Dustin S. Klein

Tuesday, 01 November 2005 04:53

Eyes wide open

The best advice I ever received had nothing to do with business. At least that’s what I thought at the time.

Today, however, that advice given shortly after my son was born two years ago has proven appropriate to the CEOs we speak with every day and the stories we write about them.

“Don’t blink,” a friend said. “If you do, you’ll miss Sam’s childhood, and that time will never come around again.”

It sounded like trite advice for a first-time parent, but I wisely heeded it.

By devoting my time to Sam and his development, I’ve learned a valuable business lesson about the importance of continuous learning.

Like most toddlers, Sam has an unquenchable thirst for learning. He’s a sponge for information and proud of himself when he recognizes a letter on a sign or a number in a book. His favorite phrase these days is, “Daddy, what’s that?”

Voltaire wrote, “Judge of a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that statement, and it goes well beyond the inquisitive nature of a toddler. The most impressive CEOs I’ve met are those who plead ignorance, surround themselves with people they claim are smarter than they are and constantly ask questions.

Learning, for them, is critical, and there’s always something new to integrate with how they run their business, treat employees and view the world.

There is little doubt that keeping your mind open to new ideas — from books and lectures to peers and employees — can embolden you in ways you’ve never thought possible.

When is the last time you’ve solicited ideas from your staff beyond your senior executives? How about your clients or vendors?

It’s worth remembering that some of the best ideas in process improvement came from workers on the front line and that some of the greatest breakthroughs in business have come from listening to customers.

As a CEO, you learn from listening to and observing others, then adding their collective knowledge to your own. It’s amazing what happens when you keep your eyes as wide open as 2-year old’s.

As Theodor Geisel once wrote under the pseudonym Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the places you’ll go.”

Thursday, 29 June 2006 06:47

Change for the better

When Joe Zeno took control of ACS Industries in 1974, it was a losing venture. The attachments and coupler manufacturer had steadily lost money since its inception in 1968 — ACS had a negative net worth of $1 million on revenue of $450,000 with bank debt of $300,000 — and Zeno’s takeover brought with it new hope.

Two years later, with a concentrated focus on innovation, ACS turned its first profit. Today, Zeno leads a healthy, growing manufacturer that has posted 30 consecutive years of profitability.

Zeno, who considers himself an entrepreneurial risk taker, developed proprietary technology that permits construction equipment attachment changeover in less than 10 seconds by a single operator from the cab on any terrain.

He’s also demonstrated the ability to gauge future needs of his industry and determine innovative methods to provide for those needs.

During a recent economic slump from 2001 to 2003, ACS faced cost pressure from rising prices of steel, energy, transportation and benefits. While maintaining profitability, Zeno undertook an internal analysis of his company and the industry by visiting customers, competitors and end users.

He concluded that the attachment market was too complex with many suppliers and dealers subsequently weren’t motivated to understand the business. As a result, there was a substantial lack of information available to customers and often they received attachments that weren’t designed to work with each other and were potentially unsafe.

Zeno realized that if there were a single business partner that could supply the right attachment package and connect clients to the right equipment on time and for a good price, ACS would create a significant business advantage over his competitors.

As a result, Zeno invested in the development of an ERP-based, Web-enabled order configurator software program that provides functionality and information to assist dealers in selecting the correct combinations of attachments and controls for applications from 44,000 possible configurations.

This change has been so successful that Zeno estimates more than doubling the company’s size by 2009.

How to reach: ACS Industries Inc., (330) 678-2511 or www.acs-coupler.com

Wednesday, 26 April 2006 11:01

I am Sam

When my wife gave birth in early March to our second son, Cole, I assumed I was a seasoned pro at the parenting game.

And why not? With our first son, Sam, I had the proverbial magic touch. I could make him stop crying, get him to take his bottle (and later eat his solid food), easily put him down for a nap or get him to bed, and no matter how fussy he became, I always could calm him down.

Because of the ease with which I managed Sam, I assumed my parenting style would work with any child Laura and I brought into the world. So along came Cole, and the stark reality that every individual is different turned me from parenting God to humble dad.

After many futile attempts to ply the same tricks used with Sam, I finally realized I’d need to adapt my parenting style to fit Cole’s own personality and needs. After all, he wasn’t Sam, and he needed to be treated differently.

