Michael Abt got his start in the restaurant industry at age 15, flipping burgers at Charlie’s Hamburgers in Houston, where they riffed on McDonald’s famous slogan with the catchy “Over Two Dozen Sold.” Abt was hooked; the restaurant industry was in his blood. Abt spent five years at Pizza Hut before heading to a franchise of Arby’s called RTM Restaurant Group.
“I’ve been in the restaurant industry all my life,” Abt says. “When I started with RTM in 1993, we had 350 restaurants, and when we sold the company to Arby’s Corp. in 2005, we had 800 restaurants.
“I got an awful lot of experience being on the franchisee side of the business with Arby’s for many years. When we sold the business, I wound up on the franchisor side of the business. I got a pretty good perspective of how both sides can work to help each other.”
Abt left Arby’s in 2010 to take some time off. With his experience in the industry, however, he was a highly sought-after executive. In 2012, Sentinel Capital Partners started a relationship with Abt and soon offered him an opportunity to become CEO of Huddle House Inc.
“We started talking about the Huddle House opportunity, and I spent a little time on due diligence and really fell in love with the brand,” Abt says.
Huddle House, a 50-year-old restaurant chain of 396 restaurants with system sales of $260 million a year, became Abt’s new home when he took on the role of CEO last October. With his prior experience and knowledge of both the franchisee and franchisor sides of the business, he had some new ideas for Huddle House.
Here’s how Abt is taking his unique experience in the restaurant industry and evolving the Huddle House brand.
Do your due diligence
When Abt was first introduced to Huddle House, he was unfamiliar with the brand, but after experiencing what Huddle House was about, he found numerous differentiators, as well as opportunities to make the brand better.
“As I started exploring the business, I thought the food was really good,” Abt says. “It separated itself from some of the other chain concepts in that the products are more cravable and aligned with Southern comfort food, which I thought was a great niche.”
He also liked the atmosphere that Huddle House restaurants provided to guests.
“I liked the feel of the restaurant in terms of the level of hospitality that we provided to our customers,” he says. “It’s the kind of place where customers show up, and you know the customer’s name. A lot of our servers have been there for a long time. The owners and operators of the Huddle House restaurants have one or two stores, so they live in the communities that they operate in and are entrenched in the community.”
One thing Abt was careful to avoid as the brand’s new CEO was jumping to conclusions.
“My approach at Huddle House is I didn’t want to come in assuming to know what we needed to do in the business,” he says. “I spent the first 60 hours interviewing people at corporate. I also interviewed franchise partners, field personnel and vendors. I had a series of questions I asked to understand what we needed to do to strategically move our brand forward.
“I spent the better part of two or three weeks on discovery. That helped lay the foundation for our strategic plan.”
Abt stresses that it is imperative to spend the time to get to know what you are working with rather than feeling as if you have to make immediate changes.
“Don’t feel like you have to change the company in the first 30 days,” he says. “Spend the first 30 to 60 days really understanding the brand’s personality, particularly if you are a franchised brand. What’s the brand about? We have 385 restaurants that are franchised. We have 11 company restaurants for a total of almost 400 restaurants. The success of our franchise business is dependent upon the individual franchise partner that we serve.”
Since Huddle House depends on its franchise partners for success, those are the brains Abt picked to get some answers for improving the business.
“I believe the way to start off a franchise business is to understand from the franchise partners what the critical opportunities are that we have from a brand standpoint,” Abt says. “Understand the relationships between the franchise partners and corporate. Understand who the key and influential franchise partners are in the system and start working through them to create advocacy within the system.”
Make strategic decisions
For Abt, it’s important for the franchise partners to understand that the company focuses on and cares about how they can make more money. In order to make more money, Abt had a few changes in mind.
“One of the things I recognized very early on was that we had an opportunity to provide significantly higher levels of support to our franchise partners, so we started hiring franchise area directors,” he says.
The franchise area directors are the individuals who work directly with the franchise partners to help them grow their capabilities and ultimately create an elevated experience for Huddle House customers.
“We started hiring field personnel immediately,” he says. “We hired five additional franchise area directors, we on-boarded a director and assistant director of training. Our goal was to strengthen our operations so we could provide better support to our franchise partners and they could run a better business and take care of their customers.”
Abt also recognized that the Huddle House menu had become bloated over the years, so a mission of simplification, menu optimization and management were on the top of the agenda.
“We embarked on a program to minimize the number of items on our menu and make it easier to execute in the restaurant,” he says.
A tweak in the menu wasn’t the only thing that Abt wanted to update. The company had a new design concept for its restaurants that gave them a fresh look.
“I think our new evolution prototype restaurant is a great-looking restaurant,” Abt says.
Earlier this year Huddle House launched its evolution remodel incentive program in which the company will give its franchise partners $25,000 to remodel their restaurant to the current prototype. It will cost franchisees $100,000 to $110,000 to do an interior and exterior redesign. Huddle House has seen sales increases of up to 30 percent in remodeled franchises.
“It has a very strong contemporary feel and we’re a 50-year-old legacy brand, and our new evolution prototype restaurant and remodel really elevates our brand,” he says. “We want our franchise partners to know that we’re in it with them, and we don’t think there’s any better way to do that than to give them some money back when they remodel.”
As Abt has identified Huddle House’s strengths and areas of opportunity, the main goal continues to be profitability.
“We are trying to keep it fairly simple here,” Abt says.
The key to making these changes successful is gaining buy-in from franchise partners.
“We established committees on the front end to help our franchise partners get more involved in the decision-making going forward,” he says. “We have a franchise advisory council that provides input on operations. We have a margin improvement task force that provides feedback on profitability, and we have a menu committee that provides feedback on our menu items.”
To make buy-in an easier task, Abt suggests having key players, franchise partners in his case, involved in as much of the decision-making as possible.
“One of the things that we did on the front end was to establish clear lines of communication to our franchise partners,” he says. “We established hour-long monthly system calls with our franchise partners, myself and our C-level executives where we outline our current plans and what our results have been.
“We also developed a newsletter that goes out every two months that gets more communication out to the franchise partners. And personally, I make myself accessible. I return phone calls, I pick-up my phone when somebody calls, I return emails, etc. My presence to the franchise partners is very important because if they know that the guy at the top of the company is listening to what they have to say, they feel like they are involved and they are cared about.”
What has Abt most excited about the future of Huddle House and its franchisees are the remodeled restaurants.
