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 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.
by Richard J. Alley
This morning, Inside Memphis Business magazine held a reception and ceremony for the CEO of the Year Awards winners. Comprising four different size categories, the honorees have proved exemplary in their respective fields, leading their companies with success on local, regional, national, and international stages. Special thanks to Presenting Sponsor Dixon Hughes Goodman. Read on below for this year's honorees, and congratulations to all our award winners.
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