Oct 02 2018

Westlake Hardware CEO Named One of Kansas City's Most Influential Business Leaders

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Before you can compile a roster of the most influential business executives in a market of nearly 3 million people, you first must define what it means to have influence as an executive, what it means to wield that power, and what it means, from that executive perch, to make a significant impact that goes beyond your company’s own financial interests.

Here at Ingram’s, we believe the metrics of top-line revenues and employee counts are just starting points. The way an executive or organization interacts with other businesses, with customers or clients, and with the broader community all count for much in the calculus of influence. Thus, an organization can punch above its weight as an influencer by being exceptionally philanthropic, perhaps, or by its leadership’s engagement with civic and charitable causes outside the office, or by taking on leadership roles associations specific to their industry.

True power in today’s workplace, properly understood, comes not from a top-down list of a chief executive’s commandments, but from a leader’s ability to articulate a vision and inspire others to achieve it. Not long ago, we quoted a university professor who categorized leadership as the ability to help employees achieve things they couldn’t do on their own. We think that’s about right.

In this, our third installment of the Ingram’s 250, you will see that subtext in the comments of executives who talk about the best advice they ever received from a mentor, lessons they learned from their very first jobs, how they overcame setbacks in their careers or organizations, their most effective tools for motivating employees, other CEOs they see as role models, and many other insights. In many instances, you will find that their responses
both delight you and resonate with your own value sets.

From any one respondent, the answers to these queries might shed a little light on that individual’s personality and value system. Taken in the aggregate, viewed across the full field of this region’s top executives who shared their thoughts from so many different industries, backgrounds and perspectives, what you end up with is a manual, of sorts. The guidance from these thought leaders is not a prescription for how to comport yourself in a leadership role, but how to THINK about the way you want to execute your own leadership responsibilities. What you won’t find in the following series of 42 pages are cookie-cutter questions and answers for all being recognized. This field is significantly different from last year’s in some aspects, and more so from the previous year.

We’ve strategically tiered the questioning of respondents to help readers catch on some of the basic values expressed by honorees from the inaugural i250 in 2016 and the new honorees in 2017 who are back this year.

 

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JOE JEFFRIES
CEO, WESTLAKE HARDWARE

Your local Westlake Ace is a great neighborhood hardware store that is part of a 10-state, 121-store organization. More than 100 years old, Westlake became a wholly-owned Ace subsidiary in 2012. This year, Joe Jeffries took over as CEO upon the retirement of Tom Knox. Before joining Westlake in 2014, this one-time hourly store associate was CEO of A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts, an arts, crafts and floral merchandise retailer.

BEST ADVICE TO YOUNG EXECUTIVES: “Be willing to take risks; look for the more challenging assignments even if you aren’t a subject matter expert. The experience will expand your knowledge base, allowing you to grow your technical skills as well as your potential leadership abilities.”

MOST-ADMIRED CEO: “I’ve admired many over the years. Currently I follow Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn; his approach to leadership interests me on many levels.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT? “Climbing the ranks from an hourly associate to being CEO of a mid-sized, publicly traded company, and now this amazing opportunity I have.”

BUCKET LIST NO. 1: “I want to travel and explore Alaska.”

PASSION/HOBBY: “Sport fishing, when time permits, with my wife and children. Plus, we are big football and basketball fans!”

None of this would be possible, of course, without the frankness and candor—at times, on a deeply personal level—that respondents provided to our questions. Not everyone wanted to answer every question, and in some cases— perhaps as high as 10%—honorees declined to respond altogether. We included the latter group in any case, because their positions of influence in regional commerce simply can’t be disputed, ignored or omitted. Maybe they’ll be on board next year, eh?

For Ingram’s editors, this exercise has been a great way to better know Kansas City’s power structure on a deeper level. But consider this: If the pages you’re about to read were put in front of someone who has never been to Kansas City or knows nothing about our quality of life or business infrastructure, what would the totality of these executive profiles tell them? We believe that they would see a collaborative, fertile, open, robust and engaging commercial ecosystem fully capable of supporting their enterprises, should they choose to be a part of this economy. A place where their company would have its best opportunity for long-term success. And isn’t that, after all, what business is all about?

For those who did take part and who shared their stories, we offer our most sincere thanks. We quite literally could not have done this without you. Enjoy!

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