Episode 268: Jody Richards 2020 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Episode Summary

Leadership is a journey, and the obstacle we find more often in our path is no other than ourselves. As leaders, we need to be mindful of our attitude, steady in our judgment, and make tough decisions thinking of the greater good. Leadership offers many challenges that can be quickly sorted out with proper planning and choosing a culture by design over one by default.  


Joining us today is Jody Richards, President at Process Technology, winner of the 2020 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award, certified Supply Chain Professional, Production and Inventory Management, and mom. We had an inspiring conversation about how it is for her to juggle parenthood and running a massive company, the importance of having a culture by design in a company, and having employees aligned with its values. We also talked about what the Entrepreneur Of The Year award represented to her and its impact on her team.  


Rob Shallenberger: Alright, welcome back to our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners. I’m grateful that you’ve made the time to join us today, we have an awesome guest with us today, and she’s going to share all kinds of different insights from both the personal and professional side. And I want to welcome Jody Richards, who I consider to be a very close personal friend, and someone who, over the years, I’ve learned from, I’ve had the chance to go out to her company – Process Technology – out in the Cleveland area a couple of different times and the opportunity to train her team and meet them and get to know them. And what she has really put together is inspiring, it’s awesome. And this is leadership, this kind of culture by design does not happen by accident. And so, I want to tell you just a little bit about Jody, and then I’m going to have her fill in some of these gaps. And I’m just going to hit the high-level things for more of a personal introduction, if you will. 

Rob Shallenberger: So, Jody, one of her crowning accomplishments, at least on the business side, in 2020 was the Ernst&Young Entrepreneur of the Year, which is a huge deal for anyone in the business world. I mean, that is a major award. And again, that’s not one that just happens by accident or happenstance, so that right there is a huge testimony to Jody’s professional success. And just like I mentioned, she’s really created an amazing culture and built an incredible team. And this is why Process Technology is such an amazing company in their particular industry. Now, on the personal side, amidst all of this professional success – and we’re on zoom right now, so she’s smiling – she just had recently two twin girls that are two beautiful girls, her and Sid, and I’ve had the chance to meet them, and just awesome. So, she’s balancing two new girls into their family, juggling the business life. And I think a lot of us can relate to that, of what it’s like to juggle kids and work and all of these other things. So, there’s a very brief background. Jody, welcome to the show and tell us a little bit about yourself.

Jody Richards: Thank you so much for having me here today, Rob. So, as Rob already mentioned, I am the president of Process Technology, we’re located outside of Cleveland, Ohio, and we make different types of specialty equipment that is used to manufacture semiconductor chips. So, anyone in the world who is using some kind of digital device, whether it’s a laptop, mobile phone, flat panel TV, even cars these days, they’re full of semiconductor chips. And so, we consider all of you indirectly our customers. And as Rob also mentioned on the personal side, I’m married, my husband, Sid, who is an amazing person and he’s running the company with me. We have twin daughters who were born last April, and we have Chance the wonder dog who has traveled with us to 16 countries.

Rob Shallenberger: This is funny. Anybody from Process Technology who listens to this – and I assume there will be a lot of them that listen to this podcast – this is one of the coolest and funniest things ever. So, we do this two-day training with a lot of her team, and we’re there in person, and Chance, the dog she just mentioned, it feels like a member of the team. So, the dog is there during the training, and every time you clap Chance just goes nuts, starts barking. And, oh, it was the funniest thing. So, my goal is to see if I could get Chance to bark. Well, Jody, we’re grateful to have you here. So let’s talk about a few things. I want to talk first about the business side of things and then we have a lot of listeners who are from the CEO level down to the frontline employee around the world, then we also have a lot of listeners on the personal side. Maybe it’s a stay at home parent, or it’s someone who’s a student or whatever. So, I really want to touch on both sides of that, the professional side and the personal side because you have experience and great lessons on both of those. And so, let’s start out, first of all, with the Entrepreneur of the Year Award. I mean, big award, it’s hard not to toot your own horn. There are some great articles I read about you regarding the Entrepreneur of the Year Award. And just tell us a little bit about that. I mean, what was that experience like? You won the award, big deal. What was the whole process like? What did it mean to you? How did it come about? Just talk a little bit about that if you could.

