Randy Hardin often jokes that he started a business so he could wear shorts to work. But while there’s some truth to that, he mainly wanted to make Universal Power Group Inc., a supply chain management company, a place where people feel comfortable working and where they would want to stay. When people enjoy their work, they’re more productive, an approach that has yielded UPG 37 percent revenue growth over the last two years, ending 2006 with $92.6 million in annual revenue.
Smart Business spoke with this relaxed president and CEO about how flexibility helps retain people and grow companies.
Q: How do you find good people?
One way we’ve done it is through our existing people. Some people feel it’s not a good idea to mix friends and family and business, and we feel exactly the opposite.
If you’ve got good people, and they’ve got integrity, and they’re hardworking, then why wouldn’t you want to look at someone they’re related to if they have the same qualities?
Q: What qualities do you look for?
Honesty. People just throw that word around, but we want people to be honest even if it hurts. We have to be very honest with our customers, and even if that means we lose an order, that’s just how we need to be.
The other thing is we hope to treat people the way we’d want to be treated. That’s a key thing of employees, that you’ve got people around you who treat the business as if it were their own business.
Q: How do you gauge those characteristics?
It’s not the easiest thing in a short period of time. There’s lots of things that are an indicator about people’s character.
You can pick up on the way a person feels about his or her job or their future. Ask people, ‘Where do you see yourself in not only the job you’re in now, but where do you see yourself if we were to hire you?’ Ask questions about their ability to get along with other people, how they deal with adverse situations, how you deal with a situation where someone has said some things about you that were untrue.
Q: How can you tell if someone will fit with your team?
Look at where they came from. Were they there very long? What’s the reason for them leaving? It’s one thing for a person to leave because they want to better themselves either financially or position-wise, and it’s another that they’re leaving because they couldn’t get along with the people they were working with.
Do your homework, and find out why they’re leaving the company they’re with. Find out how well they worked with the team they were with.
Q: How do you retain and empower people?
The obvious one is through money. Everyone gets motivated by money. I also wanted a place where we weren’t so black and white. We have some single moms. Do they have X amount of personal and vacation time? Yes. But should we be flexible as managers and directors and as fathers and parents? Yeah.
Be a little understanding when that mother needs to get off because the day care says, ‘Come pick your kid up,’ and they have no family to help them. Or that single dad, or his wife works, too, say, ‘OK, the kid’s got a soccer game at 4 o’clock, and he’d like to go see him play because he’s always on the road.’
It’s little things like that where we don’t just want to be the people that talk about it. We want to say, ‘You know what? You don’t need to write that down as time off just go watch your kid play soccer.’
Q: How do you get the right people in the right positions?
You find that out by trial and error. Sometimes when you’re a young company and you’re growing, you reward people who helped you grow. In rewarding them, you’re actually not doing them a favor, and you’re not doing the company a favor. You put someone in a position of authority because they paid their dues, and then you find out they don’t have the skills for that job, so it hurts them, and it hurts you.
Q: How do you know when people aren’t working out?
You find out when things aren’t getting done, or you don’t see the performance in a certain area. Analyze it and say, ‘Why is this happening?’ Ninety percent of the time, it comes back to people.
If you’re seeing one particular person who never seems to hit their time line, bring that to their attention. Ask them, ‘What can help you meet these time lines? Do you not have enough resources? What is it that we’re doing or not doing that could help you meet these time lines, or is this something you feel we need to give to someone else?’
A lot of times, someone will say, ‘You know what? This is just over my head.’
HOW TO REACH: Universal Power Group Inc., (866) 892-1122 or www.upgi.com
Back in 1998, Greg Flynn was doing business in Washington state when he had the opportunity to buy a group of eight Applebee’s locations. While he didn’t know anything about running the restaurants, he thought Applebee’s had good long-term viability, so he made the purchase on blind faith that he could trust the guys who were already running the restaurants.
Nearly a decade later, that culture of trusting employees and not trying to control every decision himself fuels growth in his Applebee’s franchise group, Apple American Group LLC.
“You can’t be an effective leader in a large and diverse organization if you’re too controlling,” says Flynn, Apple American’s chairman and CEO. “You also can’t succeed if you punish people for taking risks that you encourage them to take.”
Flynn believes in having a flat organization that breeds the kind of culture where employees can make decisions and grow as leaders. He employs a state and federal approach to his organization, with corporate acting as the federal government and each region in his portfolio acting as a state.
“They operate with great autonomy, except they are subjected to federal standards — rules that apply throughout the whole portfolio,” Flynn says. “While we don’t tell them how they need to achieve these results in every instance, we do demand that they achieve the results we’re looking for.”
While many companies try to complicate visions, values and strategies, which leave employees utterly clueless about how to succeed, the key to Apple American’s success is maintaining that flat, simple organization to preserve the cultural values and propel growth. With 130 stores across eight states, Flynn has successfully done that, and group sales reached $375 million last year, a 114 percent increase since 2001.
“First and foremost, keep the entire business as simple as possible,” Flynn says. “From the long-term vision all the way down to the day-to-day execution, the simpler it is, the better you can communicate it, the better everyone in the organization will understand it, the more measurable it will be.”
Creating vision and values
Employees aren’t sure what they need to do if leaders don’t tell them what to strive toward and how to get there.
“Have a vision, which is where you want to be in the future, and a good plan for getting there,” Flynn says. “Have that clearly communicated so everyone’s pulling toward that vision in every action, every day.
“Our vision is very simple. It’s to be the premiere franchise group in the Applebee’s system. We have a dozen things we must execute well to do that, but it’s a simple vision. We don’t need to concern ourselves overly with global strategy in the restaurant industry or major marketing campaigns or menu development. We build and operate restaurants, and we just have to kill that.”
While it’s crucial to keep the vision simple, it also has to be something that you can measure, otherwise you won’t know how close you are to achieving it. For Flynn, he knows what other franchise groups look like compared to his because he can benchmark their performances against those of Apple American Group.
He also notes how crucial it is to stay focused and not get sidetracked with other ventures that can steer you away from achieving your vision. He sticks to Applebee’s and doesn’t get lost in other restaurant concepts, even if they seem to provide an alluring short-term gain. It’s more important to stay focused on the concept that has the best long-term gain for him and his people.
“By having a very narrow focus, it’s easier for me to communicate where we wish to be, and then lay out the plan for getting there and measuring our progress along the way,” Flynn says. “Define your vision as narrowly as possible because it will make it much clearer to your people and, ultimately, easier to get there if you really maintain a laser focus.”
