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October 11, 2018

ICYMI: Maine CEOs share tips for business success at Mainebiz forum

Photo / Renee Cordes
Photo / Renee Cordes
Don Gooding, far left, moderates the panel discussion by six Maine CEOs at this morning's Mainebiz CEO Breakfast Forum in South Portland.

Six Maine CEOs shared tips and insights for succeeding in business at a Mainebiz event in South Portland Thursday morning attended by close to 200 people.

This year's topic was "60 ideas in 60 minutes," some of which were relayed in writing and others on stage, peppered with personal stories of successes and setbacks.

Getting things off to a lively start, Don Gooding, of the Four Colors of Money for Entrepreneurs blog, broke the ice by asking panelists to share something about themselves that no one knows. That prompted revelations about living in Cold War-era Russia, speaking Arabic as a toddler, drumming in a rock band and membership on the Belgian Olympic Committee.

Here, in no particular order, is a roundup of panelists' top business tips:

Ellen Belknap, SMRT Architects and Engineers

Convert "nexperts" to "experts: Identify the "nexperts " in your organization and help develop their expertise, SMRT President Ellen Belknap stated, recalling how she had mentors and leaders to look up to when she started at what is now the state's largest architecture firm ranked by revenue, according to the 2018 Mainebiz Book of Lists.

"It is the culture of our firm, because the firm grows and the people in the firm grow together," she said.

Steve Mills, Maine Beer Co.

It's never wrong to do the right thing. That's a lesson Maine Beer Co. CEO Steve Mills said he learned his first day as CEO when he had to oversee a product recall.

"That was easier to do because I believe in that completely," he said. "Do what's right is our slogan."

Aaron Moser, Thos. Moser

Inspired by his time as a chef, Thos. Moser CEO Aaron Moser reflected on the importance of bringing a few basic ingredients together, as with a hollandaise sauce made from just butter, eggs and maybe some lemon.

Cooking and business are both about balance, he said.

Tony Shurman, Jasper Wyman & Son

Empowerment "is the greatest determinant of what creates a truly inspired organization … It's freedom to do great work."

Shurman, who became president and CEO of Jasper Wyman & Son in March 2017, underscored the need for a business leader to lay the foundation with a clear roadmap and then put communication channels on place in order to empower people/employees.

"You will get burned every once in a while," he cautioned, "but most people when given the chance and given the structure and given the freedom will step up, and surprise not only you but themselves in the process."

Nancy Strojny, SCORE Portland chapter

Never stop networking was her main piece of advice, which Nancy Strojny, chairwoman of the Portland chapter of SCORE, said she learned before it was even a noun or a verb. "It's all about relationships," she said.

Networking is worth the time, Strojny also said.

"No matter how busy you are," she advised, "take the time to invest in your peers, your employees, your bosses and yourself, because it's really about relationships, which is what networking is all about."

Steve Smith, L.L. Bean

Long before he landed at the outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturer and retailer, L.L.Bean President and CEO Steve Smith has been using a personal backpack analogy to guide him in life, in terms of thinking about adding new experiences into his pack but also "emptying the pack" at difficult moments and periods of reflection. His advice: Seek out new experiences and skills and throw them in your own metaphorical pack.

The Mainebiz CEO Breakfast Forum brought together a panel of Maine CEOs to share their personal stories of success and learning experiences. This year's topic, "60 Ideas in 60 Minutes," featured six Maine CEOs, each sharing 10 ideas on their keys to success in business and in life.

Almost 200 people attended this morning's forum.

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