In our first-ever podcast episode of Zen and the Art of Manufacturing, we welcome Tony Spielberg to the show. Bryan Sapot, CEO of Mingo, sits down with Tony to talk about workforce development.
Here’s a couple of key takeaways on how Tony built a lean culture when he was CEO of BCI:
- Tony and a small team read 2 Second Lean from Paul Akers.
- The team started improving processes, taking videos and sharing them with employees at BCI.
- The team recruited other employees to participate in this process.
- Company-wide, daily meetings were implemented to provide transparency and accountability.
- Employees started asking to help and share their own improvements.
As the Ambassador of Manufacturing at Cambridge Air, Tony Spielberg builds relationships, guiding business development for the company. With his extensive knowledge and expertise on the subject, Tony answers the questions, “Why is it important?” and “How do you start?”
Listen to this week’s episode of Zen and the Art of Manufacturing online, listen on Spotify Podcasts, or listen on Apple Podcasts.
If you love what you hear, share Zen and the Art of Manufacturing Podcast with your friends.
[00:00:00] Bryan Sapot: Hi, welcome to the Zen and the Art of Manufacturing podcast, where we talk about how to improve calm in the manufacturing environment. We focus on culture, developing people, continuous improvement in technology with an emphasis on how to have quick wins. Get real information on how to master the fundamentals and build a world-class manufacturing organization.
[00:00:22] BS: And today we have Tony Spielberg who among other things has been a long time friend of mine. He’s the Manufacturing Ambassador for Cambridge Engineering. And I’ll let him explain a little bit about that in a second. He worked for Mingo for a little bit, our company to helping us with some business development and was the CEO of BCI, which we’ll also talk about today and then has started and run a whole bunch of other companies in manufacturing related industries as well. So welcome Tony. And thanks for being with us.
[00:00:53] Tony Spielberg: Bryan, thanks so much for having me. What an honor it is to be a part of this spectacular podcast.
[00:00:59] BS: Yeah, thanks.
[00:01:00] BS: So if you don’t mind real quick, do you mind telling me what Cambridge Air does today and what you’re doing there?
[00:01:06] TS: Yeah, absolutely. You know, Cambridge Air has been around for over 50 years and really what we do, even though we’re in the commercial heating and cooling space, we help leaders create healthy work environments for hardworking people.
[00:01:20] TS: And sometimes I get that cross-eyed look when I talk about that as a heating and cooling company, but truly we are here to enrich lies of other folks in manufacturing that want to create great culture. And listen, if we get a heating or cooling unit on order down the road, that’s great, but our true mission and what really is close to how we operated and why we exist is to enrich other folks’ lives in manufacturing. And that that’s really one of the big reasons why I joined Cambridge.
[00:01:45] BS: Yeah. Thanks. One of the things, this is a little bit off topic, but one of the things that you do at Cambridge that I thought was really interesting was you allow people, whether they’re vendors customers, whatever to join the daily meetings that you guys have to see how things are going.
[00:02:03] TS: I get real excited when we talk about our morning meetings. One of the things that Cambridge is doing for has been doing for over five years and adopted from the whole Two Second Lean Principle was having morning meetings and every morning, no matter what you do or who you are in the Cambridge company, or even if you’re an outside guest, you are part of the transparency that is Cambridge. You know, whether it’s numbers of units shipped or what you’re grateful for and at home or at work or whatever it is, we want to hear from you and what that does, it really creates a work environment number one of transparency, to have trust and two, you know, people talk about working with their family that are really family.
[00:02:44] TS: It really creates this amazing opportunity and something I’d never seen before. You know, I had seen it originally when I was a CEO of another company and tried to steal it. I just wasn’t as good at it. And Cambridge is, so if you can’t do it, you just join them. Right? I mean, I think.
[00:03:00] BS: Yeah, well, and that, that fits in pretty well with one of the first things that we wanted to talk about today, which was workforce development.
[00:03:07] BS: So one of the things that you’ve done throughout your career and really at BCI was you were spokesperson essentially for workforce development. Like how to do it, how to engage people, things like that. Can you tell me a little bit about, you know, how? How did that become such a big priority in your life and a focus for you?
[00:03:24] TS: Yeah, you know it’s a really, it’s a fun story. And I know we only have an hour, so I won’t get so deep into the how other than, um, I had recently sold a company that we had started up and was looking for something to do and really knew that I wanted to give back. But, I didn’t understand servant leadership or being servant-hearted or, you know, in the terms that, that I understand it now, when I applied for that role at, at BCI or a lot of folks call it Boone Center.
[00:03:50] TS: What I understood was is that they employed adults with disabilities in manufacturing. But didn’t really understand what that meant or what it meant to the community, what it meant to adults with disabilities in St. Charles or St. Peter’s, where we were, or even nationwide, which is what we ended up having the opportunity to have a voice in and really help folks.
[00:04:09] TS: I’m an advocate for folks in that workforce, but workforce development, you know, we know that employment it’s more than a job, right? It’s an opportunity to participate as a member of the community. And I’ve always been heavy on that. But at the time, when I took over at BCI, many people in the local community, even though we’d been around for 50 years, had no idea who we were, what we did, or who we employed.
[00:04:33] TS: And if they did know, they attach some sort of stigma to employing adults with disabilities. So we had a lot of work to do, and relating it back to workforce development is, you know, it’s like, “Hey, you have to identify skill gaps. You have to understand that providing soft skills training for everybody, no matter disabled, whatever it is, you have to be able to train, almost retrain your mindset on a consistent basis so that everybody in the organization is speaking a similar language and rowing in the same direction.” But, you know, my goal was really to develop a plan that included the rebranding of who we are.
[00:05:13] TS: And, then putting in place, the opportunity for BCI to be outward-facing and proud of the work we did. But the neighbors that live behind our factory should know who we are, what we do. Right? And it was just a basic opportunity to say, listen, “Tony, use your business background here, embrace the mission of manufacturing at BCI, but you also now have this opportunity to say, listen, adults with developmental disabilities have a real place in the workforce. Let’s identify that their skills and let’s see what other partners in the community can do to help us out.” And that have a need for workforce, because when you think about it these days, Brian, and I know we’ll probably talk about this in a little bit. The, one of the number one issues for HR departments in manufacturing is finding the people.
[00:05:56] TS: And one of the things we were able to do was really eliminate that stigma that adults with disabilities couldn’t do the same job as somebody that is fully able to manufacture.
