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Associate Editor Jenel Stelton-Holtmeier recently spoke with Wurth-North America CEO Robert Stolz about how the industrial distributor, which is part of the Germany-based Wurth Group, is approaching growth in U.S. markets.
MDM: It looks like Wurth-North America had some solid growth in 2011. What are some of the drivers of that growth?
Robert Stolz: We actually had double-digit growth in all four of our divisions: an industrial division; a wood division – which is construction materials; a metal division – which is MRO; and then an automotive division. That’s how we’re structured around the world and in North America.
As for what drove that growth, No. 1, of course, is we’re seeing the overall economy improve. I like to describe it as two steps forward, one step back. It’s very difficult still to plan or to set prognosis because we’ll have a couple of good quarters and then we’ll have a month that’s not as strong. But I think that’s the overall economy.
I also think we’re very focused on market share gain, and we’re pushing very hard in all four segments to pick up market share.
MDM: What’s the outlook for the rest of 2012?
Stolz: It’s interesting. I have moved from cautiously optimistic to optimistic. I think that in an economy like we’re in right now, well-capitalized and well-financed businesses will be very strong.
Of course, one of the things we’ve seen is that as you come out of a recession like this one, it puts a huge strain on working capital. If you think about it, when times are declining...