Born: Athens, Tenn.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, University of Tennessee; J.D., New York University
Whom do you admire most in the business world and why?
Fred Smith (CEO of FedEx). I’ve followed Fred and known him somewhat for a long time, and from a very early stage, he saw a business model that he believed in. ... He’s taken some risks and made some mistakes, but he’s taken some risks and made some great investments, and he continues to see around corners and never be satisfied.
During your time working for President Reagan, what was your favorite moment?
The one event I remember most vividly was when I went in to brief the president that we had learned that both John Poindexter and Oliver North had testified under oath that Ronald Reagan was not aware of the diversion of funds from Iranian arms sales to the Nicaraguan rebels, which of course substantiated the president’s statement since day one since the diversion of the proceeds to the contras was first disclosed, President Reagan said he did not know about the diversion of funds. Howard Baker and Vice President Bush were in the Oval Office, and so I reported that development, and of course, the vice president and Chief of Staff Baker expressed great relief, and President Reagan was almost angry. He said, ‘Why is everyone so relieved? I told you all along that I did not know about the diversion of funds,’ which once again substantiated that the president was telling the truth, but also showed his view that good people would not lie just to help their own defense which is something as a lawyer you always worry about, that someone is always trying to find someone else to blame if they’re in trouble.
Aili Jokela is the senior vice president, senior partner and general manager of Fleishman-Hillard, and the co-chair of the company’s Sustainability Practice Group. Fleishman-Hillard, an international public relations firm, initiated the Sustainability Practice Group to address sustainability needs, such as green product and service marketing to corporate climate response. Her technical expertise is in the areas of strategic energy management and energy efficiency.
How can investing in sustainability improve a company’s bottom line?
Sustainability helps a company’s social marketing and industrial energy efficiency while promoting corporate responsibility. The percentage of the benefit will vary in different industries, but there are big benefits to be had. Sustainability allows businesses to streamline costs more efficiently while taking waste out of the consumer stream and creating a better P&L statement for the company. Companies educating themselves on sustainable practices today will be able to anticipate potential regulation and ultimately have a better seat at the table. Sustainable companies will also develop a leadership position and be part of shaping their outcomes.
What will it take for businesses to increase interest in being more sustainable?
Regulation and incentives speed up the process, but otherwise it takes time to get everyone on board. A good example of this is the automobile industry. When safety regulation discussions started gaining momentum, the industry fought it, but then they adapted to the new standard. Now, car manufacturers use their vehicles’ safety features as a marketing angle.
Why should companies still investigate and invest in sustainability now that the economy is in a downswing?
The world’s current economic and environmental situation demands that companies operate sustainably. Companies need to know they can put sustainability methods into place and not break the bank. In the future, it will continue to cost companies more not operating efficiently. Even though money may be tight, sustainable practices help companies retain their market share and diversify themselves from competitors in tough times. Companies that are educating themselves on the matter are positioning themselves effectively for when the economy starts to grow again. Having less money than you’re accustomed to makes you become smart about things quickly and that’s what’s happening now.
Smart Business learned more from Albert P. Asatoorian and Jonathan R. Hodes, partners at Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP, about how buyers and sellers can use ABCs to their benefit during tough times.
What is an ABC?
An ABC is a type of insolvency proceeding available under state law. California, Delaware, Florida and many other states have statutes governing ABC proceedings. In other states, ABCs are regulated by common law. The seller in an ABC will make an assignment for the benefit of its creditors to a third-party assignee (or trustee), and the buyer will purchase the assigned assets from the assignee. The assignee in an ABC acts as a fiduciary for the creditors. The assignee takes custody and control of the assigned assets and administers the liquidation of assets and distribution of proceeds to creditors.
The law and procedures governing ABCs vary from state to state. For example, in California, the seller and the assignee are required to enter into a written agreement, but a court filing is not required. Other states require court filings to commence the proceeding and complete a sale transaction.