In the workplace, many managers and CEOs have come to the same realization, albeit sometimes at a higher cost than a few sleepless nights. When they’ve tried to manage every employee the same way, they’ve painstakingly learned that what works to motivate one person may actually have the opposite or no effect with a different staff member.

Some employees crave the limelight; others prefer praise in a one-on-one setting. Some people are driven by money; others by achieving greater responsibility. Some are motivated simply by working with them one-on-one to challenge them to do the best job they can at their current position.

Great business leaders know that each person is different and, despite conventional wisdom, if you ply a one-size-fits-all strategy with your staff, you’re certain to fail.

It’s imperative to get to know each member of your team and determine the best way to manage those individuals. Find out what their goals are, what motivates them, what demotivates them, what challenges them and, most important, how they want to be treated.

All of this can be accomplished by simply sitting down with them and asking.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Cole. With him, it’s going to take trial and error. And a few more sleepless nights.

Wednesday, 31 August 2005 13:18

Vision for the future

What’s the most important trait a business leader needs to succeed?

A can-do attitude? An iron stomach? Unflappable confidence? Charisma? Business savvy? The ability to motivate others?

This is a question I’ve posed recently to several dozen CEOs. And the more people I speak with, the clearer the answer becomes.

While several traits are needed to succeed in business, only one has consistently been at the top of every CEO’s list — a great leader must have vision.

But great ideas aren’t enough. That’s only one part of vision. In fact, the streets of business and industry are littered with great ideas that haven’t been realized. Ideas are valuable only if there’s a champion capable of creating true believers to see past the obstacles or yet-be-be-created markets and envision a tangible reality where there currently isn’t one.

That is the full-package visionary leadership. In order to truly have vision, great leaders must be able to clearly and concisely articulate the ideas to a senior management team and employees so that they, in turn, can cooperatively help turn the leader’s vision into reality.

Not surprisingly then, the theme of this year’s Smart Business Innovation in Business Conference, presented by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, is “Vision.”

Later this month, I’ll be moderating a panel discussion with four regional business leaders — Developers Diversified Realty’s Scott Wolstein, The Cleveland Foodbank’s Anne Goodman, Case Western Reserve University’s Edward Hundert and Glencairn Development’s Jim Biggar (former CEO of Stouffer’s/Nestle USA).

All four are great leaders who have built careers on their ability to see the future and develop a plan capable of getting an organization there.

More important, all four have demonstrated that they possess the full package — they know how to achieve buy-in from their senior management teams and employees so that, as one cohesive unit, they’ve been able to execute their vision despite numerous obstacles that stood squarely in each of their ways.

You can read more about these four Master Innovators, as well as the rest of this year’s Innovation in Business honorees, in this month’s special supplement. And then, on Sept. 22, at the Innovation in Business awards banquet at the InterContinental Hotel and Conference Center, you can hear them speak about how vision played a key role in each of their successes.

I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, 29 June 2005 12:58

The Anderson file

Born: Minneapolis

Resides: Bel Air

Education: Bachelor of business administration degree, UCLA; MBA, Harvard Business School; juris doctorate, Loyola Law School.

First job: Worked at North American Aviation at night while earning undergraduate degree

Career moves: Co-founded Kindel & Anderson after graduating from law school; in 1956, founded Ace Beverage as a distributor of Hamm and Budweiser beer. Through a series of acquisitions and other business ventures, Anderson formed holding company Topa Equities Ltd.

Industries served: Topa's 42 companies are engaged in real estate, beer distribution, insurance, automobile dealerships and financial services.

Boards: Mellon 1st Business Bank (which Anderson founded and later sold to Mellon); Saint John's Hospital and Health Center Foundation (former board president); Claremont McKenna College; YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles (former board chairman)

Recognition: Awarded the 2004 Humanitarian Award by the National Conference for Community and Justice

What is the greatest business lesson you've learned?

Take what you need. I don't take money out of my companies, and I never had any capital to start with. My father was a farmer, and I always struggled for capital. Today, I get a big kick out of seeing people build capital.

What is the greatest business challenge you've faced?

In the early 1990s, I owned a savings and loan and a thrift bank. It always kind of hurt me that some of them got into trouble. I had two guys running the businesses -- the thrift, and the savings and loan. They were competing against each other.

