It takes one to know one -- and Ron Gerevas knows what is takes to be a CEO.
As a former CEO himself and current partner at the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, his job is to recruit and help companies fill leadership roles.
Climbing to the top of the corporate ladder did not stem from a career plan or stellar grades, according to Gerevas.
“At a very early age, I learned when I got into the business world you could either work hard, you could work smart or you could pull closer together,” he told California State University at San Marcos students during Wednesday's “In the Executive’s Chair” course.
This advice “not only has to do with an organization, but it also has to do with your own self,” Gerevas added.
While he spent most of his undergraduate career as an “exploratory major,” he moved on with a mindset of discipline.
“I figured the only way I could get to where I wanted to get, which was to be successful and move forward, was to work harder than the rest of my colleagues,” he said.
A level of participation in leadership, community or other extracurricular activities is important early in a career and helped Gerevas land his first job.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in public administration and an MBA, Gerevas began his career in advertising with the J. Walter Thompson Co.
Gerevas utilized his undergraduate degree as Presidential Appointee of the Ford Administration, serving as a director of volunteer programs including the Peace Corps, VISTA and Foster Grandparents.
As for his executive portfolio, it includes roles as president and COO of Jenny Craig International and president and CEO of Heidrick & Struggles.
Gerevas rejoined the firm in 1998 after a brief departure as partner with the responsibility of searching for executive talent. He said a leader should embody traits of communication, integrity and honesty.
Referencing is difficult in the business world with a gray area regarding what a person has done and has claimed to do, according to Gerevas. What cannot be quantified can be clarified through a reference, he said.
Boards of directors have also become more challenging to fill as they recruit for specializations according to board’s needs, Gerevas said. He said the flexibility of the individual and the search for higher levels of sophistication have also become challenges in boardrooms.
Reflecting on his time in the service industry, Gerevas has moved onto new ventures when he found he was no longer learning and growing.
“You only live once -- why live with a loser?” he said, adding, “If you’re going to be on that boat, let’s make sure it’s going to a destination.”
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