For 27 years, Ernst & Young has championed the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women pursuing excellence in their businesses, teams and communities.
Ernst & Young founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year Program to recognize the passion of entrepreneurs and to build an influential and innovative community of peers. We received more than 1,680 national entries for this year’s program, from the country's most deserving entrepreneurs. Their triumphs stand as a testament to the role they play as visionaries and leaders.
Entrepreneurs change the world and make it a better place to work and live. We honor them for their fortitude and resilience, and we celebrate their ability to forge new markets, navigate uncharted territory and fuel economic growth.
We gather here in Northeast Ohio and in 24 other cities across the U.S. to honor all of the finalists and welcome the new class of entrepreneurs into our Hall of Fame.
Congratulations to all of the 2013 Northeast Ohio Entrepreneur Of The Year finalists and winners. We applaud them all for their unyielding pursuit of business excellence and we are honored to share their inspiring stories with you.
Whitt Butler, advisory partner, Ernst & Young; program director, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Northeast Ohio.
Here are the 2013 Northeast Ohio Entrepreneur of the Year winners and finalists:
Distribution and Manufacturing
Education and Non-profit
Health Care and Pharmaceutical Services
Finalist – Scot Lowry, president and CEO, Fathom
Retail and Consumer Products
Winner – Kris Snyder, CEO, Vox Mobile, Inc.
Family Business Award
STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2013
Recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious business award programs, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards celebrate gravity-defying innovators who build and run great companies. This June, we gather here and in 25 cities across the U.S. to honor all of our regional finalists and welcome the class of 2013 into our Hall of Fame.
Entrepreneurs change the world and make it a better place to work and live. We honor them for their fortitude and resilience, and we celebrate their ability to forge new markets, navigate uncharted territory and fuel economic growth.
Congratulations to this year’s finalists and winners for their unyielding pursuit of business excellence. We are honored to share their inspiring stories with you.
Randy Buseman, partner, Kansas City Ernst & Young Office
Mike Hickenbotham, partner, St. Louis Ernst & Young Office
Here are the 2013 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalists and winners:
Agriculture and Plant Sciences
Engineering & Consulting
Technology & Business Services
Winner – Daniel Reed, CEO, UnitedLex
Transportation & Logistics
NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2013
Since 1986, Ernst & Young has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women who have followed and achieved their dreams, changing the lives of countless others by building their businesses and giving back to their communities.
Their passion, vision and persistence stand as a testament to their dedication. It was 27 years ago that Ernst & Young founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year program to recognize these dynamic leaders and to build an influential community of innovative entrepreneurs.
We have gathered here and in 25 other cities in the U.S. to welcome the men and women who are regional finalists into our community and to toast their vision. Their energy and self-confidence have turned their dreams into reality. We applaud them all for taking the road less traveled to launch new companies, open new markets and fuel job growth.
So let’s lift our glasses to celebrate their passion, innovation and unwavering commitment to win in the marketplace.
Ernie Cortes, program director, Ernst & Young Northern California
Here are the Northern California Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award recipients and finalists:
Award recipient – Tod Sacerdoti, founder and CEO, BrightRoll
Finalist – Aaron Bell, founder and CEO, AdRoll
Finalist – Bill Demas, president and CEO, Turn Inc.
Award recipient – Renaud Laplanche, founder and CEO, Lending Club
Award recipient – Gurbaksh Chahal, founder and CEO, RadiumOne
Finalist – Fabio Rosati, president and CEO, Elance
Retail and Consumer Products
Award recipient – Neil Grimmer, co-founder and CEO, Plum Organics
Award recipient – Lyndon Rive, co-founder and CEO, SolarCity
Finalist – Burton Goldfield, president and CEO, TriNet
Finalist – Lewis Cirne, founder and CEO, New Relic
Finalist – Erik Swan, co-founder and CTO, Splunk
Award recipient – Ashar Aziz, founder, FireEye, Inc.
Finalist – Steve Smith, president and CEO, Equinix
Jim Kudis and a partner started Allegheny Petroleum Products Co. for the same reason many people start a business — they loved what they did and saw a niche that their company could exploit.
While the company, a manufacturer of industrial lubricants and additives, was seeing annual growth of 20 percent in its early years, Kudis and his partner struggled with money and didn’t take a salary for the first year or two.
“Most small businesses are generally undercapitalized, which we were,” says Kudis, president. “We lived off whatever money we had, which definitely helped because it cut back on the expenses and some of the money going out the door.”
Starting a business is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You have to live it and love it. You have to roll up your sleeves and do anything you have to do to run that business.
“If you don’t want it that bad, don’t do it,” Kudis says.
The company’s focus in the beginning was providing industrial lubricants to the various manufacturers in the Pittsburgh area. Back then the major oil companies were retreating from the marketplace, becoming very big and going through distributors. Most of the distributors didn’t have the technical know-how of what the lubricants do and how they work.
So Kudis saw a void in what the major companies used to be strong at and what the distributors couldn’t do and that ended up being the niche that Allegheny Petroleum jumped into.
“That was the big advantage to going into the manufacturing part of the business,” Kudis says.
Last August, Kudis and Allegheny Petroleum Products Co. celebrated 25 years in business. In December 2012, Kudis bought out his partner to become the sole owner of the 85-employee company, which saw 2012 revenue north of $110 million.
Here’s how Kudis has grown Allegheny Petroleum Products Co. from a start-up into a successful organization.
Bring in the right talent
While Kudis and Allegheny Petroleum struggled with capital early on, the turning point for the company came around its fifth or sixth year in business.
“We were supplying one of the plants in Cleveland and we made a proposal to do what was a new concept at the time, fluid management,” Kudis says. “We had to put in 125 bulk tanks, which are carbon steel, 500-gallon tanks that ran about $1,500 each.
“So we had to make a more than $200,000 investment to put these tanks in and put in consigned inventory, which ran us another couple of hundred thousand dollars. So we were about $400,000 into this.”
A year later the global buyer for that company called Kudis and told him what a great job Allegheny Petroleum was doing managing their Cleveland plant. He offered Kudis the contract to manage the company’s remaining 70 plants.
“So off it went and today they are my largest customer,” he says.
From that point on, the business has had to function much differently and required new skill sets to keep the company growing.
“My biggest focus today is making sure my managers have all the tools and things they need to do their job, whereas 20 years ago I was doing it myself,” he says. “Now it’s managing people, keeping them excited, making sure they have ownership in the things that they’re doing, and have the tools to do the job that they need.”
Allegheny Petroleum has five fairly distinct areas and Kudis is in touch with each one of the people that manage those areas.
“I’m not trying to do their job, but I’m trying to help them so they can do their job and that’s the key thing,” he says. “It’s all about people.”
To find the right leaders for his business, Kudis chased those executives down and drafted them all.
“I handpicked them and coerced them into coming to work for the company,” he says. “I chose them because I saw the qualities they had. I saw a real desire in each one of them to do well, and that’s where my attention started.
“What I saw in my interaction with them was that they could handle themselves well and present themselves well in front of people. They were knowledgeable and wanted to be more knowledgeable.”
The first thing Kudis looked for in the people he brought in was whether they were good quality people and good solid citizens.
“That’s probably the common thread through most of the people who work here,” Kudis says. “Talent would be second after that — they can manage people and enjoy the ownership of their part of the business. They embrace it and treat what they’re doing like their own.
“It’s just looking in someone’s eye and seeing that they have a desire to do well, not only for themselves, but for the company too. A lot of people want to punch in, get a paycheck, punch out and go home, and that’s not the kind of people I want managing.”
Kudis gives his team the autonomy to do things on their own, which means they have the power to make decisions.
“I give them a free hand to do what makes sense,” he says. “My motto is to make the decision on your own and if you don’t think it’s your decision, then come to me. As long as you have an explanation about why you made that decision, you’re never wrong. You’ve got to be in the game and engage and make decisions.”
Decide how to grow your business
Making decisions is a very important aspect of running a business, especially when it regards growing your company to the next level. Kudis has had to make countless decisions over 25 years and each one helps the company continue its growth. Now those decisions rest on the shoulders of his managers.
“That’s what I expect from the people in a management role,” Kudis says. “In the dealings they have, there comes a point where maybe it’s beyond where they should make a decision on something. In involving putting part of the company at risk or something of that nature, every one of them knows where that line is, where that decision should not be theirs.
