Daniel G. Jacobs
Today, as president of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, she works to make sure that the thousands of Latino immigrants arriving in Georgia each year have advantages that were unavailable to her 40 years ago.
"It's very important to educate," she says. "When in Rome, do as the Romans do. We all come from very different backgrounds, very different countries (with) many different rules and regulations, and we need to abide for (those) here.
"That doesn't mean we need to lose our culture, but that is in our home. Here, you have to join the mainstream."
During Gonzalez's nine-year tenure, she has grown the chamber from 175 members to more than 1,000 by adding professionalism to a disjointed entity.
"I started running this organization as a business organization, she says. "I wanted to develop a business, something where we can help the Latino community and help corporate America. It was a win-win situation. We are a tremendous source of information for both communities.
"I hired staff, I put in an infrastructure computerwise," she says. "I have an accountant that looks after our books. We were very limited in the beginning because we didn't have money. We began to (get) people to trust us so that we could, in turn, provide all the services that I wanted to provide."
Within the chamber, she created the Hispanic American Center for Economic Development, an incubation center for budding entrepreneurs.
"We needed to have a center, a place where people could come and start their own businesses," Gonzalez says. "They don't have to look for space or pay tremendous rent. It's one organization; it's under our umbrella.
"HACED has incubation facilities, and by that I mean they have cubicles with computers and phone lines and files. And they have access to a receptionist, photocopy machine and faxes. In other words, they can house in there the birth of their business."
Gonzalez arrived at the chamber by way of the Atlanta committee for the Olympic Games, where she served as the liaison between the committee and the Latino community for the 1996 games. And although she planned to take it easy following the Olympics, when the chamber board offered her the role of president of the chamber, Gonzalez put her R&R on hold.
Then Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed her to the board of directors of Hemisphere Inc., a nonprofit organization directing the state's efforts to attract to Atlanta the headquarters of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Perdue also appointed her in 2003 to his Latino Commission for a New Georgia, a council of Latino leaders advising the governor on Latino issues.
Smart Business spoke with Gonzalez about how she turned the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce into a professional organization focused on helping Atlanta's quickly growing Hispanic community.
How has the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce changed since its creation in 1984, and what have you done to move the organization forward?
Everything has changed.
It has changed because of the demand, the growth of the Latino community, the business community, not only in the Hispanic world, but also in the corporate world. Both parties are becoming much more aware of the need for interacting, doing business together and getting to know each other and how we can all work together.
We implemented a lot of programs that did not exist before. There was a lot of newness in the fact that there was so much opportunity to do things that had never been done before. We started having workshops on how to open your business, the law and rights, banking, learning how to do taxes. My purpose, when I saw the needs of the community, was to start educating them so that they would not be so vulnerable. It's a big project; it's an ongoing project, educating our community to become the entrepreneurs that they so desire to be.
They know that the way to be successful in this country with their experience is to become entrepreneurs.
How much has the area's Hispanic community grown?
Tremendously. I can honestly say that is one of the legacies of the Olympic Games. That's when the Latinos started coming here -- to work for the Olympics. I saw venues being built by the Latinos and landscaping and the hotel service.
It became a haven for the Hispanics that were coming, not only from other countries, but also they were coming from other states. They were bringing family, and they discovered what a jewel, what a place of opportunity and economic development Georgia is.
It still is, and they are still coming.
How do you encourage that influx?
Get on a soapbox like I have for the last nine years and tell everybody Georgia is the place to come. I go to Latin America. I had a very nice opportunity in December to go to Buenos Aires and meet with the vice president of Argentina and took some senators.
As a result, there is an Argentina Chamber of Commerce here, which is represented by us. I would like to see more of that. This is just the beginning. It's not an overnight thing, but it will happen. Miami, at this point, and I love Miami, is saturated.
There's less competition here; there's more opportunity. A lot of the Fortune 500 companies are here, and we are well known because of CNN and Coca-Cola and UPS and Home Depot. So this is a very exciting time for Georgia.
What drew you to the chamber?
It was such a beautiful challenge, and I was given so much autonomy. I took ownership. They told me, 'You take this ball and you run with it.' And I loved it, I loved it, I loved it. I loved the challenges and the hurdles that were in the way.
I'm a very resourceful person; I'm very creative. I'm very passionate about what I do. That's the way I feel about this organization. I'm very, very passionate about it. I feel very strong about what we represent to Georgia and the Southeast, for that matter.
What is your most important role at the GHCC?
I think what I represent -- I am a bicultural person. I think to be in the position that I'm in and to achieve and reach out to the powers that be, whether it's in Latin America or here, you have to be a bicultural person. You have to understand how both mentalities, how both forces work. I have a lot of experience with that.
What is the most difficult challenge you must help your clients overcome?
The language is a tremendous barrier. There is no question about it, from both parties; from the established community of businesses and services and the Latino community. There is a lack of communication there, but it is getting better.
In Georgia, the immigrant community has grown very quickly (not) like in California or Texas, (where) it grew slowly. Here it came like, pow, very quickly. Latinos started coming because of the Olympics and they discovered a new world -- virgin territory for them.
What role does the chamber play in the legislative process?
We have had, for three years, a lobbyist that looks after all the new bills. And we have a legislative committee within the chamber. They discuss what is proposed in the legislature and see whether that affects the Latino community.
Sometimes we try to influence or make aware the legislators of the needs of the Latinos. About three years ago ... I discovered that Latinos were not considered a minority in the state of Georgia. They had African-American and Pacific-Asian -- they had all these designations except Hispanic, and it blew me away.
Here we are building this state, building this city, and we are not considered a minority, where we can go and bid for contracts and be given the same opportunities as everybody else. I fought very hard for that. We were able to, against a lot of opposition -- with the governor's help -- to do that.
Now we are formally classified as a minority.
Where do plan to take the GHCC in the future?
I hope that we can continue to ed ucate both corporate America here and the Latino community so that we can all work together. We all want the same thing.
We need to kill the belief that we are taking positions away, all of that nonsense. I look back, and we all know those kinds of feelings have existed forever -- especially around here because they haven't seen it before.
