Decision Dialogues
Decision Dialogues

Episode · 1 year ago

Preparation for Defining Moments - Ep 14

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In Episode 14 of Decision Dialogues, Karl Graf joins Mark Willoughby to speak with William Glenn, Executive Chairman of Crenshaw Associates. Bill's career spans several decades and includes stints as the CEO of American Express, President at PepsiCo, and more. He discusses the decision he made to leave Pepsi to leave Pepsi, run a smaller company, and then return to Pepsi, the B2B2C focus of his work, and more. Get the full show notes and more resources at ModeraWealth.com/DecisionDialogues

Are you paving the way for the life you want facing decisions that may affect you personally and financially? The decision dialogs podcast, brought to you by Modera Wealth Management, presents personal stories about navigating through life's pivotal moments, narratives that we hope will inspire you as you create your own story. You'll learn what influence their next steps and gain insights that could help you with your own critical choices. Welcome to decision dialogs. Thanks for joining us on decision dialogs or thrilled to have you. A law my name is Mark Willoughby and I'm a principal wealth manager and Chief Operating Officer of Modeia Wealth Management Llc. Today my partner Cargraph, a principal and wealth manager of Madeira, in our Charlotte Office and I will be chatting with Bill Glenn, the Executive Chairman of Crenshaw Associates. Crenshaw associates provides premier career and talent services exclusively for senior executives and leading corporations. Welcome everyone to the show and I'll hand it over the car. Thank you, mark, welcome bill. Thanks Carl we appreciate you sharing some time with us and some insights, and so let's get started. Briefly, I'll just give you an into after a long and successful career as corporate executive, you became the majority shareholder and executive chairman of crunchaw associates. Why don't we begin with that? It tells how that you arrived there and what was attractive about crunchhow great. While arriving, there was a long road. Without giving a too detailed to resume. After graduating school I started selling toothpaste on the streets of Manhattan and back offices of grocery stores for proctor and gamble and then went, after a series of assignments, went to Pepsi and ran the bottling operations in New Jersey with six hundred teamsters, eventually running the food service business. And then I went from Pepsi to American Express. So I'm from driving a truck at Pepsi to Bottling A to financial services in American Express, and then the last assignment I had is I. Spun off one of the two divisions of American Express and rented is Cel for a few years and then left, which led me to a whole lot of decisions and ultimately to crunch our associates. Well, it sounds like your career prepared you for just about anything that you wanted to take up RS. So why crunchhaw? It's a really interesting question. I had a long history of be to be businesses with be to be to sea constructs. After leaving global business travel, I started looking at different businesses and especially with private equity companies and possibly running some of their portfolio companies, and I was attracted to crunch off for two reasons.

And the first has to do with lessons learned over my career, which are really in four areas. One is that good, motivated people make good business and staffing to the task, and the second was keeping an eye on the customer and a compelling value propositions, because customers don't buy products, they buy what products can do for for you. The third is don't incrementalize and look at the size of the prize, and the fourth is it's all about strategy and a procter and gamble, one of the senior executives when I was earlier my career said strategy Matgy. It's all about execution. And what I learned is that, and notice is that companies, regardless of the size in the B to be businesses and their senior executives, and particularly CEOS, don't spend enough time on customers, either in person or just what the value proposition was. And so a is I focused on be to B TOC businesses or be to be businesses with be to be to see constructs. The second was that during my exploration after leaving ammax with PE firms, I thought about where I could add the most value and drive a compelling value proposition and there were a couple of companies that came up through the PE businesses that were probably a hundred million dollar companies, which is far smaller than the two billion or six billion companies I had managed. And the PE firms were saying you only have big company experience can you run a small company. So the decision came in two ways. One was from a business standpoint and I knew crenshaw historically because when I left Pepsi and joined American Express, they thought I needed an executive coach because I gone from like running a truck to financial services and of course I need an executive coach. And Barb brandoff became an executive coach who was the CEO of crenshaw and I hired Crenshall of the years. So I knew the brand really well and I knew the space and understood that there was an ability to add capital and a compelling value proposition to the space, and so I thought that, egotistically, I could disrupt the industry. The second one was I got tired of hearing from B companies that because I've been with a large company, I couldn't run a small one. So I guess I decided I'm going to buy a small one and so I put my capital in crunchhaw. And so I think a long story. When the story, but it was...

