Heidi Volltrauer discusses her position as COO and VP Marketing & Sales at Volt Industrial Plastics and the ongoing changes within the fastener industry in the latest Women in Fasteners feature for Torque Magazine...
How did you get into the fastener industry?
I got into the fastener industry because of my father, Joseph Volltrauer. He has a long history in the industry as an innovator/ tool and die maker, and he started Volt Industrial Plastics, Inc. in 1992. I was 22 years old when I started working at Volt on the production floor never dreaming that I would be in the fastener industry for 28 years and counting.
I worked my way through every department, and then became VP of Sales and Marketing a few years later. My first trade show was in Columbus, OH, and at that time there were not many women in the fastener industry. I was very young and naive at that time, and I remember my first time working in our booth at the Columbus show, which was the show at the time. The only question I was asked over and over was... do you have the time? I would look at my watch, and answer the question actually feeling helpful.
I look back and smile because everything is so different now, including myself. I have lost track of all the trade shows I have been to but getting to know the fastener community is what keeps me in the industry.
What kind of advantages are there for a family business such as Volt in the fastener industry?
First, the combined years of experience that different ages bring to the table. I have learned so much from my Dad, and his many years of experiences combined with my 28 years of different experiences, perspective, and age. Secondly, pride of our family business brings a strong work ethic, and drive to be the best at what we do. Thirdly, we have a strong focus on relationships, and this makes strong connections with employees as well as customers. We treat our employees like family by profit sharing, full benefits, extra day of PTO for Birthdays just to mention just a few.
Lastly, all of these examples create a big boost in morale. Everyone at Volt is invested in the company, and shares in the overall pride of what we do. All of these things directly affect customer service and keeps our customers happy. We pride ourselves with Volt’s exceptional customer service and will continue to build on our family owned edge in the industry.
What are the biggest changes you have seen in the industry and/or the company since you started?
The biggest change since 1992 is technology, and interactions with people. The advancement of computers and communication has changed so much. I would have never thought I could work from my phone or have face-to-face meetings with customers on my computer. It's like something you would see on the Jetsons. Our catalogue was a big project every year, and expensive to print. We stopped printing a catalogue about twelve years ago because by the time we would print the catalogue it would be out of date. We add new products daily, and our website has our entire product line for customers to look for what they need. Having a website is something I could have never imagined in 1992, and how very important our web presence would be for a successful business.
All the different trade shows the industry has now, compared to when Volt was born is unbelievable. I mentioned earlier the Columbus show was the show. If you were not at that show you missed out on big opportunities, and we made sure to be there every year. The bar at the Hyatt was so packed with people you could barely walk through, but you could see everyone in one space. Now we have trade shows all over the world to choose from, and the shows are close together on the calendar. Also, at most shows people kind of spread out even though there are efforts to make one meeting space to see everyone after hours. One big pro is that you have more opportunities to see people, and make connections all year.
Face to face interactions in the industry has seen a major shift. The in-person interactions are limited to tradeshows and conferences mostly. Most people actually prefer an email over a phone call, and so the personal connections are harder to make in the industry. I always look forward to the trade shows and make the most of my time building on my current fastener relationships and building new ones. Face to face communication is still a very important part of my job representing Volt at these shows, and I love it.
I have noticed Covid-19 has actually improved our face to face interaction with zoom, and other technology. Since we cannot get together at the shows and conferences people want that interaction and connection. Maybe this will be a new trend after we get back to some kind of normal.
What does your day-to-day job involve as COO/ VP Marketing & Sales?
I really do not have any day that is the same for me, or some kind of day-to-day work schedule. These two roles keep me busy, and things are changing as we grow all of the time. As COO I oversee day-to-day operations, and Marketing I am responsible for all advertising, website, trade shows, and all things marketing. I love my role in the company, and I am excited to see Volt grow and evolve.
What plans does the company have for the next 12 months?
1 June 2021 we will celebrate our 29th anniversary, and my Father’s 83rd Birthday! Over the next 12 months we plan on continuing to build our product line and keep working on efficiency. We are going through an odd time with Covid-19, but our plan is to keep moving forward and growing.
What is your favourite thing about the fastener industry?
My favourite thing about the fastener industry is the people, and the sense of community once you become a part of it. There is a joke in the industry that if you try to get out they pull you right back in! I am not leaving anytime soon, and plan to make many more memories with the fastener friends I have made along the way... and the ones I have yet to meet!
Any final thoughts?
2020 has been a very challenging year for everyone in the fastener industry, and I know we will all make it through these hard times. I am looking forward to seeing everyone hopefully next year, but until then, raise your glasses, and cheers to you all!