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Meet Don Akery, President of TTI Americas
Episode 220th January 2020 • Finding Gravitas • Jan Griffiths
00:00:00 00:46:03

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Meet Don Akery, a man who walks the talk when it comes to authentic leadership, a man who knows what it takes to take care of all of his stakeholders, customers, suppliers, owners, and most importantly, employees. We will explore today exactly how he does that and stays true to himself.

When people come to work at TTI they tend to stay.  The values statement at TTI talks about providing a home and it hasn’t changed in 40 years, the culture has evolved with the times and retained its core values.

A real southern boy from Atlanta Georgia who sold subscriptions to the Atlanta Newspaper and now runs a Berkshire Hathaway company, Don has valuable insights to share as we pursue our quest to find GRAVITAS.

 


02:20 Don’s story


03:49 Technology and leadership model changes


05:40 Attracting Millennials


07:07 Embracing social media


13:09 The executive roadshow / with a waiting list ?


20:52 That irresistible quality of leadership


21:36 The TTI story / the American dream


23:18 Working for Warren Buffett


29:48 Positional power vs supportive / coaching leadership


34:33 Creating a home for people


40:07 Advice to your 25 year old self


43:14 What’s your legacy ?

Transcripts

Dietrich:

Welcome to the Finding Gravitas podcast brought to you by Gravitas Detroit. Looking to be a more authentic leader? Finding Gravitas is the podcast for you. Gravitas is the ultimate leadership quality that draws people in. It's an irresistible force encompassing all the traits of authentic leadership. Join your podcast host Jan Griffiths that passionate rebellious farmer's daughter from Wales, entrepreneur, leadership coach, keynote speaker, one of the top 100 leading women in the automotive industry as she interviews some of the finest leadership minds in the quest for Gravitas.

Jan Griffiths:

Welcome to Episode One of the Finding Gravitas podcast. In this episode, we'll learn why this leader is able to retain people in his company, they tend to stay they want to stay. We'll learn about the executive roadshow, what's that all about? Where the locations actually have a waiting list to get on the executive review schedule. We'll learn more about social media. And we'll learn what it's like to work for Warren Buffett, all this and a lot more.

Jan Griffiths:

Today, we're going to be talking to a man who walks the talk when it comes to authentic leadership. A man who knows what it takes to take care of all of his stakeholders, customers, suppliers, owners, and most importantly, employees. I know a little bit about this firsthand, because I was actually a customer to a business that he ran several years ago. This man has also embraced social media. This man is Don Akery. He is president of TTI Americas and a Senior VP of TTI, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company with revenues north of $5 billion. Don, welcome to the show.

Don Akery:

Oh, thanks for having me.

Jan Griffiths:

Great to see you again.

Don Akery:

Oh, yeah. Ready to catch up? After quite a few years.

Jan Griffiths:

It has been Indeed, yes. Tell us a little bit about your story. Who is Don Akery? Where did you start?

Don Akery:

Started, I'm originally from Atlanta, from a southern boy. So even though I live in Texas, now, this is a Georgia accent. So a big difference there to me. But started in this business, actually, about 35 years ago, got into it more by accident than by strategy. I'd come out of school, I had not finished college at the time, I'd actually owned a small business on my own, learned a little bit about running a p&l when it's a small business. And if it didn't bring in enough money, it comes out of your own pocket. But I had friends that were in the electronics distribution industry. And for years they worked on me in order you need to get in this industry. It's a great industry. It's a fast paced industry. And after some time, I ended up talking to them going to work. And I'll say the rest is a little bit history. Many of those people ended up working as part of an organization for me that I started with, or as I moved to other organizations, being part of my team. So men with a cut been in the industry, electronic distribution, the entire professional career actually.

Jan Griffiths:

Interesting. You seen that industry change, obviously over the years?

Don Akery:

Absolutely. It's a maturing of an industry, obviously, technology. You can argue the distribution of electronic components. Is it really high tech or is it service? I look at it that it's combination services, probably the more critical component, but understanding of the technology is critical in what we do. It's part of what makes distributors I'll say somewhat different. Because our knowledge of technology has to go across many different categories of technology.

