Andrés Echeverri is a leader guided by purpose. A firm believer money doesn’t buy happiness, Andrés measures success by his ability to give back — including donating 15% of profits to local charities. “I have the perspective of coming from a very poor country,” he shares.
Arriving in the U.S. with just $200, Andrés founded ACSI in 2011, driven to help others conquer language barriers. In 2020, he pivoted to also found PPE Response. “Now is the time to be a hero for your employees and customers,” he says.
Andrés’ leadership tips:
- Be clear what your values are.
- Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you.
- Employees are your most important customers.
- Stay grounded with a coach.
- Find work/life balance.
There’s a reason a Vistage peer calls Kelly Solomon, “one of the best leaders I know.” Kelly grew her landscape business (recently acquired by Brightview) from her garage to one of the top 100 companies in the U.S., earning a spot on North Bay Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” for the past nine years.
One of few female owners in her industry, Kelly has integrated four mergers and acquisitions in 15 years, leaning on kindness, transparency and core values when big transitions happen.
- Give the whys.
- Be accountable, and hold people accountable.
- You can be kind and still make profits.
- Prioritize staff’s needs, they are the heart of your company.
Lew Kachulis’ first rule of leadership is, “never compromise your values.” On this foundation, he helms an industry-leading firm authentically invested in its people, clients and the greater community.
With achievements that include 18% YOY growth and being named one of Inc. Magazine’s “Fastest Growing Companies” the past three consecutive years, Lew brings a spirit of continuous improvement to every facet of his company culture, starting with the hiring process.
Lew shares the following words of wisdom:
- You are what you tolerate.
- Be honest.
- Success means having a positive impact on others.
- True leadership is how you handle the difficult times.
- Success is not linear.
“No one gets to choose when they have to make a tough choice,” Trevor Morris says, reflecting on the extreme circumstances that propelled him to a leadership role. With no idea what the future held, Trevor, CEO of FreshByte Software, steered his company through the storm — with no compromise in integrity, and no team member left behind.
“I stepped forward when it was necessary,” Trevor recalls. If he could change one thing about that time, it would be to lead with transparency. It’s a notion he translated into action amid the COVID-19 crisis, in the following ways:
- Admitting to not having all the answers.
- Holding weekly staff meetings.
- Fearlessly sharing information.
- Involving staff in pivoting to remain relevant.
When COVID-19 hit, Jeff Ryan did not falter in his leadership of 2,600 team members on the frontlines. In characteristic style, he was already prepared.
In December 2019, another Vistage member with operations in Wuhan, China, had shared his concerns. Drawing from his time as an inner-city hospital administrator, Jeff sprang into action. He cautions, “You must prepare, prepare, prepare, and then implement. Don’t panic, just know that something will go wrong. Fix it, and move on.”
Jeff’s tips for prepared leadership in
- Stay calm, and be thorough. (Measure three
times, cut once.)
- Do your homework, so you can make
educated spur-of-the-moment decisions.
- Preparation trumps implementation.
U-GRO Learning Centres had its origins in the basement of a church. Under Greg Holsinger’s leadership, yearly revenues have grown to $22M, with 375 employees serving 1,900 children, in 14 locations. U-GRO now ranks among the top 50 for-profit childcare organizations in North America, every step of the way staying grounded in its core values: Serve, grow, be positive.
Credited as having built a company that lives and breathes its mission, Greg shares the following guidance:
- Find purpose in all you do.
- Be positive. Create a safe, fun work environment.
- Put others before self and lead by example.
- Build on individual strengths. Align teams to those strengths.
- Growth means getting better, not just bigger.
- Trust is the hub of any retention plan.
Ericka Sanchez started MaidBrite in 2002 with one client. 400 clients later, she is tirelessly committed to her company’s success, and even more so, to ensuring respect and a quality work environment for each of her employees. It’s a leadership approach that differentiates her business.
Ericka’s other keys to successful leadership:
- Listen to your gut — trust the voice inside you.
- Positive criticism is important. Abuse is unacceptable.
- Care for your staff must be primary in challenging situations.
- Make decisions that let your employees know they are safe, respected and valued.
“If anyone is here just for the money, and not here to share our world with our guests, be world-class, and be the best winery in Texas… I’ll pay you to resign today,” Chris Brundrett once told his staff. “We’ll even help you find another job.” When no one left, it was a sure sign Chris had built a team driven by its core values.
Chris’ advice for values-driven leadership:
- “Hard decisions – easy life. Easy decisions – hard life.”
- Define and execute your values to determine a long-term path to success.
