Interstate Batteries’ VP of Facilities, Real Estate and Information Technology (IT) and CIO Merv Tarde on Bringing Glory to God and Satisfaction to Customers
By J.L. Greene
For Merv Tarde, everything comes back to principle.
One of the reasons he fell in love with Interstate Batteries is the company’s focus on values. The purpose-driven company, Tarde said, believes concentrating on its core values and vision is most important; the other critical aspects of running a business, gaining revenue and profit, will come in time. It’s a unique perspective in the corporate world which he is confident makes Interstate all the more appealing.
Though having been with AT&T for 20 years, Tarde began looking at different opportunities to keep his family in Dallas when the company decided to move its headquarters in 1998. Then Interstate Batteries came knocking, and the worldwide battery distributor seemed to be the perfect fit. Interstate’s leadership wanted to move the company’s culture from the standard corporate environment to a more fast-paced, evolving entrepreneurial setting.
It reminded Tarde of his first days in the cellular industry, and he jumped. The fast-paced nature of the company paired with its passionate vision won him over. Today he is Vice President of Facilities, Real Estate and Information Technology (IT) and Chief Information Officer.
Tarde makes sure everything he does at Interstate points back to company vision and the values with which he fell in love. He extends that mindset to his staff, and wants every person to know why they’re working on what they’re working on and how it goes back to the core principles of the business. As a biblically based company, Interstate urges its employees to treat one another with respect and love, to glorify God by delivering the most trustworthy source of power to the world, and to use individual skills and team efforts to deliver excellence.
Support Through Trust
Tarde believes part of the success he’s experienced within his career is due to the supportive nature of his supervisors. When a new Chief Executive Officer joined the company one year ago, he approached Tarde for suggestions on developing a new area within the company—and took his advice. It’s an empowering aspect of the job that can come only with trust.
Tarde also believes face time is incredibly important and appreciates that officers hold weekly four-hour meetings on Mondays in addition to group prayer sessions on Fridays. These, he said, hold each person more accountable.
Developing that trust and those relationships is a long process, but part of the way Tarde sees the ability to build these essential elements is through outcome. Are you delivering what you say? He focuses on projects coming out “on time, on spec and on budget.” That doesn’t necessarily happen all of the time, but aiming for those keys in each project means gaining trust for the next opportunity.
“When you make a commitment, whether it’s on the scope of something, whether it’s how long it’s going to take or how much it’s going to cost—any one of those three areas—when you make a promise to do something, you have to fulfill your promise, fulfill your commitment. That is the best way to earn someone’s trust.”
Architecture Enhances Business
Interstate decided to upgrade its office structure to complement its open company structure. Instead of moving to a new site, the group acquired an additional level and gutted the spaces to its concrete foundations. They started completely new.
“We wanted to create an environment for all generations to enjoy,” Tarde said. “Where the old environment was a typical 1980s-type office environment, this is brighter—for the silver and the stone tiles we use, everything is very bright.”
Part of that brightness means windows covering every floor instead of traditional closed offices. Nothing obscures that transparency. It’s a change that enhances the company spirit and has increased productivity. Tarde feels the architecture of the building encourages interaction and camaraderie within the staff because you literally see more of people.
Tarde stresses the importance of getting to know both your colleagues and other professionals, not just for growth in your career, but in your character itself.
“Sometimes when people talk about networking, they’re thinking about leaving something or trying to get a new job,” he said, “but I looked at networking as to try to learn something.”
As Tarde looks from one networking event to the other, he observes all character aspects of the people before him. What are they working on? What are their challenges, strengths and weaknesses? And, more importantly, what problems have they encountered in the past so that they can avoid making the same mistakes in similar projects? Learning from the mistakes of others will save time and a lot of backpedalling.
J.L. Greene is a freelance writer based in Illinois.