Moving Backwards to Go Upwards

In order to win international business, Joe Ochoa shares why you need to learn your audience first, even if it means working backwards

Success opens doors, Joe Ochoa says. “Success sets you up to run bigger and bigger organizations.”

If you point your web browser to, the home page of Owens Corning, you’ll be greeted with the company’s friendly, iconic Pink Panther logo. This time, he’s holding a globe in his hands, and a sliding banner image next to the panther advertises various Owens Corning services that boast they’re making the world beautiful, energy-efficient, and comfortable.

It’s a global message trickling down to the ethos of all Owens Corning’s diversified business services, such as the Engineered Insulation Systems products and services, which is headed up by Joe Ochoa, vice president and general manager. In this capacity, Ochoa oversees the company’s foam insulation, air handling and mechanical systems, original equipment manufacturing (OEM), and interior systems businesses—one of the largest business units at Owens Corning—and these responsibilities touch all parts of the globe. In 2012, Owens Corning’s overall sales were $5.2 billion, $3.5 billion of which came from the building materials group.

“When you’re thinking globally, the key is to not come in with your own products, but to understand the local market first—understand what’s there and what the needs are, and then work backwards,” Ochoa says. “A lot of business has to do with relationships, and with trust—and understanding what that means.”

Getting to know Joe Ochoa

A Texas native, Joe Ochoa currently serves as vice president and general manager of Engineered Insulation Systems for Owens Corning. Ochoa has a business degree from the University of Texas and after completing his MBA at Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Ochoa worked in various sales and finance roles for Dole, Procter & Gamble, Frito-Lay, A.T. Kearney, and various Dallas-based start-ups in the mid- to late-1990s, before joining Owens Corning in 2001.

When Ochoa’s involvement in the start-up began to dissolve, he signed on with Owens Corning to serve as a general manager for the company’s contractor services. Then, in 2003, Owens Corning offered Ochoa an opportunity as CFO for the company’s acquisition of Vitro Fibras, a Mexico City-based company. In business school, Ochoa had an internship for Dole in Costa Rica, which reignited his passion for the Spanish culture and language, so the opportunity to relocate to Mexico City promised an opportunity to development his language in a new, foreign-yet-familiar context.

“After nine months in Mexico, I took over as general manager for the building materials side of our business, and I put a plan together that was able to use that platform as a way to get us into all of Latin America,” Ochoa says. “A lot of this had to do with strategy, but it also had to do with understanding how different people do things, and leveraging that with Owens Corning’s strengths.”

In his four years in Mexico, prior to again returning to Toledo in 2007 (where he has since been operating from), Ochoa won new business for Owens Corning and also helped start new plants in Brazil and Mexico. This is a success he credits both to language and understanding, which itself reflects Ochoa’s own approach to globalized business strategy. “Others won’t adjust to you. You need to adjust yourself to others, and learn to appreciate the language, the culture, the religion, the food, the art,” Ochoa says. “At the end, you need to figure out the customs, when the customs matter, and how to motivate people.”

After weathering the hard hits on the US building industry since 2007, Ochoa believes that Owens Corning’s continued success can be attributed to product innovation, expansion into international markets, and world-class management. “Owens Corning gives you freedom to pursue your business ideas, so I’ve had a lot of opportunities,” Ochoa says. “Success sets you up to run bigger and bigger organizations.”