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David Noël: Hello and welcome to the Manitoba Business Podcast, featuring interviews with business leaders and entrepreneurs based in our wonderful province. I’m David Noël.

Today’s guest runs another huge business that most Manitobans have never heard of. When you go to buy paint at a hardware store anywhere in the world and you look at the paint chips to choose your colour, there is a very good chance those paint chips were created by this company. In our conversation we discuss family business and the challenges in building and overseeing a global enterprise.

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Without further ado, here is Rick Duha:

[to Rick]

All right, so yeah, Rick, thank you so much for coming on.

Rick Duha: Appreciate it. I’m glad to be here.

David: Can you start by telling us a little bit about who you are and what your company does?

Rick: Sure, the Duha family has been running the Duha Group, starting originally as printers here in the city since 1948. I’m the third generation leader of the family business. In or around 1960, we started down the path specializing in color charts that used to be color charts that you’d use in Home Depot or RONA or Benjamin Moore.

David: This is like when you go to RONA and you get the pad with all the paint colors on it.

Rick: Yes, not necessarily a pad, but, yeah, a stripe card or something like that, yeah, those things.

David: Gotcha.

Rick: Today, we produce those for over 140 countries.

David: Wow!

Rick: And we have seven factories around the world that produce that. And I have the honor of leading the company at this point in time. So that’s what I do. That’s the business.

David: Very cool.

Rick: I’m a graduate of University of Manitoba Asper School and a very proud Manitoban.

David: Awesome. So you said you are now serving 140 countries from seven factories around the world. How much of that growth happened while you’ve been leading the company?

Rick: Sure, at the time I took over the company…That happened quite suddenly, actually. My father passed away in a car accident…

David: Oh wow, I’m sorry.

Rick: I was 31 years old at the time. Today, I’m 54. So that will give you an idea of the timeframe.

David: Sure. Twenty-three years for those of you who are doing the mental math at home.

Rick: In that time period, we had only Canadian factories, and we were servicing three countries. So that will give you an idea of then and now.

David: Yeah, no kidding. Wow, that’s huge growth, okay, okay. You said the transition happened suddenly. I’ve talked to a couple of people at this point that preside over family businesses. One of the things that always interest me about that is what the succession planning looks like? Well, especially with you being third generation, there’s certainly a lot of sayings in the business world about…

Rick: I think you’re looking for from rags to riches in three generations.

David: Pretty much, yeah.

Rick: And being the third generation, I’m highly sensitive to that comment.

David: Oh, I’m sure you are, yeah.

Rick: I think what you’re referring to, and family business is something that I’m very passionate about, and success in family business, as passionate. It is challenging many times to be able to achieve that. And it’s challenging for a variety of reasons.

I talked about the transition in our family from printing to this specialty color chart piece. What that is is a fundamental change of business model over generations. If you think about the life span of even a Fortune 500 company, they only have a small window of success. Not many of them have had multiple changes in their business models. But if you don’t change the business model over the course of time to adapt to the changes that are happening in our world daily, then you’ll be in big trouble.

And as a family member, when you inherit something like a family business, you also inherit the previous generation’s views and baggage. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a lot of really good things about that. I think families very naturally pass on family culture in their businesses. And I think that’s something to celebrate.

On the other hand, being afraid to change the previous generation’s business model can ultimately lead to the rags-to-riches-to-rags story all too often. So in many respects, I don’t know that that’s not a family problem so much as an inability to realize that the world is changing around you, and you need to think otherwise. If you think of a business that isn’t a family business, you don’t even think about how many generations it will succeed.

David: There’s still generational challenges, but we just don’t view it the same way because they’re not family businesses.

Rick: Precisely, precisely. I don’t know the history of the Kodak business, but they’re long since gone replaced by digital photography. With that a family business, you might have argued it was the family business generational leaders that caused the problem. It had nothing to do with a family decision. It had everything to do with a business model decision. I think we often confuse those two points.

David: That’s an interesting point. Yeah, I think that’s valid. I think when you think about three generations of a family, that’s what? At least 60 years, right? A lot of businesses are going to run into trouble for any number of reasons that aren’t related to this.

