Shyam Reddy says he doesn’t believe in a “one size fits all” approach when hiring outside firms. (John Disney/Daily Report)
Shyam K. Reddy is the chief administrative officer, general counsel and corporate secretary of Euramax International Inc., an $850 million international manufacturer of aluminum, steel, vinyl, copper and fiberglass products for original equipment manufacturers, distributors, contractors and home centers worldwide. In addition to being the company’s chief legal and compliance officer, Reddy is responsible for leading and managing the information technology, risk management, real estate, human resources and fleet departments at the company.
Prior to joining Euramax, Reddy was the regional administrator of the 1,000-employee Southeast Sun Belt Region of the U.S. General Services Administration, which is headquartered in Atlanta. As regional administrator, Reddy was responsible for the real estate, fleet and procurement operations of the federal government in eight southeastern states, encompassing 44 million square feet of owned and leased real estate, a 41,000-vehicle fleet operation and several billion dollars in federal government procurement.
Prior to accepting the presidential appointment at GSA, Reddy practiced corporate law as a partner in the Atlanta office of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton. As an attorney, he counseled public and private clients through mergers and acquisitions, procurement and technology transactions, and venture capital and private equity deals.
Reddy serves on the board of trustees at the Woodruff Arts Center, the Board of Councilors at the Carter Center and the Leadership Development Advisory Council at The German Marshall Fund. He also cochairs the selection process for Marshall Fellows in the Southeast. Reddy has served on the boards of directors of the University of Georgia College of Public Health, the University of Georgia Alumni Association, and Common Cause of Georgia.
He is a member of Downtown Atlanta Rotary and a graduate of the 2010 Class of Leadership Atlanta and 2005 LEAD Atlanta Class of Leadership Atlanta. He also ran for secretary of state of Georgia in the 2006 election.
Describe your department and your role in it.
As the company’s chief administrative officer, general counsel and corporate secretary, I am responsible for leading and managing the legal, compliance, information technology, risk management, real estate, human resources and fleet (sedans) departments at Euramax International Inc., Approximately 40 information technology, human resources and other professionals report directly or indirectly to me.
What outside firms do you use and for what?
I work with several large- and medium-sized firms, including Fried Frank, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, Jones Day, Greenberg Traurig, Alston & Bird, Nelson Mullins and Seyfarth Shaw. These firms assist me with corporate, intellectual property, real estate, labor & employment and litigation matters.
I do not believe in a “one size fits all” approach. Relationships, specialized skill sets, subject matter expertise and cost should be considered when selecting law firms and lawyers.
What do you think law firms don’t understand about their clients?
Law firms could do a better job understanding their clients’ businesses. Enhancing communication and recognizing the “no surprises” rule go a long way as well. A greater appreciation of the client’s day-to-day business challenges can lead to more effective counseling, as well as more profitable billable work.
Law firms that incentivize outside counsel to increase the number of touch points or that remove obstacles that dissuade in-house counsel from engaging outside counsel are best positioned for being retained on strategic matters. Lawyers who also foster environments where high-level, short conversations can occur without the need for billing (or belief that a bill will be forthcoming) make for partnership-like relationships.
What questions would you like to ask other general counsels?
What are you doing to ensure that your lawyers understand the financial and strategic concerns of the business?
What metrics are you using to measure the performance of your department and its employees?
Do you use models to assess risk, performance, etc.?
What were your biggest challenges and biggest wins?
As the son of Indian immigrants, I felt privileged and honored to serve in the historic Obama administration. Leading a $225 million budget, 1,000-employee organization … allowed me to gain valuable executive leadership and management experience that would have been impossible to obtain as a partner in a law firm.
The biggest challenge for any senior executive is leading and managing a diffuse workforce effectively and efficiently. Being a political appointee makes that doubly challenging. Civil servants see appointees come and go, so they can either follow the executive appointee’s lead or wait him or her out. I wanted to make a difference during my short time in government, so I resolved to lead the agency instead of being led by it.
To make that happen, I focused on culture, people, strategy and financial performance. I learned the business in short order and executed a 120-day plan that required full employee and customer engagement. I visited with all of our service centers, met with divisions, communicated with employees weekly, and spoke to customers and other stakeholders.
I first tackled the culture, not only for purposes of effecting change, but also to make sure that any value I created would last beyond my tenure at the agency. I am proud of fostering a culture committed to excellence, high performance and accountability.
On the people side, we touted and rewarded success, while holding folks accountable. We provided a number of developmental opportunities for people and broke up the good old boys network that existed at the agency, thereby freeing up new opportunities for a number of talented individuals.
I launched a three-prong strategy aimed at building our brand, building our people and streamlining our operations, which helped create a high-performance culture, strengthen morale and improve performance.
