By Kurt Hettinga, President.
As 2020 came to a close, I spent a lot of time reflecting back on what we endured as a company, as well as what I envision for the new year ahead.
The impact of the pandemic on the industrial chemical space has been varied. Different sub-markets have fared better than others. Those in industrial or personal care cleaners or ethanol-type products have weathered the year fairly well—some even thrived because of it. Those in oil and gas or automotive only were negatively impacted. As a whole, there seemed to be a balance throughout the industry—some companies ramping up, while others slowed down considerably.
Thanks to the diversity of our portfolio, Superior’s impact overall was manageable. We were certainly affected, especially in the early months of the pandemic, but as an essential business, we were able to maintain operations.
Keeping People Safe
Because of this, it wasn’t long before our concerns shifted from if there would be enough work to do, to if we’d have enough people to do the work. As a leadership team, we were concerned if we would be able to keep enough partners (what we call our employee-owners) healthy and motivated to come and take the risk every day.
Understanding that the chemicals and raw materials we provide were needed for food or pharmaceutical packaging or for the manufacturing of medicines was very motivating for our team. It gave us all purpose and a desire to fight through the many, many challenges.
Like all of you, one of our first challenges was keeping people safe in a way that we’d never had to think about before. Fortunately, for our operations, it was much easier to do than other plants that have people working side-by-side. Plus, those who could work from home did, which helped us cut in half at least the number of people in our headquarters.
Despite the stress, challenges and weariness of 2020, I will remember how awesome it was. I know that may sound contradictory, but in the most desperate part of 2020, it was incredibly satisfying to work alongside partners—albeit at a distance—to try and figure out how to get the work done to meet our customers’ needs.
I’m not surprised though that our partners were able to do this. I have always known what type of people we had, and the pandemic highlighted that—people rose well beyond my wildest imagination. I was continually blown away by the commitment and creativity in getting the job done, particularly when the crews were often a skeleton of the normal ones. I hope this stands out to our customers as well. Whatever role people were in, they stepped up and adapted so we could continue to serve you.
The Pay Off
During 2020, our Superior teams became more efficient and disciplined in everything we do. We also ramped up training during some down times. I think the residual of both will pay off down the road—for us and for you.
As we begin 2021, we are focused on being obsessed with being the best at what we do. We are steadfastly focused on delivering on service, quality and innovation. We’re driven every day to be the type of provider you can count on to solve problems, leverage opportunities and add value—real meaningful, bottom-line value. We think big things are in store for 2021, and we’re looking forward to experiencing them together.