This is the third installment in a series of profiles of the North Bay's Most Influential Leaders. Nominations are welcome at www.northbaybusinessjournal.com.
Previously profiled: James A. Andersen, Dante Benedetti, Russell A. Colombo, David I. Freed, James B. Keegan, Brian Kelly, Thomas B. Klein, Gary D. Nelson, Steve Page, Lawrence Simons, Matt White, Jim Adams, Rachel M. Dollar, Rob McMillan, Al Coppin, Daniel J. Duckhorn, Mark Idhe, Stan Mead, Dave Siembieda and Iver Skavdal
[caption id="attachment_21528" align="alignright" width="226" caption="Neil Foster"][/caption]
Neil FosterTitle: President
Company: M.A. Silva Corks USA
Company address: 3433 Westwind Blvd., Santa Rosa 95403
Residence: Santa Rosa
Professional background: Entrepreneur
Education: Purley High School, London, England
What do you see as the essential role of a leader in the current environment? Leadership is one of guidance and direction, inspiring people to use their unique abilities to achieve the most for themselves and the company. I work to help the staff feel passionate about everything they do. Much of being a leader is inspiring desire to learn and put knowledge to work. I find building feelings of confidence and security is especially important in these difficult economic times.
I also help my staff and colleagues to recognize the value of their involvement to the community. Most of the skills we develop at work can be applied directly to advancing public good. Team building, education and strong communications create the foundation for so many important nonprofit and community-minded causes.
What are the biggest changes you've seen in your industry? The cork industry has evolved over the last 15 years. Cork once completely dominated the closure market, but it eventually became threatened by growing interest in cheaper alternatives. Today, cork has regained the support of fine winemakers as the closure of choice. This is in part due to the significant investment the cork industry and my company have made in technology and quality control. Today we consistently meet far higher standards than were in place or obtainable even within the last five years and most certainly 15 years ago.
What advice would you give to young emerging leaders? My advice to young emerging leaders would be to lead by example, focus on becoming an excellent listener and surround yourself with the best talent you can find. Find your passion both in your vocation and in support of the community. Since your people are your greatest asset, spend time building the best team you can and then offer the resources that let them excel both professionally and personally. From the very start, give back to the community. The energy you gain from helping others more than makes up for the time you spend away from the job. Organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and so many others need people with strong leadership and organizational skills.
What's the best advice for weathering today's economic environment? It is extremely important in today’s economic environment to understand the sources of expense and inefficiency. Simultaneously manage costs while building efficiency. Support your most important asset, your people. Invest in new, well-vetted opportunities and make sure everyone in your company is selling.