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I recently had the chance to visit Oatey SCS at their Cleveland headquarters to see the inner workings and talk with some of their key members. One of those members was Mason Oatey. As a key part of a 4th-generation family owned business, Mason has first-hand experience on what it’s like to run such a business while keeping that fresh, millennial spirit.
Danielle Galian: How did you get started in the business?
Mason Oatey: We have a policy that any family member must work five years outside of the business before being considered for a position at Oatey. This policy definitely helped me develop a skill set that I could bring to the organization on day one. I was fortunate to work for some great companies before joining Oatey which helped me bring an outside perspective and new ideas to our company. This also helped me decide if I really wanted to join the business. Our company is not for everyone, and our family has always encouraged us to follow our passion in our careers, whether at Oatey or not. I decided that I wanted this to be the next step in my career and there was an open position that fit my skill set.
DG: Do you have a favorite memory or story to share from the early days?
MO: From a very early age I remember going into the office on Saturday mornings with my Dad. I think he just wanted to get me out of the house so I wouldn’t wake the rest of the family up. He would give me a job to do like filing papers or gathering samples. Regardless of what I was doing, it was quality time spent with my Dad. As I went through college we always discussed the business and how new ideas could be applied. It was always cool to take a concept from a textbook and hear a real world story of how it applied to Oatey.
DG: Visiting Oatey's facilities in Cleveland, I noticed a great deal of young people working either in the DC or as engineers. How is getting young people involved in the industry an important factor for you?
MO: I think having the right mix of experience levels can be a tremendous asset. Our sales organization is a perfect example. We have managers ranging from 1 year of experience to 40 years with Oatey and we constantly learn from each other. I love getting younger associates excited about our business, because we’re the future. At the same time, it’s extremely valuable having teammates that know the ropes and can lend advice.
DG: I also noticed a great deal of dedication amongst Oatey's employees. How important is work ethic and dedication for you as a multi generational family owned business?
MO: I have a lot of respect and admiration for my family members and associates who have lead the company over the past 30 years. They’ve set the example for hard work at our company. I believe having a shared vision and purpose has really helped us in this regard. With the Internet, we all have visibility to career opportunities outside of our organizations. We need to keep it fun, inspiring and rewarding to maintain a high performing culture.
DG: What do you look for when bringing fresh talent on board to work for Oatey?
MO: Cultural fit is important at Oatey. We want people who identify with our values and are passionate about advancing their careers. Most importantly, they must be Browns fans!
DG: As Oatey's 100-year anniversary approaches next year, what lesson or advice do you find yourself going back to from years past?
MO: Some advice I received from a tenured Oatey associate when I first started was “Always think of what the customer would want us to do, and you won’t make many mistakes.” This advice really resonated with me, and I hope this comes through in my work. I have customers today that my grandfather called on 50 years ago and I think that can be attributed to the values and culture of our organization.
DG: What inspires you to keep the Oatey legacy strong for future generations?
MO: I have a tremendous amount of pride and appreciation for the work of many Oatey associates and family members that have built our company over the past 99 years. Our generation has a huge responsibility and opportunity to grow the business, be a center for innovation, and make a positive impact in the community. As a strong and growing company we are able to do so many things to have a positive impact with our stakeholders. This is what inspires me.
DG: Who is your mentor or someone you look up to?
MO: My Dad has always been a mentor for me in business and life. From coaching my sports teams as a kid, to providing career advice he’s always been supportive of my goals. More than anything, he sets a great example for ethics, treating people with respect, and leading by helping others; and not to be overlooked, he still holds the Oatey family records in the marathon and pole vault height!
DG: What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
MO: I travel a lot in my sales territory, so time at home with my family is valuable. I have two sons with crazy amounts of energy that I enjoy chasing around at the park. I’ve always been active in sports and enjoy running, skiing, or anything to break a sweat.
DG: What's your advice for someone just starting out in the industry?
MO: My advice for someone new to the industry is to embrace the process regardless of the product. The process of researching, designing, marketing, and selling a product or service can be applied to anything, and there’s a ton of opportunity to develop these skills and be creative in our industry. I think our industry gets overlooked by new grads as they may not see it as fun or innovative. If you polled a hundred 21 year olds on what they want to do in their careers, you may find zero that want to work for a plumbing products manufacturer. However, if you are interested in business, it doesn’t matter whether you’re formulating plumbers putty or a cool social media app, the opportunity exists to create and bring something special to market.
For more information on Oatey SCS, visit www.oatey.com