MEET JON BAHL, CEO OF AGILITY RECOVERY
Please join us in welcoming Jon Bahl as the new CEO of Agility Recovery.
Jon has spent much of his career in mission-driven and customer-centric organizations, making him a great fit to lead our company’s mission of bringing business resiliency and preparedness to the highest possible level for our customers across the continent.
We sat down with Jon to learn a little more about him and his goals for the new role.
How excited are you about life right now on a scale of 1-10?
Probably a 7, maybe an 8. I’m thrilled to be a part of Agility Recovery. It’s an awesome opportunity and I love being in Denver. I am very impressed with the people so far, so that’s been really outstanding. Of course being away from my family is difficult, and I don’t like not being fully up-to-speed. So those 2 things are a little bit of detractors right now, but I couldn’t be more thrilled to be here at this moment.
Where did you grow up? What’s your football team?
I grew up in Dallas. Crazy enough, my mom still lives in the house I was born in, so when we go visit, my son still sleeps in my room. It’s super funny to see. So given those roots, I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan. I went to University of Texas and love the Texas Longhorns as well.
The internet has an obsession with how successful people start their day. What’s your morning routine?
It’s less routine-like than others, so it’s usually one of four things I get done. On my best days, I workout and I meditate. On days I have to get things done, I usually get on a plane and go somewhere. On my worst days, I usually try to dig out of e-mails. In an ideal world, I would strike a balance and would get the workout and meditation in every day and then the other stuff would follow.
What time’s the alarm go off on a regular day?
Coffee or tea?
Neither. I haven’t had caffeine since 2001.
Wow, that’s crazy. You are so energetic.
Yeah, I do like sugar a lot and now I’m trying to take that out too which is really hard. Occasionally, if it’s a really cold day I have a decaf green tea but that’s the only thing you’ll probably ever see.
What’s the most overused word in business right now?
Oh my gosh, there’s a bunch. And I probably use a lot of them, but I’m going to go with “talk offline”, or “chat offline.” I don’t really love that one because that’s usually a euphemism for avoiding the tough conversations or I don’t want to deal with it. I don’t mind it as much if somebody says it and actually sets up an appointment and has that conversation, but I feel like a lot of times it is just a way of avoiding having the tough conversations that should happen right then in the room.
How do you feel about the word “bandwidth” to describe your workload?
That one doesn’t bother me, but now that you put it on my radar I’m probably going to be super cognizant of myself and others saying it.
What’s your favorite airport to fly through?
Atlanta. Atlanta is home and I have been in it about a hundred times a year for the last eight years. I know exactly where I want to be at every second. Otherwise, I would probably say I like Salt Lake City a lot because you come in through the mountains and then drop down for a beautiful view.
Books or Movies?
I don’t really do either all that much. I definitely don’t ever watch movies, shockingly. I think the last time my wife and I went on a movie date was probably like 8 years ago. So mostly books, I just don’t set aside the time for it all that much, but if I’m on the beach I’ll go through a book in a day or two.
What’s your beach read?
Nothing that requires much thinking. James Patterson, Robert Ludlum, or John Grisham and all those series of books. I also try to read the most current thinking from the business perspective. So right now Grit by Angela Duckworth is on my nightstand. She has some really cool concepts in there.
Who’s your style icon?
My style is somewhat limited. Clooney has a pretty good look, Bradley Cooper has a pretty good look. I tend to dress relatively conservatively, and they fit into that kind of genre. Usually in my socks you’ll see some level of personality, otherwise, it’s pretty tame.
What’s on heavy rotation for you right now in music?
It’s starting to get dictated by my kids more which is interesting, but I’m a country music fan. I like to be a little bit ahead of what’s popular — before somebody’s gotten really big. I’ll listen to things that are up-and-coming artists. Once they make it to where Luke Bryan is, I feel like it’s too mainstream, a little bit too bro-country for me.
I don’t know I would call it hipster country but more like the new Nashville scene stuff. My wife and I would go and see live music at small venues and try to find folks.
