ELSNER President/CEO Bert ELSNER II on Change, Innovation and How the ELSNER Team Succeeds Together
Elsner Engineering Works, Inc. has been operating a thriving family-owned business since 1934 when our founders Frank and Johanna Elsner started their first machine development project, a slicer for the potato chip industry. Today, ELSNER machines wind, pack and fold every product imaginable with more than 3,000 machines in 60 countries.
In a recent interview, Bert Elsner II, President/CEO, reflects on ELSNER’s success, shares some of his favorite memories, and provides a little advice for anyone considering a career with a purpose driven company. Read on to learn more!
Q: What has contributed to the success of ELSNER for the past 87 years?
A: The most important thing that has contributed to our success has been learning from our mistakes and never giving up. Charles Darwin said, “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, it’s the ones that are most adaptable to change.” If we didn’t change, adapt, and evolve over the past 87 years, we wouldn’t have survived.
One of the ways we’ve been able to do this is by having each other’s backs and looking out for each other. Our employees help to share lessons learned with one another, so that other departments don’t go through the same problems.
We have a desire to take care of others by making cutting edge machinery that makes people’s lives better. It’s our purpose and it’s what’s makes us so successful.
Q: Why would someone want to join the ELSNER team?
A: I meet with every new employee on their 60-day anniversary as part of our onboarding process. So many tell me they love it here because people are so nice. Our employees genuinely want to see other people succeed. They’ll stop what they’re doing to answer your questions. We all know the goals and are doing our best to reach them.
Recently, I introduced myself to a new employee his first week on the job by greeting him using his first name. He stopped by my office later that day and told me he worked for his last company for 15 years and the CEO never knew his name. Getting to know the people that contribute to our success and understanding the value each person brings is important to me and to our leadership team.
Q: What’s the most unique thing about ELSNER?
A: We’re “the land of misfit toys” and by that, I mean we all complement each other’s strengths. Every employee brings a unique set of skills and everyone’s individuality adds to the overall fun environment and success of ELSNER.
We also take technologies developed from our legacy equipment that have been around throughout our 87-year history and adapt them using brand new innovations to create automated finished products in a way that no one else has done before.
Q: What’s one of your favorite memories of ELSNER?
A: When I was in high school, I used to work here in the summers in the machine shop on the manual mills and lathes. One of our machinists, Bobby, was teaching me how to use a mill and said, “Someday you’re going to run this place.” I remember thinking there was no way I was coming back to run the family business.
After getting a business and human resources degree in college, I later realized I had a unique opportunity to create an environment where employees can do their best, learn from their mistakes, take ownership of their work, and succeed together. I couldn’t find another place that fostered that kind of work environment, so I came back to the family business to continue creating one.
Q: What are you most excited about for ELSNER’s future?
A: We’ve only scratched the surface of our abilities in medical and water filtration technologies. We have tremendous potential to be a big player and impact the making of finished projects that we can’t yet imagine. For instance, if you or someone you know has had robotic surgery, there’s a good chance part of that operation included disposable products made on ELSNER machinery.
Q: What advice would you give to a new employee?
A: Understand the goals of your department, and make sure you have the tools you need to be successful. If you don’t, ask for assistance. Ultimately, act like you are an owner of the company. Ask what you would want yourself to do if you were running the place.
The culture that Bert, ELSNER leaders past and present, and many talented employees have worked to create is second to none – just like that of our innovative converting machinery. It’s our mission and our vision to exceed customer expectations and be the worldwide choice for converting machinery. To do this, our core values are based on having an empowered workforce and succeeding together.
If you’d like to join a company that values the energy and commitment of our employees and trusts them to make decisions, take action and apply today!