Interview with a Manufacturing Executive

Buster Weinzierl is the president of R & D Coatings, a company specializing in formulations, development and manufacturing of ultraviolet and electron beam curable finishes.

Mr Weinzierl graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, where he received an Industrial Engineering degree and played center on the varsity basketball team. His career advanced quickly, beginning at Western Electric Co with stints as an engineer, production supervisor, and accounting supervisor all within 5 years.

Buster left to become Plant Controller, then Divisional Controller of a foundry. Within 2 years, he became General Plant Manager for a 600 employee facility for a period of 5 years. In 1980, Buster left to become President and equity partner of Belknap Business Forms, helping to lead the company to 20 years of impressive growth, with yearly revenue jumping from 1.8 to 12 million.

Buster served on the alumni advisory committee to the Department of Industrial Engineering at his alma mater. From a community standpoint, he has served as a board member and chairman of the Westfield Memorial Hospital, and as president of the Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club.

“It is my belief that we all have a responsibility to give something back to our community or to society in general for all the good that has happened in our lives.”

Buster Weinzierl and His Career

How and when did you discover you had a talent for business leadership?

In my first job after graduation with Western Electric Co, my training program required me to be placed in a supervisory position after one year. My success and the personal enjoyment I had convinced me that this was the right career path for me.

What was your greatest success and biggest setback?

My greatest success was rebuilding our company after a devastating fire that completely destroyed our entire facility and all our equipment in 1995. My biggest setback was the fire described above.

What are your favorite career achievements and why?

Being recognized by the University of Pittsburgh Engineering School as the Distinguished Alumni for Industrial Engineering in 1995. This acknowledgement by my university was a very special event for me.

Serving as Chairman of North America for our international association, IBFI, was also very rewarding. Being recognized by my peers, acknowledged my hard work within our industry.

What was your hardest business lesson?

We purchased another printing company for the wrong reasons. I allowed this to occur because it met a personal objective of mine. If I had not allowed this personal agenda to be a factor, the acquisition would have never occurred.

We eventually closed the company and liquidated the assets. We lost a lot of money because of this decision.

Would you do anything differently if you could re-live your career up to this point again?

Hind sight is always 20/20. I am happy where I am and would not want to have done anything different that might have affected that.

Who were the biggest inspirations for your career?

Ernie Olson at Western Electric Co. taught me a lot about dealing with people in a supervisory capacity, and Leo Belknap at Belknap Business Forms taught me how to keep the customer focus that is necessary for business success. These two men are and were very important to me in my development.

What are some common myths about business executives?

People don’t realize that we are human and can make mistakes. Admitting them and fixing these mistakes separates the good from the bad.

What are your top 3 favorite business books?

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  2. One Minute Manager
  3. Iacocca

Actual Work of Being a Business Executive

Describe a typical work week for you.

Most of my day is spent dealing with people. From employees, vendors and customers, I jump from one problem (opportunity) to another. I do my paperwork typically in the evening or the weekend. I thoroughly enjoy doing what I do.

What is your management / leadership style?

My management style is to leave those people reporting to me the freedom to make decisions and the insight to know when to discuss them with me.

What is your negotiation style? What are the 5 best and 5 worst things you can do when negotiating?

My negotiating style is win-win. The five best things you can do when negotiating are:

  1. Know who you are negotiating with.
  2. Know what is important to them.
  3. Know what they want.
  4. Do not underestimate them.
  5. Do not overestimate yourself.

The five worst things you can do are the opposite of the above.

What has been you and your company’s key (or keys) to success?

The key to our success is “Customer Focus”. We try very hard to put ourselves in our customer’s shoes. It is also imperative that we make money in the process.

How do you find and keep the best people? Do you need to pay the best to get the best people?

There are many traditional ways to find and recruit new employees. These methods include advertising, search firms, recruiting and walk ins. We believe that through various types of testing, we can find people with the right skills and the ability to learn.

What we do not test for and must focus on in the interview process is the applicants attitude. Will they fit into our team? This is the most important aspect of our hiring procedure. A mistake here could be extremely costly.

You need to pay a competitive salary. A person who is primarily interested in money, is not a person we would be interested in. If a person enjoys their job and is rewarded competitively, the likelihood of them leaving is minimal.

