Back in 2003, the telecommunications industry was going through what Timothy Jenks describes as a “downturn and compression,” as large equipment manufacturing companies — his customers — increasingly consolidated and reduced their vendor base to manage costs. The result was that many companies in the telecommunications components industry, which NeoPhotonics Corp. occupied, were being put out of business.

“As a small technology company, clinically a start-up, it was difficult to gain mind share let alone market share at these very large companies as they consolidated their own operations,” says Jenks, the chairman, president and CEO of the San Jose, Calif.-based optical components supplier with approximately 3,000 global employees.

Jenks saw that the company needed to enhance its core value proposition in a way that would resonate with this core customer group and help it win its business. After spending a year looking at M&A opportunities, he and his management team soon found their solution in Photon Technology Co. Limited, China's largest supplier of active optical components at the time.

“It was complementary technology to our core technology and with an established customer base,” Jenks says. “We had both cash and technology and they had certain products, customer base and manufacturing capability. So together we felt that we would have all of the requisite elements to be an important supplier going forward in the industry.”

By acquiring Photon in 2005, the company now had the opportunity to become a global, one-stop shop for optical components, a value proposition that would click with the needs of its customers. But Jenks now had the task of taking the two companies with different languages and different cultures on different continents and creating one new entity consisting of 1,200 employees and more than 100 customers around the world.

Promote understanding

Before they could align everyone directionally and operationally, Jenks and his leadership knew that they needed to spend time with the employees in China to initiate a comfort level of understanding between both teams.

“In order to do that with very strong differences in language, culture and location, it took an awful lot of personal time and attention to develop mutual understanding,” Jenks says. “With mutual understanding, we could get alignment. With alignment, we could execute on the goals. With the goals being clear, we could make good progress.”

While Jenks had a number of people on his team and several from China who were bilingual, there were still communication differences and cultural differences that needed to be addressed in the new company.

“You need to be compassionate, taking the time and effort to understand our global brethren and what are issues from their point of view?” Jenks says. “Everyone is not the same but everyone is important.”

In-person communication in the preliminary stages of the merger was helpful for both leaders, who needed to establish a plan for integration. For about a year and half, Jenks travelled to China for one week or more every month to meet with direct reports and develop an approach of how to provide a clear direction to the key managers in the combined company.

“The face to face matters not just because it’s face to face, but because it allows people on both sides of the table to jointly see momentum,” he says. “If they see you once a month or once occasionally, there just isn’t much momentum.”

The benefit of being face to face with employees who are being acquired is also being able to see the realities of how people operate and manage the ins and outs of daily business. Jenks says that in retrospect he would have moved to China during this time, now that he’s seen the value of this personal time.

“Living in each other’s shoes by being together causes you to understand the issues that you’re facing not on too high of a level but much more day to day, hour to hour, the real issues that we’re facing and how can we jointly solve them,” Jenks says. “My experience is when people have the opportunity to face challenges together and find solutions together, that is what defines successful integration.”

Build alignment on new goals

This first phase isn’t about getting everyone to agree, but cultivating a comfort level and understanding between your two companies so you make decisions easier.

“We spent a lot of time and effort to understand each other, but we didn’t make it the biggest priority to gain consensus on decisions,” Jenks says. “It was to gain consensus on understanding, not consensus in decisions. Decisions had to get made and we had to move forward.”

The next step was getting the two companies to act as one global company, with one set of goals, one vision and one mission moving forward. Getting this alignment involved eliminating all of the previous goals from the individual businesses and creating one set of goals for everyone.

“The company in China wanted to operate on the global stage and the company in the U.S. wanted to be successful and deploy its technology globally,” Jenks says. “So putting those two nuanced sets of personal goals into one set of company goals was a challenge.”

After a merger, there may be a tendency for employees from either company to hold on to the old way of doing things. Where problems arise is when people become so attached to their previous goals that they don’t focus their efforts on new business growth.

“We had a company in the U.S. that was used having objectives that were local objectives, and we had a company in China that was used to having objectives that were Chinese objectives,” Jenks says.

So part of the strategy to get buy-in was to do away with any past performance goals that distracted people from the new global strategy. All financial incentives for employees in the future would be tied to global instead of local performance.

“It was to eliminate and remove all of those objectives and any references to them and replace them with goals so that people in China have to help the global result,” Jenks says. “People in the U.S. had to help the global result. Then even though they understood it, if they weren’t willing to embrace it, there wasn’t a role for them.”

Jenks and his team collaborated with the leadership in China to develop the new set of objectives.

“We actually spent a lot of personal time to write goals to be one company, not to be two companies, and to express with our managers our values that we would embrace and how we would operate,” Jenks says. “That included people from East and West in the senior most management to share ideas, share understanding, share goals and execution plans.”

Getting input from both teams is important, because it helps everyone embrace the new goals as their own, adding to the synergies in the combined company. Once your topmost leadership is aligned on the new corporate goals, you can proceed to build alignment throughout the organization.

“The key thing is that we did express a group of values to be one company and to focus on those global goals, which implicitly meant that staying on the fence was not an option,” Jenks says.

Again, talking with your people face to face to share the new strategies and goals is critical in getting everyone on the same page.

“It causes integration to happen faster, and people find energy in integration success that allows you to move to the next chapter together instead of moving to the next chapter staying individually who you used to be,” Jenks says.

Get the right people on board

Jenks knew that inevitably there were people in the U.S. operation that didn’t want to spend time working on business in China as well as people in China who preferred working for a Chinese company. There were some people who had the skills to succeed in the new environment but weren’t interested in the new direction.

