Founder & CEO of Kathleen Wood Partners, LLC
What were some of the highlights of your presentation at the IRFSNY show in New York?
I still have my consulting practice counseling with partners, and we primarily work with a growth company. So we have to get clarity about where they are, about where they want to go. And then we work with them to put together a strategic course of action that gets them there in the most productive and profitable way possible. The best news is, I work with clients in the restaurant business and they are all doing extraordinarily well. One was named restaurant of the year in Louisiana. Another was named the best sports bar in North America by ESPN. So I feel very proud of their accomplishments. I'm very thrilled to be a part of their path to success.
Were there any common themes in those two companies that you saw?
The flip side of New York is that it's quite different than anywhere else and that sets restaurants there apart. But they all have in common a passion to win. They have to have the internal fortitude to make the tough decisions, the right decisions to win, but they also are trying to achieve that success through the balance of being a great business leader but also a great community leader at the same time. And, I think that's really part of their success. Companies that want to work with me typically are in a position where they want to grow. They want to grow effectively, but they want to grow for all the right reasons. None of these companies start out saying, I just want to be the winner. They all say I want to build a great company.
What makes a great company?
What it really starts with is the leader. Over the last 20 years of consulting with various companies, you must aim at the four attributes of leadership that separate the good from the bad. And the first one is the clarity of the leader, the leader's vision of what they believe, of what they want to achieve. The second one is their ability to attract and retain key members who also believe and want to achieve that vision. The third thing is really then putting together the plan of action that takes this clarity and alignment and allows people to execute at a level of success that even they thought wasn't possible before. And the fourth? Take the risk when risk was necessary. They had the internal fortitude to make the tough decisions when that was necessary, but they also had the strength to be able to celebrate the success of the team and that the team was moving the organization in the right direction. And in my mind, those are four distinct choices that leaders all have.
Is there any rhyme or reason to the type of leader that ends up able to land on the ability to execute on all four?
There're a lot of people who want to be decisive when it comes time to making a tough decision but they just get stuck. Or, I think there are a lot of leaders who say, I'm very clear about my vision but then they don't necessarily hear it with their team or they don't hire people who necessarily believe it. But then they don't have the guts to let those people go so they can have people on their team who are truly supporting them in their vision and their mission. And when you look past that leader, you can see that their team is aligned with them. You can see that they all understand where they're going. You can also see that growth is not an easy thing. A lot of these teams get bonded through some of the challenging times equally as much as through the exciting times.
One of the great stories in the marketplace this year is what happened with Shake Shack with this IPO. And now, of course, here we are with a first set of quarterly earnings and having a difficult and challenging time of keeping up to what the street expects of it.
What's the lesson here?
You've got to look at success as a long-term proposition. And, one bad quarter, one bad month, one bad period of time, does not mean the success or the failure of a business. The real test is, what are you going to do with that information. History shows that a leader would have a clear vision, and a clear plan of action, that they would evaluate, they would take this as their opportunity to figure out what went wrong. Where's the opportunity? What do we have to do differently and how do we keep on our task? A leader isn't defined by a bad quarter. A leader takes the bad quarter and uses it to leap. Instead of being defined, they refine what they're doing.
We can't have Wall Street define who we are. We can't let the weather define who we are. But what we can do is take the data that we're given and use it to refine what we want to do and how we want to do it.
What advice do you have for someone who has a smaller business, maybe one unit or a couple of units?
The first advice I always give to people is, if you don't have time to plan now, when you go out of business, you'll have time to plan.