02 Mar PolySource Q&A: Getting to Know the Owners
In the late summer of 2019, PolySource was purchased by new owners, Grant John and Damien Couch. Groomed to be the future leaders of PolySource, the duo has been eager to continue building onto the success of the company. We took a few minutes to speak with the new owners to get to know them better.
Q: You both are certainly not new to PolySource, tell us where your PolySource journey began and what your current role looks like now.
Grant John: My PolySource Journey began in June 2002, in what was the very early years of the company. On my first day, we were printing our own business cards on a sheet with perforations. I walked promptly into FedEx/Kinkos and ordered the thickest card stock they had and made new ones. I wanted my card to stand out.
My job was to create a territory where we had no business. I knew this was going to be difficult, but thankfully I was also a little naïve to the real challenges in front of us. With the opportunity to make connections with customers, truly some of the best people I have ever met, we started gaining customers one at a time. When I say the best people I have ever met, I mean people in Iowa who helped my wife find a job when we moved there and people in MN who brought us dinner our first week living there. I truly enjoyed developing new relationships and territories, and I continue to maintain direct relationships with customers and suppliers.
The transition to my current role as President and CEO has been a great one, thanks to the team I am a part of. We have a tremendous leadership team in our company that has added value on every level. The leadership team plays a key role in helping me address all the important areas of our company and make important decisions.
An important part of my role is how these areas of our company work together, without disrupting the customer experience, but instead improving the service level to the customer, while improving the day-to-day life of our team. Finally, one of the most important parts of my role is focusing on alignment with our core values and finding new people that align with those values as we grow. That may sound corporate, but it’s anything but that. It’s the backbone of our company and frankly something I take very seriously.
Damien Couch: My PolySource journey began 15 years ago as a territory sales representative, which included five Midwestern states. I had no previous plastics experience or even business cards, but I did have a belief in the company vision (values and culture), and a lot of personal drive to grow the company consistent with our values. With sales always being my main focus, I have carried many roles and responsibilities along the way. These include supplier management (international and domestic), purchasing, inventory management and logistics.
My current responsibilities as Vice President includes being a part of the leadership team, which steers the direction of our company strategically, key account management and training our next generation of sellers in the field.
Q: What visions do you have for the future of PolySource? Where do you want to see the company in 5 years?
GJ: Our vision is to be the best value-added distributor in our industry. We want the value to extend from the producer through to the customer and market. We want to be the most technically and logistically capable company, helping to uncover and solve problems, both quickly and creatively, while providing excellent and supportive service. Our customers and suppliers continue to lean on us for more than delivering resin.
There is an authentic collaboration at the heart of what we are doing. In five years we will have expanded geographically, domestically and internationally. While the industry will have seen a great deal of talent retire, our customers will be utilizing us to fill that void, keeping them competitive and driving growth. Our resources will be focused on problem-solving and relationship development while we leverage technology to drive operational efficiency and service level.
DC: Everyone knows the blocking and tackling of managing growth is essential for company survival. The goal and vision for PolySource is to maintain our internal culture while providing the same PolySource experience to our customers five years, even 10 years, down the road as they do today. Our customers see the impact we strive to make and do make on their business. This is not just selling resin! It’s helping our customers overcome challenges just like we do our own team challenges. The helping and problem-solving cascades through our team to our customers. Growth has and will continue to result from this vision.
Q: What’s the most important achievement you hope to accomplish in your current roles?
GJ: The most important achievements are to continue to improve in company culture and continue to improve the PolySource customer experience.
DC: Growth through the continued preservation of our culture is consistent with our nine core values. This will continue to attract professional talent, that shares the same values, to PolySource. Investing in our employees for high levels of engagement will always remain a trend to ensure they are afforded the same opportunity I was given to grow professionally within a rewarding organization.
Q: PolySource has been recognized by Plastics News as No. 1 Best Places to Work in 2017 and 2019, what do you think makes PolySource an award-winning employer?
GJ: PolySource starts by offering benefits that are truly benefits, not just perks. Paid health insurance premiums and company-funded HRA make a significant impact on the lives of individuals and families at PolySource. Secondly, we strive to make a connection in the lives of our team. We understand things that are important to them and engage in their lives. Understanding this isn’t something you can typically list on a website or job description, but it’s experiencing the way our team sincerely cares that stands out.
We not only help the communities in and around Kansas City, but we also help the communities where our customers are located. Finally, we have fun. It sounds simple, but it is important.
DC: Not to continue to harp on our culture, but the main reason for being voted a best place to work stems from our company culture that is upheld by our team of employees, who truly know and understand our core values. The strategy of creating this culture was not to win awards but to establish a work environment where both personal and professional values mesh. We hire for culture, not for resumes. This makes for a believable, self-governed and empowered environment; not a manufactured one.
Our workplace culture drives employee engagement, which ultimately creates and guides the customer relationship. The relationship our team creates with our customers drives customer engagement. Some of the best stewards and promoters of our company culture are our customers. When customers are engaged they can and will champion your culture. Being recognized as a Best Places to work is truly an honor but it is a result of letting the score take care of itself.
Q: If you could have lunch with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
GJ: My grandfather. I spent a lot of time with him growing up. We called him Po. My life has changed a lot since he passed. He loved Lezlie, who is now my wife, and he would love my four children. I would want to ask him if he intended on making such a big impact on so many in his family. I hope my grandchildren look at me the way I still look at him.
I would also enjoy meeting President Abraham Lincoln. I have long admired his perseverance and his leadership during a challenging and pivotal time in our country’s history.
DC: My assumption here is that the expectation is to state the likes of Warren Buffet to glean some of his business acumen or Howard Schultz, as I am a big fan of perseverance and the underdog success stories. While I would enjoy those opportunities immensely, my choice is my wife followed by my children. My wife, Amy, is my best friend. She has always supported me and a major reason for my success and my motivation. Our conversations never get old and neither does our time together.
My three kids would be my close second. They are at the age where they are starting to express their views on “life” which is extremely fascinating to me. Our conversations always teach me things from a very different perspective I have not thought about, plus it gives me insight into their developing minds. It is hard to pass up on those lunches.
Q: On a personal note, what do you like to do for fun outside of work?
GJ: I enjoy the time I get with Lezlie and our children. Whether it be attending one of their sporting events or coaching one of them, something is happening every weekend. We also enjoy boating together. It’s always been a way to decompress for Lezlie and me. Finally, we are very active in our parish, St. Michael the Archangel. It’s a wonderful community that makes an impact on so many.
DC: Coaching and watching my kids’ activities. I am a big sports fan, and if I can sprinkle in a round of golf that is always enjoyable.