You need a few essential qualities to be a manager who makes other people feel confident, supported, and equipped to do their jobs as well as possible. Warmth, a willing ear to listen, a sense of accountability, and a positive attitude are at the top of that list, which is exactly how we’d describe Netrush Operations Manager, Robert Couch.
“Rob is a low-stress leader who relates to everyone and creates the sort of environment where people feel comfortable coming to him with questions,” says Brian Birch, Netrush COO, who is based in Erlanger, Kentucky. This might have something to do with Rob’s background in zoological conservation, having worked with elephants in South Africa and giraffes at the Cincinnati Zoo, before joining the Netrush team. It’s also just his nature to stay calm, trust his team, and allow people to shine.
This week, we’re placing the employee spotlight on Rob, who celebrated three years with us at the end of August.
Three years down the line, what’s changed since you started at Netrush?
A lot! When I first started, there were eleven of us here and it was just one room in this big building. Today, we’re occupying three sections of the same building and still have difficulty with space. We’re constantly growing in size and product variations.
It’s interesting to see new brand partnerships form. We’re still really focused on Health and Personal Care brands, like Sunwarrior and MegaFood, but we’re also working with outdoor brands like Leatherman, Strider, ENO. The growth of Netrush is obviously great. You can tell that a lot of different personalities are making us a more diverse company. I’ve also been able to grow personally here, too. I had no management experience before starting at Netrush. I worked at the zoo.
Tell us a bit about yourself before you started working here?
I grew up here in Kentucky. My whole life, I’ve always loved animals. My parents raised Labs, so we always had puppies and dogs everywhere — and other random ones like chickens, goats, ducks, and sheep. I thought about being a veterinarian and explored that route.
In the end, it wasn’t for me — I like to care for them, not exactly fix them. That’s why I studied zoological conservation at Murray State, about five hours from home. The animals and the conservation part is what I’m passionate about. That’s what got me through school and into the Cincinnati Zoo — I worked with the giraffes. That’s also what took me to South Africa after I graduated, where I taught at schools and did some observational studying.
What do you think makes you a good manager and what is your biggest obstacle on a daily basis?
I’m a laid-back person and don’t get easily stressed. Things generally have a way of working themselves out, so long as you’re doing the right thing and working with a plan in mind. I’m comfortable delegating tasks because I know my team handles situations and I’m pretty sure that they feel comfortable coming to me with questions.
Keeping everyone updated and in the loop when changes are afoot is probably my biggest challenge. Everyone here has a ton of opportunity to learn more, cross-train, and grow personally if you’re willing to look for it.
What’s the best part of your job?
Growing into a manager and then, in turn, growing other people has been my favorite part of the job. I’ve enjoyed learning to question my job, my role, other people’s jobs in a positive way that makes everyone better.
Can you talk us through three defining moments or aspects of your time here at Netrush (one for each year)?
1. Having leaders take an interest in me for working hard. I set out to learn things and ask questions, and that led to opportunities.
2. Seeing the outdoor products come in was an exciting shift. Being a part of that change and moving into brands that I’m really personally invested in has been awesome.
3. When we started shifting towards FFP packaging and focusing on it, I volunteered to be the packaging person at Hub — learn what it does, how it works. So, I got my hand in with packaging on the ground level. Now that we have a packaging manager and it has become a major offering from us, it feels good to know that I was a part of growing something, keeping it alive, and seeing it take on a life of its own.