In 2002, Gainsco Inc. was primarily in the commercial lines insurance business and was hemorrhaging money. After the company tried unsuccessfully to fix the problems, that part of the business was scrapped.
There was a seed of hope, however, in a small Florida subsidiary of the company that specialized in the nonstandard personal automobile insurance line. Anderson, CEO of the company, took that seed, spread it across the Southern states and created a stronger foundation, allowing Gainsco to grow to $99 million in revenue last year, a 103 percent increase over the previous year.
Smart Business spoke with Anderson about how he leads growth and establishes a vision for his 400 employees.
How do you manage growth?
When a rocket goes up into the air, it looks to be a perfect flight, but in reality, what is happening is the computers within the rocket are making adjustments on a millisecond basis. So what appears to be a perfect flight is really just a series of micro-adjustments.
The analogy is that when you grow as fast as we’re growing, you have to work under the assumption that something is not working right, and you have to have a highly proactive approach to find out what is not working right so that you can make those milli-adjustments.
If you’re successful in making a lot of millisecond adjustments, then that avoids the more severe adjustment that might otherwise occur because you failed to make the millisecond adjustments. God forbid you don’t even do that, and then the rocket falls out of orbit.
How do you make decisions?
What underlines our ability to do business is the fact that we have capital. One of the most central tenets of all is to make money. If you make money, you can always come back another day and write more business.
If you don’t make money, you’ve not earned the right to come back the next day to make money. If you’re facing decisions in business, ultimately you do what the right profit-making decision suggests you (do).
Be extraordinarily service-driven. Our customers ultimately vote as to whether they want to join or stay with our company. The retention of customers in our business is extraordinarily important because it’s our downstream and revenue stream, so to earn the right to retain those customers earn their votes, so to speak you have to provide extraordinary service because their doors are being knocked on at all times to leave our company and join another company, because that’s how competition works.
What keeps a company from growing?
If you don’t have the vision, and if you do not have a leadership team that is driven to achieve that vision, you essentially will not be compelled to make the changes that will drive you forward ... in that vision. You’re more likely to be operating more as an administrative maintenance organization, just keep on keeping on and sustaining what you have, but not developing the growth of the company.
There’s a tremendous amount of leverage associated with the vision and the leadership team that’s dedicated to achieving that vision.
In the absence of vision, there’s no reason to change or to upgrade or to improve or to develop or to grow.
How do you get employees to buy into that vision?
By having a broader environment and culture that’s exciting and vibrant, and enabling people to perform their jobs and grow in their careers. We grade out the performance of our organizational units in terms of 1 to 10 and keep track of their performance. We evaluate each of the individuals in those organizations with the same type of grading system.
The spirit of this is complete teamwork and honesty. If the organizational units are not evolving from a 6 to a 10, we’re candid about that measurement. We proactively identify what it takes to advance that organizational unit to become a 10.
If every day, every person is focused on moving from a 6 to a 10, in the context of fulfilling the vision, then we will make that happen.
How do you get them to do that?
Culturally, we create the environment where people are encouraged to speak up and perform at a high level and show how good they are. Secondly, we’re providing a lot of resources to provide the tools to enable them to succeed.
We’re investing a lot of money in new systems, new products, new tools, new capabilities. We’ve been less concerned with the impact of those expenditures on our bottom line and more concerned with building a foundation on the belief that if you build it right, the business will ultimately be generated because of that.
Build the foundation, and then you can add almost indefinitely to that foundation, but if you start going for the top of the pyramid without the foundation, it will ultimately collapse.
HOW TO REACH: Gainsco Inc., www.gainsco.com
So how do you know who is out there, and how do you determine exactly what you are looking for? More importantly, how do you know when you find it?
Smart Business spoke with Brian Trueblood, vice president of TNS Partners Inc., for insight about how the more enlightened companies replace key executives.
Once a company realizes it has a need, how should it define that need, in order to have the best chance of success?
The best companies seize this opportunity to be introspective. They analyze the key business drivers the role will impact and how this executive will need to affect them. Do the key interactors dictate a certain skill set, style or ability? Often, companies are simply too focused on what the outgoing leader was doing to fully appreciate what the next leader needs to be. The breadth of experience and the outside perspective of an executive search consultant is a tremendous asset in this process.
