Business Class: Youthful energy plus proven success can’t be beat

By Randall Kenneth Jones

Originally published in the Naples Daily News
Friday, December 6, 2013

The Caterpillar WayFirst, Craig Bouchard is the co-author of 2013’s “The Caterpillar Way: Lessons in Leadership, Growth, and Shareholder Value”—a book partially intended to teach “Main Street” investors of the importance of good management.

Published in 2013 by McGraw Hill and co-authored by his long-time mentor, educator James V. Koch, “The Caterpillar Way” reached #8 on the New York Times Best Seller list in the business category.

Second, Bouchard is now Chairman and CEO of Signature Group Holdings after leading a hostile proxy battle to remove the company’s board in June 2013.

Third, he is the founder and current Chairman of Cambelle-Inland, LLC, which houses his investment activities in the steel industry as well as his investments in China.

Essentially, at 60, the youthful, perpetually enthusiastic Bouchard would make countless younger over-achievers appear lazy by comparison.

Bouchard’s impressive resume could be studied alongside that of Andrew Carnegie due to the shared focus on steel production, distribution, mergers and acquisitions.

What the two men actually have in common: steely determination.

However, where Carnegie may have been considered a game player, Bouchard loves the thrill of playing the game.

“In negotiations, I want my opponent to be at their best and experience the best ‘game’ they’ve ever had. If I win, then it means more.”

Carnegie also never penned a children’s book.

Bouchard recently completed “The Adventures of Ai”—a book inspired by his three young daughters, ages 12, 10 and 8.

Why? “Because we can’t do enough to empower young women,” he says.

Though Bouchard describes himself as “an odd business leader with no self-strategy,” his success seems to be built on a winning combination of selflessness and self-awareness.

On communication: “Honest and direct is the only way to be in business.”

On influencers: “Most of what you achieve comes from those around you.”

Now, with the upcoming publication of his children’s book, he achieves one of his other primary goals: “Feeling the joy associated with accomplishing something meaningful.”

A glass-half-full kind of guy, Bouchard also eschews the negative implication of the word “hostile” when it appears next to “takeover”: “No management team can be allowed to ramrod the people who own the company—the investors.”

Plus, he credits much of his success to his ability to be—of all things—disruptive.

Though not a word most would want in their annual review, “disruptive,” in Bouchardland, is celebrated: “You need to be creative and disruptive—the greatest results come when you challenge the status quo and change it for the better.”

Not surprisingly, Bouchard also champions the importance of leading by example: “I believe I have to work harder than everyone else in the company. If I set the bar high, we can jump it together.”

Part Peter Pan man and part Steve Jobs devotee, Craig Bouchard and his irresistible combination of youthful energy, proven success, creativity and “will-do” (not “can-do”) attitude have accomplished much.

Best of all, he still has an unrelenting desire to teach—and a stronger desire to learn.

Marketing guru, business humoristprofessional-courtesy advocate, branded-content writer, creative-development consultant, and entertaining motivational speaker Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Florida.

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