Ryan Kuddes is a builder. As the head of real estate and facilities for the Americas at Solera, a Texas-based automotive software company that is the global leader in vehicle life cycle management, he spends more time building and nurturing relationships than developing brick and mortar.
“It’s a lot of collaboration and a lot of relationship building,” Kuddes says of his role. “My team is scattered throughout the country as well as internationally.”
Kuddes oversees the selection, acquisition, maintenance, building, design, and onsite services of more than 40 Solera facilities across North and South America. Whether he orchestrates the logistics for the organization’s catering needs or decides how it navigates leases, Kuddes wears a lot of hats.
Behind the scenes, Kuddes partners with a global team of facility managers that enable Solera to operate in over 100 countries. When he’s not working from home or at Solera’s global headquarters in Westlake, Texas, you’ll find him doing everything from visiting locations and performing audits to facilitating administrative tasks. “It’s just making sure that we’re all tracking in the same direction and heading towards the same goal on a daily basis,” Kuddes says.
How does Kuddes run his department? Rather than embrace an authoritative leadership style, he prefers to be viewed as a coach and mentor. He distances himself from the “boss” label by providing his team with tools for success as they collectively strive for the same goals. “I think a coaching leadership style is more focused on people,” he says.
Meanwhile, Kuddes focuses on the big picture. The biggest challenge he faces is the need to streamline Solera’s real estate portfolio as the company scales its footprint. “We have grown very organically over the years,” he explains. “We’ve acquired more than 50 diversified brands. The portfolio is constantly shifting, and so it presents some unique challenges in the sense that we could make an acquisition and acquire 10 new physical locations overnight. Then, we need to understand how to best integrate these offices into our work.” In a nutshell, if Kuddes solves this puzzle as fast as Solera grows, he sets himself and the company up for success.
The executive deploys expansion and branding initiatives to strengthen Solera’s position in the market. As Solera expands, Kuddes integrates new brand collateral in physical locations. On the surface, one may think he simply orders signs and window coverings that feature the logo of a company Solera purchased in a day’s work.
But it’s so much more. Kuddes gets into the finer details, including investing in remodeling efforts and undertaking new design initiatives (new paint, floors, and artwork). “We have to stay tuned with Solera’s culture and ensure the company’s physical spaces are an extension of that culture,” he says.
Kuddes is now driving the development of a new workspace—a 45,000-square-foot office building in Jacksonville, Florida, that is expected to host 400 Solera employees—and he acknowledges why the stakes for this project are so high. “We’re in the design and construction phase, but that’s going to be one of our first brand-new offices that we get to start fresh and put the Solera branding on,” he says.
Once Solera opens the facility, Kuddes also plans to rebrand its remaining locations. In the meantime, the coach offers advice for young professionals who aspire to follow his career path. “The lesson that I have continually learned as a leader is to shut up and listen to my team members,” Kuddes says.
He adds, “What I’ve learned is that people want to be heard. Ultimately, listening helps build relationships through trust, so listening is a learned skill, and it’s something that I still try to hone every day. So, it’s a battle against my instincts to help diagnose and solve problems. But as a leader, you have to sit back, listen, and hear what people are saying.”