Profiles of Leadership
John K. Coors Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, CoorsTek, Inc.
John K. Coors earned a bachelor's of science degree in engineering from Colorado School of Mines in 1977, a master's of science degree in biochemistry from the University of Texas in 1979, and a doctorate in engineering from the Technical University of Munich in 1986. After holding various positions at Coors Brewing Co. for 13 years, Coors left the company in 1992 to join ACX Technologies and establish Golden Genesis, a firm that designed solar electric generating systems. Under Coors' leadership, Golden Genesis grew through several acquisitions to become the leading public solar energy systems integrator and distributor in the Americas, with an increasing worldwide market presence. In 1998, John Coors joined CoorsTek (then Coors Ceramics Co.) as president, and he assumed his current position as chairman, president and chief executive officer in 2000. Coors also serves as member of the board for Colorado School of Mines and as founder and president of Community Uplift Ministries, a non-profit organization focused on bringing rural communities in Sub-Sahara Africa modern energy services.
Established in 1910, CoorsTek has grown to become one of the largest technical ceramics manufacturers in North America, with 17 facilities worldwide. In the past decade, the company has gone through a number of significant changes. In 1998, as Coors Ceramics, the company was a subsidiary of a public company, ACX Technologies. On December 31, 1999, it was spun off as a separate publicly traded company with a new name and a new mission: to provide comprehensive material and engineering solutions to a wide array of industries. Within one year of operating as a separate entity, CoorsTek had increased its sales by over 50%, achieving a record $539.7 million annual revenue in 2000.
Although the company was involved in many different markets, the semiconductor capital equipment industry, which CoorsTek served through advanced material components, metal machining and contract manufacturing, quickly grew to represent roughly half of the company's revenue by the fourth quarter of 2000-a fact that would prove challenging a short time later. The severe semiconductor industry downturn in 2001 and 2002 caused the company to re-evaluate its core mission. Then, in late 2002, the Coors family and related trusts, led by John K. Coors, made an offer to purchase all of CoorsTek's outstanding shares of common stock through Keystone Holdings LLC and its subsidiary, Keystone Acquisition Corp. The agreement was finalized in 2003, making CoorsTek a privately held company for the first time since the 1970s. Shortly thereafter, the company sold its non-strategic metal machining and assembly operations to return to its core business-advanced materials and engineering services.
"Being a small-cap public company is a difficult and expensive game in this day and age because of increased regulatory costs and Wall Street's focus on short-term results. Additionally, because we were slotted as a semiconductor capital equipment company, our stock value would fluctuate based on the performance of that sector. The public market gave us very little credit for successes in the non-semiconductor segments of our business," says Coors.
Since becoming a private company and refocusing on its core offering, CoorsTek has seen its sales and profitability climb to record levels. "Being a private company has allowed us to position ourselves to take advantage of opportunities in several growth markets," says Coors.
Keys to Success
Coors derives his personal values from a strong Christian faith. "These values are timeless and are not influenced by the latest trends in thinking or in business. I think that stability is helpful for an organization," he says.
Under Coors' leadership, CoorsTek has established four values that drive its entire business, from major decisions to everyday operations: "In everything, we do to others what we would have them do to us; we do what we say, and we say what we mean; we create outstanding value for customers; and we work together to make our company the best. These are all simple and straightforward, but they have a profound impact on the company at all levels," says Coors.
However, Coors notes that the real reason for the company's continued success is its employees. "We have a wonderful base of hardworking people who are outstanding at what they do. Having a dedicated team that works hard and makes thoughtful decisions is what has built this company. Management has done a good job of aligning the company on common objectives, communicating those objectives, and focusing on our core strengths. But none of that would have been successful without the right people to put it into action," he says.
Future Goals for CoorsTek
Through its mission of providing value in many diverse markets by employing its core business strengths in expanding or developing technology niches, CoorsTek intends to continue to "make the world measurably better."
"We make a difference in the world around us in a way that grows shareholder value. We have products that go into every segment of the global industrial marketplace, and new opportunities are always emerging. We will continue to make an impact in a number of important global markets," Coors says.
