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FLEXO Magazine : September 2010
Plants & Processes this month’s issue of FLEXO, we sat down with Fulwiler to talk to him about this journey. Q: How do you feel about winning the lifetime achieve- ment award? I am very flattered and humbled by being selected for this award. There are so many other folks who could have been selected that have great histories of accom- plishment. I would compare getting this award to an athlete being inducted into the Hall of Fame. I am very grateful to all of the folks at WS Packaging Group Inc. who made my getting this award possible. They do all the work and I get the credit. So getting this award is really a recognition of all of WS Packaging Group Inc. Q: What does it mean to you? It means a great deal when you get recognized by your peers in an industry where you have spent your whole career. Although the panel that chose me to re- ceive the award did not know I was retiring, this award really puts a great finish to my career. I can’t think of a higher honor. Q: Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in label printing? My father, Ray Fulwiler, his partner, Frank Knipfer, and my uncle, Stan Fulwiler, had started the business when I was in high school. I graduated from the University of Michigan in 1972 with a degree in aerospace engi- neering, but there were no jobs available in the field at the time, so I went to work for my dad and expected to leave when the job market opened up. I went into aerospace because it was a new science at the time, and trying to put men on the moon was new, challenging and exciting. Along the way I discovered that building and expanding a label business was— for me—just as new, challenging and exciting. So, I never left. Q: Was this always the career you envisioned for your- self? If so, why? If not, what was your vision? With a degree in aerospace engineering, this wasn’t the career I had initially envisioned for myself. But as I said, I really enjoyed building the business. In hind- sight, never getting a job in aerospace really turned out well for me. My dad started the business when he was 39, with a wife and six kids to support. He had very little money and he had to sell his tools and borrow against the family car to get it started, so failure was not an option. I’m extremely proud of the fact there are now more than 1,770 people working at WS Packaging Group, up from about 25 when I became CEO in 1986. Our employees have good jobs and good benefits. I also have three brothers, two sisters, a brother-in-law, a sister-in-law, two nieces, and my mom (part-time) who work for me. So in that sense, I guess you could call it a family business. I’m also proud that we get along very well and everybody does his or her job. Nobody gets to hang around just because they ’re a relative. My vision is focused on the desire to make sure that I don’t let anyone on my team down. I know they can succeed in almost any situation if I give them the tools and the overall direction that they need. Q: How do you handle a difficult customer? The same way you should handle everyone in your life – try to understand what their issues are so that you can respond appropriately. Virtually all customers are normal, intelligent people. If they seem to be difficult, it is most often because you don’t understand each other. Q: Are there any management or business books that have influenced you? Jack Stack’s “The Great Game of Business,” and “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. Q: Whatisthebiggestmistakeyou made in business and how did you fix it? My biggest mistake was finally realizing that I had the wrong people in some positions but not doing anything about it because they were good human beings. The solution is to realize that if you terminate someone, that doesn’t mean that they were bad people. It just means that they were in the wrong position or situation that did not maximize their talents and abilities. Q: Whatdoyouenjoymostabout your job? I enjoy making WS Packaging Group a major player in our market, while meeting the new people, both customers and partners in the business, that come along with our growth. Q: Whatdoyouenjoyleastabout your job? Having to let nice people go. Q: Whatwasthebestadviceyou ever got? Take care of your people and lead by example. Q: Whatwastheworstadviceyou ever got? 1. Don’t share any more than you have to. 2. Don’t ever go into debt. Q: Whatadvicewouldyougive to someone starting out in this business? Decide on your ultimate goals for the business before you start. It is important to always be heading toward the target you have set for yourself. Don’t do something just because it is “expected” or because it is what someone else thinks you should do. Q: Doyouhaveapersonalmotto or mantra by which you live life or do business? Several of the familiar clichés: Do unto others; It is better to give than to receive; Try to make the world a better place; etc. this label uses a chemical reaction between two microencapsulated proprietary materials to signal when it’s time to replace the air filter. Key objectives of the project were to make the label highly functional and easy to use. It also had to physically be part of the product casing, but not interfere with the functionality of the air filter device. the face label for langetwins chardonnay incorporates a gold foil accent. Here, the foil die cylinder, top left, stamps the foil to the face label. the press run was at the Ws Packaging facility in san luis obispo, ca. 34 FLEXO sePtember 2010 www.flexography.org FLX_Sept2010_mech.indd 34 8/31/10 5:41 PM