Jody Richards: So, one day in my inbox, I received an email that said I had been nominated to apply for the Ernst&Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. And so, as you mentioned, anyone who’s in business knows this is a big deal. And I was really just shocked that someone had taken the time to nominate me. So, the first part was an application, online application that had lots of different questions about the company and about me personally. And then there was a round of interviews, then there was a second round of interviews and because of COVID, they were not doing things in person, which meant that they asked us to film some videos answering specific questions. So, it was a great experience because it really made you reflect on yourself and your thoughts and about where you’re going, and how you package yourself. How you think about “What have I accomplished and where am I going? And where do I want to go?” So, just the whole process itself and basically, the self-learning that I took away from that, that was amazing. But actually winning was such a validation of the things that we’ve been doing for the past. I joined Process Technology in November of 2006 and we’ve completely changed the organization since the time I joined. And really, that is a huge validation that everything that we’ve been doing is really the right thing to do. And it’s, honestly, not just recognition for me, although I’m the president of the company and I technically won the award. I could not have done this without my team. Everyone at Process Technology, all the team members, all contributed to the company being successful. And I consider this validation that the whole company that all of us are on the right path.

Rob Shallenberger: Yeah, what a great thought. I mean, obviously, like you said, technically, you’re the award winner and you’re the one that sets the tone and the culture and the training and all of that. And yet, what a great and truthful observation to observe that the team members play such a key role in this, right?

Jody Richards: They absolutely do. I could not do anything without them, that’s the reason we’re a team, right? Because everyone has their part and we all have to be in it together to win. 

Rob Shallenberger: Yeah, that’s a great observation. So, you mentioned it’s a validation of some things that are working well. Speaking of that, what are some things that you do that you’ve learned along the way that work well? Maybe some of your lessons learned, things that you’ve done that you say, “Yeah, you know what? That has worked well.” So, if someone’s out there running a team or a business, and they’re saying, “What can I do to be a better leader?” What are some of your observations, lessons learned, and things that you’ve thought about that may empower someone to do that?

Jody Richards: What I’ve really learned more than anything else is that leadership is about tough decisions, and tough decisions are always about people. So, when you have people on your team, especially people who have been with you for a long time and you have to let them go, it’s heartbreaking. But you also have to look at the bigger picture of, “Do these people fit the culture? And are you going to let one or two people drag down everyone else?” You have to look at where we are going, not where we’ve been. And it can be extremely heartbreaking, but you really have to do what’s best for everybody, not what’s best for one person. And it’s a hard lesson, and every time it happens, it breaks my heart, but you have to look at the good of everybody. 

Rob Shallenberger: That’s an interesting one. And from my observation – in working with a lot of different teams, and being there myself – is, I’ve asked people in the room “Who held on to someone longer than you should have?” Every single hand goes up, we all know what that’s like because it’s hard to let someone go, right? You’re going to have to retrain, it costs time, it’s a huge effort of time and money and it’s laborious. The lesson learned in that, though, I think for a lot of us is when someone is no longer aligned with the vision of the team or the company, and it’s clear that that person is going in a different direction, it’s time to cut the string. And it’s better to do it early than is late because it’s rarely going to be better.

Jody Richards: I completely agree with you. As you figure out that person’s no longer a fit, you should move quickly. 

Rob Shallenberger: So, you mentioned that you’ve been with Process Technology since 2006. What are some other things that have really made Process Technology successful, some of your other lessons learned, things that you’ve done with the business that you say “This has really had a big impact”?

Jody Richards: So, I think there are a few things that we’ve done. We’ve transformed the culture from when I joined, there was a lack of accountability, there were no metrics. We’ve implemented Lean, we’ve put metrics on key performance indicators, and we’ve really driven to a performance-driven culture. There were no reviews when I joined Process Technology, so we implemented performance reviews. And I really think it’s important for people not only – I mean, a lot of people don’t really like writing reviews, and I will put myself in that category – but it’s a necessary evil, you need to give feedback constantly. And it really should be documented at least a couple of times a year. So, I think a lot of those different processes and just making sure the processes were written down and followed, and that we’re all organized and aligned and looking at the same goal. We didn’t have any type of business goals or annual operating plan when I joined. So, all of these things we’ve implemented, and then sometimes it’s easier to do those things where you have some kind of static number or some kind of written rule. And culture is certainly much more difficult, and this is why it is, as I said earlier the toughest piece, but really, like, bringing in BYB and really talking about – we talk about actually all the time that we want to have a culture by design, not by default. And so, we are designing the culture, the values, looking forward at where we want to go, not where we’ve been in the past.

