In late February, Office Max and Office Depot agreed to merge, pending normal government and shareholder approvals — and while this merger had been anticipated by the financial community for many years, the reasons why this took place are all too common.

The office supply world has changed dramatically over the past 16 years. In 1997, Office Depot attempted to merge with Staples, but the courts halted this due to the potential monopoly. Since then, the rise of stronger independent dealers working in the B2B marketplace, the rise of e-commerce sales (both independent dealers and others), and department stores expanding office supply goods in the B2C marketplace have forced marketplace changes.

Is this just a temporary rearrangement of the deck chairs? There are a number of reasons that make up the failure of these two companies to make it on their own. The first reason boils down to debt.

The bottom line is that these two firms combined have nearly 2,100 stores across the United States. This in itself has created massive amounts of debt — both on the balance sheet and off the sheet too. Office Max has more than $1 billion in off balance sheet debt and $1.7 billion of debt listed on the balance sheet. In addition, there has been another $2 billion in write-downs during of the past five years.

The second lesson is having a stagnant business model heavily based on brick-and-mortar stores. This new company, as yet un-named, will have 2,100 stores nationwide. Competitor Staples will have about 2,000 stores. However, all of the self-serve stores have been in a retail retraction for a few years and have been closing or reducing the size of stores in an effort to cut costs.

What you can expect to see

In order to create a healthy balance sheet, my crystal ball tells me that, due to duplication of resources, over the next few years, you can expect closures of distribution centers, a continuation of store closings, financial write-downs, layoffs and reductions in debt. Will this be enough to please shareholders? Stay tuned.

Since Depot bought Max, will Office Depot bring all of its outsourcing back from overseas or send more out? Will the handling of customer service issues improve or decline? Some clients have been told not to order on Friday, because they won’t deliver on Monday. Will they outsource all delivery personnel?

Will these changes affect their B2B clients? It is very likely — and not in a positive way.

By far, the biggest question is whether all of these changes will impact the remaining store, B2B and e-commerce sales.

What to do right now?

Businesses should control their business destiny and not wait for their dust to settle.

Look at your company’s strategic initiatives. Many common strategic initiatives include cost cutting, vendor reduction, “buy local” and sustainability.

Take this change in the marketplace as a reminder to examine this line item in the budget — even if you aren’t using Depot/Max. As we’ve seen, there isn’t a line item in a company budget that is above scrutiny.

I’ve worked with many clients nationwide and have been able to show them a double-digit price decrease compared to self-serve stores — all the while providing a higher level of service. While the pricing makes one competitive, it’s the service level that maintains loyalty.

Caution: Businesses that look strictly on price may likely be short-changing themselves by not looking at overall value. Consider working with a local partner who can make your office run smoothly. This will lower both hard and soft dollar costs while helping achieve strategic initiatives.

Independent office supply companies carry thousands of products. They have formed their own buying consortiums to lower the cost below self-serve stores and provide nationwide delivery. These include furniture, janitorial/sanitation, coffee/breakroom and computer supplies.

If you could purchase nearly everything for the office, with a reduced number of vendors and have a favorable impact to your balance sheet — wouldn’t you make a change? ?

Bill Botkin is a sales consultant for Today’s Business Products. Contact him at (800) 536-5163 or bbotkin@todaysbp.com.

Published in Columnist

When Jean-Paul Ebanga looks up at the sky, he thinks about the more than 3 million people who fly every day on airplanes powered by CFM International engines. In fact, every 2.4 seconds an airplane departs under the power of a CFM engine.

“That means our role today is far beyond delivering engines to the industry; it is also making sure people are traveling in a very safe way at a decent price,” says Ebanga, president and CEO of CFM International, a $15 billion aircraft engine manufacturer that is a joint venture between GE here in the U.S. and Snecma in France.

CFM — which gets its name from a combination of the two parent companies’ commercial engine designations, GE’s CF6 and Snecma’s M56 — combines the resources, engineering expertise and product support of these two engine manufacturers to build engines for narrow body aircrafts.

“Today, in the air transport industry, the narrow-body segment is the main segment of the industry,” Ebanga says. “Looking forward for the next 20 years, there will be a need for roughly 30,000 new airplanes; two-thirds of those will be narrow-body airplanes and CFM is currently leading this market segment.”