The seller is generally entitled to select the assignee, although in most cases the assignee will require consent of secured creditors usually because they will finance the cost of the ABC. The assignee typically is a troubled company professional with significant experience in handling liquidations and ABC sales. Creditors will be required to follow specified claims procedures to be eligible for distributions. Unlike a bankruptcy filing, the commencement of an ABC proceeding usually will not automatically bar creditors from pursuing claims, although creditors will be unable to attach assets while the assignee is in the process of liquidating the assets. Additionally, the commencement of an ABC typically requires shareholder approval because the assignment involves the transfer of all or ‘substantially all’ of the debtor’s assets.
What are the primary advantages of an ABC?
In general, an ABC is a faster and less expensive alternative to a bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is a time-consuming process and a sale can take between 45 to 60 days or more to complete. By comparison, an ABC sale is usually preplanned and may be completed within a matter of days. This could significantly reduce the risk of employee departures, and enable the parties to preserve the ‘going concern’ value of the enterprise. The buyer, debtor and secured parties usually will prenegotiate the terms of the sale and clear them with the assignee in advance to ensure the assignee is comfortable that the assets are marketed fairly and the transaction would withstand subsequent scrutiny. The assignment can take place virtually at the same time as the subsequent sale.
Bankruptcy actions can be expensive, and the buyer may be required to finance the cost of the proceeding if the seller does not have the means to do so, which may be difficult to obtain in today’s environment. The costs of an ABC transaction are more predictable and manageable. Assignee fees will be negotiated and specified at the outset. These fees may be a fixed amount or a percentage of the gross proceeds derived from the ABC sale. The services of attorneys, accountants, brokers and other professionals also will be required in most cases.
The outcome in an ABC is significantly more predictable than in a bankruptcy due to the parties’ ability to control the process upfront by selecting the assignee and prenegotiating the terms of the sale before initiating the ABC. Although the buyer can negotiate breakup fees and overbid protection in a bankruptcy, the risk of higher offers can be minimized in an ABC and practically eliminated after the sale contract with the buyer is signed.
How can buyers and sellers best take advantage of ABCs and avoid pitfalls?
The decision to move forward with an ABC or other type of transaction or process can have significant economic implications on both buyers and sellers, and careful planning and preparation will be the key to ensuring a successful outcome. Parties should engage competent legal counsel and the services of a professional liquidation firm with experience in handling ABC transactions to properly assess the viability of alternative approaches.
The assignee should be knowledgeable with the debtor’s industry and the requirements for liquidating the debtor’s assets. Legal counsel can help with due diligence and prenegotiating the sale terms, and help to explain important legal implications, such as the effect of an ABC on debt covenants and other contractual obligations, as well as issues relating to successor liability, preferences and priorities, fiduciary obligations and requirements under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) and similar state statutes.
ALBERT P. ASATOORIAN is a partner with Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP. Reach him at (818) 444-4506 or email@example.com.
Where were you born? North Carolina
What was your very first job? The very first job I ever had was unpaid. It was supporting voter registration in my community. The very first paid job outside of my family was baby-sitting.
If you could be one superhero, who would you be and why?
I already am that. My children have assured me over and over and my husband from time to time, as well, that I’m Wonder Woman. I’ll tell you why Wonder Woman appeals to me, not just from the incredible ability to do super, wonderful things, but also, it means that you stay in a place of permanent wonder, as long as we’re wondering how, as long as we’re wondering what and if, I think we keep growing. And to me that really does enable you to experience superpowers.
Biggest life lesson: No matter who you call God, call on God every day. Then be quiet and listen.
More leadership lessons: One is never compromise who you are personally to become who you wish to be professionally. And the other is, the result is the truth.
The U.S. dollar has surged as investors, wary of the stock market’s extreme volatility, have flocked to the relative safety of U.S. Treasuries. In some respects, a strong dollar adversely impacts the U.S. economy: It increases the trade deficit while weakening exports and eroding the competitiveness of American-made goods.
However, some entities stand to benefit from the strengthening dollar.
“American importers, consumers buying foreign goods, corporations making capital investment in overseas ventures and American vacationers traveling overseas can all benefit from a stronger dollar,” says Gary Loe, vice president, foreign exchange at Comerica Bank.
