Doug Young, president and COO of Lennox Residential Heating & Cooling
Originally published: 12.01.16 by Terry Tanker
Terry Tanker sat down with Doug Young, president and chief operating officer of Lennox Residential Heating & Cooling and outgoing chairman of The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). The two discussed government regulations, building a winning team and being a great leader.
1. What do you enjoy when you’re not working?
Playing golf and traveling with my fiancée Lucy.
2. What are three thing on your bucket list?
I’d like to visit the Grand Canyon, go white water rafting on the Colorado River and take a month to travel through Europe.
3. Have you scratched anything off the list?
I’m from Chicago and went to the series clinching divisional playoff game — it was great. Since the Cubs won the World Series, I guess you could say I did scratch one off.
4. How would you finish this sentence? I’ve been saving up so I can …
Build a lake house. We’re building on Lake Keowee in South Carolina. We’re very excited. It’s going to be a place to entertain family and friends.
5. Is it true you’re an unlucky traveler?
When you travel as much as I do, you expect to encounter some issues. Unfortunately, it seems I’ve had more than my fair share. My last trip was to Washington and the flight didn’t land until just after midnight. I had arranged for a driver to meet me at baggage claim. At 1 a.m., still no driver. I get a cab, but it takes a while because it’s so late, then he takes me to the wrong hotel. It was a comedy of errors. I finally got to bed at 3 a.m.
6. What’s a trait you share with your dad that you’re most proud of?
I don’t get excited easily. My dad was pretty calm and never yelled. I think I’m a lot like that.
7. What was your dad’s best advice?
Give it all you’ve got and walk away proud.
8. You’re just ending your term as Chairman of AHRI — what surprised you?
I was surprised at just how big an opportunity we have in front of us. Our trade association and members can, and should, have a larger voice on Capitol Hill and we’re working to do just that. Collectively, we need to up our game and be involved in the early discussions of future regulations. We’ve made strides, but there’s a lot of opportunity.
9. Politics is always a hot topic, probably never more so than right now. Any thoughts on the recent election?
I’m most surprised that everybody’s so surprised. The media, the polls … they just missed it by a mile. The process has become really long and, for the most part, ugly. As a nation, we miss out on some really great leaders because they simply don’t want to subject themselves to the scrutiny and abuse.
10. Do you think regulatory issues will ease with this new administration?
My initial thought would be yes, simply because the pace of regulations over the last eight years has been high and it hasn’t been as productive as it could have been. We need a middle ground and we haven’t seen that in a long time.
11. What regulatory issue do you think caused manufacturers the most difficulty?
Back when regional standards were implemented, that was tough and expensive. As an industry we accomplished it, but it wasn’t easy.
12. What does your typical day look like?
[Laughs] I don’t think there is such a thing as a typical day anymore. I spent 15 years at GE; Jack Welch used to say 50 percent of his time was spent on people. I don’t think I spend 50 percent, but it is significant and I don’t mean that in a negative way. In my position, there’s a lot of planning — strategic, personnel, product, etc. After it’s complete, you have to be deliberate about the action steps. Then there’s the everyday running of the company with the array of normal meetings.
13. Lennox has strung together numerous record- breaking quarters in a row — what’s the secret?
Our three businesses — residential, commercial and refrigeration — incorporate strategies that work and execute well together. There’s something to be said about keeping priorities in place, and not changing them every time the wind blows like so many companies do. If you go back to the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, I think we have a bit of the flywheel effect in some of the things we’re doing. And it’s exciting for us.
14. What do you consider your forte as a manager?
Putting together a high performing team. I think I’ve become good at getting the right people on the field and getting them to work in a coordinated fashion toward our long- and short-term goals.
15. What do you have at Lennox that would be difficult to duplicate at another company?
Without question, it’s our culture. I don’t want it to sound cliché, but we have a big corporate environment with a family feel. Our people know each other, they care about each other and they’re dedicated. When someone is out of the office, I see the team jumping in and helping out. It’s really special. I can’t articulate it any better than explaining the longevity we have with employees — it’s not uncommon to look and see people who’ve been with us 25, 35 and even 45 years or more. That’s no accident.
16. Does that make hiring difficult?
It can be if we’re hiring from outside the company. I recently hired a high level manager from outside the company, but it took me seven months. I didn’t want to settle, and I’m glad I didn’t because she’s a perfect fit for us at Lennox.
17. Many managers haven’t used a search firm to hire — do you have any advice?
The challenge is to ensure the recruiter understands not only the job specifications, but also your company culture and the personality “fit” you’re looking for. Spending time with the recruiter is important.
18. Do you have a set of rules or criteria by which you manage?
You mean like “The Ten Commandments of Doug?” [laughs] No, no I don’t. This all goes back to our culture, and hiring the right people to execute strategies and our overall plan. It makes managing much easier.
19. What hiring advice do you have for contractors?
People are too important to just settle on whoever is available. It’s the reason you either have success or you fall short. If you have the right players in the right positions, good succession plans; you’re going to win more often than not.
20. What final bit of advice would you give to our readers?
I’ve been saying this for years: There are two pieces of an owner’s job. They have to work “in” the business and “on” the business. Too often, more is spent “in.” For many, because of their background, they prefer the “in,” but “on” will give them the best result.