Executives in every industry are forced to confront the immediate future, and yet, they must ensure that the longer view — a strategic plan — is in the mix to ensure the business thrives. And the glue to all this planning is, unsurprisingly, the finances.

These elements combined for HARDI’s Strategic Leadership and Finance Focus Conference, April 9 to 11, in Memphis, Tennessee. The forum boasted 13 speakers on 11 topics, ranging from “What in the World is Going On? A Global Intelligence Briefing,” to “Ownership Transition Alternatives & Exploring ESOPs.”

If you’re in charge of a strategic vision for your company or the firm’s finances, the quality of the speakers reinforced why you were there. If you didn’t make it, start planning for next year.

What in the World is Going On? A Global Intelligence Briefing

Herb Meyer, Futurist and Trends Expert on Economics, Foreign Policy and Politics

One thing about Herb Meyer, he thinks big. And he should as an author, host, producer and, most importantly, the former vice chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council. What really aroused interest is how Meyer made his reputation. He helped prepare the daily intelligence briefing for President Ronald Regan and is known as the first U.S. official to predict the Soviet Union’s collapse. As the keynote speaker, he shared his view of future trends in politics, economics and culture. Regarding President Donald Trump, Meyer suggested the country give him a period of grace, noting that he’ll make both good and bad decisions, and emphasizing that no president performs flawlessly when they enter office. Meyer spoke about the Islamic world and said, in essence, that it will take time before it can mature into a more democratic society. He pointed out that the European and the American experience took hundreds of years. He also highlighted the growing demographic decline below the replacement rate of 2.1 percent, which could portend huge demographic issues in Europe, Russia and Japan. (He said, Japan, with one of the world’s oldest populations, now sells more adult diapers than children’s). The essence of his talk centered on being aware of changes from a global perspective and examining how your business might fit some needs or how to respond to an offshore challenge. His suggested sources for keeping abreast of developments include The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times. (He noted that if the news media have a choice between a positive and negative news story, they will invariably opt for the former, thus suggesting that we remain circumspect about negative news.)

You know Your IQ, but What’s Your CQ? Develop Your Change Intelligence to Lead Organizational Change

Barbara Trautlein, founder, Change Catalyst

Change expert Barbara Trautlein, Ph.D., and founder of Change Catalyst, shared an uncomfortable statistic about change: it fails 70 percent of the time. The major reason is because people don’t understand their style of perception of change or their Change Quotient (CQ), according to Trautlein.

She described CQ as the “awareness of one’s Change Leader Style, and the ability to adapt one’s style to be optimally effective in leading change across a variety of people and situations.” She highlighted three major change styles: Heart (empathetic), Hands (process-oriented) and Head (leadership). If you want to effectuate change, the starting point is to determine your style and then understand that those who must undergo change have different ways of dealing with it. By understanding the differences in styles, you can alter the communication process to make it more understanding and palatable for everyone.

Ownership Transition Alternatives & Exploring ESOPs.

Ken Serwinski, chairman, Prairie Capital Advisors Inc.

During his session, Ken Serwinski, chairman, Prairie Capital Advisors Inc., put the big picture of ownership transfer into a small frame: It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event for the owner. He described the complicated nature of ownership changes, which become even more difficult if it’s a family business, thus adding diverse personalities to the process. He also described the mechanisms of employee stock ownership plans (ESOP) and when that approach might be an appropriate solution.

Utilizing Best Practices in Customer Stratification at ACR Supply

John Mansfield, principal consultant, StratMax

Troy Meachum, president, ACR Supply Co.

Kevin Parsley, vice president, sales director, ACR Supply Co.

A trio of experts combined to offer a real-world view of a best practice that actually works when implemented.

Mansfield demonstrated the broad outline of how customer stratification works, noting that it is a system for classifying customers under a varying degree of criteria (that is important to a distributor) ranging from sales volume to profit margin. According to Mansfield, customer stratification helps to:

  • Develop more accurate sales force deployment;
  • Improve negotiations;
  • Offer new growth opportunities;
  • Optimize pricing;
  • Offer better inventory management;
  • Improve marketing communications; and
  • Provide a more robust view of a target sales force.

Both Troy Meachum, president of ACR Supply Co., and Kevin Parsley, vice president and sales director of ACR Supply Co., were open about how customer stratification has fueled customer profits, with examples from ACR Supply. They dove into specific detail about how they did it at ACR Supply and the positive results that resulted from adopting the process.