Amber Engine's very own Dan Wieczorek is recognized by Home Furnishings Business as one of its 2018 Forty Under 40 honorees! We spoke to Dan about this exciting recognition.
Dan, congratulations on the Forty Under 40 honor. What does that feel like to you?
Thank you! It is definitely an honor and very humbling. Looking at the recipient list, I am surrounded by others that have contributed a lot to their own companies along with the industry, so I feel very fortunate to be recognized in such a strong class.
Were you surprised to find out you made it to the final round?
In all honesty, yes. Surprised and again humbled. I have always viewed myself as someone who has been here to help out the industry . . . but not necessarily “in the industry.” So, being nominated, making it to the final rounds, and then being selected changed my own perspective on that.
How will this recognition impact your future and career?
Truthfully, I hadn’t even considered that! The way I viewed this was confirmation of what I’ve done, being support for the industry in a few different capacities, by putting those dealers and manufacturers I work with first.
As I look to the future, I think this award validates that my personal mission is appreciated and, if anything, I hope the exposure provides me the opportunity to utilize my knowledge and skill set to continue to support those I work with today and engage others.
At the end of each day, I want to feel that I made a difference, I want to feel that I impacted those around me in a positive way and improved their business's day-to-day operations.
As you went through this experience, did you learn any new lessons?
Once I was selected as a recipient I learned just how many people I’ve impacted over the years. I can’t put into words how amazing and inspiring it was to hear from so many people whose lives I’ve touched.
What advice would you offer to people just starting their career who may have their eye on a Forty Under 40 nod?
I would start with this: Do the right thing and you will get there. When I entered this industry, I didn’t come in looking to make a name for myself, to be Forty Under 40, or to put my own financial gain first. I came in listening, I came to learn. And I came in ready to roll up my sleeves and help in any way that I could.
I would also say stay the course even though sometimes it’s hard and use your morals, ethics, and values to make decisions, not what an excel spreadsheet with numbers on it says. Remember that all you have is your word, it’s all you take with you, and that a handshake and a promise is just as iron clad as a signed contract. If you do that, you will make good waves in the pool.
Amber Engine is a fairly casual work environment – do you have tips for other people trying to maintain a sense of professionalism in a relaxed atmosphere?
You know, it is, and that was an interesting adaptation for me as well. You need to establish your own brand, what you’re comfortable with, and how you carry yourself. I think that a casual environment is a fantastic platform to stand out in a good way. Not just on how you dress and come to the office every day, but also how you carry yourself in meetings and work with partners.
Casual has a certain perception so ‘business’ casual stands out. Again, though, you need to find a style that is all yours and own it. Whether we are off to a market, or it’s a Wednesday that I am in the office in Detroit, my socks are always on point. I show respect, humility and teamwork with clients. And, most importantly, I listen to those around me. To me, living those values is my personal way to maintain a sense of professionalism in any environment and, well, my socks just help make me memorable!
Can you share your biggest professional regret?
Oh, this is a tough one. I don’t think I have a regret per se because to me a regret means you’re unhappy with where you are or you wish you would have done something differently. Every job, and every day, has its own set of challenges . . . and not every day will be gumdrops and lollipops. But, I do believe that the day is what you make it, how you respond to it and how you view it.
That said, being a Monday morning quarterback and looking at my peers around me, the only thing I’d say I wish I would have done and my advice to others would be to push yourself that one extra step. It’s almost like working out, do that one extra rep, push yourself one more time, make yourself a little uncomfortable. I don’t believe any ‘successful’ person has ever said, “I wish I would have pushed myself less, or I wish I would have taken it easier on myself.”
What did you learn from it?
I learned that those who push themselves harder change the future. They impact the outcome directly, and that’s what I want to do. I want to leave it better than I left it, I want to feel like I made a difference. After all, just like the saying about how someone can’t take away your education or your college degree, someone can’t take away the legacy of ‘you’ leaving it better than you found it.
What is your process for dissecting a mistake and using your learning to make better choices moving forward?
The first thing is to solve the immediate problem. If I make a mistake, which I do often, my number one thing is to rectify it so that mistake doesn’t continue to have a ripple effect on other outcomes. Once that is done then the dissecting starts.
