Kristy J. OHara

It’s all about the green at Frito-Lay North America Inc., but in this case, it’s not just money we’re talking. Instead, the snack-food company has taken green to its company fleet and made efforts to make those trucks and its delivery processes more environmentally friendly.

One of the biggest initiatives that they’ve implemented is electric delivery trucks, but they look at many different ideas when deciding what’s best for their fleet.

“[We] figure out what applications really deliver the best results, and we call those out and find the best of the best initiatives and pilot those and implement them into our fleets,” says Mike McConnell, the company’s director of fleet capability.

Pilot programs are critical to figuring out what works for your organization. McConnell suggests first looking at whether an idea meets guidelines from SAE International, a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial vehicle industries. The organization focuses on lifelong learning and voluntary consensus standards development.

Then look at what works best with the routes your trucks take. So if your trucks do a lot of highway miles at high speeds, aerodynamic products are likely the best options. But on the other end, if they’re in the city mostly and do a lot of starting and stopping, the electric vehicles are good solutions. You may need to employ a combination of efforts depending on the different fleets you have.

“What we’ve learned is there is not one size that fits all to improve the fuel economy and sustainability of a fleet,” McConnell says.

It’s also important that you make you sure you test any initiative you want to implement. McConnell says Frito-Lay pilots its programs before rolling them out.

“The suppliers will all give you data, but their data could be skewed depending who they tested it with and how the truck was used, so we like to do our own in-house testing and we do a lot of that,” he says.

His pilot launch for the electric vehicles included 21 trucks in Canada, Texas, New York and Ohio. When doing a pilot program, it’s important to be rooted in data.

“We know cost of maintenance, cost of fuel, cost per mile — we have a lot of benchmarking and internal scorecards,” he says. “On any project, we’ll look at what those key performance indicators are and say, ‘OK, what are we looking for, what are the thresholds for this being feasible or not,’ and we’ll monitor that.”

Lastly, you have to look at how much payback you’ll get in terms of environmental impact and return on investment compared to how many dollars you invest.

“What we found is in the past, there have been tradeoffs where you have to spend money and not get a big return,” McConnell says. “We really have to be able to find win-win situations where we can make a significant improvement in our environmental footprint while actually getting great payback on the investment associated with the technology.”

For example, they looked at hybrid technology, and while many companies are investing heavily in that arena, it didn’t make sense for Frito-Lay because their drivers are stopped a lot when they’re in selling and delivering to customers.

For Frito-Lay, the biggest initiative that can deliver on both is electric vehicles for routes that are 100 miles or less. While there is an increased ticket price for the vehicles themselves, they can eliminate all the fossil fuel associated with the vehicle, and then the cost difference between electricity and diesel creates a significant pay back on that investment — the company reduced its fuel consumption by 8 percent and grew the business.

McConnell says, “It’s a pretty significant impact if you think about it, especially with the volatility of fuel prices now a days.”

HOW TO REACH: Frito-Lay North America Inc., (800) 352-4477 or

Find plan that fits you

You can make a difference in the environment even if your business does not have a fleet of thousands of vehicles taking the road each day. That’s the message from Jason Mathers, project manager for the Environmental Defense Fund. The nonprofit organization helps businesses find solutions to environmental challenges.

“Anything an employee is doing for the company on behalf of the company, the emissions associated with that are part of the environmental footprint,” Mathers says. “Just because you’re not able to easily track something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

Figure out what impact your company does have in terms of the number of vehicles you put on the road and how much they are used. Encourage your employees to be better drivers by not speeding, idling or hauling unnecessary weight in their vehicles.

“You’re talking about vehicle efficiency and routing, driver behavior and all these things that have a very significant return on investment,” Mathers says.

If you do have fleets, look at the vehicles you have and whether a more fuel-efficient model could do the same job.

“If you can take a modest step over your entire fleet, that can add up to a significant impact,” Mathers says.

HOW TO REACH: Environmental Defense Fund,

Anxiety. It’s an unpleasant word that makes people squirm, but in 2008, when Bank of America and Merrill Lynch announced their merger, in all honesty, that was the word on the minds of Jeff Markham and Richard Holt.

“I think there was anxiousness just because of what was going on in the financial markets the weekend this was announced,” says Markham, regional managing director of Merrill Lynch’s Texas region.

From an employee perspective, whenever there’s a big merger like this, anxiety creeps in as to the future of their jobs, but Holt, Dallas market president for Bank of America, and Markham were quick to recognize the realities of the situation. On Markham’s side, he had 500 financial advisers, and Holt had 10 client managers, so in reality, the two sides could actually work together and not worry about losing their jobs.

“There was some anxiety because of the market conditions, but because of the respect both companies had for each other, we complemented each other so well,” Holt says. “We didn’t have this big overlap of services that typically requires some reduction in force. We didn’t have any of that, so most of our teammates responded very enthusiastically. Put yourself in a commercial banker’s shoes — if you had 500 financial advisers out there that could make a referral for you, life couldn’t get easier.”

It was on this foundation that the two leaders began moving both sides forward when the merger occurred on Jan. 1, 2009.

Merge teams

To make the merger a success, Markham and Holt had to combine their teams into one cohesive unit, and they started with themselves, which was key.

“We tried to get to know each other quickly,” Markham says. “So many of the things that other people are hung up on — do I pick up the phone for this, do I not pick up the phone? — after we had developed a relationship, it became easy to pick up the phone and get an answer quickly.”

They spent a lot of time around each other and had many conversations about themselves but also about their respective businesses.

“The relationship part at our level was important because that translates down into how our associates feel about each other,” Holt says.

