When William Lambert looks back at his transition into his role as CEO, he remembers a time of uncertainty. He could tell that dark clouds were forming and a recessionary storm was approaching.
Lambert took the CEO role of Mine Safety Appliances Co., a nearly $1 billion global manufacturer of safety equipment that employs 5,200 people around the world, in 2008 and serves as president and CEO today. With a harsh economic environment ahead of the company, Lambert gathered his executive team and planned for how to carry the business forward without sacrificing its status as a leading safety equipment manufacturer.
“Just after I became CEO, I think the dark clouds had started to form and already were starting to impact our business, and by the end of 2008, had really impacted our business in a significant way,” Lambert says. “2009 was difficult. We were focused on the core areas of strength for MSA.”
The nearly 100-year-old company is no stranger to the ups and downs of economic cycles. Together with his leadership team, Lambert led a corporate strategy to push MSA forward focusing on strengths, the customer voice, and areas of growth in an effort to make the business stronger than before.
Here’s how Lambert carried MSA through the tough times by improving the core areas of the company.
Overhaul your corporate strategy
Whether you are facing good times or bad in your business, a focus on strategy is critically important for leading a successful company.
“We do a major look and overhaul of our corporate strategy just about every five years,” Lambert says. “We had made an update to the previous corporate strategy in 2006, and in 2008, we could begin to see the signs that things were about to get serious. It was about that time that we were coming due on a new corporate strategy, and there were some indications that there was a crisis coming and so we decided to accelerate a new corporate strategy.”
MSA brought in experts to help the board and the leadership team in the guided effort over a multimonth period. It could not have come at a better time.
“2009 was a very concerning time for everybody to batten down the hatches and make sure that your business could make the adjustments and weather the storm,” Lambert says. “I’m very pleased that this leadership team here at MSA did a great job of getting us through and the strategy helped to be that guide to help with some of those tough decisions we had to make.”
Those tough decisions revolved around the core areas of MSA — its line of safety products. Secondly, the company took a look at adjacent areas that could help continue to grow the business.
“Most businesses have a core that has been very successful in the past and where so much of your capabilities and strengths are centered,” he says. “Every business also needs to move into adjacent areas just outside the core. These adjacent areas tend to be derived from the core, but hopefully those adjacencies strengthen the core in some way.”
These adjacencies by definition and by the very nature of human behavior start to lead you into peripheries.
“It’s kind of an adjacent area, but it tends to be even further from the core,” he says. “You have to simply understand how you look at your business. Where’s the value really being generated? What creates value? Is it the core or is it in the adjacent area, which means the core is shifting to this new adjacent area? Generally the value is not being generated in the periphery. Generally it’s been my experience that the periphery actually destroys value. It can detract from the value generating capability of the company. It can distract management. It seems like a good idea, but when you really get down to it … these peripherals tend to not add value.”
How your business creates value is what keeps it moving forward, especially in the bad times. To add value or create new value you have to have a plan.
“Businesses need to have a plan,” Lambert says. “It’s not so much the plan, but it’s all the planning that goes into it. Dwight Eisenhower said that the plan is nothing. It’s the planning that’s everything. It’s the thinking through the various scenarios and understanding the business and what are the value drivers of the business. Where is value derived? Where is value created? Then it’s deciding what is the core that you want to build on for the future? Over time, that changes. Over time it has changed for MSA. At one time, mining was our core. The mining market today represents 10 to 12 percent of our total sales. The core of MSA has shifted somewhat from where we were at one point in our company’s journey. Our top three markets today are oil and gas, construction, and first responders. Mining is our fourth now.”
The company’s latest plan focused on its five leading lines of safety products and it would ultimately be the customers who would provide the new directions for improving them.
“There are five areas to our core and these are those areas of the business that generate the most value, create the most value, that get disproportionate resources and investments, and they get the most management attention,” he says. “That’s where we spend our time talking and debating and investing and that’s where we have market-leading positions.”
Find the voice of the customer
To strengthen the company’s core product areas, MSA went to its customers to understand where their needs were and how the company could meet them.
“At MSA, we have seven core values that we use to guide our efforts and to guide our behaviors,” Lambert says. “One of those core values is customer focus. Driving customer satisfaction is one of the most important things that we look to do, that we look to measure, especially in mature markets. In those kinds of mature markets, the way you gain share, the way you increase sales, is through innovation and product development efforts meeting unmet needs of the customers. Listen to the voice of the customer and then also drive customer satisfaction, measure customer satisfaction and measure customer loyalty and then make the adjustments in the factory or other areas where you service the customer.”
These “voice of the customer” activities must be embedded in your research and development teams, your product enhancement teams, your manufacturing and quality teams and even into your customer service center.
“We listen to the voice of the customer and then we track those issues and put improvement plans in place based on that which we’re being told,” he says. “The first step is you have to measure. You have to start to measure what your customers are saying. Do the customer satisfaction and loyalty surveys and find out what the drivers are behind those responses and how customers view you. Then you have to understand what the drivers of customer satisfaction are in your particular business or company.”
Driving a customer focus in your business starts with developing a culture that puts the customer at the forefront of your operations.
“The culture that we’re trying to create has to do with that core value of having a customer focus,” he says. “There are customer-focused initiatives throughout the organization. We all know that it’s one of the core values that we have here so that drives a culture of continuously monitoring and seeking to improve that customer experience.”
As with the creation of any company culture, it has to start at the top of the organization and be pushed throughout to be successful.
“The creation of a customer-focused culture is difficult,” Lambert says. “There has to be a tone at the top of the organization that emphasizes it, that expects it, that highlights it, that makes it one of the core values you have as an organization. Then you talk about it. You talk to the associates about the customer experience and measure the customer experience and customer satisfaction results and then you can communicate those to the work force. Then you get the work force engaged by setting up teams that address certain issues and problems and begin to solve some of these customer experiences. You get your engineers out in the field living with customers or users and observe how your product performs in the field. Or talk to distributors about their experience when the product arrives on their shipping dock. Pretty soon, the culture begins to develop a momentum of it’s own within the organization. You make it a part of the everyday dialogue and the every-week dialogue.”
Put your plan in motion
Lambert and the folks at MSA had the foresight to develop the company’s new plan before the economy really took a fall. As the environment grew worse, Lambert began to do the things outlined in the corporate strategy.
