Leonard Redon’s fourth-floor office at Paychex Inc.’s headquarters in Penfield might be one of the least likely places to find him.
He could be at a board meeting for one of the many non-profits he works with, or on a boat in the middle of Lake Ontario. If it is winter, there is a good chance he is in his home recording studio, working on an album.
But more than likely, Redon will be traveling to the company’s operations west of Buffalo, which report to him in his position as vice president of western operations. In that capacity he oversees 38 branches and close to 2,500 employees, traveling at least one week in most months to get a feel for operations firsthand.
The style is typical of Redon, 57, who has worked extensively in customer service since his time with Eastman Kodak Co. as vice president of Rochester operations.
A decorative sign hanging from his office door says, “Take a number,” but it is not Redon’s nature to sit passively and wait for issues to be brought to him.
“You don’t manage a decentralized organization like this sitting in this office,” Redon says. “You can’t do that. I believe you need to be out there, seeing what’s going on, talking to employees about their thoughts and concerns and doing the same thing with clients and sales partners.”
Redon says he does his best work in person, when he can help motivate people at the branches to achieve the goals the company sets forth. He says he enjoys stepping in on the classes at the company’s headquarters, where he helps lead aspiring managers in finding novel solutions to problems posed by instructors.
He also is known for bringing an innovative approach to projects or problems the company presents to him. Martin Mucci, Paychex vice president of operations, says Redon took the lead on the introduction of a client relationship management system, just the kind of large-scale project where his expertise and creativity fits.
“Even though Paychex has been around for more than 30 years, we’re always changing to deliver what clients need, and he brings that real strategic thinking to look at what can be done differently, what are all the different angles,” Mucci says.
Redon’s hands-on style has a practical purpose. Because the branches he oversees are in different states, each with its own local taxes and payroll periods, the need to remain on top of the challenges through continual travel is essential.
The current economy is one of the biggest obstacles Redon faces. In California, where he notes that taxes are increasing the cost of doing business at a rate much faster than the rest of the country, the company serves nearly 100,000 clients. Some work for California clients has moved to Albuquerque, N.M.
Redon says that at his branches and across the entire company, business has slowed from the normal 12 percent revenue and 6 percent gross income growth each year. To bring costs down, he says, branches are consolidating services such as printing checks.
There are opportunities for growth in local areas that Redon oversees. He administers HR Online and Time and Attendance programs that are growing 35 percent to 40 percent each year. While they are still smaller programs, Redon says they have a tremendous upside for the company.
The HR Online function allows clients to manage employee information, benefits and hiring activities with an online product. After roughly four years, it has taken off in the company’s major market services, Redon says.
The Time and Attendance function allows companies to track employees’ work hours through an automated system. It also provides different input options such as a swipe card or biometric scans of fingerprints. Redon says the company’s main competitors have been offering the function for some time, and now Paychex is beginning to see significant growth in the product.
“This is becoming more and more important as any company managing its hourly work force needs to be in compliance with things like general overtime laws,” Redon says.
Even in difficult times, Paychex’s priorities of service to clients and loyalty to employees have remained a top commitment, Redon says. After Hurricane Katrina struck, Redon helped scramble to make sure that each displaced client and employee had a place in the company. Accounts from the New Orleans branch were handled from Houston and Dallas, and employees were shifted to nearby locations.
“We got all our employees to Baton Rouge or the local offices in places where they might have relocated to and started working again,” Redon says. “That said a lot about the company and our business continuity plans, that if something happens here, we move the work here, here and here and we’re still able to process payroll and contact clients.
“It was just so great to keep our plans together and our people come together and the spirit of Paychex come together the way it did around Katrina.”
Redon remembers what former Kodak chairman and CEO Kay Whitmore told him during Redon’s time with that company: To whom much is given, much is expected. For Kodak executives, sharing the expertise and leadership they had gained on the job with non-profit boards and other community organizations was almost expected, Redon recalls.
Redon has used his expertise to support charitable and community organizations of many kinds. He began with a desire for involvement in an organization that encourages young people to learn and grow, which led to his involvement with the Center for Youth Services. While on that board, he established contacts with the Monroe Community College Foundation, which does fundraising on the school’s behalf.
