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Jose Flores is the 34-year-old CEO of a traditional Tier 1 automotive supplier — but there’s nothing traditional about the way he runs the company. While many leaders claim to disrupt the status quo, Jose actually lives it. From his innovation hub to his embrace of failure, Jose shares the techniques that help him empower a multigenerational workforce.
“With the old-timers,” says Jose, “you need to earn their trust and respect.” That requires leading by example and getting measurable results in the workplace. But Millenials and Gen Z are often looking for a different leadership mold. Jose says the younger generations need a sense of purpose and trust in their company’s values.
At Ancor Automotive, innovation is a value. For Jose, the space to create and test new ideas is non-negotiable, and it’s this vision that led him to overhaul his company’s structure.
Jan dives into Jose’s rapid ascension to automotive leadership and unpacks the secrets of his quiet confidence. How is this Millennial leader transforming a 40-year-old label supplier into an innovative tech company? What is he doing to change the culture and give everyone a voice — and how can other organizations replicate his success?
Don’t miss this powerful episode of the Automotive Leaders Podcast. If companies want to attract young talent, they can no longer rely on outdated management models and metrics-driven KPIs. Jose’s work at Ancor Automotive sets a new standard for the future of automotive leadership and inspires new possibilities for corporate innovation.
Themes discussed in this episode:
- What Millennials and Gen Z workers typically want from a company
- Building trust with a multigenerational workforce
- What it really means to Be a Working CEO
- Why automotive leaders should embrace failure
- The Challenges of retaining young talent
- A new definition of KPI
- The importance of investing in the culture budget
- Why modern companies require servant leadership
Featured Guest: Jose Flores
What he does: Jose is the CEO of Ancor Automotive and a proud disruptor in the auto industry. His talent for strategic planning and fostering innovation powered his rapid rise into executive roles. At Ancor, Jose is piloting the transformation of a 40-year-old labeling company into a leader in software solutions for mobility manufacturers.
On leadership: “I'm a very technical, working CEO. I get into the nitty-gritty. If a machine breaks, I'm there watching it, trying to fix it by myself. If we're short-handed, I'll go there and help. I earn the respect of the people who have long tenure here by leading by example. I'm not just here in my fancy office, typing and having coffee. I'm there with you in the trenches, making it happen.”
Timestamped inflection points from the show
[0:58] Pardon the disruption: How does a 34-year-old become the CEO of a traditional Tier 1 supplier? Jose possesses the paradoxical ability to assimilate into a culture and then break the status quo.
[5:42] Skyrocket in flight: Jose recounts his journey from consulting into automotive and his vision to take Ancor from a label-making company to an innovator of software solutions.
[10:46] Millennials want more: Jan says there’s a reluctance in traditional automotive to give leadership roles to younger people — but Millenials and Gen Z are equally reluctant to accept an outdated corporate model.
[13:41] The innovation hub: How does Jose encourage ideas from every generation on his team at Ancor? He creates a safe environment to think outside the box and fail forward to solve customer pain points.
[19:32] Get on the same page: Jan presses for details about how Jose earns his employees’ trust. Jose explains what it means to truly be a “working CEO.”
[22:24] ‘It takes ironclad nerves’: A lot can go wrong for a young CEO. Jose shares his mindset to be comfortable in his own skin and move the company forward. Jan recalls her interview with Daniel Pink and “the regret of inaction.”
[24:37] Advice for auto industry leaders: Stand next to your team and encourage them to make decisions. Jose gives fellow leaders a roadmap.
[26:14] 21 traits: Of Jan’s 21 traits of authentic leadership, Jose sees vision and resilience as most prevalent in his work at Ancor. He gives examples of how these traits apply.
[30:31] A new KPI: At most companies, it’s a key performance indicator. Jose shares what it stands for at Ancor and explains why modern companies need servant leadership.
[35:52] Live to work or work to live?: Jan and Jose discuss hiring trends and challenges in retaining young talent. Jose shares what he sees as the biggest need for Michigan companies.
[40:38] Closing comments: The conversation turns to life outside of work, and Jose reveals his favorite restaurant in Detroit. Jan and Jose share their thoughts on investing in company culture.
[12:00] Jan: “Anybody can fail at anything. But this tremendous fear that we have of failure and that it will somehow come back on us prevents us from trusting and coaching and giving that safe environment for Millennials and Gen Z to thrive. But if we don't do it, they're going to leave, aren't they?”
[12:54] Jose: “We need to adapt and we need to pivot. And we need to work with these new generations. Millennials are 35% of the working force in the US. Gen Zs are only 5% now, but they're coming. And these two generations are looking for something totally different than the traditional leadership model.”
