Don Douglas, MBA '00, owner and general manager, Woodside Electronic Corp.
Winning with WECO: Providing Excellent Equipment and Customer Service
Before becoming the general manager of WECO, Douglas was a manager at Sprint, where he not only gained valuable experience in business development and outside sales, but also learned how to manage a team. "Sprint … had a very comprehensive management training program, and these experiences, plus my time at the Johnson School, prepared me well for taking over at WECO," he says.
Douglas initially spent a lot of time at WECO doing field sales and learning about the products he was selling in order to gain a better understanding of the customers and the field. "I also made it a point to perform every function at WECO," he says, "including refurbishing the sorting machines, building new equipment, and installing and servicing equipment."
When Douglas bought WECO, the company had a "very strong customer-service culture," which he has been determined to maintain. "I've tried to expand emphasis on the customer and have the best customer service in the industry," he says. "It is expensive and difficult but it differentiates WECO from the competition and has helped us take and grow market share."
Developing new products is one of the most compelling aspects of Douglas' job. Whether developing a product based on a specific customer request or on an identified need in the marketplace, he is constantly looking for opportunities to provide his customers with new and innovative equipment. "We have tough competitors and demanding customers, so innovation helps keep us growing - and it is fun," he says. One new product, a sorter designed to detect a product's firmness, is currently being tested on blueberries to detect soft berries.
Unlike many businesses that have suffered because of the current economic climate, WECO is thriving. The agricultural industry in general, Douglas explains, has performed well despite the recession because several factors have pushed the price of food up. "In countries like India and China where large populations have experienced an increase in their standard of living, one of the first things their consumers want is better food," he says. "That demand plus the ethanol program have pushed up the price of food, and when growers and processors have money they invest it in technology and automation, so we have benefited."
Bent on growing the company, Douglas is enthusiastic about changes now underway, including moving into a new facility. "Our hope is that we can do a better job of organizing the flow on the factory floor and realize labor and inventory efficiencies," he says.
One thing Douglas stands firm on: Growth can't come at the risk of losing focus on current customers, always his top priority. "The most rewarding aspect of my job is when a customer comes up to me and tells me how great our customer service is and what a great job the technicians are doing," he says. "I have found that customers rarely tell you that you are doing a good job, so when they go out of their way to do so, it feels great. "My hope is that we continue to grow and still have happy customers and happy employees."