The Path To Leadership

Charting the Course of Collaborative Success at Van Meter with Kate Weber

April 08, 2024 Catalyst Development Season 1 Episode 29
Charting the Course of Collaborative Success at Van Meter with Kate Weber
The Path To Leadership
More Info
The Path To Leadership
Charting the Course of Collaborative Success at Van Meter with Kate Weber
Apr 08, 2024 Season 1 Episode 29
Catalyst Development

Send us a Text Message.

Embark on a journey of discovery with Kate Weber, HR manager at Van Meter, where every employee has a stake in success. Listen closely as Kate weaves the story of her evolution from a student of human interaction to a leader who champions the value of an employee-owned business model. She illuminates the path that led her to Van Meter's doors and the organic rise to her current role, offering a candid look at the power of serendipity in shaping a fulfilling career. Together, we unpack the transformative Working Genius model, exchanging insights on leveraging personal strengths to thrive in the workplace.

This episode is a deep exploration into the heart of Van Meter's ethos, guided by their 'five P's' framework, where people always come first. We dive into the company's innovative "inboarding" process, designed to immerse new hires into a culture that celebrates their arrival and sets the stage for enduring success. Amidst the storytelling, I share my leadership philosophy—a tapestry woven from a series of pivotal learning moments rather than regrets. It's a candid reflection on resilience and the continuous pursuit of excellence, all set against the vibrant backdrop of Van Meter's commitment to progress, community, and the well-being of every individual who calls it home.

Learn more about Van Meter:  https://www.vanmeterinc.com/
Follow them on LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/company/vanmeterinc/


Follow Catalyst Development on LinkedIn @catalystdevelopment, @drkatieervin, @jennascott, @emmablankenship

www.cdleaders.com

Theme music by Emma Jo https://emmajo.rocks/

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Embark on a journey of discovery with Kate Weber, HR manager at Van Meter, where every employee has a stake in success. Listen closely as Kate weaves the story of her evolution from a student of human interaction to a leader who champions the value of an employee-owned business model. She illuminates the path that led her to Van Meter's doors and the organic rise to her current role, offering a candid look at the power of serendipity in shaping a fulfilling career. Together, we unpack the transformative Working Genius model, exchanging insights on leveraging personal strengths to thrive in the workplace.

This episode is a deep exploration into the heart of Van Meter's ethos, guided by their 'five P's' framework, where people always come first. We dive into the company's innovative "inboarding" process, designed to immerse new hires into a culture that celebrates their arrival and sets the stage for enduring success. Amidst the storytelling, I share my leadership philosophy—a tapestry woven from a series of pivotal learning moments rather than regrets. It's a candid reflection on resilience and the continuous pursuit of excellence, all set against the vibrant backdrop of Van Meter's commitment to progress, community, and the well-being of every individual who calls it home.

Learn more about Van Meter:  https://www.vanmeterinc.com/
Follow them on LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/company/vanmeterinc/


Follow Catalyst Development on LinkedIn @catalystdevelopment, @drkatieervin, @jennascott, @emmablankenship

www.cdleaders.com

Theme music by Emma Jo https://emmajo.rocks/

Speaker 1:

Hi everyone, Welcome back to the Path to Leadership. I am so excited to introduce you to my guest today. Hey Kate, how are you? Hi, Katie, I'm good how?

Speaker 2:

are you today?

Speaker 1:

I am doing well, doing good, ready for spring and beautiful weather and all that comes with it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I was just outside for a minute. It's raining here, but I saw some green stuff sprouting in my rock bed, so that kind of gave me a little bit of joy for this Friday morning, I bet, I bet, and you're up in Iowa.

Speaker 1:

So you guys, your spring comes a little slower than us down here in Kansas City.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I was kind of surprised to see it, but we've had kind of a warm, mild winter, so I suppose that comes with that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, I love it. Well, can you introduce yourself to everyone who you are, what you do, where you work, all that good stuff.