I'm moving to implement what I have done here in Atlanta (and) do it an Savannah, do it in Valdosta, do it in Augusta, in Dalton. I want the existing chambers ... in those counties and those cities -- I want to go to them and help them put together some education programs, just inform (them about) what it's all about and what it takes.
HOW TO REACH: Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, (404) 929-9998 or www.ghcc.org
"I'm sitting there, and I'm looking outside my office at my assistant," recalls Boro, who serves as president of FCL Builders Inc. "I've got my new title out there. I've got my pencil sharpener and I'm sharpening my pencil. (I'm) sitting there tapping my fingers.
"I look up at Diana and say, 'Any calls? I'm right here if you need me. If you need lunch I'll go out and get that, too -- whatever else you need.'"
It was an inauspicious start for a company that has quickly become one the fastest-growing general contractors in Illinois in little more than a decade. FCL was created when the owners of the parent company, Four Columns Ltd., departed with the development arm of the enterprise to join CenterPoint Properties, leaving the construction arm to wither.
Former owners Robert Stovall and Mike Mullen wanted the backing of Wall Street, but the construction side of the operation was viewed as "too volatile," Boro says. Boro had the opportunity to join the new company's team but chose instead to make a go of the construction firm.
It was an extraordinarily difficult time for the fledgling company. Competitors were slinging more mud than politicians the week before an election. They suggested that the orphaned construction company didn't have the means to finish projects and would soon be little more than a memory. And nasty talk from competitors wasn't the only problem; Boro knew the company would never survive if he couldn't keep his core managers intact.
"I didn't want to lose any one portion of the company because there was this big unknown then as to who we were going to be," he said. "A majority of our partners caught the (rumors) that were going on around us, saying the foundation of FCL had been removed, with all the high-end partners moving on to other things. The outsiders looking in said this company's not going to make it another week, let alone another year."
The concern was that unless his employees had a stake in the enterprise, they might jump ship.
"Internally, there was some caution as well, these people looking at the CEO, the president, the vice president, and all these other guys jumping ship (to CenterPoint)," Boro says. "I was worried about cherry pickers. So what I tried to do was give partnerships to different facets of our company."
The strategy worked, and the company's management remained intact. And eventually, jobs started rolling in.
Boro developed a relationship in those early days with Michael Krasny, founder and former CEO of CDW, a technology products and services company. That relationship resulted in a number of projects for FCL. Even so, Boro had to manage his bonding company as if he were a hesitant new customer.
"Those were in the early days. I remember there was a little bit of smoke and mirrors in getting a bond," Boro says. "Finally, I convinced our bonding company -- after we got the roof on -- that we were going to finish the project. We didn't have any net worth to speak of, and certainly that's what the bonding company was looking for. I also convinced Mike Krasny to give me another month and I'd get the bond. That ended up working out fine. He had the faith in us to move forward."
Once safely past the mudslinging and the management worries, Boro turned his attention to other pressing problems.
It would have been easy to understand had Boro chosen to move to the new CenterPoint operation with Stovall and Mullen. He liked and respected them, and still considers the two friends.
"I was a partner back then, albeit minute -- and they asked me to come on board at CenterPoint," Boro says. "I said, 'There are too many people here' -- superintendents that have been with us 20, 25 years, getting up in age, assistants -- at a time in the early '90s (when) construction companies were not doing a lot of hiring. There would have been too many people that would have been put out of work.
"I was still a young guy, 35 years old at the time, and I thought, 'You know what? I never had a lot of money,'" he says. "Most of my interest was in these buildings that were sold off. I was written a large check to be able to pay off my other partners; it was not tangible money for me, anyway. I'm more of a bricks-and-mortar guy anyway; I'm not Wall Street."
While he chose not to tie his future to CenterPoint's management team, he was hoping the new company would provide his construction company with some early revenue. But he learned quickly that wouldn't be the case;in CenterPoint chose to buy only existing structures, which left Boro without his hoped-for early projects.
FCL's newfound focus on construction, though, was appealing to other developers, and when the economy turned positive, the company grew rapidly.
"The next step was taking a smaller company that was doing about $26 million in construction that went up to $80 million a year-and-a-half later," he says.
It was then that Boro realized he needed to standardize the policies and roles in the company.
"We didn't (want a) bunch of people that operating on their own little island," Boro says. "(We wanted) a group that supported each other that you had an internal network between communications, between procedures. When you didn't have a whole lot of work, you had guys wearing several different hats; when you got larger, you had to start giving people a direction where they had a path that was assigned to them.
"Keeping that organization there was the next biggest hurdle."
As the company grew, people who did some estimating and selling and sometimes worked as a superintendent were less able to oversee so many activities.
"As we started growing, we had to pull away some of those paths and start assigning individual tasks to people and having the checks and balances," Boro says. "Even though the growth was going vertical, you could be losing money or losing clientele or opportunities as a result of failures," he says. "The biggest challenge as the growth started to come about was to make sure we inserted procedures and structures and maintained those."
Boro also began to worry about safety. Things had changed a great deal in the 25 years he spent learning the industry.
"I remember when I first started the business, they dragged cases of beer up to the roof, which is totally ludicrous," he says.
As the company got bigger, there were bigger safety concerns, and Boro didn't want to bring on new people without ensuring he could get the most from the new hirees. Both those issues required formalizing policies and procedure.
A small company can get away with a lax infrastructure, Boro says, but a big company like the one FCL Builders had become no longer could, and new accounting systems and procedures were implemented to keep track of the cost.
Despite all the changes, one thing -- the family nature of the company -- superceded all other issues. No matter what changes were adopted, Boro insisted that the company remember its employees are more than just workers.
"The main reason," he says, " is we wanted to make sure our people went home to their families."
Remembering that also tempers Boros' approach to business, and he has learned to deal with the inevitable boom and bust cycles that plague the construction industry.
"In the early '80s, there was a slowdown in the construction business," he says. "The early 90s, there was a slowdown in the construction business. The early '00s, there was a slowdown in the construction business. It's been a 10-year cycle. I'm not saying I'm going to predict what's going to happen in 2010; however, the challenge is there.
