Behind the career: Joe Wang

May 5, 2013

Position: Chief operations officer of ServicePower Technologies, a Reston company that provides mobile field management technology.

Fresh out of college, Joe Wang and two friends opened a restaurant on the campus of Ohio State University. Though the business plan looked great on paper, Wang and his partners had a rude awakening during the summer when students were scarce and revenue plummeted. After closing the business, Wang discovered a passion for operations. He went to work for a restaurant chain and did field management for Ford Motor Co. before moving to Best Buy to help the retailer integrate acquisitions.

What does it take to be a successful in operations?

I’m a nerd. I would bore someone to death talking about process and the different ways you can do things. I’m wired this way. I’ll organize my refrigerator to make sure you can see everything when you open it up.

Were you really neat and organized as a child?

No, I was the least organized. My dad was off-the-charts anal retentive.

But you learned process matters?

Because of my experience, I see how sometimes the goals you’re given as an employee in a big company don’t make sense. The company will say, ‘We need you to deliver this.’ The problem is, if you deliver that, it’s like squeezing a balloon. You’ll deliver, but problems pop up somewhere else. I like to understand, if I’m accountable to deliver this result, why? What am I delivering? If there’s another end game that’s more important, then that should be the goal. When you understand that, having a clear process is a way to eliminate the noise in the system so you can get to the goal easier.

How have you evolved as a leader?

There was a time in my career where it was command-and-control. Just get it done. At Ford, I had a lot of those attributes. Here’s what I learned: I remembered how passionate the folks who worked at my restaurant were. They knew we were a start-up company and they were proud of that. We treated employees like partners. A lot of companies forget to do that. If employees understand why they’re doing it, they might work harder. Let’s spend some time so that everyone understands what we’re going after and why. Then the next question is: Are we going after it the best way?

— Interview with Vanessa Small

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