“All the other decisions whether they are small, large or whatever, I expect them to make it. It’s really easy to say three or four days later that you made a wrong decision, but to be in the game and make the decision right there, to me that’s important as long as they have an answer why they made a certain decision.”
Every month or every other month Allegheny Petroleum has what it calls a What’s Up Meeting to check in on the different areas of the business.
“I grab each of the managers and we sit down for about two hours and we go around the table while everyone exchanges what they’re doing,” he says. “You get so focused on the part of the business that you’re in and sometimes you have two different groups sort of working on the same things, or maybe they’re doing something that somebody in another group has worked on and knows the answers to help them out. So those meetings have been very beneficial.”
One of the biggest decisions Kudis has made for Allegheny Petroleum was to give the company a global presence. However, global business carries many challenges along with it.
“Learning how to deal financially in different countries has been a challenge,” Kudis says. “One thing you have to learn is what the tax implications are. Each country is different. You should do business with an accounting firm or law firm that can find out answers for you. That really makes it easy.”
Allegheny Petroleum didn’t utilize those resources in the beginning on the first two countries where the company launched its efforts and there were snags.
“Had I used our law firm or our accounting firm, it would have been a lot easier,” Kudis says. “Make sure you understand what it takes to do business in a foreign country before you start doing business there.”
Another big decision that has streamlined business for the company was using a global pricing index with its major direct customers.
“We now move our pricing quarterly as these prices move,” he says. “In the past every time there was an increase you had to go in and present everything to your customer and sit and argue about the pricing. Now that it’s indexed at the end of the quarter, it’s just a matter of how the pricing has moved and that has really streamlined the pricing.
“Our customers feel very good because they know it’s indexed to something that they can see. I feel good because as my raw material costs rise or drop it keeps my profits pretty steady. It really makes it easy to not worry about the pricing side of your business as much.”
Now that Allegheny Petroleum has streamlined business, entered into global markets and become a substantial player in its industry, Kudis is excited to find where the next level is.
“My vision is how do I double and triple the business,” he says. “Everything had been done organic and we might look at doing some acquisitions. The next level will also mean being more global.
“You have to think down the road and get out of the box to think about things that maybe you haven’t thought about in the past, because once you stop growing you’re done.”
How to reach: Allegheny Petroleum Products Co., (412) 829-1990 or www.oils.com
Find the right talent for your leadership team.
Give the leadership team the autonomy to make decisions.
Constantly look at how to keep growing your business.
The Kudis File
Allegheny Petroleum Products Co.
Born: Homestead, Pa.
Education: Graduated from Penn State and received a bachelor’s degree in business logistics.
What was the very first job that you had and what did you learn from it?
I worked in a steel mill. I was a laborer so I drove a high lift and moved different things around. My dad worked there and he said, ‘This man is going to pay you, so you better work so that you make sure you earn every dollar you get.’ I still live by that today.
Who is someone that you looked up to?
My grade-school basketball coach. If we played bad we would come back and practice until 11 o’clock at night to make sure we did things right. We won the state championship that year. Hard work eventually pays off.
What Allegheny Petroleum product are you most proud of?
We make what’s called a backup bearing oil for the steel mills, which is called a Morgoil. When steel mills roll steel it goes between these rolls and on the end of these rolls there are bearings. They are huge bearings that get very hot. The oil goes through to lubricate the bearings and they also cool the bearings on the outside with water to keep them from getting too hot.
So the oil has to be able to accept water and kick out the water as it goes back to the tank and it gets circulated back through the bearings. You don’t want water lubricating your bearings, so our oil kicks out the water pretty good. That’s one of our hallmark products.
If you could speak with one person, whether from the past or present, with whom would you want to speak to?
Joe Paterno. I admired the way he ran the football program at Penn State. I’m not in total agreement with what happened at the end of his career. All through the history of what he did, he represented a class act. He was very well-respected. I enjoyed watching him and what he represented for the school.
For Philip Rielly and Eric Hill, the past five years have been a very different experience compared to most others in the business world during that time. While many companies were hunkering down, cutting back and fighting to stay in business, Rielly and Hill were nurturing the healthy growth of a young company.
In fact, in just the past three years they have seen their company’s employment and revenue double. Rielly and Hill are co-founders of BioRx LLC, a more than 200-employee national provider and distributor of specialty pharmaceuticals they started in 2004.
Hill, who is vice president, is located in North Carolina, while Rielly, who is president, is in Cincinnati where BioRx is headquartered. The company, now nine years old, has been exceeding expectations, and there are no signs of it slowing down anytime soon.
“Since 2010 we have continued our strong growth trajectory as we hoped that we would,” Rielly says. “We finished this past year north of $100 million in sales. We’ve been fortunate to launch a number of new semi-exclusive products with some of the different manufacturers.”
Since 2010, BioRx has become a prominent player in the Hereditary Angioedema space and a major player in the Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiencies space.
“Some of the other changes since 2010 are we announced that we were going to be a semi-exclusive distribution partner for a firm out of New Jersey called NPS Pharmaceuticals and we opened three new regional pharmacy and distribution centers,” Hill says. “Those are in Boston, Scottsdale, Ariz., and San Diego, Calif. Those are three large investments for us.”
Needless to say BioRx has been doing the right things to remain on a growth track. Now Rielly and Hill have to keep it going.
Here’s how they have grown the company through strategic planning and developing the right partnerships.
Take advantage of growth drivers
When Rielly and Hill first started BioRx, they had a different idea behind specialty pharmaceuticals than most other national companies. While others were switching to a less personalized mail order model, Rielly and Hill saw an opportunity to offer a higher care model and focus on the patient.
Since seeing that opportunity they have been aggressively pushing the company forward.
“We’ve taken a bullish approach from day one when we set the company up, and we’ve been very aggressive with respect to adding new geographies and new regions,” Rielly says. “We’ve certainly added quite a few new account managers in the field, so we really focus our market on the four P’s in the pharmaceutical space with respect to customers.
“In the physician marketplace, we’ve expanded the number of representatives calling on the physicians across the country to open new geographies to where we’re now truly a national company.”
The biggest driver for BioRx at this point has been developing relationships with the different biotech companies and manufacturers.
“They’ve entrusted us with some of their new therapies,” he says. “In many cases we are just one of a handful of companies in the world who has access to selling these drugs. We’ve been very fortunate to be able to get those relationships.”
When a company is growing at the rate BioRx has, it is often easy to focus on one big area of growth and forget about other areas. That has not been the case with BioRx.
“This hasn’t been a one-trick growth pony,” Hill says. “We’ve purposefully and carefully invested in multiple strategies that have the opportunity to provide us growth. We’ve executed pretty well on all of them, but the key thing to take away is that we haven’t put all of our eggs in one basket in terms of our strategy to provide continued and sustainable growth for the company. It’s been a measured approach across many fronts.”
Over the course of the business as it has scaled, Rielly and Hill have continued to reinvest in it.
“We’ve taken every dime of free cash that we can find and judiciously invested that into both infrastructure to allow us to grow, but most importantly into infrastructure that provides that growth such as opening new markets, hiring sales people, adding new product lines and adding infrastructure,” Hill says.
“At the same time, we have to ensure that we’re not getting ahead of the company’s ability to finance it so we can maintain a robust and strong balance sheet, which is a business killer for a lot of small companies.”
While maintaining a strong balance sheet is one challenge of a growing company, there are many other obstacles that come along with growth. One challenge is hiring.
“Even with the unemployment rate at what it is, I would say that we still have a challenge finding and recruiting some of the very best people,” Rielly says. “We set a very high bar for the quality of folks that we hire. We’ve really had very little turnover, but with the continuous growth we’ve enjoyed, it is a challenge to continue to grab those folks.”
One strategy that BioRx has implemented is hiring people for an associate-level sales position and having them train with more senior employees to learn the ropes.
“It eliminates some of the risk down the road of having a bad hire,” he says. “We’re also working closely with some of the local universities. That way we have an in on recruiting down the road, and it’s a good way for us to give back.”
Another way the company stays on top of hiring challenges is to be on the lookout for great candidates all the time.
“It may not be today, but it may be three months or six months from now that we’ll need talent,” Hill says. “When the opportunity to hire somebody comes along, we need to already have a portfolio of folks we’ve been talking to. That dialogue helps gets those jobs filled quicker and with better talent.”
