Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe: Lead with a Purpose

When it comes to motivating coworkers to produce top-quality work, infusing individuals with a sense of purpose is key, according to Consumers Energy President and CEO Patti Poppe. Poppe, who delivered a keynote address to nearly 50 regional business leaders, said “Show your coworkers that what they do every day makes a difference.” The presentation was a part of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s ongoing Inside the CEO Mind series and was held April 19 at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.

Consumers Energy’s mission statement is, “World-Class Performance Delivering Hometown Service.” This mission, Poppe said, was born out of an experience she had at the post office in her hometown several years ago.

“I remember walking into the post office and the woman I spoke to asked me, ‘How is your dad doing? We all love Bill here.’ My dad had not visited this post office in several years, but the staff still remembered him. Now that is hometown service.”

Poppe said that simply “being nice” is not enough.

“If you cannot deliver your service or product efficiently and effectively, customers will not continue their relationship with your business.”

This is where the “world-class performance” component comes in. By combining world-class performance with hometown service, Poppe believes Consumers Energy is truly making a difference in the energy industry.

While Poppe was collaborating on a new mission statement, she simultaneously worked on the new triple bottom-line model Consumers adopted.

“Consumers Energy is focused on three things: people, the planet and prosperity,” she said. “Businesses cannot disregard the people their products and services affect. We are really taking a customer-centric focus at Consumers as part of our mission to deliver world-class performance with hometown service.”

Through Poppe’s leadership, Consumers Energy has retired more coal plants than any other energy company in the country. At the same time, it has decreased its water usage by 35 percent. In her closing comments, Poppe said the key to encouraging these large-scale changes was leading with confidence and being intentional.

“People will follow a leader they believe in,” she said. “So make sure you are leading them down a purpose-driven path.”

Consumers Energy CEO: Tap Into Your Employee Melting Pot To Tackle Business Solutions

As one of the region’s most successful leaders, Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe says collaboration is the fuel that can drive the growth of a business. She also says that giving employees a voice at the table offers them a sense of ownership and pride in a company’s long-term vision. Poppe, a Detroit Regional Chamber Board member, sat down with the eDetroiter to share her secrets for business success. Read the Q&A below.

Hear more from Poppe at the upcoming Inside the CEO Mind event April 19 at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.

You were named in Crain’s “100 Most Influential Women.” To what do you attribute your success and what is the biggest lesson you can share with aspiring organizational leaders?

I attribute my success to having the ability to harness the power of others and being able to get a team of people committed to an outcome instead of pushing an individual agenda, alone. It is better to be effective than right. I have learned that there are times when I may be right but if I force my authority or power, I will not be effective.

In your opinion, what should be the next steps for the Detroit region to foster business growth?

For the economy to grow in any region there must be a supportive business community. Encouraging local businesses to work together when contracting for supplies and services is a must; that’s why we helped establish Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC) and continue to encourage our Michigan-based suppliers and contractors to pay it forward. When Detroit businesses work together, the community will succeed.

How does Consumers tackle the issue of attracting and retaining talent? What can others learn from your success and/or challenges in that capacity?

We attract talent with our strong employment brand, commitment to customers and inclusive culture. We retain talent by offering fulfilling careers where a person can bring his or her full self to work and succeed. Our employees tell us that their work offers them a deep sense of pride and purpose. Everyone comes to the table with a unique perspective, and it is important to recognize that a melting pot of ideas propels a company to succeed.

If you were to give your 20-year-old self some business advice, what would it be?

You can have it all! Surround yourself with people who encourage and enable you to do what you were uniquely born to do so that you can make your mark on the world.

What is most important to you and your organization – mission, vision, or core values? Why?

At Consumers Energy we make promises every day to be Michigan’s trusted energy provider, delivering affordable, reliable energy and valuable services to enable our customers’ quality of life. It is important work because our customers are family, friends and neighbors.

What are the most-important strategic priorities for Consumers in the coming year? How will you gauge success?

To create a culture of continuous improvement through the Consumers Energy way of doing business: working safely, completing work right the first time, at the lowest cost and on schedule. Focusing on safety, quality, cost and delivery provides us with a strategic advantage so that we can continue to deliver on the promises we make to Michigan each day.

Hear more from Poppe at the upcoming Inside the CEO Mind event April 19 at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.