“It was difficult for some people who are not necessarily comfortable living in a language that they don’t speak,” Jenks says. “Moreover, it may be uncomfortable for people who are linguistically gifted but then may have a larger burden because of their abilities.”

During a merger, you have to accept that there are people who will embrace the change and people who won’t. To an extent, the employees who won’t will self select.

“Ultimately, strong performers and people that were good at execution were strongly encouraged to come over to the one-company side of the fence,” Jenks says. “If they were unwilling to do that, they left. That was perfectly OK. If these are not the objectives that you want to work on then there’s no reason why you should work on them, but then you shouldn’t work here.”

In the course of this kind of transformation process there will likely be turnover. As long as you are very clear about the new goals and direction, then you can be fairly confident that people who aren’t excited about it probably don’t have a role in your new company anyway.

“We had to look beyond the level of turnover and say we’re operating to a larger goal and the goal was to be successful and competitive on a global basis,” Jenks says. “That was embraced by a large majority of the employees in both locations. So having that dedicated and engaged group of employees was a really important part.”

To further engage and motivate people, make it clear that with the new vision comes new opportunities for those who are willing to put in the work. That could be everything from more career opportunities, travel opportunities or selling opportunities. Jenks made sure that the Chinese company recognized it now had access to the U.S. R&D and technology and let U.S. employees know that they could enjoy larger manufacturing and a better cost structure. He also knew the added capabilities of the combined company would particularly appeal to sales people as they sought out new business.

“Sales people are always interested in a higher, broader, deeper value proposition to offer to their customers,” Jenks says. “So there was a natural affinity in terms of our customer facing efforts, meaning sales people, whether they were from East or West, suddenly had a broader group of products because they had the merger partner’s products. They had a better roadmap of what they might be able to offer in the future and they had a bigger story to promote with a customer.”

The employees who embrace change are the ones who will do what it takes to make it successful. “I think it’s been a great experience for all of the people who have stayed with the company over the last five or six years,” Jenks says.

Since the merger, the company has grown from approximately $35 million to $181 million in revenue for 2010. In 2011, it completed another acquisition to purchase San Francisco-based Santur Corp., a privately-held components manufacturer with approximately 150 employees.

“So the principles used back in 2005 and in some subsequent deals are being applied again to develop as one company moving forward and to work jointly on what our goals and objectives are,” Jenks says.

How to reach: NeoPhotonics Corp., (408) 232-9200 www.neophotonics.com

Takeaways

1. Gain understanding by getting face to face.

2. Build alignment around shared goals.

3. Encourage people to buy in or opt out.

The Jenks File

Timothy Jenks

Chairman, president and CEO

NeoPhotonics Corp.

Born: Boston

Education: U.S. Naval Academy, B.S., Mechanical Engineering

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, S.M. Nuclear Engineering

Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., MBA

What is one part of your daily routine that you wouldn’t change?

A quiet morning moment for a cup of coffee alone with my wife

What do you to regroup on a tough day?

I like to have a brisk walk with my dog, but unfortunately most tough days don’t offer the opportunity to regroup. That’s why they are tough.

What do you like most about your job?

I like the global aspect of it. I have friends, colleagues, customers and suppliers all over the world and it really makes me feel like I live in a 21st century existence. My friends and family sometimes are astounded by the regularity in which I find myself dealing with other parts of the world, and it’s a fun thing. At the same time, realizing that what we do really makes a difference. The vast majority of the world does not yet have access to online content. There’s a lot left to do.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

Hire people you’d be willing to work for, because you may. If you’re picky who you work for and you only hire people that you’d be willing to work for, then you end up with good people.

And, build a business with good people. Good people tend to hire good people.

M&A tips for the next time around: One of the lessons that I learned is that if you’re going to spend an effort to try and merge two companies and you’re in a leadership role, the best thing you can do is move there. For example, doing a transaction with (San Francisco-based) Santur, the first thing that I did is I did take an office there.

Published in Northern California

John Kanas and the new owners of BankUnited knew that they had a big task ahead of them. They had just spent $45 million of their own funds to buy a bank that was hemorrhaging money and had cost the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. nearly $6 billion in losses.

“For maybe a year or more, the company was fighting all of the rumors about its demise,” says Kanas, the chairman, president and CEO of BankUnited, which employs 1,300 people today. “Its earnings were collapsing. People were guessing as to what was going to happen with the company. The morale of the employees was very low… so you can imagine that emotions were running at fever pitch.”

After a lengthy selection process, the bank bid had been awarded to a group of private equity firms led by Kanas, the former head of North Fork Bancorp and a veteran in the banking industry. The group had made it publicly clear that their intention was not to tear the bank apart, but with a new strategy and the right people, rebuild the failing institution. As they entered the bank the day after winning the bid, they were met with a rush of flashbulbs, newspaper reporters and what seemed like a small army of FDIC officials. It was time to get to work.

Communicate the strategy

Kanas and his investor team knew early on that they wanted to transition BankUnited from a wholesale, residential mortgage originator into a commercial bank. When you are undertaking a new strategy, it’s important to quickly let people know where they fit in or don’t fit in to mitigate uncertainty and get started down the new path.

“The first thing we did was immediately seek out those people that we knew we wanted to retain as partners, that we knew could play a very important role in the company in the future under its new structure and assure them that their jobs were safe, that they would in fact be retained and that we would be relying on them to help us in our partnership in the future,” Kanas says.

Months before winning the bid, Kanas’ group had used an extensive due diligence process to gain access to a number of the company’s employees and identify which ones would be helpful in executing their new strategy.

