Fair and Balanced Leadership: StarTek’s Larry Jones
BY DOROTHY DONNELLY
I tried to get Larry Jones to talk about himself, to brag a little. After all, he has every right to pat himself on the back. In a brutal economy when most businesses are feeling bruised and battered, StarTek posted third-quarter profits of $3.5 million. What does speak loudly about Larry are the many people who follow him wherever he leads.
StarTek provides business process outsourcing services, primarily call center support for telecom, retail and technology companies. In speaking about what factors contribute to the StarTek's success, Larry gives credit to the employees and his senior management team, which he calls an "A-Team"- comprised of many individuals who had worked with Larry in other companies. And who wouldn't stay loyal to Larry?
He's a strategic leader, laser focused on the organization's goals, yet keenly aware that he's in the people business. Larry refers to the 9,000 employees of StarTek as souls rather than assets, and he talks about customers being at the heart of the business. Well, if the employees are the soul and the customers are the heart, then Larry is the brain.
StarTek's board brought Larry on more than three years ago to accelerate the company's growth. He has a history of success initiating growth and acquisition strategies in various industry segments, including marketing services, enterprise software, and information and IT services. Like other CEOs, he's had to make some tough strategic decisions at the helm of StarTek, including closing some operating facilities while also adding business units in other carefully considered locations.
StarTek has more than 20 call centers in the U.S., Canada, the Philippines, among other geographies; its newest call center is in Costa Rica. In deciding where to add operations, the basis is always on where the customer need is greatest and how they can best be served.
StarTek is a $275 million, publicly traded company based in Colorado. The company has deep roots in the state and has been headquartered here for more than 20 years. When asked why this state is a great place to do business, Larry once again talks about people. He's as concerned with the health of his people as he is about the health of the company; and the correlation of the two doesn't escape him.
As a long-time resident, he spoke with intimate familiarity about how the area is a place that keeps both mind and body active - with beautiful natural surroundings and stimulating cultural centers. Colorado heritage is a source of pride around StarTek, and celebrated even on the office walls.
Western art by local artists is on display, and you could easily forget that you were in a corporate headquarters because the feeling is more like a gallery. It's a place people enjoy showing up to work. The office decor may have been the responsibility of someone else, but you can tell it's the kind of attention to detail Larry appreciates and knows makes a big difference to the employees and customers who gather there.
Larry Jones seems a very laid back CEO, despite the fact that running a public company in today's environment is intensely high-pressured. Startek's quarterly profits indicate that he is delighting his board and shareholders; keeping 9,000 souls motivated and engaged; and delivering what not only his customers, but his customers' customers need.
And his A-Team is intact at a time when talent is a treasure. Larry would never congratulate himself. I suppose he doesn't need to; the facts and his achievements speak for him.
Dorothy Donnelly is president of Donnelly Consulting Group, and she is the marketing and communications chair for the 2010 Rocky Mountain Corporate Growth Conference.