Gems of Idaho: Lean Manufacturing & Innovation with Jay Multanen 

Reading Time: 15 Minutes

In this episode, we talk with Jay Multanen of Bestbath. Today’s segment is part of our Gems of Idaho series where we feature an Idaho deliberate leader who inspires us for a brighter, bolder future.

Takeaways We Learned from Jay…

Servant Leadership

Jay emphasizes the importance of serving those around you as a key leadership tip. He believes that when you uplift others, they will reciprocate and uplift you. This mindset creates a “rising tide lifts all boats” dynamic, fostering growth and success for all.

Passion and Purpose

Jay’s journey demonstrates the power of aligning your work with your passions. While he may not have been initially passionate about the bathing industry, he found purpose in helping people and employees. This highlights the importance of finding a deeper meaning in your work.

Family Business Dynamics

The Bestbath culture is deeply influenced by its roots as a family business. Jay and his sister, Megan, learned to navigate the challenges of working together. Their ability to communicate openly, establish roles and responsibilities, and commit to collaboration showcases the value of teamwork and compromise in family businesses.

Competing for a Greater Purpose

Jay acknowledges the competitive nature of family businesses but shares how they shifted their focus from competing with each other to competing for a greater purpose. By prioritizing the needs of employees and customers over personal competition, they’ve created a stronger, more united organization.

Collaborative Decision-Making

The co-CEO arrangement between Jay and Megan highlights the power of collaboration and decision-making. They’ve developed a process for agreeing to disagree, making decisions based on passion and conviction, and using each other as sounding boards for strategic thinking. This approach enhances their decision-making efficiency.

Long-Term Succession Planning

Jay’s father’s ability to step away from the business and let the next generation take the reins demonstrates a successful long-term succession plan. It’s a testament to the importance of setting up future generations for success while allowing the previous generation to provide guidance and support.

Balancing Success and Purpose

Bestbath’s success is not just measured in financial terms but also in the way they take care of each other and their customers. This balance between business success and creating a positive impact on people’s lives showcases the idea that success is more meaningful when it benefits others.

Collective Success

Jay emphasizes that success should benefit everyone involved, whether it’s a family business transition or any organizational change. The focus should be on creating a “win-win” situation for all stakeholders, including family members, the organization as a whole, customers, and suppliers.

Owning Challenges

Jay shares a pivotal moment when federal regulators found his organization in violation. Instead of fighting it, he chose to own the situation and work collaboratively with the regulators to rectify the compliance issues. This experience taught him the value of addressing challenges head-on and finding common ground.

Personal Accountability

Jay’s approach to overcoming challenges involves looking at himself as the common denominator and striving to improve his own contributions and actions before seeking solutions from others. This perspective emphasizes personal accountability and self-improvement.

Unity and Patience

Jay highlights the importance of unity and patience in overcoming significant challenges. He attributes much of Bestbath’s success during tough times to their commitment to working together and practicing gratitude.

Recognizing Collective Achievements

Jay acknowledges that the recognition of being named Idaho State Small Business Person of the Year was achieved as a family. This achievement underscores the importance of values, cooperation, and setting aside greed and ego in a family-owned business.

Sustainable Solutions

Bestbath’s commitment to building durable and sustainable bathing solutions highlights the potential for using plastics and composite materials in broader applications, such as infrastructure and architectural projects. The focus on environmental responsibility and innovation can drive the industry forward.

Expanding Horizons

Jay hints at the potential for growth and diversification into new markets, including architecture and infrastructure. The company’s forward-looking approach demonstrates the importance of adaptability and exploring new opportunities.

About Jay Multanen

Jay Multanen a versatile musician, accomplished business leader, Co-CEO of Best Bath, and dedicated philanthropist.

Jay is a multi-talented individual whose journey spans the realms of music, business, and community service. With a passion for the arts, entrepreneurship, and giving back, Jay has carved a unique path that showcases his dedication, creativity, leadership, and commitment to making a positive impact.

Read the Transcript

Allison: Welcome to the Deliberate Leaders podcast. I am Allison Dunn, your podcast host and executive business coach. Today’s segment is part of our Gems of Idaho series, where we featuring Idaho deliberate leader who inspires us for a better, brighter future. Today’s gem is Jay Multanen. He is a versatile musician and accomplished business leader, Co-CEO of Bestbath here in Boise, and a dedicated philanthropist. Jay is a multi-talented individual whose journey spans the realms of music, business and community with a passion for arts entrepreneurship, and giving back, Jay has carved a unique path that showcases his dedication, creativity, leadership, and commitment to making a positive impact here in Idaho. Jay, thank you so much for joining us here today.

