077. Hero – Zach White, Founder and CEO at OACO
Fear is winning territory in our lives and I want to take it back and I want to help other people take it back.
Welcome to EECO Ask Why. A podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, spotlights heroes to keep America running. I’m your host, Chris Grainger, and on this podcast, we do not cover the latest features, benefits on products that come to market. Instead, we focused on advice and insight from the top minds of industry because people and ideas will be how America remains number one in manufacturing in the world.
Welcome to EECO Asks Why. We’re having fun today on a hero episode, where we get to sit down with Zach white, who is the founder of a OACO. And you guys may remember Zach. He talked with us about burnout in a previous episode. And it was an amazing conversation. Brought a lot of insight. I know he helped a lot of people. Really looking forward to talking with him about his personal journey to where he’s at now. So Zach, welcome.
Man, it’s awesome to be back, Chris. Thanks so much for having me.
Absolutely, man. It was a blast having you on this last time and really looking forward to digging a little bit deeper with you. We love to start these episodes off with just about the general journey. So if you could help us with that, that’d be great.
My pleasure. Chris, it all started one day when I had the crazy idea to become an engineer. Back in high school, I was the typical strong in math and science kid. And I went up to Purdue. Boiler up for all my boiler makers out there and studied mechanical engineering. Had an amazing time at Purdue and entered into my engineering career with Whirlpool corporation.
And they have a really great program for leadership development. And with one of these rotational programs that I was selected into. And began my engineering career in the appliance industry. Had some outstanding experiences there and then went to Ann Arbor, Michigan for my masters in MME, at university of Michigan.
So go blue would be number two for all the alumni out there. And, then just dove in. And for me, Chris, the thing that always underpinned my engineering career and my life was this tendency to be interested in more than just the technical. I had this itch for business and marketing. I had this entrepreneurial spirit about me that just caused me to always want to be thinking and learning about how to grow companies and business models.
And I was a real social person, which let’s face it. Stereotypically, I might not have fit the mold of a lot of my comrades in arms there at Purdue when it came to that. And just as an example of that, one of my hobbies in Purdue or while I was at Purdue is doing competitive ballroom and Latin dancing.
So not a typical engineer in, in that regard, but how all this unfolds then is while I was working with Whirlpool Corp, I started doing side hustle businesses. Just learning about business through entrepreneurship. Learning about what it takes to run your own company and really got attracted to that.
And the work I was doing on the side gave me an interest to expand my career beyond just engineering. And so I actually made a shift at one point from a senior manager in the engineering space to doing product marketing and brand marketing with the KitchenAid brand, which was a truly incredible opportunity to be a part of one of the most recognized brands in the world and learned a ton.
I had an awesome time doing that. But then that entrepreneurial itch caught up to me, Chris. And one of the things, and we’ll, we’ll unpack this more I’m sure through our time today that’s always been with me is that social side of my life really manifested in a deep desire to help and serve others with what do you need to be able to move forward and reach your goals, your dreams. And at work, it, it became a coaching and mentoring lifestyle.
How many mentees can I have at one time was a question that I asked myself regularly. How much time do I really have to pour into this? And I did some coaching training for myself just because I knew it would be powerful as a tool in the workplace. And then I’ve always had my own coaches as well, as I say, always, probably hired my first coach back in like 2014 and have had one ever since.
And all these things came together to realize, well I would love to start a business where I can stretch and flex this entrepreneurial spirit, but use my experience and the tool kit that I’ve built up over the years by being an engineer and building a great engineering career, but also the breadth of experience as a coach and as a marketer and start OACO.
Which is the Oasis of courage. And it’s all about high performance coaching and career development for engineers and technical professionals to create the results in their career and life that they desire. So all of this has kind of came together and here I am now founded OACO and, and building this company to serve that group of people who are near and dear to my heart, because I’ve lived that journey.
In engineering and it’s a tough career. It’s a tough life. And helping people to move forward in that has been an absolute pleasure. And that’s where I’m at today, man,
Man, that is great. And I love the name though. Oasis of courage. That is wonderful. Love that, man. So where are you actually located at Zach? Just for our listeners.
