As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing former Ohio Congressman, Jim Renacci.
Jim Renacci is an experienced business owner who created more than 1,500 jobs and employed over 3,000 people across the Buckeye State before running for Congress in 2010. He represented Ohio’s 16th District in the House of Representatives for four terms. He is also the chairman of Ohio’s Future Foundation, a policy and action-oriented organization whose goal is to move the state forward.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I was the first person in my family to go to college and paid my own way working multiple jobs. I graduated from Indiana University of PA with a degree in Business Administration/Accounting and right out of college took a job with Grant Thornton. At Grant Thornton, I worked primarily in health care and manufacturing.
At the age of 24 I left Grant Thornton with a few hundred dollars to my name and started my own health care and management company. Eventually I acquired multiple health care facilities throughout the state of Ohio. Over the next three decades I owned and operated over 60 businesses, created over 1,500 jobs and employed approximately 3,000 people. First in health care and then in everything from auto dealerships to sports teams.
In 2010, I ran for the US Congress and was elected to four consecutive terms serving 8 years before leaving in 2019 and returning back into the business world.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I made many mistakes when I first started. Not sure they were funny, and some were expensive, but every one of them was educational. You can’t grow a business from scratch without making mistakes. What is important is to always learn from those mistakes and never repeat them.
As I built my staff, I used to always tell them that I wanted them to always try to accomplish goals. If they make mistakes trying, fine, as long as they learn from those mistakes. Make the best decision you can make, with the information you have and move forward. It was one of the ways I matured in business and it was also a way my leadership staff matured.
Making mistakes is not the problem….as long as you learn from those mistakes.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I must admit I didn’t have a lot of time for reading. When you have sixty or so businesses you are mainly reading weekly reports and financial summaries. But early on I did read President’s Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal.
I also enjoyed leadership books. Especially those regarding great military Generals or coaches. I was intrigued on how they lead their soldiers or their teams. Team building is always a requirement in business and who better to learn from than strong coaches and military leaders.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
When I was consulting at Grant Thornton, I loved seeing all types of businesses. And I loved the entrepreneurial spirit of many of the owners. But too often the entrepreneurial spirit gets overwhelmed by the lack or inability of many owners to not understand their probability of success, and then they fail. That’s where I excelled. Take any business, apply probabilities and statistics to them, determine worst case situations and develop a plan. My vision and purpose were to be able to excel at multiple businesses by understanding the probability of failure.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Yes — you need goals. Daily, weekly and monthly. And those goals need to be “SMART” goals — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Goal setting is essential to success.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
First, on the personal side, I have a son who is an emergency room resident physician at Mt Sinai hospital in New York City. The epicenter of COVID19. So, from a family perspective COVID19 hits home every day. I live the health care side of COVID19 through him every day via phone calls and text messages. This is the family related challenge I face every day. Will my son be safe and have the necessary equipment he needs to do his job? To his credit, he never complains.
COVID19 will change many ways we go about our normal business forever. But one thing is for certain, how you see this pandemic is always going to be different depending on your own economic situation. If you are a health care professional like my son, working every day in the middle of the virus, our heroes, you see it one way. But if you are a hair dresser or own a restaurant and have been out of business for 60 to 90 days you will see it an entirely different way.
I have addressed these challenges by reading more and listening more. Everyone has a different story to tell and everyone’s story is important to them. But their stories help me address the challenges. We are all in this together.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Social distancing in the work environment is one of the greatest challenges. Business consulting is now done more over the phone and via computer. Board attendance is the same. We are learning to communicate in a different way, but I still believe face-to-face meetings are important and necessary. Seeing how people react or respond in a face-to-face setting tells more about the issues and concerns they are having than what you see on a computer screen. But I have adapted in the short term to virtual meetings and hope to get back to face-to-face meetings soon.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Social media and the main street media have driven a message of fear. Fear to go out, fear to go to work, for some, even fear to just stand outside of your home or pass someone on a sidewalk. The answer to this fear is education about the virus. Letting people know for example that a COVID19 virus is not going to jump on you from another person. Can it be transmitted through the air? Of course. But that’s why social distancing and masks are important. Washing your hands and cleaning things people touch are important as well.
The best thing we can do is become better educated on the virus and try to maintain a normal lifestyle using the guidelines and precautions you are most comfortable with.
In the end, 8 out of 10 people who get the virus will only have mild illness and the recovery rate is 97 to 99.75%. That’s what is important to remember.
Educating friends and family is my best way to offer support.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
With all crisis there is opportunity. Opportunities for new supply chains which do not run through foreign countries. Opportunities for growth in your business from those businesses that did not remain open or have closed. Opportunities for new ways to teach and learn new skills. I’m seeing that already. And for the current operator that did survive the crisis, opportunity to run a leaner operation which will now translate to a more efficient operation going forward.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Shaking hands and greeting people with hugs may be less the norm. More meetings via computer and more virtual learning opportunities may become the new way post COVID19. With more virtual meetings, the need for less office space will definitely change the economics of building ownership. With virtual meetings and more opportunities to work from home we will also change the way we interact as an office team. Virtual teamwork may be the new norm.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
I continue to look for opportunities in the COVID19 days that will translate to business growth opportunities post COVID19. New supply chain management will be needed, which will lead to opportunities. Many businesses will now have endured two recessions within 15 years and if they survive many owners will not want to continue. There will be opportunities for mergers and acquisitions. There will also be other opportunities we aren’t even aware of in manufacturing here in the United States that will enhance supply chains. Those that have that vision will be successful post COVID19.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Be cautious, be safe, but look forward to a “NEW DAY and a NEW WAY”. These trying days will lead us to newer and brighter days. There will be a brighter tomorrow. It’s America.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It is what it is”. Too often life challenges need to be faced head on. It’s too easy to blame the problems you have for your failures versus realizing everyone, everyday has challenges. Some greater than others. But in the end, it’s about moving forward. After all, “It is what it is”.
How can our readers further follow your work?