“Growing people is what really drives me,” says Paul Aultman, president of Standish-based Vantage Plastics.
Aultman understands the importance of people. Paul has a people-first approach to business, family and life. He treasures the good moments as well as the difficult ones, believing that in even the most trying times there are ways to learn and grow.
“Even the struggles become opportunities,” Paul says, his every action highlighting his belief in that statement.
Under Paul’s leadership, Vantage Plastics experienced steady growth until 2007, when they felt the impact of a shifting manufacturing landscape. Paul saw that struggle as an opportunity to implement LEAN practices and improve efficiencies across the board, resulting in 87 percent growth post-2008. Now, Paul seeks opportunities to spotlight the positives of manufacturing, following the mantra of Vantage Plastics’ continuous improvements: “if you are okay with where you are, you have failed.”
Paul, his wife Michelle and all of Vantage Plastics have become heavily involved in the Standish community and take every opportunity to spotlight Michigan’s manufacturing industry. Constantly fighting to slay the myth of the big, bad business owner, Aultman is hard at work showcasing job opportunities and changing the conversation about manufacturing.
“Manufacturing is not dead in Michigan,” Paul observes. “It isn’t us against them. We have to let people know there are available opportunities. We need to make them a part of our future.”
The key, Paul believes, is teaching our children the leadership skills that are proven to drive entrepreneurial spirit. His impact on the community is felt through the WELL (Weaving Effective Life skills & Leadership), an organization built around youth outreach and giving kids access to stability.
“People can make things happen without being dependant on an outside entity. The WELL provides children with a chance to create foundations in their lives and develop the skills that will be necessary as they weave their way through life’s challenges,” said Paul.
Paul’s desire to grow people is not limited to children. Despite his role as president, Paul finds the time to manage an internal training seminar for all Vantage employees. Every class works to discover the skills and interests of the workforce while allowing each employee to learn about their coworkers.
“I’m a big advocate about working to help the individual,” Paul likes to say when discussing the family atmosphere at Vantage. “It’s about understanding how we relate to each other and understanding each other’s personality. Great teams are benefitted with different types of people, different backgrounds and different personalities. Our employees become leaders of their families and children and leaders within an organization.”
Paul views his status as an Award finalist as a group achievement that should belong to the Vantage Plastics team, to his wife, to his two children and to the community that supports him. What makes him so beloved by those who work for him and know him is his ability to give credit to others rather than take it himself. Paul is constantly looking to turn the focus from himself, to the important role others play — his family, his employees, his consumers and the Standish community. For this, and many other reasons, Paul Aultman received the 2013 John G. Thodis Michigan Manufacturer of the Year Small Tier Finalist Award.
This article appeared in the May/June 2013 issue of MiMfg Magazine.