Jeff Albright: Full Transcript

Marc Reifenrath (00:11):

Welcome to Culture Starts with U, a podcast all about culture and core values. Today we've got an amazing guest with Jeff Albright. He is the current president of Yamar North America. Super excited to have him on. I've known him for about three years. We share the same favorite drink, which is a Captain and Diet, so we have a lot in common already. Jeff, welcome to the show and super glad you're able to make it work.

Jeff Albright (00:36):

Happy to be here, excited, honored to be asked to be on the podcast.

Reifenrath (00:41):

All right. So one of the first questions I'd like to ask, just to kind of break the ice a little bit, is when you wake up in the morning and you have your commute, you park your car or you get outta your bed and you walk to your desk, you're working at home — what would be your walk up song or entrance song playing in your head every morning?

Albright (00:56):

This was a tough one. I actually came up with four, probably rotated: Shining Star by Earth, Wind and Fire, No Alibis by Eric Clapton, Let's Groove, another  Earth, Wind and Fire song, and Can't Stop the Feeling with Justin Timberlake. Those four seem to be rotated in my head, with a person with a short attention span that tends to be the case. Things change a lot.

Reifenrath (01:21):

And these would change based on your… what you had to do that day, your attitude, your what?

Albright (01:27):

What would drive that? Yeah, depending on what's going on that day. If, you know, reminding yourself that you can do it is Shining Star. Reminding yourself that you have to get it done, even if you don't want to, that's No Alibis and Let's Groove and Can't Stop the Feeling just when things are going good. You feel like going in. So those are the kind of things that — actually sometimes that is on my playlist as well, so it helps.

Reifenrath (01:52):

Love it. All right. Ice has been broken. So for, for the audience, let's just first start with, obviously this is all about culture and core values, but first, just tell us a little bit about your journey. How'd you get to the seat you're in today and you've got a great one cause you've been all over the globe. So I think that people are really gonna enjoy just your colorful past.

Albright (02:12):

Sure. I’m from Iowa City, Iowa, I went to Iowa City West High — go, Trojans! We went to Michigan State undergrad and just by chance decided I would study Japanese. So I was a Finance and Japanese major, ended up spending a year in Japan during college, liked it enough that I wanted to go back, but realized that I didn't have… My Japanese wasn't good enough for me to really say I could do business in Japanese. So decided to go back and spent three years working there actually as a salesperson. So I had a Finance major. I'd spent a summer working at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, but ended up never going into finance really. I think my career has been one that's been mostly typified by right place, right time and willingness to raise my hand.

Albright (03:09):

So I came back from Japan, got married to my wife and she had a job in Milwaukee. I went along with her and Briggs and Stratton happened to be looking for somebody who spoke Japanese, who could help 'em with a joint venture they had. And I raised my hand and said, yes. And then six years after I started there, I ended up running the joint venture. They said, who wants to go to China? And I raised my hand and said, I'll go. And so we moved to Shanghai. We were there for over six years. Actually I've been through two pandemics cause I was living in China when SARS hit. So this is my second one. I like to say I'm an expert at pandemics <laugh>. And actually this one's been a lot harder than the first one.

Albright (03:51):

And then another opportunity came up and a private equity company was looking for somebody to run a company in Malaysia. And again, I thought the opportunity was right. I was the right guy at the right time. They were specifically looking for an American who had international experience and I fit the bill and ended up running as a global CEO of a company based outta Malaysia for three years and ended up moving back to the US and becoming the president of a company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa called ESP international, which is an ESOP. Along the way I got two graduate degrees. I have a Master's of Science in Engineering Management from Milwaukee School of Engineering and an MBA from Kellogg School of Business. So I like to learn new things.

Albright (04:40):

I like to talk with other business leaders. And so, you know, that's why one of the reasons I joined a group called YPO — a goodd chance to compare notes and talk with people about how things, how they do things and learn new ways to execute on business plans. And that's just kind of put me in the position and then this job came available. Yamar is a $8 billion global, privately held company based out of Japan and they were looking for somebody to run North America, which is total sales around $700 million and about a thousand employees and kind of everything in my life pointed towards that. I speak Japanese and have been in this kind of business. And so I just say — I think the old saying in golf is I'd rather be lucky than good. And I think that's probably been the tagline for my career is being lucky and good right person, right time.

