With Retirement Approaching, Bill John Talks About his Time in the Glass Industry and Future Plans
March 22, 2010

Last October Bill John, president of InterClad in Plymouth, Minn., announced that he would be semi-retiring in the first quarter of 2010. He has since finalized the timeline of the transition of his ownership stake in Egan Company (InterClad’s parent), and effective March 31, Tim Woolworth will take over as vice president, business unit manager of InterClad. John says no one will be taking the title of president.

“All the business unit heads are vice presidents, and the board members are executive vice presidents. As one of the founders I was elected to president in 2000 when I became a shareholder, and member of the Egan board,” he explains.

John says while he will remain a part of the company for the foreseeable future, he will have a much more flexible schedule and will be working in a business development role.

“I will still be working on putting bids together, selling work and working with the customers … the fun stuff,” John tells USGNN.com™.

John took some time to share his perspective on the industry and what’s in store for the future.

How long have you been in glass industry? I grew up in the glass business. My dad was a glass guy and he ran his own business in the 1970s. I started as an apprentice glazier in 1977, so 33 years working in the industry. I moved to Minnesota in 1982 to work for Harmon and I was with them for 17 years; I was also going to college at night to get my business degree and in 1988 became a project manager with Harmon. In 1998 I left Harmon, though, to help start InterClad and in 2000 became the general manger here. So it's been a 12-year run and it was fun starting a company from scratch, from designing the logo to everything else. It was fun, but a lot of work and we've built a really good group of people and some are still here today.

Why was now the right time to retire? We've had a succession plan in place for a while and my goal was to always retire when I was 50 and I'm 51 now. Sometimes you know it's time for you to get out of the way and let others do the work. I've been here for 12 years and now I'm looking to do something fresh, but don't yet know what that is.

What have been some of your career highlights? I've enjoyed putting together the group of people we have here and the last three years have been really successful. But I can look back to when we sold our first job, the $1.5 million Seagate project in Minneapolis. We had no desks and no furniture so I brought in my computer from home and set it up on the floor of my office to bid that job. Then, our first major job was a year later and it was the American Express tower here and that was an $8 million project for us … most recently we've just completed the Twins ball park here. I'm a big baseball fan and have been a youth baseball coach for years, so opening day of the park was part of the timing around my retirement.

Another career highlight, is that we purchased a building last year. We renovated 28,000 square feet and moved into it last March after leasing for 11 years. I did the research with the brokers, negotiated the purchase, and acted as the construction manager for the renovations. It sets up the company for many years to come in a very nice facility. Someone convinced me to hire an architect for the interior design, which turned into the best decision of the entire project. The architect did an amazing job of design, color choice, and layout that provided an excellent showpiece to work in.

What do you find concerning about the future of the glass industry? The energy piece of our business will become even more important as it seems the codes tend to favor less glass. That's driving [manufacturers] to make the glass as energy-efficient as possible. But glass is still the weak spot on the envelope compared to the insulating values of the walls, for example.

How would you like to see the glass industry continue to evolve? I'd like to see it become more technically proficient and more respected-I don't think contractors quite understand that our business is not as much of a commodity trade as others, but they still tend to treat it that way.

What are some of your plans for the future? I've been heavily involved in youth sports, both baseball and football, and I am also the commissioner of Boys In House Baseball for the Burnsville Athletic Club, which has more than 1,000 boys in grades K-12, and we are gearing up for the season now.

As far as other business endeavors, I have had people calling and asking me, but I am not sure yet what I want to do. It's just time that I take a breath. I've been working for 34 years and I'm the type of person who didn't take a lot of time off. So it's just time to stop and decide what will be next.

Anything else you'd like to tell our readers? I've met a lot of great people over the years; a lot of good people with whom I am still in contact. I've had my colleagues from Harmon call me [when they heard I was retiring], and while we're competitors, we're still all in the same small industry-it's amazing how small the world is and I'd like to say thanks to all the people I've worked with other the years.

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