On Leadership: "Strong and consistent values are key. When you're dealing with thousands of employees, it's difficult for them to turn on a dime, so having consistent leadership is important. It's also important for leaders to focus on a few initiatives rather than chasing many. Additionally, we've found that we need to be very flexible in execution; we have a consistent direction, but we're flexible in how we get there."
On Industry Trends: "The advanced ceramics industry is uniquely situated to be at the leading edge of development in many different industry segments. I don't think that's a new trend-it's been that way for a while. It's a very exciting place to be. People are becoming more familiar and more comfortable with the attributes of advanced ceramic materials, which is helping to drive demand. Of course, alternatives such as metals and plastics will continue to be evaluated for different applications. However, as long as people are aware that ceramic suppliers can help solve difficult problems for them, then the advanced ceramics industry will continue to grow."
On Competing in a Global Economy: "You have to understand what you do well and offer customers what they want. You have to choose the right markets - you can't do everything for everybody. And you have to compete aggressively and constantly improve. Competition is really good for everybody: It consistently makes us stronger."
David Johnson President and Chief Executive Officer, Summitville Tiles, Inc.
David Johnson's grandfather, Fred H. Johnson, Sr., founded the company that is now Summitville Tiles, Inc. in 1912. David began working at the Summitville, Ohio-based plant when he was 15, continuing through his high school and college summer breaks. In 1982, he received his bachelor's degree in political science from the College of Wooster and was asked by the second generation of family leadership-his father, Peter Johnson, Sr.-to join the family business. David began working full time for Summitville in a customer service capacity, and was named vice president of administration in 1985. He became president and CEO in 1990, following his father's retirement, and was named chairman of the board in 1997.
In 1990, Summitville launched the first glazed porcelain tile manufacturing facility in the U.S., which it had built in Morgantown, N.C. Coupled with its two Ohio quarry tile manufacturing facilities, the company employed a total of 550 employees and manufactured some 10,000 colors, sizes, shapes, thicknesses and textures of tile products. The company employed another 100 employees in its 11 distribution centers, and its Summitville Laboratories division produced tile installation materials as well.
The effects of global competition began to severely impact the U.S. ceramic tile industry by the late 90s. The tragedy of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent economic downturn, combined with the effects of globalization, put Summitville Tiles in "a serious financial bind," according to David. In 2002, he and his brother Bruce, who serves as executive vice president of the company, along with their management team, took action to dramatically "right-size" the company. In addition to closing the Morganton plant, the two Ohio plants were consolidated and the company distribution centers were spun off. "Our plan was to take the company from a multi-faceted, fairly complex operation to a more streamlined operation," David says. "We needed to get super-focused on our core strengths in order to survive."
Survive it has-and then some. Summitville currently employs a total of 250 employees at several facilities, which include a quarry tile factory in Pekin, Ohio, Summitville Laboratories in Minerva, Ohio, and its headquarters and mining operation in Summitville, Ohio. Today, the company is reinvesting in new technology, including a $1.2 million capital improvement plan at the Pekin plant. The plan, which included overhauling the plant's four tunnel kilns and the clay feeding/blending operation, has resulted in a 25% improvement in productivity. Also on the drawing board is a new production line, which will enable Summitville to expand its thin brick product line. Thin brick is used extensively in large, pre-cast panel construction projects at facilities such as Home Depot, Nordstrom and Marriott hotels.
Keys to Success
David credits Summitville's employees in large part for the company's success. "I'm part of an amazing organization of people. From our management team right on out to the shop floor production teams, words cannot express how much I appreciate the employees of Summitville Tiles. Their tireless dedication and 100% commitment to our turnaround has carried us through a most difficult time-and has positioned us for a promising future," he says. "Combine this with a lot of faithful customers all across the nation and some very supportive suppliers, and we have a lot to be grateful for."
Playing to the company's strengths has helped Summitville survive its recent challenges and has put it in a position to regain its footing, according to David. "We're back to focusing on what we know best-quarry tile and specialty quarry products, industrial floor brick, thin brick, and installation materials," he says. "Not only are we best equipped to manufacture these particular product lines, but these are the products for which we have been best known over the past 90 years."
