Skip to content

People Process Interviews: Rocky Romanella

Today we’re going to be interviewing Rocky Romanello. He has had an illustrious career spanning more than 40 years focused on supply chain logistics, retail sales, sales operations, all kinds of things at UPS, including the UPS Store franchise network. He became the Chief Executive Officer and Board of Directors for UniTek Global Services, a provider of engineering construction management and he is currently the founder and CEO of 360 Management Services, LLC. He’s an experienced CEO, he’s led one of the largest rebranding initiatives in franchising history. The UPS Store revolutionised the $9 billion retail shipping and business services market. And we’re going to talk to him today about leadership and his journey and the advice he can give us for our growing companies. Before we go too deep though, I want to ask you, please subscribe to our podcast. You can find us on iTunes, Google, podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, pretty much any pod catcher of your choice. You can also subscribe at peopleprocesses.com, which will give you exclusive subscriber only content, including a follow up summary on this very episode. 

Rocky, thank you so much for coming on. Welcome to the show.

Rhamy, thank you very much for having me.

So Rocky, you have I mean, you’ve done a ton. You’re not a green new business owner who just started up last week. I’d love for you to tell me how you got to where you are today. I know you spent a lot of time at UPS. What was that like? And why did you wind up striking out on your own

Well, of course, it was a great career at UPS. It had a promotion from within policy, which I took advantage of. I actually started out as a part timer unloading trailers. I was working my way through college and I actually was going to college to be a high school history teacher and a baseball coach. And as I was working my way through school, I realized that the best leaders were those leaders that could get their people to connect the dots. So I never gave up my passion for coaching or my passion for teaching. To me, I just did it in a different classroom, which was the business setting. And so I always felt like I was still pursuing those passions of coaching and teaching. As I said, UPS had a promotion from within policy and my dad told me two things when I started the job. He has since passed, but he told me two things. He said, “Whatever they asked you to do, say yes and thank you, and then learn your job and learn some more.” And so for me, as I was working my way up through UPS, I learned and your passion is people in the processes. So for me, one of my most valuable lessons I learned early on, was I may not have felt ready for that promotion that UPS tapped me on the shoulder for, but what I realized is that there are times when you have to believe in your people until they’re ready to believe in themselves. And you bridge that gap maybe of confidence, or you bridge that gap maybe of knowledge. And that to me, was probably one of my greatest lessons. As I was growing and developing and learning how to manage and manage large groups of people, I never forgot that lesson that I was taught firsthand by me being that person who was a little bit nervous and a little bit scared. But UPS, believing in me until I was ready to believe in myself. 

And then of course, I mean, you started with like, loading the docks. I mean, you started at the bottom and worked your way all the way through. I mean, you’ve learned every lesson along the way. Not every job. 

Yes, yes. And you know that, that valuable lesson for me was that it empowered me and gave me that confidence to manage because I was a part timer. I became a UPS driver. I drove from Plainfield, New Jersey. And so for me that valuable lesson, Rhamy was around me, was the fact that every new job I took on and as you spoke in the introduction, I was tapped on the shoulder when we purchased mailboxes and etc. We consequently, we branded the UPS Store, I took on that responsibility. And the first thing I did was go work a day in the store because I never forgot that the thing that helped me as a new supervisor was the fact that I could unload and I did unload trailers, I was a UPS driver. And that was such a valuable lesson to me. 

So in every job I ever got from that moment forward, the first thing I always did, especially if it was a job I didn’t have experience and I went and spent the day. We purchased mailboxes, etc. I worked in a store, we purchased over 20 companies and built what’s up today, UPS Supply Chain Solutions. I integrated those companies and had decided the world for UPS. Well, first thing I did was, “Let’s go pick some orders. Let’s go down on the floor.” So I think that was a valuable lesson I learned as I grew and developed inside of UPD. And then as you said, I retired from UPS. And then I was recruited to be a CEO of a telecom company, we built cell towers, upgraded cell towers. And so every chance I got I went out to a site. I certainly wasn’t qualified to climb, but I wanted to understand that firsthand and then started my own business 360 Management Services.