Most of BioRx’s growth to this point has been organic growth. However, Rielly and Hill are always looking for the next partnership that will benefit the company and its patients. Last year the company made an acquisition to help it reach new customers.
“Coagulife Pharmacy is the only acquisition that we have done to date,” Rielly says. “Our strategy from day one has always been through internal growth and continuing to reinvest in new talent and organic growth. But Coagulife presented itself. That situation was a unique opportunity for us to add a different skill set.”
Coagulife deals specifically in the hemophilia space. Many hemophilia patients have target joint bleeds and what ends up happening is many of them require an orthopedic procedure down the road. Many of those can be avoided or helped with some type of aggressive physical therapy, which is what Coagulife offers.
“So we’re rolling out a national program that is very specific to physical therapy and exercise regimens,” he says.
A large part of BioRx’s ability to find strategic partners and develop those relationships is because the company makes it a priority to plan for those kinds of things.
“You have to have a plan, but also the wherewithal to follow through on a plan without respect to different challenges that come up,” Rielly says. “Whatever the long-term plan is you have to stick with it and keep going forward even when it doesn’t feel comfortable from time to time.”
BioRx thinks of strategic planning in the two-to-five-year range.
“The easiest thing for us to plan is organic, new market openings and sales infrastructure growth by prioritizing the markets we believe have opportunity in each of our business units,” Hill says. “Then it’s just budgeting out the velocity with which we can deploy capital and money to put those people in place to enter and burst into new markets for us.”
Rielly and Hill constantly talk about the next five markets the company is going to crack into with a new therapy or a sales rep to put an operating unit in place.
“We’ve done a good job of sticking to that,” he says. “We kind of know where our next five, six, seven, or eight investments are going to be and in which business units we want to be plunking those bets down.”
During the strategic planning process you have to be willing to think about some far-fetched goals while also being reasonable about what can be achieved in your plan’s window of time.
“Dream big and shoot for the stars, but be realistic with respect to what it’s going to take to achieve those goals,” Rielly says. “Be realistic with how much capital it’s going to require to get from point A to point B. But don’t be afraid to dream big and swing for the fences.”
The key to achieving goals set forth in a strategic plan is having a great team around you.
“If we have done anything, we have hired a fantastic management team and our bench strength is pretty deep,” Hill says. “I think either one of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow and the company wouldn’t have a whole lot of issues. We have managers and operators that we turn loose to let them earn their stripes. Those guys know where our next bets need to be.”
How to reach: BioRx LLC, (866) 442-4679 or www.biorx.net
Determine your growth factors.
Develop strategic partnerships to help expand.
Have a planning process for the future.
The Rielly and Hill File
President and Co-founder
Vice President and Co-founder
Rielly: Born in Cincinnati
Rielly: Education: Graduated from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., with a BS in business communications.
Hill: Born in Bassett, Va.
Hill: Education: Graduated from Wake Forest University with a degree in psychology.
How did you first meet each other? And why did you start BioRx?
We both met working for another national company. We saw the trend of many national companies going to a mail order model with less personalized care, and we felt that we could create a market by going with a higher care model.
What has been your favorite thing about growing BioRx?
Rielly: The most rewarding part is building a team and watching the team grow. We’re making a very positive impact on the lives of each of the patients in which we touch and there’s not a week that goes by that we don’t get a patient testimonial about the ways our team members went above and beyond. I find that extraordinarily rewarding.
Hill: It is awfully refreshing to wake up every day knowing that we get to set the direction. It’s a lot of fun being in an entrepreneurial environment and getting to spread that spirit around the organization.
What excites you both about the future of BioRx?
Hill: I’m excited about the fact that sooner than later we are going to be a $200 million company. We also have a new drug launch happening and it has the opportunity to be a significant sea change in both the lives of the patients that we’re treating and the marketplace for one of our operating units in a way that’s transformative.
Rielly: In the last few months, we’ve aggressively hired and opened new geographical territories and I’m excited to see the initial successes. We have the best team in place that we’ve ever had and I’m excited for them to achieve their personal goals.
Since January 2006, when Jim Weddle first took over the managing partner position at Edward Jones, he has kept a keen focus on growing the investment firm to new heights. In 2007 he and his team laid out a five-year plan that they updated in 2010, but that was a mere steppingstone to the vision the firm rolled out last year.
In January 2012, Weddle unleashed what Edward Jones is calling its Vision for 2020. Focusing on growing the firm in three key areas — financial advisers, assets under care and households deeply served — Weddle’s vision won’t just have Edward Jones reaching new heights, it might just be soaring.
“Today, in a lot of markets, we are not the top-of-mind choice,” Weddle says. “We don’t have the presence that we need. It’s going to take us several years to get there, but we think we’ve got the way to do so.”
Edward Jones is a leader in the financial services industry that serves nearly 7 million clients with the help of 12,500 financial advisers and more than 34,000 total employees. The firm reported 2012 revenue of $4.96 billion, a mere fraction of what is planned for the years ahead.
“There is a huge demographic opportunity, and we need to better position ourselves,” Weddle says. “We’ve put a lot of tools in place. We’ve put additional products and services in place to enhance the client’s experience and to enable us and position us to do an even better job for them.”
Here is how Weddle formulated Edward Jones’ long-term vision and is beginning to make it a reality.
Create your strategy
In January 2012, Weddle made a big deal of explaining the long-term vision to the team at Edward Jones, not just what the vision was but why it was needed.
“Laying out a long-term vision provides the opportunity and the potential to get everybody aligned,” Weddle says.
The early success Edward Jones has seen with its plan is due to a thorough self-analysis the company performed when it first decided to create this vision.
“When we worked on our five-year plan we did so with the guidance and assistance of two gentlemen, one being Jim Collins who wrote, ‘From Good to Great,’” Weddle says. “One of the things that he suggests is that you ask yourself three questions.
“The first one is, ‘What do you do better than anybody else?’ The second is, ‘What are you most passionate about?, And third is, ‘What’s your economic driver?’”
Weddle says that Edward Jones’ business model makes the firm the better than anybody else in the investment process.
The firm is most passionate about helping its current and potential individual investors live a better life.
And lastly, its economic driver is its financial advisers.
“It’s not easy to get your arms around the answers to those questions,” Weddle says. “We had a lot of answers before we got it right.”
The second adviser that Edward Jones used in its planning process is Michael Porter, a world renowned expert on strategy, who preaches that strategy is all about a sustainable difference.
“It’s about doing things differently or doing different things than your competition and making trade-offs,” Weddle says. “It’s about making decisions as to what you’re going to offer and what you’re not. Who you’re going to serve and who you’re not. How you run your business comes down to the choices that you make.”
Those two things, the three questions and the tradeoffs, are the core of Edward Jones’ long-term plan.
“If you haven’t gone through the process of thinking those things through, good luck,” he says. “I don’t think you understand who you are or what business you’re in, which means it’s going to be very hard to optimize your results. That’s the value of the planning process for us. Yes, it does bring alignment, but it also brings focus.”
Identify your objectives
In order to better serve existing clients as well as to land many more clients by the year 2020, Weddle needed to set reachable goals for the staff.
“We have identified three peaks, three objectives related to that vision,” Weddle says. “First is growth of financial advisers, the number and our presence in the marketplace.”
Edward Jones currently has more than 7 million client accounts and 4 million households. However, the firm has identified about 40 million U.S. and Canada households that look like Edward Jones’ best clients.
“There’s no way that we can possibly serve even a fraction of that number of folks without increasing our presence in the market,” he says. “You might think, ‘Holy cow, how can you possibly to do that?’ Well, by growing 5-6 percent a year gets you there.”
Edward Jones has grown by more than that rate in the past, and Weddle believes the firm can reach this goal with the help of a new talent acquisition organization that was put in place, revamped FA compensation and significantly updated training and support programs.
“We anticipate supporting a good number of new folks that will be joining us each year,” Weddle says. “We’ve got amazingly strong pipelines right now. We think we’ll grow this year by 700 financial advisers in the U.S. and 80 in Canada and that will be a good start on that 2020 vision.”
The second objective of the 2020 vision is the firm’s assets under care. When the vision was first laid out, the firm had about $600 billion. In 2012 it had about $660 billion-$670 billion.
“By the end of 2020 we’d like to see those assets under care be $1 trillion,” he says. “You get there by growing 10 percent a year. We added about $34 billion of net new assets last year, which exceeded our objective of $30 billion.”
