QnA with John Morris, President of BT Retail Solutions
Can you walk us through your career journey? How did you get to where you are today?
I was a numbers junkie in school but I also really liked working with people, so I started my career as an Analyst in the HR department… It was the perfect fit! I took a strong interest in studying the correlations between employment strategies and business outcomes. In other words, I would try and figure out how to make companies perform better by analyzing and deploying HR strategies such as incentive programs, training, performance monitoring, recruiting, etc. After nerding-out on this for a while and earning my MBA, as well as a few certifications, I moved through some HR leadership positions. Although I was the “HR Guy”, I would always take every opportunity I could find to learn more about business operations and get involved somehow. I earned my way into more and more business meetings until I eventually proved I was ready to transition out of HR and into operational leadership in 2015. In December 2021, I felt like all of the hard work and dedication paid off when I was appointed to be the first non-family member to serve as the president of The Beam Team. We had an amazing first year and then split the company in March 2023, forming the BTR Division.
What’s your leadership style? What do you feel is the most important attribute of being an effective leader?
I lead with intensity, but I am also calm and stable at the same time. I’m an analyst by nature, so I will often put more thought and energy into making decisions to ensure they are correct, supported, and aligned. Once a decision is made… it’s GO TIME! I highly value the contributions made by individuals and the power of working as a team, especially in our line of work. The most important thing I can do as a leader is always make sure we have the right people on the bus, all sitting in the right seats, and we have a clear roadmap of where we’re going. Most importantly, we’ll be having fun listening to good music and my foot will be slammed down on the gas pedal!
I’ve always felt that the most important attribute to being an effective leader is listening skills. I’m not just referring to the literal definition of listening and hearing the words people say, I’m referring to “listening” to the data, information, and actions that come from many different places and often hard to find. An ironic example is when someone does not say anything at all. There is literally nothing to listen to, but a good leader will dig deeper to understand why that person chose not to say anything. Maybe this person didn’t feel comfortable expressing opposing opinions? Maybe this person doesn’t care enough to contribute? A great leader will pick up on that and put in effort to understand the “why”, and then work on addressing the root cause.
I spend a lot of time listening to our employees and customers. I may have a lot of information at my fingertips that I can use to analyze what the business is telling me, but I always prefer to be there in person to listen directly. When I’m in the field with employees and customers, I can give them 100% of my attention to listen and build trust so that we can have honest conversations. Connecting with our employees and customers also allows me to give them a powerful voice at the decision-making table with the goal of making our company better. I’m an inclusive decision maker who values diverse opinions and ideas, so it’s very important to me that we have employee and customer representation included in our business decisions.
What are you most excited about for the future of BT Retail Solutions (BTR)?
We have incredible momentum coming off the company’s most successful year in history, and I think that will only accelerate with our new partnerships and focus. I knew this big change would be challenging, but I truly believe this change is a good thing for our employees, customers, and our business. We now have access to partnerships, resources, and intelligence that accelerates our growth and strengthens our business. So why is this exciting to me? Our employees, customers, and investors trust me to deliver a winning team, and I have the right players, equipment, and game plan to make that happen. Everyone wants to be a part of a winning team from the time they were playing kickball back in elementary school to when they’re adults in business. Creating and maintaining a winning team is extremely hard work, but it is so gratifying and it’s a heck of a lot more fun than being on the losing team!
I’m excited for the new doors to open for our tenured employees who are looking to grow their careers. Being a part of a larger company offers more opportunities for our employees, and although I would hate to lose anyone from the BTR team, I will be genuinely happy to see our employees grow their careers in other parts of the Apollo business. Beam Team had nearly 0% turnover of field mgmt. and project mgmt. positions over the last few years. This is great, but not if you’re trying to get one of those positions! Growing our business and partnering with others will absolutely open doors for our employees to grow their careers, and this is very exciting to me.
What are your interests outside of work? What do you do to fill your cup?
I have an 11 year old boy and a girl who just turned 8, and they keep be quite busy outside of work. I’ve spent most weekends as an assistant coach for my son’s travel baseball team. I played a lot of baseball and love the sport, but I never had the desire or the time to consider coaching. A few years ago, I had a friend pressure me into it, and now I absolutely love being a part of this program and being a mentor to these boys. I also love to exercise. This is another thing I didn’t think I had time to do for many years, but now I make it a priority almost every day. My job is demanding and I work a lot. In order to prioritize my family and health, I don’t ever really watch TV, follow sports, scroll social media, or do much of anything else that takes time away from me being there for my family, health, and work. My one personal hobby is playing music, but I haven’t touched an instrument in over two months. I play guitar, drums, bass, piano, and look forward to learning more instruments one day. I heard there’s a talent showcase later this year, so I better brush up!