Future Goals for Summitville
According to David, the company will work hard to diversify its product offerings in the years ahead. Ceramic roof tile, for example, is another new line of products Summitville will soon introduce. Additional equipment and process improvements are planned, and a long-term goal is to build a completely new facility to house all of the company's manufacturing operations.
"We're in a great location," he says. "We've got a virtual lifetime supply of exceptionally good, low-cost raw material in our backyard. This, along with our people, has been the underlying strength of the company for over 90 years, and it is one that we will continue to capitalize on in the years ahead."
On Leadership: "A good leader has to be a good listener. Surround yourself with superior people and trust their input. Be willing and able to make the tough decisions, but try to always be fair and considerate in implementing them. And don't ever forget that your customers are king. Without them, there is no need to be concerned about operations."
On Industry Trends: "We're definitely going to be seeing ever-increasing competition on a global scale. U.S.-based companies will need to diversify their product offerings, continually introduce new, innovative products, and invest in new technology in order to be competitive-and ultimately, profitable."
On Operating in a Global Economy: "It's as true in the ceramic tile industry and as it is in every industry in the U.S.-you must continuously invest in R&D and process improvements to ensure that you are staying ahead of the curve in product innovation and process efficiency. You can't compete on price alone, so focus on the quality and unique aspects of your products."
Robert L. Lupica President and Chief Executive Officer, Niagara Ceramics
Robert L. Lupica earned his bachelor's of science degree in physics from Allegheny College in 1983. He spent 14 years working on microwave circuitry for airborne radar with Westinghouse Electrics Defense Group, traveling extensively through Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. At 27, he was the company's youngest facility manager, running a 1000-employee operation in Chihuahua, Mexico. Looking for a change of climate-literally and figuratively-Lupica joined Oneida Ltd. in 1996 as general manager for the Buffalo, N.Y., facility, and he was named a senior vice president in 1999.
Oneida ultimately decided in 2003 to close the Buffalo facility, and Lupica, along with a group of investors, purchased the plant and created Niagara Ceramics Corp. Lupica serves as president and chief executive officer of the new company.
Oneida was struggling when Lupica joined the company. "I was brought in to assess the viability of domestic manufacturing of ceramics at the facility," he says. "Oneida was losing money handily back in '96, and we were able to turn that all around and actually make it a profitable part of the business for the next 4-5 years."
One important aspect of rejuvenating the company was reorganizing the management structure of the operation. Lupica and his team concentrated on reducing the vertical orientation to allow managers as much contact with the day-to-day operations as was feasible. "We worked to get management more involved with the direct people that I believed understood the business and understood how to make the factory work," he says. "And management actually started listening."
The industry downturn in the early 2000s eventually took its toll on Oneida, however, and the Buffalo operation was slated to close when Lupica and other management members, along with outside investors, joined together to purchase the facility. The transaction was finalized in early 2004 (see "Finding a New Niche," CI March 2005, for additional details). "We knew this business was viable," Lupica says. "We knew it had a role and we knew that domestic manufacturing in this industry wasn't something that should be walked away from."
Despite stiff competition from imports, especially those from China, Lupica believes domestic manufacturers can prevail by focusing on their capability to quickly turn around orders. "In our game, we looked at the whole market and realized you've got to be close," he says. "People very rarely think that they need four months of lead time to order a plate, so our proximity to the U.S. market gives us a huge advantage. People are willing to pay an amount higher than that of the Chinese product for proximity, for the convenience of having it available to them more quickly. We're also able to help keep our customers' inventories down."
Keys to Success
While Oneida's Buffalo operation focused solely on dinnerware production and decorating, Lupica and his team worked with Alfred University personnel to determine the various roles that ceramics play throughout industry. They quickly realized that many new opportunities were open to Niagara.
"We started to look at our equipment and our capacities, and we realized that there was more that we could do with this plant," he says. "When you look at where ceramics are used today, it's pretty amazing. It's no longer flower pots and dishes. We have a lot of capacity, a ton of processing equipment, and the ability to make numerous formulas for body prep. All of these factors can put us heads and tails above a lot of the competition." Refractory products, spray drying services and contract manufacturing are just some of the avenues Niagara is currently pursuing.
