Stouse CEO Clay Davis on Goal-Setting, Change and Investing Your Team
As part of our ongoing magazine feature, Executive Perspectives, we get to know leading professionals in the print and promo industry. This month, we interviewed Clay Davis, CEO of Stouse LLC, New Century, Kan. Here, he shares his goal-setting process, discusses the unintended consequences of change and explains why he’s investing in his team.
How did you get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Clay Davis: My background and path to this industry has been sales, marketing, and then general management and executive roles in consumer products, food manufacturing, packaging and printing.
I have been very fortunate to work with and learn from a significant number of talented people along the way. The diversity of my background has broadened my knowledge base and perspective. What I enjoy most about our industry is the incredibly wide range of customers and industries with whom we interact daily.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
CD: My dad worked for Dow Chemical his entire career. When I was a teenager, Dow became one of the first corporate adopters of the new Franklin Planner System. I was dragged against my will to a Saturday(!) session on the system taught by the late Hyrum W. Smith, founder of Franklin Quest Co. (now FranklinCovey Co.). I learned that proper time management is primarily a means to accomplish goals if you adopt a process to write them down and break them into steps. Since that time, I have been a goal setter. Goals that are not quantified or have no time frame are simply wishful thinking. I believe this process is essential for people to reach their full potential. It is even more vital for organizations, and an important part of our culture at Stouse.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
CD: Precious few companies or industries are immune from the normal business cycle, let alone a massive externality such as a global pandemic. Times like these are a reminder of the duty we have to manage our organizations prudently so as to be capable of weathering the inevitable storms. Our current environment also highlights the need to be willing and able to pivot very quickly.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest changes or challenges the industry will face?
CD: Change is a constant in any industry, but for ours, I think the biggest challenge continues to be the pace of change. Does your organization embrace, or does it fear, change? Are you equipped and actively working on managing the change curves that are most important to your future? Are you allocating an appropriate amount of time outside the daily whirlwind of running a business to think and plan for the future?
What keeps you up at night?
CD: Broadly speaking for the economy and our industry, I am hopeful our leaders move toward policy decisions that strike a reasonable balance between economic activity and safety.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now?
CD: The pace of change has been quite rapid at Stouse over the last two years. I could fill the entirety of this column on our significant investments in digital press technologies, workflow automation systems, robust e-commerce platforms and a complete reengineering of our entire information technology infrastructure.
However, I think the most cutting-edge area of focus has been on our people and culture. Simply stated, we are working very hard to make Stouse a fantastic place to work. We are doing this by engaging and empowering our people to become part of teams that are focused on a large of number of projects and continuous improvement initiatives. This collaboration is enabled by our investments in technology. In addition, we are focused on a higher level of recognition, feedback and personal development. We have an amazing, diverse team at Stouse, and it has been incredibly fun and rewarding to see our team working toward fulfilling their full potential. We have come a long way, but our journey continues.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
CD: I love music and I love to sing! I was a member of the Miami University Men’s Glee Club, which is the second oldest such organization in the U.S. I love all music, but I would be tough to beat on Jeopardy! if all the categories were ‘80s Music. As of late, my performance engagements are mostly limited to my car.