“About 10 percent of our system is refreshed at this point,” he says. “We have an opportunity with this program to refresh 80 percent of our system in the next five years. We have allocated $2.5 million to give back to our franchise partners in the form of the incentive rebate.
“We’ve allocated up to 100 remodels this year so we can elevate the image of our brand and I’m very excited about that.”
How to reach: Huddle House Inc., (770) 325-1300 or www.huddlehouse.com
Understand your company’s strengths and weaknesses.
Make strategic changes for growth opportunities.
Gain buy-in and move forward.
The Abt file
Born: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Education: Attended Texas State University and received a bachelor of business administration in finance.
What did your first job teach you about business? Working at Charlie’s Hamburgers taught me that I liked the restaurant business. I enjoyed preparing food and talking to customers. I liked that action and activity of the restaurant. It’s the music of the business. It taught me teamwork and responsibility at an early age and that you have to work hard because the restaurant business isn’t easy.
Who do you admire in business? I like Howard Schultz of Starbucks because I like that he left the company and came back and not necessarily resurrected it, but got it back to what the culture was in that organization and fixed it.
Do you have a favorite menu item at Huddle House? Our stuffed hash browns. They have just about every breakfast ingredient you can imagine in it. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.
Imagine it’s a hot day. You’re thirsty and hungry, but don’t want anything unhealthy. There aren’t many options available to meet all those needs. In the early ’70s, the concept of the smoothie was born out of this unmet need. Opened in 1973, Smoothie King Franchises Inc. was the original smoothie brand.
In 2001, Wan Kim had this same urge to find a healthy option to quench his thirst and satisfy his hunger. He had his first experience with a Smoothie King smoothie while studying at University of California at Irvine. The high quality, healthy product had him hooked immediately.
Kim was so impacted by the product that he became a Smoothie King franchisee in South Korea. Since 2003 he has owned several Smoothie King franchises, and in 2012 when the opportunity came about to own the brand, he jumped at the chance.
“I bought the company in July 2012,” says Kim, Global CEO. “I really love this brand. It’s not because I’m the owner, but because we have great products. There are a lot of changes still happening, but it’s exciting.”
Smoothie King, a 300-employee, more than $230 million organization, is now 40 years old. The brand has more than 700 stores and a presence in the United States, Korea and Singapore. Despite the company’s established age and fairly big size, a new owner and plenty of potential market opportunity leave the brand in growth mode today.
“Our next five-year growth plan is to open 1,000 stores in the U.S. and 500 outside the U.S.,” Kim says. “Last year the company did about 26 franchise openings. This year in the first quarter the company has done 40 to 45 signings.”
Kim’s experience as a franchisee and now a franchisor has given the company new life and Kim is excited about where he can bring the brand and its smoothies in the near future.
Here’s how Kim is spreading the word about Smoothie King in the U.S. and overseas.
Understand all areas of your business
Kim was a franchisee for nearly a decade in South Korea. His stores were some of the highest grossing for Smoothie King before he became CEO.
“Obviously franchisees and franchisors have some different views, but eventually the bottom line is to make a better brand,” Kim says. “The path they take can be different, so you have to keep communicating to each other and look at the bigger picture.”
Kim has a very unique advantage over numerous other franchise CEOs. He now has experience as a franchisee and a franchisor.
“I have both aspects and know what a franchise wants and needs, and I know how I need to communicate,” he says. “In any kind of business, sometimes people forget why we do it. So that’s why I keep communicating and keep telling our people why we do this business. We have a great mission and a great vision. We just have to talk about it.
“A lot of people want to make money and be comfortable and I get that and that’s very, very important, but there has to be another reason why we do this. Smoothie King is a healthy choice and our mission is to help people live a better lifestyle.”
While the company’s mission is to help people live a healthier lifestyle, Kim wanted to make sure that the company’s franchises were in good health also.
“As soon as I bought the company I looked at how many single franchisees we have, because when I was a franchisee I thought becoming a multi-unit franchisee was actually very challenging,” he says. “As a franchisor, they don’t understand what kind of challenges franchisees have when they have a second or third location.
“I started to visit some multi-unit franchisees that we have to look at what kind of system they have in place. Today, we are assembling all those systems so that whenever we have a single franchisee try to become a multi-unit franchisee we have some system to help them grow.”
Having those systems in place will become very beneficial as Kim continues to look at ways he can expand the brand.
“Right now we are in growth mode and are opening a lot of stores and also expanding into other countries,” Kim says. “When you grow, you are hiring a lot of people and when you’re expanding outside the United States you encounter different cultures. In order for me to assemble all those differences I need a really strong mission for why we do this business so that it doesn’t matter what kind of culture or background you’re from.”
Prepare for growth mode
Today, Kim is focused on growing the Smoothie King brand outside the U.S. and in the Southern parts of the U.S. where the company has a strong presence, but a lot of potential still remains.
“We want to make sure that we secure our market before we expand to a different part of the U.S.,” Kim says. “That expansion is happening in Florida, Texas, Georgia and other southern parts of the U.S. Going outside the United States we are looking at Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan and the Middle East. Our goal is to open two markets this year and two more markets next year.”
Fast-paced growth like Smoothie King is expecting requires a strong culture and mission that make the company attractive anywhere it goes.
“When you are in growth mode I would advise that you want to have a really strong culture in your organization, so that whomever you hire can be blended into your culture,” he says. “You have to set up a strong mission, vision and keep communicating with your employees.”
When you take your company outside of the United States you will experience a lot of cultural difference, and you have to be prepared for it.
“A lot of times when people don’t have any experience with different cultures they will think it’s wrong, but in fact it’s different,” Kim says. “In order for you to go to other countries and do business you have to learn how to respect their culture. If you don’t respect their culture they will know immediately. You have to educate your employees.”
The vast cultural differences Smoothie King employees will experience as the brand continues to expand isn’t the only change they’ll have to accept, they’ll also have to buy into the sheer amount of growth that Kim sees in the company’s future.
“A lot of times when companies grow employees don’t really see how far we can go,” he says. “When we start to grow there is a lot of work coming in and a lot of things are changing. It is very important that I need to keep communicating with employees that we can get there, because if you don’t believe we can get there, then it’s not going to happen.”
One of the first things Kim did when he bought the company was to tell the employees about the growth plan and a lot of people didn’t buy in.