Jay: Thank you. It’s my pleasure to be here.

Allison: I love to kick these off with a deliberate conversation, what would be your number one leadership tip for our listeners today.

Jay: My number one leadership tip would be to serve those around you.

The best advice I can give is, the more we uplift those around us them, the more they lift, uplift us. And it’s kind of a rising tide lifts all boats kind of mantra.

And I would say the more I’ve tried to serve others, the more that they like, the more that I get served. When I try and be self-serving, the less I get served, and reciprocity is an amazing law that happens and it’s magical when it’s like in infinity where not happens naturally.

Allison: So that’s a fantastic tip. Thank you. So Bestbath. I am assuming that everyone listening to this may know exactly what Bestbath is. But I would like for you to give kind of a high level view of what is Bestbath.

Jay:  Who is what we do is we manufacture bathing solutions for commercial construction and residential construction, renovate both renovation and new construction. We found our niche by being a part of our are well, I found my niche through family and serving the needs of my ailing grandmother who wanted to stay in her home. So we pioneered accessible bathing.

Allison: And you guys are I mean, you’re a leading manufacturer of units that allow for that correct?

Jay: Well, thank you. Yes, I’d like to think so. But yeah, the truth is, is we manufacture everything in Caldwell, Idaho, and we just expanded into Tennessee. An we serve more of the population east of the Mississippi River than we do West. And that’s meaning that’s mostly just because of the population base and the needs. But we’ve set up our strategy to accommodate a national wide presence.

Allison: Okay, that’s fantastic. So distribution. I heard you out of Tennessee. Correct. Did you say Tennessee?

Jay: Yeah, we just yet called Caldwell, and we just moved into Sparta, Tennessee.

Allison: Tennessee. Oh, that’s fantastic. Congratulations on that. You, you hit on something that I think is going to make a really fun conversation for so I say I was raised in a family business and it was also a manufacturing company. So this is your family’s business. Correct?

Jay: My father started it in 1969. I’m the co-CEO with my sister. Okay, so I can’t do what I do without my sister. So I’ll just give her a shout out right now. Thank you, Megan.

Allison: I love that. So, family business dynamic is I think, you know if, if anyone listening is from a family business, you know that it has like some awesome dynamics and some really new challenging dynamics. What family dynamics contribute to the Bestbath culture that you are meeting today?

Jay: Geez. There’s so much to talk about. I’ll try and make it succinct. I do what I do because of my father. And truth be told, I know, I’m not passionate about bathing. And I thank God, this is a podcast. But I think bathing is important. But I’m passionate about people. And when my father gave me some advice, and some of it was good, and the best advice he ever gave me was just study what you are passionate about. And that was music. So I took the music, passion. And when I wasn’t on tour, I started chopping fiberglass from my father on the on the factory floor because I needed a job. And I became very proud of the people in the organization and what we were doing to help others. Not just, yeah, there was an empowering message behind the value that we created in the product.

But there was also a powerful message in like how we take care of each other. If we can take care of each other, then there’s a chance that we can take care of the customer. But if we can’t take care of each other, then there’s no chance that we can take care of the customer, in my opinion. So there’s that. You know, my father was also very How do I say it? He was, he’s very competitive. And in fact, he would say everything in life is a competition. And so that made it very difficult for my sister and I. Because we also, like when he was saying these things. Also my sister, and I also knew that he was saying, Well, gosh, I need to pass this on to somebody, and maybe it’s just one of you. So then the gloves came off. And we were battling it out for supremacy.

And to be honest, it took a lot of work, open conversations with us around what we really want, and who we really want to serve. And once we were able to have some of those difficult conversations. That’s when things kind of opened up to us around like, well, let’s, let’s take this into the next generation, let’s serve the employees, the employees, let’s serve the customers. And it’s not about me and my sister, but it’s not about any one person here that organization is bigger than all of us, and it serves a greater purpose.

Allison: I very much appreciate that. You and Megan have figured out clearly how to do that. Well right at being that CO co chair CEO seat. What would you say just so that our listeners can understand? What is yours? What is your strength? And what are her strengths and how does that like make it magical when you’re together?

Jay: Well, first I’ll say I don’t think we figured it out.

Allison: Honest answer.

