Vision quest Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2008

Ted Peters loves getting up every morning.

The chairman, president and CEO of The Bryn Mawr Trust Co. enjoys his job so much that he’s often in his office on weekends and holidays. What motivates him? Leading the 255 employees of this high-performance business.

Leading a publicly traded company comes with its own set of challenges, and as a result, Peters says he has become a disciplined leader as he concentrates on keeping the company profitable, efficient and brand-savvy. In 2007, The Bryn Mawr Trust Co. posted 2007 revenue of $56 million, with $1 billion in bank assets, $2.2 billion in trust investment assets and 15 locations.

Smart Business spoke with Peters about how to share your corporate vision, focus on the big picture and maintain an upbeat attitude, even in tough times.

Sell your vision. You have to have a vision as a leader, and you have to sell it.

First of all, you have to repeat it over and over again.

It has to be in a lot of your communications to your employees — when you talk in front of them, when you write them a note, in your annual report, all those types of things. We constantly, in a consistent way, remind people what our vision is as an organization, and after awhile, people know it.

It doesn’t matter whether you are the coach of a team, the president of the United States, or you’re running a nonprofit or for-profit organization, people want to be part of something where they know where they’re going. The vision is where you’re going and what you’re trying to do.

It benefits your company because the people are motivated, and they’re all working in the same direction. When people start a project, they say to themselves, ‘Is this part of our vision?’

The CEO has to convince the directors of the organization, as much as the staff, that this is the right vision. It is a matter of making people know the vision is relevant, that it is doable and that it makes sense for the shareholders.

The vision is the CEO’s job: Have the vision, sell it and then get the organization going in that direction.

Avoid the Jimmy Carter complex.I’ve got to make sure that the major things we do — build a branch, start a new company, buy another company, come out with stock offerings — I have to get right.

As you move up through the ranks, you have to realize your job becomes less about detail and crunching numbers and more about making major decisions. The board is not paying you to crunch numbers; the board is paying you to make the major decisions that take your organization in an upward direction — more profitable and growing.

I always talk about the Jimmy Carter complex. He was probably one of the most intelligent and most decent men we’ve ever had as a president. However, everybody regards him as a total failure as a president, and part of his problem was that he couldn’t get away from the details.

There is a story that is probably apocryphal — that he was organizing the tennis court schedule at the White House. There was stagflation, and foreign relations didn’t work well; he just didn’t get anything done. On the other hand, Ronald Reagan wouldn’t read anything over one page in bullet points, took a nap every day for two or three hours and is generally credited by people, both on the right and the left, as being a very effective president. You have to be very careful of having the Jimmy Carter complex.

Maintain an air of confidence. You have to be positive all the time. You are always on stage.

When you’re the CEO, whether you like it or not, everybody is watching you. You’ve got to be upbeat and optimistic because that will feed its way through the organization.

You’ve got to set an example for your people. It is well-documented that, if the work staff is positive, they feel good about their company. They are optimistic, and they see good chances for their company to grow and be successful. First of all, people want to affiliate with those companies, and then when they are there, they want to stay with those companies.

If people see the CEO with his head down and a frown on his face, pretty soon employees think something must be the matter or that the company must not be doing well.

Your clients pick it up, as well. You have to be upbeat and positive, and if bad stuff does happen, you’ve got to address it, move on quickly and try to put a silver lining on it.

Live ethically and responsibly. Are you running your business in an ethical manner? You have to make it an absolute. You can’t tolerate ethical lapses with employees.

It’s really setting a tone from the top, and it’s just the right thing to do. I always like to be treated fairly, so we treat our people and our clients that way, with respect and in a professional manner.

You are accountable for your actions. When you do something, there are going to be results, and you’re going to live with those results. That is a lesson in life as well as in business.

HOW TO REACH: The Bryn Mawr Trust Co., (610) 581-4800 or www.bmtc.com