The third objective for the firm surrounds its deeply served households. Of those 4 million households Edward Jones currently serves, it identified 1 million households that the firm has a current deep relationship with. The firm wants to increase this number.
“We want to drive our deeply served households from the 1 million we had a year ago when we rolled out our vision to 4 million deeply served households in 2020. That’s a 15 percent compound annual increase and we’re ahead of where we need to be on that. I know 15 percent sounds high when we’re growing our FA’s by 5 percent and our assets by 10 percent.
“The reason we have set it at that level is because so many of our existing households can be moved to what we have defined as deeply served. It’s not just new households, but it’s going deeper with the folks that we already have a relationship with.”
Drive your plan forward
Now that Edward Jones had gone through the self-analysis and identified its objectives, the next step was to begin to roll out the vision and communicate how the business’ various departments and segments are going to have to contribute to meet those goals.
“One of the outcomes of the roll out of the long-term vision was to then say to every division of the firm, ‘We need you to look at the work you do and bring a critical eye to it and identify those things that need to be increased or put in place that will help us to achieve the 2020 vision. We also need you to identify the legacy work that we’re real comfortable with and we do really well, but maybe doesn’t add the value that it used to,’” Weddle says.
“You outgrow some things. You can’t just add on and add on and add on. You’ve got to also abandon things that no longer deliver value to your chosen client.
Every division of the company has got to come up with its business plan for reaching goals of the vision.
“We challenge each other, but it also allows me, if I’m in operations, to understand what the service side is doing,” he says. “It creates alignment and synergies and often times opportunities for working in a highly coordinated way that eliminates some cost and enhances productivity all driven by the vision.”
The No. 1 key to making a strategy implementation successful is having the right people driving results.
“Your results will be no better than the quality of the individuals who make up your organization,” he says. “You have to be brutally honest. At times you will outgrow some individuals.”
Sharing the business plans, challenging each other and making sure that everyone is working on the same priorities and holding people accountable is crucial to success.
“One area is dependent upon progress being made in another,” Weddle says. “We just need to make sure that we’re doing an absolutely terrific job for each one of those individual investors that we help to reach their financial goals. If we can stay focused on that we’re going to have a lot of success.” •
- Answer important questions about your business and its future.
- Develop objectives to reach in a long-term plan.
- Implement your plan with the right people and measures.
The Weddle File
Name: Jim Weddle
Title: Managing partner
Company: Edward Jones
Born: Elgin, Ill. He grew up in Naperville, Ill.
Education: Attended DePauw University and received a double major in psychology and business. He also got a MBA with a major in finance from Washington University in St. Louis.
What was your very first job, and what did you learn from it? I had a summer job in 7th grade where I worked Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until noon for a gentleman who was a retired banker. He had a large property and I drove a tractor, cut the grass, pulled the weeds, painted the house and the barn and worked every day doing that. I learned that you make your own luck if you aspire to do or to have, there’s a way that you can go about making that a reality.
What is the best business advice someone has given you? I had interned here at Edward Jones, and I went out to Indiana where I established a new office and built it up. I had a mentor who was a very senior individual in our firm at the time named Jack. I remember confiding in Jack and he said, ‘What is your concern?’ And I said, ‘Jack, my concern is I’m 23 years old, and I look even younger. I’m afraid people won’t take me seriously.’ He said, ‘People will treat you the way that you act. If you act like a professional, they will treat you like a professional. If you act like you’re 23, they will treat you like you’re 23.’ He also said, ‘Prepare for every day, but do it the day before.’
Who is someone that you’ve admired? One was an accounting professor who had a huge impact on me. For his class he said, ‘You need to show up to class prepared or I suggest you don’t show up at all.’ He was teaching us how to be ready for the rest of our lives.
The second guy was a business adviser named Peter Drucker. We worked with Peter for 20 years. He helped us to understand very clearly who our customer was, what our value is, and the purpose of our work.
HOW TO REACH: Edward Jones, (314) 515-2000 or www.edwardjones.com
When Flemming Bjøernslev took over as president and CEO of Lanxess Corp. and head of the North American region, he gave himself 100 days to get to know the company and the people. This January, the time was up — and by then, Bjøernslev had visited all 14 major sites in the United States and Canada.
“In my first couple days, I went out and took the pulse of the company to assess where we stood in order for me to prepare myself and the employees to take the company to the next level,” Bjøernslev says. “As an international corporation, we have global targets and the board at headquarters expects us to contribute to that target.”
He felt strongly about getting to rub elbows with the 1,500 employees of Lanxess Corp., the North American division of Lanxess, an $11 billion leading manufacturer of more than 3,000 products in the areas of rubber, plastics, intermediates (such as alcohols, acids and higher olefins) and specialty chemicals.
Bjøernslev came to Pittsburgh after serving as CEO of Lanxess Central Eastern Europe in Slovakia and now has the task of taking the learnings from his prior CEO role and transferring them to Lanxess’ North American business to continue to push the company forward.
Bjøernslev is optimistic about the current opportunities in the U.S. and how that will contribute to Lanxess’ business domestically.
“We are seeing a lot of manufacturing returning to the U.S.,” Bjøernslev says. “That gives me great comfort that the U.S. industries are moving forward to a better, brighter future, especially in the areas of mobility, urbanization, agriculture and water.”
Lanxess caters to all those areas and the current outlook has Bjøernslev excited that the business in North America will pick up rapidly, helping get Lanxess on the path to the next level.
Here is how Bjøernslev has come into a new role and put himself and Lanxess in a better position to succeed.
Take first steps
While Bjøernslev isn’t new to the CEO role by any means, he was still entering a new geography and new division of Lanxess when he came to Pittsburgh in October 2012. In his initial three-plus months, he had to familiarize himself with the business.
“In those first 100 days, I had to get to know the company and the people here in North America, which is Pittsburgh and our other sites,” Bjøernslev says.
He started with a couple of town-hall meetings and round-table discussions held department by department to interact on a more individual level with employees.
“I consider that extremely valuable to get to know the individuals and for them to get to know me and listen to what my vision is as we move forward,” he says. “I also visited all the major sites we have in North America. Again, we did a mix of town-hall meetings and round table discussions.”
Bjøernslev had a two-fold approach to his new CEO role, both internally and externally.
“The internal approach best practice for me has always been to sit down with the people and have them present their roles and responsibilities within the company in order for me to assess where we stand from a corporate point of view,” he says.
“The external part is presenting Lanxess to the outside world — customers, business partners and other relevant organizations we interact with.”
It is crucial that a new CEO put himself or herself out in front of the company’s stakeholders and offer the chance to get to know and understand one another.
“The key is to just take the hurdle of getting out there, getting to know the people, introducing yourself, introducing the company, introducing the target and tell a little bit about yourself,” Bjøernslev says. “That has been the focal point, and it is the best practice based on my experiences in previous jobs.”
Bjøernslev has learned that listening to the people who help drive the business every day is vital to understanding what direction to go in next.
“You have to listen to the people you are going to work with in the new position,” he says. “You have to watch the environment very closely and most importantly, listen to your gut feeling and be daring as you move along and make decisions.”
The worst thing a new CEO can do is hesitate in making those crucial decisions.
“We are all human beings and when you make a decision, you normally base it on experiences,” he says. “If you’re somewhat uncertain, human beings have a tendency to avoid making a decision. If you want to move forward in a new position, you have to make a decision, because avoiding a decision is not going to get the job done.”
Get to the next level
Lanxess is driven by innovation and technology paired with people excellence, both globally and locally. What Bjøernslev has found is that the company’s production and product base is extremely quick with regards to innovation, technology and the right ideas to make new products that will propel the company.
“At the end of the day if you take the people excellence, the topic of safety and blend that with the innovation and technology driven culture we have here at Lanxess, those are the keystones in order to create success that will take Lanxess North America to the next level,” Bjøernslev says.
When looking at what opportunities existed in North America, Bjøernslev saw the automobile market as a crucial player in Lanxess’ future with the ability to offer new products in rubber and plastics.
“The U.S. market is still the biggest market in the world for miles per person driven,” he says. “What I have realized over here is that Americans love cars. With our product portfolio within plastics and the fact that we are the leading manufacturer of synthetic rubber in the world, more than 50 percent of our turnover is generated in the automotive and tire manufacturing industry.”
