A New School of Thought

February 06, 2013
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller
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At Barry-Wehmiller, we’re in the business of education.

That’s not a statement you’d expect to hear about a company that provides capital equipment and engineering consulting services.

When I said it to a woman sitting next to me on a plane, she offered a perplexed look. An elementary school principal, she had been sharing with me the challenges and rewards of her 30-plus years as an educator. When she finished, she turned to me and asked, “What do you do, Bob?”

I said what I came to realize in that very moment: “I’m in the same business as you. I too am in the education business.”

“But didn’t you say you were in manufacturing?” she pointed out.

“No, no,” I explained. “Just like you, we’re in the business of inviting people into our organization, teaching them new skills, and offering them life-changing experiences so they can use the gifts they have been given in life. We just raise our ‘tuition’ a little differently–by building machinery.”

This fortuitous dialogue awakened me to the realization that our ‘product’ was our people and that we are in the business of educating people to help them live lives of meaning and purpose. We are committed to bringing out and celebrating the best in each of our associates, empowering them through a shared vision, trust and responsible freedom.

To create leaders, we even created our own Barry-Wehmiller University to help them understand the profound responsibility of leadership and the impact it has on the lives of those we have the opportunity to influence. Business organizations should provide a continuum of learning, allowing each of us to develop and share our gifts in the process of creating value together for all stakeholders.

My newfound friend on the plane found it interesting that a company made its employees’ personal growth a priority. I find it remarkable that most companies don’t. Better people, in turn, make a better business.

Building great machinery may be our value proposition, but building great people is our business.

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