Here’s my best story. My wife and I met at a busy country bar where we worked. They decided to start trying to do live music and so Keith Urban played there, back before he was famous, for like 10 people. Nobody came, and we were all making fun of the guy–this Australian guy who thinks he can do country music. Now that he’s hit it really big, we kind of missed our chance.
What do you wish someone told you in your first job?
I’ll answer that in two ways. What I did right in my early career that probably still continues through today is I just worked my tail off. I felt like I wasn’t going to be the smartest guy in the room but I was going to outwork everybody around me. I wish somebody had told me to try to balance that with taking care of my health and being sustainable because I was pretty willing to make those trade-offs to advance my career.
And then, the other thing is: if you are not going to be a hard worker, you just got to be a little more patient, because things are going to be harder to come by and take a little longer. It doesn’t mean you won’t get there, but there’s this concept in the market right now, the 10,000-hour rule which I think a lot of folks have seen. So look, if you work 40 hours a week that’s 2080 hours, that means it’s going to take you five years to get there. If you work 60 hours a week, you dramatically increase what that timeline’s going to look like. For me that paid off, but how you figure out that balance between working hard, being healthy, having a life outside of work I think is really, really critical. The sooner you find that balance the better off you’ll be.
What was your first job?
It was in commercial printing. They have a cool program where you get to work in every function in the business and really understand it from the manufacturing floor, to buying paper, to selling, to supporting customers. I did that, which rolled into a sales opportunity with them once I kind of knew the business and had a good time with that.
What makes business continuity interesting to you?
I want to be part of an organization that serves the greater good of communities around all of us. At its root, business continuity is really helping an organization in their true time of need. That goes beyond just helping that organization because it helps the employees, the families around those employees, and their communities. The faster you can respond in a time of need to the company, to the employee, to the family, I think that’s an incredibly fulfilling thing for us to do as a business.
How do you explain Agility Recovery or business continuity to your kids?
I need to do that! My kids used to think I got on a plane and work, and would just fly around for a week. Now they know I get on a plane, I go to work, I sit in a bunch of meetings, and then I come home. But if I were to describe it, they are familiar with what happened in Panama City Beach, because we know some folks who were impacted and that’s the conversation to have with them, talking about how we serve those communities, and we how we were successful in standing up banks and businesses in the community that they personally were impacted by.
How have your past roles prepared you to lead Agility Recovery?
In the last eight years I have worked for some really phenomenal CEOs and just couldn’t have been better mentored and better shaped by folks that I worked with previously. That probably has the most lasting impact on me. I worked with four that each had different strengths and different things that I have taken away from them. All the businesses were mission-driven, striking the balance between serving our clients, serving our communities and also driving growth and profitability for our business. It’s a really important balance and having been in businesses that have done that, I think that will help us ensure we have the right strategy.
If you look at my history it’s been a lot about growth–and folks can argue the pros and cons of growth for a business–but ultimately for me what it means is being able to serve more clients, and if we serve more clients, then we’re going to serve more communities in their time of need. I get pretty excited about that.
Do you hope that one day someone will say “it’s because of my CEO Jon Bahl that I’m able to lead in this position I’m in now”?
Yes. I feel like the measurement of my successes is the success of the people who have worked with me. I take pride in seeing when people I worked with either directly or indirectly advanced in their careers and feel like I had some positive impact on that.
What surprised you in your first week in the role?
That’s a good question. The good news is not a lot surprised me, which means that I have a good sense for the business coming in and people have set the right expectations. What I was most energized by is the commitment to the business and the light in people’s eyes to really make this company successful. That’s super energizing.
Hearing there’s a new CEO can be a shock for some. What do you want customers to take from your new role?
I think if I was sitting in the customers’ shoes, what I would want to know is my passion and commitment around driving execution and accountability to ourselves, and to our clients. I think that has to be something we are known for in the marketplace. In somebody’s time of need, we’re going to execute phenomenally well and we’re also going to be accountable to get better every day.
Okay, final question: what does success at this company look like for you?
We’ve touched on a lot of it. Internally it’s about seeing people advance and grow in their careers, and take on new challenges. I think in terms of growth, it’s about really accelerating the number of clients that we serve every day. For our existing clients, it’s about exceeding their expectations in their time of need.