Nothing is more high technology than creating innovations that make airplanes more efficient. Meet Collie Hutter – she is an Extraordinary Manufacturing Business leader who inspires. Sharing her story is important because she showcases the contribution women are making to the American Manufacturing Renaissance (like others we profiled in prior articles Mary Andringa from Iowa, and Kellie Johnson and Hannah Kain from California) – she is a powerful force for good that created jobs and brought hundreds of people into the middle class. We need more role models like Collie – She harnessed her BS in Physics from Carnegie-Mellon University and her MBA from the Wharton School to co-found and drive the strategic vision of an innovation titan. Holding thirty plus patents, her firm leads a team that creates products in factories located in Nevada, Connecticut and Europe that are used in virtually every plane you fly.
1. What is your title and what does your firm make? Chairman of Click Bond, Inc. Click Bond, Inc. is a design and manufacturing company founded by my husband and me. Click Bond produces fastening hardware and adhesive bonding process for aerospace and other industries.
2. How is your company unique? We manufacture proprietary products developed by our designers and engineers. Our company holds many US and International Patents.
3. What do you do every day? As Chairman of a family owned company that is in the process of passing operational responsibility and ownership to the next generation, it is my job to see that this transition occurs smoothly and to guide the family discussions about the future direction of the company. I must be current on Estate Tax Law, Corporate Governance, new directions in manufacturing and changes in management styles. I read a lot.
4. What was your first job in manufacturing and what did you learn? When was 18 I started working summers in the QA Department of my Father’s company that manufactured transformer laminations. I learned that I loved working in a manufacturing environment and how important every detail in every process is to the quality of the final product.
5. Did you have a mentor and what did they impart on you? I had a wonderful mentor at my Father’s company, the VP of manufacturing. He was smart and well educated, and he loved manufacturing and strongly encouraged me to make it my career. Following his advice, I prepared by getting a BS in Physics and an MBA with emphasis on manufacturing.
6. What character traits are critical to getting ahead in today’s economy? A willingness to work very hard and an ability to accept that dealing with the regulations and requirements of customers, suppliers, and governments are a part of a day’s work.
7. Why do you like manufacturing? You get to spend your days with wonderful people who feel good about what they do because at the end of the day they can say that they created something useful.
8. Do you export? What are your biggest challenges? Yes, 25% of our sales are exports. The strength of the US dollar, international environmental regulations and supporting international customers are challenges. We have a facility in Wales, UK to support European customers.
9. You run a big company – what is your management style? I try to be respectful of every employee, value each employee’s’ contribution and not to micromanage. I was successful in growing an entrepreneurial start-up to a mid-sized manufacturing company over 30 years, by having a flexible approach to management. The next generation’s management style is different. Good change is energizing.
10. What two policy changes should Washington refine so you can hire more people soon? Reestablishing a quorum for Ex-Im’s board, restoring its ability to finance larger deals, and stop potential change to estate tax valuation of family companies. Hopefully, both are moving forward.
11. What are your biggest obstacles? I try not to see obstacles, but there are many challenges. We need to move much more swiftly in our automating of assembly processes, to meet our customer demands for more product at lower cost while maintaining quality and on-time delivery. The tight labor pool of skilled workers is another challenge. We are very involved in local programs for workforce training and have active apprenticeship programs.
12. Is it beneficial for business leaders to get involved locally or should they only focus on their business? Manufacturers, who already have plenty to do, must make the time to be involved with their local community’s educational programs at all levels, their local, state and national manufacturing associations and their vertical trade associations. What you learn from your peers through these engagements is invaluable.
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