The Hildebrand file Featured

7:00pm EDT November 24, 2006

Born: 1950, Mishawaka, Ind.

Education: Bachelor of science degree, industrial management, Purdue University; master’s in management, Kellogg School, Northwestern University

What is the most important business lesson you’ve learned?

I’m a big advocate of the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The most important one that I’ve found is to seek to understand before being understood. That is so important in a leadership role.

People respect you a lot more when you do seek to understand before just making decisions or dictating what is going to happen. Seeking to understand and listening to people first and then being understood is really, really a valuable lesson. That’s been very helpful for me.

What is the most difficult business challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?

Probably the most difficult challenge was about a year after I took over as CEO. That’s when the dot-bomb thing happened. About 37 percent of our revenue was in the technical systems consulting area. We lost, overnight, a bunch of revenue.

I was a new CEO, and here I was trying to change the organization. At the same time, all of a sudden the bottom fell out of a big part of our business. I had to have pretty strong beliefs that I was doing the right thing.

We were going to stay the course no matter what the market did, we were going in the right direction.

We were able to turn it around. We were able to be very successful.

In any business, you’re going to have ups and downs. It’s not so much how you react necessarily in the good times, it’s the tough times. That was a tough time for me. I was new in that role. It was a tough time for my COO, as well.

We really believed in what we were trying to do. The organization had good values, and we were able to get through that and do the right thing.