Both ended up losing money, and we sold Topa Thrift and Loan and Topa Savings in 1996. I probably should have watched them both a little closer.

Whom do you admire most in business and why?

There are a lot of people I admire. I certainly admire Warren Buffet. Although he's in a bit of trouble right now, I'm sure he'll come through it.

Over my career, I've been exposed to a lot of people, and the ones I admire are those with a lot of integrity and who do the right thing.

Friday, 22 April 2005 11:29

Enough with the bad news already

The bad news in newspapers and on TV is enough to send all of us into a group depression. Instead, let's be bold and daring and focus on something more positive, like regional business successes.

Look at your organization today and ask, "What have we done well?" You'll be surprised at what you find -- modest revenue growth, job creation, new product development.

And when you quit listening to the partisan hype from both sides, blow away the storm clouds that have hung over this region since last year's presidential election and take a good, hard look at what business leaders are doing, you'll realize things aren't as bad as they seem.

Without question, the loss of jobs at regional stalwarts Hoover and Timken was a major blow to the region's labor, economic and tax base. And looming cuts at NASA Glenn pose serious challenges as well. But those are only three organizations out of tens of thousands, and many of the rest have stories worth hearing.

Our cover story this month focuses on Lou Joseph, president and CEO of The Brewer-Garrett Co. Joseph's story is about his rise to the top and the success he achieved by building long-term relationships. We're helping focus attention on the best this area has to offer rather than dwelling on the worst.

It's easy to talk about the bad things. They get our blood boiling, bring out our passion, create a rallying cry and, to be honest, "NASA cuts 700 jobs; community doomed" is a much jucier headline than "XYZ Co. sales rise 10 percent; 18 jobs added."

But that's the point.

In this quick-hit, ratings ruthless, 24-hour news cycle, we've been reduced to junkies scrambling to latch on to the latest tragedy and watch it dissected from every angle until its bled dry.

We don't have to accept it. It's just as important to make success part of our regular regional discussion. And whether it sells newspapers, garners TV viewers or gets the mobs mobilized becomes irrelevant when you cast away the façade and recognize success is achieved one job, one percentage point growth and one dollar at a time.

It's up to you -- and us -- to create that buzz and make the public dialogue meaningful. If we don't, we'll remain a nation of zombies, letting others dictate what's worth our attention.

Thursday, 24 February 2005 08:40

Growing pains

When William Nuerge joined Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals in November 2004, he assumed leadership of a rapidly growing company.

In just a few short years, Xanodyne, which was founded in 2001 and focuses on products in the areas of women's health, urology and pain management, has grown to nearly 150 employees and acquired several smaller pharmaceutical companies to complement its expanding roster of products.

Nuerge, who has spent more than 25 years in the pharmaceutical industry including stints as president and CEO of Shire U.S. and COO of Richwood Pharmaceuticals Co., was reunited with Xandoyne founder and Chairman Roger Griggs, who previously founded Richwood and sold it to Shire.

Just four months into his new role, Nuerge is busy. He's still integrating corporate cultures following the merger of Xanodyne and Integrity Pharmaceutical Corp., which occurred several months before his arrival. And Xanodyne recently acquired PX Pharmaceuticals Inc. and is in the process of bringing to market one of PX's developments, a revolutionary new vaccine that prevents recurrent urinary tract infections in women.

Smart Business caught up with Nuerge to discuss the challenges of managing a fast-paced company, the rigors of the pharmaceuticals industry and how he intends to direct Xandoyne's growth.

What's the most difficult part of growing a pharmaceutical company?

There are different ways you can grow. You can grow with your current products that you're marketing -- you can try to build value in those. You can grow organically through your R&D, your own pipeline you have in place. And, you can grow through business development, where you're looking to acquire other companies and other products and projects that you can put into your R&D pipeline.

Xanodyne does all three. So the real hurdle is the financial commitment to do all that -- what do you fund?

What you try to do is make the company profitable through your existing marketed products, and you try to, as much as possible, use that funding toward your internal development. Then, when you go out and do business development, you start looking for financial sponsors that are willing to partner up with you.

What value proposition do you use to entice outside investors?

You have to use your strengths. In our case, that means people. We have a very strong management team, a terrific team, a seasoned team, as well as some good, strong, young hungry middle management. You also usually have to have a focus. Our focus is women's health care, pain management and urology.

