January 24, 2018
Robert Cohn, Managing Partner recently had the opportunity to interview WAGO Corporation President, Toby Thomann. Mr. Thomann answered questions regarding his career track, WAGO, the Automation space, and more.
Please tell us about yourself and WAGO Corporation.
I am originally from Akron, Ohio where I attended and graduated from The University of Akron with a BS in Marketing. My career at WAGO started in 1994 as a Regional Sales Manager covering OH, MI and W.PA. Over the years, I have held several positions within the company including Central US Zone Manager, Marketing Manager, National Sales Manager, Vice President of Sales and now President.
WAGO is a family owned German company founded in 1951. Today WAGO employs almost 9,000 people, has 28 wholly owned subsidiaries and 42 agencies globally.
Innovation is at the heart of everything we do at WAGO. From our pioneering CAGE CLAMP® spring pressure connection technology to our extensive range of Interconnect, Interface and Automation solutions, such as the fieldbus independent WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM, our customers count on the unconditional performance and reliability of our products to ensure the safe, efficient operation of their systems every time.
You have extensive experience at WAGO in marketing and sales. How have these experiences prepared you for your position as President of WAGO’s North American Headquarters?
I have been fortunate to grow with WAGO and hold several different positions within the organization. This allowed me to work within different departments and learn about them, lead them and ultimately bring them together. This has been both challenging and rewarding, going from a relatively small company to where we are today.
What are your goals for WAGO the next 3 years?
The obvious answer is to aggressively grow sales and market share in North America. However, that is only part of the equation. Ultimately my goal is to provide strong leadership and vision to our team, exceed customers’ expectations and provide a great place for our employees to work and achieve their goals.
What trends are you currently seeing in automation?
I see customers requiring suppliers to bring more to the table. We need to offer solutions, not just products. We need to take an interest in what our customer’s goals are and help them achieve them.
WAGO has numerous innovative patented products. How do you encourage innovation among your staff?
We empower our people to be creative. Anyone can open a catalog and pick out a product. I mentioned before that we need to differentiate ourselves from others in our market. One way to do this is to develop a custom solution that provides a unique way of solving a problem or improving an application.
What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of your job?
Trying to find and develop the next generation of leaders for our company. In today’s society we do not find the generation of individuals that are looking to commit the time and effort required to develop into leadership roles. Most individuals do not want the responsibility and the challenges associated with certain roles. We need to identify and develop our next generation of leaders to help drive the future.
Part of the vision at WAGO is investing in people and resources that allow for the development of new products that meet the standard of being safe and reliable everywhere in the world. What strategies are you currently using to invest in hiring top talent for your company?
Today we search for our top talent with the help of dedicated recruiters. We are also considering an internship program to try and develop our own candidates, but this is only part of the equation. At WAGO we consider each employee a long-term investment and therefore, we take our time to make sure they are the right fit. After hiring them you now need to retain them, and at WAGO we are trying to provide ”World Class” facilities and environments for our employees. We have invested heavily in updating our facilities with the latest ergonomic features and promote health and wellness programs along with competitive salaries, retirement programs and benefits. Today’s market is competitive, and therefore you need to have something that differentiates you in the market. Our greatest resource is our people and we try to keep that in mind as we make our decisions. We are fortunate to have great longevity with our employees both locally and globally and we always are looking for ways to keep the team happy and motivated!
Have you had mentors throughout your career?
Yes, and I still continue to have mentors.
What advice would you give to up and coming professionals pursuing careers in the Automation space?
I would tell up and coming professionals to be creative! You need to be a resource to your customer - basically an extension of their company. Most companies today lack resources, so if you can provide value you will succeed over others that are just checking the box! Try to gain some hands-on field experience especially if you are going into sales. The automation market changes rapidly so make sure you are willing to adapt to change and not get passed by!
What important characteristics are needed to be a leader in Automation?
To be a leader in Automation, you have to be a differentiator. What separates you from the competition? Most manufacturers build good, quality products so you need to have something that sets you apart. Is it your relationship, innovation, quality, warranty or your handshake to a customer, no matter how large or how small they are?
As an award-winning company, what is WAGO’s differentiator that sets you apart from competing organizations?
From the beginning, WAGO has never wavered in our technology. We invented “Spring Pressure Termination Technology” and it is the basis of all of our products for over 65 years. Today we see our variations of our technology being produced by every major competitor in the market! We believe this is a testament to what we invented and continue to maintain a leadership position in today.
Why is WAGO a great place to work?
It starts with our people. People are the key to any company’s success. However, I think we take it a step further. We have a great facility to work in, we try to maintain a “work hard, play hard” motto and even as we continue to grow as an organization we try to keep the feel of the company somewhat intimate and keep the employees’ needs first.
Is there anything else we should know about you or WAGO?
Probably more than you care to know or that I could bore you with! If you need more information or have additional questions please feel free to contact me.