Rob Shallenberger: Yeah, that’s awesome. Since I’ve had the chance to be there and meet a lot of the different people – and I’ll say this, for anybody who’s listening to this, whether it’s in a family or whether it’s in a company, creating that culture by design does not happen by accident. If there is not time and resources invested in the training, invested into what she’s talking about with performance reviews and KPIs and really setting up processes, then it will be a culture by default. And typically, that’s a mediocre team at best. It does take time and effort, and that’s leadership. And it’s one of the reasons Jody won the award. She’s put in the time and the effort and the resources, and I’ve seen that firsthand. So, I think that’s a good lesson for any leader, Jody, regardless of the size of the organization. Let me shift to another question here in different ways. So, let’s say someone’s joining Process Technology, a brand new member of the team, regardless of their background, what would you say to them? What are one or two things that you would say, “Hey, welcome to Process Technology, here are a couple of things that I’m going to tell you that I think could have a big impact on your success”?

Jody Richards: Okay, I think really, I don’t necessarily think this is just for Process Technology, I think this really applies to any organization. So, first of all, you need to know what needs to be done. If you’re in charge of sales or if you’re working on the production floor, you need to know this is what I need to do, and you need to make it happen. The second thing is constant learning. I mean, the world is evolving so fast with, I mean, Internet, and you can listen to podcasts, or you can look things up on Google, and you really need to be constantly educating yourself or you end up just falling behind. And that’s not really where you want to be if you want to be moving forward in a company. And the last thing is, I think you really, from whatever position you’re in if you can help others and learn from others, that’s super important because you’re going to build relationships at the company, people will see you as helpful, thoughtful, you’re a listener. These are great attributes for anybody.

Rob Shallenberger: Oh, yeah, that’s great. When I sold pest control in college, that number three was a piece of advice that someone gave me, they said, “Go find the best sales rep in the company, and simply learn from them. Ask them what they do. Learn from them, be a sponge, and then do what they do.” Don’t walk into this organization thinking you have it all figured out, learn from some of the best and then contribute to new ideas, bring your experience to the table. I love what you said there, Jody. What great advice for any organization! If you’re hired in the sales world, focus on that and knock it out of the park, get the greatest sales. If you’re in shipping, get great at shipping and knock it out of the park. Be the master of your arena. So, good advice. Anything else you would say to someone else – not necessarily Process Technology – any other thoughts for someone in the business world? And then we’re going to shift over to the other side of the equation, the personal side.

Jody Richards: I think really if you have a focus, and you know where you want to go, you have some type of North Star, then you will always have direction. And if you don’t have direction, you will just flounder. So, you need to make some decisions, set some own personal goals, whether they’re roles and goals, or just you have a list of three things that you want to accomplish in the next month or a year on your wall – if you don’t have that goal to set you on your path of where you need to go, it makes life very difficult.

Rob Shallenberger: Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up. For those who listen to this podcast consistently, they know that we talk about vision and goals a lot. And there’s a reason why. For that exact reason, Jody. A team member who has a clear vision that is aligned with the organization is obviously going to be more engaged and a higher performer than someone who’s just winging it, so to speak, that has really no purpose. And likewise, the persons that can articulate their targets, their goals are 90% more likely to achieve them. That’s a great parting piece of advice and really crazy statistics on this. Again, for people that listen to this consistently, you know the numbers. Only 2% of people have a written personal vision to your point, that North Star, the internal compass. Only 10% of people have written personal and professional goals. So, while talked about often they’re rarely being done. And you want to be an all-star in your area? Come up with your clear targets, your goals. What does that look like, your vision? Great insight there, Jody. So, let’s shift over to the personal side. And you’ve gone through life, you lived in different countries, if I remember right – you know, Japan – before joining Process Technology, is that correct? Am I right in my memory?

Jody Richards: Correct. Yeah, Japan, France, Spain, I’ve lived in a few different places. And I’ve spent time for my different positions I had prior to Process Technology in Japan, Australia, Europe, a lot of different places.

Rob Shallenberger: So, you come with a really wide wealth of experience. And Sid, you’ve been with Sid now for several years, and Sid is the same, he’s lived in places all over the world and so, between the two of you, you have a lot of experience and I want to see if we can tap into some of that. I asked you about some of your lessons learned in the business. As you’ve been around through life, and you look at your own personal life and you look at your life with Sid, what are some of your experiences or personal lessons learned along the way that you said, “That was a really important thing that I learned in my life. That was a pivotal learning point for me”? Because I think you sharing that will help other people, as well. And you mentioned podcast – that’s the whole point of this podcast, is to grow the knowledge. What are some nuggets out there that I may not be aware of? And I’d love to hear what some of your lessons learned are through all of that travel and experience.

