Follow the “why” — Having a company vision, annual theme, and overall understanding of why we do what we do every day is the foundation of a great company. Every decision made is made with these ideals in mind and allows the entire team to work towards the overall success.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Maderazzo-Hughes, 43, a highly admired business leader who has served in the electrical industry for 25 years. She received her bachelor’s degree in finance from Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business and is currently a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO).
As the CEO and COO of Arizona-based Canyon State Electric (CSE) for 22 years, Stephanie oversees CSE’s financial safety and legal departments. Her wealth of expertise covers a wide array of financial and business management, including developing and executing corporate strategies, as well as financial planning and analysis. Stephanie provides targeted insight that continually refines the company’s operations and, in return, allows it to consistently deliver a superior customer experience to clients.
As a leader, Stephanie creates opportunities for her team to be involved in decision-making and propose their own ideas and solutions as much as possible. She believes they should always be learning, and she is just as committed to investing in personal and professional growth as she expects her team to be. As she strives to be a teaching leader, she genuinely hopes to have an impact on people that inspires their growth, dedication, and perseverance.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My father started the business 43 years ago and as a child I used to help him count fixtures and do estimates on the dining room table. I worked at the business on and off through high school and college. After I graduated from ASU I went into banking as a credit analyst for a short time and then decided to join back in the family business in the commercial development business (we were buying land, developing it, leasing, and then selling it) as well as the accounting and finance side of Canyon State Electric (CSE). I quickly moved up into the CFO role and then CEO from there. Now I am CEO and an owner of the business.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
The toughest period of my career was the economic downturn in 2007. During this time there were very few construction projects being built and times were very difficult. Giving up has never been an option, we did everything we needed business-wise and personally to make it through stronger in every sense of the way. My drive is deep inside me. I am always working, thinking, analyzing, and trying to be efficient and innovate with every decision I make personally and professionally.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Everyone makes mistakes and I am no different, I am sure I made plenty of mistakes in the beginning of my career. Luckily, I had really great mentors, leaders and colleagues in the industry to help me learn and grow from my mistakes, as opposed to letting them bring me down. What I have learned from all these mistakes is to make adjustments to ensure that they are not made again and then laugh a little — we are only human after all!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our culture is based on our values: family, respect, innovation, and trust just to name a few. We focus on ensuring that employees know that their opinion and work is why we are successful today and that we are all responsible for where we are going and meeting our goals. Quality and consistency are two of our many values which make us stand out. We thrive on these values to deliver workmanship and products that adhere to the utmost standards.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Time management is super important. We must not only schedule business meetings but we must schedule personal time for the things that are important to us. We need to also schedule downtime and flex time. It is easy to burn out when you always feel like you don’t have enough time to do all the things you need to do.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am grateful to my family; my mother and father were my mentors and my support throughout the years. They guided me and gave me the opportunities to get to where I am today. My brother is a great business partner and friend, we are aligned in our business ideas and complement each other tremendously in leading multiple successful entities and other investments. My husband and children are my main “why,” their love and understanding every day allows me to balance work and life to reach my goals and successes. They are the most important people in my life.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
In my opinion a good company is consistent, profitable, and sustainable. A great company understands that every employee, vendor, and client is an important part of the equation. A great company also needs to be adapting, and willing to disrupt its business model, to be a leader in its industry. A great company focuses as much attention on their employees’ personal growth and success as they do on their company’s. A great company develops leaders that all focus on the company’s vision, goals, and strategic plan.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. All employees need to be in the right seat on the bus — Every person has individual strengths and experiences that lead to the overall success of the business. We recruit all team members based on our values and vision of the company and then work to identify their strengths to align them for success in the responsibilities we have entrusted them with.
2. Creating a great culture in the business — We treat every employee like family, we provide monthly dinners, field lunches, access to fitness options, multiple team building events and more.
3. Encourage disruption and to not fear change — We encourage all employees and team members to always be looking at new technology or innovations to alter the way we do things now to better adapt to the ever-changing industry and to remain a leader in our specialties.
4. Financial stability and strength — Having a strong financial foundation allows for a business to truly reach greatness. It opens opportunities to invest in the business and the team to offer the cutting-edge tools everyone needs to optimize their performance and growth.
5. Follow the “why” — Having a company vision, annual theme, and overall understanding of why we do what we do every day is the foundation of a great company. Every decision made is made with these ideals in mind and allows the entire team to work towards the overall success.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
In today’s day and age, individuals are actively seeking to work with purpose-drive businesses. Employees are increasingly wanting to be a part of a company that has a strong purpose or “why” — this motivates individuals in their line of work and grows brand loyalty. For Canyon State Electric, we strive to be an innovative, single source solution for any electrical needs. We have also found that giving back to the community in any way we can is a great way to build a strong culture and purpose. We host fundraisers and events to raise money for various local charities throughout the year — it’s a great way to create a stronger sense of community within a business, as well as do something good for the local community.
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill? From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
I would say “ask yourself… How do I alter my business so much so that you do not recognize it?” What I mean is, can you transition your business so much that you become a different company altogether? What can you change or innovate that will alter the way you do business? For example — Netflix used to send DVDs to your door through the mail, now they stream everything. Prior to that we went to brick-and-mortar locations to rent movies. This business sells the same service but has COMPLETELY changed the way they do it. I share these concepts with our team regularly and ask them to constantly ask themselves how they can completely change this business for the better.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
We are constantly planning and preparing. We assess the potential risks and possible options and outcomes. We work as a team and get input from multiple departments. We try not to be reactive, but to have plan A and plan B with a very strong financial awareness in mind. We then act quickly and strategically. We are always evaluating risk and taking action before it is too late.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
On the upside, there is the reward of knowing the positive impact you can have on all team members and their families. When we succeed as leaders and the business succeeds, team members and their families also have personal successes. On the downside, we are so family-focused we want to do everything we can for everyone in our organization and the personal responsibility that weighs on us as owners every day is often underestimated.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Remember who your client is and what is most important to them. In our business, making our clients’ jobs easier and more efficient is key. We are building large commercial projects with lots of moving parts and many different businesses must come together to create the final completed project. We pride ourselves on our Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) and other technology to help mitigate risks and help reduce challenges before they even occur. We also hold ourselves to high quality standards. One of my favorite quotes is “How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything.”
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
We focus on being a beloved partner. In our business relationships are key and being ahead of the curve in experience, cost-reduction, problem-resolution, and innovation are what give us the edge above our competition. We continuously communicate these things to our teams and they are part of our core values.
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
A great experience is so important! I am always encouraging our team to ask themselves how we can separate ourselves from the competition and how we can put our own unique spin on our services. We are always thinking outside the box and working on how to do it better, different and provide that “wow” experience. A leader should know that all team members have great ideas, all ideas should be heard, discussed, and tested/vetted.
What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern?
We’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Social media is imperative nowadays, but it must be conducted carefully. We address social media the same way we do everything else. We follow our values. We start with recruiting according to our values, retaining and acknowledging team members through our values, and we conduct all aspects of business through them.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Planning is number one, flying by the seat of your pants is not a good plan. The more you know the better off you will be. Stay focused on what you do best, don’t expand too fast. Being the best at one thing is better than doing many things mediocre. At the end of the day hard work, dedication, and financial wherewithal is so important.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would encourage everyone to help one another, feel grateful for your privileges whatever they might be and share them. If you can make a difference in one person’s life you can reach so many more. I am happy with what I have accomplished, and I want to share these accomplishments with those that need them, as well as help provide the opportunities to improve themselves and those around them.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!