So when you decided to branch out and kind of run your own company, what was the impetus there?

Well, during my tenure at UPS and during that time when I had the MB/ UPS stores, the direct report. I met some of the most amazing entrepreneurs, some people that were just the best. I mean, they taught me so many wonderful things and I have such great respect for it. Printers and I looked at them. And I thought to myself, I don’t know if I could do this job. I mean, there’s nobody more all-in than an entrepreneur that a small business owner, right? I mean, at big companies, we say we have P&L responsibilities, but nobody has more P&L responsibility and a small business owner. At the end of the day, you hit the cash register to drop and pay your people, pay your vendors. What’s left is what you take home for your family. And so I had such great respect and admiration for them. And so I thought if I ever had the chance, I would try but even today, I mean, I have a wonderful pension from UPS. So I mean, I’m not nearly as all-in as they are. And so I will always be that person that says, “I have great respect for that small business owner and I’m not sure I could do it.” The way they’ve done it with taking everything they own and sliding across the table and saying, “I’m all-in.” So I never kid myself that I believe I am as committed as they are. I’m committed to grow in this business and I’m excited about growing my own business but they have everything on the line.

Rocky, you’ve had this great career and now you’ve started a very successful company you’re keynoting, you’re interviewed constantly. But before you got here, I know you had to have had some hard days. So I think that our listeners, they look forward to this because we always have this as a recurring segment because everyone listening has made some pretty big errors and they want to learn from other people’s. So Rocky, what I want you to do is take us to the experience, tell us the story of your worst entrepreneurial or management moment and how that happened. And what the mistakes were that you made to get there. It’s a hard question. And I just want to preface because what I found in terms of response and listeners and everything else is the more you can illustrate the story the more results and feedback we get from our listeners.

Well, for me the biggest disappointment or biggest error always centers around the people side of things for me, because I think you can work through operational issues, you can work through P&L issues, but to me, the hardest and most difficult and most disappointing are the ones where you’ve identified an individual and I won’t use their name, obviously, but it’s crystal clear in my mind. We identify this individual and you believe in them so much. But the mistake was early on is that I believed in them more than they believed in themselves. I wanted more for them and they wanted it for themselves. And so what ends up happening is, you take this individual who has such promise, but is good where they are right now. And in fact, frankly, they’re very happy where they are right now. And I see so much more than them. And so you’re working and of course, they don’t want to ever let you down. So you’re talking to them about the next level promotion, taking on additional responsibility, maybe moving their family. I moved nine times with UPS and inside of UPS, everybody was moving, right. That was part of the promotion process. 

So here’s this individual that I’m almost convincing them, that they want that next level and not because it was my best intention, where to help them get to that next level. But I quickly realized that the mistake I made and a disappointment for me was we took a good employee, someone who was very, very good at what they did. And now we moved into that next level, a level that they may not want it or they may not have felt comfortable with. And eventually they ended up quitting. And the sad lesson there for me was, I wanted more for them than they wanted for themselves. And I saw more of him or her than they saw themselves and that happens sometimes. And that disconnect is a terrible disconnect. Because not only do you have an unhappy person or a person that doesn’t feel fulfilled, you actually end up potentially losing a very good person in your care or in your organization. And so for me, that’s the valuable lesson. It happens a lot in small businesses too. By the way, you’re the owner of the business and let’s face it. What’s your strength as a small business owner? Nobody’s more committed. Nobody knows the business better than they do. Nobody could do the job better. And what’s your biggest weakness? Nobody knows. Nobody’s more committed than you who knows the business, right? So you have that employee and you’re not allowing them to grow and develop into that job because you want them to be you. But you forget how long it took for you to get to be you. And so I think that those expectations are sometimes difficult and when you lose that good employer, you lose that good person is probably a better way of putting it. You really look at yourself in the mirror and you say, “Boy, I really failed this one, this was not good for that individual. Certainly not good for organization. And frankly, I made a bad decision.”

Yeah. So I guess what would you have done differently if you’re trying to grow an organization you’ve got, you need leaders, you need people who you can move up and you find someone who’s outstanding at their current job. That’s the normal way of figuring out who to promote, what would you have done differently with this particular employee that maybe would have helped you keep them well from them? Because maybe in two years, they would have been perfect for it. 