Once the two of them were on the same page and felt comfortable working together, then they started looking at the numbers. Just the fact that Markham had about 500 financial advisers handling $28.6 billion in assets under management and Holt had 10 client managers meant they would have to go through a coordinating process to get them working together.

“We identified very early on that there was expertise on each side,” Holt says.

There were different products and a little bit of a different focus, but they focused on how to leverage the expertise and the relationships that Markham’s advisers had in the business community. They started tracking the referrals from Markham’s business to Holt’s. In 2010, they realized that for every 100 referrals his team made to Holt’s team, about 15 generated revenue.

“We used the process of referrals from Jeff to my world and built out and figured out what worked and what didn’t work, and once we got it right, we flip-flopped,” Holt says.

To help people trust each other and feel comfortable leaning on each other for business, Markham and Holt hosted a number of lunch get-togethers and cocktail hours as well as having educational seminars. They also created teams, so now each one of Holt’s client managers has a team of someone from Markham’s side as well as someone from U.S. Trust and someone from the private bank investment group.

They say the key to building a cohesive team when you merge is communication.

“Communicate early and often,” Markham says. “You can almost overcommunicate. Make sure you’re sharing the vision — that it’s not just that there is a vision, there is a strategy behind this. When you’ve got uncertainty like that, people do want to be a part of something larger than themselves, and we’re all created that way, so they’re going to tie into that vision and strategy. Some of them will happen further down the line. Some of them will jump in there quickly. You overcommunicate and begin to share capabilities and really point out the most important thing to both cultures and that is we’re a client-first organization.”

When Markham and Holt communicated with their people, they made sure it was clear and candid.

“I try to compare it to something the group has been through before, if it’s possible,” Markham says. “It’s not always possible, but if you can compare it, to make it relative, I do find that to be helpful in many ways.”

And they made sure that they kept saying the same things so people would really get it.

“My rule of thumb is that you have to tell people 11 times before it sinks in, so we go back and check with people,” Holt says. “Once I can hear my client managers kind of rolling it out with their broader team, then I know it’s starting to sink in.”

Build a strategy

For the merger to be successful, there had to be a strategy to move both organizations forward, so while Markham and Holt worked to create a unified organization, they also worked on building a strategy.

“Part of it is defined for you,” Markham says. “You can see the natural synergies when Jan. 1 came around. Then the other part of it is sitting down and taking a broad look at what the market has, knowing that you’re client-first, you’re going to be serving clients, so you have to back into, ‘What are our clients and what are our future clients telling us, and then you share that.”

What they found was that as the world had gotten more complex on the financial services business, they needed to be able to help clients meet their needs by listening to them and helping them create goal-based planning to take out some of the complications. They needed to provide more tools and a broader platform to service clients — both things the merger could help them do.

They looked at each company’s footprint and found that each organization held about 25 percent market share in their respective industries. Despite that, on Holt’s side, less than 10 percent of his CEOs and owners had a relationship with Merrill Lynch, and the number was similar for Markham’s clients having a relationship with Bank of America.

“That’s pretty easy to identify an opportunity, and so then you develop strategies and tactics around that,” Holt says.

So they got together and did a gap analysis to create those strategies to go forward.

“Where is there a gap where we have a client need or a client opportunity, and then trying to fill those gaps with those teams where we have someone from the commercial banks and U.S. Trust, private banking investment and the wealth management organization,” Markham says. “Many times we have relationships and are able to go out there and say, ‘Where could we provide value for this client?’”

Staying rooted in reality is one of the most important things you can do in creating your strategy, according to Markham and Holt.

“One thing I learned early on is to get the right facts,” Holt says. “Get the right facts so everything you’re doing is based on good facts and not intuition. Start there and come up with a good strategy and get the buy-in from the various teams, attack the market, and then stay with it. Too often, companies come up with the right strategy, but they give up on it after six months because they’re not seeing the results. Something like this is going to take years. You just have to stay after it.”

Track your progress

With strategy in place to move forward, the last step to merging the organization was to track their progress to make sure the strategy was actually getting implemented and people were actually working together.

“It’s not rocket science, but it’s hard work,” Holt says. “You have to get teams on both sides coordinated, sit down and go through the [planning] process and obviously include the client in on the discussion. It takes some time every day, and that’s why we track all of this, because we want to be moving the needle every day.”

Markham and Holt say it’s important to identify key indicators of success for your combined organization.

“You only track the performance of things you want to do well in, right?” Markham says. “You track it and celebrate it.”

He and Holt initially tracked how many referrals were made from one business to another. The initial numbers are just a starting point, so if he says he wants everyone to get one referral in the first half of the year, he can use how people perform to that to change goals.

“Everyone may get one done in January,” Markham says. “Well, then you know I’ve set the goals way too low — we can get 18 done a year. I’m just using those numbers — heck, it could be 1,800 is the right number, but you have to somehow get started, and then it will tell you what the market will bear. Then you can usually stretch that if there’s the time to put the focus on it.”

It’s important that after you set those initial indicators that you adjust your expectations quickly based on initial performance instead of just going with guessed numbers.

“Start with the facts, because a lot of times people just come up with these grandiose goals, and it’s like, ‘Where’d you get that number?’” Holt says. “One of the things we did was we went in there and said, ‘What is the number? Where are we? What’s a realistic number?’ and set a plan around there. What I’m giving you is the basics, but that’s what a lot of this is — we’re building a business around the basics.”

The numbers you track won’t lie. If you start to see the numbers flat-lining, it may indicate that you’re pushing your team too hard and it’s time to pull back a little on your goals.