“They were thinking, ‘Oh, it’s a new owner; of course he’s going to be thinking of growth, but it’s not possible,’” he says. “So I had to keep communicating that it’s going to happen and one by one, I started to show them that this would happen and then it really happened and people believed in the plan. I know there are still people who don’t believe where we can go, so I still have to communicate.”
Kim bought the company a little more than a year ago and he is having a blast seeing the company succeed little by little.
“I tell my employees to imagine if we were the size of any big fast food company, the world could be a different place,” he says. “It’s not just about making money and having success. It’s also about influencing more and more people to live a healthier lifestyle.”
How to reach: Smoothie King Franchises Inc., (985) 635-6973 or www.smoothieking.com
Recently, I had the privilege of attending the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year conference in Monte Carlo. I’m back to report that entrepreneurship is alive and thriving around the globe!
It was a whirlwind of a trip, packed with networking, thought-provoking panel discussions and personal interviews. We heard from a remarkable panel of speakers including Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize recipient; Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web; John Cleese, award-winning actor, author, humorist and Monty Python legend; and many more.
I also had the opportunity to sit down with some of the world’s most accomplished entrepreneurs. These business leaders come from more than 60 countries that combined represent a staggering 94 percent of the global economy.
In this issue and in the months to come, you’ll learn what the world’s greatest entrepreneurs have to say about leadership, innovation, overcoming challenges, bringing their visions to life and much, much more. You’ll also hear from the leadership at EY as to the importance of celebrating entrepreneurship.
Transforming vision into reality
“Be careful about making assumptions. Those assumptions can lead you down a pretty dangerous path. It is OK to make assumptions and have confidence but you had better do your due diligence as well. An assumption is having those critical for the business make sure it is happening. I am very trusting of people and in the past have had some unfortunate instances where I did make assumptions about something and they were completely the wrong assumptions.”
Dr. Alan Ulsifer, CEO, president and chair of FYidoctors
“Growth obviously continues to be a challenge. The markets demand growth if you are a publicly traded company, and growth is a metric of how the business is doing. If you want to continue to attract the best people, attract the right sources of capital to your business, you have to demonstrate that things are going well and growth is one measure that people look to. I think that if you are a business in an established market, growth can be a challenge because those markets by and large are growing more slowly. So in order to get more rapid growth, many companies are looking at emerging markets and trying to figure out what their strategy should be for emerging markets, those that have double-digit growth potential.”
Bryan Pearce, Americas Director, Entrepreneur Of The Year and Venture Capital Advisory Group EY
“One of the toughest things for me was that people have a certain image of my country, Colombia. They don’t trust a company there to have good quality and do good work, but I am very proud to offer those qualities from Colombia. It is not easy but it is something that you can accomplish. I have been down a lot of times, but the good thing I have noticed is that every time something like that happened, I have been able to obtain positive things out of it. I have been broke multiple times, but from being broke I have been able to learn from it and rebuild.
Mario Hernandez, founder and president, Mario Hernandez
Jim Turley leaves his post as Global Chairman and CEO for EY with deep admiration for the entrepreneurs who continue to use their vision and spirit of innovation to change the world.
“They have got this wonderful ability to think outside themselves, to look at the world outside these windows and see the needs that exist out there,” says Turley, who officially retired on July 1.
“Then they’ve got a vision to create a product or service or an idea to meet the need they have seen. They have got the courage to risk everything and they are as persistent as can be. Most of them fail the first time out. But they get up, clean themselves off and do it again.”
“Work carefully with a few people who get a twinkle in their eye. If you talk about your idea, some people will respond with excitement because they get it, but not everybody. Maybe you talk to 300 people and three people will get it. Work with those three people. The web took off because a few people all over the world got it. You get the support from a few people who get it and then it builds from there.”
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web
Corey Shapoff has a job that many would envy, booking well-known musical acts such as Maroon 5, Katy Perry, Christina Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson for live concerts and private corporate events. But he doesn’t take much time to stop and think about all the famous people on his call list.
“I’m a grinder,” says Shapoff, president and founder of SME Entertainment Group. “I’m the kind of guy who is always looking to what’s next. You’re only as good to me as your last deal.”
It’s that instinctual drive to always try to do it better that is embedded in the true entrepreneur and allows the next vision to become a reality.
“It’s hard for me to turn it off and say, ‘That’s great,’” Shapoff says. “I’m always thinking about tomorrow. You just can’t take things for granted in our business.”
“The skill sets of an entrepreneur involve understanding how to create business. So if you’re going to give back, why not work with kids who need it the most and actually teach them and help them to be entrepreneurs. That’s what is going to grow our economy and create stability where otherwise we’re going to have a lot of social unrest.”
Amy Rosen, president and CEO, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship
“When you’re an entrepreneur you feel like you have never met a deal that you didn’t like. You only have limited resources and limited time to be successful. You have to stay disciplined and focused and being able to say what we are not is every bit as important as being able to say what we are.”
Jim Davis, president, Chevron Energy Solutions
“It’s important that you have teamwork and all your top players are well motivated with passion, principles and values. We make sure that people know where we are going and what our main objective is for that year. We promote teamwork inside and outside the company. Our directors have to make sure they are sharing our company values and principles with each of their team members.”
Lorenzo Barrera Segovia, founder and CEO, Banco Base
“For entrepreneurs you get a great idea, you start your business and then you have to keep focused. Keep executing that idea if that idea is big enough. Never fall into the temptation of getting out of your business or change it unless it’s strategic. Secondly, try to get financing as late as you can. Never get financing as soon as you can. Thirdly, create a great team and culture, because that’s what will prevail and create value for shareholders and your community. That’s how you scale your business. The last one is to dream big.”
Martin Migoya, CEO, Globant
“It was nothing but a gut feeling. The only thing I knew was there was a big opportunity in yogurt. I grew up with yogurt. Being from Turkey yogurt was a big part of our diet. I wasn’t sure if I could do it – break through in the world of yogurt in retail.
The category was owned by two major companies; Dannon and Yopliat owned about 70 percent of the market, and they had been there for years. As a startup you go to the specialty stores first. That’s how you start and you grow and once you reach a certain level then you go to the big retailers.
I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to go to the big retailers and be in the regular dairy aisle. That was a crazy idea and nobody thought that would go, but at least we tried. When we tried, we convinced one retailer in New York, ShopRite. The result from that was we were able to expand to a couple of other retailers. After the second or third customer that we had success with for our yogurt, I knew it wasn’t going to be about selling, it was about making enough.”
Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, president and CEO, Chobani Inc.
One of my favorite business books, which also made it as a Broadway play and a big-screen movie, is “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” written by L. Frank Baum in 1900. My hero in this story is not the young orphaned Dorothy, nor the Cowardly Lion, the desperately in-need-of-some WD-40 Tin Man, nor even the Scarecrow in search of a brain.
Instead it is the Wizard. To understand why the dubious Wizard is my favorite character, one must get past the portrayal of him as scheming, phony and at times nasty.
To appreciate the man behind the curtain, recognize that he is a very effective presenter, though at times this ex-circus performer behaved a bit threatening. OK, he was a jerk, but the point of this column is to take you down the yellow brick road on the way to the enchanted Emerald City and corporate success.
From this tale there is a lesson that one can say all sorts of things, not be visible, and yet still have a meaningful impact.
Another takeaway is that playing this role provides plausible deniability. This absence of visual recognition is particularly beneficial in negotiating when you, as the boss, use a vicar, aka a mouthpiece, to speak on your behalf. This allows you to have things said to others that you as the head honcho could never utter without backing yourself into a corner.
Another plus is you can always throw your mouthpiece under the bus if necessary, of course, with his or her upfront understanding that sometimes there must be a sacrificial lamb. This is not only character-building for your stand-in, but also many times presents an unprecedented opportunity for him or her to learn in real time.
Perhaps the Wizard was the first behind-the-curtain decision-maker, but today this role is used frequently in business and government. In a similar vein, the “voice” of Charlie from the well-known 1970s TV series “Charlie’s Angels” was always heard, but he was never seen.
Frequently there is much to be said for using anonymity to float a trial balloon just to get a reaction. Think about a son having his mom test the waters by talking to dad before the son tells him he wants to drop out of junior high school to join the circus. Maybe that’s even how our former circus-drifter-turned-Wizard-of-Oz got his start.
In the negotiating process it is important to have a fallback when the talks hit a rough patch by instructing your vicar to backpedal, saying that he or she has just talked to the chief and the benevolent boss said, “I was overreaching with my request.”
This also serves to build a persona for the boss-behind-the-curtain as someone who is fair-minded and flexible. All the while, of course, it’s the boss who is calling the shots and maneuvering through the process without getting his or her hands dirty.
The value of using this clean-hands technique is that it enables the real decision-maker to come in as the closer who projects the voice of reason, instead of the overeager hard charger who at times seems to have gone rogue.
It actually takes a bigger person to play a secondary role behind the curtain rather than always be in the limelight. It also takes a hands-on coach and counselor to maneuver a protégé through the minefields to achieve the objective.
However, accomplishing the difficult tasks through others is true management and the No. 1 job of a leader who must be a master teacher.
After you have guided a handful of up-and-comers a few times through thorny negotiations, you will gain much more satisfaction than if you had done it yourself, while engendering the respect and gratitude of your pupils. They in turn will have learned by doing, even though they were not really steering the ship alone.
The final step is to let the subordinate take credit for getting the big job done. This will also elevate you to rock star status, at least in his or her eyes. Soon those who you’ve taught will emerge as teachers too, and the big benefit is that you will populate your organization with a stellar team of doers, not just watchers.
So, forget about the Wicked Witch of the West and move backstage for the greater good of the organization.
A few years ago, one of my friends embarked on what he deemed an ambitious, yet simple plan: Write a New York Times Best Seller.
“Ed” had reason to be optimistic: His first two books had sold well and he had successfully leveraged them to launch a burgeoning consulting practice. Ed also had a nationally known book publisher to handle distribution for this book, and he had developed a comprehensive marketing and promotions plan for the launch.
Ed felt all the pieces were in place and was sure he would succeed. His goals were two-fold: break out from the pack and grow his business, and hit the New York Times Best Seller’s list. While his head told him the first goal was more realistic, his heart was set on the second — publicly claiming it was his only true benchmark of success.
Needless to say, Ed’s book didn’t make the list. Few books do. That doesn’t mean Ed’s book was a failure. Quite the contrary, it was a huge success.
As a result of Ed’s book, he landed numerous speaking engagements with organizations and companies around the world. He began to command four- and five-figure speaking fees from those engagements, and his book was purchased and distributed to every attendee.
Further, Ed’s speaking engagements lead to dozens of private companies hiring him to provide one- and two-day seminars, where he taught executive teams how to implement the ideas he espoused in the book. Ed was also presented with numerous business opportunities for new and existing clients to tackle initiatives beyond the book’s subject matter that he had not previously considered but were related to his expertise.
Finally, Ed did sell thousands upon thousands of copies of his book in bookstores nationwide and online through booksellers like Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. His book was in the hands of the right people — and lots of them — and he had established a national profile.
Viewed through this lens, there is little doubt that Ed’s book was wildly successful — even if it wasn’t a New York Times Best Seller and even if it didn’t stack up to his primary benchmark.
This is the reality of book publishing. Each month, I speak with dozens of entrepreneurs and CEOs about their nascent book ideas and the possibility of having Smart Business Books handle development and publication of their stories and manuscripts. I begin every conversation the exact same way: “If your goal is to have a New York Times Best Seller, we’re not the right option for you.”
That’s because you should write books for the right reasons. If your only goal is getting on a best-seller’s list, then your ambitions are off the mark. Writing and publishing a book is not like a professional sports team’s season — there isn’t one winner who takes the championship and a bunch of losers who fall short. Publishing a book is not an all-or-nothing proposition.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t aim high with your goals, and having your book become a best-seller is certainly one way to measure success. Setting reasonable expectations, however, is essential.
So why write a book?
One of the most important questions you should be able to answer when thinking about writing a book is, “Who is going to read it and why?”
As Ed’s story demonstrates, a book is a very useful business development tool. It is an immediate conversation starter, an excellent credibility builder and one heck of a leave-behind. If you’re engaged in marketing, why not capture your expertise through a book?
Another reason is to celebrate a milestone or establish a legacy piece. It could be for a 50th or 100th anniversary, or to recognize the history of an organization upon the founder’s retirement or death.
And, if you are interested in helping others succeed, a book is a great way to share your expertise or what makes you and your organization special. For example, if you’ve built an amazing corporate culture where productivity blossoms and innovation flourishes, the “how” and “why” are good subjects for a book. And if you’ve been involved with several mergers and acquisitions, consider sharing what worked and what didn’t, and the lessons learned along the way.
