Alumni Spotlight - Jeff Baldassari

‘We Keep Learning Something New Every Week, Every Month, Every Year’

Alum applies lessons learned three decades ago as a BakerHostetler associate to his work today as a corporate CEO.

Jeff Baldassari had many mentors during the five years he spent at BakerHostetler in the early 1990s. He recalls Partner Charles Klaus (now deceased) imparting important writing lessons, especially about client communications. Never end a letter with “If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call,” Baldassari says Klaus instructed, because “a well-written letter will not leave any questions to be asked.” Other mentors included Partners Larry Lindberg and Tom Lucchesi; retired Partners Rick Bamberger, Maureen Brennan and Dick Hollington; Bill Appleton (executive VP and general counsel at The E.W. Scripps Company); and Art Brooks (now deceased). All of them had a huge impact on him, Baldassari says, as did the work itself.

During his time as a BakerHostetler associate, Baldassari handled a variety of business and transactional matters. This suited him well because he always saw business and law as intertwined. Baldassari had been an accounting major and passed the CPA exam before going to law school. So it’s not too surprising that he followed his stint at BakerHostetler by going into business, where he stayed.

Pillars of success

Baldassari says BakerHostetler taught him that high standards, collaboration, teamwork and flexibility are essential pillars of success. “Life doesn’t come with predetermined outcomes, where if you take this step, you’ll achieve that result,” he says. “I learned early in my career how to adjust and recalibrate.” Similarly, teamwork doesn’t just happen; it requires leadership. “Whatever you do for a living, your ability to motivate, inspire and manage others is critical, and that’s another lesson I learned at BakerHostetler.”

For decades, Baldassari has put these principles into practice. He spent 16 years as president and CEO of The Taylor Companies, where he maintained strong ties to BakerHostetler (as client and vendor). “Whenever we needed legal work, we used BakerHostetler – and we sold a lot of furniture for offices coast to coast,” he says. Baldassari left Taylor in 2012 and did some consulting before landing in 2019 at U.S. Rubber Recycling, Inc. Today, he is company president and CEO, and he continues to rely on BakerHostetler for legal services involving intellectual property, employment and litigation.

Doing well and doing good

Baldassari was an early adopter of sustainable manufacturing practices at The Taylor Companies, earning national recognition. He’s continued and expanded such efforts at U.S. Rubber, which takes millions of pounds of discarded truck tires out of the waste stream each year, repurposing them into home and commercial gym flooring, rubber underlayment that abates sound transmission between floors in multi-story buildings, and rolled matting used for vegetation management control along freeways.

The company thrived during the pandemic, partly by pivoting from selling primarily to businesses to providing products to online retailers that sell direct to consumers as well, he says. “We’ve doubled our sales in the last year and a half, and I can see growth continuing exponentially in 2023.” This requires a robust workforce. While many companies struggle to attract workers, U.S. Rubber reaches out to a population other employers tend to ignore – former felons. The program predates Baldassari, but he has leaned into it, dubbing it “Bounce Back!” – a nod to the company’s products and to the opportunity the program gives to second-chance hires.

Formerly incarcerated workers account for upwards of half his workforce (the exact percentage varies between 50% and 66%) and Baldassari is proud of the Bounce Back! program, but he’s not shy about discussing the challenges these workers face. Most have endured negative communication all of their lives, he says. Many have been homeless. They don’t naturally think in terms of collaboration and many don’t fear losing their job. “Role models within the factory are very important because they are living proof that success in both their personal and professional lives can be achieved,” Baldassari says. What inspires/motivates second-chance hires the most? “Asking them for their opinion. It’s powerful because you’re saying to them, ‘Your opinion has value.’”

These are not things Baldassari knew at the outset; he’s had to learn them. Still, what is life, if not an ongoing opportunity to learn, grow and teach others? That’s what Baldassari did 30 years ago at BakerHostetler, and that’s what he continues to do today.