Jody Richards: So, as you mentioned, actually I lived in Japan when I was in high school as an exchange student. And I learned to speak Japanese and I went to a Japanese High School. Sid actually is originally from India, and went to live in Budapest and did his university in Budapest at the Technical University, and had to learn Hungarian. And I think one thing that we really have in common with that is that you know, you have to adapt to whatever your situation is. You can’t sit there and be like, “Oh, well, I’m American. In America, we do it this way. And so, I’m living in Japan, and I’m living with a Japanese family, but we have to do it my way.” You can’t do that. Being able to adapt, being flexible, is a huge asset to anyone in any situation, even if you never go more than 10 miles from your house. Just being flexible and adaptable makes it much easier to work with people, to get along with people. And I think it’s really important, especially in today’s world.

Rob Shallenberger: Yeah. Okay. And that’s a great piece of advice. Let me ask this question. If you look back at maybe one or two coolest experiences through your life, what would they be? And I know it’s hard to narrow down to one or two because there are so many. But what would be one or two of the neatest, coolest experiences you look back and say, “Man, that was awesome”?

Jody Richards: That’s obviously a really difficult question to answer because you’re right, there’s so many of them. But there are a few key things that stick out in my mind when I look back at what’s been really great. I did an executive MBA with Kellogg, which was a phenomenal experience, it gave me a really… I don’t have a business degree from undergrad, so being able to get an MBA from a top university and really understanding and having good feedback from other people that I’m on the right path, that was hugely important to me. Like, having the confidence to continue growing the company. Being a member of YPO has been great – YPO stands for Young Presidents Organization – has been a great asset to me because it gives you so many different opportunities to learn, to join different conference calls, to travel to places, and go to different seminars. And actually, that’s how I met you, Rob, through a YPO seminar. And it’s really been a great influence in my life. 

Jody Richards: And I think the last thing is really just the travel. And there are so many trips that Sid and I both did independently before we met each other, we both love to travel. I think it’s one of the things that attracted us to each other. The trips that we have taken together and we created… Since we met we’ve traveled to a lot of places. But in particular our trips to Africa, we had an amazing trip to Iceland. And the trip that we had… Like, we’ve been to lots of different places in India, we had a great trip to Australia – that was actually our first big trip together. It’s really been amazing. And just being able to get out in the world, meet different people, see different places, really helps you to reset your mind and refocus. And particularly in the business world, seeing things, just seeing things from a different perspective, hearing people talk, even if they’re talking a different language and you don’t understand that language, just having that reset of not being in your normal little pattern of thinking, it really helps you to become creative and reset your mind to do different things and to do great things.

Rob Shallenberger: Isn’t it true that we get a little myopic sometimes in our own little world? 

Jody Richards: We most definitely do. 

Rob Shallenberger: In fact, they say that we have 40 to 60,000 thoughts per day on average, as a human. 85-95% in that range tend to be repetitive thoughts – our family, our business, our finances. And so, it’s a continual loop of thinking, right? And then right along with that 70 to 80% of those thoughts tend to be negative. I think one of the things that are interesting about the stories you just told is traveling by nature, even if it’s to a different state, even more so when you go to different cultures and countries, it tends to disrupt our own thinking. It gets us out of that thought loop, if you will, and says “Wow, look at that.” In India, the way they do things in India, or Nepal, or South Africa. I was in Bolivia for two years when I was 19 years old and what a change in perspective and thought process that gives us to travel and see different cultures. I mean, wouldn’t you agree, just like you said that being immersed in different cultures really is eye-opening?

Jody Richards: I completely agree with you. It can be a life-transforming experience, if you allow it to be.

Rob Shallenberger: Oh, that’s a good point. What do you mean if you allow it to be?

Jody Richards: So, when I went to Japan, the first time I was – this was before social media – so I was living with a Japanese family, I was going to a Japanese high school, I talked to my parents one time a week on the phone. And Sid about the same time was in Budapest, and he talked to his parents one time a month for five minutes because it was so expensive. And now actually, even the last time I was in Japan, living in Japan, it had been about 10 years since I was an exchange student. And I met a group of students, exchange students, who were living in my area, and they would all hang out together on the weekend, and they would go to McDonald’s. And let me just tell you, the girl that I met was Australian, so it wasn’t just like an American thing, but they would all hang out together and go to McDonald’s and speak English all the time. And I’m like, you have to really make a choice to opt-in.

Rob Shallenberger: They’re missing the experience, they’re missing the culture. 

Jody Richards: Exactly. 

