Get to Know our New President & CEO, Mike Heise

How did you first learn about Cloverland? What attracted you to the CEO role at Cloverland?

I believe that fate brought me to Cloverland. The day I decided to start looking for a new career opportunity was the day Cloverland posted the position. After reading about the history of Cloverland and researching the members they serve, I was excited at the opportunity to become part of the Cloverland family.

What do you enjoy most about the utility industry?

From working in the utility industry for 30 years now, I truly enjoy the diversity of managing a utility organization. No two days are ever the same. Working for Cloverland Electric Cooperative brings a sense of purpose as well. Each day you are working to do the best you can to bring value to each member of the organization.

What words best describe you?

Honest, a team player and a good listener. I believe that honesty is the best way to lead both your personal and professional life. As one person cannot do everything, having a great team leads to great accomplishments together. I believe that you are never too old to learn. Listening to the needs of those you serve is key.

Where did you grow up? Who is your greatest influence in life?

I was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio. My greatest influence in life has been my dad. He was born in Germany during World War II. He immigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s and enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Bamberg, Germany, where he met my mom. He came to America to give my brother, my sister and me a better life. He worked hard every day of his life to make sure we had what we needed.

You graduated from the University of Toledo with a degree in electrical engineering and an emphasis on power engineering. Who or what prompted your interest in becoming an engineer?

As my father was a tool and die maker, he wanted me to do something different than he had so it would provide greater opportunities. He knew that I was good in math and science, so he guided me down the path of engineering. In my senior year of high school, I was offered a scholarship through a cooperative, Toledo Edison. The work experience helped guide me towards electrical engineering.

What prompted your studies in the German language?

I took German as a way to help me communicate with my family. My Oma [grandmother] never learned English. Toledo has a large German community and we spent a lot of time at German functions. It made it easier to understand what people were saying as well as if they were talking about you!

Although your career began in systems and design for FirstEnergy Corporation in Cleveland, your roles have evolved into project management and executive management. What do you find the most challenging about being an engineer in a management role?

To be honest, I find that being an engineer in a management role for an electric utility is actually a benefit. A majority of the challenges that present themselves are technical in nature, such as power supply, strategic planning, outage mitigation, etc. An engineering background allows me to understand the issues at hand and being a registered professional engineer requires me to stay current with industry changes.

Your utility and engineering management experience spans over 25 years. What has been your proudest accomplishment of your entire career to date?

My proudest career accomplishment has been the honor of being named the next CEO of Cloverland. I have grown professionally over the years into executive management roles, each building off of the previous experience. The opportunity to serve the members of Cloverland allows me to utilize all that I have learned over the years and apply it to benefit the members.

One of your skills involves transforming struggling businesses into vital, streamlined and growing organizations. What is your greatest success story in initiating change within a company?

As a previous CEO [The Medical Company, Cleveland, OH], the greatest change I made was creating a team environment. When I took over leading the organization, the employees felt that they had no voice or input into the organization as the previous CEO’s management style did not allow for it. I worked closely with the employees to build a team where they could have a voice and by doing so, they took pride in what we could accomplish together.

In past roles, you have rebuilt and rejuvenated leadership staff into unified, top-performing and highly motivated teams. What do you believe is the best motivator for employees?

I believe that empowering your employees creates great motivation. When employees play active roles and their voices are heard, they look for ways to improve what they are doing and provide significant value.

You have been described as a strategic visionary with a clear sense of purpose and urgency when faced with diverse situational challenges. What strategic challenges at Cloverland are you most eager to address?

I look forward to working with the board of directors, staff and the members across many fronts. I believe that the one of the first priorities is establishing a solid strategic plan. The plan needs to address the critical components of the organization such as power supply, generation, long-term capital planning, etc.

One of your skills includes infusing organizations with customer-centric policies with safety and service as a top priority. How will your experience contribute to Cloverland’s mission of providing exceptional service to its members through the delivery of safe, reliable and affordable electricity?

The three core principles that any successful utility has is safety, reliability and cost. Over my career, I have had significant experience in these areas. I will utilize this previous experience to review and assure that proper safety protocols are adhered to for the benefit of employees and our members. In addition, I will look at reliability concerns and work to establish corrective actions to improve it, while seeking ways to provide cost saving opportunities company-wide.

You were recruited to reorganize and implement organizational changes necessary to transform a struggling district energy company (The Medical Company, Cleveland, Ohio) into an organization equipped to meet environmental, regulatory and social challenges. There is a long list of accomplishments during your 12-year tenure as president.. What were the key factors to this transformation? How did this experience shape your career?

When I took over the Medical Center Company, the greatest obstacle was uniting the organization and making sure the organization had the expertise it needed to meet changes. The organization lacked a few key employees and through successful hiring, these newly developed roles helped support the changing needs of the organization. The board of directors was very knowledgeable and forward thinking. The employees were very passionate about their jobs. When we all worked together to address the industry challenges as they presented themselves, we were successful.

You were also recruited to expand operations for an electrical power line construction organization beyond its current customer base as chief operating officer of Power Systems Design & Quality Lines (Findlay, Ohio). How do you overcome the challenges to growth? How do you measure success?

When I worked for Quality Lines in 2015, the power line construction business was in a slump. Many utilities had cut back on spending and the challenge was keeping these lineworkers actively working. The key to success was diversifying the customer base. We looked at expanding bidding opportunities further across the U.S. as well as growing into other markets.

You are skilled with establishing operational excellence within culturally diverse environments. What do you value most about culture and vision? What are the keys to bridging gaps among a multi-generational workforce?

The first step is to listen to the needs of your employees. Understanding their concerns is important. The next step is education. Management cannot always provide the solution that the employee(s) had hoped for but educating them on why it couldn’t be done is key.

Your previous roles in this industry have included director of business development, chief operating officer, president, vice president of technical services, electric utility director, customer design engineer and system engineer. What role(s) shaped your career the most and why?

I can’t say that one role in particular helped shaped me the most; rather together they have helped me develop the skills I have today. As you look at the titles and see what functions are core to Cloverland, they are all important to the success of the organization.

Tell us about your family. How do you balance your career and family?

I have been blessed to be married to my best friend for over 25 years. My wife, Cindy, has stood by me through my career growth and has been my greatest supporter. When we were graced with the birth of our two sons, Branden and Ethan, she opted to put her career on hold to support our sons (now 16 and 18) while they were growing up. Balancing work and family is important. My family has always been supportive of my career.

How do you like to spend your spare time? What U.P. activities are you looking forward to trying for the first time?

I love to spend my spare time doing things with my family. We enjoy doing things together. Our family looks forward to investigating all the wonderful things that the U.P. has to offer.

Thinking about the move from Ohio to the Eastern Upper Peninsula, what are you and your family most excited about? Any hesitations about our long winters?

Our family enjoys doing things together. We enjoy watching movies, playing games, and traveling to see points of interest. We are excited about learning more about the wonderful activities that the U.P. has to offer that we haven’t had the opportunity to do here in Ohio. The cold weather will take a bit of adjustment, but we are up for the challenge!