The entrepreneurial spirit of the new management team has opened many doors for Niagara, according to Lupica. "We don't have anyone sitting on how things were done in the past," he says. "Everyone's constantly changing, which I profess is one of the main factors necessary for success-we must constantly change and reinvent and go forward."
Future Goals for Niagara
In addition to diversifying with new products and services, Niagara is also expanding the dinnerware portion of its business by pursing retail opportunities. "We'll soon be launching our retail markets and trying to get some of our new products into the retail world," Lupica says. "We've teamed with a couple of designers who have created designs that will really push the whole retail game for us. We've also offered our services to them both as a partner and as a manufacturer.
"We'd like to continue and make Niagara a household name, a name that people recognize. It's the best compliment, when people want your opinion, want your help and search you out as being one of the best."
On Leadership: "Leadership is all about letting people do what they know how to do. I'm not a ceramic engineer. I'm not a ceramic anything. I consider myself a facilitator, and I try to get the right people in the right room to make the right decision. If you listen hard enough, and you talk to enough people, and you let people have access to you, you will be successful. I'm good at claiming I don't know it all, and I'm always open for someone to tell me what I don't know."
On Industry Trends: "We believe that there's going to be a change in the market, and companies will go back to sourcing ceramic products, especially some of the more technical items, in the U.S. I believe the cost of inventory is going to start killing people. People don't have the cash, and in today's market, cash is important."
On Operating in a Global Economy: "For us, it's simple-remaining competitive is all about customer service. It's making sure you know what the customer wants and trying to help them. If they're not sure what they want, help them understand what their needs are. Once you do that, you're going to be successful."
Niagara Ceramics can be reached at (716) 821-5600 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jon K. Tabor Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Allied Mineral Products, Inc.
Jon K. Tabor earned his bachelor's degree in science from Alfred University in 1955 and shortly thereafter joined Norton Co. in Worcester, Mass., where he held a number of engineering and sales positions until 1969. During this time, he also earned his master's of business administration degree from Northeastern University in 1961. In 1970, he left Norton to join Allied Mineral Products in Columbus, Ohio, as sales manager. Tabor was named to his current position in July 1985.
According to Tabor, his father was a significant influence on his life. "My father owned a small business and worked from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., seven days a week. Watching my father work this hard for the betterment of his family made a real impression on me. I vowed that no one would outwork me, and this has been my way of life. I've had an excellent education, which has supported my work ethic for all these years. Leaving Norton, a $1+ billion company, and going with Allied, a $350,000 company in 1970, was a substantial risk, especially with a wife and four kids, and my star beginning to rise at Norton. But I wanted to run my own show and didn't see that possibility at Norton. It was the best decision I ever made," Tabor says.
A manufacturer of monolithic refractories and precast refractory shapes, Allied Mineral Products has grown rapidly under Tabor's leadership over the last 21 years, both domestically and internationally. Sales have risen from $10 million to almost $100 million per year, and the company has continued to see healthy profits, even when other companies in the refractories industry were struggling due to poor market conditions. Allied now has manufacturing facilities not only in Columbus, but also in Brownsville, Texas, as well as in South Africa, China and Holland. Its facilities have grown from 116,000 to 740,000 square feet, and the number of employees has risen from 75 to 375, with 250 of those in Columbus. The company has acquired three businesses-American Precast Refractories, Matrix Refractories, and Chicago Fire Brick-and has expanded its Columbus facility eight times since Tabor was named CEO.
"We are truly a total global company, selling our products into over 80 countries," Tabor says.
Keys to Success
In 1970, Allied Mineral Products decided to concentrate on producing monolithic refractories for the metal melting and heat containment industries, and to try to be the best in the business. According to Tabor, those decisions have helped the company remain profitable through a number of economic downturns.
