Meet our leaders – a feature with John Wagg
“From selling a handful of products to one end market, my teams now offer a vast portfolio to our clients across multiple sectors.
John Wagg, Industrial Physics’ Director of Sales for the Americas, has been with the company for some 25 years. His career story is a rare find in this day and age: a tale of seizing opportunities, capitalizing upon an innate sales ability and self-taught technical capability, backed by a fierce loyalty to his employers.
In this second installment of our ‘meet the leaders’ series John took some time to detail his working life to date, his team’s role in the success of Industrial Physics, and his ambitious vision for where the company is heading.
Where it all began…
Born and raised in England and educated at Oxford University, John initially embarked upon a career in finance with Deloitte of London. But he soon decided that this wasn’t the career trajectory for him and traveled to the United States.
He explained: “I was disillusioned with my first role and decided to head to America for a semester where my brother was studying. I had no car, no work, and no green card – but I found my way to a tiny town in upstate New York.
“I decided to seek out some part-time handiwork to tide me over, chose the biggest house in town and knocked on the door! As luck would have it, the owner of what would become CMC-KUHNKE – one of the specialist testing brands of Industrial Physics – answered the door. After hearing my pitch, he offered me some work on his property.”
The beginning of John’s journey with us
After impressing with both his shutter painting skills and ability to turn both hand and mind to most tasks, his new employer soon offered him his first official job in the US: assistant janitor at CMC during an office move. He found himself doing some not so glamorous work, such as plumbing in all of the toilets, in what was a tiny, five-person company.
As luck would have it, soon the sales manager left, and John was offered the job. He grabbed this opportunity with both hands, learnt everything he could about the beverage and canning space and soon began selling CMC’s test and inspection products to the market.
John quickly understood that a deep knowledge of the industry and the solutions customers needed was critical to this organization in order to provide them with products that could truly protect the integrity of their brand. A natural salesman with an ability to swiftly grasp complex technical information, over the years he would become an industry expert, while installing and calibrating many sophisticated products at his customers’ premises.
His role and responsibilities grew, particularly after CMC acquired rival company Kuhnke. Now representing CMC-KUHNKE, he was promoted to global sales lead and held onto this position for another impressively loyal 21 years before it became part of the Industrial Physics family of brands in 2014.
Leading an ambitious team
These days John’s remit is expanding exponentially and he now oversees solutions across all of the specialist testing brands that sit under the Industrial Physics group.
Broadening his knowledge to incorporate more industries has been a serious personal challenge and quite the transition after decades in the beverage and canning space, but it’s one that both he and his sales teams have relished.
Sure, there were teething problems while his people from across the existing brands got to grips with new businesses, sectors, and products, but the progress has been exceptional, as John explained: “Some of the people in my team have 30+ years’ experience of serving a single end market, with a particular range of products. The prospect of now being asked to learn about new industries, cultures and testing devices was daunting for some, but this was soon overcome.”
This new role has brought with it many challenges: adapting to the rapid rate of acquisitions; overcoming any initial cultural barriers; and making sure that the legacy and reputation appeal of the individual brands was not diluted. These are significant hurdles to overcome, but John has been delighted with how quickly his teams have adapted and how smoothly the latest acquisitions into the business – like Technidyne – have been managed.
Brands in the Industrial Physics family have been serving IP’s core sectors for decades, amassing much in-house expertise. As little as 10 years ago, more clients possessed similar knowledge; it would be common to find QC professionals in these firms that had been there for their whole careers. Nowadays, many of these people have retired and it’s also more difficult to retain staff as before. Because of this you find that a lot of the know-how has left these companies, as John explained:
“With less in-house knowledge, clients are increasingly relying upon our expertise. Whereas before our customers would ask for specific products for well understood tests, now they’re asking us for the best solutions to the problems they encounter. ‘Our paper bags deteriorate when wet and we’re getting complaints – how can we test for that and make sure that they are stronger? Or ‘we have a budget of $10k to spend on improving our QC…what’s the best type of test and instrument to give us the most bang for our buck?”
John continued: “It sounds a bit cheesy, but we’ve created a true solutions-based sales model, rather than a product-based approach. The instrumentation market is highly fragmented, and our competitors tend to make a few products without truly understanding customer motivations. But with our huge portfolio we’ll find the optimal testing device for each company’s unique inspection needs”.
A passion for quality products
So, what’s John’s favorite product he sells? While “heavily biased” he’s particularly fond of the CMC-KUHNKE Auto XTS inspection line. It features non-destructive, double seam inspection…with features unique to Industrial Physics!
John explained: “We worked on this product range for over 10 years – it’s the future for companies that put products in cans. It’s a true value sell, we’re finding the biggest brands love it and want it across their whole business.
“Presently most inspection devices sit on a bench, in a lab. But increasingly people want operator-independent devices. The smart factory future of measurement and inspection lies in fully automated solutions, and we’ll only see more demand in the coming years.”
Partnering with customers to discover viable solutions
It’s not just John who is enjoying this new approach to selling test and inspection devices – his customers love it too! With one single vendor for multiple products and services, one key point of contact, one set of payment terms and one legal contract there’s major time and cost savings to be enjoyed. Yet the biggest value add for the customer perhaps comes in having a single service level agreement, with a true solutions provider.
He said: “It’s hard to sell instruments if they don’t like your service and that’s such a key part of what we do. The old adage that ‘sales sells the first instrument, but service sells every instrument after that’ is so true. We aim to meet all of our customer’s testing needs and we are fast becoming the first port of call for some of the biggest brands on the planet in our space.”
So where does our sales director see Industrial Physics going in the future? He can visualize “incredible” growth potential for a massively scalable business that will reach a position in which any aspect of any client’s testing needs can be solved. Through successful research and development and further smart acquisitions of leading brands, this is more than possible.
In such a demanding role John doesn’t get a lot of free time – any he has is typically spent with his wife and three teenagers. On the rare occasion he has a few hours off you’ll find the self-confessed sports junkie on the golf course or watching the game.