“It was an ongoing process, but we knew the day we walked in who some of those people were,” Kanas says. “So for two or three days, we did nothing but sit down and explain ourselves to those people so that they could buy into our strategy moving forward. I would say the week was largely dedicated to getting people comfortable with who we were and understanding where everyone stood.”

There are also employees who likely aren’t going to be relevant to your strategy. Managing the expectations of these people also needs to be a priority.

“So we very quickly reached out to those people and let them know that there wasn’t going to be a role for them,” Kanas says. “Then we explained to them what our severance policy would be for them, gave them time to adjust their personal lives and made it clear that we intended to move swiftly to do that.”

You need to be very transparent with employees to allay their fears during this initial transition period when tensions are likely to run high.

“It was important to sit down with the people who were left and say, ‘OK, look, this is an unpleasant business — identifying these people and then sort of paring down the ranks,’” Kanas says. “‘We want to do this very quickly but we also want to do it intelligently and not make mistakes. You’re going to have to bear with us for a few weeks.’ And when the process is over … we promised that we would then sit down and let the core of our employees know that we’re done with this. Those of you that have been selected to stay now have a job. Some of you will have a job for one or two years depending on what your function was in the bank and some of you we hope to retain for the rest of your career. We tried to get to those people quickly and let each one of them know where they fit in that spectrum.”

Get buy-in

Kanas knew that Florida would be the perfect home to structure a commercial bank that could gear its success toward products and services for midmarket and small businesses. The next step was convincing people to buy in so they could go out and execute that strategy with enthusiasm.

“So first is get the right people on the bus,” Kanas says. “Second is get those people in a room and overcommunicate with them every day. Make it very, very clear what the strategy is and leave no room for misinterpretation that anyone could misunderstand where we were going, how we intended to get there and what we needed from them as a buy-in or commitment if they wanted a commitment back from the company.”

Kanas and many of the investors had successful backgrounds in business, particularly at North Fork, which had grown from $28 million in assets to one of the largest banks in America under Kanas’ leadership. Pointing to this past success, they diligently spent the first couple of months meeting with the retained employees one-on-one, with small groups or even up to 300 employees at a time, to talk about the new model and why it would work. They were also transparent about the fact that they had literally bought in to the turnaround strategy by committing their own money to buy the company.

“So it was important for our new partners and our new employees in Florida to understand that we were very, very serious about this,” Kanas says. “We’d put our family money into this and we intended to work hard along side of them to help them create the vision.”

To get buy-in for your vision, it also helps to give people goal-connected incentives. Offering stock in your company is one way to achieve that short term and long term. From the beginning, Kanas’ investment group was clear about its hopes to take the bank public but also let people know that whoever helped the company achieve that goal would share in its ownership.

“We did take it public earlier this year and we have about 120 people who are equity partners with me in the company who have major roles in the institution,” he says. “So they are not just employees. They’re owners. To the extent that we will be successful in the future, these people will be able to share in that success directly.”

As you move forward, you can then maintain employee buy-in by communicating your company’s progress on the strategy.

“It’s continuing to let people know that the company’s strength is building every day,” Kanas say. “The earnings stream of BankUnited is very strong so its book value is going up every day. So for those people who own part of it with me, the value of their investment is going up every day… and everybody knows that eventually people recognize the intrinsic value of a company over time. So I think that it’s not hard to keep our people encouraged because they’re so proud of the success that they’ve achieved on a quarter to quarter basis.”

Build your talent pool

In the end, the bank let go about 350 people. So in addition to retaining the key employees, the company needed to find and attract new employees who had the skills to execute its new strategy.

“We were looking for people who had extensive experience in the Florida market, who had existing customer relationships that we could attract to the bank and would help lead us to build a commercial bank,” Kanas says. “We said that we were going to start immediately mining the market for that talent.”

One way to attract talent is to share your vision in a way that communicates it simply and memorably.

“We actually coined in that first couple weeks the term ‘building Florida’s bank,’” Kanas says. “We said, ‘We think we can come here and take the skeleton of this company and build Florida’s bank on it, and you can be part of it.’”

To reach a national talent pool, the company also put out an advertisement in The Wall Street Journal and The Miami Herald.

“It said, ‘If you’re an unhappy Florida banker and you’d like a new home, call us. We’ll change your life,’” Kanas says. “We ran that both on the Internet and newspapers for 10 days and we got 7,000 applicants and 3,000 from New York alone and the rest from Florida.”

As they narrowed down the potential candidates, the company also looked for one, a successful track record and two, the right personality.

“We’ve had great success with hiring people outside of the industry, not bankers, who have come from other industries that require the kind of skills that we think are important in banking today, people who can sell, people who are confident in themselves, people who are engaging and like other people and communicate well,” Kanas says. “So we try to find those people and we find it’s much easier to teach them the technical side of banking than it is to try and change their personality.”

After going through half a room full of resumes, the company was able to hire roughly 250 people to come in and help retool the company.

“We knew that there was a level of frustration among people in Florida who were good bankers stuck in institutions that for one reason or another couldn’t go forward,” Kansas says. “Either they were handcuffed by regulators or handcuffed by inadequate capital positions or some combination of both. We invited them to bring their careers to us and it was overwhelmingly accepted.”

Instead of just trying to fill jobs, Kanas looks to hire people who can complement the company’s strategy, and then works them into it.

“We believe very strongly that the key to the success of any large company is embedded in its human talent,” Kanas says. “So unlike other banks that will go build a branch on the corner of Fifth and Main and then a month before it opens put an ad in the newspaper to try and find somebody to go manage it, we don’t do it that way.”