Job Information and Advice

Describe your ideal job candidate and your nightmare job candidate.

My ideal job candidate is someone who has the job skills required and, more importantly, has the attitude and ability to learn. The worst candidate is the person with a head problem.

Describe your ideal resume and your nightmare resume.

The ideal resume is neat and orderly. I can follow the career path of the individual. It should be to the point with successes and accomplishments: two pages max. My nightmare resume is the opposite of the above.

What are the 3 best and 3 worst things a job candidate can do in an interview.

The 3 best things a job candidate can do are:

  1. Ask intelligent questions about the company.
  2. Know history about the company.
  3. Relate personal skills to the needs of the company.

The 3 worst things a job candidate can do are:

  1. Focus on what the job pays.
  2. Not showing sincere interest in the company.
  3. Being late.

When hiring and/or promoting people, how much value do you place in an MBA degree?

An MBA is an extra plus for the candidate. The exposure you get from a graduate business program is tremendously valuable in business. I believe the graduate degree helps the individual become a better decision maker.

How can graduating management students best prepare for a career in the manufacturing industry?

Learn all you can about the industry. Get summer jobs in the industry. Make contacts and use them.

How is the job market now for the manufacturing industry? How about in 5 years?

Technology is changing the industry, offering many opportunities to those at the forefront of technology. Obviously, recent college grads have an advantage here. I believe this trend will continue for at least the next 5 years.

Education Information and Advice

Tell us about your education.

I have a BS in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. Realizing that I needed more business training and due to my many relocations, I selectively took graduate courses in finance, accounting and statistics. These courses were taken at the University of Pittsburgh and George Washington University.

What did you like and dislike about your education?

I believe that having an engineering degree has taught me how to think and solve problems logically.

My only dislike in my educational background is that more courses were not directed toward people skills. I believe business programs do a better job on this than the technical programs.

How does a prospective management student assess their skill and aptitude for this field?

If you can honestly look at yourself and assess how you deal with people, this could give you some indications of potential success or failure. Do people look toward you as a decision maker or leader in your inner circle? This could help in assessing your potential.

Do you want to be a leader? This is very important to answer truthfully. Being at the top can be a very lonely job at times.

What factors should students consider when choosing a business school for them?

Decide what field of business is of most interest to you. Assess schools based on the following relative to your individual needs:

  1. What companies recruit from that school.
  2. Does your family situation allow for you to attend the school.
  3. Can you financially afford the school.
  4. Is your skills and abilities consistent with the school.
  5. Does the school offer the program you desire.

If someone has a knack for business already, should he/she go to school for it and why? Do you prefer to hire people with technical degrees or business degrees and why?

If you have an interest or knack for business, you should definitely consider the possibilities. You spend a large portion of your life related to your work. Do something you enjoy and like. Life is to short.

I think you have to look at the requirements of the position before you say technical or business. The fundamental thing I look for is attitude with an ability to learn. Good people can be taught.

What do you think are the five most respected and prestigious business schools in the world that really make a difference to students who graduate from these schools?

  • The Harvard Business School
  • Stanford Business School
  • Carnegie Mellon
  • The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University
  • University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School

There are certainly more schools the equal of these. This is only a starting point.

What should students try to get out of their business education?

Learn how to think logically to solve problems. Develop your people skills to the Nth degree. Understand the numbers — the business environment is inundated with numbers.

Industry Trends

How has the popularity of the Internet affected the printing industry?

Like all industries, printing is affected. The industry will be reshaped and where it’s economically feasible and practical, the Internet will be a significant force.

Today, we are transferring many files we print by way of the Internet. E-commerce is a reality within our industry. The new graduates who have grown up with the internet will be leading us on this journey.

What are some of the more important trends that you see in the field of business management / leadership?

The major trend I see is the acknowledgement that we must continue to develop our Managers in their leadership and supervisory skills. I call these people skills. The preponderance of training programs out there are related to improving “people skills”.

If we can keep our employees feeling good about their job, we stand the best chance of higher productivity. Hopefully, our educational institutions are becoming more aware of this and are not just focused on the technical/business skills for their programs.