Rick: Any number of reasons, right. To me, success at a family business is making sure that you choose a leader, a family or non-family member, that’s able to see those changes as they’re starting to occur, that’s spending a lot of their time watching the world around them and adapting to that. But that’s no different than being a good business leader in any business, family or otherwise. And so if a family chooses wisely in that regard, then they should succeed. And I believe that fundamentally. And the advantage, of course, is the tremendous history in culture that they bring along with them.

David: Right. In terms of history and culture, what kind of things did you learn from the members of your family that led the business before you?

Rick: Oh gosh, it’s really easy to say, the obvious things, I think you work a lot harder, a lot more hours. Family vacations are always tied up with business activities. My wife…

David: What did that look like, actually, by the way, family vacations tied up with business activities?

Rick: Oh, I’ll tell you a great story. When I was younger, we decided…I’m the oldest of three, and all three of us were piled into a motor home, and my mother took off to drive around Eastern Canada. It was about a five- or a six-week trip. So it was quite a journey. And it was very ambitious on my mother’s part. But my dad decided to join us periodically through the trip in the different cities. And so we came to not necessarily look forward to him coming, because when he came, it meant that we were going to park the motor home outside each of the different paint companies across Eastern Canada while he went in for a visit. And we sat outside waiting for the sales call to end so we could drive to the next one. So that’s what a family vacation looks like when it’s business.

David: Has that tradition continued? Are your family vacations today tied up with business?

Rick: Unfortunately, both my kids and my wife would say yes. I think today, with digital technology, it’s a little bit different. I travel extensively. And our business being around the world means that I need to. So I run my business digitally, off my laptop. So every morning in every hotel room wherever we wake up, it starts with looking at the email and looking at out Chatter feeds in order to figure out what’s going on in the business, what’s urgent, what clients need immediate response. Once that’s dispensed, now it’s time to have some vacation. So it’s a blend of those two things. And I would be guilty of often having dinner with my wife when we’re traveling with a client. And often, we’ll even invite clients on vacation with us. So all of those things and above for sure.

In my opinion, and I realize that my family may not necessarily agree, you can be friends with people you do business with too. We’ve had some fascinating people at our dining room table over the years, just our business partners from around the world. Bringing other cultures into your home and what that means; I think that’s a tremendous opportunity. It was for me to learn in that environment. And I think it is for my kids as well. I think that rubs off.

David: Yeah, yeah. There’s a couple of things you touched on there that I want to get back to. But before I do, let’s circle back to when you took over the company. So you said there was an accident. The transition was somewhat sudden. And you were 31 years old at that time. What was your experience leading up to that? You said you went to Asper School. After that, were you basically already working in the business?

Rick: Well, the truth is that I started working in the business sweeping the floor when I was seven years old. So I’ve been in this business for really a lifetime. But the reality is that I did not follow a traditional family business model of going outside and working outside the business. I actually was running a night shift in the factory while I was attending school. I was quite involved in the business from an early stage.

David: I see.

Rick: So I knew the business quite well. What I didn’t know was the outside business world. And so I had some maturing to do at 31. It was a little bit early to be taking over the business. And I clearly made lots of mistakes in those early years.

David: What were some of those mistakes?

Rick: Yeah, it’s an interesting question. Most of our customer relationships were built on just that, on relationships and on the element of trust that really existed at that time (because we’re a much smaller company) between my father, his management team, and the client.

David: Right.

Rick: So in the ensuing three years, we had quite a churn of senior leadership, which cost us some time. And then on top of that, we had a churn in our major customers because they looked at us and said, “It’s unlikely that they’re going to succeed. This is too big a trauma for the company to go through and too young a leadership.” And the consequence was that we lost our largest customers. And that was really hard to…

David: Oh, I can imagine. That’s a huge weight on your shoulders. So not only do you have this personal tragedy with your dad, but then you take over the business, and everyone from outside the business is basically looking at it and saying that they weren’t willing to bet on your success.