We're focusing in areas that we can do well in. We call it the P's -- people, product, profit, pipeline, partnerships, passion. That's what we go out and sell. We also show them our performance, another good P. They (financiers) see our pipeline and the value of the pipeline, and they invest in that.

How do you ensure your team keeps its focus and doesn't stray outside its core strengths?

You look for synergies. For example, Xanodyne was founded as a pain management and oncology company. Roger [Griggs] founded Richwood as a pain management company. We ended up becoming the ADHD support company. That's not where we started, but we took advantage of an opportunity that came along and we focused on that. Then we no longer were a pain management company.

When he left Shire, after the merger of Shire-Richwood, he [Griggs] started Xanodyne, which was a pain management/oncology company, and he did that with one of our key investors, who is a pain management specialist. So we're currently in pain management and oncology.

What we found in oncology was that we had a product, a blood product, and we were able to take that and, through our development group, find a niche in the women's health care area for heavy menstrual bleeding. So we kind of switched. We're still a pain management company, but now were also a women's health care company.

You take advantage of opportunities as they come along, but recognize that you can't do everything. We're no longer an oncology company, but there's a lot of crossover. Women's health care, urology and pain sound like very different specialties, which they are, but there's a lot of crossover.

Pain covers everything. Women have pain from the time they have breast tenderness, from the time they have menstrual pain, they have childbirth pain, they have cancer, there's arthritis, they have all kinds of pain. And the same thing in urology; men have pain.

Then there's a crossover in urology and women's health care, particularly when it comes to urinary tract infections. So we try to stay focused where we can have some synergies in products and in our call patterns with doctors.

Within that focus, how do you decide which products to pursue and which to abandon?

We work with shareholders, so it's all opportunity cost. What resources do we have? We're going to put those resources on those products, not only the products that we market but also the projects that we fund in development that will give us the greatest return on our investment.

It's very simple. If you have 100 sales reps and you can call on OBGYNs and pain management specialist and urologists, you only have so much resource to use. You're going to pursue the one you think is going to give you the greatest return on your investment. That's what we do. We actually sit down and we figure out how best to use the resources we have.

What metrics do you use to measure success?

Obviously, growth is important. And progress, progress, as far as you want to see your pipeline move along, be successful, be on time and be within the cost parameters that you budgeted for or expected. I'm here to grow a company and create opportunities for shareholders and stakeholders.

You grow and create opportunities for your employees and you also keep your shareholders happy. Growth is the No. 1 parameter we look at.

Because Xanodyne is such a young company, how do you know if you've taken that critical step from start-up venture to well-established industry player?

It hasn't already happened. We're still what I would call a developing commercial operation and a developing pharma company. That point will be when we become profitable. I look at that as a key, and profitable in the manner when we can be profitable but still fund our future.

Anybody could be profitable if they cut out all their spending, but you've got to invest in your future. So when you come to the point when you can maintain profitability as well as continue to fund your future and grow for the future, you're there.

How much of the company's budget is funneled into R&D?

We spend as much on R&D as we bring in on sales. Right now, we have three late-stage projects. Two are in phase three and one is in phase two. The later you get into the phases, the more expensive they get because you start to put the drug into use and you have to do a lot of clinical studies. So we're in late stage, which means we're soon to market, we're talking about '07, '08 and '09.

There's a huge investment between now and approval, so right now we have a very large percentage of our budget that goes into that. We'd like to get that down to between 10 percent and 15 percent of our sales numbers. At that point, we're an established, risk-adverse, stable company.

With several mergers under both your belt and Xanodyne's, what are some of the growing pains you've found common among mergers?

First of all, you only merge if it makes sense from a business perspective. Integrity was a women's health care company and Xanodyne was a pain and oncology company.

Through their oncology work, Xanodyne came up with a product through their blood work in oncology that could be developed for heavy menstrual bleeding. That fit into the women's heath care area, so it made sense to bring the two companies together because the development matched the integrity and focus.

But with regard to growing pains, there's integration. What you see from the outside, it looks like some of these big pharmaceutical companies are still integrating from a year ago. The cultures are different, you've got redundancies of positions, it's a big conversion from running the business, there's a lot more to it than what most people, shareholders in particular, see from the outside.