Three Upcoming Chamber Events You Do Not Want to Miss

In March and April, the Detroit Regional Chamber has approximately 15 events. For Chamber members, it can be difficult to know which events are the most important to attend. Non-members often have the same issue, especially considering the numerous obligations and events around the region that can quickly fill calendars.

To help you slim down your choices, check out three key events for businesses the Chamber is hosting over the next two months:

  1. State of the State: Now and in the Future. During a conversation over lunch on Tuesday, March 27, Gov. Rick Snyder will discuss how the state has grown over the past eight years while also looking at the long-term impact of those accomplishments. Following his remarks, the Governor will participate in a moderated discussion with business leaders from three key industries to forecast how Michigan will continue to grow in the coming years. This Chamber members-only event is $65. Please note that prices will increase on March 20. Register here.
  2. Inside the CEO Mind: Patti Poppe. Hear from Consumers Energy President and CEO Patti Poppe on Thursday, April 19 as she shares her journey in the energy and automotive industries that have led to her current position and how her commitment to customer-first management allows her to be a successful leader. Following her presentation, audience members are invited to participate in a question-and-answer session. This event is $30 for Chamber members and $50 for non-members. Please note that prices will increase on April 12. Register here.
  3. Networking Reception: Meet the Candidates. Attendees will meet the candidates who are running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Michigan’s 9th, 11th and 13th districts while mingling with fellow Chamber members in attendance. This event offers early access and the first opportunity to meet the declared candidates. This Chamber members-only event is $15 and takes place on Tuesday, April 24. Please note, pricing will increase to $25 on April 10. Register here.

For a full list of upcoming Chamber events, visit the events page.


HopCat Sets Standard of Excellence in Food, Brew and Eco Footprint

By Daniel A. Washington

The name HopCat may be new to some, but is revered by many in the Detroit region because of each location’s uniqueness and uncompromising quality. Founder and owner Mark Sellers, would have it no other way as he prides himself on his business approach and dedication to localism as his food and pub chain continues its rapid growth.

The Detroit Regional Chamber caught up with Sellers to talk about his keys to creating a local business success in HopCat, a woodwork-filled brew pub with a massive beer list that offers creative brunch and comfort food.

Read the Q&A with Chamber member HopCat founder and register for the Inside the CEO Mind on Aug. 16 at the Midtown location.

Q. What all went into the ideation of “HopCat”?

A. I came up with the name HopCat based off of my love for jazz music and beer. In jazz if you are a cool cat you are hepcat, and beer has hops in it, so we called it HopCat.

I wanted a lot of craft beer and I didn’t want there to be any Bud, Miller or Coors, just craft beer from small breweries, so that is what we did. I didn’t want the employees to wear uniforms. People in most places make their employees wear an outfit, I just wanted them to be themselves. I wanted a lot of local art work and music related artwork because I love music. I wanted the food to be comfort food that goes well with beer.

Q. What do you think has helped HopCat become such a success?

A. We didn’t really try to do anything by the book, we just crack friesdid what I thought I would want if I were the customer, I just thought about myself as a customer. It turned out to really resonate with people, because it is different than other places. The artwork is different, the music is different, the craft beer thing was different, at that time especially. Then we had this dish called crack fries, which are seasoned French fries, that people seemed to really love almost immediately.

Q. What led you to opening a location in Detroit?

A. I started looking at opening a location in Detroit at least two years before we ended up opening it in 2014. We really wanted to be a part of the renaissance in Detroit. I could see that it was starting to go in the right direction and I wanted to be here early before the resurgence in interest.

We found the location on the corner of Woodward and Canfield, after looking at maybe 30 locations. I bought the building from the Michigan Land Bank and then we spent about $4 million to rehab it.

Q. Rumor has it that employees helped create a recycling program, that has been implemented at each location. Is it true?

A. When I started HopCat we weren’t recycling at first and a lot of the employees came to me and said, we couldSellersCropped be recycling this stuff. I just said to myself, yeah, I really want to develop a program to minimize waste. So, early on with the help of employees, we came up with this program where we would compost and recycle anything that we could and then whatever is left over we would dispose of in the landfill.

We had a couple people on staff who volunteered to help develop that program and led the training materials.

Over the years the training and program has gotten more and more sophisticated, so we have gotten better and better at it – at this point, about 35 percent goes to compost, 55 percent goes to recycling and 10 percent goes to the landfill.