If being the industry leader in engine manufacturing wasn’t enough of a challenge, Ebanga also has the challenge of leading a joint venture company where compromise and collaboration is the key to success.

“If you are taking two parent companies with two different cultures and you try to blend them, this will generate some difficulties,” Ebanga says. “But the net result, because you have to find compromise, because you have to work between different cultures, will be more sound ideas and a much more efficient organization.”

Here’s how Ebanga utilizes both GE’s and Snecma’s resources to keep CFM the industry leader in narrow-body aircraft engine manufacturing.

Compromise and collaborate

While a majority of companies are focused on streamlining themselves, CFM has to take a different approach to its business. Its joint venture means CFM has to work to find compromise above all else in order to properly function at its best.

“The problem with the JV is because you have two different constituents, you have to make compromise,” Ebanga says. “There is no one voice saying this is the way and the rest of the team just follows without asking questions. In terms of leadership, it requires some things to be a little bit different than normal leadership.”

The existence of this additional challenge makes this kind of partnership too difficult for some leaders and companies. But Ebanga sees the glass as half-full.

“If you are able to find the sweet spot between the two company cultures and then work around these difficulties, you enable a new space of opportunities and strengths,” he says. “This is the essence of joint venture success.”

CFM has been known for a long time by its superb engine family, CFM56. Now the company is looking to release its next generation of engines called LEAP, for which compromise and collaboration will be key to its success.

“This new product will be designed based upon a very detailed and comprehensive market survey,” he says. “We spend more than three years asking the customer what they are looking for in the next 20 years and understanding in a granular way how the dynamics of the market can evolve, and then we define the product, which is the answer and the solution to that.”

When you have two companies, the reading of the market dynamics will be different because each company has a different way of operating and a different culture, so they will analyze all the signals in a different way.

“Maybe the solution has some things shared, but the two won’t be exactly the same,” Ebanga says. “The whole key is how you bridge the two approaches. How can GE or how Snecma can make the necessary compromise to accept that the other guys also have a great idea and how can you work together to bridge ideas that make a great product.”

The trick is being able to step back from what you believe is the ultimate answer and being able to compromise with other ideas from another company that also thinks they have an ultimate answer.

“By bridging the two, you find out that some of what’s behind the idea of the other company you didn’t think about at first and vice versa,” Ebanga says. “At the end, the product you are putting on the market is far better than the one you could have done alone.”

Both GE and Snecma own their own technology. Snecma works on the front and back of the engine, while GE works on the middle of the engine. For LEAP, they both have been developing technologies for their respective parts of the engine, but the companies don’t unilaterally say, ‘Here’s our part of the engine.’ The other company has to accept and agree with the technology based on analysis. There are checks and balances that go into the process.

“Based on the other company’s remarks, you can improve your own part,” he says. “Snecma might make some comments about the core, which is the responsibility of GE and taking into account these remarks GE will improve its own part of the engine and vice versa. It’s a mutual cross-pollination.”

The level of compromise and collaboration that CFM has developed has been built up during more than 30 years and is now a major part of the joint venture’s culture.

“In our case, the different GE and Snecma leaders, over time, understood that CFM’s success is more important than their own success,” Ebanga says. “That is to say that if I’m trying to optimize my own interests rather than CFM’s interests, at the end of the day, I would lose the game.”

CFM and GE have been very successful at carrying out this approach even though the leaders have changed.

“One way to do that is we manage young leaders in the challenges of working in this strategic partnership environment,” he says. “If you are growing leaders in this environment, eventually when they are in the top spot, they will have the framework to deal with what makes up the success of this JV.”

A joint venture takes an investment in both people and process in order to make it work.

“In a strategic partnership, it is like being a couple — you could fall in love day one and it’s great for a couple of weeks, but if you are not investing in the relationship … it won’t be a great love story,” he says.

Plan for the future

One of the main challenges CFM has is that in the ’70s it was just a start-up company. Now it has become the leader of the aircraft engine industry, and in order to remain in that position, Ebanga and the company must be forward-thinking.

CFM has several matters it needs to focus on for the future of the company. No. 1 is executing on current commitments.

