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Tips for Improving Business Communication With Rob Zwolinski

Rob Zwolinski

Rob Zwolinski is the Senior VP of Medical Device Operations for United Therapeutics Corporation, a biotechnology company focused on developing medical products for chronic and life-threatening maladies. Rob is responsible for developing and implementing corporate strategies for the operations, quality, and supply chain management functions. With 30 years of experience and having founded his own company, Rob is a pharmaceutical medical device industry expert.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • How Rob Zwolinski and Mark Hiddleson met

  • Rob shares how he was introduced to the pharmaceutical industry

  • The lessons Rob learned during business trips

  • Tips for working with business partners living in another country

  • How to be a better communicator

  • Rob talks about his mentors

  • The value of human interaction

  • Why Rob limits his technology use

In this episode…

If you are looking to grow and advance in your career or business, you have to be ready to take risks. Believe in yourself and have a clear plan of action. When necessary, take a step back and seek guidance from your mentors — they’ll help guide you toward your goals.

Rob Zwolinski, an executive leader in the pharmaceutical industry, advises people to believe in themselves and take bold steps — doing so can lead to success. He also believes mistakes can be reduced and misunderstandings diminished when leaders learn to communicate their message clearly and effectively. Regardless of the industry you’re in, you’ll always benefit from expanding on your leadership abilities.

In this episode of The Tao of Pizza Podcast, Mark Hiddleson is joined by Rob Zwolinski, the Senior Vice President of Medical Device Operations at United Therapeutics Corporation, to discuss tips for improving business communication. Rob also shares strategies for working with companies operating in another country and the value of human interactions.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode...

This episode is brought to you by Specialized Storage Solutions Inc.


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Episode Transcript:

Intro 0:01

Welcome to The Tao of Pizza where we feature top logistics leaders, entrepreneurs and supply chain innovators and share their inspiring stories with a holistic twist.

Mark Hiddleson 0:16

Mark Hiddleson here, host of The Tao of Pizza Podcast where I talk with top industry innovators in the warehousing logistics and supply chain business with a holistic twist. And before I introduce today's guests, Rob's Zwolinski This episode is brought to you by specialized Storage Solutions, Inc. Ellison I've been in the logistics and storage industry for several decades, and I didn't think I looked that old. But now people are telling me I do. But anyways, we provide industry leading warehouse storage solutions nationwide. So basically, if you have a warehouse and these rack shelving carts, conveyors, or mezzanine, we help with the design, engineering installations, inspections and repairs to help clients optimize their logistics operations. And Rob, it's funny sometimes people don't even realize that we sell and trucks, pallet jacks and rolling stairs. But what we do is we take a holistic look at your entire business supply chain to develop the resources for continuing to improve in your operation. To learn more, visit Give us a call at 707-732-3892. I'll even give my personal email address for podcast listeners. So email me at if you're ready to take your warehouse storage and retrieval systems to the next level. Now before I get started, one of the one of the things that gives the podcast a holistic twist is a range of guests that we host. We've hosted some of our best strategic partners like Nancy and Sal Fateen, a team from our engineering group. Great clients like Chris Murphy, Michael Thomas, and Joe Ferris from the logistics and grocery and supply chain industry. And then the last few episodes have been with professionals in the personal and personal and professional development field which is one of my passions. Longtime colleagues like Vicki Dello Joio and John Allen Mollenhauer. And then some new friends and colleagues like Leanne Monaghan and Bonnie Artman Fox. Be sure to check out those episodes if you're interested. They all have a unique brand of brilliance in their field. But today, we're joined by Rob Zwolinski. Rob is an executive in the pharmaceutical medical device industry with 30 years of experience, which spans founding a company to working for established commercial companies. Rob has an MBA in entrepreneurship from Wharton Business School. And what makes Rob a very special guest and completes the holistic twist of The Tao of Pizza is that Rob is one of my favorite and most experience drinking buddies. Welcome to The Tao of Pizza.

Rob Zwolinski 2:58

All right, thanks a lot, Mark. Thanks for the intro. And unfortunately, since I moved across the country, the drinking part of it together has been a little curtailed. But hopefully we'll see you see you soon. Yeah, I

Mark Hiddleson 3:13

think you're coming out here. It's Friday. So I think coming out in May.

Rob Zwolinski 3:19

Now we're actually coming out, you know, the week before graduation, for our girls, so I so I'm not sure when you're heading up to Corvallis. But we'll be heading up to Eugene. I guess it's Father's Day weekend.

Mark Hiddleson 3:38

Yeah, that's a it's this is a it is it's dads and grads with my best friends. He always complains, like, you know, mothers get their own special day and that's coming up right in a couple of weeks. And moms are special shout out to all the moms. But my buddy Can't he goes it's always moms get their own day. But with dads it's always dads and grads.

Rob Zwolinski 3:59

Yeah, because there was a syringe graduation. So I know. It's 1616 Okay, because father's days the 17 Yeah, yeah, so, so,

Mark Hiddleson 4:12

all weekend's gonna be dads and grads, but we'll have to connect. So that's how we connected was. Our kids were in kindergarten together. I think my kids are like 30 Now 29. How old is Shawn is

Rob Zwolinski 4:26

  1. Yeah.

Mark Hiddleson 4:28

Yeah, Cody is our oldest.

