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Tammy Tedesco graduated from the University of Michigan in 1989, and just three years later, she started Edibles Rex, what was then a small restaurant. She initially started the small carryout café restaurant with the hopes of having job security and avoiding the potential of losing her job.

Tedesco worked hard at her new business, but at just 23 years old, she had a lot to learn as the business grew. One thing Tedesco did realize was that she had to continue to reinvest in her business if she expected it to grow. For the first seven years, she didn’t take a paycheck and relied on a second job to keep her going. Slowly, but steadily, Edibles Rex became much more than a restaurant.

“From a restaurant, it evolved several times,” Tedesco says. “Every time we evolved was to meet a client’s needs. Three years after being in the small restaurant, I could see that we couldn’t expand that way. A client asked us if we would come and manage a facility and be the in-house caterers.

“That really put us in a new direction and allowed us to grow.”

About three years after that, Tedesco had another customer ask if the company would ever consider feeding school children. At that time, charter schools were on the rise in Detroit and they needed outside food service since these schools didn’t have the facilities to do it themselves.

“So instantly we became a school food provider and started out with about 2,000 students,” Tedesco says. “We have since grown our school business to 10,000 meals a day.”

Today, Edibles Rex has 80 employees and is one of metropolitan Detroit’s top food and beverage catering and events services. However, the company has struggled at finding capital and space big enough to support the growing business — and that has been Tedesco’s quest as president and CEO.

“Our biggest challenge has been access to capital,” she says.

Tedesco was part of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women class, which opened valuable connections and taught her important business skills.

“I feel if we could have tapped into that eight or 10 years ago, we might be in a different position right now,” she says.

No matter the path taken, an entrepreneur’s work is very hard and you have to be willing to sacrifice to achieve success.

“It takes determination and keeping your eye on the vision, and if you believe in it, it will happen,” she says. “I knew that I only had myself to rely on. Early on, you should get yourself a mentor or someone who could be your cheerleader and your advocator to keep you going because there were days I wanted to give up.

“It’s really about loving what you’re getting ready to go into and knowing there are going to be a lot of dark and challenging days. You’re not going to know everything, and you have to be OK with that. A lot of people get a little too arrogant about what they know and they’re not willing to be open to advice. I was willing to get any kind of advice that would make my life easier.”

That kind of determined attitude has been crucial in Tedesco’s success. She is now passing that attitude on to her employees who work with customers every day.

“To this day, we are a catering company and we sell great food, but the No. 1 thing that we sell is customer service,” Tedesco says. “By us taking care of our customers, they come to us with new ideas for our business. It’s always about trying to work out kinks for our customers. I tell our employees that I’m not their boss, and I don’t sign the paychecks — our customers do. By taking care of the customers you’re taking care of your paycheck.” ?

How to reach: Edibles Rex, (313) 922-3000 or www.ediblesrex.com

 

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Published in Cleveland

Five years ago, TaKeysha Sheppard Cheney had a successful, secure corporate position with American Electric Power (AEP) working in sustainability. At that same time, Cheney became increasingly involved in numerous women and girl initiatives in her community as a volunteer. It became a growing passion of hers and she knew she had to do something more about it.

“I have a strong interest in business and helping women who are like me and serious about their careers or their businesses but, at the same time, understand how important it is to be engaged in the community,” Cheney says.

That passion led Cheney to start The Women’s Book, a media company that shares resources for women in business, in 2009. Cheney, CEO, began her new venture while still at AEP, but soon realized that she had to make a choice between one or the other. The Women’s Book won.

“The decision to leave my corporate job was a turning point because there was a lot of security there,” Cheney says. “The reality was that I did have to make a choice because it became too much.

“It was a big leap, but I felt that it had traction and potential, and it was what I needed to do. Now I had to figure out how to navigate this big move.”

With a new business under way and a number of uncertainties in front of her, Cheney pushed forward with The Women’s Book. She now had a lot to juggle day-in and day-out.