The company's move in 1976 to become an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) company was also an important factor in its success. "We have always tried to hire good people-individuals who buy into the Allied way of doing business and who want to grow along with the company. Allowing them to share in our profitability has helped us attract and keep these employees-many of our employees have been with us for 20 or 30 years. Additionally, because our employees share in our success, they are eager to help the company succeed," Tabor says.
The company has also focused on having attractive facilities for the benefit of both its employees and its customers and prospective customers, and it has tried to be fair in all of its interactions with its employees, customers and suppliers.
Ultimately, Allied Mineral is in business to make a profit, and that goal has been the driving force behind all of its decisions. "Cash is king-with it, business can grow and take advantage of opportunities; without it, it can't. Our ability to be profitable allowed us to become an international company in 1980 and has enabled us to continue to expand on a global level, which has been crucial to our success. There will always be markets for heat protection products, but the location of those markets is constantly shifting. We recognized early on that we would have to be able to go where those markets are; we couldn't feasibly service a global market through just our one facility in Columbus-and we couldn't remain profitable if we didn't serve a global market," Tabor says.
Future Goals for Allied Mineral Products
Profitable growth remains Allied Mineral Products' primary goal going forward. "Since we are a major supplier of monolithic refractories to the foundry, steel, aluminum, copper and brass metal melting industries in North America, we must look internationally for growth in this market segment. This is why we have plants in China, South Africa and Holland. We are also looking at opportunities in Russia/Ukraine, India and Brazil," says Tabor.
The company has entered the growing industrial market with its monolithics, and is also pushing its way into the refractory shapes market through its American Precast Refractories division. Allied is also looking into other possible acquisitions as a way to grow.
On Leadership: "One of the most important characteristics of a leader is to be fair-to employees, customers, suppliers and everyone else you deal with. Additionally, if the company is small enough, having an 'open door' policy where employees can approach the president or CEO directly with any ideas or concerns helps to foster an environment of respect and trust, and ultimately helps the employees buy in to the success of the company. A good leader should also insist on making a profit, know the company's market(s), and be willing to become an international player and take educated risks. Finally, a leader should have goals and stick to them without getting sidetracked."
On Industry Trends: "The refractories industry is a non-growth industry in the U.S. The trend seems to be toward developing better and longer-lasting products, sometimes at a lower cost; however, this trend is certainly not helpful in a non-growth market. I see more and more refractory companies (those that have the resources) going international where some markets are in a growth mode, or where having a presence could mean growth."
On Competing in a Global Economy: "The key to remaining competitive in a global economy is to go global. Build manufacturing plants in the regions you want to do business in, hire nationals to sell in the countries you intend to sell in, and hire nationals to run your foreign facilities. There just isn't any way you can compete in a major way on a global basis without being there."
Mike Hobbs Chief Executive Officer, Engineered Glass Products
Mike Hobbs joined Marsco Manufacturing on October 10, 1990, long before the company became Engineered Glass Products. As executive vice president, he replaced a member of the company's founding family and was in charge of all day-to-day operations at the glass manufacturing company. In 1995, Hobbs successfully engineered a management buyout of Marsco. He remained president of the company until 1998, when he assumed the role of chief executive officer and named Fred Fowler to take his place as president. Under their leadership, Marsco transformed into Engineered Glass Products in 2004.
Growing up on a farm taught Hobbs the value and rewards of hard work, and this work ethic has been instrumental in his development as a business leader. Before joining Marsco, Hobbs spent 11 years working for an auto glass retailer. In just over a decade, he climbed the corporate ladder from clerk to general manager. Along the way, Hobbs learned the business inside and out, from sales and inventory to operations and management. His role as general manager steadily expanded from running the business to growing the business, and finally to selling the company itself. Along the way, the retail business grew from two stores to 22. This broad range of previous experience provided Hobbs with the education and expertise to transform Marsco, a glass manufacturer, into Engineered Glass Products, a technology leader.
Hobbs has infused his personal work ethic into the corporate culture of Marsco/Engineered Glass Products by surrounding himself with self-motivated, independent thinkers who dedicate themselves to the collective interest of the company. "If you don't like hard work, you probably won't stay here very long," says Hobbs. "But if you like your job, you'll love it here because you can see your efforts pay off."