“This is a big deal because we are currently developing a new engine family called LEAP, and the start of this new program has been very successful,” Ebanga says. “We are the sole power plant for the next generation of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, one of the two engine makers of the Airbus A320 aircraft, and we are the sole power plant of the new Chinese COMAC C919 aircraft.”

Beyond making LEAP the next engine of preference, CFM also has to ensure that whatever changes the market goes through in a decade or two from now the company will be able to adapt and reinvent itself to stay in the leading position.

“When you are in this top-dog phase, it’s difficult,” he says. “It’s about working on a short-term basis and, at the same time, articulating a strategy to change the way we are running to make sure we will still have the appropriate fit 10 years from now.”

Planning for what the future has in store is not an easy task. You need to address the situation in a very humble way.

“You are already overwhelmed by the shop-time challenges and to find time and perspective to think about the long-term is rather difficult,” Ebanga says. “Being humble helps you to engage in this journey. Along the way, you will have a lot of reasons to give up for a while and stick with the short-term. I think this is a recipe for failure. You need to stay humble on one end but also stay engaged and not let things go away.”

You also need to understand your market but not in the way you understand your market for your short-term objective.

“When you are looking at the market on a short-term basis, it is to make sure you have the appropriate marketing and value proposition to get yourself up and make your numbers,” he says. “When you are looking at the long-term perspective, it’s really the ability to elaborate scenarios about the change in your industry.” ?

How to reach: CFM International, (513) 563-4180 or www.cfmaeroengines.com

Takeaways:

Drive compromise and collaboration for best results.

Be able to reinvent your business to adapt to your market.

Develop plans for how the future of your market may unfold.

The Ebanga File

Jean-Paul Ebanga

President and CEO

CFM International

Born: Paris, France

Education: Graduated from École Nationale Supérieure d'Électricité et de Mécanique (ENSEM), France with a degree in engineering

What was your very first job, and what did you take away from that experience?

I was the leader of the photo club in high school. A lesson I learned from that time is that you can have some great ideas and be very fast in your head, but you have to have the ability to bring people up to speed. This is a great example of how a real organization works.

What got you into aviation?

It was the beauty and the exceptional achievement that this industry is all about. When I was in high school, I had two dreams—the first one was to be an architect and the second was to be an engineer to design great things. To imagine that I could generate some great things to enable this kind of achievement was absolutely fascinating for me. So I chose the engineering path and it still gives me great satisfaction. An aircraft engine is an absolutely amazing piece of technology, but also a piece of art.

Who is someone that you admire in business?

My first thought was the leaders and initial creators of Intel. Not only was this company able to start from nothing as CFM did and became the leading company in the microchip/microprocessor business. Initially they were the leader in the memory business and then they reached a point where they had to reinvent themselves. The reason Intel is the great company they are today is because they were able to reinvent themselves in the absolutely right way. So I admire this generation of Intel leaders.

Published in Cincinnati

Karri Bass loves to do consumer research. As a former Procter & Gamble employee, she constantly thinks about what drives consumer behavior toward a particular product.

That desire is what led her to launch Illumination Research, a marketing consulting company that was founded on a passion for uncovering what makes consumers tick and translating those insights into business-building ideas.

“When I was working in marketing for P&G, a huge part of our job was to better understand the consumer,” says Bass, principal and insight strategist at Illumination Research. “We want to figure out how they think, not only about the product category that we were marketing but in general.

“Who are they as a person? What motivates them? What different segments are there in the marketplace and to really understand that in order to be able to translate all that knowledge into business and ideas.”

Illumination Research was founded in 2005. It now has 25 employees and the capabilities to show its clients exactly how consumers would respond to new product offerings — and offers those clients advice on how to improve.

Start with packaging

One of the marketing aspects that Bass helps clients with at Illumination Research is packaging and how that packaging grabs a consumer’s attention.

“Say a client of ours might be launching a new product,” Bass says. “Part of what they need to do is create a package that breaks through the clutter on the shelf and grabs the attention of the customers. The package has a lot to do with getting attention and speaking to them.”

As an example of finding what catches a consumer’s eye, Illumination utilizes a mobile, virtual wall that projects a life-size simulation of a shopping environment such as a store aisle.

“Before companies ever have to invest in making physical mockups of packages, we can show them on this giant computer screen in the context of what a product will look like,” she says.