Yeah. So my body is sitting in South West, Michigan in a small town called Benton Harbor, right on the Lake. I live about a mile off Lake Michigan, and I tell everybody about eight or nine months of the year there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. But in Q1, I spent many nights wondering why I live here, but it’s a beautiful spot on the Lake.
If you haven’t been this direction, I highly recommended. And OACO though does the vast majority of it’s services online and over the phone. And it’s really, I serve clients from coast to coast and so it doesn’t really matter where you’re located. I’m able to serve people. It’s just the beauty of the internet and technology today. Really anywhere around the world, as long as we can be awake at the same time.
There you go. That is a requirement. And you, you, you deal with a lot of people, man. What do you see? Where do you hearing is some of the greatest challenges people are seeing and facing an industry right now?
Yeah. Oh man. Across industries. There’s probably some specifics based on vertical, but I’ll just share a couple of generic things that I hear no matter where you’re at. And one of those is for leaders at the, call it middle management, upper middle management to director type level people, especially in large organizations, the question is being asked on a regular basis.
How do we lead and get effective, productive output from this gen Z group coming out of college right now? I don’t even know how to talk to them. Let alone lead them to the kind of results that we need. There’s just a real challenge around the gap. How do we speak their language? How do we motivate this group and get effective work.
And honestly, Chris, one of the challenges specifically related to this, and I really believe it’s going to become one of the commodities or, or, or crucial differentiating factors in the future that’s rare and scarce is focus. And I’m going to connect the dots on those two things.
So before social media and the internet way back up way back, it was very normal, very common to sit and focus on just one thing for an extended period of time. We lived in a world that valued deep work and focus. Fast forward to today, we master the things that we practice and especially young people today.
And I myself included I’m in my thirties and I, I have a lot of this influence as well. We practice distraction. How does that look right? We we’ve always got our phones buzzing in our pockets. We’ve got sitting at our desk, multiple windows open. We’ve got G chats blinging. We’ve got our phone, texts messages going, we’ve got email alerts buzzing.
And we call that work. But there’s 20 things going at the same time. And there are many people, engineers included who have lost the ability to sit and focus deeply on really tough problems for an extended period of time. When you talk about great challenges that industry has in the foreseeable future, big innovations, revolutionizing ideas, the things that changed the game don’t happen in 30 seconds in between text messages. Okay.
They require a deep level of focus and to sit with tough problems. And I really believe that that is one of the challenges the industry has got to face is how do we take a group of people who are practicing distraction all the time and get them to focus on the few things that really matter for us to differentiate our company. And, and do some amazing things in the world.
No doubt, man. Definitely. We see it all everywhere and every plant that we visited as well. It’s the constant distractions just in itself and inherent of working in manufacturing can be a big problem, a big hurdle to start with, but then you throw that focus on top of it and or the lack of the ability to focus. You’re all over it, man. You are definitely all over.
So if somebody is coming to this industry and we’re trying to get that young engineer, him or her, coming to manufacturing, what’s some advice you would give them if that focus is a hurdle to maybe get them further than their colleagues right now?
It comes back to this point I made earlier that what we practice is what we master and ask yourself the hard question. If you agree, if you believe that being able to focus deeply is going to be a differentiating advantage for you as an individual and for your team and your organization, or your organization as a whole, then what are the practices that need to be built into your life, your daily and weekly rhythm of life to ensure that you’re strengthening that capability.
And it could be as simple as when I’m on my computer, I’m shutting down every other window. And I’m closing my email and I’m turning off all these alerts and notifications, so that the only thing open on my screen is the one thing that I need to be working on right now. That’s a very simple habit. Simple practice. But essentially you’re saying I will practice doing one thing at a time.
Or another one might be if you take time in the morning or in the evening before you go to bed to read or meditate on just one thing and to, during that time, put your phone on airplane mode or turn it off. So that you can’t be distracted by other things. And if you’ve got a family or other people you live with, then to let them know, Hey, for the next 10 minutes or 15 minutes I’d like to just have some silence here and be alone so that I can focus on just one thing.
And whether that’s, again reading a book or sitting and meditating, doing something, it’s a practice of focusing on just one thing at a time and giving yourself some permission to shut off all of these other distractions. I think that’s really the key thing is our subconscious gets accustomed to having these little dopamine hits of our phone buzzing and everything else.
