Being a CEO is personal, a part of your life, part of your personal roots. I understand that. My job is to help you do your job best, and achieve personal success.

— Jim Johnston, Johnston Company

Who Has Engaged Jim?

CEO NameIndustryHighlight
Peter LemaySoftware"For years and years I looked to Jim as the one to make me think about the value of my business."
Sandra SerkesOutsourced Services"Jim was a voice of reason and calm. He helped us to be more empowered and intentional toward doing what planning we could and being nimble at adapting to change."
Jerry ShafirBranded Foods"Jim was the listener. He stretched me and my team, and focused me on what required action."
Tom MahoneyRetail"Jim established without doubt that we as owners were accountable to each other, and that we were each heard and understood."
Grant BennettAdvanced Materials"Jim finds a positive way to make sure improvements actually occur, helps a CEO focus on what really needs to be done, and generates value beyond what is anticipated."
David StricklerOutsourced Services"Jim was the only person who really listened to me well. He had no pre-existing agenda except to help me, and he shaped me into a better CEO."
Joe Della MorteSoftware"I could call time-out, retire to a safe space, talk to Jim and come back feeling confident about my next steps."
Ed HastingsWeb Development"When I compare OHO to our peers, I see we still have the unusual stability and discipline that Jim instilled. But the greatest value was when Jim and I stayed after the meeting to talk about what it all meant."
Brad SterlBranded Foods"Jim was a confidant. Nobody else could be the person I could talk with in the same way. He’s a bit of a therapist and he’s operated inside dozens of businesses."
Tom MartinSoftware"Jim helped me to develop my direct reports, create clear expectations of their work, and hold them accountable."
Gary BrobergEngineering"Jim’s knack is to give feedback that is critical but not insulting."
Paul GriffithsWeb Development"Jim created accountability, and after our financial reviews, he and I would debrief about what it all meant. "
J K HuangComputer Hardware"Jim had just the right amount of toughness in getting me to face the problems in the business."
Eric SonnichsenEngineering"What Jim and I did together was solve puzzles."
John ElaConsulting"Jim gave the Mahoney family owners the preparation they needed to use the board appropriately."

For years and years I looked to Jim as the one to make me think about the value of my business.

Peter Lemay, CEO and Founder, Automated Business Development (acquired by PNC in 2000), Software Industry

Peter’s Perspective

Our internal valuation of the business was $1M in 1996 when Jim’s engagement began. When we sold to PNC Financial four years later, the valuation was $20M. Jim played a key role both before and after the sale. His recurring meetings with me and my management team gave us discipline and insight that made a difference. We learned never to cancel a meeting with Jim. He helped us progress beyond just putting out fires every day.

The forecasting and tracking model Jim used helped me see my business with clarity. It made us look at hiring, the sales pipeline, pricing, and cash flow. This was especially helpful for the sales pipeline. We grew every year for nine years. Jim’s mentoring made it possible. Without him keeping me on the straight and narrow, I wouldn’t have been successful. For years and years I looked to Jim as the one to make me think about the value of my business. Our bonus structure was based on valuation and this got the whole team aligned.

— Peter Lemay, CEO and Founder, Automated Business Development, Boston, MA

Jim’s Perspective

ABD was the most profitable business I’ve ever been associated with. Peter founded it and ran it until the sale to PNC (a top-ten U.S. bank), and for several years after. He told me recently that ABD had the highest revenue per employee and profit per employee of any unit across all of PNC.

With Peter, I often found myself doing a lot more listening than talking. It took my full attention to keep up with Peter—he was usually two steps ahead of the obvious. But I did listen, deeply. When I mentioned to him that I sometimes hardly said a word in our sessions, he said, “But I watched your face. I could tell when you were thinking I was going down the wrong path.” It worked. After ABD, Peter engaged me in two other businesses as his advisor.

— Jim Johnston, CFO and Advisor, 1996-2004

Outsourced Services Industry

Jim was a voice of reason and calm. He helped us to be more empowered and intentional toward doing what planning we could and being nimble at adapting to change.

