Company: Monti-Group a.k.a. MONTIPOWER
Locations: Hennef, Germany (near Bonn); Manassas, VA, USA; Houston, Texas, USA; Macae, Brasil; Spijk Eemshaven, Holland; Abu Dhabi, UAE; Bratislava, Slovakia
What year did you start in the industry and how did you get started?
I started to work in the paint and coatings industry in 1998 for a Marine Coatings Manufacturer from The Netherlands. After one year I started to work for Carboline Coatings (RPM Inc) from St. Louis taking care of the Central European business. In 2005, I joined STOPAQ.Sealforlife from Stadskanaal Groningen close to my hometown. They manufactured a patented visco-elastic pipeline coating to prevent corrosion. I came in contact with Monti at the 2006 ADIPEC oil and gas show in Abu Dhabi. Monti is an amazing tool and brush to clean and prepare steel substrates for coating as an alternative for open grit blasting. These brushes of Monti, branded under MBX or Bristle Blaster, were able to remove mill scale, rust, existing coatings and create a profile. Proper profiling is for example needed for liquid-curing coating adhesion and corrosion resistance in the long run. After the show in 2006, I started to promote this technology and in 2018 I joined the company as CEO and co-owner. In the meantime from 2012-2018, I have been EVP of Berry Global Inc, an Indiana-based stock quoted company strong in the manufacturing of consumable plastics and textiles such as nonwovens. For Berry, I have run the global SealforLife Industries business with a fantastic team. Some team members joined the Monti-Group which consists of surface preparation tools, coatings and coating services such as inspection and calibration services for coating test equipment.
Can you tell our readers about Monti and the market it serves?
MontiPower serves a broad range of markets from automotive to retail all over the world. The biggest business portion is the preparation of outdoor heavy-duty steel such as pipelines, oil and gas platforms, refineries, tanks and terminals for coatings and sealants. You also see the tool and Monti brush used for bridges, statues, marine vessels, super yachts, riverboats, nuclear facilities, mining and OEM fabrication. Any operator can create a 1m2 blast cleanliness and anchor profile per brush, per hour. A 23mm wide brush does strike the substrate effectively more than 10,000 times a second. The brush does not burnish or heat up the substrate. The tool works at a low speed of 2500 rpm and low vibration/noise. Monti prepares any substrate from scratch. Automotive, including maintenance of busses, planes, trains and trucks or other agricultural equipment, is another big portion of the business. Monti does have a retail brand called Decapower and Activet for dog brushes.
What are the key advantages Montipower products offer?
The key advantage of the Monti setup of a tool/brush is that an operator can achieve ‘sandblasting” quality without the use of grit or other blast media. The brushes can be resharpened and recycled. The tools are robust and do have a long life when maintained well. The operator can actually see what he is cleaning and preparing for coating or sealants. For rust removal, the rust particles can be vacuumed. Monti offers the tools as cordless, pneumatic, electric cable and water-driven solutions. An operator can be the master of spot repair even at high altitudes, like wind power. Every year, more than 20,000 operators all around the world work with our tools to restore, prepare, and maintain a pipeline, car, bridge etc. Monti prepares more than 1 million m2 substrates including wood, stone, plastic, stainless, galvanized steel, composites and aluminum for protection in an environmentally safe, fast, easy and applicator-friendly manner.
What is your favorite aspect of working in the industry?
First of all, I love to run a factory, to be the source to engineer better and new solutions by design and manufacturing. Secondly, I love to sell game-changing products in the market and explore new markets and thirdly I love to work worldwide with a passionate group of people to grow the business in existing and new markets. Every day, together with our international team and with the clients, we learn about the capabilities of our brushes. Preparation is everything, we say. In our case, we need to understand the context of different kinds of substrates, coating and sealant needs and wishes, H&S, environmental constraints and new factors like Co2 impact of the job versus other solutions. The team is passionate to change project specifications so that all stakeholders from different perspectives such as H&S, ergonomics, productivity, environment and quality feel confident about our brush solutions which offer similar cleanliness and profiling results as loose abrasive blasting. We make a big impact up to circa 15m2 a day per repair job onsite, and outdoors. Monti owns many patents and has been extremely innovative the last four years to make the fundaments of our technology stronger than ever.
