Global Fastener News

2001 FIN – Win Adams: Getting the Order

June 30
00:00 2009

FASTENER HISTORY
2001 FIN – Win Adams: Getting the Order

Win Adams and Reinhold Würth have two things in common. For one, they both emphasize “sales” as their key to success.
“My strength was always getting an order,” Adams reflects on his 38 years in the fastener industry. “I was destined to be in a sales company.”

The second commonality is that in June 1997 Adams sold his Maple Grove, MN-based Adams Nut & Bolt Co. Inc. to the Würth Group of Germany. The distributorship became Würth Adams Nut & Bolt.

When the working day ends December 28, 2001, Adams will retire to teaching golf to kids, fishing and fundraising for his favorite causes.

Adams sold to Würth because “after 16 years of growth with never a down year, I knew it wasn’t going to continue forever.”
“We grew from $16 million in sales to $32 million in three years,” Adams reflected. “I couldn’t feed this monster out of my own pocket and I knew it was time to have a partner to take us into the future.”

He is retiring early – just before his 60th birthday – because in addition to being a salesperson, he is an entrepreneur. And as an entrepreneur he hasn’t gotten comfortable reporting to Germany.
“Make no mistake, I admire the Würth Group,” Adams emphasized. “But I never had to fill out forms before.”
When it was Adams Nut & Bolt he knew how the business was doing without filling out forms. As the Würth Adams CEO he has to report results.
That wasn’t so hard during the good years, but with sales and profits coming under pressure in the past year it became unpleasant. For the first time Adams faced the task of making layoff decisions.

Adams says there “is sometimes a close line between insanity and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs have to take risks, and they get away with it. If you don’t have the guts to make the moves then you aren?t an entrepreneur.”
For example, Adams said he was “never scared of debt. I always paid the banks back. Some people have a fear of debt. I wouldn’t have a successful company if I didn’t have debt. Some debt is good.”

One of the risky decisions early in his company history was “compensating salespeople too much. We paid our salespeople more than Barbara [Adams] and I paid ourselves.”
The strategy was successful, as “they made my company grow and the key then was growing. It was the right move for me to make.”
Two of those salespeople took advantage of their pay to start their own fastener businesses, Adams noted. “I helped contributed to their success,” he chuckled.

Some of those risks don?t pay off. “I bought a company that I had no business buying,” Adams lamented. “I lost for 20 months before I liquidated.”
Adams had always specialized in engineered fasteners, and the company he bought handled standard fasteners. “I got out of my expertise.”

Adams started in the working world driving a truck for a distributor in 1963 as a high school graduate without a college education. “I had the best truck,” he smiled. “I liked my truck.”

He advanced rapidly and soon became warehouse foreman and eventually became a fastener buyer.

When he was assigned to inside sales, Adams knew it was futile. “I was not going to fit,” Adams recalled. Within three years he was in outside sales.
His next step was to Camcar where he was schooled in cold heading, territory management and sales from 1970 to 1974.

After five years with Vincent Screw & Bolt, he opened Adams Nut & Bolt on January 1, 1979, with some of his old customers as the first for his new company.
“As assistant sales manager at Vincent, I developed a relationship with a few customers who came with me starting on day one.”

Today Würth Adams has branches in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Texas and Mexico. Eighty percent of sales are to OEMs, and 20% to MRO customers.

His wife, Barbara Adams, managed the financial side of the company. She retired when Adams was sold to Würth.

Adams hired Mark Alexander as his first employee and protégé.
Both Adams and Alexander have subsequently been president of the National Fastener Distributors Association.
Alexander became president of Adams Nut & Bolt in 1997 and is now managing director of Würth Industry Network North America.
Three years ago Adams brought in Dick Mayoh as president to prepare for succession. On January 1, Mayoh adds CEO to his title.

Adams’ philosophy of running a company requires providing service with honesty and integrity. He has distinguished his company with a quality emphasis. Würth Adams today has three full-time engineers on staff.

Adams said he has happily turned away price-based customers.
“If you?re looking at those prices, I’m not your supplier,” he has told them. “I fed them to my competition.”

His advice for the future is to “raise prices. Distributors really have to start charging for their product. Be selective of customers and maintain higher profitability.”

Adams judges a company according to “profitability and if people want to work for you.”
He is pleased that as he leaves, there will still be a nucleus of employees that have been there from the start. “It is these employees that made Adams Nut & Bolt what it is today.” ©2001/2009 Fastener Industry News.
For information on permission to reuse or reprint this article, please e-mail: FIN@GlobalFastenerNews.

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