Balance team and individual decisions. A team approach works best; however, I set aside certain decisions that need to be made by me or by my board of directors.
However, when I do that, I take it to my team, to my executive committee, and explain to them that decision is set aside and why. It makes them part of the day-to-day decisions and the large decisions.
Roll with the big dogs. I have a formula in my head. I give myself two minutes to immediately establish credibility by knowledge and intellect. Immediately jump in with what the purpose of the appointment is and then immediately go into points that are important in the industry. I’ll also go outside the specific agenda to talk about what’s going on in the market.
I immediately put the knowledge out there to establish the credibility, and from an intellectual standpoint, I’m on the same platform as the Wall Street firm. Once that credibility is established, then we’re on track.
Don’t build an ivory tower. Keep your finger on the pulse of the company. Being a CEO, it’s easy to not spend as much time going to see customers. When you do that, anything that your customer base is talking about or issues they have is always second-hand knowledge to you unless you’re there.
I was watching TV and [‘Today Show’ anchor] Anne Curry was on about the national campaign for literacy and the more you know, the smarter you grow. That’s the best advice.
You have to put time aside to spend with your people and to read about what’s going on in the market. You can’t let the ego get to you and get in this ivory tower-type mentality.
Roll up your sleeves and stay with your team. Go and see customers. Get out there and actually experience, and not just read about it in the paper or through reports. Reports are good, but outside of reports, there’s a live pulse going on that you have to keep your finger on.
Be patient. When you’re running a company, you get very passionate about it, and you want results immediately. Not all results can happen immediately.
You can get some immediate gratification, but for the most part, especially long-term decisions, you can’t ask every day how it’s going. You have to put some trust in your people and let it play out.
That comes over time. It’s easy to want to keep control on everything, but you’ll wear yourself out. You can’t do it.
I’ve learned to surround myself, and everyone on my team is company-minded. I’m not afraid to put intelligent people around me that could replace me someday. That’s the smart way to go. Some CEOs fear that they want to be the only person that can run that company, but that’s not a smart model.
You look better and are more effective if you’re surrounded by people who are talented. We have great ideas, we have creativity, and if I’m running the whole thing, then I’m going to stifle those ideas and that creativity.
Establish trust. That comes over time. I’ve been with the firm 14 years now, and I’ve worked up through the ranks, so I’ve been in other positions where people are already comfortable with me.
With trust, it’s just like personal relationships; you have to gain it. You can’t offer it out there and then not follow through. When I say I’m on your side, and your interest and the company’s interest are aligned, over time, it proves to be true.
Any CEO can destroy trust at any point in time. The way to destroy trust is to say one thing and do the other. You have to be consistent with your behavior. You have to be consistent with your message.
That goes into friends. That goes into children. It goes across the board. It’s a good policy to have.
Involve many people when hiring. It’s difficult for us to hire in our specific niche with the skills unless they come from a competitor, so we tend to grow from within.
We hire for a long period of time. If we’re going to put in all the effort to train and to grow, we want them to stay here for a long period of time. In the hire process, we’re going to spend time with that person and ask them questions outside of the norm just to see who that person is, what their personality is and if they’re trainable. What type of environment are you most comfortable with? Is it important to you that you enjoy your job? Is it something outside of just getting a check? We want this job to be a part of their lives.
That’s something that you have to get a feel for, and we’ll generally bring other people into the interview. If my sales manager is hiring, he’ll bring my CFO in to interview with a person or he’ll ask a training manager (to have) lunch with this person. That way we get a different perspective.
Throw new employees in. You learn faster that way. Sitting down and reading a manual is monotonous. Getting out there is exciting. It’s challenging. It keeps them interested.
If you do that on the onset, you’re going to get somebody on line with the company, whereas if you put them in a corner and give them a manual for three weeks, how does that align them? They feel somewhat ignored.
Stick to your guns. I’ve learned to just be me and not take the expectations of others. Be what works for you and what works for your company.
There’s a lot of expectations, and you can let those expectations drive you or you can drive. Once I let those expectations go and just be me, then people fall in line.
HOW TO REACH: Capital Institutional Services Inc., (800) 247-6729 or www.capis.com