Whatever your story, the key is having a reason to share it with others. The bottom line: It’s your story. Make it count.
"On Point" by Patrick Hiller
For the second year in a row, Abacus Solutions has won a workplace award, and I’d like to tell you that it was the result of a very detailed plan — but it wasn’t. It started with a simple premise of respect and teamwork. Along the way, we learned specific behaviors that attract and keep talent.
Our efforts to create a great place to work have been paid back many times over in employee and client loyalty, as well as in profits. Here are specific ways your efforts to improve workplace culture bring a return on your investment.
When employees feel respected and enjoy coming to work, productivity rises. If you foster a culture of teamwork, then people are less likely to be worrying about competitive advantage over each other and more likely to be focused on advantage over competitors.
This directly impacts the bottom line because you are not adding more people to the payroll to drive business. Teamwork gets the job done with less personnel and better results.
Creating a safe space where employees are free to try out new ideas and then get honest and respectful feedback about them means you are getting the best out of your in-house brain trust.
Discouragement and a dismissive attitude breed passivity. Respect and encouragement breed innovation. With a global marketplace competing for business, you want to be the company with the best ideas.
Retention and new talent
We’ve all worked jobs in our career where we had to deal with a nasty manager or co-worker. Employees know that when they find a supportive place to work it elevates their everyday lifestyle.
We have very little turnover at our company and rarely lose a team member to competitors. Part of this is being very selective of whom we bring onboard.
Retention is also about paying people what they are worth. We look at the going rate for positions and reward talent and extra effort financially. And, when you have a great workplace culture, it also makes it easier to attract the best talent for new positions. Word gets around.
So now we get to the client-facing side of where workplace culture meets bottom line. At Abacus Solutions, we help customers leverage IT to solve business problems with managed solutions and infrastructure improvements. This is where our high employee retention rate is such a bonus. Clients genuinely fear having to deal with a changing roster of support.
High retention lets us give them what they want — a stable resource that knows their business inside and out. In-house retention translates into client retention.
Here is another way workplace culture helps us meet client needs: personal initiative. By empowering employees to make decisions and paying them well for their work, clients get the best of our team without multiple layers of accountability.
Every week we get an email from a client about someone on our engineering team who went the extra mile to solve an issue.
As CEOs, we are responsible for looking at the big picture and making sure the company continues to grow and evolve in the right direction. It’s hard to do that if we are intimately involved in every detail.
I can tell you that it feels great to know that I am not needed on a daily basis. I can focus on adding clients and growing partnerships. The proof for us that this kind of workplace culture brings meaningful ROI is the growth in revenue and profitability we’ve enjoyed every year we have been in operation.
Patrick Hiller is the CEO of Abacus Solutions, an IT solutions provider in Atlanta, Ga., specializing in vendor neutral solutions that help companies manage IT to protect and grow core business. Contact him at www.abacussolutions.com
"Business Philosophy" By Robert Castles
In business, the customer is always right — true or false? Well, it’s not always that clear cut. Sometimes the customer knows what he wants to achieve, but fails to share that business knowledge with you. This insight gap can prevent you from delivering a relevant product that meets his needs.
This type of situation, unfortunately, happens quite often, especially for software companies like PMG. Often our customers request a certain product that may not be the optimal solution for what they are really trying to accomplish. Our philosophy is putting our customer’s business needs first, rather than leading with our technology solution.
“Business First, Technology Second” has proven to be the winning ticket for both our customers and our business. At first glance, letting non-technical customers define our technology road map may seem counterintuitive, but it has enabled PMG to grow and thrive, even through the recent economic downturn.
Get in step with your customer
Not understanding the business issue behind the product request can lead to long development cycles, changes in direction, delays, and a possible solution that doesn’t quite meet customer expectations — leaving both parties frustrated.
Before embarking on developing the solution, you must first define the problem in business terms. The key is to engage customers to understand the underlying business issue. The information uncovered will help you deliver a more relevant solution and ultimately more value, which results in a satisfied customer. And satisfied customers lead to more business with additional referrals.
Walking the talk
At PMG, we walk the talk. Last year, a major customer was insistent that we offer a native iPhone app for our service catalog solution. The customer wanted the app so that users could request items from the field. This was a major developmental undertaking that was not currently slated on our short-term technology road map.
In time, we discovered the real business issue was the significant delay in the approval process when executives and managers were away from the office, without access to the catalog. So the actual need was not the ability to submit requests from a mobile device, but to approve them.
This information dramatically narrowed the scope of the project, allowing us to almost immediately deliver a more relevant solution. Now executives are able to process approvals on their mobile devices, driving down the request processing time, which was the major issue from the beginning.
Had we proceeded to develop the solution that was originally requested, it would have taken much longer to deliver and cost more. Additionally, the solution would have been much more complex, which would have risked low user adoption altogether.
Crawl before you walk. Then run with it.
Investing the time and energy to form a true partnership with your customer will ensure success for both parties. Too often our customers are in a hurry to get a project completed. As a result, they skip steps and move ahead too quickly, instead of taking the time to have additional conversations to ensure that you fully understand the nature of their business and the scope of the issue at hand.
Taking the time to help your customer assess intended goals is critical to achieving success. But, even more important, is to ensure that the goal is tied to a business outcome. Unless decisions are made in the context of driving a business outcome, you may spend a lot of time deploying a solution that does not provide substantial value.
Robert Castles is principal of PMG, a provider of enterprise service catalog and business process automation software. Reach him with your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or (770) 837-2301.
Marcia Taylor isn’t your run of the mill CEO. She’s a soft-spoken matriarch, who transformed Bennett International Group, LLC, from a small, five-truck contract carrier into a $266 million logistics and freight services powerhouse.
Taylor attributes her early success to fostering a family-oriented culture and deliberately sidestepping head-to-head battles with conventional competitors.
“We grew organically by adding services to meet the unique needs of our customers,” Taylor says. “We were positioned outside the mainstream, so we were used to competing against just four to five firms.”
Riding the coattails of customers helped the company expand beyond long haul trucking into lucrative new segments like warehousing, logistics and vehicle transport.
Over time, Bennett International built a stable of disparate companies and service lines with random reporting lines, while earning a reputation for being one of Atlanta’s best employers. In fact, the company has been recognized as one of the top workplaces in the area by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
But the Great Recession illuminated the shortcomings of Bennett International’s unorthodox structure as domestic revenues sagged and the management team struggled to win new contracts, especially in burgeoning international and government segments.