Rick: Yeah, I’m partners with my brother and sister, so it was of a view that all three of us, and they were younger that I was at the time.

David: I see.

Rick: All three of us were too young to succeed in business. So we had to prove them wrong. And so the consequence was that we were perhaps too aggressive. But as you can tell from what I’ve already shared with you, the business strategy that we decided to embark on was a geographic strategy. And we did some crazy things to grow in some markets, just absolutely crazy things.

David: Like what?

Rick: Oh my gosh! It’s a long story that I’ll try to make it a little short. It was a distant contact that we had from Argentina. And the fellows decided, these two brothers from Argentina, decided to come to visit us. But then I found out that they didn’t actually speak English, that they were translating through their executive assistant. And they were bringing their wives. And I recall this was a summer time, and we said, “Well, my gosh, none of us speak Spanish. What are we going to do?”

And so we phoned up the Folk Arts Council here in Winnipeg, and the result is that we hired a translator through them who was a fellow who was starting at the Argentina Pavilion here in town. Then we spent three or four days with him, and the meeting went successfully. And we indeed won an order from Argentina to produce. But now, we had no way to do this. And at the conclusion of the four days, the fellow said to me, “You know, I’ve been translating for you for four days, and I think you got a really interesting business, and I’d like to come to work with you.” And so he did. And if he’s listening to this, Luis, thank you so much for saying yes that day and for reaching out.

Now, we had to have a strategy to grow our business in Latin America. Well, I’ve never done that before. And so Luis and I got on a plane, and we flew to Santiago, Chile. And we opened up the telephone book, at that time, the yellow pages, and looked for all the paint companies in Santiago and said, “Okay, well, we got a week. Who are we going to call on?” And we literary made phone calls out of the local phonebook. That was long before the Internet, you could search that stuff. So there was no other way to get it. So we just went and sat on the phone and called people. And sure enough, we won a few accounts. And that set the snowball in motion.

David: No kidding, wow! That’s very cool. I have a bunch of questions about the logistics of your global growth. But before we get to that, I’m curious what the competition looks like for your company? How is the industry split up in general?

Rick: So our business is a global business, as you can tell. It’s a good thing that we went global. My father would tell you the story that when we started down this path of making color materials, we were one of seven companies in Canada doing exactly the same thing.

David: Okay.

Rick: Today, we’re probably, I’m guessing, second or third largest worldwide.

David: Oh wow!

Rick: Probably no more than 20 to 22 companies worldwide even doing what we do. So it’s a small business.

David: Wow, no kidding.

Rick: So you asked a great question. Though the better question today is what is our competition? And it’s not traditional competition. We’re competing for advertising dollars of people who rely on color to sell a product. So we’re competing with digital. We’re competing with the Internet. We’re competing with other people who make what we make. And we’re also competing with other strategies on how to effectively sell the products that we sell. So in our world, the definition of competition is much broader than the traditional world that would’ve been discussed by my father.

David: Right, okay, so you’re not just competing with people who produce color materials. You’re competing with basically alternative to color materials, is that…?

Rick: Correct, yeah. Well, that’s fair, or ancillary products to color materials, because at the end of the day, we only command so much attention within the industry.

David: So when you talk about advertising dollars in that context, maybe I’m not super clear on what the business model looks like for your customers, how are you competing with digital ads?

Rick: Although it’s not solely what we do, let’s take a traditional paint company who’s trying to sell you paint for your home.

David: Yeah.

Rick: They’re going to go to market in a variety of different ways. They’ll probably do radio, TV. They’ll do some Internet material. They’ll probably do some social media. And at the end of the day, they’ll also do a spend on color. That spend on color will help define how you choose your color to the extent that you’re competing across those channels to be the most relevant of each of them in order to command a larger dollar. That’s our completion.

David: I see what you mean, okay, okay. All right, let’s get into logistics of global growth then a little bit. I’ve had a couple of guests with global businesses, but I haven’t really had the opportunity to dig into that very much. What does it look like? So you said when you started out, all the factories were in Canada. Is that right?

Rick: Yeah, at that time, we had three factories all here in Manitoba.