[13:21] Jan: “As we all know, innovation, by definition — you try and you fail and you iterate. We cannot have innovation if we have fear of failure in the air.”
[23:19] Jose: “If you're afraid that you're going to fail, you're done. You're going to fail eventually. You're not perfect. What are you going to do with that failure? Are you going to be sad about it for the next couple of months and regret it? Or are you going to take it as a lesson learned and say, okay, let's go again, let's do it differently?”
[27:28] Jan: “Every Tier 1 company out there has its vision stated on its website or it's on a nicely framed poster on a wall […] They say things like, We're going to be the world-class manufacturer of this widget. That doesn't inspire anyone. Crafting a vision for a company has got to come from the heart.”
Mentioned in this episode:
Welcome to the automotive leaders podcast, where we help you prepare for the future by sharing stories, insights and skills from leading voices in the automotive world with a mission to transform this industry together. I'm your host, Jan Griffiths, that passionate, rebellious farmer's daughter from Wales, with over 35 years of experience in our beloved auto industry, and a commitment to empowering fellow leaders to be their best authentic selves. Stay true to yourself, be you and lead with Gravitas, the hallmark of authentic leadership. Let's dive in.Jan Griffiths:
Let's talk about disruption. Today, you're gonna meet a leader who is disrupting the status quo in a 40 year old traditional tier one supplier, get ready to meet Jose Flores. He is the CEO of Ancor Automotive, a 34 year old millennial CEO running a 40 year old traditional tier one supplier. Can you imagine what that must be like? Leading a multi generational workforce, not only is he running this company, he's transforming it from a label company to a tech company. We'll learn how he's created an innovation hub to really draw out those innovative ideas from his workforce. And of course, it certainly attracts Gen Z, we'll talk about culture change. How is he so comfortable in his own skin so early in his career, the role of failure in his development and how he embraces failure. Jose has brought a new meaning to the term KPI that you're going to want to know all about. Let's dive in Jose Flores. Welcome to the show.Jose Flores:
Great to be here, Jan. Thanks for having me.Jan Griffiths:
Now, you have a very, very interesting story. You are a millennial CEO of traditional tier one automotive company. And we're gonna tear into that and find out about your leadership style and your challenges. But first, let's go back.Jose Flores:
I was actually born in Harlingen, Texas, a small town, very, very small town. College I ended up doing most of my early life in Monterrey, Mexico border with Texas. So college, I actually graduated from one of the top three colleges, best colleges in Latin America.Jan Griffiths:
What did you study?Jose Flores:
Business, engineering, and IT major.Jan Griffiths:
Oh, well, that's certainly a good background to have for what's happening in the industry right now.Jose Flores:
Yeah. And that's actually when I started going to other paths and be creative because I was the first generation of that college to graduate from that major. They created that career specifically for the upcoming challenges. And I decided just to jump on board, and because business and IT and engineering doesn't sound like it goes along. But it sounds fancy. Definitely.Jan Griffiths:
Yeah. Now in the age of technology that we're in, you couldn't have picked a better major, I wouldn't have thought. How did you take on the world after college?Jose Flores:
So right away, I enter with British American Tobacco, as analyst. Very huge company highly recognized. I decided after a couple of years, it wasn't just for me. I didn't felt like I had a voice or the impact that I wanted to do in the company. So after that, I decided to enter London Consulting Group, travel the world, six different countries, I did analyze more than 10 different industries. So it was a very high paced environment. I used to go into the company, three weeks, tell them what's wrong, fix that in six months. Next challenge, next challenge. And that's when I started liking it, the challenges and just not being working in the same environment and the same routine, right. I do think I'm a very creative guy. And I like thinking and challenging and different stuff. So after all the traveling at first it's very exciting. You're on the plane are very happy. After sometimes, it gets tiring and you get old.Jan Griffiths:
Yeah. Now I believe that there's a skill set in this ability to assimilate into different company cultures. And consultants certainly do that because they have to write they have to assimilate into the culture understand very quickly what's going on. Take the policy organization and come up with their proposals or recommendations. Do you think that that experience that skill set that you learned how to assimilate into these different industries as well as different companies? Do you think that that helped set you up to be the leader that you are today?Jose Flores:
Yeah, yeah, definitely. That background that consulting gave me it gives you the whole picture as you said it, and now especially now that we're working so hard towards diversity, equity and inclusion, working with different cultures, different mindsets, different approaches, definitely gave me all the strength that I need it to be the leader that I am today.Jan Griffiths:
So what happened after consulting, so you come off all this global travel, you got all this experience now what?Jose Flores:
