Dean Penman takes a holistic view of company growth, working to expand relationships with customers, gain clients and make strategic acquisitions of competitors. Seal & Design Inc. is a distributor and manufacturer of seals, gaskets, and O-rings. Under the younger Penman, the business has undertaken a series of proactive moves in recent years, including a 40,000-square-foot expansion of its Clarence facility in 2014 and the acquisition of a Syracuse company in 2015. He spoke to Business First recently about building a manufacturing company in Western New York that’s positioned for success.
What is it like to work at Seal & Design?
It’s a great atmosphere. We just had our third or fourth person celebrate their 20th anniversary this week. A lot of people have been here a long time and put in a lot of hard work for this company. Everybody is on the same page with trying to improve. We measure ourselves and we try to be better than our competitors.
As company owner, how do you cultivate that atmosphere?
I have a great team under me who manage their own departments, and everybody is on the same page. We establish goals as a company and we communicate them. We’re about sales and growth which means, first and foremost, customer satisfaction. I try to lead by example, by sitting and talking to the customer and helping them at any cost. Our values are about making the customer experience great. When everyone lives and breathes that, it’s contagious.
Seal & Design has gotten much bigger in recent years. Has it been a struggle to maintain company culture?
We have message boards throughout the facility, in every department, with customer messages that say, “Hey, your shipping guy did a great job” or “Your sales guy bailed me out” or “Hey, your guys came in on Saturday and cut parts for me when I shut down.” The point is that everybody appreciates that this is a team effort. The biggest challenges are with the acquisitions, when you have people from different cultures working at different companies and aren’t used to the way we do things. It’s my job to go visit them and explain our values. We also bring them into our (local) facility and integrate them with our system, have them sit with departments, so that everybody is on the same page and has the same goals. That’s what customer service is really about.
What do you think separates Seal & Design in such a competitive industry?
Anybody can sell a gasket or an O-ring; we ask how we can do it at a greater value to the customer. Everybody wants something different. In some cases it is price. In some cases it is service. In some cases it is customer-vendor management. We listen to what the customer wants and then provide that service. We sell value. Value is performance, dependability, on-time delivery and quality.
Learn more about Seal & Design on our website.