David: All in Manitoba, okay. You said you’re in seven countries now. What seven countries are those?

Rick: So today, we’ve consolidated here in Winnipeg. So we only have the one facility in Canada, although it’s much, much larger here on this platform.

David: Oh, I see.

Rick: We have a facility in the U.S. We have one in Mexico, one in Germany, one in Singapore, one in China, and one in Australia.

David: Wow! Okay. And so how do you go about doing that? How do you pick where you need to have facilities? How do you go about hiring a team for that? I assume in some of those countries anyway, there’s more legal considerations. What does the process look like?

Rick: Yeah, it’s a great question, and there is no cookie cutter model for that. In fact, each different location is a different story. Some of them were by acquisition. Some of them, for example, our U.S. facility, our competitor had gone bankrupt, and we hired his former staff and built the plant for them. It was really a partnership with the staff would be the best way to describe it.

David: Interesting.

Rick: In the case of Singapore and Mexico and Germany, we met people who are in our business. We found that their values were similar to ours. They were family businesses. And we struck partnerships that have become long-term partnerships with all three families. We’re very proud of that. And I think that that really is treading on our family cultures in order to cross other cultural barriers. And the consequence is that together we’ve grown businesses around the world that are really exciting.

David: Okay, what does the oversight look like for a system like that, for a business that’s running in multiple countries? Obviously, I’m sure you have a pretty involved org chart. You said you’re managing it all from a laptop. How do you get the eagle’s eye view on that?

Rick: Especially for a company our size, meaning, in my opinion, relatively small, and especially in the scope of what could you spend on IT, I think we’ve always been pioneers with leading edge IT ideas. We were using Skype for business calls seven or eight years ago. Today, it’s commonplace. But seven or eight years ago, that was not the most common thing being done.

David: Yup.

Rick: A common form of messaging that’s used often in some of our locations is WhatsApp. Many North American people have never even heard of WhatsApp.

David: Right.

Rick: So we’re not afraid to steal good ideas from around the world when we see them and employ them. At the end of the day, we have a very limited budget to be able to do that, and we need to be very frugal on how we go forward on that topic. I really like the idea of things that are free. And generally speaking, if it’s free, we’ll probably try it.

David: Yeah.

Rick: Having said that, we have become a bit of a poster child recently for a software that you may have heard of called Salesforce.

David: Yes, I actually noticed the case study, yeah.

Rick: And actually, they were just here doing a photo shoot of us recently.

David: Oh, fantastic.

Rick: As a small manufacturer, the use of a CRM system, the way we’re using it I think is somewhat unique. We’re effectively using it to run our business. And we could go into a lot of detail on that. But one of the interesting parts of that is a product called Chatter. Chatter is effectively Facebook for business. And we’re having a lot of success changing email over to a Chatter type product.

David: Interesting.

Rick: It really has allowed for a much more transparent and flat organization. And it is definitely transforming the business structure every single day. This journey has only just begun. I would say that the evolution will take some time. We’re probably four or five years down this journey. And I don’t know that we really even realize what it’s capable of changing. And so the consequences that we are living through the IT revolution that we all said would happen, but it’s not necessarily happening because of email. I think that email, in some respects, has been restrictive. I think it’s how are we going to change that business model to be something different in the future.

David: Right. In doing my research, it certainly seemed to me that the Duha Group as a company and presumably you individually spend a lot of time thinking about process. You obviously are champions of lean methodology. And you just mentioned the thought behind using Chatter to replace email to change the way communication happens in your organization. I want to get into all that. But before I do, from a higher level, how do you think about process? You said that there’s a need to be frugal or to at least be intelligent with where the dollars go. I assume that shapes your thoughts about it a lot. But in general, how do you identify the pieces of the company that needs to be streamlined?

Rick: Right, you started to mention the term lean and so on and so forth. Basically, any time there is noise or a pain point for a client in any way, shape, or form, and you as a leader of the company see that, I think that’s a call to action to the leaders of the company.

David: How do you even identify that though? I think there’s a lot of business leaders who are oblivious to the pain points of their clients.

