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Johns Manville has been in business for 158 years producing and manufacturing residential and commercial insulation, roofing, and other mechanical insulation and materials for manufacturers. On January 9th, 2017, Johns Manville’s (JM) president, chair and CEO, Mary Rhinehart, came to DU to talk about her company and her work at the first Voices of Experience event of 2017.
Mary has spent nearly four decades working for Johns Manville (JM), and has worked her way up from being an intern in the audit department to being chair, president and CEO of the company. Since starting at JM, Mary has held leadership positions in almost every department of the company, including finance, global treasury, global supply chain, human resources and strategic business development. She was named CEO and president in 2012, after serving as the company’s CFO and now directly reports to the company’s owner, Warren Buffet. Mary also serves on many boards including, just recently, DU’s board of trustees. She received her executive MBA from DU and is proud of what DU and DCB stand for.
In Mary’s eyes, the most important thing about JM, and companies in general, is the ethics behind a business. Bill Daniels helped DCB become the first business school to include ethics in the curriculum. Warren Buffet, Mary’s boss, looks for employees with integrity, intelligence, and energy. One thing Mary always remembers Warren Buffet saying, is that it takes years for a company to build a good reputation, and it only takes minutes for that company to lose it. At JM, they are committed to what they call the JM experience. The company can only be happy and only succeed when both their employees and customers thrive.
The previous president of JM created something not many companies have, The Quarter Century Club. This is a club that you can join only after working for JM for 25 years or more, and they are proud to say there are quite a few members. JM has a culture of friendship and family around the workplace, and their core values represent that using 4 Ps.
#1 People – “We are people champions” is their motto. The leaders at JM “strive to see the world through [their] employees and customers.” JM has 43 manufacturing locations, 7,000 employees, and is a $3 billion company. On top of that, they are sustainable. But what they are most proud of, is their people. After 158 years of business, some manufacturing workers are second or third generation workers for JM. The leaders at JM have to be genuine, passionate, opportunity makers, have a positive attitude, be open minded and have integrity. From there, by keeping it simple, they have maintained a business people want to work for and enjoy working for.
#2 Passion – “Our passion is going the extra mile.” Everybody at JM has to aspire to be better tomorrow than they are today. Whether that is making safe, healthy products or eliminating waste to only one trash bag a year, JM employees as passionate about their jobs. They meet with customers, executives meet with employees, everybody listens and observes, they ask questions, they read, and they always challenge themselves. The passion behind every employee to make a good product and a good business is what has kept JM running for 158 years.
#3 Perform – “We perform at a superior level” by being loyal and transparent. In 2007, Berkshire Hathaway bought JM, and while changing ownership and leadership can be a challenge, JM decided to figure out how they can continue to make, not only JM a better company, but all Berkshire Hathaway companies great. With Warren Buffet in charge now, you get what you see, but with him that’s a good thing. He is simple, smart, funny, and easy to talk to. He does have standards though, and for his executives and leaders, that means performing at an even higher standard than everyone else. For the leaders, Warren Buffet’s advice is to “treat every decision as if you own the company, and as if it is the only asset you will ever own.” Doing this is what makes JM perform at the level it does.
#4 Protect – “We protect today to ensure tomorrow.” The safety of employees and customers is JMs number one priority. They want every employee to feel safe and empowered, and to put safety above all else. JM do business in over 85 countries, so employees have to be acting with integrity, and do the right thing for the right reason, something Mary learned from DU. The people at JM are a family, they have to believe in each other in order to believe in their product and be a good business. By doing this, everybody at JM protects each other, the products they are producing, and the company.
Before sitting down with Dean Chrite to answer some questions about herself, Mary showed a video of JM employees sharing their thoughts on JMs values. All employees have the same goal, to be successful and have passion for what they do and are working on at JM. They want to create a place where employees and customers want to keep coming back. JM is a family, and everybody there wants the best for their family.
Everything about JM is what has kept Mary there for almost four decades. The culture, the people, the opportunities and the core values of the company make JM a great place to work and make it possible to go from an intern in the audit department to chair, president and CEO. Her family also had an important part in making her understand JMs values and keeping her there for so long. Mary is the 7th child out of 9, and all her older siblings are boys. From an early age she learned the importance of teamwork because all 9 children paid their own way through school. She learned that teamwork was important to make things easier, faster, and more efficient. Her mom’s reminder of resilience is also what has kept her at JM. She was always told to “pick yourself up” and don’t let anything get you down. By doing this, she was able to get through the tough times and prevail to the top spot at the company.
In the end, everything about JM revolves around its culture and core values. Everyone that works there has to be a good fit for the culture. They have to take risk seriously and be able to adapt to changing times and hard times. There are always opportunities to improve, and a JM employee has to want that. They have to keep things simple and delight the customers. It is harder to keep people that don’t fit into the culture because they don’t always understand. JM is a culture of family, and the employees there know everybody is there for each other.
In the end, there was one piece of advice that Mary wanted young professionals and students to take with them, if nothing else. Take care of yourself and exercise. Be proud of who you are and focus on your health and wellness. Mary gets up at 4:30 am every day and exercises. It gives her energy and relieves the stress work and life can cause. If you are lazy, you won’t get anything done, but exercising helps you be productive and feel good, inside and out.
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