[00:06:05] BS:So is that kinda what workforce development means to you? So finding the people, training them, developing them? Kind of sounds like a stupid question now that I say it out loud.
[00:06:17] TS: No, no, no. Right. I get what you’re saying. I think, you know, I think workforce development is partnering with outside resources. For me, it was partnering with outside resources to really understand what manufacturing meant to the community, what it meant to the supply chain that it supported, what it meant to the end-user consumers, you know, really understanding what our folks, what they had to do to be considered a viable member of the workforce. And that could have been somebody with a disability, without a disability, could have been a forklift driver, could have been anybody in our company, but essentially what role did they play for us, but also how far did that role go? And did they understand that the role that they’re playing as a forklift driver really meant that, “Hey, somebody in little rock Arkansas, wasn’t going to get their medical, whatever we were packaging?
[00:07:10] TS: We really helped create the knowledge for each employee of how they contributed to the workforce. But in general, my workforce experience in the last five years had to do with placing adults with disabilities all around the country, in environments in which they were always told they couldn’t do it. It sounds like it’s a lot of things, but one of the core things I think I heard you say was its understanding kind of where you fit in the organization and the benefits that you know, what your responsibilities are, and what happens if you don’t do those things and really understanding how you contribute to the organization as a whole. I mean, I think you summarized it pretty well. I just, I do think that when you talk about workforce development workforce in general, you know, one of the things that we did a little bit different and I do it with each company, is really using multimodal learning and training workforce development.
[00:07:54] TS: And I don’t know if most people know what that is, but it’s really when a number of our senses are being engaged. And, what I’ve understood, no matter what education level you have, that we all remember more when we use visual training. So that was one part of how we developed our workforce and then rolled that out to other counties, states and even Canada, and a couple of other folks around the world that were interested in how we did workforce development for our population.
[00:08:20] BS: How do you start that? So training is really important. Well understanding where people fit in the organization and what their contribution is and how that affects customers. And, you know, in the real world, like driving a fork truck is just driving a fork truck, but it’s not right? Because if you’re not there, something happens – product doesn’t go out the door and then somebody doesn’t get something.
[00:08:37] BS: So how do you start that? Like, if you walk in day one and you kind of do your assessment and then, where do you start?
[00:08:51] TS: Yeah. Great question. You know, I’ll go back to the first step I took inside of the factory floor with the late Jim Lang, who was a mentor of mine with collaborative strategies. You know, one of the things he said is. “Tony, I know you don’t know anything about this, but you know, what you’re going to see today is Santa’s workshop.”
[00:09:00] TS: “And not just because the people are happy, but how they make the toys, how they box the toys, how they deliver the toys.” And, you know, he really explained it in a different way than I’d ever been, you know, spoken to in, in a learning situation or opportunity, especially in an interview.
[00:09:19] TS: We outlined five ways to improve. Now I’m going to have to use my memory here. So hopefully I get all these Bryan, if I don’t you’ll have to forgive me, but you know, the first thing that we did was to identify skill gaps. We talked a little bit about that earlier, but just like any hiring initiative, it’s important to start by identifying where the workforce had its gaps and, you know, for us, it really was process-based.
[00:09:41] TS: And, it t really wasn’t our folks with disabilities. It was with our folks with the abilities that didn’t understand how to create the right processes for our workforce to be successful. So we identified that.
[00:09:50] BS: Was it a unique thing because you were working with adults with disabilities or do you see that across many different organizations?
[00:09:58] TS: I see it everywhere.
[00:10:00] Candidly, you know, processes because you’re a manufacturing it, because you had a product that was invented in the 1940s. Some things just don’t change. And you know, you and I have walked factories together and we see, man, how is this still possible that they’re using whiteboards or using paper or whatever it is, and it slows the process down. So folks aren’t ever re-educated or retrained in what they’re doing. It doesn’t change. And no matter how much the CEO wants to push down and say, we need to launch these initiatives, unless you provide that training. And I always say training the training team, which is another one of the five ways that we would improve our workforce. It doesn’t work if you don’t have everybody on the same page, just because you have the best workforce, which I believe we had in manufacturing, if you didn’t retrain on a pretty consistent basis, we weren’t going to be successful. And I see that across every company, whether it’s folks with disabilities or not.
[00:10:50] TS: Right? Because candidly, once you put folks with disabilities in any process, they are better than anybody and you toured it. You’ve seen it, you, you know, but the other side of training, Bryan and why most people fail in business and in manufacturing anyway, is soft skills training, I’ve written some pieces on soft skills training because I believe it’s the biggest reason that people fail.
[00:11:09] TS: It starts with the handshake. It starts with the thank you. It starts with, you know, being grateful and it just starts with the basic things and even writing, writing a note. Of appreciation. I think that, you know, I think when you look at, you know, how do you improve workforce development? It’s teaching those soft skills.
[00:11:26] TS: And again, it was not are the folks with disabilities that had the big issues with that. So, you know, we also talked about using the multimodal learning that I do anywhere I go. I think that it’s really important to soft skills, being really important, getting people on the same page, retraining being really important, how you reinforce different things within the culture of the company.
[00:11:44] BS: Go back for a second to talk about, you know, the assessment and how you, you know, you walk in and you kind of assess what’s going on. Now you’re looking at kind of a hiring plan or personnel plan, like where the skill gaps are. And then where do you go from there?
[00:11:50] TS: Yeah, that’s a great question. Well, first, what we tried to do was determined an organizational chart without putting the actual personalities inside.
[00:12:05] TS: I think that’s one of the hardest things in business to do because when you’re a retooling, a floor or retooling personnel or, or correcting processes that are just not in the right place, it is really difficult to describe what that position is without the person involved in. I learned that the hard way, but we figured that out once we understood what the positions were in wrote the job descriptions.
[00:12:25] TS: I know this sounds basic probably to some of your listeners. Bryan, but if you don’t do some of those basic things, you’re never going to be successful in those positions. People have to understand what their goals are and what they need to do. Once we got that stuff in place and processes, at least written to the point where we can move forward and hire people.
[00:12:41] TS: And, you know, we had to then take a look at our plant floor, our plant floor. When you came in, we had a, when I first started, we had about 11 production lines and all production lines ended in the middle of the floor. There was no flow. So we said, okay, so what do you do with that? Well, you basically hire a good ops person and you say, listen, the flow needs to be changed here.