...a combination of what I knew I could do from a business standpoint and also, probably wrongly said, emotionally. I'm tired of these people telling me what I couldn't do and they decided to do it. It's pretty interesting. So you literally tried crenshaw before you bought them, right, that's right. Yeah, and then, though, all the pe people put a chip on your shoulder and you're like, all right, I'm going to take you guys on right, which is probably the wrong way to make it, but I think it was grounded in a lot of thought and thinking about what my next chapter would look on. Just to clarify briefly, because we have a pretty varied audience, if you could just briefly clarify what be to be and be to save means so that everybody's on track with you. That need to be is business to business, so where you're selling your value proposition, your products of services to businesses, and be to be businesses with a consumer construct or an employee construct. So you're literally selling a compelling value proposition to the corporation as well as either to their employees or to their customers. And so really it's twofold in terms of how how I look at those businesses, that you need something to the corporation, because companies don't buy your product of services, they buy what they can do for them. And when I was running the global business travel business, it was we needed a compelling value props to the corporation, to administration, to the corporation as well as to their employees. Very interesting. I'm sure that you ran into some surprises, however, on this new journey right because, let's face it, two billion dollar company has a lot of resources that a company like Crunchopfer, instance. It does not burn. So you know what surprised you. What did you not expect, other than the pandemic, of course, and I would like to ask you how you responded to the challenges. Sure, first of all, the lessons I learned over the years that I talked about up front were really, really important and reinforced. The differences, though, or surprises, were things that I knew but didn't necessarily take into consideration when it's making the change, which was really hard to recruit great talent to a small, smaller company, especially since my network had been senior executives. With larger corporations there's a salary component, there's a bonus component and then there's equity and or with large corporations, stock. So that became more difficult than I anticipated and still is the case, that the folks I want to bring in are folks that I knew or knew of and connected with and probably weren't at the same stage of the career that I was and or wanted a lot more equity than I was willing to give...

...up for not an investment. So that continues to be a challenge. The other is that in a smaller company or a very small company, surrounding yourself with that kind of talent is critically important and a bit lonely or difficult. So Bar Briandalf is terrific at what she does. Of course, the smartest thing I did was to make sure that I gave her enough equity to stay and keep motivated, because I can't possibly do what she does. She's got years of experience and are coaching or support group or one of the value, most valuable things we have our assets and the people and the coaches who engage in engagements with our customers. But Barb's busy doing what she does well and for the first time my career I'm literally not only writing the decks but editing the decks and making the context of customers. So get somewhat lonely and so I'm which is important. I'm relying on my network of folks that I had grown up with or been my mentors or my bosses to give us, give me sort of advice, being able to bounce things off of being a sounding board and the trusted advisor. Interestingly, that's exactly some of the things that we deliver to the CEOS and executives that we do business with. That's that's really interesting. How are outside network, the scale down, you bringing key resources to help you along the way, and how you see how it equates with what you guys are doing. Well, important to call a part of your question, which is I only ever had a worry about getting beat up about my panol performance, right, and I was running big businesses in the GBT spit so large businesses, six billion dollars GBT was it? Two Billion Dollars Spinoff, and I really never had to worry about cash flow. It was more about you, my pano performance, right, which is worsome. And now all of a sudden I'm worried about how much cash we have it in the business and the flow of that cash. So I never had a look at sort of the the bank account, which is something that I'm looking at today, which was fun because I'd always manage a pano very, very carefully and aware of cash flow and the P no, but never fully had to worry about and today is that. That's what I'm focused on occasionally, and with Covid it became a full time job rather than just occasionally looking at the bank account in or cash flow and the PO. So what adjustments did you have to make during covid. Obviously cash flow is constrained. So you looking at things in a different way and how did you guys adjust to that...

...and how did you, I don't know, make the make the best of what was available? We'll say, well, a couple of things. One is that it's a really interesting question because one of the consulting firms that I used as we were looking at some particular acquisition that we could possibly make has a webinar session every two months and it's about reniting growth during the covid and all of their panels for three of the meetings have been where demand during covid went through the roof and they had to adjust their supply chain do things in their manufacturing plans to make sure that they were healthy and safe for their employees. And so they asked for comments from folks who would you know, called in and been invited in, and I said that it'd be really interesting if you had a guest or a panelist where demand went to zero instead of demand was succeed right driving incredible chaine. So the example they had his CEO from King Arthur flower right and then many covid hit or right after their demand went up eight fold and so they had to do things that they had never done before. But it was all about keeping inventory and driving inventory and making sure the quality was in place and issues in the manufacturing plant, but supply chain issue. But none of them that they've had where supply went to zero or demand went to zero. Hours didn't quite go to zero but approached it. So you're one. We grew fifty five percent and in two thousand and twenty our business ultimately wound up down seventeen percent, which we're pretty proud of. But for a period of time it was very, very soft and cash foles, you know, very, very tight, and so we had to cut back on some of the investments we made and unfortunately, I have staffed up and put in capital to grow the business because we were on a trajectory and so it became pretty difficult. But my focus was hanging around the rim, as they say, which is making sure that while we couldn't, I knew we weren't, any engagements from the customers, but we wanted to keep connected, and keeping connected by one is giving Grat as sessions out to some of the customers that we knew they were executives were going under some stress and anxiety and still are, and just keep you our name involved and not necessarily soliciting business, but giving sort of our feedback and advice and observations on what we're hearing and seeing, and I think that kept us in the game. Did any of your prior career build prepare you for the sort of decisions you had to make in the last twelve months? Yeah, I think so. I...

