StarTribune, May 24, 2015
A look at the people behind the numbers in area business: Jill Hesselroth - Intek Plastics
Jill Hesselroth is focusing on developing a sustainable growth strategy as the newly hired CEO of Intek Plastics, a maker of custom extruded parts in Hastings.
Hesselroth said she intended to continue Intek’s expansion and diversification into other markets to complement its longtime business in commercial and residential housing. Those new markets include commercial refrigeration, LED lighting and technical security and storage.
“Housing is cyclical; it’s got ups and downs,” Hesselroth said. “Right now it’s coming out of one of the down times. Whenever that happens again I want us to be prepared, to be more diversified.”
One element of the growth plan will be a “more strategic development of people,” Hesselroth said, noting that the 160-employee company had continued frugal operations it had adopted during the recession.
Calling herself a “lean disciple,” Hesselroth said another goal is revitalizing the lean manufacturing principles the company has been using. “It helps productivity and it helps people enjoy their work too,” she said. “Often times you can save labor but that’s not the goal.”
Hesselroth has been in leadership roles at manufacturing companies, including Gillette, where she spent 17 years; Andersen Corp., St. Jude Medical, Zimmer and, most recently, Nortech Systems.
Hesselroth, who has an accounting degree from the University of Minnesota, began her career as an accountant. She made a transition into manufacturing and operations, however, after finding those areas more interesting to pursue as a career.
Q: How will your manufacturing experience elsewhere benefit Intek?
A: My tenure at Gillette taught me to be very collaborative. It doesn’t mean that everybody has to agree. But it does mean that you recognize people humbly, listen to them, provide feedback and are very customer-focused. I thought I could transfer what I learned at Gillette into this role.
Q: What are the benefits of investing in developing employees?
A: It’s a huge payback. People are much happier at what they’re doing, so they win and the company wins. Because now we have people that are more flexible as our needs change.
Q: As you look to expand, what’s your message to companies about why they should bring their business to Intek?
A: We’re very responsive, and we’re willing to adapt to the specific needs of our customers. I’ve talked to some customers and asked why they do business with us. Their response was the high quality of the parts and the responsiveness of our teams. We’re pretty nimble and flexible and get them what they need quickly.