[00:13:00] TS: So we did that. It did take us about a month to figure it out, but then we, you know, we ended up going from that many lines up to 19 total production lines and in really a 50,000 square foot spaces. So hiring the right people in operations that absolutely understand the flow and really the supply chain that goes into the lines.
[00:13:18] TS: And once you’re done with the product and packing it out was really what we focused on and the additional side of what we really needed to do. We were losing a lot of money every month because of the way that we had run sales and marketing and operations for years. So it wasn’t really just coming in and fixing one thing.
[00:13:36] TS: And you got to remember because I didn’t get a real big chance to talk about Boone Center. We had a social mission and we had a business mission and they always went like this. Right? Cause social things you want, you want to feel good in business. It doesn’t always feel good. You know? So we really had to retool that thought process.
[00:13:52] TS: We implemented an idea bounce. Every Monday I started meeting with my executive team and every Wednesday. We even implemented things that I know you do at central tracks, like book clubs and things like that to get folks on the same page. But we started with books like Two Second Lean by Paul Akers.
[00:14:06] TS: We started with Energy Bus and we started with some of the Lencioni stuff for it, depending on who was in the meeting. And really we allowed our folks to take time off of what they could never get off work for, right? We said, listen, okay, fine, take a half-hour, take an hour. We want you to learn what we’re going to be doing in the future.
[00:14:23] TS: And then, the biggest piece of that, Bryan, was to include them, finally, after about a year and a half into morning meetings, like they do here at Cambridge and making sure that everybody felt transparency and that it wasn’t just, “Hey, the front office said this.” You know, that everybody was involved in the bigger decisions.
[00:14:38] BS: Is it, is it really that simple? Just hire the right people, like get the right people in the right seats on the bus.
[00:14:45] TS: I, you know, love that analogy. As you know, it was. It was like surround yourself with the right people. We utilized our board of directors for a lot of things, including strategy, but also outreach for partnerships so that we, when we didn’t have something, we utilize partners.
[00:14:58] TS: We utilize the state government, utilize the federal government. We figured out how to put people in place to deal with politics. And meanwhile, on top of that, we had to raise a lot of money because we were a not-for-profit. So we had that, we had that role too, but also, I mean, listen, leaders have to lead, right.
[00:15:12] TS: I mean, that was my job to make sure that people all went in the same direction using that analogy again, but it was not easy. It was a matter of fact, it was very difficult, but, you know, I don’t remember those things so well, I remember that, you know, by the time we were in this thing for two years, we were making money, built a scorecard that we updated on a daily basis, started taking the data that we could collect and utilizing that to make processes better.
[00:15:35] TS: And not just processes on the manufacturing floor, but as important processes in HR, everything. And you can not forget processes because if you let them down in one place, the rest of the organization fails. I mean, to me, that’s the really interesting thing about this story is that, you know, you have a very unique company that has a social mission and a business mission, right?
[00:15:55] BS: So you want to employ adults with disabilities, which produces great results, like period. I mean, they have. They have something to do that they enjoy. Right? Makes you feel good about yourself, but you were able to take that in two years, basically turn it around and really grow it substantially over the course of the four or five years that you were there.
[00:16:16] BS: I think the challenge that a lot of people run into, at least what we see out in the manufacturing world is you’re running around with your hair on fire all the time, and you don’t know where to start and you don’t even have enough time to be able to figure out where to start. And so is that really just what you described?
[00:16:31] BS: Like you’re identifying the skill gap, talent gaps, process gaps, and then going, okay, “Which ones are the biggest ones?” and then just start chipping away.
[00:16:41] TS: So another great question. I guess I have to go back and really open the hood up a little bit. Yeah. For the audience here, when I joined BCI, the previous CEO had signed a lease that was costing us $35,000 a month.
[00:16:50] TS: And we had about 80,000 square feet in which we utilized about 500 square feet of it. I walked into that situation with a big monthly bill and really had no packing, had no abilities to ship out of there had nothing down there other than an old forklift that was consistently broken.
[00:17:08] TS: So number one, we had to figure out, “How do we get out from this $35,000 to $60,000 bill a year. Right? So there’s those things. There’s there’s when you have employees in the community, which we did, we had community employment, which the reporting had been off for years, as far as we were overpaying, which was great, but it was affecting their benefits as adults with disabilities, which affected them in a negative way. Right?
[00:17:29] TS: We had all these things going on. We owned a commercial cleaning company, Bryan, that we had about 18 accounts and 14 were not happy. We didn’t know, I didn’t know even coming into this. So, you know, with all these things and, and again, our production floor, if you saw it, if you picture four lines on each side of the floor, everything ended in the middle.
[00:17:47] TS: Well, our exit doors were over to the South. They weren’t in the middle. So, you know, listen, it was a struggle. You know, what, what made this experience different was the fact that the folks that came there every day would line up at the launch room and run to their production lines.
[00:18:03] TS: They wouldn’t walk. They wouldn’t say, “Hey, I don’t want to work today.” They would run to their lines. I would be inspired. How can I not want to outwork them? I never could. But how could I not want to outwork these folks that are working so hard for me? And so I think that, you know, when I, when I talk about, is it that easy?
[00:18:19] TS: No, of course not. I mean, we had financial struggles to the point where it was very, it was daunting on days when you’d come in and you’d be like, “Man, what am I going to do? I got four lines that are aren’t full right now. My folks are learning safety skills and learning health.” Things that I would never, ever picture in a business, but we had to do it.
[00:18:38] TS: And, you know, we had to really get our hustle on. I hired a phenomenal business development person and she went out and got business and to fill that funnel, you know, it’s not easy. So we talk about all these other things, you know, when you open up the hood, now, it was not easy. And it wasn’t even when we were making money and putting it away so we could build future opportunities like the skill center, vocational training stuff for it, also disabilities.
[00:18:59] TS: We still, every, every day was something different. Our hair was on fire. We just were really good. I had a lot of experienced leaders around me that were like, “Hey, we got this.” And that was really, I can’t say enough about my leadership team there.
[00:19:17] BS: I guess there’s one thing to point out. I mean, you’ve, you’ve mentioned the fact that it is, you know, there’s the social mission and business mission of this company that we’re talking about. It had real brand name customers, right. That you had to deliver for. It didn’t matter that it was adults with disabilities that were doing the work. They expected, you know, just like any other business for you to deliver on time.