Jan Griffiths:

We've seen the technology change. Have you seen the people change? Have you seen the leadership model change over the years?

Don Akery:

Also definitely the leadership model. The industry was so fast pace. A guy like me could get the opportunity to lead a business at a young age, very young age and as the industry has matured, there are fewer players in the industry, I'll say so there's less opportunity for that fast advancement. A lot of people have stayed in the industry. We're going through it period of time now to make the industry more attractive. There's, there's better offers out there. If you look at it, everybody wants to be involved with software or with the internet or the internet of things. So distribution of electronic components, once considered, I'll say a sought after industry or profession to go into is less attractive. So we've got an aging population. If you look at the average age in the industry, it's gotten progressively older, we have many people that are retiring. And it's will we be able to get the young talent interested enough to go into this business.

Jan Griffiths:

So that's leads us into the obvious millennial question. So what do you do to attract millennials into your business?

Don Akery:

Well, now I look at it obviously, there's a lot of discussion around millennials, but it's I look at it is just how to get people interested in the business. And it all starts with, you know, communication, really communicating with the way that the people want to be communicated with, you know, I grew up in an environment to where you talked to people on the telephone, or you visited people face to face that's changed, went through, we went through an email era, to where email was the preferred and you could connect with people anytime day or night and send it send messages to them and get answers back. And as time progressed, we all get too many emails, so the responses started diminishing. And then we've we've picked up, you know, communicating via social media. So social media is a big push. And we found that many people, and it's not all just the younger generation, but it's an instant, back and forth, that you can connect with people that maybe you're not even that deep in a relationship with. But they're willing in order to respond back to you, because you've got profiles out, they understand your background, they understand your level of experience.

Jan Griffiths:

Well, social media, you have exploded on social media lately, I had not heard from you in many, many years. And all of a sudden, it's Don Akery on LinkedIn. So tell me because it's not just you didn't just look at social media for the business? Yes, of course, it's all business related. But you push a lot of information out on your LinkedIn personal profile. And we all know, I certainly know this starting my own business, it takes you you have got to sort of get over the hump of putting putting information out there and starting to talk on social media. So how did you do that?

Don Akery:

Well, it's, I'm an older guy, social media was new to me. And my my leadership style, I lead by example. So if I'm asking the organization in order to go out and get out there, then I felt like I was the guy that should be out front and center, I get asked quite quite a bit, Is it really me? Am I putting all the content out there? It absolutely is. That's the reason you'll see a lot of the posts go out very early in the morning, or over a lunch break or late at night. Because I think it I think it needs to be me, it doesn't need to be content that's developed by someone else, I do have some of the more thorough post looked at by people. I will not let them edit without my approval. Because as I said, it needs to be authentic. It needs to come from what at my head and my style of writing. I looked at it and and social media was not a way for us to go out. And I'll say market or brand, the company that was not the objective. We looked at it that social media was to go out and to communicate. So I believe that if you look at the sales process in our industry, the way we've done it over the years, is face to face, knocking on doors, setting up meetings, setting, setting down with engineers, buyers, executives within the companies, and you know, trying to pitch her value trying to give examples of our value proposition. Well, that that dynamics change, no one's got enough time anymore. So the face to face interface has dropped dramatically. And how do you get that opportunity to pitch your value prop or to provide valuable information that may be is not anything that's going to help you sell anything, but it's going to help a customer solve a problem. And we saw social media as a way to do that. Secondarily, we looked at it and internally we commute we think we communicate well to our own people about what we're doing or strategies or initiatives or investments that we've made. And we found that that message is yes, so some people were getting it but the entire organization was not. So we added social media, we pushed our own employees to go out and connect with the company connect with me personally. And now I've found that I've got more of the population who are in tune with what we're doing. They're in tune with investments that we're making maybe in areas that do not impact their day to day job. And I'll say that's a huge objective of using social media is just to make sure that all the people that are part of the organization and make it work, understand what we're doing,