Rick: Well, then they’re not talking to their clients. Well, excuse me, they’re not listening to their clients. I think that’s the most important thing is to listen carefully to what it is they’re saying. They’re not going to say, “I’ve got a problem with this.”

David: Are you personally interacting with your clients?

Rick: Absolutely.

David: Really?

Rick: Absolutely.

David: Okay.

Rick: Yeah, absolutely. Not every client, obviously, I can’t. Especially this Chatter product has allowed me to watch because we’re having conversations with our clients in real time.

David: Oh really, so it’s not just an internal communication platform?

Rick: Oh no, no, no, no. With our suppliers and our clients, we’re using this product, and I can watch what’s going on. I’ll give you an example. Last night, I was watching a conversation go on between our Chinese facility and an Australian customer. And I was watching what was going on, and I felt that I could feel the frustration in the client by what they were writing. It turned out that, actually, a different division of the client in fact created the problem. But the moment I saw the problem, that’s when I was called to action to start asking questions. So that happened at 9:00 last night, and I already have all the answers this morning. I’m sitting in Canada, and the interaction took place between a client in our facility in China and Australia. So that is the speed of communication that I don’t think a lot of people have.

David: In that case, it sounds like you were fortunate enough to be watching that feed at the right time. But you can’t be watching all the feeds all the time, I would think.

Rick: I have the ability to watch any feed that I choose to…

David: Sure, but I just mean in terms of the amount of information that’s going around. Your Chinese facility, for example, isn’t just talking to one client at a time, and you’ve got seven facilities around the world.

Rick: Yup. Well, first of all, we’re fortunate, because we’re in the infancy, not all of our clients are on this platform. We’d like to see more of them on it. To me, it’s inevitable that business will embrace this type of technology, whether it’s our platform or another one. The conversation that’s taking place is so much more helpful than it would be in an email between two parties. And it’s so much more useful for both organizations that to me, this is an inevitable trend.

So now let’s park that, that we will have a Facebook…I’ll use that as an example because most people know what I mean by that, we will have a Facebook-style conversation in businesses. So once that occurs, being able to identify the most important ones for an organization, it’s not all that complicated.

Look at your top client list and you look at your feeds and say, “Gee, maybe I should watch my top clients and what they’re saying.” It’s pretty simple because there’ll be indicators of what’s going on throughout the whole customer chain. There’ll be indicators of what’s going on. And some of them, some of the clients will be leading indicators of the things you will be asked to do in the future. So embrace those, pay attention to those. And then if someone’s asking to do something that is sure as heck someone else is going to ask the same question later, so now how do you take that process and apply it to the rest of your value chain to advantage? And that’s what I do.

David: I see. So, okay, then going back to this specific example, you oversaw a conversation or you noticed a conversation happening between China and Australia, and you realized there was a problem. So you start digging around for answers. What does that process look like? And how do you act on it? When you see something like that where there’s a problem, do you just start collecting information? Are you jumping in putting out fires? How are you actually personally dealing with that problem?

Rick: It’s always my preference that whoever the lead person is on the conversation will deal with the problem. I’ll jump in quietly in the background and act. There were times when the question is so urgent, and because of the 24-hour nature of our company, I tend to pay attention to the feed late at night because no one else is. If it can’t wait within 24 hours, then I’ll jump in and make a statement and move forward.

David: I see, okay.

Rick: But I generally prefer to allow nature take its course. Those are opportunities for coaching. Or more often than not, coaching’s maybe not even the right word. More often than not, an individual in the organization who’s responsible for answering may not have all the complete details, and I might be aware of another department that’s working on a solution. And so I’m a facilitator between the two groups.

David: I see. I see. Okay, so then jumping back away from the communication stuff for a second, you said, in general, when we talk about how to improve process within the company, you’re looking at places where the clients have pain points, and you discover those pain points by listening to the clients. In terms of the lean stuff, where has that had the biggest impact in your organization?

Rick: Sure, let’s talk a little bit about lean for a moment

David: Yeah, let’s do that.

