Bill Boor is the President and CEO of Cavco Industries, a company focused on designing and building manufactured homes. As CEO, Bill makes daily decisions that have the potential to affect the success of the company. So how does he do it? J.R. Lowry teams up with Bill to give us a look at Bill's journey of leadership and learning. Tune in and hear great insights on leadership, decision making, and finding the right fit.
Listen to the podcast here:
Bill Boor, President And CEO Of Cavco Industries
On Dream Jobs, Changes To The Plan, And Continued Learning Opportunities
I have the pleasure of welcoming my long-time friend, Bill Boor, to the show. Bill is the President and CEO of Cavco Industries, a producer of manufactured homes with revenues of about $1 billion. Prior to that, Bill had a quite different CEO role, leading the Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland. If you are not familiar with Great Lakes, they have a very strong craft brew following and are known in particular for their Christmas ale, which flies off the shelves each fall.
Bill has spent the bulk of his career in a variety of roles in the construction and natural resources industries. However, he started his career in manufacturing with Procter & Gamble. He earned his undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from Penn State and also earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. He and his wife live in Phoenix. They are the parents of two daughters and a son.
Thank you. It is good to be here.
I appreciate you being on the show. Let us start with a question I ask almost everybody. What was your very first job, and how old were you then?
I worked the night shift in an electronics factory. I sat there all night. They would bring buckets of DIP switches. I bet a lot of people will not even know what those are but these small parts, I put them on a track. They went down to a woman that sat 10 feet away from me, and she knocked them out if they were bad quality. We could not even hear each other because it was such a loud factory. We sat out there all night doing that. It was a pretty interesting entry into the workforce.
Pulling DIP switches out of a bucket during the night shift sounds riveting. How did you decide on Chemical Engineering when you went to Penn State?
I did not start out thinking I wanted to be in Chemical Engineering but I chose Chemical Engineering because I thought it gave me some options that I was thinking about. My primary interest going into college was I thought I would be an orthopedic surgeon but rather than committing to what people typically do, I figured out this triangulation of some other things I might end up liking. Chemical Engineering seemed to be the thing that would leave all these options open.
What happened to the orthopedic surgeon idea?
As I went through college and some of the stuff I did outside of the schoolwork like leadership positions and organizational stuff, I started enjoying being involved more in organizations, management, and leadership. I do not remember ever deciding, “I am not interested.” It just faded away. It changed my views. The Chemical Engineering degree served me well. What I thought originally, I do not think I was all that wise, but it played out the way I thought it would. It gave me some good options.
That is one thing engineering is good for. An engineer myself by background, I have not used it in incredible detail since 1989 or the early ‘90s. But it has given me a foundation that I have used throughout my career.
Those thought processes and discipline in how you look at things - I am very similar. By the time I got out of school, I was not all that interested in being a chemical engineer. I knew I did not want to do that, but it gave me some good opportunities.
How did you decide to go to Procter & Gamble after graduation? What else were you considering as alternatives?
I had done two summers at Procter & Gamble as an intern. I was on the four-and-a-half-year program. The summer after my junior and senior years, I spent those times doing jobs at the Procter & Gamble factory. It was a very large complex in Pennsylvania. The other thing I was targeting, I had some opportunities in pharmaceuticals and energy. Those would have been much more useful to my chemical engineering background.
What was it in P&G that attracted you relative to the pharma and energy space?
I knew from my internships that I was going to go in, be managing people and become a manufacturing manager, which was interesting to me. Building loosely using the engineering background, it was more about people management and process management. I had figured that out through the interview process and through those internships that it was more about managing and leading, and less about becoming a chemical engineer.
First work experiences out of school are almost always a formative experience. What did you take away from your time at P&G that has guided you in the years since then?
[bctt tweet="If you want to get something done, you've got to be pretty effective." via="no"]
It cemented that very idea. I loved it. I am someone who likes the puzzle of situations and enjoys process engineering, meaning looking at what is going wrong or looking at what you can do better and seeing the whole system. I ate that up, and I enjoyed the people management. Go back to that night shift job I was talking about. I developed a lot of respect for people that are manufacturing employees and what they are doing. The opportunity right out of school to manage was challenging. It was not always easy. Some of [the people I managed] were difficult but I loved that challenge in that environment.
