Scoping out growth Featured

8:00pm EDT October 4, 2007

With a history dating to the late 19th century, The Will-Burt Co. has been around longer2 than a handful of the United States. That’s not to say, however, that the Orville-based manufacturer of telescoping masts and mast accessories is caught in some kind of perpetual stagnation. On the contrary, Will-Burt Chairman and CEO Jeffrey O. Evans says these are among the company’s most exciting times ever.

“We’re moving from being a big small company to becoming a small big company.” Evans says. “It’s a big difference. In a small company, if you want to manage, you stand up and look around. If it’s a little bigger, you stand on a chair. We’re at the point now where we have to rely on systems and processes, and being able to do that and change a culture to accept that while at the same time working hard not to become bureaucratic has been quite a challenge.”

Over the past five years, Will-Burt has more than doubled annual revenue from $26.8 million to $54.2 million, quadrupled its stock price and now employs a work force of more than 300. Helping guide Will-Burt through growth rapid enough to give any company fits, as Evans says, has been an experienced management staff dedicated to doing whatever it takes to drive success.

“What we’ve been able to staff the company with in terms of the management team is a very talented group of folks that could work elsewhere,” Evans says. “They could make more money; they could live in big cities. They choose to live and work in Northeast Ohio, yet they still want to be part of an exciting company.”

Evans adds that Will-Burt’s employee stock ownership program, in which no single owner holds more than 1 percent of the company, has helped keep his company on task and motivated.

“We’re 100 percent employee-owned,” Evans says. “So while most companies try to make their employees think like owners, ours do think like owners because they are owners, and that has been an important part of our growth, as well.”

While Will-Burt’s masts, used in both the commercial and military sectors, are well-established in the global market, the company itself recently expanded into Europe and the Far East, a venture Evans says is a sign of things to come.

“We’ve got new products, new markets, new geography, and we’re really very excited about what’s going to happen over the next few years.”

HOW TO REACH: The Will-Burt Co., (330) 682-7015 or www.willburt.com