Guest: Bruce Hartman
Presenter: Neal Howard
In this episode, Bruce Hartman shares his thoughts on fostering integrity, camaraderie, and accountability at work. He also talks about his latest book, Jesus & Co., where he offers a rare blend of strategic and tactical business acumen with principles of integrity, camaraderie, and accountability. He fosters professional and business growth, while providing actionable insights.
Bio: Bruce Hartman is a seasoned executive with 30 years of success at Fortune 500 firms, who has repeatedly developed talent into C-Suite executives, encouraged employee engagement and development at all levels, and transformed organizations into high-performing centers of excellence. Hartman was the Executive VP and CFO at Yankee Candle Company, Cushman and Wakefield, and Foot Locker, Inc., where he established global banking and capital market structures and contributed to significant increases in enterprise value. One of his prime success stories came about during his tenure at Foot Locker, where the company rose from near bankruptcy to solid earnings generation with a stock price increase of 900%.
Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program, I’m your host Neal Howard here on Talkers Business Radio. Thank you so much for joining us. We hear about integrity, and honesty and ethics all the time in commercials as businesses promote their services and their goods. But what about the integrity, and the honesty and the transparency that goes into producing those goods and those services? Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Bruce Hartman who’s got a lot of experience turning folks into business superstars by fostering an environment of integrity in the workplace. Welcome to Talkers.FM Bruce, how are you?
Bruce Hartman: I’m doing great, thank you for the opportunity Neal.
Neal: Well I’m glad that you could take the time and talk with us today. You’ve got a lot of experience, a lot of impressive work as an Executive VP and a CFO of several fortune 500 companies?
Bruce: I was in the business world for 30 years, almost 17 of them as either CFO or Chief Administrative Officer and as you noted for several fortune 500 companies, “Foot Locker” would be familiar to a lot of your listeners as well as Yankee Candle is also a familiar name for a lot of folks. And as I got near the end of my career, so I was in my mid-50s, I felt like had a point in my life where I could help others. So I left the business world and went to get my Masters and my Doctorate Degree in Ministry and Theology and it took me for about 7 years Neal, it was a lot of education. Along the way, it was designed to kind of look at how can theology help us in the business world so when I just recently graduated with my doctorate degree.
Neal: Now as I stated, you’ve got this impressive work history as an Executive VP with several fortune 500 companies. And a lot of your peers and your superiors throughout the years have said that you’ve got this kind of a knack for bringing out the best in employees. What are some of the ways that you help these employees become better or the best employees that they can be by fostering this environment of integrity in the workplace?
Bruce: Well I think number one is constantly believing in people. And at the core Neal, I believe that the vast majority of people when they wake up in the morning, their goal is to do a good job. And generally people can’t perform because they either don’t have the resources or they don’t have the support. So as a supervisor, I always felt like that was my responsibility to make sure the people that work for me had the resources and have the support. Support sometimes comes in the form of coaching and I would spend a lot of my time coaching people about how they could do better or what I thought they they did that was really terrific. But it was mostly giving them the freedom to do their job and in most cases that tended to work pretty well.
Neal: It sounds like you adapted your management style or your supervisory style based on the individuality of the employee rather than having them adapt to some staunch or written in stone management style. Because there are many places that have a management style and that’s it, they’ve got their philosophy and it doesn’t waver.
Bruce: Yes. Do I’m not a big command and control person. So in other words, you do it my way. And I think that type of management style is usually born from somebody who has some innate fear, so things have to be done their way or they may be a little shallow in their experience so they’re not able to go outside their boundaries. So command and control, I just don’t think works. But you are right, my daughter once said to me, “You know dad, it must be nice to be able to boss 10,000 people around every day.” And the fact of the matter is as a supervisor particularly in these larger companies, you’re spending most of your time adjusting every conversation to help the individual you’re talking to. So as you said, you kind of morph into a person that that person needs you to be at that moment. So for instance, if a person is struggling with a particular assignment, you go into heavy coaching mode to kind of work them through it. Or if a person maybe they’re having problems at home, I mean you end up at some point becoming a bit of a social worker. And then there are other people, there’s some employees, they just like a pat on the top of the head and say, “You know, you did a great job.” And so I’ve always believed you kind of had to address the individuals’ needs in your management style and avoid command and control.
