How do you lead engineers? How do you lead master craftsmen?
There’s a secret to quality. It takes more time, more thought, and more training, but in the end, you come out with a product that you can truly be proud of. As entrepreneurs and leaders, you’ve probably already thought about the quality of your service or product and how it will delight your customers. Yet, the key ingredient to creating consistently high-quality products often lies in the leadership of the team making them. Do you know how to lead your craftsmen?
Peter Waszkiewicz is the CEO of Randolph Engineering, a company that makes handcrafted American sunglasses, prescription frames, and protective eyewear for shooting. Peter originally joined the company as an apprentice when there were only three employees, and his father, a co-founder, was one of them. You can see their sunglasses on celebrities like Liev Schreiber, Tom Cruise, Bradley Cooper, and Al Pacino, among countless others.
I recently interviewed Peter for the LEADx Podcast, where we discussed his go-to leadership tips for guiding his workforce through the 200 steps it takes to make one pair of their sunglasses. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)
Kevin Kruse: Your father was the co-founder of the company and he had quite an interesting life. Can you share a little about your father's background?
Peter Waszkiewicz: I would love to. My dad's a perfect picture of the American dream, and he's Polish. When the Germans invaded Poland, he left along with his cousin. He ended up in England, joined the Royal Air Force, and actually flew on the Lancasters, and during that time, he heard a lot of stories from American soldiers about the land of opportunity, America, and the American dream.
After the war, he met my mom who's English and had their first child in England, and decided that since he heard so many great stories of America, he would pack up his very young family at that time and move to America.
He had an aunt that lived in the Boston area, and they arrived in Boston on a Thursday, and my dad was working the following Monday. He came to America in pursuit of his own American dream, and it's just an amazing story. He worked hard, he worked for an optical company for eight years and decided that he wanted to go out and start his own business. It's a lot of hard work. He's an entrepreneur by heart, and he was fearless. He left a legacy, and we're living that legacy now, and I'm hoping to add onto the legacy that he created.
Kruse: As sons, we all try to make our dads proud. It must have been difficult to have a father that was so much larger than life.
Waszkiewicz: Yes, it was. I felt as though I was always having to prove myself to him, but you know, my dad was my friend. He was one of the many mentors that I've had throughout my career. I love the fearlessness that my dad brought to the table, and he made me believe in myself and that anything's possible if you put your mind to it. Just a great guy.
Kruse: What are some of your leadership wisdom? How would you tell others to lead their teams?
Waszkiewicz: Great question. Look, a lot of entrepreneurial people fail to bring the business to the next level because to do that brings on a whole new set of talent and knowledge. It's really what I've learned over the years is that you have to earn success. It doesn't come overnight. You have to believe in your product and you have to believe in the people on your team.
To me, it's all about having the right people on your team and working together as a unit. No one individual makes a business successful. It's the team that makes it successful, and I think that if I've learned anything over the years, it's you have to create the culture and the environment in order to attract the right people into the organization.
Fifty percent of an interview is the knowledge that that person brings to the particular department that you're hiring in. The other 50% is the drive and the passion and the perseverance that person has. I like to look at people as climbers and campers, and not everybody can be a climber in life, but your executive team better be all made up of climbers. Because you need people to go above and beyond, you need to create an environment that is a winning culture, that empowers people to make decisions, and hold people accountable to what they do.
So, you live and learn in life and if I could turn the clock back, would I have done things differently to accelerate our growth? Absolutely, but that's not the case.
Kruse: If I was going to ask someone who works for you, “What is so great about the culture here?” What would they say?
Waszkiewicz: I think they would say that they love working for Randolph because we give them the platform that they need to grow themselves. I mean, it's all about feeling good about yourself and feeling as though you're part of the team and you're part of the decision-making. I like to say that my job is to provide that platform that allows people to grow within the company and themselves personally.
Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author, host of the popular LEADx Leadership Podcast, and the CEO/Founder of LEADx.org, which provides free world-class leadership training, professional development and career advice for anyone, anywhere.