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Opinion: How does one reinvent a 270-year-old company?

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By: Grayce Belvedere Young, President, Prouty Project

Below is a conversation with Eric Rottier, CEO, Taylor-Wharton, International. TWI produces a comprehensive range of bulk and portable cryogenic storage equipment and a complete line of high-pressure precision valves and propane cylinders.

What drew you to Taylor-Wharton, International (TWI)?

Taylor-Wharton International’s heritage and brand were primary factors that drew me. Founded in 1742, Taylor-Wharton is the oldest metal fabricating company in continuous operation in the United States. TWI has contributed to some amazing technologies that have enhanced lives for over 270 years from the very serious, medical advancements in Cryopreservation of biological samples and rocket propulsion, to the assistance in the USA’s War of Independence by making George Washington’s cannon balls. I was intrigued by this heritage and the future of the brand.

Additionally, TWI has a unique global operating platform in cryogenics, which is a field that I’ve spent 20 years of my career. The market conditions for cryogenics are superb and our products continue enhancing lives in the medical field, like preserving tissue samples for cancer research, to respiratory therapy, to space exploration, to providing the ultra-pure gases for manufacturing semiconductor chips to replacing diesel on trucks with Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). Technologies that are incredibly cool.

Finally, Taylor-Wharton is private-equity owned and the investors are very committed to investing in the growth and expansion of the organization. While, they have high expectations of us to grow aggressively, they are all about value creation. We have a very specific plan to increase shareholder value that aligns the entire organization’s focus.

Tell us about the strategy for the next evolution.

TWI went through a structured bankruptcy three years ago and the organization was underfunded until earlier last year. As CEO, my first area of focus was to promote from within and bring in a team of experienced industry leaders to replace the restructuring team that was in place. These leaders understand the marketplace, our competition, and how we can value engineer our products.

Our focus is to expand our position, both nationally and internationally. We will do so by leveraging our two key market platforms – Cryopreservation and Industrial Gas while adding a third platform focused on LNG. LNG is a Mega-Trend that we are positioned to benefit from.

Acquisitions are certainly being explored, both nationally and internationally. We know that increasing geographic coverage will be a part of our future strategy.

You are at a flux point in your organization. How do you attract and retain the talent you would like for future growth?

In our recruitment efforts, we are seeking people who are comfortable with change and uncertainty. We know that we have manifold challenges and we are looking for people who are energized by seeing these as opportunities versus problems, where they can roll up their sleeves, dig in, and really fix our processes.

We are revitalizing the company and we are seeking people who thrive in this environment. These are people who know that their role will change in two years because the company’s needs are dynamic. These are people who are constantly looking to enhance their capabilities and grow different skill sets throughout their tenure with TWI. This requires a unique mindset that embraces, risk and uncertainty, but also lots of upside and opportunities for one’s career progression.

What unique aspects of your culture will support people being successful in this environment?

Every organization talks about a team oriented culture and that is true for us as well; however, with a slight twist. We want a culture that operates in a thoughtful, crisis management approach. This sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not. Our culture will embrace making bold moves quickly with perhaps only 80% of the information needed to make a final decision. Speed is of the essence here and we need to be comfortable with making decisions and moving ahead. We must embrace this in order to win. Our culture will support being dissatisfied with the current state to quickly move to improve it.

What does success look like in 3 to 5 years?

We will be three to four times our current size. We will stand out as a recognized leader in our industry. We will have the “wow” factor when considering our heritage, resurgence and our presence in the global marketplace.

Grayce Belvedere Young leads the Organization Development practice area at the Prouty Project. She brings twenty years of strategic planning and organization development expertise in numerous industries as well as the nonprofit world. Grayce partners with leaders to set strategy, drive alignment and execution, and develop talent.

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