Bob MacIntosh Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2007

It doesn’t matter if you have good news or bad news, just tell Bob MacIntosh what’s going on. MacIntosh, president and CEO ofmarketplace PIER 39, knows that the key to keeping his people heading in the right direction is to avoid surprises. Instead ofplaying off the major brands that most malls in America have, PIER 39 has created a niche market with unique shoppingattractions and a scenic location on the San Francisco Bay, with its own famous sea lions. To keep that niche, MacIntosh has toconstantly keep his finger on the pulse of both the industry and his customer base. Relying on his employees for feedback,MacIntosh has led PIER 39 to more than $189 million in annual revenue.

Smart Business spoke with MacIntosh about theimportance of staying informed and of understanding a market.

Talk to your staff to stay informed. My direct reports know that theonly surprise in this world is a birthday party, so keep meinformed. Whether it’s good or bad, I just want to know what’sgoing on. To make sure that’s happening, I have lunch meetingswith all of my direct reports, and we discuss specifically what’shappening in their world and if things are going well.

What I do on a weekly basis is I have two meetings with people; the first is Monday morning, and we discuss the weekendresults from what we own and operate, and that gives us all asense of what direction we are going. That’s very important.Even if one of those guys is in construction, I think it’s veryimportant that he knows how our sales are going, so it keepsthe building team’s spirits up.

On Wednesday, I have my direct reports and expand it toinclude other key people in our organization, and at that meeting, we discuss the busiest areas of current activity — what’sgoing on in your world, so to speak. By having those kinds ofmeetings — and they don’t have to be super long — it’s just agood way to get things out and keep everybody informedbecause that’s so valuable.

I talk with different people every day — not just my directreports but other people, too. I feel free to talk to anybody. Idon’t necessarily have to go through the leasing person to talkto the people that work in that office.

Again, the thing is communication and to make sure everyone knows what they’re doing and they are staying on target.The worst thing that can happen is people go off in the wrongdirection, and you aren’t aware of it.

Get feedback from the outside. I also am out in the public a lot and justmeeting people, and I hear comments about PIER 39. So I can seeif we are accomplishing what the vision is. I think that’s veryimportant to do. You can think you are doing a great job, but whenyou go out and talk to other people, they’ll say something like, ‘Ilike going to PIER 39 because ... ‘ and you can get a feel for whereyou stand.

Remember that your employees are the experts. I also listen to my people. I know that I don’t have all the answers, and they are specialists in their own area. So I listen to them, and if their strategiessound right to me, then I say, ‘Let’s go.’

I ask questions of my nine direct reports, but they know my styleand that’s to let them do their thing but to keep me informed.

It goes back to letting them do what they do in their specialtyarea. A lot of people try to dot somebody’s I’s and cross their T’s, Idon’t do that. We work together, and it works out. When they seethat I come to them for the answers in their area, that builds upchemistry and allows them to do their job without fear.

Fix the message, not the messenger. I don’t shoot the messenger. Youhave to take any news, good or bad, and listen to it. When I heargood news, I don’t jump up and down and wave the flag — samewith the bad news. If something could go bad, it’s better to hearabout it early and maybe cut it off, and that means you have toknow what’s going on. So if we have potential of stopping it, let’sstop it. Come talk to me, and I’ll listen to the problem, and we’ll gofrom there.

Maintain the company’s chemistry when hiring people. Basically, my philosophy on hiring is to bring in the best people I can while keepingchemistry. I interview them, but I have other people interviewthem as well because chemistry is very, very important.

We’ve had situations in the past where the person did not getalong with the other direct reports that I have, and they have to allget along or it doesn’t work right. It doesn’t matter if you are hiringa leasing person or a construction person, they have to get alongwith other people because they’ll all have to work together.

Understand your niche. First, you have to understand your product.At PIER 39, we’re dealing with the public. If you are in manufacturing, it’s a different audience, but we’re dealing with customers,so we need to know our product. I have to understand my directreports and their responsibility, and I have to understand the customer.

We take surveys twice a year basically asking the same questionsso we can compare ourselves this year to the year before and theyear before that. One of the questions asks if they are satisfied withPIER 39. We can use that to reinforce that what we’re doing for ourcustomers is right. We don’t go out and celebrate that, but it’s aconfirmation of our success. We have to focus on our customer.From marketing to leasing, we want to get tenants in here that ourcustomers really like, and we have to understand them to do that.

HOW TO REACH: PIER 39, (415) 705-5500 or www.pier39.com