“The more good people who own good businesses, the more profound the impact on communities,” says Kevin Lindsey. In the 16 years since Kevin founded his social impact investment bank, he’s closed 100+ deals — driven by genuine caring for people and impact, not just numbers.
“Believe in something that matters,” Kevin urges. “If I can help good people own and run good businesses for 20-30 years, what impact will that have on multiple people’s lives?”
Kevin’s leadership ideals:
- Accountability comes from shared vulnerability.
- The more you care, the greater your energy.
- Focus on your development as a human AND a business person.
- Never stop asking, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”
As CEO/founder of MedSource, Eric Lund has led the CRO’s participation in 800+ clinical trials globally. MedSource is built on strong relationships. “Our path is often defined by what is chasing us, or what we’re chasing. Knowing your purpose will drive you, inspire you, and have the potential to inspire others.”
Eric’s insights for a strong team:
- Operate from a clear set of values. Your people will trust and respect you for being consistent and authentic, even if they don’t always agree.
- Don’t underestimate the impact you have on people. Take time to inspire others and help them find the path to the next great step.
- Encourage honest feedback. You can’t improve if you don’t know what needs fixing.
At the helm of Volunteers of America Mid- States, Jennifer Hancock champions the 124-year-old nonprofit’s mission of changing lives. The onset of COVID-19 forced Jennifer to look inward to make sure the business could endure, reevaluating to preserve her teams’ physical and mental health, and ensure HR workflows were optimized. “I’ve learned the hard way that I need to slow down, ask more questions and dig a little deeper,” she shared.
Jennifer’s tips for growth amid crisis:
- Be willing to let go of what you enjoy doing in your business, to honor what it needs most from you.
- Ask for help. (Jennifer consulted an HR expert Vistage member to put sustainable solutions in place.)
- As Gandhi said, “Be the change.”
Under the leadership of Chris Taylor, Fishers Technology has been named one of Idaho’s “Best Places to Work” for 11 straight years — and that only scratches the surface of his accomplishments. “People are everything in business,” Chris says, when asked what advice he’d give peers.
More leadership tips from Chris:
- Invest in hiring. The passion, intelligence and compassion in people make things happen.
- Surround yourself with people you want to be like.
- Never pass up an opportunity to speak in public.
- Start with the end in mind. (Stephen Covey)
- Remember, there is no destination. A goal offers direction and alignment, but it is the growth that comes from pursuit of the goal that is most important.
Building his current firm from scratch, Jim Rich found anything less than striving for excellence would not suffice, were his vision to become reality. Encouraging calculated risk-taking among his team, Jim says, “I expect mistakes to be made along the way. The first time, it’s all about growth and learning. It’s like a tuition payment.” The key is in not making the same mistake twice.
On adding to his team Jim shares, “I’m particularly interested in people who have been through business failures. It really informs their perspective… and helps them as they move forward.”
To inspire loyalty and unity, Jim counts on these core values:
In boating, tacking is when you change course by turning into and through the wind. Mike Mills applied the principle to redesigning his business 10 years ago, and his foresight has made Jamestown Distributors a formidable contender in an increasingly online marketplace.
Mike’s leadership advice:
- Spend the time to hire and cultivate the right people. Find awesome people to grow WITH you.
- If you don’t have a really good plan, it doesn’t matter how quickly you pedal. Resist pressure to go fast. Slow it down and do it right the first time.
- Love what you do. Inspire your team to do the same.
Mike’s innovation and courage has led his family’s former brick-and-mortar hardware store to undreamt of success.
With Don Hairhoger’s leadership over the past 36 years, Composites One has grown significantly through acquisitions and organic growth. “Surround yourself with the best people possible, provide them the tools to do their job, be there to support when needed, and then get the heck out of their way,” he says.
At the helm of an expansion to China in 2004, Don found an unexpected and valuable outcome. “Our China experience taught us one thing. Let’s focus on what we do best. And that’s taking great care of our North American customers,” he shares.
Don’s leadership lessons:
- Never stop learning.
- Never be afraid to try a new initiative.
- In times of struggle, lean on your Vistage group.
- Nothing is handed to you.
David Camiener built AMRESCO into a $60M powerhouse, sold at an enviable premium, and is now working to replicate this success at CBG Biotech — where he’s already executed a financial and cultural turnaround.
“The challenge with leadership,” David shares, “is that as an entrepreneur, a lot of things are initially dependent on you as an individual. If you’re fortunate enough to grow a business, you must find ways to grow others and delegate.”
David’s other tips:
- Ask more questions. Provide less answers.
- Don’t delegate based solely on loyalty — weigh the needs of the business.
