The Gerhardt file Featured

7:00pm EDT January 26, 2009

Born: Boonville, Mo.

Education: B.S. in agriculture, University of Missouri

What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?

There is no substitute for profitability.Any business that isn’t profitable is not going to sustain itself. When you get right down to it, any CEO’s job has to be profitability. You might have some short-term periods in there whereyou’re not as profitable because you’re in an anti-growthphase, but you have to run the business profitably.

I learned that early on because I have a sales and marketing background where I worked for a hard-nosed sales guy, and those were his words.

What traits or skills are essential for a business leader?

First and foremost, you have to have trust and honesty. If those aren’t present, nothing else matters. If our franchisees and employees feel like they can trust management and if management is honest with them, they can make a whole lot of other things flow through. If they don’t, it’s not going to happen.

What are some universal truths you’ve learned about leadership?

One is you can’t have all the right answers. Arrogance really doesn’t work in a CEO’s position, but the personality profile of people who get into those positions might come across as somewhat arrogant. You don’t have all the right answers, so you have to get the assistance of the people on your staff.

Also, you don’t have to be right all the time. Being able to deal with the gray areas is important in a leadership situation. Sometimes, you have to make a judgment call if you have no idea if you’re making the right call. Hopefully, you’re right the majority of the time, but you have to have the courage to make that call, not just sit on it forever and have no action.

What is your definition of success?

Five or 10 years from now, when I’m no longer in this position, if I can look back and say I did the right thing, I would feel successful. Yo u want to see the company grow and be profitable, that sort of thing. But in doing so, did we do the right thing for our staff, employees and franchise members. If we didn’t have their interests at heart and didn’t do the right things for them, I couldn’t say we were successful.