When Peter Schottland took the helm at American Packaging Corp. in 1999, it was annually posting an impressive $130 million to $140 million in sales. But with steady re-investments and a focus on employees, the company has grown to more than $500 million in annual revenues and some 1,100 employees.
What’s the secret sauce?
“It’s pretty simple. Our strategy has always been, going back to my father’s days and my brother’s leadership days, to focus on having the very best people you can find and treating them like family,” Schottland, 61, says.
In addition, he says, those people must be equipped with the best technology and equipment to do their jobs.
“Because the best people with lousy equipment and investment are going to be handcuffed,” Schottland says. “And the best equipment and technology with average people is going to get you nowhere.”
While keeping corporate costs as low as possible allows American Packaging to remain lean and nimble, the company is aggressive when it comes to investing back into its five facilities in Rochester, Wisconsin and Iowa.
“We have spent over $300 million in equipment and plants within three years,” Schottland notes. “And if you go back 10-plus years you’d be double that.”
He and his team have also spent a great deal of money and time on green initiatives. The company is working toward 100 percent no-waste.
American Packaging employs roughly 250 at two locations in Rochester, as well as 500 or 600 at two locations in Wisconsin and the balance at a facility in Iowa. In the last two decades, the company went from being a niche flexible packaging converter focused on three or four specialized markets to being mainstream in the packaging world, Schottland says.
His leadership style is one of camaraderie, and he and his management group have a deep loyalty to each other. The firm was founded in 1902 and acquired by his father, Stanley Schottland, in 1986. The company is now co-chaired by Peter Schottland and his brother, Steve.
“My father used to have a saying: ‘I’m never offering anybody a job, I’m offering a career,’” Schottland says of his father’s values, which continue to define the packaging company.
A self-proclaimed “open book,” Schottland laughs when asked about his own viewpoints.
“As you get older in life you realize how little you know,” he says. “When you’re 35 or 40 you think you’re hot stuff and by the time you get to be in your 60s you realize you know nothing about much of anything.”
Schottland is known perhaps as much for his philanthropy as his business acumen; he and his wife, Susan, last year donated $3.5 million to the YMCA of Greater Rochester, the Y’s largest single donation in its more than 160-year history. The new YMCA Schottland Family Branch in Pittsford is slated to open Sept. 30.
The Schottland family also is deeply involved in Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, which provides opportunities for kids with serious illnesses to experience the healing and friendships that go hand-in-hand with camp.
Schottland’s passions include his family—daughters Jennifer, Libby and Meghan, and son, Brandt—as well as his business family. He also has a passion for athletics, including tennis and water activities.
“I’m a work hard, play hard sort of guy,” Schottland says.
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