Q. What can we expect next from the HopCat brand?

A. The next location we are opening is in Louisville, Kentucky on July 30. That is actually going to be our biggest location, it is 14,000-square-feet. Detroit is 12,000-square-feet by comparison, so it is even bigger than the Detroit location, so we are really excited about that.

Then Chicago is opening on Sept. 3 on Clark Street, which is a high volume, high traffic and is a north to south artery through the city.

Q. What is next for you as you have made a second career out of the food and brew industry?

A. I am going to keep doing this until it is no longer fun. And what is fun for me is designing each location to look different, that is what I really get excited about. Also, just being creative and coming up with new menu items which I am involved in and managing the bars’ music lists, which is constantly changing. As long as I can do that stuff and have other people run the bars for me, I am going to keep doing this.

February 17: Macomb County Honors Chamber’s Business Attraction Efforts to Move Detroit Region Forward

Macomb County Honors Chamber’s Business Attraction Efforts to Move Detroit Region Forward

The Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development awarded the Detroit Regional Chamber its “Economic Development Partner of the Year” award on Feb. 10 during Macomb County’s annual Business Awards.

The award was presented to the Chamber for its business attraction efforts, including hosting international delegations, trade missions, trade shows and site consultant activities in Macomb County during 2014. The Chamber’s participation at the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) annual meeting and expo in Washington, D.C. last October helped market the region’s assets, located in Macomb County’s defense corridor, to more than 500 key military leaders.

Maureen Krauss, vice president of economic development, accepted the award on behalf of the Chamber.

“Economic development is a team sport and we work very closely to bring new opportunities for business investment and jobs to the communities and residents of the county. It confirms that our regional partnership is working, and we are thankful for the recognition from our partners in Macomb County,” Krauss said.

Regional collaboration is one of the Chamber’s key strategic pillars, bringing together public and private partners to collaborate in economic development strategies to move the Detroit region forward. Click here for more information on the Chamber’s economic development initiatives.

Chamber Applauds Governor’s Support for Struggling Schools, Higher Education, Skilled Trades

The Detroit Regional Chamber applauds Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed $54-billion state budget presented last week to the Legislature. The budget includes increased funding to help educators address underperforming schools and remove barriers to higher education — two key areas necessary for the region and the state’s continued comeback. The Governor’s budget also calls for more support for career pathways, including a $10 million increase to the state’s Skilled Trades Training Fund.

The Chamber encourages the Legislature to support the Governor’s call for increased investment on these critical issues. In January, the Chamber released its top legislative priorities which include reinventing education for struggling schools, making higher education accessible and expanding Michigan’s career pathways to better support areas of need such as the skilled trades. Click here to see the Chamber’s top legislative priorities.

Detroit Policy Conference Full Agenda Available Online; Prices Increase on Thursday

The full agenda is now available for the 2015 Detroit Policy Conference, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 26 at MotorCity Casino Hotel.

Attendees will have the opportunity to meet members of Detroit city government and hear keynote speeches from respected leaders, including Mayor Mike Duggan, and urban strategist and bestselling author Peter Kageyama during a day dedicated to Detroit’s success.

In addition to keynote speeches, Conference attendees will have the opportunity to engage with a number of community influencers during concurrent sessions throughout the day. Sessions will focus on topics related to the continued growth of Detroit’s business landscape, including the revitalization of Detroit’s neighborhoods, entrepreneurship, education reform and regional transportation.

Some of this year’s top panelists include:

Tonya Allen, President and CEO, The Skillman Foundation

Dennis Archer Jr., Founding Principal and President, Archer Corporate Services; President and CEO, Ignition Media Group

Jim Boyle, Senior Program Officer, New Economy Initiative

Kenneth Cockrel Jr., Executive Director, Detroit Future City, Implementation Office

Nolan Finley, Editorial Page Editor, The Detroit News

Michael Ford, CEO, Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan

Douglas George, Consul General, Canada

Lisa Katz, Executive Director, Workforce Intelligence Network

Victoria Kovari, General Manager, Department of Neighborhoods, City of Detroit

Cindy Pasky, President and CEO, Strategic Staffing Solutions

Andre Spivéy, District 4, Detroit City Council

Laura Trudeau, Managing Director, Community Development, The Kresge Foundation

The Conference will also feature Power Perspective remarks by Charlie LeDuff, bestselling author and journalist for WJBK-TV Fox 2; Rodrick Miller, president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp.; and Paul Pastorek, education adviser to Gov. Rick Snyder.

