Kleweno began working for Bain in 1985. He served as the chief executive of Princess Cruises from 2001 to 2004, and later as chief executive of Teleflora, before returning to Bain in 2008.
Kleweno sat down with Capital Business last week to chat about Washington’s changing economy and the company’s plans for local growth.
Bain has been in Washington for about a year now. What has your experience been here, and why did Bain decide to open a permanent office in D.C.?
The business community here is alive and thriving, and there are between 25 and 30 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the immediate area.
We’ve been serving clients out of D.C. for the 40 years Bain has been in business, but this is an opportunity to bring a local team here. This city has had a renaissance in the last decade or so in terms of attracting talent, businesses, great architecture — it’s just a very exciting time.
That said, the number one reason we were interested in opening — and we’d been thinking about this for years — is really the talent. We are one of the top recruiters at business schools, and we track those statistics very carefully. Washington, D.C., was the number one place where we were losing in recruiting battles because we didn’t have an office for [new hires]. So it really is about building and recruiting around the talent in the local market.
Is there something about the nature of business in the area that makes it a particularly good opportunity for Bain?
One of the things that is interesting in D.C. is that the population here is growing so quickly. As a result of that, a lot of businesses are chasing that growth and relocating. The business base in D.C., particularly at the corporate level, is in a good position for the next decade.
What kind of growth do you anticipate in the area? Are there particular industries you’re planning to focus on?
We have a number of clients and they’re in some of the sectors you’d [expect] in this area: aerospace and defense, financial services, consumer products, retail, and we’ve done some work in international development as well.
Over the next few years, aerospace and defense — which is a big, important sector here — is going to be going through a lot of changes, so there are going to be a lot of challenges there.
Health care is another area where there is a tremendous amount of change, particularly with health care benefits.
And more broadly, as the economy recovers, sectors related to the housing recovery, like construction, will grow. We’ll see continued growth in all of the sectors that were hit hard by the recession and are now slowly climbing back.
How many employees do you currently have in Washington? Are you planning to hire more?
We don’t talk about the number of employees, but I can tell you that upstairs, we are in the final stages of renovating about 22,000 to 23,000 square feet.
We’ll be growing very rapidly. We’ve got a big summer program coming up where we hire interns from top schools. We’ve got a whole group of people who will be new to Bain and to Washington, D.C., starting in the fall.
How have your experiences as chief executive of Princess Cruises and Teleflora informed your work here at Bain?
Having [been a chief executive] myself, I now know what’s actually on the mind of CEOs and I know the types of things they’re concerned about — and it’s not always the types of things you’d think they’d be concerned about until you’re actually in the middle of it.
It’s made me far more empathic to the challenges they have.
What are some things that were on your mind as a CEO that you hadn’t expected?
People. It’s hard to pull together a team. You have to figure out ways to motivate people, and that takes a lot of time.
You might think CEOs are sitting around thinking about these big strategic issues, but that ends up being a small part of what they do.
Another thing I’ve learned, which I help chief executives with now, is decision-making. Not making a decision is making a decision. Some CEOs tend to wait or be reluctant, so I coach them to move ahead on things even though it’s not always the perfect set of circumstances. You have to take calculated risks to keep things going.