Speaker 2:

Sure, yes. So hi, I'm Kate Weber. I'm an HR manager for a company or at a company called Van Meter. We're an electrical distribution company and we are 100% employee owned, which makes us unique and special. I've been with this company for coming up on 12 years and I've been in HR my whole career years and I've been in HR my whole career. So started out kind of as a generalist, learning the business, learning about you, know what it means to be an employee owner, and spent a lot of time recruiting, building relationships with the leaders of our company, helping with all things HR and kind of recently found myself leading some of the HR team and functions for our company. So yeah, that's kind of been my journey.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that is fantastic. Well, and I'm always intrigued as a former HR leader how did you know that you want to do HR? Did you fall into it? What? How did you take this path? Yeah, that's a funny question I had.

Speaker 2:

I didn't really know what HR was, to be honest. My. So my degree it was a. I'm a graduate of the University of Iowa, go Hawks, and my degree is in communication studies, sociology and human relations. So I've always been intrigued by people, by behavior, and, you know, considered things like counseling, you know psychiatry, but I don't know. That just felt a little too, I don't know, science-y for me I guess. And so you know, I chose those paths for kind of a reason, but I didn't know what I was going to do with it.

Speaker 2:

Graduated, got myself a job, and it was actually my first boss, my first leader, who kind of recognized this unique ability of mine to kind of coach, and I don't know, help people from an HR kind of lens and, um, he asked if I had any interest in that and I was like, well, yeah, I think so, but I don't really know what it is. So ultimately I ended up working kind of part-time doing, um, hr stuff for this smaller company and kind of the assistant role that I was in gravitated towards. It just kind of happened to be. I think it was just one of those. I'm kind of one of those people that think things happen for a reason meant to be sort of thing, and it was just meant to be for me, and I think that's where I took off from there. So that's how I fell into it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, that's so perfect. I tell people all the time I didn't know what HR was either, and I had a college professor that was like um, you know, have you ever thought about HR? I was like I don't even know what that is. I was going to school to work in student affairs and I was a was a. I was the graduate assistant for fraternities at Indiana State, and so I think I'm one of the few that actually changed my major and my master's program. But the cool part was my master's program was so counseling based that when I switched over to HR, I only had to take two additional classes. Like it wasn't this massive stretch.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, I kind of think sometimes the best HR people are ones who didn't really intend to set out to do it. You know, it was just kind of a natural gift that some of us have that we found HR, you know.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah. Well, and my undergrad is sociology and psychology. So I tell my kids all the time I'm just studying people and they're like you're being nosy and I'm like no, I am fascinated by human dynamics and why people do what they do, and so I will just sit and observe all the time. I just love it.

Speaker 2:

I think we are very similar in that regard. Yeah, I just love it. I think we are very similar in that regard.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, and when we so, catalyst Development is doing some work with Van Meter. We love your team, and one of the things that I think attracted us is you all are doing the Working Genius, and I'm just curious I can't remember what is your Working Genius?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yes, we're really into it. Right now it's kind of spreading like wildfire across our company, and my genius is invention and discernment, so ID.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, okay, that makes sense. Yeah, mine is galvanizing and discernment, so an invention is my third. So yeah, that makes sense.

Speaker 2:

I love it Well.

Speaker 1:

So you talked a little bit about being employee owned, and so can you talk a little bit. I don't know that everyone's familiar or they may have heard the word ESOP, but they don't even really know what that means. So can you kind of explain that a little bit.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, you know they're kind of. I will say every employee owned company has its own kind of way of doing it. So not not no. Two e-stop companies are the exact same. So I'll put that caveat out there and I'll just speak to how Van Meter is set up. We are 100% employee-owned, so that means all 850-ish people who receive a Van Meter paycheck are also stockholders in the company. So every year we are each awarded shares and the number of shares that we receive is based on a calculation and a formula that's, you know, dictated by our plan design. And so, whatever our stock price is, we get new shares every year at that stock price and then the shares that we have from the years prior. So I'll use myself as an example. In the past 11 years, all of those shares that I've collected over time they, you know, equate to this new stock price that continues to grow, fortunately for us, every single year. So it's a very lucrative retirement benefit for each and every one of us, so that it's money that is set aside for retirement purposes, right? So you kind of can touch that money when you're ready to retire and it is a super awesome benefit.

