009 - Leading During Trying Times with David Mylrea | Sport Coats Podcast

A podcast fueled by professionals bridging the gap between Sports and Business. Enjoy as guests share stories & experiences from the playing field to the board room.

009 - Leading During Trying Times with David Mylrea

Meet David Mylrea

David is the president and CEO of Engage Technologies Corporation. Engage owns a number of companies in the printing and packaging sector - including selling inkjet printers. Prior to becoming the CEO of Engage he was Executive Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel of Engage. In addition to his duties with Engage, he was also a Capital Partner with the national law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, a firm of in excess of 650 lawyers in 30 cities across the United States, as well as London UK. In the sports world, David is a member of the St. Olaf Football Hall of Fame and has spent many years as a hockey coach.

Where are you speaking to us from?

I'm speaking from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Actually a suburb in the southwestern corner of the City of Minneapolis. And I'm working from my office, my home office this morning. The last several months have been very interesting as a result, obviously of COVID-19 and how that's impacted our company and the operations we are in the industrial packaging business, we do coding and marking - meaning inks and printers. But we have another side of the company that does packaging and delivering. So we package, we sell equipment that packages products, we sell equipment that puts codes and marks on products. Everything from bottles of various types of vitamins and foods - to the little white plastic clips that you see on a bag of hot dog buns that you buy at the grocery store. Those little white plastic clips have  a code or a mark that's printed that say this bread is good through this date. Our motto is that we help companies deliver their products to the world. Last year we sold products into 50 countries all over the world. We've been operating largely remotely, our entire sales team operates remotely because of COVID. My marketing group, including our social media people, operate remotely. Most of our engineers are operating remotely. All of our accounting group except for a couple of folks who work daily out of the office, but substantially all of them at our customer service group are all operating remotely. So we've had to make some adjustments that way to allow us to continue business, but not business the old fashioned way, where everybody went into the office all day every day.

Relating to sports here, we’re all waiting as the various leagues’ executives sit behind closed doors and discuss what’s best for their respective sport. So what’s it like having those types of conversations as a company executive?

I don’t want to sound cliche, but the most important asset that we have is our employees - and I think we really walk the walk. We take all of this COVID-19 stuff very seriously. Since February, I have taken to writing notes, emails to all of our employees, to talk to them about what we're doing and why we're doing it and why we want them to participate in things like being very careful. Wearing face masks, social distancing, doing all of the things that the CDC recommends that we do. We spend a lot of money on cleaning our facilities, much more than we did in years prior. We now require people that visit our facilities to wear masks and have their temperature taken.They also have to fill out a form stating they haven’t felt sick - all of those provisions that the CDC suggests. I also regularly communicate with our entire team and let them know how we're doing on the COVID front and also how the company is doing. My way of dealing with this has been to communicate openly and freely with all of our employees on a regular basis and to do everything that we can that the CDC requires. The goal is to maintain the health of our employees because if we lose our employees, we're out of business. So far we've been very fortunate, we haven't had any COVID direct hits so far.

When you look at what you guys have been able to do, do you think that it is possible for some of these professional sports organizations to put together a successful bubble that will be able to keep their athletes and team personnel safe?

There are much smarter people involved with those leagues than me. But, I have my doubts and very serious reservations about whether they ought to be going back on the field. You know, as well as I do, there's a ton of contact in these sports and there's a lot of speaking and yelling at these high levels. There’s lots of contact and I don't know how you can minimize that. Why would you want to strap on the skates and go out and play hockey? Knowing what we know about how contagious COVID-19 is. Or would you want to put a football helmet on and run out on the field and tackle on an offensive lineman, running back, wide receiver or  a tight end? In this environment with this highly contagious situation I don't know, honestly. Everybody's chomping at the bit to get back on the field, and certainly the fans want to see that but I personally think that it's too early to do that. I think that we're going to see a lot more sick people than we have right now.

Being in Minneapolis, not only have you been recently dealing with the pandemic, but also the protests and everything that has been happening locally there. Has your corporation put out any statement? And as a leader where do you find your resources on how to handle situations that aren’t in your original job description?

In my prior life, I was involved in managing a gigantic law firm, and I had contact with just about every kind of issue that you could imagine. So it isn't all new for me. I've been the CEO for, going on four years. But I’ve known the company and the senior management for many years. Everyone has a set of skills within each of our departments, each of our department leaders. Also, we're an ISO certified company, which means we have gone through the process of creating structure, organizational structure, documentation, policies and procedures - things that we have to do every day, every week, every month, every quarter, just as part of our normal business regimen. So part of learning how to deal with situations is just experience. Part of it is an ongoing training regimen. The head of our HR group is constantly involved with HR associations. Since she's getting the input from lots and lots of leaders. So we have the benefit of not just our own people but other people that support them and the same is true for our engineering, operations and accounting - each one of the leaders in those divisions are constantly getting updated, constantly being trained and have constant access to the information that we need to make the hard decisions and the right decisions when when called upon to do that.

And so much more...