“When we put our corporate strategy together back in 2008, the elements of our strategy focused on the core of MSA,” Lambert says. “That was one big element or pillar of our strategy. The second pillar was a focus on the emerging markets. The emerging markets of middle Eurasia, Latin America, Southeast Asia and China, those four areas are where we saw great growth potential for the future. Double-digit growth potential, adding head count, adding employment, increased activities going on in those core industries of ours like oil and gas, construction, fire service first responders and mining. So that was the second pillar of our approach to put programs and initiatives in place that focused on the emerging markets area. The third pillar was called Project Magellan, which was to have the organization best enabled for this emerging market growth.”
MSA found the new markets it saw the greatest potential in and then began to invest in developing initiatives to grow its operations and in some cases shrink its operations around the world where necessary.
“If we were to really grow the way we thought we could grow in China, we needed to have a new facility, a new investment, a new plant, and a new R&D center in China,” he says. “We also opened a new plant in Mexico. We expanded our San Paulo, Brazil, plant. At the same time, there were certain parts of the organization that we needed to shrink. We no longer needed the same kind of footprint in the company because that wasn’t the area of focus or the area of the core that we wanted to emphasize.”
MSA had a Berlin plant where it manufactured protective suits. Protective suits were a peripheral product and weren’t in the core, so the company moved away from and deemphasized that part of the business and that product line.
“As you go through this exercise of looking at your portfolio and looking at what you really want to focus on for growth in the future and where that is going to be coming from, then you start to make those kinds of choices to shrink this part of a factory or your footprint in this part of the world, because you’re increasing your footprint in this other area of the world,” Lambert says. “Those are the capital allocation decisions and resource decisions that we were making. Project Magellan was really about understanding our footprint and where our focus was and where the best places for us to put our resources were. It involved more than just manufacturing, it involved all aspects of our business.”
The decisions to become leaner and more efficient and find the markets you can grow and prosper in have to always be going through the minds of business leaders.
“You need to go through an assessment of the attractiveness of that market, the growth potential, the profitability potential, and the competitive rivalry that exists in that area,” he says. “There’s got to be a relatively thorough process of understanding and measuring all of that and then you chart out your course to say, ‘Here are my critical success factors. Here’s what we need to do better than those others to achieve this success.’ Then establish for yourself some mileposts. Here’s what we expect to do by six months into it. Here’s what we expect by the end of year one. Here’s where we ought to be 18 months from now, two years from now, three years from now, four years from now. Here’s how we get to that vision of future success.”
HOW TO REACH: Mine Safety Appliances Co., (800) 672-2222 or www.msanet.com
Lead a corporate strategy every few years to keep your company agile.
Understand customer needs and develop a customer-focused culture.
Discover areas of growth and areas you can shrink to improve operations.
The Lambert File
President and CEO
Mine Safety Appliances Co.
Education: Attended Penn State University and received a degree in mechanical engineering. Received a master’s degree in industrial administration from Carnegie Mellon University
What was your very first job and what did you learn from that experience?
I was a paper boy and I delivered the Pittsburgh Press and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. I learned a strong sense of commitment. It was something that other people depended on. They depended on reading that newspaper every morning or every evening, so I had to be dependable and reliable. It didn’t matter if it was snowy, icy, rainy or a real hot summer afternoon day … I had to deliver those newspapers because my customers depended on me. It instilled a strong work ethic and sensitivity to customer satisfaction.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Sometimes it’s not about being the smartest, but it’s about working the hardest and being the most committed to the mission that drives success. The other advice that I’ve received over time is that it’s also about the emotional intelligence that you have as a leader and how you influence people and how you lead people emotionally, not just intellectually.
What would you say is one of the most important products or innovations today in the safety field?
The ALTAIR 5X incorporates what we call XCell Sensors and these sensors are absolutely changing the market for portable gas detection instruments — total cost of ownership, reliability, durability and response times. These XCell Sensors are one of the most dramatic and important innovations to come along in the safety industry in a long time.
If you could do something dangerous one time without consequence, what would you do?
I would sky dive. I think the freefall would be exhilarating. That’s only because I would be guaranteed there wouldn’t be an unfavorable outcome.
When Antonio Torres looks at the building and construction industry he sees opportunity. He knows that it’s not what it used to be, but as president of Syntheon Inc., a building science company, he also knows that if you don’t sit on your laurels you can accomplish great and new things.
Torres has taken advantage of the economic times and has used that to find new opportunities within Syntheon to continue to grow the more than $20 million, 200-employee company.
“This is an industry that can change and is an industry that hasn’t changed in a very long time,” Torres says. “It’s a tremendous opportunity and a great place to create jobs and a great industry for the U.S., and I’m very pumped up about delivering it in a new different more efficient way.”
It is that excitement that has allowed Torres and Syntheon to think about the business in different ways.
Smart Business spoke to Torres about how he has grown his company by taking advantage of opportunity.
Be creative. In a company that’s multinational, you end up shifting resources around to the high-growth areas and minimizing the resources in the lower-cost areas as much as you can do that. That’s one good lever that you have. The other thing is, this is a good time to do the development for new products. If you think about the construction industry at the peak, the amount of work that was done on the fact that you could sell everything you made or every contract you signed, kept all your workers busy and your manufacturing plants running at full-tilt. That did not allow for any new development. Now there is a little bit more bandwidth for those manufacturers or contractors to take a look at what’s new out there and integrate that into my options as the economy begins to turn.
The other thing is just keeping everybody focused on the longer-term vision rather than the short-term issues. Especially in a company like this one where what we’re trying to get to requires significant resources and aspiration work, and we’re not where we want to be. Having people focused on the capabilities that need to be developed internally has also been important, and it’s a good time to do it, because there is not external pull for business.
Take advantage of opportunities. The challenge is of course what situation your company is in. If you can afford it, the best thing to do is identify your lead users. These are customers that are very willing to be the first out in the market with a new product, new idea, or a new system, and then work with them closely to pull the technology out of your company.
It gets your customer motivated and then your employees see that even during more difficult times, there are people out there trying to make a difference and trying to change the world, or at least improve it, and everybody stays focused on the future rather than the present. You have to focus beyond tomorrow, especially when we’re in the times that we’re in, because it will get better. We have to be ready when it gets better with different offerings and different capabilities than the ones we had when we got into the quagmire that we’re in today.
Focus on growth and focus on the longer-term vision. Look outward from your company. I think that many times, especially in bigger companies, we tend to internally focus and internally develop answers that while they may be quite advanced and very capable, may not meet the needs of the consumer. You have to get out of the company.