I am sure when you were put in the position where you were managing people, some of them were a lot older than you were.
More than twice my age, for sure. You’ve got a lot more to learn from them than they have to learn from you. They have seen people like you come through.
They will still be there, and you will be gone. That is the way some of them think about it.
You’ve got to figure out how to influence them because they can hold their breath longer than they figure you will be there. If you want to get something done, you have got to be effective.
Manufacturing plants have always fascinated me. I have not done a whole lot in the manufacturing space but enough to appreciate that it is a hard job in its own way. The people who are doing it, what they want is to have respect from whoever is in their management chain. A lot of times that does not happen.
It seems like it should not be difficult. They can be unappreciated. You do have to respect what they are doing. They are people raising their families and going to work every day. It's not easy work. I have always had an affinity for that environment and those people.
You opted to go to business school after a few years. This is a decision a lot of young professionals consider. What drove that decision for you?
Interestingly, I did not know a lot of people who had ever done it in my background. My father was a social worker. My mother was a registered nurse. I did not come from a business background. Even at Procter & Gamble, we were learning how to be world-class manufacturing managers. That is the sphere of that world within Procter & Gamble.
Even though I loved what I was doing, I started thinking that my Engineering degree was pretty regimented. I had never taken an Accounting course before I went to business school. I just started to become aware that I did not know how businesses worked. It was a pretty short step to say, “If that is an interest, now is the time.” Certainly, the business school would be a way to broaden out that understanding.
Looking back, do you consider it a good investment of time and money? It is certainly not cheap.
It set the course of everything after that. Even when we were there, I felt that because I did not have hardly any of the business exposure before, I felt like my dollars were at least going to a good cause. I was soaking it all up. There was not a course there that I had any background in. Even looking at some of my peers who had come from consulting or finance backgrounds, I was getting more out of this than they were because I was starting from ground zero.
Coming out of the military, I was stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base before I went to business school. There was a steady trickle of people from Hanscom into some of the top business schools. I got a lot out of it. It was transitionally important for me to move into the private sector. In a way, that gave me the foundation to keep up with people who have been in consulting or investment banking backgrounds and came into business school infinitely more prepared.
It was incredibly challenging but it was a good environment. It was a lot more supportive than many people think it is. The class stuck together and everyone wanted each other to succeed. I was soaking it up, and it changed the course of my career.
You then went to Weyerhaeuser. What did you take away incrementally from your time at Weyerhaeuser that built on what you had done prior to that?
My wife and I felt like we had a plan. Coming out of grad school, we were going to go to the Philadelphia area. We are both from Pennsylvania. It was close to family and friends. I got the job offers I went after. I got several good offers to do that. That was the plan. Weyerhaeuser invited me to the interview. She was looking at me a little bit concerned, “Why even go to the interview?” I am like, “Do not worry about it. This will lead to nothing.” I hit it off with the guy who was the hiring manager. It was a big company. When I was there, it had a $10 billion market cap. Even though the job was at headquarters, it was still a manufacturing company. I got that itch scratched.
They had this group that they brought people like me in, out of MBA programs, usually with more of a technical background. We got to work on the decisions that the senior management team and the board of directors were going to have to make. It was an acquisition or major capital project. It was a financial analysis. It was doing the economics. It was figuring out how to frame decisions, thinking about how to make those decisions, and being part of project teams where you had business units that wanted to do something. You had to get in there with them.
They knew that you were an advisor to the senior management team, and you could be an asset to that team if you did it well. It continued my education because I learned what I did in my graduate degree but it was in this group where I got to think about how that company worked. I don't think I can overstate it. I think about decisions day in and day out the way I learned to think about them in that first job.
Was it an internal consulting construct, rotational program or was it structured experiences around your day job?
You were there to do a specific job. You were the advisor and analyst for the senior leaders but it was constructed that you would spend about 2 to 3 years in that group. There is a long history. People would shoot out all over the company. My thought was, “I will go out to some manufacturing plant after I get this experience.” That was the way it was designed.
