We sat down with Pat Hardin, Business Manager Standard Calcium Products at Mississippi Lime Company (“MLC”), to discuss how HBM’s Accelerated Development program prepared him for his new role at MLC.
PH: My career path is somewhat atypical of a traditional HBM Associate. I spent four years at MLC as a financial analyst before joining HBM’s Accelerated Development program for two years. I recently moved back to MLC as the Business Manager for Standard Calcium Products in the Sales and Marketing group. The path I took offered a tremendous learning experience as I was able to obtain a holistic view of how a company operates as well as an appreciation for the portfolio level strategy. Sitting in my finance bubble, I did not have this exposure on a regular basis, and I am grateful for the opportunity HBM provided as I believe I am now more effective in my role and better prepared for the rest of my career.
In my current role at MLC, I am the business manager for Standard Calcium Products. I analyze internal and publicly available industry publications to identify trends in the marketplace as well as internal opportunities to better serve our customers by partnering with operations, supply chain and our quality group. I work closely with each business unit to determine the most cost-effective and efficient way to get the products to our customers. My ultimate goal is to ensure alignment between our pricing strategies and our operations team so our customers receive quality products at a competitive price.
How did you prepare for your transition from HBM to MLC? Did you continue on a project you had already been working on?
PH: HBM’s Accelerated Development program is structured to have associates work on both acquisition analysis as well as portfolio company assignments. In many cases, HBM’s associates naturally transition over to the portfolio company they are working with as the managers see the quality of work the associate is capable of producing. This was the case for me as well as I was working with MLC on developing a five-year strategic plan and a production analysis. Both of these projects gave me significant exposure to the company and allowed me to display my strengths to colleagues that I hadn’t previously worked closely with.
My transition was relatively seamless. At the time I was offered the position at MLC, I was knee deep in a project for another HBM portfolio company – Schafer Industries. Collectively, we devised a game plan allowing me to complete some of the projects I was working on and transition the remaining Schafer project over to another HBM associate. In about a month, we wrapped up the transition enabling me to dive right into my new role at MLC.
How did HBM’s Accelerated Development program prepare you for your current role?
PH: My time at HBM opened my eyes to how discrete functional projects affect a company’s entire operations. For example, a project in sales will affect finance, operations, quality assurance and the supply chain – a ripple effect of sorts. I learned communication is vital as each group needs to be apprised of what the other is doing to ensure the products can be produced, pricing is accurate, and it can be delivered timely.
Because all of my prior experience had been in a variety of finance roles, I had a somewhat narrow view of business. However, at HBM, I gained exposure to functional areas that I was not familiar with. I now have a better appreciation for how businesses fit into the broader market from HBM’s robust process that sets the framework for evaluating acquisition targets.
What are three attributes of the Accelerated Development program that you found valuable and would like to share with MBA students considering an opportunity at HBM?
PH: Reflecting on my time at HBM, I would say that my three most beneficial learning experiences were exposure to how a company operates, responsibility for managing projects and flexibility in how each project is approached.
Exposure: In the Accelerated Development program, associates are encouraged to roll up their sleeves and dive into the details of many different parts of a business providing the associate with an amazing learning experience. I believe many people are similar to me in that they have a siloed view of business regardless of what functional area they cut their teeth in. In HBM’s program, associates gain broad exposure to how companies operate.
Responsibility: HBM is a flat organization and team-centric. Senior leaders expect associates to be experts on their assigned projects. It wasn’t unusual for Mike DeCola, HBM CEO, to stop by my desk with questions related the project I was assigned, with the expectation that I would have the information and insights to best answer any questions related to the project. HBM’s culture offers tremendous leadership opportunity and develops confidence by providing ample exposure to senior level executives. Associates are given guidance but then are expected to take the reins and drive the project forward.
Flexibility: As I mentioned, associates are expected to be the subject matter expert for their assigned projects. They are given direction but have the flexibility to approach projects as they feel will best solve the business problem.
The flexibility teaches associates how to manage a process without a pre-defined structure. I didn’t have an appreciation for this before my time as an associate. In finance, most processes are structured – books are closed at the end of the reporting period, payroll is processed at the end of the month, for example. Flexibility took me outside my comfort zone as I had to figure out how to achieve favorable results without a pre-determined framework.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
PH: I cannot express enough how HBM’s Accelerated Development program prepared me for my current role at MLC. The experience presenting to top-level executives on a project I designed the process for was invaluable. As a young employee, it takes courage to present to a room of senior-level executives. It also instills a level of confidence where you can say, “I belong in this room.”