"I can put so much time and effort and money into people. In the early '80s, everybody took a 15 percent pay cut. In the early '90s, we got rid of 40 percent of our work force, including management. In the early '00s, our bonuses weren't as good as they used to be. Trying to instill in peop le that this is cyclical and the upturn is going to be there -- these people have families to feed, they've got lifestyles they are accustomed to -- keeping your personnel is a big challenge."
Boro says the company has been fortunate in that it hasn't seen a lot of turnover.
"We've had guys that have been here even longer than I have," he says. "Most of the people come because we're a family-oriented company. Even in times that are tough, we keep our personnel for two reasons -- one, you're banking that the slowdown's going to be (for a short) period of time, and two, we've invested so much money in these people you don't want to lose them to your competitors because really, they are you're bread and butter."
And with that strong employee base, the company has found its niche.
"It's more stable; our reputation is there, but it's still a very competitive market," Boro says. "We understand that relationships may open the door, but it's service and producing that keeps them open."
Because of that, he refuses to rest on his laurels.
"We're in a funny business," Boro says. "It used to be when our files were an inch thick, you got the deal; now it's a whole legal box full. We put an incredible amount of time upfront trying to understand the client's need. A large amount of effort we do for free up front. I'm probably into it a good 90 days before we get paid dollar one.
"My attitude is this; your handshake is your bond. If you do a good job, there's a better chance of getting paid."
He says the bottom line is not the only measure of success, and not the only one the company focuses on.
"You can certainly go on one job and make a ton of money by just taking shortcuts, shortchanging (the client)," he says. "The problem is, that would be the only job you do for that customer. The successes are where you see repetitive business."
And with the company he has built, Boro is likely to see the same client faces over and over again.
HOW TO REACH: FCL Builders (630) 773-0050 or www.fclbuilders.com
As president and CEO of diagnostic device maker Dade Behring, Reid-Anderson's machines, found in hospitals and laboratories around the world, are used to diagnose diseases for millions of people each year. But it was Dade Behring that was headed for life support before Reid-Anderson and his team sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy and developed a plan to pay down more than $1 billion in bad debt.
"The company actually began its current form as a (leveraged buyout) about 10 years ago," says Reid-Anderson. "What you see today is the company that was created over that decade through a series of spin-offs, mergers and acquisitions."
The aggressive strategy carried enormous risk. As such, in 2000, when the economy started to sour and interest rates rose, the company was suddenly in trouble, and Reid-Anderson, newly installed as CEO, began to search for solutions.
The bulk of the problem was a result of Dade Behring's rapid expansion, during which it racked up huge debt. In general, a conventional roll-up strategy is designed to consolidate back room activities and build incremental profits that are later used to pay down debt incurred during a leveraged buyout. In Dade Behring's case, it had accrued more than $1.6 billion in debt by early 2000.
With any roll-up strategy, there is an enormous risk that a hit to the industry or an increase in interest rates can quickly skewer the plan. For Dade Behring, the issue became steadily rising interest rates. And, because it has extensive overseas operations, the strong U.S. dollar added further trouble.
"As interest rates began to spike in the U.S. -- they popped up about 200 basis points -- and as foreign exchange rates softened, we were in a position in the fourth quarter of 2000 where we broke two of our bank covenants," Reid-Anderson says. "Although we never ran out of cash, two of our bank covenants were dependent on these factors. It put us into a position where we had to renegotiate some of our bank debt.
But, Reid-Anderson says, while he, his financial team and the lawyers attended to the money issues, he had to keep the rest of his management team' focused on running day-to-day operations.
"The key was remaining focused on our business, the job at hand, [and] not allowing ourselves to be overly distracted by the debt restructuring," he says. "We had a very small team working on that, while the bulk of our people were focused on our business."
"We ran the business very, very well," Reid-Anderson says. "The net of it was setting a strategy that everybody believed in, setting some key imperatives and a few key metrics that we tracked, and then just executing relentlessly."
A solid core
Despite its financial concerns, there had never been a question about the product lines of Dade Behring, the largest company in the world dedicated solely to manufacturing and distributing diagnostic tools. That dedication to diagnostics, Reid-Anderson says, was one reason the company moved through its restructuring process without a disruption of operations.
"We found that customers liked the fact that we were an independent company that was solely focused on diagnostics," he says. "To our knowledge, we're the only company to ever have gained market share in a Chapter 11 process, to have gained customers. And we retained all of our suppliers.
"Most of the competitors in this business are either pharmaceutical companies or life science companies -- very big companies with deep pockets, where diagnostics is not their focus," Reid-Anderson says. "All we do is focus on diagnostics; we have no other businesses. Our customers stood up and voted in support of us as we went through the toughest time in our history. It was a light bulb going off for us that there was this support for a company that only focused in this arena."
Reid-Anderson wants to make sure that light bulb doesn't burn out. Accordingly, he has no intention of moving Dade Behring, which had $1.4 billion in revenue in 2003, into any new product areas.
"The reason that we're not tempted is that I have a fundamental belief that our strength comes from focus on one arena, on one set of customers and getting it right with them," he says. "I think there is a role for diversification in industry, but you really have to know the industry that you're getting into.
"Our expertise lies in the diagnostics industry. We have an intimacy with our customers and design of our products. That excellence and expertise has come over 100 years. You don't just pick that up overnight."
Getting out the message
Reid-Anderson recognizes that it takes more than a singular focus to maintain employee and customer relationships, especially as a company moves through a restructuring.
"It really demoralizes employees over a period of time," he says. "It gives competitors a chance to poke at you by saying you're unstable. And we had that for a number of years."
The key was to be completely open and honest with employees and customers about every aspect of the restructuring.
"We told people openly, honestly -- as early as we could -- what we were doing," Reid-Anderson says. "We got them on board with us. If we tell people the truth, communicate with them regularly, they will follow you pretty much anywhere.
"Many companies, when they have crises, become distracted, and the underlying business suffers. That didn't happen with us. That didn't happen because we have very strong people, but our people were laser-focused on the business, and we limited the folks that were on the restructuring to a handful."
It took the company two years to reach an agreement on the restructuring. All the while, Anderson-Reid continued to conduct business and delivered on every promise he and his staff made.
