Wilbur-Ellis Marks 100 Years, CEO Shares What Has Led to Success

On June 29, 2020, Wilbur Ellis began a 12-month celebration of its 100th anniversary, which happens on June 29, 2021. President and CEO John Buckley takes the legacy of Wilbur-Ellis seriously, as he steers the company into the next 100 years and through the uncharted waters of COVID-19. Here's a C-Suite Q&A from The Scoop: 

Was there any hesitancy to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary during a global pandemic? 
We had a conversation about the celebration and decided that we could all use something to celebrate right now. It’s a positive thing. It gives us perspective about who we are and why our business is important, as we work to serve customers despite the challenges. The pandemic and its fallout are hard. But in 100 years, this company and its people have overcome many challenges … the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War II, to name a few. It’s always been part of our character to overcome the difficulties and build a better business going forward. 

We could have punted on celebrating the 100th anniversary. But it’s a milestone, and really, it’s a testament to the resiliency and flexibility of our team. 

Is there a secret sauce that has led to Wilbur-Ellis’ success?
It’s estimated that only one half of 1% of companies survive 100 years. That’s even rarer for a family-owned, private company. So, our employees are very proud of that accomplishment. We’re also celebrating the collaboration within the company and with our customers, which has given us tremendous resiliency. And with everything that’s happening now, resiliency has never been more important. 

We’re a big company, with multi-billions of dollars in revenue, and yet, the family shareholders have led the way in prioritizing our company values. They don’t just own the company, they care, and because of who they are, we are who we are. 

You’re celebrating the 100th anniversary with a Giving Program. Can you tell us more about that? 
Each month the company is posting a question for adults and another for kids in employees’ families about how we can continue to thrive.  The questions are posted on our 100th Anniversary website, which is accessible from any browser at www.wilburellis.com/100th-anniversary. For each response received, the company is making a donation to the Red Cross. This builds on a $100,000 donation we made in April to the Red Cross for their COVID-19 response.
Everyone – including employees, customers, business partners, retirees, and others – are invited to participate in the Giving Program. And we hope that visitors to our new 100th Anniversary website will enjoy exploring some Wilbur-Ellis history while they’re there.

How has the integration of Nachurs Alpine Solutions — the company’s largest acquisition, made in 2019 — gone?
We created a new business division when we acquired Nachurs Alpine Solutions, but we’re very pleased that we are also seeing a lot of collaboration between Nachurs and our other divisions. For example, the Nachurs team has a core competency in rail logistics, which was incredibly helpful to a team working in a new organic material that needed rail transport. So, while the integration has gone extremely well, an added advantage has been leveraging the strengths of Nachurs and our existing businesses in a number of different areas.

John Buckley’s takeaway about COVID-19
“Everyone has learned to be more flexible. The pandemic has crystallized that our people are our most important asset.”