My motto is “to do the right thing.” So, if I make a mistake, I look at it as an honest one because I really did have the best intentions in mind. I typically go back to see where I made a left turn instead of right. Did I not understand the ‘ask’ completely? Was the outcome not clearly defined? What details did I miss?
Typically, what I notice is that it comes down to communication. If a mistake is made it’s because someone did not clearly communicate or, on the flip, understand the request, need, or outcome. Using that as a basis, this is what has made up so much of my professional life, is communicating clearly to those around me with the understanding that the outcome is hinging on my level of execution.
Look into the crystal ball . . . where will we see you in a decade? (Still in the home furnishings industry? Still in technology?)
Looking into a crystal ball, probably both. I wasn’t raised in the industry, my mom was a stay-at-home mom, as I’m the oldest of five children, and my dad was a mailman. But I learned the value of work hard every day – it was drilled into my head before I could even hold a job.
I landed in retail, consumer electronics, after a short stint in marketing and loved it. I loved working with people, I loved solving problems and I love technology (and cars!). I shifted over to Amber Engine because I appreciate, adore, and respect this industry so much. There are so many amazing people in it, it feels like a crazy large family (including that weird uncle ‘Bob’). So, all that said, I don’t see myself leaving and I still see technology driving what I do because that is the future, embracing technology and change is what allows us to continue to evolve.
As one with a front row seat to the way technology is changing the home furnishings industry, what are you most excited about?
This question almost makes me giddy with joy!
There is so much tech out there, and it is evolving so fast it’s almost hard to think about what’s coming next. It wasn’t that long ago I didn’t have a cell phone, or that Facebook didn’t exist, and then you think about where in less than 20 years how things are today. I have been part of other industries and helped to spark change through technology in other industries and that’s what gets me excited about this industry.
There’s so much we can do to offer a better shopping and buying experience to customers, which might seem overwhelming, but to me is inspiring. I think tech in general will continue to evolve online, but as we continue to bring the brick-and-mortar experience to a new level that’s what will really shift the tide. Think about it this way, how much effort does it take to lay in your bed at night and browse a website like Amazon, or Best Buy, or any retailer? Not much right? Now take the effort needed to leave your home, drive your car or take public transportation to a retail store. Doesn’t that require more effort from the consumer? Why should that shopping experience be less wowing than online when the customer is investing more effort? We have a lot we can do here, and this is where my personal passion is. Those that differentiate themselves and ‘figure it out’ will be here to stay.
If a company is debating the best use technology in a retail environment, what is your advice to them?
That there is an endless aisle of choices for everything you can possibly do but doing something is better than doing nothing. Ask questions, do your due diligence on options, but decide. Make that decision based on what your value propositions and mission is to your customer and choose the technology that supports that.
It’s ok to be different, it’s ok to choose a different solution than someone else because they might be trying to serve a different customer base, but like I said, decide. No one wants to be the squirrel trying to cross the road and couldn’t decide to go forward or back, just sitting in the middle of the road because that’s not a safe place to be.
Amber Engine employees are encouraged to participate in volunteer hours to give back to Detroit. Tell me a bit about that.
Oh, absolutely we are, just like the other companies that Dan and Jen own, they encourage us to participate in the community around us. Amber Engine has done things from planting trees in the community, to working with community outreach centers, a food bank, and cleaning up parks and playgrounds. Every day is an opportunity to make a difference and make not only those people around us but our communities around us a better place to live and play and we breathe and live that daily.
What do you find as the biggest benefit of corporate volunteerism?
My personal belief is that it keeps us connected and focused on what really matters: the people. That in turn plays back into our work mission: it’s the people we serve that matters. If we were to have no one that we helped or benefitted, we’d probably cease to exist.
If money didn’t exist and status didn’t matter, what job would you do all day?
Well, since Bruce Schwartz already has this job (being the ambassador of Detroit - look him up!), I would say inspire people to change their lives, make a difference, and then of course speak about how great Detroit and Michigan, in general, is. Think Tony Robbins with a twist. Anyone who knows me personally knows I am a walking billboard for both my state and the city I was born in. I’m also a chronic over-packer when I travel - just so I won’t run out of Michigan-themed anything!