Reifenrath (05:37):

I know you're, you're being really humble in saying lucky and good, but I mean, hearing you tell that story really kind of walks you through this journey of every one of those experiences really kind of prepped you for your current role that you're in to be a very ideal candidate for exactly what they were looking for. 

Albright (05:52):

Fair enough, yeah. And I think the other thing about that is, I wanna highlight what I said before — I really do ascribe the last 10 years of success and even before that is good mentors, good colleagues and having a network of people to talk to, a network of people to call and say, “Hey, how do you do this?” You know, if I want to go from point A to point B, how did you do it and cut down on the learning curve at least. Also it’s been a great source of resources that make me look smart, you know? And so in having that willingness to explain and talk to other people about what you're trying to solve for has really helped me be better. And I think that's also where a lot of new managers make a mistake. A lot of people get stymied in their career cause they think they're supposed to know everything. And I’m at least smart enough to know that I don't know everything.

Reifenrath (06:51):

Even in your intro, we'll dive into this more later, but just describing your learning path, your self-development path is “get better every day.” That's one of the big things that we preach at Spinutech and you definitely have illustrated that. So, alright, you're in an interesting situation because you don't have just a corporate culture, but you also literally have cultures that you're blending together. So what do culture and core values mean to you? I want you to reflect from young Jeff entering the workforce and how you viewed it, all the way to today and how you maybe view it and likely view it differently. And then I think the added element for you is the international part for a Japanese based company in the US and melding all that into your corporate culture as well.

Albright (07:36):

When I started off in the working world, I started with a really small company, there were 15 of us. And it's easy to form a good or bad culture there. However, when I got out, you know, everybody thinks they know how things are supposed to work, especially when you're a 20-something-year-old person. What I learned really quickly was that wasn't the culture. I thought a company should have the culture I joined into. I saw what I didn't like about it. I didn't know how you'd do it differently. And I think that was the big difference between now and then — at least I've had the experience to know what hasn't worked and what has worked, the things that have helped drive positive behaviors and aligned behaviors. More importantly, back then, it wasn't aligned.

Albright (08:29):

There was a lot of infighting, a lot of behind the scenes complaining, but not a lot of direct discussions. Then I joined Briggs and Stratton and I had the opportunity to join a company that was at that time, you know, 90 years old. We had really strong leaders and they were on top of their game in the last few years, they've run into trouble, but that generation of senior leadership was really incredible. I got to learn a lot about how you manage and how you build a culture of pride in what we do, but also a common goal set. And I had the opportunity to work overseas, when I was in China for Briggs and Stratton, I had Japan under me.

Albright (09:17):

We had an operation in the Philippines as well as China, and banding all those cultures together. I think one of the things that I learned from my MBA class was that a company like IBM or Disney says that, you know, we're agnostic as to who you are, where you came from — ethnicity, whatever it might be. But when you walk in those doors, you behave like somebody from Disney, you behave like somebody from IBM. And so as you start to think about that: Who do you want to be when people come in the door? What are the norms that we set? And that's really important. I've learned along the way you have to set those expectations for behaviors and you have to be unyielding about that. It's not, not a compromise that you can make.

Albright (10:04):

There's no compromise you can make around that, cuz once you do, then everybody starts to go their way. When I joined Yamar, one of the first things I did was realize that, corporately, we have 11 guiding principles that very few people could repeat more than two of. So if you're gonna boil it down to something, it has to be something everybody can remember, everybody can repeat. It has to be something that people have in the back of their head on a daily basis, because what that really becomes to me is core values and culture — core values build that culture, informs you on a daily basis, who we expect you to be at work and how we expect you to behave. And this is your star.

Albright (10:49):

If we have a decision to go right or left, what would those core values inform you to do? We came up with really simple… It's four Ps: people, partner, product and passion. So we treat people with respect, regardless, whether they're inside or outside the company, we treat 'em as we would wanna be treated. We partner with people to get things done. We know that we can't, as I mentioned before, we can't know everything. We can't be everywhere. So we gotta work together. Whether it be from top down or sideways, whatever it might be, we all have to work together. We make the world's best product. We gotta keep that up and we gotta make sure that's who we are and that's how we define ourselves. And last thing is passion. I'm from the Midwest, Marc’s from the Midwest. To me, the adage that one of my coaches said to me a long time ago was that we don't have to be the most talent — we have to work the hardest. We have to out-prepare the competition. And I think that's what every company has to really understand is if you really want to outclass, it's not just about hiring the best people. It's about making sure that everybody comes to work with a passion. Cuz if you get up in the morning, you really don't want to be there, don't come, cuz you're not gonna bring your A game and I don't care how talented or what degree you have. So when people understand that we're gonna treat each other fairly, we're gonna work together and it's really about passion, it doesn't matter what degrees or what little letters you put at the end of your name. It's: “Are you bringing it every day?” And that will get rewarded.

