Sure, getting pumped up is normally associated with working out, but
Gene LoVasco uses getting pumped up to keep a positive attitude at the office. LoVasco, president of ALCOS Inc., says that having a positive attitude is key to being a good leader at his insurance agency, which employs about 100 people.
“Once you’re pumped up, I think then it’s your job as the leader to keep other people positive and have that attitude rub off on others,” he says.
That positive attitude was an asset when his company, which posted about $18 million in 2006 revenue, was acquired by Brown & Brown Inc., and employees were laid off.
Smart Business spoke with LoVasco about how having a positive attitude can make you a better leader and how it can help you get through rough times.
Q. How do you show employees you are positive?
Probably the flip-side criticism of that is I’ve been criticized, ‘You’re looking through the world with rose-colored glasses.’
But I think you do it by action, by what you say. Action is the most important, if you are leading the charge and you are positive. For me, it’s a sales organization I’ve got to be out there selling. I’ve got be out there working hard; I’ve got to be showing by example. I don’t want to sound cliché, but you’ve got to walk the walk and talk the talk.
Q. How do you make sure employees know you are genuine in your actions?
Most people, if you’re not phony, will take it as genuine interest. And then, if you match it with a real human care and concern like we do I’ve got a clinical psychologist that comes in twice a month and just talks to people about family issues.
HR nowadays is inundated with all kinds of problems marital problems, financial problems, drugs and alcohol, kids’ problems. I told our HR director, ‘Do you have a degree in clinical psychology?’ She said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Neither do I.’ I said, ‘We’re not an expert at this stuff; let’s hire someone who can come in so there is no stigma attached to it.’
Q. How does that positive attitude help you get through difficult times?
We were acquired by a publicly traded company recently. It’s been tough for me because we had a group of guys that grew this business, and I was one of them.
We grew it from $3 million of revenue to about $18 million in revenue over about a 12-year period.
When we were acquired, they said, ‘Look, you guys have done a great job, but your profitability is at X, and now we want to get it to Y. The only way we could do that is we had to lay people off.
It was really tough, but what I said to people is, ‘Look, this is part of the acquisition, and we have to deal with that.’ What we tried to do is give people severance packages and tried to give them time to make the transition.
But, how do I explain it to the other employees? I said ‘Look, our profitability was good. It was at X level, but now we’ve been acquired, and it has to be at Y level. Unfortunately, this is what we have to do.’
Q. What advice would give to a leader who has to lay off people?
The thing is for the people that stay, you’ve got to say, ‘Here’s why; here’s what the benefits are.’ Really, with the new company, we all can own stock in this company, so they’ve got a stock ownership program. They’ve got a stock ownership program for all the employees, and then they have an incentive stock plan for certain employees.
So, my whole thing was, ‘Hey guys, look, I know it’s tough, but this company has grown tremendously. This is why it’s grown because it takes its profit and buys other agencies.’ So that’s their whole strategy, this company we were acquired by, ... and that’s how they’ve grown. They’ve grown through mergers and acquisitions.
Q. How can a leader develop a more positive attitude?
I think mentally, you have to feed your mind with positive books. I truly believe that whatever you think you are you become. I’m big into that whole correlation between positive thoughts produce positive deeds.
The second thing, if you’re negative, are you taking care of yourself, are you exercising? If I don’t do those things, my energy is sucked and sapped, and you get down. I work out six times a week, and I feel great after I’m done.
I could have a big day, or I could have had a bad day the day before, but when I’m done with my workout, I feel great.
HOW TO REACH: ALCOS Inc. (586) 977-6300 or www.alcos.com