This article was originally published on blog.paradoxaccess.com
We recently welcomed our new Vice President Of Business Development to the Paradox family. Mr. Mike Ford joined our growing organization in January 2020 and has wasted no time getting to know our business, our people, and how we are positively impacting the access solutions sector.
No stranger to getting projects on solid ground, Mr. Ford joins us from Stonhard, a leader in industrial flooring. Our PR and Marketing Manager, Kelly Meyers, recently interviewed Mr. Ford — here are some highlights from their conversation.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
Growing up, I played a lot of sports, especially hockey. What Canadian kid didn’t want to play in the NHL?
Wild childhood dreams aside, in high school I quickly realized that I was pretty good in math and science, so I decided to go into engineering. I had a role model in an uncle who worked at DOW Chemical. He was a PhD of Chemistry and Physics. Following in his footsteps, I pursued the path of chemical engineering and have spent the last 30 plus years in that arena.
I can’t say for sure that design was my heart’s calling, though. What I do know is that I was always interested in leadership, and I remember thinking, “I don’t know what company I’m going to work for or what industry I’m going to work in, but I do know that I’d like to be the President of a company one day.”
During your time at Stonhard, how did you adapt to and navigate the changing landscape when RPM International purchased the organization?
Growth is always an exciting time. Stonhard is now an industrial brand of RPM International. The company was purchased early on in my career when I was a lower level engineer and this business decision helped Stonhard expand to other areas of the world that we may not have had the means do in other circumstances.
Stonhard quickly became a global leader in the industrial flooring space and I worked my way up into the role of President.
Having a family based in Edmonton during that time, when the opportunity to work with Marc and the Paradox team arose, I was instantly intrigued, excited and ready for this next step in my career.
What did you find to be the most fascinating part of your last job?
I truly enjoyed all aspects of the senior leadership role.
Being responsible for policy and people and their livelihoods — this was something that I really took to heart. The number one thing I wanted to achieve (and needed to achieve) was to improve the culture of the organization.
It was my role to empower each team to manage their business divisions efficiently. We also had clear sales and marketing materials and a leadership team that supported the continuous learning and development of our employees. I love educating people to help them grow their knowledge base and skillset.
From a technical perspective, how did your team(s) navigate transforming technical terms into layman’s terms?
This really comes down to education. The first step in this process is probing: It’s important to develop your team so that they know what questions to ask and how to ask them, so that you know what it is you need to help your customers understand.
Once you find out what the real needs of your customers are, then you can educate them about their options — what options do they have, and what are the specifics of their available options?
As you engage in these conversations, you should gain a pretty good understanding of your customers’ level of expertise in a given subject. Based on this acquired information, you can make educated decisions on the type of language you use with them.
Similar to Paradox, at Stonhard we took on monumental projects, that required more resources.
Speaking of monumental projects, and looking at the scope of large projects, were there ever any times you needed to pivot and really plan for your growth?
Each project is going to be different and unique to the needs of the application. One particular project from my past experience was a monumental job that required us to quickly acquire new people, capabilities, and resources.
What I learned from this experience is that it’s important to recognize who you are and what you need to get to the summit. When you’re in the midst of leading a big project, it can often feel like you’re running just to try to keep up to it and scrambling to put the pieces in place as you need them.
In those moments, it’s important to remember to take things one step at a time. As long as you and your team hold each other accountable and do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, things have a way of working out in the end. And at Paradox, I’m proud to be a part of a human company that also empowers its teams along the way.
Looking at your role within Paradox, what are you looking forward to the most in regards to people and projects?
Regarding people, I see a lot of potential here, and a lot of need — specifically, the need for continued growth and structure of organization. I’m excited to work with our engineers and our sales and business development team members to provide guidance and leadership in the areas of growing sustainably and in-control.
In terms of projects and product, I see great opportunity to capitalize in the marketplace. At Paradox, our product and service offering is so unique; it’s a disruptor in the marketplace and there’s huge potential and need for it. Roads have been around since pretty much the beginning of time, and here we are taking roads to virtually inaccessible areas — like northern areas covered completely in muskeg — where people have never tried to build roads before, and we’re doing it successfully.
What are some of your favourite aspects of people management?
I’m intrinsically driven to always try to be the best person I can be, and also help other people be the best they can be. It’s how I’m wired. I get a lot of joy and enthusiasm out of seeing people achieve their potential, and participating in the journey to help make that happen.
Not everyone plays lead guitar in the band: you need drums, acoustics, piano, and all of those other elements to create something wonderful. Everyone has immense talent in their respective fields and it’s about bringing out the best in each individual.
Tell us about your personal life and what drives you, outside of the office.
I’m happily married with two adult kids, and we like to live an active lifestyle as a family. I try to keep active in the personal hours of the week by working out at the fitness centre, and also enjoy getting out with my wife and kids to do things like cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, camping, and hiking.
What else interest you? Any specific hobbies?
Golf is something I’d like to be better at than I am.
Outside of staying active, food is an important aspect of my personal life. My wife and I like to think of ourselves as foodies: When we’re not working or being active, cooking a good meal or eating at a good restaurant is something we enjoy.
And, of course, travel is something I like to make time for, too. Exploring new places when given the opportunity is an experience I truly appreciate.
Thanks Mike. Let’s shift gears now. For another leader transitioning roles and/or organizations, what advice would you offer?
Trust in yourself and your experience.
Also, make sure you jump in to the new opportunity with both feet — if you’re leaving an opportunity behind to pursue a new one, it’s important to commit to that new opportunity and leave the old opportunity behind. You have to be open to the new experience to enjoy it and be successful.
Stay tuned — in our next Q&A article, we’ll sit down with our CFO to chat about the world of finance in industrial business.