PRESIDENT AND CEO MAGAZINE / PAUL STUKEL
Berlin: Well, Berlin Packaging is a great company. A lot of folks think that Berlin Packaging is a box supplier. We are not. We supply glass, plastic and metal containers and enclosures, and dispensing systems like sprayers and pumps that go on top of them. We supply everything from drums to pipets and in-between. It’s about 35,000 different sku’s. We sell the empties, so the companies that we do business with fill it with their product. For example, it might be jellies and preserves from Smucker’s, or it might be shampoo from Aveda or Neutrogena, etc. We also have various service divisions in our company that will do business with smaller companies that don’t require a packaging consultant and a service division that provides banking services for our customers, design services for our customers, marketing services, and consulting services. So, it’s a very diversified company in the way it goes to market.
PCEO: Do you do your own manufacturing of the various products, or is it a combination of manufacturing and outsourcing; how do you produce your products?
Berlin: Yes, we contract out our manufacturing. So, what we’ll do very often is either buy stock products from various manufacturers or, in many cases, more so than ever before, we design our own packaging and then we contract it out. We work with about 700 suppliers around the world. By far and away, the majority of the ware that we distribute and sell is made domestically here in the United States, although we do business in China, India, various parts of the globe. But, we do contract out the manufacturing and bring it into our distribution centers and our warehouse and supply just-in-time.
PCEO: Obviously, you’ve had tremendous growth in the last ten years. Part of that’s been acquisition and part of that’s been organic. Why have you been so successful in what, clearly, everybody perceives as a “down” market? What’s the key to your success?
It’s waking up in the morning, brushing your teeth, and taking a shower, and all the while you’re thinking when you get to work you’ve got to figure out new ways to crush the other guys.
Berlin: It’s a great question. A lot of people think it’s because of our marketing; we have great marketing. A lot of people think it’s because of the product development that we have; we have terrific product development. And our acquisitions, that’s part of it too, but our organic growth has been double digit now for, gosh, for the last 14-15 years, and certainly in the top line. We’ve had record earnings for 24 years now, and every year over the prior year. I have to say when we really break it down and we look at our competitive advantage, it’s always been in an unlikely area. It’s been in the area of recruiting, training, and overall retention of our stars. So, it’s not just the good ideas that we have, but I think we’ve done a phenomenal job in actually recruiting the right people with the right traits and attributes to execute on those good ideas.
Many years ago, I read something from Phil Knight in an annual report, when he’d been asked how Nike Corporation had grown so dramatically, and a lot of folks thought it was either the endorsements of people like Michael Jordan or the commercials and the advertising, and he said, “No, what it really came down to is that Nike Corporation was very good at hiring people who derive joy in killing competition.”