[00:19:33] TS: Well, haha, I’ve got to interrupt you because you know, one of the things that we packed for was Lysol wipes. And when you think about the pandemic, I kind of like, you know what? I left there in January. So I missed that. I missed that craziness, but I look at it and I’m like, “Man, I said, you think about the impact that Boone Center has on the world on getting distribution out for these things that nobody can get.”
[00:19:56] TS: They also dial hand soap, which you couldn’t find anywhere. Lysol spray, we would, we would heat seal these things, these packages together. It’s like, Oh my gosh. You know, when you talk about, “What do you mean to the end-users into manufacturing in general?” Boone Center means a lot to folks that are on the other end of that supply chain and the end-user consumers.
[00:20:15] TS: So it was pretty cool to think about it, but I’m glad I, I guess I’m kinda glad I missed that. To be honest, we didn’t have enough space.
[00:20:22] BS: Yeah. Yeah. Well, you set them up for success before you left, right?
[00:20:28] TS: Yes. I hoped. I like to think that, yeah. I mean, it sounds like there was a lot. Yeah. There’s a lot going on there.
[00:20:32] BS: In terms of what you had to do over that five-year period. Maybe if you don’t mind, could we just pick something and talk about it a little bit. You know, over the last year or so you’ve mentioned, you know, Two-Second Lean in the journey that you’ve done over at BCI and, and I guess you were part of the larger group of people that were working on it as well at different companies.
[00:20:50] BS: Tell me how that came about and how you guys got started with it. So Two-Second Lean is essentially the ability to improve on processes. Really two seconds at a time.
[00:21:00] TS: I mean, that was the whole premise by Paul Akers who wrote the book. What happened for me one day was I actually was having coffee with Kevin Thompson who’s the COO and CFO over here at Cambridge. And he asked me. I have talked to him about some of our struggles on processes and why we have changed things, but it’s felt like moving mountains to get one small change. And he said, “Have you ever read this book Two Second Lean?” And I said, “No, what is it?” I said, “I understand lean.”
[00:21:23] TS: I said, “We’ve done Kaizen events. They stink. Cause we get 80% of the way through and we never finished them.” You know, I said, “And they just don’t, you know, we do the Gemba walks and we just, it’s not great for us.” He said, “Tony”, he goes, “Read the book and get back in touch with me.” I read the book and I read it in about a day and a half.
[00:21:39] TS: It’s an easy read. Yeah. And I fell in love with the idea of process improvement, one small piece at a time. The bigger part of it though, was candidly, it’s like, you know, you’ve got Paul Akers who owns this company. Who’s cleaning his own bathroom. Right? You know, it’s like, you know, how do you engage with everybody else?
[00:21:56] TS: Well, listen, you lead by doing. And that really was a big portion of it. But the other side with Two Second Lean is that it got me hooked on these morning meetings and what the morning meetings did. Again, it really just provided transparency to the entire company on a daily basis. We would stop every production line every forklift, everybody that was doing anything in the company would be on our morning meetings so that there was always inclusivity. And, um, and the ability to say, if something was not going right, so we could fix it or we could come up with the process it, and then also empower people like we did. I think when I left, we were over a hundred videos.
[00:22:30] TS: So our folks, whether it was somebody with a disability or a supervisor or a forklift driver, they would make videos of what their improvements were, which was really cool.
[00:22:39] BS: So, is that, is that how it started though? Like it was that the first thing that you implemented was the, was the daily meetings or did you pick something else?
[00:22:44] TS: No, I picked a couple of my supervisors that I knew were always trying to fix things, but just didn’t have the tools in our toolbox to do so I brought them on a tour. I asked Kevin over here at Cambridge and I said, “Can we, can we take a tour with you guys? And he said, “Of course.” And so our folks came over, sat through the morning meeting, or stood through the morning meeting.
[00:23:03] TS: They went through the entire tour. And then we had a jam session at the end or a bounce session at the end. I remember it was Holly and Laurie that came on this and they looked at me like we can do this. And when I had their buy-in, you know, Laurie had been there for 34 years at the time. Holly had been there for, I think, 10 or 11.
[00:23:23] TS: I was like, if these guys are in there, my two toughest folks. You know, we’re going to do it. And so it started that way. And what they did was I said, listen, you know, let’s go back. Can you each tell one more person about this, you know, that you think would buy-in? And she went to the COO who was Jack at the time and said, “We have to do this, otherwise you’re going to lose our production floor. Like we see that this is so important to what we need to do.” And once you get that buy-in, everybody else listened. There’s influencers in every manufacturing on every production floor. My influencers here, which were not always the most positive influencers, became the greatest spokespeople for what this was.
[00:23:58] TS: And they became the most proud when we would, um, when we’d find an improvement. And it just, it bled throughout the organization in a good way. I shouldn’t say that it bled because it didn’t bleed. It was actually, it spread.
[00:24:13] BS: So to summarize, you had a small group of folks, right? You guys read the Two-Second Lean book and then started picking off things to improve essentially two seconds at a time.
[00:24:20] TS: No, it did start that easy. Bryan, you know, we didn’t start with the morning meetings. We actually did the first book club and got the first 10 people involved that could make a difference and then waited about a few months while we tried to do some of those things.
[00:24:32] TS: And then we started doing more book clubs and implementing people. And then about after six months, we started morning meetings and nothing’s scripted by the way, this would be things that people would go throughout the day that just bug and fix what bugs you is like is one of the big things in that book.
[00:24:45] TS: Right. So fix what bugs you and, man, who knew how many things bug folks, you know, whether it was taken honestly, extra steps to get copy paper for their copy machine out on the floor or the way that we were boxing something. I mean, there was one line where we had, I want to say we had 18 people on this one line, right.
[00:25:01] TS: And after we, we really looked at this with the Lean, we ended up with four people on this line. And, we needed people in other lines. We never had enough folks to work in our plants. So we saw this and everybody in the plant started seeing it. Now, not everybody was comfortable with making videos, and that just that’s just going to happen.
[00:25:17] TS: But. what was great about it was people saw that it works and that it was not a heavy lift on their side. As a matter of fact, it was the exact opposite. It made their job more efficient so that they could hit their numbers and that they could bonus out because we also ended up attaching bonuses to their structure.
[00:25:32] BS: Okay. So it’s not scripted. So that means that once you went beyond the 10 and you, and you expanded this whole Two Second Lean throughout the entire organization, can literally anybody make an improvement?
