Here’s something for everyone reading this to take in… with everyone coming to GlassBuild America, please seriously look at attending the Fall Conference there.
More info is HERE
with the schedule (and with more details to follow) but you will see the conference now integrates with the show.
If you want to get involved and learn about all of the things going on with regards to the technical happenings, codes, advocacy etc. you need to sign up and attend.
You’ll still have plenty of show time as well.
If you have any questions, reach out to me, as I would love to see you there.
Kudos to the gang at Pleotint and Patrick Lentz on the launch of their new website.
site is fabulous.
The layout, pictures, detail, and info are strong.
Congrats to all involved in this launch!
Big 3 with Dan Wright President at Paragon Tempered Glass
Dan Wright has worked with some of the most talented and in some cases legendary people our industry has ever had… so my hope with this interview was to get him to open up about it- because he’s been on a pretty epic ride. He did not let me down (never has on any level, so not surprised) Really good stuff below, and the answers to question #2 are amazing.
I think most people who recognize your name associate you from your past stint at Guardian. You are now President at Paragon Tempered Glass, can you tell me more about how you got there and what you are doing now?
Well, it’s been a long road to my current role. In 1995 I was about 6 months away from graduating college and my sister was in town with her family. My sister and I had grown closer while I was in college because she was very ill and needed a kidney, I happened to be the right match. Her husband, Tony Hobart (former Group VP of Guardian Industries) took a keen interest in my future and when they were at our house, Tony asked me to take a walk. He asked about what kind of career I was looking for and honestly I had no idea. I was getting a finance degree, and thought I might go the route of a financial planner. He asked if I was up for an adventure, and I was intrigued. He said, you would start in inside sales in Richburg, SC, from there it’s what you make of it. Guardian is growing rapidly and you don’t have to stay in sales, if you are willing to take moves, there are opportunities all over the world. So that was the first real turning point in my journey. I was in Richburg for a year, then took every opportunity that was offered to me. DeWitt, IA to open a float plant was next. After a few years I was pretty close to bailing out of the glass business, but Tom Marsh (former Midwest Regional Manager at Guardian) took me under his wing and taught me forecasting and sales planning and then put me out on the road in 1998, covering Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota, all by car. This was the second turning point in my career and I am forever grateful that he gave me the opportunity. The market was exploding and I followed a sales representative in part of the area that was not well liked. Sales grew quickly and we lost a regional manager, suddenly, in Detroit. I was offered that role, and from there I found my stride in finding talented sales people who were better than I was, not only as sales people, but managers. Each time we lost a regional sales manager, I had a replacement ready to fill my role, so I was asked to take on the vacated position. Guys like Dave Zawisza (Carleton plant) and Ryan Sexton (Richburg plant), were both complete professionals and superstars at Guardian. I fit the Bill Davidson/Russ Ebeid culture very well, but the times were changing, and at the same time, I went through a personal crisis, so my path at Guardian ended, abruptly.
So in 2011 I received a call from a recruiter for a position in Elkhart, IN. It turns out one of my former sales representatives, Nick McLay, was contacted about the position and thought I was a better fit. I interviewed with StateWide Aluminum in Elkhart, IN and was offered the Sales Manager job there the next day. So I took the family from Charlotte, NC to Indiana. StateWide was the main supplier of windows for the truck cap industry, brands like LEER, Jason, Unicover and Lakeland. But they were still in the throes of the Great recession and had not recovered. Their business was down significantly. But, slowly we started to get stronger. We rebranded our company as StateWide Windows, and worked hard on developing our culture. This was really the third turning point in my career. I was working with a VP at StateWide, Jim Johnson, that was my complete opposite. He was a taskmaster and extremely detailed. He saw potential in me and was not going to let me waste it. Some of our shouting matches were legendary and I slammed the door on the way out a few times. To his credit, he never held a grudge and he pulled me through the eye of the needle. He challenged me at every turn and held my feet to the fire. At the time, I cursed him and looked for new career opportunities (none of which panned out, luckily). He worked with me on writing 5 year business plans, researching and presenting M&A opportunities to our ownership, as well as forecasting and reporting. He was the toughest coach I ever had, but I came out all the better for it, even though I couldn’t see it while it was happening.
Jim was approached by one of our suppliers about being part of their succession plan because their President was ready to slow down a little. Jim, said, “I’m not your guy, but I’ve got your guy”. That is when I was introduced to Paragon, and it truly was a match for both of our futures. I came to Paragon as the VP of Sales and Marketing in January of 2017, and after a year of strong growth, I was offered the role of President at Paragon Tempered Glass.
You’ve worked for and with some unbelievable people in your past. Legends really. Any tidbits of advice or knowledge that one (or more of them) gave you that you would like to share?
