Brad has been supporting and improving the lives of those around him for over four decades. He has brought perspective and context into every role he has had. Having been in manufacturing for most of his adult career, he has forged relationships by learning what matters to the people. In doing so, Brad was able to master the art of change management. Working with family-owned blue-collar businesses as a customer and supplier, Brad understands both sides of the industry creating growth and wealth.
In your line of work, you do a lot with regard to accountability and setting expectations. Can you speak to our listeners a little bit about why it's so important to have set expectations and accountability?
It's important for multiple reasons. When you look at it from a business owner’s perspective, it's important to know what your team is going to accomplish, not so much the tasks that they need to do, but what are the results that you're looking for? And clearly communicating that expectation because as humans, we really don't want to disappoint people that are really not in most people's natures are disappointed or upset. So when we have clear expectations, we know what we're working towards on a regular basis. So we're clear on what we need to achieve, we know what others are expecting from us and it makes life just so much easier to know. If you knew what you were expecting for dinner every night, if it was planned out every night, for the rest of your life, that conversation that happens of what's for dinner and that whole big mess that happens in many, many households just don’t happen because you know you have a plan, you know what the expectations are. And it just makes life a little bit easier when you know what the expectations are. On the accountability side, it is important to allow us to know as employees and or as owners, what you're accountable to do, what that result really means. So if you're accountable to make sure that the driveway gets poured, and it's finished the customer satisfaction if you're a concrete guy, you now know what you're accountable for and what that responsibility looks like and you're given the authority along with that accountability to make sure that you can deliver those results. That's where a lot of disconnect ends up happening is we tend to give the accountability without necessarily the authority to make those decisions or use the resources appropriately to allow the result to happen.
What is the turnaround when you see business owners start enacting expectations and accountability as far as the challenges that they're experiencing with their business?
The first challenge is to get the owners to understand what the expectations are from a results perspective. Most are so task-focused, I want you to make 30 calls a day, I want you to see 10 customers, I want you to pick 15 lines of orders every hour. So we're so focused on the task that we lose focus on what the result is. That's where we start stemming the creativity problem to allow people to be creative solution problem solvers. So the first step is to get the owner to think about the results. Once they define the results and they get them documented and we get the position agreement and alignment and have the employee-employer conversation, there's this big weight lifted off of people's shoulders, because they now know what's expected. They come into work and they do that thing to focus on those results and the noise and the garbage that everybody goes and works on every day goes away. It doesn't actually go away, it just gets refocused into more positive energy because we're not focusing on the minutia, we're focusing on the bigger picture. Instead of the did you make the 25 phone calls? No, I made 15 phone calls, but I got $300,000 worth of proposals written with those 15 phone calls. So the number of phone calls didn't matter, the proposal writing was what mattered.
There's this major challenge that's faced with regards to recruiting and attracting especially that Gen Z crowd. How can companies go about and do a better job of getting that audience to want to work within their organization?
So this may sound really weird, but the Gen Z kids that are 24 and younger right now, they will likely be as loyal as the boomers were if you give them a reason to be loyal. So being able to set your expectations, show them a career path. Yep, you might start them at $12, $13, or whatever that number is, but if you can show them the path, to get from A to B to C to D, over a period of time, they will stay and they will have a sense of purpose. They will know what they're working towards and what they're working for. Versus historically, many would say, "Hey, kid, come in here, go do the slop work and in 30 years, you'll be a master machinist, and good luck to you." Kids nowadays aren't looking at 30 years, they're looking at 2, 3, 5 years so if you can show them the path to go from 12 to 15, to 20 to 25, that's where that results-based accountability aspects of running your business can now show them how to get from A to B much sooner because maybe you're manufacturing guy and your machine is quality rate might be 400 ppm. If somebody can run it at two, well, they're worth more to your company so pay them more. Show them the results, if they can demonstrate consistent results over and over again and bring value to the organization, they should be rewarded accordingly, versus time in seat. That's going to be the biggest change for Gen Z is reward based on performance. Not just wisdom, but performance to start with, and show them how to get there quicker and then slowly work in the wisdom piece of that because wisdom and performance typically are inverses of each other.
What's one of the biggest opportunities you see for companies today?