[00:25:39] TS: Anybody and everybody, even board members that would come in and saw something, we’d say, listen, okay, that’s great.
[00:25:48] TS: “Now, how would you improve it?” And then we would, we would do it that way. Probably gave seven to 10 tours a week at minimum. And I’d say out of, at least, I’d say at least 10%, I would get something on each tour like, “Hey, what do you think about this?” Or, “Hey, we do this a different way.” We always were open. We didn’t care if it was a competitor, I had all of my competitors come in.
[00:26:08] TS: Because again, we talked about the social mission. If you were just a business mission focus, you may not, but at least not now that I know what I know in the world of manufacturing, so we share everything here. And I think that that’s, that’s a much better way of going about it than trying to keep everything private because you don’t get to learn new ways of doing things.
[00:26:26] BS: So what, what, what specifically was the step between the 10 people and then getting to the whole organization?
[00:26:35] TS: That step was watching it work and seeing the people that are typically again, I’m going to go back to Laurie, who was the supervisor for 30 plus years. She actually did three videos in one day.
[00:26:43] TS: And nobody had even asked her to, she sent said, “Hey, can we play this for the plant?” So we played it over lunch. Cause we didn’t have morning meetings at that point. And people were like, Huh. So then they got interested. She started recruiting people to the book clubs, and it really just felt like it was, it was like dominoes in a great way.
[00:27:00] TS: Then I got my executive team on board and because things like this had been tried at Boone Center before lean processes. And, but not this easy. Everybody had their part to do, but it was on their own terms and they wanted to do it because it was going to help their daily life and their work.
[00:27:16] TS: And they could also take it home, you know, and, and eliminate steps in their own homes. I mean, for the manufacturing floor, Two-Second Lean is something that I don’t care where I end up or whatever I do. Hopefully, this is the last place that I work. I do think that you know, when you focus on something, Two Second Lean encompasses culture, it encompasses, um, process improvement.
[00:27:36] TS: Uh, it encompasses really everything that we do in communication and you know, that it really makes people feel at the end of the day, it makes people feel included. And in a manufacturer when your hair is always on fire and you have to get that next pallet out or your 17 pallets delay, you’ve got to stay an hour later.
[00:27:53] TS: It sure does make people want to work harder so that they don’t have to stay longer the next time, you know? And, that’s what, what happened. They’d stay late. They’d say, how do we improve this? So we get that extra 17 pallets a day before we have to get to the end of the day and be like, man, we got to keep working.
[00:28:08] TS: And that was it really that’s how, and it just took off. And now there were days we had challenges for sure, but you know, it wasn’t easy getting everybody to come to the morning meetings, but they got paid, you know, that was the other side. It was really hard for me, Bryan, you know, we’re gonna sit here for 25 to 30 minutes every day on the clock, and not do production.
[00:28:24] TS: Like in the entire company, nobody was doing anything in my mind, the first, like few weeks. Right? And then I saw the improvements that were happening and I saw the numbers going up and I saw our margins getting better. And I saw things that were on our supply chain that were always late were getting there on time and, you know, and, we would call those out.
[00:28:41] TS: But some of those things were the most valuable fixes we had, including which then ended up getting us into spaghetti mapping and some of the other stuff that were more traditional Lean, but I would never have this opportunity in any company that I would be part of. For me, it’s one of those game-changers.
[00:28:57] BS: This is interesting to me. Cause we deal with this all the time. Like people, they come to buy our software because their hair’s on fire. And they’re trying to figure out where the fires are coming from and how do I pull them out? Right? And at the end of the day, all of this is a culture issue. and the hardest problem.
[00:29:12] BS: And, the hardest issue in business, I think is changing culture. And so what you summarized is kind of a decent recipe for at least starting that process, which is, you know, in your case, you’ve got a small group of people that, you know, could be change agents in the organization and want to improve things. You read the book, right?
[00:29:31] BS: They started leading by doing, I think that’s what you said. And then sharing what they did even before you had a formal morning meeting and then other people see, “Oh, wait a minute. Management’s actually open to feedback here. Maybe I can contribute.”
[00:29:47] TS: Right. Yeah. Think of that wall that’s always up man. It’s management versus people out on the floors. A building versus back a building. I mean, of course we have private meetings like that doesn’t stop. But as far as communication goes it is organization-wide. And it is, I mean, we put financials up here and there.
[00:30:04] BS: I mean, it is very transparent. It’s also interesting to me cause I studied this stuff a lot cause I’m trying to figure it out. You know, how can we, how can we help? And you look at all of these different methodologies like you look at lean, you look at Theory of Constraints.
[00:30:20] BS: You look at ‘A Great Game of Business’, ‘From Good to Great’, and at the end of the day, it all boils down to a culture. And, the culture and all of these books and you know, philosophies of running a business is a lot of transparency, engaging your employees, developing your people, caring about them.
[00:30:39] BS: Right? And if you do that, great things happen.
[00:30:43] TS: I could, I mean, you got me thinking about books. I don’t know why, but that just sparked my mind. I was like, wait a minute. Yeah. I just re-read Lencioni you know, and Patrick Lencioni um, it’s the five dysfunctions of a team that is one of them. And then, uh, basically it starts with, you know, you, you have this pyramid, right?
[00:31:01] TS: And hopefully I get this right. But have an absence of trust at the bottom, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability. Yeah. Inattention to results, something like that. But I mean, if you think about it, when you talk about the dysfunctions of every organization, that makes sense, right?
[00:31:16] TS: How do you handle those? How do you handle those five things? And Lencioni, he’s written a few books. If you haven’t read one, Bryan, this would be an awesome book club for you guys, because even ‘The Advantage’, which was another book that he wrote, but really that five dysfunctions of any team, you find so many things in there that just become so much easier to do when you don’t put barriers up with each other. Again, I don’t know, like, you know, as far as books go, that’s the Bible for me. I mean, you know, I love ‘Energy Bus’ because I think it’s cool. And I think that you know, where does everybody fit? But I think when you’re talking about when I mentor or when I’m doing consulting or whatever it is, they have to read this book before I get started with them. It’s a must for me.
[00:31:51] BS: I’ve actually read that one. I forgot about it. I’ve read it. Some of our employees at another company I owned where we had some dysfunction. I had read that book and it helped significantly.