What is your proudest career or company accomplishment?
One of the founders of Monti-Werkzeuge GmbH was Detlef Thomas. Unfortunately, he passed away five years ago. Detlef always was a great business friend. Day in and day out we think of him. Detlef and the team did a great job getting Monti where it was. He had big dreams and visions for Monti. The team feels lucky and privileged to make it all happen. Wish he could be with us to celebrate the Monti future. In 2022, we celebrated the 35th anniversary of Monti.
What are the key challenges you have faced at Monti and how have you solved those challenges?
The key was to survive 2020. Together with an investor from Norway, I managed to buy the shares of Monti-Werkzeuge GmbH and created the Monti-Group. In 2020, COVID-19 came and most big clients just locked their warehouses and transportation of goods became hardly possible. Revenues just dropped. In the end, it meant switching gears and changing the focus for a while. We put a lot of emphasis on a total make-over of the facilities. We came out stronger than ever. Today we do have more suppliers from the E.U. Supply chain is back under control. Nevertheless, year on year since 2018 we’ve grown 10 percent. We opened new offices around the world, and some distributors became part of the Monti Group. The USA is the most important region for Monti’s sales. We stuck to the plan and we beat the plan. R. Schueller said it once: “All it takes is one idea to make the impossible possible.” For this one needs focus, discipline and teamwork.
What changes or innovations do you see ahead for Monti and the industry it serves?
There is more and more pressure on firms for ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance), H&S for workers in the field and legal business compliance. I see that more and more asset owners are staring intensive maintenance programs to keep current machines or assets operating instead of buying new machines. Less capex, more opex. I also see that due to ESG, co2, and H&S constraints, specifiers and engineers look for alternative solutions to lower the environmental impact.
It is clear that the car business is trending downwards. Some markets go up and down based on oil prices. We are fortunate to have a healthy mix of many customers around the world. Locally, we see that many smaller firms have trouble getting back on track long before COVID-19. The bigger get bigger and some small firms disappear. Monti does have the capabilities to triple sales. We are ready to contribute to a more sustainable world. We embrace new digital tools to promote our features and benefits. We simply aim to make coatings and sealants better. We keep on pushing the narrative of H&S, cleanliness and profiling quality and environmental impact from Co2, recycling and resharpening perspective.
Also via our own webshops, it is easy to select accessories such as safety caps, dust control vacuum units, offshore rope access safety hooks and battery backpacks. We continue to innovate to make a difference subsea, in the sky (Aeroblaster) and by robotic crawlers to speed up productivity.
Are there any new products or initiatives for Monti that you would like to share?
A fantastic new initiative is the recycle bin. This is a carton bin which we offer to our contractor clients. The contractors can make an impact and statement to their clients, the asset owners. The brushes can be returned so that we can recycle the brushes for our clients. This exercise is part of a loyalty program. Asset owners love that the contractors take waste to NetZero.
Recruiting skilled workers overall and also young workers has been stated as a concern in the industry. How do you think that is best addressed?
We simply look for talent. Talent doesn’t have much to do with education. At key positions and all other positions, we look for people who are passionate to join a disruptive international team. For example in one of our manufacturing plants, we have a fantastic mix of Germans, Dutch, Belgians, Turkish, Russian, Syrian, Afghans and Romanians. Different vocational backgrounds lead to new and better ideas. We do not think or work in silos. I believe in entrepreneurship, or better said, intrapreneurship. This means, giving responsibility where it belongs. At the basis of the organization, workers must have the ability and tools to be effective and efficient for the company, the team and him or herself. We work with clear house rules to respect, take care and help each other. Current and new talent all get support like extra education and possibilities to join trade shows and demonstrations to understand the cross-functions. Many do have double roles in the firm. Making Monti brushes is thinking upside down for many educated people. We look for people who are still able and willing to see through. What you see is not always what you get and vice versa when you take a deep dive into making brushes. Making Monti brushes from the rolls made by the card clothing setting machines is a gift. It gives so much joy.
Do you have any key business/leadership tips out there for young people looking to ascend to a leadership role?