Sandra Serkes, Co-founder and CEO, Valora Technologies, Outsourced Services Industry

Sandra’s Perspective

Even now, Jim’s imprint is all over Valora from his years with us. Every day, we use the comprehensive business model Jim built to track and to forecast. It’s a core essential tool. In the earlier days, planning was painful at Valora because doing it served to highlight how little we were in control. At the time, the planning process only increased my sense of helplessness, chaos, and lack of control.. Jim brought us a long way toward doing what planning we could and being nimble at adapting to change.

While we used to depend on processing documents ourselves, from individual litigation cases, we have transformed our revenue model to be driven by long-term relationships with corporate legal departments who subscribe to our software. In our company culture we still see the remnants of the old days when we all felt reluctant to commit to a future course of any kind. Now we can be more empowered and intentional. Jim was a voice of reason and calm. He helped me realize I was an “adrenaline junky” and that although I could thrive in adrenaline mode, my organization could not. Now, I satisfy my need for adrenaline by being an industry guru. I’m a visible speaker and opinion leader in my industry.

— Sandra Serkes, Co-founder and CEO, Valora Technologies, Billerica, MA

Jim’s Perspective

Valora develops sophisticated software and a sophisticated methodology to make sense of the vast piles of printed and electronic documents that undergird modern litigation and discovery, and indeed, corporate document management in general. In the days when a single gigantic litigation could keep Valora busy for months, our revenue was exceedingly spiky. When it came to forecasting and planning, we always had to fight the temptation to just throw up our hands and say, “whatever will be will be.” Valora is where I learned to see that constructing possible future scenarios is valuable—even if the scenario is sure to be wrong. It’s easier to pivot from a coherent worked-out scenario than to pivot from no scenario at all. Sandy has that core capability and plans to someday write a book about pivots.

— Jim Johnston, CFO and Advisor, 2003-2008

Branded Foods Industry

Jim was the listener. He stretched me and my team, and focused me on what required action.

Jerry Shafir, Founder and CEO, Kettle Cuisine (acquired by Arlon Capital in 2011), Branded Foods Industry

Jerry’s Perspective

Working with Jim was huge. He gave me a process orientation I could use to work on big goals. He stretched me and my team. He single-handedly launched my board of directors in 2002. Everything changed then. Jim taught me the value to pursue in board meetings and managed our preparation for them. I’ve been on other boards since and appreciate more now that our board meetings at Kettle were special.

My one-on-ones with Jim were also great. As CEO, you are lonely and there are some issues you can’t talk about with your team or even your board. He was the listener, the note taker. It really helped me. With Jim, I could lay out the issues and revisit them through several iterations. He focused me on what required action. It was Jim who helped me understand that I process decisions best by talking through them.

— Jerry Shafir, Founder and CEO, Kettle Cuisine, Lynn, MA

Jim’s Perspective

Kettle Cuisine pioneered high-quality refrigerated soup for restaurants and retail stores. Jerry started small and did all the jobs himself. At the company party in 2011 celebrating 25 years and the sale to Arlon Capital, I mentioned to Jerry’s wife that I’d been involved for half the company’s life. She said, “Yeah. The easy half.”

In 2001 we chose the goals of growth and exit that we wanted to reach. We recruited the board that would help us achieve those goals. From 2002 to 2011 we held 43 board meetings. The outside board members, Fred Alper and Ron Tarantino, always brought our focus back to what we had told them we wanted to achieve. During my time at Kettle Cuisine I did just about every role I’ve done at any client, and it is the longest engagement I’ve had—12 years. During this time, revenue quintupled, with no outside funding.

— Jim Johnston, CFO, Board Facilitator, Search Professional, and Advisor, 1999-2011

Retail Industry

Jim established without doubt that we were accountable to each other as owners, and that we were each heard and understood.

