Bob Chapman Profile
Bob Chapman imagines a world where every person matters. He imagines a world full of caring work environments in which people can realize their gifts, apply and develop their talents, and feel a genuine sense of fulfillment for their contributions. Chapman imagines a world in which people leave work each day fulfilled and are better spouses, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, neighbors, citizens of the world. Because everyone—including you—matters.
Chapman imagines these things because he knows they exist. They exist because his commitment to people-centric leadership made them a reality at Barry-Wehmiller Companies.
In 1975, at just 30 years old, Chapman took over the reins of what was then a struggling St. Louis bottle washer business after his father's sudden death from a heart attack. "My first thought was ‘I must build something good from this business that killed my dad'," he recalls. Chapman has held true to that promise, growing the single-product company into a corrugating, packaging and paper converting equipment conglomerate through strategic acquisition, operational expertise, and commitment to, as he likes say, "the lives in my care." Today, $2+ billion Barry-Wehmiller is a combination of more than 80 acquired companies with over 11,000 team members in 100+ locations around the globe.
As Chapman often says in his speeches and in his upcoming book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Treating Your People Like Family, his early focus as CEO was on financial success. "I went to business school at the University of Michigan where I learned the traditional way to run a business—create shareholder value, manage people, focus on profit. And so I did that for many years, but eventually it felt like something was missing."
Bob-Hughes-GirlsChapman came to the realization that being a good steward of the business meant making sure that his employees received more than just a paycheck in return for their time and talent. He believed, as a business owner, it was his responsibility to create an environment where his team members had the chance to develop their gifts and feel that they and their work matters.
"I was in the midst of raising six kids, feeling the deep sense of responsibility of making sure they were cared for and had the tools to develop into the people they were meant to be," recalls Chapman. "It dawned on me that I wanted to give that same opportunity to the team members who worked for me."
Since the early 2000s, Chapman has championed the transformation of Barry-Wehmiller's culture into one focused on bringing out the best in its people through communication, trust, celebration, respect, continuous improvement and responsible freedom. "We now have a new way of defining our success," says Chapman. "At Barry-Wehmiller, we measure success by the way we touch the lives of people."
Through his speeches, his writing and the newly launch BW Leadership Institute, it is Chapman's hope that the value of people-first leadership, or Truly Human Leadership, as it is known, will become a reality in other organizations. By sharing his experiences, insights, stories, advice and more, he hopes to spread his message about the power of this kind of leadership. He believes businesses and organizations can become the most positive influence on our society by providing caring, empowering, fulfilling work environments.
Bob Chapman hopes to change the world one job, one person, one company at a time. You can help by spreading his message. Please join him on the journey.