Paul Szyarto, CEO of Campana & Schott, Philadelphia
Last year, Paul Szyarto became CEO of Campana & Schott Inc., an international management and technology consulting firm. Since his appointment, he has grown the firm's revenue by 300 percent, boosted its bottom line growth by 600 percent, completed an acquisition and received recognition for streamlining internal processes. Clearly, his insight on how to run a business needs to be heard.
Q: In your professional opinion, what are the traits and characteristics that define a successful leader?
Paul Szyarto: Some leadership traits and characteristics can be acquired along the path of becoming a leader, but the most important, in my opinion, come naturally beginning with having a “can do” attitude versus “can’t do,” employing great communications through listening and learning, and understanding that being a leader is only as good as the team you are leading. Having a “can do” attitude really means focusing on progression, accomplishment, small steps toward success, and always keeping your target in sight until it is achieved.
Many people allow for disruption and challenges to guide their paths and soon fall victim of failing to reach set goals. Great leaders should expect disruption and constant challenges when attempting to reach goals and should always focus on resolutions that focus on reaching their goals. Communications, both vertical and horizontal, set the foundation of leading people. Many people in leadership positions isolate themselves and only allow downward communications, but true leadership takes into account input from all levels and peers within an organization.
You can only lead if you listen to who you are leading as these people have the greatest insight to how your operations currently function and they are the ones performing at all levels. Listening and learning, and leveraging this information to develop paths of sound execution defines successful leadership. Many leaders neglect realizing that great teams are comprised of people that love what they do, are well informed how to be great performers, and feel integrated into the system you are trying to lead. Leadership is all about the people you lead and define the foundation of any operation. If your people aren’t functioning optimally, then there is no chance you can function optimally as a leader.
Q: What can a business owner/manager do to ensure that the workplace relation between management and staff does not deteriorate into an us-versus-them atmosphere?
Paul Szyarto: As a business owner/manager, one needs to realize that a business is defined by its team which is comprised of operators and supervisors. The challenge that some organizations go through is when staffing becomes an “us-versus-them” atmosphere between management and operators. This develops from lack of communications and a clear understanding the value of the different roles within the operation.
Some of the most efficient organizations in the world focus on vertical and horizontal communication strategies allowing management and operators to communicate through open integrated channels. Allowing communications to flow freely throughout the organization, but in a controlled manner, promotes problem resolution from all stakeholders.
Free communications promote operational confidence from all stakeholders which will yield greater results. At times, operators and managers silo themselves from one another and develop a lack of understanding of the value each party contributes to the overall operation. Both groups of representatives need to realize that operators can only operate with direction and leaders can only lead if there are followers. Communicating and presenting the value each party represents allows for better acceptance of the roles each party plays within an organization promoting better team integration and production results.
Q: What do you see as your biggest business challenges in the next 12 months?
Paul Szyarto: For me, my greatest business challenges over the next 12 months focus on transforming a single operating unit for mixed martial arts and expanding it into a national franchise with locations throughout the Northeast. Why is this so difficult? Well, imagine taking what you “think” works and replicating this one hundred or more times in a very rapid fashion with diverse teams, in diverse locations, with franchise owners who all expect the model to be very successful from day one. Then you add a little complex financing, management and training initiatives, and don’t forget actually building each location to specifications you “think” will work, with a team that has never done this before.
My philosophy on a challenge like this is, we will be successful, we will figure it out as we go by adapting, listening, learning, allowing our great teams to do the jobs we hired them for, and to lead with a positive, inspiring foresight.
Q: What is your forecast for the U.S. economy over the next 12 months?
Paul Szyarto: The U.S. economy just went through probably the most controversial presidential election of our nation’s history and selected a business mogul with no traditional political experience to guide our great nation through the next chapter in history. Do I respect our new president, Donald Trump? Yes, it’s my obligation as a U.S. citizen and former military member who loves his country. Do I believe President Trump is intelligent? Yes, because no one makes a million dollars being unintelligent, let alone a billion or more.
Do I agree with everything President Trump presents? Absolutely not, but it is amusing to watch! President Trump has lived his life managing large capital engagements that primarily benefitted his own family and has done very well with his model. Over the past several years he has focused on developing the Trump brand focusing on delivering quality, but again, for the sole purpose of expanding his own wealth. President Trump relies on his instinct and ability to negotiate his progression through “tough” talk and even “tougher” action and in the end, he is able to succeed, but up till now, has been focused on himself.
Becoming the President of the U.S. requires tactics of knowing how to negotiate, leading by example, and delivering grand results for this country. Over the next 12 months, the U.S. will go through a transformational period that will be laced with several economical obstacles due to the fact that many politicians simply just don’t like President Trump. If they allow and support him to employ similar instinct based tactics that he has employed as the CEO of his own companies, the US economy will flourish greater than it has ever flourished in history.
One simple change that President Trump has presented focuses on corporate tax reform. Corporate tax reform, or lowing corporate taxes and creating tax incentives for building in the U.S. instead of abroad, will allow for increased corporate capital spending, causing a resource recruitment surge, which will support a greater influx of local economical spend. More money in the economy means corporations grow allowing for the cycle to be exponential. The next 12 months, will be an interesting ride, but, if we open our minds as citizens and politicians, the US can regain its position as the world’s greatest economy.
Q: You are also a mixed martial artist. I have to ask: how does one transfer MMA skills into the workforce?
Paul Szyarto: When people think MMA, or mixed martial arts, they quickly create an image of two barbarians in a cage trying to pound each other in the face until someone either submits or is knocked out. What people don’t realize is what it takes to become that highly focused, dedicated, mentally strong, physically elite person in the cage ready to go to war for something they have such great passion for.
Mixed martial arts is beyond cage fighting, at least for many of us, especially me. The premise of MMA is developing your mind and body to achieve results beyond what is considered average. It’s about achieving something you didn’t think you could achieve until you dedicated yourself and didn’t quit until success was reached. Learning to coordinate your hands and feet, moving your body and limbs harmoniously, and striking with precision requires intense mental focus under duress knowing that someone is attempting to strike back at you. Imagine taking even a fraction of the mental focus needed for MMA into the workforce and applying it to delivering a project or managing a new product release. The goal is to deliver the project or releasing the product. You should have an intense passion for the end result preparing your mind and body for the battle you are about to endure.
In both cases, you will need to muster the strength to deal with obstacles you never expected, push yourself through exhaustion, exceed your preconceived limits, while enduring the duress of attacks on your credibility and ability to succeed. The only thought on your mind is doing whatever is required to reach your goal. In your mind, you are an elite warrior in the cage, in the workforce, and in life because it is your choice to succeed.