“One of my biggest challenges is juggling all my interests,” she says. “I’m very entrepreneurial and I come up with a lot of ideas. Half the battle is prioritizing which ideas to act on and which things to get involved with in the community. At the same time, I have a business to run, and it takes a lot of my time.”

While prioritizing is a big challenge for Cheney, she always puts her family first.

“I have a very supportive spouse, but he definitely tells me when things are off,” she says. “I’m also the eldest of seven kids, and it’s important that I spend time with them as well. They need to know that I value them and not just my business.”

Cheney says the key to prioritizing is being honest about what’s most important to you.

“Is advancing your business or your corporate career a high priority for you?” Cheney says. “Is spending time with your family and with your spouse really a priority? If it is, then you have to make time for it.”

Cheney makes sure that she spends time on the things that are most important in her life, but she has never been one to believe in the word “balance” but rather the word “juggle.”

“One month you might spend more time on your business than you do your family, or you might spend more time one month on your family than you do your nonprofit,” she says. “That’s OK. You just have to take a regular assessment once a month or every other month to look at where you’re spending time.”

These kinds of challenges and obstacles are what keep Cheney excited to take on each new day.

“The reality is that if there weren’t any obstacles, life wouldn’t be as much fun and certain goals wouldn’t be as worth it,” Cheney says. “There’s value in having to work hard and those obstacles do exist. You have to acknowledge that and figure out how you are going to deal with them.” ?

How to reach: The Women’s Book, (614) 678-8008 or www.thewomensbook.com

 

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Published in Cleveland

Dr. Shannon Phillips and her husband moved to Cleveland 10 years ago to pursue opportunities at the Cleveland Clinic. Her husband was recruited to run a research program at the hospital and she took the move as an opportunity to go back to graduate school and get a master’s degree in public health at John Hopkins University.

“I made the emphasis of my work patient safety,” Phillips says. “It struck me that we had opportunities to make care more reliable and that would make it safer and build a culture that didn’t find it acceptable to not reduce variability and bring standards to what we do.”

Phillips loved the work she was doing in her master’s program and translated it to her work at the Children’s Hospital as a way to make things better, safer and of higher quality. The Cleveland Clinic took notice of her efforts, and in 2007, she became the first patient safety officer for the Quality and Patient Safety Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.

“I tried to turn my attention to culture and high reliability for the whole organization,” she says. “It’s been a great challenge and a great deal of fun, and those two combined makes for the perfect job.”

Going back to school ultimately was one of Phillips’ biggest turning points, because had it not been for that, she wouldn’t have gone into the work she is currently doing.

“Being able to make changes or improvements to health care that impacts dozens, hundreds or thousands of people was the space that spoke to me,” she says. “The opportunity to be able to stretch my leadership and capabilities in this space in the Children’s Hospital was a blessing.”

There are those opportunities that people get in front of them all the time where you have a choice to make about what you want to do next.

“In the professional realm, I think about whether an opportunity will leverage me and what I’m capable of bringing to the organization,” Phillips says. “Does it use my strengths well and do I get to grow new skills that I haven’t had the opportunity to stretch before? If I’m not going to grow as a person, that opportunity wouldn’t be very fun and my answer would be no.”

Taking a challenge and turning it into a positive experience and a fun one is what Phillips is known for being able to do. Her attitude is what has driven her career.

“I’m the sort of person that tries to make lemonade out of lemons,” she says. “I’ve taken advantage of learning as many things as I can from the places I’ve been and that’s tremendously helped me in what I’m doing now. Attitude matters a lot. Attitude is differentiating.”

People are always quick to focus on what’s not working or what can’t be done. You have to find ways to remain positive.

“When it comes to your attitude everybody is tired and pushed and busy and the next new thing may feel like the tipping point,” she says. “You have to sometimes reflect on it and prioritize what’s on the top of the plate. Spending a little effort in that space makes it feel not quite so overwhelming.”

In Phillips’ position, it’s very hard for people to look at you as a potential leader if you are the person that everybody would describe as a Debbie Downer type.

