BIC Magazine – View Original Post
As a third-generation, family-owned business, Woven Metal Products (WMP) was founded by Russell Hillenburg’s grandfather in 1967. Therefore, it only made sense for Hillenburg to fill the family shoes and take over the reigns as WMP president. BIC Magazine recently visited with Hillenburg to learn more about what is most important to him — taking care of employees, the company’s newest tower internals division and the strategy for future growth.
Q: What led to your position at WMP?
A: I worked my way up from a kid sweeping the shop floor, working to understand every facet of the company, onto president, the role I took on in 2011. Because of my family legacy and more, I have a lot of pride in WMP.
Q: What is the biggest news at WMP right now?
A: I’d say it is our tower internals division. We are best known for the reactor side of our business as we’ve been building reactor internals since the beginning of our company. But the tower internals division was officially launched a few years ago and has brought new technologies, a more robust customer base and more excitement and growth to our company.
We started the tower division at the insistence of our customers. It is always important to diversify, but our customers wanted a better choice than the few major players that are out there. We knew we could offer a better product with better quality, service and turnaround time than anyone else, and we’ve been doing just that. We are seeing it pay off with happy customers and new business. So it is a very exciting time to be a part of that evolution.
Q: What is the most important part of your position?
A: Taking care of our employees is the most important thing to me. Because our business is a hands-on, human-engineered product, I need the best in our field. I have that mainly because we take care of our people. We offer a good salary, but it is so much more than that. We have many employee benefits, appreciation days and lunches, a great bonus structure, a referral program and other perks we believe help us to stand apart from other fabrication facilities. We have employees who have been here since my grandfather started the business and that means a lot to me.
Q: Are you looking to grow in new markets or expand in current ones?
A: We are doing both. WMP has been a behind-the-scenes company for many years, and now we are talking directly to end users at the insistence of many of our customers. We are on most approved vendors lists; however, we are not known for all of the products we offer. Because we do so much, oftentimes they see us as a supplier for a certain product offering when, in fact we can offer a full, turnkey solution for their entire internals need, whether it is for a reactor or tower or both. We have set up strategic sales offices in the U.S. and abroad to better serve our customer base, and we look for long-term partnerships. In this fashion, our customers and their customers can better learn about the solutions we offer and the improvements we can provide.
Q: What’s the most important thing a person should know before taking a career path similar to yours?
A: Get as much experience in all aspects of the job as possible. Ask questions, shadow others and learn from as many people as you can. For instance, I spent several years working with and for experts in fabrication, then several years in plant maintenance/turnaround of internals both in the shop and in the field. Then, I went onto the management side and worked with customers directly on their projects. I eventually was able to use my degree in entrepreneurship and worked into upper management. But without those first years of learning from experts across a variety of disciplines, I would never know about all the issues we still help customers with today.