Suzanne M. Hopgood: Leading with Value in the Boardroom

By Princess Jones Curtis

Hartford, CT“My Dad taught me that all you really had was your word.  When the chips were down and people could believe in you, they would support you.” Suzanne Hopgood, founder and managing member of The Hopgood Group, still remembers the lessons she learned growing up with her family’s hotel and restaurant business.  “I was CEO of Houlihan’s on 9/11. I called our largest vendors telling them the check was NOT in the mail, but would they please stay with us, while we sorted it all out. All replied that I had been totally straightforward with them during a difficult workout and they would stay with me.”

“I founded The Hopgood Group, LLC in 1985, upon departing from Aetna.  I did hotel workouts for the major insurance company hotel investors: Aetna, PaineWebber Properties, John Hancock, etc.  The unique value I brought was having grown up in a family-owned hospitality business, an understanding of the real estate investment strategy, and the ability to draft an Investment Committee presentation concerning the asset.  It was a unique skill set.”

Over the past 35 years, Hopgood’s business objectives haven’t changed much. “My goals have always been to provide value to the customer.  In my first assignment with John Hancock, I called from the property and told them that I couldn’t add any value and if they simply paid me for travel, we could cancel the contract.  They replied that had never happened to them before and they wanted me to continue with the assignment.”

As an international speaker on corporate board issues, Hopgood has a lot of valuable information to share about the steps it takes to be a leader.  One by one sticks them off, emphasizing that a leader’s duty is to pave a clear path for those who look to her; “Understanding the mission and the roadblocks to achieving the mission. Setting clearly defined goals, objectives, and responsibilities. Letting department heads achieve their goals in their own way. Rewarding people for achieving those goals. Providing a path forward for every employee.”

Hopgood defines her own legacy in terms of how she affects those around her. “I have to have an impact. For me, success is not about how much money or toys you have.  It’s about the impact you have.”