And we have to get into the strength of habit to say no to those things and shut those inputs off sometimes. So that would be my advice for someone is it’s great to agree with what we’re saying here. But it doesn’t do anything for the results of your life if you don’t take action on it.
And so the principle we’ve outlined, Hey, focus matters. Great. It’s okay to believe that, but what’s the practice of focusing that you’re going to do on a daily and weekly basis. Make sure that you’re consistent in those things. That’s what I would recommend for someone to choose one or multiple practices and be relentless. Make that decision and commit to making it happen.
No doubt. And Zach, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, I’ve noticed with our outlook platform lately, I get these my analytics. One of them is coming back that I’ve noticed over the last month is focus time. And that is actually a metric that they’re measuring inside outlook and Microsoft.
It gives you the option to block that focus time now and actually call it focus time. It stood out and it was like, wow. Okay. It’ll show your calendar. Okay. Over the next week you’ve booked this many meetings. You have this as a zero downtime. No quiet time. Maybe you should put some focus time on your calendar. And that now you’re making me think, okay. Once I get that focus time, what do I do with it? Right. You don’t want to just, don’t wanna just waste it. So. It’s great stuff there, man.
Chris that’s, that’s awesome. And, and I, I was aware that there were a couple different metrics being tracked by technology in that way and, and leverage especially as engineers and coming out of a manufacturing environment we’re already wired to operate in that way with KPIs and metrics.
We liked that. It helps us. So use that to your advantage. Don’t feel bashful about taking a strength of yours, which is to hit a metric and use it to help support a practice. That’s gonna make you better.
No doubt, no doubt. And on these episodes, Zach, we love to give the hero, the chance to give that shout out to a mentor or people who have been influential in their careers. So anyone you’d like to recognize here?
Yeah. I don’t know if he’ll be listening. I’ll have to push this to him, make sure he listens, but one guy in particular stands out as a great mentor for me. His name is Dan Debo and Dan was one of the very first people who gave me insights and advice at Whirlpool corporation when I joined.
I mean, literally on the first week of my career, Dan was there playing the role of mentor and coach and showing me the ropes. How to get things done. And Dan was always a couple of career stages ahead of me and stayed that way through our careers. And, and I had the privilege of working for him on a couple of instances. He was always nearby in terms of the projects and work that I was doing. And Dan did a couple things for me, Chris.
One in particular was he believed in my capability. He absolutely had faith in me and he would let me do more than I even believed I was ready to do. And I think role modeling that has shaped me in a major way. And it’s a way I want to live with everyone today is you want to change someone’s life, believe in them more than they believe in themselves. That is a powerful place to be, to have a relationship with someone where you can honestly say, I mean, it’s got to be authentic.
It’s got to come from a place of love and a genuine, authentic spirit. But if you can say to a person, Hey I believe that you’re capable of more than what you’re doing today. That really lights the fire. I mean, and for me that was huge. So, so Dan was the first guy who really showed me that and not just with his words, but with the opportunities he gave me and everything else.
So yeah, I mean, Dan Debo did more for my success at Whirlpool Corp than anyone else. Forever grateful for the way he poured into me. And no doubt inspired part of why I do what I do today.
And that’s as a great, great shout out. Sounds like a wonderful individual and definitely helps you a lot. I can feel how much you care for him and how much he cared for you. And Zack I love to ask this question talking with our heroes, when you’re in that moment of flow and things are really going good and you’re doing what you want to do and what you feel like your purpose is, what are you doing at that moment?
Hmm. It probably helps for me to first share with listeners what is my purpose. And I have a life purpose statement that I have had for quite some time. And it’s I am an Oasis along life’s journey that gives you courage to walk on. And you’ll notice the connection to the Oasis of courage in a OACO has my business. It’s this overflow of my life purpose.
And so what does that mean? What does that look like? I think without question, the best word in the English language is the word encouragement. And the reason for that is that in my world, there’s nothing more fulfilling than the idea of placing courage into another person to encourage them to increase their courage through my life.
