Business Monday

CEOs: Good hires, technology change meaning of hands-on ownership

Ramon ‘Ray’ Abadin, president of the Florida Bar and a civil trial attorney and shareholder at Sedgwick LLP.
Ramon ‘Ray’ Abadin, president of the Florida Bar and a civil trial attorney and shareholder at Sedgwick LLP.

This week’s question: Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero recently criticized Stephen Ross, who owns the struggling Miami Dolphins but lives in New York during the work-week, as an “absentee owner.” In your opinion, how important is it for business owners to know every detail of what’s happening in their workplace and to be physically present as often as possible?

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The expanding role that technology plays in business means owners and managers can work anywhere at any time. Technology makes it possible to stay connected and productive without being physically present, but owners and managers have a responsibility to stay engaged with employees and clients, and that means being hands-on and building personal relationships.

Ramon Abadin, president, The Florida Bar, and partner, Sedgewick Law Firm

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In 2015, the idea that anyone has to be anywhere just to run a team, seems silly.

Brian Brackeen, CEO, Kairos

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Hands-on ownership provides the foundation for CREC's ability to respond quickly and effectively to the fast-paced needs of our clients, including property owners, tenants, investors and lenders. As principals, Warren Weiser and I are deeply engaged with the day-to-day operations of our company, building a culture that encourages our client-focused entrepreneurial spirit. However, there is a huge difference between the constant demands of running a full-service statewide commercial real estate firm and a sport franchise like the Miami Dolphins, where the owner may make only few major decisions each year.

Carol Brooks, president and co-founder, CREC (Continental Real Estate Companies)

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There is no doubt that the physical presence of an organization’s top leader ensures that the organization sees and hears firsthand their passion for their business and their commitment for success. That said, successful leaders are also those that hire capable and competent administrators to ensure their vision is put into reality. We have an owner who is a well-known successful businessman and, while his presence here is always welcomed, must feel confident in the team he has put together to ensure the implementation of his vision.

Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale, president, St. Thomas University

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I believe that leadership should be intimately aware of all important functions within an organization. Leaders should be continually monitoring performance, adjusting strategy and implementing tactics to ensure the success of their direct reports and the overall organization.

Nabil El Sanadi, CEO/president, Broward Health

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In the hospitality business you have to be hands-on. With more than 500 employees and more than 20 departments at the InterContinental Miami, I am as hands-on as possible in every facet of our operation. I’ve worked in many areas of the hotel business, which gives me the perspective I need to understand the challenges and opportunities our team members face. Many managers don’t benefit from this first-hand perspective, but it’s invaluable to keeping people motivated and keeping guests happy.

Robert Hill, general manager, InterContinental Miami

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Hands-on leadership is extremely important. It gives business owners the opportunity to have a better understanding of their company, whereas absentee owners miss out on tiny details important to the survival of their business. Being present means always keeping lines of communication open and taking an active part in providing regular feedback and leading by example. Employees are the lifeline of any business, and when you make yourself accessible to them, it allows for a cohesive effort toward success.

Miriam Lopez, president/chief lending officer, Marquis Bank

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Being present is important, but in today’s connected world, it is easier than ever to be “present” at your business while not being there physically. Just recently, John Kunkel, the man behind Yardbird and Swine restaurants, spoke at a United Way Tocqueville event. He said that he knew he couldn’t be chained to the restaurant if the business was to grow. What I took from that is that as leaders, we must be able to articulate our vision and strategy, clearly and with passion, and then hire the very best talent and empower them to execute on that vision and keep the business moving forward. It’s not realistic or prudent to think that the CEO knows every detail. As Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Harve A. Mogul, president and CEO, United Way of Miami-Dade

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Every business is different so I’m not sure you can say that one approach is best. I think the important thing is that you be mentally present even when you have to be physically absent—which essentially means that you are invested in your company and your people. As the U.S. CEO of a global company, I am always on the road visiting with my teams and checking in on clients. Two things that I think are very important for business owners to have are, first, good communication with your employees, and second, a well-trained staff that feels both empowered and committed to make decisions that will benefit the company. I host a company-wide conference call every Friday so that every employee has an opportunity to hear from me on company updates, as well as ask me questions. This approach allows me to feel connected with my staff without having to be in the same location.

Mike Parra, CEO, DHL Express U.S.

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Like every line of business, Ross entrusts his leaders to make good judgment calls on a selection of personnel, whether it’s in administration, coaches, assistant coaches, marketing, public relations or players. He is confident that the team is able to put the best possible roster together to compete effectively in the NFL and holds them accountable. As the team’s owner, he gets to set the standard for his team and ultimately it’s up to his team to make sure they meet expectations. Hindsight is 20/20, but he is looking very smart by promoting Dan Campbell as head coach.

M. John Richard, president, CEO, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts

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A lot depends on the size of the business. In a small business, especially at the start, it is important for the owner to be hands-on and know what is happening. The only way to do that is to be present. However, in larger businesses and certainly corporations, I’ve always had the philosophy that you hire the right people and let them do their jobs. Especially in the high tech environment we live in, owners don’t have to be there to be in contact with their teams (think Skype, Go-to-Meetings, conference calls, etc.). So, really, where you live has no bearing on your ability to manage your company. Some criticize Stephen Ross for being an absentee owner and ironically, those same people criticize Jerry Jones for micro-managing his team.

Rachel Sapoznik, CEO & president, Sapoznik Insurance

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It’s extremely important to know what’s happening in your organization, but depending on its size, it may not be possible to know every detail. That’s when you need to be able to rely on your management to handle the intimate details of specific issues. This allows you to focus on the big picture and execution of business strategy, which is what creative entrepreneurs do best.

Ginny Simon, founder, CEO, ginnybakes

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