Be sure to register for the Conference to engage in the future of Detroit’s business landscape. For full information about the Conference and to register, click here.

‘Safe Roads Yes!’ Coalition Launches New Website

Safe Roads Yes!,” the bipartisan coalition supporting the passage of Proposal 1, launched their website on Friday, giving voters a chance to learn more about the May 5 ballot initiative to fix Michigan’s roads and transportation infrastructure.

The website provides voters a comprehensive overview of the condition of the state’s roads, a list of frequently asked questions about the ballot proposal, and facts such as Michigan invests less per capita in transportation than any state in the country.

Finding a long-term solution to address Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure has been an ongoing priority for the Chamber. In addition to announcing its full support of the road funding proposal in January, the Chamber’s government relations team made Proposal 1’s passage a top legislative priority for 2015.

To learn more about Proposal 1, visit

Thomas Haas at Inside the CEO Mind: GVSU Making Presence Felt in Detroit Region

Almost two years after opening its Detroit Center, Grand Valley State University (GVSU) continues to have a large presence in the region. President Thomas Haas told an audience of nearly 40 attendees at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Inside the CEO Mind on Feb. 10 that the university has noticed consistent growth in enrollment annually.

GVSU is Michigan’s fifth-largest university with 25,000 students on five campuses. Of that number, he said, roughly 40 percent of GVSU’s enrollment comes from Southeast Michigan.

The secret to the university’s success is strong leadership and community partners, who have helped facilitate “controlled growth” to protect programs and smaller class sizes while keeping operating costs down, Haas said.

Haas, a retired U.S. Coast Guard, also shared that GVSU has enjoyed exponential growth among military veterans and said he’s proud of the fact that 86 percent of the university’s graduates remain in the state to build up the talent pipeline and help Michigan compete globally.

Frank Venegas Jr., CEO of the Ideal Group, will share his leadership insight and guiding principles for growing his company into a $250-million enterprise on March 25 at the Chamber’s next Inside the CEO Mind. A location and time will be announced. For more information, contact Marianne Alabastro.

February 3: Chamber Hosts Kick Off of Mayor’s Grow Detroit’s Young Talent Program to Rally Employers to Connect Youth with Jobs

Chamber Hosts Kick Off of Mayor’s Grow Detroit’s Young Talent Program to Rally Employers to Connect Youth with Jobs

The Detroit Regional Chamber hosted a kick-off breakfast for Mayor Mike Duggan’s Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT) program on Jan. 27. The program connects Detroit youths with summer jobs through participating businesses and creates sustainable career pathways. Speakers at the event included Tonya Allen, CEO of The Skillman Foundation; former Mayor Dave Bing; Mayor Duggan; and Ed Egnatios, program director for neighborhoods at The Skillman Foundation.

Duggan said the goal of the program is to unite existing job programs across the city and to better prepare students for professional careers and put them on a path toward success. In its first year, the Mayor challenged employers to hire 5,000 Detroit residents ages 14-24 between June and August.

The Chamber is co-chairing the program and has pledged to match 500 students with jobs. Eligible students are recruited through Detroit schools, community organizations and the initiative’s program partners, including The Skillman Foundation, JPMorgan Chase and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The program pairs candidates with employers based on interest and ability.

The GDYT program was first announced at last year’s Mackinac Policy Conference, and support for the program is a Conference To-Do List item. For more information, or to sign up as a participating business, email

Business Attraction, MICHauto Testify on Priorities at Commerce Committee Hearing in Lansing

Detroit Regional Chamber executives testified in front of the Michigan House Commerce Committee last week to provide newly sworn in members of the Legislature an overview of the Chamber’s economic development programs. The testimony comes as the Chamber’s advocacy team continues to partner with lawmakers in support of the bipartisan pro-growth policy needed to create the best possible economic climate in Michigan.

Maureen Krauss, vice president of economic development, highlighted the Chamber’s role as the voice for business attraction in the Detroit region, noting that Detroit is a more recognized brand internationally than Michigan. Glenn Stevens, vice president of MICHauto and strategic development, showcased Michigan’s continued role as the global epicenter of the auto industry and MICHauto’s role in preserving, protecting and growing the industry across the state. Brad Williams, vice president of government relations, also highlighted the emerging positive relationship between the city of Detroit and leaders in Lansing leading to the passage of the Grand Bargain last spring.