Maybe it’s my actions, my words. It could be a smile. It could be a hug or in the case of OACO, it could be through coaching and the services that my company provides. But when I am in the flow state, what really triggers that deepest level of fulfillment for me, Chris is when I know that what I’ve given from myself, my time, talent, treasure, and testimony has helped someone else to have the courage to take one step further in their journey, whatever that looks like, that they were afraid to take, or maybe they couldn’t see what that step was and now they’re ready to take it.
And then to see them experience the joy or the fulfillment in their own life of having moved forward. That’s the thing that fires me up more than anything else. And so if somebody comes back around to me and says, Zach that meeting or that interaction or that thing you did helped me in this way, man. Like I can go home happy that day because it really, for me that, that is it. That’s the flow man.
That’s a great answer. You can feel it coming through this conversation, man. I can see you in that moment. So let’s take a turn off the career and we already knows you already let that cat out the bag that you’re, so you’re a ballroom dancer. Huh? What other hobbies you got?
Yeah, I did let the cat out of the bag. The dancing dancing is tons of fun. And then when my wife hears this, she’s going to remind me that I haven’t been dancing with her enough. And so I gotta make sure I step up in that category, but hobbies I’m drawn to outdoor things.
I’m drawn to just active things. And so I’ll share a couple of my crazier ones with you. My wife and I have horses and we love to ride horses and just get out and ride in the fields. And it’s such a beautiful thing to have the relationship between you and the animal. For one riding a horse is, is special.
Anybody out there who has horses knows what I’m talking about. But also just to unplug from technology and all of the engineering and work that we do and get out into nature. I love that. And then I’ll share one more just because I think your listeners will get a kick out of this. My wife and I also do acrobatic yoga. Acro yoga for short. Have you ever heard of this?
Acro yoga? No. And this is, this is a new, I’ve heard of the hot yoga and I did the P90X a while back and they had a yoga that was not yoga, man. But so talk to us about this.
All right, Chris, I’m about to change your life forever, man. And then you’re gonna, you’re gonna thank me for this or you’re going to hate you or you’re gonna hate me.
I’m not sure which one, one or the other it’s going to be extreme. I know that. So. Acro yoga is a, it’s a couple’s yoga activity where one person is the base. They’re on the ground. And the other person is up in the air on the feet and hands of the base. And you essentially recreate yoga poses that are done on the ground for that person who’s in the air.
And it’s a very difficult exercise. It’s a good form of exercise, but it also, you want to talk about couples therapy. Alright, acro yoga might be a absolute gem, a sleeper, if you will, in terms of relationship and couples therapy, because if there’s anything going on between you and your partner, that is not going well, it will come to the surface doing acrobatic yoga.
It puts you in some really uncomfortable positions and it’s easy to fall or make mistakes. And it can be a bit, yeah. Painful at times. And wow. It will definitely challenge your communication and test your love for each other in some new ways. So. Yeah. If you want to experiment with acro yoga for one be careful. Don’t do this without adult supervision, but also be prepared for any of those wounds from the past to resurface in your relationship.
So I’m going to go ahead and just preface. I’m not going to let my wife listen to this episode, Zach, but
okay. All right. I mean, maybe we should edit that part.
Oh, this is great stuff, man. Say horse-riding, AcroYoga, it’s just like you got some really neat stuff going on. Now. You’ve mentioned you were married. So love to ask this question too. What’s a perfect date night, man?
Ooh, perfect date night. My wife and I love good food. We love to splurge a little bit and go to a really nice restaurant. One of our favorites in this area of the country is called corn dance. Just an outstanding menu and flavorful foods. So I think for me, a perfect date night would involve visiting one of our favorite restaurants and sharing a glass of, or sharing a bottle of wine maybe and some great food.
And then what we would probably do if it’s date night just in the spirit of this conversation would be go out dancing. We got some spots. We love to go, whether it’s country line dancing or going ballroom dancing, we really love taking some friends going out dancing and just the music and the atmosphere and connecting as a couple dancing really brings us together and we would just dance the night away.
That’s all it takes, man, some good food, some dancing and I’m going to get all kinds of brownie points for that date night.
There you go, man. That’s great. Love that answer. Now I’ll always like to ask this as well. Any books, podcasts, things that you’re listening to right now that you’d recommend to our listeners?
