R.D. Whitney, Chief Operating Officer of the Institute of Finance and Management, Greenhaven Partners, Greenwich, Conn.
SIPA: What was your first job out of college and how did you get into this business?
R.D.: In college I took a volunteer internship at IDG, and that helped me get my first job in the information industry at Yankee Publishing as a production assistant. Sidenote: My salary in 1990 was 1/3 of what my daughter’s yearly college tuition is now!
Has there been a defining moment in your career? Perhaps when you knew you were on the right road.
Without question, meeting Wayne and Marshall Cooper was the point where my career became a passion. I had been at Thompson and Wolters Kluwer. I had been a copywriter at a biotech firm and a technical writer at a medical device company. When I met the Coopers (shortly after they purchased Kennedy), I became excited about my career. I offered to come on board doing anything they needed done. I took a junior graphics position laying out newsletters and quickly became their VP of operations/general manager. I learned so much (and continue to learn) from them as we build new specialized businesses at Greenhaven Partners.
In brief, describe your business/company?
Greenhaven Partners builds information businesses. Our portfolio consists of The Chief Executive Group, The Institute of Finance and Management (the former IOMA), Bongarde Media, RecruitingTrends and several exciting startups.
What are two or three important concepts or rules that have helped you to succeed in business?
I’ve learned an important formula in my career: S=F^2 (success equals failure squared). I’ve worked inside 14 companies (big and small, public and private). The key differentiation between value creation and value destruction was our willingness to listen to our market and evolve. The path was littered with failures, but success came by learning from the failures, adjusting and being willing to evolve. At Greenhaven Partners, our culture is to take smart risk. It is ok to fail, but we are careful to fail cheaply, and we intend to learn from each step.
What is the single-most successful thing that your company is doing now?
Focus. We have lots of opportunities, but they only create EBITDA if they are properly executed.
Do you see a trend or path that you have to lock onto in 2012?
We are digging into the micro sectors within the macro areas we cover. For example, we are creating industry-specific products or interest-specific products within the functional roles we serve. No surprise, we are trying to get closer and closer to our customer.
What are the key benefits of SIPA membership for you and your team?
There is a unique feeling within SIPA that a higher harbor lifts all boats. Our industry is experiencing massive change. This is both scary and thrilling, but SIPA gives us a community to share and grow together.
Where did you grow up?
What college did you attend? Is there a moment from that time that stands out?
Bentley University (BS in Business Communications). Fitchburg State College (MBA). The moment that stands out: meeting my wife at Bentley.
Are you married? Do you have children?
I met my wife and best friend Dana in college. The priest thought we were too young to get married. This June we will celebrate our 22nd anniversary! We have two beautiful daughters. Marie is a junior at Keene State College and is hoping to go into HR. Natalie is a freshman at Roger Williams University and is studying civil engineering.
What is your favorite hobby and how did it develop in your life?
I received an iPad from Santa. I love it! My priorities of what I’d save in a fire have been dramatically reshuffled. Our industry is going through amazing change (devices like the iPad are just one example). I am more invigorated about the opportunities in specialized information—I think that qualifies as a hobby.
Is there a book you recently read or movie you saw that you would recommend?
I just read The Rockefeller Habits. It crystallized several key management concepts for me.
I am very curious about the interaction between online media and face-to-face events, and I think this is going to be an exciting growth area for SIPA members in the future. I am on the board of a public company, Onstream Media (NASDAQ: ONSM), that conducts thousands of webcasts a year. They’ve recently launched a potentially game-changing virtual trade show platform. Before returning to Greenhaven Partners, I served 3 years as the CEO of Online Media for the global, public trade show producer Tarsus (LONDON:TSR.L). In this role, I ran TSNN.com (the Trade Show News Network). These experiences have given me the opportunity to deeply explore the interaction between online media and face-to-face marketing, and I believe this represents a significant growth opportunity for specialized media.
R.D. spoke of “massive change” in the industry.
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