Pass it On: US executive learned from Japanese management

Troy Roberts is the chief executive of Qualtek Manufacturing Inc., a small metal stamping company located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which has 74 employees and $7 million in annual sales of parts for medical devices and other metal products.

Before joining Qualtek, a 50-year-old privately held American company in 2016, Roberts served as president and chief operating officer of AIDA-American Corp., the North American subsidiary of Japanese-based AIDA, the second-largest global manufacturer of high-precision mechanical stamping presses and automation equipment for the auto, appliance and electronics industries.

Q: Did you pick up any management techniques in your work with a large Japanese company that you are using currently at Qualtek?

A: I certainly did. I worked for the Japanese company for 21 years and ran their U.S. and European operations for a number of years. One major management rule involved quality — do not accept or pass on poor quality. If that can be ingrained in everyone's DNA, you have the first pillar of a great company.

Q: What other management ideas did you learn during your time with the Japanese firm?

A: The importance of transparency. By that, I mean that all employees must really understand the strategic plan and receive monthly feedback on their performance. That allows everybody to pull together to achieve the targets. That is super-ingrained in the Japanese methodology. The Japanese also emphasized a performance management system that stressed personal goal achievement that was linked to the company's goals.

Q: Have you learned from mistakes that you made in your early days in management?

A: How much time do you have? I guess one of the biggest lessons I learned was the critical importance of keeping things simple. Your plans, your goals and your objectives must be really simple to understand, and challenging but achievable. Because if you make things too complicated, you are not going to accomplish the results that you want.