Wow. How, how much time do we have Chris? I mean, books and podcasts are my jam. Of course. I love all that. You maybe I’ll just share a couple that have been recent, and then I’ll share a couple of my timeless favorites. Recently I’ve been digging into the book mastery by Robert Green, and I think all of his stuff is really fantastic.
The 48 laws of power, mastery. I would highly recommend his work, especially for an engineer or someone with a kind of deep thinking mind his stuff is, is thick and it really gets to thinking. It’s the kind of book where you’ll read a couple of pages and you’ll stop and just say, wow, like, I need to read that again.
What, what just happened? It’s a really good read. And for me mastery is such an important area of our life that’s, that’s left out too often. We’ve got a culture right now that values dabbling in things. And I really believe that fulfillment is driven through deep work and focus and achieving mastery. Progress towards becoming the best that you can be in an area.
And so I think that’s a really great one. I would recommend cut in terms of like timeless things I would put in my top 10 list for books. I think Dale Carnegie’s book how to win friends and influence people is a must read. It’s the advice your grandma gave you, but we just forget. It’s good to bring it back into our conscious mind and everybody should have a copy of that book.
And then I also really love Tony Robbins book awaken the giant within. I think that book for me really gave me a deeper sense of what’s possible in life and awakened my dreams at a new level and gave me the courage to take the actions I have to get the results I’ve got in my life. And Tony Robbins has got some other great stuff, but that book in particular stands out to me.
In the podcast world band, obviously right here, your listeners are in there. Keep listening to EECO. I think this is an amazing set of topics and what you guys are doing is. It’s just powerful and the, and the world needs this. So keep doing what you’re doing, Chris. And then I also like listening to Tim Ferris.
I think he’s got some really fun stuff. It does a great job interviewing people, but the reason I like it is cause he’s got the same sort of spirit that I have with wanting to distill from the world’s best. How did you do it? And what can I adapt and apply into my own life? And Tim Ferris is that like on steroids?
Right? I mean, he really wants to learn from the world’s best and create applicable practical tips from that. And so I think it’s, it really feeds my, my style to just listen and say, all right, well, what, what do I want to experiment with in my life? And go try some new things.
So what is that podcast called? Zach, do you know the name of it?
Yeah, it’s just the Tim Ferriss show. The Tim Ferriss show. Yep.
Yeah, that’s great. And we may even link that in the show notes so people can check it out. Cause definitely love to share these types of tips with our listeners and Zach, this has been so much fun walking through with you. Love to get to the why though. Call it EECO Asks Why. So if you were to summarize your purpose and the why, the drive behind what gets you up in the morning, what would that be?
Chris, what I’ve seen and what I believe is the driving force behind my why is that fear has run rampant in our lives and in the workplace and in our families. And I believe our ability to face fear and move forward anyway is the most important quality that we can nurture in a world we live in right now. And the Oasis of courage and this life purpose for me why courage, why encouragement courage is the habit of facing fear and doing it anyway, right?
It’s not the absence of fear. It’s moving forward in the presence of fear. And so the why for me is that fear is winning territory in our lives, and I want to take it back. And I want to help other people take it back. So being able to face that fear and take bold courageous action anyway, and create the life that we desire, to me, that is that’s the ultimate aim. It’s something I want to be a part of in my own life and something I wanna help other people do. And I hope that even just maybe saying that inspires someone today to. Look at where fear might be holding you back and don’t stand for it. Don’t let fear have the reign in our lives. Let’s let’s take some ground, take some territory back and move forward.
No doubt, man. That’s wonderful. You’re right. It can cripple us or we can overcome. And you got to have that. I always say to faith over fear, man. That’s it. Yeah. Move forward. So Zach, this has been wonderful. I knew this was going to be a fun conversation and I know our listeners are going to enjoy hearing your story.
You definitely inspired me. I want to go out and check out some of these resources as you’ve talked about today and just to improve myself. So just thank you so much, Zach, for your time.
Oh, it’s an absolute pleasure, Chris. And thank you for what you guys are doing. I think this is an amazing message. And you know, the question asking why. I’ll say Simon Sinek made it popular, start with why, but I think what you’re doing is an incredibly powerful way for us to bring this into our lives in a practical and real way for changes that matter. So thank you for that. And thanks for letting me be a part of it.