Rob Zwolinski 4:33

I take you back? He's 2828. You're right. If he was 22. I'm thinking what year it is. It says That's right.

Mark Hiddleson 4:43

By June, there'll be 29 by then with what we're talking about.

Rob Zwolinski 4:47

Right? Well, he's his birthday is in a couple of weeks. So yeah, so you know, is part of the show prep? Yeah, he was. Yeah. What are we talking about? I was thinking, it's just with, you know, Serena graduating from Oregon State and Annika graduating from University of Oregon. i That and the connection that we have with our kids, it's interesting, we've got, you know, our two oldest are the same age went to school together our middle girls, a, you know, that we we've got are the same age. And Serena babysat for our youngest, so we both got you know, and then you've got a your youngest as a boy as well. So it's like, we've got a lot of things, you know, in, in common, you know, and that's kind of how we connected. So I just thought it'd be an interesting time to talk about it just some of the life lessons. i Yeah, we've got the older ones, and we've got girls that are graduating and things that we've gone through in our lives that kind of have shaped who we are, and, you know, maybe some some advice from the old man for the, for our kids, whether or not they want to listen to it is secondary. But you know, we've both taken kind of an interesting path to get to where we are. And there's some lessons in there.

Mark Hiddleson 6:20

It has and you've been, you know, since we met, we had a friendship It was was almost instantaneously we always used to I don't know if you remember this, but I pretty sure one of the first like we'd met it, we complain about the music program, like they gotta do more music, you know, just kind of CO commiserating after the I love those. It's funny, those Christmas programs like miss him, you know, and it didn't matter if it was Rome, or, you know, in the new the later years, they got some newer stuff. But we always hosted a pumpkin carving party when the kids were young, like starting when Sean and Cody were young. And after there was always the beginning party was for the kids. And then the after party was. And I remember we were drinking wine in the hot tub with glass glasses, which I know is like super great advice for our kids. But you want to like flick out the extra one out because he didn't want to mix the ones in the top of the glass just off in shot like a fireball through the crowd. And we were both like, oh

Rob Zwolinski 7:35

I do remember that.

Mark Hiddleson 7:37

Yeah. So the other thing you forgot to share that we have in common? We both have long relationship Casey meant to be married. It'll be 25 years in June. Yeah. What wasn't funny, our wife's dinner was as funny as we did.

Rob Zwolinski 7:54

I think that's probably a theme from for the last 25 years. It's never as funny as we think it is.

Mark Hiddleson 8:03

But it was like an instant connection in one of the things you know, we worked out there was a period there. Some of the toughest periods in my life, like when my grandmother passed away, which you know, emotionally probably the toughest time everything's going great businesses, great kids are doing awesome, you know, and we have this family blowout and I remember part of my routine was a strength train. And we strength trained a lot together. But it was more than that. We were always comparing notes on business. What was like a three or four year period right?

Rob Zwolinski 8:36

You were going it was it was quite a while you have the basement there and you know, second street or is it second?

Mark Hiddleson 8:45

Well, I don't want anyone to know. My office is in an underground bunker beneath the surface but yeah, it's it's for St. In that Yeah.

Rob Zwolinski 8:56

Yeah. No, I remember that. Yeah, and it was it was great. It was just time to kind of connect and you know, there were some days where it was worked out and then the afternoon was you know go out to launch and then come home about 9pm Yeah.

Mark Hiddleson 9:16

Lunch a lunch from two to nine Yeah, we had a few It was mostly I will say was mostly working out business. Yeah, we just bounce a lot of ideas through each other what what we were going through we did take a different paths. So yeah, share a little bit we'll go back to there's some family stuff leaving and go back to you. But how did you get from? There's this one of the COVID pieces. I

Rob Zwolinski 9:44

know I had it so yeah, it's so interesting. Yeah, just I'll start beginning career wise. Yeah. I when I graduated from University of Illinois, and I was actually an assistant manager at an all the grocery store when I graduated, and I was making good money at the time, I remember it was just, this is 9093 money. And so I was, I was making about 50 grand a year. And and I was, you know, that was good money at the time. And, but, you know, soon realized that the grocery store the advancement potential and growth potential really wasn't there. And I had a science degree. So what is it doing at the grocery store? I took a 50% pay cut, when I was 22 years old, I to go work in the My first job in the pharmaceutical industry. And if people thought I was absolutely not, but it was kind of the first point in my life that I was like, you know, I'm gonna take a bet on myself, I'm gonna bet that this is the right thing, and that it will pay off in the end. Um, and it obviously did. You know, that was, that was taking a what was a big step backwards, to realign y trajectory, and, and really put me on a path to a much greater success. And I tried to tell that people, especially when they're young, that they, they shouldn't be afraid to take a step back or take a step to the side, if they're betting on themselves. Because, you know, if you don't believe in yourself, nobody else is going through. So just do it. Yeah, it worked for me.