“You have to rise to the challenge with the right attitude and then you’re seen as someone who gets things done,” she says. “You may be the person who gets things done but doesn’t have a good attitude. Opportunities are always going to go to the positive person first. It causes a lot less ripples and a lot less trouble if you don’t have to contend with attitude. It’s a reflection on you.” ?

How to reach: Quality and Patient Safety Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, (800) 223-2273 or my.clevelandclinic.org/about-cleveland-clinic/quality-patient-safety/

 

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Published in Cleveland

Nancy Udelson is the face of the Alzheimer’s Association, Cleveland Area Chapter. For more than five years she has been its executive director, ensuring the Cleveland Alzheimer’s Association is getting proper funding and advocacy.

While Udelson’s current position has been the most rewarding one she has ever had, the job came after having been an alumni director at Cleveland State University and Case Western Reserve University. Throughout her career, Udelson has overcome several challenges, including a critical turning point when she was laid off from Case and didn’t know what she wanted to do next.

“I had already been an alumni director at two universities and didn’t really want to do that,” Udelson says. “I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I started working my network and a friend of mine asked if she could send my resume to the Alzheimer’s Association, and I said sure.”

It turned out that the executive director position was vacant, and while Udelson was interviewing for a development position, she was asked whether she would like to apply for the executive director job.

“I had to think long and hard about it and whether or not I wanted to work that hard at this point in my life,” she says. “I decided I did and was planning to work for a long time. This was the first position that I had with a mission-driven organization that was something that I felt was incredibly important. That’s how I made my decision to come here.”

When Udelson was, in effect, rewritten out of her position at Case, it was a turning point because it gave her the opportunity to step back and ask what she really wanted to be doing.

“When I look back on my career and the positions that I’ve had, each one seems to build on the one before it,” she says. “It wasn’t by design, but it did seem to work out that way. I feel like the position I have now is really truly the culmination of all the years that I’ve been working.”

The most important key to Udelson’s success and her ability to transition into the next role in her career has been maintaining a network of friends and colleagues.

“You have to keep in touch with people and keep a list of who you’ve worked with that have gone on to other positions that you stay in touch with,” Udelson says. “Having a really good network is critical to moving ahead in a position whether you’re early, middle or late in your career. For anyone to think that they can do it all by themselves, it’s not true.

“You never know where you’re going to end up and who might be the right person to pick up the phone and call. You can’t be afraid to ask for help or ask for information or assistance. You have to have confidence.”

In addition to keeping a strong network, Udelson has overcome challenges and been able to move to the next stage in her career by having a positive attitude and being willing to gain new skill sets.

“You have to learn how to roll with the punches in life,” she says. “When something doesn’t go right, like when I got divorced, I could have stayed in bed with the covers over my head, but I couldn’t. I got up, took care of my kids, got a job and put one foot in front of the other.

“As much as you are angry, hurt or crushed or whatever the various emotions you go through, you have to think about yourself and the skills you have, what you’ve gained, what you have to offer and try as hard as you can to move forward. Had I not done that, I don’t think I’d be in the job I have today. You have to put your best foot forward.” ?

How to reach: Alzheimer’s Association, Cleveland Area Chapter, (800) 272-3900 or www.alz.org/cleveland

 

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Published in Cleveland

Lisa Schiffman has always been an entrepreneurial, creative person throughout her career. She is always looking for opportunities to do things differently or start something new. At Ernst & Young LLP, Schiffman has been given those opportunities to make a difference as the Americas director of marketing and communications, Strategic Growth Markets.

“Ernst & Young has always given me the resources, the space, the time and the trust to go down a new path and see what would become of it,” Schiffman says. “It’s really important to know yourself and what your go-to skill set is.”

When you’re in the working world, you have to know what it is that people come to you for as opposed to going to someone else.

“That’s a very valuable thing to know because it enables you to navigate things that leverage that most optimally and move away from things that underoptimize that,” Schiffman says. “Most people don’t ask themselves that question enough.”

