In Microsoft’s early years, the company had a rigorous performance evaluation methodology. The highest score was a 5.0 rating, which was very difficult to achieve. While there were a number of rewards that came along with this rating, the most popular was that it meant you received a one-on-one meeting with Bill Gates. What Gates obviously understood is the power of presence. Particularly in the overbooked and marginless world we live in today, our time is a precious commodity. How we choose to spend it speaks volumes about our core values. When we make time for face-to-face meetings with people, we are demonstrating that we truly value them. Emails, web video conferences, and texting are all great tools, but nothing beats the power of actual personal presence. Great leaders know and understand the power of presence and how to use it.
Doug Hederman, CEO and president of Hederman Brothers, understands the importance of investing in relationships. Whether with employees or customers, he knows that being “present” and available is invaluable to building trust. Doug is the fourth generation to lead Hederman Brothers, which was founded in 1898 by Robert and Tom Hederman. Doug graduated from the University of Mississippi and chose to chart his own course by accepting a position in Little Rock with the prestigious marketing and advertising firm Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods. He worked for a number of years in the industry where he honed his sales and marketing skills. In 1998, he joined the family business and when his father, Hap, passed away in 2009, he became CEO. Hederman Brothers has a long and rich history of being an innovator in the printing industry. Under Doug’s leadership, the company is experiencing a renewal of that innovation as he leverages his experiences to maintain the company as an industry leader. Under his leadership, the company is now utilizing print, direct mail, web and email-based solutions to deliver improved results for its customers.
One of his core principles of leadership is a “hands on” style. This does not mean he is a micro-manager; however, it means that he is engaged with his team and customers. He noted, “I keep an open door policy at the office. I want to make sure that I am always accessible to my fellow team members.” This type of accessibility allows employees to feel free to openly share information with him. One of the challenges of leadership is becoming removed from the communication flow and the realities of the organization. Doug also is accessible to his customers. When a customer issue arises, he makes it a priority to immediately go to the client and work through any challenges in person. He shared, “I enjoy visiting with our customers, and I take every opportunity I can to stay connected with them.” It is powerful when the CEO of a company takes the time to personally interact with customers. I learned a tip one time that the CEO should make it a point to contact at least five customers a week to thank them for their business and to solicit any feedback on how the company can serve them better. When was the last time the owner of a business called to thank you?
With the constant buzzing of our smartphones and endless “to do” lists, it is easy to miss the opportunity for maximum impact of our presence. Great leaders operate in the moment. They are truly present and prepared. They are engaged and listen intently. They are genuinely interested in the other person. In addition to his open door policy and active contact with customers, Doug is carrying on his family’s tradition of community service. He is purposeful about the organizations that he chooses to invest his time. He understands the return on his time (ROT) and wants to make sure that he is making an impact. Our state has been the beneficiary of the vision and leadership of the Hederman family, and it is exciting to see Doug carrying on that tradition in meaningful ways.