Cindy Pasky at Inside the CEO Mind: Business Growth Requires Strong Leaders, Innovation

Learning how to anticipate and adapt to changing customer needs is a key component for business success. That’s the message that Cindy Pasky, CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions (S3) and former Detroit Regional Chamber Board chairwoman, conveyed to nearly 60 attendees at the Chamber’s Inside the CEO Mind series at the Detroit Athletic Club last week.

Pasky, whose company will celebrate its 25th anniversary in October, has grown S3 from a small start up to the 16th largest woman-owned staffing firm in the United States with 31 branches and more than 2,000 employees. A major factor in that success, Pasky said, is due to a customer-centered mentality across the organization and a diversified workforce that increasingly targets military veterans.

She said entrepreneurs have to be “intentional leaders” and show customers and staff that they care, have the courage to make tough decisions, create a sincere culture and engage customers in that culture.

“The way you grow your business is to know your numbers, costs and customers intimately,” Pasky said.

Inside the CEO Mind will continue on Feb. 10 featuring Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas. Hear the inside story that compelled the university to open its Detroit Center. For more information or to register for the event, click here.

‘Yes’ Vote for Road Funding Top Priority in Chamber Appearance on WJR’s Paul W. Smith Show from Lansing

Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber, appeared on WJR 760’s Paul W. Smith Show last week in Lansing to discuss the Chamber’s advocacy efforts on transportation funding as part of its top 10 policy priorities for 2015.

Williams said fixing Michigan’s roads is a crucial economic and safety issue and spreading awareness and advocating for a “yes” vote will dominate the advocacy team’s agenda leading up to the May 5 ballot initiative. The Chamber will also continue to support policies that allow for the completion of the M-1 Rail, the development and implementation of the Regional Transit Authority’s strategy, the New International Trade Crossing and other high-impact transportation projects.

As Detroit continues to rebuild, Williams said supporting legislation that assists the city in managing its emergence from bankruptcy also remains a top priority, as well as education reform and accessibility. Click here to listen to the interview.

Going Green

Inside the CEO Mind welcomes MSU president

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As the 20th president of Michigan State University (MSU), Lou Anna Kimsey Simon leads one of the world’s top universities and serves as one of the state’s thought-leaders on the changes and challenges facing higher education.

On April 19, Simon will be the featured speaker at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Inside the CEO Mind, a programming series that provides Chamber members with exclusive access to the some of the region’s best business minds and innovative thinkers.

“We’re thrilled to have Lou Anna Simon speak at Inside the CEO Mind,” said Chamber Chief Operating Officer Tammy Carnrike. “As the leader of a world-renowned university, she can bring a unique perspective on leadership as  well as the state of higher education  and innovation in Michigan.”

Simon was appointed president in January 2005 by the MSU board of trustees. Her career at MSU began after earning her doctorate in 1974 and moved into a variety of administrative roles, including assistant provost for general academic administration, associate provost, and provost and vice president for academic affairs.

As president, Simon has engaged MSU in a strategic and transformative journey to adapt the principles of the land-grant tradition to 21st century challenges. She has expanded MSU’s reach in the state and around the world by focusing the university’s strengths on solutions that enhance and protect quality of life: clean and affordable energy, access to education, safe and plentiful food, and health care.

Simon is the second speaker in the 2013 series lineup as the program continues to host high profile CEOs whose innovative businesses, practices and companies are fueling Southeast Michigan’s economy. This year’s programming season kicked off with Carla Bailo, senior vice president of research and development for Nissan Americas.

“Inside the CEO Mind is a wonderful program. To hear these accomplished professionals share their wisdom and insight is truly inspirational, but even  more important, their advice is practical,” said Alan Hahn, business development manager, Dragun Corporation.

In 2012, the Inside the CEO Mind series hosted influential CEOs including Mike Duggan of Detroit Medical Center, Florine Mark of Weight Watchers Group and Kim Yost of Art Van Furniture.

“It’s not often that a small business can have an audience with the CEO of a large company. But that is exactly what you get with Inside the CEO Mind,” said Jim Musial, Chamber member and ambassador. “You get to hear firsthand about their personal story and about their organization. The stories are inspiring and I always look forward  to the next one.”

To learn more about Inside the CEO Mind or to attend an event, please visit