Balance your culture. One culture, I’ll call the growth culture, and the other, optimization culture. The growth culture really looks at what the customers are doing, where codes are going, what’s the government thinking, and how is (the industry) implementing this. That culture really brings a lot of richness to your ability to develop the appropriate right products. The problem with that culture though is that they don’t like to close; they don’t like to implement. They are inquisitive and want to find out what’s happening.
Then you have the optimization culture that says, ‘Hey, enough inventing, enough ideas, we’ve got to sell something. If we don’t sell something, we’re not going to be around.’ So there is a natural tension within a successful company where you have enough of the growth culture people and enough of the optimization folks to keep the company growing.
A lot of the focus of the CEO has to be to protect both of those. If you don’t protect the growth people, they all get fired. They’re seen as inefficient and not creating any value. If you don’t protect the optimization people they’re seen as too narrow-minded, not enough capability, hard to deal with and so on. The CEO has to establish a balance and that’s the key for an innovative culture in a growth culture.
HOW TO REACH: Syntheon Inc., (412) 490-4252 or www.syntheoninc.com
For Arnold Burchianti II, business in the past 10 years has been good. Burchianti, founder, president and CEO of Celtic Healthcare, a home health care and hospice provider, has been focused on growing his business through strategic planning and keeping his 450 employees engaged.
That engagement and strategic planning have helped the company reach 2010 revenue of $45 million and has allowed Celtic Healthcare to stay nimble and adaptable in an industry that is always changing.
“When cuts and changes have occurred, which they do quite frequently in the world of Medicare and home health care, you operationalize and try and maximize your efficiencies as best you can,” Burchianti says. “Along that journey it’s been a lot of engaging the work force in alignment with the type of strategy and tactics that we had.”
The company has continued to thrive because everyone at Celtic works for the betterment of the business.
Smart Business spoke to Burchianti about how he keeps his work force engaged and strategically aligned.
Be honest and open. We’re pretty transparent with our employees. Short of issuing a P&L and balance sheet to a nurse who won’t understand it, we give them everything we can. We try and paint that picture and get them to really understand how and why as leaders we’re doing the things that we’re doing.
We go in and show them our overhead costs, the leadership’s wages and costs according to benchmarking data that we get from cost reports and we put it out there. By really engaging the work force as to what’s going on in the industry through benchmarking data, comparing us to them and showing them where we need to improve and why we need to improve for sustainability, it makes it a little easier when you walk in and show them the facts.
Are they always happy with our decisions? Hell no, but as a leader you have to engage them and you have to be transparent. You have to let them know why you’re doing stuff so they can trust you. That’s the fundamentals of great leadership. You’ve got to get people to be engaged, to trust you and be transparent.
Understand your culture. I believe you need to come up with strategies to engage your employees and one of the best ways to do that is to take a look at the cultural health of your organization. We do these cultural tests and we pay a lot of money for it, but its well worth it. I could tell you twice a year exactly what my top three things are for corporate health and culture.
It’s easy to get baselines on your financials, on your marks, on many legislative things, on your turnover rate, but getting an objective read on culture, you can’t just go into a room and ask somebody, because they’re not always going to tell you the truth. As a leader or CEO, you can’t listen to your VPs and people around you all the time, because sometimes those people are micro-managers and they just hear what they want to hear. You as a leader need to go transcend beyond that and most of us don’t have the ability to do it ourselves. You need to bring someone in at least every few years to run these types of exercises. I’m not saying bring someone in to train and make things better; you’ve got to understand what the issue is first.
Once you’ve heard and gained the information, then you tell them that you heard them and tell them what you’re going to do. Let them know where the progress is. It’s really an art of engaging your employees and making sure you understand the health of your culture. If your people aren’t engaged and you’ve got to make a change because of a market or legislative issue, good luck, because a company like Celtic is going to beat you there 500 times faster, because we can move quicker. The small and the fast always eat the big guys’ lunch.
Form a plan. The No. 1 thing is proper strategic planning. That means making sure you understand your values and that you understand what is the single most important priority that your organization has to accomplish for your vision and mission. You have to make sure you understand what your values are, because that lays out what your strategy is going to be and what’s important to you and keeps you from chasing 9 million different facets.
Once you understand what that vision or mission statement is then … you’ve got to get your work force engaged or at least your leadership engaged and you need to be meeting with them in some cases daily or weekly. You’ve got to make sure when they wake up in the morning they are thinking about that. That’s where people fail; they’re chasing a lot of different ideas, they’re putting out fires and everyone thinks within their own division what they’re working on is their priority. Everyone needs to be aligned with that single most important corporate goal.
HOW TO REACH: Celtic Healthcare, (800) 355-8894 or www.celtichealthcare.com
Over the past few years, John Foster’s clients have not been embracing the conventional approach to the way his company does business, and its sales and backlog have been dropping below forecasts because of it.
Foster, president and CEO of Coutinho & Ferrostaal Inc. North America, a division of Coutinho & Ferrostaal, one of the largest independent steel trading companies in the world, had to make a choice when the recession hit in 2008. The company could wait to see what became of the economy and its customer’s reactions to it, or it could adapt to the changes and position itself for the foreseeable future.
No matter what the decision, the more than $500 million division could no longer survive doing business as usual. Foster chose to shake things up to regain confidence and trust from the business’s customers.
“My focus and challenge has been on re-engineering the mindset of a well seasoned but cognitively well entrenched team of professionals and a back-to-back trading philosophy,” Foster says. “Moreover, set the challenge to go beyond what has been the tried and true commercial formula of the steel trading business for literally decades and now embrace the already re-engineered mindset of our customer base that has changed significantly over the past 10 years.”
Coutinho & Ferrostaal had to switch from being a principal in a global steel transaction to becoming more of a value-added service partner for its customers.
Here’s how Foster took on the challenge of embracing a re-engineered mindset of the company’s customers in order to survive.
Shake up your comfort zone
In today’s business environment, it would be a tough task to find many businesses or industries that haven’t had to change critical ways in which they operate because of new market dynamics. The steel trading industry is no exception.
“The fundamental reasons such change was necessary are found in the fact that the traditional landscape of the trading model, although not obsolete by any means, had changed, and if new avenues of value and commerce were not found, embraced and expanded upon, our company would not only not grow, but fall badly behind the curve of creative innovation that our trade partners have come to expect from our organization,” Foster says. “This meant initiating some monumental change to meet some monumental challenges and where business as usual was not going to cut it.”
The needs of Coutinho & Ferrostaal’s clients have been changing since the explosion of the internet and were altered again when the Great Recession hit. Foster had to help his team understand that their customer’s financial and risk management needs had changed dramatically.
