Leon Goren speaks with GNI's CEO, Bill Maginas, who made the transition in the fall of 2020 from the large multinational Johnson Controls to the Canadian firm, Great Northern Insulation. Bill discusses the challenges and opportunities of making the switch and what his experience has been working with fewer resources and bringing new employees onboard.
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Welcome to our snippets podcast. I'm Leon Goren, CEO and president of PEO leadership, North America's premier peer to peer network and leadership advisory firm. Today we welcome bill McGinnis, CEO of Northern insulation JNI for short and a member Miko key hos advisory team at PEO. DNI services homeowners and industry professionals in the residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors offering solutions that include insulation, air sealing fireproofing panel and cladding and a lot more. They operate throughout Ontario with eight locations and over 300 employees. Bill has been a member of pa leadership for a number of years having recently moved from the big corporate job at Johnson Controls to DNI in September 2020. He's an advisory board member with another PL leadership member or proceed and also a member, a board member at patriot technologies. For fun, I can also tell you Bill's a huge cyclists, and the winter weather doesn't seem to pull them off the road. Guy is extremely passionate. Belle, it's great to have you with us today.Unknown:
Thanks, Leon.Leon Goren:
So the move from a big multinational corporate to a Canadian corporate head office. I know I always have members who are thinking about this, it was think Well, anyway, they always some of them consider the grass is greener on your side now. But and they always think the move is going to be easy. And so you've been doing this for a number of months. And I'm just curious, maybe there's a couple of insights you can share with them, like maybe two or three insights. Yeah.Unknown:
So I grew up in my industry, the multi industrial space. In in Canada, it's the biggest curse, but also the biggest benefit. So we have the ability to feed off of products that are out of the US. But the problem I had in my industry, and it's not the same in every industry is that although I was a significant size in Canada, in my industry, for my competitors, I was 1/10 for all my other American compare all my American peers. And so what I always got felt like we prepared just like everybody else would prepare, we had a billion at JC I have a $2 billion business and but when you're preparing and you're spending all that time on it, you get to a meeting that's significant. Your team spends a week preparing for a board meeting or or an SBU president meeting and you get treated like new I keep saying New Hampshire I hope no one's from New Hampshire, it takes a personally that we get treated like a really small state in the US. And so that to me, just over to you, I did this for I've done this for over, I was almost 15 years doing this in some way. That it just became frustrating for me and my team. It's like I say it's the biggest curse. But the biggest benefit, I would have never had the experiences I had in the big corporate setting, international as well as Canadian based, without, without being there. But it was it's kind of funny to see that's over my career. And all my coaching and mentoring I've had before PEO guys would say to us, what do you wanna do and grow up? And I said, and even when I was in the EU working in the US and doing some international jobs, the they would always ask me, What do you want to do, I said, I kind of want to go home and run like, you know, 50 to $60 million business and be the CEO. So I didn't plan it this way as this serendipitous. I actually left JCI thinking that I would I probably wanted to go the PE route where I was more of an owner operator as well as you know, I was more connected to my shareholders which the distance to share the distance when you're running any business between what you do and the shareholders also challenging. So having a closer connection to the shareholder, which I thought is what I wanted to do. And I was just started by by consulting in an organization to help them they were putting together a package to sell on G and I was a portion of the businesses they wanted to sell. And then I got lucky. Ironbridge came in to buy GSI and Ironbridge is the PE firm that I worked for, as it's one of their portfolio companies. And I kind of really enjoyed working, you know, in discussions and it wasn't really an interview process, we'll see a discussion. And when the purchase happened. I kind of became the GI CEO, I did become the GI co CEO. So that's kind of the been I would not say that I would give up my 15 years my almost 20 years of multinationals but 15 years kind of being in that Canadian entity. I spent five years in the US where I was more HQ that I wouldn't give that up because I thought there was great opportunities and it was great learning and experience. But I think the transition, the transition, and I know a lot of people think it's easy. It's not an easy transition. No, it is not easy. I have a lot of friends that think oh my gosh, you're just running a $70 million business now. You know, how easy is that? Well, it's not Easy because you actually are running everything. There's very little, there's a lot less back office support. So it's not easy, but it's it, it's fun, you get the ability to take everything you've learned and kind of like when you when you grow up in business and you know, a lot of a lot of people follow me they go engineering route or business route, I went business route and, and got my MBA and then when you get your MBA, you learn how to run big businesses. And so I always say that I see to some of my peers or friends, I got my master's degree in business from Wilfrid Laurier, I got my PhD in business from the multi industrial space. So that's kind of you learn a lot, because from the firehose, and now it's the ability for us to put that for me to put that into a smaller business. And I'm enjoying that I'm really I'm enjoying that. So it's funny you talked about, and I've heard this too, it's always when moving from the large organization where you're surrounded with incredible amount of resources. And smart people to it's at Johnson Controls, Holy smokes, you got incredible people, where then you move into a smaller business. The one issue I always hear is about, Oh, my God, I don't have the same resources. So I am a man or a woman. Yeah, basically full of trades, like I am working every aspect of this business. And have you found that like, are you in gross into every element of the business now? Yeah, so just most of my career as well. So my last four years before that was JCI. But the same, they're both large multi industrials, I think the challenge. So I think that what you just said, you have a, you have a support organization in those big businesses that you don't have in a smaller business, that's for sure. But if you're good enough, in a smaller business, you can outsource some of that which we've done, I think