This has not been a typical year. So it may seem appropriate that the new president of Entek Manufacturing LLC in 2020 comes from an atypical background.
Kim Medford is an attorney who first worked with the extrusion equipment maker as an outside counsel. She officially joined the company as vice president and general counsel in 2012 and spent the last eight years as part of its management team before being named president in early December.
"If you'd asked me a decade ago I wouldn't have predicted where I'd end up," Medford said in a Dec. 11 phone interview. "From a personal perspective, it was always a goal to move from lawyer to business role. ... Entek was special in a lot of ways to giving me that opportunity.
"You're not going to be restricted from whatever areas you have that can bring talent to the company. [Entek CEO Larry Keith] has been incredibly generous with me to help me expand my role. I've had the opportunity to be involved in a customer interface position, be part of a supplier interface. The [general counsel] title that I've held for a long time here wasn't reflective of the job."
Entek's extruder business is one of three units within the Lebanon, Ore.-based company. Entek's other business units made lead-acid and lithium-ion battery separators and equipment. Kirk Hanawalt retired from the post of president for Entek Manufacturing earlier this year.
As 2020 brought more and more challenges for the company — including wildfires in the region that spared Entek but affected surrounding communities, prompting several employees to volunteer at shelters and food banks — the business has been able to stress one of its core values: innovation.
"For Entek Manufacturing, we have actually had a growth year in 2020," Medford said. "It's been amazing to really innovate with our customers. A lot of that falls back to the principle that you don't stop investing just because of challenges. At the end of the day, our job is to make other businesses successful.
"We pivoted this year. We did some things with virtual lab trials, new areas of development for employees," she said. "You can't just hibernate. You have to look forward and continue to execute on your strategic plan even when the world is throwing up challenges to your plan. You hang in there and you pivot and you face those challenges.
"That resulted in a great year for us, regardless of what the world threw at us."
Trials faced by the company, its employees, customers and suppliers allowed Entek to become more responsive.
While she and the team are hoping a return to normality that will ease the intense pressures of 2020, it has shown Entek can respond. Within the larger company, Entek has increased ties between all of its business units with cross-functional teams that can support each division. That, in turn, will better position Entek in 2021 and beyond, Medford said.
Going forward, Medford said the biggest challenges beyond the pandemic is a worker shortage. There are a number of open positions she said the company would fill today, if it could find people.
"2020 has been challenging, and we're probably facing more challenges in 2021," she said, "but this is the time when there's more need than ever for the products that are made using our equipment."