“With the advent of the Internet into our business as well as the proliferation of mass information media start-ups, our customers, vendors and most importantly our competitors knew most of what was happening in the globalized steel world the same moment we did,” Foster says. “The other important and more recent change dynamic that needed to be addressed was the dramatic alteration in how our customers and supply partners evaluated risk and coped with financial stress in light of the varying degrees of corporate trauma that ensued since mid-2008.”
This loss of a particular competitive advantage forced Foster and his employees to bring other value to the daily transaction equation. As is the case with many crisis situations, opportunities can be found. The challenge here was to take the team out of its comfort zone of traditional business and start listening much more closely to trade partners who were no longer interested in going offshore for steel, but rather turning to domestic supply.
“After all those years of having the ball in your hand for the customers needs and then almost overnight they said, ‘I’m not going to buy your futures anymore … I’d rather buy from you, but you have to have it here for me,’” Foster says. “So right there was a pretty big sea change in how we do our business, going from two-, three- or four-month futures to a just-in-time type of approach.”
To get his team on the same page, Foster had to sit down and lay out the situation in order to understand where to go.
“We sat down with the rest of our department heads and asked, ‘How are we going to manage this? How are we going to meet these needs? These are things we haven’t done before. What are our risk guidelines?’” Foster says. “As a global company, we literally had to redo our risk guidelines. If you’re too conservative, you’re not going to survive. We had to use our professional expertise and change our risk guidelines to align ourselves with customer needs.”
In situations like these, you can never communicate too much.
“You just really need to explain it to them in very clear terms,” he says. “This is what we’re going to need to do to get back to where we were. By just putting up simple pictures, you really impress upon people. I like to get the group together and say, ‘Here’s where our performance has been the last three years. Here’s the event that happened. This is the effect it had upon us. These are our forecasts and we’re having trouble getting there because what worked for all these past years is not working.’
It was really quite a revelation to bring everybody into the mix and say, ‘This is the challenge we have and this is what we’re being told to do. How can you help do it?’ It’s just listening and communicating it to the entire corporation.”
The changes in the steel trading market were happening quickly and Foster and his team had to do everything they could to keep up and find out what the company could do to meet the new needs.
“Budgets were revamped and cost-cutting measures were initiated,” Foster says. “Because of the speed of the market retraction however, we found ourselves being in more of a reactive mode than a proactive one. This was when we readily saw the need to pool the brain trust of our key leaders from the financial, logistics and commercial sectors of our company and turn ourselves into a more proactive direction and highlight as many creative options as we could to generate positive business.”
These options primarily revolved around financial services and expanded risk-management models. However, they quickly recognized a key element was missing.
“That element was feedback from our many trade partners as to what they now need to meet their own particular set of challenges,” he says. “It was here that our own change model began to form. Moreover, it saw us moving from that initiating principal role to a better listening and more value rich service partner in our thinking.”
If Foster wanted to find out what direction to go in, he would need to go directly to customers for the answers.
“We went back to these customers and said, ‘Look, you have concerns about inventory management, we can help you do that. You want just-in-time inventory, we can help you do that.’” Foster says. “We have stepped in the middle of domestic suppliers and our customer base, which has never happened in the history of our business, and it’s just a new dynamic.”
It is crucial that you get input from both customers and employees when looking for a new direction.
“I would emphasize stepping back in times of such crisis and reminding yourself of the ever-important need to listen to the boots-on-the-ground team members while mandating the need for them to do the same with their customers and trade partners,” Foster says. “It is only through keen listening that the seeds of expanded thinking and creativity are found.”
Such listening skills must also be encouraged throughout the organization.
“No discipline of the organization can be comfortable with business as usual,” he says. “Even such stoic departments as accounting and human resources need to be given the nod that it is OK to embrace change and question what has been company policy and standards. This is one of the other keys to our implementing change initiatives—not only keen listening skills to understand what needs to be done, but encouraging a corporate culture that feels both comfortable as well as empowered to implement those changes that are viewed as positive directions for the company.”
Now that it had been established the company would need to more of a strategic partner for its customers, Foster had to get complete buy-in for the new direction.
“Buy-in can be said to be grounded in mutual respect and trust for each other’s expertise and shared vision for the company,” he says. “This is a dynamic that is not built overnight, but over years of team building and shared goal setting, albeit not always in full agreement. It is this team and shared information approach that helped us create an ‘OK, let’s try it’ attitude that gets the change mode moving. The need for a change is most fundamentally driven by both the short and long-term dynamics of the market place in which you participate day in and day out. Subsequently, the need for change simply becomes a logical business decision.”
Foster had to broadcast this new market fundamental in a clear, logical and business professional fashion to get an “all hands on deck” environment to be embraced.
“The buy-in was actually a little bit easier than I would have guessed because of the dynamics,” he says. “The rapid pace of the problem before us got people looking for answers. The environment was a fertile one for this type of change. By very logically and professionally putting out the downside versus upside and risk versus reward, it got there.”
It’s that focus on communication that will aid any business leader in changing directions and getting his company onboard.
“You have to get more than your usual team of players together in the same room,” Foster says. “Be careful not to insulate yourself from all levels of the company. I think there are some CEOs that aren’t very comfortable getting outside their own office and they tell their next-in-line lieutenants, ‘Here’s the deal.’ Those lieutenants take it to managers and those managers take it to their people. Things can get lost in translation. You have to put yourself out there as the leader across the whole scope of the company. If it’s a manufacturing company, get out on the floor. Talk to the workers and the guys on the machines. That’s what’s going to impress and engender change more quickly because you’re showing respect for the entire organization.”
Improve upon your success
Once you have found the new direction for your company and you see success, you have to continue to look for ways to meet customer needs.
“So far, I am quite pleased with our initiative results,” Foster says. “As could be expected, some divisions were more receptive to change than others. Change and further market conditions adaption is a constant, particularly in light of the recent Great Recession leaving a mark whose ramifications could be expected to last several more years going forward. At the same time, I am a firm believer that adversity is a catalyst for opportunity. I can say with confidence that our company has made great strides in changing the traditional way of conducting our business to one that absolutely expanded upon our inherent commercial skill sets and financial assets.”
The changes made have allowed the company to outperform its market and meet goals by breaking the molds of its traditional comfort levels.
“What we see now is the need to build upon our new orientation to change acceptance and get deeper into our customers and vendors hierarchy of needs while plying our well-honed and fundamental skill sets into related but new sectors of our industry,” he says. “In other words, apply what we know has worked well further up and down the industry’s commercial chain.”