Smart Business spoke with Loe about the dollar’s rise, its implications on the global economy and his prediction for how the dollar will fare in 2009.
Why has the dollar strengthened against major currencies?
This past summer, beginning with the global credit/financial crisis, we experienced a ‘flight to quality’ effect. As equity markets around the world have been battered, many investors sought the safety of U.S. Treasuries to protect their money. As investors from around the world reevaluate their risk tolerance, they buy dollars in order to purchase U.S. Treasuries, which are very liquid and have low default risk, backed by the power of the U.S. government.
The world started a global economic race to the bottom in 2008. The world economy has been heading toward a global recession with the U.S. in the lead. The first to reach the bottom should be the first to bounce back. Problems are not just contained within the U.S., as evidenced in Germany. Europe’s largest economy is at a 15-year low in consumer confidence, and the spillover in the credit crunch has already reached Asia. Many believe that the U.S. government has helped steer us away from a deep depression. The U.S. can act quicker to get to an eventual recovery as opposed to Europe where many countries are needed to come together for action.
How has the stock market’s recent volatility affected foreign exchange?
The market has experienced extreme volatility with a downside trend. We have had thousand-point swings in a day in the Dow. We have had 10 percent swings in a day in the dollar against hard currencies like the euro, British pound and Australian dollar. It’s not just the U.S. stock markets that are volatile and weak, as seen in the S&P 500, currently down about 45 percent this year. London’s FTSE index and Tokyo’s Nikkei 300 index are down about the same. The biggest effect the volatility has had in foreign exchange is the increased bid/ask spreads and diminished liquidity with tighter credit standards.
Is a strong dollar good for the United States?
Usually, the word ‘strong’ is perceived as a positive feature, but when it comes to a country’s economy, it may not be in its best interest. Some say a strong dollar helps accelerate growth. Growth will attract foreign capital and boost our stock market. This leads to increased production, consumer spending and an expanding economy. However, there are many negative ramifications. It tends to widen the trade deficit as we purchase more imported goods. This increase has its detriments as it erodes overall growth, hurts GDP and weakens the economy. It will also hurt corporate profits of global companies as foreigners will have to pay more for U.S. goods. The dollar should act as a self-correcting mechanism as a stronger dollar leads to a weaker one and vice versa.
How do foreign central banks tend to react when the dollar rises?
Central bankers in export-driven economies, such as Japan, would tend to do nothing as it would allow growth in the export sectors. However, if I am a central banker where my currency is devaluing at a pace that needs defending, I would raise my interest rates to defend it. This should attract flows into my currency, therefore stopping the depreciation. Malaysia’s central bank froze its currency in the 1997 Asian financial crisis when facing steep depreciation by cutting off all market players.
Where do you see the dollar heading over the course of 2009?
Through the beginning, we will still be watching for weak global equity markets and weak commodity prices and bracing for possibly the biggest economic slowdown since World War I. As investors flee from chancier bets and more deleveraging takes place in the credit world, this will give further room for boosts in the U.S. dollar. Take advantage of any further dollar strength at the beginning of 2009. Once our government’s actions in stimulating the economy and getting our credit situation back in check take effect, look for the dollar to start weakening again, which I predict will happen later in 2009. Fundamentals are bound to return. At the forefront will be renewed talk about America’s huge ‘twin deficits,’ budget and trade. In addition, all the printing of money that has, and will, occur to help us out of our current financial and economic crisis will turn inflationary, which will erode the value of the dollar.
GARY LOE is vice president, foreign exchange at Comerica Bank. Reach him at (800) 318-9062 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
When opportunity knocks, Alexandre Chemla isn’t afraid to open the door.
And the founder, president and CEO of Altour International recognized that familiar knock when a veteran of the travel industry called looking for a job. Chemla saw great potential in her, but there was a hitch.
“She said, ‘I’d like to manage an agency, but I don’t think we can work together because you don’t have an agency in New Jersey,’” Chemla says. “And I said, ‘Now I have one.’”
If you have a chance to land great people, you can always find a way to fit them in to your plans, Chemla says, as he did by opening a new office to accommodate his potential superstar.
