By Jim Drozdowski
I had the opportunity to spend an evening with 2016 Asphalt Institute Chairman John Janes in both a professional and social setting. Through our discussions, it was my intent to uncover how John became the respected professional that he is today.
What motivates you?
John credits his family for keeping him motivated, and as the foundation that helps him grow professionally. He also recognizes his time with Koch Industries and Bill Kirk, CEO of Associated Asphalt, as instrumental in his career development.
What has been your career journey?
In 1990, John was a gray Ford Taurus-driving sales rep calling on asphalt paving clients for Koch Materials, a division of Koch Industries based in Wichita, Kansas. He had graduated college and was unsure what direction his career would go, but he was eager to learn the business from the ground up.
He spent the next 15 years essentially growing within Koch by accepting roles with increasing responsibility. His willingness to relocate has taken him to offices in Reading, Pennsylvania, Heath, Ohio, Pine Bend, Minnesota and then back to Reading as the Northeast business leader. His final move with Koch led him down to Atlanta, Georgia where he worked as a regional manager for four years. It was at this juncture that Koch Materials became SemMaterials and John spent the next year assimilating into a new culture.
He spent 2006 redefining his professional expectations, and in 2007, he accepted a supply and marketing role with Associated Asphalt in Roanoke, Virginia. For the next seven years, John worked as part of the company’s management team to advance its growth and relationships within the industry. He was named president of the company in 2014.
John believes in a bottom-up approach to leadership through which employee empowerment and feedback will allow for continuous improvement. This is the commitment he believes is needed for Associated Asphalt to succeed. John’s goal is to ideally visit the company’s 15 office/terminals on an annual basis and meet with the 228 folks who keep the processes flowing as well as the customers and suppliers they service in those regions.
He firmly believes in corporate flexibility in order to meet customer needs. John realized early in his career that it’s critical to minimize bureaucracy. He does all he can to fight redundancy, and he doesn’t let layers of paperwork hold things up. John knows that decisions are binary in either advancing the company or stifling its potential.
He keeps his door open to dialogue as he learns best practices from the folks that he’s working with on a daily basis, and John knows that both internal and external relationships remain the key for success. Associated Asphalt’s corporate culture and values are very evident, and it is well known there is an open door policy.
The people of Associated Asphalt are what enable its success. John realizes the importance of promoting from within as a key component of a healthy organization and has a desire to develop people internally. He believes communication is key when it comes to problem solving and decision-making.
Do trade associations bring value to you professionally?
John has served on many committees within the Asphalt Institute and has participated with DOTs, FHWA, Eurobitume and AEMA, to name a few others. It is through trade associations that John believes the industry can exact change and continuously strive to improve itself and the marketplace.
How important is health, safety and environment (HSE)?
The most important aspect to John is that all of his employees make it home safely each day. He reminds people, “If you aren’t aware of the potential hazards, risks, and outcomes of any action, STOP!”
What does the future hold for John?
John remains committed to his family, Associated Asphalt, and the asphalt industry, as well as staying active within his community in Roanoke. His association affiliations will remain a vital part of his professional role, as will maintaining relationships with employees, customers and suppliers. John looks forward to engaging the upcoming challenges as opportunities for Associated Asphalt and our industry, and the experience and personal development they will provide.
Overall, John is happy and is thankful for how things are going in his life.
Drozdowski is an industrial products manager for Kleen Performance Products in Buffalo, New York.