I ended up running the group and being asked to do a completely different job than I would have ever expected. They put me in charge of finance and accounting for one of their larger business units. I never saw myself as that person. I remember asking him, “Why would you want me to do that?” It was an incubator for general management talent in the company.
How was that transition from manufacturing into accounting?
I learned that I had to be able to manage people who knew the content of what they were doing a heck of a lot more than I would ever know. I am not an accountant. I do not think in accounting terms but I had to learn to understand and support people. That was their world. I was on the leadership team of the business unit, which I was eating up. That was good development for me to manage groups that understood the work a lot more than I did.
You got your Chartered Financial Analyst certification, something that a lot of young professionals consider, mainly those in financial services. What was it that led you to get your CFA certification?
I started that when I was in that initial group. I was pretty clear about it. The thought process at that time was, “I’ve got my MBA. Now I am learning this way to think about this company and how you make decisions.” The thing I still did not feel like I had any background, experience, or education in was how the capital markets work and how investors think.
Naively, I started what turned out to be a very difficult certification program. At that point, I was working with senior managers in the board, and I was starting to think to myself, “If I ever get to a position where I am on the executive team of a public company, it would be a great benefit to know how the outside investing world looks at that company.”
That is the reason a lot of people get the CFA designation. I had to convince them because job experience is one of the criteria for getting into the program. I had to convince them with some rationale why some guy in a manufacturing company should take the program at all. It served me well. Now I am running a public company, and I am dealing with investors every day. It gave me a perspective on all that.
A lot of people come up without ever getting hands-on finance experience, even just on the financials of a business case. It is one of those skills that you have to pick up over time if you want to progress through an organization. It benefits you in the same way people leadership benefits you. Being able to understand financials, balance sheet, cash flow statements, and P&L statements is definitely helpful.
[bctt tweet="If you could figure out how to take out the complexity and get to the essence of what a decision is really about, then analysis takes shape a lot easier, and you're helping the decision-maker make it." via="no"]
I talked about that first role. A big part of our job was figuring out how to frame the decision. If you could figure out how to take out the complexity and get to the essence of what a decision is really about, then the analysis takes shape a lot easier, and you're helping the decision-maker make it. That is the part that continues to play a big role in how I think about business.
At some point along the way, you went to the home building company, Centex, in Dallas. You were out in Washington, and your kids were young then. How did you and your wife, Angela, decide to go out to go down to Dallas? What fueled that decision?
Simply put, I got recruited away. Our family was young enough. Our oldest daughter was going into first grade as I remember. That was not too much of an issue. Every step we have taken, we have taken with the thought that, “This is it. We are going to stay,” yet things come along. We got recruited away by a guy who preceded me from Weyerhaeuser to that company. I am of two minds about it. On one hand, it led to a lot of things. That got me where I am now. On the other hand, I spent a period thinking I made a huge mistake, frankly.
At Weyerhaeuser, the fit and the support were so good early in my career. Even though people talk about it, I thought, “It will be like this anywhere I choose to go. The fit will always be good. The support will always be there.” It is not a criticism of a different place and culture but it is how you fit it within it. Pretty quickly I felt, “I am not fitting as well in Centex. I had left some good stuff behind. I had a good thing going.” I spent some nights staring at the ceiling after that decision.
You talked about how you had hit it off with the manager, and that is what led you to go out to Weyerhaeuser. Managers and cultural fit matter. Having worked in different companies over the course of my life and spent time at McKinsey working with a lot of different companies, there are a lot of very different cultures out there. As you get older, you get a better sense of what is going to work for you but it takes time sometimes to figure it out and appreciate. You had the experience that you did not necessarily know what you were going to be missing until you were missing it. It happens a lot.
You learn a lot from that. Early in our careers, we heard people later in their careers saying how important fit was and you go, “That makes sense now.” Here we are talking about it. It is real.
You did a spinout of Eagle Materials. It was also there in Dallas. You did not have to pick up and move. You talked about Centex not being a great fit for you. Were there other factors that drove you to go with the spinout?
