by Meg Crosby
1. What is our People Strategy?
The most foundational and important people-related question every CEO should ask is “What is our People Strategy?” That is, what is our strategy for mobilizing, energizing, and growing our people? Having (and executing on) a People Strategy is just as important as having and following a Financial Strategy — and is necessary if a company wants to reach its full potential. People have always been the engine that powers the business; but mobilizing, energizing, and growing your people has never been more important than it is in the current knowledge economy, where businesses increasingly rely on the brainpower of their employees more than their physical abilities. As a result, it is critical that every CEO have a well-defined strategy for attracting, deploying, developing, and rewarding talent to accomplish their business objectives.
by Jon W. Sparks
Debbie Eddlestone was given the challenge during her employment interview: “We have to make some hard choices that we have to see through,” the interviewer said, “and we’re seeing the rocks at the bottom of the pond. Do you know what I mean?”
“Yes, sir,” she said. And that set the course for the future of Stern Cardiovascular Foundation.
As a CEO in one of the largest medical research areas in the country, Eddlestone came to the company in the late 1990s to overhaul the business operation. She became CEO of the organization in 2010, guiding it through a period of growth and change.
Eddlestone built that road to CEO by making the hard changes Stern needed back then. Computer systems were being developed to handle billing and electronic medical records, a field that was evolving and full of uncertainty. But she stayed on top of the technology as well as making changes in personnel and systems, balancing the needs of both physicians and administrators. “Both teams were behind me and it was a huge challenge,” she says. “I worked more hours in my life than I ever thought I would, but it got to me. The group just took my heart — the patients we see, the commitment from the doctors, the commitment from the community is more than I could ever ask for. It’s tough, but it’s very rewarding.”
by Dr. Douglas Scarboro
I’ve been able to manage and lead most big projects by monitoring a small set of data. When I worked for the city of Memphis, one statistic from Joe Cortright with Portland, Oregon-based City Observatory, resonated with me as I worked to increase the level of talent in Memphis: 58 percent of a city’s success can be determined by its percentage of college graduates. I recently had a strong case of déja vu when hosting a group of Memphis-area teachers and educators gathered here at the St. Louis Fed’s Memphis Branch to participate in a live town hall webcast with Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen.
Yellen spoke to teachers gathered at Federal Reserve regional banks and branches across the country from the Federal Reserve Board’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. She discussed the mission and responsibilities of the Federal Reserve System, and then took questions from K-12 and post-secondary educators of economics, history, and related disciplines. This town hall followed a speech she gave at the University of Baltimore’s 2016 mid-year commencement in December, where she said, “Economists are not certain about many things. But we are quite certain that a college diploma or an advanced degree is a key to economic success. Those with a college degree are more likely to find a job, keep a job, have higher job satisfaction, and earn a higher salary.”
by Jon W. Sparks
“This was not a road I would have chosen initially,” says Stacy McCall.
The president and CEO of ServiceMaster by Stratos, a contract janitorial service, started out as a petroleum engineer, working the technical side of a career that included stints in the oil fields. But experience and opportunity would have their say in where McCall would ultimately go.
Her savvy at understanding process-driven systems led her to start a ServiceMaster franchise in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. That began drawing her toward the people side of organizations, which would eventually take her to the top of the Memphis-based franchise unit of ServiceMaster Clean.
McCall’s devotion to understanding every aspect of the contract janitorial business involved getting down and dirty.
“I went through everything any employee in our organization goes through,” she says. “I cleaned toilets, stripped floors, and did housekeeping. I also went through all of the other experiences that my people encounter in a day.”
That meant people “looking through me as if I was a ghost because I was a janitor,” she says. It also meant sometimes hearing a kind word, dealing with equipment failure, or working long hours because of unexpected problems. “I started developing a heart for my people and what they were going through personally and then professionally when they joined my organization. It helped me become an advocate within my own company.”
by Jon W. Sparks
Running a nonprofit is nothing like running a business, except when it is.
Ned Canty is acutely aware of that, having been at the helm of Opera Memphis since 2011. He jumped aboard as general director, which, as he notes, meant having to answer to everyone about both business and artistic aspects. “The artistic is why we exist — the fun part,” he says. “But the majority of the job is the CEO part, thinking strategically about the company and trying to make sure we’re flexible and strong enough to grow but also to weather whatever kinds of changes and tsunamis might happen.”
Such as the recession of 2008.
“I don’t think anybody in any arts organization across the country was prepared for it,” he says. “I’m lucky I didn’t start running a nonprofit until after the recession had already established itself and people realized it was going to hold on. I’ve always had to think about the CEO parts of the job: the audience, growing it, meeting the needs of customers and supporters. You have to think about every choice that is made and you have to know things, like the idea of finding a new customer is many times more expensive than keeping an old one.”
Canty loves opera, but hasn’t been a lifelong fan, a fact he thinks works in his favor.