Technology and innovation such as this helps Illumination show its clients how a product will look and simulate where a consumer may focus attention depending on what is on the shelf.

“A lot of times, we’re just trying to understand which packages in the aisle or which one of their new designs do the best job of getting consumers’ eyes on them,” she says. “In those cases, we might recommend they do eye tracking with the research.”

The company literally has consumers wear special goggles that track where their eyes go on the shelf to see if the package is even noticed.

“Then we want to understand once they see it what are they communicating about it,” she says. “In addition to innovative technology that allows clients to see how consumers relate to a product on a shelf, Illumination also poses questions to consumers and clients to understand the total messaging and purpose behind a product and how the company wants it to connect with a consumer.

Communication: oral and visual

“At the end of the day, it’s about the communication,” Bass says. “We have certain lines of questioning to get out the messaging and what’s coming across through the words and through the visual. It’s a marriage of both.”

Over the years, Illumination Research has been able to groom its process for understanding the consumer, which has helped deliver stronger results for clients.

“Every time we do interviews with consumers, you’re able to see what kind of questions better help them articulate their feelings,” Bass says. “A lot of our job is thinking on our feet, and we have to very quickly adapt from interview to interview with consumers and figure out what will yield the information that we will understand.” ?

How to reach: Illumination Research, (513) 774-9531 or www.illumination-research.com

Published in Cincinnati

With 88 percent of businesses now active on social media, the social media landscape is becoming more cluttered and more difficult. This means that, for businesses, it is becoming harder and harder to break through the noise and be heard.

In order to penetrate the noise, businesses must deliver the right message to the right person in the right way. Increasingly, the way that people want to receive messages online is visually.

We’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is true. The brain can process images faster than text. This is why images are breaking through on social networks — because they provide a quicker way for people to comprehend information.

Image-based social networks, such as Pinterest and Instagram, are among the most popular and quickest-growing social networks online. Images are the most liked and commented on content on Facebook and links to images get the most clicks on Twitter. All signs point toward images as the most popular, most shared and most liked content on social networks.

The point is that with so much content on social media, images are increasingly the content that is breaking through and getting results. I realized this trend and recently published a book called “Visual Social Media Marketing” about how brands can take advantage of this and get results.

So, what can you do to take advantage of this trend? Here are three simple steps to start taking advantage of the visual revolution online.

Include images on your website

The visual Web focuses around images, and as your website is shared online, the images from your website are usually the focus of how your website content is shared.

For example, when I post a link to a website on Facebook, the image is shown beside the link to my content. In this example, I’m sharing a link to our report on Google+. The image of the Google+ report is on our website.

Having the image on our website is important to how the link to our website shows up on Facebook. The reality is that if you want to drive traffic to your website from social media, each page on your site should have relevant images that are appropriate for sharing on social networks.

Use images on existing social networks

If you want your business to be successful on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, images must be a part of your strategy. Consider these statistics:

?  Images are the most shared and clicked on content on Twitter.

?  Images receive 50 percent more interactions on Facebook.

?  Google+ users have uploaded 3.4 billion photos.

?  Recruiters spend more time examining a LinkedIn user’s picture than actually reviewing the person’s qualifications.

These statistics show that if you want to break through on the leading social networks you must have an image strategy. Images are easy to consume and eye-catching, and with all of the content on social networks, images break through and get better results than text updates.

Consider joining Instagram and Pinterest

Instagram and Pinterest are two of the quickest-growing social networks and they can be your way to reach new audiences and get results ahead of your competition. Consider joining these networks and participating in the community to reach your audience in a new and interesting way.

Visual marketing is a trend in social media that you just can’t afford to ignore. If you want your business to stay relevant, drive traffic to your website and build shares and likes on social networks, you can’t afford to ignore the power of images in achieving these objectives. ?

Krista Neher is the CEO of Boot Camp Digital. She is an international speaker and social media thought-leader, as well as the author of “The Social Media Field Guide,” “Visual Social Media Marketing” and “Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach.”

Published in Columnist

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

 

Click the links below to read about the 2013 Perspectives panelists and sponsors:

Published in Cleveland

Interviewed by Dustin S. Klein | dsklein@sbnonline.com

When Marcelo Claure got into the mobile phone business in 1997 as it was just getting started, there were 1 million mobile phones sold a year. Today, there are 1.7 billion sold every year.