[00:32:01] TS: Yeah. I mean, you just think about it. You can take any one of those, you know, those five dysfunctions and you can, no matter how small or big your company is, you’re going to find something in which you can improve upon.
[00:32:13] TS: And, you know, when I wake up every day, some people are like, well, what’s the first thing you think about. And you know, other than making sure I got, you know, my jeans on the right way, I’m really thinking about, “Hey, you know what, yesterday I had something go on.” This is a dysfunction of what piece of what I do on a daily basis.
[00:32:32] TS: It could be outward-facing, it could be inward-facing, but I think that you know, when you, when you’re open about this and realize that putting barriers up, destroy culture, you figure it out pretty quick.
[00:32:40] BS: Yeah, you’re doing it. It seems like the other thing that I’ve noticed a lot is that it all starts from the top. Right. Every time there is no excuse. If your culture is bad, it is the leadership that is really dated. You have to look at and say, “What are you doing? Right? What are you doing wrong?”
[00:33:00] BS: And how do you fix it? Because poor culture, we know, at least the turnover, leads to lower margins. It leads to unhappy employees. It leads to bad reputation, at least all those things. But yeah, you’re right. I mean, leadership. You know, I guess my big takeaway from that book and other things in, in leadership, is that if you can’t be transparent and you can’t make whoever it is, whether it’s the janitor, the forklift driver, the supervisor feel like they are on the same page as you are, as far as where the company is going on a daily basis, and also long term, you’re failing as a leader.
[00:33:28] BS: Yeah. I mean, that engagement is just, it’s huge. It really is. Have you ever had an experience where it went the other way? Like how do you, and I don’t know answer this question cause I’ve worked for myself for owned companies, my entire adult life. So if you’re working for somebody and you know, you want to improve, you want to help improve the culture. Like you want to do some of the things that you did at BCI, you know, starting book club, Two-Second Lean, leading by doing all of the stuff that we talked about. Does that work? Like how, how could you do that?
[00:34:02] TS: You need to be involved in it. Sometimes it comes down to personalities and who you’re working with. Sometimes it comes down to traditions within an organization, but you know, most times when something doesn’t go right, it’s because I didn’t do my homework and didn’t do my research on the person, the process, or you know, or, or whatever we were talking about at that moment there. I mean, I can’t count how many times I fail to try to make communication better, but it got worse because somebody was excluded by accident or a process that was already done and had been proven over and over. But I had a bright idea and a better idea than what was already there.
[00:34:37] TS: You know, when you talk about specific examples, I think that I had no experience in politics before getting to, um, BCI Center. And, you know, I became so passionate about advocating for adults with disabilities, I went to a federal Senator one day who didn’t agree with our, you know, our wage increase and some of the other things we were doing, and they pretty much said you don’t know what you’re talking about.
[00:35:00] TS: They said get the F out of my office, and if you ever want to come back in here again, you better understand what you’re talking about and have the right facts and data. And you know what? I didn’t have it with me. I knew that I thought I knew and, and candidly, it ruined an opportunity for our company in a federal grant.
[00:35:18] TS: So it was something that I learned from, in that I never repeated, but, you know, and those things happen. I mean, I fail every day. I mean, it just depends. It could be manufacturing ambassador, as a parent, or whatever it is. But I think the one thing that I’ve always done is say, “Look, I didn’t do this right.”
[00:35:35] TS: Talk to the folks that were involved, if somebody was offended or hurt, and sometimes you just let it go. Right? But it’s always better to figure out, “Hey, who did this affect and make sure that they understand that.” You understand the process and how it’s different and what you need to do here.
[00:35:49] BS: You’re a unique leader in that respect. There’s not a lot of people who think about things that way. I mean, I know through more than half of my career, I was the hardcore type, domineering micro-managing pain in the ass boss that everybody hates. Right? Um, I had to get kicked in the teeth a couple of times before I realized that I can’t do it all.
[00:36:12] BS: And I wonder, like I have some people that work for us today are very vocal. They don’t really worry about saying things to me. I don’t know if because it’s a different culture that I’ve created or not, but I would really love to know all this stuff that I missed out on just cause I just had my blinders on and we’re going the direction that we’re going and I’m not listening to anybody else, you know?
[00:36:35] BS: And how would you as an employee of mine, back then, get me to change? Probably can’t. I don’t know. There’s a lot of bosses like I used to be. And if you’re working for one of those, maybe not Tony Spielberg, per se, and you want to create kind of, you want to start to lay the foundation for this kind of culture so that you can really be successful maybe, or recently promoted plant manager, recently promoted operations executive, and you want to do these things, but traditionally the organization has been very top-down command and control. How can you start to chip away at that? That’s kind of what I was getting at.
[00:37:12] TS: Yeah. Yeah. And I go back and say two seconds at a time. I mean, because really like seriously, like I know it’s kind of funny and that’s maybe not the answer most people would expect for someone with the, with the experience. But if you don’t start to take the small pieces at a time, You’re never going to be able to make that change. I mean, if you see companies that said, “Hey, we’re changing our logo, we’re changing the product we make.
[00:37:30] TS: And we’re changing the way that we ship to our customer.” It doesn’t work like that, that you have to have processes to get there. And for me, if I’m working for a difficult boss or somebody that is not in line with my values or how I manage folks, Okay, fine. What is it that I’m going to be able to relate on and, and how to explain to that boss?
[00:37:51] TS: You know, these are my strengths, here’s what I’m willing to do. And, let’s make sure that this, this strategic plan for my area, and what you’ve hired me to do is what you want me to do. Other stuff is icing on the cake. I may not be great at it, but I’m willing to learn to be a great team member. If that doesn’t work, it’s probably not the right place, you know, to work. The luxury of a lot of these folks these days, and maybe it’s a luxury or maybe it’s a cop-out I don’t know, but, um, is they just leave and they go try to find something else to do with poor habits. You know what I mean? And that’s not good. Like the tough leaders, there are many times the best leaders, but, um, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
[00:38:24] TS: It’s just, what can you deal with? As long as I’m getting constructive criticism around something that I’ve done wrong, or a process that I need improvement on or how I engage with a certain population or person because if I can take away, if I can take that away, then my next day is going to be better because I’m going to listen.
[00:38:40] TS: I’m not going to go do my own thing, unless I feel so strongly about it and stand up at that time. You know what I mean? But traditionally, like, you know, what do they say, silence, silence. Sometimes the most clarifying way to get to the end of your art is to get to the solution to a problem.