HOW TO REACH: Coutinho & Ferrostaal Inc. North America, (281) 999-9995 or www.coutinhoferrostaal.com
- Test your company’s comfort zone areas so not to become complacent
- React to market and customer needs by listening and communicating
- Continue to improve upon the value your company can add
The Foster File
President and CEO
Coutinho & Ferrostaal Inc. North America
Education: Studied business and economics at Marietta College and got an MBA from the University of Colorado in association with the University of San Francisco.
What was your very first job, and what did that experience teach you?
I mowed lawns in the summer and shoveled snow in the winter. If you wanted to have some money for fun, you had to work for it.
What was the scariest part about the change initiatives at CFI?
That they might not work. Anytime you go into uncharted territory, you have that certain trepidation of, ‘Is this going to work?’ Is the team going to support it? Which I didn’t have much concern about, but the real concern was on the customer side because they were in more of a panic than we were. I was mostly concerned with would the marketplace accept the value-added service initiatives that we were bringing to their table.
What is the best business advice that you’ve ever received?
Be as open and honest with your business partners as you can, because most business is built on trust and that’s the only way you’re going to build the trust you need to bridge the most difficult times. Everybody can be friends in good times, but it’s the bad times that really test your trust and relationships.
What is your favorite thing about the steel trading business?
I just love to see the steel in a building that we sold or on the foundation of a truck trailer driving down the road. To see a ship unloading our imported steel and loading our exported steel because that is an important dynamic in our industry.
What is your favorite business trip location?
Brazil. They are excellent steel people and they know how to work hard and play hard, which is one of my philosophies.
G. Michael Campbell and his company MCA International LLC specialize in business transformation projects from launching or developing new products to changing organizational structure. Campbell, who is president of MCA, has seen countless project undertakings that have both ended well or turned out to be project management nightmares.
From planning and tracking to specifications, budgets and timelines, strong project management can be a very big differentiator in your company. To aid companies in project management and how to develop the best techniques, Campbell wrote his latest book, “The Idiots Guide to Project Management, Fifth Edition.”
While Campbell says that you don’t have to be a genius to run a project, you do need to understand that doing a project by following some best practices will make a world of difference.
Who would get the most out of this book?
The book is really targeted for a more experienced manager who has suddenly been handed an important business project for them to manage. They understand the importance of it and they recognize the business need, but they really don’t understand how to manage a project beyond sitting down and preparing a checklist. They’re really looking for some practical guides and some practical tips that they can apply right away to increase their chance of success on this.
What do leaders often overlook in project management?
Leaders should keep the project focused more on the business goals and objectives. You need to stop at certain points and do a recheck and say, ‘Is this project still on track to deliver the business goal that I was looking for?’ Project managers want to deliver on budget and on time and that’s good. From a leader’s perspective you want to be focusing on the business value that you were looking for. The business leader is the one that has to focus on that. Business leaders can read this book and begin to make the connection for keeping that business focus on any of their projects or initiatives.
What are common mistakes that this book addresses?
The first one is keeping the project aligned to the business objectives that where the reason the project was sanctioned in the first place. Some projects, particularly the business transformation projects, can often take two or three years to complete. The business landscape can change pretty dramatically over a two- or three-year period and one of the problems is that the project team over that period of time really didn’t adapt to the new business landscape. If they had kept abreast of changes and built those into their project, they would have been much better aligned with the business and the business goals when they finally delivered on the project.
Another one is the scope of the project. What I’m going to deliver and how it’s going to be judged is really not well-defined. When you don’t have a project with a well-defined scope, you’re really not certain what exactly you’re going to deliver and what kind of requirements it’s trying to achieve and you begin to wander around and you waste a lot of time and money bumping into walls.
The last one is just keeping your stakeholders aligned and informed with what you’re doing. Particularly in these larger projects, you have a lot of people that get impacted by the projects and making sure they’re all informed and understand and ready for it is really critical.
What is the role of senior management during a project?
The problem with senior managers in these things is typically when they’ve decided to do a project they’ve been thinking about it for a while, considering it against other options and alternatives, and once they make a decision, they’re ready to dust off their hands and move on. The fact is as a project manager, occasionally I’m going to need their help for certain kinds of business issues. Senior managers need to understand they still have a role in this when the project starts. They’re not going to be in the day-to-day operation of it, but I’ve got to be able to have them ready when I need them.
HOW TO REACH: MCA International LLC, (281) 768-8014 or www.mcaintl.com
Gregory Kenny considers himself and General Cable Corp. fortunate to have made it through the past three years of the recession. When the fourth quarter of 2008 came about, the president and CEO had the challenge of leading a business operating in an industry that had a 30 percent decline in global demand.
General Cable Corp. is a Fortune 500 manufacturer and distributor of copper, aluminum and fiber optic wire and cable products. The company employs 12,000 people and Kenny had to make sure every one of them was focused on the task at hand to remain culturally aligned and focused on opportunities in global markets.
“We saw global demand fall in this industry, excluding China, by 30 percent, which is a big number,” Kenny says. “Some regions fell more than that. Managing with a 30 percent reduction in demand across the board as well as compression pricing, caused us to take extensive steps and redouble our efforts around lean manufacturing.”
Those steps and efforts weren’t easy tasks, but Kenny has made sure he constantly looks for ways to keep the $4.86 billion organization moving forward.
“Clearly the recovery is long when you have a financially induced recession,” he says.
Stay motivated and focused
When you experience a drop in demand like General Cable did, you have to make sure your company culture can handle that type of shake up. You have to be prepared for ups and downs in demand.
“Keeping people motivated and focused was not hard,” Kenny says. “We have a very good team here that’s been through cycles and we’re looking forward strongly.”
The change in demand the company saw wasn’t the only challenge Kenny had to deal with.
“I think the tremendous changes in our long-term material costs up and down has also been difficult,” he says. “We buy a lot of aluminum, copper, petrochemicals and steel and they both fell dramatically and then accelerated dramatically and then fell again. Managing tremendous changes in input costs in a weak overall market is challenging.”
Since General Cable is used to operating in an industry that goes through cycles, it didn’t have to make drastic changes to handle the new pressures.
“We already had a culture that had been in place since about 2000 around lean manufacturing,” Kenny says. “What we did is continue to look very hard on the cost side, but that’s really a continuous part of our culture. We did have salary freezes and hiring freezes. We didn’t have any major layoffs, but as different countries struggled with demand, we had to adjust our crew counts, so we were a smaller company than we were in 2007. While a global financially-driven recession wasn’t well seen, we were in a sense prepared for it because our mission has been clear, our costs were already in excellent shape and we didn’t have one of those moments where we had to reinvent the company.”