...think mark at I don't always pride myself on strict investment and capital allocation in large companies. So it wasn't just managing the pan. Now and as I told coral over the year that a lot of my experiences were the most autonomous business units that you could possibly have. So, for example, at Pepsico I was running the food service business, which is a lot smaller than running grand pepsi or write the brand business, and so I was able to make a lot more decisions than someone running one of those businesses. Another example and American Express, I chose not to run the consumer issuing business but the merchant business, which was critically important to the company, but not necessarily daytoday. Focus from tensional who's the CEO, and so I had experiences making panl decisions that allowed me to look at more than just the top line and making decisions on capital allocation and investment priorization, and I think that helped a lot. But I in addition to that, all of my experiences, I think helped me. From when I ran the bottling operations in New Jersey, had six hundred teamsters and I actually had to negotiate two teamster contracts. So there were decisions that I was faced with that probably someone would large company experience hadn't had those experiences, and I think that help got it. At the same time, more I wasn't fully prepared from an experience from either covid or not being able to be surrounded by the highest best talent that I had throughout my career. Understand so many of those things that you learned in your prior life were adaptable to your current situation, even that was different. But no matter what, as an entrepreneur and a much smaller business, the lack of built in support creates other issues that at how did you, how did you overcome some of those? I mean how when you were getting up and during the pandemic and just trying to stay in touch with people. I would think motivating the people you have staying around the rim is a lot more difficult than just saying let's do that right. How did you keep everyone moving forward during that time? What's very, very interesting it is about our business in the business model we have, which is the right one, which is our coaches and advisors are ten ninety nines, and so they're not employees right now. We try to absorb as much of their business is possible and one of the things I did early on was getting them more engaged in our business and understanding or business and why we were doing some things then possibly they had been exposed to in the past. So treating them as much as employees as I could without them...

...being full time employees. And there's a tension there because we don't want them to know what our financials are or a top line growth, and so it's really, really important to keep them engaged and I think out the relationships that we had built over the first year and a half, even though barb had great relationships with them, but I made it a point to keep them more engaged than they had been by meeting with them on a quarterly basis as a team and giving them just understanding what we're doing in the market place and how we're focused on growth was really, really helpful. So that help and it really helped Carl when we actually staying around the Rim and gave Gratis coaching sessions and offers that corporations, because they volunteer to give up their time to do that, and so I think, you know, having your organization stay focused was really really helpful. What's been a bit troubling for us internally and for me personally is the exact same thing that has happened to executives and corporations, which is fourteen zoom calls a day, right, and they're exhausted. It's a relentless pace, right, and they think they're getting the work done, but really the toll on the executive in themselves. We have CEOS telling us about coining phrases like PTSD and uncertainty, and I think for Barbara Myself, occasionally find myself just exhausted about not being able to make the progress we're making and just staying around the rim takes a lot of energy and time and thinking about how we're going to going to do that. So how do you how do you keep yourself motivated. How do you recharge? I guess because it is has been a relentless pace for a lot of people in these last year and a half and for many of us you're when you keep up that pace, you expect to see progress that's tangible, and you have in the past. So how do you deal with that and how do you keep coming back day after day? Well, it's also harmful to my ego a little bit, right, which plays into it, because even the folks that have a I've had historically of great relationship with and we've actually started to get new business from over the past year and a half, aren't as open to the discussions that we had before or open to me taking up their time. And and I never present myself as wasting their time. Right. There's always a purpose to what I'm doing, you know, I always learned through experience, and I'm just thinking about the financial crisis at a Max right in oay to no nine, which is keeping motivated by thinking about the size of the prize and that it's going to be a long term and the turnaround from covid is going to be a long road. It's not a as I tell folks, these...