The founder, president, chairman and CEO of Brightstar Corp. lives and breathes the fact that massive growth and change are part of the territory. Smaller, more powerful and robust smartphones and wireless technologies are being developed constantly.

“Change is part of our culture and our game,” he says. “We need to adapt to change. Being a distribution company at our core, we’re constantly changing suppliers, not just to change but because they become less and less relevant.”

What started as an effort to be the leading distributor of mobile phones in Miami soon became the leading distributor in Latin America.

“Then we said, ‘What about in the U.S., too?’’ he says. “Then we said, ‘What about the world?’ Today, we are the world’s largest distribution company.”

And it couldn’t have happened without a concerted effort to find executives who could operate in a dynamic, changing environment — very different from the traditional executive.

“They’re very unique and hard to find; at the beginning, we made a lot of mistakes,” Claure says, describing how the talent was having a difficult time keeping up with the technology.

But under Claure’s leadership, Brightstar has attained unprecedented growth, expanding to 51 countries in only 15 years. With $6.8 billion in revenue and 5,500 employees worldwide, the company is in a great position today, realizing growth in all areas. Here is an inside look on how to deal with frequent change, explosive growth and the necessary talent to rein it in.

Take an ‘on-your-toes’ approach

Claure says a large part of how you deal with change is your approach. If you can establish a team that is always on its toes, that’s one of the first steps to what in simplest terms is a two-part culture.

“Change forces you to have a culture of innovation and a culture of ‘What’s next?’” he says. “If you look at what our company is today and what it was 10 years ago, it’s a completely different company.

“We are a lot more service-oriented now; from being a trader of mobile phones to today, we’re a leading supply chain company in our industry. We’re one of the leading insurance companies in the arena. We’re the world’s largest buy-back and trading company. Pretty much one thing is always thinking of what’s next.”

Many companies who stay on the cutting edge of technology look for individuals who are often the type to be called “early adopters.” These employees stay up on all the latest developments and are eager to try the latest product, even before all the bugs are out of it. However, an executive with impressive credentials doesn’t always equal an early adopter.

“We thought that by bringing big executives from big firms they would automatically yield success,” Claure says. “We couldn’t have been proven more wrong. The type of execs that fit our profile are the innovators and people who are used to building stuff, who operate in a changing environment, are very different than your traditional executive who is pretty good at grabbing something and keeping it constant or making it grow at suboptimal levels.”

It’s a somewhat painful process of trial and error. You are looking for a good fit when the tolerances are very narrow.

“We’ve learned and figured out the profiles of what makes somebody flexible at Brightstar,” Claure says. “Definitely it’s enough flexibility and adaptability to change and willingness to try new ideas, to bring new ideas to the table and to do different things in the course of their career. That’s what makes an executive at Brightstar shine.

“We’ve gone through a lot of hits and misses, but I think we’re getting better at recruiting the right talent.”

Be flexible to evolve

Once you think you have the right talent in place, you will be in a position to stress that, as the technology evolves, the company has to evolve with it.

“You have to build the culture and company that is ready to be flexible and be able to change pretty fast,” Claure says.

“If you look at the players we’ve dealt with since our founding, we’ve seen the rise of Motorola and Nokia. Nokia is struggling. If you look at where we’re working today, the focus now is on, ‘How can we offer a high-end smartphone like an iPhone or Galaxy for lower-income people so they can pay us a dollar a day?’

“If you go back 15 years ago, would we ever think that was possible? Absolutely not. So we’re used to change, we’re used to mobility. If you just see my industry, Apple was nonexistent there 15 years ago; today, it takes 75 percent of the industry profit.”

What began as a distributor is transforming into a service company for Claure.

“We’ve built our services around the phone and leveraging the structure we have around the world,” he says. “It’s pretty unique. Today, we run supply chains for some of the world’s leading operators.”

An entrepreneur is always looking for ways to expand his or her business, and Claure set his focus on ancillary products and services in that vein.

“We now buy more than 25 million used phones from consumers, we recycle them and we sell them in American markets,” he says. “Then we focused on the consumers who are accidentally losing their mobile phones; we launched an insurance company.”