It takes an intense amount of effort to integrate. You've got discrepancies in compensation, for example. One company may pay their sales reps $75,000 a year; the next may pay $50,000 a year. So you've got to integrate all of that and make things equal across the board. It's easy for people to talk and say we're going to merge two companies, but it takes the functional departmental people a long time to work out the true integration to get one culture.

What you do is look at your common areas. For example, if you have duplicate sales forces, you may decide to expand your sales force. It may mean some of your sales reps have to take different territories. There may be redundancies. You have to take the best of who you have and you have to treat people fairly.

If you have two development groups, you look at the projects you're funding and recognize that you can't fund them all. So you look at the ones that are going to give you the greatest focus on where the company's going in the future and the greatest return. You repeal some of those projects and maybe reinvest more in some of the other projects.

On the contractual side, corporate accounts, everything changes. And it's very difficult and takes a lot of work. But you know you're doing it for the long-term return and, in the initial stages, a lot of times it'll cost you to integrate companies because you have severances and downtime. I've been through many [mergers] and they're not enjoyable until you have everything completed and it's running smoothly.

How do you envision Xanodyne's growth over the next few years?

You never know where you're going to end up. You've got to take advantage of your opportunities as they come. Right now, we're spending a lot of time looking at other opportunities to build in the therapeutic areas that we have.

Our goal would be to ultimately take the company public or have some other transformational event for our shareholders. We're not very patient; we don't expect to take years. By this time next year, I would view my job as a failure if we hadn't transformed this company into the vision that I had, which would be a steady, risk-adverse company that is profitable and funding it's own future.

How to reach: Xanodyne, (877) XANODYNE or www.xanodyne.com

Tuesday, 19 October 2004 15:49

Evolving times

If you watched any of the Olympic games in August, you couldn’t help but notice the advancements in technology, especially with regard to instant replays.

The difference from just four years ago was mind blowing. Beyond slowing down the action to see, with crystal clarity, just whose head crossed the finish line first in a photo finish, in events such as the high-dive competition viewers were treated to single screens broken into what were essentially frame-by-frame still shots revealing the intricate details of entire routines.

Simply put, this was sports technology for the viewer at its best.

America is a nation that thrives on the latest and greatest. We rise to the challenge of doing things faster and better – and that means more than just equipping ourselves with newest technology. As a country founded on the exploration of new ideas, this also includes analyzing the way things are currently done and identifying where and how to improve them.

Nowhere is this truer than in the manufacturing sector, where global competition has put many manufacturers on the defense rather than on the offensive. While some manufacturers stand still and bemoan the shift of jobs overseas, others recognize the reality of the situation – manufacturers in emerging nations with lower standards of living than the U.S. pay wages relative to their respective countries’ rate scale – and have begun to do what businesspeople throughout history have done at each crucial industrial junction – adapt.

Just a decade or so ago, companies such as IBM and Xerox pinned their very existence on hardware-based product lines. Today, both companies tout business solutions and intellectual capital – a drastic difference in a very short period of time.

It is with this type of adaptation in mind that Smart Business is proud to announce its partnership with CAMP Inc. for the fourth annual eVolution in Manufacturing conference and awards, which will be held in February 2005.

This year, we’re looking to honor manufacturers who have excelled in adapting to a global economy – whether building joint ventures or establishing supplier/vendor relationships overseas, fine-tuning operations as part continuous improvement initiatives, becoming Six Sigma black belts or transforming themselves into lean manufacturers.

Nominations will be accepted through November 19th and be judged by an independent panel of manufacturing and business experts. If you think your manufacturing operations are moving forward instead of being left behind, drop us a line at dgarofalo@sbnonline.com and put your progress to the test.

Wednesday, 08 September 2004 11:17

The power inside

Robert Joyce is keenly aware that the key to his company's success lies with its employees.

"Our No. 1 one business goal is to attract, develop, empower and retain quality people," says the chairman and CEO of Westfield Group, a diversified financial services firm with more than $2.3 billion in assets.

Accordingly, the Westfield Center-based company offers continuous training opportunities for its 2,500-plus employees, including innovative leadership development programs for the senior management team. Joyce oversees an aggressive succession planning initiative that equips the company's next generation of leaders with a wide range of skill sets.

To complement these, Westfield undertakes extensive internal and external branding efforts designed to drive home its manta of "Sharing knowledge. Building trust."