the challenging part I had was, or is, is when you're trying to look for seat people to fill seats. So you've got a gap somewhere in the business. And you usually in a larger company, you've got this large group of P talent portfolio or talent analysis that says, Well, this guy's ready for his next role. And you just kind of pick from that and you bring them up into that role, or move people around. That's really the hard part. Because you're just you're in a smaller business. So you need people are all doing things that are impacting the customer. And so you can't really pull people away, because then you can't drive revenue or performance for the customer. So that that to me has been the hardest thing is you can't move people around as easily as you could have in a bigger company. What about the fact you join them that I know you were involved a little bit earlier? Because you were doing some consulting there, but you really came in in the middle of COVID. Right? So what's happened like for you, because you're, you're stuck within your home, the four walls? I know, part of your business is essential, right? You're going into these locations, your but your admin part is not So how have you been meeting everybody? are you dealing with your management team and stuff? Biggest challenge? I think that's been the biggest challenge when I talk about. So I look at this as kind of in my career, I did a few jobs that were I would I got into high growth regions that Honeywell and I went to Brazil, Turkey, Russia and ran companies where we had to integrate these businesses into our corporate setting. So I look at this as an integration job. And every integration job I've ever done, I went and spent time live with people across in boardrooms. And we did, we had, you know, what we call war rooms with sticky notes. And those are not, you can't do that anymore. So thank goodness for the technic technology with teams and zoom and WebEx. Those are all things that have helped us a lot. But it's been a significant challenge, because you can't just have, it's a lot harder. You can't have water cooler chats, you can't just it's not like you're popping into someone's office and whiteboarding, an idea that you want, you have to do this a lot differently with a lot more plan. And I think the first few months we're chatting were very, very challenging. I think we found a way to deal with it. But I don't know that we can. I think we are all looking forward to getting back into an office and actually sitting across from the table and working together. It has been definitely a challenge.Leon Goren:
What about Have you guys been doing any onboarding during the time as well, like it'd be brought new people on and your business? And how does that work?Unknown:
Yeah, so it's a good question we do. So the funny The funny thing is, you have to split our business. So we have the office folks that are mostly dealing with anyone that can work from home, was sent home. And then you have the branch business and the branch business is very essential. It's kind of like, you know, running a gas station. So you actually have to be there, the trucks have to be loaded, there's inventory. So the branches have been very little affected. So the locations are everyone's there. So the onboarding that happens in those locations has been very similar. You bring in someone that's going to come in in a in a junior position to learn how to be a former and installation truck on boarded the same way. The staff when you talk about bringing in staff from a sales rep perspective or a leadership perspective, that's been a little bit more challenging. So the onboarding has definitely been more challenging because we have now everyone's remote, there's no one in an office. And so we do a lot more computer based stuff, and we're doing a lot more CBT, which is good. And I think that's very, very valuable. But we're also trying to force a cadence in place, we're trying to put in a more welcoming management operating system. So we've launched a management management operating system where we have regular cadence for folks to come in and be part of discussions and business discussions. So that's going to help us but you're right onboarding is something that we viewed as a gap for us. And we need to fix a bit of a blind spot.Leon Goren:
Yeah, well, no, it's a blind spot for a lot of people. That's why I was curious on how you were handling it. Because all these companies are dealing with it, you're just unfortunately, face. So if you come right in the middle of COVID. So not only do you get to learn your team, work about strategy, and then you got people changes, or new people coming on, you got hit on all fronts, essentially, in terms of running that business. SoUnknown:
yeah, just to add to that, so one of the things we've tried to do so an integration job like this to CEO, would go to locations and spend time with the field staff. So I have visited all the locations in a very socially distant. And I've been very cautious having gone to the dispatch time when there's a lot of people there, because I don't want that to be. That's not what we're supposed to doing during the pandemics we've been been not doing that. But we've worked really hard on is doing taped town halls. So at dispatch, what we do is we do a town hall with the leadership team where we'll talk about things mostly through pap mostly through PowerPoints some video, but we're also we're also doing that we've launched a new mission vision values campaign, which has been which has been during the pandemic which has been great. We've also pulled together two board meetings, it's been 180 days, we've had two board meetings, our team's been able to pull that together, which is been the first first time I've done a board meeting like this where we're all remote. So it's been that's been tricky as well. But the team has really come together we've had to every there's no real book about this. We all have had to figure out ways to make this work.Leon Goren:
Well, it's been great chatting, thank you for sharing some of that stuff. Like I said, I know we have a lot of members not even members I know people in the larger community everybody's thinking about you know, those at least that have been career guys multinational guys, what's it like to jump into the Canadian market to run and spearheaded Canadian coming plus, you've got the experience also working with private equity now, which is also a new dilemma or a different dilemma on dealing with that. So thanks for joining us and sharing some of those insights with us today. If you're interested in any of our live webcasts the way forward and or other snippets please take a moment and visit us at PEO dash leadership comm you'll find on our site various pre previous recorded webcasts which include guests such as Professor Janice Stein, Harvard's Rosabeth Cantor, Michael beer, Robert chestnut, Dr. Greg wells, Jason South Mitchell go her analyst goes on as we cover such topics as Mental Health Leadership, the world reset and a host of others. Thank you for joining us today and we look forward to seeing you again shortly.