But, as we learned at our latest C-Suite Perspectives, that’s Ed Fritsch. He was the first of his family to graduate college, started small, and worked his way up the corporate ladder to become the president, CEO, and director of Highwoods Properties, Inc.
Fritsch shared his story in a very engaging way. He opened by talking about graduating from UNC in 1981.
“I had a lot of enthusiasm but I had no experience other than this business degree at Chapel Hill,” said Fritsch. “Immediately, I had roadblocks, including paying off my student loans.”
Fritsch said he worked as a shift manager at McDonald’s and then for a textile company in South Carolina. He joined Highwoods in 1982.
“From 1982 to 1986, I did a lot of meaningful tasks,” said Fritsch. “What they wanted me to do was to learn the core of the business. That’s exactly what I did. I learned the business from the ground up.”
Fritsch talked about how those years shaped the leader who he is today.
“It’s so difficult to manage or coach if you haven’t played,” he said. “Know how to do the job before you manage it.”
Fritsch talked about Highwoods going public in 1994. “What we heard from Wall Street was when will you be bigger,” he said. “So, we went to work and we did a lot of closings.”
Highwoods did well for years. Then, in the early 2000s, there was the dot-com bubble burst, the tragedy of September 11, and the impact both had on the economy.
“We huddled up and we put together a strategic plan,” said Fritsch. “We had grown at a very rapid pace and then somebody slammed on the brakes.”
Fritsch then talked about the importance of measuring data for your company. Measuring data may not be an easy topic to keep people’s attention, but that’s where the basket and ping pong balls comes in! Fritsch wore the basket and a volunteer, Elaine Loyack, vice president of community engagement and government relations with Delta Dental of North Carolina, tossed the ping pong balls at his head. It was quite the picture!
From there, Fritsch shared the two mantras of his company. “It’s service, not space,” he said. “And they’re customers, not tenants.”
“Stay ahead of perception by having a specific communication message for a specific audience,” said Fritsch.
Fritsch also talked about the importance of knowing your audience members and speaking to them in a way in which they can relate.
He said he is excited about the future of Raleigh and the Southeast.
“A recession will eventually come, but I think our area will get the sniffles when a lot of other areas will get a bad cold,” said Fritsch. “We also have such a diversified economy and aren’t dependent on any one industry like other areas are.”
He concluded by telling the audience members to remember to have balance in their lives.
“Remember how important time is,” he said. “Parents, the time you have with your children goes by like that.”
We want to thank Fritsch for his great insight at C-Suite Perspectives. We also want to thank our sponsors for making this series possible.
Mark your calendars for Nov. 16 for our next C-Suite Perspectives at The Umstead Hotel and Spa where you will hear from Tim Humphrey, the vice president of IBM’s Chief Data Office. He will tell you about his journey and the leadership lessons he has learned along the way.