On Van Rides, Team-Building And Organizational Success

Recently, a columnist for Authority Magazine, Carly Martinetti, interviewed me for a Q&A that appeared on Medium. The article, entitled “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became the CEO of Borden,” covers a lot of ground and frequently touches on hiring and building teams. These are foundational concepts for me. I believe that companies and organizations experience success and failure based on the effectiveness of their internal teams.

What am I looking for when I’m interviewing a potential new member of my team? It’s not necessarily technical ability, though certainly skills and aptitude for the position are important. Rather, I’m looking for fit—how a person fits with the way we want to lead Borden and how that person fits with the leadership team that’s already here. Are principles aligned? Here’s one way I gauge it.

Borden Dairy has production plants and branch offices in 10 states. We’re headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and our executive team frequently travels to other locations to connect with our colleagues and tour their facilities. Van rides and gas station snacks are part of the equation.

After an interview, I reflect at a high level on how capable and how well a candidate would take care of and lead Borden employees. I consider their views on business broadly. And then, I also ask myself—and other member of my team—how would Candidate X take to our long van rides? We’re going to be spending a lot of time together. The ability to work together as a team calls for a diversity of viewpoints, a breadth and depth of experience, and the ability to listen, share ideas and learn from each other. And that’s not just in the office. A three-hour drive to visit our plant in Conroe, Texas, for example, is also an opportunity for collaboration and creative problem-solving.

My role as a CEO is to create an environment where a team can do its best work. I’m also responsible to bringing new people into the mix. As I told Carly, hiring a great staff is nearly 100% of the challenge a CEO faces. But guess what? The better the team you build, the more support you have for making important decisions such as hiring. You’ll know you’re there when you make that six-hour round trip drive to and from Conroe and come away thinking it was time well spent. For me, it always is. Taking the time to make sure a new hire fits the team pays off in countless ways.