A Day in the Life of...
We all have our work routines (editor’s note: mine looks like coffee, coffee, meeting, meeting, meeting, coffee)–but ever wonder what someone else’s day looks like? Take a peek inside the daily shenanigans of our team members and learn what a day in their life looks like for them. What you learn may surprise or inspire you.
...VP/GM, James Greathouse
Breaking Down "VP/GM"
In brief terms, my role is comprised of three major segments: 1) strategy implementation - helping to bring the company visions and goals to life across the organization; 2) operational execution - identifying and implementing changes and improvements in how the company operates to improve efficiencies; and 3) Chief of Staff - while each employee reports directly to their department leadership team, I ensure we are getting the most out of our number one resource - our people. Most of my time on this last point is spent helping to develop our leaders into strong team/people leaders. To accomplish these expectations, I work directly with the owners of the business across all divisions and departments within JL.
My schedule is completely different one day from the next. I can be working with the executive team to define strategies for the organization on one day and the next, I can be working with leadership team members to define their strengths and growth opportunities that lead them to higher levels of results. What you see in my day below is a combination of all of that.
Arrive at Work
I usually arrive to work between 7am and 7:30am (Starbucks in hand). With a 100 mile commute (that’s just one way), getting to work at one specific time can be a challenge with traffic. Yes, that is a long drive. When I joined the company, I was not sure I would be able to continue with that commute for the long term…and now I can’t imagine wanting to work anywhere else. From the owners, to the JL culture, to the opportunities to continue to grow the business, I am excited everyday to come into work. Since I spend most of that long commute on podcasts, the first thing I like to do when I get to work is say hello to everyone, and do as many drive-by conversations as possible.
Meeting with Jose Sanchez
I started off my day with a quick meeting with Jose Sanchez (Manager, U.S. Production) to follow up to an email he had sent me the previous day. It’s rare for me to have an open spot on my calendar, so when this opened up, we took advantage of the time to discuss it. Jose has so much experience with JL and knowledge regarding what it takes to produce the pieces needed daily, and his email highlighted the needs by department from the past, which will help inform us better of what is needed in the future. We are always evolving the organization, and as part of that, we have been working to ensure we have the right amount of employees in each department to continue building the product in the US that the customers want.
I wanted to better understand how we previously determined our employee needs by department. Currently, we have large departments like Upholstery, Sewing, and Woodshop; however, there are specific needs in each department. For example, Woodshop might have specific needs for employees with skills as bandsaw operators, and chop saw operators. Understanding the specific needs will help ensure we have all critical positions covered in the future and the training that is needed with each role.
The outcome of this meeting is that we are going to better define the job roles and responsibilities within US production to ensure each specific skill has the employees needed to produce the pieces needed. I appreciate working with people like Jose who comes with many years of experience in the industry and in JL and can help us understand what has worked and what opportunities we have had. We continue to grow and evolve at JL, bringing the great parts of JL forward into the future and always looking for ways to improve to meet our changing customer needs.
Meeting with US/MX Production Leadership Team
This was the inaugural planning meeting (and will become a recurring meeting) to review our 2023 sales forecasting with our US and Mexico production leaders. Part of my role within the organization is to ensure we are strategically aligning our customer needs each year with the structure and capacity needed to meet and exceed our customer’s expectations in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. By sharing our monthly sales forecasting by customer to our production leaders, they can ensure we have the right levels of headcount, raw materials and production capacity available to meet these needs regularly.
As we complete each month, we will be able to look back on the previous month to understand what we learned (did sales exceed expectations or fall short and did we meet our production output goals) so that we can make any necessary adjustments for the future. It would be easy if we had a crystal ball that told us exactly what the customers want and when, but unfortunately, business is never that easy. So we continue to forecast to the best of our knowledge and make adjustments as needed. The key for me is to keep information flowing freely from our Sales team all the way to our production team.
Bringing the right people together to ensure we are aligned on our approach is always important. While sales forecasting is never an exact science, it gives us the ability to all row in the same direction and consistently communicate expectations with our customers. Without meetings like this, we might all be pulling the company at different levels leading to inefficiencies, over or under inventory levels and lost sales opportunities. This is our way of anticipating the customer needs in advance as a team.
Executive Team Meeting
Onto the next meeting! It's time for our standing executive team (Javier Sanchez-CEO/Owner, Juan Valle-COO/Owner, myself, Randy Barbara-CFO, Camelle Smith-VP Sales) meeting to discuss overall company strategies and long-term vision for the organization, beyond daily execution.
We reviewed and discussed 2023 goals submitted by each department that align to our Company Initiatives. The objective was to align on the few key department goals that would have the highest level of positive impact on our business in 2023 and beyond, and present it back to the department leaders, so that they can begin planning each goal to achieve the expected outcome in 2023.
We also focused on ensuring the executive team was aligned on next steps, project plans needed for each goal, and identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) that will let us know if we are successful in each goal.
There is always more to do than we ever have time for in any given year. While all ideas and concepts shared from the department leaders are important and can help us be successful into the future, the executive team is charged with streamlining all of these great ideas into just a few each year. This helps ensure we make the largest impact on the goals established with the resources we have, versus trying to tackle too much and falling short. Our company initiative in 2023 is to improve on the overall customer experience, which is something we do not take likely, and something JL has prided itself on, that can be a competitive advantage when done correctly.
Lol, I can’t even remember what I ate. (Editor’s note: no commentary on under-seasoned meat then?)