We achieved or exceeded regional and national performance metrics. We also increased market share, revenue and gross margin in the FAS business unit. With respect to real estate, we increased gross revenue, fee revenue and net operating income. We even streamlined operations by cutting red tape, which improved cycle times and productivity on a number of fronts.
Last, but not least, we successfully implemented many of President Obama’s priorities, such as those pertaining to veteran hiring and sustainability. By the time I left, more than 70 percent of our new hires in the region were vets, approximately 35 percent of whom were disabled. Through the implementation of innovative strategies on sustainability, we reduced carbon emissions attributable to the supply chain, fuel consumption in the fleet and energy use in the real estate portfolio. I could go on and on with wins, all of which the American people and folks at GSA should be very proud of.
At Euramax you also are in charge of human resources. How do you evaluate your team? Best practices?
I evaluate my team based on customer service and execution. Each person has a performance plan that is agreed to by the supervisor and employee at the beginning of the year. The performance plan includes goals, objectives, and an individual development plan that pertains to training and developmental needs.
The goals and objectives tie back to the company’s strategy and their respective client’s strategy. I’ve also linked a portion of each HR Business Professional’s overall performance to her business unit’s financial performance; this ensures alignment so both the client and HR Business Professional share responsibility for the performance of the business unit. I believe performance plans that reward individual performance and teamwork yield the best results.
Providing formal reviews one or two times per year is important for managing people and performance, but leaders should endeavor to provide feedback on a regular, ongoing basis. Ultimately, an employee should not be surprised at the formal mid-year and end-of-year reviews.
Recognizing people with spot awards, thank you notes, and other words or symbols of appreciation are also important to creating a high-performance culture. One should hold poor performers accountable by putting them on performance improvement plans quickly and moving them out of the organization if they don’t improve.
As to best practices, I encourage the following:
• Encourage open and honest communication
• Provide regular, ongoing feedback
• Begin every dialogue with positive feedback, followed up by constructive criticism
• Be clear and specific
• Don’t backpedal in your conversations about performance—stay firm and resolute
• Be fact-based in your evaluation
• Minimize subjectivity
• Manager and employee should take ownership of their respective careers and development
• Healthy manager/employee relationships involve upward feedback too
Like many other GCs, you oversee departments outside the legal arena. How do you manage and what are some of your best management practices?
Structure and people are key to success. You need to have the appropriate organizational structure to manage complexity, preferably one that minimizes the number of folks who directly report to you. Although hierarchy is important to managing this complexity, it should never get in the way of mutual respect, transparency and candor, all of which are essential to managing up, down and around.
It’s also important to have great people. I believe in empowering them and pushing decision-making to the lowest level possible, while holding them accountable for their actions or inaction. Encourage people to fail fast, fail forward, while making it clear that mistakes shouldn’t be made twice. Play to your team members’ strengths, while neutralizing their weaknesses. Taking a peanut butter approach to management is futile. I truly believe in managing to the person, so you can harness their potential as effectively as possible.
It’s also important to stay in touch with key leaders on a weekly—if not more regular—basis, meet with departments on a monthly basis, and engage with all of your employees on a regular basis. Use dashboards, reports and other tools to monitor performance, while making yourself available on a moment’s notice to deal with important issues immediately.
What is your greatest challenge?
The organizational decisions that I make or that I’m involved in making have an impact on peoples’ lives, namely our employees. Accordingly, I frame all my decisions through a lens that places our employees and their families front and center. Whether the issue pertains to benefits, risk management, legal, salary planning, the fleet, or any other issue or program at the company, I think about the impact that a particular decision will have on our employees.
Some decisions are especially exciting to announce, such as launching a decentralized spot award program, being able to keep health care premiums flat from 2013 to 2014 or providing a new program allowing employees to purchase appliances and other products without a credit check and via payroll deduction. However, you’re also charged with making tough decisions pertaining to risk management or one’s position or role at the company. In both situations, I’ve learned that empathy, morality and integrity are critical to leading and managing effectively.
Why did you move from public health to law?
Although I obtained a master’s in public health, I never pursued a career in public health. Originally, I thought I would practice health care law. During my time as a summer associate, I quickly realized that I preferred mergers and acquisitions, venture capital transactions and technology deals.
That being said, I leveraged my health policy and management focus to work on some exciting health care deals. I also used my public health background to guide me during my service on the Board of Advisers at the School of Public Health at the University of Georgia and as a public servant in the Obama administration.
SHYAM K. REDDY
Title: Chief administrative officer, general counsel, corporate secretary
Hometown: Dublin, Ga.
Education: Emory University, B.A. in public health; Emory University School of Public Health, master’s in public health; University of Georgia School of Law, J.D., 2000
Hobbies: Golf, cooking, politics and policy
Family: Renee Dye and Beckett Reddy (almost 5)
Historical figure he most admires: Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.