Jan Griffiths:

You're very comfortable in letting the personal your personal side come out in the business realm. And that, of course, goes directly to authentic leadership, because that's what authentic leaders do. You are clearly a man who has a lot of executive presence. But yet there's there's a warmth and a comfort level with you, that goes along with that. And often you see people that are either either one or the other, it's it's having both of these traits and characteristics, I think is often missing. Any advice to any leaders out there who perhaps think that they have to be all about executive presence and not let any personal information out? Because I know that there's, you know, there's a reluctance to do that. Any advice for people that are concerned about that?

Don Akery:

Well, for me, I mean, I've taken it, I've looked at it, I look at the risk of all that all the information being out there and the traffic out there. And I've thought that the benefit far outweighed the risk. You know, I look at it that, you know, the advice I'd give anyone is Be who you are, don't try to be something else. I mean, obviously, we all put ourselves together. And we think, you know, we we collect our own, I'll say attitude of what we think we're supposed to be. But I found that it's a whole lot easier just to be who I am. I mean, that's how I was built this way. It's from a lot of experiences. It's not necessarily from trying to emulate any anyone else. I think that everything I've done, I'll say before, even before the career in electronics, I think is influenced what I am today. I started working when I was 14 years old selling subscriptions to the Atlanta newspaper, didn't, you know, it was a way to make some money. But I look at what that taught me. Because you know, what I do today is a whole lot easier. At least the customers today want what I'm selling, back then not everybody wanted when I saw what I sold. So having a few doors slammed in the face when you're 14 years old. And still going back and doing it again the next day. I think that taught me something. So I think those level of experiences make me who I am and make me more interesting than if I try to emulate some, you know, very successful executive and in the world.

Jan Griffiths:

Staying with social media, is something that I have seen come up on LinkedIn. I've maybe the last couple of months. And it's your executive roadshow. And I love this because when you look at it, it almost looks like a band tour schedule, which I don't know if that was the intent.

Don Akery:

But what sort of evolved to that? We have not gotten T shirts made up yet. But they're in the works right now.

Jan Griffiths:

I think you obviously should

Don Akery:

It's a roadshow with all of the band dates on the back of it. So yeah, it's coming.

Jan Griffiths:

But what a what a brilliant idea. Because as we all know, great leaders are consistent, they have consistency. So you're putting the schedule together. And as I understand it, it is a roadshow. That includes not only your locations, but suppliers and customers and perhaps other stakeholders. Is that right?

Don Akery:

Absolutely. Absolutely. We look at it. And in our industry, we get caught up sometimes especially at the corporate level to where we end up, I'll say more internally focused, you know what we started out this year, and to be more in tune with the customer. So the roadshow was, you know, a thought that came up and said, Let's go out. Let's load up and I'm taking a group of of my leadership team, we fly into a market. We go visit customers, all size customers, not just the largest. I've been in customers that their annual sales were $3 million. Alright, I've been in customers where their annual sales were 30 billion, you know, so it's full range, but there's no better way in order to really stay in tune with what what's happening in our industry. And what our customers expect. So that's I'll say, the foundation it was built on. And when we go in we we meet with our own teams, reiterate our, our strategy, answer questions, you know, get them try to give them feedback. If there's anything that we're doing that they don't understand, then, you know, they're able to ask us, but then we also pull together, the supplier and rep community, we represent about 50 suppliers on a global basis. But yet they've got rep networks and local people who don't always get exposed to the corporate side of our organization, we're pretty large organization being over 5 billion. But we pulled them in for a town hall meeting, and we talked to them about what we're doing, what we see going on in the market, it's been well received, we've done I think we've done almost eight markets now. So although it's not easy, there's just been some days that we started, you know, five o'clock in the morning, and we get finished at 10 or 11 each night. But the reward that we receive out of it, we're getting that consistent message, you know, throughout the country, you'll see us go on, we actually have not announced the next leg. We're heading over the border into Canada, in November. And then you'll see us continue this throughout 2020.