Asking such a question is what gave Schiffman a eureka moment in 2008 when she had the idea to create an Entrepreneurial Winning Women Program at E&Y. The annual competition and leadership development program identifies women entrepreneurs whose second-stage businesses show real potential to scale up but need to overcome barriers — and then helps them do it through five crucial accomplishments: Think big and be bold, build a public profile, work on the business rather than in it, establish key advisory networks, and evaluate financing for expansion.

“We knew if we could apply our resources to these women, big things could happen,” Schiffman says. “When you look at what gets in the way and why don’t more women entrepreneurs get over that inflection point and realize that real strong growth curve, there were a number of things.”

First of all, in some cases, it’s a failure to think big enough.

“That recognition that you have something that can really get big and you’re the one who can take it there is probably the most important moment in the program, because from that, all else proceeds,” she says.

Another obstacle is sometimes women have more of a tendency to work in the business than on it.

“We can get caught up in some of the operational details and not necessarily recognize the need to step away from some of the daily operations,” she says.

“If you’re holding on to too many things and your head is down every day and you’re not thinking about what’s next, you can inhibit your own growth. If my role is the CEO, it can’t also be the CFO, COO and CIO. I have to bring that talent in.”

A great way to gain that talent is through advisory networks.

“One of the things that can help an entrepreneur a lot is being surrounded by people whose experience is different than yours, whose expertise complements yours and who can provide you some guidance,” Schiffman says. “An advisory network is really important because none of us has a full complement of experiences that are required to grow a company.”

Lastly, you have to consider what kind of financing options you’ll need as you grow. Ernst & Young helps women make contacts and build relationships with outside investors as well as gives them education about financing and expansion.

But the main takeaway from Entrepreneurial Winning Women is that you can’t be afraid to seek help when you need it.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions on topics that matter that you don’t have the experience to know about,” she says. “People are a bit hesitant sometimes to probe and learn more. Most people are extremely generous and will spend a moment to offer some advice and insight from their own experience. We could all expose ourselves more to that and be better off for it.” ?

How to reach: Ernst & Young LLP, (215) 448-5000 or www.ey.com. Ernst & Young is currently accepting applications for this year’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women Program through June 28.

 

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Published in Cleveland

Lisa Oliver has been working in the banking industry ever since she graduated from college. She went to work for KeyBank in 1990 and has been the Cleveland district president for the past 10 years. However, her career wasn’t as straightforward as one might expect.

Oliver has come face-to-face with numerous challenges and obstacles throughout her career, and having to overcome those is what made her who she is today.

Early in her career, Oliver struggled with self-confidence in her ability to climb the ranks of a male-dominated industry. She also had to overcome a punch or two to her ego when she was turned down for certain jobs or promotions.

“Many times, you see people who have a desire to move quick and get into the next role and grow and make more money,” Oliver says. “You tell that person they’re not ready for the next job or you tell them no; that was an early challenge for me.

“I was a middle-market relationship manager and the leadership role on our team opened up, and I put my name in the hat for that job. I didn’t get that job. A gentleman from outside the bank got that job. It really upset me. I felt I was qualified and was the next person in line.”

The way you handle that scenario is a huge challenge in anyone’s career and can predict future successes. Oliver had to take the lessons from being passed over and ask the questions to understand why. She began to dig deeper at work and viewed her position at Key as a career rather than just a job for a paycheck.

“That was a huge confidence factor that came from sticking with a career and viewing it that way and not as a job,” she says. “What I realized was it was also helping me grow as a person. My confidence professionally came from failing and fixing it.”

Oliver has seen people achieve success much quicker than she did but believes she was much better off failing and then climbing to the top.

“Those people who have moved quickly and have had little mini successes will eventually have a huge fall,” she says. “When I look at my career, and this goes back to being told, ‘No, you can’t have this next job’ or not winning or being the best or being on top of the pile, that has always been something that has driven me to try harder and learn more.”

Oliver has always been her own biggest critic. That desire to always be a little bit better, improve and make sure you’re willing to understand what your weaknesses are helps build confidence.

Oliver has done that over time. Her ability to gain confidence and find more purpose in her career ultimately led to her getting a leadership role at KeyBank. That role would be the turning point in her career.