“There were times when we could have pushed everybody to go a little bit faster, but the fact is, everyone shows up with a full day ahead of them,” Holt says. “You have to stage this, because one thing you cannot do is you can’t exhaust your team. There’s a lot going on, so you have to make this part of the routine, part of the culture. That takes time. You can’t just change a routine or culture in a week.”

But the numbers can also help you see if you have a problem with just one or a few individuals if everyone else is meeting his or her expectations and one person or team is not.

“Sit down and lay it out say, ‘Here’s what I’m seeing,’” Holt says. “Get their feedback on what’s working, what’s not, and if you’ve got a gap, you agree this is a gap, and you go about coming up with a process to close it. You’ve just got to do this on a constant basis.”

As employees get wins, that will also help bring around the people that aren’t meeting their goals or have poor attitudes, because they’ll be motivated by other people’s successes.

“You’re going to have some that are slower to adopt, but you know that going in, and you continue to coach, communicate, and they see you celebrating someone’s successful acquisition of a new opportunity, so they’re only hurting themselves,” Markham says. “Then you just repeat and repeat until done.”

It’s been more than two years since the merger, and Markham and Holt are both pleased with the results that their organizations have achieved.

“I won’t say anything has become routine, because every 15 minutes something new is happening, but this is starting to become more routine,” Holt says.

The teams are now working together so well that often Holt and Markham don’t even know about meetings that are occurring.

Markham says, “The bridges between all the businesses within the organization are getting built every day and getting stronger every day.”

How to reach: Bank of America,; Merrill Lynch,

The Markham file

Born: Fort Worth, Texas

Education: Bachelor’s of business administration degree in marketing, Baylor University

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

Life’s about relationships — that’s from my grandfather.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a quarterback.

What was your first job ever as a kid?

My first job ever as a kid, I believe, was at a landscaping business. I was 15. I did drive a forklift, though, all the way through college in the summers.

What’s your favorite board game and why?

I guess Sorry because it brings back too many memories, and I played it as a kid and I play it every now and then. Sorry can be so exhilarating and so absolutely disappointing all within five minutes.

The Holt file

Born: Midland, Texas

Education: Bachelor’s in business administration, Abilene Christian University; MBA, University of Texas San Antonio

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

My best is from my father, and it was work hard every day.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a professional baseball player. It’s where the girls were.

What was your first job?

I started out on the family farm. We didn’t believe in child labor laws back then so we started at about [age] 10, hoeing cotton and moving irrigation pipe. That’s why I got into banking because it was indoors and air-conditioned.

What’s your favorite board game and why?

Chess or Trivial Pursuit — that’s a better board game.

Thirty-one years ago, and only nine years into his career, Pat Mullin decided to switch accounting firms from Arthur Andersen — then No. 1 — to Deloitte LLP — then No. 8 — and to this day, he’s thankful for that move.

“I wake up most mornings saying, ‘Thank you, Lord — I don’t know why you made me change firms in 1980 … but you did it, and why you did it, I don’t know, but it sure has worked well, because Andersen’s long gone and Deloitte is the No. 1 professional services firm in the world,’” Mullin says.

Now, after a successful career with Deloitte, including serving as managing partner until last June, Mullin will retire next month.

Smart Business spoke with Mullin about some of the leadership lessons he’s learned throughout his career.

Turn failure into success. Sometimes the worst thing that can happen in your life can be the best, because you can really learn from your mistakes. You can really capitalize.

I started my college education at Temple University in Philadelphia, which is where we were from. One day, I got this letter that said for the mutual benefit of the individual and the institution, we suggest you pursue your education elsewhere. I had to read it a couple times to realize they were saying nicely that I was flunking out. My mother and dad — the first question out of their mouth, after being mad at me, was, ‘Where are you going to go to college?’ Failure was not an option. Not going to school was not part of it. That’s what brought me to Cleveland. My brother had moved out here, and that led me to Kent State.

There are some things that I’m really bad at, like languages. When I took French in high school, the priest said to me on the last day, ‘Monsieur Mullin, I have a deal for you. If you agree to never speak my beautiful language again, I will pass you.’ On the other side, I discovered quickly at Kent that I found accounting to be extraordinarily easy. Most of my friends thought it was impossible. I went from flunking out to straight A’s — I think I got one B.

Crisis is a terrible thing to waste, they say, and my life proved true to flunking out at Temple and finding what I was good at. That correspondingly allowed me to focus my strengths and minimize my weaknesses, which is something, over the course of my career, I’ve really tried to do, and I really try to encourage the people I mentor to do the same thing.

Value different people. If you put a group of people together with different skill sets, you get a lot of different perspectives, and those different perspectives are extraordinarily valuable.

One of my biggest clients throughout my career was Dick Jacobs of the Jacobs Group. It was interesting because we’d get in a meeting with him, and he would ask everyone their opinion, and he would always start with the youngest person in the room. He didn’t want to change their view. He wanted to hear what they had to say. He would frequently then go make his own decision, but he really liked all those different perspectives, and I think that’s a very valuable management lesson. What I like about working with people is you get the different perspectives and you get their point of view, and it’s very valuable.

Never stop learning. The way I look at it, I’m not retiring. I’m just starting a new career. I don’t think it’s healthy to quit working. I love golf, but it doesn’t return the love. If it was a female, I would have dumped her 40 years ago.

Commit yourself to an absolute lifetime of education. It’s amazing to me how some people just don’t read. You have to commit yourself to continue to grow. That’s the most important thing that people need to do.