[00:38:56] TS: I talked a lot today, but I think one of the things that I have gotten really good at is when there are conflicts or folks that I just don’t see eye to eye with, I’ll tend to listen to the conversation and use my 24-hour rule and then get back to them. I mean, it sounds like this is starting to become almost like an advertisement for Two-Second Lean, but if you are that person that has been promoted into that position and you have, you know, a very sort of controlling boss, if you do chip away at things two seconds at a time and start to instill that in the people that work for you might just be able to let the results speak for themselves. Right. And it could change them well, and I think the one thing you have to remember about me specifically is that I come from a family manufacturing background. I don’t come from a big corporate office or anything like that.
[00:39:43] TS: So what, how I learned to manage was really through my dad who ended up hiring somebody to be my boss. Cause he didn’t want to be my boss. I learned from somebody that actually was an executive at Dillard’s and I learned a lot of the X’s and O’s and you know, but again, it was difficult going from a family-owned business, then did my own businesses, and then really coming over to Boone Center where it wasn’t my money anymore, but it was me responsible for 500 plus people and their paychecks and how to advocate for them so that they were not thought of as this population that can’t work.
[00:40:11] BS: But a lot of people learn management that way. Right? I mean, I don’t have an MBA, so I don’t know.
[00:40:18] TS: Yeah. Throw you in the fire. I think there’s something to be said for that too. You just have to have the right personality for it. Right? I mean, same with being an entrepreneur, you know?
[00:40:25] BS: Yeah. I agree. I agree. That’s good. I mean, I think that there’s some really good takeaways from this discussion, you know, it helped me a lot. So, um, hopefully it’ll help some other folks. The thing that we wanted to talk about that you brought up when we kind of did the pre-call for this was, you know, what the COVID effects on manufacturing long-term and it’s interesting because we have a difference of opinion on that.
[00:40:45] BS: And we didn’t really get into it the other day when we started talking about it. So I think it’d be interesting. I really don’t understand what you think is going to stick. And what’s going to change permanently.
[oo:40:55] TS: I talked to manufacturers on a daily basis, right. And not only manufacturers, but the associations that manufacturers belong to.
[00:41:00] TS: You know, when you talk about manufacturers, you know, right now they’re facing this downward pressure on demand, production revenues. Um, as the COVID epidemic intensifies, this is not only going to affect OEMs, but it’s going to affect like the entire, it’s going to have a ripple effect than it is through the entire supply chain.
[00:41:18] TS: It affects suppliers’ supply and reduced demands for, um, materials and components. So. You know, if you look at it, like on the very top level, you say, okay, well, what do we learn from this? Like, just from the gist of what COVID is, and what you see is that history teaches us that short-term measures taken in response to like a global crisis.
[00:41:38] TS: Like this leads to changes that lasts for decades. And I think that most of us, what most of us considered to be normal have already fundamentally shifted. I mean, look right now, we’re doing this call via Zoom. We’re not in studio or something like that. Right? So manufacturers who understand and act on this new normal will obviously, they’re going to have more, um, ample opportunities for growth.
[00:41:59] BS: Well, some of that, like some of what you described as traditional recession, right?
[00:42:05] TS: Yes, totally.
[00:42:07] BS: I talked to a bunch of people, too. Some of them are, very few industries that at least that we talked to, maybe they’re not looking at software and that’s why we’re down, right? Most of them some are doing better or about the same, you know, you guys from the sales side, Cambridge and use specifically, you guys are, you know, in-person relationships, selling, you know, in-person style selling. Right. What do you think is going to happen with that?
[00:42:24] TS: Yeah, I love, I love that you asked this question because I’m really trying to develop something with Doug Eisenhart who’s our head of marketing here in sales.
[00:42:38] TS: We’re trying to figure it out. Um, you know, when you look at processes that we have, you’re right. 90% of what we used to do was out on the road, in person. You know, what we’re doing now is developing these virtual types of tours, but we’re trying to do them with the Cambridge flare in which it, you know, interaction is going to be key.
[00:42:54] TS: You know, you can’t just go on this tour and sit there for 30 minutes and be bored. Essentially we are creating this interaction during our tours. We’re actually having them be part of our morning meetings before they go on a tour. So they understand that when we stop and talk to a press operator or somebody that is bending sheet metal, that it’s random, but these folks are all really not just proud of what they do, but love to understand, you know, what’s going on in the organizations.
[00:43:18] TS: You know, I think that you know, with everything in sales changing, if we don’t change in how we build our funnel and how we qualify customers, you know, it’s interesting. I learned a lot from you with the Sandler stuff that you guys had done, you know, when you qualify a potential customer, it’s not just qualify them because they have a building that’s 50,000 square feet. Right. You actually have to ask those hard hitting questions now and actually get answers, not just take the whole equation. Like, “Hey, let me find out from Bob in operations or Sally in supply that this is, this is, you know, we’ll get back to you.”
[00:43:53] TS: You have to be, you almost have to be a little bit more hardcore. Like somebody like me. Um, who’s traditionally been that nice guy that likes to lead with the relationship. You can still do that to some extent, but if you’re not asking those questions, you are going to not, you are not getting that sale. No way.
[00:44:08] And today it has changed to the point where I listened to some of our regionals and some of our sales reps talk and it’s almost retraining that entire process and how they are going to do it because they can’t just go to a building now and go walk it. They have to say, okay, take your iPad outside. And let’s try to get these dimensions and let’s see what, you know, your heat efficiencies are and all these other things that relate to our business.
[00:44:28] TS: But you know where some industries I think will thrive. I think others like automotive and, you know, things where people like to touch feel, have this tangible experience everybody’s going to have to adjust. I know that the Missouri Association of Manufacturing right now, is working on some things to talk about it at their conference in February and getting some experts from Dale Carnegie and some other places that, you know, our experiences, but it is a totally different process now.
[00:44:52] TS: And like everyone other company, um, we worked through AME, which is one organization right now, idea bounce almost every couple of weeks to try to see what people are doing. That’s working. I think that that’s the best way right now to really approach this is, is talk to folks that are in manufacturing and understand what they’re doing that works.
[00:45:07] TS: And then hopefully, when, when the organizations that teach sales catch up and some of the folks that are out there doing it on a daily basis, learn what’s working and what’s not working, we can then rebuild our sales processes the way you guys do. It is interesting. I mean, people buy from people they trust, right?