Oh man, I came into the glass industry in a golden age. Many of the people I worked with had worked side by side with Russ Ebeid, and Mr. Davidson knew most of their names! I learned a little (or a lot) from all of them. True legends within the glass industry and within Guardian. So let’s see if I can rattle off a few…
From Bill Davidson – It’s all about leverage, someone is always leaning on someone else, so you better know which side you are on.
Also from Mr. D. – Those individuals that are accomplishing the most usually have to say the least, those that are not achieving their goals feel the need to explain in great detail. Instead of all the explanations just improve, the results will speak for themselves
From Russ Ebeid – If you are not developing the next leaders of your company then you are working on the wrong things.
From Jim Walsh – never take your coat off at customer or plant, it implies you are staying
From Don Tullman/Gerry Hool – you must win over the hearts and minds of the people to have a successful culture
From Ron Nadolski/Jay Waite – I learned this after I fetched Dove bars from the hotel store for these two, “Kid, have some fun while you do this job, it’s only glass and we will make more of it tomorrow!”
From Ted Hathaway – It’s okay to treat your suppliers sometimes, this isn’t a one way street
From Mike Robinson (Plant Manager at Guardian-Richburg) – if you do the right thing everytime, you will eventually be rewarded…Mike waited his turn for longer than anyone I know to be named a plant manager, and when he was, I was so thrilled.
I truly was lucky to work with people like John Thompson, Tom Ricker, Matt Hill, Vince Westerhof, Dennis Carroll, Bruce Cooke, Steve Patience, Rosie Hunter, Dean Campbell, and Sarah Wansack. They all taught me something along the way and I am very appreciative of that.
You were/are a seriously talented athlete that I also just found out has a gift for writing too. Do you look back and wonder where your life would’ve been if you chased golf, baseball, or sports writing?
You are way too kind, Max. To tell the truth, keeping my mom out of the equation, I was the worst athlete in the family. My dad was all state in Pennsylvania in football, basketball and track back in the 1940’s. My oldest brother Lee, swam at LSU. My sister, Debbie, won the Florida High School State championship in the backstroke as a sophomore in high school and went on to swim at Alabama. My most talented sibling, Greg, may have been the best swimmer in his age group in the country at 12 years old. He went on to swim at Alabama as well. So I had big shoes to fill in my house growing up. I was the baby by 12 years so my parents were done with swimming. Baseball was my first love, and I was very good from about 7 years old to 13 years old. I was a dominant pitcher at 12 and 13. There was one game where I struck out 20 out of 21 batters, the one that got away bunted it back to me. But I tore my triceps muscle at 13 and my arm was never as strong as it once was. Everyone caught up to me physically, and though I was good enough to play some college ball, I didn’t have the talent to take it past that. So my competitive outlet became golf, and though I loved it, it took me a long time to get to where I wanted to be. My dad introduced me to the game when I was seven, but I never focused on it. He and Lee had a strong bond with golf, and I knew it was something I wanted to get better at but I truly had to “dig it out of the dirt” as Ben Hogan said. I had two magical days in 2001, both my dad and sister were still alive and my parents were visiting and staying at her house, and I lived nearby. My dad was past his playing days but came out to watch me play a couple of practice rounds leading up to our club championship that weekend. He said, “Dan, I’ve never seen you hit it better, go have some fun.” My family was all at my niece’s softball game on the first day of the tournament, and I went out and shot a 69, I was just unconscious. I rushed from the course to her game to share the news, and my dad said, “I didn’t know you were THAT good!” The next day I was four under par for the day (seven under for the tournament) and had a nine shot lead standing on the 15th tee, where I proceeded to fall apart and give back 5 shots over those 4 holes, but held on to win a club championship. As much as I did in baseball (we won Florida senior major league state championship in 1989, and I was named the defensive MVP for the tournament for the three games I pitched in), that club championship was probably my proudest athletic moment. In my foursome that day were 1)A four time Michigan Amatuer champion and 5 time U.S. open qualifier, 2) a two time club champion, and senior club champion, 3) a three time club champion, and at the time course record holder (64). I was in rare air, and met the challenge when on the inside I was a nervous wreck. Unfortunately, I think my best golf is behind me. I just don’t play enough anymore, and for me I have to play and practice to be competitive.
Finally, with regards to sports writing, I was a finalist for the Grantland Rice scholarship at Vanderbilt, and had I won that I would have quit baseball and followed that path. The funny thing is, I hated deadlines, still do to this day. I always waited to the last minute and then banged it out under the gun. I finally learned that’s pretty much how the business is and I probably would have excelled at it because I worked best under that pressure. One of my best friends in high school, who followed me as editor of the school newspaper after I graduated, went on to write for the sporting news, so I got to see the “inside” of sports writing, and though I may have enjoyed getting into the “broadcasting” side of things like Stephen A. Smith or Tony Kornheiser, writing day to day just wasn’t for me.
No Links or Video this week… they’ll be back next week!!
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