"The process was very frustrating and probably even agonizing, but the end result was really very good," he says. "Because our underlying business had been operating so well during the period from 2000 to 2002, when we finalized the agreement, and because we had gained the trust of our bankers and bondholders during the negotiations by meeting our commitments and doing exactly what we said we were going to do, the final restructuring agreement was unanimous. There were no disagreements; everybody got paid."
That agreement allowed Dade Behring to implement debt restructuring through a prepackaged Chapter 11, which the company was able to do in 60 days.
"We cut our debt in half, retained some tremendous tax advantages and emerged as a public company," Reid-Anderson says. "We used this prepackaged Chapter 11 voluntarily in order to retain these benefits that we would otherwise have lost."
The company gained internally, as well. Before the restructuring, employee turnover was at 20 percent. Two years later, that figure dropped to 4 percent. To ensure that doesn't go back up, Reid-Anderson implemented an annual employee survey and conducted the first just as the company was completing its Chapter 11 process.
"We expected it to be pretty rough," he says. "We were astonished when we found that not only did we outperform the average for the (survey company) Hay Group, we outperformed their average for all companies. What was astonishing to us was that we outperformed their Top 20 high-performing companies in every area except benefits. We set out over the last two years to look at the areas we thought we could improve."
Healthy once again
Reid-Anderson took Dade Behring public shortly after it emerged from its Chapter 11 process.
"Our stock price in the last two years has quadrupled," he says. "We have continued to grow profitably quarter after quarter, and our customer satisfaction rates across the world are at all-time highs."
The company has since halved its debt again, including $40 million in debt payments the first two months of this year.
Despite the turmoil, Reid-Anderson says he has gained from the experience.
"The benefit of having gone through what we went th rough is a very, very cautious approach to ever being in a position where we take on too much debt," he says. "If we do something, you would have to have a great deal of belief that it was absolutely the right thing to do."
Reid-Anderson's skills were honed over the years by a number of executive positions with companies including Wilson Sporting Goods and PepsiCo. Each experience helped prepare him for his current role.
"I think it gave me a very good, fundamental understanding of the theory of business," he says. "I was fortunate that in all the companies that I worked with, I had bosses who were willing to run a risk with me and invariably give me projects or roles that had operational responsibility. So, no matter where I've been in the last 20 years, I've had a financial responsibility, but I've been either running businesses or special projects that impacted businesses. It really helped me get an understanding of how a business works.
"I think it is important for a CEO to be multidimensional and to have sat in a number of chairs throughout his or her career," he says. "I was fortunate enough to have done that."
And he has passed those lessons along.
"The folks here have learned over a number of years how to do it right, and we will not make mistakes in the future in this area."
One way to ensure that the same mistakes don't happen again was the creation of an entirely new board of directors, a move Reid-Anderson describes as "absolutely critical" to the company's future success.
"Before going public, I was doing a fair amount of work on governance," he says. "I was reading a lot about what was going on in the market. You had Enron; you had a number of things going on at that time. I was taking the opportunity to learn what a great public company should look like.
"It became clear to me that we needed a new board of directors. That board should be independent, and we should really think very carefully about the caliber of individuals on that board and the skills that they brought to the board."
The board isn't the only part of the organization that has changed. Reid-Anderson has learned a great deal from the experience in the last few years.
"When I look in the mirror in the morning, I feel fantastic," he says. "And the reason that I do is I love my job. I love my job because not only do I have the opportunity to be part of company that helps save lives and cut costs in healthcare, but in addition, I work with a great bunch of people. I work in a company where people have fun, respect each other and just do a great job.
"When I get up in the morning, I'm going to work; I'm helping to save lives."
And for that Reid-Anderson doesn't need a cure.
HOW TO REACH: Dade Behring, www.dadebehring.com or (847) 267-5300
That's because Ross, a principal with Morris-Anderson & Associates, is a turnaround specialist, and he's called in to right the corporate ship, if possible, or manage the sale of assets so an enterprise can cease operations.
"Generally speaking, we're introduced to the company by a bank that has seen its customer go into default on a loan," Ross says. "Most of our business comes from referrals from the workout groups of banks. By the time a (bank) customer (is) in default of their loan, ends up in a workout group with their lender and that workout group determines they need the services of a turnaround consultant, many times it's too late to find a nice, easy, nonintrusive solution."
Such was the case with the Archibald Candy Co. Ross was named chief restructuring officer and CEO of Archibald in May 2003. Fifteen months later, he stepped away from the helm after engineering the sale of assets that exceeded $80 million. Not bad considering that pre-sale estimates valued Archibald's assets at as little as $35 million.
"When we come in the door, there is a crisis of liquidity," Ross says. "Oftentimes, companies are at a point where they are about to run out of cash."
In the case of Archibald, its problems began in the 1990s with a flawed roll-up strategy that involved Fannie May, Fannie Farmer, Laura Secord and the Sweet Factory.
"They probably overpaid for most of the brands they acquired," Ross says. "And there was a fairly significant flaw in some of their thinking when they moved all of their chocolate manufacturing into the one plant here in Chicago."
Subsequent price increases and a drop in production led to a vicious cycle that threw the company into further financial trouble. Ross says Archibald's previous management team didn't recognize or couldn't deal with the problems.
"We're generally looking at a situation where the company doesn't have the ability to invest in the future," Ross says. "In fact, the future is in question if they don't make certain changes or maybe even divestitures. So our view is, 'Where is the value of the company?'"
Smart Business spoke with Ross about the art of the turnaround and how to find value for bondholders in a failing venture.
How does a turnaround specialist view a company differently than the CEO?
You have to be able to look very critically at everything that goes on in an organization. You have to not accept that what has been the mainstay of a company for years is necessarily the right thing to do going forward.
It takes the ability to think outside the box, be very critical of everything that they see in order to find where the opportunities are and to make a true objective evaluation of the situation.
How do you find value in a failed business?
You have to look at the company in terms of its pieces and how to optimize the value of each of the pieces. Adding up the individual pieces, it's often greater than the company would be in total. Basically, that's what we did at Archibald.
