As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need to Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Grundy, 40, CEO/Founder of multiple oil & gas service companies based out of Dallas/Fort Worth. With an MBA from University of Texas, Arlington, Mr. Grundy has spent the better part of his working life optimizing various PML platforms for numerous Fortune 500 companies and is now the founder/CEO of Sisu Energy LLC. Since 2018, Mr. Grundy has generated more than $100 million dollars of revenue without financially leveraging a single company owned asset. Utilizing smart technologies and implementing his PPP (Praise, Promote and Pay) initiatives, Mr. Grundy represents the ‘new breed’ of entrepreneurs providing Supply Chain solutions that optimize business strategies while at the same time creating a financial model that is both responsible, yet sustainable.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a remarkably busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
After spending the better part of the 2000’s managing culinary operations for various entities, I went back to school in 2007 to pursue my MBA at University of Texas, Arlington. At the time, I thought I wanted to be an IRS agent considering my analytical/numerical skill set. Randomly, a JB Hunt recruiter asked if I had ever considered Supply Chain as a career path. Fast forward a few years and here we go… Supply Chain over taxes.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve consulted/managed no less than a few hundred supply chain projects/entities specializing in Logistics, Material Management and Manufacturing. Computer technology, employee development and continuous improvement are the foundational ingredients of my success, as innovation coincides with adaptation.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take away’ you learned from that?
It’s common for younger ‘managers’ to confuse leadership with physically directing every situation. Years ago, the idea of managing had me physically out in front of the group, very visible, taking charge, top-down approach, expecting those around me to follow MY ‘lead’, listen to MY words, absorb MY direction. That neurotic behavior, running around trying to control everything and everyone… wasn’t funny then but I think back on it now and can crack a smile.
Years of experience has taught that true leadership promotes and praises the folks within your organization, encouraging their decision making, redirecting mistakes into learning opportunities, building employee confidences and developing sustainable skill sets. Effective leadership is knowing when to provide a guiding hand, when to directly get involved and understanding the difference between the two. I’ve found that developing personnel and having the patience to let those around you grow at their pace, can be individually healthy while still promoting long-term success for the employee/company.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Jim Thompson- Fired Up Inc- Jim was so patient with me. Looking back at who I was then, naïve and full of misapplied ambitions and then reflecting on how he was so kind, never over-bearing, and then allowing me to stumble at times only to then correct my decision making in a manner that was fatherly and respectful. He knew I was going to make mistakes, yet never raised his voice or showed the smallest sign of frustration but instead, always cool and calm. How he handled adversity was so impressionable.
Joshua Vance- JB Hunt- Taught me the importance of holding who you directly manage accountable in a manner that’s firm, encouraging, yet results oriented. Joshua’s Attention-to-Detail abilities were so impressive to me. He expected excellence but also weighed that against personal development. Honest, professional yet made himself very relatable without compromising his leadership integrity.
Leslie Wendel- Corporate Executive- Everyone needs a life coach. Ms. Wendel is a very accomplished working professional who has always provided wonderful guidance and friendship, offering advice when needed but always an ear when approached. I have always admired her intensity with her own ambitions but then how quickly she can transition her soft skills when dealing with others or when providing direction.
Be honest, take chances, ‘Think Bold, Be Bold’… that’s Ms. Wendel. What a wonderful human being.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
Starting Sisu Energy in October of 2019 wasn’t by accident. Oil & Gas was not doing well and the analytics would state that a new company might not be the most financial rewarding move at the time. But I also believed that with the right strategy, the company would have the flexibility to handle adversity.
O&G companies were in financial distress and here we are starting up an O&G service company? With no assets? No assurances? Sure. As with any relationship, adversity exposes platforms whether good or bad. What we try to do at Sisu Energy is to expect adversity, have strategies in place while still promoting and educating staff development.
Innovation absolutely corresponds with sustainability. And while no organization promotes mistakes, those originating out of effort can be financially rewarding. If your organization is considered dynamic, innovation to remain relevant is pertinent. Redirecting mistakes as development opportunities creates a more responsive workforce.
Thank you for all that. Let us now turn to the focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
Being honest, communicating the absolute truth makes a huge difference regarding employee morale. After March 2, 2020, we held weekly meetings to discuss concerns, current events, relate to one another but more importantly, connecting, creating relationships between upper management and their subordinates. We took the adversity and bonded around it.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Not sure if giving up is the proper term, but I had been noodling over the idea of ‘furloughing’ the company around July of 2020. Delaying operations for a few months was probably the safest option but would have been catastrophic to company morale and then trying to ‘reboot’ the company didn’t feel like the Sisu thing to do. I also believed in our staff’s development in the 6 months prior as they had made tremendous progress. If we could figure out how to survive during 2020 as a unit, then on the other side, what would that mean for Sisu Energy’s reputation and growth?