Tom Mahoney, Former Managing Partner, Mahoney’s Garden Centers, Retail Industry

Tom’s Perspective

This year, 2020, is our best ever. Jim had a big role in the very educational experience I’ve been through since 2016. Jim launched our first board of directors to include non-family members. He taught us, the six family owners across two generations, that owner, manager, and board member are three distinct roles. He taught us the appropriate role of the CEO. He reminded us that the potential value of our business made it worthwhile to do what it took to achieve good governance. Through three years of meetings with me one-on-one and with my family members, Jim’s careful attention and detailed meeting notes established beyond doubt that we were accountable to each other and to Jim our coach, and that we were each heard and understood. He had a stick-to-itiveness and a balancing of the constituencies that we needed—there were so many times our process could have broken down.

— Tom Mahoney, Former Managing Partner, Mahoney’s Garden Centers, Winchester, MA

Jim’s Perspective

Mahoney’s Garden Centers is the largest independent garden center chain in New England. I felt from the start that the Mahoney family had tremendous strength, as a family, and that they owned a valuable business that could be a blessing to them and a source of wealth that would far outweigh their salaries. The three unifying goals we kept coming back to were strengthening the family, adapting to the loss of the founder, Paul Mahoney, Sr., and building an even better business.

It turned out that all family members were willing to make big changes in order to reach these goals. It was important to design the board’s role and get full agreement on it before we ever talked to any board candidate. Once we started talking to candidates, it was important to choose those who would demonstrate the value of board governance. We invited John Ela, Jim Feinson, and Linda Moulton onto the board. They are succeeding.

— Jim Johnston, Advisor to the Mahoney Family and Mahoney’s Garden Centers , 2016-2019

Advanced Materials Industry

Jim finds a positive way to make sure improvements actually occur, helps a CEO focus on what really needs to be done, and generates value beyond what is anticipated.

Grant Bennett, CEO, CPS Technologies (NASDAQ ticker CPSH), Advanced Materials Industry

Grant’s Perspective

I am a fan of Jim Johnston. In the last eight years he has conducted two CFO searches for us – in both cases generating value far beyond identifying and hiring the right candidate. He took the time and had the sensitivity to deeply understand the board and leadership team. He has a unique ability to grasp the totality of the issues – both the people aspects and technical mechanics – and help others to see much clearer priorities in a direct and concise way. He then finds a positive way to make sure improvements actually occur. Jim earned the respect of the board and his recommendations had great weight with us. What makes Jim a great coach is his ability to help a CEO sort through and focus on what really needs to be done, and then hold a CEO accountable in a positive, affirming way. Jim is particularly valuable to a CEO who needs to bring together an effective management team.

— Grant Bennett, CEO, CPS Technologies, Norton, MA

Jim’s Perspective

CPS is one of two suppliers worldwide of advanced aluminum silicon carbide components. My first engagement with CPS started as a CFO search, which included meeting with the board and CEO and advising them on the organization as a whole. More than in most cases, decisions at CPS about the CEO’s role would affect the design of the CFO role. I interviewed each board member and each management team member. The second search, eight years later, built on the first. Since my method for doing a search focuses on first gaining clarity and alignment on the desired trajectory of the business, I got to see Grant, his board, and his management team interacting with each other in a very open, constructive way. Grant feels extraordinary and steady commitment to the people of CPS.

— Jim Johnston, Retained to Search for a CFO, 2010 and 2018

Outsourced Services Industry

Jim was the only person who really listened to me well. He had no pre-existing agenda except to help me, and he shaped me into a better CEO.

David Strickler, CEO, Spencer Technologies, Outsourced Services Industry

David’s Perspective

As a young CEO, I admired Jim and his experience. He was great at sorting a complex situation and providing thought provoking guidance. Jim’s way is calming, almost therapeutic. Where I was whimsical, he was extremely organized, calm, and deliberate. He helped to create structure and developed my self-awareness. He could walk me through a process — “start here, end here” — to get to a fantastic result. I still use some of his procedures when I hire.