Since Hobbs took the reins at Marsco/ Engineered Glass Products, the company has devoted itself to embracing new technology. Although the core business has remained the same-providing high-quality heat-reflective glass for the home appliance industry-the manufacturing process has been substantially reengineered. Hobbs has insisted on the continuous, cost-effective upgrading of the mechanical process to maximize the productivity of each employee. As a result, sales have tripled in the last 10 years since Hobbs took ownership of the company.
While refining and boosting productivity at Marsco, Hobbs recognized the need to diversify its range of products. "As Marsco, we were essentially a one-product company," he says. "By devoting ourselves to the constant improvement of that one product, we had positioned ourselves as the most efficient and most successful producer of heat-reflective glass in the world. At the same time, we also found ourselves in a position to explore new product and revenue lines."
Hobbs began to transform Marsco from a simple supplier into a technological innovator. He hired a new vice president of technology, Pete Gerhardinger, to explore and expand the field of coated glass technology. Upon changing the name of the company to Engineered Glass Products, Hobbs and his executive team were determined to develop new, innovative products and introduce them to the market.
Although Marsco Manufacturing remains a vital division of the company, Engineered Glass Products has developed a new technology to electrically heat an ordinary pane of transparent glass. This innovation, called Thermique™ Hot Glass Technology™, recently hit the market in the form of heated architectural windows, glass towel warmers, stovetop burners and high shelves, warm food display cases, and more.
Keys to Success
When Hobbs initially joined Marsco, he was focused on growing the company by improving its main product-heat-reflective glass-in terms of both productivity and quality. After purchasing the company, he had the opportunity to make significant changes and pursue a new direction. He invested heavily in infrastructure improvements, technology and education. He was determined to transform his manufacturing company into a cutting-edge technological firm pushing the glass industry into unexplored territory. Through modernization and wise management, Marsco tripled sales without adding any square footage to its manufacturing facility. In the meantime, Hobbs has added an entirely new engineering division to the company that has developed a groundbreaking technology that Engineering Glass Products will be the first to commercialize.
Future Goals for Engineered Glass Products
Hobbs has set a goal of doubling sales in the next five years. He also is determined to continue introducing unique products to the market based on Engineering Glass Products' proprietary technological advances. "We will spend the decade expanding the limits of glass technology, developing new commercial applications based on our discoveries, and designing new product lines to expand our company," says Hobbs. "At the same time, we won't forget how it all got started. Engineered Glass Products will be the home of the world's finest heat-resistant glass for home appliances."
On Leadership: "A leader has to understand how a company fits into the global market and be aware of competition and supply issues on a global scale. You've got to keep your eye on the future, establish a clear vision, and always have a plan to get there from here. You also have to understand your own company; you have to be aware of when you're gaining and when you're losing. To get this all done, you have to communicate constantly with everyone-customers, competitors, partners, employees. You've got to burn through a lot of shoe leather to stay on top. There's no way around it."
On Industry Trends: "The most significant trend in the glass industry in the coming years will be the increased use of technologically advanced coatings. The coated glass of the future is going to be engineered to meet specific niches, demand for these specialized coatings will continue to grow for years to come.
"Another important trend in the U.S. is that the market has become more regionalized. Instead of a few major float glass suppliers, we are seeing smaller companies flourish in smaller areas. It's interesting that this is happening at the same time that international competition is growing stronger, especially from China."
On Operating in a Global Economy: "To remain competitive in a global economy, you have to understand who is the most efficient supplier and why. You've got to know what it takes to compete with the best, and you've got to be wise enough and honest enough to know when you simply can't match what your competitors are offering. There are countless ways to meet and beat the competition with value-added advantages above and beyond the price of your product. The competition from Mexico and China is already strong, and you have to look ahead to the day when Africa will become a major force in manufacturing. If you can't cut costs to match your overseas competitors, you've got to find new ways of competing."
William H. Belden, Jr. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Belden Brick Co.
