Plastics Industry

Executive of the Year: Knowledge of business, industry sets William Stockwell apart

PHILADELPHIA—When Jerry Krummel attended a trade show meeting with Stockwell Elastomerics Inc., he expected to discuss silicone supply in the upcoming year.

What the sales director for Wacker Silicones didn’t expect was to see Stockwell President William Stockwell ready to talk about why Wacker needed to keep up its supply to the company, complete with detailed product designs and specific customer needs.

“I’ve never met a president or CEO that was so into-the-weeds involved in his business, passionate about his business,” Krummel said. “I was surprised. He brought so many pieces to show us the different things he was using our products for. My boss and I were just so impressed that he was just laying everything out and showing all the different designs and pieces that he makes using our products, and telling us what the applications were. It was really just a lot of fun.”

The business sense and hands-on attitude that impressed Krummel at the trade show are a few of the reasons why Stockwell was chosen as the Rubber & Plastics News 2018 Rubber Industry Executive of the Year.

“He wanted me to meet with him so he could go through what his customer base was all about, how he works with some military customers and how it was important for me to try to supply him as much as I could,” Krummel said. “It was very specific.”

Stockwell made an earnest first impression on Steve Ubelhoer, director of sales, North America, for Rogers Corp., when Ubelhoer was initially in the role of sales engineer. Stockwell was on the advisory council for Rogers, and Ubelhoer was surprised that the company president took the time to interact with him, even though he wasn’t the main person covering Stockwell’s account.

“We developed a business relationship from that,” he said. “Really, I didn’t cover Bill’s account—I was located on the other side of the country—yet, he treated me like a very important person.”

Now 20 years later, Ubelhoer’s professional relationship with Stockwell has developed even further, to the point that Ubelhoer knows he can reach out for industry insight even if it doesn’t specifically mean a sale.

“He’s one of the handful of customers that, when I have some concerns about what’s going on in the market, I can call them and know that I’m going to get an answer that’s not trying to figure out what’s best for him, but is an honest answer of what’s going on,” Ubelhoer said.

In 2006, Stockwell was a key account for Specialty Silicone Products, when now-President Paul DiCaprio reached out and introduced himself. Even then, he was impressed by Stockwell’s knowledge and transparency in sharing it.

“Bill is honest, and has such high integrity, and I’ve been in the business for 35-plus years,” DiCaprio said. “He’s very open, honest, and he really works on trusting relationships. We talk about everything. Once you do that, the opportunities we pursue have a high probability of closing.”

DiCaprio tries to bring that same approach to his work with other customers to build the same kind of partnership he sees with Stockwell, he said.

“There are no games that are played in terms of trying to hide who their customer is. It’s all very open and trusting. It really works,” DiCaprio said.

Even as a “pseudo-competitor,” Stockwell is affable and welcoming, said Phil Taylor, vice president at Marian Inc. The two companies don’t often compete head-to-head, though there is some market overlap. But Taylor has great respect for Stockwell’s business approach and knowledge.

“And I would know, if we’re competing with him, we’re competing with the best,” Taylor said.

At supplier meetings, Stockwell would not only share stories with suppliers, but help them improve their business to meet the market’s demands, Taylor said. And though they cover opposite geographies and compete in a few areas, “I certainly consider him a friend,” he said.

“I’ve gone to him for advice,” Taylor said. “If I’m having trouble with a vendor or supplier, then I’m suspecting he might be having the same trouble, and I want to bounce it off him to see if there’s a solution I don’t know about. That’s where we come from.”

Even while remaining friendly, Stockwell is also known for being direct and ready to get business done, Taylor said.

“He’s open and friendly, yet he’s not afraid to get straight to the point when we’re talking business,” Taylor said. “He’s not afraid to make sure our suppliers know what they need to know.

“You can tell from the way he talks about what he needs that he’s customer-focused. He’s not just asking for things because he likes them that way. He’s asking because these are things either his customers demand or will give him an advantage with those customers.”

That carries over to talking about the tougher details of business, especially when a supplier isn’t quite reaching his standards, Ubelhoer said.

“Something I’d say about Bill is that what you see is what you get,” Ubelhoer said. “If you’re doing things well, he’ll tell you exactly where you’re doing well. If there’s an area where you’re struggling, he’ll mention, ‘Hey, I think this is an area where you guys could do more.’ There’s no worry about what the agenda is.”

Working from a place of honesty lets the conversation steer toward constructive discussion rather than a rant, which opens the door for better business opportunities later on, he said.

Sometimes, what isn’t said is just as meaningful as what is, as he looks for chances for each deal to benefit all parties involved, DiCaprio said.

“Bill doesn’t bring every opportunity to us,” he said. “He really brings the opportunities that he believes they can deliver a solution to and we can provide him with a raw material to solve that customer’s problem. When Bill calls, we know there’s a real opportunity for both of us, and we jump on it and work with him.”

Part of what makes Stockwell such a resource for industry insight is his readiness to be a part of the day-to-day work in the company. When Stockwell Elastomerics updated its website recently, Krummel was impressed to see photos of him alongside employees on the shop floor.

“I said, ‘Bill, I can’t believe I saw a picture of you walking through the lab,’ and he goes, ‘That’s just the way I run my business.’ He’s really surprised me that a person at his level is really involved in all areas of his business,” Krummel said.

Ubelhoer said Stockwell’s confident, hands-on influence extends into a solid company identity for both him and his employees.

“The thing that impresses me about Stockwell as a company, and I think it comes from Bill himself, is that they know exactly who they are, what they do well, and what value they bring to the customers,” Ubelhoer said. “They’re extremely true to that. I think it’s easy to say, but it’s harder to actually do, and they do a fantastic job of that.”

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