Jan Griffiths:

Well, I believe that that's a best practice. Obviously, executive teams have visited suppliers and customers and their locations from decades. But it's the way that you do it. And the way that you use social media to promote it, and the way that you commit to it. And this comes back to leading yourself before you can lead others and personal accountability. You're not afraid to go out there and saying, here's the band tour schedule, we're committing to these dates. And I think you go out at least a quarter if not six months, right? Six months, correct.

Don Akery:

We typically about a quarter. But the I'll say the last one we just finished out we went out a little further than that.

Jan Griffiths:

So it shows commitment to making that happen. But it also helps people in the organization that work in a corporate environment, there's always this Oh, no, the executive team is coming. Oh, we got to clean the office up, oh, no, I better get you know, another 45 Page PowerPoint presentation together. And you know, there's this sort of fear and dread. But somehow I get the sense that that's not the case at TTI.

Don Akery:

Now, it says actually, they look forward, we've got a a waiting list of the locations that have asked us, Hey, can we be next part of it helps on I mean, you know, they're out to where we go into their customers, we help sell the value prop we help support what they've been trying to do. So the ones who are really good, give us those questions that they don't they're not sure they're getting the full answer. And they asked us to ask those same questions again, and maybe we'll get a, you know, a little more of the real answer. So I'd say the team's embraced it, they look forward to it. They want us to keep going. With exceptions of our spouses, they're probably the only ones that are not as enthused with it. My wife gets a copy of my my calendar, I just print them out for and she said she looked at my calendar over the past four weeks. And she said, how are you going to do this? And I said, Well, we'll figure it out. All I have to do is follow it. I get on an airplane. And I'll go in and it's pretty easy from there. But this is the fun part of the job. This is where you're going out you're with the people who make it happen. You're able to actually let them know that they were the ones who make it happen. Sometimes we don't do that enough.

Jan Griffiths:

And you said that there's actually a waiting list people want you to come and visit their location or yeah,

Don Akery:

We've had some of our suppliers and our reps who have actually follows us around multiple locations we're calling them are groupies.

Jan Griffiths:

Yeah, I believe it. I love it.

Jan Griffiths:

Yeah But they've got they've got different businesses and relationships with multiple markets. So they'll go around and follow us around quite a bit.

Jan Griffiths:

Well, I think it's a very clever idea. I think it's clearly a best practice. And as you say, it's one way to really connect with people. And again, I love the personal accountability aspect of it, you say you're going to do something and you're going to do it. So let's take that more into leadership of yourself now rather than leadership of your team and your company. We all know that we can't lead others until we know how to lead ourselves. So what give me some of the things that you do maybe on a daily basis or a weekly basis that help you maintain your own personal accountability? Well,

Don Akery:

I use the word discipline quite a bit. And the discipline to me is what what has helped me survive helped me be successful in what I do. It's that you know, making the decision of a road show is important. Then I have to have have the discipline to execute. And I'm the only one I can control. I mean, you you don't, you can't control what other people, you know, my job is to try to, I'll say inspire them, enlighten them that they at least they understand what we're trying to accomplish. But you know, it really started is the organization. And for the second half of this year, to do one more thing each day, one more thing that they do already. And so this was my one more thing. I go visit customers, but I typically don't visit, you know, 10 in a week, you know, it's a little harder for me, but I've asked them, Hey, can you visit one more customer a week? Can you call and talk to one more customer? So it's up to me to have the discipline to do my one more thing. Also,

Jan Griffiths:

I love that one more thing, idea. People, your employees, they want to do that for you. You have that irresistible quality of leadership that pulls people in, they want to do it for you. They want to give you that extra energy that they have. We would call that gravitas. What is it done? What is that thing that? People want to give you the the extra to go the extra mile for a leader? What is it? Is it one thing? Is it that I mean would talk to us about that?