Mark Hiddleson 11:52

That's awesome. Well, it's funny, because I told a story, when people asked me how I got into this business, I chose the business that I got into material handling. Because I'd spent months at the Career Center back then at Sac State, it was a bunch of three ring binders. This was, you know, engineering, this was, and I started to look, well, first, I started looking at sales, because I had experience in that. But then even in the sales, I was like, okay, which pays the most, what what is left out of the store is sometimes still no matter what I took like a 50% pay cut. Because I had been in the car business for five years, I was an assistant sales manager and kind of the next even when I was making the very next step and graduated from college, I was going to be making 50% more. But I looked at that industry, and it's got some dead ends that are worse than Grocery, a lot of the guys that I work with back then are either strung out on drugs, or dead, or in jail was just a different lifestyle. And I really wanted a family. And I could you know, I know, there's also I've got friends in the car business that are family guys. And they, you know, they're good guys. And they're still, you know, some of my best friends are in that industry. But the percentage is, like 99 to one. So I took a pay cut, too. And so really, money's important and won't deny that and that was one of the things. But I love that you said that because he took a big hit, he took a bet on yourself. And he taken some other bets on yourself since then t so I want to there's another case, we had some great conversations. But one time we were You were telling me you're like yeah, I know you traveling a lot. You're away from your family like that has to be huge cost of your energy and everything. You're like, Yeah, but I see you're making a sacrifice is when you give up something in the short term to get it in the long term and you're like, Man, I just see like things the way could be so much better. And we just worked out at my gym, across the street and we're drinking Pichardo, Cabernet and Napa Valley. I'm like Yeah, cuz this really sucks your mindset on that because it gives you did you have a vision that was just share, like, like, what that was like?

Rob Zwolinski 14:09

Yeah, so you know, that was one of the things I mean, I've spent a lot of years traveling, you know, where I'm from, you know, not like some people travel 75% of the time they see their family one week a month it was mine was kind of the other way around that maybe travel a week month. But there was it was one of those things where you learn so much, especially I was doing a lot of international traveling. So it was kind of what you learn in what you can absorb from different people, different cultures, different environments, and and how you can bring that back to do things better. And what was really interesting to me is especially traveling the Europe is the folks in Europe have eaten, let me leave the UK out of it because they're very much like the US where it's, it's a grind and they they tried to do a lot work a lot get a lot done. But the rest of Europe has a much different mentality about taking time off, taking vacations and spending time with their family spent, you know, holidays, in, you know, in in Europe, especially Christmas Easter gather the big religious holidays are such a different experience over there, where it's, it's not commercial, it is just about family. And it's it to me, it was interesting, because it just was a bit of a reset for me. Because you know what it's like, as you get more success, and you have more money, things become a bit more materialistic, and you can go down this path. And, and going over there and seeing that you don't have to do this stuff to be happy. It was huge. And you know, it really kind of changed my perspective on you know, what I'm doing, especially when I'm at home, appreciating what I've got at home. And you mentioned the relationship, duration, I mean, join I have been together for 27 years, 28 years, and you have been married for 23. So it's, you know, it's been a lot of, of just family. And, you know, just a little diversion, and that I joined I have this conversation a lot. Where a lot of people talking about how much work. A marriage is how much work a relationship is. What's interesting for joy, and I were like, do you think this is work. And both of us are like, now this is easy. So I know, we're probably the exception, and which is great for us. But you know, our relationship is is easy, not because we've had things easy. It's just that we, you know, I get along. And again, just another little anecdote. I knew that joy was the one that I could spend a long time with. It was shortly after we started dating, I needed to change the alternator in my car. And it was a pain in the ass. You know, getting the guy getting the belts, right getting everything tight. Because she's out there helping me. And, and, and we got it done without just screaming at each other and needing to take a break away from each other. And again, it wasn't because everything went right. It was just because we communicated properly. And it was easy for her to communicate, or for the two of us to communicate. So it was just, you know, that was like one of those early relationship things that it was like, Oh, this is these this is great. It's like it's something as silly as changing an alternator in a car just was like just a light bulb went off. It's like this is the one

Mark Hiddleson 18:25

Yeah, yeah, we call those opportunities now. So we know our wiser a little and it's like as a matter of fact, I know I'm one of your wife's favorite people. Because then the reason I know that is I've never been in any more knockdown drag out fights with another person's why. So Jersey governor fighting with me instead of fighting with you. But she I love joy. I mean, she's brilliant. She's a molecular biologists or will always micro microbiology, always called the wrong thing and to

Rob Zwolinski 19:00

sell me very smart.

Mark Hiddleson 19:05

In we had those are opportunities, you know, like docking a boat or trying to hook up a trailer, you know, stakes are like high, right? It's fourth into I call it fourth and I have a tendency to look at every down like, ah, but the thing about a merit, like the thing that's made it easier. You know, one is like we're committed, there's no doubt in that.

Rob Zwolinski 19:26

But I've found it's funny.

Mark Hiddleson 19:29

Anything I have that could be a complaint about Casey, you know, we've been married 25 years. It's really it's always when when it comes down to it, it's a reflection of me. Like I was just the other day she asked me to take something upstairs and I said where do you want it? Because I knew wherever I put it, she was gonna want it somewhere else. And so she I don't want to ask your budget question. Just take it anywhere up here. So we're again I went up there I set it down. And as soon as I said it She goes, I don't want that there. It's like I just ask you that.

