Leadership Spotlight: Q&A with Paul Johnson, IBI

Paul Johnson is President of International Brake Industries (IBI). Established in 1967 and located in Lima, OH, International Brake Industries is a leader in the supply of brake hardware to the automotive industry. In the following Q&A, Paul shares with us his valuable insights on the topics of leadership and success.

TBR: What is your current role and area of responsibility?

PJ: President of IBI, responsible for all aspects of our business globally.

TBR: How would you describe your leadership style and why has it worked so well for you?

PJ: I collaborate with my team to develop the best solutions for our customers. I’m comfortable admitting I’m often not the subject-matter-expert, and I consider input from everyone on my team to create the most value possible for our customers.

TBR: What do you see as your biggest challenge right now?

PJ: Awareness. More often than not, brake hardware is not replaced as part of a brake job. Yet if there’s a problem after the installation, it’s usually related to the old hardware, not the new pads. For modern automotive brake systems to work as intended, the hardware must be cared for and replaced, just like the pads and shoes. More and more technicians are understanding this, and they insist on new hardware for their clients every time they do a brake job to be sure it’s done properly, minimizing the chance of a comeback…and an upset customer. The squeaking’s not bad pads; it’s old hardware! Increasing the awareness of why it’s important to change brake hardware is both our biggest challenge and our biggest opportunity.

[bctt tweet=”For modern automotive brake systems to work as intended, the hardware must be cared for and replaced, just like the pads and shoes.” username=”TheBrakeReport”]

TBR: What do you look for when evaluating top talent?  

PJ: It’s a difficult question, as there are many aspects to evaluating potential team members. Of course, they need to have the necessary skillset and drive required for the position. Also important is personality and cultural fit. Since I spend more time at work than anywhere else, I want to work with people I respect, trust, and who share the company’s values and priorities.

TBR: What was your first job in the industry?

PJ: I started on the OE side, working for General Motors. As my career developed, I moved into a leadership role in GM’s aftermarket division, ACDelco, and found that I loved it! There was much more entrepreneurial spirit than the vehicle side of the business. It was a very dynamic, fast-paced and ultra-competitive environment, and I decided it was the place for me. I’ve been in the automotive aftermarket ever since.

TBR: What is the best career advice you have been given?

PJ: A team needs a leader, but not as much as a leader needs a team. Take care of your people and listen to them, because they usually know more than you.

TBR: Name your favorite / recent book(s) you have read:

PJ: With Dr. Stephen Hawking’s recent passing, I read his popular book “A Brief History of Time”. Glad I’m in auto parts.

TBR: What is your favorite quote and why?

PJ: Not sure who said it first, but my mother loved to repeat it: “Don’t sweat the small stuff…and in the end, it’s all small stuff.” I try to remind myself of that when things get tough, especially at work.

[bctt tweet=”“Don’t sweat the small stuff…and in the end, it’s all small stuff.”” username=”TheBrakeReport”]

TBR: How do you see the industry evolving over the next 5-10 years and do you have any bold predictions for us?  

PJ: I do think that we may be overestimating how quickly our industry will change due to autonomous and electric vehicles. I believe they will eventually come, but they won’t materially impact the automotive aftermarket for quite some time. Then again, I got most of March Madness wrong, so we’ll see what happens.

TBR: Tell us something that most people might not know about you or your organization.  

PJ: Personally, I am a private pilot, as well as an avid boater. As such, I’m the only person I know who’s actually hit a deer with a car, a boat, and an airplane. Not all at once. And please don’t tell PETA.

Brian Hagman
Brian Hagman

Brian Hagman is founder of Hagman Media, with platforms including The BRAKE Report, The EV Report, and Self Drive News. Brian is also President of Hagman Search, a specialized recruiting firm supporting organizations in the Braking, eMobility, and Automated Driving segments.