“There was a group that reached out to me that was interested in having me go from middle-market into the business banking space and they were looking for a team leader,” Oliver says.

“Being given that opportunity was hugely transformative for me. It helped me start to think about the future and not just what I had to do in that day or that week. What do we want to achieve this year? How do I want people to excel? What will be my next career move and to what is this a building block?”

That process ultimately led to her current position at Key in Cleveland.

“So much of it is about attitude,” she says. “There is a saying about attitude that whether you think you can or that you can’t, you’re right, because you will direct yourself down that path. Whether you know it or not, you are the person who undermines your career, not anybody else, and you have to be aware of that.” ?

How to reach: KeyBank, (216) 689-5580 or www.key.com

 

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Published in Cleveland

cle_cs_perspectives_logo_0413Windows on the River

 

Windows on the River is a full-service banquet facility that provides a truly exceptional experience. Centrally located in the historic FirstEnergy Powerhouse, we offer three specular rooms and two patios that offer dazzling views of Cleveland’s skyline, signature bridges and breathtaking sunsets. Each room is unique with exposed brick and high ceilings.

Whether you are planning a corporate meeting, a wedding or a cocktail reception, Windows on the River is the perfect place. Windows on the River is also the exclusive caterer to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium and Jacobs Pavilion, venues that can be added to any event to make it one of a kind.

Our philosophy is simple: We believe that you, the host/hostess, should enjoy the event as much as your guests. Our goal is to exceed your expectations, and we all work toward that goal.

Reach Windows on the River at (216) 861-1445 or www.windowsontheriver.com. Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/windowsontheriver.

 

Hughie’s Event Production Services

 

Hughie’s Event Production Services is Cleveland’s premier live-event design and production resource, founded in 1953.

Hughie’s is a worldwide supplier of high-definition video projection equipment, concert-quality audio systems, intelligent moving lights, staging systems and more to satisfy all your presentation and special event needs.

At HEPS, we strongly believe in a team approach to projects and productions. Our staff members are our strength and bring with them a wide range of education and experience. We are committed to offering you the best service in the industry along with superior, state-of-the-art equipment. With all our resources, years of knowledge in the industry, and cutting-edge technology, you can rely on our team working closely with yours to ensure many successful events.

Partner with the pros at Hughie’s to design and produce all your important events, all while saving you money. Receive a free, confidential price quote when you call.

To schedule your next event, log onto www.hughies.com or call (216) 361-4600. Follow us on facebook.com/HughiesEPS.

 

Cleveland Clinic

 

Whether you’re an executive, a working parent or a woman on the go, your time is at a premium. You wear many hats and juggle multiple responsibilities. Proactively seeking to optimize your health and well-being pays off not just for you. It pays off for your family, employer, community and all who depend on you.

A Woman’s Executive Health Evaluation offers world-class medical and wellness services to bring you the most comprehensive, streamlined Executive Health Evaluation available. Our clinical team includes skilled, compassionate and experienced male and female physicians with the ability to create a valuable and meaningful experience. We have transformed the traditional physical from a data-gathering exam into an integrated, personalized one-day head-to-toe evaluation by some of the top medical staff in the world.

For more information on our Executive Health Program, visit www.clevelandclinic.org/executivehealth or call (216) 986-1236 to speak with our corporate health consultant.

 

95.5 The Fish

 

95.5 The Fish and Salem Communications of Northeast Ohio proudly support all women who excel and aspire to excel. We invite you to tune in to 95.5 The Fish starting at 6 a.m. for the Family Friendly Morning Show for uplifting music and content that will help get your day off to a great start.

Speaking of Women who Excel, Brooke Taylor has been co-host of the Family Friendly Morning show for more than six years with her co-host, Len Howser. As a wife and mom of five, Taylor says co-hosting the morning show is a “dream come true,” and she considers “work” one of the biggest highlights of her day.

“For a busy wife and mom, it’s an answer to prayer to be able to go to a job every day where I can connect with other parents and families based on common beliefs and share our joy and challenges,” she says.

