Strategies for success

Mike George, CEO of QVC.
Mike George, CEO of QVC. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 06, 2014

Apropos of New Year's resolutions and fresh starts, maybe you've decided that this is the year that you are going to gear up your game at work. But how?

We asked chief executives and top leaders of local businesses and nonprofits - people who have proved their ability to succeed.

As a species, they're an interesting group, as we've discovered in our question-and-answer Leadership Agenda profiles published each Monday in The Inquirer.

They work all the time, weekends, evenings.

When they wake up at night for a bathroom call, they check their e-mail.

Yes, they do.

"You're up. Why not check it?" said Philip Rinaldi, chief executive of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the company that runs the former Sunoco Inc. refinery in South Philadelphia.

They rise early. They exercise religiously. Despite that and an overuse of business lingo, they are generally likable - they have to be to have advanced to their positions.

Here's what they say:

Conquer e-mail

"I'm obsessive about having a clean inbox in my e-mail. To me, the overhang of having stuff in your inbox clogs your thinking. Right now, there are only 11 messages." - Stephen Tang, president,

chief executive officer,

University City Science Center

Respond quickly

"I'm a big believer in the 24-hour response to e-mails. Don't let things hang out there, even if the answer is, 'I'm not sure.' " - Mike George,

chief executive, QVC

Make a list

"I highlight certain things in colors that give me the code that it's most important, because people mostly . . . do all the easy stuff first. The important stuff gets put off until the end, because it's too difficult or too challenging. I try to do the opposite."

And the most important color is? "Green, not for the financial, but for Go, Go, Green."

- Skip Rosskam,

chief operating officer, president,

David Michael & Co.

Set priorities first

"Coming in . . . before you get into phone calls, e-mails, anything, you sit there and you chart out what you want to accomplish. Take the last 15 minutes of the day. See what you accomplished and what you need to accomplish the next day." - Rob Henry, chief executive, Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association

Develop a rhythm

"If I sit down to return phone calls, I try to do 10. If I have a break, I'll pick up my iPhone and try to do just 10 [e-mails]. E-mail is a blessing and a curse. It's a quick way to communicate, but it can be an anchor. That's why I relish small victories, getting 10 done." - Daniel J. Hilferty, president, chief executive, Independence Blue Cross

Make the rounds

"When I get here in the morning, I like to walk the floor and make sure everything is set up and ready for the day. I'm on the radio, pointing out things that need attention."

- Paul Steinke,

general manager,

Reading Terminal Market

Get involved

"Get involved in the industry organization of whatever industry it is. That's one way of building your network and learning who is doing what. It's been incredibly helpful to me here, because many of those folks that I got to know through the Mortgage Bankers Association are now our customers. It meant that there was already a friendship that had been built." - Teresa Bryce Bazemore, president,

Radian Guaranty Inc.

Hire a smart assistant

"I think there's a real art and science to [getting] important meetings on your calendar in a timely way, so you are having the right conversation at the right time with the right person. The real key to this is Carol [Holbrook, his assistant]. You need somebody who understands nuance, because not everything has the same priority." - Stephen Tang

Start early

"I'm at my desk between 6:30 and 7, purposely, so I have two [uninterrupted] hours to work: At 9 a.m., the day begins, and I feel like I never sit at my desk again."

- Toni Pergolin,


chief executive officer,


Share an office

"I figured I'd be right in the thick of it right away and see everything that is going on and learn much faster. You can hear the phone calls or go to the meetings. I hadn't shared an office [before]. It's not that important to my ego. It's not about where you sit. It's about what you get done." - Michael Araten, president,

chief executive, K'nex

Run effective meetings

"I'm big on scripting myself - just handwritten notes. I make sure if I'm chairing a meeting, the three or four key points - I'm going to write those out. Usually it's on the agenda." - Daniel Z. Fitzpatrick, president,

Citizens Bank for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware

Ignore all work-life

balance rules

"Everything I do is wrong in that regard. I check my e-mail constantly. They tell you that's not good for your health. But I think . . . it's absolutely perfect for your health. It's not checking your e-mail that would drive you insane." - Philip Rinaldi,

chief executive, Philadelphia Energy Solutions


Read more about these executives and others who have been interviewed for the Leadership Agenda profiles.


comments powered by Disqus