Founded in 1987 as Hawk Sales, Hawk Mold and Die Supply Inc. has grown from its original roots in founder Glenn Hertzler's garage to its current home in Pipersville, Pa., a rural suburb of Philadelphia.
It's a small operation of seven employees, selling products targeted for injection molders and mold builders, and, more recently, for plastics processing. Long-term customers make up a significant portion of the business, Glenn Hertzler said; two of Hawk's customers have been with them from the start.
Glenn Hertzler owns the business with his wife, Lydia. Gary Hertzler, his brother, and Collin Hertzler, his son, both work in sales. The company is currently planning for succession, with plans to transition leadership into Collin's hands over the next five years or so.
“We've been with most of our suppliers for quite a few years,” Glenn Hertzler said. “Quite a few of these people see that I'm 63, and they're very concerned about succession because we've handled this area for them for so long.”
Hawk is also in the process of hiring someone in a sales/engineering position, with the potential for that person to, at some point, be part-owner of the company as well, he added.
In Hawk's garage days, a young Collin Hertzler was employed making boxes at 5 cents apiece. At 7, he became experienced in “the occupation of custodial art.” But he didn't always plan on a career path within his parents' company.
“I was curious about being able to make a living doing woodworking,” he said. Working at Hawk “wasn't something I always knew I wanted to do. I kind of saw that my mom and dad had built a business that for them was working really well, but wondered about building something more of my own in my life. But it all seems to have been working out pretty well for all of us. … They've built a nice foundation and a nice business that's doing pretty well and there might be opportunities for me.”
Now 30, Collin Hertzler has been with company for 8 years, and has ideas for growth.
“Sales today is a lot different than sales years ago,” he said. “A lot of our customer base seems to have less time than they used to, and they'd probably rather have a sales guy that can help them get through their day and be more efficient than take them to the sports game that night. And so I see opportunities from a technical point of view being able to stay in the business. … I would like to feel that this business wasn't just handed to me, that I helped develop and grow it, put my own mark on it as well.”
His vision is to become more valuable to the customer from a technical standpoint, with full product knowledge, a vision his father shares.
“Most of our customers now want you to come in, show them how you can save them money, what products do you have that are going to benefit them — you better know what they are — and be able to explain it, and then you're off,” Glenn Hertzler said. “That's where we're trying to position our company.”
Hawk has overcome some setbacks to get to this point. At the height of the economic meltdown, Glenn and Lydia Hertzler, who owned two homes, re-financed both and took no salary for 18 months to keep the business afloat. Even a massive fire at a rented facility five years ago couldn't keep Hawk down; with fire marshal approval Glenn Hertzler recruited every pickup-owning friend, neighbor and employee in the area to rescue a significant amount of product from the property and delivered to customers hardly missing a beat. After that Hawk was run out of the Hertzler's living room, and occasionally from under a beach umbrella, until a new facility could be established.
Like many business-owning families, the Hertzlers try to keep business time separate from family time, although, like many business-owning families, they don't always succeed.
“When we start getting heated we say we'll talk about it on Monday,” Collin Hertzler said.
Glenn Hertzler summed it up:
“A great advantage is to work with people you love and respect; that by far is the biggest advantage,” he said. “The biggest disadvantage is working with those you love and respect.
“There is a lot of give-and-take within a family business, far more than in a non-family-owned business where someone can make a decision and that's that. A great advantage is that we are all working to make Hawk the best that it can be as it reflects on us and our family values.”