What Top Execs Vow For New Year

The Orange County Register

January 2, 2013

Who won’t promise that in the new year they’ll somehow improve themselves – from what’s eaten to ideas pondered to information chosen to company kept?

Ah, New Year’s resolutions – the mythical cleansing mission of the season.

I wondered what “resolutions” local business leaders might be making, in the professional sense. How were they going to provide a better workplace – with better results for all stakeholders – in 2013?

So I asked a collection of Orange County executives what they’ll be doing differently to start the year. What I heard back was decidedly growth-oriented thinking, a positive economic indicator in itself – as well as welcome relief to numerous employees long used to cost-watching mantras from their supervisors.

I must admit that Adam Spice, the CFO at semiconductor designerMaxLinear in Irvine, gave me the most rousing pep talk. He resolved to take more chances in 2013 and avoid “getting lured into executing on what is in our comfort zone.”

He’ll tell his troops to focus energy on three new products and strategies, “that if successful at implementing will move the needle for the company and leave a lasting mark on the complexion of the company long after you are gone.”

And Spice says this will take honest talk: “I’ll also be encouraging people at the company to have their own Jerry Maguire moments,” Spice says, referencing the movie in which the lead character makes bold statements about his sports agency industry. (Well, forget he gets fired for the rant, but then creates his own successful shop!)

Spice adds that he wants employees to “feel comfortable bringing those forward in a constructively confrontational way.”

Or as Jeff Ingham, senior managing director at real estate brokerageJones Lang LaSalle in Irvine, put it succinctly: Think globally. He’s resolved to “make more connections to help companies with their real estate needs, whether it is here or anywhere else across the globe.”

Reinvesting in staff was certainly a common theme among the business leaders.

At communications chip giant Broadcom, Terri Timberman – executive vice president for global human resources – says internal communications will be critical.

The company will “be establishing even more opportunities for two-way communication with our employees’ small-group interactions, an employee engagement survey, global ‘All Hands’ meetings, our CEO’s employee blog and more.”

The bottom line to the added chatter is, Timberman says, “sharing both the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of what is happening or what needs to be accomplished by the company or our team.”

Greg Daniels, executive chef and partner at Haven Gastropub in Orange, notes that employee morale and staff development can be an overlooked part of the winning business equation.

“I think you get so wrapped up in the day-to-day, sometimes you forget what keeps it all going,” Daniels says. “We have some employees that were with us since Day One – we owe them for so much of our success. If we want business to keep growing, we have to be sure we are keeping our staff happy, so that can be passed on to our guests.”

In recent tough times, many companies devoted so much energy to keeping the enterprise afloat that the customer part of the equation may have been – at best – put in a second-class spot.

Several business leaders talked about a 2013 push to reinvigorate their contacts with potential and existing clients.

Alan Reay, president of the Atlas Hospitality Group tourism consultancy, says one way to do that will be making sure his clients have better information. He resolves to “continue to keep in close contact with our clients and monitor shifts in the market, such as lenders offering great terms; and brands that are aggressively pursuing certain markets.”

Tricia Esser, chief executive at architects KTGY Group in Irvine, resolves to make sure her team is ready to handle clients’ specific quirks within design niches – and to seek help, when needed.

For example, she notes that when KTGY is helping folks pondering a new retailing project, her company will “collaborate more with specialists to bring quicker results to our clients. Speed to market is the key in the retail world!”

And in a world where the information can often be dispiriting – like foreclosure trends – Daren Blomquist, vice president at mortgage tracker RealtyTrac says it’s time to mix it up. He resolves to “have more fun with real estate data” in 2013.

Many of these business resolutions have a “back to the future” theme.

Indeed, it may be a sign of the times that recognition is brewing that business is more than putting a pencil to every last penny – and as the economy recovers, 2013 feels like a time to take chances to win customers’ evolving appetites for growth.

Tom Johns, a vice president at stationery creator Envelopments in Santa Ana, resolves to ask tough questions of his own work: “Am I spending my time on the most valuable things? Am I delegating the right work? Am I spending enough time supporting and developing my team?”

That should lead to broader discussions “to make sure we have the right people in the right jobs, not only for today, but more importantly to get where we want to go as a company.”

Ron Schwartz, owner of Muldoon’s Irish Pub in Newport Beach, resolves that 2013 will be a year for “focusing on Irish and Celtic culture, food and drink more than ever.” Schwartz adds, “We think 2013 will be a year where our guests will crave warmth, authenticity and family.”

Not every business leader seems to thinks that annual resolutions are a great management tool – or that 2013 is time for major rethinking of proven tactics.

“I’m not sure brand new resolutions are the best way to lead an architecture and engineering firm,” says Dan Heinfeld, president of Irvine-based design firm LPA Inc.

Not that LPA is resting on its success. As Heinfeld put it: “We are looking for continuous improvement on our processes and services that benefit our clients in real terms. Better energy efficiency, healthy environments and water management are areas we always seek to improve performance of in our projects.”

Trent Brooks, chief operating officer at apartment owner Lyon Communities from Newport Beach, boldly said “Absolutely not!” when asked about change for 2013.

“At Lyon Communities we have resolved to continue to create very special communities for our residents by providing an upscale living environment with resort-style amenities that appeal to their active lifestyle, in quality locations in California, Colorado, Atlanta and Florida,” Brooks stated. “This is what we do best. That is not going to change.”

Will more of the same – or brand new – be the winning formula for 2013?

I resolve to track that debate.

Contact the writer: 949-777-6727 or jlansner@ocregister.com