Steady leadership helps The Belden Brick Co. to 133 years in business

Takeaways:

  • Longevity takes flexibility.
  • Change is inevitable, adapting successfully isn’t.
  • Establish values and let them be your guide.

The Belden File

NAME: Robert F. Belden

TITLE: CEO

COMPANY: The Belden Brick Co.

Born: Canton, Ohio

Education: Bachelors of Science in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame; MBA in operations research management science from the University of Michigan.

What was your first job? My first actual job was as a member of the Dallas Cowboys football club in 1969/1970, while I was getting my master’s degree in the off-season. Then I went to work for the 3M Company in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the Marketing Operations Research Department as an analyst.

What is something about being on an NFL roster that many people might not understand? It’s the most competitive, high-pressure thing that you can do when you’re trying to make that team. One of my memories was when I went there in 1969, as one of 17 draft choices by the Cowboys, they also had another, I’m going to say, 60 guys there that were free agents that were just trying to get on the team — this didn’t even count the veterans that were coming back later.

I started out with four guys in a dorm room and after a couple weeks there were two guys in there. Then after another week or so, I was in there by myself. You realize that every day at every practice what you do and how you perform is going to matter, and if you don’t perform you’re going to have a plane ticket home.

What two things would you encourage people visiting Canton to do other than visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame? One of them is the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum, which has President McKinley’s tomb on the grounds — the memorial. It has exhibits of the history of Stark County in it. And I’d go to a high school football game on a Friday night in the fall because high school football matters here in Stark County.

What lessons from the financial industry have helped you in your leadership role at Belden? I had a seat on the Chicago Board Options Exchange from 1976 to 1983, and I was self-employed. One of my takeaways was, in terms of creating options, all kinds of things would work, but none of them worked all the time. I learned that you try to survive when your style is not working, but you better do well when it is working.