Insuring the devices filled an expanding need in the market. Devices are misplaced, lost, dropped or stolen every day because, in part, of their convenient size.

“We wanted to be in the insurance business so we bought a small insurance company,” Claure says. “We fix our systems so they can scale, we fix the management team and then put that insurance business into our 51 different countries so that it immediately explodes our growth. Our insurance company has grown 450 percent in the 1½ years since we bought it. Next year, it will grow 1,000 percent.

“Then we figured out that retailers needed help in managing the growing wireless complexities so now we manage wireless categories at the world’s leading and biggest retailers in the world.”

Learn to use your advantages

Once you have been evolving your business in tune with how the industry is evolving, you often get a very good sense of where trends are going so that you can make some solid predictions, which can lead to expansion.

Claure says in addition to those skills, an advantage can be had in just being a bigger company.

“Being big now means ideas come to your company — a lot of people come with them,” Claure says. “That’s a lot easier now. Now your job is to pick the right idea, pick the right product and solution and make the right decision. It was a lot harder seven to eight years ago when you had to invent everything. We’re very good at identifying and saying we want to play in a specific business.

“We’re constantly being approached by smaller entrepreneurial companies. We buy them or partner with them or figure out other ways and then put them into the Brightstar platform. It gives them pretty amazing growth. It’s a lot more fun now when you can choose than it was before.”

As competitors try to encroach upon your space, use your experience and foresight to decide what new partnerships to explore.

“More than mobility, we’re going to experience in the next few years the connected world,” Claure says. “Everybody has a mobile phone today. There isn’t much more to mobile phones but not everybody is totally connected.

“Today, each person probably has a couple of devices — like tablets and your phones. If you look at the future and what’s expected by 2020, we’re going to have 50 billion connections, which means every human being is going to have a connection. So what does that mean?”

He sees opportunities to wirelessly connect smartphones, computers, digital cameras, cars, refrigerators, washers and dryers — whatever. It all will be connected.

“We’re moving toward a completely connected world, which means new supply chains need to be formed to operate that connected world,” Claure says. “There are new ecosystems, new businesses and new players.”

It all boils down to who has the capability to execute, he says.

“The keys are how do you execute? How can you scale? How can your systems and people scale?

“We sit in a position where we have sufficient business for the next couple of years. The potential with this business, if you execute an opportunity, then nobody tells you how good you do, that’s expected.

“But when you screw up or do something wrong, news travels fast, and that’s a problem.  We need to make sure we continue to do what we do. Never take our customers for granted. Make sure we execute. A lot of activities we execute are because customers are outsourcing to us so their expectation is that we’re going to do a lot better with price than they used to do themselves.” ?

How to contact: Brightstar Corp.,  www.brightstarcorp.com or (305) 421-6000

The Claure File

Marcelo Claure

Founder, chairman, president and CEO

Brightstar Corp.

Born: Bolivia.

Education: Claure holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance from Bentley College in Massachusetts. He also received an honorary doctorate degree of commercial science from Bentley College and an honorary doctorate degree from the Universidad Tecnica Privada de Santa Cruz.

Claure on how to deliver exceptional service: Talent, talent, talent. I spend 40 percent of my time interviewing new talent. I have replaced 80 percent of my management team in the last two years and the reason for that is the people who got us to a certain point aren’t the same people who are going to get us further.

Out of that 80 percent, half are still with Brightstar but they’re not the leader, the same COO, CFO, CTO. A company’s most important asset is its talent base. For every company and every industry, if you have great people running your company, great things will happen. If you have mediocre people in your company, bad things will happen. You might be good for a certain period of time in your company; it doesn’t mean you’re going to be good forever. Talent management is a very important process.

Secondly, you have to do the painful exercise of investing in having the right systems and processes. It’s painful because it’s expensive but also because it’s disruptive. Every time you have to implement a new ERP or a new warehouse management system, your initial reaction is delay. Delay — but then you pay for the consequences later on.

We’re learning. For example, I won’t tell you the customer but in a very large country we grew faster than our systems. There was a point where we couldn’t shift devices. They were like, ‘Oh my God.’ Those are problems you can’t fix at once. Those are problems that you have. … As we build our new products and services, we have to be dedicated to investing to make sure we can scale our systems, people or processes.

 

 

 

Published in Florida

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