Rob Zwolinski 20:05

You knew it was coming. I knew it was

Mark Hiddleson 20:07

coming. I knew it was coming. I shouldn't just went up there, put it down, waited for it and move like, you know what I mean, the fact that there was any business, I'll just just go. So so that is awesome. So the early days, a lot of traveling, I mean, the culture thing Yeah, with the when you bring up holiday, I'll never forget the first time we traveled to Europe. And that was one of my passions, too, is that I wanted to travel, I wanted to see other cultures because he starts to make his assumptions. We live here, we think everybody lives like this. And you're right, the pace. Totally different. There's a quality of life that's hard to put to words. But but one thing case and then we met a couple, I think they're from Austria, woohoo, like Eastern Bloc, your European countries. And it was the first time we heard, they get four or five weeks, the call holiday live for five weeks a holiday, like no matter what that started, like, in the US, you start with like zero, and then after two years, you get like one day. But it's like one week, right or two weeks. And I was two weeks vacation at that time I went back I told my boss, I'm like, I need five weeks.

Rob Zwolinski 21:18

Well, and the other people thing is that, from a culture standpoint, and from a business standpoint, those holiday times are respected by the people that they work with, and the companies that they work with, there isn't a you know, an expectation that they're working holidays, they're they're off the recharging. They're there, you know, as far as anybody's concerned, they're disconnected from you know, any communication so it's it's a little different in that regard as well because they are it's respected that time off his time off. So And not that I don't complain about it on my side with our European business partners that they have all this vacation. And because it slows us down but it's it some of us just out of sheer jealousy.

Mark Hiddleson 22:18

Yeah, yeah. Because you look at it for sure. So talk a little bit it's a you've been involved with I call supply chains will find when I got in this business, I really didn't know what the supply chain was. I kind of knew that products moved from manufacturers to distributors to wholesalers that ended up in store but there's a whole different area so in supply chain everyone like my kids, like now people any anything that goes wrong, my kid was looking at the world, like Drake goes its supply chain, that supply chain. Something nobody heard of, to now, Drake and Cody are just willingly will supply chain. Yeah, you don't have to have any other every patient, but you've developed products, with multiple partners, multiple countries working on different, I always thought it was cool talking with the project you're working on, because bringing so many different parts together. So talk about kind of how that works. Like what makes things go back? How can you do that develop a product in multiple countries, multiple companies, multiple control points, and things that go wrong? Yeah, so

Rob Zwolinski 23:30

one of the things that I've kind of become specialized in is is, you know, an outsourced manufacturing model. So, you know, I, most of the products that I've worked on, are manufactured somewhere else outside the company, we didn't build manufacturing capacity within our organization. We relied on experts in the field to do that for us. Um, so, you know, in the medical device arena, I, you know, we've what we ended up doing is one of the projects was it was completely outsourced. So, we had an engineering firm that was doing design work in the UK. So, they were designing the product for us. I and you know, within that we had a specialized battery that was manufactured in the US at a company and I in Missouri and we had a printed circuit board that was fabricated in Switzerland. And we had you know, other parts from Belgium and from from France, and you know, manufacturing and assembly, injection molding in assembly in in Wisconsin. So, needless to say things needed In the way that I've seen this described probably is, is that it's a symphony, it needs to be managed, like a symphony, not like a Jazz game. So so, you know, it Symfony everything is working very harmoniously together. And you need to have all the touch points very clean and clear. And you throw some of the, you know, all of the customs issues on top of it. And so things need to be very harmonious in the way that they're managed. Whereas the jazz band, everybody's kind of doing their own thing, making the music that they want to make, and, you know, we can be, you know, people might like that because of whatever, but it doesn't have that same smoothness and the same harmonious nature that a symphony does. So it was in jazz, you can improvise. Right? There's no improvising. Everybody's got to be on the same page. We That's exactly it.

Mark Hiddleson 26:12

I remember I was thinking about YouTube, because we went to a concert uptown yesterday, and remember when we went to Todd Rundgren, now it's telling you, there's that song. Hello, it's me. Todd Rundgren. I'm like this long. I'm like, there's another song too. And you're like, doesn't matter because it sounds exactly the same. We went to a show, and we didn't know what it was, we were just kind of, you know, the kids have moved out. And every time I walked by, I walked by Uptown Theater to go to the bank. And I saw, you know, it was a guy and look kind of look like jazz. I'd never heard of them. But we went and it was jazz. It was awesome. But there's a difference in Symphony you don't improvise. Right? Right. There's, like, if you don't, they'll throw the stick at

Rob Zwolinski 26:57

you. Right? Well, it right, if if somebody is a little bit off key, you're off tune or off pace in a symphony, you know, and so, you know, that was one of the things that really, you know, needed to learn and focus on was all of the touch points, and making sure that everybody was working together and communicating. Because one of the one of the big issues that I dealt with throughout my career was communication. How how people communicate what they communicate how, how communication is perceived. Because and that's a huge, there's a huge difference in culture, how communication is perceived. And so you end up needing to be a bit of an expert in psychology and an expert. In in, you're just the technical understanding of what's going on, and making sure that you understand which people in which company you're dealing with. And so it was, it was really, it's been interesting, and it's really made me I think, a lot better communicator, because regardless of who you're communicating to, it's use the fewest amount of words that you can get to the point and make sure that if you've got a point, you get to a quick if you got a question, ask it quick. And there's, you know, if people want more information, the last, and I try to get that across to people, and that way, there's fewer opportunities for misunderstandings, there's fewer opportunities for mistakes, which fewer opportunities for hurt feelings. Yeah. So,

