reach them.

Seek complementary skill sets

The biggest leadership challenge when you are expanding a firm or growing an office is being able to identify in potential [hires] the kinds of qualities that you want to reinforce in your firm while also adding capabilities that fill whatever gaps you may have.

You have to recognize that you have weaknesses because nobody is perfect, and nobody has every skill that they need for every job. Then you need to surround yourself with people who have the skills that you are lacking to compensate for them, which means that you have to be very self assure and confident rather than worried about people showing you up. You succeed by other people around you succeeding.

When you are interviewing associates or other staff as well as partners, you like to know that they have succeeded at, what they have done and know what their track record has been. You want to know that they are hard working and that they are not just going to coast. You want to look for indicia of people who always demand more from themselves.

Use interviews to find cultural matches

You work very hard at hiring people who contribute to the culture and who like the particular culture of the firm. Every firm evolves as it gets larger, but there are certain core principles in terms of how people relate to each other and the way that the firm serves its clients that cannot be compromised.

I like to know why they are speaking with us. What is it about their situation that they would like to improve on and what are their long-term personal and professional goals? I like to know about what they do in their free time when they are not being a lawyer. I like to know what their approach is to clients and practicing law.

Take charge

You have to be a friendly and approachable person, but you also have to recognize that there are boundaries, particularly in the workplace. You are not there to be everybody’s best friend. You are there to lead them and help them succeed.

A critical trait is to be able to communicate your vision, your goals and your expectations very clearly. If you don’t communicate clearly, people will assume that they know what you want, and you may not get what you are expecting.

You set clear goals. You agree on timelines and then you follow up on a regular basis to make sure that you are on track.

Do your part

If people do not see you contributing the effort, they are going to feel like you are unfairly dumping work on them. It doesn’t mean that you have to spend every waking hour in the office or constantly connected, because I do think that it’s important to unplug every once in a while so that you can do your strategic thinking. It does mean that you have to be willing to take on the hard work that you are asking other people to do.

How to reach: McDonald Hopkins LLC, www.mcdonaldhopkins.com or (305) 704-3990

Company Facts: McDonald Hopkins LLC

Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio

Size: more than 130 attorneys in six strategic locations, including Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, West Palm Beach and Miami

About: The company has an 80-year track record of counseling clients as a business advisory and advocacy law firm

Published in Florida