What Kenny did have to do was continue to drive the culture forward and look for new ways to help in that effort.
“We are always looking to do more with less culturally and we have expanded the company globally to many product areas and countries and not every country suffered in exactly the same way,” he says. “Being good at our business and the diversity helped us get through this in quite a different way than 2001 to 2003, which was much less severe, but was actually a more difficult time for the company.”
Getting through unforeseen challenges such as these, comes down to the people you have in your organization.
“You have to have the best team you can have on the field and pay great attention to recruiting the great athletes,” he says. “You have to also keep your culture together in terms of everybody fighting as a team and that’s critical. Those cultures aren’t easy to invent overnight. You have to be mindful of who you are and also take a longer view in the business.”
When the economy takes a hit like it has, you have to remain calm, but act appropriately.
“Things don’t go down forever and they don’t go up forever,” Kenny says. “We try to prepare for what if demand picks up 30 percent or what if the world goes into a double-dip recession. We’re constantly looking forward and stressing our own balance sheet and organizational capabilities to be sure we’re ready for it. Clearly, the world isn’t smooth and linear and keeping that access to capital markets and being able to borrow money remains critical. Don’t lose your nerve about the business because sometimes the best opportunities are when lots of people are fearful.”
While General Cable’s culture was already equipped to handle the decline in demand, Kenny did create councils to help align the company and keep it operating as one.
“What we’ve done is said, ‘What if we could take a breakthrough from one place and carry it to the next in five minutes or one minute? If we could know everything we know in our facilities all around instantaneously, wouldn’t that be a powerful weapon?’” he says. “What we did, without creating corporate bureaucracy, was created councils around safety, which is our paramount concern.”
These global councils helped keep alignment and also opened eyes to potential new opportunities and ways to improve the business.
“If we can act as one and really compete as one company, not as 20 or 30 separate companies that are simply affiliated with General Cable, we’d have a powerful idea,” Kenny says. “That has helped get us through because we share heavily a lot of the new products we launch in one place in the world or another that are maybe developed and thought about somewhere else and then leveraged into that market. I think it’s a big idea and we get better at it every day, and it’s a powerful part of our success.”
The councils were so successful that the company didn’t just form them around safety, but created some for certain product families as well.
“You have to be good at both cross-utilizing assets, meaning seeing a market opportunity and looking inside to see what you have to meet that, or helping to create it,” he says. “That work around focusing on key customers and unmet needs and running that through our technology group to see if we can actually do it has been really important. You have to think about which disciplines are decisive in your company. You have to think about what things are core to your DNA.”
Expand your business
While General Cable’s culture played a big role in the company’s ability to overcome recessionary challenges, it was Kenny’s global outlook that really set the stage for growth and new opportunities.
We know that in the developed world, there’s both a recovery that has been underway and we believe it will continue as well as a need to rebuild the infrastructure that was built many years ago,” Kenny says. “In the developing world, the population growth is quite a bit higher and the infrastructure clearly lags. One of our ideas was if we can take the free cash and know-how and the business model of lean culture into the developing world, that’s a powerful set of opportunities.”
While the business had certain global markets underway prior to 2007, the real jump came from buying Phelps Dodge International Corp., a $1.4 billion cable maker principally in South America, Central America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia.
“They had 50 some odd years of experience really thinking across trading regions, geographic cultural regions, freight regions, and they really took a model of high knowledge of distant cultures and got very good at it,” he says. “They brought local know-how and a tremendous record in lean and safety and what we brought was access to the products that those societies would need in the future as they develop.”
Kenny took Phelps Dodge’s know-how and General Cable’s expertise and entered Mexico, Peru, South Africa and India.
“We have largely increased our position in these markets,” he says. “We looked at other global opportunities so we acquired a business that made cables for wind farms and we also acquired in North Africa in Egypt and Algeria. I think when you identify opportunities you have to think about what you do well and where you want to be.”
Before entering new markets you have to consider certain aspects of doing business there to determine whether it is a good move.
“We look at what are the demographics, what is the civility of the country, if it’s not stable can we tolerate the instability, and then getting local ownership and buy-in as well as expertise here to get it done,” he says. “We have to look at every market and see, can we be successful there? Do people make products of good quality and does the country have laws and how are they enforced?”
Aside from understanding whether a market is a good fit, you have to begin to think in terms of your global markets if you truly want to build a global company.
“You can build to an extent yourself, but until you become multicultural as a company and really think as much in French and Spanish as you do in Mandarin, it’s hard to spot the opportunities because you don’t know what you don’t know,” he says. “I think Phelps Dodge helped tip us over to some critical mass of know-how and then we continue to build behind it.”
What Phelps Dodge brought to General Cable was a better understanding of the new markets the company wanted to get involved in. You have to be able to grasp critical elements of entering new geographies to be successful.
“You have to look at demographics,” Kenny says. “Look at whether it is a young population and growing. Is it a level playing field? Do they want quality products or is it a market that doesn’t appreciate making products to standards and making it correctly? Look at transparency and whether people pay taxes. Can you sell in a transparent way and be successful?”
Understanding those aspects of new geography you are preparing to enter is critically helpful. Once you have made a decision on where to go, start slow and get familiar with the area.
“If you have a product that can be exported, start with a small office and hire locals,” Kenny says. “What we generally do is look for people who share our values, but are from that country or that region and get to know them and how they think. Let them educate you on local mores. Learn the turf. Look at the experiences of other companies in the country. I think you can engage the chamber of commerce which will have international companies in it and they are generally very hospitable in terms of telling you what the pros and cons of the market are there. Usually there’s a foreign commercial office in the embassy, which is also a useful call.
“You have to build a case around that country and then look at the competitors and see how you want to start and where you’re going long term. It’s hard to do from Cincinnati. You need feet on the street. Linguistically, it’s a must to have someone who speaks the language fluently, both English and the local language.”
The company’s geographic diversity and product diversity have been two big factors to its success and growth recently.
Net sales increased from $4.38 billion in 2009 to $4.86 billion in 2010, with gross profit increasing from 519.5 million to 554 million in the same time period.
“Even in a down market, if you keep getting better and smarter and things turnaround, you can have a really strong rebound,” Kenny says. “Leveraging 12,000 people and the 48 or 49 factories we have has been really, really helpful in getting us through this, as well as spotting new markets and opportunities and not being afraid to enter them.”