- Find ways to model your enterprise so it operates without you in it.
- If you ever grow tired of solving problems, get out.
Mills Properties, Inc. asks prospective tenants, “What inspires you to come home?” As CIRO/CMO, Al Ryan asks his team, “What inspires you to come to work?” Team members embrace their role as integral to the satisfaction of tenants, and the success of the business.
“I’d tell my younger self to join Vistage sooner,” Al says, when asked the keys to his success. “Whatever the challenge, a group of CEOs to process your issues and provide actionable feedback makes solving it quicker and easier.”
Al’s tips to leverage the support of your group:
- Trust the process (Identify root cause, clarify, brainstorm.)
- Be transparent. Time is money.
- Recognize your problems ARE yours, but AREN’T unique.
- Expect 100% confidentiality.
Considered a pillar in the communities it serves, Quick Quack Carwash has 100+ locations, 1,000+ employees and adds new locations weekly. For Jason Johnson, the company’s resounding success starts with its people.
“When you have a great culture, you have to be vigilant,” Jason says, leading from core values of smart, kind and driven:
- Smart: Are you learning, growing, showing up well?
- Kind: How are you communicating?
- Driven: Do you go the extra mile? Are you offering solutions to challenges?
“We spend so much time at work,” Jason reflects, so one’s team can make or break the experience. “Like 6th grade recess football teams, you can tell who is going to win as soon as they are picked, so choose wisely!”
A “voice of wisdom” in his Vistage group, Mark Lee has converted a century-old family business into a learning organization with world-class training programs. At the core of his leadership approach is the pursuit of clarity in communication.
“In a difficult situation, emotions run high and you often miss the root cause of the problem,” Mark says, elaborating that be it your team, customer or family, “Work hard to understand each stakeholder’s point of view.” For Mark, finding resolution starts with finding patience and empathy.
- Stay calm. Hone your listening skills.
- To move someone from where they currently are, you must know where they currently are.
- Change is a process, not a directive.
Revenues doubled. Staff doubled. Distribution tripled. Andy Mitchell has led Idaho’s largest distributor of beer, wine and premium non-alcoholic beverages to astonishing growth in the past six years, attributing his success to a “three-leg stool” of bravado, humility and curiosity.
Here are his tips for striking a unique balance:
- Lead in opposition to the flow, but also as part of it. When things feel good, raise flags. When things feel difficult, inspire.
- Embrace that you may not be the first or last leader, but you can do something unique that leaves the company better.
- Bring 100% and expect 100%.
- Be relentlessly quizzical. Search to find the grain of sand that can help you do even better.
“No person gets out of bed in the morning thinking, ‘I hope I get told what to do today,’” reflects Lou Zaccone. A 30-year Vistage member, Lou tirelessly advances HVAC institution Harshaw Trane’s vision of putting people first, ensuring the company’s 300+ associates (never called employees) are empowered to think for themselves.
“I used to approach my role as a leader thinking I had to have all the answers,” Lou says. “The wisdom of years has shown me that in fact, your people have the answers.”
Lou’s tips for an empowered team:
- Find a way to pull out the knowledge your people already have.
- Always have a plan B.
- Roleplay. Make it more challenging than the real-life scenario.
- Never stop learning.
“Ask more than tell,” Doug Klares says. The CEO/founder of one of the top staffing agencies in the U.S. leads not by having all the answers, but by welcoming the insights of others.
“I’ve come to terms with the reality, it isn’t my responsibility to know the answers, but it is my responsibility to find them,” Doug elaborates, believing it is his role to give team members the confidence to speak up, and provide a place where they can be heard.
Doug practices his leadership ethos by:
- Reveling in the journey, because the goal line shifts all the time.
- Embracing he is one person, and there are many others who can provide valuable perspective.
- Remembering no one is perfect.
- Not taking himself too seriously.
Brad Sklar is recognized by peers for his dedication and guidance — particularly through COVID-19 legislation. He has helped clients and peers alike not only weather the storm, but thrive on the other side of it.
As a shareholder in his firm for 32 years and Best Lawyers® 2021 Business Organizations “Lawyer of the Year” in Birmingham, Brad believes one unexpected skill is vital to overcoming challenges. “I think good leaders are able to be silent — to listen and gather information and different perspectives,” he shares.
- As a leader, avoid falling into “instinctual mode.”
- Encourage people to speak up and voice different ideas.
- Be a listener to more than just what you want to hear.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“What key quality do you possess that makes you a successful leader?”
“What is your number one priority right now, and what are you doing to achieve it?”
“What are you currently working on that excites you?”
“What percentage of the time do you make decisions with your gut?”