Don Akery:

If I've only had to say one thing, it's they want to be part of it. They don't want to be told what to do. You know, they want to be part of the success. And with TTI we've got a very good success story. You know, Paul, Andrew started the company in 1971. He was laid off from General Dynamics purchasing guy, right. That's it. I love that. Yeah. TTI is set up from a buyer's perspective. And but he got laid off, and there was no big strategy to turn it into a $5 billion company. The strategy was, I gotta make a little bit of money to support my family. I mean, he it's beautiful to hear him tell the story. But it's better to hear his wife tell the story. His wife was a schoolteacher, and he would she came home after he got laid off. And some of the people at General Dynamics called him and said, Hey, where did you get these really inexpensive little parts called resistors. And back then the internet was not there. So he said, Hey, I won't tell you that, but I will get them for you. And then he marked them up a little bit and made a little money on. And that turned into what TTI is today. And you know, so that story is a great story. But it tells a lot about the company. So all of us who work for the company. I mean, we're really proud to be part of that story. It still is the American Dream story that he turned it into. And if you were ever to meet Paul, he's a he's very, I'll say, humble. That, you know, you would never know that he sold his company to Warren Buffett. And he is doesn't have to work hasn't had to work in years. But he still comes into work every day. He's 76 years old. You know, he reports to Warren Buffett, who's in his late 80s Now, and Warren's partners 94. So on my last birthday, they started doing the math. And they told me Well, the best they could figure I had 30 more years to work so and I said, I'm not really sure I'm cut out like those guys are.

Jan Griffiths:

You wrote an article not too long ago about what it's like to work for Warren Buffett to work to be part of the Berkshire Hathaway family. And there were several points in that article that resonated with me, I'd like to read back one of those quotes from the article. You said, it's a healthy environment to work in, I'm allowed to make decisions and not be second guessed, I'm given the opportunity to take educated risks. And the possibility of making a mistake doesn't paralyze me, when I read that, Dawn, that that resonated with me like you cannot believe because I firmly believe that there's a lot of fear in the boardrooms today. And people are afraid to put a thought or an idea or to make a decision and step out there in case they get their head taken off. And if we don't change that environment, then we're never going to get to innovation, because innovation, as you well know is all about trying and failing and trying and failing and reiterating that cycle. So talk to us a little bit more about where this statement came from and how you see leadership model of the future changing in order to embrace innovation.

Don Akery:

I think you know, I made that car I'm related to, I'll say, a comparison to publicly traded companies, Although, technically, we're part of a publicly traded company, but we operate privately. That gives you a lot of, I'll say, leeway enough time in order to see a strategy to fruition. And I'll give it to Warren Buffett, he is unbelievable man, Eric, what you read about in his personality, have never heard a crossword out of don't, he holds us accountable. But he's not holding us accountable to a, I'll say a false expectation. When Paul sold the company to Warren, he first year, we put together a big plan. Paul calls him and says, You ready for me to come present this plan to you? And he said, No, I don't think so. I think you guys keep doing what you're doing. He said, Because if you guys submit a plan to me, and you start missing the number, I'm afraid you may do something unnatural to try to hit your plan, versus do what's right, for the business for the long term health of the business. So taking that longer horizon, you know, so starting, you know, with that, with that kind of foundation, that the relationship, I mean, Berkshire Hathaway is a holding company, they are not an operating company. So a big difference there. He goes out and he buys companies, the companies that he takes a full position in like he did with CTI. He, his comment to me is he said, I buy companies, I don't sell companies. So if you look at the 80, plus companies that he owns outright, you will see that he's never sold a company that he's bought. Now he's taken big positions and publicly traded companies, because of access to cash and investments to where he needs to put the money to work. And those he does take either larger positions, or they go up and down on a regular basis. But his style of management makes it easy. Part of it, I believe in the public world, the analyst and the head trying to hit quarterly objectives, I think, prevent people from taking risk, prevent people from taking risk on a longer term strategy. I mean, how many strategies can you put in place, and within six months, you're looking at it again, to where you have to make changes. We don't do that the strategies that we work on today, they evolve a little, but you know, they're not rocket science. I mean, so we go and we're able to stick with those. And that's how we tend to grow at a faster rate than many of our competitors in the industry.

