Jimmy Rayford explains how beauty is in the simplicity
Tim Leman: Have you ever felt like you're on the edge of something great? You've put in the work, you've done the hard stuff most people aren't willing to do and now you can just sense a magical run lies ahead. On this podcast, we talk about what separates those special teams. The kind, if we're lucky, we get to be a part of maybe three or four times in our life from the more ordinary experiences. I'm your host, Tim Leman, and let's discuss leading on the edge. Welcome to The Edge Podcast. I'm your host, Tim Leman. On this episode, we have my friend, Jimmy Rayford. Jimmy is the CEO at Dealers Wholesale. The leading Indianapolis based provider of doors, fireplaces, and other building product solutions. I've had the opportunity to get to know Jimmy through YPO and Jimmy, I'm just thrilled to have you on today.
Jimmy Rayford: I appreciate the invite Tim, I'm looking forward to our conversation today.
Tim Leman: Hey Jimmy, tell us a little bit about Dealers Wholesale. What do you do? I mean, I know we've got the building products, but how does that all kind of manifest itself?
Jimmy Rayford: Yeah, so we're an installing distributor. We have two different divisions. Our commercial, multifamily division, manufacturers, distributes and installs doors, frames, hardware, access control in Division 10 and commercial and multifamily properties really in the Midwest. I mean, most of our work here is Indianapolis, but we'll follow our customers throughout the Midwest. Our residential division, primarily distributes and installs fireplaces in new single family home constructions, focused here in Central Indiana on that business. And we're also starting to do some outdoor kitchens as well through our residential division, but we're based here in Indianapolis, a team of about 70 people.
Tim Leman: That's great. I love the outdoor kitchen stuff too. That is a ton of fun and it makes me think about summertime and getting the barbecue going and all that. Jimmy, you've been there, we'll say roughly a year or so. When you came on board, what were the things that you wanted to focus on first and most?
Jimmy Rayford: Yeah, I think the first thing, two things in particular. I think the first thing was company culture. I understood the company's core values when I joined the company. And one of the reasons why I joined the company is that the core values of Dealers Wholesale are closely aligned with my values, but making sure that those core values were being felt through the organization. Driven, initially how the leadership team lived out those core values and then more tactically, the work that had to be done was improving the operational performance of our commercial and multifamily division. So those were the two things that I had in my mind as I started with the company in January of 2020.
Tim Leman: So Jimmy, with that, taking a pause here, you had 15 months or so, 16 months. How do you feel progress- wise, where you're at on those two issues?
Jimmy Rayford: On the first issue, in terms of the culture that we're establishing, I am very pleased and excited with where we are. Perhaps maybe even exceeded my expectations, particularly being able to make some of the advances that we made throughout a couple of pandemics. So we've done the right things in terms of the talent that we brought on the team. In some cases, we've done the right things in terms of people who aren't on the team right now. So I would give us an A, in terms of the strides that we made on our culture and our focus on people and developing people. On the operational side, I think it took us longer than I would have liked it to take, to start getting to the improvements. And I think, much of that was no doubt impacted by the amount of time that we were having to spend dealing with COVID and protocols around COVID. So that was slower than expected, but effectively we ended the year where I wanted us to end the year operationally. It was just a little more backhand loaded. So walking into this year, we were all very excited about our position coming into 2021.
Tim Leman: Jimmy, you guys run on EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System. How did EOS help you move things forward on those two initiatives?
Jimmy Rayford: I guess the structure that EOS provides. I have had other operating systems that I've utilized in the background, but for me coming in, the biggest benefit that I got from EOS was, and the company was already on EOS. But I didn't have to come in and teach a new business system. So it kind of gave us the structure. I mean, as we thought about our culture and our people, just thinking about that through how EOS teaches, right people, right seats. Using the people analyzer. So it already provided us with a structure of kind of going through that process, going through and redoing our VTO and stating what our passion is and what our vision is kind of helped us determine places that we wanted to play and places that we didn't want to play. And then probably as much as anything, just learning how to set good rocks and execute good rocks allowed us to focus on the areas that we needed to focus on to drive the improvement that we wanted drive.