Mark Hiddleson 28:57

because a lot of times if you say too much the story gets involved, but it's like, I'm the same way and can can be and so there's the trust that somebody's going to ask a question. If they don't get it, right. One of my, you know, that I write. When I'm writing a book, one of the things I practice with is archetypes. And, you know, like the Don Juan archetype or the clown archetype or different, but I remember taking a class in my master's degree, and it was the archetypes of healing. And it was a it was like a weekend it was more of like a retreat than a than a class. It's like group a lot of class or group therapy, because like you said, I mean it is in communicating. There's people look at things differently and all these different people from different cultures, but it was Saturday morning at nine or 10 o'clock, and I still didn't know what he meant by archetype. It was like, I'm raising my hand like this, because I'm like, if I go any further, I'm gonna miss the whole class. Beloved, basically, I've waited too long. I I should have asked this at six o'clock Friday night. 10 o'clock Saturday morning. But I run into that is that, especially in that it's interesting that the more talented people I know are the more knowledgeable, they won't ask a question. And then a week happens and go, Hey, you were going to take care of this. I was like, Well, I didn't. I didn't know what you mean, when he gave that and I didn't get it was like, well, you should ask me right there. Let's say you didn't give me enough information. That was like I thought I did. Right. It was Yeah, unless you tell me I did it. I'm thinking everything's hunky dory. Right. So you got to stop women? I don't get it. I don't I don't know what an archetype is. Okay. No, it's the two. I know, there's no stupid question, but this is probably one of them. Right? Yeah. Okay, do more. I think the less they won't ask the question, which is key, right, be vulnerable.

Rob Zwolinski 30:54

Be in. And that's one of the things I I've started doing more of, is, I ask questions, I ask a lot more questions. Um, and, and especially when I'm, when I want to, I want I want somebody to do something, I will ask them to explain to me what they're gonna do. Yeah. And it's like, okay, this is what we want to do. What do you think? Yeah, tell me how you get this done. Just so that there's clarity. And, and if you get a blank stare, and silence, you know that, okay, let's talk about this. And so I've also found that you can say, you're, in your example, well, I told this person what to do, and didn't hear back. And you assume that, okay, it's all getting done. And, you know, that's where it's like, the follow up the, the, let me know, if you have any questions, you know, the phone call, as opposed to an email, I hate email. And by the way, I, you know, I, I'd much rather have a five minute phone call than 10 emails back and forth, you know, getting stuff across. But, you know, I just think that those are the points of communication, that that, that I find it from what I bring this back to kind of family stuff, it works with relationships, as well, is making sure that your point got across in the way it was intended, not the way it was perceived. You know, because what, well, you know, you were coming at me about this. No, one wasn't, I ask you a question.

Mark Hiddleson 32:56

voluntaryism don't know the answer.

Rob Zwolinski 32:59

Yeah, so it's, you know, you know, I've, I guess I call them down, matured, whatever, over the years, whatever you want to call, it just lost a little bit of, you know, my, I don't want to say lost an edge. But I've, I've kind of, you know, the peaks aren't quite as high with the emotion anymore. So, you know, just it, it really all comes down to communication for me. And like I said, from the supply chain side, that was where I saw things fall apart was communication, and, and in the manufacture, and he was communication. So it was something that I spent a lot of time to.

Mark Hiddleson 33:45

Yeah, it is. I love what you said about. So you ask, it's almost like a roleplay, which I don't do enough of, you know, where you ask somebody and you say, Okay, how are you going to handle this, and then you listen to their whole approach, and you can look for the holes in and they don't like it might take them a week to do that. But they can kind of give you a step by step. I'm gonna call this and call this a follow up, they don't get back to me. I'm gonna, and you can look and you can look for the holes in their plan. Yeah. And then then if there aren't any hole, or you didn't think about that, or have you thought about this?

Rob Zwolinski 34:19

What are selection ears? I mean, it's just one of the thing I met is. The other thing is, there are times where I learned a different way. Yeah. So by doing that, it's like, you know, because I don't necessarily need people to do things that way. I do, obviously,

Mark Hiddleson 34:37

have people doing the stuff the way I take all kinds of shortcuts and like, Dude, I've been doing this for 30 years, if you do it the way I messed it up.

Rob Zwolinski 34:44

Right. And so there are times where we're you through that process. There's learning as well as teaching opportunities there. Yeah. Yeah.

Mark Hiddleson 34:56

So that's why it was again i so it's actually you know, from I look at as a strength as a leader to say, look, I don't want to tell you the methods, I just want to give you the job I want done. And, and it's, you know, I learned by probably first heard from Stephen Covey, you know, 20 years ago, don't teach methods, it's principles, you know, as long as we're all on the same page. And like you said, the always willing to ask if you're stuck, like, you're not going to be embarrassed to be stuck. And that's one of the when I raised my hand, that that group of people that I was in, it was like, it was a trust tree. Nobody was going to judge me for asking a stupid question. That's kind of a culture thing, right? And it was like a more old archetype, because I think a lot of people were looking, I'm glad you asked that question.

Rob Zwolinski 35:43

Right? You There are times you're not the only one with that question.