During years when I needed help the most, Jim was the only person who really listened to me well. He shaped me into being a better CEO. He was not offensive or bombastic. He is honest and had no pre-existing agenda, except to help me, and that is refreshing. Jim did insist that I keep my appointments with him faithfully; I resisted this at the time but now, with more maturity, I see the wisdom of it. It was a lesson in managing my time and priorities as a CEO. In 2019, my business was almost three times the size it was 15 years ago, and I’m pleased to credit Jim for being part of Spencer’s success.

— David Strickler, CEO, Spencer Technologies, Medway, MA

Jim’s Perspective

One of Spencer Technologies’ venture capital investors introduced me to Dave. This business is urgent, all the time. Spencer designs and installs point-of-sale systems, digital displays, and audio systems for large retailers in North America and Europe. The company deploys hundreds of people to work onsite at retailers, mostly at night and on a tight schedule. The urgency and unpredictability can lead to a culture of constant emergency and expediting, yet over time Dave has formed a company that is systematic and efficient while still being responsive in the moment. My strength is in analyzing the best of several possible choices (one CEO called it “the mind of the CFO”). Dave’s strength is in creating the possible choices in the first place. We complement each other. Dave engaged me initially as his advisor, then to do a search for his first CFO, then to continue as his advisor and also do a search for a VP of operations.

— Jim Johnston, Advisor and Retained Search Professional, 2003-2010 and 2012

Software Industry

I could call time-out, retire to a safe space, talk to Jim and come back feeling confident about my next steps.

Joe Della Morte, President, DSP Software Engineering (acquired by Tellabs in 1999), Software Industry

Joe’s Perspective

I was initially reluctant to hire a coach. What CEO wants to be told that they need to be coached? But then I thought “Tom Brady had a coach. If a superstar has a coach, a CEO might need a coach as well.” After hiring Jim my biggest hesitation was, “What is this guy’s agenda, really? Why is he emphasizing this or that?” But I soon realized that Jim didn’t have a hidden agenda. The fact that he is such a transparent, honest guy is what makes him a great CEO coach.

Jim offered tools, discipline, and accountability. He looked at things from a foundational business level and challenged my thinking. He kept us true to what we decided along the way and provided a steady hand on the tiller. With the varied interests of those who surround me as CEO, Jim became a trusted sounding board. He provided a safe place for me to discuss critical issues. I could call time-out, retire to a safe space, talk to Jim and come back feeling confident about my next steps. Because he was not in the politics of the situation, Jim helped resolve differing points of view between me and the other founders. I was an optimist and an opportunist, but some of my team were super cautious. It was easy for me to lose objectivity. Jim kept me sane. If a CEO gives the invitation, Jim will perform.

— Joe Della Morte, President, DSP Software Engineering, Bedford, MA

Jim’s Perspective

Nearly every employee of DSPSE was a software engineer. Their expertise was scarce and in high demand. DSPSE navigated between three models not often seen in one company: providing supplemental staffing to a large semi-conductor firm; doing large fixed-price projects to develop one-off custom solutions; and selling their own specialized software at $50K to $100K per copy from a small catalog. Pricing was very subtle. Sometimes it made sense to deeply discount a project, in order to get associated license revenue. Sometimes it made sense to deeply discount a license, in order to get project revenue. Through it all was a fundamental tension over what our main aim was: to develop our own intellectual property and sell licenses from a catalog, or to deliver profitable one-off projects. As CEO, Joe preserved an intensely loyal and open culture through very volatile ups and downs in revenue. The sale to Tellabs was a bonanza that followed soon after a severe revenue drought.

— Jim Johnston, CFO 1996-1999

Web Development Industry

When I compare OHO to our peers, I see we still have the unusual stability and discipline that Jim instilled. But the greatest value was when Jim and I stayed after the meeting to talk about what it all meant.

Ed Hastings, President, OHO Interactive, Web Development Industry

Ed’s Perspective

I worked with another coach, before Jim. He was very empathetic, but I needed an experienced, unfiltered, honest perspective. Jim provided that guidance by helping me to sort through and prioritize what was most important. He confidentially brings a seasoned perspective from his experience delivering work inside dozens of organizations.