People need to really be flexible and keep growing and setting goals every year. I, every year the first week of January, sit down, and I have goals that I don’t share with anybody. It’s amazing how many of those goals I achieve each year — other than lose 25 pounds. In retirement, I’m going to fulfill that one unfulfilled goal. I divide my goals into Deloitte goals and personal goals — [for example] I’m going to take a course on woodworking and some financial goals on the personal side, and those overlap with the Deloitte goals to some degree. In the Deloitte area, I break it down between clients and people because those are the two things that we really do that are most important.

You have to figure out what works best for you. Don’t make them too long. If they’re more than about 10 words, you probably spent too much time on it. Lose 25 pounds — that’s three words.

How to reach: Deloitte LLP, (216) 589-1300 or

Thursday, 31 March 2011 20:01

Movers & Shakers in Northeast Ohio

Cedar Brook Financial Partners LLC hired Ryan Olds as partner. He is a certified financial planner, a registered representative with Securities America Inc. and an investment adviser with Securities America Advisors.

The Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio promoted Cynthia Struk to chief operating officer for Northeast Ohio’s largest and oldest community health organization dedicated to comprehensive in-home care.

Struk will be responsible for implementing strategies to bridge clinical, financial and technological operations to improve organizational performance and receivable management. She has been with the VNA for more than 20 years, serving the organization in many diverse roles, including associate chief of clinical services, vice president of performance improvement, and corporate director, clinical development, informatics and research.

The Cleveland Engineering Society named Ken Alfred as executive director. He will be responsible for building membership, adding to member offering, and growing the role of the organization in fostering the exchange of information and ideas to advance development and support recognition of the region as an engineering technology center.

He served as a founding executive director of the Ohio Fuel Cell Coalition and has held various planning and advocacy roles with British Petroleum.

Metrics Marketing Group expanded its e-commerce offerings and hired Stephen Kidwell and Brandon McInnis as e-commerce practice directors. Both directors will utilize the firm’s new Magento Enterprise platform to create custom and packaged e-commerce solutions for online retailers.

Kidwell previously worked as senior project manager at Ascendant Technology. He received his bachelor’s degree in management and organizational development from Spring Arbor University and his MBA in finance from New York Institute of Technology, Old Westbury.

McInnis previously provided strategic direction focused on conversion and online customer experience as director of Internet marketing for American Signature Inc. He earned a bachelor’s degree in art and design with an emphasis in computer animation from Iowa State University.

OneCommunity named Len Vega as vice president of operations and Scott Tennant as vice president of marketing and communications.

Vega helps to oversee a wide range of operational issues for the nonprofit provider of broadband Internet access, including sales, customer service and vendor relationships. He has more than 30 years of experience in telecommunications, most recently with Broadsource Inc.

Tennant comes to OneCommunity after four and a half years with the Cleveland Foundation and has 20 years of experience in communications, public relations and marketing in the Cleveland area.

Dave Reynolds joined the Cleveland office of Grant Thornton LLP as a federal tax manager. His areas of expertise include assisting clients with research and development tax credits, cost segregation, accounting methods, mergers and acquisitions, and tax reporting. He earned his bachelor of science degree in accounting from The University of Detroit and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Please send your executive-level promotions to

Sarah Sinclair says she could run a Toyota plant or a chicken farm. After all, it’s all about people and processes.

As the executive chief nursing officer for the Cleveland Clinic Health System and chair of the Stanley Shalom Zielony Institute for Nursing Excellence, Sinclair is charged with overseeing 11,000 nurses. When she started, her role was a new one, so she had to focus on the people and create processes in order to make changes to improve the organization.

“It’s not that hard, but it’s hard work because it’s about building relationships,” she says. “People will go with you in the change process if they believe you’re sincere and have good integrity and you’re not in it for something for you, but you’re in it for the right thing in the organization.”

It’s key to make sure you paint a picture of where you want the organization to go.

“It goes very much to being able to create a future state in the form of a vision, which allows people to get engaged in that process,” she says. “That’s the most important thing because if people can see where it is they’re going, why it’s important and be a part of creating that, then they have a vested interest in wanting to go there.”

To start, Sinclair asked whom the changes would impact the most in the organization, and she gathered groups of those constituents together to talk to them. This included patients, physicians, leadership, professionals with whom nurses worked and the nursing leadership and staff nurses. She talked to them about what was important and what needed to be prioritized to make the organization better.

“Surprisingly enough, there will start to emerge common themes of all the various stakeholders of things that are important and things that they see have an opportunity to be better in a future state,” she says.

As these themes emerged, she captured those in the work they did and went through a process called multivoting with each of those stakeholders to prioritize the objectives based on what they thought was needed most immediately. Each person was able to select his or her top three choices.

“It’s really looking at what gets the most votes,” she says. “It’s not a democracy, necessarily, but it is, in a way. If 40 percent believe this is No. 1, and the next closest is 20 percent, then probably that is the priority to the bulk of the stakeholders. There’s usually good thought put into it.”

She says to pick the top two to three items to focus on moving forward. It’s also important to remember that going through a process like this takes time, and you can’t rush it.

“Take the time to do it strategically, methodically, and cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s,” Sinclair says. “Don’t try to race through it to some end that you’ve determined — take the time to build the relationship and get your stakeholder input.”

It took Sinclair about three months to go through this process when she started, but that’s because the Cleveland Clinic is a large organization. If you have a smaller organization, you may be able to do this more quickly.

Once you determine your top objectives, then the real work starts. Make sure your structure reflects the objectives you’re working on and put people in key leadership positions who can effectively move you forward. You also need to create project management around your objectives.

“If you had three different themes, it would look like three different projects with timelines, objectives, how often are people going to meet, what are the outcomes, how are you going to measure their success,” she says. “It’s putting the structure around the process to make sure you hold people accountable to getting the work done.”

As you move along, it’s also important to make sure you’re prepared to make a change if need be.

