Dan Sandberg is President & CEO for Brembo North America. Brembo is a world leader in the design, development and production of braking systems and components for cars, motorbikes, industrial vehicles and machinery, for the OE market, after-market and racing. In the following Q&A, Dan shares with us his valuable insights on the topics of leadership and success.
TBR: What is your current role and area of responsibility?
DS: I am in charge of Brembo’s largest and fastest growing global subsidiary, which includes all of Brembo’s operations in North America conducted through five business units – Brake Systems, Disc, Aftermarket, Motorcycle and Performance (Racing) Divisions. The operations are quite diverse functionally including sales, marketing, engineering/R&D/testing, manufacturing, quality, purchasing and logistics, finance and other administrative functions.
TBR: How would you describe your leadership style and why has it worked so well for you?
DS: Communication is the key to running a high performance organization and to successful execution of the business’ strategy. That means communication both ways – not only do I need and want feedback from my direct reports, but I also need to hear from and speak to all of the other levels of the organization. I manage the business based upon the feedback I receive, and the discussion that follows with our leadership team. Execution is much easier if everyone believes they had input in the decision; even if the direction is not exactly where they wanted to go, at least they had input and were part of the discussion. I also have high expectations when it comes to our team and results.
TBR: What do you see as your biggest challenge right now?
DS: Retaining and recruiting the best people. In this market, competition for the best talent is fierce. And once you get great people you have to keep them motivated and make sure they feel they are adding value to the organization.
TBR: What do you look for when evaluating top talent?
DS: We hire people that are urgent, innovative and committed.
TBR: What was your first job in Industry?
DS: I ran a small media/sound design business through high school, college and law school. When I graduated, my first real job was with a business law firm. My first love was business and therefore, I left the law firm to go into the corporate world, first as General Counsel and then I was eventually given the opportunity to run a business unit.
TBR: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at age 20?
DS: Stay focused and do your best with every task you are given, no matter how trivial or irrelevant you think it is — you’ll be noticed and your career will take care of itself from there.…..and quit eating Whoppers and drinking so much Coke.
TBR: Name your favorite / recent book(s) you have read:
DS: I am currently reading “Arsenal of Democracy – FDR, Detroit and the Epic Quest to Arm an American War,” by AJ Baime, and “Enemies, A History of the FBI” by Tim Weiner. Jim Collins is my favorite business book writer (Good to Great, Built to Last, etc.)
TBR: What is your favorite quote and why?
DS: Woodrow Wilson said, “I use not only all the brains I have but all I can borrow.” I realized pretty early on that I don’t know everything, and can’t learn it fast enough. So I try to surround myself with smart people.
TBR: What has been the biggest contributor to your success at this point?
DS: I have worked for and with some great leaders, who have given me enough room to work, but at the same time have, when necessary, guided me in the right direction. I also trust and truly believe in the laws of economics (after all, I have an Economics degree). I learned from experience that you can have the best management team in the world, but if the basics of the business are bad (product, pricing, high cost, etc.), the business model will win and the management team will fail. At the end of the day, you can’t give away value for nothing, and you can’t charge for something your customers don’t want or need.
TBR: Tell us a something that most people might not know about you or your organization.
DS: I sometimes bring my dog Reesey to work. She has a calming influence on the office and an excellent attitude. I don’t exactly know what she is thinking, but I am sure it’s strategic.
Brembo is a world leader in the design, development and production of braking systems and components for cars, motorbikes, industrial vehicles and machinery, for the OE market, after-market and racing. The Group has recently branched out into the design and production of safety systems.
Brembo guarantees the utmost safety and comfort and improved product performance thanks to process integration and optimisation of the entire production cycle, from the initial design and cast-iron or aluminium casting to assembly, testing and simulations on the bench, track and road.
Brembo’s constant quest for innovation calls for new technologies, new materials, new shapes and new markets; product performance is accompanied by the search for a unique style in line with the design of the equipped vehicles.