Rob Shallenberger: Yeah, that’s an interesting point, and it’s funny you say that. When we go to other places, now, there are times security is an issue; I’ll stay at a hotel where security is strong. But if security is not an issue, I try to stay in places that are more like, really, truly embedded in the culture where you get to experience what that’s like because I just love seeing different perspectives. Like what you’re talking about, it opens up our minds that there are so many different ways of seeing things and doing things and I think it’s to our benefit not to be myopic.

Jody Richards: I think it’s also to our benefit to realize that there’s no one right way of doing things. There are a lot of different ways where you can achieve the same results and maybe some get you there faster than others and maybe that’s then a better way, but there’s no one right way of doing anything. And if you also remember this in your personal life, and in your business, this will help you to succeed.

Rob Shallenberger: Being flexible and adaptable is I think, where you started on that, which is a great comment. Here’s one more question and then we’re getting close to the wrap up here. You now have added twins to your equation. What has that been like now balancing running a company and the family life and juggling that new aspect of life? Like a dog, you can leave with a dog sitter. Can’t just leave a newborn with…

Jody Richards: They are pure joy, my little identical twins, I just am so happy. But you’re right, it is a big change. It’s not one, it’s two all of a sudden. And they were born, I mean, prior to being born, since they are identical twins and they were sharing a placenta, there were some complications, so it was very stressful. And also, they were born during COVID. Kind of when we were getting into the thick of COVID when every state was going to lockdowns. And the business required my attention, and I’m trying to focus on them, so it was a huge challenge, especially at the beginning. I mean, you know, you have four children, there’s a lot of sleep deprivation that happens when babies are tiny. And they were tiny, they were in the NICU for 16 days, but they are the joy of our lives. And you just make it work. You give up things and you don’t even realize what you’ve given up. And you don’t miss them because they’re just such a constant source of joy. It is a struggle, I mean, luckily, we do have a nanny, so eight to five on Monday through Friday, we have help. But you try to get everything done in those hours, and then anything else you need to do, you’ve got to wait till they go to bed.

Rob Shallenberger: How has that shifted your perspective, having them in your life? No kids, now having two, how has that altered your perspective?

Jody Richards: It really makes you focus on what’s important because maybe before you were, I don’t know, playing a video game or watching some TV every day or something like that and you just end up cutting those things out because that’s not what’s important. You really have to look at what’s on your plate, what’s the priority, and then you cut everything else out. You either if it’s a business thing you delegate it to someone else, you can give it to someone else or you decide that’s not an important initiative that we don’t want to pursue anymore.

Rob Shallenberger: Yeah, interesting perspective.

Jody Richards: Make some tough decisions.

Rob Shallenberger: Yeah. We’re going to get ready to wrap up, so maybe one final question before we wrap up. We’re starting out in 2021, January, February timeframe. So, what’s one final tip that you would give to someone going into this year? Regardless of background, race, people will listen to this in countries all over the world, so what would be one tip that you would give anyone going into 2021 to make this great year? Or two tips, or three tips, share whatever you want to share, but what would you say?

Jody Richards: From a business perspective, leadership is a journey and your biggest fight is with yourself. And kind of going along with that, but this really can be leadership in the family as well. So, I guess it’s not just a business perspective. But the other thing I’d say is – and this is really my final tip – is to be positive. Your attitude will affect the outcome. If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you can’t. Whichever one you pick, you’re right. So, be positive and your attitude will affect what’s happening and envision where you want to go. Don’t envision the negative things because otherwise, that’s where you’re going to end up.

Rob Shallenberger: Oh, man, I couldn’t agree more. Well, thank you so much, Jody, this was awesome. So many things to think about from the leadership perspective, our personal lives. And so, we really appreciate you being here. Congratulations, again, on the Ernst&Young award, a huge deal, great job with all that you’re doing at Process Technology. And to all of our listeners, thank you. Thank you for being a part of this podcast. Like always, we invite you to share it, share with the people who are important to you in your lives, your family, your friends, your co-workers. It’s just these one or two tips Jody touched on it here, one of the things she would say to someone coming into her company is, go get knowledge. And principle number 10 of the 12 principles of highly successful leaders is to apply the power of knowledge. There’s a hunger and a thirst realizing we don’t have them all, we all have blind spots. So, again, thank you for being here. Thank you for listening. And we hope that you’ll have a great day and a wonderful week and thank you.

Jody Richards: Thanks so much for having me, Rob. Have a great week and take care.

Rob Shallenberger: Thanks, Jody.

Steve Shallenberger

Founder, Becoming Your Best
CEO, executive, corporate trainer, and community leader.

Jody Richards

CEO, Process Technology

Supply Chain Professional, Production & Inventory Management, and mom

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