Terry Judge, CEO of Hotstart

Hotstart’s CEO Keeps it Simple

An excerpt from an interview by Michael Guilfoil for The Spokesman-Review, July 23, 2017.
(Full story available here.)  Photo by Dan Pelle

During his undergraduate days as an engineering major at Gonzaga University, Terry Judge (’87) questioned the merits of the university’s core curriculum.

“I thought, ‘Why do I have to take four philosophy classes and three English classes? The science and math stuff is what I need to be successful.’”

Today, Judge is CEO of Hotstart, a Spokane-based manufacturer of engine preheating systems and accessories with customers in 180 countries.

“And when I reflect back on my college education, I realize the philosophy and English classes helped me more than any of the calculus or engineering.”

During a recent interview, Judge discussed Hotstart’s evolution, its prospects and the leadership advice given him by his predecessor.

S-R: What was your first job?
Judge: Washing dishes at Lincoln Heights Pizza Parlor when I was 16.

S-R: Did you have a favorite class at Gonzaga Prep?
Judge: I was good at math and science. And I watched Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” and read the book, which got me thinking about astronomy.

The University of Washington had an astronomy program, but I fell in love with my future wife during my senior year and she was going to Gonzaga University. So I changed my plans, enrolled at GU and eventually settled on mechanical engineering.

S-R: Did you get the girl?
Judge: I did. Meg and I have been happily married going on 31 years. I’m a very lucky man.

S-R: [What did you do] right out of college?
Judge: I took a job with Boeing as a design engineer at their Everett plant. I was there three years, then worked as a sales and applications engineer for a manufacturer of aerospace composite materials. But after 10 years in Seattle, my wife and I decided to try to give our three kids the same awesome childhood we had growing up in Spokane, so we moved back here.

S-R: Then what?
Judge: I worked in sales for a locally owned manufacturer of material handling machines for five years. When that company was purchased by an outside group, Hotstart came calling and I joined this company as sales manager in 2001. Ten years later, I became CEO.

S-R: You were trained as an engineer. Did your predecessor offer any leadership advice?
Judge: He wrote down five goals on a scrap of paper: “Grow net profit by 9% per year.” “Take care of your people.” “Take care of yourself.” “Don’t take yourself too seriously.” And “Have fun!

S-R: After six years as CEO, would you add anything to the list?
Judge: No. Managers can complicate things real quickly when they get too caught up in plans and strategies. I prefer to keep things simple and clear obstacles out of my team’s path.

S-R: What’s ahead for Hotstart?
Judge: We’re looking to diversify – finding markets that have nothing to do with engines. One area we’re exploring is energy storage, because wind power and solar power only work when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.

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