“I think we became a bit complacent before the recession because things were going well and we were making money,” Taylor says. “In hindsight, I can see that we weren’t as efficient as we needed to be and our management structure prevented us from offering clients bundled services or a single point of contact, which were essential to winning bids and new contracts.”
Realigning a family-owned company is never easy. Here’s how Taylor got Bennett International back on track without sacrificing key staff or its family-oriented culture.
Prioritize people over profits
Taylor wanted to avoid draconian staff cuts and the potential loss of institutional knowledge that could impede Bennett International’s ability to rebound when the economy improved. Plus, she didn’t want to violate the trust of long-term employees or tarnish the firm’s vaunted employment brand, so she reduced ancillary expenses, watched cash flow like a hawk, and asked everyone to make small sacrifices.
“I’ve always believed that if you treat people right and give customers great service, the profits will come,” Taylor says. “Our goal was to come out of the recession in a better place and we achieved our mission because our employees were willing to pitch in which helped us avoid massive layoffs.”
Taylor asked employees to take off one day per month without pay, while the management team worked on reorganization and hunted for new sources of revenue. The camaraderie was so strong, that financially secure employees helped out their cash-strapped co-workers by volunteering to take off additional days without pay.
“Our employees supported our long-term strategy because we didn’t make hasty decisions and kept them in the loop throughout the realignment process,” Taylor says. “CEOs can reduce fear during times of crisis by being candid about their motives, prioritizing the needs of their customers and employees, and avoiding cuts that might hinder growth and profits down the road.”
So far, it seems that Taylor’s penchant for delayed profit gratification is paying off. Bennett International is projecting revenues of $275 million in 2013 and Taylor says the organization can sustain 20 percent annual growth for the foreseeable future without increasing overhead thanks to its increased efficiencies.
Exploit synergistic opportunities
Given her intimate knowledge of logistics, it’s not surprising that Taylor took a methodical approach to Bennett International’s realignment initiative. Her management team pinpointed the needs of current and prospective clients and redefined the firm’s core services, while looking for ways to streamline and consolidate its vast slate of offerings.
They also looked for ways to extend their capabilities by leveraging the firm’s prized fleet of owner-operator truckers, who have primary relationships with Bennett International and a vested interest in the company’s success. In turn, Taylor earns the loyalty of owner-operators by treating them like family, which is smart, given the current and projected shortage of transportation professionals.
“We looked for synergistic opportunities to combine several services under a single umbrella and leverage our existing assets and owner-operators so we could up sell current customers and attract new clients by offering them a package of services,” Taylor says. “Second, we wanted to be more efficient by leveraging our existing technology and consolidating back office tasks without inconveniencing our existing clients.”
The goals served as the linchpin for the reorganization initiative and a rallying point when the team disagreed or veered off course. In the end, they were able to segue from a company with a host of competing fiefdoms into an integrated firm with several divisions. Plus, realignment created opportunities to consolidate billing and accounting systems and eliminate redundant processes that increased overhead while adding little value.
For example, the team created an international logistics division by bundling project cargo, cold chain and other services that had been housed under different entities giving the firm expanded capabilities in full spectrum logistics planning and support. They also created Bennett International Transport and Bennett Distribution Services to enable rapid expansion into key segments of the international marketplace.
Early realignment efforts spawned new contracts from clients with international needs and the U.S. General Services Administration, and validated the efficacy of the team’s strategy.
While some CEOs might hammer out a major reorganization plan in a few hours or days, Taylor’s team worked on the initial blueprint for nearly six months.
They often argued behind closed doors but eventually reached consensus by listening to each other and staying true to their goals and the company’s values.
“I think it’s healthy to disagree but you need ground rules so the discussion is respectful and fruitful,” Taylor says. “We’d take a break when we reached an impasse. I’ve always thought that sleeping on a problem is a great way to break a stalemate.”
Match the right people to the right jobs
Once the new divisions were created, Taylor faced the difficult task of realigning the company’s senior management team with its new structure. Taylor took stock of each person’s strengths and performance before asking them to take on new roles. The fact that the senior management team includes outsiders and her two sons added to the complexity of her mission.
“I believe in putting people into roles that give them an opportunity to grow and maximize their strengths and talents,” Taylor says. “The decision to realign employees is difficult, but it gets easier if you put them into positions where they have the best chance to succeed.”
Taylor referenced the needs of clients and the company’s history of exceptional customer service to bolster support for her management realignment strategy. She’s an advocate of values-based decision making and says that her business decisions support the company’s mission and core values. She also uses data to make tough calls but says executives make the best decisions by balancing data with intangible factors and thinking about what’s fair.
“I think if you have a lot of passion for your ideas and convey a clear vision people will accept change,” Taylor says. “It may take time, but if the logic is there and your decisions don’t conflict with your values, people will eventually come around to your way of thinking.”
Taylor takes her time when making difficult decisions but defends her sluggishness by saying that she’d rather be slow and accurate then have regrets, especially when her decisions directly impact the financial health of the company and its nationwide team of more than 3,000 contractors, agents and employees.
While Taylor acknowledges that she and her children don’t always see eye to eye, she says they’ve found success as a family-operated company by fostering open communications and supporting each other through thick and thin.
“We’ve learned some valuable lessons from this experience, and we don’t plan to repeat our mistakes,” Taylor says. “By leveraging our excellent reputation, repositioning for growth, and remaining true to our customers and what we do best, I believe our company and our extended family will continue to do well for the foreseeable future.”
How to reach: Bennett International Group, LLC, (800)866-5500 or www.bennettig.com
The Taylor File
Name: Marcia G. Taylor
Company: Bennett International Group, LLC
Birthplace: Clifford, Ill.
Education: High school graduate
What was your very first job? I was an apprentice pharmacist in a small, solely-owned compounding pharmacy in Mt. Vernon, Ill. There were only four of us on the staff so I learned the benefits a family-oriented culture at an early age. The pharmacist would extend credit to customers who couldn’t afford their medications so I also learned the importance of ethics and the value of prioritizing people over profits. Profit is important but it’s not the primary goal. If you treat people right and give them great service, you’ll have loyal customers, plenty of referrals and profits will follow.
