Groundwork for growth

What’s the fastest horse in North Pittsburgh Systems’ stable?

Harry Brown, president of North Pittsburgh Systems Inc., is wagering that Penn Telecom will be leading the field.

Penn Telecom, unlike North Pittsburgh Telephone Co., the original flagship of the group, isn’t bound by geography. A competitive local exchange carrier, Penn Telecom can sell its services and products virtually anywhere, so its growth potential is practically unlimited.

But growth can pose challenges when it comes to managing, and for Penn Telecom, the challenge is in keeping up with the day-to-day business demands while preparing for expansion.

Some of Penn Telecom’s managers and employees came from North Pittsburgh Telephone, while some came from other companies. Frank Macefe, Penn Telecom’s president, and Al Wiegand, vice president, operations and technology, realized that the company’s management needed to develop leadership skills that would keep pace with the firm’s anticipated growth.

As the company expanded and promoted employees into positions with more responsibility, they reasoned, managers would have to be more empowered to make decisions.

“Our concern was the depth of our management’s experience,” says Macefe.

The solution for Penn Telecom was to bring in Joe Marzano, a partner with Interlink Management Consulting, to show managers how to communicate more effectively with each other and with those who report to them.

“Like any organization that grows the way they have, it puts a strain on the organizational structure,” says Marzano. “When you grow fast, you tend to promote people quickly.”

Marzano says that a top salesperson, for instance, lands in a sales management position and struggles at the job. While she may be great at sales, she hasn’t developed the skills to manage others. Some companies may view her as a failure, when the problem is that she hasn’t acquired the skills needed to manage, a different set than is required to sell.

Macefe says the leadership training process has helped Penn Telecom’s managers take more responsibility and initiative, hold each other accountable and understand how to work as an effective team.

Which is, it seems, consistent with the philosophy of the larger organization.

Says Brown: “I don’t believe in micromanaging businesses.”

How to reach:Interlink Management Consulting,