Speaker 2:

The thing that, you know, sometimes trips people up. You don't put any money into it yourself. None of the money that's in this ESOP account that is yours. You put anything into like monetarily. However, you do contribute to it. We talk about this in that the work that you put in, you know, the effort that you put in, the care and concern that you have for the growth of our company, is how you funnel or fuel your own ESOP and the ESOP of your fellow business partners. So you know that's how we consider each other. While you know it's hard to imagine being owning a company with 850 people, it can be done and we all call each other business partners. You know, because we are. We're the ones who are reaping the reward of the success of the company. So that kind of goes through before.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that is perfect and I love it and I love how you all really do live. That I mean I know when we are doing leadership programming for your team down here in Kansas City, I mean it is the conversation of you know, everyone is an owner and everyone is responsible. I've never been in an HR leadership role for an organization like Van Meter. I would imagine your role is pretty unique in that you have a big responsibility to take care of everybody. So how do you lead from your role at Van Meter?

Speaker 2:

Well, I really take it seriously the fact that I am an owner in this company and I look for other people who are going to join me as an owner of this company to be someone who will also take that very seriously. I lead with our purpose and our core values in mind at all times. You know we are very fortunate to have a purpose and core values that were established before. You know, even I joined the business and they have remained steadfast and strong, and you know we continue to anchor and root into them in everything that we do. So our purpose is to create lasting value for those we serve and our core values. We call them our five P's and they are in order of kind of, not importance, but just there's a specific order to them for a reason. The first P is the people P. So we want our people to be their personal best. We really truly believe that if you can be your best inside and outside of work, that you know you're going to be able to help our company grow, and so we do a lot of stuff to ensure that our people can be their personal best. Our second P is our partner P. We really value the relationships that we have with our partners, whether that be customers, suppliers, vendors or, for example, catalyst. You, katie, and your business, you know, with us at Van Meter, we see you as a partner, we value you, we respect you and we want to have a positive relationship. So our partners are wildly important to us. We care very much about you, know their experience, and then we have our progress P. So progress is is inevitable and rather than deny that fact, we're like let's just throw it out there. Things are going to change. Innovation is the way of the world. We need to embrace it and accept that and be like excited about it. And so you know, we're always looking for the best way to do something interrog, interrogating how we do things you know, and being open minded to that fact.

Speaker 2:

Then it's place P. So taking care of the places where we work and live, our communities paid time to get out into the community and, do you know, follow their passions, give back whatever that means to them and whatever is important to them. That also helps you be your personal best when you can do. That we believe. And a lot of times the place P ties back to our partner P's, because there's lots of things that our partners are really passionate about that we can get involved with. And the progress P. When you think about the impact that it can make on a community having the community members involved, that's progress for all. So the place P really touches every P, if you ask me.

Speaker 2:

And then our final P is the profit P. We're not going to pretend like we're not here to be a profitable company, but the cool thing about profit for our business is that it actually truly benefits us individually. Um, because when we grow, our company or ESOP grows, our stock price goes up and then we can all ride off into the sunset someday and do whatever it is in our retirement that we work so hard for. So those are our core values, that's our purpose, our mission, our five Ps, and I lead with those in mind at all times as much as I can, and particularly in my role for people, obviously, um, helping our people be their personal best. I've seen it over and over again the impact that just a company's care for its people can have on their overall outlook to on life. Really like we've had people come and say you changed my life. Working here has changed my life, and that's what I get up every day for to be honest.

Speaker 2:

And that's how I lead, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Oh well, and I'm just sitting there listening to you talk about the five Ps and you know I I appreciate that the profits at the end because I'm a firm believer and my research shows and I know from the HR standpoint, you know when you take care of the people and when you take care of, you know your community and when you, you know, innovate and do great things, that profit just comes naturally. You don't have to drive from the profit standpoint. Everything else feeds the profit.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yes, it's so true and we see it. I mean, I've, I've, I've been an owner in this business, like I said, for coming up on 12 years and I've never seen the stock price go down, so it obviously is working right. People to profit is what we say, um, and it all. It's kind of all one big loop. It all, you know, impacts each other. It one of the each impact each other and ultimately, the people is at the center.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, yeah, yeah, and it takes care of everything else. Well, and it's, it's, it's fun because, um, while you're all up in Iowa, you have, do you have multiple locations? I know you're in Kansas city as well, where Iowa you have, do you have multiple?

