A panel of executives who are new to West Michigan on stage at the Secchia Breakfast

Secchia Breakfast Series features perspectives of executives who are new to West Michigan

Diversity, recruitment and finding a place in a tight-knit community were among the subjects discussed

Another tradition dating back to 2006 returned to Grand Valley January 27 as the Peter F. Secchia Breakfast Lecture Series resumed following a pandemic-related pause.

Presented by the Seidman Affinity Network Board and the Seidman College of Business, the series was created to contribute to community connections and business innovation by promoting creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship through showcasing successful business models.

Friday’s event, “Leadership Transition, Opportunities, and Obstacles,” included a panel discussion at the L. William Seidman Center with three executives who are new to West Michigan.

Tom Hill, CEO and board member of Marketlab; Jon Husby, CEO and president of ADAC Automotive; and Alison Mast, senior managing director and president of western Michigan for Northern Trust Wealth Management shared their leadership journeys, what brought them to serve as an executive leader in West Michigan, what obstacles and challenges they faced during their transition, and what they have learned along the way.

Husby, the first non-family member to lead Cascade Township-based automotive supplier ADAC, told the audience he’s committed to listening and developing a diverse team of leaders, but that can sometimes be challenging.

The company has been forced to evolve over the past two years as it dealt with supply chain issues, price fluctuations and other issues, Husby said.

“What that does is it gives everyone an opportunity to rethink; and that’s exactly why I was brought in, to rethink, to bring some of that global experience,” he said. “What I’m finding is this deep desire to want to see more of what’s going on in the rest of the world.”

Mast, an English major who attended the University of Michigan, said her challenges since arriving in Grand Rapids have included counterbalancing “West Michigan nice” with making deep connections in a community that is known for being tight knit.

Tom Hill, CEO and board member of Marketlab
Alison Mast, senior managing director and president of western Michigan for Northern Trust Wealth Management
Jon Husby, CEO and president of ADAC Automotive
Tom Hill, CEO of Marketlab; Alison Mast, president of western Michigan for Northern Trust Wealth Management, and Jon Husby, CEO of ADAC Automotive; spoke at the Secchia Breakfast Lecture January 27..

“There’s not a person who won’t be kind to you coming into West Michigan,” she said, before noting that it’s sometimes been a challenge as someone with young children who is new to the community to build connections with people who have spent most of their lives here.

Mast also has found attracting a diversity of talent difficult in the area. She said more work could be done to start sooner in building a more diverse talent pool.

She credited her liberal arts education, which helped with “soft skills” like communication, for her ability to learn, adapt and evolve her career.

“I can teach myself accounting, I can buy a textbook,” she said. “I find it a lot harder to teach the softer skills, the interpersonal skills, the qualitative skills; don’t miss out on those courses in your education.”

Each executive had a slightly different approach to hybrid work.

Hill said Marketlab, a Caledonia-based medical technology company, hires diverse talent from around the country and budgets to fly them into West Michigan once a month to build connections.

Mast said she works to provide flexible work arrangements at Northern Trust, but encourages her team to be in the office as much as possible because it creates higher functioning teams that are needed for the wealth management business.

ADAC also has flexible work arrangements, but Husby said people who are spending more time working remotely sometimes don’t get the full picture of the transformation that’s taking place at the company. 

“Those people who are working remote more often aren’t engaging and getting that full spirit of that entrepreneurialism and seeing what’s going on,” he said.

The Secchia Breakfast Lecture Series returns Wednesday, March 22, with a presentation by Mark White, President and CEO of Shape Corp., on the Convergence of Business and Engineering. That event will be held at the Seidman Center’s Charles W. Loosemore Forum.

The breakfast series was created as a result of a gift by the late Peter Secchia and his wife, Joan. Attendance is free, although attendees are encouraged to register. Information about registration will be posted on the series’ website.