His strategy has helped the travel company generate worldwide 2007 revenue of $535 million — $214 million of that from its six California offices.
Smart Business spoke with Chemla about how to maintain the flexibility of a start-up, even when you have offices all over the world.
Start small, dream big. When I started my business, I had been working for Club Med for 10 years. I learned one thing at Club Med.
The people who were working there, the kind of relationships they have created — I learned that nothing was stronger than a team of people put together. I left with this idea of trying to put together the most professional and the best people that I could find.
It was difficult to start, because I had to go slowly. I had to create a foundation if I wanted my building to stand and stand strong a long time.
Creating the foundation was really trying to analyze what the company was made out of, which for me was very easy because I came out of one major corporation. I wanted to make sure we had our own human resources, our own legal department. I wanted to have the complete panel of a corporation, but, of course, when you do that, you have to start very small.
Find the right fit. Basically, it was for me to find where I would need to have a person, then try to find the person to fit the need that I have.
For example, I try to hire people from the airlines themselves to help me negotiate with the carriers. They will help me understand better than anyone else the airline problems and their willingness to do business.
If you want to be successful, make sure you hire someone who is going to do the job he likes to do. There is nothing worse than someone you put in a business whose job is really not what he or she wants to do, likes to do or feels comfortable doing.
So when we hire people, my first question is, ‘What do you like to do?’ Then, it’s more like trying to find the position based on the person in front of me. So try to find a position to match what the person would like to do instead of the reverse — all along knowing what we need.
Find the opportunity when you find the person. Then when you find the person and you know what this person is looking for, customize around the wishes of this individual.
Stay flexible. Accept that you may change the way you have decided to go and even change direction in midstream. It doesn’t matter what direction you have set, you should be flexible enough, regardless of the size of the company, to change the route at any time.
Stay flexible by dividing the company into multiple, smaller companies and also by having management of the companies handled by people you trust to let them run it the way they want.
By doing that, you are creating flexibility. In general, the flexibility of a company is taken away when the company becomes too big and too bureaucratic. If you can take that away by breaking it up into small offices, then you have the result of the flexibility you are looking for: managing a small corporation but being a big corporation.
Don’t settle for less than the best. We’re looking for perfection. We try not to rely on any third party. It was impossible for us to have a reservation center 365 days a year. It would take a lot of money, lot of people.
So just like every other travel management company, we used a third party, but the problem was the third party didn’t care much. We tried nearly every service that existed.
So we were working extremely hard to provide fantastic service to our clients — and then there would come a time when one of our clients would be stuck in a snowstorm on a Sunday or somewhere in Hong Kong, having a problem. They will call, and the telephone will ring for an hour, and no one will pick up the phone.
That was the best service you could find, and it didn’t get better since then. So I instructed my team to create our own 24-hour center. In the past year, we have received hundreds of compliments. Before, I didn’t even have one of them.
It does cost us about four times the price. But we’re in the business of service. If we don’t know how to provide service to our clients, we should be doing something else. We should go deep-sea fishing, but we should definitely not be in the business of service.
The bigger price we would have had to pay was losing a client.
HOW TO REACH: Altour International, (310) 571-6000 or www.altour.com
Upon first take, Jose Royo seems too cool to be a self-described geek.
Born in Spain, Royo has simply merged a hint of his native accent into the natural hip of Southern California style.
But he’s also the first to admit his natural draw to the nuts and bolts of technology — his first job was modeling IBM’s first generation of PCs at a trade show in Madrid at age 14 — and its constant adaptations. As such, he’s found a home as CEO for Ascent Media Corp., the world’s largest provider of integrated global services for the creation, management and distribution of media content.
In a world where the technology used to print this magazine is just about obsolete by the time you pick it up, Ascent Media is facing shorter deadlines and expectations to have work done in mere hours.
“We used to have months to do certain activities,” Royo says. “We now only have, in some instances, hours, days and, at most, weeks.”
That means Royo spends every day trying to keep his 3,500 employees spread across the world nimble enough to jump on the next technology while still putting out today’s product.
