William Smith, 44, also has fond memories of working at Thombert while growing up. "As a first grader I was intimidated by the machinery and as a kid I remember painting the plant. In high school I worked on the production line. We worked there but we enjoyed it."
He also was encouraged by his father to branch out on his own. So after graduating from the University of Iowa, he took a position at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. He primarily worked with a management consulting group within the company. But he returned to Iowa sooner than his sister.
He came back to join his father at ITWC Inc., which Walt Smith founded in 1988. "My initial responsibilities were to work with anything that had a button," he said with a smile. "For instance, I started out with urethane dispensing machines and then moved on to accounting and finance. Ultimately, I became chief financial officer and held that position when the business was sold to BASF in 2013."
He said he stuck around with BASF to help with the transition. Then he joined Brownells, an online wholesaler of firearms, leaving the company as the vice president of finance when his father offered him the executive vice president position at Thombert.
Actually, William had been serving on the Thombert board for 10 years prior to his return to the full-time executive post. So he is well versed on the company.
Both he and Nicholson said they are fully committed to helping Thombert remain successful, as is Davidson, who said that while he will continue to serve as president, adding that "we have a transition plan in place that we are all excited about."
Nicholson said she and her brother bring back invaluable experience. "We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't think we could bring tremendous value."
Looking forward, she said she and her brother are "formulating new strategies and we're ready to take on the job at hand. We want to maximize our experience. Our father taught us to do the right thing — especially when it concerns customers and employees — and that'll be the right thing for shareholders. And we plan to do that."
"This is not just a job, it's personal," William Smith said. "We will be walking in the shoes of our father and grandfather. I'm thrilled to be here. This decision made a lot of sense. It really feels good."
He added that a high bar has been set at Thombert by those who led the company before them and he and his sister view it as a tremendous opportunity.
In terms of his responsibilities at the firm, Smith said first and foremost is "don't screw it up. I'll take time to survey the landscape and see what's turning the gears so successfully. Thombert has performed very well in the industry and we won't lose sight of that."