THE ZWEIG LETTER | OCTOBER 31, 2011, ISSUE 933
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MH: The one trait I most admire is in- tegrity. Drive, determination and per- severance are important, but even the determined and hardest working in- dividual will find his/her success lim- ited if coworkers, clients and business partners cannot totally trust that indi- vidual’s words and actions. Note that integrity is not only about speaking truthfully, but it is about living truth- fully. The most successful business peo- ple I know are consistently respectful and considerate in their business deal- ings. Their own personal effectiveness is magnified by the loyal and dedicated supporters they earn among their em- ployees and customers because of their integrity. TZL: Describe the most challeng- ing thing you have ever done/the biggest challenge you have taken on outside of work. MH: I am vice chairman of the board of directors for our local catholic hos- pital, a member of the largest catho- lic healthcare system in the U.S. About seven years ago, I was asked to chair the search committee for a new CEO for the hospital. Being a nationwide system, it is typical to conduct a nationwide search and to require certain advanced degrees of candidates. While I would not typically differ with those direc- tives, we were facing a situation where the hospital had endured high turnover in the CEO position (four people in 10 years), was losing market share, and had declining employee satisfaction. We had a chief financial officer who en- joyed tremendous employee and physi- cian support and had spent his career advancing through the ranks at our hospital. His aspirations were not to simply use this position as a stepping stone. Initially, I was prohibited by the system governance form allowing him to be a candidate because he did not hold a master’s degree. I appealed all the way to the national system board, asking them reconsider, arguing that his 30-plus years in our system more than made up for his lack of an ad- vanced degree. I persisted through sev- eral denials to my request. Ultimately, he was allowed to be in the candidate pool if he agreed to pursue his master’s degree if selected. He was the unani- mous choice of the search committee, physicians, and board, and he is now in his 7th year as the very successful and popular CEO of our hospital, which has had significant share growth, is a sys- tem leader in profit margin and leads
the system in employee engagement. Successfully challenging a giant nation- al healthcare system was a time-con- suming and frustrating task. It would have been easy, but WRONG, to have given up. TZL: What question would you ask of another Hot Firm leader? MH: I would be interested to know what their “dashboard” for perfor- mance looks like. What do they track religiously, and how often do they mea- sure those things? How do they com- municate their performance on key success indicators to employees? TZL: What lesson learned would you pass along to a recent college graduate embarking on a career in the A/E/P and environmental con- sulting fields? MH: Never give up! View failures as temporary setbacks – not as defeat. Be willing to “pay your dues” and work hard on every assignment. It is those who willingly do everything that no one else wants to do whom we soon find we cannot do without. Financial Performance Survey: Updated in a partnership with the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), the 2011 Financial Performance Survey of Architecture, Engineering, Planning & Environmental Consulting Firms contains more than 30 different major financial performance statistics so you can find out exactly where your firm stands among your peers. Use the data from the overall sample or take advantage of the details in the tables to compare your firm to others by type, size, region of headquarters, growth rate, and client base. Financial performance statistics are just the beginning of this comprehensive report – go beyond the revenue and profit data to chargeability, revenue factor, overhead rates, average collection period, backlog, staff turnover, and more to see which areas your firm could improve. Use the data on personnel expenses, rent and utilities, and professional liability insurance to see if your firm is spending more than necessary on overhead expenses. In addition to financial performance and spending statistics, the survey also shows data on top financial managers and finance and accounting staff percentages. For more information or to buy a copy, call 800-466-6275 or log on to www.zweigwhite.com/zw-1071.aspx.
TZL: Where do you see this indus- try in 10 or 20 years? What trends are influencing it? What about your company? MH: The comforting thing to me about our industry is that I can’t imag- ine a scenario where the services for engineers and architects would not be needed. That’s not to say that we will always be needed to do the exact same sort of work we do today, but for those firms that evolve with the market, there will always be a need for profes- sional designers. One major trend that we feel is the movement toward more “green” and sustainable solutions. BLA has just received a patent on its “Eco- Treatment System,” which is a propri- etary design using a constructed wet- land as the foundation for systems to deal with CSOs, waste from controlled animal feeding operations, and small development wastewater systems. We’re also preparing the sustainability plans for several communities and we have integrated sustainable design con- cepts in our design strategies. TZL: Do hold someone as a special mentor? How did this person influ- ence who you are? MH: Aside from Keith Lochmueller, whom I already mentioned, I would cite a previous bank president, Dick Schlottman, who recruited me to the banking industry. He was full of life and gregarious; a person who never lost his connection with the lower middle class neighborhood where he grew up. He re- lated to every employee and customer of the bank and spent time every day “in the trenches.” Dick took a special in- terest in me and I credit him with any success I had in my banking career. He used to say, “Don’t step on that cock- roach; it may be Lon Chaney,” which demonstrated that he recognized the potential for greatness even among those who appeared most unlikely. He was a beloved leader for whom his em- ployees willingly gave their all. I was privileged to deliver the eulogy for this great man upon his premature death in his late 50s and I vowed to do my best to emulate his regard for all people re- gardless of role, education or heritage, and I only hope I have modeled just a fraction of the character I so admired in Dick. TZL: What’s the one trait you most admire in people and why?
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