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June 8, 1998

Business owners gain practical tips for thriving in today's economy

Executives of Graniterock, Giro Sport, and Raytek tell secrets of their business success

By Elizabeth Irwin

The most important asset for all businesses are dedicated and innovative employees who focus on quality in every aspect of their work. This assessment was agreed upon unanimously by a trio of chief executives who participated in a public forum on June 3 at the McPherson Center for Art and History. About 75 local businesspeople and UCSC business economics students attended the event.

The themes of the panel, "A CEO Forum: Challenges and Opportunities in Managing Quality Growth," were the pitfalls and opportunities of leadership when facing rapidly changing markets and new technologies. All three CEOs--Giro Sport's Bill Hanneman, Raytek's Cliff Warren, and Graniterock's Bruce Woolpert--also agreed that clearly established business goals, focus on their companies' competitive edge, and high quality in every aspect of customer service are key to success.

Martin Chemers, dean of social sciences at UCSC and a leading expert in the area of business leadership, started the discussion by noting three attributes of good leaders: They have the respect of their employees, earned by honesty and fair treatment; they exude confidence; and they maintain clearly set goals.

The CEO panel agreed that a key strategy for success is encouraging individuals to reach their full potential, while making quality in production and attention to customer needs the responsibility of every employee. In fact, many firms no longer have "quality control" departments; instead quality is the responsibility of everyone in the firm. Reflecting this standard of excellence, Graniterock won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1992, plus subsequent awards.

Sponsored by the Advisory Board of the UCSC Economics Department and facilitated by economics professor Michael Hutchison, the CEO Forum also shed light on the challenges facing these firms. Heading the list were the demands of the electronic age and of the international marketplace. Giro Sport and Raytek alone have production facilities in three foreign countries (Ireland, Germany, and China) and sales operations in over 50 countries around the globe.

Representing the most dynamic and growing part of Santa Cruz County's economy, many medium-sized businesses like Giro Sport, Raytek, and Graniterock have expanded more than tenfold over the past decade, creating new jobs and employment opportunities in the regional economy.

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