Try to read as many books about leadership as you can, for example, Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why.” After reading these books and talking to business leaders about their drive and attitudes, make sure you find your own purpose. Entrepreneurship is about direction, room, accountability and reward. Being the boss does not make you the boss. Respect is something that you cannot get because of a title or position, but it is something that you receive. Leading a business means serving the organization and all stakeholders like banks. As in normal life, make sure you treat someone the same way you would like to be treated.
Leading or owning a business is not just a role. It is life. Make sure you pick the right partner to pursue your destiny to be you. Never pretend. Be authentic. “Leaders Eat Last” is a book I recommend. Serving means that you come last, not first. It means you cannot be selfish and think about X amount of hours and dollars per hour. Also do not think in terms of work-life balance. Leading means life. It is very rewarding to share success and go through necessary changes. Change must be good. Leaders show and tell what is good. Leaders are the face of the business in the market and take the pain for the team. It is fantastic to build businesses and build personal identities and stronger individuals. Based on respect, taking care, looking after each other and teamwork, we continue to strive to be the best in brushes for surface preparation. The underlying vision and mission approach is fundamental. One tip: “Make sure that you surround yourself with positive, energy-giving people.”
What is the key tradeshow for Monti?
The key event for Monti is the AMPP Show (NACE/SSPC). This is a corrosion engineers show and conference. In 2023 the event will be held in Denver. During such shows, we gather for committee meetings about surface preparation to make sure that Monti brushes get the place in the market they deserve to be known for.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Just to be out in Spain, in Malaga with the family to see old and make new friends.To live the Spanish life of drinking Rioja red wine, eating fish and tapas. We have a place down there in the city near the beach.
Do you have any pop culture favorites?
Since the 1970s, as a kid, I follow one band in particular. A band that never made it in the USA. This is Status Quo with great songs such as: “Whatever You Want,” “Down Down,” “Roll Over Lay Down” and “In the Army Now.” As a kid, it was KISS or Status Quo. This is pure rock ‘n’ roll without any fashion. Just denim, 12 bar blues. Besides Quo, I do listen to blues-rock bands like Rory Gallagher, ZZ Top, Deep Purple. Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton are also on the playlist. I am also a fan of Elvis Presley. I recommend watching the latest movie about him and his manager from the Netherlands. What a story.
Are there sports and/or teams that you follow?
I used to be a soccer player with my 14-year-old son. I follow FC Barcelona from Spain. For me, the best player is Frenkie De Jong as he embodies the philosophy of Johan Cruyff the most.
Do you have a business travel tip for our readers?
If I travel on a plane I do have a golden rule of: 33 percent sleep, 33 percent work, 33 percent watching movies.
What is one thing about you that people might find surprising?
The future lies in the past. So, for a country, a region, but also for a business, there is always a reason why something is done the way it is done. I always want to find out what is behind a decision, a written or an unwritten rule. In many businesses, you find these unwritten rules. If you ask the question: “Why is it done this way?” or “Where is it stated?;” people look at you with glazed eyes. People are sometimes surprised because I support a culture of openness, directness, fairness and honesty. People make mistakes. It is better to just say “sorry” so the whole team can learn from it. I also see from working all over the world that language can be very decision-making. It is for me important to feel the language to understand why things are done in a certain way. Most people look at me and do like how I am able to change companies in 100 days by the look and feel of new marketing. This means a new slogan, new logo, new colors, new look and feel, new pay-off, new adverts, new words, new brandbooks. I believe in Human to Human marketing. Not BtoB or BtoConsumers. People buy brands, not (from) companies.
What have you learned in life or in the industry?
I have learned that all people around the world have the same needs and wishes. I am fortunate to work in the anticorrosion business for more than 25 years. Corrosion is everywhere. In some regions worse than others. Of course, I know that there are always greedy and jealous people out there. I have learned that in bigger organizations, it might be the case that someone might put you in the corner for whatever reason. Most of the time because they are scared. My motto is to be fearless. Be strong for the company and the team. Like with fighting corrosion, we can’t compromise on quality. This is one of the reasons why I love the Monti Brush Solution so much. The best coatings in the world deserve the best brush.
Learn more about Montipower at www.montipower.com.