Any organization can have an overall vision and put it up on the wall by the main doors in gold letters for everyone to read, but the employees also have to know how to act and what kinds of behaviors will help achieve that vision. For this reason, Flynn has a set of values, called the “Gold card,” for Apple American Group employees to know what the company values and expects.
“The central principle there is that we will feel comfortable seeing our actions and our motives for them published in the newspaper,” Flynn says. “I think about that one all the time. We will never do anything that I can’t look someone in the eye, who’s intimately affected by it, and justify it as an ethical, moral and rational action.”
Flynn adopted his values from one of the group’s predecessors, and while the values weren’t Apple American’s at first, Flynn has modified them to make sure they reflect the group.
“We’ve adopted it and changed and refined it over the years,” Flynn says. “It has a longer history than me and them and anyone at this point. ... As I understand more and more about what really matters in our business, we just make changes. It’s like the constitution — it evolves over the years through amendments.”
For example, Apple American’s vision looks at where it wants to be, how it will get there and the impact it has on three different groups: customers, employees and shareholders. Flynn saw how important community plays into his restaurants, so this year, he decided to add community as a fourth group in that list.
Values ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction, but just like the vision, they have to be understandable and actionable.
“Keep it very simple when you can,” Flynn says. “Don’t say, ‘I demand excellent restaurants.’ Have clearly articulated expectations. Our whole system is not telling them how to get from A to B, but telling them we expect them to be at B, and they can take different routes to get there, but you have to tell them very clearly what B is. The overriding advice is trust your people.”
While headquarters are in Cleveland, Flynn works out of San Francisco, so he is conscientious that his structure requires him to trust people.
“Our system relies entirely on trust,” Flynn says. “We must be able to trust the individuals in our restaurants and in our markets to do the right thing because we’re not micromanaging them, and we’re not supervising them to an excessive degree.”
Trusting people means letting go and allowing your employees to do things.
“It takes a long time to earn people’s trust, so when we say we trust in you, and we believe in your potential, and we’re going to allow you to enjoy latitude in how you do things and develop yourself and your people, we actually do that,” Flynn says. “Ultimately, that’s the main way you get people on board with the system.”
Building trust requires realizing other people are capable of success.
“People, in general, are smart, hardworking, experienced, want to do the right thing and more capable than most companies give them credit for,” Flynn says. “The best way to develop people is to give them responsibility, and they will sort of develop themselves.”
Giving people responsibility increases trust between management and employees and increases buy-in of the vision and values, but you have to give people leeway in how they accomplish those responsibilities, too.
“If you don’t give them any latitude — here’s exactly how you have to do everything — then there’s no innovation,” Flynn says. “But if you say, ‘All I care is you end up in B,’ it really encourages creative thinking, and we get tremendous creativity from our people as they seek out new and creative ways to get from A to B. People are smart, and they have great ideas all the time, but the certain structure of those companies doesn’t allow for those to percolate up.”
Flynn also emphasizes that leaders have to actually do these things and not just say them or talk about them in meetings.
“You live it,” Flynn says. “You say to people, ‘I believe in pushing authority down the line and empowering you and giving you the resources to do it yourself, and I don’t really want to hear about it unless there’s a big problem or opportunity,’ and then you actually do that.
“There’s no better way to develop a person than to just give them responsibility and figure it out for themselves. You know, they’ll stub their toe a few times, but the benefit they’ll get is someone who has really learned how to do it and didn’t just follow instruction.”
And while employees work to improve themselves and drive the company to succeed, they need reassurance that they’re on track. Flynn has a profit-sharing program for his managers, where each gets a percentage of his or her divisional earnings, with no strings attached.
“Keep it simple, without adjustments,” Flynn says. “I’m delighted to pay them that way because it’s all the results of growth.”
He says it’s also important to give the managers equity ownership in the business. He gave them a five-year plan in 2001, and when they recapitalized in 2004, they were exactly on target for meeting those numbers and got rewarded in cash.
“They’re side by side in their ownership with me,” Flynn says, “So it’s good for me; it’s good for them.”
While Flynn has formal recognition programs through conferences, awards dinners and monthly staff rankings, he says informal recognition is more important, especially at the lower levels.
“Recognition is mostly a day-to-day thing,” he says. “The culture of your organization — is it appreciative? Can we — and do we — say, ‘thank you,’ often and out loud to each other?”
To maintain his state and federal model for the organization, he has to have an inclusive decision-making style.
“A critical component of being a flat organization is having a very inclusive decision-making process, which can be inefficient at times, but when you reach a decision, you’ve typically gotten a better decision because of all the input you’ve gotten from the people in charge of carrying it out,” Flynn says. “Because you’ve gotten better buy-in, you do roll out decisions more effectively.”
People feel like they had a say in the decision and that it wasn’t just mandated down from the powers that be.
“They need to feel like their opinion was sought and listened to and considered, and even if it was ultimately overridden, they were treated with respect,” he says. “They have to trust that the leader has lots of different opinions he’s considering, and a vision of his own, and trust that your decision is going to be right at the end of the day, but if you don’t listen to someone, it’s almost impossible to get them on board with that decision that’s contrary to what they already believe.”
While not everyone may agree with a decision, people will at least respect the decision if they were included in making it.
“Typically, it happens very well because they will have been part of the process, understand the logic behind the decision, and they’ll respect it in the process,” Flynn says. “Even if they disagree with it, they will have been heard.”
While Flynn encourages and facilitates discussion and conversation when making a decision, he also notes that, when necessary, the leader has to be prepared to wrap things up and move on.
“Rarely does it happen where I need to just shut down the debate and make a decision that we haven’t arrived at collectively as a group,” Flynn says. “But it does happen. In our state and federal model, there is a president.”
When decisions are made, you can’t overlook how crucial communicating those decisions are, but it’s equally important to explain the process and reasons behind decisions.
“It shows respect for them as people,” Flynn says. “They’re not just automatons doing what they’re told to do. That’s antithetical to our culture. More importantly, if they understand why we’re doing what we’re doing, what impact it has, they’ll do it better, and they may come up with better ways to do things if they understand where they’re trying to go.
“If this is about getting from A to B, most of our ideas of coming up with a better way to get from A to B comes from the field, but they have to know what B is to suggest a better way.”
When communicating those processes, reasons and decisions, you also need to be brutally honest with your people, otherwise employees see right through it and wonder what’s being hidden or what they’re not being told.
