Q. If you were a young adult fresh out of college, what would you do first in searching for a job?
A. Even before you go on that first frightening interview, my recommendation to every college graduate is to "know thyself." What are your interests? What excites you? Life is way too short to spend 40 plus hours a week doing something you don't want to do, doing it at a place you don't want to be, or doing it with people that you just don't like. That first job sets in motion your entire career. It becomes your launching pad. You really want to head out in a direction that is right for you.
Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?
A. I came out of Athens with a typical, pitiful college wardrobe. Suddenly I was expected to wear a coat and tie. I didn't even know how to tie one of those colorful neck pieces. I had no choice -- I bought a suit.
Q. What's the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?
A. I truly believe that people want to do a good job. For most people, that is their default setting. However, they need the support of their organizations and their bosses. Employees like to see the link between the jobs that they do and the goals of the company. Without a meaningful mission and vision, it can be very difficult to illustrate that connection. Communication is always difficult, but if an organization can get everyone onto the same page, it is good for employees, and it is good for business.
Q. What was your first job?
A. I went to work for JCPenney as a management trainee. That is when I discovered the difference between classroom management theory and real life management problems.
Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?
A. I have been very, very fortunate. With one exception, I have always had wonderful bosses. I have had bosses that let me experiment and try new things -- sometimes they worked; sometimes they didn't. But I always knew that I had their support, and that was important.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?
A. Good times won't last forever; neither will bad times. Plan for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology -- examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. -- what would you most like to see go away?
A. I would require every business that had a switchboard to have a real live, breathing, human being operating the phone. Nothing frustrates me more than endlessly pushing telephone buttons and going in circles, all in the futile attempt to get to someone -- anyone!
Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?.
A. I really like my Blackberry. I can see why they sometimes refer to them as "crackberries." When I was in high school, deep into the last century, we were taught how to use a slide rule. My how the world has changed.
Q. What is the last book you read? Are there things you read daily, or regularly?
A. Just finished a book entitled "The Starbucks Experience." I really like the company, and really, really like their coffee. They seem to do an exceptionally good job of creating a customer friendly culture. They are worth copying. I also read the Herald every day. From time to time I teach college classes and I always try to take at least one newspaper article to class. It helps me illustrate that there is a connection between what we are studying and what is going on in the business world.
Q. I'm up and going by?
A. I am usually up by 7. I move slowly in the morning and have little to say. I wish I did mornings better.
Q. Favorite hobby or activity outside work?
A. It is spring and it is glorious bicycling weather. In the cooler months I run, and that is OK, but I absolutely love cycling. There is something special about zipping along at 20 plus miles an hour in a line of riders working as a team. Every ride is a new organization. There is always someone who is a little stronger than you who will get up front and pull the entire group. There is nothing else quite like it.
Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?
A. Even the bad ones teach you something. There really isn't a single business decision that comes to mind, however, there are a lot of investment decisions that I would like to take back.
Q. Best thing about your job?
A. In Human Resources there is nothing more gratifying than hiring someone and watching them grow. When somebody that I hired gets a promotion, I feel that I was promoted. Some people like growing flowers, others like growing tomatoes. I like growing people.
Q. Worst thing about your job?
A. Firing. In HR it goes with the territory, but it is absolutely the worst thing about the job.
Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?
A. My last semester in grad school, I took a course on business strategy. It really opened my eyes. For me there has never been a class that has been more relevant to my job. Strategy has become my passion. In fact, I went on to teach that class. I just can't get enough of it.
Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?
A. Does professional bike rider count? If I wasn't doing what I am doing now, I think I would like to be a full time college instructor. Those young brains are stimulating and exciting. They really keep you on your toes.
Q. Have you ever used an algebra formula or had to reference an important date from history in the course of your career?
A. I don't use algebra, but I sure use a lot of percentages.
Q. Finish this thought; "on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself...?
A. Doing something. I had six months of retirement. It is not everything that it is cracked up to be. When everyday is Saturday, Saturday isn't so special anymore. I could see myself in a classroom or as a business consultant. I have had the good fortune of facilitating strategy development at several different organizations. It is a lot of fun and very rewarding. I will definitely be doing something.
Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?
A. You must be willing to listen and possess a genuine readiness to learn.
Q. Crystal ball time: What's your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?
A. That is a difficult question. I think we will lag behind much of the country. I think that a lot of the problems that the United States faces are cyclical in nature. However, the problems that Albany faces are much more structural. We have lost so much manufacturing and so many manufacturing jobs that it is going to take us a lot of time to replace all of those jobs. And if the replacement jobs are not in manufacturing, do we have the skills needed for whatever they are?
Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?
A. A few years ago, when I was still in manufacturing, I commuted to Americus. In driving back and forth every day I discovered several things -- XM radio, audio books that you can check out at the local library and deer. There are a lot of deer on the roads between here and Americus. If I am not bouncing around on XM, I am listening to a book.
Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?
A. Regionalism. I have watched with keen interest as Thronateeska and the RiverQuarium developed a strategic alliance. It is currently happening on the micro level; it needs to happen on the macro level. We have got to be willing and able to work with our regional neighbors, and I think we will.
Q. What was the best vacation you've ever taken? Why?
A. Way back in 1981, I was newly married and had no children. My wife and I sold our house and made some money. We packed up our car and set out to see the country. We traveled until the money ran out, which was about a year. We visited many of our national parks and spent some time in most of our states. This is a big country, and one well worth seeing. We camped our way to the Pacific Ocean and back. It was a wonderful experience. We came back broke, but it was worth it. Unfortunately since that trip, my wife has never again crawled into a tent. I think I forever burned her out on camping.
Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years, and what is ahead?
A. I was in HR in manufacturing for about 20 years. It has hurt me to watch the demise of that once powerful and important piece of our economy. I went into banking thinking that it was a safe, stable industry. My timing couldn't have been much worse. The entire banking sector collapsed. For a while, it seemed that each day brought more bad news about the death, or near death, of another staid financial giant. It was scary. I think that we have turned the corner. I do think that there are some real opportunities out there for smart, conservative banks that have a good business strategy and that have the discipline to "stick to their knitting."
Q. What are the biggest challenges facing your company?
A. We are a small community bank in a landscape that includes some real giants. We absolutely have to be able to differentiate ourselves from our competition. We have got to be able to execute on our strategy to ensure delighted customers, proud associates and pleased stockholders. If we can do those three things, and do them every day, I think we will be able to realize our vision of becoming the gold standard of community banking.