The legal world’s loss was SCHMIDT’s gain when our company President, Neal O’Connor, was forced to drop out of law school in his first semester due to a double bout of tonsillitis and pneumonia. Not one to hang around and wait for the new school year to begin, Neal joined Signode Corporation as a Sales Representative in 1970. Law school was soon forgotten as he made a name for himself moving from a General Sales territory to Power Equipment Specialist to Steel Sales and then to the home office as Assistant to the Group Vice President.
He was asked to join SCHMIDT, a subsidiary of Signode at that time, as Director of Sales and Marketing in 1984. Neal jumped at the chance. He loved the idea of working with a smaller leadership group capable of making decisions and putting them into operation rapidly.
Neal soon saw that there was work to be done. As an old-line company, few computers existed in the firm, the product line was static and there was resistance to change. Sales was divided between a large in-house group and outside Manufacturer’s Representatives.
Neal’s first move was to create a strong direct sales force by cutting loose the outside reps whose loyalty was strained due to other product lines. This move to a direct sales force proved vital to our success as a company. Another key initiative was Neal’s move to application engineering, with Engineering and Sales working together to advise customers on the best marking system based on their unique needs.
In 1990, aware that the traditional marking business was maturing rapidly, Neal lead the management team in looking for new products to market. The old technology was kept in stock and newer technology added to fill out the product line. The Styliner (still a top seller) and laser products (our fastest growing line) were added to the mix at this time.
But that was only the beginning. Seeing the potential of lasers, Neal really dove into the market, helping us add product after product, including the recent additions of the Fiber, DPPS, and CO2 laser systems to our product offerings. The truth is, Neal never stops looking for marking products that will benefit our customers. The result is a comprehensive (and growing) product line with everything to offer for a permanent marking application from the most basic hand stamps to laser and automated marking systems.
The accomplishment that Neal is proudest of is the fact that the Management/Sales team has worked together as a solid unit to effect these changes over the past 20 years. Turnover among all operational segments—Management, Engineering, Sales and Operations—is nearly non-existent. That creates a level of loyalty and a communally-shared knowledge base that is rare in these days of revolving door management and workers.
Today, Neal continues to look for new products which can add growth. He firmly believes that when companies don’t keep an eye to the future, they can find themselves out of business in a hurry. Today’s offerings are nothing like they were 20 years ago, and we will continue to evolve with the marketplace with new technology impacting sales growth.
The Bottom Line: Neal’s Elements of Success
- A nimble and decisive management team
- A direct sales force that is loyal and knowledgeable
- Application engineering that provides the right marking solution to customers
- A close eye on the needs and marking technology of the future
- Employees who enjoy their work and stay at the company