“Say exactly what you think all the time and don’t hold back, and people respect that,” Flynn says. “I’d like to think we don’t sugarcoat anything in our business, and as a result, we are much more effective, and our people have much more actionable information, and therefore, are more successful.”
While Flynn and his management team are happy to make decisions and communicate those to the rest of the group, they are also keenly aware that some decisions are best left to people below them. With such a wide geographic spread, he knows he’s not equipped to make a decision about a restaurant in Pennsylvania by sitting in his office in California.
“They are identifying problems and opportunities themselves and acting on them in real time, with much greater sensitivity to the actual local context of the issue, as opposed to me, centrally sitting there with much less information and much less understanding of the context of a given issue, trying to decide,” Flynn says.
He even works to develop his employees’ decision and problem-solving skills by asking them tough questions to make them think differently as new situations arise.
“I’m always saying, ‘What problems do you have, and what opportunities have you had, and what are you doing about them?’” Flynn says. “I expect both sides of that question answered, so it’s not, ‘We have a problem; what are we going to do about it?’ It’s, ‘We have a problem, and here’s what I’ve already done about it.’”
Flynn’s commitment to keeping his business simple has cooked up one successful and growing organization. In 2005, Apple American Group was ranked fourth on Nation’s Restaurant News’ “Top 100 Growth Companies” list, finishing one spot ahead of Starbucks Corp. But Flynn attributes Apple American’s growth to the culture he’s created and maintained.
“It’s fuel for growth,” Flynn says. “Growth is fuel for people development. The two are complementary. We attract and retain better people because we’re growing; because of the opportunities for upward mobility within Apple American that we can afford.
“Likewise, our people are driving growth. We have better people. They stay with us longer, and they enable us to open more restaurants and open them better, and when we acquire new markets, we have wonderful procedures for integrating the new people, so it’s really a synergistic and complementary dynamic.”
HOW TO REACH: Apple American Group LLC, www.appleamerican.com
Get the right people. You can have all the capital in the world, but if you don’t have the right people, you’re not going to succeed. If you have the right people, you can get dog food and sell it as caviar. If you have the wrong people, you could have Louis Vuitton bags, and you couldn’t sell them.
In Spanish, it’s called chispa spark. They have to have it in their eye. They have to have it when they speak, but it has to be a true chispa.
You interview people, and they’re like, ‘I want to come work for you, and I’ll work eight days a week, 30 hours a day, and I’ll live, breathe your company, and I can raise your sales 50 percent.’ That is false chispa. He’s creating a spark because he’s doing an interview.
The spark is more in the want. You can see it when they speak because they’re not trying to prove themselves to you in a 10-minute interview. You can see it in the way they dress, the way they look, the way they handle themselves. You can come in a hand-me-down suit, but you tied your tie properly, you sat up straight in the chair. You at least cleaned your shoes.
If someone gets here late and got stuck in traffic, folks say, ‘Oh, he doesn’t care.’ You have kids at home, you get delayed, your car breaks down. Those things can happen.
It’s more personality. How they look at you, how they speak, their mannerisms. Are they polite? Do they say thank you? That all matters.
Don’t be fooled by resumes. Resumes do not impress me. I’ve seen people master’s here and 10 different colleges, and you interview them, and they have no social skills. They don’t look you straight in the eye when they talk to you. They don’t sit up upright.
They’re not proud of who they are. They’re not self-confident, and you can see that when you talk to people. Then I hire some kid who had to leave high school to support his family, and he impresses the hell out of me, and he gives me a wow.
That’s what I look at. Do you demand more of yourself? Do you demand more of what you are able to contribute from your abilities? A kid who didn’t finish high school has limitations to a certain amount, but those limitations to them don’t exist, and they exceed those limitations, and that’s the spirit I’m looking for that nothing holds them back.
Do things yourself. If something’s small, like faxes or return this person’s call, it is who can do it the fastest. If it’s going to take me longer to tell my assistant to call Kristy and tell her I can’t make the conference call, and she’s like ‘Who’s Kristy?’ ‘Kristy works for Smart Business. She’s an associate editor here’s her number.’ It’s faster for me to pick up the phone and call you.
Whoever’s going to do that for me, they have work to do as well. If it’s going to take me five minutes to explain, and I’m going to take that five minutes of their time, and they still have to make the call, it would have been more efficient for the company if I had just done it myself.
Delegate. If I get calls from folks who want to buy my company, I say nicely, ‘You need to speak with my CFO,’ and they say, ‘Well, we only talk to owners.’ I go, ‘No. My CFO has access to everything. If you want to talk financial stuff, you talk to my CFO,’ and that’s how I delegate.
If it’s not my responsibility, it’s delegated to a manager. Period. I keep a list of the tasks by managers in a public folder. They have access to that folder they can read it, they can copy it, but they cannot amend or delete it.
I’ll add the task, I’ll e-mail her the task so she knows that that’s an expectation of mine, and I put a start date and a due date. Then they get back to me and tell me whether that’s reasonable or not. I know everyone’s busy, but I don’t know what you’re working on. I’m flexible on that stuff.
Reorganize periodically. Let’s assume we’re starting from scratch. Forget people. Forget budgets. Create an organizational chart for me that would meet your needs today. Then forecast your needs for the next 12 months, then a soft scenario for 24 months.
In the reorg, we’ve created a list of requirements before we look at who’s going to fill that box. Then we say, ‘(She) had that job before that was her title. Look at the job now. Does she fit that job? If she does, is she willing to do it?’
One of my buyers, when I analyzed what she was doing, she was creating reports for sales. She was analyzing data, so I moved her into my team, and she’s our business analyst. It’s not different. It’s just sometimes the title, over the years, has remained the same, but your duties have changed, so you’re really doing something different than what your title calls for.
It makes us refocus on our business at a micro level rather than a macro level. It’s not a lot of changes, but one or two little boxes you move around makes a huge impact. When you’re growing 30 percent a year, you have to redefine yourself every 12 months. If not, you’re fooling yourself.
HOW TO REACH: Diaz Foods, (800) 394-4639 or www.diazfoods.com
Five years ago, Michael Gerster realized the old business model at WIKA Instrument Corp. had clearly expired. It was losing market share to Chinese manufacturers, was failing to efficiently meet customer demands and was wasting money with large amounts of obsolete inventory.
“The Chinese and other low cost manufacturers ... are eating our lunch and the bag it comes in,” says Gerster, president of the company.