Yeah, tha’s true. That’s true. Well, I’ll tell you. So from that, you’re the people process, so you have the two most important things, people and process, that you take care of which is excellent. So for me, whenever something doesn’t go the way I planned it to or hoped it to, it’s all about process. Well, what’s the process? So out of that disappointment or out of that failure came my people process. I appreciate you allowing me to use that. So from that moment forward, I had this process. When people would bring me a person for promotion or I would identify a person for promotion, the first question I’d ask myself, well, “Do I want more for them than they want for themselves?” Or if you brought me a name of an individual ready to be promoted, I would ask you, “Hey, do you want more for them than they want for themselves?” “No, no, no, they really want this.” Okay. Do you see more in them than they see in themselves?” “No, no, no.” Okay. So you get past those first two, then the three next key questions come in. And I’ve used this through probably of my 40-year career, probably 30 of them. As I kind of grew and was more involved in those decisions. The first question I’d always ask and this one seems a little almost rude, but it’s not meant to be and the first question is, “Hey, if they didn’t come to work when anybody noticed and then you like, “What? Are you kidding me?” All right, well, that’s good. Okay. That’s the first question. 

How about the second question? What wouldn’t happen if they weren’t here? So what’s uniquely theirs? What’s uniquely them? What processes in place? What wouldn’t happen if they weren’t here? And that’s so important, because that starts to speak about a person beginning to be that next level before they are that next level. And then the last question I would always ask them is, and I would ask this to myself. As I identify key players, I would look at myself and say, “Okay, if we’re in a room, if we got a meeting of 50 of our leadership team and the two or three of us, leaders that are running the meeting have to leave. And now somebody walks in and says, “We have a problem. We’ve got to take this. We’ve got to build a solution to this problem.” Well, they’re all peers. Well, Who’s that? Who are the two or three informal leaders that step-up and take over? Are you that leader? Before you are the next leader and so that became my process to prevent what happened. And when I think back to that individual, he or she clearly was a great contributor and had some really great skills but they weren’t the informal leader yet, they weren’t the next level before they are the next level, there really wasn’t a signature thing that they could call their own. They were beginning that process. And so I look back and I think, I was more excited about getting them to the next level than they were ready to get to that next level. And so I think that’s where the process would have helped that situation because I would have had that conversation with him or her and said, “Listen, let’s talk about your creative element. Let’s talk about the next step. Let’s talk about the additional responsibility.” And then we would have talked about, “What’s your signature element? What are the things that differentiate you from everybody else? How does your brand differ from everyone else’s brand?” So I think that process is what I kind of put in after that. That difficult moment where we lost a really good individual.

Exactly. And you hit it on the head. And you’ve been on operations, you’ve been on the sales and acquisition side, entrepreneurs, business owners, when they bring on a client and they spend a ton of time and effort getting that client, they get them through the system. They onboard them then they lose that client. They immediately understand, I’ve got to put something in place. At some point along the way, I don’t know if it’s because we marketed to the wrong person. We didn’t qualify that. That potential client or sale. We didn’t figure it out. We didn’t onboard them, right. We didn’t set our expectations. They realize there’s a problem in their process, but small business owners and even larger companies, they don’t think in terms of people processes. You hit it on the head, which as you went through an experience, you lost a great employee who you spent time, significant money and investment on. And then you went back and said, “Where did we mess up?” And where you’ve kind of identified in your people processes cycle was there at the qualification stage, “Hey, before we put people into this position, we need to have a little process in place to say, do you meet these qualifications? And for leadership, you identified ways of getting there.” That’s outstanding. That’s exactly what needs to happen. And that’s why oftentimes, losing a client or losing an employee is the most important thing, the trigger for how you improve your company. When you lose a client, it makes you go back and go, “Alright, what did I do wrong?” The same thing should happen when you lose someone who you shouldn’t. And you know who that is, that person on your team where you’re like, “Man, I can’t believe they quit and went somewhere else. Where did we go wrong?” Going back to that process is outstanding.