Speaker 2:

locations. I know you're in Kansas City as well. Where, where all are you all? Yes, we are kind of Midwest based, um, so headquartered in Cedar Rapids, iowa. That is where Van Meter was founded. Um, and we've been in business for 96 years, yeah, which is really cool. Um, when I came on board 12 years ago, we were just an Iowa based company and we had locations across Iowa. Now we have locations in Minnesota, wisconsin, nebraska and Kansas. So, yeah, kansas is kind of our most recent non-acquired location, so we call it like a grassroots greenfield kind of just showed up, opened up a little location there and actually have grown. The location had to take on more space, more space, and so, yeah, we came down to Kansas City in 2020, which was the best time.

Speaker 1:

You should do everything in 2020.

Speaker 2:

Everything should happen in 2020. Yeah, it was 2020. It was literally like it was February. We kind of soft opened and then March was going to be our heart, you know, and that's. It was an interesting time, but we, we got through it and, um, I think we started with, I don't know, maybe like max of 10 people and we've doubled or more our employee owners um, in the market down there since and we will continue to do so we're really appreciative of the partners that we've, you know, created the relationships that we're building in the Kansas City market. It's different for us. It's kind of our one and only major metro, big city, if you will like, location. We are near the Twin cities but not in the Metro in Minnesota. So it's been kind of fun navigating that little bit of a of a different vibe. But we're so happy to be in Kansas city and look forward to continuing to grow there and and employ more future owners.

Speaker 1:

Hopefully, yeah yeah, you all have an amazing team down here. We really have enjoyed getting to know them and I haven't talked to you since. I was driving around downtown and I saw a van meter truck drive by and it happened so fast. I was like, oh my gosh wild and I tried to, you know, get my phone out to take a picture and and uh, it just happened so quick. But I was, I was so genuinely proud to see, you know, the the truck drive through and I'm like, oh yeah, they're, they're doing great things.

Speaker 2:

Oh, that is so cool, katie, and the cool thing about our trucks if you do see them around Kansas city or any, wherever you see them, those are our people, the owner on the trucks. So you'll see you know their smiling faces and their name on there and that they've been an owner since you know, whatever their anniversary year is. And yeah, that's our real people, people, our people. P in action.

Speaker 1:

Yeah well, and, and you know, sticking with the people piece, I am so impressed with the amount of work you all do on development of your teams and culture and caring for your employees, so can you talk a little bit about why that's so important to you and really the amount of investment you make in your people?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, um, well it's. It's a big deal, because if we want our people to be their personal best, um and we want you know, we want everybody to understand what it means to be an owner you have to invest time and energy and money into you know programming around that people. So we, we have a learning and development team for awesome women who are dedicated to creating, you know content, programming, learnings, um, for people to understand what ownership means at van meter um, so we have when I'll just kind of speak to a new employee owner, maybe that will help kind of paint the picture when a new employee owner comes on board, they go through a full day orientation where, you know, we break down. A lot will be tied back to our 5Ps. We also have something that we call the anatomy of an employee owner, and it's intended to help our people understand what we mean when we say live our culture right. What does that mean? Well, our cultures are 5Ps, our core value, that's how we, that's what we base it off of. So we have our five P's. So then, but what does it mean to live that out? And so we created the anatomy of employee owner, and so under each of our P's, there are kind of expectations of what it what it looks like in action, right? So I'll give one example. Under the people Pete, we have an expectation that you act with integrity, respect and an all-inclusive mindset, and so I come into every orientation and I talk about what does that mean?

Speaker 2:

At Van Meter, you know? So we kind of start there and then every new employee owner goes through a year long what we call inboarding. We say we're all in a van meter. So it's an inboarding program that has modules throughout the way.

Speaker 2:

Some are in person, some are e-learning, but they all go back to the anatomy of the employee owner and kind of break down each of our values and how we live our culture through those values.