“You sort of stop and wonder and say, ‘OK, this is what we do today. Given these changes, the business models that are emerging, the global nature of the industry and the technology changes that we’re all experiencing, how can we be relevant and continue to have the business with the high profile?’” he says.
So Royo uses some of his cool to overcome his geekiness. He constantly touches base with his employees at all levels and cuts out the jargon, describing for them very clearly where the company needs to go and how they can help. As he mixes in new technology experts with his existing staff, he works to quell egos and keep everyone focused on Ascent Media’s success.
Here is how Royo keeps a $672.3 million company ahead of the curve.
Touch base with employees
To keep his company adaptable, Royo starts at the bottom, laying out his vision and then touching base with ground-level employees to talk industry trends.
“That’s the first step to that process: Laying out that broad vision and then engaging with people to collect their knowledge,” Royo says. “The process of including people and collecting their input is important in being able to get their support.”
Royo isn’t best buds with 3,500 employees, but he starts the engagement process with quarterly trips to every facility and keeps in contact with every region’s senior manager via weekly meetings.
“It gives you a better feel of what’s going on in each individual facility and the services they provide but also the opportunity for people to feel like they may know you to sort of provide input and feedback,” Royo says.
And when Royo makes his visits, he takes time to visit with different levels of employees in a no-agenda setting just to see what topics are on their minds.
“I ask the head of a given facility to choose 10 or 15 employees, and I go and have breakfast or lunch with them with no particular agenda,” he says. “It’s just, I’m here to listen and learn, and so what do you want to talk about — and those tend to be very productive. And there’s a cultural aspect to it, in London what it usually means is take a bunch of people to the pub.”
Of course, four visits a year and a few pints isn’t enough for you to say you’re a man or a woman of the people. You need multiple touch points, including some that regularly engage employees on current issues. When Royo first came aboard at Ascent Media, one of the first things he did was create a blog on the company’s intranet. He posts a few times a week, and his goal is to mix it with corporate updates and down-to-earth things meant to stir up ideas.
“The postings can be specific. For example, we had an employee who was critically injured in the MTA train accident, and I gave people updates on how things were going after going to visit him at the hospital,” Royo says. “Or they can be very strategic. (In October 2008), in the face of all these economic challenges, I wrote a long note about what I think the implications are for Ascent, where we are in terms of our financial position and asking people to think out of the box.”
Similarly, Royo says you have to constantly maintain your e-mail. He knows that you get inundated with more e-mails than you can fully respond to in a day. He does, too. In fact, he estimates he gets nearly 400 a day.
“Everybody is very busy, and we all need to make sure we carve out some time to actually do some work,” he says. “Sometimes late at night, after I put the kids to bed, I spend some quality time going through and making sure I’m being responsive.”
To be clear, Royo is not telling you to stop your life to answer every e-mail. Being responsive means getting to the issues of the e-mails effectively. When he gets 25 e-mails about the same thing, he knows there is an opportunity to show he’s on top of it by responding through a public outlet.
“There are times when you’re getting a lot of issues about something, and that’s when the blog or some of the e-mail communication becomes important and/or setting up a specific meeting to address these concerns that have been raised by a number of people,” he says. “And then there are a lot of things you need to learn how to delegate, so hit forward, send it to somebody, and tell them, ‘Can you run with this one?’”
Mix in new people
Fifteen years ago, nobody knew what a Web programmer was. Today, some companies have entire departments of them. The point? As business evolves, new skill sets are regularly needed. In a hyper-paced industry like Royo’s, he’s not afraid to bring in new people.
“In some instances, we need what I call new DNA,” he says. “You need people who have a different set of skills and experience, so bring on board some of that new DNA that is going to enable you to think outside of the box from where the company and the business has been in the past.”
Of course, bringing in people to help you adapt and change your business comes with the very real threat of internal fallout. The more new hires you bring in, the more you can hear your veteran employees crying, ‘Who the heck are these people?’ The solution to that is making sure those people understand the purpose of any new employees.
“The first thing is education,” Royo says. “Make sure people understand why you brought some of that new DNA into the company so they’re not threatened and you don’t introduce some sort of old versus new.”
