Experience Speaks: Terry Fulwiler

  • CEO of WS Packaging Group

  • Management style | People-friendly

  • Recommends | The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack

  • How did you get into the converting business? My father, his partner, and my uncle started the business when I was in high school. When I graduated from college, there were no jobs available in my field (aerospace engineering), so I went to work for my dad, expecting to leave when the job market opened up. But I really enjoyed building a business, and I never left.

  • What is your key to retaining good employees? If you give good people an interesting, challenging job to do and reward their success, you don't lose very many.

  • How have management styles changed over time? They have evolved into a more open, information-sharing style instead of a closed, tight-to-the-vest style. I like to think we were ahead of the game. We were sharing financials with the employees in the early '70s before the term “open book management” was coined.

  • What is the key to growing a business in a bad economy? Having an advantage over your competition is the key. That could be a price advantage, a quality advantage, a service advantage, or a product advantage, but you must have a reason to attract new customers.

  • What is the biggest threat to the converting industry right now? Overcapacity. The barriers to entry are not great (at least not in the narrow web segment), and there are a lot of players. This leads some people to become desperate, and that leads them to do things that hurt the overall market.

  • What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out? How important it is to let people do their jobs without micro-managing. Delegation is hard for someone who is entrepreneurial by nature. But you have to give people the right to fail once or twice if you are going to expect them to take responsibility.

  • What is the biggest mistake you made and how did you fix it? My biggest mistake was finally realizing 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 doesnt mean they were bad people. It just means they were in the wrong position or situation that did not maximize their talents and abilities.

    Do you have a personal hero? 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.

  • What are your hobbies? My wife and I love to travel; we've been all over the world. Also, I do a little golf. Three years ago, I was named to the board of directors of the Green Bay Packers. Its a real honor.

About WS Packaging Group

  • Relocating headquarters to new facility in Green Bay, WI

  • www.wspackaging.com

  • Formed in 2000 with merger of Wisconsin Label Corp. and Superior Label Systems; 18 plants, 2,000 employees

  • Specialty | Package printing and label converting

How do you retain good employees? Share your perspective. Write to yolanda.simonsis@penton.com.


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