Anton Krucky, whose decades of business leadership experience include years as an executive in marketing, sales and product development at IBM, now consults corporations and government agencies on how to effect organizational change in ways that will inspire employees and boost morale.
But at the Hogan Entrepreneurs kick-off event earlier this month, Krucky wasn’t consulting business leaders. He was talking to a group of business leaders-in-the-making – Hogan Entrepreneurial Program students who are working to build their business acumen and pursue their dreams to start a company or help one grow.
Krucky, the keynote speaker at the October 15 event, told attendees that he first dipped his toe into the business world with a paper route. He made $120 month, putting about $100 in the bank and spending the rest on anything he wanted. But in business, he said, spending and saving doesn’t work that way.
And herein was the first lesson of his speech: “If you run a company, every dollar is like your grandmother’s dollar,” he said. “You have to know where it comes from. You have to know where it goes. Once you take an investor’s money, you have to tell them what you’re doing with that money.”
Krucky should know.
In addition to serving at IBM, he co-founded a regenerative medicine company called Tissue Genesis, Inc. in 2001 and now serves on its Board of Managers. He’s also invested in emerging tech businesses.
On top of all that, Krucky also dedicates significant time to the community. He’s vice chair of Chaminade’s Board of Governors, is on the Hogan Entrepreneurial Program Advisory Board, and serves on the boards for Bishop Museum and Child and Family Service.
The Hogan kick-off event is an annual gathering and always draw a healthy crowd. In addition to students, dozens of leaders from across the business community attended the Pacific Club gathering.
Over the course of his speech, Krucky sought to impart key lessons for young business leaders.
To help highlight the value of problem solving and leadership over skills alone, Krucky pointed to his years at IBM. He was hired for a highly-competitive spot at the company, he said, because he was able to demonstrate how his previous work experience – as a lifeguard and a traveling representative for a fraternity – made him personally accountable for his performance and required him to adapt quickly.
“You’re looking for responsibility,” Krucky told the IBM recruiter after initially being turned down.
“Is there any more responsibility than saving a life? … They ended up hiring me as a system engineer.”
Once at IBM, Krucky found that he was doing well – sometimes better than those trained at elite Ivy League schools – because he applied himself. He recounted one episode early on in his career at IBM in which his boss – who didn’t seem to like him much – handed him a complicated formula and asked him what he made of it. His boss walked away and Krucky got to work, turning to colleagues elsewhere in the company for their expertise. Within short order, he handed a folder to his boss with an answer.
“He opens up the folder and he walks back to his office, shaking his head,“ Krucky said.
A short time later, the boss calls him into his office for an explanation. Instead of taking credit for the work, Krucky talks about how he’d turned to colleagues he knew – and colleagues they knew — for help in deciphering how to proceed. In other words, he told the truth. And that was the right thing to do.
Within two hours, Krucky was being offered the coveted job of marketing rep.
The branch manager for IBM said Krucky was getting the promotion because of his creativity and initiative. But, the manager added, “It wasn’t just that you were good. You were honest.” Krucky said the words resonated with him. “People buy from people who are honest,” he told attendees.
Later in his career, Krucky built a model to help CEOs and their executives understand how people change in an organization. It’s called the “four box model,” and it uses a basketball analogy to ensure those across fields can understand it. In the model, box four is for the best high school basketball players in the country. Their competency is high and their morale is high, he said.
But once they get recruited to a college basketball team, they’re in a new box: Box 1.
Box 1, Krucky said, is the announcement box. It’s where a new recruit is told they’ll have to change.
With the right coaching, though, they can get to box 2: Where they understand they’re on a journey. “This is the teach box,” Krucky said, in the keynote address. “You have to learn the journey you’re on.”
The problem? The morale in box 2 is pretty terrible, and the competency isn’t any good, either.
Those elite high school players want to retreat to box 4. But their old box 4 isn’t there anymore.
If they can push through, a player learning the ropes can progress to box 3. That’s where they’re changing to meet a leader’s expectations. Here, competency is going up and morale is going up, too.
And eventually, with enough practice, they find themselves in a new box 4.
Krucky told the Hogan students that employees’ journey through change happens again and again in healthy companies. And leaders need to know how to inspire and mobilize employees so when they are going through the tough process of change, they don’t want to retreat to their old boxes, he said.
“You have to let the people know there is this model,” Krucky said, “so they know they will be happy” – if they put the work in to change for the better.