Redon was chairman of the foundation for more than two years and head of a presidential search committee during the college’s initial search last year, which ended amid accusations of political tampering by members of the college’s board of trustees.
“That was interesting,” Redon says with a laugh.
As his interests and involvement broadened, Redon found a niche within health care organizations. He was on the Rochester advisory board for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and also sat on its community technology assessment advisory board, which helped determine whether certain medical technologies were needed locally and thus would be covered by health insurance.
John Doyle, chairman of Lifetime Healthcare Cos., a holding company including Excellus, says Redon has brought great insight and business experience to the board they have served on together for more than seven years.
“Between his private-sector experience, which is extensive and very high level with both Kodak and Paychex, there’s a tremendous base of experience to offer up,” Doyle says. “He helps in making connections throughout the community, but as far as being an asset to help us relate and make decisions, he’s unsurpassed.”
Redon chairs the 2020 Commission, a group of 18 local business leaders, health care and government officials that investigated the local need for hospital beds and how beds should be distributed among Strong Memorial, Rochester General and Unity hospitals. After more than a decade of building expertise in the field, Redon says he was ready to bring what value he could to the cause.
For Redon the benefits of his board involvement flow both ways. While he is imparting the knowledge and business acumen acquired in his corporate life to the groups he works with, he is picking up new skills that aid in his work with Paychex.
“For me to provide some time to them just makes a lot of sense, my way of giving back a bit to the community,” Redon says. “And it’s also one key way to develop myself. When you’re dealing with those different types of issues and different types of people and different types of approaches, you grow. It’s good for me as an individual and it’s good for Paychex because of the new skills and knowledge I bring in.”
Off the job
When the grind of evening board meetings and skipping across time zones to visit Paychex branches wears on Redon, he retreats to the sanctuary of his home recording studio. There he plays guitar and bass, writes lyrics and records CDs of five to six songs roughly once a year.
As a classically trained musician, he originally went through a jazz recording phase before settling on a mix of classic rock and Motown that he refers to as “Len music.” On the upcoming album he has two Joni Mitchell songs, a couple from the Eagles and the Grateful Dead, along with some from Huey Lewis and the News. It will be completed as soon as he finishes the lyrics to his own original song.
Music has been a lifelong pursuit for Redon, but because of his hectic schedule he is not able to find steady playing partners or join a band. Still, he is not ready to let his passion fall by the wayside.
“Either you get really stale and stop or keep doing it, and that’s why I keep recording,” Redon says. “That’s generally what I do. I don’t cut the lawn. I’m not a gardener.”
The creativity bred from hours spent in the recording studio also spills over to Redon’s work at Paychex, Mucci notes.
“He likes to have fun and brings a nice sense of humor to the team,” Mucci says. “He very much brings a creative side to things we’re working on and all the operations he oversees.”
After growing up in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland, Redon attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass., before taking a job with Kodak that would keep him in Rochester for most of his adult life. He now lives in Bushnell’s Basin.
Not all of his pursuits are indoors. Redon is also an avid golfer and sailor, activities he shares with wife Denise.
Doyle also has a boat at the Rochester Yacht Club. At the club, Redon is well-liked and highly regarded for his skill, Doyle says.
Doyle recalls a 300-mile race around Lake Ontario in which Redon competed as part of a two-person team. The race required teams to work seamlessly and communicate constantly, something Doyle says Redon excels at in both his profession and his personal life.
“There were just two people-him and another guy-for 300 miles,” Doyle says. “Think of the dynamics.”
firstname.lastname@example.org / 585-546-8303
Title: Vice president of western operations, Paychex Inc.
Home: Bushnell’s Basin
Education: B.S. in chemical engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Mass., 1973
Family: Wife Denise; son Jason; daughter Jennifer
Hobbies: Playing and recording music, golf, sailing
Quote: “You don’t manage a decentralized organization like this sitting in this office. You can’t do that. I believe you need to be out there, seeing what’s going on, talking to employees about their thoughts and concerns and doing the same thing with clients and sales partners.”
05/29/2009 (C) Rochester Business Journal