Lanxess currently has an initiative it calls Green Mobility. Green Mobility relates to two major areas — lightweight construction of automobiles and green tires — which Lanxess hopes will drive the growth of the business and improve the auto industry at the same time.
“Car manufacturers are continuously focusing and forced to focus on reducing CO2 emission, reducing fuel consumption and that’s why they have to reduce the weight of the cars,” Bjøernslev says. “By using our high-performance plastics, you can reduce the weight of a car up to 30 percent. That is something that the Motor City is very interested in.”
The second area of interest for Lanxess is what it calls the green tire. The company has been supporting an initiative within the European Union, Brazil and Korea surrounding tire labeling.
“There is a requirement to label your tire as a producer based on three factors: rolling resistance, noise reduction, and wet-grip capabilities,” Bjøernslev says. “We are convinced that Americans who love to have a choice will be embarking on this tire labeling issue because so far in the U.S. you have never had the chance to decide what kind of tire you would like under your Cadillac, Ford or Chevy.
“We’re convinced this will be a topic for the U.S. industry in the future and we will support that.”
Bjøernslev hasn’t wasted any time in making decisions about where to focus the company moving forward. That decisiveness has been a result of listening to what is happening around Lanxess globally.
“First and foremost, you have to listen to your customers,” he says. “Secondly, make sure that you assess the entire value chain. You want to make sure that you reach out and listen to the customers of your customers. You want to make sure that you’re integrated in the right manner in order to cost-effectively and profit-effectively cater your products to the market.
“You have to make sure that you read the signs of your time, meaning the trends in the marketplace. You have to live in a global world. Today, it would be very risky to only focus on the U.S. or North American market.
“You have to take into consideration what the drivers are internationally, in Asia and in Europe, because although we sell a lot of products here in the U.S., we export to other parts of the world and vice versa.”
Bjøernslev says as time goes on, he plans to continue to focus on having the right set up in the company to get Lanxess to that next level of growth.
“We are cautiously optimistic as to future development,” he says. “What we have to do now is make sure we have the right organizational set up in order to cater our products to the market.
“What I found here was an excellent foundation. What we want to do is capitalize on that and make sure that we participate in the new market dynamics within the North American chemical industry and beyond … with the advancement of our products.”
How to reach: Lanxess Corp., (800) 526-9377 or www.lanxess.us
Get to know your employees and understand your company.
Listen to key stakeholders and the business environment.
Take your learnings and make decisions about direction.
The Bjøernslev File
President and CEO
Education: Bachelor’s degree in international management, FOM University of Applied Sciences, Essen, Germany
What was your very first job, and what did you learn from that experience?
I was a shop assistant at a green grocer. It taught me that hard work and dedication pays off.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Never tell yourself that the target has been reached, because there is a big risk that you turn complacent.
You mentioned you are a car guy, what is your favorite car?
I am the proud owner of a 1969 Porsche coupe. I’m a Porsche guy but old Porsches.
Who is someone in business that you look up to?
I’m a great admirer of a man named Ferdinand Piëch. He is the head of the supervisory board of Volkswagen. Volkswagen is currently No. 3 in the world and the target is to be the No. 1 car producer. First with Porsche, then Audi, then Volkswagen, Piëch has continuously been building Volkswagen to be one of the leading car producers in the world and that’s been done with innovation and technology. I find it fascinating the consistency he has had in achieving the position Volkswagen is in today.
What has been your favorite country you have spent time in?
I have a bunch of favorite countries, but my takeaway lesson from traveling the world has been that the key is the language. I speak four languages fluently: Danish, German, English and Spanish. I speak half Slovak because my fiancé is from Slovakia. I have a couple of favorite cities: Vienna, Austria; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and I’m increasingly starting to like Pittsburgh, because it’s not a major city like New York, but it’s also not a village. It’s the right size and it has a lot of culture.
Staying relevant. It’s why companies close old divisions and start new ones, why they introduce new products, make acquisitions, diversify their portfolios and invest in R&D. And for IT companies like Groupware Technology Inc., it’s the reason to complete one transformation, only to pause, and do it all over again.
The need to change was something that IT industry veterans — owners Mike Thompson, Scott Sutter and Anthony Miley — understood well when they acquired Groupware, an IT solutions provider that was on the verge of going belly-up in 2005. They recognized from day one that the company’s survival was dependent upon Groupware’s ability to transition outside its roots of
“systems and storage” and make a name in for itself in IT’s fastest-growing segments: big data, cloud computing, virtualization and data security. It’s a process that’s taken involved two restructurings in seven years.
“It’s a brand-new organization from the company that we acquired,” says Thompson, the company’s president and CEO. “We took a company that was doing at the time of the acquisition $1.7 million, and we turned it into almost $150 million with our company. We injected life into the organization by creating relevancy within the marketplace … and within the customer base.”
Here’s how Thompson and his co-owners have taken Groupware from struggling IT reseller into a leading systems integrator.
Look for an opening
Groupware’s broad customer base includes SMBs all the way to Fortune 500 companies. This means the company’s IT solutions must meet a wide range of technology needs. Delivering solutions that are on the leading edge of today’s systems and storage technology is the only way to stay relevant for customers.
“At the rate that technology is changing — it’s pretty amazing the acceleration that it’s going through — we need to stay in the forefront in regard to what technology is out there,” Thompson says. “It’s having business conversations with our customers to understand what pain points they’re trying to solve for and where they’re trying to take their business.”
Nobody knows the needs of the market better than your customer base. So one of Thompson’s first steps as CEO was to ask customers, “What’s going on in the marketplace?” and “Where do you want to take your business?” to see where Groupware should be investing.
“Understanding what’s going on around cloud computing, big data, next generation data centers and having the expertise to be able to deep dive into those types of opportunities and conversations with customers has allowed us to remain in the forefront,” Thompson says.
“It’s having conversations with our end users in regard to what business issues they are trying to solve and then understanding how we can help them solve those issues, and not just for today.”
What Thompson and his partners realized quickly is that businesses buying IT products also wanted in-depth knowledge and advice from their providers. They began working on a strategy to transform Groupware into a services-led business, which could provide both products and support for its customer’s technical capabilities.
As it turned out, the challenges in the down economy — more companies began seeking IT workarounds to help them manage with more limited resources —gave the company an “in” to present its new solutions and services to the marketplace.
“Customers looked to us to offset some of the reductions that they had in place because business has to go on,” Thompson says. “You still have to solve these business issues. You’ve just got to find new ways to address the business models out there.”
While competitors scaled back, Groupware doubled down on IT investments, including its service segment, which Thompson and his partners believed would propel demand moving forward. The company also invested heavily investments in its labs and engineering capabilities — especially engineering talent.
“Where there is change and uncertainty, there is opportunity,” Thompson says.
“As we went through it, we saw that people were going to pull back. Our opportunity was to go invest heavily to have resources available to [businesses] and to create value out in the marketplace that our customers could leverage from us to continue to be successful in their operation.”
Start tough conversations
By the time the recession began bottoming out in 2010, Groupware had nearly doubled its business, a sign that new investments were paying off. Still, the business transformation also forced Thompson and his executive team to restructure certain areas of the company to make room for those investments.
It was important to engage people in “adult conversations” about why the changes were happening and what they meant.
“I think too often we let niceness get in the way of the truth. You need to have those conversations and not delay the hard conversations, acting decisively based on that and moving forward. I’ve been in situations where the executive team has been slow to make changes and it became irrelevant really quickly by not acting and not executing. It’s critical to have those conversations and then act on them appropriately.”
Groupware has now gone through two restructurings since 2005, a transformation process that’s involved rearranging certain departments, eliminating remote offices and consolidating operations. These strategic moves have helped drive the company’s investment in “rack and roll” solutions — complete technology solutions designed to be rolled into the data center and quickly put into production, generating higher returns for Groupware.
For Thompson, the ability to have honest conversations with team members has helped him keep the company accountable to progress, but also to earn employee respect. People prefer to do business with people that they like, but they’ll also follow a leader who they respect, he says.
“We need to have those hard conversations and get everybody on board with the investments that we want to make as an organization,” Thompson says.
“You can move too quickly, but if you set the goals and hold accountability level, you can make minor changes to that if you need to, or you can pull back.”