But if a company has a specific need, why does broad experience help define it?
Because, by being too narrow, you risk overlooking a talented executive who might be the best candidate. When defining the need, many skills will be desirable. A seasoned executive search consultant simply has a larger and broader population base from which to assess an individual. Many of the skill sets companies are seeking today are transferable from one industry to another or at least from one industry segment to another. Broadly experienced consultants are more in tune with those skills.
Can you give me an example of how skills can be transferable across industries?
The easiest one is leadership. If you have led large, complex teams; put in place processes to manage them; developed techniques to measure success; and been responsible for the financials, resource allocation, customers and markets, does it really matter if the actual product was the same?
Beyond leadership, other people skills, technical competencies, measurement disciplines, organizational abilities, financial acuity and communications capabilities are all clearly transferable across industry and functional boundaries. The real question is whether the person will translate his or her successes in other organizations with the differing infrastructure and environment of the new company.
How is the specification able to define the culture and internal dynamics of the company?
The executive search firm must have a proven process that includes becoming intimately familiar with the internal workings of the company. By meeting with the entire management team, touring applicable facilities, interviewing internal candidates, team members, vendors and customers, the executive search firm can gain a true appreciation for the culture, working environment and personality of the organization. This knowledge is reflected in the position specification within the company description, the definition of the opportunity as well as the desired competencies, experiences and attributes.
During the interview process, how are executives evaluated to determine which are potential candidates?
The search specification is the gauge. This is why the ‘spec’ is so critical to the process. Search firms work hard to develop these documents, but expect the client to work just as hard and invest in them just as much. The specification development must be a back and forth process. If the first draft is approved outright and the search firm hasn’t done significant work with the company before, it’s likely that the specification is off target or too vague. There must be insight, discussion, refinement and adjustment before agreement. Only then can the specification be the appropriate tool throughout the process.
So once you have identified your candidates, what is the next step?
Continue to validate your belief that they ‘fit the spec’ using external sources such as background verification and reference checks, while the internal leadership team delivers on their commitments in the specification. Remember, the spec goes far beyond skills and also encompasses a description of the company, the culture and the opportunity. The company must use the interview process to provide a window for the candidate into the organization and it must be congruent with the specification. If the specification is properly developed and then diligently utilized throughout the search process, the likelihood of success is dramatically increased.
BRIAN TRUEBLOOD is vice president of TNS Partners Inc. Reach him at (214) 369-3565, ext. 114, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“In order to reduce your estate tax liability, it’s critical to work with an adviser with experience in gift giving and estate planning,” he says.
Smart Business spoke with Neal about the estate tax, how it’s calculated and ways to mitigate the estate tax liability.
What is the estate tax?
The estate tax is the tax on the actual transfer of assets from the decedent to another party.
Basically, an estate tax is determined by calculating all of the property that the decedent had ownership, control or the complete use of. The most commonly overlooked asset is life insurance. This is particularly true for younger people who don’t think they have an estate large enough to qualify for the estate tax, yet they have a large life insurance policy. If something happens, it becomes a taxable estate.
The estate tax is based on a snapshot on the date of death, or you can use an alternative date of six months past the date of death, whichever date is in your favor.
For example, if a person died Sept. 1 owning a valuable piece of property in New Orleans that was hit by a hurricane on Nov. 1, the value of the property would be determined on Sept. 1 the day the person died. In that case, you’d want to take the alternative six months later due to the decrease in the asset value. By the same token, if the person owned stock that was worth a certain value at the date of death but was worth twice as much five days later, you’d want to use the value of the stock at the date of the death so those profits would be excluded from the estate.
How can one reduce exposure to the estate tax?
There are exemptions to mitigate the tax liability. Every person is granted a lifetime exemption that currently stands at $2 million. Proper planning can help ensure that the exemption is fully utilized.
For example, in the case of a married couple in which one spouse had $3 million in assets and the other spouse had none, if the spouse that had no assets dies first, there will be no utilization of that person’s lifetime credit. When the second spouse dies, that person would have $1 million more than the exemption and the estate would have to pay $450,000 in estate taxes. With proper planning, perhaps utilizing a trust, this couple could have reduced its exposure to the estate tax. Not taking full advantage of both spouses’ exemptions is probably the most common estate planning mistake.