Reifenrath (12:32):

So you had several really good nuggets in there. A couple things I wrote down, I want to steal from you and use —behave like Disney or behave like whatever culture you're walking into. That's an amazing thing to… I always talk about what's your Notre Dame sign, you tap before you walk onto the field every morning? And that's a great one to have in your mind. And then — I've applied this myself — it's what not to do. Sometimes we learn more from the mistakes of others we've witnessed so you know what not to model from a corporate culture perspective. I think that’s a really important one. I was fortunate enough to visit your corporate headquarters in Georgia last this past April. A couple things I just wrote down, I thought it was interesting play on this is — I think you've referred to it as the helmet sticker program. You had some video boards, overviewing people talking about a couple of those programs that you've done, and that's really a direct relation to teamwork and culture, in my opinion. So dive into those, if you can.

Albright (13:32):

As organizations get bigger, one of the challenges is that you start to lose track of who's who. And I'll always say everybody's braver in this world when they're digital, right. Or Zoom. If you can't see the person, can't see their facial reactions, you're gonna say a lot of bold things in email. And so especially if you don't have a personal relationship… One of the video board ideas is basically every person when they get hired has, essentially, a walkup video that you would play where it has their name, it shows where they're from, what they do and, and a little tidbit about them. It's about, it's a little long, it's 30 seconds. So you're a little uncomfortable staying there for 30 seconds, but it rotates. There's a number of them throughout the building and it rotates.

Albright (14:16):

So you get to know people and know a little bit about them. That's the first thing. And that kind of creates a little bit of a bond for everybody. At least you can't say, I never seen them before, cuz you'll see it rotate. The second piece to that is if you think about core values and you think about communications — one of the things I failed to mention is that when I was young, what I observed was the worst thing a company can do is talk about stuff and not follow up, talk about stuff and not have leadership do it. If the leadership's not going to… How many programs do you go through where you do it and it's one and done? Everybody gets excited. And at Briggs, we had that bad habit of doing some things like that.

Albright (15:04):

Diversity training, you know, we did it once it was expensive, so we never wanna do it again. And we had this thought process back at ESP with my previous company — it was, how do you create this reward cycle? So people representing the behaviors get recognized and as managers, it's really not that genuine for us to walk around and hand out little stickers to people. People say, what am I, in elementary school? However, a colleague saying, “Hey, thanks for doing that. You really showed passion,” or “You really showed you are a good partner.” That's powerful and good deeds or recognition begets the same behaviors. The most powerful enforcement is positive reinforcement. So how do you get people to give each other positive reinforcement enforcement? We created a little helmet sticker that represents each one of the four Ps and our learning management system.

Albright (16:08):

People can go in and give fellow colleagues recognitions.For the 12 months we've been doing it over 3000 have been issued colleague to colleague. Now I give some to people — I've given maybe a hundred to people. And what I ask people when we talk about it is I say, “If it's five o'clock on a Friday and you need help, otherwise you're stuck there all night, why would your colleagues stay for you when it's not their job? They're not gonna get in trouble for not doing it. Why would they stay for you if they don't think that you're gonna appreciate it?” And how do you show appreciation other than thank you. You can, it's so simple and doesn't cost much, but they put it up and — Marc, you saw it — people display them on their cubicles.

Albright (16:50):

They stay on their walls because it's a source of pride. Now we had people come to us and say, well that's not fair, cause I don't have any. Well, just do something that represents the four Ps, you know, you go out of your way — that's the whole point — go outta your way to do something that builds and it builds on itself. It's been a really positive program as we looked at helping change the culture here at Yanmar. It's a good way. And now everybody inherently knows what the four Ps are, cuz they're interacting with them every day.

