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For this month’s column interviewee we’ve chosen husband-and-wife team Ali and Tom Amundson of Precision Plumbing Products. With Ali managing administrative staff and Tom handling management of operations, this duo is taking the company into the “next generation” head on. I spoke to them about this and asked for their advice on keeping that same level of success for the future.
Danielle Galian: Share your backgrounds — what did you do before PPP?
Ali Amundson: After High School I moved to Bend, Ore. and attended community college for a few years. I then moved back to Portland and worked in the restaurant business.
Tom Amundson: I grew up in Duluth, Minn. and came out to Portland to attend Portland State University. I received three degrees in five years’ time so I was a pretty busy. I have a marketing degree, an advertising management degree, and a degree in geography. After that I worked in the financial services industry selling mutual funds and retirement plans for 5 years before coming to PPP.
DG: How did each of you start at PPP doing what you’re doing now?
AA: I started in the shipping/labeling department at PPP, then moved up to our marketing department. From there I moved up to Customer Service, then recently into Management.
TA: My first six months at PPP was spent working in every department, from the machine shop and ending in shipping. This allowed me to learn our product life cycle from raw material to finished goods. Both Ali and I can identify and work through problems faster due to our experience working in all departments of the company.
DG: I speak to a lot of family business owners who often comment on how work goes from the boardroom to the breakfast table at home. How is working in the family business for you?
AA: We take work home with us, there’s no going around that. It’s hard but it’s rewarding. We collaborate all our ideas and work toward a common goal. We trust each other.
TA: A dinner with the family can easily turn into a production meeting. It might sound terrible to some but I wouldn’t trade it for any other job. We love working together as a family and that is what really makes the job fun. It’s just a more free way of talking to each other whereas most work environments are very cut and dry and very serious. Ours is a very grey world, we can speak freely between each other whether it’s about what you're doing after work or what just happened at work.
DG: Over the years PPP has gained a tremendous amount of success. How will you as the next generation continue that legacy?
TA/AA: That is certainly what keeps us awake at night. It’s a question that I don’t think we'll ever be able to come up with one answer.
TA/AA: We feel our success is contingent upon PPP continuing to manufacture its products right here in Portland. We feel that’s our greatest asset. Our employees pave our path to success and what we notice is that the employee at PPP takes ownership of their task which gives them a sense of worth.
We listen to our employees’ suggestions. They’re the ones who are building our products on the production floor 40 hours a week. That daily grind, and their experience are truly what we use to pave new paths within our production facility. We put their suggestions to use and have created process improvements through automation. They’ve done this without fear of losing their job to a machine because that’s not what we’re after. Not one employee has lost their job to an automated process. To us, if we can continue to have retention of our current employees and allow them to train the new ones that come in, then success will replicate itself.
DG: In researching PPP, I noticed the company has grown significantly throughout the years. How will you, as the next generation, continue that success while utilizing the latest in technology, etc.?
TA/AA: We’ve looked at launching new marketing and advertising campaigns through new websites. We conducted our first main overhaul a few years ago and we’re going to do a couple more this year for some of the other divisions. We need to highlight that we’re not just PPP, there are other aspects to our production that really offer opportunities to other potential vendors, OEM clients, or through new customers. Getting that word out to the world is important to us.
DG: Who is your mentor or person you look up to?
AA: My dad, Jack Vilendre.
TA: I’ve never had only one mentor. To me, my mentor is life experience. There have been so many people who have impacted my life that to choose just one would be impossible. It was my life experience that got me to where I am now. Each person, job, or moment has helped boost me along my own path. I am a product of my own environment and I am always wondering what’s around the corner.
DG: What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
TA/AA: We love to camp, fish, and go boating. We have two dogs that we just adore and we love to take them on trips to the beach.
DG: Favorite camping site?
AA: We go to a lot of different places so there’s not really a favorite. It’s hard to pick living in the Pacific Northwest because everywhere is beautiful.
TA: We bounce around and try to keep things new and exciting. Sure we have our favorites, but its fun looking for new places to enjoy.
DG: Quote, motto, or phrase each of you live by?
AA: Live life to the fullest.
TA: Whatever you are be a good one.
DG: What is your “top tip” for people just starting out in the industry?
TA/AA: Listen to your elders. They have life experience that you will never obtain because they've lived longer than you. We can attest all of our success to listening to the successful individuals around us. There’s no real right answer, to me the elder is the wiser.
For more information on Ali and Tom Amundson, visit pppinc.net