One of the most important business lessons Steven MacDonald learned could easily have been learned in elementary school: Don’t be a jerk.
MacDonald, founder and CEO of myMatrixx, a pharmaceutical company focusing on pain management, has seen other executives preen over their gaudy growth numbers and regret it later when things took a turn for the worse. That’s something he doesn’t do.
His humility has served him well, as myMatrixx has seen three-year growth of 234 percent, with 2006 revenue of $13 million; he projects 2007 will soar, with estimates of $23 million.
Smart Business spoke with MacDonald about why you should always make time to visit employees and how running a business is like captaining a ship.
Q: How involved should a leader be in day-to-day operations?
The CEO or leader needs to be as involved as they should be. It’s like the captain of a ship. If the captain of a ship is in calm waters, and they are just cruising from point A to point B, it doesn’t take a lot of oversteering the vessel to get from point A to point B. In fact, oversteering probably makes the ride more bumpy and more choppy.
But if you’ve got to pick up speed or the weather gets a bit rough, the captain has to be more vigilant. He’s got to control the steering of the vessel that much more.
It’s kind of that way with running a company. There are periods of aggressive or hyper growth or when new initiatives or products are being rolled out, where you need to be more involved. But at the same time, you need to give the organization time to catch up.
So in that process of letting the department heads run through the new products, those are times when the CEO is involved from the oversight perspective, but they’re not micromanaging.
Q: How do you motivate or empower your employees so you don’t have to micromanage?
It’s about having a fun and enjoyable work experience.
It starts with the CEO. It’s the CEO’s job to create that culture, that culture in which people want to come to work, people want to do a good job, and they want to help our customers. That’s an important part of keeping employees motivated and keeping customers happy.
Empowering our employees is a little bit different. I’ve heard CEOs say, ‘I don’t have time to sit with them right now.’ That’s a recipe for disaster. A leader’s priority is to make them their top priority and make the employee’s job easier.
Removing boundaries, like software issues or capacity issues. Making sure that Internet connections are up and fast. Little things, so when they’re on the phone with customers, they are not frustrated. If they know they’ve got the latitude to make decisions when they need to and with us supporting that, that’s key.
Q: How do you attract people who thrive in that environment?
It is hard to find good people, so when we do find them, we have to work extra hard to keep them motivated and happy. That’s why the culture the CEO sets is so important.
Just the other day, I saw a headline that said, ‘Is fun the new core value?’ I think it is, and I think it should be.
Once you create that culture, the employees are here and happy. Their friends see it, and their friends want to be a part of it. You generate this cycle effect where your employees are referring their friends.
Most of our new hires come from people we’ve worked with in the past who know how we live and breathe and want to be a part of it.
Q: How do you manage business growth?
Planning is the most important part. Leaders have to have a good knowledge of key business indicators. It’s possible for CEOs without industry experience to come in, but it’s important for any senior-level leader to familiarize themselves with the metrics of that business and that industry.
A leader needs to be able to invest in growth. A lot of entrepreneurs are afraid to spend that extra dollar because they fear they aren’t going to see the return on it. One thing is certain: If you’re in a growing organization and you’re not continuing to make an investment, then you’ll never see the really big payoff.
Q: What other advice do you have for CEOs of high-growth companies?
Part of it is understanding where your business is heading. You have to understand cash flow and plan for growth.
Remember, ‘yes’ is never ‘yes’ until the money’s in the bank. That’s a delicate balancing act between investing for growth and one of the reasons the CEO has to be pretty well attuned to moving that ‘yes’ along through the process and knowing the probability of that happening.
In growing companies, it’s important for the CEO to be part of closing of the sales.
HOW TO REACH: myMatrixx, www.mymatrixx.com or (877) 804-4900