Tim Leman: Jimmy, you said you've worked with some other operating systems and now you've been on EOS. What are some things you've learned that were maybe new or different wrinkles or you like better about EOS than some of the other operating systems?
Jimmy Rayford: I think the beauty is in the simplicity. I've worked in mostly larger public corporations for most of my career, where it becomes strategic planning time. And it's a four month process and the output of the four month process is a 100 page PowerPoint. So what I like about EOS, I think it gets you to the core in a much more concise way. So that's the thing that I liked the most, there's specific tools. I think you can master those tools with repetition and you get to the core of issues in a much faster than some of the processes I've seen in the past.
Tim Leman: Yeah. I can relate to that a lot. I mean, that simplicity is a great way to describe it. You talked about with culture and even on the improving operations, you've been putting the talent and the team in place. Kind of thinking in your career, your life, whatever it might be. Team is something that I've been exploring a lot this year. And curious, if you could share, what's the best team, the greatest team you've ever been on?
Jimmy Rayford: I'll give you two answers. I'll go from a personal perspective first, a non- professional perspective. I wasn't great, but high school sports was a big part of my life growing up. And I would say, my senior year high school football team.
Tim Leman: Okay.
Jimmy Rayford: We didn't win the state title or something like that. But I think it was the close knitness of the group. We're from a really small town Whitmire, South Carolina. So if, you go and look at my kindergarten picture and you look at my high school graduation picture, it's a pretty good mix of the same people. Also, these are people that by the time you're a senior in high school and you've literally known your entire life. So I think it gave us a combination of a closeness, but at the same time, because we knew each other so well, we were able to give direct feedback and not hold any grudges and move on. So it was a really fun combination of working hard, accomplishing goals with people that we had known our entire lives.
Tim Leman: That's great. Yeah. You hit on some of those key things that are themes that carry on throughout, that closeness, trust. It allows you to have the direct conversations and then everybody united around a cause, a team victory like that. What about your coach? Did you guys have a coach that everybody really rallied around to, or not necessarily?
Jimmy Rayford: No. So we're from a small school. So the high school football coach is also the basketball coach, is also the athletic director, the PE teacher and history teacher. So our coach was Coach Suber and he had graduated from the high school, lived in Whitmire, his whole life. So by the time we were seniors, he had been coaching us since the 9th or 10th grade. So kind of same thing, when at that point he knows us, we know him, he knows what buttons to push. You might be able to come directly at this guy, but you got to put your arm around this guy. And we also knew how far we could push Coach Suber before we got into trouble. I enjoyed Coach Suber quite a bit.
Tim Leman: That's great. He could threaten your basketball playing time, if you weren't doing what he wanted in football. He could get you multiple ways and that history grade too.
Jimmy Rayford: Exactly. And you could never get away from him because he was always around. So you probably had a class with him or something. So there was no escaping Coach Suber.
Tim Leman: You we're going to talk about a second team too, besides on the personal front.
Jimmy Rayford: Yeah. So I would say... Obviously, I love my team. I'd be remiss, if I didn't talk about the team that I'm on right now, which is a team, as it's currently constituted, hasn't been together that long. So we still kind of getting to know each other and growing. So I'll pick a team from earlier in life and this goes back probably 15 years now. One of my first management experiences was coming out of IBM. My division got sold to a contract manufacturing company called Sanmina. So in that sale, I got promoted to site engineering manager. So I was pretty young in my career at that point and all of the engineers, these were my former peers. So we all have about the same age and it was just a good group. So we were kind of all at the same point in our lives. So we were hitting it hard in the office and kind of going out at least one night a week and hitting it hard outside of the office. So it was a real fraternal environment with a lot of comradery, and we were a high performing team in terms of our results, but we had a good time together too.
