CEO Insights

By
From the December 2013 issue of Columbus CEO

The Columbus Chamber of Commerce loosely patterned the concept for its new speaker series, CEO Insights, after celebrity talk show “Inside the Actors Studio.”

“The idea was to give our businesses an opportunity to hear from CEOs who were running larger companies, and to get a feel for their journey,” said Michael Dalby, Columbus Chamber president and CEO.

Executives from varying industries will share secrets to their success and insights on leadership during interviews designed to help them “feel comfortable with sharing their story, and maybe the kind of details you wouldn’t get in a set speech,” Dalby said.

CEO Insights, which is jointly presented by Columbus CEO, launched in October with guest speaker Leslie H. Wexner, founder, chairman and CEO of Limited Brands Inc.

The second installment of the four-part series will be held Dec. 4 and will feature Tom Feeney, president and CEO of Safelite Group Inc.

The event starts at 7:30 a.m. with networking and a continental breakfast, followed by an interview hosted by Kristyn Hartman of WBNS-10TV from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Dawson, 1114 Dublin Rd., Columbus. Tickets are available to Columbus Chamber members only for $25, and seating is limited. For tickets and more info, visit www.columbus.org/events. The event starts at 7:30 a.m. with networking and a continental breakfast, followed by an interview hosted by Kristyn Hartman of WBNS-10TV from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Dawson, 1114 Dublin Rd., Columbus. Tickets are available to Columbus Chamber members only for $25, and seating is limited. For tickets and more info, visit .

Feeney, who has worked at Safelite for 25 years and held several other positions there before becoming CEO, said he’s hopeful that his story will resonate with others.

“In my own personal career I’ve changed industries three times,” he said. “You rely on one (experience) to kind of build a bridge to the other.”

Did you always envision yourself doing the job you’re in today?

No. I studied accounting in college. I thought that I would have gone the route of finance and end up being the CFO of an organization. … I thought I would have stayed on the financial path. I think that the auditing element of the financial background serves a business person—not just me, but anyone—better, because to be a really good auditor you must listen really well. You must understand processes and objectives. And, then, you’re seeking to verify.

When you became president and CEO of Safelite in 2008, you introduced two core principles: “People First” and “Customer Delight.” What inspired those ideas?

The economic crisis forced every company to reevaluate. So, we concluded that if we put our people first, and then we oriented them with delighting our customers that we served, that we could end up with a different kind of a company than what we had. … Delighting a customer was far different from satisfying a customer. That’s what we were trying to do.

What advice would you give to aspiring leaders?

I believe each organization has built-in career paths. And that if you become a student of the company and you examine the career path of people who have received increased roles and responsibility, there’s a good probability that the company will follow that path again. Be a student of the company. If the career path that you’re seeing doesn’t line up with your own, either change yours, or decide that that company is not going to be the one for you.

The other (piece of advice) is around constantly learning and looking for ways to add value to the organization that you’re working for, which means taking risks, taking on the projects that no one else wants, stepping forward to take responsibility for a new issue and getting out on the edge. Kind of being a game changer.

Dana Wilson is a freelance writer.