APPROACHABLE LEADERSHIP, from page 7
TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? MS: Breakdown in communication. I have explored various strategies in an effort to motivate managers, and some have failed, causing me to take a different approach to re-establish trust and rapport, which takes time and is difficult to re-establish. TZL: How many years of experience – or large enough book of business – is enough to become a principal in your firm? Are you naming principals in their 20s or 30s? MS: We have one principal in her 40s, and all others are 50-60+. The current principal group would be reluctant to welcome a new principal unless it was a forced move. TZL: Are you seeking some kind of financial assistance during the COVID-19 crisis? If so, what type? MS: Yes, we have applied to the government Payroll Protection Plan program. TZL: Shield’s history goes back to 1983. How has the company’s mission changed over the years – if at all? MS: The mission is essentially the same – to sustain the company’s revenues and remain profitable. We have not expanded or contracted in size over the past several years, so the makeup of the company is essentially the same as it has been for several years. Also, we have had very little staff turnover. Although these are positives, I recognize the need to motivate staff for the inevitable adjustments that will need to be made as the senior staff ages. With regards to company ownerships, the primary change has been to include a small number of staff as non-voting stockholders, and an increase in communications with the next age demographic of company owners to recognize and consider the changes that will be necessary (both marketing and staff development) to sustain future revenues. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility as CEO? MS: When I became majority stockholder in 2019, I did not accept a CEO title, instead preferring to hold only the title of president. My number one job responsibility is to ensure company sustainability.
MS: It has, to some degree. Available work has proceeded as normally as possible, considering that many of our clients also have restrictions in place that we must adapt to. Work has greatly slowed down in one of the company’s three primary sectors of work, which has resulted in some employees having much less work to do. Another sector has continued to work on project backlog, and our third sector has seen steady work primarily due to an uptick in regulatory inspections. TZL: How do you handle a long-term principal who is resting on his or her laurels? What effect does a low- performing, entitled principal or department head have on firm morale? MS: This has been an issue for us. Some high performing, but lesser paid and lower-level management staff, are very critical of what they see as certain principals (particularly the company’s former president/CEO) being unmotivated and a drain on the company at the expense of what certain staff sees as stronger effort by these same, lesser paid and lower-level management staff. At times it has greatly affected morale. As the more approachable manager, I spend a disproportionate amount of time (and mental energy) to counter this. “We were able to quickly arrange for all employees who typically perform project work in the office to begin working remotely in less than a week.” TZL: How often do you valuate your firm and what key metrics do you use in the process? Do you valuate using in-house staff or is it outsourced? MS: My predecessor had no accountability metrics at all. In 2017, I began requiring project managers to forecast revenues. In 2018, I began assessing company revenue streams by assessing revenues (not profits) using a simple sector concept (i.e., revenue by client type). In 2019, I modified the sector concept and developed a principal/ manager revenue/utilization/profitability metric that will be instituted and evaluated quarterly in 2020. We evaluate totals revenue and profitability on a monthly basis.
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THE ZWEIG LETTER MAY 11, 2020, ISSUE 1344
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