Tim Leman: Yeah. As I've asked that question of people, it is really interesting, most executives will mention a sports team from the past like that. It's almost like a lock or all the digits kind of line up and it clicks and opens, whatever. But everything comes into alignment together that one special year and you go on this great run together. And then they'll also similar to you talk about a role in, and appreciate, where you're coming from too of, got a great team in place today even, but there's oftentimes something mentioned about, it was the climb up and that's that IBM role for you. I think there's like this innocence or whatever that everybody has, and you're all just gunning for the same thing. You're all clicking and what happens then on those good teams though, can go either way. People get promoted and move on or egos takeover and it kind of falls apart that way. Where did things go with that IBM team that you had that got sold?
Jimmy Rayford: So I ended up, after being in that position for a couple of years and I had, had a similar position, not quite the same before we got sold. So I ended up exploring just some different areas of the company, just to kind of broaden my perspective. So I ended up just taking a different role, a role in the company, but I'm connected to a few of those folks still today.
Tim Leman: Jimmy, as you're putting your team together. What do you look for and how do you try to fill all those roles and even talking about from a diversity standpoint, but maybe diversity meaning a whole lot of different things? How do you try to plug all the spots on the roster to give yourself the optimal group there?
Jimmy Rayford: Yeah, I sound like an EOS broken record, but fundamentally it starts with the right person, right seat. So kind of out of the gate alignment with our core values is a non- negotiable and it's a must. And our core values are accountable, are relationship driven, solutions focused and strive for excellence. So we have to have alignment to those core values and then it's GWC. Get it, want it, capacity to do it, which is a fancy way of saying, can the person actually do the role? So for me, those are the basics. And then beyond that, there was a couple of other tools that we use. We use a tool called Culture Index, which is a trait based tool. So between autonomy, social ability, conformity, and patience, across those four factors, all roles aren't created equal and I might be looking for something for different roles. I specifically think through those traits for specific roles and the thing now that I'm thinking about even more, is we also use Kolbe, but not to the same degree that we have used Culture Index, but I've been doing some overall leadership team assessments around Kolbe. And I think we've when you think through diversity... I'm thinking through diversity even more than I was before through the lens of Kolbe because you get too many people that are fact- finder and more cautious when you get put into situations where you need innovation and rapid change as an organization. It becomes hard to do that but then on the flip side, and we have all innovation and fast people who aren't into the fact- finding, you could be off chasing every idea that comes down the pipeline. So I'm thinking now through our organization more around Kolbe and making sure that we're balanced from a skill set around Kolbe. In addition, to obviously the traditional ways of thinking about diversity and inclusion through the lens of ethnic diversity and gender diversity is something that's important to me as well.
Tim Leman: Jimmy, you touched on a couple of things that really resonated with me. At Gibson, we run on EOS as well and have been using Kolbe for three, four or five years now. And our early iterations of our leadership team when we went through EOS were unbalanced like that. We were actually over the top heavy on quick starts and ideas and all that. And no one to implement them and no one had put them together. And so as we've really fine tuned it, and really I feel I just have just such a great team now on the leadership side. It's because we have a lot more balance in the team on Kolbe scores, but also we've gotten to a lot better spot on the gender side as well. And I just love what that does because we approach problems now so differently. In the past, it was a bunch of salespeople that kind of found themselves in player coach roles, sitting around and talking about the world's problems. And now we just have a lot more richer experience together that way. So I can appreciate all that. And it also brings people together with different life experiences and all that. That means so much too, is how somebody kind of grew up and how all that impacts their thinking about your whole workforce I think. Have you noticed that as well, how those backgrounds play into everything?
