Head of growing company finds it's time to expand management

One on One

July 22, 1991

Loren D. Jensen was a professor at Johns Hopkins University when, in 1973, he left the school to found an environmental service company, EA Engineering, Science and Technology with employees. Last year, he and the board decided that the 750-worker company had grown sufficiently large and complex to warrant hiring a president. Edward V. Lower, a long-time Union Carbide Corp. executive, became president on June 1.

Q. What was it that made you decide it was time to expand the management ranks and bring on a president?

A. Well, we've grown over the last five years, we've grown at a compounded rate of something of the order of 35 percent and revenues are now approaching $60 million a year. We've gone from essentially four offices to 16. We now have jobs from Florida to Alaska.

Q. Was this something you had always planned to do or did something happen that made you think it was necessary?

A. The decision to do it was really a function of me being obviously pushed at getting everything done that needed to be done, and so last summer I met with my board of directors and proposed to them that we set about the task of defining the new job and then finding someone to fill it . . . The whole appointment of a president and the separation of the president's job from the chief executive's job, is, to me, one of evolution. It's a natural time for us to do this. Our complexity could be served very well by it. We're having a lot of fun now. I feel strongly that I need to watch what's going on at the frontiers of the company. I need Ted Lower here to operate, managing the operational aspects on a day-to-day basis.

Q. Is it difficult, as a founder, to give up a piece of the leadership?

A. It wasn't and it isn't difficult for me because I have an exciting job to do, and I guess one way of thinking of my job today, is that it's been too exciting. I've had a little more excitement than I think I bargained for.

Q. We should all have those problems.

A. Yes. It's really been my delight to be able to restructure our organizational units here at corporate to accommodate someone from the outside. First of all, because we need and have benefit in having someone come in from the outside of the company and bring with them a host of experiences in other large companies successfully, not only within national boundaries of the United States but international company. Someone with a, you know, a breadth of experience in a number of areas.

Q. There's not a twinge of the founder in you that says that this company is become too big for me to get my arms around anymore?

A. No. Well, I certainly have that twinge. It's been more than a twinge in the last two or three years. I have genuinely found myself over-committed. But it's a change I'm very willing to make. I know that there is a body of experience and maybe history of people like me not being able to give up control. The reality is that the control in this company is delegated quite directly into the regional businesses that we operate. I have never really had absolute control of this firm, anymore than a managing partner of a big law firm has control of that if he is administrating everything. So my, my, I'm really looking forward to having the luxury of being able to do some of the things that I think I do really well. And with the comfort that somebody at my side is there watching the detail very closely . . .

Q. What advice would you give to another person or company considering a similar expansion of management? What were the warning signs that tipped you off that it was necessary?

A. Struggles to find appointments with employees who are carrying major responsibilities and are serving important jobs. If you have to fight to get the time on your agenda to see people internally, if you find yourself postponing and rescheduling outside business meetings, sometimes with clients, and frequently with investors even, if you're a public company. If you are working hard and you can't accommodate the schedule, and you find yourself at the edge of your preparation for each meeting you're going into . . . you're way overextended.

Q. How would you divide the job up? I imagine it's not just half of the chairmanship. You must be changing your job as well.

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