Mark Hiddleson 35:46

Yeah, exactly. It's like your archetype is a universal symbol that we've had from, you know, hundreds of years that shows up in acting and movies in everything. We all play our roles, like, Oh, I was supposed to know that. Going out of the gate, was

Rob Zwolinski 36:01

innate knowledge. Right.

Mark Hiddleson 36:03

But so there's that safety net of though, like, you can ask any question, but yeah, I like letting somebody else do it. Because he learned and I'm always looking for, you know, that's one of my, you know, growth always, I'm always surprised. That's one of the things has made me effective. Over the years, I've learned from so many different people, you know, ways to do things. That's one thing I realized, you know, part of six or seven years ago is I look at the mentors I've had, yeah, taking me under their wing, when I didn't even deserve it, or whatever, they needed somebody and looking at me all this guy can probably do it. But who were some of your mentors, either from school at Wharton, or?

Rob Zwolinski 36:47

Yeah, so I think, you know, one of the first ones I was when I was working at this company called Paradigm. You know, I'd been there for a number of years and we got some new managers management turnover at the at the time. So this is named Baba Becca, Todrick. He was really the first one that that, you know, I don't know how I shouldn't say is the first one. He's one of them. That's probably the most memorable. Yeah, he he used to have, bring me into his office quite a bit and have him work. Have me work out in presentations for you know, board presentations or management presentations with him? And, you know, at the time, it was like, why why is this guy doing this, you know, you know, is doesn't even know how to use PowerPoint. So, but, you know, as I was doing these tasks within, there's almost a bit of Mr. Miyagi, wax on wax off kind of moves. Where it was, well, I'm gonna have you just kind of do these somewhat, you know, menial or inane tasks. But there's, there's meaning given. And, and you're by, by working on these presentations with him. I actually really got to him where it's like, alright, this is what when you're doing executive communication, what executive communication means, and how you do it, and, and what sort of information is important and how it's presented is important. And then making sure that that you have answers and all of those sorts of things that were kind of behind what he was doing, but not necessarily part of me typing his presentations for him. And so, and then he, he provided me all kinds of opportunities. And, and it's been, you know, I keep it the this was 2004 2005 years, so it was somebody I still keep in contact with. Yeah, he's a great guy. And it was, it wasn't until after some of this happened, that I realized, like, you know, what, he really helped me. Um, and there's been a few others, but he's the one that really stands out, you know, for me from from a work standpoint, it was it was great.

Mark Hiddleson 39:28

Awesome. What was his name?

Rob Zwolinski 39:33

Baba Kotagiri. Baba.

Mark Hiddleson 39:35

I'm gonna have to. I'm gonna put that in the show notes. It's if you'll allow me that but I'm gonna need you to text me.

Rob Zwolinski 39:43

Yeah, is that I will tell you it's spelled just like it sounds. Okay.

Mark Hiddleson 39:51

Okay, nevermind. Wait, I have a question. Right? So you need to text me the spelling of that and all caps. That's, like I said, he's a great guy. And I love that and it's the time. So there's a debate, like I've been to work from home guys since 1997. Right? And so like, all now is like new work from home. And there's only people would ask me back then well, how do you? How do you draw the line where you're not just, you know, doing your laundry or doing the dishes, and you know what, with me, it's the other way around, I have to draw the line of world stop working. Because I'm passionate, I want to be successful. I want to, you know, I, it's, I love what I'm doing, I have to deal. Right, here's a line, you know, I only had worked, you know, Home Home Office for five years, but but as soon as I started my own company, I really needed my wife's like, you need a separate office, because that'd be in there. When we first started the company like that first year, I would work till midnight, he didn't matter. It's like, this is the company have to get on the line, I get three small amounts of fee. What did I do, I had an awesome job, I was making great money, I had an assistant, I had somebody to type my presentation, now I'm typing the presentation.

Rob Zwolinski 41:08

So the thing for me is cutting it off.

Mark Hiddleson 41:12

The other way, you know, not not just working 100% of the time, but the you know, screen. And this is great, I love that we're able to but what you describe with Baba, it being together, and just this the nuances, right of being in person, there is a rule, it doesn't have to be all the time, like we don't have to be sitting around the cooler every day, that those important times that it's face to face, right?

Rob Zwolinski 41:36

Yeah, when you were working from home, but you had job sites to go to your customers to visit that sort of thing. So, you know, it's not like you're sitting cold calling people in your, you know, office 12 hours a day, you got to go, that human interaction is absolutely important. And, you know, just along those lines, so, you know, I, I've been working from home a day or two a week for several years. And, and I find that actually helpful, because, you know, there are certain things where I just need to focus to get done. And you just don't have that focus in an office setting. And quite honestly, I think, you know, especially, you know, coming out of out of COVID, where we were working from home, predominantly for, you know, three years, two and a half years, whatever it was. People thought we were doing great, yeah, we're thriving working in this remote environment. And, you know, we can we can get this done. When we got back in the office, you know, my opinion is we were surviving. And, and, you know, as more interaction started happening again, in the office in person, and, and the interactions were just more frequent, we realized what we were missing, because I think everybody was just trying to get by, for for the times when we're at home, and it's the personal lender connections, stopping by talking to somebody in person. It makes a huge difference. Yeah, and again, it helps the communication. And to me, I've I'm a true believer in communication is the key to everything we do. And if you can't communicate, clearly, you can't communicate concisely, you're going to be at a disadvantage. Because I've got great people who work for me that just can't communicate as effectively as others in it hurts them. Yeah.

