Real-Life Scenarios – Real-World Advice to CEOs

And entrepreneurial energy to share
by Bennett Curry 

Third-generation entrepreneur Jim Butler knows great buildings — and great companies — are nothing without solid support.

His company, Tucson-based HJ3 Composite Technologies, manufactures, engineers and installs carbon fiber systems to repair the world’s corroding infrastructure. Since connecting with the Arizona Commerce Authority six years ago, HJ3 has scaled to 30 employees and now maintains projects worldwide. The company recently received worldwide patents on all its technologies.

Butler, whose company is a two-time Arizona Innovation Challenge winner, has participated in several ACA programs, including its export assistance program and its Venture Ready accelerator. His participation in the Venture Ready program led him to join the CEO Corner Office.

“Before joining Corner Office, I had looked for a peer group without much success,” he says. “But here, we were all in a similar growth phase. Since we were all associated with the ACA, we were either just getting off the ground or going from startup to growth. The challenges were similar. I just felt like this group was more primed for people like me, who were leading their companies to the next phase of growth.”

The four-month CEO Corner Office program was created by the ACA to develop and engage chief executives of Arizona’s rapidly growing companies. Each session begins with a facilitated business case discussion on topics such as scaling, financial literacy, culture, decision making, leadership and evolving as a CEO.

The topic of the day then becomes the focal point in training the CEOs about how to ask and receive peer-to-peer feedback. In a round-robin exercise, a CEO talks about an issue or challenge within the company related to the topic. Peers ask clarifying questions and provide feedback and advice. All cohort members must maintain as confidential all information shared by others.

Butler credits the program with exposing him to different leadership styles from executives outside his industry, and says the group’s entrepreneurial energy was crucial as he scaled his startup’s growth.

Butler recalls opening up for discussion a specific challenge he was facing: Should he hire salespeople for various product lines or seek distribution partners? He recalls the discussion leading him to hire direct-sales salespeople so his company could better manage the client relationship given the technical nuance of HJ3’s technology.

“I think it was good to hear the perspectives of CEOs from other industries and how they reasoned to solve problems,” he says. “It was helpful to hear how they engage their teams to foster inclusion and find solutions.”

HJ3 has completed major repair and installation projects at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, at downtown Phoenix’s Cityscape, the Pima County Courthouse in Tucson, and the famous “Touchdown Jesus” mural at the University of Notre Dame — to name just a few. Butler estimates the company saves clients between 80 and 90 percent of the cost of replacing structures, extends their life for 30 years, and eliminates 95 percent of the environmental impact of repair projects.

The Corner Office program also facilitates sharing of contacts between participants, whether for recruitment, human resources, attorneys or investors — all of which Butler says were invaluable as he honed HJ3’s vision.

“The ACA is a very unique private-public partnership, and companies with an Arizona presence are very fortunate to be able to get involved with it and to use its various services,” Butler says. “The CEO Corner Office program is just another example where you have the opportunity at a very affordable price to be a part of a peer group. It’s unique in the sense that it stimulates camaraderie between budding CEOs and entrepreneurs building businesses in the state of Arizona.

“I appreciate that fraternal-type feel [that] you are not in this alone; the whole state is there to help you,” he says “As an entrepreneur, it’s just a wonderful opportunity to be able to take advantage of that support. The ACA really is a gold standard for the rest of the country to follow.”

Butler is interested in rejoining the same cohort for a 2.0 version of the program. “We invested time to build trust,” he said of the group. “Let’s leverage it.”

The Arizona Commerce Authority’s CEO Corner Office, a four-month program to develop and engage CEOs of rapidly growing companies, features facilitated topical case studies derived from top business schools, technical assistance and peer-to-peer advice and feedback training.

CEO Corner Office: A Three-Part Series

Over three months, we share the stories of three small businesses and their participation in a CEO development program created by the Arizona Commerce Authority.

The Arizona Commerce Authority’s CEO Corner Office, a four-month program to develop and engage CEOs of rapidly growing companies, features facilitated topical case studies derived from top business schools, technical assistance and peer-to-peer advice and feedback training.

Bennett Curry, vice president of business development at the Arizona Commerce Authority, has built businesses, including many familiar consumer brands. His passion to lead and motivate led him into the college classroom, where he taught marketing. His goal is to nurture entrepreneurs.

Speak Your Mind