Rick: Lean manufacturing had its origin with Toyota in Japan. And in some respects, the word “lean manufacturing” does a disservice to the thought process. Today, we prefer to use the concept of continuous improvement. That’s really what it is. And it’s not just about manufacturing. But manufacturing, the act of making something from point A to point B, the act of transitioning it, is an easy thing to measure. And so the concept of being able to measure something means that you can measure improvement easily. And so using a factory setting to think about continuous improvement is easy.

What’s not so easy, and where I think the real value of lean continuous improvement is, is in any process in any point along the value stream that exists. So today, we use the same principles that we learned in manufacturing in all of our white collar functions, in accounting, for example, in finance, in job planning, in estimating, in customer relationships, any of those functions, absolutely anything that exists in a business. In fact, anything that you do even in your home is process-driven and can be improved.

We teach this here. We actually have a group called The Duha Center of Excellence. And we’ve had some 4,000 plus students come through our facility in the last few years. Well, we’re actually teaching some of the principles of continuous improvement, and we teach our staff, obviously. Everyone in our facilities has their own passport. And the passport is their learning journey of continuous improvement. Today, it’s a 20-year journey that we’ve got them on. So it’s a never-ending quest to improve every single one of our employees in the way they think and to improve our company just a little bit at a time.

And that’s what continuous improvement’s all about. We have a process to create a process that people continue to learn. We actually have a process on how to write a process. So we are fairly pedantic about this concept. There are some truths to it. I’ll give a practical example for some of your listeners. In one of our lunch-and-learns that our staff are allowed to attend…They choose to attend. We don’t tell them they have to. We do a value stream. What we want to know is what’s going on in this and how we can improve it. But we use an example of waking up in the morning and getting out the door going to work, and how can we make that process more efficient? And generally speaking, we’d fundamentally change people’s lives on they get up and make breakfast, because we can actually reduce the amount of time that they take often by as much as 50%. And it’s a half an hour lesson. And if we can teach you in half an hour to gain 50% of the time in your life back, personally, what value is that for you?

David: Tons.

Rick: Tons. And those same principles apply to everything we do. That’s all about process. And we’re pretty passionate about it.

David: No kidding. I’m going to pick out an example that you threw out in a list of examples, but how do you apply lean thinking to accounting, for example?

Rick: Well, accounting actually one of the easiest things because the reality is it’s all about a process. Accounting’s all about process. So the first thing you need to do in an accounting department is do the same thing every month. You need to close off the month end. You need to do the bank reconciliation. You need to do all those things. So where’s your schedule to do that? And who’s responsible for it? And when does it have to be done? And what’s your critical time elements to check in to make sure everything’s going to come together, so you can close your statements and finish and go on. So where is the schedule for that? And most accounting groups, some of them have it. Most often, it might be scheduled in an Outlook calendar, in the manager’s Outlook piece. So now, the question is, how are you communicating it? How does everyone within the department or everyone effected by that, how do they know what it is they’re supposed to do? So where’s the communication piece?

David: Right.

Rick: And then if that’s a repetitive function, how can we improve it? If it took 36 hours to do this month, how can it be 35 next month? And where’s that process of discussion for continuous improvement? And then once we’ve got that idea, did we actually succeed? So two or three months later, did we get it to 35 hours and so on. So the process immediately continues down that road. It’s identical to fixing a production line.

David: Right. Switch gears a little bit. I’m curious as well with a company as big as yours. What does the process look like for getting clients? What does the sales and marketing process look like through all your different locations and in all your different countries?

Rick: We’re a little bit more sophisticated today than looking through the yellow pages in Santiago. Obviously, we’re constantly looking on the Internet for developments in color. And we’re also spurring that on. So we have a fairly new social media campaign that we’re working through, highlighting just color and using various places around the world and in nature. That’s a leading out there piece. I would say that today, maybe 25% of our leads are coming by referrals on LinkedIn. So LinkedIn is definitely an area that we see that there’s…

David: Really? That much, 25%?

Rick: I would say so, yes.

David: Wow!