Taylor believes the listeners are more than just people who turn on the radio station but are a part of an extended family. She adds, “I am very protective of our listeners. They represent friends, families, and they inspire me every day.”

 

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Published in Cleveland

cle_cs_perspectives_logo_0413What does Anthem do to support women in business? The same things we do to support every business leader — because women expect the same value, innovation and dedication as any other forward-thinking leader. How do we know? Our parent company was named a 2012 “Top 50 Company for Executive Women” by the National Association for Female Executives.

We also listen to the many women business leaders we serve to stay on target. Ohio is ranked No. 9 of the top 10 states for women-owned businesses. And as of 2012, there are more than 8.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating about $1.3 trillion in revenue and employing 7.7 million people. Clearly, women have a voice in everything we do.

At Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, that means working hard every day to improve the lives of the people we serve.

With the help of many successful women, we’ve been able to:

?  Make meaningful connections with our members — from online groups to personal health coaching.

?  Develop leading health plans that reflect diverse needs in a changing market.

?  Teach people how their healthy choices influence the people around them.

?  Inspire kids and their families to choose (and stick with) healthy habits.

?  Help lower health care costs with new plans, new payment models and new technology.

 

Thanks to all the women who lead by example, extend helping hands to our communities and pave the way for the next generation of successful women. ?

Denise Tomechko is vice president of national account management for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Reach her at (800) 928-2902, www.anthem.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HealthJoinIn.

 

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Published in Cleveland

One of the biggest differences between running a business on the side and quitting your job to run it full time is that you lose the security of a steady paycheck. That loss of income and the uncertainty as to whether it will ever come back is enough to make anyone pause and reconsider quitting their day job.

But what if your part-time venture is beginning to pick up steam, and you earnestly believe that it needs your full, undivided attention? While it can be scary, there are steps you can take to make such a leap less daunting.

Get organized

When you begin your business in earnest, take time to reduce your clutter. Working out of a messy office will eat much more time than it takes to get everything organized.

Speaking of time, making the transition to full-time business owner means also becoming much more self-motivated and coordinated. There is no one to remind you to clock in or to hound you about being late.

It’s great to go about the day without being micromanaged, but be careful. It’s just as easy to slip into a state of complacency. Organize your space, set a schedule and stay disciplined.

Protect yourself

There is always going to be some element of risk involved in whatever you decide to do next. But there are also actions that a new full-time business owner can take to reduce some of that risk.

As a part-time owner, chances are high that your business is a sole proprietorship — sort of the default business structure. Unfortunately, that means that you are responsible for your business’s debts, and if things go south, debt collectors may start trying to take your personal assets to pay for those business debts.

When you jump to full-time, consider forming an LLC or S corporation. There are different advantages and disadvantages to these structures, but they will help protect your personal property by separating you and your business’s debts.

Make saving a priority

Take full advantage of that steady paycheck for as long as you have it and save. Anyone looking to branch out and start a business has to use every cost-cutting measure out there so they have breathing room when trying to get their new business to turn a profit. Advisers typically recommend having enough saved up to pay for four to six months of living expenses. Luckily, if a business is being run part-time, it may be pulling in money already.

There is no magic number for saving — it just needs to be enough so that you don’t have to dig for change to pay your electric bill. Meet with an accountant, crunch the numbers and make sure you’re comfortable with the recommendations they give on budgeting and working with your financial situation.

Part-time owners know their company can draw customers, sell a product or service and bring in money since it has already been doing just that. This insight makes it very tempting to throw caution to the wind and jump into full-time ownership without making the necessary preparations.

But don’t take a huge leap without ensuring your fall is cushioned. Take your time, get everything in order, protect your assets and meet with an accountant to solidify a plan. Next, take a deep breath and put in your two weeks’ notice — you’re now a full-time business owner.

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation. Find her online at mycorporation.com and on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.

Published in Columnist

It’s a fairly common approach when taking on a new job to talk to those people who have been there for a while to learn what the company is all about. Harold Edwards tried this approach at Limoneira Co., and he didn’t like what he was learning.

