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At Work – Dan Helms

COMPANY: Conveyors & Drives, Inc.

TITLE: President

YEARS ON JOB: 26 Years, 10 as President

I did not expect to work in the material handling industry. I graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in finance. I spent the first several years of my career in sales and sale management selling payroll services. My father-in-law, Gary Ashley, approached me when I was 29 about joining Conveyors & Drives. At the time I was at a crossroads in my career and I decided to take a leap faith and accept. And, reflecting on it, it has been the best professional decision I’ve ever made. Over the past 26 years, I’ve worked in almost every area of the company. About 10 years ago, I took over the day-to-day operations as President.

Organization

Organization is paramount. Working in a small business requires wearing multiple hats. Fortunately, I have a natural inclination to do a bit of multitasking that helps in this environment. The biggest reason I’ve been successful is that we have a great team. I’m responsible for the direction of the company and I have a great staff of folks who make it happen day-to-day. Having surrounded myself with people in key roles who I can depend on has really helped put me in a position to do what I’m doing. Most of my time is spent making sure our team is getting the support they need and that our customers are getting the level of service they deserve.

Culture

One of the things that we really emphasize is the importance of culture. And, since culture starts at the top, I am responsible for setting and modeling the culture for the whole organization. Our culture is exemplified by our company core values: We do the right thing, we are responsive, we are reliable, we are dependable, and we are team players. Additionally, we consistently review and practice twenty C&D key fundamentals which are individual behaviors critical to our success.

Challenges

The two biggest challenges facing our industry today are commoditization or the “Amazoning” of material handling products and application knowledge transfer. I think with commoditization, it’s imperative that we continue to demonstrate value for our customers. Our success depends on the ability to customize engineering and integrate products into a workable solution. Additionally, it’s incumbent on us to make sure that we have the availability of the preferred purchase method of our customers. And we’re committed to making that available to our customers. We’re in the process of putting together an e-commerce site. The other big challenge is product and application knowledge transfer. We are a mature industry. We must engage the next generation and really inspire them to want to work in our industry. And once we inspire them, we need to able to be able to transfer the knowledge from those that have it to that next generation who is inspired to be a part of what we’re doing.

Tools and Communication

Communication is a skill that is totally essential. And a lot of the tools that we use to be successful are vehicles for communication. We started a monthly company health update as well as a quarterly Team Town Hall meeting to optimize two-way communications with the team. Certainly, the telephone and email are huge. We’ve recently started using Slack within our company and it’s something my team really likes. But being a numbers guy, the number one tool I rely on is Excel. I spend several hours per week looking at data in Excel and making sense of that information. It’s an effective tool for me when wearing my financial hat.