Jim helped with problems regarding financials, operational reporting, structuring sales, our hiring process, client concentration, and annual planning to name a few. We still have monthly financial reviews on Jim’s pattern and we use the forecasting and tracking model he built. Jim helped me know when to listen, to direct, or to prescribe. If Jim writes a book, I suggest this title: The Craft of the CEO. When I compare OHO to our peers, I see that we have unusual stability and discipline because Jim installed it and it has stuck. What Jim always did was help me be a better CEO. But the greatest value was when Jim and I stayed behind—after the meeting—to talk about what it all meant. What Jim is best at is asking questions, untangling the crisis, and bringing calm when the company feels like it may be falling apart.

— Ed Hastings, President, OHO Interactive, Somerville, MA

Jim’s Perspective

OHO is a digital marketing agency specializing in user research, higher education websites, content strategy, and digital marketing. OHO is an intensely project-centric company. We developed great tools and processes for managing fixed-price projects and reaching completion. I had worked as CFO at two previous companies with Ed: one where he was the second-in-command and then one he founded and ran. OHO, where Ed bought a majority stake, was our third outing together. At OHO, Ed created the business model, the organization structure, and the CEO role, and then adapted through several iterations.

— Jim Johnston, CFO, 2007-2015

Branded Foods Industry

Jim was a confidant. Nobody else could be the person I could talk with in the same way. He’s a bit of a therapist and he’s operated inside dozens of businesses.

Brad Sterl, Founder and CEO, Rustic Crust/American Flatbread, Branded Foods Industry

Brad’s Perspective

Jim was my CFO for ten years, during a time we grew quickly and acquired American Flatbread. Jim built a tracking and forecasting model we still use. The model is driver-based, with people, SKU placements in retail stores, capex, and departmental spending. He ran our monthly financial review meetings and attended all our board meetings, with VC investors. After a fire destroyed the plant, it was Jim’s collaboration with me and our forecasting model that established credibility with the insurance company of the projected profit for the year which made it possible to rebuild the entire company in 30 days and then rebuild another entire facility in 4 months.

One-on-one meetings he and I had were, however, the most valuable. Nobody else could be the person I could talk with in the same way. He was a confidant. We talked about my direct reports, my investors, the board meetings, the financial model of my company, my role as CEO, and the funding rounds. Many people want to be coaches, but they don’t have Jim’s experiences operating inside dozens of businesses. He’s a little bit of a therapist and he knows business.

— Brad Sterl, Founder and CEO, Rustic Crust/American Flatbread

Jim’s Perspective

Brad has a comprehensive grasp of the business at all levels, from detailed product cost and SKU placements in stores to big-picture trends. He began in the restaurant business, then launched Rustic Crust with angel funding. Later he raised several rounds of venture capital and acquired the Vermont frozen pizza company American Flatbread. Through many reverses, including the fire in 2014 that destroyed his plant, he always has had a plan and worked that plan energetically. He insisted I build a model of retail velocity that I didn’t think could be built—but we did build it and got tremendous use out of it. Revenue is up 40% year-to-date in 2020 over 2019.

— Jim Johnston, CFO, 2007-2018

Software Industry

Jim helped me to develop my direct reports, create clear expectations of their work, and hold them accountable.

Tom Martin, CEO, Glance Networks, Software Industry

Tom’s Perspective

It was the first time the buck stopped with me as a CEO and finding a coach was on the to-do list from the beginning. I seek out information, am intensely curious, and I’ve learned everything on the job, through experience. Our conversations were really productive. It was easy to be inquisitive and interact with Jim. I brought a level of vulnerability about where the business was broken that helped us look under every rock and let Jim get right to the issues. Jim was able to distill things down eloquently and succinctly in a really salient and poignant way. That was so reassuring and valuable to me.

