Feb 26, 2020
Dan Jaffee joined the Oil-Dri
Corporation of America in 1987, a business his grandfather founded
in 1941. Dan became the President in 1995 and later the CEO in
1997, but has had some tough challenges along the way. The
leadership transition process from father to son resulted in a 100%
turnover under Dan’s leadership and guidance. Dan shares the story
of how he was at his lowest and ready to quit to how he was able to
recover through the guidance and mentorship of a trusted family
[3:45] Dan’s father inherited
the family business at 26 and grew it to $150 million and it went
public in 1971. However, by the time he was in his mid-50s, his dad
was burnt out.
[4:10] When Dan took over at 30,
he recognized that his leadership style would not work with the
current team. Dan had a 100% turnover and he didn’t know what he
[5:15] Dan hired every
consultant under the sun to help him turn his company around, but
it wasn’t working out. Dan realized he delegated too much authority
to these consultants, who didn’t fully understand his
[5:50] The next biggest mistake
Dan made was he assumed everyone in the company had the same code
of ethics as he did. They didn’t and his staff began hiding things
and working within their own self-interest.
[8:00] Despite Dan’s mistakes,
his family understood that the business would not tear their
relationship apart. They focused on family first and they’d sell
the business before their relationships would be
[10:40] Dan was ready to quit
and throw in the towel. He called one of his dad’s friends, who was
a trusted family friend and on the board of directors, and he told
Dan that winners get back up. Dan took this to heart and began
working the business from a different angle.
[11:55] A mission statement
shouldn’t be what to do, but what not to do!
[14:45] Dan’s family friend
understood that father-son relationships are hard. Whatever advice
Dan’s dad would give, Dan would want to do the opposite, but the
trusted family friend could say the same thing and Dan would
[17:15] Dan’s Acronym WE CARE
stands for Work/life balance, Ethics, Communication,
Accountability, Respect, Excellence. Dan makes it a point that
everyone in the company has to be ethical.
[20:20] It’s easy to say your
teammates are your most important asset when everything is going
[21:00] In 2009, Dan’s company
lost its largest account (Walmart), which represented 15% of the
company and 40% of its consumer division. Dan’s team was angry, but
Dan had to remind them that this was his and everyone’s fault for
not showing Walmart what their true value was.
[24:35] Of Dan’s top six
executive leaders, five are women. They are the brain trust of the
[27:55] As a leader, it’s
critical to surround yourself with people who are good at things
you’re not good at. With that said, find out what you’re really
good at and inject it onto them. A team needs to have that
[33:30] Dan got out of the
goal-setting business. If you set too strict goals, then your team
won’t always be able to reach their maximum potential. The
accountability aspect is for Dan to reinforce, not for the company
to fictitiously put numbers on people.
[37:50] Dan always tells the
people he is interviewing that he is going to always be brutally
honest with the business and how they run the culture.
[39:35] Dan used to get
emotionally attached to an idea and run with it, which wasn’t
always the best decision. So, today, he tries to keep all his
emotions out of the decision-making process and just focus on the
[40:55] When Dan first joined
the company, he realized quickly he was at a disadvantage because
everyone was older than him and citing things like World War II or
the Civil War. He had no idea what they were talking about! So he
made a commitment to read 27 pages of non-fiction a day.
[45:00] Business challenge: If
you are an emerging executive or business person, reach out to
someone! They will react well.
assumed everybody in the company was as ethical and honest as I
was, and they
you know the only thing that separates the winners and losers is?
The winners get back up!”
you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing
don’t learn anything by getting kicked by a mule a second
you lose 15% of your company, it’s a short term knee-jerk response
to just fire people.”
you don’t know what your weaknesses are, that’s your biggest
weakness. Figure it out.”
- “Intelligence is the ability to keep two
opposing ideas in your head at the same time.”
Resources and Books Mentioned
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