Inside this issue:

Navigating the Shifting Healthcare Landscape
Client Profile: Old World Industries Co-Founder Tom Hurvis
CEO’s Perspective
Talent Assessment and the Science Behind Hiring
The Benefits of Going Paperless


Client Profile: Tom Hurvis

How Old World Industries co-founder Tom Hurvis went from writing ads to manufacturing … and had fun every step of the way.

“Have fun, make money.” Tom Hurvis, chairman of Old World Industries, LLC, believes that’s the best way to run a business. With Old World Industries, which manufactures PEAK antifreeze and other automotive products, topping more than $1 billion in sales, one could conclude he is on to something.

Equipped with a bachelor’s degree from Lawrence University and an M.B.A. from the University of California–Berkeley, Tom began his career in advertising in 1962. Three years later, he founded his own ad agency. There, he created the buzz and offbeat artistry that made Screaming Yellow Zonkers a big hit in the snack world.

Joining him at the agency was his friend Riaz Waraich. In their spare time, Tom and Riaz started a chemical trading company in 1973. The timing was right and profits were high—at least until President Nixon removed price controls. The team quickly realized they needed to diversify. And diversify they did.

Old World Industries now markets more than 90 automotive products, including PEAK (which has a 32% share of the North American antifreeze market), Herculiner pick-up truck beds, and Splitfire Spark plugs in more than 60 countries. The story of Hurvis’s transition from ad guru to chemical trader to automotive-products manufacturer might make one think that his success was serendipitous. In fact, it has been Hurvis’s ability to create a distinct corporate culture and execute a well-defined, shrewdly designed business model that have made Old World what it is today.

Creating a culture

“Duke it out.” That’s how Hurvis describes his management style. “Conflict, as long as it is respectful, helps generate ideas and introduce new perspectives.” He smiles when talking of the early days. “Riaz and I would argue and fight, others would hurry from the room, and then Riaz and I would go enjoy a great lunch together.”

Hurvis relishes the entrepreneurial spirit that can be found throughout the company. “We hire smart people who are given the freedom to do their job well and yet understand they are part of a collective effort,” Hurvis says. He is especially proud of the long tenure of Old World’s employees. “People who come here stay. We are a family.”

“Old World Industries has one of the healthiest business cultures I have seen,” says Matt Gooch, William Blair & Company’s head of European banking.

In 2012 William Blair advised Old World on the divestiture of its ethylene oxide and ethylene glycol manufacturing facility in Clear Lake, Texas, to Thailand-based Indorama Ventures for $795 million. Gooch, who was the lead banker on the deal, talked with Hurvis virtually every day for five months during the process—a transaction that became complicated as large chemical companies from Asia, South America, and Europe fought to win the sale during a time of fluctuating commodity and input prices. “Hurvis is very demanding; he pushed and challenged us at every step, ending each conversation with his hallmark “GID” (Get it done!),” Gooch says. “But he was also an inspiration, and his optimism helped us to find the solutions to close the deal.”

“A strategic and forward-thinking guy”

As he was building Old World into the multifaceted company that it is today, Hurvis and his team focused on building strong relationships with suppliers, vendors, and jobbers. “On any given day we talk to Exxon, Wal-Mart, China, and the local convenience store,” Hurvis says. Old World’s relationships with its customers and stakeholders are based on a strong foundation of trust and integrity. “We never blew a price, and we never missed a payment,” he says.

Gooch says that much of the company’s success is because of Tom’s foresight in positioning PEAK as a consumer products company. Throughout its history, Old World has used celebrities from the world of sports, such as Mike Ditka, Wayne Gretzky, Richard Petty, and Danica Patrick, to market its products. “Along the way, Tom somehow convinced buyers to pay a higher price for a standard commodity,” Gooch says.

Dick Kiphart, the head of Private Client Advisors at William Blair, has served with Hurvis on the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s board of directors for several years. “Tom is a strategic and forward-thinking guy,” Kiphart says. “He knows when to take on unusual business risk where potential returns are high.”

As evidence, Kiphart points to the Clear Lake plant, which Hurvis purchased in 1999 for $40 million during a cyclical low. The acquisition enabled Old World to vertically integrate its product line “from ground to shelf,” which has been critical to the company’s success; plus the sale of the plant last year generated a hefty profit for Old World.

“Tom has the vision to understand long-term supply and demand trends, and he has the hustle to exploit them,” says Jim Mabie, who, along with his son Dave Mabie, manages Hurvis’s financial assets at William Blair. In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called for cleaner emissions. Today, one of Old World’s best-selling products is Blue Def, a diesel exhaust fluid that reduces emissions and improves fuel economy and eventually will be required in every diesel-run vehicle in the United States.

Having fun giving it away

“He dives into his all of his interests with the same energy, intensity, and long-term vision that he gives to his company,” Mabie says. Hurvis has worked extensively with Renée Fleming, the Lyric’s creative consultant, on the Lyric’s Renée Fleming Initiative, which promotes awareness and education through master classes. Hurvis is also the primary funder of On Target Laboratories, which is developing a revolutionary targeting solution that allows surgeons to identify cancer cells more easily.

Of all of Hurvis’s philanthropic endeavors, education is his greatest passion. Hurvis serves on the board for Providence St. Mel School on Chicago’s West Side and Lawrence University; his wife, Julie, is a very active board member of Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts), Chicago’s first public high school for the arts. Hurvis’s most recent energies are focused on Parent Power Chicago, an initiative that helps parents of Chicago school children understand and tap into the educational resources that are available to them.

“It is as fun giving money away as it is making it,” Hurvis says. Profound words coming from a man who knows a thing or two about the relationship between fun and money.

One should not assume that the listed client approves or disapproves of William Blair & Company or the advisory services provided.

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