There are other deductions such as the administration expenses of the estate, including the funeral expenses.
There’s also what I call ‘winning by attrition,’ which allows individuals to give $12,000 annually per person to their heirs. There are some rules governing these gifts, but this allows individuals to significantly pare down their estate in an effort to reduce their estate tax liability.
Lastly, individuals with large qualified plans and IRAs should be sure to consult with an experienced tax adviser, as these can be particularly tricky in estate planning.
How can someone determine whether or not they will owe an estate tax?
Basically, you just need to add up everything you own and subtract everything that you owe. But keep in mind a few things that are often forgotten like the face value of any life insurance and the full value of assets. You need to look at the fair market value of the assets and determine by what a willing buyer and a willing seller would agree to as a sales price.
Isn’t there talk that Congress is going to repeal the estate tax?
Currently, the estate tax exemption is set to increase in 2008 and 2009. The tax is due to disappear in 2010, but I believe it’s highly unlikely that Congress will allow that to happen. Most commentators believe the exemption will rise to $5 million, coupled with a reduction in the tax rate.
DAVID NEAL is the tax director at Whitley Penn LLP, CPAs & Professional Consultants. Reach him at (817) 258-9100 or email@example.com.
Bachelor’s degree, engineering, United States Naval Academy, 1965
What’s been your biggest business challenge?
In the ’80s, we had some outside investments. I’ve learned a lot about people through that difficult time in the ’80s.
We have a wonderful group of people in our company who helped us through those disappointments. Life is a series of challenges. That’s the wonderful thing about life.
I’m a big believer in perseverance. Whether it’s on the athletic field or in the business field, you don’t cook the books, you don’t give up on your faith, you don’t blame someone else, you don’t change your values. You just have to deal with the problem and face it and persevere through it. It’s during those periods of time that you find out what your real character is.
What are some of your favorite business books?
“Good to Great, The Leadership Challenge.” I read quite a bit, but I bounce back and forth.
What publications do you read on a regular basis?
I read religiously Fortune, Forbes, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal. I read The Dallas Morning News every day, The New York Times at home on Sunday and USA Today when I’m on the road.
According to a Deloitte & Touche USA LLP survey released last summer, employed Americans overwhelmingly agree that volunteering advances them professionally and gives a positive career boost. Nearly three-quarters of those who serve on a nonprofit board of directors strongly agreed that volunteering advanced their leadership skills. James H. Quigley, CEO of Deloitte & Touche says, “What we have seen at Deloitte ... is that there is no question volunteering is an outstanding professional development tool because of the real experience it provides.”
The “real experience” Quigley cites includes making certain the organization they govern is well managed, has a clear strategy, and is accountable. Thus choosing the director to lead a nonprofit becomes a critical responsibility for board members.
Smart Business talked with Jim Chambers, vice president of TNS Partners -- whose principal focus is finding great leaders for nonprofit organizations -- about the benefits to corporations and individuals of volunteering, and their responsibility for selecting the most qualified person to direct the nonprofit.
Why should employees serve on the boards of nonprofits?
Our work with corporate leaders and nonprofit boards has yielded much insight on the value executives perceive from their volunteer service. People today want to work for companies that take their social responsibilities seriously and care about their communities. When a company’s employees join and participate on nonprofit boards, the company sends a clear signal that this service is valued, thereby attracting prospective employees and serving as a retention tool for current staff. But employees benefit as well, by strengthening their decision making skills, enhancing their public identification, deepening personal relationships with other community and corporate leaders, and gaining satisfaction from being able to ‘make a difference.’
How important is it to get strong, effective leaders on the boards of nonprofits?
The importance cannot be underestimated. The directors of a nonprofit serve in a governance and fiduciary capacity, and become communications and fundraising resources for the organization. They also play a significant role in selecting key personnel such as senior staff. The passion they bring, coupled with their expertise and willingness to participate, is essential for well-run nonprofits.
What is the directors’ role in selecting the staff of a nonprofit?