He clearly needed to make some changes if his company wanted to compete. His prior company had been in the process of exploring lean manufacturing, so when he left in 1998 to come to WIKA, a pressure and temperature instrumentation manufacturer, he brought a basic curiosity about it with him. Upon starting at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Atlanta, he started sending his people to lean manufacturing seminars, but they always came back with the same response.
“I don’t know what’s in it for us, Michael.”
But in 2001, that finally changed. WIKA worked with one particular company that was able to really explain the benefits it would experience from going lean.
“The results were so earth-rocking that everybody was instantly convinced that this is going to be the future for us, and the way we wanted to do business,” Gerster says.
So he and management began working with the outside company to make changes, but even with people on board, implementation is much more difficult. The entire plant was rearranged so everybody had to do things differently and embrace a different thought process.
“Two or three years followed where we moved the furniture,” Gerster says. “We broke all of these departments a-part and created manufacturing cells.”
But after all of that, he realized the new layout wasn’t very efficient, so af-ter 18 months, they finished moving everything again to optimize efficiency.
His patience and persistence have paid off. As a result of all the changes that have taken place during last five years, productivity increased by double digits, market share doubled, and they’ve saved 20 to 30 percent of space. WIKA’s lead time has also dropped from about six weeks to just five to 10 days. That all yields real results the U.S. headquarters’ profits and revenue doubled in the last five years, bringing the entire global revenue to $480 million and the Atlanta plant’s revenue to $100 million last year.
“We are well-conditioned for the future,” Gerster says. “There are things that are under our control and there are things that are not under our control, and even the things that are not under our control, we have a level of agility that we can react to those real quick.”
Making major changes in a company requires a lot of planning, communication and work to succeed. Here’s how Gerster conquered some of the challenges of driving change through an organization.
The first stage of any change is having a reason to do so, which starts with knowing how your company competes.
“Clearly understand the value proposition to the customer,” Gerster says. “When you compete in a batch world with other customers, same lead times, same quality service, etc., the only thing you have to differentiate yourself is price. Then if you have a competitor coming through globalization that brutally undercuts you in price, you lose your value proposition to your customer.”
He spends about one-third of his time with customers and says to ask questions, “then shut up and let him talk” to learn their needs.
Gerster asks about what challenges they face, their biggest expenses, how WIKA can help their profitability beyond lowering price, and what they expect from suppliers.
While these questions help surface spoken demands, sometimes you have to dive deeper to find needs they don’t even think about.
“If you ask the right questions, you’re going to find, hopefully, unarticulated demands that the customer would have never told or asked you to do,” Gerster says. “If you offer that to the customer, all of a sudden the light bulb goes on and they say, ‘Yeah, that would be important for us.’”
After listening, WIKA made some changes. To start, it changed its methodology in pricing to be customer-friendly.
“If you tell a customer, ‘Here’s a price for five pieces, and here’s a price for 50 pieces, and here’s a price for 500 pieces,’ you are enticing the customer to do the wrong thing because he’s going to have one eye on the low price,” Gerster says. “Then he’s buying more than he actually needs and puts the rest in his inventory.”
Inventory costs a company a lot of money to maintain, often negating the lower price it paid, so whether a customer needs five pieces or 500, WIKA charges the same price. WIKA also realized it could save customers time, money and manpower by monitoring their inventories for them by linking their IT systems and automatically shipping when a product was low.
None of this would have happened if Gerster hadn’t tried to create a true partnership, which he says many companies don’t understand.
“Nobody ever really understood what partnership means,” Gerster says. “In the past, it was who had the lowest price. If there’s no dependency between the customer and the supplier, and the supplier and the customer, then you don’t have a relationship.”
Real relationships are key to a successful business. “The customer must, at some level, depend on WIKA in a good sense, not in a blackmailing sense to meet their goals while leveraging the capabilities of an agile supplier,” Gerster says. “That creates a dependency, and that dependency cannot be thrown out or competed with just because somebody walks in there with a lower price because we offer more than a lower price.”
When making changes within an org-anization, leaders must get buy-in from everyone in the company, otherwise the changes won’t yield success.
“The top management support is the oxygen that is blown into the candle all the time to keep it alive,” Gerster says. “At the same time, the whole organization has to become more self-sustained. In other words, the employees have to pick up the DNA and the way we want to do business.”
Doing that is pretty straightforward. “You must be honest, and you must give people a reason why change is imminent,” Gerster says. “In order to do that, you should have some urgency.”
But that’s not enough. Top management has to follow up with the low-level employees. He attributes Toyota’s success to this.
“Those guys know what they are talking about because they know what’s going on, on the shop floor, and they make sure things are right on the shop floor,” Gerster says. “If you make sure things are right on the shop floor, everything else will fall together. Don’t start at the top start at the bottom.”
It’s also important to keep the senior team excited and focused. That will filter down the organization and help employees buy in to changes.
“People on the shop floor have seen many different programs over the years, and they know, management says yeah, yeah, yeah, and then six months later, nobody talks about it anymore,” Gerster says. “It needs constant nurturing through top management, and top management needs to be excited about it, and they should be because it brings you the results you’re looking for, but they don’t trust it, and they let it go too quick.”
Leaders need to get and keep everyone on board through continuous training and mentoring, and if they don’t like those activities, let them go. He also keeps them in the loop by standing in front of everyone each quarter and giving a state of the company address. He both looks back at what the company has accomplished and also spells out the top five issues needing work as they move forward.
“That’s a certain set of information that I repeat over and over again,” he says. “Then you just need to engage with people. You need to tell people that while they are changing, mistakes are going to happen, and it is OK to fail.”
Most people have had a moment where they look at a policy or procedure and say, “That’s complete nonsense. Why do we do it that way?”
Around WIKA, Gerster rewards people for asking that question because it shows they’re paying attention and looking for improvement. He calls it the “Utter nonsense” award, and it comes with a $100 reward. It’s a way of getting people to continuously improve the company.
“Sometimes you set up business processes and never look at them again until they kick you in your rear end,” Gerster says. “What we’re trying to do is set up a process that looks at everything and anything continuously and try to capture opportunities for im-provement.”
Offering incentives to those who choose to get involved and offer ideas motivates and ignites enthusiasm. For example, Gerster’s lean transition completely re-energized his people and propelled WIKA forward.
“It’s an employee-driven process, and it puts people on steroids,” he says. “The morale is totally different than what it was years ago. Give the people responsibility. ... Just trust them, and they will deliver for you.”
