Charles Daly had been at the Woodbridge Group for almost 30 years when he became president and CEO in 2014. The company, which manufactures parts for the automotive sector—like the foam used for safety components, car seats and noise reduction—has existed only a few years longer than he’s been working there. “From a cultural perspective, and from the perspective of values and principles, I’m steeped in the legacy of the company,” Daly says. “But the industry we’re in and the global nature of our business is rapidly changing, and we need to change with it.”
For Daly, everyday management is a balancing act between honouring the firm’s legacy and setting it on a path to achieving goals, fulfilling the vision and delivering profitable growth. Woodbridge now employs over 9,000 people across 21 countries, and the CEO emphasizes engagement with all of its 64 offices. “It sounds a bit cliché, but our people are where we stand out,” says Daly. “Talent management and development are big parts of our strategic plan. Our mandate has always been to create a safe workplace and the profitability required to sustain rewarding jobs.”
Strategy, priorities and their implementation are decided annually at three three-day off-site meetings with a core planning team of about 30 people from around the world. “Getting everyone aligned with the plan and [its] deployment is part of the trick to ensure everyone leaves with a feeling of both ownership and accountability,” says Daly. “You can get people’s minds and hearts, and convince them it’s the way to win.”
That philosophy seems to be working. In early 2016, Woodbridge introduced AdaptiPedic, an automotive seat that uses proprietary technology and offers durability and temperature stability while conforming to the passgener’s body to provide maximum comfort. Studies show consumers prefer the new design by a 2–1 margin, according to the firm.
These kinds of advances have been key to Woodbridge’s success. And though he’s been there for much of the firm’s history, Daly is determined not to be bogged down by it. “I’m pretty focused on keeping us forward-thinking…. We like to honour the past, but we’re really focused on going forward and making sure our strategy is reflective of the business we’re in today and tomorrow.”