We looked at the different asset groups and developed an approach to each of those asset groups whereby we determined how we could get the maximum value for those particular assets in a group. Then (we) developed a strategy to implement that approach and ultimately dispose of the assets.
Where was the value in Archibald Candy?
It became clear to us that the assets -- particularly the brands -- were going to be the most attractive and get the highest price if the bidder was a company that was already in the industry as opposed to a financial buyer. We were able to find a stalking horse, a company that was looking to acquire brands to continue to fill up the capacity they had at their plant and was looking to expand their product line.
We did offer the real estate separately, and there were a number of developers and other businessmen in Chicago very interested in acquiring the real estate. At the end of the day, the bidding drove up the price for those assets significantly and we ended up getting what we thought was a very good ending value for intellectual property and real estate for the U.S. entity.
We had several other asset groups that we sold as well. Fannie Farmer had a very large manufacturing plant located just west of the Loop, in an area that was going through a significant renovation.
How did you measure success in the turnaround?
We were trying to get the creditors of Archibald Candy paid the maximum amount of value against the amount that they were owed. How we judged the success was that we were able to achieve in excess of what anyone initially projected could be generated in value.
At the end of the day, our benchmark was that we went from an original projection of valued assets as low as maybe $35 million to generating, through the restructuring, an actual return in value in excess of $80 million. That was the benchmark for us.
What happens if there is dissent from the owners regarding the turnaround approach?
Turnaround consultants work in different ways. At Archibald Candy, I was hired by the board of directors and appointed to be the chief restructuring officer/CEO to help guide the company through restructuring. We had a significant amount of input to the board. We participated in decisions and certainly had a lot of influence in terms of how the restructuring process would take place.
Turnaround consultants often are not in that position. Many times, we're there as a consultant to management. We give advice and suggestions, but are not in a position to actually control decisions or to deploy resources in specific activities and so forth, but only to suggest. Management always has the ability to say, 'No, we don't agree with you. We don't think that's the right restructuring set.'
A restructuring activity can sometimes be one where we try to guide the management team through the decision process and implement the restructuring as best we can, but it isn't always something we can control the outcome of.
Is it ever too late to call in a turnaround specialist?
The longer you wait and the deeper the crisis is, then the options available start to become very limited. But remember, in almost all these instances, there is a lender or a bondholder or someone who has a secured interest of one sort or another in the company.
So even though it is too late to save a company from the standpoint of its continuation as a going concern business, people who have lent money to that company and who have a secured interest in whatever the remaining assets are, there's still a duty to try to gain as much value out of those assets to repay as much indebtedness as you can. Whether it's the management of the company or a turnaround specialist -- in essence, when a company goes into default, a company is insolvent.
You still have a responsibility to your creditors to try to repay them to the extent possible from the value of the assets of the company. HOW TO REACH: Morris-Anderson (847) 768-4400 or www.morris-anderson.com
Education: Bachelor's degree in business administration, a major in marketing
First job: Loan officer in a credit union in General Foods
Boards: Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Partnership for Education -- "I have a heart for education," he says.
What is the greatest business lesson you've ever learned?
I don't know if it's a lesson, but I'll tell you: Don't ever underestimate what people can do once they set their mind to it.
What is the greatest business challenge you've faced, and how did you overcome it?
The greatest business challenge I've ever faced was probably when I was in Jacksonville, Fla., running the Maxwell House coffee plant. There were two plants, and we were going to close either Hoboken, N.J., or Jacksonville, Fla., so I had six months to put together a plan on keeping that plant open and convincing the company it was the right one.
So I had to do two things. I had to know what it was really like for the company, and then I had to know what it was really like for the people. I really had to know both. So that was probably the biggest challenge I ever faced because every day I had to face 700 people who absolutely were depending on me and the team I put together on whether we would stay open or not.
So it was truly a huge challenge for me, having to deal with the political arena, the union arena, the corporate arena, the community, everything and all of it, everything at once.
At the end of the day, it was still a sad day because we closed the plant; Jacksonville ended up being the one chosen.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
For me, I don't think I could say -- you know, Jim Collins' book Good to Great, the leaders that ran those great companies I admire the most. Because you don't know about them, but they did a fantastic job of leading companies and allowing people to be as good as they can be.
So as far as whom I admire, that's what I would say. I admire the people who took those companies from being good companies to being great.
But it's the screaming success that can be really scary. Janie McLure, founder and sole owner of McLure Oil, grew her enterprise to $200 million in a relatively short time, then decided to tug hard on the reins.
"We grew so fast in such a short period of time it got totally out of control," she says. "That scared me to death. In the past, I always kept my thumb right where we were. I might not be doing everything personally, but I knew where we were financially (and) I knew where we were headed.
"Growth just absolutely petrifies me. I knew I had to start downsizing some. Talking about it and knowing you have to do it is one thing, but actually doing it and realizing where you could do it without damaging areas -- you don't want to throw the entire business out the window -- you just want to at least feel like you have it under control."
Today, McLure feels much more comfortable with the size of her eight-person operation.
"We're a middleman," she says. "We fit in where other players don't. We may sell to big trucking companies or to a jobber in small-town America. He may have only one supplier, where we're set up with 15 or 20. We'll shop the market for him and get him the best price every day instead of him having to be set up with all those players -- the Exxons and Chevrons -- everybody out there."
The company wholesales unbranded products through 44 terminals in nine Southeastern states in both the private and public sectors.
"We got to a certain point, and I don't want to go back there again," she says. "I want to have it controllable again. I want everybody to make a decent living. Bigger is not always better."
McLure began her career working for the Shell Oil Co. and later worked for some independent operators.
"I worked for a couple of independent oil companies for a couple of years -- got great, great, great training, but also found out that I was probably not the world's best corporate player. My personality didn't quite go along with that program," she says. "I'm not into brown-nosing. I'm not very good at that. I never minded working hard, never minded doing whatever needed to be done, but I'm not going to step on somebody else just to promote myself ... because that's what people do."
So, the young woman from the small Florida panhandle town of Marianna opened her open business.
Smart Business spoke with McLure to learn how she built that enterprise, how the industry has changed and what she can expect in the coming years.
