Finalist: DENNIS STEARNS
Since 2005, Dennis Stearns’ leadership and foresight have steered the YMCA of Greensboro, N.C., down a path that has allowed it to survive the Great Recession — and even thrive.
That year, as a member of the Y’s regional board, he helped develop an analysis for the organization, which has 35,000 members and seven local branches, of what would happen in case of an economic downturn.
The analysis proved valuable. “We found that we were mainly doing well, but we needed to adjust our core business, marketing and investment strategy, plus enhance customer service at some of our branches,” said Mr. Stearns, who is president of Stearns Financial Services Group in Greensboro (primary custodians Schwab and TD Ameritrade).
“The small things are sometimes the big things,” he said. “For example, we made sure that every employee had a nice word to say, that they were helpful in different ways to our members — similar to the ‘Disney way.’”
Staff development became key — employees regularly attend development programs to build their leadership and job skills. In addition, the Y enhanced its formal partnerships with over 100 local organizations to promote health and wellness.
“One of my philosophies is: Dig your well before you’re thirsty,” Mr. Stearns said. “We did a lot to protect our Y’s market share.”