Instead, the growth strategy is to find the best of the best, get their buy-in and continue to build the company with talented people who can grow the business. For example, the company went ahead and hired a group of people in Orlando before it even had a branch in the market, using those employees to open two branches there more than a year later.

“So we build little energy centers all over the state around successful people who can come to understand our strategy, and we will do that anywhere in Florida,” Kanas says.

He says the key to building a strong company is also not trying to do it on a shoestring.

“We didn’t try to find bargain basement employees,” Kanas says. “We found people who were truly distinguished in their field, and we pulled them out of very good jobs at other banks. I guess that’s another way of saying it’s more expensive than you think it’s going to be. It’s more work than you think it’s going to be. But it’s also a lot more rewarding than you think it’s going to be if you succeed.”

Last January, BankUnited went public in one of the largest bank IPOs in U.S. history. Today it is one of the most capitalized banks in the country, with more than 90 branch locations and $11 billion in assets.

“This is a company that has a clear purpose and a laser-like vision that I believe that our employees understand,” Kanas says. “We’re growing organically at a rate that impresses even me. If you take the second quarter growth in loans and annualize it, we’re growing the commercial component of the bank at over 60 percent a year —and in Florida that’s really saying something. … So I guess the only similarity between the old company and this one is the name.”

How to reach: BankUnited, (877) 779-2265 or www.bankunited.com

Takeaways:

1) Identify new business strategy and which people support it.

2) Get the buy-in of the people who are staying.

3) Build your talent pool to complement the strategy.

The Kanas File

John Kanas

Chairman, president and CEO

BankUnited

Born: South Hampton, New York

Education: Long Island University

How do you retain good people in this environment?

Because we’ve shared our vision with them and continued to share ad nauseum, we keep them excited about where the company’s going. And, of course, they can look over their shoulder at the tremendous success that we’ve had so far and know that they’re part of it. So there is a high level of enthusiasm and excitement in our bank. And frankly in the banking business today, it’s hard to find a place that’s growing and that breeds a level like this of enthusiasm any place else, certainly any place else in Florida if not the whole country.

Kanas’ turnaround takeaways:

  • One of the things is don’t ever underestimate the complexity of the problem and realize that when you’re reshaping a company that’s had a failure, that there are probably a lot of other bad things that you’ll find out six months into it that you didn’t know when you took the first step. So always make the assumption that it’s going to be harder than it looks and be prepared to deal with that.
  • These things are always much more work than you think that they’re going to be. For people who are going to take a challenge like this, it’s important to understand that you cannot do this halfway, that this is a total and complete immersion and it’s a total and complete commitment and you have to be committed with every bone in your body and every molecule in your brain to make it a success…Probably most people haven’t been as successful as they thought they would be because sometimes from the outside, a good management team, and I don’t mean me but the team, can make a job look easy, but it’s not.

Published in Florida

To follow the trends in the market, Marc Blumenthal decided that his company needed to broaden its product and service offering for customers. While it was easy to make this decision from an organizational standpoint, the real challenge was moving this idea from thought to reality.

“Everything tends to have a ripple effect,” says Blumenthal, the owner and CEO of Tampa-based technology services firm Intelladon. “Every little decision that gets made, I have to get a few dozen people to change the way they do things a bit.”

By implementing new ideas to drive growth, Blumenthal has led Intelladon’s expansion from a handful of employees into a 40-person company.

Smart Business spoke with Blumenthal about how he floats new ideas to take hold in the organization.

Build critical mass.

Usually I’ll bring an idea through some level of gestation. I tend to incubate things first a little bit from the team as a whole until I get some critical mass around the idea and some validation.

I might talk to some of our customers. I might talk to some fellow CEOs. I have a whole lot of people that over the last 25 years I’ve gotten to know and I can run things by.

Then I bring the team in. The benefit is that I don’t disrupt the team on every idea that ever comes up, because there are many more ideas that get generated that never even get evaluated and still fewer that actually get implemented. The penalty I pay is that I have to work backward to catch them up when an idea has reached critical mass and it’s time for them to get involved. But if I got them involved in every idea that came up, they would never have time to do their jobs.

Involve your leaders.

I usually will meet with the person who has the greatest knowledge of subject matter expertise on that topic and vet a few things with them along the way. Usually one member of the leadership team has a little more experience in the area I might be working on. I sit down with them over lunch or coffee and brainstorm a little bit, and say, ‘Well, what would you think if …?’ If the feedback is positive I will take it to my COO, who is really the guy that runs the company on a day-to-day basis. His name is also Mark, but I call him the anti-Marc. He’s the opposite of me. I pull him out of his comfort zone and he pulls me back. In the end, we end up in a good place between the two of us.

Present ideas with a purpose.

My approach has been for every 10 ideas that I have, I may only present two or three, and only one may make a lot of sense. Don’t present all of your ideas, because people have a tendency to think that all of your ideas are supposed to be run with. Ideas need baking. In the early days of the previous company, I used to throw out all these ideas and we’d have a brainstorming session with the leadership team. Then I’d come in the next day and a couple of people started working on some of them. I’m like, ‘What are you doing? That was just an idea.’ You have to be careful about discerning between what ideas are and what you are actually asking for. So I try to be very careful about what I put forth and when I put it forth.

Help people to run with it.

It’s really important to give the team the opportunity to change, refine and make the decisions to make it their own, what gets changed and what doesn’t. At that point, you can step away from it and it’s no longer your idea, it’s the company’s. It’s the team’s. Once that happens, you are almost assured of success.

I try and pull the team along a little bit. I try to be a little bit disruptive, but not too disruptive. I like to be the sand in the oyster. So a pearl forms because I’m rubbing up against them, pushing them a little bit. We end up being a little bit better, growing a little bit faster, trying a few new things that might not otherwise get done or get tried if I wasn’t pushing and pulling a little bit.