At Ascent Media, for example, Royo includes current department employees in the interview process for new additions. He also gets managers on board by having them do an honest assessment of their department so they can realize the skill gaps that exist.
“There’s an ideation process, as we call it, of asking, ‘What is it that we need to do this new direction?’” Royo says. “And we ask, ‘Do we have the skills in-house to execute that?’ Once you reach the decision on what the plan is going forward vis-À-vis any new opportunity, do you really have the skills? You need to be intellectually honest to execute, and out of that, usually, you identify some gaps. And by involving people through that ideation process and then filling in those gaps, it feels as if this is an organic sort of transformation or change versus a radical turn off the switch and then turn on a different switch.”
During that process, Royo says people begin to understand what role the new DNA will play in helping them evolve their jobs, creating an atmosphere where people are more willing to blend their departments with old and new ideas.
“It gives us this opportunity to create this blended environment where people can see some of these new skills and gives them an opportunity to reskill themselves and see a career path beyond where they are today,” he says.
And after making that effort to help blend the new and old, he says you have license to be very direct with those people that still don’t adjust. He recommends telling them very clearly that after the adjustment period is over, there is no room for people refusing to catch up.
“Then there are instances where some people are resistant to change, and if you attempt to address those issues through training and additional education and they’re still not responding, then you just have to have blunt conversations about what that means in terms of the creative path of that individual,” he says.
Simplify the details
It would take too much space to fully explain all the services Ascent Media has, but one point of note is that its digital distribution, which handles, among other things, everything done by Sony Pictures, distributes about 50 terabytes a week.
That can lead to simple employee questions like, what’s a terabyte?
And even those who didn’t Google terabyte to learn that it’s equal to 1,000 gigabytes might not fully understand what role digital files play in the future of the industry. This problem is not unique to Royo and Ascent Media. Whenever your company is doing something new or making a change, people are often fuzzy on the details of what tomorrow’s business tools and ideas mean to them.
“Simplicity helps a lot, so it’s about how you articulate a vision that is clear and astute so everybody knows that this is what we aspire to be,” he says. “Be clear about what the vision is, collaborate through the definition of that vision, and then be clear on what the execution components are going to be and who’s going to be doing what so there is a common sense of purpose.”
Royo uses the example of sharing the vision with his financial people.
“The first thing that we try to do is make sure our finance people are subject matter experts, meaning you want finance people who are not just running numbers but who understand the business, so as we engage through these discussions, it’s not, ‘Well, all of that is Greek to me,’” he says.
How do you make the elaborate easy to understand? Take out the part that makes it elaborate — new technology specifics, high-end financial terms, anything that an outsider wouldn’t understand, and make it about how this is pushing the overall business goal.
“It’s not about technology, really,” Royo says. “It’s about business, and how do we have a healthy business going forward. So you try to extract out all the acronyms and the lingo about the technology and say, ‘OK, this is the service the customer needs; these are the key components and requirements that come into being able to provide that service.’ Strip all the technology sort of noise out of that equation and make sure that the business explanation and the business model that is put around any financial decision is laid down to that simple vision. So you force people to distill their ideas away from the pure technology and into the service definition and businesses that we’re trying to service.”
HOW TO REACH: Ascent Media Corp., (310) 434-7000 or www.ascentmedia.com
Carlisle Travel Management
5601 E. Slauson Ave., Suite 120, Los Angeles, CA 90040
Serves large and small corporations, Assists with corporate travel management
Carlson Wagonlit Travel
761 S. Atlantic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90040
Offers discounts, Business-friendly
8721 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069
Travel management company, Offers clients a newsletter to keep abreast of trends
The Hertz Corporation
800 N. Alameda Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Offers Club discounts, Can book online and offer a drop-off and pick-up service
JourneyCorp Travel Management
1017 La Cienega Blvd., #308, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Utilizes strict quality controls, 24-hour emergency hot line
L & B Travel LLC
1820 Benecia Ave., #204, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Full-service agency, Caters to business travelers
Marriott Los Angeles Airport
5855 West Century Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90045
Full-service business center, Offers business services, including a translator
Orchid O Hotel
819 S. Flower Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017
Offers business deals, Conference halls
Prestigious Business Concepts Inc.
