This White Paper is the first in a series to elucidate the working philosophies and backgrounds of top CEOs from various industry sectors. In this inaugural publication, Keith Giarman, Managing Partner of DHR’s Private Equity Practice, interviewed Doug Albregts, EVP and Group CEO of the Gaming Division for Scientific Games (former President/CEO of Sharp Electronics Corporation). Among many other insightful comments, Mr. Albregts says that the right background and experience – and some core basic values – creates an easy-going culture of cooperation. Given his upbringing in the Midwest and stellar business experience after graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Mr. Albregt’s insights are grounded in wisdom and experience as a business and community leader.
What do you look for in any new situation or business?
The first thing that I look at is the value proposition the business offers its customers, because it all starts there. Also, I like a relationship business versus transactional, and I look at my own fit. What’s the upside, both personally and professionally, for me? Will it lead to a growth opportunity? Can I learn something? Can I have an impact?
It has to be interesting, because if you’re not interested, if your heart is not in it, then it’s going to be a short-term opportunity.
What is your leadership style? How do you like to manage?
My management philosophy is quite simple. Having the right people is everything in terms of being successful, and I look for diverse backgrounds, people who have been exposed to a variety of situations and hold themselves accountable.
I think those three things are very important because once you develop clear goals, create a culture and reward accordingly it becomes really simple and you can empower people and be hands-off.
How do you define “fit”?
People that don’t come into a position with any pretensions, I guess. If you are a CEO, you really have to have trust and honesty and a level of authenticity. I think that’s really important because you have to have honest and direct conversations when you work with somebody.
The second thing I think of is really more what I would call street smarts. When I talk about diversity I think of people who have been in multiple situations in multiple environments and so are able to anticipate and react to things a little bit better. And have learned from their mistakes. I think that’s important.
And lastly, just have some passion. Some fire in the belly, because a lot of people don’t.
Tell us a little bit about your background. How does it impact your management philosophy?
I grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, but I don’t know if what formed me was necessarily Wisconsin as much as it was the Midwest.
My dad was a depression kid and grew up on a farm having to work very, very hard. Even though he got off the farm and had a very good job, his philosophy was that you had to work hard, whether it was around the house or on the job. He was passionate about us paying for our own college because it was important to him for us to take that ownership.
I went to the University of Wisconsin. There was a study done once, by Bloomberg in 2005, I think, and more S&P Fortune 500 CEOs came from of the University of Wisconsin than any other school in the country at the time, including Harvard and Princeton. But they discussed why this was and if they believed it was primarily because people in the Midwest tended to come from good, hard-working, honest backgrounds, and that they didn’t have any pretensions.
People here will say to me, “You’re just such a normal guy in your approach,” and I really don’t know what that means. So, yeah, I think that my background has played a big role in who I am today, where I am and how I manage.
Do you think that businesses struggle with cultural fit? Do you spend a lot of time defining culture?
I don’t think that you can assume that someone’s going to come from some type of background or some part of the country and, because of that, they are going to fit into the culture. I do believe that culture as a topic within a company has become very cliché-ish, but it’s extremely important when you start to develop clear goals because the only way that you are going to achieve them is to have people that fit the culture.
There are reasons why certain marriages work and other marriages don’t, right? I think that putting the right people in an environment where they can be collaborative, with a level of trust and respect and accountability, is everything to a company, and if somebody doesn’t fit into a culture it can be very, very toxic and that gets in the way of everything. That’s what stops progress, no matter what setting you are in.
Ten, 15 years ago, there seemed to be a lot less humility. “I don’t need to be loved, I just need to be respected.” Today people are saying no, a leader needs to be loved and respected. There’s an element of both in terms of being effective because I think that the more you are respected and the more you are liked the more people will rally around you, as a person and as a leader.
I think that you are seeing more humility and I think that companies are looking for more of that. When you have humility it’s easier to cede control and let go of things at times and better understand where to assert yourself. When the culture of an environment revolves around a domineering personality it’s not conducive to innovative thinking. People sit in their offices and ask, “What does it matter? He or she won’t agree with me anyway, so why would I ever bring something to the table?”
I think that a better culture starts from the top. It always does. If you don’t have it right there it is very difficult to get it right at any level.
What is your thinking about the future?
I am really fascinated by how smart technology is coming on board, whether it’s in our cities, homes or offices. Technology is going to keep changing how we work and live and operate. I’m always fascinated by where it is going to go and how that’s going to enable our lives to be better. That kind of keeps me going every day.
I will say that a day never goes by where I am not picking up something new, that I’m not learning. And I guess when the day comes that I don’t feel that happening then I probably don’t have a lot to offer, anymore. But I still have that in abundance, and that’s exciting.
About Doug Albregts
Doug Albregts has bee the EVP and Group Chief Executive Officer of Gaming for Scientific Games since May 2018. He oversees Scientific Games’ product development, production, supply chain and sales of the company’s Gaming products, systems and services.
He was previously the Chief Executive Officer/President and Chairman of Sharp Electronics Corporation. He was responsible for the strategic direction and performance of Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America’s (SIICA) industry-leading business solutions, including multifunction printers and professional and commercial displays for the United States.
Albregts graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor of Arts degree and also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola University Chicago.
About Keith Giarman
Keith Giarman serves as managing partner for DHR International’s Private Equity Practice. For more than 10 years, Giarman has overseen board, C- and senior-level search assignments working with management teams and investors where the mantra is rapid and long-term enterprise value creation. He has also been instrumental in the build-out of principal investing teams.
Giarman earned his Bachelor of Arts at the University of California San Diego (where he played varsity baseball as a catcher) and his MBA from Harvard Business School (where he was recruited into the PhD program in organizational behavior). Giarman is a current board member of the Harvard Business School Association of Northern California and Mission Dolores Academy — an innovative K-8 school serving disadvantaged students in San Francisco.