Reifenrath (17:22):

I love that. So one of the problems you identified earlier was that you had 11 guiding principles and you boiled that down, in essence, to four that people can actually remember and you're doing something to reinforce the actions and activities behind that, which really drives the culture and the core values to be just… I always like say it's a part of our DNA. What's our cultural DNA that we're driving every single day? So that's amazing. I applaud you for that. I remember, I wrote that down. I think I took some pictures when I was there, I actually wrote down an additional note for us of how maybe we could apply that at Spinutech. That's great. Okay, so thinking about getting better every day, cuz that's part of, I think every person you interview, we hear this all the time — what's your training program? What do you do to get better and learn more? You're just naturally a lifelong learner, but how do you encourage your team, your leadership team, which then encourages others to get better every day and keep pushing that boundary for themselves?

Albright (18:24):

I have a conversation. So again, lucky to be mentored… I'll digress a little bit. One of my mentors early on was a guy named Mike Hamilton. He was a senior VP of sales at Briggs. He was for England. He had been around the world and seeing a lot of different things and helped me really understand how to better yourself. And one of the things is, he has two brothers, one's a journalist and one'san author who's written a lot of books and things like that. Mike was always recommending books and always talking about new tech and always showing that you have to keep advancing yourself cuz business changes and the techniques change.

Albright (19:16):

The other thing he encouraged all of us to do is get out and build a network. As I mentioned before, build a network of people, professors, whoever it is that you have to talk to, you can call and connect with, whether that be, nowadays, LinkedIn and other places, have that group of people that you can talk to. So my philosophy, what I tell my team is, as you progress up in the ranks, if you really want to go up to a certain level, it gets lonelier as you go up, right? There's very few people around you or, as you get higher in a company and the amount of direct dialogue you have gets limited just by nature of there's certain things you can't share with everybody.

Albright (20:05):

There's certain things you can't share at home. So who do you talk to? How do you learn things? How do you do things? How do you show vulnerability and those things that you may not be able to do with your employees. And that's through things like continuing education, going to classes where you have like-minded people who aren't gonna affect your daily work, but they're willing to share, and they have experiences that they can share with you. It's going into groups like YPO, it's getting out in the community and understanding other people in the community. So part of what I did in China is I joined the American Chamber of Commerce and I ended up being on their board. I ran, for a while, the manufacturer's business council, where we sat together every month and talked shop — what are you doing about the Chinese government? What are you doing about the customs officials? What do you do about bribery attempts, those kinds of things. It was useful. Otherwise you're trying to solve for it by yourself. And there's people around who can help you. And so, that’s long winded way of saying, if you wanna be a leader, you gotta recognize that you're gonna have to have a network of people. You're gonna have to make it. It has to really be your passion, cuz those interactions happen outside of work, right? You gotta be willing to say, “Hey, you have a similar experience to me. Do you wanna talk shop?” If you want to just drop everything and walk out the door and not think about work, then that's fine. There's a place for you in every organization. Just not that senior position. Cuz the senior positions, it's a full time job and that means seven days a week.

Reifenrath (21:40):

So for you yourself…  How do you separate that time? I mean, it is lonely at the top. It's hard to turn that line off. I know you and I's mind, we work very similarly. So how do you take that mental vacation? How do you turn it off at night? On the weekends? You've got a family that are active in sports and stuff, younger, you know, how do you separate that?

Albright (22:04):

I don't do it very well. <laugh> I don't do it very well. I'll admit that. Having said that, I think it's really about focus and trying to be in the moment, which is hard. It's about doing your best to get distractions and not checking your phone every 30 seconds because somebody's supposed to be getting back to you. When work is your passion — one of your passions — you gotta make sure you make time for those other things like family and friends and stuff. I do my best not to take my phone with me if I don't have to, or keep it on silent so I don't get distracted. But it's always an evolving process and I also make sure the important events I get to. I commute to Atlanta, but I was at every football game where my daughter who's on the dance team danced at.  I went to 60, 70% of my other daughter's volleyball games. I took them out of town, different things, took my other daughter on a college visit. Make time to do those things because there's always gonna be another meeting. There's always gonna be a reason that you can't get involved in that part of life. And it goes too fast. So I do make that time. It's just making sure that you're there when you're there.

Reifenrath (23:30):

Right. Okay. So now balancing that with, as a leader, you set the tone for some norms as well, with communication and hours worked. How do you feel about… You know, do you delay send emails? Do you send an email late at night? Your actions can send a message, a good one and a bad one. What do you personally to try to not send or create bad habits of other leaders for your organization?

