HOF 05 Groomed for Success -- Thomas Engdahl
Engdahl's first job out of college did involve paper, but not quite of the printing variety. He joined the fold at Procter & Gamble Co., working various positions in the paper products division in Green Bay, WI, that manufactured diapers, toilet and facial tissue, paper towels and fabric softener. That began an 11-year stint, with responsibilities including shift supervisor, manufacturing department manager and operations manager.
The opportunity to move into the world of commercial printing came in 1984, when Brown Printing was looking for a pressroom manager. Engdahl was fortunate to have a contact at Brown, Dan Nitz, who had worked with him at P&G and called Engdahl when the Brown position opened. Engdahl got the post.
"There's a lot of similarity between managing a paper mill and managing a printing plant," Engdahl notes. "You have very expensive equipment that has to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are a lot of rollers and bearings. All of the technical and people issues are similar."
Still, Engdahl gave more than a slight edge to the printing experience. "Printing is a little more exciting than making toilet paper," he says. "The most exciting thing you do (with toilet paper) is change color about once a week."
From Waseca, MN, Engdahl took a circuit tour within the Brown Printing chain. He spent 11 years at the Franklin, KY, division as manufacturing director, followed by division vice president and general manager. After the division was sold in 1997, Engdahl took the post of vice president of sales for the central division, located in the Chicago area, where he stayed until 2001.
In January of 2001, Engdahl moved up the ladder again, first as COO for the entire organization out of Waseca, then president and CEO in 2002.
"I had the good fortune of being in manufacturing and sales, which is a good perspective for anyone," Engdahl says. "You can empathize with many people in different positions."