Who do you admire most and why? I admire Margaret Thatcher for sticking to her guns when she felt something was right. Although our styles differ, I appreciate the way she went about things. She was a tough lady who accomplished a great deal because she wasn’t afraid to take a stand and voice her opinion on difficult issues.
What is your definition of business success? When your employees and customers are happy you greatly increase your chances of success. Set high standards, focus on being the best instead of the biggest, and success will follow.
What was the best business advice you ever received? Don’t rush to judgment or make rash decisions. Step back and think things through. And when you’re facing a tough decision, rely on integrity as well as facts and think about what’s fair. I’ve found that by practicing values-based decision making, I make the right call most of the time. Plus,it’s hard to undo the damage when a leader makes unethical choices.
What’s the secret to working with family?
Set ground rules and then hash things out behind closed doors. Always speak with a unified voice when addressing the staff and don’t take things personally. Businesses come and go but you can’t replace family.
- Garner support for your reorganization plan by prioritizing people over profits
- Create operating efficiencies and new revenue streams by exploiting synergistic opportunities
- Execute your plan by matching the right people to the right jobs
How Belk’s Dave Penrod is leading 6,000 employees through non-stop change as the nation’s largest privately-owned retailer undergoes a renaissance at age 125Written by Leslie Stevens-Huffman
Dave Penrod and his management team at Belk had an order as tall as a homemade lemonade: change the company manta from “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” to “Modern. Southern. Style.”
“Our customers viewed us as old fashioned and one-dimensional, so we decided that it was time to modernize our approach to the business while retaining our traditional Southern values,” says Penrod, who oversees 100 stores in the heart of the South — Georgia, Florida, Alabama and South Carolina as chairman of Belk’s Southern Division.
Belk has had just three CEOs since its founding in 1888 — that is until 2010, when the heretofore low-key department store chain launched a makeover with the goal of reaching annual revenues of $6 billion within five years.
Historically, Belk has catered to shoppers who patronize its 301 brick and mortar stores located in small- to mid-size cities throughout the Southern U.S. But recently, it’s been ceding sales to savvy city slickers like Macy’s and Nordstrom, who use the Internet and mobile apps to infiltrate rural markets. Admittedly, the company has fallen behind in the e-commerce and social media arena, and many of its stores could use a facelift.
The company wants to leverage its strength, which is appealing to the tastes, culture and buying habits of Southern shoppers, while improving in lagging areas.
To that end, management adopted a new logo and the new tagline. The company is investing $270 million in store improvements, $210 million in information technology, $53 million in e-commerce and $4.5 million for a new e-commerce fulfillment center in Jonesville, S.C.
Penrod is charged with implementing the company’s strategic plan in his division, and as every executive knows, change is difficult — especially for tenured employees. In fact, a survey of 3,199 global executives by consulting giant McKinsey found that only one change transformation in three succeeds. Here is Penrod’s approach to instilling change and yet keeping Southern values at Belk.
Penrod is creating line-of-sight between the company’s objectives and his employees’ daily activities as part of his plan to achieve long-term structural and cultural transformation. Now, workers can see how going the extra mile to satisfy a customer can propel Belk’s sales and profits.
“The way we communicate our brand to consumers is by being friendly and hospitable because that reflects traditional Southern values,” he says. “We need to go out of our way to smile and greet shoppers the minute they enter the store so they experience our Southern hospitality.”
And since employees often need a compelling story to change their behaviors, Penrod is using a structured communications program to breathe life into Belk’s new brand and encourage his team’s evolution.
Employees in Penrod’s division review results from the day before and set daily goals during a 10-minute morning huddle with their manager. The short sessions reinforce change and build mindshare toward the company’s strategy.
“You can’t broadcast a list of goals and think that everyone gets it,” Penrod says. “You need frequent reminders to create a shared vision and buy-in for your strategy.”
He’s also increasing his team’s chances of success by building their skills and capabilities.
After only 75 percent of customers said they were satisfied with their shopping experience in a recent survey, Belk launched a new customer service training program for its 23,000 associates. But Penrod took training and development to the next level in his division, by launching a formal succession planning regimen and development program for high-potential employees.
The program boosts morale and productivity by giving employees a career path and improves retention by providing new hires with the necessary skills to execute Belk’s strategic plan. Plus, promoting from within helps preserve the company’s unique Southern culture.
Finally, Penrod’s fostering accountability and continuous improvement through the introduction of monthly performance reviews. Employees receive feedback and share ideas during one-on-one sessions with their area manager. Although the sessions take a fair amount of time, Penrod says they’re jumpstarting productivity and fostering innovation.
Since every employee looks at organizational change from the stand point of how he or she will be personally affected and self-preservation can take precedent, Penrod is allaying their concerns by offering them knowledge and opportunities.
“Failing to invest in your people is shortsighted because they drive customer satisfaction,” he says. “We came out of the recession with a renewed commitment to development and innovation and now, it’s paying off.”
Support your local community
Belk plans to continue it’s commitment of giving 2.5 percent of annual pretax income back to the communities it serves and for good reason. The $19 million in donated last year not only exhibits Southern values it distinguishes Belk from impersonal e-tailers.
Plus, employees can spread the company’s “Southern State of Mind” philosophy while rubbing elbows with members of the community as they paint classrooms, build bookcases, beautify school grounds and install educational murals as part of the company’s 125th birthday celebration.
“We call ourselves community partners but what does that mean?” Penrod says. “It’s the way we support local education and healthcare, but it’s also the way we treat our customers and our associates.”
For example, Belk had just acquired the Proffitt's and McRae's chain from Saks Fifth Avenue in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit Biloxi, Miss. Penrod says the company could have taken the insurance money and closed the store, but instead, they raised $1 million for local employees and continued to pay them until they got back on their feet.
CEO Tim Belk called the company’s decision to stay in Biloxi a defining moment as other companies abandoned the devastated region.
“Unlike other companies, we don’t measure the return from our donations, we do it because we believe that supporting the communities we serve is the right thing to do,” Penrod says. “Community support exemplifies our Southern culture and values, it’s an intangible asset that can’ be measured.”
Cater to customers
Belk store sizes are tailored toward the needs of the local markets they serve. Stores range in size from 40,000 to 300,000 square feet of space, with an average size of approximately 92,000 square feet.
While management is introducing new lines of private label fashions by designer Cynthia Rowley and Carolina Panthers quarterback, Cam Newton, the merchandise selection in each store addresses the preferences of local customers.