Part of that is I’ve learned that if you give the team the power to make great decisions, they elevate to that in most cases and they actually do a better job than I might do by infusing myself in a lot of decisions.

How to reach: Intelladon, (813) 814-2345 or www.intelladon.com

Published in Florida

As we look ahead to the Olympics this year, we will see many inspiring athletes fulfill their dreams. Of course, we only see the winning results, but there’s no doubt it took years of training to reach the heights of global competition.

Whether or not we are medal-winning athletes, you and I can relate to pursuing a vision until it becomes real. We also know that perseverance plays a huge part in reaching success. It’s that step-by-step, daily effort that leads to building a business, meeting a sales goal or crossing the finish line. Because you’re a forward-thinking leader, I’m sure you’ve seen that sticking to your goals helps you achieve great things.

At Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, perseverance is one of the keys to meeting our vision of improving the lives of the people we serve. By maintaining that vision over many years, we’ve been able to:

  • Create new ways to connect with our members.
  • Develop leading health and wellness plans that reflect our diverse member groups.
  • Teach communities all around our country that their healthy lifestyle choices touch the lives of those around them.
  • Inspire kids and their families to choose (and stick with) healthy habits
  • Support improving the health of our communities to help reduce health care costs now and in the future.

Yes, Anthem has a big mission. But we also know what it takes to achieve our goals: It starts with a company of people who never give up on the shared vision to serve our members and communities. We at Anthem, like the Olympic athletes, believe that passion for your goals leads to success. So let’s keep in mind what author Walter Elliott said, “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another."

Keep running your race in business and life — we’re cheering for you every step of the way.

For more information on Perspectives 2012: Women Who Excel and to register, click here.

Perspectives 2012: Women Who Excel - Panelists:

Candace Klein

Esther Potash

Robin Baum

Dr. Kandice Kottke-Marchant

Patricia Adams

Published in Cleveland
Saturday, 31 March 2012 20:01

Higher standards

Robin Baum has been in the public accounting field ever since she was a college student. Over the years, she hasn’t always wanted to stay in the profession, but something has kept her coming back.

Baum, who today is the managing partner at Zinner & Co., a full-service public accounting firm, at one time didn’t think becoming a partner was a possibility for her.

“Back in the day, there were no female partners, and the thought of actually being able to raise a family and still achieve partnership was something that I don’t think women thought was even an option,” Baum says. “It wasn’t necessarily something that I looked at and said, ‘My long-term goal is I want to be a partner.’”

So when Zinner’s previous managing partner asked Baum if she would step into the role, she couldn’t believe it.

“I thought they were crazy,” Baum says. “I laughed. I thought it was a joke. After I got over the initial shock of it, my question was, ‘Why me?’ There were people with much greater experience, there were people with bigger books of business, there were people that by most measures within my profession would have potentially been better candidates. When I said, ‘Why me?’ His response was, ‘You have the ability to communicate and deal with people.’”

While advancing her career to the top of the public accounting ladder wasn’t an early goal of Baum’s, she did take advantage of the opportunities that came her way.

“I’m somebody who has worked hard and I don’t want to diminish the fact that I’ve worked really hard, but I’ve also been somebody that’s been afforded a lot of opportunities that many other women and people in general may not have had,” she says. “I look at something and if I pose a personal challenge to myself, I’m going to see it through and that’s the definition of perseverance. I hold my bar higher than anybody could hold it for me.”

Although Baum has seen success and has the drive to accomplish what she starts, she has had to deal with self-doubt in her career.

“For me, self-doubt is probably my biggest motivator,” she says. “I wake up oftentimes in the middle of the night because I process issues that are in the back of my mind. When I have something that’s challenging to me, I look at the pros and cons and how I might approach it differently, and those are the times I’m either my own worst enemy or my own best advocate. It’s a fear of not only letting other people down, but it’s also a fear of letting myself down when I put my mind to something. Self-doubt has definitely pushed me to where I am.”

There are occasions when self-doubt can get the better of you or limit how quickly you take on a responsibility.

“If you focus too much on self when you’re being faced with a situation that involves a lot of other people, sometimes you lose perspective of what you’re trying to accomplish,” she says. “In those situations, losing yourself for the better of the organization is important because it can’t just be about me, it has to be about the organization. When you do give in to self-doubt and it becomes more about you and you lose the confidence, it becomes very difficult to put on the happy, successful face if you don’t see that you’re going to be able to achieve that goal. When people are looking for leadership through something that they know is going to be difficult, they’re not going to follow a leader that they don’t think believes in whatever the end game is.”

The key is to find good sources of people to bounce ideas off of and to confide in.

“Not trying to process everything on your own is important,” she says. “You need other people’s input. Secondly, you have to put a time limit on the decision-making process and you also need good metrics defined to measure success. Lastly, you have to trust in your gut. You’ve got to trust in that first feeling that you get. That usually carries me through that I believe in something from the beginning.”

HOW TO REACH: Zinner & Co., (216) 831-0733 or www.zinnerco.com

Published in Cleveland

As the economy took a hit over the last few years, Fred Stock saw the demand for his organization’s services grow dramatically. That’s because the result of a down economy is more and more people seeking out more of the services that Jewish Community Services of South Florida has been providing for years. But keeping up with the higher demand has not been easy, especially when coupled with the funding challenges of operating as a not-for-profit entity.

“There’s an increased need corresponding with a reduction of available dollars,” says Stock, the president and CEO of the Miami-based social services agency, which services the Dade County community.