3827 W. 60th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90043
Offers business travel advice, Accepts all forms of payment
Travel Management Group
6176 Outlook Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90042
(512) 940- 6118
Travel management company, Recommends strategies to better manage travel
Scott Bowling grew up in a family of business owners, with his father and grandfather both running businesses.
From these two men, Bowling learned many of the lessons that he has incorporated into his role as president and CEO of Exceptional Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides services to the developmentally disabled.
“What I learned was to be good to people, treat them well, be consistent and have integrity do what you say you’re going to do,” Bowling says.
Bowling also learned how important it is to have the right team of people. He has developed his team of 440 people at his organization, which has an annual budget of $27 million, and he makes sure they are an important part of decisions.
Smart Business spoke with Bowling about how to develop the right team and how to develop relationships with employees.
Q. What qualities do you look for in your team members?
Of course being smart in their particular area of discipline or business. I also look for people who have a good work ethic, are hardworking and who believe in the spirit of working well with others teamwork is of paramount importance. Assembling a good team is where it needs to begin.
An employee demonstrates his or her work ethic in a variety of measurable and visible ways, including time spent at work, productivity meets or exceeds expectations, works well with others, as evidenced by good communication, approachability and positive relationships.
Q. Once they’re identified, how do you develop team members to work together?
Involve everyone in the development of the organization’s strategic plans and emphasize everyone’s role in the plan’s successful implementation. You constantly reinforce this is where we’re going, this is why and this is what we’re going to achieve together.
Communicate regularly on the progress everyone is making on the organization’s plan and regularly acknowledge and celebrate progress and success. Celebrate those milestones along the way. Everybody has a part, everybody has a role in the success, and that’s important that you communicate that to them.
On a quarterly basis, each person who has a specific responsibility to carry out the action needed to meet a strategic objective will provide a written quarterly progress report. Reports from members of the team are compiled and distributed to all team members to acknowledge the progress we’re making. It also gives me the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the progress, which tends to generate momentum to continue along our productive path.
Q. How do you encourage employees to excel in their jobs?
Acknowledge and reward good performance. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not giving someone kudos for a job well done. There’s the oral communication, the pats on the back. Then there’s the more formal acknowledgements in writing a memo to their personnel file acknowledging a success story or an achievement that’s been made.
Provide opportunities for employees to step up to handle additional responsibility within the organization. Stay abreast of best and current practices and encourage and provide ongoing staff training. Review performance informally and formally on a regular basis.
We have clearly defined performance objectives for each employee. These objectives are established using the organization’s strategic goals and objectives. On a regular basis, each employee’s progress made on their individual performance objectives is monitored through written reports or other measurable outcomes.
As employees demonstrate their ability to meet objectives, over time, they are given additional responsibility within the organization.
Q. How do you deal with a person who may not fit in with the team?
Identify privately, clearly and professionally how and why he or she is not meeting expectations. Offer the tools and time he or she needs to get on board and produce the desired results.
If there are other areas in the organization where his or her skills would be better utilized, offer that alternative opportunity. If necessary, separate employment before he or she becomes a drag on the rest of the team.
Q. How do you develop trusting relationships with your employees?
Do what you say you’re going to do. Give credit to and acknowledge those who achieve desired outcomes. Developing a system to identify, track and monitor tasks and priorities helps to ensure things get done according to the timelines we’ve established. ...
Recognition along the way is important. We like to celebrate progress, and when we reach a goal not only celebrate it and acknowledge the individual but also the larger picture we need to celebrate and communicate to all of our employees what the team has accomplished.
HOW TO REACH: Exceptional Children’s Foundation, (310) 204-3300 or www.ecf.net
Executive MBA programs are geared toward people who have been working in the business world for around 14 years and have quite a bit of managerial experience, says Carla Hayn, senior associate dean of the Executive & Fully Employed MBA Programs at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
“Most executives who enter an Executive MBA program are more mature, experienced and about 10 years older (with an average age of 37) than people enrolling in full- or part-time MBA programs,” she says.
