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7 Questions with Tony Benedict
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7 Questions with Tony Benedict
Name: Tony Benedict
Current title: Partner, CEO
Current organisation: Omicron Partners
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
Growth in the age of Covid. Marketing a small, niche firm.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
My career started out in sales and eventually led to operations. As the world got smaller and companies acquired to increase the global footprints, my exposure to M&A started early in the 90's. I found it exciting and so when I left the high-tech industry, I went into consulting and liked the work, especially the cross industry exposure that operations provides. When I was recruited into a PE-backed healthcare provider, I was hooked. We bought bankrupt hospitals, turned them around and operated them. We ended up going public and eventually was acquired a little over a year later. A hospital system across town was acquiring a geographically complementary system and recruited me to help them do post-acquisition integration. It afforded me the opportunity to do an acquisition "soup to nuts'' as it were and build a generic playbook with an accelerated approach to value creation during integration. After that opportunity, I decided to go out on my own and have been doing so for 5 years.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I get up early, have a work out routine, catch up on emails and then meet with clients, unless I'm active on a client project. I try to read daily to keep up on industry trends and disruptions and have acquired a passion for writing. My days are full and then the weekends are for hobbies, sports, family, etc.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Indecisiveness is a toxic attribute to any company. I've seen it in clients and also in my own experience. If you can't assimilate information to make decisions quickly, then opportunities fly by and are lost to competitors.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
"Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?" by Lou Gerstner. I read this book right after it was published and still refer to it to this day. It was less about strategy (even though Gerstner was ex-McKinsey) and more about putting the pieces together into an executable business model for IBM. IBM at the time, was like the sinking Titanic and Gerstner pulled them out of the abyss. The whole book is about the decisions he made based on customer and employee interviews and his own observations on the strengths of IBM. Once he put all the pieces together, he acted quickly and the rest is history.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Again, pulling Gerstner's book, create a comprehensive vision and communicate it up and down the organization. It doesn't take long before you realize if you are on the right track and people are willing to "get on the bus" with you as the driver. The rest is putting the right people in the right seats ("Good to Great" by Jim Collins) and restructuring the operating (people) and business ("flywheel") models and finally building out a strategic operating plan for execution.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
Change is good, but it is a two sided coin with opposing sides. People want something new, but they fear what they don't know. M&A always instills fear in people and the most common is that they will lose their job. I remember when the pharmaceutical company I was working for was being taken over by another company (hostile takeover at that) and it was "Us vs Them" right out of the gate. Staying focused on my sales goals and objectives was all I could control and did my best to exceed them despite what was going on around me. Long story short, I exceeded my goals and was given a broader role in the new company. Those that didn't were rightfully fearful of losing their job and many did. When you create value, you are valuable and that is what will shine through any disruption.