As fundraising in the overall community has dropped, so has the amount of funding dollars coming into the organization.

“So we need to figure out ways to cover the overhead for the agency,” Stock says. “One of the ways is that you reduce those costs by being more efficient.”

Stock says that this is a challenge many more not-for-profit organizations are dealing with today.

One way he says these agencies can manage costs is by providing a mix of free and paid services. By expanding in areas that have a “fee for service,” such as home care, the organization is able to cover costs of the services that it provides for free.

“We’re trying to expand our capabilities to provide services that can reimburse us for our costs, and we can generate some surpluses to pay for the programs that people don’t have the ability to pay for,” Stock says.

However, the crux of the agency’s strategy to become more efficient involves developing partnerships with organizations that share its service goals and funding model.

“We have definitely taken on the belief that in order to be successful, we need to partner,” Stock says.

“By combining, we can serve more people, create operational efficiencies, expand our reach, and it will allow us over the long haul to create more opportunity to serve people.”

While many smaller not-for-profit agencies are quality organizations, they are often limited in what they can do because they don’t have the infrastructure or funding sources to expand and grow. Leading a larger agency, Stock is now working harder to partner with smaller entities so both parties make progress on shared goals. An example is how the agency is partnering with assisted living facilities and HUD 202 housing projects where there are large constituencies of people who need its services.

Stock says you want try to align yourself with agencies and programs that relate to where you can provide services but also with agencies that have a similar mission.

“You maximize their capabilities and their expertise,” Stock says. “You bring that expertise now into this affiliated entity … and then you can expand your service capability because potentially that service can be located in a community that you’re not serving.”

The other advantage of partnering is the potential to combine operations or share resources where appropriate, which can increase efficiencies for both parties. So if two entities are doing billing with a number of grants, there is an opportunity to combine that billing for cost savings.

Stock says constantly monitoring and improving efficiency is something that not-for-profits and businesses should be doing whether or not there are funding issues. By partnering up, the agency continues to find strategic ways to carry out its mission and deliver its services more efficiently.

“We’re a $15 million agency,” Stock says. “We can bring some of that infrastructure — the funding, the marketing, to that new agency and enhance that agency’s effort to create revenue. And then you can create revenue for a larger organization and you have a whole lot more clout, because you have a whole lot more reach. You’re serving more people. In that process, you can find savings within that entity that you can then put back into your programs to yet provide more services.”

Start inside

Many not-for-profit entities have faced funding challenges as a result of the economic recession. Jewish Community Services of South Florida, which provides its services at no cost, is funded primarily through grants and fundraising. But that funding is limited and most of the agency’s funding sources do not provide enough money for its administrative component. To maintain services as money becomes scarcer, president and CEO Fred Stock has led a number of initiatives to be more efficient in this area.

“We’ve had to become much more efficient in the way we provide services and in the way we fund our administrative component,” Stock says. “In an agency, you have direct services and then you have the infrastructure that you need in order to run these services, things like billing, rent, offices and all of that, which are fixed expenses to some degree.”

To increase efficiency in the administrative component, the agency has consolidated some of its offices and begun looking at ways to utilize space better. It’s also started to streamline processes in internal operations such as billing, maintenance and systems.

“We’ve been able to save a substantial amount of money in these areas that has allowed us to continue to provide services at the same rate,” Stock says. “So even through we’ve suffered from reductions in funding, we’ve been able to still maintain the levels of service that we’ve provided over the last few years.”

How to reach: Jewish Community Services of South Florida, (305) 576-6550 or www.jcsfl.org

Published in Florida
Saturday, 31 March 2012 20:01

Strong willed

When Patricia Adams was first starting her wellness group, she heard the word “no” 64 times before she got her first “yes.” It takes a strong person to not let 64 “no’s” get the better of you and continue to push forward.

That’s exactly what Patricia Adams is: a strong person. The founder and president of Zeitgeist Wellness Group, a health resource that offers businesses and families access to therapists, psychiatrists, acupuncturists and much more, has never given up on anything she has put her mind to. In fact she doesn’t consider giving up to be a viable option.

“When you get ‘no’s,’ it hurts,” Adams says. “But immediately, perseverance says, ‘OK. Calm down. Let’s find out what we did wrong; let’s fix it.’ You don’t bury your head in the sand. You get up in the morning and you say, ‘Today’s another day.’ You don’t want to let people know you’re sweating, because you believe it’s going to happen. You don’t give up. There’s nothing that would have caused me to give up.”

When Adams was starting out, she wasn’t broke or in debt, but she was funneling everything she had into her company to get it going.

“I never, ever once thought to give up,” she says. “Not ever. I could go back to my old job. I could go back to teaching since I was a college professor. I could go back to being a chaplain at the hospital. They would hire me back with their eyes closed. But I never dreamed of doing that. There was no need to do that, because if so and so could do it, my thought was so could I.”

That attitude for the past 10 years has turned Zeitgeist Wellness Group into a successful business. Her struggle now is getting people to understand the true benefits of utilizing all that her business offers.

“Every single day, it’s a struggle to get somebody to understand you’re not crazy if you come and see somebody like me,” she says. “We went from providing counseling to now everything is shrouded into what we call B wellness. In our wellness model, we have everybody. We have psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and marriage and family therapists. We have nutritionists, we have personal trainers, we have massage therapists and acupuncturists. We even have chaplains and coaches. We’re telling people behavioral health is not what it used to be. You used to think you were crazy if you came to see a counselor. No. We have all these people in here because we know if you’re … not taking care of yourself or you’re not eating right or you’re not getting enough sleep, that makes you a hazard at work.”