"Happy employees make happy customers," says Joyce, "because the touch point of our employee is the customer. We're not selling a widget. Our business is plain service, policy service. So you've got an employee in front of the customer."

Part of Joyce's goal is accomplished through the organization's hosting of two premier junior golf tournaments at its corporately owned Westfield Group Country Club. The Junior PGA Championship has been played there every July since 2001; the Junior Ryder Cup, which will be held Sept. 11 and 12, is making its first appearance at Westfield this year.

Joyce says the company's commitment to youth-related ventures such as the tournaments, as well as programs including the Academic Challenge and the Westfield Group Youth Theatre Series at Cleveland's Playhouse Square Center, underscores the goal of continuous education. He likens the life skills taught in golf, which he calls "a gentleman's game," to the processes used at Westfield for his employees.

Golf, Joyce says, instills sportsmanship, etiquette and integrity.

"These are strong values that people need to use for the rest of their lives," he says.

Smart Business hit the links with Joyce at Westfield Group Country Club to discuss how the company communicates with its agents, trains employees and develops the next generation of leaders.

Westfield uses full-time employees and an independent agent network to sell its products and services. How do you educate independent agents?

First, we have a training arm for continuing education. The states have a continuing education requirement for agents, so we will deliver either in-house or contracted education for them.

Two, around delivery and topical issues, we have a magazine that comes out every six months called the Deck Page (named after the form that includes the terms, limits and conditions of the policy).

We also have a very interesting approach to new entrants into the business. That is an agency association -- a group of eight agents that actually meet with the management team four times a year around business issues. They sponsor what we call the APP program -- the Agents Perpetuation Plan. Most of our agents are small businesses, and they have to perpetuate the business.

We have a basic course in insurance that lasts four weeks. We'll bring new people in and they run that program for our agents. Education is critical.

Westfield runs numerous training programs for its full-time staff. How do you measure ROI, and what metrics do you use on new programs you launch?

At the highest level, it will cut right to the bottom line. If you are talking about basic sales skills, that's direct revenue. You invest in sales skills and you can see and measure behavior and determine whether it generates revenue, and more importantly, if it generates the right revenue. If you have good performance management metrics, you can measure that.

Leadership training is a bit more difficult. We've done a fair amount of training around execution, just developing managers with a mindset of putting a business plan together and executing it. You can come out of those meetings and build very specific measurable parameters to look at. What we do for leadership training is use a model for strategy and execution. We come out of those with very specific measurable things.

The first was to take a look at the vision statement and drive a better understanding of purpose. Our vision statement talks about not just what we want to be, but also our desire and our mission -- delivering on our promises and creating peace of mind.

We felt people weren't really connecting to that. So one of the things we wanted to do was go out, change that message and make sure it drove through the organization. We can measure that. So we do employee surveys and point blank ask the question and measure the answers we get back.

We also ask if they feel they're adequately trained. And, we talk about behaviors. One of the things we're doing is generating behavior norms that we want to see in management.

I think when you do training, one of the things that we are very purposeful about is setting very clear objectives for when we're finished. Saying, OK, we've got this training session for three or four days, what are the things we expect, and how are we going to measure them?

We do this with everything. If you look at our business plan, we create annual SMART objectives -- specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-related. We drive very hard around that. And the better you do at that, the better you're able to measure the results.

Which particular programs stand out as successful?

We just had a wonderful experience with an Army general, Harold Nelson (Brigadier General, ret. 1995). He does two leadership experiences, one around the battle of Gettysburg and the other around the invasion of Normandy.

Gettysburg is interesting because of how Gen. (Robert E.) Lee and his generals shaped that battle. Two years ago, I took my leadership team out and we dealt with the leadership attributes of those people (the generals) and how the lessons of Gettysburg relate to business issues today -- what strategies were set up, how Lee dealt with his top leaders, behavior, communication and teamwork. It's a very powerful experience.

This year, we had one of our senior managers take his team out and deal with execution (of strategy).

How important is Westfield's succession plan to your overall strategy?

We have a very specific succession planning process. I review with my board 20 senior positions with regard to succession. We take it down two levels below our CFO. What comes from it is a dialogue with the individual about development and what they need to do to get into those jobs.

The development is as important to us as if I got run over by a bus tomorrow and somebody needed to assume my job. The board knows specifically we'll discuss it every six months. We've been doing this process for the past three years.