Customized merchandizing is one reason why Belk is surpassing the competition in a key measurement for brick and mortar retailers. The 11 retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters posted just 1.1 percent growth at stores open more than a year in March. In contrast, Belk has had 12 consecutive quarters of comparable store sales growth and its comparable sales growth rate for fiscal 2013 was 6.3 percent.
“We use demographics like income, age and population size to adjust the assortment of merchandise in each store,” Penrod says. “But we refine that data based on our knowledge of the local community and by listening to our customers. Our growth in same store sales reflects our connection to the community”
For instance, the stores in South Florida offer a slightly different selection of merchandise when the snow birds arrive from Northern states. And some stores extend Southern hospitality to local shoppers by hosting evening parties that include refreshments, a fashion show and music by a local disc jockey.
Like many companies, Belk uses formal pulse surveys to gauge overall customer satisfaction. But customers can weigh-in at any time by completing an online survey or “Tell Us What You Think” card, and their feedback serves as a call to action for executives like Penrod.
“We adhere to something called the sunset rule,” he says. “When a customer expresses a concern, it’s referred to an executive and must be resolved by the end of that business day.”
But Belk’s management team doesn’t stop there; they use customer feedback to review underlying business practices and initiate adjustments to faulty policies and procedures.
For instance, the company is committed to giving shoppers the seamless omnichannel experience they crave, that reaches across stores, belk.com, mobile devices and social media.
It wasn’t until 2008 that Belk’s online offerings expanded beyond home goods and wedding registries to include clothing and other merchandise. Furthermore, the company estimates that only about 25 percent of online sales come from outside Belk’s sixteen-state footprint and customers can’t order a product online and pick it up in a local store — at least not yet.
The initial phase of improvements includes a new systems platform and functionality enhancements to make shopping online at belk.com easier and it’s developing a mobile app so customers can shop on-the-go from their favorite device.
Employees are charged with promoting the company’s improved website since multichannel shoppers spent 15 percent to 30 percent more than those who visit brick and mortar stores according to surveys by IDC’s Global Retail Insights research unit.
Although the firm didn’t embrace the social media craze until 2010 it now has a blog, a solid presence on Twitter and 789,988 “likes” on Facebook.
While net sales for the 53-week period ended Feb. 2, 2013 increased 7 percent to $3.96 billion, the company is banking on the growth of Internet sales and it’s Southern charm to reach $6 billion by 2015.
“When I visit our stores with members of the Belk family and talk to customers and associates, I get a true sense of what Southern means,” says Penrod. “As a guy who’s originally from Michigan, I’ve learned a whole lot about Southern style and hospitality.”
The Penrod File
Name: Dave Penrod
Title: Chairman, Southern Division
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business management, Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.
What was your very first job? I was a caddy at a local golf course, where I learned a lot about human nature. Golf is a game where honesty, integrity and sportsmanship are paramount because it’s not monitored by referees, so it’s easy to cheat. I observed that some people are inherently honest and some people aren’t. What I learned as a caddy prepared me for life as well as my career.
Who do you admire most and why? I admire politicians like Hillary Clinton and John McCain because they’re truly business people who have to build consensus and balance disparate points of view to get anything done. It’s not easy to do that and I admire anyone who can overcome tremendous obstacles, relentlessly pursue a resolution and foster a spirit of collaboration.
What is your definition of business success? Sales and profits are important but you can’t achieve them by yourself. Your success as a manager hinges on the growth and development of your people. When they flourish and grow, the financial metrics take care of themselves.
What are the keys to leading organizational change? You’ll get some connectivity at a high level, but to truly inspire change, you need to take your message down to the individual level. Give your employees the opportunity to shape the direction of the organization by sharing feedback, especially from customers. Some folks won’t agree with your plan but most of them will engage if you employ a regimented communications strategy that is supported by performance management, training and career development.
Nothing builds and sustains credibility better for a business professional than when he or she can lead by example.Whether you take the time to chat with new colleagues before a meeting, help out with a difficult project, or are the first to ask the hard questions, you alone are responsible for setting standards and expectations.
As a father, husband and business intermediary, people count on me for advice, leadership and guidance. I found the best way to earn their trust is by setting a good example.
Actions speak louder than words, particularly when your attitude and behavior motivate people to do their best work. Doing otherwise only confuses the people who look up to you.
By incorporating the following practices into your life, you will not only improve the way others perceive you, but you will also feel better about the way you are presenting yourself as a person that others will follow and emulate — the very definition of leading by example.
While working your “day job” may already be taking up too much of your time, getting involved in industry organizations may be just the thing you need to advance your career and set a positive example for others. I am involved professional organizations such as the Georgia Association of Business Brokers, the International Business Brokers Association, Rotary International and Street Grace.
I have found that getting out from behind my computer can be a challenge. But meeting new people and talking big-picture about my industry has been crucial to my professional advancement.
Joining professional organizations in my field has given me a chance to do just that. Best of all, most organizations have local chapters so I did not even have to travel very far to get involved.
Put family first
Putting family first is something that we all strive to do, but in today’s busy world, most of us have jobs that do not allow for much free time to spend with our family.
I know that trying to put family first above everything else may seem like a mission and not knowing how to do this can make things even harder. Jobs can be a huge part of our lives and sometimes our jobs can get out of hand and make us spend less and less time with our families.
I make it a point to be involved in my children and wife’s lives as much as possible. Taking interest in their hobbies and being an active participant is a great way to spend time with your family.
I am a lacrosse coach and Cub Scout den leader. In these roles I have the opportunity to shape lives and demonstrate to other parents how they can become involved in youth organizations to point kids in the right direction.
Look to your community
The best way to stay involved in your community is through maintaining a commitment to make a positive impact in the environment in which you work, live and play. You can gain respect, friendship and pride through community involvement.
One of the most satisfying, fun, and productive ways to lead by example and get involved in your community is through volunteerism. When you commit your time and effort to an organization or a cause you feel strongly about, the feeling of fulfillment can be endless.
Your peers, colleagues and family members are always watching you and taking notice to what you do. They will see the benefits of being involved in professional organizations, putting family first and being involved their communities.
Owner of the North Atlanta office of Murphy Business & Financial Corp., Reed has been serving clients for more than 20 years in the Atlanta, Ga., area as well as across the country. He is an accredited business intermediary, a licensed real estate broker and has owned and managed his own limited liability company. Reach him (678) 383-4781 or email@example.com