It’s also crucial to watch what you reward. “Often, people get a bonus for increasing sales or increasing profitability, but they only measure the sales or only measure the profitability, so at the end, you either have it or you don’t, or you’re somewhere in between,” Gerster says. “You need to focus on the internal activities that drive sales and drive profit, so you know much earlier if you are on track or not.
“If you focus on these activities, you don’t worry about sales or profitability because you know it’s going to come together anyway, because you’re doing the right thing. You’re looking through the wind-shield and not through the rear mirror.”
WIKA also sets benchmarks for employees by averaging the previous two years’ performances and then raising that number slightly. If they hit the new goal, the company splits its profits 50-50 with employees, so they reap the benefits of their hard work.
“You need to define an expected outcome for a certain business process, and you need to make sure you raise the expectation every now and then in order to push the limit and start people thinking, ‘How do I do better?’” he says.
When they get a cut, they’ll look at how to be more efficient to increase their share of the prize.
“If people want to make more money here, it’s not about working harder, it’s about working smarter,” Gerster says. “You can’t get it done if you work harder. You need to do it differently.”
While change can often seem slow and people can be skeptical, Gerster says to plunge forward and let success get people on board.
“If the changes work, and they see that it works, and they get a share of it, why would they get frustrated with it?” Gerster says. “They must be part of the success, and we make them part of that success.”
HOW TO REACH: WIKA Instrument Corp., (888) WIKA-USA or www.wika.com
Len Pagon Jr. founded Brulant Inc., then called NewMedia, as a 23-year-old in the spare bedroom of his house back in 1989. Throughout the 1990s, he went through different company transformations but also propelled the company through rapid growth, being named to the Inc. 500 list three times. But sometimes good things don’t last, and by the end of 2000, the dot-com bubble had burst.
Pagon made a tough decision to restructure his company in order to survive, so he sold off three branches of the business and had to make layoffs. By the end of 2000, a merger had been planned, but by March 2002, things had fallen through and the merger was abandoned. About half of his employees, including the CEO Pagon hired, left to join the company it was supposed to have merged with.
Pagon bought back controlling interest in the company, and in doing so, he inherited a company with an upside-down balance sheet, negative equity and no cash. He took charge of the 26 employees that were left. He hired an entirely new senior management staff and started over.
The information technology services market was also changing, so he decided it was time to take the company in a different direction. He positioned it beyond a consulting firm that primarily implemented e-business solutions to a full-service strategy, information technology, and digital business consulting and integration firm to serve global clients. At this time the company was renamed to its current Brulant Inc., and it was this repositioning that fueled Brulant’s explosive growth during the last few years, culminating in more than 100 percent growth in 2006.
Pagon, president and CEO of Brulant, defines a great company as one that is doing something different, that has built a different brand, that has deep technology expertise and has a core of talented employees. These attributes have helped him reposition the company and will continue to help it succeed in the future.
HOW TO REACH: Brulant Inc., www.brulant.com or (216) 896-8900
Jerry Stallard just thought the letters GTS sounded good together when he started GTS Communications from his one-bedroom apartment in Olmsted Falls back in 1996 during his last year in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.
As president and founder, he didn’t exactly know much about installing telephones when he started the company, but he knew he had an interest in it. His first installation was for his brother, but he used troubleshooting techniques that he learned during his coast guard experience and received additional training to fill in his knowledge gaps. Finding clients was initially difficult to balance along with answering calls and serving as the technician, so his wife entered the picture to answer those calls while working at another job. This allowed him to focus on his craft, as he thought his overall work would be the best advertisement for GTS.
Those letters that sounded good have translated into a telecommunications business that’s still doing great 11 years later, as it’s never experienced a year with negative revenue growth. Additionally, first quarter 2007 sales have increased 26 percent.
Stallard takes an innovative approach to business by building his company as an alternative to a larger competitor and created a niche in installing Nortel phones, which are commonly installed by larger competitors.
Stallard also strives to maintain a family culture at the Strongsville-based GTS headquarters. With just 10 employees, he is dedicated to providing gift bags for them on holidays as well as hosting company outings and dinners at his residence.
As Stallard pushes his business to continue growing, he maintains a down-to-earth attitude and dedication to working hard. He leads growth without getting ahead of himself, and with that mentality, he will open a second GTS office in Orlando, Fla. in August.
GTS is on the fast track for future success with an average expansion of approximately 25 percent in both sales and employment growth.
HOW TO REACH: GTS Communications, (877) 487-8866 or www.gtscommunications.com
Steve Ciuni has taken some risks during his career. Back in 1992, he and three other colleagues purchased the assets of Drake Construction Co. from the original founders, but three years later, Ciuni made one of the biggest financial risks of his life by purchasing the shares of one of the other owners who had decided to leave the company. Nine years later, Drake Construction’s president decided to retire, so Ciuni stepped up to the plate. At this junction in the business, he decided again to take a risk and change the company’s business focus.
While the construction company had previously focused on work in the open-bid market, he decided to focus on negotiated, client-relationship-based work. This strategy would allow the business to work with quality sub-contractors and focus on providing the highest level of quality to its customers, but the strategy also proved challenging as it limited the company’s client base in the Cleveland area, which wasn’t expanding. However, Ciuni was determined to build a business based on trust, honesty and strong relationships.
He also had to explain to his partners and employees that the new approach was risky and would take nearly two years to recognize the benefits.
Ciuni first met with every employee to explain the new philosophy that every person he or she interacts with as an employee of Drake Construction must be treated the way that person wanted to be treated. He also never wanted to hear the phrase, “It’s not personal it’s just business,” as he wouldn’t accept that mentality, and it wouldn’t help the business in its new direction.
Three years later, he’s seeing real results and the risks Ciuni took throughout the years have certainly paid off for Drake Construction.
“The strategy has paid off in what we do,”
Ciuni says. “Today, we do not have any outstanding receivables, our old debts are paid off, our repeat business has increased, and we are receiving projects on a referral basis.”
HOW TO REACH: Drake Construction Co., (216) 664-6500 or www.drakeconstructionco.com
It was closing day, and it seemed promising. Charles W. Walton was supposed to wrap up a big acquisition, but this next leg of Wastequip Inc.’s growth journey would be delayed.
“I can’t sell,” the seller told Walton that day, despite having already signed the definitive agreement. “I know you own my company, but I can’t work there. My grandfather started it, and I just can’t sell it.”
“Well, I don’t want the company then, so put the agreement in your desk drawer,” Walton told the man. “When you’re ready, call me.”