Jan Griffiths:

So you take a man like Warren Buffett, basically what you're saying is that it's he's very successful, obviously, everybody in the world, I think, knows that. So it's okay to be nice.

Don Akery:

Absolutely. Absolutely. He is a nice, you know, we spent time with him in his office and, you know, sitting around and he's, he's got a, I don't know if he's got a photographic memory or not, but he tends to remember things that he reads, just one time. We do not send him extensive reports, if we're, obviously we go in and we report our financials, those are rolled up, he typically is intimate with those on all the companies that he owns. He can ask questions about him, he knows of the metrics, or I'll say trending in the right direction or the wrong direction. Good example is he was two years ago with the shareholder meeting in Omaha. He was asked a very detailed question about our performance from an analyst, then these questions at the shareholder meeting are not anticipated. They're taken at random, both combination from analyst journalist and then from audience members. But this this one came from an analyst. And Warren was able to answer the question and correctly state some of the facts about our business. He doesn't claim to know that much about our business, but he understands how it operates.

Jan Griffiths:

So he clearly supports this idea of full empowerment, he allows you and your team to run the business, correct?

Don Akery:

Absolutely. Absolutely. If I've been in meetings with him to where, you know, if a question is asked of him about what we should do in a situation, he I've never heard him answer it. Typically, it's turned around as a question back or he'll just sort of giggle a little and say, you guys know that better than I do. If we want him to look at numbers and to analyze a particular, you know, maybe an acquisition target, yes, he could do that and look at it. But that's pretty simple math.

Jan Griffiths:

There is a leadership model out there and I know you've perhaps seen it operate. It's not one that you employ, but the one that says that you know, I am the boss, I am the leader. I will tell you what to do. It's very much a positional power model, it is not that of the Warren Buffett model, which is more supportive and coaching. But yet we see this more aggressive model playing out in boardrooms every day. And my fear is that as the younger generation sees this behavior, that they start to emulate that because they see that as a path to success. So how do we get more leaders in the boardroom that really employ more of this supportive coaching, empowering type leadership model than the other?

Don Akery:

One, I think you have to look at obviously, some some, there's some very successful companies that have led where they have leaders that are more aggressive. But I think if you go back and look at, I'll say, the companies, the New Age companies, or even some of the older companies that have evolved, I think you'll see that more participation from the people in the organization. It changes that dynamic. I mean, if you look at it, our plan and our strategic planning is not me sitting down with my staff, and coming up with what our strategy should be. Our strategy is to go out and talk to the people who are frontline and say, Hey, what do you think, what should we be doing different? Is there a particular market that we should invest more resources experts in? And so it starts from the bottom up also. And when you include people like that, the bind of the strategy is a whole lot easier. Because our strategy is not corporate strategy or Don strategy. Yeah, that makes a big difference. Yeah. But it's also a better strategy typically. So it's not a way to get them to buy in, it's a way to develop the best strategy to get the optimal results.

Jan Griffiths:

Because you're encompassing this idea of cognitive diversity. Absolutely, yes. And I believe a lot of this revolves around trust, a lot of discussion today around trust and transparency. And I think if you speak to a lot of leaders, you know, they will say, Yes, you know, I, I trust my people. But then when you go in and see how they operate everyday in the workplace, they don't walk the talk. So how do you what what advice or maybe some ideas you could give to people to help them create and nurture trust amongst their teams?

