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JM Chair, President and CEO Mary Rhinehart

Chair, President and CEO of Johns Manville Mary Rhinehart (Executive MBA 1989) told an audience of about 500 Monday night about her four core values for leading and succeeding, attributing much of what she’s learned to her boss Warren Buffett, and the founder of her alma mater Bill Daniels. Rhinehart was invited by the Daniels College of Business to be the keynote speaker at the winter Voices of Experiences event.

“Before his name graced the college of business,” she said. “Bill Daniels was leader with a steadfast focus on ethics. Warren acts with honor and integrity. He says, ‘it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you may do things differently.’”

Rhinehart, who was named president and CEO in 2012 after serving as chief financial officer of Johns Manville (JM), oversees 7,000 employees. The $3 billion manufacturing company makes energy-efficient building products and engineered materials that go in homes, cars, airplanes and commercial buildings. Their customers are in more than 85 countries. 

She said she doesn’t expect her company’s core values – people, passion, perform, protect – would translate to every business, but she believes they give JM a competitive edge. JM’s first value is people. Rhinehart explained that the company champions people by developing their talent and hiring leaders who are genuine, passionate, opportunity makers, open minded and have positive attitudes. Then, they encourage their employees to innovate and learn something new each day.

As part of their second value, passion, Rhinehart said Warren Buffett encourages his management team to get away from the office, to meet with customers and employees, to listen, observe, ask questions and read. “Bill Gates reads 50 books a year,” she mentioned.

Superior performance is JM’s third value. Rhinehart said that JM is lucky to be able to make decisions for the long term, being free from the quarterly demands of investors.20170109-maryrhinehart-danielsvoe-6

“We’re told to treat every decision as if you own the company and it’s the only asset you’ll own,” she said.

In closing, she tied the fourth value of protect back to their first value of people. “We do all we can to create safe work environments. We must care for each other. Nothing trumps safety. Do the right thing for right reason, even when no one is watching. That’s ethics.”

Rhinehart, who was one of nine children, says she learned a good work ethic at an early age. She put herself through college, as did each of her siblings. She went to work for JM as an intern in the audit department and took positions in nearly every department in the company, even if it seemed like a demotion, so she could learn and grow. Her advice to current DU students is to have a good work ethic, learn soft and hard skills, hone critical thinking skills and exercise.

“Take care of yourself,” she said. “Focus on health and wellness. [Exercise] is a great way to start your day. I don’t think I could manage the stress of everything I do if I didn’t exercise.”

Rhinehart serves on several corporate boards, including CoBiz Financial and Ply Gem Industries Inc. She is also a member of the University of Colorado Health’s board of directors and contributes her expertise as a member of the Executive Committee for the Policy Advisory Board of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies; University of Denver Board of Trustees; The Colorado Forum; and Committee of 200, among others.

The Voices of Experience speaker series at the Daniels College of Business brings CEOs and significant leaders to the DU community to share lessons learned from their triumphs, mistakes and decisions as they navigated through their leadership careers. Join us to hear experienced top-level leaders share firsthand stories of motivation, loyalty, values-based leadership, turnaround strategies and more. The series is sponsored by U.S. Bank.