Education: University of Michigan, bachelor’s degree, accounting and finance
First job: Lifeguard
Career moves: CPA, Deloitte and Touche, before going to Valassis and serving in a variety of positions, including vice president of the Central Sales Division, director of Insert Operations, vice president sales and marketing, and COO
Involvement: Treasurer, board of directors, American Advertising Federation; board member, Ad Council
On his watch: For the second consecutive year, Business Ethics Magazine named Valassis one of its “100 Best Corporate Citizens” in 2004. The list ranks publicly held companies based on the excellence and integrity of their service to stakeholder groups that include customers, employees and the community. The company has received more than 30 awards since he took over in 1998, and revenue has gone up 40 percent.
What is the most important business lesson you’ve learned?
Always take care of your customers. Help them accomplish their goals and reach their objectives, and they’ll help you grow your business, which allows you to deliver benefit to your shareholders and reward your employees.
What has been your toughest business challenge?
I don’t use that language. Problems are a chance to fix things, get them right. What others might describe as challenges, I call opportunities.
So I’ll tell you about something that’s proven to be a great opportunity for us. We’ve been engaged in a price war with Rupert Murdoch over newspaper inserts for four years. This has prompted us to diversify our product portfolio and broaden our customer base. And this is most definitely a good thing for the company.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
Warren Buffet. What impresses me about him is threefold. He’s exceptionally down-to-earth despite his extraordinary wealth. He has a simple but insightful approach to investing if you don’t understand it, you shouldn’t buy it.
And he looks beyond the next quarter, balancing short-term pressures with a long-term vision.