Mark Hiddleson 43:59

Yeah. And it's the listening more than it's listening more than it is speaking, really. two ears and one mouth. Because if you if you make up the ad, a lot of people start making up the answer in their head before they even hear the whole question, which a lot of times all ask, and that's when my wife doesn't want me to ask any more questions, because I'll ask a bunch of clarifying questions like, well, you want it upstairs? Well, when he said underneath the air hockey table, did you want it on the left side or the right? That's what's he's like, just shut up and do it. But in business that actually pays off to do that, right. Somebody reminds me so I was gonna give you a hard time about saying you were a great friend and a crappy customer, but it's actually not true. I was thinking about it's like, well, wait a minute. We did some nice jobs. And you know, our code and that was early early in our company. Was it Laszlo Sander was the content.

Rob Zwolinski 44:58

That's right there are a dime, they're not

Mark Hiddleson 45:05

in, that was one, we have a minimum charge, which like, I keep raising, you know, it was like 9093 price, but it's like 1500 bucks, we'll share it. I needed one section of racking and he really wanted a discount. So I said, Look, I can give you a discount, but I'm gonna have to combine it with another job. If you have time, we'll do for half price, but I gotta combine it with something else. Well, that obviously it never happened after like, you know, three or four weeks. And he called me he's like, Hey, I realize I told you that, but I really need this. So I was like, Okay, I'll do it myself. It's one section as one section. And I went there. And it was it was my grandfather had passed away. It was like a lot of different stuff going on. But I can do it on my way. I rented the impact thing that you needed. And I went through with my sister, my sister and I installed this thing was one section. Well, it took us almost all day, because it took a long time to figure out well, do you want to six inches off the wall? Do you want to scoot it over here and reserve the will? That's every job. And a lot of people don't realize it whether you're doing one section or 10 sections. It takes an hour to figure out where it's going. Right. And the punchline to that is that because I was doing stuff with my grandfather's Memorial and everything, I forgot to return the drill to the rental company. So they just kept charging me every day. Well, the drill Reynold got some, like 600 bucks. But the good news is that was probably 17, 16-17 years ago, and I probably only all brag myself like one other time.

Rob Zwolinski 46:40

There you go. It was it was a lesson.

Mark Hiddleson 46:43

Yeah. But you have been a great client. And I'm not we don't do a lot in the in higher tech field. ARVs is the well that everything's high tech now. I mean, I just we have a client, I won't say who it is, but their system got hacked. And they're a major, major player. And so grocery stores aren't getting their stuff. And it's all because their systems. I mean, they still have forklifts, they still have drivers so they're having to go back and pick the paper but I mean, we don't do a lot in medical device or pharmaceutical vote we did. We can you know, we did, I will say we did a great job for you guys. So, before I wanted to say more, I wanted to say congratulations to our girls. I am I'm so proud of them. Annika and Serena. I was thinking about it. That parallel like they were like different dance studios, like Serena was always in the dance, but in the dance and it was a different. More competition and then Serena, and it's funny now even Drake, his girlfriend is like she's basically her mom owns a dance studio. They she's basically a professional dancer, you know, so I was leaking always made fun to other guys like oh, your cheer dad or your dance dad? Well, we both that's one of the things I'm most proud of.

Rob Zwolinski 48:01

Oh, yeah. Well, yeah, cuz, you know, one of the things I think you probably know, this, I set up for ANA kids cheer team, I set up a nonprofit, to help support her cheer team. And so that we could raise money and do stuff for cheered. And, and it was, it was one of those things where I don't think she had any idea what went into that, that was a lot of work to manage, and a lot of work to really just help her team. But you know, it was all worth it, because she was really enjoying herself. And, and I would do it any time for any of the kids, you know, and it doesn't matter. And, you know, so that part of this and just seeing what you said Serena and Monica graduating here in a couple of weeks or month or whatever it is. And in just them moving on to whatever the next chapter of their life is, is going to be great to see and, and, you know, I do whatever, you know, whatever she needs help with. I mean, and she's very independent, very driven. So I know she's not going to ask for anything. But

Mark Hiddleson 49:23

I've had people say wow, you know what a tough time to go to school. And it has been tough but yeah, with Serena she's she's made it into an opportunity. She's graduating on time. Oh, and another thing so she's taking one of the shout out to class of this class of 2023 right Oregon state and Oregon. So now they're doing two competing schools. There is a thought Serena. We went back there for something I can we were there. And Oregon State was playing Oregon in basketball and we're staying at the Marriott there. And we get in the elevator and it's funny because it's smelled a little bit like a skunk in the elevator. I don't know what. And I look, we get in the elevator and there's this tall guy and I'm looking like it's Bill Walton. And I'd run into one of the other broadcasters. And I was a little bit starstruck when I was with Serena and Casey and I go, Are you famous basketball player, and he just kind of smiled and he looked at me and screen he goes, Dad, she goes, she looked at him. She goes, I'm sorry. She knows you're tall. She doesn't probably get that all the time. And she's just a Hall of Fame basketball player, don't worry. Yeah. And he was left handed. When I was a kid. He was on the trailblazers, and I like I didn't want to be that man who just don't. I'm left handed your left like we're basically brothers, right. And he goes, I'm just happy to be here in Corvallis. But he was there for the game. And so I also anyone who hears this podcast and if you can find me in Corvallis I'll be there from like June 14 to 16th I will buy you a drink. So all the Oregon State people listening to this I know Serena is going to share it on her feet I don't know who will get a hold of it. I want to see what what kind of build these guys came to. I will put that offer out there podcasts as are some of them do. Turn out a roommate said one time she's like, Listen, this whole podcast that guy didn't talk about pizza one time. So that's an offer that's open to you, I'll probably we should probably meet somewhere in between are only an hour. So

