Experience Speaks: Robert A. Jessup

  • President of Jessup Mfg. Co.
  • Management style | Lead by example
  • Personal motto | Work hard and play hard
  • How did you get into this business? My grandfather started Jessup Mfg. in 1956. My father purchased the company in 1973. I have been around the business my entire life but couldn't wait to get out of college to pursue a career in finance. Somehow, years later, I found myself involved in setting up a new coating line and fell in love with the business.

  • How do you handle a difficult customer? Don't let the situation drag on. You must immediately engage the customer, get to the root of the problem, and search for an equitable solution.

  • What is your key to retaining good employees? Setting clear goals, ensuring the tools are available to get the job done, and recognizing both individual and group achievements is the key to maintaining a positive work environment.

  • What sustainability efforts has your company made? We are installing a new RTO thermal oxidizer at our coating facility, and a key part of our design criteria is a heat recovery system that will provide both hot BTUs for our process as well as heat for our plant.

  • What is the biggest threat to the converting industry right now? Excessive price increases by major raw material producers. If the increase isn't 100% justified, then all you are doing is hurting your customer and ultimately yourself.

  • What is the biggest mistake you made and how did you fix it? Business is like baking a cake. When you stop following your recipe, you get a flat cake. Unfortunately, I once allowed our business to stop following our business plan and things started to go flat. We recognized it as an organization, returned to following our recipe, and our cake has been rising ever since.

  • What is the best advice you ever got? Let your customers do the talking. Client-led dialogue generates an understanding of their needs and sets clear expectations. Unfortunately, we often spend more time talking than listening.

  • Do you have a personal hero? My father, who managed to make running a business and raising a family appear so effortless while I was growing up. He always made time for the family no matter what was happening.

  • What is the worst advice you ever got? If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself. Refusing to delegate is deadly to a business. Managers use the excuse they have no one qualified to delegate a project to when in reality they refuse to delegate because they are scared to lose control.

  • What management books have influenced you? Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Wiliams, challenges deeply held assumptions about business and gives insight into leveraging collaboration and communication technologies to survive in a global economy.

About Jessup Mfg. Co.

  • 2815 W. Route 120, McHenry, IL 60051; 815-385-6650
  • www.jessupmfg.com
  • Founded 1956; 3 plants; 75 full-time employees
  • Specialty | Coated, cast, and laminated safety and visual warning products

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