The importance of communicating with one’s team – from the generation of ideas to the implementation of strategy and giving credit where it’s due – was a common refrain at Westfair Communications’ C-Suite Awards, held Jan. 31 at Serafina at the IC in Stamford.
“Not one of you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t excellent at what you do,” said keynote speaker Kate Hampford Donahue, president and CEO of family-owned custom chemical manufacturing firm Hampford Research Inc. in Stratford. The key challenge, she said, is how someone in a senior management position can translate that success across their organization.
Citing herself as an example, Donahue explained that her father and company founder Jack Hampford, absent a specific succession plan, had essentially bequeathed the firm to her on his deathbed. While Jack was a chemist by trade, Donahue said, she spent her time in chemistry class “trying to get the boy I liked to notice me.”
As a result, Donahue said, she had no choice but to develop not only a knowledge of the chemicals industry, but also the management skills necessary to ensure Hampford Research’s continued success. As part of the latter, she said, she put into place a change in the company’s culture to one that was more collaborative. That, she said, had played a crucial part in helping the company more than double in size since she took over 12 years ago.
Donahue then explained that each of the night’s recipients had been asked to reflect upon one of three specific questions: How they set forth goals for their team and organization; how they adapt their sales strategy to keep their organization on course; and how they work to stay innovative.
Lynne Allan, executive vice president, chief operating officer of Greater Hudson Bank, addressed the third question: “Never be complacent,” she said, adding that one should “include everybody” in formulating customer-facing strategies.
Martin Capuano, chief financial officer of BTX Global Logistics in Shelton, addressed the setting of goals. “Goal-setting starts at most organizations in the boardroom,” he said, “but the execution depends on commitment from the organization as a whole. I try to motivate (staff) to keep the company’s goals and focus on customer service every day.”
Capuano said that BTX achieves that by setting goals for the next 12 months in executive strategy meetings, with an eye on how they performed on the previous year’s goals; following the CEO and president laying out that year’s vision at the BTX convention, the marketing and communications teams provide regular reports to keep all employees involved and apprised of progress; and goals are restated and examined in regular weekly meetings.
Jim Coughlin, senior vice president at Westhab Inc. in Yonkers, said he took a similar approach when it comes to adapting sales strategies. As a mission-driven organization, he said, Westhab addresses the needs of its employees and clients on a regular basis. “Without that buy-in, sales is not going to sail,” he said.
Norwalk Community Health Center Chief Operating Officer
Maria Escalera said her organization also sees the “need to invite everyone to the table” when discussing and setting goals, “which creates some ownership” of those goals for everyone from the front line of care providers to the CEO.
Tom Gabriel and Rachel Chazin Halperin – chief development officer and chief program officer, respectively,
of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley – were the next to be recognized, although Halperin was unable to attend. Speaking for them both, Gabriel also focused on goal-setting, and said he encourages Legal Services employees to “Take a B-plus approach to life,” meaning that if they take risks and fail, they still have a B-plus – and that if they succeed, they get an A.
United Hebrew of New Rochelle Chief Information Officer Kelvin Hui said that one of the best ways to remain
innovative is to stay current with new and developing technologies – something he said is increasingly important in the health care space as more patients are looking to mobile and other devices to stay abreast of their well-being.
Vitas Jalinskas, chief operating officer of Transparent Solutions LLC, advised that progress be made measurable ahead of time, and that mistakes should be viewed as learning opportunities, while Eric Johnson, chief operating officer of Rocco & Associates Wealth
Management in Fairfield, said that “with a bank on every corner of Fairfield County,” it is incumbent on his firm to “prove to everyone that we do things a little bit differently, and that’s through innovation.
“If you’re doing things at your organization for the sole reason that it’s because that’s how you’ve done it in the
past,” he added, “I challenge you to scrutinize that and see if there’s a different way to do it to distinguish yourselves.”
Nicholas Korchinski, chief information officer of CareMount Medical, said his organization believes in “incrementalism – you can make a lot of progress with a lot of little wins.”
Sharon Kiely, chief medical officer at Stamford Health, said her organization’s staff regularly rises to innovation challenges.
James Ogle, executive vice president and CFO at Access Intelligence, said his team remains
innovative by staying close to its customers, either at events or in its offices. He also drew a laugh when he said, “It’s usually the CEOs who get all the attention, but we know it takes a village – hug a CFO!”
White Rose Home Healthcare Agency CEO and President Jodyann Prendergast said that her Bridgeport-based firm
benefits from everyone sharing responsibilities – “I’ll be there rolling up my sleeves” when new services are introduced, she said – a sentiment echoed by Dawn
Reshen-Doty, owner of Benay Enterprises, who said everyone on her staff works together to land and service clients; in fact, whenever a new client is signed, a gong is sounded at Benay’s office.
Jeffrey Salguero, vice president, director of brand strategy and creative development at Circle of Care in Wilton, was
caring for his elderly parents in Spain, so his wife – the nonprofit’s founder and president, Liz Salguero – accepted on his behalf; she asked executives everywhere to “inspire others by building on their strengths, not yours.”
Perhaps sensing that the evening was running long, Richard Sgaglio, vice president communications, marketing and
development at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, simply thanked his team for nominating him for the award. He was followed by Paul Thau, president of White Plains ad agency Winterbridge Media, who said that the ongoing major changes in digital media
demand his firm maintain an innovative approach. “The most important part of being an ad agency is that it is a service business, a people business,” he said.
Tim Tulfer, CFO of Heineken USA in White Plains, said his company had successfully identified inefficiencies and rectified them. “We changed completely by modernizing our
organization,” he said. As the last recipient, he waggishly encouraged attendees to stick around and celebrate with one of his firm’s brews.
Unable to attend were Amy Allen, vice president of the Westchester County Association; Marie O’Connor, president of Eastchester’s The Nordic Edge; and Christopher Sclafani, COO of CareMount Medical.
The event was presented by the Westchester and Fairfield County Business Journals. Bronze sponsors were Heineken, BTX Global Logistics, Shreve, Crump & Low, United Hebrew of New Rochelle, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Circle of Care, Val’s Putnam Wines & Liquors, and Serafina at the IC.