I had three final offers that I was trying to evade one in a bigger retailer, the biggest retailer company in the world. Down in Mexico City, I had another one in my hometown, Monterrey, Mexico, where I spent most of my early life. And the last one, I had one for a small medium company down here in Rochester Hills, Michigan. So I started doing my due diligence. People didn't like that I was pro Detroit at that point, because a lot of bad things were happening in Detroit, bankruptcy, capital motors heat of the world. But I as I said, I liked the challenges. I like moving the needle, I like leaving a footprint. So I decided by choice to come to Detroit. And I'm very proud to say that now I feel like an adopted Detroit. I love Detroit.Jan Griffiths:
Oh, that's good to hear. And tell us about the company that you picked, and why?Jose Flores:
It was a very different company. It's called industrial automation. We used to do all the automation equipment, equipment, assembly lines for the tier ones. So some roof lines, facial lines, all the automation for the parts of the car. So it was very interesting, because every single project was different. We had to design the machines, build that, program them, tear them down, go to the customer, set them up and run them. And you know, the run off with 301,000 parts to make sure it has repeatability and everything. So I picked this company, I was very excited. And actually, I did make the right choice, because that's when my career skyrocketed it into the executive roles.Jan Griffiths:
And now here you are today, you have been in the position of CEO of Ancor Automotive for a year.Jose Flores:
Yes, one year four days actually.Jan Griffiths:
Yeah, but who's counting? So there's got to be a story there, Jose, how, how on earth did that happen? How does a traditional tier one company? And please share with us a little bit more about what Ancor does. But how does a company like that? Pick a millennial CEO tell us about that process.Jose Flores:
So Ancor Automotive, it's the leading tier one in software, automotive solutions and all the label solutions for the cars. So nobody thinks about labels. But the car has more than 30 labels that they need to actually get into the road, the window sticker for the dealership, the tire tread pressure for you to know that the pressure on the tires, the certificate of the vehicle, very complex. So we're the leading tier one software and label solutions company. We have been around for 40 years. This is our 40th anniversary. So we're very excited to celebrate this huge milestone, and I'm the third CEO of the company, the only millennial and as you said, it was a very nice challenge. Actually, my negotiation went for four or five months when we started for the initial conversation. So as I said on my previous company, I skyrocketed in five years, I had more than four different positions because after a year or a couple of months, like any millennial, I want more, I want something different. I'm done here. Right? Give me more. Next challenge. So my next natural career step was obviously the CEO role. I was already charged with the operations in that previous company. Internationally wise, we had four facilities. So we started conversations with Ancor automotive, that previous CEO was about to retire here. So he actually after they hired me, I told him like Why me, you know, and he had two options, a traditional CEO with a lot of experience more than 15-20 years in the automotive industry, or myself that only had five automotive industry years in that at that time, but he saw something different and my speech was, I want to take Ancor automotive to the next level. Why settle on labels let's do software. Let's sell software solutions. Now the cars we do e-mobility are like a huge iPad. And every, all the cars now have software, why don't we tap in into that opportunity? With all the new EV companies coming to the race? That's a huge opportunity. So my sales pitch actually attracted the previous CEO. And also the board's because the board also interviewed me, right? Because they were like, Okay, why a 34 year old should be the CEO of 40 year old company, right?Jan Griffiths:
Well, I credit them. I mean, I really do kudos to them. Because most companies would have gone for the traditional tier one, tear two CEO with, you know, decades of experience, tremendous move on their part to put you in this role. I want to go back to something that you just said, you said, as you were moving up the ranks in your last company, you said, typical millennial, I wanted more and more I wanted to challenge. And I just had this exact conversation with one of my clients earlier this week. And there is a bit of a reluctance in traditional automotive to give more responsibility to younger people, millennials. Now really, it's Gen Z, because there's this thinking that they don't have the experience. They might fail. Right? And they're just not ready. I can't tell you how many times I've worked for companies where they say, oh, no, you know, you've got to do your time. If I wanted to promote a millennial, they would say, No, no, no, they got to be in that role for five years before they move to the next role. Because maybe that was the model that they grew up in. But that will not fly anymore. And my message to my client was empower your gen z's, give them more responsibility, will they fail? Is there a chance that they'll fail? Yeah, of course there is. Anybody can fail at anything. But this tremendous fear that we have a failure, and that it will somehow come back on us, prevents us from trusting and coaching and giving that safe environment for millennials and Gen Z to thrive. But if we don't do it, Jose, they're going to leave, aren't they?Jose Flores:
Yeah, definitely. And you just said it. Like, we need to create a safe environment for them to be able to fail. Because failing will provide the lessons learned, but also the Trust for them to take risk, and feel empowered. Right 40% of the CEOs view as white, we agreed that if we don't change, or we don't change our current strategy, or 10 year plan, we will fail. Because today, we need to adapt, and we need to pivot. And we need to work with these new generations. Millennials are 35% of the working force in the US. Gen Z's are only 5% now, but they're coming. And these two generations are looking for something totally different than the traditional leadership model.Jan Griffiths:
And it goes right to the heart of innovation. As we all know, innovation, by definition, you try and you fail and you iterate. We cannot have innovation. If we have fear of failure in the air, if we're paralyzed, because we're so afraid to make a mistake, then we're never going to innovate, because nobody's ever going to step out and take a risk and try something different. So with your background, what are you doing differently at Ancor that will help promote this environment and encourage innovation and get the ideas and the buy in from different generations? Because you need the input from the seasoned old timers as well as the Gen Z and the millennial. So what are you doing Jose tell us?Jose Flores:
I think there's two different challenges with the old timers you need to earn their trust and the respect. And that's just by leading with example, and showing the results. But for millennials and Gen z's. It's a whole different story. You need to build and give them a sense of purpose. Why should I belong to that company? What are those company values? What are their visions? Do you actually need to convince them to come and work with you? Right? And what I'm doing at Ancor, it's building trust. If my team doesn't trust me, and I don't trust them, they won't give me ideas to innovate. Right. So empowerment to create ideas and something that we're actually doing that I'm looking forward to is 511. We're opening these innovation hub, which is a huge milestone for the company because we have been traditional for 40 years, and now we're opening an innovation hub that will actually take those ideas that we empower as leaders and make them a reality.Jan Griffiths:
Okay, I'm not gonna let you go on that went, we're gonna go deeper. What exactly is an innovation hub? And how does it work?Jose Flores:
So the Innovation Hub is a room that will create 10%, or percent more of my organization with structured jobs, high tech talent, attract talent to the region, because we know that's a challenge right now. But also that room is there's no bad ideas. It might be a penny, or dollar idea or a million dollar idea, but everything counts. So that room is the safe zone for everyone to fail, a safe environment for everyone to fail, but also be encouraged to think out of the box, and address our current customers pain points. How can we make their life easier? So we'll have this huge event? It's a co working space. Something that I'm also doing is working on the company culture, we actually call it coolture. C-O-O-L-T-U-R-E. Coolture. Right. So yeah, that's basically what the Innovation Hub is, we're trying to pivot as a company because we do labels, but eventually, that product might go away. So we need to adapt and help this immobility race.Jan Griffiths:
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Now the Innovation Hub, I get it, it's a separate area. But you can't just launch an innovation hub tomorrow and say to people is an innovation hub, walk in and use your ideas. Tell us more about the process behind that. How's the process work?Jose Flores:
So once we started shifting the company culture and working on the DEI, we started building our business creating new solutions. But we didn't have a spot or their root place for that idea. We used to get meetings brainstorm. But we didn't really have that collaboration space that we can really see down there and say like, Okay, guys, let's do this. What are the pain points? How are we going to fix it? So actually, I did change organizational structure. And I did create a whole innovation area, which is going to be in charge of that how I found my director of innovation and technology with the innovation developers that I'm going to hire right now. But as you said, it's a meet long term process. It's not like, Let's build a let's do it. There's a background and a purpose to air. And also, I'm using the Innovation Hub to try to attract those millennials and Gen Z's to the company.Jan Griffiths:
Yeah, the fact that you you have an area and you have people leading that part of the business. And it's designed to pull out those ideas from an organization that's 40 years old. That's a huge, huge step forward.Jose Flores:
Yeah, even remember, some months ago, the first time we sold the different products that we created from scratch customer had a pain point, we, we made it happen, we sold that we were very happy, because that was the first step towards and the new book towards the new Ancor Automotive. And that's when people started believing because my turnaround is very low. And the tenure that I have in my company, it's so high Jan, the people that lever is because they're actually retiring, the average people here have been for more than 20 years. So and they're used to just do the same and do the same. And here comes this new John guy that wants to create stuff and pivot and change what is he doing? So it was a fun ride? Actually, I feel like right now everyone is on the same page. And that's why you need to be very diligent about the vision and purpose for everyone to understand where do we want to go as a company, right?Jan Griffiths:
Tell me more about that. I could just imagine if I was an employee of Ancor, and I'd worked there for over 20 years and here's this new CEO coming in and you walk through the door and here's this young guy probably the same age as one of my kids right that walks through the door. If they're the boss, how did you earn their trust? How did you deal with some of it has to be some eye roll and going on there and some side conversations. And you've got to prove yourself. Hmm. How did that work for you?Jose Flores:
It wasn't definitely by sitting on my desk. Every morning, I go out there, I say, Hi, I remember the names. So people feel close, and feel that I'm a very approachable guy. I'm a very technical working CEO, I get into the nitty gritty, if a machine breaks, I'm there watching it, try to fix it by myself. If we're short handed, I'll go there and help. So that I think that earn the respect for the people that have long tenure here by leading by example, right? I'm not just here on my fancy office typing, having coffee, I'm there with you on the trenches. Making it happen. Right.Jan Griffiths:
Yeah, I love it. I love that. Did you make a couple of missteps along the way?Jose Flores:
No, no, not really. I don't know if it was by luck or something. But no, not really. I mean, people were not happy at the beginning, because I was pushing them out of their comfort zone. And that's part of my leadership. I want to take everyone to the next level, educationally wise, and in their career path. I challenge people a lot. And people that have been here for too many years. Don't necessarily like that, right? For example, okay. You must authorize fulfillment, why don't you go now and run the PK machine? Oh, because I've been fulfilling for 20 years. And I'm like, Yeah, but you need to be cross trained, you need to be able to do different stuff. And I'll reward you for it. I'll encourage you to do it, they will get you more valuable. SoJan Griffiths:
You've been there a year now. So I'm imagining everybody settled into the new leadership, and they're getting on board. And they're all marching in the same direction?Jose Flores:
Yeah, definitely. When I started, it took me a couple of months just to get our first new customer, we haven't had a customer or new customer in a couple of years. So when I started bringing new customers I brought six customers in in the first five months of my of my career. So everyone, but was very excited. They were surprised that they didn't even knew how to like, new customer. How do we do that?Jan Griffiths:
To be a young CEO in a 40 year old company, you have to be extremely comfortable with who you are comfortable in your own skin. And yes, you, of course, are an authentic leader. But how did you develop that skill? How did you become so comfortable with your leadership skills, so early on in life?Jose Flores:
So you said it takes ironclad nerves to be in this position, especially when you're younger, and you're dealing with with with executives that are way older than you are and you're trying to do a price negotiation, escalation meetings. So it takes a lot of trials, but also something that helped me a lot, even in to become who am I right now? Is failure, failing, provide me all the lessons learned that I have applied to my new leadership style, and it's just about resilience, Jan, if you're afraid that you're going to fail, you're done. That you're going to fail, eventually, you're not perfect. What are you going to do with that failure? Are you going to be sad about it for the next couple of months and regret it? Or are you going to take it as the lessons learned and say, like, Okay, let's go again, let's do it differently. This is what I learned. I wouldn't do it again.Jan Griffiths:
Yeah, and I think in our industry is a lot of people we've been trained to failure is a bad word, you know, and you can't fail whatever cost you can't fail. And to start to see failure as an opportunity for growth and an opportunity for learning is very different. And it's going to take us a while as an industry to really comprehend that. I interviewed Daniel Pink, the author, and he wrote a book called The Power of regret. And he says that the biggest regret people have is the regret of inaction, of not taking action. So yet we know this, but somehow fear paralyzes us and we're afraid to step out and make a decision or do something that's perhaps outside the norm because we're afraid that we're not going to be liked. We're afraid of judgment. We're afraid of making a mistake, so many different facets of fear that creep into our head that stops us from taking this action. What advice would you have to lead us out there in the auto industry today, to help them encourage that kind of environment where people are not afraid to take action?Jose Flores:
So besides creating that safe environment for your team to fail, something that I do tell my managers in the people is failure? The failure is not an option phrase, it's gone, we should be aiming for excellence. So don't be afraid to fail. But also, don't be afraid of making decisions, you'll make some bad decisions. And when that happens, I'll be standing next to you, I'll be accountable for it. And we'll learn from it. But don't be afraid of making those decisions. Because those decisions are the ones that are going to help you grow in your career.Jan Griffiths:
Think those are some of the most powerful words I've heard out of a leader, you just said, I'll be standing next to you. When you say that the physical manifests and the visual and the physical manifestation of that if somebody's standing next to you like arm and arm with you, no matter what you go down, I'm going down with you, you rise, I rise too. We all rise. That's incredibly powerful.Jose Flores:
No, and it's accountability, I'll be accountable, I'll take the hit for you. We are a team. It's not you. It's me. And that has helped me a lot, because my managers don't hesitate to take decisions. And we've had good ones and bad ones. But it's part of the process, you know, and the learning curve. SoJan Griffiths:
Yeah, you've looked at the 21 traits of authentic leadership. Of all of those 21 traits. Give me the top two that resonate with you the most, as a millennial CEO, I want to know what are the top two? And tell me why and how you practice them.Jose Flores:
That was a tough one, because out of the 21s, I think they're all great. I'll say the first one is vision and purpose. That's an important one. For me. It's all the storytelling, you need to inspire your people. You need your people to believe in the vision for you to keep moving forward. You need to be passionate enough about the vision and contagious enough for them to say like, Okay, let's do it. Guys. Let's go out there. And let's, let's do it. Let's take it home. Right. So that's my first one. And my second one, it's I mentioned it just a couple of minutes ago, it's resilience, right? Don't be afraid to fail, take the failure, and harvest from that. Take the lesson learned, go there and say like, Okay, I learned from the past, I learned from the mistake. Here we go. So I think those are my my top two.Jan Griffiths:
Let's go a little deeper on vision. Every tier one company out there has its vision stated on its website, or it's an a nicely framed poster on a wall and maybe around the office. Some of those vision statements are pretty terrible in my mind. They say things like, Oh, we're going to be the world class manufacturer of this widget. Uh huh. That doesn't inspire anyone. So crafting a vision for a company has got to come from the heart. Because you have to be able to not only believe it to the very core of your being and be able to tell stories around it. And this is what it looks like. And this is what it's going to feel like when we achieve this vision. But you got a whole group of people, you got to get on board with this. And it's got to come from the heart. It can't be pure corporate speak. How did you craft your vision for Ancor?Jose Flores:
Yeah, I like to keep it short and sweet. It's basically just three lines. And it goes like this. It says, We are the disruptors of the industry. With think out of the box. We take your headaches away. We had all our innovation of products. That's that's a brief summary. But I do emphasize on the word disruptive because disruptive in the past used to be a bad word. Right now. The thing right now disruptive is what we need. We need those game changers out there. We need people that are willing to take risks, think differently, raise their hands, challenge and say like, why don't we do it? Like we have A, B and C? Why don't we do it like D or like E? You know?Jan Griffiths:
See, that's a very different vision statement than saying you're going to be the world class manufacturer of labels in the auto industry and satisfy all stakeholders and create customer value blah, blah, blah, multiple versions of that statement, right? It doesn't mean anything. What you just said, there's purpose behind that. You're gonna be disruptors. It says it says Come on, come on board with me. Let's do this. Let's change this industry. And so you're going to attract those people that want to do that. You're not going to attract the people who just want to maintain, just want to have a safe job, you know, maybe go in to do the work they got to do and leave. It's going to drive you to attract The people that you want to create the innovation that you want in the company. So I love that about it. What sort of feedback have you had on that vision so far?Jose Flores:
I think right now it's very positive, Jan, because everyone is rowing towards the same direction one year after, it was quite a fun ride. Right now. I think we're on point. All my executives, all my managers, all the teams are thinking they know where to go, because I am a very communicative person. I do a lot of meetings. I go back there, I tried to have one on ones to whether operators with any type of level just telling them, what am I doing, I don't want them to think I'm just sitting down in my office now. So for example, we look to meetings where every executive reports how we do this cool live, and we report out, Hey, this is what we're doing as a company, this is what we're celebrating. This is what we're not very proud off right now. But we should change it and get better. I was reading a leadership article and something that sticks in my mind is how do you measure that your people have a sense of purpose, and they're happy under place? And then I read the word KPI, and I'm like, key performance indicators? No, not anymore. It's keep people informed. Keep people inspired, and keep people interested. So those are the three ones that I like, that's my new KPI.Jan Griffiths:
I love that. I really like that because it goes a lot deeper and broader than just the metric itself.Jose Flores:
Yeah. And it's not a metric of people. But you know, where your people are standing by asking those three question: Are people inspire? Are they inform? And are they involved? Right? SoJan Griffiths:
I've interviewed a few millennial CEOs, never a millennial CEO, in a 40 year old company, mostly startups. I've interviewed a Gen Z CEO, who launched a company called prepared, which is fascinating stories, a Yale student. And I recently interviewed Jeremy McCool, who's the CEO of the evey wireless charging startup, HEVO, and a few others along the way. And one thing I noticed is that, the mold of what you think a leader should be, is very different. In fact, and you have to answer this, but I'm gonna give you my take on it so far, I think that you don't really have a mold of what you think a leader should be. And when I grew up in the industry, with my career, it was a very clear mold of what a leader should look like, typically was a white male, but and it was you were you were meant to be tough. It was all about the numbers, anything to do with people was considered soft stuff, and quite frankly, bullshit. And it was just all about if it didn't impact the bottom line, and you could not draw a direct line to the bottom line, then you didn't do it. It was aggressive. And it was a tough environment to grow up in. But the mold of the CEO was very much in line with that type of leadership style, which of course, is command and control. I don't think millennials and Gen Z really have a mold that they're trying to fit me. You tell me, do you?Jose Flores:
No, no, we actually create our mold, or, or change that shift of the mold as we go. And that dictatorship leadership that you you're you just mentioned, that doesn't work anymore. I mean, you can do it, but you won't have enough people in your company because nobody will want to work with you anymore. Right now. It's servant-leadership, right? That's the new style of leadership that people are looking millennials and Gen Z's want a sense of purpose, they want to be inspired. They want work life balance. They also want to be inclusive and work in a collaboration environment. But they want to feel that the CEO or the executives are approachable to a personal level. Because right now we have shift that leadership to actually know the person you work with, to a personal level so you can understand and if you understand them, and you understand their needs, they'll be working along with you, right? Servant leadership is, as I said it working in the trenches with them. And being an equal, they should be empowered enough to challenge your decisions, because maybe they saw a million dollar idea that you're not looking at.Jan Griffiths:
And all most of my career I was told you don't cross that line between professional and personal. And I think there's not there's not a light of course, you're not going to share every gory detail of your personal life at work, but you need to connect people as human beings, and the way you connect is often by showing some vulnerability. And if things go wrong in your life, and it's something that you want to share or at work, or you make a mistake, you're open about it. And you show that level of vulnerability, in that, to be quite honest with you, that was a hard lesson for me to learn. It took me a while, because I'd been told never to show vulnerability, that vulnerability was weakness, as my career grew in automotive. And as I started to understand more about it, and started to show more vulnerability, I felt it and I saw it people became closer to me, and wanted to drive to whatever action or mission or vision that we had for the company. It bonded that team much more closely together.Jose Flores:
No, definitely. And for example, previously, your life was your work. And right now, millennials and Gen z's, they just say, it's a work, I can change If I want, I can go around the corner. So the talent for executives right now is actually convince people to come and work with you. Previously, you used to interview them, and you make the call. That doesn't happen anymore. They're the ones saying like, Okay, should I go with this company that maybe doesn't have the values, but does have the flexibility. They're the ones deciding if they're going to work with you as a company now. So my interviewing process, one from deciding previously to now try to be some the dream and the vision and tell them guys, this is what we do. This is our culture. This is what we want to achieve. You will be excellent and excellent feed. Please come and work for us.Jan Griffiths:
You remind me of something. Many years ago, I was in marriage guidance counseling. And I remember my ex husband, he said to the marriage guidance counselor, he said, she lives to work. And I work to live. And I thought that it's the first time I'd heard that statement. And I thought, Oh, is he right? And of course, at that point, we were in marriage guidance counseling, I'm never going to admit that he was right. IHe was, but I didn't. I didn't know how to think about my life a different way again, because of the mold. And that's the way that that we were right. But now as I get older, I I love my work. I love what I do. But it's not the only dimension to me. There are other things that I love and enjoy doing. And I make more time to do that now. And I see millennials and Gen Z, they got that they got that message already. It took me a few decades to figure it out. But they seem to be born with that as an expectation of life.Jose Flores:
Yeah, they use work towards their advantage to do their passions and their dreams, follow their dreams travel around the world have the best food, you name it. But as you said, in the past, it was very difficult because everyone needed to follow the orders. This is the traditional model. This is the way we think this is what we want to do. And it is what it is they didn't have any flexibility.Jan Griffiths:
That's true. What is the biggest challenge do you think we're faced with as an industry right now from a leadership perspective, but what's the biggest challenge that we're faced with? We're in this massive transformation from ice to Bev, what, from your viewpoint from what you see, what is the biggest challenge?Jose Flores:
I think there's several challenges that we have right now, even as a region, first of all, is I think we're running very fast towards immobility. And now we do have this hydrogen option as well, that might be better than immobility. But everyone is trying to get there faster. Nobody's thinking about the big picture is our great ready to have all the electrical charging stations. Is the car safe enough for the to do? We just wanted to get it out there. And the biggest challenge, I think, is high tech talent. We graduate the best engineers in the region. But the majority of them unfortunately go away. As soon as they get their title. They go to Chicago, they go to New York, they go to the west. So how do we retain that talent? How do we attract that talent to the region and that's what my fellow executives and myself are discussing all the time. So talent, it's all about talent, right? And these ties along with what we just discussed, if you don't inspire people, you don't you don't sell them the dream or the vision, you will fail getting that new talent. The transition between ice and EV also comes with education or Are we? Teachers? For example, we're short handed on teachers right now as a region. But are we giving them the tools for them to teach the new generations what the mobility business requires? In the past you need at welders for example, do we need that craftsmanship right now? Or do we need more robotics for example, or more software? There are several art pillars and it's a whole different conversation but are we thinking what to teach the students for, for them to be successful in this digitalization, e-mobility world that we're aiming towards to?Jan Griffiths:
Well said, let's take a turn, shall we? Let's go into the personal realm. What do you like to do for fun?Jose Flores:
I like outdoors, all the outdoors activities I just took last summer a canoe trip on the Sava River. It was quite a blast. Previous to that one, I did the same trip I flipped on the canoe didn't end up pretty well. So also all type of extreme sports, I do a snowboarding. So Michigan is very good for this. I actually broke four ribs. One month ago, it's snowboarding. So yeah, I play the ukulele. Something very early. You know, I'll say that little guitar from Hawaii. Yeah. Yeah. And I'm a foodie. And I like all types of food. That's why I like Detroit downtown so much, because the offering of food and different types of cultural foods offered, it's just great.Jan Griffiths:
It is you know, I used to live in the city 30 years ago. And I lived in riverfront apartments, which is right on the riverfront there. And the city was nowhere near as exciting as it is today. But I love the vibe of the city. So now I have to ask you, what's your favorite restaurant in Detroit?Jose Flores:
It's the standby restaurant. It's a nice yeah, it's a nice spot on the belt on that alley. It's hidden. It's only for 20 people. But it's very, very cozy environment and the food is just great these, they have these Asian, Mexican, American fusion of food. It's very warming, very welcoming. So you'll, you'll see a door and you open and it's a whole different world down there. So the standby is one of my top restaurants for sure.Jan Griffiths:
All right, I'm gonna put that on my list. Now tell me about music. What bands do you like? What do you listen to?Jose Flores:
You know, I'm very flexible about music. For example, I just went with my cousins to a Judas Priest concert. Oh, heavy metal. And I was rocking and I was doing the whole thing. You know, I was moving my lips. I didn't. I knew the songs but I was having fun. But like, pop rock. I'm open to everything. I don't have like a specific. It depends on my mood. I guess if I'm very happy I hear reggae music to remind myself about weaving in the Caribbean a couple of years ago. Or if I'm excited. I hear rock music. It's I don't have a particular one, I guess.Jan Griffiths:
What's the last book you read.Jose Flores:
The last book I read is CEO excellence. So these consultants from McKinsey, interview a lot of famous CEOs and they pick their brains about their challenges, their leadership styles. And I think that book is great. Favorite podcast. My favorite podcast is yours, obviously.Jan Griffiths:
Second favorite podcast.Jose Flores:
That disrupted podcast.Jan Griffiths:
Ah, yesJose Flores:
That goes along with my motto of being disruptive. I think Ron Stefanski does a very good job aiming different industries and picking the brain of people that are moving the needle and being disruptors out there.Jan Griffiths:
So now that we got to have a look at the personal side of you and what you like to do for fun. What do you do to bring fun into the culture of Ancor? How do you make it fun to work there?Jose Flores:
We are launching a bonus li platform and this everything is about rewards and gaming systems nowadays, especially with our generations and they they want to have badges and titles and trophies and everything. So something that we're launching, it's called bonusly where you set up your own rewards. You have your claimable rewards, the ones that are given to you and the challenges. And in that platform for example, if you walk 10,000 steps, you claim your step master reward, you get Ancor points, right? If you eat a bread less sandwich twice a week, you get points. If you donate to charity, or volunteer to some something, you get points and we also use it for recognize the good work of people, managers, and people can translate points between each other. So it's a very dynamic platform that we do have a lot of fun. But also, we reward people with concert tickets, for example. And I tried to do at least once every two months, a company outing next outing is going to be in May, we're going to see Larousse, that Detroit City Football Club. All of us will be down there having a lot of fun. But we need I do take the culture. Very seriously. I like to say that we work smart, but play hard. We like the playing for our offense. But because we work very smart, right? So we in our new webpage, you'll see we have a lot, a whole new section just for our culture. With the pictures, we do pumpkin carving test, gingerbread houses, ugly sweater contest on Valentine's Day. Today, we have St. Patrick's everyone is wearing green and like leprechauns, and tennis. So yeah, we're a very fun company to work with. And definitely a flagship, as some other people have mentioned.Jan Griffiths:
There's a lot of CEOs out there that would say that spending money on that is reckless. And that the perception, you know, is that you've always got to show to your OEM clients that you're on the razor's edge. You're not just blowing money left and right. And that's one viewpoint. But the other side of that is that you got to do things that to celebrate your culture and to build a culture. How did you overcome some of that more traditional thinking to bring fun into the workplace?Jose Flores:
As you said, it all comes to the budget. So playing with a budget helps, but also trying to convince the board members that this is something that is needed nowadays. I mean, it's not all about work. We also need to bond not on a work environment. I mean, people want to have beers and tell stories to know each other better. So I think it pays off. It's a very well investment. If you want to call it that way. I am very heavily on the culture budget myself.Jan Griffiths:
Love to hear that. Well, Jose, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you today, and I wish you and Ancor every success. Thank you for your time today.Jose Flores:
No, thank you, Jan. It was great. Thanks for having me.Jan Griffiths:
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