- Let your values guide your most difficult decisions.
- Recognize team members exhibiting great values.
- Release those who don’t support your values — even if it’s your top earner.
“The only asset we have is the people we work with,” says Lance Schefers. When Lance joined Vistage 17 years ago, his company was just under $3M in sales. Today, it’s grown to $25M.
Lance founded Schefers Roofing with “one person in a pickup truck.” He’s since led installation of millions of square feet in roofing systems, with a Core Focus of winning as a team and creating a lasting legacy. “There’s true partnership between the field and office teams,” Lance shares. “Everybody understands they have to do their part to make us successful.”
Lance’s CEO tips:
- Delegate. Trust the leadership around you.
- Cultivate a “work family” founded in genuine caring.
- Instill accountability.
“We put TRUST at the top of our priorities,” says Mike Dunn, fourth-generation president of Dunn Lumber. Mike’s resolve has inspired dramatic loyalty among customers and employees through market changes throughout the years.
Mike elaborates, “We are in a time when quality, locality and being genuine mean a lot. We have the right values at the right time in history.”
Mike’s tips for building trust:
- In crisis, take time to think things through; you may have to go slower than you’d like.
- Stay in communication to quell uncertainty. Be transparent.
- Incentivize people to stay. (At the peak of COVID-19 Mike cut hours, but raised pay.)
- Offer products the team can take pride in, and customers can rely on.
When the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated Ed James’ team act fast, he immediately looked at the well-being of customers, and the communities they serve.
The uncertainty surrounding the pandemic put them into a “pause and reset mode.” In this rapidly changing environment, Ed committed to adapting to a new way of doing business. His disciplined team foundation helped him respond with excellence, integrity and accountability when the time arose.
Ed’s tips for leading through crisis:
- Count on your long-term client relationships.
- Do not compromise your values.
- Keep integrity when prioritizing.
- Let your people challenge the process. Listen to their voices.
There’s a reason Justin Krueger’s Chair calls him, “one of the most giving humans I have ever met.” President & CEO of MFRG-ICON Construction, Justin’s mission is to create safe, comfortable housing in underserved communities. “We’re blessed. Every day we change and impact people’s lives through our efforts,” he says.
Drawing from personal triumphs and challenges, Justin instills a profound sense of purpose in his team. Keys to his leadership:
- Your bottom line does not define your company.
- Invest in culture, people and technology.
- People want a purpose — not just a paycheck.
- Don’t hide what you’ve been through and learned from.
Justin has led MFRG-ICON to complete 28,000+ units of affordable housing and $1.7B in construction.
“Our motto says it all, ‘We are financial professionals serving financial professionals.’” Over 25+ years, David Stringer has been a champion for clients and team members alike, even amidst a perfect storm of adversity. Faced with markets contracting, an advisor gone rogue and a partner wanting out — David steered the firm forward with characteristic integrity.
His tips for powering through:
- Stay true to mission, vision and values.
- Do the right thing for all stakeholders.
- Take the high road.
Under David’s watch, Prospera has won Investment Advisor Magazine’s “Broker-Dealer of the Year Award” 7 of the past 10 years. For David, “To be named the best by the advisors we serve is the highest honor we could ask for.”
Lauren Ready, one of Memphis Business Journal’s 2019 “Top 40 Under 40,” tells real stories faster for nonprofits, small businesses and events. Lauren has led her team through the pandemic with a focus on opportunity rather than survival, guided at every turn by core values.
“Core values give us a guiding light,” she says, sharing that for her company, success takes a combination of head and heart. Building from its values, Lauren’s team has defined an “ideal client,” for whom it is equipped to provide top-notch service, and can establish mutual trust. If a prospect is not a fit, Forever Ready will not take on the project.
The core values that guide Lauren’s team:
As CEO of Kings III, Dennis Mason is in the business of saving lives. Throughout his tenure, Dennis has innovated to guide the company from small, private entity to industry leader — putting his people first every step of the way. Known for his integrity, Dennis led his team through two challenging years of adjusting to Private Equity ownership, while working hard to get the board to see the importance of a strong company culture.
Some of Dennis’ lessons learned:
- When your good people start leaving, you know you are missing the mark.
- Growth at whatever cost is not how to run a business.
- C-level executives must embody company culture and core values.
- When you see a problem on your team, act early.
“Success is not linear.”
“You are more capable than you think you are.”
“Remember life is a roller coaster, and not to expect a monorail.”
“Always treat everyone with respect, regardless of their status.”
“Set your own definition of success and pursue it.”