That said, building a dialogue with employees is also important in helping you monitor your investments. Strong internal communication gives you a continuous feedback loop to know where your investments stand and what kind of returns they are generating so that you can know when to pull back.
“It goes back to where you place your bets, making bets and then understanding the return, setting expectations associated with those bets and managing toward that,” Thompson says. “If you don’t see the return or you don’t see the return coming, you need to be able to take those resources back and double down where you do see return on those investments coming from or where you believe you can get a greater return.”
Share in excellence
Today, Thompson continues to invest heavily in the company’s core competencies — networking, security and storage — as well as its services practice, its fastest-growing division. Smart investments combined with open and honest communication are two building blocks in a foundation that helps Groupware stay relevant with customers, and the marketplace.
The third is collective ambition, or a shared commitment by employees to the company’s success.
“I’m a firm believer in building winning teams, having the right people in the right positions at the right time,” Thompson says. “Then you’ve got to empower them to go out and execute.
One way Thompson drives collective ambition at Groupware is by creating an environment where employees want to come to work.
“I’ve always felt that it’s our job from a leadership perspective to put our employees in a position to be successful,” Thompson says. “When they drive home that night, we need to give them a reason to come back in the office the next morning.”
What makes a great work environment? At Groupware, it comes down to living the company’s three core values every day.
“The great thing about this transition is that we’ve remained true to our core values of customer service, excellence and fun,” Thompson says. “My belief is that you keep those core values intact and you create an environment where employees can be successful and understand the consistency of the model that you’re bringing to the marketplace.”
An example is the fact that Groupware invites every employee in the company to its national kickoff — an event that many businesses limit to their sales teams.
“It’s customer service,” he says. “It’s the pursuit of excellence and it’s having fun. Those three complement each other.”
Getting employees together for the kickoff is about showcasing the company’s values and vision; but it’s also about “getting everybody to fill part of the success of the company,” Thompson says.
Driving this culture is also why Groupware expanded its focus on collective ambition in 2010, when it rolled out a corporate program around the concept. The goal of the program is to help employees understand their role in serving the purpose of Groupware and better explain to employees how all departments participate and work in harmony to help the company succeed.
“Once you have buy-in and you have collective ambition by multiple individuals in the organization, you can propel the business in the direction that you want to take it,” Thompson says.
How to reach: Groupware Technology Inc., (408) 540-0090 or www.groupwaretechnology.com
The Thompson File
President and CEO
Groupware Technology Inc.
Born: Mountain View, Calif.
Education: USC undergrad; MBA Regis University
Leadership philosophy: I don’t shy away from the fear of failure. That actually makes me work harder, and I take those challenges and adversity head-on. I’m a classic example of ‘productive paranoia.’ I’m always looking over my shoulder, always working hard and always trying to better myself to make sure that I can keep moving in the right direction.
What would you do if you weren’t doing your current job?
In some capacity, creating an environment and opportunities for others to grow. Leadership and mentoring have always been important to me.
What is one part of your daily routine that you wouldn’t change?
When I’m not traveling, taking my kids to school in the morning. Discussing ESPN Radio with my son while my daughter tries to sing over the conversation and dance free of her car seat always starts my day off in perspective.
If you could have dinner with one person you’ve never met, who would it be?
Cassius Clay. I’m a huge boxing fan. The man who became Mohammed Ali was a personal branding genius and his endless confidence and brashness are endlessly fascinating to me.
What do you do to regroup on a tough day?
If I can, go do something with my son, shoot hoops, play catch and so on. It gives me a half hour or so away from my phone. Practice, form and fundamentals messages, repeated to him over and over, are great reminders for me as well.
What do you do for fun?
Get out on the water: wake surfing, boating, being out on the water with friends and family.
The view from Beth Mooney’s office on the 56th floor of Key Tower in downtown Cleveland overlooks Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Jacobs Pavilion and the Lake Erie shore — attractions that are part of what makes Cleveland special and reasons why Mooney loves this city and is proud that KeyCorp can call it home.
Mooney, chairman and CEO of KeyCorp, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies, with assets of approximately $87 billion and more than 15,000 employees, came to Cleveland in 2006 to lead the bank’s more than 1,000 branches. Her appointment to the CEO role in 2010 was a historic one since the move made her the first woman CEO of a top-20 U.S. bank. The announcement received national attention.
“I knew it was significant, and it wasn’t lost on me particularly from when I started in banking in 1978,” Mooney says. “It wasn’t lost on me that within a generation how transformational that was for our industry and within Key how significant it was, but it came with a degree of notoriety that I don’t think I saw coming. The world kind of took pause and noticed that banking, an industry that has long been heavily dominated by men at the top, promoted its first woman.”
While the move created big buzz, Mooney had to quickly focus on the job at hand since KeyCorp had been struggling to make a profit the previous few quarters coming out of the recession. One of the reasons she won the CEO role was her knack for developing and driving a strategy and her ability to get people to follow her. The company needed a new approach, and Mooney was ready to answer the call.
“Part of the process with the board when they selected me was to challenge me with what would be our strategy,” Mooney says. “How would Key differentiate itself? How will you make a competitive advantage? How will you know you’re winning with clients? There was a lot of dialogue around strategic vision. We just really need to stay the course, be rigorous, execute the strategy with focus and discipline and I needed to position us for that journey, reaffirm our strategic message to our employees, to our investors and find a way to capture that and bring people with us.”
Here’s how Mooney is focusing on building better relationships, providing great customer service and making sure her legacy as the first woman CEO of a top-20 U.S. bank leaves a positive and memorable mark.
Believe in your abilities
When Mooney started her career in banking, she didn’t think she would one day become a bank CEO. However, as she developed her skills and grew in the industry, she began realizing that the top spot could be within her grasp. She consciously sought opportunities in her career that would keep pushing her further.
“I was in it because I didn’t know that I would ever truly be a CEO, but that I wanted to go as far as my ambitions would take me,” she says. “I’ve made a lot of choices in my career and taken jobs, challenges and moves and very diverse opportunities in order to build what I call the best tool kit I could personally have and try to balance that with how far my abilities would take me.”
Throughout Mooney’s career, she has identified working well in a team environment, bringing out the best in others and accepting constructive criticism as some of the most important skills to have.
“One of the most critical skill sets is the ability to be effective in a team and work within environments where it’s groups of people solving problems, creating opportunities and driving business success that you have to think of yourself as a successful participant in a team and be able to exert pure leadership,” she says.
“As you get the opportunity to lead and get increasing responsibility, don’t lead with your differences; lead in a way where you bring out the best in others. You’re known for being a problem solver. You’re known to be somebody who is encouraging, coaching, mentoring, yet disciplined and delivers results.”
In Mooney’s career, there have been many role models and people who have mentored, coached and helped her get to this level.
“I have had a lot of bosses, both men and women, over the years who have invested in giving me opportunities — the stretch assignment, the difficult assignment because they believed I had a lot of capability,” Mooney says. “I tell people to take a tough job or take an assignment that’s outside your comfort zone so people can see you in a different light and realize that you’re scalable, nimble and can adapt to new situations. Never stop investing in your own abilities and your own learning.
“One of the things I’ve always said in interviews in my life whenever I was being considered for another opportunity … is I will always take the chance on my own abilities. If you give me this opportunity, I won’t disappoint you. Then work really hard to make good on that.”
Mooney says she is in her dream job, and as the company’s first female CEO she wants to make KeyCorp the best company she can.
“I want to do this well because I would like my legacy to be that this was a successful time for Key, for its clients, its communities, its employees, its shareholders — that it was transformational to our industry at a point in time and that it was a headline,” she says. “Hopefully by the time I’m done, it’s a footnote because there will be others who have risen to this level. Whenever you get that recognition and the spotlight is turned on you, I think it needs to bring out the best in you and that’s how I’ve internalized it as an extra obligation to do what’s already an important job well.”
Build better relationships
Mooney’s first steps to get KeyCorp back on track were to understand what would return the bank to profitability. She started with a focus on the company’s clients and consumers and sought to understand what they wanted from their bank.
“From a challenge point of view, what we were doing is still unique within the industry, which is a real firm focus on being very targeted about your clients and being disciplined about doing business with people that you had relationships with,” Mooney says.
“So staying very focused on our value propositions we’re going to build relationships, we’re going to do it in very targeted ways with clients who we know and appreciate our capabilities. We’re going to be clear about giving advice and solutions and not be product-pushers, and at the end of the day we have to give great service. So it was a little of back-to-basics, but with a whole new level of accountability and rigor.”
