Sharing self-doubts with your leadership team may not seem like a way to make your business stronger, but for Dave Dunaway, it helped him turnaround his company and create a great company culture in the process.
Every Company Has Setbacks
Since 1993, after taking the reigns of the company from his father, Dave has been Owner and President of Ramco Electric Motors, Inc.
Ramco Electric Motors is a sub-contract manufacturer of electric motors and other components used in industrial, military, and aerospace applications. You can find parts manufactured by Ramco on anything from a hybrid bus to a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
With years of success behind him, in 2014, Dave’s self-doubts were beginning to weigh on him.
“The self-doubt and the fear came from my background—not having the training or experience required to lead a company. My father started the company 5 years before I came on-board, and I joined the company as an engineer. When I took over, I had to act as if I knew what I was doing. I had to acquire financing, grow sales, and had to lead a very small organization of people—something I hadn’t done before,” he says. But I felt like I had to act like I knew, while I figured it out.
Looking back, Dave says it was during those years, that despite growth, the company had lost focus. “As the company grew and my responsibilities did too, I was the President. I was also the HR manager, the operations manager, and the sales manager. I was not working on my business, I was working in the business,” shares Dave. “I was really unaware that I wasn’t really being the President. Nobody was filling that role. Even if I would have had time, I didn’t know what was required, or even how to do that job.”
The lack of clarity for Dave and the company could no longer be ignored when the company lost money for the first time in 2014. “My direct reports were pressing me to have me let them help me,” he says, “and I had never done that before. Financial statements and other things, I kept to myself, and to the accountant. The pressure of not having anybody else know what was going on, including my family, was just overwhelming at that time,” he says.
Redirect Your Energy
That’s when Dave made the conscious decision to embrace his fear and to redirect the energy into something that could be positive for the company. The process started with one simple step: admitting the truth to himself.
Next, Dave said he knew he needed to share his struggles, doubts and fears with his leadership team. “The process of letting go, and letting them know how we were doing for the first time, and then admitting that I didn’t know what I was doing—was truly liberating. I didn’t know that everybody already knew that I didn’t know what I was doing,” he says. “That admission, allowing them to become more involved, was the first step that drove me to Aileron, and the eventual turnaround of the company.”
“I then created an executive team that is currently doing our strategic planning. By implementing professional management, we revisit that strategic plan every year, and once a year and we share it with the entire company,” he says. Recently the executive team came up with its first, 20-year plan and vision.
After putting time into strategic planning and developing his people, the company quickly rebounded. In 2015, Ramco had its best year to date. In 2016, the company continues to grow and provide greater value for its customers.
Improve Yourself & Improve Your Organization
Showing vulnerability and investing in personal leadership and strategic planning helped turn the company around. But it’s also transformed the company culture.
The mindset of employees has shifted and they are able to envision the future of the company. “I was dumbfounded to learn that people here actually thought that one day I might retire and leave. I had my head in the sand about that, that they might ever think that—and now they’re relieved that there’s a plan.”
Employees know where the company is headed, and they see more opportunity than ever before. “There’s a satisfaction you can tell from [the executive team and employees] that we’re asking them to improve their jobs and improve their experience here. We’ve made a commitment to grow organically and as we’ve grown, opportunities keep popping up. We’re putting in succession planning. We’re talking to people and asking, ‘What do you want to do? Where do you want to go within our organization?’
The executive team enjoys the process of creating and sharing their personal visions with one another. “We share our personal visions with each other—whether or not that includes being with the company and how long we see that happening. That was something I never would have done before, but it now fits into our succession planning,” shares Dave.
Keep Learning, Growing & Leading
One of the biggest lessons Dave learned was the power in confronting and sharing self-doubts. “Admitting my lack of knowledge forced me to do something about it. It was very liberating, and it forced me to grow,” he says.
“That growth has brought me joy and allowed me to succeed in my business as well as my relationships with other people,” he says. Dave believes these are the fundamentals of getting what you want out of yourself, your business, and your life in general: “If you’re not growing, you’re dying. This not only applies to our businesses, but ourselves. That sure makes me want to keep growing,” he says.
“Over time, I started applying these principles at home with my family. [Previously], I had not been planning there either, but great families don’t happen by accident,” he says. “There were parallels between my work and my home, and it became really apparent to me.”
The path for being successful requires a vision, a mission and a plan. “This thread applies not only to our businesses, but to our families, too. And it applies to each of us as individuals. You have to have a personal vision, too.”
Empower Yourself & Overcome Your Self-Doubt
What’s holding you back from being the best leader (and person) you can be? Learn how to get past self doubt – or whatever it may be that is preventing your growth – at the Leading with Your Best Self workshop. It’s a full-day workshop designed to help you improve your leadership through self-discovery. Learn more below.