Jim had one-on-ones with me and my leadership team. I’m a perfectionist and a procrastinator and I was hesitant to tell people to get on board. Jim saw things for what they were and was a bit of a therapist in softly teaching me ways I could be more effective. Jim helped me realize when I let others transfer “the monkey,” or their responsibility, to me. He created a sense of urgency and kept me moving. He helped me to leverage my leadership team, clarify their roles, develop them, hold them accountable, and join the conversation with them to discover the real issues and find solutions.

— Tom Martin, CEO, Glance Networks, Wakefield, MA

Jim’s Perspective

Glance brings call centers into the 21st century by giving the user and the agent a view of the user’s screen. Customers include Intuit, TurboTax, Constant Contact, Axos Bank, and Lord Abbett. At the start, I was advisor to Rich Baker, founder of Glance. When Rich hired Tom, a first-time CEO, I became Tom’s advisor and his CFO. An example of a monkey being on the wrong back was when, at first, Tom prepared each month to explain Glance’s P&L and balance sheet to me, as his CFO. We put that monkey on my back. When a corporate partner invested and got a board observer seat, I created the design of board meetings, facilitated preparation, and attended board meetings. Four years later, Tom brought in a new CFO to put in triple the hours. I continued as CEO coach and in the board facilitator role.

— Jim Johnston, CFO, Advisor, Board Facilitator 2008 and 2013-2019

Engineering Industry

Jim’s knack is to give feedback that is critical but not insulting.

Gary Broberg, Founder and CEO, Practical Applications, Engineering Industry

Gary’s Perspective

I engaged Jim initially to help organize my financial systems. The process that Jim uses is extremely revealing, producing a raw perspective of the organization. His knack is to give feedback that is critical but not insulting. As a result, we completely overhauled our organization and leveraged Jim’s model to grow the business and significantly improve profits. Now, ten years later, I think of Jim often and how he helped me build a successful organization. I will always be grateful.

— Gary Broberg, Founder and CEO, Practical Applications, Woburn, MA

Jim’s Perspective

During our years working together, Gary had three businesses in one: recurring on-site services, semi-custom manufacturing of large pieces of proprietary equipment, and consulting and advisor work based on sophisticated technical and regulatory expertise. Each business fed the other, and each one had distinct financial and cultural requirements. In our work together, we succeeded in understanding this. We then developed an empowered manager for the on-site services business, which we came to see as the most profitable, scalable, and stable of the three.

— Jim Johnston, CFO and Advisor, 2011-2014 and 2016

Web Development Industry

Jim created accountability, and after our financial reviews, he and I would debrief about what it all meant.

Paul Griffiths, Founder and CEO, MedTouch (acquired by Perficient in 2020), Web Development Industry

Paul’s Perspective

We would put together a monthly financial review with the management team. After, Jim and I would debrief about what it all meant. The biggest value came from Jim’s meeting notes, his follow-up on action items, and the way he created accountability. After working with Jim, I went through the Harvard Business School program for owners and presidents. I became a coach in that program. I learned that entrepreneurs deal in self-deception. We don’t like limitations. It’s what makes us entrepreneurs. But the finances are the reality check. Jim’s background as a CFO positions him uniquely as a coach to CEOs. What is the case for his services? It’s that a CEO wants to believe the sales VP, but shouldn’t always. Depersonalizing is important. Objectivity is important.

— Paul Griffiths, Founder and CEO, MedTouch, Somerville, MA

Jim’s Perspective

MedTouch designs websites to support branding and high-quality interactions, especially with patients. Paul always said he and I would write a book together. This reflected his interest in solving the general problem as well as MedTouch’s particular instance of it. In those years we had a strong sense of building the plane while we were flying it. Paul was willing and able to redesign his company as it grew and changed. It makes a lot of sense to me that in the time since then, Paul has built a much larger business and found an eager buyer—and has become a coach to other entrepreneurs.

— Jim Johnston, CFO and Advisor, 2009-2011

Computer Hardware Industry

Jim had just the right amount of toughness in getting me to face the problems in the business.