Speaker 2:

They come back for in-person two-day it's called foundations training, where we really dig into a lot of the anatomy, and then it ends with a what we call our all-in commitment ceremony about a you know that their one-year anniversary, where they get to reflect on their first year and they're there, their leader's. There we have a member of our you know leadership team, or C-suite, if you will that comes and you get to share just how you have, how the culture has impacted you and how you will continue to impact the business. And then the leader gets to speak on how that new employee owner has impacted the value that they've been, the lasting value that they've provided in that year. So that's just like one way. But I mean, we have so many things that we do to ensure that you know people, the people of our business, understand how to, how to be an owner at Van Meter.

Speaker 1:

Yeah Well, and I would imagine that year is very powerful for everyone to understand and it's probably really neat for the you know, the employees that are not new. They get to be a part of the program and it's just a refresher and probably kind of an almost rebirth for them as they're supporting their new team members going through. It's probably really cool.

Speaker 2:

It is. It's always a really fun day. You walk away just kind of energized. You filled your bucket to hear these one year in new owners of the company talking about how Van Meter has impacted them.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, that's so neat, well, and I love when organizations really, truly understand that it's. It's about the people, and, and that will get you every place else if we do it right, um, and and that will get you every place else if we do it right, well. So the final question that I ask everyone on every show, um, is to the level you're comfortable sharing, what is the big leadership or biggest leadership or career misstep that you have taken?

Speaker 2:

I did. I did remember you were going to ask that and I and I really have been sitting here, you know, about five minutes before thinking like, okay, how am I going to answer that? I can't really put my finger on anything. That doesn't mean I haven't missed out to Katie, trust me on that Right.

Speaker 2:

But when I think about the times that maybe I, you know, feel like I may let somebody down or made the wrong choice, I don't regret it Because, like I said, I I do believe that things happen for a reason and I kind of sometimes let things play out. I really have this strong belief and assumption that it will be okay and it's meant to be. And all of the times that I have misstepped or let somebody down or made the wrong decision, I learned from it. I've grown from it. I've been able to help somebody else not, you know, make the same. It's made me who I am. I just don't. I don't have any. I don't want none of it I could speak to to say that I regret or, you know, none of it really rattles me. That much't doesn't keep me up at night. I've accepted those things, I've moved on from them or I appreciate them for what they were you know, and so none of it really like stands out, if that makes sense.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, Well, and what a gift. I mean it sounds like you have such a strong growth mindset that you know, I have people say, you know, do you regret doing that, or do you regret that career choice or that step? And it's like no, because that's what got me to where I am today. And so if I didn't make that choice, where would I be today?

Speaker 2:

100% and, as you know, I'm kind of a my inventor right In me. I like kind of talk process out loud and as I'm saying all this I'm going. You know it's probably our culture, our progress P that leads me to feel the way I do about this question, because we really often do see, you know, missteps and mistakes as progress, the opportunities that man meter, and we can't have a progress as a core value If people don't feel safe potentially making the wrong choice right or a mistake, because that's how you learn and you grow, and so it's probably our progress P that has gotten me to that answer, if that makes sense, and the safety that I feel that my company has my back, that my leader has my back. You know, if I do mess up, that you know we're going to learn from it and move on and I'm not going to be it's not going to be something that, like haunts me at night.

Speaker 1:

You know what I mean. Yeah, yeah, well, and it allows us to own our mistakes, missteps, learning opportunities and grow from it, as opposed to letting it, you know, bog us down, slow us down or, you know, keep us up at night because it's like, well, that happens. Now. What was, what was the lesson I was supposed to learn, and how do I move forward and and continue on?

Speaker 2:

Exactly yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yes, well, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you for sharing your story and a little bit of the Van Meter story. If people are not familiar with Van Meter, I encourage you to check it out. I will put the website and especially on social media. I love following you on social media because you're always out and about doing great things, so I will put that in the show notes as well and hopefully people can be inspired by the amazing work that you all are doing.

Speaker 2:

I hope so too, and I really appreciate that. Katie, this has been really fun. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1:

It is my pleasure, my pleasure. Well, thank you everyone for joining us on the path to leadership, and we will see you next time. Bye, everyone.

Leadership With HR Manager Kate
Core Values and Company Culture
Investing in People at Van Meter

Podcasts we love