Buckman Laboratories

7772 words 32 pages
REV: JANUARY 22, 2003


Buckman Laboratories (A)
If you can’t maximize the power of the individual, you haven’t done anything. If you expand the ability of individual members of the organization, you expand the ability of the organization.
— Bob Buckman, CEO and Chairman of Buckman Laboratories

A major Buckman customer in Australia announced plans to commission a new alkaline fine paper machine in 1998. Not only was it always attractive to get “start-up” business but this particular machine tended to use more chemicals than most paper machines. The customer’s tender was broken into two areas--machine hygiene and retention—with annual revenues estimated to be
$600,000 and $700,000, respectively. Although Buckman
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New Leadership
In 1978, at the age of 69, Dr. Stanley Buckman died of a heart attack in his office. His son, Robert
(Bob), who had joined the company in 1961 after earning a degree in chemical engineering from
Purdue University and a MBA from the University of Chicago, became the new chairman and CEO.
With sales of $29 million (slightly over 50% from six non-U.S. countries) the company employed 493 people (29% were college graduates)—220 in manufacturing and 79 in sales.
From the beginning of Bob’s leadership at Buckman, he wanted to change the way the company operated. As he put it, “We were getting our lunch eaten. We were a multinational organization and needed to be a global organization.” He also wanted to change the management style of the organization. “I knew I didn’t want to do it Dad’s way. Every single business decision had to be approved by my father. I thought, this is too much work.”
Even though the company had adopted the slogan “Creativity For Our Customers” in the 1960s,
Bob was convinced that the company was too product-driven. The company now sought to become
“customer-driven.” This shift reflected Bob’s belief that “cash flow is generated on the front line with customers, by associates … who have built relationships of continuity and trust, face to face with the customer, one individual with another, over a significant length of time.”
A key to the new approach was to expand the sales force—something Bob had