Teresa Holden joined Qualitor as CFO of International Brake Industries (IBI) in July 2013. Her previous experience was with Accubuilt, Inc., a private equity owned Manufacturer of Specialty Funeral Vehicles. Teresa has more than 20 years’ experience in finance and human resources with private equity owned and publicly held companies.
Holden’s earlier career included time with Greater Ohio Ethanol, Nash Finch Company, Midwest Express & Logistics and AccuSport Inc. Holden holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Human Resources from Urbana University and an M.B.A. in Organizational Leadership from the Business School at The University of Findlay.
What is your current role and area of responsibility?
As CFO, I oversee all financial aspects of both Pylon Manufacturing, a global wiper blade company, and International Brake Industries, the leading aftermarket brake hardware supplier in North America.
How would you describe your work/leadership style and why has it worked so well for you?
I believe a healthy work/life balance is very important. Of course, right now, with many of us working from home, it blurs the boundaries between the two and creates a set of new challenges. I have a passionate work ethic and expect the same of my team, but I also want everyone to feel fulfilled in their personal lives.
I am very team oriented, and I like to engage my team members and hear their ideas. Tapping into the strengths of my individual team members helps drive success for the company and boosts morale. I also do a lot of benchmarking and conferring with my peers, looking for new ways to improve our business practices.
Leadership Spotlight: Q&A with Paul Johnson, IBI
What do you see as your biggest challenge right now?
Without question, the impact of COVID-19 is the biggest challenge. Our number one priority is the health and well-being of our employees. We are considered an essential business and have continued to operate, but we are carefully balancing the need to protect our employees while continuing to serve our customers.
How has the global Covid-19 pandemic impacted your operation? What will the brake world look like considering the pandemic in the near term and long term?
In our distribution centers, we have installed rigorous health protocols to help protect our employees’ health. We are taking employees’ temperatures daily, wearing PPE, and we reconfigured the layout to follow social distancing guidelines. We have made disinfectant and hand sanitizer available throughout the building. We remain vigilant and ready to respond quickly to minimize the risk moving forward.
Many of our employees are now working virtually whenever possible. We are doing regular video town halls to share information and touch base. We try to make part of these meetings fun to foster a sense of community, even while we’re apart.
Looking into the near future, the pandemic has certainly impacted sales across the industry. With so few people on the road, less people are servicing their vehicles. We continue to fulfill all our customer orders, and we’re beginning to see an upswing in sales with our retailers. We expect sales to continue to pick up over the summer as people resume driving. With more people wary of flying and public transportation, we may see increased mileage on personal vehicles throughout this time, which will translate into increased service.
What are the best opportunities for the company?
One of the opportunities is global support for our customers. To meet this need, we now have sales offices and distributing centers in the USA, China and Mexico. This allows us to be much more responsive to our local customers in these regions, providing the products they need quickly.
Another big opportunity is increasing our product portfolio, making a complicated category simple for our customers. By offering the most comprehensive catalog of brake hardware, plus associated product lines like EWS and ABS sensors, brake lines and pistons, we make it easy for our customers to get all the quality parts they need from one supplier.
What do you look for when evaluating top talent?
First and foremost, will this individual be a good fit within the current team? Given how much time the team spends and works together, it’s extremely important that everyone complement each other. Leadership skills are important. Individuals should both be able to work independently and work with others. I focus on each individual’s potential within the organization and their long-term success. I want to make sure we have the bench strength for the future.
What is the best career advice you have been given?
Being in a leadership position, you have to be prepared to make tough decisions, have thick skin, and not take things personally. Also, don’t let others manage your future. You need to take control of your destiny and make sure you’re headed where you want to go.
What sets IBI apart?
With IBI, we say “fit happens first.” We have built a reputation for always being first to market with the latest hardware. How do we do that? Our in-house expertise is the IBI difference. Unlike most of our competitors, IBI actually researches, designs, engineers, manufactures, tests, and verifies each of product in-house to ensure the quality is the standard our customers expect.
In fact, we have an extensive library of thousands of OE brake assemblies so we can verify every part will fit and function on the actual brakes in the real world. That’s why IBI is where fit happens first. More often than not, our competitors wait for us to make the aftermarket product and then copy our work.
Tell us something that most people might not know about you or your organization.
Everybody hates squeaky brakes, and most people assume the cause is the brake pads. What too many people don’t realize is that brake noise is often caused by worn hardware. Many shops do not bother to change the brake hardware with every brake job, which causes a variety of problems for the customer. Most importantly, used brake hardware can cause premature, uneven wear on the newly installed pads. Installing new hardware with every brake job is a cost-effective way to protect the investment of the new pads and minimize customer comebacks.