Inbound Logistics | July 2022


The Virtue of Losing Your Balance

guitars. When I used to ask why our partner companies made certain decisions, he pointed out that every decision is made not by a faceless, nameless bureaucracy, but by an individual. For the past 15 years, whenever I’ve had a concern about a decision, I would trace my way through a company until I got to that person. Every time I do that, I learn a lot. IL: You’re an instrument-rated pilot. Tell us about that. I grew up with my father teaching missionaries how to troubleshoot and repair avionics, so I was always around small airplanes. My rst year in the Navy, I was lucky enough to work on the ight deck on the USS Midway CV-41, an aircraft carrier. When I joined Sweetwater, Chuck Surack, our chairman and founder, had just purchased a ight school a few miles away. I decided to dive in and get my pilot’s license. Flying, like teaching, connects back to my professional career. Pilots need to follow checklists and processes but also need to think quickly and understand the aircraft from nose to tail. IL: How else do you spend your time outside work? I love to sharpen myself in as many ways as I can. For me, that means playing guitar, ying planes, and being the best leader, father, and husband I can be. Writing new music or playing someone else’s is a favorite way to get my mind off work. I’m also a high performance driver education instructor, which means I spend my weekends at tracks around the region teaching drivers how to get around the track faster. All the time and practice I’ve put into being a better teacher has made me a better leader. Strategy, patience, fundamentals, focus, positive feedback, corrective direction, and celebration of achievements—those are just a few of the things from teaching that cross over into my work and life. n “A lot of people say it’s important to have balance in life,” says Phil Rich. “I say to them, try having a little unbalance.” Going all-in on a specific pursuit is the way to become great at something, he says. “Trying to keep a balance can be somewhat like trying to make everyone happy; it just isn’t realistic,” Rich explains. “Achieving greatness requires putting your head down for long periods of time and focusing on one thing. Did Beethoven or Edison have a balanced life? I doubt it.”

IL: What longer-term supply chain challenges are you focused on? We keep an eye on the chip shortage, which has a huge effect on our industry. We work with companies to make decisions about what products they should manufacture given the limited number of chips they have. The other big challenge is the cost of delivery to the customer’s home. Like other e-commerce companies, we wrestle with delivery surcharges and rising fuel costs. IL: How would you describe your leadership style? I try to be warm with people, to give everybody at the company as much love as possible, but also to demand a lot from the team. We need to challenge people in two ways. Data and strategy are important, but people also need to develop the street smarts it takes to understand the competition and make the best decisions for our customers. Teaching is also an important part of leadership. Every senior-level leader should teach something to someone every day: how to crunch a piece of data, how to solve a problem. IL: What are you doing that’s new and interesting? Sweetwater is in the midst of opening a new 350,000-square- foot fulllment center in the Phoenix area. This is the rst time we’ve had an operation outside Fort Wayne, Indiana. We’re setting up the new building to accommodate robotics and other technologies we haven’t used before. Once this second facility is up and running, we expect to be able to deliver any product to any location in the United States in about three days or less. IL: What’s most fun about your job? Music is about bringing people together. It makes me feel good every day that we’re helping people enjoy the power of music. Also, I love to build teams. I love teaching. I love seeing people progress through careers. Mentoring people and seeing how that changes the trajectory of their lives—that’s the fun part. IL: Have you had a mentor? I’ve had several, but the one who comes to mind is Keith Brawley, who was vice president of merchandising for guitars and amps at Guitar Center when I was director of electric

July 2022 • Inbound Logistics 23

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