Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

October 9, 2020

CEOs tell Mainebiz audience: Be flexible, balanced and don't take things too seriously

Keeping a level head, being flexible, balance, having a sense of humor — anyone who wants to find success in business and life should keep these things in mind, panelists on the Mainebiz "60 Ideas in 60 Minutes" CEO forum said Thursday.

And they should know. The six panelists at the annual Mainebiz CEO virtual forum represented a wide range of industries. Featured were Adam Lee, chairman of the board at Lee Auto; Edison Liu, president and CEO of the Jackson Laboratory; Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank; Lindsay Skilling, CEO of Gifford's Ice Cream; Luke Holden, founder and CEO of Luke's Lobster; and Tim Hebert, founder and chairman of STARC Systems and owner of Hebert Construction.

While 60 ideas in an hour is a lot of ideas, there were a few the group had in common, particularly agreeing that successful leaders should be flexible, level-headed and have a sense of humor.

Liu talked about how President Abraham Lincoln, when he was angry, instead of blowing up would write a letter outlining his feelings, seal it, put it in his desk drawer and never send it. “I think if there is tactical advice for how one should function as manager, that’s it," Liu said.

Balance and not taking yourself too seriously are essential, Hebert said. 

“There’s so many ebbs and flows in the marketplace ... if we worry about every single problem, we’re going to go insane," he said.

Here are some of the highlights.

Adam Lee, Lee Auto

Takeaway: “A long time ago, we changed our advertising, we tried to make it more customer-centric." The company also focused more on what it can do in the community. "We do what we care about, it's not about marketing, and a lot of what we do we don’t promote, we don’t advertise.”

Some of Lee's top tips: Keep it authentic, promote the causes we care about, keep it customer centered, pay a fair wage, trust your customers, hire good people, admit you made a mistake, take every call.

Inspirational recommendation: "How I Built This," podcast hosted by Guy Raz (the Luke Holden episodes); "Fooled By Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets," by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Edison Liu, Jackson Laboratory

Takeway: "Management and leadership are not the same, but both are necessary to be a leader. Management is a technical skill; leadership is a spiritual calling. Leading a human community requires not only technical knowhow, but also a high emotional quotient. In military parlance, any well-trained company captain can organize a march, but few can lead a successful charge to take an enemy hill."

Some of Liu's top tips: Don’t take yourself so seriously; think, listen, act, then move on; listen carefully to your most ardent critics, correct the errors they point out, then forget them; success goes to those who recover best from failure; being adaptable is more important than being strong.

Inspirational recommendation: "Leadership: In Turbulent Times," by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Kristen Miale, Good Shepherd Food Bank

Takeaway: "You're not going to be able to keep everything in balance every moment, that’s when you think you're crazy and when you're failing everyone." There are days to be a mom, a daughter, a sister, "and there are days when the food bank is where I need to be."

Some of Miale's top tips: Hire great people, then get out of their way; identify what you alone can do best and try to delegate everything else, but especially delegate what you’re not good at; when you know someone isn’t working, do yourself and them a favor and let them go (kindly); do your homework; be flexible; ignore the daily/short-term praises and critiques and steadily keep doing what you know is the right thing to do; take care of yourself.

Inspirational recommendation: "Dare to Lead," by Brene Brown.

Lindsay Skilling, Gifford's Ice Cream

Takeaway: "When I was growing up in the family business, us kids and [our family's] colleagues kids grew up together, because we were just one big family. As we grew up, over the years, a goal of mine was to continue that legacy." That includes making employees realize that family is important and the company will be there for them to help them in tough times, and to celebrate the good ones.

Some of Skilling's top tips: Work hard to earn your leadership position; know when to switch off work so you can enjoy time with family; differentiate your brand; take time to learn all the pieces of your business; be willing to learn from people at all levels; recognize important, fleeting opportunities; respect your people to retain them; don’t cheapen your product based on economy; the highs and lows will pass, so stay the course.

Inspirational recommendation: "How I Built This" podcast, hosted by Guy Raz.

Luke Holden, Luke's Lobster

Takeaway: "Taking personal inventory is really something I try to promote in this organization, because a culture that supports balance is a healthy culture.”

Some of Holden's top tips: Offer transparency 100% of the time; unite a team around a common purpose; stay consistent and don’t deviate from your value proposition; make sure the team is focused on needle movers; in times of crisis balance optimism with realism; trust is important at every turn and at every level; once you build trust with a teammate, offering real time feedback that is delivered directly and received as caring — versus hurtful — is ultimately how you develop people.

Inspirational recommendation: "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't," by James C. Collins.

Tim Hebert, STARC Systems and Hebert Construction

Takeaway: "Bring solutions — people like that and they have options, rather than feeling like they’re trapped in a box." STARC Systems started because Hebert had a problem in construction. "As a result, I developed a solution, and it's become a company, and now I try to take that mentality and apply it to everything we do, every problem we have every single day."

Some of Hebert's top tips: Hire smart people, and don't be afraid to be the dumbest person in the room (just try not to let it show); listen to everyone; mistakes and issues are inevitable, it's not as important to avoid mistakes as it is to resolve them; a level head and a good night's sleep always prevail over sharp knee-jerk reactions to problems; be the hardest working person in your company (and do not be too proud to clean the toilets).

Inspirational recommendation: "Robinhood Snacks" podcast.

The CEO forum is one of a variety of Mainebiz events that have transitioned from live to virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic. The next CEO forum is the Mainebiz Bangor Virtual Forum on Thursday, Nov. 5, where six Bangor-area CEOs will also offer 60 ideas in 60 minutes. Other upcoming events include next week's 2020 Business Leaders of the Year virtual reception, on Wednesday; and the Next List Reception on Thursday, Nov. 19.

Sign up for Enews

Related Content


Order a PDF