Did you always know you were going to own your own company?
I graduated with a business degree and didn't really have a clue what I was going to do with it. It's what I knew. I grew up in the business. It was just what I was more familiar with than anything else.
My mom and dad were entrepreneurs, so it kind of gets in your blood. I think I always knew I wanted to own a business. I just didn't have a clue as to what kind or what industry or anything like that.
I never minded working hard, and I wanted to do something where my income would match the effort I was putting forth.
How did you end up in the oil business?
It's just what I knew. It's what I grew up in. I got some background from my parents; I think I got the urge. Then I went to work for Shell Oil Co. I learned so much. I used to just love the industry. It fascinated me.
It is very fast-paced; things change every day. Prices will never stay the same. Things are always evolving in this industry. It's such a vital part of everything that runs the United States, the whole world.
How does it feel to have your company recognized and honored as a successful woman-owned business?
It's interesting. I've been in business 18 years. The first seven or eight years, it never even crossed my mind; it just wasn't even an issue. And then, not until it became fashionable to be a woman-owned business, to be in that spotlight, or maybe there were just a lot more women business owners coming along.
It never fazed me one way or the other. I always just wanted to compete on the same level with everybody else. We really don't get any favoritism anyway, but I don't know that it matters. Because of the business, the industry I'm in, maybe it stands out a little bit more, but I think, bottom line, it doesn't really matter.
Are activities in the Middle East affecting your operations?
It affects the price of crude, which makes the market volatile -- that's part of it. But the biggest part of it is the derivative people that are messing with the derivatives that have been running the market for at least the past two years. There are so many more players in that field and the commodity field than there ever were before.
Everybody is scared to death that the price will keep dropping. Everybody is kind of backing off right now to see what is going to happen. It might last half a day; it might last overnight. It's always the story of the day.
It's just like the stock market; there's always a story. Stocks are going up, down, staying the same -- it's the same in commodities.
How do you deal with those fluctuations?
Because of the volatility that has presented us with what's going on in the market, it's a big chase.
You're calling people telling people, 'Fill up, fill up, fill up. Fill your tanks.' Prices are going up at 6 o'clock or midnight or whatever. Then you turn around the next day -- 'Prices are dropping. Hold on, don't buy any now.'
Because we're the middleman, we're like the service guy. We're trying to help people either make the most money they can or keep from losing money, whatever the case may be.
Is it a matter of luck?
I think you make your own luck. That's just the way I've always felt about it. I've definitely gone through the school of hard knocks, several times over. You definitely learn what not to do, so when there is an opportunity that comes along ... sometimes I'm not the one that can see that opportunity.
Sometimes it's my husband, who I rely on most heavily, who sees the opportunity and opens my eyes. Early on, I definitely saw opportunities and took advantage of them. You hope they come along again.
I'm just not a big believer in luck. Sometimes, when you are in certain situations, things do get thrown your way that wouldn't otherwise. But you positioned yourself for that. You didn't just put a sign out front and suddenly people started flocking in for business.
So how do you recognize opportunity when it comes along?
Part of it is just being in the business and recognizing that there is something unique going on out there. And either you want to be a part of it -- and it is a chance to possibly broaden your business and add another dimension to it -- or it's just one of those things you know from experience definitely to stay away from.
Plus, you talk with so many people in the business, you interact with so many people, you know just from experience whether it's something you really should take a look at and listening to other people. That's the biggest part of it. The wise counsel-- we always refer to that because we don't ever try to rely just on our own understanding.
Are high prices better for you, or worse?
It doesn't really matter. You make the same margin regardless. Our business is very small margins. You've got to do volume to make up for the small margins.
Is your field particularly competitive?
Yes and no. We kind of compete against our own suppliers a lot. Our competition is different, I think, from most industries. There is plenty of competition.
That's the reason our margins are so small. At the same time, there are not a lot of people that technically do exactly what we do. It's very high-risk; you have to watch credit lines all the time.
What changes have you seen in the 18 years you've owned the business?
We've done this for so long. It's a lot easier nowadays to cut the customer off. Everything is done electronically. Every thing is done 10 days EFT (electronic funds transfer); it's how we collect our money.
It's not like you're having to wait on a check in the mail, of course, unless you do business with the government. That's a whole different story. I wouldn't advise anybody to get into it that hasn't worked for somebody else for a long time.
What kind of planning do you do?
It's really tough to plan long term in this business because there is so much volatility. You just deal with (issues) on a day-to-day basis. Everything is already sold before we buy it.
You put the price out there, and if somebody wants it at that price, then you buy it. We don't do a lot of speculating. You can get burned so fast, so hard. That's not our expertise.
What advice do you have for future women business owners?
Have your financial backing in order. Know your product and be prepared to do a lot of hard work. Some of those things can't be replaced.
There's a lot of people out there that know their field, but they don't necessarily know how to run a business. It's a combination of things. It's like I always say, you've got to do it by example. You've got to hire the right people; you've got to have the right people on the bus. And you've got to be in a market that makes sense.
So many people start businesses ... it just doesn't make sense; it's not a good business plan to begin with. Just do something that makes sense, and don't be scared of the competition.
HOW TO REACH: McLure Oil, www.mclureoil.com or (770) 396-6655
First Job: My dad ran flourmills. My first job was loading 100-pound flour sacks into boxcars in the summertime. He taught me I'd better go get my education and find something else to do.
Career Moves: 1968, TWA, operations research group (sophomore in college). The day I started at TWA was the day that Howard Hughes left. Now, we've got some employees who are a lot younger, and I had a couple come up and ask me who Howard Hughes was. I don't say that anymore.
American Airlines, vice president sales; president, Sabre (11 years); Lifeco Services Corp., president (sold to American Express), stayed at American Express as executive vice president; CEO of Worldspan, 1995-1999; president, Homestore; WorldTravel BTI; chairman, TRX
Boards: Prior to WorldTravel BTI, held a seat on the Travelocity board of directors; NCR (Teradata) Transportation Advisory board; held positions on the boards of Travel Industry Association and the board and executive committee for Institute for Certified Travel Agents for several years; served on advisory boards for the Goizueta Business School at Emory University and the School of Business at the University of Texas.
