Turnaround Guru Touts Teamwork – Sparton’s new CEO Infuses passion, persistence in daily tasks

    By Larry O’Connor
    January/February 2009

    Cary B. Wood

    In November 2008, Cary B. Wood was hired as chief executive officer of Jackson-based Sparton Corporation, an electronic design and manufacturing service provider with six locations worldwide, including Vietnam. The former Citation Corp. chief operations officer’s main charge will be to return the 108-year-old company to its previous standing as an industry leader.

    Corp!: What are your guiding principles?
    Wood: When my daughter, who is now 19 years old, was in fifth grade, her class made bookmarks. Hers said, ‘Lead don’t follow.’ It was affirming, because all along that has been one of those things my family has believed in.

    Corp!: Who was your mentor in life and why?
    Wood: I have followed Ed Buker [president and CEO of Tecumseh Products] through companies to do turnarounds. He’s a guy who has more than once taken an ounce of my backside while at the same time picking me up off the ground and giving me a great deal of guidance and business acumen.

    Corp!: How do you motivate others?
    Wood: I use sports as the analogy by which I convey a sense of urgency, accountability and a spirited degree of motivation. I keep score as if it is a 12-game season. I look at every month as a game.

    Corp!: What is your ongoing goal? And what goals do you still strive to achieve?
    Wood: I have a dedicated a great deal of my life -“ out of interest because this is what I like doing -“ to fixing businesses that can be optimized and be improved.

    Corp!: What is the best advice you can offer to others?
    Wood: Do the work you love.

    Corp!: What is the biggest management myth?
    Wood: I don’t think a single man can make a difference. I think they can make an impact, but-¦ I just don’t think you can go out and find a single individual who can go out and do it all.

    Corp!: What word best describes you?
    Wood: Passionate. Early in my career, it would have been intense. As you age and gain a little more maturity, you recognize there is a human component.

    Corp!: What is your pet peeve in the office and why?
    Wood: Mediocrity, and the acceptance of mediocrity.

    Corp!: What is the last book you read?
    Wood: “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor E. Frankl. It was recommended to me. It’s about a man’s witnessing of other people’s lives through the most troubling of times.

    Corp!: Who is the most interesting person you’d like to meet and why?
    Wood: One is [10-time National Champion UCLA men’s basketball coach] John Wooden. He was fantastic at putting teams together.

    Corp!: What is your greatest passion in life?
    Wood: I’ve been on boards for adoption agencies and I have coached sports for 6-year-old little boys and 10-year-old little girls. I think my passion is kids.

    Corp!: What is your favorite automobile?
    Wood: My first car. I had a white 1988 Chevy Cavalier. I drove that thing into the ground. It probably had a 170,000 miles on it before somebody bought it from me.