One of the directors’ most significant responsibilities is to make sure that the right staff is in place at the nonprofit. Typically, where there is a senior staff opening or a need to upgrade a position, directors will form a search committee that often will engage an executive search specialist to recruit suitable candidates for the opening.
The focus needs to be on criteria directly related to the nonprofit’s mission, rather than on the typical objectives of a private company. The difference is subtle, but important. In basic terms, a company’s general manager is ‘incentivized’ to maximize profits, whereas a nonprofit executive director must fulfill the organization’s fundamental service purpose while exercising fiscal responsibility and running ‘in the black.’ Directors have to understand the mission and culture of a nonprofit, and be committed to both.
Who has the primary responsibility in the search for a nonprofit executive director?Ultimately, the directors control the search and the selection. They hire the executive search firm, spell out the criteria for the position, and oversee the execution of the search. The retained firm must understand the culture of the nonprofit and be diligent when identifying prospects and communicating organization insights to candidates -- while assessing the optimum fit between prospect and nonprofit. It’s a clich, but it’s true: client and search firm must partner to attract the strongest possible executive to the organization.
Hiring an effective executive in the nonprofit arena is just as essential as recruiting ‘A’ talent to a for-profit organization. Superb nonprofit executives provide the vision and strategic leadership, lean and accountable financial management, and the facility to knit together a myriad of fundraising sources with a passion for the mission. A leader who comes up short in any of these areas will weaken the nonprofit’s ability to meet its goals, concurrently diminishing the benefits a board leader and his corporation derive from this service.
Any final observations?
Great American companies -- such as IBM, DeLoitte & Touche, EDS and American Airlines -- clearly understand their nonprofit involvement is a winning investment, paying dividends to their communities, their employees and their shareholders. Board participation yields an even greater return -- and enormous personal satisfaction.
JIM CHAMBERS is vice president of TNS Partners. Reach him at (214) 369-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Enacted to offset a 33 percent decrease in property taxes, the new margin tax brings many businesses into the system that were previously not taxed. While the old system only affected corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), the new system casts a much wider net, according to Toni Mayfield, a senior manager in the tax practice at Whitley Penn LLP.
“The new margin tax law affects a large population of businesses, including existing franchise taxpayers and many other categories of businesses that weren’t subject to the franchise tax,” she says. “All businesses need to take a close look at the tax law changes and understand the new requirements as a result of these changes.”
Smart Business spoke with Mayfield about the new margin tax law and how Texas businesses will be impacted.
How does the margin tax affect existing taxpayers?
The new margin tax will go into effect for tax returns originally due May 15, 2008. Existing franchise taxpayers start with the new system beginning with their tax reports that are due in May 2008. This first report will be is based on their taxable margin during any accounting period ending in 2007.
How does the gross margin tax affect new taxpayers?
For companies that were not subject to the old franchise tax but will be taxed under the new rules, the new system starts with tax years beginning June 1, 2007. Any new taxpayers whose tax year begins January through May will not be affected until the following year.
How is taxable margin calculated?
Instead of being taxed on capital or earned surplus, companies are now taxed on taxable margin, using the lowest of three calculations: 70 percent of total revenue; total revenue less cost of goods sold; or total revenue less compensation and benefits. While the tax rate is 1 percent for most entities, those in the wholesale or retail trade will pay a tax rate of 0.5 percent.
What entities are taxable under the new margin tax law?
In general, any partnership, corporation, LLC, business trust, professional association or joint venture will be liable under the new margin tax law. Professional associations in particular should pay attention to the new gross margin tax law as they enjoyed a special exemption under the old law.
What entities are exempt?
A number of entities are exempt from the new margin tax, including sole proprietorships; general partnerships owned entirely by natural persons; nonprofit organizations; family limited partnerships with at least 80 percent of the interest held by members of the same family and at least 90 percent passive income; Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs); insurance companies; businesses with gross receipts of less than $300,000 or an annual tax liability of less than $1,000; and passive partnerships and trusts.
It’s important to note that the Texas definition of a passive business is different than the federal definition. For purposes of this law, a passive business is defined in Texas as a general or limited partnership or nonbusiness trust with at least 90 percent of its income from sources such as dividends, interest, foreign currency exchange gain, royalties, bonuses or delay rentals from nonoperating mineral interests or gains the sale of real property.