“It’s pretty clear,” Sinclair says. “Usually, it’s when your stakeholders are telling you something’s not quite right. It goes back to listening and intuitively watching the signs of your organization — when it’s going through fatigue, when it’s not moving at a pace you’d like to move at — sometimes you have to energize it. …You’ll know when your team is beginning to tell you things aren’t working or the team suggests something new.”

How to reach: The Cleveland Clinic Health System, (800) 223-2273 or

One of the biggest lessons that Jenniffer Deckard has learned throughout her career is that she had to develop the patience and recognition that she really needed to listen to other people’s ideas, opinions and evaluations of her ideas.

“There’s a power of collective experiences in such that one person, whether that’s me or anyone else, can never have as many ideas as two people or even three or even four,” she says.

As president of Fairmount Minerals, one of the largest producers of industrial sand in the country, this lesson she’s learned is put into daily practice. Throughout her career, Fairmount has had an environment that fosters collaboration, and that has, in turn, helped her develop this skill in herself and in others.

“I hope to lead by example more and more, but [it’s] letting other people speak first — truly listening as opposed to waiting for your opportunity to jump in,” she says. “If you were to ask me what have I been able to do that has allowed me to succeed, I still have work in that area, and I’m developing in that area, but what has allowed the most success for me is … engaging collaboration.”

Sometimes it’s easy to talk about fostering collaboration and much harder to actually do it. Deckard says that coming up on the finance side — she previously served as chief financial officer — has allowed her to touch every facet of the business, so it’s helped her connect with people, so they, in turn, see her as a team player.

“Then, as others view me as a teammate, as [person] A views me as a teammate and [person] B views me as a teammate, it’s helped to foster A and B’s collaboration, as well,” she says.

But you can’t force people to view you as a teammate; that comes through years of patience and practice.

“[It’s] always working toward the same objectives — putting aside divisional objectives, functional objectives and putting the greater objectives for the whole first,” Deckard says.”

The outlook she takes and portrays to employees is one of transparency in a commitment to the success of the organization over all else.

“If we create a stronger, better business, that’s better for everyone, and that’s better for our communities, and that’s better for our employees, and that’s better for everyone in our stakeholder group,” she says.

Deckard says that employees and other constituents see that as her ultimate goal, and it helps create that collaboration, as well.

“Even if you’re digging into something that may be proprietary or sensitive to a group or a person, it’s always done with, ‘What can we do best for the organization, and how can we work together?’ because a successful organization is what can elevate the success of all individuals,” she says.

As she looks to move the business forward, she’s keenly aware of the many opportunities. As those opportunities present themselves, she also looks to other people for their input in assessing them.

“Don’t look at opportunities in a vacuum,” she says. “I get feedback from people on opportunities, usually because opportunities are collaborative. It’s not, ‘This opportunity comes up for Jenniffer.’ It’s, ‘There’s an opportunity, and usually there’s more than one self involved.’”

It also depends on what the opportunity is. Sometimes, she says you just have to decide and move forward, which is how she tends to make decisions if it affects just her.

“If you think too much about it, you can talk yourself out of anything,” she says.

She’s more inclined to jump, especially when it’s her resources, but when it comes to other people’s resources, that’s when she comes back to collaboration.

“That’s when I’ll take a much more analytical approach to an opportunity,” she says.

It’s important to make sure you’re looking at other people when you make decisions and not just looking at how it impacts you. If you can’t take this approach, you’ll be hard-pressed to find success as a leader in business.

“Often, when you try to squeeze out the very last shred of benefit for yourself, you risk losing much bigger future opportunities,” Deckard says. “But when you take an approach that everyone shares in the success, the overall success for you and for everyone else is infinitely greater.”

How to reach: Fairmount Minerals Ltd., (800) 237-4986 or

When Elizabeth Barry came into Delta Systems Inc. as president and CEO, the company was in good shape. The business, which designs and manufactures switches, electronics and wireless control systems and provides turnkey contract manufacturing/EMS solutions, was doing well and had no reason to change. But Barry saw so much more in the company than what it was doing and knew that if it could change, it could grow and become better.

Barry started the process with changing some of the senior staff members in the organization.

“That kind of change kind of brought more change, because once they came into their own departments, then they started making changes,” she says.

But when you’re bringing in new senior team members, what should you be looking for? In Barry’s case, because she wanted to grow, she needed people who also wanted to grow.

“Companies grow and get bigger, and management styles change,” she says. “Some people are better in smaller companies, and others are better in bigger companies. I was looking for those who were ready to work and help us grow to the next level.”

She looked for people who had skill sets that would enable change — both in terms of revenue and culture. That meant looking for people who had worked at a larger company and understood the barriers and the gates and would work to break down the silos. Additionally, if someone had led an organization through a complicated or discouraging change, such as a bankruptcy, and moved it forward and made it better, that was encouraging, as well.

Whatever it is, she says you have to look at your senior team and determine if they’re the right person to move your company to the next level.

“You have to get to the point where you feel a department might be better served with a change with a new person in there,” Barry says. “The days of someone staying at a company for 20-plus years are kind of over. They need to have different experiences and different situations, and staying with the same company might not afford you to see what’s out there — state-of-the-art approaches or different approaches — that someone who’s stayed at a company too long may not be able to see and adjust to. They might not have had the growth that is needed to move the company to the next level.”

One of the other keys to leading change at Delta was for Barry to get buy-in.

“You just have to get it started and show them that it’s going to work and everything is going to be fine,” she says. “Then once the change starts happening and it isn’t too disruptive or they get used to the disruption, then it feeds upon itself.”

She says it’s also important to listen to the naysayers.