And we're relentless at identifying and training people to have available skilled people for the next position -- we put a chart together with names on it and follow it. We call it the chessboard.

Seventy percent of what we learn comes from our experiences, so what we want to do is create different sets of experiences for our leaders. We want to cross those experiences, and at a certain level, we move these people around.

It's a bit challenging to do, because if someone's got a talented individual in their department, they're a little reluctant to give them up. But it forces us to recognize that the greater good of the organization has to be served. And, it also gives them (the employees) a better understanding of the entire organization.

What spurred the creation of this strategy?

Four years ago, we realized we had not done a good job. We'd brought people in and done the basics, but done very little to energize or develop new skills, or even leadership skills.

So what we did was have the human resources leader go out and hire an organizational psychologist, who works in the career enhancement center. These development experiences are all designed by him.

For example, at my level (senior management), three years ago we took 10 people to Harvard and talked about competition and strategy. Two years ago, we did the experience with Harold Nelson and Gettysburg and talked about strategy and battlefield experience. This year, we took strategy and execution to the next level.

We also talk about developing a series of competencies around those job skills. All of our jobs have very clear competencies and behaviors. We've taken our entire organization over the past three years and redrafted how the jobs work.

How do you take this approach to developing your people and apply it to other companies?

The first thing you have to do is apply a commitment to it. And if you just deal with cost and time, and just carve out something, it's not going to happen. So you have to get into the mindset. If you're not there, you're being shortsighted.

There are a lot of opportunities for companies to participate. The Harvard School or even the Wharton School, Ohio State, Baldwin-Wallace, all of them have affordable programs.

At Baldwin-Wallace, Peter Rea runs the program. We joined up with Peter and Baldwin-Wallace four years ago, along with MTD and Moen and a few others. We pooled money and brought external talent into the region for one-day seminars. Anybody can get into that.

The small businessperson is really looking for someone with whom they can talk and share their problems. They want to learn new things and also develop relationships with people they can reach out to.

If you put your mind to it, there are some quality experiences you can tap into. If you use a good performance management system built around a strong set of metrics, the development attributes will come out of that. The mentoring experience is also strong. But it takes a design and a conscious commitment to it.

You don't always get it right the first time, and you may not get it right the second time. But you have to keep trying. HOW TO REACH: Westfield Group, (800) 243-0210 or www.westfieldgrp.com

Tuesday, 31 August 2004 07:14

Child's play

Dave Gilbert admits that the idea of a sports commission in a community is not new. The first sports commission was formed more than 20 years ago in San Diego, and since then, hundreds of cities have joined in the effort to attract sporting events to their communities as a means to fill hotel rooms.

But Gilbert, who resurrected the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission in 1999, is doing something his peers in other cities are not -- offering true partnership opportunities to sporting organizations.

"We found that people are looking for strong partners," Gilbert says. "Whether they're the Olympic Committee, the NCAA or local people representing their sport, they're looking for people who can make their event more successful."

Witness the recent International Children's Games in Cleveland, the first time the event has taken place in the United States. Not only did it pour millions of dollars into Northeast Ohio and raise the international visibility of Cleveland, it also required the GCSC to forge strong partnerships with the games, the regional community and business leaders to make it successful.

When Gilbert left the Convention and Visitors Bureau to spark new life into the sports commission -- which was founded in 1993 but had been disbanded, leaving only its tax ID number -- his business plan focused on three elements that were not being incorporated at other sports commissions.

First, GCSC partners with sports organizations and event rights holders instead of serving just as a market recruiting organization.

Explains Gilbert, "We join as a management and financial partner. That provides both parties with incentive to assure that the events held in Cleveland are more successful than in other cities."

Second, GCSC takes calculated risks.

"We have had a financial involvement in more than 20 of the 50 events we've done," Gilbert says. "We've leveraged our small budget by taking risks on events that other communities may buy. You have to look at each event as a deal and measure your risk and risk tolerance, then develop a business plan for each event and determine how you're going to generate the revenue."

Those two elements lead to Gilbert's third goal -- use sporting events as a tool for economic and community development.

"It's not just filling hotel rooms," he says. "It's also about how you get different organizations and constituencies feeding off each other." HOW TO REACH: Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, (216) 621-0600 or www.clevelandsports.org