“To be pretty direct, a lot of complacency and apathy had crept their way into the organization,” says Edwards, president and CEO at the Santa Paula, Calif.-based grower and provider of lemons. “We literally had situations where the people who had worked for the company for the longest period of time were probably doing the least amount of work.”

As Edwards looked at the financial numbers, he could see that the company wasn’t really on the upswing. But it was the attitude of senior leaders at Limoneira that concerned him even more.

“Most evident when I showed up was just a lot of senior-level managers and people who had been with the organization for a long time were not only not aligned with the objectives of the organization but also were very clearly and very evidently complacent about their day-to-day duties and responsibilities,” Edwards says.

The work culture and environment had become a big problem. Edwards needed to act swiftly to get things turned around at the company, which employs 226 people and has been producing lemons since 1893.

“The area where a lot of companies go wrong is they don’t stay current with their dynamic environment and they don’t consistently go through and define those objectives and focus on the alignment or realignment of those objectives every year as the environment continues to change,” Edwards says. “That’s where many companies fall down.”

Edwards hoped his plan would keep that from happening at Limoneira.

Laying out a new course

The changes on the leadership team were first up for Edwards. They were not easy moves to make.

“There were some pretty strong and big power struggles that had bred themselves within the organization,” Edwards says.

“One of my first orders of business as I was building my senior management team was to attempt to eliminate those power struggles. I wanted to get everybody’s full commitment to the vision of the organization and the new, very decentralized structure that we were putting in place to foster better teamwork.”

Edwards made it clear that he wanted to identify new growth opportunities and assess what was working and what wasn’t working to help Limoneira function to its full potential.

“We never had the vision that maybe the way to manage the company in a better way would be to really focus in on the growth of the business,” Edwards says. “And by growth, I mean really make it our business to transition from our focus from just being a producer into becoming a supplier of lemons.

“Surround ourselves and our assets not only with our own fruit but eventually with the fruit of other growers that would allow us to take advantage of our strong brand reputation in the marketplace.”

Those who weren’t committed to pursuing this new path didn’t stick around long, which turned out to be a good thing.

“In a way, it was very emancipating and helpful for the overall organization because as some of those people who were hanging onto their turf exited, you could almost hear the overall organization breathe a big sigh of relief,” Edwards says. “It was viewed as very empowering for many of the other people who were in essence held down or oppressed by some of these former managers.”

To those who feared they might be ousted by this new leader, Edwards worked hard to get them to see that he wasn’t there to conquer Limoneira. He was there to give people the freedom to help the company grow.

“My style is not to micromanage anybody on my team,” Edwards says. “It’s really just to position myself as an enabler and a supporter and to try to see that each one of these individuals is able to have success with the objectives that they’ve laid down for themselves and their teams.”

Building communication channels

The next step for Edwards at Limoneira was not a painful one, but it was a big challenge. His goal was to have his managerial team identify the top five objectives for the entire organization.

“They weren’t financial goals,” Edwards says. “They were more specific strategic objectives. Once they were created, we methodically went through each person in the senior management team, down through the management team, down through every salaried employee and then down through the rank-and-file employees.

“When the exercise was complete, the goal was everybody in the company had their own top five objectives that if they were successful accomplishing, the organization would have the best chance of achieving its top five objectives.”

It’s obviously a lot more challenging in practice than it is on paper. You have to accept that while there may be some hiccups along the way in developing all these objectives, they will lead you to a better outcome if you stay disciplined with the process.

“It really takes a commitment,” Edwards says. “Not all organizations are able to embrace that. There is a downside to innovation. There’s a downside to being really entrepreneurial and, in this case, intrepreneurial. It can be very disruptive. But if you’re willing to embrace some choppiness and disruption to do things better, it will work.”

With everyone committed to pursuing new growth opportunities, Edwards says the past five years have provided a consistent flow of new ideas from employees who previously weren’t involved in such talks.

“We have laid down very specific and very measurable growth targets that have really helped us smooth out the cyclicality and volatility of our business,” Edwards says.

