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Business Observer Wednesday, Apr. 15, 2020 3 months ago

CEO shares insights from pandemic and how family time has been key

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Jeff Jackson is CEO and president of Venice-based manufacturer PGT Innovations.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Company: PGT Innovations

Revenue: $744.96 million in 2019

Employees: 3,000

Executive: Jeff Jackson, CEO and president  

Work situation: Jackson is working at the office, mainly from the Venice location of the window and door manufacturer. Some of the firm’s employees who are able to do their jobs remotely are working from home. He says it’s important for leadership to be present during this time, especially to workers on the floor. “I think being more visible to team members goes a long way,” he says. “You need to be visible. You need to communicate with people more.”

Biggest challenge with the current work setup: “The biggest challenge is you’re not with the people you’re usually with day in and day out,” Jackson says. “I think that’s been a hurdle.”

Most important lesson learned during this time: “During dark times of uncertainty, I think your eyes will focus more, and you see more clearly around you,” he says. He’s also learned the importance of being flexible in the face of an evolving situation. “You really have to be nimble so you can respond to new developments,” Jackson says. PGT, for instance, is adjusting its manufacturing lines across the company to take into account social distancing.

How far out into the future are you looking? With COVID-19 news changing frequently, Jackson has been thinking more than usual about the short term. “Every day is something,” he says. “I’m planning daily now because we have to react. But I’m more looking long term — what’s the impact on our second quarter?”

TV shows watching during this time: “I’ve probably watched more TV than I ever have,” he says. With two daughters home from college, the current top shows they’re watching are the much-talked-about “Tiger King” along with “The Outsider” and “Ozark.”

How do you maintain your spirit? “I am an avid exercise guy,” he says. With gyms closed, he made his garage his home gym. Now he works out there at 6 p.m. each night. “My wife and two girls from college join,” Jackson says. “It’s been more of a family event.” They’re also taking more walks in their neighborhood and have taken kayaks out for a spin on the water to explore the mangroves. The Jackson family has played card games as well and the U.S. and Europe versions of the board game “Ticket to Ride.” “We’re kind of getting back to the old-fashioned way of family time, which has been good,” he says.

Last trip out of the house: Jackson went to Lowe’s and bought some plants. “That’s the other thing we’re doing — we’re planting,” he says. They’ve redone their front yard with new flowers and bushes.

Favorite meal to eat at home: “I’m a breakfast guy,” Jackson says, “so my favorite meal is country ham and biscuits — the ham you fry up in a pan and real Southern buttermilk biscuits.”

 

Click the links below to hear how more regional executives are handling the shutdowns.

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