“You’ve got to hear both sides of the argument,” she says. “As much as you want everyone to follow you and do everything that you feel is right, you need the voices of reason to say, ‘But have you considered?’”

She says she wouldn’t be properly doing her job if she didn’t at least hear the opponents out in the process.

“As much as you don’t want to listen to it and you don’t want to hear it and you don’t have time for it, you’ve got to do it because you’re probably being negligent if you don’t listen to the other side,” Barry says. “Putting the blinders on never served anyone too well. You can be lucky and make it through a few situations, but there are those situations where if you didn’t listen to them, you might be blindly going into something and regret not paying attention to the voices that you’re hearing — the naysayers that are out there.”

Most of the time, people will come around, and if they don’t, then that’s OK too. Barry recognizes that some people will choose to leave because they don’t like the new company, and that’s OK too, because she knows that where the company is going is the best place to be.

She says, “If you truly believe that these are changes that are needed, then you just have to stick with it.”

How to reach: Delta Systems Inc., (330) 626-2811 or

Stodgy and old were not the words Jodi Berg would use to describe Vitamix Corp., but those were the ones that Forbes used to describe the high-performance blender company, and seeing that in print shocked her.

“My first reaction was how could someone think we’re old and stodgy because I knew our goal wasn’t to be,” says Berg, who is now president. “I had to make sure I wasn’t just having an internal perspective but having an external perspective of how our company could be perceived. It was one of those wakeup calls that everyone should have.”

Berg had an approach to business that would help her transform the company and make it more appealing to the outside judges. Throughout her career, she had used an acronym called DANCE to help her as she moved into new positions, and that same acronym was critical to move Vitamix into a new position, as well.

The D stands for determining what your destiny or goal is. She says to ask yourself,  “What is it exactly that you want to achieve or you want to be?”

“Be very specific about that,” she says. “That’s the only way you’ll know if you get there if you’re specific about where you want to go.”

She likens it to when people plan vacations and says that often people plan their vacations more than they plan their daily lives.

“When you plan a vacation, you pick a destination, you know who’s going to go, you know how you’re going to get there, you know what you’re going to do when you get there, you have an agenda, you have a plan,” she says. “Oftentimes, when people go through life, they just wing it. Why would we put more planning into our vacation than our own life? I think it’s because they just don’t think about it. If you can think of your life as destinations or a project you’re working on as a goal you want to achieve, take the time upfront to define what that is.”

Then the next part of DANCE is the A, which stands for alignment. She says you have to make sure you’re aligned around that goal and uses the vacation example again.

“If we want to go on a trip to California, whether we walk or drive or fly, we’re going to head west, but if we don’t align our compass to make sure we’re going west, we may never make it to California,” Berg says. “If we head out and we start heading north, we may feel very busy and feel like we’re accomplishing something, but we’re not getting anywhere close to our goal, so align your decisions around where your destination is.”

The N stands for network — don’t assume you have to do it all on your own.

“If you look at other people, a lot of what you’re managing to do has probably already been done by several other people — good, bad or indifferent — and you can learn from all three versions,” she says. “Look around and find people who have done it before and don’t be shy about saying, ‘This is what I’m thinking of doing; this is where I’m going.’ Bounce your ideas off of other people. The more input you have from other people, the better your decisions are going to be, and the faster you’ll be able to achieve the goal you want to achieve.”

The C — care — is the easiest one to understand but often is the most difficult to execute.

“Make sure you care for yourself in the process, and make sure you care for the people around you,” Berg says. “In an airplane, they say put your oxygen mask on first for a reason because you can’t help other people if you’ve passed out. You have to be functioning, and you have to be in good condition in able to lead.”

Then lastly, the E stands for embrace success — in any large or small form it may come.

“Oftentimes, we set a goal, and we think that we’re not successful until we achieve that goal,” she says. “In reality, every baby step that we take along the way, if that step gets us a little bit closer to that goal, then that is a success, and we’re moving in the right direction.”

By following the DANCE approach, Berg transformed Vitamix so the outside critics could see the exciting business she had seen all along.

How to reach: Vitamix Corp., (800) 848-2649 or

As president of Generational Equity, Ryan Binkley makes a living helping business owners prepare their organizations for sale. But with the economic challenges over the last couple of years, he’s seen business owners struggle to sell their organizations and potential buyers not be able to get loans necessary to make these transactions. During these tough times, he came to rely on his management and deal-making teams to stay in tune with clients’ needs and help them in the sale-preparation process.

“These are the professionals that work closely with our clients every single day on their exit plan,” he says

This approach by his 250 people helped the firm not only do well the past few years but also earned it a spot on the 2009 Inc. 500 list.

Smart Business spoke with Binkley about how to put together a strong team that can ensure success during tough times.

What’s the key to building a strong management team?

That’s a leadership challenge that’s there in every organization, whether it be private or public, and it’s important for the business owner to continue to have good leaders that can carry on the business in the same manner they do. What we try to do is always have good people that can run their departments at the same level that we could if we weren’t here. That’s the goal for every company, and people need to invest in that instead of solely relying on the business owner to be in a position to be prepared to hand off to someone else.

We built it over time and recruiting good people. We found some people in the industry who had a lot of experience in exit-planning and deal-making. It was a process of coming through and finding the right people that we felt were a cultural fit.

How do you make sure someone is both a professional and a good cultural fit?

It’s through not making a hasty decision and getting to know them a little bit. People are one or the other. A lot of people are one or the other, and it’s spending time with them during the interview process to make sure they share the same values as far as long-term business goals. We just want to make sure we’re doing the right thing for the client long term and not just the short term and be professional and have the right expertise that’s really needed in the marketplace.

