Royal Truck Body
The Oken Company

"Since working with Brian, we’re now paying attention to our decisions in much greater detail. We really make sure that our underlying assumptions are verified. Planning, accountability and follow-up are now at the heart of what we do"

Dudley De Zonia, Owner

Growing Profits in a Manufacturing Company: An Interview With the Owner of Royal Truck Body

Royal Truck Body is is recognized for quality, service and performance. They are the largest service body company in the Western United States with over 200,000 square feet of manufacturing space at their principal facility in Carson, California.

Key Results: Current year sales growth up 9%. Profits increased 50%.

Royal Truck Body
Carson, CA

finaldudleycropBefore making the decision to hire a strategic planning or executive coach, a lot of CEOs have questions about how the process might work for their organization. It’s one thing to outline a coaching process on paper, but how does it translate to a real-world situation?

In order to get some feedback from actual clients, Dudley DeZonia from Royal Truck Body has graciously offered to discuss how the planning and coaching process has benefited their leadership and their organization as a whole.

Royal Truck Body was started by Dudley DeZonia in 1971. They are now the largest service body company in the Western United States with over 200k square feet of manufacturing space at their primary facility in Paramount, California.

Like any organization, success has not come without challenges and growing pains along the way. Coming out of the financial crisis of 2008/9, the team at Royal knew they had to make some changes to their business in order to ensure they were on the correct long-term path.

The remainder of this post contains some direct feedback from the CEO of Royal Truck Body, Dudley DeZonia. It provides some great insight into the process and benefits of both strategic and executive coaching. Of particular interest is how the coaching process began with a strategic focus, but as relationships developed, it move into more a coaching role — helping all levels of management to become better leaders.

What were your motivations for reaching out to The Oken Company for help with your business?

Having been in business since 1971, Royal Truck Body, like many US companies, faced a treacherous downturn in 2008 and 2009 that impacted the company severely. Having known Brian for several years through a local peer group, I was always taken by his experience, thoughtfulness, and long view — he has a great ability to maintain a long-term view.

At the time, I was interested in having someone assess the future direction of the company. What was the overall culture of our organization, what was our company all about, and making sure that the direction we were heading was appropriate for the organization as a whole.

Early in the process, our focus was on strategic planning with approximately four meetings in our first year and a few more in the second year. Brian has a background in manufacturing, which really made for an ideal alignment with Royal Truck Body. Because he was already familiar with our organization and many of our personnel, he was the logical person to turn to for help. It’s turned out to be a real benefit to all concerned.

Were there some specific challenges you were facing or trying to overcome?

40vo98I think it was a couple of things. A culture of accountability for sure. Also, one of the core values of the company is innovation, so Brian put a focus on product development. He helped us with consistency across the board. But, as with any organization, it’s all about people. Brian is very good at evaluating people and the contributions they make — looking for areas where they can improve and areas where they need to improve focus.

Were there some changes that Brian asked you to make that took you out of your comfort zone?

He moved very gradually at first. But as time went on, I guess you could say he tightened the noose. He’s very crafty that way. Brian has a way of challenging our people without making them defensive. He can be very sympathetic, yet is capable of making a stern challenge at the same time. I really feel like that’s one of his key attributes — he has a way to be disarming while being demanding. I guess you could very much call it a “non-confrontational confrontation”.

Getting the most from your management team requires a fine balance between being disarming yet demanding.

As a company who’s been in business since 1971, how has working with Brian benefited Royal Truck Body?

Shortly before we brought Brian onboard, we were floundering from the discovery of malfeasance perpetrated by several key players. We really had to completely restructure the organization and rebuild the organization from the bottom up. At the same time, because of the financial crisis, sales were plummeting. You could almost say we were a 40-year-old startup by the time 2010 rolled around.

I think it was that sense of where we were and who we were at that time which caused us to turn to Brian. We wanted some help making sure we were on sound footing moving forward.

How has working with Brian changed your outlook?

I would say we’re more forward-focused than we were. We are paying attention to our decisions in much greater detail. We really make sure that our underlying assumptions are verified. Planning, accountability and follow-up are now at the heart of what we do.

Do you feel like the overall tone of your organization has changed as a result of working with Brian? If so, how quickly did that change occur?

I think initially, Brian was simply a hired strategic planning professional. We brought him onboard to essentially take the temperature of our organization. To help us determine what we were doing right or wrong, well or not well, and where we lacked consistency.

fbs1449642But as time has gone on, he’s become more acquainted with our team and has gradually placed more emphasis on developing our management team. His process now is much more hands on, even personal. He wants to create success in people, which leads to a successful organization.

At this point in time, it’s a very close relationship. I’ve been very pleased that our management team has been more than willing to put their cards on the table. They were willing to do that before we started working with Brian. But, since our engagement, it has really improved.

Our people and our culture are now about, “What’s the work?” If there is a problem at work, it’s not personal. People are willing to bring up issues in a constructive manner and it’s ok if we don’t agree all the time. Our communication is more open and that really contributes to a more effective planning and goal setting process.

We were actually working with a consultant in the days before Brian, and he knew his stuff. But his primary focus was more nuts and bolts — things like ISO certifications and creating more discipline in the manufacturing process. But that process was very much about creating silos, where Brian is more about tearing down silos — improving communication and creating a strong team that wins together.

If you had not brought in outside help, where do you think Royal Truck Body would be today?

I think as we moved into the restructuring process following the financial crisis, we would probably not have executed as well. We probably wouldn’t have been as introspective.

Brian gives a lot of himself and being a good CEO really comes second nature to him. As a result, he’s great at teaching good CEO habits, but he has also really helped our management team learn how to report to a CEO more effectively. We’re definitely more professional having worked with Brian than we would have been on our own.

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