What is the greatest business lesson you've learned?
Enthusiasm can certainly be influenced by your own. Unfortunately, the opposite -- call it pessimism and disengagement -- are equally as infectious. The good news is, the former doesn't cost any more than the latter, and you can have a lot more fun.
What is greatest biggest business challenge you've faced, and how did you overcome it?
Coming back from 9/11. It was a new world for me to work in. It was a lot of uncharted and uncertain waters. While I've been in the industry a long time, it was new people to work with, new customers to meet. Looking back, I was really pleased with the way we did things.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
That's a real difficult one. Like a lot of people, I feel like I've had the great fortune of working with and around interesting and talented and smart people. Hopefully, I've learned a little bit from each and every one of them.
If you force me to pick one, I would probably tell you it was Bob Crandall, former CEO and chairman of American Airlines, who I worked with and around for a number of years. In one person, (there was) the strong intellect, the attention to detail, the energy, the enormous sense of urgency and a commitment to the industry. He was really something to behold.
Languages: German, Russian, English
Education: Marketing degree, Melbourne University
First job: Washing dishes in a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia (age 15). Eventually the owner of the restaurant was kind enough to buy me a black-tie outfit and made me a waiter. Six months later, I was the manager of the restaurant. It went on from there.
Career movers: CEO and a director of Salton Inc., August 1988 and founder; 1988 to July 1998, president; 1987 to 1988, president of the company's predecessor Salton Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of SEVKO Inc.; prior to 1987, managing director of Salton Australia Pty. Ltd.; 1988 to December 1993, officer and a director of Glacier Holdings Inc., and director of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Glacier Water Systems Inc., 1987 to 1993; 1989 to 1993, officer and director of Salton Time
Boards: Adler Planetarium; Goodman Theater; Better Business Bureau; deputy chairman, AMAP, South Africa
What is the greatest business lesson you've learned?
There is no such thing as a good deal with people you don't like, and there is no such thing as a bad deal with people you like.
What is the greatest business challenge you've faced and how did you overcome it?
The greatest business challenge I had was probably in 1989 with Salton. We had $67,000 of total availability of capital that we were turning every 11 minutes. We were so successful that the stress of how to finance inventory and receivables with all of the orders that were flowing into the small company that we ran -- at that time it was tough.
How did we manage? I can remember maxing out all of my credit cards on cash advances to ensure that we could get our next container of sandwich makers in on time for our customers' needs. And so did everybody else in the company.
They all chipped in; they worked long, long hours, and nobody worried what title they had and what they did. We then started leap-frogging and doubling our sales volume almost every year.
When things aren't going great -- and every company will have its ups and downs -- it's easy to go and review and see what you need to fix. But surviving a success -- many major successful people in the world have said surviving a success is probably the most difficult thing one can do.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
I think I admire Bill Gates in business most for a number of reasons. One, he's always respectful of how successful Microsoft has become and how dominant in the industry they are. He's always maintained the caution that you are only as good as you were today, and tomorrow is a new day, and you can become too complacent and have your business spiral down the sink.
He's always been very conservative about his business approach, very careful with how he's grown his company, and never arrogant that he has it forever. He keeps on working to improve it, to make it better.
He is, from what I know, one of the most involved in charity work worldwide and has pretty much been extremely generous, not just with his company's involvement, but also with his own personal involvement in the various charitable trusts that he has established. I've never had any thing to fault him on, on the actions he has done.
"I had no doubt that I would be working for a newspaper or somewhere in the print media," says McPhee, president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.
Instead, she landed in the broadcast media, producing cultural documentaries and arts programming for a Miami public television station, where she won five Emmys for her programs.
So how does someone with a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University end up leading a $130 million private foundation?
Running the foundation is really not that different from working in journalism, McPhee says. She left the public television station to join the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, where she served as vice president and chief program officer, directing the planning, development and implementation of the $1.8 billion foundation's grants program.
"I loved working for public television," she says, "but (the job description for the foundation job) was so intriguing, and the skill base -- it sounded to me as I was being interviewed as though the skill base for a program officer was very much the skill base of a television producer. It was about identifying good ideas, finding the people to implement them and putting together the pieces to make it all happen. That's what a program officer does, and that's what a TV producer does. It turned about to be an amazingly smooth transition from one career to the other. I found it was a niche for me.
"The reason I went into journalism in the first place was because I thought I was going to change the world. That was the whole calling, if you will. This became a much more hands on, less objective way of doing that."
McPhee, who arrived at the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation from the Knight Foundation in April, has no regrets about turning to philanthropy.
Arthur M. Blank, owner and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons and co-founder of The Home Depot, created the foundation in 1995 to share his civic values and the joy of giving with his family. The foundation has granted and committed more than $130 million to support youth development, preserve green space, sustain the arts and enhance quality of life. The 2004 budget calls for $30 million in funding.
Smart Business spoke with McPhee about her plans for leading the foundation through a new strategic vision.
How do you measure success?
This is something that foundations are really struggling with. I would say that Blank is ahead of the curve.
We've recently hired a new vice president for strategic planning and evaluation. The role that he will play is incredibly important because it will help us determine at the beginning of our assessments what success will look like -- whether that's about land acquisition in our green space program or whether that's about improving the quality of child care centers -- that's a ... collegial process of figuring out together what is going to be the story of success three or five years down the road, and what do we need to put in place now to be able to tell that story.
How important is it to see the impact of your work?
It's very important. To have some conclusion to effort is very rewarding and fulfilling. At the same time, much of the work that we're doing, and probably the work that has the potential to have the greatest impact, will take the longest and will be the slowest and will have the most setbacks, and we have to be able to identify benchmarks along the way that demonstrate progress. It's easy, for example, to look back at three years of the environmental initiative that just concluded and say, we were able to preserve over 1,100 acres of green space.
That's definable, measurable and quite rewarding and fulfilling. And I think the family justifiably feels quite proud of that, and they should.
Do you run the foundation as though it were a for-profit enterprise?
Absolutely. No question about it. Like any well-managed organization, we have a budget and we work to make the operation as efficient as we can and add value to all of our shareholders.