The best example of how Key showed its loyalty to its customers was when the Durbin Amendment was put in place in 2011. The legislation, which was part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, limited what banks could charge for debit card activity.
“It took a huge stream of revenue out of the banking industry,” she says. “In our case, it was $60 million in revenue that went away. The last time I checked that was real money. The different banks started talking about no longer being able to offer rewards programs along with your debit card and were probably going to have to charge a fee. So you had to make your plans for what you were going to do because it was a significant revenue difference.”
The company stepped back and ultimately came to the conclusion that it should ask its customers how they felt.
“We have been building this notion of listening to our clients, being insight driven, i.e. what do they want and need?” Mooney says. “What do they value and what will they pay for? When we [asked our clients] what we heard was don’t nickel and dime us. They feel that adding a fee was nickel and diming. What they wanted was for people to recognize and value that they have a relationship with us, and if we have a relationship that should be meaningful to the bank.”
Key decided to reorient its products around the notion of relationship building. The bank not only didn’t pull its rewards program, but expanded it, which was the opposite of what other banks ended up doing. It even landed KeyBank on the “ABC Nightly News.”
“When [ABC] listed the banks that weren’t charging their customers’ fees, Key was prominently displayed, and I got a sound bite where I said, ‘We asked our clients. They didn’t want to be nickeled and dimed. They wanted to be valued, and we went for reinforcing ‘Bring us your relationship and we will reward you’ versus going the fee route.’” Mooney says.
“That is value-spaced, relationship-based and that is a commitment to an extraordinary service. That is trying to find solutions that fit the needs of your clients and positioning yourself to be different in the market. I look at that as one of those examples that you can point to that says something is different at Key.”
In order to differentiate your business from others in your industry you have to be able to use your relationships to your advantage.
“I would start with the basic premise that the more you can understand about what your client wants, needs, values or what will differentiate you is an incredibly powerful strategy,” she says.
“The power of unleashing the ability to take that which you provide and build it, package it and deliver it in a way that really resonates with what your client wants, to me, is probably the only truly valid growth strategy over time.
“To the extent that you believe that you can build something — if you build it they will buy it — is a lost strategy these days because we’ve come to an age where choice and knowledge about choices, the rapidity of change and the ability to switch has probably never been higher.
“Retaining loyalty and building relationships takes a different value proposition and takes different work. It has to be rooted in what your clients want and need and finding proactive, robust ways where you find those outlets to listen and understand is a linchpin of a successful strategy.”
Form a strategy
The strategy of relationship building and customer service initiatives at KeyCorp go back to before the recession hit. However, as the recession increased pressure on the banking industry, those strategies gained importance.
“Even before the downturn we stepped back and said, ‘What are the things we want to be known for?’” Mooney says. “This goes back to 2007 and we said, ‘We better get really, really good at customer service because at the end of the day nobody truly stays loyal to a product, nobody really stays loyal to a location, a brand; they stay loyal to people and they stay loyal to how you make them feel.’”
KeyCorp looked outside the industry at how others were delivering service in order to better grasp how the company should move forward.
“We looked to Lexus and Ritz-Carlton and really calibrated how we trained our people, what we asked them to do and how we measured them,” she says. “We put in customer satisfaction surveys and all sorts of things to ask what sort of experience you received. You need to teach your people this is what service looks like, and this is how it feels to the client and then you call the client and ask them did they indeed experience you that way.”
Through that kind of training and initiative, KeyCorp got its customer satisfaction levels up to what most community banks experience.
“In the last two years, the slope of that line has accelerated to the point where the Holy Grail in service has always been the local community bank,” she says. “We’re right at the level of the service that community banks have give,n and we’ve really gapped out from our competitors.”
“You’ve got to decide what it is people want. Learn from the best in the industry, not just your business. Create a way to train people to it. Test that it’s happening and then recognize and reward so it becomes a virtuous cycle within your company to make giving great service part of how people get up.”
For any strategy to be effective, there are a few critical factors that you need to make sure you do.
“For a good strategy to be great, there is only one way and that has to be the consistency of execution of the strategy,” Mooney says. “First, you have to start with clarity of the strategy to the people who have to implement it. Your employees have to understand clearly what your strategy is. What’s your strategy and how are you going to differentiate? How are you going to compete and what does winning look like?
“Secondarily, it’s the consistency with which you execute that strategy over time and that your ability to focus on execution is done with rigor and accountability. Then make appropriate course adjustments, but do so with consistency.
“I don’t think there has ever been a great strategy that wasn’t executed over time with rigor, with accountability, with clarity, with buy-in, with recognition, with reward that is meaningful to the client. This whole notion of ‘It’s a journey, not a destination’ that you have to stay with it over time and people need to understand it and believe that it’s real and get up and know what’s expected of them and do it over and over and over again, to me, it’s that clarity and consistency and the disciplined, focused execution that makes a difference.”
The course of implementing a strategy takes a lot of hard work by everyone involved, but the CEO has to play the most crucial role.
“The trajectory, the pace, the rapidity and the tone and feel of [a strategy] is uniquely a CEOs role to help shape that, to help give it a face and something that your employees can follow, your clients can understand and your communities can appreciate,” she says. “Then ultimately create the shareholder value from those strategies that will make it rewarding for them to invest in your company. It’s kind of unique being the bearer of it as well as the driver of the strategy.”
No matter how good a strategy sounds or how good it looks on paper, it will not succeed unless you get buy-in from your employees who have to ultimately be the ones who do the work.
“The first cornerstone for how do you get followership in a strategy has to be the simplicity of the message, the consistency of the message and you can’t communicate enough,” Mooney says. “Every chance I get it’s here’s who we are, here’s how we compete, here’s how we’re going to be different in the marketplace, here’s how you help us win. It’s consistency of messaging. Then what I hope I do effectively is, ‘I hope I’m very authentic. I’m very genuine. I’m very down-to-earth, and I put things in terms people can understand and can see themselves as part of.’
“So there is this constant, clear messaging and consistency of communication that you have to get protocols and rigor around where the content is compelling and understandable and you see yourself in that strategy.”
Another way to get people to follow you is to truly show your company how much you care about its well-being and success.
“I think the other thing that is unique to my style is that people know I’m passionate and I believe in what we’re doing,” she says. “I value our employees. I believe in our clients and our community. I’m committed to our shareholders, and I think there’s a bit of a rising tide in the messaging that people want to go with that.
“It becomes something that they can rally around. The rigor around making sure those messages are done continuously and reinforced doesn’t happen by chance. There is a whole protocol and operationalizing of that messaging to make sure that it is not just ad hoc, that it is indeed consistent, clear and inspiring.”
Today, KeyCorp is continuing to leverage its relationships and devotion to customer service. Since the downturn, the company has reported eight straight quarters of profitability, and it has further plans to keep growing.
“The cover of our annual report captures it well; it says, ‘Strong, Focused and Building Momentum,’” Mooney says. “I feel like with eight straight quarters of profitability Key is solidly back to profitability and that what we need to do as a company from here is to build on our momentum and the sources of where we’ve been able to grow our business and return to profitability – and just be relentless around doing so.”
To ensure the continued success of your business, you need to not only focus on relationships and service, but on new opportunities as well.
“You need to do both grow your core and do the things you do well as well as seek to always do new things that are additive to your business model, but with a keen sense of prioritization,” Mooney says.
“If you try to do everything, you do nothing well. You have to be disciplined in what you prioritize, ‘planful’ in what you choose to execute, and then rigorous in how you measure and hold people accountable for what you’re doing. Those three stages of attributes need to be part of a constant vigilance making sure you answer those three questions and then it becomes a virtuous loop.”
How to reach: KeyCorp, (216) 689-5580 or www.key.com
- Never stop investing in yourself.
- Build relationships and leverage them to succeed.
- Use strategy to deliver a consistent, clear message.
There are a number of people who would argue that St. Louis’ slogan “Gateway to the West” could be updated to “Gateway to the World” — and Elizabeth Stroble, Ph.D., the newest president of Webster University, believes it more than most.
During the expansion of America, St. Louis was indeed a “Gateway to the West.”
“[Today,] I would say the slogan could be reversed as well; the world needs to see St. Louis as a gateway,” Stroble says.
