Abe Salloum

You’ll achieve much more when you can rally people around a common goal


Abdallah Salloum’s career in integrated industrial manufacturing began in 1988 at Mazda Motor Manufacturing. He worked there for ten years while going to school. He received his BA in business at William Tyndale College and his MBA at Davenport University.

He moved on to TRW Automotive in 1999 for the next ten years. Abe Salloum moved up from global staff engineer to global head of supplier quality. During his time at TRW, he relocated to Woodstock, Ontario where he ran TRW automotive plant before returning to be their global head of quality.

In 2009, Abe Salloum was recruited by HARMAN International and expatriate to Germany as their vice president of operations in Europe for three and a half years. In 2012, Salloum returned to Michigan for a year as HARMAN Americas’ vice president and general manager.

He was then recruited by General Electric (GE) to work for two years in the Oil and Gas business in Houston, Texas before he went to GE Healthcare. He is currently based in Milwaukee as GE Senior Executive and is responsible for global supplier management.

In his free time, Abdallah Salloum enjoys cycling, home remodeling projects, reading books in various languages – business and non-business topics, as well as enjoying the finer things in life.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

If I were to say that there was a designed road map that got me to where I am, it would be a complete lie. I have, however, always tried to do whatever I am doing to a level of excellence where it delivers a differentiating type of an outcome. I use this phrase: If you’re good for what you do, what you do will be good for you. I’m very detailed in my profession. I don’t leave any stones unturned. So, a little bit of hard work and a lot of luck along the way I would say.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day is exceptionally long – I do not like mundane and repetitive – so every day for me is comprised of heavy back to back engagements that are focused on listening to leaders driving objectives, priorities, project updates, discussing with teams whether we continue to be aligned to company priorities, providing guidance on and removing roadblocks, and ensuring that we’re focused on achieving the commitments we made – and that’s every day!

How do you bring ideas to life?

I always try to focus on what is important to the business. I have a good sense of what matters in the way of a business outcome. I am very focused on ensuring that whatever I work on compliments those deliverables and priorities. Then how I go about it to drive effective change, is by using the five elements of change approach: 1) work with teams on defining how we are going to measure business outcome 2) ensure that we have the right infrastructure in place that will enable us to drive those measures of performance in the desired direction 3) place heavy focus and emphasis on having the right people practices using the infrastructure to drive agreed measures of performance 4) craft and execute a deliberate communication plan – communication, for me, is all about being consistent, meaningful and repetitive. And lastly, the fifth element of how I drive change is symbolic action — recognition of a good outcome and the celebration of those good outcomes. If it’s a negative outcome, you don’t always get to move something as quick as you want to and sometimes you face challenges. You need to then recognize and understand those challenges and do something about them. Change your approach, and solicit additional help and contribution from other functions, colleagues or teams – be humble in the process! Change has to be designed and not just wished upon and I have found that by using this methodology – not only can change can be effective but also sustainable.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I like to see people realizing their maximum potential. I like to see people who start with apprehension and then get to success, self-actualization, or fulfillment at the end of the project. That excites me because I’m able to then have instilled a culture that is going to be sustainable over time. You’ve not just changed a business outcome, but you’ve changed people’s perception and perspective of what can be done – then all you’ve got to do is let them loose. I work extremely hard on changing minds. Then I watch how those minds go about creating better outcomes for the organization. That, more than anything, gives me the most satisfaction.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