When I went to Centex, I was going into corporate development. I was working on strategy at the corporate level but also within these diversified companies and business units. The Eagle Materials spinout was a result of undoing that diversification strategy. Partly, I was unhappy at Centex and was looking for a different avenue. I did get along well with that business group. It's again about things that I thought about and learned in my past work. Here was a chance with a smaller entity but one that was suddenly going to become public, and to be in the middle of that process, doing roadshows with investors but also developing a strategy for a newly public company, that was exciting. That was what we worked out.
Were there sleepless nights about that move or was that a good move for you?
That was a good move for a while. I felt good about it. I did some interesting things. It was a smaller environment, so it was a chance to try things, experiment, and make some stuff happen, which is great. It got to the point where it felt like it had run its course. It felt like it was time to do something else as much as trying to get away from that.
You then went on to what is now Cleveland-Cliffs, a mining company headquartered in Cleveland. It was another job move, and another family move. Looking back, what do you take away from your Cleveland-Cliffs experience? I know it was a little rocky at times for you.
My wife and I decided we wanted to make a change. The interesting thing about that transition is we decided that about a year before it happened. I worked deliberately while still doing my job and working hard there to find something. We had the attitude that, “You’ve got a good job. You are not unhappy, so let’s take the time to do this.” I got recruited to Cleveland-Cliffs. I found it through a search. The pressure we had on us at that point in our master planning, which always seemed to change, was that our oldest daughter when we finally made that move was going into eighth grade.
We did not want our kids to be moved around in high school. It was a clock ticking. If we were going to leave Dallas, and I was going to leave that job, we had to get somewhere [in a certain time period] but the stars aligned. The fit at Cleveland-Cliffs was good again. It felt like this was a good place. For many years, it was. I was part of the executive team doing a lot of interesting things.
If you want to fast forward to the end of the story like you alluded to, eventually the market turned on us, and we had a hostile investor get involved. It seemed like, in retrospect, that happened very quickly. It took some time but they took control of the board. Part of me wanted to stay and right the ship. Soon after, they put new leadership in place. It was not the place to be anymore for me.
It’s unfortunate when those things happen but they do happen. I know you took a bit of time off, although you were also pursuing a business opportunity that you had been working on while you were at Cleveland-Cliffs. You knew they were not interested. Talk about that briefly if you would.
If you go back a couple of years from the hostile [takeover] situation, I was a utility infielder on the leadership team. I did everything from corporate strategy to some business oversight. One of the opportunities I got about four years before I left was we had a potential mining project up in the far north of Ontario. I got the opportunity to start from scratch and build a business unit.
There was a lot of complexity and interesting aspects that I experienced. One of them was the First Nation communities. The natives in Canada are called First Nations. This development was extremely far north. There were ten isolated and very remote communities that we needed to work with to have any chance of developing this project.
I am embarrassed to say, growing up on this continent, I did not even know there were places like that. It was one of the experiences of a lifetime. As I was leaving Cleveland-Cliffs, I knew that the new CEO had no interest in the project. I left thinking, “I will go find my next thing.” Soon after I left, within a week, some of those First Nations I had worked with called me and said, “We heard you are out of Cliffs. Can you help us?” Here were people I had been, in some ways, negotiating with. They came to me and said, “Will you work with us?”
Along with one of my good friends and colleagues in that whole effort, we put an entity together, developed an interesting partnership approach with the First Nations, raised money, and made a bid to buy the project from Cleveland-Cliffs. Unfortunately, we were not successful. It was a beautiful plan. It could have been awesome but it did not work out. That was a little piece in the resume that I went off to do my own thing. It all flowed out of that experience from Cliffs.
I am sure you learned something from that. It's a very different construct to be doing something on your own, having to lineup the financing as an individual, as opposed to having a corporate name behind you.
I never had to raise money before. It was not easy. I was shooting in every direction I could find.
Now we get to a different turn. You were a home brewer way back in the day. You get a job, running a hugely popular craft brewing company in Great Lakes, and became somewhat of a rock star in the craft brewing industry. On paper, it was certainly a dream opportunity. Was it a dream opportunity for you?