...are not episodic events like the tech bubble or eleven or the financial crisis. This is sustainable change and it's not just covid but there are things like future of work and it's changing the industry. So keeping myself motivated by, I think a is physically and healthwise, making sure I'm doing the right things right for myself, because I know when I'm active physically, a more active mentally and that's really really important. Number two is Lisa's been. My Wife's been pretty good throughout all this, which is there's nothing to worry about in terms of the company not making it, which we're not in dangerous to but not making it, just not making it, is not what I signed up for and personally that's not encouraging. Right. So I think those two things are, I guess, some of the motivations and we're starting to see a window opening up that we hadn't seen the first nine months. Right. But, as I tell people, it's really tough, I know, for them to kick me out of their office when I'm there talking about new business. It's really easy when you're on zoo and the conversation and then they go on to something else and but you know, recently the dialect has started to pick up more and more people even that I'm connecting with or starting to get opening up their channel where their awareness or their appetite for for what we do. That's really interesting. It sounds like, aside from the pent up demand you would have in the normal course of things, these extra stress that you just alluded to for corporate executives all over with drive a lot more opportunities for you. Are you looking ahead to when you are going to be the King Flower Guy, King Arthur Guy, who has to contend with too much growth all of a sudden after you know, this lean year and a half, and what are you doing to a try to accommod at that? I pray every day for too much, too much growth, and an if you on capacity. That's what I'm thinking about every day, with God willing, when it's that going to happen. But in terms of preparing for that, it's all about making sure the team, the broad sense of the team, is really engaged and understand what we're doing and and also thank you about interviewing and keeping network with more coaches and advisors to bring on board, because we have a very specific methodology that really differentiates us in the marketplace. So choosing who were are coaches and advisors, which differentiates from a lot of folks in this space where they just choose coaches, and I wouldn't say randomly. That's unfair characterization, but for us it's critically important that they follow our methodology. Carl, I think your question also goes back to the ability to invest in the future and...

...right now it's still difficult to make the investments that I want to make. The continue to differentiate ourselves just because of cash flow and watching capital very, very closely. One thing I'm interested in, Bill, when I look back at your career, are podcast is about decisions and if I were to put you on the spot and look back at your career, what were some of the best decisions? Or maybe there's one particular decision you made that you look back and say, wow, I'm glad I made that decision. There are so many transitions along the way and decisions. I think one was I've been with Pepsi for two years and they were going through a ton of restructuring, just a ton of restructuring. This is the late S. I've been there for two years. I've been promoted literally to two times, and then then we're going through another and at the same time hydrogen struggles called me and said we have a great opportunity with a printing and distribution business, private company leverage buyout. So they had just started getting profitable and would like you to run their sales and marketing. Were inzation for a thirty five million dollar printing company. By the way, more this is both the worst decision I ever made and the best decision I ever made. I went up and I because I thought I was a star. I thought I was a rock store, and went up in this private company and ten months after I got there they decided to put the company up for sale, which would have been great for me at the time. I would have made a lot of money at the time. Was a lot of money right. And they decide they couldn't sell it at the multiple they wanted. Took a ten million dollar private placement and started repaying the shareholders, the five investors, and then I was stuck running thirty five in all our company sales and marketing, paying back debt, and the boss walked into my office when they chairman and he said I think we should call it quits and I'm thinking we. He probably didn't mean he and I. He probably meant me. And so I got fired, and the best decision I was made it was going back to Pepsi, because I knew at the time that I could succeed there, that a large company was really advantage for me for a whole lot of reasons. Enjoying the colleagues will learning experiences, the breath of experiences. And said the best decision I ever made was going back to Pepsi at the time. Interesting. Yeah, that's very interesting. It almost sounds like you didn't want to be in a private business unless you had the levers of control in your hands, and now you do. Yeah, with the exception of the no qualification, they're exactly you know, exactly right. Now. I don't fashion myself as a true entrepreneur for two...