What questions can you ask to get to know them in the interview?

There are two things. You have to have skill, and then you have to have the X factor, which is the leadership and integrity. We need to make sure that somebody fits the technical expertise we have, and that comes through their background as well as looking at some of the examples of the work they’ve done. You can talk to someone about the challenges they’ve had, and they can communicate their expectations there or not.

The other is just do they have that leadership factor that’s so important. In this difficult time, we need people who can really communicate with our clients and help them through the difficult times they’re going through and make proper decisions, and it takes a high-quality individual to get that done.

How do you make sure someone can work with clients really well?

I don’t know that there’s any secret formula other than based on experience, but once you analyze them and get a feel for them and how they’ll handle difficult questions that they’re asked, eventually you just go with the instinct you have as a professional. At the end of the day, if they seem to have the integrity and the leadership skills, you have to just go with your instincts.

How to reach: Generational Equity, (877) 213-1792 or

When Stephen Mansfield was hired on as president and CEO of Methodist Health System in the fall of 2006, there wasn’t any drama around it.

The former CEO was simply retiring and things were running like clockwork. But with that retirement, the board saw an opportunity. The hospital’s financial performance was starting to deteriorate, primarily because of the amount of charity care and uncompensated care it had to provide — a common problem for hospitals as an increasing number of people lack health insurance.

“My feeling was, and the message was, that we need to grow,” Mansfield says. “If we’re going to be able to sustain the mission of this company and provide care to the poor who are unable to pay for their care, we’ve got grow in some new areas that can generate income to offset that.”

His first 90 days on the job were spent in conjunction with the outgoing CEO, so he did one-on-one interviews with the board, senior leadership, community leaders and about 80 medical staff members, all in an effort to understand the organization well.

By January, Mansfield was in a position to stand before the board and the entire medical staff and provide his assessment and early thoughts as to how and why the company should grow from where it was — about $460 million in net patient revenue — to $1 billion in net patient revenue by fiscal 2011.

The results in his first four years are impressive: $890 million last fiscal year and nearly doubling the net patient revenues. Additionally, the system has grown from two hospitals in 2006 to seven today.

“It’s been a pretty aggressive growth trajectory,” he says. “I don’t know many other health systems that have doubled in size over the last four years. We’re very fortunate.”

Here’s how Mansfield used two key strategies — planning and careful hiring — to hit his growth goals.

Create a plan

Mansfield simply loves strategic planning, and it’s the first thing he went into following his address to the company in January 2007. He knew that if Methodist was going to grow, it couldn’t just meander its way through it.

“Next to the right people, strategic planning is one of the most important functions you can do,” he says.

Mansfield essentially creates a four-year plan every three years, which allows for a year overlap on each plan. For example, he began creating Methodist’s 2012-2014 plan in February 2010, while still in the middle of the 2009-2011 plan.

He starts with an off-site, one and a half day conference with the board, leadership team and medical staff leadership. One of the keys to strategic planning is getting an outside perspective, so he brought in well-known, industry experts to speak about where they saw health care going.

“Have thought leaders from your industry come and talk to your leadership,” he says. “We tend to get myopic in our focus on our own organization and our own market, and we think that’s the way the world’s running, but, in fact, there may be trends occurring outside of your market that you need to take into account for your market. …

“You may not agree with all of them, and some may not work for your market or your company, but it’s helpful to expand our horizon of thinking at the beginning of a strategic planning process. Then you take it from broad to narrow and make it work for your organization and your service area or market.”

After that, he says to come back with your senior team and synthesize the thought from that session at a high level and put it into a document.

“Whoever’s going to be tasked with the primary responsibility for delivering on your plan needs to be involved in your planning process so they feel ownership in that plan,” he says.

Over the months that followed, the senior team members discussed and refined it, and in September, they presented it to the planning committee.

“We had a lot of people involved in it, because we wanted to have buy-in from the medical staff,” he says. “I didn’t want it to be Steve Mansfield’s strategic plan — I wanted it to be our medical staff’s plan, our board’s plan, our community’s plan, our employees’ plan, our management structure’s plan.”

A year after the initial conference — and still a year before the plan starts — is when he starts the budgeting process for that three-year plan. They create a planning calendar, which he calls a racetrack, that has the key things that have to happen during that time period for the plan to be successful.

“As much value as I place on planning, I don’t think it’s the final plan that’s so important as it is the process of creating the plan,” Mansfield says. “Then the real differentiator is not necessarily the plan but how well you execute on it.”

He says companies get caught up in creating a plan but they don’t involve key stakeholders and then they don’t track their progress or see how they’re doing against the plan.

“Those things are so important to making sure the plan has the impact on the organization that you want it to,” he says. “I tell people all the time, as proud as we are of our strategic plan, reality is, if you compared our strategic plan to our two top competitors’ strategic plan, there’s probably about an 80 percent overlap. So what’s the differentiator? The differentiator is who can execute the plan better.”

Once the plan actually begins, he meets every other week with his senior executive group to review key data. In one meeting a month, the key metrics of the plan are reviewed by the planning department, and the team receives feedback on how they’re doing on accomplishing and delivering on the plan. The hospitals are given updates on the things they’re measured on once a month. If anything is off, he and his team try to find out why.

“Missing a goal is not the cardinal sin,” he says. “Missing the goal and not having discussed it and asked for help along the way is.”

Lastly, to make sure people are staying on track, he also stops by people’s offices — not call them to his — to casually talk with them about how things are going.