[00:45:22] TS: And if you’re going to let them into your daily meeting, where it’s everything from, you know, an employee had a baby yesterday to showing the financials for the quarter that builds a lot of trust. So I think that that’s a great way, a great indirect way to sell in an environment in a virtual environment.
[00:45:39] BS: And whether, you know, when, even when COVID goes away, like it’s good, fantastic thing to continue to do those Zooms and let people in. It’s really interesting, like shameless plug for Cambridge. You should do that and reach out to Tony to get on one of those calls. It’s really interesting. You don’t have to participate, just a fly on the wall.
[00:45:56] BS: And it’s interesting to see how they do it. We took a lot of weight from it and have implemented it. Well, just like you did at BCI.
[00:46:05] TS: Yeah. We love having guests in. We still every day have folks in for our morning meetings and, um, and I don’t want to plug what we do too much, but anybody that ever wants to take a tour, whether you’re a competitor or somebody that just wants to understand what our Lean processes are, always reach out for sure.
[00:46:18] BS: To kind of go off topic completely. It’s a kind of a random question that I’ve been asking people lately. And it’s, uh, what, what’s something that you learned as a kid that stuck with you your whole life?
[00:46:24] TS: Yeah, this is something that I think has made me more servant hearted than anything else. But one of the things, you know, my mom had said to me, when I was about 12 years old, she, we saw something going on and nobody was picking up the pieces to fix the problem.
[00:46:40] TS: She said, look, if you see something that needs to be done, you need to go do it yourself because nobody else is going to do it. It stuck with me in everything that I’ve done, you know, whether it’s with, at home or I see a situation, I go pick up as you walk through a manufacturing plant. No one’s picking this up.
[00:46:54] TS: I’m going to go pick up the trash and put it away. Nobody cleaned the bathroom today. I’m going to clean the bathroom. It just doesn’t matter what it is. And on bigger things, when it comes to social, um, social awareness and, you know, I like to do a lot with Operation Food Search in that arena where I see things aren’t being done or people aren’t being said. You know, I get very passionate around that, but that’s something I learned from my mom and I teach my kids.
[00:47:13] TS: And when people do ask that question, I always, I always say that. My mom’s like, “I never said that.” Haha.
[00:47:20] BS: Well, whatever it stuck with you, you learned it somehow. I mean, they’re all, they’re all good. Everybody’s got a different one that they pick up from their past. You mentioned ‘The Five Dysfunctions of the Team’.
[00:47:31] BS: What are some other books that you really love? And have kind of helped you throughout your business career.
[00:47:38] TS: I also mentioned ‘Energy Bus’, which I thought was really good. I think it teaches folks where people have a seat in any organization. It’s just, where is it? Right. I think that that’s important.
[00:47:46] TS: Does it have to be business books? I’m a huge Jane Patterson fan from the nineties. So I love Alex Cross and the characters that James Patterson would create. And then candidly, I read it ton of dork magazines, like Manufacturing Today, and, you know, in a lot of the journals, just because I like to see what’s going on in those worlds, but, you know, books I like ‘Crossing the Chasm’. It was actually a good one that we did together.
[00:48:10] TS: I think I’d read it many years ago and came back and did that. And even ‘The Toyota Way’ with this, I don’t mean to call it boring, but it was, you know, but I learned so much from it. You know, and I think that there’s things like that that are kind of staples that you have to have in your book.
[00:48:24] BS: There’s a new addition to the Toyota way, by the way, it came out last week.
[00:48:28] TS: Somebody else said that. Yeah. There’s also a new ACDC album that drops by the way
[00:48:34] BS: Really? I need to check that out. I like ACDC. That made me a good question for you. What is your walkup song? If you had to pick one right to like the plate or like whatever it is. An event that I did a few years ago and I picked under pressure.
[00:48:46] TS: That’s pretty good. It’s funny. I got that question in an interview a long time ago with somebody and I’ve always, that’s always stuck with me. I don’t know why, but it just had. It’s a great question. I mean, it’s very kind of out there, but it tells a lot about somebody’s personality and kind of what they’re thinking about right now.
[00:48:59] BS: Right? So give me a shameless plug for something, whether it’s yourself or Cambridge, whatever.
[00:49:05] TS: Yeah, I’d love to. I mean, I would love to plug Cambridge in the fact that you know, what we do here is really help other manufacturers enrich the lives of their employees. Yes, we sell heating and cooling and things like that.
[00:49:15] TS: And when you need it, we’re here for you. There is no doubt about it, but one of the things that we really do well is culture. And if you are having issues with culture, you want to see how people do something different. You can connect with me. I’m sure Bryan will have my contact information, or just go to LinkedIn and connect with me and I will get you set up.
[00:49:32] TS: You can be a fly on the wall. You don’t have to say anything in our meeting, but usually what happens then is that then translates to a full tour. And, um, and then lots of takeaways and you can have yourself or a few hundred people. We don’t care. We were very much an open book, but I appreciate you allow me to talk about that.
[00:49:47] BS: Yeah, sure. And like I said, I learned a lot from it. I was pretty impressed by it. Tony’s contact information will be in the show notes so that, uh, you guys can reach out to him as well. So that about wraps it up for us today. You got anything you want to add?
[00:49:58] TS: No, I mean, I, listen, Bryan, I love that you’re doing this.
[00:50:04] TS: The experience and knowledge you have in manufacturing is sometimes overlooked when they talk about leaders in our community. And now that you’re, uh, you’re not in St. Louis right now, but I think that what people need to know is that the experience and knowledge that you bring to the table along with some of the folks on your team is genuinely like out of this world good.
[00:50:22] TS: So hopefully people tune in and this is not, I don’t mean to plug you, but I mean, I know how good you are and I hope other people get to realize that too. And hopefully at some point we get to work together again, uh, having Mingo.
[00:50:30] BS: Yeah. Thanks. I hope so. My, the team we have is the best group of people I’ve ever worked with, you know?
[00:50:39] BS: It’s really great. So thank you. So this has been Zen and the Art of Manufacturing podcast with Tony Spielberg, who is the Manufacturing Ambassador at Cambridge Air. So definitely reach out to him. If you want to do one of those tours, it is not a sales presentation. Definitely do it. I highly suggest it. And, subscribe to the podcast, whether it’s on Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever podcasts are sold, even though this one is free, please subscribe and have a good rest of your day.