Don Akery:

Well, as it starts with communication, I'm going to start with the ear part of communication and the listening piece of it. People appreciate that if they're truly listened to not going through the motions. But to go out and actually, you know, communicate. You know, you mentioned this roadshow, every roadshow that I go through, I go up, and I communicate directly with every employee, one on one, so that they get connected, they get to know me a little better. I go out, and I actually part of the reason that I mentioned the social media, but I also write internal posts, which the Warren Buffett article was actually an internal article that I'd written to send out and our marketing people got a hold of it and said, Hey, let's let's post this externally, versus internally, but I was writing that for the people to understand, I'll say, how good we have it. You know, many hadn't have never worked for a publicly traded company, I have, I know the environment, I know the way that I'm allowed to make decisions. And but that was put together in an effort in order to I'll say, build that trust, build that relationship with the organization. And you know, in the Americas, part of our business, we're a little shy of 2000 employees. So it's not easy from for me to connect with a large percentage of those employees, especially when they're, you know, a good portion of the population are located in branch offices, you know, throughout North America. So it's, you know, I think that's the advice I would give is the to build the trust. I think you have to go in and listen and communicate. But you also have to do what you say you're going to do. And, you know, if I say we're going to do a roadshow, then I need to show up, and I need to be there and doesn't necessarily have to be easy. And I think they see that and that that builds that, you know, respect and the respect turns into trust over time.

Jan Griffiths:

Yeah, I think you're absolutely right. And I'd like to take us from trust to a point in your vision statement. It's the third point in your vision statement. And if I may, I'm sure you know it, but I'll read it back to you, because I actually like to say it. The third point of the vision statement is to provide a home for hardworking, dedicated, knowledgeable and ethical people who believe in this company and philosophy, that there's so much going on there, the first part of this provide a home, that that truly resonated with me, because that goes right to the heart of safety, psychological safety. And Google project, Aristotle told us that the number one success factor, or the number one thing that makes a high performing successful team, is psychological safety. So talk a little bit about this point in your vision statement and how you make that a reality.

Don Akery:

The vision statement that was not written recently, that vision state statement was written more than 40 years ago. And Paul started the company, it's been tweaked in the actual, that third bullet there about the home for the hard working the people piece of it, honestly, has not been changed in more than 40 years. The only pieces that have been changed are technologies earlier in the vision statement, it talks about the technologies that we strive to be the best app. And that has been expanded as our business model has changed slightly. But the home for the hard working people, Paul purposely chose the word home. When he put this together, if you listen to him talk about it. He said he, he always wanted to go to work somewhere that he was comfortable. If you think about it, the amount of time we spend with, with our colleagues in the office. It's many, many hours. And if you're going to do that every day, and you don't feel like it's a home, you don't want to be there. I'm not sure that you're ever going to perform at your optimal levels. I tell the story, I ended up at TTI. I've been there. Over six years now. I worked for a large publicly traded company. And I came home one day and I told my wife and they treated me very well, a very successful company. And but I came home and I for the first time in my career, I don't really want to go to work anymore. And my wife has known me since we were teenagers. She said yeah, I could tell I don't want to say anything. And it was the grind of not really filling, like what I was doing was for the long term betterment of my responsibility. And Paul Andrews had, you know, we go to industry events to where I knew, Paul and I knew quite a few of the other executives with TTI. And they had approached me many times over the years about hey, would I like to join the team. And I'm, I'm not a guy that likes to change very often. And my wife reminded me, well, you know, that you promised Paul Anders, if you ever decided to leave, you'd give him a call. And so I did pick up the phone, I was actually about to take another position to run a small company, really not even doing what I had been had been doing. And so it was a little bit of a change. But when I called Paul and he said, Phil, trust me, I really don't have a job, but I want I'm gonna hire you. And you come in and you learn, learn TTI you know, the industry. And I came in as a utility guy. So it was a trust factor from day one. But I think part of that it goes back to that home. That safety, I felt safe enough to make a career change, a big career change, to go to work for a company because it felt right. And I think that that last bullet on that vision statement. I'll say sums it up better than I could ever say it. Yes,

Jan Griffiths:

I would agree with you. And this goes right along the thoughts of Simon Sinek. And Simon said recently, the customers will never love your company until your employees love it first. And it sounds to me like that's something that TTI clearly gets and puts into practice.

