BETHEL, VT. — There's a quick pace to Brenan “Ben” Riehl that's unmistakable.
The president and CEO is on a first-name basis with many GW Plastics Inc. employees, doling out friendly “hellos” as he provides a guided tour of his Vermont plants to visitors. He spends half of his time on the road, mostly seeing customers in the health care and automotive sectors. But Riehl's pace seems to suit him, a natural stride for a track athlete who once sprinted a mile at a personal best 4:15 clip.
“This business is not at all about me. I'm a very small player in this business. It's all about our team,” said Riehl, who credits his father and company chairman, Fred, with instilling humility and servant leadership into GW's culture.
That mindset has worked wonders. Privately owned GW has set record sales in nine of the last 10 years and 2015 sales will fall just short of $150 million.
“The noteworthy thing about that is that it's been measured growth. It's been organized and it's been organic,” he said, noting that GW hasn't recorded a loss in the company's 60 years in business.
Riehl has been at the head of GW since 1998, 10 years after his Dad lured him to Vermont from GE Plastics in Cincinnati.
“The custom molding business is a tough business. It's margin-challenged and capital-challenged. It takes a tremendous amount of investment to be successful in this business so profitability is very, very important. If you grow too fast, you can either lose focus and hurt your profitability, or you can run out of growth capital. So at GW, we've really tried our best to focus on [an] organized organic growth strategy versus serial M&A type.”