Successful CEOs Find Opportunity Among the Obstacles
by Richard J. Alley
The country has just gone through one of the things that makes our nation great — change. The peaceful exchange of power every four or eight years is a tenet that sets us apart from so many other governments around the world. It is a benchmark for how we should conduct ourselves in business, politics, and social situations. We can disagree, we can advocate for our own ideas and philosophies and visions, but in the end compromise and mutual respect always win out.
As America’s office of CEO was changing hands, we were wrapping up this issue of Inside Memphis Business, our CEO of the Year Awards issue. I delighted in reading the profiles put together by Jon Sparks, and learning just what it is that makes each of these four people tick. And one thing stands out among them, as I’m sure must stand out for anyone in a leadership position — the enthusiastic embrace of change.
On Friday, January 27th, Inside Memphis Business celebrated our annual CEO of the Year Awards issue with a breakfast ceremony at Memphis Botanic Garden. More than 150 guests were on hand to network and honor the four honorees of 2017: Ned Canty, Opera Memphis; Stacy McCall, ServiceMaster by Stratos; Debbie Eddlestone, Stern Cardiovascular Foundation; and Bryan Jordan, First Horizon.
The morning was kicked off with a welcome by IMB editor Richard Alley and publisher Ken Neill, who introduced Anthony Clark of DHG, the ongoing presenting sponsor of the CEO of the Year Awards, who gave a warm congratulatory speech. Next up was Richard Shadyac Jr., CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and last year’s winner in the 1,000-plus employees category. He spoke of servant leadership and supporting those around you, of passion and how loving what you do can lead to effective leadership. Danny Thomas — St. Jude's founder — was saluted with a brief video tribute, which included a statement Thomas made on the day the hospital opened in 1962: “If I were to die this very minute, I'd know why I was born.”
For the CEO of the Year Awards, we solicited nominations from the public and, through a deliberate process, an impartial panel honed that list down by company size based on number of employees. Once finalists were selected for each category, the committee had an even more difficult time of selecting one winner for each category. This is a good problem to have. Memphis is graced with tremendously talented, inspiring executives leading our companies and organizations.
We encourage you to consider your own nominations and send them in throughout the year for the 2018 CEO of the Year issue.
This year’s winners:
Ned Canty, Opera Memphis (1 to 50 employees)
Ned was acutely aware from the beginning of his tenure with Opera Memphis nearly six years ago that the artistic part is why the organization exists, but that the majority of the job he was undertaking would be the CEO part. “Thinking strategically about the company and trying to make sure we’re flexible and strong enough to grow but also weather whatever kinds of changes and tsunamis might happen,” he said would be the focus of the work at hand. More than merely weathering the inevitable changes, Ned has rolled with them and embraced them with everything from innovative guerrilla marketing tactics to a newfound mobility, and has seen Opera Memphis — and opera itself — grow and flourish in the city. This success has garnered a couple of generous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as much-deserved national attention.
Stacy McCall, ServiceMaster by Stratos (50 to 200 employees)
Servicemaster by Stratos strives to reach a standard in the contract janitorial service industry that is somewhere in the topmost level of the atmosphere — the stratosphere, hence the company’s name. By all accounts, CEO Stacy McCall has hit that level. And yet she continues to aim high through the mission of her company and service in the community. Stacy is hands-on and has gone through everything that any employee she hires is expected to do. Because of this, she has a deep understanding of those employees and the clients they serve. The most important part of her industry’s name — contract janitorial service — is the “service,” and attention to that at such a high level, as well as the empathy for the personal and professional issues of her people, is what has landed her on our list.
Debbie Eddlestone, Stern Cardiovascular Foundation (200 to 1,000 employees)
Debbie came to Stern Cardiovascular Foundation in 1990 to overhaul the business operation. This herculean task would require negotiating the labyrinth that was the digitalization of medical records, a field that was constantly evolving and wholly uncertain at the time. Her task would go on to create partnerships and mergers with other leading healthcare organizations such as Baptist Memorial Medical Group to make Stern one of the largest and most comprehensive cardiology group practices in the region. As technology continues to advance and policy such as the Affordable Care Act continues to evolve, Debbie’s work will undoubtedly be even more complex and more important to Memphis and the Mid-South in years to come.
Bryan Jordan, First Horizon (1,000+ employees)
In business, timing is everything. Bryan Jordan knows this. He took the reins of First Horizon — the parent company of First Tennessee Bank and FTN Financial — just a week before Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac failed in 2008. But he persevered and kept his eye on the horizon and today he stands at the helm of a $28.3 billion-asset company, one of the 40 largest banking companies in the country in asset size and market capitalization. Profits have been at or near record levels and its stock price climbed 38 percent in 2016, making its biggest splash when it bought a chunk of GE Capital's restaurant franchise loan business, instantly adding nearly $540 million of high-yielding loans to its portfolio. A lot has changed since 2008, and Bryan has maintained his course, making great strides for his company and its people.
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