It absolutely was. It was an experience of a lifetime partly because of my own passion around that but partly because it was different, and I learned a lot from the folks there. When the efforts to try to buy that project from Cleveland-Cliffs failed, then I had to sit back. The key in those situations is to relax and have the confidence that you are going to find something interesting to do next. As soon as I relaxed and started to think, “Let’s relax for a while" because I was tired., it was amazing how things came to me.
I did contact someone who knew the brothers who had started that company many years earlier. He felt like they needed a CEO. They had never had one. They thought that, too. He talked to me and introduced us. It was so exciting for me because Great Lakes is a big deal in the industry. Fueled by a few beers, my colleague and I decided that we would give it a go and see if I could come in as their first CEO.
A lot of people daydream about turning a hobby into what they do for work. Did running Great Lakes and dealing with all of the things that come with running a $30 million or $40 million company with 150 to 200 people increase or dampen your enthusiasm for brewing itself?
I loved it. I went in with my eyes open. What people tell [you] to be careful about is that you do not have the resources you have in a big public company. You are going to do a lot of stuff. You are going to roll your sleeves up. I was ready to do that. I needed that change. I loved being close to the production aspect of brewing because that was my hobby. I spent a lot of time, enjoyed being around the brewers and talking to them. Every once in a while, I hoped that they would be surprised that I knew a little bit.
The other thing that that experience brought home to me was Pat and Dan Conway, who founded that company in the ‘80s, they are incredibly values-oriented. I had never been in a situation where you do what you do as a company, you are making what you make, and all that. The values were so strong. That intertwined with how that organization operated.
[bctt tweet="Relax [when you are between jobs] and have the confidence that you're going to find something interesting to do." via="no"]
It was tough. If you ask about the brewing industry, it was started by people who had it as a hobby and decided to give it a go. The tough part that I learned was that the industry is not about the product as much anymore. It is more about marketing, in my opinion. It is very easy for new entrants to come in. It is not a very healthy industry in my perspective but the environment was fantastic.
It is amazing how that whole industry has exploded over the last number of years.
One of my stats was during those years, a new brewery was being started every eight and a half hours in this country.
Along the way, you were running Great Lakes but you also got involved in the board at Cavco, the company that you are now with. How did you come to be on their board?
Cavco was one of the portfolio companies that we spun out right before Eagle Materials spun out. I had done a lot of work with the CEO that was running it for Centex and then went with the newly reformed company. They were a very small manufacturer here in the Southwest when we parted ways because they were spun off. I was now in Cleveland [and it was] five years later. He had an opening on the board and asked me to join. I feel very fortunate because I did not get recruited onto a random board. They gave me the opportunity. I was on the board from 2008 before I stepped into this job, which was never on the horizon.
You have been in some big companies. You have been the CEO of a small to midsize company at Great Lakes. What was it like to be a board member, and how did it differ from being in an operational role?
It was another great learning and development opportunity for me. I had been in and around board rooms back to my Weyerhaeuser days and all the businesses after that. You are looking at it from the management side. I was mentored by that CEO and the people on the board as I came in. I was very conscious of the difference between being an independent director and being in management. I became very aware that the job is different as an independent director. I was talking about having the investor's perspective when you are running a company. Having the independent director’s role and understanding when you are on management or vice versa is important in that dynamic.
It is one that does not always work out the way it should because people are not always aware of the difference in the role. You think about a board job when you are on an executive team of some other public company. You think of those people who head out there four times a year. It created an important part of my career, and it was as developmental as anything else I was doing.
It seems like a lot of people retire and then go on to do board service. At that point, they are out of the act of the operational world. Being able to do both in parallel has to be a big advantage because you get to see a different lens in a different situation at the same time, in your case, you are running a company. Part of it is because companies do not like their executives to be on other company's boards. To me, that is unfortunate because they have to learn from those experiences in a way that would help them be able to come back and bring that to their day job.
It is valuable in what I do. I am working closely with the Board, and something we talk about is the role differences. To wait to have that experience until you are not in management is a missed opportunity.
When they asked you to step into the CEO role, which was back in 2019, was it hard for you to leave Great Lakes, this dream job in the craft brewery? Your youngest child was either late in high school or approaching college at that point. You moved to Phoenix from Cleveland, and had another move, leaving this great gig you had as CEO of Great Lakes. Was it a hard decision?