Two years later, the man finally called, and they completed the deal. Now that company is one of Wastequip’s major divisions.
This type of patience and persistence has taken the waste-handling equipment manufacturer from one employee in 1989 to 1,800 employees today. Walton, who serves as chairman, has led the company through more than 20 acquisitions in 18 years, and it now generates about $500 million in annual revenue.
That growth has been facilitated by thinking big from the beginning.
“I used (accounting firm Ernst & Young) right from the start,” he says. “I obviously didn’t need E&Y, but I knew that if I grew as rapidly as I planned to, then I was going to need a big-time accounting firm.”
He enlisted the services of a large law firm for the same reason, but to get Wastequip to where it actually needed to use the services of large outside firms, he had to get going quickly, and acquisitions were the quickest path to growth.
But at the same time, he didn’t want to bully any owner into selling just to benefit his company. So over the course of more than 20 deals, he has perfected the art of the acquisition and continued to take those pieces and put them together, creating a unified, forward-moving company.
Here’s how Walton has conquered some of the challenges of making acquisitions to fuel growth.
Know what you are looking for
When choosing acquisitions as a means of growing, leaders need to first have criteria so they know what to buy.
“When I would look for a potential acquisition candidate, not only did I look for companies that were in geographic markets that we wished to penetrate but also companies that had a complementary product line that we wanted to add,” Walton says.
When determining where he wanted Wastequip to have a presence, he didn’t just take a map of the country and throw darts at it. Instead, he looked at what his company was trying to be and where it needed to be to do that.
“It’s people and industrial activity that generate waste, and if you’re making equipment to collect, process and transport waste materials, you want to be in the markets where waste is generated,” he says.
In addition to geographic area, he looks to buy companies with solid people who can contribute to the combined company.
“I would also look for companies that had what I felt were superior staff that would stay on because we did not have anyone at the corporate level to step in and run these companies,” Walton says.
He first evaluated if the people would mesh with Wastequip. To do that, he would look at a company’s overall performance as an indicator of how good its people are.
“If they had grown rapidly or profitably and were the market leader in their area, that was an indication that they had good staff,” Walton says.
But that’s just a surface indicator. He says it’s also important to form personal relationships with people to determine whether they’ll jive with your company. He does this by golfing or dining with people from the potential acquisition to get a feel of whether there’s compatibility.
He also suggests talking to other employees of the company to get a feel for what they think about the deal, and have others from your company talk to them, as well.
Beyond the people, the actual products are crucial, too. In terms of product lines, Walton looked for companies that had similar manufacturing processes to Wastequip’s and that used similar materials, which you can leverage when purchasing the material.
“It’s always good to stay in an area where you have some experience and some advantage in terms of knowing the processing techniques and not get too far up field,” he says.
Know the seller
Potential acquisitions also need to be approached in a delicate, friendly way. Walton made many initial contacts with potential sellers by attending trade shows. If one stuck out to him, he would do more research and then contact the owner and ask to talk.
“I always used to say to them, ‘It doesn’t cost anything to talk,’” Walton says. “‘You might as well see how your business would be valued.”
When meeting with people about selling their businesses, he says it’s important to understand their backgrounds and situations because it helps you better gauge how likely or unlikely someone is to sell. For example, if an owner has four children and is close to retiring, he may choose to sell his business because it’s easier to split money from the sale among four children than it is to turn the company over to the one or two who are actively involved in it while excluding the others.
“Our biggest competitor was not another company that wanted to acquire the company but the owner or potential seller who had to make a decision — was he better off keeping the business or selling?” Walton says. “My job was to convince him he was better off selling it.”
One way he did so was by providing names and contact information of other companies that Wastequip had acquired. As it completed more acquisitions, that Rolodex grew and became a strong chain of references to convince companies that Wastequip had their best interests in mind.
“I said, ‘Call any of these people and ask them if we did what we said we were going to do, and if they’ve enjoyed working at Wastequip,’” he says. “‘Ask them anything.’ That’s a good reference.”
Another tactic he used was to throw out scenarios about how the market could turn.
“They’d say, ‘Gee, if I kept the business, I’m taking X dollars out every year, and if I keep the business another five years, I’ll have as much money as you’ve offered me now, and then I can sell it,’” he says. “I’d say, ‘Yeah, that’s if everything goes well. What if there’s a recession?’ It’s a question of risk-reward.”
A couple of times he made fair offers to two of his major competitors, but both declined. A few years later, Wastequip acquired both for 10 percent less than the original offers, proving that sometimes it’s better to sell early.
While Walton obviously negotiates with Wastequip’s best interests in mind, he doesn’t bully or push people into a wrong deal, and he’s just now in the final stages of an acquisition he first contacted back in 1992.
By contrast, some acquisitions can take as few as three or four months from initial contact to completion. Either way, he says, the key is maintaining patience and maintaining contact by visiting with the owners at trade shows and staying in touch in between.
Integrate new employees
Buying a company is just the first step. Once the paperwork is completed, you have to start integrating the new people into your culture to keep everyone working toward common goals.
The key is to start with knowing what you want overall for the future, and Walton knew what he wanted.
“The culture was work hard, have fun, make money, be an industry leader,” he says. “I wanted Wastequip to be a place where people wanted to work.”
Start by appealing to the material needs of employees from the acquired company to make sure they stick around.
“Provide them with a very attractive incentive program where, in addition to their salary, which has to be industry competitive, if they meet certain financial targets, they will be handsomely rewarded,” says Walton.
New employees outside the management ranks had to know what was going on, too, so he, and eventually his management team, would explain why they needn’t worry about their jobs.
“We’ve never closed a plant, so that should provide them with some security,” he says.
Beyond simply communicating the company’s track record, he says it’s important to give employees from the acquired company resources and help them get to know other colleagues. He charges facility leaders with creating opportunities for employees to get to know each other better, and they do this through holiday parties, softball teams and other social activities throughout the year.
“If you put together a company that’s growing largely through acquisitions, it’s very important that, early on, you get the people to interact with each other,” Walton says. “Everybody’s pulling for the same goals. It just won’t work if you don’t do that.”
While it’s important to build camaraderie at the local level, it also has to exist at a management level. After three or four acquisitions, he formed a president’s counsel to help leaders get to know each other and other senior managers from corporate headquarters. He also encouraged them to get out of their plants to meet other leaders.
“We encourage people who recently joined our companies to go around and visit our other plants because they’ll learn something from that,” he says.