As president, Stroble has been finding ways to continue to expand the institution’s presence globally in an effort to provide students with a more diverse curriculum that not only benefits them, but the businesses and communities that those students then work and live in.
Webster University is based in St. Louis, and has campuses in Geneva, Vienna, The Netherlands, London, China and Thailand. The college employs some 1,200 full-time faculty and staff members and has 21,000 students — 8,000 of them in St. Louis.
Stroble came to Webster in 2009, and with the university turning 100 in 2015, she has been evaluating where the college can grow and improve itself for the sake of its students, communities and business partners.
“What I learned since I arrived here was that Webster University has a tremendous history of being globally excellent with room to grow the global excellence,” Stroble says. “It’s highly innovative and entrepreneurial and its mission, going back to its founding, was to meet an unmet need.”
During the last four years, she has been assessing the university’s strengths and opportunities.
“The strengths and opportunities at Webster are to continue to connect the pieces and parts of that global network so that strength builds upon strength and that we stay connected, not only locally but globally,” Stroble says.
Here’s how Stroble is advancing the university’s strengths and opportunities.
Do a thorough assessment
Before coming to Webster University, Stroble was provost, senior vice president and COO at the University of Akron in Ohio. Wanting to find a presidency position, she came to Webster.
“The move to Webster University was about the presidency of an institution that’s local here in St. Louis but has a global reach and impact, and that was what was most interesting to me about it,” Stroble says.
With the school’s international footprint a big drawing factor, Stroble began to assess the university’s strengths and opportunities in that area and how Webster could benefit students, businesses and communities.
“I spent a great deal of time in the St. Louis community not only interacting with faculty, staff and students here but with local business and community leaders who have a global footprint in their own organizations and want to increase the global interaction in St. Louis, because that makes it a thriving community and a globally competitive community,” she says.
Stroble also began visiting every international location and many domestic locations of Webster University.
“Part of what fascinates me and continues to about Webster University is the diversity that comes from being located in different places,” she says. “While the location is different and the diversity of the students is different, the academic programs reflect local market needs.”
Taking that tour of various Webster campuses helped Stroble assess where the university could improve.
“You have to take plenty of time listening and asking for other people’s advice and counsel,” Stroble says. “One of my fundamental questions was, ‘What do you most hope that your new president will preserve about Webster University, and what do you most hope the new president will seek to change?’
“My sense in every organization is that there are these sacred traditions, values, habits and processes that people hope will continue. It’s always an assessment of whether you, as president or the new leader, will agree with those, but it’s important to know them.”
Stroble’s assessment left her with a sense that Webster University, like most organizations, had some ambition and pent-up hope and demand for change.
“If you don’t know what that is, you can’t help to fulfill the hopes and dreams that caused you to be the president who was selected,” she says. “That is an important learning opportunity, and you need to seize it to its fullest advantage, because when you’re new, it’s the greatest warning opportunity.
“Over time, it’s harder to see things with fresh eyes and … it’s hard to disabuse yourself of the notion that there might be better ways to do things.”
As an incoming leader of an organization, you have to take advantage of not knowing very much about the operation because you can ask the naive question and gain a lot of insight.
“Over the course of my presidency, it’s my role to listen to what’s going on in the external environment,” Stroble says.
For Webster University, that’s an external global environment and what’s happening in the world of higher education but also in the world of culture, diversity, politics, economics and the larger environment that we all live in and hope to shape.
“How do I learn about that and help to communicate that effectively to the university community so that we can truly not only be responsive but lead the change that the external environment wants?” she says.
“In turn, how do I learn well enough what the strengths are of Webster University so I communicate those well to an external environment to continue to attract students, high-quality employees, donors, external support, and local and global support partnerships?”
To help aid in that responsibility, Stroble has been investing in developing Webster’s talent around global diversity and knowledge and is focused on improving curriculum.
“We revised our general education curriculum to focus on global citizenship, and we have been building many more partnerships with international universities, especially in parts of the world where we are not,” she says. “That’s why it’s important for us to expand the campus footprint beyond Europe and Asia.”
Webster University wants to open global opportunities for its students and St. Louis businesses at the same time to bring an infusion of global talent to St. Louis and across the world.
“This focus on people, partnerships, curriculum and programs that help support student travel, more scholarship prospects for international students and raising our profile in terms of how well we communicate about the opportunities we can create at Webster University for businesses and other higher education institutions has been the work I have been doing,” Stroble says.
Develop global talent
True to Webster’s mission to fulfill a need, one of the institution’s goals is to build capacity in potential new geographies. These new international locations need to have a stable political environment, a stable and growing economy, and a need in that local community for American-style education taught in English in the degree programs Webster offers.
Globalization at Webster University is much more comprehensive than most other universities. Some even say that globalization is baked into the university’s DNA.
“It’s my job to help deepen this, broaden it, strengthen it, further it, but it certainly dates back to before I arrived,” Stroble says. “It was such a part of Webster University from its inception that we were ahead of the curve. Again, we’re an institution that prides itself on meeting a need and being entrepreneurial and naturally saw opportunities to do that outside of St. Louis well before it became cool to be global.”
Webster’s effort globally is much more about creating synergies and mutual benefit than it is about carrying the American message abroad.
“We’re much more about being truly global and figuring out how to live that through preparation of students, who we hire and how we think about the geography than we are about how we export an American education that might seek it,” she says.
While constantly looking at new international locations for the college, Stroble is also extremely focused on how that global diversity can benefit the local community in St. Louis.
“We have purposefully built a program with the state of Missouri called the Global Internship Experience that provides interns from international locations for companies here in St. Louis and sends Missouri students to international locations to do internships there,” she says. “We’ve been doing that for 25 to 30 years and it continues to expand.”
Another effort to broaden education and benefit businesses is the creation of a Confucius Institute.
“The point of a Confucius Institute is that you provide an arm for increasing knowledge of Chinese language and culture in your local community,” Stroble says. “Ours was founded in 2008, and it was the first in the state of Missouri. Our Confucius Institute provides resources to local businesses who seek to learn more about how to do business with the Chinese.”
This institute is a direct connection of Webster’s expertise and relationship with the Chinese Ministry of Education that opens up doors and opportunities for young people and businesses.
“It would be hard to know the world without knowing China,” she says.
All of these advancements to the global education of Webster’s students provide a platform for lifelong learning.
“It’s not only about the important topic of being a citizen of the world and seeing things in a large perspective or relating to people who have had experiences different from ours; it’s about creating an open point of view about learning, changing and responding to an environment that will continue to change,” Stroble says.
“If you learn how to navigate a different country, different language, a different culture, different politics, a different lifestyle, that positions you to learn about new technologies, new field development, new environmental challenges across your lifetime. You open up your world in more ways than globally.” ?
How to reach: Webster University, (800) 981-9801 or www.webster.edu
Listen and ask questions about the organization as a new leader.
Evaluate the organization’s strengths and opportunities.
Develop a presence to benefit stakeholders locally and globally.
The Stroble File
Elizabeth Stroble, Ph. D.
Born: New Castle, Wyo.
Education: She earned a degree in history and English from Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. She has two masters of arts degrees, one in history and one in American and English literature, both from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. She received her doctorate in curriculum studies from the University of Virginia-Charlottesville.
Background: She spent time at Northern Arizona University-Flagstaff and University of Louisville-Kentucky. At University of Akron she was the dean of the College of Education and was promoted to provost, senior vice president and COO. She then sought a presidency and came to Webster University.
What was your first job and what did you learn from that experience?
I was a waitress. I worked my way through college waitressing. Serving the hungry public teaches a lot about communication skills and being attentive to detail and being pleasant to interact with. I learned a lot about customer service.
What got you into education?
During my next-to-last term at Augustana, I was in the student teaching program. I had this spectacular student teaching assignment and after about the second or third day I decided this was my life.
Who is someone you’ve admired in the education world?
I worked for the chairman of the history department at Augustana, J. Iverne Dowie, and I looked up to him greatly because he had been blind since he was three years old. My job was to read books and papers out loud to him, and he and I would discuss what I had read. I admired his intellect and how gentle he was as an individual and how accomplished he was to be the department chair. A lot of what I learned about teaching and university work was from his direct example.
What are you looking forward to at Webster University?
I’m excited about this institution continuing to live that mission of setting a distinct standard for global education and preparing our students to be individually excellent and citizens of the globe.