Smart Business learned more from Hayn about how to find the right MBA program.
How can an executive determine whether getting an MBA degree is the right choice?
It you are on the brink of being promoted or have already moved into a top management position, an Executive MBA program will definitely enhance your skill set and your ability to succeed in your career. You’ll have opportunities to learn more about the specific areas in which you may need more specialized knowledge (e.g., corporate finance, brand management, supply chains, etc.). You’ll have classmates who are experts in their fields from whom you can learn. You can make use of the array of elective courses to acquire further expertise in your field.
Why are elective offerings an important part of MBA programs?
All Executive MBA programs provide you with the ‘core’ business knowledge in accounting, finance, marketing, economics, etc. However, programs vary widely in the number of electives available to executive students.
At UCLA Anderson, we provide 15 electives each year especially for our executive students in diverse areas such as Mergers & Acquisitions, Venture Capital & Private Equity and Online One-to-One Marketing. Executives can also choose from the wide array of electives offered in our full- and part-time MBA programs. In addition, executive students can travel through our International Study Programs (recent trips include Brazil, China, S. Africa, India) and our exchange programs with partner Executive MBA programs throughout the world. Executives can even earn certificates in finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, sustainability, or international studies, officially recognizing their accomplishments in these areas.
Are there other features that distinguish one Executive MBA program from another?
Absolutely. Among the other important factors to consider in choosing a program is the stature of the faculty. Exactly who will be teaching you? Are they excellent communicators? Is the classroom experience not only challenging but also invigorating? Ask to attend a class and find out for yourself if the students are engaged in the learning process.
UCLA Anderson is known as a leader in experiential learning. The Strategic Management Research Project is a capstone course that synthesizes the knowledge our executive MBA students acquire throughout the program. Five to six students work on consulting teams for a six-month period to solve a multifaceted problem confronting an organization.
All first-rate Executive MBA programs should also stress leadership development to help you develop your own management style, building upon your strengths. Look for a program with experiential workshops, engaging seminars and informative guest speakers.
Additionally, though executive students are quite accomplished, they still benefit from career guidance. A top program should have a knowledgeable career services director who is dedicated to the program and has a proven track record dealing with executives.
Talk to the current executive students and find out how satisfied they are with the various components of their program — the students are an excellent source of information.
Are there other benefits that Executive MBA students should expect from the program?
Beyond relevant knowledge, there are wonderful networking opportunities. Not only will you be sitting in class and working on teams with your classmates, they will be part of your lifelong network. A number of our Executive MBAs have gone into business together. Schools with strong alumni networks like UCLA Anderson’s make sure that you have the opportunity to know past and upcoming executive students, members of the other MBA programs and graduates from all of the schools on campus. UCLA Anderson’s network is very strong with access to more than 37,000 alumni. If someone is moving to Hong Kong, I can easily find a person among the 95 active alumni there who is eager to provide friendly advice and introductions.
Finally, what is the return on investment of the Executive MBA program?
Investing in an MBA degree is one of the most rewarding investments you can make, even when compared to the return during a bull stock market! Most estimates show that the present value of the incremental earning power over an executive career due to an MBA degree is about $500,000. This high return is due to the fact that executives with an MBA degree are usually promoted faster, are considered for a wider array of executive positions, have access to more job opportunities through their increased business and social networks, and have a different view of themselves that prompts them to explore higher and more financially rewarding positions.
A recent survey of graduates of the UCLA Anderson’s Executive MBA Program shows an average salary increase of 158 percent within five years from graduation. While this survey was taken when the economy was stronger, it is not unreasonable to believe that an executive’s salary would double (increase by 100 percent) within five years of graduation.
The knowledge acquired in an Executive MBA program translates to a higher rate of business success, whether you are working for a large public company, a smaller private company, or are self-employed.
Carla Hayn is the senior associate dean of UCLA Anderson, in charge of the Executive & Fully Employed MBA Programs. Reach her at (310) 206-9225 or email@example.com.