As a part of our series called ‘Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO’ we had the pleasure of interviewing Jordan Feiger.
Jordan Feiger is the Owner and CEO at Victor Technology LLC. For the last 15 years, Jordan has worked to evolve the company beyond calculators to innovating home and corporate office solutions such as standing desks. In doing so, he has grown the company exponentially and plans to do so for years to come.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I worked at a large Fortune 500 Manufacturing company where by the time I was 35, I had progressed to running key business units ranging in size from $500M to $2B in sales. It was a heritage brand with a worldwide following and a great reputation in the industry, but I realized there are pros and cons to being at a company that large. After 21 years in Corporate America, I decided I was ready for something else and shifted to a mini version of what I had been doing previously. Victor Tech was the perfect company that I was looking for: a great brand with great products. I had a vision and passion for the future of the company and many ideas around how I could make it even better.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
During the Financial Recession in 2009–2010, our bank decided they didn’t want to service any companies our size and were completely shutting down our division. Essentially, we were fired from our bank in the middle of the worst economic crisis in 20 years and had to find a new banking relationship. One thing you learn along the way in this position is how to deal with crisis management situations. In my case, I’ve realized when you work hard and have a great team, you can problem solve with using solutions-based thinking, and you can figure it out. We were able to share our story of what we had done over the previous two years, and we found a bank willing to invest in us as people because of our experience and passion as opposed to numbers.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the funniest mistakes I made was when I forgot my Chinese Visa when traveling to China and could have been stranded at the Hong Kong, China border. The lesson I learned is the value of developing and nurturing great local contacts wherever you travel in the world.
None of us are able to 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 about that?
Absolutely! My Father was a fiercely entrepreneurial and independent business leader. He dreamed big and always felt he could accomplish whatever he set his mind to. He encouraged me to seek my own dreams fearlessly.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Diversity is incredibly important. In business, it can be measured in diversity of thought, experience and skills — which is often derived from different backgrounds and upbringings. The best executive teams value diversity because it fosters different opinions and important discussions, and require diverse skills to achieve success.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
As a business leader, I’m not sure I can speak about society as a whole, but for things under my sphere of control and influence, it’s about integrity and treating people with respect and dignity. These are parts of the Victor Core Company Values, behaviors we try to model on a daily basis with our employees, customers and suppliers.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
A CEO must take the time to pause and dream, thinking about not only today, tomorrow and next year — but 3, 5 and 10 years in the future. The focus is more about building a great, diverse team. A CEO must also think strategically about the company as a whole, focusing on things like corporate responsibility and contingency plans for emergencies. A CEO must also challenge the “status quo” more aggressively and push harder to find solutions where others may quit.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
A common myth I hear a lot is when a CEO is out of the office, he or she must be playing golf or on vacation. I know for me that certainly isn’t the case and a CEO is usually never fully away from the business.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I’ve been running large businesses for so long prior to becoming a CEO, so I did have a good understanding about what to expect. But, I’d say one of the most interesting things I’ve realized is that a CEO is working on the business versus in the business. What I mean by that is you want to work on what is going to make the business successful by understanding your staff and putting the best people in their functional roles.
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
CEOs must be a visionary and a risk taker. They must be willing to make sacrifices and deal with difficult issues on a regular basis and make tough decisions when nobody else will. Everyone has the opportunity to be a leader, but leadership at an executive level requires management, strategic thinking and responsibility. Not everyone is cut out for that role specifically, but leadership is most important for people to succeed.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
The advice I would give is to spend a few minutes every day thinking about culture and do something every day to make it inclusive and inspirational. Appreciate people. At a smaller company, we’re less formal with how we outline our culture but, in a business, where most people have the tendency to just buckle down and get stuff done, it is important that we take the time to make sure our employees are happy and enjoying their jobs.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Our company as a whole has become a leader in creating a healthier work environment for people working at businesses and at home by with the introduction of our line of standing desk products starting in 2016. We continue to study the way people are most productive and continue to invest in products focused on the well-being of office employees. With many still working from home, we want to make that experience for them more enjoyable and healthier all around.
Fantastic. Here is the primary question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- No matter what business you are in, you are really in the PEOPLE business. You will spend the most amount of time building and managing your team, and developing and maintaining relationships with customers.
- Hire, develop and nurture a great #2 (and #3 and #4) leader at the company. You cannot do it all (nor should you). Don’t be afraid to give up authority and stay out of the details if you have great people who you can trust.
- Join a business leader’s group and invest in that group. You are on a bit of an island as a CEO, but there are many others like you dealing with many of the same issues. Learn and implement new ideas from them.
- Manage by metrics. Learn the important metrics, what drives the business, and understand at the end of the day it’s people that can make the changes.
- Have balance in your life. We don’t live to work, we work to live. Family and interests and passions (which might be associated with what we do at work) are a huge key to success.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The greatest gift we can give to young people is the gift of understanding the value or hard work, personal responsibility and the associated feeling of success. I think this can best be accomplished by encouraging people starting at a young age to work a few hours a week to learn those values. I would encourage teen employment and work with schools and local business leaders, with associated government subsidies, to enable teens to work.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Trust, but verify. When I acquired Victor Technology, I was open to the idea that purchasing a calculator company in the midst of the computer revolution would be a good idea. I trusted the owners, and then verified the soundness of the business. I also thought through the potential of expanding beyond just calculators. If I had the typical thought “Why a calculator company?” I never would have made the acquisition. We have grown the business tenfold since our acquisition, and never looked back.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Jeff Bezos. He set out to create the world’s marketplace and truly accomplished it. It was an amazing vision that is still in process and unfolding. And as a part of that, created the world’s largest Cloud company, an entertainment powerhouse and the world’s best personal assistant system.