“There’s no substitute for periodically sitting down with the key members of your team and saying, ‘How’s it going? How are things working? Do you feel like you’re getting things done that you need done? Is there anything I can do to help you? Oh, by the way, I saw that you did such and such, and that’s awesome,’” he says. “We get, as CEOs, so busy sometimes that we don’t just take the time to sit down with the key members of our team and just spend a little bit of time refreshing on the priorities and making sure that we’re acknowledging the successes. We have a propensity to assume success and sometimes to withhold encouragement, and that’s not good.”

Hire the right people

When Mansfield came into his position, he was new to the area, having just moved from Arkansas, so he recognized his weakness — not knowing the market. He needed to hire a development officer who knew people, knew the area well, could look for growth opportunities and had the relational acumen to facilitate complex transactions. He hired someone in, and that person made a lot of connections for Mansfield very early in his tenure.

“You plant a lot of seeds and not a lot of them grow, but we planted a lot of seeds in those early weeks and months and a lot of them did grow,” he says.

That person got a group of physicians in McKinney, Texas, to agree to do a joint-venture hospital there. Shortly after that, he brought another group of physicians in the community on board that was already assembled and looking for a partner to do a joint-venture hospital. The city of Richardson also approached Methodist about merging its hospital into their system. On top of all those efforts, they also opened two other hospitals.

The system was also facing a physician shortage, so Mansfield got the board to agree to an aggressive employment recruitment strategy, so hiring was a major part of his position when he started.

But hiring can be tricky, so Mansfield was very particular in his process and says that’s the way you have to do it if you want to be successful. To start, he first looks at if there’s anyone he knows that could do the job well.

“The best way to make sure you make a good hire is when you hire someone you already know will fit in that job if you can just convince them to take it,” he says.

That was the case with the development officer, as well as with the CEO for one of the hospitals, the new system COO and the human resources executive. Despite knowing these people, though, he knew it couldn’t be all up to him.

“Even if it’s someone I think will work, they’re not going to be effective if they can’t work with the rest of our team,” he says.

So despite having a front runner for a position, he still did searches and put each candidate through a hiring process that makes them interview with teams of board members, medical staff, employees, senior executives and middle management.

“It helps to do a team interview,” Mansfield says. “I’m not sure if it helps you so much with your selection process as it helps you with that person’s assimilation … to have key people who would have to help that person be successful involved in the selection process.”

He says to ask behavioral-based questions, such as what have they done, what’s the worst decision they’ve made and what they did about it, instead of what’s their management philosophy.

“Those kinds of questions you can get a little bit deeper than ‘What’s your management philosophy.’” he says. “Don’t ever ask that question.”

All together, a candidate can meet with about 120 to 150 people in his or her interview process.

“It’s a scheduling nightmare trying to get that many people together, and it exhausts our candidate,” he says. “If that candidate is still perky at the end of a day and a half of being asked the same question that many times, they can probably handle a typical day at Methodist.”

With that many different people scoring a candidate, it’s easier to get buy-in for whomever you ultimately hire.

“Through that process, we select a person — it’s not just Steve Mansfield’s person, it’s all 150’s person,” he says. “We’ve all got a vested interest in that individual being successful and quickly assimilating to our team.”

Beyond sheer numbers in interviewers, there are other keys to hiring. He also suggests, especially for senior executives, for you and your spouse to spend time with them and their spouse in a dinner setting to see how they interact together, what kind of support they have in their life and how they are in social settings.

He also makes it a point to look for diversity and likes to have at least one of the final four candidates come from a racial or gender minority.

“That doesn’t mean we select the diverse candidate,” he says, “But if you’re not seeing them, you certainly can’t select them.”

After that, Mansfield likes to get an off-the-record perspective on that person by speaking to someone he may know that might have worked with that person. And then the final step is to use an outside company to complete a psychological profile of that person, which is what he calls Myers-Briggs on steroids.

It’s a long process, but he’s successfully recruited more than 100 physicians that have helped Methodist grow.

“Despite all of that, I think the interview process is still just a little better than a coin toss,” he says. “It’s like getting married. No matter how long you date, when you get married, you find out some things you just didn’t know. Usually those are mostly pleasant things, but that’s just the nature of it.”

How to reach: Methodist Health System, (877) 637-4297 or

The Mansfield file

Mansfield on leading change: To change anything — to change a habit or change culture or change anything that’s indelibly embedded as culture — you have to start with making the compelling case for why. Why change? If we’re successful, if we’re delivering on our mission, if we’re happy, then why change?

Changing a culture is like breaking a horse — you’re going to get bumped off, but you have to be willing to get back on and keep getting back on until you get the change from the culture that you need to be successful.

Mansfield on your career choices: Work for an organization whose espoused and practice mission matches well to your own value system and life priorities. I feel very fortunate to have had almost a four-decade career, and I have never been in an organization where I felt like I had to compromise my value system in order to be effective in the role that I had. I think that’s very important as you’re contemplating where you’re going to spend your career, to make sure you’re working with a company whose goals and value systems and mission and vision statements you can embrace and support from a personal standpoint.

Mansfield on setting personal goals: I’m still amazed by the number of people who don’t do it, but it’s so important for human beings to have the discipline to periodically create and update your own personal goals. Not just your goals related to work, but your goals related to community and faith and health and all of those variables that make us multidimensional creations. Human beings have the capacity to accomplish so much more than we do.

One of the delimiting factors is we don’t create a road map that’s trying to take us to a better place as individuals. If you don’t really care where you’re going — it doesn’t matter — one road’s just as good as the other, but if you’re intentional about what you want to accomplish with your life across its many dimensions, I think that there’s strength and power in that acknowledgment. The Bible says that as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. What does that mean? I think that means we can accomplish a whole lot if we establish an expectation of ourselves to do so.