HOW TO REACH: General Cable Corp., (859) 572-8000 or www.generalcable.com
- Align your culture for the greater good of the company
- Create company councils to improve best practices
- Search for new opportunities during a downturn to grow business
The Kenny File
President and CEO
General Cable Corp.
Born: Long Island, N.Y.
Education: Attended Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and received his MBA from George Washington University and a Masters in public administration from Harvard.
What was the very first job you ever had, and what did that experience teach you?
I had my own lawn business because I like working outdoors. My first full-time job was in the grocery industry, which is a tough business and they work you hard. So I grew up working, and feeling not entitled comes from a long history of working and making things happen.
Whom do you admire in business?
I admire the folks who get stuff done on the floor every day. When you find them turned on and excited it drives General Cable forward and that’s the most exciting part for me.
What is one of your favorite countries you do business in outside of the U.S.?
I can’t answer that because we’re in many countries, but I would say that I do enjoy getting far off the track. I avoid classically touristic places. I like smaller villages and getting in with the people and understanding more about that society.
What is a place you aren’t doing business that you’d like to break in to?
I see opportunity in Southeast Asia and also I think we could do a bigger job in South America than we’re currently doing. We are also looking at sub-Saharan Africa.
Nick Vehr, founder and president of Vehr Communications LLC, a public relations firm, doesn’t mind uncertainty.
Everyone has been enduring it for the past few years, and for Vehr and its 18 employees, that uncertainty has brought out the best in the business.
“Our company is young and I started it at the front end of the worst recession in many lifetimes,” Vehr says. “It’s an extremely scary time to be out there with a business and even more to be investing in that business and growing that business.”
While it’s a scary business environment, it will be those who work hardest and deliver the best results that will survive.
Smart Business spoke to Vehr about how he is growing his company despite tough times.
How do you deal with uncertainty?
You put your head down and work harder because you can’t control it. You can’t spend all of your time worrying about it; you have to spend time with every client you have and fight aggressively for every client you can get. That’s the only way I know how to deal with the uncertainty that’s out there. Fortunately for us, we’ve been able to grow with cash flow and we didn’t have a huge overhead to feed when the economy went bad and companies started pulling back.
What have been some of the key factors of the company’s success?
Somehow you have to strike a balance between keeping your eye on the big picture and sweating every little detail of the way you run your business, and I think that’s especially true with small businesses. You just have to be very careful in your hiring. You have to be selective in your clients and you have to work harder than the next guy. That’s the key, because there is a direct-line correlation between working hard and winning. You’ve got to be smart. You’ve got to be transparent, honest and open with clients when you give them advice, even if it’s advice they don’t want to hear. All of those things in our business are a given. The variable that spells the difference between winning and losing is, ‘How much are you willing to put into it?’
How do you plan your hiring?
This is a great time to be hiring. There is a whole lot of talent that’s out there and the trick is not trying to pick up good talent dirt cheap because in the long run you’ll lose that talent, because they’ll know you weren’t truly committed to them. We try to be very deliberate, intentionally slow and careful, and on my side when I make the decision to make the hire, I try to calibrate the best I can on a couple of different points. A disaster for us is somebody who we invest all that time and energy in, we pay them a salary for a year, they start developing a relationship with clients, and then they leave. That’s a significant lose of investment on the business side of things.
The scary thing and the challenging thing is you have to hire out in front of the work. People with whom we work, they want to know who they are going to talk to and work with on a daily basis. I can’t as CEO make the sale and then hand it off to a person who’s completely unknown to who I made the sale to. Our people are our product. It’s their brains and their skills and their experience that people are buying. For anybody who’s hiring, the hardest thing to calibrate is, ‘How do I hire out in front?’ You’ve just got to get great people, work hard and the business will come and they will end up adding value to the bottom line of your company.
How have you attracted clients in such a tough economic time?
I hope we don’t do anything differently in good economic times than we do in challenging economic times. For a successful relationship with a client, we have to commit ourselves to that relationship. That means open communication. That means thinking out ahead of the client and what their needs are and being proactive in suggesting strategic approaches and ideas. The best way to make sure a relationship works is to commit yourself to being an active partner in the relationship. It’s a lot of touch and communication. We want to become a strategic partner with our clients. We want to be at the table for the great opportunities and the tough challenges and be able to advise our clients appropriately.
HOW TO REACH: Vehr Communications LLC, (513) 381-8347 or www.vehrcommunications.com
Gary Conley is never satisfied with a process being good; it can be better and he will find ways to make it so. Conley is president and CEO of TechSolve Inc., a 55-employee consulting company that specializes in industries such as health care, manufacturing, and aerospace.
Conley and his team at TechSolve help businesses find ways to improve operations and become more efficient in any way possible. While he focuses on helping other companies, Conley has to also make sure he is keeping an eye on his own company’s processes.
“We have the same issues as our customers, although our people are trained to look for continuous improvement opportunities,” Conley says. “We need to be careful that we don’t fall into the rut of taking some of our processes for granted and not continuing to find ways to improve them.”
TechSolve utilizes concepts from Toyota’s production system of total quality management.
Smart Business spoke to Conley about how companies can focus on taking waste out of practices.
What are some common mistakes in business processes?
A common mistake is that the top management is not sufficiently engaged in the process and committed to seeing the process through. While you can often go into an organization and identify some immediate cost savings and other measures that might improve productivity or improve profitability, management needs to harvest those types of opportunities, but they also have to keep their eye on the long-term opportunity, which is to develop an environment within your company where everyone in the company is continuously looking for ways to improve.
Another mistake that’s often made is trying to do too much too quickly. This usually results in a lot of multitasking, which tends to delay improvements from actually being realized. It’s much better to focus on a smaller set of improvement initiatives and see them through than to try to take on a very large number.
How can management focus on improving processes and avoid common mistakes?
They need to learn as much as they can about the improvement methodologies that can be applied. Then they need to actually be personally engaged in the process and involved in working with their workers in the actual implementation of these methodologies. These are things that ultimately you can’t learn in the classroom. You can’t learn them by reading books. You can’t learn them just by watching. You have to actually become engaged and do them because it’s very much a high touch, contact sport. They need to establish clear goals and clear measures so that they can monitor the progress that’s being made and also so the workers and other managers who are engaged in the process can continuously evaluate where they are against the goals that have been set forth.
How do you develop a continuously improving environment?
What needs to occur is for all the managers to be aligned around the improvement initiatives and fully understand the purpose and the goals and the methods and the cultural transformation that is being pursued. Then, they, in turn, need to be trained in the methods and be personally hands-on involved in the actual implementation of the improvement.