Albright (24:01):

We talk a lot about norms and we talk a lot about expectations and we talk a lot about the focus on getting the job done. It's not about face time. It's not about mimicking me or mimicking my behaviors. If I'm a light sleeper and I'm gonna send an email at, at 4:00 AM, 5:00 AM, that doesn't mean I'm expecting a response. What it means is I'm trying to get it on paper before I forget it. So, having said that, my expectations of leadership and of the organization is that we focus on getting stuff done when we said we’d get it done. I'm a big believer in Rockefeller habits, which is a very disciplined way to scale your company up. But it's all about simplifying just like the core value of simplifying your strategic initiatives down to three to five things.

Albright (25:01):

And you're focused on a quarterly basis on what those three to five things are, and you're getting those things done. If you're moving the needle on those things — I mean, if literally, if you've got something going on Monday, go take care of it. I really don't care. But if by Thursday we've gotta have something done and it's a strategic initiative it's gonna get done. You know? And that's the attitude we ought to have. So lots of flexibility, lots of ability to manage your own schedule — you’re adults. I don't need you to get my approval for every 30 seconds you're in the office or not in the office. But if you're not raising your hand saying you need help and you're not in the office and something doesn't get done, now we have a little bit of an issue. So my point is: Don't mimic me. I have my own method of getting stuff done. I have my own way of getting from A to B that's not everybody's way. I understand that. And I don't expect you to be me, but that deadline is the deadline, that deliverable is deliverable. If you start compromising on that, then the organization doesn't get anything done.

Reifenrath (26:06):

I love sports analogies. So I'm gonna say, if you're a head coach, you want the players to play in their best lane, play in the environment that's gonna produce their best results. What's around that. You don't necessarily care as long as it aligns with the culture, but as long as they're able to produce at their highest level, they need to do it the way that they should do it. And you're okay with that.

Albright (26:28):

Absolutely. A hundred percent. Right. One of my coaching idols, even though I wasn't a wrestler, is Dan Gable. And there's some great stories about how he could individualize, how he did individualize his coaching, the punishments. They talk about the fact that the punishments, for lack of like doing something, differed between each person, because he knew what motivated each person, the rewards and punishments, and that's really important. You can't… It's not a cookie cutter, not everybody's gonna think like you, and I think to your point, Marc, too many managers assume everybody thinks like them, that they're gonna get from A to B and that the only right way to do something is go from A to B the same way. I think that's a big mistake because a lot of people are very talented, they just get there different ways.

Reifenrath (27:23):

I love the saying — probably started using this 15 years ago in an annual view — it was always saying, “Jeff, what do you need to be the best version of Jeff? What can I do to help you be?” Because that does everybody's self version. That best version is different. And I may not even know what that is, but I might be able to unlock something to help them get there and make sure that you do it. A peanut butter spread approach does not work. I agree that an individualized approach is beautiful. I think that society needs to do that more, because a lot of management styles are societal expectations of how we think it should be done, but it doesn't have to be such a strict approach. It should be unique to who you are and who your team is, and that can change over time.

Albright (28:09):

Absolutely. I a hundred percent agree with that.

Reifenrath (28:13):

Love this stuff. All right. What's the biggest problem you or your team has solved in the last year?

Albright (28:20):

The biggest problem we're dealing with and have dealt with is we are a major brand in Asia. We're significant in certain segments, if you own a luxury yacht and have an inboard engine, 80% chance, it's ours. We dominate some markets and others, we don't, but we're a very unknown brand in America. Part of the task here is, how do we grow our market share? How do we grow in certain segments without breaking the bank to do so? So as we looked at things, the hardest thing was, how do you solve for that? How do you adopt new methods? Can we innovate? Can we disrupt the market? And we think we’ve come up with a formula. Without sharing too much, it involves looking at the way the world's changing, which is digital, which is the things that Spinutech does.

Albright (29:18):

In fact, we work with Spinutech, but, there's opportunities out there. If you're willing to look at the different business model. And as we were just talking about, it doesn't just apply to individuals. It applies to companies. There's not just one way to get from A to B. There's not just one way to reach consumers. In fact, there's ways you can do that in a very effective manner and gain brand awareness with the specific people that are relevant to your product. And that's been something — first finding our strategy and our plan, and then convincing everybody here that it works, doing something different. And we've gotten there, but this time, last year, there are a lot of people looking at us thinking,you have no idea what you're doing and…

Reifenrath (30:04):

I wanna dig in on this a little bit more because this — I think this is where it draws back to culture. So you're going through somewhat of a digital transformation process. But the cultural change has to happen with that as well. Talk about that, if you can.

