[caption id="attachment_24816" align="alignright" width="218" caption="Steve Farmiloe"][/caption]

General manager, Video Symphony

266 E. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. Fomerly COO for Vantreo Insurance Brokerage in Santa Rosa and a leader in three other North Coast companies

818-557-6500 ext. 836, www.videosymphony.com

Staff: 50

Residence: Santa Rosa

Professional background: Vantreo Insurance Brokerage, COO; Carousel Carpet Mills, president; Advanced Telcom Group , vice president of sales; Santa Rosa Paper Co., CEO

Education: B.S. business administration, La Salle University

Age: 51

What do you see as the essential role of a leader in the current environment? Someone who has a conservative approach to fiscal responsibility yet exhibits an aggressive and optimistic attitude toward the opportunities in the marketplace.  Someone that people want to follow, not have to follow. All people desire to be successful and be on a winning team.  The true leader provides the cultural environment for that team to flourish and achieve their goals.

What are the biggest changes you've seen in your industry? This economy underscores the need to invest in tools and processes that enable sales teams to exceed their goals.  It’s just not an option any longer.  Putting a sales goal in front of a sales team without giving them the tools is ineffective.  Far too many very good salespeople have failed because they were not given a process and tools.

What advice would you give to young emerging leaders? Nothing comes easy.  Don’t try to find a shortcut.  Listen more than you speak.  Focus on making other people successful, not yourself.  The latter will happen if you focus on the former.  If you do focus on helping others, one day you will turn around and find that you have built a truly priceless asset – a large network of colleagues that genuinely like and respect you. The other very important factor often overlooked is to become a contributor to your community.  Don’t do it to get, but do it to give.  [Mr. Farmiloe is former board chair and current member of the executive committee of United Way of the Wine Country.]

What's the best advice for weathering today's economic environment? Under-promise and over-deliver to the stakeholders – the stockholders, owners, suppliers, employers and clients.  Create and stick to a conservative operational budget and cash flow. Every business, regardless of the industry, needs to produce cash.

How do you think your business will change in the next five years? Business is like sports.  Those that prepare, read, study, constantly learn, define measurable plans, use the proper tools and are truly dedicated will separate from the rest.

What is a decision you wish you hadn't made? What did you learn from it? I wish I had not purchased real estate properties in 2005 and 2006.  I think I caused the real estate economic downturn when I decided to invest.  I need to stick with what I know about from my own experience.

What is your most memorable business experience? When my distribution company was in trouble, someone wanted to purchase it for a dime on the dollar.  I met with my banker Pat Kilkenny, then CEO of National Bank of the Redwoods.  Pat believed in me when I didn’t, and he encouraged me to stay focused.   Four years later I sold the company for 25 times that offer.

What is your greatest business success? Selling Santa Rosa Paper Co., weathering the storm by doing the hard things and not taking the easy way out.  It taught me to never quit.  It is not the gale but the set of your sail that determines your outcome.

What was your toughest business decision? The downsizing of Advanced Telcom Group.  I was the 10th employee hired, and we grew to more than 700 employees.  After the telecom bubble burst, I had to travel to four branches and lay off more than 100 employees one by one.

What would your friends be surprised to find out about you? That I know Jay Leno. He is a very nice man.  He truly works harder and is more kind that his image portrays.  He has an incredible work ethic.  He has earned everything he has received through hard work.  I learned a lot from talking with him.  Everyone wants a piece of him.  I would never ask him for anything.

First job: Aside from my paper route when I was 10, I was a bus boy at Fiori and Grace restaurant on Mendocino Avenue in 1977. Those were the days that the Oakland Raiders (and my future father-in-law Bill Bettinelli) frequented that fine establishment.

Most admired businessperson outside the company: It is a tie between Keith Woods and Pat Kilkenny.

Current reading: “Pursue the Passion,” by Brett Farmiloe

Most want to meet: Vince Lombardi or Robert Redford

Stress relievers: Red wine ... Sonoma County, of course

Favorite activities outside work: I love being with my wife and children, attending sporting events, working out at the gym with headphones on and did I mention red wine?