William H. Belden, Jr. holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Notre Dame and a master's of business administration from Case Western Reserve University. In 1974, following a 10-year stint in the public utility and industrial electrical equipment fields, Belden co-founded Powers Systems Development (PSD), a multinational supplier of turnkey industrial electrical power distribution systems. Nine years later, he left PSD to take the reins as president of Canton, Ohio-based The Belden Brick Co., a company his family has owned and operated since 1885. Belden now serves as chairman and CEO, overseeing the manufacture of more than 200 lines of clay face brick, pavers, and chemical-resistant brick for the residential and commercial construction industries.
Belden says Belden Brick's commitment to quality was perhaps best exemplified in 1994, when it became the first company in the U.S. brick industry to achieve ISO:9000 certification. "We've utilized ISO:9000 to ensure that we remain the standard of comparison in the industry," he says. "It was a significant accomplishment for us to formalize our quality system."
In 1996, Belden Brick acquired Redland Brick Co. of Williamsport, Md., a division of UK-based Redland PLC. With the Redland purchase came 270 employees and three manufacturing plants; the acquisition of a Boral plant in 1999 brought the total number of plants under Belden's Redland subsidiary to four.
"The purchase of the Redland plants was a great opportunity for us," says Belden. "At the time, Redland was the largest brick manufacturer in the world, but they were even more prominent in aggregates and roof tile. When they made a strategic decision to get out of the brick business, they sold off all of their brick manufacturing and distribution facilities throughout the world."
Altogether, the Redland purchase increased Belden's sales by 65%. "The Redland acquisition offered us a good mix," Belden explains. "They had always serviced the same markets as us, but they had more of a foothold on the residential side of things in the east and northeast, largely due to the location of the Redland plants."
Another milestone in Belden Brick history was the 2002 completion of its Plant #2 in Sugarcreek, Ohio. Though the company had built and maintained a number of operating facilities in Sugarcreek since buying a plant from the Finzer Bros. Brick Co. in 1946, Plant #2 marked its first construction in the area since Plant #3 in 1981. "In some respects, it's the most modern plant of its kind in the world," Belden says of Plant #2. "It's a facility that we think will serve the company well into the 21st century."
Keys to Success
Belden attributes his company's continued success to a culture of quality and service instilled by his grandfather many years ago. "We have never compromised when it comes to quality," he says. "That has been the single largest factor in our company's success."
Belden stresses that maintaining that high level of quality requires continuous improvement. "Reinvesting in the business is what brings about the high-quality products and services that we provide," he says. "The brick industry has always been very capital-intensive, so you need to keep your equipment and buildings on the cutting edge and in good working order, or you pay for it in the long run."
Future Goals for Belden Brick
While Belden does not have any specific goals concerning manufacturing capacities, number of employees or dollar sales for the immediate future, he does stress the importance of growing the business at a measured pace in order to keep Belden Brick a private, family-held company.
"We've always felt that growth will take care of itself if we strive for excellence in everything we do and keep reinvesting in the business," Belden says. "We'll get where we want to be if we just follow those guidelines."
On Leadership: "Integrity, vision and the ability to cope with an ever-changing world are the most important leadership qualities."
On Industry Trends: "One significant trend in commercial construction is the demand for thin brick and prefabricated brick panels. More panelization is being used instead of conventional masonry, especially in structures like stadiums. We've been fortunate enough to supply brick for several Major League Baseball stadiums, and all of them were built with some degree of prefabricated brick paneling that requires thin brick, as opposed to a brick with a full 3 5/8-in.-deep bed.
"Another emerging trend involves the utilization of clay brick pavers. The segmental paving market in this country has been growing at an annual rate of almost 20% a year. Clay brick paver manufacturers were a little slow to take advantage of that growth at first, but we're doing it now. That particular part of the overall market holds real promise for our industry."
On Operating in a Global Economy: "Like most other manufacturers, Belden needs to constantly work on keeping its costs down. More and more, it's the energy factor that influences what our costs are. A company has to do everything it can to reduce the energy content of its product, but it's difficult at the moment with what's happening with the price of natural gas."
The Belden Brick Co. can be reached at P.O. Box 20910, Canton, OH 44701; (330) 456-0031; or online at www.beldenbrick.com.