Albright (30:22):

Sure. Imagine we're in an industry that's a hundred years plus, right? Tractors have been distributed the same way, essentially through dealers, for a hundred years. There's a common wisdom amongst people who do this, there's a kind of a recycling of dealers, who sells to whom. And if you get people from outside your company to bring in so-called grizzled veterans, they know a way of doing business. So how do you tell them that the way we're doing it is more of a commodity approach and you're never gonna out Deere a Deere? You're never gonna out Kubota a Kubota. So how do we grow against them just doing the same things, and yet they've never seen those things. It's culturally the same — all the people around them, the support staff and other folks… So the big thing we did is, during the COVID process, I actually copied you, Marc, and started doing a weekly video. I quickly stopped talking all about COVID cuz it got a little boring. We'd still encourage people to do the right things and be safe, but we spent a lot of time talking about strategy. A lot of time talking about what we want to do and why it's important for us to do it. Then in this Rockefeller habits, things that are very important thing to do — many times we can all get stuck and talk about what's wrong, what doesn't work in the business. And there's a thousand things that every day don't work, but how do we talk about what's right, cuz we do good stuff. Inch by inch, we're moving the ball forward if you're doing it right. And if you're not recognizing those things on a daily and weekly and monthly basis, people lose sight and everything stinks. And so we started talking about it, and when we have meetings, first thing we always start with is accomplishments.

Albright (32:21):

What did we do different? What did we do that made a difference? What moved the ball forward? I think as we saw that and, putting that in the digital context, we started to see uplift. We started to see beta tests that doubled the sales growth. We were applying these digital skills that make an impact. We started our internal call center or concierge team, we started selling product, actually improving the concept. You gotta beat that drum when you can and highlight those things. So people get on board and then once you have a successful — what's really interesting globally in our organization — when you do that and you have this positivity around you and they see the positive movement, now we're having a hard time keeping other people away. Everybody wants to be part of this program. Everybody wants a little bit. Now, their vision of what it should look like is a little different and maybe needs to be adjusted. But everybody wants to be part of that positive moment. So it's really taking that and showing people the realm of what could be and proving it out step by step. But the start was… You gotta have a fairly strong conviction it's gonna work, because there's a lot of people telling you won't.

Reifenrath (33:37):

I love the positive callouts. I always talk about like, in small town Iowa, there's those schools that just always make it to the state tournament. They always win and people are like, why do they always win? Oh, it's the coach. Oh, it's the water over there. It's whatever. But it's also a mentality. It's a mentality that we're winners. And then there's the schools that are just always bad. We always beat them. We always kill them. That's because they have the mentality and expectation to lose. And so I think what's been interesting in the last year and a half with COVID is it does feel like we're constantly… We all feel like we're constantly losing, even though there may be a lot of really good things going on. And so we've done the same, try to focus on some of the positives to make sure people don't just get sucked into that muck of negativity. And we're like, oh my gosh, are we failing? Are we losing? No, we're actually doing really well. We're winning, but you do have to call those out and I think it's a good drum to beat. So I applaud you for that as well.

Albright (34:34):

Absolutely. So an interesting story there, very similar. When I was with Briggs and Stratton, we had two factories in China and one in Japan and the Japanese one was long standing in a partnership with the Toyota group. We had essentially learned from Toyota and applied a lot of the same quality principles. The factory in China that we had that was fairly new, was having some quality issues. So I took the quality manager and the plant manager to Japan with me, and we went to the joint factory. After we did the tours and spent a couple days there, we walked out and I said, you know, the quality plan’s exactly the same. Why do you think these results are different? He goes, well, they actually believe it. So it's not just a process to follow. They actually believe in what's going on. And that's, as you said, if the team doesn't believe it don't and they don't see the results from it, then they're just checking the boxes and it's not gonna work.

Reifenrath (35:29):

Totally. That's such a great real life example, <laugh> it really, really proves it. So last few questions here. You mentioned YPO earlier. That's how we know each other. You've been in a long time, you've been very active on the global level, but first of all, just what has YPO meant to you in your professional career?

