The TechColumbus Leadership Series is an exclusive invitation only event with 50-75 small and large company Founders, CEOs and Presidents. It is an opportunity for the best and brightest of Columbus leadership to share ideas and discuss best practices. It is a more informal and conversational forum than other events with discussion designed to create greatest interest and value for attendees. When company leaders can exchange ideas, lasting value and lasting relationships are formed.
Our first Fall Leadership Series in 2010 was very successful and became a space where veteran “business builders” shared their philosophies in a conversational setting. Why were the speakers and their companies successful? What mistakes did they make? What lessons were most important? Each, with their unique perspectives and experiences, engaged the attendees in ways that sparked new thinking and created valuable takeaways. An experienced moderator directed the discussion and encouraged participation.
I attended most of these discussions and wrote blog posts about them to share the Founder, CEO and President’s messages with our community. You can find links to the entire blog posts for each presentation below.
January’s discussion featured Michael Glimcher – Culture Differentiates. Michael talked about the tough economy and the tough lessons that allowed Glimcher to endure the economic crisis and position them for success going forward. He shared some of his lessons learned over the past 15 years in detail. Culture was one of the key differentiators.
In a world where we face a great deal of uncertainty in all areas of our lives, Glimcher promotes a culture of respect resulting in greater employee engagement, greater productivity and greater customer satisfaction. All of these contribute to company sustainability and success.
As with other successful leaders, Michael has focused his attention on knowing his business, hiring the right leader and creating a culture and systems that promote effective operations. Additionally, he built a company that supports the wellbeing of his associates and the community.
April’s presentation featured Cheryl Krueger – Passion for Excellence. In listening to her, she seemed very clear that no one element drove her success but rather the combination of doing everything well. She created a system (business model) that operated impeccably. She was committed to employee morale and engagement as a key enabler to deliver the customer experience she expected in every interaction.
While her entire talk was interesting, a few things really stood out to me. She was passionate about the company, about her vision, innovation and customer service. Her company was the first to offer individually wrapped cookies which had several benefits including flavor preservation and allowed the cookies to arrive intact. As a consumer, I had not given packaging any thought. In her discussion it was clear that the packaging was an important innovation that was unique to Cheryl’s and created a competitive advantage and also ensured a better customer experience. What stood out most was her militant focus on customer care.
Cheryl created a corporate culture, systems, processes, compensation plans, and organizational structure that delivered an experience to employees and customers that is consistent with her values.
In September Jay Jordan, OCLC President Speaks OCLC’s purpose is: Furthering access to the world’s information and reducing the rate of rise of per-unit costs. Here are a few of the ideas Jay shared that allow OCLC to meet it’s purpose:
- Understand what the future will require of us and build our technology and services to intersect that future.
- Engage younger folks (digital natives) – bringing kids to work. Ask questions of young people in high school who see the world differently?
- Get out of your comfort zone – remain curious
- Hang out with crazy people – those who want to change the world and leave a legacy. Even if they miss the mark, they are still making an impact
- Live your values
- Failure is expected if you are learning and growing – keep experimenting
- Collaboration is critical with other organizations and around the world
- Hire diverse people with different strengths to ensure a well-rounded team
- Measurement is important but so is realizing that there are important things that cannot be measured – stay open and aware of the value and the limitations to measurement
October featured Tony Wells – Business Success Linked to Giving Back. Tony opened his presentation talking about the one trait many of history’s great leaders had in common; a commitment to giving back from an early age. The core point I took away from Tony’s presentation is the idea that the new generation of leaders is committed to doing well by doing good – they want to make a positive impact in the world while also succeeding financially. While many of us spent our early careers establishing ourselves so we could give back later, this generation wants to do both from day one.
Tony gave lots of statistics and case studies but his message consistently came back to the underlying theme, we can solve many of the problems we are facing by marrying the innovative spirit of entrepreneurs, innovation, a desire to do good in the world, innovative leadership, a family foundation, and a foundation founder who is highly involved and shepherds the process. One of the innovations was teh Time Traveler pictured on the right.
Tony talked about his involvement in non-profits early in his career. Before he could afford to donate money, he donated time. Do you have a skill and time to volunteer? Skill can be your core profession, a hobby, or a basic skill like driving meals to people who cannot get out of the house. If you are not already, what can you do to use your talents and creativity to help solve the challenges our community faces?
December’s presentation was Randy Wilcox – Culture of Customer Service Creates a Competitive Advantage. Randy talked about the key themes for success of his businesses over the past several decades:
- Customer service must be a priority
- Culture matters
- Hire and retain great sales people
- Implement strong financial reporting and controls
This culture of satisfaction was very similar to the culture Cheryl Kruger created at Cheryl’s Cookies. Her company was also known for a very high level of service as well as innovation. The proof of success is in the level of customer retention and in the top and bottom line performance. SARCOM was a very successful company at the time Randy Wilcox sold it. He is using similar principles for Quest Business Centers.
What are your company differentiators? Are you creating a comprehensive system of leadership behaviors, culture, processes and measures to leverage those differentiators?
Are you considering improving your ability to be an innovative leader? If so, take this free on-line Innovative Leadership assessment to determine where you fall on the innovative leadership scale. If you are looking for tools to help develop you ability to be an innovative leader, check out the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook. Metcalf & Associates offers assessments, coaching and workshops to help you and your leadership team become more innovative.
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