It was both. I do not remember it necessarily being hard because when this opportunity suddenly was on the radar, I wanted to do this. The hard part was it was another example where Angela and I and our family had it all worked out. We had no intention of ever leaving Great Lakes. We loved Cleveland. It was well-established. It was an interesting dynamic.
Those decisions can be interesting because you can know what you are going to do and not have a lot of trouble making a decision but it is still hard to leave what you are leaving. That is exactly how I felt about it. I had planned to stay at Great Lakes for however many years I worked going forward. I have had good plans, and they have been wrong many times.
You can have a plan but you should not necessarily be wedded to it. You’ve got to be open to those opportunities.
I was so excited about coming here. I do not think I would have done it for a company that I did not know. I’ve got a unique situation where I knew what I was going to. You learn more as you are on the management side about its perspective but I had real confidence in the company. I was very excited about what this company does, and what I thought I could do here. I was not hand-wringing about the decision. Once again, as has happened many times, my wife and family were immediately 100% ready to do it.
You go from running a company that is $30 million or $40 million to a company that has revenues now of over $1 billion, which is a huge step up. You had the advantage of having been on their board but was it a tough challenge for you to make such a big jump into a company that had so much more revenue and many more employees?
This job is challenging but I do not think about it in scale. I had always been in companies, many of which were larger than this one. I had always been where the big decisions were being made. It felt very natural from that perspective. When I was at Great Lakes, if we were making a $100,000 decision, I do not ever remember thinking about how many zeros were on that.
It is important to that business context, and it seemed exactly the same to me as being in a larger context, making a decision might have a few more zeros on it. I know some people think in those terms of the importance of the scale of the situation. You are in a situation. You are making important decisions. That situation feels the same to me, large or small.
You have not had the experience of starting a company from scratch or being in a small business. One of my earlier guests who has started a few companies talked about 150 people being a threshold for him. At that point, he felt like it was big enough that he did not need to be involved in everything and could not be involved in everything. It helped him hone different management skills than he had not had up until that point. That is why when companies looking for people in large roles, they want people who have been in large roles because it's evidence that you can manage a group of that size.
You have to be very conscious about who ought to make a given decision. In this role, I try to think a lot about it because it is so important. I came out of the smaller entity and I do not make the same decisions now in this larger company. Someone else has to make certain decisions here. Where I could have gotten off track is if I had thought that I needed to roll up my sleeves and make the same level of decisions that I did at Great Lakes.
We talked about you having a plan but it not always going according to plan. Was there a point at which you finally felt like, “I know myself. I know what I want to do. I know what is right for me?” Did you have that moment?
It was very early that I knew I wanted to lead business organizations. In some of the experiences that I have had, I started to get more in touch with the impact you can have in business on people's lives, whether that is a social impact or even the impact on employees. I remember at Eagle Materials we built a factory that was very instrumental in getting off the ground.
I remember we started it up around the holidays, and every holiday since, I think about the families that got jobs from that opportunity. There was a point there, with the First Nations, and other things, where I got more focused on that intersection of business and making a difference. I hope that does not sound fluffy to people but that gets exciting at a point in time in your career. I remember when that happened. That is what starts to drive you a little bit more.
How much do you feel values have driven your career choices over the years?
More consciously, a lot more and more. When you ask things like how easy or difficult was the decision to come here, for example, it was in large part because I knew what this company was doing and could do for the affordable housing issues in our country. I probably would not have come to Cavco but that was a big factor, that value of the opportunity to have an impact.
I am very gratified and energized by the idea of the jobs [we create] within the company. Here at Cavco, I tell people that we make homes, but we do some other things that everyone thinks about. We make jobs and give people the opportunity to be successful. That is a product of our work. That value has become important over time.
You talked a lot about family and the way they have helped you in making choices along the way. Who else would you call out by name or by description, who has helped you along the way in your career?
[bctt tweet="Asking people if they are happy is a good entryway to figuring out what they need." via="no"]
You do not get here without that support. There is one gentleman that comes to mind that was at Weyerhaeuser, who was actually the CFO. The thing that stuck out to me was here I was learning. I came out with my business degree, and I am trying to figure out how companies work. I got a chance to work with him on things. I always felt like he gave me more credibility than I deserved.