Albright (35:53):

YPO for the last 12 years, 13 years — I joined in 2010 — has been a career accelerator and I'd say a sanity preserver. I joined in Malaysia because I joined a company that was a private equity owned company, but it was really a turnaround in a country I've never been in before. There was, quite honestly — it was what my kids would call a hot mess. It was a lot of challenges there. And I was navigating a country that's a little hard to understand for an outsider and there's complexities in the way you do business there that I didn't understand. And so YPO offered a chance to get with people who were willing to share, Malaysians. And there was a couple other foreigners in my small group forum.

Albright (36:54):

They were willing to share and tell me who's who, what's what, what's real, what's not real. Somebody calls and says, you gotta do this. And you call your friend from YPO and say, is that real? Do I have to do that?That really was, again, a life preserver in the middle of a place… Had that not happened I would've made a lot more mistakes than I did, and I think that translates into other things. I've really tried to embrace broader networking of YPO, so I was on the executive committee of the doing business with China network. I was on the the Iowa chapter board for a number of years. And I get involved in a manufacturer's excellence network, which is a group of people that get together from around the country, that manufacture stuff, all really interesting people, all really great stories.

Albright (37:51):

And a lot of 'em become good friends, but more importantly, they're people who I can ask questions to, and they help me sound intelligent, help me solve problems, help me find resources for those problems. I would say half the consultants I've used in the last 12 years and half the outside service providers have come from recommendations from YPO members or YPO-owned companies. It's been amazing, and — YPO is great, but there's other networks like that, right? There's other things you can get involved with, but it goes back to what we talked about with my management team. I encourage them to get outside the boundaries of our four walls. I encourage them to get involved in the community and meet people outside of my purview and have your own references, have your own opinion, your own take on things.

Reifenrath (38:42):

You've done a great job of taking full advantage of YPO. You mentioned the MXM network, the national forum that you're in and local forum and international stuff. I know for myself that has just expanded my viewpoints. And if you have a problem, there's a YPO-er that's been through it already and you don't need to reinvent the wheel. You don't need to have sleepless nights. There's multiple people that have been through it, and they can give you a lot of advice quickly, like I think you've mentioned earlier — it really kind of cheats time to get to the solution. You don't have to spend all the time in the front. You solve 10% of the problem as opposed to a hundred percent of it. So, alright. Is there a question that I did not ask you today that you would love for me to ask or would want me to ask?

Albright (39:28):

The question that I think is really important, that most times doesn't get asked is: What makes a good manager? What makes somebody who’s… How do you… Is there a core essence of that kind of person, to be kind of metaphysical about it? We had an interesting opportunity when I was in China. There’s hyper-competitiveness for Chinese managers who spoke English, and 30% turnover of white collar jobs in 2002 to 2006 or 2007. So how do you keep people? How do you find the right managers? Everybody wanted to be the vice president by the time they hit their sixth month. So how do you sort through that? What we stumbled around was this consultant who ran a day in the life of managers.

Albright (40:26):

So you went into a room and they gave you an email stack you can't possibly get through. How do you triage that? You have to do a difficult employee role play where the consultants are a difficult employee. You have a mean boss you've gotta deal with, or a customer — and a good half of the Chinese internal folks or the applicants said, “I don't wanna do that. I didn't realize… That's a really not fun thing to do on a daily basis.” And so how do you put people in a context of, again, there's not one path to get there. There's not a cookie cutter look or place, but how do you get to know them well enough to know how they react? And so the adage of, you know, whether it be people who you've already hired or people that you're looking to hire, how do you spend enough time with them for the facade to come down and you really see how they would handle themselves in certain situations? Are they a kiss up, kick down person, which is against your culture? Is there something that, in their approach to business, that won't work? Those are the things I think that are really important. The resumes are great and experience base is great, but if they're not gonna fit and you can't tell that in an hour, can't tell that in two hours…

Reifenrath (41:49):

That's so true. So true, Jeff, thank you. This has been great. It's been insightful. I'm walking away with several tidbits that I'm gonna implement with some of our culture crew and team. So thank you for that. Thank you for your time. I know you're a busy guy like all presidents of a big organization, so can't thank you enough. That's our podcast for today: Culture Starts with U. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have, and we'll see you next time.