Nipesh Shah has been president and chief executive officer of Anchor Glass Container Corp., headquartered in Tampa, since July 2017. Anchor Glass is one of the largest, privately-owned companies in the Tampa Bay area and is valued at more than $1 billion. Anchor Glass has eight locations in the United States, 2,000 U.S. employees and produces almost 5 billion glass containers on an annual basis.
Bridgette Bello, president and CEO of Tampa Bay Business and Wealth, interviewed Shah in front of a live audience at the Postcard Inn, in St. Pete Beach. This transcript has been edited for length and brevity.
Has anything remarkable happened since being on the cover of TBBW?
I was very pleasantly surprised by the reaction. And I will separate into three different buckets. The first bucket is we have had the opportunity to live in Europe, Asia, Australia and throughout the U.S., like eight different cities. And the number of people who reached out … just the power of the internet and the power of TBBW. The second bucket was my customer base. Everyone knows our company well. And we really support the premier [consumer packaged goods] companies. Many of the CEOs reached out and, shamelessly, commented on my hairstyle, which you guys can see, it’s really good. [Laughter.]
I think the third bucket, which was what really touched me, was my employee base. I underestimated how many people have similar stories or even much more tougher stories than I have faced in my life. It makes you realize that I’ve been just lucky enough to be where I am. But there are people who had struggles more difficult than I actually faced.
In the dictionary, if you look up the American dream, I feel like your story would be there.
When you talk about success, it’s really a combination of all these things that come together. For me, I give a lot of thanks to my parents. They instilled the right values. We struggled earlier in our life. But my parents told me that we are going to struggle, but we’ll never be unhappy.
My mother, for 10 years actually, would get up at 4 a.m. and wake me up to make me study. I hated every single minute of that. My wife supported me, and I was just a guy who was studying in a municipal school. But I think that’s more about your personal life and the partners you choose.
You guys have made some really significant investments in the past 18 months, and you have some bigger investments coming up. Can you talk about that?
What we love is, at Anchor Glass, we consider us an extremely profitable growth company. So we do have some investment plans. We are going to invest approximately $150 million in the next 18 months.
It is going to be within a 200-mile radius of Florida. Unfortunately, it’s not in Tampa. But we have hired 400 people. And what we like is putting all these assets in the U.S. We are never going to go outside the U.S.
Has supply chain issues impacted Anchor Glass at all?
It was impacted as any manufacturing company was. During this turbulent time, every company has gone through volatile supply chain issues. We used to rely on overseas for our containers. We have 20% of our containers tied on the dock. It used to cost us $3,000 to unload the containers and that went from $3,000 to $15,000 to $25,000 to $35,000.
From $3,000 to $35,000? In what period of time?
Less than eight months. When you look at your supply chain, what differentiates most companies is, in most companies inherently … it always relies on having the right people, the right process and the right technology. What we are experiencing is huge. You are hearing about the great job resignation. Very high turnover of the people. On top of that, you have a shortage of basic raw materials. On top of that, you have consumers going into panic mode.
So what’s the solution?
I think it goes back to having the right people, the right process and the right technology. For example, in Tampa, we love that it’s becoming a good technology hub. Having the right technology, for us, has been a classic discussion with our customer base and our supplier base. For example, when the bars and the restaurants closed down, we didn’t need to produce one-liter bottles or 750-milliliter bottles, but all of a sudden people were drinking more at home. So you’re producing a 1.75 liter or a bigger bottle. It had an impact on our broader supply chain.
Diversity within your leadership team is important to you. How does it impact your business?
I believe that if two people are in the same room and if they agree on everything, you don’t require one of them.
The reason why diversity is important is to have multiple perspectives. I must have a challenge culture. Our very favorite saying is, “If you can’t argue with your boss, he or she is not worth working for.” Now, to do that, you can have a different opinion. If you have people coming from a different background, that’s one of the reasons why we say hire people who are with a different sexual orientation, different color, different religion, so that I can have a diversity of thought.
If I have diversity of thought, that helps me to put things in perspective. Whenever we are recruiting someone at a senior level, we don’t tell the recruiter that I prefer a diversity candidate. I do not tell the recruiter that I prefer a diversity candidate, because it’s very cliche.
As of today, 41% of our salaried and hourly employees are diverse candidates. We are short by nine percentage, but I’m sure we’ll get it. I started with my board. And I told my board that we are going to change, and we are going to bring a woman on the board. I started with my leadership team with having a different gender. Almost all the promotions we have done within our organization have been, primarily, either a diverse candidate or a woman. One of the reasons is because my wife always reminds me, women are much smarter than men.♦
ABOUT ‘CEO CONNECT’
TBBW’s “CEO Connect” series is an exclusive, invitation-only, event that brings together the Tampa Bay area’s top business leaders to meet and mingle. Tomlin St. Cyr and Source 1 Solutions were presenting sponsors. The host sponsor was Postcard Inn. AVSS is TBBW’s AV partner.
The evening begins with a cocktail reception for about 120 guests, followed by an interview with that month’s cover CEO.
Partnering with TBBW on future editions provides an opportunity to network with the area’s business elite, generate new business opportunities and increase brand awareness.
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Photos by Ryan G Photo