Jimmy Rayford: For sure. I mean, the way it happens for me is, I grew up in a blue collar family. So if, you want to segment it that way, I think, you know what I mean. What that has done for me as I've gone throughout my career, I can go down and talk to the shop floor guys and be very comfortable and can relate to them and put myself in their shoes. In the same way that I can talk to my board. So I think those life experiences and kind of what people have been through and kind of how they've arrived to the seat that they're in now, shows up in terms of how we interact with each other and interact up and down, and sideways throughout the company.
Tim Leman: That's great. So Jimmy, I have a final question and then we'll hit the rapid fire zone. You've accomplished a ton. You've had a great run with some big national companies and now you're kind of taking a local mid- major organization forward. What's your edge in life. What's giving you your edge to help get you where you're at?
Jimmy Rayford: I think early on in my career, kind as I was cutting my teeth and making a name for myself through a lot of different companies. My mantra was just to never be outworked. So I had a high desire to grow and to succeed. And it was just never simply to be outworked. Whatever the time it took to get it done, eliminate that variable and just do whatever it takes. And I think that kind of helped me in the early parts of my career differentiate myself and kind of get on a growth track. And now I'm to the point now, where I'm just thinking the same way. At the end of the day, that's the fire that burns me, but now I'm after a greater impact. So the vision that I have for Dealers Wholesale is that we are going to be a people focused company that drives excellent results. So we're not going to make a choice between being results focused and being people first and people focused, we're going to do both of them. And now it's a larger impact. How can I truly impact all of our employees lives and their family's lives in the ways that may never show up in a P& L? But they're better for being associated with us and how do we make a bigger impact in the community? So now my edge I think, is more externally focused in terms of doing good work with good people and less focused about what I can do for myself.
Tim Leman: Yeah. How did that evolve or shift over the years? How did it go from maybe, getting Jimmy ahead versus you want a team victory with your whole crew?
Jimmy Rayford: I think just as you grow and have different experiences, you kind of start really trying to hone in on what makes you happy. Everybody thinks that the material things can make you happy and for some folks it does. I like material things just as much as the next person. And the way my career has been shaped, I've had a number of different companies, a number of positions within those companies and kind of let me get this in my tool bag, so I can kind of get ready for the growth. But now what I like about Dealers Wholesale is, just an opportunity to be somewhere, really take the company to the next level and have everybody in the company benefit from it. Now, at the stage that I am in my life right then, I've done the movements and I've done the travel, I can clearly see that this is going to be where I truly get satisfaction at this point in time in my life.
Tim Leman: Now it's time for my favorite part of the podcast, rapid fire. All right. We'll hit some quickies here. We'll start easy here. What's what's your favorite color?
Jimmy Rayford: Orange.
Tim Leman: Orange. That's My Clemson guy, right? Yeah.
Jimmy Rayford: Yep.
Tim Leman: Right on. First car, Jimmy?
Jimmy Rayford: Pontiac Grand Am that vibrated, at the stop light. So I have to put it in neutral.
Tim Leman: What's the most memorable concert you've been to?
Jimmy Rayford: The first concert that I ever went to, funny story on this one. First concert I ever went to was, I'm going to say I was in the eighth and ninth grade. My mom surprised me and took me to a concert with Heavy D& The Boyz.
Tim Leman: Right.
Jimmy Rayford: I was a big Heavy D fan and what we didn't really think through is that it was Heavy D& The Boyz and 2 Live Crew.
Tim Leman: Uh- oh.
Jimmy Rayford: So it dawned on me once I got to the concert, this could be really with me sitting in here with my mom with 2 Live Crew.
Tim Leman: Oh, man.
Jimmy Rayford: They actually weren't able to perform in Greenville, South Carolina, they wouldn't let them perform. So I will say that I liked the censorship, but in this case it was a benefit because I didn't have to sit there embarrassed in front of my mom, listening to 2 Live Crew.
Tim Leman: That is great. Boy, that takes me back too. You just think about how times have changed with concerts and bands like that. Not allowed to perform because of being risque or whatever.
Jimmy Rayford: Right, right.