Rick: There is still a lot of the world that we’re not located in. So we still have some geographic expansion that we work on. And then there’s a large element of word of mouth from our clients, either individuals moving from one client to another, and when they do that, they’ll call us up, or consequently someone meeting someone at a trade show and saying, “Hey, that Duha Group in Canada is a pretty good company. You should have a chat with them.” So it’s those types of things that work.

We need to be looking for new markets, for sure. And that’s something that we’ll be focused on in the coming couple of years. The way that we’ll do that will vary depending on the market. So for example, we have several target countries that we don’t feel that we’re all that strong in right now, and we’re working to develop those. And we do that by setting aside a budget each year. Even though we don’t have the money to support the activity, to support the physical sales calls in that market, we’ll identify them and go get them. So that’s one element of it. Another element is that perhaps we’ll decide to focus on a trade show is in an area that we haven’t got strength in. So those types of things.

David: Okay. You mentioned in terms of identifying new markets, is that purely identifying new geographical markets? Or are you also looking at different kinds of markets, different products?

Rick: It’s both. Geographic markets, we tend to pay a lot attention to demographic trends. So we’ll pay attention to which countries probably, over the course of the next 10 years, will have a growing middle class where choices will become more prevalent, where income will be rising. And as a part of that, color choice will become important. And so those markets are primary growth markets for us.

David: Interesting. Well, I hadn’t really considered that. I guess color choice isn’t really a factor in countries that aren’t very developed or that don’t have a lot of disposable income. They’ll take any color and just paint it.

Rick: Or they may not paint at all. So consumption of paint, for example, per capita is a measurement you can track. And any country that’s got an increasing consumption per capita is definitely a country that’s interesting for us.

David: No kidding. And your competitors, I assume. You said you were probably within the top two or three in terms of size for companies that are producing color materials. What percentage of the market would you say that you capture right now?

Rick: I really don’t know. It’s difficult to know the size of the market. On the offhand chance, my competitors might be listening. I don’t want to tell them.

David: Fair enough. All right, so sales and marketing is a big one. Another kind of important component for any business, especially one that’s bent on growth, is recruiting. What does that process look like for you guys?

Rick: Now, our staff is the most important asset that we have by far. And getting good quality staff is not an easy task

David: Right.

Rick: And so the consequence that I would say that we have a fairly good balance of growing people internally as well as hiring people from outside. We have a strong preference to grow internally. And we’ll always revert to that. We believe that the folks that have made the decision to work with us, regardless of what their skill sets are, they’re already a step above everyone else on our recruiting process, because they’ve already said yes. And they’ve understood what our culture’s all about, and they’re prepared to commit some of their time to work with us. They’re our number one asset and number one recruiting tool.

David: Right.

Rick: So first step, internal. Second step, if we can’t find the skill sets or we’re just stretched a little too thin, for example, recently we’ve been hiring an awful lot, then we need to look at external. And when we do, we try hard to sell people on who we are and maybe sometimes at the expense of what the resume might look like, because we need people who are prepared to work with us. It’s a two-way street today when in the recruiting market. And it’s not necessarily all about the skills set that you possess, so therefore, you come and work with us. It’s about, how do we work together? It’s somewhat like a marriage. And you need to treat it like that way. Both groups have to benefit and get ahead. So that’s the way we approach our recruiting process.

David: In terms of internal development, what do the training processes look like internally?

Rick: Well, I did speak earlier about out Lunch and Learn program, which is a very robust program. It won’t be a surprise, based on what I’ve told you. We have a number of processes throughout our facility that allow people to start to grow. And as you start to grow, your skill sets grow. Your ability to do things grows. Your knowledge of the company grows. And we reward that with more responsibility.

David: Okay. This is a departure from that topic. But in terms of you personally and in terms of your growth as a leader over the past 23 years, and probably before that, I assume you had some positions of leadership before you took over the company. I assume from what you said that your family members and especially your dad were a big influence in your approach towards leadership. Who else would you count as mentors, even if they weren’t people that you knew, people that you aspired to or people that influenced the way that you approach business and leadership?