Jay: But we are figuring it out. And that’s what it takes. Right? It takes a commitment from both of us. We do have different strengths. But we also have similar strengths. And as soon as we’ve delineated roles and responsibilities, and especially once we became co CEOs, we realized that I realized she and she would probably say the same that when we had different areas of responsibility, we were kind of still competing. And so once we said, well, it’s our job to do this together. And we’re going to do this together. And we may default on one’s opinion over the other. There may be times when she’s really convicted, and I am Boston, so or vice versa. But we give each other space and we take the time, we have an agreement about like, well, what if we just can’t agree? And how are we going to move forward? We’ve never had to use that. We’ve always been able to say, we’re going to move forward in like, we’ve always been able to come to some kind of terms, but it comes through conversation, it comes through being vulnerable, being honest. And, you know, sometimes it may be a little bit slower. But I honestly believe that two minds are better than one. And I genuinely think that we come to better agreements, and a faster resolution because of that.

Allison: I often say that, you know, one plus one does equal three, and it should, often and so when, sometimes when I think about working with organizations that have two people in charge, having that understanding about how do we agree to disagree? How do we agree, when we agree, how do we step back and allow someone to make the decision, even if it’s not exactly what I would have wanted, they’re more passionate about it, or they’re more convicted over like, what the outcome should be. And I would imagine that you might even have a dynamic where that she’s the sounding board and the strategic part thinking partner, that actually helps you make decisions faster as she would be that for you as well. Right. So that dynamic.

Jay: Oh, totally, it’s, you know, sometimes like people are like, well, who’s the visionary and who’s the operator? But it’s exactly as you said, it were both and that’s okay. Right. There are certain areas where I’ll default to her and she might default to me. But the challenge comes when I feel strongly in an area where she may have more prowess, more experience. And vice versa. Yeah. We just are able to sit in a space where we can work through it.

Allison: That’s fantastic. You said 1965. So little more than 50 years. Yeah. Yeah. That is a fantastic run. Is your father still in the business today?

Jay: Sorry. I’m sorry to be the day. No, it’s his baby. Yeah. And were you guys, I think he would say that. He is so happy to be able to step away because I mean, to be honest with you, the company, the company is performing very well. But he’s still very interested. My sister and I are buying him out. We’ll buy him out probably until the day he dies. And that’s okay. But I’m grateful for the fact that he can be a guiding influence but also absent in in the way that he is. And it’s been working very well.

Allison: That’s fantastic. I would consider just, you know, feeling like the company is being successful and you both are being successful, which allows it They want to underneath you to be successful. Like that’s a that’s a win in a succession plan. At the end of the day, for sure.

Jay: We all need to be successful. Right. And so I think, in my opinion, which I don’t have many experiences, like taking over new businesses, but if we can all feel comfortable, it’s and it’s a win win. It’s, it’s not only a win for the family, or the transition, who if even if it’s not a family business, right, but it’s got to be a win for the organization as a whole. It’s got to be a win for the customers. It’s got to be a win for even the suppliers. I would agree with that.

Allison: So you have been there, you’ve had quite a career there. And doing diverse positions. I think in my research, I found out you started as a production assistant, and now obviously serving as CO CEO with Megan, can you tell us what the most significant challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way?

Jay: The biggest challenge I had was an father was a heart patient. And so he was certain he was serving as owner and CEO, even though he was not able to work in that capacity, really. The feds showed up at our building. And they said we were in major violation. I was. And that’s really, I think, where I earned my stripes in the organization was understanding that we had common ground. You know, I wanted the Fed said we were out of compliance. Well, I wanted to be in compliance. And that’s what they wanted. I was able to demonstrate to them that I’m not manufacturing any of this data. It’s just that, you know, we’ve failed to report it to you. Overcoming that significant challenge, I think, was kind of my big, crazy aha moment where it’s like, well, gosh, I mean, I guess if we like, if we work hard, we want to do right. We can find a way.

Allison: Did you find under I mean, that’s just a very distressing. I mean, and the federal government shows up at your door any day, that’s feels like a really bad day, right. I love the perspective that like, like, okay, here we are, how do we own this? And how do we move forward? Was that an easy process? As easier than trying to fight it?

Jay: For me, yeah, I guess it was, okay.

I’m a long haired hippie, you know, so, like, of course, I don’t want to harm the environment.

And I was just demonstrating them that I am not a major violator, I just need to figure out how to report to you and work when I need to understand this. And that was, you know, it was difficult for me, but it was easy for me to have those conversations. And I guess I’d have to give the Feds credit to like, they’re like, we also want you to be successful. Were not here to be punitive. You know, we just, like let’s do things, the way things we think things should be done. Okay, well, let me understand the rules, and I’ll play by the rules.

Allison: I’m glad we how many how long ago was that?

Jay: That was 10 years ago,

Allison: So a decade later? How do you apply that learning or that type of learning to what you’re doing today?