How does the new tax margin law affect unitary businesses?
Under the old law, all entities reported their income as a single taxable entity whether or not they were consolidated for federal purposes. Under the new law, certain affiliated groups will be required to file a combined report. Businesses must report income as a combined group if they are considered to have a unitary business. Businesses are considered to have a unitary business if there is at least 80 percent common ownership and the business is a single economic enterprise whose joint operations produce a synergy and mutual benefit to all entities in the group.
How can new filers prepare for their first gross tax margin filing?
The new margin tax repeals the existing business incentive credits. Businesses with existing business loss or credit carryovers can deduct any remaining amounts against the margin tax. However, taxpayers must file a written election with the state comptroller by March 1, 2007 to claim the credit in future years.
TONI MAYFIELD is a senior manager in the tax practice at Whitley Penn, LLP. Reach her at mailto:email@example.com or (972) 392-6670.
Education: Bachelor’s of business degree, Boise State University, 1977
What is the most important business lesson you’ve learned?
I would say three things, and I say them all the time. People support what they help to create. What gets measured gets managed. What gets rewarded gets repeated.
What’s the best work advice anyone has ever given you?
The best advice was, 90 percent of your problems are process, not people. Fix the process, and people will be hugely successful.
What are some of your favorite business books?
The most important book I’ve ever read in my business career is Peter M. Senge’s “The Fifth Discipline” and the whole concept of systems thinking. The management team read “From Good to Great” and used it in managing the business.
According to numbers compiled by the Graduate Management Admission Test Council, 228,000 people took the GMA test in 2005. And even though MBA salaries have grown more than 13 percent over the past two years, companies continue to covet advance-degreed businesspeople as critical assets to their organizations.
The degree’s appeal endures. Employers know that the knowledge and insight of MBAs at the corporate table translates to bottom-line benefits, says Jasper Arnold, director of the executive MBA program at the University of Texas at Dallas.
“A critical component to an organization’s success is the people who work there,” Arnold says. “MBAs contribute a broad perspective of business from customer service to strategy that translates positively to a company’s competitiveness.”
Smart Business talked with Arnold to learn how businesses benefit from adding MBAs to their management staffs.
How do MBA skills vary from non-MBAs?
High-level managers are called upon to create strategies and solve problems on a wide corporate scale. MBA programs carry a core component of courses, including finance, management and strategy. Students may also choose a concentration of study by taking additional courses, such as in finance or accounting. In either case, students learn to think globally about business problem-solving across the organization.
For entry-level jobs, employers want people with deep functional knowledge in specific areas such as human resources or accounting. People with MBAs have that knowledge, but are better prepared to solve problems and devise strategies that extend beyond specific corporate functions.
What other skills do MBAs bring to the corporate table?
MBAs also have highly developed communication skills. During their studies, they write numerous detailed reports connected with their projects and frequently give presentations regarding those projects. They have strong interpersonal skills because they frequently work on projects with groups of people to meet deadlines. As a result, MBAs develop strong leadership qualities and are skilled at organizing and motivating groups of people to reach a certain goal.
MBA-degreed managers also bring a higher level of commitment to business. Just by having successfully earned an MBA degree, they have proven that they can set a goal and pursue it. Also, they have demonstrated a commitment specifically to business management as opposed to other disciplines, such as engineering, government work or health care.
Do MBAs also have experience beyond the classroom?
People pursuing executive MBA degrees come into the programs with extensive work experience. Students average 36 years of age and have an average of 14 years of workplace experience. But younger MBAs also gain practical experience through program-related projects that take them into companies to create strategies and solve problems.
How might companies recruit MBAs?
University placement departments can put employers in touch with newly minted MBAs. Human resources consulting and recruiting professionals can help locate more experienced MBA-degreed job candidates.
However, as in any hiring situation, employers should consider the individual, his experience and fit into the corporate culture in choosing among candidates. The key question to ask a candidate is, ‘Can you do this job?’
How much should employers expect to compensate MBA-degreed managers?