Adams doesn’t just advocate these services; she demonstrates their effectiveness by using them herself.

“I get acupuncture, massages, and I walk every day and run every other day,” Adams says. “I’ve learned that if I don’t take care of my physical self and my mental self, then I can’t persevere, because every day a challenge is going to come up. I build that into my workweek. I build it into the workweek for my team. I have the same program for my team that offers the same things that I do for myself — the acupuncture, the massage, personal trainer, nutritionists, I do all of the above.”

While utilizing those services helps her stay sharp to run her company, Adams says the biggest key to maintaining a successful business is having some help.

“You have to get a mentor,” she says. “I’m the type of person that’s looking for leadership. I’m looking for guidance. I’m talking to someone, my therapist, my coach or my life guru … and I ask them a lot of questions. I also have women who have been in my life who have answered some really hard questions for me and they’ve challenged me along the way. Don’t do this by yourself. Get yourself a good coach. Get somebody who’s going to tell you the truth whether you like it or not. Do not try to do this by yourself; it’s impossible. I need five or six people who are smarter than me to help me take my business to the next level. You cannot think that all through by yourself.”

HOW TO REACH: Zeitgeist Wellness Group, (210) 212-2323 or www.zeitgeistwellnessgroup.com

Published in Cleveland

Think of all the great successes in history: the American space program that landed men on the moon, the construction of the pyramids of Egypt and the triumph of the Allied forces during World War II to name a few. What do they all have in common? General MacArthur didn’t say, “Hey, let’s send a few boats over there and see what happens.” Nor did a handful of ancient Egyptians decide to drag a few stones in place to see how they would look. These and almost every significant achievement in this world came about because of meticulous planning.

When it’s time to get serious, you must have a master plan. And when you’re talking about business and the financial stakes are very high, it’s essential to give yourself every chance at success. As John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach once said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

No matter what issues I’m dealing with — business, family, or my physical and mental health — it always comes down to goal setting. What that entails is being honest with myself and looking at my successes to see how I can capitalize on the things I did right and my failures, to determine what I need to change to avoid repeating them.

Whether it is quiet time on your porch, or during an evening walk, or an hour or two early in the morning before the kids are up, be sure to make time for yourself. If you don’t find a place to address the big issues of your life, including business, the months and years will tick away and nothing will ever happen. Start by writing down your goals, as well as your strategy. We can say to ourselves that we’re going to do something, but until it’s written down, it is not imprinted in our brains and you’re sure to lose momentum before you’ve even started. Remember that without a plan on how to actually achieve your goal, the goal itself becomes absolutely meaningless.

As you outline your plan of attack, make it a priority to be a leader, not a follower. Of course we’re all aware of the shaky economy the past few years and how it has taken more than its share of business casualties. But the truth is that even in good times, unless you make a concerted effort to stay current and relevant, it is very easy to get swept away in the tide of changing tastes, competition and new ways of conducting business.

In 2011, fitness equipment was among my top sellers, but I ran into a big problem when some of my suppliers informed me they were in imminent danger of closing their doors. They simply didn’t have enough business from others to keep going much longer. Because of the scale of their operations, I wasn’t able to keep them afloat by myself. I wound up in the ironic position of possibly losing the ability to deliver products that were in great demand. So what was I to do? I sat on my back porch and came up with new goals for my business.

First, I looked for new fitness equipment suppliers. Next, I looked to diversify, seeking out both new fitness products (from suppliers who could still assure delivery for me), as well as new product categories that could potentially make up the difference in my company’s revenues. In the end, I found a new supplier for one of my existing exercise chairs and also found a company that could deliver a new, high-end chair, thus expanding my reach into a different market sector altogether.

Opportunities are always there, but you have to proactively look for them or you’ll be left behind in the dust. Dare to dream big, then go out and draw up your best game strategy. While you are doing so, be mindful to learn from past mistakes, and be flexible enough to adjust on the fly, always having a contingency plan ready. You can’t avoid bumps and bruises along the way, but never accept failure. If 2011 was a good year for you, wonderful. Now plan for 2012 to be a great year.

Tony Little is the president, CEO and founder of Health International Corp. Known as “America’s personal trainer,” he has been a television icon for more than 20 years. After overcoming a near-fatal car accident that nearly took his life, Tony learned how to turn adversity into victory. Known for his wild enthusiasm, Tony is responsible for revolutionizing direct response marketing and television home shopping. Today his company has sold more than $3 billion dollars in products. Reach him at guestbook@tonylittle.com.

Published in Columnist
Saturday, 31 March 2012 20:01

Never a doubt

If you had told Dr. Kandice Kottke-Marchant five years ago that she would be the next chairman of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, she probably would have thought you were crazy. However, for the past five years that is exactly what she has been doing, and her journey there was long and filled with obstacles.

Kottke-Marchant’s journey started with the tough task of college, med school and raising a family. It was a challenge that at times she doubted she could accomplish.

“Given the path that I wanted to take academically where you have a bachelor’s and a master’s and a Ph.D. and an M.D., it’s going to take you 15 years from the time you finish high school to get anywhere close to being out and getting a job,” Kottke-Marchant says. “To do some of that part time and extend it to 20 years, you’d practically be retired before you start working. The kids are only little once and you can’t say we’re going to put the kids on hold and we’ll get back to them in 12 years. One of the things that’s really crucial is people working together to be as much of a family as possible.”

Kottke-Marchant didn’t want to make sacrifices for her career, and with her husband’s help, she was able to balance her career and home life and started climbing the ranks at the Cleveland Clinic.