Absolutely. And if you think about true empowerment, is when people discipline themselves. And so for me, I think it starts there, the way you develop those processes is, I disciplined myself, I was more disappointed in myself. It’s like, for example, at that time I was not at the most senior level, I went to the manager I work for and I’m explaining what happened. He’s like, “Well, if he really wasn’t ready or she wasn’t really ready, we would have found that out eventually.” And I’m thinking, though, it has nothing to do with that, I put them into position at the very least, we shouldn’t have lost them at the level they were at. And so I appreciated them trying to be supportive of me but I was more disappointed in myself than he or she was with me. And I think exactly, I think that’s the true sign. Are your people empowered to where they’re disciplining themselves, where they’re more disappointed in themselves? Because what ends up happening, you become the person who piles on as the leader, you become that person that helps them through that. Okay, well, what could you have done differently? But to me, it’s always important when someone takes responsibility and ownership, it’s okay, we make mistakes. It’s okay, didn’t work out. But do you own it? Do you feel as bad about that person leaving? Before you got to me, I shouldn’t feel worse about that person leaving than you do as the person who put them in that position. So I think that’s the thing I always look for, especially as the person making that decision. As an owner, are you more upset than that person left than the manager who was the direct report for that person?

Exactly. And it can apply to not just people but even operations. Same thing if you’re looking at a subordinate manager and they let you know, “Hey, we screwed this thing up.” And you are more messed up. You’re like, “Oh, my God.” This is a real problem and you don’t feel like the person whose responsibility directly, his is emotionally on the hook for it, then it’s like you may have the wrong person there. Someone needs to own us. 

Very good. 

Well, Rocky, so you’re now in the management consulting world, right? So, tell me a little bit about what you’re doing now. I know you’re doing management, what kind of companies are you working with? And how does that work?

Well, on the keynote speaking, I mean, I certainly enjoy that part of it. It’s kind of my teaching fix. And the same with the leadership training. I mean, we work with large companies like CBRE or Prudential Seton Hall University. I enjoy working with universities and coming in and doing a class or two. I absolutely enjoy talking to juniors and seniors in college, as well as juniors and seniors in high school because after 40 years of business, they all kind of look at you like, “Oh, no, well, today, what would you do different or how did you begin this process and those kinds of things?” I feel like you can leave this a little bit of a legacy. So for me this concept of legacy is you leave things a little better than you found them are people better because of their time with you or your customers better because of their interaction with your company. And so for me, this business 360 management services allows me to kind of continue on with that legacy. 

I wrote the book, “Tighten the Lug Nuts,” that supports the training and supports the keynote speaking. So those are the two main legs of the stool. And then we have a consulting piece of our business and we really focus as you do on processes. So because you want to fix things once and you’ve identified the problem with the two problems, are you identifying the fixes now? What’s the process that you put in place that ensures consistency and longevity to that fix? And so for me, it’s always about the processes and so I enjoy that we enjoy that part of the business and that we get to fix things from a longer term perspective. And I absolutely enjoy working with small businesses, I would say we do work with some larger companies. But at the end of the day, it really comes down to helping those small business owners and helping them kind of understand what’s going on inside your business. And maybe I enjoy the part of maybe helping them. What’s that next step, I always find that some of the biggest, toughest decisions for small business owners is we’re in a good spot right now we’re kind of in the zone. But we’ve identified more business, we’re learning, we’re growing and you know, we’ve got the chance to win that new business. But that next step now adds capacity. It’s like when airplanes are flying at 80% capacity, you’re making money. The minute you need that second airplane, now you’re back at 20% on that airplane, now you’re losing money, how fast can I fill the airplane back up to 80% capacity? Kind of? 

Exactly.

And I think we enjoy that piece of working with small businesses to help them identify, when’s the next step? And then how do you kind of close that gap between that next step and where you get back in that zone again.

Well, so if we had a listener here, who was exactly as you described, that’s a common situation, although right now things are in crisis. And everybody’s working on that. This episode probably will come out for a couple weeks and they may not be in that position anymore. But if you’re looking around and going, “Things are good. We’re making money. Things are holding together, maybe we’ve been a little stable, haven’t grown quite as fast as we used to, but we’re rocking out.” We see the next big opportunity, but the cost is so high. We were afraid to risk what we have now. What advice would you give them?

