Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nicklaus: People-First Culture Sets Barry-Wehmiller Apart

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nicklaus: People-First Culture Sets Barry-Wehmiller Apart

Article excerpt

In 1983, Barry-Wehmiller was so shaky that its office coffee machine was repossessed. Today it's a global manufacturer with $2 billion in annual sales and a reputation for consistent profitability.

Bob Chapman, 70, the chief executive, has led the packaging equipment company through the bad and good times, but neither growth nor financial success leads his personal list of accomplishments.

He's much prouder of the corporate culture he's helped create, and how that culture affects Clayton-based Barry-Wehmiller's 11,000 employees. If there is one thing he'd still like to accomplish, it would be to spread the culture of caring throughout corporate America.

"There's no question in my mind that we've been given an amazing gift, and that gift is a leadership model that can change the world," Chapman said in a recent interview.

Barry-Wehmiller's model has been studied by professors and featured in business magazines. Now, Chapman has written a book to explain how the culture was created and how it affects his co- workers.

"Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power Of Caring for Your People Like Family," written with co-author Raj Sisodia, tells stories such as that of Jimmy Hughes, a machinist in Baltimore who had a reputation for being lazy.

It turned out he was merely the victim of oppressive, unthinking management. After Barry-Wehmiller involved him in a continuous- improvement process that turned his routine job into a creative one, he helped schedule work and make production more efficient.

Chapman admits he wasn't always a people-first manager. He took control of the family-owned company, then mainly a manufacturer of bottling equipment, in 1975 after his father died. He focused on financial issues such as paying down debt, managing growth and especially during the period of the lost coffee machine conserving cash.

In the 1980s, Barry-Wehmiller also began buying other struggling manufacturers and turning them around. …

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