C-Suite: John Cooley

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,380 views 

Class of 2022 C Suite John Cooley Chief Financial Officer Propak, Fort Smith

Fast fact: Cooley has been CFO for 21 years at Propak, a logistics company with more than 1,600 full-time employees operating in 60 locations in 21 states.

Which supporting skills do you think are most important when it comes to leadership? For me, the ability to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” is a leadership game changer. It allows me to relate at the most basic level with my fellow leaders, team members and staff. Conversations tend to be much more productive and less dictatorial because I understand what is being asked of my team, and, at the same time, they understand the reason for the request or the discussion. This mindset also allows leaders to develop leaders inside the organization.

What is the most used app on your phone? While the unfortunate answer is probably Instagram or Twitter, I use Spotify constantly to find new music and my iPad to read (or at least skim) the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post each morning.

If you had $1 million to give, what would you support? Without a doubt, I would contribute to causes that address mental health. While there continues to be an increase in the number of people struggling with mental health issues, there are fewer resources than ever available to fight it. Children and young adults are faced with an unbelievable amount of pressure to fit in and achieve all while under the scrutiny of social media. Many adults are fighting to overcome tragedies in their lives while also trying to make ends meet. It used to be rare to see someone talking to themselves while walking down the street. Unfortunately, now we see it every day.

What is one thing you would change about your company if you could today? Propak Logistics has over 60 locations representing six different supply chain divisions, and we are striving to capture all relevant data in a real-time manner. As our complexity results from each division having different revenue and volume streams, we are still in the process of implementing systems that will give us the desired “dashboard information.” This real-time information will further enable Propak to help our customers succeed.

If you could change one thing about your leadership style, what would it be and why? In all aspects of my world, I need to work on being a better communicator. In my head, I may know exactly what needs to be done, but I recognize that, when looking back, I often fall short of adequately communicating information that would have been meaningful or helpful to my team in their assignments.

What’s the most recent book you read? I’ve just completed one of the best books I’ve ever read, “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles. It is a wonderfully written story about one man’s civility over several decades while “sentenced” to live in one of Moscow’s finest hotels. Towles’ ability to be descriptive and concise without wasting words translates to his amazing writing.

What is the best business advice you have ever received or given? Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo once said, “Always assume positive intent.” The belief that almost everyone you come across means well and doesn’t come to the table with poor intentions is liberating. When I use the phrase with my leadership team at Propak, it allows us to reset the discussion and focus on the issue at hand. I believe it has become a cornerstone of Propak’s corporate culture.