Well, I think the first step is you’ve got to take a step back and kind of identify what you want to look like in the next six months, 18 months and 3 years from now. So what is that vision? Right. Are you being pushed? Are you being motivated because of a need that you’ve identified? Were you being pushed and pulled because of a need identified by your customers or one of your customers? Both are bad, it’s just that you tend to be more in control of the situation when you’ve identified the strategic place where you want to be next and how you want to get there. Now, many new products and services, as you know, are developed by needs in a marketplace where a customer may come to you and say, “Hey, this is what I’m looking to do, folks.” So for me, I have a process. So every time we have this conversation with small businesses or in my job as CEO or President, I would always go through a series of questions and when someone would bring me a new opportunity or bring me a new vision of what we want to do. The first question I’d ask is, “Well, who’s the customer?” People always kind of look at me and laugh when you ask that question. Smile with a little bit of a smirk but that’s such an important question. I’ll give you a quick example. We’re building a process for a healthcare client when I was on the Supply Chain side at UPS and so, you asked that question, Who’s the customer? Well, third of the people say it’s a distribution channel. You know, CVS, Walgreens could be mer-source Bergen, someone like that, well, a third of the people in the room say, “No, no, no, it’s not. It’s a doctor, the doctors prescribing our medication.” But a third of them looked at and said, “Well, wait a second, you two thirds are wrong. It’s really the patient.” So once you identify who is your customer, it changes though it kind of changes everything, right? Because if you’re 99% on time, but CVS or Walgreens, that’s a great frequency, you don’t want to be 99% on time to that patient because you don’t want to be the one patient who didn’t get your meds. 

Right.

So it changes that. So the first question for me always is, “Who’s the customer.”? Then the second question for me always ends up being. “Okay, well, what are our core values that we won’t compromise? Is it safe in this particular case, is it quality, integrity, what are our core values we won’t compromise?” Because customers will push and pull you in different directions. But you have to identify what your boundaries are, what are the things that you won’t compromise? And then you go through that series of questions, “Who are our customers represented in this new strategy, are our people represented in the new strategy?” For example, we may have a great product and we go to market on that product. Everyone thinks it’s the right product that fits into the portfolio, CFO sitting here, she’s banging out a calculator. This is a great product, we can make money before anybody leaves. I say, “Wait a second, how about our people? Are they representative? What’s the training they’re going to need? How they handle a service disconnect.” They understand why it fits in a portfolio and then the very last question I always ask and it’s not as dramatic when you’re talking to a small business owner, but inside a large corporation. We’re inside of a much larger business. The last question I always ask is that person presenting me with that information. Should I look at them and say, “If this was your candy store, if you were writing a check out of your checking account, would you do?” And it’s interesting 80% of the time, they say, Yes. But you know what, 20% of the time people have told me No.

Oh, really, even though they’re willing to go to bat for it. When it comes down to them, they’re like, “No, no, I wouldn’t do it.” 

Well, yeah. I can do what comes to mind. I said to one individual, a minute now, you asked me to do this, you told me this is the right business. Why are you saying that? Wow, you know, there’s a lot of problems as well. You said we need a new revenue stream. Okay. But we need a new revenue stream. But I mean, I would hope that you would think this is the right one. So it’s interesting when you ask that question and it’s a way to drive down that ownership. You make many different decisions when you think like an owner and so for me, this kind of bounce leadership model that I preach is, you think like a customer, you feel like a valued individual, but you act like an owner. And all your decisions and then process ties it all together.

Nice. Well, Rocky, a couple of quick rapid fire questions to wrap up our interview. If you were to recommend one book to go alongside “Tighten the Lug Nuts” for a small business owner to read, what book would you recommend?

I would recommend “Lessons from the Mouse” by Dennis Snow. Great book.

I have not had that recommended before, hang on, “Lessons from the Mouse” by Dennis snow. Excellent book. All right. We’ll have that link down in the description. Check that out. If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing when you opened your new business 360 Management, what would you tell yourself?