Tim Leman: It never happens nowadays. That's awesome. Jimmy, what's something about you that very few people know?
Jimmy Rayford: I was extremely shy as a child. So you get me out in public settings, you might see me at a YPO event. And once I know you, I can come off as an extrovert, but I can be a pretty extreme introvert even still to this day.
Tim Leman: What are you streaming right now, movies or music or TV, whatever?
Jimmy Rayford: I've been watching MeatEater on Netflix, which is interesting. And because I'm not at all a hunter, but the show is put together so well, and it's got me thinking whether or not I need to go do some big game hunting to see, if that's really for me or not.
Tim Leman: That's fantastic. What actor would play you in a movie?
Jimmy Rayford: I'm going to say, Idris Elba. And I only say that to irritate the listeners because he's the one of the most sexiest man most often on those lists.
Tim Leman: I don't blame you. I'd answer like Tom Cruise or George Clooney or those guys. I'm not looking for a resemblance crosstalk. Plus it's your choice, you get to pick the answer on that.
Jimmy Rayford: That's right. inaudible.
Tim Leman: Three people that you'd like to have dinner with?
Jimmy Rayford: Malcolm X, my grandfather and my mother- in- law.
Tim Leman: Now, that's a great answer on your 20th anniversary too. I've seen some biopics and so on Malcolm X too, and just fascinating transition in life over the years, too. And all the different stages of his life and career and work.
Jimmy Rayford: Exactly. That transitional piece is really interesting to me. My grandfather passed away years ago and just kind of typical, old school Southern man, just didn't... I realize now, as I think about my grandfather and I spent a lot of time at my grandparents house, he didn't talk much. He was, go to work, come home, eat dinner. And then he's out into his garden and watching a few TV shows that he liked. And he just wasn't a very vocal man, but just as a grown man, now just having the opportunity to sit down with him and really just pick his brain on his life experiences would be a big deal for me. And Bailey's mom passed away some years ago and her and Bailey were... People can say, they're best friends with their parents, and this was the exact example of a mother and daughter being best friends. And she and I were really close. So the opportunity to sit down with her and talk about where we are as a family and what I know she means to Bailey and what she also means to me, would be awesome.
Tim Leman: Oh, man. That's great. All right. Last one, something big you want to do before it's all over?
Jimmy Rayford: I haven't been a big bucket list type of person, but in terms of things like that, I would love to go and spend a significant amount of time in Africa. Learning more about the continent, seeing the pyramids, participating in some tomb excavations. So that's something that's really meaningful to me. And I know there's a couple of opportunities. So hopefully, I'll be striking that off the list in the next couple, few years and going on to something else, but just learning more there would be real neat.
Tim Leman: Is that something you guys would do as a family, or is that more of, do that on your own or with some buddies?
Jimmy Rayford: I believe it's probably more of a solo endeavor.
Tim Leman: Yeah, that's fantastic. Hey man, it was great having you on the show today, love all the things you're doing with Dealers Wholesale and just how focused you are on using the process and the tools to get to where you are. And loved hearing you talk about never being outworked. That's one of those things that's in your control. I mean, I'd definitely call that an edge for somebody because that's in our control. And win or lose, at least if you put it all out there, that's all you can do.
Jimmy Rayford: Agree 100%.
Tim Leman: Awesome. Great having you on today, Jimmy. I appreciate it.
Jimmy Rayford: Appreciate it, Tim. Thank you.
Tim Leman: Thank you for tuning in today. I'm Tim Leman, and remember to own your edge. Subscribe to The Edge Podcast on Apple, Google and Spotify.
Jimmy Rayford, CEO of Dealers Wholesale, joins Tim for this episode. They discuss the structure and impact EOS provides for their organizations, as well as the beauty of its simplicity and tools. They also dig into what it means to build a balanced team. Tune in and hear Jimmy's professional and personal insights, his edge in life, and more.