Neal: I’ve heard it said that the manager’s job or the supervisor’s job is to serve his employees or subordinates just like any other client of the company. There are all kinds of courses on how to deal with this type of person, that type of person in the business setting as a supervisor or manager. But let’s talk about true authenticity, true integrity.
Bruce: True integrity and authenticity is to me, the number one thing that any executive should strive for. There are other things like get things done and listening to learn and developing other people but the number one thing is integrity because it’s the only thing that really creates a sustainable future for somebody and it’s the same with businesses. Businesses that have high integrity can expect to have success many years out. Now what integrity usually means is, Can you answer this question: What ought I to do? And answer it in a way that is good for the customer, good for the employees and good for the shareholders. Finding that answer to me, that’s integrity and it’s simple things Neal like, “What time you’re supposed to show up to work?” Well if it’s 8:30, “I would be there at least by 8:25, right?” And there was this interesting conversation I had once with engineers and they had discovered that Yankee Candle that they could use a different glass for the fragrance emitters. And I said, “Well, that’s terrific. What are we going to save?” And they said, “Well we’ll probably save a million dollars by using this new insert.” What are the problems? Well every once in a while, one of them will explode and so you say, “Wait, that’s just not acceptable.” The cost of the medical treatment is going to be a lot less than what we’ll save. To me, that’s the point of integrity. You should never intentionally do anything to harm anybody. Obviously, we didn’t do it Neal. I heard you chuckling a little bit. But I mean that’s to me a sustainable business is looking just beyond the numbers and doing what is the right thing to do even if it costs you profits.
Neal: Now you’ve got your degree in theology and you’ve written a book, brand new book called “Jesus and Company.” Talk about how this book can help those who are interested in becoming both ethical and professional at the same time in the workplace?
Bruce: So essentially what the book does is I took a lot of Jesus’s sayings and divided them up into different chapters like the Jesus is the perfect salesman, Jesus is the reputational borrower. And then I went back into my background and talked about people that were successful that had worked for me or I had worked with and associated them with that verse. But then took it a step further, what’s the practical application? So for instance and as if for a sales person, Jesus says to love thy neighbor. And for me, that it’s the first thing a salesman should always think about is if you’re selling a car to a family with four kids, don’t sell them a Mustang just because your boss want you to. You try to sell something that’s practical for the family and we all know that that’s exactly what Jesus would do. So the book takes Jesus and he was a business person by the way Neal, that’s a story for another day and it takes how he would behave in the business world and compares it to other people and draw similarities and it is out of the Gospels. Just one fact I will say, 35 over the 42 parables are commercial related.
Neal: That’s a little-known fact I’m sure.
Bruce: It is. I did a lot of research on it and got tested by a lot of theologians. And each time, they come away and say, “Yes, you’re right.” And so why would Jesus do that because Jesus was a business person and he was a business person from that period where we last see him at the age of 12 to we see him again at the age of 30 in that 18 years. This pretty substantial evidence that he ran a small carpentry business or stonemason business near his hometown of Nazareth.
Neal: So needless to say, the book focuses on entrepreneurship, integrity and authenticity whether faith-based or not?
Bruce: Absolutely. You can learn a lot even if you don’t have a Christian faith, you can still learn a lot from the book because Jesus has a lot of wise sayings as well.
Neal: Where can we go online and get a copy of your book and learn some more about fostering integrity at work?
Bruce: Well the good news is it’s on every book site – Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, as well as it’s in the lot of the local national retailers as well.
Neal: Well it’s been a pleasure Bruce. Thank you so much for joining me here today on Talkers.FM.
Bruce: Alright, thank You Neal. Thanks for having me.
Neal: Thank you. Transcripts of the program are available at Talkers.FM. If you’ve missed my segment with Mr. Bruce Hartman, you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes and be sure and listen in at Talkers.FM.