Don Akery:

Absolutely. I mean, people have to want to go to work. And as I said earlier, if they want to go to work, and they're proud, and they respect the model, the company is built on. Then, you know, I personally believe that the performance of that individual and the that group of individuals is going to be significantly better than those who are just going in and and doing their job and doing what they believe is right. And I think that's TTS success over the years is because the people we have many, many people that have been around Mike Morton or RS coo I think he was about employee number 10. So he's in his 40 Something year of being with the company. We have many that are You know, 30 plus years, I'm still a new guy, that kid me, I'm still on probation after six years.

Jan Griffiths:

What advice Dawn would you give to your 25 year old self in this environment today? And I know that that even makes a difference. But if you were looking at your 25 year old self today, what would you tell yourself,

Don Akery:

definitely makes a difference at 25 years old, I look back there. And if I knew what, what I knew, then obviously would have been easier. I look back some of the mistakes I made, in the beginning trying to, I'm gonna say manage, not lead people. I thought that everyone needed to do it in my own way, use my own process. And I found out in my career, that that is absolutely not the right way. All of us are different. There's a lot of very successful people who do the same job. But to get there in different ways. I tell the story, I lost a couple of employees early on in my management career, I'll say the first stent I had when as a sales manager many, many years ago. And these two individuals are still very good friends today, they're both very successful. But my frustration with them back then was they did it differently than I did. One went on into the software industry and has been very successful. Over the years. The other continued, I'll say in in adjacent to the electronic distribution, and the same, very successful. But those I made the mistake of losing those two employees early on. Lucky for me, I realized that sooner than later. But I would believe that, you know, be open, a little more open minded diversity, in all aspects of a diversity of the different mix of people and thoughts and ideas, I think make an organization much, much stronger. I'd also tell myself to be willing to communicate, even when you don't feel it's unnecessary. And the communication piece of it, don't assume I use the term for myself, No, you got to, you know, you have to make an idiot proof for me, you know, it communicate in a set of terms that are easy for anyone to understand. And I'm the, let me draw the line, let it be from me, if you can communicate it to me on my level, and then then I'm good with it. And many people will pick up and learn from that.

Jan Griffiths:

And there's a famous quote, I think it's a short quote, the problem with communication is the illusion that it has already taken place.

Don Akery:

Yep, absolutely. Typically, if you go back in and look at things, there's what I said and what I thought I said, and what you hear and what your interpretation of what I heard, and then, you know, obviously those do not always align. So to go back in and you know, it takes repetitiveness it takes, you know, more than just, I'll say, a quick email or a quick voicemail. I'd say it's a process to me. Yeah.

Jan Griffiths:

Okay. What's your legacy?

Don Akery:

I hope my legacy is that I helped some people see what they could do. And I go back and look in my career of people that I've worked with some that were not the easiest Salcedo to, to lead or to manage. But when I look back, I see some, I'm thinking of an individual that I recruited and brought into an organization in Europe. Probably one of the most intelligent people that I've ever worked with a PhD in experimental physics. But in early in his career, even being that smart, he had challenges. And it was on the people side of the business. And I think that I helped open his eyes to that, and today runs a company that's half a billion dollar global business that he runs. So I do think maybe I helped influence him. So I would look at my legacy to be that maybe I help people, you know, discover themselves. And I had a group of people early in my career, that was a an office that they were good, but they didn't realize how good they were. And it was about a $4 million operation. And within about a three year period, that same group of people with no additions. They had a $40 million business, so tenfold in just three short years, but it was the same people and I'm not sure they believed that they could do it. So I look at those type things. And if I can go back in and there's enough of those then And I did. Okay.

Jan Griffiths:

Well, I thank you very much for sharing your leadership message with our audience today. I think there's a lot that people can take from you. And I love this idea that you work for Warren Buffett company and it's okay to be nice.

Don Akery:

Yeah. Nothing wrong would be nice. Okay.

Jan Griffiths:

Thank you very much. Thank you.

Dietrich:

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