How do you identify what processes need to be updated or changed?
In the beginning, it’s simply a matter of prioritization. What you’re looking for are improvements that will be meaningful to the organization that can be performed within a relatively short period of time so that they become a model for other divisions or work units within the organization to attempt to duplicate. You want some early successes and visible successes, meaningful successes that other people within the organization can observe and realize that benefits are being realized from the activity. That reinforces the belief within people that they can in fact make these changes and that these changes will make the organization more successful and their workplace a more secure place and a more productive place.
Another approach is if you have dissatisfaction from your customers, either as to quality or meeting delivery promise, then that might give you an indication of what would be the more meaningful project you might take on. Even if you didn’t have dissatisfaction, your sales people and people that are closest to the customers might be able to give you information about the aspects of your products or your service that would have the most meaningful impact.
What are the keys to recognizing what changes give you the best results?
You start with the basics. You want to look at the quality of your product. How much product is being returned? You could also look for areas where you have excessive scrap rates, for example. You look for bottleneck operations which might reveal themselves by very high work-in-process inventory levels. You look at how effective you are at achieving your delivery promise.
Although many of the techniques and methodologies originated within the manufacturing sector, they have universal applicability to any type of enterprise.
HOW TO REACH: TechSolve Inc., (800) 345-4482 or www.techsolve.org
Jochen Meyer has built a company from the ground up before. He was essential in helping Flabeg U.S. Solar Corp. grow from two employees to nearly 200 in less than two years. His latest venture is PMJ Service Parts Management LLC, a management consulting company that specializes in optimizing spare parts logistics.
Meyer, CEO is leading the company forward by laying out a focused and driven plan of attack for how the business operates. By staying focused and sticking to the expertise of the company, Meyer expects the company to grow globally.
“Spare parts are really an important part of business and it’s often neglected because most of the management attention is given to developing, producing and selling the original product that a company makes,” Meyer says. “The after-sales service is kind of an afterthought, although, that’s very important to customer loyalty and to the bottom line of the company.”
The company is building trust in the service parts arena by delivering what it says it will.
Smart Business spoke to Meyer about what it takes to grow a young company.
What is the biggest challenge of building a business?
The challenge is in creating your own pace and keeping everything driving. It’s actually very similar to how we started Flabeg with only two people. Now it’s kind of going back to that start-up mode that we have successfully mastered and going back to a leadership situation where you have to be very careful not to do everything, but you have to rely on yourself a lot more.
We have set our goals or sights to small to medium size companies. Those are customers that really benefit the most from what we can do. You have to believe and you have to have trust in your unique selling proposition. You have to test that a little bit before you go out there. Once you see that a lot of the people that you talk to say this is a good idea, this is something that is missing. If it’s important then you have to go with it.
Why is it helpful to have a focused business plan?
It’s important that you stay focused and do not stray and think about doing a little bit of business here and a little bit of business there, but that you stay with your goal and that you stay with what you want to do. Otherwise, you take away from getting over that initial hurdle by kind of running around it. You have to get over that hurdle to be known and to have a name out there. That is something that you cannot cut short. Focus is really what gets you there.
How do you gain customer attention?
You have to understand your customers and try to create that trust in your customers and that interest in the services you provide. We have to build a very reliable partner network. Our approach is not to do everything ourselves. Our approach is to identify what needs to get done and then have the right partners in place that we engage with to execute that part of the supply chain. Those partnerships are very vital and they have to be built on experience.
That’s an important factor where you can show to the customer that you understand what the need is and you have the exact right person to execute that and you have the management experience to manage that whole process for them and be accountable for reaching the goals that you agree upon.
It’s important to have a way how you can create that reference between what you have done in the past with these people and what you’re going to do in the future. That’s the credibility that you have to build. You have to know what you’re talking about. The people that you’re talking to are experts, so you shouldn’t promise more than you can deliver and you’ve got to listen to what their real needs are.
How do you differentiate from the competition?
I would segregate the competition in two separate areas. The one is in the peer consulting world. There are people that are focused on supply chain and logistics and there are people that as part of that also work on service parts. For them it’s a small part of their portfolio. While for us it’s the focus of what we do. That’s the difference there.
You’ve got to define your market space in a way that it’s not the same where there’s already five, six, seven, eight other people. If I would walk up to Ford Motor Company tomorrow and try to pitch against UPS, it’s probably not going to work so well. You have to understand which players are approaching what customers and where that spot is where I can fit in. Once you establish that nucleus obviously you have to grow in a number of different directions.
HOW TO REACH: PMJ Service Parts Management LLC, (412) 213-5300 or www.pmj-spm.com
Long gone are the days when consumers had to wait around for a newspaper or magazine to arrive in order to get caught up on news and information. The media world has been transformed, and Scott McCafferty and Mike Emich are on the forefront of that rapidly changing industry.
McCafferty and Emich are co-founders of WTWH Media LLC, a business-to-business media company involved in magazines, websites and apps for numerous industries. The business has been growing as fast as the industry has been changing, and it is the ability to keep up with trends and evolving technologies that have led to success.
“Our premise is media used to be a one-way street,” McCafferty, managing director, says. “Media was pumped out at consumers, and consumers would read the paper or read a magazine or go to a tradeshow. Well, now it’s reverted to the users being in control of how they get their information. It’s up to a media company to surround that user with sites and resources that enable them to get their information on their terms.”
To make that possible, McCafferty has had to understand the latest technology being used in the industry and how that can help the business and its customers.
“The things that get us really excited is that media continues to change,” McCafferty says. “The tools and the technology out there continue to evolve. That’s exciting because you may think you have it figured out today, but it’s going to change tomorrow. We’re very engaged in using technology from the standpoint of using Twitter, using LinkedIn, using Facebook, we’ve got programmers that are versed in Explorer, PHP, Wordpress, Drupal and whatever the latest CMS platform is. Everyone actively uses the technology and by using it, that allows us to look for opportunities with it.”
By using technology the company has been able to deliver ROI back to the marketers. But it isn’t enough to just know technology. The company ensures it stays close to customers, as well.
“We’re out in front of our customers that are actually advertising, asking them what’s working for them and what’s not working for them,” McCafferty says. “Our ability to do that close to our customers allows us to say, ‘OK, what do we need to build to support what they’re doing?’ That level of engagement has enabled us to do things really quickly.”
HOW TO REACH: WTWH Media LLC, (440) 234-4531 or www.wtwhmedia.com