The question for foundations, of course, is, who are the shareholders? We have a different set of shareholders than the for-profit company because the family and the trustees are certainly shareholders; the community is a shareholder -- the people that we're trying to affect, whose lives we're hoping to improve, are shareholders. It's my job, and the job of all of the staff, to be a good steward of Arthur and the family's resource.
Was there a problem coming into an organization that had just redefined its strategic focus?
I came here because I resonated with family's values, with the foundation's mission and the plan. Strategic plans are a roadmap to a destination. So, if I didn't believe in the destination, it would not be a good fit.
That said, a roadmap is just that -- it shows the destination and all the routes to get to the destination. But the strategic plan didn't pick the route. That's really what my job as the leader of this organization is, to help us define the actual strategies that will get us to the outcomes that the strategic plan aspires to.
For me, the strategic plan is a living document, and it's exciting because it offers the opportunity to be entrepreneurial, to takes risks for a kind of continuous innovation without being so specific about the strategies that I feel I'm just coming to implement someone else's work.
How did your experience with the Knight Foundation prepare you for this role?
I feel like everything I did at the Knight Foundation was grooming me for this job. In my role as vice president and chief program officer there, I was responsible for overseeing the implementation of that foundation -- a $2 billion foundation's -- strategic plan.
That strategic plan, like the Blank plan, was focused on outcomes, and it was focused on community, really reaching down into communities to figure out what they needed, what they wanted, where the foundation could have the most impact and be the most relevant.
It was a great training opportunity. The difference is, instead of working in one community -- now Blank is focused primarily in Atlanta -- at Knight, I was working in 26 communities, and that was tough. I'm very pleased to be able to concentrate on one community, to really get to know the players, to really develop the partnerships in the kind of intimate way that the Blank Foundation has done in the past and can continue to do.
How important is it for an organization like yours to go through a strategic planning process?
In the same way that it is critical for a for-profit organization, it's very important for any organization to continually assess how its activities are lining up against its mission and its values.
The current thinking from organizational experts about this generally says that this is a continual process, that it can't happen once every five years. Being sure that all of your activities are aligned with your mission and aligned with your values is a constant and continuing process.
I think it's as critically important for us, even though our bottom line is different. Our bottom line is about impact, not dollars, but we still have a bottom line.
Do you get everyone involved in the process?
It does involve everybody down the line. Ultimately, it's about alignment. I can speak all I want, but if folks aren't doing every day when they come into the office activities that contribute ultimately to our outcomes, then they're out of alignment.
That is a constant and continuous conversation. I had a staff meeting where I asked everybody, 'What are the five things you're spending the most time on? And what are the key deliverables you're responsible for right now, and are these things in alignment? Are you spending time on the things we've all decided matter?'
I made them write it down.
We're in a transition phrase. The nature of the work for the staff has changed dramatically in (the time I've been here). They didn't have an evaluation director before, so they didn't have someone talking to them at the beginning of the grant process about what are we looking for three years out.
That's a new way of working. We have to accommodate all of these new expectations in an existing culture.
Is the community part of the evaluation process?
That is certainly one of the things I'll be measured on. If our work isn't relevant to the community, we can't accomplish the outcomes we're seeking.
They're too ambitious for us to be able to do by ourselves. We can be a catalyst for them. We can put resources and energy into them, but if, in the end, we're not bringing along others -- sometimes leading and sometimes following, because there are others in the community doing work in these areas as well -- then we won't reach these ambitious outcomes.
I don't think I can emphasize strongly enough how we see ourselves as a partner at many levels -- a public/private partner with government, a foundation-to-foundation partner with other funders, a foundation-to-corporation partner with businesses, and, of course, a partner with the nonprofits who ultimately implement the work.
How important to long-term success are maintaining and building partnerships?
Critical. Critical. We are not an operating foundation. We don't run programs. We can give money, we can facilitate, we can be an intellectual resource, but we don't implement programs, so we must rely on strong nonprofit partners.
We need to strengthen them when they need infrastructure support, because if we want to achieve the outcomes that we've established for ourselves, we need to work through this network of partnerships. That's how foundations operate.
How involved is Arthur Blank in the foundation?
His values underlie every aspect of the foundation. He has made it explicit. He was with us again at a meeting this morning and made it explicit that the work of the foundation is his life work now.
He's passionate about what we're doing. He believes, and I think he did at Home Depot and does here, believes in hiring a strong staff and letting them implement the work. But he's fully engaged and wants his family to be fully engaged.
HOW TO REACH: Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, www.blankfoundation.org or (404) 367-2100
Education: Bachelor of arts degree from Kalamazoo College
First job: Cutting lawns. "(I had) my own lawn-care business, although I think I underpriced it significantly. I didn't (make a lot of money). And I think that was my first lesson in economics -- four hours to cut a yard and make $3 wasn't a terribly good deal, but I had lot of business. I couldn't make it up in volume."
Career moves: July 1993 to July 1996, Salomon Brothers Inc., specialized in mergers and acquisitions; August 1996 to December 1996, an associate at Perry Corp., a private equity investment firm, which has a large investment in FTD; January 1997 to May 1999, vice president of marketing and sales promotion for FTD; May 1999 to October 2002, president and CEO for FTD.com; October 2002 to May 2004, president and COO for FTD; May 2004 to present, CEO and member of the board of directors of FTD
What is the greatest business lesson you've learned?
Not to fear failure. You can't be afraid to make a big mistake; otherwise, you will never get anything interesting done.
What is the greatest business challenge you've faced, and how did you overcome it?
One of the things that was always interesting to me is that when I was starting out early in my career, I wasn't afraid to work really, really, really hard. I think early on in my career, it was difficult for me when I started managing people.
Many times, they had different backgrounds and experiences than me; they didn't always have the same work ethic.
I realized that I was going to have to work hard to find a team of people who understood the value of working hard and the value of dedication and commitment. It took me awhile to assemble that kind of team and to find those types of people.
Once we found that group, the group I work with today, is really when things really began to happen.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
I admire my father, simply because he taught me just about everything I know about how to treat other people. And every day, that is probably the one thing that allows me to continue to succeed in my career.