Rob Zwolinski 51:50

we'll be in the EPA, June 10. So depending on when you're heading up there. Yeah, we're in in Napa the whole week before graduation.

Mark Hiddleson 52:00

Okay, we'll connect. So the last question I want to ask you. And I've asked a few guesses what is something that's like a new technology or an app or something that you're using? Or another podcast that you like listening to? That's the thing, you can't think of an app or anything? I'm not gonna ask you your favorite podcast because I know. You like Adam Carolla.

Rob Zwolinski 52:27

The, um, you know, what's interesting is, you know, I am very much an old school person. And, and, and I find that somewhat visceral and somewhat helpful to actually write like, longhand write stuff out. Because it makes me think, and unfortunately, I think so, you know, at times we rely on things to think for us and to really help us in I find that I kind of lose some of the control or some of the understanding of what I'm doing on a daily basis. So I have actually taken a conscious step back to really kind of focus myself on an old technology and, and having, you know, things written down and, and, you know, just working with that mindset, because it to me, it engages my whole thought process. So I know that might be a little different answer than the than you typically get. But it's, I find it I find it very meaningful, and it keeps me grounded. I love it. I love it. I

Mark Hiddleson 53:47

just, that's a perfect way. So I just one of the interviews I did with Leanne Monaghan I brought up with her a conversation you and I had about journaling, because we were having lunch and I was talking I was like, you know, I really like journaling. But you know, the last few weeks I just I haven't had time and you're like, oh, yeah, you're like it's time as you know, everyone's out of time and everything like that. But you go when you journal, how long do you usually do and like, that's usually like, five to seven minutes. words came out of my mouth. I only have five to seven minutes to do one of the things that gives me the most it's just hard to explain Llanddwyn into like when you write and I know this about us, like when you physically write something and that's I've always written my calendars like I've set up a digital calendar for the podcast just for scheduling because there's pre interview questions all that stuff to automate made sense, but I really was resistant to automate that part because I write it I draw my calendar I start with a blank page and I like draw lines and like, here's my gratitude list over here doesn't like to do lists here and then I write the days I draw like bubble letters, you know, like he's doing High School draw on the look of your three ring binder and bubble. Yeah. And it makes a huge difference as you write that appointment. Like when I wrote it down, it's like I know, in my mind, and because I wrote it down, I can see it. It's like 10 for the big stuff, you know, like, the date or anything. And then like, yeah, writing stuff out. is huge. That was great. And don't analog versus did. Yeah.

Rob Zwolinski 55:24

Yeah. And, and I know it's, you know, maybe this because I'm an old man now. But

Mark Hiddleson 55:32

that's how I say it. I never thought I looked at people right now you do.

Rob Zwolinski 55:38

You need to put a filter on your camera. So yeah, so are you said that's, that's kind of where I'm at with, with technology. I like to kind of take a step back at times. That is

Mark Hiddleson 55:55

awesome. And I'm actually the one I'm using for my calendar right now. It's hold that I have these things like over the years, this one's older, but it's just full of sketches and like, mishmash and everything else. I've

Rob Zwolinski 56:10

I've got one of those as well. I mean, that's

Mark Hiddleson 56:14

just like you just blood all over the page. That'll send like, what is it, but I like it. It's a great app, right, the pencil app? Yeah.

Rob Zwolinski 56:23

You know, like you said, I do the same thing. I have a notebook in and I write stuff down. And that's kind of, you know, to me, it kind of cuts through like, I only write down the important stuff, right?

Mark Hiddleson 56:38

That's the other thing you got this for the week, like this is what that's like, some of the weeks you look in his pack, and there's little like I wrote a square and wrote some in there. Some of the weeks is kind of more blank and it's just organizing goes but and that's what you can go back and look like well, what are the weeks where I did you know, five weeks of work in one week? Oh, it was that week. The one with the doodles. That's the thing. I you know, doodling is actually good for you. I read this thing one time like people manager will get mad at some of these doodling like even just doodling not something about whatever they're talking about. They've done studies where if you're doodling during a meeting, you're actually getting more information like you'd have better recall. They do tests, you know, so anyways, you're at least this has been awesome. And you've been a great friend. You know, that's the thing about The Tao of Pizza too is like our professional life or personal life. You know, friendships I really love and thank you for coming on the show. I know you're busy. You're running the committee on the company run the company sold the company got family. But give Max and Shawn and Annika and joylynn huge help for me what we'll see in a in a month or so from fleek. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for being here. That's awesome.

Rob Zwolinski 57:56

Yeah. Thanks for having me on.

Outro 57:59

Thanks for listening to The Tao of Pizza Podcast. We'll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.


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