“I started at the Cleveland Clinic as a hematopathologist, which is essentially diagnosing blood disorders, and worked in pathology and lab medicine for 20 years,” she says. “Eventually I rose through the ranks and became the section head of the laboratory. But the whole time that I was there, the chair of pathology was a very prescriptive sort of individual and really didn’t acknowledge and help people up in their careers. He was very military in the way he ran the institute and, I thought, shortsighted in terms of how the institute was run and didn’t really bring out the best in most people.”

For years, Kottke-Marchant thought about how she would make a difference if she was the department chair. When the previous chairman retired, she had a shot at the job. Up to that point there had never been a female institute chair at the Cleveland Clinic. The search took a year and a half, but eventually they picked Kottke-Marchant for the position.

“I’ve been chair now for almost five years and it still feels like it’s a new job,” she says. “This is a job that I’ve loved, and I think the thing I’ve loved about it so much is that I’m in a position where I feel I can make a difference and make a difference in an area that I know has struggled in the past to get the resources it needs to grow and develop like it should. That’s why I really like this job, because every day there are so many challenges, but you feel like you’re constantly moving forward.”

Her hard work and perseverance has ultimately resulted in a new lab for the institute that opened this year and will certainly be a difference maker for the Clinic.

“The new lab gives us expansion space to grow,” Kottke-Marchant says. “The old building was built about 30 years ago when our testing volume was one-tenth of what it is now. We’ve essentially doubled the footprint of the laboratories. Pathology in most hospitals is in a little dingy room in the basement and doesn’t get any space, doesn’t get equipment and doesn’t get respect because people don’t understand much of what pathology is and does. That’s my goal in life to make the institution understand how valuable we are to everything that they do with their patients.”

Kottke-Marchant loves tackling the challenges her job creates and it’s because of perseverance and a drive to achieve her goals that she has gotten to where she is today.

“It’s a combination of knowing what your goal is, knowing where you want to get to and taking things one day at a time and not letting things get you down,” she says. “I think so often little things can upset the apple cart. If you let every little thing get to you, you get so tied up in the present that you don’t see how to get to the big picture long term. Every day you just do your best and you get through that day to the next day. You just chip away one day at a time.”

HOW TO REACH: Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Institute, Cleveland Clinic, (216) 444-2484 or http://my.clevelandclinic.org/pathology/default.aspx

Published in Cleveland
Saturday, 31 March 2012 20:01

Positive pivot

One of Candace Klein’s mottos in life is that she doesn’t believe in the word “failure.”

“It’s not part of my lexicon,” says the founder of Bad Girl Ventures Inc., a nonprofit micro-finance organization focused on educating and financing women-owned start-up companies, and founder and CEO of SoMoLend, a Web- and mobile-based peer-to-peer lending company. “Instead, I use the word ‘pivot.’ I think women are very good at that particular word — that when we see a challenge in front of us and one that we don’t know if we can overcome, we just change directions.”

Klein has had to put her pivoting skills to the test ever since she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after college and right before going off to attend law school.

“I had to stay home and move back in with my parents in my baby sister’s Barbie bunk bed — major blow to the college-grad ego,” Klein says. “And I had no money — every dime I had went toward my medical bills.”

She had asked her boss at the time if he would be able to help her go to law school but to no avail. 

“Essentially, the ‘no’ that I got was first my health,” she says. “Something totally out of my control, an act of God, told me I wasn’t going to be able to do what I had set out to do. And then my boss told me I wasn’t going to be able to do what I had set out to do.”

Her boss instead introduced Klein to Alice Sparks, a woman on the board of regents of her undergraduate university who was committed to promoting women.

“That turned into a $40,000 scholarship from that woman, a personal scholarship to pay for me to go to law school,” she says.

When Klein asked what she could do to repay her for her generosity, Sparks said, “Find a way to invest in women.” Klein has been working at doing just that ever since. She became a lawyer and later started her two companies.

“I first launched Bad Girl Ventures at something called ‘Unite Cincinnati,’” Klein says. “My speech was ‘The Bad Girl’s Guide to Getting What You Want,’ which is a book I read in college as to how to get out of the things that girls get stuck doing in the workplace. And at the very end, I said, ‘If you say, “I’d love to do it, but my boss will never let me get away with that,” quit your job. Start your own business. And if you do, I’ll invest in you. I’m launching a company tonight, Bad Girl Ventures.’”

Today, Bad Girl Ventures is in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Oxford, helping to change the lives of women looking to get financing and education to start a business. The recent growth of her company has presented more challenges to pivot around.

“Originally, it was my plan to grow to be in 15 cities by 2013,” Klein says. “That’s not realistic and it’s also not healthy or sustainable for our company. My board has just pushed me down and said, ‘No, Candace, we’re not expanding into any more cities in 2012.’ It makes sense, because you need to create infrastructure. My vision for this business was to be nationwide in three years.”

While Klein has never been one to take no for an answer, she appreciates the people who help her make smart decisions about her business.

“As the leader of the company, it’s good for me to have advisers, because they have the long-term health of my company in mind,” she says. “Sometimes being pushed down is a good thing. Sometimes my passion and my excitement for growth is not the healthiest thing for my business. I need to have opposing viewpoints in the room and people who are willing to push back against my concepts and make sure in the long run I’ve got the healthiest business.”

Without ever being told no throughout her life or having to fight against opposing viewpoints, Klein would be a different person than who she is today.

“I like to have somebody push back against me and fight me every step of the way, because in the end it’s going to make a much stronger product,” she says. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have people push back against you and have people vary from your opinion.”

HOW TO REACH: Bad Girl Ventures Inc., (513) 675-8500 or www.badgirlventures.com

Published in Cleveland