I truly enjoy lunch times at JL as it gives us time to connect as people, beyond the job. Usually the entire leadership team takes lunch at the same time, and we get a chance to enjoy each other's company. While the conversations can be work-related at times (like today—we spent time ensuring we were ready to welcome our sales team to the office for a week of meetings); other times, we just catch up with each other on random fun topics like what everyone has planned on the weekends, what movies everyone is watching, etc.
The culture at JL around teamwork is strong and our lunch sessions highlight how well we all get along and work together not only as departments, but also just as humans. It's just a good time to laugh and smile together and get caught up.
One of the things I enjoy most about our time during lunch is hearing the incredible history of JL and the stories behind why the company has been so successful for so many years. On the other end of the spectrum, I enjoy when I get to connect with the new leaders joining JL and learn about the experience and skills they bring to our team in a more casual environment.
Today, I had a chance to catch up with Javier on a few employee development needs, and with Camelle to ensure that the team building event I was planning for the sales team was going to meet the team needs.
Conducting a Performance Review
While Aleks and I meet weekly to discuss performance, project status, challenges, etc., this meeting was dedicated to focusing on her personal development within JL. Aleks is our newest leader on our U.S. HR team. And while she has only been with the company for several months, she has already made a positive impact on our US HQ recruiting process and performance evaluations process.
Since she is fairly new to JL, a lot of our discussion was around celebrating her ability to immerse herself into the HR team and JL successfully, already making positive impacts, and coming up with a plan on how she is going to take on more of the accountabilities and responsibilities of her role in 2023.
Taking time to meet with direct reports to discuss how they are doing in their role is critical to their success. These sessions give the employee a chance to reflect on their previous performance and share their accomplishments and how they are working to continue to develop and overcome any obstacles or challenges. As a leader, it gives me the opportunity to ensure expectations are clearly communicated, that the employee has the tools and resources needed to be successful, and that the employee is getting the opportunity to use their strengths to do what they do best everyday. I personally enjoy these moments as it gives me yet another opportunity to recognize people for their efforts and encourage them in their ongoing development and growth.
We have been working hard at JL to move these discussions away from being what typically have been “review” conversations where leaders inform employees how they are doing, and instead evolve these meetings to be more of a discussion lead by the employee. Who knows better what they have accomplished and challenges they have faced, than the employee themself. By listening to the employee, I can better understand where they need my support and guidance as a leader to help them grow in their position and career here at JL.
Sales Conference Kick-Off
As you saw from the blog post on our sales team meeting, we had the opportunity to bring our entire sales team in from across US and Canada for several days of meetings at our corporate headquarters. We have not been able to hold this meeting for the last several years due to the pandemic, so it was nice to have everyone face-to-face again.
We kicked off the conference by giving the sales rep a chance to hear from Javier on his vision and direction for JL, from Randy on our strong financial performance and how the company is set up for successes in the future, from Camelle on overall sales strategy, and from me, as I shared a little around customer expectations and overall company lead time strategies for the year. We hope that by sharing this information, we can ensure that everyone is aligned on vision, direction and expectations. It also gave us an opportunity to answer any questions that came up from the sales team to ensure they were knowledgeable to be able to support their retailers.
We have a talented and very tenured sales team. They have seen and been a part of the JL growth in the past. That being said, the last several years has seen a lot of change and growth in the organization that, while needed, also put strain on the culture of the organization. In today’s meeting, I was excited that we spent time focusing on employee engagement and how ensuring we maintain our JL culture, as this is integral to our success. From the feedback I heard from the sales team during the meeting—and immediately afterwards—I know we are on the right track.
TB with Johnny
Johnny and I meet on a regular basis to discuss overall operations strategy. As Johnny is responsible for the operations side of the business including production, scheduling, purchasing, logistics, etc., we meet on a regular basis to look into the future to understand what changes, adjustments, and development are needed to meet the changing business needs.
Our production team in Mexico and the US are comprised of team members with very diverse backgrounds and skills, ranging from years in furniture production to newer leaders with production experience, but new to the furniture industry. Johnny was sharing with me how the roles and responsibilities of these leaders are continuing to evolve from just running production lines to becoming more business unit leaders— responsible for not only production output, but also including team leadership, expense management, and ensuring overall product quality. We discussed how the successes of their roles will rely on how these leaders are collaborating with other departments as service departments to production.
Much of the time in the meeting was discussing each role's accountabilities to ensure expectations were clear and next steps on how to ensure better collaboration with other departments—which was to have the production team present how their roles are evolving to the other department leaders to ensure alignment on this strategy.
I truly enjoy partnering with Johnny in driving the overall operations strategy for the organization. Sometimes this includes identifying opportunities and resolutions to issues that arise, and other times, we focus on ensuring we are meeting our team needs so that they have what they need to drive the business.
Sales Happy Hour Mixer
With the long commute home, I usually try to end my work day in the office by 4 pm to try to beat the commute home. Without traffic it is about 1 hour 45 minutes, but with traffic that can double. So my strategy—that seems to work well—is to leave the office around 4 pm, get home, and then jump back on the laptop to close out any work that is needed for the day. At times, I also get calls from Javier and Johnny on my commute home, which is a good way to stay connected, and a valuable use of my commute.
Today, however, we had a happy hour mixer with our sales team which was a great opportunity to spend some extra informal time with our sales reps over drinks and pizza. Since I joined Jonathan Louis right as we went into COVID lockdown, I only have had the chance to meet with very few face-to-face, even though we worked together numerous times remotely. Having the opportunity to finally meet in person, gave us a chance to connect further which I truly appreciated. And while most of the conversations were just catching up on life and how things have been going, of course, there was time to catch up on business as well. Just another great opportunity to connect as a team, and share a couple of drinks to enjoy the end of the day.