HIA-LI: Eleven Secrets to Entrepreneurial Success
Published in Hauppauge Reporter, December 2017 issue, by Janine Haas Mejeur-Haas Communications, Inc.
Forces both inside and outside of business work constantly to rip an organization apart. Suppliers and customers bargain for price advantage thereby squeezing margins; employees have wants and needs that must be fulfilled; layer upon layer of government regulation must be navigated and taxes must be paid. Substitute products and new competitors relentlessly threaten the company’s position in the marketplace and all that stands between success and the harsh consequences of advancing entropy is vision and leadership – oftentimes that of just one person, the CEO.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of sound business leadership on Long Island. “We have some of the world’s finest business minds and most capable leaders right here on Long Island,” HIA-LI President Terri Alessi-Miceli remarked.
Many members of the HIA-LI either are, or aspire to become, a CEO. On November 8th, at a breakfast at the Stonebridge Country Club, attendees were given insight into the qualities that propel otherwise ordinary people into the ranks of CEO. From the roundtable discussion at this event, we’ve identified the top qualities that define the successful CEO:
Be Humble, Be Bold – “Think big, but act small,” Chris Valsamos, President and CEO of Castella Imports, Inc. suggested. “If you are doing a good job, you don’t need to seek recognition. It will come to you.” Gregg Schor, CEO of Protegrity Advisors, LLC, further commented that, “CEOs should be confident enough to surround themselves with people smarter than themselves who will challenge the status quo.”
Be Adaptive – Karen Frank, Executive Vice President of The Omnicon Group in charge of east coast operations, commented on being prepared for sudden change. “Three weeks ago, we were catapulted from being a small, private Long Island business to being a large, publicly-traded organization. You must be able to adapt quickly to change.”
Be Responsible – Make decisions with care. “You are now responsible for thousands of lives both inside and outside the company. The impact of your decisions is magnified,” Valsamos cautioned.
Be Empathetic – “The people who come to us are struggling with profoundly painful experiences and require us to teach them how to navigate some difficult minefields. Sometimes the best course of action is to just listen,” says Paula Fries, COO at the Association for Mental Health and Wellness. Her organization works with anywhere from three-to-five-thousand people a year, many of whom are veterans and suffer from PTSD.
Be Self-Aware – Moderator Joe Campolo, Managing Partner of the law firm Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, LLP, remarked on the need to be aware of oneself, “The first step in understanding others is in understanding ourselves – what motivates us, what drives us to achieve our goals.”
Be Competitive – Any company must first be profitable, otherwise its obligations to constituents, including those in the community, are moot. “We wish to make a difference in the lives of individuals and their families,” Paula Fries said. “In order to do that, our business must remain viable in a very competitive healthcare market.”
Be Responsible – Identify your place in the community and share in its growth and success. “We promote volunteer work on the part of our team members and allow them to do it on company time,” Castella’s Chris Valsamos said. “We also keep our people moving on the path forward by paying for their tuition as they upgrade their skills.”
Be Transparent – Being transparent and communicating to employees that which is expected of them and their role in the success of the company is critical. “I’m fortunate to have a great team of people to work with. I give them clear roles and responsibility and the latitude to execute,” says Schor. “We have an annual, formal process where we ask our employees to write a self-assessment of how they think they are doing and compare that with management’s to be sure everyone is on the same page,” says Frank.
Be Innovative – Thinking out of the box can be key to future success. Frank took a five-year hiatus from her Wall Street job in IT Support to raise a family. Fries graduated from college with a teaching degree at a time when those jobs were becoming scarce. Both were confident in their ability and were able to reinvent themselves and adapt their skills to attain top positions in completely different industries.
Be Disciplined - At the end of the day a company must be profitable to remain viable and competitive. “Like it or not, our GDP and economic growth is what keeps us safe and the world in balance. If we ratchet that down, it’s a huge security risk. Productivity must come first because it’s what keeps us economically and physically safe as a country,” declared Campolo.
Perhaps the most important attribute was to be decisive, which is derived from a Latin word meaning “to cut off.” Warren Buffett once said that the best CEOs spend most of the day saying no to people. We should keep in mind that saying no is really a decision. Set realistic goals for your company and for your employees – then get to work on achieving them. It takes a special person to be a CEO.
It seems to us that the major difference between the CEO and the rest of us is that, after making a decision, they cut and get it done. While others are still thinking about it, they’re already doing it.