The average compensation for an experienced MBA three years after graduation is $135,000 annually. MBA salaries for new graduates are usually less and may be approximately $100,000. Employers should recognize, however, that the marketplace for MBA-degree managers is competitive.
How is their investment returned over time?
Adding an MBA to a company staff does require an investment. But businesses operate in a competitive environment. They strive to improve their operations, improve customer service and make a reasonable profit.
MBAs come to the company with strong analytical, strategic, marketing and finance skills as well as practical experience. As a result, they are able to help set goals and enhance customer service shortly after they become familiar with the company and its culture.
Companies have to get good people who are highly productive and are focused on meeting a businesses’ goals, and who have the skills and confidence to create ways to meet those goals. MBAs bring a level of knowledge, experience and leadership qualities that companies need to keep moving forward in the marketplace.
JASPER ARNOLD is director of the executive MBA program at the University of Texas at Dallas. He teaches in the areas of corporate finance and management. Reach him at (972) 883-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We believe the strategic implications of a ‘flat world’ should be understood by the technology and business leaders of all companies, large and small,” says Joe Brouillette, vice president of business development at Avvantica Consulting. “The business world is flat; there are virtually no barriers any more.”
Smart Business talked to Brouillette about how doing business on a global stage has changed over the last decade.
Has the United States missed this phenomenon?
The United States did not miss the ‘flat world’ phenomenon because it was not a one-time event, but rather an evolution of events that have reshaped the playing field, globally.
The U.S. business community has been distracted by many significant events over the last five or six years the Y2K technology threat at the end of the 1990s, the U.S. response to the 9/11 tragedy, global terrorism and the financial chaos brought on by the collapse of Enron and WorldCom, to name just a few.
For the business community in general, the silver lining out of these dark clouds was an internal focus on how, why and where they conducted business. The need for more controls, security, speed and flexibility collided with the demands for efficiency, lower delivered cost and higher quality, all in an effort to maintain competitive differentiation in a rapidly commoditizing world.
The same technological innovations and excessive quantities of network capacity (bandwidth) that were created for an e-commerce marketplace that never truly met expectations enabled access to very low-cost information-processing and transmission capability.
What are the major factors that contribute to the world becoming flat?
There are three critical factors that should really matter to business/technology leaders.
First, today’s software platforms allow work that contains knowledge components to be broken down to its most elemental parts, managed, transformed and communicated instantly, and then reassembled to its desired form in seconds, thus delivering value at speed. It’s somewhat analogous to the period in the early 20th century when the concepts of scientific management and time-and-motion studies were being developed and applied to the industrial workplace. This time, the work that is being managed is knowledge work, not industrial or manufacturing work.
Second, the availability of relatively cheap bandwidth and network connectivity allows information to be moved virtually around the globe for a minimal cost.
And third is the availability of vast new labor markets in areas such as India, Russia, Eastern Europe and China.
Why does this matter?
Over time all businesses compete on cost and the primary implications of a ‘flat world’ is cost optimization/minimization. In other words, over time work will always be performed in the most cost-effective location.
As the enablers of a ‘flat world’ continue to evolve, organizations must understand what it means to them.
For instance, outsourcing and offshoring have become commonplace in certain manufacturing and services segments. In a ‘flat world,’ companies must now be concerned that many components considered knowledge work can be outsourced or taken off shore. Customer call centers are typical of function being outsourced, and in the ‘flat world’ there are virtually limitless possibilities for all processes.
So what do you do to prepare for a ‘flat world’?
From a business perspective, we believe that leadership should understand in detail those areas of their company that are truly differentiated from the competition and form the basis of their competitive advantage. Processes that are not differentiating and are of a support nature may be very attractive candidates to the opportunities of the ‘flat world.’
For technology executives, we recommend that they help the organization to define and implement a robust architecture for both technology infrastructure and business applications. This will allow them to take advantage of a ‘flat world’ in ways that make sense for their specific situations.
JOE BROUILLETTE is vice president of business development at Avvantica Consulting. Reach him at (214) 379-7928 or jbrouillette@AvvanticaConsulting.com.
Hire people with broad experience.
I like to see people that have broader experiences in lots of different areas, people who have crossed over from one functional area to another in their career. They have a well-rounded view of management and management style when they join the team at the senior leadership level.