...reasons. On the one side, I think I had made decisions throughout my career to run the most autonomous business units and act like a month entrepreneur. The second is, though, that I didn't put all my net worth at state buying the company right, and so if it didn't work out, I'd be personally disappointed. And there's yeah, there's some money I would have lost, but it wasn't going to break. So when I think about real, true entrepreneurs where they put everything at risk, I don't put myself in the same category, but I like the idea of fashioning myself as an entrepreneur. Well, I'd say you qualify. Anything else that you like to add? How does one thing we didn't touch on is your support network at home, which obviously is a big factor and anyone's successful journey. How did Lisa feel about this, this new chapter that you've taken on? Oh, she thought it was going to be terrific because she had more confidence in what I could do than I did, even though I knew what we needed to do to grow the business. I knew the brand, I knew the company. Roger and Rico at PepsiCo once said when he was buying I get what company, that you can't pay enough for a good brand, regardless of their performance, and I thought, as I looked at the industry, that crunch off from my familiarity with them and know what that could do and my experiences and the right amount of capital could really grow that business right. And so I had a lot of confidence, but least I had, I think, more confidence. She was also supportive that don't worry about it if it doesn't work, even though she never told me that and didn't think that it couldn't work, I knew it was there. Right and unfortunate to have three great girls. I think they were proud of what I had accomplished, not necessary what I was going to do, but what I had accomplished. So I think with that is background and and I think over the years pretty good financial advice and how I how I invested my money gave me, I think, a lot of confidence and I think Lisa's confidence in whatever happens would be just fine. It's great. Well, it makes me think of one other question, which is you had a very high, like successible career by anyone's measure, I would say, but yet you took this leap and a new challenge. was there an element of unfinished business somewhere in your mind that maybe motivated you towards that or yeah, so I think one of them. Well, I didn't want to stop working regardless. I didn't want to stop working. Sounded like you wanted to prove those pe guys round to car marquis, that that's where I was going to which is part of it, was I had done a lot of things in them pretty successful, and I didn't want to as I didn't want end my career and be as the P guys were, all thirty...

...five year old who done modeling and never negotiated contract with teamsters, where they were literally going to move Lisa and the girls out of our house because they thought there was going to be a strike. And Right. Hadn't had that experience. And so part of it, which is probably the wrong thing, that I should decision based on what it I wanted to prove to these folks, because I don't think they cared whether I you know, what I did or not, but maybe prove to myself a little bit. He put all those motivations into the pot and you end up in a good place, built like I think. So I think all said, I'm going to pretty good place. That's great. Well, maybe this is time for the question. Okay, the last question of the day, which is what was the last non financial decision you had to make? It was getting another dog. Oh Boys, well, we had we had had two dogs for a long time and each passed away within two years of each other. And then so we had zero dogs and then Lisa said we have to get another dog, and so we got Henry. He's a many sheep of doodle. Yeah, terrific dog. And then we have Henry and he's now too, for about a year and a half and we said I think Henry needs a friend. And so, unbeknownst to me, she had done all the research which I should have anticipated, and the next thing I know she and my daughter are driving, my oldest daughter listened Chicago, driving back to Chicago and on the way they stopped with a breeder in Ohio and I have pictures of this other dog with Lee saying carly, and I knew it was game over. So Carl I really didn't make the decision, which is clearly non financial. I was forced into making the decision. And so the last thing part of that is that do not. So this is advice, take it or leave it. Do not buy a dog on February fourth and on February six have three feet of snow and ten degrees outside in a puppy which is in the middle of the night where they wake up, that you have to carry it downstairs. Bringing outside a zero in the morning with three feet of snow on the ground and that was probably qualifies for the biggest non financial this we can recently that they had to make. Well, I think I can guess who was the one up at zero in the morning, judging outside with what's the dog's name? The second up by gorge. George. You and George outside three in the morning. I can pickure English sheep dogs. So now, at sixteen weeks he's forty five pounds, which is larger than Henry. We now has...

...to go to accommodate the other pieces that you can never have a big enough house regardless. And chloe, our youngness move back from California. She's staying with us for a couple of months and she has a dog. Said there were three dogs in the house. Good Luck, Bill. Thanks mark, thanks all. Thank you, Bill. We appreciate your time today. It's a great conversation. We certainly help our audience enjoyed it and I know I did, and I learned a few things that I didn't know about you. You've been after all this time. Thanks. Thank you, mark. Thanks a lot, and thanks very much to Carlograph and to build to end for letting US listen in on their conversation we appreciate their time on perspectives and thank you for tuning in. We hope you'll join US next time on decision dialogs for more stories from successful business owners. So long for now. Thank you for listening to decision dialogs. We hope you found today's stories helpful for your own decisionmaking. If you like to listen to more episodes, you can subscribe on your preferred podcasting APP or visit our website, where you'll also find show notes and important disclosures. WWW DOT wellcom. Forward Slash decision dialogs. This has been a production of twin flames studios.

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