It was this feeling of like, “Why are you trusting me so much?” It had an impact on me of the idea that you do not wait until someone is ready or has already done it. If there is someone you believe in, you give them a bigger opportunity, and they do not disappoint you. He and a couple of others at Weyerhaeuser were doing that for me. That has always had a big impact, both in the opportunities they gave me but also in the awareness of that philosophy.
Now CEO of a billion-dollar-plus company, how do you work to develop those around you who are more junior in the organization and looking for that same support you had going back to your Weyerhaeuser days?
I try to do what I talked about. I am sitting here talking with you about it. I challenge myself and do it. Giving people the opportunity that on paper, someone would say they need 1 or 2 more steps first. Here at Cavco, sometimes it takes the form of taking someone from outside the industry and putting them in a job that a lot of people would say, “You can’t do that.” If I believe in that person, that they are going to do it, they are going to develop fast, and it is going to bring something unique. A big part of it is how you give people the opportunity.
I think of myself as a bad time manager because I try to be very available to people that I am trying to support. I hope that they feel that way too. I ask people, “You have been here a few months. Are you happy?” It is a good entryway to figuring out what they need, even on their development. That being in touch and that awareness, I try to do. I do not know if I do it all that well.
Asking that question is an important question, especially with the pandemic raging on and people struggling mentally and emotionally with the challenges presented to them.
What are the handful of career lessons that you look back on and say, “Here is the Bill Boor shortlist?”
Career-wise, there is a theme in how I have done it. It does not mean it is what everyone wants or would find useful. You always think you have a plan. You always go into something thinking, “This is my destination,” but you always stay very open because there are a lot of opportunities to broaden yourself and do interesting things. Staying open would be one thing. For me and my career path and the jobs that I have aspired to and been able to do, that experience of wrestling a complex decision on the ground and getting good at simplifying the complex is everything in business.
That is something you have to work at. You have to be deliberate about that. Part of it comes from not just answering the question you are asked. Figure out the right questions and take yourself all the way to, “What would I do if I was the decision-maker?” even when you are not the decision-maker. I see so many times that when people disagree with someone else, the other person is wrong. Every time you have that feeling of, “They are an idiot.” Those are smart people, and they have a different perspective.
If you work to figure out why they are making the decision, even if you still disagree with it, you are going to be more effective and have a broader perspective. You are going to be more valuable in your work. That goes for, whether it is in negotiation, dealing with employees or decision-making. The minute someone thinks, “What a fool,” that is the time to call time out and go, “They are not stupid. I’ve got to understand what they are thinking.” If you do that, you are going to develop.
It is never good to shut people out mentally and discard how they are thinking about things. At that point, they can’t be effective, and you have lost the ability to understand their perspective.
It makes the world more complex for you because you have to accept that things are complicated and people have a different perspective. It is a difference-maker.
Any final thoughts to share?
I hope someone finds this of value. When you asked me to consider doing this, I said, “I do not know if there is any value in this story because it has been a random walk.” It has been nice to talk to you, and I appreciate your good questions.
Everybody has their own unique path. We have all done things that have gone well and have not gone well. People benefit from hearing other stories. That was the whole purpose of starting this show, apart from the desire to reconnect with people I have known over the years and hear their stories in their own words. I appreciate it. That wraps up this episode. Bill, thank you for joining. I appreciate you sharing your career story and your learnings. Have a great rest of the day.
About Bill Boor
Bill is the President and CEO of Cavco Industries, a producer of manufactured homes with revenues of about $1.1 billion. Prior to that, Bill had a very different CEO role, leading the Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland. If you’re not familiar with Great Lakes, they have a very strong craft beer following and are known in particular for their Christmas Ale, which flies off the shelves each fall. Bill has spent the bulk of his career in a variety of roles in the construction and natural resources industries. However, he started his career in manufacturing with Procter & Gamble. He earned his undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from Penn State and also earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. He and his wife live in Phoenix and are the parents of two daughters and a son.