Sometimes if people have experience in one particular area, they become narrow or their focus is too specific. Every department requires some technical expertise and experience. The higher you go in management, the more generalist your approach needs to be. You may be an expert in the subject material, or you may not, but you have to rely on other people to accomplish certain things.
Hire open people, not defensive ones.
I like to see people who are also collaborative with their staffs, people who are very visible in the work areas, who communicate clearly and always make sure that the team they’re working with is fully informed about what is happening, what the latest bit of information is, the direction of the company or the direction of their department.
You can tell when somebody might be defensive they’re being very careful about how they answer particular questions. Look for someone who is very open and honest and easily communicating what their strengths and weaknesses might be. Look for examples of when they’ve displayed leadership.
Look for if someone is continuously pointing out the things they’ve accomplished or whether they point out the things their team has accomplished, whether they give credit to other people to things they have achieved in their career.
Be adaptable to continue growing.
There’s always external forces that are beyond your control. A good organization is able to detect when that is going to affect or potentially affect their company, department or work unit, and quickly analyze the situation and start making some adjustment so the event is either not as serious or it can be avoided.
Internally, if departments or individuals create barriers to communication, that tends to stifle the communication of the overall goal or objective. People do not look at the overall corporate objectives and evaluate how they can help achieve those goals through their own efforts or work unit. That becomes a problem.
Stress highly that all the departments work together and communicate together on projects they’re trying to accomplish, even though the departments may not be directly involved. At least they’re aware of it. That involves them more in the potential solution.
To keep employees engaged, communicate with them.
Look at the overall organization to see whether or not the team members and the leaders are engaged. Are they actively working together as a team regardless of if they’re in one department or another, regardless of what their title or their position is, regardless of what their responsibilities are? If everyone is engaged, active, focused on making the company successful, you have a much better chance.
The key is to select senior leaders, and leaders look for team members, who are open and willing to communicate to each other freely and not let titles or status in the organization keep you from communicating. Allow a free flow of information throughout the organization so people feel connected to what the goals and objectives of the company are as well as feel as though they have a way of contributing to the achievement of the goal.
Clarity is extremely important. As CEOs, we tend to overcommunicate on certain things. That leads to a message that might be confusing to some people.
It’s important to be as clear and concise as you possibly can be when you’re stating an objective or a goal or you’re developing or communicating strategy to others.
The key is to not rely solely on your direct reports to communicate the message to the rest of the team but to be available to discuss the strategy or the goals of the company with all of the team members. Make sure that, No. 1, they are getting clear, concise, accurate reporting of the goals and objectives of the company but also to open a dialogue in case they have ideas that may be helpful in shaping the future of the company.
When making decisions, include anyone affected by them. It helps if everybody is moving in the same direction. Managers sometimes make the mistake that they always know the right answer.
It’s important that ideas and strategies be discussed and that everyone be open to critiquing the objectives and the strategies because you never know when someone’s going to have a better idea. They may have a better approach. They may realize that there’s something that was overlooked in the development of the strategy, or the objective needs to be taken into consideration.
The communication from the management to individual team members and then from the team members to the management is crucial.
Work collaboratively to focus each day.
You need to set priorities. You need to focus on three to six things to accomplish each day.
Make sure that the overall objectives of the company are clear and concise, and continue referencing those. Make sure the things you’re setting as priorities and things that you’re spending your time on are, in fact, the things that are most important in achieving the success you’re trying to find.
CEOs tend to isolate themselves not because they do it deliberately, but there are a lot of demands on our time and our ability to accomplish things. One has to be an expert in time management, one has to have a support team of senior leadership and other staff support that will make sure priorities are established, things are not overlooked and we’re focused on the correct priorities at the time.
It’s a cooperative effort to make sure we all are looking out for each other.
Feel out the situation before making quick decisions.
Listen with an open mind. Don’t prejudge a situation when you’re new to a situation, a company or a department.
Communicate with all of the people involved, whether they be the team members inside the department, or they be the suppliers or the customers. Learn as much as you can about how they view the company or the position, and then assess what direction or what leadership needs to be given in order to be successful.
How to reach: Kitty Hawk Inc., www.kittyhawkcompanies.com