“It’s also gotten all the employees who are involved in this part of our business very specifically focused on what their role and responsibility is. We can determine if we were successful or not. That is a specific objective that really has helped us transition the company and helped us grow.”

Edwards says it’s a message he repeats over and over again that great ideas at Limoneira do not have to begin in his office.

“Encourage people to think outside the box and come up with ideas about how to streamline efficiencies and how to get things done in a more efficient way,” he says. “Don’t just assume or accept that there is only one way to do things.”

Stick to it

When you think you’ve finally driven home the idea that you want employees to feel empowered to share their ideas, you need to resist the urge to stop talking about it.

“Part of the performance management program has a quarterly evaluation process that makes each employee better connected with a greater sense of consistent purpose with his or her manager,” Edwards says. “That allows them to do a better job of determining when an employee is getting it done and when they aren’t.”

Most employees want to make their supervisors and managers proud and want to do their part to help the business. But you have to maintain the dialogue and keep talking about it to make it work.

“The skill of the manager is to make sure that the things that aren’t going to be good objectives and goals, that those aren’t implemented,” Edwards says. “The ones that will really drive the organization forward are used.”

The discipline is not just a means to keep employees on task. It’s to help keep you and your management team on task as well.

“It’s very easy to see if we didn’t stay vigilant and diligent on quarterly evaluation and the communication of those evaluations, that it could very easily become just another thing that the organization was doing and the whole purpose would really be lost,” Edwards says.

One of the final pieces of the transformation at Limoneira has been to make sure the board of directors and company leaders understand the difference between management and governance.

“Part of the board’s responsibility in good governance is to help define and lay out good strategy for the organization as it moves forward,” Edwards says. “What had happened was the board had begun to get involved in personnel decisions. It had actually started micromanaging certain managerial posts sort of at the expense of the authority of the CEO of the company.”

Edwards shared his thoughts that the board needed to focus on strategy and let leaders like himself deal with day-to-day operations.

“By getting the board back to being a part of the governance structure and the management team really focusing in on the management of the company and keeping those roles and responsibilities separate and distinct and very disciplined, we’ve allowed both to operate at excellent levels that have really pushed the company forward,” Edwards says.

The result is a business that has grown consistently, with revenue leaping from $52.5 million in 2011 to $65.8 million in 2012.

“It’s much clearer the level of collaboration and teamwork that is necessary in order for all the employees to be successful,” Edwards says. “It’s forced people to play their roles and responsibilities more in concert as a team rather than as individuals. It’s that new alignment and fostering of teamwork that really set the company in motion.”

How to reach: Limoneira Co., (805) 525-5541 or www.limoneira.com

 

The Edwards File

Name: Harold Edwards

Title: President and CEO

Company: Limoneira Co.

Born: San Francisco

Education: Undergraduate degree in international affairs, Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Ore.; MBA in global management, Thunderbird School of Global Management, Glendale, Ariz.

What was your very first job?

Working on a ranch in Santa Paula. It was physical labor. I was hewing weeds, chopping suckers off trees or laying down mulch and fertilizer. I’m five generations deep in one of six families that represent the largest shareholders of this company. I grew up on one of the ranches that is one of different 15 ranches that the company manages.

What do you enjoy about the work?

I’ve sort of committed myself to making the world my canvas and taking opportunities to be living in a global world that produces and distributes product all over the world. The part of my job that gives me the greatest level of satisfaction is to, in a very small way, play a part in feeding the hungry world.

Why do Europeans consume so many more lemons than the United States?

You correlate it with obesity and the quality of our diets here versus the diets in other parts of the world. Then you look at life expectancy and health and you start to see some trends that are very compelling. If we were just to reach parity with Europe in terms of their lemon consumption, we don’t grow enough lemons here in the United States to accomplish that today. So we spend a lot of time trying to convince people to use lemons in their everyday lives here in the United States. So far we’re starting to see the results of a lot of these efforts take place.

 

Takeaways:

Be clear about your intentions.

Build channels to communicate.

Stay disciplined with your plan.

Published in Los Angeles