It helps the new leaders feel like part of the overall team and understand the company better. Getting to know their peers also gives them the confidence to call someone and ask how to do something better or to talk to them about problems.
He and his team also take a best-practices approach and prefer to implement whatever the new acquisition does best into all its facilities, so this open dialogue helps with implementing new techniques as well.
“You always learn something new from each acquisition,” he says. “Someone always does something a little better than the rest.”
Learn to delegate
While making one of his earlier acquisitions, Walton met with a man four or five times. Each time, he was baffled that the man didn’t have any papers or files on his desk — only a copy of The Wall Street Journal. It made him curious.
“Where do you spend most of your time?” Walton asked. “Are you involved with marketing? Sales? Manufacturing?”
“I only have one job, and that’s to put the right people in the right place,” the man responded.
It’s something Walton has taken to heart, and he says is key to sustaining growth. When the right people are in the right spots, it makes delegating easier.
“If you have a good operations officer and a good financial officer, then you feel comfortable delegating,” says Walton.
Of the current management team, about 60 percent came with the companies he bought, but 40 percent he brought in from the outside. Many of the businesses Wastequip acquired were small, so often the people didn’t have the experience in human resources, environmental issues, finance and law that he needed for scaled growth. He evaluated whether the skills he needed were inside the company already, and when they weren’t, he looked outside.
When interviewing, he finds it important to talk to people inside the office and in more casual settings. He’s looking for someone who not only has technical skills but who will also fit with the culture he’s built.
“In the office, you get a good sense of the professional and technical capabilities of the individual,” Walton says. “On the golf course or at dinner, you get an idea of whether you’re going to be a good team working together.”
Create a clear plan
Filling holes with the correct people ensures he has the resources to fulfill his overall strategy, but that’s only part of the solution. You also have to have a clear plan for those people to follow.
“Look at how the economy, in general and the industry in which you operate, is changing,” Walton says. “Are you gaining market share or losing market share? If you’re losing market share, you have to sit back and say, ‘Why is that happening?’ Is it because we are not cost-competitive anymore, or is it because there are new products being introduced that we don’t have? And if we don’t have them, can we develop them internally, or do we need to go outside and acquire those products?’”
When leaders discuss these issues, it helps them create a solid plan for the company, but at the same time, Walton says it’s important to not be too set in one’s ways.
“Have a strategy, but don’t be a slave to that strategy,” he says. “If it’s not working, don’t be afraid to adapt it.”
Having accurate, current data is crucial in determining if a strategy is working.
“You’ve got to make sure you have the data flow and the ability to get the data, and you have the right data to let you assess the business in a sense that you can and will know when it’s getting away from you,” Walton says.
To keep Wastequip in check, Walton gets a simple report each week that shows each company’s bookings, backlog and sales, monthly sales estimate, next month’s budget, and previous year comparison.
“When you get that, it’s pretty simple,” Walton says. “There’s nothing fancy about it. When you start to see that your backlog is declining, or you start to see that the estimate for that month is starting to be lowered by the people running that particular unit and it’s falling behind the plan for the year, that’s an early warning sign that something’s going wrong.”
When leaders see those early flags, they need to get their team together and ask some blunt questions.
“What’s the problem here?” he says. “What are we doing wrong, or what aren’t we doing that we should be doing?”
Finding the answers to those questions often requires getting out of the boardroom and talking to someone closer to the problem.
“You have to talk to the guy responsible for that division and ask him why he’s lowered his estimate,” Walton says. “He may say, ‘My competitor is lowering his price,’ or, ‘The market is weak.’ Based on his response, that would indicate different strategies to address that issue.”
Communicate and motivate
In a growing organization, leaders may have to make small changes, but rapid growth sometimes brings intense change. No matter how big or small the changes, Walton says it’s always important to have strong communication.
To ensure people get the message, he has monthly telephone conferences for all the group presidents, sales managers and group controllers. A smaller management group meets once a quarter, and he also has an annual meeting. All of these meetings facilitate dialogue about the business and keep people focused.
Part of keeping people focused is motivating them, Walton says. While he strives to have both financial and bonus compensation that make employees feel valued, he also motivates them in how he plans the annual conference.
“If the company makes its annual plan, we have our annual management conference in a nice, warm place, and they can bring their wives,” Walton says. “If we don’t make our plan, then we have it in Cleveland in February — and no girls.
“If we meet the goals and go to a nice, warm place, we have two or three hours of meetings and play golf. If we go to Cleveland, we have eight hours of meetings a day.”
He uses these meetings, no matter the length, to recognize his people, although some recognition is aimed at motivating the bottom tier.
“Peer pressure is important,” Walton says. “When we have those meetings, we show who met their budget, who’s ahead of their budget and who’s behind the budget. People don’t like to be the laggards. When they come back next year, they want to be one of the leaders.”
Hire positive people. Frankly, I work too much to have a group of people around me who aren’t fun and positive.
No. 1, without any hesitation, is the attitude. You can tell a lot about the technical skills from their resume. You can test for it. But there’s no replacement for a good attitude. You either have a good attitude a can-do attitude, a positive approach to life, a positive approach to interactions with other human beings or you don’t. I don’t think that can be trained.
Look for physiology. Is it an open physiology or closed? How do they respond? Are the answers canned or not canned? If you present them with a problem in the interview process, is their approach to solving the problem one that they come after with a positive or a negative slant?
By asking the right types of questions, you get an idea fairly quickly as to whether or not people are genuinely upbeat or have a genuine approach to their business versus those that don’t. Ask them about describing difficult situations and how they’ve gotten through those situations.
I love to play the what-if game. Use what-if to put them into a situation where there are different paths and approaches that they can take. The path and approach will indicate whether it’s being approached positively or negatively.
Focus on people. Have constant reminders everywhere you can. Each year, we have a leadership survey where the associates evaluate the managers in areas related to communication, goal-setting, involvement all things that we talk about focusing on the people as opposed to the process.
We do a monthly bulletin to our team and celebrate those people that demonstrate those great characteristics of leadership. The biggest award for any associate is called the Leadership Award, and we celebrate it to the 10th degree.
If we can create that kind of environment where we’re focusing on them, letting them do their jobs as opposed to making them do their job a certain way, you get better buy-in and a better result.
There’ve been times when I’ve had people come to me and say, ‘You’re preaching this, but you’re doing this,’ and help me get corrected. I think it’s only possible because it’s so prevalent in our culture, so people see it, recognize it and can relate to it, and remind us when we get off path.
