From “mom and pop” to multinational

HDT Engineered Technologies, headquartered in Solon, Ohio, specializes in tough jobs in extreme environments, developing technology, products and application-specific solutions for demanding industries such as aerospace and the military. That’s quite a progression from the duffel bags and backpacks Bea Maurer started making in 1979 when she founded the precursor company, Bea Maurer Inc.

Her son, James Maurer, who is now president of HDT’s shelter business unit, calls her “a driving entrepreneurial spirit” for the company. He joined the company in 1992, primarily in operations, but he’s filled many roles in production, sales, product development and management.

The company’s expansion represents a natural evolution of their product lines as well as strategic acquisitions. Although their product lines are very broad, he says, the expeditionary shelters and base camps came out of the original company and are his particular area of expertise. “In addition to the tents, we do full turnkey camps with mobile power, environmental control—the full mobile infrastructure,” he says.

Although military projects and applications are an important part of their business, their products are not exclusively for the military. They also work in some industrial markets, and do homeland defense and emergency response projects. Growth in the international portion of their business has been primarily in the military market.

Creative leadership

Maurer says it’s been rewarding to find success in a competitive, tough industry. “We’ve built a good team [and] created a good work environment,” he says. “That’s what’s kept me around and made me focused and dedicated to that line of work.” And serving the customer is basic to the work, “with a real passion for servicing that customer, and knowing what the customer needed,” he says. “That combined with the internal organization, it kind of clicked and it worked.”

He sees his leadership role as largely creative and encouraging creativity in others. “I like to stay in contact with all the people who report to me and know how they’re doing and how can I help them do their jobs,” he says. “Rather than me doing all the work, let’s rely on the good people we have and get their ideas flowing.” He says that operating this way is “a hard lesson, and [it] takes a lot of years to learn. I truly have people in my company where I can do that.”

Balancing two “companies”

A big problem for him at work is simply doing too much. He admits that it requires a lot of discipline to take time off—and with six children at home (“that’s like managing your own little company right there,” he says), his family is pretty much what he does in his spare time. “I definitely enjoy my family life,” he says, much of it spent at the lake swimming, boating and wakeboarding. “We really have a great time as a family,” he says. “In the summer time we get there quite often.”

Family, in its various interpretations, seems to be an important theme in Maurer’s life and career, and he’s happy to pass the encouragement along to others in the industry. “We were a mom and pop operation and a lot of members are like that,” he says. “IFAI was a tremendous support network for us all those years and still is. We developed a unique product and gave the military a product they didn’t have before and now it’s a large business. For all the mom and pops out there, you’re just a design away from having a very successful growth trajectory.”

by Janet Preus, editor, Specialty Fabrics Review