Jay: Very similar in the sense that I want what’s best for all of us. I genuinely want that I authentically want that. And so when, you know, we have a challenge with an employee, like, okay, let’s be honest, let’s lay it all out on the table. Here’s what I’ve discovered about all my problems is that I am the common denominator. And so, you know, I’m very quick to look at myself first, and figure out, okay, like, how can I improve this situation? What can I, what’s my role? What can I do? Before I look at others to say, well, this is what I think you should do. And this is what I think about that.

I’m usually happy to express my opinions about those types of things. I try and be more aware about what I’m doing, and what I can contribute.

And I’ve found that, I mean, that’s, that’s what works for me in that role. But that’s what works. That’s what’s worked for me in life and in business.

Allison: I appreciate that. So a few people that actually I probably shouldn’t say that. It takes people sometimes a little bit longer to realize that the common denominator is often ourselves. And so I just feel like that’s a very mature leadership perspective for you to have. So kudos for that How long have you been in the role as Co-CEO?

Jay: I’d say about five years now. And there was some ebbs and flows in there. So but yeah, I’d say, yeah. It’s been about five years. And, and I’d say the last three years have been really strong. I think we really came together during COVID. Yeah. It was a really great rallying cry thing for us. You know, we were thinking, Well, you know, how do we do what’s best for all? How do we do? What’s best? And since then, and we’ve also both done a lot of personal work. I mean, I shouldn’t speak for her. I’ve done a lot of personal work. But I think I think she has to and like, I think that’s what it takes.

I think it takes patience, it takes understanding takes gratitude. I think we can overcome significant challenges. If we’re willing to.

Allison: I would say that having the being named the Idaho State Small Business Person of the Year is obviously a remarkable achievement, right? And I’m sure that there are some insights that you can provide that contribute to the success of that part of entrepreneurship. I think you just listed a few of those like values and characteristics. But that is such a huge honor. So congratulations on that. That nomination.

Jay: Thank you. And again, I’ll deflect and say, you know, the SBA, the Small Business Administration, does not designate family ownership. So we won that as a family. And I’ll just say, like, how I think that’s just kind of a testament to us sticking together and working together.

I think one of the best lessons My father taught me was greed and ego is the are the two things that will really sink you as a person and especially a business owner.

So I’ll just try my best to stay out of that mindset of greed and ego, and I don’t do this alone.

Allison: Yes. So Jay, looking ahead, what are either the key opportunities that you see or the key challenges regarding accessible solutions? And your industry? And what are you doing to position Best Bath for those?

Jay: Cool question. There’s so much. Let me let me talk about this in a very general level first. So we are in the plastics industry. And what’s great about plastics are they’re cheap, and they last forever. But that’s also what’s not so great about plastics. So we build shower products to last the lifetime of the building. And, and so we want to build a beautiful, safe, universal bathing solutions for anybody. I’m big. I like plastics is not great for disposable use, even though it’s cheap. But I think because of that, the future, you know, most people don’t know that. Plastics. Like fiberglass, for example. A fiberglass reinforced composite is stronger than steel, by weight. And then. And so we can build buildings out of out of this material instead of using steel. It’s, it’s more flexible to and so like, it’s like it has incredible properties. When you think about like, Well, what about the seismic issues, especially that we experience on the West Coast? Or what about the so when it comes to infrastructure, and I think there’s a huge opportunity there. And we have at Best Bath have also started experimenting with some of that.

Allison: Are you saying you’re doing housing?

Jay: So we’re doing facades, like architectural like, so let’s talk about Cinderella’s castle. So the trick question they ask is, well, how many bricks did it take to build Cinderella’s castle? And the answer is, well, not none. It was made out of fiberglass. When you go to like the Matterhorn is the same way when you go like when you go to Las Vegas, and you see all the cool architectural structures. Like they’re all made out of fiberglass. But they all stop at four stories. And that’s because of the International Building Code. We’ve were able to build a structure that can now surpass the fire code. In fact, we supplied a project on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. That was seven stories where they wanted a glass building, but they wanted a facade that looked like a curtain. We can do that now. So that’s kind of that’s, I think, what’s next.

So building products, but infrastructure, I mean roads and we can replace steel beams, and it’ll be more reliable. It’ll, it’ll be little last longer.

Um, I’m not saying that Bestbath is going to get into that, but that’s where the industry is going.

Allison: Okay, that’s fascinating. That’s a fun takeaway from today. Did you do Cinderella’s castle? Did you make that?

Jay: No, but, but when they’re ready.

Allison: You can do that. That’s great. Jay, I really appreciated your sharing today and the vision that you’ve had for Bestbath and just congratulations to the family for the good work that they’re doing right here in Idaho and east of the Mississippi. That’s fantastic. Thank you so much for joining us here today.

Jay: Thank you so much, Allison. It’s been awesome.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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