Our CEO’s Take on Growth, Investment, and People

by Lilly Blum

In case you don’t already know, Inland is a 3rd generation family owned business! When John Glendenning first bought the company, he was focused on great customer service and perfecting our craft. As the business made its way down to Mark, who is the current CEO and President, the vision for Inland was shifted to growth. We sat down with Mark to get his take on how Inland has invested back into the company to work toward that vision and what Mark has in mind for Inland in the coming years.

During our 75th Anniversary, we looked back on the different eras of Inland. During Jack’s Era, his vision was growth, which became Inland’s vision; growth for our employees, growth for our customers, and growth for our communities. How do you think Inland has achieved that over the years and how are we still working on that vision into the future?

When my grandfather, John, bought the business he really put his mission of great customer service into play. Then when my dad, Jack, came into the business he said, “well we’ve always given great customer service, but let’s not just think about what we’ve always done and let’s really start thinking about what we could do.” He constantly kept that in front of us as a company and that was something I certainly picked up on while growing up in the business with him leading it. I will say it really struck home to me when my son, Trent, came back from college. When he came back, he said, “wow dad I’m really amazed at how different we are from when I worked here.” To me that was really cool to hear, I sometimes wonder are we changing fast enough, but for him to come back after a few years and to notice some of the major changes that was really neat to see. That doesn’t mean we are at a plateau and can rest, that will never happen. The constant improvement mindset is really what my dad brought in – to be happy and to be appreciative, but never be satisfied.

You look at our floor and the people on the floor who do a great job for us, especially in this COVID world. They came into work every day, when everyone and everything was telling them to stay home, they came in and did their job and then some. We’ll never be the same after this year. It will change how we do work forever. This year has helped us identify what we are doing well and what we can do better to continue to grow into the future.

In the last 18 months, Inland has invested over 18 million dollars and plans for another 13 million in 2021. How has Inland prioritized investing back into the company over the years?

I would say as a family owned business where customers are critically important, we invest in customers but listen to the market as well. Being close to your customers is important to us and I never want to lose that. We need to make sure we are being rigorous when looking at investments with long-term potential and all departments play a role in that. Our finance team leads our investment strategy using market and trend data from our marketing and sales teams to ensure that we are adding technology and capabilities that support both our current customers’ growth as well as our future growth. Obviously, us spending this kind of money shows that we feel good about our long-term prospects for growth. Which again goes back to our customers long term prospects for growth, we want to support that.

How has the continued investment in people, facilities, equipment and more played a role in the success Inland has experienced?

It always comes back to people. As a smaller company, the expectation is more around the work ethic of people. We are lucky to have people who have that ‘it’ about them and the willingness to continue to grow. As they keep growing, they pull the company with them. Then as your people get better, the decisions around processes, equipment, and technology get better because you have the best people looking at it. That has been what’s been fun for me, it’s not me making the decisions, its’ me being able to say ‘wow we really made a good decision here’ or ‘wow they really got together and made a great decision’.

I love manufacturing and we are a manufacturer; I think really respecting the manufacturing floor and what those folks do is just so critical. If you appreciate that and you can support that and our customers, you kind of catch that continuous improvement bug and then it just never ends. Everyone wants to grow and as that becomes expectation it just multiplies from there.

Are there any upcoming investments that you are particularly excited to see come to fruition?

The old printer in me is always excited anytime we buy new production equipment. I’m really excited, not just for the equipment, but the investment we are making into people and new positions and how we are thinking about the business. I’m looking forward to the things we are doing around making it easier for our customers to work with us and grow with us, and for us to grow with them. That’s one thing that’s a never-ending project.

What do you hope Inland can accomplish over the next five years?

The easy and true answer is growth, and it always is. We have seen some huge changes in our key markets in the last five years. You don’t get to be a 3rd generation company looking at your 4th generation without big changes happening every so often. I’m really looking forward to seeing that growth take off in areas where we have been able to refocus. I think we have huge opportunities because of the work we’ve done over the last five years.

What is your vision for Inland going into the future? Has it changed over the years?

Growth is always the vision going forward. We talked about my dad and how our vision of growth started with him in 1960. Every decade we have more than doubled the business organically, and that’s the key word. The mindset of always growing organically is critical because it forces you to be close to your customers and aware of where the markets are taking us. The cool part is where we are going to be 5 years out. The automation on the systems side continues to get better and better, but the automation on the factory floor is cool to see.

If you break it down, the vision for Inland hasn’t changed, it’s always been growth, but what’s changed is that growth isn’t just a one trick pony. It’s not just sales revenue or bottom line income, there are many components to growth today, and the most exciting one is people. Knowing we get better and better because we get better and better people, allows you to feel good about the future because we’ll just keep that engine going. The better we understand the manufacturing process, the better we will be at satisfying the customers’ current requirements and anticipating them in the future. For example, color management, we were using 4 color process and we were getting good at it. With 4 color process you can create some really great looking stuff but opening up to 7 color process let us have thousands and thousands of colors. That’s been fun, the fact that we can play in both of those spaces and how well it bodes well for our future.

Final thoughts?

I can’t tell you how excited I am. As strange as 2020 has been, I think it’s been a great year for Inland. We’ve learned a lot, and I’m really excited for what’s going to happen in 2021 and even more exited for 2022 and beyond. Really, really excited.

We want to say thank you Mark for taking time to sit down with us and chat about Inland! Going into next year, we know things won’t be ‘normal’, but we will continue to adapt to the new way of doing business without taking our minds off growth and supporting customers. Keep checking in with us to see our newest investments, people, and more!

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