Identify leaders. We, as a senior management team, reach out and evaluate the talent in the organization. We evaluate things like results but also the intangibles of how they relate to others in the organization below them, at their level, above them, what their organizational influence is, what their intellectual capacity is, what their desires for growth might include.
We’re trying to help them become better leaders. We hope that by identifying and investing in them, they will ultimately be able to apply what they have learned to benefit FOCUS Brands, and even if not, it’s still not a bad thing.
Whether they’re going to be a coach, a parent, a friend, at some point in time, they’ll be leaders in life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found helpful leadership in my life that didn’t come from work, so it certainly doesn’t have to be in just a managerial situation.
Have one personality. At the end of the day, I make sure there’s no distinction between how I live my life at home and how I live my life at work. I look at business as just another part of life.
I spend a lot of time with business, and instead of trying to have one persona at work and one elsewhere, it’s a heck of a lot easier to be yourself and treat business the same way you treat people outside of business.
Stay true to your values. We talk about the difference between leadership and principle leadership, and the distinction there is in injecting into leadership the Golden Rule and making sure that while becoming a leader, you’re also staying true to a moral compass that you can be proud of. That goes back to the whole notion of not separating how you act at work with how you act at home.
It is a matter of discipline, transparency and of inclusion. If you are open as these issues come up, and you have to solve them as a team, it’s a lot harder to get a group of 25 people to all agree to do something bad.
Assign a great deal of value to things that may not be financially driven. If someone makes a decision that may appear to be in conflict with the company’s interest financially but is the right thing to do from a human standpoint, you should point those out when they happen and celebrate them. Let everyone else know that you don’t have to compromise to be successful, at least in this organization.
Show instead of just telling. In our culture definition, it says something about guest service. One of the managers of our restaurant got a call from one of the guests and she said, ‘I ordered my sandwich with olives, and they put jalapenos on it.’
He said, ‘Don’t worry I’ll fix it,’ hung up the phone, made a new sandwich and then drove the sandwich to her place of work. What we were able to do was highlight this person’s behavior in the subsequent leadership bulletin, not just to recognize what he did but also to tie that experience directly back to the exact words that relate to it in our culture definition.
Tie the actual activity or behavior with the written word to bring it together for people, so they could see culture in action and better relate to it. They can have real-time, real-life examples of what it means. Being able to see that is probably the best training they could ever get.
HOW TO REACH: FOCUS Brands Inc., (404) 255-3250 or www.focusbrands.com
Lead by example. You have to show people. People follow leaders that are actually doing something.
During the summer, I like having Friday afternoon off to go play golf, so I made a new rule that everybody gets Friday afternoon off. If I left every Friday at noon, I would expect everybody else to do it.
If you want people here at 8 o’clock, you’ve got to be here at 8 o’clock. You want people to work over the weekend, you’ve got to be willing to work over the weekend.
Don’t just tell people to do it. The people that come up here and work on the weekends, if they didn’t see me up here, by about the third weekend they’d go, ‘Well, if it’s not that important to him, why’s it important to blow my weekend?’ Be willing to do it yourself. If you’re not, then you’re just not the leader.
Empower people. I hire smart people and count on them to get the job done. I have what I call the big-boy and big-girl rule. Everybody’s a big boy and big girl when they come to work here.
I hired an executive vice president, and I said, ‘We’ve got a meeting in San Francisco, and he started in ‘What flight are you on? When are you leaving? Who’s going to pick you up? Where do we go when we get there?’ I said, ‘No, no, no, big boy. The meeting is at 3 o’clock in San Francisco. Here’s the address. I assume you can get there.’ Everybody’s a big boy [or] big girl. They can figure it out.
It gives them a freedom to get it done. They feel like they’re in control. Nobody’s dictating to them how to get it done. Just say, ‘Here’s what we need to accomplish,’ and you show them the mountain and hope they get to the top through their own devices.
If I have to go do it, why did I hire them? If I really have to do it, then we have to talk about splitting your salary with me. That gets their attention.
Lead people away from micromanaging. Back off don’t micromanage. Let people do the job you hired them to do.
Everyone here is an intelligent person. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t have hired them, and if they’re not intelligent enough to get the job done, we don’t need them anyway.
We have some people that still are dead set on micromanaging and making sure everybody knows exactly every step they need to do to accomplish a goal. Forget it. Keep working on them because people who are micromanagers, it’s in their DNA.
It’s not something you cure overnight by any stretch. It’s just how they are, so keep reminding them to back off. We don’t do training on micromanaging. You can’t train them. It’s just a style. Hope they pick it up by watching.
Define the vision. Be very clear, concise and specific. You cannot be vague. The vision itself is, by the very nature, vague, but then you have to take the next step.
What does that mean, and what do we have to accomplish to achieve the vision? You have to be extremely specific.
Let them ask as many questions as they want to. I try not to speak to them too long without, ‘Stop me anytime if you have a question, you don’t understand or there’s something that’s not very clear.’
Overcome cultural barriers in international business. The challenge is communicating enough, communicating the right message and in the right form.
When you communicate, don’t make references that people around the whole world have no idea what you’re speaking of. You can’t use references like, ‘We want to get the ball over the goal.’ They don’t quite get that in Beijing. I started talking to people face to face, and they’d look at me like I was from Mars. It gave me a little hint that they don’t have a clue what I’m talking about.
It also changes your jokes. Every time I went to Europe, the employees would say, ‘OK, you’re not in the U.S. anymore. We don’t think the way Americans do.’
You just have to force yourself. When you get to a new country, go along with them. I always have them take me out to dinner and give me a tour. Just keep a smile on your face, and go look at churches. I’ve seen a lot of churches especially old churches.
Own your ideas. I started a company called 800-FLOWERS years ago. I got the phone number, went out and raised a bunch of money.
The guys that I raised the money from decided I was too young to be the CEO. They told me I had to go hire a CEO, so we did. I brought this guy in, and he immediately ran the company into the ground.
If it’s your dream, your vision, you can’t pass that on to somebody else. You cannot translate that. You have to go with your own gut. The guy who cares most about it is the guy whose idea it is, so when somebody comes to me in the company and says, ‘Here’s an idea for a new product,’ I turn around and say, ‘Perfect idea it’s yours. You go make it happen’ because nobody cares more than the person that has the vision and the idea.
You cannot go hire emotion. You can’t hire drive. If it’s your vision, your idea, you have to go do it.
HOW TO REACH: Pegasus Solutions Inc., (214) 234-4000 or www.pegs.com