Rick: Sure. I had a very good fortune to be introduced to an organization called the Young Presidents’ Organization, YPO. I became a member of that organization at around my 40th birthday. It celebrates and puts together leaders of certain size companies around the world that have several things in common. One, they’re in a leadership position in their company. Two, the company is a certain size. And three, we all have a need and a feeling that we need to learn and continue to grow through our lifetime. And so those are the key elements that form YPO today.

YPO, as an organization, today is 24,000 members worldwide. They’re all members like me who have qualified at a younger age to be in, I guess, it’s an exclusive club. But what it really is is a remarkable opportunity to learn from other leaders and where they’ve had success and so on. And so here locally, there’s a very strong chapter. And across Canada, there’s some 1,800 members of the organization. And I have the good fortune today to be beginning my three-year journey on their international board of directors. I’m one of two Canadian directors on a 22-member worldwide board running YPO. I feel pretty passionately about that organization. And I think any young entrepreneur who has the opportunity to join the organization would grow significantly.

David: Very cool, interesting. Coming close on time, I didn’t want to take too much of your time this morning. I think I’ll close with one question, which is a departure from all of this. And maybe your answer is just going to be no, which is fine. But do you read a lot? And if so, what kind of books do you enjoy, or what kind of books would you recommend?

Rick: That’s a good question. I used to read a lot. I used to read a lot, and I used to read a lot of fiction. I think that reading fiction had…To me, it’s just a lot an escape. I think everyone who’s in a leadership position needs to find an escape, something to shift gears and change your mental state of mind. More recently, in the last few years, I replaced that time in my calendar with sports. So my wife and I have taken up the sport of triathlon…

David: Oh, fantastic.

Rick: …which is crazy because neither one of us swam, ran, or biked. Actually, we were just in Penticton in a race. Fortunately, my son came and his girlfriend. We had a fabulous, fabulous time.

So there’s only so much time as a leader that you have. So I’ve replaced my fiction time with my sports time.

David: Yup.

Rick: I do read a lot on the business front, and I do read the news. Because we’re a global company, I need to know there’s a problem in Greece. I need to know there’s a problem with refugees and in Hungary today. That’s today’s news. I need to know that there’s a problem on the Chinese market because each one of those things is affecting my business. I know a lot of people say, “The news is depressing, and I don’t want to watch it.” Well for me, and when you’re running a business like we are, the news is really very, very relevant to how business is going to be affected.

It’s not even making Canadian news, but right now, Puerto Rico is in some trouble financially as an organization. And we have some good customers in Puerto Rico. I need to know that when I’m talking to them. So the news is current events, and I need to pay attention to that. Maybe one day when I retire, I can return to fiction and replace the current events. But right now, unfortunately, I can’t.

David: I said it was my last question, but I lied. How on earth do you stay on top of current events ever that matters to you in the world? There is a lot of information out there. How do you distill it to a point that you can stay on top of it every day?

Rick: I don’t know. I really don’t know. But somehow, I guess, I am. I think you have to pick and choose the applications that you choose to keep on your iPad and the ones that are relevant for you. I tend to focus on things that digest information for me quite a bit. So I’m looking for snippets, windows of information that I can drill down on if I view that it’s relevant. So I’m certainly not absorbing every story. There’s no way I could. But the moment I see a story that could impact our business, I immediately zoom in on it.

David: Right.

Rick: And I should comment, being a true Manitoban, I always make sure I’m reading the Jets and the Bomber news.

David: There we go. Yeah, well, maybe don’t read too much of the Bomber news lately.

Rick: You know what? I have confidence that Wade and the boys, they’ll turn it around.

David: They’ll figure it out.

Rick: Yeah. It could be worse.

David: It could always be worse.

Rick: We could be in the problem that Saskatchewan’s in.

David: All right, well, Rick, thanks so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.

Rick: Yeah, thanks. And thank you so much for your initiative to get this going for Manitoba. I think we need a lot of up and coming entrepreneurs and anything we can do to spur them on. That’s exactly what we need.

David: Awesome, thanks.

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