My commitment to my family as well as my Sisu Energy family keep me going. Employing personnel comes with a responsibility that I take very seriously. And building a platform at which these employees have decided to give their time to support a project that I built? Humbling.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
Let your managers manage! It’s a common reaction to ‘take the reigns’ when things get a bit sticky. But what does that behavior convey to your team? That they are ill-equipped to handle adversity? You don’t trust them? Too often we delegate when things are good and grasp when things go wrong. Trust your plan. Trust your people.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
Empower your staff to make decisions. Get them involved in the outcomes and let them have the voice. Give them the glory when things are great and be the first to accept responsibility when outcomes fall short of expectations. We win and lose as a team; we move together as a pack and we thrive and fail collectively. But as leaders, we have to be the first to take responsibility during times of duress. This is your project, your company… can’t own just the good parts. Own it all.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
As straightforward and honest as possible, preferably in person. Putting things in emails/texts, narratives get missed and emphasis’ can get lost. Most likely, you have a strong, capable work force. They can handle the truth. You hired very well. Treat them with the same respect you would want someone to treat you. It can really be that simple.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
I think a good leader makes plans, contingency plans, alternative plans and its never ending. The idea that we create ‘blueprints’ or platforms that are so perfect, they do not need alterations/process improvements is arrogant. Reality changes. Plans change. Life Happens. Promote change. Adapt. You should expect optimizations as we only assume that’s synonymous with adaptation.
Change promotes innovation.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Sisu Energy LLC was strategically engineered to absorb adverse conditions, both good and bad. The idea was to create a platform with a financial ‘basement’ whereas the company would mitigate risk in case of an economic catastrophic event (Covid/Oil) but within that low risk play, we might not ever realize ‘all the fruit’ of our peers when operations are synergistic.
My focus was/is to remain in the hand, remain in the game, limit risk and for companies out there just getting started, I would very much create and make contingency plans a part of your foundation/platform. Employees and potential vendors are much more conscientious about who they partner with from a financial viability perspective. And now more so than ever, you need to at least have a strategy in place to absorb swoons that could impact business operations.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
- Turbulence brings out the Lean/6 Sigma professionals in everyone! In reality, our organizations should have already been practicing Lean/6 Sigma initiatives, being as efficient as possible. If you are letting people go when the climate becomes adverse, you were over-staffed to begin with. Dynamic leadership optimizes continuously, pushing the envelope of creativity and development.
- Panic! Most likely, things are never as good as they seem or bad as they feel. Adversity exposes opportunities within. While it would be great to never have to deal with adversity, that’s just not realistic and will lead to absolute failure. Expect the unexpected.
- Praise, Promote and Pay. Acknowledging subordinates for their efforts cant take a backseat to the bottom line. Double down on the staff development, let go of some of the fear that’s constraining those relationships for if you ever stop developing, your bottom line will feel it.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
At Sisu, we identified opportunities within marketing, advertising and rebranding when 2020 took a bite out of the economy. We actually increased our budgets substantially in an effort to become more noticeable throughout our industry. We partnered with the likes of CLP Studios out of Springtown, TX, creating an aggressive branding/advertisement campaign that has been tremendous for our viability.
Also, use adversity to further relationships with your customer base. They are going through the same thing. Becoming more relatable and understanding now will pay substantial dividends and partnerships moving forward.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Be honest with yourself. Adversity is going to show the ‘cracks’ in your platform. That’s ok. But within that, adversity highlights opportunities. Continuous improvement has to be a part of your culture and if its not, dive into the why not. Embrace change. Embrace the unknown.
- The Critical Eye- You being able to Identify problems is one thing, but having a staff identify and redirect the issue into a solution? Boom! At Sisu Energy, we call it ‘News Reporting’. Don’t just tell me about a problem… talk to me about what you did to fix a problem or let’s look at it together to find a solution. Do not get lulled into the Critical Eye and pandering over all that is wrong.
- Manage from Behind- A true leader operates as a guiding hand from behind while allowing those within the organization to make decisions, make errors, redirecting effort without hovering, etc. Empowering your staff builds confidence, communication and teamwork.
- PPP- Praise, Promote and Pay. You must let go as a Leader, let your team manage the process, let your team relish in the outcomes and provide guidance and encouragement when needed. Win together, lose together… but we are together. And when the time is right, we promote accomplishments, reward the effort.
- Stay Calm! Really speaks for itself. Maintaining a static emotional state regardless of the ‘climate’ reduces the external distraction to those trying to perform their daily tasks. Leaders do not set the pace of the pack but instead, leaders work with the slowest and the weakest, increasing the efficiencies of the whole. Trust yourself. Trust your team.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Sisu Strong- Extraordinary endurance in the face of adversity; persistence, determination and guts; full of courage, tenacity, resolve, willpower and an indominable spirit.
We got Sisu Energy… Do you?
Our company, Sisu Energy literally adopted that mantra and its something we all live by. Its meaning is so important to all of us as we all come from different backgrounds, life experiences, failures, but that fighting spirit is something everyone can relate to. You’ve got to have Sisu Energy to work at Sisu Energy.
How can our readers further follow your work?