FlexPack VOICE™ occasionally provides insights from industry executives through our digital exclusives. These interviews, in particular, will look at how leaders became involved in the flexible packaging industry and what advice they would offer about careers. Here is a discussion with Paul Frantz, chief commercial officer with Novolex based in Hartsville, South Carolina. Frantz is one of the people interviewed for the September/October issue of FlexPack VOICE™ in the cover story “Sales Excellence in a New Age: Adapting to customers’ changing needs.”
Frantz originally is from New Jersey, but he has been in Chicago for 20 years. He graduated in 1987 from Baylor University in Texas with a Business Administration degree in economics and finance. He says he has held a variety of commercial, sales, and general management roles in the U.S. and European packaging industry.
“I briefly left the packaging business right before Novolex to run a logistics and distribution business focused on specialized non-merchandise supply chain solutions for retail chains like Target, Walmart, and Walgreens,” he adds.
FlexPack VOICE™: Tell us a little bit about what got you into the flexible packaging industry and why you chose it as a career path.
Paul Frantz: Though I’ve been at Novolex for a little over five years, I’ve been in the packaging business for the entirety of my career, since graduating from college in the late 80s. What attracted me to the industry—and Novolex in particular—is the leadership. There are a lot of great companies, but at the end of the day—it should always be about the people. Companies are making great products out there, but it is the individuals at each business that really make a difference. This industry supports talented people that are interested in innovation and sustainability and thinking about the future.
FPV: What would you tell someone who is thinking about a career in the industry?
PF: Strong businesses are built on the foundation of core values such as integrity, innovation, and drive. What attracted me initially to Novolex was our CEO’s personal integrity. I was confident that the company would reflect my personal values. Novolex’s focus has always been on people. While the business, its scale, and our products have changed over the years, the values of Novolex have never changed and that can be attributed to company leadership.
My advice would be to join a company that cares about and sticks to its core values because the strength of a business is not in its scale, but in its heart. COVID-19 has shown us that companies may need to pivot quickly to meet changing demands and diversify their portfolios, and we are continuously doing that. But at the end of the day, our core tenets—innovation, choice, and sustainability—are what helped us lead this company effectively during a difficult time, provide comfort and stability for our employees and emerge successfully from a business-standpoint.
FPV: Who were your mentors and why were they important?
PF: I am blessed to have had several mentors in my life. Their investment in me really helped me develop into the leader and person I am today. I have benefited from their wisdom and counsel. My encouragement to anyone seeking professional development is to be intentional and to seek out a wise and trustworthy mentor who can guide them.
FPV: What advice would you give to someone thinking of entering the business?
PF: The younger generations may not think of innovation and technology when they think about the manufacturing industry. But the truth is that this industry is doing anything but antiquated work. It is rapidly and continuously evolving to the latest global challenges. We exist to listen and respond. For instance, since COVID-19, we’ve become more consultants than product salespeople, because we are all about finding solutions to the unique challenges we find ourselves in today. We are a partner at the table in the planning process for schools, businesses, and hospitals. We newly broke into the healthcare sector because we saw a need and we had the tools—people, the expertise, and equipment to make it happen.
That being said, U.S. manufacturers are at the forefront of product innovation, diversification, and adaptability in meeting not only today’s immediate needs but anticipating the needs of tomorrow. It’s a very exciting industry to enter if you’re considering it.
FPF: What do you like to do when you are not working?
PF: I am an avid runner. After running several marathons, I began running ultra-distance trail races and haven’t looked back since.
FPV: Anything you want to add?
PF: COVID-19 has shown us that businesses need to be able to pivot quickly to respond to the needs of the day—whether those needs are safety-related or sustainability-centric. At the peak of the pandemic, Novolex was—and still is—one of the few U.S. companies uniquely situated to both track and fill the emerging PPE market that is expanding beyond healthcare to academic, food service, and other large institutions. The strains of the pandemic highlighted our ability to respond to market needs and transform operations in response to those needs. I would say that this is one of the most important things a company can do right now: Listen and respond.