J K Huang, Founder and CEO, Ferro Solutions, Computer Hardware Industry

J K’s Perspective

Jim was helpful. I looked forward to talking with him and wasn’t afraid of saying something wrong. He had just the right amount of toughness in getting me to face the problems in the business. He felt almost like a family member. He is the ideal coach for someone from another country, for scientists, and for businesses without big funding. I also got help from MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service, but Jim was more help.

— J K Huang, Founder and CEO, Ferro Solutions, Woburn, MA

Jim’s Perspective

Ferro had fundamental technology and a three-year Phase II SBIR grant. The focus was on wirelessly powering tiny electronic packages mounted on lab mice for brain research. Though Ferro was never more than eight people, its strategy, business model, and collaboration with MIT, industry partners, and the channel were subtle and sophisticated. We had to be very creative as we moved forward to commercialize the technology.

— Jim Johnston, Advisor, 2013-2016

Engineering Industry

What Jim and I did together was solve puzzles.

Eric Sonnichsen, Founder and CEO, Test Devices (acquired by Schenck in 2017), Engineering Industry

Eric’s Perspective

The CEO group I belonged to for many years (TEC, now known as Vistage) was very, very helpful. Jim’s ideal CEO clients would be the same ones who would be good members of a CEO group: candid, striving for improvement, open to change and personal growth, good listeners, and with high integrity. What Jim and I did together was solve puzzles. We tuned the financial model of my business and got more insight; we created an agreement with the president I hired. The agreement included a path to ownership for the president and an escape hatch—which I used—for me. We launched a board of directors with three capable outside members. We got some things right and some we did not.

— Eric Sonnichsen, Founder and CEO, Test Devices, Hudson, MA

Jim’s Perspective

Eric founded Test Devices and ran it for 30 years. He is an enthusiastic genius in mechanical engineering and a CEO by necessity. His business—building enormous spin rigs to sell to aerospace companies, and also operating the rigs as a service to other aerospace companies—has always been highly cyclical. Eric piloted the company through those ups and downs, doing the CEO job because he had to, and all the while developed a loyal and competent team that still runs the business today, after a successful sale to a large competitor. Now Eric has set himself up to continue to work on leading-edge problems in electric motor technology.

— Jim Johnston, CFO, Advisor, and Board of Directors Facilitator, 2005-2009

Consulting Industry

Jim gave the Mahoney family owners the preparation they needed to use the board appropriately.

John Ela, Owner, Ela Management Group; CEO Coach, Management Consultant, Strategic Advisor Board Chair, Mahoney’s Garden Centers, Consulting Industry

John’s Perspective

The CEO gets all the hard problems, so there are new challenges all the time. I was CEO of five companies in succession from my 20s to my 50s. Then I reinvented myself as a board member, a consultant, and a coach of CEOs. I make a big distinction between being a consultant (who performs tasks to produce solutions) and a coach (who helps the CEO be more effective and develop Strategic Leadership). I find that the top issues for most CEOs are their relationships with the people who report directly to them and overall strategy. Jim’s board creation process gave the Mahoney Family the preparation to use a board appropriately, designed the role and rules for this particular board, brought me in as one of three new non-family board members, and saw us through our first year as a new board. This allowed me to see his work in developing a Board and working as a consultant to the company alongside me during the transition.

— John Ela, Owner, Ela Management Group; CEO Coach, Management Consultant, Strategic Advisor Board Chair, Mahoney’s Garden Centers, Winchester, MA

Jim’s Perspective

John was one of ten finalists for board membership at Mahoney’s. He, like me, is a CEO coach. He’s told me many times that CEO coaching cannot be sold first and delivered later—it has to be delivered beginning with the first conversation. He demonstrated this approach in the very first meeting with the Mahoney family. With courage, tact, and perception, he began to act like a great board member while he was still only a candidate. Since accepting the invitation in late 2017, he has played a crucial role on the Mahoney’s board.

— Jim Johnston, Advisor to the Mahoney Family and Their Business, 2016-2019