The majority of my career have been spent working for large organization, and it is usually convenient to think that you are “just an employee” come in at eight-leave-at-five, early in my career I struggled with this concept of “being an employee” I just did not like it, and so I adopted what I think is pretty controversial but what have made me more effective, motivating, and productive – “run it like you own it”. You’ve got to apply yourself and be extremely dedicated to whatever mission you created or signed up for – if you think of yourself as “just an employee” you will ultimately become one. In addition to running like business like you own it, you have to be laser focus, and have very good sense of what matters for the business you “own” – be unequivocal, candid, provide a clear roadmap to your team, pivot quickly where things are not going well, but always focus on moving the needle – that is the recipe for success – the alternative, you become a “clock watcher” your day and life at whatever job you have will be boring.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I never planned to be who I am today, professionally, an industrial manufacturer….my “young self” aspirations were completely different, but I gave up on those goals a long time ago because they were not achievable based on my individual circumstances, or so I thought. Instead I decided to “master” playing the cards I was dealt and in return, my career I must say has been exceptionally rewarding.
My advice to my younger self however, in hindsight – would be, stick with those aspirational objectives because there’s a something/feeling between aspiration and reality that gives us satisfaction and makes us happy! Unless you have a little bit of both, life will flash in-front of you, and no matter what you achieve, you won’t feel fulfilled. You will always feel like you’re always chasing “something” that you do not have – you will not able to put your hands on it – it is that feeling! It’s like drinking out of a bottomless bottle that never quenches your thirst, and it does sometimes feel that way for me. After ample reflection, my “older self” have found a link between feeling unfulfilled and “my younger self ” aspirations – I probably shouldn’t have abandoned those objectives and should have given them a little more considerations.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I usually set, what appears in the beginning to be, very difficult objectives/deliverables to achieve only to then achieve them. This really stems out of the ability to see the opportunity vividly, and my impatience then manifest itself into tough deliverables that are commensurate with the size of the opportunity. I believe that we can achieve anything we set our minds to, especially when as leaders we are able to paint a clear picture, rally and get people excited around those deliverables. There’s this saying, under promise and over deliver, and I tend to over promise but still deliver. I don’t like under promising, it’s hedging, and I hate hedging because, from my perspective, it implies that you’re holding back onto something that you don’t want others to see.
My advice to leaders is to lean in, apply yourself, learn, pivot when needed and reap the results.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I am extremely persistent. I do not take no for an answer about what I think we need to do. I am very candid, appropriately disruptive and I don’t mince my words. I call it like it is. I don’t limit myself. I think limitless, and I just let the relationship take its course, of course with some clear objectives and priorities.
I also have the ability to simplify complex concepts. If the problem is too hard to describe or manage, I dig into the details to understand it. Then the idea is crystallized, and the approach of what we are going to do to fix the problem becomes that much more vivid.
So, be persistent, be truthful, and don’t limit yourself and your thinking, because as soon as you start limiting yourself, your achievements will be limited as well.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Simplicity – what has been extremely effective for me and what I have worked diligently at becoming good at – is the ability to simplify and or articulate complex concepts into strategy, framework, and outcomes that are linked to organizations bottom line – this ability above all is what I believe organizations are looking for in their leaders.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

When I was in Europe, I needed to move some plants where profitability and the longevity of the plant constituted a big risk for the organization – and unfortunately, I underestimated the level of collaboration that I was going to get from the people I needed to execute the plan. One plant was in the UK and what the local management team did was nothing short of amazing, they understood why the decision was made, embraced and led the transition. The second plant was based in Germany and I; credulously, thought we would have the same level of collaboration and man was I wrong – both management and the employees were very defensive and resistant to the plan and we had to invest significant amount of capital duplicating assets at the receiving plant in order to eliminate the dependencies – we did make it work but the hard lesson here was that people motivations is different, and that contingency planning is an absolute must.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think anything that can make people more productive is a great business idea.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I consider myself to be a lifelong learner – I am constantly buying and reading new books that continue to shape my outlook on life.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

There are a lot of tools with different use and purpose and when used appropriately can be very effective – Short Messaging System(SMS) for example has revolutionized the way people, families, friends, etc… connect in an efficient and productive way. Skype, Telepresence, and video conferencing in general has cut distances and created a bridge connecting people and teams. The advent of this technology has really helped with day-to-day productivity.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt – this book is fundamental to lean manufacturing and supply chain
Good to Great by James C. Collins – you can apply the learning personally or to an organization
I and Thou by Martin Buber – very interesting and challenging way of thinking

What is your favorite quote?

“Every leader needs to be the Chief Meaning Officer for his team/organization” – Abe Salloum
“Trust is lost not earned” – Abe Salloum
“You can’t guarantee success, but you can guarantee that you are not going to stop.” – Abe Salloum

Key Learnings:

  • Create your own opportunity
  • You’ll achieve much more when you can rally people around a common goal
  • Even as an employee you need to “Run it like you own it”