Sharpening the steel
The rubber industry often is an unknown to the general population, and can be even more inconspicuous to people of color, Glasper said.
"It is interesting in this industry, it is not very diverse," he said. "Even a majority of the U.S. population doesn't know about it. I am still explaining what rubber is to people.
"But when you go into a minority population, it's like you are speaking a foreign language. So when I meet different minorities, I'm not sure they have done the research. There are opportunities to get into this field."
Glasper said he does not necessarily have a quota or threshold he tries to meet in hiring those with diverse backgrounds, rather he said he focuses on those with diverse thought processes.
"If you are coming from outside my box, my niche, that's always a plus," Glasper said. "It is always good to have a different perspective. I don't necessarily try to hire a Black or Asian or Indian person. If they are meeting certain parameters, I can teach them rubber. I like people who bring a different perspective than the norm."
Too much agreement within this middle ground creates stagnation, he said.
"I don't want the new guy who fits dead in the middle in the culture of the company," he said. "Now I have more people saying the same thing, with fewer people on the edges. I don't need that, unless I need a robot. People with a little talent in a different direction kills stagnation and creates competition within.
"Everybody uses benchmarking and conducts case studies on competition. Everyone is trying to get the top customer. If everyone is fishing in same fishing hole, there are only so many fish. Stop fishing where everyone else is—and that goes for hiring, sourcing, training and sales."
Glasper added that mentorship is important in any stage of life, and can be crucial for minorities breaking in to an industry that is too often monochromatic.
"In talking with younger people, I tell them there is a difference between Walmart and Amazon," he said. "Walmart was the big dog with total control. Then Amazon comes along, almost as a joke, passes him up and blows him away. Walmart made the rules, Amazon broke the rules and remade them."
Glasper said he has had many mentors himself, even some that he considered an adversary or competitor. He recalled a mentor from his college days, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force.
"If you hear 'You're doing great' all the time, you are not in the right place," Glasper said. "He told me that it is great that I can start and finish something, but you need to be more than that. They are trying to sharpen the steel."
The CEO reiterated that the ability to embrace change will prevent lethargy.
"Have a vision, that's great, but you have to have drive," he said. "I took the ball and I'm still running with the ball. I keep modifying my vision, and I keep trying to execute my vision or my dream.
"As a young Black person, you have to find that vision and drive it. Period. Your company will not improve or change until you change. That's the make up of America. That's diversity."
Mechanical Rubber manufactures custom rubber and plastics products for the aerospace, military defense, transit and industrial markets.
The company recently set up an office in Richmond, Calif., and a manufacturing plant is expected to be built in the coming months in the same region.