To clearly understand who you are, what you stand for and what are the things you won’t compromise, because I think what happens is you have a vision of what you want to do. But then because it doesn’t happen as quickly as you want trying to be all things, all people and that’s really the problem.

That’s a good one. Now going forward, what’s got you most fired up? What’s your next three months? Six months, whatever it is, what’s your next big strategic goal?

Well, unfortunately, all my keynote speaking has been the same. But actually, we have two, two clients we’re working with right before this, we’re going through some M&A deals. And so we’re working on the integration piece with them. We, the whole integration and cultural piece is such an important piece. And I think that, coming out of all of this, I think a keen eye on your people is going to be so important because there’s going to be concerns about safety in their minds. And they need to get back to work but their concerns and so your ability as a leader, to give your people that sense that you care about them, they’re important to you and you would never do anything to put them in an unsafe position is going to be so important as you move forward out of this difficult period that we just went through.

Absolutely. Now Rocky, the last question I have for you, if there’s about 1000 people who are going to listen to this, maybe more, maybe 2000 because it’s you. But if there’s someone listening, what business are they in? What size of company? What’s going through their mind right now that would make them think, “Hey, you know what, I need to go to Rocky’s website,” reach out to him on LinkedIn, we probably need to have a further conversation. What’s that client look like?

Well, it’s a client that is a constant improvement type of person, you know, they’re constructively dissatisfied. They’re always trying to improve not only their organization, but also their people. And I think that’s what’s so important to me. Three constituents always have to represent customers, people, stay with shareholders and stakeholders. And I think it’s so important that if you’re that individual that understands that your business is propelled, your number one asset is your people. I think we really fit together because you know we’re going to fix a problem but it’s always going to end up being your people that execute that fix.

Awesome. And Rocky, where should they find you?

Well thank you, Sir, for asking. So my website is www and it’s the number 3, I wish I would have done a better website shorter name, but the number 3sixtymanagementservices.com the book is Tighten the Lug Nuts, it’s actually, tightenthelugnuts.com. There’s a website for the book as well in the book. There’s a lot of lessons in the book, if you enjoy the book, a lot of stories as you can tell from our interview, a lot of stories involved. And so it’s kind of a journey written in the third person, the gentleman by the name of Josiah Phone.

Awesome. Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you so much for tuning in. And Rocky, thank you so much for being on the show. 

Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you, Sir. And listen, be safe and if any of your audience would like to interact with me, the website’s very interactive or my email was rockyromanella (ROMANELLA) @gmail.com. Always willing to help and thank you very much be safe. 

Thank you. Rocky. Links are in the description down below at peopleprocesses.com. Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for tuning in. Rocky dropped some great information and I really hope you take the time to reach out to him. If you’re looking for some management, consulting and Keynote speaking. He’s had an amazing storied career and I could talk to him all day. In the meantime, please go to peopleprocesses.com, subscribe to the podcast so that you get updated information on this. We also have exclusive subscriber only content, like summary of today’s episode with just the key lessons for your takeaway. We also have information about COVID-19, we have tools for hiring, firing terminations, all that for our subscribers and I’d love to see you there. For now, it’s time for you to go out there. Have a great day and get your work done.

Learn more about Rocky Romanella here:

https://www.3sixtymanagementservices.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/rockyromanella/

https://www.facebook.com/3SIXTYmgt

About the author, Rhamy

Rhamy grew up watching and working with his mother and grandmother in the senior insurance market. This familiarity with the struggles faced by people trying to navigate the incredibly complicated and heavily regulated healthcare market led him to start Poplar Financial while working on his degree at the University of Memphis. After completing his MBA and Bachelors in Finance and Economics, Rhamy guided Poplar Financial through the disruptive opportunity that is the Affordable Care Act. Since then Poplar Financial has received numerous awards from major insurance carriers and has completed its fourth year in a row of doubling in size. Now his team focuses on the processes around human resources and specializes in providing companies with between 20 and 1000 employees with the payroll, benefits, and HR needs.

Leave a Comment