It's the Gen Z. The Gen Z kids learn differently, they're quicker at getting many tasks completed. Depending on what the industry is, there are many things that are different. Skilled Trades as an example, not as much exposure, not as much of that common sense application, but they've learned differently. Provided the right opportunities, they'll adapt. They are probably the most adaptable generation that I've seen working within the FIRST Robotics organization and seeing that my kids grow up and what they've had to go through versus what some of my friends that are younger than me and myself had to go through. Far more adaptable, far more open to asking the question, "Why are we doing it this way?" Versus being told to do something, you just did it even though you knew it was wrong. When I first entered the workforce, just do it this way, there was no questioning, you just went ahead and did it. These kids are far more apt to connect, they are the largest connected generation on the planet. A Gen Z kid here in the US versus a Gen Z kid in Europe are probably more connected today in similar experiences from technology and resources and information than any other generation. So the world is wide open and when you want to talk about networking, I mean, just think of all the gaming connections and all the other things as they enter the workforce. It's just mind-blowing how much opportunity exists by bringing in young talent into an organization. You've got to be willing to do it, you gotta be open-minded enough to say, I'm going to out behave my competition.
Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite networking experiences that you've had?
One of my favorite networking experiences was actually one of my most uncomfortable experiences. So one of the associations here in town provides a women's event. I am not a woman, in any way, shape, or form. But I was intrigued by the content that was being delivered. It was an open forum so I get to the event and I'm the only guy at the event. I knew some people that were attending and different things, but it was the most uncomfortable I've ever been in a networking event. However, it was also one of the most rewarding because I had to put my biases down, my guard down, all those judgment things down and look inward into, "Hey, I am the one that's different in this room, how can I use that to my advantage to be able to create relationships and networking opportunities and use the difference as an opportunity versus the same?" People like being comfortable in the same environment when I was very uncomfortable and made some great connections and some great referral opportunities and it was the most uncomfortable I've ever been and I would not change for the world that really changed my mindset about networking moving forward.
How do you stay in front of and nurture the community that you've created?
It's lots of conversations through LinkedIn, connecting on their posts, connecting and commenting on their posts. If I happen to have Facebook connections with them, as well, as an old person, Facebook is kind of the place where I go for social sometimes that are not professional. I've started leveraging my CRM to put in my task reminders, to say, "Hey, I should really contact this person in four months to get together for lunch, or to have a cup of coffee, or to find out how the promotion went," those types of things. So leveraging a CRM tool to stay connected and put those reminders out there are very important. Past colleagues, I will actually make phone calls every three to six months when I'm driving now, in between, because the drive time now is that opportunity to create the connection up to say, "Hey, it's been a while what's going on?" And just get some industry updates, opportunities and just stay connected to various businesses.
What advice would you offer that business professional is really looking to grow their network?
So a couple of weeks ago, I did a video on LinkedIn about the hard sell that happens on LinkedIn all the time, so don't do that. The biggest thing is it be your authentic self. If you can be your authentic self, and you're there to develop a relationship, I have no problem connecting with somebody on LinkedIn or having a 15-minute call just to get to know and understand their business and see what can happen. But if you're going to come out of the gates blazing and pitch me what you're going to sell me or you're just going to come out that way from the get-go, I don't want to talk to you. I don't need to be sold to. I may have people in my network that can help you with but I'm likely not going to be your buyer because you're selling me something that 4,500 other people have probably tried to sell me something and I already have somebody in my network from that perspective. That doesn't mean I don't need somebody else to be a referral partner or network partner to fit a different niche or level or regional area potentially. Be authentic and be pure in your attempt. If you want to tell me you're going to sell me, then tell me you're gonna sell me and we're not going to connect, but don't backdoor that either.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
Be less judgmental, as you went through and created relationships. Less posturing to be the smartest person in the room at times. That may have limited some opportunities for me. Going into rooms and judging people based on characteristics or different things without ever getting to know them, whether it was the corporate world or networking in my current line for whatever it was, may have created some limiting opportunities for me long term as I look back on some situations.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you can do it within the sixth degree?
I think it would be a fun conversation, being a local guy to sit down with Bob Uecker to have a half-hour lunch and just listen to him ramble about change and how baseball is different and just listen to some of those old stories in a row versus an inning here or there over the course of an entire season. Just hearing some of that would be fantastic, to be able to sit down with them and have that direct interaction. Could it be done within six? Yeah, cause he's local, I am confident I'm within six to Mr. Uecker. I would probably start that journey within my Delaware North network, here locally, and start within the organization from that and just connect from that perspective.
Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Connect with me on LinkedIn! I am more than happy to connect with people on LinkedIn and have the opportunity to have a conversation. I wouldn't say my networking is huge, however, I tend to be able to give somebody a connection or two, or create the right connections or have the right conversation to find an opportunity for somebody. I love networking to give people opportunities to meet other folks. I went through my introductions list last year and I made 250 introductions last year.
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